Arbitration as a Remedy

This letter from the July 30, 1877 issue of the Pittsburgh Daily Post discusses the resolution of the railroad strike and argues that the railroad owners handled the situation poorly. Their inept decision-making required the railroads to seek government assistance to remedy their mistakes.

A Letter From Wm. Brindle, Esq., of Philadelphia.

Col. James P. BarrDear Sir: This morning I read your good and timely advice to the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company which was unwisely rejected. You reminded him that he "had it in his power to restore peace and preserve society." You implored "him not to assume that the military can settle anything but defiance of law."

The same advice was given here, early on Saturday morning. The railroad managers, confidently relying on military coercion, rejected all advice, and concluded to give the bayonet and bullet in answer to a demand for bread, or living wages for the most risky labor in the world; and the result of the unlawful use of the military was the deplorable destruction of the life and of millions of property. Before your taxpayers are made to pay for the loss of property by using the military in an unlawful manner, the railroad managers should be held to a strict accountability to the civil law by the Courts. This is not a military government or despotism—as yet. The military can only be used lawfully as a posse comitatus, to aid a Sheriff or United States Marshal in executing a writ of Court. The Courts are the only proper authorities to call out the military. It will be for the Courts to say who are responsible for the loss of life and property. One party of persons can no more take the law into their own hands than another—both are equally answerable to the "offended majesty" of the civil law.

The idea that it would have destroyed the authority and compromised the dignity of railroad officials to have conferred or compromised with an oppressed people, demanding relief, however illegal and improper may have been their mode of seeking redress, is simply absurd. Latterly railroad officials have been flattered with the idea that they are the "kings" of free America. It is a great kind of mistake for them to listen to such serville flattery from those who are "loyal" to them and regard themselves as the only sovereigns in this country.

The adoption by Congress, in October next, of the propostitions of the Ohio Democracy, will enable Congress to pay off and buy up the Federal debt, in par money, which will settle the labo [sic] question, on a firm and enduring basis. Let the people of all parties rally around that noble standard and endorse those propositions by hundreds of thousands of a majority, and the business of the country, in the plenty of par money in circulation will instantly revive and be made prosperous.

The peace of this city was preserved, by not resorting to the use of the bayonet and the bullet, in answer to a demand for living wages, or for "work or bread." Had a shot been fired here the result would have been quite as disastrous as in your city. The result of the experiment there, taught them wisdom here, and more than proved the wisdom of your timely advice, so unwisely rejected.

Yours truly,
Wm. Brindle,

No. 319 South 10th street

About this Document

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