"The Civil War was the second American Revolution. And unless I'm much mistaken, in 1877, a third American Revolution had its beginning in the coalyards and train stations of this republic. The Strike of '77 was the Sumter of a new Civil War for Liberty and Union...." --the humane teacher John Shawnessy
"By God, he knew he'd better get up and have his say, Cash said. We pumped a cold fifty thousand into his campaign fund." --the profane financier Cash Carney
(from Afternoon of July 4, 1892, pp.829-31)
The Perfessor leaned back, vastly satisfied with himself.
--The trouble with you, Perfessor, Cash Carney said, is that you read too much.
--The trouble with you, Perfessor, Mr. Shawnessy said, is that for you everything is growing old. For my part, I don't think America will ever be either young or old. America is an Idea, and ideas are neither young nor old, they are simply--Ideas. It's entirely possible for the laborer to improve his lot and for the State to own some of the agents of production without an invasion of the individual's sacred rights.
--Even a condition of that kind, Cash Carney said, would be completely alien to the American form of government and the spirit of the men who made America.
--Alien to the spirit of the America we have known, Mr. Shawnessy said. But the Declaration of Independence, like the Constitution, has to be rewritten by each generation, to have any meaning. The Civil War was the second American Revolution. And unless I'm much mistaken, in 1877, a third American Revolution had its beginning in the coalyards and train stations of this republic. The Strike of '77 was the Sumter of a new Civil War for Liberty and Union, a confused War fought by an Army leaderless and lost in darkness. Nevertheless--
--I don't know where you expect to get with this talk of Revolution, Cash Carney broke in. Most Americans know they're pretty well off, and like yourself, they sit on their tails and watch from the sidelines, while cheering a little for the so-called underdog. Meanwhile, by God, a few of us get out there and get the work of the Nation done. By Jerusalem, if some of us didn't keep the mills humming and the railroads running, you'd soon find out about your Revolution. You'd find yourself in the power of a bunch of ignorant dagoes that can't even talk good English, and you'd begin to wish you had back the good old America of Unlimited Opportunity for Everybody and the Protection of Home Industries.
--What a Century! the Perfessor said, suddenly leaning back into one of his gentle, nostalgic moods. And when you stop to think of it, we were there. We've been in on everything. When I look back on the Great Strike of '77 now, it seems incredible. As you say, John, it was like a beginning, an obscure and terrible dawn, which hasn't yet found its day. My God, where have we been heading, anyway? What did we think that we were doing? You remember, of course
July 21-22-- HOW --1877 THE GREAT STRIKE CAME UPON THE LAND IN THE FIRST YEAR
of America's second century as a nation. How it spread through the Republic in the summer of 1877, following the trunklines of the Nation's railroads. How it smouldered in the smoky yards of the Republic's mightiest cities. And how John Shawnessy saw the writhings of this belated Centennial monster, which the Exhibitors of Progress had wisely reserved until the other exhibits were dismantled and sent home.
No one anticipated the Great Strike or the form that it would take, least of all the men who made it. But the immediate cause was clear enough. The big railroad combines agreed to reduce the wages of their workers, and the workers, already living on bare subsistence wages, refused to work the railroads or allow them to be worked. The Strike began in Baltimore and spread like wildfire along the trunklines of the Nation.
Those days, America had made God in the image of a Locomotive. The people rebelled against God.
. . .
(from flashback to July 25, 1877, pp. 855-6)
In the ballroom of Laura Golden's house on Fifth Avenue stood Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles presiding at the punchbowl. Everyone was chattering about the Strike. John Shawnessy felt that he had stepped once more into a cheating stageset briefly peopled with these women in flamboyant gowns, these men in tails and ties. But the world out of which this playlet had been engendered--the world Behind the Scenes--was simply the nocturnal City--its strewn alleys, gaslit parks, belching factories, masted harbor--where people toiled namelessly through dingy nights and days so that from time to time this waxen flower of gaiety might bloom briefly Before the Footlights.
Cash Carney appeared striding among the dancers with a rolled newspaper in his hand. Everyone gathered around him to know the latest news of the Strike.
--Public opinion is beginning to react in our favor, he said. My old friend Senator Garwood B. Jones made a humdinger of a speech yesterday, and it's quoted in all the evening papers.
Cash opened the paper and read a little from Garwood's speech. The Statesman from Indiana, serving his third year in the United States Senate, had begun by challenging any man to show more genuine concern for the welfare of the Common Laboring Man than he, Garwood B. Jones. But it was one thing for the laboring man to ask for a better wage, and it was quite another thing for a mob of hoodlums, incited by foreignborn bombslingers, to rape, burn, and pillage the fairest cities of the Republic. He, Garwood B. Jones, would be doing a disservice to the thousands that had made him their spokesman . . .
--By God, he knew he'd better get up and have his say, Cash said. We pumped a cold fifty thousand into his campaign fund. The newspaper was passed around, and people read the Senator's address.
--Yessirree, Cash Carney said, and that isn't all. I have it on the highest authority that this thing will be killed and killed dead in a matter of days. Mr. Carney stayed another five minutes and then, looking at his watch, spit a cigarbutt in an ornamental urn, and left.
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