The Strike

This article from the July 24, 1877 edition of the St. Louis Dispatch notes the outbreak of violence in the city and states that "the railroad war in St. Louis has actually begun." The newspaper condemns the workers who are destroying property, but supports the "real workingmen" who "do not cut their own throats in this way."

The Strike

The news from East St. Louis to-day is of an exciting and belligerent character. Violence was used this morning, and it may be said, the railroad war in St. Louis has actually begun. The strikers, not satisfied with stopping the freights, have resolved on seizing and holding passenger trains coming to and going from the city until their demands are satisfied.

An Eastern bound passenger train on the Vandalia road was stopped this morning at East St. Louis — a number of ladies aboard were greatly alarmed. The train was, after a short delay, allowed to pass on to its destination. It is not the intention of the strikers to interfere, as we understand, with mail or Government trains. At least such was proclaimed as the line of policy this morning.

Subsequent information, however, shows that one extreme, in violation of law and order, is followed by another. From a Dispatch reporter just returned from East St. Louis, we learn that the United States troops, ordered to this city, and under command of Jeff C. Davis, in arriving from the West and reaching St. Louis, were, by the strikers, switched off from the main road to a side track. This is the first overt act against the United States authorities on the part of the strikers, which the Government will be bound to take conizance of and resent.

The railway managers of this city and the malcontents who are seeking to bring them to terms by interrupting their business, stopping trains, etc, it was thought last night, would be able to adjust their difficulties amicably; but at this hour of writing (12 m.) no general and satisfactory understanding has been had, except we believe with the Missouri Pacific. The Toledo, Wabash and Western Railway and the Union Transit Company, which have issued bulletins in effect that they would cut down wages on their roads after the first of August, have rescinded that order, agreeing as a compromise to continue to pay as usual.

We regret to say that some of the mechanics and working men of this city, irrespective of railroads, are inclined to increase the prevailing disorder,—to damage business, and endanger the peace of the city, and incite rioting, by getting up strikes for higher wages just at this particular crisis — a condition of affairs, urged on, in many instances, by those who are after the spoils of pillage.

Such a course at this time, working men must see at a glance, is simply suicidal. Real workingmen cannot afford to have the criminal classes make them a pretext for incendiarism and pillage. Real workingmen do not cut their own throats in this way. The idle, vicious, dissolute and criminal classes have taken the leadership, and are using the most ignorant and reckless of the laborers to destroy their own livelihood.

The riot at Pittsburgh has developed into an incendiarism as senseless as that of the Paris petrolists, which has destroyed a vast quantity of the means of employment of laborers, has disabled the Pennsylvania Railroad Company from giving the usual amount of employment to laborers for a long time to come. In Baltimore the strikers have exceeded every bound in their outrages; disabling the fire engines while at work, cutting hose, attacking officers of the law, and, in short, acting in a manner which destroys every particle of sumpathy which their side of the story might ever have enlisted. The strikers, as stikers, certainly have a case, but as desperadoes and murderers they have thrown away every right to merciful treatment. Let those of St. Louis avoid the mistakes of their brethren of Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

On the other hand, let the railroad companies, for the common good as for their own interest — inclined to hold out against the strikers, recognize the fact that they are, in the absence of Government aid which cannot reach them now in time, in a manner powerless to put down a movement of such a formidable character. And this is an occasion when policy may be wisely adopted and discretion may be practiced as the better part of valor.

About this Document

  • Source: St. Louis Dispatch
  • Date: July 24, 1877