/ 3- - -x ■ .
A HISTORY AND DEFENCE OF THE
AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT.
HERBERT N. CASSON,
"The Crime of Credulity," "The Red Light," Etc.
PETER ECKLER, PUBLISHER,
35 Fulton Street.
Herbert N. Cassok.
CHEROUNY PRINTING AND PUBLISHING COMPANY.
17-27 VANDEWATER ST., H. Y.
Betffcatetr to tfje
American iFetreratfou of Haoor.
Introduction .............;.. vii
The Trade Utiioii as d Legitimate Business Institu-
The Trade Union Prevents Lawlessness and Revolu-
The Trade Union is the Distributor of Prosperity. . 70
High-Priced Labor and Commercial Supremacy. .. . 102
Trade Unions as the Pioneers of Social Reform 127
The Trade Union is the Inevitable Development of
the American Spirit 160
The Trade Union Promotes Morality and Education. 193
AT the time of writing (November, 1901) the
American Federation of Labor has on its
rolls 1,100,000 members, and is increasing- at the
rate of 350,000 a year. It not only contains more
citizens than any church denomination or society
in the United States, but is the strongest non-mili-
tary organization in the world.
Yet very few, especially among our literary,
business and professional classes, know anything
about the nature and history of this gigantic feder-
ation of wage-workers. Whenever a strike occurs,
the newspapers print pages of personalities, de-
nunciations and trivial details, but very rarely give
any valuable information upon which a level-
headed opinion may be formed.
In every discussion, the less we know about the
subject the more we shout and abuse our oppo-
nents; and this is especially the case in time of
labor troubles. Such an atmosphere of passion is
created that arbitration and cool judgment become
impossible. The disastrous struggle is prolonged,
until the employer is threatened with bankruptcy
and the workers with starvation, because no middle
ground of agreement can be discovered.
This little book is especially designed to prevent
such deadlocks, by removing the prejudices which
stand in the way of arbitration, and by presenting
in general terms the workers' side of the question.
The refusal to arbitrate generally comes from the
employer, not from the trade union ; and in this
refusal he is too often sustained by public senti-
If, therefore, it can be plainly shown that during
the whole history of this Republic, the trade unions
have promoted law and order, industrial peace,
prosperity, education and morality ; that they have
been the pioneers in almost every humanitarian
reform, and the most effective agencies in the de-
velopment of our free institutions, the outside pub-
lic, and more especially the directors of corpora-
tions, may come to a more tolerant and reasonable
frame of mind.
The writer desires nothing more than fair play.
Whoever acts unjustly, whether he be unionist or
capitalist, should lose his case. The only reason
why this book does not present both sides of the
question is because there are always a dozen to
champion the capitalist to one who is willing to
speak for the workingman.
The facts gathered in the following pages have
all been collected from responsible writers, and in
many cases corroborated by the observation of the
writer. As it is the first attempt which has been
made to describe the American Labor Movement
as a whole, and obliged to be condensed into the
fewest possible words, there will doubtless be many
omissions. Many facts which are commonly
known about trade unions have been purposely left
out to make room for historical matter of especial
All the chapters have been written in language
that a child of ten can understand, so that any one
who can read the ordinary newspaper can be put
in possession of these important facts in American
history. Every boy and girl in our Republic should
know the means by which it has been built up, and
by which liberty and equal rights have been ob-
The author will esteem it a special favor if read-
ers will send him, by mail, any facts which may be
omitted and which should be inserted in future
HERBERT N. CASSON.
35 Fulton St., New York City.
THE TRADE UNION AS A LEGITIMATE BUSINESS
ORGANIZED Labor and Organized Capital
are engaged in a fight to a finish. It is the
Trade Union against the Trust — the union work-
ingman against the monopolist.
The final outcome of this fight will affect the wel-
fare of every man, woman and child in the United
States. It is not a private affair, it is an industrial
Civil War. The question that is being decided is
more than one of work and wages ; it is whether
this country is to be run in the interests of property
or in the interests of the people.
On a question so important as this every one of
us must form an opinion. If we do not investigate
for ourselves and form intelligent opinions, we will
be sure to believe what some newspaper says and
form foolish opinions. No people are so clannish
as capitalists, and as they control nearly every
paper and magazine and library, their side of the
12 Organized Self-Help.
question has been presented as favorably as pos-
sible, while trade unionists have been too often
denounced as dangerous agitators and rioters.
Therefore, as the average American citizen is
not a fanatic, but a well-meaning, fair-minded sort
of a fellow, there is a demand for a clear, simple
statement of the Organized Labor side of the
question. Thousands of people want to "hear the
other side." Every morning they read accounts of
these desperate battles called strikes; they notice
the wonderful organization of these gigantic armies
of workingmen, and the courage with which their
unions face monopolists whom the kings of Europe
do not dare to offend ; and they want to know
what it is all about.
As a matter of fact, there is nothing secret or
mysterious or foreign about Organized Labor.
Any ten-year-old boy can understand it. In every
large community of intelligent working people a
trade union is as legitimate as a savings bank and
as indispensable as a post-office.
This is an age of organization in all civilized
countries. Capitalists combine into corporations
and trusts to lower expenses and increase profits,
and wage- workers combine into unions to reduce
A Legitimate Business Institution. 13
the hours of labor and to raise wages. The "scab"
capitalist is driven out of business by the trust, and
the "scab" workingman is driven out of employ-
ment by the union. The man, whether capitalist
or workingman, who does not protect his business
interests by organizing with others like himself is
almost certain to become a bankrupt or a tramp.
Considered as a business proposition, from a
purely selfish standpoint, the trade union and the
trust are very similar; though, as we shall see
further on, the trade union tends to elevate and
enrich the nation, while the trust tends to destroy
it. Business is industrial warfare; and as Francis
A. Walker, the noted political economist, once
said : "If the wage laborer does not pursue his in-
terest, he loses his interest."
Not even the richest millionaire can stand alone
against the Wall street communism of wealth that
seeks to conquer the commerce of the world. About
two years ago a New York financier, rated at
$20,000,000, withdrew from the Sugar Trust, in
which he had made his money, and struck out on
his own account. He antagonized the great Rail-
road Trust and several others, and the result was
that his millions melted away like snow in June.
14 Organised Self-Help.
He was bankrupted so thoroughly that he was
obliged to turn over to his creditors his home, his
chickens and his gold watch. Such is the difficulty
of playing a lone hand against the business combi-
nations of to-day.
If, therefore, union is necessary for millionaires,
how much more necessary is it for workingmen,
who have no "pull," no property and no social
standing? A single non-union workingman can
no more make a contract with a trust than a grass-
hopper can stop an express train. Yet both grass-
hoppers and workingmen have stopped trains and
trusts by combining in large numbers. The in-
dividual worker has become as powerless as the
individual voter. Neither can do anything alone,
but by combining they can absolutely control every
department of industry and government.
Take away the trade union and you take away
the only hope the average workingman has of
bettering his condition. A wage-worker is not like
a stock-juggling financier; he has no hopes of sud-
den wealth. Every dollar in his pay-envelope must
be earned and often doubly-earned by hard work.
He is not, generally speaking, like a bank clerk;
he has little hope of being picked out and pro-
A Legitimate Business Institution. 15
moted. His chance of being made superintendent,
at a salary of $5,000 a year, is about as probable
as his chance of being sent to Congress. He has
nothing to sell except his labor, and no means of
getting a higher price for it except through his
"Recognizing the right of the capitalist to control
his capital, we also claim and shall exercise the
right to control our labor/' said the Constitution
of the St. Crispins, a shoemakers' union that ex-
erted a great influence twenty-five years ago. And
the only way that the price of labor can be con-
trolled or increased is by the combination of all the
workers who have any particular kind of labor to
The days of "free contracts" between the indi-
vidual worker and his employer are gone by. To-
day workers are hired and fired by the hundred
and often by the thousand. They have no chance
to even enter their employers' office. In most cases
they work for an anonymous corporation, and are
treated by the company as so much raw material
and numbered like trucks and drays. Neither
employer nor workman knows one another by
16 Organized Self-Help.
Either, then, they must do as the farmers do —
pay what they're asked and take what they're
offered, or organize a union, elect a secretary, and
send him into the company's office to make better
terms on their behalf.
Abram S. Hewitt, a wealthy employer and ex-
Mayor of New York, once said that it is only when
the workers are organized that the contending
parties in an industrial struggle are in a position
to treat. "Capital will not listen," said he, "until
Labor is in a position to compel a hearing."
Almost every capitalist imagines that he can in-
crease his profits by cutting down wages. This is
a great mistake, as we shall point out in another
chapter; but it seems impossible to get the idea
into the average capitalistic brain. Most employ-
ers, and especially those who belong to Trusts,
want to make their will the only law of their em-
ployees. They want to deal with their men in the
same way that old Judge Jacob Weaver dealt with
the Indians. Weaver was a New Yorker who lived
ove-r a hundred years ago and who made a large
fortune in the fur trade. He taught the Indians
to sell their furs by weight, and persuaded them
that his foot weighed one pound and his hand a
A Legitimate Business Institution. 17
half-pound. Weaver had thus the credit, as well
as the profit, of inventing the first "sliding scale"
system of wages.
Consequently, if workingmen had no unions,
there is no limit to the wrongs they would suffer
at the hands of despotic capitalists. The misery of
the victim would be as limitless as the greed of
the oppressor. The competition in luxury now
being waged by millionaires and their wives would
cause one reduction to follow another in quick suc-
cession. Whenever a new palace was built, or a
million dollars given to a college or a daughter
married to a Duke, another ten-per-cent. cut-down
would be ordered, or another hour added to the
length of the day's work.
The trade union civilizes the capitalist. It pre-
vents him from making a Persian Shah of himself.
It draws a line between fair play and oppression
and says, "Thus far, and no farther shall you go."
It says to him, "This is America and not Russia;
and you must do business the American way."
It transforms the wage-earners from human ma-
chines into human beings.
"Whenever Capital disarms, Labor will ; but not
before," said Wendell Phillips. Before corpora-
18 Organised Self-Help.
tions and trusts were formed, when capitalists were
weak and disorganized, there was some reason for
their opposition to trade unions. But to-day the
fight made by the Trusts against unionism is in
every way unjust.
The modern capitalist is armed and organized.
He is protected by every possible fortress of law.
He has many editors and professors and preachers
to defend his actions and abuse his opponents. He
even counts on the police, the militia and the Na-
tional Guard to always champion his side of the
quarrel when he disagrees with his employees. His
one aim and object in life is to get as much work
done for as little money as possible, and to sell the
product for the highest price he can secure.
So the unorganized workers are to-day as help-
less as sheep in a den of wolves. They have no
means by which they can effectively protest against
any injustice from which they may be suffering.
They are at the mercy of an economic antagonist.
Such is the predicament of the worker who has
no union. The Trust-makers are racing to see who
shall be the first billionaire, and they have no time
to think of the insignificant $2-a-day atoms who
wriggle about in their great mines and factories.
A Legitimate Business Institution. 19
Fifty years ago, when ten workers worked side
by side with their employer, in a little wopden
factory, each separate workman counted for some-
thing. He called his employer by name and was
free to give advice about the business. He was
much more like a partner than a hired hand. But
in the gigantic plants that now exist one worker
counts for as little as a leaf on a tree. The bigger
the plant, the smaller the workman, is a truth that
most American wage-earners have found out by
This shrinkage of the workman can only be over-
come in two ways — by organization or by some
catastrophe which greatly reduces the number of
workingmen in the country. The latter happens
occasionally, as after the Black Plague in Europe
and during the Civil War in America, but it can
hardly be recommended as a plan of reform.
Organization is, therefore, the only expedient by
which the worker can retain any individual rights
whatever. If he has no right to set a minimum
price upon his labor, then the grocer has no right
to set a price upon his groceries and the physician
has no right to fix his own fee. When any body of
20 Organised Self -Help.
people are prevented from combining for mutual
profit, business stops and slavery begins.
"I have a right to be a man," said Francis Lieber,
"because I am a man." The unjustifiable attempt
of capitalists to ignore trade unions, to refuse arbi-
tration and lock the office door against the elected
representative of the workingmen, is a denial of
those fundamental rights upon which democracy
and civilization stand.
The trade union is, in short, the natural product
of the present industrial system. No agitator or
body of labor leaders is to be credited with the
production of the Labor Movement. The cause of
unionism is the instinct of self-preservation, which
is most highly developed in intelligent and robust
When "Uncle Sam was rich enough to give us all
a farm," and when farming on a small scale was
profitable, the wage-earner was more independent.
If his boss refused to raise his wages, he could go
west and take up land. There was even a chance,
before millionaires grew up, for a poorly-paid
mechanic to start a little shop of his own.
To-day the bonanza farm and expensive agricul-
tural machinery make it almost impossible for a
A Legitimate Business Institution. 21
poor man to succeed in farming, even if he could
get the land for nothing, and there is no Ghance
whatever to start a factory with ten cents and a
jack-knife, as many did fifty years ago.
The 5,000,000 wage-workers in the large factory
cities of America have absolutely nothing to depend
upon but their weekly wages. Their Saturday
pay-envelope is to them what land is to the farmer.
It is their life.
And whether the pay-envelope contains much or
little, it is uncertain. At any time it may be
stopped. A government report has shown that 65
per cent, of the unemployed men and 78 per cent,
of the unemployed women of the United States
were workers in the manufacturing industries.
Without any guarantee of steady employment,
without political influence, without a cent of in-
come from rent, profits or interest, without a square
foot of land, without any home except the one
which is hired by the month from the landlord, or
without any prospect of an old-age pension, is it
any wonder that the wage-workers organize unions
for mutual protection? Is it any wonder that they
consider trade unions to be "the indispensable
means of enabling the sellers of labor to take care
22 Organized Self-Help.
of their own interests/' to quote the words of John
Imagine a body of 500 men and women, who
go every workday to the same factory, who live in
the same part of the city, who discover that they
have the same interests, and are in danger from
the same source, and yet who never conceive the
idea of combining for self-protection ! Such a
thing would be impossible, except among the lowest
The demands made by trade unions have in-
variably been fair and moderate. For several gen-
erations labor organizations demanded little else
beside the abolition of old abuses which had become
intolerable. When Wendell Phillips wrote the
platform for the Massachusetts Labor Party in
1871, he began it with this sentence, "We affirm
that labor, the creator of wealth, is entitled to all
it creates." No trade union has ever struck for as
extreme a demand as this.
Whatever separate unionists may think of the
absolute rights of Labor, they do not as unionists
demand anything more than an improvement of
present industrial conditions. In Italy, Germany,
France, Belgium and Austria labor organizations
A Legitimate Business Institution. 23
are revolutionary clubs of Socialists. But that is
not the case in this country.
Up to 1886, American labor bodies were in-
clined to favor schemes for social reorganization,
such as Fourierism and Socialism; but they dis-
covered that all these schemes ended in politics and
politics ended in disruption. Since that time they
have been more practical and business-like. They
have kept clear of political traps and idealistic
propaganda. At every annual convention some
well-meaning but short-sighted enthusiast proposes
to transform the whole Labor Movement into a
Socialist political party, but after half an hour of
fireworks the resolution is voted down and the
members settle back to more important business.
Every intelligent unionist believes in united po-
litical action on the part of wage-workers. He has
also his ideals and dreams of what business will
be like in the twenty-first century, but he does not
believe in mixing dreams with his bread and butter.
Since 1890, trade union conventions have refused
to admit delegates from political parties.
One of the abuses, for instance, which trade
unions first set out to abolish was the infamous
"truck store" system, which was very common
24 Organised Self-Help.
sixty years ago. This system originated partly
because of the scarcity of currency and partly
because of a dislike of the employers to see their
working people too prosperous. It compelled a
workingman to buy his goods from his employer's
store, invariably on penalty of discharge.
At the end of the week or month the worker
received in his "pay-envelope" a statement of his
account with his boss, often showing him in debt
instead of having a balance in his favor. If there
was a balance, it was paid, not in cash, but by a
due-bill, good for so much merchandise at the
The employer fixed the rate of wages and also
the prices of the store commodities, so that nothing
but a bare existence was left to the working people.
A Pittsburg reporter found that the prices in a
"truck store" were 60 per cent, higher than in other
stores near by. And the accounts that the men re-
ceived did not specify articles, but merely said:
"Sugar, 50c. ;" "pork, $1.25 ;" "cloth, $3.00 ;" etc.
It is related that in 1862 a Scranton manufac-
turer hung outside the door of his factory a flag
with these patriotic words upon it, "Your country's
call obey." One of his work-girls said to him,
A Legitimate Business Institution. 25
"Your inscription is not complete; it ought to
'Your country's call obey;
Work for us and take store pay.' "
In a number of States the "truck store" has been
abolished by law, but it still is one of the main
causes of poverty in the mining and cotton districts.
Recently at a labor meeting in Throop, Pa., a
young miner named Stephen McDonald made the
following remarkable statement, showing what the
conditions are where no trade unions exist :
"Men," said McDonald, "you all know me
around here. You know the truth of what I say.
I repeat it to you to remind you of the common lot
of our misery and suffering which has made us
combine to cry out for a better order of things.
"When I was six years and four months old I
went to work in the breakers of the Pancoast Coal
Company. I have worked nineteen years, every
day that I could get. I have never been on an
excursion in my life. I have never been to a
theatre but twice in my life. I have not drank a
drop of beer or liquor for five years, and for two
years I have not smoked. I have practiced the
26 Organized Self-Help.
closest economy in food. But I have never been
able to accumulate $100 in my life.
"Men, I have lived in the hamlet of Throop all
my life. You and I know this has always been a
company store town. We know in our hearts
what that means, whatever the operators may say.
"Eleven years I worked for the Pancoast Coal
Company, and during those eleven years I swear
here before the Omnipotent I never handled one
cent of earnings in money."
What man or woman of unbiased mind will say
that such feudalistic institutions as the "truck
store" should exist in this country? Yet it would
be seen to-day side by side with almost every fac-
tory and mine if it had not been for the opposition
of organized labor. Every worker who finds cash
and not a due-bill in his pay-envelope may thank
the labor leaders of the last generation for it.
Another great triumph of trade unions has been
the reduction of the hours of labor. Many a
dapper young clerk, too feather-headed to join a
union, and many a mulish non-unionist, are to-day
enjoying twenty-four hours less work every week
because of the ten-hour and eight-hour campaigns
carried on by the trade unions.
A Legitimate Business Institution. 27
We are apt to forget that ioo years ago men,
women and children toiled from 78 to 84 hours a
week — 13 and 14 hours a day. This was the
average, but many employers ground 16 hours a
day out of their jaded wage-slaves.
In 1800 every laboring man and mechanic was
at work at 4 a. m. At 10 they had an hour for
lunch, at 3 an hour for dinner, and then on till dark.
As late as 1836 women and children began work in
seme factories at 4 130 a. m. ; and in New England
it was the custom to light the lamps and work an
hour before dawn, as well as an hour after — thus
stealing two hours a day from rest. Even this was
not enough for some greedy employers, and it was
proved in a number of cases that the factory clock
had been tampered with and set back half an hour.
No negro slave or Russian serf or Egyptian
fellah was ever driven to the last ounce of his
strength as were the first factory workers of New
England. By law negro slaves could not be worked
longer than 14 hours a day in winter and 15 in
summer, and they were always allowed to lounge
through the day in Southern fashion. In Europe,
Asia and Africa the workers have always been
slow, listless and plodding.
28 Organized Self-Help.
But the factory workers of New England
worked on their nerve. They condensed a Euro-
pean day's work into a couple of hours. "Hurry
up, you !" roared the overseer if one of them
stopped to wipe the sweat from his face.
The introduction of the piece-work system made
the poor dupes believe that their hustling was for
their own advantage. They did not know then
that "whether you work by the piece or the day,
your standard of living determines the pay."
Few of the inventions of capitalism have done
more physical damage to the working people than
the piece-work system, especially when the work-
day lasted from sunrise to sunset. It scourged the
vitality out of tens of thousands. It often tore a
man's life out in a few years. There is no exag-
geration in saying that what would be a week's
work for a German or English factory worker was
often turned out in a day by a New England
In every American factory city you would see
men and women who were wrecked by this terrific
strain. White-haired and shattered in health at 40
years of age, they drifted from job to job for a few
months and then lay down to rest forever. Flesh
A Legitimate Business Institution. 29
and blood could not endure such a killing pace.
First the stomach gave way, then the nerves, and
finally the whole physical system collapsed. The
poor used-up worker was thrown on the street like
a squeezed lemon, and another man, fresh from the
farm, took his place in the line.
The trade unions were the first to see the evils
of this fierce system of production, and began a
series of strikes for a reduction of the hours of
labor. The first strike of which we have any rec-
ord, which occurred in Philadelphia in 1791, was
that of the carpenters for a 10-hour day. Their
demand at the time was thought to be most im-
pudent and unreasonable, and they were defeated.
To-day the average iength of the workday in all
factories is less than ten hours ; and the benefits to
employer and employee of the Saturday half-holi-
day are being recognized. A large number of firms
have reduced the hours to nine per day, and a few
have established the eight-hour day and found it
the most successful of all. Even the sweated gar-
ment-makers have obtained a 59-hour week, wher-
ever they are organized.
The present demand of organized labor is for a
universal eight-hour day. Such a reform would
30 Organized Sclf-Help.
not be an experiment, as some government em-
ployees, not all, as required by law, have had an
eight-hour day since 1869. It is interesting to
know that General Banks, who introduced the
eight-hour bill into Congress, had a short time
before married a beautiful factory girl from
Lowell, Mass. Mrs. Banks had known what it was
like to work 13 hours a day, five weary hours too
many, and thus romance succeeded where political
The eight-hour day has been in operation in
Australia for 45 years, and has now been made
universal in New Zealand. Samuel M. Jones, of
Toledo, cut down the hours of labor in the oil
fields from 12 to 8 in 1896, and declares that the
plan has cost a little more but gives better results.
At present every one admits what 100 years ago
was maintained only by trade unions — the profit-
ableness of rest and recreation. Unless you get
working-power into people, you can't get it out.
This was the great truth which employers and pro-
fessors and political economists rejected, and
which is to-day gradually reconstructing our whole
system of economics.
The hours of labor are still far from being uni-
A Legitimate Business Institution. 31
fcrm — the school teacher, for instance, works 1,080
hours a year, while the garment-maker works 3,068
hours, or would if he had steady employment. And
the conditions under which the teacher works are
quite different from those endured by our fellow-
citizens who make our clothes for us.
But the eight-hour day argument is slowly
leaching both the capitalist's pocket and the public
conscience. The capitalist is realizing that a
shorter day means a better product — that jaded
men and women cannot do good work. And our
recreation-loving American public is beginning to
understand what it means to work all through the
dust and heat of summer, in the foul air of a noisy
factory, for ten long hours a day.
The employer and his wife can scarcely endure
even grand opera if it lasts for more than an hour
without intermission ; a ball or a concert becomes
wearisome even with all manner of pleasurable
surprises and novelties ; yet the wage-worker is
supposed to be as energetic as a locomotive and as
tireless as Niagara from 8 a. m. until 6 at night.
In 1886 the unions made a vigorous demand for
an eight-hour day, and over 200,000, chiefly in the
building trades, were successful. A poem which
32 Organised Self-Help.
was very popular at that time, written by J. G.
Blanchard, gave the best expression to the desires
of the unionists. It is given here as a fair sample
of trade union poetry :
"We mean to make things over; we're tired of toil for
But bare enough to live on, never an hour for thought.
We want to feel the sunshine, we want to smell the
We're sure that God has willed it, and we mean to have
We're summoning our forces from the shipyard, shop and
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours
for what we will.
The beasts that graze the hillsides, the birds that wander
In the life that God has given, have a better lot than we.
Oh, hands and hearts are weary, as the long, long, work-
If life's to be filled with drudgery, what need of a human
Let the shout ring down the valleys, and echo from every
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for
what we will."
The demand of the trade unions for a shorter
workday is not a mere petition for less work and
A Legitimate Business Institution. 33
more play. It is a solution of the social problem
which machinery has created. Machinery has
made a reduction of hours necessary in two ways —
first, by throwing thousands out of employment;
and second, by placing a greater strain and respon-
sibility on the worker. Machinery has given an
intensity and strenuousness to industry which has
never before been known in the history of the
world. Its tendency is to become more and more
automatic, and to require fewer, but better-skilled
workers to manage it. And it has increased pro-
duction so marvellously that it would to-day be
profitable in many industries to inaugurate a four-
hour day, for the benefit of the workers and the
No problem is more pressing than that of the
unemployed. A man who is out of work is dete-
riorating in ability and disposition. He is a social
burden and in the long run a social menace. Noth-
ing takes the grit and self-respect out of a man as
much as an unsuccessful hunt for a job.
Carrol D. Wright estimates that in prosperous
times the usual number of unemployed is 1,000,000,
without counting tramps, criminals, habitual pau-
pers or wealthy parasites. That is, there are every
34 Organized Self-Help.
day in the United States 1,000,000 more or less
skilled workers, men and women, who want to
work, but who cannot find an opportunity of doing
so. This involves a national loss of millions a day
in money, and an incalculable loss of human happi-
ness and contentment and achievement.
The remedies proposed by most social reformers
for this gigantic waste are petty and ludicrous.
Charity-mongers suggest soup-kitchens, which is
as sensible as to propose giving a pill to an earth-
quake. Doctrinaires suggest State factories, not
seeing that this would create a still worse industrial
tangle. Some demand a prevention of immigra-
tion, not recognizing that the causes of unemploy-
ment are domestic, not foreign. Others propose
Labor Colonies, as in Germany and New Zealand,
which would practically become mismanaged
farms for paupers.
The only adequate and statesmanlike remedy is
that advocated by organized labor — the shortening
of the working day. This acts both directly and
indirectly. It makes a larger labor force necessary,
and also gives more rest and leisure to those who
had been at work. Rest and leisure at once operate
to raise the standard of living — new wants are
A Legitimate Business Institution. 35
created, and to supply these wants more workers
are employed. Thus a reduction of the hours of
labor sends a wave of beneficence and prosperity
all over the country, touching especially at every
wage-earner's door, but stimulating the business of
all legitimate capitalists as well.
The eight-hour day is a fair sample of all trade
union demands. It is, as we have seen, an improve-
ment which will benefit the entire nation, with the
sole exception of those leeches and parasites who
live upon the toil and miseries of others. Nothing
is more untrue than to say that unionism is a selfish
class movement, indifferent to those larger na-
tional aims which statesmen are supposed to con-
Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House, Chi-
cago, recently said : "For many years I have been
impressed with the noble purposes of trade unions
and the desirability of the ends which they seek."
Not long since a well-known New York manufac-
turer made a study of unionism, and the result is
that he is to-day advertising the union label on bill-
boards and in street-cars and newspapers, and has
even written a book on the subject, enthusiastically
commending the philosophy of organized labor.
36 Organised Self-Help.
In it he makes the following acknowledgment :
"Prior to the entrance of our firm into the field
of unionism, there existed among its respective
members the same aversion and antipathy for
unions as at present exist with other merchants and
"We were firmly impressed with the theory that
unions should not exist, that they destroyed the
inalienable rights of citizens, and arrayed the
laborer against the manufacturer and capitalist.
"Why, then, this change of heart? you may
rightly ask. And we answer, not through any
mercenary motive, but because the veil of darkness
has been lifted from our eyes and we see and under-
stand the principles of unionism and the justice of
The value of a trade union, not only to its own
members, but to the nation, has not yet been recog-
nized. It is difficult to persuade a corrupt man that
any institution has an honest purpose; but those
who have studied trade unionism, not in a college
library or a bank parlor, but in the meeting-hall
and the workshop, have been impressed by the
wide scope of its program and the wisdom of
its demands. A German writer, Dr. Jacobi, says:
A Legitimate Business Institution. 37
"The records of one trade union, however small,
will yet become a matter of more importance to the
historian than all the battle-charges of history."
The unionist of to-day will be the statesman of
to-morrow. A large proportion of trade union sec-
retaries, and thousands of the rank and file, have
libraries containing the most thoughtful and pro-
found books on social questions. Their books have
not been bought for the sake of the binding, as
most Fifth avenue libraries are, but for the sake
of the contents. They have been read and re-read,
and, best of all, verified or corrected by hard
experience. When the Great Crisis of the near
future comes, the Abe Lincoln who shall guide the
nation safely through will be a trade union grad-
uate, at present as inconspicuous as Lincoln was
when he split rails, or Grant when he sold po-
Several years ago, when attending a hearing of a
committee of the Massachusetts Legislature, I had
the pleasure of seeing a trade union secretary
explain to five stupid Senators the mysteries of the
initiative and the referendum. Both political
parties had placed the referendum in their plat-
forms for the previous election, yet here was a
38 Organized Self-Help.
young Haverhill shoemaker explaining it to a party
of politicians who had been elected to put it in
It must be remembered that unions have had to
develop in spite of a continuous onslaught of mis-
representation and abuse. No institution ever had
more powerful enemies. The might of kings,
creeds, armies and aristocracies withers away be-
fore the might of this latest world-conqueror —
Every fact that could be combed up out of the
hurly-burly of industrial strife, and every accusa-
tion that a host of hireling editors could invent, has
been hurled against Organized Labor by Organized
Capital. Labor legislation has been bought off by a
swarm of lobbyists, side-tracked in committees by
bribed politicians, and nullified by corrupt or prej-
udiced judges and inspectors.
Yet the fact still remains, which every lover of
fair play must sooner or later acknowledge, that
the welfare and perpetuation of this Republic de-
pend not upon the victories of Organized Capital,
but upon the growth and ultimate success of the
great Trade Union Movement, which embodies the
most robust, skilful and indispensable element in
THE TRADE UNION PREVENTS LAWLESSNESS AND
THE trade union is the most effectual of all
agencies for the prevention of lawless vio-
lence and private revenge. It is the social safety-
valve which prevents explosions. By its means the
most intelligent and reliable among the wage-work-
ers attain to leadership, instead of the most reck-
less. The orderly action of the many abolishes
abuses, instead of the lawless action of the few.
There have never been any Nihilists, force-
anarchists, Molly Maguires, or White Caps where
trade unionism was strong. And, in at least nine
cases out of ten, the rioting that occurs during a
strike is not only contrary to the reiterated orders
of the labor organizer, but also entirely a matter
of hoodlumism, with which the strikers have had
nothing to do.
Yet it is as common as poverty to read attacks
upon trade unions by the press, in which it is taken
40 Organized Self-Help.
for granted that unions were organized by rioters
and social disturbers whose purpose was to tear
down the props of civilization. McMaster classes
trade unionists with lawless revolutionists and ex-
presses mild wonder that the unions are permitted
to exist. Bancroft attacks them savagely through-
out his eulogies of the self-made sharpers who were
the first to get rich in the various States.
Journalistic freshmen, who have never read a
single trade union constitution in their lives, spin
columns of bosh about the tyranny of the "walking
delegate." He is described as an agitator who
collects dues as greedily as if he were a New York
Chief of Police. Strikes, riots and bloodshed are
said to be his delight on the few rare occasions
when he is not too drunk to fully appreciate
Having had the pleasure of knowing intimately
several score or more of "walking delegates," I
may be allowed perhaps to speak with some au-
thority about them. The "walking delegate" is
merely the business agent of the union. He ob-
tained his name at first because of the fact that
he received no allowance for car fare and carriages,
and was obliged to walk from shop to shop. He
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 41
was not like the "riding delegate" of capital, who
travels between his employer's office and the lobby
of the Legislature in an automobile.
The business agent is the unionist who has been
chosen by his mates as the most capable and reliable
man among them. He is invariably a man of good
habits, and very often is well-read and self-
educated to a high degree. He does not order a
strike ; he only announces the order. His work is
to do what he is told, and his duties are by no
means few or easy.
Strikes, it must be remembered, come few and
far between in the life of a trade union. They are
always regarded by union men as a terrible and
costly last resort. Therefore, it is the duty of the
business agent to prevent strikes by interviewing
employers and submitting differences to arbitra-
tion. The most successful business agent is he who
obtains better conditions for the members of his
union without the necessity of a strike.
The day's work of the real "walking delegate"
(not the magazine-article one) consists in receiv-
ing and banking dues, in paying out the sick and
out-of-work benefits, in p-etting work for unem-
42 Organized Self-Help.
ployed members, and in interviewing the employers
against whom just complaints have been made.
It is also his duty to visit the sick and have in-
jured members taken to the hospital. If a member
of the union dies, and has no relatives to attend to
his burial, it is the "walking delegate" who pre-
vents him from being sent to the Potter's Field.
On five or six different occasions I have been
present at these trade union funerals, having been
asked to say a few words over the body of some
friendless wage-worker, who, if it had not been
for the union and its agent, would have been
thrown in a public trench like a dog.
Yet for all this difficult and responsible work
the "walking delegate" receives only the standard
wage of his trade, with few exceptions. He is the
only professional man whose fees are fixed by
those who employ him. His position is not a secure
one, as he is elected for only one year at a time;
and in case he is dismissed, he frequently finds
himself "blacklisted" by employers and compelled
to seek work in some distant State.
Cases have come under my notice in which these
"walking delegates," so brutally libelled by men
who are their ethical and intellectual inferiors,
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 43
literally worked themselves to death battling for
the welfare of the members of their union.
In European trade unions, with the exception
only of the English, there has always been a great
deal of revolutionary or anarchistic sentiment ; but
that has never been the case in America. Free
speech is the anti-toxin of anarchy. It is true that
a large number of American unions have requested
their members to withdraw from the militia, but
that has been owing to the unlawful use of the
militia by capitalists to break up strikes. Unionists
aie willing to defend their country against a for-
eign foe, but they are not willing to be used as
public Pinkertons to shoot down their fellow-
Organized Labor has its war record — longer and
more honorable than that of those patriots for
revenue only, who "saved the Union" and have
been trying to bleed it ever since. When the Civil
War began, nearly all the trade unions in the North
were broken up, so large was the number of en-
listments. One Philadelphia union of mechanics
enlisted in a body, and the following entry was
made upon the secretary's book : "It having been
resolved to enlist with Uncle Sam for this war,
44 Organized Self-Hclp.
this organization stands adjourned until either the
Union is safe or we are whipped."
The founder and first president of the Interna-
tional Cigar-Makers' Union enlisted and was killed
in battle. In short, while capitalists and politicians
had caused the war by their bluster and greed, it
was the workers who did the fighting. In the war
Congress there were the representatives of eighty
banks, but not one representative from a trade
In the War of Independence the union workmen
did their share, without being given any of the
glory by historians. It was the Iron-Workers'
Union that forged the enormous iron chain that
was stretched across the Hudson at West Point in
1778. Again and again the English tried in vain
to break it. Six weeks of the most arduous labor
were required to make it, and the men toiled night
and day until it was in place. This chain was the
largest ever forged, its weight being 186 tons.
Every link was three feet in length, three of them
being still preserved in the Glen Island Museum.
Did not those iron-workers, toiling shirtless in a
hail of sparks, accomplish as much for the defence
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 45
of their country as many of those who wore uni-
forms and received medals ?
While a strike often causes much social discom-
fort, it is not essentially riotous in any respect. It
is not even as much of an incentive to riot as the
action of Trusts in closing up or tearing down
The right to strike is as essential as the right of
free speech or suffrage. "Thank God," said Abra-
ham Lincoln, "we have a system of labor where
there can be a strike. Whatever the pressure, there
is a point where the workingman may stop."
President Lincoln made this vigorous declaration
at Hartford in i860, referring to the Lynn shoe-
makers' great strike. It is one of his sayings which
is not quoted in the usual sugar-coated magazine
article on Lincoln.
John Stuart Mill was one of the first philos-
ophers who saw the necessity of strikes in a de-
mocracy. "Strikes," he said, "and the trade so-
cieties which render strikes possible, are not a
mischievous, but, on the contrary, a valuable part
of the existing machinery of society." "Strikes
are necessary to break up unwholesome custom,"
said Francis A. Walker.
4:6 Organised Self-Help.
Oppression has always been intensified by sub-
mission. The employer who can do as he pleases
with his men very seldom does what his men
please. "England," said Gladstone, "never con-
cedes anything to Ireland, except when moved to
do so by fear." Every liberty which the mass of
men possess was won by organized resistance to
the tyrannical few. When all men combine and
refuse to be wronged, the last tyrant will be de-
stroyed, but not before.
A strike against unjust conditions springs from
that sacred germ of resistance in the human mind.
Its spirit is the spirit of '76. One of the noblest
prophecies of Edward Bellamy was that a time
should come when statues of "The Strikers" should
replace those to mere military heroes in our public
America was founded upon a successful strike
against taxation without representation. From
Magna Charta to the great Dock Strike, the
British people have won their liberties by stub-
born and organized resistance. Cromwell in-
stituted a national strike against the king and
the aristocracy of England, and the king lost
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 47
the strike and his head, too, in those rough-
The man who is too submissive to strike,
who, when his pay is reduced or his work in-
creased, will sit down and wipe his eyes and
say, "Let well enough alone," and "Thank God
it's no worse," is not fit to live in a Republic.
Ke should emigrate to Siam or Thibet, or some
country which has not been liberated by the
courage and devotion of a host of patriots.
"The very life-blood in our veins is the heri-
tage of those characters who thousands of years
ago longed for a better condition — for a better
land. We should not crush that divine spirit of
unrest which gives us whatever civilization
exists." So writes a Broadway manufacturer,
who has been noble enough to write in defence
of organized labor and its aims.
As to the attacks made upon non-union men
during a strike, there is a great deal to be said
in favor of the strikers. Put yourself in the
place of a striker and a great deal of new light
will be thrown upon the situation. To win the
strike means to abolish some injustice that has
become intolerable. It means a little more com-
48 Organized Self-Help.
fort in a life that has little enough — a little more
security against poverty. To lose means to
drop still lower in the scale — to have fewer
rights and comforts instead of more. It may
mean the loss of a job — the eating up of the
little sum in the savings bank — the dreaded
tramp from town to town, looking for work.
The failure of a strike to a wage-worker
means much more than a mere shrinkage of
capital or a few weeks' annoyance. It may
mean the destruction of the union into which
he has paid dues for years — the union which
cares for him in sickness, and provides for his
family if he dies. He is landless, homeless and
practically friendless; he has nothing but his
union to save him from that awful abyss of pov-
erty which swallows up the moneyless man.
Is it any wonder, therefore, that he should
feel a fierce aversion to these "scabs," these im-
ported strike-smashers, who come to fight
against their own interests and his? In many
instances these non-unionists are professional
"scabs" — men who offer themselves for the ex-
press purpose of breaking up strikes. The
strikers know many of them by name, and their
Prevents Latvlessness and Revolution. 49
record is passed from one to another. For the
sake of double wages or a cash bonus or a free
drunk these "scabs" go from place to place,
hiring themselves to any employer who is en-
deavoring to break up a union.
These men are regarded by unionists with
the same fear and hatred as is felt for anarchists
by the monarchs of Europe. A union man
looks upon one of these professional "scabs"
with the dread and contempt that a Turkish
merchant feels for one of the brutal eunuchs of
the Sultan's palace, whose work is to kidnap
and strangle those whom the Sultan dislikes.
Consequently, when one of these "traitors"
is seen on the streets during a strike, this ani-
mosity, intensified often into a frenzy by the
presence of a large crowd, breaks out into acts
of violence and disorder.
No union leader ever advocates violence. If he
did, he could be held responsible for every brick
thrown by a newsboy. And in the arrests of rioters
made during a strike, it is seldom that a union man
The story of the strikers' wrongs, it must be
remembered, is told in the newspapers and dis-
50 Organised Sclf-Help.
cussed in the streets. It is picked up by the
hoodlum, who at all times is the quickest to ex-
press public opinion. The hoodlum is by no
means in sympathy with unionism. He is too
uncivilized to understand it. He has no con-
victions; he is always on the popular side. He
would just as soon throw rocks at one man as
another, as long as he had a chance to yell and
chase somebody. He reads the newspapers,
and a forceful headline makes a strong impres-
sion upon him.
So, when the presence of a crowd makes es-
cape easy, the hoodlum is on hand with bricks
and clubs, to "have some fun." He knows the
"psychological moment" when the public is
ready to sympathize with lawlessness, and when
it arrives he takes advantage of it. The union
is no more responsible for the hoodlums than a
dead man is for the pickpockets who attend his
funeral and rob the mourners. f
Some of the rioters may likely have been
"scabs" themselves in some previous strike, but
no matter who they are, their lawlessness is
blamed upon the strikers by the press and often
by the law-courts. The least possible display
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 51
of violence generally receives more space in the
newspapers than the real issues that are at
stake. The smashing of a $4,000 street-car is
given more prominence than a reduction in
wages which means $40,000 a year to the
There is no more connection between a strike
and a strike-riot than there is between a river
and a drowning accident. We do not want the
river drained dry because some unskilled boat-
man has met with a mishap. And the incalcul-
able national benefit that has been derived from
unions and strikes dwarfs the few occasional
breakages and broken heads into insignificance.
After all, the great truth remains that law
and order are not the most essential things.
Those who put them above everything else, will
find Russia more to their taste. Far better
have an occasional spasm of revolt — a strenuous
fit of house-cleaning in business and politics —
than the stagnant calm of despotism.
The first of all human needs is Liberty and
the second is Justice — these are as the soil
in which all other human rights grow. Far
better have America, with its thousand or more
62 Organized Self-Help.
strikes a year, than passive Persia, with its
cringing, india-rubber serfs — a nation of rabbits
governed by a wolf.
But to return to strikes; they have often been
carried on without the least bitterness on either
side. An honest difference of opinion led to a
trial of strength between the union and the em-
ployer, and arbitration finally settled the diffi-
culty. Bitter resentment is never shown by the
strikers unless they have been treated in some
unjust or contemptuous manner.
If employers had been half as ready to hear
the other side as they have been to discharge
their workmen, there would have been less
trouble in the industrial world. "If they don't
want us to bite, they shouldn't treat us like
dogs," said a miner during the recent coal strike.
"The damn fools don't know what is good
for them," said Pierpont Morgan at the com-
mencement of the late strike of steel-workers.
Such a savage sneer, repeated from factory to
factory, would not tend to produce pleasant
feelings in the minds of those intelligent union-
ists, who did know what was good for them.
The rioting in the coal regions has in almost
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 53
every case been caused by the harsh tactics of
the big operators. When the miners would
elect a capable man as agent for their union,
the operators would bribe him away by offering
him a better paid job elsewhere. Ignorant
Huns, who could not handle a safety-lamp or
read a danger signal, were sent into the mines,
and naturally the other miners went on strike.
All manner of schemes were tried, to make the
miner dig up twice as much coal as he got paid
The Spring Valley outrage will not be forgot-
ten by this generation of miners. In 1886, 2,500
coal miners were lured to Spring Valley by
promises of steady work and good wages- Two
years later, when they had settled down and
paid several instalments on their homes, the
mines were suddenly closed and kept closed
until the miners were starved into accepting
half of their former wages. This is one of the
stories that miners tell to one another on Sun-
days, and it has not helped to make them "loyal
to their employers."
The great Pullman strike was caused by a
reduction of 25 per cent, after the Company had
54 Organized Self-Help,
divided up an annual profit of $2,880,000. To
make it an even three millions, the Company
proposed to take the butter from the working-
Manufacturers have been known to inaugur-
ate a "strike" to convey the idea that their
goods would be scarce, and thus work off a
shop-worn stock. The employees would in this
way find themselves locked out, and regarded
as strikers by the general public.
The structural iron-workers who are now put-
ting up the high East River bridge in New York
city were compelled to strike to get even $4 a
day for their perilous work. Yet the New York
World reporter who spent half an hour with
them on their dangerous narrow scaffolding re-
ceived $50 from the paper for his exploit, and
declared that he would not repeat the adventure
for a million.
Strike-riots are caused, not only by injustice
on the part of the employer, but also by the
aggressive action of either capitalists or police.
A mere crowd of strikers is not a riot, yet it is
often treated as such. In 1877, at Pittsburg
during the great railway strike, the militia fired
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 55
a volley into a crowd of men, women and chil-
dren, instantly killing sixteen of them, and
wounding many others. This made the people
frantic, as might be expected, and $1,000,000
worth of railroad property was destroyed.
All the loss of life at Homestead might also
have been prevented if the advice of the trade
union leaders had been taken. They offered to
provide guards for Carnegie's mills, as they cer-
tainly did not want the places in which they
earned their living to be destroyed by hood-
lums. Carnegie refused the offer with con-
tempt, and brought in his gang of Pinkertons
instead, thus directly instigating the riot that
occurred. Not even the professional "scabs"
are more justly hated by honest workingmen
than are the Pinkerton detectives. These "bull-
dogs of capital" are recruited from among crim-
inals and the desperadoes of the slums. Stories
are told of their destroying property in order to
cast the blame on the strikers, and increase the
value of their own services as "protectors."
The representatives of the law have often
been the first and most serious lawbreakers dur-
ing the process of a strike. This was notably
56 Organised Self-Help.
the case at Albany, where the militia shot dead
two well-known citizens during the street-car
strike ; and at Hazelton, where the Sheriff and
a gang of picked-up ruffians shot and killed 24
unarmed coal miners. In neither case did the
workers retaliate, nor did the law punish the
Capitalists have again and again pitted race
against race, and started feuds which have made
law and order impossible. In the coal regions
they have imported the Huns against the
Americans, and the negroes against both. They
have imported an unpopular race and armed
them, so that bloodshed was unavoidable. In
this way the Armenians were brought into the
shoe-factory cities, and the Chinese into North
Adams. In justice to the Armenians, it should
be said that a couple of years in this country
are generally enough to make them staunch
In 1887 a corporation lawyer told a promi-
nent labor leader that "we have hired anarchists
to be members of your unions so that they
might stir up the devil and bring discredit upon
your whole movement." It was also proved,
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 57
after the A. R. U. strike, that the railroad com-
panies had hired roughs to set fire to a lot of
worn-out freight cars, so that the railroads
could claim damages and at the same time turn
public opinion against the strikers.
In fact, capitalists have always been more
lawless than wage-earners, though they have
generally escaped punishment. Frequently one
railroad company will tear up the tracks of its
rival. The building up of the Standard Oil Com-
pany is a long tale of bribery, lawlessness and
even violence, as Henry D. Lloyd has proved
from the court records.
There have been savage riots in Congress and
Legislatures, among our lawmakers themselves.
The first was a free fight between Congressmen
Lyons and Griswold, over a hundred years ago.
Then came the brutal attack of Brooks upon
Sumner, almost resulting in a murder. And
just before the Spanish War, while Congress
was in session, Congressmen Brumm and Bart-
lett started a riot which resulted in a score of
black eyes and bleeding faces. Books and ink-
bottles were thrown, coats were ripped off and
desks were torn up and smashed, not by a rude
58 Organized Self-Hetp,
crowd of strikers, but by Congressmen who are
supposed to be the law-abiding exemplars of
In 1890 an agent of the Whiskey Trust of-
fered a gauger 200 shares of stock to put an in-
fernal machine under a rival independent dis-
tillery in Chicago. This was sworn to in court,
but the "pull" of the Trust prevented the con-
viction of the agent. Two years previous, this
same distillery had been injured severely by a
dynamite explosion. It was at last sold to the
Trust and the attempts to destroy it ceased.
The criminality of the notorious "Whiskey
Ring" of capitalists in. 1875 should not be for-
gotten, when a gigantic conspiracy to defraud
the government of the tax on distilled spirits
was exposed, and 238 whiskey men and politi-
cians were indicted.
It is well known by most people that capi-
talists as a class are constantly evading or
breaking the laws, besides debauching legisla-
tors by the purchase of legislation favorable to
their own schemes. Our highly respectable
bankers, who would sooner strike an enemy
with a mortgage than a brick, are perpetually
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 69
breaking the laws that relate to their business.
A recently published "History of Banking"
openly admits that in 1893 the banks issued
emergency paper money without paying the
legal 10 per cent, tax to the government.
Chas. Francis Adams, President of the Union
Pacific Railway, admitted that "irresponsible
and secret combinations among railways have
always existed." And he added that no law
could prevent them.
The black-list is as illegal as the boycott, and
a far more cruel weapon, yet it is frequently
used by capitalists. The black-list has followed
a workman across the continent and finally
driven him out of his trade. One workman, an
axemaker, of whom 1 have heard, was black-
listed so effectually that he applied for work at
63 shops without success.
There is also this great difference between
the worker and the capitalist in the matter of
lawlessness — the worker is battling for necessi-
ties, not luxuries ; for earnings, not dividends ;
for a social benefit, not for a private advantage.
The smashing of a few panes of window-glass or
the pummeling of a few "scabs" does far less
60 Organized Self-Help.
injury to the national welfare than the corrupt
purchase of franchises by corporations.
The really serious, insidious crimes against
free institutions and an honest government are
not committed by workingmen, and least of all
by trade unions. As Mayor Swift, of Chicago,
said in '96, in an address given to the principal
club of capitalists in the city: "Talk about an-
archy ! Talk about breathing the spirit of com-
mercialism ! Who does it more than the repre-
sentative citizens of Chicago? Who bribes the
Common Council? It is not the men in the com-
mon walks of life. It is you capitalists, you busi-
"If our civilization is destroyed," says Henry D.
Lloyd, "it will not be by barbarians from below,
but by barbarians from above. Our great money-
makers are gluttons of luxury and power, rough,
unsocialized, believing that mankind must be kept
The real danger to the Republic is not from
strikers, but from the corrupt politicians, the
biassed judges and the despotic monopolists. Free-
dom was never yet put in danger by revolts against
oppression. What did Jefferson say he feared
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 61
most when, in his ripe old age, he had time to
carefully consider the destinies of his country?
He said: "The great object of my fear is the
Federal judiciary." The decisions of the Supreme
Court on the questions of slavery, Trusts and the
Income Tax have amply justified his fears.
In a country like China or ancient Egypt, caste
and religion prevented disorder by glueing society
together; but in a democracy like ours nothing
but equal rights and fair play can prevent constant
outbreaks and even revolutions. In proportion
to our population we have not to-day one-tenth as
many riots, or as much rowdyism, as there was ioo
years ago, when workingmen had no unions and
fewer rights. In those days the popular hatred of
aristocracy showed itself in a thousand petty acts
For instance, a teamster in 1800 delighted to
take a wheel off a carriage, to break the shaft or
tip it and its well-dressed occupants into the ditch.
At the theatres, the people in the gallery jeered
and hooted at the people in the boxes. They sang
lewd songs and made coarse jokes. Any particu-
larly stylish-looking man was ordered by the
gang in the gallery to take off his hat; and if he
62 Organised Self-Help.
refused to do so he was pelted with sticks, stones,
bottles, etc., until he either obeyed or was driven
from the theatre. In those days all men, as well as
women, kept their hats on during the play.
Well-dressed men and women were intentionally
jostled on the sidewalks. To the poorly paid, un-
educated laborer, democracy meant no more than
a chance to be impudent to aristocrats. Until the
hours of labor were reduced, gangs of roughs,
called "Plug-Uglies," "Butt-Enders," etc., insulted
and terrorized the passers-by in all the factory
towns in New England. "Knock his face in,"
"Rock him round the corner," and all manner of
vile epithets were howled after any one whose
fastidious dress attracted their attention.
De Tocqueville noticed this growing menace to
social order seventy years ago, and said: "The
lower orders which inhabit the large American
cities constitute a rabble even more formidable
than the populace of European cities." In a non-
military country of political equals, like ours, a
horde of undisciplined, ignorant, non-union wage-
workers would mean a series of revolutions, ending
in a military feudalism. Our government would
be as insecure as that of Venezuela or some other
Prevents Lazvlessness and Revolution. 63
South American Republic where a citizen becomes
a rebel at a moment's notice. The safety of our
middle-class people, though few of them realize it,
depends primarily upon the intelligence, organiza-
tion and general welfare of the wage-workers.
The trade union is the great school for grown-
ups, where discipline and self-respect are taught.
It emancipates the worker from that old-time ter-
rorism which used to make it impossible to get a
workingman to sign his name to a petition for more
wages, lest the dreaded boss should see it and put
him on the black-list. It transforms the "Butt-
Ender" into a citizen and replaces force with rea-
son. Most capitalists and professors would be
much improved by a two years' course in a trade
The experienced unionist never rushes into a
strike. He acts with less haste and more force.
Like Fabius, he waits for the right moment, and
when the time comes he strikes hard. Thirty years
of unionism has shown that nothing prevents
strikes so effectively as a strong, well-financed
union. The Cigarmakers' Union, for instance, has
prevented over 200 strikes in three years. For four
years the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union has pre-
64 Organized Self -Help.
vented strikes in the shoe trade by making con-
tracts with the manufacturers, referring all dis-
putes to a board of arbitration.
The disorganized condition of the farmers and
mechanics caused two serious rebellions in early
American history, besides several large bread-
riots. In 1786 Daniel Shay led an insurrection
against the State government of Massachusetts.
He and his men prevented courts from sitting, and
nearly captured the Springfield arsenal. Several
small battles were fought before his force was dis-
American historians write of "Shay's Rebellion"
as if it were an uprising of law-breaking hoodlums,
when in reality it was far more justifiable than
John Brown's raid. Shay was a captain in the
Revolutionary army, and acted merely as the agent
of public opinion. At that time thousands of debt-
ors were being dragged to the courts, bankrupted
and imprisoned. Rascally lawyers were extorting
ruinous fees and tangling honest, industrious men
in the meshes of the law. Money was scarce and
taxation was unendurable, while the State officials
were voting high salaries into their own pockets.
There were no "Farmers' Granges" or trade unions
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 65
to make an organized protest against these abuses,
and the natural result was a rebellion that ex-
tended from Massachusetts to Rhode Island and
In 1844 another rebellion, also misrepresented
by historians, occurred in Rhode Island. Its leader
was Thomas W. Dorr, and its object was manhood
suffrage. Dorr was elected Governor by a major-
ity of the people of the State, but the Federal gov-
ernment declared his election to be void, and sent
troops to displace him. He and several hundred
of his followers armed themselves and resisted, but
were defeated. Dorr was sentenced to solitary
imprisonment for life at hard labor, but was par-
doned in 1847.
It is quite certain that Dorr was a cultured,
ncble-spirited patriot, who loved his country, not
wisely, perhaps, but too well. Whittier was his
intimate friend, and calls him a high-minded
scholar and philanthropist. While in jail Dorr
was cruelly ill-treated, but no one dared to plead
for him except Whittier and several labor papers.
Now that every one admits the justice of his de-
mand for manhood suffrage, what was called his
66 Organised Self -Help.
"crime" should be forgiven and only his noble pur-
From the rebellions of Shay and Dorr, and their
innumerable counterparts in human history, we
may learn the folly of repression and the "iron
hand/' Misery is an explosive, and will and should
remain so. The only safe way of dealing with
Misery is to give it a fair hearing and to remove
its causes. Otherwise it has certain terrible ways
of attracting attention to itself, as many a Russian
Cj-ar has discovered.
"If you forbid free speech," said the plain-spoken
New York Journal, "if you tell men that they must
not use persuasion, you tell them at the same time
that they must use force ; and, by violating the law
and the Constitution, you justify them in using
force and violating the law on their side."
Before unions were made legal in England, all
sorts of violence was committed by dissatisfied
workingmen. Bodies of "machine-breakers"
broke into the factories and smashed the ma-
chinery; belts were cut and engines torn down.
When unionism became strong, all this destruc-
tiveness ceased at once. "The trade unions are
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 67
usually the best teachers of law, order and discip-
line," says the "Encyclopedia of Social Reforms."
Rome forbade strikes, and allowed unions to
exist merely as regiments of an industrial army
that had few rights except to obey orders. As a
result, the workers rose again and again in armed
rebellion against their masters. Rome was never
safe from the plots that were devised in its in-
dustrial cellar. In 143 B. C, the laborers of Sicily
revolted against the Romans, and maintained their
freedom for ten years. They put to death every
capitalist in the island, except two or three, who
had treated them with kindness. Forty years later
the next generation of workers in Sicily rebelled in
the same way as their fathers, and for five years de-
feated every army that was sent against them.
Two generations before the Christian era the
greatest slave rebellion in history began in Rome.
Its leader was Spartacus, a shepherd, who was to
be dragged to Rome and compelled to fight other
workers in the gladiatorial arena to amuse the
landlords, capitalists, politicians and their wives.
Spartacus, with seventy-eight other captive
workingmen, fought himself free and gathered a
vast army of 200,000 laborers around him. He de-
68 Organized Self -Help.
feated the Roman soldiers in twelve great battles,
and at one time had the Imperial City at his mercy.
For four years he shook the Roman Empire to its
foundations, until Crassus finally conquered him,
dispersed his army and crucified 6,000 of them on
Greece also made strikes illegal and suffered
from several labor wars. In 413 B. C. the earliest
great rebellion of laborers occurred, in the Laurium
silver mines, which belong to the city of Athens.
Twenty thousand miners rebelled and escaped to
Sparta, which was then at war with Athens. This
rebellion had the effect of deciding the Pelopon-
nesian war in favor of Sparta. In those days it
was taught by the colleges that laborers had no
souls ; and according to the law it was no crime for
an employer to kill a workman who displeased
him. Yet even then, when the workers organized
they were strong enough to decide international
contests and to bring down ruin upon their oppres-
To sum up, no law can prevent resistance to
oppression, and it is infinitely better that the re-
sistance should come from a responsible trade
Prevents Lawlessness and Revolution. 69
union than from a mob. The pages of history are
red with warnings against the policy of repression,
and in no time or place has such a policy been as
shortsighted and suicidal as it would be in our
twentieth century republic.
THE TRADE UNION IS THE DISTRIBUTOR OF PROS-
* 6 T F I owned this canal, I'd take all these nasty
1 gates out of it," said a little boy to his
father, as the steamer on which they were sailing
was passing through the locks of the Sault Ste.
Marie Canal. To the child's mind the locks were
nothing but vexatious obstacles in the boat's
course. He did not know that without those
"gates" the canal would be a shallow brook, abso-
lutely worthless for purposes of navigation.
And so, whenever a strike occurs, there are al-
ways a number of people with grown-up bodies
and baby minds, who cry out that trade unions in-
terfere with business and general prosperity.
Others who know better, but whose opinions are
governed by some capitalistic interests, take up the
cry, until to-day it is a very common belief that
prosperity is endangered by labor organizations.
This assertion is not only untrue, but absurd, to
The Distributor of Prosperity. 71
those who are acquainted with the industrial his-
tory of America. If it had not been for trade
unions workingmen might now be working for 50
cents a day, and business might be as dull and
sluggish as it is in Spain, where the laborer buys
a new suit once in five years and lives on rye and
The high rate of wages in this country, compared
with Europe and Asia, is not accidental. It is not
due to the greater benevolence on the part of
American capitalists. It is not due to the fact that
this is a new country; the Canadian province of
Quebec is a new country, yet wages are lower there
than in England. It is due to the seventy-five-
y cars' fight against loiv wages made by organized
This country was not a workingman's paradise
when it was first settled. Every inch of progress
for the laborer has had to be fought for. What-
ever share of prosperity the average man has to-
day is owing to the sturdy independence and united
efforts of those who believed in the "rights of
When America was a British colony the work-
ingman had no more rights than a horse. A law
72 Organised Self -Help.
was passed in Massachusetts in 1633 enacting that
all "master workmen'' should be paid not more than
two shillings (48 cents) a day, or 28 cents a day
and board. This was the maximum rate. There
was no law to prevent the employer from paying
It was only the best skilled mechanics who could
hope for 48 cents a day. Other workingmen were
to have their rate of wages fixed by the constable,
and were to be paid from 20 cents to 36 cents a day
and board themselves. Any employer who paid
more than these fixed rates was fined, and so was
any worker who demanded more. The wage-
worker who tried to raise the market price of his
labor was regarded as an anarchist and a criminal
and dragged before the nearest judge.
The worker of to-day has thus escaped one un-
endurable evil — his wages are not fixed by the
police. If they were, then every trade union would
have to be transformed into a "Parkhurst Society,"
wasting its efforts in the visionary endeavor to
keep police captains honest, or arranging terms
with "John Doe."
In colonial days Indians who worked in the fields
The Distributor of Prosperity. 73
got 36 cents a day, and women received from 6
cents to 8 cents a day and board.
The first workingman in America to get a dollar
a day was John Marshall, of Braintree, Mass. He
made this world-beating record from 1697 to 171 1.
It seems that Marshall was such an "all-around
man" that his services were greatly in demand. He
was by turns a carpenter, lathe-maker, painter,
brick-maker, etc. Among his own generation he
was quite famous, and he should certainly be re-
membered and honored for his cleverness and busi-
ness ability. Some time, let us hope, we shall have
a niche in a new "Hall of Fame" for John Marshall,
the first workingman in the world who compelled
Capital to pay him a dollar a day.
After the War of Independence, work and wages
remained the same. The Revolution did not mean
two cents a day more to any worker in the country.
As McMaster says : "In the general advance made
by society in fifty years (1775 to 1825) the work-
ingman had shared but little. Many old grievances
no longer troubled him, but new ones, more nu-
merous and galling than the old, were pressing him
sorely. Wages had risen, but not in proportion to
the cost of living."
74 Organized Self-Help.
In 1794 it was stated in Congress that a good
workman in Vermont could get no more than $4 a
month and board, and had to buy his own clothes.
In all the States at that time there were men work-
ing for $3 a month and board.
The city of Washington was built by workers
who got not more than 50 cents a day. The dig-
gers, choppers, hod-carriers, etc., got $70 a year,
and worked, as all laborers did, from sunrise to
When this century began, wages in New York
were 40 cents a day, and in Baltimore 36 cents.
The average rate, all over the country, was $65 a
year, with board and perhaps lodging. Composi-
tors got as much as $8 a week, which was regarded
as an enormous sum. This was partly due to the
fact that only educated men could be employed,
and partly because the compositors have always
been the most persistent advocates of higher wages.
It was their custom to have an annual strike or
"turn-out" to get better terms from their em-
It was common for farm-hands to get $2 a week,
upon which they had to support themselves, and
often a family as well. In 1825 hundreds were
The Distributor of Prosperity. 75
glad to work for 25 cents and 37^2 cents a day
through the winter, and many an industrious man
worked 14 hours a day for nothing more than his
The wages that I have been quoting are what
the worker was supposed to get — what his em-
ployer promised him. But it must be kept in mind
that the workingman had no law to secure the pay-
ment of his wages until 1830. A rascally contrac-
tor could work a gang of men for a year and then
refuse to pay them.
Wages were not paid weekly or monthly, but at
long irregular intervals ; and what was worst of
all, they were very often paid in bad money. Any-
thing was considered good enough to pay a work-
ingman with, and so they were given counterfeit
bills, notes of broken banks, depreciated money,
It is not hard to imagine the bitter misery that
invaded many a laborer's cottage in those days of
"free labor," when after months of weary waiting
for his wages, the poor, defrauded worker brought
home to his half-fed family a check for $25 on a
broken bank. The romantic writers of "historical
76 Organized Self-Help.
novels" always abstain very carefully from pictur-
ing such a scene.
What little money the working people had was
made mostly of copper. Silver was hard to get,
and gold was as rare as diamonds. In 1789 the
copper money depreciated, because of the tricks of
politicians or bankers; and for a while it took 64
pennies to make a shilling. In some States copper
money was refused everywhere. As a result, there
was the greatest distress among the working
people. McMaster speaks of their "deplorable
plight." Shops were closed and hundreds lingered
for weeks on the verge of starvation. And all this
was caused by a stoppage of pennies, such was the
moneyless condition of the laboring class.
Food was by no means cheap in those days. Pork
was 20 cents a pound, corn was 75 cents a bushel,
wheat $2.10 a bushel, bread 8 cents a loaf. As
McMaster admits, "Nothing but perfect health,
steady .work, sobriety, the strictest economy, and
the help of his wife could enable a married man to
Yet even then, as now, the blame for poverty
was thrown upon the poor and not upon social con-
ditions. We find, in the sermons and lectures of
The Distributor of Prosperity. 77
the time, the astounding assertion made that pov-
erty was caused by "intemperance and ill-advised
charity." No committee of manufacturers pro-
posed to raise wages, and no conference of min-
isters or board of professors asked them to do so.
Every four years the whole country was rocked
with the excitement of an election, but no election
meant an extra ten cents' worth of prosperity to
the laboring man.
Big enterprises were being undertaken, such as
the digging of the Erie Canal, the building of rail-
roads and steamships, the enlarging of factories,
etc., but all were for the sole benefit of the capital-
ist and financier. No matter how much the volume
of business increased, wages remained low except
where the trade unions forced them higher.
As late as 1835, the Baltimore weavers were
working 12 hours a day for 65 cents. At Great
Falls, N. H., in 1844, the factory girls labored
from 5 a. m. until 7 p. m., with only 15 minutes
for breakfast and 30 minutes for dinner. What
they earned we do not know, but all they received
was $1.25 to $2 a week.
In New York at this time seamstresses got from
75 cents to $1.50 a week, and matchbox-makers
78 Organized Sclf-Hclp.
got 5 cents a gross, or one cent for 30 boxes.
"Smart" employers sent agents on board of incom-
ing steamships to hire immigrants to work for $20
to $30 a year and board. This was, of course, the
low-water mark of wages, but shows what may be
expected when capitalists are not restrained by fear
of trade union retaliation.
Fancy pictures have been drawn of the universal
prosperity of fifty years ago. Carey, the political
economist, said in 1845 : "In Massachusetts all
have property and invest their surplus upon their
own possessions. Every man lives in his own
house, and works in the mill of which he is part
owner." Lyell praised the factory system of
Lowell, and said the workers appeared like "a set
of ladies and gentlemen playing at factory for
their own amusement." Charles Dickens visited
America at the same time, and said that "a beggar
upon the streets of Boston would create as much
astonishment as an angel with a drawn sword."
If this latter observation be true, then angels'
visits in those days were not "few and far be-
tween," as in 1843 no fewer than 50,000 people
received relief from the city in New York alone,
being one-seventh of the population. The exact
The Distributor of Prosperity. 79
number of paupers in Boston is not given, but rela-
tively the amount of destitution was quite as
The prosperity of the Lowell mill-workers is
another fallacy which is becoming historical and
therefore sacred. It seems that a little paper
called the "Lowell Offering" was published for
several years by the factory girls, and it gave
outsiders, and especially English visitors, an en-
tirely wrong impression of our factory system.
The important truth about the Lowell fac-
tories of that time is that the average wages of the
8,000 zvorkers zvas $1.50 a week. Many got as
low as 55 cents, and would thus have to work
nearly two weeks to pay for a subscription to
their own paper. It is also difficult to see when
they found time to write poems and essays, as
they worked 13 hours a day, without an hour
less on Saturday. A writer in the "Working-
men's Advocate," a labor paper published at
that time, states that the "Lowell Offering" was
an idea of the employers and was not supported
by the factory workers.
A similarly deceptive paper was published at
Exeter, N. H., and called "The Factory Girls'
80 Organized Self -Help.
Garland." The factory girls who were sup-
posed to edit it were not only being driven 13
hours a day, but were also compelled to attend
church regularly under penalty of losing their
jobs. Thus, unless they were afflicted with
insomnia, they had no time to weave literary
It is no doubt true that the factory workers
of that time were the best in the world, and
quite capable of editing magazines. But they
were certainly not illustrations of the prosperity
of non-union working people. In a young agri-
cultural country, where money was scarce, and
everyone was accustomed to hard work, the
first factories were a welcome change, no matter
what they paid. The sons and daughters of
nearby farmers were glad to work for a little
pocket-money and had no idea of the market
value of their labor. They lived at home and
paid little or nothing for board. It was fun for
the first few months and they did not discover
until it was too late that this "pocket-money"
was afterwards to be their only means of sup-
Lowell was then, and is now, a heaven on
The Distributor of Prosperity. 81
earth for capitalists, and the other thing for
wage-workers. Like New Bedford, Fall River,
Manchester and Lawrence, it is simply a collec-
tion of slave-barracks called factories in which
unhappy tens of thousands hustle and sweat for
barely enough wages to pay their last week's
Two years before Dickens' visit, many of the
poor were frozen to death in the large cities.
Bakers' shops were raided by the starving
people. Horace Greeley said there were "30,000
human beings within the sound of the City Hall
bell who could not find work;" and Chas. A.
Dana declared that "the whole tendency of in-
dustry is perpetually to disgrace the laborer,
to grind him down and reduce his wages."
In the face of such conditions, the two urgent
reforms were to reduce hours and to raise ivages.
Paupers could not buy goods and make busi-
ness boom. Moneyless families could not "go
West." A great landless, homeless and often
workless mob was growing up in every factory
city, and the national problem of the time was
to make it a law-abiding, intelligent and pros-
perous part of the community.
82 Organised Self-Help.
To meet this necessity, trade unions we r e
formed; and as they fought their way and became
strong, business improved and was placed upon
a more solid foundation. At first they had been
for benevolent purposes only. It was illegal
ioo years ago to combine for higher wages, and
in 1785 the mechanics of New York were re-
fused leave to form even a society for mutual
Gradually, as the Declaration of Independ-
ence came to be understood, the unions began
to strike for better conditions. Again and again
they struck, in spite of fines and imprisonment.
In 1795 the Baltimore tailors demanded $1.80
per job and got it. Seven years later the New
York sailors struck for $14 a month. They
hired a band and marched up and down the
streets. The ship-owners at once had the leader
arrested and imprisoned until the strikers sur-
rendered and agreed to work for $10 a month,
About this time the pavers, who were work-
ing in Washington for the government, struck
for 10 cents an hour, instead of 87 cents for an
The Distributor of Prosperity. 83
The Philadelphia shoemakers were an espe-
cially intelligent body of men, and they had
forced wages up to $11.50 per week in 1806.
The employers then had a batch of them ar-
rested. They were declared "guilty of a com-
bination to raise wages," and fined $8 each with
These strikes, and others, though not always
successful, encouraged the working people in all
parts of the country. For the first time they
realized the power of organization. By means
of petitions, protests and strikes they cut down
the hours of labor to 12 in many places and
raised wages besides.
In 1836 they received a severe set-back, from
which they did not recover for 15 years. A
union of tailors in New York had struck for
higher wages, and 21 of them were dragged be-
fore a judge named Edwards and fined a total
of $1,150. The Supreme Court of New York
then sat on the case, or rather on the tailors,
and decided that trade unions were unlawful.
This decision, combined with a period of hard
times, killed unionism for a time; and at once
84 Organised Self -Help.
wages fell and hours were increased to 13 and
15 a day.
All those humble heroes who fought for the
right to organize, and who suffered imprison-
ment and legalized robbery at the hands of the
government, have been forgotten. I have
searched through histories and biographies in
vain for the name of any trade union leader
prior to 1825. In every case they are lumped
together as "shoemakers," "tailors," "carpen-
ters," etc., as if they had no more right to indi-
vidual names than so many cattle. The men of
patriotic zvords have been remembered and the
men of patriotic actions have been forgotten.
The first union of weavers in Fall River was
organized by an Englishman and an Irishman.
They were arrested for "conspiracy" and sent to
jail for two years. The Englishman died in jail ;
but the Irishman served his term ; and when he
found himself blacklisted, he became a politician
and was elected to Congress. The public opin-
ion of the time allowed a man to go into politics
and talk about the rights of Labor but it refused
him permission to do anything to obtain those
The Distributor of Prosperity. 85
It is continually stated that strikes are nearly
always failures, but the contrary is the truth. It
is non-striking that fails. Carrol D. Wright's
figures show that only about 40 per cent, of all
strikes fail. The chances are nearly two to one
in favor of the strikers.
In four years the carpenters have won 476
strikes out of 523, besides compromising 24. In
their case a strike is a sure thing, as much as
anything can be in a world of chances.
In Massachusetts, where there have been
many strikes, wages average higher than in
New Hampshire, where unions are few. In the
eighteenth century, when only four strikes are
recorded, wages were under 50 cents a day ;
while in the year 1886 alone there were 1,411
strikes, and wages averaged three times as
The fact is, that every strike succeeds, if it
arises from a just cause. It creates public opin-
ion in favor of the strikers and often helps to
shape legislation. It was a lost strike that
stirred up public sentiment in New Zealand so
that the laboring classes captured the political
power, and have held it ever since. It was a
86 Organised Self-Help.
lost strike that elected a shoemaker Mayor of
Haverhill and put three others in the Council.
No one can tell how many cut-downs are
prevented by the fear of a strike. As long as
the workmen submitted and turned the other
cheek, it was the employer who did all the strik-
ing; but when Labor learned to hit back, Capital
at once became less pugnacious.
The success of trade unions in raising wages
may be shown by the following facts: In 1850
the average factory wages were $247 a year ; in
1890, $446. Wages in cotton factories in 1830
were 44 cents a day; in 1873, $1.49.
The bricklayers have one of the strongest
unions in the world, with nearly $40,000 in their
treasury at the present time. These are the
steps by which they climbed : In 1776 they got
50 cents for 14 hours; in 1850, $1.75 for 12
hours; and in 1901, $4.80 for 8 hours. From 4
cents an hour to 60 cents an hour! Their share
of national prosperity has been multiplied fif-
teen times in New York City by organization.
It is easily noticeable that wages are highest
where unions are strongest. For instance, in
the building trades, where unions are strong,
The Distributor of Prosperity. 87
wages average $2.86 a day; while in groceries
and the lumber trade, where unions are few and
weak, wages average $1.65 and $140.
It must not be thought that wages are yet as
high as they should be. In view of the wonder-
ful productivity of our American skilled work-
ers, it is a moderate statement to say that the
minimum wage should be $5 for an 8-hour day.
The attainment of this rate would do more to
bring permanent prosperity than all the propo-
sitions ever thought of by politicians.
The capitalist is still charging the workers
far too much for his services in directing and
consolidating industry. Rent, interest and
profits go to a very few people, and should be
reduced; while wages go to the bulk of the
nation, and must be increased, if prosperity is
to be national, and not private. That is the whole
social problem in a nutshell.
In 1890, the 4,700,000 factory workers got
$2,283,000,000 for making goods that sold for
$9,372,000,000. It can thus be seen that the
charges for capital and superintendence were too
high. In proportion to the product, the wage-
worker got 6 per cent, less in 1890 than in 1850.
88 Organized Self-Help.
Labor is robbed by the dishonest device of
watering' stock, to the extent of millions a
year. Philadelphia street-railways cost in actual
cash $5,840,000; yet they are capitalized for
$38,480,000. The railroad capitalists make their
employees and the public pay interest on $32,-
000,000 which was never borrowed and never
existed. What a hue and cry would be raised
if the trade unions attempted to "water" Labor, '
and insisted on making the employer pay for six
times as many workers as he had in his factory !
Political economists have pasted together
many a pretty, tissue-paper theory of wages,
but none of them have patterned after the facts.
Ricardo's "wage-fund" was wholly imaginary;
Walker's theory that production governs wages
is nearer the truth, but still far from it; the
"iron law" of Lassalle and Marx has less in-
stances than exceptions, and is true only in a
land of unorganized serfs; and Henry George's
theory that wages depend upon access to land
is not and never has been true ; and it is un-
intelligible to-day among the working people of
the large cities. If it were true, then wages
would be higher in Russia than in New York.
The Distributor of Prosperity. 89
The real "law of wages" depends on the grade
of the workers themselves. Workers get as
much of their product as their combined, or-
ganized intelligence and courage deserve. An
intelligent union man may produce $6 worth a
day, and get $5 of it; while a submissive Chi-
nese gold-miner may find a nugget every day
and get $2 a week for making his employer's
fortune. Thus the "iron law" of wages can be
hammered into shape on the anvil of unionism.
When the average worker is as intelligent in
matters of self-interest as the average capitalist
is to-day, he will get all the value of his prod-
uct, less the cost of superintendence. The
union may then hire the capitalist, instead of the
capitalist hiring the union.
As against the foregoing record of trade
unionism in raising wages, and thus distribut-
ing and promoting prosperity, let us look at the
record of the banks during the same period.
The banks are chosen because they are in every
way capitalistic institutions, for which wage-
workers are in no way responsible. We shall
see what they have done for the harmony and
90 Organized Self-Help.
stability of commerce, and for the just distribu-
tion of wealth.
To begin with, it is plain that the banks have
been the greatest disturbers of "confidence" in
the business world. They have been either the
creators of panics, or the agencies through
which the panic-makers reached the general
public. In this country and England there
were twelve great panics during the 19th cen-
tury—in 1810, '15, '25, '36, '37, '47, '57, '66, '73,
'84, '90, and '93.
So far as damage to business is concerned, a
panic is to a strike what a dynamite gun is to a
bow and arrow. A panic does not injure one
employer or one trade, but the entire nation.
It displaces the very foundations upon which
commerce stands. It is like an earthquake
which shakes down palace and cottage alike in
one common wreck.
In 1814 nearly all the State banks outside of
New England either suspended specie payment
or failed altogether. From 1816 to 1820 the
country was nearly ruined by the top-heavy
financiering of reckless bankers. So rascally
were the tactics employed by the banks that in
The Distributor of Prosperity. 91
1829 a convention of workingmen called bank-
ers "the greatest knaves, impostors and paupers
of the age." It had been discovered that the
bankers had promised to redeem $35,000,000 of
paper with $4,000,000 of specie.
Nicholas Biddle, founder of the ill-famed U.
S. Bank, cost this nation more during the thir-
ties than all the strikes of that period. His
gigantic scheme to corner cotton in 1837 ruined
thousands. Biddle was the first great corrup-
tionist that this country produced.
During the panic of '36, Albert Brisbane
wrote, "Not a dozen men survived bankruptcy
between Albany and Buffalo." And in the
greater panic which followed a year later, 128
large concerns failed in ten days, and all the banks
in America suspended specie payment.
The whole State of Indiana was brought to
the edge of bankruptcy in 1853 by the banks.
Out of 91 banks, 51 failed, and paid scarcely
anything to creditors. It seems that the law,
framed for capitalistic purposes, allowed a
"financier" to start a bank without any capital
except enough to pay for the printing of his
92 Organised Self-Htlp.
The same "law" prevailed in several other
States. In Wisconsin a sharper would start his
bank in a logging-camp or in some remote cor-
ner of the woods. As soon as his money was in
circulation, it was as much as a man's life was
worth to ask for specie payment. The only
specie the bank would possess was powder and
shot, and if the creditor did not leave in a hurry
he was "paid off."
In Michigan also, banking and burglary
amounted to the same thing, though more re-
spectable devices were adopted than shot-guns.
Boxes filled with glass or old iron, with a layer
of silver on top, were their only assets ; and the
same "assets" often did duty for several banks.
So disastrous was the work done by the banks
in Iowa that banking was made a penal offence,
punishable by $1,000 fine and one year in jail.
This law was not repealed until 1857.
In Nebraska thousands of industrious farm-
ers, merchants and mechanics were ruined by
Savings Banks. The very name is yet an epi-
thet of distrust and contempt, such are the
memories of rascality connected with those in-
The Distributor of Prosperity. 93
In the panic of '73, 19 banks smashed in a
single day. St. Louis alone had to suffer the
collapse of 25 banks before the crisis was over,
and was nearly ruined.
In the panic of '84, 1 1 1 bank failures brought
$240,000,000 worth of poverty and misery to the
nation. This is three times as much loss as the
Pullman strike is asserted to have caused. The
estimates of losses caused by strikes is invaria-
bly too large, as a strike does not destroy busi-
ness, but only postpones it.
In the panic of '93, 141 national banks sus-
pended in three months and 415 private banks,
trust companies, etc., collapsed. The total na-
tional loss caused by that panic can never be
computed. For months millions of men and
women were out of employment, and the desti-
tution in the great cities will never be forgot-
ten by those who saw it.
Without counting the national banks, there
were 1,234 bank failures from 1864 to 1896, with
liabilities of $220,629,988. And from 1863 to
1882, 87 national banks smashed, with a total
loss to depositors of $7,000,000.
Allowing that the private banks pay 50 cents
94 Organised Self-Help.
on the dollar, there is thus a loss every week day
of over $11,000 from broken banks. This is the
direct loss in actual cash, but the far greater
loss is in the lack of security and stability which
these unreliable banks cause.
A general feeling of apprehension, most fatal
to business, is created by our lack of confidence
in our banks. The slightest rumor often sends
us flying for our money. Some time ago, a
man dropped dead from heart disease in front
of a Troy bank ; a crowd collected at once, and
the rumor of a run on the bank brought every
depositor to its doors. In a few hours the bank
A business man gave me a unique view of
the utility of banks recently. He said, "You
see, our financiering is so reckless that every
depositor is compelled to pull out his money
and invest it in some enterprise, because he
can't trust it very long in these rotten banks."
The same argument, however, applies to the
firebug, who makes business good for the build-
In brief, no "agitator" has done as mucli to
disturb business as the banker. Considered as
The Distributor of Prosperity. 95
a criminal, no one is more difficult to convict, or
more likely to be pardoned. An average of ten
bank-wreckers are set free every year, on all
manner of flimsy pretexts.
In almost every State, there are a few banks
whose history has been spotless and honorable ;
and it has been common for every banker to throw
the cloak of their good name over his misdeeds.
If a banker embezzles, it is generally spoken of
as a misfortune or an unlucky accident, while if
a striker breaks the slightest city ordinance, it
is regarded as just what might be expected.
My object has been to show that as a general
rule the trade union not only prevents lawless-
ness but promotes prosperity by advancing
wages and making employment more secure;
while the banker, considering him as a type of
the capitalistic, anti-trade union class, has de-
creased prosperity and added greatly to the nor-
mal risks of business. The trade union dis-
tributes prosperity where it is most needed ; but
the bank lias been the agency by which pros-
perity has been concentrated where it was least
The legitimate capitalist makes the greatest
96 Organized Self-Help.
mistake of his life in fighting trade unions in-
stead of co-operating with them against finan-
cial schemers, political blackmailers and mon-
opolists. It is to the employer's interest to
have intelligent and contented workmen ; but it
is not to his interest to have a system of finan-
cial and political parasitism, such as exists to-
National disasters are not caused by the
strikes of trade unionists, but by the wars of
the politicians, the panics of the bankers and
the "corners" of monopolists. Ninety years
ago, American shipping was swept from the
seas, not by a strike among the sailors, but by
a foolish embargo devised by the "statesmen"
of the time.
The great strike of the English engineers in
'97 was said by all capitalistic papers in that
country to be a national calamity; yet who
would say it cost England a fraction as much
as the politicians' war in South Africa, which
has cost 35,000 men dead or disabled, and $720,-
Every honest business man owes a large debt
to trade unions, though very few make any
The Distributor of Prosperity. 97
effort to pay it. No doubt nine out of ten have
been unaware of their obligation. Wherever
business is dull or money is scarce, there is
some other cause for it than the endeavors of
organized workmen to raise wages. Many a
town has been ruined by the schemes of finan-
ciers or the greed of employers, but very few,
if any, by the unions.
Business depends on buyers, and buyers must get
money before they can spend it. This is the
main condition of prosperity, which professors
and capitalists alike have ignored. Poorly paid
workers buy very little, and machines buy noth-
ing at all. Automatic machinery, owned by a
few capitalists, is one of the greatest destroyers
of business, if no provision is made for the dis-
The prosperity of the middle classes, and, in
the last analysis, of all classes, depends upon
high wages. The druggist, the merchant, the
doctor, the actor, etc., are less prosperous when
the workingman has less money. Business is
sustained, not by the occasional purchase of a
luxury, but by the steady, everyday purchase of
98 Organised Self-Help.
Suppose every American worker were to be-
come as cheap and ox-like as the poor creatures
who are brought from Hungary to work in the
coal mines, what would become of our manu-
facturers? A writer who inspected the coal
mines in 1884 describes the women who were
then employed at the coke ovens. Clothed only
in short chemise and cowhide boots, and some
of them naked from the knees down and from
the waist up, these grimy Amazons toiled all
day long, hauling the hot coke out of the ovens
and forking it into freight cars. Those who
had babies brought them to the coal yard and
laid them in a wheelbarrow or on the sooty
ground. No more unhuman creatures could be
imagined, as they labored in the sweltering heat
like the stokers of Hades, with their streeling
black hair caught between their teeth. Nine of
these people, men and women, lived in two
small rooms, and their store-bill for a month
was only §2J, or ten cents a day each. How
much would such citizens as these help busi-
In a city like Fall River, for instance, where
the manufacturers have been especially greedy
The Distributor of Prosperity. 99
and tyrannical, how many pianos, typewriters
and silk dresses are sold in proportion to the
population ? Is it not true that the trade of the
city is mainly in pork, flour and cheap ready-
The story of the Fall River manufacturers is
a tale of shame. It is a history of embezzling
treasurers, ten per cent, cut-downs following
twenty per cent, dividends, and the importation
of all manner of cheap workers. At present the
weavers' wages range from $3 to $9.50 a week,
and still the remorseless process of reduction
It is this suicidal folly on the part of capital-
ists that ruins business. If an employer cannot
be compelled by his workmen to pay good
wages, he should be compelled by other capital-
ists to do so. It is an evidence of self-destruc-
tive short-sightedness on the part of employers
that they are, as Adam Smith said, "always and
everywhere in a sort of combination not to raise
the wages of labor."
The history of ancient and modern nations
shows that the basis of national prosperity is
the condition of the working people. What
100 Organised Self-Hetp.
was called the "Golden Age" in the history of
Greece was that period when trade unions were
strongest. Those magnificent buildings and
statues, whose fragments we treasure up in our
museums, were made during a time when
Greece was honey-combed with unionism.
The same was even more noticeably true of
Rome. The real prosperity and glory of the
Roman Empire was based upon the manage-
ment of its industry by trade unions, not upon
the achievements of its soldiers. When the
unions were strong, Rome was strong; and
when they were destroyed, Rome crumbled into
In Rome the army got the medals, but the
unions did the work. The union leaders were
the captains of industry. They undertook the
building of roads, the collection of taxes, and
the proper distribution of work, food and cloth-
ing. For instance, as De Cassagnac tells us,
the butchers' union collected the rent in hogs
in Brutium and Samnium ; the bakers received
the rent in grain ; the wine-makers received it in
grapes ; the sailors and wagoners transported it ;
The Distributor of Prosperity. 101
and all' the tribute of Rome's colonies was de-
posited in the trade union warehouses.
The unions became so strong that the Roman
politicians and militarists became afraid of
them, and gradually, by a series of attacks upon
their property and rights, broke up their or-
ganizations. This threw industry into chaos
and disorder; and in spite of the eloquence of
politicians and the valor of armies, Rome
plunged into bankruptcy and decay.
English history tells the same story. The
Elizabethan period, when genius and daring
were at their height, was a result of the Peas-
ants' Rebellion and the breaking up of feudal-
ism. England was never so happy as then,
says J. Thorold Rogers.
Thus it has been proved, I hope, that the
welfare of trade unions means the welfare of
the nation ; that the unsettling of business is
due less to strikes than to panics and reckless
financiers; and that the trade union has been
the main agency by which the benefits of
American civilization have been distributed
among the people.
HIGH-PRICED LABOR AND COMMERCIAL SUPREMACY.
AS long as civilization lasts, commercial su-
premacy will be won by the nation that has
the cleverest workers. Mere bigness counts no
longer in the struggle for foreign trade. It is the
country whose average man is the brainiest that
will control the commerce of the world.
This truth has been recognized as a practical
rule of action by the trade unions, but not by the
majority of employers. Again and again a pitched
battle has been fought between trade unions and
capitalists, because the latter have tried to displace
intelligent American workers with the most stupid
and servile laborers of Europe, Asia and Africa.
In 1869 C. F. Sampson, a shoe manufacturer of
North Adams, imported 130 Chinamen to take the
places of American workers in his factory. He
had tried unsuccessfully to prevent his men from
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 103
forming a union, and in a fit of rage sent for the
The white workers had received $3 a day, but
the Chinese were content with one-third as much.
The whole 130 Chinese herded together in a sort
of barracks, without beds or any furniture except
long benches and tables of uncovered pine boards.
Their food was pork, potatoes and rice, served in a
tin platter for every six people. Each man was
provided with a bowl, out of which he both ate his
food and drank his tea. All their clothes were im-
ported from China, and the greater part of the $6
a week that each received was sent back home.
For over seven years Sampson defied public
sentiment and kept his factory open ; and then he
was compelled to abandon his shameful and unpa-
triotic undertaking, and send the Chinese out of
town. The experiment was a thorough failure.
The quality of the shoes went down at once and
made the disposal of them very difficult. Ineffi-
cient work and waste drove the foremen frantic
and cut down the profits.
At this same time, instigated by the example of
Sampson, a cutlery firm in Beaver Falls imported
300 Chinese to take the places of union workmen.
104 Organised Self-Help.
This change reduced wages from $4.50 a day to
80 cents, and lengthened the working day to 11
hours. Yet the firm was in a few years entirely
ruined, as they deserved to be. In spite of the
great difference in wages and hours, the business
soon had the balance on the wrong side of the led-
ger. Both North Adams and Beaver Falls were
seriously injured in business by these experiments,
and no Eastern manufacturer has imported Chinese
The Geary law, which prevented the repetition
of this Asiatic slave trade, expires on May 5, 1902,
and the Mobile Register is now demanding that it
shall not be re-enacted. "What we need," says this
bat-like journal, "is a million active Chinese in the
South to wake the negro population into activity."
It would be more correct to state that what Ala-
bama needs is a higher type of worker, black and
white. A State that repeals its child-labor law;
that puts 1,200 little tots to work in its factories,
and that produces the largest percentage (18 per
cent.) of illiterate native whites in the Union, does
not need to import ignorance from China. The
domestic article is sufficient.
From time to time the capitalistic patron saint
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 105
of some Chinese Sunday School attempts to get
his yellow converts out of their laundries into the
factories, but so far without success. A mission
school in New York is now trying to establish
trade schools, "where Chinamen would be taught
the use of machinery in the various manufactur-
ing industries." Trade union leaders are called
"un-Christian" and "unbrotherly" because they
oppose these endeavors, but they know too much
history and too much economics to favor such
Recently the Sugar Trust increased its issue of
stock by fifteen millions, for the purpose of start-
ing sugar refineries in Porto Rico. This is a di-
rect stab at our national business interests, as the
Trust aims to produce by cheap foreign labor and
to sell, free of duty, its product at high American
prices. None of our "statesmen" have taken any
step to prevent this injury to business. The trade
union alone has seen the danger, and the President
of the A. F. of L. has already visited Porto Rico
and taken steps to organize unions and raise wages
to the American level.
Capitalists of the small-brained type can never
be taught that labor cannot be both cheap and effi-
106 Organized Self-Help.
cient. The cheap slave works like a cheap slave
and always will. You can no more hire a reliable,
skilled and intelligent man for $6 a week than you
can buy a 2 :io trotter for $100. Elbert Hubbard's
wail about the "slipshod assistance, foolish inat-
tention, dowdy indifference and half-hearted work"
of employees ("Message to Garcia") merely
shows that employers get what they pay for, and
Even snails, so Professor Yung has discovered,
will grow to twice their size if you keep them in a
barrel instead of a tomato-can. And so the effi-
ciency of the worker depends upon the standard of
living that his wages allow him to have. The
shorter his workday, the less he drinks and the
more he reads.
The capitalist alone cannot make a business suc-
ceed. This has been tried in China lately, and in
Spain centuries ago, and always without success.
The monopolist's dream of running factories with
machinery and monkeys is a delusion as well as a
nightmare. The experiment of this country with
cheap negro labor — the most costly and disastrous
mistake it has ever made, should forever prevent
even the suggestion of such a policy in the future.
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 107
We shall now review the part played by our
clever workingmen in the upbuilding of American
commerce. This is a subject to which none of our
historians have done justice. The facts which I
have collected have been gleaned from all manner
of old chronicles and biographies, and are still far
from complete. The average history is like the
"Society Column" in the daily papers, which calmly
informs us that "Everybody js out of town," when
a handful of social parasites have gone to New-
port and Europe.
The first skilled workers who came to America
were glass- workers. In 1609 a body of them be-
gan work at Jamestown, Va., and made beads,
trinkets, etc., which were traded to the Indians for
food and furs. Very little capital was needed to
start a glass-works, so it may be said truly that
American industry was founded by skilled labor,
and not by capital.
The second industry, other than farming, was
shipbuilding. In 1614 the first ship, the "Rest-
less," was built at New York. The colony was
short of money and the patriotic ship-workers took
their pay in corn, at the rate of 50 cents a day, be-
cause of the great need of a ship at that time.
108 Organised Self -Help.
They put the public interest ahead of their own ;
otherwise they might have taken up land and
checkmated the Astors. Altogether, 389 vessels
were built before the Revolution, with an average
of 52 tons.
The first martyrs of American industry were
150 ironworkers and their families, who were mas-
sacred by Indians in 1622 at Falling River, Va.
They had erected smelting furnaces in 1619, the
first on the continent since the days of the Mound-
Builders. For three years they toiled for their
fellow-colonists, and then a host of painted savages
sprang upon them from the woods and left not one
of them alive. We do not know the names of these
men and women — there is nowhere any monument
or inscription to their memory — our poets have
written of the Indians, but not of them. They
were only sooty, wage-working mechanics, and our
lesser poets and courtier-historians have not seen
the humanity and the heroism underneath the soot
The first iron and brass founder was Joseph
Jenks, of Braintree, Mass. His clever work was
the pride of the colony, and he was regarded by
the Indians with superstitious fear.
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 109
The whaling trade, afterwards so profitable, was
started by Chris. Hassey, a Nantucket fisherman,
in 1712. He discovered a whale not far from shore
and succeeded after a daring struggle in harpoon-
ing it and hauling it to land. The first vessel bear-
ing the Stars and Stripes that entered a British
port was a Nantucket whaler loaded with oil.
So rapid was our industrial development, that
at the close of the Revolution our manufactures
were worth about $20,000,000. And the progress
was due, not to an especially capable brand of
capitalists, but to an especially clever brand of
The mechanics of those days were not only bright
and inventive, but they were patriotic as well.
John Fitch, a Connecticut workingman, invented
and built a steamboat in 1785. Spain offered him
a large sum of money for the monopoly of his in-
vention, but Fitch replied: "If there be any glory
and profit in my invention, my countrymen shall
have the whole of it." At this time he was being
badly treated by American legislators, who refused
him charters or financial assistance. Capitalists
also had refused to give him any help and he was
110 Organized Self-Help.
very poor ; yet he nobly refused to sell his inven-
tion to a foreign power.
It is usual for Fulton to receive the credit which
is properly due to Fitch, of constructing the first
steamboat. The fact is that Fitch ran a successful
steamboat 22 years before Fulton's "Clermont."
Fulton's fame is owing partly to his unquestioned
ability as an inventor, but still more to his partner-
ship with Chancellor Livingstone, one of the aris-
tocrats of the time. If merit and priority alone
were considered, the name of John Fitch would
replace that of Robert Fulton in the New York
Hall of Fame. It should also be mentioned that
Elijah Ormsbee, a Rhode Island mechanic, built a
steamboat and ran it on the Hudson 18 years be-
fore Fulton's boat.
In 1789 a mechanic named Cox built a bridge
over the Charles River in Boston. This bridge
was constructed with such unusual skill that its
fame reached Europe. Cox was sent for to build
one like it at Londonderry, Ireland, across the
river Foyle. He went over and built the bridge
with American workmen and American timber ;
and the young Republic was very proud of his
success. This was the beginning of our com-
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. Ill
mcrcial supremacy. It was the first demand in
Europe for the better skilled labor of America.
Cox, the bridge-builder, got the first order.
The factory system began in America in 1790,
and the first scientific, graded factory in the world
was built at Waltham in 18 14. Samuel Slater, the
"father of American manufactures," built the first
cotton factory for Rhode Island manufacturers in
1790. Slater was one of the most capable and re-
markable men of his day. He had been bound out
as an apprentice in an English factory at the age
of 14. England had passed a law against the ex-
portation of machinery to America, with severe
penalties attached. Slater looked upon this pro-
hibitory law as an injustice, and at once made up
his mind to defeat its purpose. He, therefore,
worked in the English cotton factory until he was
familiar with every part of the machinery, and
then bought a steerage ticket for New York. From
memory alone he constructed a complete factory,
a wonderful triumph of mechanical genius, and
thus laid the foundation of an industry which to-
day brings us in $25,000,000 a year from our for-
eign trade alone.
Oliver Evans, a Delaware mechanic, invented
112 Organized Self-Help.
the steam flour mill, saw mill, steam dredge, "Cor-
nish boiler" and a number of other things ; yet his
life was a long struggle with poverty. He lacked
the money-getting instinct, and consequently had
the products of his genius constantly stolen by
capitalists. The struggle for bread hampered
Evans greatly in his mechanical experiments, and
he died poor in 1819.
The first coal in America was discovered by a
poor squatter named Philip Gunter, who was in-
telligent enough to know its value. When he found
it, he was out in the mountains with his rifle to get
food for his hungry family. He stumbled upon a
piece of coal, and carried it with him when next
he went to town. The Philadelphia capitalists at
once organized mining companies, but Gunter
never received a dollar of benefit for his discovery.
He had as much knowledge and enterprise as the
capitalists, but he had no money, and so lost the
chance of making his grandson the president of the
Thomas Leiper, a Boston quarryman, was the
first man in America to use parallel rails and
flanged wheels. He built a track from the dock to
his quarry, and proved that a horse could pull an
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 113
immensely greater load in this way. Leiper was
not aware of the importance of his experiment ; he
did not know (any more than most historians do)
that his wooden track meant more to the country
than all the debates and decisions of Congress dur-
ing his lifetime.
Baldwin, the first successful locomotive builder,
was a Philadelphia mechanic. The capitalists for
whom he made his first engine cheated him out of
$500 on the price of it, and he nearly gave up the
business in disgust. His partner, Asa Whitney,
was a blacksmith, and became famous as the per-
fecter of car wheels.
Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine,
and Walter Hunt, who invented a successful sew-
ing machine fourteen years before Howe, but
failed to take out a patent, were both poor me-
chanics. The "enterprising" capitalists of their
day allowed them to be handicapped with poverty
and to spend years in the vain endeavor to get their
inventions on the market. Howe at last made a
fortune, but he was forced' into the courts so often
to defend his patents that the lawyers got all his
money and he died poor.
James Rumsey, inventor of steam engines, was a
114 Organized Self-Help.
Maryland machinist ; and McKay, inventor of shoe
machinery, was a Lawrence mechanic. And so we
might continue the list, if more proof were needed
of the inventiveness of the American workman.
The progress of American industry has amply
proved that "the high price of labor stimulates the
invention of labor-saving machinery." Inventions
were not numerous till 1849, when 1,067 patents
were issued. In i860, 3,329 were granted, and in
1867, when workingmen were well organized, the
number of patents jumped to 13,026. The increase
continued, parallel with the increase in wages, until
1890, when 26,292 patents were made out.
In 1800, when wages were 50 cents a day, a
dozen pigeon-holes were big enough to hold all the
records of the Patent Office and one clerk did all
the work. To-day the Patent Office is an enor-
mous building, containing hundreds of thousands
It is as easily proved as that two and two make
four that low-wage countries produce few inven-
tors. Here, for instance, is the comparative list of
inventions for 1899:
United States 650,123
England ,...., ... ..... . ........ ..... 278,129
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 115
So far as the intelligence, freedom and pros-
perity of the working people are concerned, the
above nations might be rated as they stand — the
United States first and Spain last. It is worth
noticing that the greatest inventor in the world,
Edison, who has 727 patents issued in his name,
was a Michigan train-boy, and that he was several
times discharged, when a wage-worker, by "enter-
prising" capitalists, because he "tinkered around"
It is continually forgotten that nine-tenths of
our ablest business and professional men received
their early training in a workingman's home. Even
our world-beating financiers and consolidators did
not drop from Heaven, as some editors seem to
think. The men who are born millionaires invari-
ably amount to nothing. All the real greatness of
America has been due to the ability of working-
men's children, ever since the days of Franklin, the
son of a candle-maker.
The important factor in commerce to-day is
116 Organised Self-Help.
neither labor nor capital, as such, but brains. I
do not mean the "brains" of the Wall Street ma-
nipulator any more than I mean the "brains" of
the counterfeiter and bank sneak. Neither do I
mean the "brains" of the monopolist, who merely
piles million upon million. The brute force of
capital is not brains. The sort of intelligence upon
which commercial greatness depends is that of the
inventor, the skilled mechanic, the clerk or farmer
or merchant who mixes thought with useful work.
Centuries ago, when labor was nothing but
muscle, it took 30,000 men 1 1 years to dig a canal
through a mountain 3,000 yards across, in the
reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius. To build
one of the pyramids required the labor of 100,000
men for 20 years. But in our time numbers count
for nothing — one expert is worth hundreds of
drudges. One man to-day gives a steam engine a
drink of water and a mouthful of coal and per-
forms as much work as 125 workers of the last
The American workingman has become the most
valuable producer of wealth the world has ever
seen. All that our machinery does must be credited
to him, because it was he who invented the ma-
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 117
chinery. In China, the carpenters work with axe,
saw and knife, as their fathers did 3,000 years
ago ; in America, patents have been taken out for
over 8,000 different wood-working machines.
No foreign country can touch us in productive
ability. Mulhall says: "An ordinary farm-hand
in the United States raises as much grain as three
in England, four in France, five in Germany, or six
in Austria." Edward Atkinson says : "Four men
can produce enough wheat for 1,000 people; one
cotton weaver can make enough cotton for 250, and
one shoemaker can make the shoes for 1,000." In
India, one American factory worker displaces seven
natives; and in the South it has been found that
three whites could do the work of five negroes.
In 1830, one weaver ran 25 spindles, and in 1890
he ran 65. When an English silk throwster was
told that in American silk mills the speed of ma-
chinery had been increased from 5,000 to 7,500
revolutions a minute, he said : "If our machinery
were made to go so fast all our girls would run
away." To-day in America there are mills that go
at the rate of 15,000 a minute.
In Germany a blacksmith makes 20 beam-hang-
ers a day ; in America a machine makes 700 beam-
118 Organized SeJf-Help.
hangers a day. In Adam Smith's day one pin-
maker made 4,800 pins a day ; to-day one pin-
maker makes 1,500,000 pins a day.
These facts show that wages are no longer the
main item in a business. Where the product is so
great, a 50 per cent, increase of wages would mean
a very slight increase in price of product. Wages,
relatively, never were so low as in America to-
The cost of printing cotton is half a cent a yard
in England and one-twentieth of a cent here. The
Massachusetts factory worker gets 27 per cent, of
what he produces, while the unorganized South
Carolina worker only gets 19 per cent. ; but the
Massachusetts man produces in a year $715 more
than the other for his employer. This shows the
folly of comparing wages without comparing
Shoemakers in Austria get $7 a week, while in
Lynn they get $12; but the labor cost of shoes is
more than twice as much in Austria as in Lynn
(71 per cent, and 35 per cent.).
Nailmakers in England get $3 a week, and in
this country $30. The English worker seems to
be the cheapest until you discover that he only
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 119
produces 200 pounds of nails a week, while the
American turns out 5,500 pounds. At the English
rate, the American nailmaker's wages should be
$82.50 a week.
In Germany a weaver tends two looms for $5 a
week; in America he tends eight looms, but only
receives $8 instead of $20. Dr. Schulze-Gaevernitz
says that a German weaver produces 466 yards of
cotton a week at a cost of 6 mills a yard ; an Eng-
lish weaver produces 706 yards costing 5^ mills,
and an American produces 1,200 yards at a cost
of half a mill.
In 1830 the capitalists predicted that higher
wages would curtail production and ruin business ;
yet in i860, when wages were very much higher,
the factories produced nine times as much goods
as in 1830, and our foreign trade was three times
as large as in 1848.
It is not stupid, brute-force labor that produces
wealth and adds value to raw material. There is,
perhaps, no better illustration of this than in the
manufacture of iron into salable articles. A chunk
of iron ore worth 75 cents may be made into bar
iron worth $5; horse-shoes worth $10; table-
knives worth $180; needles worth $6,800; shirt
120 Organised Self -Help.
buttons, $29,480; watch springs worth $400,000;
and pallet arbors worth $2,500,000. The first three
or four values could be produced by slave labor,
but the last three or four can be created only by
free, independent and highly-paid workmen.
Even farming is not to-day a matter of good soil,
but of intelligent farming. The rich land of the
South yields only a fraction of what is obtained
from the poor land of the New England States. J.
Schoenhof, in his convincing book on "The Econ-
omy of High Wages," has prepared the following
Income Per Acre.
Aspar- Cab- cum- Water- Spin- ma-
agus. Peas. Beets, bage. bers. melons, ach. toes.
New England.... $216 $130 $200 $183 $2,000 $100 $175 $300
S. Atlantic States. 93 57 95 113 175 32 70 94
Labor Expense Per Acre.
Asparagus. Beets. Tomatoes, melons. bers.
New England $34 $75 $75 $24 $137
S. Atlantic States. 21 12 22 7 7
Thus we see that while labor costs more in New
England, the net income is more than twice as
much. Climatic conditions must not be blamed
for the contrast, as, for instance, there is one brainy
farmer in Savannah who has only 120 acres, yet
who has made as high as $25,000 (gross income)
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 121
from his land in one year by the employment of
skilled labor and scientific methods.
In labor and machinery, the best is always the
cheapest. A century or more ago the stage coach
fare was 6 cents a mile, and the stage went 30
miles a day ; to-day the fare is less than 3 cents a
mile, and we can go 800 miles a day. China and
Africa are the most expensive countries in the
world to travel in, although everything is cheap.
Adam Smith correctly said: "The work done
by slaves is in the end the dearest of any." "Half
a man's worth is taken away from him on the day
when he becomes a slave," said a Greek poet. The
high-priced worker requires less superintendence,
a shorter apprenticeship, is less wasteful, more in-
ventive and can be trusted with more intricate ma-
If American workers had not developed into
high-class specialists, swift and accurate, the enor-
mous plants which make our manufactures known
throughout the world would never have been in-
vented and could not be operated. Where, outside
of America, will you find a paper mill like that at
Rumford Falls, Me., which turns out every day a
strip of paper 144 feet wide and 150 miles long —
122 Organised Self -Help.
a total weight of 35 tons? It is now only 20 hours
from the tree, out of which the paper is made, to
the newspaper in the hands of the newsboy.
Where else will you find steel works like the
plant at Bethlehem, Pa., where a 14,000-ton hy-
draulic press-forge handles a 125-ton mass of iron
as if it were a pound of putty? Where else are
there locomotives that can haul in one load the
wheat crop of fourteen square miles of land — a
train of cars a mile in length, at a speed of ten
miles an hour? And where else are there wheat
fields 144 miles square, like the one in the San
Joaquin Valley, Cal., reaped by a steam harvester
and thresher, which automatically cuts, threshes,
cleans and bags the grain at the rate of three bags
Is it any wonder that we produce more wheat
than Russia, Germany, Austria, Egypt, Great
Britain and Canada combined, when we cultivate
our fields with 50-horse-power steam plows that
plow, harrow and sow 16 furrows at once?
Is it any wonder that European publishers come
to New York as apprentices when our Hoe octuple
press can print, cut, paste, fold and count 96,000
8-page papers an hour, consuming a strip of paper
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 123
50 miles in length ? This wonderful machine con-
tains 16,000 parts, yet is as delicately adjusted as a
There are 7,000 linotype machines in the world,
and 5,000 of them are in the United States. This
machine is the most ingenious piece of practical
mechanism ever made, and it is entirely the work
of a Baltimore inventor. From a fairly wide
knowledge of American compositors, I can safely
say that there could not be collected, from all the
countries of Europe, a more intelligent body of
workers than the 5,000 men who operate the lino-
types in our printing offices. It is very generally
the case that the man who sets up a news story
for a daily paper has more brains than the man
who wrote it.
All the above figures and instances show why
America has become the department store of the
world. Our foreign trade has increased in spite of
the tariff walls erected by politicians. To-day the
balance of trade is in our favor $664,900,000 a
year, or over two millions a day. The total amount
of our exports was over 1,487 millions last year.
In the international struggle for trade England,
.France and Germany have been left far behind.
124 Organised Self -Help.
All three have the balance of trade against them.
If it were not for the interest on bonds which we
pay to foreign bankers, which is the fault of our
"statesmen," and the millions sent abroad to sup-
port European dukes who have married American
heiresses, the net balance on our side would be
Last year we exported $2,000,000 worth of type-
writers ; $1,000,000 worth of bicycles and $4,000,000
worth of sewing machines. Two out of every three
sewing machines manufactured are made in this
country. Our kodaks and stem-winding watches
are everywhere. England and Germany combined
cannot equal our output of steel.
The new Trans-Siberian railway is being built
with American material ; and the Crown Prince of
Japan has hired American engineers to build him
an earthquake-proof steel palace, to cost $3,000,-
000. Before long our builders will be taking or-
ders for sky-scrapers all over the globe.
In a conversation with the Italian and Japanese
Consuls in New York, both informed me that
trade in their countries was changing from Eng-
land and Germany to this country. Even our old
Labor and Commercial Supremacy. 125
enemy, Spain, was obliged recently to place an
order in this country for 600 railway carriages.
I do not mention these commercial triumphs in
any boastful sense, but simply to show that a low-
wage country cannot compete with a high-zvage
country. I rejoice to see Europe undersold and
outrivaled by America, because the workers of this
country represent skill as against muscle, and be-
cause there is a fraction more of liberty and justice
and equal rights on this side of the Atlantic. If
the time comes when some social revolution should
elevate the workers of England, Germany or
France above the workers of America, then our
commercial supremacy will be lost.
The struggle for wealth among nations is not
decided by accident. In the end it is the fittest
that survives. As Carlyle says: "The heaviest
will reach the centre." At first America became
rich because of the quantity of her goods, but from
now onwards she must depend more upon their
quality. And so you have the argument of this
chapter in a few words — commercial supremacy
depends upon high-grade goods ; high-grade goods
depend upon high-grade workers ; and high-grade
126 Organised Self -Help.
workers must be developed by the highest possible
pay and the fewest possible hours of labor.
The Age of Brute Force has gone forever, and
the Age of Thought has arrived. To-day it is the
thinkers, the inventors, the constructors who are
fit to survive. In the presence of such forces as
steam, compressed air and electricity human
strength counts for nothing. One consumptive,
with a Gatling gun, can defeat a regiment of pugi-
lists; and one skilled mechanic, in an American
workshop, can do more to enrich his nation than a
hundred hand-labor artisans.
In short, American labor is not mere labor ; it is
Brains, and must be paid for as such. Even for
those who have no higher purpose than to main-
tain our commercial supremacy, the most important
work to be done is not to beat down our skilled
workers to the dollar-a-day, non-union level, but
to raise all our people to the highest possible stand-
ard of intelligence and prosperity.
TRADE UNIONS AS THE PIONEERS OF SOCIAL REFORM.
ALMOST every humanitarian measure
adopted during the 19th century was
first publicly proposed in a trade union. And
all our present ideals of a more perfect
economic system, of a just, co-operative method
of producing and distributing wealth, were first
appreciated and welcomed by labor organiza-
In the investigation of this subject, the first
fact which we cannot escape is that this repub-
lic, in its early days, was on a lower level than
the Russia of to-day, so far as the treatment of
working people was concerned. The most bar-
barous cruelties were inflicted upon those whose
only crime was poverty; and most of the hor-
rors of Siberia were in full swing in erery one
of the thirteen States.
In 1789 the treadmill was always going; the
pillory and stocks were never empty; the brand-
ing-iron was seldom cold; and the whipping-
128 Organised Self -Help.
post was always crimsoned with fresh blood.
If a man without political influence imitated the
bankers of those days, and manufactured paper
money, he was not only imprisoned but had his
ears cut off. If a starving bookkeeper robbed a
rich farmer's hen house of a hatful of eggs, he
The terrible law of imprisonment for debt
was not repealed until 1831, — 48 years after the
War of Independence. In New York, in 1816,
the debtors' jail held 1,984 prisoners, nearly all
for sums under $25. In two years and three
months Boston imprisoned 3,492 for debt, 2,000
of them having been arrested for debts under
$20, and 430 of them being women. This
brought distress to over 10,000 people. One
Boston worker was confined in jail for 30 years,
for a trifling indebtedness.
During every panic, or after a failure of the
crops, the jails were packed l.ike egg-boxes
with men and women whose only wrong-doing
was that of being unfortunate. Every poor
person was in constant danger of imprisonment.
The New York jail was built to hold 300, but
again and again 700 were jammed into its filthy
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 129
cells. Sometimes so many were arrested that
old prisoners were set free to make room for the
new ones. In 1796, Jefferson writes, in a letter
to a friend, "The bankruptcies in Philadelphia
continue; and the prison is full of the most
The man who owed one cent could be thrown
in jail, if his creditor had a grudge against him.
One woman in Boston, a widow, was dragged
to jail away from two children under two years
of age, because she owed $3.60. And in the
debtors' prison neither food nor clothes were
supplied by the State. Murderers and burglars
were fed and clothed, but the man or woman
who owed one sacred cent had to depend upon
friends or charitable societies for their bread.
As to the jails in which these martyrs of prop-
erty were locked, no words can describe their
hellishness. They were as bad as the prison-
pens of Siberia, or the debtors' prison pictured
by Hogarth. In some of them the death-rate
rose as high as it was in the dungeons described
by Howard, which were regarded as the dis-
grace of Europe.
In Washington the jail contained 16 small
130 Organised Self-Help.
cells, 8 by 8, which frequently held from 5 to 7
people each. As late as 1825 Washington had
the worst code and one of the foulest jails in
the republic. Thirty crimes were punishable
The Newgate prison in East Granby, Conn.,
was another "Black Hole of Calcutta." It was
an abandoned copper-mine, entered by a ladder
that reached down the shaft. In wooden stalls,
fouler than those of a stable, from 30 to 100
prisoners were confined. They were chained by
the neck to a beam overhead and chained by the
ankle to iron bars in the ground! There was no
light except what came down the shaft. Damp-
ness oozed from the roof and trickled in drops
of disease upon the poor wretches beneath. All
manner of vermin tortured them by day and by
night and their clothes rotted off their backs.
And this unspeakable dungeon was in pious,
Puritanical, Blue-Law Connecticut! It was not
a temporary place of confinement, but was in
1790 adopted as a regular State prison, and con-
tinued in use until 1827. Altogether, it was in use
fifty- four years.
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 131
This savage instance of "man's inhumanity to
man" cannot be blamed upon the customs of
the times, because in 1780 all underground
prisons were abolished in France by the King.
The Connecticut dungeon remained in use for
38 years after the destruction of the Paris Bas-
Several other jails were almost as inhuman,
though not underground. Many were without
windows and had cells four feet from floor to
ceiling. There were no chairs, tables or beds ;
and no care was taken to separate the sexes.
In the Western States, where there were no
jails, the debtor was made the slave of the
creditor for a term of years, not to exceed
This law of imprisonment for debt punished
the unfortunate, not the criminal classes. Some
of the noblest American citizens were its vic-
tims. Thurlow Weed's father, an honest, in-
dustrious carter, was imprisoned for debt, not
because he had borrowed money, but because
his horse went lame and his employer failed to
pay him. Horace Greeley's father, a hard-
working farmer, was sold up for debt and had
132 Organised Self-Help.
to take to the woods to escape being impris-
Goodyear, the inventor of rubber-making, be-
came a bankrupt, and escaped the debtors'
prison in this country only to be confined in the
one at Paris. It was while he was in the
French prison that Goodyear received the
"Cross of the Legion of Honor" for his valuable
Robert Morris, the Philadelphia banker who
financed the Revolutionary War, lending it at
one time $1,400,000, was finally ruined by land
speculation, and spent the last three and a half
years of his life in jail for debt. Even more
shocking than this, was the case of Thomas
Jefferson. He, too, in his old age, saw the
debtors' prison open to receive him ; and his last
days were embittered and reduced by the law
which he had permitted to remain in force.
When Jefferson was 79, a State Governor
whom he had backed to the extent of $30,000
became a bankrupt. For three years Jefferson
managed to pay the interest on the debt, but his
land had depreciated from $75 to $15 an acre,
and he found himself unable to meet the obliga-
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 133
tion. A subscription of nine or ten thousand
dollars was collected for him, and just before
his death he was preparing to sell by lottery all
his possessions. In a letter written eight days
before he died he expressed his fears that he
would have "not even a log hut" to put his
head into or a plot of ground in which his body
might be laid.
No protest against this ruinous law of im-
prisonment for debt, as far as I can find, came
from the colleges, the churches, the politicians
or the capitalists. In the trade union meetings
indignant speeches were made, but the wage-
worker had no influence, and nothing was done.
At last, in the first Labor paper — "The Work-
ingman's Advocate," published in 1825, twelve
demands were printed on the front page, and
among them were these, — (1.) No imprison-
ment for debt; (2.) No laws for the collection
of debts ; (3.) A general bankruptcy law. These
demands attracted public attention and in 183 1
the imprisonment-for-debt law was repealed.
Quite equal to imprisonment for debt is the
misery which it caused, was the law relating to
"bound servants" or "redemptioners." The "re-
134 Organised Self-Help.
demptioners" were poor Europeans who, in re-
turn for a passage to America, allowed the ship
captain or agent to sell them for a term of 3 to
8 years to American employers.
They received nothing for their work but
their board, clothes and lodging, and a "freedom
suit" when their term of slavery was ended.
The price paid was generally $100 for a grown
man or woman and $40 for a child. If the "re-
demptioner" broke any of the "laws" that re-
lated to him, the penalty was a lengthening of
his term, so that many found themselves en-
slaved for life.
This system was in full force in 1800, and it
was attended with many revolting cruelties.
Ship-captains brutally separated husbands from
wives, parents from children, etc. Thousands
of children were kidnapped in the streets of
British cities, and men and women were seized
by press-gangs, and sold in Virginia as slaves.
Masters were permitted to use the lash on these
"bound servants," and even when death was
caused by excessive punishment, it was an im-
possibility to convict the master.
When an employer could obtain for $100 a
THe Pioneers of Social Reform. 135
workman's labor for seven years, it may be im-
agined that the free worker was not in a posi-
tion to demand fair wages; and there was bitter
resentment against the "redemptioner" system
among the working people. As the unions in-
creased in strength, this opposition became
stronger, and public sentiment at last con-
demned the practice.
The workers found, however, that slavery
dies hard. It evolved from chattel slavery to
the "redemptioner" system, and from that into
apprenticeship. Long terms of apprenticeship
were required by capitalists, which in their last
few years practically amounted to slavery.
This system continued until comparatively
recent times. Chas. Sotheran served five years'
apprenticeship to a printer, without wages or
clothes, and paid $500 for the privilege. Peter
Cooper served an apprenticeship at coach-
making for four years, but received $25 a year
and board. It was common for an apprentice
of two years' standing to be obliged to do the
work of a skilled workman, without receiving
any pay for his labor. This and other abuses
136 Organised Self -Help.
have now been very generally abolished by the
vigorous resistance of organized labor.
The average laborer ioo years ago had fewer
comforts and less consideration than a horse or
dog has to-tiay. There was no Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Wage-workers. The
laborer lived in a house of unpainted boards;
he had sand on the floor instead of carpet, and
his dishes were made of pewter instead of china.
If he had fresh meat once a week he thought
himself lucky. A good share of his wages was
paid in rum and gin ; then, when he got drunk,
his employer had him arrested.
In 1779 the bricklayers of New Jersey were
worked 14 hours, and housed worse than the
pigs which at that time roamed freely through
the streets of every American city. A young
man named Michael Menton wrote a letter to
a paper, describing their condition ; and, al-
though all his charges were found to be true,
he was arrested for libel and sentenced to 60
days in jail. To speak a word in defence of
wage-workers was thus rated as a crime in
The first American factories were governed
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 137
by the most oppressive regulations. The work-
ers were taxed to support churches, and fined if
habitually absent from religious worship. The
factory windows were nailed down, for fear the
operatives might look outside and waste time.
Proper ventilation was unknown. Worst of all,
it has been clearly proved that in some factories
women and children were thrashed with a cowhide
if the overseer caught them snatching a mo-
ment's rest. One u-year-old girl had her leg
broken by a "billet of wood" hurled at her by a
There is no record of any foreman being ar-
rested or reprimanded for cruelties to the peo-
ple who worked under him. The latter were
entirely at his mercy, and no measure was taken
to protect them until trade unions became
strong enough to act. The first real factory
law was not passed until 1866, and then only
in one State, — Massachusetts.
All sorts of vexatious restrictions were
placed upon working people. As late as 1825
every city carter was forbidden to ride in his
own cart, unless he was very old or lame. He
138 Organised Self-Help.
was obliged to walk at the horse's head, as the
eld English custom had been.
All manner of preposterous Blue Laws in-
terfered with personal liberty and recreation.
While religious service was being held, all traf-
fic was stopped by a chain that reached across
the street from the church door. If some work-
ingman who was in hard straits to provide
food for his family was caught fishing on Sun-
day, some capitalistic Deacon had him sent to
jail for it.
As for the paupers and immigrants, the
brutality with which they were treated by pub-
lic officials had no legal or humanitarian re-
straints. Up to forty years ago in some States
the paupers were auctioned off from the court-
house steps to the bidder who would take
charge of them at the lowest figure.
The cruelties practiced on the immigrants at
Castle Garden were almost unbelievable. No
country ever received its prospective citizens
with less hospitality. Bogus railway tickets
were sold to them ; money-changers robbed
them of their little hoard of savings; children
were stolen and sold as servants; young girls
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 139
were enticed to disorderly houses; and every
crime that lust and rascality could devise was
committed upon the helpless foreigners who had
hoped to find in America a land of liberty,
equality and justice.
It was against the "law" to catch a trout on
Sunday or to ride in your own cart; but there
was no attempt to rescue immigrants from the
gang of human wolves that sprang upon them
and snatched away the few dollars they had
saved to start life with in the New World. The
unionists protested against these abuses, but
could do nothing until Thurlow Weed, in 1850,
lent his assistance, and succeeded in checking
or modifying the worst of the evils.
Thousands of working people were driven by
such barbarities into the Western wilderness.
There they lived in the dense forests, preferring
Indians and wild-cats to public officials. Scat-
tered along the banks of the rivers could be
seen the "half-face camps" of the settlers, —
three-sided log-cabins with quilts of deerskin
hung up on the fourth side, and a roof made of
saplings and bark. Even here they were not
safe from the capitalists, and hundreds of fami-
140 Organised Self-Help.
lies of these squatters were driven off their
farms by U. S. troops, because the land had
been sold to some speculator for ten c«tnts an
In spite of the conditions which I have been
describing, no social reform was proposed by
any Legislature or by Congress. In 1809, Wm.
Duane, of Philadelphia, stated that "in 27 years
there was scarcely a public improvement in
Pennsylvania that was due to the Legislature."
There was no free education, no promotion of
navigation, no building of roads or canals.
Legislators represented only their own families
and their friends. No labor legislation of any
kind was passed in America until 1834; and in
1845, when the Massachusetts Legislature was
asked to vote for an 11-hour law, it declared
that such a law "would close the gate of every
mill in the State."
The first American programme of social re-
form appeared in the "Workingman's Advo-
cate," a labor paper published in New York in
1825. Its twelve demands were as follows:
(1) Right of every man to the soil. (2) No
monopolies. (3) Freedom of public lands.
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 141
(4) Homesteads made inalienable. (5) No
laws for the collection of debts. (6) A general
bankrupt law. (7) Give laborer a lien on his
work for his wages. (8) No imprisonment for
debt. (9) Equal rights for women. (10) No
chattel slavery, nor wage slavery. (11) No
man to own more than 160 acres. (12) Mails
to run on Sunday.
These moderate demands were called "shock-
ing" by the clergy and propertied classes, says
McMaster. The paper that dared to print them
was called an anarchistic sheet, and in a few
years was compelled to suspend publication.
Yet to-day two-thirds of these demands are
commonplace facts, and the rest are regarded as
legitimate social ideals. If all these demands
had been adopted by the nation at the time, no
one can compute how much misery and bank-
ruptcy and poverty would have been prevented.
The Homestead Law, enacted in 1862, has
been called "one of the most beneficent and suc-
cessful laws ever passed." By its provisions
any present or prospective citizen can get a
farm of 80 or 160 acres for a payment of five or
ten dollars, receiving a title after five years' oc-
142 Organized Self-Help.
cupation. It has been the means of settling
millions of acres in the Western States.
"Vote yourself a farm," said the labor papers
75 years ago; and they were scoffed at by the
press and the colleges and the business men's
clubs. The labor papers refused to be sneered
into silence, and to-day unanimous public
opinion declares that they were right.
With regard to the great question of Social-
ism, which every thoughtful citizen in America
and Europe is to-day considering, the American
wage-worker was among the first to foresee it.
All histories of the Socialist movement give the
credit to certain French and German philoso-
phers as being the first pioneers of collectivism ;
but the fact is that in 1829, Thomas Skidmore,
a New Yorker, wrote a book advocating the col-
lective ownership of the means of production
and distribution. "All men should live on their
own labor," said he. "We want the right to
life, liberty and property."
Here there is the main principle of Socialism,
although the word "Socialist" was not used until
1835, when Robert Owen first made it popular.
When Skidmore's book was printed, Karl Marx
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 143
was only n years old; Lassalle and Liebknecht
were little children learning to walk ; and Bebel
was unborn. Even Fourier, the profound
French thinker, who is generally said to be the
first of socialistic writers, did not publish his
book on "The New Industrial World" until
1829, the same year as Skidmore's book ap-
Thus Socialism is not in any sense a German
or French product. It was put forward as a
common-sense business proposition in America at
the same time that it was being spoken of as an
imaginative social ideal in France, and long be-
fore it was elaborated into a cast-iron economic
philosophy in Germany. It may also be said
that the consolidation of industry which is the
foundation and necessity of Socialism, is as yet
no more than a theory or political platform in
Europe, while it is in the United States the
most conspicuous fact. But, as Kipling says,
"that is another story."
It was the wage-workers in this country who
first made known the existence of a social prob-
lem in the young republic. The wealthy classes
believed that the Revolution had settled every
144 Organised Self-Help.
problem and that further reform was unneces-
sary and dangerous.
As early as 1831, a Labor Convention held in
Boston made the following- wise and statesman-
like diagnosis of the social conditions of that
"These social evils arise from an illiberal
opinion of the worth and rights of the laboring
classes; an unjust estimation of their moral and
intellectual powers ; an unwise misapprehension
of the effects which would result from the culti-
vation of their minds and the improvement of
their condition ; and an avaricious propensity to
avail of their laborious services at the lowest
possible rate of wages for which they can be in-
duced to work."
You will search in vain among the partisan
debates of Congress of that period for as clear
an appreciation of social and industrial tenden-
cies as is contained in the above resolution writ-
ten by the trade unionists of New England.
The newspapers at that time gave no more than
a few lines to the Labor Convention, while their
front pages were full of excited screeds about
a "compromise tariff," "Nullification," the U. S.
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 145
Bank charter, and other insignificant capitalistic
matters, of importance only to five per cent, of
the population. The trade unions alone grasped
the larger question of the relation between
Capital and Labor.
A generation later, when the panic of '57 had
reduced thousands of families to beggary, it was
the labor unions alone that recognized the
trouble as social and not individual. In 1858
the machinists formed their first national union
in Philadelphia, and in their Constitution ap-
pears the following clear statement of the
trouble: "In consequence of the smallness of
the number representing capital, their compara-
tive independence and power, their ample leis-
ure to study their own interests, their prompt
co-operation, together with the aid of legisla-
tion, and last, but not least, the culpable negli-
gence of the working classes themselves, it has
come to pass that notwithstanding their joint
production is amply sufficient to furnish both
parties with the necessaries, comforts and luxu-
ries of life, yet the fact is indisputable that while
the former enjoy more than their share, the lat-
ter are correspondingly depressed." Nothing
146 Organized Self-Help.
so wise as this on the industrial question was
said in Congress in 1858.
In '59 the Molders formed a national union,
and Wm. H. Sylvis, its president, in his opening
address, said: "Year after year the capital of
the country becomes more and more concen-
trated in the hands of the few. The great
question to-day is this, — what position are we,
the mechanics of America, to hold in society?
Are we to receive an equivalent for our labor,
or must we be forced to bow the suppliant knee
Thus, during the fierce wrangle between
North and South, the one clear voice that rises
above the shrieks of the partisans is that of this
forgotten molder. Congress was compromising
with the slaveholders and tinkering with the
tariff; the churches were wrangling over bap-
tism ; the colleges were discussing Homer's
birthplace ; the Supreme Court was deciding
that runaway slaves must be refused food and
shelter; while this Labor Convention was an-
nouncing social and economic laws, and pre-
scribing for social evils with a wisdom that few
possess even at the present day.
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 147
It was another Workingman's Convention,
held at Baltimore in '66, that first pointed out
the evils of overcrowded tenements. Since that
time sanitary and building laws have been im-
proved so that in New York alone it is esti-
mated that 35,000 lives are saved every year.
This Baltimore Convention was also the first
to undertake the defence of underpaid women
and girls who were unorganized. A resolution
was passed pledging assistance to "the sewing
women and daughters of toil of the United
States." This assistance has been so ably given
that to-day the men and women in the Garment
Makers' Union have shortened their hours of
labor to 59 a week, besides greatly increasing
their wages from what they were in 1866.
In '67, Wm. H. Sylvis, the talented molder
whom we have quoted, first proposed a National
Labor Bureau. The suggestion was received
with derision and enabled several professional
humorists to make a few dollars ridiculing it.
But two years later Massachusetts established
a Bureau of Statistics of Labor, — the first of the
kind in the history of the world. Thirty States
followed suit, and in '84 the National Depart-
148 Organized Self -Help.
ment of Labor was formed, which has since
given us dozens of volumes of invaluable statis-
tics and sociological information.
The whole civilized world has now followed
our lead in this line, including Austria and Rus-
sia. It is admitted by all statesmen that a
Bureau of Labor is an indispensable part of a
government's machinery; but it is not remem-
bered that the idea sprang from the brain of a
trade unionist molder. Others, less worthy,
have reaped all the glory and the profit.
In 1880, the Greenback-Labor Party, which
was a federation of trade unionists and farmers,
outlined a social reform programme which is to-
day very generally endorsed. It demanded that
all money be issued and controlled by the gov-
ernment; that bonds be paid off; that an 8-hour
law be passed ; that truck stores be abolished
and Chinese labor excluded; that factories be
inspected and child labor stopped; that an in-
come tax law be enacted ; that monopolies be
checked and railways compelled to be honest
The presidential candidates of the Greenback-
Labor Party were Peter Cooper, General
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 149
Weaver and Ben Butler, — three men to whom
America has reason to point with pride. In
'79 it polled over 1,000,000 votes and sent 14
men to Congress ; but its greatest work was in
calling attention to the evils of our industrial
and financial system.
Following it, in '87, came the Union Labor
Party, which went several steps further, and de-
clared for government ownership of railroads
and telegraphs, woman suffrage, and payment
of the national debt. It was the pioneer of the
Populist Party, which has done most of all to
point out the widening gap between the pro-
ducers and the appropriators of wealth.
To describe all the various reforms that have
been inaugurated by organized labor bodies
would require an entire book. To give an idea
of the labor legislation which has been first
thought out in trade unions and then forced
through stupid or corrupt Legislatures, the
following instances may be mentioned:
Fire-escapes on factories ;
Inspectors of factories ;
Protection from dangerous machinery ;
Abolition of child labor;
150 Organised Self-Help.
Ten-hour day ;
Ventilation in all workshops ;
Seats for women where possible ;
Weekly payment of wages;
Two outlets to mines;
Protected wages of wives from attachment ;
Industrial and evening schools;
Special railroad rates for wage-workers;
Boards of Arbitration;
Abolished truck stores;
Guaranteed worker's wages by lien;
Neither have I space to do more than call at-
tention to the extent of the benevolent work
done by trade unions. The Bricklayers' Union
alone has in 10 years spent over $1,500,000 for
benevolent purposes. The Carpenters' Union
pays a death benefit of $250, and $50 in case a
member's wife dies, besides the usual out-of-
work and disability benefit.
The Cigar-Makers who have had as much as
.$500,000 in their treasury at one time, pay a
death benefit of $300 on the death of a member
of 10 years' standing, as well as an out-of-work
benefit of $3 a week. These indefatigable
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 151
unionists have spent over $1,000,000 in adver-
tising their "blue label."
The New York Typographical Union, "Big
Six," has shown the State how the problem of
the unemployed may be solved. It purchased
166 acres of good land near Bound Brook, N.
J., and placed 50 of its unemployed or disabled
men upon it. This trade union colony proved
very successful for several years, enabling
worn-out compositors to regain their health and
at the same time to feel that they were doing
something towards their own support.
This enterprising union also maintains the
"Childs-Drexel Home" at Colorado Springs, for
sick or infirm members. This property is now
valued at about $150,000, and is sustained by a
monthly tax of five cents per member. From
90 to 100 worn-out printers are cared for in this
"Home," and a large percentage are restored to
The amount of money raised by unionists to
help their fellows who are on strike cannot be
ascertained, but it is not uncommon for a union
to assess itself 50 cents a week per member, for
the assistance, very likely, of workingmen in
152 Organized Self -Help.
some distant city. Not infrequently money is
sent to help strikers in Europe, if the winning
of the strike is thought to be important to the
labor movement. Trade union money is now
being spent to organize and educate the workers
of Porto Rico.
Nothing shows more clearly the progressive
and humanitarian spirit of trade unions than
their obliteration of all national and religious
prejudices. The Glassworkers' Union, for in-
stance, says in its preamble that its purpose is
"to extend our Federation to all sections of the
globe, until our membership shall embrace
every man engaged in our trade." The first
coal miners' circular said, "Let there be no Eng-
lish, no Irish, no Germans, Scotch or Welsh.
This is our country and we are brethren." The
motto of the Seamen's Union is "The Brother-
hood of the Sea."
It was the labor organizations that took the
fiist step towards forgetting the hatreds of the
Civil War. In 1885 the veterans of both the
Union and Confederate armies, who were mem-
bers of the Knights of Labor, formed an or-
ganization called "The Gray and the Blue."
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 153
Their motto was a very impressive one, — "Capi-
tal divided; Labor unites us."
In 1846, when the churches were, as the
Abolitionists said, "the bulwarks of American
slavery;" when Garrison and Thompson and
Pillsbury were being mobbed by college
students ; and when the slaveholders were mas-
ters of Congress and the courts of law, a Labor
Convention at Lynn passed this courageous
resolution, "We wish to secure to our 3,000,000
brethren and sisters groaning in chains on the
Southern plantations the same rights and privi-
leges for which we are contending ourselves."
In '86 the Knights of Labor organization was
attacked by the whole Southern press because
a colored delegate was selected to be the chair-
man at a Richmond Convention. Trade unions
have always been the opponents of race preju-
dices, and their work at the present time in the
Southern States comes nearer to solving the
great negro problem than the efforts of any
"I am for my own pocket all the time," said
a New York politician. "The public be
damned," said one of the Vanderbilts who
164 Organized Sclf-Hclp.
helped to do a good deal of the damning. Such
are the sentiments of the men who put money
above men. Contrast with these utterances the
mottoes of the trade unions, which put men
above money. "For me; for thee; for all," was
the motto of the first labor paper in America.
"Raise yourselves, not by depressing others, but
by acting with them," said Broadhurst, the Eng-
lish labor organizer. "The condition of one
part of our class cannot be improved perma-
nently unless all are improved together," said
the Industrial Federation in '74. "An injury to
one is the concern of all," said the Knights of
Labor. "Each for all and all for each," says
the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union.
These sentiments are not mere words, like
the consecration hymns at a revival meeting.
The unions have discovered a new economic law.
They have found out that co-operation is better
than competition, — and not the co-operation of
as few as possible, which the Monopolists be-
lieve in, but the co-operation of as many as
possible. This is the bed-rock upon which our
social structure must be built, if it would escape
the fate of Spain, Rome, Babylon and Persia.
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 155
And it is the unionists who have first dug down
to it and made it known to the world.
The trade union is the only organization in
the world to which the phrase, "the Brother-
hood of Man," has a real and practical meaning.
Everywhere else it means loyalty to "my own
gang/' or else mere poetry and gush.
This was brought to my notice very forcibly
several years ago, when I was asked to address
a newly formed union of Irish and Armenian
morocco-dressers in Lynn. Two years before,
the manufacturers had imported the Armenians
to take the places of the Irish. There had been
a number of street fights, and a great deal of
bad feeling between the two races. But the
labor organizer went to work and finally suc-
ceeded in undoing the mischief done by the
manufacturers. Knives and clubs were put
aside, and the two classes of workers, so widely
different in national history, language and tra-
ditions, were welded together into a brotherly
co-operation. There on the membership book
the name of Hagob Bogiabodjen was sand-
wiched in between Tim Sexton and Matt
Doolan ; and a partnership was formed between
156 Organized Self-Help.
an oppressed race of Europe and an oppressed
race of Asia, for mutual protection and advan-
tage. Such is the work of the labor organizer ;
nothing more essentially American could be
Trade unions have been unjustly condemned for
demanding the restriction of immigration and for
excluding the Chinese, as the Geary law did in
'82. The object in doing so was not to wall off
the United States from the rest of the world, but
to prevent people from coming here faster than
they can be Americanized. Since 1789, 18,000,000
immigrants have landed upon our shores. Four-
fifths of these have been unskilled laborers, accus-
tomed to do rough work for low wages. There
has been no department of government set apart
to instruct these newcomers in the knowledge of
industry and democracy, and the labor organiza-
tions have had to grapple almost single-handed
with this gigantic task. The Americanizing
process has been left altogether to the trade unions
and the public schools.
The thoughtful labor leader is opposed to having
indigestible lumps of foreigners in this country.
He does not wish the machinery of self-govern-
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 157
ment to be clogged up any more than it is ; but he
looks forward to a time when our democracy shall
be so thorough and so solid that all barriers against
immigrants may be thrown down.
Thus, the story of American organized labor
shows that again and again the trade unions under-
take some task which the community as a whole
ought to do; and in spite of the greatest opposition
they persevere in the good work until the govern-
ment or the middle classes take up the matter,
complete the long-delayed work, and receive all
J. E. Thorold Rogers, English M. P., has proven
that English progress is due, not to the aristocracy,
statesmen, lawyers or clergy, but to the great body
of working people, who have stubbornly resisted
oppression and organized to obtain better condi-
tions. It has been my purpose in this chapter to
show that the same has been true in the develop-
ment of American civilization. All the rough work
of progress has been done by trade unions and
similar radical bodies that had the hardihood to
stand by a truth when it was new and unpopular.
Sentimentalists and young people who are pass-
ing through the "historical novel" stage can never
158 Organised Self-Help.
be expected to recognize the heroic and chivalrous
side of the Labor Movement. The rough and
ready ways of a trade union debate, in a dingy hall
four flights up, would shock their romantic notions
of "Truth" and "Progress." In the ".historical
novel," falsely so-called, the hero is never an un-
shaved mechanic in blouse and overalls, who eats
pie with his knife and isn't a specialist on gram-
mar. Yet the really heroic pioneer work of civil-
ization is generally done by just such men. Espe-
cially has this been the case in America.
Not long since I took a little nine-year-old girl
through a piano factory to let her see how musical
instruments were constructed. The whole process
seemed to be a disappointment to her, and on
reaching her home .her first words were: "Oh,
mamma, it wasn't a bit like a piano factory; we
didn't hear any music at all." It had not occurred
to her mind that pianos were made by sawing,
filing, hammering, chiseling, etc., or that the
pianomakers were rough, common workingmen
such as she saw on the streets every day.
The same illusion that the child had about pianos
thousands of grown-up people have about progress.
They do not recognize a social reform while it is
The Pioneers of Social Reform. 169
in the making. When it is a finished product — all
polished and varnished and ready for use — they
prize it highly; but they know nothing about the
trade union factory where it was invented and
THE TRADE UNION IS THE INEVITABLE DEVELOP-
MENT OF THE AMERICAN SPIRIT.
THE history of America, like that of England,
began in feudalism. The 105 colonists who
landed at Jamestown in 1607 were divided into 52
"gentlemen/' 7 "tradesmen," and 46 "laborers."
They were governed by Lord Delaware, and chap-
eroned by Sir Thomas Gates, Sir Thomas Dale
and Sir George Somers.
Feudalism was at that time decaying in Eng-
land. The workers were beginning to realize their
value and to demand political rights. Consequently,
a number of noblemen got together ship-loads of
"laborers," obtained land-grants in America, and
came across, not to establish democracy, but to re-
establish feudalism. They came to America for the
same reason that manufacturers go to Alabama —
for the sake of securing cheaper and more sub-
servient labor. The charters which these "Lords"
and "Sirs" secured were feudalistic in the extreme,
The Development o£ the American Spirit. 161
and put the "laborers" completely in the power of
their aristocratic escorts.
The Common Law of England, which had grown
up in a monarchical country, was brought bodily
to the new colonies, and has ever since been an
obstacle to American progress. Politics in every
State was a struggle between two "Sirs" or
"Lords." In New York, as late as 1770, it was a
battle between the Church of England faction, led
by the De Lancey family, and the Presbyterian
faction, led by the Livingstone family. As for the
workingmen, they were merely two packs of dogs,
who fought each other whenever their masters
This feudalistic state of things, it is very im-
portant to remember, was not changed by the
Revolution. As I have shown in the third chapter,
the Revolution did not mean ten cents a week more
in wages for any workingman in America. It was
altogether a middle-class affair. The royal land-
grants were not abolished, as they should have
been. The methods of ownership and employment
were not in any sense improved. The separation
from England did not imply, as our historians
162 Organized Self-Help.
lead us to believe, that domestic abuses and tyran-
nies were abolished or even mitigated.
The Revolution made America a nominal Repub-
lic; but the work of making her a real Republic —
political and industrial, had to be taken up years
afterwards by organized labor, and is as yet very
far from completion. The Declaration of Inde-
pendence was the foundation ; the Labor Move-
ment is the superstructure ; and the Brotherhood
of Man will be the finished edifice.
In 1776 historians admit that New York was
cursed with aristocracy and family feuds. The
city was governed by a family clique, which is
worse than a political clique. The British system
of manorial grants had created a land aristocracy,
which split up into two fierce factions. The mid-
dle classes suffered severely, but did not dare to
side with the working people, for business and
social reasons. The combination of the "truck-
store" system and the law of imprisonment for
debt put the worker in the grasp of his employer
and tied him to one spot as effectually as if he had
been chained. The truck system kept him always
in debt to his employer, and the threat of impris-
onment prevented him from running away.
The Development of the American Spirit. 1(33
With few exceptions, the "fathers" of the Re-
public were by no means desirous of bettering the
wage- worker's condition. In 1784 Governor John
Jay, of New York, grumbled that "the wages of
mechanics and laborers are very extravagant,"
though the average wages at the time amounted to
fifty cents a day. Jefferson tells us that the topic
of conversation at a large dinner party given by
President John Adams was "the enormous price
of labor." President Adams declared that he had
hired men ten years before for $50 a year and
board, while now he was obliged to pay the "enor-
mous" sum of $150 a year.
Thus, in spite of their recent declaration to the
world that "all men are created equal, with certain
inalienable rights," etc., we find the founders of
the Republic utterly oblivious of the fact that work-
ingmen have an "inalienable right" to fair wages
and a decent human life. It was certainly a strange
and incongruous spectacle to see the signers of the
Declaration of Independence, after they had ban-
quetted on all the rarest delicacies that the Presi-
dent's larder could supply, lament that their fellow-
citizens could not be persuaded to toil 14 hours a
day for one dollar a week.
164 Organized Self -Help.
Human equality, in the opportunities of indus-
try, was then, as it is to-day, a theory and ideal
rather than a condition. In 1789 every seventh
man was a slave ; and thousands of bond-servants,
men, women and children, were practically en-
No man could vote who did not own property,
pay taxes, etc. In many States religious qualifi-
cations existed. Some States forbade the election
of any man to be Governor who was not both pious
and rich. In one State, for instance, the Governor
was obliged to be the owner of 500 acres, and in
another he was to be possessed of at least $50,000.
Senators, Representatives, etc., were required to be
In the towns, the workers wore a distinctive
dress — yellow leather breeches, a blouse of coarse,
home-made material, heavy leathern clogs with
wooden heels and brass buckles, a rusty felt hat
turned up at the corners, and a leathern apron. In
the farming districts, a very large proportion of the
settlers were practically outlaws. Thousands had
fled from the towns to escape imprisonment for
debt. Others were bond-servants who had run
away from tyrannical masters. They possessed no
The Development of the American Spirit. 165
title to their land that would be recognized in any
law court. The soil which they had reclaimed
from the wilderness by years of the most unre-
mitting labor, and the tiny log-houses in which
they reared their families, were declared by the
law to be the property of some aristocrat in Boston
or New York, because of certain preposterous
land-grants issued by some English King or
Queen. In every State these "squatters" were
hunted by sheriffs and militia as if they were
brigands or wolves. In New York State, among
the Catskills and Adirondack's, many a battle was
fought between the sheriff's posse and the "Anti-
Renters," the latter being frequently disguised as
Liberty, in those early days, was largely a matter
of cockades, parades, speeches and politics. It
meant nothing definite in dollars and cents. In
1786 a pamphlet was circulated in New York
called "Thoughts for the Rulers of the Free" — a
very appropriate title. Carrol D. Wright says of
the wage-workers who lived one hundred years
ago: "Could they have foreseen the circumstances
and the environment of the workingmen of the
present day, they would have considered that the
166 Organized Self-Help.
dream of the social philosophers of their day was
to be realized."
It must not be thought that I am attaching any
special blame to the statesmen and captains of in-
dustry of those early times. My aim is merely to
show that they did their work, not ours; and that
this Republic is a growth which only began at
that time and has been developing ever since. A
century ago, a democratic Republic was "a new
thing under the sun." To the "wisdom" of Eu-
rope, Asia and Africa it was foolishness; and the
courageous young nation was obliged to set out as
uncharted as was Columbus in that most daring
of all voyages.
It was a long time before America "found her-
self." For a generation or two there was little
national feeling. Local interests alone were con-
sidered; and Congress was reviled and despised
in a manner which is to-day almost incredible.
There were few legal restrictions in the way of
unprincipled financiers and sharpers ; and scheme
after scheme to start "banks," float "companies,"
operate lotteries, or boom land was launched upon
the credulous public. In 1790 some of "the prin-
cipal characters of America" got up a land scheme
The Development of the American Spirit. 1G7
which robbed 500 French mechanics of both their
money and their lives. A city named Gallipolis
was laid out on paper, on the Ohio River, and sold
to the Frenchmen by this "respectable" syndicate.
When the unfortunate purchasers reached the spot,
which had been described by the agent as a para-
dise, they found it to be a dense wilderness, in-
habited only by Indians and wild animals. After
prolonging- a most miserable existence for several
years, they dropped off with fever and starvation,
while the syndicate paid a handsome dividend.
Trade and manufactures were not regarded as
"respectable" by those who first settled America.
So far as social standing was concerned the capi-
talist of those days was where the mechanic is to-
day. Agriculture was the only permissible occupa-
tion for "gentlemen" in the seventeenth and eigh-
teenth centuries. Even Jefferson shared the
prejudices against manufactures and said he would
rather see the American people all farmers and
sailors than capitalists and mechanics. All manu-
facturing industries were obstructed for many
years by the influential land owners, who dictated
public opinion. Several times, when skilled work-
ers were sent from England, they were made to
168 Organised Sclf-Help.
cut down trees and pull up stumps, instead of being
given a chance to work at their trades.
The colonies, especially those in the South, were
ruled by an aristocracy of birth of the most despotic
and pernicious kind. As McMaster says: "No-
where was social rank so clearly defined as in Vir-
ginia." Racing, hunting, duelling, gambling and
drinking were the occupations of Southern "gen-
tlemen." The old European prejudice against
those who were "in trade" was to be found in
every American community. An amusing in-
stance of this is told by one of Benjamin Frank-
lin's biographers. It is said that when Franklin
was courting the young lady who afterwards
became his wife his future mother-in-law objected
strongly to her daughter marrying a mere printer.
"Besides," said the old lady, "there are two print-
ing offices already in the country, and I don't be-
lieve there is room for a third."
The separation between the United States and
England did not by any means abolish the objec-
tionable features of colonialism in the thirteen
colonies. It did not solve any social or economic
problem. To quote again from McMaster: "No
person could, in 1803, look over our country with-
The Development of the American Spirit. 169
out beholding on every hand the lingering remains
of monarchy, of aristocracy, of class rule. Very
little of what would now be called democracy ex-
isted." The American nation as it stands to-day,
with all it possesses of equal rights and oppor-
tunities, with all there is of fair play in industry
and politics, was not created by the military skir-
mish'es of 1776. It was developed by the patient
and heroic labors of thousands of social reformers
and unionists, whose biographies have not been
written and whose very names have been for-
Since this country was first settled, it has had
170 years of monarchy and only 126 years of po-
litical democracy. It must therefore be expected
that the old feudalistic influences would be hard to
eradicate, springing up again and again under the
form of chattel slavery and monopoly, and endan-
gering our Republic to-day with an even greater
show of force than they displayed fifty years ago.
Immediately after the Revolution, the struggle
was not between Labor and Capital, but between
Commerce and Parasitism. On the one hand were
the worker and the capitalist, and on the other were
the politician, the land owner and the financier. A
170 Organized Self -Help.
dozen times the young Republic was nearly killed
by political and financial malpractice. Stupid laws
were passed, putting obstacles in the way of trade.
The most disastrous of these laws, to give one in-
stance out of many, was the embargo of 1807. I*
forbade any American ship to sail to foreign ports,
and compelled every captain to furnish bonds to
twice the value of his cargo. As might have been
expected, this law ruined American shipping. It
threw 100,000 men out of work for more than a
year and transformed hundreds of them into law-
breakers. The loss in wages was $36,000,000.
Thousands of small tradesmen were bankrupted,
and notices of sheriffs' sales were on every bill-
board. At one time the New York jails contained
1,300 prisoners, arrested for debt, who had been
ruined by the embargo. The grass grew into lawns
around every American dock, and the sea-ports
looked as though they had been swept by a plague.
This national disaster, let it be remembered, was
not caused by a strike or any sort of labor trouble,
but by the obstinate and unteachable folly of the
high office-holders of the nation.
There seems to be no record of any protest
against this embargo from labor unions, but to
The Development of the American Spirit. 171
belong to a union at that time was a criminal
offense, and the opinions of individual workingmen
have never been considered as of sufficient im-
portance to be recorded. There is not the slightest
doubt that the few men who dared to publicly de-
nounce the embargo were called "hired agitators"
and threatened with tar and leathers.
Gradually, as commerce increased, the Capitalist
fought his way up in the social scale and left his
former companion, the Workingman, behind. The
aristocracy of birth gave way to an aristocracy of
wealth, and the Labor Movement began to exhibit
a few feeble signs of life.
At first, so "un-American" was the America of
those days, the trade unionist was regarded as a
criminal, an enemy of society, similar in guilt to
the counterfeiter and incendiary. A Philadelphia
judge, in 1806, when sentencing a number ol shoe-
makers who had been intelligent enough to form a
union, delivered himself of the following opinion,
which was used as a precedent for a long period:
"A combination of workmen to raise their wages
may be considered in a two-fold point of view —
one is to benefit themselves, the other is to injure
those who do not join their society. The law con-
172 Organized Self -Help.
demns both." Thus, according to this Quaker
Dogberry, it was contrary to the law for a wage-
worker to endeavor to better his condition. All
the gospel of self-help, announced so vigorously by
Franklin, was not supposed by the "law" to apply
to "common workingmen."
There was no such thing as "equality before the
law." Equality merely meant that one man's dol-
lar was as good as another's. For instance, in
1 791, when hundreds of lotteries were being run
by capitalists and even by State governments, two
New York workingmen, a blacksmith named
William Thornton and a chairmaker named Gabriel
Leggett, were fined $2,920 for starting two private
The "Rights of Labor" was regarded as either a
fad of humanitarians or as the revolutionary creed
of a few foreign agitators. When Thurlow Weed,
who was a member of the New York Typographi-
cal Union, secured its incorporation in 1818 at
Albany, he was severely rebuked for asking for
incorporation for a body of "mere mechanics."
Even Weed himself, 23 years later, when he had
risen to be a man of national reputation, referred
to unions as "formidable and mischievous."
The Development of the American Spirit»VJ3
"How is it that all classes except the laboring
class are heard in the Legislatures ?" asked a Dela-
ware trade union in 1829. Two years later
Stephen Simpson, of Philadelphia, wrote: 'The
children of toil are as much shunned in society as
if they were leprous convicts just emerged from
The law, the press and the church, as well as the
thousand direct agencies of capital, were combined
against those who suggested the combination of
wage- workers. In 1834 all the trade unions in
Boston gave a dinner and found no place open to
them except Faneuil Hall. Twenty-two societies
refused to rent their halls to such "dangerous or-
ganizations." The following year, at a meeting of
rich Boston merchants, $20,000 was subscribed to
drive the Shipbuilders' Union to submission or
The first crop of American capitalists was, gen-
erally speaking, much more autocratic and intol-
erant than the capitalists of to-day. De Tocque-
ville noticed this in 1831, and said: "The manu-
facturing aristocracy which is growing up under
our eyes is one of the harshest which ever existed
174 Organized Sclf-Help.
in the world. The friends of democracy should
keep their eyes anxiously fixed in this direction."
The factories at that time were industrial In-
fernos. The employers and foremen were abso-
lutely unrestricted by law in the methods which
they adopted to force every ounce of strength out
of their employees. There was no labor legislation
and public sentiment was all on the side of the
capitalist. The newspapers of the day denied that
any social wrongs existed. "Our social system is
as clean and smiling as it will be while the earth
lasts/' said the New York Aurora.
Even as late as the sixties all labor gatherings
were denounced by the press in the most out-
rageous language. A meeting of unionists would
be called "a gathering of the rag-tag and bob-tail."
"The worst element was out last night to hear a
kid-gloved, oily-tongued, sleek-faced demagogue"
hold forth in an incendiary, blood-curdling speech
on the rights of the horny-handed workingman."
So said a newspaper in reporting an address of T.
V. Powderly. Years afterwards, when the same
gentleman had ceased to be a labor organizer and
had become Chief Commissioner of Immigration,
The Development of the American Spirit. 175
his speeches were reported in quite a different
Labor lecturers were called "Molly Maguires,"
"anarchists/' "incendiaries," "blood-and-thunder
spouters," "hungry-looking loafers," "sinister-
faced wretches," "blatherskites," etc. In nearly
every instance the chairman of the meeting would
be discharged the following day. Spies spotted
those who applauded and reported them to their
employers. Yet all the demands of those pioneer
trade unionists are to-day recognized as indis-
pensable requisites in a free country, and not in the
slightest degree dangerous to our government,
our industry or our best institutions.
As for political equality, it was no more a fact
than the paper city of the land agent. Factory
workers were marched to the polls like herds of
cattle, with a foreman at the head and another in
the rear. There is a tradition to the effect that in
1724 the ship-calkers of Boston formed a "Calkers'
Club" and obtained a great influence in politics.
The father of Samuel Adams was a member of this
club; and it is said that the famous "Tea Party"
was planned and executed by the "Calkers' Club."
But while this is probably true, it must not be
176 Organised Self -Help.
taken to represent the average political status of
There is no record of workingmen appearing in
politics for their own interests until 1829. In that
year there was a ''Mechanics' Ticket" in New
York, and Ebenezer Ford got 6,166 votes and was
elected to the Assembly. He was the first work-
ingman in America who was elected to represent
the interests of his class, and his name should
never be forgotten by trade unionists.
Thus nearly two generations elapsed between
the signing of the Declaration of Independence
and the real commencement of American democ-
racy. Strictly speaking, the Republic did not be-
gin to take shape until 1829, when the main body
of its citizens began to realize that they were part
of it. Before that time it was a Republic only in
the same sense as Athens and Sparta were, where
a handful of equal aristocrats ruled a mob of un-
The "Mechanics' Ticket" created a spasm of
terror among the property-holders of New Eng-
land. It was nicknamed the "Infidels' Ticket,"
and preached against from the pulpits. The old
and always preposterous lie about the workers
The Development of the American Spirit. 177
wanting to "divide up" the wealth of the rich was
served up with the usual variations in the news-
papers. Petitions were sent to the Legislature
asking it to unseat Ebenezer Ford, not because he
was illegally elected, but because he represented
the working people and not the capitalists. The
orators of the Fourth of July celebrations declared
that "anarchy was at hand," that "the world had
turned upside down," and that "the forces of mis-
rule and rebellion were combining."
The next year the workingmen formed a ticket
in Albany and carried four wards out of five. The
same thing occurred in Troy, with a smaller ma-
jority. A State Convention was held at Syracuse,
and Ezekiel Williams was nominated for Governor,
receiving 3,000 votes. This movement was called
"Workeyism" by the press, and all who voted for
the ticket were ridiculed as "Workies." So far as
can be ascertained, few of any wealth or influence
were connected with the origin of the "Mechanics'
Ticket" or ether labor parties of the time. Most of
the professors, statesmen, capitalists and profes-
sional men regarded this political endeavor of the
wage-workers as an act of dangerous and repre-
178 Organized Self-Hclp.
But, in spite of all manner of obstacles, the labor
organizations continued to grow. In 1868 the Na-
tional Labor Union had 640,000 members, but
allowed itself to be disrupted by party politics. In
1869 the Knights of Labor was formed by Uriah
S. Stevens and eight of his friends. It was obliged
for nine or ten years to be a secret society. Its
name was not mentioned to the public, but was in-
dicated by five stars, like this, * * * * *.
Although it demanded no more than that wage-
workers might be allowed to "share in the gains
and honors of advancing civilization," it was de-
nounced in the most unjustifiable manner. Many
people really believed that labor leaders were de-
mons with horns and hoofs.
"We must show ourselves mightier than the dif-
ficulties confronting us," said Uriah Stevens, and
the K. of L. soon made good his words. By 1887
there were 1,000,000 members in the organization,
and for the first time the wage-workers began to
realize the omnipotence of an organized protest
against unfair conditions. The K. of L. admitted
all classes except lawyers, gamblers, stock brokers,
bankers and liquor sellers, who were held to be
especially dangerous to the interests of working
the Development of the American Spirit. 179
people. It demanded, in 1874, nineteen definite
political and industrial reforms, eleven of which
have since been put in operation with most bene-
In 1886 labor organizations boomed as never be-
fore. It was the great labor year. All legal re-
strictions had been removed. The last conspiracy
laws were repealed in New York in 1870, in Penn-
sylvania in 1872, and in Maryland in 1884. France
had abolished them in 1864 and Germany in 1867.
Massachusetts was the pioneer State in this mat-
ter; as early as 1842 several shoemakers were ar-
raigned under the conspiracy laws, but they won
The main point to be remembered, in what we
have been recording, is that American workingmen
had to struggle and protest for 75 years before
they were recognized as equal citizens of the Re-
public — before they were allowed the simple right
of combination for mutual benefit. Hundreds of
them were arrested, fined and imprisoned for doing
what every capitalist and' professional man was
allowed to do with perfect freedom. The right of
organization for self-protection, now possessed by
all our wage-earners was achieved by the perse-
180 Organized Self-Help.
verance and heroism of the first trade unionists,
and not by the War of Independence or any action
on the part of Congress.
The unions were not allowed to struggle un-
assisted. All the noblest men and women in Amer-
ican history were on their side, while the influences
against them were mainly caused by foreign-born
prejudices and customs. It was the old battle be-
tween feudalism and democracy transplanted to a
continent which was nominally conquered by the
The fathers of the Republic were true to de-
mocracy as they understood it. They could not be
expected to legislate for the conditions that exist
to-day in the business world. When George Wash-
ington visited the little cloth factory at Hartford
in 1789 and ordered from it his inauguration suit
of broadcloth, he could never have foreseen the
enormous factories of the present time.
Jefferson was perhaps the most far-sighted man
of his generation. Again and again he warned his
countrymen against the political and industrial
parasitism which was noticeable after the Revolu-
tion as well as before. In his last letter, written
ten days before his death, Jefferson said: "The
The Development of the American Spirit. 181
mass of mankind has not been born with saddles
on their backs nor a favored few booted and
spurred, ready to ride them." No one saw as
clearly as Jefferson the cumbersome and non-rep-
resentative nature of government as it then existed.
"Congress wastes day after day on the most un-
important questions," said he. "But how can it be
otherwise when the people send 150 lawyers, whose
trade is to question everything, yield nothing and
talk by the hour?"
While it may be too much to say that Jefferson,
Franklin, Samuel Adams and the other statesmen
of the Revolutionary period were in favor of abso-
lutely equal rights for wage-workers, it is certainly
very clear that they pushed the country in that
direction. Their sympathies were with the poor,
the wronged and the unfortunate. They did not
toady to the rich nor hope to marry their daughters
to tHe titled dummies of European courts. Their,
economic creed was that the earner of wealth
should also be its owner; and they imagined that
they had established the Republic on such a basis
that the industrious would become prosperous and
the idle would suffer the penalties of indolence.
Some of the men who fought against the ex-
182 Organized Self-Help.
actions of England believed that their victory
would mean the abolition of all feudalistic customs
in the new country. In 1844 some young me-
chanics were explaining to an old Revolutionary
soldier, 80 years of age, the doctrine which is best
known to-day under the name of "Single Tax."
"That's right," said the old veteran. "My children,
there were many of us that wanted that as soon as
the war was over, and that was the time it should
have been done. We thought we were fighting for
free land, but when everything was settled up we
found ourselves paying as much rent and taxation
as ever." This shows what was the real "Spirit of
'76." The account is taken from a New York
newspaper published in 1844.
The noble Lafayette lent us his services because
he believed that American Independence would
benefit the average man, and not merely the em-
ploying and professional classes. It is related of
him that when standing with a friend on his house-
top he said : "Before the French Revolution all the
land and all the houses in sight were mine. Now
I possess only a few hundred acres, but I rejoice
in the diminution, since the happiness of others is
The Development of the American Spirit. 183
The group of men and women who first made
New England known to the world as a literary
centre sympathized with the efforts of the working
people to obtain equal social and industrial rights.
For instance, Edward Everett, W. E. Channing
and Horace Mann spoke in favor of the Working-
men's Party of 1830. "The Harbinger," which
represented the most radical thought of the time
in the line of social reconstruction, contained ar-
ticles from such writers as Hawthorne, Whittier,
Brisbane, Alcott, Lowell, Godwin, J. F. Clarke,
Brownson, Thoreau, Greeley, Parker, G. W. Cur-
tis, Margaret Fuller, Higginson, Dana, Longfellow
and Emerson. Where, in the whole length of
American history, will you find a nobler group
than this ?
In 1845 the New England Workingmen's Asso-
ciation was formed ; and among its charter mem-
bers were Charles A. Dana, Wendell Phillips, Al-
bert Brisbane, Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Theodore
Parker and George Ripley — six of the cleverest
men this country has produced.
Just as the most radical poems of Shelley, Burns
and Whitman are being left out in the modern
"respectable'' editions of their works, so in like
184 Organised Self-Help.
manner the literary critics have covered up that
part of the careers of our famous thinkers and
poets which was connected with the Labor Move-
ment. This verse, for example, is being cut out of
Longfellow's poems, being no doubt too much like
the utterance of a "labor agitator" :
"There is a poor blind Samson in this land,
Shorn of his strength and bound in bonds of steel ;
Who may in some grim revel raise his hand
And shake the pillars of this Commonweal."
It is being forgotten that Emerson was a social
reformer as well as the father of transcendentalism,
yet on a number of occasions he protested against
oppression and misgovernment. He wrote a vig-
orous letter to President Van Buren pointing out
the unfairness with which the Cherokee Indians
had been treated. He lectured in favor of John
Brown and the Kansas farmers, and was always
punctual in his attendance at town meetings. The
word "agitator" did not prevent him from sympa-
thizing with the Fourierists and labor leaders of
his time. "I honor the lofty ideals of the Social-
ists," said he on one occasion while addressing a
most conservative audience.
The first editorial that Thurlow Weed wrote
The Development of the American Spirit. 185
was one in defense of a poor sick Irish lad, who
was not receiving proper medical attention. The
doctors had Weed arrested for libel, and although
the victim had to have his leg amputated because
of their ignorance, the young editor was severely
reprimanded by the court.
Parke Godwin, who for fifty years was the
editor of the Nezv York Evening Post, said in
1844: "I have solemnly thought that every mo-
ment of my time not given to the consideration of
this question of Social Reform was time thrown
away — was unfaithfulness to my fellow-man."
All the great Abolitionist leaders advocated bet-
ter conditions for wage-workers, and lent a hand to
the young trade union movement of their time.
Charles Sumner said : "The true pride of America
is in her middle and poorer classes — in their gen-
eral health and happiness and freedom from pov-
erty ; in their facilities for being educated ; and in
the opportunities open to them of rising in the
scale." The last time he left Boston for Wash-
ington he said to Wendell Phillips: "I have just
one thing more to do for the negro — to carry the
Civil Rights Bill ; and then I shall take up the
186 Organized Self -Help.
Wendell Phillips, as is well known, gave his
entire attention, after 1865, to the betterment of
social conditions. "The Labor Movement is my
only hope for democracy," said he ; "the only ques-
tion left, since the emancipation of the negro, is
the labor question." At one time he was asked to
draft a platform for a State Labor Party and cheer-
fully consented, sending the organizers a most so-
cialistic production. Its opening sentence stated
that "Labor, the creator of wealth, is entitled to
the wealth it creates."
When Garrison was told of the overworked and
underpaid condition of the factory workers of New
England, he said.: "It is very bad ; it is horrible ;
that will be the next question that will come up."
Whittier, the Quaker poet, was on one occasion
the spokesman of a body of strikers. In Ames-
bury, not far from Whittiei's home, a company
called the "Salisbury Corporation" ran a cotton
mill. It had been the custom to allow the weavers
to eat luncheon at 5 p. m., as the working day was
14 hours long; but in 1852 a new agent was ap-
pointed, who at once stopped the luncheon privi-
lege and compelled the weavers to continue their
work until dark. Very naturally they struck
The Development of the American Spirit. 187
against such treatment, and asked Whittier to
draw up a statement of their side of the case. He
did so and wrote a long plea in their behalf, the
last paragraph of which was as follows :
"The citizens of this village, hitherto justly
proud of the reputation of its manufacturing estab-
lishments, showing as they did that humanity and
liberality toward the operative is the best economy
for the capitalist, have rejoiced in the high char-
acter of the men and women employed; and it
would be a matter of serious regret on the part of
all classes of our citizens if the present policy is
persisted in and those whose industry and good
conduct have enlarged the dividends and estab-
lished the honorable reputation of the Salisbury
Corporation, are driven elsewhere for labor, and
their places supplied by a vagrant and unsettled
What finally happened was exactly what Whit-
tier foresaw. The company stubbornly refused to
yield or arbitrate, and the striking weavers grad-
ually moved out of town. A low grade of workers,
cheap, unreliable and inefficient, took their places.
The whole character of the industrial population
188 Organized Self -Help.
was changed, real estate depreciated, and the com-
pany was in financial difficulties for years.
And so this list might be continued through
many more pages, showing that the men of whom
the American nation is most proud have been in
favor of every form of organized self-help among
wage-workers. More than that, the influence of
our institutions is inevitably on the side of resist-
ance to degrading conditions. No matter how low,
how servile, how abject an immigrant may be when
he lands upon our shores, he learns to raise his
head, to straighten his backbone and to demand the
fair treatment which is due to one human being
from another. Let a man breathe our air, read our
newspapers and attend our public meetings for two
or three years, and he is a human chattel no longer.
Such is the normal effect of our free institutions —
a result to which we should point with patriotic
"The ambition of my work-girls never goes be-
yond fifteen shillings a week," said an English
manufacturer to an American visitor. This simple
fact accounts for English decadence in manufac-
tures and commerce. It also accounts for our com-
mercial supremacy ; for as long as the world lasts
The Development of the American Spirit. 189
a nation of intelligent free-spirited workers can
outdo a nation of drudges who are stupidly con-
tented with less than human rights.
As De Tocqueville noticed in 1831, democracy
teaches the worker to "conceive a more lofty opin-
ion of his rights, of his future, of himself, and
prompts him to strive to dispose of his labor at a
higher rate." There is as much difference between
one of our typical workingmen and a terrorized
European laborer as there is between one of
Sousa's dashing, open-air marches and the wall-
ing, quavering minor notes of a Russian labor-
In Europe and Asia and Africa human equality
is a theory, a poem, a dream. In the United States
it is at least a half-accomplished fact. Never, at
any time or in any country, was it as near accom-
plishment as it is here and now. In antiquity the
brotherhood of man was unknown. Homer, Plato
and Aristotle believed that there always must be
masters and slaves. Even the abstract idea of a
Republic like ours was too large for the Greek and
Roman mind. It is the peculiar glory of America
that here democracy is being worked out not in the
study and lecture room, but in the factory and
190 Organized Self-Hclp.
shop. A more perfect liberty than was ever
dreamed of in Europe is to-day being forged and
hammered into shape on the rough anvils of the
The Western States deserve a large share of the
credit for saving the East from European influ-
ences. The shadow of feudalism grew lighter and
almost invisible as it approached the Mississippi
River. The West has been to the nation at all times
the experiment station of democracy. It demon-
strated for the first time to the world the ability of
the average man. Mechanics became judges and
good judges. Laborers became Congressmen, and
proved as capable as any of the aristocratic Jays
or Van Rensselaers. The actual producer of
wealth was ranked higher than the mere middle-
man or banker or financial expert. Abraham Lin-
coln spoke the opinion of the whole West when he
said : "Labor is prior to and above capital and de-
serves a much higher consideration."
Thus, to sum up, the trade unions, with all their
faults and very frequent mistakes in policy, rep-
resent the healthiest influence of the nation. It
was to obtain what they are now demanding that
the Republic was founded. They spring from the
The Development of the American Spirit. 191
sturdy independence and free-spiritedness of our
"Trade unions are the bulwarks of modern de-
mocracies," said W. E. Gladstone. We shall find
this to be especially true in our cosmopolitan coun-
try, where a comprehensive, assimilative organiza-
tion is indispensable to protect the rights of the
great pay-envelope class. I do not hesitate to say
that the American Federation of Labor will some
day practically replace the whole political structure
as it now exists. Government is destined to be-
come less and less the ruling of persons and more
and more the management of production and dis-
As the foolish and foreign contempt for manual
labor decreases, the professional classes will co-
operate with the trade unions in securing municipal
and State reforms. The Doctors' Union, the
Ministers' Union, the Merchants' Union, etc., will
send delegates to the Central Federated Union;
and thus a truly representative body will be formed,
which will tend gradually to supersede the non-
representative conventions of lawyers and lobby-
ists that we call Legislatures and Congresses and
Senates. This, however, is as yet but a social ideal
192 Organised Self-Help.
— a road house on the way to the perfected Amer-
ica of which Whitman was the prophet — the land
of happy comrades whose "inseparable cities have
their arms about each other's necks."
THE PROMOTION OF MORALITY AND EDUCATION BY
TWO thousand years ago, all the college pro-
fessors and philosophers and capitalists de-
clared that, laborers had no souls. Even Plato
said that the slave had only a "half-soul."
Consequently, slaves were barred from relig-
ious services. All the "consolations of religion*'
were put beyond their reach, and the only moral
instruction they received came from their own
organizations. The early trade union was half
a church. Its meetings were opened with a short
prayer, and images of Minerva and Ceres were
generally to be found in the halls where the slaves
To-day it is universally acknowledged in theory
that workingmen have souls ; but as a matter of
fact the only moral instruction that thousands of
194 Organised Self -Help.
them receive comes from their trade unions. As a
rule, workingmen do not go to church, not because
they are more immoral than those who do, but be-
cause of a series of social and economic reasons for
which there is no space in this book. The tremen-
dous task of giving practical moral instruction to
the wage-earning masses of our great cities is left
almost entirely to the trade union organizers and
When a workingman arrives in a city in which
he has no acquaintances, he goes at once, not to
a priest or minister, but to the headquarters of his
union. He presents his card and finds himself at
once among friends. He is told where to hire a
room, where to look for work, and anything else
he may need to know about trade conditions. All
this is done for him, not as a charity or a moral
duty, but as a right to which he is entitled as a
unionist in good standing. He finds himself
treated like a man and a brother, and he can sit
down in the union hall and read the newspaper,
or join in a game of cards or checkers, and feel as
much at home as if he had lived in the town all his
Of the 80,000 criminals in this country, fewer
Promotes Morality and Education. 195
come from the ranks of trade unionists than from
the professional classes. More bank tellers have
forged or absconded than trade union treasurers.
The record of our banks contains at least twice
as many instances of fraud as does the record of
the American Labor Movement.
The trade unionist has none of the characteris-
tics of the criminal class. He has more ingrained
honesty and self-respect than any other sort of
man. It is the very essence of his creed to live
by his own efforts and not by any sort of parasit-
ism, legal or illegal. No man costs the State less
than the unionist, and no one does as much for
the enriching of the State, in proportion to what
In respect to the moral instruction of wage-
workers, the unions have succeeded where the
churches and law-courts failed. One hundred or
even fifty years ago, when unions were weak, the
standard of morality was very much lower than it
is to-day. Thurlow Weed said that one-quarter
of all the printers he knew were drunkards and
one-half were regular drinkers.
Unions have always promoted temperance.
"Stop your cursed drinking!" was the advice given
196 Organized Self-Help.
on all occasions by a noted labor organizer. In the
Glass- Workers' Union, any member losing work
through drink is fined one dollar. In the Brick-
layers' Union, a member who attends a meeting in
an intoxicated condition is fined one dollar, and
five dollars if he attends a funeral while under the
influence of liquor. Some unions have gone so far
as to impose a fine for profanity ; how many cap-
italists' clubs have done likewise?
The unions provide the only place, besides the
saloons, were the wage-worker can go in his work-
ing clothes and spend an hour or two among
friends. The moral results of this are very great
and should not be forgotten. If unions are to be
broken up, as the monopolists are demanding,
what will the latter give the wage-worker in the
place of his union hall?
The whole policy of the Labor Movement exem-
plifies a higher type of morality than that preached
by any creed. It is largely the practical fulfill-
ment of the precept, "Love your neighbor as your-
self." The unionist leader is continually endeavor-
ing to level up the mass of working people. He
seeks out the worst-paid trades and labors to bring
them up in line with the others. He speaks for
Promotes Morality and Education. 197
those who are too ignorant or too degraded to
speak for themselves. What can be more essen-
tially Christ-like than this?
When Alabama, at the dictation of the cotton
manufacturers, repealed its child-labor law, and
put hundreds of little tots into its unhealthy fac-
tories, it was the A. F. of L., not the Foreign Mis-
sionary Boards or Church Conventions, that sent
a special woman organizer, at great expense, up
and down the State, to have the law re-enacted.
From a national point of view, nothing can be
more injurious to a country than child-labor. By
it the coming generation is mortgaged to Ignor-
ance. The child-labor of the early English fac-
tories stunted and blemished the working people
to a degree of degeneracy from which they have
not even yet recovered. And in this country there
is many a man and woman, now grown past the
opportunities of childhood, who bitterly regrets
that the years which should have been spent in
school were drudged away in a factory.
"My father carried me on his back to work in
the mines when I was eight years old, and I have
been working there ever since," said a Pennsyl-
vania coal miner. In 1845 a nine-year-old girl in
198 Organised Self-Help.
Lowell said to a lady who was studying our fac-
tory system : "I go to work in the morning when
it is too dark to see, and I don't stop in the even-
ing till it is too dark to see ; and yet I can't make
enough money to keep mamma and the baby."
The most effectual protest against this theft of
childhood has been made by the labor organiza-
tions. They alone have stubbornly refused to
listen to the callous plea of the employer and poli-
tician that "Capital will be driven out of the State."
Their answer has been : "If capital cannot thrive
without enslaving our children, then in the name of
Humanity let it leave the State, and good rid-
The ethical teachers of the future will recognize
a fact to which modern moralists are inexcusably
blind — the fact that the trade unions have been
the pioneers of a social morality, far higher than
the individualistic creeds of the present day.
The unionist is less concerned about per-
sonal faults and frailties than he is with
the affairs of the city, the State or the nation. He
does not seek the welfare of himself, his relatives
and his friends only, but the welfare of all wage-
Promotes Morality and Education. 199
workers and his own fellow-craftsmen in par-
The chivalry, the moral heroism, the statesman-
like altruism of sympathetic strikes are as yet too
high for the merely professional or academic mor-
alist to appreciate. Among all the various classes
of people in our motley civilization, who but the
trained labor unionists have ever voluntarily sac-
rificed their employment and faced the terrible
agencies of Hunger and Cold, not to benefit them-
selves, but to help the wage-workers of some dis-
tant city? Is not a sympathetic strike the most
notable product of that sense of solidarity or
brotherhood which it is the aim of all systems of
morality to develop ? Am I claiming too much to
state that it is an evidence of the arrival, after cen-
turies of expectation, of the religion of deed, in-
stead of the religion of creed ?
To pass to the subject of education, we shall
find that organized labor has fought most per-
sistently against the monopolizing of knowledge by
a few. Just as against the Trust the trade union
motto is "Distribute prosperity," so against the ex-
clusiveness and pedantry of colleges its motto is
200 Organized Self -Help.
A close study of early American history shows
that the "little red schoolhouse" was by no means
so universal as we have been led to suppose. In
colonial days the British governors were strongly
opposed to educating the working people or their
children. Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Vir-
ginia, said : "I thank God there are no free schools
or printing houses in Virginia; for learning has
brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the
At first, when the unions demanded free educa-
tion, the ruling classes tried to compromise by giv-
ing them "pauper schools," which were only for
the very poor. These were started in Pennsyl-
vania in 1818, but were very wisely opposed by the
workingmen, who continued to antagonize them
until the public schools were established.
Some striking stories are told in the chronicles of
those times of the heroic struggles of the poorer
people to educate themselves and their children.
Thurlow Weed, for instance, when but a lad in his
teens, wrapped pieces of old carpet around his feet,
having neither shoes nor stockings, and walked
several miles through the snow to borrow a "His-
tory of the French Revolution." Enough cases of
Promotes Morality and Education. 201
this kind could be collected to fill a larger book
than this, showing that our public school and pub-
lic library systems were not a gift from the wealthy
and educated to the working classes, but rather
arose in response to the persistent demand of the
latter for equal educational advantages.
When the trade unions of Boston built a hall in
1836 as their general meeting-place and headquar-
ters, the first use they made of it was to arrange a
course of lectures on political economy, education,
phrenology, corporations, history, machinery, etc.
It seems to be the most sensible and comprehensive
lecture course ever delivered up to that date. Yet
the unionists had been compelled to build their hall
through the refusal of every society in Boston to
rent its hall for trade union purposes.
By 1845 labor organizations began to establish
libraries and reading-rooms. In the Boston La-
borers' Union the members were assessed $2 a year
for the library, and cheerfully paid it. The Balti-
more Bricklayers' Union has spent over $1,000 on
their library, and at present tax themselves $1 a
year to maintain it. In Detroit there is a poor me-
chanic who has "nosed around old bookstores" and
collected a library of over 300 volumes. It is safe
202 Organised Self-Help.
to state that the books in these Labor Libraries
have been selected, not for the sake of the binding,
or the edition, or any other reason which degrades
authorship and literature, but for the sake of the
information and ideas which the books contained.
Hundreds of trade union papers and magazines are
to-day being most ably edited.
Labor organizers were among the first to advo-
cate the kindergarten and the school of tech-
nology, long before both became the popular insti-
tutions which they are to-day. Unions have not,
up to the present time, favored "manual training"
schools or "trade" schools, because there has been
good reason to believe that these schools would
not be managed by efficient teachers or be of any
practical benefit to the industrial world. Work-
ingmen have always championed the practical, as
against the academic, in matters of education ; and
thus, because they have opposed the projects of
theorists, have sometimes been unjustly abused as
One of our most progressive and fair-minded
educators, Professor R. T. Ely, has had the cour-
age to state that "Trade unions are among the fore-
most of our educational agencies, ranking next to
Promotes Morality and Education. 203
our churches and public schools in their influence
upon the culture of the masses." J. E. Thorold
Rogers, an English historian and member of Par-
liament, says, "The English trade unionists include
in their numbers the most intelligent, conscientious
and valuable of the workingmen."
One of the most emphatic tributes ever given to
trade unions was that made by Potter Palmer, of
Chicago. "For ten years," said he, "I made as
desperate a fight against organized labor as was
ever made by mortal man. It cost me considerably
more than a million dollars to learn that there is
no labor so skilled, so intelligent, so faithful, as
that which is governed by an organization whose
officials are well-balanced, level-headed men. . . .
I now employ none but organized labor, and
never have the least trouble, each believing that the
one has no right to oppress the other."
Another testimony to the educational effect of
trade unions comes to us from a Pennsylvania
writer. He says : "You would be surprised to note
the effect of the eight-hour day upon the coal
miners. In many places they are organizing li-
braries, taking a greater interest in public ques-
204 Organized Sclf-Hclp.
tions, and their family life has been improved and
Organization gives workingmen a feeling of
responsibility out of which a higher morality and
intelligence naturally develops. The frenzied,
fanatical "social reformer" may persuade a rabble
to applaud his unworkable propositions, but an
audience of experienced unionists, if it gave him a
hearing at all, would listen in incredulous silence.
In 1829 the unions in New York strongly repudi-
ated the free love and communism advocated by
the enthusiasts of that time. At present, the most
bitter and scurrilous enemies that organized labor
has are the revolutionary Marxian Socialists, who
have for years been pouring out a torrent of abuse
upon what they call the "pure and simple" trade
unions, because the latter refused to listen to their
The trade unionist believes in evolution, not rev-
olution. He knows that the only way to hasten the
"happy time a-coming" is by education and organi-
zation — by slow, steady, persevering work. He
cannot be deceived by the delusion that a new so-
cial system can be built up in a night, like Alad-
din's palace, by some political "Presto, change''
Promotes Morality and Education. 205
hocus-pocus. He has found out how hard it is to
teach thousands of wage-workers the easy A, B, C
of unionism, and how impossible to make them un-
derstand the plans and specifications of an ideal
It is true that the unions in many States have
again and again been deceived into supporting little
vest-pocket "Labor Parties," or "Socialist Par-
ties," organized by a handful of well-meaning
theorists or self-interested schemers. But the
average union has grown very suspicious of all
such projects, and is apt to weigh them, not by
their theories, but by their practical and educa-
It must be remembered that the Labor Move-
ment has constantly fluttering around it a swarm
of cranks of all sorts — good, bad and indifferent.
They hover about like gulls around a steamer,
some being really anxious and able to give assis-
tance, but most of them having no other object than
to pick up crumbs. Every inventor of a new social
system runs with it to the trade unions, and loudly
denounces their "stupidity" if they do not at once
abandon their ideas and adopt his. Every young
visionary or minister-out-of-a-job who has read
206 Organized Self-Help.
two or three Socialist pamphlets and knows noth-
ing at all of the history and development of the
Labor Movement, invariably offers his "services"
to the trade unions. If his offer is accepted, in
nine cases out of ten, he becomes the propagandist
of some small, one-idea reform, generally imprac-
ticable, and makes a tangle which often requires
years to unravel. If his offer is refused, then he
is very strenuous in pointing out how slow and in-
effective is the work of the "mere trade unions."
The work done by unions in cooling hot-heads
and repressing extremists has never been fully
recognized. The professor, writing upon industrial
questions in his quiet study, knows nothing what-
ever of the under-currents, swirling eddies and
sand-banks which lie in the course of the trade
union Secretary. The latter has to deal with all
sorts and conditions of men and women, not in the
abstract, but face to face. He must take people
as he finds them, and deal with them in a way to
strengthen the union which has elected him to pro-
tect its interests.
The term "social engineer" has been invented by
Josiah Strong to describe his own work in the "So-
cial Service League," but it could be applied much
Promotes Morality and Education. 207
more appropriately to the Presidents and Secre-
taries of the great trade unions which number tens
of thousands of members. The work they do is
not exhibition work. Their chief aim is not the
preparation of a self-praising annual report or the
conversion of benevolent millionaires. It is not
play-work, but the real work of the world — that of
guiding and instructing and elevating the armies
of workers upon whom civilization depends for its
permanence. It is the largest and highest sort of
educational work — the preparation of ourselves and
our institutions for a new and more equitable so-
cial order, in which the two pernicious extremes of
poverty and monopoly will be as far as possible
Civilization in America has been high or low in
proportion to the estimate set upon labor. It has
been highest where wages were highest and hours
of labor fewest. The lowest mark of social de-
velopment has been, and is to-day, in those South-
ern States that suffered from the twin curses of
aristocracy and slavery. The barbarism of some of
these States has been until very recently almost in-
credible. The "amusements" of the planters were
cock-fights, drinking bouts and family feuds, in
208 Organized Self -Help.
which gouging, biting off ears, shooting in the
back, and unmentionable mutilations, were re-
garded as fair and "honorable."
These atrocities, and the inexcusable illiteracy
of these States, sprang inevitably from the low
value placed upon labor. Such conditions cannot
be changed by colleges, by churches, or by legisla-
tion. The only hope for the South in its recent
commendable endeavors to attain the prosperity
and general high standing of other parts of the
Union is in the thorough organization of its
workers, black and white, into trade unions. No
matter how much the old "blue-blooded" families
may splutter and protest, organized self-help is the
only remedy for Southern illiteracy and stagnation.
The trade union is the one practical means by
which the mass of workers can be reached and edu-
cated. It recognizes the great truth that the aver-
age man is not a genius and cannot hope to live on
rent, profits or interest. It legislates for the mass,
and not for the two or three smart individuals who
do not need any help. It does not mock the strug-
gling millions by the delusive consolation that
"there is plenty of room at the top." If everyone
could get to the top, then there would be no top;
Promotes Morality and Education. 209
so as a social consolation this hackneyed precept
The trade union does not say to the worker, "Be
smart, and some day you'll be a capitalist." It
aims to elevate the mechanic as a mechanic, and
the carpenter as a carpenter, and the weaver as a
weaver, etc. It is the only protection which the
average many have against the oppressions of the
exceptional few. Its aim is to level up the low
places in our civilization, not to add to the height
of the mountains, that are already far too high for
any useful purpose. Thus, in its work, the union
elevates the whole industrial structure.
Mr. Schwab, the highest paid "company's man"
in the Steel Trust, has publicly advised all trade
unionists to abandon their unions and strike out
for themselves. He is about as disinterested in the
matter as those Wall street brokers who advise the
public to sell off its real estate and speculate in
margins. But the great body of our working peo-
ple have developed, ethically and intellectually, be-
yond such suicidal, individualistic advice. They
know that the fact that a few may climb does not
lessen the misery of those who are left below.
They know that because Jean de Reszke receives
210 Organized Self-Help.
$5,000 for a song, it would not be wise for every
European peasant to leave his farm and study
grand opera. In the Roman Empire, the sailors
and the bakers had the most powerful unions, and
whenever they demanded higher wages their
leaders were made Senators and Knights to make
them contented. In this way the workers were
continually deceived, and never obtained their re-
quests for better conditions.
Catherine the Great had been a peasant girl, but
that did not benefit the peasant women of Russia.
Galerius was a swineherd and Diocletian was a
slave, but that did not help the peasantry of Rome.
Horace was a farmer's son, but that did not alle-
viate the condition of the Roman farmers. An-
drew Jackson was the son of a poor farm laborer,
but his election to the Presidency did not raise
wages among farm laborers. Every generation of
Americans has contained hundreds of such cases
of individual self-help, and yet the social problem
is almost as far from being solved as ever.
In short, no trade is ever helped by the individ-
uals who rise out of it, but by those who remain in
it, and by means of organization elevate the whole
body of its workers to a higher plane. No words
Promotes Morality and Education. 211
can describe the respect which I feel for those trade
union leaders who have put aside opportunities for
personal enrichment, who have refused to become
lawyers and doctors and preachers and insurance
agents, and who endure all manner of abuse and
fault-finding, not only from the capitalistic classes,
but from the men whom they are endeavoring to
Like that masterly tribune of the people, John
Burns, who, at a time when he was the most in-
fluential man in London, was living on $10 a week
in a cheap tenement, so, with scarcely an exception,
the men who have built up the American Federa-
tion of Labor, and who to-day watch over its in-
terests, are poor and propertyless men, receiving
less for a year's salary than many a stock-broker
makes in a day.
As I have shown in these pages, not only has
every historian inexcusably ignored the labors and
achievements of the earlier trade unionists, but the
present generation as well is ignorant of the mag-
nitude and statesmanlike efficiency of their work.
It is in the hope that this ignorance may be less-
ened and more correct and adequate opinions
formed of the American Labor Movement, that this
little volume is presented to the public.
THE LIBRARY _^ TT _
;TY OF CALIFORNIA
UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY
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