The Single Tax and the Labor Movement


Peter Alexander Speek

[A Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, No. 878, 1917, pp. 90-108]


The Central Labor Union Campaign Committee met on November 4 and discussed plans for a permanent political organization of labor. It was decided to call a meeting of the district organizers on November 9, at which a date was to be set for a primary election of delegates to a county convention.

The political leaders of the campaign, closest to Henry George, called a mass meeting at Cooper Union on November 6. In the call no counsel was taken of the trades, either collectively or individually.

At this meeting was adopted a resolution prepared by Henry George and presented by Rev. John W. Kramer, in which it was proposed to name the new political organization the "Progressive Democracy,'' and which ran, in part, as follows:

"Since the Republican party had outlived the days of its usefulness and the Democratic party was become but a corrupt machine … we hereby declare that time has come for an organization which shall be in the true sense Republican and in the true sense Democratic -- of a real party of the people, of a Progressive Democracy which shall revive and carry out the principles of Thomas Jefferson. …We call upon the Central Labor Union to which is due the credit of taking the initiative in this great movement, to issue an address to organized workingmen of other cities, looking to cooperation by similar movements in their own localities."[1]

This resolution called upon all who held the principles of the Clarendon Hall platform:

"To form themselves throughout the whole country into associations for the purpose of carrying on the work of propagating truth by means of lectures, discussions, and the dissemination of literature so that the way may be prepared for political action in their various localities and for the formal organization at the proper time of a national party."[2]

A temporary central committee of three, consisting of John McMackin, Father Edward McGlynn, and Professor David B. Scott, was appointed to carry out the organization work. This committee chose G. Barnes, a publishing agent, as the executive secretary, in preference to Daniel De Leon, who was another candidate for that position. McMackin was the only labor representative in the Central Committee. After the first meeting, Professor Scott retired on account of ill health and James Redpath, managing editor of the North American Review, took his place. Barnes in the capacity of executive secretary, on his own motion, changed the name of the organization from the "Progressive Democracy" to that of the "Land and Labor Committee."[3]

The initiation of this meeting, the method of the call, and the character of the appointments, attracted the attention of some of the labor leaders, especially of the Socialists, who considered the meeting as the beginning of the "side-tracking" of the labor movement. The Leader said afterwards: "At this point began the work of side-tracking the movement from the whole issue of Labor to the one question of a single land tax.''[4] The Socialists even went so far as to explain the appointment of Barnes, a publishing agent, to the office of executive secretary by personal interests of Henry George. According to The Leader: "An extensive system of advertising the George books accompanied and was part of the appeals issued by the Cooper Union Committee."[5] Apparently this was done not for the material interests of Henry George but for the sake of principles advocated in his books.

Though there was much talk about the meeting and its results in labor circles, no open criticism or protest was made at that time. The people were enthusiastic and everything went on smoothly. The new central organization continued its work, especially in organizing land and labor clubs. It also worked out a constitution and by-laws, which were adopted on December 1,1886, and which remained in force until the county convention on January 6, 1887.[6] The Laws Committee of the Central Labor Union was recognized as the Laws Committee of the United Labor party at the same time. This committee worked out the "provisions of the Constitutional Convention and other measures of importance to the workingmen and the party of United Labor."[7]


According to the call of the Political Committee of the Central Labor Union, the district organizers met on November 9 at Central Labor Union Hall. The meeting did not favor the name of "Progressive Democracy." The motion made by Barnes to name the new organization the "Land and Labor Party" was defeated, and the name "United Labor" was adopted. At the same time it was decided to call a county convention on January 13, 1887, in which each assembly was to be represented by one delegate for each 200 votes cast on November 2, altogether 340 delegates. Meanwhile, each assembly district was to be reorganized. The call for a county convention was issued and after that the reorganization of districts and election of delegates went on energetically.

Two kinds of local organizations were formed: (1) District Associations of the United Labor Party, and (2) Land and Labor Clubs. Both considered themselves belonging to the United Labor party and in harmony with the Clarendon Hall Platform, but they differed as to their constituents and constitution. The Land and Labor Clubs were organized upon the initiative and with the help of the committee of three, elected at the Cooper Union meeting. Secretary Barnes especially agitated for those clubs. They were distinctly singletax clubs with a membership composed of mixed elements under the leadership of intellectuals. On the other hand, the district associations grew up spontaneously from the temporary election organizations under the leadership of district organizers, mostly labor leaders. The majority of their constituents were wage-earners.

Thus began the separation of the political or party organization from the economic or trade organization of labor, and, furthermore, two different types of local organizations of the party appeared.

The County Convention met on January 6, 1887, in Clarendon Hall. All 340 delegates were present. McMackin was elected chairman, Frank Ferrell vice-chairman, and J. P. Archibald secretary.

The election of the committees on constitution and organization ended the work of the first session of the convention, in which participated almost all the prominent reformers and leaders representing different political beliefs and schools of thought at that time.

A report of the Leader described some of them in the following way:

"Honorable Gideon J. Tucker - a delegate from the 16th Assembly District; W. Lloyd, old, graybearded Greenback veteran, as a spectator from the platform, among the host of the younger crusaders in the holy war with oppression and corruption, was a sight full of inspiration; Jeremiah Murphy -- the erstwhile prominent president of the freight-handlers in their palmy days; James Magie -- the rising leader of the Empire Protective Association; William McCabe -- the war-horse of other-day labor politics; Phil. Scandell -- whose prominence and valuable services in K. of L. work a couple of years ago were still fresh in the minds of most of these there last night; Henry Emrich -- the Furniture-Workers' National Secretary and one of the Central Labor Union permanent pillars; B. J. Hawkes -- a trade unionist of experience of both sides of the ocean and the present trusty treasurer of the County Organization; Joseph Wilkinson -- the veteran secretary of the Journeymen Tailors; George K. Lloyd -- who helped to rock the Central Labor Union in its cradle; Wm. Conclin -- painter, one of the solid timbers of the 15th A. D.; Wm. Wallace -- chairman of the "tony" seventh, and a strong link in 49's (K. of L.) long chain; editor J. W. Sullivan -- one of the best-posted men present on labor history, political economy, and social statics; S. Sanial -- chairman of the 24th A. D., a veteran labor journalist; Patrick Doody -- one of the best known and most sterling champions of every honest reform; Thomas Moran -- the most sagacious and finished debater of the Excelsior Labor Club; Ch. M. Maxwell -- a respected president of the Omulet Association, touched elbows and grasped hands in last night's remarkable ensemble of fraternity."[8]

The second session of the county convention was held on January 13 in Clarendon Hall. The committee on permanent organization was elected as follows: John McMaekin as chairman, Frank Ferrell as first vice-chairman, Henry Emrich as second vice-chairman, A. G. Johnson as first secretary, and Dr. Wm. Gottheil as second secretary. The proposal to name the new party the "Land and Labor Party" was defeated, leaving the name of the party unsettled till the next session.

The temporary central committee formed at the Cooper Union meeting remained in existence. It bore the name of Land and Labor Committee and was mainly in charge of the above-mentioned clubs. Thus were formed not only two types of local organizations, but also two parallel central committees in the same party. This duality of organization was due, first, to the conscious intention of the leaders closest to Henry George, to separate entirely the new party from labor organizations, and, second, to the existence of a non-labor element in the party. Henry George and his followers wanted to organize every "honest citizen '' who accepted their principles. As the radical intellectuals and merchants and other capitalists who "worked by their heads" did not belong to organized labor, they, accepting the singletax theory, joined the clubs more readily than the ordinary district associations in which the wage-earner element prevailed. The Land and Labor Clubs, being free from class distinction and having the singletax for their main issue, were especially favored by the Standard. Henry George, urging their formation, said:

"In every state headquarters will be opened for the formation of Land and Labor Clubs. …Land and Labor Clubs are organizing about thirty a week. …When a sufficient number of these clubs have been organized to allow a full representation in all sections of the country, a national convention will be called. …The convention will choose the name of the party, will make a platform, and will decide whether to nominate or not.[9]

The third and last session of the county convention was held on January 20. The main business of this session was the discussion and adoption of a platform, rules and regulations for the new party. The committee on platform, through its chairman, Professor Daniel De Leon, introduced a resolution which was adopted. It reaffirmed the Clarendon Hall Platform, emphasized currency reform more emphatically, made a considerable concession to the Socialists and unionists, calling the whole economic system "perverse", depriving "the man of his birth right (land)" and robbing "the producer of a large share of the fruits of his labor."[10]

On the recommendation of the same resolution the name of the United Labor party was adopted. This name was not favored by Henry George and his followers, because it stamped the movement with a class characteristic. They agreed, however, to accept it temporarily. An investigation made by the New York Volkszefltung showed that out of the 340 delegates to the county convention, 320 were wage-earners and only 20 belonged to other industrial classes. Quoting the Volkszeitung, the Standard said: "In view of this statement the name that was adopted last week, 'The United Labor Party,' seems well chosen.''[11]

The new party organization consisted of: Election district organizations, assembly district organizations, assembly executive committee, a county general committee, and a county executive committee.

In the proposed constitution were the following clauses:

"No resident of an Election District shall be eligible to membership of the corresponding Election District Organization unless … he has severed all connection with all other political parties, organizations and clubs." Art. I. Sec. 2."[12]

Further is the statement --

"The County General Committee shall have the power to amend or alter this constitution subject to a general vote of the Assembly D. Organization". …Art. IV, Sec. 4.[13]

And still further --

"Twenty-second Ass. D. Organization shall in view of its exceptional circumstances, be authorized to create an advisory board on which the various nationalities shall be represented In proportion to the number of enrolled members in the club of each nationality". …Art. VI, Sec. 2."

Thus the permanent county organization of the United Labor party was completed. It remained only to develop it.

The process of organizing locals and educating the masses went on smoothly. Aside from New York County, local organizations of the party were formed in Kings (Brooklyn), Albany, Erie (Buffalo), and other counties in the state. Small Land and Labor Clubs, though many of them existed only on paper, appeared here and there. In the city of New York alone, fifteen such clubs were organized.[15]

On May 5, 1887, a call for a state convention of the United Labor party to be held at the city of Syracuse on August 17, was issued. This call was signed by the members of the committee on state convention, of the general committee, United Labor party, Kings County; of the committee on state convention of the general committee. United Labor party, New York County; and of the general committee Land and Labor. The representation was to be: Three delegates and three alternates from each assembly district, and one delegate from each Land and Labor club in districts not regularly organized. In the call, prepared mainly by Henry George, the following issues were set forth: (1) The taxation of land values; (2) Demand for currency reform in the spirit of Greenbackism; (3) Government ownership of railroads and telegraphs, the private ownership of which while failing adequately to supply public needs, impoverishes the farmer, oppresses the manufacturer, hampers the merchants …"[16] The call ended with a condemnation of the Democratic and Republican parties as "hopelessly and shamelessly corrupt" and affiliated with monopolies. Labor demands were entirely omitted from the call; it avoided class distinctions and appealed to all the people, except landlords and millionaires.

The dissatisfaction with the general attitude of Henry George and his followers toward the movement became more intense among the Socialists. The Leader, describing this history of the movement afterwards said:

"The call for a state convention (Syracuse, Aug. 17, 1887) was mainly framed by Mr. George and proved to be a very skillful rhetorical evasion of the main issue between capital and labor upon which organized labor stands. The rupture grew. Mr. George for the first time took a serious interest in the party which he had captured for his plans and policy. …"[17]

The Socialists began to feel that the philosophy of the Singletaxers was not a "partial socialism" at all but something opposite, out of harmony altogether with the Socialist doctrines. Neither did the tactics of the Singletaxers appeal to the Socialists. The Singletaxers denied that there was any real conflict of interests between labor and capital, and that the movement in its nature was a class movement of labor.

There was also a practical reason why the Singletaxers opposed the Socialists, their doctrines and tactics. It was explained by Henry George in an interview with the editor of the Leader before the Syracuse convention. During this interview, Henry George expressed his "highest esteem for the personal character, the self-sacrifice and the honesty of purpose of the Socialists, but said, on the other hand, that in order not to frighten away the country votes, the party ought to disclaim all connections with Socialistic doctrines."[18] Furthermore, Henry George complained that the Socialists were continuously attacking the singletax theory, trying to impress their own views upon the new party. Not long before the Syracuse convention the Standard reported Henry George as saying:

"The Socialists … have been persistent in the attempt to undermine the platform of the party. … 'We insist,' they say, 'that the burning social question is not a land tax but the abolition of all private property in the instruments of production …' Very well, then … there is no place for them in the new party."[19]

Thus arose the contest of supremacy in the political labor movement. Each of the rival schools honestly and sincerely believed in the all-curing power of its doctrines and methods and tried to capture labor by means of agitation, education, and organization. The Singletaxers, however, had two advantages. First, they already had established themselves in the movement, and second, they had a strong popular leader, which the Socialists lacked. The main advantage of the latter consisted of their compact organization and unity of action.

In the beginning of this struggle the Singletaxers were put on the defensive. It was only somewhat later that they decided to become aggressive.

The other schools in the movement had no ambition to capture it. Greenbackism was declining, while the Knights of Labor and Trade-Unionists, having their own organizations for their own ends, did not care much to enforce any definite philosophy or policy of their own upon the new political party, except that they were quite firm in the immediate labor demands. So the struggle began between the Singletaxers and the Socialists.


The Leader was the recognized organ of the Central Labor Union and the United Labor party, being edited from its beginning and during the political campaign of the fall of 1886 in the spirit of the singletax and Henry George's policy, the membership of its editorial staff being his followers and Louis F. Post its editor-in-chief. Shortly after the fall campaign the Socialists at a general meeting of the shareholders of the Leader received a large majority of votes and elected Sergius E. Shevich, a Socialist and former editor of the Volkszeitung, to the position of editor-in-chief of the Leader.[20] This apparently sudden victory of the Socialists may be explained, first, by the fact that the Leader was supported chiefly by the radical, especially German element, and, second, the Socialists and their sympathizers had foresightedly distributed their shares more extensively among themselves, which meant more votes in their favor at the general meetings of the company, for the voting was exercised upon the principle of one man, one vote, irrespective of the number of shares held. The total number of the shares was 900. Out of this amount only 300[21] shares were owned by the Socialists. The majority of the remaining 600 shares were owned by the Central Labor Union and other individual unions. A considerable number of shares belonged also to the Greenbackers, the Singletaxers, and individuals not affiliated with any specific organization or school of thought.

At first the new editor did not attack the singletax theory directly. Indirectly, however, he criticized it, emphasizing the labor side of the movement and publishing articles on class conflict which were out of harmony with the singletax theory.

At the general meeting of the shareholders of the Leader Company on March 5, 1887, S. E. Shevich was reflected and John McMackin and James P: Archibald were respectively chosen chairman and treasurer of the company for the next year.[22]

When the conflict between the Singletaxers and the Socialists in the locals of the party became acute, the Leader took open stand against the theory and tactics of the Singletaxers. On June 23, the Leader commented editorially on the question of the future policies to be followed by the United Labor party : Restoration of land to the people, just remuneration of the toilers for their labor, the shortening of the hours of labor, the public ownership of the means of transportation and communication were advocated. The Leader stated also that there existed a conflict between capital and labor, taking both in the sense of industrial classes and calling those "fools" and "knaves" who denied the existence of the conflict.[23] The editorial of the next day stated "that the 'theory' known as the 'Henry George's' had been promulgated by John Stuart Mill."[24] Then followed a quotation from the chapter on taxation in Mill's Elements of Political Economy, in which Mill advocates the taxation of "unearned appendage." Criticizing Mill, the editorial concluded: "We suggest to the boodle press that before attacking Henry George it would be well to pulverize John Stuart Mill."[25] In another editorial the Leader criticized the Physiocrats and showed that they had arrived at the same conclusion that Henry George reached afterwards.[26] In consequence of this attack upon the singletax theory by the Leader, McMacMn, chairman of the Leader Company resigned in the beginning of August.[27] Thus even the business management of the Leader went into the hands of the Socialists. Their control over the party's organ was now complete.


Almost as an answer to the capture of the Leader by the Socialists came, at the end of November, 1886, the announcement by Henry George of his intention to start a weekly paper of his own under the title of the Standard, the first copy of which actually appeared on January 8, 1887. Its editorial staff was as follows: Henry George, proprietor and editor-in-chief; William T. Croasdale, managing editor; Louis F. Post, editorial and special writer; Rev. John W. Kramer; J. W. Sullivan, labor editor; W. B. Scott; and Henry George, Jr.

In his introductory statement Henry George said that he hoped to make this paper the worthy exponent and advocate of a great party yet unnamed that was to be formed.[28] The paper was carefully edited. Much space in it was given to the controversy with the Catholic Church, to the McGlynn ease, to the explanation of the singletax theory, and to the agitation in favor of the United Labor party.

Thus each side had its own organ: The Socialists had the Leader, and the Singletaxers the Standard, both papers being the organs of the party.


The success of the political campaign of organized labor, headed by Henry George opposing the private ownership in land values, greatly alarmed the authorities of the Catholic church. Archbishop Corrigan issued a pastoral letter which was read in the Catholic churches and published in the newspapers on Nov. 21, 1886. It was mainly directed against the political uprising of labor, and against the singletax doctrines, although this was not openly stated in the letter. The archbishop defended private property in land as being in accordance with God's laws and economic necessities. For the benefit of the poor he advocated charity and recalled that Christ proclaimed "the poor blessed," and bade "them hope for the reward of eternal happiness. …Now, who does not see that this is the best way of settling the struggle of long standing between the poor and the rich."[29]

A criticism of this letter was made by Fr. McGlynn in an interview with a reporter of the New York Tribune. For this criticism the archbishop suspended McGlynn for the remainder of the year and sent a letter to the Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda, laying the case before him. Soon after, McGlynn was ordered to proceed to Rome. However, he refused to obey this order on account of ill health (he had heart trouble) reaffirming his adherence to the singletax doctrines: "I would bring about instantly, if I could, such change of laws all the world over as would confiscate private property in land, without one penny of compensation to the miscalled owners."[30] As an answer to this, the archbishop suspended McGlynn until such time as the highest authority of the Catholic Church should act.

On September 29, 1886, Henry George made a personal visit to the archbishop to vindicate McGlynn, having an introductory letter from the latter in which he said: "It seems to me a providential occurrence for which we should be thankful, that the labor organizations have chosen for their leader BO wise and conservative a man, and one BO utterly opposed, as all his writings show, to Socialism, communism and anarchy, as Mr. George is."[31]

The visit was a short and a most formal one. It did not accomplish its purpose. On the next day Henry George wrote a private letter to the bishop in which he stated that the hostility of the church authorities "could but give point to the assertions of those who are striving to alienate workingmen from the church, by declaring that its authorities have always exerted their power against any attempt to emancipate labor."[32]

In answer to the pastoral letter of the archbishop of November 21, 1886, Henry George published an open letter on December 7, 1886, in which he stated that the pastoral letter places the Catholic Church "in the attitude of a champion of private property in land."[33] Then he defended his singletax theory on the same grounds on which the archbishop attacked it, that is, God's law and natural laws.

When McGlynn was ordered to Rome, Henry George published a strong article in the first issue of the Standard in which he vigorously attacked the actions of the Catholic Church.[34] This article created a sensation and two extra editions of the Standard, in all 75,000 copies, were issued. From now on Henry George gave a large space in the Standard to the conflict with the Catholic Church, which grew to international importance. In the next issue of the Standard he wrote:

"It is notorious that in New York the Catholic church has a long series of years been more or less allied with Tammany, and that this Influence, for which a quid pro quo has been paid by grants of public property and lavish appropriations of public money. …And this is significant, that Archbishop Corrigan had no objections to Dr. McGlynn making any number of speeches for a candidate by Tammany."[35]

The newspapers of the old parties approved of the archbishop's action when he, in the middle of January, removed McGlynn from his pastorate. Even many Protestant. Church authorities, actually in conflict with those of the Catholic Church, took the side of the latter in the conflict.

At the beginning of May, Cardinal Simeoni summoned McGlynn to Rome, giving him forty days to go, under pain of excommunication. As McGlynn could not obey this order, he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Archbishop Corrigan on July 3, 1887.


At the end of March, McGlynn addressed a very large audience, composed mainly of Catholics and his former parishioners, in the Academy of Music, on the theme of "The Cross of the New Crusade" against poverty. This address was repeated by him at various times and places, even outside of New York. At the end of April he addressed the Brooklyn people. Describing this meeting, Henry George wrote: "On last Wednesday it was Brooklyn's turn to do honor to Rev. McGlynn. A big audience collected in the Academy of Music to hear the famous divine deliver his lecture on The Cross of the New Crusade . . . "[36]

The beginning of these lectures of McGlynn coincided with the creation of an organization known as the Anti-Poverty Society, the idea of which was originated by Thomas McCready of the Standard staff. A militant society to fight poverty, to arouse the New York slums in the tenement sections by educating the masses to the idea of the singletax, was to be formed.

On March 26, 1887, a small meeting took place in the office of the Standard at which the first organization under the name of the Anti-Poverty Society suggested by McCready was called into life. MeGlynn was appointed president; Henry George, vice president; Benjamin Urner, a merchant, treasurer; and M. Clark, a member of the editorial staff of the Irish World, secretary.

The first formal meeting of the new society was called on May 1 in Chickering Hall. The attendance at this meeting was so large that many people had to be turned away. The chief speakers were McGlynn and Henry George. The latter said in part:

"The simple words, 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is In heaven,' as they fell from the lips of a Christian priest who proclaims the common fatherhood of God and the common brotherhood of man … have in them the power with which Christianity conquered the world . . . ."[37]

The enrollment of the members for the new society was large. Women and men of various religious denominations and walks of life joined the society. Everyone signed a card on which the object of the society was printed and paid an entrance fee of one dollar. Most of the Socialists kept away from the society on account of its religious spirit. A considerable number of McGlynn's former parishioners, mostly Irish wage-earners, joined the Anti-Poverty Society, which served as a good propaganda organization for the singletax theory among the masses and thereby helped along the general movement.


Although the county convention adopted the name of the United Labor party and Henry George and his followers halfheartedly agreed to it for the time being, they were always dissatisfied with this name and at no time, during the whole career of the party, did they succeed in getting rid of it. The Standard opened its pages for the discussion on the party's name. Henry George favored the name of either Free Soil or Free Land party.[38] He rejected the term "labor," because "it has narrow associations and would handicap the new party with the notion that it is merely a class movement."[39] At the same time the labor unionists and especially the Socialists vigorously defended the adopted name of the "United Labor party and particularly the term Labor in it. The Leader said: "In the word 'Labor' are crystallized the noblest aspirations, the grandest and broadest ideas of our century."[40] The followers of Henry George suggested many different names for the party. For example: Anti-Monopolists, Nationalists, Federalists, Christian, the People's Rights, Anti-Poverty, etc. At the end of 1887 Henry George wrote again:

"It was said over and over again during the campaigning (The state campaign of 1887) that the United Labor party is not a 'labor' party in the ordinary meaning of the term. It has no more claim on the votes of the wage-earners, than on those of the farmers or any other class of people."[41]

Henry George continued to favor the name of the Free Soil party. McGlynn favored the title of the Commonwealth party.

This outspoken opposition of the Singletaxers to the term ''labor" in the party's name gave their opponents, the Socialists, a strong argument in attacking the Singletaxers for "side-tracking" the labor movement. The Singletaxers themselves hardly gained anything by it; they were not in position to shift the movement from the organized labor to that of all classes of the people as they wished and hoped.


The central organizations of the party at the beginning of July, 1887, consisted of the county general committee, of which McMackin was chairman. It met at Clarendon Hall on the first Thursday of each month.

The county executive committee had a room at 28 Cooper Union and was composed of twenty-four members, one from each assembly district. John McMackin was chairman.

The election of delegates to the state convention in the assembly districts began in the month of July. Here and there appeared instructions to the delegates to defend the term "labor" in the party's name, to emphasize "labor demands" in the platform, to nominate a "straight labor ticket," etc. The Singletaxers attributed such instructions to the influence of the Socialists. To a certain degree this was true. In the middle of July rumors that the Socialists would be ousted from the United Labor party on the ground that they belonged to another political party, namely, the Socialist Labor party, began to circulate. At the same time conflicts between the Singletaxers and the Socialists in several of the assembly districts, especially in the tenth, began. The Socialists insisted that the County Executive Committee issue a ruling on the eligibility of the Socialists for membership in the United Labor party. On July 24 the Committee met and passed unanimously the following resolution:

"Resolved, that it is the sense of the County Executive Committee that membership in the Socialist Labor party does not disqualify a citizen for membership in the United Labor party."[42]

This resolution encouraged the Socialists in their attack on the policies of the Singletaxers in the party. In the election of delegates to the state convention, they tried to push ahead their candidates and to insert their views in the instructions to the delegates. These actions of the Socialists evoked from the press of the old parties the opinion that, as in the ease of the Leader, the Socialists were endeavoring to capture the United Labor party for their own purposes. These rumors and the energetic agitation by the Socialists in behalf of their views and philosophy led the Singletaxers to a definite decision to oust the Socialists from the United Labor party.

The County General Committee met on August 5. One of the questions to be considered was the above quoted resolution of the County Executive Committee on the eligibility of the Socialists to the United Labor party. After discussing the report of the County Executive Committee, delegate August Mayer[43] of the tenth assembly district rose and moved to approve the report save that part of it which contained the above resolution. This motion created much confusion. Some demanded its adoption, some wanted to reject it, but most loud were the voices of those who were calling for a ruling by the chairman. When comparative order was restored, Chairman McMackin ruled as follows: "If I am compelled to, I shall have to rule that, according to the constitution, all parties which have nominated and run candidates are political parties, and are comprehended by the letter of the section."[44] He based his ruling on the following arguments: The Socialist party was certainly a political party; the Greenbackers had been admitted because they dismembered their party and came in as individuals -- the Socialists ought to do likewise. In summing up his arguments, he concluded: ''We cannot afford to tolerate Greenback, Irish, German or Socialist factions here. We must stand for American ideas as American citizens."[45] A vote was then taken and the chair was sustained by a considerable majority. Thus the Socialists were ruled out of the United Labor party by its highest authority in existence at that time.

On the second day, the Leader, in an article entitled "A Fatal Mistake", replied to the decision of the County General Committee. The arguments of the Leader were that the Socialist Labor party had never been a political party; that where it had nominated candidates for office, it had done so purely and solely for purposes of propaganda; that if the bare fact of nomination qualified that organization as a political party, then the Central Labor Union was also a political party, for it had repeatedly nominated candidates; that the Socialists (members of the Socialist Labor party) had been accepted by the Central Labor Union at the beginning of the political movement, in the fall campaign of 1886 and by the County Convention of the United Labor party; and that in the discussion of the constitution of the new party, it was definitely stated that the Socialist Labor party did not come under Article I, Section 2; furthermore, in a letter written by the chairman of the party, John McMackin, to August Mayer of the tenth assembly district, a fortnight before, and in the resolution of the County Executive Committee, it was expressly stated that membership in the Socialist Labor party did not disqualify a citizen for membership in the United Labor party.

The Socialists did not want to be ousted; they were quite firmly against an open split. They considered the United Labor party as an organization very favorable for the propaganda of their ideas and philosophy. Furthermore, organized labor, in their eyes, was in danger of being "side-tracked" by the Singletaxers. The Socialists thought that they could more effectively prevent this by staying within the party.

Thus the struggle between the two philosophical schools in the new party began almost in its cradle.


  1. Public, Nov. 3, 1911, p. 1130.
  2. The Leader, Nov. 8, 1887, p. 3. The Central Labor Union at once issued a call to organized labor throughout the United States asking it to form political associations preliminary to the national convention of the new party. -- Standard, Jan. 8, 1887, p. 7.
  3. Leader, Oct. 30, 1887, p. 6.
  4. Leader, Oct. 30, 1887, p. 6.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Appendix II.
  7. Appendix III.
  8. Leader, Jan. 7, 1887, p. 1.
  9. Standard, Jan. 15, 1887, p. 3.
  10. Standard, Jan. 22, 1887, p. 6.
  11. Standard, Jan. 22, 1887, p. 6.
  12. Leader, Jan. 22, 1887, p. 3, col. 2.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Leader, May 6, 1887, p. 1.
  16. Leader, May 5, 1887, p. 1.
  17. Leader, Oct. 30, 1887, p. 6.
  18. Leader, Aug. 17, 1887, p. 1.
  19. Standard, Aug. 13, 1887, p. 1.
  20. S. E. Shevich was a Russian nobleman employed in the diplomatic service. He became a follower of Ferdinand Lassalle in Germany, and was forced to leave not only his diplomatic position but his native country. At the end of the seventies he migrated to the United States and began to take active part in the Socialist movement. He was a well-read man, spoke several languages and possessed oratorical abilities. He was one of those who were instrumental in bringing about, in the middle eighties, a change in the tactics of the Socialist Labor party -- from independent political action to educational methods.
  21. New York World, Sept. 8, 1887, p. 2.
  22. Standard, March 12, 1887, p. 3.
  23. Leader, June 23, 1887, p. 2.
  24. Leader, June 24, 1887, p. 2.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Leader, July 14, 1887, p. 2.
  27. Standard, Aug. 13, 1887, p. 1.
  28. Standard, Jan. 8, 1887, p. 1.
  29. George-Hewitt Campaign, Louis F. Post and Fred C. Leubuscher, New York, 1886, 139.
  30. Standard, Feb. 5, 1887.
  31. Standard, Jan. 8, 1887, p. 1.
  32. Ibid.
  33. George-Hewitt Campaign, 140.
  34. Standard, Jan. 8, 1887, p. 1.
  35. Standard, Jan. 15, 1887, p. 1. McGlynn made speeches in behalf of the candidacy of Cleveland, 1882; no objections to his speeches were made by the church authorities.
  36. Standard, Apr. 30, 1887, p. 1.
  37. Standard, May 7, 1887. p. 2.
  38. Standard, June 18, 1887.
  39. Standard, July 30, 1887, p. 1.
  40. Leader, July 30, 1887, p. 2.
  41. Standard, Dec. 3, 1887, p. 1.
  42. Leader, Aug. 5, 1887. p. 2; Standard, Aug. 13, 1887, p. 1.
  43. A former "walking delegate" for the American Fresco-Painters' Union.
  44. Leader, Aug. 5. 1887, p. 2 ; Standard, Aug. 13, 1887, p. 1.
  45. Ibid.