« AnteriorContinuar »
tion; partly because people will spend at least as much as they can afford, and if things are cheaper will buy more of the same kind, or with the surplus money will buy other things; it is not desire por inability to find something desired which limits expenditure with mankind, but want of means. More than this, the cheaper a thing becomes the larger the circle of possible and therefore certain purchasers and consumers, and wants grow by indulgence. The tendency of this kind of increase in production therefore is, of itself, to increase the consumption which will support it and will maintain it. The improvements which lead to this increa-e do not, either in theory or in fact (the illustrations have been given at length already), teud to diminish the total cost of production, but only the cost per piece. The cost of transportation required by a population of 100,000 souls is to-day tenfold what it was 100 years ago. The railroad from New York to Washington costs for its construction and for its daily operation many times as much as the stage-team of fifty years since. But it will do much more work, i. e., is so much more productive, that the cost of each passenger or ton of freight hauled one mile has amazingly diminished. Almost every railroad that is started occupies a field where the existing work of transportation would not pay the increased expense of the new method, but it is projected upon the theory that the diminished cost per piece, so to speak, will increase the demand so as not only to compensate for that diminution in cost, but to far increase it; will lead the inhabitants not only to spend as much but a great deal more in transportation than before.
So much for the effect of improvements in existing industries. But besides that the same disposition to invent aud improve leads to new industries. Sometimes strictly new industries, as in the case of printing, vulcanized rubber, photography, telegrapby, gas-making, steam transportation, and a host of other things; sometimes virtually new industries are made commercially practicable by a reduction in cost of some necessary thing or process. Many branches of trade and business to-day would be impossible without steam transportation and telegraphs. The habits and powers of business men have been greatly modified by the sleeping-car. The Bessemer process for making steel not only employs, certainly in this country, far more men than the old process, but it has made possible many things which the old process forbade from the high cost. The steel rails have cheapened transportation. And the engineers say that a little more rednction in the cost of production will make it available for ship-building.
The fallacy of those who object to improvements in labor-saving machinery and processes lies in the false assumption that as many articles would be made by the old and expensive method as by the new aud cheap one. This is absolutely untrue in theory and in fact.
One other point. The concentration of mannfacturing operatives in large towas
not the result of the invention of power-driven machinery, but long preceded it. Five hundred years ago Florence was a city of artisans. In Queen Elizabeth's time certain industries were concentrated in certain localities. Forty years ago. When hosiery was made on hand frames in the workmen's homes, it came from a few towns Philadelphia was long full of band looms worked at home. On the other hand, New England was dotted all over with little industries wherever a village waterfall furnished power. The moment industry got beyond the supply of a purely local demand, such as supports the village blacksmith, it became concentrated in large centers, where
ed many journeymen or piece-workers, and the product passed through the hands of the merchant and the avenues of commerce before it reached the consumer. The distinction between the village industry, where the man was half artisan, half agriculturist, and could support himself tilling the soil when his trade was dull, and the urban life where the man must find work in his trade or sutter, preceded the use of power-driven machinery. This, however, increased tbe concentration of operatives and of production in a particular locality. It also gave rise to the factory system, properly so-called, i. e., the collection of the work-people in one building, instead of having them work at home on piece-work; but the effects of that system belong to a different inquiry.
Now the moment that production in one town exceeded the consumption of that town, agencies for its distribution must be set up. When increased production calls for or is intended to lead to increased consumption, there must be means for taking the products from the factory and offering them for sale to the ultimate consumer. The merchant and the carrier must come in. Commerce must be equal to the increased work put upon it, for if it is not, the whole fabric breaks down and the product is not consumed. Whether the merchant has grown in his ability to do this as much as the manufacturer has improved in his art, and what means should be taken to improve him, are foreign to this inquiry; the work of the mechanic and the manufacturer stops with the production, but it is a striking commentary on the inefficiency of the merchants of this country that in many trades the manufacturers have been forced to become their own distributors to the local retail stores.
The suffering among the manufacturing popnlation of England during the thirty years which followed the introduction of power-driven machinery, say from 1755 to 1815, was due largely to the failure of the merchants to reach consumers with the
product of the factories. Consider the enormous increase of goods to be distributed ; canals were not; railroads did not come till 1830; steam ocean navigation ten or fifteen years later. Commerce was paralyzed by the material obstacles of blockades, orders in council, Berlin decrees; still more perhaps by the wars or rumors of wars which, during nearly all that period, checked the business of interchanging commodities, while a curious system of legislation did its best to prevent a supply of food from reaching those workmen whose occupations or mode of life made it impossible for them to till the soil. But as these obstacles began to disappear, England, with a vastly increasing production, entered upon a career of unexampled prosperity, because ber merchants were equal to her manufacturers.
The factory system, properly so-called—that is, the system of aggregating large numbers of operatives in one building under one control-bas unquestionably in England at least required legislation to enable or compel the masters and the workmen to conform to what the welfare of society under this system required. But it is one of its chief merits that it brings the workmen under such organization that public opinion and legislators can be informed about their conditions and can act upon them and improve them. Refornis in ventilation, hours of work, labor, and schooling of children, which could not be enforced against operatives doing piece-work at home, can be enforced in a factory, and the necessary discipline of a large establishment requires more regular babits of the workman.
Let me add one more remark about the factory system. It enables less skillful labor to be used under more intelligent oversight. The practised band is less important than the quick brain. The number of foremen in proportion to the number of operatives constantly increases. The financial view of education is beginning to be felt. And it is not the apprentice system but the technical schools that will furnish the supply of overlookers. I think I see an improving tendency in this direction.
The CHAIRMAN. You think that the great mass of mankind is much better off now than they were, and that that is the way in which the increased production has been used up, in making mankind more comfortable, prosperous, and happy! Mr. COFFIN. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think that if the ownership of very large masses of this increased wealth was in a few hands, that fact would in any degree invalidate the proposition which you now lay down that the great mass have been made more comfortable ? Mr. COFFIN. I think that it would.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think that if this great increase of wealth were nominally owned by one single individual-a great king or emperor, or call him by whatever name you like-if he had the ownership of the whole of it, it would materially affect the comfort and enjoyment which the great mass of the people derive from it?
Mr. COFFIN. I think it wonld diminish it very much.
Mr. COFFIN. I do not know what he could do with it, but I do not think that his monopoly of it could contribute to the universal happiness of free beings. All history shows that it could not. In a free society the laws imposing restraint should be as few as possible consistent with the general welfare of men. The question wbich you bave put is an abstract question, and it is not likely to call for any practical solution in this country.
The ChaiRMAN. Would you restrain men in the acquisition of property.
The CHAIRMAX. Then if you do not restrain the acquisition of property, would you do anything to prevent one man from acquiring a very large proportion of it, as many men have done Mr. COFFIN. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. But you think it is injurious to have that condition of thiugs existing 1
Mr. COFFIN. I think that, in consequence of it, the condition of society would not be so good as if it were very widely diffused.
The CHAIRMAN. If it is bad for society, why would you not restrain it ?
The CHAIRMAN. Is not society formed for that very object? Is it not declared in the Constitution of the United States that the government is formed in order to“ promote the general welfare," &c. ?
Mr. COFFIN. Oars being a government of the people, the people can pass what laws they please to promote the general welfare; but it is manifest that the general welfare can only be promoted by wise laws. For one, I do not think such a law would be wise, neither that it would commend itself to the general judgment.
The CHAIRMAN. There is a point which I would recommend some intelligent man like yourself to consider, viz: whether, after all, it is not the function of society to introduce limitations upon the acquisition of wealth. There is no process by which any one man could have contributed to society one hundred millions of dollars, and yet we have numbers of men who own that amount of value. In a case such as that, when a man has obtained a great deal of wealth, and never did anything to obtain it, will you do anything to prevent it?
Mr. Cofrin. Your question opens a very broad field. It is a question which confronts England to-day; whether with her acreage under cultivation diminishing from year to year, the Duke of Devonshire and others of the landed aristocracy shall be allowed to go on and keep their game preserves. Behind that question lies another, as to what shall be the limit of ownership in land; and behind that still another which the communist raises, whether a man shall have any individual ownership in land, or in anything else? When our fathers framed the Constitution they excluded primogeniture, rightly seeing that with such exclusion there could be no long-continued inheritance of large areas of land. As a practical question I do not think that we shall be callod upon to grapple with it in this country.
The CHAIRMAN. In France you are aware they overturned the whole landed system by revolution. Suppose that Mr. Vanderbilt and other rich men like himn would club together and make themselves proprietors of the State of New Jersey. Do you think that society would be justified in preventing thein ?
Mr. COFFIN. Your question takes us back to the beginning of things, and the first point to settle is the original ownership. The first title-deed is found recorded Genesis, chapter 1, verse 23, direct from the Almighty: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it." Subjugation is the title to ownership. Labor upon the land is the only ground of ownership. To begin with, every man owns himself and all that he prodnces by the exertion of his powers. It is the fundamental condition of existence. When he employs his power upon any material substance all that he adds to it is his. It is a natural right which society cannot interfere with. The earth was made for man; from it he obtains subsistence just in proportion as he employs his powers. This whole presentation that I have given is based on the exceeding richness of nature. Land in its natural state does not supply man's wants. It must be “subdued." True, in the tropics it produces food-bearing trees, and it provides sustenance for game, but nothing more. When our fathers came to this country they found it a wilderness filled with game, and Indians that existed by living on the game. Did the Indian own the land! He was in possession, but was his possessory.title valid ? Certainly not, for he had done nothing to “subdue” the land except here and there to scratch the soil. In no sense had he subdued it. Until labor has been applied to land it is utterly useless to the human race. There are millions of acres of unoccupied land, rich and fertile, in this country to-day capable of producing twenty to thirty bushels of wheat to the acre in the possession of the government, which is only another term for the people, and the government, recognizing the fundamental law that labor upon land is the true and only title to ownership, says to every individual go and occupy eighty or one hundred and sixty acres of that land for five years, and you shall have a title secured to you and your children forever. Or if you will pay $1.25 per acre you shall have it. Labor, occupancy, gives the right of ownership. Gorernment has not said that a man shall not purchase more, only that he shall not oecupy more without paying for it. Shall he be limited in his acreage by purchase! If so, what shall be the limit? Shall it be one hundred and sixty acres or one acre, or a quarter of an acre? The right to limit at all implies the right to limit to a square rod or less.
That brings us to the demand of one class of socialists who maintain that there shall be no individual ownership in land, a question that is hardly worth while for me to enter upon in this connection; which so far as the subject-matter I had in view at the outset can only be speculative.
I think it is clear that under our industrial progress wealth doos not accumulate in a few hands, as it did under the Roman Empire, or in the middle ages, or before Arkwright and Watt began to use the forces of nature for the benefit of man. There certainly is more chance for change in condition now for the mass of the people than there has been at any former period of the world's history. We have only to compare the past with the present to find unmistakable evidence on that point. It is easier for men now to change their lot in life than in any age. Why! I think I have shown conclusively that it is because we are using the forces of nature instead of our own muscles. It is incumbent upon those who say that machinery throws men out of employment to show the contrary
Whenever I survey the past and contrast it with the present; whenever I recall the social condition of former times; the want, the squalor, the limited employments, the unchangeableness of situation, the few opportunities for advancement, in contrast with the present enjoyments, the diffused wealth, the varied occupations, the progress of the people, I can arrive at only one conclusion, that the physical, moral, and spiritual forces together are lifting us in the scale of being to a civilization immeasurably higher and nobler than the present.
Allow me, Mr. Chairman, in conclusion, to express my thanks to the committee for their kind consideration.
WASHINGTON, D. C., January 22, 1879. VIEWS OF MR. JOSEPH D. WEEKS. Mr. Joseph D. Weeks appeared before the committee in response to its invitation, and in reply to preliniinary questions by the chairman, stated that he resides at Pittsburg, Pa.; That he is an American citizen; that he is associate editor of the Iron Age, and secretary of the Western Iron Association and of the Western Nail Association, both being associations of manufacturers.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you had occasion in your professional studies, or in consequence of your official position in connection with those bodies, to make an examination of the relations between capital and labor ? Mr. WEEKS. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. And in regard to the disputes which take place between them-have yon of late or at any time examined the subject!
Mr. WEEKS. Yes. At the time of the strike in Pittsburg in 1874–75, and several times since, I, as secretary of the Iron Association, have found it necessary to make certain investigations as to wages, &c. Also during the past summer, previous to my departure for Europe, I received a commission from Governor Hartranft, of Pennsylvania, to examine into the working of trade arbitrations in England and France. I investigated the subject, and have made a report of the same to him.
The CHAIRMAX. Are you prepared to give the committee any information as to the methods by which you think the disputes between employers and employed can be settled or their relations improved in any way i
Mr. WEEKS. My views are at present entirely in favor of arbitration and conciliation, and they have become so from the investigations which I made in England of the practical workings of arbitration and conciliation there.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you believe it possible to introduce arbitration into trade dig. putes in this country!
Mr. WEEKS. Before going abroad I did not understand the question, and without understanding it I did not think it possible to do so; but since then I have become thoroughly convinced that it is practicable in this country.
The CHAIRMAN. Is arbitration extending in England i Mr. WEEKS. I hardly think it is at the present time, owing to the extreme depregsion in trade there. There seems to be trouble there to know what to do. But I think that in the trades where arbitration has been tried, it is still continued. I think that last week there was an arbitration in the north of England iron-trade, which has brought wages to a lower point than ever before in that district, or at least lower than at any time for twenty years.
The CHAIRMAN. Has the reduction been made by the board of arbitration !
Tbe CHAIRMAN. Do you know any case where the workmen ever refused to abide by the arbitration ?
Mr. WEEKS. Yes, there have been a number of such cases, but I think that in proportion to the number of cases which have been arbitrated the cases where the workmen refused to abide by the result of the arbitration have been so very few as to be scarcely worth mentioning.
The CHAIRMAN. Still there bave been such cases ? Mr. WEEKS. There have been such cases. There was one case in the north of Eng. land iron-trade in connection with a certain mill that was rolling rails. The board of arbitration gave an award against the men, and the men at those works refused to accept it. The employé members of the board used their utmost efforts to get the men to go to work, but they would not do so. A certain order had to be completed at a specified time or there would be a violation of a contract on the part of the establishment which might entail very large expense in the way of damages. The employé members of the board found it impossible to prevail on the men to go to work until long after that time had passed, and the board of arbitration paid the damages that were agreed upon-the men paying one-half and the manufacturers paying the other half.
The CHAIRMAN. That was a mere local rebellion in a single establishment, and was against the general judgment of the trade organization ?
Mr. WEEKS. Yes; it was against the general judgment of the board of arbitrationmen and “masters," too.
The CHAIRMAN. That was rebellion ?
Mr. WEEKS. No, sir; I think that the north of England iron-trade is one of the bes examples that I know of the success of trade arbitration. You know something about the trade, and you know that it was a trade which was of very rapid growth, begin. ning, I think, early in 1860. The trade in tbis district grew rapidly at the time when other districts were increasing uutil in ten years it had become the largest of any of the districts in England. It had to draw its labor from all sources; some of it came from other districts, some was picked up from the mines, some from among agricultural laborers, and some from among common Irish laborers who had to be brought in and taught the trade.
The result of course was that they had a body of men who had nothing in common, no cohesion, nothing to lead them to union, nothing to lead them to have that good feeling toward their employers which comes from long years of service. Strikes in that trade were of constant occurrence. In the winter of 1865–66 there was both a strike and a lock-out, the lock-out lasting four months. From that time up to 1868-'09 there were constant reductions of wages made necessary by the condition of trade, and strikes and lock-outs were of constant occurrence-hardly a month passing in which there was not a strike in regard to wages or in regard to something connected with the trade. In March, 1869, iron began to advance in the market, and it was seen that there was going to be a good deal of trouble. Mr. David Davis, a large ironinaster, suggested the formation of a board of arbitration something in accord with the plan adopted by Mr. A. J. Mundella, member of Parliament, in the hosiery trade, and in March, 1869, that board was established. It should be stated that Mr. John Kane, president of the Ironworkers' Association, had urged arbitration for years. From that time to this there has not been a general strike in that trade, although before that it was one of the worst trades for strikes in the whole of England. They have had a Jarge number of arbitrations. The first arbitration awarded an advance of wages for puddling to eight shillings a ton of 2,400 pounds.
From 1869 to 1874 there was a constant advance of wages, until in 1874 the wages for puddling were thirteen shillings and three pence a ton, and other wages in proportion. Since 1874 there has been a constant decline, until in the arbitration of last week, I see by the telegraphic dispatches, the wages have been reduced to seven shillings a ton, which is equal to $1.56 on our ton of 2,240 pounds.
The CHAIRMAN. What are you paying in Pittsburg for that same work ? Mr. WEEKS. Five dollars a ton, and it is easier work in Pittsburg, becanse you know that to puddle our Pittsburg pig-iron is much easier than to paddle the north of England piy-iron.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you understand the conditions of trade at Pittsburg to be profitable or unprofitable at the present time ? Mr. WEEKS. I understand them to be unprofitable. The CHAIRMAN. Do you mean that the manufacturers are losing money ? Mr. WEEKS. No, but I mean that if you take bar-iron as a basis, manufacturers are losing money. But the Pittsburg mills have certain specialties-some of them patent specialties-by which they are able (taking the whole thing through) to about clear themselves.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, having the advantage of a monopoly of some prod. ucts they are able to continue their works without loss ?
Mr. WEEKS. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. But if they had no monopoly they would be losing money in Pittsburg 1 Mr. WEEKS. They cannot make bar-iron to-day without loss.
The CHAIRMAN. In order, therefore, to reduce the cost they would have to reduce wages?
The WEEKS. Yes. The CHAIRMAN. Therefore monopoly is the friend of labor, is it? Mr. WEEKS. Just at this time, and under these circumstances, it is. I may say in regard to Pittsburg, that the Pittsburg manufacturers are not at all satisfied with the wages paid certain classes of labor there. There is before Pittsburg and the West (for the Pittsburg prices govern all the rest) a most serious labor difficulty if these rates are not reduced.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, if we were to abolish all these patents and make free trade in the patents, there would be a readjustment of wages
Mr. WEEKS. I think you misunderstand me. All these things are not patents. They are specialties in the nature of rolls and rolling shapes-shapes for agricultural ironsfor which there is so small a demand that it does not pay more than one or two mills to take them up.
The CHAIRMAN. Still there are patents which influence trade in Pittsburg ? Mr. WEEKS. Yes; there is one firm there which has a patent for making iron dripping-pans by which it consumes a portion of its sheet-iron. Then there are patents for wagon hardware which was formerly made by the blacksmiths. That trade is almost entirely taken from the blacksmiths by these mills rolling the iron into these shapes. " Then there are cotton-ties; but these can be made by any hoop-mill. Pittsburg does not own these patents; they are held by the American Cotton-Tie Company,