The History of Trade Unionism/IV. The new spirit and the new model, 1843-1860
CHAPTER IV THE NEW SPIRIT AND THE NEW MODEL [1843-1860]
WE have seen the magnificent hopes of 1829-42 ending in bitter disillusionment: we shall now see the Trade Unionists of the next generation largely successful in reaching their more limited aims. Laying aside all projects of Social Revolution, they set themselves resolutely to resist the worst of the legal and industrial oppressions from which they suffered, and slowly built up for this purpose organisa- tions which have become integral parts of the structure of a modern industrial state. This success we attribute mainly to the spread of education among the rank and file, and the more practical counsels which began, after 1842, to influenc the Trade Union world. But we must not overlook the effect ' of economic changes. The period between 1825 and 1848 was remarkable for the frequency and acuteness of its commercial depressions. From 1850 industrial expansion was for many years both greater and steadier than in any previous period. 1 It is no mere coincidence
1 Between 1850 and 1874 there was (except, perhaps, during the American Civil War) no falling off in the value of our export trade com- parable to the serious declines of 1826, 1829, 1837, 1842, and 1848. We do not pretend to account for this difference, but may remind the reader of the coincident increase in the production of gold, the influence of Free Trade and railways, and, as the bimetallists would tell us, the currency arrangements which were brought to an end in 1873.
Revival of Trade Unionism 181
that these years of prosperity saw the adoption by the
Trade Union world of a " New Model " of organisation,
under which Trade Unionism obtained a financial strength,
i a trained staff of salaried officers, and a permanence of
I membership hitherto unknown.
^The predominance of Chartism over Trade Unionism
i was confined to the bad times of 1837-42. Under the
I influence of the rapid improvement and comparative pro-
l sperity which followed, the Chartist agitation dwindled
! away; and a marked revival in Trade Unionism took
effect in the re-establishment, about 1843, of the Potters'
Union, and of an active Cotton - spinners' Association,
and, in 1845, by the amalgamation of the metropolitan
and provincial societies of compositors into the National
Typographical Society. 1 The powerful United Flint Glass
Makers' Society (reorganised in 1849 * as * ne Flint Glass
Makers' Friendly Society of Great Britain and Ireland)
dates from the same year Delegate meetings of other
trades were held; and national societies of tailors and
shoemakers were set on foot. A national conference of
curriers in 1845 established a federal union of all the local
clubs in the trade. But the most important of the new
bodies was the Miners' Association of Great Britain and
Ireland, formed at Wakefield in 1841. 2 Up to this period
the miners, held in virtual serfage by the truck system and
i the custom of yearly hirings, had not got beyond ephemeral
strike organisations. Strong county Unions now grew up in
1 This was an elaborate national organisation with 60 branches, grouped under five District Boards. But it enrolled only 4320 members, and broke up in 1847, after numerous local strikes. In June 1849 most of the provincial branches joined in the Typographical Association, from which for some time the strong Manchester and Birmingham societies stood aloof; whilst the London men formed the London Society of Compositors.
8 The Colliers' Guide, showing the Necessity of the Cottiers Uniting to Protect their Labour from the Iron Hand of Oppression, etc., by J. B. Thompson (Bishop Wearmouth, 1843); and see many reports in the Northern Star, from 1843 to 1848; The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, by Richard Fynes, 1873; A Great Labour Leader [Thomas Burt], by Aaron Watson, 1908, pp. 19-23.
182 The New Spirit and the. New Model
Northumberland and Durham on the one hand, and Lanca- shire and Yorkshire on the other; and the new body was a federation of these. Under the leadership of Martin Jude, it developed an extraordinary propagandist activity, at one time paying no fewer than fifty-three missionary organisers, who visited every coalpit in the kingdom. The delegate meetings at Manchester and Glasgow in the year 1844 soon came to represent practically the whole of the mining districts of Great Britain; and the membership rose, it is said, to at least loo^oo. 1
A leading feature of this Trade Unionist revival was a dogged resistance to legal oppression. Although the more sensational prosecutions of Trade Union leaders had ceased with the abandonment of unlawful oaths, there was still going on, up and down the kingdom, an almost continuous persecution of the rank and file, by the magistrates' inter- pretation of the law relating to masters and servants. The miners, in particular, were hampered by lengthy hirii during which they were compelled to serve if required, but were not guaranteed employment. Unskilled in leg? subtleties, and not yet served by an experienced class Trade Union secretaries, they were made the victims a thousand and one quibbles and technicalities. Northumberland and Durham Miners' Union grappled wi1 the difficulty in a thoroughly practical spirit. They engage W. P. Roberts, 2 an able and energetic solicitor, with stroi
1 Northern Star for 1843-4; Fynes' Miners of Northumberland at Durham, 1873, chap. viii.; Condition of the Working Class in England it 1844, by Friedrich Engels, 1892, pp. 253-9.
- William Prowting Roberts, the youngest son of the Rev. The
Roberts, of Chelmsford, was born in 1806, and became a solicitor Manchester. He was an enthusiastic Chartist, and friend of Ferj O'Connor, to whose Land Bank he acted as legal adviser. From 184^ onwards his name appears in nearly all the legal business of the Ti Unions. The collapse of 1848 somewhat damaged his reputation, but continued to be frequently retained for many years. In 1867 he organ the defence of Allen, Larking, and O'Brien, the Irish " Manche Martyrs," who were hanged for the rescue of Fenian prisoners and the murder of a policeman. In later years Roberts retired to a country house in the neighbourhood of " O 'Connor ville," near Rickmans worth, th scene of one of O'Connor's colonies, where he died on September 7, 1871
The " Miners' Attorney -General " 183
labour sympathies, to fight every case in the local courts. In 1844 the Miners' Association of Great Britain and Ireland followed this excellent example by appointing Roberts their standing legal adviser at a salary of 1000 a year. When the Durham miners had to relinquish his ser- vices at the end of 1844, he was taken over by the newly formed Lancashire Miners' Union. The " miners' attorney- general," as he was called, showed an indefatigable activity in the defence of his clients, and was soon retained in all Trade Union cases. The magistrates throughout the country found themselves for the first time confronted by a pertinacious legal expert, who, far more ingenious than the employers, was not less unscrupulous in taking advantage of every technicality of the law.
In a letter written to the Flint Glass Makers' Friendly Society in 1851, Roberts himself gives a vivid picture of the difficulties against which the Unions had to contend. i After explaining the law, as he understood it, he proceeds as follows : " But it is exceedingly difficult to induce those of the class opposed to you to take this view of things. I do not say this sarcastically, but as a fact learnt by long and observant experience. There are indeed men on the bench who are honest enough, and desirous of doing their duty. But all their tendencies and circumstances are against you. They listen to your opponents, not only often, but cheerfully so they know more fully the case against you than in your favour. To you they listen too but in a sort of temper of ' Prisoner at the Bar, you are entitled to make any statement you think fit, and the Court is bound to hear you; but mind, whatever you say/ etc. In the one case you observe the hearty smile of good- will; in the other the derisive sneer, though sometimes with a ghastly sort of kindliness in it. Then there is the knowledge of your overwhelming power when acting unitedly,
A pamphlet on the Trade Union Bill of 1871 is the only publication of his that we have discovered, but he appears also to have edited a report of the engineers' trial in 1847, and reports of some other legal proceedings.
184 The New Spirit and the New Model
and this begets naturally a corresponding desire to resist you at all hazards. And there are hundreds of other con- siderations all acting the same way meetings, political councils, intermarriages, hopes from wills, etc. I do not say that all occupants of the bench are thus influenced, nor to the same extent; but it certainly is at the best an uphill game to contend in favour of a working man in a question which admits of any doubt against him. It never happened to me to meet a magistrate who considered that an agreement among masters not to employ any particular * troublesome fellow ' was an unlawful act; reverse the case, however^ and it immediately becomes a formidable conspiracy, which must be put down by the strong arm of the law, etc. . . . When I was acting for the Colliers' Union in the North we resisted every individual act of oppression, even in cases where we were sure of losing; and the result was that in short time there was no oppression to resist. For it is t< be observed that oppression like that we are speaking of- which after all is merely a more genteel and cowardly mo< of thieving shrinks at once from a determined and decic opposition. In the North we should have tried this a first in the County Court, then at the Assizes, and t] perhaps in the Queen's Bench." l
1 Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, October 1851. The years 1847- had witnessed many strikingly vindictive prosecutions of Trade Unionis Besides the case of the engineers, to which we shall refer hereaft twenty-one stonemasons of London were indicted in 1848 for conspiracj but, after repeated postponements, the prosecuting employer failed proceed with the case. The Sheffield razor-grinders stood in greal jeopardy. John Drury, and three other members of their society, tried and sentenced to ten years' transportation at the instance of Sheffield Manufacturers' Protection Association on the random tions of two dissolute convicts that they had incited them to d( machinery. This monstrous perversion of justice aroused the great* indignation. Public meetings were held by the National Association United Trades. The indictment was quashed on a technical point, bi a new one was immediately preferred against the defendants. The 1( feeling was, however, so great that they were finally, after a year's suspei released on their own recognisances (July 12, 1849). A Sheffield Trade Unionist declared that " the tyranny of the employers had been so great," 1 in perverting the local administration of the law, "that the men laid
A Dangerous Bill 185
One result of Roberts' successful advocacy is perhaps to be seen in the introduction, during the Parliamentary session of 1844, of a Bill " for enlarging the powers of justices in determining complaints between masters, ser- Ivants, and artificers," which the Government got referred |to a committee, by which various extraordinary interpola- tions were made in what was at first a harmless measure. 1 |Not only was any J.P. to be authorised to issue a warrant |for the summary arrest of any workman complained of jby his employer, but " any misbehaviour concerning such (service or employment " was to be punished by two months' 'imprisonment, at the discretion of a single justice. It is easy to see what a wide interpretation would have been Igiven by many a justice of the peace to this vague phrase; and Roberts was not slow to point out the danger to his clients. Upon his incitement the delegate meeting of coal- Iminers at Sheffield set on foot a vigorous agitation against the Bill, which had already slipped through second reading ind committee without a division. The Potters' Union took the matter up with special vigour, and circulated draft petitions throughout the Midlands. 2 A friendly member, 'ihomas Slingsby Buncombe, obstructed its further progress, nd got it postponed until after the Easter recess. Mean- while petitions poured in upon the astonished House, imounting, it was said, to a total of two hundred, and epresenting two millions of workmen. When the Bill ame on again all the Radicals and the " Young England " Tories were marshalled against it. Sir James Graham in rain protested that the Government meant nothing more han a consolidation of the existing law, and led into the obby all his colleagues who were present, including Mr.
ieir grievances before the Government. Sir George Grey ordered an aquiry. . . . Twenty cases of parties who had been convicted by the magistrates were brought before a Board of Inquiry, seventeen of which ere quashed " (Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular, November 23, 1848).
1 Bill No. 58 of 1844, introduced by William Miles, M.P. (Hansard, ols. 73 and 74.)
- Potters' Examiner, April 13, 1844.
1 86 The New Spirit and the New Model
Gladstone. But the combination on the other side of Duncombe, Wakley, Hume, and Ferrand, with Tories like Lord John Manners, and a few enlightened Whigs such as C. P. Villiers, settled the fate of this attempt on the part of the employers to sharpen the blunted weapon of the law against the hated Trade Unions. 1
The miners were less successful in their strikes than ini their legal and political business. In 1844 their National Conference at Glasgow, representing 70,000 men, voted, by 28,042 to 23,357, in favour of striking against their grievances, and the Durham men, numbering some 30,000, engaged in that prolonged struggle with Lord Londonderry! and their other employers for more equitable terms of hiring and payment, to which we have already alluded. 2 After many months' embittered strife the strike failed disastrously; and the great Miners' Association, whose proceedings forml so important a feature of the Northern Star for 1844 and! 1845, gradually disappears from its pages, and in the general collapse of the coal trade in 1847-8 it came completely an end.
But the culminating point in this revival of Ti Union activity was the formation, at Easter, 1845, of National Association of United Trades for the Protecti< of Labour, an organisation which resuscitated and coi bined some of the ideas both of Owen and of Doherty. Association was explicitly based, as its rules inform " upon two great facts : first, that the industrious clas do not receive a fair day's wage for a fair day's laboi and, secondly, that for some years past their endeavoi to obtain this have, with few exceptions, been unsuccessfi The mairf causes of this state of things are to be found the isolation of the different sections of working men,
1 Hansard, vols. 73 and 74. The Bill was lost by 54 to 97 (May 1844); see Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, by Friedr Engels, 1892, pp. 283-4.
2 The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, by Richard 1873, chap. ix.; The British Coal Trade, by H. Stanley Jevons, pp. 448-51.
A National Federation 187
the absence of a generally recognised and admitted authority from the trades themselves." But, unlike the Owenite movement of 1833-4, * ne National Association of United Trades was from the first distinguished by the moderation of its aims and the prudence of its administration qualities to which we may attribute its comparatively lengthy sur- vival for fifteen years. No attempt was made to supersede existing organisations of particular trades by a " General Trades Union." " The peculiar local internal and technical circumstances of each trade," say the rules, " render it necessary that for all purposes of efficient internal govern- ment its affairs should be administered by persons possessing a practical knowledge of them. For this reason it is not intended to interfere with the organisation of existing Trade Unions." ^Moreover, the promoters evidently intended the Association to become more of a Parliamentary Committee than a federa- tion for trade purposes. Its purpose and duty was declared to be " to protect the interests and promote the well-being )f the associated trades " by mediation, arbitration, and legal JDroceedings, and by promoting " all measures, political .md social and educational, which are intended to improve !:he condition of the labouring classes." 1
This new attempt to form a National Federation origin- ited in a suggestion from the " United Trades " of Sheffield, embodied in an able letter written to Buncombe 2 by their secretary, John Drury. Buncombe had become widely
1 Rules and Regulations of the Association of United Trades for the detection of Industry (London, August 2, 1845). There is, as far as we now, only one copy of these rules in existence, but full particulars of s establishment and working are to be found in the Northern Star, which used for a time as its official organ.
1 Thomas Slingsby Duncombe was the aristocratic demagogue of the eriod. An accomplished man of the world, with the habits of a dandy, e nevertheless devoted himself with remarkable assiduity not only to ie Parliamentary business of the Chartists and Trade Unionists, but also
the dry details of the committee work of the association of which he ecame president. The Life and Correspondence of Duncombe, which his m published in 1868, describes him almost exclusively as a fashionable an of the world and House of Commons politician, and entirely ignores is more solid work for Trade Unionism during the years 1845-8.
i88 The New Spirit and the New Model
known to the Trade Unionists, not only through his friend- ship with Fergus O'Connor, and his outspoken support of Chartism in the House of Commons, but also by his suc- cessful obstruction and defeat of the Masters and Servants Bill of the previous Session. He appears to have laid Drury's proposals before the leading men in the London Unions, who agreed to form a committee to report on the scheme, and to summon a conference of Trade Union delegates from all parts of the country. At Easter, 1845, no delegates, representing not only the London trades, but also the Lancashire miners and textile operatives, the hosiery and woollen-workers of Yorkshire and the Midlands, and the " United Trades " of Manchester, Sheffield, Norwich, Hull, Bristol, Rochdale, and Yarmouth, met together in London.
The preliminary report made to the Conference by London Committee of Trade Delegates is practically first manifestation of that spirit of cautious if somewl limited statesmanship which characterised the Trade Uni< leaders of the next thirty years. 1 The Committee, whil recommending the immediate formation of a natic organisation, " to vindicate the rights of labour," and " oppose the tyranny of any legislative enactments to
1 In this document we may perhaps trace the hand of T. J. Dui one of the ablest Trade Unionists of his time. Born in 1799, he Secretary of the Consolidated Society of Bookbinders in 1843. In i! he joined the National Association of United Trades, but left that after a few years. The Bookbinders' Circular, which he started in i8f was, during the rest of his life, largely written by himself, and conl many well-reasoned articles on Trade Union matters. In 1858 Dunnii joined the celebrated Committee of Inquiry into Trade Societies whi< was appointed by the Social Science Association. He contributed history of his own society to the Report, and frequently took part in subsequent annual congresses. His chief literary production is the entitled, Trades Unions and Strikes; their philosophy and intention (if 50 pp.), which he wrote for the prize instituted by his own Union for best defence of the workmen's organisation. This essay, which no pul lisher would accept, and which was printed by his society, remains, haps apart from George Howell's historical researches in Conflicts Capital and Labour, and Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Lc ' Leaders the best presentation of the Trade Union case which any mam worker has produced. He died in harness on the 23rd of December 187;
A Conciliatory Policy 189
trade societies, or of a similar character to the Masters and Servants Bill of last session, were deeply impressed with the importance of, and beneficial tendency arising from, a good understanding between the employer and the employed; seeing that their interests are mutual, and that neither can injure the other without the wrong perpetrated recoiling upon the party who inflicts it. They would therefore suggest it to be one of the principal objects of this Con- ference to cultivate a good understanding with the employer, and thereby remove those prejudices which exist against trade combinations, by showing upon all occasions that . they only seek by combination to place themselves upon equal terms as disposers of their labour with those who purchase it; to secure themselves from injury, but by no means to inflict it upon others. Although the Committee jare anxious that this desirable and important organisation
- should be carried out to the fullest possible extent, they
feel that great caution must be observed in the formation of its laws and regulations, in order that the evils which i existed and eventually destroyed the Consolidated Union | of 1833 shall be carefully avoided. The Committee con- ceive it necessary to call 'the attention of those trades who iare comparatively disunited, and whose men are conse- iquently working for different rates of wages, to the great necessity that exists, that those who are receiving the highest wages should use every effort within their power to secure to their fellow-workmen a fair remuneration for their labour; and that every inducement should be held out by the several trade societies to their separated brethren to join them, in order that they may be the better enabled to make common cause in cases of aggression, which would be the certain result if each trade were to form itself into one well-regu- lated society for their mutual interests. . . . And, finally, the Committee would earnestly recommend to this Con- ference, in order that these important points may be con- sidered and dispassionately argued, that no proposition of a political nature, beyond what has been already alluded
190 The New Spirit and the New Model
to, should be introduced, or occupy its attention; con- vinced as they are that the only way to carry out these desirable objects satisfactorily, and with a due considera- tion to the best interests of all those who are concerned, is to consider and dispose of but one question at a time : and, moreover, to keep trade matters and politics as separate and distinct as circumstances will justify/' x
The proceedings of this Conference show that the change of front on the part of the Trade Union leaders was reflected in the attitude of the rank and file. The surviving influence of Owenism is to be traced in the frequent recurrence of the idea of co-operative production, the desire to establish agricultural communities, and the proposal for a legislative shortening of the hours of labour. But of the aggressive policy and ambitious aims of 1830-34 scarcely a vestige remains. Strikes were deprecated, and the idea of a genei cessation of work was entirely abandoned. The proj< of co-operative production were on an altogether diffen plane from Owen's grand schemes. The Trade Unionist of the National Conference of 1845 had apparently no visic of a general transfer of the instruments of production froi the capitalists to the Trade Unions; co-operative productic was regarded simply as an auxiliary to Trade Union actioi the union workshop furnishing a cheap alternative unproductive strike pay. Besides thus formally abandoi the methods and pretensions of 1834, the Conferenc declared its allegiance to a new method of Trade Uni< activity the policy of conciliation and arbitration, the demand for " local Boards of Trade/' a phrase borrow apparently from the silk-weavers, we see the beginning that system of authoritative mutual negotiation betweei the representatives of capital and labour which became very distinctive feature of' British Trade Unionism in the last half of the nineteenth century.
1 Report of London Committee of Trades Delegates to the National Conference of Trades Delegates, Easter, 1845; preserved in the archives of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons.
Trade Union Caution 191
But the shadow of the failure of 1834 still hung over projects of universal Trade Unions. Although nearly all irades had been represented at the first conference, most of the larger organisations decided, on consideration, to hold aloof from the new body. We find, for instance, the Manchester Lodge of the Stonemasons' Society promptly protesting against the adherence of the society's delegate, md expressing their emphatic opinion " that past experience pas taught us that we have had general union enough." iDiis view was endorsed by the Central Committee, which, fin submitting the matter to the votes of the members, I Observes that " there are several trade societies in England ilis perfectly organised as ourselves, although their machinery j nay be somewhat various; but we can hear of none of these ocieties being desirous to join this national movement. . . . |j't may be very well for trades who are divided into sections nd have no national organisation amongst themselves to in such an association they have nothing to lose; but <. is a question for serious reflection whether a general union if each trade separately would not be far more effective than |he heterogeneous association in question." x A similar ew seems to have been taken by the Coal-miners, whose .tiohal federation was still in existence. A delegate eeting of the newly formed National Typographical ssociation decided by a large majority to remain outside. Lancashire Cotton-spinners sent a delegate to the Ijourned conference, and even proposed to have perambu- ting lecturers to explain the advantages of the new ganisation, but never actually decided to join. 2
The adjourned conference, on July 28, 1845, was there- re composed, in the main, of the delegates of the smaller less organised trades. About fifty delegates took part the proceedings, which extended over six days. It was
- Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular, May 14, 1846.
2 Minutes of delegate meetings of the " Operative Cotton-spinners. !lf-acting Minders, Twiners, and Rovers," held every other Sunday. lie July 20, August 3, and December 14, 1845.
192 The New Spirit and the New Model
eventually decided to separate the Trade Union from the co-operative aims, and to form two distinct but mutually helpful associations. The " National Association of United Trades for the Protection of Labour " undertook to deal with disputes between masters and men, and look after the interests of labour in the House of Commons. The ' ' National j United Trades Association for the Employment of Labour " proposed to raise capital with which to employ men who were on strike under circumstances approved by its twin brother. At the second conference, held at Manchester in June 1846, when 126 delegates, representing, it was said,| 40,000 members, were present, the contribution to the Trade j Association was fixed at twopence in the pound of weekly 1 earnings; and it was decided that the strike allowance should vary from nine shillings up to fourteen shillings pei week, the latter sum being the wages agreed on for mer employed in the association's own workshops. Up tc this date no strike had been supported, as it was desirec to avoid the premature action which had, it was held destroyed the Grand National Consolidated Union. /, number of paid organisers were engaged. The Association! which hitherto had consisted of woollen and hosiery-worker! and of the Midland hardware trades, spread in various directions. The executive of the Friendly Society of O tive Carpenters and Joiners the association that had pla; so important a part in the movement of 1830 issue manifesto to its members in favour of joining, and the gene secretary became an active member of the Executive the National Association. The Manchester Section of National Cordwainers' Society urged all its members all societies of boot and shoemakers to join. The Potters Staffordshire, the Miners of Scotland, the new-born Natio Association of Tailors, as well as the Metropolitan bran of the Boilermakers' and Masons' Societies came in. Association, in fact, became reputed a power in the land, drew down upon itself the abusive censure of the Ti
1 Times, November 16. 1846.
The "Document" again! 193
But in spite of the wise intentions of its founders, it soon egan to suffer from the characteristic complaints of
- eneral unions. The depression of trade which began in
1845 brought about during the next two years reduc- ions of wages, followed by strikes and turn-outs in ilmost every branch of industry. The local committees the National Association, frequently composed of
- he officials of the trades concerned, promised their
nembers the support of the national funds, and took imbrage when the Executive sitting in London reversed heir decisions. Each constituent trade felt that its interests Ivere misunderstood, or its grievances neglected. A pro- longed strike of the Manchester building trades in 1846, >egun without sanction, failed miserably, the local com- nittee of the National Association declaring that the ollapse was due to lack of the financial support which had een promised on behalf of the central body. The coal Ind iron miners at Holytown in Lanarkshire engaged in a jtruggle against their employers which excited the sympathy If the Trade Union world, but which ended in failure. An Equally severe conflict by the calico-printers at Crayford i Kent met with no better success. The Scottish miners lomplained that they had been inadequately supported by he association; and the Lancashire miners made this the Hretext for continued abstention.
Though Buncombe's association had discouraged strikes, d acted principally as a mediating body, the employers roughout the country showed themselves uniformly ostile. The " document " which had figured so prominently 1833-4 reappeared in a slightly altered form. The nployers signified their toleration if not their approval local trade clubs, but condemned with equal acrimony itional unions of particular trades, or general unions of 1 trades. Affecting a sudden concern for the independence character of their workmen, they insisted that the exist- ice of any kin(} of central committee, however representa- it might be, prevented the men from being free agents,
194 The New Spirit and the New Model
and exposed them to the arbitrary commands of an irre- sponsible body. In face of this attitude, the efforts of the National Association to bring about peaceful settlements met with only qualified success. The London Executive, unable to cope with the applications for assistance that poured in daily from all parts of the country, issued strong admonitions against unauthorised strikes, but had eventually to give or withhold support without sufficient knowledge) of the local circumstances. Duncombe was principal!} occupied in drawing up and presenting petitions in favoui of the legislative shortening of the hours of labour, and ill this direction he rendered valuable assistance to the Lanca-| shire cotton-spinners' " Short Time Committee," whicl| secured the Ten Hours Act of 1847. The Central Executive was, indeed, during these years, more a Parliamentary Committee for the whole movement than a federation o . Trade Unions. The plan of co-operative workshops, fronj which so much had been expected, proved entirely futil| in the prolonged contests of the staple trades. On' flourishing boot workshop was started; and the 1847 con| ference found, in all, one hundred and twenty-three men work, the enterprises being confined to those trades on by hand labour in a small way. In 1848 it was deci< to merge the two associations in one, and to set al raising 50,000 in order to start on a larger scale, before this could be attempted the association suffen double reverse from which it never recovered. Duncoi was compelled, by failing health, to withdraw during from active participation in its work. And at the end the following year a strike of the Wolverhampton tinpl workers involved the National Association in a sti with employers and with the law which drained its fi and destroyed its credit. 1
1 The tinplate-workers of Wolverhampton had been endeavour ever since they joined the Association in 1845, to obtain a uniform of piecework rates. By the influence of the National Association, a list was agreed to during 1849 by all the employers except two. of these treated the men with exceptional duplicity. Having, as
Decline of the Federation 195
The later history of the association is obscure. 1 It ingered on for many years in a small way, its paid officers erving as advisers and representatives to a number of ninor Trade Unions. Its principal work in later years vas the promotion and support of bills for the establish- nent of councils of conciliation, and its persistent efforts ertainly paved the way for the Joint Boards subsequently et on foot. But it ceases after 1851 to exercise any pfluence or play any important part in the Trade Union Movement.
The National Association of United Trades stands, in institution and objects, half-way between the revolu- ionary voluntaryism of 1830-4 and the Parliamentary iction of 1863-75. It may, in fact, be regarded either s a belated " General Trades Union " of an improved lype, or as a premature and imperfect Parliamentary Jommittee of the Trade Union world. And although pe great national Unions of the time took no part in its
nought, adequately prepared himself, he threw off the mask in July
[350, and flatly refused to continue the negotiations. The fierce in-
|astrial and legal conflict which ensued attracted general attention.
any of the strikers were imprisoned for breach of contract; and the
niggle culminated in the prosecution of three members of the com-
ttee of the National Association, together with several of the local
ionists, for conspiracy to molest and intimidate the employer by
iucing men to leave his employment. Owing to legal quibbles, raised
st on behalf of the Crown, and then on behalf of the defendants, the
se was tried no fewer than three times, the final judgment not being
ivered until November 1851, when five of the prisoners were sentenced
three months', and one to one month's imprisonment. See R. v. Row-
nds, 5 Cox C. C. p. 436; also Appendix A to The L,aw relating to Trade
\ions, by Sir William Erie, 1869.
1 Buncombe formally resigned the presidency in 1852. In 1856 its retary, Thomas Winters, gave evidence in favour of conciliation before e Select Committee on Masters and Operatives (Equitable Councils, .). He stated that the membership then numbered between 5,000 and >oo, and that the central committee consisted of three salaried members, .o gave up their whole time to the work. A subsequent secretary . Humphries) appeared before a similar committee four years later, his idence showing that the association, though it was still in existence, d taken no part in any of the important labour struggles of the past en or eight years. Mr. George Howell incidentally puts the date of dissolution at 1860 or 1861 (see his article " Trades Union Congresses d Social Legislation " in Contemporary Review for September 1889).
196 The New Spirit and the New Model
proceedings, its moderate and unaggressive policy wasj only one manifestation of the new spirit which now pre-1 vailed in Trade Union councils. We see rising up in the.) Unions of the better-paid artisans a keen desire to get at 1 the facts of their industrial and social condition. This new feeling for exact knowledge may to some extent bej attributed to the increasing share which the printing trades; were now beginning to take in the Trade Union Movement.: The student of the reports of the larger compositors' societies, from the very beginning of the century, will be struck, not; only by the moderation, but also by the elaborate Parlia-! mentary formality one might almost say the stateliness of their proceedings. Instead of rhetorical abuse of all employers as " the unproductive classes," and total abstin- ence from investigation of the details of disputes, we fine the compositors dealing only with concrete instances hardship, and referring every important question to " Select Committee " for inquiry and report. In the London Consolidated Society of Bookbinders, establi: in 1786, used part of its funds to form a library for benefit of its members. By 1851 a reading-room furnisl with daily and weekly newspapers had been opened Foi years later a similar library was established by the Londc Society of Compositors. In 1842, the Journeymen Stes Engine and Machine Makers' Friendly Society started Mutual Improvement Class at Manchester. Even Stonemasons, at that time a rough and somewhat turbi body, were reached by the new desire for self-improve The Glasgow branch of the Scottish United Operatic Masons report with pride, in 1845, that they have " forme a class for mutual instruction ... an association for moral physical, and intellectual improvement " which was settii itself to investigate the question " Is the present improve condition of machinery beneficial to the working or is it hurtful? " * But the most effective outcome this desire for information was the starting by the Unioi
1 English Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular, December 25, 1845.
Trade Union Journals 197
>f special trade journals. The United Branches of the
Operative Potters set on foot in 1843 the Potters' Examiner,
li weekly newspaper which dealt with the trade interests
Lnd technical processes of their industry. 1 The Journeymen
pteam-Engine and Machine Makers' Friendly Society issued
ihe Mechanics' Magazine between 1841 and 1847. In
Kovember 1850 Dunning persuaded the London Consoli-
ilated Society of Bookbinders to publish the Bookbinders'
rrade Circular, in the pages of which he promulgated a
heory of Trade Unionism, from which McCulloch himself
i/ould scarcely have dissented, 2 and made that humble
jrgan of his society into a monthly magazine of useful
liformation on all matters connected with books and their
aanufacture. But the best of these trade publications,
jnd the only one which has enjoyed a continuous existence
town to the present day, was the Flint Glass Makers'
Magazine, an octavo monthly of ninety-six pages, established
t Birmingham in 1850 by the Flint Glass Makers' Friendly
ociety, 3 which advocated " the education of every man in
ur trade, beginning at the oldest and coming down to the
oungest. ... If you do not wish to stand as you are and
after more oppression," it enjoined its readers, " we say
you get knowledge, and in getting knowledge you get
1 The Potters' Examiner, started December 1843, was converted, in ly 1848, into the Potters' Examiner and Emigrants' Advocate, published Liverpool and concerned chiefly with emigration. It ceased to appear on after 1851.
8 See especially the articles on " Wages of Labour and Trade Societies "
the second, third, and fourth numbers (December 1850 to February 51), in which he assumes that the general level of wages is irresistibly termined by Supply and Demand, but that Trade Unionism, in pro- ding out-of-work pay, enables the individual workman to resist ex- ptional tyranny or exaction.
- This journal contains a mass of useful information relating to the
ade, special reports of the Trades Union Congresses, and well-written tides on industrial and economic problems. It is marked throughout T moderation of tone and fairness of argument. Unfortunately, so far
we know, it is not preserved in any public library, and we were in- sbted to Mr. Haddleton, Secretary to the Birmingham Trades Council, ho, in 1893, possessed a complete set, for our acquaintance with its ntents.
198 The New Spirit and the New Model
power. . . . Let us earnestly advise you to educate; get intelligence instead of alcohol it is sweeter and more lasting." 1
With increased acquaintance with industrial conditions came a reaction against the policy of reckless aggression which marked the Owenite inflation. Here again we find the printing trades taking the lead. Already in 1835, when the London Compositors were reorganising their society, the committee went out of their way to denounce the great general Unions. " Unfortunately almost all Trades Unions hitherto formed," they report to their mem- bers, " have relied for success upon extorted oaths and physical force. . . . The fault and the destruction of all Trades Unions has hitherto been that they have copied the vices which they professed to condemn. While dis- united and powerless they have stigmatised their employe as grasping taskmasters; but as soon as they (the workmei were united and powerful, then they became tyrants their turn, and unreasonably endeavoured to exact me than the nature of their employment demanded, or tl their employers could afford to give. Hence their faili was inevitable. . . . Let the Compositors of London she the Artisans of England a brighter and better exampl and casting away the aid to be derived from cunning brute strength, let us, v/hen we contend with our opponenl employ only the irresistible weapons of truth and reason." The disasters of 1837-42 caused this spirrFTo sprea3 other trades. From this time forth the minutes and circ of the larger Unions abound in impressive warnings aggressive action. " Strikes are prolific," say the delegai of the Ironmoulders in council assembled; " in certi cases they beget others. . . . How often have disput been averted by a few timely words with employers!
1 Opening Address to the Glass Makers of England, Ireland, Scotland, No. i.
2 Report of London Compositors' Committee on Amalgamation, 183,* Annual Report, February 2. 1835.
Opposition to Strikes 199
is surely no dishonour to explain to your employer the nature and extent of your grievance." 1 The Stonemasons' Central Committee repeatedly caution their members .' against the dangerous practice of striking. . . . Keep from it," they urge, " as you would from a ferocious animal that you know would destroy you. . . . Remember what t was that made us so insignificant in 1842. ... We Implore you, brethren, as you value your own existence, to |ivoid, in every way possible, those useless strikes. Let us iiave another year of earnest and attentive organisation; ind, if that does not perfect us, we must have another; [or it is a knowledge of the disorganised state of working jnen generally that stimulates the tyrant and the taskmaster |:o oppress them." 2 A few years later the Liverpool lodge nvites the support of all the members for the proposition ' that our society no longer recognise strikes, either as a neans to be adopted for improving our condition, or as a cheme to be resorted to in resisting infringements," 8 and uggests, as an alternative, the formation of an Emigration ? und. The Portsmouth lodge caps this proposal by insisting tot only that strikes should cease, but also that the word strike " be abolished! The Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, itween 1850 and 1855, is full of similar denunciations. We believe," writes the editor, " that strikes have been ic bane of Trades Unions." 4 In 1854 the Flint Glass [akers, on the proposition of the Central Committee, bolished the allowance of " strike-money " by a vote of whole of the members. As an alternative it was often uggested that a bad employer should be defeated by uietly withdrawing the men one by one, as situations ould be found for them elsewhere. " As man after lan leaves, and no one [comes] to supply their place, len it is that the proud and haughty spirit of the
1 Address of Delegate Meeting to the Members of the Friendly Society oj ronmoulders of England, Ireland, and Wales, September 26, 1846. 8 Fortnightly Circular, December 25, 1845. 8 Ibid., June 1849. 4 January 1855.
200 The New Spirit and the New Model
oppressor is brought down, and he feels the power he cannot see." *
It was part of the same policy of restricting the use of the weapon of the strike that the power of declaring war on the employers was, during these years, taken away " fr from the local branches. In the two great societies of which we have complete records the Ironmoulders and the Stonemasons we see a gradual tightening up of the control of the central executive. The Delegate Meeting of the Ironmoulders in 1846 vested the entire authority in the Executive Committee. " The system/' they report, " of allowing disputes to be sanctioned by meetings of our members, generally labouring under some excitement or other, or misled by a plausible letter from the scene of the dispute, is decidedly bad. Our members do not feel that responsibility on these occasions which they ought. The] are liable to be misled. A clever speech, party feeling, misrepresentation, or a specious letter all or any of th( may involve a shop, or a whole branch, in a dispute, unjust and possibly without the least chance of obtaining th( object. . . . Impressed with the truth of these opinions, have handed over for the future the power of sanctioi disputes to the Executive Committee alone." 2 The Storu masons' Central Committee, after 1843, peremptorily forl lodges to strike shops, even if they do not mean to ch; the society's funds with strike-pay. And though in Union, unlike the Ironmoulders, the decision to strike not to strike was not vested in the Executive, any loc had to submit its demand, through the Fortnightly Circi to the vote of the whole body of members throughout tl kingdom a procedure which involved delay and gave Central Committee an opportunity of using its influei in favour of peace.
1 Letter on " The Evil Consequences of Strikes," in Flint Glass Mat, Magazine, July 1850. The suggested alternative the Strike in Detail- is discussed in our Industrial Democracy.
2 Address of the Delegate Meeting to the Members of the Friendly Socie of Ironmoulders, 1846.
"Supply and Demand" 201
The fact that most of the Executive Committees were, from 1845 onward, setting their face against strikes, jdid not imply the abandonment of an energetic trade policy. HeT ""leaders of the better educated trades had accepted he economic axiom that wages must inevitably depend ipon the relation of Supply and Demand in each particu- ar class of labour. It seemed an obvious inference that the nly means in their power to maintain or improve their ondition was to diminish the supply. " All men of experi- iice agree," affirms the Delegate Meeting of the Ironmoulders n 1847, " that wages are to be best raised by the demand or labour.'* Hence we find the denunciations of strikes Accompanied by an insistence on the limitation of apprentices, he abolition of overtime, and the provision of an Emigra- |ion Fund. The Flint Glass Makers declare that " the scarcity of labour was one of the fundamental principles aid down at our first conference held in Manchester in 1849."
It is simply a question of supply and demand, and we all now that if we supply a greater quantity of an article pan what is actually demanded that the cheapening of liat article, whether it be labour or any other commodity, ! a natural result." l In this application of the doctrine - f Supply and Demand the Flint Glass Makers were joined ly the Compositors, Bookbinders, Ironmoulders, Potters,
ad, as we shall presently see, the Engineers. 2 For the mxt ten years an Emigration Fund becomes a constant |ature of many of the large societies, to be abandoned only
hen it was discovered that the few thousands of pounds
hich could be afforded for this purpose produced no visible
1 " Emigration as a Means to an End," Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, gust 1854; address of Executive, September 1857.
" Thus if in a depression you have fifty men out of work they will eive ^1,015 in a year, and at the same time be used as a whip by the <iployers to bring your wages down; by sending them to Australia at I 3 per head you save 15, and send them to plenty instead of starvation J home; you keep your own wages good by the simple act of clearing I i surplus labour out of the market " (Farewell Address of the Secre- y, Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, August, 1854). " Remove the surplus Dur and oppression itself will soon be a thing of the past " (Ibid.).
2O2 The New Spirit and the New Model
effect in diminishing the surplus labour. Moreover, it was
. __ - "" ' * fca " i - *_
the vigorous and energetic member who applied for his passage-money, whilst the chronically unemployed, if he could be persuaded to go at all, frequently reappeared at the clubhouse after a brief trip at the society's expense. 1
The harmless but ineffective expedient of emigration was accompanied by the more equivocal plan of closing the trade to new-comers. The Flint Glass Makers, like the other sections of the glass trade, have always been notorious for their strictrTimitation of the number of appren- tices. The constant refrain of their trade organ is "Look! to the rule and keep boys back; for this is the foundation of the evil, the secret of our progress, the dial on which our society works, and the hope of future generations/' a The printing trades were equally active. Select Committees of the London Society of Compositors were constantly! inquiring into the most effective way of checking boy labour and regulating " turnover " apprentices. And engineering trades, at this time entering the Trade Unic world, were basing their whole policy on the assumpti< that the duly apprenticed mechanic, like the doctor or solicitor, had a right to exclude " illegal men " from occupatipn.
Such was the " New__Spmt " which, by
1 Emigration Funds begin to appear in Trade Union Reports at 1843 (see the Potters' Examiner). For thirty years the accounts of larger societies include, off and on, considerable appropriations for emigration of members. The tabular statement of expenditure publis in the Ironmoulders' Annual Report shows, for instance, that ^4,712 spent in this way between 1855 and 1874. In the Amalgamated Ca an Emigration Benefit lingered until 1886, when it was finally abolis by the General Council; the members resident in the United States Colonies strongly objecting to this use of the funds. But it was bet 1850 and 1860 that emigration found most favour as an integral part Trade Union policy. The Trade Unions of the United States and Australian Colonies addressed vigorous protests to the officials of English societies (see, for example, the Stonemasons' Fortnightly Ci June 1856), a fact which co-operated with the dying away of the "\ rush," and the change of Trade Union opinion, to cause the a ment of the policy, until it was revived in 1872 for a decade or so, the Agricultural Labourers' Unions.
- Flint Glass Makers' Magazine, September 1857.
The " Liquor Allowance " 203
don^naUng the Trade Umpnjyorld. Meanwhile the steady growth of national Unions, each with three to five thousand members, ever-increasing friendly benefits, and a weekly contribution per member which sometimes exceeded a shilling, involved a considerable development of Trade Union structure. The little clubs and local societies had been managed, in the main, by men working at their trades, and attending to their secretarial duties in the evening. With the growth of such national organisations as the Stonemasons, the Ironmoulders, and the Steam-Engine jMakers, the mere volume of business necessitated the appointment of one of the members to devote his whole (time to the correspondence and accounts. But the new (official, however industrious and well-meaning, found upon ps hands a task for which neither his education nor his temperament had fitted him. The archives of these societies reveal the pathetic struggles of inexperienced workmen to i:ope with the difficulties presented by the combination of Branch management and centralised finance. The dis- pursement of friendly benefits by branch meetings, the Custody and remittance of the funds, the charges for local Expenses (including " committee liquor "),* the mysteries
1 During these years the Executive Committees of the larger societies |rere waging war on the " liquor allowance." In the reports and financial atements of the Unions for the first half of the century, drink was one the largest items of expenditure, express provision being made by the les for the refreshment of the officers and members at all meetings, he rules of the London Society of Woolstaplers (1813) state that " the esident shall be accommodated with his own choice of liquors, wine nly excepted." The Friendly Society of Ironmoulders (1809) ordains at the Marshal shall distribute the beer round the meeting impartially, embers being forbidden to drink out of turn " except the officers at e table or a member on his first coming to the town." Even as late 1837 the rules of the Steam-Engine Makers' Society direct one-third the weekly contribution to be spent in the refreshment of the members, provision which drops out in the revision of 1846. In that year the elegate Meeting of the Ironmoulders prohibited drinking and smoking its own sittings, and followed up this self-denying ordinance by alter- g the rules of the society so as to change the allowance of beer at anch meetings to its equivalent in money. " We believe," they remark their address to the members, " the business of the society would be uch better done were there no liquor allowance. Interruption, con-
204 The New Spirit and the New Model
of bookkeeping, and the intricacies of audit all demanded a new body of officers specially selected for and exclusively engaged in this work. During these years we watch a shifting of leadership in the Trade Union world from the casual enthusiast and irresponsible agitator to a class of permanent salaried officers expressly chosen from out of the rank and file of Trade Unionists for their superior business capacity. But besides the daily work of administration, the expansion of local societies into organisations of national extent, and the transformation of loose federations into consolidated unions, involved the difficult process of con- stitution-making. The records of the Ironmoulders and the Stonemasons show with what anxious solicitude successive Delegate Meetings were groping after a set of rules that would work smoothly and efficiently. One Union, however, the Journeymen Steam-Engine and Machine Makers Millwrights' Friendly Society, tackled the problems internal organisation with peculiar ability, and eventi produced, in the Amalgamated Society of Engine " New Model " of the utmost importance to Trade Uni< history.
To understand the rise of this remarkable society, must revert to the earlier history of combinations wl have hitherto scarcely claimed attention in our account the general movement. The origin of Trade Unionism the engineering trades is obscure. We learn that at close of the last century the then dominant class of
fusion, and scenes of violence and disorder are often the characteristic meetings where order, calmness, and impartiality should prevail." 1860 most of the larger societies had abolished all allowance for liquor and some had even prohibited its consumption during business meetings It is to be remembered that the Unions had, at first, no other meetin place than the club-room freely placed at their disposal by the publicar and that their payment for drink was of the nature of rent. Meanwhil the Compositors and Bookbinders were removing their headquarters froi public-houses to offices of their own, and the Steam-Engine Makers wei allowing branches to hire rooms for meetings so as to avoid temptatioi In 1850 the Ironmoulders report that some publicans were refusing t lend rooms for meetings, owing to the growth of Temperance.
The Rise of the Engineers 205
wrights possessed strong, exclusive, and even tyrannical trade societies, the chief of them being the " London Fellowship," meeting at the Bell Inn, Old Bailey. 1 The millwrights, who were originally constructors of mill-work of every kind, both wood and iron, were, on the introduction of the steam-engine, gradually superseded by specialised workers in particular sections of their trade. The introduc- tion of what was termed " the engineer's economy," that is to say, the parcelling out of the trade of the millwright among distinct classes of workmen, and the substitution of " payment according to merit " for the millwrights' Standard Rate, completely disorganised the skilled mechanics of the engineering trade. This condition was not materially improved by the establishment, from 1822 onward, of numerous competing Trade Friendly Societies. jThe Ironmoulders alone concentrated their efforts upon jmaintaining one national society. The millwrights, smiths, ipattern-makers, and other skilled mechanics engaged in jengine and machine making had societies in London, (Manchester, Newcastle, Bradford, Derby, and other engineer- ^ ling centres. Of these the Steam-Engine Makers (established 11824) '> the Journeymen Steam-Engine and Machine Makers |and Millwrights (established 1826); the Associated Frater- jnity of Iron Forgers, usually called the " Old Smiths " [established 1830); and the Boilermakers (established 1832) ire known to have been organisations of national extent, with branches in all parts of the country, competing, not nly with each other, but with the Metropolitan and other ocal societies of Millwrights, Smiths, Pattern-makers,
1 It was the strength of their organisation in London in 1799, as we ave seen, that led to the employers' petition to the House of Commons, ut of which sprang the Combination Acts of 1799 and 1800. See also
- he evidence given by Galloway and other employers before the 1824
elect Committee on Artisans and Machinery; also incidental references
the Life of Sir William Fairbairn, 1877, and other works. We have een unable to discover any documents of engineering societies prior to 822. Sir William Fairbairn, in the preface to his Mills and Mill-work, 86 1, attributes the supersession of the millwright to the changes con- equent on the introduction of the steam-engine.
206 The New Spirit and the New Model
and ^General Engineers. This anarchic rivalry prevented any effectual trade action, and tempted employers to give the work to the lowest bidder, and to introduce the worst features of competitive piecework and sub- contract.
We are, therefore, not surprised to find that the engineers' societies took little part in the great upheaval of 1830-4. But the wave of solidarity which then swept over the labour world seems to have had considerable, though tardy, effect even in this trade. The chief districts affected were London and Lancashire. In 1836 a London joint committee of several of the sectional societies success- fully conducted an eight months' strike for a shortening of the hours of labour to sixty per week, and for extra payment for overtime. Again, in 1844 a joint committee obtained from the London employers a further reduction of hoi Encouraged by these successes, the members of tl Metropolitan societies and branches began to discuss tl possibility of a national amalgamation. The most prominei personality in this movement was that of William Newton, 3
1 William Newton was born at Congleton in 1822, his father, wl had once occupied a superior position, being then a journeyman macl The boy went to work in engine shops at the age of fourteen, joined Hanley Branch of the Journeymen Steam-Engine Makers' Society in 1845 V soon afterwards moving to London (where he worked in the same she as Henry James, afterwards Lord James of Hereford, then an engine pupil, and later noted for his knowledge of Trade Unionism), and rose to foreman. After his dismissal in 1848 for his Trade Union activity he to< a public-house at Ratcliffe, and devoted himself largely to the promotit of the amalgamation of the engineering societies. In 1852 he becai
/for a short period, secretary to a small insurance company. At General Election of 1852 he became a candidate for the Tower Hamlet He was opposed by both the great political parties, but the show of ham at the hustings was in his favour. At the poll he was unsuccessfi receiving, however, 1,095 votes. In 1860 he was presented with a monial (including a sum of 300) from his A.S.E. fellow-members, later years he became the proprietor of a prosperous local newspaper was elected by the Stepney Vestry as its chairman and also as its rej sentative on the Metropolitan Board of Works. He became one of leading members of that body, on which he served from 1862 to 1876, filing the important office of deputy chairman to the Parliamentary, "' Brigade, and other influential committees. In 1868 he again conte; the Tower Hamlets against both Liberals and Conservatives, receiving
William Newton 207
a leading member of the Journeymen Steam-Engine and Machine Makers and Millwrights' Friendly Society, the association which afterwards became, as we shall see, the parent of the amalgamation.
William Newton had exactly the qualities needed for | his task. Gifted with remarkable eloquence, astute and [conciliatory in his methods, he was equally successful in [inspiring masses of men with a large idea, and in persuading ithe representatives and officials of rival societies to agree I with the details of his scheme. His influence was augmented 'by his tried devotion to the cause of Trade Unionism. In 11848 he was dismissed from a first-rate position as foreman in a large establishment owing to his activity in trade matters, jand in the following years his business as a publican was seriously damaged by his constant absence on society | business. But though from the first he had been an active Imember of his Union, and was for many years a Branch Secretary, he was, so far as we know, at no time its full- itime salaried official. He stands, therefore, midway between Ithe casual and amateur leaders of the old Trade Unionism | and the new class of permanent officials, sticking closely to office work, and acquiring a detailed experience in Trade 'Union organisation.
Whilst Newton was bringing the* London societies into line, the Lancashire engineers were moving in the same direction. Already in 1839 a " committee of the engineering trades " at Bolt on urged upon their comrades the establish- ment of " one concentrated union "; and in the following year, through the energy of Alexander Hutchinson, the secretary of the Friendly United Smiths of Great Britain and Ireland, a United Trades Association was set on foot in Lancashire, to comprise the " Five Trades of Mechanism, viz. Mechanics, Smiths, Moulders, Engineers, and Mill- wrights." The objects of this association were ably repre-
2,890 votes; and in 1875 he unsuccessfully fought a bye-election at Ipswich. He died March g, 1876, when his funeral, in which the Metro- politan Board of Works took part, assumed a public character.
208 The New Spirit and the New Model
sented and promoted by its organ, the Trades Journal, established to extend and " improve Trades Unions- generally in Great Britain and Ireland." 1 The attempt proved, however, premature, and it was not until the year 1844 that the Bolt on men, under the leadership of John Rowlinson, succeeded in establishing a permanent " Pro- tection Society," composed of delegates from the Societies of Smiths, Millwrights, Ironmoulders, Engineers, and Boilermakers. Inspirited by the success of the Bolton society, which successfully maintained a nine months' strike (costing it 9,000) against the " Quittance Paper " (char- acter note, or leaving certificate) which the employers eventually agreed to abandon, joint committees of engineering operatives were formed between 1844 and 1850 in all the principal Lancashire centres. These were repeatedly addressed by Rowlinson and Hutchinson, am the ground was prepared for a systematic attempt at national amalgamation.
The leading part in the amalgamation was taken by tl society to which Newton belonged. The Journeymc Steam - Engine and Machine Makers and Millwrights' Friendly Society, with its headquarters at Manchester, at this time far exceeded any other trade society in member- ship and wealth. Established in 1826 as the Friendb Union of Mechanics, it had absorbed in 1837 a stro1 Yorkshire society dating from 1822 (the Mechanics' Friendl] Union Institution), and by 1848 it numbered seven thousanc members organised in branches all over the kingdom, an< possessed an accumulated reserve fund of 25,000. silent growth of this Union, the slow perfecting of it constitution by repeated delegate meetings held at intervz during the preceding twenty years, stand in marked conti with the dramatic advent of the ephemeral organisations 1830-34. But this task of internal organisation, with it
1 This journal is preserved in the Manchester Public Library (341, P. 37). It was a well-written 16 pp. 8vo, issued, at first fortnightly afterwards monthly, at 2d. No. i is dated July 4, 1840.
Rise of the Engineers 209
gradual working out of the elaborate financial and administrative system which afterwards became celebrated in the constitution of the Amalgamated Engineers, seems to have absorbed, during the first fifteen years of its existence, all the energy of its members. In none of the working-class movements of this period did the society play any part, nor do we find that it, as a whole, engaged in any important conflicts with its members' employers. At last, in 1843, a delegate meeting urged the members to oppose systematic overtime, and in 1844 the society, as we have seen, took part in the London movement for the shortening of the hours of labour. By 1845 it seems to have felt itself strong enough to undertake aggressive trade action by itself, and a delegate meeting in that year attacked the employment of labourers on machines, " the piece master system," and systematic overtime, by stringent resolutions upon which the Executive Committee sitting at Manchester were directed to take early action. 1 During the following year accordingly a simultaneous attempt appears to have been made by many of the branches to enforce these rules. This action led, at Belfast, Rochdale, and Newton-le- Willows, to legal proceedings by the employers, and the officers of the society, together with over a score of its members, found themselves in the dock indicted for conspiracy and illegal combination. 2 The trial
1 Minutes of delegate meeting at Manchester, May 12, 1845. An admirable account of this society, founded on documents no longer extant, is given in an article by Professor Brentano in the North British Review, October 1870, entitled " The Growth of a Trades Union." For some other particulars see the Jubilee Souvenir History of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 1901.
2 Executive Circular, 1846, cited in proceedings in R. v. Selsby. Two !ull accounts of the trial were published, viz. a Verbatim Report of the \Trial for Conspiracy in R. v. Selsby and others (Liverpool, 1847, 66 pp.),
>ublished under the " authority of the Executive of the Steam-Engine lakers' Society," arid a Narrative, etc., of the Trial, R. v. Selsby (London, 847, 68 pp.). Both are preserved in the Manchester Public Library, 3 . 2198. The legal report is in Cox's Crown Cases, vol. v. p. 496, etc. Contemporary Trade Union reports contain many references to the pro- ceedings. It was noticed as an instance of the animus of the prosecu- ion that the indictment contained 4914 counts, and measured fifty-
2io The New Spirit and the New Model
of the twenty-six engineers of Newton-le- Willows, and the conviction of nine of them, including Selsby, the General Secretary of the great mechanics' Union, caused a sensation ^in the Trade Union world, and tended to draw closer together the rival societies in the engineering trade.
The progressive trade policy of the Journeymen Steam- Engine and Machine Makers' Society greatly increased the ascendency which its superiority in wealth and numbers gave it over the numerous other trade friendly societies in the engineering trades. William Allan, a young Scotchman, succeeded Selsby in the salaried post of general secretary when the latter obtained a commercial post in 1848. A close friend and ardent disciple of William Newton, he quickly manifested, in the administration of his own society, the capacity and energy which enabled him in future years to play so important a part in the general history of the Labour Movement. The cause of amalgamation was well served by the indefatigable missionary efforts of these two men. The anniversary dinners and friendly social meetings of the joint committees of the societies in the Lancashire iron trades were, as we know from contemporary records, made the occasion of propagandist speeches, and were doubtless used also by these astute organisers to talk over the leading men to agreement with their proposals. The natural jealousy felt by the great provincial centre of Trade Unionism of the interference of the Metropolis in its concerns was allayed by Allan's suggestion that the Lancashire societies should call a conference of delegates at Warrington in March 1850, for the purpose of consultation and dis- cussion only. At this meeting, which was attended only by the representatives of three of the larger societies (including the Steam-Engine Makers established at Liverpool in 1824, an d the Smiths' Benevolent, Friendly, Sick and
seven yards in length. W. P. Roberts organised the defence, which cost the Union 1800. The firm in whose works the dispute arose became bankrupt within a few years. See the Jubilee Souvenir History of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 1901.
William Newton 21 1
Burial Society, established in 1830), Newton and Allan succeeded in getting through the outlines of their scheme of amalgamation. During the next six months these proposals were the subject of exhaustive discussion at every joint committee and branch meeting. Meanwhile the leaders had established in Manchester a weekly journal for the express purpose of promoting amalgamation, engaging as editor, under a written contract, Dr. John Watts, afterwards well known as one of the ablest advocates of Ico-operation. This journal, the Trades Advocate and Herald 'o/ Progress, stated to be " established by the Iron Trades," jdiscussed the advantages of union, and incidentally taught the doctrines of Free Trade and Co-operative Production. 1
Lancashire converted and conciliated, London could
now go ahead. Under Newton's influence the London
(joint committee summoned a second delegate meeting at
(Birmingham in September 1850, which was attended by
Representatives of seven engineering societies. At this
conference the scheme of amalgamation was definitely
idopted; and the Metropolitan " Central Committee "
vas charged, as a " Provisional Committee," to complete
the details of the transfer of the old organisation to the
pew body. The tact and skill with which Allan and
\ T ewton carried out their project are conspicuously shown
)y the way in which the act of union was regarded by all
oncerned. There is no trace of suspicion on the part of
he minor societies that they were taking part in anything
>ut an amalgamation on equal terms. The whole Trade
Jnion world, including the Amalgamated Society of
Engineers itself, has retained the tradition that this great
rganisation was the outcome of a genuine amalgamation
f societies of fairly equivalent standing. What happened,
1 The Trades Advocate and Herald of Progress was an 8 pp. quarto eekly, price id.. No. I being dated June 1850. The volume from une to December 1850 is preserved in the Manchester Public Library jo i E, 1 8). An able article by John Burnett in the Newcastle Weekly hronicle, July 3, 1875, gives a vivid picture of the struggle for amalga- lation.
212 The New Spirit and the New Model
as a matter of fact, was that the society led by Allan and Newton absorbed its rivals. 1 The new body took over, in its entirety, the elaborate constitution, the scheme of benefits (with the addition of Sick Benefit and the adoption of the innovation of an Emigration Benefit of 6), the trade policy, and even the official staff of the Journeymen Steam- Engine and Machine Makers and Millwrights' Society, which contributed more than three-fourths of the membership with which the amalgamation started, and found itself continued, down to the minutest details, in the rules and regulations of the new association. An important addition was, however, the adoption of a definite trade policy of restricting overtime and preventing piecework; the institu- tion of District Committees charged to carry out that policy; and the establishment of a new Strike Pay of 153. per week.
The conclusions of the Birmingham delegates were not accepted without demur. Many of the branches Lancashire and elsewhere objected to the position obtaim by the London Committee, and stood aloof from amalgamation. The Manchester Committee showed of jealousy at the transfer of the seat of government to Metropolis. But the most important defection was that the rank and file of the members of the Steam-En^ Makers' Society, an association which stood in membershij and funds second only to the Journeymen Steam-En^ Makers and Machine Makers' Society. Newton and Al had succeeded in persuading the whole of the Execute to throw in their lot with the amalgamation, but the b\ of the members revolted, and the society maintained separate existence down to the end of 1919, when it joim the other societies in the creation of the Amalgamal Engineering Union. Even in Newton's own society, which the main principles of the amalgamation had carried by large majorities, a considerable number of
1 This was pointed out in Professor Brentano's article in the Nc British Review, already quoted.
The Amalgamation 213
j provincial branches remained hostile. On January 6, 1851, I when the Provisional Committee formally assumed office as the Executive Committee of the " Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Machinists, Smiths, Millwrights and Pattern- I makers," scarcely 5000 members out of the 10,500 repre- jsented at the Birmingham Conference were paying to the I amalgamated funds. 1 For some months, indeed, the success of Newton's ambitious scheme looked doubtful. Though
- | London had rallied to his help, only one small society
standing aloof, the provincial branches came in very slowly. It took three months' persuasion to raise the membership of the amalgamation up to the level of the parent society. Delegate meetings of the Steam-Engine Makers and the Smiths' Societies decided against amalgamation, though many of their branches broke away and joined the new society. But towards the end of May the tide turned. The remaining branches of the Journeymen Steam-Engine and Machine Makers and Millwrights' Society held a delegate meeting, at which it was decided no longer to oppose the i amalgamation; the Smiths' Society of London and several ! other small societies came in; and by October Newton and 'Allan were at the head of a united society of 11,000 members paying is. per week each, the largest and most powerful Union that had ever existed in the engineering trades, and far exceeding in membership, and still more in annual income, any other trade society of the time. 2
1 The organ of the Executive Council was the Operative, a well-written weekly journal, which was set on foot by Newton in January 1851. The price was at first lid., and afterwards id. per number. The issues from
- he beginning down to July 1852, probably all that were published, are
reserved in the British Museum (P. P. 1424, a.m.). Newton acted as editor, and contributed nearly all the articles relating to the engineers and Trade Unions generally.
z The largest and most powerful of the other Unions in 1851 were
- hose of the Ironfounders and the Stonemasons, which numbered between
four and five thousand members each. It must be remembered that the previous ephemeral associations of the cotton-spinners and miners, which often for a time counted their tens of thousands of members, were ex- clusively strike organisations, with contributions of id. or 2d. per week only. The huge associations of 1830-34 had usually no regular subscrip-
214 The New Spirit and the New Model
The successful accomplishment of the amalgamation was followed by a conflict with the employers, which riveted the attention of the whole Trade Union world upon the new body. The aggressive trade policy initiated by Selsby and ^Ifan in Lancashire and Newton in London had been repeatedly confirmed by the delegate meetings of their society, and was formally incorporated in the basis of the larger organisation. 1 The more energetic branches were not slow in acting upon it. In 1851 the men at Messrs. Hibbert & Platt's extensive works at Oldham made a series of demands, not only for the abolition of overtime, but also for the exclusion of " labourers and other ' illegal ' men " from the machines. With these demands Messrs. Hibbert & Platt and other employers had to comply. The private minutes of the London Executive prove conclusively that the strike to oust labourers from machines was not authorised by the central body; * but as William Newton, now member of the Executive, acted as the representative the Oldham men in submitting these demands to M< Hibbert & Platt, the employers, naturally inferring tl his action was the direct outcome of the amalgamatioi formed in December 1851 the Central Association Employers of Operative Engineers to resist the men's Union.
Meanwhile the London Executive had been consultii the whole of the members on the proposal to aboli: systematic overtime and piecework, and had obtained almost unanimous vote in favour of immediate action.
tion at all, and depended on irregularly paid levies. A trade which, like the Amalgamated Engineers, could count on a regular ii of ^500 a week was without precedent.
1 See the resolutions of the Birmingham Delegate Meeting of the Trades, September 28, 1850, in the Trades Union Advocate, Noveml 1850.
z It was resolved : " That we are prepared to assist the workmen Messrs. Platt to the utmost of our power, but cannot consent to the n leaving their situations, because they may not at present be able to obt the working of the machines." The best account of the struggle is to found in the Jubilee Souvenir History of the A.S.E. (1901), pp. 34-41.
The Lock-Out 215
manifesto was issued to the employers, in which the Executive announced the intention of the society to put an end to piecework and systematic overtime after I December 31, 1851. The employers replied by an imperious declaration in the Times that a strike at any one establish- ment would be met seven days later by a general lock-out of the whole engineering trade. The men thereupon offered | to submit the question to arbitration, a proposal which the employers ignored. On January i, 1852, the members of j the Amalgamated Society refused to work overtime, and on I the loth the masters closed, as they had threatened, every I important engineering establishment in Lancashire and the I Metropolis.
The three months' struggle that followed interested the i general public more than any previous conflict. The details
- were described, and the action of the employers and the
i policy of the Union was discussed in every newspaper. The imen found unexpected friends in the little group of " Christian Socialists/' who threw themselves heartily into I the fray, and rendered excellent service, not only by liberal i subscriptions, 1 but also by letters to the newspapers, public I lectures, and other explanations of the men's position. The masters remained obdurate, insisting not only upon the unconditional withdrawal of the men's demands, but also upon their signing, the well-known " document " forswearing Trade Union membership. The capitalists, in fact, took up the old line of absolute supremacy in their establishments, and expressly denied the men's right to take any collective action whatsoever.
Notwithstanding the subscription of 4000 by the public and 5000 by other trade societies, the funds at the disposal of the Union soon began to run short. The Executive had undertaken to support not only the 3500 of its own members and the 1500 mechanics who were out,
1 Lord Goderich, afterwards the Marquis of Ripon, gave the Executive a cheque for ^500 to enable the strike pay to be kept up on a temporary emergency; one of many generous efforts, during a long lifetime, to assist the wage-earning class.
216 The New Spirit and the New Model
but also the 10,000 labourers who had been made idle. Altogether over 43,000 was dispensed during the six months in out-of-work pay. Early in February the masters opened their workshops. By the middle of March the issue of the struggle was plain, and during April the men resumed j work on the employers' terms. Almost all the masters I insisted on the actual signature of the " document " by | their men, and most of these, under pressure of imminent destitution, reluctantly submitted, without, however, carry- ing out their promise by abandoning the Union. Judge Hughes, writing in 1860, describes this act of bad faith by the men as " inexcusable," but there is much to be said for | the view taken by the Amalgamation Executive, who declared that they held themselves " and every man who unwillingly puts his hand to that detestable document j which is forced upon us to be as much destitute of that power of choice which should precede a contract as if a pistol were at his head and he had to choose between death j and degradation." x A promise extorted under " duress " carries with it little legal and still less moral obligation, and | whatever discredit attaches to the transaction must ascribed at least as much to the masters who made t] demand as to the unfortunate victims of the labour who unwillingly complied with it. 2
It was the dramatic events of 1852- which made
1 Executive Circular of April 26, 1852, in Operative, May i, 1852. number of the men refused to sign, and many emigrated. E. Vansitt Neale advanced ^1030 to members for this purpose, the whole of whi< was repaid by the borrowers.
2 Among the abundant literature on this great struggle may be nu tioned the Account, by Thomas (afterwards Judge) Hughes, in the Re on Trade Societies, by the Social Science Association, 1860; J. M. Ludlow' lectures, entitled The Master Engineers and their Workmen, 1852; pamphlet, May I not do what I will with my own? by E. Vansittart Neale; Jubilee Souvenir History of the A.S.E., 1901; and the evidence given William Newton (for the men) and Sidney Smith (for the employ* before the Select Committee on Masters and Operatives (Equitable Councils, etc.) in 1856. The employers' manifestoes will be found in Times from December 1851 to April 1852; the men' sdocuments reports of their meetings in the Operative (edited by Newton), and in tl Northern Star, then at its last gasp.
The "New Model " 217
establishment of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers a
urning-point in the history of the Trade Union Movement.
The complete victory gained by the employers did not, as
hey had hoped, destroy the Engineers' Union. The
membership of the society was, in fact, never seriously
haken. 1 On the other hand, the publicity which it gained
n the conflict gave it a position of unrivalled prominence
n the Trade Union world. From 1852 to 1889 the elaborate
onstitution of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers
erved as the model for all new national trade societies,
vhilst old organisations found themselves gradually incor-
orating its leading features. The place occupied in 1830-34
y the cotton-spinners and the builders was, in fact, now
aken by the iron trades.
The " New Model " thus introduced differed, both for
- ood and evil, from the typical Trade Unionism of the
receding generation. The engineering societies had to
jome extent inherited the exclusive policy of the organisa-
iions of the skilled handicraftsmen of the beginning of the
ientury. Unlike the General Trades Unions of 1830-34 they
iSstricted their membership to legally apprenticed work-
aen. Their records bear traces of the old idea of the legal
jicorporation of separate trades, rather than of any general
|nion of " the productive classes." The generous but
inpracticable " universalism " of the Owenite and Chartist
irganisations was replaced by the principle of the protection
[ the vested interests of the craftsman in his occupation.
the preface to the rules of the parent society expresses this
pminant idea by a forcible analogy :
1 It ended the struggle with 700 in hand. Its membership at the d of 1852 had fallen from 11,829 to 9737, but even then it had a balance hand of 5382, and within three years the members had increased to 553, and the accumulated funds to the unprecedented total of ^35,695. d unlike all previous trade societies, its record from 1852 down to the esent time has been one of continued growth and prosperity, the member- p at the end of 1919 being 320,000, with accumulated funds not far ort of three million pounds, being greater in aggregate amount than the ssessions of any other Trade Union organisation of this or any other untry.
218 The New Spirit and the New Model
" The youth who has the good fortune and inclination for preparing himself as a useful member of society by the study of physic, and who studies that profession with success so as to obtain his diploma from the Surgeons' Hall or College of Surgeons, naturally expects, in some measure, that he is entitled to privileges to which the pretending quack can lay no claim; and if in the practice of that useful profession he finds himself injured by such a pretender, he has the power of instituting a course of law against him. Such are the benefits connected with the learned professions. But the mechanic, though he may expend nearly an equal fortune and sacrifice an equal proportion of his life in becoming acquainted with the different branches of useful mechanism, has no law to protect his privileges." * He is therefore urged to join the society, which aims at securing the same protection of his trade against interlopers as enjoyed by the learned professions.
This spirit of exclusiveness has had, as we shall hereafte discern, an equivocal effect, not only on the history of tl society itself, but on that of the Trade Union Movemei But the contemporary trade movements either did n< observe or failed to realise the tendency of this attempt retain or reconstruct an aristocracy of skilled workme What impressed the working men was not the trade polic which had brought about the defeat of 1852, but admirably thought-out financial and administrative syst( which enabled the Union to combine the functions of trade protection society with those of a permanent insurai coimoany, and thus attain a financial stability hithe undreamt of. Time proved that this constitution had peculiar defects. But for over twenty years no Tn Unionist questioned its excellence, and the minute criticis and heated abuse which it evoked from employers and tl advocates seemed only another testimony to its effectives We think it worth while, therefore, at the risk of introdw
1 Preface to Rules of the Journeymen Steam-Engine, Machine Me and Millwrights' Friendly Society, edition of 1845.
- edious detail, to describe the main features of this " New
Tn striking contrast with the Cotton-spinners' and Guilders' Unions of 1830-34, with their exclusively trade >urposes, the societies in the engineering trades had, like te trade organisations of the handicraftsmen of the last >ntury, originated as logal_benefit clubs. The Journeymen >team-Engine Makers' Society, for instance, had from the >t provided its members witri out-of-work pay, a travelling lowance, a funeral benefit, and a lump sum in case of iccidental disablement. In 1846 it added to these benefits a ill sick allowance, and shortly afterwards an old age tension to superannuated members. The administration of friendly benefits was from the outset the primary iibject of the organisation. As the local benefit club jxpanded into a national society by the migration of its imbers from town to town, the extreme difficulty of ibining local autonomy with a just and economical linistration of extensive benefits became apparent. For society, it must be remembered, was not a federation independent bodies, each having its own exchequer and itributing to the central fund its determinate quota of te expenses of the central office : it was from the first a
- le association with a common purse, into which all
itributions were paid, and out of which all expenditure, >wn to the stationery and ink used by a branch secretary, defrayed. This concentration of funds carried with it ic practical advantage of forming a considerable reserve the disposal of the Executive. But so long as it was ibined with local autonomy, it was open to the obvious jection that a branch might dispense benefits to its own ibers with undue liberality, and thus absorb an unfair >unt of the moneys of the whole society. And hence we id that in 1838 an attempt was made to centralise the [ministration, by transforming the local officials from the rvants of the branches into agents of the central authority, inherent love of self-government of the British artisan
22O The New Spirit and the New Model
defeated this proposal, which would inevitably have led to local apathy and suspicion, if not to grosser evils. Some other method of harmonising local autonomy with centralised finance had therefore to be invented.
Under the constitution which the Amalgamated Society took over from the Journeymen Steam-Engine and Machine Makers and Millwrights, we find this problem solved with considerable astuteness. The branch elects and controls its own local officers, but acts in all cases within rules which provide explicitly for every detail. Each branch retains its own funds and administers the friendly benefits payable to its own members, including the allowance to men out of work. The financial autonomy of the branch is, however, more apparent than real. No penny must be expended except in accordance with precise rules. The branch retains its own funds, but these are the property of the whol society, and at the end of each year the balances " equalised " by a complicated system of remittances branch to branch, ordered by the Central Executive in si a way that each branch starts the year with the same amoi of capital per member. The cumbrous plan of anniu equalisation is a device adopted in order to maintain feeling of local self-government under a strictly centralis financial system. 1 From the decision of the branch member may appeal to the Central Executive Council The decisions of this Council on all questions of friend!} benefits are, however, strictly limited to the interpretatk of the existing laws of the society. These rules, whi<
1 This plan of " equalisation " is, so far as we know, peculiar to Ti Unions, though we understand from Dr. Baernreither's English Assc tions of Working Men, pp. 283-84, that a few branches of some of Friendly Societies adopted a somewhat similar system. Its origin unknown to us, but the device is traditionally ascribed to the Jourr men Steam-Engine and Machine Makers and Millwrights' Society, es lished in 1826. It was also in early use by the Steam-Engine Mai Society, established in 1824. Until the Trade Union Act of 1871 it a positive use. Depending, as Trade Unions were obliged to do, uj the integrity of their officers, there were great advantages in the wide distribution of the funds and the local responsibility of each branch for the safe keeping of its share.
Trade Policy 221
include in equal detail both the constitutional and the financial code, cannot be altered or modified except by a specially convened meeting of delegates from every district. Careful provision is, moreover, made against the danger of hasty or ill-considered legislation even by this supreme authority. No amendment may be so much as considered without having been circulated to all the branches six weeks (prior to the delegate meeting, and having thereupon been liscussed and re-discussed by the members at two successive general meetings convened for the purpose. Thus every (delegate comes to his legislative duties charged with a iirect and even detailed mandate from his constituents. Moreover, it is expressly provided that no friendly benefit ill be abrogated unless the decision of the delegate teeting to that effect is ratified by a majority of two-thirds m a vote of the members of the whole society. As a [riendly society, therefore, the Association consists of a mmber of self-governing branches acting according to the >rovisions of a detailed code, and amenable, in respect of interpretation, to a Central Executive. As a Trade Union, on the contrary, the Association has
- n from the first a highly centralised body. The great
|bject of the amalgamation was to secure uniformity in rade policy, and to promote the equalisation of what the xmomists call " real wages " x throughout the whole mntry. With this view the Central Executive has always stained the absolute power of granting or withholding
- rike pay. No individual can receive strike allowance from
branch except upon an express order of the Executive, knowledge, however, is clearly needed for the decision matters of trade policy, and on the amalgamation district " committees were established, consisting of the
- presentatives of neighbouring branches. These com-
ittees have no concern with the administration of jiendly benefits, which, as we have seen, is the business of
1 That is to say, local differences in the cost of living have always en taken into account.
222 The New Spirit and the New Model
each branch. Their function is to guard the local interests of the trade, to watch for encroachments, and to advise the Executive Council in the administration of strike pay. Unlike the branches, they possess no independent authority, and arejreguired to act strictly under the orders of head- quarters, to which the minutes of their proceedings are regularly sent for confirmation.
Not less impressive than this elaborate constitution, with its system of checks and counter-checks, was the magnitude of the financial transactions of the new society. The high contribution of a shilling a week, paid with unexampled regularity by a constantly increasing body of members, provided an income which surpassed the wildest dreams of previous Trade Union organisations, and enabled the society to meet any local emergency without serious effort. A large portion of this income was absorbed by expensive friendly benefits, which were on a scale at time unfamiliar to the societies in other trades. And wh< it was found that the contribution of a shilling a week only met all these requirements, but also provided accumulating balance, which could be drawn upon f( strike pay, the indignation of the employers knew bounds. For many years the union of friendly benefil with trade protection funds, now considered as the guarante of a peaceful Trade Union policy, was denounced as dishonest attempt to subsidise strikes at the expense of tl innocent subscriber to a friendly society insurance agaii sickness, accident, and old age. 1
In scarcely less marked contrast with the cui tradition of Trade Unionism was the publicity which Amalgamated Engineers from the first courted. Powei societies, such as the existing Union of Stonemasons,
1 Such protests were frequent in the evidence before the Royal mission of 1867-68, and form the staple of the innumerable criticisms Trade Unionism between 1852 and 1879. A good vindication of the Tr Union position is contained in Professor Beesly's article in the Fortnig) Review, 1867, which was republished as a pamphlet, The Amalgamt Society of Carpenters and Joiners, 1 867, 20 pp.
The Need for Publicity 223
between 1834 and 1850 elaborated a constitution which proved as durable as that of the Amalgamated Engineers, though of a slightly different type. But the old feeling of secretiveness still dominated both the leaders and the rank and file. The Stonemasons' Fortnightly Circular, which, regularly appearing as it has done since 1834, constitutes perhaps the most valuable single record of the Trade Union Movement, was never seen outside the branch meeting- place. 1 At the Royal Commission of 1867-8 the employers' witnesses bitterly complained of their inability to get copies of this publication and of a similar periodical circular of the Bricklayers' Society. 2 As late as 1871 we find the liability to publicity adduced by some Unions as an argument against seeking recognition by the law.
The leaders of the Engineers believed, on the contrary,
in the power of advertisement. We have already noticed
the two short-lived newspapers which Newton and Allan
published in 1850 and 1851-2, for the express purpose of
jmaking known the society and its objects. For many years
lafter the amalgamation it was a regular practice to forward
|to the press, for publication or review, all the monthly,
(quarterly, and annual reports, as well as the more important
>f the circulars issued to the members. Representatives
were sent to the Conference on Capital and Labour held
)y the Society of Arts in 1854, and to the congresses of
he Social Science Association from 1859 onward. Newton
nd Allan appear, indeed, to have eagerly seized every
)pportunity of writing letters to the newspapers, reading
>apers, and delivering lectures about the organisation which
- hey had established.
It is easy to understand the great influence which, during
1 The unique collection of these circulars, containing not only statistical nd other information of the society, but also frequent references to the uilding trades and the general movement, was generously placed at our isposal for the purpose of this work, and we have found it of the utmost altie.
2 See, for instance, the evidence of Mault, Questions 3980 in Second Leport and 4086 in Third Report,
224 The New Spirit and the New Model
the next twenty years, this " New Model " exercised upon the Trade Union world. Its most important imitator was the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, which, as we shall see, arose out of the great London strike of 1859-60. The tailors in 1866 drew together into an amalgamated society, which adopted, almost without alteration, the whole code of the engineers, and in 1869 the London Society of Compositors appointed a special committee to report upon " the constitution and working of the Amalgamated Trades," with a view to their imitation in the printing industry- an intention which, in spite of the favourable character ofj the report, was not carried out. 1 Scarcely a trade exists which did not, between 1852 and 1875, either attempt to imitate the whole constitution of the Amalgamated Engineers, or incorporate one or other of its characteristic features.
The five or six years following the collapse of the lock-out of 1852, though constituting a period of q progress in particular societies, are, for the historian of general Trade Union Movement, almost a blank, severe commercial depression of 1846-49 was succeeded seven years of steadily expanding trade, which furnis no occasion for general reduction of wages. The reac against the ambitious projects of the Trade Union of I continued to discourage even federal action; 2 whilst complete failure of the struggle of the engineers, folio as it was in 1853 by the disastrous strike of the Prest cotton-spinners for a ten per cent advance, by an eq unsuccessful struggle of the Kidderminster carpet-weav and by a fierce and futile conflict by the Dowlais workers, 3 increased the disinclination of the Unions aggressive trade action on a . large scale. The disrep
1 Report of Special Committee, 1869.
2 The National Association of United Trades continued, as we h already seen, in nominal existence until 1860 or 1861, but after 1852 j sank to a membership of a few thousands, and played practically no
in the Trade Union world.
8 Times, June to December 1853.
The Self -Governing Workshop 225
into which strikes had fallen was intensified by the spread among the more thoughtful working men of the principles of Industrial Co-operation. This new development of Owen's teaching took two forms, both, it 'need hardly be said, differing fundamentally from the Owenism of 1834. In Lancashire the success of the " Rochdale Pioneers," established in 1844, had led to the rapid extension of the Co-operative Store, the association of consumers for the supply of their own wants. To some extent the stalwart i leaders of the Lancashire and Yorkshire working men were diverted from the organisation of trade combinations to the establishment of co-operative shops and corn-mills. Meanwhile the " Christian Socialists " of London had caught up the idea of Buchez and the Parisian projects of 1848, and were advocating with an almost apostolic fervour the formation of associations of producers, in which groups of working men were to become their own employers. 1 The generous enthusiasm with which the " Christian Socialists " had thrown themselves into the Engineers' struggle, and their obvious devotion to the interests of Labour, gave their schemes of " Self-governing Workshops " i great vogue. Numberless small undertakings were started y operative engineers, cabinetmakers, tailors, bootmakers, md hatters in the Metropolis and in other large industrial entres, and for a few years the Executives and Committees >f the various Unions vied with each other in recommending lo-operative production to their members. But it soon i'ecame apparent that this new form of co-operation was atended, not as an adjunct or a development of the Trade nion, but as an alternative form of industrial organisation. or, urlike the Owenites of 1834, the Christian Socialists ad no conception of the substitution of profit-making
1 A more detailed account of these developments will be found jn The ^-operative Movement in Great Britain (1891; second edition, 1893), i Beatrice Potter (Mrs. Sidney Webb); Co-operative Production, by enjamin Jones, 1894; an( l in the Report of the Fabian Research epartment on Co-operative Production, published as a supplement to New Statesman, February 14, 1914.
226 The New Spirit and the New Model
enterprise by the whole body of wage-earners, organise either in a self-contained community or in a complet Trades Union. They sought only to replace the individuc capitalist by self-governing bodies of profit-making workmei A certain number of the ardent spirits among the Londo and north country workmen became the managers an secretaries of these undertakings, and ceased to be energeti members of their respective Unions. " We have found, say the Engineers' Executive in their annual report of 185= " that when a few of our own members have commence business hitherto they have abandoned the society, an conducted the workshops even worse than other employers. Fortunately for the Trade Union Movement the unifon commercial failure of these experiments, so long, at anj rate, as they retained their original form of the self-governirj workshop, soon became obvious to those concerned, idea of " Co-operative Production " constantly reap] contemporary Trade Union records, but after the failui the co-operative establishments of 1848-52 it ceases, nearly twenty years, to be a question of " practical politi< in the Trade Union world.
In spite of this intellectual diversion the work of Ti Union consolidation was being steadily carried on. Amalgamated Engineers doubled their numbers in the years that followed their strike, and by 1861 their Ui had accumulated the unprecedented balance of 73, The National Societies of Ironfounders and Stonerm grew in a similar proportion. A revival of Trade Unioi took place among the textile operatives. The prc association of Lancashire cotton-spinners began its in 1853, whilst the cotton- weavers secured in the same y< r what has been fitly termed their Magna Charta, 13 " Blackburn List " of piecework rates. But with lie exception of the building trades, Trade Unionism assumli, during these years, a peaceful attitude. The leaders jo longer declaimed against " the idle classes," but sought jo justify the Trade Union position with arguments based ifl
The Building Trades 227
jniiddle-class economics. The contributions of the Amal- gamated Engineers are described " as a general voluntary rate in aid of the Poor's Rate." * The Executive Council
- annot doubt that employers will not " regard a society
ike ours with disfavour. They will begin to understand
- hat it is not intended, nor adapted, to damage their
interests, but rather to advance them, by elevating the Character of then: workmen, and proportionately lessening heir own responsibilities." The project of substituting ' Councils of Conciliation " for "Strikes and lock-outs grew n favour with Trade Unior leaders. Hundreds of petitions n favour of their establishment were got up by the Rational Association of United Trades, then on its last igs. The House of Commons Committees in 1856 and 1860 |:>und the operatives in all trades disposed to support the rinciple of voluntary submission to arbitration. For a rief period it seemed as if peace was henceforth to prevail ver the industrial world.
The era_of strikes which set in with the contraction [ trade in 1857 proved how fallacious had been these Dpes. The building trades, in particular, had remained ss affected than the Engineers or the Cotton Operatives Y the change of tone. The local branches of the Stone- asons, Bricklayers, and other building trade operatives, ten against the wish of their Central Committees, were igaged between 1853 and 1859 m an almost constant suc- ssion of little strikes against separate firms, in which the \ Jen were generally successful in gaining advances of wages. 2
1 Address of the Executive Council of the Amalgamated Society of En- '. i\eers to their Fellow-Workmen, 1855.
2 See The Strikes, their Extent, Evils, and Remedy, being a Description Whe General Movement of the Mass of the Building Operatives throughout t\ United Kingdom, by Vindex (1853), 56 pp. One consequence of this r ewed outburst of strikes was the appointment in 1858 by the newly fjmed National Association for the Promotion of Social Science of a Qnmittee to inquire into trade societies and disputes. This inquiry, c ducted by able and zealous investigators, resulted in 1860 in the pblication of a volume which contains the best collection of Trade Uon material and the most impartial account of Trade Union action t't has ever been issued. As a source of history and economic illustra-
228 The New Spirit and the New Model
These years were, moreover, notable for the recognition in| the provincial building trades of " working rules," or signed! agreements between employers and workmen (usualtyj between the local Masters' Associations and the Trade Unions), specifying in minute detail the conditions of the! collective bargain. Without doubt the adoption of these rules was a step forward in the direction of industrial peace j but, like international treaties, they were frequently pre-i ceded by desperate conflicts in which both sides exhausted! their resources, and learnt to respect the strength of the other party. With the depression of trade more importanlj disputes occurred. During 1858 fierce conflicts arose between masters and men in the flint glass industry and in the West Yorkshire coalfield. The introduction of the! sewing-machine into the boot and shoemaking villages o: Northamptonshire led to a series of angry struggles. Bui of the great disputes of 1858 to 1861, the builders' strike in the Metropolis in 1850^-60 was by far the most importanlj in its effect upon the Trade Union Movement.
The dispute of 1859 originated in the growing move-l ment for a shortening of the hours of labour. 1 The demand for a Nine Hours Day in the Building Trades was firsi made by the Liverpool Stonemasons in 1846, and renewed by the London Stonemasons in 1853. In neither casej however, was the claim persisted in. Four years late the movement was revived by the London Carpenters whose memorial to their employers was met, after a join
tion this Report on Trade Societies and Strikes (1860, 651 pp.) is far superior to the Parliamentary Blue Books of 1824, 1825, 1838, and 1867-68. Among the contributors were Godfrey Lushington (afterwards Under-secretary of State for the Home Department), J. M. Ludlow (afterwards Registrar of Friendly Societies), Thomas (afterwards Judge) Hughes Q.C., Mr. G. Shaw-Lefevre (afterwards Lord Eversley), F. D. Longe, and Frank Hill. The Committee was presided over by the late Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, and amongst its other members may be mentioned W. E. Forster, Henry Fawcett, R. H. Hutton, Rev. F. D. Maurice, Dr William Farr, and one Trade Union secretary, T. J. Dunning, of the London Bookbinders.
1 See the account of it in Labour Legislation, Labour Movements, am Labour Leaders, by G. Howell, 1902.
The Nine Hours Day 229
conference, by a decisive refusal. Meanwhile the Stone- masons were seeking to obtain the Saturday half-holiday, which the employers equally refused. This led, in the autumn of 1858, to the formation of a Joint Committee of Carpenters, Masons, and Bricklayers, which, on November 18, 1858, addressed a dignified memorial to the master builders, urging that the hours of labour should be shortened by one per day, and that future building contracts should be accepted on this basis. At first ignored by the employers, this request was eventually refused as decidedly as it had been in 1853 and 1857. The Joint Committee thereupon made a renewed attempt by petitioning four firms selected by ballot. Among these was that of Messrs. Trollope, who promptly dismissed one of the men who had presented the memorial. This action led to an immediate strike against Messrs. Trollope. Within a fortnight every master builder in London employing over fifty men had closed his establishment, and twenty-four thousand men were peremptorily deprived of their employment. The contro- versy which raged in the columns of contemporary news- papers during this pitched battle between Capital and Labour brought out in strong relief the state of mind of the Metropolitan employers. Uninfluenced by the progress of public opinion, or by the new tone of respect and modera- tion adopted by Trade Union leaders, the London employers took up the position of their predecessors of 1834. They absolutely refused to recognise the claim of the representa- tives of the men even to discuss with them the conditions of employment. This attitude was combined with a deter- mined attempt to destroy all combination, the instru- ment adopted being the well-worn Document. The Central Association of Master Builders resolved, in terms almost identical with its predecessor of 1834, that " no member of this Association shall engage or continue in his employ- ment any contributor to the funds of any ^Trades Union or Trades Society which practises interference with the regulation of any establishment, the hours or terms of
230 The New Spirit and the New Model
labour, the contracts or agreements of employers or employed, or the qualification or terms of service."
This declaration of war on Trade Unionism gained for the men on strike the support of the whole Trade Union world. The Central Committee of the great society of Stonemasons, which had hitherto discouraged the Metro- politan Nine Hours Movement as premature, took up the struggle against the Document as one of vital importance. Meetings of delegates from the organised Metropolitan trades were held in order to rally the forces of Trade Unionism to the cause of the builders. The subscriptions which poured in from all parts of the kingdom demonstrated the possession, in the hands of trade societies, of heavy and hitherto un- suspected, reserves of financial strength. The London Pianoforte Makers contributed 300. The Flint Glass Makers, who had just emerged from a prolonged struggle on their own account, sent a similar- sum. " Trades Com- mittees " were formed in all the industrial centres, and remitted large amounts. Glasgow and Manchester sent over 800 each, and Liverpool over 500. The newly formed Yorkshire Miners' Association forwarded 230. The Boilermakers, Coopers, and Coachmakers' Societies were especially liberal in their gifts. But the sensation of the subscription list was the grant by the Amalgamated Engineers of three successive weekly donations of 1000 each an event long recalled with emotion by the survivors of the struggle. Altogether some 23,000 were subscribed (exclusive of the payments by the societies directly con- cerned), an amount far in excess of any previous strike subsidy.
Such abundant support enabled the men to defeat the employers' aims, though not to secure their own demands. The Central Association of Master Builders clung despe- rately to the Document, but failed to obtain an adequate number of men willing to subscribe to its terms. In December 1859 a suggestion was made by Lord St. Leonards that the Document be withdrawn, a lengthy
The Amalgamated Carp enter 3
statement of the law relating to trade combinations being hung up in all the establishments as a substitute. The employers' obstinacy held out for two months longer, but finally succumbed in February 1860, when the Platonic suggestion- of Lord St. Leonards was adopted, and the embittered dispute was brought to an end.
This drawn battle between the forces of Capital and Labour ranks as a leading event in Trade Union history, not only because it revived the feeling of solidarity between different trades, but also on account of the importance of two consolidating organisations to which it gave birth. Out of the Building Trades Strike of 1859-60 arose the London Trades Council (to be described in the following chapter) and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, the most notable adoption by another trade of the " New Model " introduced by Newton and Allan.
The strike had revealed to the London carpenters the complete state of disorganisation into which their industry had fallen. It was they, it is true, who had initiated the Nine Hours Movement in the Metropolis, but the com- mittee which memorialised the employers had represented no body of organised workmen. George Potter, who was the leader of this movement, could draw around him only a group of delegates elected by the men in each shop. There were, indeed, not more than about a thousand carpenters in London who were members of any trade society whatso- ever, and these were scattered among numerous tiny benefit clubs. The Friendly Society of Operative Carpenters, which, as we have seen, was a militant branch of the Builders' Union of 1830-34, had, like the Stonemasons' Society, maintained a continuous existence. Unlike that society, however, it had kept the old character of a loose federation for trade purposes only, depending for its finances upon occasional levies. Perhaps for this reason it had lost its exclusive hold upon the provinces, and had gained no footing in London. As a competent observer remarks : "At the time of the 1859-60 strikes the masons alone of the build-
232 The New Spirit and the New Model
ing trades were organised into a single society extending throughout England, and providing not only for trade purposes, but for the ordinary benefits. . . . The London masons locked out were supported regularly and punctually by their society, and could have continued the struggle for an indefinite time; but the other trades, split up into numerous local societies, were soon reduced to extremities." l The Carpenters' Committee saw with envy the capacity of the Stonemasons' Society to provide long-continued strike pay for its members, and were profoundly impressed by the successive donations of 1000 each made by the Amalgamated Engineers. Directly the strike was over, the leading members of the little benefit clubs met together to discuss the formation of a national organisation on the Engineers' model. William Allan lent them every assistance in adapting the rules of his own society to the carpenters' trade, and watched over the preliminary proceedings. The new society started on June 4, 1860, with a few hundred members. For the first two years its progress was slow; but in October 1862 it had the good fortune to elect as its general secretary a man whose ability and cautious sagacity promptly raised it to a position of influence in the Trade Union world. Robert Applegarth, secretary of a local Carpenters' Union at Sheffield, had been quick to perceive the advantages of- amalgamation, and had brought his society over with him. ' Under his admini- stration the new Union advanced by leaps and bounds, and in a few years it stood, in magnitude of financial trans- actions and accumulated funds, second only to the Amalga- mated Society of Engineers itself. Moreover, Applegarth's capacity brought him at once into that little circle of Trade Union leaders whose activity forms during the next ten years the central point of Trade Union history.
1 Prof. E. S. Beesly, Fortnightly Review, 1867.