When the power of the trades unions has been felt by capitalists they have not only bitterly complained of the evils of these combinations, but have not hesitated to stigmatize their action, as subversive of good order, and partaking of the nature of conspiracy. They have sought for legal enactments, to tie the hands of such organizations, and have appealed to j udicial tribunals for redress upon, to say the least, very doubtful grounds of legal complaint. This journal, while it has never denied the legal right of combination and association, for any lawful purpose, has constantly maintained that such labor combinations were unwise ; that although temporary improvement in wages might be ob tained by such means, the universal laws of trade and commerce would ultimately prevail, and thus in the long run, time, which makes all things even, would make wages even. The beginning of the reaction has already come, in decreased demand for labor at the present ruling prices, in the enormous stimulus to immigration imparted by the current rates of labor, and the influx of vast ubers of workmen, skilled and unskilled, from foreign countries'* to overstock the trades. Nothing but unlawful means can prevent the employment of these workmen at less than union rates, and the result will be that the next step in wages will be a.step downward. By demanding too much, the end of these unions will certainly be defeated, and from such over-demand, the leaders of these combinations—though in many cases intelligent and far-seeing—cannot restrain the mass of workmen. In this way these associations always fail to permanently improve the condition of their members. Combination and association are social powers of the greatest magnitude, but they are the most difficult to control of all the forces of society. Capitalists can hardly complain of such combinations with a good grace when they set the example themselves. Certain coal miners in Pennsylvania, have been doing the very thing which they have so often deprecated in their employes. They have combined to limit the amount of coal which they will take out in order to augment prices. The New Tork Evening Post, has taken the, ground that the power to take such action depends on the monopoly given them by the tariff laws, and so reasoning from particulars to generals, demands the repeal of those laws. Now although we have maintained, and do maintain that the protective policy is what is needed for this country, we. never advocated immutability in tariff enactments and are ready to concede thfet when a tariff intended to protect the labor of this country .against the cheap labor of Europe creates a monopoly in any branch of trade or manufacture, that branch has been too much protected and the tariff should be immediately reduced. The free trade teachers would substitute annihilation for reduction in all cases; we say annihilation also, in all cases where it can be clearly shown the life of any industry is not endangered thereby. _ Not to prohibit importation absolutely, but to so far protect any industry that it can compete on favorable terms withthe same industry abroad, is what we deem the extreme limit legislation should go in this matter. But we are far from believing the coal business to have assumed the proportions of a monopoly in this country, and we have reason to believe that the demands of the employes have been pushed so far that to ensure reasonable profits on their business, proprietors have found it necessary to take some decided stand. The position they have taken as an organization is most unwise, and will eventually react upon themselves. The same rule applies to coal-mining as to any other branch of industry. As advocates of protection we believe that the importation of coal from Nova Scotia, which the Post maintains can be done at the rate of $5 35 per tun, by the removal of present duty on coal, would, if it gave us cheaper coal, cost us dear in the destruction of an important branch of home industry. There is more than one effect which the adoption of the free trade policy would produce in this conn-try. Yet that one effect is the one which is so alluring to the laboring man that it is constantly held up to his vision. Give us free trade and we will give cheap clothing, cheap teas and coffees, cheap sugars, etc., etc., cry the opponents of protection. But in their list of low priced commodities, they always omit the important item of labor. Labor so cheapened by small demand that it will go begging for employment at any price and finally be forced to cultivation of the soil as a last and only resource. Not that there is anything about the noble occupation of agriculture, as such, to be dreaded, but it is easy to see that with the labor of the American people entirely turned into this channel, such enormous depreciation in prices must ensue, as will render farming unremunerative, glut the home market, and compel us to carry our products thousands of miles to sell them. This part of the picture is never presented by the free trade preachers. The word cheap is charming to the ear of the masses, so long as it is not applied to labor ; but when everything else is cheap, labor is never an exception. The Tribune has shown, however, that the removal of the duty on coal would not allow the Nova Scotia miners to get it out and bring it to this market at the price which the Pennsylvania miners seek to obtain. That price is, we understand, $5 per tun delivered in New York. We do not think this price so extravagant as to justify the statements of the Post. It is difficult for outsiders to comprehend how with present prices of labor it could be brought here profitably at much lower rates. The Post, and its co-workers may perhaps succeed in convincing the workingmen of this country, that in order -to secure cheap fuel, they can afford to submit to a large reduction in current rates of wages but our opinion is they will fail in the attempt. If, however, they succeed, the result will be so disastrous to the country that it will be compelled to return to the protective policy. The past history of the country warrants this prediction.
This article was originally published with the title "The Coal Miners' Combination"