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The act of cession of Maryland provided that the jurisdiction of her laws over the persons and property of the District should not cease until Congress should provide for the government of the District.
Congress did provide in 1801 that the laws of Maryland as they then existed should continue in force, and among those laws was the fundamental precept of the first and second articles of the declaration of rights, "That all government of right originates with the people, is founded in compact only, and instituted solely for the good of the whole; second, that the people of this State ought to have the sole and exclusive right of regulating the internal government and police thereof."
This was a part of the constitution of Maryland, and its adoption by Congress as a law made it a covenant between the United States and the inhabitants of the District, which Congress cannot abrogate, but is bound to fulfill. Congress has no power to abolish the bill of rights.
This guarantee of legal government was well understood by the wise and patriotic men who procured the adoption of the Constitution.
James Madison said, in No. XLII, of the Federalist, upon this subject: “And as it (the District of Columbia) is to be appropriated to this use (that of a seat of govern ment for the Union) with the consent of the State ceding it; as the State will no doubt provide in the compact for the rights and the consent of the citizens inhabiting it; as the inhabitants will find sufficient inducements of interest to become willing parties to the cession; as they will have had their voice in the election of the governinent which is to have absolute authority over them; as a municipal legislation for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them; and as the authority of the legislature of the State, and of the inhabitants of the ceded part of it, to concur in the cession, will be derived from the whole people of the State, in their adoption of the Constitution, every imaginable objection seems to be obviated." Following out the terms of the compact of cession, and its covenant with the inhabitants, Congress finding local government existing in the District, in the cities of Alexandria and Georgetown, and the levy courts in the county, maintained these popular institutions, and in one of the earliest acts of authority created the municipal corporation of the city of Washington, which continued in existence for seventy years.
It is not, however, solely in the view of common right and valid compact that the question of local government in this District rises to important considerations. There is much more involved. It concerns the character and reputation of free government at large. With what countenance can the representatives of the American people stand before the world and declare a determination to deprive 160,000 of their fellowcitizens, a population larger than some of the States, of the right and benefit of local government? To continue persistently this wrong and injury would be a standing calumny upon the American system of government, and inflict upon the inhabitants, as it has already done, the evils of an arbitrary exercise of power, where taxation exists without representation, and obedience enforced to rules not sanctioned by popular choice.
We, therefore, respectfully pray you to pass such laws as will organize popular municipal government in this District.
PAY OF WORKINGMEN UNDER THE GOVERNMENT.
The pay of the laborers in the different departments of the government varies from 75 cents to $3 per day, those performing the easiest labor receiving the highest pay, while others doing the same kind of work receive different pay. They dare not complain of this injustice for fear of being discharged. It is also a practice in some of the departments to employ mechanics, paying them laborer's wages, and again paying favorite laborers mechanic's wages. This has been thoroughly investigated by the Trades Union Assembly, and made a report to that effect. A man with name of Charles Sherer was employed by Architect Clark as a carpenter; he was ordered to bring his own carpenter's tools, which he did; he performed carpenter's work, but was paid laborer's wages, $1.25 per day. He came to me complaining; I went to see the architect about it; he sent me with a note to Captain Brown; Captain Brown sent me to Colonel Clark; that is the way responsibilities are shifted about; it was not corrected, and the man quit work. This is the way this officer economizes.
Mechanics receive different pay for the same kind of work at the different departments of the government. This is owing to the manner in which the appointing offcers ascertain the ruling rates. Inasmuch as the wages of the President, members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, clerks, watchmen, and laborers on the regular roll are fixed by law, I see no earthly reason why the wages of the mechanics and laborers that do the hard work should not be the same. The government has no business to speculate upon the labor of its own subjects.
PAY OF WORKINGMEN,
In paying the ascertained wages as paid by individuals in depressing times as of late years, the government, instead of helping to build up wages, helps to depress the s; me, robbing Peter in order to pay Paul.
It may be argued with some force that supply and demand regulate the prices of labor between individuals, but the demand and supply of labor for the government being regulated by law, it follows that the pay should also be regulated by law, which I trust will be done, making the pay of a day-laborer, in view of the fact that they are in very bad circumstances, with no constant employment in view, not less than $1.50 per day for unskilled labor, and the pay of the mechanic the now highest price paid by the government.
The pay of all officers in the departments at this city not exceeding $1,800 per year are to be increased 25 per cent.; it is false economy to reduce the salaries below living. rates. If the office is not needed, let the office be abolished. Competency and honesty cannot and are not to be rewarded less by the government than by individuals, which is the case now.
The law providing that Union soldiers (being qualified) shall be preferred in the civil service is printed on cards and conspicuously hung out in some of the departments, but just as conspicuously violated, I suppose because there is no penalty provided for any violation of the same. Many cases have come under my personal observation were honorably-discharged Union soldiers, qualified and well recommended, applying for watchmen or messenger positions, were put off under the plea that there is no vacancy, when the places they are entitled to under said law were and are now filled by young men from 14 to 20 years of age and others that never saw a battle, throughout every department of the government, while Union soldiers can be found by the hundreds wandering the streets of Washington in despair. Their only fault in not filling the positions they are entitled to is that they are perhaps not good enough politicians to command political influence, or they are perhaps so unfortunate as to be citizens of this District, or for not having influential friends or relatives. The positions of watchmen and messengers are filled in an undue proportion by colored men, servants of those that secure the same for them, not Union soldiers. The duties are such as just fit the Union soldier. This practice, if not corrected, will have its effect upon those that might be called upon to defend this government again, to say nothing of the flagrant violation of an existing law.
The employment of women in the different departments to the extent of late years has grown to be an evil. It originated and was intended, as I understand, for the purpose of providing for the widows and orphans of Union soldiers, but, unlike the Union soldiers living, they cannot get places, while ladies of influence can. instances they are better qualified than men to perform particular work, but generally they do what men are to do in order to support a family. If men are intended to support women, then the opportunity ought to be given them; otherwise, women are to support men. The discrimination in the pay of women is sufficient to show upon what principle they are employed. Women employed for the sake of charity receive a charitable pay, from $15 to $30 per month, while ladies of influence, doing the same or less work, receive from $75 to $100 per month. A correction would not only benefit men having families to support, which the most of the women employed in the departments have not, but would have a very purifying effect upon the departments.
It is remarkable, and can only be appreciated when examined, the amount of political influence it requires for a person to even obtain a laborer's place under the government under the present civil-service reform. It would seem to an impartial observer that labor ought to be allowed to speak for itself, but it does not under the reform we are having now. The President and the champion civil-service reformer did declare their intention that their appointments should not be influenced by political influence, but, alas, saying is one thing and doing is another. It never has been done; but this may be owing to circumstances over which they had no control. The intention was, no doubt, very ingenious, namely, to transfer the patronage from Senators and Members of Congress to the appointing officers, in the interest of the party they represent. How this would improve the civil service I fail to see. Why Congress does not pass a law that the patronage of the government shall be distributed among the several States on a proper pro rata basis, and provide for a heavy penalty in case of violation, is a matter that comes home to the constituency of the most of the members.
To see a watchman or messenger examined under the civil-service humbug-not as to the duties he is to perform, namely, to clean a spittoon, carry a piece of paper across the floor, watching the door, and admitting visitors, but how high is the sun and how low the moon-is perfectly amusing, but serves the purpose of rejecting, under some pretense, those not wanted, by classing them incompetent, and those wanted competent. Irrelevant questions submitted to clerks I guarantee the heads of the departments themselves could not answer in the manner required of applicants.
Legislation has been very bad, because the bankrupt law contained some bad provisions, namely, that the expenses attending a bankrupt absorb the best part of the assets. Congress, instead of remedying the objectionable feature and substituting a remedy, abolished a law that is now in force in every civilized country, and drives the largest class, the debtor, either to dishonesty or else at the mercy of the smallest class, the creditor.
By demonetizing the trade-dollar, whereby a dollar containing 420 grains was reduced in value below a standard dollar of the same quality containing but 412 grains.
By appointing a committee, at a heavy expense to the people, to investigate frauds in obtaining the Presidential chair, and declaring, before a report is made. the seat inviolate.
By paying in the aggregate more salaries to the officers of the government than to the rank and file.
It is said that the tampering by Congress with the currency affects trade so that the people lose confidence to invest. So it does; but the tampering with paper money destroys confidence as much as the tampering with coin money.
It is said that money should be of stability. So it should, whether it be gold, silver, brass, leather, or paper.
It is said that one dollar now will buy what three dollars did directly after the war. So it does; but a poor person could sooner get hold of six dollars than of one now. It is not because the money is any better now, but because then there was plenty of money in circulation, within the reach of everybody willing and able to earn it, while now it is locked up in vaults, or in stocks and bonds not taxed, and so little of it in circulation, that the people could not buy what they wanted if an article that sold then for one dollar was to sell now for ten cents.
If the resumption of specie payments, close at hand, should bring to the country the prosperity predicted in the late Presidential message, then your committee will no doubt feel greatly relieved. If it should not, but to all appearances increase the miseries now suffered by the people, then I suggest that first such financial measures be enacted as are proposed by the Greenback party. Let the hours of labor be reduced so as to correspond with the increase of labor-saving machinery, and the pay be increased so as to stimulate consumption equal to production. Abolish the prison manufacturing system. Abolish the contract system. Stop any more immigration of Chinese. Let the government assume the control over all railroad, canal, and telegraph lines. Establish public depositories. Establish a graded income tax. Establish a labor bureau. Protect the manufacturer in his products and the laborer in his wages. Stop your sinking fund to pay the public debt for a while, while men, women, and children are sinking at the same time. Abolish all unnecessary, ornamental offices. Provide for sufficient penalties for violations by public officers. Revise the civil service. Encourage actual settlers upon public lands. If the government has a right to grant lands and loan money to corporations, it has to do so to settlers.
But if our best lands have already been taken up by corporations and what is left not fit to cultivate, then acquire more territory like other nations do. The acquisition of California settled a large number of people and brought wealth to the nation.
Make liberal appropriations for public buildings and improvements to employ a large number of now idle workmen profitable to the government, saving millions of dollars for rent now paid by the govern nent.
Establish workingmen's wages by law.
Establish a municipal government for the District of Columbia, and call upon the officers having public expenditures in charge to inform Congress and the people why nearly four millions of dollars appropriated by the Forty-fifth Congress, first session, in June last, have not been expended during the past summer months to set the then idle and suffering people to work, and what has become of the money
That in times of general distress like the present, it behooves the representatives of the people to devise ways and means by which to ameliorate the same there can be no doubt, and that it must be done by the government taking the initiative steps of reviving the business and stimulating the enterprises of the country all agree. That this can be brought about in a way I have pointed out I feel confident, and let the people be the judges. The trouble is with Congress in not truly representing the people; they can always find a way where there is a will. A great deal has been said and written about the dear people, the bone and sinew of the country, which will neither by a loaf of bread nor a pair of shoes. An ounce of go ahead will be more welcomed than a pound of promises. Theories hereafter to be realized, and speculations depending upon con
tingencies, will not do at this time; we must have help or else the people will help themselves. It has been said in Congress that the government cannot take care of every pauper. It seems that the government can make paupers. If a government cannot take care of its paupers and fails to be a benefit to the majority of the people, then there is no use in having one. If the government cannot devise ways and means for the benefit of the people, then there is no use in having one. If the people are willing to work when they can get it and produce, is it not better and cheaper for the government, the factor of the people, to asssist in providing employment than to have idle men, paupers, and tramps who, from necessity, are compelled to beg, steal, or rob, and be supported at the public expense in jails and penitentiaries?
The workingmen are told to assert their rights through the ballot-box. How, if they vote for a certain man and he is counted out? How, if they vote for a man they believe to be honest and he proves dishonest? How, if they are threatened to be discharged if they vote for a man of their choice?
If Congress will remedy existing evils by proper legislation peace and happiness will reign in our land and the laws will be obeyed. If it is not done by legislation Congress are to know what must follow. The workingmen are associating themselves throughout the land for self-protection in a manner and numbers that if the ball is once set rolling it will be too late to regret the consequences, whatever they may be. Representatives elected are the representatives of the people, no matter to what political party they may belong. The people are getting sick of the words Republican and Democrat; they want bread, and if the day of reckoning comes, those that have refused to do their duty will surely be held responsible.
I trust that your committee will recommend to Congress some measure that will bring relief to the suffering people, no matter how it is done.
VIEWS OF MR. EDWARD ATKINSON.
WASHINGTON, D. C., December 12, 1878.
Mr. EDWARD ATKINSON came before the committee in response to its invitation. He stated, in reply to the chairman, that he resided in Brookline, Mass.; that he is engaged in insurance business at present; and that for twenty-five years previously he had been engaged in the manufacture of cotton goods.
The CHAIRMAN. The duty of the committee is to inquire into the present condition of business in this country; to ascertain, if possible, the causes of the depression in business; and to suggest remedies which it may be possible either for individuals or for Congress to adopt in order to remove the evils. The committee would prefer that you should take your own method of dealing with the subject. You have had a copy of the resolution under which the committee is acting, and undoubtedly you have formed in your own mind some mode of procedure, which we prefer to have you take.
Mr. ATKINSON. In regard to the specific question as to the ratio of wages at the present time to past periods, I have been for a year out of the direct management of affairs, and have not been taking cognizance of wages; and, therefore, am not up to the times on that subject. It is also to be considered that as Mr. Carroll D. Wright has been officially compiling facts on that point in Massachusetts, it is not worth while for any private person to meddle with it.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Wright has undertaken to furnish tables on that subject to the committee.
Mr. ATKINSON. I have, therefore, the general statement to make of my impression that, at the present moment, it is not a question of the adequacy of wages, or rather of the adequacy of earnings (for I think that there is a very broad distinction between wages and earnings, most of the work being now done by the piece and not by the day). The adequacy of earnings to pay for a good subsistence for those who succeed in getting regular employment is greater to-day than it has been within my memory; but the adequate employment of all who desire it is not yet quite compassed, although there is a great change for the better, I think, in that respect. A very little start in constructive enterprise, having reference to future needs rather than the hand-tomouth policy which has affected the community for the last three or four years, would set every wheel in motion, and give employment to the whole people.
The CHAIRMAN. You look upon this difficulty of getting employment as temporary? Mr. ATKINSON. I do.
The CHAIRMAN. About what time did this surplus of labor appear?
Mr. ATKINSON. Unquestionably with the railroad crisis of 1873. My view would be that the united effect of war, inflation of the currency, and tariff duties (imposed without much regard to consistency, but only with a view of taxing the largest num
ber of articles and getting the greatest revenue that could be had for the necessary purposes of war) caused a false distribution-an entirely abnormal distribution-of the labor of the country through the period of the war. It is also to be observed that at the beginning of the war the railway service came to its point of concentration and became a unit by the building in of the gaps which had existed previously, and that the excessive demand of war concentrated population in an entirely abnormal way. The burdens of war would have been felt vastly more except for the excessive stimulus given to invention in respect to agriculture. For it is to be noted that all through the period of the war, although a million of men were withdrawn from the fields and the factories, no great crop seriously decreased in the north. The effect of invention was such that the few who remained at home could make ample crops; could also manufacture an ample quantity of goods, with the single exception of cotton goods, and could provide for all the needs both of those who remained at home and of the excessive destructive demand of war.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think that that was due solely to invention, or was it not rather due to the increased labor of women and children who ordinarily would not have exerted themselves so much in the rural districts, and who took the place of the men who had gone into the Army?
Mr. ATKINSON. I should say that invention was a very large factor even in that. Except for the invention of the plow, which could be ridden instead of being driven by hand, women could not have done the work. Except for the reaper, the mower, and the thrasher, the harvest would have failed. Undoubtedly the labor which staid at home was, under the excitement of the times, worked more effectively, and the women's labor supplanted that of the men in many occupations to a greater extent than ever before. All these facts would have culminated at the end of the war in a disastrous decline of prices, and in enforced idleness on the part of the returned soldiers, if it had not been for the era of railway construction and of municipal indebtedness and extravagance, by which the effect of the cessation of the war was deferred for five or eight years.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean municipal indebtedness caused by the expenses of the war?
Mr. ATKINSON. Caused by the vast expenditures for the construction of public buildings and works. In 1873 there finally culminated the effects of war, of inflation, of many inventions, of municipal indebtedness and of railway extravagance; and when that happened it appeared that the population was wrongly placed; when the redistribution became necessary it appeared that fewer persons could supply the community with the goods and wares that were required than had been the case at the beginning. Therefore the redistribution which became necessary was not only that of distribution from the factory to the mine and from the workshop to the field, but the building up of new communities, of new industrial centers, to consume the products of the new fields-actu ally a new settlement of the whole body of society, such as has taken place, to a great extent, in the Southwest, in Kansas, in Texas, and in the extreme Northwest. The adjustment of the population to absolutely new conditions, which would have gone on under a normal condition of peace in a slow and imperceptible way, was all forced into three or four years.
The CHAIRMAN. I do not understand clearly how the war entered into the question. The war ceased in 1865, and the panic occurred in 1873. In the interval the men who had been released from the Army were all absorbed into the community, and were engaged in a variety of occupations. Therefore we may suppose that we had got beyond any difficulty arising out of the distribution of the million of men who had been in the Army. They were distributed. And, so far as the war expenditures were concerned, I do not see how they contributed to produce the era of inflation which followed. I should like you to develop that idea a little more clearly.
Mr, ATKINSON. There having been a million of men engaged in the conduct of the war-toward the end of it-suppose that they came back to the ordinary walks of peace, and that there had been no extraordinary work undertaken, they would then and there have had to redistribute themselves; but, according to computations which I have made, there were absorbed at the highest period of railway construction three hundred thousand men engaged in building new railroads in this country.
The CHAIRMAN. Suppose that there had been no war, and that the railroad speculation had occurred, would not the same results have happened? There would have been three hundred thousand men engaged in building railroads, and when the railroads were finished these men would have been thrown upon the community to be absorbed, just exactly as they were in the case that you speak of. In other words, would the war make any difference as to the number of men employed in railway construction? Would not the difficulty of absorbing them, when the railway speculation collapsed, be just the same?
Mr. ATKINSON. That is a very far-reaching question. I hold that there could have been no such extravagance in the matter of railroad construction, or in municipal work, if it had not been for the excitement and stimulus of the war, and for the habit