This article was scanned from the "Current Comment" section
of The American Illustrated, July 30, 1892.
A popular method for the instruction of youngsters is
styled the kindergarten system, or object teaching. We, who see with half
an eye, can easily discover that this system is not confined to those of
tender years. The adult as well as the infant is afforded, from time to
time, an object lesson. The last "object lesson " has been taught
by the sovereign power of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is an important
lesson, and all should profit by it.
The object of an " object lesson " is to cause
action in the mind--to make the learner think. It will be well for us who
feel our hearts beat in unison with the hearts of men to pause and think--think
well, and long, and deeply. Not to see with our eyes and hear with our
ears merely; but, with all our senses perceive the inward and underlying
significance of the military demonstration in the free town of Homestead.
Let us briefly review the facts--the facts as they will
pass into history. On one hand we discover upwards, of five thousand men
determined not to work in their customary place of employment; and further
determined that other men, not belonging to their organization shall not
in the places they have left vacant; and still further that in their opposition
to the employment of others they wrongfully restrain their employer from
the enjoyment of his legal rights; and in so doing offend against the majesty
of the law of their State. On the other hand, we discover a commercial
company determined not to employ its employee except under certain conditions;
insistent upon its legal right to employ others in their places; restrained
in the enjoyment of its legal rights; and the majesty of the law asserting
its authority by force of arms.
The smoke curls up from factory furnaces, the dissatisfied
workingmen know that under the protection of gleaming bayonets other men
are being installed in their places; they are forced to realize that the
Law as it touches the owner is protecting him in his rights, and that the
Law as it touches them is protecting them in their rights. They also realize
that the Law is not made to fit what they believe to be their moral rights;
that when Labor and Capital are at variance the Law does not recognize
the claim of men to the labor of an industry.
The "object lesson" at Homestead teaches "strikers"
that when force meets force the field must belong to the victor;--the victor
must be the embodiment of the supreme force. The supreme force is Law.
If it so happens that the employer, by reason of the fact
that the Law extends to him its supreme force, gains an advantage, it is
not to be believed that the original cause of difference between employer
and employe is wiped out as well.
The "object lesson" at Homestead will persuade
thousands that "a strike" will always end with a military flourish;
that the facts recited will be repeated; that the history of "strikes"
will be made up of endless repetitions. And believing this, will at once
proceed to dismiss all such matters as troublesome. Herein lies a grave
So long as Labor and Capital do not meet on a basis of
mutual profit, so long will differences exist and strikes be of frequent
occurrence. And if it be proven that strikes will conclude with a military
demonstration as a regular part of the programme, it is safe to say the
labor unions will devise means to eliminate the military feature.
Our country is rich with men who love Law and insist upon
the enforcement of its provisions. They respect the Law because it is of
their own making. Knowing this, they contemplate the enactment of new statutes.
The law of every State, if judged from the laborer's standpoint--and that
is the way we must, for the moment, regard it--recognizes in factories and
lands property rights to be protected with force, but it does not recognize
in associated labor a property right to be similarly protected. This, to
the union laborer, who has grown to regard his union as necessary to him
as the trade he follows, seems a legal wrong which can only be righted
by the enactment of a statute. And the time will come when the fast growing
power of the laborer in politics will accomplish this result. To this generation
of workingmen the present statutes, yielding one-sided protection, are
hated as thoroughly as during the last generation was the Fugitive Slave
Law, which was enforced with all the force of Law.
Labor clothed with power equal to that which clothes Capital
will so equalize them that legally appointed Arbitrators will be forced
to settle disputes on terms not the less favorable to either disputants.
Indeed, it will be well if this destined fight be confined to the bloodless
battle of ballots.
It may seem at first improbable that the State will be
compelled to regard the claims of workingmen, to recognize the labor of
associated men as capital and fix terms. But it is not improbable. It is
in the trend of the times.
All persons holding different views upon this great and
complex subject must be of one mind upon a few points, to wit:
1st. The Homestead "strikers" had no legal right
to demand the employment of men except as individuals.
2nd. They had no legal right to exclude the owner's other
servants from the works.
3rd. That large numbers of unemployed men, dependent upon
their labor for food, are easily incited to perform acts contrary to the
4th. That the maintenance of peace by an armed force does
not either adjust a difference between employer and employe, or remove
the menace against the public peace.
5th. That men are clamoring for the legal recognition
of labor as property.
6th. That the laboring man is demanding a larger share
of an industry's yield.
These points being agreed upon, let us suppose that the
union laborers of Pennsylvania determine to give the entire people of the
State an "object lesson," in order to bring home to every person
a realization of the fact that the introduction of the military feature
of the programme does not adjust differences between employer and employe.
Let us suppose that one week after the military has vacated Homestead a
sister establishment shuts down; that the men bluster a bit, and the troops
are again put into the field. After three or four more weeks, the miners
repeat the performance; after them the railroad men. Plainly, that the
different branches of organized labor attack the militia organization by
no other means than by causing them a year's work in the field. And in
all these campaigns, not a shot be fired by either side. What would be
It is safe to say that it would occasion great distress
to the national guardsman, who can ill spare the time from his own business
to do the police duty of the State. The State would be compelled to appeal
to the Federal authorities for regular troops. Should this guerilla warfare
spread through the States, general business would be prostrated, and an
army would have to be maintained to enforce the law.
It is plain, therefore, that the military aspect of the
labor question is not one to inspire citizens with unlimited confidence.
A condition of affairs as recited might at any moment precipitate an uprising
to which the French Revolution would be a mere circumstance. It would at
once threaten life and property, and even shake the very republic upon
its firm, fixed base.
It is well to give time and thought to the "object
lesson" at Homestead.
The Incident of the 6th of July marks an epoch in our
country's history. Labor will be accorded greater rights than it now enjoys.