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Agricultural implements, 1,176 employés.
The CHAIRMAN. But it is alleged to be a grievance that when they do work they are compelled to work too long hours, and then that there is a good deal of time when they have no employment; and one of the points urged upon the committee is that some legislation should be provided by which at no time should they work more than eight hours a day, and that thus the labor would be evenly diffused throughout the whole year.
Mr. Wright. It is a very serious question whether, by legislation, you ought to compel a manufacturer to work in a season of the year when he has no sale for his goods on the average of eight hours per day; or whether you will give him an opportunity of working for nine or ten hours a day during the busy season and running a shorter time during the dull season.
The CHAIRMAN. Is not that the very function of capital, that it is a fly-wheel, which carries labor over dull times and furnishes employment! Capital accumulates stock and is compensated by profits.
Mr. WRIGHT. I should think that that was a fair statement. We were speaking of the progress of machinery toward more luxury, which, I believe, is the province of machinery. The actual result of labor-saving machinery (which is, by the way, a misnomer, as it does not save labor but makes labor) is to give men better wages and more time. That is, to make them better qualified for a higher civilization. Now, the fact is (I quote from Mr. George Howell, of England) that the rise in wages during the last 30 years in London (in the clothing trades) amounted to nine and fourpence per week, equal to 304 per cent. on the 30 shillings a week paid previous to 1847. And that does not take into account the reduction of hours of labor. That is also true of this country.
The CHAIRMAN. You are quoting from Mr. Howell's recent publication on capital and labor
Mr. WRIGHT. Yes; his last work. In regard to this country, there is a sworn statement, made up by a committee appointed by a court in Connecticut, and the statement is that in 1859 carpenters received $1.75 per day. There was an actual increase until 1868, when they received $3.50 a day; and then there was a decrease to 1876, when they received $2.50 a day. Now, for jobbing work carpenters receive in our State $2 a day, which higher than the wages received by them in 1859, with all the depression.
The CHAIRMAN. Is the purchasing power of $2 at present equal to the purchasing power of $1.75 in 1859 7
Mr. WRIGHT. Not fully, although it is approaching it. I am preparing at present a complete statement of the wages of all kinds of mechanics in 1860 and 1878, with comparative columns, giving the prices of all provisions and necessaries of life for the same periods.
The CHAIRMAN. It is precisely that information which the committee sought to get in the questions which it put out, and which the committee has not yet succeeded in getting.
Mr. WRIGHT. You shall have it in full for Massachusetts. The CHAIRMAN. Then your statement is that machinery has not injured the demand for labor in this or any other country; but that, taken as a whole and on the average, it has increased the demand for labor!
Mr. WRIGHT. I believe that to be true. Of course, temporarily, on the introduction of improved machinery there is an apparent displacement and an actual displacement of muscular labor; but the result has been, in every instance where sufficient time has been given for an intelligent judgment, that employment (which I distinguish from muscular labor) has actually increased, and that that increased employment has increased the time which the workingman has to himself and the amount of wages which he has to furnish his family with subsistence.
The CHAIRMAN. If it can be shown that the material condition of the working classes has steadily improved since the introduction of machinery, do you know any other cause than machinery which could have brought about that result ? Is there any other cause 1
Mr. WRIGHT. I do not know any other cause to bring about a better condition of the workingmen. I do not know any more potent cause than that, because nothing can improve the workingman's condition except that which will give him better results for his work.
The CHAIRMAN. In investigating the condition of the wage-earning class, is the weight of evidence in favor of the fact that their condition has steadily improved during the last hundred years 1
Mr. Wrigat. Certainly; I know of no evidence to the contrary.
Mr. WRIGHT. I find it disputed, but never in books, because men who write books know better. But I find it disputed on the street. I find it disputed in my office by the men, who claim that machinery has been derogatory to the condition of the laboring man; but I never have found the man who could stand up and carry out his argument to its logical conclusion,
The CHAIRMAN. It is a curious fact that, in the evidence before this committee, not a single witness has taken the ground that the condition of the working classes has been made worse by machinery; but, as a matter of fact, all have conceded that the progress has been always toward a better condition of things.
Mr. WRIGHT. I should suppose they would. It is utterly impossible to take the other side.
The CHAIRMAN. In this work of Howell's (the best work that has appeared in the defence of trades-unions and the rights of labor), what view does he take on that subject? Does he consider that the condition of the laboring classes has improved ?
Mr. Wright. Certainly; all English writers who deal with the subject believe in that.
The CHAIRMAN. Have yon investigated what amount of population would be required in the State of Massachusetts to do the work now done there by muscular labor and machinery, provided the machinery were abolished ! Mr. WRIGHT. I have,
The CHAIRMAN. What population would be required in Massachusetts to do all tho work ?
Mr. WRIGHT. To do the work which we now do in Massachusetts would require a population, on the present means of subsistence, of about nine millions.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the present population ?
distributed among one million six hundred and fifty thousand people would have to be earned by and distributed among about nine millions of people ?
Mr. WHIGHT. Yes; that would be the result if we did not have machinery.
The CHAIRMAN. I need not, therefore, ask you for the conclusion that the nine millions of people would have very short commons. I do not suppose that you have such a surplus of food in Massachusetts that you could take care of seven millions more people!
Mr. WRIGHT. No, sir. If you take the accumulated wealth of any State, and if all the industries of that State be stopped, the accumulated wealth will not support the people more than two and a half years.
The CHAIRMAN. Then, in one year the entire accumulated wealth of Massachusetts would disappear if you were required to do by muscular labor the work that is now done there by muscular labor and machinery?
Mr. WRIGHT. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. How would it be worse? I supposed that China and India had reached the limit of the population that could live on what they have got to live on.
Mr. WRIGHT. I think the people of Massachusetts would reach a condition of starvation very rapidly. The CHAIRMAN. Within a year, I suppose ? Mr. Wright. Yes; within less time.
The CHAIRMAN. How are the figures arrived at; is it a matter of careful calculation?
Mr. WRIGHT. It has been a matter of arithmetical calculation, not based on any estimates whatever, but the result of figures made by various parties-engineers and intelligent men—from actual facts. There is no guess-work about it; we do not deal with that in our work. You cannot get along with statistics if you admit a single assumption.
Mr. THOMPSON. In that calculation of yours, do you take into consideration the transportation of the country carried on by railroads?
Mr. Wight. Yes, sir ; it includes the railroads. Without railroads it would be about seven millions. To do the work that is now done by the railroads in Massachusetts would require four hundred thousand men and a million and a half of horses, and would cost four hundred million dollars a year, instead of the twenty millions a year that it costs now.
Mr. THOMPSON. In your calculation, what relative number do you fix as between a horse and a man in power!
Mr. WRIGHT. As far as the roalroads were concerned, that figure was arrived at by the grades. We took into consideration the grades and the load which horses can draw over grade and over level roads. We did not use the ordinary horse-power of the philosophers at all.
The CHAIRMAN. Who made the calculation in regard to railways!
Mr. WRIGHT. The honorable Edward Appleton, formerly one of our railroad commissioners, a scientific, careful civil engineer.
Mr. Rice. He was the engineer of the board, was be not?
The CHAIRMAN. You can furnish the committee with those figures, I suppose, as you have them in an article read by you before the American Science Convention ?
Mr. WRIGHT. Yes; I shall furnish the whole calculations.
The CHAIRMAN. If that paper of yours is in print it would be a very valuable document to be appended to the report of the committee.
Mr. WRIGHT. I shall see that the committee has it.
The CHAIRMAN. The practical result of this calculation is that by the use of machinery every man in Massachusetts has made himself equivalent to about five persons, while only one is to be paid.
Mr. WRIGHT. Emphatically, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Then, in your judgment, machinery has enabled a larger population to subsist upon a given area than would have been otherwise possible? Mr. WRIGHT. Yes; that is the practical result.
The CHAIRMAN. Carry that out to its logical conseqnence. Is it not the tendency of population in every country to go on increasing until the limits of subsistence are reached I
Mr. Wright. That is a pretty deep question. I should like to consult a higher power about it.
The CHAIRMAN. Population does increase !
Mr. WRIGHT. Yes; but whether it would increase or not to that extent which you foreshadow, or whether there would be a blow up, I cannot say.
The CHAIRMAN. Has not the population so increased in India and China ?
people in one part of the earth living in one condition, and people in another part of the earth living in another condition. We find one man weighing 350 pounds and another man weighing only 125 pounds.
The CHAIRMAN. In a civilized country, where machinery is in operation, the standard of life is higher than in countries like China and India, where machinery has not been introduced to any great extent?
Mr. WRIGHT. There is no doubt about that..
The CHAIRMAN. Can you imagine that a race acenstomed to the refinements of civilization would be willing to come down to the condition of the people of China and India under the pressure of increasing population ?
Mr. Wright. I believe that the province and the work of machinery is to enable all the population which the Almighty sees fit to place upon this earth to subsist upon this earth, and I believe that machinery will carry the people constantly forward in a higher and higher condition of civilization so that they can subsist by less work; and I know that intelligence grows as machinery advances. That seems to me to be a solution of the problem which you have submitted.
The CHAIRMAN. England is a country abounding in machinery; Belgium is a country abounding in machinery. Belgium is much more densely populated than England, having something like four hundred persons to the square mile. England has but about half that number. Now, machinery of the most improved forms has been introduced into Belgium in every conceivable place. Is the condition of labor in Belgium more favorable to the laboring class than it is in England, or is it vice versa ?
Mr. WRIGHT. If you class all the labor together in your question, it would be a very difficult question to answer. I do not think it would be possible for the large mass of people to subsist comfortably in either Belgium or England were it not for the influence of machinery. Whether the one or the other is in a happior state would be a very serious question to undertake to answer.
The CHAIRMAN. I now press the question which I put to you originally, and which you said you would not like to answer; that is, whether the tendency, even with machinery, is not to go on and increase in population until practically the limits would be reached of humanity existing on the smallest possible amount that would keep it in being; and whether, as between England and Belgium, that is not about the present condition of Belgium?
Mr. WRIGHT. Whether the population of the world will become so dense that it cannot have subsistence is not a question for mortals to consider.
The CHAIRMAN. It is conjectural to some extent, but it has a bearing on this question-whether it is within the power of man to devise any remedy that will postpone the day when the population will become so large that the limit of subsistence will be reached, and that all will have to subsist in comparative poverty, almost want, as do the people in China and India ?
Mr. Wright. I do not believe that that time will ever arrive; and if the population become so dense that it cannot subsist with the present means of production, some other means will be given-whether through machinery or not, I cannot say; but faith in the Almighty teaches me to believe that He will get the world out of the trouble in some way.
The CHAIRMAN. But why doesn't the Almighty get China and India out of their trouble!
Mr. WRIGHT. I cannot tell you.
The CHAIRMAN. You must not suppose that I can answer the question better than you can. Mr. Wright. I am enjoying your position just as much as you are enjoying mine.
The CHAIRMAN. The bearing of the question on the condition of this country is simply this: Of course, in this country there is no present danger of our reaching any such limitation; but the question becomes important in this sense, that in other countries where the limit has been reached, as in Belgium, and, comparatively, in England (because England imports large quantities of food), competition is produced with our people, and if England and Belgium can get labor for a less supply of the necessaries of life than we can, and can undersell us, they can drive us out of all the foreign markets and compete with us in our own markets for our own domestic manufactures. Have you considered the subject in that view at all!
Mr. WRIGHT. That would involve the question of the tariff, which I understood this committee to say is a matter for the Committee of Ways and Means.
The CHAIRMAN. In Belgium labor is paid at the rate of two francs a day, and labor in this country is paid at the rate of tive francs a day. Now what is to prevent this Belgian competition from bringing down our labor to the same rate of compensation as the foreign labor ?
Mr. WRIGHT. That is a matter which, as one of the causes of the present depression, enters largely into the question. We are suffering just now from a disproportionato arrangement of values, resulting from rapid transportation, &c., and a readjustment must take place. Now overything undergoing a readjustment has to suffer always, under all circumstances, until the readjustment is perfected. We are trying to equal. ize wages; or, rather, the result of things is to equalize wages all over the world. The markets of the world are becoming nearer and nearer, as transportation grows more and more rapid. We are gradually approaching a condition almost entirely cosmopolitan in its character. Every man knows his foreign neighbor now better than he did. If goods are to be sold in New York to-day at a certain price, that price is quoted in Canton, in Hong-Kong, and in Liverpool; and whenever that class of goods finds a market and a price here (if they are goods that are produced here), that price immediately controls them there. Now we have to adjust ourselves to that state of affairs; and, during the adjustment, many men have to suffer. But I believe that every legitimate failure which has taken place is a step towards that readjustment in distributing assets, in sharing liabilities, and in bringing people to a common equalized basis. When that occurs (and it is occurring rapidly) the country will step out on a period of prosperity, and not until then.
The CHAIRMAN. Then one of the results of the introduction of machinery and of the readjustinent of things has been to bring about a state approaching towards the equalization of wages in the great manufacturing and producing countries ! Mr. WRIGHT. Yes, and the capacity to satisfy wants.
The CHAIRMAN. Will that equalization take place in the fall of the higher rate of wages to the lower level, or will it be in a rise from the lower to the higher; or will it be by a joint action toward a common level ?
Mr. Wright. It will be by a joint action, because wages and salaries and all remu. neration sometimes swing too far out of balance; while, on the other hand, the lower grades do not come up rapidly enough. Labor never receives adequate remuneration for the efforts expended. That is a state of affairs that has always existed, and which nobody can explain. Perhaps it is just there that the question of profits comes in. But I am satisficd that the workingman never yet has been paid, and is not now paid, a remuneration adequate to the effort he expends.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you mean to say that too large a proportion is taken by capital
Mr. WRIGHT. I would not say that, because I do not know it to be a fact, but I say that in individual cases that may occur. We have no right, however, to discuss questions on individual cases but on general principles.
The CHAIRMAN. As to the profits of manufacturing capital in New England. Has capital in the average of years in Massachusetts had a larger remuneration than seems to you just! Take the average of years, good and bad, has capital had such high rates of dividends as would seem to be an undue remuneration for it?
Mr. Wright. I do not believe it has. I believe that the reward of capital has been no greater than was perhaps necessary to keep the wheels of industry going.
The CHAIRMAN. Then how can you say that labor has had too little ? Mr. WRIGHT. For instance, the Lowell mills last year worked 306 days out of the 308 working days of the year; and on that they paid a smaller dividend to their stockholders than previously in continuous years. To prove that I refer you to the ninth annual report of my bureau, where that whole subject of profits of corporations and all private establishments is thoroughly displayed, and where it is shown that the stockholders receive a less amount of profit than the individual proprietors of private establishments. Now, if, in these Lowell mills, which ran 306 days out of 308, they should work less time and pay the same wages, you can see at once the disastrous effects that would follow.
The CHAIRMAN. Certainly I do see that.
Mr. WRIGHT. On the other hand, when I say that workingmen do not receive an adequate amount for their labor, that remark is based upon the fact that the majority of workingmen do not save anything. I do not now refer to the workingmen who er. pend their wages prodigally, but to men who are careful and economical. They do not save anything, and are obliged to rely in a large manner on the wages of the children of the family. That to me is the worst phase of the labor question—the employment of young children and young persons in our mills. And every time that a child goes into a mill to work he interferes with the wages of an adult.
The CHAIRMAN. How would you meet the competition with Belgiumt Supposing that the State of Massachusetts prohibited the working of women and children in factories in the way that you describe, and that in Belgium there was no such prohibition, and that the people were allowed to be overworked, how is competition with Belgium to be kept up in the State of Massachusetts-putting out of the way all questions of tariff ?
Mr. Wright. I do not believe that that competition can be forcibly adjusted. It would have to adjust itself on the wants of the people. If wages are brought too low for a man to subsist upon them, that man suffers. There is no doubt abont that. You cannot dodge that conclusion. And he must suffer until a different state of affairs helps him out of his suffering; and the only way out of it is the same royal road out of every difficulty-hard work. I know of none other.