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Protection to American Labor






First. Ought American labor to be protected ?

Second. What ought that protection to be ?

Our natural rights, philosophy, and experience concur in
answering the first of these questions in the affirmative. Of
our natural or moral rights, as interpreted by the highest forms
of civilization, none are paramount to those of labor. " The
great interest of this great country, the producing cause of all
prosperity," says Daniel Webster, " is labor, labor, labor. The
government was made to protect this industry ; to give it both
encouragement and security." It is a universal law that, by
means of labor, man subsists, betters his condition, acquires
those things, whether real or ideal in character, that minister
to his happiness. From this standpoint the rights of labor are
seen to be equivalent to those of life itself. In other words, the
rights of labor are the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness " vouchsafed to man by his Creator. Govern-
ment failing to protect its members in the enjoyment of these
sacred rights, defeats the objects for which it was instituted.

But in determining the rights of labor, its relations to the
other agents of production must not be lost sight of. Its rights
to protection and its obligations to protect the objects of worth,
are commensurate. However mighty, it is relatively dependent.
Let not, then, the hand say to the brain nor to nature, nor to
capital, nor to genius: "Behold all these vast works of the
world, the results of my unaided efforts;" but, rather, as be-
comes the honor and dignity of a grand and magnanimous
power, as becomes the lofty spirit of true nobility, let the hand
.say : u Behold ye, my companions, nature, capital, and genius,
these our glorious achievements : behold the earth clothed in
beauty, the myriads of happy homes, the innumerable streams
of plenty flowing from the broad reservoirs of yellow harvest,

from the vast treasures of mineral wealth, and from the civiliz-
ing fountains of manufacturing industry, to gladden the hearts
of the human race behold these rich and copious blessings,
resulting not from my individual effort, but from our united

A celebrated German economist divides industrial history
into three periods : in the first of which nature is the chief
agent of production ; in the second, labor ; in the third, capital.
The relative importance here attributed to each of these agen-
cies of wealth seems to me questionable. That nature, for the
most part, supplied man in his primitive state with the neces-
saries of life, as she is wont to supply the wants of the lower
order of animals, is obviously true. As man ascended some-
what the scale of civilization, and under the guidance of genius
put his hand to the plow and other industrial implements,
thereby augmenting the necessaries of life and producing com-
forts for mankind, it seems to me that a copartnership of equality
was established by nature and labor, rather than a relationship
in which one was pre-eminent over the other. True, nature
hitherto had ill supplied man with the necessaries of life, as
game, roots, nuts, and fruit for food ; rocks and caves for
shelter ; bark and leaves of trees for raiment ; whereas, labor,
on his advent into the world, domesticated animals for food,
added bread, reared for man warm and commodious habita-
tions, and clothed him in garments of comfort. Yet in it all is
seen the impress of the hand of nature. In a general sense,
nature produces the crude material, labor fashions it into things
of usefulness and beauty. If a barren waste is converted by
labor into a field of fertility, the inherent properties of that
fertility are of nature, and not of labor. Labor removes the
obstructions to the development of those properties ; nature
does the rest. The ultimate result, then, is attributable to the
combined efforts of nature and labor.

As man attained a higher degree in civilization ; acquired a
knowledge of the various products indigenous to different re-
gions of the globe ; foresaw the benefits, comforts, and pleas-
ures that an exchange of the surplus of these products would


confer upon the inhabitants of the different climes; conceived
that greater economy in production would obtain in various
department! of industry by the combined efforts of men than
by their several isolated efforts in short, as man took a broader
view of the world, a deeper insight into human affairs, genius,
or rather reason, pointed out to him that as the fields of agri-
culture were fertilized by water applied to them from streams
and reservoirs, so these uncultivated, barren, and arid fields of
commerce, manufacture, and general industry could be ren-
dered luxuriantly fruitful, by applying to them capital, as a
fertilizing agent from the streams and reservoirs of wealth.
Trial was made. Repeated experiment confirmed the truth of
reason's proposition. Thence capital became recognized as an
indispensable agent of production. If, on the one hand, capital
was unable to perform the functions of nature and labor, on
the other hand, they were equally unable to perform the func-
tions of capital.

The German economist, to whom reference has been made,
in pronouncing capital " chief" of the agents of production,
would seem to ignore the aphorism that the strength of a chain
is no greater than that of its weakest link ; would seem to
ignore the fact, that the tiny hair-spring, or its equivalent, is
no less important than the main-spring, in producing the requi-
site motion of a watch. How idle the speculation of the politi-
cal economists of his school, that the steam engine, a typical
feature of modern industry, was mainly the product, not of
manual labor but of the genius, enterprise, perseverance, and
command of funds of two employers of labor, Watt and Boulton.
Great honor is due to the genius, enterprise, and perseverance
of these great inventors. In ancient times they would have
been deified perhaps in the minds of men have been elevated
to a throne above that of God himself. We cheerfully admit,
too, the inestimable value of capital in the production of the
steam engine, that great masterpiece of all time. But I main-
tain that manual labor most manfully performed his part ;
grappled the earth, wrenched from her firm grasp the crude ma-
terial, which by his skill and steady blows he forged and fash-

ioned under the guidance of genius into that wondrous creature,
as it were, of life. If man had hoofs instead of hands, would the
iron horse ever have rejojced in its strength and fleetness ? Strange
that these special pleaders of capital on one hand, and of labor on
the other, should fail to understand that the law of the universe
is that of equality ; that a particle and a world mutually solicit
each other's aid ; that they are mutually dependent, one upon
the other ; that were the atoms composing the earth to part com-
pany, the earth would dissolve back into chaos.

So with respect to nature, labor, and capital : as agents of
production, immutable law proclaims their equality. The true
economy of production, the well-being of man, consists, then,
in the highest effort of these powers, blended in perfect har-
mony. What the highest law has joined, let not man put asun-
der. Palsied be the hand that would maliciously sever a single
link in the chain, or a single fibre in the cord, binding them to-
gether. Disrupt their union, civilization halts, totters, falls,
perishes, and man lapses back into barbarism. Wrong one
not only does reaction take place, but the wrong inflicted is
transmitted to all, to the detriment of society.

Overtax the energies of land, it becomes barren, and food
thereby scarce; poorly pay the efforts of free labor, it fam-
ishes, and society pines ; draw upon capital in excess of its
resources, it necessarily fails, and industry thereby decays.
It is evident, then, that the protection of these agents of pro-
duction one and all against the aggressions of wrong in
any form, is the proper end and aim of individual man, of
society, of civil government is the "great study" of life.

Aggression is of two kinds, internal and external.

With respect to internal aggression, the numerous strikes, the
boycotting, and the destruction of property now rife, are familial-
examples. In the case of these altercations between labor and
capital, let judgment be withheld until an impartial hearing of
both sides shall be had. It must be said, however, that the wan-
ton destruction of property, the hardships inflicted upon the com-
munity, and the endangering of life, can only invoke utter con-
demnation. But the evil spirit inciting these atrocities is no more


to be condemned than that other spirit, that would, in this fair
land consecrated to freedom, uproot free labor, and plant in its
stead that " bohan upas" Chinese labor. Each is an enemy
to society an enemy to all good. It matters not whether it is
the lust of anarchy or the greed of avarice, or, indeed, the zeal
of blind fanaticism no one has the right to destroy my prop-
erty, nor to degrade my labor to the condition of serfdom, nor
to feed prospective proselytes with my bread.

As to an amicable settlement between labor and capital em-
ployed in legitimate industry, I entertain not a doubt. -Capital
devoted to the subjugation of free labor will unquestionably meet
with sore defeat. Let alarmists predict that in the near future
a war to the hilt will occur between labor and capital : and that
in consequence dire calamity will befall the country! Fear not
it is but a bugbear the ravings of a distorted imagination. Be
assured that American labor and capital are too intelligent and
too honorable not to settle equitably all their difficulties by arbi-
tration. They are too wise not to profit by the saying of Ed-
mund Burke, that "all government, indeed, every human ben-
efit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act, is founded
on compromise and barter." "We balance inconveniences ; we
give and take ; we remit some rights that we may enjoy others ;
and we choose rather to be happy citizens than subtle dispu-

Whence, for the most part, comes this agitation? Not from
the industrious classes, but from non-laboring parasites upon
the skirts of labor visionary anarchists, political gamblers,
and loud-mouthed bar-room sitters. Certain it is that reason
will dissipate these elements of mischief, as does the sun pesti-
lential vapors. In isolated cases, labor unquestionably has just
cause of complaint; so, too, in other cases has capital. " Let
him who asks right, do right." Let both labor and capital be
set right by the strong arm of justice. Being equal, as hitherto
shown, each ought to be equally protected.

But in general, how does the matter stand between them?
Taking as a criterion the statistics of 1880, with respect to manu-
factures of the United States, it appears that in round numbers

the value of the products, and the cost of these productions, were
as follows, viz :

Value of products $5,400,000,000

Cost of material $3,400,000,000

Amount paid labor 1,000,000,000

Whence gross gain $1,000,000,000

Now, as is well known, 1880 was a fortunate year for manu-
factures. During an equal period of "hard times," such as are
now upon us, capital is not only liable to lose, on an equal ven-
ture, a billion of dollars, but to be bankrupted. Under the cir-
cumstances, does capital seem to have taken the lion's share, or
to have been an aggressor ? Let candid labor answer.

For the greatest good of all concerned, both encouragement
and restraint are requisite with respect to the accumulations of
capital. Large capital is requisite for large enterprises, which
are necessary for employing the hands of labor, and for supply-
ing the wants of man. As no definite bounds can well be set to
legitimate enterprise, so by parity of reason none can well be set
to the accumulations of capital for conducting that enterprise.
In this, as in mechanics, the power must be directly propor-
tionate to the work sought. But capital or wealth should be re-
strained to the utmost from pressing upon the rights of labor.
If it be not restrained, the few become enriched at the expense
of the many. In this event, freedom is such but in name. "The
freest government," says Daniel Webster, " cannot long endure
where the tendency of the law is to create a rapid accumulation
of property in the hands of the few, and to render the masses of
the people poor and dependent." Goldsmith expresses a kindred
sentiment in these words :

" 111 fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay."

In both these quotations the relative wealth of the two classes is
evidently meant, and not the quantity of wealth in the aggregate.
Ratio, not aggregate quantity, is contemplated.

Degrade labor, the results pointed out by the immortal states-

man and the immortal hard arc inevitable ; protect labor, these
results are impossible. It is for you, for me, for all co-laborers,
to say whether American labor ought to be protected against
these and all internal aggressions.

With respect to external aggressions, Henry Clay says: ik The
great battle of the world is between freedom and despotism, be-
tween European capital and labor on one side, and American
capital and labor on the other. On this point turns the destiny
of nations." Since the utterance of this great truth, fifty years
ago, despotism has immensely increased its forces, has enlisted
Asiatic labor, and multiplied the machine labor of Europe in-
definitely. So that now, in this aggression of despotism, Ameri-
can labor is besieged on the west by an army of Chinese labor,
four hundred million strong, and on the east by the still more
powerful forces of European capital and European labor, pauper
and machine combined, on the north by French Canadians, on
the south by Mexican peonage both cheap. The conflict be-
tween these allied forces and free American labor is irrepressi-
ble. There is no such thing as peace between them. I appeal
to the evidence, the facts in the case.

The civilization of the Asiatic division is that of deadly hos-
tility to the civilization of progress. The vices of seventy cen-
turies of uniform despotism and slavery seem infused into the
mind and constitution of the Chinese. Our experience so far
with this foreign foe indicates that over seventy centuries more
will be required to eliminate those inherited or constitutional
vices. The Encyclopaedia Brittanica says, with respect to the
Chinese : " Dishonesty prevails to a frightful extent, and with
it, of course, untruthfulness. The Chinese set little or no value
on truth. Punishment is inflicted to compel a witness to sup-
ply the evidence required, and is continued on failure, till he
becomes insensible." Thus despotism, by the enforcement of
slavery upon its subjects, generates in them the spirit of dis-
honesty and untruthfulness, and then visits the victims of its
baneful influences with dreadful torture. Custom in time passes
into a fundamental law, which both despot and slave recognize
as the law r of right. The Chinese, wherever they go, take with

them their inherited laws of unmeasured ages of despotism.
They ignore, evade the laws of the country which they infest,
and -enforce among themselves their inherited laws.

The Commission appointed by Congress to investigate the
Chinese scourge, report in these words : " They (the Chinese)
have secret tribunals, exercising a criminal and civil jurisdiction,
an imperium in imperio. They. have tribunals and enforce
penalties, even to the extent that property and life bear enforce-
ment." This Commission further report that the Chinese are
" immoral to the last degree " ; that their " system of marriage
is polygamous" ; that they " murder their female children, to
obviate a redundancy of population" ; that they " are utterly
regardless of an oath " ; that " the Chinese conscience knows
no such thing as to tell the truth " ; that " their only interest in
our law is to take advantage. of it, and in their self-interest to
evade it " ; that " Chinese labor drives white labor from the
field to starvation"; that "Chinese immigration prevents
white labor coming to this coast, both from the Eastern States
and from Europe. We of California must give this coast up
to Asia, or we must reserve it for ourselves and our race " ; that
" Chinese women come here against their will. They are sold
in China by their -parents for the purposes of prostitution. They
are bought and sold, and transferred by bills of sale like cattle."

This Commission in its summary says : " The burden of our
accusation against the Chinese is, that they come in conflict
with our labor interest ; that they can never assimilate with us ;
that they are a perpetual, unchanging, and unchangeable alien
element, that can never become homogeneous ; that their civili-
zation is demoralizing and degrading to our people ; that they
degrade and dishonor labor ; that they can never become citi-
zens ; and that an alien, degraded labor class, without desire
for citizenship, without education, and without interest in the
country it inhabits, is an element both demoralizing and dan-
gerous to the community within which it exists."

President Garfield, speaking of the Chinese, says: "The
law should not permit the spread of the plague. The lowest
grade of poorly paid labor retires before them as it would be-

In iv a pestilence. They have no assimilation whatever to Cau-
casian civili/ation."

Some may urge tliat none are more industrious than the
Chinese, and that in the economy of a State, industry is a car-
dinal virtue. In this case, experience proves the reverse
proves that the industry of the Chinese is an unmitigated evil
to the State ; that it absorbs and exports the State's wealth,
without rendering an equivalent ; sends gaunt hunger to the
home of free labor ; engenders idleness and the grossest im-
morality in our youth of both sexes.

Some may urge that the commerce of China is so highly ad-
vantageous to us that we cannot afford to restrict Chinese im-
migration, lest China shall retaliate by restricting her commerce
with us. With respect to these great advantages of commerce,
ever dinned into our ears, the facts are that from 1868 to 1883,
'a term of fifteen years,

The imports to the United States from China were $301,000,000

The exports from the United States to China were 77,000,000

Balance $224,000,000

paid China in gold and silver. Fear not that China, under any
circumstances, would endeavor to lessen a commerce so favor-
able to her. Besides, the fundamental law or spirit of the
Chinese government is adverse to the emigration of its subjects.
Indeed, the Emperor Tao Honang, as early as 1850, issued an
ordinance forbidding any of his subjects to emigrate to Cali-

Others may urge that the great heart of Christian civilization
overflows with good- will to all mankind, and will ever throb
with anxiety till all shall be satiated with its joys. Obey its
promptings obey the injunction to the letter go forth and
proclaim the glad tidings to every creature. Go, preach
freely apply the balm of immortal life ; but, like the prudent
physician, let not a single patient escape from the great pest
house of Chinese immorality, to infect with deadly disease the
happy homes of Christian civilization. Would the shepherd
be regarded sane, who, with exuberance of love for all of God's


creatures, and with the hope of reclaiming wolves from their
evil ways the hope of supplanting their nature with the pro-
pensities of the lamb should throw open to them the gates that
protect his fold ? Would these apostles of Chinese immigration
improve their understanding, let them well con the moral of
the old fable, viz : " A farmer having found a serpent nearly
dead with cold, and being moved with compassion, cherished
it in his bosom. For which kindness the serpent, when warmed
into life, inflicted a deadly wound upon its benefactor."

Reason lags not after imagination in reaching the outcome
of these would-be missionary efforts. The Chinaman perceives
no difference between Christian and Confucian ethics. The
precepts: "Kill not; Steal not; Lie not; Defile not; Do not
that to another which you would not have him do to you," come
down to him from an age more venerable than that of nineteen
centuries. Hence, if he is loyal to his convictions, the difficulty
of Christianizing him seems insurmountable. He can well af-
ford to discuss the precepts so transmitted with the most learned
Christian divines. But in practice, with him, ages of despotism
and slavery have rendered these precepts a nullity, so that their
authority is practically a matter of little consequence.

It would be a subversion of common sense, an outrage on
humanity, a defiance of justice, if the pulpit should ally itself
with capital and these monstrous forces of Asia in their aggres-
sions upon free labor. Who so blind as not to perceive that
unrestricted Chinese immigration into this country in other
words, Asiatic slavery means war war to the -hilt between
servile and free labor ; war, whose consuming flames will far
exceed in intensity of heat, and in scope, those that a short time
since, in consequence of African slavery, seriously threatened
the destruction of the American Union ? African slavery was
involuntary and limited ; Chinese slavery is a normal condition
of the mass of that people, and is virtually unlimited ; hence
its greater menace to free labor. Our ablest jurists fanaticism
and Utopian statesmanship to the contrary notwithstanding
maintain that "the right of self-preservation is paramount to
all other considerations," and that " any government, deeming


the introduction of foivi^mTs or their merchandise injurious to
the ink-rots of ks own people, is at liberty to withhold the in-
dulgence." (Kent's Com., vol. i, p. 35.)

Passing now to a consideration of the European division of
these allied forces, the fact is obvious that this division too, to
no little extent, has been morally and politically dwarfed by the
blighting influences of despotism. It seems difficult for one
portion of the inhabitants of Europe to understand that the
rightful normal condition of man is that of liberty, and no less
difficult for another portion to understand that " Liberty must
be limited in order to be possessed." Theoretical liberty, as
seen in Grecian democracy of old, or in French red republican,
ism of 17^9, or in more modern socialism, is one thing;
American liberty quite another. One is based on chimera,
the other on common sense.

Socialism, in some of its forms, as it comes to us from Europe-
seems the embodiment of the unbridled passions of men ; furies
led by the rampant spirit of anarchy, at enmity with despotism,
and equally at enmity with the good order of society. Like the
enraged viper it strikes, reckless as to the object it shall sting.
Though mad and striking at random, yet does socialism render
efficient aid to European despotism in its battle with free Amer-
ican labor. For by as much as the productions of American
free labor arc diminished, in consequence of socialistic agi-
tation, by so much are the productions of European servile
or pauper labor benefited in supplying the deficiency.

Further, it is to be noted that the practice of despotic Europe,
in exporting hither her paupers to be supported by this country,
not only works a hardship upon our industries, but it is a national
insult demanding redress. The ultimate effect of this pauperism
is worse on society than that of rampant socialism. For the
common sense of the American people and the strong arm of
justice will make short work of these socialistic agitators ;
while their offspring, from their association with freedom's
youthful hosts, and from the benign influences of our public
schools, will vie with the foremost in American patriotism, and
in deeds of daring for the cause of American liberty. On the


Online LibraryIrving Murray ScottProtection to American labor → online text (page 1 of 2)