“A DOLLAR A DAY OR KANSAS.”
This saying from worker strikes in Kansas puts into perspective how desperate black workers were for an increase in pay. The idea of one leaving the state of Kansas over a pay raise seems outrageous nowadays, but when you consider that these workers had to make ends meet with 75 cents a day it is clear that they had no other option. These protests lasted for seven years before finally coming to a head in 1887, when the Knights of Labor had their greatest influence. The Knights organized ten thousand sugar laborers to strike in Thibodaux, all of them demanding at least a dollar a day. However, the military was called in, martial law was enforced, and on November 22, 30 black laborers were shot and killed, and hundreds more lay wounded. “Lame men and blind women shot; children and hoary-headed grandsires ruthlessly swept down! The Negroes offered no resistance; they could not, as the killing was unexpected. Those of them not killed took to the woods, a majority of them finding refuge in this city…”
I believe Howard Zinn makes mention of this because it shows how adamant the US government was in terms of it’s policies on pay for black workers. The fact that they would be willing to kill their own citizens just to quell a protest clearly demonstrates how forceful the government was when it came to civil unrest, even over such a trivial amount of money.
Even though by the 1900 Americans have done a great job in advancing itself by building railroads and using electricity. There isn’t much of a difference than the world today. Back then just building the railroads were sufficient for the convenience of exploring the U.S and make it back home for dinner, in today’s society since we already have the train tracks, we work on extending train lines to help everyday commuters.
Another similarity i found in the reading is how business men J.P Morgan and John D. Rockefeller didn’t have to serve their country because they paid their way out of it. As quoted below “Morgan had escaped military service in the Civil War by paying $300 to a substitute. So did John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Philip Armour, Jay Gould, and James Mellon. Mellon’s father had written to him that “a man may be a patriot without risking his own life or sacrificing his health”. Now a days you hear on the news how celebrities get away with murder and dwi because they have money to pay people off.
I think Howard Zinn uses specific key terms for instance “had escaped military services” so it can be interpreted in a positive way. Instead of using “he didn’t have to serve the military or even he paid his way out of serving his country. Howard Zinn portrays Morgan as a successful business man. Usually the world escape is used in cases “she escaped her kidnapper”.
“While making his fortune, Morgan brought rationality and organization to the national economy. He kept the system stable. He said: “We do not want financial convulsions and have one thing one day and another thing another day.”
In Chapter eleven of “ A People’s History of the United States”, Zinn mentions one of the big names who had formed a monopoly in the late 1800s and early 1900s, J.P.Morgan. Morgan was the son of a banker who sold stocks for railroads, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific. He made his own wealth by linking railroads to each other, then linking the railroads to banks, and then linking the banks to insurance. At some point, he was in charge of 100,000 miles of railroad and three insurance companies equaling more than a billion dollars in assets. Zinn mentions Morgan along with other big names because as the industry boomed, wealthy American businessmen, as called Robber barons, came into existence. They became most of the upper class, which the government pretended to have neutrality to maintain order for, but was really serving their interests. In other words, they somewhat marked a capitalist state.
“No harm shall come to any business interest as the result of administrative policy so long as I am President … a transfer of executive control from one party to another does not mean any serious disturbance of existing conditions.” (Grover Cleveland, Chapter 11)
President Cleveland was a democrat presidential candidate in 1884, he ran against republicans candidate, James Blaine. Common perception throughout the country during the presidential campaign was that the Cleveland would stand against the big corporations and provide relief for the small and new businesses. However, after being elected, Cleveland was seen surrounded by big businesses and their interests to keep the poor and rioting rebels under control. He personally assured the industrialist and corporates that the government during his presidency won’t make any such policies that would contradict their interests.
He used every opportunity to help big business and completely neglected the needs for the rest. Howard zinn gives an example of 1887 when Cleveland vetoed a relief bill of $100,000 for the Texas farmers who were suffering from drought but later on during the same year he used his gold surplus to pay off wealthy bondholders at $28 above the $100 value of each bond-a gift of $45 million. Cleveland appointed his chief adviser William Whitney as Secretary of the Navy. William started to work on “steel navy” and started to buy steel from Carnegie’s plants at scandalously inflated prices. What Howard Zinn is trying to assert is that Cleveland was truly a corporate puppet, who served the industrialist with all his will. While neglecting small business, such as farmers in Texas who were not able to buy grains and seeds due to drought that had taken over their lands.
Trade unions formed an Independent Labor party and nominated for mayor Henry George, the radical economist, whose Progress and Poverty had been read by tens of thousands of workers. George’s platform tells something about the conditions of life for workers in New York in the 1880s. It demanded:
- that property qualifications be abolished for members of juries.
- that Grand Jurors be chosen from the lower-class as well as from the upperclass, which dominated Grand Juries.
- that the police not interfere with peaceful meetings.
- that the sanitary inspection of buildings be enforced.
- that contract labor be abolished in public works.
- that there be equal pay for equal work for women.
- that the streetcars be owned by the municipal government.
In 1886, as a new mayor was being elected for New York City, the issues for workers were unfathomable if compared to the issues for workers in today’s society. Zinn highlights Henry George’s platform, and although considered a radical, these conditions accentuate how terrible and inhumane the factories were for workers, as well as the way that workers were treated. For instance, numbers three and six are particularly shocking, three because in this age, unsafe buildings are never, under any conditions, used in any way, and six for the opposite reason: women still do not, in many fields, receive equal pay for equal work, and that this is considered a radical idea along with the other items is surprising. Zinn is trying to place a clear connection between the so-called radical ideas of the late 1800’s and the widely accepted ideas of today. While a few of these ideas seem rather minor, they were instrumental to emphasize to make bigger changes, one little change at a time. Although George did not win the election, he place din second, and drew attention to his cause in the process.
The People’s Party otherwise known as the Populist party was founded in 1891 and dissolved in 1908. The populist party’s radical causes were adopted by the democratic party at the time and had a huge impact on the political landscape. “According to Lawrence Goodwyn, if the labor movement had been able to do in the cities what the Populists did in the rural areas, “to create among urban workers a culture of cooperation, self-respect, and economic analysis,” there might have been a great movement for change in the United States.” (271) This anti elitist movement sided with labor unions to attack banks, railroads and unfair working environments. Zinn quotes Normal Pollak who says “Populism regarded itself as a class movement, reasoning that farmers and workers were assuming the same material position in society.” (272) The movement united poor white people and black people to fight for industrial freedom. Zinn says that they were not above racist thinking but still strived for the “emancipation of all men” (273) Zinn mentions the populist party because they have a huge impact on the labor unions, the democratic party, and arguably helped create the progressive movement.
“… a circular marked “Private and Confidential” was issued by the three banking houses of Drexel, Morgan & Company, Brown Brothers & Company, and Kidder, Peabody & Company. The most painstaking care was exercised that this document should not find its way into the press or otherwise become public…. Why this fear? Because the circular was an invitation … to the great railroad magnates to assemble at Morgan’s house, No. 219 Madison Avenue, there to form, in the phrase of the day, an iron-clad combination. … a compact which would efface competition among certain railroads, and unite those interests in an agreement by which the people of the United States would be bled even more effectively than before.” (Zinn,256)
At this time, the emergence of oligopolies was considered a feat of financial ingenuity, as well as the bane of consumers and workers. For so long companies had been competing to get the most customers and to reap the highest profits. Eventually, they discovered the path to success, while counterintuitive, was to collude so they could focus on manipulating their consumers and workers for higher profits. Zinn believed that the railroad magnates coming together sealed the fate of Americans: the tycoons and their corporations would go uncontested while the working class would inevitably suffer through cruel conditions. The title of the era as “The Gilded Age” is fitting as a select few reached unparalleled heights of success while underneath, most Americans lived through the harshest conditions. Saying the working class “would be bled even more effectively than before” was not just a metaphor. In 1889 alone, over 22,000 railroad workers were killed or injured. Because the companies were working together, workers could not seek better wages or working conditions at a different company. Such became the case with most labor jobs. On top of paying meager wages, these companies would charge exorbitant prices thereby effectively putting these wages back in their own bank accounts. As a result, these companies owned and controlled Americans.
Soon companies gained control of Americans not just on an individual level but on a federal level. The United States government stood by and allowed the greedy corporations to operate while infringing upon the rights and well-being of Americans. Zinn compares the government at this time to a Marxist definition of a capitalist state, “pretending neutrality to maintain order but serving the interests of the rich.” (Zinn,258) Under Grover Clevelend, the Federal bank had ran out of gold reserves. The large private banks working together saw this economic vulnerability as an opportunity for growth and took control over millions in government bonds. The government’s dependence on big banks became clear as it served to protect the interest of these banks as opposed to its constituents. Thus these industries were able to operate with little to no accountability and regulations. By working together, the heads of the banking, oil, steel and railroad industries earned a lasting influence on America.
“Meanwhile, the government of the United States was behaving almost exactly as Karl Marx described a capitalist state: pretending neutrality to maintain order, but serving the interests of the rich. Not that the rich agreed among themselves; they had disputes over policies. But the purpose of the state was to settle upper-class disputes peacefully, control lower-class
rebellion, and adopt policies that would further the long-range stability of the system.”(Zinn 258).this quote describes that the U.S.A. tried to follow themselves to Marxist ideas, in reality, they fell into the mould of Marxist capitalism. the ways government treated to upper-classes and lower-classes are totally different because government needs to contrapose different tagets with different effective ways. a integrated and well-organized policy will promote the development of the society.
“The development of a factory-like system in the nineteenth-century schoolroom was not accidental (Zinn 263).”by Joel Spring. this quotes descirbes that the importance of the Industrial Revolution on society during this time. development of a factory is just like education in nineteenth century, it is indispensable, accelerate the development of industrials can effecially improve the ecnomy of whole society. at that time, more and more inventions came out, industrals played a more important role in the society. however, as the new inventions coming out, farmers could not monopolize their product, it also brings a little loss to them. and governement didnt treat those farmers fairly and completely.
i think that Zinn was trying to say that there were always something new and good products coming to the society, they must be benefits to people. however, government couldnt ignore the people who were affected negatively. some kind of inventions replaced people’ jobs. Zinn wanted government to treat all workers equally and fairly.
“Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, despite its look of somber, black-robed fairness, was doing its bit for the ruling elite” (260)
The saying “power corrupts all, and corrupts absolutely” rings truest in the liberty bells of America. The ultimate authority of the American judicial system was founded with the ambitious intent of being above corruption. Sanctified by the lack of term limits and the illegality of accepting bribes. However, how can we suppose any thing to be perfect while it is composed of naturally imperfect men? “How could it be nuetral between rich and poor when its members were often former wealty lawyers, and almost always came from the upper class?”(260) The panel of judicial princes promptly nullified the Sherman Act focusing on language such as “commerce” and “unreasonable,” (260) to orchestrate the circumvention of the people’s valiant acts of self-advocation. Monopolies were suddenly cartels in every possible category omitting of course “commerce.” The notion of “unreasonable” abruptly spoke only from the perspective of those within reasonable means. Meaning, a rich man’s government, runs on a rich man’s judgement.
Surprisingly, not only did the Supreme Court defend the rights of the people, “By this time the Supreme Court had accepted the the argument that corporations were ‘persons’-,” (261) but it also advocated for its tax payers. The laws labored into legitimate legislature by the layman were to be consumed and construed against said population. The Sherman Act now acted against dissenters along trade routes because this was obviously not an oppostition to power but “commerce”. ” Supposedly, the Amendment had been passed to protect Negro rights, but of the Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, nineteen dealt with the Negro, 288 dealt with corporations.” (261) The extengencies for the direction of action were depenedend soley on the monatary motives of the emerging financial monarchies. The likes of Rockefeller donated to Tuskegee Institute and Hampton Institute yet, America’s presentation of fairness had only an eye for the fairest cases.
“Thomas Edison promised New Jersey politicians $1,000 each in return for favorable legislation”. (248). In this era, fraud and deceit was the only way to have skyrocketing income. Robber Barons such as John D. Rockefeller made millions, all fueled by the poor people’s pockets. The working class remained with its low wages working 12 hour shifts. “Shred efficient businessman building empires, chocking out competition, maintaining high prices, keeping wages low, using government subsidies”. (251).
Then there were the lawyers, technicians, and engineerings, paid slightly more, but these were the ones keeping the scheme running in this perfectly devised system designed by the Robber Barons themselves. Ruthless tactics such as price fixing and sabotage were the norm. These banditos attained government subsidies and used it to their advantage to fund their enterprises; meanwhile the working class people could not obtain a simple housing subsidy.
Robber Barons alike to Rockefeller concentrated industry onto a saturated monopoly that controlled a great deal of markets. Many different industries depended on one another for survival, but the common denominator was, most of them needed the steel industry for survival, to supply machinery, railroad tracks, and raw material for building blocks. Although there was much carelessness during industrialization, many good things came out from industrialization. Howard Zinn relates the good things to the transcontinental railroad which connected hubs and cities to many different destinations. Steel in itself increased productivity and made possible many commercial ventures. However, too much fast progress in society is usually accompanied by cutting corners and legalized organized crime as to the point where the middle-class is almost nonexistant.