TIME was when the navy yards of this country were dominated by the politician. During the last two decades they have gradually been emancipated from political interference; and, but for recently-enacted legislation, it would have been possible to say that the work of upbuilding of our navy, both at the yards and by private contract, was proceeding without let or hindrance. But, unfortunately, certain hasty and ill-considered legislation by Congress in 1910 and 1911, passed in the interests of navy yard labor, has so seriously handicapped the private shipbuilders, by whom, of necessity the larger part of our new ships must be constructed, as to discourage them from bidding upon government contracts; thus most seriously threatening the future development of that arm of the service upon which the United States must depend for its future security and permanence. We refer to the eight-hour law, which renders it obligatory upon contractors for new ships to limit the hours of labor upon ships built for the government to eight hours a day. The law of 1910 was extremely vicious and objectionable in its effect, and the 1911 law goes far beyond it, in that it is so indefinite in its terms that it is impossible to tell how it would be interpreted by the courts. Furthermore, failure to comply with it automatically stops all payments for the work in progress, leaving the contractor to face the probability of long and expensive litigation, with uncertainty as to the outcome, before he may.qr may not receive the contract price of the vessel. The present law, as it is written, is vicious as to form and indefinite as to terms. In regarding the law in its broad economic aspects, there are many sides of the subject that should be considered. In the first place, the government is not passing a general law applicable to all of the material that it purchases; in fact, in the manufacture of these same ships that are to be built by eight-hour labor, all of the armor and a large part of the guns, the ammunition and the outfit, all of the electrical auxiliaries, the steel plates and shapes, and other parts entering into the vessel that are not built by the shipbuilders, will all be constructed without restriction as to hours of labor. Nor is any attempt made to limit the hours of labor of the manufacturer of the shoes and other clothing for the army and the navy, the manufacturer of the paper and other supplies used in all of the departments of the government, or any one of the other general supplies; but shipbuilding is singled out as the one industry that shall be assaulted by the powers in Congress. /Every one of the large shipyards in this country is engaged both in merchant and naval work, and, most of them, in other lines of manufacture. It is everywhere recognized as a practical impossibility to run different hours on different jobs in the same plant. It is not possible to build a merchant ship on one slip, where all laboring men and mechanics are employed from seven to six, with an hour at noon; while on the slip next to it there is building a government ship, upon which the men work from eight to five, with an hour at noon; nor, in a machine shop, can one-half of the tools be started at seven, to work until six on merchant work, while the other half are started at eight to work until five on government work. While it may be possible, by various subterfuges, to avoid the present wording of the law, this would merely mean a change, when the next naval appropriation act is written, to more closely tie the hands of the contractor; with the ultimate result of either forcing him to entirely abandon government work, or to place all of the work in his yard on an eight-hour basis. Let us observe the results of these two contingencies. If government work is abandoned, he is then no longer restricted by the requirements of any law that may be passed; but he has given up what is to every large shipbuilder in this country so important a percentage of his business as to render 'his very existence uncertain, and the effect might be to oblige many of the shipyards to close their gates. This would mean that all naval work must be done at navy yards, a consummation most thoroughly in accord with the desire of the large group of navy-yard-labor politicians. This, however, would result in an increased cost of the ships of our navy of not less than forty per cent, as is clearly shown in the case of the “Florida,” which has cost for direct labor and material nearly $6,400,000, as against the purchase price of the sister vessel, the “Utah,” built by private contract, of about $4,000,000. If, on the other hand, the shipyards accept the second contingency and proceed on a strictly eight-hour basis, they are then at a great disadvantage in their competition for other than government work. In all of the shops where tools are worked, the decrease in production due to the shorter hours will be directly in the proportion to the time, or a decrease of twenty-five per cent: while the wages of the men will unquestionably (as every manufacturer of experience knows) be increased, so that their yearly income will be unchanged—a further burden on the cost of production of twenty-five per cent. In other parts of the works, where labor is of a different character, by working piece-work prices, it is probable that the production in eight hours can be brought up nearly to the standard of ten hours; but the ultimate result will' be an increase in the cost of the labor entering into the production of by twenty-five to ten per cent, according to the character of the work. How much this means in merchant work or repairs, or in the miscellaneous work done by practically all of the in competition with other manufacturers, needs no careful argument to explain. Where the government is concerned, it will mean, as it already has in the case of the “Texas,” a very considerable increase in the contract price, and this, in effect will amount to a direct subsidy to labor by a government that has repeatedly rejected the subsidy idea when applied to helping the shipbuilding and shipowning industries of the country. many other arguments may be urged, we believe that the above outlines the principal ones that should be kept clearly in view in the consideration of the present anomalous condition, in which Congress singles out one particular industry, struggling with unremunerative conditions, and harasses and burdens it with the effects of an indefinite and ill-designed law, applicable only to work done for the government; while at the same time it passes by the greater and stronger industries of the country, which supply yearly to the directly or indirectly, many times more in value than do the shipbuilders. As matters now stand, both parties in Congress willingly subsidize labor on shore to the amount of $5,000,000 annually, but steadily refuse to subsidize labor working on the high seas a single penny. A Ray of Light in the Darkest Province of Chemistry WE have inour day a vast army of trained scientific workers, and methods of research have been so far standardized that practically any man of sound intellect and reasonable dexterity can turn out original work, provided he receives the right training and possesses the requisite determination and perseverance. But while there is thus going on a general filling out of the gaps in the existing network of our knowledge, it is given to comparatively few to do something far more than this, to open up an entire new field along an untrodden path, by methods specially devised for the purpose. It is such achievements as this which distinguish the great dominant spirits of science, the Newtons, the Maxwells, and Pasteurs. The works of such men, as we look into the past, stand out like milestones along the avenue of the progress of science throuQ'h the ages. In such a retrospect men and events appear naturally in their right perspective. It is somewhat more difficult to gage correctly contemporary investigators and results. Yet we would hardly hesitate to point to Sir J. J. Thomson, of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, England, as a man whose name will stand on the records of the history of science side by side with the greatest lights of the past. For his work far that of most of his contemporaries, through the wealth of entirely new and fruitful concepts which he has introduced into science by ingenious experiment and astute analytical and synthetic reasoning. It is thus that he has given us an entirely new horizon by his work on the corpuscular structure of the atom, which not only seems to reveal to us the true nature of one of the most recondite forces inherent in matter—chemical affinity—but which links into harmonious union such fundamental natural phenomena as the mass-inertia of matter and the self-inductive inertia of an electric charge. The latest product of the fertile mind of this great genius seems destined to throw light on the darkest chapter in the field of modern chemistry. We have hitherto rested content with the study of chemical substances in that state in which we find them either before or after a reaction has taken place. To ask, what is the nature of matter during the intermediate stages of the process of chemical transformation, would until recently have been regarded almost as an impertinent question, except perhaps when it came from the lips of such an eminent chemist as Schonbein. Yet it is this question which, among others, Sir J. J. Thomson seems to have found the means of attacking by direct experiment. By measurements of the deflection of positive rays in a vacuum tube containing traces of various substances, it is possible not only to identify the elements and compounds present, but at the same time to determine their atomic and molecular weight. Furthermore, since the rays are registered within less than a millionth of a second after formation, if chemical action is going on in the tube, it is to be expected that the method should disclose transient forms of matter intermediate between two chemical compounds, and thus shed light on the true nature of the process of chemical combination. And experiment bears out this expectation. In a tube originally charged with marsh gas, Sir J. J. Thomson has detected products of molecular weight 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16, corresponding to molecules having one, two, three, and four hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atom. These represent the several intermediate stages in the formation of the complete marsh gas molecule, and we have here the first positive observation of such half-formed molecules. It is probably not too much to say that these experiments, of which an illustrated note appears on another page of this issue, usher in a new era in the history of chemistry. A Record Rainstorm in the Philippines THREE great typhoons occurred in or near the Philippines last summer within a period of three weeks, viz., July llth-17th; July 20th-27th, and July 30th-August '2nd. The maximum rainfall occurred at Baguio—the official health resort of the Philippines. This place is 4,777 feet above sea-level and is normally one of the wettest spots in the islands, with an annual rainfall of 157.52 inches. Never before, however, had such a torrential downpour occurred here as on the four days July 14th-17th, 1911. The daily amounts, as recorded by a self-registering gage, were: 14th, 34.64 inches; 15th, 28.88 inches; 16th, 16.73 inches; 17th, 7.89 inches—a total for the four days of 88.14 inches! For a period of four days this record had rarely been equaled in the history of meteorology. In average intensity, however, this storm does not quite equal one that occurred at Cherrapunji, in the Khasi hills of India—a place well known to meteorologists as the wettest spot in the whole world. Here during the five days June 12th-16th, 1876, fell a total of 114.14 inches of rain, distributed as follows: 12th, 30.45; 13th, 7.75; 14th, 40.80; 15th, 22.84; 16th, 12.30. It so happened that the maximum in four days was a little less than Baguio's record for a like period, viz., 83.69 inches. Both these records were, however, eclipsed by that of a rainstorm that occurred in the mountains of eastern Jamaica, in November, 1909. At a place called Silver Hill the fall—if correctly measured— amounted to 135 inches in eight days, of which 114.50 fell in five days; 96.50 in four days, and 57.50 in two days. That these figures are at least approximately correct is shown by the records of surrounding stations.
This article was originally published with the title "Navy Yard Politics, A Ray of Light in the Darkest Province of Chemistry, and more"