The Fall of the Great Republic (1886-88)
By Roberts Brothers.
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.
SIR HENRY STANDISH COVERDALE
(Intendant for the Board of European Administration
in the Province of New York.)
“O Liberty! Liberty! How many crimes are committed
in thy name!”
By Permission of the Bureau of Press Censorship.
|I.||Introductory.—The “Hard Times” of 1882–1887||7|
|II.||The Moral Interregnum||15|
|III.||The Socialistic Poison||27|
|IV.||The Rule of Ireland in America||32|
|V.||The First Eruption||51|
|VII.||The Revolutionists’ Master-stroke||86|
|VIII.||The Reign of Anarchy||96|
|IX.||Attempts to save the Government||103|
|X.||The last President of the United States||115|
|XI.||A Precious Triumvirate||124|
|XII.||War with England||128|
|XIII.||Capture of Boston||141|
|XIV.||The European Coalition||159|
|XV.||The Allies attack New York||171|
|XVI.||The Final Struggle||192|
|I.||The Socialistic Spirit in 1885||207|
|II.||A Revolution near at Hand.—“It must come”||209|
|III.||A Female Socialist’s Advice||211|
|IV.||Atheism, Communism, and Anarchy||212|
|V.||The Forces arrayed against Civilization||213|
|VI.||The Prospects of an Alliance between Dynamiters and Communists||214|
|VII.||Two Contemporary Criticisms||215|
|VIII.||The Courts.—One Journalistic Warning out of many||217|
|IX.||The Unprotected Atlantic Coast||218|
|X.||A Single Illustration of the Irish-American Spirit||219|
|XI.||The Army of the Discontented||222|
|XII.||Defending Dynamite Assassination||223|
THE FALL OF THE GREAT
INTRODUCTORY.—THE “HARD TIMES” OF
It is my purpose to relate the fall ofthe Great Republic. I shall be brief, yetshall omit no detail necessary to a perfectcomprehension of the causes whichunderlay the catastrophe and the eventsthrough which it came to pass. I shall setforth the curious sequence of ignorance,wickedness, and folly which led to the terribleresult. I shall show how the boastedwisdom of the fathers became the inheritedcurse of their descendants. I shalldescribe the political and social revolutionby which in a few months a nation of grand8promise, and with a history unequalled forits century of growth and achievement, wastransformed into the most pitiful wreck ofall time. I shall narrate the story whoseoutcome has proved to the world the utterfutility of the experiment of popular self-government,until men shall have attaineda richer knowledge and a sweeter moralitythan thus far exist.
The citizens of the United States feltat the close of the Civil War of 1861–1865that they had demonstrated their ability togovern themselves wisely and successfully.They considered the experimental stage oftheir history passed, the volume completedand closed, the verdict rendered.They imagined the possibility of no greaterstrain on their institutions than had alreadybeen triumphantly endured. In truth,there was the appearance of reason in theirconviction. No nation had ever moresuccessfully passed the ordeal of civil9strife. The magnanimity shown to theconquered rebels after the war, even afterthe assassination of Lincoln; the temperateendurance with which the countrysuffered the incubus of Johnson’s maudlinadministration; the rapidity and ease withwhich the enormous war-debt was paid off;the general good-nature which avertedbloodshed during the disputed election of1876; the smoothness with which theadministrative machinery bore the shockof Garfield’s murder,—all these events,coming closely after the vindication of thenational idea and of personal liberty in thesuppression of the Southern rebellion, convincedthe people of the United States, andthose of other lands as well, that “the experimentof popular self-government” hadreally achieved success.
And yet there had been warningsenough of the volcano smouldering underfoot,if the eyes and ears of public menhad been open to see and hear. Beginning10at the time of President Garfield’s assassination,the one cry which went up fromthe common people, the working people ofthe land, was for years that of “HardTimes.” Business received a blow in thatyear from which it did not recover. Tradewas slow and meagre; purchases of allsorts were made “from hand to mouth;”workshops and factories lay idle becausethere was insufficient demand for theirproducts; men who felt keenly the disgraceof failure to support their familieswere compelled to beg for public aid tokeep their humble homes and to supplyeven the most sordid demands of life. Foryears the country’s economic policy hadbeen such as to poison the air with falsedoctrine and enervate the energies of commerceby vacillating action. It would be abootless task to discuss now the relativemerits of “Free-trade” and “Protection” tothe United States. Perhaps either policy,adhered to with reasonable fidelity and11administered, as to its details, with suchcommon-sense as men are accustomed touse in the conduct of their private affairs,would have obviated the loss of work andthe consequent poverty and want whichfilled the land, from 1882 to 1887, with aconstantly deepening tide of misery. Butthe whole subject was made the shuttlecockof petty politics and pitiful politicians,until the nation ceased to have a policywhich could be recognized or was of anyavail as a stay before the sweep of commercialfailure and pecuniary distress.
It is asserted that no less than two anda half million operatives and working-menwere idle in the fall of 1887, when thefirst serious outbreaks occurred. By farthe larger number of these had been unableto earn enough, during the precedingtwo years, to pay the rents demanded fortheir cottages and hovels, and were constantlyin danger of ejection, without thehope of finding another home. The land12was filled with idle workmen, many ofthem foreigners unaccustomed to free institutions,and bitter in their denunciationsof all government, which was to themthe synonym of tyranny. Few, of eitherforeign or native birth, were possessed ofsufficient discrimination to discover theunderlying causes of their misfortunes, orof wisdom enough to set about remedyingthem.
Despite the world-wide knowledge of thislack of remunerative employment in theUnited States, the ranks of the unemployedand dissatisfied there were constantly recruitedby immigrants from the most dangerousclasses of Europe. The vigorousaction which had been taken in 1886 and1887 by the Governments of Germany, Russia,and Austria, looking to the extirpationin their dominions of socialism, nihilism,and their kindred poisons, and the refusalof Switzerland, England, and France toafford asylum to the expelled fanatics, had13forced them to take refuge in America.One or two of the wisest and bravestamong the statesmen of the land raisedtheir voices against receiving and harboringthese men. But the public had fewstatesmen in its service. Mere politiciansand demagogues were in greater popularfavor than statesmen who despised thecheap tricks and unworthy flattery whichwon the common ear. Public men generallyhad come to think more of majoritiesthan of principles; to labor for theirown election to office rather than for thegood of the country. The newspapers werecommonly partisan and devoted to purelypartisan ends,—the chief of which was,naturally, partisan success. None dared todo or say anything which might offend andalienate voters; and so every steamshipfrom Europe continued to bring to theAtlantic ports of the country full steerage-loadsof men who were not thought fit tolive under the Governments of Europe, but14who, almost on their landing, became citizensand voters in the Republic. Added tothese were the tens of thousands of Irishmenwhom the stringent measures of Parliament,adopted after the dynamite explosionsof 1884 and 1885, had driven fromtheir native island. Over half a millionable-bodied men, without mention of womenor children, expelled outlaws of Europe,landed at New York, Boston, and Philadelphiain the two years of 1885 and 1886.They swelled the ranks of workmen withoutwork, and helped reduce by competitionand division the already scanty wages oflabor. Every one of them was a poisonousferment dropped into the already over-stimulatedmass of popular discontent andagitation. They invariably united with theexisting centres of socialism and Fenianism,making these organizations, even withoutother converts, tenfold more dangerousthan they had ever been before.
THE MORAL INTERREGNUM.
It was in many respects a strange era;it justified the phrase which an eminentwriter had suggested for it,—of the “moralinterregnum.” Immersed in the cares ofprivate business, and chiefly actuated byan insatiable craving for money or the luxuryand social distinction which moneybrought, the majority of those men whoshould have been the