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of trade union action and its reliance on universal state and Federal eight-hour laws enacted and enforced by the labour vote. When later its impracticability became evident, and labour began to fall back on the strike and trade unions for securing the eight-hour day, the less ambitious and more spurious argument of "making work" for the unemployed was found to be more in harmony with the other restrictive arguments of trade unionism.
Since Steward's scheme was legislative, it required a plan to secure legislative influence. As outlined by him, it was similar to the one adopted by George Henry Evans in promoting his land reform schemes:
"The basis of operation for the reformer," said Steward," is a certain amount of PUBLIC OPINION. With this he bids for the aid and power of those who will do nothing without it. The Labor Reform enterprise makes this bid. It expects to be served by men who at heart want nothing but position, power, pay and honour; for it cannot succeed without them. The men to take council together, are those who have created a public opinion powerful enough to attract politicians. Politicians are wanted, not in council but in action! In council a 'yes' or 'no' programme should be written, adopted, and submitted to them in the briefest possible terms. .. Present this to all candidates for official position, from Governor down to city and town officials. . . . 'Will you, if elected to the office for which you have been nominated, vote for this bill?'” 11
In 1864 the first independent eight-hour organisation had been created by Steward and his associates in Boston. Its first name was the Workingmen's Convention, which was soon changed to Labor Reform Association. It was composed of members of trade unions in the city, and a writer in Fincher's openly accused it of being "the result of a clique, who, finding that in the Workingmen's Assembly they could not rule that body to their thoughts, nor had patience enough to work and wait' for fair results, resolved they would' withdraw,' in other words 'secede' . . . and endeavour to carry out their view of the idea." 12 The association was composed largely of machinists and blacksmiths who had always been the most ardent advocates of the eight-hour system. In its general policy, the
11 Fincher's, May 13, 1865.
12 Ibid., July 16, 1864.
association followed the principle of legislative action as laid down by Steward, rather than that of direct trade union action.
The Grand Eight-Hour League of Massachusetts, organised in 1865, with its subordinate leagues in the State, followed exactly the line of action proposed by Steward. Next to Steward, George E. McNeill 13 was most prominent as an eight-hour propagandist. The eight-hour leagues in Charleston, Chelsea, Medford, and East Boston, sent delegates in September, 1865, to the Republican state convention to demand the inserting of an eight-hour plank in the platform, in which effort they succeeded. The Republican nominee for governor likewise declared himself in favour of an eight-hour law. Only in a few localities, as in Fitchburg,1 where the Republican politicians paid no attention to the eight-hour demand, were independent labour candidates for the legislature nominated. The outcome was disappointing. The new legislature contained only twentythree members pledged to an eight-hour law. The Daily Evening Voice openly expressed dissatisfaction with Steward's policy of exacting pledges from political candidates: "We learn one important lesson from our experience so far, and this is, that the workingmen must stand out as an independent party organisation, and make no more attempts to control the action of other parties." 15
During the municipal campaigns in the various towns in Massachusetts, which followed closely upon the general election, the eight-hour men tried independent political action in Boston (in co-operation with a dissatisfied faction in the Republican party) and in Lowell, and met with encouragement. They
deputy chief, but was displaced for political reasons in 1874.
During the seventies and the eighties, McNeill continued to be active in the labour movement and retained throughout all these turbulent years the full confi. dence of all factions and opposing organisations. He published a history of the American labour movement in 1887, entitled, The Labor Movement: The Problem of To-day. He died in 1906.
14 Boston Daily Evening Voice, Nov. 15, The independent candidates, one for the senate and three for the assembly, carried the town, but were defeated.
15 Boston Daily Evening Voice, Nov. 8, 1865.
13 George E. McNeill was born in Amesbury, Mass., in 1836. His father, a friend of John G. Whittier, was one of the early anti-slavery propagandists. As boy he worked in woollen mills and later also at other occupations. He first became known as a writer in connection with his work for the Boston Daily Voice during the middle sixties. About the same time he espoused Ira Steward's eight-hour philosophy and was president of the Boston Eight Hour League for eight years.
1865. In co-operation with Wendell Phillips and others he succeeded in bringing about the establishment of the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics. Upon its organisation in 1869 he was made
elected in the former city one-third of the aldermen and onefourth of the council, and in the latter, three aldermen and sixteen councilmen. In Charleston, Roxbury, and New Bedford, Steward's plan of action through the existing parties was followed and there also met with considerable success.16
However, the object which drove the eight-hour men into municipal politics, the attainment of an eight-hour law for city employés, was not realised. Nor did they at that time succeed in getting an eight-hour law through the Massachusetts legisla
Similar political attempts were made by the workingmen in New York, and in Newark, New Jersey,17 but without results. Cameron, of the Chicago Workingman's Advocate, favoured independent political action. 18 This, however, did not prevent him from accepting the Democratic nomination for the assembly, to which, however, he was not elected. Fincher, always the consistent trade unionist, opposed politics, and his opposition was based on experience and observation in his own city of Philadelphia.
In 1863 a workingmen's party had been established in Philadelphia and it nominated a ticket for the municipal election of that year. Speaking of the ticket, Fincher's said: "The only thing patent in the whole batch, was to secure the election of this or that man to this or that Legislature, or this mayoralty, and he would do all in his power for the workingmen. . . . But the entire absence of all proposed measures for their relief, was to us conclusive evidence that all proffered reforms were only to accrue to the advantage of workingmen in nomination for office." 19
Again Fincher stated his grounds of opposition to politics in the following graphic manner:
"Once absorbed in politics, the day passes in the workshop, with but little anxiety for aught else, save the anticipated indulgence in political scenes at night. The duties of block, ward, or township committees absorb the time that should be devoted to the family and to the Trades' Union. The rights of labor are made subordinate to the claims of this or that candidate. He has not the courage to
16 Fincher's, Dec. 30, 1865.
17 Boston Daily Evening Voice, Dec. 8,
18 Fincher's, Apr. 22, 1865.
demand his rights in the shop, because he is a companion of his boss in the cause.' He is flattered and cajoled by his employer, because his vote and his influence is needed among the 'hard-fisted mechanics and workingmen' at the coming election - and a fraternal feeling is thus awakened by mutual devotion to politics, which restrains him from asserting and maintaining those rights so essential to the comfort of himself, his family, and his fellow-working
Thus, while the eight-hour agitation was broadening out and preparing the way for a unification of all labour forces in the National Labor Union, it was bringing with it the radical differences that were later to separate the politician and political actionist from the trade unionist.
With the return of the soldiers and the slackening of prosperity toward the end of 1865, trade union action no longer brought its former successful results.21 A New York correspondent writing in the Boston Weekly Voice on May 10, 1866, enumerated 40 strikes, largely in the building trades, which had recently taken place in that city, of which but 7 were totally successful, and 8 partly successful.
This state of affairs aided in bringing the demand for an eight-hour law to the foreground and thereby helped to bring to a head the attempts to unify the labour movement into a national federation. A simultaneous agitation was begun by the leading organisations of every type for a national labour convention, but, before anything practical could be accomplished, it was necessary to overcome the friction between the different organisations. There existed among them a practically unanimous agreement with regard to the necessity of some form of a national federation which should place the demand for an eight-hour law at the head of its programme. But considerable difference of opinion prevailed as to the most desirable composition of such a federation. The trades' assembly of Buffalo issued, in May, 1865, an address calling for a "Trades' Congress," to meet in Buffalo, to be composed "of delegates from the various Local Unions of every branch of industry," the object being "to preserve the many interests of the labouring
20 Fincher'a, Oct. 10, 1863.
21 A correspondent wrote in Fincher's for June 17, 1865: "As was to be ex
pected, the returned soldiers are flooding the streets already, unable to and employment."
classes of the Continent and establish our just rights through Legislative action."
Early in February, 1865, the New York State Workingmen's Assembly issued a call inviting all workingmen's assemblies, and, where no assemblies existed, each local organisation, to send five delegates to a national convention to be convened in the city of New York, on the second Tuesday in July, for the purpose of "devising the most eligible means to secure to the workingmen eight hours' labour as a legal day's work." Its foundations were laid at a conference of the trades' assemblies of Troy and Albany in February, 1865, at which an address was drafted calling "for a state convention of the different Trades' Assemblies and Workingmen's Organisations in the State," to meet at the city of Albany and to petition the legislature to reduce the hours of work and to protect free labour against prison labour. The convention was also to take into consideration the propriety of forming a state organisation.22 This address was favourably received and the state assembly was created.
Organisations similar to the New York Assembly in object, though not in composition, were the state eight-hour leagues. These organisations were not strictly workingmen's organisations but included also a number of sympathising nonwage-earners. A call for a national labour convention was also issued by one of these. In November, 1865, a "Workingmen's Convention" was held in Indianapolis, at which a Grand Eight Hour League of the State of Indiana was formed, with John Fehrenbatch as secretary. Before adjourning, this organisation passed a resolution recommending all associations of workingmen in the United States to hold state conventions and elect delegates to a general national convention.23 But the real rivals for the leadership in the movement for a national federation were the city trades' assemblies on one side and the national trade unions on the other.
The national union of machinists and blacksmiths had agitated the idea of a national federation of trades as early as 1860, but nothing practical resulted, although the moulders' convention in January, 1864, received the proposal favour
22 Fincher's, Mar. 4, 1865.
23 Ibid.. Dec. 16, 1865.