Excerpts from the Minutes of a Meeting on the 1924 Political Campaign

                                                                               Continental Hotel, New York City, July 11, 1924.

Yesterday, Thursday July 10, 1924, President Gompers who is staying at the Shelburn Hotel, Brighten Beach, for a few days after leaving the hospital, called a conference to consider the political situation growing out of the declarations and candidates of the two major political parties and the declaration and candidate of the Conference for Political Action held at Cleveland, O., immediately following the Republican convention. . . .

[Mr. Gompers. "] I am greatly disappointed at the outcome of this convention. I expected nothing from the republican national convention in Cleveland, but I think we had the right to expect something from the democratic national convention. The platform adopted was disappointing from every standpoint and particularly that of labor. The only declaration containing a principle is the one which is enacted law of the country and not a demand for such a law--that is, that the labor of a human being is not a commodity. Almost in the same sentence, at any rate in the same paragraph, there is negation of that principle.

["]They have nominated a man for the presidency of the United States who is able, but as to his position upon questions affecting the rights, interests and the welfare of the people, economically, industrially and politically there is too little of a favorable character that I feel we can not come to his support.

["]The candidate for the vice-presidency, Governor Bryan of Nebraska, he was originally a drug clerk. When William Jennings Bryan got into politics, he became his secretary and handled the Commoner branch of the business. He branched out into politics and became the mayor, ran for governor twice, and then got the nomination." . . .

"Now the convention was held at Cleveland of the Conference for Progressive Political Action. At that convention they did rid themselves from the communists group and the communist party of this country. In so far as Senator LaFollette knows he has presented some fundamental principles upon which we all agree. He knows nothing of economics. He thinks that political necessity and political reforms can cure the ills which result from modern industry. He does not know that it is an industrial not a political problem. He is faithfully for freedom, for justice, and for opportunity. The endorsement or nomination of him for his acceptance of nomination for the presidency of the United States upon this basis which he laid down and which was adopted by the Cleveland convention. He is now a candidate. I am not yet sure what our course should be toward him in this campaign.

"The La Follette movement is not in itself technically what might be called a third party, and we are not committed to any party.

"The democratic party has no stronghold upon the American Federation of Labor. The seriousness of the situation is of another character in so far as the rights and the interests of labor of the United States are concerned; and that is, the decision of the Cleveland conference to enter into the congressional field and make the support of LaFollette for the presidency the condition of support for nomination for the House of Representatives and Senate."

Mr. Morrison. ["]I think they are not going to do this.["]

Mr. Gompers. ["]But they did do it. They have done it. I have not got the papers here. They decided in other words just as I have stated it. If that course is pursued it means that the success we have had in the 1922 campaign elections will not only be endangered but other members of the House of Representatives and other senators who have always been straight and true with us, with labor and the people generally, will be defeated by the nomination of candidates whose platform will be the support of Senator LaFollette for the presidency. That is the situation now, and the pity of it is, I must repeat it, that unless we support Davis and Bryan we will be charged with opposition to the ticket because Davis declined to interfere in the nomination of a running mate--not because we are against him and his record or that we are against Bryan and his record, but simply because we did not get the nomination or his promised support of the nomination for vice-presidency. That is the charge that will laid against us." . . .

["]The situation being as it is, it is not easy for us in the course we shall have to pursue. The Cleveland conference decided that its executive or national committee shall meet in Washington July 18, there place in nomination a candidate for vice-president on their ticket with Senator LaFollette, and to take such necessary action as the conference at that meeting may determine in furtherance of their candidate and program.

["]I am wondering whether it would not be wise, and I want your thoughtful consideration of what I am about to say, to invite a few of the men, possibly located at Washington, to meet with a committee representing the American Federation of Labor, and to ascertain whether there can not be co-operation or co-ordination in this political situation and campaign. . . .

"I do not know that this is definitely or finally my reaction upon this situation and the next step or the step which we are to take but it is a thought which has been pressing upon me and I have expressed it. The meeting of the national committee of the LaFollette movement will be July 18. This is July 10--in other words, more than a week from now. It ought not to be difficult to have a conference with some of the labor men and a few representatives of that movement in Washington with the Executive Committee of the National Non-Partisan Political Campaign committee of the A.F. of L. myself excluded; that is, unless I am probably willing to make the last effort of my life, because I do not know what attendance at such a conference would be, probably no more than I know what the effects of this conference will be upon me. It may be impossible for me to attend such a conference at Washington. I might go anyway.

["]The conference should be held two or three days from now to go over this situation and see whether we can not get a fragment of comfort and help for labor out of this mess. There is no need for that national committee to decide finally all things on that date. Some things of great importance can well be left for decision to a later date, and that in the meantime the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor will meet beginning August 1, and the whole situation will be presented to the Executive Council for their review and possible decision.["]

Mr. Woll: "We are in a most confusing and dangerous situation, there is no getting away from that. If we balance off the platforms of the various political conventions that have been held, there is no question that the LaFollette platform more nearly conforms to the aspirations of the American Federation of Labor. . . . I do not know how far platforms are going to count in this campaign but I am inclined to believe that personalities will be a great factor and if we balance off personalities I do not think there is any question that LaFollette more nearly conforms to our hopes and aspirations than any of those who have been mentioned.

"You brought out the point that the Cleveland conferences went further than was expected and that they have made the situation more confusing by entering the congressional field which places us in the position of defeating friends in the other parties. There is a still greater danger and that is the situation that we are going to be confronted with next November in our A.F. of L. convention. I do not know what the outcome of the campaign will be. The Cleveland conference decided that there shall be a further meeting early in January next year for the purpose of considering the formation of a permanent organization or a third party. In connection with that the socialist party in following the Cleveland conference, made it very clear to their constituency that they see the hope of a third party similar to the English labor movement.

["]To make overtures of coming into the LaFollette conference unless it is safe-guarded, would place us in the position of being with that group. Whether we can disentangle ourselves from the other involved elements or not, is quite a difficult matter. We may get the national committee to modify its views on many things but whatever the outcome will be, we will be confronted at our own convention in November with being required to take part in this movement in January to form a third party. That group will be at our convention. We are confronted not only with the present campaign but we are going to be confronted in November with the third party movement. I agree with Mr. Gompers that we have got to be extremely careful."

Mr. Morrison: "This is a situation we have got to meet. Within a few days after we return to Washington we should have a meeting with representative labor men for the purpose of finding out just what they have in mind and to see if arrangements cannot be made so the men who have been friendly to labor on the republican and democratic or progressive platforms will not be antagonized by that group and the support that they shall receive will not depend upon whom they shall support for president. . . .["]

Mr. Gompers: "The officers of the unions affiliated with the A.F. of L. and probably one or two of the others, at the first conference, or take them into confidence later. I do not know just what; use good judgment and do not place us into a further bad hole." . . .

Mr. Woll: "I think that whatever conferences are to be held ought to be of an informal nature because if the policies of this progressive group would not be expressed in keeping with the wishes of the A.F. of L. the fact that we had entered into negotiations and failed would make the situation even more embarrassing. So whatever is done at the beginning would have to be done in an informal way.

["]It strikes me that in order to protect ourselves in every possible way, if we are going to adopt any form of action with this group, it might be well that a careful study be made of the platforms of all of the political conventions and an analysis be prepared and a careful analysis made of the candidates for president, and that the sub-group get all the information they can regarding the possible procedure of all of these political parties. Our purpose would be to get in touch with the La Follette group. That would protect us that we were not negotiating with them but if something arises then it would be done in an official way."

Mr. Gompers: "The integrity of the American Federation of Labor, the American labor movement and its political policy must not be frittered or bartered away. We may, for the interest of our people and conforming to our own policy, seek the cooperation of all groups and all citizens in furtherance of the Non-Partisan policy of the A.F. of L., and even if we should say something or do some things to further the candidacy of Senator La Follette for president, why all right so long as we maintain our non-partisan policy clear." . . .

Files of the Office of the President, Conferences, reel 123, frames 740, 749-55, 757-58, AFL Records.
WEB Accessibility
Created by   The Samuel Gompers Papers Project