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PART FIVE

NATIONALISATION (1860-1877)

BY JOHN B. ANDREWS

HISTORY OF LABOUR IN THE
UNITED STATES

CHAPTER I

ECONOMIC CONDITIONS

New Conditions. Railway Construction. Through freight lines, 4. Railway consolidations, 4. Appearance of the wholesale jobber, 5. The first national trade unions, 5.

The Moulders. William H. Sylvis, 6. The effect of the extension of the market on the moulder's trade, 6. The national union, 7. Its weakness, 7.

The Machinists and Blacksmiths. Evils in the trade, 7. The national union, 9. Strike against the Baldwin Locomotive Works, 9. The outbreak of the War and depression, 9. Other national unions, 10.

Unemployment and Impending War. The workingmen's opposition to War, 10. Louisville and Philadelphia, 10. Fort Sumter and labour's change of attitude, 11.

WHILE the country was engrossed in Civil War and Reconstruction, the American labour movement developed for the first time, almost unnoticed, its characteristic national features. This period witnessed the distinctly American philosophies of greenbackism and the eight-hour day; the rise of the agitation for the exclusion of Oriental labour; the invention of the trade union label; the first national trade agreement; the establishment of the first government bureau of labour; the organisation of the first permanent labour lobby at Washington; the enactment of the first eight-hour legislation and the earliest laws against "conspiracy" and "intimidation." The period also saw the organisation of the first national employers' association, and the first national labour party. Pre-eminently, it was the period of nationalisation in the American labour movement. Back of it all lay the nationalisation of the economic life of the country.

The fifties had been a decade of extensive construction of railroads. There was an increase from but 8,389 miles of rail

way
in 1850 to 30,793 in 1860. Before 1850 there was more
traffic by water than by rail. After 1860 the relative importance
of land and water transportation was reversed.

Furthermore, the most important railroad building during
the ten years preceding 1860 was the construction of east and
west trunk lines. There were seven such roads: the Western &
Atlanta connected the seaboard cities of Georgia with the Ten-
nessee River in 1850; the New York & Erie was opened in
1851;
the Pennsylvania, in 1852; the Baltimore & Ohio and
the Canadian Grand Trunk, in 1853; the New York Central,
as a result of consolidation, in 1854; and the Virginia system
was connected with the Nashville & Chattanooga and the Mem-
phis & Charleston roads in 1858. The western ends of these
lines were still points like Buffalo and Pittsburgh, rather than
Chicago or St. Louis, but alliance with contemporaneously con-
structed roads of the Middle West gave practically all of them an
outlet in the far West. During the sixties, owing to the War,
railway construction fell off to 16,090 miles, as against 22,404
during the preceding decade. Yet these years marked de-
velopments in the railway business which, from the standpoint
of the nationalisation of the market and the increase of com-
petition between manufacturing centres, were no less epoch-
making than the construction of the trunk lines. These were the
establishment of through lines for freight and the consolidation
of connecting roads.

The through-freight lines came into existence soon after the beginning of the War, with the discontinuance of the Mississippi River as an outlet for western products and the necessity of sending shipments eastward by rail. These lines, whether the cars belonged to separate companies established for that purpose, or to co-operating railway companies, greatly hastened freight traffic by abolishing the necessity for transshipment.

The most notable consolidations were those of three important trunk lines: the Pennsylvania, the Erie, and the New York Central & Hudson River. The Pennsylvania then purchased the roads running west of Pittsburgh and thus obtained direct connections with Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. The New York Central consolidated with the Hudson River & Harlem Road at its eastern end, and in the West with the Lake

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Shore & Michigan Southern, forming direct connection between New York and Chicago. The Erie increased its length from 459 miles to 1,355. Important consolidations were also made by the Philadelphia & Reading and the other anthracite roads. Among the western and southwestern lines which rapidly increased their mileage were the Chicago & Northwestern, the Burlington, and the Milwaukee & St. Paul.

Arteries of traffic had thus extended from the eastern coast to the Mississippi Valley. Local markets had widened within fifteen years to embrace half a continent. Stoves manufactured in Albany were now displayed in St. Louis by the side of stoves made in Detroit. Competition had increased and intensified.

This intensification of competition and the separation of producers and consumers resulted in the development of the middleman as the dominant figure in industry. Through his extensive purchasing opportunities and his specialised methods of reaching customers, he possessed a kind of “intangible" capital by which he dominated the market and, in consequence, credit. The existence of this common oppressor the wholesale jobber or middleman was felt both by wage-earners and by employers, while farmers were in addition oppressed by the railroads. As a natural consequence came the coalition of the " producing classes" against "capital."

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Spectacular also were the direct effects of the Civil War upon labour in transforming an army of productive labourers into an army of non-productive consumers, and then at the end of four years suddenly pouring them back from the fields of battle upon the fields of industry. But still more sweeping were the indirect effects of unprecedented fluctuations in prices and the cost of living, which were closely linked with inflation and contraction of the paper currency.

The industrial depression which followed the panic of 1857 destroyed almost completely the modest beginnings of labour organisation made during the preceding years. A large number of the trade unions went under. Those, however, which were able to withstand the stress were forced to combine with similar organisations in the same trade and to form national unions. The two important national trade unions which were born under these circumstances were the Molders' International Union

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