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Sweatshops at SeaMerchant Seamen in the World's First Globalized Industry, from 1812 to the Present$
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Leon Fink

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780807834503

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807877807_fink

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The Nationalist Solution: The La Follette Act of 1915 and the Janus Face of Progressive Reform

The Nationalist Solution: The La Follette Act of 1915 and the Janus Face of Progressive Reform

Chapter:
(p.93) 4 The Nationalist Solution: The La Follette Act of 1915 and the Janus Face of Progressive Reform
Source:
Sweatshops at Sea
Author(s):

Leon Fink

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/9780807877807_fink.7

This chapter shows how nineteenth-century American seamen and their advocates had long called for “emancipation” from coercive regulations. By the end of the century, workers in this most “unfree” of occupations were still subjected to various forms of physical punishment from superiors and denied the “right to quit” work without facing potential criminal prosecution. Famously, the seamen finally won their freedom in one of the hallmarks of Progressive Era legislation, the U.S. Seamen's Act, signed by President Woodrow Wilson on March 4, 1915, a date that Senator Robert M. La Follette, the bill's chief author, called the seamen's “emancipation day.” Upon reexamination, the La Follette Act was both more and less than it appeared. Though initially presented as a catch-up measure for matters of freedom, rights, and safety at sea, both the legislation and the contemporary debate that enveloped it tilted at larger, more forward-looking issues.

Keywords:   American seamen, emancipation, coercive regulations, Progressive Era legislation, U.S. Seamen's Act, President Woodrow Wilson, Senator Robert M. La Follette

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