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A similar movement led by Sylvis was started in Philadelphia. A delegate body was organised in January, which gave its endorsement to the Crittenden compromise and sent a committee of thirty-three to present a memorial to the State legislature in Harrisburg and to both houses of Congress." The committee was favourably received by the legislature, and in Washington the Pennsylvania members of Congress promised their support to the Crittenden resolution. In Newark, New Jersey, a mass meeting of unemployed likewise indorsed the compromise.10 A similar movement was on foot in Reading, Pennsylvania; in Norfolk, Petersborough, and Richmond, Virginia; Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis and in many localities in the States bordering on Pennsylvania.11
The national convention of workingmen met in Philadelphia on February 22, 1861. It contained representatives from several States, though it was not as well attended as had been expected. It was called to order by Sylvis, who took an active part in the discussion.12 The convention was preceded by a procession of workingmen and by a public meeting at which the delegates furnished the chief speakers. The resolutions adopted at the meeting probably represent the best available statement of the attitude of workingmen with regard to the War. They read:
"Resolved, That we earnestly invoke zealous and energetic action. at once by Congress, either by the adoption of the Crittenden, Bigler or Guthrie amendments, or by some other full and clear recognition of the equal rights of the South in the Territories by such enactment for constitutional action as will finally remove the question of slavery therein from our National Legislature.
Resolved, That our Government never can be sustained by bloodshed, but must live in the affections of the people; we are, therefore, utterly opposed to any measures that will evoke civil war, and the workingmen of Philadelphia will, by the use of all constitutional means, and with our moral and political influence, oppose
8 The chief provisions of the compromise introduced in the House of Repre sentatives by Crittenden, of Kentucky, in January, 1861, were that in all territories acquired now or hereafter north of latitude 36 and 30', slavery should be prohibited, but south of this line it should be allowed by Congress and protected as property. States formed from territory north of that line should be free or slave
as they might provide in their constitutions.
9 Philadelphia Enquirer, Jan. 3 and 28, 1861.
10 New York Tribune, Jan. 10, 1861. 11 Philadelphia Enquirer, Feb.
12 Sylvis, Life, Speeches, Labors and Essays, 43.
any such extreme policy, or a fratricidal war thus to be inaugurated."
Before adjourning, the convention made the committee of thirty-three permanent and charged it with continuing the agitation and organisation. It held several meetings and its corresponding secretary, Sylvis, who, through his prominent position in the moulders' national union possessed wide connections over the country, devoted his time to this work.
On April 12 the first gun was fired on Sumter, and thereupon peace agitation was at an end. The War once broken out, the northern wage-earners abandoned their former opposition and vied with the farmers in furnishing volunteers. Entire local unions enlisted at the call of President Lincoln, and Sylvis himself assisted in recruiting a company composed of moulders, of which he became orderly sergeant.14
13 Philadelphia Enquirer, Feb. 23, 1861.
14 The time for which they enlisted permitted them to do little but assist in pro
tecting Washington from threatened invasion by General Lee. Sylvis then returned
THE WAR PERIOD, 1861-1865
War and Prices. The lethargy of the trade unions, 13. The legal tender acts, 14. War prosperity and its beneficiaries, 14. Cost of living and wages, 15.
The Labour Press. Fincher's Trades' Review, 15. The Workingmen's Advocate, 16. The Daily Evening Voice, 16. Other papers, 17.
Local Unions. Incentive for organisation, 17. The wave of organisation during the War, 18.
Employers' Associations. Local and national associations, 26. The Employers' General Association of Michigan, 26. Reply of the trade unions, 29. Richard F. Trevellick, 29. The New York Master Builders' Association, 29. Master mechanics of Boston, 30. Associated employers and the eight-hour movement of 1872, 31. Attempted "exclusive agreement," 32. Attitude towards trade agreements, 33.
The International Industrial Assembly of North America. The national trade unions and federation, 33. The trades' assemblies and federation, 34. The Louisville call, 34. The convention in Louisville, 35. Assistance during strikes, 36. Attitude towards co-operation and legislation, 37. The constitution and the national trade unions, 37. Politics, 38. The causes of failure, 38.
Distributive Co-operation. Cost of living, 39. Thomas Phillips, 39. The Rochdale plan, 40. The turn towards productive co-operation, 41.
WAR AND PRICES
THE first effects of the War were the paralysis of business and the increase in unemployment.1 The combined effect upon the existing labour organisations, both of the industrial disturbance and of the enlistment of their members, was demoralising. At the convention of the machinists and blacksmiths held in Pittsburgh in November, 1861, National Secretary Fincher, the only officer present, reported that the membership in good standing had decreased from 2,717 to 1,898 during the six months from April to October of that year, and that the subordinate unions betrayed but little activity. The effect
1 Rhodes, History of the United States, III, 122, 162, 171.
2 International Union of Machinists and
Blacksmiths of the United States of America, Proceedings, 1861, p. 21.
upon the moulders' organisation was still more demoralising. The national union seemed to have ceased existence by the middle of 1861, and the national convention, which was to be held in January, 1862, failed to meet. This period of industrial stagnation, however, lasted only until the middle of
The legal tender acts of February 25, and of July 11, 1862, threw $300,000,000 of greenbacks into circulation. As a result, prices began rapidly to increase, causing a revival in industry and creating ample employment for those wage-earners who did not join the army. The further issue of greenbacks to the amount of $750,000,000 authorised by Congress in January and March of 1863 added to the impetus of the upward movement of prices. This, acting together with the enormously grown demand upon industries for the supply of the army, brought on an unprecedented degree of prosperity. Wholesale prices, during 1863, increased 59 per cent above the level of 1860, 125 per cent during 1864, and 107 per cent during 1865.8
The fruits of prosperity were shared unequally by the four industrial classes, the merchant-jobber, the employing manufacturers, the farmers, and the wage-earners. Merchants who contracted in advance for the output of manfacturers were the largest beneficiaries of the rapidly rising prices. Many of them were able to realise enormous profits on government contracts so that the foundations of numerous great fortunes were laid during this period. The manufacturer and the farmer benefited perhaps more moderately. The high war tariff which was adopted originally as a revenue measure enabled the manufacturer to begin to accumulate capital and was thus a potent factor in building up a class of capitalistic employers. The farmers were equally benefited by the tide of prosperity. The prices of their products having risen on an average 143 per cent from 1860 to 1864, they forgot their grievances against the railroads and the middlemen and relinquished the small attempt at organisation which they had made in the years immediately preceding the War.
8" Wholesale Prices," in United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin, No. 114, p. 149. See above, chart, I, 11.
The only class which suffered rather than benefited from the wave of prosperity was the wage-earning class. It is true that opportunities for employment increased and by that much the wage-earner was a direct beneficiary of the high prices. But, on the other hand, the cost of living was rapidly increasing while wages were lagging approximately six months behind.
In July, 1862, retail prices in greenbacks were 15 per cent above the level of 1860 and wages remained stationary; in July, 1863, retail prices were 43 per cent above those of 1860 and wages only 12 per cent above; in July, 1864, retail prices rose 70 per cent and wages to 30 per cent above 1860; and in July, 1865, prices rose to 76 per cent and wages to only 50 per cent above the level of 1860. The unequal pace of the two movements inevitably led the wage-earners to organise along trade union lines in order to protect the standard of living.
THE LABOUR PRESS
It was this period of nationalisation in the American labour movement that witnessed the establishment of a labour press upon a lasting foundation. No less than 120 daily, weekly, and monthly journals of labour reform appeared during the decade 1863-1873.5
Perhaps the most influential labour paper of the period certainly one of the best labour papers ever published in the United States-was Fincher's Trades' Review, published at Philadelphia. The first issue appeared as a four-page paper on June 6, 1863, and it continued weekly during the following three years. As secretary of the most important national trade union, that of the machinists and blacksmiths, Fincher had already established, in January, 1862, a regular monthly journal for his own organisation, and was in close touch with all the active labour leaders throughout the country. This enabled him to make his paper a true mirror of the national labour movement, a truly national labour paper. Advertising was ignored from the first, and financial support was entirely dependent upon subscriptions and donations from trade unions.
4 Mitchell, "Gold. Prices and Wages under the Greenback Standard," in University of California, Publications, I, 279.
See also Doc. Hist., IX, 67, on the cost of living.
5 Doc. Hist., X, 142.