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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 30.pdf

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only allowance that he receives from his employer consists of one peck of corn or meal per week.

Recent returns at the National Bureau of Statistics show that this unrequited labor furnished to the exports of the country during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1869, the enormous amount of one hundred and sixty-eight millions of dollars ($168,000,000) in gold, in the single article of cotton alone. Reliable testimony exhibits the fact that the net profits to the employer from this cotton product, making due allowance for the market value of the land, and deducting every item that enters into cost of production, and allowing each planter at the rate of two thousand dollars ($2,000) per annum for his personal services in superintending his laborers, amount to about fifty (50) per cent on the capital invested, while the laborers who produced it have not only been left penniless, but are nearly two millions of dollars ($2,000,000) in debt, despite the utmost thrift and economy on their part.

Your memorialists are aware of the so-called axiom of political economy which declares that "the price of labor, like that of any other commodity, is regulated by the law of supply and demand." But this proposition, while true in its application to a normal condition of society, where the ordinary laws of trade and production alone control prices, it is not true as regards the planters and their colored employees in the southernStates, for the land-owners there can and do absolutely regulate the price of labor by combining against the laborer. These combinations would ordinarily be controlled by prudent conversations of profit and loss, which usually govern the investment of capital, and the fear of counter organizations on the part of the employees would in some measure restrain the oppressive spirit of the employer. But in this case resistance by organized effort is impossible, for the earnings of the laborer leave him no surplus, and when he ceases to labor he begins to starve.

These combinations are very largely inspired and sustained by political causes, as well as by the certainty of ultimate success in securing from the laborer the largest possible amount of work for the smallest possible amount of pay. The political causes above referred to, as stimulating combinations on the part of the landed proprietors against the colored laborers, spring from the well-attested fact that the one class, with but few exceptions, exhibits an implacable hostility to our system of free government, while the other sustains it with unwavering devotion and uncompromising loyalty to the principles upon which it rests. Hence the possession of civil rights by the colored laborer, conferred upon him not only as an act of justice, but as a rational safeguard. and for his self-protection, invites aggression which he cannot repeal. and his political privileges become to him the source of personal peril. The freedom of the ballot is thus sought to be subdued by the necessity for bread, and, with the loyal colored laborer of the South, duty to his country involves danger to himself. Your memorialists believe that this great wrong is not without a feasible remedy, and that the true immediately practicable remedy lies in making a fair proportion of the laborers themselves land-owners. This will place colored agricultural labor beyond the absolute control of artificial or political causes, by lessening the amount of labor for hire, and increasing at the same time the demand for that class of laborers. To this end your memorialists pray that the surveyed public lands in the southern States may be subdivided into tracts of forty (40) acres each, and that any freedman who shall settle on one of such subdivisions, and cultivate the same for the space of one year, shall receive a patent for the same, the title to such land to vest in the settler and his heirs, and to be inalienable for the period of ten years from the date of entry.

Your memorialists beg leave to invite the attention of your honorable body to the following exhibit of the public domain now in the southern States, as shown by the records of the General Land Office :


Alabama,............6,496,421 Arkansas,...........11,307,278 Florida,...............17,328,344 Louisiana,...........6,493,499 Mississippi,.........4,718,517


It will thus be seen that there are in the South, in round numbers, forty-six millions three hundred and forty four thousand acres of public land.

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