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minutes the whole difficulty was adjusted. Now, I say that the power of trades. unions must not be used in that aggravating kind of way,
A SPECTATOR. May I ask what the committee is going to recommend to the workinginen generally? Did I understand you as saying that the committee will report against the railroad corporations buying coal-lands?
The CHAIRMAX. We are not going to make any recommendation at all to the workingmen. We are going to try to state, so far as we can, the causes of the present difticulty. We are going to try to find out, if we can, some remedies for the evil, and to recommend some improvement in legislation, and also to make some suggestions to the public at largc, thus doing something toward the formation of public opinion. If it comes to a question of saying whether we will recommend the workingmen not to work for the coal companies until they give up the coal-lands, the committee is not going to perpetrate any such folly as that.
This committee will now adjourn sine die, so far as Scranton is concerned.
WASHINGTON, December 11, 1878. ISAAC COHEN appeared voluntarily before the committee, and was examined as follows:
By the CIAIRMAN:
Q. Do you work at your trade ?-A. No, sir.
Q. What is your present business 1-A. My present business is taking part in the cause of the distressed laborers.
Q. Are you in the employ of any association ?--A. No, sir; not in the employ of an association. I belong to an association.
Q. Are you an officer of any association 1-A. Yes.
Q. What association is it :-A. An association which I am not at liberty to mention. I ain also president of the Workingmen's Relief Association of the District of Columbia.
Q. How many members has the association of which you speak?-A. That I cannot tell you now. I have been away for some time.
Q. How many members has it had at any time -A. It has had as many as 10,000 members in the District of Columbia.
Q. Do you mean to say that you have had 10,000 members enrolled-A. Not enrolled ; we had that number that took part; we had as many as 2,000 or 3,000 enrolled, but the others were members, too.
Q. What constitutes membership ?--A. Membership at that time constituted by giving names, places of residence, and occupations. 'Q. Then how did you distinguish between the 2,000 or 3,000 that you had enrolled and the remaining 7,000 or 8,000 that were not enrolled ?-A. I distinguished them by those that were enrolled having their names on the books.
Q. And how did the others become members 1-A. Simply because they took part in meetings, parades, and that sort of thing.
Q. But you say that that did not constitute membership I-A. No, sir.
Q. Yon said something about secret associations; are you also a member of secret associations 1-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Are you in a position to explain anything in regard to those secret associations; can you state what their object is 1 I do not want you to violate any confidence in asking these questions, but I should like to hear what the object of these associations is.-A. I will state the object. I do not propose to violate any secrets, however. The object is to unite in organizing citizens of the United States of eighteen years of age and upward, without regard to race or color, and all combinations of labor of whatever nature, against the aggressive inroads of capital and class legislation. That is about the main object.
Q. To prevent the inroads of capital ?-A. No, I didn't say that. I said to unite labor of whatever nature against the aggressive inroads of capital and class legislation.
Q. Are those associations numerous ?-A. They are.
Q. Can you give us any idea of the number of members probably belonging to them ?-A. No, sir; I could not give you the number of the membership, and I would not be allowed to do so if I could.
Q. Do these associations extend over the whole United States ?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do they exist in every State in the United States ?-A. I think so.
Q. Can you explain to the committee the methods by which these associations propose to prevent the "aggressive inroads of capital and class legislation" !-A. Yes. I think, in the first place, by voting for such candidates as they may select; and, where they have not got the strength to select men of their own, by pledging the members to vote for such men as the order shall agree upon, and to build up a party of their own in the interest of labor and of the laboring man.
Q. Explain to the committee what you understand to be the meaning of "the aggressive inroads of capital.” Do you object to capital ?-A. No, sir, I do not.
Q. You do not object to capital coming into this country ?-A. By no means.
Q. Then what do you mean by the aggressive inroads of capital ? If capital were to pour into this country at the rate of millions of dollars a month, or millions of dollars a day, you would not regard that as an aggressive inroad of capital ?-A. No, sir. What I mean by that expression is that capital takes seven-eighths of the wealth produced through labor, and labor gets only one-eighth.
Q. That is, you mean to say, that you regard the present distribution of the proceeds of industry as unjust and "aggressive," and that you want to introduce a different division between the owners of capital and the owners of labor!-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you know whether manufacturing business, agricultural business-I may include every kind of business in the United States-is prosperous at the present time, and whether the owners of capital embarked in business are making money or not ! A. I am aware of the fact that it is quite the contrary.
Q. They are not making money, you think ?-A. They are not.
Q. Then if you took any more from the owners of capital than they now give to labor, what would happen to the business ?-A. I don't propose to take anything from them. I propose a different division, in the language that you used a while ago.
Q. You say that at present the capitalist gets seven-eighths and the laborer only oneeighth, and you say at the same time that business is bad and capital is unproduetive ?--A. I beg to qualify that. I say that capital is not making anything now ont of the product of labor simply because the government is holding out inducements to capital by which it can make money without employing labor. I refer to the bank. ing system, where a man can buy bonds and make four or four and a half or six per cent. interest, whereby capital can make money and be independent of labor.
Q. Then you think the government policy which offers a 4 per cent. bond to capital is an inducement for capital to leave business and invest in bonds 1--A. Yes.
Q. Then, of course, you are of opinion that capital in business could not make 4 per cent, interest ?-A. No, sir; it could not on a large scale.
Q. Then, if capital could not make 4 per cent. in business, how can it be possible that capital gets seven-eighths of the products of industry and labor only one-eighth! Seven-eighths, you know, is 874 per cent.-A. I will explain. Suppose capital should invest in private enterprise and should only make three per cent. Then what I hold is that capital takes seven-eighths of that three per cent. profit, while the laborer gets only one-eighth.
Q. Then you think the iniquity is that capital takes seven-eighths of the profit and not seven-eighths of the product ?-A. Seven-eighths of the profit, whatever it may be.
Q. Take the case of a private enterprise in which there is invested a capital of $1,000,000. The interest on that capital at three per cent. would be $30,000 per annum. Now, it is a law which has been pretty well established by experience that every $1,000 employs a laborer; that is the way it works in this country practically. Therefore, a capital of $1,000,000 would employ just 1,000 laborers. At a dollar a day the earnings of those laborers would be, say $300 a year each, making an aggregate of $300,000. In that case labor would receive $300,000 and capital $30,000; or, in other words, labor would receive just ten times as much as capital. How does that comport with your statement that capital takes seven-eighths and leaves labor only one-eighth of the profits 1-A. That may be your theory, and it reminds me of a fact. While in the South I heard the farmers there abused for raising only cotton and told that they should raise provisions, so as to be sure of having something to live upon; but caleulations were made on the other side by which it was proved that the exclusive raising of cotton was more profitable; that it was cheaper to raise cotton and buy provisions than to raise them at home, because the West could furnish provisions so much cheaper. This calculation was proved. You could show a farmer that it was a great advantage to him to raise cotton and buy his provisions, but while the theory was good on paper, it was bad in practice; it ruined the South, and when they turned the scale on the calculations of the theorist it showed that they were not correct.
Q. But do you deny that capital employs labor?-A. I do deny that it employs it at this time.
Q. Is the labor of this country idle?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Then there is nobody employed in this country I-A. Hardly anybody. There are some people employed, as a matter of course.
Q. What proportion of the labor of the country is employed and what is unemployed 1-A. I believe that the largest proportion is unemployed.
Q. More than half, you think?-A. Yes.
Q. Are you aware of how many persons there are in the United States engaged in manual labor-the laboring classes, as you term them ?-A. I don't know the exact nimber.
Q. But you are satisfied that half of them are doing nothing at present ?-A. Yes, sir; I hold that half of them are doing nothing.
Q. Have you got any evidence of that fact beyond your mere belief-A. No, sir; except what information I receive.
Q. Have you any knowledge at all of what is supposed to be the capacity of a community actively employed to earn a surplus; what percentage of the profits of labor can be saved over and above what is consumed by the community -A. No, sir; I haven't gone into any calculations of that kind.
Q. You have said that capital cannot earn over 3 per cent. in profitable enterprise 1A. Yes, sir.
Q. Then that would indicate that the community could not earn over 3 per cent. surplus in a year!-A. I don't know what legal deductions you are going to draw.
Q. I am not drawing any legal deductions. I am trying to get at the facts. Your own statement is that capital cannot earn over 3 per cent., and that therefore it is glad to invest in government bonds at 4 per cent. You state also that capital takes seveneighths of the profits. Therefore, if capital takes over seven-eighths of the profits, and if then it cannot earn over 3 per cent., that proves that seven-eighths of the profits cannot amount to more than 3 per cent. on the capital. Now, if that is true, and if it is also true that more than one-half of the laborers of the country are idle, how long will it be before we shall all be suffering starvation 1-A. I think that is what we are doing now.
Q. Are you suffering ?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Are you suffering from want of food ?-A. No, sir; not exactly that, but from seeing other people suffer.
Q. They are at work ?-A. No, sir; most of them are idle.
Q. And you are idle ?–A. Yes. Well, I am doing something; I am working for other people.
Q. Are you working for the people that are idle ?-A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do they pay you for working for them I-A. No, sir; no more than they pay you. We are both working for the same cause. I am working for these people, and I am not paid for it.
Q. Well, that is a very creditable way for people to work for their fellow-men. Now you said you wanted to make some statement to this committee in regard to the condition of the laboring classes in this Districtl-A. I do.
By Mr. RICE: Q. Were you born in this country ?-A. No, sir; I was not born here, but I am now an American citizen; I was born in Germany.
Q. How long have you lived in this country!-A. Eleven or twelve years. Now, then, I would like to give a few of the reasons to which I attribute the difficulties of the laboring men, and then we will follow that up with the condition of the laboring men in this District. It is claimed by a great many that overproduction is the cause of our distress. I ask, why should that be the cause when the people are idleHow can we have overproduction when the people are idle? The balance of trade is in our favor; we can find markets for our products. Is that a sign of overproduction ? Extravagance on the part of the people is also named as a cause of distress. If the people are extravagant, how can we have overproduction! If the idle people who don't consume now because they have nothing to consume with were employed and earning, would overproduction cause them to be naked and suffering for the necessaries of life? Overproduction might be brought about by a too large increase of labor-saving machinery which produces without consuming.
By the CHAIRMAN: Q. Do you hold that overproduction is or is not the cause of the depressed condition of labor ?-A. I will get to that question in a minute. . I hold that we have too much work done by prison labor.
Q. I must ask you to answer my question. Do you mean to say that overproduction is or is not the cause of the business depression -A. I hold that it is not. I hold that the cause is non-consumption.
Q. That is, you hold that there is not too much production, but that there is too little consumed I-A. Yes, sir. Then I think that the work that is done now in the prisons onght to be abolished. Those prisoners are supported at the expense of the public. They do not compensate the publie; they do not work for the public, but they are hired out to individuals and corporations. They learn trades at the expense of the public; they come in competition with the workingman, enriching the few and impoverishing the many.
Q. What would you have the prisoners do?-A. I would have the prisoners work for the community and the government which places them there and support themselves.
Q. That is, you would have them produce the articles which they now produce for the government instead of for private individuals 1-A. No, sir; not necessarily. They need not manufacture shoes as they do now. Let them work on farms, and make themselves self-sustaining.
Q. Then you would have the prisoners work at farming instead of at mechanical trades ?-A. Yes; let them work at that and produce their own provisions and such things; but I wonld not let them produce articles which honest workingmen are snpposed to make a living from.
Q. Is the farmer an honest workingman ?-A. He is; but he is a more independent man. He is not dependent upon his daily labor to pay his expense from day to day. He has his fields and earns his bread, and if he does not work for a day or two, or three, or even a month, still he has something to live upon, while the workingmen in the large cities are dependent upon their daily pay for their daily necessities.
Q. Are you aware that there is very grievous complaint from those engaged in agricultural industry all over the country that they are not able to make sufficient wages to get what they regard as the necessaries of life!--A. Yes; but that is not due to the fact of their being engaged in agriculture; that is due to various causes now operating against their interests as well as against the interests of other workingmen. I hold that the laborers on farms are not suffering by any means to the extent that the laborers in the large cities are. While the laborers on farms have at least something to eat if they don't make any money, the workingmen in the cities cannot make a support for their families and are suffering for the necessaries of life. There is the difference.
Q. What branches of business do the prisoners engage in now ? Shoemaking is one. I believe ?-A. Yes, sir; shoemaking and cigarmaking. I have not examined that closely. I have examined the subject, but not the prisons.
Q. The prisoners make shoes. Do you know any shoemakers who are starving! A. Yes, sir; I know plenty of them.
Q. Starving 1-A. Starving; not in the sense that we use that word.
Q. Don't they have anything to eat?-A. They get something to eat, of course, or they wouldn't be alive.
Q. Now, if you set the prisoners to cultivating the farms, will they not displace just as many farm laborers as they now displace shoemakers and cigarmakers I-A. Ye; but I would not work them to that extent. I would work them just enough to make them self-supporting
Q. That is, you would let the prisoners have an easy time while the honest men had to work hard ?-A. Well, yes; if it is easy to lie in a cell.
Q. But you would take them out and let them work in the open air.-A. Yes, enough to make them self-supporting.
Q. Then, according to your plan, the criminal will work in moderation and have a pleasant time, while the hard-working laboring man is to be kept with his pose to the grindstone ?-A. That is not necessarily the consequence.
The next point that I want to call attention to is the Chinese question. The Chinese are a barbarous, debased, demoralized people. If they come here, and are detrimental to the interests of the workingmen, then I say, in the language of Dennis Kearney, “They ought to go."
Q. Would you limit that view to the Chinese, or would you include all other de graded and demoralized people ?-A. I would limit it to the Chinese.
Q. Then you would not exclude all degraded and demoralized people from this country, but only the Chinese !-A. Only the Chinese. I could not include American citizens.
Q. But suppose they were not American citizens. Suppose they were persons land. ing here, Germans and other nationalities, who were unfit to make good citizen degraded paupers and criminals, as I have seen them come into the city of New York myself, by ship-loads, in times past, would you apply your rule to them ?-A. Well, it wouldn't be a bad plan to exterminate them too.
Q. Then you would not limit your view to the Chinese, but would include all demoralized, degraded people coming into this country 1-A. For the purpose of my statement here now I would limit it to the Chinese, but if there are any such men as Toni have just now mentioned I shouldn't have any complaint to make if you applied it tim them.
By Mr. Rice: Q. Is not the very suffering of which complaint is made in the great cities largely to be attributed to the fact that the community is made up of such persons as have been referred to here; persons cast off from the pauperism of Ireland and other countries who are unable to take an independent place or make a living? Is not the suffering that you speak of largely to be attributed to that fact!-A. This is the first time I have heard of it. I understand Mr. Hewitt to say that there are such people, but I do not understand him to say that the people who come here from abroad are all criminals. I understood him to ask me whether the criminals of other nations who come here ought not to go with the Chinese, and to that I answered him in the affirmative.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, I want to know whether it is because of their nationality that you want the Chinese to go, or whether you apply your view to all the people who are unfit, owing to degradation and demoralization, to be good members of society.-A. Yes, sir; I want the Chinese to go, in the first place, because of their coming here and being hired here as serfs, and because the effect of their being here is detrimental to the welfare of the people of this country, and especially to the State of California. They come here as serfs, they are hired as serfs, they live as serts; they produce and do not consume. The legislature of California appointed committees to investigate this subject, and reported that the Chinese are detrimental to the welfare of the people of that State and to the country at large. That being the case, and basing my view upon that special report, I say they ought to go.
Q. Suppose the authorities of some other State should make an investigation of the condition of society there and find that it was detrimental to have Germans, or Irish, or Italians, or negroes (because they are free to come here from Africa), what would you do then; would you exclude them all on the same principle l-A. I suppose I will have to do so to be consistent.
Q. Then you think that this United States Government should, npon the representation of the authorities of a State that some particular class of labor was detrimental to that State, exclude that labor from the country ?-A. I take it that this government is for the benefit of the people, and that if the majority of the people, who are supposed to rule in this country, declare that a certain thing is detrimental, then it must be abolished. Now, as to whether it is just or unjust, I call your attention to the fact that that is done every day, under the cover of law, to American citizens, whether of Irish, or German, or native birth; they are classed as tramps, and imprisoned because they cannot find employment, although they are not criminals of any kind. If the law can do that, I think it can do almost anything.
Q. I ask you whether it is your opinion that, on the representation of the authorities of a State that a certain class of laborers are detrimental to its interests, the general government should proceed to exclude that class of laborers from the country ? A. Yes, if they were found to be detrimental.
Q. And that should be done upon the representation of any State ?-A. I hold that, if the Congress of the United States satisfies itself that the presence of the Chinese or any other nationality is detrimental to the community, then that class of people ought to be got rid of. I do not say in what manner it should be done; that is for the Congress to determine, but some action should be taken on the subject.
Q. Do you know what percentage of the occupants of the poor-house and prisons of the State of New York, for example, are of foreign birth ?-A. I do not.
Q. Well, nearly three-fourths of them are of foreign birth. Now, if that is so, it is detrimental to the State of New York that it should have to maintain a large number of paupers and criminals of foreign birth, is it not I-A. Yes.
Q. And therefore, if the people of the State of New York said that they wanted the Germans and the Irish and the other foreigners who fill their poor-houses and prisons excluded from the country, you would have the general government exclude them :A. Yes; but here is the qualification I made: if these men come here as criminals.
Q. Do you know that the government has taken every possible precaution in that particular by having commissioners of immigration to look after these foreigners who come here for the first five years 1-A. If a man has been here five years, and naturalizes, he is an American citizen, and then if he becomes a criminal, he is to be treated the same as a native would be.
Q. But you know that a man may have been five years here and not be a citizen! A. Well, if he is not a citizen, and if he has been in the country any length of time, and has acted as a respectable member of the community, he could not be sent out of the
Q. Have you ever compared the percentage of the Chinese who are in prisons and poor-houses in California or any other part of the l'nited States with the percentage of prisoners of European birth? I want to know whether your denunciation of the (Chinese as a degraded and demoralized race is based upon an examination of the facts.--A. Yes; I have taken the facts from the report of the committee of the legis. lature of California,