Child Labor Law, October 28, 1924




The Wisconsin Agriculturist -- Racine Wis., Oct. 28, 1924.

Editor, Journal-News, Racine, Wis.

Dear Sir: I note an article in the October 23 issue of your paper, by Jean MacAlpine Heer, of the National Child Labor Committee, in which the lady takes occasion to say that I am spreading misinformation relative to the federal child labor amendment.

The amendment provides: "Section 1. The Congress shall have power to limit, regulate and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age. Section 2. The power of the several states is unimpaired by this article except that the operation of state laws shall be suspended to the extent necessary to give effect to legislation enacted by the Congress."

The above is the exact wording of the amendment and you will observe that it would grant Congress the power to "limit, regulate and prohibit the labor" -- mind you not the employment -- "of persons under 18 years of age," and note further that under the wording of section 2, state laws on child labor must give way to a federal law on the subject. In other words, Congress is given supreme power over the lives of children up to 18 years of age.

Amendments were introduced to the resolution exempting agriculture and horticulture from the provisions of the proposed amendment. In other words, that it should not apply to farmers.

Another amendment changed the age limit from 18 years to 16 years.

Still another amendment provided [that] Congress shall have power to limit reasonably and regulate labor, etc.

Several other amendments were introduced, tending to modify powers of Congress should the amendment be ratified by the states. However, the United States Senate killed every one of the amendments and if ratified Congress is given full power to legislate in conformity with the amendment and to prohibit the labor of all persons up to 18 years of age.

[The lady] wonders "how Mr. Everett is so sure that Congress would be so foolish." Allow me to remind the lady that Congress passed this amendment by a two-thirds vote of both houses and refused the adoption of all amendments, killed every effort made to modify the amendment, render it less objectionable to the people.

Is not such action by the Congress evidence sufficient that the members of both houses favor federal control of children up to 18 years of age and would vote for a law in conformity with the proposed amendment? Else why did they vote for the resolution proposing the amendment?

The amendment, if ratified by 36 state legislatures, gives Congress absolute power, but, say the friends of the amendment, we will have a new Congress (let us hope so) that will not pass a drastic law and provide a congressional mother to supervise the lives of American children.

How does any one know what Congress will do? No one can foretell acts of Congress and the same pernicious activities that lobbied the amendment through the Congress will become still more active for a law that will give them the power they seek over the lives of our children and provide a job for many thousands of child labor inspectors (in addition to those already feeding at the public crib) to travel back and forth over our country, at the expense of the taxpayers watching that the fathers and mothers of our free America do not attempt any undue authority over their own children.

The report of the senate committee accompanying Senate Joint Resolution No. 1 (the proposed amendment) discloses a continuing recognition by members of the committee, and from her own declarations, that Mrs. Florence [Kelley] was a directing influence in the form and management of the amendment. She testified that her instructions "included participation in the selection of the senator who should be asked to introduce the bill." Its approval was her "chief occupation in relation with Congress until an amendment shall be adopted."

The form of amendment which [she] urged was approved in preference to the proposals of various senators and representatives.

Mrs. [Kelley] is a Socialist leader of marked distinction, a faculty instructor in the Rand School of socialism, former president of the Intercollegiate Socialist League, and a recognized translator of those wellsprings of modern socialism, Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx.

It is thus evident that Mr. Victor Berger, Socialist member of Congress, spoke with authority when he declared "It is a Socialist amendment and that is why I am for it" (Cong. Record, April 29, 1924, page 7738).

Senator King, of Utah, was a traveler in Russia in September and October of last year, and his testimony on the amendment is found in the Cong. Record, May 31, 1924, page 10298, as follows:

Mr. King: "If the senator from Delaware will pardon me, every Bolshevik, every extreme communist and Socialist in the United States is back of this measure. The Bolsheviks of Russia were familiar with the scheme that was about to be launched to amend our constitution. In conversation with one of the leading Bolsheviks in the city of Moscow, one of the educators, I was remonstrating with him about the scheme of Bolsheviks to have the state take charge of the children."

"Why," he said, "you are coming to that. A number of Socialists in the United States -- mentioning a number of names -- are back of the movement to amend your constitution of the United States, and it will [be amended], and you will transfer to the federal government the power which the Bolshevik is asserting now over the young people of the state."

Senator King further testified: "Of course this is a communistic, Bolshevistic scheme, and a lot of good people, misled, are accepting it, not knowing the evil consequences which will result and the sinister purpose back of the measure."

This is the kind of influence back of this amendment and as it was strong enough to induce Congress to pass a drastic, dangerous amendment by a two-thirds vote of both houses, it is safe to say that it will be strong enough, in case the amendment is ratified, to secure congressional action in conformity with its purpose and supreme desire.

"The hope is to nationalize the children, remove them from the pernicious influence of the family," says the wife of the commissioner of Social Welfare of Petrograd. "Thus they will from the very start remain under the beneficial influence of communist kindergartens and schools. Here they will grow up to be real communists. To compel the mother to surrender her child to us, to the soviet state, that is the practical task before us."

American fathers and mothers should look deeply into this insidious propaganda to deprive them of the authority they now enjoy in the rearing of their children, and should use every influence possible to induce the coming legislature at Madison to reject the amendment.

If ratified by 36 state legislatures it becomes the 20th amendment to the constitution of the United States and will so remain for evermore. It [will legislate] at any and all times and to [invoke] federal authority over that of [the parents] of American children. Why give Congress such dangerous [authority]?

I have been asked to address several meetings in Racine County on this subject and gave gladly complied. I am also invited to speak outside this country and will [fill?] every possible engagement and use every endeavor to advise the people as to the meaning and purpose of the proposed amendment.

Five state legislatures have already refused ratification, and when fully understood by the people of all states, its doom is certain. It should be most effectually condemned by every state legislature as an [unamerican], dangerous, [radical movement]."Hands off our children," should be the slogan.