LABOR CONDITIONS AND THE LABOR MOVEMENT, 1815-1860
Introduction. The opening up of the West combined with the rapid economic development of the country in general was such that, in spite of the great natural increase of population and the influx of immigrants, labor continued to be scarce as compared with the conditions in Europe and the economic position of the laborer was relatively favorable. However, the developments that were taking place in the general economic organization of the country and the growing importance of certain branches of industry such as mining and manufacturing were tending to bring about marked changes in the conditions affecting labor. Thus the increasing specialization and division of labor, combined with the growing scale of production, were tending to develop a group of hired workers who remained such throughout their life--in short, a distinct laboring class such as scarcely existed in colonial times outside of the group of slaves.
At the same time the development of mining and railroad transportation and the transfer of many industries from the household or the shop to the factory greatly altered the conditions under which the laborer worked. Also, the increased mobility of labor and the products of labor intensified the competition both among laborers and among the employers of labor, and so reacted upon the worker. Finally, all these developments led to efforts among the workers to organize themselves for the purpose of improving their condition and so gave rise to the beginning of the modern labor movement. These and other closely related developments made this period in the history of American labor significant as initiating changes in the condition and position of the laborer which in time created new problems of the most momentous character.
The Supply of Labor. The chief factors that determine the labor supply of a country were mentioned in Chap. VII. Among these was named the number of inhabitants of the country capable of doing work. The previous account of the rapid growth of population will suffice to indicate the increased labor supply thus made available during this period.
The general willingness of the people to work (excluding the slaves, a group which, having been previously described, will not be considered in