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court of resort in the Kingdom, the House of Lords. This body reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and sustained the judgment of Justice Farwell of the lower court.1 The Lord Chancellor, in pronouncing the opinion, said:
In this case I am content to adopt the judgment of Farwell, J., with which I entirely concur; and I can not find any satisfactory answer to that judgment in the judgment of the court of appeal which overruled it. If the legislature has created a thing which can own property, which can employ servants, which can inflict injury, it must be taken, I think, to have impliedly given the power to make it suable in a court of law for injuries purposely done by its authority and procurement. I move your lordships that the judgment of the court of appeal be reversed, and that of Farwell, J., restored.
Defeated in the courts of law, the only appeal now left for the trade unions was to the court of public opinion, and they at once began to put in motion the machinery of agitation and appeal which had served them so effectively in the past and which, as the event has now apparently proved, was to avail for their success again. In 1824, Parliament had passed an act repealing the statutes to prevent the combination of workingmen, but its operation being unsatisfactory, a commission of inquiry was appointed and its deliberations resulted in a new law in 1825; the interpretation placed by the courts upon the act of 1825 being unsatisfactory to those who expected to benefit by it, prolonged agitation brought about the enactment of a new law in 1859; again, the court decisions were unsatisfactory and again, in 1867, a commission was appointed to consider the situation, and its report resulted in the legislation of 1871; once more, a distasteful court decision provoked so much criticism that a commission of inquiry was created to see what should be done about it, and further amendatory legislation was passed on the government's motion in 1875. This legislation remained unchallenged until 1900, but no sooner had the British workingman recovered from the first paralyzing effect of the blow dealt by the Taff Vale decision, than he sought by the orderly processes of law to nullify the decree of the court. He set out, in short, to secure an amendment of the Trade Union
1 The text of the Taff Vale decision by the House of Lords is given in full in Part III of the Annual Report of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor for 1906 (p. 232) on the Incorporation of Trade Unions.
Acts in such language as to incorporate into the law that construction of the rights, privileges, and immunities of trade unionism as had been popularly supposed for thirty years was already guaranteed by the statutes.
1901-1906. Mr. Bell, the Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, who was also a member of Parliament, introduced a bill to legalize the conduct of trade disputes. But passage of legislation was postponed, as it had been when similar demands for the amendment of existing law were made on former occasions, pending a formal inquiry into the whole matter which, indeed, was seen to involve many fine points of law as well as of public policy. A royal commission was therefore appointed in June, 1903, and its report, made to the King and transmitted to Parliament in 1906, is printed on the foregoing pages. Its recommendations resulted in a bill being brought in for the government by Sir J. Lawson Walton, the Attorney-General, intended to meet the demands of labor. It had a somewhat stormy passage through the House of Commons. In its original form it sought to define and limit conspiracy, to make peaceful picketing legal; and to safeguard trade union funds from claims for damages, in order to legally restore the status of the unions in this respect to the position of immunity which they had enjoyed for a generation prior to the revolutionary Taff Vale decision.
The labor representatives in Parliament, however, were dissatisfied with the bill in the form in which it was introduced, since the clause safeguarding trade union funds from being mulcted in damages provided that the union should not be made liable unless it could be proved that the action of a trade union official, on account of which damages were claimed, had been duly authorized by the central or executive body of the union. This was one of the important questions involved in the Taff Vale controversy, the strike on the Taff Vale Railway having been instigated and directed by a subordinate local official of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, and directly contrary to the advice of the central executive body of that union, which, indeed, when the strike became an imminent certainty, passed formal resolutions censuring the local leaders responsible for it.
The labor members of the House of Commons contended with great vigor that Parliament, in enacting the Trade Union Act of 1871, and the subsequent legislation of 1876, had intended to protect the funds of the unions absolutely, and that the pending bill, therefore, should be so worded as to provide beyond all doubt for the complete restoration to the unions of the immunity they had enjoyed for 30 years, and which they contended had been universally conceded as a rightful privilege before the House of Lords upset this construction of the law by their decision in the Taff Vale case. The advocates of the original bill defended it on the ground that to grant the unions specifically such universal immunity from liability would be to give them a special class privilege; they felt that if legislation were enacted which would simply protect the unions from unauthorized action taken by subordinate officials it would be sufficient and would, in fact, cover such cases as the Taff Vale, in which the strike was not authorized by the executive body of the union itself.
But the labor men stood out, and with the result that the clause granting complete protection and immunity for the unions from being sued in respect of any "tortious act" was incorporated in the government's bill. The Conservative party continued to attack the measure, but it finally weathered its stormy passage and was sent up to the Lords.
Thereupon, Mr. Balfour, who had vigorously opposed the bill, urged the Lords to pass it on the ground that it was demanded by public opinion and that its rejection would be exceedingly impolitic. The Conservative majority of the Upper House felt no greater enthusiasm for the measure than had the Conservatives in the Commons, but it nevertheless passed and received the royal assent December 22, 1906.1 This act (6) Edw. VII, Chap. 47), which was to take effect July 1, 1907, and is, therefore, now the law of Great Britain, is reviewed by The Board of Trade Labour Gazette (London, January, 1907), as follows:
The Trade Disputes Act, 1906, relates to " any dispute between employers and workmen, or between workmen and workmen, which is
1 Bulletin No. 70 (May, 1907) of the United States Bureau of Labor contains a History of British Labor Legislation, by A. Maurice Low; see also article on British Legislation in 1906, in the Yale Review, February, 1907.
connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of the employment, or with the conditions of labour, of any person, and the expression workmen' means all persons employed in trade or industry, whether or not in the employment of the employer with whom a trade dispute arises." The Act makes an important change in the law relating to conspiracy. By the common law persons who agree together to do an act may often be indicted for the crime of conspiracy, or sued for damages, in cases where the doing of the act by a single person would not be a crime or actionable. The Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, provided that an agreement by two or more persons to do an act in furtherance or contemplation of a trade dispute should not be indictable as a conspiracy if such acts committed by one person would not be punishable as a crime. The new Act now goes one step further, and provides that "An act done in pursuance of an agreement or combination by two or more persons shall, if done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute, not be actionable unless the act, if done without any such agreement or combination, would be actionable." And it is further provided that "an action against a trade union, whether of workmen or masters, or against any members or officials thereof on behalf of themselves and all other members of the trade union in respect of any tortious act alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of the trade union, shall not be entertained by any court." It will be seen at once that these two provisions will prevent the recurrence of actions such as have occupied the time of the courts during the last few years, in which damages have been claimed against trade unions and their officials for conspiracy, inducing employers to dismiss workmen, &c. The Taff Vale Railway case decided that a registered trade union may be sued. This Act now provides that a trade union may not be sued in tort, but it leaves a union liable to be sued in contract. It is further to be noticed that an act done by a person in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute shall not be actionable on the ground only that it induces some other person to break a contract of employment or that it is an interference with the trade, business, or employment of some other person, or with the right of some other person to dispose of his capital or his labour as he wills." The Act also expressly legalises peaceful picketing for the purpose of obtaining information, or of persuading any person to work or abstain from working.
(The text of the Trade Disputes Act is given in full on pages 219, 220, and 221 of this report.)
TEXT OF PRINCIPAL ACTS AFFECTING THE LEGAL STATUS OF BRITISH TRADE UNIONS.
[34 & 35 VICT.] Trade Unions.
An Act to amend the Law relating to Trade Unions. [29th June 1871.]
Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
1. This Act may be cited as "The Trade Union Act, 1871."
2. The purposes of any trade union shall not, by reason merely that they are in restraint of trade, be deemed to be unlawful, so as to render any member of such trade union liable to criminal prosecution for conspiracy or otherwise.
3. The purposes of any trade union shall not, by reason merely that they are in restraint of trade, be unlawful so as to render void or voidable any agreement or trust.
4. Nothing in this Act shall enable any court to entertain any legal proceeding instituted with the object of directly enforcing or recovering damages for the breach of any of the following agreements, namely,
1. Any agreement between members of a trade union as such,
3. Any agreement for the application of the funds of a trade
(a.) To provide benefits to members; or,
(b.) To furnish contributions to any employer or work
man not a member of such trade union, in consideration of such employer or workman acting in conformity with the rules or resolutions of such trade union; or,
(c.) To discharge any fine imposed upon any person by sentence of a court of justice; or,