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administering to the sick, but those which strike at the root

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1877.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT— No. 81. 61

of poverty ; such as will secure good pay and fewer hours of
labor, and thereby in no ordinary degree remove the cause of
poverty and sickness.

^ Therefore^ for the better securing of these principles and
the obviation of the forementioned ills, we resolve ourselves
into an association, and agree to be governed by the following
rules and regulations.''

This preamble and constitution was printed in full in the
^ Voice of Industry ,*• the organ of the Workingmen's Asso*
ciation, a paper published in Lowell, and edited by W. F.
Young, afterwards secretary of the central division of the
union, and from whom many of the facts here given were
obtained. In the editorial of the same number, we find this
indorsement : —

'* By a perusal of this constitution, it will be seen to agree,
in all the fundamental principles ^and objects, with the one
recommended and adopted by the National Industrial Con*
vention at New York ; and we sincerely hope and trust this
union of sentiment and feeling between the New England,
Middle and Western States will result in a general organi-
zation of the friends of free labor throughout the country.

" The objects proposed by this plan are of vital importance
to the future prosperity of the working men and women of our
land, and the universal good of mankind ; for the many sad
lessons of the past are aniple testimony that the race can not
progress in that which christianizes, elevates and perfects,
while labor is degraded, and its followers reduced to serfs,
slaves and dependants."

A letter in the same paper from Albert J. Wright, Boston,
contains the following : ^* In all the meetings and conventions
which the workingmen have held, it has been admitted, gen-
erally, that there is a great want of union among those whoso
condition we desire to see improved. This fact has been
sincerely deprecated by all hands. There can be no concert
of action, or agreement upon modes of action, for want of
this union. There has been, naturally, a want of confidence
among the producers manifested in regard to a proposal for any
general movement designed to secure justice to the masses.
The want of union has stared us in the face and met us at
every turn •when we have sought to fix upon any practicable

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method to accomplish our purpose. We have seen that the
great mass of the working people have been more disposed
and better prepared to devour each other, rather than to lend
a helping hand. There has been no bond of brotherhood
among them ; no connecting link between one laborer and
another to make them realize the truth that ' we. are all breth-
ren.' This want of union has stood before us like an insur-
mountable barrier to Oppose all progress. How to overcome
it is now the question. It is a question well worthy the seri-
ous and candid consideration of every friend of the work-
ingmen's reform. It is a question which has occupied the
thoughts and been the subject of the investigation of a few
friends in this city for the last nine months. Unless we could
discover some plan, practical and feasible, which would create
the much-desired union, we have been ready to despair of
ever accomplishing anything for the permanent benefit of the

The first report of this association contained the follow-
ing 2—

"The board of commerce, having been appointed a special
committee, to whom was referred the subject of the difference
between the wholesale and retail prices of teas, coffees* and
soaps, have investigated the subject, and ask leave to make
the following report : — '*

per pound,

Price per pound,

Per Cent

of advance, per


Average ad-
vance In cents,
per pound.

Souchong, .
Y. Hyson, .

Java, .
Maracaybo, .
St. Domingo,


2, .
Extra, •


$0 23


[email protected]$0 50
40 @ 48
68 @ 78

12 @

11 @

[email protected]


[email protected]


86 @ 117
66 @ 141
[email protected] 66

41 @ 88
33 @ 48
14 @ 42


100 @ 128




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1877,] PUBLIC DOCUIVIENT— No. 31. 63

This organization grew slowly for the first two years, al-
though it had the indorsement of the numerous workingmen's
associations, both state and national. The supreme division
of the order was organized January 7, 1847, with Robert L.
Bobbins, president, Albert J. Wright, secretary and treasurer,
with twelve divisions in the union — all but two being in the
State. One of the first divisions formed was organized by a
few working- women in Lowell. The first statistical informa-
tion as to number of members, etc. , was given at the session of
the supreme division, October 5, 1847, in which twenty-five
divisions were represented, having 1,993 members. At the
first annual convention, January, 1848, a resolution was
passed recommending divisions to adopt the cash system.
From frequent discussions, as found in the records, it would
appear that this recommendation was never fully adopted.

In the second arinual convention, January, 1849, it was
voted that associations of ladies be organized, — ^by " request
of certain ladies.'* At this convention the constitution was
altered and revised ; the name was changed from Working-
men's Protective Union to New England Protective Union,
and from Supreme Division to Central Division.

In the April quarterly session of that year, Mr. H. P.
Trask offered the following resolution, which was adopted : —

^^ Resolved^ That a committee be appointed to carry out
that part of the constitution that referred to the organization
of industry."

In July the committee on trade was instructed to provide
a suitable depot for thie deposit and exchange of produce and
goods. In the quarterly circular of that date, is found the
report of the committee on organization of industry, from
which we take the following extracts, as evidence of the scope
and purpose of the original founders of the association. The
report is signed H. P. Trask, A. J. Wright, Peter I. Blacker,
J. G. Kaulback, Jr., John P. Abbott.

^ It is evident that to stop with simply succeeding in the
trading department merely^ we shall not have accomplished
the one-half of the object of our association. Let us for a
moment review the proceedings of our society. We com-
menced with this one grand idea, the elevation of the labor-

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ing classes. The dollar was to us of minor importance —
humanitary and not mercenary wore our motives."

'' We saw a class of useless agents and money lords fatten-
ing upon the products of industry ;' we saw a system of
competition which was beggaring the laboring classes, and
operating to the injury of all classes."

" From the want of means we could not at first commence
the organization of trade and industry at the same time."

" We were poor (a crime in civilized society) ; we were
ignorant to a great extent of the arts and intrigues of trade,
but saw enough to induce the undertaking of an experiment,
and with faith in God and the right, we commenced our work
by the purchase of a box of soap and one-half box of tea."

" Some dozen or more persons commenced in an upper
chamber over the Boylston Market (a modest place in these
times of extravagance) [October 6, 184&]. From that time
we -have never ceased to work, and the result has been success
— success of the grandest import ; it is no longer an idle
dream, an experiment, but a common-sense system of
conducting trade."

'' Solve, if you can, in any other way the cause of the
poverty of the masses, other than the system of competition,
which exists in all departments of industrial life ; solve, if
you can, to remedy this evil, but by the co-operative organiza-
tion of industry, thus to enrich, elevate and bless our race."

" How is labor-saving machinery to be made to elevate the
millions except to compel it to labor for, instead of agtiinst,
their interest, as at present? Man's muscles and heart-strings
are now made to compete with iron machines that need no
rest, that have no affections, eat no bread; — is it to be
wondered at that man fails to keep pace therewith ? "

"Why always working, and but a step in advance of star-
vation? Why is he who produces everything, not only
destitute of luxuries, but of the common comforts of life, to
say nothing of a shelter which he can call his own ? Beside
the starving producer stands the tiian who never works, but
lives and riots in wealth wrung from his half-paid producers,
and by this same means makes large donations to colleges,

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1877.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT— No. 31. 65

wrung from the thin, haggard forms in his factories, work-
shops or counting-houses."

" We shall then ask no man how many hours we shall labor,
but each will share according to the amount of labor per-

"We would commend to your notice, as being the most
needy, the seamstress^ with whom to commence the work of
organization. Lamentable as is the condition of laboring
men, that of the women is worse ; and increasingly so, when
the newly invented sewing machines shall accomplish all that
now gives employment to thousands. Let us take this and
kindred machines, and christen them for the good of the race,
by shortening the hours of labor, while at the same time we
increase the products of labor. Let us then assist in the
formation of such an industrial union, that, example set,
others will follow. We have a large market already existing,
and having the advantage of large purchases, it can but bo
successful. To doubt is failure, — is rank treason. Give but
the proper persons and the means, and the work commences

" Slow, indeed, will these persons be in returning to the
old methods of civilized industry, having tested the superior-
ity of the now."

These early pioneers were all sound on the slavery ques-
tion, as the following quotation will show : —

''We point you to three million slaves, clanking their iron
chains, sweating blood for poor, miserable bread ! "

But they were no less anxious for the white laborers of the
North, as is shown by what follows : —

*' We point you to the thousands upon thousands that fill
our almshouses, to the anguish and hideous mockery of a life
of dependence that follows I We point to the lone streets
and garrets of all our large cities, filled with the anxious,
careworn, yet unsuccessful seekers of employment ! "

**Give employment and the product — wo ask no more J'

'* We do not ask of you. the loan of money in your official
capacity, to the proposed society ; but let such aid be individr
ually rendered, upon good security without interest. Such; a.

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union, finding a market for their goods, for cash, would be
enabled to do a large business with but a small capital ; the
principle being the same as in the trading unions. Thus can
the laboring classes get rid of selling themselves to masters
for the privilege of work when it is to be obtained."

" Thus work is guaranteed without going to capitalists, hat
in hand, for their favors. Such organizations will place men
in independent positions, so that tyranny can not say, * Vote
my ticket or leave mj'- employ,' which with wife and starving
little ones begging before him, obliges him to succumb."

'* It places woman in a position where she can more effect-
ually repel the advances of vicious men ; it prevents waste
of time and means that now are inevitable, and presents a
system of economy we little dream of in these times of
' penny-wise and pound-foolish ' policy. Our wretched and
disease-breeding workshops will give place to grand palaces,
devoted to labor and love."

"In that time coming, there will be no anxious care of
where to-morrow's bread is to be had ; no poorhouses in old
age, with barred gates and grated windows, but plenty -and
beauty shall be poured into every lap."

''Brothers, shall we content ourselves with the miserable
idea of merely saving a few dollars, and say we have found
enough? Future generations, aye, the uprising generation, is
looking to us for nobler deeds. Shall we disappoint them?
No ! by all that is great and good, let us trust in the truth of
organized industry. Time, undoubtedly, must intervene
before great results can be expected to accrue from a work of
this character. We must proceed from combined stores to
combined shops, from combined shops to combined houses,
to joint ownership in God's earth, the foundation that our
edifice must stand upon."

From the report of the committee on trade, January, 1850,
we learn that "no expenses have been incurred in anticipation
of increasing business ; but as the receipts of produce and
otheiP goods will require it, a larger store will be obtained.
The number of persons employed during the quarter has
been four permanently and two transiently, making six in

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1877.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT— No. 31. 67

In the same year the agent was appelated, and his commis-
sion fixed at three-fourths of one per cent for making pur-
chases, and one per cent for selling produce. An assessment
of three per cent per capita was made upon each member of
the subordinate divisions to pay the expenses of the central
division, which up to this time were as follows : —

During the year 1847, $41 38

1848, ... . . . * 115 44

1849, 42 77

Amounting in all to $199 59

There had been expended by the treasurer dur-
ing this time, as appears from approved bills,
for the legitimate expenses of the division, . $258 74
From which deduct the amount received, . . 199 59

And they were indebted to the treasurer, . $59 15

Iri July of this year, 1850, the store was found inadequate
to the increased business. In the report of the committee on
trade, at this session, they say : —

*'The subject of distributing the products of labor has
occupied the minds of many philanthropists in this country
and in Europe, but no system has as yet been satisfactorily
tested which would prevent capital from exercising the solo
control over the products of industry, and exacting the
largest share for merely permitting the exchange of products,
by taking advantage of short crops to enhance prices beyond
the reach of the mass of the day laborers, and causing priva-
tion and» starvation ; by filling storehouses with the necessaries
of life, to be held for higher prices, and which often rot or
are otherwise injured while the people are suffering for the
want of them. Your committee believe that the system
adopted by the union of distributing goods on the cost prin^
ciple, that is, adding to the original cost just sufficient to
cover all expenses, to be correct, and that by the steady
co-operation of the divisions in concentrating the funds in one
agency, the foundation will be laid for a better and more

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equitable system of commerce, which will secure to the
laborer the products of his industry."

''That our institution has proved beneficial to the whole
community where divisions have been established, is acknowl-
edged in all sections of New England, as the tendency has
been to induce the working class to adopt the cash system,
and the traders, in their endeavors to compete with the
divisions, have been obliged to come into the market with
the cash instead of purchasing on credit.'*

In October, the secretary of the central division issued a
cii'cular to the subdivisions, in which he says : —

''The conamittee believe that much may be saved to the
farmers and mechanics, by a better understanding and a closer
communication with each other ; as there is no good reason
why a farmer, living one hundred miles from Boston, should
send his butter and cheese to Boston when it is wanted in a
manufacturing town within five or ten miles of his residence,
as the whole expense of transportation, commission, etc.,
back to the manufacturing town are all paid by the farmer.
The committee are fully aware that it is the work of -time to
eradicate the old notions of buying cheap and selling dear,
without any regard to the amount of labor endured or
expended in the production of an article. If agricultural
labor is the most useful to the community, it should be able
to command the labor or services of every trade and profes-
sion on equal terms."

The circular, after, giving the condition of trade and the
upward tendency of most articles in the grocery line, urged
the subdivisions to deposit a certain percentage of their
capital with the committee on trade, in' order to assist the
agent in hia purchases. In the infancy of the institution the
agent had used his private funds to assist new divisions,
but with the rapid increase of trade, these wer6 wholly inade-

At thc^ October session, a resolution was introduced and
rejected, recommending subdivisions to petition their legts-<
latures for the passage of a general incorporation law for
manufacturing and mechanical purposes. It was also voted
to hold semi-annua,l sessions.

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The anti-slavery agitation had taken a deep hold upon this
band of reformers, as the following resolution presented by
Mr. Trask, and adopted, will verify : —

^ Resolved^ That in the opinion of the central division,*
now assembled from all parts of New England, we hold that
all men are born free and equal, and that the recent act of
Congress, giving up our fellow-workingmen to the slave-
hunters of the south, dispensing with the trial by jury, and
making it criminal to do good to our fellow-workingmen, is
an infamous act, Jit only to be trampled under the feet by every
lover of justice and liberty; and we pledge our lives and for-
tunes to its overthrow and final repeal."

They also voted to petition for the passage of the home-
stead exemption law.

The statistics of trade up to this time are as follows : —

Taat ^^' ^^ Quarter
^^' preceding

1848. Jan. 1,
April 1,
July 1,
Oct. 1,

1849. Jan. 1,
April 1,
July 1,
Oct. 1,

1850. Jan. 1,
April 1,
July 1,
Oct. 1,

1851. Jan. 1, .


118,748 77

24,359 02

33,000 00

36,400 00

40,910 24

49,601 14

60,439 00

69,851 22

102,353 53

126,301 92

150,831 30

155,851 81

180,026 47

An analysis of the returns to the central division for the
year ending December 31, 1850, gives us the following:
Number of divisions formed, 106 ; 83 returned a membership
of 5,109, and 84 returned a capital of $71,890.36, the highest
amount held by any one division being $2,765.51, the lowest
$150 — an average of $855.63.

Sixty-seven divisions reported having purchased through
the central agency, for the preceding quarter, $102,341.04,

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an average of $1,527.47. The same number of divisions
purchased through other sources, during the same time,
$136,715.79, an average of $2,040.53.

• The amount of sales for 73 divisions for the year end-
ing December 31, 1849, was $638,636.74, an average of

The largest trade made through the agency by any one
division was by No. 55, New Bedford, now in existence under
the name of Central Union ; during the last quarter of 1849
the trade of this division amounted to $6,269.89, on a capital
of $1,422.63. This same division made total sales for the
year of $31,278.64.

No. 17, Lawrence, purchased but $283 of the agency, and
$11,772 from other sources. Their total sales amounted to
$27,295. The largest total sale for the year was made by
No. 16, Lowell, amounting to $39,918.90. This division
made no purchases from the central agent for that quarter.
Their capital amounted to $2>645. The largest per cent
gained was on a capital of $808. The total sales amounted
to $32,333, thus turning their capital forty times in one year.

At the January session, 1851, Mr. W. F.. Young was elected
secretary and treasurer.

At the April session, the committee on trade reported that
considerable uneasiness prevailed in the matter of the sale of
produce. Certain unauthorized parties had issued circulars
tfiat they were authorized to sell produce for the union. The
purchases by the agent for the preceding quarter amounted to
$181,633.16. A lady had also been engaged to purchase
fancy articles.

The annual meeting was changed from January to October.

The committee on trade felt compelled to call attention to
the growing distrust among the subdivisions. They say : —

'*The agent can be of but little service to divisions who [sic]
may be constantly jealous of his designs, or ready to impeach
his motives in every instance where their expectations or fan-
cies are not fully realized, and by cherishing such feelings
they make themselves over-exacting, greatly to their own
injury as well as his.'*

^The relation which the subdivisions sustain to the central

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1877.] PUBLIC DOCUMENT— No, 31. 71

agency, renders it highly important that the most arnica^
ble feelings exist between them at all times, which will not
only tend to cement together and ennoble our fraternity,
but also add jn no small degree to our pecuniary advance-

It will be seen from the following extract that they were
not ignorant of the danger that would come from the failure
to concentrate their trade. They say : —

''Your committee regret to learn that some of the sub-
divisions are in the habit of purchasing many of the common
staple articles of merchandise on their own account, and
ordering from the purchasing agent but a mere pittance of
their bills, and that of the most difficult and perplexing
character. The members of this union, we think, must be
aware that the commission granted the purchasing agent is
very small, and that should the course taken by some, as
above referred to, be generally pursued by the divisions, it
will become necessary in order to do justice to our agent,
that the board of trade affix a discriminating ratio to commis-
sion the different classes of goods."

In their annual report, October 1, 1851, they say : —

"A large majority of the divisions are enjoying a good
degree of pecuniary prosperity, and are well satisfied with
our efforts in their behalf, constantly aiding us in our labors and
encouraging us to new plans for making the power and useful-
ness of our institution felt, while a few others seem to entertain
the idea that they owe the union no obligations whatever, and
are not unfrequently found joining hands with its most insidi-
ous enemies. Such a course, if pursued to any considerable
extent, must not only seriously diminish the influence of the
central purchaser in the market, but also create discord and
jealousy among the divisions, and finally lead to their disso-

The amount purchased through the agency for the nine
months ending at date was $619,633.16.

The next session was held April, 1852. The committee on
trade reported that ''every effort to draw trade from the reg-
ular constituted agencies should be met with decided disap-
probation by the friends of the union, as our strength ^nd

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success depend upon united and co-operative action. It is
hoped and confidently believed that suflScient intelligence and
loyalty exist among the various subdivisions to resist all such
attempts to destroy our concentrated efforts, and that we
shall continue to present a united and harmonious phalanx in
this great work of commercial reform. Experience has fully
shown that there is no safety for protective union on the
enemies' ground, and the more we yield to the 'tricks of
trade,' the weaker we become in building up an institution
which shall stand against all the craft and caprice of specu-
lation and commercial rapacity. Abundance of testimony
can bo presented to show that those divisions which have
proved truest to the union have proved truest to themselves,
and become the most permanent and successful."

The next statistical returns we find in the *' Journal of the
Protective Union" for October, 1852, by which it appears
that the number of divisions had increased during the pre-
ceding twenty-one months from 106 to 403. The amount of
purchases had increased to $1,095,247.94; 167 of the sub-

Online LibraryMassachusetts. Bureau of Statistics of LaborAnnual report of the Bureau of Statistics of Labor embracing the account of ... → online text (page 7 of 26)