Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ers,

[ocr errors]

privileges a far greater number of work with, mechanics has stripped us of many

As civilization progresses the notions which we had derived from number of men who work for a per diem studies of political economy as we read it wage constantly decreases. When a man in books. Let us, then, explain and deis hired by the month, or the year, there fine our position at the outset, in the prois always a tacit, and generally an ex- position that, in the present relations of pressed, contract that a certain amount labor and capital, Trades Unions ar of duty shall be done, without regard necessity. Of course we assume that to the hours it may occupy. As a rule they must be wisely conducted. Or the learned professions give most hours what we consider wisdom we shall to labor. For the clergy man, the lawyer, speak hereafter. Of the unwisdom of the physician, the round of duty begins the present organizations we shall also with the waking hour, and closes, with have a mention. brief intermissions, when the tired spirit We have just thoughtfully read the seeks repose.

The soldier paces - his constitution and by-laws of a prominent, weary round by night or day, or marches powerful, and, let us in justice say, an without reference to the toil of the pre- honorably conducted Trade Union. Let vious day. The sailor pleads no limit us give an instance of their management. when the call comes of " All hands on Recently the men in a certain large condeck.” Merchants, book-keepers, editors, cern decided that they must have higher railway employés, expressmen, hotel wages. Their action took this shape: waiters, newsmen, car-drivers and con- There should be no compulsion, no strike; ductors, and all farm-laborers and house- but they addressed a letter to the proservants work without regard to hours. prietor, saying that other employés in The farm-laborer who, having toiled neighboring cities were receiving higher twelve hours in the harvest, would desert wages; that, although their treatment his wheat in the probability of a storm, was kind and their pay prompt, they would find his mission ended. This is could not remain when they could do simply a necessity of civilization. Under better elsewhere; that each individual no other rule can capital afford to invest would drop out, one by one, as opportuin enterprise.

nity offered; and that, logically, the best We find, then, that an Eight-Hour hands would be those who would first law can only apply to a few of the trades. leave. The proprietor saw the force of To how many of them ? To none which the argument, and the wages were work by the job or piece. Printers set raised. The result was that the best so many thousand ems per diem, their hands in the vicinity sought an establishwages depending altogether upon dex- ment where the pay was full and prompt. terity and industry. So with tailors, Mixed up, as we were, in this not unshoemakers, hatters, jewelers (manufac- pleasant adjustment of differences, we turing), and many other forms of trade. sought out an intelligent Union man, and The Eight-Hour law, then, is just what asked for information. It was given we have called it-class legislation, clearly, dispassionately, and in terse made in the interest of a few of the phrase. The sum of his statement was lower forms of mechanical art, where this: “The Union is a necessity, and an brawn, and not brain, is the essential. evil. It is hard,” he said, "for a mechanic It is noteworthy that art, in its true like myself, who know my trade, to subsense, and high mechanical skill, want no mit to a dead level of wages, and settle Eight-Hour laws. They are a folly down to a life in which there is no hope which will cure itself.

of promotion. Look at it! There is a As to Trades Unions. A little per- blacksmith, twenty years at his trade; a sonal experience is worth a deal of patient, sober, skilful workman. He is theory in such a study. A close personal the only man in the shop who can be knowledge of, and constant association trusted with his peculiar work. At the

[ocr errors]

a

a

can

a

next anvil is a lubberly boy, just out of haps, can have only a millennial solution, his apprenticeship, hardly fit to forge a when the lion of capital shall lay down

, share to a plough. Both get the same by the lamb of labor. There are several wages, because both must have the Union incidents in the organizations of labor price. There is nothing for the old man which are erroneous. First of these is to look forward to. He wins a fair live the idea of an irrepressible conflict being, but the Union robs him of the tween man and master; of a tyranny on chance to rise; to become a partner, by the part of the one only to be met by the turning his skill into capital. It is, after tyranny of the other. But that is only all, a miserable concession that capital is a result of conditions precedent. It is the almost absolute master; and that the an outgrowth of antecedent blunders; mechanic—a slave with two owners, and may some day cure itself. Perhaps must make the best terms he can." the Unions may cure it. The power they

These words, full of pith, are not our assert to do infinite damage to their naown. They came from a man who pre- tural enemy has been so often proved fers to lead in the Union rather than be that it begets, in return, a feeling of reled by it. His statement expresses & spect. The grand evil is the terrible serious evil; one tending to immeasurably tyranny of the Union within the Union; degrade the dignity of labor. Fortu- the stern repression of personal ambition nately there are many avocations to which which it exerts, lest all should not be it cannot be applied. For instance, in equal. The Union demands of its memthe working jewelry business, of which bers a fearful sacrifice, and we we have some incidental knowledge, a honor the courage, if not the unwisdom, rolled plate of gold is given to a work- with which it is so cheerfully made. man, and charged up against him. He is Now there never was in the United to make a ring, a bracelet, a breast-pin, States any further necessity for a Trades or some other ornament. His wages de- Union than the natural and honorable pend entirely upon what he returns. feeling of social intercourse among broThey may be twenty, and they may be ther-craftsmen; and the prime requirefifty dollars a week. If he can only copy ment that a “strike " shall include men models, weld, file, and polish, he gets the enough to be effective. Unions, as now lesser sum. If he is an artist, and returns conducted, are not American. They are his gold in novel and artistic form, charm- a foreign importation, brought to us by ing to the eye, his wages become a sale men who, God help them, have lived of his talent, his genius, and not of his starved and unhappy lives in countries mere manual labor; just as a fine poem where labor is cheap and money is king. of four stanzas will bring more money We justify strikes. There is no unfairthan a closely written page upon a ledg- ness in them when honestly conducted;

And this, again, suggests that the nothing unreasonable in a man's refusing higher the form of labor, the more inde- to work for unsatisfactory wages; and pendent it is of the restrictions of Trades nothing wrong in his combining with his Unions. Fancy Church or Bierstadt going fellows to coerce just and remunerative into combination with daubsters, to paint pay. We honor the pluck with which pictures by the hour, or by the square some of these battles are fought; we foot! House-painters can have, nay, im- honor still more the generosity with peratively need, Trades Unions. Genius which one Union, at work, supports cannot afford them. It must claim all another which is on strike. the rights of competition ; must work But here we reach the limit. The under the high stimulus of hope and am- Union tries to accomplish too much; and bition.

some of that too much is very wrong. Let But this one evil of the degradation of us look at the apprenticeship system. Unthe excellent to the level of the many, is der the old laws, and when manufactories merely a part of the problem which, per- were smaller, a man's shop was a part of

er.

a

his household. The laws of some of the this or that department of several inrolsStates, now obsolete, require that the ap- ed in the business; but only one of them! prentice shall be a member of his family, He must stick to his place in the subshall have proper schooling, and shall sit division of labor. We could not educate even at the same table with himself. The him beyond a certain level. It was as effect of such a system is obvious. It is if a school should teach a child to cypher, true there were brutal masters and worth- and refuse to teach him to read. Sick less apprentices ; but as a rule the latter with this injustice we abandoned the learned his trade well enough to become plan. The boy is left to a life he does not himself a master in his turn. There is relish, and is stuffing himself with Latin, no character in the world more full of Greek, and French, that he may become worth, enterprise, thought, and mechani- a dull preacher, an indifferent doctor, or cal skill, than has been developed under a slow lawyer. the old American apprenticeship system. The theory of the Union in this affair But here the Union comes in to break or -in which we were assuredly wronged control this almost parental relation. It was this:-"An over-supply of labor says to the manufacturer that, having so will depreciate its rewards. The cheap many journeymen, he is entitled to only labor of the apprentice comes in compeso many apprentices. It even dictates tition with that of the journeyman. whom he shall select, in some instances Therefore, keep the trade as small as posas to nationality, often as to color. The sible ; hold out no inducements to young family element in the contract is erased. men whose friends can support them, The employer has no interest in his ap- maintain a stringent labor market, and prentice, forms no attachments, and looks then we shall have—what? Why a monoupon him as a part of his machinery for poly; the very thing we are organized to making money. He gives him no instruc- resist; which in all our constitutions, bytion, but allows him to blunder along at laws, speeches, and resolutions we dethe mercy of the foreman, or his shop- nounce as intolerable.” Thus our friends mates. If a boy is bright, he cannot fail of the trades have fallen into the same to learn something in this shabby school. error which they combined to overcome. If not, a good cow-herd has been per- We have said that we justify the comverted into a bad mechanic.

bination of workmen for what we call But this is not the worst of it. A year "straight strikes for higher wages." Like ago, wishing to train a young relation to all broad assertions this will bear modifia profession, to which we deemed a cer- cation. Labor, as well as capital, can be tain mechanical education necessary, we tyrannical. It can also be cheated by sought a place for him. It was to be corrupt agencies. Last spring, or in the had, as an apprentice was nearly out of early summer, there occurred a great his time, and there was a vacancy in the strike in the anthracite coal regions of shop, under the rules of the Union. Pass- Pennsylvania. We cannot pretend to ing, for the moment, the hardship and an exact knowledge of its causes; but wrong involved in the fact that, except there are some surface indications. There for the accidental expiration of another's was an overstocked coal market. A mild term, we could not buy or beg for the boy winter had shortened the demand; and the education which his future business the summer came on with a slack busisuccess required; that we could not pur- ness among the manufacturing consumers. chase his schooling in a trade, as we could It was not in the interest of the minein any of the learned and so-called ex- uwners to go farther in that direction. clusive professions; we were met with It was better for them to cease operaa miserable question of detail, “What tions for a time, and get rid of the stock branch do you want him to learn?” on hand at paying prices. Then came “ The trade-all branches !" was our an- the strike. It was sudden as a thunder

The reply was that he could learn bolt. The miners had been working coa

а

Ewer,

tentedly. No fault had been found, no some real hardship and general discondiscussions even had been held in their tent. They should be ordered by the Unions. But an order came from the popular vote of dissatisfied men, and not “Central Committee," and they left their left to the mandate of a central junta, work; in some mines being driven away human, and therefore corruptible. It is by compulsion. Some of them were in some satisfaction, even at our own cost, debt; many were unable to see their to know that in the final adjustment the way to find food for a month. How men compelled the owners to make terns shall we account for this? It was in the far more liberal than they wished, but to interest of the owners to stop work; in which the consequences of their own that of the miners to keep on. Yet the greed compelled them. The working men stop in implicit obedience to their miner, in many cases, is now an actual “Central Committee,” a small junta of partner in the profits, and not in the their own leaders, who are heads of the losses, of the mine. county Unions. The owners immediately But the great, glaring wrong in these increased the price of coal; the strike minor rules of the Unions is done to the being their apparently valid excuse. That workman himself. He puts his life, his is all we know; but who believes, in view success, his hopes of promotion, all in the of these probabilities, that the “Central hands of other men. The boy is as good Committee" are not in the clover-field as the man; the tyro crawls to the same of financial prosperity, dividing their dead level with the skilled workman. blissful state with the mine-owners ? There are employers who secretly pay,

Political rings are not alone in their and workmen who surreptitiously regreat outrages upon public justice. Money ceive, more than the regulated wages. is the objective; and in the fierce, raven- But this working under a cloud can ous competition very mean things are never take the place of entire frankness done by Aldermen and “Central Com- and honesty of dealing. What we need mittees.” In this case, if our unpleasant, is a reformation within the Unions; the but too probable, theory is correct, the concession to the employer of the right actual wrong committed was far greater to take apprentices as he needs them, than that of a New York tax-levy. In and of the right of the lad to seek the every household fuel became more costly. form of education he requires; and the How costly, what pinching want a rise further concession of the right to pay the in coal may involve, let us illustrate. A man what he is worth; to stimulate, kindly gray-haired gentleman met a forward and promote him. It can easily sturdy boy, with a basket of coal upon be agreed between the two parties that a his arm, and cheerily said—“Got some day's wage for common hands shall be so coal, sonny ?" The reply came back as much a thousand ems for setting type, cheerily—“Yes, sir, and my father is so much a day for moulders, finishers, going to buy a quarter of a ton next packers, etc. But an excellent hand week!” What a wealth of poverty there should have excelling pay. He should was in that answer! And how hardly not be dragged down, as we know that practical is the fact that the father good men are, by the incapacity of others. must pay next week as much cartage on He should have his chance to rise in this that quarter ton as if it were a full load! world's fortunes. All recognize this But outside of the household, in every principle in the fees of lawyers and shop the expenses of the owner were in- physicians, and in the salary of clergycreased, and his ability to pay his men men. Years ago there was an attempt full wages was lessened. It was a calam- to establish a horizontal tariff of salaries ity costing many millions; yet it looks as in one of our ecclesiastical denominations; if it were brought about by the expendi- but it has long since been abandoned for ture of a few thousands. Strikes, to be the better plan, which by worldly reproperly conducted, should grow out of wards provokes to higher preparation

(6

and more diligent zeal. “Poor preach, are of English origin, and we can see poor pay,” and the same idea extends to how even the faults of which we comall the business of life. Much of the plain have been, and now are, imperative charm and dignity which attends the necessities. There, under the pressure professional career, rests upon this free- of class legislation, and in the struggle of dom of action, this ability to measurably the commercial classes to rival the splencontrol one's own destiny; or, to use the dors of an hereditary aristocracy, comhomely phrase, “ Charge what you please," bined with a crowded population, there because your services are admitted to be is a stern, hard fight between prerogative more valuable than those of another. and poverty. In the rush of a mob, Yet it is the policy of the Trades Unions each man must look out for his own life; to shut out this competition, and to as- and when the British manufacturer sume that one man is as good as another claims the trade of the world, and so -a terrible error; for it contradicts all cheapens labor as to control it, the the instincts of our nature, and all re- British laborer must combine in every vealed religion. We bow reverentially way, and so coerce his comrades even, to the aristocracy of intellect. Otherwise, as to resist the horrible grinding between why apostles in the church? Why ad- the upper and the nether millstones of mitted gradations among the angels ? aristocratic avarice and commercial pride.

We have conceded the general correct- But here, in a better land, where there ness of the fundamental principle of is an eager demand for labor, where there Trades Unions. They form a necessary is bread and work for all, where the barrier against the greed of capital; but limitless expanses of undeveloped wealth the limit of their true mission is far continually cry for more workmen, where within the margin of their present laws. they must be had, at any cost, the need As now organized they are a despotism for this foreign invention is narrow, and framed to resist another despotism. They it should be adapted to American wants.

AHMED AGHA, THE JANIZARY. AHMED Agna, the Janizary, is a repre- Ahmed is a Moslem, an honest and a sentative man and should be better known. pious man. He keeps all the fasts, and He stands at the head of his profession, obeys to the letter all the injunctions of and his good points are so numerous that the prophet that he considers binding his widest field of labor is found outside upon the conscience of a good Mussulman. of his official duties. The husband of During the month of Ramadan he eats three wives, the father of fifteen children, nothing from sunrise to sunset, and durtall, stately in his carriage, grave, dignified ing the nights, which are frequently deand self-contained, he is at once a model voted by many of his co-religionists to janizary, an irreproachable husband and intemperate feasting, he maintains his father, and an important member of so- consistency of character, and is temperciety. His functions are as varied as his ate in all things. A little paler than good qualities are numerous. He de- usual, he is invariably at his post, and serves a place in the esteem of all Ameri- spends his leisure moments in reading can residents and travelers in Syria; devotional portions of the Koran and in and as he may never attain to the much prayer; and though faint from fasting, is desired honor of American citizenship, or always ready to do the bidding of his wear a decoration conferred by the gov- superiors, and apparently never weary in ernment of the United States, he is en- well-doing. As Chief of the Consular titled to a tribute of praise from those Guard, he carries the keys of the Consuwhom he has faithfully served.

late in his pocket, while he carries the

« ElőzőTovább »