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The Negroes. Invasion of industries, 134. Causes of their separate organisation, 135. Maryland Colored State Labor Convention of 1869, 136. Supremacy of the politicians, 137.
Politics in Massachusetts. The New England Labor Reform League, 138. American proudhonism and the intellectuals, 139. The Crispins and politics, 140. The State Labor Reform Convention, 140. The Crispins and incorporation, 140. State campaign of 1869, 141. Boston municipal election, 142. Wendell Phillips and the State election of 1870, 143. End of labour politics in Massachusetts, 144.
Labor Congress of 1870. The Negro question, 144. Decision to call a political convention, 145. Changes in the constitution, 146.
Chinese Exclusion. The industrial situation in California during the sixties, 147. The early anti-Chinese movement in California, 147. Mechanics' State Council, 148. Effect of the transcontinental railway on the California industries, 148. The National Labor Union and the Chinese question in 1869, 149. The North Adams, Mass., incident, 149. The Burlingame treaty with China, 149. The National Labor Union and the Chinese question in 1870, 150.
Revival of Trade Unionism. Stopping the contraction of the currency, 151. Eight-hour strike movement in 1872, 151. New and aggressive leaders, 152. Abandonment of the National Labor Union by the national trade unions, 152. The Crispins the exception, 152.
Politics and dissolution. Horace H. Day, 153. The "industrial" convention of 1871, 153. Political convention, 154. Nomination for President, 154. Failure and dissolution, 155.
THE National Labor Union was the successor in the sixties of the National Trades' Union of the thirties, and the predecessor of the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor. Its organisation, policies, and final dissolution reflect the new nation-wide problems brought on permanently by railroad transportation and the telegraph, and temporarily by paper money. Its attempt to regulate immigration through a voluntary arrangement with the International Workingmen's Association of Europe indicates also the first conscious recognition of the international competition of labour. It is more than a coincidence that the famed International, the creature of Karl Marx and the British trade unions, should have risen and disappeared in the same years as the attempted national organisation of all labour in the United States. The year 1864, which witnessed the meeting at Louisville of the Industrial Assembly of North America, witnessed at London the preliminary conference of the International Workingmen's Association. In the year 1866 the National Labor Union was organised at Baltimore and the International held its first meet
ing of delegates from different countries at Geneva. In 1867 the American organisation met at Chicago, the European at Lausanne; in 1868 the one met at New York, the other, at Brussels. In 1869 the one that met at Philadelphia was represented by a delegate to the other at Basle. In 1870 the FrancoPrussian War interrupted the European congress, and the next two years witnessed the dissolution of both organisations through similar internal dissensions - the American organisation through the antagonism of "political actionists" and trade unionists, the European through the antagonism of socialists and anarchists.
The first great object of the International was the support of strikes and trade unions through the control of migration across the frontiers of European nations, and its later shift, in 1867, to socialism and anarchism coincides with the shift of the National Labor Union to greenbackism. It was the national and international competition of labour, the weakness of trade unionism and the depression of industry following a period of expansion, that furnished the economic conditions underlying both movements. That the one in America should have dissolved in greenbackism, the other in socialism and anarchism, was due to political and economic conditions peculiar to each. Modified in this way, the attempted nationalisation of American labour movements, regardless of State lines, was the reflection of conditions that in Europe led to the attempted internationalisation of movements regardless of national lines. The two lines of agitation that dominated the National Labor Union were eight hours for work, and greenbackism. The first prevailed in 1866, the second took possession in 1867.
The first authentic instance of the actual adoption of the eight-hour day was that of the ship carpenters and caulkers in the Charlestown, Massachusetts, navyyard in 1842. The joiners, in the same navyyard, secured the adoption of the same system in 1853.1 But it was not until Ira Steward, the Boston machinist, brought forward his "philosophy" of the eight-hour day that the impulse toward a national movement was given. Steward converted it from the isolated efforts of local unions to a
1 Autobiography of Edward H. Rogers, MS. in possession of the American Bureau of Industrial Research, Madison, Wis.
general demand for State and national legislation. Steward was born in 1831, and at nineteen years of age, while learning his trade as a machinist's apprentice and working twelve hours a day, he began his agitation for shorter hours.2 From the begining of widespread agitation for the eight-hour day in the early sixties until his death in 1883, he was so much a part of that agitation that the man and the movement are inseparable. He was essentially a man of one idea, and, in fact, was sometimes called the "eight-hour monomaniac." 3 For this one idea he lived, worked, and fought with almost fanatical zeal. After 1863, Steward was a contributor to nearly every reform paper then published. Each article emphasised his one thought, and many were his public lectures on the subject. "Meet him any day, as he steams along the street (like most enthusiasts, he is always in a hurry)," said a writer in the American Workman,* and, although he will apologise and excuse himself if you talk to him of other affairs, and say that he is sorry, that he must rush back to his shop, if you only introduce the pet topic of hours of labor,' and show a little willingness to listen, he will stop and plead with you till night-fall."
Private letters tell us something of the discouraging struggles of that time. Like every other reform that is hampered by lack of funds, the eight-hour movement lacked workers. In a letter to F. A. Sorge, on March 1, 1877, Steward says: "Years ago Mr. McNeill and I used to pray for the third helper. Finally he came in Mr. George Gunton. Since then we have been dreaming and longing and praying for the fourth one. Perhaps you are the one."
Steward, although self-educated and influenced in his philosophy by what he saw among his fellow-workmen rather than by what he read, was familiar with the works of John Stuart Mill. He was successful in attracting to his educational campaign such men as Wendell Phillips. In 1876 he joined the Work
2 Chicago Tribune, July 5, 1879.
3 Chicago Workingman's Advocate, Mar. 30, 1872.
4 June 19, 1869.
5 Letter in Sorge Collection, University of Wisconsin Library.
6 See below, II, 92.
7 Wendell Phillips, prominent abolitionist, orator, and champion of labour re
form, was born in Boston of wealthy parents in 1811. He was educated at Harvard, and admitted to the bar in 1834. Three years later he joined the abolitionists and devoted much of his time during the next twenty-five years to the antislavery propaganda. With the emancipation of the Negroes he turned his attention to the relations of capital and labour, and
ingmen's party in Massachusetts and the following year helped to form the International Labor Union.
It was at the first convention of Steward's union, the machinists' and blacksmiths', in 1859, that a resolution had been adopted recommending the discussion and agitation of a change of hours of labour. This was reaffirmed by the succeeding convention. The argument at that time had been the wage-fund doctrine of "making work" by reducing the supply of labour. But in 1863 Steward's ideas were enthusiastically adopted. A committee was elected with him as chairman to confer with a similar committee appointed by the Boston Trades' Assembly and to arrange jointly for an agitational campaign for the eight-hour law. Each of the two organisations appropriated $400 to cover expenses. The resolution, evidently drafted by Steward, read as follows:
"Resolved, That from East to West, from North to South, the most important change to us as workingmen, to which all else is subordinate, is a permanent reduction to Eight of the hours exacted for each day's work.
"Resolved, That since this cannot be accomplished until a public sentiment has been educated, both among the employers and the employés, we will use the machinery of agitation, whether it be among those of the religious, political, reformatory or moneyed enterprises of the day, and to secure such reduction we pledge our money and our courage.
"Resolved, That such reduction will never be made until overwork, as a system, is prohibited, nor until it is universally recognised that an increase of hours is a reduction of wages. . . .
"Resolved, That a Reduction of Hours is an increase of Wages.
The essence of Steward's theory was the principle that wages do not depend upon the amount of capital or the supply of labour, but upon the habits, customs, and wants of the working classes. The productiveness of capital, he held, was increasing at an enormous rate through invention. By encourag
as early as 1863 advised the formation of a separate labour party. In 1869 he encouraged both the establishment of the Boston Eight Hour League and the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lib. eral financial contributions were made by him to funds for the publication of eighthour literature and frequently he ad
dressed legislative committees in support of labour legislation when no other man of note could be found to do so. In 1870 he was the candidate of the Labor Reform
party for governor of Massachusetts. Later he worked for the Greenback party. He died in 1884.
8 Doc. Hist., IX, 24-33, 284-329.
ing machinery, the labourer could increase this surplus, and then could get such share of it as was required to support his standard of living. The standard of living could be raised by increasing his wants and necessities, and these have an expansive and indefinite limit, provided the labourer has the leisure that awakens desires, broadens opinions, improves habits, and multiplies wants. But such an increase of wants would not be possible if the competition of low-standard labour was permitted to drive out the labour of higher standards. It was not necessary to prohibit immigration, and it was inadequate to depend on trade unions. It was necessary only to adopt a universal eight-hour law which would compel the low-standard labourer, who already could barely live on his ten- and twelvehour wages, to demand the same daily pay for eight hours. Soon this compulsory reduction of his hours would increase his wants and compel him to demand still higher pay, which, again, the growing surplus of machine production would permit the employer to pay. As a concession to the prevailing labour theories of the injustice and needlessness of interest and profits, he predicted that ultimately the labourer's rising standards of living would take both interest and profit away from the capitalists and thus gradually introduce the co-operative commonwealth."
Such a philosophy was somewhat less revolutionary and utopian than the theories of socialism, but, like socialism, it was a clear-cut and unmixed doctrine of wage-consciousness and wage-solidarity. As such it is distinctly the American counterpart of Lassalle's "iron law of wages," differing radically from the latter in its emphasis on the psychological wants that elevate labour above the animal, instead of the merely physiological wants that maintain only life and the speciesnot an iron law, but a golden law of wages. It was this very optimism of the doctrine that gave it enthusiastic acceptance and made it henceforth a true watchword and rallying cry for labor.10 Its revolutionary character consisted in its disregard
9 Steward's philosophy was afterwards taken up by George Gunton and made the basis of his book, Wealth and Progress the Economic Philosophy of the Eight Hour Movement.
10 It was Steward's wife who framed up the jingle: "Whether you work by the piece or work by the day, Decreasing the hours increases the pay." Spencer, Address Before Prospect Union.