The Menace of Privilege Chapter Fifteen second 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.
end of CHAPTER 15, FEDERAL ARMY IN STRIKES
The Chilling Case of Idaho
The Chicago strike failed for the same reason that the Colorado strike failed – because courts and soldiers were used against the strikers. In Colorado the Mine Owners’ Association, representing the allied monopolies, used the State Supreme Court and the State militia. In Chicago the General Managers’ Association, representing the twenty-four railroads centering or terminating there, used the Federal courts and the Federal troops.
In one case the Governor, in the other case the President, by his sole judgment, determined that a condition of rebellion existed against the established law and order, which thus imperiled life and property. In the one case the Governor, in the other the President, on the plea of restoring law and order, and of protecting life and property, sent soldiers who really upheld monopoly in deeds of barefaced unlawfulness, while it beat down the strikers and for the time being at least destroyed their union. In Colorado, Judge Steele of the Supreme Court protested, denounced the Governor’s action as revolutionary, and declared that it reduced State Government to “the Governor and his military subordinates.” In Chicago, Governor Altgeld twice urged the withdrawal of the regulars, avowing that under such construction of the law “an ambitious Executive” could “order out the military forces of the States, and establish at once a military Government.”
And what a military Government would be like we may judge not so well by the experience in Chicago as in Colorado, where they had freer sway.
A still better idea may be obtained from experience in the Coeur d’Alene mining range of northern Idaho in 1899.
Idaho is rich with coal, gold, lead, copper and silver; mostly with silver. A few very rich men who are identified with the Standard Oil group own many of the richest deposits and operate them after the manner of Tennyson’s “God Almighty of the countyside.” In the course of things industrial trouble developed during the spring of 1899. At a place called Wardner there was some kind of demonstration on the part of the miners, and the concentrator mill of the Bunker Hill mine was blown up with powder by, it is supposed and charged, some one on the workmen’s side, although no proof of this seems ever to have been found.
During an investigation into the whole matter by the Military Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives at Washington, in the following year, it developed that on the plea that the militia had been sent to the Philippines and that the State was without armed protection, petition was made for Federal troops; that this was done by telegraph to Secretary of War Alger and others at Washington; that the mine owners were the petitioners; that Brigadier-General Merriam was dispatched with United States regulars, to the scene of the trouble; that with the approval of the War Department at Washington, General Merriam declared martial law in Shoshone County, Idaho, on or about May 2, 1899; that he did this immediately, and before the Governor of the State had declared martial law; that he reported at the time to the Adjutant-General at Washington that there were no signs of resistance; that on May 6 he wired to Washington that “over 700 arrests” had been made at different mining camps; that on May 6 he issued a proclamation in which he ordered mine owners to “refuse employment to all applicants for underground work who do not present a duly signed permit authorizing the same,” such permit to be “deposited in the mine owners’ office, subject to periodical inspection”; that on May 11 he reported to Washington that he was “holding 300 persons in a barn and box cars”; that his prisoners all told equaled or exceeded a thousand; and that some of them were locked up for several weeks, some for as long as eight months.
“No other course is likely to secure rioters,” said General Merriam in one of his reports. What did he mean by “secure rioters”? Not that elastic something called “preserving order,” which is the favorite explanation for arbitrary acts on the part of the military arm. It meant that he converted himself and his troops into detective agencies and judges in an effort to find the man or men who blew up the Bunker Hill mill. To this end he first and last arrested a thousand or more mine workers and others, and this in defiance of law.
Not only were they arrested without the issuance of a single warrant, but though Article I., Section 5, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho expressly declares that the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended only when there is “invasion” or “rebellion,” and then only in such manner as is prescribed by law.
The prosecuting district attorney pro tem of Shoshone County, under cross-examination before the Military Affairs Committee, testified that the writ of habeas corpus had been suspended in that county, adding: “If the courts had issued the writ of habeas corpus, I would have advised the military authority, General Merriam, not to obey it.” In plain words, this district attorney asserted that the military arm was superior in authority to the judicial arm — that the bayonet surmounted the law!
And who was this prosecuting district attorney of Shoshone County who was so free with the State’s Constitution that he could abrogate it at will and with it sweep away one of the fundamental rights of American citizenship; one of the immemorial rights of the Anglo-Saxon race? He was William H. Forney, shown by the investigation to be the principal attorney for the Bunker Hill and Sullivan Mining Company, also counsel for the Western Lead Trust, and one of the legal advisers of the Standard Oil Company!
Mr. Forney admitted that he was a resident of Boise, Ada County, when appointed to succeed District-Attorney H. M. Samuels of Shoshone County, notwithstanding the fact that the law of Idaho requires such an officer to be a resident of the county where his office is located. Further testimony revealed the fact that Samuels had been forced out on the ground that he was disqualified to act under martial law, and was threatened with impeachment by the powerful interests if he did not withdraw.
And how were the military orders of arrest executed? According to the common eyidence, most of the men were cast into a discarded bull or cattle pen, with straw in the stables to sleep on, but without the privacy of even stalls. This bull pen was what General Merriam called “a barn.” The food, of which the prisoners bitterly complained, was served, some said, in large pans, from which each prisoner had to dip with his hand. Others testified that it was served in a kind of cattle trough. Here are a few bits of testimony given under oath before the Military Affairs Committee by some of the men who had been prisoners.
E. J. Flannigan, for fourteen years a justice of the peace in Idaho, swore that Captain Edwards burned the straw of the prisoners bunks, and threatened to trice them up by the thumbs. Prisoners afterward slept on rough boards, and for nine days got no food but bread and water.
Publisher William Stuart testified that A. Johnson, another prisoner, became insane after being threatened with hanging for not telling who participated in the rioting. Stuart alleged that Johnson was shot and killed by a sentry while fleeing from imaginary pursuers.
L. J. Simpkins, an electrical engineer, testified that he was conducted by a guard of four soldiers before Albert Burch, Superintendent of the Bunker Hill and Sullivan Mines, who tried to get admission from him concerning the mill’s destruction. Simpkins said that when he refused to make such an admission, he was taken by the soldiers to a lumber pile, prodded with bayonets, and threatened with loaded rifles pointed at his head. After that he was put on bread and water for nine days, and subjected to solitary confinement for sixty days.
George Connell, merchant of Wardner and at the time of his arrest head of the Improved Order of Red Men in Idaho, testified that he had been confined for fifty days without warrant, and that General Merriam, Major Martin and Captain Lyon all declared to him that no specific charge was preferred against him. He averred that there were perhaps seven hundred prisoners in the pen when he was there, and that their treatment by the soldiers was cruel in the extreme. He gave the following instance: –
- On one occasion I saw an old man returning to the bull-pen stable in which the miners were imprisoned, and I saw a soldier with his bayonet prod the old man in the back to make him walk faster in the lockstep. The prisoner protested, saying: “Don’t crowd an old man so hard. I fought four years for your liberty!” The soldier replied: “Go on there! Go on there, you old -! I don’t believe you ever fought for anybody.”
Whether or not such testimony is of importance, the matter for particular consideration here is that, just as in Chicago and in Colorado, soldiers were used at Coeur d’Alene not to perform their proper function, guard life and property and enable the operation of civil law, but to destroy a labor union.
Through the promulgation of his permit system, by which none not entirely satisfactory to the mine owners could work in the mines, General Merriam undertook to run the mines for the mine owners. But his deep-seated animus against labor unions did not come to light until the investigation occurred before the Military Affairs Committee. Then a report from him to the War Department bearing date of June 1 was produced. In that report the General said: “Since the trouble in Idaho originated in hostile organizations known as labor unions, I would suggest a law to be enacted by Congress making such unions or kindred societies a crime.” Yet though there was no such law – neither a United States law nor an Idaho law – this General, commanding a detachment of regulars, treated the miners union and kindred societies at Cceur d’Alene as if they were in fact a crime, and he set himself up as judge, jury and jailer!
Does not this Cceur d’Alene experience demonstrate the possibilities of military Government? Has it no suggestion of what might be expected in any one of our States were a Governor to follow the Colorado precedent and arbitrarily proclaim military rule? Gives it no indication of what might come in the United States at large should some President, following in the footsteps of Mr. Cleveland, sweep aside State authority and send Federal troops to establish by force of arms whatever he may choose to call “law and order” ?
The men of the line in the militia in many localities are as yet not estranged from the general mass of the people and the labor unions. They frequently give proof of their sympathy with strikers whose so-called “violence” they are called out to quell. A notable instance df this appeared in the anthracite strike of 1902 in Pennsylvania, when some of the striking miners were also members of the militia companies called out. Not only did they send to the strike fund a liberal portion of their pay as soldiers, but they collected contributions from most of the other soldiers.
It is a fact that elsewhere, however, unions, feeling that the soldiers are used by the monopoly powers against them, are advising their members to get out and keep out of the militia ranks. And this is particularly the case in the large cities where the regimental armories, with their thick walls, steel doors and barred windows much resemble fortresses of the Middle Ages that held the populace in subjection to the misrule of despots. More and more in the armories in our large cities the “riot drill” is displacing thought of defense against foreign invasion. It is the enemy at home – the enemy in the poorer quarters of our cities, the enemy in organized form in the labor unions -against which the militia mind is centering; not the enemy in a foreign country.
Let any who will examine the military books and periodicals in the regimental libraries, and let him carry his examination up as far as even the War Department at Washington. If he is not alrea4y prepared for it, he will be amazed at the large attention given to street riots, strikes and cognate matters. The idea implied, where not expressed, is that the workingman when he will work, and work tractably, is sufferable; but when he organizes to resist the operation of things as they are, he must be put down quickly and completely by force of arms.
It is the military form of the aristocratic idea. And what helps its development is the officering of our militia from our young Princelings of Privilege or those looking to privilege for preferment. Even where the rule prevails to elect regimental officers in the militia a growing preference is shown for those candidates who can contribute most toward regimental or company balls, suppers or other entertainments; who show a willingness to meet other extra expenses; or who offer most possibilities of material preferment outside the armory walls.
Consequently young Mr. Monopolist X, or Heir Apparent Y, or Heir Presumptive W, with little or no experience, is over night jumped into militia command, which may make him a conspicuous guardian of “law and order,” of “life and property,” at the next strike or lockout on a railroad system or in a mining region when soldiers are ordered out.
And as for the regulars, discipline makes mere machines of the men of the line, to move at command of officers risen, not out of the ranks in a democratic. way, but educated apart, after the manner of the old European nobility, and from that exclusive rearing and the entrance to military command as a life calling, possessed of the aristocratic idea that those who have power are those who were born to rule and must be upheld.
Thus Privilege uses the soldiers of the Republic as it uses the courts — for itself and in violation, in abrogation, of the rights of the body of the people.
Next week — we find Privilege is the main corrupting force in Politics.
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