« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
lishment of the bureau. This was a petition of the Knights of St. Crispin, a large society of the shoemakers of the Commonwealth, for an act of incorporation. The petitioners were granted leave to withdraw. It is generally believed that, after their petition had been rejected, fears began to be entertained by the leaders of the dominant party that the labor vote in the State might be lost, and that it was suggested by shrewd politicians that it might be politic to grant some concessions to labor. At all events, after the adverse action on the petitions of the Knights of St. Crispin and the ten-hour men, at a late day in the session a bill was introduced in the Senate, creating the bureau ; but it was rejected on its passage to a third reading on the twelfth day of June. On the 14th, this vote was reconsidered, and the bill passed to a third reading under a suspension of the rules. It was amended slightly in the House of Representatives, and finally passed, receiving the governor's approval June 22, 1869. This indicates that the legislature of 1869, for motives of its own, created the bureau, and not the petitions and labors of the workingmen; that is to say, from all that can be gathered, the immediate stimulus to the creation of the bureau was political necessity or expediency.* This idea gains color from the legislative proceedings. It should, however, be remembered that the project of such a bureau had been before the public for three years, as we have seen, and that no good reasons had been given for not having such an office. It is difficult to settle positively the question whether or not the bureau was created from motives of policy. There are many indications, from the records of the time, that public sentiment, if not particularly in favor of systematic investigation, was not against it. The bureau was to be a permanent office of investigation, and in voting for it legislators committed themselves to no special plan of labor reform. The time, perhaps, was ripe for such an office; and its creation marked a new era in the work of statistical science in America.
The language of the law, so far as the functions of the office were concerned, was very broad indeed. These functions are defined as follows:
The duties of such bureau shall be to collect, assort, systematize, and present in annual reports to the legislature, on or before the first day of March in each year, statistical details relating to all departments of labor in the Common.
* In nearly every State except Massachusetts, the bureaus have been created after agitation by workingmen and the demands of their organizations.
wealth, especially in its relations to the commercial, industrial, social, educational, and sanitary condition of the laboring classes, and to the permanent prosperity of the productive industry of the Commonwealth.
The foregoing language has been incorporated, with various modifications, in nearly every law creating a State bureau of similar character in the United States, and in the Federal law creating originally the United States Bureau of Labor, and subsequently in that establishing a Department of Labor.
After the establishment of the Massachusetts bureau, Pennsylvania was the next State to create such an office. This was not until 1872, three years after the establishment of the Massachusetts office. Connecticut followed, in 1873; but, after publishing one annual report, the bureau collapsed. The law creating it was repealed, and no further action was taken in that State until 1885, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics was reorganized. No other State took action until 1877, when Ohio created its Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since that time, that is during the past eleven years, many bureaus have been created, the complete list, with the names, locality, post-office address, the year in which established, and the title of the chief officer, being as follows:
Bureaus of Statistics of Labor in the United States.
NAME OF OFFICE.
Title of Chief Officer.
Bureau of Statistics of Labor, Massachusetts,
United States, 2
1 The Connecticut Bureau was discontinued in 1875, and reorganized in 1885.
The expenses of these bureaus are covered by legislative appropriations, the amount for State bureaus varying from an annual appropriation of $1,000 to $10,000, and the compensation of the chief officer from $1,000 to $3,000 per annum. The cost of the Department of Labor of the United States is now, in round numbers, $150,000 per annum.
While nearly all the nations of civilization have bureaus of statistics of some character, which have existed for many years,
some of them making original investigations,— the bureau of statistics of labor is distinctly American in its origin and character; for, while recognizing and dealing with the statistics that come from official sources and through official entries,— like the statistics of immigration, revenues, births, deaths, taxes, etc., - these American bureaus deal chiefly with statistics resulting from original inquiry and investigation, relating to the social, moral, educational, economic, sanitary, and industrial welfare of the people. It is gratifying to know that England and Belgium have followed the example of the United States, the latter country having recently organized a Commission of Labor, adopting substantially the methods of work which have distinguished the American offices. The question of establishing a bureau of statistics of labor has already been agitated in France; and the Dominion of Canada has established a Royal Labor Commission, which is doing excellent work.
The publications of the different bureaus in the United States are becoming quite widely known as valuable contributions to economic science and literature, but the same difficulty arises in the prosecution of their work that arises in census-taking: the lack of harmony in presenting results, without which comparisons on a wide basis are not easily attained. The efforts of the European statisticians to harmonize the results of different censuses, and to arrive at the means of an international comparison, will be watched with great interest by the officers in charge of the American bureaus of statistics of labor.
These officers are doing something in their own way toward accomplishing the same end. They hold an annual convention for the very purpose of comparing methods, discussing means, and at the same time considering propositions for the active and efficient working of their various offices. These discussions grow more and more valuable, as the experience of the chief officers enables them to present the results of experimental investigations; and it is to be hoped that they will be able to simplify and unify methods, to eliminate faulty presentations, and to dignify, as well as popularize, the labor statistics of the country.
The methods now open to them are the same, of course, that are open to all statistical offices devoted in any way, or to any extent, to original investigations. There are three such methods : first, the method of securing information by the use of uniform schedules or blanks, sent to parties from whom facts are expected ;
second, through public hearings; third, through the efforts of special agents, using prescribed forms of inquiry for the purpose of securing uniform information and for facilitating tabulation, etc. The first method named has been proven to be of little use in the past, except under the most favorable conditions, although now with a keener interest in statistical accuracy this method is becoming more efficient, some of the bureaus testifying that it works well. The second is that adopted by legislative committees, and, as a rule, simply results in bringing together a mass of incongruous statements not easily classified, and, in many instances, utterly incapable of classification. This is the reason why the investigations made by legislative committees, relative to the labor question, have resulted in voluminous reports of testimony, unaccompanied by crystallized and classified results by the committees conducting the investigation. The best practical and, therefore, most useful method of securing information is the employment of especial agents or experts to make personal calls upon parties from whom information is desired. The experience of nineteen years proves this to be the most trustworthy method open to the bureaus: when it is desired to collect official statements, and from official sources, a special letter or blank is useful, and usually accomplishes the desired end.
The point aimed at always in the collection of labor statistics is the truth; and the results must be fearlessly stated, without regard to the theories of the men who collect the information. The good work of the bureaus in this country in this direction has been marked. The gentlemen in charge of them have recognized the fact that a bureau of labor statistics cannot solve social and industrial problems, nor bring direct returns in a material way to the citizens of the country, but that their work, on the other hand, must be classed among educational efforts, and that by judicious investigations, and the fearless publication of the results thereof, they may and should enable the people to more clearly and more fully comprehend the conditions surrounding them. The difficulties in the way of securing such educational results are very great. Opinions and theories stand in the way of perfect work; yet opinions and theories must be put to one side in bureau work. They belong to the peculiar and legitimate work of the economist, and not to that of the statistician. The work of the bureaus naturally and legitimately belongs to the historical method of study. Scientific statistics are those which tell the actual truth, not those