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the year were: McLogan, of the Chicago Trade and Labor Assembly, president; Gompers, first vice-president; Frank H. Foster and Robert Howard, secretary and treasurer, respectively.

Immediately after the convention adjourned, the legislative committee, under instructions, made arrangements for a hearing before the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, which was at that time taking testimony on the relations between labour and capital.71

During 1884 it became evident that the Federation as a legislative organisation had proved a failure. Manifestly the trade unions felt no great interest in national legislation. Their indifference can be measured by the fact that the annual income of the Federation never exceeded $700 and that, excepting in 1881, none of its conventions represented more than one-fourth of the trade union membership of the country. Under such conditions the legislative influence of the Federation naturally was infinitesimal. The legislative committee carried out the instructions of the 1883 convention and sent communications to the national committees of the Republican and Democratic parties with the request that they should define their position upon the enforcement of the eight-hour law and other measures. The letters were not even answered. A subcommittee of the legislative committee appeared before the two political conventions, but met with no greater attention. The situation is described in Secretary Foster's report in the following words: "In presenting my report as secretary for the year past I am conscious that its chief interest will consist of the future possibilities it suggests rather than in its record of objects attained. The lack of funds has seriously crippled the work of the Federation, and this, coupled with an organisation lacking cohesiveness, has allowed small scope for effective expenditure of effort." 72 Altogether, notwithstanding the encouraging growth of local and national unions in the early eighties, the time was not yet ripe for a national federation.

71 The committee published four vol. umes of testimony in 1885, but it never presented a report. The testimony elicited Evithrows little light on the situation. dently the senators were unfamiliar with the subject, as is shown by the nature of

their questions. The more important points in the testimony relating to the labour side of the inquiry were given above in connection with incorporation and the philosophy of trade unionism.

72 Ibid., 1884, p. 17.



Secrecy and the movement for centralisation, 332. District Assembly 1 and the convention at Philadelphia, 1876, 333. The National Labor League of North America, 333. District Assembly 3 and the convention at Pittsburgh, 333. Lull in the movement for centralisation, 334. The Knights and the railway strikes of 1877, 334. Other strikes, 334. The General Assembly at Reading, Pennsylvania, January 1, 1878, 334. Preamble, 335. "First Principles": Education, organisation, and co-operation, 335. The form of organisation, 337. Special convention on the secrecy question, June, 1878, 338. Referendum vote, 338. The Catholic Church and secrecy in the Knights, 339. The compromise in 1879, 339. Final abolition of secrecy in 1881, 339. Growth and fluctuation in membership, 1878-1880, 339. The resistance fund, 340. The compromise, 341. Compromise on political action, 341. Claims of the advocates of co-operation and education, 341. Demands of the trade union element within the Knights, 342. The national trade assembly, 343. Growth and fluctuation of membership, 1880-1883, 343. Component elements of the Knights, 344. Unattached local trade unions, 344. Weak national trade organisations, 345. Advantages to an incipient movement from affiliation with the Knights, 346. T. V. Powderly - Grand Master Workman in 1881, 347. Enthusiasm for strikes, 347. The telegraphers' strike in 1883, 348. Unorganised strikes, 349. The freight handlers' strike in New York, 349. Failure of the strikes conducted by the Knights, 349. Its effect on the fluctuation of membership, 350. The political faction, 351. Non-partisan politics, 351. Partiality of the general officers for cooperation, 351. Independent politics in the West, 352. Co-operative beginnings, 352. Attitude of the trades unions towards the Knights, 352. Their endeavour to turn the Knights back to “First Principles," 352. General summary, 1876-1884, 353.

AFTER the failure of the Pittsburgh convention of 1876 to consolidate the labour forces into a single national organisation, the movement for centralisation within the Order of the Knights of Labor gained accelerated pace. As said above,1 the main impetus behind this movement was furnished by the secrecy issue which, since the Molly Maguire excitement was at its

1 See above, II, 200 et seq.

height, became more pressing than ever. After much deliberation, District Assembly 1 decided to allow all assemblies to vote on the question. The upshot was that a call was issued to all assemblies whose addresses could be obtained, to meet in convention in the city of Philadelphia on July 3, 1876, "for the purpose of strengthening the Order for [by] a sound and permanent organisation, also the promoting of peace, harmony, and the welfare of its members." 2

The convention called by District Assembly 1 met at Philadelphia as appointed. District Assembly 3 of Pittsburgh failed, however, to send representatives, so that the convention refrained from taking a decisive step in the matter of changing the main principles and policies of the Order, including secrecy.

On the other hand, the greater portion of the session was devoted to "strengthening the Order for a sound and permanent organisation." The keynote of this convention was national organisation. Upon this certainly all were agreed. Hence a constitution was drawn up for a national body, and a committee appointed to draft a constitution by which district assemblies were to be governed, and the territory in which a district asserbly should operate might be inviolable against any like assembly. Thinking it might be necessary under certain emergencies to make the name of the organisation known to the public, it was designated as The National Labor League of North America. The only power reserved to the League was control of the secret ritual, which it could modify by a two-thirds vote. All other powers remained vested in the district assemblies. A A per capita tax of 5 cents upon the membership was to constitute the sole revenue of the League. The convention adjourned to meet later in Pittsburgh, apparently with the intention of reconciling the rebellious District Assembly 3.3

Meantime, District Assembly 3 called a national convention of its own to meet at Pittsburgh. The attendance was entirely from among its followers. District Assembly 1 and its adherents ignored the call. The convention assumed a conciliatory attitude by starting out on the presumption that a national organisation had already been created in Philadelphia. To

2 Powderly, Thirty Years of Labor, 225. a Ibid., 225-232, gives verbatim the

call, the minutes of the convention, and the constitution adopted.

justify, however, its raison d'être, it took a decisive stand with regard to the matter of secrecy, resolved to make the name and objects of the Order public, changed the ritual so that a member of the Catholic Church might, "if he considers it his duty," confess to his father confessor, and decided in favour of incorporating the Order.

The Pittsburgh convention seemed to be satisfied after having asserted itself, and adjourned with the intention of meeting in Washington at a later date. The matter of effective national organisation rested for over a year. It was brought again into prominence by the great strikes of 1877 which taught the lesson that a wage movement without a central organisation and a strike fund was doomed to failure. Powderly contends that the Order of the Knights of Labor as an organisation did not join in precipitating these strikes, although members were employed in the industries involved. The Knights, on the contrary, aided in keeping the men from committing violence. He also speaks of local assemblies in the coal fields striking without the consent of their district assembly. This, of course, shows that Knights of Labor were officially involved, although the district assembly was not consulted. But, even granting that they were not involved officially, the fact alone that Knights as individuals took part is sufficient to prove that they saw the evil effects of lack of finances, a truth which was brought home to them with particular strength when the miners of the Lackawanna and Wyoming coal fields, strongholds of the Knights of Labor, were starved into submission.

Added to this was the question of taking an attitude toward the political labour movement which came immediately upon the heels of the big strikes, and also toward the question of secrecy which was still pressing for settlement. This time the two rival district assemblies acted in unison, and District Assembly 3 consented that District Assembly 1 should issue a call for a convention to meet at Reading, January 1, 1878, "for the purpose of forming a Central Assembly and also for the purpose of creating a Central Resistance Fund, Bureau of Statistics, Providing Revenue for the work of Organisation, estab

4 Ibid., 207-219.

lishment of an Official Register, giving number, place of meeting of each assembly, etc. Also the subject of making the name public...


The convention at Reading finally achieved a central national organisation of the Knights of Labor and adopted a preamble and constitution, which, with minor changes, continued throughout the existence of the Order.

The delegates, who came from eleven district assemblies, while thoroughly representative, were actually sent by about one-half of the membership. Although, for unknown reasons District Assembly 3 was not represented, all of its followers sent delegates. The Order having worked secretly, it was difficult to know of the existence of all affiliated bodies. In addition, a considerable number did not have sufficient funds with which to finance the expenses of representatives, while a third factor was the scepticism of many as to the probable success of a national body.


The preamble recites how "wealth," with its development, has become so aggressive that "unless checked" it "will inevitably lead to the pauperisation and hopeless degradation of the toiling masses.' Hence, if the toilers are "to enjoy the blessings of life" they must organise "every department of productive industry " in order to "check" the power of wealth and to put a stop to "unjust accumulation." unjust accumulation." The battle cry in this fight must be "moral worth, not wealth, the true standard of individual and national greatness." (( As the action of the toilers ought to be guided by "knowledge" it is necessary to know "the true condition of the producing masses"; therefore the Order demands "from the various governments the establishment of bureaus of labor statistics." Next in order comes the "establishment of co-operative institutions productive and distributive." Union of all trades, "education," and co-operation remained forever after the cardinal points in the Knights of Labor philosophy and were steadily referred to as the "First Principles," namely principles bequeathed to the Order by Uriah Stephens and the other "Founders."

The preamble further provides that the Order will stand for

5 Ibid., 238.

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