Page images
PDF
EPUB

But all this aside, what, in the face of such a deposit of ore as this, becomes of the contention that a heavy duty on iron and iron ore is necessary to prevent the suppression of the Pennsylvania iron industry by the competition of the pauper-made iron of Europe ? The Cornwall deposit was worked for years and years before we had any duty upon iron and iron ore. It could not, of course, be

. worked if the Colemans and Grubbs chose to shut it up, as the eccentric proprietor of an iron mine near Edinburgh chose to do with his mine some years since, answering all remonstrance as to the destruction of a considerable industry, and the starving out of a considerable population, with the laconic observation that the ore in the ground might stay there, since it would “no eat anything.” But with the permission of the Colemans and Grubbs, this rich iron deposit could be worked, not only if there were no duty on iron, but if the “pauper" iron ore producers of Europe would work for nothing and pay their own board. It came out in legal proceedings, taken in about 1859, to determine whether the right reserved to as much ore as would feed one furnace, applied only to such a furnace as was in use in the last century, or to a modern furnace, that the cost of mining ore in Cornwall was only 16 cents per ton, which, to say nothing of the superior quality of the ore, is much less than the transportation of European pauper ore would cost. It is not probable that a single additional ton of iron ore has been mined at Cornwall because of our tariff. If the tariff has had any effect it has simply been to increase the profits of the Cornwall owners, and not in the slightest degree to add to

wages which they must pay their men. If, as a matter of fact , they do pay more than current wages, it is because of their

Mr. G. W. Childs also pays more than current Wages, but his business is unprotected by the tariff.

So, too, it is with the duty on coal. This duty is a grievous burden upon the industries of California, the Gulf States, and

, some parts of New England, and gives protection to the monopolies which largely neutralize the natural advantages of Philadelphia as a manufacturing city by compelling her people to pay a considerably higher price for coal than the same coal is sold for shipment at the Philadelphia wharves. But its benefits, such as there are, certainly do not go either to the miners or to their immediate employers, the coal operators. If any one at all is benefited, it is the owners of coal land and the monopolists of

the

own liberality.

transportation. The competition which would force the wages of miners down to a point that would give them only a bare subsistence is only held in check by miners' combinations and strikesbitter struggles of endurance, not always entirely bloodless, which entail almost as much loss and suffering as actual warfare, and which, under the pressure of necessity, are fought with such tenacity that I find in the recent number of the Coal Trade Journal a statement, made as a cool matter of business information, that at the conclusion of a recent strike, near Reynoldsville, the miners were in such a reduced condition, physically, for want of proper food, that they could not perform a day's work for some time. No matter what the profits of coal mining may be, it is evident that, under what we call the free competition of labor and capital, they cannot, for any length of time, go either to miners or to operators, but must at length be taken up in the royalties paid for the privilege of mining coal and in the increased values of coal lands. The royalty now paid in the anthracite district ranges from 40 to 60 cents per ton, and will probably average 50 cents, and where mines are worked by the owners, as is the case with the mines owned by the great railroad companies, the royalty, whatever it may be, goes, of course, to the credit of the capital invested in the purchase of the mines ; so that the effect of the duty, whatever it may be, is not to benefit the miner or the operator, who is his immediate employer, but merely to increase the charge which the owner of coal land can make for the use of the natural agent of production--the coal imbedded in the soil by the slow processes of nature, ages and ages before men came upon the earth, and which would exist with all its usefulness unimpaired whether the owner could get any royalty or not, or whether there was any individual owner or not.

These principles, clear enough in regard to the mining industries of Pennsylvania, apply to all her other industries. The plausible pretension that the somewhat higher rate of wages in this country than in Europe necessitates the building of a tariff wall around our coasts, and along the imaginary line which separates us from Canada and Mexico, is utterly negatived by the difference of wages which exists in Pennsylvania. The Cambria Iron Company at Johnstown-great sticklers, by the bye, in Washington lobbies and before Congressional Committees for the “protection of American labor”-having crushed out the Labor Associations, pay wages some 20 per cent. less than are paid in Pittsburgh. There is quite as great a difference between the wages paid in glassmaking in the Eastern and in the Western part of the State. Cigarmakers in Reading get two or three dollars less per thousand than cigarmakers in Philadelphia and New York, and so it is with other industries. If a difference in wages necessitates the putting up of a tariff, then, instead of being in common with the rest of the country shut in by one tariff line along our National boundary, Pennsylvania ought to be intersected by tariff lines, in all directions, with their attending collectors, searchers, and seizers.

There is, of course, in Pennsylvania what may be called a general level of wages, just as there is a general level of water in the ocean, even when its billows heave in storm—a line, theoretical it

may be, toward which both depression and elevation tend to return; but this fact of itself proves the futility of the tariff in raising wages. Even in Pennsylvania the largest single industry is the agricultural, and the industries for which any pretense of protection by the tariff can be made, amount to only a small part of the total industries, since manifestly not only the agricultural industry, but all such industries as building, railroading, etc., cannot be protected by any tariff. The level of wages in any particular occupation, can, therefore, no matter how high the tariff, only be raised above the general level by conditions, natural or artificial, which in them check the competition for employment. And the same law must apply to the profits of capital, so that it is impossible for any amount of protection either to permanently increase Wages, or to augment the profits of the manufacturer or operator, except as the element of monopoly enters in and fences off from home competition those whom the tariff may fence off from foreign competition. As a matter of fact, where no monopoly exists

, wages and profits in the protected industries of Pennsyivania are not higher, but, I am inclined to think, rather lower than in the unprotected industries.

Protection has been for years a superstition in Pennsylvania, taught to the rising generation as an article of faith, and propagated by all the organs of public opinion and education. I think, however

, its real and permanent strength lies in the fact, perceived by the working classes, that the competition of men whose only hope of gaining a livelihood is in getting the wages of some employer, does tend to cut down their earnings ; and in the habit

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of thought that arises from this state of things, of regarding work as something that must be furnished or provided for the laborer, instead of something which has its natural origin in human wants. At the present time, at least, I think the working men of Pennsylvania realize pretty generally that the tariff which excludes the productions of foreign pauper labor gives free egress to the foreign pauper labor itself, and that they are anything but satisfied with their share of “ protection.” But, as railroads that may make half a dozen twentyfold millionaires, at the expense of the general public, will command the vote of the needy laborer whose only hope is to get the poor pay of a few days hard work, so, in spite of all its manifest absurdities and iniquities, does the idea of tariff protection commend itself to the masses of workingmen, because to them it seems to have at least the merit of “keeping work in the country"-or“ preventing foreigners from doing our work.”

For my part, I do not think it makes more than a temporary difference to the workingmen of Pennsylvania, or any other State, whether there is a protective tariff, a revenue tariff, or no tariff at all. A tariff only operates upon the movement of goods, not upon the movement of labor, and its effect is similar to that of a range of mountains, a sandy desert, or a pirate infested sea, in making more difficult the transportation of commodities. And with or without any of these things to affect the transportation of goods from other countries, the conditions of labor in Pennsylvania are such as must beget a tendency of wages towards the minimum which gives the mere laborer only a bare existence—& tendency which can only here and there be held somewhat in check by custom, labor combinations, boycotts, and strikes. The existence of the tramp, the pauper, the needy workman vainly seeking the opportunity to sell the only thing he has to sell, his power of labor, is proof of the existence and force of this tendency, against which the strongest labor combinations struggle like swimmers against a current. But the belief in protection, by drawing the attention of men away from the real cause of this tendency, and hounding them upon a false scent, diverts them from the only road by which the rights of labor can be secured.

If Pennsylvania could be cut off from all the rest of mankind by an impassable ditch or an unscalable wall-an isolation which the philosophy of Pennsylvania protectionists might lead them

devoutly to wish the natural growth of population and the progress of material development must constantly tend to force the wages of the mere laborer towards the point of bare existence. For thongh labor is the appointed means by which all our material needs must be satisfied—the active factor in the production of all wealth-labor is of itself absolutely helpless. To make labor of any use it must have something to impress itself upon-must, in short, be able to avail itself of land. In any community, therefore, in which the land is the private property of some of the people, the other people, who have nothing but the ordinary power to labor, provided they get food, clothing, and shelter, become helpless, and must compete with each other for permission from the first class to live and to work. The influence of competition with each other among these mere laborers must tend to force them to give up to the owners of land all that their labor can produce upon it, save just enough to keep them in life.

The whole philosophy of the labor question may be seen as clearly upon a Pennsylvania coal estate as amid the primitive industrial conditions which obtain in Connemara or Skye. From zenith to nadir, that part of the globe embraced in one of these coal estates is the exclusive property of one man, or corporation. Other men can only live there on his sufferance, and can only go to work at his pleasure and on terms agreed to with him. Having an absolute power over the natural means of livelihood, he has thus a power over the laborers, which is only modified by their power of moving away and of making combinations among themselves by which he can be compelled to treat with them in the aggregate, and can be put to loss or inconvenience by their refusal

In the complex industries of the great city which lies at the other extreme of the industrial scale, where much labor is devoted to exchanging, to the rendering of services, and to the working up of materials that have been taken from their original natural reservoirs, the relation between land and labor is not so obvious, especially as there are many other monopolies of various kinds that share with the monopoly of land the earnings which the helplessness of labor com pels it to yield up. But the same relation still obtains. No matter where he exists, man is a land animal

, who can only live on and from land, and all of whose production is but the changing in place or form of what he finds

to work.

« PreviousContinue »