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California movement during the seventies and early eighties, until the passage of the Federal Exclusion Act of 1882. The national labour movement consistently gave California its support on this momentous problem.


In 1870 the conditions surrounding the national labour movement had radically changed. After the law of February, 1868, prohibiting further contraction of paper currency, industry began slowly to recuperate, and with this the prospects of successful trade union action considerably improved. Added to this was the fact that practically all of the co-operative ventures had by this time failed, and others, like the co-operative foundry in Troy, had lapsed into ordinary joint-stock companies. The consequence was a new and vigorous development of trade unions, accompanied by an aggressive policy towards employers.

Viewed from the standpoint of the form of organisation, the revival of trade unionism in 1868 was unlike the revival during the time of the War, in that the national trade unions, and not the trades' assemblies, were now the chief beneficiaries of the heightened wave of organisation.

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The high water mark was reached by the revived trade union movement in the spring of 1872, when it surpassed by its universality and uniform success even the movement of the days of war prosperity. In March, 1872, a vast number of workingmen of New York City, mostly in the building trades, struck for the eight-hour day. The number of strikers was estimated at 100,000. The strike lasted three months and ended very successfully. The eight-hour day was gained by the bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, plumbers, painters, brown and blue-stone cutters, stone-masons, masons' labourers, paper hangers (when working by the day), and plate printers.37 On May 22, 1872, Horace Greeley wrote that the dissatisfaction had extended into all the leading mechanical trades,

form, and decided to enter politics. It faithfully supported the national organisation in the experiment of the presidential

nomination in 1872, and together they went down in defeat.

37 McNeill. The Labor Movement: The Problem of To-day, 143.

and in almost every instance the employers had acceded to the demands of their men.

As trade unionism again came to occupy the foreground and greenbackism receded to the background, the national trade unions grew estranged from the National Labor Union. This expressed itself most conspicuously in the changes in leadership. Sylvis, who combined in himself the business unionist and the social reformer, was dead. The older leaders remaining, like Trevellick, Hinchcliffe, and Cameron, had become primarily political agitators, and their places at the head of the aggressive trade union movement were taken by men like Foran, of the coopers, Saffin, of the moulders, and Siney, of the miners. These men, although professing faith in cooperation and greenbackism as a concession to the spirit of the time, were yet primarily trade unionists. The Bricklayers' International Union,38 by its strike in 1868 for the eight-hour day in New York, had been among the first to show the returning reliance upon strikes. At its national convention in 1870, it passed a resolution calling upon President O'Keefe to correspond with the other presidents of national trade unions with the object of establishing a national labour federation to consist of national trade unions only.

The breach was made still wider by the fact that the National Labor Union had finally reached the logical end of its political evolution and had become a national labour party. The cigar makers, in special session in October, 1870, decided to have no further connection with the National Labor Union, because it had become "an entirely political institution." The list of delegates to the National Labor Union in 1871 contained not a single representative of a national trade union. The workingmen's assembly of New York received from Jessup "an interesting, and at times highly amusing account of his experience at the National Labor Congress," held in Cincinnati in 1870.39 As a result, the assembly sent no delegate to the congress held in St. Louis in 1871.

A notable exception among the national trade unions was the Order of the Knights of St. Crispin. Co-operation kept

38 At its Washington convention in 1869, delegates from 62 unions represented a constituency of 10,000 members.

39 Chicago Workingman's Advocate, Feb. 18, 1871.

alive the interest of the Crispins in the financial question and made them more amenable to the political influence of the National Labor Union than the other national labour organisations. As already stated, the Crispins were the main support of the political movement in Massachusetts, and their leaders, McLaughlin and Cummings, remained true to the labour reform party as long as it existed.


The history of the National Labor Union after 1870 deserves but scant treatment. The large labour organisations having seceded, its convention continued to be attended only by a handful of leaders, like Trevellick, Cameron, Hinchcliffe, and several others. These had come forward at a time when the trend of the movement had been predominantly legislative and political, and now continued to travel in the same direction. As the bona fide labour representatives dropped out, a number of intellectual and semi-intellectual reformers came into the National Labor Union. Their presence did more to discredit the organisation before the labour unions than did its persistent political programme. Most prominent among this element was Horace H. Day, of Brooklyn, a wealthy man and doubtless an aspirant for the presidential nomination of the labour party."


In pursuance of the resolution adopted by the convention. of 1870, President Trevellick appointed a committee to make plans for the formation of a labour party. This committee met in Washington in January, 1871, and fixed the rate of representation in the political convention. Each State was to be entitled to one delegate for each member of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, and one delegate was to be allowed the District of Columbia and each territory. The convention was set for the third Wednesday of October, 1871, in Columbus, Ohio, for the purpose of nominating candidates for president and vice-president of the United States. Meanwhile, the time arrived for the regular convention, which met August 19, 1871, in St. Louis. The delegates present repre

40 Ibid., May 11, 1872.

sented for the most part "labour unions," i.e., local political clubs organised by and affiliated with the National Labor Union. The genuine labour representatives of reputation were Cameron, Siney, Trevellick, and Ben F. Sylvis the brother of William H. Sylvis. The remaining dozen delegates were either new in the movement or such non-labour reformers as Horace H. Day, of New York, who represented the financial reform association of that city. This convention adopted the suggestion which Cummings of the Crispins had made in 1870, that of forming a double organisation, one industrial and one political, entirely distinct from each other, and holding two conventions, one political and one industrial. The special nominating convention, which had been set for October, 1871, was thus made the regular convention of the "political" National Labor Union and the date of its meeting was changed to February 21, 1872.

It met in Columbus on the appointed day. Among the delegates who had attended preceding conventions were Troup, now of Connecticut; Campbell, Cameron, and Hinchcliffe, of Illinois; Cameron, of Kansas; Chamberlain and Cummings, of Massachusetts; Trevellick and Field, of Michigan; Day, of New York; Davis, Fehrenbatch, Lucker, and Sheldon, of Ohio; Siney and J. C. Sylvis, of Pennsylvania. Other States represented were Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, and New Jersey. Charges were made that control of the convention had been sought in order to influence the nominations of the Republican and Democratic parties, and that the full delegation from Pennsylvania was able to attend "through the courtesy of Thomas Scott," of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. It was voted that the delegation from each State should cast the full electoral vote of each State, on the ground that Pennsylvania and Ohio had full delegations, while others had not had the facilities or means of travel. John Siney was elected temporary chairman, and Edwin M. Chamberlin, of Massachusetts, permanent chairman. The platform of preceding years was adopted. Resolutions were offered by John T. Elliott of New York, favouring government ownership and the referendum, but were voted down. On the first formal ballot for nomination for president of the United States, the votes were: Judge David Davis, of Illinois,

88; Wendell Phillips, 52; Governor John W. Geary, of Pennsylvania, 45; Horace H. Day, of New York, 8; Governor J. Parker, of New Jersey, 7; George W. Julian, 7. On the third ballot Davis was nominated. The nominee for vice-president was Governor Parker. The platform of the National Labor Union was adopted as the platform of the National Labor and Reform party. Judge Davis gave a qualified acceptance, but, after the Democratic convention he declined, explaining his action as follows: "Having regarded that movement as the initiation of a policy and purpose to unite the various political elements in a compact opposition, I consented to the use of my name before the Cincinnati (Democratic) convention, where a distinguished citizen of New York (Horace Greeley) was nominated." A meeting of the executive committee at Columbus in August decided it was too late to renominate candidates.41 This unfortunate experiment practically ended the existence of the National Labor Union.42 The Industrial Congress, which was to be the economic branch of the National Labor Union, met at Cleveland, September 16, with only seven persons present, Trevellick, Cameron, Foran, J. C. Sylvis, Sheldon, Fay, and Manly.



41 Chicago Aug. 25, 1871.

42 A discussion in the columns of the Chicago Workingman's Advocate in February, 1873, throws light upon the relations between the national trade unions and the National Labor Union. H. J. Walls, a national officer of the iron molders' union, stated in an open letter to Cameron that the cause of the withdrawal of the national trade unions was the fact that the National Labor Union had become, after the Cincinnati convention, a political organisation. Cameron replied in the next issue that it had been a political organisation from the first Baltimore con

vention and that it had nevertheless had the warm adherence of men as prominent in their respective national trade unions as Sylvis and his opponent, Walls himself, of the molders, Kirby and Browning, of the bricklayers, Trevellick, of the ship carpenters and caulkers, Jessup, of the New York State Workingmen's Assembly, Siney, of the miners, and a score of other prominent trade union leaders. Cameron was undoubtedly right, because the National Labor Union, while composed, up to 1870, of industrial organisations, had never been an industrial organisation itself. It was legislative and political.

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