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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the National Conference of Colored Men of the United States, Held in the State Capitol at Nashville Tennessee, May 6, 7, 8 and 9, 1879.
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hundreds and thousands of unskilled laborers are thrown upon a market wherein skilled labor is most in demand. There could be but one result from this—a reduction in the price of labor, and a decrease of its purchasing power.
Such a condition of affairs did not end here. Low wages gave way to none. Starvation and want followed closely in its train. Crime brandished her weapons of blood. Disease and premature death lingered near.
Ordinarily these results, in a time of general prosperity, would have arrested the attention of the close and observing student; but in a time of general depression, such as that which has characterized the last six years, these results are intensified to an alarming degree. The instinct of self-preservation endeavors to assert itself, hence we have outbreaks, strikes, labor riots, and subsequently socialistic organizations threatening the rights of private property, gangs of predatory individuals on every public highway and in every city, at least of the Northern and Middle States, begging for bread, but not willing to work. However much such an abnormal condition of society might excite our commiseration, its proposed attack on our right of property causes us at once to take up the defensive. In legislative halls, in social science conventions, in the periodicals of the day, remedies are demanded, and they are as readily proposed.
1. There are those who say that in restrictive legislation the remedy lies.
Some States have resorted to this method of stamping out the tramp by the severe discipline of the work-house. The success of this plan has not been assured, and even if it were practicable, it would be well to pause before adopting a plan which only implies an increased burden of taxation before which the national debt would pale in insignificance. Again, this remedy cannot be an effective one, because the terrors of fine and imprisonment will not appease the pangs of hunger, afford shelter from that inclemency of the weather, or cover the body with raiment. These are the demands which primarily send forth thousands into the world, eventually to swell the ranks of those who defy law and authority, and disregard public and private rights. The remedy which the law gives does not satisfy these demands, and therefore is inadequate.
2. The policy of colonization from the large cities to the public domain has been urged with a great deal of persistency by a few, who believe the remedy lies through a redistribution of population. A large outflow from the cities to till the soil would undoubtedly beget habits of industry and a regard for individual rights which do not now obtain among the dangerous classes of society.
It is true that the effect upon labor of such a policy would at once be seen in the increased prosperity of those who, remaining in the city, could obtain better food, live in better houses, and thereby prevent mortality rates from presenting the ghastly spectacle of a continual epidemic; but so rooted to city life have these people become that, let the inducements be never so flattering, the proportion of those who would accept the opportunities held out would comparatively be so small that the general conditions of the problem still remain. Given a city population which increases in larger proportion than the demands of trade and commerce for employment, what must be done, not only in the interest of prosperity, but to preserve society itself from the destructive inroads of socialism? This is the overshadowing question of the hour. Restrictive laws have been proven inadequate, and the dangerous classes will not voluntarily give up city life. What, then, remains to be done?
3. "Educate, educate," is the cry. Well, the fact is, in those sections of our common country wherein education has been made as free as the air we breathe, do we find this army of unemployed persons largest, and
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