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staff of officers elected consisted of a president, one vice-president at large, one vice-president for each State, territory, and district, a treasurer, four secretaries, and a finance committee of three. The president, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, and vice-president at large, constituted the executive board, which had the power to levy an assessment of 25 cents a year upon each member. J. C. C. Whaley, of the Washington Trades' Assembly, was elected president, E. Schlägel, the Lassallean Socialist,30 of the German Workingmen's Assembly in Chicago, vice-president at large, and C. William Gibson, of the eight-hour association, New Haven, secretary.3 31


The Baltimore convention, although it took no decisive steps to form a national labour party, gave an additional impetus to independent political action in the States and municipalities. In fact, throughout the existence of the National Labor Union, from the time when a national labour party had been first suggested, up to 1872, when it was finally consummated, the labour movement was continually engaged in local politics. Massachusetts, the original stronghold of the eight-hour movement, naturally shared very prominently in this political agitation. In August, 1866, the Boston Voice started an energetic campaign to send Wendell Phillips to Congress. "What John Bright is to Parliament, the workingmen of the third Massachusetts district 33 can make Wendell Phillips to Congress, was the enthusiastic motto.


The outcome of the congressional campaign made the Voice sceptical as to the expediency of the early formation of a national labour party. The Chicago Workingman's Advocate, on the other hand, was urging it with great enthusiasm, and accused the Voice of lukewarmness to the political interests of labour. In reply, the Voice said: "We perceive, indeed, that workingmen in Illinois, Michigan, and other Western

30 His name is sometimes Shläger.


31 Doc. Hist., IX, 129, gives list of the remaining officers.

82 In the preparation of this section the author drew largely from an unpub.

lished monograph by Lorian P. Jefferson, The Movement for Shorter Hours, 18251880.

33 This district covered a part of Boston.

34 Boston Weekly Voice, Aug. 28, 1866.

States, have more zeal and show a stronger front at the polls than their brethren in the East have ever done." It further called attention to the great enthusiasm shown in some parts of Pennsylvania, particularly in Alleghany County, and concluded with the recommendation to organise a labour party whenever it could prove a success, but implied that a national labour party was doomed to fail.35

Independent political action was resorted to less prominently by labour than the method of pledging the candidates of the established parties. This was practised with success in Connecticut, in Illinois, and in many other states. Likewise a lobbying activity was kept up before Congress and the state legislatures. The following more or less detailed account of the vicissitudes of the eight-hour measure at the hands of the president, Congress, and the state legislatures, will give an idea of the difficulties the labour leaders encountered, and will shed light upon the causes of the abrupt turn taken by the labour movement in the following year.

Before adjourning, a committee consisting of one representative from each State, headed by John Hinchcliffe, the president of the convention, arranged to meet President Andrew Johnson in Washington. Hinchcliffe presented to him in a speech the subjects of hours of labour, public lands, protection against importation of foreign pauper labour, and convict labour. The president replied, pointing to his past political record, to his work on behalf of an anti-prison labour law in Tennessee, and to his pioneer efforts to pass a homestead law, but remained diplomatically silent on all the other propositions. He stated, however, in general that he had "said something on all the propositions" and had himself "started most of them."

But if the president chose to be noncommittal on such important questions as an eight-hour law, the labour organisations did not fail to push the measure vigorously upon Congress and the state legislatures.

The Government of the United States had previously taken action on the question of hours on government work, when, in July, 1862, a bill was passed providing that the hours and wages of employés in government navy yards should conform

35 Ibid., Sept. 26, 1867.

as closely as possible, consistently with public interests, to those of similar private establishments.36 The eight-hour question, however, did not appear until December, 1865, when Senator Gratz Brown, of Missouri, offered to the Senate a resolution instructing the committee on judiciary to inquire into "the expediency and rightfulness" of enacting a law providing for eight hours on all government work, the committee to report by a bill or otherwise. The same question was also presented in the House of Representatives, and the workingmen from various sections of the country sent delegates to give evidence before these committees.37 There is no evidence, however, that the resolution was adopted in either house. A similar resolution was introduced in the House early in the session of 1866 by Congressman William E. Niblack, of Indiana, and it was adopted, but nothing further seems to have been done.38

In March of the same year, Congressman Rogers of New Jersey presented to the House a bill providing for eight hours as a day's work for all labourers, workmen, and mechanics employed by or on behalf of the Government.39 This bill never came back from the committee. On March 17, Senator Brown of Missouri again came forward and introduced into the Senate a bill providing that "in all cases in which any labourers, mechanics, or artisans shall or may be employed by or on behalf of the Government of the United States, or in any place which is within the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress, eight hours' labour shall be taken and construed to be a day's work, any law, regulation or usage to the contrary notwithstanding."

The friends of this bill in Congress were reticent about it and deemed it wise not to argue in its favour before any audiBut they sent appeals to its supporters among their constituents, urging, "if you want these bills reported upon and passed, pour in your memorials.' " 40


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While the bill was still under discussion, President Johnson expressed himself as favourably disposed to the measure and said that he would endeavour to bring it to pass in case Congress should fail to enact the desired law. He did not, however,

30 United States Statutes at Large, 37 Cong., 2 sess., chap. 184, p. 587.

87 Boston Daily Evening Voice, Dec. 18, 1865.

38 House Journal, 39 Cong., 1 sess., 62. 39 Ibid., 288.

40 Fincher's, Mar. 24, 1866.

consider that such a law, which he assumed would be applicable to the District of Columbia alone, would have any noticeable effect in securing it for the country at large. 41

Three months later, when the committee of the National Labor Union called on President Johnson, chiefly in the interest of this measure, he expressed the meaningless generality that he was in favour of the "shortest number possible [of hours] that will allow of the discharge of duty and the requirements of the country.'


Congressman Ingersoll, of Indiana, succeeded in having the House pass a resolution calling upon the committee for the District of Columbia to report a bill limiting the hours in the District to eight. The committee, however, never reported and the matter was dropped for that session.43 On March 14, 1867, Congressman Julian introduced a bill making the same provisions for the eight-hour day on government work as those in the Rogers bill of the previous session. The bill was referred to the committee on judiciary and ordered printed.** The committee reported favourably on the bill and on March 28 it was passed by the House and sent to the Senate. The Senate took no action upon the matter and the bill was lost. Thus the year 1867 went by and the eight-hour measure was no further advanced than it was at the beginning of the agitation two years before.


The efforts to secure eight-hour legislation from the state legislatures were disappointing in many States, but successful in six States, although as we shall presently see, these were empty victories. The movement was at its strongest, and the hopes for a successful outcome at their highest, in the State of Massachusetts. A joint committee of both houses had stated in its report at the close of the session in May, 1865, that the limited testimony before the committee was in favour of a general reduction to eight hours, and recommended that an unsalaried commission be appointed by the governor to in

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vestigate more thoroughly the merits of the question, and to report to the legislature at its next session. 46

The report created great enthusiasm among the labour or ganisations. Ira Steward called upon every trade union to extend a vote of thanks to the committee. He concluded his jubilant appeal with the couplet:

"Let all now cheer, who never cheered before,

And those who always cheer now cheer the more." 47

Acting upon the recommendations of the committee, the governor appointed a commission, which soon issued a circular asking, from every one interested, information on the number of working hours required in any and all occupations; the hours of employment for children, their schooling, and their wages; the occupation and wages of women, especially needle women; the mental and physical results of overwork; the means for the profitable use of the extra time to be gained by a reduction of hours; the effect of shorter hours on business; and whether a reduction of hours by law would lead to special contracts. 48

Responses were received from various organisations and individuals. The commission presented a lengthy report to the legislature at its next session. They reviewed "the conditions and prospects of the industrial classes," showing that violations of the child-labour law were frequent, and that the usual time was eleven hours. They however opposed an eight-hour law, but favoured a reduction from eleven hours. Their reasons for opposing the eight-hour movement were stated:

"1. Because they deem it unsound in principle to apply one measure of time to all kinds of labour.

"2. Because, if adopted as a general law, in the way proposed, it would be rendered void by special contracts, and so add another to the dead laws that cumber the statutes.

"3. Because a very large proportion of the industrial interests of the country could not observe it.

"4. Because, if restricted as some propose, to the employés

46 Massachusetts,

1865, No. 259.

House Document,

48 Massachusetts, 1866, No. 98.

47 Fincher's, May 13, 1865.

House Document,

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