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carry that out.
Mr. ROBERT ESSERY (Working Tailors' Society) was prepared to assert that strikes, in the existing state of Society, were both necessary and justifiable. What were strikes in their nature? He took them to be simply the natural right of self-defence of a man's labour, which was his sole property.
themselves to reduce wages; whilst the 24,000 operatives vision by which the right of association might be controlled would have to meet to resist the demands of those emor neutralised," he said unhesitatingly, no; because, as ployers. So that, if they took away the right of combi- had been observed by Mr. Aitkin, they had no machination on the part of the working classes, a great injusticenery for carrying it out, and it was a doubtful matter to would be done to them, because the employers, being be involved in. First, let them show him the machinery comparatively so few in number, could make their ar- by which they could effect it, and then let them decide rangements withdrawn from the public gaze. Then, as whether or not associations were detrimental to the comto the 4th proposition under this head,-"Ought any munity--that was, the whole population of the empire. If legislative provision, or other arrangement, to be made that was shown to be the case, let them say "yes" to the by which the right of association, if obviously exercised to proposition, but until that was done, he should say "no" the detriment of the community, might be controlled or to it. neutralised?" In the first place, he would say-bad as things are at present, and great as were the evils attendant be objectionable because they suspended production, reMr. FORT (of Read Hall), said he held combinations to upon strikes and every man must be sorry when he wit-duced the wage fund, introduced fear instead of hope as a nessed them-looking to the history of the past, he (Mr. ruling motive, exhausted savings, increased debt, reduced Aitkin) wanted no re-enactment of the combination laws. the quantum of labourers' food to the brink of starvation, The thing was here put subjunctively-if obviously excited unattainable expectations, jealousy of superior exercised to the detriment of the community." Where wealth, insubordination, love of excitement, neglect of inwas the machinery for carrying out that conclusion? If dividual means of advancement, belief in clamour as a rethe public say it is wrong, who were to be the judges medial agent, retaliation on the part of employers, distrust whether it was right or wrong. They must first settle of employed, disbelief in the existence of gratitude, who were the community; and how were they to regulate indisposition to philanthropic exertion, desire to make that, for they would want a great deal of machinery to rapid fortunes, to decamp and snap local ties, loss To some of these propositions he gave of capital, incapacity to pay wages equal to those his assent; to others, he did not. All he would say, in before the loss, and fear of engaging in contracts. conclusion, was that if any remedy could be proposed for the evils which they all so much deplored, he was sure that affect combinations? Limited liabilities were of two as to limited liabilities in partnerships, how would every individual in that Conference would act with the kinds: first, anonyme, in which all the partners' liabilities noble chairman in carrying it into effect, and that they were limited; and secondly, en commandite, in which the would be aided by every intelligent and well-wishing subordinate partners had also a limited liability. person throughout these islands. bordinate partners might have a requisite share of capital, or no capital at all, but a fixedfraction of wage and compliment varying with profits; and in that case the partners were, both employers and operatives,-an arrangement, it might be admitted, very favourable to regularity and tranquility of business, and a great incentive to saving habits and good conduct in operatives; and, in good times, might be favourable both to master and man. But the great trial would come with the first depression of trade, for if the fixed wage was high the master might not be able to pay it; if low, the operative probably would not be content with it. If a loss occurred, who was to bear it? If it was to fall upon the master alone, who was to decide upon stoppage, half-time, or other policy of the mill or works? If the loss was to fall partly upon the workmen, who was to recover from each? the master or the creditors? The great difficulty under such a system would be in determining terms of management, valuation of machinery, stock, book debts, &c. It would be to the master's interest to value low, and the interest of the other to value high. It would be to the master's interest to keep the divisible profits down, and that of the men to raise the divisible profits, underrate depreciations, doubtful debts, and other matters subject to valuation. If new machinery or expansions were required, who was to pay ? A further consideration of the subject was, that most trades and branches of trades had their secrets, either as to processes, most profitable markets, or the state of their own credit. How was silence in these matters to be obtained? If one operative examined details, why should not all? And if all, how was silence to be kept? Whilst on the other hand, if the more immediate management were confided to a committee, what temptations there were to make special profits of their knowledge, either by selling it, or withdrawing and setting up in opposition, or otherwise? Further, in partnerships en commandite, the managing partners were liable to the whole extent of their fortune, whilst the subordinate partners were only liable to the extent of their shares. The system was adapted to banking, railways, and other under. takings necessarily on too large a scale for private enterprise, where responsibility on the part of managers was required, and where the qualities desirable were rather prudence, and caution, and rigorous discipline,
The CHAIRMAN-We are now upon the subject of combinations. They do not necessarily involve a strike. Mr. ESSERY Would maintain that combinations were justifiable in the present state of society. A combination meant a mutual association to protect that which in the existing state of things was not protected by the laws; therefore, to the first question he unhesitatingly said no. Then as to the next question," Would a law of limited liability in partnerships tend to render such combinations unnecessary?"-he unhesitatingly said no to that, because it would be impossible for a law of limited liability in partnerships to involve the whole bulk of the community. Thirdly-"Do they remove the questions with which they deal from the privacy of ordinary trade management, and place them under public cognizance, and if so, how may that publicity be most simply and effectually secured?" His answer to that was, it might be most effectually secured by the appointment of local boards of trade. That was a subject which had for a number of years occupied the attention of the working classes. He had with him a series of addresses which had been issued over a period of twelve years past, every one of which had been carefully and thoughtfully prepared; and they had been circulated at great expense by those who could ill afford it. Everything that was possible had been done by appeals to the legislature and to the public, with a view to the establishment of boards of trade, in order to prevent the mischief which they all deplored; and yet they had failed. And why was that? Because, unfortunately, the capitalists of this country, for the most part thought, erroneously he believed, that their interest was apart from that of the working man. He maintained, and it was the opinion of those whom he represented, that there was no possibility of settling a question of this kind in a satisfactory manner, except by the institution of boards of trade, either directly or indirectly connected with the government, with branches in all the localities to which they could be applied. As to the next proposition-for legislative pro
than enterprise and ingenuity; but it was not adapted liked-and could not be ended except by the defeat of to manufacturing concerns, where strict discipline, one party; defeat was the result of loss and suffering, and loss and suffering substituted self interest for pasdecision, and vigour were absolutely requisite. If the sub But this was assuming masters to be in the partners were not operatives, the relation between them sion. If the master's profit was higher than in and the employers would not be altered, and if, on the other hand, they were operatives as well as partners, he other trades, his capital would accumulate faster submitted that their powers of interference would be dis--his motive to invest new capital in his own trade proportionate to, and incompatible with, their risk and was greater than his motive to invest it in any other, in responsibility, and would, moreover, be a source of obstruc- the exact ratio his greater profit bore to the less profits of tion, harsh criticism, and altercation between managers other investments-nay, in a greater ratio, for the expenses and operative partners. He would now say a word or and anxiety of managing more capital in his own concern two upon the question-" Ought any legislative provision were less. The rate of wages depended upon the proporor other arrangement to be made, by which the right of tion which capital in any trade bore to the number of association, if obviously exercised to the detriment of the operatives in it. Increasing and rapid accumulations of community, might be controlled or neutralised?" His capital in any trade necessarily raised wages. Inasmuch as he demanded that free competition should determine answer to that was-every act of an individual which prejudiced his own interests, was directly or indirectly in- the price of labour, the master was in the right. Inasjurious to the community, which was merely the organised, much as he denied the possibility of raising wages upon sympathetic, and interconnected sum of individuals an arbitrary command by one set of employed, without within a definite territorial limit. The detriment to the diminishing in precise proportion the wages of another community, therefore, did not justify legislative provi- class, he was in the right. [The allotted time having sion; something more was requisite-and that something now expired, Mr. Fort resumed his seat.] Mr. SAMUEL KIDD, of London, said, reference had been was the probability of interference being efficacious and wise. In the first place he would ask, what ground was made by a preceding speaker to a doctrine of great imthere to think that the Legislature understood the ques-portance laid down by Adam Smith, as to the wages of tion at issue better than the employers and the employed? labour, and Mr. Slaney had offered some valuable remarks The House of Commons, as at present constituted, con- upon the relation of labour to capital. But one of the sisted of 658 members, for the most part of the capitalist most striking facts of modern times, in connection with class. Few of them were specially conversant with labour, was that laid down by Mr. Dargan, whose expeany trade at all, and only some twenty-seven or thirty rience in the matter was of a very peculiar nature. were conversant with the cotton trade. There was no Dargan, it was well known, was a man of practical reason, therefore, to think that the members of the House experience, and the self-reliance of the man entitled any of Cominons had more sense, temper, justice, or wisdom, practical opinion he gave to considerable weight. Mr. than chosen leaders of any section of employers; Dargan had stated tha: the resources of a country, to be of and the House of Lords were not more conversant, but value, must be developed-that no wealth was prosperous far less, with the specialities of each case, If then, the which was not laborious-and that labour, to be efficient, legislature, with its prestige and other advantages, was must be adequately remunerated. It so happened that not an appropriate body to interfere, what other was? How that experimental fact, the result of Mr. Dargan's percould the right of association be interfered with? If it sonal observation, was supported by some of the leading was a right, why should it be interfered with? If political economists of the day; for McCulloch had stated it was not a right, but merely a fact, how could it be that high wages were necessary to encourage industry. interfered with, so long as the association did not become The CHAIRMAN begged to remind Mr. Kidd that the a burden to the non-associated, as by coming on the discussion was now upon the subject of combinations. parish? Association of masters could not be prevented Mr. KIDD submitted that it turned upon the question by invalidating association bonds-bonds, not the great of wages for labour, for if the labourer was not properly motive for performance of engagements, but for self-remunerated, dissatisfaction arose; and the right of the interest-desire of independence and victory-love of question was, how labour could be efficiently remunerated. caste-fear of losing it-respect for good opinion of his We might say this, combinations being the subject of the Wealth of own class-no law could touch those. Associations of present discussion -Adam Smith, in his masters were necessarily defensive, or else they would be Nations," said Masters have always and everywhere nugatory; for if it was done for the purpose of unduly been in a sort of tacit combination not to raise the wages depressing wages, by taking the initiative, new capital of labour above the actual value." [Book I., chap. 87.] came into the trade and obstructed labour at a rise, still Mr. M'Culloch made the remark from his own experience, making more than average profits, as, by the hypothesis, and if it be true that masters were in tacit combination profits had been artificially raised. Now, as to the ope- not to raise wages above the actual value of the rates now rative associations, they could not be touched so long as paid, it followed that the efforts of the operatives to inthe operatives kept off the parish. Why should they? crease wages could only be through the power and inIf breaches of the peace occurred, they must be dealt with fluence of combinations. It might be asked, as it had as breaches of the peace, irrespective of origin, and could been asked "are combinations objectionable?" The first not be connected with a combination. What was a com- question which struck him in connection with this was bination? What legal definition, realisable except in rare "do they exist?" and could any gentleman in that cases, could be devised of what was in the case of opera- room point him to any state of society in which comSo far as he knew the tives a mere verbal contract inter se ? available evidence bination had not existed. must necessarily be either hearsay or treachery-irregu-operatives of this country were generally commercial, and combinations originated in the worklar, or sparingly credible. But what was the parish to the first do? Relieve only such as could not obtain work at any shops, and he should be borne out in the asserprice. But supposing there was a long lock-out? The tion that the working men had the mind, and masters were the ratepayers, and the receivers of the they combined, by the natural laws of fellow-creatures, For what did they comhouse-rents. It was to their interest, therefore, in all having a common interest. cases of turn-outs, to work their establishments just that bine? They combined under an impression that time which would prevent the liability of the parish, and it would be advantageous to themselves to raise the the comfort of the operative. But was not that tyranny? value. of labour. The working man, for the most part, Economic instruction alone could prevent strikes, but was owner of nothing else but his skill and ability to when once they were commenced there was no time for labour; and it followed, naturally, that he would enthat! A strike was a state of war--passive war, if they deavour to get the highest wages he could; he knew
that combinations tended to that end: he might be convinced that in some instances they had been injurious; that in other instances they had been partially successful; but he felt, as a rule, he was justified in combining to keep up the rate of labour; the capitalists always being in tacit combination not to raise the rate of wages; and the working man being either in tacit or expressed combination to raise the wages. Naturally, when either party could not carry their point, a collision took place. The masters, upon a demand being made by the workmen, use the power they possess, and say, "we will not employ you on those terms." The result was a collision between two classes mutually dependent upon each other. He did not see how combinations could be got rid of; and he thought, although this conference might pass its opinion that they were objectionable, they would exist notwithstanding, because they had facts stronger than any resolutions or reasoning against them could be. As to legislative interference, here they had the fact that the law of the country, at one period, was opposed to combinations; and, whilst masters were allowed to combine, on the part of the workmen it was made criminal to do so. He would call attention to the broad fact, that these combinations existed in defiance of the law. As to the question of limited liability in partnerships, it was a very broad one. If he understood the mode in which the working man was to become a partner, it would be thus-that his labour would be worth about £1 per week, which was equal to the interest of £1000 at 5 per cent, so that the working man might be said to enter with £1000 of capital.
Professor PRYME.--Although I am unconnected with the working of manufactories, yet, as late professor of political economy in the University of Cambridge, my attention has been directed to the acquiring of information on this subject wherever I could, and I am practically connected with it as an employer of labour upon a large farm, and am what may be called a manufacturer of corn and cattle. (Laughter.) It appears to me that, in this discussion, we have fallen into some error, from the meaning that has been attached to the word "combinations." I contend that, to a certain extent, they are desirable, but when driven to extremes they are not so. No one can say that a combination of force is justifiable; but then there is the force of opinion, the force of ridicule and exclusion from society, which are as strong as physical force; and when it comes to that, I contend that combinations are injurious. A combination that, by one means or other, binds persons from exercising the right they have of selling their labour in the best way they can, may produce this inconvenience-it may destroy the trade itself. Many years ago there was, either in Sheffield or Birmingham, I don't remember which-a manufactory of fine files used in watch-making and other delicate machinery. There was a combination for higher wages. The manufacturers represented that their profits did not permit them to increase the scale of wages. After remaining for a long time on strike the operatives expressed their willingness to return to work at the old rate of wages. The employers were ready to give them work, but they had ascertained from their correspondents on the Continent that a great deal of that kind of work was being done at Geneva, that celebrated place for watches, and it was found that new manufactories had been set up there, and that in fact the trade in that department was gone from this country altogether, and the employers were obliged to say, "We would give you work, but we cannot sell our goods." The same applies in a limited degree to any class of manufactures, whether of cotton or lace. One manufacturer might be willing to give such an amount of wages as that the workmen may have a decent share of the comforts of life, but supposing he cannot sell at a profit he will not employ them. One speaker advocated the establishment of boards of trade for the settlement of prices. Supposing that was done, and if sanctioned by legislative enactment, they may
say, "We will not give less than a certain sum for a day's labour or for piece work," but how were they to compel masters to give employment? I will take, for instance, my department of agriculture. Certain things, we know, are indispensable to be done-the ploughing and reaping must be done; but if prices of labour were fixed, the farmer may say, It is all very well, but I will not give it." The work he contemplated doing may not be indispensable, and he resolves not to have it done. The manufacturer of cloth, likewise, may say, "I cannot give less than such and such a sum, because it is fixed by the Board of Trade;" but he may find, and no doubt constantly does find, that he cannot sell at a profit at that rate of wages, but that he could give employment at a less rate of wages, and it might be convenient to the operatives to take that instead of being out altogether; and therefore such a system would be injurious to both parties. I contend that it ought to be a matter for consideration, not so much whether a combination is at all legal, proper, or desirable, as the extent of coercion, restraint, or what other name you may call it, to which it should go. There is no set of men, perhaps, amongst whom there is a more modified combination than amongst farmers; but there are persons who feel it right to deviate from it, and I have deviated from it myself, by giving higher wages than my neighbours, because I wanted some extraordinary work done. I therefore maintain that combination is useful, if not carried to the extent of coercion in any way either by force of ridicule, or exclusion from society of others who think it right to take a different course.
Mr. W. NEWTON thought this question should be discussed on its practical bearing, as between the working man and the employer, if there were any of the latter present, and then those who were prepared to advocate the abstract question, would better rest their views upon the facts laid before them. He thought combinations were not objectionable, because they were necessary, and he would endeavour to give a few facts to show the necessity for them. He thought it quite impossible in the allotted space of 10 minutes to run from combinations to limited liability in partnership, and from that to the question whether legislative interference was called for. He would therefore confine his observations to the subject of combinations, and he would say that numbers of men were dealt with in factories, in a manner by employers which made combination a self-protecting process. Everything which an employer did in relation to the workmen, was done in the capacity of the master of the whole of them: he did not deal with the men individually-he would not reduce the wages of one or two men, and leave the rest alone, but he would give notice that on a certain day a reduction of 10, 15, or 20 per cent, would be made in the wages of all the hands at day-work; or if working by the piece, as weavers or cotton-spinners, a reduction of so much per piece or per pound in the article they manufactured. This reduction took place simultaneously. Supposing there was no combination, but that each nian acted independently on the defensive against the employer he would not be allowed to speak. He would not say, Jack, are you satisfied with this?" or " Bill, what's to be done now?" But the men naturally consulted each other; and probably, not being able to do so under the eye of the foreman or the employer, they went to the public-house and talked it over; and then they found the necessity of enlarging their co-operation, and met for that purpose in some hall or institute in the town, and a committee was appointed to carry out the instructions of the general body. How else could they do it? If the employer went to one man and said, "I will reduce you, because you are an indifferent workman; if you do not produce as much as another man, I shall take a penny per lb. off your wages," it would be for that man to deal with the employer individually; but when he spoke with one voice to the whole of the people employed, then it became necessary to combat his power, and to answer him with one voice, and, when united, both parties were upon
a perfectly equal footing The employer spoke with one voice, the employed must answer with one voice, and they were not equal till they combined to meet the employer on those grounds. He therefore contended that they were driven into combination, and not only were combinations necessary, but they had served to a great extent as provident institutions. It was known that these combinations had prevented strikes over and over again, and the employer had yielded what was asked for, because he knew the men had a fund to sustain themselves, and could stand out, and they had given what was required without strikes and without lock-outs, whereas they would not have given it had there been no combination. There could be no doubt that, and they were prepared to justify it not only upon their own wants, but upon the highest principles of political economy, high wages were beneficial to society. He had said that combinations had been to some extent provident institutions: he could speak as to the society of which he was a member, that, independently of the expenditure during the strike, merely for provident purposes, when the employers could not give employment, and when, for anything they knew, the men were turned upon the world penniless, the society of which he was a member, during a period of 5 years, gave benefit to members out of employment to the extent of something like £60,000, or at the rate of £20 per man per annum, during those 5 years. Therefore, he contended, no one could say that combinations were objectionable or injurious. Mr. Fort had said they were evils in this sense and the other sense, but he had not favoured them with a single fact to show what his assertions were based upon. Having stated the way in which combinations amongst working men arose, he was prepared to say they were valuable to working men, and, inasmuch as they composed the greater portion of the community, they were valuable to the community. They should not look at it as a class, but as a majority of the people; because if the working classes composed the great bulk of the community, whatever improved their condition improved the condition of society generally-and combinations had had that tendency. They enabled the working man to maintain a more independent position than if he had not combined. If he was not in combination he knew he had only his single influence to oppose against that of his employer. In trade societies a regular system of communication was established, and information was given where work was most plentiful-where it was best to go to get employmentand by that means the workmen assumed a defiant position against the reduction of wages; men felt the necessity of defiance in such cases, and they used combinations for that purpose.
Mr. JOHN PETTITT, (House Painters' Society, London,) said, Combinations were confessions of weakness; it was natural that the working man should be weak, by reason of his peculiar position: he was weak in the inefficiency of his education, and in the lack of time and opportunity to make up that inefficiency. It was notorious they were weak, by the inevitable circumstances in which, as it were, they were compelled to be each the antagonist of the other rivals in labour, and rivals in search of that which was often difficult to obtain. Their weakness was not alone the result of poverty or lack of education; but also of the disastrous circumstances which compelled men who should be most closely linked together-men who should begin in the workshop that bond which should unite them, to look upon each other, in times of scarcity of employment, speculating who would be discharged first. It was in the workshop or the mill that, too often, the first sceds of distrust were scattered. Combinations were not only objectionable, but difficult to carry out. Those who had studied the question on paper-who had only studied it theoretically, calmly, and dispassionately, knew nothing of the bitter feelings of a man when he learned that there was no further use
for him on the next Monday. The position of the mendicant was envied by few, much less by the skilful mechanic; yet such they were when they were out of employment, and thrown upon the support which their fellow-operators gave but meagrely. Combinations were objectionable to the working man because they were seldom unanimous; nevertheless, in some instances they served as a protection, not only to the honest, industrious, and skilled workman against the tyranny of an overlooker, or the rapacity of a selfish employer, but they were valuable to some of those who considered the interests of the employer as a part of the case; as protective to the honest and moral manufacturer, who, finding the interest of his invested capital increased, was willing to risk the remainder of his capital, and willing also to share with the operative the profits of the increased interest he received from his investments. Combinations amongst workmen were a protection to the honest and well-meaning manufacturer when the workmen combined in refusing to work for employers who only gave the same scale of remuneration to the operatives as before, notwithstanding the increased price of every necessary of life, and notwithstanding the increased interest the manufacturer derived from his investments. Combinations, on the other hand, were objectionable, simply because there was no moral consideration in the operations of trade; if the moral question were permitted to enter into the arrangement between the employer and the employed, it would be easy to see who was in the right and who was in the wrong; but when the skilled mechanic, who had endured much in the acquisition of his skill, was treated like a dead commodity in the market. it was then the difficulty arose as to how he was to defend himself in a moral point of view. It was then that combinations became necessary; it was thus combinations had been and would continue to be the only resource of the working man-a lamentable resource, it might be, but the only one available so long as morality was to have no place in the transactions between the employers and the em ployed. If a man saw prices higher, and did not share in it, he had severe reflections when he found that all the benefit went into the employer's pocket, and none into his own. When the operative found that there was left to the employer a profit of 25 per cent. upon his commodities, after deducting cost of material and production, whilst 7 per cent, was considered a high rate of interest, taking every source from which capital could derive interest, the workmen naturally wished for a rise in wages, and to that end no other means were open but combination. Even then the operatives were in a lamentable position; even then they were not equal in power to the employer, because one will and one power must be superior to the will and power of an aggregate body.
Mr. GILLANDER (glass-maker, Birmingham), said, as yet the subject had not been treated in a practical manner. They had before them the fact, that thousands of their fellow operatives were locked out. They were asked, “are combinations detrimental to the community?" However the decision of that question by this conference might be, if he told those whom he represented that the opinion was against combinations, they would not take any notice of it, because they had had practical experience that combinations were beneficial. With regard to legislative interference in the matter, he was sorry to say the legislature had too much to do with it at the present time. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, in legal proceedings between the employers and the employed, the decision was against the latter, because the magistrates were of the class of the employers. (Order.) He thought it would be wise on the part of this conference to throw overboard these two points altogether; because, if combinations were in existence, and no force could put them down, and the working classes believed them to be good, and the masters acted upon the same principle, he contended that that was the best course. As for legislative
interference, the people of England would not allow the legislature to interfere, and the combination was so great that it could not be prevented. Their attention ought rather to be directed to the finding out some agency that would render the evils complained of unnecessary. He thought the alteration of the law of partnership would go to effect it. In the trade to which he belonged he would venture to say there would not be an employer in twenty years' time who had not been an operative; but at the present time there was not a working man who had the opportunity of putting a crucible into the furnace, and if a good pattern was introduced, if it did not originate with some one of influence, it was rejected; and owing to the existing law of partnership the trade to which he belonged was entirely in the hands of persons who were inferior to the working man in knowledge. He said, therefore, give the man of small capital the opportunity of joining with others similarly situated, and then there would be no combinations except to produce something of use and value, and not to stop working. He was always glad to see men rise in the world, but not to take 20 per cent. out of their operatives; and so long as that was done there would never be a proper feeling existing between the employer and the employed. Instead of being treated like men, if any complaint were made, however well founded, they were told " If you do not like it go about your business." Were men to be treated with less consideration than a dog? Those were the things that produced combinations and generated ill-feeling. On the part of those whom he represented he felt grate ful to the Society of Arts for having called this conference. He felt it was one step in the right direction. It brought all classes together, and proved that the operative classes were not mere hands but men.
value of labour. But he believed that was a question
The CHAIRMAN-I have a great notion of the value of time, and also of adhering to the subject under discussion. I must request the gentleman, before his few moments of sand are run out, to keep himself within the question.
Mr. CUDDON said he was upon the subject of the value of labour. If they put a value upon the labour according to the price they paid for an article, they would begin in error, and the conclusion would be in error also.
The CHAIRMAN would call attention to the fact that the first proposition had already been under discussion for two hours. There were two other propositions of equal interest and importance. Upon the first proposition there seemed to be very little difference of opinion, for only one person had held that combinations were objectionable, except under certain circumstances. He therefore hoped, that after the next speech, the conference would proceed to the consideration of the second proposition. He had seen a strong desire on the part of the representatives of the working classes to speak; but he would put it to them whether they would not best advance their own interests by hearing what the employers had to say. Mr. LEIGH (Manchester boiler makers), thought the
Mr. HUGHES (barrister, of Lincoln's-inu) said, in reference to the subject of limited liability in partnerships, all that previous speakers had been contending for could be obtained by Mr. Slaney's Industrial and Provident Societies Act, inasmuch, as under that Act, an individual could advance five times the amount of capital that was brought into a concern and be the trustee for the same, but the limited liability they could not have in the ex-combinations at present carried out ought to be more isting state of the law. He saw in the room persons belonging to societies which worked upon the footing of putting capital into a concern at 4 or 5 per cent. interest, and then the liability was limited to five times the amount advanced.
clearly defined, and manufacturers should show that their combinations were more fair or just than those which were supported by the working men. First of all he would ask what were the reasons for combining? He would say the object was to support themselves and their Mr. CUDDON (of Camden-town, cabinet maker,) could families, to educate their children, and to maintain a position speak from experience that combinations, both of masters in society. The means to achieve that was wages--the and men, were necessary. The result of that, in his own working man's capital. It was seldom they found a working trade, was that a book of prices was agreed to; sometimes man with more capital than sufficed to serve him from week the book of prices did not apply, and then day-work was to week; and with respect to the tendency of combinasubstituted. For the last quarter of a century he had tions to influence the value of labour, he would say thisbeen out of business, and in the retirement of private life in his branch of business combinations had had some tenhe had time to reflect upon the bearings of this subject. dency to raise the value of labour 20 or 30 per cent. withFor his own part he felt it impossible to do justice to the out injury to the capitalist. If there had been no combimany important questions involved in this proposition: he nation, would his trade have been in the position it now would, therefore, confine himself to the question-" Are was? He could say, certainly not. He had on several combinations objectionable?" He considered them ob- occasions been deputed to communicate with the emjectionable, although necessary, because they were neces-ployers on behalf of his fellow-workmen, and he could say sitated by what he considered to be a false and unjust for himself that he had never been met with contempt or system of trade-the competitive system-and, whilst overbearing. But there was one system of combination that was countenanced, he considered combinations on which the masters found fault with-that was, endeavourboth sides must be countenanced also. The propositioning to monopolise the trade. The principle of political before the Conference, he submitted, contained a presumptive falsehood. If asked "Are combinations objection able as a means of influencing the value of labour?" he would submit that no combination whatever could tend to influence the value of labour. The man who talked of this must have in his mind some definite value which he puts upon labour. He should like to know what that value was. Let any one who beheld the noble edifices which had been reared in this metropolis and in Parisedifices stored with luxury and wealth-let any one put a value upon those, and if he could tell him the value of those, he would admit that he could also tell the
economy, to which he thought every one would subscribe, was, that every man had a right to labour, in what he is qualified to do, and must live by his labour. He (Mr. Leigh) said so too, so long as he did it by honourable means. If one manufacturer employed 100 men, and at the same time there was a surplus of labour in the market, what the men would complain of was this-that the skilled hands should some of them be discharged, and incompetent persons introduced and placed by the side of skilled men to learn from them, so that the employer might have the advantage of reduced wages to the new hands. The working men must na