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Proceedings of the Colored National Labor convention : held in Washington, D.C., on December 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th, 1869.

1869-WASHGINGTON DC-Colored national Labor Convention 20.pdf

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While our organization is one which springs out of justice and self-defence, aiming not at conflict with capital, but seeking rather, so to adjust the relations of labor to capital, as to secure the just and fair treatment of each by the other, we found it in reason and moderation. Speaking comprehensively, while the interest and welfare of labor are cared for fully, no unwarranted and unfair exactions are made of capital whether its power be exercised through corporate or individual method. In other words, still the mutual and dependent relations of labor and wealth we would neither ignore nor rudely disturb. The laborer needs and must have the compensation which service brings. Without it he cannot secure either the necessaries of life or the means of support and educate his children, nor upon the other hand, is the wealth of the employer of such intrinsic worth as to be valuable above and beyond its use, in making effective the muscle and energy of labor.

"The Irishman would starve if not employed by the railroad company," said a brainless and heartless agent thereof. "But," replied the sagacious and philosophical son of the Green Isle, when thus addressed, "there would have been no railroad had God not made the Irishman to dig and shovel." Whether the Irishman be indispensable to railroad building, the principal here indicated is correct. It is digging and shoveling which make capital valuable; and the wealthy of this and other lands, once poor but now affluent, can testify that this saying is not altogether figurative.

Such are the interests of capital and labor, so mutual and intertwined in the great aims to be reached, the enterprises to be carried forward for the highest good of mankind, that to disturb them by inconsiderate and ill-advised action, on the part of the people or Government, is to violate a command written in the necessities of the race, and which may be fitly interpreted in the words of the injunction with regard to wedlock, "What God has joined together let no man put asunder." Thus married in interest we would have this bride and groom go forward multiplying their blessings in the earth, their happy relations in nowise disturbed by contentions or acts which show the one a tyrannical lord, or the other a menial cringing slave.

In our organization we make no discrimination as to nationality, sex, or color. A labor movement based upon such discrimination, and embracing a small part of the great working masses of the country, while repelling others because of its partial and sectional character, will prove to be of very little value. Indeed, such a movement, narrow and divisional, will be suicidal, for it arrays against the classes represented by it all other laboring classes which ought to be rather allied in the closest union, and avoid these dissensions and divisions which in the past have given wealth the advantage over labor.

We would have "the poor white man" of the South, born to a heritage of poverty and degradation, like his black compeer in social life, feel that labor in our organization seeks the elevation of all its sons and daughters; pledges its united strength not to advance the interests of a special class; but in its spirit of reasonableness and generous catholicity would promote the welfare and happiness of all who "earn their bread in the sweat of their brow."

With us, too, numbers count, and we know the maxim, "in union there is strength" has its significance in the affairs of labor no less than in politics. Hence our industrial movement, emancipating itself from every national and partial sentiment broadens and deepens its foundations so as to rear thereon a superstructure capacious enough to accommodate at the altar of common interest the Irish, the negro and the German laborer; to which, so far from being excluded, the "poor white" native of the South, struggling out of moral and pecuniary death into life "real and earnest, the white mechanic and laborer of the North, so long ill-taught and advised that his true interest is gained by hatred and abuse of the laborer of African descent, as well as the Chinaman, whom designing persons, partially enslaving, would make in the plantation service of the South, the rival and competitor of the former slave class of the country, having with us one and the same interest, are all invited, earnestly urged to join us in our movement, and thus aid in the protection and conservation of their and our interests.

In the cultivation of such spirit of generosity on our part, and the magnanimous conduct which it prompts, we hope, by argument and appeal addressed to the white mechanics, laborers and trades unions of our country, to our legislators and countrymen at large, to overcome the prejudices now existing against us so far as to secure fair opportunity for the display and remuneration of our industrial capabilities.

We launch our organization, then, in the fullest confidence, knowing that, if wisely and judiciously managed, it must bring to all concerned, strength and advantage

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