Commonwealth v. Pulis

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Commonwealthv. Pulis


The case wasdeliberated in 1806 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the first labortrial in American history. In 1794, shoemakers from the city hadformed an organization dubbed as the “Federal Society of JourneymenCordwainers” to fight for secure wages. Granted, the union had beensuccessful to a certain extent. Nevertheless, the organization wascharged with conspiracy to interrupt trade after demanding for a10-hour workday and striking for higher wages.

1. How did thecourt view the combination of workers with respect to their intent?

The decisionbefore the court was whether the combination of laborers had violatedthe principles of the law and harmed public welfare. The shoemakerswere found guilty of attempting to benefit themselves while injuringthose who elected to remain separate from their union. The court wasobligated to conform to established laws even if the principlesbehind their formation were unclear (, 1806).Conversely, the court could not reverse the implication of existingstatutes in the event where proper explanations could not be given.Although the shoemakers may have had noble or reasonable demands, thecombination of workers was adjudged to have criminal intent.Consequently, each of the defendants was fined eight dollarsexclusive of other costs (, 1806).

2. Did the courtfind the continuance of the withholding of labor attributable to acombination?

Indeed, the courtattributed the continuance of improper conduct to the combination ofworkers. Notably, Lord Blackstone stated that an act would becomecriminal if a confederacy were formed to support and implement itsaim (, 1806). Furthermore, it was lawful for anindividual to refuse to work for a particular price. Each person hadthe right to remain unbounded to the promises made to other workers(, 1806). Subsequently, the court ruled thatmany of the workers would have gone back to work after some time.Therefore, the combination had derailed their good sense.


. 3 Doc. Hist. 59 (1806). Retrieved from

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