Page:Historical Catechism of American Unionism.pdf/28

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

for their position in regard to politics: The third one, after referring to the experience of the Mechanic's Union, declared that "the Trades' Union never will be political, because its members have learned from experience that the introduction of politics into their societies has thwarted every effort to ameliorate their conditions". This says, in effect, that they believed politics to be an instrument of the employers.

91. How did the politicians regard this stand?
They did not welcome it. That this policy on the part of the union militants was not a mere gesture is shown by the demand for the resignation of the first president of the New York General Trades' Union. This individual accepted an appointment by the Governor of New York to serve on a commission to investigate prison labor in the state. The report of this commission was a great disappointment to the organized workmen. The labor president subscribed to it. He was accused of having "deserted the cause of the Mechanics and Workingmen". However, there was enough politics in the union to prevent any investigation of his conduct. The politicians were inside, and laying low while awaiting their opportunity.
92. Was the opportunity provided?
Indeed it was. In 1835 the Supreme Court of the State of New York handed down a decision in which a shoemaker's society was held to be "a combination to injure trade and commerce". The employers took this decision as a basis upon which to institute an action against the journeymen tailors who were then on strike. Twenty tailors were arrested and charged with "conspiracy to injure trade and commerce, and for riot and assault and battery". The tailors were found guilty.
The decision of the court aroused intense indignation. A mass meeting was held at which the judge and courts in general were denounced. This meeting, influenced by the outrageous finding of the court in this, and other cases, upon the spur of the moment decided upon political action instead of economic action, and resolved "to take into consideration the propriety of forming a separate and distinct party, around which the laboring classes and their friends, can rally with confidence." The op-