Being citizens of the United States of America, we, members of the textile industry, take the liberty of addressing this appeal to you. As chief executive of the United States, you are in a sense, our father and leader, and as such we look to you for advice and guidance. Perhaps the crime of child slavery has never been forcibly brought to your notice.
Yet, as father of us all, surely the smallest detail must be of interest to you. In Philadelphia, Pa., there are ninety thousand (90,000) textile workers who are on strike, asking for a reduction from sixty to fifty-five hours a week. With machinery, Mr. President, we believe that forty-eight hours is sufficient.
If the United States senate had passed the eight-hour bill, this strike might not have occurred. We also ask that the children be taken from the industrial prisons of this nation, and given their right of attending schools, that in years to come better citizens will be given to the republic.
These little children, raked by cruel toil beneath the iron wheels of greed, are starving in this country which you have declared is in the height of prosperity slaughtered, ten hours a day, every day in the week, every week in the month, every month in the year, that our manufacturing aristocracy may live to exploit more slaves as the years roll by.
We ask you, Mr. President, if our commercial greatness has not cost us too much by being built upon the quivering hearts of helpless children? We who know of these sufferings have taken up their cause and are now marching toward you in the hope that your tender heart will counsel with us to abolish this crime.
The manufacturers have threatened to starve these children and we seek to show that no child shall die of hunger at the will of any manufacturer in this fair land. The clergy, whose work this really is, are silent on the crime of ages, and so we appeal to you.
It is in the hope that the words of Christ will be more clearly understood by you when he said “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Our destination is New York City, and after that Oyster Bay. As your children, may we hope to have the pleasure of an audience? We only ask that you advise us as to the best course.
In Philadelphia alone thousands of persons will wait upon your answer, while throughout the land, wherever there is organized labor, the people will anxiously await an expression of your sentiments toward suffering child hood.
On behalf of these people, we beg that you will reply and let us know where we may expect an audience.
The reply should be addressed to Mother Jones’ Crusaders, en route according to the daily papers.
We are very respectfully yours.
Mother Jones, Chairman Committee Charles Sweeney, Edward A. Klingersmith, Emanuel Hanson, Joseph Diamond
The tone of the letter was diplomatic. “Mother” Jones did not challenge the proud Chief Executive, but tactfully asked him for advice and for an opportunity to discuss the problems of child labor.
The reaction of the press and government officials, however, was startling. Preparation for a war had been talked about to combat the strikers. It was unwarranted.