While upon the subject of our manufacturing interests, I may record that on July 1, 1892, during my absence in the Highlands of Scotland, there occurred the one really serious quarrel with our workmen in our whole history. For twenty-six years I had been actively in charge of the relations between ourselves and our men, and it was the pride of my life to think how delightfully satisfactory these had been and were. I hope I fully deserved what my chief partner, Mr. Phipps, said in his letter to the „New York Herald,” January 30, 1904, in reply to one who had declared I had remained abroad during the Homestead strike, instead of flying back to support my partners. It was to the effect that „I was always disposed to yield to the demands of the men, however unreasonable”; hence one or two of my partners did not wish me to return. Taking no account of the reward that comes from feeling that you and your employees are friends and judging only from economical results, I believe that higher wages to men who respect their employers and are happy and contented are a good investment, yielding, indeed, big dividends.
[Footnote 42: The full statement of Mr. Phipps is as follows:
Question: „It was stated that Mr. Carnegie acted in a cowardly manner in not returning to America from Scotland and being present when the strike was in progress at Homestead.”
Answer: „When Mr. Carnegie heard of the trouble at Homestead he immediately wired that he would take the first ship for America, but his partners begged him not to appear, as they were of the opinion that the welfare of the Company required that he should not be in this country at the time. They knew of his extreme disposition to always grant the demands of labor, however unreasonable.
„I have never known of any one interested in the business to make any complaint about Mr. Carnegie’s absence at that time, but all the partners rejoiced that they were permitted to manage the affair in their own way.” (Henry Phipps in the New York Herald, January 30, 1904.)]
The manufacture of steel was revolutionized by the Bessemer open-hearth and basic inventions. The machinery hitherto employed had become obsolete, and our firm, recognizing this, spent several millions at Homestead reconstructing and enlarging the works. The new machinery made about sixty per cent more steel than the old. Two hundred and eighteen tonnage men (that is, men who were paid by the ton of steel produced) were working under a three years’ contract, part of the last year being with the new machinery. Thus their earnings had increased almost sixty per cent before the end of the contract.
The firm offered to divide this sixty per cent with them in the new scale to be made thereafter. That is to say, the earnings of the men would have been thirty per cent greater than under the old scale and the other thirty per cent would have gone to the firm to recompense it for its outlay. The work of the men would not have been much harder than it had been hitherto, as the improved machinery did the work. This was not only fair and liberal, it was generous, and under ordinary circumstances would have been accepted by the men with thanks. But the firm was then engaged in making armor for the United States Government, which we had declined twice to manufacture and which was urgently needed. It had also the contract to furnish material for the Chicago Exhibition. Some of the leaders of the men, knowing these conditions, insisted upon demanding the whole sixty per cent, thinking the firm would be compelled to give it. The firm could not agree, nor should it have agreed to such an attempt as this to take it by the throat and say, „Stand and deliver.” It very rightly declined. Had I been at home nothing would have induced me to yield to this unfair attempt to extort.
Up to this point all had been right enough. The policy I had pursued in cases of difference with our men was that of patiently waiting, reasoning with them, and showing them that their demands were unfair; but never attempting to employ new men in their places – never. The superintendent of Homestead, however, was assured by the three thousand men who were not concerned in the dispute that they could run the works, and were anxious to rid themselves of the two hundred and eighteen men who had banded themselves into a union and into which they had hitherto refused to admit those in other departments – only the „heaters” and „rollers” of steel being eligible.
My partners were misled by this superintendent, who was himself misled. He had not had great experience in such affairs, having recently been promoted from a subordinate position. The unjust demands of the few union men, and the opinion of the three thousand non-union men that they were unjust, very naturally led him into thinking there would be no trouble and that the workmen would do as they had promised. There were many men among the three thousand who could take, and wished to take, the places of the two hundred and eighteen – at least so it was reported to me.
It is easy to look back and say that the vital step of opening the works should never have been taken. All the firm had to do was to say to the men: „There is a labor dispute here and you must settle it between yourselves. The firm has made you a most liberal offer. The works will run when the dispute is adjusted, and not till then. Meanwhile your places remain open to you.” Or, it might have been well if the superintendent had said to the three thousand men, „All right, if you will come and run the works without protection,” thus throwing upon them the responsibility of protecting themselves – three thousand men as against two hundred and eighteen. Instead of this it was thought advisable (as an additional precaution by the state officials, I understand) to have the sheriff with guards to protect the thousands against the hundreds. The leaders of the latter were violent and aggressive men; they had guns and pistols, and, as was soon proved, were able to intimidate the thousands.
I quote what I once laid down in writing as our rule: „My idea is that the Company should be known as determined to let the men at any works stop work; that it will confer freely with them and wait patiently until they decide to return to work, never thinking of trying new men – never.” The best men as men, and the best workmen, are not walking the streets looking for work. Only the inferior class as a rule is idle. The kind of men we desired are rarely allowed to lose their jobs, even in dull times. It is impossible to get new men to run successfully the complicated machinery of a modern steel plant. The attempt to put in new men converted the thousands of old men who desired to work, into lukewarm supporters of our policy, for workmen can always be relied upon to resent the employment of new men. Who can blame them?
If I had been at home, however, I might have been persuaded to open the works, as the superintendent desired, to test whether our old men would go to work as they had promised. But it should be noted that the works were not opened at first by my partners for new men. On the contrary, it was, as I was informed upon my return, at the wish of the thousands of our old men that they were opened. This is a vital point. My partners were in no way blamable for making the trial so recommended by the superintendent. Our rule never to employ new men, but to wait for the old to return, had not been violated so far. In regard to the second opening of the works, after the strikers had shot the sheriff’s officers, it is also easy to look back and say, „How much better had the works been closed until the old men voted to return”; but the Governor of Pennsylvania, with eight thousand troops, had meanwhile taken charge of the situation.
I was traveling in the Highlands of Scotland when the trouble arose, and did not hear of it until two days after. Nothing I have ever had to meet in all my life, before or since, wounded me so deeply. No pangs remain of any wound received in my business career save that of Homestead. It was so unnecessary. The men were outrageously wrong. The strikers, with the new machinery, would have made from four to nine dollars a day under the new scale – thirty per cent more than they were making with the old machinery. While in Scotland I received the following cable from the officers of the union of our workmen:
„Kind master, tell us what you wish us to do and we shall do it for you.”
This was most touching, but, alas, too late. The mischief was done, the works were in the hands of the Governor; it was too late.
I received, while abroad, numerous kind messages from friends conversant with the circumstances, who imagined my unhappiness. The following from Mr. Gladstone was greatly appreciated:
MY DEAR MR. CARNEGIE,
My wife has long ago offered her thanks, with my own, for your most kind congratulations. But I do not forget that you have been suffering yourself from anxieties, and have been exposed to imputations in connection with your gallant efforts to direct rich men into a course of action more enlightened than that which they usually follow. I wish I could relieve you from these imputations of journalists, too often rash, conceited or censorious, rancorous, ill-natured. I wish to do the little, the very little, that is in my power, which is simply to say how sure I am that no one who knows you will be prompted by the unfortunate occurrences across the water (of which manifestly we cannot know the exact merits) to qualify in the slightest degree either his confidence in your generous views or his admiration of the good and great work you have already done.
Wealth is at present like a monster threatening to swallow up the moral life of man; you by precept and by example have been teaching him to disgorge. I for one thank you.
Very faithfully yours
(Signed) W.E. GLADSTONE
I insert this as giving proof, if proof were needed, of Mr. Gladstone’s large, sympathetic nature, alive and sensitive to everything transpiring of a nature to arouse sympathy – Neapolitans, Greeks, and Bulgarians one day, or a stricken friend the next.
The general public, of course, did not know that I was in Scotland and knew nothing of the initial trouble at Homestead. Workmen had been killed at the Carnegie Works, of which I was the controlling owner. That was sufficient to make my name a by-word for years. But at last some satisfaction came. Senator Hanna was president of the National Civic Federation, a body composed of capitalists and workmen which exerted a benign influence over both employers and employed, and the Honorable Oscar Straus, who was then vice-president, invited me to dine at his house and meet the officials of the Federation. Before the date appointed Mark Hanna, its president, my lifelong friend and former agent at Cleveland, had suddenly passed away. I attended the dinner. At its close Mr. Straus arose and said that the question of a successor to Mr. Hanna had been considered, and he had to report that every labor organization heard from had favored me for the position. There were present several of the labor leaders who, one after another, arose and corroborated Mr. Straus.
I do not remember so complete a surprise and, I shall confess, one so grateful to me. That I deserved well from labor I felt. I knew myself to be warmly sympathetic with the working-man, and also that I had the regard of our own workmen; but throughout the country it was naturally the reverse, owing to the Homestead riot. The Carnegie Works meant to the public Mr. Carnegie’s war upon labor’s just earnings.
I arose to explain to the officials at the Straus dinner that I could not possibly accept the great honor, because I had to escape the heat of summer and the head of the Federation must be on hand at all seasons ready to grapple with an outbreak, should one occur. My embarrassment was great, but I managed to let all understand that this was felt to be the most welcome tribute I could have received – a balm to the hurt mind. I closed by saying that if elected to my lamented friend’s place upon the Executive Committee I should esteem it an honor to serve. To this position I was elected by unanimous vote. I was thus relieved from the feeling that I was considered responsible by labor generally, for the Homestead riot and the killing of workmen.
I owe this vindication to Mr. Oscar Straus, who had read my articles and speeches of early days upon labor questions, and who had quoted these frequently to workmen. The two labor leaders of the Amalgamated Union, White and Schaeffer from Pittsburgh, who were at this dinner, were also able and anxious to enlighten their fellow-workmen members of the Board as to my record with labor, and did not fail to do so.
A mass meeting of the workmen and their wives was afterwards held in the Library Hall at Pittsburgh to greet me, and I addressed them from both my head and my heart. The one sentence I remember, and always shall, was to the effect that capital, labor, and employer were a three-legged stool, none before or after the others, all equally indispensable. Then came the cordial hand-shaking and all was well. Having thus rejoined hands and hearts with our employees and their wives, I felt that a great weight had been effectually lifted, but I had had a terrible experience although thousands of miles from the scene.
An incident flowing from the Homestead trouble is told by my friend, Professor John C. Van Dyke, of Rutgers College.
In the spring of 1900, I went up from Guaymas, on the Gulf of California, to the ranch of a friend at La Noria Verde, thinking to have a week’s shooting in the mountains of Sonora. The ranch was far enough removed from civilization, and I had expected meeting there only a few Mexicans and many Yaqui Indians, but much to my surprise I found an English-speaking man, who proved to be an American. I did not have long to wait in order to find out what brought him there, for he was very lonesome and disposed to talk. His name was McLuckie, and up to 1892 he had been a skilled mechanic in the employ of the Carnegie Steel Works at Homestead. He was what was called a „top hand,” received large wages, was married, and at that time had a home and considerable property. In addition, he had been honored by his fellow-townsmen and had been made burgomaster of Homestead.
When the strike of 1892 came McLuckie naturally sided with the strikers, and in his capacity as burgomaster gave the order to arrest the Pinkerton detectives who had come to Homestead by steamer to protect the works and preserve order. He believed he was fully justified in doing this. As he explained it to me, the detectives were an armed force invading his bailiwick, and he had a right to arrest and disarm them. The order led to bloodshed, and the conflict was begun in real earnest.
The story of the strike is, of course, well known to all. The strikers were finally defeated. As for McLuckie, he was indicted for murder, riot, treason, and I know not what other offenses. He was compelled to flee from the State, was wounded, starved, pursued by the officers of the law, and obliged to go into hiding until the storm blew over. Then he found that he was blacklisted by all the steel men in the United States and could not get employment anywhere. His money was gone, and, as a final blow, his wife died and his home was broken up. After many vicissitudes he resolved to go to Mexico, and at the time I met him he was trying to get employment in the mines about fifteen miles from La Noria Verde. But he was too good a mechanic for the Mexicans, who required in mining the cheapest kind of unskilled peon labor. He could get nothing to do and had no money. He was literally down to his last copper. Naturally, as he told the story of his misfortunes, I felt very sorry for him, especially as he was a most intelligent person and did no unnecessary whining about his troubles.
I do not think I told him at the time that I knew Mr. Carnegie and had been with him at Cluny in Scotland shortly after the Homestead strike, nor that I knew from Mr. Carnegie the other side of the story. But McLuckie was rather careful not to blame Mr. Carnegie, saying to me several times that if „Andy” had been there the trouble would never have arisen. He seemed to think „the boys” could get on very well with „Andy” but not so well with some of his partners.
I was at the ranch for a week and saw a good deal of McLuckie in the evenings. When I left there, I went directly to Tucson, Arizona, and from there I had occasion to write to Mr. Carnegie, and in the letter I told him about meeting with McLuckie. I added that I felt very sorry for the man and thought he had been treated rather badly. Mr. Carnegie answered at once, and on the margin of the letter wrote in lead pencil: „Give McLuckie all the money he wants, but don’t mention my name.” I wrote to McLuckie immediately, offering him what money he needed, mentioning no sum, but giving him to understand that it would be sufficient to put him on his feet again. He declined it. He said he would fight it out and make his own way, which was the right-enough American spirit. I could not help but admire it in him.
As I remember now, I spoke about him later to a friend, Mr. J.A. Naugle, the general manager of the Sonora Railway. At any rate, McLuckie got a job with the railway at driving wells, and made a great success of it. A year later, or perhaps it was in the autumn of the same year, I again met him at Guaymas, where he was superintending some repairs on his machinery at the railway shops. He was much changed for the better, seemed happy, and to add to his contentment, had taken unto himself a Mexican wife. And now that his sky was cleared, I was anxious to tell him the truth about my offer that he might not think unjustly of those who had been compelled to fight him. So before I left him, I said,
„McLuckie, I want you to know now that the money I offered you was not mine. That was Andrew Carnegie’s money. It was his offer, made through me.”
McLuckie was fairly stunned, and all he could say was:
„Well, that was damned white of Andy, wasn’t it?”
I would rather risk that verdict of McLuckie’s as a passport to Paradise than all the theological dogmas invented by man. I knew McLuckie well as a good fellow. It was said his property in Homestead was worth thirty thousand dollars. He was under arrest for the shooting of the police officers because he was the burgomaster, and also the chairman of the Men’s Committee of Homestead. He had to fly, leaving all behind him.
After this story got into print, the following skit appeared in the newspapers because I had declared I’d rather have McLuckie’s few words on my tombstone than any other inscription, for it indicated I had been kind to one of our workmen:
„JUST BY THE WAY”
SANDY ON ANDY
Oh! hae ye heared what Andy’s spiered to hae upo’ his tomb, When a’ his gowd is gie’n awa an’ Death has sealed his doom! Nae Scriptur’ line wi’ tribute fine that dealers aye keep handy, But juist this irreleegious screed – „That’s damned white of Andy!”
The gude Scot laughs at epitaphs that are but meant to flatter, But never are was sae profane, an’ that’s nae laughin’ matter. Yet, gin he gies his siller all awa, mon, he’s a dandy, An’ we’ll admit his right to it, for „That’s damned white of Andy!”
There’s not to be a „big, big D,” an’ then a dash thereafter, For Andy would na spoil the word by trying to make it safter; He’s not the lad to juggle terms, or soothing speech to bandy. A blunt, straightforward mon is he – an’ „That’s damned white of Andy!”
Sae when he’s deid, we’ll gie good heed, an’ write it as he askit; We’ll carve it on his headstone an’ we’ll stamp it on his casket: „Wha dees rich, dees disgraced,” says he, an’ sure’s my name is Sandy, ‚T wull be nae rich man that he’ll dee – an’ „That’s damned white of Andy!”
[Footnote 43: Mr. Carnegie was very fond of this story because, being human, he was fond of applause and, being a Robert Burns radical, he preferred the applause of Labor to that of Rank. That one of his men thought he had acted „white” pleased him beyond measure. He stopped short with that tribute and never asked, never knew, why or how the story happened to be told. Perhaps this is the time and place to tell the story of the story.
Sometime in 1901 over a dinner table in New York, I heard a statement regarding Mr. Carnegie that he never gave anything without the requirement that his name be attached to the gift. The remark came from a prominent man who should have known he was talking nonsense. It rather angered me. I denied the statement, saying that I, personally, had given away money for Mr. Carnegie that only he and I knew about, and that he had given many thousands in this way through others. By way of illustration I told the story about McLuckie. A Pittsburgh man at the table carried the story back to Pittsburgh, told it there, and it finally got into the newspapers. Of course the argument of the story, namely, that Mr. Carnegie sometimes gave without publicity, was lost sight of and only the refrain, „It was damned white of Andy,” remained. Mr. Carnegie never knew that there was an argument. He liked the refrain. Some years afterward at Skibo (1906), when he was writing this Autobiography, he asked me if I would not write out the story for him. I did so. I am now glad of the chance to write an explanatory note about it…. John C. Van Dyke.]