The Menace of Privilege Chapter Fourteen 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 14, THE BAYONET IN CIVIL AFFAIRS
Government Attorneys Say “To Hell with the Constitution”
ALONG with the abnormal development of the injunction principle has come within the last two decades in the United States a startling use of soldiers in civil affairs. Privilege has forced laborers in self-defense to organize into unions and then has abnormally developed the injunction principle for a weapon against those unions. Concurrently with this it has requisitioned the bayonet in many of the conflicts with labor unions, until it has aroused in the unions a deep-seated fear that the military arm of the Government is intended not so much for defense or offense against foreign powers as for use against the body of the citizens.
All in all, the most remarkable instance of military rule in the history of the United States occurred during 1903-1904 in the State of Colorado during a great strike of smelters and gold, silver and coal miners.
The real owners of Colorado are not the body of the citizens, but closely associated and harmonious mining, smelting and railroad corporations. What these corporations own they manage, subscribing to either or both political parties when it pleases them to do so; influencing elections when and in what manner they desire; effecting or blocking or neutralizing such legislation as they choose; swaying the higher courts, and to great extent directing administrative government and the military arm when they deem that necessary. These owners of Colorado make and unmake the makers of laws as easily and quietly as they make and unmake the laws themselves.
The coal mines are in the south-central part of Colorado. The miners had serious grievances. Constitutional and statutory provisions for their protection against robbery and persecution by the coal-mining companies were dead letters.
At the time of the trouble the mines were owned mainly by two corporations — the Victor Fuel Company and the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (now the Rocky Mountain Coal and Iron Company), the latter controlled by Mr. John D. Rockefeller and Mr. George J. Gould. The people of Colorado had by a very large majority ratified an amendment to the Constitution requiring the Legislature to pass an eight-hour law, but the Legislature, influenced, it was commonly believed, by the monopoly corporations, suddenly adjourned without taking such action. Thus these corporations annulled what the people had by constitutional mandate decreed.
The coal miners saw but one recourse — the strike. Thereupon the mine owners immediately appealed to the Governor, J. H. Peabody, for militia; they said to protect life and property. There really was no danger to life or property. There were but a few cases of personal violence, and these probably had been provoked by assault upon the miners by sympathizers with the company; in one or two instances, it is suspected, by detectives in company pay, not an unheard-of proceeding in other coal regions. But it was necessary to show sufficient cause to have the troops, and the troops were necessary to break the strike.
Governor Peabody appeared ready to send soldiers. Only one thing barred him. He did not have the means to pay them. The Legislature had made no financial provision for the contingency of calling out the militia. The monopoly corporations quickly met this difficulty. They offered to furnish the State with all the money necessary to pay such soldiers as the Governor should call out, agreeing to look for repayment of such advances by the passage of a special appropriation bill at a subsequent meeting of the Legislature. The Governor accepted the proffer and thus, in effect, sold the militia to the service of corporate privilege in Colorado, just as the Grand Duke of Hesse-Cassel sold Hessian troops to George III for service in the British army against the patriots of this Republic during the Revolution.
This was too much for even that high military authority the Army and Navy Journal, which might have been expected to pass over the circumstances as justified by “military necessity.” That periodical said: “But that he [the Governor] should virtually borrow money from the mine owners to maintain the troops who he had assigned to guard their property was a serious reflection upon the authorities of the State. That arrangement virtually placed the troops, for the time being, in the relation of hired men to the mine operators, and morally suspended their function of State military guardians to the public peace. It was a rank perversion of the whole theory and purpose of the National Guard, and more likely to incite disorder than prevent it. (Army and Navy Journal October 17, 1903.)
Yet under these circumstances the troops were sent to the coal regions, and at their head the commanding general of the State militia, Adjutant-General Sherman M. Bell. The soldier was in the middle thirties and had been educated in the rough school of cattle ranches and mining camps. He had been a Wells, Fargo & Company detective, had served in the Roosevelt company of Rough Riders in the Cuban campaign, and had been a mining superintendent in the Cripple Creek district. By his own statement he had never taken a drink of liquor in his life.
General Bell is one of the kind of men who forget the rights and duties of the citizen when they don soldier clothes. Their first duty, they say, is to obey. General Bell received his orders from Governor Peabody, who had appointed him to his high command, and Bell obeyed like a Russian military official at Warsaw. He arrested men and clapped them into jail without warrant and even without formal charge. He deported them out of the State for no other offense than that they were members of the miners’ union.
In these actions Governor Peabody upheld him. As no strike could succeed against a combination of mine owners and soldiers, this one after long, weary months miserably failed; and such mine workers as were permitted to go back to the coal mines were glad to return to employment under conditions even worse than those against which they had struck.
The strike of the smelters and gold and silver miners, all of whom were members of the Western Federation of Miners, was in progress in other parts of Colorado during the coal strike. The chief points were in the Cripple Creek district almost in the center of the State, and in the Telluride district in the extreme western portion.
Incensed at the deliberate refusal of the Legislature to pass the eight-hour law in face of the mandate in the constitutional amendment, the miners and smelters struck. Their strike badly crippled the mines and smelting works. The allied mining, smelting and railroad monopolies therefore determined to break up the unions. Mr. C. C. Hamlin, secretary and directing power of the Mine Owners’ Association at Cripple Creek, said frankly to me when I went to Colorado to look into this trouble: –”We have had working together union miners and nonunion miners. We are persuaded that they cannot work together harmoniously. Our conclusion is that all the men we employ should be union or all non-union, and we have decided that they shall be non-union. We are driving out every union man and none will ever again be used in the mines of this district.”
What is thought to have led up to this determination was the support of the unions to a proposed amendment to the Constitution the year before by Senator James W. Bucklin. This proposal aimed to introduce the single tax principle by giving municipalities option in taxation, the expectation being that they would heavily tax the great mineral and railroad site values of the State, which now bear only inconsiderable taxes.
This support of the Bucklin movement doubtless helped to urge the allied monopolies to destroy the unions, which now were charged with all manner of violence and crime, but apparently on little or no real evidence. With all their high-handed military government and with every facility in their hands for prosecution, the allied monopolies have proved little against the so-generally accused union men.
The blackest charge was that members of the miners’ union had dynamited a railroad station at Independence, in the Cripple Creek region, and had thereby killed fifteen non-union men. The Mine Owners’ Association and General Bell assured the public that there was an abundance of damning evidence implicating the union. But to this day not a single man has been convicted of connection with that tragedy. The only clue that had appearance of reality pointed toward a disreputable individual formerly employed by the Mine Owners’ Association. It is surmised that the purpose may have been to blow up the station before the non-umonists actually arrived there, but sufficiently close to their arrival to give color to a charge against the union of “an all-but-successful diabolical dynamite horror.”
Long before the Independence tragedy had occurred, the Mine Owners’ Association and the Citizens’ Alliance had procured militia for the Cripple Creek and Telluride districts. General Bell was in command. He frankly announced that his main purpose was to “break up” the Western Federation of Miners and its supporting unions and to “run out” the most active of its members. As to whether or not a man had the right to be a member of a labor union, or as to whether or not a citizen had a right to live where he pleased so long as he infringed not the right of another, gave the General small thought. His openly expressed purpose was to wipe out all aggressive unions in the strike center of Colorado.
With an abundance of zeal and courage, General Bell thereupon had large numbers of union men arrested and locked up in military jails. No formal charges were preferred. And then began the policy of deportation which had been tried in the coal regions. Without trials, without other explanation than the curt one of “military necessity,” men known to be union men were put upon trains and shipped out of the State. To cap the climax, Charles H. Moyer, President of Western Federation of Miners, was arrested, put into the military prison and kept there for months, on what pretext neither Moyer, his attorneys, his union nor the public could learn.
Of all this Governor Peabody approved. He called it “military rule.” General Bell called it “military necessity.” The general public called it “martial law.”
Ignoring the deportations, Governor Peabody said: “I have only arrested men, and I hold them until I deem it proper to turn them over to the civil authorities for trial.” But he showed that he regarded himself as judge and executioner, for he added, “I believe in stamping out this set of dynamiters and intend it shall be done.”
The soldiers did not bother with fine distinctions. When accused of violating the Constitution of the State, Judge Advocate McClelland exclaimed, “To hell with the Constitution; we are not following the Constitution.”
Next week — the rest of this long-suppressed story.
What’s your reaction to this material? Tell it to The Progress Report!