General Sherman

This article from the July 28, 1877 issue of the Pittsburgh Daily Post presents a series of opinions and responses concerning the reasons for the strike.

GEN. SHERMAN said the American people were a mob and required a standing army to keep them in order. We presume he considers the events of the past week to some extent justifies his expression.

JUDGE KELLEY of Philadelphia, gives it as his opinion that the policy pursued by the Treasury Department for the last twelve years has been the main element in bringing about the financial depression and rendering possible strikes of such enormous magnitude. Judge KELLEY does not explain the reason why he has for sixteen years in Congress supported the party which controls the Treasury Department and all the other departments of the government. Nor, for the matter of that, do such sufferers as the Pittsburgh manufacturers.

WE would advise a few of our influential but excited citizens, who desire marital law, not to press it, when sufficient troops arrive here to control any uprising that might be attempted. Martial law is simply no law but the word of the Military Commander in charge. It would seriously complicate all business and bear hardest upon the very parties now most anxious to have it. Every encouragement should be given to keep the business of the city in motion, and as many people at work as possible. The strikers now in arms will be dealt with in the most summary manner. The parley will be short; the succeeding act deadly and decisive. We beg these misguided men not to be mistaken any longer as to the course to be pursued. They must flee or suffer. Already some have taken alarm and sought safety in flight, and in this they were wise. The end approaches, but we can do without martial law.

THE alacrity with which the General Government responded with troops to the call of the Governors in the South whenever a disturbance took place, is in sad contrast to its present dilatory movements to assist in maintaining order in the North. It appears that Mr. EVARTS was more potential in the present case, in protesting against a hurried interference with State authorities, than he was in regard to the South. He seems now disposed to discuss matters rather than admit the authority or right of the General Government to strike a blow. He graciously conceded, after notifying the Railroad companies, they should be held to their contracts in carrying the mails, that the government would interfere so far as to run a postal car. Messrs. SCOTT and VANDERBILT informed him that would not do,-that their passenger trains must be protected. All this has been changed, however, and a few days will exhibit a military force in this city reminding us of the fiercest hours of the Rebellion.

THE Commandant of the Allegheny Arsenal confesses the force under his control totally inadequate to protect the property, much less afford assistance to the population surrounding it. When the insurrection is put down it will become a question with the people of this section whether the Arsenal is any use either to the Government or the people. There is one way it would serve a practical purpose, without interfering with the General Government, if we are hereafter to rely entirely upon our own people or protection from uprisings, and that would be to make it as well a State Arsenal, and let Allegheny county at once provide ammunition, and arms for their own use and benefit, to be stored there, subject to the call of the civil authorities. Ordinary store rooms in a city could be readily seized by a mob and turned against law aiding citizens. But this as well as many other measures looking to a prevention of disastrous outbreaks will claim the attention of our people when we get through the present trouble.

THE Commercial should eat its humble pie at once, and come out and indorse Mr. HAYES' Southern policy. A member of his Cabinet is reported as saying that its good effects had been remarkably exemplified. He said if Mr. HAYES had concluded to uphold PACKARD and CHAMBERLAIN it would have necessitated the retention of a considerable number of troops in both Louisiana and South Carolina. In consequence of the disturbances in the North at this time there would have been no alternative but to remove the troops. Their removal would have been followed by a popular uprising against PACKARD and CHAMBERLAIN, and the spectacle would then have been presented of the Government having to cope with a rebellion in the North and a rebellion in the South. As it was the government for the first time since the war found itself entirely relieved from any fears as to public tranquility in the South. In fact, the Governor of Virginia has tendered Mr. HAYES 50,000 men to maintain order at the North and the "Louisiana Tigers" have also volunteered. Hoop-la!


There is no doubt but that the damages indicted by mob violence must, in the end be paid by the public, and there are several instances of such payment, some in our own State we believe as the result of the church burning riots in Philadelphia in 1844. The most serious riot, in the destruction of property before the present disturbances, were the draft riots in New York in 1863. These riots cost the treasury of New York, in money paid for private property destroyed, the large amount of $1,748,455,39. The opinion rendered by the Court of Appeals, in these cases, involving the constutionality [sic] of the law, is of interest at this time. We quote a passage from Chief Justice DENIO's opinion:

The policy on which the act is framed may be supposed to be made good at the public expense the losses of those who may be so unfortunate as, without their own fault, to be injured in their property by acts of lawless violence of a particular kind, which is the general duty of the Government to prevent; and, further, and principally, we may suppose, to make it the interest of every person liable to contribute to the public expenses to discourage lawlessness and violence, and to maintain the empire of the laws established to preserve public quiet and social order. These ends are plainly within the purpose of civil government, and, indeed, it is to attain them that governments are instituted.

The defense in the case raised the objection that the property of the tax-payers could not constitutionally be taken to compensate those who had suffered losses by reason of mobs that the civil authorities were unable to put down. Upon this point Judge DENIO was very emphatic. He said:

It is plain enough that the suits which it (the law) authorizes will, if successful, result in requiring contributions from the taxpayers of the losses of persons who have suffered from the acts of the rioters. In that way, it may be said, that their property may be taken. In one sense it may be conceded that it is taken for public use; for when the State undertakes to indemnify the sufferers from riots the execution of that duty is a public concern, and the expenditure is on public account. It is a public use in the same sense as the expenditure of money for the erection of court houses and jails, the construction of roads and bridges and the support of the poor. It is taken for an object which the Legislature has determined to be of public importance and for the interest of the State.

JUSTICE INGRAHAM dissented from this opinion so far as municipalities are concerned. They often held franchises and property that could not be seized and sold for indemnification of sufferers by mob violence. He had no doubt, however, that the damage should be assessed upon counties, and that taxes would have to be levied and collected to pay them.

That payments must be made in Pennsylvania by the counties in which the riots occur, is expressly provided by the laws of the State. On May 31, 1841, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed an act, which will be found in Brightley's Purdon's Digest; Page 1083. which provides that "in all cases where any dwelling house or other building or property, real or personal, has been or shall be destroyed, within the county of Philadelphia, in consequence of any mob or riot, it shall be lawful for the person or persons interested in and owning such property to bring suit against the said county where such property was situated being for the recovery of such damages as he or they sustained destruction thereof, and the amount which shall be recovered in said action shall be paid out of the county Treasury on warrants drawn by the commissioners thereof, who are hereby required to draw the same as soon as said damages are finally fixed and ascertained." By a subsequent law, passed March 20, 1849, and which will be found on page 1084, the provisions of this law are extended to Allegheny county. By decisions of courts made subsequently to the passage of this law it is provided that buildings burnt through fire communicated from other buildings fired by a mob, are within the act and that corporations can take advantage of it as well as individuals. The jury are not to give exemplary damages, but the full extent of the property destroyed at the time of its destruction, with interest to the date of their verdict. The fact has already been announced that suits have been entered against Allegheny county be some of the persons whose property was destroyed during the mob supremacy of Saturday and Sunday, and many more will be instituted.


THE Georgia State Treasurer has made a statement showing that the State debt is $10,645,897. The State is also liable for the first mortgage bonds of the South Georgia and Florida Railroad to the amount of $464,00 and has a floating debt of $100,000.

About this Document

  • Source: The Daily Post
  • Date: July 28, 1877