INCENDIARISM AND LABOR TROUBLES.
AS we anticipated would be the case, the prolonged strike of railroad employees in the West has led to rioting and bloodshed, followed by incendiarism that resulted in the destruction of much valuable railroad property. On Friday last, at East St. Louis, after a mob of strikers had broken up several trains of cars that the authorities were attempting to move, a force of deputy sheriffs was sent out to protect the trains, when they were jeered and stoned by the strikers. After submitting to this rough treatment for some time, the deputies finally fired into the mob, killing six persons and wounding several others. Great excitement followed, and there was danger that the strikers would arm and make a general assault upon railroad property and those who should attempt to protect it. This danger was averted by the influence of the leaders, but at night several trains of cars were set on fire and destroyed, together with one or two of the railroad buildings. The firemen of St. Louis were summoned, but the mob cut their hose, preventing them from putting the engines to work, and finally warned them away from the scene. As they were prevented from working, the firemen had nothing to do but to go home. On a subsequent appeal for assistance being made to the Mayor of St. Louis, he directed Assistant Chief Goss to report to the commander of the militia at East St. Louis, with instructions to render all the assistance he could with men and machinery if he was afforded protection by the troops.
The disturbances at St. Louis have passed the dimensions of a labor strike, and have reached the proportions of a civil outbreak that can only be put down by the military forces of the State. The Governor of Illinois has, after fatal delay, sent several companies of militia to East St. Louis, and these are now furnishing protection to railroad property. Their presence has thus far served to intimidate the strikers, but these threaten vengeance for the shooting of their comrades, and will lose no opportunity to bum and pillage when they can do so without fear of detection. Had the Governor of Illinois sent troops to the scene when he was first notified that the local authorities were unable to preserve order, the bloodshed of Friday would have undoubtedly been avoided. It will probably require the combined military forces of Illinois and Missouri to put down these disorders and enable the railroads to resume business. This is not a strike of workingmen for the purpose of redressing grievances for which they could find no other remedy—they have no grievances, but have combined to destroy the business of the railroads that have incurred their displeasure. The mob has sought to give the impression that the Knights of Labor are responsible for the strike, but the leaders of that organization distinctly say that it was not authorized by them, and that if they had been consulted no strike would have taken, place. A local branch of that order in Texas ordered the strike on one road, and their quarrel was taken up by the Missouri branch of the order, under the direction of a hot-headed and irresponsible man who happened to be at the head of it. Having gone so far, the Knights of Labor have been forced to assume responsibility for it, and the extent to which this attempt of labor to coerce capital and industry may be carried cannot be predicted. It is claimed that the order has over 500,000 members, and that they are to be found in almost every branch of productive industry; it is also claimed that they are so bound together by their obligations that if it should be deemed necessary, to carry out their purposes, for every member to leave his employment, they would all do so promptly on receiving an order to that effect. That this is not a vain boast has been shown during the progress of the several important strikes now in progress. While this remains true, capital is intimidated and industry must languish. Employers can have no confidence in their employees, and dare not make contracts or enter into any engagements for the future. Already this condition of things is reacting against the workingmen, for every day we read of contracts for production being refused by the managers of great industrial works, simply because they cannot trust their workmen to continue in their employ, or cannot be sure that they would not strike at a critical moment and leave them with unfinished contracts on their hands. According to the claims put forth by the Knights of ^abor, the employees of the woolen and cotton mills of New England, or the miners in the coal regions, or the workmen in the great agricultural works of the West, may be called upon to strike at any moment to enforce the demands of a little local assembly of the order down in Texas that fancies it has a grievance against some railroad. Of course, the managers of railroads or any other great industries cannot recognize with safety an organization that Assumes to dictate to them rules and regulations for the conduct of their business, for if they did, it might happen that the striking shoemakers of Lynn, Mass., in order to enforce their demands against their employers, might cause a strike on every railroad in the country and in almost every other branch of business. Capital and industry cannot be held in such peril, and until it is removed there can be no safety to the community. An organization that employs the boycott and approves of resistance to the law, even to the extent of armed hostility, sanctions rioting, bloodshed and incendiarism, cannot be tolerated in this country. Its methods are the worst form of despotism, and its principles of the rankest communistic order. It ignores alike the rights of capital to employ itself, and the rights of every laboring man who does not belong to the order. Claiming for its members the right to dictate the terms on which they shall be employed, it refuses to all other laboring men the same privilege, employing intimidation and force to prevent willing hands from doing the work they refuse to do. Their own motto, “ an injury to one is the concern of all,” is rendered farcical by the injuries they themselves heap upon their fellow workmen who do not choose to yield up their manhood into the keeping of the reckless leaders of the order, like Mr. Irons of Missouri, who ordered the railroad strike without authority, and who refused to obey the orders of his superiors in the organization when they directed him to order the strike “off” and the strikers to return to work.
Should this strike terminate at once, it will have inflicted an injury upon this country aggregating many millions of dollars, but the full extent of which cannot be estimated in dollars and cents. Every kind of business has been intimidated and injured to a greater or lesser extent, and a season that promised to be one of unusual prosperity has been changed into one full of conditions adverse to business activity; stagnation, bom of intimidation, has taken the place of business push and enterprise, and productive industry has received a check that cannot be removed until the Knights of Labor either cease to exist or eliminate from their practices all forms of intimidation. It is to be hoped that the issue raised by them will be fought out now to a final and decisive end; having gone so far and cost so much, it would be a great pity if it should be brought to an end without definitely settling the question that has got to be settled sooner or later, whether labor or capital and enterprise shall control the industries of the country.