In their handling of the labor problem, the governments of the states and the nation showed greater ignorance and less foresight than characterized their treatment of any of the other issues of the quarter century following the Civil War. Yet the building of the railroads and their consolidation into great systems, the development of manufacturing and its concentration into large concerns, and the growth of an army of wage earners brought about a problem of such size and complexity as to demand all the information and vision that the country could muster.

The phenomenal accumulation of wealth in the fields of mining, transportation and manufacturing which characterized the new industrial America formed the basis of a powerful propertied class. Some of the wealth was amassed by such unscrupulous methods as those which caused the popular demand for government regulation of the railroads and trusts. The prizes of success were big. The men who made their way to the top - men like Gould, Fisk, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller and Carnegie - were pioneers whose courage, foresight, and daring were combined with sufficient ruthlessness to enable them to triumph where others failed. A few of them, like Carnegie, had some slight conception of the meaning of the labor problem; most of them did not. Linked to the industrial pioneer by community of interest was the holder of the war bonds of the federal government. These securities were purchased with depreciated paper currency but increased very greatly in value after the successful outcome of the struggle, and formed an investment whose value it is extremely difficult to estimate. The owners of the stocks and bonds of the railroads and manufacturing combinations further swelled the ranks of the propertied class. Stability, continuous business and large earnings were the immediate considerations to this group. Anything which interfered was, naturally, a thing to be fought. Never before, unless in the South in slavery days, had a more powerful social class existed in the United States. A large fraction of the group was composed of men who had risen from poverty to wealth in a short time. From one point of view such a man is a "self-made" man, industrious, frugal, able, energetic, bold. From another point of view he is a parvenu, narrow, overbearing, ostentatious, proud, conceited, uncultivated. The relatively small size of the propertied class and an obvious community of interest tended to make its members reach a class consciousness even during the Civil War. The success of the group in preventing all tariff reduction after 1865 was a striking example of the solidarity of its membership and its readiness for action.

Class consciousness among the wage earners developed much more slowly, and in the nature of things was much less definite. Nevertheless the history of the industrial turmoil of the quarter century after the Civil War is the history of a class groping for political, social and economic recognition.

At the close of the war the labor situation was confused and complicated. A million and a half of men in the North and South had to be readmitted to the ranks of industry. Approximately another million had died or been more or less disabled during the conflict. A stream of immigrants, already large and constantly increasing, was pouring into the North and seeking a means of livelihood. As has been seen, most of these settled in the manufacturing and mining sections of the northern and eastern states, helped to crowd the cities, and overflowed into the fertile, free lands of the mid-West. Nearly 800,000 of them reached the United States in one year, 1882. Most of them were men - an overwhelming portion of them men of working age, unskilled, frequently illiterate and hence compelled to seek employment in a relatively small number of occupations. Both the chances of unemployment and the danger of a lowered standard of living were increased by the immigrants.

The greater use of machinery during the progress of the war has already been alluded to, but some of its results demand further mention.[1] Most evident was the huge increase in the volume and value of the products of the factories. The labor of a single worker increased in effectiveness many times; in other words, the labor cost of a unit of production greatly diminished with the improvement of mechanical devices. The labor cost of making nails by hand in 1813 was seventy fold the cost of making them by machinery in 1899; loading ore by hand was seventy-three times as expensive in 1891 as machine loading was in 1896. Increased production encouraged greater consumption, enhanced competition for markets, and opened the world to the products of American labor. Moreover, the introduction of machinery emphasized the importance of capital. When iron was rolled by hand, when cloth was produced by the use of the spinning wheel and hand-loom, when fields were tilled by inexpensive plow and hoe, relatively small amounts of capital were needed by the man who started in to work. Mechanical inventions revolutionized the situation. A costly power-loom enabled its owner to eliminate handworking competitors. If a workman could raise sufficient money or credit to purchase a supply of machines he could "set up in business," employ a number of "hands" and merely direct or manage the enterprise. Under such a system the employer must make enough profit to pay interest on his investment and to repair and replace his equipment. His attention was fixed on these elements of his industrial problem and the well-being of the laborer sank to a lower plane of importance. If the employer found the labor supply plentiful he had the upper hand in setting the wage-scale; the unorganized employee was almost completely at his mercy, because the employer could find another workman more easily than the workman could find another job. Meanwhile the workman knew the increased product which he was turning out, and became discontented because he did not see a corresponding increase in his remuneration.

From about 1830, when the rapid development of the use of mechanical appliances began, to the late eighties and early nineties when the new regime was meeting its sternest conflicts in the trust problem and the militant labor unions, the army of the wage earner was growing faster than the population. Between 1870 and 1890, for example, the population increased 63 per cent., while the number of laborers engaged in manufacturing increased nearly 130 per cent. By the latter year, 6,099,058 persons, about a tenth of the total population, were employed in transportation, mining and manufacturing.

It was noticeable, also, that the wage earners tended to concentrate. The laborers engaged in manufacturing were to be found, for the most part, in the Northeast, and especially in such leading industrial cities as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Furthermore, the development of the factory system and the consolidation of many small companies into a few great ones tended to localize the labor problem still further - in a relatively small number of plants. The concentration of industry in great factories where large numbers of workers labored side by side ended the paternal care which the old-time employer had expended upon his employees. With the introduction of machinery, the danger of accidents due to the ignorance or carelessness of fellow workmen increased. The use of mechanical appliances also gave opportunity for the employment of women and children, and thus raised the question whether any restrictions ought to be placed upon the employment of these classes of people. The construction of factories, their ventilation, sanitary appliances, and safe-guards for health and comfort became subjects of importance.

With the example of consolidation before them that was presented by the railroads and the corporations, it was inevitable that the wage earners should organize for their protection and advancement. Labor organizations of wage earners have existed in the United States since 1827, and between that time and 1840 came a considerable awakening among the laboring classes which was part of a general humanitarian movement throughout the country. Robert Owen, an English industrial idealist, had visited this country about 1825 and provided the initiative for a short-lived communistic settlement at New Harmony, Indiana. Similar enterprises were established at other points; the most famous of these was that at Brook Farm in Massachusetts, which enlisted the interest and support of many of the literary people of New England. The expanding humanitarian and idealistic movement was cut short by the Civil War, but the development of industrialism went on uninfluenced by the spirit of social progress which might have permeated it. After reconstruction was over, a new generation had to become impressed with the evils which needed correction and to set itself to the task which civil strife had thrust aside.

The need of a responsible organization of wage earners was indicated by the career of the Molly Maguires. The Molly Maguires constituted an inner circle of Irish Catholics who controlled the activities of the branches of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the hard-coal counties of eastern Pennsylvania. During the war and immediately after it the group gained a little power in local politics, and also undertook to punish mine owners, bosses and superintendents who offended members of the Order. Intimidation became common, and even murder was resorted to until the region was fairly terrorized. It seemed impossible to combat the Mollies because their activities were shrouded in secrecy. Usually, for example, when a murder was to be committed, a member would be brought in from an outside district in order that he might not be recognized if discovered, and he would be aided in escaping after the crime. Finally the president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad procured a Pinkerton detective named James McParlan who went into the region and remained for two years. During this time he posed as a fugitive from justice and as a counterfeiter, became a member of the Order, a confidant of the Molly Maguires, and collected evidence. Armed with the knowledge acquired by McParlan, the officials were able to arrest and convict twenty-four criminals, of whom ten were executed, and the career of the Mollies came to an end.

The activities of the Molly Maguires were symptomatic of what might occur throughout the ranks of labor during the confused period of adjustment after the war, and yet they were temporary and local in their effect on the development of the labor movement. The history of the great labor controversies after the war properly begins with the Knights of Labor, an association which originated in Philadelphia in 1869 as the result of the efforts of a garment cutter named Uriah S. Stephens.[2] In the beginning, the affairs of the Knights were veiled in dense secrecy; even the name of the society was never mentioned but was indicated by five stars - *****. As the number of members increased, however, all manner of disquieting and untruthful rumors spread concerning its purposes, so that the element of secrecy was done away with in 1881 and a declaration of principles was made public. The fundamental purpose of the Knights was the formation of an order which should include all branches of the wage earners and which should aim to improve their economic, moral, social and intellectual condition. Emphasis was placed, that is to say, on the welfare of the laboring classes as a whole, rather than upon that of any particular trade or craft. The organization was centralized and the interests of the group were developed on a national scale. The growth of the association was extremely rapid at times, reaching a climax in the middle eighties when about 700,000 members, both men and women, made it a power in industrial disputes. Some of the members taken in at this time were extremists - European anarchists, for example - who urged a violent policy and got almost if not quite out of control of the officers during 1886. In the late eighties the membership dwindled rapidly, owing to the failure of strikes instituted by the order, and its place and influence were largely taken by the American Federation of Labor.

The latter body was the outgrowth of a convention held in Pittsburg in 1881, but it did not adopt its final name until 1886. Its purpose was to group labor organizations of all kinds, leaving the government of each affiliated body with the body itself. Each of the members of the Federation is composed of workers in a given trade or industry, like the International Typographical Union, the United Mine Workers, and many others. The annual convention is composed of delegates from the constituent societies. The growth of the organization was rapid and continuous. Coincidently with the expansion of the Knights of Labor and the growth of the American Federation came the great development of the labor press. Professor Ely estimated late in the eighties that possibly five hundred newspapers were devoted to the needs of the labor movement. The numerous farmers' organizations, typified by the Patrons of Husbandry, are other examples of the growing tendency toward cohesion among the less powerful classes. Indeed, the Grange originated only a year earlier than the Knights of Labor, and like it was a secret order.

The wage earners, then, were rapidly becoming class-conscious. They had found conditions which seemed to them intolerable, had formed organizations on a national scale and had drawn up a definite program of principles and reforms. The exact grievances which inspired the Knights, the Federation and other less important organizations are therefore of immediate importance.

In order to secure for the wage earner a sufficient money return for his work, and sufficient leisure for the education of his intellectual and religious faculties, and to enable him to understand and perform his duties as a citizen, the Knights demanded the establishment of bureaus of labor for the collection of information; the reservation of the public lands for actual settlers; the abrogation of laws that did not bear equally on capital and labor; the adoption of measures for the health and safety of the working classes; indemnity for injuries due to the lack of proper safeguards; the recognition of the incorporation of labor unions; laws compelling corporations to pay laborers weekly; arbitration in labor disputes; and the prohibition of child labor. The Knights of Labor also favored state ownership of telegraphs and railroads, as well as an eight hour working day. The purposes of the American Federation scarcely differed from this program, although its methods and its form of organization were quite distinct.

At the present time, when most of these demands have been met in one degree or another, it is difficult to see why there should have been delay and contention in agreeing to a program which, so far as it deals with labor problems pure and simple, appears both modest and reasonable. But the state of mind of a large fraction of the nation was not in accord with ambitions which doubtless seemed excessively radical. Fundamentally a great portion of the propertied classes held a low estimate of the value and rights of the laboring people, as well as of the possibilities of their development, and feared that evil results would follow from attempts to improve their condition. The employment of children in factories, it was thought, would inculcate in them the needed habits of industry, and the reduction of the working hours would merely provide time which would be spent in the acquirement of vicious practices. If, in addition, the employers opposed such changes as the abolition of child labor and the reduction of the working day to eight hours on the ground of the financial sacrifice which seemed to be involved, their attitude was in keeping with the ruthless exploitation of the human resources of the country which was common during this period. It should be remembered, too, that the lofty conception which most Americans held of the opportunities and customs of their country stood in the way of a frank study of conditions and an equally frank admission of abuses. For decades we had reiterated that America was the land of opportunity, that economic, political and social equality were the foundations of American life and that the American workingman was the best fed and the best clothed workingman in the world. In the face of this view of industrial affairs it was difficult to be alert to manifold abuses and needed reforms. To one holding this view of affairs - and it was a common view - the laborer who demanded better conditions was unreasonable and unappreciative of how "well off" he was. Hence the blame for the labor unrest was frequently laid on the foreigner, who was supposed to bring to America the opposition to government which had been fostered in him by less democratic institutions abroad. Undoubtedly immigration greatly complicated industrial conditions, as has been indicated, yet essentially the labor question arose from the upward progress of a class in American society and was as inevitable, foreigner or no foreigner, as the coming of a new century.

Two illustrations will throw light upon some of the demands which the wage earners frequently presented. Writing in August, 1886, Andrew Carnegie, the prominent steel manufacturer, discussed the proper length of the working day. Every ton of pig-iron made in the world, with the exception of that made in two establishments, he asserted, was made by men working twelve hours a day, with neither holiday nor Sunday the year round. Every two weeks it was the practice to change the day workers to the night shift and at that time the men labored twenty-four hours consecutively. Moreover, twelve to fifteen hours constituted a day's work in many other industries. Working hours for women and children had almost equally slight reference to their physical well-being.

The "truck-system" was a less widespread abuse, but one that caused serious trouble at certain points. Under this plan, a corporation keeps a store at which employees are expected to trade, or are sometimes forced to do so. Obviously such a store might be operated to the great benefit of the workman and without loss to the employer, but the temptation to make an unfair profit and to keep the laborer always in debt to the company was very great. A congressional committee which investigated conditions in Pennsylvania in 1888 found that prices charged in company stores ran from ten per cent. to 160 per cent. higher than prices in other stores in the vicinity, and that a workman was more likely to keep his position if he traded with the company.

The most insistent cause of industrial conflict was the question of wages. Forty-one per cent. of all the strikes between 1881 and 1900 were for more pay; twenty-six per cent., for shorter hours. Between the close of the war and the early nineties, industrial prosperity was widespread except for the period of prostration following 1873 and the less important depression of 1884. Not unnaturally the laborer desired to have a larger share of the product of his work. The individual, however, was impotent before a great corporation, when the wage-scale was being determined; hence workmen found it advantageous to combine and bargain collectively with their employer, in the expectation that he would hesitate to risk the loss of all his laboring force, whereas the loss of one or a few would be a matter of indifference.

In the meanwhile, a little ameliorative labor legislation was being passed by state legislatures and by Congress. A Massachusetts law of 1866 forbade the employment of children under ten years of age in manufacturing establishments, prohibited the employment of children between the ages of ten and fourteen for more than eight hours per day, and provided that children who worked in factories must attend school at least six months in the year. In 1868 a federal act constituted eight hours a day's work for government laborers, workmen and mechanics, but some doubt arose as to the intent of part of it and the law was not enforced. In many states eight-hour bills were introduced, but were defeated in all except six, of which Connecticut, Illinois and California were examples, and even in these cases the laws were not properly drawn up or were not enforced. In 1869 a Bureau of Statistics of Labor was established in Massachusetts which led the way for similar enterprises in other states. It collected information concerning labor matters and reported annually to the legislature. In 1874 a Massachusetts ten-hour law forbade the employment of women and minors under eighteen for more than sixty hours a week, although refraining from the regulation of working hours for men. In 1879, in imitation of English factory acts, Massachusetts passed a general law relating to the inspection of manufacturing establishments. It provided that dangerous machinery must be guarded, proper ventilation secured, elevator wells equipped with protective devices and fire-escapes constructed. Other states followed slowly, but legislation was frequently negatived by lack of effective administration. In brief, then, agitation previous to 1877 had resulted in the passage of a few protective acts, but even these were restricted to a few states and were not well enforced. It was, therefore, more than a mere coincidence that the first general strike movement spread over the country in this same year, 1877.

It will be remembered that the great railroad strikes of that year extended over many of the northern roads but caused most trouble in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Pittsburg and other railway centers. Much property was destroyed, lives were lost, and the strikers failed to obtain their ends.[3] Other effects of the controversy, moreover, made it an important landmark in the history of the labor question. The inconvenience and suffering which the strike caused in cities far distant from the scene of actual conflict indicated that the transportation system was already so essential a factor in welding the country together that any interruption to its operation had become intolerable. The hostility of some of the railway managers to union among their laborers and the rumors that they were determined to crush such organizations augured ill for the future. The hordes of unemployed workmen and the swarms of tramps which had resulted from the continued industrial depression of 1873 insured rioting and violence during the strike, whether the strikers themselves favored it and shared in it or not. The destruction of property which resulted from the strike caused many state legislatures to pass conspiracy laws directed against labor; more attention was paid to the need of trained soldiers for putting down strikes, and the construction of many armories followed; and the courts took a more hostile attitude toward labor unions. Equally important was the effect on the workmen themselves. When the strike became violent and the state militia failed to check it, the strikers found themselves face to face with federal troops. President Hayes could not, of course, refuse to repress the rioters; nevertheless his action aligned the power of the central government against the strikers, and seemed to the latter to align the government against the laborers as a class. Of a sudden, then, the labor problem took on a new and vital interest; workingmen's parties "began to spring up like mushrooms"; and the laboring men saw more clearly than ever the essential unity of their interests.

Industrial unrest increased rather than diminished during the prosperous eighties; for the first five years of the decade, strikes and lockouts together averaged somewhat over five hundred annually. The climax came in "the great upheaval" of 1884 to 1886.[4] In the latter year nearly 1600 controversies involved 610,024 men and a financial sacrifice estimated at $34,000,000. Early in May, 1886, occurred the memorable Haymarket affair in the city of Chicago. The city was a center of labor agitation, some of it peaceful, some of it in the hands of radical European anarchists whose methods were shown in a statement of one of their newspapers, The Alarm, on February 21, 1885:

    Dynamite! Of all the good stuff, this is the stuff. Stuff several 
    pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch pipe ... plug up both 
    ends, insert a cap with a fuse attached, place this in the 
    immediate neighborhood of a lot of rich loafers ... and light 
    the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will follow.

On May 1 strikes began for the purpose of obtaining an eight hour day. During the course of the strike some workmen gathered near the McCormick Reaper Works; the police approached, were stoned, and retorted by firing upon the strikers, killing four and wounding many others. Thereupon the men called a meeting in Haymarket Square to protest against the action of the police; in the main they were orderly, for Mayor Carter Harrison was present and found nothing objectionable. Later in the evening, when the Mayor and most of the audience had left, remarks of a violent nature seem to have been made, and at this point a force of 180 police marched forward and ordered the meeting to disperse. Just then a bomb was thrown into the midst of the police, killing seven and wounding many others. The entire nation was shocked and terrified by the event, as hitherto anarchy had seemed to be a far-away thing, the product of autocratic European governments. The thrower of the bomb could not be discovered, but numerous anarchists were found who themselves possessed such weapons or had urged violence in their speeches or writings. Eight of them, nearly all Germans, were tried for murder on the ground that the person who threw the bomb must have read the speeches or writings of the accused anarchists and have been thereby encouraged to do the act. The presiding judge, Joseph E. Gary, was of the opinion that the disposition in the guilty man to throw the bomb was the result of the teaching and advice of the prisoners. The counsel for the accused declared that since the guilty person could not be found it was impossible to know whether he had ever heard or read anything said or written by the prisoners, or been influenced by their opinions. Eventually seven anarchists were convicted, of whom four were hanged, one committed suicide, and three were imprisoned. In 1893 the Governor of Illinois, John P. Altgeld, pardoned the three prisoners, basing his action mainly on the ground that no proof had been brought forward to show that they were in any way acquainted with the unknown bomb-thrower. The result of the conviction was the break-up of the radical anarchistic movement and also the temporary discrediting of the general agitation for an eight hour day, although neither the Knights of Labor nor the Federation of Labor had any connection with the anarchists, and both deprecated violence.

In the meanwhile, Congress had concerned itself slightly with the labor problem. In 1884 a Bureau of Labor had been established to collect information on the relation of labor and capital. Two years later, just before the Haymarket affair, President Cleveland had sent a message to Congress in which he adverted to the many disputes which had recently arisen between laborers and employers, and urged legislation to meet the exigency. Considerations of justice and safety, he thought, demanded that the workingmen as a class be looked upon as especially entitled to legislative care. Although Cleveland deprecated violence and condemned unjustifiable disturbance, he believed that the discontent among the employed was due largely to avarice on the part of the employing classes and to the feeling among workmen that the attention of the government was directed in an unfair degree to the interests of capital. On the other hand, he suggested that federal action was greatly limited by constitutional restrictions. He accordingly urged that the Bureau of Labor be enlarged and that permanent officers be appointed to act as a board of arbitration in industrial disputes. The legislative branch was not inclined to follow Cleveland's lead, although he returned to the subject after the Haymarket affair, for it was commonly felt that his suggestion was too great a step in the direction of centralization of government. Two years later, in 1888, a modest act was passed which provided for the investigation of differences between railroads and their employees, but only when agreed to by both parties, and no provision was made for the enforcement of the decision of the investigators. The practical results were not important. Similar action had already been taken in a few states. By 1895 fifteen states had laws providing for voluntary arbitration, but the results were slight in most cases.

Very little progress was being made in the states in the passage of other industrial legislation. In Alabama and Massachusetts in the middle eighties acts extended and regulated the liability of employers for personal injuries suffered by laborers while at work.[5] At the same time the attitude of the legislatures and the courts in some states toward strikes underwent a slight modification. In many states where the legislatures had not passed definite statutes to the contrary, it had been held by the courts that strikers could be tried and convicted for conspiracy. In a few cases, states passed acts attempting to define more exactly the legal position of strikers. A New York court in 1887, for example, held that the law of the state permitted workmen to seek an increase of wages by all possible means that fell short of threats or violence. Before the close of Cleveland's second administration, considerable progress had been made in state legislation concerning conditions and hours of labor for women and children, protection of workers from dangerous machinery, the payment of wages, employer's liability for accidents to workmen, and other subjects. On the other hand, in some cases unreasonable or ill-considered actions on the part of the unions or their active agents - the "walking delegates" - turned popular sentiment against them. Particularly was this true in cases of violence and of strikes or boycotts by unions in support of workmen in other trades at far distant points.

During the presidential campaign of 1892 a violent strike at the Carnegie Steel Company's works in Homestead, Pennsylvania, arose from a reduction in wages and a refusal of the Company to recognize the Iron and Steel Workers' Union. An important feature of this disturbance was the use of armed Pinkerton detectives by the Company for the protection of its buildings. Armed with rifles they fell into conflict with the workmen, a miniature military campaign was carried on, lives were lost and large amounts of property destroyed. Eventually the entire militia of the state had to be called out to maintain peace.

It remained, however, for Chicago and the year 1894 to present one of the most far-reaching, costly and complex labor upheavals that has ever disturbed industrial relations in America. So ill understood at the time were the real facts of the controversy that it is doubtful whether it is possible even now to distinguish between truth and rumor in regard to some of its aspects.

The town of Pullman, near Chicago, was the home of the Pullman Palace Car Company, a prosperous corporation with a capital of $36,000,000. It provided houses for its employees, kept up open stretches of lawn, flower beds and lakes. In 1893 and 1894, when general business conditions were bad, the Company reduced the wages of its workmen about twenty-five per cent. A committee of the men asked for a return to former rates, but they were refused, three members of the committee were laid off, and the employees then struck. Late in June, 1894, the American Railway Union, to which many of the workmen belonged, took up the side of the men, and the General Managers' Association, comprising officials of twenty-four roads entering Chicago, took the side of the Company. Through the entry of the Union and the Association, the relatively unimportant Pullman affair expanded to large proportions. Violence followed; cars were tipped over and burned; property was stolen and tracks ruined; and eventually the United States government was drawn into the controversy.

Numerous complaints having reached Washington that the mails were being obstructed and interstate commerce interfered with, President Cleveland decided to send troops to Chicago. The Constitution requires that the United States protect states against domestic violence on the application of the legislature, or of the executive when the legislature is not in session. Moreover the statutes of the United States empower the President to use federal force to execute federal laws. The position taken by the Governor of Illinois, John P. Altgeld, was expressed in his telegram to President Cleveland protesting against the action of the executive:

    Should the situation at any time get so serious that we cannot 
    control it with the State forces, we will promptly and freely ask 
    for Federal assistance; but until such time I protest with all due 
    deference against this uncalled-for reflection upon our people, 
    and again ask for the immediate withdrawal of these troops.

The President replied that troops were being sent in accordance with federal law upon complaint that commerce and the passage of the mails were being obstructed. A somewhat acrimonious correspondence between the Governor and the President resulted but the troops were retained and assisted in bringing the strike to a conclusion.

The attitude of the courts, meanwhile, had brought up a serious situation. On July 2 a "blanket injunction" was issued by the United States District Court of Illinois and posted on the sides of the cars. It forbade officers, members of the Union and all other persons to interfere in any way with the operation of trains or to force or persuade employees to refuse to perform their duties. Under existing law, anybody who disobeyed the injunction could be brought before the Court for contempt, and sentenced by the judge without opportunity to bring witnesses and to be tried before a jury. When Eugene V. Debs, the president of the Union, and other officers continued to direct the strike they were arrested for contempt of court and imprisoned.[6] With federal troops against them and their officers gone, the strikers could hardly continue and gave up in defeat. The loss in property and wages had already reached $80,000,000.

The apportionment of the blame for so appalling a controversy was not a simple task. On the one hand, a writer in the Forum declared that

    The one great question was of the ability of this Government to 
    suppress insurrection. On the one, side was the party of lawlessness, 
    of murder, of incendiarism, and of defiance of authority. On the 
    other side was the party of loyalty to the United States.

But this was a superficial view. A commission of investigation appointed by President Cleveland looked into the matter more deeply. Its unanimous report made important assertions: the Pullman Company, while providing a beautiful town for its employees, charged rents twenty to twenty-five per cent. higher than were charged in surrounding towns for similar accommodations, and the men felt a compulsion to reside in the houses if they wished to retain their positions; when wages were reduced, the salaries of the better paid officers were untouched, so that the burden of the hard times was placed on the poorest paid employees; there was no violence or destruction of property in Pullman, and much of the rowdyism in Chicago, but not all of it was due to the lawless adventurers and professional criminals who filled the city at that time;[7] when various public officials and organizations attempted to get the Company to arbitrate the dispute, the uniform reply was that the points at issue were matters of fact and hence not proper subjects for arbitration; and the Managers' Association selected, armed and paid 3,600 federal deputy marshals who acted both as railroad employees and as United States officers, under the direction of the Managers.

In view of the amount of labor disturbance after the Civil War, it was noteworthy that it attracted the interest of political parties to so slight a degree previous to 1896. In general the national platforms of the two large parties reflected an indefinite if not remote concern with the welfare of the wage earner. It was urged, to be sure, by both protectionists and tariff reformers that customs duties should be framed with the welfare of the laborer in mind, but the sincerity of this concern was sometimes open to question. The smaller parties, as usual, were far less vague in their demands. The Labor Reformers in 1872 demanded the eight-hour day, for example; the Greenbackers had a definite program for relief in 1880; the Anti-Monopolists in 1884 and the Union Labor and the United Labor parties in 1888. By 1892 the great parties found themselves face to face with a growing labor vote. The labor planks in the two platforms of that year were strikingly similar. Each called for federal legislation to protect the employees of transportation companies, but looked to the states for the relief of employees engaged in manufacturing. Neither the Socialist Labor party nor the Populists, however, were greatly troubled by the question of the proper distribution between state and nation of the responsibility for the welfare of the wage earner. Both proposed definite action; both urged the reduction in length of the working day. The Populists condemned the use of Pinkertons in labor disputes and the Socialists urged arbitration, the prohibition of child labor, restrictions on the employment of women in unhealthful industries, employers' liability laws and the protection of life and limb.

In brief, then, the situation of the wage-earning classes in the middle nineties was becoming accurately defined. The strike as a weapon was open to serious objections. The leaders of the two large parties had given no evidence of an effective and immediate interest in labor unrest. The other political parties were too small to afford chances of success. If less reliance was to be placed upon the strike and more upon political action, either a third party must be constructed or the leadership in one of the old ones must be seized. When the conference of labor officials met in Chicago and concluded that the Pullman strike was lost, it issued an address to the members of the American Railway Union advising a return to work, closer organization of the laboring class and the correction of industrial wrongs at the ballot box. If this advice should be taken, and if the wage earner should attempt to control legislation for his economic interest, as the propertied class had long been doing for its benefit, the struggle might be shifted to the political arena. The interest of the workers in the South and West in the Populist movement suggested the possibility that such a shift might occur.


Surprisingly little attention has been paid to the social aspects of the growth of the laboring classes before 1896. There is ample material, however, on the more obvious sides of the labor movement, such as the growth of the organizations and the use of the strike.

The Documentary History of American Industrial Society (10 vols., 1910-1911), contains a little documentary material on the period after 1865; J.R. Commons and others, History of Labour in the United States (2 vols., 1918), is the best and most recent historical account; T.S. Adams and H.L. Sumner, Labor Problems (1905), is useful; consult also R.T. Ely, Labor Movement in America (3rd ed., 1890); C.D. Wright, The Industrial Evolution of the United States (1897), by a practical expert; G.E. McNeill, The Labor Movement (1887); J.R. Buchanan, Story of a Labor Agitator (1903); S.P. Orth, The Armies of Labor (1919), contains a good bibliography; John Mitchell, Organized Labor (1903); T.V. Powderly, Thirty Years of Labor (1890); Quarterly Journal of Economics (Jan., 1887), Knights of Labor; J.H. Bridge, Inside History of the Carnegie Steel Co. (1903). On the Haymarket affair, compare Century Magazine (Apr., 1893), and J.P. Altgeld, Reasons for Pardoning Fielden, Neebe and Schwab; on the Pullman strike, Grover Cleveland, Presidential Problems, and the report of the commission of investigation in Senate Executive Documents, 53rd Congress, 3rd session, vol. 2 (Serial Number 3276). Edward Stanwood, History of the Presidency, contains political platform planks on labor. The reports of the Commissioner of Labor (1886-), and of the state bureaus of statistics of labor in such states as Massachusetts (1870-), and New York (1884-), are essential for the investigator.

       * * * * *

[1] Cf. above, p. 64

[2] Two earlier organizations had a brief existence, the National Labor Union and the Industrial Brotherhood.

[3] Above, pp. 133-134.

[4] For the effect on the Knights of Labor, see p. 310.

[5] For the legal side of this matter, consult Wright, Industrial Evolution, 278-282.

[6] The Court based its action mainly on the provisions of Section 2 of the Sherman anti-trust law, which thus had an unforeseen effect. The Supreme Court upheld the action, although on broader grounds. Above, p. 256, cf. 159 U.S. Reports, 564.

[7] In 1893 the "World's Fair" in Chicago had celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the landing of Columbus, and many of the criminals attracted by the event had remained in the city.