― 11 ―

1. Chapter I. Bedrock.

SETTLEMENT in Australia took place under conditions which differed vastly from those obtaining in other countries. At first it was merely a convict settlement under English rule. The Aboriginal race was a comparatively weak one, and gave but little trouble to the pioneers, and there were no dangerous wild animals. In America the pioneers were forced to settle on small areas of land, so that they could mutually help each other in defence and development. When the white man came to Australia he found in possession the aboriginal squatter, whose runs were tribal and whose stock were kangaroos and opossums. The white man gave no consideration to the black man's rights, but drove him off, took up enormous areas, and stocked them with cattle and sheep. The early white squatter secured Crown grants, others have since purchased; and thus we had the evil of private ownership of

  ― 12 ―
land before we had population. Naturally the best land was secured by the first landgrabbers. One of these, in the Western district of Victoria, took up blocks in his own name, then in the names of each of his family and of the servants, and finally, when these ran out, it is said he dummied blocks in the names of his working bullocks. The story may not be true, but it is a fact that Australia starts its national life with its best lands monopolised by a few families.

In Sutherland's “History of Australia” the following appears, under the heading of “Edward Gibbon Wakefield”:—

“In 1829 a small book was published in London which attracted a great deal of attention, not only by reason of its manner, but also on account of the complete originality of the ideas it contained. It purported to be a letter written from Sydney, and described the annoyances to be endured by a man of taste and fortune, if he emigrated to Australia. He could have no intellectual society; he could not enjoy the pleasures of his library, or of his picture gallery; he could hope for none of the delights of easy retirement, seeing that he had to go forth on his land, and with his own hands labor for his daily food. For, said Mr. Wakefield, the author of this little book, you cannot long have free servants in this country; if a free man arrives in the colony, though he may for a short time work for you as a servant, yet he is sure to save a little money, and as land is here so excessively cheap he soon becomes a landed

  ― 13 ―
proprietor. He settles down on his farm, and though he may have a year or two of heavy toil, yet he is almost certain to become both happy and prosperous. Thus, the colony is an excellent place for a poor man, but it is a wretched abode for a man of means and culture.

“Wakefield, therefore, proposed to found in Australia another colony, which should be better adapted to those who had fortunes sufficient to maintain them, and yet desired to emigrate to a new country. His scheme for effecting this purpose was to charge a high price for the land, and so to prevent the poorer people from purchasing it; the money received from the sale of land he proposed to employ in bringing out young men and women as servants and farm laborers, for the service of the wealthier colonists. Now, said Wakefield, on account of the immense natural resources of these colonies, their splendid soil, their magnificent pasture lands, their vast wealth in minerals, and their widespread forests of valuable timber, which stands ready for the axe, a gentleman possessed of only £20,000 will obtain as large an income from it as could be procured from £100,000 in England; yet he will be able to enjoy his learned and cultured leisure, just as he does at home, because all the work will be done for him by the servants he employs.”

As a matter of fact, South Australia was first settled upon the conditions advocated by Mr. Wakefield as far back as 1829. The South Australian Association acted upon his suggestion, and at the

  ― 14 ―
outset sold land at not less than 12s. per acre, and subsequently at £1 per acre. The system adopted by all the States of selling at £1 per acre land worth, in some cases, £3 or £4 an acre, and in others only 15s. per acre, had its origin in Mr. Wakefield's suggestion.

The foregoing gives us the bedrock of the Labor Movement. Place the essentials of wealth production in the hands of the few, and the rest of the community are little better than serfs. Those who control natural opportunities control the conditions of life for all. The worker depends on the will of another for the right to live. The other will only employ him if he pays tribute. In commercial life and in manufacturing, where employers compete with each other, they cut down the cost of production by lowering wages and by the displacement of labor by machines. Displaced labor increases the number of the unemployed, and decreases the purchasing power of the wage-earning class. Lessened demand affects output, and increases competition and the war of trade. The weakest are crushed out; the strong, the heartless, the least scrupulous, survive. Rapid invention forces the controllers of industries into combines, trusts, and monopolies, still further decreasing employment.

The few required to attend to the machines are but a part of the machinery of the factory, and are counted, not as human beings, but as “hands.” They are unknown by name or person to the shareholders of the syndicate, company or combine whose riches they help to produce. The manager whose brains are hired to organize and supervise the work

  ― 15 ―
knows but a few of the workers, and to maintain what he thus terms discipline holds himself aloof as if made of superior clay. Employers all aim at securing a monopoly, and though they speak in favor of non-interference with a competitive system, in action they soon destroy competition and abolish the alleged law of supply and demand.

When workers, by forming trades unions, attempt to secure at least a living wage, the employers are against them. They argue against any restriction, and want the iron law of wages to operate. That law is that wages fall to the lowest rate that will maintain a sufficient supply of labor—in other words, such rate as the most needy individual workman will accept. In unrestricted competition there is no standard, and wages are fixed by the most greedy and unscrupulous employer and the meanest and poorest of the workers. The standard is set by the need of workers and the greed of employers.

With the lands and machinery in the hands of the few, the mass are forced into wage slavery, and hence the trade union is a necessity, and is always the first step taken by the intelligent worker towards securing better conditions of life. Every industrial gain secured to the workers is the result of the efforts of unionists and of no others. In the old world and in the new the history of Labor is the same in that respect. A few individuals outside of the workers have done good by writing and speaking, but practically the masses have had to fight for all they have now in the shape of improved conditions, and have had all the powers of law and law makers, of pulpit, press, and platform against them.

  ― 16 ―

The history of the movement in Australia, as in the United Kingdom, is one of self-sacrifice, heroism, and suffering far greater that has ever been shown on any battlefield; and there are no rewards, no Victoria Crosses, no decorations or titles. On the contrary, there is misrepresentation, contumely, imprisonment, starvation. The unemblazoned courage of the wives of trades unionists locked out or on strike can never become known or appreciated until the world becomes humanitarian instead of commercial. The grit which enables men, women, and children to go hungry to bed every night, rather than that the husband and father should take the place of a fellowman with whom he is voluntarily united in fighting against injustice and tyranny, is evidence of a quality which inspires confidence as to the character of our race and gives us hope of our future. We read of the hardships of the long-enforced marches of soldiers on half rations. They are all men, and have the stimulus which comes of comradeship and emulation. There is the help of sympathy, in the keeping step of the march, and the music of the band. In the other case there is the appeal of innocent children who do not understand why food is short—an appeal which is heartbreaking to loving parents. It is the mentally strong and intelligent who are unionists and fight the battles which lead to lasting good. The soldier, with all his laudation, has never been noted as a class for intelligence. He is but a machine in the hands of others to do as he is told. Most wars are unjust, and in any case the soldier has no say in it. The unionist is ever on the side of the welfare of his fellows. His fights

  ― 17 ―
are against injustice and wrong. He sees good to be done for those who come after him by persistent resistance of evil. The trades unionist workers— men and women—are the true heroes and heroines of the world. Their names are unrecorded in history, but their work lives after them and has given color and force to a movement which cannot die, but is becoming more powerful and better understood as time goes on. After all names matter not; it is deeds that count.