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and ingenuity of their trade outrages. During the alarms caused by such revelations, many people began to cry out that the whole structure of our society was undermined, and that the “organization of labor " was simply a vast con. spiracy to make capital, science, and energy the mere bondslaves of the trades-union and of the tyrants and serfs, knaves and dupes, who kept it up.
Society, however, does not long continue in a mood for the indulgence of mere alarm and inarticulate shrieking. Society soon began to reflect that if it had heard terrible things, it had probably heard all the worst. The great majority of the trades-unions appeared, after the most searching investigation, to be absolutely free from any complicity in the crimes, or any sanction of them. Men of sense began to ask whether society had not itself to blame in some measures even for the crimes of the trades-unions. The law had always dealt unfairly and harshly with the trade-associations. Public opinion had for a long time regarded them as absolutely lawless. There was a time when their very existence would have been an infraction of the law. For centuries our legislation had acted on the principle that the working man was a sert of society, bound to work for the sake of the employer and on the employer's terms. The famous statute of laborers passed in the reign of Edward III. declared that every person under the age of sixty not having means to live should, on being required, be “bound to serve him that doth require him," or else be committed to jail “until he find surety to serve." If a workman or a servant left his service before the time agreed upon, he was to be imprisoned. The same statute contained a section fixing the scale of wages, and declaring that no higher wages should be paid.
An act passed in the reign of Elizabeth contained provisions making the acceptance of wages compulsory, and Sxing the hours and the wages of labor. A master wrong
fully dismissing the servant was made liable to a fine, but a servant leaving his employment was to be imprisoned. The same principle continued to be embodied in our legislation with regard to masters and workmen, with hardly any modification, down to 1813, and indeed, to a great extent, down to 1824. Even after that time, and down to the period of which we are now writing, there was still a marked and severe distinction drawn between master and servant, master and workman, in our legislation. In cases of breach of contract the remedy against the employer was entirely civil; against the employed, criminal. A workman might even be arrested on a warrant for alleged breach of contract and taken to prison before the case had been tried. The laws were particularly stringent in their declarations against all manner of combination among workmen. Any combined effort to raise wages would have been treated as conspiracy of a specially odious and dangerous order. Down to 1825 a mere combination of workmen for there own protection was unlawful; but long after 1825 the law continued to deal very harshly with what was called conspiracy among work. ingmen for trade purposes. The very laws which did this were a survival of the legislation which for centuries had compelled a man to work for whomsoever chose to call on him, and either fixed his maximum of wages for him or left it to be fixed by the justices. Not many years ago it was held that although a strike could not itself be pronounced illegal, yet a combination of workmen to bring about a strike was a conspiracy, and was to be properly punished by law. In 1867, the very year when the commission we have de. scribed held its inquiries at Sheffield and Manchester, a decision given by the Court of Queen's Bench affirmed that a friendly society, which was also a trades-union, had no right to the protection of the law in enforcing a claim for a debt. It was laid down that because the rules of the society appeared to be such as would operate in restraint of trade,
therefore the society was not entitled to the protection of the civil law in any ordinary matter of account. The general objects of the trades-union, as distinguished from those of the friendly society, were regarded as absolutely outside the pale of legal protection. It was not merely that the trades. unions sometimes made illegal arrangements, which of course could not be recognized or enforced in any civil court. The principle was that because they, or some of them, did this sometimes, they and the whole of them, and all their transactions, were to be regarded as shut out from the protection of the civil law.
So rigidly was this principle applied to the trades-unions that they were, apparently, not allowed to defend them. selves against plunder by a dishonest member. This extraordinary principle was in force for several years after the time at which we have now arrived in this history. For example, in 1869 an information was laid in Bradford against the secretary of a trades-association for having wilfully misappropriated a sum of money belonging to the society. The guilt of the man was clear, but the magistrates dismissed the charge, on the ground that the society was itself established for illegal purposes, that is, for the restraint of trade and that therefore it was not entitled to the protection of the law. An appeal was made to the Court of Queen's Bench, and the decision was that the appeal must be dismissed and that the society was established for illegal purposes. The judges were divided equally in opinion, and therefore, in accordance with the usage, the judgment was allowed to go in favor of the decision of the inferior court. The absurdity of such a principle of law is evident. It is proper that an illegal association should not be maintained in illegal acts; but it is hardly a principle of our law that because an association has been established for purposes which seem in opposition to some legal principle, its members may be plundered by any one with impunity. A man
who keeps a gambling-house is the proprietor of an unlawful establishment; but it a robber snatches his purse he is free to claim the protection of the police, and it is not open to the thief to rest his defence simply on the plea that the man's occupation is illegal, and that his money, if left to him, would unquestionably have been applied to unlawful purposes. The illustration is, however, inadequate to express properly the injustice done to the trades-unions. It assumes that the objects of the unions were fairly to be considered unlawful, and to be classed with the business of gaming-houses and shops for the reception of stolen goods. But in truth the main object of the trades-unions was as strictly in accordance with public policy as that of the Inns of Court or the College of Surgeons. One result of the investigations into the outrages in Sheffield and in Manchester was that public attention was drawn directly to the whole subject; the searching light of full free discussion was turned on to it, and after a while every one began to see that the wanton injustice of the law and of society in dealing with the associations of working-men was responsible for many of the errors and even of the crimes into which some of the worst of these associations had allowed themselves to be seduced. It is as certain as any problem in mathematics can be, that when the civil law excludes any class of persons from its full protection, that class will be easily drawn into lawlessness. “The world is not thy friend, nor the world's law," is a reminder that barbs the advice which bids the unfriended to be not poor, but break the law which denies them its protection.
It was not, however, the law alone which had set itself for centuries against the working-man. Public opinion and legislation were in complete agreement as to the rights of trades-unions. For many years the whole body of English public opinion outside the working-class itself was entirely against the principle of the unions. It is, perhaps, not pos
sible to recall to mind any question open to controversy in which public opinion was ever in our time so nearly unanimous as it was on the subject of trades-organizations. It was an axiom among all the employing and capitalists classes that trades-organizations were as much to be condemned in point of morality as they were absurd in the sight of political economy. County squires, who had only just been converted from the public profession of protectionist principles, and who still in their secret intelligences failed to see that they were wrong; the whole tone of whose think. ing was still, when left to itself, entirely protectionist, and who, the moment they ceased to keep a strict guard on their tongues, would talk protection as naturally as they talked English—such men were lost in wonder or consumed by anger at the working-man's infatuated notions on the subject of political economy. All the leading newspapers were constantly writing against the trades-unions at one time; not writing merely as a liberal paper writes against some Tory measure, but as men condemn a monstrous heresy. A comfortable social theory began to spring up, that all the respectable and well-conducted workmen were opposed to the unions, and all the ne'er-do-wells were on their side and in their ranks. The paid officers of the unions were described as mere cunning parasites, living on the sap and strength of the organization. The spokesmen of the unions were set down invariably as selfish and audacious demagogues who incited their ignorant victims on to ruin in order that they themselves might live in comfort and revel in popular applause.
There can be no doubt that some insincere and unprinci. pled persons did occasionally attach themselves to the trades-orgauizations. Such men professed to adopt a principle in order to get money and applause. They did exactly as men do in a higher social class who profess to adopt a principle in order to get into Parliament, and then into