Elements of Paradox in U.S. Labor History
Brody, David, Monthly Labor Review
Elements of paradox in U.S. labor history
In 1834, the General Trades' Union of Boston put forth a "Declaration of Rights' that began: "When a number of individuals associate together in a public manner for the purpose of promoting their common welfare, respect for public opinion, the proper basis of a republican form of government, under which they associate, requires that they should state to their fellow citizens the motives which actuate them in adopting such a course.' Sound familiar? It is of course a paraphrase of the Declaration of Independence. The document as a whole, in fact, reads like a rewriting of the Declaration, and so does much else in the rhetoric of the American labor movement of the 19th century. One of its hallmarks was a linking of labor's cause with the Nation's republican heritage. For many years, the 4th of July was a workers' holiday, celebrated by them with such toasts as: "The working men, the legitimate children of '76. Their sorrows left the legacy of freedom and equality. They are now of age and are laboring to guarantee the principles of the revolution.'
A labor movement battling for the principles of '76 could scarcely be attacked on the grounds of un-Americanism. So compelling, in fact, was the free labor ideology that it was appropriated by Abraham Lincoln and the emerging Republican Party of the 1850's in the debate over slavery. But what kind of labor movement could be built on republican principles? First, it would have to be inclusive in nature, open not only to wage earners, but to all who thought of themselves as "producers.' Second, it would have to concern itself above all with defending the equal rights and independence of …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Elements of Paradox in U.S. Labor History. Contributors: Brody, David - Author. Journal title: Monthly Labor Review. Volume: 110. Publication date: August 1987. Page number: 48+. © 1999 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. COPYRIGHT 1987 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.