The President's Great Achievement.
On a desk calendar entitled "The Shakespearean Year," the quotation for October 15 was: "All great achievements are the natural fruits of a great character." On that date President Roosevelt terminated the most formidable industrial deadlock in the history of the United States by securing from representatives of the opposing forces their assent to his plan for bringing about an immediate resumption of anthracite coal mining, and a deliberate and permanent adjustment of the questions in controversy. President Roosevelt had been told that he had no warrant for intervention; that he must almost certainly fail if he tried; and that he would injure his prestige and perhaps sacrifice his political future if he essayed to step outside the role of his constitutional duties to act as industrial peacemaker in a time of national emergency. But Mr. Roosevelt's whole career has been built upon a succession of sacrifices of his political future. In his case, "courage mounts to the occasion." Some men calculate with such nicety that they lose all power of bold and effective action. We have endeavored, more than once, to make it clear that Mr. Roosevelt is not an imprudent or unsafe man, but that he is one of those rare Executives able to think with great concentration; to assimilate varied and complex facts; to listen to many counselors with a mind that does not flag, or wander, or cease to dominate the topic of discussion, and to get the best results out of consultations with a vigor of intellectual digestion that very few men possess.
A Threatened Public Calamity.
This anthracite coal strike-which had begun early in May,-had not caused the public any very serious inconvenience during its first ten or twelve weeks. The price of coal had, of course, advanced; but poor people were needing only a very little through the summer for kitchen use, and the cool and agreeable summer had been followed by a mild September. But with the approach of October the situation grew serious in the extreme. Many industries dependent upon the use of anthracite coal became greatly embarrassed. The supply was so meager that factory managers were put to their wits' end to get fuel enough at $15 or $20 a ton to keep their machinery running; whereas, in normal times, their supplies had cost perhaps $3 a ton. The great majority of the retail coal dealers were entirely sold out, and for the poor who were obliged to buy in small quantities the price had reached a cent a pound, or even more, with prospect of a total cessation of the anthracite supply. Soft coal was being largely substituted for hard coal; but it also, in the East, had advanced 300 or 400 per cent. in price, and it was not well adapted for chimneys, furnaces, stoves and grates that had been constructed for anthracite. Furthermore, the cessation of anthracite mining during that half of the year in which the bulk of the winter's supply is produced had created a situation of scarcity that could not have been wholly overtaken by the utmost effort to substitute the bituminous article. With our cold American winters, the fuel supply is a necessity ranking only second to the supply of bread; and, indeed, the supply of bread was already affected, for the bakers in the large Eastern cities had, as a general rule, been compelled to advance the price of the standard loaf.
The Parties in Interest.
Thus, the interest of the general public in the coal strike had rapidly out-grown that of the two parties in dispute. The striking miners were being supported by contributions from their fellow-unionists employed in the bituminous mines of the country had by funds from other organized labor bodies, had were not in any dire want. Their confidence was firm, and they showed not the slightest sign of surrender. The operators, on the other hand, ---leagued in a firm and closely-organized monopoly, with absolute control of the anthracite coal trade,-were indifferent equally to the demands of the miners and to the clamorings of the public. They issued solemn pronunciamentoes, of a metaphysical nature, evidently intended to create discussion and divert attention from the practical situation. It had all along been believed by the public that the readjustment of the finances of several of the coal-carrying railroads, and the creation of the so-called anthracite coal trust, had left the real authority centered in the banking house of J. P. Morgan & Co.; and that Mr. Morgan himself, by speaking the word at any time, could have brought about a conference which would have ended the deadlock and given the public its coal supply. But Mr. Morgan had been in Europe most of the summer, and he was occupied with several other business situations of vast magnitude. The coal trust was in the hands of a board of directors consisting of the presidents of a group of coal-carrying railroads. The headship of this group of presidents fell to Mr. George F. Baer, by virtue of the fact that he had been made president of the Reading Company,-which with its railroad lines and its coal mines, is much the largest single factor in the federated group of interests that constitutes the monopoly of anthracite coal mining, carrying, distribution, and sale.
Mr. Morgan as "deus ex machina."
Mr. Morgan had, it was understood, practically agreed early last spring, in view of his expected absence from the country for some months and of his absorption in other affairs, to leave to this group of railway presidents the full authority to represent the coal monopoly in its controversy with the miners. He had returned from Europe on August 20. It had been the hope of everybody that he would see the impossibility of a solution of the trouble on the lines that the board of railway presidents had adopted and that he would take the matter up on its own merits. So sensitive, indeed, was Mr. John Mitchell, the head of the striking Miners' Union, to the demands of the suffering public for a resumption of the coal supply, that he went so far-though this fact was not made public at the time,-as to offer to undertake to persuade the miners to resume work at once on Mr. Morgan's promise to take up the miners' claims in his own way, and to render a decision upon the questions in controversy. This remarkable offer was made in perfect good faith, quixotic though it might seem to some people. The leader of one compact party in a great industrial conflict proposed to lay down arms on condition that the one really controlling head of the equally compact party on the other side should, himself, name the terms upon future peace could be maintained. This was characteristic of Mr. John Mitchell's breadth of mind, and of his instinctive belief in the American love of justice and fair play. He believed the miners' cause would be safe even in the hands of its most inveterate opponents, if the points at issue could but be taken up responsibly upon their real merits.
Too Busy in Wall Street for Labor Problems.
The principal trouble in this protracted anthracite dispute had grown out of the fact that the labor situation in the coal mines has never had (since the change of conditions that has been brought about by the creation of the anthracite monopoly) any real consideration whatever from the people in actual authority. This larger mastery of the production and mining of anthracite coal has been, from the point of view of private finance, a great triumph. The gentlemen who have come forward as official heads of the coal-carrying railroads, and who in that capacity jointly manage the anthracite coal fields, are not in their present positions by virtue of any especial knowledge of the way to solve labor disputes. They are part of a great financial and administrative organization that has been endeavoring so to regulate the coal output; so to adjust freight charges; so to apportion shipments; and-with competition eliminated, so to fix at profitable levels the market price of coal, as to put new value into depressed or non-dividend-paying stocks. It has been their task to make money for their stockholders,-partly from those legitimate savings by which combinations can capitalize competitive waste; but partly, also, by exactions from the general public. In short, they have been reaping the reward of successful monopoly control of the production, transportation, and marketing of an article of common use and prime necessity. These things, rather than labor problems, had been claiming their best attention. · This modern reorganization of the anthracite business, moreover, was only an incident in that stupendous movement,-centered principally in Wall Street,-for combining industrial and transportation companies, floating new issues of bonds and stocks, and rolling up with dazzling and unprecedented rapidity vast private wealth. Still further, let it be said with unshrinking frankness, that most, if not all, of the men most largely concerned on the capitalistic side have been, to no small extent, absorbed in the brilliant personal opportunities that these Wall Street reorganizations and combinations have afforded for the making or multiplication of their own personal fortunes. Thus, instead of being the men who had best understood the coal miners' situation in eastern Pennsylvania, they have been the men who have seemed to careful observers to understand it least of all,-so intently have their minds been fixed upon other objects and other considerations. It is only unto this theory that their mistaken utterances during the five months of the coal strike could possibly be accounted for, as well as their total failure to see themselves, and the situation they had created, as they were seen by almost everybody else. Before the strike began efforts had been made by patriotic and public-spirited men, who compose the National Civic Federation, to avert a struggle by conciliation or arbitration. The Civic Federation is made up, in considerable part, of large employers of labor. It is entitled to public confidence; and it could have averted the anthracite trouble with perfect ease if it had not found the operators wholly intractable.
Mr. W.H. Tisdale, Pres. of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.
|Mr. F. D. Underwood, President of the Erie Railroad.||Mr. George F. Baer, Pres. of the Philadelphia and Reading Railway|
Was the Strike Desired?
Indeed, a careful study of all the facts made it rather difficult not to believe that, for some reason or another, the operators desired at the outset to have the strike come on; and that, during most of its continuance, they did not wish to have it terminated. Why they should have desired a strike, is a question that has been variously answered. Under cover of the confusion there were said to be large transfers of the securities of some of the companies concerned; and it was the opinion, in certain business circles, that the strike had been employed to depress values in order to make easier the further purchase of stocks so as to insure permanent control. Another opinion seems to have been that-inasmuch as the strike would make an immense increase in the cost of coal to the public-the anthracite trust would find it easier to fix a higher permanent level of prices than had existed before. Such a result would naturally reward the monopoly for a vast deal of temporary inconvenience. A third theory was that the coal operators were simply acting on behalf of a coalition of interests that now dominate a number of so called trusts and combinations; and that this coalition is deeply opposed to organized labor, and desirous of crushing out trade-unionism.
|Mr. R. M. Olyphant, Pres. of the Delaware & Hudson Company||Mr. T. P. Fowler, Pres. of the New York, Ontario, & Western Railway.||Mr. E. B. Thomas, Chairman of the Executive Dept., Erie Railroad.|
Trade-Unionism's Death Sentence.
According to this view, it was believed by the capitalists when the strike came on last spring, that the time was favorable for meeting the Miners' Union; and that the operators would certainly win a victory, destroy the prestige of Mr. Mitchell's organization, and, henceforth, have the labor situation wholly in their own hands. In any case, the strike seems to have been welcomed by the operators, who entered upon it without the slightest misgivings, not dreaming that they were destined to be humiliated and defeated in the end. The very ill-advised strike of the Amalgamated Iron and Steel Workers against the steel trust last year had ended in failure for the strikers; but it had also made combined capital a little too confident in its sheer strength, and had made it forgetful of the fact that "circumstances alter cases," and that every labor situation must be judged upon its own intrinsic merits. It should be understood that the main question all along has been, not whether the miners were justified in making certain specific demands having to do with wages and conditions of employment, but whether they were right in asking for the establishment of some regular way of dealing between capital and labor. Thus, the miners were fighting for a way to bring about orderly and decent conditions in the anthracite district; and the operators were fighting for the retention of anomalous and disorderly conditions.
Monopoly on One Side.
When as in the old times the anthracite districts were divided up among a large number of really independent mine owners and operators, local strikes might, indeed, be frequent; but general strikes were practically impossible, and uniformity of conditions throughout the mining regions were not to be expected. But, when the coal-carrying railroads by discriminating freight rates had frozen out most of the independent operators, and leased or bought most of the coal lands, a new era was beginning. And when these railways ceased to compete with one another in the anthracite trade, and found a way to unite their coal interests, the new era was fairly launched. It is true that their spokesmen stated, last month, that there were still seventy-five different operators in the anthracite region; but, so far as the public is concerned, there is only one operator. On the side of the producing, carrying, and selling of coal, the situation is completely controlled by an organization in which the coal-carrying roads are leagued: this organization spoke for the entire anthracite business, last month, just as if there had been only one anthracite mine in the world, of which it was absolute owner. And when, finally, the situation became unbearable, the murmurs of public opinion began to grow louder until a tornado was imminent, and Mr. Morgan himself appeared on behalf of the joint coal and railway interests,-no coal-mine operator or railroad director ventured for a moment to deny that Mr. Morgan was authorized to speak for the combined capitalists, as completely as, on the other side, Mr. John Mitchell was authorized to speak for the combined laborers.
-Means Union on the Other Side.
Thus, combined capital presented a solid front. Local mine owners had abdicated the responsibility of direct relations with their employees, and had allowed all negotiations on their behalf to be carried on, first, by a board of railway officials meeting in New York, and, finally, by one New York banker. Effrontery, let it be said, could not have gone farther than for capital under these circumstances to deny to plain workingmen the right, for their own protection and advantage to form associations and to deal with capital through their chosen agents or representatives. Not only was it reasonable that the coal miners should have been united in a great trade union but it was plainly to the advantage of legitimate owners and employers-in view of the existing situation-that this union should be recognized and dealt with. There is, indeed, far more reason for the existence of the one general organization of miners in the anthracite regions than in the bituminous States, for the simple reason that the whole anthracite business has been brought under control of a single monopoly, while nothing of the kind is true of coal mining in the bituminous regions.
The Union's Worthy Record.
Yet experience in the principal bituminous States has shown that Mr. Mitchell's organization-the United Mine Workers,-is a beneficent factor. In those States, the bituminous operators appoint a committee of representative employers which, every year meets a representative committee of miners. After due discussion, the wage-scales are fixed for a year to come on the plan of "collective bargaining," and the United Mine Workers hold their members to faithful keeping of these contracts. Thus, the turbulence and strife that were once almost chronic in the mining districts of such States as Ohio and Illinois are at an end; and employers and employed alike are warm in their approval of the new arrangement. All that Mr. John Mitchell has tried to bring about in the anthracite regions has been the adoption of a wage-scale upon the sensible, businesslike plan of mutual discussion and agreement. Mr. Mitchell's reasonableness and forbearance, during the past three years, in his endeavor to secure this desirable solution, have been worthy of the highest degree of praise.
But why, if Mr. Mitchell has wanted nothing but what was perfectly reasonable, and as advantageous to one side as to the other, has he met with such rebuffs? The answer is a perfectly simple one. The "powers that be" in Wall Street had never really known what it was that Mr. Mitchell wanted. They were in such a roaring, whirling maelstrom of speculation, company-promoting, railroad reorganization, rivalry among themselves, and the like, that it was practically impossible for anybody outside to shout against such a deafening noise. Mr. Mitchell, and the friends of sane and decent adjustment of the labor situation in Pennsylvania, never got a full hearing in those quarters. This inability to awake dormant intelligence in the seats of the mighty, had led to the strike of the fall of 1900.
The Strike of 1900.
Senator Hanna, who was managing the Republican presidential campaign, knew and understood Mr. Mitchell thoroughly. As the result of his own experience as a large bituminous coal operator, he approved of Mr. Mitchell's union and its methods; and he was able to secure a settlement of that strike by obtaining for the Pennsylvania miners a 10 per cent. increase in their wages. But even Mr. Hanna was not able to teach the leaders of Wall Street anything about the labor question. He could only arouse the capitalists to action by frightening them with the bugaboo of Bryanism. They conceded the 10 per cent. advance to stop the strike, without the slightest reference to the justice of the claims of the miners, merely because they were told that labor troubles in the campaign season might put William J. Bryan in the White House. Mr. Mitchell and his men had won their strike; not on its merits at all, but through the by-play of politics. No attempt was made to deal frankly and directly with them. To avoid the necessity of communicating with them, the 10 per cent. advance was made known by notices posted up at the mines.
The Situation of the Spring of 1901.
Through the politicians, however, as intermediaries, Mr. Mitchell had been assured that the 10 per cent. advance would hold good for six months, or until April, 1901. Then came the time for a permanent adjustment. But, again, it was impossible to secure any intelligent consideration of what was desired. A great strike was imminent; and Mr. Mitchell -patient, modest, anxious to avert the crisis,- came to New York to secure through a recognition of his union a means for taking up gradually, one by one, the difficulties and grievances involved in the labor situation. The period was the most prosperous in the history of the country, and there could have been no possible excuse for cutting wages down to the former hard-times level. The miners, on the other hand, would have been content to leave wages where they were if owners had been willing to meet workers to consider frankly such a matter as the best plan of weighing coal, and other questions affecting the conditions of employment. Again Mr. Mitchell failed, yet not wholly; for he had received what he believed to be a tacit-though not an explicit -promise that if he could avert a general strike and keep the men at work another year, then he might fairly hope that, in the spring of 1902, his union would be recognized. Meanwhile, he was given reason to believe that a frank and fair investigation of actual conditions would be made in which he and his union would be allowed to participate. On the strength of these vague and indefinite understandings, Mr. Mitchell and the leading local officers of the miners' union went back to Pennsylvania, where, by sheer force of moral leadership, they restrained their justly irritated and impatient followers, and postponed sine die what had threatened to be the greatest strike in the history of the United States.
And that of the Spring of 1902.
It seems impossible that the coal operators could have been so fatuous and so blind to their own interests as to forget Mr. Mitchell's admirable conduct in the spring of 1901, or to fail to be prepared with some sort of amicable proposals in the spring of 1902. It turned out unfortunately, however, that instead of making ready-as men of good-will had supposed they were doing,- for some system of dealing collectively with the miners and keeping the peace, the operators were using this year of truce to prepare themselves for war; and so, when the attempt was made in March and April of the present year by disinterested people to secure harmony and prevent a strike, it gradually became obvious that the union of capital had deliberately made up its mind to have nothing to do with the union of labor. Even then, Mr. Mitchell kept his wonderful self-control; counseled further patience and did all that he could to prevent a strike, in the hope that the friends of arbitration would ultimately succeed. His advice did not prevail, however. The more radical leaders of the anthracite men carried the day, in a large and representative miners' convention; and so the strike was ordered.
Anthracite miners, with breaker boys, at the lunch hour.
Mitchell as Strike Leader.
Mr. Mitchell accepted the mandate of the convention, and as president of the organization did not shirk from the official duty to lead a strike which he had hoped to avert. No better strike leader than John Mitchell has ever emerged in any time of industrial strife in this country. As one means to bring public opinion to their support, the mine owners-through individuals and newspapers employed by them,-adopted a policy of calumny and slander against Mitchell personally. This policy completely failed through Mr. Mitchell's remarkable poise and self-control. Never once was he provoked to bitterness or retort. All his utterances were statesmanlike, their tone of moderation and calmness; and although the monopoly of capital was far more vulnerable than the organization of labor. Mr. Mitchell avoided recrimination, and said not one disagreeable word about the men who were publicly saying so many false things about him. The excellent discipline and order maintained under Mr. Mitchell's leadership of the strikers will only be comprehended by an inquiry made in the historical and comparative spirit. Great industrial strikes are never as polite as ladies' missionary meetings, nor quite so free from turbulence as Sunday-school picnics. In the course of the Pennsylvania strike there was some crime, some disorder, and some unjust and wholly objectionable interference with the few non-union men who had not the disposition to cooperate with the great mass of their fellow-workers; but, as compared with former strikes in the Pennsylvania coal regions, or with former strikes in the bituminous regions of Ohio, Illinois, and various other States,-or as compared with a dozen street railroad strikes in different American cities in recent months or years,-this Pennsylvania strike was a peaceable affair. As an excuse to the public for not supplying coal, the operators continually stated that they could obtain an abundance of labor if the State of Pennsylvania would only protect their men against the violence of the strikers. This statement was false, as were also a series of statements, issued from time to time, respecting violence by strikers, and the extent to which mining operations had been resumed with non-union labor.
President Roosevelt's Intervention.
The climax of the situation was reached when the President of the United States decided to invite Mr. Mitchell representing the miners, and the group of presidents of coal-carrying roads who were, jointly, leading the fight on the other side, to come to the White House on October 3, and allow him to express the urgency of the situation on behalf of the suffering public. The invitation having been accepted by both sides, there was a widespread hope that the end was near; this hope was dashed, however, by the results of the conference. President Roosevelt, in an admirable statement impartial and conciliatory, called upon both sides regardless of what they might deem their rights, to make concessions in the interest of the country, as a whole. Mr. Mitchell, on behalf of the strikers, promptly rose and offered to abide by the decision of any arbitrators appointed by President Roosevelt, and, meanwhile, to resume work. This proposal was what the President desired, and what the country regarded as reasonable. To the surprise, however, of the President, and to the dismay of the country, the group of gentlemen representing the employers arose one after another and read to the President a series of typewritten lectures, denouncing the strikers, refusing arbitration at President Roosevelt's hands and calling upon the President to send federal troops to support the operators.
The so-called "Temporary White House"-(Where President Roosevelt is living while the White House is undergoing extensive alterations, and where the coal strike was ended by the President's interposition.)
A Final Test in Pennsylvania
After this performance, the tide of American indignation ran higher than it has gone over any recent event except the assassination of President McKinley. To test, however, the question whether or not the operators could mine coal if there were troops enough to keep the peace and protect the workers, Governor Stone, of Pennsylvania, called out the entire force of the State National Guard, some ten thousand men in all; and these troops were distributed at points where it was thought that trouble might arise. The upshot was that every local lodge of the miners' organization met to pass a vote of confidence in Mr. Mitchell, and to declare their determination to stand together and to maintain the strike. The ten thousand Pennsylvania troops found practically no disorder anywhere; and the promise of the operators that men would flock back to the mines was wholly unfulfilled. They then had the audacity to say that ten thousand troops were not enough, and that President Roosevelt ought to send a large contingent of the United States regular army. This, however, was obviously absurd. The available mine labor belonged to the union, and the union did not show the slightest sign of disintegration. Then the public began to turn its flashlights upon the anthracite monopoly itself, and to ask whether it should not be prosecuted under the Sherman anti-trust law. Complaints were lodged against it; and Attorney General Knox, with the sanction of President Roosevelt, instructed the United States District Attorney at New York to listen to the evidence that might be offered in support of the petition, and to give the subject prompt investigation.
Pennsylvania militiamen on duty in the coal region.
The Politicians Aroused.
The coal question, meanwhile, had absorbed the entire attention of the politicians of both parties, regarded it as having a vital bearing upon the pending Congressional and State campaigns. The Democrats of the State of New York were holding their convention, at this juncture; and they inserted in their platform a plank calling for the ownership and operation of the anthracite mines by the Government. Senator Quay, of Pennsylvania, and his colleague Mr. Penrose, exerted themselves to the utmost to secure some concessions from the operators; and Governor Odell, and other leading Republican politicians of New York, joined in a series of conferences which only secured for them the same kind of emphatic rebuff that President Roosevelt had met with at the hands of the operators. Governor Odell's answer took the practical form of proceedings instituted by the attorney-general of the State to ascertain whether the anthracite monopoly was in violation of the New York anti-trust law. Newspapers, mass meetings, boards of trade, and various organizations throughout the United States were at this time denouncing the Coal Trust and demanding its prosecution. Conspicuous lawyers like ex-Attorney-General Olney were scathing in their denunciations of the trust, and frank in their statements that it could be criminally prosecuted under the laws.
Mr. Morgan's Reversal of the Operators.
Meanwhile, the coal famine was becoming daily worse, and President Roosevelt was striving day and night to find a way to bring it to an end. Mr. Morgan at length perceived that the country was determined to hold him responsible; and that the position so arrogantly maintained by the gentlemen who were regarded as his lieutenants was untenable, and must be given up. Accordingly,-after personal conferences at New York with Mr. Root, the Secretary of War,- Mr. Morgan on October 13 went to Washington, conferred with President Roosevelt, and finally agreed to leave all issues concerned to a board of arbitration to be appointed by the President. This proposition of October 13 differed, in no essential respects, from the proposal that Mr. Mitchell had made ten days earlier; excepting that whereas Mr. Mitchell had offered to leave everything unconditionally to a tribunal to be selected by the President, the operators' proposal brought by Mr. Morgan limited the President in the choice of arbitrators to certain classes of men. So obviously one-sided a proposal could not have been entertained under any conditions less desperate than those existing; but President Roosevelt showed his good sense and his practical mind by not summarily rejecting the proposition, but by receiving it as a starting-point for a solution.
Mr. J. P. Morgan.(Who responded to the President's appeal and arranged to arbitrate the strike.)
The Final Terms of Settlement.
Mr. Mitchell was sent for; and he went to Washington firmly opposed to the acceptance of a tribunal which one side to a controversy was seemingly endeavoring to make up in a pettifogging spirit in its own interest. President Roosevelt convinced him, however, that it would be possible to choose perfectly fair-minded men from the categories prescribed by the operators, and names were freely discussed. Mr. George W. Perkins, of Mr. Morgan's firm, then went to Washington; and, through him, the employing interests were persuaded to consent that the President should add a sixth member to the five they had proposed. Thus, a seemingly irreconcilable situation was harmonized by President Roosevelt, when he found himself dealing with a reasonable man on one side and a reasonable man on the other. It is hard to get committees to act as sensibly as their members would have acted individually. When Mr. Morgan took up the matter the solution was near.
Frank P. Sargent. (Now commissioner of Immigration, formerly head of Brother hood of Locomotive Firemen, who aided President Roosevelt in securing arbitration.)
The Tribunal as Arranged.
The operators had stipulated that the tribunal should be made up of an army or navy engineer; an expert mining engineer; a man who had had experience with the coal business as an operator or merchant; a United States judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; and an eminent man, recognized as a sociologist. To those the President chose to add a sixth, who should be an eminent Roman Catholic prelate, nearly all of the miners being adherents of the Catholic Church. General Wilson, Judge Gray, and Bishop Spalding, are men of ripe years and national fame; eminently qualified, by character, intelligence, and experience, to serve on any tribunal of arbitration. Mr. Parker-selected as a mining expert-is our foremost authority upon coal statistics. He is editorially connected with a technical and trade journal that has been aggressively opposed to the miners and their organization at every stage. Mr. Parker would have made an invaluable expert witness before the tribunal, and it is not to be assumed that he will be unduly biased as a judge. Mr. Watkins, who was formerly an independent anthracite mine owner, is in a position to understand intimately the views of the so-called coal trust. Mr. Clark-who was selected by President Roosevelt as the eminent man acquainted with sociology-is head of the order of railroad conductors, and a man of great intelligence, respected alike by capitalists and trade-unionists, and thoroughly acquainted with labor problems, as such Carroll D. Wright, who was named as recorder of the commission, will presumably take the initiative in conducting its investigations; he is in many ways, the most highly-qualified man in the country to ascertain the facts involved in this controversy, and to weigh the merits of the opposing contentions. Taken as a whole it is an admirable commission; and its appointment represents a humane and Christian solution, advantageous to labor, and reassuring to capital. Why should the business interests of this country be endangered by labor disputes and strikes when a resort to such a tribunal as this one is almost always readily available ? There has never been a moment since their present organization was formed when the coal miners of Pennsylvania would not have been eager to submit their claims to such a tribunal. It is a great thing that the employers have now been forced by public opinion to realize that they too must be somewhere nearly as reasonable as the trade unions. Common sense has indeed won a victory.
Three of the six coal-strike arbitrators.
Gen. John M. Wilson
Mr. Thomas H. Watkins, of Scranton
Bishop John L. Spalding, of Peoria, Ill.
A New Crop of Radicals
The coal strike overshadowed all other topics last month; yet the acute phases of the subject did not prevent a widespread discussion of the principles involved. For once, many of the extreme social and economic radicals were content to be silent in order to hear astonishing avowals from the mouths of men heretofore regarded as the very high priests of conservatism. What was there for the extremists to say when men like Richard Olney, former Attorney General and Secretary of State, should declare that the anthracite operators who had called on the President to suppress the law-breaking strikers, were themselves "the most unblushing and persistent law-breakers." Continuing in this vein Mr. Olney, said:For years they have discriminated between customers in the freight charges on their railroads in violation of interstate commerce law. For years they have unlawfully monopolized interstate commerce in violation of the Sherman anti-trust law. Indeed, the very best excuse and explanation of their astonishing attitude at the Washington conference is that, having violated so many laws for so long and so many times, they might rightfully think they were wholly immune from either punishment or reproach.There were no doubts whatever as to the views and sympathies of ex-President Cleveland, who heartily approved of the steps taken by President Roosevelt. As against the assertion by the operators of the unqualified right to manage their own affairs without interference, either from the workmen or from the public, the answer of aroused American conservatism was that in the last analysis the rights of the private owners of the coal mines were least important of all. The most fundamental right was that of the public to obtain its necessary filer supplies. Next in importance was the well-being of the large population employed in the hard and dangerous work of mining coal for public use. American conservatism will not confiscate anybody's property, and it will doubtless deal most tenderly with the issues of watered stocks and bonds that the monopoly exploitation of the anthracite coal fields has converted into the semblance of sacred vested interests.
Three of the six coal-strike arbitrators.
Judge George Gray, of Delaware.
Mr. Edward W. Parker, of New York.
Mr. Edward E. Clark, of Cedar Rapids, Ia.
An Advance in Thinking.
But American economic thinking has made a great advance. Public ownership of coal mines has now been talked of, not merely by the class of men called rabid socialists, but by hard-headed business men and shrewd practical politicians. We are not, indeed, going to have public ownership and operation of coal mines in the United States at any time in the near future; -at least, there is no probability of such a development. But we may fairly hope to have a state of public intelligence and political honesty which will bring about the rigid enforcement of means to regulate and control such combinations as the one which has brought on this great anthracite trouble of the present year. One of the disadvantages of the country is, that so many lawyers of the ability and force of Mr. Richard Olney, instead of being engaged on the side of the public, are the advisers of the great trusts and combinations which rely upon expert legal counsel to point out the way to violate the laws. Meanwhile, there has also been a renewed study of labor questions, and a hopeful revival of interest in the question how best to keep the peace between capital and labor.
A breaker in the hard-coal region, with soft-coal trains passing en route to New York.
Some American Principles.
Those misunderstandings and conflicts which have so disturbed European industry, and curtailed its development, are not wanted in the United States. This country has prospered on two general principles, (l) that of encouraging the largest possible output, and (2) that of paying liberal wages; while English and European trade unionism has stood for small output, fixity of condition, and stagnant rather than buoyant industry. The kind of trade-unionism that refuses to give the industrious and ambitious man a chance, as against the lazy, inferior, and incompetent workman, is mischievous; and it must be reformed, or destroyed. Strikes are a perilous resort, and are always evidence of stupidity on one side or on both sides; and, generally, of turpitude on the one side or the other. The public does not hold to severe enough account the men who are ultimately discovered to have been responsible for a needless labor conflict. Some labor leaders are reckless and fanatical, and some capitalists are pompous and arbitrary; but the leaders on both sides are usually well-meaning, and responsive to an appeal to the sense of fair play. The real fault will generally be found to lie simply in a lack of intelligence. This is the trouble that chiefly afflicts Wall Street at present in its new role as center of American industrial activity.
Anthracite miners at home.
Ignorance in Wall Street.
The ignorance of Wall Street touching the history of labor movements, the personality of labor leaders, the aims of trade-unionism, and the ordinary working in the labor market of the law of supply and demand, is greater than is commonly believed. Wall Street very much dreads and dislikes what it calls a harsh and indiscriminate attempt at the enforcement of the anti-trust laws; yet it has been indulging in the fantastic dream that, with its new and experimental weapons of industrial combination, it could at once go forth and destroy so firmly established a force as trade-unionism. It would seem clear to the most ordinary intelligence that the one indispensable policy for Wall Street to adopt was that of liberality toward labor and large encouragement to trade-unionism. Trust methods make it easily possible for industries to pay good wages and keep the peace with their men and thereby they strengthen themselves at a thousand points. "Collective bargaining," made possible by the existence on the one side large capitalistic combinations, and of trade unions on the other side, affords the easiest and best attainable method by which the trust magnates can keep clear of labor troubles, and carry on their affairs profitably and safely . To many thoughtful observers of this strike in its successive phases, the most painful and the most disquieting thing of all, therefore, was the revelation it gave of the short-sightedness of a group of employers who were risking everything they had to fight desperately against the very methods of dealing with their labor-problems that would have been most beneficial to themselves. The worst of it was they thought their ignorance wisdom, and distrusted the wisdom of their own friends who really knew. There were individual men in Wall Street who would have arrived at wise conclusions; but they were not given the full opportunity.
An Exceptional Man.
Thus, the final concessions were coaxed out of the operators at the last moment by Mr. George W. Perkins, of Mr. Morgan's firm, and there had never been a time for eighteen months or two years when, if Mr. Perkins had been authorized to act for the capitalists as Mr. Mitchell was acting for the laborers, the situation could not have been promptly harmonized to the permanent, as well as the temporary, advantage of everybody concerned. He understands that capital and labor should be joint industrial forces; that one needs the other; that it is good for the country that both should be prosperous; and that it is just as fair for one as for the other to be organized, and to deal through accredited representatives. He can grasp the essential principles, and he is practical. It was not men of Mr. Perkins' type who ever supposed that the circulation of petty slanders about John Mitchell would help to settle the anthracite deadlock. Organized labor certainly needs honest and upright leadership; and fortunately, in men like John Mitchell, and like Mr. Clark, of the Railway Conductors,- whom President Roosevelt has selected as a member of the arbitration board,-American trade-unionism to-day has a number of men who lead wisely and intelligently. But, on the other hand, the vast aggregations of organized capital also need wise leadership, and they cannot well endure many such shocks of confidence as this anthracite trouble has produced.
Mr. George W. Perkins, who aided the President and Mr. Morgan in securing arbitration.
Centralized Power and Human Welfare.
The combinations of capital are not all of them predatory or improper; many of them are excellently conducted, and they are becoming great balance wheels, so to speak, that help-like the succession of regular crops-to keep the flow of national prosperity smooth and steady. Thus, Mr. Morgan's great steamship combination is a most legitimate and admirable triumph of industrial organization and financiering genius. The Steel Corporation bids fair to prove itself not a trust, in any monopoly sense, but a wonderful experiment in the field of industrial economics, a creditable evolution and a valuable factor in this country's prosperity. A number of the great railroad combinations, in like manner, are in the line of genuine progress. Apart from technical questions of a legal nature, it is not to be assumed, off-hand, that even the anthracite operators' agreement is not also a move in the right direction. But the responsibility that goes with the conduct of these vast enterprises cannot be best exercised by men whose mood is arrogant. Power, when it makes men ruthless, is not in fit hands. Let us hope Wall Street will have learned something from this last experience; and that it will, at least, have a better instinct as to the men competent to give it advice in problems involving human welfare.
The Political Pendulum.
The politicians had been much puzzled over the question how this strike would affect the approaching elections. Early in October-when the President's efforts seemed doomed to failure through the obduracy of the capitalists,-it was widely believed that the new Congress would be overwhelmingly Democratic. President Roosevelt, himself, probably shared in that opinion. No very logical reason could be given; but, as a rule, in this country the party in power is always punished for anything in the nature of a widespread calamity. It has seemed to fall peculiarly to the lot of the Democratic party to claim that it ought to be rewarded when the people are in trouble; but that is merely because the Republicans happen to have been dominant in our generation much more than half the time. If the political pendulum should prove to have swung the other way this fall, it will not be due to any lack of popular affection for the President and confidence in him. Republican candidates for Congress, indeed, would many of them have been in better position before the people this fall if there had not been something of a prevalent impression that the majority party in Congress had not been supporting the President with due loyalty.