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unions. Most in evidence among the locals were the building trades with delegates from 19 unions. Next in point of representation were the moulders, machinists, and ship carpenters, with 7 delegates each. The Coachmakers' International Union was represented by 2 delegates, and the National Union of Curriers by 1, but the real representation of the national unions was much stronger. All presidents and secretaries of national unions were invited to seats on the floor of the convention with the right to speak but not to vote. Under this provision Jonathan C. Fincher and William C. Otley, secretary and president respectively of the machinists', and John A. White, president of the International Union of Bricklayers, became participants in the debates. Furthermore, four delegates who bore credentials from minor organisations were at the same time officers of national unions, like Alexander H. Troup, treasurer of the National Typographical Union, and T. E. Kirby, secretary of the International Union of Bricklayers.29 The representation from national trade unions on the floor thus really amounted to ten. Other labour leaders widely known were A. C. Cameron, the editor of the Workingman's Advocate, representing the Chicago Trades' Assembly and the Illinois Grand Eight Hour League; John Hinchcliffe, the joint representative of the Railroad Men's Protective Union, the Printers' Union, the Machinery Molders' Union of St. Louis, and the Miners' Lodge of Illinois. Important leaders not present were Sylvis, who was prevented from coming by illness, and Richard Trevellick.
The convention elected Hinchcliffe temporary chairman and spent the first day in completing its organisation. Hinchcliffe was re-elected permanent chairman and on the second day he appointed the following committees: on "Eight Hours in all its respects," on "Trades' Unions, Organisation and Strikes,' on Co-operation and Convict Prison Labour," on a "National Labor Organisation," on "An Address to the Workmen throughout the Country," on "Permanent National Organisation," on "Public Lands and the National Debt," and a committee "to confer with the President of the United States in relation to the Reform Movement."
29 The remaining two delegates of this group were Richard Emmons and James Ashworth, first and second vice-presidents,
respectively, of the Machinists' and Blacksmiths' International Union.
The sentiment of the convention is gauged best by the attitudes respectively on trade unionism and legislative action. The committee on trade unions, consisting of three representatives of trades' assemblies, Cameron, of the Chicago Trades' Assembly, Roberts, of the Philadelphia Trades' Assembly, and Baldwin, of the Mechanics' Association of Norfolk, Virginia, and of two delegates from local unions, Reed, of the house carpenters in Washington, and Auld, of the shipwrights in Baltimore, presented a report which was adopted without debate. It recognised that "all reforms in the labour movement. . . can at present best be directed through the Trades organisations," and recommended "the formation of unions in all localities where the same do not exist, and the formation of an international organisation in every branch of industry as a first and most important duty of the hour," and further also the organisation of the unskilled in "a general workingmen's association" directly affiliated with the "general organisation." It also embodied the trade union recommendation of a more rigid enforcement of the apprenticeship system. "With regard to the subject of strikes," the report continued, your committee give it as their deliberate opinion that they have been productive of great injury to the labouring classes, and would therefore discountenance them except as dernier resort." It further advocated arbitration as a substitute for strikes and advised "the appointment by each Trades' Assembly of an arbitration committee to whom shall be referred all matters of dispute arising between employers and employés." When we consider that this was a period of phenomenal growth of fighting associations of employers, it becomes evident that by deprecating strikes and by recommending arbitration the convention showed how little faith it had that results could be attained through trade unionism.
The debates which centred around the eight-hour question indicated that legislative action had taken the first place which, in the international assembly of 1864 had belonged to trade unionism. The committee of 14, 1 for each of the 13 States and the District of Columbia, consisted of 8 delegates from trades' assemblies, 1 from a Grand Eight Hour League, and 5 from local trade unions. The report set forth that "there
comes from the ranks of labour a demand for more time for moral, intellectual and social culture," which is the "result of that condition of progress in which the workingmen of this nation are prepared to take a step higher in the scale of moral and intellectual life." But this at first went no further than the resolution to recommend "agitation and organisation" as "the two great levers by which we are to accomplish the great result," and to state that "as far as political action is concerned, each locality should be governed by its own policy, whether to run an independent ticket of workingmen, or to use political parties already existing, but, at all events to cast no vote except for men pledged to the interests of labor."
After its reading, the report was hastily adopted, but opposition immediately developed. It was begun by Alexander Troup, representing the Boston Workingmen's Assembly, who moved to recommit the report to the committee on resolutions. Phelps, of the New Haven Trades Union, defended the report. He said that "he found in the meeting of the committee all diversities of political sentiment, and many who desired to make this congress a political congregation. All had been harmonised." Hinchcliffe and Roberts, likewise, defended the report, but Harding of the coachmakers said that it "would be absurd in him to return to the body which sent him to the convention to agree upon a course of action and tell them they must make their own plans." Schlägel, a follower of Ferdinand Lassalle, was the first one to urge upon the convention the desirability of an independent labour party. His forceful appeal decided the matter in favour of the opposition to the report, and A. C. Cameron was delegated to compose another. “The history and legislation of the past," said this report," has demonstrated that no confidence whatever can be placed in the pledges of existing political parties so far as the interests of the industrial classes are concerned. The time has come when the workingmen of the United States should cut themselves aloof from party ties and predilections, and organise themselves into a National Labor Party, the object of which shall be to secure the enactment of a law making eight hours a legal day's work by the National Congress and the several State legislatures,
and the election of men pledged to sustain and represent the interests of the industrial classes."
The report was at first adopted by a vote of 35 to 24. The opponents of independent political action were the Philadelphia delegates, headed by Roberts, who were clearly under the influence of Fincher, the delegates from Virginia, and the entire delegation from Maryland. The last named explained that they deemed it inexpedient for them to engage in the formation of a national labour party forthwith, as they feared it would prevent them from regaining the suffrage which had been denied them in recent years. On the fourth day, however, the vote was reconsidered, and the report recommitted "to meet the objections of the delegates opposing it." The committee recommended the addition of the qualifying words " as soon as possible" after the words declaring for the organisation of a national labour party, and the report, with this amendment, was adopted with one negative vote.
Interesting conclusions suggest themselves when a comparison is drawn between the mutual suspiciousness during the previous years of the trades' assemblies and the national trade unions, and the harmonious unanimity with which the convention passed upon questions of prime importance, like trade unionism, eight hours, and politics. The fact that attention was transferred from trade unionism to legislation made it possible to relieve the convention of the embarrassing task of co-ordinating the work of trades' assembly and national trade union on the economic field, where, at that time, both possessed equal strength and had overlapping jurisdiction. It was resolved instead to create a third organisation, the National Labour party, into which the centre of gravity should be carried.
There are no indications that this outcome was the result of any premeditation, but it is nevertheless true that the antagonism between the trades' assemblies and the national labour unions was to a very large degree allayed until the time when economic action again assumed prime importance in the struggle between labour and capital.
The question that loomed up as second in importance was the land question. A lengthy report was presented. It argued that the public domain was extensive enough to give every man
a farm sufficiently large for his sustenance and for the support of government, and that the whole public domain should be disposed of to actual settlers only. It proposed the following motto: The tools to those that have the ability and skill to use them, and the lands to those that have the will and heart to cultivate them."
Relatively little attention was given to the subject of cooperation, although the co-operative movement was then at its height. So exclusively was the convention's attention centred upon legislative action that it did not go beyond a general endorsement of co-operative stores and workshops and a recommendation to agitate for the passage by the various States of co-operative incorporation acts without specifying what these acts should contain. The committee which reported on cooperation also reported on convict labour and recommended agitation for laws fixing the price of the contract labour of convicts so as to equal the wages of workers outside the prisons. The assignment of these two totally unrelated subjects to one committee is in itself some indication of how little, it was thought, co-operation demanded the concerted action of the national labour movement.
The convention recognised the problem of women in industry, and pledged to the "sewing women, factory operatives, and daughters of toil, individual and undivided support. No class of industry is in so much need of having their condition ameliorated" and "we would solicit their hearty co-operation," said the committee on resolutions. Coupled with this was a resolution calling attention to the subject of tenement houses and declaring that vice, pauperism, and crime were the invariable attendants of the overcrowded, illy ventilated dwellings of the
The convention worked out no comprehensive plan of national organisation. It merely announced the organisation of a national labour union to meet in annual congresses, in which every Trades' Union, Workingmen's Association and EightHour League" should be entitled to one delegate for the first 500 members or less, and for every additional 500 or fractional part thereof, one additional delegate, and every national or international union should be represented by one delegate. The