| Chap. 1 | Chap.
2 | Chap. 3 | Chap.
4 | Chap. 5 | Chap.
6 | Chap. 7 | Chap.
8 | Chap. 9
Conservation Movement, 1850-1920
Child Labor in America, 1908-1912: Photographs
for Chapter 6
LEASE RALLIES KANSAS
BRYAN'S CROSS OF GOLD SPEECH
AND BLACK VOTERS
OPPOSES THE ORGANIZATION OF LABOR
POWDERLY AND THE KNIGHTS OF LABOR
DESCRIBES TRADE UNIONS
DEFENDS HONEST GRAFT
INDICTS INTERLOCKING DIRECTORATES
CORPORATIONS, 1917, 2002
for Week 6
William Jennings Bryan
Knights of Labor-Terence Powderly
American Federation of Labor (AFL)--Samuel Gompers
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
General Federation of Women’s' Clubs
National Civic Federation
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Socialist Party of America
The Oregon System: initiative, recall, referendum
The Square Deal
National American Woman Suffrage Association
The Conservation Movement
A. Mitchell Palmer
A FARMER'S GRIEVANCE
farmer W. M. Taylor, in a letter dated January 10, 1891, describes
the hardship he and other farmers faced, attributing it mostly
to man-made conditions rather than more typically weather or
This season is without a parallel in this part of the country.
The hot winds burned up the entire crop, leaving thousands of
families wholly destitute, many of whom might have been able
to run through this crisis had it not been for the galling yoke
put on them by the money loaners and sharks—not by charging
7 per cent per annum, which is the lawful rate of interest,
or even 10 per cent, but the unlawful and inhuman country destroying
rate of 3 per cent, a month, some going still farther and charging
50 per cent per annum. We are cursed, many of us financially,
beyond redemption, not by the hot winds so much as by the swindling
games of the bankers and money loaners, who have taken the money
and now are after the property, leaving the farmer moneyless
and homeless... I have borrowed for example $1,000. I pay $25
besides to the commission man. I give my note and second
mortgage of 3 per cent of the $1,000, which is $30 more.
Then I pay 7 per cent on the $1,000 to the actual loaner.
Then besides all this I pay for appraising the land, abstract,
recording, etc., so when I have secured my loan I am out the
first year $150. Yet I am told by the agent who loans me the
money, he can’t stand to loan at such low rates.
This is on the farm, but now comes the chattel loan. I
must have $50 to save myself. I get the money; my note
is made payable in thirty or sixty days for $35, secured by
chattel of two horses, harness and wagon, about five times
the value of the note. The time comes to pay, I ask for
a few days. No I can’t wait; must have the money.
If I can’t get the money, I have the extreme pleasure
of seeing my property taken and sold by this iron handed money
loaner while my family and I suffer.
Source: W. M. Taylor to editor, Farmer's Alliance
(Lincoln, Nebraska), January 10, 1891, Nebraska Historical Society,
reprinted in Robert D. Marcus and David Burner, ed. America
Firsthand. vol.2 (New York: 1989), p. 99.
POPULIST PARTY PLATFORM
1892 the Populist Party mounted its first campaign for the Presidency.
Part of the Party platform adopted at the Omaha Convention in
1892 is reprinted below.
We have witnessed for more than a quarter of a century the struggles
of the two great political parties for power and plunder, while
grievous wrongs have been inflicted upon the suffering people.
We charge that the controlling influence dominating both these
parties have permitted the existing dreadful conditions to develop
with serious effort to prevent or restrain them...
We believe that the
power of government‑‑in other words, of the people‑‑should
be expanded...as rapidly and as far as the good sense of an
intelligent people and the teachings of experience shall justify,
to the end that oppression, injustice, and poverty shall eventually
cease in the land.
We demand a free ballot and a fair count in all elections, and
pledge ourselves to secure it to every legal voter...through
the adoption by the States of the Australian or secret ballot
The revenue derived from a graduated income tax should be applied
to the reduction of the burdens of taxation now levied upon
the domestic industries of this country.
We pledge our support to fair and liberal pensions to ex‑Union
soldiers and sailors.
We condemn the fallacy of protecting American labor...which
opens our ports to the pauper and criminal classes of the world
and crowds our wage‑ earners; and we denounce the present
ineffective laws against contract labor, and demand the further
restriction of undesirable emigration.
We cordially sympathize with the efforts of organized workingmen
to shorten the hours of labor, and demand a rigid enforcement
of the existing eight‑hour law on Government work, and
ask that a penalty clause be added to the said law.
We regard the maintenance of a large standing army of mercenaries,
known as the Pinkerton system, as a menace to our liberties,
and we demand its abolition...
We commend...the legislative system known as the initiative
We favor a constitutional provision limiting the office of President
and Vice‑President to one term, and providing for the
election of Senators of the United States by a direct vote of
We oppose any subsidy or national aid to any private corporation
for any purpose.
Source: Richard N. Current and John A. Garraty,
ed., Words that Made American History Since The Civil War,
(Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1965), pp. 223, 226‑227.
ELLEN LEASE RALLIES KANSAS
the early 1890s Mary Ellen Lease became one of the leading Populist
Party spokespersons. This Kansas housewife was best known
for her demand that farmers "raise less corn and more hell"
to address their grievances. In this speech in 1890 she
explains the plight of the farmers.
This is a nation of inconsistencies. The Puritans fleeing
from oppression became oppressors. We fought England
for our liberty and put chains on four million of blacks.
We wiped out slavery and by our tariff laws and national banks
began a system of white wage slavery worse than the first.
Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government
of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government
of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street.
The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly
is the master. The West and South are bound and prostrate
before the manufacturing East.
Money rules, and our Vice‑President is a London banker.
Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in
robes and honesty in rags.
The parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.
We were told two years ago to go to work and raise a big crop,
that was all we needed. We went to work and plowed and
planted; the rains fell, the sun shone, nature smiled, and we
raised the big crop that they told us to; and what came of it?
Eight‑cent corn, ten‑cent oats, two‑cent beef,
and no price at all for butter and eggs‑‑that's
what came of it.
Then the politicians said we suffered from overproduction.
Overproduction, when 10,000 little children, so statistics
tell us, starve to death every year in the United States, and
over 100,000 shop girls in New York are forced to sell their
virtue for the bread their niggardly wages deny them.
Tariff is not the paramount question. The main question
is the money question... Kansas suffers from two great robbers,
the Santa Fe Railroad and the loan companies. The common
people are robbed to enrich their masters...
We want money, land, and transportation. We want the abolition
of the national banks, and we want the power to make loans direct
from the government. We want the accursed foreclosure
system wiped out. Land equal to a tract thirty miles wide
and ninety miles long has been foreclosed and bought in by loan
companies of Kansas in a year.
We will stand by our homes and stay by our fireside by force
if necessary, and will not pay our debts to the loan‑shark
companies until the government pays its debts to us. The
people are at bay; let the bloodhounds of money who have dogged
us thus far beware.
Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy,
The American Spirit, Vol. II (Lexington, Massachusetts,
1984), pp. 547‑548.
JENNINGS BRYAN'S CROSS OF GOLD SPEECH
Jennings Bryan, a 36 year old Congressman from Nebraska, electrified
the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago in 1896 with his
"Cross of Gold Speech in which he advanced the position
of the Free Silver advocates before the 15,000 people in the
Convention hall. The next day Bryan was nominated for
President on the Democratic Party ticket. Part of his
speech is reprinted below.
I would be presumptuous, indeed, to present myself against the
distinguished gentlemen to whom you have listened if this were
a mere measuring of abilities. But this is not a contest
between persons. The humblest citizen in all the land,
when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than
all the hosts of error. I come to speak to you in defense
of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty‑‑the
cause of humanity....
We [silverites] do not come as aggressors. Our war is
not a war of conquest. We are fighting in the defense
of our homes, our families, and posterity. We have petitioned,
and our petitions have been scorned. We have entreated,
and our entreaties have been disregarded. We have begged,
and they have mocked when our calamity came. We beg no
longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more. We defy
Mr. Carlisle [John G. Carlisle of Kentucky, formerly a distinguished
member of Congress, was Cleveland's Secretary of Treasury in
1896] said in 1878 that this was a struggle between "the
idle holders of idle capital" and "the struggling
masses, who produce the wealth and pay the taxes of the country";
and, my friends, the question we are to decide is: upon which
side will the Democratic Party fight‑‑upon the side
of "the idle holders of idle capital" or upon the
side of "the struggling masses"? That is the
question which the party must answer first, and then it must
be answered by each individual hereafter. The sympathies
of the Democratic Party, as shown by the platform, are on the
side of the struggling masses who have ever been the foundation
of the Democratic Party.
There are two ideas of government. There are those who
believe that if you will only legislate to make the well‑to‑do
prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below.
The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate
to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its
way up through every class which rests upon them.
You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor
of the gold standard. We reply that the great cities rest
upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities
and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as
if by magic. But destroy our farms, and the grass will
grow in the streets of every city in the country.
Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the
world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests,
and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for
a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press
down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall
not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.
Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy,
The American Spirit, Vol. II (Lexington, Massachusetts,
1984), pp. 563‑565.
WHAT FARM PROBLEM?
the vignette below J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska, who served
as Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland
between 1893 and 1897, challenged Populist arguments by asserting
that there was no farm problem. Here is an excerpt from
his report on farm conditions in 1896.
Out of each thousand farms in the United States only 282 are
mortgaged, and three-fourths of the money represented by the
mortgages upon the 282 farms was for the purchase of those farms
or for money borrowed to improve those farms. And the
prevalent idea that the West and the South are more heavily
burdened with farm mortgages than the East and Northeast sections
of the United States is entirely erroneous...
The constant complaint
by the alleged friends of farmers, and by some farmers themselves,
is that the Government does nothing for agriculture... Largely
these declarations are without foundation. Their utterance
is a belittlement of agriculture and an indignity to every intelligent
and practical farmer of the United States. The free and
independent farmers of this country are not impoverished...they
are not wards of the Government to be treated to annuities,
like Indians upon reservations. They are representatives
of the oldest, most honorable, and most essential occupation
of the human race. Upon it all other vocations depend
for subsistence and prosperity.
Legislation can neither plow nor plant. The intelligent,
practical, and successful farmer needs no aid form the Government.
The ignorant, impractical, and indolent farmer deserves none.
It is not the business of Government to legislate in behalf
of any class of citizens because they are engaged in any specific
calling, no matter how essential the calling may be to the needs
and comforts of civilization. Lawmakers cannot erase natural
laws nor restrict or efface the operation of economic laws.
It is a beneficent arrangement of the order of thing and the
conditions of human life that legislators are not permitted
to repeal, amend, or revise the laws of production and distribution.
Source: The Report of Secretary of Agriculture,
1896 (Washington, D.C., 1896, pp. xlv-xlvi).
THOMAS WATSON AND BLACK VOTERS
Watson, the Georgia Populist leader, symbolized the transformation
of the Populist Party on the issue of black voting. In
the early 1890s when the party first emerged, Watson and other
Populist leaders welcomed black voters as political allies.
By 1900, however, Watson called for black disfranchisement.
Reprinted below is his appeal to black voters in 1892
and an example of his vitriolic anti‑black attacks after
Now the People's Party says to these two men, "You are
kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings.
You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is
rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which
enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you
may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary
system which beggars you both...
The conclusion, then, seems to me to be this: the crushing burdens
which now oppress both races in the South will cause each to
make an effort to cast them off. They will see a similarity
of cause and a similarity of remedy. They will recognize
that each should help the other in the work of repealing bad
laws and enacting good ones. They will become political
allies, and neither can injure the other without weakening both.
It will be to the interest of both that each should have justice.
And on these broad lines of mutual interest, mutual forbearance,
and mutual support the present will be made the stepping‑stone
to future peace and prosperity.
How silly it is to judge the negro race by a few mulattoes like
Dr. Booker Washington or Prof. DuBois. In all the long
reach of the ages he [the negro] has not contributed one ray
of light to civilization. Creative intellect was not given
to him. No original idea of his lives in poetry or song,
in stone or upon canvas, in written bork or hieroglyphic.
Commerce owes him nothing; the ocean roared at his feet, even
as it did at the feet of our ancestors, but he never dared to
build ship and brave the deep, as Celt and Teuton, Saxon and
...Leave the negro
to himself, and cycles sweep by, empires rise and fall, races
appear and disappear,‑‑the negro undergoes no chance,
making no advance, and dreaming of none... He remains,
century after century, the neighbor of the gorilla and chimpanzee,
making no more effort at civilization than they make...
Sources: John Blum, The National Experience,
Part 2 (New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1985),p. 514;
Watson's Jeffersonian Magazine Vol. 3, No. 2 (February,
1909), pp. 93, 102.
CLEWS OPPOSES THE ORGANIZATION OF LABOR
the vignettes below Henry Clews outlines, in an 1886 article,
his opposition to labor organization in an principle and specifically
to the Knights of Labor.
The Knights of Labor have undertaken to test, upon a large scale,
the application of compulsion as a means of enforcing their
demands. The point to be determined is whether capital or labor
shall, in future, determine the terms upon which the invested
resources of the nation are to be employed. To the employer;
it is a question whether his individual rights as to the control
of his property’ shall be so far overborne as to not only
deprive him of his freedom but also expose him to interferences
seriously impairing the value of his capital. To the
employees, it is a question whether, by the force of coercion,
they can wrest, to their own profit, powers and control which,
in every civilized community are secured as the most sacred
and inalienable rights of the employer.
The Almighty has made this country for the oppressed of other
nations, and therefore this is the land of refuge for the oppressed,
and the hand of the laboring man should not be raised against
The laboring man in this bounteous and hospitable country has
no ground for complaint. His vote is potential and he
is elevated thereby to the position of man. Elsewhere he is
a creature of circumstance, which is that of abject depression.
Under the government of this nation, the effort is to elevate
the standard of the human race and not to degrade it.
In all other nations it is the reverse. What, therefore, has
the laborer to complain of in America? By inciting strikes
and encouraging discontent, he stands in the way of the elevation
of his race and of mankind.
Source: Henry Clews, "The Folly of Organized
Labor," North American Review, June 1886, reprinted
in Bruno Leone, ed., Opposing Viewpoints in American History
(San Diego, 1996), p. 58.
V. POWDERLY AND THE KNIGHTS OF LABOR
V. Powderly, the son of Irish immigrants, became a machinist
and later joined the secret order of the Knights of Labor.
He ultimately became Grand Master of the organization when it
reached its maximum strength of 700,000 in the early 1880s.
The Knights welcomed virtually all workers and worked for a
variety of reforms such as regulation of trusts and monopolies,
and government ownership of railroads. Powderly's organization
was attacked by conservatives who accused it of advocating communism.
But Powderly was also criticized by trade union advocates within
the Knights of Labor who wanted wage increases and shorter hours
and who often went on strike, despite the organization's prohibition
of such action, to gain their objectives. Powderly explains
his views in his autobiography published in 1893.
I have held a most anomalous position before the public for
the last twenty years. All of this time I have opposed
strikes and boycotts. I have contended that the wage question
was of secondary consideration; I have contended that the short‑hour
question was not the end but merely the means to an end; I have
endeavored to direct the eyes of our members to the principal
parts of the preamble of our Order‑‑government ownership
of land, of railroads, or regulation of railroads, telegraphs,
and money. But all of this time I have been fighting for
a raise in wages, a reduction in the hours of labor, or some
demand of the trade element in our Order, to the exclusion of
the very work that I have constantly advocated and which the
General Assembly of the Order commanded me to advocate.
Just think of it! Opposing strikes and always striking;
battling for short hours for others, obliged to work long hours
myself, lacking time to devote to anything else. Battling
with my pen in the leading journals and magazines of the day
for the great things we are educating the people on, and fighting
with might and main for the little things.
Our Order has held me in my present position because of the
reputation I have won in the nation at large by taking high
ground on important national questions, yet the trade element
in our Order has always kept me but at the base of the breastworks
throwing up earth which they trample down.
Source: Terence V. Powderly, The Path I Trod,
(New York, 1893, reprinted by Columbia University Press, 1940),
GOMPERS DESCRIBES TRADE UNIONS
Gompers, a London-born New York cigar maker, cofounded the American
Federation of Labor in 1886, served as the AFL's first president
almost until his death in 1924. In the vignette below
Gompers explains the need for organization among workers.
Unlike the Knights which sought to be one large union, Gompers
called for trade or craft unions of skilled workers.
If you wish to improve a people you must improve their habits
and customs. The reduction of the hours of labor reaches
the very root of society. It gives the workingmen better
conditions and better opportunities, and makes of him what has
been too long neglected‑a consumer instead of a mere producer...
A man who goes to his work before the dawn of the day requires
no clean shirt to go to work in, but is content to go in an
old overall or anything that will cover his members; but a man
who goes to work at 8 o'clock in the morning wants a clean shirt;
he is afraid his friend will see him, so he does not want to
be dirty. He also requires a newspaper; while a man who
goes to work early in the morning and stays at it late at night
does not need a newspaper, for he has no time to read, requiring
all the time he has to recuperate his strength sufficiently
to get ready for his next day's work...
The general reduction of the hours per day...would create a
greater spirit in the working man; it would make him a better
citizen, a better father, a better husband, a better man in
general... The trade unions are not what too many men
have been led to believe they are, importations from Europe...
Modern industry evolves these organizations out of the existing
conditions where there are two classes in society, one incessantly
striving to obtain the labor of the other class for a little
as possible..; and the members of the other class being, as
individuals, utterly helpless in a contest with their employers,
naturally resort to combinations to improve their conditions
which surround them to organize for self‑protection.
Hence trade unions... Wherever trades unions have organized
and are most firmly organized, there are the rights of the people
respected... I believe that the existence of the trades‑union
movement, more especially where the unionists are better organized,
has evoked a spirit and a demand for reform, but has held in
check the more radical elements in society...
Source: Howard H. Quint, Milton Cantor and Dean
Albertson, Main Problems in American History, (Chicago:
The Dorsey Press, 1987) p. 52‑53.
Sinclair's novel, The Jungle, set in the immigrant neighborhoods
of Chicago, was intended as a call for socialism among the working
classes but instead became popular because of its exposure of
the abuses of the meat packing industry. However this
report of a 1906 Congressional Committee on conditions in the
industry was as telling as the novel.
There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up
for sausage; there would come all the way back from Europe old
sausage that had been rejected, and that was mouldy and white‑‑it
would be doused with borax and glycerine, and dumped into the
hoppers, and made over again for home consumption.
There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the
dirt and sawdust, where the workers had trampled and spit uncounted
billions of [tuberculosis] germs.
There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the
water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of
rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these
storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over
these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung
of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would
put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats,
bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together.
Source: Congressional Record, 59th Congress,
First Session, p. 7801 (June 4, 1906).
BOSSES AND POLITICAL MACHINES
William Tweed 1865-1871
Tammany Hall, 1790
(Honest) John Kelley 1871-88
Richard Crocker 1888-1894
Charles Murphy 1902-1904
Michael Kenna 1900-1910
Cook Co. Democratic Organization,
William Thompson 1916-31
Patrick A. Nash 1931-1936
Edward Kelley 1936-1951
Richard J. Daley 1953-1976
Martin Lomasney 1880-1890
Southend Democratic Club,
James Michael Curley 1890-1920
James McManes 1868-1881
Martin Behrman 1900-1920
Democratic Choctaw Club,
Abraham Ruef 1892-1910
Tom Dennison 1901-1929
Omaha Democratic Club, 1894-1936
Frank J. Hague 1917-1947
Edward Crump 1911-1948
Shelby County Democratic
George B. Cox 1885-1911
Harvey Wheeler 1899-1910
Treaton Democratic Club,
James Pendergast 1881-1892
West End Democratic Org.,
Tom Pendergast 1892-1932
RULE IN PHILADELPHIA
1904 Lincoln Steffens, a California‑born journalist, had
emerged as one of the leading muckrakers in the country with
the publication of his book, The Shame of the Cities.
In this passage he explains the operation of the Philadelphia
Other American cities, no matter how bad their own condition
may be, all point with scorn to Philadelphia as worse‑‑"the
worst‑governed city in the country."
This is not fair. Philadelphia is, indeed, corrupt; but it is
not without significance. Every city and town in the country
can learn something from the typical political experience of
this great representative city. New York is excused for
many of its ills because it is the metropolis; Chicago, because
of its forced development; Philadelphia is our third largest
city and its growth has been gradual and natural.
Immigration has been blamed for our municipal conditions.
Philadelphia with 47 percent of its population native‑born
or native‑born parents, is the most American of our greater
It is good, too, and intelligent. I don't know just who
to measure the intelligence of a community, but a Pennsylvania
college professor who declared to me his belief in education
for the masses as a way out of political corruption, himself
justified the "rake‑off" of preferred contractors
on public works on the ground of a "fair business profit."
Philadelphia is a city that has had its reforms... The
present condition of Philadelphia, therefore, is not that which
precedes but that which follows reform... What has happened
in Philadelphia may happen in any American city "after
the reform is over."
...The Philadelphia machine isn't the best. It isn't sound,
and I doubt if it would stand in New York or Chicago...
The New Yorkers vote for Tammany Hall. The Philadelphians
do not vote; they are disfranchised, and their disfranchisement
is one anchor of the foundation of the Philadelphia organization...
The honest citizens of Philadelphia have no more rights at the
polls than the Negroes down South. Nor do they fight very
hard for this basic privilege. You can arouse their Republican
ire by talking about the black Republican votes lost in the
Southern states by white Democratic intimidation, but if you
remind the average Philadelphian that he is in the same position,
he will look startled, then say, "That's so, that's literally
true, only I never thought of it in just that way."
The machine controls the whole process of voting, and practices
fraud at every stage. The [tax] assessor's list is the
voting list, and the assessor is the machine's man...
The assessor pads the list with the names of dead dogs, children,
and non‑existent person. One newspaper printed the
picture of a dog, another that of a little four‑year‑old
Negro boy, down on such a list. A [machine politician]
in a speech resenting sneers at his ward as "low down,"
reminds his hearers that was the word of Independence Hall,
and, naming the signers of the Declaration of Independence,
he closed his highest flight of eloquence with the statement
that "these men, the fathers of American liberty, voted
down here once. "And," he added with a catching
grin, "they vote here yet."
Source: Lincoln Steffens, The Shame of the
Cities, (New York: Macmillan, 1904), pp. 193‑194.
PLUNKITT DEFENDS HONEST GRAFT
1905 New York City political boss, George Washington Plunkitt,
explained the process by which he became a multi‑millionaire
while controlling the Tammany Hall political machine.
In the process Plunkitt explained the distinction between "honest"
graft and "dishonest" graft.
Everybody is talkin' these days about Tammany men growin' rich
on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin' the distinction between
honest graft and dishonest graft. There's all the difference
in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have
grown rich in politics. I have myself. I've made
a big fortune out of the game, and I'm gettin' richer every
day, but I've not gone in for dishonest graft‑‑blackmailin'
gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.‑‑and
neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.
There's an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works.
I might sum up the whole thing by saying': "I seen my opportunities
and I took 'em." Just let me explain by examples.
My party's in power in the city, and it's goin' to undertake
a lot of public improvements. Well, I'm tipped off, say,
that they're goin' to lay out a new park at a certain place.
...I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the
neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes it
plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody
cared particular for before.
Ain't it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a
profit on my investment and foresight? Of course it is.
Well, that's honest graft.
...I've told you how I got rich by honest graft. Now,
let me tell you that most politicians who are accused of robbin'
the city get rich the same way. They didn't steal a dollar
from the city treasury. They just seen their opportunities
and took them. That is why, when a reform administration
comes in and spends a half million dollars in tryin' to find
the public robberies they talked about in the campaign, they
don't find them.
The books are always all right. The money in the city
treasury is all right. Everything is all right.
All they can show is that the Tammany heads of departments looked
after their friends, within the law, and gave them what opportunities
they could to make honest graft. Now, let me tell you
that's never goin' to hurt Tammany with the people. Every
good man looks after his friends, and any man who doesn't isn't
likely to be popular...
Tammany was beat in 1901 because the people were deceived into
believin' that it worked dishonest graft. They didn't
draw a distinction between dishonest and honest graft, but they
saw that some Tammany men grew rich, and supposed they and been
robbin' the city treasury or levyin' blackmail on disorderly
houses, or workin' in with the gamblers and lawbreakers.
As a matter of policy, if nothing else, why should the Tammany
leaders go into such dirty business when there is so much honest
graft lyin' around when they are in power? Did you ever
Source: William A. Riordan, Plunkitt of Tammany
Hall, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948), pp. 3‑4.
PROGRESSIVE ACHIEVEMENTS, 1900-1920
Acting under the Forest Reserve Act, President Theodore Roosevelt
withdrew 150,000,000 acres of public timber land for sale in
six western states and created the first National Forests.
Maryland passed the first workmen's compensation law. It made
the employer liable for injuries suffered by employees.
Oregon adopted the Initiative, Recall and Referendum
The Elkins Act declared railroad rebates illegal.
Wisconsin adopted the direct primary.
U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Northern Securities Company v. United
States that the Northern Securities Trust is a combination in
restraint of trade. President Theodore Roosevelt initiated
the suit, the first under the provisions of the Sherman Anti-Trust
New York limited child labor and enacted the first statues to
limit hours and insure safe working conditions for women.
The Hepburn Act enlarged the Interstate Commerce Commission
and gave it the power to reduce unreasonable or discriminatory
The Meat Inspection Act passed.
The Pure Food and Drug Act passed, creating the Food and Drug
The Mann-Elkins Act abolished long and short haul railroad rates.
President William Howard Taft brought suit against the Standard
Oil Trust and the American Tobacco Trust. Both were declared
illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sixteenth Amendment authorized a federal income tax.
Seventeenth Amendment allowed the direct election of U.S. Senators
by popular vote.
Federal Reserve Act created the Federal Reserve Banking System.
The Clayton Act established a Federal Trade Commission to prevent
unfair methods of competition including interlocking directorates,
price fixing, and pooling arrangements. It also made corporate
officers liable for illegal acts.
Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote.
BRANDEIS INDICTS INTERLOCKING DIRECTORATES
D. Brandeis, who in 1914 was an attorney for the Pujo Committee
which investigated the "money trust" and who would
later become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, describes the interlocking
banking directorates which controlled the largest American corporations.
The practice of interlocking directorates is the root of many
evils. It offends laws human and divine. Applied to rival
corporations, it tends to the suppression of competition and
to violation of the Sherman [anti‑trust] laws. Applied
to corporations which deal with each other, it tends to disloyalty
and to violation of the fundamental law that no man can serve
two masters. In either event it tends to inefficiency;
for it removes incentive and destroys soundness of judgment.
It is undemocratic, for rejects the platform: "A fair field
and no favors," substituting the pull of privilege for
the push of manhood. It is the most potent instrument
bankers over railroads, public‑service and industrial
corporations, over banks, life‑ insurance and trust companies,
and long step will have been taken toward attainment of the
A single example will illustrate the vicious circle of control‑the
endless chain‑through which our financial oligarchy now
J. P. Morgan (or a partner), a director of the New York, New
Haven & Hartford Railroad, causes that company to sell to
J. P. Morgan & Co. an issue of bonds. J. P. Morgan
& Co. borrow the money with which to pay for the bonds from
the Guaranty Trust Company, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner)
is director. J.P. Morgan & Co. sell the bonds to the
Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, of which Mr. Morgan (or
a partner) is director. The New Haven spends the proceeds
of the bonds in purchasing steel rails from the United States
Steel Corporation, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director.
The United States Steel Corporation spends the proceeds of the
rails in purchasing electrical supplies from the General Electric
Company, of which Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director.
The General Electric sells supplies to the Western Union Telegraph
Company, a subsidiary of the American Telephone and Telegraph
Company; and in both Mr. Morgan (or a partner) is a director.
Source: Louis D. Brandeis, Other People's
Money, (New York: Harper and Row, 1914), pp. 51‑53.
MAJOR U.S. CORPORATIONS, 1917, 2002
in Millions of Dollars
in Millions of Dollars
Standard Oil of N.J.
Armour and Company
Swift and Company
E.I. du Pont
Johnson and Johnson
American Int. Group
Standard Oil of N.Y.
Proctor & Gamble
Royal Dutch Petroleum
Bank of America
Jones & Laughlin Steel
has been suggested that World War I destroyed the Progressive
Movement by diverting the nation's attention from political
and economic reform to winning the conflict with Germany.
Certainly the intense anti‑German wartime propaganda convinced
many Americans that the Kaiser was to be feared far more than
the trusts. The passage below is an example of that propaganda.
Let us set down sternly that we are at war with the Germans,
not the Junkers [German aristocrats], not autocracy, not Prussianism,
not the Kaiser...The German people is what we war with.
The German people is committing the unspeakable horrors which
set the whole world aghast. The German people is not and
has not been conducting war. It is and has been conducting
murder. Hold fast to that. The Supreme Court of
New York declared the sinking of the Lusitania an act of piracy.
Piracy is not war. All decencies, honors, humanities,
international agreements, and laws have been smashed by them
day and night from the first rape of Belgium to now. The
new atrocity which appeared this week was spraying prisoners
with burning oil. This is Germany's most recent jest.
It makes them laugh so!
They have violated every treaty with the United States; they
have lied from start to finish and to everybody. A treaty
was a scrap of paper....
Germany has ravished the women of Belgium, Serbia, Romania,
Poland, Armenia. Germany murdered the passengers of the
Lusitania and struck a medal to celebrate that German triumph,
dating it two days before the horrible occurrence. Germany
has ruined cathedrals and cities in sheer wanton fury, in such
fashion as has not been done in all the wars wages in Europe
since the days of the building of the cathedrals. Germany
has poisoned wells, crucified inhabitants and soldiers, burned
people in the houses, and this by system. Germany has
denatured men and boys, has wantonly defaced the living and
the dying and the dead. An eye‑witness tells of
seeing women dead at a table with their tongues nailed to the
table and left to die.
Germany has disclosed neither decency nor honor from the day
it started war, nor has a single voice in Germany to date been
lifted up against the orgies of ruthlessness which turn the
soul sick and which constitute the chief barbarity of history.
Germany remains unblushing and unconscious of its indecency.
Germany's egotism still struts like a Kaiser. And to climax
its horrid crimes, Germany has inflicted compulsory polygamy
on the virgins of its own land.
Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy,
The American Spirit, Vol. II, Boston, Mass.: D. C. Heath
and Company, 1984), pp. 663‑665.
FIRST RED SCARE
following vignette describes the role of Attorney General A.
Mitchell Palmer in orchestrating the first Red Scare in 1919
...The spotlight suddenly shifted to Attorney‑General
A. Mitchell Palmer. A Quaker with a long record of support
for progressive legislation, Palmer had been [President Woodrow]
Wilson's floor manager in 1912. Regarded by many as the
father of women's suffrage and the child labor law a strong
advocate of the League of Nations, Palmer was the prototype
of the Wilsonian liberal. The Democratic party's contact
man with labor in the 1916 campaign, Palmer was appointed Attorney‑General
partly because of his popularity with labor and the foreign‑born.
Yet no sooner had he been sworn into office in March, 1919,
he started a campaign against enemy aliens. After the
June 2 [Wall Street] bombings he hired William J. Flynn, reputedly
an expert on anarchism, and asked for and received a $500,000
increase in his budget in order to combat radicalism.
In August he set up an antiradical division in the Department
of Justice under J. Edgar Hoover.
On November 7 the first of the Palmer raids began, with the
arrest of 250 members of the Union of Russian Workers in a dozen
cities; many were roughly handled, particularly in New York
City, where they were beaten by the police. Most of the
prisoners were released with "blackened eyes and lacerated
scalps," the New York Times reported. Only
39 men were recommended for deportation. On December 21,
1919, 249 aliens, most of whom had no criminal record and had
committed no criminal offense, were deported to Russia on an
army transport, the "Buford." Although the country
was worried about a Bolshevik conspiracy, few of the people
deported were Communists; most of them were anarchists, including
Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman...who had no intention of
ever using violence.
Palmer turned next to the Communists. Working with an
agent in the Labor Department, which had authority over deportations,
Palmer in the last week of 1919 secured warrants for the arrest
of more than 3,000 aliens who were members either of the Communist
party or the Communist Labor party. On a single night
in January, 1920, more than 4,000 alleged Communists were arrested
in a dramatic coast‑to‑coast raid in 33 cities.
If the persons arrested were citizens they were turned over
to state authorities for prosecution under antisyndicalist laws;
if they were aliens, they were held for deportation.
Palmer invaded private homes, union headquarters, and meeting
halls. People were held incommunicado, denied counsel,
and subjected to kangaroo trials. In one city, prisoners
were handcuffed, chained together, and marched through the streets.
In New England, hundreds of people were arrested who had no
connection with radicalism of any kind. In Detroit, 300
people were arrested on false charges, held for a week in jail,
forced to sleep on the bare floor of a corridor, and denied
food for 24 hours, only to be found innocent of any involvement
in a revolutionary movement. Not for at least half a century,
perhaps at no time in our history, had there been such a wholesale
violation of civil liberties. The raids yielded almost
nothing in the way of arms and small results in the way of dangerous
revolutionaries. Although a few individuals (the steel
baron Charles M. Schwab was one) protested against the raids,
Palmer emerged from the episode a national hero.
The Red Scare ended almost as quickly as it began. The
beginning of the end came in New York State. Directed
by the irresponsible Lusk Committee, the antiradical campaign
in New York reached its climax when the state legislature expelled
five Socialist members of the Assembly, although the Socialist
party was a legally recognized party and the members were innocent
of any offense. Throughout the country, newspapers and
public figures, including the Chicago Tribune and Senator
Warren G. Harding of Ohio, denounced the action of the legislature.
Most effective was Charles Evans Hughes, who not only reproached
the legislature but offered the Socialists legal counsel.
Although members of the legislature condemned Hughes as "disloyal"
and "pro‑German," the campaign against the radicals
was dealt a heavy blow. Not only had a firm stand been
taken on democratic principle, but the idea that the New York
legislature felt threatened by five Socialists made the Red
Scare appear more than a little ridiculous.
Early in 1920 an insurrection against Palmer in the Labor Department,
led by Secretary of Labor Wilson and Assistant Secretary Louis
Post, turned deportation proceedings in a saner direction. Aided
by court decisions which held that men could not be deported
on evidence illegally obtained, Post insisted on giving aliens
proper counsel and the right to fair hearings. Convinced
that Palmer had been violating civil liberties, Post cancelled
action. against dozens of aliens and by spring released nearly
half of the men arrested in Palmer's January raids. Palmer
demanded that Post be fired for his "tender solicitude
for social revolution," but when Post was hauled before
a congressional committee, he made such an excellent presentation
of his case that his critics were forced to back down.
In the end, although 5,000 arrest warrants had been sworn out
in late 1919, only a few more than 600 aliens were actually
Finally, Palmer, seeking the 1920 presidential nomination, let
his attempts to capitalize on the Red Scare get out of hand.
In April he issued a series of warnings of a revolutionary plot
which would be launched on May 1, 1920, as a step toward overthrowing
the U.S. government. Buildings were placed under guard, public
leaders were given police protection, state militias were called
to the colors, and in New York City the entire police force
of 11,000 men was put on 24‑hour duty. May Day passed
without a single outbreak of any kind. Not a shot was
fired. Not a bomb exploded. As a result, the country,
vexed at Palmer, concluded he had cried wolf once too often.
Congress now turned to an investigation not of the radicals
but of Palmer.
Source: William E. Leuchtenburg, The Perils
of Prosperity, 1914-32 (Chicago, 1973), 77-80.
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