From the Richmond Enquirer, 6/1/1847, p. 4, c. 5
TREDEGAR AND ARMORY IRON WORKS.
In common with our associates of the press we deeply regret the unfortunate controversy which has recently occurred between the workmen of the Tredegar and new Armory Iron Works and their employers. We quote the publications which we find in the Republican of Thursday, to show the origin of a movement which our whole community must condemn:
RICHMOND, May 23d, 1847
Resolved, That we, the Workmen of Tredegar Iron Works, do pledge ourselves that we will not go to work, unless the negroes be removed from the Puddling Furnace, at the new mill – likewise from the Squeezer and Rolls in the old mill.
2d. Resolved, further, That we, the Puddlers, will not work for less than $4.50 per ton.
(Signed by the Puddlers of Tredegar Works.)
Resolved, That we, the Puddlers of the New Mill, will act on the above resolution.
(Signed by the Puddlers of Armory Works.)
We, the Helpers of Puddling Furnaces, do act with the above resolution.
(Signed by the Helpers at Puddling Furnaces.)
RICHMOND, May 22d, 1847.
We, the Heaters, do stand out for one dollar per ton for all sizes.
(Signed by the Heaters.)
We, the Rollers, do not intend to work until the above resolution is complied with.
(Signed by the Rollers.)
And the following note was communicated with the resolutions, to Mr. J. R. Anderson, the lessee of the Tredegar Works:
Mr. Anderson and Managers:
Gentlemen – You need not light up the Furnaces Monday, nor any time, until you comply with our resolution.
Two questions are raised in the above resolutions, viz: a demand for higher wages and the employment of negroes; but from the following additional resolution adopted on Wednesday, it is evident that the latter is the only point in issue. Indeed, it is emphatically avowed in so many words:
“At a called meeting of the Workmen of the Tredegar Iron Works, -
“Resolved, That whereas it has been rumored that we, the said workmen, intended to raise a mob to the injury of our employers, in consequence of the difficulty that has arisen between us and the said employers, from their wishing to employ and instruct colored people in our stead in the said Tredegar Iron Works, the undersigned, workmen of the said Tredegar Works, take this method of showing to the public that we have not attempted to raise a mob, (as was rumored,) or otherwise to injure any of our employers – having no other object in view at the time that we resolved to strike, but that of trying to prohibit the employment of colored people on the said Works.”
On Wednesday Mr. Anderson addressed the following letter to his workmen:
To my late Workmen at the Tredegar Iron Works.
On Saturday last I received by the hands of Gatewood Talley information that you had determined, by a mutual combination, that you would not work for me again until I had discharged my negroes from the Squeezer & Puddle Rolls, where they have been working several years, and until the Ármory Iron Company” had discharged theirs from the puddling furnaces – and that the Puddlers and Heaters required their pay to be increased. I requested Mr. Talley to say to you, that I regretted that you had given up constant employment at good wages, always promptly paid in cash, but that I fully recognized the right of any individual to leave my employment at any time – at the same time, I had no idea of relinquishing my right to discharge or employ any one at my pleasure – that I had not designed to put negroes to puddling at the Tredegar works, but that now I should be compelled by your quitting my employment to do so, and that I had never intended to discharge any of my hands who did their duty – that in reference to the price of puddling, I had advanced the price two or three years ago when iron advanced; and when iron fell last summer, I might with propriety have reduced the wages, but have not done so to this day – that the heaters and puddlers, who complained of low wages, could earn with ordinary diligence, from 2 to $2.75, whilst the rollers may earn from 3 to $5 per day – and that I could not accede to any demand they had made. If I were to yield to your demands, I would be giving up the rights guaranteed to me by the constitution and laws of the State in which we live. This, I hope, you will never expect me to do; and having heard nothing further from you since my reply was conveyed to you on the 22d inst., I must infer that you do not intend to work for me any longer. I therefore give you notice, that I wish all who occupy my houses to give me possession of them as soon as practicable, and I have given directions for your accounts to be made out. I will waive all claim on account of the usual notice not being given, and will, in advance of the usual pay day, pay each man all that is due to him as soon as he delivers to me the possession of his house. Those who do not occupy my houses will be paid off to-morrow; and all I have to add, is, that you will bear in mind that you have discharged yourselves – that I gave assurance beforehand to two of your members, Henry Thomas and Lott Hoy, that I would never discharge one of you who continued to do his duty to me; and now, having endeavored to do my duty as your employer, I wish that you may, one and all of you, never regret that you have given up the employment you had from me.
Your obedient servant,
J. R. ANDERSON.
Tredegar Iron Works, May 26, 1847.
These are all the facts which have been made public – and we cannot entertain the least doubt that the community, with a knowledge of what has transpired, will fully sustain Mr. Anderson in his just, liberal and proper course. As public journalists, we feel called upon to give and expression of what we deem public sentiment upon a question involving the value of slave labor and the rights and privileges of masters and employers. The principle set up in this case is not confined to Mr. Anderson or the Tredegar Works alone, but is of a general application to all kinds of business, and is, therefore, a matter of vital interest to the whole community. If it be sanctioned, it will render slave property utterly valueless, and place employers in the power of those employed, the latter dictating to the former what species of labor they shall employ in their service. We agree with the Whig, which says:
“It is probable that this view of the subject had not presented itself to the minds of the heretofore orderly, industrious and worthy workmen at the Tredegar works, and that they have permitted their overwrought feelings to carry them beyond the bounds of prudence and propriety. Whether this be so or not, however, it is not less certain that the claim they set up, (as we told one of them personally a few days ago, who desired us to insert an article in vindication of their position, which we respectfully declined,) is wholly inadmissible in this latitude. The right of employers to select such kinds of labor as they may prefer, is one of which the law itself cannot deprive them – much less combinations of individuals, formed either for the purpose of intimidation, or with the less criminal, though unworthy design of inducing, for other reasons, acquiescence in their demands. They sympathies of all communities are naturally and properly most generally in favor of the hard working-man, whose toils ought to be fairly requited; but in this community, no combination, formed for the purpose avowed by the authors of the recent strike, can receive the slightest toleration. We hope that better counsels and wiser determinations may prevail among the workmen – and that we may soon hear that the harmony and good feeling heretofore existing between them and their employers has been entirely restored.”