The Menace of Privilege Chapter Fourteen 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 14, THE BAYONET IN CIVIL AFFAIRS
The Rule of Law Ended; Constitution Smeared
This continues the story, begun here, of the most egregious anti-democracy martial law case in U.S. history.
Colonel Verdeckberg, commanding officer in the Cripple Creek district, denied the Constitution entirely and said, “We are under orders only from God and Governor Peabody.”
When asked how long martial law was to be enforced at Telluride, General Bell answered: “The soldiers never will be taken out of there until we have rid the country of the cut-throats, murderers, socialists, thieves, loafers, agitators and the like who make up the membership of the Western Federation of Miners. We don’t care what the Supreme Court, the newspapers or anybody or anything else does. The soldiers are going to stay there, regardless of court decisions; and if there is any more monkey business there is going to be some much-needed shooting.”
This remarkable speech had reference to an order issued on a habeas corpus writ by District Judge Stevens to General Bell to liberate Moyer. The soldier not only announced that he would not obey the court order, but that he would put the judge into the military jail if he came near headquarters, continuing: “If Sheriff Corbett takes me to Ouray it will have to be over the dead bodies of all the soldiers under my command in this county. He has not men enough to do that.”
The power of the court being gone, Judge Stevens adjourned it and announced that he would thereafter adjourn from term to term until the court’s mandates could be executed without military interference.
Appeal was then made to the Supreme Court of the State for a habeas corpus writ for Moyer. That tribunal granted a hearing.
The Supreme Court of Colorado was composed of three judges, William H. Gabbert, John Campbell and Robert W. Steele. Judge Gabbert, who was chief judge, had formerly been a banker and had mining interests in Telluride, where Moyer had been arrested and imprisoned by the soldiers. Judge Campbell had formerly been a corporation lawyer, representing railroad and mining interests in Colorado. Judge Steele had been an attorney also, but with general practice.
Two of these judges — Gabbert and Campbell — practically decided that the Governor had constitutional authority for his extraordinary military arrests of Moyer and others, and his arbitrary deportations. Judge Gabbert wrote the prevailing opinion, the main points of which, condensed, were: –
(I) The Governor has sole power to determine when a state of insurrection exists in any county in the State. The courts have no power to interfere with the exercise of this prerogative.
(2) The Governor has the right to use the military forces of the State to suppress domestic insurrection. He also has the power to order the imprisonment and the killing of insurrectionists if in his opinion that extremity is necessary.
(3) He can detain military prisoners until he decides that the insurrection is quelled.
(4) The courts of the State have no right to interfere with the military authorities and their handling of prisoners. They have no power to attempt to discharge military prisoners.
That is to say: two of the three judges of the highest tribunal of Colorado declared that that court had no jurisdiction in Moyer’s case; that Moyer had been arrested and was being held under military law; that similarly the deportations were occurring under military law; that under this military law the Governor had constitutional authority to go to any lengths in his opinion deemed necessary to suppress insurrection; that the courts could not question such gubernatorial power or action.
Judge Steele dissented from this decision, but as Judge Gabbert somewhat significantly admitted from the bench, the former had not had opportunity to prepare his opinion in the brief time remaining after the other two judges had agreed to deliver the decision of the court. In the course of the opinion which he subsequently delivered, Judge Steele said: –
- It follows, of course, that if the present Executive is the sole judge of the condition which can call into action the military power of the Government, and can exercise all means necessary to effectually abate the conditions, and the judicial department cannot inquire into the legality of his acts, the next Governor may by his ukase exercise the same arbitrary power. If the military authority may deport the miners this year, it can deport the farmers next year.
If a strike, which is not a rebellion, must be so regarded because the Governor says it is, then any condition must be regarded as a rebellion which the Governor declares to be such; and if any condition must be regarded as a rebellion because the Governor says so, then any county in the State may be declared to be in a state of rebellion, whether a rebellion exists or not, and every citizen subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention at the will and pleasure of the head of the executive department.
We may then, with each succeeding change in the exectitive branch of the Government, have class arrayed against class, and interest against interest, and we shall depend for our liberty, not upon the Constitution, but upon the grace and favor of the Governor and his military subordinates….
The court has not construed the Constitution; it has ignored it.
And the result is that it has made greater inroads on the Constitution than it intended, and that not one of the guarantees of personal liberty can be enforced….
If one may be restrained of his liberty without charge being preferred against him, every other guarantee of the Constitution may be denied him.
Reduced to its lowest terms, the highest court of Colorado, through the majority of its judges, abdicated at this most serious crisis. And when appeal was made to a Federal court, and Governor Peabody and Attorney-General Miller were cited to appear with Moyer on a writ of habeas corpus before United States Circuit Judge Thayer, sitting at St. Louis, Governor Peabody suddenly revoked martial law in the district where Moyer had been imprisoned and turned him over to the civil authority, the sheriff, who immediately turned him over to the sheriff of Teller County, where martial law still prevailed. Thus Moyer was technically out of the Governor’s hands. He was technically in civil hands. But he was still virtually in the hands of the soldiers, as the sheriff of Teller County had been put in that office with the help of the soldiers.
And thus while the Governor avoided collision with a Federal court which did not appear to be under monopoly influence, he had, as Supreme Court Judge Steele implied, been restraining men of their liberty without preferring charges against them. More than this, he had been deporting men on the mere ipse dixit that he intended to get rid of labor unionists, socialists, agitators and the like.
Things had come to such a pass when I went to Colorado in June, 1904, that General Bell thought it necessary to issue a special military proclamation (Special Order No.14), to the effect that” as the said Henry George, Jr., is a law-abiding American citizen and has the good of this country at heart at all times, he shall be treated as an honored guest by every officer and enlisted man of the National Guard of Colorado and the forty thousand loyal, law-abiding citizens of Teller County,” thereby giving him assurance that “Colorado is in America to-day.”
He even closed up the Portland mine in the Cripple Creek district because that mine, continuing to run, employed union as well as non-union men, and the union men were suspected of contributing part of their earnings to the strike fund. It was announced that the Portland mine would be allowed to reopen only with men “holding cards issued by the Mine Owners’ Association” – a new kind of a labor union, but one not organized by and for the mass of laborers, but by and for the benefit of the Mine Owners’ Association.
In accordance with this proceeding, General Bell issued an order (Special Order No.19) declaring that “no organization will be allowed, while this county [Teller] is under military control, to furnish aid in any form to the members of any organization or their families in this county, unless the same is done through military channels.”
The Governor and General Bell went even further than this. They conspired to strike at the ballot itself. While Teller County was under military rule the Governor and his Adjutant-General permitted a mob of respectable citizens of Cripple Creek, composing the active members of the Mine Owners’ Association and the Citizens’ Alliance, to force the sheriff, the county coroner, the county treasurer, the county clerk, a prosecuting attorney and a number of minor local officials to resign from their offices, to which they had been regularly elected, and the functions of which they had been performing so far as the presence of the soldiers would permit.
The mob of respectables carried firearms and in one or two instances went so far as to display a noosed rope and threaten its use if necessary to compel compliance with their demands. To all the official vacancies men were appointed who were known to be in one way or another identified with the monopoly powers.
One of General Bell’s declarations over his signature was: “I am going to banish the agitators, and then I will establish a military quarantine that will keep them banished.” This was no idle boast. He meant it, and he acted upon it so long as his soldiers were on duty.
Indeed, in an interview with me, he said that he would not, if he had his way, restrict the use of soldiers to the mining regions. He would use them in the metropolis and capital of the State, Denver, and “run out the bad men and ballot-box stuffers.”
And what was the net result of the strike-military term in Colorado? That in round numbers a thousand men were locked up in the military prisons without charges being preferred against them; that six hundred and fifty coal and metal miners were arbitrarily deported, some of them put down on the open prairie without food or shelter; that houses were searched and stores looted by so-called citizens’ committees acting under the protection of soldiers; that local courts were prevented from exercising their functions; that regularly elected local officials were coerced into resigning and monopoly appointees substituted; that the Governor and militia, passively supported by an abdicating Supreme Court, did or helped to do all this; that the cost for the militia exceeded $8oo,ooo, which the great parties at interest — the Colorado monopolies — paid, and for which they purposed some day to be reimbursed by a special legislative appropriation.
How could a strike win in face of such odds, no matter how justifiable the cause? And the metal miners and smelters’ strike failed as utterly as had the coal struggle. The strike went down in utter ruin, and with it for the time being the labor unions in Colorado to which those men belonged.
Now, as has been said, a strike is not according to the natural order of things. It is only a temporary expedient of combined laborers. But if, under cloak of protecting life and property against strikers, a military despotism is for a season to be erected, what is to become of the sacred principles of liberty? And if this can be done in one State, why should it not be done in others?
If miners in one part of the United States, because they are labor unionists, can be thrown into prison or deported, why cannot miners in other places be similarly treated? If the owners of Colorado can substitute bayonet for ballot rule, why should not the coal, steel and transportation lords of Pennsylvania take it as a precedent? Why should not the railroad masters of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington hail it and follow it? Why bother with popular suffrage in New York, Ohio, Connecticut, Illinois or Massachusetts? If a Governor of Colorado can, on the pretext of protecting life and property, set aside civil government and establish in its stead arbitrary military rule by which citizens are cast into prison or deported without charges, and by which regularly elected public officials are deposed to give place to appointees of Privilege, why should this not some day be done by a President over the country at large?
Nor can the fulfillment of these possibilities appear so remote when we realize that what has been done in Colorado has really only been in the free exercise of principles clearly established by a President of the United States, who sent Federal troops to Chicago at the behest of railroad powers there and despite the protests of the Governor of Illinois.
Next week — the Federal Army rents itself out for free to Privlege.
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