The Road To Hell Is Easy

This editorial from the July 26, 1877 issue of the Pittsburgh Daily Post discusses the social ramifications of the strike and wonders why a solution cannot be reached between the railroad owners and the railroad strikers.


A disregard of law permeates all classes of American society, high and low, rich and poor, and the political teachings of the last twenty-five years, emanating from the Abolition and Radical parties, is largely responsibleówe might say chiefly responsible for the demoralization. It is not so very long since a "Higher Law" than the law of the land was set up for people to worship. Its inventors and votaries included some of the brightest intellects and most honored names in the land. Sifted down the proposition was that a man's conscience was a sort of Court of Appeals to determine just what statutes were binding on him. It was considered a praiseworthy act to set aside the Fugitive slave law and kill United States officers whose sworn duty it was to enforce it. There were only words of opprobrium and insult for those who insisted the law should be respected so long as it remained on the statute books. From this small beginning we drifted into civil war, when all law was swept away but the "supreme necessity of the hour" and the hasty impulse of the mob, and these were generally one and the same thing. Remote from scenes of armed conflict, the lawless spirit run riot. Newspapers were mobbed, obnoxious individuals bastiled on the whim of some military upstart or to gratify personal or political malice. Constitutional safe guards were impaled on the bayonet and the habeas corpus, the starting point of Anglo-Saxon liberty, torn to tatters and thrown in the face of the judge who issued it. All the time the poison was eating its way into the hearts and minds of the people.

Emerging from the war, we entered on another era of lawlessness, in the reconstruction crimes of the Radical party. State governments and laws were set aside at the pleasure of the despot at Washington who, ruling in the name of the law, was subverting the law. The judiciary of States was trampled under foot, and bold and reckless soldiers like Sheridan bayoneted Legislatures and legislation at will. All this was as wilful and flagrant violation of the fundamental law, as the murder and arson that ran riot in the streets of Pittsburgh last Saturday and Sunday. But there was a cap-sheaf held in reserve by the revolutionists, in the seizure of the Presidency by fraud, forgery, and perjury, under the protection of Federal jury, under the protection of Federal bayonets. Here was the most monstrous violation of law in the annals of our government, and yet it was upheld by blinded partisans who now shrink back in horror at crimes against property.

Property is not so sacred a thing as the political rights and freedom of the citizen. When the power of numbers, by usurpation, or the chicanery and cheating of Electoral Commissions you overthrow the one, you may be sure you plant the seeds that will sweep away the other. Lawlessness in high places is the instruction of the masses in riot and incendiarism. You cannot separate them, nor forecast the occasion when the mob will break forth. "Be sure your sin will find you out."


The Railroad authorities say they will not recede an inch from their position, or turn a wheel until the strikers accept their conditions.

The strikers avow their purpose not to work, a stroke, or permit others to work until their demands are complied with.

The position of the strikers has elements of weakness, because they propose not only to refuse to work themselves, which is their undoubted rightóbut to prevent others, who may be inclined to work. This is clearly wrong, morally and legally.

The Railroad companies may gather crews that will equip their trains, and start them under the care of troops and run them that way for months, but will this be prudent or wise. There is no telling what moment another outbreak may occur. Their business would suffer in many ways, and the reputation of their roads for safety be seriously impaired.

Both parties are standing aloof on a point of pride and personal consistency, as much as anything else. Can they afford to imperil vast interests as well as the peace of the community, and the future successful working of their business, on a point of this character. If it was out of the way we believe the trains would be running in twenty-four hours, not with military guards but with the same skilled force that has given the Railroads centering here their high reputation for safety, speed and regularity.

It seems to us this is a case in which the process of arbitration can be properly invoked. It is frequently adopted in England, in labor troubles of a formidable character and has the sanction of acts of Parliament. It will relieve either party from the stigma of surrender, and we suppose its result would be a compromise which in time would be found mutually satisfactory. It is idle to talk of one side being wholly wrong or wholly right. There is right and wrong on both sides.

We believe it to be the duty of the Committee on Public Safety to make a move in the direction of arbitration at once. The peaceful adjustment of the dispute, and the resumption of railroad traffic, very nearly concerns the "safety" of Pittsburgh. A week from to-day, and our streets will be filled with people calling for bread for their wives and children.

Let us have the question of responsibility definitely placed. If the Strikers reject a reasonable compromise let us know it. If the Railroads persist in their purpose not abate a jot from their position, the people of the city and State should know that also.

About this Document

  • Source: The Daily Post
  • Date: July 26, 1877