John W. Davis

Labor Day Address of John W. Davis
and Record on Labor Issues

B D29 Pam

John W. Davis and Labor

IF labor is to hold the ground that it has gained, which is but another way of saying that if America is to remain American, there are three great constructive duties before the American people.

The first is to preserve equality of opportunity and make the nation secure against any tendency to harden into a system of caste. We do not want men and women in this country to remain tied to the stations which their fathers occupied. We wish all fathers and all mothers to nurse the hope that their children may lead happier and broader lives than they themselves have known.

The second duty is to so arrange and so administer our Government as to preserve equality of right. Whether we are dealing with the tariff, with taxation, with finance, with the railroads, with agriculture, with industry or what subject soever, we must make sure that there is no discrimination in our laws either for or against the farm or the factory, the countryside or the city, the East or the West. And our laws must be so framed and so applied as to leave all men every liberty which is consistent with the equal liberties of others. This was founded as the land of freedom. We must keep it so.

And in the third place, we must make the nation secure against war or the threat of war by adjusting our political and commercial policies to the new conditions that exist in the modern world.


Speech at Wheeling, W. Va., on Labor Day
- Has Steadfastly Upheld Worker's Rights

FROM the earliest days of his public career, the record of John W. Davis, Democratic nominee for the presidency, has been marked by a rare sympathy for the workers and cordial co-operation with organized labor toward the attainment of its aspirations.

A review of Mr. Davis's career where it has touched those things in which labor is interested, shows that no man who has held public office has more fully recognized the rights of the workers, or has more effectively employed such opportunities as were presented for transmuting sympathy into service.

Mr. Davis's views on matters of interest to labor are clearly set forth in his Labor Day speech at Wheeling, W, Va., on Monday, September 1st, reprinted herein as follows:


When I left Clarksburg after my acceptance speech three weeks ago, I did not hope to find myself so soon again within the borders of my native State. This is a wide country, and one who wishes to know or to be known by the 110,000,000 people who live within its borders must travel far if he is to accomplish that result. But when the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly invited me to speak at Wheeling on Labor Day I could not get my own consent to refuse their invitation. I felt that I owed too much to them and too much to the good people of Wheeling to turn aside.

It was in the hall of the Carroll Club, in the City of Wheeling, fourteen years ago, that a Democratic Convention drafted me as its nominee for Congress. My subsequent election was due in large part to the support which I received in Ohio County and the northern Panhandle. Two years later, with my legislative record before you, you renewed my commission, and from that day to this I have been given in countless ways evidence of your friendship and good-will.

Today I find myself again a candidate for office. I have not come, however, to plead my cause or the cause of the party which I represent. Indeed, in extending your invitation you made it clear that you did not expect - which was a polite way of saying that you did not desire - a political address. You had, of course, as I have, a different thought in mind. This is a celebration and a holiday in which Republicans and Democrats, Progressives, Socialists and men of all political beliefs unite, and I would be the last to wish to introduce any political discord into such a gathering. We meet as Americans on an American holiday. We can afford for the moment to forget political parties and the issues that divide them, and speak of things concerning which all true Americans should agree.

Labor's Holiday

This is labor's holiday. It was made a national holiday in the second Administration of Grover Cleveland. It is the day of those who, as the Wise Man said 2,000 years ago, "put their trust in their hands, and each becometh wise in his own work." And then the Wise Man goes on truthfully to say that "Without these shall not a city be inhabited and men shall not sojourn nor walk up and down therein. * * * They will maintain the fabric of the world, and in the handiwork of their craft is their prayer."

If I had the ability to sermonize I would want no better text than the one which these sentences present, I would dwell on the self-reliance of labor which puts its trust in its own hands, the service of labor, which gives the men food and shelter and clothing, and without which shall not this or any other city be inhabited, and men shall not sojourn, nor walk up and down therein; the necessity for labor, that the fabric of the world may be maintained, and last of all, the duty of labor, so to perform its great tasks that they may become daily offerings to the God of all the earth, for "in the handiwork of their craft is their prayer." But, since I cannot pretend to be a sermonizer, I leave that task to those who are better fitted to perform it.

Labor has traveled a long road since those words were written. Chattel slavery, which bound the slave to his master, and serfdom, which bound the worker to the land, have stained many centuries of human history. Six hundred years ago there were laws that made it a crime for a workman to demand of an employer to pay more than the going wage, and bailiffs and sheriffs were sent on the trail of workmen who left their county without permission. Combinations of workmen to secure a raise in wages or better conditions of labor were unlawful under the laws of England as late as sixty years ago, and men still live who felt in America the cruel bondage of a slavery that it took a bloody war to destroy.

Today involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, is forever forbidden in these United States, and the right of labor freely to organize and freely to bargain in its own interest is recognized both by public opinion and by law. It has been no easy struggle that has brought labor to the position in which it stands today. At every stage its advance has been opposed by the forces of human greed and avarice, and retarded by ignorance and prejudice. Autocracy in government and in industry has made a hard fight to hold its ground, for privilege never yields without a struggle.

Not once but many times war has cast its shadow across the pathway and although in this country war broke the chains of the slave, it will be found, when the account is added up. that war has always put far heavier burdens on the backs of labor than it has ever pretended to remove.

Duties Yet to Be Discharged

If labor is to hold the ground that it has gained, which is but another way of saying that if America is to remain American, there are three great constructive duties before the American people. The first is to preserve equality of opportunity and make the nation secure against any tendency to harden into a system of caste. We do not want men and women in this country to remain tied to the stations which their fathers occupied. We wish all fathers and all mothers to nurse the hope that their children may lead happier and broader lives than they themselves have known.

The second duty is to so arrange and so administer our Government as to preserve equality of right. Whether we are dealing with the tariff, with taxation, with finance, with the railroads, with agriculture, with industry or what subject soever, we must make sure that there is no discrimination in our laws either for or. against the farm or the factory, the countryside or the city, the East or the West. And our laws must be so framed and so applied as to leave all men every liberty which is consistent with the equal liberties of others. This was founded as the land of freedom. We must keep it so.

And in the third place, we must make the nation secure against war or the threat of war by adjusting our political and commercial policies to the new conditions that exist in the modern world.

The key to the door of equal opportunity is education. Now and again a misguided voice is raised to suggest that we may become overeducated. The theory seems to be that if we educate the brain there will be not one left to do the labor of the hand. It is the same "mud-sill" theory which Abraham Lincoln denounced when he said that "By the 'mudsill' theory it is assumed that labor and education are incompatible and any combination of them impossible. According to that theory, a blind horse upon a treadmill is a perfect illustration of what a laborer should be - all the better for being blind, that he may not kick understandingly. According to that theory, the education of laborers is not only useless but pernicious and dangerous. In fact, it is, in some sort, deemed a misfortune that laborers should have heads at all. Those same heads are regarded as explosive material, only to be safely kept in damp places, as far as possible from the peculiar sort of fire which ignites them. A Yankee who could invent a strong-handed man without a head would receive the everlasting gratitude of the 'mudsill' advocates. But free labor says 'No.' Every head should be cultivated and improved by whatever will add to his capacity for performing its charge. In one word, free labor insists on universal education."

Right of Child to Be Educated

We must not enter on the fatal path of a State monopoly of education, nor should we load upon an already over-burdened Government at Washington the educational duties which properly belong to the States and cities and local communities. But we must sustain, support and strengthen in every way our indispensable system of public schools so that every child may be assured of an education, and of such an education as will fit him not only to earn his living but also to live. We must resist every tendency to limit the education of children of any class merely to the manufacture of hands for industry, and every tendency to produce a standardized American.

It is the business of the schools to turn out free citizens of the Republic, and not merely docile human machines. And if we open wide by education the door of opportunity to the child, we owe it to him to see that human greed does not close it again. It is a blot upon our good name that child labor should be permitted anywhere in the United States to dwarf the minds and bodies of the future citizens of the Republic. To stunt the growth of a child in his most critical years, to rob him of his opportunity for education and make him a juvenile drudge for mere purposes of profit, is a crime against the future of the race.

Of course, the several States can, and they should, prevent this thing; I would not wish that power taken from them. When Congress passed, in 1916, its first Child Labor law, however, it became my duty, as Solicitor-General, to argue in its favor before the Supreme Court of the United States. I urged in its support that unless a uniform standard was adopted throughout the United States, the States that wished to legislate against child labor would be deterred because of the economic disadvantages they would suffer in competition with their less progressive neighbors. I called attention to the fact that for like reasons more than one international conference had been called to bring about equality among the nations on similar subjects. The reasons which I put forward in support of the law of 1916 seem to me still to obtain, and lead me now to favor the ratification of the pending child labor amendment. Responsibility for decision on that subject now rests with the States themselves, but were I a member of a State Legislature my vote would be cast to ratify the amendment.

Equality of Opportunity

Equality of opportunity, however, is an empty phrase unless all men are left free to grasp it. Not only must laws be just and equal, but we must see that they do not evade those natural rights which neither Congresses nor Legislatures, Presidents nor Governors, courts nor commissions may rightfully restrict. Freedom of speech - which means the right to say the things that displease as well as the things that please those in power; freedom of assembly, freedom of labor, freedom of contract, freedom of the press, freedom in matters of religious belief and practice - these are the rights too sacred to be trifled with. There is no danger in their exercise. It is the attempt at their suppression that leads to excess or explosion.

I do not envy the frame of mind which causes some men to charge all who disagree with them with plotting the destruction of the Republic. To judge from some recent utterances, there are those in this country who see a conspiracy whenever three workmen meet together, a riot when their numbers grow to ten, and a revolution if it reaches a hundred. Around every corner lurks a Red, and nothing but the utmost vigilance of these self-appointed savers will rescue the country from the destruction he is plotting.

Of course, in a country so diversified as ours many mistaken ideas are set afloat. Wild theories of government and of society are thrown up in a population that contains so many sorts of men. But I am one of those who continue to believe that the best disinfectant, moral or physical, is fresh air. The best defense against the tyranny of the few or the despotism of the many is free and open debate. I prefer liberty with all its perils, including the liberty to make mistakes, to any system by which the Government seeks to set itself up as the universal shepherd of us all.

Not the least of these natural rights is the right of free contract. Toward grown men and women, responsible citizens of the Republic, we cannot and we should not take a paternalistic and protective attitude. It is well enough for the Government as an employer to fix by statute the hours of labor of those whom it employs. It is proper and right that it should pass factory laws to protect the health and safety of those who work. Where it undertakes to regulate a business such as transportation it cannot ignore the conditions that surround the labor engaged in that industry. It must defend the future citizenship of the nation by restrictions on child labor, and in view of the burdens which the duties of maternity cast upon them it may exercise a special care of those who are to become mothers of the race.

Agreements Must Be Voluntary

But, such cases aside, it should leave adult citizens to make their own contracts, in their own way as to the terms' and conditions on which their labor is to be performed. If Government can fix the limit of a day's work in ordinary industrial and commercial pursuits, it can, at its own discretion, make those limits long or short. It should attempt to do neither, but leave the parties to all such contracts to bargain with each other as their mutual benefit requires. The wage contract of the adult, no less than any other contract, should be a voluntary agreement. Anything other than this I believe to be impossible, undesirable, corrupting and tyrannical.

It is only when contracts rest upon consent that those who make them are bound in morals to their observance. When labor bargains on equal terms with its employer, both parties to the contract owe it to themselves and owe it to society to keep and perform with scrupulous honesty the contracts they have made.

While employer and employe should be left to bargain with each other in such manner as they see fit, it must not be forgotten that violent disputes between them are not only the source of great loss to both, but are disastrous to the industry and commerce of the country. In view of these facts, it is the duty of Government to lend its aid and encouragement in every possible way to settle such disputes. It should provide machinery through which there may be fair and calm discussion of the subject of dispute by the employer and employe; mediation, when necessary, by non-prejudiced persons and thoroughgoing publicity of all facts.

Two things seem to me to be fundamental in setting up such machinery. Of these the first is that when an adjustment board is created it should consist of representatives of the employers on the one hand and representatives of the particular craft concerned in the controversy on the other; the second, that it is better in every way that boards of adjustment or boards of investigation and review, instead of being fixed in their personnel, should be filled by appointment made from time to time as controversies arise. Nothing is more difficult than for a permanent board to retain the confidence of employer and employe. Each decision it is called upon to make exposes it to the charge of having unduly favored one side or the other, and is pointed to as a precedent when subsequent decisions are to be made. Human nature is quick to charge other men with preconceived opinions - and labor disputes deal not with fixed rules of law, they deal with human nature.

Whether or not legal authority exists to compel the submission of labor disputes to such a board, or whether or not the decisions of any such board may be enforced, is of minor consequence if the board itself enjoys the confidence of the parties to the dispute, and if it realizes that its chief function is to encourage a spirit of co-operation and friendship between employer and employe.

Amend Transportation Act

It is in the light of those principles and of accumulated experience that we should rewrite those provisions of the Esch-Cummins Transportation act that deal with the settlement of labor disputes.

It is because I believe in a liberty that is above and beyond all governmental control that I cannot sympathize with those who would give to Congresses and Legislatures, or even to a popular majority, the power to do whatever they might see fit. There is no such thing in America as government at discretion. It is not the strong who need protection against the encroachments of power; it is the weak on whom the burden of such things is most apt to fall. They have the right to call upon the courts to say to every governmental autocrat, great or small, "Thus far shalt thou go and no further."

I know Judges are human and that they make many mistakes. Men do not cease to be men simply because you, put them in a black silk gown and set them in a judicial chair; but on the other hand they do not become prophets or seers or sages simply by being elected Senators or Members of Congress or delegates to a State Legislature.

There is one complaint, however, which labor has had cause to make against judicial process which is well founded. In my judgment, there have been many cases in the past where the writ of injunction has been abused in connection with labor disputes. Injunctions have been issued which by their terms went beyond any proper limit and sought to deprive men of a lawful exercise of indisputable rights. They have been framed with partisan zeal and their effect has been to cast upon the courts the performance of duties which properly belong to those executive officers of the State or nation who are primarily charged with the preservation of public peace and public order.

It is not well for society, it is not well for the courts, it is not well for the parties themselves, that these things should be so. My views on this subject are not the result of any newly formed conviction. When I was your representative in Congress I was given opportunity to take part in framing and defending legislation intended, to correct these evils, to limit to its proper functions the writ of injunction and to give the right of trial by jury to those who are charged with criminal contempt. I believe then, as I believe now, that such legislation was demanded. If the legislation already passed is not sufficient guidance in this matter we must write it in plainer terms.

New Problems Always Ahead

The age in which we live differs vastly in its social and economic relation and in facts of its industrial life from the age in which our Government was founded. The glory of our system has been that it adapts itself to meet the new problems of our ever- changing life. Labor has shared and must continue to share in the responsibility of its adoption. It still remains to be shown, however, whether we ourselves are able to rise to that new conception of international relations that these changes demand.

This generation needs no further lesson of the peril and destructiveness of war. We must bring ourselves to think in terms of lasting peace. With American fliers about to complete the circuit of the globe by air, with the human voice carrying across the ocean and with men becoming every day more and more dependent upon products brought from foreign soil, those who counsel isolation are blind leaders of the blind.

We shall have world peace and world disarmament if we are willing to work for it. We will not get it on any other terms I call upon the laboring men and women of America as those on whom the burdens of war fall with most crushing weight to lead their fellow-countrymen on this great subject, to make sure that America takes her rightful place in the councils of humanity, and that she becomes the first among the nations in the service of mankind.


While a member of the National House of Representatives, from 1911 until 1913, when he resigned to become Solicitor General, John W. Davis, showed the same interest in and friendliness to labor that had marked the first years of his public life, while still a young man in the West Virginia legislature,

The whole course of legislation affecting the interests of labor has been influenced by the acts of the Congresses of which Mr. Davis was a member, and holding membership on the important House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Davis had an important part in legislation affecting the workers. Some of the enactments of Congress during the service of Mr. Davis in that body, in the enactment of which he was both active and influential, are:

Creation of the Children's Bureau to gather facts regarding infant mortality, birth rate, orphanage, juvenile courts, child labor, diseases of children, etc. This was the beginning of the effective assistance which the Government has been giving to the States in improving sanitary, social, and industrial conditions throughout the country.

Recognition and extension of the benevolent principle of the eight-hour day by a law directing that every contract made for or on behalf of the United States necessitating the employment of laborers or mechanics should contain a provision that none of them should be required to work more than eight hours in any calendar day.

Outlawing of the phosphorous match as a means of protecting workers in the match industry from the frightful disease known as "phossy jaw."

Authorizing a Commission on Industrial Relations to study in all its branches the relation between capital and labor. The practical results of this Commission's efforts are to be found in subsequent legislation, particularly in the establishment of the Department of Labor with its machinery for the investigation and conciliation of industrial disputes, etc.

Removal of the "gag rule" imposed by President Roosevelt and President Taft on Federal employes, thus restoring their right to petition for the redress of their just grievances, and the correction of abuses in the Federal service, etc.

Increase of the pay of railway mail clerks and rural mail carriers, and consequent improvement of this service.

In addition to the enactment of this salutary legislation, that House (1911-1913) endeavored to pass other laws equally important and advantageous. Many of these laws were defeated, either by the opposition of the Republican Senate or by the vetoes of the Republican President. Many of them were afterwards adopted by the Democratic Congress which was elected with President Wilson in 1912.

Leads Five Great Reforms

Five capital reforms to which John W. Davis devoted himself with earnestness and vigor during the comparatively short period of his membership in the House of Representatives were the exemption of labor unions and farmers' organizations from the provisions of the Clayton anti-trust law, the enactment of a workmen's compensation act, and bills to cure abuses in the issuance of injunctions, to liberalize the practice in contempt proceedings, and to improve procedure in Federal courts.

These reforms had been urged for a long time, not only by organized labor and other groups directly affected but by the liberal elements of the country, including a large section of the press. Mr. Davis was a member of the Judiciary Committee which dealt with most of these bills. His share in their preparation or their amendment was considerable and valuable.

The speeches which he delivered in behalf of these bills revealed not only his signal abilities as a lawyer but his profound sympathy with their purpose. He introduced a workmen's compensation bill in the House on April 7, 1913, after having voted for a similar measure in the previous session of Congress. On June 27, 1913, Mr. Davis, in discussing two such bills then pending, said:

"Among the grave and important subjects claiming the attention of this Congress perhaps there is no single one more important than that of workmen's compensation. The world-wide feeling that the burden of industrial accidents should be borne not by the unhappy sufferers alone but rather by the community at large has produced in recent years widespread legislative activity."

He was equally frank and forceful in his advocacy of reforms in the issuance of injunctions and in the punishment of contempt by the Federal courts. He held that Congress had the power and authority to legislate with regard to the procedure of inferior Federal courts. He therefore supported a bill which would have given a person accused of contempt of court the right of trial by jury "as in all other causes at law;" and spoke and voted in favor of a bill to regulate the injunctive power of the Federal courts in industrial disputes. He was, in fact, one of those who framed the two Clayton Acts in 1912.

Speaking on the proposal to regulate the issuance of injunctions in such cases, Mr. Davis said in the House (May 14, 1912):

"I congratulate the Democratic party that an opportunity has now come to it to present genuine constructive legislation on this mooted topic and that it is prepared to grasp it."

It was in the course of this same speech that he met and answered the contention that the injunction was a necessary restraint on workers of the country in times of strikes and controversies.

"I denounce as a libel upon American citizenship, the assertion that the laboring men of this country are ever ready at the word to break into lawlessness or that they sympathize with those who do. And I pity the man who takes such counsel of his fears as to be unwilling to recognize and accord to them by statute and in practice the full use of every legitimate weapon of offense and defense in all trade wars and the untrammeled exercise of every constitutional right."

Opponents of the measure - numerous and influential they were, too - sought to have the Clayton bill branded as "class legislation." To this objection Mr. Davis replied:

"Such an assertion mistakes the meaning of the term (class legislation)," he said. "In this sense, what are your factory laws but class legislation for the benefit of the mill hands; what are your eight- hour day, your children's bureau and so on down the long list of laws aimed to give relief for specific evils where relief is needed?

"I repeat that it is no objection to any law that it is intended to right the wrongs of any class, race, or section of society, so only it gives no more than equal and exact justice. Class legislation in the vicious sense of the word means special privilege and special privilege only, and against this the Democratic party has sworn eternal war."

Mr. Davis assisted also in drafting the Clayton Act of 1912 to provide for trial by jury in contempt cases in labor disputes. This passed the House on July 11, 1912. The Republican Senate defeated this bill but the substance of it became part of the Clayton law of 1916.


When John W. Davis was a young man, long before he ever dreamed of being a candidate for President, he was a member of the Legislature of West Virginia in 1899, a Legislature that put upon the statute books many of the laws now found in the Code of West Virginia for the protection of labor. That early in his career, in every instance where a piece of sound progressive legislation was proposed, John W. Davis was found working and fighting for it.

Let us examine the journals of the House of Delegates of West Virginia, Session of 1899.

One of the first acts of John W. Davis after the organization of the Legislature was the introduction on January 23rd, 1899, of a petition of B. M. Flarerty, M. Philbin, Thos. Morton, and M. Joyce, commissioner, and Mr. Concannon, Secretary of the Local Union No. 72, United Mine Workers, of Clarksburg, W. Va., asking additional legislation regarding the duties of the air inspector in the mines, and the employment of boys in the mines, and also praying that a law be enacted prohibiting the employment of miners from other states in the case of strikes. This was reported to the committee on mines and mining and the result was much progressive legislation by this House, in the advancement of which Mr. Davis was always found upon the side of progressive legislation and the protection of the interests of the laboring man and the weaker members of society. (House Journal Sess. 1899, Page 158).

On Feb. 1st, 1899, Mr. Davis voted with Mr. B. W. Connelly, a carpenter and Wheeling labor leader, in favor of House Bill 102, making provisions for the prevention of accidents, for the preservation of life and health of employees in the manufacturing, mercantile and mechanic establishments and other places where persons, male and female, are employed in West Virginia. (H. J. 1899, page 503).

This was one of the first pieces of progressive legislation put upon the statute books of West Virginia. That Mr. Davis took an active interest in the bill is shown by an amendment offered by him (House Journal, page 471), so as to broaden the scope of the act and provide "against the employment of a child at any hazardous employment, the peculiar nature of which is such that its life or limb might be thereby endangered, or its health injured, or its morals become depraved."

For Protection of Children.

On Feb. 1899, Mr. Davis voted with Mr. B. W. Connelly, aforesaid labor leader, against the rejection of H. B. 103, a bill to prohibit the employment of children. (H. J. page 233). He also voted with Mr. Connelly against the recommitment of the bill to a committee. (H. J. page 475). And on the final passage of the bill as amended by the Committee on Labor of which Mr. R. A. Gorrell was chairman and Mr. Ralph McCoy, a bricksmason of Ohio County, W. Va., was a member, he voted with them for the passage of the bill (H. J. page 539).

On Feb. 3, 1899, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Mr, Davis assisted in debating and reported back with a recommendation that it pass (H. J. 172) a bill providing that

"Any workman, laborer or other person who shall do or perform any work or labor by virtue of any contract for any incorporated company doing business in this state, shall have a lien for the value of such work on the real estate and personal property of said company," also providing a like lien in favor of any workman, laborer or other person who shall perform any work or labor for any person or persons doing business in this state, and on Feb. 13th, he voted for the bill. (H. J. 1899, pages 240 and 471).

This is substantially a part of the Mechanics lien law of West Virginia today.

As a result of the petition presented by Mr. Davis on behalf of the United Mine Workers of Clarksburg, W. Va H. B. No. 94 was introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates on January 23, 1899. It is "a bill considering the working, ventilation and draining of coal mines and providing for the health, safety and welfare of persons employed therein." This bill was reported back favorably by the Committee on Mines and Mining and was advocated and favored by Mr. Davis throughout the entire course of its consideration by the House of Delegates and on February 17th, 1899, it was passed, Mr. Davis voting in favor thereof. (H. J, 1899, page 544).

Most of the provisions of this bill may be found today in the labor chapters of the West Virginia Code, governing the ventilation of coal mines and the protection of workmen therein, placed therein in part by the vote and efforts of John W. Davis.

On February 16, 1899, Mr. Davis advocated and voted for the passage of House Bill 23, "A bill regulating the hours of labor of public workmen." (H. J. 1899 page 517.) This bill limited a day's work on any public building to eight hours and provided a fine of $1,000 and six months in jail for any contractor on any public work in West Virginia who violated the provisions of the bill.

B. W. Connelly, the floor leader, was the patron of this bill. Mr. Davis voted with Mr. Connelly against the rejection of this bill on the first reading (H, J. page 234) and voted with Mr, Connelly for the passage of the bill. This was possibly the first eight-hour labor law ever enacted in West Virginia, and is still found in Chap. 15-r of the Code of West Virginia.

On February 8, 1899, Mr. Davis voted with the labor leaders for the passage of House Bills 20 and 25, making Labor Day a legal holiday in West Virginia, his statute is now in force and may be found in the West Virginia Code. (H. J. 1899, pages 433 and 447).

On February 22, 1899, Mr. Davis advocated and voted for H. B, 93, providing for the taxation of telegraph, telephone, and express companies, which companies therefore had been evading a just share of the tax burden. (H. J. 1899, page 639), He also voted for House Bill 217, a bill for accomplishing like purposes. (H. J. 639 and 504.

Was House Leader

Mr, Davis during his legislative career as a young man was the Democratic leader of the House of Delegates and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in which many progressive measures were initiated, whipped into proper form under his supervision and reported to the House for passage by him as chairman of said committee, with the recommendation that they pass. Among others are the following bills:

House Bill No. 83, a bill to prevent infection of water courses of the state and to protect public property. (H. J. 404.)

House Bill 219, a bill to provide for the education and instruction of children at the place of reception of the poor. (H. J. 407.)

House Bill 181, a bill to require all telephone companies to connect with other systems and exchange messages. (H. J. page 418.)

House Bill 218, a bill to protect life and property at railway crossings. (H. J. page 420.)

Senate Bill No. 3, a bill to create an advisory board to investigate pardons. (H. J. 591.)

At this session of the Legislature, the existing law for the establishment of miners' hospitals, under which the first miners' hospitals were established in the State of West Virginia, was passed. This was voted for and vigorously advocated by Mr. Davis and is now on the State's statute books.

As Solicitor General

During the service of John W. Davis as Solicitor General of the United States, it fell to his lot to uphold before the Supreme Court cases in which the interest of labor was vital, notably the Adamson Eight-Hour Law and the Child Labor Law. His successful maintenance of the constitutionality of this act, upholding the right to limit the hours of labor, was one of the largest forward strides the Government has ever taken, and the success of Mr. Davis in this case was accepted on all sides as a great victory for labor. Mr. Davis took the high ground in his argument in this case that "efficiency and safety of railroad service depend upon the skill and physical fitness of the employees" and that "it is just as necessary to properly care for employees as to keep in good condition the physical instrumentalities used in interstate commerce. Physical efficiency is impossible," he said, "without proper living conditions, which demand suitable food, clothing, housing and recreation. These in turn cannot be secured without the payment of adequate wage. An adequate wage, therefore, is essential to safe, regular and efficient service in interstate commerce, and the public, through Congress, has a right to demand its payment."

Mr. Davis also argued the case before the Supreme Court for the first Child Labor Law, and while it was held unconstitutional by a five to four vote of the Court, it is not strictly accurate to say that Mr. Davis lost in his effort to establish the constitutionality of the law. It is true that the Supreme Court decided the case against him, but his brief and argument gave the demand for the legislation an impetus that is still felt throughout the country and morally certain to bring about this reform. The present Congress has submitted to the States a proposed amendment to the Constitution to effectuate in that way what could not be accomplished by Congressional enactment alone.

Considerations of humanity, of morality, of public policy and of economic efficiency were invoked by Mr. Davis in his fight for the protection of children. The Court could find no warrant in the Constitution for the law he championed, but public opinion then and since has sustained him.

That Mr. Davis's attitude toward labor in the earlier days of his public career, whether as a member of the West Virginia Legislature or as a member of Congress, conforms with the views he holds today, is shown by that portion of his speech of acceptance at Clarksburg dealing with the position of the Democratic Party and himself toward labor. In that speech, he said:

Position Is Clear

"Concerning our sentiments toward labor there is room for neither doubt nor cavil in the light of our past history. The right of labor to an adequate wage earned under healthful conditions, the right to organize in order to obtain it and the right to bargain for it collectively, through agents and representatives of its own choosing, have been established after many years of weary struggle. These rights are conceded now by all fair-minded men. They must not be impaired either by injunction or by any other device. The Democratic Party, however, goes a step beyond this. Its attitude has been well described as one inspired neither by deference on the one hand nor by patronage on the other, but by a sincere desire to make labor part of the grand council of the nation, to concede its patriotism and to recognize that its knowledge of its own needs gives it a right to a voice in all matters of government that directly or peculiarly affect its own rights. This attitude has not changed, it will not change. Democracy in government and Democracy in industry alike demand the free recognition of the right of all those who work, in whatever rank or place, to share in all decisions that affect their welfare."

Government and Politics

West Virginia Archives and History