“You will be ordered out to-morrow or next day, and you say you will obey the order. You have an undoubted right to do so. A man is not a slave, to be made to work against his will; but, on the other hand, is he not a slave if he is forced to quit against his will? Freedom of action in personal matters is a right which wise men have fought for and for which wise men will always fight. Do you find it in the union? What shall I do when you quit work? How long are you going to stay out? What will become of my interests while you are following the lead of your bell-wethers? Shall my work stop because you have been called out for a holiday? Shall the weeds grow over these walls and my lumber rot while you sit idly by? Not by a long sight! You have a perfect right to quit work, and I have a perfect right to continue.
“The rights which we claim for ourselves we must grant to others. One man certainly has as defensible a right to work as another man has to be idle. In the legitimate exercise of personal freedom there is no effort at coercion, and in this case there shall be none. If you choose to quit, you will do so without let or hindrance from me; but if you quit, others will take your places without let or hindrance from you. You will be paid in full to-night. When you leave, you must take your tools with you, that there may be no excuse for coming back. When you leave the place, the incident will be closed so far as you and I are concerned, and it will not be opened unless I find some of you trying to interfere with the men I shall engage to take your places. I think you make a serious mistake in following blind leaders who are doing you material injury, for sentimental reasons; but you must decide this for yourselves. If, after sober thought, any of you feel disposed to return, you can get a job if there is a vacancy; but no man who works for me during this strike will be displaced by a striker. You may put that in your pipes and smoke it. Nelson will pay you off to-night.”
The strike was ordered for Wednesday. On the morning of that day the seven carpenters whom I had engaged arrived at my office ready for work. I took them to the station and started for Four Oaks. At a station five miles from Exeter we quitted the train, hired two carriages, and were driven to the farm without passing through the village.
We arrived without incident, the men had their dinners, and at one o’clock the hammers and saws were busy again. We had lost but one half day. The two non-union men whom Nelson had spoken of were also at work, and three days later the spokesman of the strikers threw up his card and joined our force. We had no serious trouble. It was thought wise to keep the new men on the place until the excitement had passed, and we had to warn some of the old ones off two or three times, but nothing disagreeable happened, and from that day to this Four Oaks has remained non-unionized.