Popular Science Monthly/Volume 50/April 1897/Reversions in Modern Industrial Life I

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IF the law of reversion holds true of physical life, it holds equally true of industrial life. Under its operation is revived the career of institutions as indicative of conditions long passed away as any deformity that may once have saved from extinction a race of brutes. However useful in the elevation of man from degradation and savagery, they contributed, after the completion of their purpose, no further service than one of evil. To many social reformers, the legislation in revival of the old trade and professional corporations, whose noble achievements fill one of the lighter pages of history, seems important and beneficent. But an error more alluring and dangerous was never current. Such legislation will not, as Herbert Spencer has often shown, further human welfare. On the contrary, it will undo the work of civilization, and renew the ravages of barbarism.


When feudal corporations came into the world, there was an excuse for them. It was to prepare the way for modern industrial civilization. They found Europe in a state of anarchy. Every man's hand was against his neighbor's. War was almost the universal occupation. The men not engaged in robbery and slaughter were the menials—the serfs and slaves. It was in the midst of this disorder and carnage that the feudal corporations were born. The natural and spontaneous product of the times, and not of the wisdom of some philanthropist or statesman, they met the most urgent of needs—peace and security. "The working-men's corporation and the commercial guild," says Pigeonneau, "were, first of all, an instrument of defense, a kind of mutual assurance against the violence, the exactions, or the negligence of the seignior and his representatives."[1] For these most unfortunate people, there was no police, no armed force for protection, no public security of any kind. They were plundered and murdered with impunity. For them there were no schools, no charities, no social organizations. Even religious privileges were denied them. Under the stress of threatened extermination, as well as the loss of all the blessings of life, the industrial classes, the most contemptible of human creatures, came together in powerful organizations for mutual aid and protection. "Individuals," says Boehmert, "engaged in the same profession formed associations for the protection of their person, their families, and their property; for the creation of an internal moral and economic police, and particularly to punish associates who, by cheating in the quality of their products, could injure the reputation of the whole city; to watch over the completion of a regular apprenticeship, and to exercise a moral censorship over apprentices and journeymen; to take care of the widows, the orphans, the aged, and the infirm among them; to join together in the parish and to have masses said over the dead; to furnish a contingent of arquebusiers to the troops of the city, and, in general, to satisfy all social wants."[2]

Even when Étienne Boyleau, the famous provost of Paris under St. Louis and the author of the still more famous Livre des Métiers, gave these corporations a legal status, there was still an excuse. He was a warrior, with a warrior's love of discipline and system; he was a magistrate, with a magistrate's hatred of all kinds of lawlessness and dishonesty; he was a tax reformer, with tax reformer's eye to new sources of revenue for the impoverished treasury of a crusading monarch. "He reestablished discipline in commerce, and in the arts and trades," says a writer in the Biographie Universelle, "in the collection of the royal taxes within his jurisdiction, and fixed those of the seigniorial courts included in his provostship; he moderated and fixed the imposts that were raised arbitrarily, under the provost farmers, on commerce and merchandise; he arranged all the traders and all the artisans in different bodies and communities under the title of brotherhoods; it was he that gave these corporations their first status for disciplinary purposes, and established the rules for the encouragement of honesty and commerce."[3] But there is reason to believe that the chief purposes of this feudal reformer were police and fiscal. "The kings," says Depping, "made successful use of the corporations for the collections of imposts, then very imperfectly done. When the artisans and traders were formed into a body, it sufficed to summon the head men and to charge them with the collection of the taille for each trade. . . . It became easier to designate the persons that should keep watch during the night, a forced labor that displeased the Parisians very much, and from which they sought as much as possible to escape."[4]

It is an inevitable tendency of all organizations, whatever be their purpose, be it political or industrial, to consolidate and strengthen their power.[5] As long as the corporations of the arts and trades remained voluntary organizations, meeting wants that could be provided for in no other way, they played an important and indispensable part in the machinery of feudal society. It was in the interest of order and industry that they established monopolies, collected fees and dues, and sold privileges. With the money thus obtained, they protected life and property, promoted trade and commerce by the construction and maintenance of land and river routes,[6] and provided for the social wants of their members. But when they fell into the hands of the Government they were doomed. The vicious traits inherent in all organizations received a new impulse under the protection of the law, and eventually converted them into an intolerable evil. "Each corporation," says Depping, after telling how the interests of the public were ignored, "had in view only the personal advantage of the masters of the trade. The result was long apprenticeships, . . . heavy fines imposed on the apprentices, efforts to exclude from the markets of Paris the unauthorized traders and artisans, special privileges demanded by the industries devoted to the production of luxuries, restriction put upon emulation and competition, and finally a mechanical uniformity in manufacture."[7]

Even in the time of Philippe le Bel these evils were recognized, and an effort was made by that prince to remedy them. Many of the privileges of the corporations were abolished, the most notable being the permission granted to the Parisians to bake their own bread.[8] But the poison of monopoly had entered too deeply into the industrial system of the age to be eradicated so easily. The constant effort of the monopolists was to increase their monopoly; the constant effort of the Government was to exploit it—to convert it into a gold mine for the tax gatherers and an asylum for the office seekers. Enormous initiation fees were charged. In Paris they reached the incredible sum of a thousand livres; in the lesser cities they were five hundred.[9] It became impossible in some places in Germany to gain admission to the corporations except through marriage with the daughter or the widow of a master.[10] The terms of apprenticeship and journeymanship were prolonged beyond all rational limit. The French coopers had to serve seven years, and the hatmakers ten years. If a man served an apprenticeship in Rouen and moved to Paris, he had to serve another.[11] Tests of fitness for admission, like the production of a masterpiece, made under rules that either hampered or destroyed all skill and originality, were rigorously applied. To draw the cords of monopoly still more tightly, rites and ceremonies were invented, the aid and protection of saints invoked, and emblems, banners, badges, and distinctive costumes to mark off each art and trade designed and adopted.

The moral havoc wrought by these monopolies was greater even than the industrial havoc. It crushed all feelings of justice and humanity, making its victims more grasping and cruel than Shylock; it led them to the practice of every trick and deception of a Newgate sharper to evade the laws; it stirred up a contention that rivaled the quarrels of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Apprentices became no better than serfs and slaves. They were not merely pitilessly fined and brutally punished; they were often left in ignorance of the craft that they had purchased the right to learn. In that frightful social and moral revulsion following the long and devastating wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the corporations became more determined than ever to maintain their industrial aristocracy and monopoly. They refused to admit any trade less ancient and honorable than their own, to the rights and privileges of the law; they soiled themselves by contact with no person of illegitimate birth; and in their savage and relentless pursuit of persons engaged in unauthorized traffic they invaded the homes of contraband workmen, confiscating both their tools and the hidden products of their toil, leaving them and their families destitute and starving.[12] To such absurd lengths was the creation of corporations carried for the production of new taxes and new places for court favorites that occupations like the teaching of dancing, the selling of flowers, and the catching of birds were organized, and homogeneous occupations like the hatmakers' and carpenters' were divided and subdivided beyond the comprehension of the modern mind. But despite the ingenuity of lawyers and the vigilance of armies of inspectors, the lines of demarcation could not be drawn so sharply as to avoid conflicts of interests. The makers of felt hats quarreled with the makers of cotton hats. The spinners who had purchased the right to use hemp quarreled with those that had purchased the right to use flax. The shoemakers fought with the cobblers that reproduced more than two thirds of an old shoe. The cutlers that made the handles of knives fought with those that made the blades. The relations of the makers of wooden porringers and the makers of wooden spoons were equally belligerent. Blanqui says that in the middle of the seventeenth century the annual cost of litigation over these inevitable invasions of industrial territory amounted in Paris alone to more than five hundred thousand francs; that the money wasted upon the suits of comparatively small corporations amounted to twenty-five thousand. "From St. Louis to Louis XIV," he says further in a striking summary of the fate that befell them, "there was not a sovereign who did not impose restrictions, taxes, and new regulations upon them; the courts overpowered them with judgment and fines without diminishing their ardor or calming their hatreds."[13] Founded to establish order and to fulfill a mission of mercy, they degenerated into engines of oppression, confusion, and degradation, giving birth, in a word, to all the evils of a society in a state of dissolution.

Such anarchy, which prevailed in England as well as in France, though in a less degree, could not be permitted to last. It would in time have wrecked society morally and industrially. Although ruinously delayed, relief came at last through the labors of thinkers, statesmen, and revolutionists, but especially through the ameliorations of the long peace that followed the devastating and demoralizing wars of Napoleon. Adam Smith was among the first to come to the rescue. The whole of his great work was a potent protest against monopoly in all forms. He pointed out that "the exclusive privileges of corporations, statutes of apprenticeship, and those which restrain in particular employments the competition of a smaller number than would otherwise go into them" were "encroachments upon natural liberty."[14] But it was more than fifty years before the laws that he inveighed against so powerfully were finally repealed. In France also the thinkers led the way. "Let complete liberty of commerce be maintained," said Quesnay. "When the interest of the individual is exactly the same as the general interest," said Gournay, "the best thing to do is to leave every man to do as he likes."[15] Applying these principles to the corporations, Turgot proclaimed that "the right to work is the sacred and inalienable property of the poor man." Again he said, "All sound principles were violated by the accepted doctrine that it was a royal right that the prince might sell and subjects might buy."[16] But the work of industrial emancipation that he tried in vain to do—a work that might have saved his country from the horrors of the Revolution—was among the first and most beneficent achievements of that frightful convulsion. The Wealth of Nations early made its way into Germany, and soon leavened the views of her economists and statesmen. From 1808-'10, when the Stein-Hardenberg legislation was enacted, down to the Revolution of 1848, when a change of policy began, the rulers of that war-infested land conferred upon labor their most precious gift and its most precious boon—the right to work. But with the destruction of the tranquillity that closed the first half of the century came the inevitable reversions to political and industrial despotism. "The principles that they recommended for adoption," says Boehmert, referring to the results of the Berlin conference of the Government with the workingmen, afterward crystallized into legislation, "were worthy of the worst epochs of the middle ages."[17] It was not until twenty years later, under the régime of the Confederation, that this legislation was wiped out, and industrial liberty again established. Since then, however, the Franco-Prussian War has occurred. The result was the same as in 1793 and 1848. Freedom has fallen into discredit, and is in danger of eclipse. "There has of late," says Prof. Ingram, "been a feeling in France and Germany that, with the abolition of the restrictions enforced by the corporations, there was a real loss of moral and social as well as economic benefits. In Prussia several efforts have been made to restore them to a free basis; and it is understood that further steps of the same kind are likely to be taken by the German Governments, whose object is thus to establish a sort of police of the industrial world, and solve a part of the great problem of the organization of labor."[18] As though despotism could, in times of peace and honest toil, solve any problem but the loss of liberty and the ruin of civilization!


Since Boyleau impressed the corporations into the police and fiscal service of a military despotism, thus converting agencies of order, industry, and humanity into engines of greed and oppression, the conditions of society and the thoughts and feelings of enlightened races have been revolutionized. A state of anarchy no longer exists. War has ceased to be the chief occupation of men. Their ambition is not to murder and plunder their fellows. Devoted to the arts of peace, they have come more and more to exhibit the manners and sentiments of civilized life. There is therefore no occasion for the institutions that feudal confusion and anarchy made needful. A powerful police organization restrains the robbers and murderers. An elaborate system of courts investigates crimes, both great and small, settles disputes between the contentious, and seeks to maintain the rights of the simple and weak against the cunning and strong. Asylums, hospitals, refuges, homes, and charitable societies without number provide for the sick, the aged, the destitute. Education in all the fields of human knowledge, fitting men and women for every position in life, can be had in the universities, colleges, academies, technical schools, and public schools, both primary and secondary, that cover the land. Social and religious organizations minister to every conceivable social and religious need. No obloquy is attached to any honest pursuit. Character and ability have come more and more to be the test of social worth. The great men of the world are not the warriors; they are the captains of industry, the discoverers in science, the thinkers, the scholars, the artists, the philanthropists, the statesmen.

Yet it is proposed to introduce into a society like this—one based not upon war, but upon peace and industry—the institutions that finished their proper work centuries ago;[19] that survived, in consequence of their alliance with the state, their usefulness so long that they became a curse to man and an obstruction to social and industrial progress. Not only is it proposed, but, as already intimated, steps have actually been taken, to convert the plumbers, the undertakers, the barbers, the horseshoers, the opticians, the dentists, the druggists, the stationary engineers, and other trades and professions into close organizations like those that once covered Europe.[20] Legislation has been had in several States to give them rights and privileges as violative of the principle of equal freedom and as hostile to the interests of society and civilization as those that Boylean conferred upon the corporations of Paris. Under the specious plea of protecting the interests of the public and of self-improvement, both morally and intellectually—a plea that Boyleau himself did not forget to make[21]—there is in progress a movement to extend these rights and privileges to the members of the same trades and professions in other States. Unless it is checked, an achievement that has not yet been undertaken, we shall have fastened upon us before we are aware of it the same intolerable industrial and professional tyranny that contributed so powerfully to the French Revolution; for the rules and regulations are becoming so numerous and despotic, particularly those that have emanated from the plumbing trade, that individual liberty, in all that pertains to that business at least, is practically denied. They rival in minuteness and vexatiousness anything that Boyleau produced. For the judgment and will of the person most interested in the perfection of a piece of work are substituted the judgment and will of the person least interested.

If organization, whether industrial or political or social, involves a loss of liberty, it also involves, as the story of the French corporations shows, a more serious loss of truth and honor. It does not lead simply to cruel intolerance; it leads to the grossest hypocrisy. Were the slightest value to be attached to the pleas and apologies of the modern corporations, there would be no possible escape from the conviction that they are animated by the loftiest motives. Their ambition is not limited to self-improvement and deliverance from an obloquy and contempt hardly less profound and humiliating than that visited upon the honest toil of feudal times; it includes the noble role of philanthropist and benefactor. "The principal object of this bill," says the note appended to a measure to regulate the practice of optometry in the State of New York, but really to restrict the sale of spectacles to opticians, "is to protect the public against incompetent and designing persons who may in the future attempt to traffic upon postulate skill in adapting glasses to the sight"[22] "To the end that public health and our loved ones" may "be more adequately protected," and "to the elevation of our profession" and the suppression of "the impostors in our business," the undertakers of Indiana, with more tenderness than the opticians, due perhaps to the nature of their calling, ask for the enactment of a bill to create a "State Board of Funeral Directors," and to prescribe certain requirements to the trade. When the barbers of the State of New York met in Syracuse last November to frame a similar measure, they, too, felt moved to proclaim the purity of their motives. "We have been hampered and humiliated for years," they said, "by incompetent people working at our profession." Among these obnoxious persons are "the drunken barbers," the workmen graduated from so-called barber colleges "in the remarkably short time of eight weeks," and, finally, the laborers and mechanics engaged in other occupations during the day that shave and cut hair in the evening, using "one towel on six persons," and charging the demoralizing price of five and ten cents for their dangerous services. "Innumerable people," they add, referring to this alarming peril, "have been inoculated with vile skin diseases, which, in many cases, have baffled the skill of physicians; and we claim," they assert, with the firmness of true philanthropists, animated by a noble principle, "that the public should be protected from these impostors."[23]

But the most edifying exhibition of disinterested benevolence is to be found in the pleas and apologies of the master plumbers—the strongest of these modern corporations and the happy possessors of the largest rights and privileges under the law.[24] It would not be possible for one "unfamiliar with their history to imagine that any labor could ever have been in a more despicable condition. "I have served a sufficient time," said an official essayist[25] at the Detroit convention of master plumbers, "when the plumber was regarded as somewhat of a scavenger."[26] How shockingly degraded was the condition of these honest toilers is made still more vivid by the powerful picture of another essayist. "At that time," he said, alluding to the same distressing period, "the term 'master plumber' was a misnomer; he was a slave—slave to the tyranny of established business customs, slave to the reckless, demoralizing practices of dealers, slave to an embittered and hostile public sentiment, slave to the meanest drudgery and sacrifices of the trade, slave to his own weakness and submission."[27] After speaking of the convention as composed of men "gathered together with no thought of pecuniary reward, to enhance the common welfare of man, to present and discuss the best means of preventing the ravages of disease with its resulting misery and woe," he declared, with rhythmic eloquence on another occasion, that "their profession has made them philanthropists, and their love of mankind has made them benefactors."[28] The power that wrought this miracle is the organization and legislation that have weeded out "the so-called master plumbers who do not understand their business," who, in consequence "jeopardize the health of the public," and who, through ignorance as to how plumbing should be done, "figure and take work at prices which can not be met by those who are skilled and desire to do good work."[29]

Here we come in contact with the true spirit that animates every modern trade and professional corporation. Without exception, they are struggling, like the old feudal corporations, to limit competition and to secure a monopoly of labor and trade. The plumbers may find much pleasure in calling themselves "philanthropists" and "benefactors"; they may strive laboriously to lift themselves to the plane of "professional sanitarians," ranking, to use the fine phrases of an official essayist, with "God's nobleman, the honest physician";[30] but their real object, however concealed under the alluring garb of rhetoric and sentiment, is to get the largest amount of money for the smallest amount of work.[31] One of their number has been honest and frank enough to confess as much. "It is true," said Mr. John L. E. Firmin, of San Francisco, an official essayist at the Philadelphia convention, "that the prime moving cause of our organization was the betterment of our condition in dollars and cents."[32] However bald and brutal we may think such an impeachment of a noble purpose to "enhance the welfare of man" without "thought of pecuniary reward," it is the exact truth; and for a complete justification of every letter and syllable, no one need go beyond the official statements of the plumbers themselves. The annual reports of the proceedings of the National Conventions of the Master Plumbers' Association of the United States show that in spite of the exalted virtue they have assumed, they have not scorned the selfish policy and despotic practices of feudal times. By proposing the restriction of apprenticeship, by making more onerous the requirements for admission to their associations, by driving from the field they have seized upon the unauthorized persons called in to do their work, by striving to obtain a monopoly of the retail trade in plumbing supplies, they have exhibited all the traits that made the feudal corporations so odious and intolerable, and finally brought them to complete and merited ruin.

That they are not without some conception of the rights of the individual, that they realize the "irrepressible conflict" between their conduct and the principles of the institutions under which they live, there is ample evidence. When the journeymen plumbers of Omaha struck for an advance in wages, the master plumbers of the city discovered a keen enough appreciation of these rights and principles. "Resolved," said one of their resolutions in condemnation of the strikers, "that the members of the Omaha Master Plumbers' Association feel that their business interests are being unnecessarily and unwarrantably interfered with by the Journeymen's Union of this city, in that said organization, by its rules and acts, denies to the master plumbers the right, as business men, to direct and manage their business affairs according to their own ideas."[33] How great a difference it makes whose ox is gored is disclosed again in the reply to the demand of the jobbing houses of Salt Lake City that the master plumbers of the town should, under the famous Baltimore resolutions,[34] restricting the sale of plumbing supplies to master plumbers only, purchase of them alone, "We hold the right," they said, with the true American spirit, "to buy where we can buy the best."[35] The same view as to the rights of labor are to be found in the official essay that Mr. Edward Hayward, of Brooklyn, read before the Milwaukee convention. "Such claim," he said, referring to the claim that "organized labor has rights superior to those of the craftsman or laborer standing alone on his own merits, and supporting the dignity of his manhood," "could never have rooted well and can never flourish long in the atmosphere of a people possessing equal rights and capable of maintaining them. It would not," he added, in a tone of mild admonition, "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."[36] 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."[37] 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."[38] 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."[39] Reflect upon the significance of such extraordinary words. They are a condemnation of technical education. Never were the feudal corporations guilty of anything more retrogressive, or more subversive of their own interests or the interests of the public.

It is but just to say that as yet the master plumbers have not established an apprenticeship or a journeymanship despotism. But that they are not lacking in the spirit that leads to both is manifest from their efforts to control the retail trade, which have been more persistent and systematic, and therefore more successful. Ever since the National Association was organized, they have striven to put a stop to the traffic between jobbers and consumers. So twisted have become the moral perceptions of the master plumber that deprivation of the profits from this traffic appears hardly less reprehensible than a fraud. "The jobbing houses," says the report of the vice-president of the Minnesota Association to the Detroit convention, calling attention to this species of crime, "are selling material to general contractors and owners of buildings, and hiring a plumber by the day to do the work, thus doing the boss plumber out of the profit that rightfully belongs to him."[40] Because of such a perversion of the ethics of trade, the natural fruit of organization and monopoly, it has almost ceased to be possible for corporations and the owners of large buildings, not to speak of the smaller and less influential victims of the "philanthropists" and "benefactors," either to do any part of their own plumbing or to get from a dealer the supplies needed for the work.[41] The definition of a plumber has been so narrowed that it does not apply to plumbers in the employ of either of these classes; and the definition of plumbing materials has been so broadened that it includes everything that a plumber handles. "I believe," said a New York delegate to the Cleveland convention, setting forth the view that has generally been adopted, "that everything that we handle is plumbing goods. I believe the meter, and the pump, and the range, and everything in a specification called for in the plumbing line, and which we have to handle, is plumbing goods."[42] To such refinements has the lexicography of the plumbing trade been carried that a distinction has been drawn between plumbing goods that can and those that can not be sold to a shipbuilder, without the intervention of the master plumber as middleman. To the former belong all supplies used in constructive or repair work in a shipyard, and to the latter all supplies used in constructive or repair work outside of a shipyard, and not requiring the special skill of the shipbuilder.[43]

But the arrogance of this modern trade corporation does not end here. Not content with denying to an American citizen the right to buy gas fixtures, or galvanized iron pipe, or bath tubs, or kitchen boilers from whomever he pleases; nor with telling him that he must not use wooden washtubs in his laundry, and that he must have at least one bathroom for every ten persons in his family;[44] nor with prescribing a code for the construction of his plumbing as minute and tyrannical as any that Boyleau ever dreamed of; nor with proposing a government inspection and approval of the plans of architects, especially with regard to light and ventilation;[45] the master plumbers have sought to bring under their wise and benevolent jurisdiction the management of the business affairs of the government of cities, counties, States, and even of the nation. A California law provides that in the specifications for any State building, those relating to the plumbing must, to use their own jargon, be "segregated," and submitted directly to the plumbers for estimates.[46] The dignity of this noble organization of "professional sanitarians," which is coming to rival that of the feudal corporations, forbids the acceptance of a subcontract. "Master plumbers," said the president of the Texas association, after describing an attempt made in San Antonio to force upon the county commissioners the observance of the same absurd and tyrannical rule, "should never be second fiddlers to any contractor."[47] The ordinances of San Francisco and other cities provide that no one but a regularly licensed plumber shall touch the sewers, thus compelling the payment of plumber's wages for the work of a laborer. Two years ago, the Master Plumbers' Association of Illinois passed a resolution that the United States Government should be denied the right to buy plumbing supplies from the jobbers.[48] Is it any wonder that the Sanitary Committee urged in a report to the Philadelphia convention that "upon every favorable opportunity," the plumbers should "endeavor to disabuse the public of the idea that our legislative duties are selfish"?[49] Is the idea altogether fanciful?

I have already mentioned how the feudal corporations took one of the most effective steps of organization and monopoly to retain power, namely, the selection of patron saints, the adoption of rites and ceremonies, and the use of banners, badges, and distinctive costumes. Most curiously, master plumbers have not neglected to propose a like step to safeguard their rights and privileges. "We would urge upon the Executive Committee," said Mr. James Ryan, the vice-president of the District of Columbia Association, "to make some recommendation that a ritual be adopted . . . We would also recommend a suitable badge or emblem be adopted for all local associations, making it a universal badge throughout the country."[50] I have still to learn, however, that they have chosen a fitting patron saint. Is it because they have not heard of Cagliostro?

[To be continued.]

  1. Histoire du Commerce de France. Par H. Pigeonnean, vol. i, p. 111. See Palgrave, Dictionary of Political Economy. Corporations, by Prof. J. K. Ingram, vol. i, p. 429.
  2. Dictionnaire général de la Politique. Par M. Maurice Block. See Corporations, by V. Boehmert, vol. i, p. 537.
  3. Vol. v, p. 436.
  4. Règlemens sur les Arts et Métiers de Paris. Avec Notes et une Introduction. Par G.-B. Depping, p. lxxxiv. See also Palgrave, Dictionary of Political Economy, pp. 430, 431.
  5. See the striking example given by Depping, p. xxxii.
  6. Pigeonneau, vol. i, p. 117.
  7. Règlemens sur les Arts et Métiers, p. lxxxiii
  8. Ibid., lxxxiv.
  9. Boehmert. Block's Dictionnaire général de la Politique, vol. i, p. 538.
  10. Palgrave. Dictionary of Political Economy, vol. i, p. 431.
  11. Blanqui. History of Political Economy, p. 185.
  12. Boehmert. Block's Dictionnaire général de la Politique, vol. i, pp. 537, 538.
  13. Blanqui. History of Political Economy, pp. 183, 184.
  14. Palgrave. Dictionary of Political Economy, vol. i, p. 430. See whole of Part II chapter x, Wealth of Nations, Rogers's edition.
  15. Lowell. Eve of the French Revolution, pp. 234, 235.
  16. Palgrave. Dictionary of Political Economy, vol. i, p. 431
  17. Block's Dictionnaire général de la Politique, vol. i, p. 539.
  18. Palgrave. Dictionary of Political Economy, vol. i, p. 43. Since this was written the publication of Mr. Spencer's third volume of Principles of Sociology, page 595, acquaints me with the existence of "a recent measure for establishing compulsory guilds of artisans, a manifest reversion." Even Mr. Lecky, whose views have very little in common with those of Mr. Spencer's social philosophy, has recognized this tendency to revert to feudal despotism. Referring to the ideal of labor leaders, he says, "The industrial organization to which they aspire approaches far more nearly to that of the middle ages or of the Tudors than the ideal of Jefferson and Cobden." (Democracy and Liberty, vol. i, p. 258.) Again he says (vol. ii, p. 441): "A considerable workingmen's party on the Continent, but especially in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, desires 'obligatory syndicates,' or, in other words, corporations for carrying on particular trades, to which all who practice those trades must necessarily belong. It is a system curiously like the guilds and other trade organizations and monopolies that flourished in the middle ages. In Austria a very remarkable law, enacted in 1883, established compulsory guilds, including all employer's and workmen, for the smaller industries, with power of regulating apprenticeships. . . . In 1893 a workingmen's congress, held at Bienne, in Switzerland, unanimously voted for obligatory corporations; a revision of the Constitution was prepared which would have made it possible to establish such corporations and suppress free labor, but it was defeated by a small majority on a referendum vote."
  19. Pigeonneau, vol. i, p. 176.
  20. Since this was put in type my attention has been called to a New York State law, enacted last year, for the regulation of "public accountants," who may be regarded simply as glorified bookkeepers. It provides that any person "over twenty-one years of age and of good moral character," who shall have passed a prescribed examination, shall "be styled and known as a certified public accountant." It forbids any other person to "assume such title, or use the abbreviation C. P. A., or any other words, letters, or figures to indicate that the person using the same is such certified public accountant." Very curiously so intelligent a journal as the Commercial and Financial Chronicle (February 13, 1897) regards such absurd and obsolete legislation as "very important," believing evidently that it will do much to insure a correct audit of corporation accounts. Yet it is clear-headed enough to see "that even under the best of conditions accountants' examinations are subject to certain limitations," and "such examinations by no means provide a remedy for all the ills of corporate management."
  21. "Because," says Boyleau, in the introduction to the Livre des Métiers, "we have seen in Paris in our time much jocularity and unbridled lust which is becoming corrupt, and likewise the nonsense of the young and ignorant among the young foreigners and those of the city who neither have nor practice any trade, because they had sold to strangers no things so good or so loyal as they should be." After mentioning the courts of jurisdiction he has established, Boyleau continues: "This we have done for the profit of all, including the poor and the strangers who come to Paris to buy commodities; that the commodities may be so loyal that they will not be deceived by there being some defect; and to punish those who shall receive dishonest gain or, through lack of sense, ask it and take it contrary to God, to law, and to reason."—Blanqui, History of Political Economy, p. 180.
  22. The Optical Journal, vol. ii, No. 10, p. 393.
  23. The National Barber, December 31, 1896.
  24. As proof of this statement the following extract from the report of the Sanitary Committee at Philadelphia, 1895, may be given: "We have recited the utter lack of sanitary laws as we found at the time of our organization. Now note the change. The necessary preliminaries performed, immediately throughout the entire country the master plumbers' association, by various honorable, just, and enlightened efforts, exerted, too, under the most trying conditions of ridicule, sarcasm, ignorance, and narrow-mindedness, formulated and caused to be adopted regulating laws, now generally termed 'plumbing laws,' or 'rules and regulations of plumbing and drainage.' To such an extent did our labors ramify that, at this writing, there is no city or town, and hardly a hamlet, which is not in a greater or less degree controlled and benefited by our labors."—Proceedings, p. 42.
  25. The National Convention of the Master Plumbers has a Committee on Essays, which makes up a list of subjects and selects the best essays on them to be read before the convention. The views set forth in these essays, which are published in the regular reports of the proceedings, may therefore be regarded as "official."
  26. Proceedings, Detroit, 1894, p. 167.
  27. Proceedings, Cincinnati, 1891, p. 129.
  28. Proceedings, Denver, 1890, p. 86.
  29. Proceedings, Cleveland, 1896, p. 38.
  30. Ibid., p. 95.
  31. Besides the proofs of this statement in the text, the following may be given: A member of the New York Board of Horseshoers told me that one of the objects of their law was to increase the price for shoeing a horse all round from one dollar, charged by the poor horseshoers, to one dollar and a half and two dollars. "Ultimately," said the President of the New York Optical Society, in his address at Syracuse, June 2, 1896, published in the Optical Journal, vol. ii. No. 4, p. 124, "we should . . . endeavor to establish uniform prices for certain articles which are recognized as staples in our business. Great differences in our charges shatter public confidence in their legitimacy." Speaking of the benefits that should follow the enactment of a law to protect the barbers, the National Barber of April 30, 1896, says: "The better class of barbers would reap benefit, better prices would prevail, and the barber would then be classed with other professional men." Alluding to the barbers of Illinois, who demand protection also, a writer in the National Barber of December 31, 1896, says: "They are tired of seeing people buying their own razors, and will try to put a stop to such a one-sided practice if they can."
  32. Proceedings, Philadelphia, 1895, p. 90.
  33. Proceedings, Pittsburg, 1889, p. 55.
  34. These resolutions were first adopted at Baltimore, June 26, 1884, and reaffirmed and amended at subsequent conventions. The essential part of the original resolutions is as follows: "Whereas, the manufacturers and wholesale dealers in plumbing material persist in selling to consumers, to our injury and detriment, placing us toward our customers in the light of extortionists, causing endless trouble; and whereas, the system of protecting us from this wrong, which draws in its wake other wrongs, is ineffective, it is absolutely necessary to perfect such a system by united action that will remove these evils from which we have suffered for years; therefore be it resolved, that the members of this association confine the purchase of plumbing material to manufacturers and wholesale dealers who sell goods to master plumbers only, as defined in these resolutions." The term master plumber was defined in the following resolution adopted at Washington in 1892 and amended at Philadelphia in 1895: "Resolved, that it is the sense of this convention that in the future the interpretation of the term 'master plumber,' as set forth in the above resolutions to entitle him to purchase plumbing material, be construed to mean a master plumber who has an established place of business and represents the industry of plumbing, and who has qualified under State or local enactments regulating plumbing and plumbers, where such exist; or, where no license is required, an individual or firm with an established place of business and representing the industry of plumbing." The following important additions were made at the Philadelphia convention: "Resolved, that the members of this association should not sell plumbing material to consumers when they do not furnish the labor for putting the material in. Resolved, that the supply houses doing a plumbing supply business and contracting for plumbing work shall be considered unjust competitors." The following are at present exempt from the operation of these resolutions: The United States Government, State, county, and city institutions. Sailors' Snug Harbor, railroad, gas, water, and electric light companies only for such goods as are necessary for their respective lines of business.
  35. Proceedings, Cleveland, 1896, p. 68. See also p. 161, Proceedings, Milwaukee, 1893, where the essayist says: "When rules governing a household, the laws of a State, or of a trade associate alike, are oppressive, they become inoperative by a general disregard of them. The inability of the governing power to enforce them is seen, and contempt for it follows."
  36. Proceedings, Milwaukee, 1893, p. 162.
  37. Ibid., p. 71.
  38. Proceedings, Cleveland, 1896, p. 130.
  39. Ibid., p. 77.
  40. Proceedings, Detroit, 1894, p. 67.
  41. In 1894 Mr. Oakes A. Ames and other large property owners attempted to get the following reasonable amendment made to the Massachusetts plumbing law: "Any person may, by himself, or his usual employees, without obtaining a plumber's license," as provided by the law, "do any proper plumbing work upon his own premises, and in doing such work shall not be restricted to the use of plumbing materials that can not be purchased in open market." But the amendment, which was denounced by so enlightened a journal as the Boston Herald, was defeated.
  42. Proceedings, Cleveland, 1 896, p. 89.
  43. Proceedings, Cleveland, 1896, p. 141.
  44. Plumbing Code of Rochester, N. Y.
  45. Proceedings, Philadelphia, 1895, p. 45.
  46. Ibid., 1895, p. 80.
  47. Proceedings, Detroit, 1894, p. 79.
  48. Proceedings, Philadelphia, 1895, p. 54.
  49. Ibid., 1895, p. 43.
  50. Proceedings, Detroit, 1894, p. 72.