SG Desk  
The SG Signature Papers

Quotations were chosen to illustrate Gompers' opinion on issues of the day.  Selection
does not imply agreement or endorsement.)

1876: ...[T]o effect any good by our Unions, we must bring all elements working in our trade into one Organization, for the wrongs heaped upon one element today are merely the precursor for another to morrow. (Vol. 1: SG to George Hurst, Jan. 22, 1876)

1887: I have said before that the Knights of  Labor is a body capable of immense good.  It could, in harmony with the trades unions, do anything under the sun. . . . I was for 12 years a true K. of  L., but when they would force upon me what I would not permit my employer to do it was time for us to part.  How many of you, if your employer said you should not belong to a labor union, would accept this dictum? . . . . The Knights have formed an organization for educational purposes, but the union is the body that fights the battles between capitalist and employe. (Vol. 2: Baltimore Sun, Apr. 7, 1887)

1887:  I believe with the most advanced thinkers as to ultimate ends, including the abolition of the wage system. But I hold it as a self-evident proposition that no successful attempt can be made to reach those ends without first improving present conditions. (Vol. 2:  Leader, July 25, 1887)

1890:  I believe that the trade unions will bring about both the improvement of conditions and the ultimate emancipation of workers. . . .  I think that the emancipation of the working classes has to be achieved by the workers themselves.  Trade unions are the pure, unadulterated organizations of the working classes.
(Vol. 2: New Yorker Volkszeitung, Dec. 21, 1890)

1891:  I have no word of censure for a man because of his views on political, social or economic questions, but I contend that trade unions are the natural form of organization for wage earners under existing economic conditions, and I propose (so far as I may be able) to keep them undefiled and free from alliance with any political party . . . . Factions who wish to dally with hobbies and fine spun theories . . . have no place in the ranks of trade unionism. (Vol. 3:  New York Herald, Jan. 11, 1891)

1892: Whatever has been gained for the toilers in our country has been the achievement of the trades-unions.   (Vol. 3: North American Review, July 1892)

1893: We want more school houses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more constant work and less crime; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful and childhood more happy and bright. These in brief are the primary demands made by the Trade Unions in the name of labor. These are the demands made by labor upon modern society and in their consideration is involved the fate of civilization.
(Vol. 3: Address, Aug. 28, 1893)

1900: There was a time when workmen were denied the right of leaving their employers, when they were part of the soil, owned by their employers, and any attempt on their part to leave was regarded as the escape of a slave, brought back, imprisoned, branded, and gibbeted.  Not many years ago, when workmen counseled with each other for the purpose of resisting a reduction in their wages or making an effort to secure an increase,  it was held to be a conspiracy punishable by imprisonment.  Through the effort of organized labor, an enlightened public sentiment changed all this until to-day the right to unite for material, moral, and social improvement on the part of workers is accepted by all.
(Vol. 5:  SG to Editor, Washington Evening Star, May 15, 1900)

1902: The more thoroughly the workers are organized and federated the better they are prepared to enter into a contest, and the more surely will conflicts be averted.  Paradoxical as it may appear, it is nevertheless true, that militant trade unionism is essential to industrial peace. (Vol. 5:  American Federationist, Feb. 1902)

1904: There is no doubt of the truth . . . that the labor movement has given me the opportunity to learn, to gain experience, and whatever experience, whatever knowledge I may have gained more than the average workman is due to the opportunity that the labor movement has given me, and this I appreciate to the fullest. (Vol. 6: Address, Aug. 10, 1904)

1905: Any one may say that the organizations of labor invade or deny liberty to the workmen. But go to the men who worked in the bituminous coal mines twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours a day, for a dollar or a dollar and twenty five cents, and who now work eight hours a day and whose wages have increased 70 per cent. in the past seven years -- go tell those men that they have lost their liberty and they will laugh at you. (Vol. 6: SG to National Civic Federation, Apr. 25, 1905)

1910:  It is a fact that trade unionism in America moves on its own set and deliberate way.  In so doing, it has outlived wave upon wave of hastily conceived so-called "broad" movements that were to reconstruct society in a single season. And it has sufficiently good cause for continuing its own reasoned-out course.
(SG,  Report to the AFL Convention,  Nov. 1910)

1911: It may be, as you say, "the enforced demand for the closed (union) shop is one of the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of industrial peace."  But the fact back of this fact . . . is that the trade union is not formed for peace.  It is organized for protection -- with peace, of course, where possible.  But peace, only, may be death. (SG to Marcus Marks, Jan. 16, 1911)

1911:  Either the trade unionists are right or they are wrong. If they are wrong, every one of us who counts himself a trade unionist ought to be shunted aside and thrown overboard. If we are right, we ought to stick and fight and take whatever consequences may come, conscious in the knowledge and conviction that the right will prevail.  (SG to John Lennon, Feb. 10, 1911)

1912:  And what have our unions done? What do they aim to do? To improve the standard of life, to uproot ignorance and foster education, to instill character, manhood and independent spirit among our people; to bring about a recognition of the interdependence of man upon his fellow man. We aim to establish a normal work-day, to take the children from the factory and workshop and give them the opportunity of the school and the play-ground. In a word, our unions strive to lighten toil, educate their members, make their homes more cheerful, and in every way contribute an earnest effort toward making life the better worth living. (McClure's Magazine, Feb. 1912)

1912: We want a minimum wage established, but we want it established by the solidarity of the working men themselves through the economic forces of their trade unions, rather than by any legal enactment. . . .   We must not, we cannot, depend upon legislative enactments to set wage standards. When once we encourage such a system, it is equivalent to admitting our incompetency for self-government and our inability to seek better conditions. (SG to Maud Younger, May 17, 1912)

1912:  The American Federation of  Labor realizes that there is still much to do, but repudiates the insinuation which is implied by . . . advocates of so-called "Industrial Unionism". . . that the trade unions are rigid, unyielding or do not adjust themselves to meet new conditions and do not advance, develop or expand . . . .   The stigma which advocates of so-called "Industrial Unionism" would attach to "Trade Unionism" is on a par with the stigma which the enemies of organized labor apply to the union shop when they designate it as the "closed shop." (American Federationist, Nov. 1912)

1913: I have come to the conclusion . . . that it is our duty  to live our lives as workers in the society in which we live, and not to work for the downfall or the destruction or the overthrow of that society, but for the fuller development and evolution of the society in which we live; to make life the better worth living.  (Vol. 9: Testimony, U.S. Congress, House Select Committee, Sept. 11, 1913)

1916: To strengthen the state, as Frederick Howe says, is to devitalize the individual. . . .  I believe in people. I believe in the working people. I believe in their growing intelligence. I believe in their growing and persistent demand for better conditions, for a more rightful situation in the industrial, political, and social affairs of this country and of the world. I have faith that the working people will better their condition far beyond what it is today. The position of the organized labor movement is not based upon misery and poverty, but upon the right of workers to a larger and constantly growing share of the production, and they will work out these problems for themselves. (Testimony, U.S. Congressional Hearing, Social Insurance, Apr.1916)

1923: The formation of unions is the expression on the part of the workers of a feeling which seems to me to be close kindred of the feeling which possessed the men who first battled against the control of political institutions by a few and the exclusion from political expression of the many. If there is any truth at all in democracy, if democracy has any real justification, it is as thoroughly justified in our industrial life as it ever was in our political life. (SG to Newton Baker, Jan. 3, 1923)

1923: I know that there may be several men who have charged the American Federation of Labor . . . to be against what they are pleased to call industrial unionism or the one big union, and I would venture to say that when they . . . consider this proposition outside of our union [Cigar Makers International Union] then they are industrialists; but when there is a proposal to open our doors and go into the highways and byways and organize these men and women against whom literally we are closing our doors, it is opposed. (SG Address, CMIU Convention, Aug. 14, 1923)

1924: Hungry stomachs may create a riot, but never a successful revolution. (SG Address, AFL Convention, Nov. 24, 1924)


1887: It is a fact that the employing class . . . endeavor to get the greatest amount of labor for the smallest wages for which they can get employes. On the other hand, the workers have always endeavored to get the greatest amount of money for the smallest amount of work.  Under these conditions it is impossible for capitalists and laborers to have common interests. To preach otherwise [is] an unpalatable truth, or to cry peace when there is none, is like the ostrich, who hides his head in the sand. 
(Vol. 2: Baltimore Sun, Apr. 7, 1887)

1888:  Do I believe in arbitration? I do.  But not in arbitration between the lion and the lamb, in which the lamb is in the morning found inside the lion.  I believe in arbitration between two lions or two lambs.  When a man puts a pistol to my head and tells me to deliver, there is no arbitration. There can be arbitration only between equals.  Let us organize: then we will stand on an equal footing with the employers. (Vol. 2: Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 10, 1888)

1891: Against us we find arrayed a host guarded by special privilege, buttressed by legalized trusts, fed by streams of legalized monopolists, picketed by gangs of legalized "Pinkertons," and having in reserve thousands of embryo employers who, under the name of "Militia," are organized, uniformed, and armed for the sole purpose of holding the discontented in subservient bondage to iniquitous conditions. (Vol. 3: Address, Sept. 2, 1891)

1895: If ever men have demonstrated their incapacity, their impotence to conduct commerce and industry, the men in command of our economic and social conditions have certainly given plain proof of it. (Vol. 4: Address, July 5, 1895)

1900: To-day we are living in an age of combinations and trusts, and the individual workman is as weak against the combination of wealth as would be a straw in a cyclone. It is essential that the United States Government, where it can exercise, should exercise its power to protect the weak against the rapacity of the strong. (Vol. 5: Testimony,  U.S. Cong., House Comm. on Labor,  Apr. 12, 1900)

1904: To-day more than ever . . . the capitalist class, or the worst elements in that class, stand as a constant opposition to anything we may demand, and also as a constant force to try and invade the rights we have already secured, and to take away from us the advantages we have achieved. (Vol. 6: SG to AFL Convention, Nov. 1904)

1911:  You are our employers not our masters. Under the system of government we have in the United States, we are your equals, and we contribute as much, if not more, to the success of industry than do the employers. (Testimony, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Labor, Apr. 29, 1911)

1912: It is not the organizations of labor which take away from the workers their individual rights or their sovereignty.  It is modern industry, modern capitalism, modern corporations, and modern trusts. . . .  The workingmen in modern industries lose their individuality as soon as they step into a modern industrial plant, and that individuality which they lose is regained to them by organization--they gain in social and industrial importance by their association with their fellow workmen. (Testimony, U.S. Congress, House Committee on the Judiciary, Jan. 17, 1912)

1914: When an employer has a mass of unorganized working people working for him he is master of all he surveys, and any attempt upon the part of the workmen to petition or request a change is looked upon by him as a rebellion. It is an insult to his position and to his dignity, because he, in his mind, has furnished them with work and with the means by which they live. He is perturbed at the idea that his position as their benefactor has been called into question. On the other hand, the workmen, who have been docile all this time, who have regarded the employer as omnipotent and all powerful, when they finally revolt in desperation against this one-sided arrangement, when they are for a while -- possibly a short while -- out, they imagine themselves all powerful, and the employer as having no power at all. (Vol. 9: Testimony before the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations, Apr. 9, 1914)

1915: What we have endeavored to secure in industrial relations is industrial peace. When industrial justice prevails, industrial peace will follow. It is a result and not an end in itself. (SG to McGinness, Mar. 30, 1915)

1916: Class is no assurance of genius, ability or wisdom. No man is fit to control the lives of his fellows. The trade unions are the agencies through which wage-earners are working out their destinies and interposing a check upon the arbitrary power in industry. (American Federationist, Nov. 1916)

1923: I do not think American labor is engaged in a class struggle and I do not think American labor believes it is engaged in a class struggle, because in our country we have no such thing and I hope never will have. We are engaged in a struggle for common justice and for principles which are applicable to all alike. (SG to Newton Baker, Jan. 3, 1923)


1896: The beasts of burden have their day of rest and recuperation and certainly what nature and nature's laws intended for them, can not be less so to civilized men. (Vol. 4: SG to Jennie Finnie,  June 12, 1896)

1904: We don't love to work only.  The mule works, too. Work alone is not the ideal and hope for the attainment of the human kind. I have said that we want to work and ought to work, but the work we perform for our fellow man should yield to us a better life.  It won't do to tell us that our forefathers lived on coarser food than we do now.  It is not satisfactory or convincing.  The fact of the matter is that we live in the United States of America, the richest country on the face of the globe -- and the millions of honest toilers of America are willing to work to produce the great wealth and place it at the feet of the people of our country, but in return the toiling masses, the great producers of wealth . . . insist that there should be a better life and better home and better surroundings for the great producers of wealth. (Vol. 6: Address, Oct. 4, 1904)

1911: Look at the killing of the men in the mines, in the mills, in the factories, and in the shops.  Oh! it is an awful price we pay  for our prosperity and our progress.  Higher price than is paid in any country on the face of the globe. (Fresno Labor News, Sept. 23, 1911)

1911: If, in all this civilization, and if, in all the wealth produced, if in all this great fertile country of ours . . . we assert first, that wherever and whenever there be one human soul in our country walking the streets unable to find the opportunity to perform work and service to society, to demand in return for it the decent livelihood with opportunities for the cultivation of the best that is in us, if there is that opportunity denied to any one single man or woman in all this country, to him or to her all our boasted civilization is a sham. (Fresno Labor News, Sept. 23, 1911)


1887:  The capitalist, no less than the aristocratic class, is responsible for the stupid and wicked policy that has turned many of the fairest lands into huge military camps, and has deluged every continent in blood for the aggrandisement of their own countries, and to force upon the conquered peoples the products which their makers cannot consume in consequence of the lowness of their wages. (Vol. 2: Union Advocate, Oct. 1887)

1887: [W]e hail with deep satisfaction the arrival of an embassy from our mother country charged with the noble duty of proposing a treaty of perpetual peace between the two great political divisions of the English-speaking people. (Vol. 2: SG to William Cremer, Nov. 19, 1887)

1896: The man who loves war is an enemy to the human race. (Vol. 4: American Federationist, Mar. 1896)

1897: We are proud of the country which we claim as our own; we are proud of its history, proud of its heroes and proud of its traditions, and we hope as we struggle for its glorious future.  But we maintain that patriotism does not mean the hatred of our neighbor. Nor do we believe that it is a wise policy, as some would advocate, that a foreign war might be a good cure for our domestic evils. (Vol. 4: New York World, Mar. 12, 1897)

1897: In the exercise of great powers often requisite under military control, the right of free meeting, the right of free speech, and free press is endangered.  And when the smoke of battle is gone these rights, taken from the masses of the people under often necessary conditions, are seldom  freely given back to the people. (Vol. 4:  New York World, Mar. 12, 1897)

1898: The attempt to divert the thoughts and interest of the American people from the wrongs that need attention at home, by occupying them with foreign complications of any kind, is criminal folly.  The idea that we shall escape the duties which we owe to the people by becoming a nation of conquerors, is clearly in the minds of prominent advocates of "expansion" and "imperialism."  They have indicated that they hope to see changes in our boundaries, talk of alliances and wars, and perhaps war and conquests, all to keep the workers and the lovers of reforms and simple justice diverted and powerless to dig out abuses and cure existing injustice. . . . Imperialism points to large armaments and more frequent wars.  It means means greater demands upon the workers in taxes, blood, and life.  It tends to the more frequent and unblushing use of force against the weak and lowly.   It subordinates right and justice to an unwise or blind greed of gain, and the exploitation of islands whose millions are to be made the tools, willing or unwilling, of the few thousand.  And this is what some men call a cure for social unrest! (Vol. 5: American Federationist, Sept. 1898)

1907: War is the practice of the most consummate skill in the art of destruction--destruction of human life and human product.  Peace affords the opportunity to develop the best that is in man, both productive and constructive.  It is the noblest attribute of man's duty to man, the world over. (Vol. 7: Address, Apr. 17, 1907)

1907: Labor realizes the fact that industry and commercial competition constantly becomes keener the world over; that standing armies are often used for the purpose of opening up new markets for so-called "surplus products"; that these entail the dangers of fratricidal wars between international competitors, and that, therefore, upon the shoulders of the intelligent, working wealth-producers, the wage-earners of all countries, devolves the larger responsibility for the preservation of Peace; that the voice of labor must become more potent in the formation of a great international public opinion, such a public opinion as before whose supreme tribunal both monarch and merchant must inevitably bow, and that wars of aggrandizement and greed must be relegated to the oblivion of the barbaric ages. (Vol. 7: Address, Apr. 17, 1907)

1914: Twentieth Century nations must adopt as a principle of government that peace is a basis of all civilization. Peace is not a by-product of other conditions, but it is a condition that can be secured by agents and institutions designed to maintain it.  Peace is the fundamental necessity for all government and progress--industrial, intellectual social and humanitarian. . . . One of the main purposes of governments, then, must be the maintenance of international peace. (Labor Day speech, Sept. 1914)

1917:  The European war has demonstrated the dependence of the governments upon the cooperation of the masses of people.  Since the masses perform indispensable service, it follows that they should have a voice in determining the conditions upon which they give service. (American Labor's Position in Peace or in War, Mar. 1917)

1917: The corner-stone of national defense is justice in fundamental relations of life -- economic justice. (American Labor's Position in Peace or in War, Mar. 1917)

1918: The World War in which we are engaged in is on such a tremendous scale that we must readjust practically the whole nation's social and economic structure from a peace to a war basis. It devolves upon liberty-loving citizens, and particularly the workers of this country, to see to it that the spirit and the methods of democracy are maintained within our own country while we are engaged in a war to establish them in international relations. The fighting and the concrete issues of the war are so removed from our country that not all of our citizens have a full understanding of the principles of autocratic force which the Central Powers desire to substitute for the real principles of freedom. (The Nation's Forum: Labor's Service to Freedom, 1918)

1918: In America, the labor movement stands behind the government, and behind President Wilson.  We stand behind him not because he is president, but because he is right and because he is a spokesman for freedom and democracy for all the nations of the world. (SG addressing a public meeting in Rome, Oct. 1918)

1918: The United States of America wants nothing whatever out of this war.  You cannot give us anything that we would take.  What we want is not only for us to live in peace and unafraid for our freedom, but to know that the peoples of the nationalities of the world have an opportunity in the arts of peace, working out their destinies and in the common cause vying with each other to bring about the great, the true ideal of internationalism and human brotherhood.  (SG at Italian Government reception, Oct. 1918)

1923: That war transformed me from an ultra-pacifist to one willing to fight and sacrifice with my fellow countrymen in defense of the principle of living our own lives and working out our own destiny; and if there be a mad-man nation still, large or small, which will attempt to repeat that monumental crime I hope that the generations, perhaps yet unborn, of our self-governing civilized nations, may throw themselves with equal vigor in the battle to maintain the fundamental principles of freedom, justice and humanity. (SG to Newton Baker, Jan. 3, 1923)

1924: [D]uring the years of [World War I] I was absorbed with the one object that it was labor's war as much as it was the war of any other group of our people; that labor had to make good in helping to win the war and to emerge from the war with freedom and democracy safeguarded and its honored name and high ideals maintained. (Seventy Years of Life and Labor)


1883: [I]f you wish to improve the condition of the people, you must improve their habits and customs.  The reduction of the hours of labor reaches the very root of society.  It gives the workingman better conditions and better opportunities and makes of him what has been too long neglected -- a consumer instead of a mere producer. . . .  A man who goes to his work before the dawn of day requires no clean shirt to go to work in, but is content to go in any old overall . . . but a man who goes to work at 8 o'clock in the morning wants a clean shirt; he is afraid his friends will see him, so he does not want to be dirty.  He also requires a newspaper; while a man who goes to work early in the morning and stays late at night does not need a newspaper, for he has no time to read it, requiring all the time he has to recuperate his strength sufficiently to get ready for his next day's work. (Vol. 1: Testimony, U.S. Cong., Senate Comm. on Education and Labor, Aug. 16, 1883)

1888: The men who work seven or eight hours are not the men who can be bought. (Vol. 2: Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 10, 1888)

1890: We want eight hours and nothing less.  We have been accused of being selfish, and it has been said that we will want more . . . .  We do want more.  You will find that a man generally wants more. . . .  You ask a workingman, who is getting two dollars a day, and he will say he wants ten cents more.  Ask a man who gets five dollars a day and he will want fifty cents more.  The man who receives five thousand a year wants six thousand . . . while the man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then raise his voice against the poor devil who wants ten cents more a day. . . .  We do want more, and when it becomes more, we shall still want more.  And we shall never cease to demand more until we have received the results of our labor. (Vol. 2: Louisville Courier Journal, May 2, 1890)

1891: The long hour men go home, throw themselves on a miserable apology for a bed and dream of work.  They eat to work, sleep to work, and dream to work, instead of working to live.  The man who goes home early has time to see his children, to eat his supper, to read the newspaper.  That reading the newspaper creates a desire to be alone for half an hour, and that starts a desire for an extra room, just a little extra room.  That extra room is a milestone in the record of social progress.  It means a carpet on the floor, a chair, an easy chair, a picture on the wall, a piano or organ . . . .  Let the people demand an extra room with all that goes with it, and they will get wages enough to buy it.  Time is the most valuable thing on earth: time to think, time to act, time to extend our fraternal relations, time to become better men, time to become better women, time to become better and more independent citizens. (Vol. 3: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mar. 23, 1891)

1900: I look to the proposition of labor to reduce the daily hours of toil of the working people of our country as the greatest proposition that has ever  been offered to the Congress of the United States and to the employers of the United States; calculated to be of more benefit for the whole people of our country; calculated to be the greatest safety for the perpetuation of republican institutions, a greater safety  for the progress, the success of the people of our country -- all classes -- of attaining a position as great and grand and successful in industry, in commerce, in intelligence, in humanity, in civilization than all the other propositions that have been submitted to this or any other previous Congress of the United States. (Vol. 5: Testimony, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Labor, Mar. 8, 1900)

1914: I am in favor of the legal enactment for the maximum hours of labor for all workmen in direct Government employment, and for those who do work that the Government has substituted for Governmental authority. I am in favor of the --and the federation . . . is in favor of the maximum number of hours for children, for minors, and for women. (Vol. 9: Testimony before the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations, May 22, 1914)


1883:  The trades unions are by no means an outgrowth of socialistic or communistic ideas or principles, but the socialistic and communistic notions are evolved from some of the trades unions' movements. (Vol. 1: Testimony, U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Aug. 18, 1883)

1893: You understand me, or at least you should, that I have not a word to say against socialists as such or socialism as a science or a theory but those in our country who prate the loudest of their socialistic partisanship have rendered the greatest service to the capitalist class they were capable of in antagonizing the trade union movement. (Vol. 3: SG to Sam Goldwater, Dec. 1, 1893)

1897: In my opinion, we have been tolerant too long of men who have gone about the country declaring the size of their hearts, and repeatedly offering up their necks for the hangmen's noose as their stock in trade for practical work in the labor movement. (Vol. 4: SG to P. J. McGuire, Sept. 14, 1897)

1903:  I want to tell you, Socialists, that I have studied your philosophy; read your works upon economics, and not the meanest of them; studied your standard works, both in English and German -- have not only read, but studied them.  I have heard your orators and watched the work of  your movement the world over.  I have kept close watch upon your doctrines for thirty years; have been closely associated with many of you, and know how you think and what you propose.  I know, too, what you have up your sleeve.  And I want to say that I am entirely at variance with your philosophy.  I declare to you, I am not only at variance with your doctrines, but with your philosophy.  Economically you are unsound; socially, you are wrong; industrially, you are an impossibility. (Vol. 6: SG to AFL Convention, Nov. 1903)

1903: We recognize the poverty, we know the sweatshop, we can play on every string of the harp, and touch the tenderest chords of human sympathy; but while we recognize the evil and would apply the remedy, our Socialist friends would look forward to the promised land, and wait for "the sweet by-and-by."  Their statements as to economic ills are right;  their conclusions and their philosophy are all askew. (Vol. 6: SG to AFL Convention, Nov. 1903)

1907: If some of these millionaire faddists . . . would more keenly interest themselves in improving conditions, than trying to divert the attention of the workers to the millennium of the sweet by and by, they would be of more practical advantage to their fellows here, and now, as well as for the future. (Vol. 7: SG to Maud Younger, July 31, 1907)

1915: You are mistaken in asserting that I am embittered against everybody or anything that savors of socialism. What I resent and what I have persistently opposed is any effort that will mislead the wage-earners and delude them with vain hope. There have been so many burdens and so much suffering and so much misery heaped upon those who are called the wage-earners, that I resent with every particle of force within me anything that would perpetuate their suffering or lead them into greater depths. Because I am firmly convinced that socialism is founded upon principles that will not lead out into broader liberty, independence and opportunity, I have done what I could to show men the fallacies of the doctrine of socialism. (Vol. 9: SG to Max Hayes, Oct. 14, 1915)

1924: War experiences led me to wonder if Socialism, in addition to its philosophic and economic short-comings, had not been manipulated to further sinister purposes. (Seventy Years of Life and Labor)


1891:  There seems to me no money that is so iniquitous or that is more dishonorable to us as a nation than that insatiable greed which drags the children into the mills and factories and grinds their young bones into dollars. To  me it seems that the child of the nineteenth century should be something more than a machine. (Vol. 3: Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 28, 1891)

1891: Of all the ills that mankind suffers from the unjust and cruel tendencies of modern methods of wealth producing, [child labor] seems to me to rise to the most horrible proportions. Our centers of industries, with their mills, factories and workshops, are teeming with young and innocent children. . . .  The hope of the perpetuity of free institutions is endangered when the rising generation is robbed of the opportunity to enjoy the healthful recreation of the playground or the mental improvements of the school house. The children of the workers have none to raise a voice in their defense other than organized wage workers, and they should and will take steps to protect them from the contemptible avarice of unscrupulous corporations and employers. (Vol. 3: Tacoma Daily News, Mar. 18, 1891)

1895: Modern capitalism has in many instances run mad, so that even to-day in some of our southern states we see the government declaring to those who possess wealth: "Come to our state.  We offer you . . . our children no matter how young they may be, take them; do with them what you will; place your octopus upon them; drag them into the factory, into the mill or into the mine; grind their bones into dollars; we give you full privilege, only come." (Vol. 4: Address, July 5, 1895)

1895:  No race of barbarians ever existed yet offered up children for money. (Vol. 4: Address, July 5, 1895)

1903: When organized labor made its advent upon the field of industry it found the children in the mills and in the mines, in the shops and in the factories, and it is due to the much-abused organizations of labor that we find upon the statute books . . . the laws protecting the lives of the young and the innocent children, who through our efforts have been put into the school rooms and into the playgrounds rather than in the factories and the workshops. (Vol. 6: Address, Jan. 8, 1903)

1911: The children must be protected against the greed of their parents as well as the exploitation of their employers. (Vol. 8: SG to Indiana Legislature, Feb. 21, 1911)

1883:  I have no objection to the people of any country coming to America, Chinese excepted (I am not so sentimental as all that), provided they come here of their own free will, and not influenced by deception. (Vol. 1: Testimony, U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Aug. 16, 1883)

1893: I distinctly remember when a little more than a dozen years ago the immigration question was first finding occasional expression in the labor organizations that I heard a member, who had left the Emerald Isle scarcely three years, denounce the evils the toilers suffer from immigration.  From that time the thought occurred to me that there is something more in this world than philosophy and philanthropy which prompts the people to advocate measures of reformatory character. (Vol. 3: Labor Signal, Mar. 17, 1893)

1899: I agree with you, too, that it is hardly fair to have our people crowded out of employment  by those who simply come here for the purpose of working at low wages -- higher than those they may be accustomed to in their own countries-- and then after a while return there.  I am also free to say to you, however, that I do not see how a remedy is to be obtained without closing the ports entirely, and as to that there is considerable division of opinion.  It may not be amiss to call attention to the fact that the introduction of one machine in a trade may throw more men out of employment than the "Greeks" who come here even in the manner which you describe. (Vol. 5: SG to John Watts, Nov. 23, 1899)

1905: The American Federation of Labor secured the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Law by the Federal Government, and the effective amendments to that law. Our fellow workmen living on the Pacific Coast and Hawaii realized the danger that not only threatened but confronted them from Chinese, Korean, and other Mongolian laborers, and the American Federation of Labor conventions declared that efforts should be made to extend the exclusion laws or to bring about some exclusion of Oriental laborers coming to the United States and its possessions. (Vol. 6: SG to L. W. Tilden, Sept. 16, 1905)

1907: Among the means . . . to effectively limit or restrict immigration, the American Federation of Labor has declared for the illiteracy test as decidedly important and necessary. (Vol. 7: SG to Joseph Cannon, Jan. 19, 1907)

1910: Of course the children of immigrants go to school, and after a few years they become Americanized. But how about the grown-up persons, the adults? Who makes an effort to Americanize them? The labor organization. . . .  We have done more to help establish somewhat of a conception of Americanism amongst the emigrants to our country than any other agency of which I know.  (Vol. 8: Testimony, U.S. Cong., Subcommittee of the House Committee on Labor, May 25, 1910)

1912: At the outset, I want to say that the organized labor movement of America is not a "know-nothing" organization. It does not want to erect a wall around the borders of our country and keep everybody else out; it does not declare "America for Americans," or for those who are now within American borders.  But on  the other hand it is equally true that the thinking workingmen of the United States have . . . come to the conclusion that there must be some better regulation and some limitation. (Vol. 8: Testimony, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Feb. 29, 1912)

1914: The worst that can be said against [a provision to require a literacy test for immigrants] would be that it would have a tendency to induce prospective immigrants from other countries to attain some degree of education in order that they might meet the test. Is there any good reason for objection upon that score? The fact that there have been and are a number of unemployed workers in the United States ought to prompt men engaged in the affairs of our country to take some consideration of the workmen already here. (Vol.8: SG to the Editor, Intermountain Worker, Mar. 17, 1914)

1916: The workers of America have felt most keenly the pernicious results of the establishment of foreign standards of work, wages and conduct in American industries and commerce. Foreign standards of wages do not permit American standards of life. Foreign labor has driven American workers out of many trades, callings, and communities, and the influence of those lower standards has permeated widely. . . . The labor movement has urged the adoption of a national policy that would enable us to select as future citizens of our country those who can be assimilated and made truly American. . . . It is only a half truth to say that the literacy test would close the gates of opportunity to illiterate foreigners. As a matter of fact there is very little real opportunity for these people in our industrial centers. Usually they have been brought over here either by steamship or railroad companies and other greedy corporations, by employers, or as a result of collusion between these groups. They have been brought over here for the purpose of exploitation, and until they develop powers of resistance and determination to secure things for themselves they have little opportunity here. These same qualities would secure for them within their own countries many of the advantages that later come to them here. (Vol.9: American Federationist, Apr. 1916)

1923: One thing to be considered in discussing immigration is that the greater the number of immigrants the less American the United States becomes. . . . The American Federation of Labor believes that the foreigners now in this country should be assimilated before others are permitted to come except from such countries as Great Britain, France, Germany and Scandinavia. (SG to William Gerber, May 31, 1923)

1923: America must be kept American. Those who would flood the country with hordes of immigrants from southeastern Europe care no more for America then do the Hottentots. Their desires are governed by greed. (SG to William Gerber, May 31, 1923)

1923: The illiteracy and low mentality of our own people, of those born in this country cannot be overcome unless we raise the standard of knowledge among the foreigners. (SG to William Gerber, May 31, 1923)

1924: [W] hen the Bohemians began to come to New York in large numbers and allowed themselves to be used by the employers to build up the tenement system which threatened to submerge the standards of life and work that we had established, I felt that those tenement workers were foreigners. The first step in Americanizing them was to bring them to conform to American standards of work, which was a stepping stone to American standards of life. (Seventy Years of Life and Labor)


1883:  I do not want it understood that my vote can be purchased for a beefsteak, but that I will vote always for measures that will improve the condition of the workingmen. (Vol. 1: Testimony, U.S. Congress, Senate Comm. on Ed. and Labor, Aug. 16, 1883)

1883:  I do say that the Government of the United States ought to be in advance of  its people. It is the duty of a legislator, as I understand it, to frame and adopt measures for the welfare of the people.  I believe that the duty of the legislature is to propose laws for the benefit of the people. The Constitution of the country, I believe, does not give our National Government the right to adopt a law which would be applicable to private employments; yet for its own employes it ought to be in advance. . . .  The selfish, mercenary, or other such motives which govern individuals in their struggles to accumulate wealth ought not to exist in our Government. . . .  (Vol. 1: Testimony, U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Education and Labor, Aug. 16, 1883)

1887: The Labor movement, to succeed politically, must work for present and tangible results. (Vol. 2: Leader, July 25, 1887)

1892: [O]nly in so far as we gain economic independence can our political liberty become tangible and important. This may sound like political heresy, but it is economic truth. (Vol. 3: North American Review, July 1892)

1896:  The industrial field is littered with more corpses of organizations destroyed by the damning influences of partisan politics than from all other causes combined. (Vol. 4: Circular, June 27, 1896)

1900:  We ask for State legislation, and we are told to go to the Federal Government; we come to the Federal Government and it is contended that these things rightfully belong to the States.  It does not make a particle of difference. If we come here to the Federal Government and ask for remedial legislation, we are told that these things will come when they become a custom, and not by legislation.  And then we go to employers, to their companies, and ask them to confer with us in order to inaugurate that custom, and they tell us, "If you do not get out of here we will put a boot in the place where it will feel uncomfortable."  If we strike or ask that the matter be submitted to arbitration, we are told there is nothing to arbitrate.  If we strike in order to enforce what we believe to be our rights, we are enjoined; and if we exercise what we believe to be our rights in spite of the injunction,  we are guilty of contempt of court and are put in the jug during his honor's pleasure.  There is not anywhere we can go for the purpose of trying to bring about some remedy, some change, some improvement but we are met by the same opposition, prompted by the same cause, prompted by the same motive, and that is to leave the workingman helpless to the mercy of the employing class. I think, though, I may say that that time has gone by.  The workingmen of our country have learned somewhat of their rights, and they propose to stand by them, and they have the courage to do so, too. (Vol. 5: Testimony, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Labor, Apr. 12, 1900)

1903:  We have been asked how many trade unionists there are in Congress.  I venture to say that there are more trade unionists in Congress and in our state Legislatures holding clear cards than there are elsewhere in similar positions the world over. (Vol. 6: SG to AFL Convention, Nov. 1903)

1904:  We deny the assertion made by some of our opponents when they say the American Federation of  Labor is against political action.  We are against the the American labor movement being made a political party machine. (Vol. 6: SG to AFL Convention, Nov. 1904)

1906: Let the slogan go forth that we will stand by our friends and administer a stinging rebuke to men or parties who are either indifferent, negligent, or hostile. (Vol. 7: SG to Millard Pettingill, Apr. 25, 1906)

1906: There are some men who can never  understand political action unless there is a party. (Address to CMIU 144, Apr. 26, 1906)

1906:  It is true we did not defeat as many men as we should like to have done, but I want to tell you what we did.  We put the fear of God into them. We cut down their majorities, we cut down their pluralities. . . .  Our opponents will not be so arrogant toward the representatives of labor as they have been in the past. (Vol. 7: SG to AFL Convention, Nov. 1906)

1911: It is a material fact that the working people of our country ask no special favors at the hands of a State Legislature or the Congress of the United States.  We present to you the conditions which exist, and call your attention to the fact that there are some things which the working people of America are unable to do for themselves of their own initiative, and in so far as  these conditions exist, that which we can not do for ourselves, the people collectively in their legislative bodies must necessarily do for us. (Vol. 8: Indianapolis Star, Feb. 21, 1911)

1911:  I feel persuaded that the time has come when we shall have a constructive, progressive, radical labor party, unless the Democratic party shall perform its duties in the premises. (Vol. 8: Indianapolis Star, Feb. 21, 1911)

1912:  My opinion is that we require no more Commissions, no more Sage investigators.  What we want is action, and we want it immediately.  We want a Department of  Labor established, with a Secretary at its head, who shall have a seat in the President's cabinet, and that man to be a man who knows what Labor is, not only from a theoretical standpoint, but from the practical standpoint. . . .  I hope you will do your utmost to see that such a Department is established, and let us get away from the puny vacillating system of unnecessary excuses by referring matters to irresponsible Commissions, from which no permanent and beneficial results ensue. (Vol. 8: SG to A. W. Rucker, Feb. 7, 1912)

1913: I am free to say to you, and I will stand by it, I hold, and I have said, that when an injunction undertakes to violate the constitutional rights guaranteed to me as a citizen I am going to assert my rights as a citizen to test the question and to take the consequences. (Testimony, U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Jan. 6, 1913)

1914: I am very suspicious of the activities of governmental agencies. (Vol. 9: Testimony before the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations, May 22, 1914)

1914: We have been asked, or advised, to go for all the laws we can get. Save the workingmen of America from such a proposition! There are numbers of laws we can get, but prudence and defense of the rights and the liberties of the toilers are much more important than the effort to secure all the laws we can get. (Vol. 9: AFL Convention, Nov. 20, 1914)

1914:  It is less than a month ago the Congress of the United States declared that the labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. It required a third of a century to work for the accomplishment of this one declaration, and in spite of that, one of the delegates [to the 1914 convention] said: "Why, pass such a law as the maximum eight-hour law and no court would dare to enforce anything like compelling men to work eight hours or more." Is that so? Since the passage of the labor provision in the Clayton bill, signed by the President of the United States, the ink upon that act scarcely dry, a Federal Judge, Judge Anderson, sitting in Indianapolis, has issued an injunction forbidding the men of labor to quit their work. . . . (Vol. 9: AFL Convention, Nov. 20, 1914)

1915: Several times the proposition to form a labor party has been considered by the trade union movement, but after careful and thorough consideration it has been invariably decided that we can attain our purposes more quickly and more effectively by continuing our political policy of independent political action partisan to principles rather than to a party. (SG to Joseph Lockhead, Sept. 11, 1915)

1915: If the workers surrender control over working relations to legislative and administrative agents, they put their industrial liberty at the disposal of state agents. They strip themselves bare of the means of defense–they can no longer defend themselves by the strike. To insure liberty and personal welfare, personal relations must be controlled only by those concerned. ("Workers and the 8-Hour Day," pamphlet)

1915: A law that is really a law, is a result of public thought and conviction and not a power to create thought or conviction. The enforcement of a law follows naturally because the people will it. To enact a law with the hope and for the purpose of educating the people is to proceed by indirection and to waste energy. It is better to begin work for securing ideals by directing activity first for fundamentals. Frequently, when the people concerned become mindful and eager for what will promote their own welfare, they find that they are much more able to secure what will benefit and adapt their methods to changing circumstances than is any law or the administration of that law.(American Federationist, Feb. 1915)

1917:  I assume it is not necessary for me to give any assurance of how utterly out of accord I am with the IWW and any such propaganda; but some of the men deported  [from Bisbee, Arizona] are said to be law-abiding men engaged in an earnest effort at improvement of their condition. If the men treated as stated have been guilty of any crime, they should be tried in the courts and given the opportunity for defense. There is not law of which I am aware that gives authority to private citizens to undertake to deport from the state any man. If there be lawlessness, it is surely such conduct. (SG to Woodrow Wilson, July 20, 1917)

1924: There are a number of people who mistakenly charge me with being a Democrat. I never was a member of the Democratic Party. I was at one time, in my early years, a member of the Republican Party, and cast my first vote for a Republican President--U. S. Grant as soon as I attained my majority. I never did belong to the Democratic Party. In the pursuit of the Nonpartisan policy of labor in which I thoroughly believe, I supported Republican or Democrat or publicist as in the varying parties I believed that they would best serve the people without regard to party. In the last twelve years and up to 1924 the Democratic Party, a large number of them represented these principles in advocacy of the peoples rights--that there were a larger number of them in Congress than Republicans--it was not because of partisanship that we supported a larger number of Democrats than Republicans but because, as I say, there was a larger number of Democrats favorably inclined toward the pressing interests and rights of the masses of the people. (SG Press Conference, Nov.10, 1924)


1883: Strikes have their evils but they have their good points also, and with proper management, with proper organization, strikes do generally result to the advantage of labor, and in very few instances do they result in injury to the workingmen, whether organized or unorganized. . . .   Strikes ought to be, and in well-organized trades they are, the last means which workingmen resort to to protect themselves against the almost never satisfied greed of the employers.  Besides this, the strike is, in many instances, the only remedy within our reach as long as legislation is entirely indifferent to the interests of labor.  (Vol. 1: Testimony, U.S. Congress, Senate Comm. on Ed. and Labor, Aug. 16, 1883)

1887: An organization that calls or orders men on strike should furnish bread to maintain the strikers.  It is easy to issue an edict to put 1,000 men or women on strike, but they must, if they have principles, at least furnish the commonest necessities of  life. . . .  It is all very well that the assemblies pass resolutions of sympathy, but sympathy without relief is like mustard without beef. (Vol. 2: Baltimore Sun, Apr.7, 1887)

1890: The history of labor is littered with the skeletons of organizations done to death because of hasty strikes gone into, for the best of reasons but unprepared. (Vol. 2: SG to John Plunkett, Feb. 8, 1890)

1902: When ignorant and reckless plutocratic sheets denounce the sympathetic strike as immoral, un-American, dangerous to social order and stability, and intolerable in a civilized society, the intelligent unionist contemptuously shrugs his shoulders and passes over the rant without a word of comment.  You can not reason with malignant stupidity. (Vol. 6: American Federationist, Aug. 1902)

1902: A strike on any scale is merely a trial of industrial strength, an application of the law of  "supply and demand,"  so often quoted by labor's opponents. How can a society based on free contract and free competition object to such a method of determining the comparative strength and endurance of capital and labor? (Vol. 6: American Federationist, Aug. 1902)

1902: [T]he sympathetic strike will remain a part of labor's plan of campaign; will be employed when necessary or essential to labor's protection against aggressive capitalists who openly or covertly aid those who make war on us.  In fact, it may become more and more prominent as the solidarity of labor finds expression in compact, great, organic federations of various trade unions.  Labor will relinquish none of its legal and moral weapons to oblige its enemies. (Vol. 6:  Am. Federationist, Aug. 1902)

1911: You know me well enough that I am not one to generally encourage strikes. I have done my share and will continue to do my part in the effort to prevent them, but there comes a time when if a strike is avoided it means the demoralization of the men, taking the heart and spirit out of them, and they go to work under worse conditions and in a greater degree of bondage than theretofore. (Vol. 8: SG to Harry Eichelberger, June 6, 1911)

1914: Always bear this in mind, that strikes, in the largest number of cases, consist of those unorganized or the newly organized. As workmen and workwomen remain organized for any considerable time, strikes diminish. They establish for themselves and with their employers means and methods of conciliation, of arbitration, and it is only when those absolutely fail that there is a stoppage and break in their relations. After all, that which we call a strike is nothing more nor less than an interruption of the former relations which exist between the workmen and the employers for the purpose of arriving at a new working agreement. (Vol. 9: Testimony before the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations, Apr. 9, 1914)

1923: I do not like war and I do not like strikes, but I am unwilling to oppose all wars and for the same reason I am unwilling to say that strikes are wrong. Both are right and necessary and should be used when the cause of justice can be retained in no other way. (SG to Newton Baker, Jan. 3, 1923)

1923: I think the workers understand much better than anyone else the cost of industrial war. They pay the full price.... Labor will cease to engage in contests with employers as soon as labor finds it possible to induce employers to conduct the affairs of industry on a higher plane. Labor is ever eager to substitute negotiation for contest. (SG to Newton Baker, Jan. 1, 1923)


1888:  The wages of women in manufactures are often less in proportion than the amount appropriated by the state for the support of convicts in the penitentiary. (Vol. 2: Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 10, 1888)

1891: Among the things we advocate is that women should have equal suffrage with men. . . .  We not only work for equality of suffrage, but work to fight and obtain equal wages for her. (Vol. 3: Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 28, 1891)

1891: Most people who start out with the idea of organizing women desire to do it wholesale, and my experience is that while a number of them may be organized, the elements of permanency and success are lacking for the same reason that many organizations fail among men . . . . namely, the failure . . . to recognize the absolute necessity of making each Union protective in its character.   In other words, that the members of the Union should be required to pay higher dues into the Union, to receive a considerable benefit from it and thus enlist the material interests of the members in the Union; not so much for the sake of this material interest but for the sake of keeping them in the Union.  When that is once secured progress can be made in any direction to the interests of labor. (Vol. 3: SG to Elizabeth Morgan, Sept. 10, 1891)

1897: Under the circumstances you mention I should say that the young lady button workers can organize separately as a union. . . .  While this is so it is . . . not the best or wisest step.  These men and women all work together and their interests are identical and each one discussing them should discuss them jointly in order to arrive at the best possible conclusions.  However as  I say if they insist upon organizing a separate union it is better to have them organized in that way than not organized at all.  (Vol. 4: SG to Joseph Cosgrove, Apr. 10, 1897)

1900: If the men and the girls were to receive the same wages, do you think that the employers would bend all their energies to oust men and replace them with girls? Isn't it more likely that the men would have a better chance of employment and be safer from absolute idleness, if both the men and the girls were organized, and equal pay for all was demanded? (Vol. 5: SG to Harry Lamb, Mar. 6, 1900)

1903: [O]ne of the purposes of  the union label is to improve the condition of the working people, and that includes "females."  We want them also to enjoy the benefits of  the nine hour working day. (Vol. 6: SG to A. G. Eisner, Dec. 31, 1903)

1913: An industry which denies to all its workers and particularly denies to its women and minors who are toilers a living wage is unfit and should not  be permitted to exist. (Vol. 9: SG to AFL Convention, Nov. 1913)

1913: The principle that organization is the most potent means for a shorter workday, and for a higher standard of wages, applies to women workers equally as to men. But the fact must be recognized that the organization of women workers constitutes a separate and more difficult problem. Women do not organize as readily or as stably as men. They are, therefore, more easily exploited. They certainly are in a greater measure than are men entitled to the concern of society. A fair standard of wages--a living wage, for all employed in an industry, should be the first consideration in production. None are more entitled to that standard than are the women and minors. (Vol. 9: EC Report to AFL Convention, Nov. 1913)

1924: Some of the staunchest workers in the labor movement have been women. (Seventy Years of Life and Labor)


1896: This is the attitude of the A. F. of L. on the color question.  If a man or set of men array themselves for any cause against the the interest of the workers their organizations have the right to say that their membership is barred. It should be at the wrong-doer against labor, it should not be a nationality or a race against whom the doors are barred. (Vol. 4:  Locomotive Firemen's Magazine, July 1896)

1897:  I do not for a moment entertain the belief that by our simple declaration that we shall make friends of the negro laborers. Their previous condition, their former absolute dependence upon their masters (and now their employers) have deprived them of learning that it is necessary for them to rely upon themselves and upon each other, but I am confident that if organized workingmen will take a more liberal view of the situation, or rather a more practical view, that the negro workman will to a very much greater extent make common cause with us in our struggles. . . .  [The negro] is a living fact and a factor and regardless of all the prejudices that may be entertained he must be counted with and the way to count with him is the question that must be considered. (Vol. 4: SG to William Griscom, Apr. 16, 1897)

1900:  It is true that the Constitution of the A. F. of L., at the present time provides against the issuance of two charters to Central bodies in any one city and applies equally to white men as to colored.  But the matter is seriously considered that under the circumstances, such as they obtained in New Orleans and in several other points in the South, that is, where white workingmen are organized and object to the colored workmen becoming members of the union, or to receive colored delegates from workmen's unions in the Central bodies, it would be advisable not only to form unions of colored workmen but to have some Central organization where they could have an opportunity of discussing and promoting their interests generally, while, at the same time, of course, acting in a common polity as to the best interest of all. (Vol. 5: SG to William Smith,  Sept. 12, 1900)

1900: I do not care at this late date to enter into a discussion of the question of color.  Let me only say this, that there is no doubt but that the colored workmen are a factor in a large territory of our country; and it is equally true that they are not diminishing in number. Unless we give them the opportunity to organize, they certainly will be our unrelenting enemies, and will place themselves upon the side of the opponents to our movement, and the efforts we make to build up will be neutralized or worse. I do not care to discuss the color question or foist them upon your organization; but, when they are organized in a union of their own calling, it is not simply the part of wisdom to turn our backs upon them and force them into a position of antagonism.  We have enough to contend against to secure our rights without creating additional obstacles. (Vol. 5: SG to Frank Ronemus, Apr. 10, 1900)

1901: I beg to say in reply that if it be decided by both the colored and white workers of your city [Austin] that it would tend to the best interests of the movement to organize separate central bodies there is no reason why such a course should not be pursued. (Vol.5: SG to Benjamin McKaughan, Nov. 1, 1901)

1903: As already stated, the negro workers must be organized in order that they may be in a position to protect themselves, and in such way feel an interest with our organized white workmen, or we shall unquestionably have their undying enmity. This is not a question of love or sentiment but is the hardest kind of practicability and common interest. If we do not in some way make friends with the colored workmen, the employer will not be slow to take advantage of our hostility to use the colored workmen to defeat the efforts of the white workmen in every endeavor to either obtain improvement in our condition or to resist deterioration. (Vol. 6: SG to David Williams, Feb. 16, 1903)

1906: I agree with you entirely that the colored men are entitled to the same rights, privileges and benefits as are accorded their white brethren, and I think you are aware that I have my life long endeavored, and am still endeavoring, to accomplish that fact. . . . In fact several organizations have held aloof from affiliating to the American Federation of Labor because they believe they cannot refuse membership to colored men if these organizations should become affiliated. Several central bodies in the southern states have refused to to receive delegates from unions who are colored men. Charters of several bodies were revoked in the past because of such action, but this course did not result in the representation of the colored men in the central bodies; it simply acted in disrupting the organization. As a consequence, several years ago another course was determined upon [to issue separate charters if that served the best interests of the movement]. . . . Conditions are as they are, not as we would like them to be or hope for them to become, but the race prejudice exists in the south and it is best for the colored men, as well as for our movement that they be accounted with. Indeed the very fact that your local union #1782 of New Orleans is composed of colored men as distinguished from the other local unions of carpenters . . . composed of white men, is the best evidence that your local unions of white men would not accept the membership of colored men among them. (Vol. 6: SG to Frank Duffy, Mar. 2, 1906)

1910: There are about 8,000,000 negroes in the United States, and, my friends, I not only have not the power to put the negro out of the labor movement, but I would not, even if I did have the power. . . . Why should I do such a thing? . . . . I would have nothing to gain, but the movement would have much to lose. Under our policies and principles we seek to build up the labor movement, instead of injuring it, and we want all the negroes we can possibly get who will join hands with organized labor. (Vol. 8: St. Louis Globe Democrat, Nov. 18, 1910)

1915: One of the principles for which the American Federation of Labor has declared is the organization of all wage earners irrespective of race, creed, sex, or color. However, realizing the importance of organizing the colored wage earners in every section of the country, not only for their own protection but for the protection of the white wage earners, and realizing still further the feeling which exists in many sections of the country regarding the organization of colored workmen with white workmen, and desirous of avoiding any unnecessary race antagonism, provision was made in the constitution of the A. F. of L. for the organization of unions of colored workmen exclusively wherever such a course might be found to the best interests of the workers themselves and of the movement in general. Not only that, but provision was also made . . . for the organization of Central Labor Unions composed of delegates from local unions of colored workers whenever that might be deemed necessary. Therefore, I would suggest that the word "white" in . . . your constitution should be omitted. If the question should afterwards arise as to the colored janitors, care takers, and laborers, then if it should be found advisable a separate union of these workers could be organized. (Vol. 9: SG to William Cannon, Apr. 10, 1915)

1923: The 14th and 15th amendments, no matter what we thought of them, are part of the Constitution. Negroes are now equal with the white man. (SG to Conference, June 22, 1923)

1923: I have found in the north as well as in the south that where negroes have had the opportunity to organize they remain loyal. (SG to Conference, June 22, 1923)

1923: We send organizers to the south and instead of being permitted to talk to the negroes . . . our organizers have been mistreated and driven out of towns. . . .   If we get no chance to deal with the negroes we can do nothing for them. (SG to Conference, June 22, 1923)


1887: Freedom of speech is the safety valve of society; if it is obstructed, there will be an explosion somewhere. It is dangerous to tamper with this right of ours. (Vol. 2: New Yorker Volkszeitung, Oct. 21, 1887)

1891: [W]herever the people enjoy liberty the most, Trade Unions are most formidable. (Vol. 3: Journal of Social Science, Oct. 1891)

1900: I  love my liberty, and imprisonment would be, to say the least, very disagreeable to me; but there are some things that are even less desirable, among them one's loss of self-respect and the loss of inherent and lawful constitutional rights. (Vol. 5: SG to Editor, Washington Evening Star,  May 15, 1900)

1916: The meaning of America lies in the ideal she represents. That ideal is liberty and opportunity. But beautiful as any ideal may be, it becomes of practical value when it has effectiveness in the daily lives of men and women. Real liberty and opportunity mean a certain mental attitude toward life, certain standards of life and work, and possession of that which secures the enjoyment of opportunities. America the ideal -- the land of the free -- exists only when her people are American in all things. (Vol.9: American Federationist, Apr. 1916)

1919:  Bolshevism is a theory, the chief tenet of which is the "dictatorship of the proletariat."  Leaving out of consideration for the moment the story of murder and devastation that has marched with their theory into practice, we must set down the theory itself as abhorrent to a world that loves democracy. We shall progress by the use of the machinery of democracy, or we shall not progress. There is no group on earth fit to dictate to the rest of the world. It is this central idea of Bolshevism that makes the whole of it outcast in the minds of sane men. (McClure's Magazine, May 1919)

1924: By nature I am a non-conformist. I believe that restrictions dwarf personality and that largest usefulness comes through greatest personal freedom. (Seventy Years of Life and Labor)