and a half millions. The making of a pair of shoes
by the latest machinery calls for only one-fifth of
the labor required a few years ago. The hand loom
produced about 45 yards of cotton cloth per week.
To-day one weaver directing six power machines
produces about 1,000 yards per week. The pro-
duction of plows by machinery costs one-seventh
as much as by hand, and watch movements one-
fortieth as much.
It is possible to compare the results of old meth-
ods, still persisted in in England, and new methods
in vogue in America. The English nailmaker and
his assistant turn out 200 pounds of nails per week,
earning together less than $4.00. The Pittsburg
INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE. 215
nailmaker and his assistant turn out 2 \ tons per week,
earning respectively $30.00 and $9.00.
In the early part of the nineteenth century it
took 236 hours to produce a given quantity of cut
nails, which are now produced in two hours. The
cost was then $20.24, and is now 29 cents.
The laborer gets higher wages, and more for his
wages as time goes on, but much of his expenditure
is dictated by the necessity of conforming to the
habits of his neighbors. The money he spends on the
education of his children, on better housing, better
food and clothing, and on recreation, is well spent,
but it is a question whether the gaudier appearance
of the household, and the fancy dress of the women,
add much to the household's real happiness.
The nucleus of the position here taken is that
adequate leisure for the laborer will mean more for
society than a further increase of wages. The prog-
ress of industry in the past justifies the hope of
further progress, and the legitimate object of a move-
ment for shorter hours may be to divert the benefits
of this progress from the channel of increased wages
to that of increased leisure. That progress, we
feel, is assured. To reduce the hours of labor is
simply to discount this advance of industry; or,
if the reduction of hours be sufficiently gradual,
it need do no more than keep pace with the advance.
It might be urged that it matters little whether
industry gives away the increase in the form of
wages or in the form of leisure, but such an assertion
needs to be qualified. If the gain goes to the la-
borer as increased pay in money wages or real wages
216 INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE.
it increases the purchasing power of this class and
stimulates industry. For the moment, industry
would gain more by the increase in wages. But the
true interests of society are best subserved by in-
creasing the mental, moral and physical stature
of the working man, and in the long run the interests
of industry and society in this respect are identical.
The greatest machine is man. If we improve
him, if we increase his personal powers, the effect-
iveness of all other machinery is increased thereby,
since it is he who invents and operates it all. This
is what we mean when we state that a shorter work-
day than the present average of nearly ten hours
in the United States can be justified on purely
But we may err in laying stress unceasingly upon
the duty of increasing commerce and industry to
the exclusion of other interests. No one to-day
disputes the importance of commerce. Without
the wealth which commerce creates progress would
be difficult. But after all, it is only the means to
an end; if we cease to so regard it, we abuse it.
Create wealth. That is the first injunction of
modern society. But create it for a purpose. The
happiness of employer and laborer alike may be
sacrificed under the iron rule of economic dictates
and men forget the object of it all. Mere growth of
numbers and trade is not progress. In the ancient
world we saw the hordes stationary, whilst little
Greece moved forward the human mind and spirit
so wonderfully. To-day it is western Europe and
America, with comparatively small numbers, as
INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE. 317
against stationary China and India. I recently
visited an interesting man on the hearth of whose
study were wrought the words, "No wealth but life."
This conclusion of Ruskin had been adopted by
an eminent economist thinking on the subject of
wealth. In its final analysis he could find nothing
material in wealth. Life, in this sense, is the natural
and healthy exercise of human faculties, and this
is at the same time a definition of happiness. It
is the intellectual and spiritual, including the aesthetic,
which differentiates us from the animals, and if this
is so, the highest life and happiness are found in the
healthy exercise of these faculties. Feeding and
keeping warm, and gathering the wherewithal to
feed and keep warm are but the means of life; they
are not only not an end in themselves, but are not
life, and those whose activities cease there have not
To say that a proper use would not be made of
increased leisure is a reflection upon our race. We
are a nation of strong moral motive, have shown
ourselves capable of great disinterested acts, and
can be trusted to use wisely additional leisure.
Some men would spend their leisure at the tavern,
but indulgence to excess is often the result of re-
action, or the outcome of a lack of balance of the
nervous system. Lessening the strain on men is
not likely to increase such indulgence. The actual
experience of communities where hours have been
shortened points to improved morals in the working
Plato defines the free man as he who is sufficiently
218 INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE.
master of his passions to follow the dictates of
reason in choosing between good and evil. The
definition might well be extended to include suffi-
cient mastery over environment to free us from con-
ditions which hamper growth.
With more leisure the laborer will share more in
the mental side of social life, and will be compensated
in a measure for the loss of the interesting work
which engaged the attention of the old handicrafts-
man. Give him a little plot of ground in which to
dig, a taste for reading, light the spark of intel-
lectual pleasure, no matter of what kind, and awaken
that wonderful desire for self-improvement which
has carried the spirit of man so far on its way, and
the leisure will not be misspent. He will feel that
the conquest of mind over matter is his inheritance
too, will feel it all the more because of his growing
intelligence, will feel it not only because he partici-
pates more largely in the fruits of that conquest,
but in the work of conquest. We have yet a long
way to travel before we make the conditions of
labor so easy as to impair character.
The economic cost of shorter hours will vary ac-
cordingly as the proposed reduction of hours is
inaugurated abruptly or gradually through a period
of years. To abruptly reduce the working day by
two hours, supposing that* to be the reduction con-
templated, would cause a dislocation of industry
which a gradual reduction of hours would avoid.
A programme which would call for a reduction of
a quarter of an hour each year through a period of
eight years would appeal to most of us as the safer
INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE. 219
and wiser programme. Gradual as against abrupt
change expresses a principle the importance of
which cannot be overstated in connection with
measures affecting industry.
Our industries grew under the Clay-Calhoun com-
promise, which reduced the tariff 5 per cent, per
annum through a period of nine years; the gradual
reduction acted as a stimulus to invention.
Economic cost must be considered from the stand-
point, first, of what the industrial world as a whole
can afford; second, of what any particular nation
can afford in view of its competition with other
If the hours prevailing in a particular country are
such as to dull the faculties and lessen the energies
of men, manifestly there will be an immediate gain
from reducing them; otherwise it is deceptive to
look to increased vigor or application for a full re-
pair of the loss in personal efficiency per day which
shorter hours would bring. The demand for in-
creased leisure in the industrial world as a whole
may be justified by the ever increasing efficiency
which arises from industrial progress, irrespective
of any improvement in the laborer himself. The
improvement in the laborer may come it will
come but the argument need not rest upon any
Upon the question of economic cost from the
standpoint of what any one nation can afford in
view of its competition with other nations, English
experience throws considerable light. We have seen
the working day in England reduced from sixteen
220 INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE.
hours per day in the early part of the last century to
an average of nine hours per day. Before this re-
duction of hours began in 1835 the number of oper-
atives in the textile industry was 220,000; in 1890
it was 528,000.
Macaulay made an eloquent plea for the eight-
hour bill of 1847, dwelling upon the prime impor-
tance of preserving the physique and energies of the
race. The opponents of the measure protested
against it as an "invasion of the rights of property,"
and as preventing the laborer from using the facul-
ties with which God had blessed him. If was
urged that hours could not be reduced without re-
ducing wages; that the trade of England would
be ruined if the bill passed. Such an enlightened
and progressive champion of the people as John
Bright went entirely wrong on the question. He
called it a proposition "injurious and destructive
to the best interests of the country; contrary to all
principles of sound legislation, a delusion practiced
upon the working people, and the worst measure
ever passed in the shape of an act of legislation."
He predicted its early repeal if passed. Outside
Parliament the political economists were arrayed
against the measure, Senior explaining that the
profits of manufacture were made exclusively in the
last hour; that "to shorten the day would be tanta-
mount to letting the machine stand idle."
In this connection I cannot refrain from quoting
a bit from Charles Dickens given by Brentano:
"Surely there never was such fragile china-ware as that
INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE. 221
of which the millers of Coketown were made. Handle them
never so lightly, and they fell to pieces with such ease that
you might suspect them of having been flawed before.
They were ruined, when they were required to send labor-
ing children to school; they were ruined, when inspectors
were appointed to look into their works; they were ruined,
when such inspectors considered it doubtful whether they
were quite justified in chopping people up with their ma-
chinery; they were utterly undone, when it was hinted
that perhaps they need not always make quite so much
smoke. Whenever a Coketowner felt he was ill-used, that
is to say, whenever he was not left entirely alone, and it
was proposed to hold him accountable for the consequences
of any of his acts he was sure to come out with the awful
menace, that he would "sooner pitch his property into the
Atlantic." This had terrified the Home Secretary within
an inch of his life, on several occasions. However, the
Coketowners were so patriotic, after all, that they never
had pitched their property into the Atlantic yet, but, on
the contrary, had been kind enough to take mighty good
care of it. So there it was in the haze yonder; and it in-
creased and multiplied."
We see the Englishmen with a shorter working
day and higher wages competing successfully in the
world's markets with his continental brethren. The
number of operators per 1,000 cotton spindles is 17 in
many factories in Russia as against three in factories
in England. A comparison between the cotton in-
dustry in England and Germany a few years back,
given by Krapotkin shows the following:
Hours of labor 9 hours 12 hours
Average weekly earnings of operatives .... 16s. 3d 11s. 8d.
Yards Woven per week per operative 706 yds. 466 yds.
Cost per yard of cotton . .0.275d 0.303d.
222 INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE.
We cannot assume that because the shortening
of the working day to nine hours has not increased
the cost of production in England it would be safe
for her to make a general further reduction.
It is true that the England of to-day is somewhat
in the position of an individual living on his income.
Her enormous excess of imports over exports is really
payment in kind for the interest due to Englishmen
from their foreign investments, allowance of course
being made for profits of her great carrying trade,
from her security and banking business with for-
eigners, and the money expended in England by
visitors. These notwithstanding, the only way in
which she at present feeds her large population is by
exchanging manufactures for food stuffs. A duty
on imports would protect her home market, but if
she lost her foreign market for manufactures she
would be unable to feed her people. The growing
rivalry of Germany and America makes England's
position to-day much more delicate than formerly.
We are forced to ask ourselves whether England will
be able to lead any longer in reducing the hours of
labor in factories. In local services of course she
can act independently of other nations. The miners
in England are very properly enjoying a working
day shorter than the average, and in a lew industrial
establishments the hours of labor have been re-
duced to eight. The testimony regarding the work-
ings of the eight hour day can hardly be said to have
scientific value, for the double reason that the tes-
timony is not unanimously favorable, and that the
establishments observing the short day are so few.
INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE. 223
The experience of England on the whole leaves it
undetermined whether men can produce as much in
eight hours as in nine hours. For the present we are
forced to assume that for certain races the nine hours
day is the economic day. I mean by the economic
day the time in which the laborer can produce in the
long run the greatest amount. It is different for
different races. A Spaniard would not wear himself
out in the same number of hours as an Englishman
or American. Our claim for a shorter working day
than nine hours in America must be based as already
postulated, principally on the growing progress
of industry. Any other position is speculative.
But the workingmaii is not merely a machine.
Is it fair, after all, to approach the question of hours
from the standpoint of the economic day, i.e., from
the standpoint of the greatest amount of work that
can be gotten out of the laborer? He is a creature
of feelings and aspirations, and it is proper to ask
ourselves whether the question of the length of the
labor day should not be approached rather from the
standpoint of what industry can afford.
Turning to the United States, a glance at our
trade statistics reveals the fact that we are in the
exceptional position of having an enormous amount
of food stuffs to spare for foreign markets, and at
the same time sending abroad more manufactured
products than we import. A country may be de-
veloping its internal resources and domestic industry
so rapidly that it can well afford to buy from the
foreigner more than it sells him, and may derive a
great advantage from acquiring abroad things which
224 INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE.
promote industry at home. But when it can show
an enormous surplus of exports over imports, in ad-
dition to great domestic prosperity and growth,
surely its position is advantageous.
Why should we work from three-quarters of an
hour to an hour longer than England each day? As
a first proposition, would it not be entirely safe for
us to gradually reduce the working day from the
present average of nearly ten hours to the average
of nine hours which prevails in England? Next,
have we not an instrument at hand in our tariff to
protect our home market from invasion, if we feared
such results from a further gradual reduction to
eight hours per day?
Surely with the aid of the tariff we could lead the
way in the direction of lightening the task of labor.
Would it not be such a thing as the world expects
of America, in line with her history, her unselfishness
and her progress? Would it not be a noble final
use to make of a system which has played such a
notable part in our economy, but the necessity for
the continuance of which under present conditions
is rapidly passing away ?
The tariff could not insure the continuance of our
foreign trade in manufactured products, but are we
not prone to overvalue foreign trade, to regard the
country as an individual who must exchange his
wares with other traders? National boundaries are,
at best, arbitrary lines, and a great country like ours
has within it what is equivalent to many lands.
To be Irish, our greatest foreign trade is done at
home, between the empires of North and South and
East and West. And moreover, we are more than
traders swapping. We are great producers our-
selves, creating wealth that breeds wealth. Two-
thirds of our exports are still agricultural products,
the price of which would not be greatly affected by
the proposed reduction of hours, because such re-
duction would not apply to agriculture.
If we hope to take the lead internationally in the
direction of shorter hours, it is important that the
movement should be inaugurated before our ex-
ports of manufactures become too large a proportion
of our total exports, so that too wide a field of in-
dustry may not be disturbed by cutting them down.
Again, if we conclude that the tariff will be needed
at the start to protect our home industries from
invasion, we have here another reason for the prompt
inauguration of the movement. The logical basis
for our protective tariff is the infant industry basis.
When manufactured products can be exported to
advantage, and when the formation of trusts breaks
down the competition within the country which
has served to keep down prices despite the tariff,
the citizen begins to think about modifying pro-
tective duties. When once abandoned, it would be
asking too much of the people to restore the duties
for the express purpose of lessening the hours of
The position taken in this paper is: First, that
a gradual reduction of hours would not seriously
increase the cost of manufactures, and therefore
would not affect our exports; second, that even
if it did increase cost, with the result of cutting down
226 INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE.
our exports of manufactured products, the game
would still be worth the candle.
We have here a force which would make for the
upbuilding of American manhood, and it is worth
while sacrificing a portion of our foreign exports,
if this were necessary which I question in order
to accomplish it. (Applause.)
Now as to the instruments. We have seen the
reduction of hours brought about thus far princi-
pally by two forces, the law and the trade union.
The latter is expensive, because it implies strikes.
The suggestion is made that the desired end may
be secured by concerted action on the part of par-
ticular trades, the employer conceding shorter hours
in consideration of the laborer abandoning limit-
ation of output, which most of us believe is practiced,
despite what Mr. O'Connell told us this morning.
This practice we all know is exceedingly harmful to
society and to the laborer himself. The laborer's
wages depend ultimately upon what the laborer pro-
duces. And if he consciously produces less, he
in the long run is consciously limiting his return.
Mr. Easley, our Secretary, reports many favorable
responses to inquiries sent out in this connection.
Over 60 per cent, of the replies from the communi-
cations sent to employers were favorable. The
movement is to be heartily commended, but I should
like to point out one or two weaknesses in the pro-
gramme which it might be well for us to realize
now, so that we may not be discouraged when they
turn up. In 1885 there was a general movement
in the smoking tobacco industry for a reduction of
the working day to eight hours. Without any actual
understanding the larger manufacturers adopted
the eight-hour day, one following the lead of another.
The wages of the day laborer were not reduced, and
the price of piece-work was increased one-fifth, so
that as much might be earned in eight hours as for-
merly in ten. But what was the result? These
factories were scattered all over the country. There
was no strong local sentiment, nor effective trade
union to maintain the shorter day. It was impossible
to resist the temptation in a growing industry and
most of the industries in a growing country like ours
are growing industries to work longer than eight
hours; to work ten hours and even more. In a short
while we were back to ten hours, and the net result
of the movement was solely an increase of wages.
Again, supposing the eight-hour day be established
under the plan we are considering, new employers
entering the field would be inclined to violate the
rule of the trade, and might do so successfully away
from the centres, the increase of such new coiners
in numbers and importance gradually undermining
the system. The growth of the printing business
in small places, such as Madison, Wis., is to be
explained by a similar desire to escape the control
of trade unions.
If the working day it is proposed to establish by
law is shorter than the economic working day, it is
going to be most difficult to maintain it otherwise
than by law. To what extent would the Sabbath
be observed in our big cities were it not for the law?
One man would open his shop, then his neighbor
228 INDUSTRIAL CONFERENCE.
would open his shop, and presently every shop
would be open. The preponderant sentiment, four-
fifths, might be in favor of Sabbath observance, but
the other one-fifth would destroy the possibility of it.
Still another danger which we must be prepared
to meet. After the laborer has come to believe
himself secure in the enjoyment of an eight-hour day,
and has ceased to regard it as part of a compromise,
what is there to prevent his returning to the per-
nicious practice of limiting output?
We might be compelled, after all, to fall back upon
the law. But the plan presents commendable features
as an entering wedge for the shorter day, and to the
minds of many an appeal to the law to fortify existing
practice is always more acceptable than looking to
it for initiative.
Coming now to the law as an instrument of our
purpose, we turn naturally to the form it has hereto-
fore taken in America, namely, State legislation. The
successful lead taken by Massachusetts in reducing
hours, and its effect upon legislation elsewhere, are
so well known that they need not be dwelt upon.
This notwithstanding it must always remain risky
for a State of the Union to reduce its working day
in competitive industries below the average working
day of other States. To hope that our legislatures
can ever be brought to display the good sense of
acting in concert in regard to this and other important
legislation which ought to be uniform in all the States,
is expecting too much of them.
In non-competitive industries, such -as the tele-
phone, telegraph, gas and electric lighting, water
works, street railways, retail shops and everything
partaking of the nature of local services, it will be
seen at once that the otate can insist with safety
upon shorter hours, independently of the action of
other States. States and municipalities, in granting
franchises, may make the hours of labor a condition
of the grant. It is seldom that municipalities make
a proper charge for franchises, and such a provision
is not likely to cause franchises to go a-begging.
It is, of course, always possible for the government,
local, State or national, to give a shorter day to its
own employees, and to provide for it in connection
with contracts given out. But unless this can be
shown to operate strongly as a propaganda, its jus-
tice and expediency may be questioned. There are
few countries in the world where the government em-
ployee works as honestly as the man in private in-
dustry; he already receives higher wages, and why
should he be given shorter hours?
Moreover, if small groups of men enjoy a working
day shorter than the economic working day, they do
so at the expense of their fellow- workers. Social
justice requires that the shorter day be secured for
the many. If there be variation, let it be in favor