The Chicago Strike

This article from the July 25, 1877 edition of the Chicago Inter-Ocean gives notice of the newspaper's support for the striking workers. The editors state that "we recognize their privilege to do as they please about working, and shall utter no reproach against them," as long as they abstain from violence.

The city authorities are to be congratulated on the way they have handled the outbreak in Chicago thus far. There is probably no city in the country that has a larger or more dangerous class of malcontents than this. Once encourage them with success, however trivial, and they would be most difficult of control. The safe way, the only way not fraught with peril, is to crush any disturbance in its infancy, and crush it with a strong hand. The police force of Chicago can cope with the whole of our disaffected element if they move in time and take the would-be rioters in detail.

This, thanks to the preparations of the past few days, the police department seem prepared to do. The men were admirably disposed last night and the orders they were called upon to execute were carried out promptly and firmly. We congratulate the authorities on their efficiency. It will be a just source of pride and satisfaction if Chicago, amid all the prevailing excitement, and amid such threatening elements, shall escape the disgrace which a riot would inflict upon her.

The men now engaged in striking should know the law fully and completely in order that they may understand precisely the risks they are taking. Yesterday a number of firms were visited, and workmen disinclined to engage in a strike force to quit work and join the throng. This was tyrannical, and ought not to be submitted to. The statutes of this State provide that "If any person shall, by threat, indimidation, or unlawful interference, seek to prevent any other person from working or obtaining work on any terms he may see fit, such person so offending shall be fined not exceeding $200.

Whoever, by riotous or other unlawful doings, causes any person to leave his employment shall be fined not exceeding $500 or confined in the county jail not exceeding six months, or both.

If any two or more persons shall combine to deprive the owner of property of its lawful use and management, or prevent by threats or other means, any person from obtaining employment from any such owner, such persons so offending shall be fined not exceeding $500 or imprisoned in the county jail not exceeding six months."

Of course, in addition to the above, there are penalties for setting fire to property, punishable with imprisonment in the penitentiary, and other penalties for other acts in proportion to their character.

The law is to-day in a measure powerless; but tomorrow or next week, or very soon at latest, authority will be restored, and then the penalties will fall. The strikers in Chicago should consider these things before they proceed to extremities. It is a dangerous business at best.

The Chicago Strike

The railroad men in Chicago have struck. Very well! they have a right to strike, and presumably they understand their own business. So far we have no complaint to make against them. We are extremely sorry that they have found such a course necessary, but we recognize their privilege to do as they please about working, and shall utter no reproach against them. So long as they attempt no violence and indulge in no unwarrantable acts, there need be no fears of trouble. The danger lies in the fact that men under such curcumstances become impatient if their demands are not speedily acceeded to, and endeavor to force concessions by manifestations of physical power. Here the legitimate strikers are joined by the mob of adventurers always eager to prey upon society, and the trouble culminates, in outrage and murder.

The people of Chicago have no wish to thwart any legitimate movement by the railway men for an increase in pay. They believe the rates allowed in a great many casess are inadequate, and they have looked with indignation on the maintenance of princely salaries to officers, and outside speculations of high officials, which have robbed some of the roads of their just earnings and compelled this reduction in pay. All this is felt by the people, but while such a feeling is entertained there is another consideration that appeals to them even more strongly. It is the sentiment of self-preservation. Mobs do not perform just what they set out to accomplish, and then pause. The whole tendency of illegal assemblages is to grow more and more turbulent, riotous, and dangerous. The taste for plunder and destruction once whetted becomes a wild passion, unrestrainable save by physical force. It may commence with the railways, but it extends further and further, unless checked, until it engulfs private property and endangers the lives of all.

This must not, will not, be permitted in Chicago without a struggle which will cost the rioters dear. The first attempt at the destruction of property must be checked promptly and firmly. The safety of the city depends upon this, and once the necessity arises there are enough men having that safety at heart to overpower any mob that may oppose them.

We do not expect these acts of violence from the striking employes. We have repeatedly stated that the danger does not lie with them, but with the vagabonds who will follow in their wake, and who will embrace the opportunity afforded by the strike to carry out their schemes of rapine and plunder. But the authorities cannot discriminate between the honest and the dishonest when both are found marching together and the former must suffer with the latter if worst comes to worst.

It is generally conceded that for all wanton destruction of property the city can be held responsible. When rioters burn and destroy the cars and buildings of a railway company they are not inflicting half the punishment on the object of their hatred that they are upon the citizens who must pay for such losses. The destruction of property, no matter to whom it belongs, is a blow struck at the taxpayers who will be called upon to foot the bill. What wonder then that the people of the city are aroused and determined that the scenes at Pittsburgh shall not be enacted here without punishment to the offenders.

The present strike, if continued, will paralyze business and inflict incalculable loss upon Chicago, but so long as it is peacefully conducted our citizens will bear with it. Inaugurate violence, and a struggle will commence which however desperate it may be, can have but one ending the restoration of law and order.

Let THE INTER OCEAN charge the striking workmen, as they value their welfare, to abstain from violence or the show of it. Let their ranks be kept clear of demagogues and vicious hangers-on, who can only bring them into trouble. Let them disclaim, and insist upon severing all conection with idlers and so-called communists, who seek to use them for their own purposes, and confine their ranks exclusively to genuine workmen. If they will but observe these precautions life and property will be spared and their own interests promoted.

About this Document

  • Source: Chicago Inter-Ocean
  • Citation: page 4
  • Date: July 25, 1877