The Menace of Privilege Chapter Fifteen first part
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
The Menace of Privilege, by Henry George Jr.
We are pleased to present, in installments, a very rare yet significant book written by former Congressman Henry George Jr. in 1905.
Earlier installments are available at the Progress Report Archive.
start of CHAPTER 15, FEDERAL ARMY IN STRIKES
Using U.S. Military Against U.S. Citizens
THE two most remarkable instances of the use of United States regulars occurred in Chicago in 1894 and in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains in 1899.
At the close of the Chicago strike President Cleveland appointed a Commission of three to investigate fully into its causes and its course. The three men were: Carroll D. Wright, Commissioner of Labor, John D. Keenon of New York and Nicholas E. Worthington of Illinois.
From the report of that Commission (Senate Ex. Doc. No.7, Fifty-third Congress, third session) it appears that in 1886 the twenty-four railroads centering or terminating in Chicago formed a voluntary, unincorporated body called the General Managers’ Association. The functions of this association were to consider questions of management, to deal with questions of transportation and to fix car service, rates, wages and the like. The President’s Commission could find no legal status for such an association, saying:
“If we regard its practical workings rather than its professions as expressed in its constitution, the General Managers’ Association has no more standing in law than the old Trunk Line Pool. It cannot incorporate, because railroad charters do not authorize roads to form corporations or associations to fix rates for services and wages, nor to force their acceptance, nor to battle with strikers. It is a usurpation of power not granted.” The Commission might have added that the association was obviously in conflict with the Sherman Anti-Trust Law.
Until June, 1894, the General Managers’ Association dealt incidentally and infrequently with wages. The railroad employees did not awake to the seriousness of this situation until March, 1893, when the switchmen of each road demanded more pay. The General Managers’ Association, speaking for each and all of the twenty-four roads, told the men that they were paid enough; if anything, too much. “This was the first time,” says the Commissioners’ Report, “when men upon each line were brought face to face with the fact that in questions as to wages, rules, etc., each line was supported by twenty-three combined railroads. . . . This association likewise prepared for its use elaborate schedules of the wages upon the entire lines of the twenty-four members. The proposed object of these schedules was to let each road know what other roads paid. . . – It was an incident of the General Managers’ Association to ‘assist’ each road in case of trouble over such matters, one form of assistance being for the association to secure men enough through its agencies to take the places of all strikers.”
This powerful and aggressive organization of the railroads compelled the employees of those roads to form a general union, for, says the Commissioners’ Report, “it should be noted that until the railroads set the example, a general union of railroad employees was never attempted.” Accordingly, in 1893, the entire railroad labor service was organized into the American Railway Union. Mr. Eugene V. Debs, who for two terms had been city clerk of Terra Haute, Indiana, and for several years secretary and treasurer of the Brotherhood of Firemen and editor of the Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, became president of the Railway Union. The new organization very rapidly acquired strength. In May, 1894, it won a strike on the great Northern Railroad.
Among the members of the Railway Union were the employees of the Pullman palace car shops just outside the city of Chicago. Believing that the union was invincible and that their hour had come for relief from oppressive grievances, they insisted upon striking. The Strike Commission says that the officers and directors of the Railway Union “did not want a strike at Pullman” and “they advised against it, but the exaggerated idea of the power of the union which induced the workmen at Pullman to join the order, led to their [the Pullman men] striking, against their [the Railway Union's] advice,” and, “having struck, the union could do nothing less, upon the theory at its base, than support them.”
It was therefore unanimously voted in convention “that the members of the union should stop handling Pullman cars on June 26 (1894), unless the Pullman Company would consent to arbitration.” The Pullman Company refused to arbitrate. “On June 26 the boycott and strike began….Throughout the strike, the strife was simply over handling Pullman cars, the men being ready to do their duty otherwise.”
Then, continues the Strike Commissioners’ Report: “On June 22 an officer of the Pullman Company met the General Managers by invitation, and the General Managers, among other things, resolved: ‘That we hereby declare it to be the lawful and right duty of said railway companies to protest against said proposed boycott; to resist the same in the interest of their existing contracts, and for the benefit of the traveling public, and that we will act unitedly to that end.”‘ And adds the Commission:
“From June 22 until the practical end of the strike the General Managers’ Association directed and controlled the contest on the part of the railroads, using the combined resources of all the roads to support the contentions and insure the protection of each. . . . Headquarters were established; agencies for hiring men opened; as the men arrived they were cared for and assigned to duty upon the different lines; a bureau was started to furnish information to the press; the lawyers of the different roads were called into conference and combination in legal and criminal proceedings; the General Managers met daily to hear reports and to direct proceedings; constant communication was kept up with the civil and military authorities as to the movements and assignments of police, marshals and troops. Each road did what it could with its operating forces, but all the leadership, direction and concentration of power, resources and influence on the part of the railroads were centered in the General Managers’ Association. That Association stood for each and all of its twenty-four combined members, and all that they could command, in fighting and crushing the strike.”
And one of the first steps of the General Managers’ Association toward this end of “crushing the strike” and the American Railway Union was to procure the appointment, by President Cleveland, through Attorney-General Olney, as special counsel for the Government, of Mr. Edwin Walker, who was counsel for the Managers’ Association.
On the plea of upholding the law and protecting life and property, the General Managers’ Association, through Walker, asked for and obtained the judicial and military arms of the Federal Government to crush the strike. For it was Walker who petitioned and received from Federal Judges Woods and Grosscup the now famous or infamous blanket injunction referred to in a previous chapter.
It was likewise Walker who asked for and obtained an army of Federal marshals. Later it was Walker who asked for and obtained Federal troops, writing Attorney-General Olney that “the aid of the regular army” was necessary to enforce the orders of the court and to protect the railroad companies in moving their trains, freight and passenger, including the mails.
Ex-President Cleveland, in an article in McClure’s Magazine for July, 1904, gave his view of the Chicago strike then ten years gone. In that article the ex-President intimated that Federal troops were sent to Chicago because “there was plenty of domestic violence” there at the time, and that “very little mail and no freight was moving.”
Yet the facts obtained by the investigating Commission appointed by Mr. Cleveland showed that there was very little disorder at Chicago up to July 3, when the Federal troops appeared on the scene. On June 30 the superintendent of the railway mail service reported to the department, “No mails have accumulated at Chicago so far; all regular trains are moving nearly on time with a few slight exceptions.” On July 2 the General Managers’ Association published reports, stating that freight and passenger trains generally were running without interruption. The Strike Commission quoted the superintendent of police as saying: “So far as I understand, serious violence or depredations had not been committed prior to the 3d of July, when the troops arrived.”
According to the Chicago fire department’s official report, the total damage up to July 6 had been less than $6ooo. In addition to these facts the then mayor, John P. Hopkins, a political partisan of President Cleveland’s, testified before the Strike Commission: “So far as I know, and I believe I am thoroughly conversant with the case, the police did all the work required of them. In fact, I have the assurance of the officials of the different railroads that they received the most efficient protection they had ever received during similar troubles. That condition of things existed until July 5.”
Indeed, there was so little trouble in Chicago up to this time that the mayor said there was no need of even issuing a proclamation against rioting; and he did not do so until July 6. And not until that date did he call for State troops. Governor Altgeld immediately sent a brigade.
Yet in face of all this the General Managers’ Association obtained first the appointment of United States deputy marshals and then on July 3 United States regulars.
Ostensibly these deputy marshals and regulars were obtained to uphold the law and protect life and property. Really they were to uphold the unprecedented and revolutionary injunction the General Managers had obtained from the Federal court, an injunction intended to crush the strike and the strikers union.
In regard to the marshals, the Strike Commission in its report had this to say: “United States deputy marshals to the number of 3600 were selected by and appointed at request of the General Managers’ Association and of its railroads. They were armed and paid by the railroads, and acted in the double capacity of railroad employees and United States officers. While operating the railroads they assumed and exercised unrestricted United States authority when so ordered by their employers, or whenever they regarded it as necessary. They were not under the direct control of any Government official while exercising authority. This is placing officers of the Government under control of a combination of railroads. It is a bad precedent, that might well lead to serious consequences.”
And on practically the same ground of bad precedent and possible serious consequences, Governor Altgeld had protested against the invasion of the Federal soldiers. President Cleveland replied that they were sent to Chicago in strict accordance with the Constitution and laws of the United States. In his rejoinder to this and for a second time asking that they be withdrawn, Governor Altgeld said:–
The statute authorizing Federal troops to be sent into States in certain cases contemplated that the State troops shall be taken first. This provision has been ignored, and it is assumed that the Executive is not bound by it….
You calmly assume that the Executive has the legal right to order Federal troops into any community of the United States, in the first instance, whenever there is the slightest disturbance, and that he can do this without any regard to the question as to whether that community is able to and ready to enforce the law itself. And, inasmuch as the Executive is the sole judge of the question as to whether any disturbance exists or not in any part of the country, this assumption means that the Executive can send Federal troops into any community in the United States at his pleasure, and keep them there as long as he chooses. If this is the law, then the principle of self-government either never did exist in this country or else has been destroyed, for no community can be said to possess local self-government, if the Executive can, at his pleasure, send military forces to patrol its streets under pretense of enforcing some law. The kind of local self-goveminent that could exist under these circumstances can be found in any of the monarchies of Europe, and it is not in harmony with the spirit of our institutions.
The Executive has the command not only of the regular forces of all the United States, but of the military forces of all the States, and can order them to any place he sees fit; and as there are always more or less local disturbances over the country, it will be an easy matter under your construction of the law for an ambitious Executive to order out the military forces of all of the States, and establish at once a military Government. The only chance of failure in such a movement could come from rebellion, and with such a vast military power at command this could readily be crushed, for, as a rule, soldiers will obey orders.
Next week — the Coeur d’Alene Idaho case.
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