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August 16, 2012

Essay Paper on Railroad Strike of 1877


The era of 1873 to 1877 is the era of depression that left the painful memories on the pages of American History. The year of 1873 is the noteworthy year that entangled the American nation into the grip of depression. This depression was the harbinger of wage cuts, economical upsets, evictions and breadlines, etc. Countless American people were the victim of this catastrophic wind of depression that lasted to the year of 1874. In that connection, labor union tried to gather and organize the labors into the workforce to approve their rightful demands about the pay scales and other type of fringe benefits such as reduction in working hours, etc., but unfortunately these efforts did not become the cause of any significant revolution in the perspective of approving the demands. This era of depression and its effects were long-lasting and by the year of 1877, there were three million Americans who were striving to have the employment to fulfill their economical needs. The key aspect that need to notice, the figure of three million was the twenty percent of workable population of that time period.
Another bitter aspect was that those workers who were capable of have a job worked six months in a year and their wages were sliced by forty five percent that was equal to the works to be approximately one dollar per day. A set election by political parties pushed the country into the deeper hole of misery. A Republican candidate, Rutherford B Hayes, was not the preferred choice   of peoples as the president position, but twenty dubious electoral votes, some of these votes surprisingly were casted from Florida, became the catalyst to bring the decision to the Representatives that is also known as House of Representatives. A glossy deal with PA railroad, Thomas Scott, was the turning point that gave Hayes the congressional votes of southern as a swap for a bailout of deteriorating investments in the railroads of Texas and Pacific. As a special inducement, Republican candidates also did promise to stop the reconstruction in the area of South; this scheme was the big cause of disturbance among the community of African Americans.
Further brutal act that the PA railroad started was slashing in workers income, the devastating plan that put in practice was to first ten percent wage cut at the beginning of the year, after that another ten percent cut in the middle of the year, in June. They laid-off the workers, cut their wages, and then declared that they would augment their east-bound train operations to Pittsburgh with no any new crew hiring. The result was furious, angry workers captured the train switches and blocked the railroads. Around the similar time period, the Baltimore & Ohio also started to cut wages, and decreased working weeks. On 16th of July, Fireman and Brakemen excused to do their work. Despite the administrators plan to have scabs but that had to face the embarrassment because strikers blocked the railroads and trains in every direction. This situation spread like the jungle fire to other parts such as Virginia where the strikes flame already erupted. The train systems were blocked and administrators had to plead for forced action to the governor. At that time American history had to document another inhuman act that was fighting against its own civilians by the same nation’s armed forces. [1] There was no any comparison between the workforce and armed forces but because of unity, willingness and power of determination, victory was the in the luck of workers that was the catalyst to their total control over the railroads and gaining the supports by leaps and bonds.
To control the strikers, governor pleaded to the President Hayes for federal armed forces that reached to rescue after prompted grant. The troops action was highly powerful that was backed with the gattling guns and other types of heavy armed, resulting workforce has to pushback but this elite side victory was temporary. The strike-breakers could not quench the blaze of rebellion, when one encounter was overcome, another one ready; they could not continue with the working class's willpower. [i]
Empathy and sympathy both for the strikers developed all over the country, and in numerous cities employees protested the cure of the strikers. However, the armed force was continuously called-in as strikebreakers; in the area of Maryland, armed force killed ten activists when they were throwing sticks and rocks. In Pittsburgh vicinity, the unity ran so lofty that the local police and armed force supported the workers than to action against. But there were no any feeling about to treat the human being with humanity, The Governor and President both were so unkind, they ordered troops of Philadelphia to control and defuse the circumstances. The act of Philadelphia armed force were brutal, they killed twenty human beings including women and children after arriving in Pittsburgh to control the protests and to shutdown the strikes. This news of carnage was the catalyst that acted as gasoline on the spark, steelworkers, mill workers and other peoples rushed to the spot. The crowd flooded into the gun shops and picked each and every arm they could hold. The armed forces drew-back as twenty thousand annoyed employees poured into the city, five thousand of them entirely armed. The swarm  set on fire the railway station, roundhouse, company offices and several train cars, The paper media blamed that the men’s hand conquered by Communism’s devilish spirit. Hayes ordered all troops in the state to assemble in Pittsburgh to fight against any protestor that would not scatter after the twenty four hours time period but in Harrisburg vicinity, the Philadelphia armed force expressed their sympathy with the strikers and give up their guns. They were nourished and free to go domicile to their families. When pillaging started, citizens' tours of duty were kicked off to assure peace. [2] The strike rapidly extended to Chicago. Panic grasped the whole country as the paper media described, terrors sovereignty, the Chicago roads given over to howling horde of robbers and cutthroats. This obviously portrays the fears and anger of capitalists.
The party of Workingmen in the Chicago that was associated to Marx's First International, called a huge convention with six thousand citizens presence. They insisted the instantaneous nationalization of the entire railroads. The subsequent day the police force assaulted a smaller crowd of adolescent activists for calling on lumberyard, railway and mill workers to unite them. Shortly the US infantry joined the police to assure the law and order situation but instead of assuring the peace these joined forces further spread the brutality by killing the eighteen people.  In the vicinity of Missouri, the employees were extraordinarily burly and unified. The Workingmen's party directed the revolt. The four planned sections, English, German, French and Bohemian had ferryboats to the eastern coasts of the Mississippi to get together with railroad employees. When the railroad employees confirmed themselves on strike they yet had the favor of the mayor, who had been an energetic radical in his juvenile years. Group meetings were conducted with thousands of participants, demanding for the nationalization of all industries inside the cities. [ii]
The workers were attempting dreadfully to have and hold power, and conducted several rallies and conventions. Socialist presenter told that people are growing up in their power and affirming they will no longer propose to start demoralized by fruitless capital. Vicinity of Missouri was going into the control of workers slowly and gradually.
The bosses were in dilemma and entangled in the fair about their prospects, to overcoming their perplexity they hysterically sent the US armed forces to cope the revolt and rebellion activities. in the outcome, worker’s leader had to face the prison and the people of all effected cities the  martial law and eventually workers had shot back to their work and the revolt and its effects eroded, slowly and gradually.[3]
However, despite the unhappy ending of this gigantic activity that snatched the sleep in the eyes of the capitalists, one aspect was obvious, there is the reaction against the action and basically this railroad strike was one of the key catalyst that ignited the fire of equal civil rights that now American society is reaping. Besides, these revolt and railroad strikes were supported by all those who had human hearts and feelings to sense others. The farmers supplied the foods to the strikers to help them to have their rightful rights. Other people as discussed above joined this revolt to support the activists that were struggling for their benefits that they were deserved. However, during this struggle hundred people were killed including women and children, thousand had to face the jail as well as after the revolt, remaining workers had to face iron rules that were specially designed and implemented not to further unite and organize the workers but in spite of all these barriers, close-minded had to face the shame in term of equal rights that are now the part of American society. [iii]


[1] Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984)
[2] OAH Magazine of History

[3] The Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1877-1945 



[i] Sigmund, Elwin W. "Railroad Strikers in Court: Unreported Contempt Cases in Illinois in 1877Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984)". 49. 2 (1956), 190-209, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40189498. (accessed March 12, 2011).
[ii]  Lesh, Bruce. "Using Primary Sources to Teach the Rail Strike of 1877OAH Magazine of History". 13. 4 (1999), 38-47 , http://www.jstor.org/stable/25163309. (accessed March 12, 2011).
[iii]  Blackburn, Marc K. . "Reviewed work(s): The Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1877-1945 by Clayton D. Laurie; Ronald H. ColeThe Public Historian". 20. 4 (1998), 101-103 , http://www.jstor.org/stable/3379737. (accessed March 12, 2011).





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