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 Thirteenth of Chapters_
Frick's Assailant Railroaded to the Penitentiary—The Iams Trial—Hanging by the Thumbs Approved by a Jury—The Mills Filling Up—Sermons to Non-Unionists—Strikers Go Through the Plant—The Relief Fund—Gompers Arrives and Makes an Incendiary Speech—Pittsburgh and Mahoning Manufacturers Capitulate—William and Robert Pinkerton on the Defensive.
Anarchist Berkman received but a short shrift. He was placed on trial before Judge McClung on September 19, appearing at the bar without an attorney and without witnesses. His demeanor was cool and indifferent. District Attorney Burleigh presented six indictments, charging the prisoner with offenses ranging from felonious assault and battery down to carrying concealed weapons.
Mr. Frick was placed on the stand and told the story of the shooting, and the blood-stained garments worn by the Carnegie chairman at the time of the attack were put in evidence. Corroborative testimony was furnished by Mr. Leishman and others.
The prosecution having closed its case, Berkman asked to be permitted to testify in his own behalf. "I am not guilty," he said. "I have a defense." A German interpreter was assigned to assist him. The Anarchist's defense consisted of an inflammatory address covering forty pages of closely written foolscap. As rendered into English by the interpreter, sentence by sentence, it was almost unintelligible. It proved, however, to be a review of the "blood-stained register of America," beginning with the "murder" of John Brown, cropping out again in the execution of the Chicago Anarchists who were concerned in the Haymarket massacre, and culminating in the descent of the Pinkertons upon Homestead. The statement bristled with denunciations of capitalists as tyrants who oppress the workingmen, and the inference which it finally conveyed was that Berkman considered himself a martyr of the Chicago type whose exploits would serve to rivet the world's attention on the enormity of the Carnegie Company's crimes against labor. Strangely enough, it seemed not to dawn upon the mind of this young fanatic that he and his fellow preachers of anarchy could not possibly be mistaken as representing the element that toils for a subsistence, and that a martyr to the cause of beer, blood and idleness must necessarily be an object of contempt in the estimation alike of the classes and the masses.
Judge McClung confined his charge to a few perfunctory remarks and the jury, without leaving the box, rendered a verdict of guilty on all six indictments. Sentence was then imposed on each indictment, the penalties aggregating 22 years imprisonment, twenty-one in the penitentiary and one in the work-house.
The trial occupied just four hours, attesting that in this case at all events, justice ceased to travel with a leaden heel.
The Iams episode was not so easily disposed of. Prosecutions were entered against Colonels Hawkins and Streator and Surgeon Grim on the charge of aggravated assault and battery, and the defendants were held under bonds for trial at the September term of court. The trial began on October 27, before Judge W. D. Porter, and continued for ten days. The proceedings were watched with special interest by military men, owing to the issue involved between civil and military law and the prospective establishment of important precedents. Colonel J. R. Braddocks, of the Pittsburgh bar, State Senator Edward E. Robbins, of Greensburg, and J. M. Braden and Albert Sprowls, of Washington, Pa., appeared as counsel for the defendants; and Frank P. Iams, a cousin of the disgraced militiaman, and John D. Watson, both of the Pittsburgh bar, conducted the prosecution.
The defense opened the proceedings by demanding that the indictment be quashed on the ground that the punishment of Iams was commensurate with the enormity of his offense against good order and military discipline, that it conformed to military law, and that jurisdiction in the case properly belonged to a military tribunal. After some intricate controversy, Judge Porter denied the plea and ordered the trial to go on.
Attorney Watson opened for the prosecution, giving a graphic recital of the torture to which the prosecutor, Iams, had been subjected. Iams himself was placed on the stand and related his experiences, a fair conception of which may be formed from the following extract from his testimony:
"When I was first tied up I asked for a chew of tobacco. Soon I began to grow tired; my legs cramped; my head ached; my eyes felt as if they were being pushed from their sockets; the muscles in the back of my neck seemed as if they were being torn from the base of the skull. I suffered terrible agony. It seemed to me that I had been suspended in the air a week before being cut down. I saw Colonel Streator there. When I was cut down I was in a dazed condition; everything seemed blurred. The first thing I remember was when some one gave me some ammonia. I was lying on the ground; had a terrible headache. Some one gave me some whiskey. I remained in the guard tent all night."
Attorney Braden endeavored to show on cross-examination that Iams had prearranged to misbehave in order to secure his discharge; that he had swallowed tobacco in order to make him sick while under punishment, and that he had admitted to a friend that the punishment did not hurt him much, but the lawyer failed to shake the young man's testimony. Before leaving the stand, Iams stated that if the defendants were convicted it was his intention to bring a civil suit against them for damages.
Several members of Iams' company were called as witnesses and corroborated the details of the young man's story. John H. Gladden, an hospital nurse of the Tenth regiment, testified that he had seen Iams trussed up by the thumbs, but watched the proceedings only for ten minutes, as the sight sickened him. Private Kent swore that Colonel Streator, on hearing it rumored that Iams meant to shoot him on sight, said that he (Iams) "had better keep out of the way, or he would shoot him if he could hit at forty yards."
Senator Robbins, whose interest in the case was sharpened by the fact that he was quartermaster-general of the Tenth regiment, opened for the defense. He denied that the case had the elements of an assault, questioned the severity of Iams' punishment, and warned the jury that the conviction of the defendants must be followed by the destruction of discipline in the National Guard. Deputy Sheriff Gray was brought forward by the prosecution to tell the story of the lock-out at Homestead, the exhaustion of the Sheriff's powers and the fate of the Pinkertons, so as to make clear the gravity of the conditions with which the military had to cope. The defense interposed a statement to the effect that the Governor had exceeded his authority in ordering out the troops, but this was overruled by the court.
Colonel Streator's story did not materially conflict with that told by Iams. Colonel Hawkins testified that on the afternoon when Mr. Frick was attacked he received two communications by signal, one stating that Frick had been shot by a striker, the other that Frick was dead and that extraordinary precautions were necessary. He had thereupon ordered all commanders to be on the alert, to double their camp guards and to send out three extra patrols. While the camp was in this state Iams had proposed three cheers for the man who shot Frick. When Colonel Streator reported the affair, witness had said to him: "Colonel, you know your duty as a soldier." The situation was critical and prompt measures were needed.
Robert W. Herbert, a newspaper reporter, said that Iams had told him of his intention to shoot Streator, and that in speaking of General Snowden, the young man had said, "I will get even with that four-eyed —— ---- —— on the hill." One of the hospital nurses swore that Iams had made himself sick with tobacco, and another that Iams had been drinking and wanted to be confined in the guard-house. Surgeon Grimm illustrated for the court's edification the knot, known as a close-hitch, by which the rope was fastened on Iams' thumbs, and described it as not being a severe kind of knot. Veterans of the civil war bore witness that the punishment suffered by Iams was in accordance with the usages of war and that it was mild considering the gravity of the offense.
An amusing lapsus linguae marked the evidence of Colonel Norman M. Smith, of the Eighteenth regiment. Here was the colloquy:
Attorney Iams.—"You have hung men up by the thumbs in your regiment?"
Colonel Smith.—"I have never had occasion, but if I had, I would cheerfully do so—I mean, I would do so. I wish to strike out the word 'cheerfully.' That was a slip." Whereupon an expansive smile illumined every face in the court-room.
The closing speech for the defense, delivered by Senator Robbins, was a fine forensic effort, bearing in the main on the absence of malice and the necessity of extraordinary punishment when soldiers mutiny in the field. Attorney Iams, in closing for the prosecution, compared his relative to the Savior on the cross, and averred that the only reason why the youth was not permitted to die while suspended by the thumbs was because the defendants "wanted him alive next morning in order that they could shave his head and drum him out of camp." Judge Porter charged squarely in favor of the defense, telling the jury that, "If Colonel Streator, in punishing Iams, was actuated only by upright motives in an effort as an officer to maintain order, he should not be punished."
It took the jury twenty-one hours to arrive at a verdict. A few stood out for conviction on the charge of simple assault and battery, which had been ruled out by the court, and, to test the matter, an appeal was made to Judge Porter for instructions. The judge replied with a scathing rebuke. When the jurors next appeared they returned a verdict of acquittal, but directed that, in the aggravated assault and battery case, the costs be divided between Colonel Hawkins and Streator.
While there was much sympathy for Iams, this finding was commonly regarded as a just one, in view of the supreme necessity of maintaining discipline in the military service and the wide latitude permitted by military usage in punishing delinquencies in the field. It is safe to say, however, that the harsh penalties imposed upon Iams will never again be resorted to in the National Guard of Pennsylvania without reference to a court-martial.
While these events were in progress, the mills at Homestead were filling up rapidly with non-union men. The Tide kept up her daily trips, and the sight of brawny fellows with bundles, duly ticketed for "Fort Frick," became so common on the Monongahela wharf at Pittsburgh that people ceased to marvel at it and to curse and scoff at the blacksheep. By the first of August there were over 800 men at work, their board and lodging being provided within the mill enclosure. Regimental chaplains were secured to hold regular services on Sunday, with the assistance of a band which took the place of a choir. Chaplain Hays, of the Fifteenth regiment, preached the first sermon. His theme was "Saul of Tarsus," with which eminent biblical character he managed to connect Private Iams and the anarchists, denouncing both the latter as liberally as he praised the scriptural hero. After this sermon, the more illiterate of the non-unionists were firmly convinced that Saul of Tarsus was the leading non-unionist of his time besides being a regular martinet in military matters.
Superintendent Potter now claimed openly that the strike was broken, that about forty of the firm's old employees had quietly returned to work and that a majority of the rest were ready and anxious to return. The advisory board met these assertions with an emphatic denial, crediting Mr. Potter with making a "gigantic bluff," as Vice Chairman Thomas Crawford put it, for the purpose of discouraging the strikers. [ B ] Mr. Potter, however, invited the advisory board to send a committee to inspect the mill and verify his representations. The invitation was accepted and four skilled steelworkers went through the plant and narrowly inspected the work going on in every department. At a mass meeting of the strikers, held on August 2, this committee reported that, while it was true that a large number of men were at work in the mill, little actual progress was being made, and that the consequent loss to the firm was heavy enough to justify the most sanguine expectations on the side of the Amalgamated Association. The chief officers of the Association were present when the report was made, and delivered speeches full of enthusiasm and confidence. Every man at the meeting pledged himself to stay out to the bitter end.
[ B ] The term "strikers" is used here because, when the firm invited its employees to return to work, the lock-out ceased, and the union men were placed in the position of being on a strike.
An attempt to "evangelize" the non-unionists was made by the distribution of circulars appealing to their manhood in the name of organized labor. These bills were dropped into the mill yard from trains passing over the Pemickey bridge and seemed to produce some effect, inasmuch as several of the non-unionists left the mill and accepted money from the Amalgamated Association to take them to their homes. Unfortunately the ease with which funds were obtained in this way led many of the worst characters in the mill, after being dismissed for laziness or misconduct, to make descents on the Association's treasury, backing up their demands with amazing tales of the difficulties experienced in trying to operate the mills with green hands, including accidents of the most appalling description. Many of these fictions crept into the newspapers and produced a sensation.
The relief fund established for the benefit of the strikers was swelled daily by contributions from all parts of the United States and Canada, ranging in amount from one to twelve hundred dollars. Soliciting committees were sent into the coal and coke regions and elsewhere and met on every hand with a generous reception. An immense sum was needed to meet the daily demands of the army of the unemployed. The disbursing officers, however, husbanded their resources by refusing to give out cash. To those in need of assistance orders on the grocery stores for provisions were issued. The amounts given out in this way aggregated about $3,000 a day.
President Samuel Gompers, of the American Federation of Labor, with which the Amalgamated Association is affiliated, arrived in Pittsburgh, accompanied by the other executive officers of the Federation, on August 12 and settled down at once to the injection of new life into the Homestead campaign. On Saturday, the 14th, he addressed 1500 men in the Homestead rink, throwing a ferocious vigor into his remarks which verged on incendiarism. Of the assault on Mr. Frick he said:
"I have been asked for my opinion of the attack on the life of Mr. Frick. I don't know why I should be asked to go out of my way to give Berkman an additional kick. I never heard of him until after he made his attack. The laws of Pennsylvania will take care of him. I do know, however, that I have heard of thousands of men being shot down by day and by night, each and every one of whom was a better man than this despot, Frick. Yet I have never been asked for my opinion of any of these cases."
Mr. Gompers intimated that a boycott might be declared against the Carnegie Company, in spite of the decisions of the Pennsylvania courts construing boycotting as conspiracy, and he added that he would not fear to come personally within the borders of Pennsylvania and declare it.
A highly encouraging event which took place at this time was the signing of the scale by the Pittsburgh iron manufacturers. The manufacturers' committee and the wage committee of the Amalgamated Association had been holding a succession of conferences, without approaching a settlement for a period of fully six weeks. Not until the second week in August did they arrive at an agreement. On the evening of the 11th the stubborn determination which characterized both sides was suddenly relaxed and the labor world was surprised with the announcement that the manufacturers had decided to sign the scale in consideration of a 10 per cent. reduction in the wages of finishers—the highest priced men employed in steel mills. They had originally demanded a reduction of puddlers' wages from $5.50 to $4.50 per ton. This the Association steadily resisted and with unquestionable justice. Even the American Manufacturer, the biased organ of the employers, was forced to admit editorially that the puddler, being a handicraftsman and in no wise affected by mechanical improvements, was not a proper subject for a wage reduction. Finding this demand hopelessly untenable, the manufacturers asked instead for a reduction in finishers' wages, and after fifteen useless conferences, suggested that the matter be referred for arbitration, as the Amalgamated committee had no power to act. The arbitration proposal was submitted to the lodges and overwhelmingly rejected, but the wage committee was authorized to act on a change in the finishers' scale. It was then decided to submit to the 10 per cent. reduction. The effect of this settlement was to give work at once to 40,000 idle men in the Pittsburgh district, and as the Mahoning Valley manufacturers and workmen quickly followed suit, the entire iron district of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio was relieved from a situation pregnant with disaster to employers and workmen alike. The finishers were the only disgruntled ones, and so keenly did they resent what they professed to regard as unjust discrimination against their interests that a number of them seceded from the Amalgamated Association and formed a union of their own.
At Homestead the signing of the scale by the Manufacturers' Association was regarded as a capitulation to the power of organized labor which must force the Carnegie Company to abandon its individual fight. It was the belief that Mr. Frick had been chosen to bear the brunt of the general battle against the Amalgamated Association with the understanding that, if he won, all the mills in the Pittsburgh district would be made non-union; and the compromise agreed upon was accepted, therefore, as meaning that the other manufacturers had lost faith in Mr. Frick's ability to win, and that the Carnegie chairman himself could not rationally continue his fight, now that his brethren had fallen away from him. Subsequent events proved the baselessness of this supposition. It was merely one of many straws at which the Homestead men grasped eagerly in the face of the Carnegie firm's slow but sure fulfilment of its pledge to fill the mills with non-union workmen and rely solely thenceforward upon this class of labor.
The making of informations and counter-informations founded on the Pinkerton affair went on uninterruptedly. Fred. Primer was the first of the Pinkertons to be placed under arrest. He was held for court by Alderman King on the strength of testimony showing that the first shot on July 6 was fired from the barges. Primer, attended by the attorneys for the Carnegie firm, was hurried before Judge Ewing, who promptly released him on his own recognizance, stating very plainly at the same time that whatever trouble occurred at Homestead was of the workmen's own making and that no one else should be held responsible for the consequences. The court also held Edward Burke in $10,000 bail on the charge of murder preferred by Secretary Lovejoy. Burke had already acquired some notoriety by an altercation with Sheriff McCleary on the occasion of the Sheriff's last visit to Homestead before the arrival of the troops.
The reader has been informed of the inspiriting effect produced upon Sheriff McCleary by military protection. One of the first results thereof was the enlistment of a corps of deputies to take the place of the Homestead police, the latter officials being so thoroughly in sympathy with the strikers that they devoted their attention chiefly to the apprehension of non-union men who happened to stray out of the works. The sight of a non-unionist was always sufficient to incite an uproar and on several occasions riotous demonstrations were caused by the appearance on the streets of men who had the hardihood to leave the mill and walk abroad. The Sheriff kept adding to his force of deputies according as the military guard was reduced, until when the last of the troops left Homestead, there were enough civil officers employed to deal with any ordinary disorder.
The congressional investigation which was begun at Pittsburgh was resumed at Washington on July 23. Robert and William Pinkerton appeared to testify, and a committee of the Knights of Labor, consisting of Messrs. Hayes, Wright and Devlin, was also present and submitted to the investigating committee a series of questions to be put to the witnesses. The Pinkerton brothers presented a written statement, giving a history of their agency and an account of its methods. They upheld the character of their employees for trustworthiness and reliability, denied that it was customary for their men to carry arms or that the men ever wantonly or recklessly fired a shot or used weapons without being sworn in as deputy sheriffs or otherwise properly authorized, and alleged that the men sent to Homestead were to have been deputized and that Colonel Gray was understood to be authorized to deputize them.
When the sub-committee charged with the investigation came to sum up and prepare a report, it was found that the members were hopelessly divided, so that the work done, as far as it was likely to affect congressional action, might be considered as wasted. Some of the members, however, did not hesitate to give publicity to their individual views. Mr. Bynum held that if the Carnegie firm could legally bring in 300 Pinkerton guards, it would be equally justified in bringing in 10,000—that is to say, a full-sized army equipped to levy war. He spoke in very severe terms of Sheriff McCleary, describing him as a "poltroon," whose conduct during the riot was simply cowardly.
The House judiciary committee later received a supplementary statement from the Pinkerton brothers, replying to attacks made upon Pinkertonism by Senator Vest and Grand Master Workman Powderly of the K. of L. In this document many crimes were charged to members of secret labor organizations, and it was claimed that the organizations themselves, instead of showing sincere solicitude for law and order, by disciplining and controlling the guilty ones, were disposed to applaud outrages committed in their name and to elevate the criminals, when caught, to the dignity of martyrs. "Notwithstanding the protestations of the leaders at Homestead," said the Messrs. Pinkerton in conclusion, "no reasonable man can for a moment doubt that if the troops and deputy sheriffs were withdrawn, the non-union men now working in the mills would be murdered, and for no offense, no wrong, no injury to anyone."