The History of Trade Unionism/VI. Sectional developments 1863-1885

CHAPTER VI SECTIONAL DEVELOPMENTS [1863-1885]Edit

FROM 1851 to 1863 all the effective forces in the Trade Union Movement were centred in London. Between 1863 and 1867, as we descrTB^orin^rle^course of the last chapter, provincial organisations, such as the Glasgow and Sheffield Trades Councils, and provincial leaders such as Alexander Macdonald and John Kane, began to play an important part in the general movement. The dramatic crisis of 1867, and the subsequent political struggle, compelled us to break off our description of the growth of the movement in order to follow the Parliamentary action of the London leaders. But whilst the Junta and their allies were winning their great victories at Westminster, [t^e centre of gravity of the Trade Union world was being insensibly shifted from London to the industrial districts north of the Humbef:) This was primarily due to tfe rapid growth of two great provincial organisations, the federations of Coal-miners and Cotton Operatives. _ J

The Miners, now one of the most powerful contingents of the Trade Union forces, were, until 1863, without any effective organisation. The Miners' Association of Great Britain, which, as we have seen, sprang in 1841-43 into a vigorous existence, collapsed in 1848. An energetic attempt made by Martin Jude to re-establish a National Association

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Sectional Developments


in 1850, when a conference was held at Newcastle, was, in consequence of the continued depression in the coal trade, entirely unsuccessful. For the next few years " the frag- ments of union that existed got less by degrees and more minute till, at the close of 1855, it might be said that union among the miners in the whole country had almost died out." l The revival which took place between 1858 and 1863 was due, in the main, to the persistent work of the able man who became for fifteen years their trusted leader. (Alexander Macdonalcty to whose lifelong devotion the miners owe their present position in the Trade Union world, stands, like William Newton, midway \between the casual and amateur leaders of the old Trade Unionism and the paid officials of the new type^ Himself originally a miner and the son of a miner, the education and independent

1 Address of Alexander Macdonald to the Leeds Conference, 1873. Alexander Macdonald, the son of a sailor, who became a miner in Lanark- shire, was born at Airdrie in 1821, and went to work in the pit 'at the age of eight. Having an ardent desire for education he prepared himself as best he could for Glasgow University, which he entered in 1846, sup- porting himself from his savings, and from his work as a miner in the summer. Whilst still at the University he became known as a leader of the miners all over Scotland. In 1850 he became a mine manager, and in 1851 he opened a school at Airdrie, an occupation which he abandoned in 1855 to devote his whole time to agitation on behalf of the miners. On the formation, in 1863, of the National Union of Miners, he was elected president, a position which he retained until his death. Meanwhile he was, by a series of successful commercial speculations, acquiring a modest fortune, which enabled him to devote his whole energies to the promo- tion of the Parliamentary programme which he had impressed upon the miners. He gave important evidence before the Select Committee of 1865 on the Master and Servant Law. In 1868 he offered himself as a candidate for the Kilmarnock Burghs, but retired to avoid a split. At the General Election of 1874 he was more successful, being returned for Stafford, and thus becoming (with Thomas Burt) the first " Labour Member." He was shortly afterwards appointed a member of the Royal Commission on the Labour Laws, and eventually presented a minority report of his own on the subject. He died in 1881. A history of the coal-miners which ne projected was apparently never written, and, with, the exception of numerous presidential addresses and other speeches, and a pamphlet entitled Notes and Annotations on the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1872 (Glasgow, 1872, 50 pp.), we have found nothing from his pen. A eulogistic notice of his life by Lloyd Jones appeared in the Newcastle Chronicle, November 17, 1883, most of which is reprinted in Dr. Baern- reither's English Associations of Working Men, p. 408.


Alexander Macdonald 301

means which he had acquired enabled him, from 1857 ohwards, to apply himself continuously to the miners' cause. A florid style, and somewhat flashy personality, did him no harm with the rough and uneducated workmen whom he had to marshal. The main source of his effective- ness lay, however, neither in his oratory nor in his powers of organisation, but in his exact appreciation of the partic- ular changes that would remedy the miners' grievances, and in the tactical skill with which he embodied these changes in legislative form. Like his friends, Allan and Applegarth, he relied almost exclusively on Parliamentary agitation as a means for securing his ends. But whilst the Junta were contenting themselves with securing political freedom for Trade Unionists, Macdonald from the first persistently -pressed for the legislative regulation of the conditions of labour. ^\nd though, like his London allies, he consorted largely with the middle-class friends of Trade Unionism, and freely utilised their help in the House of Commons, he proved his superior originality and tenacity of mind by never in the slightest degree abandoning the fundamental principle of Trade Unionism the compulsory maintenance of the workman's Standard of Life. )

" It was in 1856," said Macdonald on a later occasion, " that I crossed the Border first to advocate a better Mines Act, true weighing, the education of the young, the restric- tion of the age till twelve years, the reduction of the working hours to eight in every twenty-four, the training of managers, the payment of wages weekly in the current coin of the realm, no truck, and many other useful things too numerous to mention here. Shortly after that, bone began to come to bone, and by 1858 we were in full action for better laws." 1 The pit clubs and informal committees that pressed these demands upon the legislature became centres of local organisation, with which Macdonald kept up an incessant correspondence. An arbitrary lock-out of several thousand men by the South Yorkshire coal-owners in 1858 welded

1 Address to the Miners' National Conference at Leeds, 1873.


3O2 Sectional Developments

the miners of that coal-field into a compact district asso- ciation, and enabled Macdonald, in the same year, to get together a national conference at Ashton-under-Lyne, at which, however, the delegates could claim to represent only four thousand men in union. In 1860, when the Mines Regulation Act was being passed into law, Macdonald was able to score a success in the " checkweigher " clause, to which we shall again refer. Not until the end of 1863, how- ever, can the Miners' National Union be said to have been effectively established; and the proceedings of the Leeds Conference of that year strike the note of the policy which Macdonald, to the day of his death, never ceased to press upon the miners, and to which the great majority of them have now, after a temporary digression, once more returned. The Miners' Conference at Leeds was in many respects a notable gathering, Instead of the formless interchange of talk which had marked the previous conference, Macdonald induced the fifty-one delegates who sat from the gth to the i4th of November 1863 at the People's Co-operative Hall to organise their meeting on the model of the National Asso- ciation for the Promotion of Social Science, and divide themselves into three sections, on Law, on Grievances, and on Social Organisation, each of which reported to the whole conference. 1 The proceedings of the day were opened with prayer by the " Chaplain to the Conference," the Rev. Joseph Rayner Stephens, celebrated as the opponent of the New Poor Law and the advocate of factory legislation and Chartism. 2 In the reports of the sections and the

1 The Conference appointed a sub-committee to compile and publish its proceedings, "a thing," as the preface explains, "altogether unpar- alleled in the records of labour." And indeed the elaborate volume, regularly published by the eminent firm of Longmans in 1864, entitled Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal, Lime, and Ironstone Miners of Great Britain, held at Leeds, November 9, 10, II, 12, 13, and 14, 1863, with its 174 pages, its frontispiece representing the pit-brow women, and its motto on the title-page extracted from the writings of W. E. Gladstone, formed a creditable and impressive appeal to the reading public.

2 For this militant Chartist (1805-79), see Life of Joseph Rayner Stephens, by G. J. Holyoake, 1881.


Legal Regulation 303

numerous resolutions of the conference we find all the points of Macdonald's programme. The paramount importance of securing the Standard of Life by means of legislative regu- lation of the conditions of work is embodied in a lengthy series of proposals which have nearly all since been inserted in the detailed code of mining law. In contradistinction to the view which would make wages depend upon prices, the principle of controlling industry in such a way as to prevent encroachments on the workman's standard main- tenance is clearly foreshadowed. " Overtoil," says the report, " produces over-supply; low prices and low wages follow; bad habits and bad health follow, of course; and then diminished production and profits are inevitable. Re- duction of toil, and consequent improved bodily health, increases production in the sense of profit; and limits it so as to avoid overstocking; better wages induce better habits, and economy of working follows. . . . The evil of overtoil and over-supply upon wages, and upon the labourer, is therefore a fair subject of complaint; and, we submit, as far as these are human by conventional arrangements, are a fair and proper subject of regulation. Regulations must, of course, be twofold. Part can be legislated for by compulsory laws; but the principle (sic) must be the subject of voluntary agreement." 1 The restriction of labour in mines to a maximum of eight hours per day was strongly urged; but at Macdonald's instance it was astutely resolved not to ask for a legal regulation of the hours of adult men, but to confine the Parliamentary proposal to a Bill for boys. And it is interesting to observe already at this time (he beginning of the deep cleavage between the miners of Northumberland and Durham and their fellow- workers elsewhere.N The close connection between the legal regulation of the hours of boys and the fixing of the men's day is brought out by William Crawford, the future leader

1 Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal, Lime, and Ironstone Miners of Great Britain, held at Leeds, November 9, 10, II, 12, 13, and 14, 1863, p. 14.


304 Sectional Developments

of the Durham men. The general feeling of the conference was in favour of a drastic legal prohibition of boys being kept in the mine for more than eight hours, but Crawford declared that " an eight hours bill could not be carried out in his district. He wanted the boys to work ten hours a day, and the men six hours." 1 He therefore proposed a legal Ten Hours Day for the boys. The conference, however, declined to depart from the principle of Eight Hours; and the Bill drafted in this sense was eventually adopted without dissent. Another reform advocated by Macdonald has had far- reaching though unforeseen effect upon the miners' organisa- tion. The arbitrary confiscation of the miners' pay for any tubs or hutches which were declared to be improperly filled had long been a source of extreme irritation. It had become a regular practice of unscrupulous coal-owners to condemn a considerable percentage of the men's hutches, and thus escape payment for part of the coal hewn. The grievance was aggravated by the absolute dependence of the miner, working underground, upon the honesty and accuracy of the agent of the employer on the surface, who recorded the amount of his work. A demand was accord- ingly made by the men for permission to have their own representative at the pit-bank, who should check the weight to be paid for. During the year 1859 great contests took place in South Yorkshire, in which, after embittered resist- ance, the employers in several collieries conceded this boon. A determined attempt was then made by the South York- shire Miners' Union, aided by Macdonald, to insert a clause in the Mines Regulation Bill, making it compulsory to weigh the coal, and to allow a representative of the men to check the weight. A great Parliamentary fight took place on the men's amendment, with the result that the Act of 1860 empowered the miners of each pit to appoint a checkweigher, but confined their choice to persons actually in employment

1 Transactions and Results of the National Association of Coal, Lime, and Ironstone Miners of Great' Britain, held at Leeds, November 9, 10, n, 12, 13, and 14, 1863, p. 17. In Northumberland and Durham the hewers very largely work in two shifts, whilst there used to be only one shift of boys.


The Checkweigher 305

at the particular mine. 1 This important victory was long rendered nugatory by the evasions of the coal-owners. At Barnsley, for instance, Normansell, appointed checkweigher, was promptly dismissed from employment and refused access to the pit's mouth. When the employer was fined for this breach of the law he appealed to the Queen's Bench; and it cost the Union two years of costly litigation to enforce the reinstatement of the men's agent. 2 The next twenty years are full of attempts by coal-owners to avoid compliance with this law. Where the men could not be persuaded or terrified into forgoing their right to appoint a checkweigher, every device was used to hamper his work. Sometimes he was excluded from close access to the weighing- machine. In other pits the weights were fenced up so that he could not clearly see them. His calculations were hotly disputed, and his interference bitterly resented. The Miners' Unions, however, steadily fought their way to per- fect independence for the checkweigher. The Mines Regu- lation Act of 1872 slightly strengthened his position. Finally the Act of 1887, confirmed by that of 1911, made clear the right of the men, by a decision of the majority of those

1 Section 29 of Mines Regulation Act of 1860.

2 Normansell v. Platt. John Normansell, the agent of the South Yorkshire Miners' Association, stands second only to Macdonald as a leader of the miners between 1863 and 1875. The son of a banksman, he was born at Torkington, Cheshire, in 1830, and left an orphan at an early age. At seven he entered the pit, and when, at the age of nine- teen, he married, he was unable to write his own name. Migrating to South Yorkshire, he became a leader in the agitation to secure a check- weigher, which the local coal-owners conceded in 1859. Normansell was elected to the post for his own pit, and rapidly became the leading spirit in the district. After the lock-out of 1864 he was elected secretary to the Union, then counting only two thousand members. Within eight years he had raised its membership to twenty thousand, and built up an elaborate system of friendly benefits. Normansell was the first working- man Town Councillor, having been triumphantly elected at Barnsley, his Union subscribing ,^1000 to lodge in the bank in his name, in order to enable him to declare himself possessed of the pecuniary qualification at that time required. On his death the amount was voted to his widow. Normansell gave evidence in 1867 before the Select Committee on Coal- mining, and before that on the Master and Servant Law, in 1868 before the Royal Commission on Trade Unions, and in 1873 before that on the Coal Supply.


306 Sectional Developments

employed in any pit, to have, at the expense of the whole pit, a checkweigher with full power to keep an accurate and independent record of each man's work.

It would be interesting to trace to what extent the special characteristics of the miners' organisations are due to the influence of this one legislative reform. Its recog- nition and promotion of collective action by the men has been a direct incitement to combination. The compulsory levy, upon the whole pit, of the cost of maintaining the agent whom a bare majority could decide to appoint has practically found, for each colliery, a branch secretary free of expense to the Union. But the result upon the character of the officials has been even more important. The checkweigher has to be a man of character insensible to the bullying or blandishments of manager or employers. He must be of strictly regular habits, accurate and business- like in mind, and quick at figures. The ranks of the check- weighers serve thus as an admirable recruiting ground from which a practically inexhaustible supply of efficient Trade Union secretaries or labour representatives can be drawn.

The Leeds Conference of 1863 was the first of a series of yearly or half-yearly gatherings of miners' delegates which did much to consolidate their organisation. The powerful aid brought by Macdonald to the movement for the Master and Servant Act of 1867 has already been de- scribed. But between 1864 and 1869 the almost uninter- rupted succession of strikes and lock-outs, in one county or another, prevented the National Association from taking a firm hold on the men in the less organised districts. In 1869 a rival federation, called the Amalgamated Association of Miners, was formed by the men of some Lancashire pits, to secure more systematic support of local strikes. I This split only increased the number of miners in union, which in a few years reached the unprecedented total of two hundred thousand^

It is easy to understand how much this army of miners, marshalled by an expert Parliamentary tactician, added to


The Cotton Operatives 307

the political weight of the Trade Union leaders. Though only partially enfranchised, their influence at the General Election of 1868 was marked; and when, in 1871, the Trades Union Congress appointed a Parliamentary Committee Macdonald became its chairman. Next year he succeeded in getting embodied in the new Mines Regulation Act many of the minor amendments of the law for which he had been pressing; and in 1874 he and his colleague, Thomas Burt, became, as we have seen, the first working-men members of the House of Commons.

Not less important than the somewhat scattered hosts of the Coal-miners was the compact body of the Lancashire Cotton Operatives, who, from 1869 onward, began to be reckoned as an integral part of the Trade Union world. The Lancashire textile workers, who had, in the early part of the century, played such a prominent part in the Trade Union Movement, and whose energetic " Short Time Com- mittees " had, in 1847, obtained the Ten Hours Act, appear to have fallen, during the subsequent years, into a state of disorganisation and disunion. In 1853, it is true, the present Amalgamated Association of Cotton-spinners was established; but this federal Union was weakened, until 1869, by the abstention or lukewarmness of the local organisations of such important districts as Oldham and Bolton. The cotton-weavers were in a somewhat similar condition. The Blackburn Association, established in 1853, was gradually overshadowed by the North-East Lancashire Association, a federation of the local weavers' societies in the smaller towns, established in 1858. This association, growing out of a secession from the Blackburn organisation, had for its special object the combined support of a skilled calculator of prices, able to defend the operatives' interests , * in the constant discussions which arose upon the com-// plicated lists of piecework rates which characterise the English cotton industry. 1

1 The best and indeed the only exact account of these cotton lists is that prepared for the Economic Section of the British Association by a


308 Sectional Developments

It is difficult to convey to the general reader any adequate idea of the important effect which these elaborate " Lists " have had upon the Trade Union Movement in Lancashire. The universal satisfaction with, and even preference for, the piecework system among the Lancashire cotton opera- tives is entirely due to the existence of these definitely fixed and published statements. An even more important result has been the creation of a peculiar type of Trade Union official. For although the lists are elaborately worked out in detail the Bolt on Spinning List, for instance, com- prising eighty-five pages closely filled with figures * the intricacy of the calculations is such as to be beyond the com- prehension not only of the ordinary operative or manufac- turer, but even of the investigating mathematician without a very minute knowledge of the technical detail. Yet the week's earnings of every one of the tens of thousands of operatives are computed by an exact and often a separate calculation under these lists. And when an alteration of the list is in question, the standard wage of a whole district may depend upon the quickness and accuracy with which the operatives' negotiator apprehends the precise effect of each projected change in any of the numerous factors in the calculation. It will be obvious that for work of this nature


committee consisting of Professor Sidgwick, Professor Foxwell, A. H. D. (now Sir Arthur) Acland, Dr. W. Cunningham, and Professor J. E. C. Munro, the report being drawn up by the latter. (On the Regulation of Wages by means of Lists in the Cotton Industry, Manchester, 1887; in two parts Spinning and Weaving.) See History of Wages in the Cotton Trade during the Past Hundred Years, by G. H. Wood, 1910; A Century of Fine Cotton Spinning, by McConnel & Co., 1906; and Standard Piece Lists and Sliding Scales, by the Labour Department of the Board of Trade, Cd. 144, 1900.

The principles upon which the lists are framed are so complicated that we confess, after prolonged study, to be still perplexed on certain points; and though Professor Munro clears up many difficulties, we are disposed to believe that even he, in some particulars, has not in all cases correctly stated the matter. We have discussed the whole subject in our Industrial Democracy.

1 Bolton and District Net List of Prices for Spinning Twist, Reeled Yarn or Bastard Twist, and Weft, on Self -actor Mules (Bolton, 1887; 85 pp.).


The Short Time Bill 309

the successful organiser or " born orator " was frequently quite unfit. There grew up, therefore, both among the weavers and the spinners, a system of selection of new secre- taries by competitive examination, which has gradually been perfected as the examiners that is, the existing officials have themselves become more skilled. The first secretary to undergo this ordeal was Thomas Birtwistle, 1 who in 1 86 1 began his thirty years' honourable and successful service of the Lancashire Weavers. Within a few years he was reinforced by other officials selected for the same . characteristics. From 1871 onwards the counsels of the Trade Union Movement were strengthened by the intro- duction of " the cotton men/' a body of keen, astute, and alert-minded officials a combination, in the Trade Union world, of the accountant and the lawyer.

Under such guidance the Lancashire cotton operatives achieved extraordinary success. Their first task was in all districts to obtain and perfect the lists. The rate and method of remuneration being in this way secured, their energy was devoted to improving the other conditions of their labour by means of appropriate legislation. Ever since 1830 the Lancashire operatives, especially the spinners, have strongly supported the legislative regulation of the hours and other conditions of their industry. In 1867 a delegate meeting of the Lancashire textile operatives, under the presidency of the Rev. J. R. Stephens, had resolved " to agitate for such a measure of legislative restriction as shall secure a uniform Eight Hours Bill in factories, exclusive of meal-times, for adults, females, and young persons, and that such Eight Hours Bill have for its foundation a restric- tion on the moving power." 2 On the improvement of trade

1 Birtwistle was, in 1892, at an advanced age, appointed by the Home Secretary an Inspector in the Factory Department, under the " particu- lars clause-" (sec. 24 of the Factory and Workshops Act, 1891), as the only person who could be found competent to understand and interpret the intricacies of the method of remuneration in the weaving trade.

z Beehive, February 23, 1867. The circular announcing the resolu- tion is signed by the leading officers of the Cotton-spinners' and Cotton- weavers' Unions of the time.


3io Sectional Developments

and the revival of Trade Union strength in 1871-72 this policy was again resorted to. The Oldham spinners tried, indeed, in 1871, to secure a " Twelve-o'clock Saturday " by means of a strike. But on the failure of this attempt the dele- gates of the various local societies, both of spinners and weavers usually the officials of the trade met together and established, on the 7th of January 1872, the Factory Acts Reform Association, for the purpose of obtaining such an amendment of the law as would reduce the hours of labour from sixty to fifty-four per week.

The Parliamentary policy of these shrewd tacticians is only another instance of the practical opportunism of the English Trade Unionist. The cotton officials demurred in 1872 to an overt alliance with the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress, just then engaged in its heated agitation for a repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. " Some members of the Short Time Committee," states, without resentment, the Congress report, " thought that even co-operation with the Congress Committee would be disas- trous rather than useful, ... as Lord Shaftesbury and others declared they would not undertake a measure pro- posed in the interest of the Trades Unions." 1 So far as the public and the House of Commons were concerned, the Bill was accordingly, as we are told, " based upon quite other grounds." jilts provisions were ostensibly restricted, like those of the Ten Hours Act, to women and children; and to the support of Trade Union champions such as Thomas Hughes and A. J. Mundella was added that of such philanthropists as Lord Shaftesbury and Samuel Morley. But it is scarcely necessary to say that it was not entirely, or even exclusively, for the sake of the women and children that the skilled leaders of the Lancashire cotton operatives had diverted their " Short Time Movement " from aggressive strikes to Parliamentary agitation. The private minutes of the Factory Acts Reform Association contain no mention

1 Report of the Parliamentary Committee to the Trades Union Con- gress, January 1873.


" Behind the Women's Petticoats " 311

of the woes of the women and the children, but reflect throughout the demand of the adult male spinners for a shorter day. And in the circular " to the factory opera- tives," calling the original meeting of the association, we find the spinners' 'secretary combating the fallacy that " any legislative interference with male adult labour is an economic error," and demanding " a legislative enactment largely curtailing the hours of factory labour," in order that his constituents, who were exclusively adult males, might enjoy " the nine hours per day, or fifty-four hours per week, so liberally conceded to other branches of work- men." * It was, however, neither necessary nor expedient to take this line in public. The experience of a generation had taught the Lancashire operatives that any effective limitation of the factory day for women and children could not fail to bring with it an equivalent shortening of the j hours of the men who worked with them. And in the state of mind, in 1872, of the House of Commons, and even of the workmen in other trades, it would have proved as impossible as it did in 1847 to secure an avowed restriction of the hours of male adults. *

The Short Time Bill was therefore so drafted as to apply in express terms only to women and children, whose suffer- ings under a ten hours day were made much of on the platform and in the press. The battle, in fact, was, as one j of the leading combatants has declared, 2 " fought from behind the women's petticoats." But it was a part of the irony of the situation that, as Broadhurst subsequently pointed out, 3 the Bill " encountered great opposition from

1 Circular of December n, 1871, signed on behalf of the preliminary meeting by Thomas Mawdsley not to be mistaken for James Mawdsley, J.P., a subsequent secretary.

2 Thomas Ashton, J.P. (died 1919), then secretary of the Oldham Spinners, often made this statement. On the 26th of May 1893 the Cotton Factory Times, the men's accredited organ, declared, with refer- ence to the Eight Hours Movement, that " now the veil must be lifted, and the agitation carried on under its true colours. Women and children must no longer be made the pretext for securing a reduction of working hours for men."

3 Speech at Trades Union Congress, Bristol, 1878.


312 Sectional Developments

the female organisations "; and it was, in fact, expressly in the interests of working women that Professor Fawcett, in the session of 1873, moved the rejection of the measure. 1 Even as limited to women and children the proposal en- countered a fierce resistance from the factory owners and the capitalists of all industries. The opinion of the House of Commons was averse from any further restriction upon the employers' freedom. The Ministry of the day lent it no assistance. The Bill, introduced in 1872, and again in 1873, made no progress. At length, in 1873, the Govern- ment shelved the question by appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Factory Acts. But a General Election was now drawing near; and " a Factory Nine Hours Bill for Women and Children " was incorporated in the Parliamentary programme pressed upon candidates by the whole Trade Union world. 2

We have already pointed out what an attentive ear the Conservative party was at this time giving to the Trade Union demands. It is therefore not surprising that when Mundella, in the new Parliament, once more introduced his Bill, the Home Secretary, Mr. (afterwards Viscount) Cross, announced that the Government would bring forward a measure of their own. The fact that the Government draft was euphemistically entitled the " Factories (Health of Women, etc.) Bill " did not conciliate the opponents of the shorter factory day which it ensured; but, to the great satisfaction of the spinners, this opposition was unsuccess- ful; and, if not a nine hours day, at any rate a 56-! hours week became law. This short and successful Parliamentary campaign brought the cotton operatives into closer contact with the London leaders; and from 1875 the Lancashire representatives exercised an important influence in the Trades Union Congress and its Parliamentary Committee.

1 " From what I have heard," writes Professor Beesly in the Beehive, May 1 6, 1874, " I am inclined to think that no single fact had more to do with the defeat of the Liberal Party in Lancashire at the last election than Mr. Fawcett's speech on the Nine Hours Bill in the late Parliament."

2 Report of Trades Union Congress, Sheffield, January 1874.


Coal and Cotton 313

Henceforth detailed amendments of the Factory Acts, and increased efficiency in their administration, become almost standing items in the official Trade Union programme.

An interesting parallelism might be traced between the cotton operatives on" the one hand and the coal-miners on! the other. To outward seeming no two occupations could be more unlike. Yet without community of interest, with- out official intercourse, and without any traceable imitation, the organisations of the two trades show striking resem- blances to each other in history, in structural development, and in characteristics of policy, method, and aims. Many of these similarities may arise from the remarkable local aggregation in particular districts, which is common to both industries. From this ^lopal aggregation spring, perhaps, the possibilities of a stron^Te^eratlon existing without centralised funds, and of a permanent trade society en- during without friendly benefits. A further similarity may be seen in the creation, in each case, (of a special class of Trade Union officials^ far more numerous in proportion to membership than is usual in the engineering or building trades. But the most noticeable, and perhaps the most important, of these resemblances is the constancy with which both the miners and the cotton operatives have adhered to the legislative protection of the Standard of Life as a leading principle of their Trade Unionism.

Whilst these important divisions of the Trade Union army were aiming at legislative protection, victories in another field were bringing whole sections of Trade Unionists to a different conclusion. The successful Nine Hours Move- ment of 1871-72 the reduction, by collective bargaining, of the hours of labour in the engineering and building trades rivalled the legislative triumphs of the miners and the cotton operatives.

Since the great strikes in the London building trades in 1859-61, the movement in favour of a reduction of the hours of labour had been dragging on in various parts of the country. The masons, carpenters, and other building


Sectional Developments

operatives had in many towns, and after more or less con- flict, secured what was termed the Nine Hours Day. In 1866 an agitation arose among the engineers of Tyneside for a similar concession; but the sudden depression of trade put an end to the project. In 1870, when the subject was discussed at the Newcastle " Central District Committee " of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, the spirit of caution prevailed, and no action was taken. Suddenly, at the beginning of 1871, the Sunderland men took the matter up, and came out on strike on the ist of April. After four weeks' struggle, almost be-fore the engineers elsewhere had realised that there was any chance of success, the local employers gave way, and the Nine Hours Day was won.

It was evident that the Sunderland movement was destined to spread to the other engineering centres in the neighbourhood; and the master engineers of the entire North-Eastern District promptly assembled at Newcastle on April 8 to concert a united resistance to the men's demands. The operatives had first to form their organisa- tion. Though Newcastle has since become one of the best centres of Trade Unionism, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers could, in 1871, count only five or six hundred members in the town; the Boilermakers, Steam-Engine Makers, and Ironfounders were also weak, and probably two out of three of the men in the engineering trade be- longed to no Union whatsoever. A " Nine Hours league," embracing Unionists and non-Unionists alike, was accord- ingly formed for the special purpose of the agitation; and this body was fortunate enough to elect as its President John Burnett, 1 a leading member of the local branch of

1 John Burnett, who was born at Alnwick, Northumberland, in 1842, became, after the Nine Hours Strike, a lecturer for the National Educa- tion League, and joined the staff of the Newcastle Chronicle. In 1875, on Allan's death, he was elected to the General Secretaryship of the Amal- gamated Society of Engineers. He was a member of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress from 1876 to 1885. In 1886 he was appointed to the newly-created post of Labour Correspondent of the Board of Trade, in which capacity he prepared and issued a series of reports on Trade Unions and Strikes. On the establishment of the


The Nine Hours Strike 315

the Amalgamated Society, afterwards to become widely known as the General Secretary of that great organisation. The " Nine Hours League " became, in fact though not in name, a temporary Trade Union, its committee conducting all the negotiations 'on the men's behalf, appealing to the Trade Union world for funds for their support, and managing all the details of the conflict that ensued. 1

The five months' strike which led up to a signal victory for the men was, in more than one respect, a notable event in Trade Union annals. The success with which several thousands of unorganised workmen, unprovided with any accumulated funds, were marshalled and disciplined, and the ability displayed in the whole management of the 'dis- pute, made the name of their leader celebrated throughout the world of labour. The tactical skill and literary force with which the men's case was presented achieved the unprecedented result of securing for their demands the support of the Times 2 and the Spectator. Money was

Labour Department in 1893 he became Chief Labour Correspondent under the Commissioner for Labour, and was selected to visit the United States to prepare a report on the effects of Jewish immigration. He retired in 1907 and died 1914.

1 A full account of this conflict is given by John Burnett in his History of the Engineers' Strike in Newcastle and Gateshead (Newcastle, 1872; 77 PP-)- A description by the Executive of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers is given in their " Abstract Report " up to December 31, 1872. The Newcastle Daily Chronicle, from April to October 1871, furnishes a detailed contemporary record. The leading articles and correspondence in the Times of September 1871 are important.

2 See the Times leader of September n, 1871. This leader, which pronounced " the conduct of the employers throughout this dispute as imprudent and impolitic," called forth the bewildered remonstrance of Sir William (afterwards Lord) Armstrong, writing on behalf of " the Associated Employers." " We were amazed," writes the great captain of industry, " to see ourselves described in your article as being in a condition of hopeless difficulty; and we really felt that, if the League themselves had possessed the power of inspiring that article, they could scarcely have used words more calculated to serve their purposes than those in which it is expressed. The concurrent appearance in the Spectator of an article exhibiting the same bias adds to our surprise. We had imagined that a determined effort to wrest concessions from employers by sheer force of combination was not a thing which found favour with the more educated and intelligent classes, whose opinions generally find expression in the columns of the Times " (Times September 14, 1871).


316 Sectional Developments

subscribed slowly at first, but after three months poured in from all sides. Joseph Cowen, of the Newcastle Daily Chronicle, was from the first an ardent supporter of the men, and assisted them in many ways. The employers in all parts of the kingdom took alarm; and a kind of levy of a shilling for each man employed was made upon the engineering firms in aid of the heavy expenses of the New- castle masters. In spite of the active exertions of the " International," several hundred foreign workmen were imported; but many of these were subsequently induced to desert. 1 Finally the employers conceded the principal of the men's demands; and fifty-four hours became the locally recognised week's time in all the engineering trades. This widely advertised success, coming at a time of expanding trade, greatly promoted the movement for the Nine Hours Day. From one end of the kingdom to the other, every little Trade Union branch discussed the ex- pediency of sending in notices to the employers. The engineering trades in London, Manchester, and other great centres induced their employers to grant their demands without a strike. The great army of workmen engaged in the shipbuilding yards on the Clyde even bettered this example, securing a fifty-one hours week. The building operatives quickly followed suit. Demands for a diminu- tion of the working day, with an increased rate of pay per hour, were handed in by local officials of the Carpenters, Masons, Bricklayers, Plumbers, and other organisations^. In many cases non-society men took the lead in the move- ment; but it was soon found that the immediate success of the applications depended on the estimate formed by the employers of the men's financial resources, and their capacity to withhold their labour for a time sufficient to cause em- barrassment to business. Wherever the employers were

1 Here the " International " was of use. At Burnett's instigation, Cohn, the Danish secretary in London, proceeded to the Continent to check this immigration, his expenses being paid by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.


The Two Policies 317

assured of this fact, they usually gave way without a con- flict. The successes accordingly did much to create, in the industries in question, a preference for combination and collective bargaining as a means of improving the conditions of labour. The prevalence of systematic over- time, which has since proved so formidable a deduction from the advantages gained by the Nine Hours Movement, was either overlooked by sanguine officials, or covertly welcomed by individual workmen as affording opportunities for working at a higher rate of remuneration. 1 On the other hand, it was a patent fact that the mechanic employed in attending to the machinery of a textile mill was the only . member of his trade who was excluded from participation in the shortening of hours enjoyed by his fellow-tradesmen; and that his failure to secure a shorter day was an in- cidental consequence of the existence of legislative restric- tions. Thus, at the very time that the textile operatives and coal-miners were, as we have seen, exhibiting a marked tendency to look more and more to Parliamentary action for the protection of the Standard of Life, the facts, as they presented themselves to the Amalgamated Engineer or Carpenter, were leading the members of these trades to a diametrically opposite conclusion.

But though faith in trade combinations and collective bargaining was strengthened by the success of the Nine Hours Movement, the victories of the men did not increase the prestige of the two great Amalgamated Societies. The growing adhesion of the Junta to the economic views of their middle-class friends was marked by the silent aban- donment by Allan, Applegarth, and Guile of all leadership in trade matters. Already in 1865 we find the Executive Council of the Amalgamated Engineers explaining that, although they sympathised with advance movements, they felt unable to either support them by grants or to advise

1 With regard to overtime, Burnett informed us that " it was found impossible to carry a Nine Hours Day pure and simple at the time of the strike of 1871, and that overtime should still be worked as required was insisted upon as a first condition of settlement by the employers."


318 Sectional Developments

their members to vote a special levy. 1 The " backwardness of the Council of the Engineers " constantly provoked angry criticism. The chief obstacles to advancement were de- clared to be Danter, the President of the Council, and the General Secretary, whose minds had been narrowed "by the routine of years of service within certain limits. . . . Never, since it effected amalgamation, has the Society solved one social problem; nor has it now an idea of future progress. Its money is unprofitably and injudiciously in- vested even with a miser's care while its councils are marked with all the chilly apathy of a worn-out mission." 2 What proved to be the greatest trade movement since 1852 was undertaken in spite of the official disapproval of the governing body, and was carried to a successful issue without the provision from headquarters of any leadership or control. Though the Nine Hours Strike actually began in . Sunderland on April i, 1871, the London Executive remained silent on the subject until July. Towards the end of that month, when the Newcastle men had been out for seven weeks, a circular was issued inviting the branches to collect voluntary subscriptions for their struggling brethren. Ultimately, in September, the " Contingent Fund," out of which strike pay is given, was re-estab- lished by vote of the branches; and the strike allowance of 53. per week, over and above the ordinary out-of-work pay, was issued, after fourteen weeks' struggle, to the small minority of the men on strike who were members of the Society. An emissary was sent to the Continent, at the Society's expense, to defeat the employers' attempt to bring over foreign engineers; but with this exception all the expenses of the struggle were defrayed from the subscrip- tions collected by the Nine Hours League. 3 And if we turn

1 Meeting of London pattern-makers to seek advance of wages, Bee- hive, October 21, 1865.

2 Letter from " Amalgamator/' Beehive, January 19, 1867.

3 The rank and file were more sympathetic than the Executive. The machinery for making the collections was mostly furnished by the branches and committees of the Society.


Trade Union Apathy 319

for a moment from the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to the other great trade and friendly societies of the time, it is easy, in the minutes of their Executive Councils and the proceedings of their branches, to watch the same tend- ency at work. Whether it is the Masons or the Tailors, the Ironfounders or the Carpenters, we see the same aban- donment by the Central Executive of any dominant prin- ciple of trade policy, the same absence of initiative in trade movements, and the same more or less persistent struggle to check the trade activity of its branches. In the Amal- gamated Society of Carpenters, for example, we find, during these years, no attempt by headquarters to " level up " the wages of low-paid districts, or to grapple with the prob- lems of overtime or piecework. We watch, on the contrary, the branches defending themselves before the Executive for their little spurts of local activity, and pleading, in order to wring from a reluctant treasury the concession of strike pay, that they have been dragged into the " Advance Movement " by the more aggressive policy of the " General Union " (the rival trade society of the old type), or by irresponsible " strike-committees " of non- society men.

Time and growth were, in fact, revealing the drawbacks of the constitution with which Newton and Allan had endowed their cherished amalgamation, and which had been so extensively copied by other trades. The diffi- culties arising from the attempt to unite, in one organisa- tion, men working in the numerous distinct branches of the engineering trade, demanded constant thought and attention. The rapid changes in the industry, especially in connection with the growing use of new machinery, needed to be met by a well-considered flexibility, dictated by full knowledge of the facts, and some largeness of view. To maintain a harmonious yet progressive trade policy in all the hundreds of branches would, of itself, have taxed the skill of a body of experts free from other preoccupa- tions. All these duties were, however, cast upon a single


32O Sectional Developments

salaried officer, 1 working under a committee of artisans who met in the evening after an exhausting day of physical toil.

The result might have been foreseen. The rapid growth of the society brought with it a huge volume of detailed business. Every grant of accident benefit or superannua- tion allowance was made by the Executive Council. Every week this body had to decide on scores of separate appli- cations for gifts from the Benevolent Fund. Every time any of the tens of thousands of members failed to get what he wanted from his branch, he appealed to the Executive Council. Every month an extensive trade report had to be issued. Every quarter the branch accounts had to be examined, dissected, and embodied in an elaborate sum- mary, itself absorbing no small amount of labour and thought. The hundreds of branch secretaries and treasurers had to be constantly supervised, checked by special audits, and perpetually admonished for negligent or accidental breaches of the complicated code by which the Society was governed. The Executive Council became, in fact, absorbed in purely " treasury " work, and spent a large part of its time in protecting the funds of the Society from extrava- gance, laxity of administration, or misappropriation. The quantity of routine soon became enormous; and the whole attention of the General Secretary was given to coping with the mass of details which poured in upon him by every post.

This huge friendly society business brought with it, too, its special bias. Allan grew more and more devoted to the accumulating fund, which was alike the guarantee and the symbol of the success of his organisation. Nothing

1 An " Assistant Secretary " was subsequently added, and eventually another. But these assistants were, like the General Secretary himself, recruited from the ranks of the workmen, and however experienced they may have been in trade matters, were necessarily less adapted to the clerical labour demanded of them. The great Trade Friendly Societies of the Stonemasons, Bricklayers, and Ironfounders long continued to have only one assistant secretary, and no clerical staff whatever.


Abandonment of the Strike 321

was important enough to warrant any inroad on this sacred balance. The Engineers' Central Executive, indeed, practi- cally laid aside the weapon of the strike. " We believe," said Allan before the Royal Commission in 1867, " that all strikes are a complete waste of money, not only in relation to the workmen, but also to the employers." x The " Con- tingent Fund," out of which alone strike pay could be given, was between 1860 and 1872 repeatedly abolished by vote of the members, re-established for a short time, and again abolished. Trade Unionists who remembered the old con- flicts viewed with surprise and alarm the spirit which had come over the once active organisation. Even the experi- enced Dunning, whose moderation had, as we have suggested, dictated the first manifesto in which the new spirit can be traced, was moved to denunciation of Allan's apathy. " As a Trade Union," he writes in 1866, "the once powerful Amalgamated Society of Engineers is now as incapable to engage in a strike as the Hearts of Oak, the Foresters, or any other extensive benefit society. ... It formerly combined both functions, but now it possesses only one, that of a benefit society, with relief for members when out of work or travel- ling for employment superadded. . . . The Amalgamated Engineers, as a trade society, has ceased to exist." 2

It would be a mistake to assume that the inertia and supineness of the " Amalgamated " Societies was a neces- sary result of their accumulated funds or their friendly benefits. The remarkable energy and success of the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron-shipbuilders, established in 1832, and between 1865 and 1875 rapidly increasing in membership and funds, shows that elaborate friendly benefits are not inconsistent with a strong and consistent trade policy. This quite exceptional success is, we believe, due to the fact that the Boilermakers provided an adequate salaried staff to attend to their trade affairs. The " district delegates " who were, between 1873 and 1889, appointed

1 Question 827 in Report of Trade Union Commission (March 26, 1867).

  • Bookbinders' Trade Circular, January 1866.

M


322 Sectional Developments

for every important district, are absolutely unconcerned with the administration of friendly benefits, and devote them- selves exclusively to the work of Collective Bargaining. Unlike the General Secretaries of the Engineers, Carpenters, Stonemasons, or Ironfounders, who had but one salaried assistant, Robert Knight, the able- secretary of the Boiler- makers had under his orders an expert professional staff, and was accordingly able, not only to keep both employers and unruly members in check, but also successfully to adapt the Union policy to the changing conditions of the industry. In short, it was not the presence of friendly benefits, but the absence of any such class of professional organisers as exists in the organisations of the Coal-miners, Cotton Operatives, and Boilermakers, that created the deadlock in the adminis- tration of the great trade friendly societies. 1

The direct result of this abnegation of trade leadership was a complete arrest of the tendency to amalgamation, and, in some cases, even a breaking away of sections already within the organisation. The various independent societies, such as the Boilermakers, Steam-Engine Makers, and the Co- operative Smiths, gave up all idea of joining their larger rival. In 1872 the Patternmakers, who had long been discontented at the neglect of their special trade interests, formed an organisation of their own, which has since competed with the Amalgamated for the allegiance of this exceptionally skilled class of engineers. Nor was Allan at all eager to make his organisation co-extensive with the whole engineer- ing industry. The dominant idea of the early years of the amalgamation the protection of those who had, by regular apprenticeship, acquired " a right to the trade " excluded many men actually working at one branch or another, whilst the friendly society bias against unprofitable recruits co-operated to restrict the membership to such sections of

1 In 1892 the Amalgamated Engineers provided themselves, not only with district delegates, like those of the Boilermakers, but also with a salaried Executive Council. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters has since started district delegates, and the other national societies gradually followed suit.




Exclusiveness 323


the engineering industry, and such members of each section, as could earn a minimum time wage fixed for each locality by the District Committee.

This exclusiveness necessarily led to the development of other societies, which accepted those workmen who were not eligible for the larger organisation. The little local clubs of Machine-workers and Metal-planers expanded between 1867 and 1872 into national organisations, and began to claim consideration at the hands of the better paid engineers, on whose heels they were treading. New societies, such as those of the National Society of Amalgamated Brass- workers, the Independent Order of Engineers and Machinists, and the Amalgamated Society of Kitchen Range, Stove Grate, Gas Stoves, Hot Water, Art Metal, and other Smiths and Fitters, sprang into existence during 1872, in avowed protest against the " aristocratic " rule of excluding all workmen who were not receiving a high standard rate. The Associated Blacksmiths of Scotland, which had been formed in 1857 out of a class of smiths which was, at the time, unrecognised in the rules of the Amalgamated, now began steadily to increase in membership. Finally, during the decade various local societies were refused the privilege of amalgamation on the ground that either they included sections of the trade not recognised by the rules, or that the average age of their constituents was such as to make them unprofitable members of a society giving heavy super- annuation benefit. To the tendency to create an " aristo- cracy of labour " was added, therefore, the fastidiousness of an insurance company.

Many causes were thus co-operating to shift the centre of Trade Union influence from London to the provinces. The great trade friendly societies of Engineers, Carpenters, and Ironfounders were losing that lead in Trade Union matters which the political activity of the Junta had acquired for them. The Junta itself was breaking up. Applegarth, in many respects the leader of the group, resigned his secretaryship in 1871, and left the Trade Union Movement.


324 Sectional Developments

Odger, who lived until 1877, was from 1870 onwards devot- ing himself more and more to general politics. Allan, long suffering from an incurable disease, ctted in 1874. Mean- while provincial Trade Unionism was growing apace. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers, so long pre-eminent in numbers, began to be overshadowed by the federations of Coal-miners and Cotton Operatives. Even in the iron trades it found rivals in the rapidly growing organisations of Boilermakers (Iron-shipbuilders), whose headquarters were at Newcastle, and the Ironworkers centred at Darlington, whilst minor engineering societies were cropping up in all directions in the northern counties. The tendency to abandon London was further shown by the decision of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters in 1871 to remove their head office to Manchester, a change which had the incidental effect of depriving the London leaders of the counsels of Applegarth's successor, J. D. Prior, one of the ablest disciples of the Junta.

But although London was losing its hold on the Trade Union Movement, no other town inherited the leadership. Manchester, it is true, attracted to itself the headquarters of many national societies, and contained in these years perhaps the strongest group of Trade Union officials. 1 But there was no such concentration of all the effective forces as had formerly resulted in the Junta. Though Manchester might have furnished the nucleus of a Trade Union Cabinet, Alexander Macdonald was to be found either in Glasgow or London, Robert Knight at Liverpool and afterwards in Newcastle, John Kane at Darlington, the miners' agents all

1 Mention should here be made of the Manchester and District Associa- tion of Trade Union Officials, an organisation which grew out of a joint committee formed to assist the South Wales miners in their strike of 1875. The frequent meetings, half serious, half social, of this grandly named association, known to the initiated as " the Peculiar People," served for many years as opportunities for important consultations on Trade Union policy between the leaders of the numerous societies having offices in Manchester. It also had as an object the protection of Trade Union officials against unjust treatment by their own societies (see History of the British Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. i., 1910, p. 89).


Trade Union Expansion 325

over the country, whilst Henry Broadhurst (who in 1875 succeeded George Howell as the Secretary of the Parlia- mentary Committee), John Burnett, the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and George Shipton, the Secretary of the London Trades Council, naturally remained in the Metropolis. The result of the shifting from London was, accordingly, not the establish- ment elsewhere of any new executive centre of the Trade Union Movement, but the rise of a sectional spirit, the promotion of sectional interests, and the elaboration of sectional policies on the part of the different trades.

We have attempted in some detail to describe the internal growth of the Trade Union Movement between 1867 and 1875, in order to enable the reader to understand the dis- heartening collapse which ensued in 1878-79, and the subse- quent splitting up of the Trade Union world into the hostile camps once more designated the Old Unionists and the New. But all the unsatisfactory features of 1871-75 were, during these years, submerged by a wave of extraordinary commercial prosperity and Trade Union expansion. The series of Parliamentary successes of 1871-75 produced, as we have seen, a 'feeling of triumphant elation among the Trade Union leaders. To the little knot of working men who had conducted the struggle for emancipation and recognition, the progress of these years seemed almost beyond beftef. In 1867 the officials of the Unions were regarded as pothouse agitators, " unscrupulous men, leading a half idle life, fattening on the contributions of their dupes," and maintaining, by violence and murder, a system of terrorism which was destructive, not only of the industry of the nation, but also of the prosperity and independence of character of the unfortunate working men who were their victims. The Unionist workman, tramping with his card in search of employment, was regarded by the constable and the magistrate as something between a criminal vagrant and a revolutionist. In 1875 the officials of the great societies found themselves elected to the local School Boards.


326 Sectional Developments

and even to the House of Commons, pressed by the Govern- ment to accept seats on Royal Commissions, and respect- fully listened to in the lobby. And these political results were but the signs of an extraordinary expansion of the Trade Union Movement itself. " The year just closed," says the report of the Parliamentary Committee in January 1874, " has been unparalleled for the rapid growth and development of Trade Unionism. In almost every trade this appears to have been the same; but it is especially remarkable in those branches of industry which have hitherto been but badly organised." Exact numerical details cannot now be ascertained; but the Trades Union Congress of 1872 claimed to represent only 375,000 organised workmen, whilst that of 1874 included delegates from nearly three times as many societies, representing a nominal total of 1,191,922 members. 1 It is possible that between 1871 and 1875 the number of Trade Unionists was more than doubled. We see this progress reflected in the minds of the em- ployers. At the end of 1873 we find the newly established National Federation of Associated Employers of Labour declaring that " the voluntary and intermittent efforts of individual employers," or even employers' associations con- fined to a single trade or locality, are helpless against " the extraordinary development far-reaching, but openly- avowed designs and elaborate organisation of the Trade Unions." " Few are aware," continues this manifesto, " of the extent, compactness of organisation, large resources, and great influence of the Trade Unions. . . . They have the control of enormous funds, which they expend freely in furtherance of their objects; and the proportion of their earnings which the operatives devote to the service of their leaders is startling. . . . They have a well-paid and ample staff of leaders, most of them experienced in the conduct of strikes, many of them skilful as organisers, all forming a class

1 Report of the Trades Union Congress, Sheffield, 1874. A table printed in the Appendix to the present volume gives such comparative statistics of Trade Union membership as we have been able to compile-


What the Employers said 327

apart, a profession, with interests distinct from, though not necessarily antagonistic to, those of the workpeople they lead, but from their very raison d'etre hostile to those of the employers and the rest of the community. ... They have, through their command of money, the imposing aspect of their organisation, and partly, also, from the mistaken humanitarian aspirations of a certain number of literary men of good standing, a large army of literary talent which is prompt in their service on all occasions of controversy. They have their own press as a field for these exertions. Their writers have free access to some of the leading London journals. They organise frequent public meetings, at which paid speakers inoculate the working classes with their ideas, and urge them to dictate terms to candidates for Parliament. Thus they exercise a pressure upon members of Parliament, and those aspirant to that honour, out of all proportion to their real power, and beyond belief except to those who have had the opportunity of witnessing its effects. They have a standing Parliamentary Committee, and a pro- gramme; and active members of Parliament are energetic in their service. They have the attentive ear of the Ministry of the day; and their communications are received with instant and respectful attention. They have a large repre- sentation of their own body in London whenever Parliament is likely to be engaged in the discussion of the proposals they have caused to be brought before it. Thus, untram- melled by pecuniary considerations, and specially set apart for this peculiar work, without other clashing occupations, they resemble the staff of a well-organised, well-provisioned army, for which everything that foresight and preoccupation in a given purpose could provide, is at command." x It is

1 " Statement as to Formation and Objects of the National Federation of Associated Employers of Labour," December n, 1873, reprinted by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress. This Federa- tion comprised in its ranks a large proportion of the great " captains of industry " of the time, including such shipbuilders as Laird and Har- land & Wolff; such textile manufacturers as Crossley, Brinton, Marshall, Titus Salt, Akroyd, and Brocklehurst; such engineers as Mawdsley, Son & Field, Combe, Barbour & Combe, and Beyer & Peacock; such ironmasters


328 Sectional Developments

not surprising that the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress, composed, as it was, of the " staff of leaders " referred to, should have had this involuntary tribute to their efficiency reprinted and widely circulated among their constituents.

The student will form a more qualified estimate of the position in 1873-75 than either the elated Trade Unionists or the alarmed employers. In the first place, great as was the numerical expansion of these years, the reader of the preceding chapters will know that it was not without parallel. The outburst of Trade Unionism between 1830 and 1834 was, so far as we can estimate, even greater than that between 1871 and 1875, whilst it was far more rapid in its development. There were, during the nineteenth century, three high tides in the Trade Unitfn history of our country, 1833-34, J 872-74, and 1889-90. In the absence of complete and trustworthy statistics it is difficult to say at which of these dates the sweeping in of members was greatest. But it is easy to discern that the expansion of 1873-74 was marked by features which were both like and unlike those of its predecessor.

Like the outburst of 1833-34, the marked extension of Trade Unionism in 1872 reached even the agricultural labourers. For more than thirty years since the transporta- tion of the Dorchester labourers good times and bad had passed over their heads without resulting in any combined effort to improve their condition. There seems to have been a short-lived combination in Scotland in 1865. We hear of an impulsive strike of some Buckinghamshire labourers in 1867, which spread into Hertfordshire. A more effective Union was formed in Herefordshire in 1871, which pursued a quiet policy of emigration, and enrolled 30,000 subscribers in half a dozen counties. But a more

as David Dale and John Menelaus; such builders as Trollope of London and Neill of Manchester, and such representatives of the great industrial peers as Sir James Ramsden, who spoke for the Duke of Devonshire, and Fisher Smith, the agent of the Earl of Dudley.


The Farm Labourer 329

energetic movement now arose. On February 7, 1872, the labourers of certain parishes of Warwickshire met at Wellesbourne to discuss their grievances. At a second meeting, a little later, Joseph Arch, a labourer of Barford, who owned a freehold cottage, and had become known as a Primitive Methodist preacher, made a speech which bore fruit. On the nth of March two hundred men resolved to strike for higher wages, namely, i6s. per week for a working day from 6 A.M. to 5 P.M. Unlike most strikes this one attracted from the first the favourable notice of the press. 1 Publicity brought immediate funds and sympathisers. On the 2Qth of March the inaugural meeting of the Warwickshire Agricultural Labourers' Union was held at Leamington, under the presidency of the Hon. Auberon Herbert, M.P., a donation of one hundred pounds being handed in by a rich friend. Through the eloquence, the revivalist fervour, and the untiring energy of Joseph Arch, the movement spread like wildfire among the rural labourers of the central and eastern counties.

1 The immediate publicity given to the agitation was due, in the first place, to the sympathy of J. E. Matthew Vincent, the editor of the Leaming- ton Chronicle, and secondly, to the instinct of the Daily News, which promptly sent Archibald Forbes, its war correspondent, to Warwickshire, and " boomed " the movement in a series of special articles. A contem- porary account of the previous career of Joseph Arch is given by the Rev. F. S. Attenborough in his Life of Joseph Arch (Leamington, 1872; 37 pp.). See also The Revolt of the Field, by A. W. Clayden (1874), 234 pp.; and "Zur Geschichte der englischen Arbeiterbewegung im Jahre 1872-1873," by Dr. Friedrich Kleinwachter in Jahrbiicher fur Nationalokonomie und Statistik, 1875, and Supplement I. of 1878; "Die jiingste Landarbeiter- bewegung in England," by Lloyd Jones, in Nathusius-Thiel's Landwirth- schaftliche Jahrbiicher, 1875; The Romance of Peasant Life, 1872, and The English Peasantry, 1872, by F. G. Heath; The Agricultural Labourer, by F. E. Kettel, 1887; Joseph Arch, the Story of his Life, told by Himself, 1898; A History of the English Agricultural Labourer, by Dr. W. Hasbach, 1908; "The Labourers in Council," a valuable article in The Congregationalist, 1872; " The Agricultural Labourers' Union," in Quarterly Review, 1873; "The Agricultural Labourers' Union," by Canon Girdlestone, in Mac- millan's Magazine, vol. xxviii.; "The Agricultural Labourer," by F. Verinder, in The Church Reformer, 1892; and others in this magazine during 1891-93; Conflicts of Capital and Labour, by G. Howell, 1878 and 1890 editions; Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders, by the same, 1902; and Village Trade Unions in Two Centuries, by Ernest Selley, 1919.

M2


330 Sectional Developments

The mania for combination which came over the country population during the next few months recalls, indeed, the mushroom growth of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of forty years before. Within two months delegates from twenty-six counties met to transform the local society into a National Agricultural Labourers' Union, organised in district Unions all over the country, with a central committee at Leamington, which, by the end of the year, boasted of a membership of ruearly a hundred thousand. 1

The organised Trade Unions rallied promptly to the support of the labourers, and contributed largely to their funds. The farmers met the men's demand by a wide- spread lock-out of Unionist labourers, which called forth the support of Trades Councils and individual societies all over the country. 2 George Ho well, then Secretary of the

1 Other Labourers' Unions sprang up which refused to be absorbed in the National; and the London Trades Council summoned a conference in March 1873 to promote unity of action. Considerable jealousy was shown of any centralising policy, and eventually a Federal Union of Agricultural and General Labourers was formed by half a dozen of the smaller societies, with an aggregate membership of 50,000.

2 The Birmingham Trades Council, for instance, issued the following poster :

" GREAT LOCK-OUT OF AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS! " AN APPEAL. Is THE LABOURER WORTHY OF HIS HIRE?

" This question is to all lovers of freedom and peaceful progress, and it is left for them to say whether that spark of life and hope which has been kindled in the breasts of our toiling brothers in the agricultural districts shall be extinguished by the pressure of the present lock-out. The answer is No! and the echo resounds from ten thousand lips. But let us be practical; a little help is of more value than much sympathy; we must not stand to pity, but strive to send relief. The cause of the agri- cultural labourer is our own; the interests of labour in all its forms are very closely bound up together, and the simple question for each one is, How much can I help, and how soon can I do it? If we stay thinking too long, action may come too late; these men, our brethren, now deeply in adversity, may have fallen victims when our active efforts might have saved them. The strain upon the funds of their Union must be considerable with such a number thrown into unwilling idleness, and that for simply asking that their wages, in these times of dear food, might be increased from 133. to 143, per week. Money is no doubt wanted, and it is by that alone the victory can be won. Let us therefore hope that Birmingham


The Revolt of the Field 331

Parliamentary Committee, George Shipton, the Secretary of the newly revived London Trades Council, and many other leaders, gave up their nights and days to perfecting the labourers' organisations. The skilled trades, indeed, furnished many of the officials of the new Union. Joseph Arch found for his headquarters an able general secretary in Henry Taylor, a carpenter, whilst the Kentish labourers, organised in the separate Kent Union, enjoyed the services of a compositor. This help, together with the funds and countenance of influential philanthropists, made the out- burst less transient than that of 1833-34. I* 1 niany villages the mere formation of a branch led to an instantaneous rise of wages. But, as in 1833-34, the audacity of the field labourer in imitating the combinations of the town artisan provoked an almost indescribable bitterness of feeling on the part of the squirearchy and their connections. The

will once again come to the rescue, determined to assist these men to a successful resistance of the oppression that is attempted in this lock-out.

" The great high priest and deliverer of this people now seeks our aid. We must not let him appeal to us in vain; his efforts have been too noble in the past, the cause for which he pleads is too full of righteousness, and the issues too great to be passed by in heedless silence. Let us all to work at once. We can all give a little, and each one may encourage his neighbour to follow his example. The conflict may be a severe one. It is for freedom and liberty to unite as we have done. We have reaped some of the advan- tages of our Unions; we must assist them to establish theirs, and not allow the ray of hope that now shines across the path of our patient but determined fellow-toilers to be darkened by the blind folly of their em- ployers, who, being in a measure slaves to the powers above them, would, if they could, even at their own loss, consign all below them to perpetual bondage. This must not be. We must not allow these men to be robbed of their right to unite, or their future may be less hopeful than their past. Let some one in every manufactory and workshop collect from those disposed to give, and so help to furnish the means to assist these men to withstand the powers brought against them, showing to their would-be oppressors that we have almost learned the need and duty of standing side by side until all our righteous efforts shall be crowned by victory.

" All members of the Birmingham Trades Council are authorised to collect and receive contributions to the fund, and will be pleased to receive assistance from others.

" By order of the Birmingham Trades Council,

" W. GILLIVER, Secretary."


332 Sectional Developments

farmers, wherever they dared, ruthlessly " victimised " any man who joined the Union. It is needless to say that they received the cordial support of the rural magistracy. In aid of a lock-out near Chipping Norton, two justices, who happened both to be clergymen, sent sixteen labourers' wives, some with infants at the breast, to prison with hard labour, for " intimidating " certain non-Union men. An attempt to punish the leaders of a meeting at Farringdon, on the ground of " obstruction of the highway," was only defeated by bringing down an eminent Queen's Counsel from London to overawe the local bench. The " dukes " notably those of Marlborough and Rutland denounced the " agitators and declaimers " who had " too easily succeeded in disturbing the friendly feeling which used to unite the labourer and his employer in mutual feelings of generosity and confidence." Innumerable acts of petty tyranny and oppression proved how far the landed interest had lagged behind the capitalist employers in the matter of Freedom of Combination. Nor was the Established Church more sympathetic. At the great meeting held at Exeter Hall on behalf of the labourers, when the chair was taken by Samuel Morley, M.P., the only ecclesiastic who appeared on the platform was Archbishop (afterwards Cardinal) Manning. In fact, the spirit in which the rural clergy viewed this social upheaval is not unfairly typified by the public utterance of a learned bishop. On September 2, 1872, Dr. Ellicott, the Bishop of Gloucester, speaking at a meeting of the Gloucester Agricultural Society, significantly suggested the village horsepond as a fit destination for the " agitators," or dele- gates sent by the Union to open new branches. And the farmers, the squires, and the Church were supported by the army. When the labourers in August 1872 struck for an increase of wages, the officers, in Oxfordshire and Berk- shire, placed the soldiers at the disposal of the farmers for the purpose of getting in the harvest and so defeating the Union.

This insurrection of the village and the autocratic spirit


Soldier Strike-breakers 333

which it aroused in the owners of land and tithe had, we believe, a far-reaching political effect. With its results upon the agitation for Church disestablishment and the growing Radicalism of the counties we are not here con- cerned. We trace, however, from these months, the appear- ance in the Trade Union programme of the proposals relating to the Land Law Reform and the Summary Jurisdiction of the Magistrates, which seem, at first sight, unconnected with the grievances of the town artisan. But though the agricultural labourer had his effect upon the Trade Union Movement, Trade Unionism was not, at this time, able to do much for him. Funds and personal help were freely placed at his service by his brother Unionists. The minute- books and balance-sheets of the great Unions and the Trade Councils show how warm and generous was the response made to his appeal by the engineers, carpenters, miners, and other trades. The London Trades Council successfully exerted itself to stop the lending of troops to the farmers, and procured a fresh regulation explicitly prohibiting for the future such assistance " in cases where strikes or dis- putes between farmers and their labourers exist." 1 The public disapproval of the sentence in the Chipping Norton case was used by the Trade Union leaders as a powerful argument for the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. -

But all this availed the agricultural labourer little. The feverish faith in combination as a panacea for all social ills gradually subsided. The farmers, after their first surprise, during which the labourers, in many counties, secured ad- vances of from eighteenpence to as much as four shillings per week, met the Union demands and successes by a stolid resistance, and took every opportunity to regain their ground. In 1874 the Agricultural Unions sustained their first severe defeat. Some of those in Suffolk asked for an advance of

1 Queen's Regulations for the Army for 1873, Article 180; the whole correspondence is given in the Report of the London Trades Council. June 1873.


334 Sectional Developments

wages from 135. to 145. for a 54-hours week. The farmers' answer was an immediate lock-out, which was rapidly taken up throughout the Eastern and Midland counties, no fewer than 10,000 members of the Union being thus " victimised." The struggle had to be closed in July 1874, after an ex- penditure by the National Union of 21,365 in strike pay. After this the membership rapidly declined. Every winter saw the lock-out used as a means for smashing particular branches of the Union. And in this work of destruction the farmers were aided by their personal intimacy with the labourer. It was easy to drop into the suspicious mind of the uneducated villager a fatal doubt as to the real destina- tion of the pennies which he was sending away to the far- off central treasury. Nor was the Union organisation per- fect. Difficulties and delays occurred in rendering aid to threatened branches or victimised men. The clergyman, the doctor, and the village publican were always at hand to encourage distrust of the " paid agitator." Within a very few years most of the independent Unions had ceased to exist, whilst Arch's great national society had dwindled away to a steadily diminishing membership, scattered up and down the midland counties, in what were virtually village sick and funeral clubs. With the decline of prosperity of British farming, which set in about 1876-77, men were every- where dismissed, grass replaced grain over hundreds of thousands of acres, and the demand for agricultural labour fell off; and even Joseph Arch had repeatedly to advise the local branches to acquiesce in lower wages. By 1881 the National Union could claim only 15,000 members, and in 1889 only 4254^

We have, therefore, in the sudden growth and quick collapse of this revolt " of the field " a marked likeness to the meteoric career of the general Trades Unions of 1833-34.

1 The rival Kent Union, which had become the Kent and Sussex Agricultural and General Labourers' Union, enrolling all sorts of labourers, claimed in 1889 still to have 10,000 members, with an annual income of i 0,000 a year, mostly disbursed in sick and funeral benefits.


Co-operative Production 335

But the expansion of the Trade Union Movement in 1871-75 had another point of resemblance to previous periods of inflation. In 1871-75, as in 1833-34 an d in 1852, the project of recovering possession of the instruments of production seizes hold of the imagination of great bodies of Trade Unionists. Again we see attempts by trade organisations to establish workshops of their own. The schemes of Co- operative Production of 1871-75 bore more resemblance to those of 1852 than to Owen's crude communism. In the Trade Unionism of 1833-34 the fundamental Trade Union principle of the maintenance of the Standard of Life was overshadowed and absorbed by the Owenite idea of carrying on the whole industry of the country by national associa- tions of producers, in which all the workmen would be included. But in the more practical times of 1852 and 1871-75 the project of " self -employment " remained strictly subordinate to the main functions of the organisation. 1 Whatever visions may have been indulged in by individual philanthropists, the Trade Union committees of both these periods treated the co-operative workshop either as merely a convenient adjunct to the Union, or as a means of afford- ing to a certain number of its members a chance of escape from the conditions of wage-labour. 2 The failure of all

1 See Die Strikes, die Co-operation, die Industrial Partnerships, by Dr. Robert Jannasch (Berlin, 1868; 66 pp.).

2 Amid the great outburst of feeling in favour of Co-operative Produc- tion it is difficult to distinguish in every case between the investments of the funds of the Trade Unions in their corporate capacity, and the sub- scriptions of individual members under the auspices, and sometimes through the agency, of their trade society. The South Yorkshire Miners' Association used ^30,000 of its funds in the purchase of the Shirland Colliery in 1875, and worked it on account of the Association. In a very short time, however, the constant loss on the working led to the colliery being disposed of, with the total loss of the investment. The Northum- berland and Durham Miners in 1873 formed a " Co-operative Mining Company " to buy a colliery, a venture in which the Unions took shares, but which quickly ended in the loss of all the capital. Some of the New- castle engineers on strike for Nine Hours in 1871 were assisted by sym- pathisers to start the Ouseburn Engine Works, which came to a disastrous end in 1876. In 1875 the Leicester Hosiery Operatives' Union, having 2000 members, began manufacturing on its own account, and bought up a small business. In the following year a vote of the members decided


336 Sectional Developments

these attempts belongs, therefore, rather to the history of Co-operation than to that of Trade Unionism. For our present purpose it suffices to note that the loss in these experiments of tens of thousands of pounds finally con- vinced the officials of the old-established Unions of the impracticability of using Trade Union organisations and Trade Union funds for Co-operative Production. The management of industry by associations of producers still remains the ideal of one school of co-operators, and still periodically captures the imagination of individual Trade Unionists. But other ideals of collective ownership of the means of production have displaced the Owenism of 1833-34 and the " Christian Socialism " of 1852. Of co-operative experiments by Trade Societies, in their corporate capacity, we hear practically no more. 1

against such an investment of the funds, and the Union sold out to a group of individuals under the style of the Leicester Hosiery Society. It became fairly successful, but scarcely a tenth of the shareholders were workers in the concern, and it was eventually merged in the Co-operative Wholesale Society. Innumerable smaller experiments were set on foot during these years by groups of Trade Unionists with more or less assistance from their societies, but the great majority were quickly abandoned as unsuc- cessful. In a few cases the business established still exists, but in every one of these any connection with Trade Unionism has long since ceased. In later years renewed attempts have been made by a few Unions. Several local branches of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, for instance, have taken shares in the Leicester Co-operative Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Society. The London Bassdressers, the Staffordshire Potters, the Birmingham Tinplate Workers, and a few other societies have also taken shares in co-operative concerns started in their respective trades. Full particulars will be found in the exhaustive work of Benjamin Jones on Co-operative Production, 1894.

1 In one other respect the Trade Union expansion of 1872-74 resembled that of 1833-34. Both periods were marked by an attempt to enrol the women wage-earners in the Trade Union ranks. Ephemeral Unions of women workers had been established from time to time, only to collapse after a brief existence. The year 1872 saw the establishment of the oldest durable Union for women only the Edinburgh Upholsterers' Sewers' Society. Two years later Mrs. Paterson, the real pioneer of modern women's Trade Unions, began her work in this field, and in 1875 several small Unions among London Women Bookbinders, Upholsteresses, Shirt and Collar Makers, and Dressmakers were established, to be followed, in subsequent years, by others among Tailoresses, Laundresses, etc. Mrs. Emma Ann Paterson (nee Smith), who was born in 1848, the daughter of a London schoolmaster, served from 1867 to 1873 successively as an


Arbitration 337

On the whole the contrast between the Trade Union expansion of 1873-74 and that of 1833-34 is more significant than any likeness that may be traced between the two periods. The Trade Unionists of 1833-34 aimed at nothing less than the supersession of the capitalist employer; and they were met by his absolute refusal to tolerate, or even to recognise, their organisation. The new feature of the expansion of 1873-74 was the moderation with which the workmen claimed merely to receive some share of the enormous profits of these good times. The employers, on the other hand, for the mj2rst part abandoned their objection to recognise the Union^, and even conceded, after repeated refusals, the principle of the regulation of industry by Joint Boards of Conciliation or impartial umpires chosen from outside the trade. From 1867 to 1875 innumerable Boards of Conciliation and Arbitration were established, at which representatives of the masters met representatives of the Trade Unions on equal terms. In fact, it must have been difficult for the workmen at this period to realise with what stubborn obstinacy the employers, between 1850 and 1870, had resisted any kind of intervention in what they had then regarded as essentially a matter of private concern. When the Amalgamated Society of Engineers offered, in 1851, to refer the then pending dispute to arbitration, the master


Assistant Secretary of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union and the Women's Suffrage Association, and married, in 1873, Thomas Paterson, a cabinetmaker. On a visit to the United States she became acquainted with the " Female Umbrella Makers' Union of New York," and strove, on her return in 1874, to promulgate the idea of Trade Unionism among women workers in the South of England. After some newspaper articles, she set on foot the Women's Protective and Provident League (now the Women's Trade Union League), for the express purpose of promoting Trade Unionism, and established in the same year the National Union of Working Women at Bristol. From 1875 to 1886 she was a constant attendant at the Trades Union Congress, and was several times nominated for a seat on the Parliamentary Committee, at the Hull Congress heading the list of unsuccessful candidates. An appreciative notice of her life and work appeared in the Women's Union Journal on her death in December 1886; see also Dictionary of National Biography, and Women in the Printing Trades edited by J. R. MacDonald (1904), pp. 36, 37.


338 Sectional Developments

engineers simply ignored the proposal. The Select Com- mittees of the House of Commons in 1856 and 1860 found the workmen's witnesses strongly in favour of arbitration, but the employers sceptical as to its possibility. Nor did the establishment of A. J. Mundella's Hosiery Board at Nottingham in 1860, and Sir Rupert Kettle's Joint Com- mittees in the Wolverhampton building trades in 1864, succeed in converting the employers elsewhere. But be- tween 1869 and 1875 opinion among the captains of industry, to the great satisfaction of the Trade Union leaders, gradu- ally veered round. " Twenty-five years ago," said Alex- ander Macdonald in 1875, " when we proposed the adoption of the principle of arbitration, we were then laughed to scorn by the employing interests. But no movement has ever spread so rapidly or taken a deeper root than that which we then set on foot. Look at the glorious state of things in England and Wales. In Northumberland the men now meet with their employers around the common board. ... In Durhamshire a Board of Arbitration and Concilia- tion has also been formed; and 75,000 men repose with perfect confidence on the decisions of the Board. There are 40,000 men in Yorkshire in the same position." 1

But though the establishment, from 1869 onwards, of Joint Boards and Joint Committees represented a notable advance for the Trade Unions, and marked their complete recognition by the great employers, yet this victory brought results which largely neutralised its advantages. 2 As in the

1 Speech quoted in Capital and Labour, June 16, 1875.

2 It must be remembered that the words " arbitration " and " con- ciliation " were at this time very loosely used, often meaning no more than a meeting of employers and Trade Union representatives for argument and discussion. The classic work upon the whole subject is Henry Crompton's Industrial Conciliation, 1876. It receives detailed examination in the various contributions of Mr. L. L. Price, notably his Industrial Peace (1887) and the supplementary papers entitled " The Relations between Industrial Conciliation and Social Reform," and " The Position and Prospects of Industrial Conciliation," published in the Statistical Society's Journal for June and September 1890 (vol. liii. pp. 290 and 420). For an American summary may be consulted Joseph D. Weeks' Report on the Practical Working of Arbitration and Conciliation in the Settlement of Differences


Joint Boards 339

case of the political triumphs, the men gained their point at the cost of adopting the intellectual position of their opponents. When the representatives of the employers and the delegates of the men began to meet to discuss the future scale of wages, we see the sturdy leaders of many Trade Union battles gradually and insensibly accepting the capitalists' axiom that wages must necessarily fluctuate according to the capitalists' profits, and even with every variation of market prices. 1 At Darlington, for instance, we watch the shrewd leader of the employers, David Dale, succeeding in completely impressing John Kane and a whole subsequent generation of ironworkers with a firm

between Employers and Employees in England (Harrisburg, 1879), and his paper on Labour Differences (New York, 1886). The working of arbitra- tion is well set forth in Strikes and Arbitration, by Sir Rupert Kettle, 1866; in A. J. Mundella's evidence before the Trade Union Commission, 1868; in his address, Arbitration as a Means of Preventing Strikes (Bradford, 1868; 24 pp.); and in the lecture by Dr. R. Spence Watson entitled " Boards of Arbitration and Conciliation and Sliding Scales," reported in the Barnsley Chronicle, March 20, 1886. An early account of the Nottingham experience is contained in the paper by E. Renals, " On Arbitration in the Hosiery Trades of the Midland Counties " (Statistical Society's Journal, December 1867, vol. xxx. p. 548). See also the volume edited by Dr. Brentano, Arbeitseinstellungen und Fortbildung des Arbeitvertrags (Leipzig, 1890), and Zum socialen Frieden, by Dr. von Schulze Gaevernitz (Leipzig, 2 vols., 1892). The whole subject of the relation between Trade Unions and employers is fully dealt with in our Industrial Democracy. For the latest British Official reports on the subject see Cd. 6603, 6952, and 9099.

1 The course of prices after 1870 demonstrates how disastrously this principle would have operated for the wage-earners had it been universally adopted. Between 1870 and 1894 the Index Number compiled by the Economist, representing the average level of market prices, fell steadily from 2996 to 2082, irrespective of the goodness of trade or the amount of the employers' profits. Any exact correspondence between wages and the price of the product would exclude the wage-earners, as such, from all share in the advantages of improvements in production, cheapening of carriage, and the fall in the rate of interest, which might otherwise be turned to account in an advance in the workman's Standard of Life. On the other hand, in an era of rising prices, when these influences are being more than counteracted by currency inflation, increasing difficulty of pro- duction, or a world-shortage of supply, an automatic correspondence be- tween money wages and the cost of living would be useful, if it did not lead to the implication that the only ground for an advance in wages was an increase in the cost of living. The workmen have still to contend for a progressive improvement of their Standard of Life whatever happens to profits.


340 Sectional Developments

belief in the principle of regulating wages according to the market price of the product. The high prices of 1870-73' removed the last scruples of the workmen as to the new doctrine. In 1874 a delegate meeting of the Northumber- land Miners decided to use the formal expression of the Executive Committee, 1 " that prices should rule wages " a decision expressly repeated by delegate meetings in 1877 and 1878. In 1879, when prices had come tumbling down, we find the Executive still maintaining that " as an Associa- tion we have always contended that wages should be based on the selling price of coal." 2 In an interesting letter dated February i, 1878, Burt, Nixon, and Young (then the salaried officers of the Northumberland Miners), in describ- ing the negotiations for a Sliding Scale, take occasion to mention that they had agreed with the employers that there should be no Minimum Wage. 3 And though the practical difficulties involved in the establishment of automatic wage- adjustments hindered the spread of Sliding Scales to other industries, the principle became tacitly accepted among whole sections of Trade Unionists. The compulsory main- tenance, in good times and bad, of the workman's Standard of Life was thus gradually replaced by faith in a scale of wages sliding up and down according to the commercial speculations of the controllers of the market.

The new doctrine was not accepted without vigorous protests from the more thoughtful working-men leaders. Lloyd Jones, writing in 1874, warns " working men of the danger there is in a principle that wages should be regu- lated by market prices, accepted and acted on, and therefore presumably approved of by Trades Unions. These bodies, it is to be regretted, permit it in arbitration, accept it in negotiations with their employers, and thus give the highest

1 Executive Circular, October 12, 1874.

a Ibid., October 21, 1879; as to the Sliding Scales actually adopted, see Appendix II.

8 Miners' Watchman and Labour Sentinel, February 9, 1878 a quasi- official organ of the Northern Miners, which was published in London from January to May 1878.


Sliding Scales 341

sanction they can to a mode of action most detrimental to the cause of labour. . . . The first thing, therefore, those who manage trade societies should* settle is a minimum, which they should regard as a point below which they should never go. ... Such a one as will secure sufficiency of food and some degree of personal and home comfort to the worker; not a miserable allowance to starve on, but living wages. . . . The present agreements they are going into on fluctuating market prices is a practical placing of their fate in the hands of others. It is throwing the bread of their children into a scramble of competition where everything is decided by the blind and selfish struggles of their employers." x "I entirely agree," writes Professor Beesly, " with an admirable article by Mr. Lloyd Jones 2 in a recent number of the Beehive, in which he maintained that colliers should aim at establish- ing a minimum price for their labour, and compelling their employers to take that into account as the one constant and stable element in 1 all their speculations. All workmen should keep their eyes fixed on this ultimate ideal." 3 Nor was this view confined to friendly allies of the Trade

1 " Should Wages be Regulated by Market Prices? " by Lloyd Jones, Beehive, July 18, 1874; see also his article in the issue for March 14, 1874.

2 Lloyd Jones, one of the ablest and most loyal friends of Trade Union- ism, was born at Bandon, in Ireland, in 1811, the son of a small working master in the trade of fustian-cutting. Himself originally a working fustian-cutter, Lloyd Jones became, like his father, a small master, but eventually abandoned that occupation for journalism. He became an enthusiastic advocate of Co-operation, and in 1850 he joined Thomas Hughes and E. Vansittart Neale in a memorable lecturing tour through Lancashire. A few years later we find him in London, in close touch with the Trade Union leaders, with whom he was on terms of intimate friendship. From the establishment of the Beehive in 1861 he was for eighteen years a frequent contributor, his articles being uniformly distinguished by literary ability, exact knowledge of industrial facts, and shrewd foresight. From 1870 until his death in 1886 he was frequently selected by the various Unions to present their case in Arbitration proceedings. At the General Election of 1885 he stood as candidate for the Chester-le-Street Division of Durham, where he was opposed by both the official Liberals and the Conservatives, and was unsuccessful. In conjunction with J. M. Ludlow, he wrote The Progress of the Working Classes, 1867, and afterwards pub- lished The Life, Times, and Labours of Robert Owen, to which a memoir by his son, Mr. W. C. Jones, has since been prefixed.

8 Beehive, May 16, 1874.


342 Sectional Developments

Union Movement. We shall have occasion to notice how forcibly both the Cotton Operatives and the Boilermakers protested against the dependence of wages on the fluctua- tions of the market. Alexander Macdonald himself, though he approved of Joint Committees, instinctively maintained an attitude of hostility to the innovating principle of a sliding scale. 1 And, as we shall hereafter see, the conflict between Macdonald's teaching with regard to both wages and the hours of labour, and the economic views of the Northumberland and Durham leaders, presently divided the organised miners into two hostile camps.

The Trade Union world of 1871-75 was therefore more complicated, and presented many more difficult internal problems than was imagined, either by the alarmed employers or the triumphant Trade Unionists. It needed only the stress of hard times to reveal to the Trade Unionists them- selves that they were not the compact and well-organised army described by the Rational Federation of Associated Employers, but a congeries of distinct sections, pursuing separate and sometimes antagonistic policies.

The expansion of trade, under- the influence of which Trade Unionism, as we have seen, reached in 1873-74 one of its high-water marks, came suddenly to an end. The contraction became visible first in the coal and iron indus- tries, those in which the inflation had perhaps been 'greatest. 2 The first break occurred in February 1874, when the coal- miners of the East of Scotland submitted to a reduction of a shilling a day. During the rest of the year prices and wages came tumbling down in both these staple trades. In

1 This information we owe to personal friends and colleagues of Mac- donald, Thomas Burt, M.P., and Ralph Young, who, as we have seen, differed from him on this point, and also on the allied question of regula- tion of output according to demand, to be preached by the coal-miners as well as by the colliery companies, which Macdonald, throughout his whole career, persistently advocated. See, for instance, his speech at the local conference on the Depression of Trade, Bristol Mercury, February 13, 1878.

2 A useful summary of these events is given in Dr. Kleinwachter's pamphlet, Zur Geschichte der englischen Arbeiterbewegung in den Jahren 1871 und 1874 (Jena, 1878; 150 pp.).


The Slump 343

January 1875 a furious conflict broke out in South Wales, where many thousand miners and ironworkers refused to submit to a third reduction of ten per cent. The struggle dragged on until the end of May, when work was resumed at a reduction, not 'of ten, but of twelve and a half per cent, with an understanding that " any change in the wage rates . . . shall depend on a sliding scale of wages to be regulated by the selling price of coal." * In the following year the depression spread to the textile industries, and gradually affected all trades throughout the country. The building trades were, however, still prosperous; and the Manchester Carpenters chose this moment for an aggressive advance movement. The disastrous strike that followed early in 1877, and lasted throughout the year, resulted in the virtual collapse of the General Union of Carpenters and Joiners, at that time the third in magnitude among the societies in the building trades, and left the Manchester building operatives in a state of disorganisation from which they never fully recovered. In April 1877 the Clyde ship- wrights demanded an increase of wages, to which the employers replied by a general lock-out of all the operatives engaged in the shipbuilding yards, in the expectation that this would cause pressure on the shipwrights to withdraw their claim. For more than three months the main industry of the Clyde was at a standstill, the dispute being eventually ended, in September 1877, by submission to the arbitration of Lord Moncreiff, in which the men were completely worsted. In July 1877 a conflict broke out between the stonemasons and their employers, in which Bull & Co., the contractors for the new law courts in London, caused the bitterest resentment by importing German workmen as blacklegs. The demand had originally been for an increase of wages and reduction of hours for the London men; but as the obstinate struggle progressed it became, in effect, a battle between the Stonemasons' Union and the federated master builders throughout the country. Large levies were

1 Beehive, June 5, 1875.


344 Sectional Developments

raised, and over 2000 collected from other trade societies; but in March 1878, after eight months' conflict, the rem- nant of the strikers returned to work on the employers' terms. The cotton trade, too, was made the scene of one of the greatest industrial struggles on record. After several minor reductions of wages during 1877, which resulted in local strikes, in March 1878, as the Times reports, " all the way through a centre of 70 miles, where 250,000 cotton operatives are employed, notices have been posted giving a month's notice of ten per cent reduction in wages." A colossal strike ensued, which brought into prominence the rival theories of the cotton operatives and their employers. It was conceded by the men that the mill-owners were losing money, and that some change had to be made. But as the employers admitted that their losses arose from the glutted state of the market, the operatives contended that the proper remedy was the cessation of the over-production; and they therefore offered to accept the 10 per cent reduc- tion on condition that the mills should only work four days a week. A heated controversy ensued, but the mill-owners persisted in their demand for the unconditional surrender of the men, and refused all proposals for arbitration. The cause of the men was unfortunately prejudiced by serious riots at Blackburn, at which the house of Colonel Raynsford Jackson, the leader of the associated employers, was looted and burnt. After ten weeks' struggle the men went in on the employers' terms. 1

1 The operatives' case is well put in the Weavers' Manifesto of June 1878:

" Fellow- workers We are and have been engaged during the past nine weeks in the most memorable struggle between Capital and Labour in the history of the world. One hundred thousand factory workers are waging war with their employers as to the best possible way to remove the glut from an overstocked cloth market, and at the same time reduce the difficulties arising from an insufficient supply of raw cotton. To remedy this state of things the employers propose a reduction of wages to the extent of ten per cent below the rate of wages agreed upon twenty-five years ago. On the other hand, we have contended that a reduction in the rate of wages cannot either remove the glut in the cloth market or assist to tide us over the difficulty arising from the limited supply of raw


Widespread Ruin 345

The great struggles of 1875-78 were only the precursors of a general rout of the Trade Union forces. The increasing depression of trade culminated during 1878-79 in a stag- nation which must rank as one of the most serious which has ever overtaken British industry. The paralysis of business was intensified, especially in Scotland, by the widespread ruin caused by the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank. From one end of the kingdom to the other great firms became bankrupt, mines and ironworks were stopped, ships lay idle in the ports, and a universal feeling of despondency and distrust spread like a blight into every corner of the industrial world. Every industry had its crowds of unemployed workmen, the proportion of men on the books of the Trade Unions rising, in some cases, to as much as 25 per cent. The capitalists, as might have been expected, chose the moment of trial for attempting to take back the rest of the concessions ex- torted from them in the previous years. " It has appeared to employers of labour/' stated the private circular issued by the Iron Trade Employers' Association in December 1878, " that the time has arrived when the superfluous wages

material. However, this has been the employers' theory, and at various periods throughout the struggle we have made the following propositions as a basis of settlement of this most calamitous struggle :

" i. A reduction of ten per cent, with four days' working, or five per cent with five days' working, until the glut in the cloth market and the difficulties arising from the dearth of cotton had been removed.

" 2. To submit the whole question of short time or reduction, or both, to the arbitrement of any one or more impartial gentlemen.

"3. To submit the entire question to two Manchester merchants or agents, two shippers conversant with the Manchester trade, and two bankers, one of each to be selected by the employers and the other by the operatives, with two employers and two operatives, with Lord Derby, the Bishop of Manchester, or any other impartial gentleman, as chairman, or, if necessary, referee.

"4. To split the difference between us, and go to work unconditionally at a reduction of five per cent.

"5. Through the Mayor of Burnley, to go to work three months at a reduction of five per cent, and if trade had not sufficiently improved at that time, to submit to a further reduction.

" 6. And lastly, to an unconditional reduction of seven and a half per cent."


346 Sectional Developments

which have been dissipated in unproductive consumption must be retrenched, and when the idle hours which have been unprofitably thrown away must be reclaimed to indus- try and profit by being redirected to reproductive work." The result is reflected in the Trade Union reports. " All over the United Kingdom," states the Monthly Report of the Amalgamated Carpenters for January 1879, " notices of reductions in wages and extended hours of labour come pouring in from employers with an eagerness and audacity which contrast strangely with the lessons of forbearance and moderation so incessantly dinned into the ears of the British workman in happier times." "At no time in our history," reports the Executive Council of the Amalga- mated Society of Engineers, " have we had such a number of industrial disturbances throughout the country. Bad trade has prevailed; and our employers, now better organised than ever before, seem to have made it their aim to raise as many points of contention with us as ever possible. In one place sweeping reductions of wages would be carried out or attempted; and in others the rates paid for overtime were sought to be reduced, while in many cases the hours of labour have been attacked, and in the Clyde district successfully, three hours being, as a result, added to the week's work all over Scotland. . . . Another notable feature of the depression has been the continued oppression by the employers of the men in the most submissive districts, where conciliatory measures were adopted, and where little objection was made to any innovation. The Clyde district has been a notable example of this fact, passing in the first instance through two considerable reductions of wages almost passively, only to be almost immediately after the victims of desultory attacks upon the hours question. Irregular attack appears almost to have been the system adopted by the employers in preference to the development of any general movement by their Associations." x The

1 Amalgamated Society of Engineers, etc., Abstract Report of the Council's Proceedings, 1878-79, p. 18.


Backwardation 347

years 1878-1880 witnessed, accordingly, a great increase in the number of strikes in nearly all trades, 1 most of which terminated disastrously for the workmen. Sweeping reduc- tions of wages occurred in all industries. The Northumber- land miners, whose normal day's earnings had been gs. ijd. in March 1873, found themselves reduced, in November 1878, to 45. gd. per day, and in January 1880 to 43. 4d. Scotch mechanics suffered an even more sudden reduction. The Glasgow stonemasons, for instance, who had been earning 9d. and lod. per hour during 1877, dropped by the end of 1878 to 6d. per hour, and found it difficult to find employ- ment even at that figure. A still more dangerous encroach- ment was made in connection with the hours of labour. Employers on all sides sought to lengthen the working day. The mechanics on the Clyde lost the fifty-one hours week which they had won. The Iron Trades Employers' Association, whose circular we have quoted, resolved upon a general attack on the Nine Hours Day. " It has been resolved," writes the secretary, " by a large majonty of the Iron Trades Employers' Association, supported by a general agreement among other employers, to give notice in their workshops that the hours of labour shall be increased to the number prevailing before the adoption of the nine hours limit." 2 The concerted action of the associated employers was, however, baulked by the energy of John Burnett, then General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. Placed in possession of the Circular for a couple of hours,

1 See The Strikes of the Past Ten Years, by G. Phillips Bevan (March 1880, Stat. Soc. Journal, vol. xliii. pp. 35-54). We have ascertained that the strikes mentioned in the Times between 1876 and 1889 show the follow- ing variations


1876

1877 .

1878 .

1879 .

1880 .


23

38 72 46


1881 . . 20

1882 . . 14

1883 . . 26

1884 . . 31


1886 ... 24

1887 ... 27

1888 ... 37

1889 . . .in


1885 . . 20

Secret circular from the London Secretary (Sidney Smith) of the Iron Trades Employers' Association, December 1878; republished in Circular of Amalgamated Society of Engineers, January 3, 1879, and in Report of Executive Council for 1878-79, p. 31.


348 Sectional Developments

he promptly reproduced it in an ably reasoned appeal to his own members, which was sent broadcast to the press. Publicity proved fatal to the employers' plans, and no uniform or systematic action was taken. Isolated attempts were, however, made in all directions by the master engineers to revert to fifty-seven or fifty-nine hours per week; and only by the most strenuous action was the normal fifty- four-hours week retained in " society shops."

Other trades were not equally successful in maintaining even their nominal day. In many towns the carpenters had two or three hours per week added to their working time. 1 More serious was the fact that in numerous minor trades the very conception of a definitely fixed normal day was practically lost. Even among such well-organised trades as the Engineers, Carpenters, and Stonemasons the practice of systematic overtime, coupled with the prevalence of piecework, reduced the normal day to a nullity. 2 In the abundant Trade Union records of these years we watch the progress and results of these economic disasters. The number of men drawing the out-of-work benefit steadily rises, until the societies of Ironfounders and Boilermakers, which in 1872-73 had scarcely I per cent unemployed, had in 1879 over 20 P er cen ^ on their funds. The Amal- gamated Society of Engineers paid away, under this one ' head, during the three years 1878-80, a sum of no less than 287,596. The Operative Plumbers had to exclude, in the

1 At Manchester, Bolton, Ramsbottom, Wrexham, Falmouth, Alder- shot, etc., the hours were thus lengthened.

2 To the ordinary reader it may be desirable to explain that the Unions have, in most trades, succeeded in establishing the principle of the payment of higher rates for overtime. But in most cases this is limited to workers paid by time, no extra allowance being given to the man working by the piece.

It will be obvious that if a workman, ostensibly enjoying a Nine Hours Day, is habitually rsquired to work overtime, and is paid only at the normal piecework rate for his work, he obtains no advantage whatever from the nominal fixing of his hours of labour. To many thousands of men in the engineering and building trades the nominal maintenance of the Nine Hours Day meant, in 1878 and succeeding years, no more than this. See for the whole subject of " the Normal Day," Industrial Democracy, by S. and B. Webb.


The Losses 349

two years 188082, nearly a third of their members for non- payment of contributions. The Ironfounders, who in 1876 had accumulated a fund of over 5 per member, paid away every penny of it by the end of 1879, and were only saved from actual stoppage by the numerous loans made to the society by its more prosperous members. The Stonemasons' Society drained itself equally dry, and resorted to the same expedient to avoid default. The Scottish societies had to meet the crisis in an even more aggravated form. The total collapse which followed the City of Glasgow Bank failure absolutely ruined all but half a dozen of the Scotch Trade Unions, a blow from which Trade Unionism in Scotland did not recover for the rest of the century.

The year 1879, indeed, was as distinctly a low- water mark of the Trade Union Movement as 1873-74 registered a full tide of prosperity. The economic trials through which Trade Unionism passed in 1879 are only to be paralleled by those through which it had gone in 1839-42. But the solid growth which we have described prevented any such total collapse as marked the previous periods. The depression of 1879 swept, it is true, many hundreds of trade societies into oblivion. The Unions of agricultural labourers, which had sprung up with such mushroom rapidity, either collapsed altogether or dwindled into insignificant benefit clubs. Up and down the country the hundreds of little societies in miscellaneous trades which had flourished during the good years, went down before the tide of adversity. Widespread national organisations shrank up practically into societies of local influence, concentrated upon the strongholds of their industries. The great National Union of Miners, estab- lished, as we have seen, in 1862-63, survived, after 1879, only in Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire. Its younger rival, the Amalgamated Association of Miners, which had, up to 1875, dominated South Wales and the Midlands, broke up and disappeared. The National Amal- gamated Association of Ironworkers, also established in 1862, which in 1873 numbered 35,000 members in all parts


35 Sectional Developments

of the country, was reduced in 1879 to 1400 members, confined to a few centres in the North of England. 1 In some districts, such as South Wales, Trade Unionism practi- cally ceased to exist. 2 The total membership of the Trade Union Movement returned, it is probable, to the level of 1871. But despite all these contractions the backbone of the movement remained intact. In the engineering and building trades the great national societies, though they were denuded of their reserve funds, retained their membership. Nor was it only the trade friendly societies that weathered the storm. The essentially trade organisations of the cotton operatives, and of the Northumberland and Durham miners, maintained their position with only a temporary contrac- tion of membership. The political organisation of the move- ment was, moreover, unaffected. The local Trades Councils went on undisturbed. The annual Trades Union Congress continued to meet, and to appoint its standing Parliamentary Committee. In short, though many individual Unions dis- appeared, and many others saw their balances absorbed and their membership reduced, the trials of 1879 proved that the Trade Union Movement was at last beyond all danger of destruction or collapse, and that the Trade Union organisa- tion had become a permanent element in our social structure. We see, therefore, that the work which Allan and Apple- garth had done towards consolidating the* Trade Union Movement had not been fruitless. But along with increas- ing consolidation and definiteness of purpose had come an increasing differentiation of policy and interest. Each trade

1 The lowest point reached in the statistics of the annual Trades Union Congresses was in 1881, when the delegates claimed to represent little more than a third of the numbers of 1874. These statistics of mem- bership are, however, in many respects misleading. The Congress of 1879 was attended by a much smaller number of delegates than any Congress since 1872, and the number of Unions represented was also the smallest since that date.

2 " Four years ago," writes the President of the Bristol Coopers' Society in 1878, " upwards of 40,000 workmen were in combination in these valleys [South Wales], and to-day not a single Union is in existence throughout the entire district" (Paper at Local Conference on the Depression of Trade, Bristol Mercury, February 13, 1878).


Sectionalism 351

was working out its own industrial problems in its way. Whilst the miners and the cotton operatives, for instance, were elaborating their own codes of legislative regulation of the conditions of labour, the engineering and building trades were becoming pledged to the legislative laissez-faire of their leaders. Under the influence of the able spokesmen of the northern counties the coal-miners and iron-workers were accepting the principle that wages must follow prices; whilst the cotton operatives, and to some extent the boilermakers, 1 were making a notable stand for the con- trary view that the Standard Rate of Wages should be a first charge on industry. And while the miners and cotton operatives regarded their organisations primarily as societies for trade protection, there was growing up among the suc- cessors of the Junta in the iron and building trades a fixed belief that the really " Scientific Trade Unionism " con- sisted in elaborate friendly benefits and judiciously invested superannuation funds. So long as trade was expanding, and each policy was pursued with success, no antagonism arose between the different sections. The cotton opera- tives cordially approved the Nine Hours Movement of the engineers, whilst these, in their turn, supported the Factory Bill desired by the Lancashire spinners. The miners ap- plauded the gallant stand made by the cotton operatives against the reductions of 1877-79, whilst the cotton opera- tives saw no objection to the acquiescence of the miners in the dependence of wages on prices. And though all Trade Unions regarded with respect the high contributions and accumulated funds of the Amalgamated Engineers, they were equally respectful of the success with which the Northumber- land coal-miners, through bad times and good, had for half a generation maintained a strong Union with exclusively trade objects. Thus the divergences of policy, which were

1 See the injunctions of the General Secretary, Monthly Report, March 1862; Annual Reports, 1882 and 1888. Robert Knight consistently opposed "violent fluctuations of wages, at one time a starvation pittance, at another exorbitantly high."


352 Sectional Developments

destined from 1885 onward to form the battle-ground be- tween what has been once more termed the " Old " Unionism and the " New," did not at first prevent cordial co-opera- tion in the common purposes of the Trade Union Movement. It was in the dark days after 1878-79, when every Union suffered reverses, that internal discontent as to Trade Union policy became acute, and a new spirit of criticism arose. Not until the purely trade society, on the one hand, had been found lacking in stability, and the trade friendly society, on the other, had been convicted of apathy in trade matters; not until the Lancashire and Yorkshire coal- miners had been driven to protest against the constant reductions brought about by the sliding scales, and some of the leaders of the Lancashire cotton operatives hesitated in their advocacy of the legal day; finally, not until a powerful section of the miners opposed any further exten- sion of the Mines Regulation Acts, and a section of the engineers and building operatives began to advocate the legal fixing of their own labour day do we find it declared that " the two systems cannot co-exist; they are con- tradictory and opposed." x

In more than one direction, therefore, the depression of trade was bringing into prominence wide divergences of opinion upon Trade Union policy. But the adverse industrial circumstances of the time were revealing, in certain industries, a more invidious cleavage. As manufac- turing processes develop and change with the progress of invention and the substitution of one material for another iron for wood in shipbuilding, for instance the skilled members of one trade find themselves superseded for cer- tain work by the members of another. A modern Atlantic liner, practically a luxuriously-fitted, electric-lighted float- ing hotel, built of rolled steel plates, would obviously not fall within the work of a shipwright like Peter the Great. But the old-fashioned shipwright naturally refused to re- linquish without a struggle the right to build ships of every

1 Trade Unionism, New and Old, by George Howell, M.P. (1891), p. 235.


Demarcation Disputes 353

kind. The depression of 1879 was severely felt in the ship- building and engineering trades, every one of which had a large percentage of its members unemployed. The societies found, as we have seen, the out-of-work donation a serious drain on their funds, and were inclined to look more narrowly into cases of " encroachment " upon the work which each regarded as the legitimate sphere of its own members. Disputes between Union and Union as to overlap and apportionment of work become, in these years, of frequent occurrence; and to the standing conflict with the employers was added embittered internecine warfare between the men of one branch of trade and those of another. The Engineers complained of the monopoly which the Boilermakers main- tained of all work connected with angle-iron. The Pattern- makers protested vigorously against the Carpenters presum- ing to make any engineering patterns. At Glasgow the Brassfounders objected to the Ironmoulders continuing to make the large brass castings which the workers in brass had at first been unable to undertake. The line of de- marcation in iron shipbuilding between the work ol a ship- wright and that of a boilermaker was a constant source of friction. The disregard of the ordinary classification of trades by the authorities of the Royal Dockyards created great discontent among the Engineers, who saw shipwrights put to do fitters' work, and Broadhurst brought the matter in 1882 before the House of Commons. 1 Nor were the disputes confined to the puzzling question of the lines of demarcation between particular trades. In 1877 the re- cently formed Union of " Platers' Helpers " complained bitterly to the Trades Union Congress that the whole force of the Boilermakers' Society had been used to destroy their

1 House of Commons Journals, Motion of March 14, 1882 : " That in the opinion of this House it is detrimental to the public, service, fatal to the efficiency of our war ships, and unjust to the fitters in Her Majesty's Dockyards, that superintending leading men should be placed in authority over workmen with whose trades they have no practical acquaintance, or that men should be put to execute work for which they are unsuited either by training or experience." See Henry Broadhurst, the Story of his Life from a Stonemason's Bench to the Treasury Bench, by himself, 1901.

N


354 Sectional Developments

organisation. The Platers' Helpers, it may be explained, constitute a large class of labourers in shipbuilding yards, who are usually employed and paid, not by the owners of the yards, but by members of the Boilermakers' Society. In the building trades numerous cases of friction were occurring between bricklayers and masons on the one hand, and the builders' labourers on the other. The intro- duction of terra cotta led to a whole series of disputes between the bricklayers and the plasterers as to the trade to which the new work properly belonged. Disputes of this kind were, of course, no new thing. What gave the matter its new importance was the dominance of the great trade friendly societies in the skilled occupations. The loss of employment by individual members became in bad times a serious financial drain on Unions giving out-of-work pay. In place of the bickerings of individual workmen we have the conflicts of powerful societies, each supporting the claim of its own members to do the work in dispute. " When men are not organised in a Trade Union," says the general secretary of a large society, " these little things are not taken much notice of, but the moment the two trades become well organised, each trade is looking after its own particular members' interests. . . ." l

We have in our Industrial Democracy analysed the history, character, and extent of this rivalry among com- peting branches of the same trade. Here we need do no more than record its result in weakening the bond of union between powerful sections of the Trade Union world. The local Trades Councils, which might have attained a posi- tion of political influence, were always being disintegrated by the disputes of competing trades. The powerful Shipping Trades Council of Liverpool, for instance, which played an important part in Samuel Plimsoll's agitation for a new Merchant Shipping Act, was broken up in 1880 by the

1 Evidence of Mr. Chandler, then general secretary of Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners (Labour Commission, 1892, vol. iii. Q. 22,014).


Failure of Federations 355

quarrel between the separate societies of Shipwrights, Ship- joiners, and House Carpenters over ship work. The minutes of every Trades Council, especially those in seaports, relate innumerable well-intentioned attempts to settle similar disputes, almost invariably ending in the secession of one or other of the contending Unions. These quarrels prevented, moreover, the formation of any effective general federation. An attempt was made in 1875 by the officers of the Amal- gamated Engineers', Boilermakers', Ironf ounders', and Steam- Engine Makers' Societies to establish a federation for mutual defence against attacks upon the Nine Hours System. After a few months, the disputes between the Engineers and Boilermakers on the one hand, and between the mem- bers of the Amalgamated Society and the Steam-Engine Makers' Society on the other, led to the abandonment of the attempt. 1 A similar movement initiated by the Boiler- makers in 1881 equally failed to get established. 2

Wider federations met with no better success than those confined to the engineering and shipbuilding trades. The Trades Union Congress repeatedly declared itself in favour of universal brotherhood among Trade Unionists, and the formation of a federal bond between the different societies. But the inherent differences between trade and trade, the numerous distinct types into which societies were divided, the wide divergences as to Trade Union policy which we have been describing, and, above all, the rivalry for members and employment between competing societies in the same industry, rendered any universal federation impossible. After the Sheffield Congress in 1874, representatives of the leading Unions in the iron and building trades set on foot

1 Abstract Report of Amalgamated Engineers, June 30, 1876.

2 In 1890, however, Robert Knight, who had been throughout the foremost worker for federation, succeeded in establishing a Federation of the Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades of the United Kingdom, described in our Industrial Democracy, from which the Amalgamated Society of Engineers has held aloof. A large part of the work of the Federal Executive consisted, for many years, of adjusting disputes between Union and Union with regard to overlap and apportionment of work. For the whole subject, see our Industrial Democracy, 1897.


356 Sectional Developments

a " Federation of Organised Trade Societies/' which all Unions were invited to join for mutual defence. But the Cotton-spinners, with their preference for legislative regula- tion, refused to have anything to do with a federation which contemplated nothing but strike benefits. The whole scheme was, indeed, more a project of certain Trade Union officials than a manifestation of any general feeling in favour of common action. Each trade was, as we have said, working out its own policy, and attending almost exclusively to its own interests. Under such circumstances any attempt at effective federation must necessarily have been still-born. Nevertheless the Edinburgh Congress of 1879 called for a renewed attempt; and the Parliamentary Committee circulated to every Trade Union in the kingdom their proposed rules for another " Federation of Organised Trade Societies." To this invitation not half a dozen replies were received. 1 At the Congress of 1882, when the resolu- tion in favour of a universal federation was again proposed, it found little support. The representatives of the local Trades Councils urged that these bodies furnished all that was practicable in the way of federation. Thomas Ashton, the outspoken representative of the cotton-spinners, was more emphatic. " For years," he said, " the Parliamentary Committee and others had been trying to bring about such an organisation as that mentioned in the resolution, but it had been found utterly impossible. ... It was all nonsense to pass such a resolution. It was impossible for the trades of the country to amalgamate, their interests were so varied and they were so jealous with regard to each other's disputes." 2 The foregoing examination of the internal relations of the. Trade Union world between 1875 and 1879, though in- complete, demonstrates the extent to which the movement during these years was dominated by a somewhat narrow " particularism." From 1880 to 1885 the various societies

1 When, in 1890, the project of universal federation was revived, the draft rules of 1879 were simply reprinted.

  • Report of Manchester Congress, 1882; see also History of the British

Trades Union Congress, by W. J. Davis, vol. i., 1910.


Universal Sectionalism 357

were absorbed in building up again their membership and balances, which had so seriously suffered during the con- tinued depression. The annual Trades Union Congress, the Parliamentary Committee, and the political proceedings of these years constitute practically the only common bond between the isolated and often hostile sections. In all in- dustrial matters the Trade Union world was broken up into struggling groups, destitute of any common purpose, each, indeed, mainly preoccupied with its separate concerns, and frequently running counter to the policy or aims of the rest. The cleavages of interest and opinion among working men proved to be deeper and more numerous than .any one suspected. In the following chapter we shall see how an imperfect appreciation of each other's position led to that conflict between the "Old Unionists" and the "New" which for some years bade fair to disintegrate the whole Labour Movement