Arthur G. Burgoyne_
Eighteen and Ninety Three_
Homestead_ A Complete History_
The feeling of ownership had a place in the reasoning of these simple people. Many of them had bought and paid for their homes and were pillars of the borough government. Some were still paying for their dwellings—paying off the mortgages held by the Carnegie Company, which had been in the habit of helping those who cared to build, and which even did a regular banking business for the advantage of its employees.
The Twelfth of Chapters_
Berkman, a Russian Autonomist, Attempts the Life of the Carnegie Chairman—Mr. Frick's Bravery—"The Shooting will in no Way Affect the Homestead Strike"—Militiaman Iams Cheers the Assassin and is Drummed Out of Camp—Public Indignation over the Iams Affair—Snowden, Hawkins, Streator and Neff Indicted—Workingmen Prosecute Carnegie Officials for Murder.
"Frick is shot!"
Such was the appalling announcement blazoned on bulletin boards, passed from mouth to mouth and hurried over the telegraph wires on the afternoon of Saturday, July 23, while O'Donnell and Ross were undergoing their preliminary hearing in the county court. The first question on every lip was, "Did a Homestead man do the shooting?" and great was the feeling of relief among the sympathizers of organized labor when it was learned that the would-be assassin, Alexander Berkman, was a Russian anarchist, and that his crime was prompted solely by the teachings of the infamous class of outlaws to which he belonged.
Berkman came to the United States in 1886, fresh from the University of Odessa, where he had inbibed the principals of the Autonomists—extreme Anarchists who believe in redressing social wrongs by individual action. He became a compositor in the office of Johann Most's paper, Die Freiheit, wrote freely for Anarchistic publications and allied himself with the worst class of revolutionary plotters in the metropolis. The beginning of 1893 found him living with Emma Goldman, a Russian woman of some note as a speech maker among the Anarchists, and spending much of his time in the beer halls frequented by Anarchists and Nihilists. Berkman seemed to be consumed with a desire to shine in the eyes of his mistress and of the blatant, beer-sodden circle of which she was the star, by giving a practical exemplification of his fidelity to Autonomist doctrine.
"Who is the worst enemy of society in America?" he asked himself, and when the Homestead trouble broke out, he imagined that his question was answered.
Frick was the man—Frick, the oppressor of workmen, the representative of the power of wealth and of might antagonizing right. "Undoubtedly," thought Berkman, "this man is society's arch-enemy and a fit mark for the weapon of an Autonomist."
So the misguided wretch made up his mind to murder the Carnegie chairman, and proceeded accordingly to Pittsburgh, armed for assassination. In company with Henry Bauer and Carl Knold, active anarchists of Allegheny City, Berkman inspected the Chronicle-Telegraph building on Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, in which Mr. Frick's office is located, and mapped out a program of attack. Representing himself as an employment agent, who desired to confer with the Carnegie chairman regarding the furnishing of non-union labor, he experienced little trouble in obtaining access to Mr. Frick's private room. He made several visits before the day of the shooting, and was suspected by no one. The neatly-attired, slight, young man who appeared so anxious to help the firm in its endeavors to procure workmen was one of the last men who would be supposed to harbor murderous designs.
At noon on the day set for the consummation of his plan, Berkman sent in his card to Mr. Frick, requesting an interview, but was referred to the clerk whose business it was to supervise the transportation of non-union men to Homestead. The clerk was out and Berkman was told to call again later. Shortly before two o'clock, Berkman returned and again asked to see Mr. Frick. He was informed that the Chairman was engaged. After waiting a few minutes in the hall outside the anteroom adjoining Mr. Frick's office, he came back once more, and finding nobody present but the office-boy, handed the lad his card and told him to take it in to the Chairman. The boy had hardly opened the door of Mr. Frick's office when Berkman rushed in, drew a revolver and opened fire. Mr. Frick, who was seated at his desk in conversation with Mr. Leishman, one of his partners, had his back turned to the intruder and offered an easy mark.
Berkman fired three shots in quick succession, the first two lodging in Mr. Frick's neck, while the third struck the ceiling. The assassin attempted to fire a fourth time, but the cartridge failed to explode. He snapped the trigger several times and finding that the revolver would not work, threw it on the ground, and, pulling out a stiletto, advanced upon Mr. Frick, who, wounded as he was, had risen to his feet to defend himself. Twice Berkman plunged the stiletto into Mr. Frick's side and he was about to strike a third time when the wounded man, summoning up all the strength left to him, seized his assailant's arm and grappled with him in a fierce struggle for life.
All this passed so rapidly that the clerks in the adjoining offices were unable to reach the scene of the encounter until the moment when Mr. Frick and Berkman clinched. When they entered, Berkman had the Chairman pressed against the large window looking out on Fifth avenue and was trying to release the hand that held the stiletto. Both men were covered with blood and a pool of blood was on the floor. On the street without, then thronged with Saturday afternoon promenaders, people stood transfixed with horror. Some shrieked helplessly. Some, with more presence of mind, ran to summon the police.
The clerks quickly released Mr. Frick from the grasp of his assailant and placed him on a lounge. Berkman dashed out of the office, with several clerks in pursuit, and was caught in the elevator, given in charge of the police and removed to the Central Station in a patrol wagon.
Dr. Litchfield, Mr. Frick's family physician, and a number of other medical men arrived promptly and took charge of the wounded man. Mr. Frick had not lost consciousness and was able to recognize and speak to the physicians. They wished to place him under the influence of chloroform while probing for the bullets, but he forbade this and submitted stoically to the operation, which lasted two hours. The extraordinary nerve of the man never left him. After the bullets had been extracted and his wounds bandaged, he conversed collectedly with visitors, signed several letters which had been written before the shooting and talked of being in condition to return to his office on Monday.
Meanwhile an excited multitude thronged the street outside the Carnegie offices and defied the efforts of the police to disperse it. At 6 o'clock an ambulance drove up, but it was not used. The news that Mr. Frick was to be removed to his private residence at Homewood, in the East End, had spread among the people and the desire to catch a glimpse of him made the mob unmanageable. Not until 7.45 o'clock was the removal accomplished. At that hour the crowd was drawn away by driving an ambulance to the rear of the Carnegie offices. The vehicle was driven quickly back again, and Mr. Frick was placed in it and carried off while the coast was clear.
Before being removed to his home, Mr. Frick sent this message to the reporters: "The shooting will in no way effect the Homestead strike."
Dangerous as the Carnegie Chairman's injuries were, his recovery was rapid, and two weeks after his encounter with Berkman he was able to return to his office and resume full charge of the firm's affairs to which, while on his sick bed, he had still continued to give a considerable measure of attention.
Berkman was taken to the county jail on Sunday night, there to await trial. He seemed indifferent to his fate and expressed regret that he had not succeeded in killing Frick. Bauer and Knold, his supposed accomplices, were locked up on the following day. A wagon load of Anarchist literature was seized at the house of Bauer, who acted as an agent for publications of this character.
The effect of the shooting on public opinion was strongly marked. The press of Pittsburgh was unanimous in expressing sympathy for Mr. Frick, and in so doing, voiced the general sentiment of the people. At Homestead much regret was expressed, and the workmen seemed to feel that, although Berkman did not represent them or their cause, directly or indirectly, his cowardly act was certain to prejudice their interests.
Undoubtedly the attempt to murder Mr. Frick served to hasten the defeat of the workingmen. The courage displayed by the Carnegie Chairman won him admiration in quarters where he had previously been condemned, and there were other circumstances which took the edge off the animosity generated by his harshness towards organized labor. During the crisis at Homestead, his young wife became a mother and, so powerfully did the events in which her husband was the central figure effect her that, for a time, she lay at the point of death. The child lived only a few days. Mr. Frick, it was said, in recognition of the fact that the New York Sun was the only newspaper in the country which took up the cudgels in his behalf, intended to name the little one Charles A. Dana Frick, after the editor of that journal. These incidents conspired to soften the popular heart somewhat, although Mr. Frick did not abate in the least his hostility towards the Amalgamated men and his determination to break the back of unionism in the Carnegie mills at any cost.
There was, however, one man in Allegheny county who neither sympathized with Frick nor scrupled to express his regret that Berkman's weapons failed to do their work.
This man was W. L. Iams, a youth belonging to one of the best families in Greene County, who was serving in Company K, Tenth Regiment, under Colonel Hawkins.
Iams was stretched on the grass outside Lieutenant Colonel J. B. Streator's tent, chatting with a group of comrades, when the news of the attempt on Frick's life was brought in. Acting on the impulse of the moment, and doubtless without measuring the significance of his words, the young man jumped to his feet and shouted "Three cheers for the man who shot Frick." Colonel Streator heard the remark and, stepping out of his tent, asked who had uttered it. Receiving no response, he ordered the regiment drawn up in line in the company streets, and, after condemning the language used by Iams as treasonable, demanded from one company after another the name of the offender. When he came to Company K, Iams stepped forward from the ranks and said "I did it." The Colonel asked him why. "Because I do not like Frick" was the answer. Iams was ordered to apologize before the regiment but refused, and was thereupon sent to the guard-house and subjected, without the benefit of a trial by court-martial, to the most degrading punishment known under military law. He was first strung up by the thumbs with notice that he would be cut down as soon as he apologized. Although suffering exquisite torture, the young man remained firm and declined to retract his words. After hanging for a quarter of an hour, he lost consciousness and the regimental surgeon, Dr. Neff, ordered him to be cut down. Iams was then placed in the guard-house until his case was reported to Colonel Hawkins, at the headquarters of the provisional brigade. The report was returned with the approval of Colonel Hawkins and General Snowden and an order from the latter that the man be disgraced and drummed out of camp. Colonel Streator executed these directions to the letter. Iams' head and face were half shaved; his uniform was exchanged for an old pair of overalls and a shirt and dilapidated hat to match, and in this wretched condition he was led out of camp to the tune of the "Rogues' March." His sentence carried with it permanent exclusion from the National Guard and disenfranchisement.
Iams proceeded to Pittsburgh and, strange to say, became the lion of the hour. He announced his intention of prosecuting the officers concerned in his punishment and a score of attorneys volunteered their services as his counsel. Among these was Frank P. Iams, Esq., a cousin of the young man, who was engaged in practice at the Pittsburgh bar.
Within twenty-four hours the Iams case became a National cause celebre. It was discussed everywhere from Maine to California. Military authorities waxed warm over it. Legal authorities squabbled over it. Professional publicists were interviewed concerning it.
Editors made it the subject of tremendous publications. Pictures of Iams, hairless, mustacheless and defiant appeared in the illustrated weeklies. The Allegheny County Democrats, happening to have another convention on hand at this time, took the matter up in a political way, and as it happened that Colonel Streator was a well-known and popular Democratic club man, "confusion worse confounded" followed the endeavors of the workingmen in the convention to secure the passage of resolutions excoriating the "brutal and inhuman" conduct of Iams' superior officers.
The preponderance of sentiment was everywhere against the officers. In inflicting a punishment so severe and unusual on a thoughtless youth, whose insubordinate conduct might have been otherwise chastised with equally good effect, and especially in denying him even a drumhead court-martial, they were held guilty of tyrannically exceeding their authority.
Iams carried out his threat of prosecuting the officers and indictments were subsequently found against General Snowden, Colonel Hawkins, Colonel Streator and Surgeon Neff. The trial, however, resulted in the acquittal of the defendants, the judge and jury being satisfied that whether the punishment inflicted on Iams fitted the crime or not, military law permitted its infliction.
After two weeks' service, the military force at Homestead was reduced to three regiments of infantry, a troop of cavalry and a battery, the retiring regiments breaking camp on July 27 and 28. Those that remained were booked for a term of service which was to end only when the Carnegie mills were in undisturbed operation, an order of things which was not to be finally established until more than two months later.
Mr. Frick's illness did not stay the hand of Secretary Lovejoy, who continued to lodge informations against the participants in the affair of July 6. Pinkerton detectives and a few newspaper reporters who had been placed on the Carnegie Company's pay-roll furnished the secretary with the necessary testimony. The first of the workmen to be held without bail was Sylvester Critchlow, a daring fellow who had done active duty as a sharpshooter in the mill-yard. Samuel Stewart, a clerk in the mill, swore that he had seen Critchlow fire at the men in the barges, and on this evidence the defendant was held liable for first degree murder and committed to jail pending his trial.
The workmen, for their part, proceeded to carry out their threat of prosecuting the Carnegie officials. Hugh Ross, himself under bail on the charge of murder, made information before Alderman King, of the South Side, Pittsburgh, charging that H. C. Frick, F. T. F. Lovejoy, Robert Pinkerton, William Pinkerton, J. A. Potter, G. A. Corey, J. G. A. Leishman, H. M. Curry, C. W. Bedell, Fred. Primer, W. H. Burt, Nevin McConnell, James Dovey, John Cooper and Fred. W. Hinde "did kill and murder John E. Morris, George W. Rutter, Silas Wain and Joseph Sotak." The arrest of Chairman Frick was to be deferred until he should recover from his wounds. As the Homestead men, for the most part, had been arrested at such times and under such circumstances as compelled them to spend a night in jail, before securing a hearing in court on their application for admission to bail, Ross made special efforts to have the Carnegie officials subjected to the same experience. This manœuvre, however, was defeated. Messrs. Leishman, Lovejoy and Curry, hearing that warrants were out for their arrest, went at once, in company with a formidable array of counsel, to the criminal court where Judge Ewing was sitting, and asked for admission to bail. Judge Ewing said he could not hear the applications until the defendants had appeared before an alderman and either waived examination or been held for court; but with a degree of courtesy probably never before exhibited in a criminal court he dispatched a messenger for Alderman King, permitted the defendants to waive a hearing and then went on to consider the question of bail. This was speedily disposed of. The Judge declined to consider the representations made by the attorneys of the Amalgamated Association as to the entrance into the case of the elements of first degree murder. There was no equality, he held, between the Carnegie officials and the men in the conflict of July 6. The former were exercising their rights; the latter were rioters and trespassers, whom it was proper to oppose with arms. He, therefore, would admit the defendants to bail in the sum of $10,000.
Messrs. Dovey and McConnell, superintendents of departments in the Homestead mill, were arrested later and passed the night in jail. Superintendent Potter and G. A. Corey evaded the constables and presented themselves before Judge Ewing next morning. Alderman King was again brought into court and the four men were released on bail in the same manner as Messrs. Leishman, Lovejoy and Curry. The court ordered also that Mr. Frick give $10,000 bail and that it be taken at his home.
Judge Ewing was roundly denounced by the workingmen for the lengths to which he had gone to spare the Carnegie officials the humiliation which O'Donnell and his companions had been forced to endure. "Evidently," they said, "the judges are prejudiced against us and are bent upon discriminating in favor of our rich and influential antagonists."
Another disquieting circumstance was the verdict arrived at by the coroner's jury in pursuance of the inquest held on the men who were killed in the Homestead conflict. In each instance the killing was charged to an "unlawful assembly," and the jury recommended that "said unlawful assembly be certified to the September sessions of the grand jury."
On August 2, Attorney Brennen presented to court a petition signed by sixty-seven steelworkers of Pittsburgh and Homestead, praying that a license be issued for the establishment of a voluntary trade tribunal, in conformity with an act passed in 1883, to arbitrate differences in the steel trade. The acceptance of the terms of the act must be mutual between employers and employed. Mr. Brennen entertained hopes that the Carnegie firm, seeing the willingness of the men to submit to arbitration, might yet consent to this mode of adjustment. Secretary Lovejoy settled the matter definitely in the negative by the brief statement that "The question of recognizing the Amalgamated Association cannot be arbitrated."
This was the last overture made to the firm on behalf of the workmen. The latter, however, continued to keep up their courage and maintained an almost unbroken front, desertions being few and far between. Mass meetings were held frequently and at these it was invariably agreed that the mill could not be operated with non-union men, that sooner or later the firm must yield to the pressure of circumstances and that, with the help received from the treasury of the Amalgamated Association and from other sources, the locked-out men could hold out, if necessary, for a year or more.
There were some who foresaw the collapse of these castles in the air, but, rather than place themselves under the suspicion of lukewarmness, they held their peace.