The Case for the Constitutional Amendment, ca. October 1924



1. There were in 1920, 1,000,000 children between ten and sixteen years of age at work, besides ↑[more?]↓ any under ten ↑who were↓ not enumerated. Of these children, who were found in all kinds of employment and in all sections of the country, almost 400,000 were under fourteen years old.

2. The states have not met the difficulty for those children for whom state action could suffice. Some ↑states↓ have much better laws than Congress will for a considerable time feel able to pass, but only thirteen states have laws measuring up to the standards of the two acts Congress did pass. For example, in thirty-five states children may go to work without any common school education, and in nineteen there is no test of physical fitness.

3. There are [some] children to whom the state cannot give protection. Such are the young children in New Jersey who work on goods put out by employers in New York, or the migratory children who are taken from one state to another, following the shrimp and oyster cannery, or the little "gypsies" of the West who go likewise from state to state for fruit picking. For these interstate problems only federal action can suffice, and the Supreme Court has held that Congress has not the power at present to grant that protection. It might have been accomplished, as in the case of migratory birds, by a treaty followed by congressional action, but that now is politically impossible.

4. The proposal ↑is↓ to give to Congress power to do what the states can now do without taking from the states any power which does not conflict with such action as Congress may take. Forty-five states have laws of one kind or another dealing with the work of children over sixteen years of age in specially hazardous occupations, or by night or for long hours.

The state legislatures have always exempted from any control both domestic and agricultural work. It is clear that in the not too distant future, such work as that in beet fields, oyster and shrimp canning and truck gardening will have to [page 2] be regulated, but there is no reason to think that Congress will undertake to legislate in a more radical or progressive fashion than states where efficient administrative machinery has been developed for working with children in industry, office work, or mercantile establishments but exempting domestic service and agriculture.

5. It is sometimes argued that the states could and should meet the entire responsibility. It has been demonstrated that they cannot deal with some of the questions of children's work. It is also true that while the congressional legislation was being enforced the states were much more active in enacting and enforcing the laws on their statute books than they were before or have been since that time.

6. As a matter of principle the protection of child life should be national (congress) rather than local (the legislature). (1) If there should be another war, the combatants are ↑will be↓ called on to protect the country as a whole and the whole country is concerned with the fitness of the children everywhere. (2) The constitutional right of migration creates the possibility of the burden of adult inefficiency resulting from child neglect on the part of one state being borne by another which has tried to protect its population, etc.

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