Haymarket Affair Digital Collection

Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial evidence book. People's Exhibit 51.
The Alarm (Newspaper) article, "Eight Hours," 1885 Oct. 17

4 p.
Introduced Vol. K p. 645, 1886 July 29.
Transcript of article.

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The Alarm.

Oct.17th, 1885.


Trades Unions Gather in Mass Meeting At Turner Hall.

They prepare for the organization of the eight-hour work day.

Resolutions to Arm and Defend themselves against the starvation, prisons, and cold steel of capitalists.


Samuel Fielden was introduced as the first speaker. He gave an exhaustive review of the unsatisfactory condition existing between capital and labor, evidenced by the frequency of strikes resulting from the constant tendency to diminish rates of wages and extend the hours of labor. He dwelled upon the "grinding tyranny" of capital which makes it difficult for the working masses to achieve the emancipation of labor. The speaker referred to the St.Louis strike and the policy followed by the owners of the Pullman Car Works to prevent the organization of skilled labor, although the capitalists themselves claim the right to organize and band themselves together to hold labor in still greater and growing subjection. The Saginaw Valley Lumber owners ask their employes to enter into a compact never to appeal even to the law, whatever oppression they may have to confront

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before they are allowed to work at all. The capitalists could render the satisfactory working of the eight-hour law impossible. The laws were made only for the iron barons of Pennsylvania, the lumber barons of Michigan, and the Jay Goulds and Vanderbilts, who have extracted millions of profit from the labors of workingmen. The real and effective means ameliorate the condition of labor was to abolish private property, and so destroy competition. Ben Butler stated at Grand Rapids that he got more out of his employes by reducing their hours of labor than he did when they were working longer hours. For these reasons the speaker was opposed to the eight-hour law. It was not to relieve, but to make further profit out of their employes that employers here and there tried the experiment of reducing the hours of toil. He said that if they would abolish the government they could do something for themselves.

The wage-workers have not the means of making a prolonged fight. The employers have. They therefore hold the key to the situation. The Legislature of Michigan at its last session passed a ten-hour law. Yet the lumber firm of A. W. Wright & Co., of East Saginaw, compelled their lumber camp employes to sign a contract waiving any rights under this Act as a precedent to employment. In Illinois there has been an eight hour law on the statute book for nearly twenty years, yet it is a dead letter. These things, together with

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the action of the Labor federation, show that the wage workers must look beyond the law and to themselves to sustain their rights.

Mr. August Spies was introduced at this point and offered the following resolution:

Whereas a general move has been started among the "Organized Wage-workers" of this country for the establishment of an eight-hour work day, to begin on May 1st, 1886; and

Whereas, it is to be expected that the class of professional idlers, the governing class, who prey upon the bones and marrow of useful society, will resist this attempt by calling to their assistance the Pinkertons, the Police and State Militia; therefore be it

Resolved, that we urge upon all wage-workers the necessity of procuring arms before the inauguration of the proposed eight-hour strike in order to be in a position of meeting our foe with his own argument, force.

Resolved, that while we are skeptical in regard to the benefits that will accrue to the wage-workers from the introduction of an eight-hour work-day, we nevertheless pledge ourselves to aid and assist our brethren in this class struggle with all that lies in our power as long as they show an open and defiant front to our common enemy, the labor devouring class of aristocratic vagabonds, the brutal murderers of our comrades in St.Louis, Lemont, Chicago, Philadelphia

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and other places. Our war cry may be "death to the enemy of the human race, our despoilers."

August Spies supposed that Mr. Magie did not like the terms in which the members of the government were referred to. The reason of this was that Mr. Magie was one of those political vagabonds himself. There were 9,000,000 of the people engaged in industrial trades in this country. There were but 1,000,000 of them as yet organized, while there were 2,000,000 of men unemployed. To make the movement in which they were engaged a successful one it must be a revolutionary one. Dont let us, he exclaimed, forget the most forcible argument of all--the gun and dynamite.

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