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interconvertible bonds and paper money, advocated the restoration of the depressed industries through the immediate repeal of the resumption act, demanded the repeal of the legislation creating the national banking system and the redemption of all national bank currency in legal tender greenbacks. Other conspicuous demands were for civil damages as the only punishment for persons indictable under the law of conspiracy, the extension of debtor's exemption to $1,000, and the enactment of a law that would prevent employers from excluding unionists, known as an anti-ironclad law. After electing two Knights of Labor, John M. Davis and George Blair, president and secretary, respectively, of the temporary national executive committee, the convention adjourned.


The Pittsburgh convention apparently failed to attract other labour organisations than those which had been represented at Tyrone. The trade unions were not represented, except for the indirect representation by the socialists who were also largely trade unionists. To them, however, the interest of socialism was paramount. The discontinuity of this convention from all previous national attempts is further illustrated by the fact that only four of the delegates had been present at any one of the previous national conventions. None of the old leaders was present. The delegates numbered 136 and came from 20 States, Pennsylvania having a majority. The Order of the Knights of Labor, through John M. Davis, James L. Wright, George Blair, and others, apparently dominated the convention. James L. Wright, one of the founders of the Knights, was elected temporary chairman and John M. Davis, the leader of the Knights in the West, permanent chairman. But the socialists were also a force to be reckoned with. They and their sympathisers numbered about thirty.

The object of the convention, as the leaders saw it, was to formulate a set of legislative demands, to decide upon a political policy and to recommend to the workingmen a form of in

8 This demand was evidently inspired by the recent Siney and Parks conspiracy case. See above, II, 180, note.

4 Official Proceedings in the Pittsburgh National Labor Tribune, Apr. 22, 1876.

5 The list of delegates is given in the Proceedings by States without mentioning the organisations. The only instance of

any trade demarcation was a special conference held by the coal miner delegates from Pennsylvania, which declared war on any state senators who should vote for striking out the penal clause in a ventilation bill which was at this time before the upper house of the Pennsylvania legislature.

dustrial organisation. The controversy chiefly centred around the platform, and the contestants were the socialists on the one side and the greenbackers on the other. The socialists had firmly decided to capture the convention for their policy.

On the first day, Otto Weydemeyer read, on behalf of the twenty-one socialist delegates, an address which was drawn up in the spirit of the International. It declared that the abolition of wage slavery ought to be the goal of the labour movement; it pointed out the need for international trade unions to guard against the importation of European strike-breakers; it advocated the establishment of a political party by the trade unions, but emphatically declared that no part in elections should be taken until the party was sufficiently strong to make its influence felt; and it concluded by emphasising the fact that economic organisation must precede and form the basis of political organisation.

For a while victory smiled upon the socialists, for the convention adopted, by a vote of 67 to 27, a resolution introduced by P. J. McGuire, favouring state aid to co-operative societies. But the greenbackers then realised that under the circumstances the resolution meant an indorsement of socialism, and, upon a motion to reconsider, the resolution was recommitted, never to return.


The open breach came when the committee on resolutions presented its first report. The committee, which was composed of 15 greenbackers and 6 socialists, reported in favour of the repeal of the resumption act, advanced the scheme of interconvertible bonds and paper money, and, the majority being from Pennsylvania, demanded of Congress "a strong protective tariff" and "that all tariff duties be so regulated as to protect home labor and home industries and the products thereof from foreign competition." They also condemned "the tinkering of the gentlemen now staying in Washington at the government's (the people's) expense.' The report was adopted by a



• Chicago Vorbote, Apr. 29, 1876.

7 At this point the address reiterated the resolution on political action adopted by the second national convention of the International.

8 Government credit to co-operative 80cieties was advocated by William H. Sylvis

as constituting a part of the greenback scheme, but when it was proposed by a socialist, it assumed a new aspect.

9 Especial attention was called to the "printed matter clanse" which the report asserted did not offer "sufficient protection to printers and bookbinders."

vote of 59 to 46. The socialists offered an angry protest and withdrew as a body from the convention.


Having decided in favour of greenbackism, the convention then proceeded to run the full gamut of labour and antimonopoly resolutions which were the order of the day at every labour convention. Co-operation for trading and manufacturing" was held to be the means by which the working classes "will eventually emancipate themselves from the wage system," and Congress was requested to grant a loan on easy terms for a co-operative mine. They further demanded the abrogation of the Burlingame Treaty with China, the enforcement of the eight-hour law and its passage by the various state legislatures, a liberal homestead policy to enable wage-earners to settle upon public land, a liberal policy of internal improvement, stringent usury laws, the prohibition of the "truck" system and of the contract convict system, the prohibition of discrimination by common carriers, a change in the postal laws, making it obligatory upon the manufacturer to publish the cost of manufacturing patented machines, mechanics' lien, the attachment of penalty clauses to labour protective laws, and, finally, "suitable apprentice laws that will insure competent workmen in various industries, by serving a regular apprenticeship of at least three years."

On the question of political action, both socialists and greenbackers on the committee of resolutions were in favour of an independent workingmen's party, but the convention dealt with this matter very cautiously. The discussion was postponed until the last day, for fear the heated discussion which it would arouse might render futile all efforts at consolidation. Finally, the conservative element carried the day and forced through a substitute, which declared that "independent political action is extremely hazardous and detrimental to the labor interests"; that it ought to be preceded by "education and discipline through organisation, and that "the existing political parties can be made the vehicle for the attainment of their [the workingmen's] ends by personal and organised efforts at primary elections of both parties and through the primaries in the nominating convention."

The convention recommended a plan of labour organisation

which showed distinctly that it was under the strong influence of the Knights of Labor. It called attention to the prevailing system of blacklisting "all earnest workers in the cause of labour and unionism," and, therefore, urged "upon the workingmen and working women of the country to organise under one head, each for all and all for one, upon a secret basis, not antagonistic with the duty they owe to their families, their country and their God."

The leaders of the convention seriously desired to establish a permanent national federation. Accordingly, it was decided to create a permanent committee of fifteen to enforce the recommendations of the convention, and to "call from time to time annual conventions from bona fide labor organisations and prepare a basis of representation and tax, the same to be forwarded to all Trades Unions throughout the United States, and to place themselves in communication with the Trades Unions of the world."

It is not surprising, however, that no consolidation of the labour forces was achieved. The convention gave full satisfaction to practically no one. The socialists were driven out by the adoption of the greenback platform, the trade unions could but feel estranged by the advice to workingmen, "to organise under one head upon a secret basis," and the believers in political action were repulsed when independent political action was rejected in favour of a policy of pressure upon the old parties. Thus was brought to a close the era of the general labour congresses. Henceforth for many years the labour movement continued to be divided. The Knights of Labor established their national organisation in 1878, the trade unions in 1881, and the socialists did the same in 1876, practically during the Pittsburgh convention just described.



The change in labour's attitude towards politics produced by the great strikes of 1877, 240. Organisation of the National party, 241. Fusion with the greenbackers, 241. State labour ticket in New York, 242. The " Greenback and Labor" combination in Pennsylvania, 242. Success of the Greenback party in the West, 244. National convention of labour and currency reformers and the formation of the National party, 244. Predominance of the farmers, business men, and lawyers, 244. Platform, 245. Further Greenback successes, 245. T. V. Powderly, 245. Congressional election of 1878, 245. Obstacles to a unified movement in New York City, 246. "Pomeroy Clubs," 246. The organisation of the National Greenback Labor Reform party, 246. State election in Pennsylvania, 247. Analysis of the vote, 247. State election in Ohio, 248. Successes elsewhere, 248. Effect of the returning industrial prosperity, 248. Effect of the resumption of specie payment, 249. Tendency to fuse with the Democrats, 249. National pre-nomination conference, 249. Denis Kearney and Albert R. Parsons, 250. The national nominating convention, 250. Labour demands, 250. Failure of the movement, 251.

DURING the campaign of 1876 the greenback movement was purely a farmers' movement. The workingmen cast hardly any votes for Peter Cooper.2 The great strikes of July, 1877, changed the situation completely. Their suppression by Federal troops and state militia brought labour face to face with an openly hostile government. Immediately after the strikes workingmen's parties began to spring up like mushrooms. There was probably no important centre between New York City and San Francisco in which some movement toward a party was not begun. The movement reached its height in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, where strong state organisations were formed. In every instance where the workingmen took to political action they established workingmen's parties independent of the Greenback party.

In Ohio an unpromising greenback state convention met in

1 In the preparation of this chapter the author drew largely from the unpublished

monograph by Louis Mayer, The Green-
back Labor Movement, 1874-1884.

2 See above, II, 167 et seq.

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