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THE CIVIC FEDERATION AND THE LABOR PROBLEM
IN the foregoing chapter we have seen that Senator Hanna's increasing personal power in and outside of Congress had brought with it a higher and broader sense of responsibility. The limitations which he had imposed upon his early behavior in the Senate were abandoned. He began to interfere in the discussion of a far larger range of public questions; and whenever he interfered he advocated not a sectional or a class, but what he believed to be a national, policy. He was no longer the representative to the same extent of merely a business interest in politics. He proposed to represent the whole country, and his power could not have increased as it did unless an increasing number of people had been convinced of the good faith of his intentions and his peculiar ability to make them good.
It is by no means accidental, consequently, that just when his personal political power was becoming nationalized in its expression, he became vitally interested in the better solution of the most critical national economic problem — the problem, that is, of the relation between capital and labor. This problem was fundamental from Senator Hanna's point of view, because all his economic ideas were based upon his personal experience as a productive agent and his political experience as the representative of certain productive agencies in American society. The equitable distribution and the abundant consumption of the economic product were supposed to take care of themselves — provided the productive agencies could be made to work efficiently, actively and harmoniously. He had in his own opinion contributed effectively to their active and efficient operation by helping to protect them against injurious political agitation; but the plain fact was that they did not work harmoniously. Capital and labor were in a condition of more or less constant warfare; and this warfare diminished the efficiency of the productive organization and constituted a threat to political security and social integrity. The temporary subsidence of the agitation against business only brought into sharper relief this fundamental discrepancy in his whole scheme of American economic salvation. He had, moreover, other and more personal reasons to be interested in the warfare between capital and labor. The one serious dispute in which he had been engaged with his own employees had made an indelible impression on him. The bloodshed, the violence and the resulting spirit of suspicion and hatred seemed to him as unnecessary as it was deplorable and repellent to the American tradition of fair dealing among individuals and classes. The experience had profoundly influenced his subsequent attitude towards his own employees. It was at the root of his determination to keep personally in touch with them, so that he could know and understand their grievances and so that they could actually see his good faith in his eyes and in his manner as well as in his deeds. In spite, however, of his fair and generous treatment of his employees and of their loyalty towards him, he had been denounced as a labor-crusher; and this had been done apparently for no better reason than that, as a successful business man, he must have oppressed his men. He answered the attack vigorously and convincingly; but the ominous cloud which had descended upon his political career merely because he had been a large employer of labor forced upon his attention the very practical question: Why should he have been charged with being a labor-crusher when there was not the slightest evidence that he had been anything but very fair and generous in his treatment of his employees? He sincerely believed that the policy which he advocated of unrestrained business stimulation and expansion was as beneficial to the wage-earner as it was to the employer. Prosperity meant as much as anything else the full dinner-pail. Without business activity and the confident investment by capitalists in business enterprises, laborers' wages could not increase. Unless labor was efficient and steady, the economic value of capital was very much impaired. All sorts of arguments could be used to prove the identity of the interests of employer and employee “in the long run”; but the fact remained that the two always had quarrelled about the division of the product and were still quarelling. As a severely practical political economist Mr. Hanna could not be satisfied with results “in the long run.” Big strikes, particularly about wages, were very embarrassing to a political leader who was trying to convince the mass of the people that they were bound to get their full share of the fruits of prosperity. If his political system was to prevail, the ultimate identity of interests must somehow be made more immediate; and it became in a sense his duty to make it immediately effective. As a joint result, consequently, of his politico-economic system and his increasing personal prominence and responsibility, he was being driven to take an active interest in the settlement of labor disputes; and during 1901 it so happened that an instrument was placed in his hand which enabled him to give systematic practical expression to this interest. In 1893 there had been organized in Chicago a Civic Federation, the purpose of which was to gather together people of all classes and interests for the purpose of investigating and discussing various questions of public policy. One of its chief objects was to bring to the investigation and discussion of these questions contributions from men who were dealing with them in a very practical way and from radically different points of view. The idea met with success, and as the conferences increased in size the Federation found imperceptibly its work and its membership becoming more than local. It had engineered conferences on combinations and trusts and on the reform of primaries, to which people from all over the country were invited; and finally in June, 1900, it changed its name to the National Civic Federation. Senator Hanna's attention had been called to the organization before and during the campaign of 1900. The Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Lyman G. Gage, was an honorary President of the Federation and took a lively interest in its work and welfare. He introduced its Secretary, Mr. Ralph M. Easley, to President McKinley and Senator Hanna with the express object of having the purposes of the Federation explained to them. Mr. Hanna was not, however, at that juncture likely to be interested in a discussion club — no matter how intelligently conducted. The campaign
was ahead of him. His attention was fastened on a little voting club – called the Electoral College. So the Secretary failed to arouse his interest, and the Federation probably looked to him merely like a body of conversational reformers. During the following summer the strike among the anthracite coal miners raised the labor question in an acute form, and that question became the subject of first conference of the Federation as a national body. An Industrial Arbitration Department was formed, which subsequently assumed the better name of the Department of Conciliation and Arbitration. Little by little this department waxed in importance. Its work and the classes of men interested in it broadened. Besides many prominent business men, a number of even more prominent labor leaders joined the Federation and became active in the Conciliation Department. Mr. Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, was a member of the Executive Council. John Mitchell, President of the United Mine Workers of America, and Dan J. Keefe, President of the International Longshoremen, Marine and Transport Workers' Association, were closely associated with the work. The department had quickly grown to be a really efficient agency for the better association of business men with union leaders and economic experts. In December, 1900, an increase of the arbitration committee was considered desirable. Mr. Easley asked Dan J. Keefe what employers on the Lakes his union dealt with largely, and found fair in their general attitude and behavior. He mentioned several, but added that Daniel R. Hanna, Senator Hanna's son and a member of the firm of M. A. Hanna & Co., was the fairest of them all. The Secretary shied away from the suggestion. He feared that any prominent association of the name of Hanna with the Federation would arouse political prejudices and hurt its proper work. The next day the Arbitration Committee met, with Mr. A. C. Bartlett in the chair. When the question of increasing the membership of the committee came up, Mr. Easley stated with reluctance that the name of Daniel R. Hanna, Chairman of the Dock Managers' Association, had been suggested, and awaited an explosion. But no explosion followed. George Shelling, a labor union man, a cooper by trade and a Commissioner of Labor under former Governor Altgeld of Illinois, rose and said: “There is no more radical Democrat on this committee than I am. I move that Daniel R. Hanna be made a member of it. I know from what Keefe said he is all right.” The invitation to join the Committee was issued and accepted. The firm of M. A. Hanna & Co. had remained true to its traditional policy of dealing fairly and generously with its employees, and for that reason one of the partners was naturally suggested as a member of a general committee on conciliation and arbitration. Early in 1901 the Industrial Department found itself very much in need of Senator Hanna's help in order to deal with a difficult dispute in the anthracite coal trade. We have already remarked that during the campaign of 1900 Mr. Hanna used his influence with the coal operators to settle a strike which was hurting the chances of Republican success. An agreement had been made which expired on March 31, 1901, but this agreement was a temporary compromise which satisfied neither side. The Union had voted to strike on April 1, unless a more satisfactory arrangement could be made with its employers. The Conciliation Committee could not get in touch with the operators in order to make an attempt at adjustment; and remembering Senator Hanna's contribution to the former agreement, they decided to ask his assistance. They were warned that the Senator's interest in the matter might not be as keen as it was during the campaign, but they decided to take the chance. Mr. D. R. Hanna arranged a meeting with his father. Senator Hanna responded immediately. He went to New York, had a conference with Messrs. Mitchell and Keefe and decided to place the matter before Mr. J. P. Morgan. The latter turned it over to President Thomas of the Erie Railroad. Senator Hanna arranged a meeting between Mr. Thomas and Mitchell, and as a result of this conference, an agreement was reached which was to run until April 1, 1902. During his visit to New York on this business, the plans and purposes of the Conciliation Committee of the Civic Federation were explained to Senator Hanna and immediately aroused his interest. Its program was based upon the idea that the great majority of strikes might be averted, provided conferences