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The CHAIRMAX. In 1859, when I went patiently through all the foreign iron-works to get at the condition of industry, I found that practically they were getting in Belgium the labor of a whole family, man, wife, and children, for the same sum exactly as we paid to the man alone in this country. Then the question which was presented forcibly to my mind was, “How can industry grow up in America in competition with such a state of things as that, unless we adopt the same method here p" "And I have never been able to answer that question to myself.
Mr. WRIGHT. I am in just the same condition as you in that matter. The only way that you can meet a lowering of prices in one thing is by the lowering of prices in another thing. If wages become so low that men cannot live on them at the present price of the necessaries of life, the prices of those necessaries must come down. Either that, or else we must turn ourselves into a general pauper-relieving establishment. That is the only way out of it.
The CHAIRMAN. No; another way is the way adopted in Belgium, where a man and his wife and children go into the factory, and in the aggregate they earn enough to support the family in a certain condition of comfort. But you propose to prohibit the employment of children and women in occupations unsuitable to them.
Mr. WRIGHT. You say I propose it. I do not say so. I said that it was the worst phase of the labor question.
The CHAIRMAN. You would like to get rid of it!
The CHAIRMAN. That brings us to the difficulty which we are here to consider; whether, by legislation of Congress, we can do anything to make the condition of the wage-earning class more tolerable, more comfortable, and more prosperous than it now is.
Mr. WRIGHT. I believe that it is of vastly more importance and vital interest to the workingmen of the country that all the affairs of the government, legislative and executive, shall be administered economically than all the ten-hour laws or any special relief that can be enacted. The whole question of taxation comes to that." I think that the workingman to-day is suffering from taxation. All the constitutions of the country provide that the people shall be justly and equitably taxed. That reads very well, but it is not the fact in any case. Nor do I know how the people can be relieved by special enactment until the legislatures of the country (including the national legislature) shall devise some means of just and equitable taxation. In Massachusetts we have enacted many laws for the benefit, directly or indirectly, of the workingman, but the direct laws are rarely of any benefit to him. Take, for instance, the ten-hour law. The ten-hour law in England did not go into operation by the force of law, but by the force of circumstances, because it was for the interest not only of the employer but of the employed that ten hours should constitute a full day's work. So in Massachusetts. If we should pass there, the next session (as many want), a nine-hour law, it would be of no effect. The nine-hour law is in existence now practically. It would only force a distribution of time and make things arbitrary where they should not be arbitrary. I do not see that the workingman of Massachusetts would be better by an absolute enactment of a nine-hour law than he now is. It is all these indirect methods of legislation that actually benefit the workingman, and the one of taxation is one that is vital to him.
The CHAIRMAN. Then you think that the functions of legislation to affect labor are limited by the taxing power?
Mr. WRIGHT. No; but I say the taxing power is one of the most vital powers.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you know any other method by which Congress can do anything for the improvement of the condition of the wage-earning class, except through the agency of taxation? Mr. WRIGHT. It might, perhaps, if it would adjourn. The CHAIRMAN. Are you aware that adjournment does not reduce expenditure ? Mr. WRIGHT. I am; but I am also aware that if the Congressmen were paid $25,000 each to stay at home, instead of $5,000 to go to Washington, it might be a benefit to the workingmen of the country.
The CHAIRMAN. But it is not a good thing for the reputation of Congress that, in the judgment of an intelligent man, we had better dispense with a representative form of government.
Mr. WRIGHT. Of course you will excuse me for the pleasantry; but it all comes to this : The welfare of a nation, it seems to me, depends upon the virtue of the individual members of the nation. After all, the whole question is an individual one. The moment that you undertake to make remedies that are to be forcible and absolute in their operation, I am reminded of the boot-strap school of political economy. The workingman is on one side of a wall, and he wants very much to get on the other side; and the political economist of the boot-strap school says: “My dear sir, will you be good enough to get on the other side" ? and he hops away. Now, the workingman on the other side finds that by tugging at his boot-straps he does not get over; but if he goes to work with his hands he may build steps with which he can get over it. It is an individual question; and when the individuals of the nation get their private affairs adjusted to the new order of things, we will hear no more of the difficulties of laboring men. And it is the same with Congress. Of course all this thing is reflected in Congress. I believe that Congress tries to do what it can, by legislation, to assist generally the business of the country. I am not one of those who believe that the government and business are entirely dissociated. I believe that the influence of government on business is not only great but of vital importance to all the industries of the nation. And, in that respect, I do not see why the laws should not be passed, why all the trusts of State and national legislatures should not be exercised, carefully and faithfully, with an eye to the business of the country.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there any other method by which Congress can proceed, except through the taxing power, in regard to the relations between capital and labor! Assuming that there is equality before the law and justice in the courts, is there any other direction by which we can approach the question ?
Mr. WRIGHT. It is the duty of the government to maintain its coin and currency at par with the gold standard of the world. I believe that the currency which does that is the best friend of the workingman.
The CHAIRMAN. Then you are in favor of persevering in the legislation for the restoration of specie payment?
Mr. WRIGHT. Yes; Congress should show an honest and upright adherence to that legislation, and show that it is in earnest in it.
The CHAIRMAN. In the imposition of taxation in any way (an income tax, for instance), can Congress leave a larger return to the laborer than he now gets ?
Mr. WRIGHT. Theoretically I am entirely in favor of the fairness of an income tax; but I know and appreciate the obstacles in the way of carrying it ont. If Congress can remove those obstacles, and provide a means by which an income tax can be equitably enforced, it seems to me the fairest form of tax, because it relieves the man of small income from taxation and imposes it on the man of large income.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it not the interest of the workingmen to have the accumulation of capital in the country encouraged I
Mr. WRIGHT. Without accumulated capital no great work can be carried out.
The CHAIRMAN. Would not an income tax be an impediment pro tanto to the accimulation of capital! That is, if you impose a progressive income tax, would there not be a point where capital would be taken out of the country to some other place?
Mr. WRIGHT. I say that the imposition of an income tax is attended with such obstacles that I do not know that it is practicable.
The CHAIRMAN. Then, an income tax may produce greater evils than it is proposed to remove
Mr. WRIGHT. It may. The subject is worthy of very great consideration by Congress.
Mr. THOMPSON. The State of Massachusetts sustains a population, you say, of 1,650,000; and you say that were it not for machinery it would require a population of nine millions to produce what is now produced in that State!
Mr. WRIGHT. Yes.
Mr. THOMPSOx. Do you mean by that that the introduction and use of machinery increases the population's producing capacity of a State ?
Mr. WRIGHT. I believe it does. It not only increases the population's producing capacity, but it also increases the wants of the people. Mr. THOMPSON. But does it actually increase the capacity to maintain population ! Mr. WRIGHT. I believe it does.
Mr. THOMPSON. Suppose you had a wall built around Massachusetts, and suppose the capacity of the State to maintain population is equal to a million and a half of people without machinery ; if you introduce all the machinery that you have and keep the State isolated, will the State maintain any more to the square mile 1
Mr. WRIGHT. That is not a tenable supposition. That is a supposition that I cannot contemplate, becanse Massachusetts is not an agricultural locality at all.
Mr. THOMPSON. That is the point. Now, if Massachusetts were absolutely isolated would machinery enable her to maintain a larger population ?
Mr. WRIGHT. Only agricultural machinery. Mr. THOMPSON. Exactly; but would spinning-jennies enable her to maintain a larger population ?
Mr. WRIGHT. Of course the manufacture of cotton goods would be of no use to Massachusetts if she were shut in.
Mr. THOMPSON. Therefore, the logical sequence is that while machinery enables men in Massachusetts to manufacture more goods, and to be a larger factor in the world's commerce than she would be without machinery, no more population can be sustained to the square mile in Massachusetts with machinery than without it!
Mr. WRIGHT. But Massachusetts is in the world, and you cannot consider Massachusetts to be out of it; that is impossible.
Mr. THOMPSON. Could more people live, to the square mile, in Massachusetts with machinery in the world than without machinery !
Mr. WRIGHT. I shall have to decline to put myself out of this sphere in contemplating these questions. I cannot see how any man can consider what Massachusetts would be if there was not any "rest of world."
Mr. THOMPSON. The impression left on my mind by your statement was that the more machinery is in use the greater the capacity to maintain population, and that Massachusetts would maintain more population with machinery than without it.
Mr. WRIGHT. I do not recollect making any such statement. I said that machinery improves the capacity for enjoyment of the people, and in the work of civilization that it gives them more leisure and more opportunity to gratify their wants.
Mr. THOMPSON. In other words, machinery creates new wants and supplies them.
Mr. WRIGHT. I begin to see what you are driving at. Mere existence can be kept up without any machinery at all.
Mr. THOMPSON. Can it not be kept up to as great an extent without machinery as with machinery
Mr. WRIGHT. You can feed a hog on swill. A horse requires something else. A man requires more than a horse; and a high grade of man requires more than a low grade of man. A high grade of man can be better sustained in a community that has developed its inventions than in a community that has not developed its inventions. You can feed a hog equally well in both.
Mr. THOMPSON. In other words, a high state of civilization cannot be maintained without machinery ? . Mr. WRIGHT. No, sir; it cannot be. The CHAIRMAN. Nor the present number of population : Mr. WRIGHT. No, sir. Mr. THOMPSON. Why not the present number of population ?
Mr. WRIGHT. Simply because without machinery we could not produce enough to sustain it.
Mr. THOMPSON. How does machinery produce, or assist in producing, the merest absolute necessities of existence ?
Mr. WRIGHT. Merely because it enables men to till ten times as much ground as they could without it. You cannot raise more per acre, perhaps, but you can till more acres.
The CHAIRMAN. Cannot a man produce more per acre, also, by the use of agricultural machinery! In England they produce seventy bushels of wheat to the acre, as against our product of twenty bushels.
Mr. WRIGHT. Admitting that he cannot raise any more per acre, he can till more acres. The secretary of the board of agriculture in Ohio contends that he cannot raise any more per acre.
Mr. THOMPSOx. Still you cannot embrace within the definition of machinery the rude implements of husbandry. You are speaking of machinery in the higher sense. Reaping-machines do not make any more grain grow.
The CHAIRMAN. No; but they save more.
Mr. WRIGHT. A reaping-machine enables a man to reap ten times as much as he would without it.
Mr. THOMPSON. But is not the same amount of grain raised there?
Mr. THOMPSON. That is the complaint, that one of these reaping-machines does the labor of ten men.
Mr. WRIGHT. If a reaper does the work of ten men, then you are harvesting more than you would if you had not the reaper. Then you raise more food and sustain a greater population.
Mr. Rice. You say that the tendency of machinery, and of these vast improvements in the facility of intercommunication, is to equalize wages throughout the world. Your inference, therefore, is that the tendency of events now is to reduce the wages of American laborers?
Mr. WRIGHT. It has had that tendency already.
Mr. Rice. Is there any way by which that tendency can be checked profitably and advantageously to labor!
Mr. WRIGHT. Not forcibly that I am aware of.
Mr. Rice. Suppose that all the means of subsistence for laborers are afforded in this country to an unlimited extent, and suppose that the manufacturers in this country are protected by a tariff against foreign importation, so that everything that can be inade here is made here, and the farmers furnish the manufacturers with their subsistence from the soil, would not that keep the wages of the American laborers up as against the wages of the laborer of Belgium and England?
Mr. WRIGHT. I have seen po facts that would allow us to give a just conclusion to that supposition, because facts are so thoroughly quoted on both sides of the proposition that I have seen nothing conclusive.
Mr. RICE. You do not believe that a protective tariff would tend to prevent the decline in the wages in this country?
Mr. WRIGHT. We have a protective tariff, and yet our wages have declined.
Mr. RICE. We will not take the protective tariff which we now have. I suppose nobody will defend it.
Mr. WRIGHT. I suppose not. Mr. RICE. But suppose a protective tariff that is really protecting the manufacturing interests of the country?
The CHAIRMAN. You mean prohibitory!
Mr. WRIGHT. I believe that, in this country, an industry in its inception should be protected, and that of that protection the workingman shares the benefit. But, when the industry can stand alone, when it can compete with the world (as the paper industry of this country can do to-day), then the only tariff that should be on that line of goods should be a tariff for revenue. I believe that, if that principle were carried out in regard to all the industries of this country (protecting them where they should be protected, and making it a tariff for revenne purposes where the industry will admit of that) the workingman would be benefited and a further decrease of wages would be, to a large extent, guarded against.
The CHAIRMAN. For how long would that last!
Mr. WRIGHT. Well; let it come. If it comes to an end, all very well; if it does not come to an end for fifty years you will have that fifty years to enjoy the benefit of it.
Mr. RICE. Would it do any harm until the end came around 1
Mr. WRIGHT. I do not think it would. I think (speaking from the standpoint of the workingmen) that the need of this country to-day is that the tariff should be adjusted so as to protect those industries which require protection, and admit world-wide competition in those articles where our industries are able to meet with world-wide competition. Mr. Rice. That is substantially a protective tariff. Mr. WRIGHT. Yes; but modified.
Mr. RICE. If the iron industry were carried on under such circumstances I suppose that the price of iron would not be affected at all by foreign importation. The foreign production would have no influence at all on its price here. But when it comes to a point that it can stand on its own basis then it will not need any protection, and it will go on without it. On the contrary, the woolen business does need protection, and, if it were not for protection, the foreign manufactures would be imported and sold here in place of our own manufactures. Now, if we protect the woolen business we have a protective tariff, which you say is not dangerous.
Mr. WRIGHT. Yes; in principle.
Mr. RICE. And you accomplish the end which you desire, which is nothing else than the employment of our labor, and the keeping up of the price of labor.
Mr. WRIGHT. Yes, I think that the workingmen of this country, if they thought that the highest kind of a protective tariff (almost a prohibitory tariff) wonld better their condition, would be in favor of one; but I do not think they think so. You spoke of the woolen business.
Mr. RICE. Yes; I took it up at haphazard. Now, you may take the cotton business, for instance. It needs no protection because raw cotton is produced here so that no other country in the world can compete with us in producing cotton; we have that advantage to begin with. I was assuming that we were to protect those industries which would not go alone without protection.
Mr. WRIGHT. The tariff in favor of the wool-grower and the tariff on the mann. factured goods clash, as you know. Now, there is a case where you have either got to allow the free importation of wool for the benefit of the manufacturer, or to tax the raw material for the benefit of the wool-grower.
Mr. Rice. That is the difficulty in adjusting a tariff properly?
The CHAIRMAN. Are we not as well suited for agricultural products as any country
The CHAIRMAN. Then that is one direction in which the committee may make a report.
Mr. WRIGHT. I think that the workingman to-day, who works in a woolen mannfactory, is suffering in wages on account of the tariff on the raw material-on wool.
The CHAIRMAN. Is he not suffering in the same way when he buys his clothes! Mr. WRIGHT. He suffers in every way from the tariff on wool; and nobody gains by it except the wool-grower, and I do not think that he gains much by it, for he
would sell more wool if there was not a tariff on the foreign product. The native wool-grower does not find so good a market for his product as he would if the foreign raw material was admitted, because that material is necessary in various manufactures of woolen cloths. I believe that to be the case so far as that one article is concerned, and that the workingmen suffer from the tariff on wool. Mr. RICE. You would protect the labor, but you would not protect the soil. The CHAIRMAN. Have you any other suggestion to offer the committee ?
Mr. WRIGHT. I do not believe that any man can claim to have so thoroughly studied the labor question as to be able to present a crystallized cause for the present state of affairs, or to formulate remedies for it. All the causes come in. I have carefully watched the proceedings before this committee, and have read the testimony given before it. If all the causes should be crystallized the result would not be a conglomerate canse ; it would be an effect. Everything that has been stated has tended to bring this about; and it does seem to me that the way out of it is an individual one, consisting of hard work, aided by the encouragement of our government in every way that it can be given, directly or indirectly. And I wish to say that I believe that the result of the work of this committee will be of great benefit to the laboring men of the country, because the committee has given them an opportunity to come here. And even if they do have what the papers call “wild schemes," that is all the better. I learn as much from wild schemes as I do from sensible schemes; and I do not know but that the committee can take from them all something of good.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, the progress of society is made up of small increments.
Mr. WRIGHT. Yes. Every man who comes up here (whether believing in socialism or the reverse) cannot bnt produce something toward the general progress of society and civilization; and in that respect the work of this committee will make a contribution.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee is very much obliged to you for having taken the trouble to come here.
The following papers were subsequently supplied by Mr. Wright: LOCOMOTIVES COMPARED WITH HORSES-RESULTS IN MASSACHUSETTS.
(A paper read before the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, March 20, 1878, by Edward Appleton, C. E.]
A few weeks ago a question was asked me which I was not ready to answer at once, but which I could answer, I thonght, after a few days' research. The inquiry became interesting to me as I followed it, and perhaps it may interest some of the members of the society also. The question asked me was:
“How many horses would be required to perform work equivalent to that done by the locomotives in use on the railroads of Massachusetts ?"
A nominal horse-power is that necessary to raise 33,000 pounds one foot high per minute, an estimate first made by Boulton & Watt in selling their steam-engines. Trautwine says that this assumption can really be carried out by a strong horse day after day for eight or ten hours, but as an engine can work day and night without stopping, while a horse cannot, a one-horse engine can do much more work than any one such horse. Boulton & Watt meant that their one-horse engine could at any moment perform the work of a very strong horse.
Trautwine estimates that a good, average trained horse, weighing about half a ton, well fed and treated, can walk 10 hours per day at the rate of 24 milesper hour on a good level road, and exert a continuous pull or tractive force of 100 pounds. On a level piece of good road, he estimates the traction at 60 pounds per ton of load and carriage, so that the 100 pounds of tractive force exerted by the average horse enables him to pull a load of if tons at the rate of 24 miles per hour for 10 hours per day on a good level road.
Trautwine gives the weight of a train, exclusive of engine and tender, which a good locomotive, weighing 27 tons or 60,430 pounds, all on the drivers, can haul on a level railroad, at a moderate speed, say 8 to 12 miles per hour, as 1,458 tons, an estimate corresponding very nearly with the amount of work which the Baldwin Company guarantee their locomotives of similar size to perform. This locomotive then will haul a load as heavy as 878 horses could pull at the rate of speed assumed above for them on good common roads, but as it hauls this load at an average speed of four times that of horses, it is doing the work of 3,512 horses, and is capable of doing it, not merely for 10 hours per day, but for nearly the whole 24. If the horses, however, were hauling upon a level railroad instead of a common road, it would not require so many of them to do the same work. Haswell gives a table of the comparative useful effect of the power of an average horse on a turnpike, a railroad, and a canal. He rates the tractive force of the horse at 83.3 pounds, and says that a horse, traveling at the rate of 24 miles per hour for 111 hours per day, will exert a useful effect equal to 14 tons drawn one mile on a turnpike, 115 tons on a railroad, and 520 tons on a canal.