Last Week

This article from the July 30, 1877 issue of the Pittsburgh Daily Post presents a number of miscellaneous items in relation to the current behavior of strikers, as well as responses to the National Guard's occupation of the city.

LAST week the strikers would not let provisions in; at the present writing they will not bring them in.

STRIKERS say to the railroad managers we are willing you may take your trains, but they give the engineers to understand if they do it will be made very unhealthy. This is not good faith.

AN opportunity is presented to utilize one of the beautiful buildings now idle and likely to remain so in the Philadelphia Park. Why may not the Pennsylvania Railroad Company purchase Machinery Hall and make a depot of it in Pittsburgh. It is admirably adapted to such purpose, and the Park Commissioners have not any funds to keep it in repair. We presume the idea will suggest itself to the management of the road and it is not improbable we may soon hear of its removal to this city.

COL. THOMAS A. SCOTT, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, writes a sharp letter to the New York Times, repelling what he calls an "infamous attack" on him because of that paper classing him with those who don't want a big standing army. Col. SCOTT declares he is "loyal," and repudiates the sin of being a sinful Democrat. The Times in its anxiety to put those who would resist a remodeling of our institutions in the wrong happened to strike one of its own sort by awkward illustration.

UP to this time six Governors of States have called on the President for Federal assistance to put down domestic insurrection. Four other Governors who have not called on the President as yet have issued proclamation commanding the rioters to disperse, and ordered out the militia of their own States to enforce the order. So that the outbreak begun at the comparatively insignificant town of Martinsburg has spread until it embraces the territory of ten States. Included in these States are the six most populous States of the Union, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri.

GEN. BRINTON, and Colonel BENSON of the First Philadelphia Nation guard now in the city, may rest assured the citizens of Pittsburgh will now as they always were willing to welcome them. The citizens of Pittsburgh, are not in favor of mobs and never encouraged them. The sympathy with depressed labor ceased, the moment the boundary from order to disorder was crossed by whoever was engaged in violence and incendiarism. The military now here require no assurance of protection; they can protect themselves, but we desire to correct the impression that the citizens of Pittsburg have any griefs to revenge or are moved by any other feeling than that of kindness and sympathy with that portion of the Philadelphia troops who were so unfortunately placed in the recent outbreak.

IF everybody could settle their differences there would be no necessity for courts and juries. A jury of twelve men is a disinterested board of arbitration constituted to determine between man and man where no amicable adjustment could otherwise be made. The Railroad managers and the men, constitute plaintiff and defendant and cannot agree as to the wages. If they alone were interested, if the individuals concerned alone suffered they might fight it out, but a satisfactory solution, and settlement must be made soon, because forty millions of people are affected by the dispute and have the highest right to demand that if the principals cannot agree, a disinterested jury of men of recognized wisdom shall arbitrate and finally determine the question at this time. Neither Railroads nor employees have a right to convulse the country, stagnate its industries and shake the very foundation of society, by any stubborn resistance upon what may seem to them indisputable rights. The life and prosperity of the whole are more important than all the railroads or navigable waters or the men employed thereon, and therefore must yield to the rule laid down for other people and submit the question to other methods and other men.

THE leading if not the controlling idea of the men who fired the property of the Pennsylvania Railroad in this city, was to inflict an injury upon its management. The locomotives, workshops and cars were innocent of any offence to any human being, and their destruction did not effect the purpose intended, because the property did not belong to the officers of the road, but was held in trust for many thousands of people who depend upon the earnings of the company for their daily bread. They are the real sufferers and outnumber far the men who committed this great wrong. It was the most reckless and criminal act that could be perpetrated; it required no courage, and lacked every element of sense. It was retaliating upon the innocent the crimes of the guilty, and every hour of delay in not permitting trains to run, is visiting upon an innocent people incalculable injury and does not in any manner reach or settle the cause of complaint. One of the chief sources of grievance by the men who precipitated the mob, and worked it to a pitch of frenzy, was the fact that a body of soldiers called by the authorities fired in the direction of men who were assaulting them and killed innocent people. This was thought sufficient to justify the killing of men who did not fire, and destroy property that did not belong to any offender. Mr. SCOTT did not own a dollar of it and will not lose a cent of the many millions forever lost. It is to prevent any further punishment of the innocent, any further outrage upon society, or illegal demonstration of whatever nature, that the military arm has been invoked and will continue its presence until peace and common sense shall again prevail.


The Philadelphia Ledger, usually a cool headed paper, prints this paragraph:

There is a strong conviction on the part of the police here that, when the whole history of this uprising comes to be known, it will be found that the secret inspiration of it will be discovered in the famous International Society, which played such havoc in Paris when they had the upper hand there. It is a well-known fact that when the war there was over many of the leaders were obliged to seek refuge in the United States, and from that day to this journals in various parts of the country have given expression to their views, as if, however, they were of little or no account. It is believed that they have maintained their secret organization in this country, and that the pillaging and rioting now in progress in the West especially are really their handiwork.

This is a very absurd way of alarming timid people, by insinuating that the American working classes are influnced [sic] by the teachings of the Paris commune, whose foundation idea is that all "property is crime." The strike originated in well ascertained grievances. If the railroads had been as solicitous to maintain capable and efficient service on their lines, at living wages, as they were to extract dividends on watered stock, there there [sic] would have been no trouble. Of course that they were not, does not justify or excuse illegal acts, but men with prospective want and suffering before them, have never in this or any other country been close logicians. So far as Pittsburg is concerned, the strike had its origin in the "double-header" order, and was started by an isolated train hand saying "well I don't care about working any longer that way," and quietly leaving his post. Another did the same, and then another and another until all the freight hands quit work. There was not even an order from their union to strike, although it subsequently took control of the movement. The strike was spontaneous at the outset, both here and in Maryland where it was inaugurated. Cipher up how much money ninety cents a day comes to for six days' work, and then look at the price of bread and meat, and you will reach the origin of the strike. It was aggravated by the knowledge the railway employees had of extravagant salaries to higher officials, and fortunes made out of railroad operations, and whether true or false, the workmen are well posted on these points. It is a different thing taking ten per cent. off of thirty dollars a month. In one case it may possibly abridge the luxuries of Cape May or Saratoga, but in the other it takes the butter off the poor man's bread, deprives his children of proper nourishment, and invites disease and death.

But lawlessness must be suppressed, even if people suffer. It is no cure for the oppressions or plunder of corporations. A public sentiment must be educated that will redress these grievances, and we believe one good result of the terrible lessons of the last two weeks will be to bring these questions before the people-make them the iving [sic] ones, admitting of no delay, and insure investigation and remedial measures. Our national Government, by the blundering stupidity and selfishness of SHERMAN and HAYES, is being run in the interest solely of capital and bondholders. Every day for months there has been a turn of the screw, and every turn of the screw meant misery and want to the labor of the country. We do not propose that these leading facts shall be lost sight of in a cloud of dust raised about the Commune, or the excesses of mobs. The mobs will be suppressed and the rioters punished; but after that the country must deal with the corporations and reverse the policy of the Government machine, so that it will be run in the interest of the whole people, and not as a mere attachment to Wall street.


It is probably natural that excitable people, in view of recent disturbances, should set up a demand for a stronger central Government, and a large standing army. In every emergency there is a class that lose their balance, and would fly from the ills they know of, to others that may develop into lasting misfortunes. It is claimed that the lawless events which are now rapidly sinking out of sight, demonstrate the truth of the observation of General SHERMAN a few weeks ago that without a strong army the American people would become a mob. Could anything be more superficial than such a suggestion? Has the American people become a mob? Who comprise the mobs which have resisted the operations of the law? Is it the American people? Is it the honest mechanics and laborers of this country, or only a small portion of the whole who constitute the turbulent element in all communities? The American people become a mob indeed! The great mass of them are intelligent, independent in spirit, and opposed to despotism of all kinds, whether of the mob or the king. In this season of universal distress the proposition to have a large standing army for the alleged purpose of protecting the States from local disorder is simply an old partisan, sectional suggestion which would employ the distresses of the people to promote objects for its own advantage, but entirely at war with the genius and spirit of free government. A season of panic is no time in which to urge the increase of the Federal army. Each State of the Union ought to be able to protect itself with local militia rather than by reliance upon a great central power, and if their militia organizations have been neglected there is such admonition in the present circumstances as should prevent the like condition hereafter. The true policy is to apply the lesson of the last week or ten days in strengthening the local and State governments, by improving and strengthening the military and police forces available in times of sudden emergency. Discussing this subject, the Baltimore Sun says, with force and truth, "there is more danger in the suggestion that the Federal power is the only safeguard for life and liberty in this country than there is in all the perils to life and property now threatened by those enemies of society-to be found in all governments-who are availing themselves of railroad strikes to come to the front, and commit robbery and murder under the guise of defending the rights of laborers." If General SHERMAN had said we need the American army to protect the country from mobs, we fear that his words might have been borne out by late experiences. But to say that without an army a strong standing army, the American people would become a mob, is quite a different kind of statement.


Underlying the question of wages involved in the recent railroad strikes is the question of the treatment of employees as human beings, having some rights to courtesy, and some sense of their own manhood. The fact has cropped out in all the manifestations around here the petty tyrany [sic] of railroad officials had quite as much to do with the dissatisfaction culminating in the strike as the question of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. Mr. ARTHUR, the head of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, in a letter to the New York Herald, says: "Instead of endeavoring to cultivate a friendly feeling between themselves and their employees, some of the railroad officials repel them by their haughty, overbearing and arbitrary conduct, and arouse a feeling of hostility of which the recent outbreaks are the fruits." This may be putting it a little too strong, but the antics of men wielding a little brief authority were a contributing cause. We can think of no class of men to whom the public should feel equally grateful as the train employees. Millions of people, we might say have been carried into and out of Pittsburg during the past year, and an accident by carelessness of employees by which a passenger lost life or limb can hardly be recalled. Yet what a slight inattention on their part would throw whole families into mourning. In every hour of the twenty-four, and every minute of the hour, these men ever have been on the alert-capable, sober and watchful of the lives of the vast multitudes under their care. Of what other pursuit can the same be said to the same extent. Their [sic] is no avocation in which men desserve [sic] more liberal wages or more courteous treatment. Everybody knows the best work is willing work, with no sense of injustice or humiliation rankling in the breast. The Herald, in a leading article, has these sound views on the treatment of railroad employees:

A railroad is a great and complicated machine, but it is a blunder in him who manages it if he considers the men who help him to work it only machines also. They are men, human beings, creatures with affections, enjoyments, hopes; with tempers more or less good; they are charged with serious responsibilities, and no man who travels much by rail must often have been struck with the frightful risks he would run on a journey of several hundred miles if a great number of men, working at all hour s and in all weathers, and mostly under disagreeable circumstances, were not absolutely faithful their duties,. A wise railroad management would treat the men thus employed in a friendly, considerate and Christian spirit; would show constant and sincere interest in their welfare; would study out and bring into use expedients to better the condition of their families, and in these ways would endeavor to form a corps of loyal, interested, contented workmen. If any man says this is impossible, we reply frankly that he is unfit to have charge of a great and permanent enterprise like a railroad-a machine which never stops, and which has, therefore, not to provide for the one contingency which embarrasses the manufacturers or mill owner, who may be compelled by hard times to dismiss his men. If any man says that such a policy would not win the men he does not know workingmen.


The Utica Observer gives the following table of the lines of railroad extending from the Atlantic coast westward to Chicago, which have been affected by the recent strike:

Baltimore and Ohio and leased lines-miles1,471
Pennsylvania and leased lines1,669
Erie and leased lines95
Lake Shore and leased lines1,176
Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis471
Indianapolis and St. Louis and leased lines266
Toledo, Wabash and Western and leased lines761
Chicago and Alton and leased lines679
Reading (P. and R.) and leased lines.799
Atlantic and Great Western and leased lines562

It will be observed that this table does not include the New York Central nor any of the short side lines whose trains were stopped in the general melee. Taking in these lines, we have in all ten thousand miles of railroads, representing in bonds, watered stock, and otherwise, about one thousand million of dollars, or fully twice as much as it would cost to build and furnish the whole of them to-day. Discussing these figures, the New York Sun says:

The managers of our great railroads have been crazy. They have gone on like lunatics during the past fifteen years making connections westward, northward, southward, and in every possible direction, without regard to the cost and with out certainty of paying traffic; but with an insane belief that every railroad must, from the necessity of the case, be a source of profit and power. In these enterprises and extensions they have thrown away and destroyed at least five hundred millions of dollars which can never be recovered, not only because their lines and connections far exceeded the requirements of the country, but also because many of them are essentially unnecessary and can never be made productive. In fact, they themselves now admit there is not business enough for them all, and is not likely to be for an indefinite period to come.

About this Document

  • Source: The Daily Post
  • Date: July 30, 1877