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compulsion can alone be made, or rather sought to be made, effective. The ill success of this drastic measure is familiar. The following year another Statute of Labourers was passed, the preamble of which sets out the signal failure of the previous statute—that “servants having no regard to the said Ordnance but to their ease and singular covetise do withdraw themselves to serve great men and others unless they have livery and wages to the double or treble of that they were wont to take.” The statute then went on to fix certain wages to be paid to servants in husbandry--for the threshing of various kinds of corn, and to the several sorts of artificers and labourers. The success of this statute was no greater than that of its predecessor, for in 1368 Parliament enacted that the first Statute of Labourers should be put in force, and that the justices of the peace should determine points under this Act. But the struggle to regulate wages by statute was not abandoned, and Acts were passed in the reigns of Henry VI. and Henry VII. with this object in view. But in vain, for the laws of political economy were stronger than the laws of England. It is not, however, necessary to pursue this hopeless struggle of the Legislature. I will come to a much later date and to a course of legislation more like that now in force with regard to disputes between masters and men.
In the year 1800 an Act was passed for settling disputes that might arise between masters and workmen engaged in the cotton manufacture in England (39 & 40 Geo. III. c. 90), which provided that in all cases where the masters and workmen could not agree respecting the prices to be paid for work done or to be done, and, finally, in all cases of dispute or difference between masters and men touching the trade which could not otherwise mutually be settled between them, it should be lawful for the masters and men,
or either of them,” to demand an arbitration or reference of such matter : each party was to appoint an arbitrator : the arbitrators were
empowered to summon witnesses and administer oaths: if they failed to agree they were to state the points in difference to a justice of the peace, who was finally to decide the matter. The Act provided that the award of the arbitrators or the decision of the justice should “be final and conclusive" between the parties differing; and it provided this sanction for obedience: that if any party refused to sign the submission or to appoint an arbitrator, or to submit to the award, he should forfeit to the other party the sum of £10. It is obvious that such a provision would produce little or no result in a case like the great strikes of the present day.
In the same session of Parliament another statute was passed in reference to masters and workmen engaged in any manufactures (39 & 40 Geo. III. c. 106), which, after dealing with the question of combinations between masters and men respectively, established a system of arbitration for all disputes in respect of the prices to be paid for “work actually done,” for injury or delay in doing such work, or disputes touching any agreement for work or wages. The subject-matter of reference does not, it will be observed, include questions of what ought to be paid in the future, but only questions which had arisen out of past or existing relations, The system of arbitration provided by this statute followed the lines of the previous Act of the same session ; but the penalty for non-performance was more severe : for every one convicted of refusing to do what he was directed by the award to do, might be committed to prison till performance.
In 1803 a statute was passed applicable to the cotton trade in Scotland a statute which followed the lines and in many parts the language of the English Act relating to the cotton trade there : and would rather have led one to suppose that the English Act was working well—were it not that in the following year an Act was passed to amend the English Act of 1800 in relation to that trade, which recited that the
mode of arbitration intended to be established by the Act had not produced the beneficial effects expected therefrom. It accordingly repealed the machinery of the Act of 1800, and provided that disputes should be settled by a new machinery. If the parties in difference agreed to abide by the decision of a justice, he might decide the dispute : if they did not so agree, then he might, on the request of either of the parties, nominate not less than four nor more than six persons—half masters, or agents, or foremen, and half weavers, out of which halves respectively the masters and weavers were to choose one. These two arbitrators were to decide the dispute, and in default it was to be settled by a justice. The payment of £10 by a defaulting party to the other was the only sanction for the performance of the award.
In 1813 (53 Geo. III. c. 74) a statute was passed which introduced into the cotton trade in Ireland a similar method of deciding disputes by referees appointed by justices.
In 1824 Parliament was minded to consolidate and amend the previous legislation on the subject, and by the statute 5 Geo. IV.c.96, repealed the previous legislation, and re-enacted a system of referring the dispute primarily to referees appointed by a justice of the peace, or finally by a justice. The disputes capable of being thus referred, are defined by the general words previously used, “disputes arising out of or touching the particular trade or manufacture, or contracts relative thereto which cannot be otherwise mutually adjusted and settled,” but followed by a most important limitation, “nothing in this Act contained shall authorize any justice or justices acting as hereinafter mentioned, to establish a rate of
wages, or price of labour or workmanship, at which the workmen shall in future be paid, unless with the mutual consent of both master and workmen.”
That this statute was not entirely a dead letter may be inferred from the fact that it was amended in particulars not needful for me to mention by the following Acts passed in the
earlier years of the Queen (1 Vict. c. 67; 8 & 9 Vict. c. 77 ; 8 & 9 Vict. c. 128).
A more important step was taken in 1867 (30 & 31 Vict. c. 105), when Parliament, without repealing the previous Acts, authorized the Crown to license Councils of Conciliation, to consist of not less than two masters and two workmen and a chairman, and enacted that the awards to be made by these equitable Councils of Conciliation, as they are called in the statute, might be enforced in the same way as awards under the Act of 1824. The Act does not appear to deal in any way with the future rates of wages. Again, in 1872, Parliament dealt with the subject again, and made provisions for the terms and operation of agreements between masters and men. The Act then passed enabled the contracting parties to bind themselves as to future wages to be settled by arbitration; and it also enabled them to choose or to define the manner of appointment of the arbitrators or umpire by whom they were to be bound; and it further provided that the parties were to be mutually bound by the agreement upon the master or his agent giving to the workman, and the workman accepting, a printed copy of the agreement.
These statutes of 1867 and 1872 appear to have produced little or no results. Mr. Boulton, the witness from the London Chamber of Commerce before the Royal Commission on Labour, speaking in November, 1892, said that he believed that in no case had these statutes been acted upon. Perhaps the power of enforcing the awards given by these statutes discouraged recourse being had to them.
Then-two years ago (by the statute 59 & 60 Vict. c. 30) Parliament in its wisdom repealed the Acts of 1824, 1867, and 1872, and introduced a system which gives a new position to the Board of Trade in respect of these disputes. The Act in the first place provides for the registration of Boards of Conciliation ; but these Boards practically derive all their
powers from the consent of the parties, and owe little to legislation or registration. In the next place, the Board of Trade is, in the event of any dispute between employers and workmen, clothed with power to do four things—first, to direct an inquiry into the causes and circumstances of the difference; secondly, to facilitate the meeting of the parties in difference ; thirdly, on the application of one of the parties in difference to appoint a person or persons to act as a conciliator or as a Board of Conciliation; and fourthly, on the application of both parties to appoint an arbitrator.
With reference to the first power given by the statute, viz. to “inquire into the causes and circumstances of the difference,” it is to be observed that the statute gives no judicial power to the inquirer, and requires from him no public statement of the results of his inquiry or of his opinion on the merits of the controversy ; he has no power to compel the attendance of witnesses or the production of documents, nor has he the power to administer an oath : and without such powers his investigation might well fail except when both parties desire the inquiry. It may be suggested that if one party gave evidence, the other would be under a moral compulsion to do the same ; but that appears to me far from certain. At the same time, it must be admitted that to clothe the inquirer with the powers without which his inquiry may well fail, would be to enable him to investigate the private affairs of men not desirous of disclosing them, and would probably be felt a serious interference with personal liberty.
In America no such sentiment appears to prevent the existence of a practice which is known as “mediation": which includes the examination of witnesses on oath, and the expression of an opinion publicly on the evidence, the opinion not being in the nature of an award. This practice seems in some cases to have met with success, the Massachusetts Board of Mediation and Arbitration having reported that its