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an amendment of the Constitution may be necessary in order to establish this department.
The CHAIRMAN. A department can be established by law. Congress can establish it. It wants no amendment of the Constitution.
Mr. MCGREGOR. Yes, sir. A limitation of the hours of labor is one of the first things to be done, because the productive capacity of society is greater than its ability to consume, under existing conditions. That is, I want a pair of shoes just now very badly, but I am not able to get shoes because I have other demands, for instance, a doctor's bill to pay, and such little things, but I would buy those shoes if I could get the money ; I cannot get the money because my work is intermittent; I don't get full work. There are many workmen and there is little labor for them to perform.
By Mr. THOMPSON: Q. Do you say that Congress has a right to pass a law limiting the hours of labor, except for its own employés ?-A. Yes, sir; Congress is intrusted with questions of pub. lic safety, and there is no limit to the power of Congress, except the limit of morality.
Q. But the Constitution leaves to the States, does it not, a great many things, and only takes to itself what is especially granted !--A. Whenever the people of the United States, or any other country, see that certain necessities exist, it is within the power of that people to change the Constitution and to change their laws in order to meet the new necessities that spring up. A new necessity is sprung upon the world to-day, which has been growing for a long time; that is, how to give the people work. It has been formulated by the revolutionists as a demand to the right to labor.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. You say you want a pair of shoes. Do you think it would improve your chance of getting them to reduce the number of pairs of shoes in the market ?-A. No, sir.
Q. Do you think it would increase the employment of the people who make shoes to cut down the machinery employed to make them ?-A. No, sir. Seeing that men, by the means of machinery, can produce so much more to-day than what they could twenty or fifty years ago; seeing that there are all the elements of wealth in the worldthere is plenty of wealth, and the necessities of men are greater to-day, owing to their improved civilization, than they were yesterday-we demand that every man shall have a chance to share in this improvement, and since there is less work to be done, owing to the introduction of machinery, therefore we have got to equalize the chances of getting work, and if you first of all cut down the hours of labor to eight hours, you will give 80 many more men a chance to get work, and if all the people cannot find employment under that reduction, then cut them down to six hours; but it should be the work of this department to gain the facts.
By Mr. THOMPSON: Q. Do you think the number of laborers is reduced by the operation of macbinery ? A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you suppose there are fewer men making shoes now than before shoe-machinery was introduced I-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Fewer men making cotton cloth than before machinery was introduced I-A. Yes, sir; and I will show you how England's commercial supremacy is established on the fact that she went into the production of cotton. Machinery was invented, and the first thing to be done-the first thing that was done-was turning out the able-bodied men and the employment of women and children; and so great has that evil become that you can go through Lancashire to-day and see the able-bodied men loafing in the public places, and in the market places, and in the highways, perfectly idle, and they go home on Saturday night, or whenever the women are paid--they go to their wives and collect enough money from the women for their drinking money. The head of the family has become a degraded loafer, and the women and children have to work. And to such a degree bas it gone that the British Government has stepped in and made very stringent laws. For instance, that no child shall work more than four and a half hours a day, and cannot work that length of time unless it has been previously four and a half hours to school that day or the day previous; but for every modicum of labor they perform they must receive a modicum of education.
Q. Didn't women use to spin your yarn before machinery was introduced !--A. Yes, sir.
Q. Didn't women use to do that work proportionately in as great numbers to the work done then as they do now 1-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Are there not more meu really pow, proportionately to the population, employed in work on those cloths than there were before the introduction of machinery I-A. That don't matter. We have got to start fair in this thing. We are not dealing with individuals, and we cannot deal with individuals. You are the representative of a nation, say, I am the representative of a family. You have got the nation to look after; I have got my family to look after. There are my wife and children; it don't
make any difference who makes my bed in the morning as long as the bed is made, as long as the place is kept clean. If a man who is fitted to labor is degraded into being a loafer, while the woman who is weak, and who is to bear future generations, is compelled to stand at the loom, and produce stunted and half-developed children, then I say something wrong is going to happen. Now, I say there are less men employed now. Go ont in the country and see the tramps. The journals say that these men won't work. Is that not a libel upon our common humanity ? Of course those men would work if they could get the work to do ander anything like decent conditions, and there is many a man who will not labor because he is a man and won't accept the degraded conditions. It is true there are some men who are tramps because they won't work; but is because they have got some manhood in them, and they won't accept of work for sixty cents a day. What can we buy for sixty cents ? I say there are less men employed, that the people are being reduced, civilization is being destroyed, and we are returning to the nomadic state.
By the CHAIRMÅN: Q. Prior to the panic of 1873, was there not, generally, employment for every one at good wages?--A. No, sir; but more general than now.
Q. Was there pot generally employment for every one then at good wages ?-A. No,
Q. Was there not any quantity of men trying to get laborers whom they could not get t-A. For a short time.
Q. For a considerable time 1-A. For a year or two.
Q. Say from 1864 to 1872, there was an abundant demand for labor over the country I-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Why has this change taken place ?-A. Certain operations have been progressing for a long space of time-for 300 years. There has been a steady development of labor-saving processes and machinery. It has been steady, going on continually all the time. Now, at a certain time war broke out in the United States, making a disturbance; money was put in circulation. There was great destruction of property ; that bad to be replaced. There was a general demand for labor; we will admit that, at a certain time, but that was only temporary; as soon as the waste was destroyed, the old condition of things returned. That general demand for labor was merely incidental.
Q. Prior to 1860, from 1851 to 1860, did we have an era of prosperity or an era of depression -A. We have had constant alternations of what you may call prosperity.
Q. I mean by prosperity an active demand for labor at the current rate of wages A. There have been periods of depression.
Q. Does it differ now from what it was in 1837, in 1847, and in 1857 1--A. Yes, sir. Q. There is a great difference I-A. There is.
Q. What is the difference -A. The difference is this, that less men are being employed, and that more women and children are being employed. The task of supporting the families depends upon the women and children to an inmense degree.
Q. Do you mean in this country!-A. In this country, and the same in all other countries. Those facts are generally peculiar to no one country, but embrace the whole of the civilized world.
Q. Do you think the women on the continent of Europe are working more in the fields than they formerly did ?-A. There are different degrees and departments. In Eogland, since the introduction of agricultural machinery, the field gang has been displaced.
Q. Has that been a benefit or an injury to the laboring classes? Was the field gang a desirable thing to exist in a civilized community 1-A. Is it a benefit for a man to be a slave! I will say yes ; at one time it was. It was better that man should be reduced to slavery and compelled to labor under the lash than that he should be sacrificed as a prisoner of war; but is slavery right to-day, under the condition of things that exists ?
Q. The question is whether the field gang was an advantage, and whether it is not an advantage that the field gang has been displaced by machinery ?-A. It is an advantage, but what we want is this : that when we displace labor under degraded conditions, or degrading conditions, we shall have work under better conditions.
Q. What has become of the field gang ?-A. In tbe work-house.
Q. But the number of paupers bas been diminished !-A. We have got to take into consideration the fact that the spirit of humanity has been developed in England. England has assumed a brighter national aspect; the people have taken higher grounds; they have got a more deepened spirit of humanity. Private charity has increased to an enormous extent, and people now are supported in England by voluntary associatiops to an extent that would have been astonishing years ago.
Q. You mean trade organizations ?-A. Voluntary charitable organizations.
into the poor-house, but who are not found there, because the number of panpers has diminisbed !--A. A great many live on charity.
Q. In passing over England the last year, I didn't find the beggars, I didn't find where they were living.-A. If you read the papers carefully, you will see every now and then the arrest of a begging-letter impostor.
Q. That is no more than it has always been. You mean to say the government should become the great employer -A. Yes, sir,
Q. And that all persons should be employed by the government and paid wages by the government?-A. No; you understand the position I take. I am not a communist. Therefore, I do not believe in equal wages and the employment of everybody by the government, as that might result in a despotism.
Q. Suppose the government took all the machinery into its possession. You say it is the machinery now which employs labor ?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Displaces soine and employs the balance. Would it not tben employ all the labor practically ?-A. Yes; but I don't wish you to misunderstand me. I am not iu favor of the government possessing all the machinery and employing all the people.
Q. Where would you draw the line 1-A. I ask for the establishment of a burean which shall gather facts and figures, and, when that is done, you and other men will be able to make a correct theory.
Q. Now you come back to your original proposition.-A. I am not a communist. I am a socialist. I believe in every man having the full result of his labor, and no more, except in cases of sickness and old age.
Q. How will you arrive at that rule of division 1-A. I want to know.
Q. That is wbat we all want to know.-A. Therefore I want the government to gather the facts and figures on which to form a theory. I am dissatisfied with the communistic theory-not but wbat communism would be infinitely better than the present system of society ; but I am afraid it might result in a despotism of a few men, as we can see in the Oneida community, under the rule of Noyes. I may be too timid, but in view of the necessity that meets us to-day, I would accept communism if nothing else was possible rather than see men dying upon the streets, as I have seen a fellow-workman with his child lying dead, that died for want of food, and he had not the money to bury his own child. He had to beg to bury his child.
Q. Do you think the misery of the world is increasing ?-A. That is a very broad question.
Q. The real point of the question is whether machinery and other things have absolutely increased the misery, or whether, in other words, the average man is in a better average condition than he was formerly, or in a worse condition ?-A. I believe society occupies a better position to-day than it ever occupied in any past epoch; but wbat we are trying to get at is just this: Have the working classes, and do they get, their proper share of this property i
Q. There are evils and wrongs, but the question is whether with this introduction of macbinery which you tbink has been an injury, the average condition of man is not better than it was in any previous age ?-A. I view this matter from a better standpoint. I am not working for the greatest good of the greatest number; I am working for the welfare of all, being a socialist.
By Mr. THOMPSON: Q. What you mean is, although society has improved, you want it to improve more 1-A. Yes, sir.
Q. You think that the lower classes, who, a hundred years ago, were oppressed beyond what we would think was endurance now, with their intelligence, with their advanced condition, should be advanced still further in the social grade 1-A. Yes, sir.
Q. That is what you yourself want-to gather a formula to enable you to help accomplish it 1-A. Yes, sir.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. You would like to remove what suffering still remains. That is the great object of this inquiry.-A. And, if you will please, when you go back to Congress, introduce a law, or recommend the passage of a law-no more stringent than is necessary, but let it be sufficiently stringent to do its work-to gather the full facts in regard to those things.
The CHAIRMAN. Congress adopted a resolution in regard to the coming census the re. sult of which will doubtless be to provide for almost all the things you refer to, and, if you can suggest anything to Mr. Walker, the superintendent, it will attract his attention. A letter addressed to Francis A. Walker, Superintendent of the Census Bureau, Washington, D. C., will find him; but the area of investigation will doubtless be very much enlarged.
Mr. THOMPSON. The only new point the gentleman suggests is that this information should be taken under oath.
The CHAIRMAN. You made that proposition, that we should introduce a law by which other people should be compelled to testify under oath. The law says you shall either take an oath or affirm in the presence of the ever-living God.
The WITNESS. No; excuse me.
The CHAIRMAN. If you deny the existence of the ever-living God, your testimony won't be received. The WITNESS. I do not believe in God.
By Mr. BOYD: Q. You cannot make other people obey the laws and you not obey them yourself.A. I obey the law, and am willing to obey the law. Q. Are you a Scotchman 1-A. No, sir; I am English by descent.
Q. You were talking about England a few moments ago, in regard to the increase of her cbarities and charitable institutions, public and private.-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you consider that an evidence of a healthy condition of society I-A. No, sir; I consider it as an evidence of a deepened morality, but I consider it a wrong economic condition.
Q. You do not view the increase in the number of charitable institutions as evidence of an improvement of the temporal as well as other interests of the people I-A. No, sir ; not as a national progress. It marks a disease, that the necessity exists for the exercise of those charities.
By Mr. THOMPSON : Q. Do you think that all these charitable institutions which we have in the Statesthe insane asylums, the bospitals for inebriates, and the various charitable institutions-on the whole mark a diseased state of society; is that it!-A. No, sir; I would not say that. I would say the increase of those establishments marks a deepened source of morality, of philanthropy. There are certain hospitals for accidents, wbich are necessities, and which must be necessities under any condition of society; but I say the necessity for the existence of many of the charities which exist marks a low economic condition.
Q. That is what I understand you to say. Do you think on the whole that the condition of the poorer classes is benefited or injuriously affected by the increase of those charitable institations 1-A. I am not prepared to say; but I know it has an effect, and its effect is often degrading.
Q. I would like to have your judgment whether, on the whole, the poorer people are to be helped by governmental assistance wheu they could get along without it rather than to be left to suffer a little and get themselves out of it by their own efforts if they can possibly I-A. I am in favor of the people doing everything for themselves as far as possible.
Q. And on the whole their condition is improved by doing it for themselves-by acting independent of all assistance, and only being aided when actually they would suffer beyond endurance if they were not aided-is that it i-A. Yes, sir; I believe that in the struggle to attain a thing our powers are deepened by the struggle, and we become better fitted to meet difficulties in the future.
Q. You have reached the same conclusion that I have ?-A. I take the position of the practical economist.
Q. Apply that same result to the general evils under which society is at present suffering-this extraordinary depression-would not society, on the whole, be improved by patiently and quietly working out of it, even with a good deal of suffering, rather than by an interference on the part of the government directly to aid and remove their soffering by itself affording relief. Are the cases parallel-the one which you have just expressed your opinion about, and the one to which my present question refers 1A. I will put a parallel. Two days ago my child had an attack of cholera infantum. I put him into a bath, and put a strong mustard plaster on his stomach. The child recovered, but there was pain. I had to hold the child, because the plaster burned him. So I regard tbis whole thing. I would like the people to come together from the force of their own intelligence.
Q. You want such inquiries to be made, and the information obtained by the government as will enable them to do so, rather tban any special legislation ?-A. Ah, but while the people are being reduced to tramps, then those people always must be preserved ; and if it cannot be done in any other way than by the government interfering
Q. But the government does interfere 1-A. Don't you know the law passed out West, that a man shall be sent to prison for two or three years if he is caught tramping along the road without any visible means of support? That is reinstituting slavery. I say the government ought to provide for everybody if the people cannot get it, because men have got to be supported by society. All men have got to be supported by society. Morally, society has arrived at that decision. That is the moral decision of society, that all men bave got to be supported, either as a workman, as a pauper, as a “riminal, as a prostitute, or by charity.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. I understand that practically the demand is that we shall secure all the information we can get on this very important subject I-A. Yes, sir.
Q. That is as far as I understand you to proceed now ?-A. My demand is simply this, that a governmental department be founded.
Q. When I say “ we," I mean representing Congress.- A. Yes, sir; and that they suggest appropriate legislation.
VIEWS OF MR. CORNELIUS O'SULLIVAN.
CORNELIUS O. SULLIVAN appeared and offered to give evidence.
By the CHAIRMAN :
Q. The subjects which this committee is to consider are the causes of the depression of labor and the remedies for those causes. As far as possible, confine yourself to that general subject.-A. I will endeavor to do so, though coming here, I didn't anticipate meeting the committee to-day, and my greatest object in coming was to obtain an interview at as early a date as possible, when I would produce facts and figures to substapliate my statement.
Q. You can make the statement now, and submit your figures in writing. -A. Yes, sir. Like all other trades, ours undoubtedly is depressed, but the cause is materially different. As you are very well aware, our government bas been doing a large amount of granite work since 1870. Prior to that time the condition of the granite-cutters in the United States was very comfortable. The amount of labor that was then exacted from them was only a reasonable amount, and didn't tax them physically any more tban they could very well bear. At the introduction of these public buildings (and this is the great evil wbich I wish to impress upon the minds of this committee), you must bear in ipind that there was tben a great demand for that class of labor throughout the country, and you will also recollect tbat these buildings, even the building that we are now in, was let out in a measure under the control of contractors, though being executed by the government, and these contractors, for simply looking after the work, received 15 per cent. upon the entire expense of the cost of executing the work upon these buildings—I mean the dressing of the granite. Then, sir, you must bear in mind that, under these circumstances, it was a matter of secondary consideration to the contractor whether be employed a practical mecbanic or not. If the work cost him more, he received more in percentage, and, possibly, if they were not very conscientious abont the matter, they might have employed very indifferent workmen, and in this building, in the execution of it, I know to my own certain knowledge that there bas been a large number of this class of workmen employed at the expense of the government.
This is to show you that the employment of such men and the instructiou of them was detrimental to our interests, and in time it glutted the market for our class of labor, and the man who legitimately acquired a knowledge of his trade suffered proportionately. Now, then, wben the people cried for economy this percentage system was removed, and we bave at the present time a contract system, something certainly that never should be tolerated by the government or the people of the United States. Let me give you my reasons for saying it should not be tolerated. During the administration by the government of those affairs there was a certain amount of attendant labor, timekeepers, &c., which created an enormous expense, and in many instances a very unnecessary one. This by the contractor is entirely dispensed with, and the mecbanic has to attend to it himself, and wbat is the compensation Strange it is. but true. To-day, upon tbe government buildings, that the government is paying for, the contractors get 33 per cent. of the original cost to the government, minns the 15 per cent. That is about how this work is figured. Prior to the introduction of this contract system, when employment was scarce, a large number of mechanics made a practice of flocking down to those islands where those stones were being dressed, and during their stay there the contractor offered them work with scarcely any compensation at all, with tbe inducement that by working for a certain period upon this work for them they would be employed eventually by the government. Now, then, sir, by those means they got ibis contract work for such a low figure that these contractors could afford to come in here, into New York, or any other city, and underbid any contractor in it, and, as a result, forced many of us to leave our homes, because the contractors in this city could not compete with those down East, as a contractor here bad at least to give the workmen a sufficiency to sustain his family, else the workman could not live. T'he man on the islands lived in anticipation of being employed by the gov. ernment, and for the period he was employed in this way he cared not as to the amount of compensation received.
Q. How long a period was tbis 1-A. This period varied. A man might go there today and work a week and be put on the government work. He might work a fortnight