by Terence Powderly
"There is a poor, blind Samson in
Shorn of his strength, and bound in bonds of steel,
Who may, in some grim revel, raise his hand,
And shake the pillars of this Commonwealth. "
Early effort to make name public - Attempts to form national head - Proceedings of early conventions - Call for convention January 1, 1878 - The convention at Reading, Pa. - The General Assembly organized - List of representatives - U. S. Stephens elected Grand Master Workman - Charles H. Litchman elected Grand Secretary - Constitution adopted - The preamble of the Industrial Brotherhood adopted - Measures adopted to provide a revenue - No money in the treasury - Adoption of a seal - "That is the most perfect form of government in which an injury to one is the concern of all" - The preamble a call to action - Mismanagement of public affairs to be remedied - Constitutions and supplies issued to the order - The gallows in Schuylkill County, Pa. - Molly Maguires - Attack upon the order by a clergyman - Call for a special session of the General Assembly - The reasons for it - The propositions submitted - Richard Griffiths - The first and second sections of the preamble discussed - Knowledge the standpoint for action - The aid of Divine Providence invoked to enslave the laborer " Servants obey your masters'' - "Does the Almighty favor the rich?" - The difference between the real and the sham in religion - The monuments of the past not erected to the memory of the workman - The slayers of men remembered and rewarded, while the builders of cities and homes are consigned to oblivion - The politician's indifference to the wishes or welfare of the people - The people to blame - Politics to be discussed by workingmen - Education the watchword - Parties good only as they serve the people - The G. M. W. replies to a "prominent democrat" - Labor party not likely to become a success - The interest centres in the candidate - The G. M. W. makes a political speech - Is asked to make others - His reply to committee at Philadelphia - The influence of corporations in elections - Men compelled to vote as corporations dictate - The voter must be allowed to deposit his ballot free from interference or scrutiny - Traders at the ballot-box are traitors to the State - Make election day a national holiday - The General Assembly passes resolution favoring it - The preamble to be discussed at all meetings.
NO EFFORT to establish a national head, or supreme authority, for the government of the order of the Knights of Labor was made until 1875. At the first meeting, in October, of that year, a communication from Assembly No. 82, Flint Glass Workers, of Brooklyn, N. Y., was read in D. A. No. 1. It recited the difficulties under which that assembly labored in securing members, and wound up with a petition asking that D. A. No. 1, "as the head of the organization," take steps to
MAKE THE NAME OF THE ORDER
so that workingmen would know of its existence. No action was taken for several weeks, although a resolution to declare the name of the order public was offered at the next meeting after the communication had been received from Assembly No. 82. It was not until the matter was pressed by the New York assembly that a debate ensued in D. A. No. 1. After much discussion it was resolved not to take action on the matter until all assemblies had been notified, and given an opportunity to vote on the question.
This discussion led to the subject of forming a national or central organization, and after much deliberation 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. Pursuant to call the representatives of several assemblies convened at Red Men's Hall, Third and Brown streets, on July 3d, at ten o'clock A. M.
The record of proceedings, while not of sufficient importance as a whole to merit publication, are worthy of reproduction in order that they may be preserved for comparison with the records of the sessions of the General Assembly, which have been held since January 1, 1878. They are not lengthy, and being the only copy now in existence of the proceedings of the first session at which an attempt was made to establish a national body, they are given in full, as follows:
PHILADELPHIA, July 3, 1876.
In accordance with the resolutions adopted by District Assembly No. 1 for calling a convention in the city of Philadelphia, on the 3d of July, 1876, for the purpose of strengthening the order for a sound and permanent organization, also the promoting of peace, harmony, and the welfare of its members.
Motion was then made that Brother George Rieff take the chair as temporary chairman; carried. Brother Rieff then took the chair.
On motion, that Brother William Farrell, of No. 23, act as temporary secretary; so ordered.
On motion, that a committee of three be appointed on credentials; carried.
On motion, that a committee on permanent organization, of five, be appointed; carried. Stewart Atchison, No. 23; Jesse Barnes, No. 58; Henry F. Esmerbrink, No. 118; Edward P. Brannon, No. 79; George C. Bowers, No. 165.
Committee on Credentials John Kelly, No. 86; U. S. Stephens, No. 1; S. J. Christian, No. 92.
U. S. Stephens, No. 1, Garment Cutters. W. Kelley,
86, Reading Iron Workers S. J. Christian,
92, Allentown Shoemakers. Harry S. Rogers,
173, Reading Painters. William A. Bayes,
28, Reading Boilermakers. Joseph Auchenback,
171, Reading Heaters and Stovecutters. James L. Wright,
District No. 1, Philadelphia. James McCambridge,
18, House Carpenters, Philadelphia. George E. Rieff,
19, Reading House Carpenters. Samuel J. Burchart,
District No. 4, Reading. Andrew Burt,
95, Pittsburg. Samuel Lamond,
18, Philadelphia Machinists. George C. Bowers,
165, Railroaders. Charles Stroud,
100, Iron Moulders, Chester. Adam Grandes,
129, Philadelphia Iron Moulders. John Word,
116, Philadelphia Stove Moulders. Charles F. Miller,
14, Philadelphia Safe Makers. H. F. Einerbunk,
118, Pottstown Iron Workers. William Farrell,
23, Philadelphia Carpet Weavers Frederick Schauble,
128, Reading Machinists. Millard F. Smith,
40, Philadelphia Painters. Charles H. Simmerman,
31, Camden Iron Workers. E. B. Brenan,
79, Philadelphia Moulders. Jesse Barnes,
58, Stocking Weavers. Jonathan Holt,
127, Reading Iron Workers. James Reaney,
77, Reading Iron Workers. William Faing,
83, New York and Brooklyn. Jacob Umstead,
82, Philadelphia Cigar Makers. John McCormick,
82, Brooklyn Flint Glassblowers. C. Ben Johnson,
59, Pottsville All Trades. Howard Seenley,
101, Allentown Machinists. Samuel C. Miller,
126, Reading Moulders. Stewart Atkinson,
District No. 1, Philadelphia. George Blair,
156, Brooklyn Boiler Makers. Michael Keating,
174, Greenland All Trades.
President - JAMES L. WRIGHT, of Philadelphia, No. 1.
Vice Presidents - GEO. E. RIEFF, of Reading, No. 99; SAM'L LAMOND, GEORGE STROUD.
Secretary - WILLIAM FARRELL.
Assistant Secretaries - MILLARD F. SMITH, JOS. H. AUCHENBACH.
Treasurer - JAMES McCAMBRIDGE.
Doorkeepers - J. FORTNER and SAM'L BURKHART.
STEWART ATCHESON, No. 23.
JESSE BARNES, No. 58.
HENRY F. EINERBUNK, No. 118.
E. P. BRENAN, No. 79.
GEO. C. BOWERS, No. 165.
President, James L. Wright, then took the chair, returned thanks for his election, and made some remarks as to the reason for the calling of the convention.
On motion, that we adjourn to the north-west corner of the room on account of the noise on Third St.; so ordered.
On motion, that a committee of five be appointed to receive all communications; so ordered.
U. S. Stephens, Geo. E. Rieff, S. J. Burkhart, Stewart Atcheson and James McCambridge were then appointed.
On motion, that these five be the Committee on Communications.
On motion, that we devote the balance of the morning session to ten minute speeches; so ordered.
On motion, that the session be from 9 to 12 o'clock A. M., and from 2 to 5 o'clock P. M.; so ordered.
On motion, that we adjourn. The vote was then taken, and there being a division called, resulted in the motion being lost.
Adjourned until 2 o'clock P.M.
A brother from No. 82 made a speech, stating that he represented over four hundred men who wanted to have information concerning the workings of the order.
On motion, the two delegates be allowed to represent No. 82 by one of the brothers, and the other have a seat but no vote.
Amended, that one be allowed a seat and the other represent No. 82; carried. Whereupon the delegates from No. 82 retired for consultation.
The Committee on Communications presented their amendment for action.
On motion, that article first of the amendment, which reads, "That the M. W., W. F. and W. Q. be elected and installed once every six months, and that the M. W. of the District may have the sole power of installing the officers of subordinate Assemblies," be laid on the table.
Bro. James McCambridge made a few remarks, giving his own views on the subject of labor and the organization of the order.
On motion, Bro. J. Fortner be allowed the floor. He stated the misunderstanding of New York delegates was owing to the negligence of Bro. Turner, and that his Assembly, No. 28, became defunct.
Bro. C. B. Johnson was then introduced and called on for his views, but asked to be excused.
Bro. Simmerman advocated a very strict set of rules.
Moved and seconded that the amendments to the Rules be taken up; so ordered.
On motion, the amendments be adopted as read; indefinitely postponed.
Committee on Communications presented the following resolutions:
RESOLVED, That we, as yet, do not believe that the order is sufficiently organized to warrant the employment of salaried officers.
WHEREAS, The Constitution and By-Laws governing the different Assemblies of the K. of L. is imperfect, and does not meet general satisfaction, therefore, be it resolved, that a committee of nineteen be appointed to draft a Constitution for the government of the Assemblies under the jurisdiction of the National Convention, and report in writing to the next National Convention.
Amended, that the Committee be nine that they be five.
Offered as a substitute:
RESOLVED, That the acting M. W. and four others be a committee to report, on next Wednesday morning, a draft of Constitution for the governing of the National Convention of the order.
Time extended fifteen minutes that the Business Committee be substituted for the committee of five; lost.
The substitute was then adopted.
The second day's session was called to order by the President, Jas. L. Wright. The role of delegates was called and the minutes of the last session read and approved.
Bro. Holt called for the reading of the following resolutions:
RESOLVED, That this convention do declare itself the Grand National Convention Assembly of K. of L.
RESOLVED, That this Grand National Convention is hereby declared the executive head of the order of K. of L., with power to act only in general convention
On motion, action on the resolutions be postponed for the purpose
of letting the Committee on Constitution prepare the laws for the Convention; so ordered.
The Business Committee recommended the following:
RESOLVED, That no one shall be admitted to membership in this order except he be 21 years of age.
Which was amended to read 18, in place of 21 years; postponed.
The Constitution was brought before the convention for action.
Sec. 1st was then read, and, on motion, the name of North America was adopted.
The 2d Section, adopted. 3d Article, adopted. 4th Sec., adopted.
Sec. 6th was then read, and, on motion, it was referred back to the Committee, with instructions to insert a clause to assess a certain sum to bear the expenses of the delegates to this convention; carried.
Articles 7th, 8th and 9th were adopted. Article 10th was amended to read Cushing instead of Mathias.
Articles llth, 12th and 13th were also adopted.
On motion, that we go into discussion of the subject of who is eligible to become members of the order. Bros. Simmerman, Rieff, Blair, Johnson and Stephens were appointed a committee.
Brother Wood offered a resolution recommending that no mechanic or laboring man go to work before the regular hours; adopted.
A resolution was then offered that a committee of five be appointed to draft a platform by which every member of the order may be guided, and submit the same for further action; laid on the table.
A resolution was then offered to make this Society a beneficial one; lost.
A resolution, that when this convention adjourn it adjourn to meet at Pittsburg, Pa., on July 10, 1877. Amended to be 5th instead of the 10th. Laid on the table until to-morrow, to come up at 11 o'clock.
Convention re-assembled at 9 o'clock A.M. President, James L. Wright, in the chair. The minutes of the last day's session were read and approved.
On motion, that we take up the resolution relating to the next meeting. Amended to strike out Pittsburg and insert Reading; laid on the table until after the report of the Committee on A. K.
The Committee on A. K. reported. Acted on by sections.
First and Second Sections read and adopted. Third Section read and adopted.
That the office of Statistician be left discretionary; carried. On motion, that we adopt relating to organizations; carried. On motion, that it be left optional as regards writing of the name by the candidate before being admitted; lost.
The matter of holding the next Convention was then taken up.
Amended to strike out the tenth of July and insert first Monday in February; lost. Re-amended to read in July, 1877; carried.
On motion, that there be one delegate from each District, and one from New York. Amended, to appoint delegates from this convention; carried. Geo. E. Rieflf, District No. 4, Pa.; Geo. Blair, New York; Chas. H. Simmerman, District No. 2, N. J.; James L. Wright, District No. 1, Phila.; Burt, District No. 3, Pittsburg, were appointed.
The result of the election George Blair, 26; Charles B. Johnson, 22; Geo. C. Bowers, 22; J. J. Govan, 18; Andrew Burt, 17.
On motion, that the Constitution and Amendments to the A. K. go into effect on the first day of August, 1876. Amended, to strike out August and insert September; carried.
A resolution in regard to the organization of Districts, which read as follows: " That any five or more Assemblies may constitute themselves into a District, provided that they are not in arrears to the District with which they were connected; and, provided further, that no two Districts shall be formed in any one congressional district, town, or city, without the consent of all the Assemblies therein located," was adopted.
A resolution that all members in good standing be assessed at least ten cents annually for the purpose of supporting the Executive Committee, was amended to read five instead of ten cents, and adopted.
A resolution was offered that no one should be admitted to membership in the order except he be a man of good moral character, sober and industrious, and thoroughly understanding the trade which he follows; carried.
A vote of thanks was tendered the officers by the convention.
Adjourned, to meet in Pittsburg, July, 1877.
WILLIAM FARRELL, Secretary.
SECTION 1. This organization shall be known to its members as the National League, and to the public, should it be considered expedient to make any of its proceedings public, as the National Labor League of North America.
SEC. 3. Alterations of the A. K., which is hereby declared the supreme law of this League as it is of the local Assemblies, whose delegates compose it, shall not be made except at the regular meetings of the League, and then only by a two-thirds vote of all the delegates present.
SEC. 4. The object of this League is bring the local Assemblies into closer fraternal union with one another, to assist them as far as possible to share each other's burdens, and enable them to agree upon such modes of procedure as will make the members of the order a band of true pioneers of labor reform, pledged at all times and under all circumstances to do all things lawful and honorable, looking to the elevation of the working class generally.
SEC. 5. The officers of the League shall be a President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Doorkeepers, whose duties shall be the same as those appertaining to the same officers in other deliberative bodies, and who shall be elected immediately after the temporary organization of each succeeding convention.
SEC. 6. At each meeting of the convention, immediately after a permanent organization has been effected, the President shall appoint a Finance Committee of five delegates, one of whom shall be the treasurer, whose duty it shall be to ascertain the cost of the session and assess the same equitably upon all the Assemblies represented.
SEC. 7. Before the adjournment of each regular annual convention there shall be a committee of five appointed, who shall be styled the Executive Committee of the National League, who shall hold office during the year, or until their successors are elected, and shall have power to fill all such vacancies as may, from time to time, occur in their number, provided that no two members of any one Assembly shall at one and the same time be members of the said committee. This committee shall, in the interval between the regular sessions of the League, have sole power to decide, by a majority vote, all disputed points as to the exact meaning of the A. K. or this instrument, said decisions to be operative until the next regular session of the League, and final, unless set aside thereat, which setting aside shall require a majority vote; only any District or local Assembly in which there may occur any disputes as to the meaning of the A. K., may address any member of the Executive Committee, whose duty it shall be to correspond with his fellow-members concerning the matter in dispute, and see that a decision is rendered, and communicate the same to the Assembly interested without unnecessary delay.
SEC. 8. All calls for the convention shall be signed when published by the Executive Committee. Tarnell's Manual shall be authority in all conventions of the League where it does not conflict with this instrument or the A. K.
SEC. 11. Conventions shall be held annually at such places and on such days as may, from time to time, be agreed upon by the League, provided, that the Executive Committee may, at their option, and with the consent of ten local or five District Assemblies, call special sessions at any time or place.
U. S. STEPHENS,
Chairman of Committee on Laws.
1. The convention shall be called to order by the delegate from the senior A. represented.
2. Appointment of temporary Chairman.
3. Appointment of Secretary.
4. Appointment of Committee on Credentials, which committee shall be privileged to report at any time.
5. Report of Committee on Credentials.
6. Election of Permanent Officers.
7. Appointment of Finance Committee.
8. Appointment of Business Committee.
9. Appointment of Committee on A. K., to whom shall be referred, without debate, all propositions pertaining to the A. K. Each convention shall, under this constitution, be the pledge of the Qualifications of its own members, and shall have power to adopt an order of business to govern its sessions, after the regulations provided for the first day shall have been complied with.
JAS. L. WRIGHT, CHAIRMAN.
D. A. No. 3, of Pittsburg, was not favorable to the holding of the convention, and did not take the interest in the proceedings that was expected. For some reason not thoroughly understood D. A. No. 3, and the assemblies west of the Alleghenies, decided to
CALL A NATIONAL CONVENTION
at an earlier date than that to which the Philadelphia meeting adjourned.
The chief cause of difference between the assemblies west, and those east, of the Alleghenies was owing to the belief that the name of the order should be made public. At the Philadelphia meeting no action was taken in relation to the matter, although the calling of the convention originated in a debate on making the name public.
The Pittsburg assemblies were of the opinion that they had done more to spread the order, and to establish it in various parts of the country, than D. A. No. 1, and felt that the call for a general convention should come from them. The feeling of jealousy which had sprung up between the Eastern and Western assemblies threatened at one time to frustrate the designs of those who were making an honest effort to establish a national head.
MEETING FELL FAR SHORT
of what was expected. As a literary production the proceedings
of that session are unique and interesting. They are deserving of
preservation in their original form for the reason that they were
prepared and the type was set by L. J. Booker, who knew nothing about
the art preservative until, as a matter of necessity, he conceived the
idea of printing the proceedings himself so that they might not undergo
the scrutiny of non-members if sent to a printing office for
publication. They are as follows:
FIRST APPROVED OF THE CHARTER CLAUSE.
[Online editor's note: The errors
below occurred in the book, and most were probably in the original
printing of the minutes]
The meeting was called to order by Bro, J. M. Davis Chairman. Bro C A. Broockmeyer Sec pro tem, the Chair stateing the object of the meeting in a long and neat address, stating what is wanted to make the order prosperous, namly. 1st A Charter. 2nd A change in the Ritual. 3th A chang in Signs Grip & c. Each Delegate made statment what he was in stucted to present
May, 15th The Minuts of the first day's session, where read and approved. The Chair stated the first in order is the election of National Officers. On motion it Resolved' that we go into a election of Officers the following is the result, to be known as For National Master Workman J. M. Davis, of Pittsburgh. For N. W. F. George Blair N. Y. For National Lecturer. G. M. Atkinson, of W. Va. For National Past Workman Bro. Wright of Philadelphia. For N. W. G. Thos R. King of Reading Pa. For N. O. G. R. C. Jones of Akron., N. I. G. Jos N. Glenn of St Louis. For National Organizer Chas A. Broockmeyer. of Charleston. Va. For National Secretary L. J. Booker. of Mt Washington Bro Chas. A Broockmeyer, Nationla Treasurer. KANAWA, W Va on motion it was Resolved, That this body, go into revising the Ritual and changing the signs, adodted. motion to procure a Charter, and appoin a committe to attend to the same, the committe to consist of three Brothers living in Pittsburgh, adobted the committe shall consist of Bro Davis Booker, and Bowie. Rerolved, That the name of the Order be public.
On motion the Expulsion Glaus where read and approved
On motion it was Resolved, That the Viseting and Traveling Cards have the name of the Order Printed on them
Resolved, That it shall be duty of Past Master Workman, to instruct the new Initiate that are of the Catholic Church, that their is nothing in this Order to prevent him from reciving the Sacrament, and if he considert it his duty, to confess to his Father confesser, he may have the power so to do. adobted
Resolved, That each District Assembly, be taxed TEN DHLLARS PER ANNUM to defrau the exspences of NATIONAL COUNSEL. and Whereas it is neesary, to have Organizers out, therefor be it Resolved That each Assembly PAY TEN CENTS PER MEMBER ANNUAL, payable Quartly ofall members on the Books, the Organizers to travel North, and South East and West, adobted.
Resolved, That all Assemblies make applecation at once to the NATIONAL SECRETARY, for aCharter, Rituals and Constitutios A full set will be sent for Five Dollars [$5] which contains Four Ritual ten Constitution one Charter
Notes As money is neated to carry out the plan it is the wish for the Assemblies to sent in the CASH as soon as possible, as 1000 Charters and 10,000 Constitution and 4000 Ritual, will be printed.
The new order of business, 1st Reading of Minutes of last stated Meeting 2d Balloting on applicant. 3th Initiation' 4th Collection of dues 6th Unfinished Business. 7th New Business. 8th Dicuss Labor and its Interest. 9th Thus any member know of Brother are Brothers Family in distress. 10th For the Good of the Order. 11 Are their Brothers out of employment. 12th Are you all ready and satisfied to close
Resolved, That nexs our Corferece be held in Washington D. C and the exspence to be paid for the Delegate by N.C.
Resolved, That ex-district and the present district Offices are here by declared Members of the National Councel.
On Motion the Conference, adjourned to mest the first Monday Jauary 1878.
L. J. Booker. N. C. S.
While D. A. No. 3 had done excellent work, and had made marvelous headway, it lost sight of the fact that the patient years of toil which were given to the laying of the foundation of the order by the parent assemblies of Philadelphia were necessary, and that without them no organization could be properly established. The feeling which existed after the closing of the Pittsburg conference was not satisfactory to those who had taken a part in the meeting.
No notice of the Philadelphia convention had been given to the Scranton assembly, in 1876, and although a large and powerful district assembly flourished in the Lackawanna and Wyoming valleys when the Pittsburg conference was called, the officers of that district
WERE NOT NOTIFIED
until the proceedings of the conference were mailed to them by the corresponding officer of D. A. No. 3, who had by merest accident learned of the existence of the Scranton district.
When the secretary of D. A. No. 5, of Scranton, received the report of the conference, he at once communicated with such members of the order as had taken a part in the various efforts to establish a national body, and at the same time corresponded with D. A. No. 3, advising that proceedings be stayed until a convention could be called that would be truly
REPRESENTATIVE IN ITS CHARACTER,
one that would speak for all parts of the order. A correspondence at once sprung up between Win. H. Singer, of St. Louis, Mo.; Richard Griffiths, of Chicago, 111.; George Blair, of New York; Chas. H. Litchman, of Marblehead, Mass.; Frederick Turner, of Philadelphia, and T. V. Powderly, of Scranton. The result of the correspondence was to give to the recognized head of the order, D. A. No. 1, a record of such assemblies as were in existence so far as the addresses could be obtained.
When this work was commenced D. A. No. 1 decided not to hold the convention in Pittsburg, as agreed upon in the Philadelphia meeting, and postponed the date until September, but a wave of political excitement swept over the order about that time, and it was decided to lay aside all differences and unite with the western part of the order in holding the meeting in January, 1878. In order that neither Philadelphia or Pittsburg would have cause for complaint, it was agreed that the meeting should be held in Reading, Pa. To this proposition D. A. No. 3 consented, and accordingly the following circular was issued by the Corresponding Secretary of D. A. No. 1:
"To the Officers and Members of ....
"Notice is hereby given that a Convention, for the purpose of forming a Central Assembly, will be held in the city of Reading, January 1, 1878, commencing at 10 o'clock A. M., and also for the purpose of creating a Central Resistance Fund, Bureau of Statistics, Providing Revenue for the work of Organization, establishment of an Official Register, giving number, place of meeting of each assembly, etc. Also the subject of making the name public, together with all business appertaining to the perfection of a National Body, all of which assemblies shall vote upon, and instruct their delegates to report to the D. A. Each D. A. shall be entitled to three delegates. States having no D. A. shall be entitled to three delegates each, who shall be the members of the Organizing Committee in such States; they to receive the instruction from the assemblies in their respective States. The action of the convention shall be final, hence the importance of all assemblies discussing at once the subject-matter contained in this circular. Such assemblies shall take a vote on the subject of making the name public, and report the result for or against to the D. A. and organizers, the delegates and organizers report to the convention. Two-thirds vote of the membership is necessary to declare the name public. By order of D. A. No. 1.
"C. and R. Secretary.
"Place of meeting shall be announced in due time."
The secretary of D. A. No. 3, L. J. Booker, forwarded the addresses of such districts as he had organized to Frederick Turner, and a copy of that circular, together with blank credentials, was mailed to each of them.
On January 1, 1878, the representatives of the various parts of the order met in Reading, Pa. Richard Griffiths, of Chicago, who had been elected by the Chicago assembly, No. 400, was not present, owing to the fact that he was not
PROVIDED WITH THE NECESSARY FUNDS
by his assembly, and he could not afford to defray his own expenses. He had deputized T. V. Powderly to represent him should it be decided that representation by proxy would be legal.
The full proceedings of that meeting were published and sent in sufficient quantities to supply every assembly in the order. They are still in existence, and it is not necessary to reproduce them here. Reference will be made to such parts as are of the greatest importance only. The following is the list of names and addresses of the delegates attending the Reading convention:
Beaumont, Ralph, Shoemaker, 210 West Hudson st., Elmira, N. Y.
Bowers, Wm. W., Moulder, 119 Kose St., Reading, Pa.
Boyle, George S., Engineer, Hazleton, Luzerne Co., Pa.
Burgess, John, Miner, Stockton, Luzerne Co., Pa.
Burtoft, Edmund, Miner, Pike Run, Washington Co., Pa.
Byrne, John L., Miner, box 103, Scottdale, Westmoreland Co., Pa.
Chisholm, John B., Miner, Carbondale, Luzerne Co., Pa.
Christ, Jacob, Locomotive Engineer, box 316, Waverly, N. Y.
Crowne, Thomas P., Shoemaker, 138 Bridge st., cor. of High, Brooklyn, N. Y.
Gallagher, Hugh, Miner, Walker's Mills, Allegheny Co., Pa.
Gallagher, Thomas M., Machinist, Tower Grove Station, St. Louis, Mo.
Geary, Patrick, Shoemaker, Canisteo, N. Y.
Gibson, John A., Miner, Knightsville, Clay Co., Ohio.
Hamilton, James A., Printer, Leetonia, Columbiana Co., Ohio.
King, Thomas, Machinist, 933 Spruce st., Reading, Pa.
Lamond, Samuel, Steam Boiler Maker, 160 N. 6th st., Philadelphia, Pa.
Laning, John G., Nail Packer, Clifton, Mason Co., W. Va. (P. O. address, box 337, Middleport, Ohio.)
Larkins, Matthias, Locomotive Engineer, 2446 Tulip st., Philadelphia, Pa.
Litchinan, Chas. H., Shoemaker, box 386, Marblehead, Mass.
McCoy, Charles S., Glass Worker, 1003 Carson st., Pittsburg' (South Side), Pa.
McLoughlin, Harry, Glass Blower, 1109 Bigham st., Pittsburg (South Side), Pa.
McMahon, Michael, J., Machinist, 336 West Seventh st., Eirnira, N.Y.
Powderly, T. V., Machinist, Lock Box 445, Scranton, Luzerne Co., Pa.
Reiff, George E., Carpenter, 430 Woodward st., Reading, Pa.
Schilling, Robert, Cooper, Office Labor Advance, Cleveland, Ohio.
Steen, Robert A., Glass Blower, 81 16th st., Pittsburg (South Side), Pa.
Stephens, Uriah S., Garment Cutter, 2347 Coral st., Philadelphia, Pa.
Thomas, Joshua R., Blacksmith, Lock Box 445, Scranton, Pa.
Todd, Robert, Miner, Thornastown, Summit Co., Ohio.
Van Horn, Wm. L., Teacher, Lewiston, Kanawha Co., W. Va.
Welch, Morris C., Miner, Dunbar, Fayette Co., Pa.
Williams, Richard, Miner, Audenried, Carbon Co., Pa.
When the delegates assembled in Grouse's Hall, 508 Penn street, Thomas King, Secretary of D. A. No. 4, and a representative to the convention, called the meeting to order, and nominated Uriah S. Stephens as temporary chairman. Robert Schilling nominated Charles H. Litchman as temporary secretary, and with these officers the convention proceeded to transact its business. Frederick Turner, who was present, though not in the capacity of a representative, was invited to a seat without voice or vote.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE KNIGHTS OF LABOR OF NORTH AMERICA.
The names by which subordinate bodies were designated previous to that time were continued. It was at this meeting that the subordinate assembly was first called Local Assembly, a term which has continued in use ever since.
Two district assemblies appearing, through their representatives, bearing the number five on their credentials, it was resolved to allow the one which had already procured a seal and other property to retain the number. The Scranton D. A. surrendered its right to the number, and accepted sixteen, by which number it has been known ever since.
To the titles by which the officers of local assemblies were designated was added the word grand. The chief officer of the general assembly was to be known as Grand Master Workman; the presiding officer of the D. A. was to be known as District Master Workman, and the executive of the L. A. was to continue in office as Master Workman.
Mr. Stephens was called home before the convention adjourned, but his true worth was known to the assembled representatives, and when the election of officers took place he was chosen Gr. M. W. for the ensuing year, and Charles H. Litchman and Thomas Crowne were delegated to install him in office on their way home.
No nominations were made except in an informal way, each representative casting his ballot for that person whom he believed to be
BEST QUALIFIED TO FILL THE POSITION.
The first committee on constitution of the order of the Knights of Labor, appointed by Mr, Stephens, consisted of representatives Robert Schilling, Chairman; Ralph Beaumont, Thomas King, T. V. Powderly, and George S. Boyle. Two members of this committee, Messrs. Schilling and Powderly, were members of the Industrial Brotherhood; and though neither one knew that the other would be present, both brought with them a sufficient supply of constitutions of the I. B. to supply the body. The adoption of the preamble was left to these two, and a glance at it will show what changes were made in the declaration of principles whose history has been traced down from year to year since it was first adopted by the National Labor Union of 1866.
The committee on constitution adopted the constitution of the Industrial Brotherhood so far as practicable. The constitution, when printed, bore the same legend on the title page as was adopted at the Rochester meeting in 1874. The following is the preamble adopted at Reading, January 3, 1878:
"When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
The recent alarming development and
aggression of aggregated
wealth, which, unless checked, will invariably lead to the
pauperization and hopeless degradation of the toiling masses, render it
imperative, we desire to enjoy the blessings of life, that a check
should be placed upon its power and upon unjust accumulation, and a
system adopted which will secure to the laborer the fruits of his toil;
and as this much-desired object can only be accomplished by the
thorough unification of labor, and the united efforts of those who obey
the divine injunction that "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat
bread," we have formed the.... with a view of securing the organization
and direction, by co-operative effort, of the power of the industrial
classes; and we submit to the world the objects sought to be
accomplished by our organization, calling upon all who believe in
securing " the greatest good to the greatest number" to aid and assist
I. To bring within the folds of organization, every department of productive industry, making knowledge a stand-point for action, and industrial and moral worth, not wealth, the true standard of individual and national greatness.
II. To secure to the toilers a proper share of the wealth that they create; more of the leisure that rightfully belongs to them; more societary advantages; more of the benefits, privileges, and emoluments of the world; in a word, all those rights and privileges necessary to make them capable of enjoying, appreciating, defending, and perpetuating the blessings of good government.
III. To arrive at the true condition of the producing masses in their educational, moral, and financial condition, by demanding from the various governments the establishment of bureaus of Labor Statistics.
VI. The abrogation of all laws that do not bear equally upon capital and labor, the removal of unjust technicalities, delays, and discriminations in the administration of justice, and the adopting of measures providing for the health and safety of those engaged in mining, manufacturing, or building pursuits.
XIV. The reduction of the hours of labor to eight per day, so that the laborers may have more time for social enjoyment and intellectual improvement, and be enabled to reap the advantages conferred by the labor-saving machinery which their brains have created.
XV. To prevail upon governments to establish a purely national circulating medium, based upon the faith and resources of the nation, and issued directly to the people, without the intervention of any system of banking corporations, which money shall be a legal tender in payment of all debts, public or private.
After adopting a constitution and the preamble given above, the General Assembly elected the officers for the ensuing term, fixed upon St. Louis as the place to hold the next session, and adjourned with the following corps of officers:
Grand Master Workman
- Uriah S. Stephens, of Pennsylvania.
Grand Worthy Foreman - Ralph Beaumont, of New York.
Grand Secretary - Charles H. Litchman, of Massachusetts.
Grand Assist. Secretary - John G. Laning, of Ohio.
Thomas P. Crowne, of New York, Chairman.
James A. Hamilton, of Ohio, Secretary.
John A. Gibson, of Indiana.
Robert A. Steen, of Pennsylvania.
William L. Van Horn, of West Virginia.
The first session of the General Assembly was regarded somewhat in the light of an experiment, and the bodies of which it was made up were not as sanguine of success as the representatives. When the latter reported to their constituencies it was some time before they responded with sufficient enthusiasm to predict the successful continuance of the General Assembly as the head of the order of the Knights of Labor. The means provided by the General Assembly for the collection of revenue is outlined in the following section:
"SECTION 1. The revenue of the G. A. of.... shall be derived as follows: For charters to D. A., five dollars; for charters and A. K. to L. A.'s, five dollars; for each traveling, transfer, or final Card issued, ten cents; in addition, all D. A.'s shall pay, in advance, the sum of one cent and a half every three months for every member on the books of the L. A.'s represented therein."
PROMPT REMITTANCE OF FUNDS
to headquarters in order that the work might be carried on as mapped out at Reading. The proceedings were to be published, constitutions, rituals, blank reports, and forms of all kinds were to be printed and mailed.
The salary of the Grand Master Workman was fixed at $200 per annum. The salary of the Grand Secretary was $800 per annum, and the salary of the Grand Treasurer was limited to $50 per annum. Without a dollar in the treasury the first corps of officers undertook the task of placing upon its feet an organization which aimed at the performance of more good to the cause of labor, more of reform and more educational facilities than any other organization that had ever taken up the cudgel in defense of the workingman. It was a herculean task, and none but strong, true men were wanted; none else were put at the head of the order.
The adoption of a seal for the use of the General Assembly was left to the Grand Master Workman and the Grand Secretary. These officers, soon after the adjournment of the General Assembly, held a conference and adopted a design, of which the subjoined is a true representation. The inscription, which appears around the edge:
"THAT IS THE MOST PERFECT GOVERNMENT IN WHICH AN INJURY TO ONE IS THE CONCERN OF ALL,"
was taken from the precepts of Solon, the Grecian sage and law-giver.
In the selection of this motto the grand officers were not actuated by mere sentiment, or a desire to make use of nicely worded phrases, or high sounding terms. They studied carefully and well before adopting that motto.
In accepting the preamble of the Industrial Brotherhood, the convention fully realized that for the most part the reforms which were asked for in that preamble must one day come through political agitation and action. The chief aim of those who presented the document to the convention was to place something on the front page of the constitution which, it was hoped, every workingman would in time read and ponder over. It was their hope that by keeping these measures, so fraught with interest to the people, constantly before the eye of the worker, he would become educated in the science of politics to that extent that he would know that those things that were wrong in our political system were wrong simply because he did not attend to his political duties in a proper manner; that the righting of such things as were wrong would not be done by those who had the management of political affairs up to that time, but by himself. "Man, know thyself," is a good advice. Man, know thy rights; man, know thy wants; and man, know how to properly and temperately minister to these wants, and secure these rights, are
WORDS OF ADVICE
that should also be listened to.
The preamble to the Knights of Labor is a call to action. The motto of the organization is intended to direct the attention of the member to the form of government, in all the affairs of life, that will be brought about if Knighthood is properly understood by its members and friends.
In the ordinary affairs of labor, in the daily experiences of workshop life, action is often taken which at first may seem to be trifling, and to concern only those who are the immediate participants. It often develops that a trifling grievance in a workshop, if not carefully and judiciously handled, will involve others far removed from the scene of action. The experiences of the past, the many miserable failures which had attended the efforts of struggling labor organizations of former years, were before the eyes of the men who selected the inscription to place upon the outer edge of the seal, and they had in mind the duty which every workingman owed to his brother man. If an injury to one is the concern of all, is it any more than just to so shape the affairs of government that all may be consulted before action is taken which will affect all? Is it not equity to allow every man who is concerned to have a voice in the adjustment of such difficulties as will in time be brought to the doors of all ?
GIVE ALL AN OPPORTUNITY,
through their representatives, to express an opinion on all matters which would in any way affect, or at any time be likely to have a bearing on others outside of the first, parties concerned. If an advance in wages became necessary in any department of labor, the old-fashioned remedy for every labor difficulty the strike was not to be entered into for the purpose of enforcing the demand for an advance, at least such a step was not to be taken until it had been ascertained how the strike would be likely to affect all the members of the organization, and if it could be demonstrated that others outside of the department involved would be likely to suffer, then the representatives of all the departments, and all those likely to be involved, must first be consulted, and the true state of affairs realized before action should be taken.
In this way, and in this way only, could labor take intelligent action, and it was to the end that the true condition of labor might be known that the various reforms advocated in the preamble of the Industrial Brotherhood were re-affirmed by the first national convention of the Knights of Labor. The reasons why the separate sections in the preamble of the Knights of Labor were adopted and kept in the foreground will be explained further on, and for the present they will occupy no more of the time or attention of the reader.
PROCEEDED WITH THE WORK,
and before the end of March every district assembly and local assembly in the order was provided with copies of the proceedings of the convention, and sample copies of the constitution. Blank forms were sent out at the same time on which to make application for charters for the various assemblies. Samples of traveling and transfer cards were also mailed by the Grand Secretary, and all of this was done before one dollar of revenue had been paid into the treasury.
When the different assemblies saw that the secretary was attending to his duty, they began to respond, and by the end of the year 1878 every assembly, whose whereabouts could be ascertained, was in possession of a charter and a sufficient number of constitutions to supply all members. Confidence in the. order and the grand officers was at once established, and the work of organizing new assemblies was at once begun.
While the organization was working secretly, yet the stir in organizing soon attracted attention, and the first move from the outside against the association came from the church. The events which preceded the erection of the gallows in Schuylkill county, Pa. [for Molly Maguire members convicted of murder], were still fresh in the minds of residents of that place, and one of the first fields that opened up to the organizer was the
MIDDLE COAL REGION OF PENNSYLVANIA.
Everything in the shape of a society, which was at all secret or new, was supposed to be the outcome of Molly Maguireism. It became necessary to allow the name of the order to become known, but the name was no shield from persecution, misrepresentation, and misunderstanding, and soon a scathing denunciation of the association came from the altar of one of the churches in Schuylkill county. The members became alarmed; many left the order at once; others withdrew temporarily, while others, knowing the justice of the principles, determined to make an effort to have objectionable features, if any there were, removed.
Grand Master Workman Stephens was written to, and after investigation a special session of the General Assembly was called to take action on the matter of placing the aims and objects of the order in a favorable light before the public. The request for this call came, from the middle coal fields of Pennsylvania.
that were taught at the foot of the gallows, when men were strangled whose guilt was never proven, and whose innocence is to this day believed in by those who knew them best. Whether the men who were hanged in Pennsylvania were all guilty of murder is not known, but it is known that men were hung on the testimony of those who were themselves murderers. It is known that that plague spot on American civilization, the Pinkerton detective, had entered the council chambers of the workingmen of Schuylkill county, and under the guise of friendship urged the men on to deeds of desperation and blood.
When the final day shall come, and the deeds of all men shall become known, the writer of this believes that no man's hand will be redder, no individual will be steeped more deeply in the guilt and crime for which men died upon the scaffold in Pennsylvania than the men who controlled the corporations which were operating the coal mines at that time. Justice no longer knew an abiding place in their hearts, honesty had given way to make room for the craze for gold; and with one ambition constantly before them, is it any wonder that they cared but little if one of their hired assassins of character swore away the lives of the innocent with the guilty? Men of influence, politicians, business men, clergymen, and professional men united in condemning the Molly Maguires, but the voice of him who condemned the outrageous system which made the Molly Maguires possible was never heard above a whisper. Men who had witnessed the terrible scenes of past years knew full well how easy men's lives could be sworn away; and when they saw the same men opposing organization in 1878, they naturally became alarmed, and urged that a special convention be called at once to set at rest the fears of those who were as yet uninitiated. A convention was called as follows:
To the Fraternity wherever found, Greeting:
On account of what is believed by many of our most influential members to be an emergency of vast and vital importance to the stability, usefulness, and influence of our order, and in accordance with the power given me by the constitution, I do hereby call a special session of the General Assembly of the N. and H. O. of the K. of L. of North America, to be held Thursday, June 6, 1878, at the Sanctuary of No. 1, north-west corner of Sixth and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, Pa.
The session will commence at 9:30 A. M.
The business is to consider the expediency of making the name of the order public, for the purpose of defending it from the fierce assaults and defamation made upon it by the press, clergy, and corporate capital, and to take such further action as shall effectually meet the GRAVE EMERGENCY.
(Signed,) URIAH S. STEPHENS,
Grand Master Workman.
Issued through the office of the Grand Secretary, and the seal of the General Assembly affixed, this 16th day of May, 1878.
(Seal.) Attest: CHAS. H. LITCHMAN,
The General Assembly remained two days in session discussing the various plans proposed for the adjustment of the difficulty which had arisen to perplex the officers and members of the Knights of Labor. It was at this session of the General Assembly that Richard Griffiths, afterward elected G. W. F. of the order, first made the acquaintance of the men who composed the supreme law-making body of the order. He had been elected to attend the Reading convention, but was not able to defray his own expenses, and as a consequence he was debarred from attending the first session of the General Assembly.
It was decided by the convention that it would not be proper to make any radical changes in the workings of the order until the various assemblies had been given an opportunity to take
ACTION AND GIVE
"Resolved, That when the General Assembly meets in St. Louis, in January, 1879, a vote shall be taken upon each of the above questions, and it shall require a two-third vote of the total membership to decide in the affirmative."
The resolutions, which were offered by
Powderly, were supplemented by a resolution offered by representative
Litchman, which was also adopted and ordered sent out with the other:
"Resolved, That each local assembly shall take an informal vote upon each of the above propositions, and shall forward to the Grand Secretary, not later than December 1, 1878, a record of the number of votes in the affirmative, and the number in the negative, upon each proposition."
DISCARDED THE VEIL OF SECRECY
in which the name of the order was shrouded, and declared to the world that there was such an organization in existence as the Knights of Labor. The efforts of the order to throw off the secrecy in relation to its name will be chronicled in their regular order as the history of the society is unfolded.
It is proper at this time to give the reasons why the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor adopted the preamble of the Industrial Brotherhood. It is declared in that preamble that it is the mission of the order of the Knights of Labor: "To bring within the folds of organization every department of productive industry, making knowledge a standpoint for action, and industrial, moral worth, not wealth, the true standard of individual and national greatness.
"Second. To secure to the toilers a proper share of the wealth that they create; more of the leisure that rightfully belongs to them; more societary advantages; more of the benefits, privileges, and emoluments of the world; in a word, all those rights and privileges necessary to make them capable of enjoying, appreciating, defending, and perpetuating the blessings of good government."
it is necessary that the members of the order should know who may appropriately come under that head. The belief was prevalent until a short time ago among workingmen, that only the man who was engaged in manual toil could be called a workingman. The man who labored at the bench or anvil; the man who held the throttle of the engine, or delved in the everlasting gloom of the coal mine, did not believe that the man who made the drawings from which he forged, turned, or dug could be classed as a worker. The draughtsman, the time-keeper, the clerk, the school teacher, the civil engineer, the editor, the reporter, or the worst paid, most abused and illy appreciated of all toilers - woman - could not be called a worker. It was essential that the mechanics of America should know who were workers. A more wide-spread knowledge of the true definition of the word labor must be arrived at, and the true relations existing between all men who labor must be more clearly defined.
born of the injustice and oppressions of the past, must be overcome, and all who interest themselves in producing for the world's good must be made to understand that their interests are identical. All the way down the centuries of time in which the man who worked was held in bondage or servitude, either wholly or partially, he was brought directly in contact with the overseer, the superintendent, or the boss. From these he seldom received a word of kindness; indeed it was the recognized rule to treat all men who toiled as if they were of inferior clay.
The conditions which surrounded the laborer of past ages denied to him the right to dress himself and family in respectable garb. The coarsest material, made in the most untidy fashion, was considered good enough for him. Not only did his employer and overseer believe that his dress, habitation, furniture, and living should be of the coarsest, cheapest material or quality, but he also shared in that belief, and took it for granted that it was ordained of heaven; that the stay of the laborer on earth was only as a matter of convenience for his master, and that he must put up with every indignity, every insult, and privation rather than violate the rules of government, which were held up to him as being as sacred as the Ten Commandments.
The holy Scriptures were quoted to show to the toiler that it was said in holy writ that he should be content with his slavish lot on earth in order that he might enjoy an eternity of bliss in a future world, through the portals of which those who held him in subjection could not get a glimpse of the happiness beyond.
was written on every wall in letters of fire for those who could read, and the story was told and retold to those who could not, until the worker believed that to ask for better things on this earth was almost a sacrilege. It would be flying in the face of Divine Providence to even remonstrate against the injustice which the employer practiced upon the poor laborer.
It was necessary to teach the laborer that it was not essential for him to grovel in the dust at the feet of a master in order to win his title deed to everlasting bliss in the hereafter; and it can not be wondered at that many who strove to better the condition of the toiler lost all respect for religion when they saw that those who affected to be the most devout worshipers at the foot of the heavenly throne, were the most tyrannical of task-masters when dealing with the poor and lowly, whose unfortunate lot was cast within the shadow of their heartless supervision. Men who kneeled before the altar of the Most High and asked for heavenly grace; men who prayed for their "daily bread," were to be found among those who denied the meanest privileges to the workman, and not only denied to him the right to worship his God in a decent manner, but actually took from his mouth, from the fingers of his half-fed babes, the crust of bread on which they sought to sustain life itself.
It was no wonder that to many workingmen religion seemed to be but a parody when they contrasted their own condition with that of their employers; when they were told that all were children of the same father, it could not be wondered at that some of them
REBELLED AGAINST THE DECREE
which had rung in their ears for centuries: "servants, obey your masters;" we are children of the one father, and that father has given to one brother all the good things of earth, while to us he has given nothing. Can it be possible that almighty God has ordained that some of his children are but step-children from birth? Are our souls of as much consequence as those of our employers? Does the Almighty think more of them than of us ? Does He give all the good things to them, and place it in their power to take everything that we produce without a proper equivalent; and is it essential to the salvation of our souls that we grovel forever beneath the feet of wealth?
These questions began to loom up before the children of toil, and then their masters sought to fasten the screws still tighter upon them by bringing to their aid the powers of press and pulpit to convince the laborer that he should not aspire to the good things of earth, but should be content to live in that sphere to which it had pleased his God to call him. Workingmen are very imitative, and they saw that if it was possible for the man of wealth to save his soul while enjoying so much of this world's goods, it was also possible for them to do so, and they determined to take the risk and try to die in sin by acquiring some of the wealth which they had helped to create. When workingmen saw other men
FEATHERING THEIR SPIRITUAL NESTS
at a salary of from five to fifty thousand dollars a year for little or no labor, they began to believe that so long as they paid heed to the command, "servants, obey your masters," they would stand but little chance of enjoying anything like ease on this earth, and they resolved, one by one, to test the command by breaking it. They did break it by reaching out for better wages, conditions, and shorter hours of toil; but in doing so they ran terrible risks of future punishment, for all of these things were in direct conflict with the wishes of the "masters" whom they were told to obey.
The laborer gradually realized that while the gaunt form of poverty stood in his doorway from one end of the year to the other, and at the end of each year his earthly store was smaller, his family larger, and his hunger keener, he was tempted to commit sin in order to get bread for his family and himself. Leaders of workingmen believed that souls could be saved with bread as well as with prayer, and they resolved to make the attempt by bringing the men of toil to a
SENSE OF THEIR DUTY TO THEMSELVES.
The hope was held out as a sort of balm to the feelings of the tired wretches who worked and struggled along in poverty, rags, disease and dirt, that when final judgment came it would be ''easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to gain entrance to the kingdom of heaven." As a recompense for the hours of misery and pain spent on earth, the toiler would have the happiness in the next world of seeing the rich man writhing in hell, while he roamed at will in the realms of eternal bliss. No creed taught this doctrine, no religion said to workingmen that they should look at these scriptural passages in the light in which I have portrayed them, but that these impressions were created on the minds of the workingmen every man who toils can testify.
It then became a question whether to acquire wealth was not a sin, and again the imitative qualities of man came to his rescue. He saw that the minister of the religion which he professed never made calls of a friendly nature on him; his neighbors, who worked where he did, never received a visit from the clergyman, but he saw that the man who could not get into heaven until the camel passed through the eye of a needle was often favored with a visit from the minister who preached poverty and humility as a means of acquiring grace on earth and happiness in heaven.
THE USES, THE ABUSES OF RICHES,
and the methods by which wealth was acquired that would be the test when the rich man would enter upon his race to eternity, with the camel as a competitor.
The deep-toned voice of many a minister of God rang out in denunciation of the workingman, who, in his poverty, in his agony, in his very despair often struck against the systems which crushed him to earth; and there were those in the ranks of toil, who, mistaking the false for the true, railed against religion because some of those who preached it and professed it failed most miserably in the practice of it. Knowledge for the workingman meant that he should be able to detect the difference between the real and the sham. Whenever a learned man said that which did not appear to be just to labor, he was to be questioned, publicly questioned, as to his base of actual facts. All through the centuries toilers have erected the brass and granite monuments of the world's greatness, and have thrown up on hillside and plain the material for other homes than their own. The weary feet of toil have trodden the earth, and strong hands have formed the pillars of the bondage of old. All along the blood-stained march of the years that have flown, the struggling ones have given to earth more of richness in the sweat which fell to earth from their throbbing foreheads; the grain which lifted its head for long ages of time under the care of the toiler, has been enriched by the sweat, the blood, and the flesh of the poor, plodding men of toil. While the sun kissed to warmth and life the wheat and corn which their hands nurtured and cared for, they received the
HUSKS AND STALKS
as their recompense for labor done. Their masters took the grain for themselves, but lifted no hand in its production.
At the command of a profligate queen, the most enduring of the monuments of time were erected on the Egyptian sands. One stands by the Seine in Paris, one looks toward heaven on the banks of the Thames in London, and another stands erect to tell the wondering sightseer who visits Central Park, New York, that that which man does on earth will live for centuries after he has passed away. At the decree of Cleopatra, men, made in the same mould as men are made in to-day, wrought with hammer and chisel upon the surface of the stone that still survives to testify to the skill of past centuries. The name of Cleopatra still lives. We may go back among the dust-covered crooks and crevices of time and search for the name, the memory even, of the mechanic whose skill designed the huge stone; we may search for the name of the artisan whose hand in by-gone ages cut into the face of the solid rock the characters which still remain upon its surface. Oblivion, mystery, gloom, and everlasting death surround the names of the men who worked out the emblems whose import is as a sealed book to the man who to-day looks in wonder and awe at the imperishable monuments to the genius of that by-gone age. Go to the base of the Pyramids and count the stones over whose peaks the sands of Egypt have failed for centuries to climb, and there, too, will be seen the evidence that
MAN WAS AS SKILLFUL
in the past as he is to-day, but where is the record which tells the names of the men who erected the Pyramids or the names of those who chiseled out the obelisks of Cleopatra ?
Time has marked its furrows upon the surface of the stone without removing the marks of the chisel, but it has obliterated the names, the history, and the fame of the workmen who toiled for future ages. Whether freemen or bondmen, no one can tell who did this wonderful work.
In the city of Washington there stands a monument to the memory of the man who gave to the world a hope and to the toiler the right to enjoy political and religious freedom. Ask of the guide who attends your visit to that magnificent, awe-in-spiring pile, erected in honor of
"THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY,"
whose hand placed the first stone in its mortar-bed, and he will stand speechless as the marble itself.
Pass up the East river beneath the "Brooklyn bridge," on sloop or shallop, ocean steamer or ferry-boat, and while gazing upward in admiration at the grandest witness to the genius of man that the world has ever produced, ask the names of those who made two cities one with a single span, and silence is the only answer. Look where we will at the mighty structures that attest the triumph of the present over the past, stand in wonder before monuments, the stones of which were cemented in human blood, and inquire who they were that toiled up from corner-stone to cap piece, and no tongue pronounces their names, no page in history records the story of their achievements. While the names of rulers have been handed down, the names of generals have been remembered for the lives they took, and the cities they destroyed, the names of those who ministered to the sum of human happiness in erecting cities and adding to the store of the world's greatness and wealth have been forgotten, the recollection of their deeds have passed away with the entombing of their lifeless clay. Those who destroyed have been remembered; those who constructed have been forgotten.
Will it be ever thus was the question that was asked when it was finally determined that Knowledge should in the future be the standpoint for action, and that moral worth, not wealth, should in the future mark the contrast between the workmen of the past and those of to-day.
FINGERS OF DEATH
were being circled around the constitution of the United
States, when it was resolved to make "moral worth, not wealth, the
true standard of individual and national greatness." Wealth had bought
its way into senate chamber and council hall; it had seated its pliant
tool upon the bench, and placed the ermine the shoulders of its own.
Politicians had made pledges only to break them, for they knew that to
keep a promise and to break it would win the same reward from the
toiler whose vote was cast for party and not for principle. The
politician knew that once seated in office he need not care for the
opinion of the laborer; he need not exert himself to do that which was
indicated in the platform of his party. The platform itself was a
living lie; and while that "sum of all villainies" was allowed to exist
on American soil, it contaminated all who came in contact with it, and
it sought to come in contact with all men. The Declaration of
Independence said one thing, and the people practiced an entirely
different thing. All men were declared to be born equal, yet the people
of a nation stood by and saw millions born into servitude, the most
damnable and revolting. This taught politicians to be dishonest, for
honesty was banished from the high places.
It came to be the opinion of the partisan that the workingman was his legitimate prey; as much his to command on election day as was the black slave the property of his master on every day. To work, then, meant to be ignorant of what a man's rights were to some degree, and the
took advantage of everything that offered itself to him. He received bribes as though they were pay for lawful service; he sought not to cover up his crime, for the long, dark days of slavery made it possible for the system of robbery to go on unmolested. Wealth, wrung from the back of the weary, bleeding slave, sat in the halls of Congress and in the Senate chamber; moral worth was scoffed at as though it were a thing to shun, unless its possessor had wealth along with it, and then the latter was the standard by which men were judged, not only by men of wealth, but by the men of toil as well, for the shadow of that upas-tree, corruption, was over the heads of the workers, and each day grew darker for them.
To make moral worth the standard of individual and national greatness, the men of toil had to be roused to a sense of duty; they had to be taught what their rights and duties were. To do this the hollow pretenses of the political parties, which every year came before the country and on platforms of "glittering generalities" appealed for the suffrages of the people,
HAD TO BE EXPOSED AND SHOWN
to the people in their true light.
Legislation for labor came through the halls of Congress and State Legislature as a bone comes through the fingers of a stingy master to a half-starved dog, with the meat picked from it. The bone was there, but it only served the hungry one as a reminder that there should be something else. When tested before a tribunal of any kind, nearly all of the legislation of that day would be declared unconstitutional. It was not, at that time, considered unconstitutional to grant a whole territory to a railroad company, or to grant a valuable franchise to a corporation, but the moment the well-picked bone that was bestowed upon the hungry dog, - Labor, - was taken to the Supreme Court, it was declared to be only a bone, nothing more.
A knowledge of who his friends were in each Congress, in each session of the Legislature, was to be made the standpoint for action. When the time rolled round to select new legislators. Moral worth was to be established as the future standard, and why should not the laborer do his own legislating, instead of letting it out to a second party?
This was a question which was debated long and earnestly in the councils of the workingmen, and attempt after attempt was made, with little or no success, at first, to elect workingmen to serve as representatives of the people. Those who represented, and those who were to be represented, were in need of education on the questions which concerned all alike, but it was evident that
They gave out their platforms each year, and before they were understood, they were exchanged for something else without accomplishing the reforms they aimed at.
Once every four years, in national contests, questions of political economy were brought before the people on public platform and in ward meeting, but with the sound of the candidate's voice went the thought of what he said, for it was understood that he talked for himself alone. A change had to come, and with it the placing of the preamble of the Knights of Labor in every man's hand every day of the year, to be studied not one day in every four years, but every day in every year, so that those things that were pointed out in it would be carefully bedded in the mind of man or discarded as untrue, and therefore worthless.
Parties would never provide the means of diffusing such an education as was here sought for. Something else had to be found to serve mankind, and that something was presented to the American people when the order of the Knights of Labor was instituted.
The electing of legislators was attended with great difficulty at first, for the people still clung to the old idea of party preferment. Education was necessary in order to show the workingman his duty to himself. It was a
to broach the subject of political economy in an assembly for fear of arousing the ire of some old party adherent, whose fidelity to party was as strong as his love of home or his fealty to his religion.
In 1876-7-8 several elections were held in different parts of the country, and workingmen were elected to office, but they did not give satisfaction in every instance, for the reason that the enemies of the labor movement found too many willing ears to listen to tales of selling out, treachery, and general depravity on the part of the newly-elected ones. Those who were elected on new platforms, being new to politics, were sought by politicians of the old school, who generously took them under their wing and offered to show them how to legislate. Unaccustomed to duplicity and double-dealing, many of them fell victims to treachery, for they found that in associating with the old school partisan they simply invited the contempt and scorn of those who elected them.
To elect men on a third ticket at that time was a reason why members of the existing parties should unite against the new members, and labor discovered that it was due to her to make use of the machinery already in existence before erecting new parties. The measures of reform were all-important, and the name of the party of no consideration. This was the doctrine to teach the workingman, and it was taught to him. It is being taught to him every day.
RECEIVE FIRST CONSIDERATION.
It was urged that inasmuch as the preamble of the Knights of Labor dealt with such questions as called for legislation, the order should at once be formed into a political party. Each of the old parties sought to convince the members of the Knights of Labor that there was no use for the order; that the party to which they belonged would effect all reform legislation if allowed to do so in its own way; but the workingmen who had carefully watched the history of the years which followed the close of the civil war, felt certain that party leaders cared nothing for the people, and they were right in many instances. The party leader saw that the people cared nothing for themselves, and why should he care for the people? The people took no interest in politics except during campaigns, why should the office-holder take any interest in the people except to get their votes? Political leaders
STRONGLY URGED THE
of the Knights of Labor. They asserted that the ordinary trade union was sufficient to take care of the interests of the wage worker. On that subject the General Master Workman of the Knights of Labor, in reply to a letter published by a prominent Democrat, in which the latter urged that all labor organizations affiliate with the democratic party and give up their labor organizations, said in 1883:
"A great deal has been said of late concerning the dismemberment of the Knights of Labor, and the forming of a federation of trades. The principal reason given for the proposed action, summed up in a few words is, that each trade or craft, in being organized for itself, can more easily and successfully engage in a strike. There are other arguments made use of to bolster up the 'federation' idea, but that appears to be the principal one. At least it is the one to which the most prominence is given in the Eastern press. One thing is certain, the originator of that idea was neither a Knight of Labor, nor a member of a trade union, for members of these associations know that the tendency of the times is to do away with strikes; that remedy has been proved by experience to be a very costly one for employer and employe.
"The trade union does not favor a strike; it is regarded as a dernier resort by every labor association in the land; and as no good can come of the dismemberment of an association which, among other things, aims at the perfecting of a system by which disputes between the laborer and capitalist can be settled without resorting to so costly an experiment as the strike is acknowledged to be, why the Knights of Labor and the various labor associations of the country are in no great danger of being disbanded.
"I called the strike an experiment, and I would have every advocate of such a measure note these words. Strikes have been resorted to for centuries, and to-day, after hundreds of trials have been had, men can not embark in a strike with any assurance of success based upon a former precedent. Every one must be decided upon its own merits. I will never advocate a strike unless it be a strike at the ballot-box, or such an one as was proclaimed to the world by the unmistakable sound of the strikers' guns on the field of Lexington. But the necessity for such a strike as the latter does not exist at present.
The men who made the name of Lexington famous in the world's history were forced to adopt the bullet because they did not possess the ballot. We have the latter; and if the money of the monopolist can influence us to deposit our ballots in favor of our enemies; if we can not be depended on to go quietly to the polling booth and summon to our aid moral courage enough to deposit a little piece of paper in our own interest, how can it be expected of us to summon physical courage enough to do battle for our rights as did our fathers at Lexington? and if we do go to the tented field, will not the same agency that induced us to vote against ourselves induce us to thrust our bayonets into the hearts of our friends instead of our foes? I answer yes, for a faithless citizen never made a faithful soldier.
"What, then, is the 'duty of the hour? Men may argue from what I have said that I believe our cause to be hopeless; and did I not have faith in the Knights of Labor I would say, 'yes, the cause is lost.' Other men entertain different opinions, and positively assert that the panacea for all the ills we suffer will come through the adoption of such advice as they have to offer. For instance, 'Democrat ' says in his letter of July 4th, that in order to secure the blessings we seek we 'have only to merge ourselves into the great Democratic party and help to swell the triumph of the plain people in 1884.' I must be pardoned for differing with him. I do not believe that it lies within the province of any party to protect the many against the unjust encroachments of the moneyed few, unless the many are properly instructed in the science of government.
"The party is the concrete man. If the individuals comprising the party are ignorant of their rights, and must trust to the wisdom or discretion of party leaders, they either follow in the wake of blind leaders, or permit themselves to be blindly led along by their leaders. In either case it will not be the intelligence they display, or the instructions they give, that will urge their leaders forward in an honest groove, and under such circumstances as these the duty of the citizen ceases as soon as he casts his vote.
"Will 'Democrat' assure us that if each of the associations he names (the Grangers, the Knights of Labor, the Amalgamated Association, and the various trades unions), should cease to work and 'merge into the Democratic party,' that they would not be obliged to reorganize again in a few years to protect themselves from the Democratic party? Will any Republican assure members of these associations that a general reorganization will not be necessary should they merge into the Republican party? Remember, I am not assailing parties. The party is good or bad, as the majority of its members determine. Who is to blame for the misdeeds of a party? The majority. Who comprise the majorities in the Democratic and Republican parties? Why, 'the plain people,' of course. I believe that there is no man so good that he will not bear watching.
"What is true of man is true of party, and in either case the watchers must be educated; they must be actuated by one common impulse. In other words, they must be organized. That there are men who believe that political parties require both watching and teaching, I am positive. Let me quote the words of a man whose fidelity to the Democratic party can not be questioned, but whose love of justice is stronger than his regard for party. In his letter to the Constitutional Club, of New York, Judge Jeremiah S. Black says:
"'What is the remedy ? No enforcement of the Constitution and laws, which command what is right and prohibit what is wrong, for that can not be effected without officers that are faithful. As it is our governors do not govern, and legislators laugh in your face when you tell them of their oaths. Shall we turn them out and fill their places with true men? That is easier said than done. Monopoly has methods of debauching party leaders, cheating voters, and deceiving the very elect, which perpetually defeat our hopes of honest government. If the power of the corporations increases a little more, they can put their worst rascal into the highest office as easily as Caligula's horse was elected consul by the people of Rome.
"'You will infer from this that I am
somewhat discouraged, and
it is true that very recent events here in Pennsylvania have much
disappointed me. But that is no reason why you should despair. You have
what we have not, an organization to make your grievances known, and I
hope that from your meeting the truth will go forth to rescue and rouse
up like the sound of a trumpet.'
"It may be inferred from the position I have taken in the foregoing lines, that the mission of the Knights of Labor is to become a political party, and that it is intended to take precedence of the Democratic party. The inference would be wrong. The Knights of Labor is higher and grander than party. There is a nobler future before it than that which clings to its existence amidst partisan rancor and strife. The Knights of Labor is a friend to men of all parties, and believing that the moment it assumes the role of a political party its usefulness will be destroyed, it has refrained and will refrain from doing so. The moment we proclaim to the world that our order is a political party, that moment the lines are drawn, and we receive no more accessions to our ranks from the other existing parties, with the exception of here and there a member who becomes a convert through conviction that we are right.
"We have political parties enough. Every one of them in its early days was honest, and gave promise of good results, but the moment that success perched upon its banners, the vultures who feed upon spoils also perched upon its body, and to a certain extent frustrated the designs of its organizers.
"The same would be true of the Knights of Labor. If that order is not to become a political party, what good can it accomplish? This brings us to the root of the question, and gives the reason why there can be no dismemberment of the Knights of Labor. One reason why political parties degenerate is because the masses of the common people are not educated. We may be able to read and write, but we are not educated on the economic and social questions with which we are brought in contact every hour. If we were we could more easily discern the difference between good and bad legislation, and we would not be clamoring so often for the repeal of bad laws. The chief aim of the Knights of Labor is to educate, not only men but parties; educate men first that they may educate parties and govern them intelligently and honestly. Ralph Waldo Emerson gave this advice before leaving us. He said:
"'Let us make our education brave and preventive. Politics is an after-work, a poor patching. We are always a little late. The evil is done, the law is passed, and we begin the up-hill agitation for repeal of that which we ought to have prevented the enacting. We shall one day learn to supersede politics by education. What we call our root and branch reforms of slavery, war, gambling, intemperance, is only medicating the symptoms. We must begin higher; namely, in education.'
"'To supersede politics by education, it first becomes necessary to organize the masses into an association where they can be educated. Take fifty men of one calling, and place them in a room organized under the laws of a distinct trade society, and they will discuss nothing but such matters as pertain to their trade. If they do not mingle among those of other trades they will grow indifferent to the wants of others; they will remain in ignorance of their own rights through their ignorance of the rights of others. Selfishness will be the rule, and the 'up-hill agitation for a repeal of that which we ought to have prevented the enacting' will stare us constantly in the face.
"I am aware that the Knights of Labor meet with opposition from the leaders of some labor organizations. They anticipate that, in the event of their associations becoming a part of the Knights of Labor, their occupation, like Othello's, will be gone; but they entertain groundless fears. We seek the co-operation of every labor society, the dissolution of none. We seek and intend to enlist the services of men of every society, of every party, every religion, and every nation in the crusade which we have inaugurated against these twin monsters, tyranny and monopoly; and in that crusade we have burned the bridges behind us; we have stricken from our vocabulary that word fail; we aim at establishing the complete rights of man throughout the world; we take as our guide no precedent ever set by mortal man unless it be right; we tolerate no dissensions, and will have no disbanding save as ordained by the Great Master Workman when He calls from our ranks each individual member and bids him join that silent majority, whose votes upon the questions of this world find voice only on the pages of the recorded past."
That letter was written in August, 1883, and was incorporated in the annual address of the Gr. M. W. to the General Assembly of the order which assembled in Cincinnati, in September of that year. The letter deals with other subjects than those which relate to politics, but that is the particular feature of the document to which the attention of the reader is now directed.
POLITICS MEANT PARTY
to a great many, and the thought of gaining control of the existing parties did not occur to them. There were honest men who insisted that a new party should be made up of Knights of Labor and industrial organizations. They failed to see that if men would be led by the nose by leaders, and would let their thinking out to others to do in the old parties, these men would allow others to lead them in the new political party. Consequently a profitable field would be opened up to a new set of politicians who would naturally crowd to the front in a successful movement, no matter what its name might be. The duty of the Knight of Labor is to place citizenship above party.
The success of the abolition movement and
the formation of a
party which eventually rode into power on that issue, was and is often
given as an argument in favor of the formation of a new party of labor.
A labor party is not likely to become a success for the reason that it
is not in accord with the genius of American institutions to form a
party of any one class. American citizens vote not for party, not for a
class, but for the whole community; and that party through which the
most people can be benefited is the one for whose candidates the people
should vote, even though they become guilty of political apostacy every
year. Class distinctions have wrought almost irreparable injury to the
people of the United States. The workingmen are making an
to rid the country of them by purifying parties and purging them of the evil tendency to lay every thing at the feet of monopoly.
When the anti-slavery agitation was in progress there was but one issue before the people, viz.: the abolition of human bondage. It was easily understood. It appealed to the love of justice which finds an abiding place in every heart. Everybody would admit that it was not right to enslave a man. The distinction between the black and white man was the one thing that kept the question so long in agitation before the final issue was reached. Again, the slave was in chains, he was helpless and weak; he was ignorant of his rights; he was powerless to speak out or lift a hand in his own behalf, and the chivalrous spirit of the American people was finally aroused. It was only necessary to secure the attention of the people. As soon as attention was directed to the attitude of the slave, as he crouched in dread of the lash, the victory was won; for a glaring wrong will not be tolerated on the soil of the United States after the eyes of the people are turned full upon it, and it becomes the subject of thought and investigation.
The elements which combined to make the party that picked up the slave successful were few, but they appealed most eloquently to lovers of liberty in all parties. To concentrate the attention and thought of every workingman and every student on the various phases of the labor question of the present day, and have each issue find warm adherents in all parts of the county at the same time is
NEXT TO IMPOSSIBLE.
The interests of the different States are not always the same. That economic measure which would carry in a political campaign in one State would fall short of anything like a cordial support in another.
At different times and under various names labor parties have been formed by earnest men who were actuated by a desire to have the very best thing possible done for the worker, but one after another they have failed for want of support; and had any one of the labor parties which came before the people during the last twenty years been successful in the effort to secure control of affairs, it would be but a question of time when it would be open to the same objections that now find favor with those who oppose the political parties of the present day. The fault is not with the party, but rests entirely with the citizen. The party should be subservient to the will of the citizen, but the relations are changed in placing the party higher than citizenship.
The duty of the citizen does not begin
on the morning of the
day on which he is to vote, nor does it end with the going down of the
sun on that day, yet this is the practice of the vast majority of
of the United States who
LABOR UNDER THE DELUSION
that they are voting for the candidate, and that they confer a favor upon the officer-seeker in going to the polls on election day.
As most of the measures advocated in the preamble of the Knights of Labor must come through political action, and as the greater portion of the ills of which the industrial masses complain, are the result of unwise or dishonest legislation, it is essential that the people be educated to know what is wrong and what is right in our methods of conducting public affairs. It was not the intention to place the preamble before the members and the country and say, "in this document we ask for measures of relief for the people, you must at once form a party, and push them forward into law." It is the intent of those who understand that document to have each measure carefully studied and debated in the assemblies of the Knights of Labor with a view to securing the very best effort and thought of the membership upon these questions, so that they may be thoroughly and clearly understood by all. If the preamble should be set forth as a political platform, and the people asked to vote for the candidate who advocated that platform, the interest would, in all probability, centre on the candidate, and die out with the sound of the last notes of the campaign.
The preamble is set before the members for discussion and thought, so that every one will know what is required, so that each one will know whether the preamble is the best that can be devised or whether a better one should take its place.
It occasionally happens that when a labor party is formed, and a candidate put up on a distinctively labor platform, a failure to poll a respectable vote for the candidate is regarded as an indication that
LABOR HAS NO FAULT TO FIND
with the existing state of affairs, and matters become far worse than they were before.
Again it is sometimes said that the order of the Knights of Labor favors certain parties, and it is given in evidence that the chief officer of the Knights of Labor made political speeches while acting in the capacity of General Master Workman. The latter assumption is not correct, but it is true that the G. M. W. did make a speech in favor of the party which placed Henry George in nomination for mayor of New York in the fall of 1886. Owing to the deliverance of that speech he was requested to again enter the political arena for the purpose of making a speech in behalf of a labor party, which was being formed in Philadelphia during the month of December, 1886. As the reply which he sent to the committee explains the situation as it then existed, it is given in full as follows:
To the Committee:
GENTLEMEN - I have before me your invitation to address the convention of the United Labor party this evening. While I am sensible of the honor conferred in selecting me to act as speaker of the evening, and while under ordinary circumstances I would be pleased to lend my services in aid of the movement in which you are engaged, yet there are good and valid reasons why I should not respond to the call thus made upon me. To refuse to attend your meeting without giving my reasons would, in my opinion, be unjust, in view of the fact that I recently addressed a mass meeting in the city of New York in behalf of the Labor party.
When the laboring people of New York nominated Henry George for mayor, they acted independent of party and without regard to the man that they placed at the head of the ticket. The nomination was made, not as a compliment to Mr. George, nor was it made on the impulse of the hour; it was made after calm deliberation, and because it was necessary for the people of New York to show that they disapproved of the methods of public officials, who violated every principle of right and justice, instead of compelling those over whom they had control to demand a strict enforcement of the law. The nomination of Henry George by the laboring men of New York was a solemn protest against the manner in which the rights of the many were ruthlessly trampled under foot by the ringsters of the party in power.
The law requires that the people assemble at the regular polling places and nominate the men to be voted for at the general election. The welfare of the nation and of the people demands that the people shall name the men to be voted for; but in this day and generation the people have as little to do with the making of nominations as the slaves of the South had to do with making nominations in ante-bellum days.
I do not charge that the entire blame for this state of affairs rests entirely with the politicians; for if the politicians did not have willing subjects they could not operate upon them. The blame can not properly be laid to any one class of people. All are responsible. The millionaire does not go to the polls to cast his vote; he simply awaits the result of the election. He does not attend the primaries, but takes good care to see that his most powerful ally is there and at work. It may have escaped the notice of a great many who attend the primaries, but it is there that voters are interfered with, insulted, and shoved away from the polling places. Timid men stay away; decent men do not care to be treated in this manner; law-abiding men stay away rather than engage in quarrels. The consequences are that you will find men swaggering about and bullying those who have manhood enough to differ with them. Bribery is at work, and those who could not be reached by its influences in any other way are filled with rum.
The ally of the monopolist, to whom I referred a moment ago, is strong drink. I know that what I say in regard to it and its influences is true, and beyond the contradiction of any man. New York City is no exception to the rule. It is simply pre-eminent. The " heeler " of Gotham finds his counterpart in every city and village of the land. Had the men who threw the bombs in Chicago on the 4th of May aimed their missiles at the heads of these plague spots on our political system, I would have had no tears to shed.
The work of the heeler was rated at the highest price by the leaders of all parties; and it was not so much a question with them whether the people favored the nomination of a certain man as it was to find out how the heeler would take it. The people were regarded in the light of a machine whose sole duty it was to carry forward the work on election day which had been mapped out for them by the manipulator at the primaries.
While this state of affairs continued to exist without protest, the voice of labor could exert but little influence in the legislative halls of State or nation. When the people petitioned for anything they were either refused outright or given some slight recognition in the way of legislation that meant nothing beyond the mere words contained in the act that was passed.
The vast majority of those who were elected to legislative positions were lawyers, who knew as well how to make a law that meant everything or nothing as they did to enact legislation that could be interpreted in the interest of the whole people. I do not say this by way of reflection on the lawyer, but it is unfortunately true that, when our government was founded, the fallacious idea took possession of the minds of the people of that day that none but lawyers could make laws. The consequences are that they have continued to make laws ever since, and the laws for the most part are made for lawyers only.
If you doubt this statement, attend one of the sessions of the nearest court, and you will hear lawyers disagreeing as to the meaning of the simplest term in law. After the trial is over the learned judge will render his decision in accordance with his view of the law, and the chances are that if you watch the matter carefully some lawyer will carry the case to a higher court for a different kind of a decision. I do not charge that the lawyer is responsible for this, but it is in the nature of the lawyer's profession to take a fee.
The experience of other days is constantly staring him in the face while he holds his seat in the legislature, and the chances are that what would seem to be a bribe to other men would only serve as a fee to him. Again, it is natural for men to legislate for themselves and that class to which they belong. A plain, straightforward law would require no lawyer's services to interpret, and, as a consequence, the more complicated and intricate the law the better for the lawyer. I speak of this to show the necessity for representation in the halls of legislation according to occupation or profession.
I would not deny the lawyer the right to take his seat in Congress or in the State legislature, but side by side with him should sit the representatives of other professions and callings according to the number of those who follow those callings and professions. If this is done and the people are properly represented by men of their own selection, we can have good laws enacted, and we will have only ourselves to blame if such is not the case. As it is, I claim that we are to blame for not attending more carefully to the work of enacting legislation. The work of enacting legislation begins at the primaries and among the people.
This brings me back to the starting point. Why did I speak in New York, and why will I not speak at any other political meetings? The people of New York made a nomination; every influence had been exerted to make the vote ridiculously small. Had Henry George received less than the thirty thousand votes that were pledged to him, it would have been said by the enemies of labor that it was a defeat for labor; that labor did not keep its promise to its own agent. It would have been held that no matter what kind of treatment the working people received, they would still continue to vote the "regular ticket," and, as a consequence, but little respect would be shown the representatives of labor when they applied for the enactment of just laws or the repeal of unjust ones.
I have contended that inasmuch as we have a Department of War at the seat of our national government, we should have a Department of Labor as well. We already have a Bureau of Labor Statistics, but that is not sufficient. The President of the United States does not confer with the chief of that bureau when about to take action on an important matter, and Congress never reads the report of the bureau. What is wanted is to have established at Washington a Department of Labor, with the secretary of the department as one of the Presidential advisers, the same as the heads of the other departments now are.
It may be asked why does labor ask so much, and the answer is because we require so much labor to manage the country, for without it we would make but little headway; everything depends on it. That being true, it is no more than right that the interests of labor should be considered before important action is taken by the President or his cabinet.
We have asked that a Department of Labor be established. We have been told that labor had no real grievances, and in support of that statement the labor vote of the country has been pointed to on many an occasion. I had all of these things in my mind's eye when I decided to go to New York to talk at the Henry George meeting. I wished to enter from a platform in the first city in the Union my protest against the influence of rum in our elections. I wished to ask of the workers of New York not to allow a small vote to be cast. I wished to have the vote so large that the blindest of blind partisans could not fail to see that labor had a grievance. It was my desire to see that the vote would speak for itself when we again asked for legislation at Washington. It was my desire to make it possible for the Legislative Committee of the Knights of Labor at Washington to be able to be answer the questions which were put to them last session: "Who are you? Whom do you represent, and what will be the effect on our political fortunes if we vote as you require? " Had Henry George died the night before the election, I would have urged the men of New York to vote as they did on election day as a protest against ring-rule, corruption, and perjury.
My name was used by partisans in New York to stem the tide. It was urged that I wrote a letter against Henry George, and that I opposed the movement generally. I knew of no better way of giving the lie to all of these false statements, and at the same time doing my part toward the establishing of a sentiment that would eventually tend to secure to labor some of the benefits that she asks for, than to go in person and refute the charges. I did it, and there my duty ended.
In going to New York on that occasion I made a departure from a rule that I have observed for some time, and which I do not intend to break again, viz., not to speak at a political meeting again while I hold the position of chief officer of the Knights of Labor. While it might be entirely proper for me to speak at such a meeting, yet it creates the impression that the order of the Knights of Labor is being drawn into the contest, and it is my duty to do all that lies in my power to keep the order, over which I have been chosen to preside, above the tide of partisan politics. At New York I spoke as an individual, voicing the sentiment of united labor, and not as General Master Workman of the Knights of Labor. While I am General Master Workman I will never again occupy a place either as speaker or officer on a political platform.
I would advise you not to take any action as a party. It seems to me that it becomes the duty of all interested to endeavor to educate the masses to free the ballot box from the degrading influences of the bribe-giver and taker, as well as from that tool of monopoly - whisky. Put forth your every effort to discover what is wrong in the management of the municipal affairs of your city; do not, as is too often the case, allow the interest to die out on the eve of election day, but continue until you have located the cause of the trouble. You will find that in order to remove the cause of the trouble you will have to begin at the bottom and work up, instead of beginning at the top and falling down. If your movement means what its name indicates, keep it up and enlist the services of all honest men, for all such are interested in honest government, regardless of their calling in life."
237. The order of the Knights of Labor is not a political party. It is more and higher, and must be kept so. It is the parent of principles. In it are born and crystalized sentiments and measures for the benefit of the whole people.
238. Our order is above politics, and electioneering for any candidate in the sanctuary must not be practiced. Our order teaches MAN his duty by educating him on the great question of labor. "Discuss labor in all its interests," but not the merits or demerits of any candidate.
241. Political economy, in a fraternal and candid spirit, may and should be freely and exhaustively discussed in local assemblies. In this way, and in this alone, can members become thoroughly informed as to their rights as citizens, both in the abstract, or higher laws of God, and legally, or in the present laws of the land. In this way the justice or injustice of their surroundings is made apparent, and they are enabled more intelligently to discharge the duties of citizenship, exercise the elective franchise, and realize exactly where they stand and where they consistently belong. But it should never be discussed in an angry, ungentlemanly or acrimonious manner. In that case the laws of Knighthood are imperative. The Master Workman must close the assembly.
GENERAL DIFFUSION OF
concerning the duty which the citizen owes to his family and his country. That action should be taken is an absolute necessity, the welfare of the country demands it, but that action must be carefully planned; it must be for the good of the greatest number, and a knowledge of all that goes to make the many poor and the few rich must be the standpoint for the action of the future.
Soon after men began to study the preamble to the Knights of Labor they began to act. Unfortunately for the movement many of those whose perceptive faculties enabled them to comprehend the full scope of the preamble in a short time, thought that others, not so well equipped mentally, should realize the full necessity for action. Enthusiastic and earnest men sought to realize a benefit for mankind by nominating candidates for office whose past record would be a
GUARANTEE THAT THE
of the K. of L. would be "crystalized into statute law." When candidates who entertained such views were nominated by either party, their election was always contested by the agents of corporate power through every system of terrorism imaginable, - bribery, treachery, blacklisting, threats of dismissal from position, and finally the espionage of the corporation official at the polling place.
It is within the recollection of the writer that when contesting for a political position, in 1878, on a labor platform, in the city of Scranton, local superintendents and bosses employed by the coal companies were stationed at the several polling places, where the men over whom they had charge deposited their ballots. These mine superintendents took the precaution to place the ticket which they favored in the hand of every employe of the company who came forward to vote; not that alone, but they watched the man until he cast his ballot. In many instances men who refused to vote the ticket thus forced on them were discharged from the service of the coal corporations of Lackawanna valley.
Numberless instances can be pointed out to show that those who possessed the wealth of the nation were determined to control the legislation of the same. Massachusetts was cursed with the political tyrant, who stood at the polling place in that State until the indignation of the masses forced him to abandon his post. New Jersey is still under the rule of corporate power so far as the
FREEDOM OF THE EMPLOYES
of corporations is concerned, for it is an established fact that at the election held in that State in the fall of 1887, men employed on the coal docks at South Amboy were called into offices of the corporation, and were provided with tickets which were numbered the same as the men are numbered in the service of the company. They were not told to vote the tickets, but they were watched by agents of their employers, and the man who refused was certain of dismissal from the service of the company at the first offense.
This system of compelling men to vote as the corporation willed has been so extensively practiced, and has been made the subject of so much discussion and publicity, that it is unnecessary to cite any more cases. The matter is simply referred to to show that no matter how well qualified the citizen may be to perform his duty at the polls, he will not be likely to accomplish much good in that direction so long as the door of the polling booth is held in the grasp of corporate power. A plan must be devised and adopted throughout the nation which will allow the voter to go to the polls and deposit his ballot free from interference from the boss of corporation, saloon, or political party.
Many plans are being discussed and perfected which aim at throwing a safeguard around the ballot. That one which will succeed, and which will best serve the interests of the American people, will be the one which will keep all traders away from the polling place; and traders at the ballot box are traitors to the State.
should be defrayed by the State, and in national elections by the national government. The candidate should not be required to pay for the printing, cutting, folding, or distributing of tickets. He should not be obliged to pay the wages of the men who handle the tickets at the polls. There should be no men at the polls handling tickets who will have it in their power to tell who or what the citizen votes for. The tickets of all parties should be kept near the polling place. They should be given to every voter, who should be permitted to step into a room where he could make his own selection of candidates, unobserved by any other person. The casting of his ballot may be registered automatically, as it can be done through the agency of one of the numerous inventions now being perfected. No person should be allowed to stand near the ballot box while a citizen is voting.
The special session of the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor, which met in Cleveland, O., in May, 1886, adopted the following resolution, which is a request for the recognition of election day as a national holiday:
"Resolved, That it is the sense of this General Assembly that the occupation of the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker should be destroyed. To do this it will be necessary to educate those who suffer most through bribery and corruption, that it is as hurtful to the welfare of the nation to receive a bribe as to give one.
"In order to deal with this question more effectively and intelligently, we should use every means within our power to secure for the toiler the right to protect himself upon that day which, of all days, is important to the American citizen - ELECTION DAY. That he may have an opportunity to protect his interests on that occasion, we should ask that election day be made a national holiday, on which no employer shall have the right to demand service at the hands of his employes."
That resolution passed by a unanimous vote, and met with the approval of the entire order. The reason why that was passed was because employers of labor were, and are, in the habit of working their employes up to the very hour of closing the polls on election day. It is a common thing in the coal regions for the corporations to insist on their workmen staying in and around the mines until too late to vote on election day, even though the mines were worked but half time during every other day in the week. Steel and rolling mills have been operated the same way, and the unfortunate workman who would leave off before the last horn would blow
WOULD BE DISCHARGED
from the service of the company. Such practices as these should not be tolerated, and there will be no system devised to check the evil until the day on which men register their will at the ballot box is declared a national holiday; until the citizen can exercise his will free and untrammeled at the polls; until he can vote free from the scrutiny of political boss or corporation superintendent.
With these reforms in view, and with the preamble of the order
being discussed at each meeting, the member of the Knights of Labor
must become a better citizen than before he joined the organization.
The knowledge which he gains by discussion and study of economic
questions will constitute the standpoint for action which is suggested
in the preamble of the Knights of Labor.