"be wise, therefore, for a master plumbers' association, now free, to commit itself to such a dogma, or become a party to practices that would deprive any fellow-workingman of bis natural means of obtaining a living." Neither Adam Smith nor Turgot could have said anything better.
But poor human nature, even of the variety vouchsafed to master plumbers after they have been transformed by organization and legislation into "philanthropists" and "benefactors," is not able to live up to these vigorous assertions of the principle of personal liberty. The yearning it feels for "the fleshpots of Egypt" is too strong to be overcome by unselfish thoughts and sentiments. Blinded morally as well as industrially by its anxious pursuit of "betterment in dollars and cents," it denies to others the rights that it arrogates to itself. Like the old feudal corporations, it would make membership of its benevolent organizations as difficult as possible. "The St. Louis association," said the president of the Milwaukee convention, "has adopted a new constitution, making it a necessary requisite for membership that a candidate must have served five years' apprenticeship and three years a journeyman plumber. This qualification for membership," he added apologetically, "may be a little advanced for some localities, but I believe that the line ought to be drawn between practical and impractical men." Indeed, it ought; but that is not the object of this restriction; otherwise the work of drawing lines between practical and impractical men would be left entirely to the person that employs them. The object is to make the plumber's business as exclusive as possible, and thus to restrict competition. "It is an undoubted fact," says a report on apprenticeship to the Cleveland convention, which discloses this ignoble purpose, "that many of the evils arising from the present ruinous competition in the plumbing business are due almost entirely to the great number of young men who have partially served an apprenticeship at the trade." But when an organization is once started upon the path of proscription, the steps to the most shameless exhibitions of the spirit of greed and intolerance are soon and easily taken. The Master Plumbers' Association of the United States is no exception. At the Cleveland convention, the Wisconsin delegation proposed that the number of apprentices should be restricted to one for every three journeymen and fraction thereof, and that the plumbers of the United States withdraw their "moral and financial support from all plumbing trade schools, as we think they tend to increase the ranks of the master plumbers." Reflect upon the significance of such extraordinary
- Proceedings, Milwaukee, 1893, p. 162.
- Ibid., p. 71.
- Proceedings, Cleveland, 1896, p. 130.
- Ibid., p. 77.