Introduction of Foreign Labor
The hope of the poor may perish,
-- Mrs. S. M. Smith
Take not usury of him, nor more than thou payest: fear thy God that thy brother may live with thee.
-- Leviticus xxv:36
Thirty Years of Labor
by Terence Powderly
Chapter 10: Introduction of Foreign Labor
Of what avail the blood that's
Of what avail our wounds and pains,
To loose the fetters from the black,
And bind both black and white in chains?
The platform of 1869 opposed to servile labor — Importation of the Chinese to North Adams by a shoe manufacturer — To Beaver Falls by a cutlery firm — Threats of bringing them to the coal mines — The protest of the Industrial Congress — The Burlingame treaty — The Coolie trade — The Six Companies — Condition of workmen in California owing to Chinese competition — Congress acts — The law evaded and violated — Massacre of Chinese at Rock Springs — Foreign and American papers advertise for workmen where none are required — Immigration of various races other than Chinese — Testimony of Jay Gould on his peculiar methods of stimulating immigration — Steamship companies interested in sending over large numbers of immigrants — The manufacturer a protectionist for himself only — The pauper permitted to land while the product of pauper labor pays duty — Every one a free trader or protectionist, as self interest dictates — Letter on immigration copied from journal United Labor — Glass manufacturers import foreign workmen — The courts asked to enjoin workingmen from talking to each other — General Assembly adopts the bill of Local Assembly No. 300 on the importation of foreign labor under contract — First labor committee of Congress — Hon. M. A. Foran introduces bill — Hon. Thomas Ferrell introduces bill — General officers go to Washington to work for passage of bill — The General Assembly of 1884 adopts an addition to the preamble on imported labor — The G. M. W. writes to the chairman of the United States Senate, Hon. George Edmunds — Bill passes Congress — Attempts to violate the law — Passage of amendment to law — Attempts to enforce the law — The hopes of the monopolists that labor may be divided.
IF the importation of Europeans to take the places of American workmen had been practiced prior to 1858, it had no appreciable effect on the condition of the laborer of that day, and was not taken notice of by the workingmen of the United States. In that year three strikes in the molding trade, all in progress at the one time, was the occasion for a meeting of "boss molders" at Albany, N. Y., where a combination was formed of those engaged in the molding business. From this meeting a circular was issued to the employers of labor throughout the country asking for the formation of a "league for the purpose of importing workmen from Europe to take the places of employes who, under the influence of the union agitation, had become so restless and dissatisfied with their employers as to strike against their interests." Such was the language of the circular which was circulated, and it is the first known record of an organized EFFORT TO IMPORT HUMAN BEINGS to America to take the places of others who would not submit to reductions in wages, or agree to an increase in the number of apprentices in workshops. The largest and most determined strike of the three referred to was against increasing the number of apprentices in a molding shop in Albany, New York.
The experiment which was made in 1858 must have encouraged the
employers, for we find that in ten years the practice of importing
cheap men had grown until it became recognized as a menace to the
welfare of the American worker, so much so that the convention of the
National Labor Union of 1869 saw fit to engraft the following
resolution in its platform of that year:
Resolved, That we are unalterably opposed to the importation of a servile race for the sole and only purpose of tampering with the labor of the American workingmen.
That resolution was aimed more particularly at the Chinese than at any other race. During the long strike of that year in the anthracite coal regions, the operators threatened to IMPORT CHINESE to operate the mines, and though the threat was never carried into execution in the coal regions, Chinese were brought over to other points in the United States.
During the month of May, 1869, C. F. Sampson, a shoe manufacturer doing business in North Adams, Mass., imported seventy Chinese, and employed them in his factory. The workmen, whose places were taken by the Chinese, received $3 a day; the Chinese contracted to work for $1. In July of that year Mr. Sampson brought over sixty more Chinese, and discharged more of his old,workmen to make room for them. There could be no fault found with the Chinese because of their desire to secure large wages, but they were not a success at shoemaking. 'The only thing accomplished by their importation was the cheapening of the labor of the white mechanics, whose places were taken by the Mongolians. In 1880 the shoe factories of North Adams saw the last of the Chinese, and with the exception of a few who are engaged in the laundry business there are none in the place.
A firm engaged in the manufacture of cutlery at Beaver Falls, Pa., became dissatisfied with their workmen early in 1872, and on the third of July of that year seventy-five Chinese arrived in the town, were taken to the cutlery works and assigned to duty in place of the white workmen who were discharged. In the beginning of 1873 ONE HUNDRED CHINESE were employed in the cutlery works in addition to those brought over the preceding year. The white workmen were paid from three to six dollars a day. They were all discharged, and Chinese to the number of three hundred finally monopolized the work of the factory. They were contracted for through an agent named Odd Chuck, who made an agreement that they were to receive pay according to their skill. Some earned $18 a month, while others commanded a dollar a day.
They were, according to the stipulations of the contract, to work ten, but were employed for eleven hours each day. The gates of the factory were kept closed all day to prevent the egress of the Chinese, or the ingress of the workmen who were displaced by them. When the contract expired Odd Chuck entered suit against the company for compensation for the extra hour worked each day by the Chinese. He recovered between five and six thousand dollars, but the Chinese workmen never received any of it.
In North Adams and in Beaver Falls the Chinese subsisted on rice and pork. When a death occurred the corpse was, according to contract, shipped back to China. Their clothing and everything they required, except food, was imported from China.
The cutlery firm lost, through the employment of the Chinese, over $42,000, which, at that day, was considered a large sum of money. THEIR BUSINESS WAS RUINED, and at the present time the residents of Beaver Falls know but little concerning the firm who did business in 1872, and who drove the white workmen away to make room for the Chinese. There are no Chinese employed in the manufacture of cutlery in Beaver Falls at this time. Those who reside there are engaged in the laundry business.
These attempts to introduce the Chinese to the workshops were watched with anxious eyes by the workmen of America. There is no doubt but that they would have been brought to the coal regions to take the places of dissatisfied miners were it not for the fear that the law would not be powerful enough to protect them while at work. The attempt would have been made, however, had the experiments made in North Adams and Beaver Falls proven successful. Enough had been done in the way of agitating the Chinese question to call the attention of the American workmen to the evils likely to be visited upon them should the importation of Chinese continue, and the subject was debated in the meetings of labor societies of that day with a view to adopting a remedy for the evil which threatened the mechanics in the shape of cheap foreign labor.
When the first convention of the Industrial Congress was held in Cleveland, in 1873, it adopted and placed the following in the declaration of principles which emanated from that body:
We demand the prohibition of the importation of all servile races, the discontinuance of all subsidies granted to national vessels bringing them to our shores, and the abrogation of the Burlingame treaty.
The ratification of the additional articles of the Burlingame treaty were exchanged at Pekin on the 23d of November, 1869, and the question of CHINESE IMMIGRATION occupied no small share of the attention of the people of the United States at that time. As the treaty referred to is not easy of access, it is deemed advisable to reproduce it so that its requirements may be better understood.
Had the Burlingame treaty been abrogated the immigration of the Chinese would have continued. The danger which menaced the laborer would not have been lessened a particle. The "Chinese question," as it is called, would come under a more appropriate heading if called the Coolie trade, for only that class of Chinamen are imported or come into competition with American workmen. In China the third or lowest class of society is composed of chair bearers and earth diggers. These are called "coolies," or "low laborers."
When the Burlingame treaty was being made, a great many coolies were being imported to South America and Cuba. The tide turned toward California about that time, and has continued ever since. There are in San Francisco six Chinese companies, or societies, for the protection (?) of Chinamen coming direct from China. Each company REPRESENTS A DIFFERENT part of the Flowery Kingdom. Whenever a ship lands on which Chinese are passengers, an interpreter goes aboard and registers the number of Chinamen, and the names of the places in China where`they come from. These Chinese passengers, or coolies, are assigned to whichever of the six companies represents the part of China they were taken from. The companies are known to be traders in their fellow-countrymen. The Legislature of California appointed a committee to investigate the Chinese question in 1877, and ascertained that the six companies held ownership in 148,600 Chinamen, as follows:
Sam Yup Company ..................................... 10,100
Yung Wo Company .................................... 10,200
Kong Chow Company ................................ 15,000
Ning Yeung Company ................................ 75,000
Yan Wo Company.......................................... 4,300
Hop Wo Company....................................... 34,000
Total ............................................................ 148,600
The committee found that up to the time of the investigation one hundred and eighty millions of dollars had been sent to China by the people of that race who resided in California, and that not one dollar had found its way back again. What the one hundred and eighty millions of gold would have produced if earned in this country and expended here by American workmen, is hard to imagine, but it would have eased the strain of the hard times which made 1877 and 1878 TWO OF THE WORST YEARS for labor that this country ever passed through. Nearly all of the Chinese women brought to California were brought over for the purposes of prostitution, and on their arrival were placed in "barricoons," or places where they were forced to remain until such time as' they were taken by their masters. These women entered into contracts to sell their bodies for a term of years for the purpose of earning sufficient to enable them to live at their ease in China when the term of the contract expired, or for the purpose of supporting some relative, or paying some debt in China, but of the proceeds of their immorality they received only enough to sustain life while under contract, and when set at liberty were fleeced of what was due to them.
During their stay in this country the Chinese never associate with other people, never adapt themselves to our habits, modes of dress or our educational system; they carry their pagan idolatry into every walk in life; never pay heed to the sanctity of an oath; see no difference between right and wrong, and live in the same fashion in California as their ancestors did in China twenty-five hundred years ago. The people of California, without regard to creed or political belief, deluged Congress with petitions to pass a law which would put a stop to the further immigration of the Chinese to this country. The agitation continued until 1882, when Congress passed a bill of which the following is the preamble and enacting clause:
WHEREAS, In the opinion of the government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof; Therefore, be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the expiration of ninety days next after the passage of this act, and until the expiration of ten years next after the passage of this act, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States, be and the same is hereby, suspended: and during such suspension it shall not be lawful for any Chinese laborer to come, or having so come after the expiration of said ninety days, to remain within the United States.
The remainder of the law deals with the particular methods of preventing the landing of Chinese laborers, and affixing penalties for infractions of the law. It received the SANCTION OF PRESIDENT ARTHUR, and was signed by him May 6, 1882.
Since the passage of that act Chinamen have landed on Canadian soil, and have entered the United States across the boundary line which separates the two countries. They have landed in American ports under assumed names, and in various other ways. The great difficulty in detecting the difference between Chinamen, owing to the resemblance they bear to each other, gives rise to no end of trouble in preventing the coming of this servile race to America, and the complaint of the people of the Western States and territories that the law is being constantly violated continues to be made.
In desperation the people of the Pacific coast have petitioned and demanded of Congress to do something to enforce the law, but the Chinese still continue to come. In various places along the Pacific coast and in the territories the citizens of cities and towns have REVOLTED AGAINST THE PRESENCE of the Chinese, and in many instance violence has been resorted to. On September 2, 1885, the coal miners at Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, massacred between thirty and forty Chinese, burned their dwellings, and drove many others from the place. That this act of inhumanity and butchery is inexcusable is true, but the precedent had been established that the law could be violated with impunity by the Chinese, and those who desired to employ them. Exasperated at the success with which they had evaded the law, and insinuated themselves into their places along the Pacific railway, the white workmen became desperate and wreaked a terrible revenge upon the Chinese. Had steps been taken to observe the law, and had the Chinese been as rigidly excluded, as they should have been, the workmen at Rock Springs would not have steeped their hands in the blood of a people whose very presence in this country is contamination, whose influence is wholly bad, and whose effect upon the morals of whatever community they inhabit tends to degrade and brutalize all with whom they come in contact.
In his address to the General Assembly at Hamilton, Ontario, October, 1885, the General Master Workman referred to the Chinese evil in the following language:
THE CHINESE EVIL.
The law which was passed by Congress and approved on the 6th day of May, 1882, was intended as a check to the importation of Chinese into the United States and the territories. The violations of that law were so numerous and glaring that Senators and Representatives from the Pacific coast brought the matter before Congress at its last session, and demanded further legislation on the subject. Nine-tenths of the people on the Pacific coast, and of the whole country in fact, are opposed to the importation of the Chinese under any conditions whatever. It is not necessary for me to speak of the numerous reasons given for the opposition to this particular race — their habits, religion, customs, and practices have all been made the theme of newspaper comment and report for several years. Congress has been appealed to, but the necessity for speedy action was not apparent to that body — a false delicacy about offending a foreign power has caused much suffering among our own people.
The question of regulating the importation of Chinese, and the proper guidance of those already here, has been before the country so long that it no longer rests with the people of the Pacific coast, nor with the people of the territories; the whole people must act through their representatives, and put a stop to the further importation of the Chinese under any and all circumstances, for any purpose whatever, and for all time to come.
The recent assault upon the Chinese at Rock Springs is but the outcome of the feeling caused by the indifference of our law-makers to the just demands of the people for relief. No man can applaud the act by which these poor people were deprived of their lives and homes. They were not to blame. They were but the instruments in the hands of men who sought to degrade American free labor. Had those who made the attack upon the Chinese at Rock Springs, but singled out the men who smuggled them into the country, and offered them up as a sacrifice to their own greed, I would have had no tears to shed. But even then the evil would not be checked. The taking of the lives of the Chinese, or those who import them, will not effectually prevent others from pursuing the same course in the future.
I am pleased to state that no blame can be attached to organized labor for the outrage perpetrated at Rock Springs. If the voice of the men who are associated together for the purpose of educating and elevating the laboring people had been listened to some years ago, the historian would not be called upon to chronicle the fact that the men of Wyoming lost all respect for a law that was first broken by the power that created it; for if our Congress had fixed a just penalty for infractions of the law; if Congress bad not winked at violations of the statute, and refused to listen to the plaint of those who suffered because the laws were outraged, the men at Rock Springs would not have taken the law in their own hands as they did. But they only destroyed the instrument; the hand and brain by which it was guided still remains; and nothing short of the enactment of just laws and a full and impartial enforcement of the same will prevent other and far more terrible scenes of bloodshed and destruction than the one to which I have alluded. I believe that I am justified in saying that if the voice of free, dignified labor is not listened to, and that speedily, the hand of outraged, insulted labor will be raised not only against the instrument itself, but against the hand that guides it as well.
The men of the West must not be allowed to fight the battle single-handed and alone. The evil they complain of is no longer confined to one section of this country. It is spreading, and its influences are being felt in all of our industrial centres; and if a desire to, assist our brothers in a righteous cause is not sufficient to animate us, and spur us to action, then self-interest will soon prompt us to bestir ourselves. The entire order must act as one man in this movement. I have copies of all bills submitteed to Congress upon the question, and will place them in the hands of the special committee on legislation, if such a committee is appointed at this session of the General Assembly. Examine them carefully, and draw up a bill and a demand for its passage, and let us approve of them ere we adjourn. Slave labor must die, and free labor must be its executioner.
When the General Assembly convened at Richmond in October, 1886, a document presented by District Assembly No. 162, of California, was considered favorably by the body. It sums up the situation so vividly and forcibly that I deem it worthy of a place in these pages.
The undersigned committee, appointed by District Assembly No. 162, Knights of Labor, of the State of California, to present to the General Assembly a statement of the pressing necessity for action to aid in freeing our own race from the want and degradation being put upon it by the blighting effects of Chinese labor, and the frightful results of Chinese presence, hereby presents the following:
The voting population of this State amounts to about 190,000, while the adult Chinese males amount to more than 100,000; in other words, more than one-third of our whole adult male population consists of Mongolians. More than 90 per cent. of all these are the slaves of what are here known as the Chinese Six Companies. They are coolie slaves. Their labor is slave labor. They live almost exclusively upon rice imported from China. They can work for twenty-five cents a day, board themselves, and save a profit. This kind of labor, under the direction of their masters — keen, shrewd business men who have imported it — comes directly into competition with the labor of our own people. It confronts them in every avenue of industry. In the workshop, in the field, in the mines — everywhere, the Chinaman, with his foul presence, stands as a menace to free labor and to free men. The Chinaman is ignorant, conscienceless, and corrupt. He is crafty, he is criminal, he is depraved. His only virtue is his industry; and in this he acts with deadly results upon that of our own people. He consumes practically nothing springing from white labor. A thousand of them will occupy a building that would accommodate fifty Americans. They huddle together like rats in a room. Their very presence drives white people from the locality they inhabit. They patronize nothing American. They hate and detest our people. They have no conception of our free institutions ; they know nothing of our schools, our charities, or our religion. They are a set of thieves, cut-throats, and pagans. They exalt perjury to a fine art, and their language affords a perfect shield against its punishment. Their vices are hydra-headed. They crowd our men of families out of employment, and leave them to want and destitution. They make hoodlums and criminals of our boys, and drive our girls to worse than death by working for wages which to them means starvation. They establish among us courts of their own, secret tribunals, that to them supersede the courts of law. They have murderous highbinders, professional murderers, retained and paid for their work, who dog the steps of their victims until opportunity permits them to stab them to death, and perjury saves them from the penalty.
They establish opium joints that afford the means of destroying the morals and lives of its victims.
They make nearly all our cigars, clothing, boots and shoes, slippers, underwear, woolen goods, overalls, soap, matches, boxes; they can all the fruit and fish; they raise nearly all the vegetables; they pick nearly all the fruit, hops, and grapes ; they raise nearly all the potatoes; they make nearly all the salt; they catch nearly all the fish; they make our brooms, cordage, ropes, brushes, candles, chemicals, fringes, glue, linseed oils, matches, and pickles; they make nearly all our shirts; they laundry nearly all our clothes ; thousands of them are servants in kitchens, offices, and banks; they act as chambermaids in hotels, boarding houses, and private residences; and they run most of the sewing machines in all branches of their use. In one word, wherever there is a demand for labor you will find the meek-eyed but malignant-hearted Chinaman.
It is no answer to all this to say that our people, who know all this, ought not to employ them. Greed and avarice are the same the world over; and Californians find the same excuses for their exercise here that the corporations and moneyed aristocracy elsewhere find for the enslavement of labor. This evil grew upon us before we were aware of its danger. It is so deeply rooted that it has driven white labor out of its way, and now many employers, who would be willing to make a change, find it difficult to obtain the white labor to supplant it. Their course has manufactured tramps and petty criminals in the ranks of men made homeless and penniless by lack of employment only.
It is the province of our noble order to break this thing down. It seeks to elevate, not to strike down labor. Its mission is to lift up, to dignify, to disenthrall labor, and to compel the purse-proud to recognize the manhood labor typifies. To that end this committee, representing District Assembly No. 162, Knights of Labor especially, but the entire Pacific Coast generally, prays the General Assembly to aid us in every way possible in tearing this evil up by the roots. We implore you to believe that the dark coloring herein given of the white labor interests of this coast is but a feeble picture of the whole truth. Despair writes itself in haggard lines over the features of labor. Sullenly but certainly disaster and death stalk abroad, destroying our cause. The weak and irresolute long since surrendered at discretion. It is only the bold and courageous that stand up to give battle to the oppressor. To fail now is to surrender for all time the cause of Him whose right arm has builded, defended and maintained the heritage of our fathers, which a godless few would rob us of forever. This yellow cloud of ruin has overrun California. It has sent its poisonons flood over the territories, and it is now rushing its streams throughout the East. A few years at most will see the white labor of the whole country stagger in delirium from its fatal touch.
The Chinese women on this coast are nearly every one to be found in houses of prostitution. Our courts furnish frequent evidence of the sale of Chinese women for purposes of prostitution. Home life, as we understand and honor it, is unknown to them. Among all the Chinese population of this coast there can not be found a single Chinese family with the surroundings of an American home. And the testimony of all physicians will prove that thousands cf boys have their physical systems destroyed by disease contracted in these infamous dens of vice, and that in nearly every case they were enticed into them by Chinese courtesans.
Hence, we beseech you to gird on the armor which shall encourage the faint-hearted and call them back to the faith that the giant, Labor, will battle on and battle ever for, until the hated Mongol shall be driven from our shores, and until the banner of requited labor shall proudly ride the breeze of Emancipated America. This grand consummation will not be accomplished until the last Mongol has been sent from our shores.
In the furtherance of this result the remedy adopted by the true-hearted Americans who threw the British tea into Boston harbor — that of non-patronage and non-intercourse — seems to be the most effectual. Avarice and greed will induce men to employ these Mongol herds simply because they can employ them for less wages, and thereby aid in reducing our laboring classes to the condition of serfs. The application of the boycott becomes a necessity to them, and an act of mercy and humanity to those they would enslave. We, therefore, invoke it, not only as an act of justice to the poor, but as one of the highest patriotism to the republic.
Meantime, we earnestly appeal for action by which the members of the order everywhere be requested to ascertain the position of their respective candidates for Congress upon the matter of abrogating the treaty with China permitting the immigration of Chinese to the United States, and to vote for those who most fully pledge themselves to so vote.
Brothers, we turn to you in this hour of peril as the sheet anchor which can and will accomplish this greatest victory of mankind. Evolve this in your councils, and you will merit the everlasting chaplets of gratitude a regenerated and grateful people will twine
upon your brow.
F. J. CLARK,
J. P. DALTON,
A. G. READ,
At the Indianapolis session of the General Assembly, District Assembly No. 49, of New York, presented the collowing resolution:
That special efforts be made to organize the Chinese.
The committee to whom the resolution was referred reported unfavorably on it. and when it came properly before the convention a motion was made to concur in the report of the committee, a point of order was raised that there was nothing in the constitution to prevent the organization of Chinese. The G. M. W. decided that the point of order was not well taken, as three previous sessions of the General Assembly had adopted resolutions unfavorable to the residence of the Chinese in America, and not being considered worthy of residence in America, they could riot be regarded as proper persons to become members of the Knights of Labor. The report of the committee was concurred in by a vote of 95 to 42.
Except on the Pacific coast the influence of the Chinese was not felt to any great extent. The eastward march of the Chinese immigrant began when the Pacific railway was built, and ever since the proximity of that race to our shores has been a standing menace to the welfare of the American laborer.
The method by which immigration to the United States was stimulated by those who wished to take advantage of the ignorance of the immigrant, was by means of ADVERTISING ABROAD FOR LABORERS. The practice began in 1869, and has been continued ever since. From a London paper, published in 1871, the following advertisement is taken:
Five hundred navvies wanted in New York and Pennsylvania to work on railroads. Wages from $1.75 to $2.50 a day. Single men preferred.
In the New York papers of that day advertisements were kept standing, in which inducements were offered to the newly-landed immigrant to proceed to the coal regions of Pennsylvania. Such announcements as the following were of daily occurrence:
Two hundred men wanted to take contracts in the coal fields of Pennsylvania. Good wages guaranteed, and steady employment assured.
When the New York papers reached England and the continent of Europe, these announcements were copied by European journals in the hope of relieving the crowded centres of the old world of their overflowing populations.
When an advertisement for two hundred men appeared in a' metropolitan paper, it usually turned out that there were no vacancies in the ranks of labor at the point to which the men were directed, and the sole object in inserting the advertisement was to send more laborers into the coal regions than were necessary, so that where two men were seeking for the same situation, they would, in competing for employment, more readily consent to WORK FOR REDUCED WAGES.
Under the impression that the taking of "contracts" in the coal regions would afford an easy means of earning a livelihood, thousands of men flocked into the Schuylkill and Luzerne coal fields to find that the contract referred to only afforded the privilege of operating a chamber in a coal mine with an assistant, whose duty it was to load the coal, for so much a ton, after the contractor cut or blasted it from its bed.
The immigration from Poland began to make itself felt in 1872, and, though the Poles were poor and ignorant of our laws, they were anxious to learn, and soon began to improve their condition. The tide began to set in from Hungary in 1877. The railroad strikes of that year created a desire on the part of railroad operators to secure the services of cheap, docile men, who would tamely submit to restrictions and impositions. Hungary was flooded with advertisements which set forth the great advantages to be gained by emigrating to America. The Italian immigration has been going on for several years, but no authentic record of the actual hiring of men abroad for service in the United States is obtainable beyond the year 1880.
When the first session of the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor was held in Reading, in 1878, it was deemed advisable to omit the thirteenth section of the preamble, the one which called for the prohibition of the IMPORTATION OF THE SERVILE RACES. The subject was discussed for some time, and it was because the order recognized neither race, creed, or color that it was thought best not to insert anything in the preamble which could be construed as opposing any portion of humanity. While it was a beautiful sentiment which actuated the men who gathered at the first General Assembly, and while it appealed to the best instincts of the membership at large, it was found to be in direct opposition to the best interests of the members of the order. The basic principle on which the order was founded was protection, not protection from the manufacturer or employer alone, but from our own avarice, our weaknesses, and from cheap workmen also. Theoretically, it sounded very well to extend a welcome to all to a share in the protection to be derived from organization, but it was discovered that to carry out the practice would load this country down with men to whom the American laborer could extend no aid, and who were too ignorant to help themselves.
With the growth of organization among workingmen began an investigation into the methods resorted to by employers in order to secure cheap workmen. This investigation developed the fact that land grant companies, steamship companies, and manufacturers had agents in all parts of Europe engaged in the business of ADVERTISING FOR WORKMEN to go to America. In giving his testimony before the New York Senate committee, on December 14, 1882, Jay Gould gave a partial insight into the methods by which emigration to the United States was stimulated. A portion of the testimony will explain how the agents of American corporations add to the population of the country:
QUESTION — You stated that speculation promoted immigration. How does it do this?
ANSWER BY MR. GOULD — It induces the construction of railroads into new territory, and that induces the roads to send abroad to get immigrants to settle upon the lands.
Q, — To what extent have you influenced immigration?
MR. GOULD — That's impossible to tell. We are advertising in all lands abroad. The immigrant comes and may go on our lands or elsewhere. When I was in Europe you couldn't go anywhere but you saw agents of American land grant companies.
Q. — Do all the roads have these agents?
MR. GOULD — All the land grant roads. The Union Pacific, Central Pacific, Atchison and Topeka, Kansas Pacific, Chicago and Burlington, Missouri and Nebraska, Rock Island, Missouri, Kansas and Texas, Texas Pacific, and St. Louis and Iron Mountain.
The greater the number of emigrants sent out from European countries to America, the greater the profits of the agents who infested nearly every large city in Europe. Voluntary emigration never proved detrimental to the interests of the American people, for under the old-time conditions men and women rarely left their homes abroad until they had a reasonable prospect of earning a livelihood in the new world. But under the stimulus of "so much per capita," the agent took especial pains to earn his wages by sending as many as he could to the land of the free. Thousands upon landing in American ports found THEMSELVES PENNILESS, and were forced to go "elsewhere" than to the points to which the agent directed them.
The agent of the land grant railroad company was supposed to drum up customers for his company, and to send only those who could afford to at least make a pretense of purchasing farms adjoining the road in whose interest he was at work. The agent in many cases was also in the pay of a steamship company, and never allowed his conscience to prevent him from holding out inducements of the most alluring character to every man, woman, or child who could rake, scrape, or borrow the passage money. The presence of these agents in Europe was known to more than the land grant and steamship companies. Employers of labor in large establishments frequently held stock in many of the railway companies, or were intimately acquainted with those who did own stock, or were directors in the railway or steamship companies. Whenever the surface of labor affairs became ruffled in consequence of a strike, or through any other cause, the services of the foreign agent were invoked in the interest of the employer that he might procure cheap, docile labor, and the news of a strike, especially in the coal regions, was the signal for an influx of foreign workmen, who were hired to come to the United States under the impression that they were to receive good pay and steady employment, without a SACRIFICE OF HONOR in the acquirement of either. It finally became an established fact that the retention of agents abroad was a part of the practice of large corporations, and workingmen began to question whether it was wise to support a policy which made it possible for the employer to flood the market, free of duty, with strong, ablebodied laborers from the old country, while the article which came in competition with that which was turned out of the factory of the American employer, would not be permitted to pass a port of entry except on payment of a tariff which was said to have been levied for the "protection of American labor."
With thousands of Chinese landing on the Western coast, and hundreds of thousands of laborers being imported into the Eastern cities and towns, the struggle for existence began to grow fiercer for the American workingman. It caused him to think and to ask himself some questions, such as, Why does the United States Congress impose a tariff upon the manufactured article under pretense of protecting the workman, when in reality he receives no better treatment under a high tariff than under no tariff, so far as his usage by his employer is concerned; why is it that that which I make in the shop can receive recognition at the hands of my government, while I am not taken into consideration at all; why is it that the article which the foreign workman fashions can not land on our coast except on payment of a duty, while the foreigner himself can land and enter into competition with me free of tariff; why is it that my employer so assiduously demands that a PROTECTIVE TARIFF be imposed on these articles under pretense of protecting the American workmen from foreign competition; why is it that he presents to me the petition to sign against the reduction of the tariff, telling me, as he does it, that it is to my interest to sign it, so that foreign cheap labor will not kill our industries, and at the same time be engaged in making terms with the foreign agent for the shipment of alien workmen to enter into .competition with me and my fellow-laborers; if foreign "pauper labor" is what we are opposing when we establish a tariff, why is it that we only keep out the product of the "pauper," while allowing the "pauper" himself to land free of duty ?
These were the questions that troubled the minds of the mechanics and laborers of America, and they have not ceased to do so at this writing, for it is an undisputed fact that many of those who cry the loudest for protection to American labor are in reality actuated by the most selfish of interests, and care nothing whatever for the welfare of the American workman as long as the article in which they are interested, as to its manufacture, is protected. "PROTECTION TO AMERICAN LABOR" is the watchword on which the American manufacturer enters the halls of Congress to ask for an increase of tariff on the articles manufactured in his workshops, and by his employes, but "every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost," is the motto which would be emblazoned on his shield if he wrote the truth upon it.
This is the truth. Every man on American soil is at once a high tariff man and a free trader. Scratch a high tariff man and blood is drawn from a free trader, and vice versa. The manufacturer of steel rails will demand that the highest duty be imposed on the importation of steel rails, but when he is about to invest, either in articles for home consumption or for use in his mills, he will make an effort to get the cheapest article even if he has to import it. He, therefore, requires that a tariff be placed on steel rails only, letting all else in free of duty. The grower of wool clamors for a tariff on wool, but is heard protesting against a tariff on steel rails, so that it will not cost so much to construct the railway which will convey his wool to market. The glass manufacturer wants to have glass placed on the list of protected articles, but would clip off wool, steel rails, and everything else. The most RAMPANT FREE TRADER, while denouncing the tariff, will become a protectionist, in order to keep up the price of some particular article in the manufacture of which he is interested. But high tariff man and free trader will both object to the payment of living wages to the American workman, and both will call in the services of the foreign agent when they require cheap help.
The following, which appeared in the Journal of United Labor, in May, 1882, describes the situation as it existed at that time:
Immigration to America is becoming so large that an inquiry into the causes which prompt men, women, and children to flee from their homes, friends, kindred, and early associations, and seek a home in this country, is worthy of at least a hasty examination. In the year 1881 there came to this country 720,000 souls, a vast proportion remaining in the East, there. being only 120,000 who sought homes in the West and North-west. The causes which have led to this unusually large immigration can best be ascertained by a careful reading of speeches of State officers and documents presented to trade councils and other deliberative bodies of the Old Word.
In a paper recently presented to the Chamber of Commerce, at Minden, Westphalia, the following alarming sentence occurs: "The emigration from this district is lamentably large, and it may be permitted us as patriots to put the question: has the German Empire been founded for the purpose of driving forth its citizens into exile." It has been admitted by close observers in Germany that the farmer is taxed from ten to twelve per cent. of his income. As though this was not enough for the honest toiler to bear alone, they have that unbearable military system to support which, taken in connection with failure of crops, general depression of trade, and ecclesiastical strifes, has proved sufficient to send to America in the year 1881 no less than 210,485 Germans. One day early in the year three steamers sailed from Bremen with nearly 5,000 of these exiles.
In the report of the American Consul for April, 1881, he says:
"The streets are crowded with these people to such an extent that they can not find lodging at night; that the police authorities have frequently to care for them, not because they have no money, but that all lodging houses are full. They can not afford to wait here, and they crowd into the Lloyd Company's offices, and kneel before and kiss the hands of the managers, praying with streaming eyes to be taken on board."
Again, we are told that Germany, admitting a very lively emigration last year, has no hesitancy in pronouncing an exodus for this year. Men who by hard work have acquired a little property are throwing it upon the market at a GREAT SACRIFICE, in order to raise funds with which to reach the inviting plains beyond the Mississippi. Her weavers and spinners who have produced, at starving wages, the woolens which have clothed American citizens, are becoming American citizens themselves, and hope to spin and weave, at living wages, woolens for those left behind.
Again, another cause for the general distress prevailing in Germany is the American-raised wheat, which, owing to the low freight rates, both by water and rail, is causing the German agriculturist to either come down in his price or go out of the business, as the competition is too strong for them to hope to cope with us. In 1880 the poor found it cheaper to buy American wheat than to use German rye, although up to 1879 wheat was twenty-five per cent. higher. By this new competition the German food producers are kept down to barely living prices, and a farmer on less than twenty-five or thirty acres of ground must have some other resources in order to exist; hence factory work is the main support of the present farmer.
But look at the result of this change of farming to factory work. In the corset manufactories women and children work ten hours per day for SIX DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS PER MONTH, and expert weavers, working eleven and twelve hours, are paid seventeen to eighteen dollars per month. In Bavaria and the Thuringian States the opposite is true, as many factory men have taken to farm work, although they receive but from twenty-five to thirty cents per day.
The German government is now casting itself about to remedy this matter of wheat importation, as they openly admit that German agriculture is threatened with danger from America. But America, furnished with technical science, capital, and richness of soil, has entered the arena, a rival of superior force; and unless the German States place a protective tariff on American bread stuffs, or discriminate by railway freight against us, it is only a question of a very short time until the agricultural classes of Germany must abandon their fatherland and come to America in order to live at all. Likewise the cattle-drovers of the plains of the great West will, through our improved means of transportation, render even stock-raising in Germany unprofitable.
In Austro-Hungary the bad harvests have worked a general feeling of alarm, and in many instances destitution of the deepest kind exists, although the level prairie lands of Hungary for a while can BID DEFIANCE TO AMERICAN COMPETITION.
In the year 1880 the harvests were almost a total failure, and so generally destitute were the masses that the government was obliged to set her citizens to work on the public works, when men, women, and children gladly toiled for the mere pittance of thirteen, nine, and five cents per day. Laborers were, in some instances, so weakened by destitution as to be unable to lift a stone weighting ten pounds. In 1881, owing to the large immigration to this country, the Austro-Hungarian deficit amounted to $24,000,000; and when the proposition was made for placing additional taxes upon the people, the farmers and peasants began to petition the Emperor to spare them, and in some instances the presenters of the petitions have gone down on their knees and implored the Emperor to help them in their great distress.
But how can a reduction of taxes occur so long as the national safety requires the presence of large standing armies? And yet each nation realizes that to disband their army is entirely out of the question, unless they court utter destruction from their nearest neighbors.
Great Britain and Ireland. — The condition of the toiling millions is too well known to invite any notice at our hands at this time.
Italy. — While the average American is disposed to loathing and contempt of this class of people, who have not troubled us to any great extent in the past, it might be well to inquire what is the cause of so many coining just at this time ? Again we find THAT AMERICAN COMPETITION IN CORN is fast driving the small farmer to desperation. The quality of the American corn was equal to a measure and a half over that of the native production. This, in connection with the low price, has struck terror to the heart of the Italian corn-grower, and bids fair, in a very few years, to completely control this staple.
Again, the disease of the silk worms has been disastrous to the poor. During the six years from 1870-75 the production of silk averaged 3,200,000 kilograms a year, which declined in the following four years, 1876-79, to 1,640,000 kilograms. This enormous failure in this one branch of industry was to the Italian laborer what the suspension of the coal or iron products would be to England or America. This, in connection with the ruinous taxes imposed by the government, has been the leading cause in driving the sons of Italy from her shores.
An official statement declares "that while an average family of Italian laborers earn $130 per year, the tax exacted of them is $15.44." Carefully prepared statistics, submitted by Senator Pepoli to the Italian Senate in 1879, show that 191/2 per cent. of the income of the government is derived from such prime necessities as breadstuffs, meat, and salt, and nearly one-quarter of the revenue was so levied as to be unduly oppressive to the poor. Yet King Humbert, on New Year's day, 1882, strongly advocated the necessity of completing the military organization.
From the foregoing it will be seen that we may expect as great an influx this coming year as we have just witnessed in the past twelve months. The same causes exist now as ever, and so long as they do exist immigration to America will continue. The main causes of social discontent that still inflict the poor of Europe may be summed up as follows: Deficient crops, old, uneconomical methods, grinding poverty, over taxation, military burdens, and, above all, American competition.
THIS NEW PERPLEXITY in the troubles of Europe can not be offset by any advantageous change. As a power, it is young, vigorous, and constantly growing ; and there remains for Europe but this final, and perhaps fatal, course: reduce taxation. If this is done her vast armies must be dispersed. Will any nation of Europe consent to do this, in view of the fact that to-day it costs two billions of dollars every day to maintain an armed peace; and even if this be done, in the face of such formidable competition as that now threatening them from America, can they find a new market for their produce?
The common inference, then, is that since taxation can not be reduced, or wages for labor in creased, and American bread stuffs and cattle selling in their own markets for less than they can produce them, that the poor must seek a home elsewhere. And who, when the case is fairly stated, can blame them?"
In 1883 manufacturers of window glass entered into an agreement to IMPORT FOREIGN WORKMEN to take the places of American glass-blowers. Local Assembly No. 300 of the Knights of Labor had reached a stage in organization which approached nearer to perfection than any other association of workingmen in America. They were enabled by means of a thorough and compact organization to meet with the employer on "equitable grounds," and so effectually resisted all attempts to reduce wages when the market did not call for a reduction, that the manufacturers became desirous of overthrowing the power of Local Assembly No. 300, so that they might secure the assistance of cheaper workmen from abroad, and through the presence in this country of more glass-blowers than could find employment, they hoped to render thereduction of wages a task which would be easy of accomplishment.
One glass manufacturer in Kent, Ohio, and another in Baltimore, Md., contracted abroad for the services for several workmen. They were brought over and set to work. In order that the members of the Knights of Labor would have no opportunity to acquaint the foreign workmen of the true condition of affairs, the new comers were assigned to boarding houses into which a member of Local Assembly No. 300 would not be permitted to enter.
The courts in both places were appealed to by manufacturers, and injunctions were served upon the members of the Knights of Labor restraining them from approaching, talking to, or in any way interfering with the alien workmen. Through its executive council Local Assembly No. 300 engaged the services of a lawyer for the purpose of ascertaining what was best to do under the law. The advice of the attorney was to have a bill passed by Congress forbidding the IMPORTATION UNDER CONTRACT of foreign workmen. The advice was acted on. The attorney was instructed to draft a bill' such as would be likely to pass. The bill was prepared in August, 1883, and James Campbell, Master Workman of Local Assembly No. 300, presented it to the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor, which met in Cincinnati, Ohio, in September following. It received the unanimous and hearty endorsement of that body, the officers of which were instructed by resolution to go to Washington, during the session of Congress, to urge the passage of the bill in the name of the organization at large. Petitions were circulated throughout the United States asking of Congress to pass the bill into statute law. The returns, made of these petitions, proved that the entire membership of the order was in sympathy with the measure.
The congress which assembled in December, 1883, for the first time in the history of that body, appointed a committee on labor made up of the following named representatives: James H. Hopkins, of Pennsylvania, chairman; John J. O'Neill, of Missouri ; Martin A. Foran, of Ohio; Henry B. Lovering, of Massachusetts; Edmund W. M. Mackey, of South Caro'lina; Darwin R. James, of New York, and Martin A. Haynes, of New Hampshire.
On January 14, 1884, Hon. Thomas Ferrell, of New Jersey, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives having for its object THE PROTECTION OF American workmen from competition with foreign contract labor. This bill was referred to the committee on labor, but was not reported upon. The bill which was approved by the committee and reported to the house was introduced by Mr. Foran, but the clause which would have made it most effective was stricken out before its final passage. In fixing the penalty for violation of the law, Mr. Foran's bill provided that of the fine of one thousand dollars to be paid by the offending party: "The one-half, or moiety, of said sum to be paid to the person bringing suit to recover the same, and the remaining half, or moiety, into the treasury of the United States." This was the section which received the UNANIMOUS ENDORSEMENT of the labor organizations of the country. Those against whom contract foreign labor militates are too poor to enter suit against offenders. Many who are misled and induced to leave their homes to take situations in the United States would enter suit if poverty did not stand in the way, and with that vital part taken from the bill it became, to a great extent, a dead letter so far as the laboring people were concerned.
On February 1, 1884, the general officers of the Knights of Labor, the officers of the glass-workers associations of the country, and of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers appeared before the Committee on Labor at Washington and presented arguments in favor of the Foran bill. Congress adjourned soon after, and while the bill was in the Senate, it having passed the House before its adjournment.
At the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor held in Philadelphia in September, 1884, the foreign contract labor bill received a great deal of attention, and the question of amending the preamble to cover the case was debated for several hours. Before adjourning the following section was unanimously adopted and added to the preamble:
That the importation of foreign labor under contract be prohibited.
That section still remains a part of the preamble of the order, and is regarded as one of the principles of organized labor throughout the United States. It does not say that a certain duty shall be paid by the importer when he brings the foreign workman to the United States under contract. It is emphatic and declares for the PROHIBITION OF THE IMPORTATION of such a class of immigrants in order that the fullest protection may be guaranteed. When Congress re-assembled in December, 1884, it was expected that action would be taken on the bill in question, but nothing was done, and workingmen began to grow impatient. There is no doubt but that there were men in the Senate who felt that enough had been done when workingmen were recognized by the introduction of a bill in which they were concerned. They thought that, as on previous occasions, the workingmen would forget the, matter, let it drop and think no more of it. This view of the case was not sustained by the action of the workingmen. On January 14th the following letter was mailed to the President of the United States Senate:
SCRANTON, PA., January 14, 1885.
HON. GEORGE EDMUNDS, President United States Senate:
My Dear Sir — The National House of Representatives passed a bill "to prohibit the importation of foreign contract labor into the United States," and it went over to the United States Senate for conference. I do not now recall the date but believe it was some time in June, 1884. Since that time nothing has been heard from it. You will, I trust, pardon the liberty I take in calling the attention of the Senate to this matter, but it is of importance to the laboring men, the business men, and mechanics of the United States, to know what the Senate intends doing with this bill. Promises were made, pledges were given, party platforms spoke in unmistakable terms on this question during the recent political campaign, and now nothing remains but to fulfill these promises, redeem these pledges and confirm the statements made in the platforms of 1884. While the Senate was engaged in transacting important business, I did not wish to intrude, but now that the important work of the session has been completed, it is certainly time to call your attention to this matter, so that action may be taken ere Congress adjourns.
I see in the "reported" proceedings that days of valuable time are being devoted to the discussion of questions that are of no consequence whatever to the general interests of the nation. "The defense of ex-Confederates," or the condemnation of ex-Confederates, are matters which would serve the best interests of the entire country to bury in oblivion. No good can come of reviving dead issues. While the honorable gentlemen are fighting over again in wordy combat the battles which the powder and steel of the soldier have long since decided; while the slavery of the past is being discussed in the Senate a new and more powerful slavery is being established, a slavery which will not only grind four or five million black men, but fifty millions white and black. One of the links in the chain by which the millions are to be bound is the one which permits the importation, under contract, of men and women who come only to degrade American labor. That link can be severed by decisive action on the part of the United States Senate. Do not think that I call your attention to this matter upon my own responsibility. I but obey the request of the 700,000 workingmen who respectfully ask for the speedy passage. of this bill.
Very truly yours,
T. V. POWDERLY.
The bill was brought out of committee, was reported to the Senate, and passed that body about the middle of February, 1885, and on the 26th of that month it was approved by, and received the signature of, President Arthur.
Several attempts were made in 1885 and 1886 to violate that law, but the demon of discord had not been made sufficiently well acquainted with labor organizations to turn their attention away from their own interests, and they were, as a consequence, on the alert. On each occasion the attempted infraction of law was reported, and steps were taken to have the matter properly adjusted. Those who reported the cases were too poor to enter suit against the violators of the law, and many immigrants were SMUGGLED THROUGH CASTLE GARDEN without detection, and their presence discovered only when it was too late to send them back again. Public officials took no steps to enforce the law, to scrutinize the character of the immigrants who landed, or to make investigations when asked to do so.
The Legislative Committee of the Knights of Labor brought the matter before several Congressmen immediately after the appointment of the committee. The result was the introduction of a bill to amend the foreign contract labor law. When this bill was presented to Congress every effort of the committee, of which Ralph Beaumont was the efficient chairman, was directed toward securing the votes of a majority in favor of it. The amendment received the approval of the House and Senate, and on February '23, 1887, was signed by President Cleveland.
Under that amendment the Secretary of the Treasury was authorized to adopt and enforce regulations which would prevent the landing of improper persons. On March 24, 1887, Secretary Fairchild issued a circular to the "Collectors of Customs, Commissioners of Immigration, and others," to see that all immigrants were examined on arrival in order to ascertain who were entitled to land, and to make out a tabulated statement of the alien immigrants forbidden to land. He also required that EXTRA CAUTION should be observed in preventing the landing of those who came under the provisions of the law, and that all such persons should be returned to the countries from whence they came.
Congress made no provision for the payment of a part of the fine to the person who gave the information. As a consequence, there were but few who felt called upon to give information, and those who were most interested could not get the information to give. In the Deficiency Bill which passed Congress and was approved October 19, 1888, the act of February 26, 1885, was amended as follows:
That the act approved February twenty-six, eighteen hundred and eighty-five, entitled "An act to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States, its territories, and the District of Columbia," be, and the same is hereby,, amended so as to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to pay to an informer who furnishes original information that the law has been violated, such a share of the penalties recovered as he may deem reasonable and just, not exceeding fifty per centum, where it appears that the recovery was had in consequence of the information thus furnished.
On November 20, 1888, the Secretary of the Treasury issued another circular to the "Collectors of Customs, Commissioners of Immigration and others" to enforce that law, and it is hoped that under its provisions the chances of escaping penalty will be materially lessened. During the year 1888, a political campaign being in progress, Congress appointed a committee to examine into and report on the violations of that law, and to inquire into the manner in which immigration was being carried on. Many startling facts were disclosed, and reported to Congress. A volume of several hundred pages contains the report of the committee, and in its pages will be found MANY EXPOSURES of the actions by which employers of labor attempt to win large rewards for themselves at the expense of the workmen of the United States, and the good name of the nation.
The question of immigration has been before the people for some time. The laws relating to imported labor are strict, and if the workingmen do not yield to the clamor of their enemies, and abandon their organizations, they will one day make it impossible for an employer to bring aliens to this land to take the places of those who are unwilling to work for the mere pittance doled out to the laborer of Europe.
As the first half of the year 1889 draws
to a close the monopolist of America is watching with an anxious eye to
note the tendency of workingmen in the direction of organization. If
they heed the advice of their enemies they will retire from their
associations in disgust. Every device known to cunning and wealth is
being used to drive workingmen away from the Knights of Labor, for no
other organization has ever grappled with such weighty problems. As a
consequence no other organization is so deserving of the opposition
that the greed of the wealth-owners of America has aroused, and which
will, if not checked, throttle the independence of the workman, and
make him a more willing subject for discipline than he is at present.
420 29th Street
McKeesport, PA 15132