Source: Thirty Years of Labor 1859 to 1889, 1890;
HTML: for marxists.org in April, 2002;
Proofed and Corrected: by Dawn Gaitis, 2007.
Deep as I felt, and stern and strong,
In words which Prudence smothered long,
My soul spoke out against the wrong. – Whittier.
The feeling of discontent which became apparent among the working people of the United States in 1886 presented an opportunity to a class of men, who affected to be “leaders of thought and action,” to come to the front and take part in directing the current of industrial affairs into a course which they hoped would bring about a revolution, destroy the governmental structure and reduce the political affairs of the nation to a condition bordering on chaos. For years prior to 1886, whenever a labor meeting was called in any large city, a number of men, calling themselves socialists, would flock to the gathering, and either attempt to officer it or cause it to break up in disorder. To do either one was considered a victory by the “radical element,” as they were pleased to term themselves. Socialism, as defined by Webster, is:
A theory of society which advocates a more precise, orderly and more harmonious arrangement of the social relations of mankind than that which has hitherto prevailed.
The definition of Webster and the practice of many who call themselves socialists diverge at every point. It is true that many men became identified with the socialist movement with a view to perfecting the arrangement of a more harmonious condition of society; but there are socialists who are not in harmony with the Websterian interpretation, and soon dispel the doubts of those who join them for the purpose of advocating such methods. The greater part of those who profess to be socialists, and who became prominent in the industrial affairs of late years, were anarchists, and when the time came to make public their real intentions they cast odium on the name of socialism and misconstrued its very nature by advocating anarchy as a means of settling the disputes between labor and capital. Many people believe that there is no difference between anarchy and socialism, but there is a wider line of demarcation between these two schools than now exists, or ever has existed, between the Democratic and Republican Parties. Socialism would improve the arrangement of social affairs; anarchy would destroy every vestige of order and effect the opposite of socialism. It is true that many who professed to speak for socialism knew absolutely nothing about it in its higher sense, and in advocating the extreme measures which they did drove thousands away from them. Anarchy is susceptible of two definitions. The one given it by Webster is:
Want of government; the state of society where there is no law or supreme power, or where the laws are not efficient, and individuals do what they please with impunity; political confusion.
That definition is more in harmony with the views of the extreme socialist than the definition given of socialism, and is practiced by them on all occasions, and in doing so they distort the aims and motives of the real socialist. Anarchy, as described by its apostles, is a state of society in which the people will be good enough to live without the restraining influences of law. It is contemplated that rules and restrictions for the government of mankind may be dispensed with as useless. Each member of society will have so high a regard for the welfare and happiness of his fellow-man as not to do anything that will intrude upon or injure his neighbor. In a word, no rule, no law, is the dream of the ideal anarchist. Society, as it now exists, is to be dissolved. Those whose tastes are congenial will form themselves into groups, small at first but increasing in numbers as the acquaintanceship extends. The groups are to be governed by the decrees of nature, and, being expected to live in strict accord with the rules which nature prescribes, no violence or injustice will be done to any portion of humanity.
Such is anarchy in the abstract, at least that is anarchy as described by its advanced teachers; but it is not the kind that is practiced by their disciples. It may be thought that what I say of anarchism is too harsh, but it will be borne in mind that I am dealing with it as I found it, and not in the abstract. With its theories I have nothing to do, but of its doings I have had some knowledge, and speak of it only so far as that knowledge extends. Those who doubt the destructive tendencies of the anarchists will have their doubts dispelled on reading the following from John Most's “Beast of Property,” a pamphlet published by the New Haven Group of the International Workingmen's Association:
Everything, therefore, is ripe for communism. It is only necessary to remove its interested inveterate enemies, the capitalists and their abettors. During this crisis the people will become sufficiently prepared for the struggle. Everything will then depend on the presence of a well-trained revolutionary nucleus at all points which is fit and able to crystallize around itself the masses of the people, driven to rebellion by misery and want of work, and which can then apply the mighty forces so formed to the destruction of all existing social hostile institutions.
Therefore organize and enlarge everywhere the socialistic revolutionary party before it is too late. The victory of the people over its tyrants and vampires will then be certain.
Instead of here developing a program, it is, under present conditions, of far greater importance to sketch what the proletariat must probably do immediately after the victorious battle to maintain its supremacy.
Most likely the following must be done: In every local community where the people have gained a victory, revolutionary committees must be constituted. These execute the decrees of the revolutionary army, which, re-enforced by the armed workingmen, now rule like a new conqueror of the world.
The former (present) system will be abolished in the most rapid and thorough manner if its supports – the beasts of property and horde of adherents – are annihilated. The case standing thus: If the people do not crush them they will crush the people, drown the revolution in the blood of the best, and rivet the chains of slavery more firmly than ever. Kill or be killed is the alternative. Therefore, massacres of the people's enemies must be instituted. All free communities enter into an offensive and defensive alliance during the continuance of the combat. Revolutionary communes must incite rebellion in the adjacent districts. The war cannot terminate until the enemy (the beast of property) has been pursued to its last lurking place and totally destroyed.
In order to proceed thoroughly in the economic sense all lands and so-called real estate, with everything upon it, as well as all movable capital, will be declared to be the property of the respective communes. Until the thorough harmonious reorganization of society can be effected, the proclamation of the following principles and measures might render satisfaction:
Every pending debt is liquidated. Objects of personal use which were pawned or mortgaged will be returned free. No rents will be paid. District committees on habitation, which will sit in permanence, allot shelter to those who are homeless, or who have inadequate or unhealthy quarters. After the great purification there will be no want for desirable homes.
Until every one can obtain suitable employment, the commune must guarantee to all the necessities of life. Committees on supplies will regulate the distribution of confiscated goods. Should there be lack of anything, which might be the case in respect to articles of food, these must be obtained by proper agents.
Taking such things from neighboring great estates by armed columns of foragers would be a most expeditious way of furnishing them..... All law books, court and police records, register of mortgage, deeds, bonds and all so-called valuable documents must be burned.....Forced or procured marriages are unknown. Mankind has returned to the natural state, and love rules unconstrained.
Like all anarchists, Most shirks the responsibility of “developing a program.” A program is distasteful to an anarchist, for the reason that it has the appearance of order. To develop a program would be to construct something, and as destruction is the chief aim of the anarchist, if not of anarchism, he will not do anything that is not in harmony with his tendency to destroy everything in the shape of law, rule and government, except such things as are prescribed by his own narrow, vindictive mind.
The anarchist in America is no more to be considered a part of the labor movement than the man who sits up nights to work his way into a bank vault that he may enrich himself from the earnings of others. The anarchist may consider that he works hard when preaching his doctrine of destruction. The bank robber must also work hard in order to succeed, but such exertions do not come under the head of “honest toil.” Both are parallels.
The average anarchist is cowardly and deceitful. When he is asked to explain the principles of anarchy, he will give the definition which is advanced by the apostles of that school of thought. This he will do if those who surround him are not anarchists, but free him from such surroundings and he at once begins to rave in an incoherent manner of what will be done if anarchy once prevails. If he is confronted by the definition given by Webster of anarchy, he will charge Webster with being “an aristocrat, one of the bourgeoisie; one who hates the proletariat.” Take this same man to task on some other occasion with being a socialist, for he will claim that he is also a socialist, even though his every utterance gives the lie to his claim, and he will refer you to the definition given of socialism by Webster, and then defy you to show that there is anything wrong in it as he defines it.
It would be wrong to charge all socialists with being anarchists, or all anarchists with being in favor of the rule laid down by Webster; but those who come to the front as the mouth-pieces of socialism and anarchy advocate the use of force oftener than anything else, and as a consequence the country has learned to distrust the man who admits that he is a socialist, no matter how pure his intentions may be. This is the truth, no matter how much we may deplore it.
A cardinal principle with the rampant socialist and anarchist is to propagandize on every occasion that presents itself. If a new society of laboring men is established these extremists become members of it and attempt to force their ideas to the front. In canting phrase and with mock humility they will insinuate themselves into the good graces of men who would scorn them were they to disclose their real feelings, and, once they gain the good-will of such, they have inserted a wedge between the members of that society that sooner or later will drive them apart. The smooth-tongued advocate of anarchy seldom does anything himself toward furthering the ends of the movement he is a part and parcel of. He secures the services of dupes who do his bidding, either through loyalty to principle or ignorance. That they will play on the ignorance of workingmen is but too true; that they despise every effort to lift the pall of ignorance that is lowered over the fortunes of the toilers is also true. If the people become educated they will have no use for either anarchy or monopoly, and every step in that direction is fought down by both extremes.
In concluding a chapter on socialism, written September 1, 1884, Burnette G. Haskell said:
When the rising – which will be one of blind, wrathful, ignorant producers – comes, then must the socialists of America be prepared to unfurl the scarlet flag, and with it in hand, head the assault as the leaders of the people, pointing out to them not only their wrongs, but their only salvation: “Free land, free tools and free money!"
Mr. Haskell should know how to voice the views of that school of anarchy that has shown its head in this country, for he was at that time one of the foremost men in that movement.
Writing for the ignorant and pandering to ignorance, that statement is capable of two interpretations, but its real meaning was that “the rising” was to be an armed rebellion against the establishment of law. It was to be composed of ignorant men, and as a consequence anything that would dispel ignorance would not meet with favor in the eyes of the leaders of anarchy. The “pernicious activity” of the anarchists made itself visible at every meeting of labor societies, and as an illustration I cannot do better than to quote from a letter written by Uriah S. Stephens on the subject. The letter was written August 19, 1879, while he was Grand Master Workman, and to a member of the Knights of Labor who had communicated with him on the subject of the interference of socialists. It reads:
You must not allow the socialists to get control of your Assembly. They are simply disturbers, and only gain entrance to labor societies that they may be in better position to break them up. You cannot fathom them, for they are crafty, cunning and unscrupulous. I detest the name of socialism on account of the actions of the men who profess to believe in it. They rush to every gathering and attempt to man or officer it. Having done that, and having driven all decent men away, they are supremely happy in the delusion that they have spread their ideas still further. I have had an experience with them that you could not possibly have had, and I warn you against having anything to do with them either individually or as a body. They tear down and very seldom ever attempt to build up. They do nothing for the cause of labor, save to do it harm. If the socialists ever gain control of the .....they will kill off the work of years. If they were sincere they would build up their own societies.
For the most part the meetings of anarchists are held under the roofs and influences of saloons, and it is only when exhilarated that they ever accomplish anything. There is no instance on record where they have ever done anything in the interest of reform, but in many places they have destroyed the hopes of men who were sorely tried, and who had almost gained what they were contending for when the incendiary speech of some anarchist turned public opinion, often very fickle, in an opposite direction.
During the telegraphers' strike in 1853 the leader of the International Workingmen's Association of the Pacific coast submitted to the group of which he was a member a proposition to destroy the property of the Western Union Company. A member of that organization, under date of August 18, 1887, writes the following:
He informed certain members of the group that he had been requested by the telegraphers to furnish volunteers from the International Workingmen's Association for the purpose of destroying such property of the Western Union Telegraph Company as would be pointed out to them by a committee of strikers. After procuring the required number of strikers and they were ready at midnight to do the work assigned to them, they proceeded to his house and were informed that he was in bed, and that the order was countermanded. Each member began to see that had they proceeded without him, as he expected, they would doubtless have been arrested, as they believed it a trap for them.
This charge is made against the leader of that movement by men who were associated with him. It was not the International Workingmen's Association that would have suffered through such transactions, for these things could not be done without the knowledge of the police of San Francisco, and the odium would not attach to the anarchist society had the property been destroyed. The telegraphers would have been the victims. Such interference as that whenever a disturbance occurred had the effect of causing men, who were not connected with the labor movement in any way, to believe that it was the bona-fide labor societies that were responsible for the outrages that took place.
A man may advocate a “more precise, orderly and more harmonious arrangement of the social relations of mankind” and be regarded with favor by all classes, but let such a person say that he is a socialist, and what is known as the “better element” will raise its hands in horror and forever after shun him as they would a plague. I can conceive of no other subject concerning which so much ignorance is displayed as that of socialism, and those who display that ignorance do not do so because of a lack of education; they are willfully blind; they will not study it, but take their inspiration from the garbled reports of “socialist meetings,” as they appear in the press. They judge of the aims and objects of socialism by those who, unfortunately for socialism, avow themselves to be advocates of that theory while belying their every utterance in their actions. Those who assert that socialism is destructive of law and order do not know what socialism is, for through its operations simpler, better, fewer and more humane laws than now exist would be in force, government would not disappear, but a more equitable form of government would prevail. The aim of socialism, in a word, is to make the world better.
In 1880 Osborne Ward, a socialist, lectured in Scranton to an outdoor audience, and I presided at the meeting. Although not connected with the Socialistic Labor Party, I wished to hear all sides, and, therefore, presented Mr. Ward to his audience, and was well pleased with his exposition of the principles of the party he represented. I did not in any way affiliate with the socialistic movement, but there were members of that organization who mistook my action in presiding at that meeting for approval of their doctrines, and it was published in their papers that I was a socialist.
In 1883 a member of the socialistic organization of New York City wrote to me asking that, as Mayor of Scranton and Grand Master Workman of the Knights of Labor, I issue a manifesto “declaring that all property is robbery.” I gave a negative reply, and took occasion in doing so to state my position on the question of the kind of socialism that bubbled to the surface from the depths of the beer saloon. From that day began the obstruction of the anarchist element to the progress of the Knights of Labor. On every occasion they paraded themselves as the mouth-pieces of socialism and of the Knights of Labor.
On December 15, 1884, during the prevalence of very hard times throughout the country, I issued a secret circular to the Order in which I advised that a discussion be opened up on the eight-hour question, and, among other things, said:
The change is slowly but surely coming over the whole country. The workers, though for a time oppressed, must in the end profit by it. The discussion of the labor question takes up more of the time and attention of men in all walks of life at the present time than it ever did before. Men who have no sympathy with the toiler are being forced into the discussion, and converts to the cause of humanity are being made more rapidly than at any time in the world's history. Notwithstanding all this the number of the unemployed at the present time is very great and constantly increasing. Reduction in wages, suspension of men, stoppage of factories and furnaces are of daily occurrence. With such a state of affairs staring us in the face, a word of warning cannot be amiss. Indulge in no hasty or ill-advised action, no matter how great the provocation to strike against an injustice or a grievance of any kind. Count well the costs before taking action. Remember that the winter is upon us, the dull season of the year is at hand, the number of unemployed so great that the chances of filling the places of strikers are very numerous.
Under such circumstances as I have pointed out it is but natural for men to grow desperate and restive. The demonstrations in some of our large cities testify to that fact; but when men parade the streets waving the black flag and the red one, threatening the destruction of property and the lives of other men, it in no way advances the cause we are engaged in. Such outbursts do no good. If it were possible to get all the workingmen out in martial array, and fit them out for battle, would it not be possible to array them in a calm, rational manner on the side of justice devoid of violence? I would like to see the men who talk of destroying life and property take a practical view of the matter. Suppose that we have a repetition of 1877 on a larger scale. Who will do the fighting? Who will do the killing, and who will be counted among the killed? Only the workingmen. Workingmen will be hired to fight workingmen, and the men against whom the blow is directed will make a tour of some foreign country, and study the best means of suppressing mobs while the unpleasantness lasts, and come back in time to saddle the costs, in the shape of taxes, on the backs of the workingmen who are unfortunate enough to escape being killed. It will do no good to hold up the reflection of the French Revolution as a beacon to light us onward. Those who preach such a revolution have never done duty as soldiers, or they would not talk so lightly of warfare. They should remember that the men who led the French Revolution in its incipient stages, and who led the people in their assault on tyranny, were themselves led to the guillotine before the revolution ended, and their efforts brought to the front a dictator, who crowned himself emperor amid the plaudits of the same people who beheaded a king and overthrew the preceding empire. If we are to judge of revolutions by the example set before us in the French uprising, when we study its benefits, we must pronounce them failures. The tendency of the present day in France is toward monopoly in land and money, while the number of small farmers is growing smaller every year.
There were anarchists in the Order, and the reading of that circular had the effect of intensifying their animosity toward one whom they had hitherto endeavored to make a convert to their theories. They began a system of destructive tactics that well-nigh drove the Order out of existence. Their agents became members with the avowed purpose of sowing the seeds of discord, and in many places Assemblies lapsed rather than follow the lead of anarchists.
Not only have anarchists of their own volition entered the Order for the purpose of tearing it down, but they have been hired by monopolists to become members for the purpose of giving an anarchistic turn to the doings of Assemblies, so that public opinion might be turned against the Order. This is no stretch of fancy, for a lawyer, an official of Utica, New York, while sitting by my side in a car coming from Washington in the early part of 1887, made this statement to me:
We have succeeded in heading off your Order, Mr. Powderly. We do not fear it any longer, for its power is killed through the foolish actions of its members. You may preach to them to be guided by wise counsels, but we have paid anarchists to become members of your Assemblies that they might stir up the devil and bring discredit upon your whole movement.
That no misconstruction might be placed upon his language, I requested Mr. H – – to repeat his words. He did so, and I noted them down for future reference. He was slightly intoxicated, just enough to loosen his tongue, but not enough to benumb his faculties. He stated that he was an attorney for a manufacturers' association.
Through the actions of the anarchists the Knights of Labor were well-nigh destroyed on the Pacific coast. They lost no opportunity to introduce some new element of discord at every meeting, until the members who were not connected with the International Workingmen's Association withdrew in disgust, and severed all connection with the Knights of Labor. An ex-officer of one of the anarchist groups made this statement to me over his own signature:
I and many others know as a fact that it was the intention of the heads of the International Workingmen's Association to capture the Knights of Labor as it was a powerful organization, ready-made to their hand, and would save them considerable labor in organizing if they could achieve their desire. Anyhow it could be and was used as a recruiting ground for their purposes.
While professing to be opposed to the continuance of the United States government, the anarchists, at their convention in 1886, decided that
“each member should prepare himself to occupy some high office in the government (of the people) when the International Workingmen's Association should have gained control. Various high positions were then parceled out to those present in the meeting with the understanding that they would prepare themselves. Those filling the various offices were to remain unknown to the people at large after the nation was captured, the heads of all departments meeting and transacting their business in secret. The same principle to be maintained in conducting the affairs of government as in conducting the routine of the International Workingmen's Association, the secret five issuing all orders and exacting perfect obedience, though they were to remain unknown and consequently irresponsible."
The above is in the language of one who still resides on the Pacific coast, and who knows the inside workings of the organization he writes about. The resolutions which were passed to capture the Order of the Knights of Labor were forwarded to me previous to the session of the General Assembly at Richmond, and in an address to that body, while a debate on the admission of certain delegates was in progress, I intimated that it was the intention of that body, known as the International Workingmen's Association, to capture the Order of the Knights of Labor.
That declaration inspired the most virulent and uncalled-for attacks from every quarter of the United States where there was a group of anarchists, but they did not publish them to the world as coming from groups of the International Workingmen's Association. They resorted to a most effectual means of doing injury. Having secured control in certain Assemblies of the Knights of Labor, they would decide in the anarchist group what should be done, and then have a Local Assembly of the Order, of which I was the executive officer, pass resolutions against my administration.
In this way the public and members of the Knights of Labor were deceived. The leaders of these groups were, for the most part, cunning and educated. Many of them were professional men, and knew well how to mould public opinion. Having the entree to the daily press, they lost no opportunity of spreading broadcast all manner of rumors concerning the autocracy of the officers of the Knights of Labor, while they themselves were under pledges to capture the United States government and manage it in secret through a committee of five, whose power would exceed that of the Emperor of Russia.
When the movement in favor of the establishment of the eight-hour workday took place on May 1, 1886, the places where the greatest show of strength was developed were Chicago, Ill., Milwaukee, Wis., Baltimore, Md., Boston, Mass., and St. Louis, Mo. At Chicago the sound of a bomb did more injury to the good name of labor than all the strikes of that year, and turned public sentiment against labor organizations so strong that it required the most strenuous efforts on the part of the officers of labor societies to keep their charges from being dragged down into the mire of anarchy.
The events of that year have been written, and such a short time ago that it is not necessary to reproduce them here, but there are matters in connection with the explosion of the bomb that did so much harm that should be known.
Passing over for the present the events which transpired on and succeeding the 1st of May, 1886, we find the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor in session at Richmond, Va. On page 240 of the Proceedings of that convention will be found the record of the election of the General Master Workman. This occurred on October 13. On the 19th of that month his salary was fixed by vote of the General Assembly. The record is on page 285, and on the day after the fixing of the salary – page 288 – the following resolution was offered by a representative from New York City, James E. Quinn:
That this General Assembly regards with sorrow the intended execution of seven workingmen in Chicago, and appeals for mercy in behalf of the condemned.
The General Master Workman left the chair, and, when an opportunity presented itself, said:
I do not approve of the resolution in its present form, and would ask the General Assembly to give the most careful consideration to this question. I object to the word “workingmen” in that resolution. The societies which favored the measures which were put into practice on May 4 are not made up of workingmen, nor do they pretend to be such. Even though they were, this convention should object to the work done in the name of labor by these misguided men, instead of countenancing it, or any part of it, by showing a morbid sympathy for them as workingmen. The world regards all labor societies in the same light since May 1; and had it not been for the imbecile act which afforded the anarchists the opportunity to do an evil deed while the eyes of the world were upon the men of labor, we would not be regarded with suspicion by all who are beyond our sanctuaries.
If the word workingmen is stricken out of the resolution, and a condemnation of the methods which brought these unfortunates to their present condition inserted, I shall vote for it, but not otherwise. Under no circumstances should we do anything that can, even by implication, be interpreted as identification with the anarchist element. Their blind, unlawful act has cast a stain upon the name of labor which will take years to wipe out. Instead of owing them sympathy we owe them a debt of hatred for their unwarrantable interference at a time when labor had all it could do to weather the storm which had been precipitated upon it by men who apparently did not look very far into the future when naming the 1st of May as the date on which to put in operation a plan which, from its very nature must revolutionize the industrial affairs of the country. We are apt to give too little thought to important measures, and to view them from the standpoint of our immediate surroundings, rather than from the standpoint of common-sense, and this is such a case. We see men in trouble and rush to their assistance without considering that our action may bring trouble to thousands. Think well over this before you vote, and then vote on such a resolution as will not commit the Order to any wild or visionary scheme which men, whom I believe to be its enemies, would like to see it become involved in.
After the views of the General Master Workman were stated, a representative from Missouri offered a resolution in accord with the sentiments expressed. It read as follows:
Resolved, That while asking for mercy for the condemned men, we are not in sympathy with the acts of the anarchists, nor with any attempts of individuals or associated bodies that teach or practice violent infractions of the law, believing that peaceful methods are the surest and best means to secure necessary reforms.
That resolution passed unanimously and met with the approval of nearly all who were present. The few who favored anarchy did not relish it because it lacked that endorsement of their ideas which they had hoped to carry away with them.
In response to the address of welcome of Governor Lee, the General Master Workman, in comparing monopoly and anarchy, said:
To remedy the evils we complain of is a difficult and dangerous undertaking. The need of strong hearts and active brain was never so great as at the present time. The slavery that died twenty-two years ago was terrible, but, bad as it was, it never developed a millionaire, while the new slavery, which now reaches out with a far stronger hand than the old, has developed hundreds of them. The lash in the hands of the old-time slave-owner could strike but one back at a time, and but one of God's poor children felt the stroke. The lash of gold in the hands of the new slave-owner falls not upon one slave alone, but upon the backs of millions, and among the writhing, tortured victims, side by side with the poor and the ignorant, are to be found the well-to-do and the educated. The power of the new slave-owner does not end when the ordinary day laborer bends beneath his rule. It reaches out still further and controls the mechanic, the farmer, the merchant and the manufacturer. It dictates not alone what the price of labor is, but regulates the price of money as well. This new slavery counts among its victims servants of the state who have been chosen by the people to execute a people's will. Not alone does it control the Legislator at the State Capitol, but in the halls of our National Congress will you find its most willing, cringing slave. It reaches out even further, and holds in its iron grasp the judge upon the bench; not that alone, but it has the power and does confer the judicial ermine upon its most subservient creatures. Do I overestimate its power? Have I made a single misstatement? If my word is not sufficient, turn to the pages of the history of to-day – the public press – and you will find the testimony to prove that what I have said is true. Evidence in abundance can be adduced to corroborate every statement made by the press.
The lash was stricken from the hand of the slave-owner of twenty-five years ago, and it must be taken from the hand of the new slave-owner as well.
The monopolist of to-day is more dangerous than the slave-owner of the past. Monopoly takes the land from the people in million-acre lots; it sends agents abroad and brings hordes of uneducated, desperate men to this country; it imports ignorance and scatters it broadcast throughout the land.
It, and it alone, is responsible for every manifestation of anarchy that our country has witnessed. All men may not be willing to admit that the statement is true, but when monopoly dies no more anarchists will be born unto this country, for anarchy is the legitimate child of monopoly. While I condemn and denounce the deeds of violence committed in the name of labor during the present year, I am proud to say that the Knights of Labor, as an organization, are not in any way responsible for such conduct. He is the true Knight of Labor who with one hand clutches anarchy by the throat and with the other strangles monopoly!
We are told that it is because of the importation of so many ignorant foreigners that anarchy has shown its head in our country. Rather is it true that because of the importation of foreign airs, manners and graces by the wealthy we have forgotten what it is that constitutes a true citizen of the Republic. The man who still believes in the “little red school-house on the hill” should take one holiday and visit the mine, the factory, the coal breaker and the mill. There, doing the work of men, will he find the future citizens of the Republic, breathing an atmosphere of dust, ignorance and vice. The history of our country is not taught within these walls. The struggle for independence and the causes leading to that struggle are not spoken of there; the name of Washington is unknown; and the words that rang out trumpet-tongued from the lips of Patrick Henry are never mentioned. Our country, her history, her laws and her institutions are unknown to these poor children. How, then, can the child of the foreigner learn to appreciate the freedom which they have never been told about, much less experienced?
The little red school-house must fail to do its work properly, since the children of the poor must pass it by on the road to the workshop. How can they appreciate the duties of citizenship when we do not take the trouble to teach them that to be an American citizen is greater than to be a king, and that he upon whom the mantle of citizenship is bestowed should part with his life before surrendering one jot or tittle of the rights and liberties which belong to him?
Turn away from these hives of industry, stand for a moment on a street corner, and you will see gaily-caparisoned horses driven by a coachman in livery; a footman occupying his place at the rear of the coach is also dressed in the garb of the serf. On the coach door you will find the crest or coat of arms of the illustrious family to whom it belongs. If you speak to the occupant of the coach concerning our country, her institutions or her flag, you will be told that they do not compare with those of foreign countries. The child who graduates from the workshop dons the livery of a slave, covers his manhood and climbs to the footman's place on the outside of the coach. The man who apes the manners and customs of foreign noblemen occupies the inside. The one who with strong heart and willing hands would defend the rights and liberties of his country has never learned what these rights or liberties are. The other does know, but has learned to love the atmosphere of monarchy better than that which he breathes in this land. Between these two our freedom is in danger, anarchism is fostered, and that is why we, as Knights of Labor, most emphatically protest against the introduction of the child to the workshop until he has attained his fifteenth year, so that he may be enabled to secure for himself the benefits of an education that will enable him to understand and appreciate the blessings of our free institutions, and, if necessary, defend them with his life.
During the year which followed no effort was spared to give out the impression that the condemned men were Knights of Labor, and that they had the endorsement of their Local Assemblies in acting with the anarchists. It is true that it was not stated that any of the condemned were Knights except Albert R. Parsons, but the idea was conveyed that they were entitled to the sympathy of the Order.
In his address to the General Assembly at Minneapolis, Minn., October, 1887, the General Master Workman detailed the experiences of the year so far as his connection with anarchy was concerned, and asked that the convention speak out in the name of the Order at large against the practices of the violent element which had gained admission to the organization. During the progress of the convention, on October 10, James E. Quinn presented the following resolution to the body:
WHEREAS, Considering that the development of the human mind in the nineteenth century has reached a point expressed almost universally against capital punishment, or the taking of human life by judicial process, as a relic of barbarism. Therefore be it
Resolved. That this convention express sorrow that the men in Chicago were doomed to death, and that it use every endeavor to secure the commutation of the sentence of death passed upon them.
When that resolution was read the General Master Workmen ruled it out of order. He had previously stated to those who said that such a resolution would be offered that he would do so, in ruling on the resolution he said that if necessary he would give his reasons for the action taken. Joseph L. Evans of Pittsburgh took an appeal from the decision of the chair, giving as his reason that he wished to give the General Master Workman an opportunity to state why he made the ruling. The vote was put on the appeal, and the chair was sustained by a vote of 121 to 53. On a motion to reconsider the vote which sustained the decision of the General Master Workman, 14 representatives spoke against the decision of the chair and 10 in favor of it. The question on the vote to reconsider was called, when the General Master Workman was asked to state his reasons for ruling the motion out of order. He spoke as follows:
I know that it may seem to be an arbitrary act on my part to rule a motion out of order, and did I not have excellent reasons for doing so I never would have availed myself of the privilege conferred upon me by virtue of the office I hold. To properly explain my reasons it will be necessary for me to take you back to the 1st of May, 1886, when the trade unions of the United States were in a struggle for the establishment of the eight-hour system. On that day was stricken to the dust every hope that existed for the success of the strike then in progress, and those who inflicted the blow claim to be representatives of labor. I deny their claim to that position, even though they may be workingmen. They represented no legitimate labor society, and obeyed the counsels of the worst foe this Order has upon the race of the earth to-day.
We claim to be striving for the elevation of the human race through peaceful methods, and yet are asked to sue for mercy for men who scorn us and our methods – men who were not on the street at the Chicago Haymarket in obedience to any law, role, resolution or command of any part of this Order; men who did not in any way represent the sentiment of this Order in placing themselves in the attitude of opposing the officers of the law, and who sneer at our every effort to accomplish results. Had these men been there on that day in obedience to the laws of this society, and had they been involved in a difficulty through their obedience to our laws, I would feel it to be my duty to defend them to the best of my ability under the law of the land, but in this case they were there to counsel methods that we do not approve of; and no matter though they have lost no opportunity to identify this Order with anarchy. It stands as a truth that there does not exist the slightest resemblance between the two.
I warned those who proposed to introduce that resolution that I would rule it out of order, and that it would do harm to the condemned men to have it go out that this body had refused to pass such a resolution. I stated to them that I knew the sentiment of the men who come here, the sentiment of the order that sent them, and, knowing what that sentiment was, a resolution that in any way would identify this Order with anarchy could not properly represent that sentiment. You are not here in your individual capacity to act as individuals, and you cannot take upon yourselves to express your own opinion and then ask the Order at large to endorse it, for you are stepping aside from the path that your constituents instructed you to walk in.
This organization, among other things, is endeavoring to create a healthy public opinion on the subject of labor. Each member is pledged to do that very thing. How can you go back to your homes and say that you have elevated the Order in the eyes of the public by catering to an element that defies public opinion and attempts to dragoon us into doing the same thing? The eyes of the world are turned toward this convention. For evil or good will the vote you are to cast on this question affect the entire Order, and extreme caution must characterize your action. The Richmond session passed a vote in favor of clemency, but in such a way that the Order could not be identified with the society to which these men belong, and yet thousands be gone from the Order because of it. I tell you the day has come for us to stamp anarchy out of the Order, root and branch. It has no abiding place among us, and we may as well face the issue here and now as later on and at another place. Every device known to the devil and his imps has been resorted to throttle this Order in the hope that on its ruins would rise the strength of anarchy.
During the year that has passed I have learned what it means to occupy a position which is in opposition to anarchy. Slander, vilification, calumny and malice of the vilest kind have been the weapons of the anarchists of America because I would not admit that Albert R. Parsons was a true and loyal member of the Knights of Labor. That he was a member is true, but we have had many members who were not in sympathy with the aims and objects of the Order, and who would subordinate the Order to the rule of some other society. We have members, too, who could leave the Order for the Order's good at any moment. Albert R. Parsons never yet counseled violence in obedience to the laws of Knighthood. I am told that it is my duty to defend the reputation of Mr. Parsons because he is a member of the Order. Why was not the obligation as binding on him? I have never lisped a word to his detriment either in public or private before. This is the first time that I have spoken about him in connection with the Haymarket riot, and yet the adherents of that damnable doctrine were not content to have it so; they accused me of attacking him, that I might, in denying it, say something in his favor. Why did Powderly not defend Parsons through the press since he is a Knight, and an innocent one? is asked. It is not my business to defend every member who does not know enough to take care of himself, and if Parsons is such a man he deserves no defense at my hands; but Parsons is not an ignorant man, and knows what he is doing. When men violate the laws and precepts of Knighthood, then no member is required to defend them. When Knights of Labor break the laws of the land in which they live they must stand before the law the same as other men stand and be tried for their offenses, and not for being Knights.
This resolution does not come over the seal of either Local or District Assembly. It does not bear the seal of approval of any recognized body of the Order, and represents merely the sentiment of a member of this body, and should not be adopted in such a way as to give it the appearance of having the approval of those who are not here to defend themselves and the Order against that hell-infected association that stands as a foe of the most malignant stamp to the honest laborer of this land. I hate the name of anarchy. Through its encroachments it has tarnished the name of socialism and caused men to believe that socialism and anarchy are one. They are striving to do the same by the Knights of Labor. This they did intentionally and with malice aforethought in pushing their Infernal propaganda to the front.
Pretending to be advanced thinkers, they drive men from the labor movement by their wild and foolish mouthing whenever they congregate, and they usually congregate where beer flows freely. They shout for the blood of the aristocracy, but will turn from blood to beer in a twinkling. I have no use for any of the brood, but am satisfied to leave them alone if they will attend to their own business and let this Order alone. They have aimed to capture this Order, and I can submit the proofs [here the documents were presented and read]. I have here also the expose of the various groups of anarchists of this country, and from them will read something of the aims of these mighty men of progress who would bring the greatest good to the greatest number by exterminating two-thirds of humanity to begin with. Possibly that is their method of conferring good.
No act of the anarchists ever laid a stone upon a stone in the building of this Order. Their every effort was against it, and those who have stood in the front, and have taken the sneers, insults and ridicule of press, pulpit and orator in defense of our principles, always have had the opposition of these devils to contend with also. I cannot talk coolly when I contemplate the damage they have done us, and then reflect that we are asked to identify ourselves with them even in this slight degree. Had the anarchists their way this body would not be in existence to-day to ask assistance from. How do you know that the condemned men want your sympathy? Have they asked you to go on your knees in supplication in seeking executive clemency for them? I think not, and, if they are made of the stuff that I think they are, they will fling back in your teeth the resolution you would pass. I give the men who are in the prison cell at Chicago credit for being sincere in believing that they did right. They feel that they have struggled for a principle, and feeling that way they should be, and no doubt are, willing to die for that principle.
Why, if I had done as they did, and stood in their place, I would die before I would sue for mercy. I would never cringe before a governor, or any other man, in a whine for clemency. I would take the consequences, let them be what they would. We may sympathize with them as much as we please, but our sympathies are due first to the Order that sent us here, and it were better that seven times seven men hang than to hang the millstone of odium around the standard of this Order in affiliating in any way with this element of destruction. If these men hang you may charge it to the actions of their friends, for, while pretending to be friends of theirs, the disciples of Most have lost no opportunity to strengthen the strands of the rope by their insane mouthings that it may do its work well.
Be consistent and disband as soon as you pass this resolution, for you will have no further use of any kind for another General Assembly. You have imposed upon your General Master Workman the task of defending the Order from the attacks of its enemies, and he feels that he is entitled to at least a small share of the credit for giving the Order its present standing. He has to the best of his ability defended the Order, but its friends will place in the hands of its enemies the strongest weapon that was ever raised against it if they pass this resolution. Of what avail for me to go before the public and assert that we are a law-abiding set of men and women? What will it avail for me to strive to make public opinion for the Order when, with one short resolution, you sweep away every vestige of the good that has been done, for, mark it, the press stands ready to denounce us far and wide the moment we do this thing?
This resolution is artfully worded. Its sinister motive is to place us in the attitude of supporters of anarchy rather than sympathizers with men in distress, and it should be defeated by a tremendous majority. It is asserted that this does not amount to anything, and that it is not the intention to identify the Order at large with these men. No more barefaced lie was ever told. That resolution would never be offered if we did not represent so large a constituency, and if it passes twenty-four hours won't roll over your heads until you see anarchists all over the land shouting that if these men are hanged the Knights of Labor will take revenge at the polls and elsewhere. In passing that resolution you place the collar of anarchy around your necks, and no future act of ours can take it off. If you sympathize with these unfortunate men, why do you lack the manhood to sign a petition for the commutation of their sentence, as individuals, and stand upon your own manhood, instead of sneaking behind the reputation and character of this great Order, which owes everything it has gained to having nothing to do with the anarchists? Pass this vote if you will, but I swear that I will not be bound by any resolution that is contrary to the best interests of the Order. You cannot pass a resolution to muzzle me, and I will not remain silent after the adjournment of this convention if it becomes necessary to defend the Order from unjust assaults as a result of the action taken.
As an Order we are striving for the establishment of justice for industry. We are attempting to remove unjust laws from the statutes, and are doing what we can to better the condition of humanity. At every step we have to fight the opposition of capital, which of itself is sufficient to tax our energies to the utmost; but at every step we are handicapped by the unwarrantable and impertinent interference of these blatant, shallow-pated men, who affect to believe that they know all that is worth knowing about the conditions of labor, and who arrogate to themselves the right to speak for labor at all times and under all circumstances. That they are mouth-pieces is true, but they only speak for themselves, and do that in such away as to alarm the community and arouse it to such a pitch of excitement that it insists upon the passage of restrictive legislation, which, unfortunately, does not reach the men whose rash language calls for its passage. Its effects are visited upon innocent ones who had no hand, act or part in fomenting the discord which preceded the passage of the unjust laws.
Our greatest trouble has always been caused by extremists who, without shadow of authority, attempted to voice the sentiments of this Order; and from this day forward I am determined that no sniveling anarchist will speak for me, and if he attempts it under shadow of this organization, then he or I must leave the Order, for I will not attempt to guide the affairs of a society that is so lacking in manhood as to allow the very worst element of the community to make use of the prestige it has gained to promote the vilest of schemes against society. I have never known a day when these creatures were not ready to stab us to the heart when our faces were turned toward the enemy of labor.
It is high time for us to assert our manhood before these men throttle it. For Parsons and the other condemned men let there be mercy. I have no grudge against them. In fact, I would never trouble my head about them were it not for the welfare of this Order. Let us as individuals express our sorrow for their unhappy plight, if we will; but as an Order we have no right to do so. It is not the individuals who are in prison at Chicago that I speak against. It is the hellish doctrine which found vent on the streets of Chicago, and which, unfortunately for themselves, they have been identified with. No, I do not hate these men, I pity them; but for anarchy I have nothing but hatred, and if I could I would forever wipe from the face of the earth the last vestige of its double damned presence, and in doing so would feel that the best act of my life, in the interest of labor, had been performed.
At the conclusion of that speech, which is for the first time given verbatim, a vote was taken on the motion to reconsider, and was lost. The reason that speech is reproduced is because the sympathizers with anarchy, who listened to it, have malignantly garbled it to suit their own purposes ever since. For two reasons it is best that it should be known, that there may be no mistake as to what was said, and that it shall find a place in history where it will be accessible to those who would know the truth.
George A. Schilling, in a “Short History of the Labor Movement in Chicago,” bends the truth past the breaking point when he says:
Powderly ruled it [the resolution favoring the anarchists] out of order. On the appeal from the decision of the chair by Representative Evens of D. A. 3 of Pittsburgh, the entire subject became a matter for discussion. Powderly, as usual, spoke last and made a bitter attack on the condemned men......On roll-call, fifty-two members voted against the decision of the chair, he being sustained by a large majority.
The chair did not even attempt to speak during the discussion on the appeal from his decision. That vote was decided without interference from him, and it was only when he was asked to do so on the motion to reconsider that he did speak. The same historian of anarchy, in writing of the Richmond session, asks:
Why did Powderly not rule the subject out of order at Richmond? Was it because he was looking for the increase of salary to $5,000 per annum, and could not afford to oppose D. A., with its sixty-two delegates, who championed the resolution for clemency?
Those who take the trouble to do so will find the record as I have given it in the Proceedings of the Richmond session, and they will learn that the General Master Workman was elected and his salary fixed long before the resolution came up. That he did speak on the motion is not questioned by those who were present; those who were not may read his remarks in these pages.
It has been said by anarchist sympathizers that the Minneapolis speech had the effect of causing the Governor of Illinois to refuse to commute the sentences of all the prisoners. Nothing can be further from the truth. The Governor knew nothing of it, neither did he ever hear of a public expression concerning the condemned men from the General Master Workman.
If George Schilling desired to be fair, he would have quoted from a paper called the Knights of Labor, published by George E. Detwiler of Chicago, a more scathing denunciation of the anarchists than anything that was said at the Minneapolis Convention. In its issue of May 8, 1886, four days after the Haymarket explosion, and before the anarchist trials, the paper in question said in a leading editorial:
Let it be understood by all the world that the Knights of Labor have no affiliation, association, sympathy or respect for the band of cowardly murderers, cutthroats and robbers known as anarchists, who sneak through the country like midnight assassins, stirring up the passions of ignorant foreigners, unfurling the red flag of anarchy, and causing riot and bloodshed. Parsons, Spies, Fielding, Most, and all their followers, sympathizers, aiders and abetters should be summarily dealt with. They are entitled to no more consideration than wild beasts. The leaders are cowards, and their followers are fools. Knights of Labor, boycott them. If one of the gang of scoundrels should by any mistake get access to our organization, expel him at once – brand them as outlawed monsters. Do not even permit yourselves to hold conversation with one of them; treat them as they deserve to be treated, as human monstrosities not entitled to the sympathy or consideration of any person in the world......We hope the whole gang of outlaws will be blotted from the surface of the earth.
Those who still believe that the anarchists of Chicago and the socialists of America were one should read a pamphlet issued by the Socialistic Labor Party on June 1, 1886, in refutation of the charge that socialism and anarchism were one. It is entitled “Socialism and Anarchism, antagonistic opposites.” Its first paragraph is:
In reading the newspapers we find the two names mentioned above frequently put side by side. Nay, we And them also associated with the terms communism and nihilism, as though these four “isms” had the closest relation to each other. This is a mistake. Socialism and anarchism are opposites which have nothing in common but their appurtenance to social science. Socialists and anarchists as such are enemies. They pursue contrary aims, and the success of the former will destroy forever the fanatical hopes of the latter.
In the Chicago Star of April 25, 1887, appeared an expose of the aims and purposes of the various groups of anarchists of America. The truth of the statements made in that article was vouched for by those who were in position to know whereof they spoke. It was from that document that I read the extracts which explained to the Minneapolis session the real aims of those who sought to cover up their diabolical schemes, first, under the name of socialism, and, later on, by appropriating the machinery of the Knights of Labor to do it under. From the close of the Minneapolis session to the opening of the Indianapolis Convention an open and persistent assault on the Order was continued by the anarchists and their sympathizers. Unfortunately for the Order it had on its Executive Board ardent sympathizers with anarchy, and it was not until they, together with others, were deprived of the power to do harm to the Order that it was rid of an element that aimed solely at prostituting its highest, purest principles and rendering them subservient to that element which at all times advised violence as the only weapon to be used in destroying the evil tendencies of the times. The Order can with a united front make headway against the assaults of monopoly, for its principles are pure, and under no guise can monopoly attempt to become a part of the Order for the purpose of carrying forward its plans of spoliation; but weighed down by a festering, putrid sore, which irritated most when the necessity for clear-sighted, conservative action was most apparent, with such an active enemy working to overthrow the Order from within, through agents introduced to the organization for that purpose, the officers and members who worked for the elevation of the toiler in endeavoring to put the principles of the Order into practical operation could do little else than give their attention to these destroyers, an attention which should have been undivided and centered wholly upon the aggressive, grasping monopolist and speculator.