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Joshua King Ingalls

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J. K. Ingalls, "Industrial Wars and Governmental Interference," The Twentieth Century, **, ** (September 6, 1894), 11-12.



Our "labor troubles" have now grown to the dimensions of a deadly industrial war, where the only means of escaping death from starvation, by a part of the industrial forces of society, seem to be to court death in violent contention with the trend of our laws, our business methods and their abuses.

The right of the government, or of the people, whom it assumes to represent, to interfere in the interests of peace and good order, is generally acknowledged. But the how! and in whose interest ! is a matter open to rational consideration.

In abstract law, not such law as is purchased by one party, or extorted by threats from the other—but as it exists in principles of equity and the idea of equal freedom, under the mutual reign of liberty and order, can only be found a logical solution. Waiving, for the time, men’s mutual inheritance in the earth, and right to create property for himself from the raw material of the earth, its stores of unproduced wealth and latent forces, the practice of interfering in the struggle between operators and operatives, in the interests of the former and against the latter, is still wholly inconsistent with every well defined principle of law ; even of the "sacred right of property," which now dominates all personal rights and all maximes of distinctive justice. The present relation of "Capital and Labor" is but vaguely understood by either party. It is constantly treated as one of master and servant, as equals under contract, and in every shade of meaning between that of equal freedom and of bond slavedom. It is really a mixed relation between contract and status; held by fiction of law as one of "freedom of contract," while it retains potentially all the essential features of serfdom. Industrially and economically, the relation is substantially the same as that which existed between the chattel and his owner, and the serf and his lord, i. e. the wage-earner has no more an acknowledged right of property in the increase of wealth produced by his labor, than had the slave or serf. They were guaranteed support and protection and knew nothing of the terrible fear of being "out of a job," which freedom of contract means to a wage-worker. The serf was accorded a defined position, and the lord could not dispose of his estate without the consent of his thralls.

These facts show that the wage-worker is under contract only by the merest legal semblance, which gives them possession at no time of the increase due to their labor, or the least right whatever to create property, and without this no property right can have logical existence.

That the operation of any wealth increasing enterprise is co-operative needs only stating. Every court of justice so decides it, and its logic in division of the product of the conjoint labor, can only be frustrated by the fiction that the worker has contracted away his share of the increase by accepting wages. But, being dispossessed of his common right to land, and to opportunity to use the common materials and forces, he can make no equitable contract and cannot be lawfully thus concluded, any more than a minor is concluded as to rights of property by inheritance, through an act of infancy. In the present laws of partnership, or of joint ownership, to one of which all co-operative enterprises ire necessarily referred, involving mutual contributions of money and service, we have the key to the just solution of the question of division. Let us take in illustration the business of mining. The mineral as it exists in the earth is common wealth, and by the genius of our fundamental law, is incapable of becoming private property, except through the labor of extracting it. By some hocus pocus of political management, however, the entire mining area has mainly passed into the hands of syndicates and foreign and domestic "lords of the demesne."

But assuming that the money in the mine property is legitimately invested, the stock to be only moderately watered, and the bonds, not constructive, hut actual money expended in plant and preliminary work; what then is the true relation between the operators and miners? In most business operations, involving production, I think a thousand dollars capital to each emplové is a fair proportion and certainly would be if the values of purely monopoly privilege, were not counted. Now we have the best economic authority for including labor, in the category of capital, even were not labor and land acknowledged as the sole factors in all production.

What then is the amount of capital invested in a miner capable to do effective work? To rear and educate and bring to majority must have cost $1,000. Take now a capital investment of one million and a working force of 1,000 men. Paying these men the usual wages, there will be left at the end of the year an increase of say $500 to each man working, which would be divided "share and share alike’ between the owners of the money capital in plant and the labor capital in brain, bone and muscle. The only pretense which prevents this distribution, is the plea that the worker in accepting wages, has tacitly contracted away his share of the increase, has made a sale of his interest. Even this subterfuge fails logically however, whenever the operators reduce the rate of compensation without the full concurrence of the co-operative workers, and their just claim to joint ownership obtains again. It is altogether too late, to urge that this is a mere matter of exchange; so much money, so much labor-; and that the operator may lay off and take on whom he pleases. It never was, as economists teach, a matter of exchange, but one of co-operative endeavor. That employers have submitted often to arbitration precludes the plea. No one would submit to arbitration the question whether he should buy a commodity he did not want, or sell one at a price unsatisfactory to himself.

Justice Cooley of the Supreme Court of Michigan doubtless gives the true law of the case: "So long as labor (present) and capital (past labor) are equally essential to any particular business, it is as much that of those who bring to it the labor as of those who furnish the money." The right therefore of the proprietor to discharge the men, because he cannot longer afford to pay the stipulated wages, is equal only to the right of the men to discharge the owner, because they can no longer afford to pay him his profits. They have the same right to take on new proprietors without his consent, as he has to take on new workers without their consent. When joint owners disagree, the equity court will order the business divided or sold out and the money divided. If disorder or outrage occur, as a matter of public policy it will restore order. But doing that will not put one party in power or possession to the exclusion of the other. Yet this latter is what our governments, state and national, are doing. Under pretense of keeping the peace, which usually the employers have broken, or provoked the breaking, our public functionaries interfere to dispossess those in rightful possession and put into possession the offending parties, as at Homestead. This interference usually is invited and directed by the wrong-doers, and involves every outrage to the very right of property it is invoked to protect, besides serving as an excuse to raise the cost of the product to the consumer , and so a direct public wrong. As the true principle of property rights and their normal limitations become more fully understood, strikes and lockouts will cease, and dissolution of any co-operative business will not be determined by force of arms, the amount of money, or of the numerical strength of the parties, but by rules of equity, which rules would he somewhat after this form: Capital its thousand dollars in money or plant. Labor its thousand dollars in skill and trained muscular and mental force. The $500 increase at the end of the year would be divided equally between the capitalist and worker, adding the wages to the share of the worker, if he had wrought and the furnisher of money had not. And such wages would be estimated so as to share in the division, if withheld to the end of the year.

The risks of loss of the capital invested are largely on the side of the laborer, since his capital rapidly diminishes with age, especially in the unhealthy employments which tend to shorten life, not to mention dangers from accidents of various and numerous kinds. It is possible that this representation may be as unpalatable to the average worker, as to the employer or millionaire. He dislikes taking responsibilities and keeping accounts. He can work best under a boss, and shirks care. By years of subjection, perhaps through ages of inheritance, he has submitted to direction till self-determination is wanting. He looks upon cooperation as a scheme to beat him out of some right or some thing he fears to lose. His hope in "organized labor" is that it will subject the employer to unequal terms, or may be ameliorate, not abolish the wage system, which he finds at times very uncomfortable, but which he has not the courage or mental force to examine logically. Until this is done, however, he will struggle against its evils only to find himself always put in the wrong in every issue with organized capital, which through sheerest sophistries and scarcely concealed corruption secures the support of the governing power. Only wisdom can avail to establish right.