Part 1, Chapter 3 : Capitalism--Its Development In The United States. --Continued
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Part 1, Chapter 3
With the close of the rebellion of 1861, what is now known as the labor movement, began to assume large proportions. Not until now was there a very numerous and stationary wage class. In consequence, that state of affairs predicted by Lord Macauley, and quoted in our opening chapter, began to appear. Trades unions, labor unions, etc., composed of wage laborers had heretofore existed in small numbers, but were now rapidly formed as production in mass was increasingly developed. Strikes began to be frequently resorted to in order to prevent a reduction or to cause an increase of wages. The first national movement of organized labor was the effort made to inaugurate the eight-hour system throughout the United States in 1868. That attempt was defeated.
The effort to introduce the eight-hour system has been made repeatedly since, sometimes by isolated trades unions, at other times by national or international unions, and lastly by the Federated Trades' Unions of the United States and Canada. This latter body, representing 400,000 organized workmen, met in Chicago, in 1884, in what they styled an "International Congress of Organized Labor," and fixed upon a date, May 1, 1886, to inaugurate the eight-hour system. The organization of the Knights of Labor in 1869 had increased its membership to 400,000 in 1884. One of the principal objects of this organization was the establishment of the eight-hour system of labor. At this date, 1884, a million organized wageworkers in the United States considered the establishment of the eighthour system one of the main objects of their organization. The agitation for a reduction of the hours of labor culminated in the strike of 360,000 men on May 1, 1886. In Chicago, the center of the eight-hour movement, over 40,000 workingmen went on a strike for the eight-hour work-day. On May 3 some of the strikers were fired on by the police, killing one and wounding several. On May 4 workingmen held an indignation meeting which was broken up by the police, when a dynamite bomb was thrown, which killed seven policemen and wounded fifty.
The effort to inaugurate the eight-hour work-day again proved a failure. The philosophy of the eight-hour movement, defined by the Boston Eight-Hour League, is as follows:
"Resolved, That poverty is the great fact with which the labor movement deals;
"That co-operation in labor is the final result to be obtained;
"That a reduction of the hours of labor is the first step in labor-reform; and that the emancipation of labor from the slavery and ignorance of poverty solves all the problems that now most disturb and perplex mankind.
"That eight hours do not mean less wages;
"That men are never paid, as a rule, according to what they earn, but according to the average cost of living;
"That in the long run-within certain limits -less hours means more pay, by the day or by the piece;
"That reducing the hours increases the purchasing power of wages as well wealth produced;
That dear men mean cheap productions, and cheap men mean dear productions;
"That six cents a day in China is dearest, and three dollars a day in America is cheapest;
"That the moral causes that have made three dollars a day cheaper than six cents a day will make higher wages still cheaper;
"That less hours mean reducing the profits and fortunes that are made on labor and its results;
"More knowledge and more capital for the laborer; the wages system gradually disappearing through higher wages;
"Less poor people to borrow money, and less wealthy ones to lend it, and a natural decline in the rates of interest on money;
"More idlers working, and more workers thinking; the motives to fraud reduced, and fewer calls for special legislation;
"Women's wages increased, her household labor reduced, better opportunities for thought and action, and the creation of motives strong enough to secure the ballot;
"Reaching the great causes of intemperance -- extreeme wealth and extreme poverty;
"And the salvation of Republican institutions;
"That whether national barks are abolished or bonds are taxed, or whether taxes or tariffs are high or low, or whether greenbacks or gold, or any system of finance proposed is adopted, or a single tax on land, or civil service, or one term for president shall prevail, are not laborer's questions, because they have no appreciable relation to the wage-system, through which the wage classes secure all that they can ever obtain of the world's wealth until they become sufficiently wealthy and intelligent to co-operate in its production ; and whether the masses have anything to choose between a democrat, or republican, or other candidate turns entirely upon the question which one of the candidates will be most likely to secure the legislation for reduced hours of labor, as well as the enforcement upon all government works of the law already enacted.
"Resolved, That the factory system of our country that employs tens of thousands of women and children eleven and twelve hours a day; that owns or controls in its own selfish interest the pulpit and the press; that prevent the reemorseless exercise of the power of discharge; that is rearing a population of children and youth whose sickly appearance and scantry or utterly neglected schooling,is proving year by year that the "lords of the loom and the lords of the lash were natrual allies in the conflict between freedom and slavery."
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