The Right of Boycott (1913)

The boycott is the most ancient and most universal form of social control. The ostracism of the Greeks, the “interdicting from fire and water” of the Romans, “outlawry” in the Middle Ages, all are examples of the principle of the boycott. The Secession of the Plebians to the Sacred Mount to bring the Roman patricians to terms, the Irish boycott of the agents of English landlords, the ostracism visited upon Benedict Arnold, and Oscar Wilde, the recent Chinese boycott of American goods are but historic incidents of social control through “letting alone”—through withdrawal of fellowship.

A few years ago an editor in Everett, Washington, was tried for murder and acquitted, but his fellow citizens did not acquit him. All support was withdrawn from his business; all social recognition was denied him, he was obliged to leave the city.

But recently an Indian in Alaska, having killed in drunken anger, so roused the indignation of his fellow tribesmen that no one would speak to him, no one would hunt with him, no one would share with him either food or shelter. He was forced to seek another tribe to take him in. This was an almost universal form of punishment in the Middle Ages.

In American colleges the principle of boycott has been employed to raise the standard of honor. Ten years ago, in the Medical School at Ann Arbor, a young fellow was caught cheating on examination. He was completely ostracized. None of his college mates would speak to him, no one noticed him, no one would sit at table with him. He would go to the boarding house, throw himself on the sofa in the parlor which was immediately emptied when he entered. He stood it six weeks and then left. The boycott may be very cruel. It cannot fail to be effective.

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When the Labor Unions began their boycott on the Los Angeles Times, years ago, it was the first paper in the city. Now it is fifth. Some of the advertizers in that paper are said to have received a million letters asking them to withdraw their advertisements.

The hunger strike in Russian prisons, and its adoption by the English suffragettes are applications of the same principle of boycott.

It is only in recent years that the courts have attempted to make illegal the open and public boycott, but this effort to deprive the more helpless classes in society of this their natural weapon of defense has resulted in two tendencies, both even more sinister and more threatening to industrial peace: On the one hand there is the tendency to private warfare, dynamite and riot, the bomb and the dagger; and on the other hand to “sabotage,” the “pussyfoot” strike, “bad” work, destruction of property, “making the plant lose.”

That these later forms of defense have replaced the more peaceful boycott in the industrial warfare of the world seems to be shown in recent history. The postal strike was won in France by simply handling the mail more slowly. It soon glutted the offices. The railway strike was won in England by lifting the rails. The longshoreman’s strike was won in Spain by dumping the goods into the sea, and the bakers’ strike in Berne by oversalting the bread.

The fight put up by the various labor organization in America to prevent the peaceful boycott from being declared illegal is simply a fight for one of the most ancient and time honored rights of free men. It seems reasonable that the few American courts which have declared against these long standing rights will be compelled to recede from their position either through fear of the violence and “sabotage” which is likely to follow or through fear of a general reorganization of the judiciary itself.

UNDER an amendment to the liquor license act passed at the last session of the Ontario legislature, persons found under the influence of liquor in places where local option is in force are liable to arrest, and they can also be compelled to tell where they obtained their liquor, or remain in confinement until they give the information. Many local option districts are testing out the effectiveness of the amendment in offsetting the evil arising from close proximity to “wet” communities, and it appears to be enforced with considerable success.

“The real conspiracy is that of the Steel Trust against the labor unions,” says a Western labor leader in commenting on the trail at Indianapolis, and when it is remembered that the iron workers are the only men in the steel industry who have succeeded in keeping their wages up there seems to be some reason in the statement. Workers in th steel mills who got $12.00, $15.00 and even $20.00 a day (piece work) soon after the Civil War now get $2.00 and $2.50 per day for a 12hour day and a seven day week, and yet the steel industry yields an immensely greater revenue than ever befor.

If William Jennings Bryan should go into the Treasury Department there’ll be no money panic. He knows too much about the money question.

Who says that good men will not run for office where the recall is in effect? On the contrary, it is almost impossible to get bad men to run.

The protective tariff enables the manufacturers to pay his employes more if he wants to.

Source: The Western Woman Voter, January 1913

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