J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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grew weak invaded its territory. In 1876, two Social Democratic organizers.
P. J. McGuire and - - Loebkert, made a propaganda trip through the west. They
came to Chicago one Saturday in March. A mass meeting was arranged for them
that evening in Vorwaerts Turner hall, and McGuire spoke. He announced his
intention of organizing an English-speaking section of Socialists, and asked for
volunteer members. Among those who joined the party and helped to organize


this section were George A. Schilling, John Schwerdtfeger, O. A. Bishop, T. .1.
Morgan, Adolph Glecker and Albert R. Parsons.


Parsons was a young typesetter who worked at the Chicago Times. He was
about 29 years old, of slender physique, intelligent face, attractive personality, and
having natural gifts as a speaker. An American of good family, he had led an
active and rather romantic life. He was born in Montgomery, Ala., June 20, 1848,
and reared on a Texas farm. When he was only 13 years old, the Civil War broke
out, and he joined successively a Confederate volunteer infantry company, an ar-
tillery regiment and a cavalry brigade, serving throughout the war. Returning
home, he studied for six months at Waco University. Before the war he had been
a printer's devil and paper carrier, and now he took up the trade of type-setting.
In 1868 he founded and edited at Waco a weekly newspaper named the Spectator.
In this he advocated, consistently with General Longstreet, the acceptance in good
faith of the terms of surrender, and supported the new constitutional amendments
securing the political rights of negroes. He became a Republican, and went into
politics, taking the stump on behalf of his convictions. Though he incurred the
hate of many of his neighbors, he was idolized by the negroes. His paper did not
survive the strain, and he became traveling correspondent of another newspaper.
On one of his horseback rides through northwestern Texas he met a Spanish-
Indian girl, whom he married a few years later. At the age of 21 he was appointed
assistant assessor of the internal revenue, under President Grant, and soon after
was appointed chief deputy collector of internal revenue at Austin, from which posi-
tion he resigned in 1873. In that year he came east on an editorial excursion, and
decided to settle in Chicago. He was joined by his wife and they came to this
city, where he became a member of Typographical Union No. 16. After "subbing"
for a while on the Inter-Ocean he went to work "under permit" on the Times,
where he was now working at the case.

The young printer had become interested in the labor question in 1873, when
the working people had attacked the methods of the Relief and Aid Society. Look-
ing into the matter he became convinced that the charges were true. The abuse
heaped by the newspapers upon the dissatisfied workingmen as "Communists,
robbers, loafers," aroused his sense of justice; he had noted the attitude of the
former slave-holders toward the enfranchised negroes, whom they accused of want-
ing to "divide up;" and here he saw the same kind of misrepresentation. "I
became," he said, "satisfied that there was a great wrong at work in society and in
existing social and industrial arrangements." His desire to know more about the
subject brought him in contact with the few Socialists in the city, and he read
what Socialist literature he could get; and when the first English-speaking Social-
ist section was organized in Chicago, he was ready to join the movement.


Parsons found himself, early in the year 1876, belonging to a Socialist party
of about 1,500 members, one of half-a-dozen such in the country having an ag-
gregate membership of a little over 3,000. Of these, not more than 10 per cent
were native-born, and many, perhaps most, of the others did not even speak the


English language. The English-speaking Socialists not only suffered from the
prejudice of the public in general and of their fellows in the English-speaking
trade unions, but they were regarded with some suspicion by their German com-
rades, who believed that "the damned Yankees needed watching." No literature
as yet existed in the English language dealing with socio-economic subjects. There
was one weekly paper in English, the Socialist of New York, which printed
some able articles by Victor Drury afterwards republished in pamphlet form
as "The Polity of the Labor Movement." The question of tactics, or how ef-
fectively to reach the American working class with Socialist ideas, was one over
which bitter disputes were to occur, and which was to occupy some twenty years
in settling. As a first step, consolidation of the various Socialist parties was
deemed obviously desirable.

The Social Democratic party had already, at its second convention at Phil-
adelphia in 1875, initiated the movement for unity. In the fall of that year
several unity conferences were held in New York. The last convention of the
moribund National Labor-Union, held in Philadelphia in April, 1876, was cap-
tured by the Socialists, who improved the occasion by calling a unity convention,
to meet at New York in July, 1876. At this convention the thing was accom-
plished: the remnants of the International, the Social Democratic Party, the Labor
Party of Illinois, and the Socio-Political Labor-Union of Cincinnati fused into
a single organization, with the name of Workingmen's Party of the United States.
At the next convention, held in Newark, N. J., in December, 1877, the name
was changed to Socialist Labor Party of North America.


At the time that Socialist unity was achieved, one factor which was bound
to complicate the problem of a working class party had hardly revealed itself
in America. That was Anarchism, the doctrine of Proudhon, which, as propa-
gated by Michael Bakunin in the International in Europe, had spread until it
had a preponderating influence in the international convention, and had brought
about the disruption of the organization. Anarchism in the form to which it was
shaped by Johann Most was later to disturb the American movement, and in
Chicago almost wholly to supplant Socialist propaganda for a time.

At this point, in order to indicate the understanding of Socialism and An-
archism in this book, a brief description of these theories is necessary. Socialism
may be described as, essentially, a movement of the working class aiming to sup-
plant the capitalist system of production by a system of collectively owned and
democratically managed industry whether highly organized, as in Bellamy's
"Looking Backward," or loosely and naturally cohering, as in Morris' "News
from Nowhere." The means by which this change, which may be sudden and
violent or slow and gradual, is to be brought about, is political action, supplemented
perhaps by such economic pressure as may be exercised in the general strike.
Briefly, it is the doctrine of the transformation of an economic system by the
political force of the working class.

Anarchism is less easily described. An Anarchist, Voltarine de Cleyre, has
said: "Anarchism is, in truth, a sort of Protestantism, whose adherents are a
unit in the great essential belief that all forms of external authoritv must disap-


pear, to be replaced by self-control only, but variously divided in our concep-
tions of the form of future society." In this sense of the term, Anarchism is more
a spirit than a doctrine, and includes among its adherents a whole range of
idealists, from Shelley to Tolstoi, from Emerson to Oscar Wilde: for such ideal-
ists have in common a supreme confidence in the goodness of human nature, and
the self-sufficiency of the individual; and, no less, a hostility to all forms of ex-
ternal authority. But this spirit is found quite generally among Socialists, and
has perhaps its noblest expression in "The Soul of Man Under Socialism." It
is perhaps best to call this Individualism, and turn to something in Anarchism
more doctrinal and distinctive. That is to be discovered in their practical work-
ing out of this hostility to authority. While even those Socialists who expect
future abolition of the state as a political institution, are willing to make use
of it as a means to hasten and control the change from one economic system to
another, the Anarchists refuse to have anything to do with government or pol-
itics. So that while the ideal of a future society may be almost identical with
Socialists and Anarchists, they differ practically on the question of political action.

This practical difference springs, of course, from a fundamental difference in
the Socialist and Anarchist philosophies. The Socialist philosophy is a mate-
rialistic one, starting with a consideration of economic conditions and seeking to
discover the law of economic change. The Anarchist philosophy is idealistic, start-
ing from an abstract principle and seeking simply to outline a perfect social or-
ganization. It follows that the Socialist tactic is the capture of political power,
as a means to effect the transformation of capitalism into collectivism. The whole
Anarchist strategy, on the contrary, leaving politics aside as something unneces-
sarily slow or actually harmful, consists in convincing masses of men of the de-
sirability of an immediate revolution.

It is an interesting paradox that Anarchist idealism the disbelief in the
use of force should be capable of directly producing its antithesis the belief
in the use of dynamite. The Anarchist, having denied himself the ordinary po-
litical means of protesting against injustice, when he does turn by. a natural re-
action to force, turns to its crudest and, he thinks, most effective form. This
curious and sinister reaction in the Anarchist faith was systematized in the '80's
by Johann Most, and it spread rapidly all over the world. It is from what may
be called Mostism that the conventional conceptions of Anarchism and Anarchists
have been derived. The terrorist tactics of Most have since that time, partly
as a result of government persecution, been almost if not quite universally dropped
by Anarchists.

But among Anarchists not of the Most school there existed and still exists a
certain tolerance toward this phase of the movement. That tolerance sometimes
takes the form of a disapproval, formal or sincere, of terrorist methods, along
with a frank admiration for the individuals who carry them out. Thus Elisee
Reclus. scientist and Anarchist, once wrote: "The idea of Anarchism is beautiful,
is great, but these miscreants sully our teaching: he who calls himself an An-
archist should be one of a good and gentle sort. It is a mistake to believe that
the Anarchist idea can be promoted by acts of barbarity." Yet he wrote of Rava-
chol in these terms: "I admire his courage, his goodness of heart, his greatness
of soul, the generosity with which he pardons his enemies, or rather his betrayers.
I hardly know of any men who have surpassed him in nobleness of conduct. I

Vol. II 24


reserve the question as to how far it is always desirable to push to extremities
one's own right, and whether other considerations moved by a spirit of solidarity
ought not to prevail. Still I am none the less one of those who recognize in Rava-
chol a hero of magnitude but little common."

In America there had been almost since the beginning of the century an ob-J
scure school of Anarchists of the Individualist type, which included Josiah War-
ren, Stephen Pearl Andrews and Lysander Spooner; and their ideas were later ;
developed and propagated by Benjamin Tucker in his journal Liberty. The
Anarchism of Proudhon was agitated in a paper called La Libertaire, published in 1
New York from 1858 to 1861 by Joseph Dejacque, a 'Forty-eighter, who later
joined the Communist Anarchists. And the secession from the International in
1871-2, headed by Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin (now Lady Cook), j
may be recognized as Anarchistic in tendency.

But before Anarchism came to figure in Chicago affairs, Socialism was to at- 1
tain a considerable growth. Practically the same causes led to its setback and to
the spread of Anarchism.


The little English-speaking section of the Workingmen's Party in Chicago, re- j
lates George A. Schilling, "held meetings every Monday evening to map out a j
program for public agitation, and to discuss . . . economic subjects and party !
methods among themselves." The Philadelphia unity convention at which the j
party was created had passed resolutions earnestly requesting workingmen gen- I
erally to abstain for the time being from all political movements "and to turn their I
backs on the ballot-box." They would thereby, it was declared, "spare them-
selves many disappointments, and they can devote their time and energies with
more profit to the organizations of the workingmen, which are frequently in- ,
jured and destroyed by premature action. Let us bide our time ! It will come !" !
Accordingly the Socialists of Chicago called public meetings in all parts of the j
city, with addresses in German and English. The speeches in English were usu- I
ally delivered by Albert R. Parsons. He and McAuliffe, says Schilling, were the
only ones "capable of expounding in public the principles of the party in the Eng-
lish language; but McAuliffe was an extremist, unwilling to advocate ameliora-
tive measures. The Section 'shelved' him, except on great special occasions, and
A. R. Parsons for a long time was practically the only public English speaker j
we had."

To these meetings the newspapers paid scarcely any attention. The public
paid little attention, either. One imagines those meetings some little hall, rented
from a "lodge" or union ; the scant audience of twenty or thirty scattered about
among the chairs, or huddled up (at the speaker's urgent request) in the front
rows; the rapt speaker, pouring out statistics, economic theory, indignation, satire,
with a rude eloquence; and the committee on arrangements, intent upon the ques-
tion of the hall rent, hurriedly passing the hat at the end of the speech, before
the audience can get away. "Ofttimes," says Schilling, "after posting the bills
and paying for advertising, we were also compelled to contribute our last nickel
for hall rent, and walk home instead of ride."

It was in the spring of 1877 that the party in Chicago resolved to make the
venture into politics. Albert R. Parsons was put forward as a candidate at


the aldermanic elections, and his ward, the 15th, was made the scene of intense
Socialist activity. "On this point," says Schilling, "we concentrated the party
strength, brought volunteer ticket peddlers from all parts of the city, and worked
like beavers. For this we were called carpet-baggers and imported foreigners, be-
cause some of us interfered in the politics of a ward in which we did not live.
We polled over 400 votes" "a moral victory."


But within three months Parsons had audiences of thousands. The cause was
the great railroad strike of 1877, which paralyzed the transportation system of
the east, quickly grew into a kind of general strike throughout the country, and
broke in several cities in a storm of bloodshed and destruction.

The crisis had been in preparation ever since the panic of 1873. Sweeping
away many of the smaller industrial units, the panic made room for the corpora-
tion, which then began to appear in other fields of industry besides those of trans-
portation and banking. The corporation saved labor and intensified the process
of production. On the other hand, the depression in wages continued. The trades
unions had been practically destroyed, and the army of the unemployed, estimated
at about 3,000,000, was effectual in preventing any wage increase.

The railway employes, being those upon whom the conditions bore perhaps
most severely, were the first to attempt desperate remedies. "The construction of
railroads," says Hillquit, "had become a favorite form of investment and financial
speculation immediately after the Civil War. Between 1867 and 1877 about
25,000 miles of new railway tracks were laid, and in the latter year the railways
of the country were capitalized for about $50,000,000. Roads were frequently
built on mere expectation of future development of the country, and without ref-
erence to the actual requirements of the traffic. When the panic of 1873 set in,
the railroads, therefore, were more affected by it than any other industry, and
the men to suffer were the employes. Between 1873 and 1877 the wages of rail-
road workers were reduced in the average by about 25 per cent, and in June. 1877,
the principal lines announced another reduction of 10 per cent." There was a
widespread demand for a strike, but no organization able to call one. The threat-
ened cut was made, without any resistance being offered, and in some cases still
another cut followed on July first.

Then, initiated July 16 by a single Baltimore & Ohio train crew at Martins-
luirg, West Virginia, a spontaneous strike began which spread within three days
over the whole system, and extended within two weeks over the railroads of
seventeen states. "Then for the first time," says A. M. Simons, "in the streets
of American cities was heard the crack of the militia rifle in civil war between
capital and labor." In Baltimore the militia fired on a hostile crowd, killing
ten and wounding many ; a riot followed, in which the militia were routed, after
which rails were torn up and cars burned. In Philadelphia the militia were
defeated and driven from the city ; then the railway company's property was
attacked and destroyed, ] ,600 cars and 1 20 locomotives being wrecked and
burned in a single day. In Reading the militia, composed generally of work-
ingmen, fraternized with the strikers and distributed their arms among them;
but when the soldiers of one company fired on the crowd, killing 13 and wound-


ing 22, they were driven from the city by the infuriated mob, which proceeded
to derail freight trains, burn bridges, and wreck cars. In other cities there
were disorders of a less serious nature.

With these exciting events the Chicago newspapers were filled, and every-
one waited with more or less of fear for the day when the strike, sweeping over
the Alleghanies, should reach Chicago. The Socialists, here as in other cities,
were seeking to use the situation for propaganda purposes. They called meet-
ings, says Schilling, "for the purpose of presenting to an astonished populace
the cause and remedy of this general upheaval." One such meeting was held
Sunday afternoon, July 21, at Sach's hall, 20th and Brown streets. Schilling
and Parsons spoke; the latter told his audience of workingmen, as reported in
the newspapers the next day, that "they should form their unions, cement their
party, go in on a protective and benevolent basis, with right and justice. If
they did not do this, the first they knew they would find themselves with a sword
in one hand and a torch in the other. He implored them in God's name not to
allow themselves to come to this desperate pass."

Monday was a day of waiting and preparation, of rumors and excitement.
The Workingmen's Party announced a mass meeting to be held that evening at
"Market square," on Market street near Madison. The handbills "caused a
sensation" at the police headquarters, and a force was detailed to preserve order
at the meeting. It was reported that the strike would begin that night. At a
conference of military and civil officials it was decided to order under arms all
the military in the city, but not to bring it into use until it had been shown that
the police were unable to cope with the situation.

There were 250 police on active duty, and this was before the days of patrol
wagons. The military forces available consisted of about 2,000 militia and two
4-pounder cannon owned by the city. The Illinois National Guard had been
created in 1876 by an act of the state legislature. There were three brigades,
of which Brigadier-General Joseph T. Torrence commanded the First, with head-
quarters in Chicago. General A. C. Ducat, division commander, was also in the
city. There were two infantry regiments, the 1st and the 2d, of which the
former was still in process of organization. To meet the need for a cavalry arm,
a number of former cavalrymen, veterans of the Civil War, were called together
and placed on duty under the command of Colonel Montgomerie T. Agramonte,
ex-officer of the French army, and ex- Lieutenant-Colonel Dominick Welter; the
horses were lent by street and teaming companies and wholesale houses. Finally,
the two 4-pounders were manned by veteran artillerists and placed in charge of
Edgar P. Tobey, who had been second lieutenant of old Battery A during the
war. In the event of serious need, the regular army was to an extent available.

Monday evening the mass meeting was held. It attracted several thousand
people, and at one time six speakers were addressing different parts of the
throng. McAuliffe. Schilling, Lessen, editor of the Forbote, and Parsons were
among them. On Parsons' appearance, said a newspaper the next day, "a shout
went up from the multitude." Schilling says: "On occasions of great public
excitement, Albert R. Parsons was a host as a public speaker. His capacity at
times like these to address himself to the feelings of the workers was something
marvelous. The Inter-Ocean declared that the subsequent mischief during the
strike in Chicago was all due to Parsons' speech." Other newspapers reported


the speeches as pacific and the crowd as "extremely orderly." Philip Van Pat-
ten, national secretary of the Workingmen's Party, introduced resolutions de-
manding: the gradual acquisition of railway and telephone lines by the govern-
ment, the building up of trade unions and the securing of legislation favorable
to the workers, and the reduction of the hours of labor.


The same night the switchmen in the Michigan Central yards quit work
the first move in a strike that was to tie up the industry of Chicago. These switch-
men had formerly been paid $65 a month, and their helpers $50. A 5 per cent
reduction June 1 had cut them down to $61.75 and $47.50 respectively. A
further cut July 1 had brought them to $55 and $42.75. They were demanding
an increase to $70 and $53.

Tuesday morning the strike was on in earnest. The switchmen who had
struck the night before came back and going through the yards gave the other
men the word to quit work. They were headed by a burly railroad man, a dis-
charged employe of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, called "Sandy" Hanlon.
At his word the men dropped their work, picked up their dinner buckets and
for the most part went quietly home. Others joined the crowd that went to the
Illinois Central, where the laborers and switchmen immediately quit work. The
crowd, which grew larger constantly, went on to the yards of the Baltimore &
Ohio, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and the other roads. The Chicago,
Rock Island and Pacific employes had their old wages restored that afternoon,
but joined the strike. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy yards, the last vis-
ited, were reached at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and then the railway systems
centering in Chicago were paralyzed.


Meanwhile, a similar thing was happening in the other branches of Chicago
industry. Early in the morning a crowd collected in the lumber district along
the river, in what was then the southwest part of the city, and going to the
planing mills "called out" the men at work. Then they poured north along
Canal street, stopping before one factory after another and setting up their out-
cry, half a promise and half a threat "Come out of that !" "Stop work !"
"Everybody must strike today !" Sometimes the men who were called out seemed
eager, sometimes reluctant, but they always came lumber shovers, saw and
planing mill men, iron workers, brass finishers, carpenters, brickmakers, fur-
niture workers, stone masons, bricklayers, tailors, shoemakers, painters, glaziers.
Before the day was over most of the industry of the whole city was
tied up.

Though there was intense excitement, there was, so long as the strikers were
not resisted or antagonized, no violence. But with the news that the "Com-

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.2) → online text (page 50 of 55)