The History of Trade Unionism/V. The junta and their allies

CHAPTER V THE JUNTA AND THEIR ALLIESEdit

MANY influences had during the preceding years been co-operating to form what may almost be described as a cabinet of the Trade Union Movement. The establish- ment of such great trade friendly societies as the Amalga- mated Engineers had created, in some sense, a new school of Trade Union officials, face to face with intricate problems of administration and finance. The presence in London of the headquarters of these societies brought their salaried officers into close personal intimacy with each other. And it so happened that during these years the little circle of secretaries included men of marked character and ability, who were, both by experience and by temperament, ad- mirably fitted to guide the movement through the acute crisis which we shall presently describe.

Foremost in this little group which we shall hereafter call the Junta were the general secretaries of the two amal- gamated societies of Engineers and Carpenters, William Allan and Robert Applegarth, whose success in building up these powerful organisations had given them great influence in Trade Union councils. Bound to these in close personal friendship were Daniel Guile, the general secretary of the old and important national society of Ironfounders, Edwin Coulson, general secretary of the " London Order " of Brick- layers, and George Odger, a prominent member of a small union of highly^ skilled makers of ladies' shoes, and an influential leader of London working-class Radicalism.

233 1 2


234 The Junta and their Allies

William Allan was the originator of the " New Unionism " of his time. 1 We have already described how, with the aid of William Newton, he had gathered up the scattered frag- ments of organisation in the engineering trade, and had adapted the elaborate constitution and financial system of an old-established society to the needs of a great national amalgamation. In long hours of patient labour in the office he had built up an extremely methodical, if somewhat cumbrous, system of financial checks and trade reports, by which the exact position of each of his tens of thousands of members was at all times recorded in his official pigeon- holes. The permanence of his system is the best testimony to its worth. Even to-day the Engineers' head office retains throughout the impress of Allan's tireless and methodical industry. Excessive caution, red-tape precision, an almost miserly solicitude for the increase of the society's funds, were among Allan's defects. But at a time when working men " agitators " were universally credited with looseness in money matters and incapacity for strenuous and regular mental effort, these defects, however equivocal may have been their ultimate effect on the policy and development of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, produced a favourable impression on the public. Allan, moreover, though not a brilliant speaker, or a man of wide general interests, was a keen working-class politician, whose temper and judgement could always be depended on. And he has

1 William Allan was born of Scotch parents at Carrickfergus, Ulster, in 1813. His father, who was manager of a cotton-spinning mill, re- moved to a mill near Glasgow, and William became in 1825 a piecer in a cotton factory at Gateside. Three years later he left the mill to be bound apprentice to Messrs. Holdsworth, a large engineering firm at Anderston, Glasgow. At the age of nineteen, before his apprenticeship was completed, he married the niece of one of the partners. In 1835 he went to work as a journeyman engineer at Liverpool, moving thence, with the railway works, to their new centre at Crewe, where he joined his Union. On the imprisonment of Selsby, in 1847, he became its general secretary, retaining this office when, in 1851, the society became merged in the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. For over twenty years he was annually re-elected secretary of this vast organisation, dying at last in office in 1874.


Robert Applegarth 235

left behind him the tradition, not only of absolute integrity and abnormal industry, but also of a singular freedom from personal vanity or ambition.

Whilst Allan aimed at transforming the " paid agitator " into the trusted officer of a great financial corporation, Robert Applegarth sought to win for the Trade Union organisation a recognised social and political status. Astute and lawyer-like in temperament, he instinctively made use of those arguments which were best fitted to overcome the prejudices and disarm the criticisms of middle-class opponents. Nor did he limit himself to justi- fying the ways of Trade Unionists to the world at large. He made persistent attempts to enlarge the mental horizon of the rank and file of his own movement, opening out to those whose vision had hitherto been limited to the strike and the tap-room, whole vistas of social and political problems in which they as working men were primarily con- cerned. Hence we find him, during his career as general secretary, a leading member of the famous " International," 1

1 The celebrated " International Association of Working Men," which loomed so large in the eyes of Governments and the governing classes about 1869-70, had arisen out of the visit of two French delegates to London in 1863, to concert joint action on behalf of Poland. It was formally established at a meeting in London on September 28, 1864, at which an address prepared by Karl Marx was read. Its fundamental aim was the union of working men of all countries for the emancipation of labour ; and its principles went on to declare that " the subjection of the man of labour to the man of capital lies at the bottom of all servitude, all social misery, and all political dependence." Between 1864 and 1870, branches were established in nearly all European countries, as well as in the United States, the majority of trade societies in some European countries joining in a body. The central administration was entrusted to a General Council of fifty-five members sitting in London, which was composed of London residents of various nationalities, elected by the branches in the countries to which they belonged. The General Council had, however, no legislative or other control over the branches, and in practice served as little more than a means of communication between them, each country managing its own affairs in its own way. The prin- ciples and programme of the Association underwent a steady development in the succession of annual international congresses attended by delegates from the various branches. The extent to which English working men really participated in its fundamental objects is not clear. In 1870 Odger was president and Applegarth chairman of the General Council, which included Benjamin Lucraft, afterwards a member of the London


236 The Junta and their Allies

and an energetic promoter of the Labour Representation League, the National Education League, and various philan- thropic and political associations. Political reformers became eager to secure his adhesion to their projects : he was, for instance, specially invited to attend the important conferences of the National Education League at Birming- ham as the special representative of the working classes ; and it was owing to his reputation as a social reformer that he was in 1870 selected to sit on the Royal Commission upon the Contagious Diseases Acts, thus becoming the first working man to be styled by his Sovereign " Our Trusty and Well-beloved." Open-minded, alert, and conciliatory, he formed an ideal representative of the English Labour Movement in the political world. 1


School Board, and other well-known working-men politicians. But few English Trade Unions (among them being the Bootmakers and Curriers) joined in their corporate capacity ; and when, in October 1866, the General Council invited the London Trades Council to join, or, that failing, to give permission for a representative of the International to attend its meetings, with a view of promptly reporting all Continental strikes, the Council's minutes show that both requests were refused. The London Trades Council declined indeed to recognise the International even as the authorised medium of communication with trade societies abroad, and decided to communicate with these directly. Applegarth attended several of the Continental congresses as a delegate from England, and elaborately explained the aims and principles of the Association in an interview published in the New York World of May 21 1870. After the suppression of the Commune the branches in France were crushed out of existence ; and the membership in England and other countries fell away. The annual Congress held in 1872 at The Hague decided to transfer the General Council to New York, and the " International " ceased to play any part in the English Labour Movement. An interest- ing account of its Trade Unionist action appeared in the Fortnightly Review for November 1870, by Professor E. S. Beesly.

1 Robert Applegarth, the son of a quartermaster in the Royal Navy, was born at Hull on January 23, 1833. At the age of, eleven he went to work as errand boy, eventually drifting into the shop of a joiner and cabinetmaker, where, unapprenticed, he picked up the trade as best he could. In 1852 he moved to Sheffield; but in 1855, on the death of his parents, he emigrated to the United States, returning to Sheffield in the following year, as the* health of his wife did not allow her to follow him to the land of promise. Joining the local Carpenters' Union, he quickly became its most prominent member, and brought it over in a body when the formation in 1861 of the Amalgamated Society of Car- penters and Joiners offered a prospect of more efficient trade action.


George Odger 237

The permanent officials of the Ironfounders and the London Bricklayers were men of less originality than Allan or Applegarth. Guile was a man of attractive personality and winning manner, gifted with a certain rugged eloquence. Coulson is described by an opponent as being " stolid and obstinate," and again as " bricky and stodgy " ; but the expansion, under his influence, of the little London Society of Bricklayers into a powerful Union of national scope, proves him to have possessed administrative ability of no mean order. The special distinction of all four alike was their business capacity, shown by the persistency and success with which they pursued, each in his own trade, the policy originated by Newton and Allan, of basing Trade Union organisation upon an insurance company of national extent. George Odger brought to the Junta quite other qualities than the cautious industry of Allan or the lawyer- like capacity of Applegarth. Of the five men we have men- tioned he was the only one who continued to work at his trade, and who retained to the last the full flavour of a working-class leader. An orator of remarkable power, he swayed popular meetings at his will, and was the idol of Metropolitan Radicalism. But he was no mere demagogue. Beneath his brilliant rhetoric and emotional fervour there


Elected general secretary in 1862, he retained the office until 1871, when, in consequence of various personal disputes in the society, he voluntarily resigned. In 1870, on the formation of the London School Board, he stood as a candidate for the Lambeth division, but was unsuccessful, though he received 7600 votes. In the same year he was invited to become a candidate for Parliament for the borough of Maidstone, but he retired in favour of Sir John Lubbock. In 1 871 he was appointed a member of the Royal Commission on the Contagious Diseases Act. On resigning his secretaryship he turned for a time to journalism, and acted as war correspondent in France for an American newspaper. Shortly afterwards he became foreman to a firm of manufacturers of engineering and diving apparatus, eventually becoming the proprietor of this flourishing busi- ness and retiring with a small competence. Mr. Applegarth, who is (1920) the sole survivor of the " Junta " of 1867-71, still retains his membership of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and his interest in Trade Unionism, about which he has given us valuable documents and reminiscences. See The Life of Robert Applegarth, by A. W. Humphrey,


238 The Junta and their Allies

lay a large measure of political shrewdness, and he shared with his colleagues the capacity for deliberately concerted action and personal subordination. His dilatory and un- businesslike habits made him incapable of building up a great organisation. Had he stood alone, he would have added little to the strength of Trade Unionism ; as the loyal adherent of the great officials and their popular mouth- piece to the working-class world, Unionist and non-Unionist alike, he gave the movement a wider basis, and attracted into its ranks every ardent reformer belonging to the artisan class. 1

It is difficult to-day to convey any adequate idea of the extraordinary personal influence exercised by these five men, not only on their immediate associates, but also as interpreters of the Trade Union Movement, upon the public and the governing classes. For the first time in the century

1 Daniel Guile was born at Liverpool, October 21, 1814, the son of a shoemaker. Bound apprentice to an ironfounder in 1827, he joined the Union in June 1834. In 1863 he became its corresponding secretary, a position he retained until his retirement at the end of 1881. He was a member of the Parliamentary Committee, 1871-5, and died December 7,1883.

George Odger, the son of a Cornish miner, was born in 1820, at Rouborough, near Tavistock, South Devon, and became a shoemaker at an early age. Tramping about the country, as was then customary, he eventually settled in London, becoming a prominent member of the Ladies' Shoemakers' Society. His first important public action was m connection with the meetings of delegates of London trades on the build- ing trades lock-out in 1859. On the formation of the London Trades Council in 1860 he became one of its leading members, and from 1862 until the reconstruction of the Council in 1872 he acted as its secretary. As one of the leaders of London working-class Radicalism he made five attempts to get into Parliament, but was each time baulked by the opposi- tion of the official Liberal party. At Chelsea in 1868, at Stratford in 1869, and at Bristol in 1870 he retired rather than split the vote, but at South wark in 1870 he went to the poll, and failed of success only by 304 votes, the official Liberal, Sir Sidney Waterlow, being at the bottom with 2966 votes as against 4382 given for Odger. At the General Election of 1874 he again stood, to be once more opposed by both Liberals and Conservatives witii the same result as before. He died in 1877, his funeral, which was attended by Professor E. Beesly, Professor Fawcett, and Sir Charles Dilke, being made the occasion of a remarkable demonstra- tion by the London working men. An eulogy of him by Professor Beesly appeared in the Weekly Despatch, March n, 1877. A brief biographical sketch was published under the title of The Life and Labour oj George Odger, 1877.




The Policy of the Junta 239

the working-class movement came under the direction, not of middle and upper class sympathisers like Place, Owen, Roberts, O'Connor, or Buncombe, but of genuine workmen specially trained for the position. For the first time, more- over, the leaders 'of working-class politics stood together in a compact group, united by a close personal friendship, and absolutely free from any trace of that suspiciousness or disloyalty which have so often marred popular move- ments. They brought to their task, it is true, no consis- tent economic theory or political philosophy. They sub- scribed with equal satisfaction to the crude Collectivism of the " International," and the dogmatic industrial Indivi- dualism of the English Radicals. This absence of a definite basis to their political activity accounts, we think, for the drying up of Trade Union politics after their withdrawal. We shall have occasion hereafter to notice other " defects of their qualities," and the way in which these subsequently stunted the further development of their own movement. But it was largely their very limitations which made them, at this particular crisis, such valuable representatives of the Trade Union Movement. They accepted, with perfect good faith, the economic Individualism of their middle- class opponents, and claimed only that freedom to combine which the more enlightened members of that class were willing to concede to them. Their genuine if somewhat restrained enthusiasm for political and industrial freedom gave them a persistency and determination which no check could discourage. Their understanding of the middle-class point of view, and their appreciation of the practical diffi- culties of the situation, saved them from being mere dema- gogues. For the next ten years, when it was all-important to obtain a legal status for trade societies and to obliterate the unfortunate impression created by the Sheffield outrages, their qualities exactly suited the emergency. The posses- sion of good manners, though it may seem a trivial detail, was not the least of their advantages. To perfect self- respect and integrity they added correctness of expression,


240 The Junta and their Allies

habits of personal propriety, and a remarkable freedom from all that savoured of the tap-room. In Allan and Apple- garth, Guile, Coulson, and Odger, the traducers of Trade Unionism found themselves confronted with a combination of high personal character, exceptional business capacity, and a large share of that official decorum which the English middle class find so impressive.

Round these central personalities grouped themselves in London a number of men of like temperament and aims. We have already had occasion to mention T. J. Dunning, of the Bookbinders, grown old in the service of Trade Unionism. The building trades contributed a younger generation, John Prior, George Howell, Henry Broadhurst, and George Shipton. The whole group were in touch with certain provincial leaders, who adhered to the new views, and acted in close concert with the Junta. Of these, the most noteworthy were Alexander Macdonald, then busily organising the Miners' National Union, John Kane, 1 of the North of England Ironworkers, William Dronfield, the Sheffield compositor, and Alexander Campbell, the leading spirit of the Glasgow Trades Council.

The distinctive policy of the Junta was the combina- tion of extreme caution in trade matters and energetic agitation for political reforms. It is indeed somewhat doubtful how far Allan and Applegarth, Coulson and Guile shared the popular belief that trade combinations could effect a general rise of wages or resist a. general reduction in a falling market. They had more faith in the moral force of great reserve funds, by the aid of which, dispensed in liberal out-of-work donations, one capitalist, or even a

1 John Kane was born at Alnwick, Northumberland, in 1819. Sent to work at seven, he served in various capacities until the age of fifteen, when he moved tc Newcastle-on-Tyne, and entered the ironworks of Messrs. Hawke at Gateshead. Here he took part in the Chartist and other progressive movements, making a vain attempt in 1842 to form a Union in his trade. Not until 1863 was a durable society established, and when in 1868 the Amalgamated Ironworkers' Association was formed on a national basis, John Kane became general secretary, a position he retained until his death in March 1876.


Old-fashioned Unionism 241

whole group of capitalists, might be effectually prevented from obtaining labour at anything but the standard condi- tions. Their trade policy was, in fact, restricted to securing for every workman those terms which the best employers were willing voluntarily to grant. For this reason they were constantly accused of apathy by those hotter spirits whose idea of successful Trade Unionism was a series of general strikes for advances or against reductions. The Junta were really looking in another direction for the emancipation of the worker. They believed that a levelling down of all political privileges, and the opening out of educational and social opportunities to all classes of the community, would bring in its train a large measure of economic equality. Under the influence of these leaders the London Unions, and eventually those of the provinces, were drawn into a whole series of political agitations, for the Franchise, for amendment of the Master and Servant law, for new Mines Regulation Acts, for National Education, and finally for the full legalisation of Trade Unions themselves.

Practical difficulties hampered the complete execution of the Junta's policy. The use of the Trade Union organisa- tion for Parliamentary agitation, on which Macdonald, Applegarth, and Odger based all their expectations of progress, came as a new idea to the Trade Union world. The rank and file of Trade Unionists, still excluded from the franchise, took practically no interest in any social or political reform, and regarded their trade combinations exclusively as means of extorting a rise of wages or of com- pelling their fellow- workmen to join their clubs. This was especially the case with the provincial organisations, where the officials usually shared the obscurantism of their members. The " Manchester Order " of Bricklayers and the General Union of Carpenters (headquarters, Manchester) were, like the Midland Brickmakers and the Sheffield Cutlers, still ,wedded to the old ideas of secrecy and coercion, whilst the powerful society of Masons, then centred at Leeds, held aloof from the general movement. But this resistance was


242 The Junta and their Allies

not confined to the older societies, nor to those of any par- ticular locality. All the Unions of that time, even those of the Metropolis, retained a strong traditional repugnance to political action. In many cases the rules expressly forbade all mention of politics in their meetings. And although the societies could be occasionally induced to take joint action of a political character in defence of Trade Unionism itself, not even the great influence of the Junta upon their own Unions sufficed to persuade the members to turn their organisations to account for legislative reform. The Junta turned, therefore, to the newly established Trades Councils and made these the political organs of the Trade Union world.

The formation between 1858 and 1867 of permanent Trades Councils in the leading industrial centres was an important step in the consolidation of the Trade Union Movements Local delegate meetings, summoned to deal with particular emergencies, had been a feature of Trade Union organisation, at any rate since the beginning of the nineteenth century. In early times every important strike had its committee of sympathisers from other trade societies, who collected subscriptions and rendered what personal aid they could. But the most notable of these committees were those which started up in all the centres of Trade Unionism when the movement was threatened by some particular legal or Parliamentary danger. Such joint committees had in 1825 contributed powerfully to defeat the re-enactment of the Combination Laws, in 1834 to arouse public feeling in the case of the Dorchester labourers, and in 1838 to conduct the Trade Union case before the Parliamentary Committee of that year. But these earlier committees were formed only for particular emergencies, and had, so far as we know, no continuous existence. By 1860 permanent councils were in existence in Glasgow, Sheffield, Liverpool, and Edinburgh, and their example was, in 1861, followed by the London trades. 1

1 The first permanent committee of the nature of a Trades Council


The London Trades Council 243

Like many provincial organisations, the London Trades Council originated in a " Strike Committee." During the

appears to have been, according to our information, the Liverpool " Trades Guardian Association," .which was established in 1848 with the object of protecting Trade Unions from suppression by the employers' use of the criminal law. From its printed report and balance sheet for 1848, and the -references in the Fortnightly Circular of the Stonemasons' Society for November 23, 1848, we gather that it took vigorous action to protect the Sheffield razor-grinders from malicious prosecution, and to help the Liver- pool masons who had been indicted for conspiracy. Of its activity from 1850 to 1857 we possess no records, but in August 1857 it subscribed ^400 in aid of the Liverpool cabinetmakers, and in 1861 it was assisting the London bricklayers' strike. In July of that year it was merged in a " United Trades Protection Association," formed upon the model of the newly established London Trades Council. In Glasgow there appears to have been, since 1825, an almost continuous series of joint committees of delegates for particular purposes. An attempt was made in 1851 to place these on a permanent footing, but the trades soon ceased to send delegates. A renewed attempt in 1858, made at the instance of Alexander Campbell, met with greater success ; and the Council then established, composed principally of the building trades, was in 1860 enjoying a vigorous life. Sheffield, too, had long had ephemeral federations of the local trades, which came near having a continuous existence. One of these, the " Asso- ciation of Organised Trades," established in 1857 with the special object of assisting the Sheffield Typographical Society in defending a libel action, became the permanent Trades Council. Other towns, such as Dublin and Bristol, had almost constantly some kind of Council of the local trades. An appeal of the Trade Defence Association of Manchester, signed by representatives of nine thousand operatives on behalf of the dyers' strike, occurs in the Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular for 1854. In London, as may be gathered from George Odger's evidence before the Master and Servant Law Committee in 1867, the meetings of " Metro- politan Trades Delegates " had been particularly frequent since 1848. In 1852, for instance, as we discover from the Bookbinders' Trade Circular (November 1853), a committee of the London trades took the case of the Wolverhampton tinplate workers out of the hands of the somewhat decrepit National Association of United Trades, and bore the whole cost of these expensive legal proceedings. No sooner had the task of this committee been completed, when another committee was formed to assist the strike of the Preston cotton operatives. It was to this committee, sitting at the Bell Inn, Old Bailey, the historic meeting-place of London Trade Unionism, that Lloyd Jones, in March 1855, communicated his fears that a certain Friendly Societies' Bill, then before the House of Commons, would make the legal position of trade societies even more equivocal than it then was. A " Metropolitan Trades Committee on the Friendly Societies' Bill " was accordingly formed, the printed report of which is reviewed by Dunning in his Circular for December 1855. From this we learn that it was presided over by William Allan, and that it included his old friend William Newton, as well as the general secretaries of the Stonemasons' and Bricklayers' Societies, and representatives of the


244 The Junta and their Allies

winter of 1859-60 weekly meetings of delegates from the Metropolitan trades had been held to support the Building Operatives in their resistance to the " document." " At the termination of that memorable struggle," states the Second Annual Report of the London Trades Council," it was felt that something should be done to establish a general trades committee so as to be able on emergency to call the trades together with despatch for the purpose of rendering each other advice or assistance as the circumstances required." In March 1860 the provisional committee formed with this object issued an " Address " to the trades, which resulted, on July 10, 1860, in the first meeting of the present London Trades Council.

It is interesting to notice that the Council, at the outset, was composed mainly of the representatives of the smaller societies. The Executive Committee elected at its first meeting included no delegates from the engineers, com- positors, masons, bricklayers, or ironfounders, who were then the most influential of the London Trade Societies. The first action of the young Council affords a significant indication of the feeling of isolation which led to its forma- tion. In order to facilitate communications with other trade societies throughout the kingdom it resolved to compile a General Trades Union Directory, containing the names and addresses of all Trade Union secretaries. This


Compositors and Bookbinders. It was supported by eighty-seven different Trade Unions with forty-eight thousand members, who contributed a halfpenny per member to cover the expenses. Its Parliamentary action seems to have been vigorous and effective. The objectionable clauses were, by skilful Parliamentary lobbying, dropped out of the Bill, and what seemed at the time to be an important step towards the legislation of trade societies was, through the help of Thomas Hughes and Lord Goderich, secured. Between 1858 and 1867 Trades Councils were estab- lished in about a dozen of the largest towns. The Trade Union expansion of 1870-73 saw their number doubled. But their great increase was one of the effects of the great wave of Trade Union organisation which swept over the country in 1889-91, when over sixty new councils were established, and those already in existence were reorganised and greatly increased in membership.

1 Second Annual Report of London Trades Council, March 31, 1862.


Payment by the Hour 245

praiseworthy enterprise took up all the attention of the new body for the first year, and the printing of two thousand copies of the result of its work crippled its finances for long afterwards. For, unfortunately, the General Trades Union Directory, published at one shilling per copy, did not sell and was, we fear, soon consigned to the pulping mill, as we have, after exhaustive search, been able to discover only two copies in existence. 1

But the direction of the Council was falling into abler hands. In 1861 George Howell became secretary, to be succeeded in the following year by George Odger, who for the next ten years remained its most prominent member. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers joined in 1861, and the veteran Dunning brought over the old-established Union of Bookbinders. By 1864, at any rate, the new organisation was entirely dominated by the Junta. The two " amalgamated " societies of Engineers and Carpenters supplied, in some years, half its income. The great trade friendly society of Ironfounders and the growing " London Order " of Bricklayers sent their general secretaries to its meetings. The Council became, in effect, a joint committee of the officers of the large national societies. In the meetings at the old Bell Inn, under the shadow of Newgate, we have the beginnings of an informal cabinet of the Trade Union world.

Meanwhile war had again broken out between the master builders and their operatives, caused partly by a renewed agitation for the Nine Hours Day, and partly by the employers' desire to substitute payment by the hour for the previous custom of payment by the day. 2 For the

1 No copy is preserved in the British Museum nor among the archives of the Trades Council itself. Mr. Robert Applegarth kindly presented us with a copy, which is now in the British Library of Political Science at the London School of Economics. The only other one known to us is in the Goldsmiths' Library at the University of London.

z On receipt of a memorial from the operatives asking for the intro- duction of the Nine Hours Day, three of the principal London builders gave notice that henceforth they would engage their workmen, not by the day, but by the hour. " This arrangement," they added, " of payment


246 The Junta and their Allies

historian of the general movement the dispute is chiefly important as furnishing the occasion of the first interven- tion of the talented group of young barristers and literary men who, from this time forth, became the trusted legal experts and political advisers of the leaders of the Trade Union Movement. The workmen had totally failed to make clear their objection to the Hour System, or even to obtain a hearing of their case. Their position was, for the first time, intelligibly explained in two brilliant letters addressed to the newspapers by eight Positivists and Chris- tian Socialists, which did much to bring about the tacit compromise in which the struggle ended. 1

Of more immediate interest to us is the action taken by the newly formed London Trades Council. Among the building operations suspended by the dispute was the


by the hour will enable any workman employed by us to work any number of hours he may think proper." This specious proposal involved a total abandonment of the principle of Collective Bargaining. What the master builders proposed was, in effect, to do away with the very conception of a normal day, and to revert, as far as the hours were con- cerned, to separate contracts with each individual workman. The work- men realised, what they failed clearly to explain, that the proffered free- dom was illusory. In the modern organisation of industry on a large scale there can be no freedom for the individual workman to drop his tools at whatever moment he chooses. Without a concerted normal day, each workman must inevitably find his task continue as long as the engines are going or the works are open. The real question at issue was how the common hours of labour should be fixed. The master builders of 1 86 1 rightly calculated that if each man was really free to earn as many hours' wages in the day as they chose to offer him, the hours during which the whole body would work would, in effect, be governed, not by the general convenience, but by the desire and capacity of those willing to work the longest day. On this, the essential issue, the men maintained their position. The normal day in the London building trades was tacitly fixed according to the prevailing custom, and has since been repeatedly regulated and reduced by formal collective agreement until the average working week throughout the year consists of less than 48 hours. The minor point of the unit of remuneration was gradually con- ceded by the men, and the Hour System, guarded by strict limitation of the working day, has come to be preferred by both parties.

1 The letters were drawn up by Frederic Harrison and Godfrey Lush- ington, after personal investigation and inquiry, and were signed also by T. Hughes, J. M. Ludlow, E. S. Beesly, R. H. Hutton, R. B Litchfield, and T. R. Bennett. They appeared in July 1861,


Trades Council Policy 247

construction, by a large contractor, of the new Chelsea barracks. The War Department saw no harm in per- mitting him to engage the sappers of the Royal Engineers to take the place of the men on strike. A similar course had been taken by 'the Government in strikes of 1825 and 1834. But the Trade Unions were now too powerful to allow of any such interference in their battles. A delegate meeting of the London trades, comprising representatives of fifty industries and fifty thousand operatives, sent a deputation to the War Office. Sir George Cornwall Lewis returned at first an equivocal answer, but the new Trades Council proved the efficacy of Parliamentary agitation by getting questions put to the Minister in the House of Commons, and stirring up enough feeling to compel him to withdraw the troops.

The minute-books of the London Trades Council from 1860 to 1867 present a mirror of the Trade Union history of this period. Odger had the rare gift of making his minutes interesting, and he describes, in his terse but graphic English, all the varied events of the Labour Move- ment as they were brought before the Council. In 1861-62, for instance, we see the Council trying vainly to settle the difficult problem of "overlap" between the trades of the shipwrights and the iron-shipbuilders ; we notice the shadow cast by the Lancashire cotton famine, and we read indignant resolutions condemning the Sheffield outrages of those years. But the special interest of these minutes lies in their unconscious revelation of the way in which the Council became the instrument of the new policy of partici- pation in general politics. Under Odger's influence the Council took a prominent part in organising the popular welcome to Garibaldi, and in 1862 it held a great meeting in St. James's Hall in support of the struggle of the Northern States against negro slavery, at which John Bright was the principal speaker. In 1864 the Junta placed itself definitely in opposition to the " Old Unionists," who objected to all connection between the Government and the


248 The Junta and their Allies

concerns of working men. W. E. Gladstone, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, had introduced a Bill enabling the Post Office to sell Government Annuities for small amounts. Against this harmless project George Potter, the leading opponent of the Junta, summoned great public meetings of the London trades, enlisted on his side the Operative Stonemasons and other provincial organisations, and vehemently denounced the Bill as an insidious attempt to divert the savings of working men from their Trade Unions and benefit societies into an exchequer controlled by the governing classes. The London Trades Council sent an influential deputation to Gladstone publicly to disavow the action of Potter, and to welcome the proposal of the Government to utilise the administrative organisation for the advantage of the working class. Of more significance was the alteration of the Council's policy with regard to political reform. The early members had set themselves against the introduction of politics in any guise whatso- ever, and during the years 1861-62 Howell and Odger strove in vain to enlist the Council in the agitation for a new Reform Bill. But in 1866, under the influence of Odger and Applegarth, Allan and Coulson, the Council enthusi- astically threw itself into the demonstration in favour of the Reform Bill brought in by the Liberal Government, and took a leading part in the agitation which resulted in the enfranchisement of the town artisan. 1 In the same year the Council agreed to co-operate with the " Inter- national " in demanding Democratic Reform from all European Governments.

The widely advertised public action of the London Trades Council excited considerable interest in provincial centres of Trade Unionism. We see the Council in frequent

1 Many of the local Birmingham Trade Unions became directly affiliated to the National Reform League. But with the exception of two small clubs at Wolverhampton, and the West End Cabinetmakers (London), no other Trade Union appears to have joined the League in a corporate capacity, though its Council included Allan, Applegarth, Coulson, Cremer, Odger Potter, and Conolly.


The Master and Servant Act 249

correspondence with similar bodies at Glasgow, Nottingham, Sheffield, and other provincial towns, and often exercising a kind of informal leadership in general movements. But it would be unfair to ascribe the whole initiative in legis- lative reform to the London officials. Under the brilliant leadership of Alexander Macdonald, whose work we shall hereafter describe, the force of the coal - miners was being marshalled for Parliamentary agitation ; and Mac- donald' s friend, Alexander Campbell, was bringing the Glasgow Trades Council round to the new policy. And it was Campbell and Macdonald, working through these organisations, who carried through the most important Trade Union achievement of the next few years, the amendment of the law relating to master and servant.

It is difficult in these days, when equality of treatment before the law has become an axiom, to understand how the flagrant injustice of the old Master and Servant Acts seemed justifiable even to a middle-class Parliament. If an employer broke a contract of service, even wilfully and without excuse, he was liable only to be sued for damages, or, in the case of wages under 10, to be summoned before a court of summary jurisdiction, which could order payment of the amount due. The workman, on the other hand, who wilfully broke his contract of service, either by absenting himself from his employment, or by leaving his work, was liable to be proceeded against for a criminal offence, and I punished by three months' imprisonment. This inequality of treatment was, moreover, aggravated by various other anomalies. It followed by the general law of evidence that, whilst a master sued by a servant could be witness in his own favour, the servant prosecuted by his employer could not give evidence on his own behalf ; and it frequently happened that no other evidence than the employer's could be produced. It was in the power of a single justice of the peace, on an information on oath, to issue a warrant for the summary arrest of the workman, who thus found himself.


250 The Junta and their A Hies

v/ when a dispute occurred, suddenly seized, even in his bed, 1 ! and haled to prison at the discretion of a magistrate, who$ was in many cases himself an employer of labour. The case was heard before a single justice of the peace, and the! hearing might take place at his private house. The only! punishment that could be inflicted was imprisonment, theii law not allowing the alternative of a fine or the payment'? of damages. From the decision of the justice, however if arbitrary, there was no appeal. Finally, it must be added, ;? the sentence of imprisonment was no discharge for a debt, I so that a workman was liable to be imprisoned over and| over again for the same breach of contract. 2

1 The obligation to proceed by warrant was at fir^t universal, as the Act of 1824, 4 Geo. IV. c. 34, gave the magistrate no discretion. By * that act the master was to be served with a summons at the instance of f the workman, whilst the workman was to be arrested on a warrant on | the complaint upon oath of the master. But, in 1848, Jervis's Act, n & 12 Vic. c. 43, gave justices power in all cases to issue a summons i the first instance. The practice was accordingly gradually introduced i England of summoning the workman ; and the issue of a warrant was i general confined to cases in which the workman had gone away, or had failed to appear to a summons. Jervis's Act, however, did not apply Scotland, so that summary arrests of workmen on warrants continued until 1867 ; and this was one of the principal grievances adduced by the Glasgow representatives. Even in England warrants were occasionally granted by vindictive magistrates. In 1863 a dispute took place at a Durham colliery, and the employer proceeded against the miners under I the Master and Servant Law. " In the middle of the next night twelve ; of them were taken out of their beds by the police and lodged in Durham I lock-up, on the charge of deserting their work without notice " (Letter i by Professor E. S. Beesly in Spectator, December 12, 1863).

  • See Question 864, Master and Servant Law Select Committee, 1866 ; K

Unwin v. Clarke, i Law Reports, Queen's Bench, p. 417; and Second I Report of Labour Laws Commission, c. 1157 (1875), p. 7.

The enactments rendering the workman liable to imprisonment for | simple breach of a contract of service are historically to be traced to the l ;' period when the law denied to the labourer the right to withhold his service or to bargain as to his wages. Any neglect or abandonment of his work was, therefore, like a simple refusal to work at all, a breach, not so much of contract, as of a duty arising out of status and enforced by statute. The law on the subject dates, indeed, back to the celebrated Statute of Labourers of 1349 (23 Ed. III.), the primary object of which was to enforce service at the rates of hiring that existed prior to the Black Death. The second section of this law enacts that if a workman or servant depart from service before the time agreed upon he shall be imprisoned. The same principle was asserted in the Statute of Appren-


II


Legal Persecution 251

Early in 1863 Alexander Campbell * brought the Master


tices in 1563 (5 Eliz. c. 4), which consolidated the law relating to all artificers and labourers, and expressly applied it to workers by the piece, who were rendered liable to imprisonment if they left before completing their job. During the eighteenth century, which abounded, as we have seen, in enactments dealing with particular trades, a long series of statutes made the provisions of law more definite and stringent in the industries in question. The principal English Acts were 7 Geo. I. st. i, c. 13 (tailors) ; 9 Geo. I. c. 27 (shoemakers) ; 13 Geo. II. c. 8 (all leather trades) ; 20 Geo. II c. 19; 27 Geo. II. c. 6; 31 Geo. II. c. n (various trades); 6 Geo. III. c. 25 (agreements for a term) ; 17 Geo. III. c. 56 (textiles, etc.) ; 39 & 4o'Geo. III. c. 77 (coal and iron) ; 4 Geo. IV. c. 34 (all trades) ; 10 Geo. IV. c. 52 (general) ; 6 & 7 Vic. c. 40 (textiles).

The intolerable oppression which these laws enabled unscrupulous employers to commit was, at the beginning of the century, scarcely in? ferior to that brought about by the Combination Laws. This was strongly urged by the authors of A few Remarks on the Staff of the Laws at present in existence for regulating Masters and Workpeople (preserved among the Place MSS. 27804), which George White, the prompter of Peter Moore, M.P., published in 1823. The pieceworker clause of the Statute of Apprentices was particularly oppressive. "This clause," says White, " has been much abused, as in many businesses they never finish their work, as the nature of the employment is such that they are compelled to begin one before they finish another, as wheelwrights, japanners, and an infinite number of trades ; therefore if any dispute ariseth respecting the amount of wages, and a strike or turn-out commences, or men leave their work, having words, the master prosecutes them for leaving their work unfinished. Very few prosecutions have been made to effect under the Combination Act*, but hundreds have been made under this law, and the labourer or workman can never be free, unless this law is modified. The Combination Act is nothing : it is the law which regards the finishing of work which masters employ to harass and keep down the wages of their workpeople ; unless this is modified nothing is done, and by re- pealing the Combination Acts you leave the workman in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred in the same state you found him at the mercy of his master " (p. 51). But, in spite of this somewhat exaggerated protest, neither Place nor Hume took up the amendment of the law relating to contracts of service. Their paramount concern was to secure for the workman freedom to enter into a contract, and oppressive punish- ment for its breach attracted, for the moment, little attention.

Besides White's Manual, the following may be referred to for the history of the law, and of its amendment : Report of Conference on the Law of Master and Workman under the Contract of Service (Glasgow, 1864) ; the Reports of the Select Committee on the Law of Master and Servant, 1866, and of the Royal Commission on the Labour Laws, 1875 ; The Labour Laws, by James Edward Davis (1875) ; and Stephen's History of the Criminal Law, vol. iii.

1 Alexander Campbell, who had been a prominent disciple of Robert Owen, and whom we have already seen as secretary to the little Glasgow Carpenters' Union of 1834, was. in 1863, editing the Glasgow Sentinel,


252 The Junta and their Allies

and Servant Law under the notice of the Glasgow Trades Council. A Parliamentary Return was obtained showing that the enormous number of 10,339 cases t of breach of contract of service came before the courts in a single year. A committee was formed to agitate for the amendment of the law, and communication was opened up, not only with the London leaders, but also with sympathisers in other provincial towns. The Trades Councils of London, Bristol, Sheffield, Nottingham, Newcastle, and Edinburgh were formally invited to unite in a combined movement. In Leeds and elsewhere local Trades Councils were established for the express purpose of forwarding the agitation ; and 15,000 copies of a " Memorial of Information intended for the use of such workmen as fall under the provisions of the Statute 4 Geo. IV. c. 34 " * were circulated to all the leading workmen throughout ,the country. At the instance of Campbell and Macdonald, the Glasgow Trades Council con- vened a conference of Trade Union representatives to con- sider how the object of the agitation could best be secured. This Conference, which was held in London during four days of May 1864, marks an epoch in Trade Union history. For the first time a national meeting of Trade Union delegates was spontaneously convened by a Trade Union organisation to discuss a purely workman's question, in the presence of working men alone. The number of dele- gates did not exceed twenty, but these included the leading officials of all the great national and amalgamated Unions. 2

which became the chief organ of Macdonald and his National Association of Miners. Campbell is described as having been, in 1858, the virtual founder of the Glasgow Trades Council.

1 The Memorial, which contains an exact statement of the law and suggestions for its amendment, is preserved in the Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, December 1863.

2 Among those present were Robert Applegarth, George Odger, Daniel Guile, T. J. Dunning, Alexander Macdonald, William Dronfield, Alexander Campbell, Edwin Coulson, and George Potter. The societies represented included the London Trades Council, Glasgow Trades Com- mittee, Sheffield Association of Organised Trades, Liverpool United Trades Protection Society, Nottingham Association of Organised Trades, and the Northumberland and Durham United Trades and Labourers ; the Amal-


A Parliamentary Success 253

The transactions of the Conference were thoroughly businesslike. Three members of the Government were asked to receive deputations ; a large number of members of Parliament were " lobbied " on the subject of an im- mediate amending Bill ; and finally a successful meeting of legislators was held in the "tea-room" of the House of Commons itself, at which the delegates impressed their desires upon all the friendly members. The terms of the draft Bill were settled ; Cobbett agreed to introduce it in the House of Commons, and the Glasgow Trades' Com- mittee was authorised to support it by an agitation on behalf of all the Trade Unions of the kingdom.

The Bill introduced by Cobbett never became law ; but a vigorous agitation kept the mattejr under the notice of Parliament, and in 1866 a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the subject. Upon its report Lord Elcho * succeeded, in 1867, in carrying through Parliament a Bill which remedied the grossest injustice of the law. The Master and Servant Act of 1867 (30 & 31 Vic. c. 141), the first positive success of the Trade Unions in the legis- lative field, did much to increase their confidence in Parlia- mentary agitation.

But whilst the Junta and their allies were, by the capture of the Trades Councils, using the Trade Union organisation for an active political campaign, their steady discouragement of aggressive strikes was bringing down upon them the wrath of the " Old Unionists " of the time. It was one of the principal functions of the London Trades Council to grant " credentials " to trade societies having disputes on hand, recommending them for the support of workmen in other trades. As these credentials were not confined to London disputes, the custom placed the Council under the invidious necessity of either giving its sanction

gamated Societies of Engineers and Carpenters, the National Societies of Bricklayers, Masons, Ironfounders, Miners, and Bookbinders, the London Society of Compositors, the Scottish Bakers, Sheffield Sawmakers, etc. 1 Afterwards Earl of Wemyss.


254 The Junta and their Allies

to, or withholding approval from, practically every import- ant strike in the kingdom an arrangement which quickly brought the Council into conflict with the more aggressive societies. In two cases especially the divergence of policy raised serious and heated discussions. A building trades strike had broken out in the Midlands at the beginning of 1864, initiated by the old Friendly Society (now styled the General Union) of Operative Carpenters. The men's action was strongly disapproved by Applegarth and the Executive of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters. The London Trades Council unhesitatingly took Applegarth's view, thereby alienating whole sections of the building trades, whose local trade clubs and provincial societies had retained much of the spirit of jthe Builders' Union of 1834. But the internal dissension arising from the carpenters' dispute fell far short of that brought about by the strike of the Stafford- shire puddlers. It is unnecessary to go into the details of this angry struggle against a 10 per cent reduction. The conduct of the men in refusing the arbitration offered by the Earl of Lichfield met with the disapproval of the London Trades Council. The hotter spirits were greatly incensed at the Council's moderation. George Potter, in particular, distinguished himself by addressing excited meetings of the men on strike, advising them to stand firm.

Potter, who figures largely in the newspapers of this time, was in fact endeavouring to work up a formidable opposition to the policy of the Junta. After the building trades disputes of 1859-60, in which he had taken a leading part, he had started the Beehive, a weekly organ of the Trade Union world. Himself a member of a tiny trade club of London carpenters, he was bitterly opposed to Applegarth and the Amalgamated Society, and from 1864 onward we find him at the head of every outbreak of disaffection. An expert in the arts of agitation and of advertisement, Potter occasionally cut a remarkable figure, so that the unwary reader, not of the Beehive only, but also of the Times, might easily believe him to have been the most influential


George Potter 255

leader of the working-class movement. As a matter of fact, he at no time represented any genuine trade organisa- tion, the " Working Men's Association," of which he was president, being an unimportant society of nondescript persons. However, from 1864 to 1867 we find him calling frequent meetings of delegates of the London trades to denounce the Junta, and their instrument, the London Trades Council. The minutes of the latter body contain abun- dant evidence of the bitter feelings caused by these attacks, and make clear the essential difference between the two policies. At a special meeting called to condemn Potter's action, Howell, Allan, Coulson, and Applegarth enlarged upon the evil consequences of irresponsible agitation in trade disputes ; and Banter, the outspoken president of the Amalgamated Engineers, emphatically declared that Potter " had become the aider and abettor of strikes. He thought of nothing else ; he followed no other business ; strikes were his bread-and-cheese ; in short, he was a strike- jobber, and he made the Beehive newspaper his instrument for pushing his nose into every unfortunate dispute that sprang up." l

Responsible and cautious leadership of the Trade Union Movement was becoming increasingly necessary. The growth of the great national Unions, alike in wealth and in membership, and the manner in which they subscribed in aid of each other's battles, had aroused the active enmity of the employers. To counteract the men's renewed strength, the employers once more banded themselves into powerful associations, and made use of a new weapon. The old expedient of the " document " had, since its failure to break down the Amalgamated Engineers in 1852, and to subdue the building operatives in 1859, fallen somewhat into discredit. It was now reinforced by the general " lock-out " of all the men in a particular industry, even those who accepted the employer's terms, in order to reduce to subjection the recalcitrant employees of one or

1 Minutes of meeting of London Trades Council, March 1864.


256 The Junta and their Allies

two firms only. 1 The South Yorkshire coal-owners especially distinguished themselves during those years by their frequent use of the " lock-out/' One Yorkshire miner complained in 1866 that he had been " locked out about twenty-four months in six years." 2 During the year 1865 it seemed as if the lock-outs were about to become a feature of every large industry, the most notable instances being those of the Staffordshire ironworkers, to which we have already alluded, and the shipbuilding operatives on the Clyde. In both these cases large sections of the men were willing to work at the employers' terms, but were either known to belong to a Union or suspected of contributing to the men on strike. But though this practice of " locking out " created great excitement among working men, it did not achieve the employers' aim of breaking up the Unions; Nothing but absolute suppression by law appeared open to those who regarded trade combinations as " a poisonous plant " and an " anomalous anachronism," and who were vainly looking to " the happy period," both for masters and men, when the questions, " What is the price of a quarter of wheat ? " and " What is the price of a workman's day wage ? " shall be settled on the same principles. 3

Nor were the employers the only people who began to talk once more of putting down Trade Unions by law. The industrial dislocation which the lock-outs, far more than the strikes, produced occasioned widespread loss and public inconvenience. The quarrels of employer and employed came to be vaguely regarded as matters of more than private concern. Unfortunately a handle was given to the enemies of Trade Unionism by the continuance of outrages, committed in the interest of Trade Unions, which began to be widely advertised by the press. Isolated cases of violence

1 It must not be supposed that the lock-out was a new invention. Place describes its use by the master breeches-makers at the end of the last century : Life of Francis Place, by Professor Graham Wallas (1918).

  • Report of Conference of Trade Delegates at Sheffield (June 1866), p. 22.

8 " An Ironmaster's View of Strikes," by W. R. Hopper, Fortnightly Review (August i, 1865).


The Sheffield Outrages 257

and intimidation, restricted, as we shall hereafter see, to certain trades and localities, were magnified by press rumours into a systematic attempt on the part of the Trade Unions generally to obtain their ends by deliberate physical violence. In the general fear and disapproval the public failed to discriminate between the petty trade clubs of Sheffield and such great associations as the Amalgamated Engineers and Carpenters. The commercial objection to industrial disputes became confused with the feeling of abhorrence created by 'the idea of vast combinations of men sticking at neither violence nor murder to achieve their ends. The " terrorism of Trade Unions " became a nightmare. " On one side," says a writer who represents the public feeling of the time, " is arrayed the great mass of the talent, knowledge, virtue, and wealth of the country, and, on the other, a number of unscrupulous men, leading a half-idle life, and feeding on the contributions of their dupes, and on a tax levied on such of the intelligent artisans as are forced into their ranks, but who would be only too happy to throw off their thraldom and join the supporters of law and justice, did these but offer them adequate protection." 1

The Trade Unions world seems to have been quite unconscious of the gathering storm. In June 1866 138 delegates, representing all the great Unions, and a total membership of about 200,000, met at Sheffield to devise some defence against the constant use of the lock-out. The student of the proceedings of this conference will contrast with wonder the actual conduct of the Trade Union leaders with the denunciations to which these "few unscrupulous men " were at this time exposed. Nothing could be more worthy, even from the middle-class point of view, than the discussions of these representative workmen, who denounced

1 " Measures for Putting an End to the Abuses of Trades Unions," by Frederic Hill, Barrister-at-Law : Paper in Sessional Proceedings of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, 1867-68, p. 24. The popular middle-class sentiment is reflected in Charles Reade's novel, Put Yourself in his Place (1871).

K


258 The Junta and their Allies

with equal energy the readiness with which their impetuous followers came out on strike and the arbitrary lock-out o: the masters, and whose resolutions express their desire for the establishment of Councils of Conciliation and the genera resort to arbitration in industrial disputes. 1 Meanwhile, in order to meet the great federations of employers, they formed " The United Kingdom Alliance of Organised Trades," to support the members of any trade who shoulc find themselves " locked out " by their employers. 2 Un- fortunately the conference utterly failed to decide what constituted a " lock-out," as distinguished from a strike and the " Judicial Council " of the Alliance, consisting o: one delegate from each of the nine districts into which the kingdom was divided, found itself continually at issue with its constituents as to the disputes to be supported. This friction co-operated with the increasing depression of trade in causing the calls for funds to be very unwillingly respondec to ; and the Executive Committee, sitting at Sheffield, hac seldom any cash at its command. The Alliance lingered on until about the end of 1870, when the defection of its last important Unions brought it absolutely to an end. 3 In

1 See, for instance, the speech of George Newton, the secretary of the Glasgow Trades Committee : "A great many strikes, and perhaps lock- outs, too, have arisen from a stubborn refusal on the part of both sides to look the question honestly and fairly in the face. . . . Let us examine ourselves and see if there be any wicked way in us that contributes to this unsatisfactory state of things, and if we discover that we are nol blameless, then we ought, first of all, to set our own house in order. . . Then let us examine the opposite side of the camp and see how they stand, and if we find that they have not done all that they ought to have done with a view to prevent these serious evils, let us undisguisedly anc in plain language point out where we consider they have erred, and by increasing public opinion in a healthy way against tyranny some people call it, but perhaps a milder word would be better against the unwise policy used, it will do much to repress it in future " (Conference Report, Sheffield, 1866).

2 Rules adopted at Manchester Conference, 1867 (Sheffield, 1867,

12 pp.).

3 The Alliance was always administered by an executive elected by the Sheffield trades, the leading men amongst which had been active in its formation. The veteran secretary of the Typographical Society, William Dronfield, was the first general secretary. Among the trades represented were the South Yorkshire and Nottingham Miners, the Amal-


Rattening 259

1866, however, the Alliance was young and hopeful. It received its first blow in October of this year, when it and the Trade Union Conference were forgotten in the sensa- tion produced by the explosion of a can of gunpowder in a workman's house in 'New Hereford Street, Sheffield.

This outrage was only one of a class of crimes for which Sheffield was already notorious. But in the state of public irritation against Trade Unionism, which had been growing during the past few years of lock-outs and strikes, the news served to precipitate events. On all sides there arose a cry for a searching investigation into Trade Unionism. The Trade Unions themselves joined in the demand. As no clue to the perpetrators of the last crime could be discovered by the local police, the leaders of the Sheffield trade clubs united with the Town Council and the local Employers' Association in pressing for a Government inquiry. The London Trades Council and the Executive of the Amalgamated Engineers sent a joint deputation to Sheffield to investigate the case. The deputation discovered no more than the local police had done about the perpe- trators of the crime, and therefore innocently reported that there was no evidence of Trade Union complicity ; but they accompanied this report by a strong condemnation of " the abominable practice of rattening, which is calculated

gamated Tailors, Boilermakers, Cotton-spinners, Scottish Associated Carpenters, Yorkshire Glass-bottle Makers, North of England Iron- workers, and the trades of Wolverhampton. The minute books from 1867 to 1870, and its printed Monthly Statement, show that the Alliance at first supported the men in numerous lock-outs, especially among the tailors,. miners, and ironworkers, but that there were constant complaints of unpaid levies. Dronfield informed us that the Judicial Committee and the Executive experienced great difficulties from the absence of any control over the constituent Unions, and the impossibility of accurately defining a lock-out. The first conference of the Alliance was held at Manchester from the ist to the 4th of January 1867, when fifty- three trades had been enrolled, numbering 59,750 members. The " Rules " adopted at this conference contain an interesting address by Dronfield upon the principles and objects of the federation. The next conference was at Preston in September 1867, when the membership had fallen to 23,580, in forty-seven trades, the Boilermakers, among others, formally withdrawing (Minutes of Conference at Preston, Sheffield, 1867, J 6 pp.)-


260 The Junta and their Allies

to demoralise those who are concerned in it, and to bring disgrace on all trade combinations." l Public meetings of Trade Unionists were held throughout the country, at which the leaders expressed their indignation both at the outrage itself and at the common assumption that it was a usual and necessary incident of Trade Unionism. These meetings invariably concluded with a demand on behalf of the Trade Unionists to be allowed an opportunity of refuting the accusations of the enemies of the movement. Robert Applegarth saw the Home Secretary on the subject, and suggested a Commission of Inquiry. The appointment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry was officially announced in the Queen's Speech of February 1867. That the Govern- ment meant business was proved by the prompt intro- duction of a Bill empowering the Commission to pursue its investigations by exceptional means. The inquiry was to extend to all outrages during the past ten years, whether in Sheffield or elsewhere. Not only were accomplices in criminal acts promised an indemnity, provided that they

1 The town of Sheffield had long been noted for the custom of "ratten- ing," that is, the temporary abstraction of the wheelbands or tools of a workman whose subscription to his club was in arrear. This had become the recognised method of enforcing, not merely the payment of contribu- tions, but also compliance with the trade regulations of the club. The lawless summary jurisdiction thus usurped by the Sheffield clubs easily passed into more serious acts of lynch law if mere rattening proved in- effectual. Recalcitrant workmen were terrorised by explosions of cans of gunpowder in the troughs of their grinding wheels, or thrown down their chimneys ; and in some cases these explosions caused serious injury. The various Grinders' Unions (saw, file, sickle, fork, and fender) enjoyed an unhappy notoriety for outrages of this nature, which had, from time to time, aroused the spasmodic indignation of the local press, notably in 1843-4. An attempt, in 1861, to blow up a small warehouse in Acorn Street provoked a special outburst of public disapproval ; and the minutes of the London Trades Council record that already on this occasion the Council publicly expressed its abhorrence of such criminal violence. After this date there was for three or four years a diminution in the number of serious acts of violence committed ; but the 3^ears 1865-6 saw a renewal of the evil practices, especially in connection with the Saw- Grinders' Union. The explosion in New Hereford Street in October 1866 was afterwards proved to have been instigated by this Union in order to terrorise a certain Thomas 'Fernehough, who had twice deserted the society, and was at the time working for a firm against whom the saw-handle makers, as well as the saw-grinders, had struck.


Trade Union Funds 261

gave evidence, but the same privilege was extended to the actual perpetrators of the crimes. The investigation, more- over, was not restricted to the supposed criminal practices of particular trade clubs, but was to embrace the whole subject of Trade Unionism and its effects.

The Trade Union movement thus found itself for the third time at the bar of a Parliamentary inquiry at a moment when public opinion, as well as the enmity of employers, had been strongly excited against it. At the very height of this crisis, which had been brought about by the violence of some of the old-fashioned Unions, the new Amalgamated Societies themselves received a serious check from a decision of the Court of Queen's Bench.

The formation of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, with its large accumulated funds, had renewed the anxiety of the Trade Union officials as to the extent to which a trade society enjoyed the protection of the law. Although the Act of 1825 had made trade societies, as such, no longer unlawful, nothing had been done to give them any legal status, or to enable them to take proceedings as corporate entities. But in 1855 a " Metropolitan Trades Committee " succeeded in getting a clause intended to relate to Trade Unions inserted in the Friendly Societies Act of that year. By the 44th section of this Act it was provided that a society established for any purpose not illegal might, by depositing its rules with the Registrar of Friendly Societies, enjoy the privilege of having disputes among its own mem- bers summarily dealt with by the magistrates. Under this provision several of the larger societies had deposited their rules, believing, with the concurrence of the Registrar, that this secured to them the power to proceed summarily against any member who should, in his capacity of secretary or treasurer, detain or make away with the society's funds. 1 So thoroughly has the legality of their position been accepted

1 Among other societies, the Amalgamated Engineers and Carpenters and the national Unions of Boilermakers and Ironfounders appear to have deposited their rules.


262 The Junta and their Allies

by all concerned, that on the establishment by Gladstone of the Post Office Savings Banks in 1861, he had, at the request of the Trade Union leaders, expressly conceded to the Unions, equally with the Friendly Societies, the privilege of making use of the new banks.

This feeling of security was, in 1867, completely shattered. The Boilermakers 1 Society had occasion to proceed against the treasurer of their Bradford branch for wrongfully with- holding the sum of 24 ; but the magistrates, to .the general surprise of all concerned, held that the society could not proceed under the Friendly Societies Act, being, as a Trade Union, outside the scope of that measure. The case was thereupon carried to the Court of Queen's Bench, where four judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, confirmed the decision, giving the additional reason that. the objects of the Union, if not, since 1825, actually criminal, were yet so far in restraint of trade as to render the society an illegal association. Thus the officers of the great national Trade Unions found their societies deprived of the legal status which they imagined they had acquired, and saw them- selves once more destitute of any legal protection for their accumulated funds.

The grounds of the decision went a great deal further than the decision itself. As was pointed out to the work- men by Frederic Harrison, " the judgement lays down not merely that certain societies have failed to bring themselves within the letter of a certain Act, but that Trade Unions, of whatever sort, are in their nature contrary to public policy, and that their object in itself will vitiate every association and every transaction into which it enters. . . . In a word, Unionism becomes (if not according to the suggestion of the learned judge criminal) at any rate something like betting and gambling, public nuisances and immoral considerations things condemned and suppressed by the law." *

Trade Unionism was now at bay, assailed on both sides.

1 Beehive, January 26, 1867.


Organisation of the Defence 263

It was easy to foresee that the employers and their allies would make a determined attempt to use the Royal Com- mission and the Sheffield outrages to 'suppress Trade Unionism by the criminal law. On the other hand, the hard-earned accumulations of the larger societies, by this tune amounting to an aggregate of over a quarter of a million sterling, were at the mercy of their whole army of branch secretaries and treasurers, any one of whom might embezzle the funds with impunity. ^

The crisis was too serious to be dealt with by the excited delegate meetings of the London Trades Council. For over four years we hear of only occasional and purely formal meetings of this body. Immediately on the publi- cation of the decision of the judges in January 1867 Applegarth convened what was called a " Conference of Amalgamated Trades/' but what consisted in reality of weekly private meetings of the five leaders and a few other friends. From 1867 to 1871 this " conference " acted as the effective cabinet of the Trade Union Movement. Its private minute-book, kept by Applegarth, reveals to the student the whole political life of the Trade Union world.

The first action of the Junta was to call to their councils those middle-class allies upon whose assistance and advice they had learned to rely. We have already noticed the adhesion of the " Christian Socialists " to the Amalgamated Engineers in 1852, and the intervention of the Positivists in the Building Trades disputes of 1859-61. Frederic Harrison and E. S. Beesly were now rendering specially valuable services as the apologists for Trade Unionism in the public press. " Tom Hughes " was in Parliament, almost the only spokesman of the men's whole claim. Henry Crompton was bringing his acute judgement and his detailed experience of the actual working of the law to bear upon the dangers which beset the Unions in the Courts of Justice. Apple- garth's minutes show how frequently all four were ready to spend hours in private conference at the Engineers' office in Stamford Street, and how unreservedly they, in this


264 The Junta and their Allies

crisis, placed their professional skill at the disposal of the Trade Union leaders. It would be difficult to exaggerate the zeal and patient devotion of these friends of Trade Unionism, or the service which they rendered to the cause in its hour of trial. 1

It is obvious from the private transactions of the con- ference that the main object of the Junta was to gain for Trade Unionism that legal status which was necessary alike to the security of the funds and to the recognition of the Trade Union organisation as a constituent part of the State. But the first thing to be done was to defeat the employers in their endeavour to use the Royal Commission as an instrument for suppressing Trade Unionism by direct penal enactment. The Junta had therefore not only to dissociate themselves from the ignorant turbulence of the old-fashioned Unions, but also to prove that the bulk of their own members were enlightened and respectable. It was, moreover, of the utmost importance to persuade the public that the Junta and their friends, not the strike-jobbers or the outrage- mongers, were the authorised and typical representatives of the Trade Union Movement. All this it was necessary to bring out in the inquiry by the Royal Commission before which Trade Unionism was presently to stand on its defence. The composition of the Commission was accordingly a matter of the greatest concern for the Junta. The Government had resolved to select, as Commissioners, not representa- tives of each view, but persons presumably impartial, with Sir William Erie, who had lately retired from the Lord Chief Justiceship of the Common Pleas, as their chairman. In this arrangement representatives of the employers were to be excluded ; and the appointment of working men was not dreamed of. The Commission was to be made up

1 Along with these, in helping and advising the Trade Unions at this time, were Vernon Lushington, Godfrey Lushington (afterwards Per- manent Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department), J. M. Ludlow (afterwards Registrar of Friendly Societies), Neate (formerly Professor of Political Economy and then M.P. for Oxford), Sir T. Powell Buxton, M.P., and A. J. Mundella.


The Royal Commission 265

chiefly from the ranks of high officials, with four members from the two Houses of Parliament, and the chairman of a great industrial undertaking. The active part which Thomas Hughes had taken in the debates secured him a seat on the Commission, though he felt that single-handed he could do little for his friends. All possible pressure was accordingly brought to bear on the Government with a view to the appointment of a Trade Unionist member ; but the idea of a working-man Royal Commissioner was inconsistent with official traditions. The utmost that could be obtained was that the workmen and the employers should each suggest a special representative to be added. For the workmen a wise and extremely fortunate choice was made in the person of Frederic Harrison, the Junta obtaining also permission for representative Trade Unionists to be present during the examination of the witnesses. 1

The actual conduct of the Trade Unionist case was under- taken by Harrison and Hughes, in consultation with Apple- garth, whom the Junta deputed to attend the sittings on their behalf. The ground of defence was chosen with con- siderable shrewdness. The policy of the Junta and their allies was to focus the attention of the Commissioners upon the great trade friendly societies in contradistinction to the innumerable little local trade clubs of the old type. The evidence of Applegarth, who was the first witness examined, did much to dispel the grosser prejudices against the Unions. The General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters was able to show that his society, then standing third in financial magnitude in the Trade Union world, far

1 The Junta did not, however, confine its efforts to action before the Commission. One of the taunts constantly thrown by the press at the Trade Union leaders was that they did not themselves know what they wanted. Partly as a reply to this, but also as a manifesto to consolidate the Unionist forces, in the autumn of 1867 a Bill was prepared by Henry Crompton and laid before the Junta, and after considerable discussion adopted by them and by a delegate meeting of Trades held at the Bell Inn. It was introduced into the House of Commons early in the follow- ing session, and served as basis of the Trade Union demand at some of the elections in 1868, notably that of Sheffield when A. J. Mundella first was candidate.

K 2


266 The Junta and their Allies

from fomenting strikes, was mainly occupied in the work of an insurance company. He was in a position to lay effective stress on the total absence of secrecy or coercion in its proceedings. He disclaimed, on behalf of its mem- bers, all objection to machinery, foreign imports, piecework, overtime, or the free employment of apprentices. The fundamental position upon which he entrenched his Trade Unionism was the maintenance, at all hazards, of the Standard Rate of Wages and the Standard Hours of Labour, to be secured by the accumulation of such a fund as would enable every member of the Union effectually to set a reserve- price on his labour. William Allan, who came up on the third day, followed Applegarth's lead, though with some reservations ; and the evidence of these two officers of what were primarily national friendly societies made a marked impression on the Commission.

The employers were not as well served as the men. It is true that they succeeded, in spite of Applegarth's dis- claimers, in persuading the Commission that some of the most powerful Unions strenuously objected to piecework and sub-contract in any form whatsoever, and in some instances even to machinery. In other cases it was proved that attempts were made to enforce a rigid limitation of apprentices. Owing to the energy of the Central Associa- tion of Master Builders, the restrictive policy of the older Unions in the building trades was brought well to the front ; and this fact accounts, even to-day, for most of the current impression of Trade Unionism among the middle and upper classes. But the employers did not discriminate in their attack. Almost with one accord they objected to the whole principle of Trade Unionism. They reiterated with a curious impenetrability the old argument of the " individual bargain," and protested against any kind of industrial organisation on the part of their employees. All attempts by the men to claim collectively any share in regulating the conditions of labour were denounced as " un- warrantable encroachments on their rights as employers."


The Amalgamated Societies 267

The number of apprentices, like indeed the whole administra- tion of industry, was claimed as of private concern, the settlement of which " exclusively belongs to the employer himself ; a matter in which no other party, much less the operatives, have got anything to do." And they objected even more to the centrally administered national society with extensive reserve funds than to the isolated local clubs whose spasmodic outbursts they could afford to disregard. But the confusion between the small local bodies with their narrow policy of outrage and violence, and the amalga- mated societies with their far-reaching power and accumu- lated wealth, effective as it had been in alarming the public, proved disastrous to the employers when their case was sub- jected to the acute cross-examination of Frederic Harrison. The masters, by directing their attack mainly on the great Amalgamated Societies and the newly-formed local Trades Councils, played, in fact, directly into the hands of the Junta. It was easy for Allan and Applegarth to show that the influence of central Executive Councils and the formation of a public opinion among trade societies tended to restrain the more aggressive action of men embittered by a local quarrel. The combination of friendly benefits with trade objects was destined to be hotly attacked twenty years later by the more ardent spirits in the Trade Union world, as leading to inertia and supineness in respect of wages, hours, and conditions of labour. The evidence adduced in 1867-8, read in the light of later events, reveals that this tendency had already begun ; and it was im- possible for the Commissioners to resist the conclusion that they had, in the Amalgamated Engineers and Carpenters, types of a far less aggressive Trade Unionism than such survivals as the purely trade societies of the brickmakers or the Sheffield industries.

Foiled in this attempt the employers fell back upon an indictment of the Amalgamated Unions considered as friendly societies. The leading actuaries were called to prove that neither the Amalgamated Engineers nor the


268 The Junta and their Allies

Amalgamated Carpenters could possibly meet their accumu- lating liabilities, and that these must, in a few years, in- evitably bring both societies to bankruptcy. The whole of this evidence is a striking instance of the untrustworthiness of. expert witnesses off their own ground. Neither Finlaison nor Tucker, who were called as actuaries on behalf of the employers, ever realised that a Trade Union, unlike a Friendly Society, possesses and constantly exercises an un- limited power to raise funds by special levies, or by in- creased contributions, whenever it may seem good to the majority of the members. But even had the actuarial in- dictment been completely warranted, it was a mistake in tactics on the part of the employers. The Commissioners found themselves shunted into an inquiry, rot into the results of Trade Unionism upon the common weal, but into the arithmetical soundness of the financial arrangements which particular groups of workmen chose to make among themselves.

Meanwhile the primary business of the Commission, the investigation into the Sheffield outrages, had been remitted to special " examiners," whose local inquiry attracted far less attention than the proceedings of the main body. At first the investigation elicited little that was new ; but in June 1867 the country was startled by dramatic confessions on the part of Broadhead and other members of the grinders' trade clubs, unravelling a series of savage crimes instigated by them, and paid for out of Club funds. For a short time it looked as if all the vague accusations hurled at Trade Unionism at large were about to be justified ; but the examiners reported that four-fifths of the societies even of the Sheffield trades were free from outrages, and that these had been most prevalent from 1839 to 1861, and had since declined. The only other place in which the Commissioners thought it necessary to make inquiry into outrages was Manchester, where the Brickmakers' Union had committed many crimes, but where no complicity on the part of other trades was shown. It was made evident to all candid


Lord Brassey 269

students that these criminal acts were not chargeable to Trade Unionism as a whole. They represented, in fact, the survival among such rough and isolated trades as the brickmakers and grinders of the barbarous usages of a time when working men felt themselves outside the law, and oppressed by tyranny. 1

The success with which the case of the Trade Unionists had been presented to the Commission was reflected in a changed attitude on the part of the governing class, a change expressly attributed to the " greater knowledge and wider experience " of Trade Unions which had been gained through the Royal Commission. " True statesmanship," declared the Times, " will seek neither to augment nor to reduce their influence, but, accepting it as a fact, will give it free scope for legitimate development." 2 Thus the official report of the Commission, from which the enemies of Trade Unionism had hoped so much, contained no recom- mendation which would have made the position of any single Union worse than it was before. An inconclusive and somewhat inconsistent document, it argued that trade combination could be of no real economic advantage to the workman, but nevertheless recommended the legalisation of the Unions under certain conditions. Whereas the Act of 1825 na d excepted from the common illegality only combinations in respect of wages or hours of labour, the

1 The Broadhead disclosures created a great stir, and Professor Beesly, who had ventured to point out " that a trades union murder was neither better nor worse than any other murder," was denounced as an apologist for crime, and nearly lost his professorship at University College, London, for his sturdy defence of the principle of Trade Unionism.. See his pamphlet, The Sheffield Outrages and the Meeting at Exeter Hall, 1867, 1 6 pp. ; and that by Richard Congreve, Mr. Broadhead and the Anonymous Press, 1867, 1 6 pp.

8 Times leader, July 8, 1869. The occasion was the epoch-marking speech of Mr. (afterwards Lord) Brassey, in which, speaking as the son of a great contractor, he declared himself on the side of the Trade Unions, and asserted that, by exercising a beneficial influence on the character of the workmen, they tended to lower rather than to raise the cost of labour (Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, July 7, 1869). The speech was after- wards republished, with some additions, under the title of Trade Unions and the Cost of Labour, by T. Brassey, 1870, 64 pp.


270 The Junta and their Allies

Commissioners recommended that no combination should henceforth be liable to prosecution for restraint of trade, except those formed "to do acts which involved breach of contract/' and to refuse to work with any particular person. But the privilege of registration 1 , carrying with it the power to obtain legal protection for the society's funds, was to be conferred only on Unions whose rules were free from certain restrictive clauses, such as the limitation of apprentices or of the use of machinery, and the prohibition of piecework and sub-contract. The employers' influence on the Com- mission was further shown in a special refusal of the privilege of registration to societies whose rules authorised the support of the disputes of other trades.

So far the result of the Commission was purely negative. No hostile legislation was even suggested. On the other hand, it was obvious that no Trade Union would accept " legalisation " on the proposed conditions. But Harrison and Hughes had not restricted themselves to casting out all dangerous proposals from the majority report. Their minority report, which was signed also by the Earl of Lichfield, exposed in terse paragraphs the futility of the suggestions made by the majority, and laid down in general terms the principles upon which all future legislation should proceed. It advocated the removal of all special legislation relating to labour contracts, on the principle, first, that no act should be illegal if committed by a workman unless it was equally illegal if committed by any other person ; and secondly, that no act by a combination of men should be regarded as criminal if it would not have been criminal in a single person. To this was appended a detailed state- ment, drafted by Frederic Harrison, in which the character and objects of Trade Unionism, as revealed in the voluminous evidence taken by the Commission, were explained and de- fended with consummate skill. What was perhaps of even greater service to the Trade Union world was a precise and detailed exposition of the various amendments required to bring the law into accordance with the general principles


The Dangers of the Law 271

referred to. We have here a striking instance of the advan- tage to a Labour Movement of expert professional advice. The Junta had been demanding the complete legalisation of their Unions in the same manner as ordinary Friendly Societies. They had failed to realise that such a legalisation would have exposed the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to be sued by one of its members who might be excluded for " blacklegging," or otherwise working contrary to the interests of the trade. The whole efficacy, from a Trade Union point of view, of the amalgamation of trade and friendly benefits would have been destroyed. The bare legalisation would have brought the Trades Unions under the general law, and subjected them to constant and harassing interference by Courts of Justice. They had grown up in despite of the law and the lawyers ; which as regards the spirit of the one and the prejudices of the other were, and still are, alien and hostile to the purposes and collective action of the Trades Societies. The danger of any member having power to take legal proceedings, to worry them by litigation and cripple them by legal expenses, or to bring a society within the scope of the insolvency and bankruptcy law, became very apparent. The Junta easily realised, when their advisers explained the position, that mere legalisation would place the most formidable weapon in the hands of unscrupulous employers. To avoid this difficulty Harrison proposed the ingenious plan of bringing the Trade Union under the Friendly Societies Acts, so far as regards the protection of its funds against theft or fraud, whilst re- taining to the full the exceptional legal privilege of being incapable of being sued or otherwise proceeded against as a corporate entity. Had a Trade Union official been selected as the sole representative of the Unions on the Commission, such detailed and ingenious amendments of the law would not have been devised and made part of an authoritative official report. The complete charter of Trade Union liberty, which Harrison and his friends had elaborated, became for seven years the political programme of the Trade Unionists.


272 The Junta and their Allies

And it is a part of the curious irony of English party politics that whilst the formation of this programme, and the agitation by which it was pressed on successive Parliaments, were both of them exclusively the work of a group of Radicals it was, as we shall see, a Conservative Cabinet which eventu- ally passed it into law. 1

The effective though informal leadership of the move- ment which the Junta had assumed during the sittings of the Royal Commission had not gone entirely unquestioned. Those who are interested in the cross-currents of personal intrigues and jealousies which detract from the force of popular movements can read in the pages of the Beehive full accounts of the machinations of George Potter. The Beehive summoned a Trade Union Conference at St. Martin's Hall in March 1867, which was attended by over one hundred delegates from provincial societies, Trades Councils, and the minor London clubs. 2 The Junta, perhaps rather unwisely, refused to have anything to do with a meeting held under Potter's auspices. But many of their provincial allies came up without any suspicion of the sectional char- acter of the conference, and found themselves in the anomalous position of countenancing what was really an attempt to seduce the London Trades from their allegiance

1 The Sheffield Outrages and the Royal Commission produced a large crop of literature, most of which is of little value. The Commission itself presented no fewer than eleven reports, with voluminous evidence and appendices. The Examiners appointed to investigate the outrages at Sheffield and Manchester presented separate reports, which were laid before Parliament. The mass of detailed information about strikes and other proceedings of Trade Societies contained in these reports has been the main source of all subsequent writings on the subject. The Trade Unions of England, by the Comte de Paris, 1869, 246 pp., and The Trade Unions, by Robert Somers (Edinburgh, 1876, 232 pp.), are, for instance, little better than summaries, the former friendly, the latter unfriendly, of the evidence before the Commission. The chapters relating to Trade Unionism in W. T. Thornton's work On Labour, 1870, which made so permanent an impression on the economic world, are entirely based upon the same testimony. Among other publications may be mentioned Trades Unions Defended, by W. R. Callender (Manchester, 1870, 16 pp.) ; and Measures for Putting an End to the Abuses of Trades Unions, by Frederic Hill, 1868, 1 6 pp.

8 Report of the Trades Conference, 1867, 32 pp.


Divided Counsels 273

to the Junta and the London Trades Council. The Confer- ence sat for four days, and made, owing to Potter's energy, no little stir. A committee was appointed to conduct the Trade Union case before the Commission, and Conolly, the President of the Operative Stonemasons, was deputed to attend the sittings. But although special prominence was given by the Beehive to all the proceedings of this committee, we have failed to discover with what it actually concerned itself. An indiscreet speech by Conolly quickly led to his exclusion from the sittings of the Commission ; and the management of the Trade Union case remained in the hands of Applegarth and the Junta.

Apart, however, from jealousy and personal intrigue, there was some genuine opposition to the policy of the Junta. The great mass of Trade Unionists were not yet converted to the necessity of obtaining for their societies a recognised legal status. There were even many experienced officials, especially in the provincial organisations of the older type, who deprecated the action that was being taken by the London leaders, on the express ground that they objected to legalisation. " The less working men have to do with the law in any shape the better," was the constant note of the old Unionists. This view found abundant expression at the Congresses convened in 1868 by the Manchester Trades Council, and in 1869 by that of Birmingham. But in spite of the absence of the Junta from the Manchester Congress, their friend, John Kane, of the North of England Ironworkers' Association, succeeded in inducing the dele- gates to pass a resolution expressing full confidence in the policy and action of the Conference of Amalgamated Trades. 1 And at the Congress of 1869, Odger and Howell, as repre- sentatives of the Junta, managed to get adopted a series of resolutions embodying Frederic Harrison's proposals. 2 ^

Meanwhile a change had come over the political situa- tion. At the outset of the crisis Frederic Harrison had urged upon the Trade Union world the necessity of turning

1 Beehive, June 13, 1868. 8 Ibid., August 28, 1869.


274 The Junta and their Allies

^to the polling booth for redress. " Nothing," he writes in January, 1867, " will force the governing classes to re- cognise [the workmen's] claims and judge them fairly, until they find them wresting into their own hands real political power. Unionists who, till now, have been content with their Unions, and have shrunk from political action, may see the pass to which this abstinence from political move- ments has brought them." x Within a few months of this advice the Reform Bill of 1867 had enfranchised the work- ing man in the boroughs. The Trade Union leaders were not slow to use the advantage thus given to them. The Junta, under the convenient cloak of the Conference of Amalga- mated Trades, issued, in July, 1868, a circular urging upon Trade Unionists the importance of registering their names as electors, and of pressing on every candidate the question in which they were primarily interested. The Trades Councils throughout the country followed suit ; and we find the Junta's electoral tactics adopted even by societies which were traditionally opposed to all political action. The Central Committee of the Stonemasons, for instance, strongly urged their members to vote at the ensuing election only for candidates who would support Trade Union demands. 2

By the beginning of 1869 Frederic Harrison had drafted a comprehensive Bill, embodying all the legislative pro- posals of his minority report. This was introduced by Mundella and Hughes, and although its provisions were received with denunciations by the employers, 3 it gained some support among the newly elected members, and was strongly backed up outside the House. The Liberal Govern- ment of that day, and nearly all the members of the House of Commons, were still covertly hostile to the very principles

1 Beehive, January 26, 1867.

z Fortnightly Circular, June 1868.

3 See, for instance, Some opinions on Trade Unions and the Bill of 1869, by Edmund Potter, M.P., 1869, 45 pp.; also the Observations upon the Law of Combinations and Trades Unions, and upon the Trades Unions Bill, by a Barrister, 1869, 64 pp.


Provisional Protection 275

of Trade Unionism, and every attempt was made to burke the measure. 1 But the Junta were determined to make felt their new political power. From every part of the country pressure Was put upon members of Parliament. A great demonstration of workmen was held at Exeter Hall, at which Mundella and Hughes declared their intention of forcing the House and the Ministry to vote upon the hated measure. Finding evasion no longer possible, the Govern- ment abandoned its attitude of hostility and agreed to a formal second reading, upon the understanding that the Cabinet would next year bring in a Bill of its own. A provisional measure giving temporary protection to Trade Union funds was accordingly hurried through Parliament at the end of the session ' pending the introduction of a complete Bill. 2 The Junta had gained the first victory of their political campaign.

1 In his Letters to the Working Classes, 1870, Professor Beesly gives a graphic account of the shuffling of the Government, and advises political action. The annual report of the General Union of House Painters (the "Manchester Alliance") for 1871 shows how eagerly the advice was received : " Away with the cry of no politics in our Unions ; this foolish neutrality has left us without power or influence." See also, for the whole episode, Robert Applegarth, by A. W. Humphrey, 1912, pp. 138-170 ; Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, by G. Howell, 1902, pp. 156-172.

  • 32 and 33 Vic. c. 61 (1869). This provisional measure was bitterly

opposed in the House of Lords by Earl Cairns, who argued that its uni- versal protection of the funds of all Unions alike, without requiring the abandonment of their objectionable rules, was in direct opposition to the majority report of the Royal Commission. No such surrender to the Trade Unions was, in his opinion, necessary, as their funds had, in the previous year, been incidentally protected by an " Act to amend the law relating to larceny and embezzlement" (31 and 32 Vic. c. 116), passed at the instance of Russell Gurney, the Recorder of London. This act had no reference to Trade Unions as such, but it enabled members of a co-partnership to be convicted for stealing or embezzling the funds of their co-partnership. Its possible application to defaulting Trade Union officials was perceived by Messrs. Shaen, Roscoe & Co., who have for three generations acted as solicitors of the leading Unions. At their instance a case was submitted to the Attorney-General of the time (Sir John Karslake), who advised that a Trade Union could now prosecute in its character of a partnership. Criminal proceedings were accordingly taken by the Operative Bricklayers' Society against a defaulting officer who had set the Executive at defiance, with the result that the prisoner was, in December 1868, sentenced to six months' hard labour. This successful


276 The Junta and their Allies

The next session found the Government reluctant to fulfil its promise in the matter. But the Trade Unionists were not disposed to let the question sleep, and after much pressure Henry Bruce (afterwards Lord Aberdare), who was then Home Secretary, produced, in 1871, a Bill which was eagerly scanned by the Trade Union world. The Govern- ment proposed to concede all the points on which it had been specially pressed by the Junta. No Trade Union, however wide its objects, was henceforth to be illegal merely because it was " in restraint of trade." Every Union was to be entitled to be registered, if its rules were not expressly in contravention of the criminal law. And, finally, the registration which gave the Unions complete protection for their funds was so devised as to leave untouched their internal organisation and arrangements, and to prevent their being sued or proceeded against in a court of law.

The employers vehemently attacked the Government for conceding, as they said, practically all the Trade Union demands. 1 But from the men's point of view this " complete charter legalising Unions " had a serious drawback. The Bill, as was complained, " while repealing the Combination Laws, substituted another penal law against workmen " as such. A lengthy clause provided that any violent threat or molestation for the purpose of coercing either employers or employed should be severely punished. All the terms of the old Combination Laws, " molest," " ob- struct," " threaten," " intimidate," and so forth, were used


prosecution was widely advertised throughout the Trade Union world, and was frequently quoted as showing that no further legislation was needed. But, as was forcibly pointed out by Frederic Harrison and other advisers of the Junta, Russell Gurney's Act, though it enabled Trade Unions to put defaulting officials in prison, gave them no power to recover the sums due, or to take any civil proceedings whatever, and did not remove the illegality of any combinations of workmen " in restraint of trade." See Harrison's article, " The Trades Union Bill," in Fortnightly Review, July i, 1869, and the leaflet published by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, on Russell Gurney's Act, December, 1868.

1 See, for instance, the report of the Leeds meeting of the Master Builders' Association to object to the Bill, Beehive, March n, 1871.


Picketing 277

without any definition or limitation, and picketing, more- over, was expressly included in molestation or obstruction by a comprehensive prohibition of " persistently following " any person, or "watching or besetting " the premises in which he was, or the approach to such premises.- The Act of 1859, which had expressly legalised peaceful persuasion to join legal combinations, was repealed. 1 It seemed only too probable that the Government measure would make it a criminal offence for two Trade Unionists to stand quietly in the street opposite the works of an employer against whom they had struck, in order to communicate peacefully the fact of the strike to any workmen who might be ignorant of it.

It does not appear that Bruce's fiercely resented " Third

1 A short Act had been passed in 1859 (22 Vic. c. 34) which excluded from the definition of " molestation " or " obstruction " the mere agree- ment to obtain an alteration of wages or hours, and also the peaceful persuasion of others without threat or intimidation to cease or abstain from work in order to obtain the wages or hours aimed at. The Act was passed without discussion or comment, probably with reference to some recent judicial decisions, but its actual origin is not clear. The Stonemasons' Society refused to have anything to do with it, and re- ferred sneeringly to its promoters as busybodies. Alexander Macdonald alluded to it in his speech on the Employers and Workmen Bill on June 28, 1875 (Hansard, vol. 225, pp. 66-7), as having been enacted at the instance of himself and others in order to permit men to persuade others to join combinations, and that it had had a most beneficial effect. An obscure pamphlet, entitled Letters to the Trades Unionists and the Working Classes, by Charles Sturgeon, 1868, 8 pp., gives the only account of its origin that we have seen. " Some of the judges had decided that the liberty to combine was only during the period he was not in the employ of any master (i.e. while on tramp). So obvious a misreading, under which the working men were getting imprisoned, while their masters combined at their pleasure, created numerous petitions for relief, which lay as usual on the table ; however, the Executive of the National Association of United Trades assembled in my rooms in Abingdon Street, and we drew a little Bill of nine lines in length to explain to the judges how they had failed to explain the views of the legislator. ... I introduced our friends to the late Henry Drummond, Thomas Buncombe, and Joseph Hume, two Radicals and an honest Tory, and, strange to say, they worked well together when in pursuit of justice. After fighting hard against the great Liberal Party for four or five years, we passed our little Bill (22 Vic. c. 34), to the great joy of the working classes and chagrin of the Manchester Radicals." But the decision of the R. v. Druitt and R. v. Bailey in 1867 showed that it did not serve to protect pickets from prosecution.


278 The Junta and their Allies

Clause " was intended to effect any alteration in the law. Its comprehensive prohibition of violence, threats, intimida- tion, molestation, and obstruction did no more than sum. up and codify the various judicial decisions of past years under which the Trade Unionists had suffered. But the law had hitherto been obscure and conflicting ; both the statutes and the judicial decisions had proceeded largely from a presumption against the very existence of Trade Unionism which was now passing away ; and the workmen and their advisers not unreasonably feared the consequences of an explicit re-enactment of provisions which practically made criminal all the usual methods of trade combination. A recent decision had brought the danger home to the minds of the Trade Union leaders and their legal friends. In July 1867 a great strike had broken out among the London tailors, in which the masters' shops had been carefully " picketed." * Druitt, Shorrocks, and other officers of the

1 Henry Crompton gives the following account of the practice of picketing : " Picketing is generally much misunderstood. It occurs in a strike when war has begun. The struggle, of course, consists in the employer trying to get fresh men, and the men on strike trying to prevent this. They naturally do their best to induce all others to join them. Very often the country is scoured by the employers, and men brought long distances who never would have come if they had known there was a strike. Men do not wish to undersell their fellows. A man is posted as a picket, to give information of the grievances complained of, and to urge the fresh comers not to defeat the strike that is going on.

" Not only is this justifiable, but it is far better that this should be legal and practised in full publicity than that it should be illegal and done secretly, for, if done secretly, then bad practices are sure to arise. No doubt it is done with a view to coerce the employers, just as the lock-out is with a view to coerce the employed.

" Picketing has other uses and effects. It enables those on strike to know whether the employers are getting men, and what probability there is of the strike being successful, to check any fraudulent claims for strike pay. Besides this, the publicity which the system of picketing gives does, doubtless, exercise a considerable influence upon men's conduct. Those on strike naturally regard any one acting contrary to the general interests of the trade with disfavour, just as an unpatriotic man is con- demned by those imbued with a higher sense of national duty. Picketing is justified on these grounds by the workmen, but all physical molesta- tion or intimidation is condemned. The workmen have never urged thai such proceedings should not be repressed by penal law." (See The Labout Law Commission, by Henry Crompton, adopted and published by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress.)


The Criminal Law 279

Union were thereupon indicted, not for personal violence or actual molestation, but for the vague crime of conspiracy. The Judge (Baron, afterwards Lord, Bramwell) held that pickets, if acting in combination, were guilty of " molesta- tion " if they gave "annoyance only by black looks, or even by their presence in large numbers, without any acts or gestures of violence, and that if two or more persons com- bined to do anything unpleasant and annoying to another person they were guilty of a common law offence. The Tailors' officers and committeemen were found guilty merely of organising peaceful picketing, and it became evident that, if the elastic law of conspiracy could thus be brought to bear on Trade Union disputes, practically every incident of strike management might become a crime. 1 Nor did Druitt's case stand alone. Within the memory of the Junta mien had been sent to prison for the simple act of striking, or even for a simple agreement to strike. 2 Indeed, merely giving notice of a projected strike, even in the most court- eous and peaceful manner, had frequently been held to be an act of intimidation punishable as a crime. 3 In 1851 the posting up of placards announcing a strike was held to be intimidation of the employers. 4 The Government Bill, far from accepting Frederic Harrison's proposed repeal of all criminal legislation specially applying to workmen, left these judicial decisions untouched, and, by re-enacting them in

1 Baron Bramwell's view of the law excited much animadversion even among lawyers. See Stephen's History of the Criminal Law, vol. iii. pp. 221-2. R. v. Druitt is reported in 10 Cox, 600.

2 R. v. Hewitt, 5 Cox, 162 (1851). Compare also the observations of Mr. Justice Hannam as to the mere act of striking being in itself sometimes criminal, in Farrer v. Close, 4 L.R.Q.B. 612 (1869).

3 R. v. Hewitt, 5 Cox, C.C. 163 (1851).

4 See Walsby v. Anley, 30 L.J.M.C. 121 (1861) ; Skinner v. Kitch, 10 Cox, 493 (1867) ; O'Neil v. Kruger, 4 Best and Smith, 389 (1863) ; Wood v. Bowron, 2 Law Report, Q.B. 21 (1866) ; R. v. Rowlands, 5 Cox, C.C. 493 (1851).

Compare on the whole subject the Appendix to our Industrial Democracy, 1897; The Law of Criminal Conspiracies and Agreements, by R. S. (afterwards Mr. Justice) Wright (1873); Sir William Erie's Law Relating to Trade Unions (1873) ; and Stephen's History of the Criminal Law, vol. iii. chap. xxx.


280 The Junta and their Allies

a codified form, proposed even to make their operation more uniform and effectual.

There was, accordingly, some ground for the assertion of the Trade Unionists that the Government was with- drawing with one hand what it was giving with the other. It seemed of little use to declare the existence of trade societies to be legal if the criminal law was so stretched as to include the ordinary peaceful methods by which these societies attained their ends. Above all, the Trade Union- ists angrily resented the idea that any act should be made criminal if done by them, or in furtherance of their Unions, that was not equally a crime if committed by any other person, or in pursuance of the objects of any other kind of association.

A storm of indignation arose in the Trade Union world. The Junta sat in anxious consultation with their legal advisers, who all counselled the utmost resistance to this most dangerous re-enactment of the . law. A delegate meeting of the London trades was summoned to protest against the criminal clauses of Bruce's Bill. But it was necessary to attack the House of Commons from a wider area than the Metropolis. With this view the Junta deter- mined to follow the example set by the Manchester and Birmingham Trades Councils in 1868 and 1869 by calling together a national Trade Union Congress. 1

1 Whilst the constant meetings of the Junta, the informal cabinet of the movement, grew out of the great Amalgamated Societies, the Trades Union Congress, or " Parliament of Labour," took its rise in the Trades Councils. We have already described the special Conference held in London in 1864, on the Master and Servant Law, which was convened by the Glasgow Trades Council, and its successor, summoned by the Sheffield Trades Council in 1867 to concert measures of defence against lock-outs. But the credit of initiating the idea of an Annual Conference to deal with all subjects of interest to the Trade Union world belongs to the Manchester and Salford Trades Council, who issued in April 1868 a circular (for- tunately preserved in the Ironworkers' Journal for May 1868, and printed at the end of this volume) convening a Congress to be held in Manchester during Whit- week, 1868. This Congress was attended by thirty-four delegates, who claimed to represent about 118,000 Trade Unionists. The place of meeting of the next Congress was fixed at Birmingham, and the delegates were in due course convened by the Birmingham Trades Council.


The Trades Union Congress 281

The meeting of the Congress was fixed for March 1871, by which time it was rightly calculated that the obnoxious Bill would be actually under discussion in the House of Commons. The delegates spent most of their time in denouncing the criminal clauses of the Bill, and came very near to opposing the whole measure. But it was ultimately agreed to accept the legalising part of the Bill, whilst using every effort to throw out the Third Section. A deputation was sent to the Home Secretary. Protest after protest was despatched to the legislators, and the Congress adjourned at half -past four each day, in order, as it was expressly declared, that delegates might " devote the evening to waiting upon Members of Parliament." But neither the Government nor the House of Commons was disposed to show any favour to Trade Union action in restraint of that " free competition " and individual bargaining which had so long been the creed of the employers. The utmost concession that could be obtained was that the

This second Congress, which met in August 1869, included forty-eight delegates from forty separate societies, having, it was said, 250,000 mem- bers. But although these general congresses were attended by some of the most prominent of the provincial Trade Unionists, they were rather frowned on by the London Junta. The thirty-four delegates at the Man- chester Congress included indeed hardly any Metropolitan delegates other than George Potter. Half a dozen representatives from London societies went to the Birmingham Congress, including Odger and George Howell, but when a Parliamentary Committee was appointed Odger refused to serve upon it, regarding it apparently as an unnecessary rival of the Conference of Amalgamated Trades. The next Congress was appointed for London in 1870, but the London leaders took no steps to convene it, until it became necessary, as we have seen, to call up all forces to oppose the projected legislation of 1871. The London Congress of March 1871 was, in fact, the first in which the real leaders of the movement took part, and the Parliamentary Committee which it appointed, acting at first in conjunction with Applegarth's Conference, naturally took the place of this on its dissolution. The 1872 Congress at Nottingham was attended by seventy-seven delegates, representing 375,000 members. Reports of the earliest four congresses must be sought in the Beehive and (as regards those of Manchester, Birmingham, and Nottingham) in the contemporary local newspapers. From 1873 onward the Congress has issued an authorised report of its proceedings. A useful chronological record has now been published by W. J. Davis, entitled A History of the British Trades Union Congress, vol. i. 1910; vol. ii. 1916.


282 The Junta and their Allies

Bill should be divided into two, so that the law legalising the existence of trade societies might stand by itself, whilst the criminal clauses restraining their action were embodied in a separate " Criminal Law Amendment Bill." This illu- sory concession sufficed to detach from the opposition many of those who had at the General Election professed friend- ship to the Unions. In the main debate Thomas Hughes and A. J. Mundella stood almost alone in pressing the Trade Unionists' full demands ; and though a few other members were inclined to help to some extent, the second reading was agreed to without a division. The other stages were rapidly run through without serious opposition. In the House of Lords the provisions against picketing were made even more stringent, " watching and besetting " by a single individual being made as criminal as " watching and besetting " by a multitude. In this unsatisfactory shape the two Bills passed into law. 1 Trade Societies became, for the first time, legally recognised and fully protected associations; whilst, on the other hand, the legislative prohibition of Trade Union action was expressly reaffirmed, and even increased in stringency.

In the eyes of the Trade Unions this result amounted to a defeat ; and the conduct of the Government caused the bitterest resentment. 2 The Secretaries of the Amal- gamated Societies, especially Allan and Applegarth, had, indeed, attained the object which they personally had most at heart. The great organisations for mutual succour, which had been built up by their patient sagacity, were now, for the first time, assured of complete legal protection. A number of the larger societies promptly availed them- selves of the Trade Union Act, by registering their rules in accordance with its provisions ; 3 and in September

1 34 and 35 Vic. c. 31 (Trade Union Act), and 34 and 35 Vic. c. 32 (Criminal Law Amendment Act).

2 See, for instance, the article by Henry Crompton in the B&e'fiiue, September 2, 1871.

8 The Operative Bricklayers' Society (London), of which Coulson was general secretary, stands No. i on the Register.


The Criminal Law Amendment Act 283

1871 the Conference of Amalgamated Trades " having," as its final minutes declared, " discharged the duties for which it was organised," formally dissolved itself.

The wider issue which remained to be fought required a more representative organisation. In struggling for legal recognition the Junta had, as we have seen, represented the more enlightened of the Trade Unionists rather than the whole movement. But, by the Criminal Law Amend- ment Act, the Government had deliberately struck a blow against the methods of all trade societies at all periods. The growing strength of the organisations of the coal- miners and cotton-spinners, and the rapid expansion of Trade Unionism which marked this period of commercial prosperity, had for some time been tending towards the development of the informal meetings of the Junta into a more representative executive. The dissolution of the Conference of Amalgamated Trades left the field open ; and the leadership of the Trade Union Movement was assumed by the Parliamentary Committee which had been appointed at the Trades Union Congress in the previous March, and which included all the principal leaders of the chief metropolitan and provincial societies of the time.

The agitation which was immediately begun to secure the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act became during the next four years the most significant feature of the Trade Union world. Throughout all the various struggles of these years the Trade Union leaders kept steadily in view the definite aim of getting rid of a law which they regarded, not only as hampering their efforts for better conditions of employment, but also as an indignity and an insult to the hundreds of thousands of intelligent artisans whom they represented. The whole history of this agitation proves how completely the governing classes were out of touch with the recently enfranchised artisans. The legis- lation of 1871 was regarded by the Government and the House of Commons as the full and final solution, of a long-standing problem. " The judges, however, declared,"


284 The Junta and their Allies

as Henry Crompton points out, " that the only effect of the legislation of 1871 was to make the trade object of the strike not illegal. A strike was perfectly legal ; but if the means employed were calculated to coerce the employer they were illegal means, and a combination to do a legal act by illegal means was a criminal conspiracy. In other words, a strike i was lawful, but anything done in pursuance of a strike was J 1 criminal. Thus the judges tore up the remedial statute,' and each fresh decision went further and developed new dangers." 1 But Gladstone's Cabinet steadfastly refused, right down to its fall in 1874, even to consider the possibility of altering the Criminal Law Amendment Act. It was in vain that deputation after deputation pointed out that men were being sent to prison under this law for such acts as peacefully accosting a workman in the street. In 1871 seven women were imprisoned in South Wales merely for saying " Bah " to one blackleg. Innumerable convic- tions took place for the use of bad language. Almost any action taken by Trade Unionists to induce a man not to accept employment at a struck shop resulted, under the new Act, in imprisonment with hard labour. The intoler- able injustice of this state of things was made more glaring by the freedom allowed to the employers to make all possible .use of " black-lists " and " character notes," by which obnoxious men were prevented from getting work. No prosecution ever took place for this form of molestation or obstruction. No employer was ever placed in the dock under the law which professedly applied to both parties. In short, boycotting by the employers was freely permitted ; boycotting by the men was put down by the police.

The irritation caused by these petty prosecutions was, in December 1872, deepened into anger by the sentence * of twelve months' imprisonment passed upon the London gas-stokers. These men were found guilty of "conspiracy"

1 Digest of the Labour Laws, signed by F. Harrison and H. Crompton, and issued by the Trades Union Congress Parliamentary Committees, September 1875.


Trade Union Agitation 285

to coerce or molest their employers by merely preparing for a simultaneous withdrawal of their labour. The vin- dictive sentence inflicted by Lord Justice Brett was justified by the governing classes on the ground of the danger to the community which a strike of gas-stokers might involve; and the Home Secretary refused to listen to any appeal on behalf of the men. 1 The Trade Union leaders did not fail to perceive that no legal distinction could, under the law as it then stood, be drawn between a gas-stoker and any other workmen. If preparing for a strike was punishable, under " the elastic and inexplicable law of conspiracy," by twelve months' imprisonment, it was obvious that the whole fabric of Trade Unionism might be overthrown by any band of employers who chose to put the law in force. The London Trades Council accordingly summoned a dele- gate meeting "to consider the critical legal position of all trade societies and their officers consequent upon the recent conviction of the London gas -stokers." Representation after representation was made to the Government and to members of Parliament ; and the movement for the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1871 was widened into a determined attempt to get rid of all penal legislation bearing on trade disputes. 2

Rarely has political agitation been begun in such appar- ently unpromising circumstances, and carried so rapidly to a triumphant issue. The Liberal administration of these years, like the majority of both parties in the House of. Commons, was entirely dominated by the antagon- ism felt by the manufacturers to any effective collective bargaining on the part of the men. The representations of the Parliamentary Committee found no sympathy either with Henry Bruce or with Robert Lowe, who succeeded him as Home Secretary. Gladstone, as Prime Minister,

1 They were, however, eventually released after a few months' im- prisonment ; see Henry Broadhurst, the Story of His Life, by himself, 1901, PP- 59-64 ; Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, by G. Howell, 1902, pp. 237-53.

2 See letter to Beehive, January II, 1873.


286 The Junta and their Allies

refused in 1872 to admit that there was any necessity for further legislation, and utterly declined to take the matter up ; * and during that session the Parliamentary Committee were unable to find any member willing to introduce a Bill for the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act.

The Trade Union leaders, however, did not relax their efforts. Allan, Guile, Odger, and Howell were strongly reinforced by the representatives of the miners, cotton- spinners, and ironworkers. Alexander Macdonald and John Kane, themselves men of remarkable ability, had behind them thousands of sturdy politicians in all the industrial centres. The agitation was fanned by the publication of details of the prosecutions under the new Act. Effective Tracts for Trade Unionists were written by Henry Crompton and Frederic Harrison* Congresses at Nottingham in 1872, at Leeds in 1873, at Sheffield in 1874 kept up the fire, and passed judgment on those members of Parliament who treated the Parliamentary Committee with contumely. As the time of the General Election drew near, the pressure on the two great political parties was increased. Lists of questions to candidates were prepared embodying the legislative claims of labour ; and it was made clear that no candidate would receive Trade Union support unless his answers were satisfactory.

It will be a question for the historian of English politics whether the unexpected rout of the Liberal party at the election of 1874 was not due more to the active hostility of the Trade Unionists than to the sullen abstention of the Nonconformists. The time happened to be a high-water mark of Trade Unionism. In these years of good trade every society had been rapidly increasing its membership. The miners, the agricultural labourers, and the textile operatives in particular had swarmed into organisation in a manner which recalls the rush of 1834. The Trades Union Congress at Sheffield, held just before the General Election of 1874, claimed to represent over 1,100,000

1 Hansard, vol. 212, p. 1132, July 15, 1872.


Political Action 287

organised workmen, including a quarter of a million of coal- miners, as many cotton operatives, and a hundred thousand agricultural labourers. The proceedings of this Congress reveal the feeling of bitter anger which had been created by the obtuseness to the claims of labour of the Liberal leaders of that day. Not content with turning a deaf ear to all the representatives of the workmen, they had, with blundering ignorance, retained as Secretary of the Liberal Association of the City of London the Sidney Smith who had, since 1851, been the principal officer of the various associations of employers in the engineering and iron trades. 1 As such he had proved himself a bitter and implacable enemy of Trade Unionism. We may imagine what would be the result to-day if either political party were to face a General Election with Mr. Laws, the organiser of the Shipping Federation, as its chief of the staff. And whilst the Liberal party was treating the new electorate with contumely, the Conservative candidates were listening blandly to the workmen's claims, and pledging themselves to repeal the obnoxious law.

Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the old idea of Trade Union abstention from politics gave way to a determined attempt at organised political action. Nor were the Trade Unionists content with merely pressing the organised political parties in the House of Commons. The running of independent Labour candidates against both parties alike was a most significant symptom of the new feeling in Labour politics. The Labour Representation League, composed mainly of prominent Trade Unionists, had for some years been endeavouring to secure the election of working men to the House of Commons ; and the independent candidatures of George Odger during 1869 and 1870 had provoked considerable feeling. 2 At a bye-election

1 This formed the subject of bitter comment in the Beehive, January 1874, just before the General Election.

8 The following letter, addressed to Odger by John Stuart Mill, will be of interest in connection with the perennial question of the expediency of


288 The Junta and their Allies

at Greenwich in 1873, a third candidate was run with working-class support against both the great parties, with the result that Boord, the Conservative, gained the seat. In what spirit this was regarded by the organised workmen and their trusted advisers may be judged from the following leading article which Professor E. S. Beesly wrote for the Beehive, then at the height of its influence : " The result of the Greenwich election is highly satisfactory. . . . The workman has at length come to the conclusion that the difference between Liberal and Tory is pretty much that between upper and nether millstone. The quality of the two is essentially the same. They are sections of the wealth- possessing class, and on all Parliamentary questions affecting the interests of labour they play into one another's hands so systematically and imperturbably that one would suppose they thought workmen never read a newspaper or hear a speech. . . . The last hours of the Session were marked by the failure of two Bills about which workmen cared infinitely more than about all the measures put together for which Mr. Gladstone takes credit since his accession to office I mean Mr. Harcourt's Conspiracy Bill and Mr. Mundella's Nine Hours Bill. As for Mr. Mundella's Bill for repealing the Criminal Law Amendment Act, it has never


"independent" candidatures. It will be found in the Beehive for Feb- ruary 13, 1875 :

"AVIGNON, February 19, 1871.

" DEAR MR. ODGER, Although you have not been successful, I con- gratulate you on the result of the polling in South wark, as it proves that you have the majority of the Liberal party with you, and that you have called out an increased amount of political feeling in the borough. It is plain that the Whigs intend to monopolise political power as long as they can without coalescing in any degree with the Radicals. The working men are quite right in allowing Tories to get into the House to defeat this exclusive feeling of the Whigs, and may do it without sacrificing any prin- ciple. The working men's policy is to insist upon their own representation, and in default of success to permit Tories to be sent into the House until the Whig majority is seriously threatened, when, of course, the Whigs will be happy to compromise, and allow a few working men representatives in the House. JOHN STUART MILL."




" Splitting the Vote " 289


had a chance. For the failure of all these Bills the Ministry must be held responsible. . . .

"This being the case, it is simply silly for Liberal newspapers to mourn over the Greenwich Election as an unfortunate mistake. . . . There was no mistake at all at Greenwich. There was a ' third party ' in the field knowing perfectly well what it wanted, and regarding Mr. Boord and Mr. Angerstein with impartial hostility. I trust that such a third party will appear in every large town in England at the next General Election, even though the result should be a Parliament of six hundred and fifty Boords. Every- thing must have a beginning, and workmen have waited so long for justice that seven years of Tory government will seem a trifling addition to the sum total of their endurance if it is a necessary preliminary to an enforcement of their claims." *

The movement for direct electoral action remained without official support from Trade Unions as such until at the 1874 Congress Broadhurst was able to report that the miners, ironworkers, and some other societies had actually voted money for Parliamentary candidatures. At the General Election which ensued no fewer than thirteen " Labour candidates " went to the poll. In most cases both Liberal and Conservative candidates were run against them, with the result that the Conservatives gained the seats. 2 But at Stafford and Morpeth the official Liberals accepted what they were powerless to prevent ; and Alexander Macdonald and Thomas Burt, the two leading

1 Beehive, August 9, 1873 ; see also that of August 30.

2 Halliday, the Secretary of the Amalgamated Association of Miners offered himself as Labour candidate for Merthyr Tydvil. A fortnight before the polling day he was indicted at Burnley for conspiracy in connec- tion with a local miners' strike, but nevertheless went to the poll, receiving the large total of 4912 votes (Beehive, January 31, 1874). Among the other " third candidates " were Broadhurst (Wycombe), Howell (Ayles- bury), Cremer (Warwick), Lucraft (Finsbury), Potter (Peterborough), Bradlaugh (Northampton), Kane (Middlesborough), Odger (South wark), Mottershead (Preston), and Walton (Stoke). See History of Labour Repre- sentation, by A. W. Humphrey, 1912,

I,


290 The Junta and their Allies

officials of the National Union of Miners, became the first " Labour members " of the House of Commons.

It is significant of the electioneering attitude of the Conservative leaders that, with the advent of the new Conservative Government, the Trade Unionists appear to have assumed that the Criminal Law Amendment Act would be instantly repealed. Great was the disappointment when it was announced that a Royal Commission was to be appointed to inquire into the operation of the whole of the so-called " Labour Laws/' This was regarded as nothing more than a device for shelving the question, and the Trade Union leaders refused either to become members of the Commission or to give evidence before it. Thomas Burt absolutely re- fused a seat on the Commission. It needed the most specific assurances by the Home Secretary that the Government really intended the earliest possible legislation to induce any working man to have anything to do with the Com- mission. Ultimately Alexander Macdonald, M.P., allowed himself to be persuaded to serve, together with Tom Hughes ; and George Shipton, the Secretary of the London Trades Council, Andrew Boa, the Secretary of the Glasgow Trades Council, and a prominent Birmingham Trade Unionist gave evidence. The investigation of the Commission was perfunctory, and the report inconclusive. But the Govern- ment were too fully alive to the new-found political power of the Unions to attempt to play with the question. At the beginning of 1875 the imprisonment of five cabinet- makers employed at Messrs. Jackson & Graham, a well- known London firm, roused considerable public feeling, and led to many questions in Parliament. 1 In June the Home Secretary, in an appreciative and conciliatory speech, introduced two Bills for altering respectively the civil and criminal law. As amended in Committee by the efforts of Mundella and others, these measures resulted in Acts which completely satisfied the Trade Union demands. The

1 See House of Commons Returns. No. 237 of the 2nd, and No. 273 of the 23rd of June 1875.


The Employers and Workmen Act 291

Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1871 was formally and unconditionally repealed. By the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act (38 and 39 Vic. c. 86), definite and reasonable limits were set to the application of the law of conspiracy to trade disputes. The Master and Servant Act of 1867 was replaced by an Employers and Workmen Act (38 and 39 Vic. c. 90), a change of nomenclature which expressed a fundamental revolution in the law. Henceforth master and servant became, as employer and employee, two equal parties to a civil contract. Imprisonment for breach of engagement was abolished. The legalisation of Trade Unions was completed by the legal recognition of their methods. Peaceful picketing was expressly permitted. The old words " coerce " and " molest," which had, in the hands of prejudiced magistrates, proved such instruments of op- pression, were omitted from the new law, and violence and intimidation were dealt with as part of the general criminal code. No act committed by a group of workmen was hence- forth to be punishable unless the same act by an individual was itself a criminal offence. Collective bargaining, in short, with all its necessary accompaniments, was, after fifty years of legislative struggle, finally recognised by the law of the land. 1

1 It is not surprising that this sweeping Parliamentary triumph evoked great enthusiasm in the Trade Union ranks. At the Trade Union Congress in October 1875, such ardent Radicals as Odger, Guile, and George Howell joined in the warmest eulogies of J. K. (afterwards Viscount) Cross, whose sympathetic attitude had surpassed their utmost hopes. " The best friends they had in Parliament," said Howell, " with one or two exceptions, never declared for the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. He, with some friends, was under the gallery of the House of Commons when the measure was under discussion, and they could scarcely believe their ears when they heard Mr. Cross declare for the total repeal of the Act." And Odger paid testimony to the " immense singleness of purpose " with which the Home Secretary " had attended to every proposition that had been placed before him," and accorded them " the greatest boon ever given to the sons of toil." An amendment deprecating such " fulsome recognition of the action of the Conservative party " received only four votes (Report of Glasgow Congress, 1875). Some minor amendments of the law relating to the registration and friendly benefits of Trade Unions were embodied in the Trade Union Act Amendment Act of 1876 (39 and 40 Vic. c. 22). See the Handybook of the Labour Laws, by George Howell, 1876, and his Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, 1902, pp. 156-72.


292 The Junta and their Allies

The paramount importance of the legal and Parlia- mentary struggle from 1867 to 1875 has compelled us to relegate to the next chapter all mention of striking con- temporary events in Trade Union history. The sustained efforts of this decade, too often ignored by a younger genera- tion of Trade Unionists, are even now referred to by the survivors as constituting the finest period of Trade Union activity. For over eight years the Unions had been sub- jected to the strain of a prolonged and acute crisis, during which their very existence was at stake. Out of this crisis they emerged, as we have seen, triumphantly successful, " liberated," to use George Howell's words, " from the last vestige of the criminal laws specially appertaining to labour/' l

This tangible . victory was not the only result of the struggle. In order to gain their immediate end the Trade Union leaders had adopted the arguments of their opponents, and had been led to take up a position which, whilst it departed from the Trade Union traditions of the past, proved in the future a serious impediment to their further theoretic progress. To understand the intellectual attitude of the Junta and their friends, we must consider in some detail the position which they had to attack. From the very beginning of the century the employers had persistently asserted their right to make any kind of bargain with the individual workman, irrespective of its effect on the Standard of Life. They had, accordingly, adopted the principle, as against both the Trade Unionists and the Factory Act philanthrop- ists, of perfect freedom of contract and complete competi- tion between both workers and employers. In order to secure absolute freedom of competition between individuals it was necessary to penalise any attempt on the part of the workmen to regulate, by combination, the conditions of the bargain. But this involved, in reality, a departure from the principle of legal freedom of contract. One form of contract, that of the collective bargain, was, in effect, made

1 Speech at Trades Union Congress, Glasgow, October 1875.


John Bright 293

a criminal offence, on the plea that, however beneficial it might seem to the workmen, it cut at the root of national prosperity. It will be obvious that in urging this conten- tion the employers were taking up an inconsistent position. Their pecuniary interest in complete competition outweighed, in fact, their faith in freedom of contract.

Meanwhile the astute workmen who led the movement were gradually concentrating their forces upon the only position from which they could hope to be victorious. They had, it must be remembered, no means of imposing their own view upon the community. Even after 1867 their followers formed but a small minority of the electorate, whilst the whole machinery of politics was in the hands of the middle class. Powerless to coerce or even to intimidate the governing classes, they could win only by persuasion. It was, however, hopeless to dream of converting the middle class to the essential principle of Trade Unionism, the com- pulsory maintenance of the Standard of Life. In the then state of Political Economy the Trade Unionists saw against them, on this point, the whole mass of educated opinion in the country. John Bright, for instance, did but express the common view of the progressive party of that time when he solemnly assured the working man that " combinations, in the long run, must be as injurious to himself as to the employer against whom he is contending.'* 1 Lord Shaftes- bury, the lifelong advocate of factory legislation, was praying that " the working people may be emancipated from the tightest thraldom they have ever yet endured. All the single despots, and all the aristocracies that ever were or ever will be, are as puffs of wind compared with these tornadoes, the Trade Unions." * The Sheffield and other outrages, the rumours of constant persecution of non-Unionists, the hand- workers' perpetual objection to

1 In his letter to a Blackburn mill-owner, November 3, 1860. Public Letters of John Bright, collected and edited by H. J. Leech, 1885, p. 80.

2 Letter to Colonel Maude, quoted by Professor Beesly in his address to the London Trades Council, 1869, reported in Bricklayers' Circular, March 1870.


294


The Junta and their Allies


machinery, the restrictions on piecework and apprentice- ship all these real and fancied crimes had created a mass of prejudice against which it was hopeless for the Trade Unionists to struggle.

The Union leaders, therefore, wisely left this part of their case in the background. They avoided arguing whether Trade Unionism was, in principle, useful or detri- mental, right or wrong. They insisted only on the right of every Englishman to bargain for the sale of his labour in the manner he thought most conducive to his own interests. What they demanded was perfect freedom for a workman to substitute collective for individual, bargaining, if he imagined such a course to be for his own advantage. Freedom of association in matters of contract became, 1 therefore, their rejoinder to the employers' cry of freedom of competition.

It is clear that the Trade Unionists had the best of the argument. It was manifestly unreasonable for the em- ployers to insist on the principle of non-interference of the State in industry whenever they were pushed by the advo- cates of factory legislation, and at the same time to clamour for the assistance of the police to put down peaceful and voluntary combinations of their workmen. The capitalists were, in short, committed to the principle of laissez-faire in every phase of industrial life, from " Free Trade in Corn " to the unlimited use of labour of either sex at any age and under any conditions ; and what the workmen demanded was only the application of this principle to the wage con- tract. " The Trade Union question," writes, in 1869, their chosen representative and most powerful advocate, " is another and the latest example of the truth, that the sphere of legislation is strictly and curiously limited. After legis- lating about labour for centuries, each change producing its own evils, we have slowly come to see the truth, that we must cease to legislate for it at all. The public mind has been of late conscious of serious embarrassment, and eagerly expecting some legislative solution, some heaven-born dis-


The Trade Union Case 295

coverer to arise, with a new Parliamentary nostrum. As usual in such cases, it now turns out that there is no legis- lative solution at all ; and that the true solution requires, as its condition, the removal of the mischievous meddling of the past." 1 This doctrine " that all men may lawfully agree to work or not to work, to employ or not to employ, on any terms that they think fit," forms the whole burden of the speeches and petitions of the Trade Union leaders throughout this controversy. " We do not," say the official representatives of Trade Unionism in their memorial to the Home Secretary in April 1875, " seek to interfere with the free competition of the individual in the exercise of his craft in his own way ; but we reserve to ourselves the right either to work for, or to refuse to work for, an employer according to the circumstances of the case, just as the master has the right to discharge a workman, or workmen ; and we deny that the individual right is in any way inter- fered with when it is done in concert."

The working men had, in fact, picked up the weapon of their opponents and left these without defence. But in so doing the leading Trade Unionists of the time drifted into a position no less inconsistent than that of the employers. When they contended that the Union should be as free to bargain as the individual, they had not the slightest inten- tion of permitting the individual to bargain freely if they could prevent him. Though Allan and Applegarth were able conscientiously to inform the Royal Commission that the members of their societies did not refuse to work with non-society men, they must have been perfectly aware that this convenient fact was only true in those places and at those periods in which society men were not in a suffi- ciently large majority to do otherwise. The trades to which Henry Broadhurst and George Howell belonged were notori- ous for the success with which the Unions had maintained their practice of excluding non-society men from their jobs.

1 Fortnightly Review, July i, 1869. " The Trades Union Bill," by Frederic Harrison.


296 The Junta and their A Hies

The coal-miners of Northumberland and Durham habitually refused to descend the shaft in company with a non- Unionist. 1

We have shown, in our Industrial Democracy, that this universal aspiration of Trade Unionism the enforcement of membership stands, in our opinion, on the same foot- ing as the enforcement of citizenship. But, however this may be, it is evident that the refusal of the Northumber- land miners to " ride " with non-society men is, in effect, as coercive on the dissentient minority as the Mines Regula- tion Act or an Eight Hours Bill. The insistence upon the Englishman's right to freedom of contract was, in fact, in the mouths of staunch Trade Unionists, perilously near cant ; and we find Frederic Harrison himself, when dealing with other legislation, warning them that it would be suicidal for working men to adopt as their own the capitalist cry of " non-interference." 2 The force of this caution must have

1 William Crawford, the trusted leader of the Durham miners, and a steadfast opponent of the Eight Hours Bill, in a well-known letter of later date (of which we have had a copy), emphatically urges the complete ostracism of non-society men. " You should at least be consistent. In numberless cases you refuse to descend and ascend with non-Unionists. The right or wrong of such action I will not now discuss ; but what is the actual state of things found in many parts of the country ? While you refuse to descend and ascend with these men, you walk to and from the pit, walk in and out bye with them nay, sometimes work with them. You mingle with them at home over your glass of beer, in your chapels, and side by side you pray with them in your prayer meeting. The time has come when there must be plain speaking on this matter. It is no use playing at shuttlecock in this important portion of our social life. Either mingle with these men in the shaft, as you do in every other place, or let them be ostracised at all times and in every place. Regard them as unfit companions for yourselves and your sons, and unfit husbands for your daughters. Let them be branded, as it were, with the curse of Cain, as unfit to mingle in ordinary, honest, and respectable society. Until you make up your minds to thus completely and absolutely ostracise these goats of mankind, cease to complain as to any results that may arise from their action." Compare A Great Labour Leader [Thomas Burt], by Aaron Watson, 1908.

2 See his letter on the Government Annuities Bill, 1864 : " Lastly, we are told of Government dictation and interference. I cannot believe men of sense will say this twice seriously. . . . Leave it to the political econo- mists to complain. . . . Let working men remember that whenever a measure in their interest is proposed to Parliament, or suggested in the country whether it be to limit excessive hours of labour, to protect


Trade Union Inconsistency 297

been evident to the Junta, who had had too much experience of the workings of modern industry not to realise the need for a compulsory maintenance of the Standard of Life. No Trade Unionist can deny that, without some method of enforcing the decision of the majority, effective trade com- bination is impossible.

It must not be inferred from the above criticism of the theoretic position taken by the men who 'steered the Trade Union Movement through its great crisis that they were conscious of their inconsistency with regard to State inter- vention, or that they deliberately set to work to win their case upon false premisses. No one can study the history of their leadership without being impressed by their devotion, sagacity, and high personal worth. We must regard their inconsistency as a striking instance of the danger which besets a party formed without ^any clear idea of the social state at which it is aiming, sin the struggle of these years we watch the English Trade Unionists driven from their Utopian aspirations into an inconsistent opportunism, from which they drifted during the next generation into the crude "self-help" of an "aristocracy of labour^- During the whole of this process there was no moment at which the incompatibility of their Individualist and Collectivist views was perceived. Applegarth and Odger, for instance, saw no inconsistency in becoming leading officials of the " Inter- national " on a programme drafted by Karl Marx, and at the same time supporting the current Radical demand for a widespread peasant proprietorship. But it was inevitable

women and children, to regulate unhealthy labour, to provide them with the means of health, cleanliness, or recreation, to save them from the exactions of unscrupulous employers it is universally met with opposi- tion from one quarter, that of unrestricted competition ; and opposed on one ground, that of absolute freedom of private enterprise. We all know at least, we all explain how selfish and shallow this cry is in the mouth of unscrupulous capitalists who resist the Truck System Bill or the Ten Hours Bill. Is it not suicidal in working men to raise a cry which has ever been, and still will be, the great resource of those who strive to set obstacles to their welfare ? The next time working men promote a Short Time Bill of any kind they will be told to stick to their principle of non- j interference with private capital" (Beehive, March 19, 1864).

L 2


298 The Junta and their Allies

that the exclusive insistence upon the Individualist argu- ments, through which alone the victory of 1875 could be won, should impress the Individualist ideal upon the minds of those who stood round the leaders. Other influences, moreover, promoted the acceptance by the Trade Unionists of the economic shibboleths of the middle class. The failure of the crude experiments of Owen and O'Connor, the striking success of the policy of Free Trade, the growing participa- tion of working men in the Liberal politics of the time, and, above all, the close intimacy which many of them enjoyed with able and fertile thinkers of the middle class, all tended to create a new school of Trade Unionists. In a subsequent chapter we shall describe the results of this intellectual conversion upon the Trade Union Movement. First, how- ever, we must turn to the internal development of these years, which our description of the Parliamentary struggles of 1867-75 has forced us temporarily to ignore. 1

1 From 1 86 1 to 1877 the principal working-class organ was the Beehive, established by a group of Trade Unionists who formed a company in which over a hundred Unions are said to have taken shares. The editor and virtual proprietor during its whole life appears to have been George Potter, who was assisted by a Consulting Committee, on which appeared, at some time or another, the names of all the leading London Trade Unionists. Potter, as we have already mentioned, was a man of equivocal character and conduct, who at no time held any important position in the Trade Union world, though his London Working Men's Association made a useful start of the movement for Trade Union representation in the House of Commons. Under his editorship the Beehive became the best Labour newspaper which has yet appeared. This was due to the persistent support of Frederic Harrison, Henry Crompton, E. S. Beesly, Lloyd Jones, and other friends of Trade Unionism who, for fifteen years, contributed innumerable articles, whilst such Trade Union leaders as Applegarth, Howell, and Shipton frequently appeared in its columns. These contributions make it of the greatest possible value to the student of Trade Union history. Unfortunately, the most complete file in any public library that in the British Museum begins only in 1869. Mr. John Burns possesses a unique set beginning in 1863, which he kindly placed at our disposal. In 1877 it was converted into the Industrial Preview, which came to an end in 1879.

The place of the Beehive was, in 1881, to some extent taken by the Labour Standard, a penny weekly established by George Shipton, the Secretary of the London Trades Council. It ran from May 7, 1881, to April 29, 1882, and contained articles by Henry Crompton and Professor E. S. Beesly, together with much Trade Union information.