Imágenes de páginas

Massachusetts is due to the fact that the people can get what they want cheaper in some other way than by agriculture ?

Mr. WALKER. They can.

The CHAIRMAN. What influence has railroad transportation had! Has it cheapened the cost of living ?

Mr. WALKER. I think it has, and I think it has not. The measure of the cost of living to a man is what he receives, with rare exceptions, and these rare exceptions are, by the saving of some of their income, made capitalists. The people of Massachusetts receive more than they ever did before; and, as a matter of course, they spend more. They spend it in making themselves more comfortable. The absolute necessaries of life cost less in Massachusetts to-day than they ever did before; and it is the same in the country at large.

The CHAIRMAN. With your large observation of workingmen, you must have seen many merge from the ranks of labor and become foremen, employers, and even capitalists. Is there any more difficulty at present for a man who has capacity and brain and industry and frugality to get into a comfortable position than there has been heretofore ?

Mr. WALKER. There were in Worcester in 1840 four firms engaged in boot and shoe manufacturing. They comprised seven individuals, and the annual production of hoots was about 12,500 cases. The total number of hands employed, including men, women, and children, was about 225, and the value of the annual product was about $200,000. The average wages of journeymen for 13 hours' work, were about $1. Only one of the seven died in comfortable circumstances, in advanced age. Two of them were at work for me as journeymen when prostrated with their final sickness. With the exception of a son of one of them who is now a porter in my leather store, there isn't a single descendant of one of these men engaged, in any way, in connection with boots, shoes, or leather; nor (with one exception) have any of their descendants any property except household effects, or at least very little. În 1850 there were in Worcester 21 firms manufacturing boots and shoes, comprising 24 members. All but four of these failed in business, and only two retired with any capital. Not one of the 24 is now engaged in the leather or shoe business there, or anywhere else ; and of their sons only two. The value of the boot and shoe manufactures of Worcester in that year was about $750,000. The number of cases produced about 40,000, and the number of persons employed about 650, at about $1.50 per day. In 1860 there were 23 firms en gaged in the boot and shoe business in Worcester, comprising 30 individuals, only two of whom were manufacturing in 1850. Of those 23 firms, 12 have failed; and of the individuals who composed the firms only 8 are now manufacturing, and only two bave gone out of the business with any capital.

Mr. RICE. State whether, as a general thing, those men were men who came up, from the ranks of operators to become employers.

Mr. WALKER. I do not now remember one of them who was the son of a capitalist ; that is, of a man who would now be called a capitalist. Some of their fathers may have had some property, may have owned farms. Every one of these men was a journeyman.

The CHAIRMAN. They belonged to the order of men called self-made men!
Mr. WALKER. Yes, sir.

Mr. Rice. And every one of them was a journeyman in the business before he went ap?

Mr. WALKER. Every one of them but two. I remember that one of them was a bookkeeper who came to work in Worcester at $100 a year. He was not properly a mechanic. The other one began as boy in a retail shoe store. The wages of journeymen in 1860 were about $2 a day. The amount of goods manufactured was about $1,500,000, and the number of cases of goods about 70,000. Today the number of firms manufacturing boots and shoes in Worcester is 21, comprising 40 men. The annual product is about 150,000 cases. The total number of hands employed, includ-. ing men, women, and children, is about 2,200. The value of the annual production is about $5,000,000, and the average wages of journeymen for ten hours' work about $2 to $2.15. Of those 40 men comprising these 21 firms, only five are sons of manufacturers, and only one is the son of a shoemaker, and I know of only one who has not been à journeyman worker.

The CHAIRMAN. Then all who are to-day employers in the boot and shoe business in Worcester have come up from the ranks of labor ?

Mr. WALKER. I think that every one of them has; and I have been over four or five of the largest shoe towns in Massachusetts, and these statements of the history of the boot and shoe business in Worcester very nearly represent the facts as to the personnel and as to the conditions on which they have succeeded, and represent the history of the trade generally. I do not believe that there ever was a time when a prudent, industrious mechanic, with fair ideas of the relations of facts to each other, could succeed in taking the position of an employer in our business so easily as he can to-day. The CHAIRMAN. Take society generally as it passes under your eye.. Does it secin

more difficult now than at any previous period for a man of capacity and industry, and who takes the trouble to tit himself for useful employment, to work into a successful business career!

Mr. WALKER. I think it is easier. I feel very sure that it is. In confirmation of which I may say that there are quite a number of firms starting under my eye (journeymen out of manufactories) who have continued in business successfully during the last three years with scarcely any capital. Indeed I do not know that they had any to speak of.

The CHAIRMAN. You have to grant credits in selling leather to these people! Mr. WALKER. Certainly. The CHAIRMAN. As a matter of fact, do not capitalists prefer to grant credits to men who have risen out of the ranks (providing they have a good character) than to any other class; are they not considered the best subjects of credit in business?

Mr. WALKER. We put character first. We put such a thorough knowledge of the business as can only be gained by journeymen working themselves up, second. We put capital last. That is our rule in all the credits that we grant; and it is the rule in all kinds of business. I am selling goods to-day to a man, the limit of whose credit to me is $20,000, and I do not believe the man is worth $5,000.

The CHAIRMAN. But you have faith in his business ?

Mr. WALKER. I have perfect faith in him; and I know that if he fails I will get a fair dividend; he will not steal the assets.

The CHAIRMAN. Be good enough to state about what percentage of your customers has actually failed through these disastrous times.

Mr. WALKER. Very few of my customers have failed. Our trade is peculiarly conducted—not like the cotton trade or the woolen industries—and failures among the men who handle the goods (among men known as jobbers) are not numerous. The failures that have taken place have been, almost without exception, those of men who, supposing that they had capital to conduct other business besides their legitimate businiess, have invested money "outside," and then, in attempting to protect it with the capital of their legitimate business, have failed. During the whole of these disastrous times, so far as iny observation goes, the more justly that people in our trade could be callel capitalists, the more likely they have been to fail; that is, men who had a surplus of capital more than was necessary for the conduct of their legitimate business have almost invariably failed.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you know anything of the actual facts in regard to the savings of the workingmen since 1873; whether the frugal and economical and industrious have been able to save money?

Mr. WALKER. My relation to the workingmen (that is, my knowing them personally) is not such as it was previous to 1860. I know of quite a number of workingmen who are saving and who have saved; but I know that previous to 1860 a majority of the workingmen in our employment were saving, and particularly those who lived in the country. Nearly two-thirds of the men employed by us who lived in the country owned their own houses, and some of them owned two or three houses, and from a few square rods of land to 15 or 20 acres.

The CHAIRMAN. Would you say that as large a proportion of the workingmen who choose to be economical and saving come to the end of their career in a condition of competency as of their employers ?

Mr. WALKER. I think that a very much larger proportion of them come to a condition of competency; that means being rich in proportion to their wants. A man's wealth must be measured by his habits and tastes in life and by what he is accustomed to. A man who has been used to habits of liberal expenditure for himself and family is in misery if he is deprived of the means of indulging those habits, whereas the man who is gradually “getting on," and who is increasing the comforts of his children, is a wealtday and a happy man.

The CHAIRMAN. It has been alleged before this committee as a grievance that some med eommonly known as capitalists or employers seem to have a very large proportion of the luxuries and comforts of life, while other men who desire to work have not even the necessaries of life. With your knowledge of men, have you (I do not mean in the city of New York, but in a rural region) found in the enjoyment of a reasonably comfortable and happy life, the disproportion to be largely in favor of capitalists and of the employing classes? Where do you think that, as a general thing, the misfortunes and calamities of life have fallen most severely 1

Mr. WALKER. I think that they have fallen most severely upon the more skilled workmen, manufacturers, business men, and capitalists. The men in Worcester who have received the highest wages and who are unwilling to work for any less and are striving to find some congenial employment, some position, as easy and lucrative as that which they were compelled to give up, have been the men who, in my judgment, have suffered most. Tlae mass of the workmen, when there is anything to be dove, have the best chance of employment because they do the work cheapest; and the highest class of workmen, unless they have laid up something, have had nothing to

should go

rely upon except their relatives who may have had something which they could divide with them.

The CHAIRMAN. Suppose that a condition of society could be introduced by which all men would be provided with the necessaries of life, and by which the proceeds of industry would be divided so that everybody would be on a dead level. Do you think that that would ameliorate the condition of society to any extent! I ask this question because you have seen every phase of this life, and have passed through it yourself, and you therefore are an interesting witness for this committee.

Mr. WALKER. I do not know, and I never knew, a man who would be called an industrious, frugal, temperate man (unless some calamity or sickness befell him) who was not in comfortable circumstances. I do not believe that there is any class of the community that works so hard and incessantly as capitalists, so called. When the laboring man sees them riding in carriages or cars, or enjoying themselves at some watering-place, it does not occur to him that it is almost impossible for them not to continue the grinding thought and anxiety which will wear them out, or that their present condition may last but for a day. Furthermore, it is impossible to employ all men unless capitalists spend freely for luxuries, or that civilization should progress unless large amounts of capital are under the control of and handled by one man. I question whether the capital which Mr. Vanderbilt has handled could possibly, by any devise, have been managed by any other man so much to the advantage of the community, as a whole, as by him. We all enjoy it every time we ride upon his railroads. No man can have capital and keep all other men from enjoying it. When a man devotes his capital to building railroads, it releases that amount of capital of some other men to be employed in some other way. Every man to his taste in the legitimate use of capital. It is not conceivable for capital to be held by a man for his own use alone. Everybody nses it or else it is not capital. I do not believe it possible for men to be useful citizens unless they desire to acquire wealth-unless they are determined to improve their condition. I can conceive of no condition in which man can be placed where any progress in human affairs can be made, excepting on this basis of every man working to get on,” by himself individually; and I believe that the government

to the utmost verge of its power in enacting laws to protect the weak in their efforts. The strong will take care of themselves. I believe, furthermore, that if you show the manufacturers and capitalists in Massachusetts (I speak of Massachusetts because I must take some community as an illustration) any way by which the masses of the people can be benefited by a law (even if it makes the accumnlation of capital less to them by any percentage), it will not be an hour before they will ask to have the law passed. We have laws on our statute-books to-day which we desire to enforce as to the rights of labor, and as to inspection of factories and tenements, and which we do enforce just so far as we can without driving capital out of Massachusetts. That is the view of all intelligent men, I believe that the majority of capitalist classes, as snch, are ready to do anything that it is practical to do for the men who belong to the wage class. All they ask is to be shown how it can be done.

Mr. Rice. When I first knew you you were working at the bench. You are now running several factories and are employing 500 men. When did you work the hardest?

Mr. WALKER. I do not wish to give up the habits that I have formed; but, so far as work is concerned, I would pay a very handsome sum if I could be released with only ten hours' work, and if I could do the same work as formerly, with the same freedom from care. I do not know any man in Worcester who is temperate, industrious, and frugal who does not enjoy all things as much as I do.

Mr. Rice. Have you made any experiment to have operatives share in the profits of your business; and, if so, what was the result !

Mr. WALKER. There was a very severe and protracted contest, lasting from the 230 of October, 1868, to March, 1869 (I think), between the employers and the employés in Worcester. After that contest closed I made a very determined and persistent effort to induce men in my employment to leave their savings (everything that they could save) on their accounts, and at the end of the year (without counting any interest on the capital or any salary to any member of the firm) the profits (if any were made) should be distributed in proportion to the capital-counting their savings as a portioú of the capital.

Mr. Rice. Did you include the plant in the capital ?

Mr. Walker. No, sir; throwing out the plant entirely-I meant the live capital. I failed to induce a single man to do it. They preferred to manage their own savings in their own way. I did, however, through a great deal of persuasion, induce two or three foremen to do it, and it has continued with these two or three up to the present time. This year one of these men came to me, having $1,600 in the business, and said that he wished to buy a house, and that he wanted to take out $800. I said, “ Certainly, but you will lose your profits on that sum.” He said, “I know it, but I want the house." He was unwilling to go any farther in his abstinence, and he took out this


money and put it into the house. Shortly afterward he wanted $300 more to buy a piano, so that his daughter might take music lessons. That left only $500 remaining. He chose to have his money in these things rather than in business. Possibly he is not naturally accumulative, and possibly I am. Now, I do not propose to criticise that

He wanted to educate his children and to have the conscious independence of living in his own house; and he preferred that, rather than to have his money in business. I do not say that it was not natural, and the wisest course to pursue for him, but I only say that if such men will not accumulate, somebody else must, or society will retrograde. That is all.

The CHAIRMAN. You were speaking of the necessity for progress and civilization. You did not mean to exclude the element of thought-men who choose never to make any money at all, but who study society and philosophy, and sit down and write books, and develop new laws, adding to the sum of knowledge, and who say, “We prefer to do this work; it is more agreeable"-clergymen, for instance, who choose to devote themselves to the work of religion, and all that class of men. You do not mean to say that their work is not a gain to society ?

Mr. WALKER. All that class of men-the Agassizs, the Sumners, the Websters-go very properly on the assumption that the property of their friends is theirs to the extent of a fair support, that all may be benefited by their lábors, and it is not regarded honorable by men of means to allow such men to want for support or means to pursue their labors. It is for that reason that men of business and capitalists have endowed colleges, seminaries, and places of learning. That is one of the beneficial uises of capital, and is so regarded by every decent man. If there is any man in the community who is not willing to contribute his share to such work, we regard him as shirking the duties and responsibilities of his position.

The CHAIRMAN. Then one of the results of accumulated capital is that other classes of the community may be able to devote themselves to other work than producing more material objects ?

Mr. WALKER. Certainly; and we have never seen the two extremes of society nearer together than they are to-day-workingmen enjoying the wealth of all other men. It is difficult to know to-day where any man will be to-morrow. There is corruption, and there are rascals in office; but these are the sores and excrescences on the body politic. So far as the system is concerned, I do not know how there could be any improvement in it.

The CHAIRMAN. Does your experience in business lead you to believe that the standard of honesty and integrity in business is lower now than it has been heretofore?

Mr. WALKER. I have no question but that it is higher than ever before, although it may be apparently lower. The revelations of corruption in recent times may make it appear to be lower, but I do not think that there ever has been a time when men, as a whole, were any more honest and self-sacrificing than they are to-day. I believe there are ebbs and flows in morals, as in everything else; but I think that the conntry touched bottom when you had Tweed here in New York. He represented an element of corruption. It must be recollected that we live in a time when, as it were, a calcium-light is thrown on every man's life.

The CHAIRMAN. The great increase of corporations, which has opened places of trust to individuals, has, of course, opened new opportunities to betray trust. Experience has shown how to put in safeguards which we had learned to put in for other things. Take the savings-banks, for instance, where great frauds have been committed, and where great losses have been sustained by the poor. Ought not legislation to provide a safeguard, such, for instance, as a guarantee by the government of the savings deposited; or onght not the government itself to become the depository of savings, as it is in Great Britain, or institute the system of life-annuities? Can the government safely proceed in that direction, to protect the weak (as you said awhile ago) against the operations of the strong and unscrupulous? Can we go in that direction with any safety?

Mr. WALKER. I think the government can go a great way in the direction of throw. ing safeguards around savings-banks and life insurance companies, and all chartered institutions of that kind. There should be a uniform system of bookkeeping, and thorough inspection, such as is now made by United States bank examiners. But I question very much the wisdom or policy of the government attempting, itself, the business of a savings-bank, I think that the government should discontinue the whole system of bonds; that every trust estate should be put into the hands of companies of large capital, who should guarantee the trust; and that there should be no individual trustees. You know, in the city of New York, and I know everywhere, of trusts being most shamefully managed. And I think the community onght to be protected against such mismanagement. I think, also, that the guaranteeing of public officers, and of everything else, should be done by companies rather than by individuals. I know of persons who have been beggared through having become security on a bond, twenty years old, by having, after that lapse of time, been held responsible. Such things could be very securely and easily managed with proper supervision.

The Chairman. We have had such guarantee associations, but, unfortunately, they were badly managed too. Are any of your products exported ?

Mr. WALKER No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. You have no foreign market?

Mr. WALKER. No, sir ; not directly. Every man in any trade has a foreign market indirectly, if anything in the trade is exported.

The CHAIRMAN. Is there any protective duty imposed in your line of business?
Mr. WALKER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the duty on imported leather?

Mr. WALKER. It is thirty-five per cent. on boots and shoes, twenty per cent. on morocco, twenty-five per cent. on calf-skins, and fifteen per cent. on sole-leather.

The CHAIRMAN. Is there any duty on hides ?
Mr. WALKER. Not now; hides come in free.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you know whether we are getting a large foreign trade in leather?

Mr. WALKER. We are, in sole-leather.

The CHAIRMAN. There is, therefore, no necessity for protection in regard to soleleather, if we can export it?

Mr. WALKER. No, sir; not for the time being.
The CHAIRMAN. You think that there might be ?
Mr. WALKER. Circumstances might arise which would make it necessary.
The CHAIRMAN. Are we exporting boots and shoes from this country?
Mr. WALKER. Very few.
The CHAIRMAN. Did we formerly export them ?
Mr. WALKER. We did to a limited extent,
The CHAIRMAN. Why have we lost that trade?

Mr. WALKER. Because from 1860 to 1873 we had all that we could do to take care of our own people. The whole energy of the business and manufacturing community was devoted to the development of our own country up to that time.

The CHAIRMAN. How is it now? Is there a surplus now that would be available for export !

Mr. WALKER. There is a surplus of everything for the time being.

The CHAIRMAN. Are we availing ourselves of that surplus, and are we exporting boots and shoes to any extent?

Mr. WALKER. We are exporting sole-leathers, and upper-leathers in some forms; but we are exporting very few boots and shoes.

The CHAIRMAN. Why can we not compete with other countries which do export boots and shoes to market?

Mr. WALKER. Because other countries work men, women, and childen for half the wages that are paid here.

The CHAIRMAN. That is the only reason ! Mr. WALKER. That is the only reason. The CHAIRMAN. Then, before we can hope to have a foreign market for the products of your line of business, there must be a degradation in the wages of labor and in the condition of the laboring classes?

Mr. WALKER. That, I believe, is what writers on political economy think and say when they are frank enough to do so, and that is the fact. Of the employés in a factory in England, 80 per cent. more are women than in a like factory in this country, and abont 8 per cent. more are boys. The wages of women in England are less than onehalf of what they are here; the wages of boys about two-fifths, and the wages of men a little over one-half. Therefore a factory can be run in England for about forty-five per cent. less (that is, with a given number of hands) than it can be run here. And it is almost literally true that there is not a machine used in Europe in the manufacture of boots and shoes and leather that is not made in America, or is not a duplicate of a machine made here, excepting a very few recently made there. If we had had in this country the laws of England of seventy-five years ago about exporting machinery and skilled mechanics, we could now be making every boot and shoe that is made in Europe, and export them there.

The CHAIRMAN. But you could not have kept the secret.

Mr. WALKER. I know we could not; and I should not desire to do so; but I mean if such laws had been effective; in other words, if the results of the intense mechanical ingenuity of this country could not have been used in countries of cheaper labor. We must have something to protect the wage class in America from that cheap labor.

Mr. RICE. What is there to prevent the product of their cheap factories coming here and competing with us?

Mr. WALKER. Nothing but the tariff. The tariff operates just the same in benefiting the condition of our workmen as would higher wages or the shortening of the honrs of labor there.

The CHAIRMAN. Then, if the duty were taken off the English would supply this market with boots and shoes?

« AnteriorContinuar »