Monday, February 11, 2013

Just another slice of American history that I somehow missed while pursuing my degree.......

     America had entered the Progressive Era, that time in the country's history when middle-class Americans, alarmed at the excess of industry and the pervasive corruption of the Gilded Age, launched mighty crusades to curb big business and make government more powerful, honest, and responsive.   Darrow, moving dexterously from populist to progressive, became a leading actor in the nationwide movement for municipal reform
     The violent struggle between capital and labor in industrial-age America reached a climax out west.  There were sheriffs and courts and territorial assemblies, and a parade of new states into the Union.  Yet it was still a land where shrewd men could acquire power through gold, guns, or legal trickery.  By the terms of its cherished myth, the West was a land of independence.  But as the century turned, the pioneers and prospectors were displaced by corporations that had access to the capital and technology needed for industrial-scale mining, timber cutting, and the building of cities and railroads.
     The miners were the spearhead of resistance to the new order.  Absent owners like John D. Rockefeller spent no time fretting about working conditions in Idaho, Nevada, or Colorado, where their local superintendents, striving to meet corporate targets, sliced wages to as little ass $1.80 a day.  The frontiersmen, working their own silver claims and panning clear-water creeks for gold, raged at those who sought to make them wage slaves.  "These adventurous characters, going out into a new country and plunging into the virgin, everlasting hills, where it would seem that at last all men would stand on the same footing, having suddenly discovered that amid these primitive surroundings the modern industrial system its worst," one journalist reported.  The miners - rough combative men - began to organize.  The mine owners - brutal and resolved - used gunmen and militias to crush the unions.  The miners responded with dynamite.
     "The contest verged on civil war," Darrow recalled.  In radical circles, the union violence was excused.  "It is a duty to stop the lesser crime of dynamite, but it is an infinitely greater duty to extirpate the greater crime of the monopolist.  The one has hardly slain its tens, the other slays its thousands daily," his friend Henry Lloyd had written.  "The one is spasmodic, impulsive, sporadic, exceptional...the other is organized wholesale destruction."  There was blood to be expected in any birth.  "You cannot make a revolution out of rosewater," Darrow said.
     Darrow would be at the center of the reckoning.

-both excerpts are from John A. Farrell's book
Clarence Darrow:  Attorney for The Damned

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