4. Rick Sterling, 2017.
Numero Uno—“I communicate to Congress certain Documents, being a continuation of those heretofore laid before them, on the subject of our Affairs with Great Britain.
Without going back beyond the renewal in 1803, of the war in which Great Britain is engaged, and omitting unrepaired wrongs of inferior magnitude; the conduct of her Government presents a series of acts, hostile to the United States, as an Independent and neutral nation.
British cruisers have been in the continued practice of violating the American flag on the great high way of nations, and of seizing and carrying off persons sailing under it; not in the exercise of a Belligerent right founded on the Law of Nations against an Enemy; but of a municipal prerogative over British subjects. British jurisdiction is thus extended to neutral vessels in a situation where no laws can operate but the law of nations, and the laws of the Country to which the vessels belong; and a self-redress is assumed, which, if British subjects were wrongfully detained and alone concerned, is that substitution of force, for a resort to the responsible sovereign, which falls within the definition of War. Could the seizure of British subjects, in such cases, be regarded as within the exercise of a Belligerent right, the acknowledged laws of war, which forbid an article of captured property to be adjudged, without a regular investigation before a competent Tribunal, wound imperiously demand the fairest trial, where the sacred rights of persons were at issue. In place of such a trial, these rights are subjected to the will of every petty commander.
The practice, hence, is so far from affecting British subjects alone, that under the pretext of searching for these, thousands of American Citizens, under the safeguard of public law, and of their national flag, have been torn from their country and from everything dear to them; have been dragged on board ships of war of a foreign nation; and exposed, under the severities of their discipline, to be exiled to the most distant and deadly climes, to risk their lives in the battles of their oppressors, and to be the melancholy instruments of taking away those of their own brethren.
Against this crying enormity, which Great Britain would be so prompt to avenge if committed against herself, the United States have, in vain, exhausted remonstrances and expostulations: And that no proof might be wanting of their conciliatory dispositions, and no pretext left for a continuance of the practice, the British Government was formally assured of the readiness of the United States to enter into arrangements, such as could not be rejected, if the recovery of British subjects were real and sole object. The communication passed without effect.
British cruisers have been in the practice also of violating the rights and the peace of our Coasts. They hover over and harass our entering and departing commerce. To the most insulting pretensions, they have added the most lawless proceedings in our very harbors; and have wantonly split American blood, within the sanctuary of our territorial jurisdiction. The principles and rules enforced by that nation when a neutral nation, against armed vessels of Belligerents hovering near her coasts, and disturbing her commerce, are well known. When called on, nevertheless, by the United States to punish the greater offences committed by her own vessels, her Government has bestowed on their commanders, additional marks of honor and confidence.
Under pretended blockades, without the presence of an adequate force, and sometimes without the practicability of applying one, our commerce has been plundered in every Sea; the great staples of our Country have been cut off, from their legitimate markets; and a destructive blow aimed at our agricultural and maritime interests. In aggravation of these predatory measures, they have been considered as in force, from the dates of their notification; a retrospective effect being thus added, as has been done in other important cases, to the unlawfulness of the course pursued. And to render the outrage the more signal, these mock blockages, have been reiterated and enforced, in the face of official communications from the British Government declaring, as the true definition of a legal Blockade “that particular ports must be actually invested, and previous warning given to vessels bound to them, not to enter.”
Not content with these occasional expedients for laying waste our neutral trade, the cabinet of Great Britain resorted, at length, to the sweeping system of Blockades, under the name of orders in council; which has been moulded and managed, as might best suit its political views, its commercial jealousies, or the avidity of British cruisers.
To our remonstrances against the complicated and transcendent injustice of this innovation, the first reply was that the orders were reluctantly adopted by Great Britain, as a necessary retaliation on decrees of her Enemy proclaiming a general Blockade of the British Isles, at a time when the naval force of that Enemy dared not to issue from his own ports. She was reminded, without effect, that her own prior blockades, unsupported by an adequate naval force actually applied and continued, were a bar to this plea: that executed Edicts against millions of our property, could not be retaliation on Edicts, confessedly impossible to be executed: that retaliation to be just, should fall on the party setting the guilty example, not on an innocent party, which was not even chargeable with an acquiescence in it.
When deprived of this flimsy veil for a prohibition of our trade with her enemy, by the repeal of his prohibition of our trade with Great Britain; her Cabinet, instead of a corresponding repeal, or a practical discontinuance, of its orders, formally avowed a determination to persist in them against the United States, until the markets of her enemy should be laid open to British products: thus asserting an obligation on a neutral power to require one Belligerent to encourage, by its internal regulations, the trade of another Belligerent; contradicting her own practice towards all nations, in peace as well as in war; and betraying the insincerity of those professions, which inculcated a belief that having resorted to her orders with regret, she was anxious to find an occasion for putting an end to them.
Abandoning still more all respect for the neutral rights of the United States, and for its own consistency, the British Government now demands, as prerequisites to a repeal of its orders, as they relate to the United States, that a formality should be observed in the repeal of the French Decrees nowise necessary to their termination, nor exemplified by British usage; and that the French repeal, besides including that portion of the Decrees which operate within a territorial jurisdiction, as well as that which operates on the high seas against the commerce of the United States, should not be a single and special repeal in relation to the United States, but should be extended to whatever other neutral nations, unconnected with them, may be affected by those Decrees. And as an additional insult, they are called on for a formal disavowal of conditions and pretentions advanced by the French Government, for which the United States are so far from having made themselves responsible; that in official explanations, which have been published to the world, and in a correspondence of the American Minister at London with the British Minister for foreign affairs, such a responsibility was explicitly and emphatically disclaimed.
It has become indeed sufficiently certain, that the commerce of the United States is to be sacrificed, not as interfering with the Belligerent rights of Great Britain; not as supplying the wants of her enemies, which she herself supplies; but as interfering with the monopoly which she covets for her own commerce and navigation. She carries on a war against the lawful commerce of a friend, that she may the better carry on a commerce with an enemy; a commerce polluted by the forgeries and perjuries, which are, for the most part, the only passports by which it can succeed.
Anxious to make every experiment, short of the last resort of injured nations, the United States have withheld from Great Britain, under successive modifications, the benefits of a free intercourse with their market; the loss of which could not but outweigh the profits accruing from her restrictions of our commerce with other nations. And to entitle these experiments to the more favorable consideration, they were so framed, as to enable her to place her adversary under the exclusive operation of them. To these appeals her Government has been equally inflexible; as if willing to make sacrifices of every sort, rather than yield to the claims of justice, or renounce the errors of a false pride. Nay, so far were the attempts carried, to overcome the attachment of the British Cabinet to its unjust Edicts, that it received every encouragement within the competency of the Executive branch of our Government, to expect that a repeal of them would be followed by a war between the United States and France, unless the French Edicts should also be repealed. Even this communication, although silencing for ever the plea of a disposition in the United States to acquiesce in those Edicts, originally the sole plea for them, received no attention.
In no other proof existed of a predetermination of the British Government against a repeal of its orders, it might be found in the correspondence of the Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States at London and the British Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in 1810, on the question whether the Blockade of May 1806 was considered as in force, or as not in force. It had been ascertained that the French Government, which urged this Blockade as the ground of its Berlin Decree, was willing, in the event of its removal, to repeal that Decree; which being followed by alternate repeals of the other offensive Edicts, might abolish the whole system on both sides. This inviting opportunity for accomplishing an object so important to the United States, and professed so often to be the desire of both the Belligerents, was made known to the British Government. As that Government admits that an actual application of an adequate force is necessary to the existence of a legal Blockade, and it was notorious, that if such a force had ever been applied, its long discontinuance had annulled the blockade in question, there could be no sufficient objection on the part of a Great Britain to a formal revocation of it; and no imaginable objection to a declaration of the fact, that the Blockade did not exist. The declaration would have been consistent with the avowed principles of Blockade; and would have enabled the United States to demand from France the pledged repeal of her Decree; either with success, in which case the way would have been opened for a general repeal of the Belligerent Edicts; or without success, in which case the United States would have been justified in turning their measures exclusively against France. The British Government would, however, neither rescind the Blockade, nor declare its non-existence; nor permit its non-existence to be inferred and affirmed by the American Plenipotentiary. On the contrary by representing the Blockade to be comprehended in the orders in Council, the United States were compelled so to regard it, in their subsequent proceedings.
There was a period when a favorable change in the policy of the British Cabinet, was justly considered as established. The Minister Plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty here proposed an adjustment of the differences more immediately endangering the harmony of the two Countries. The proposition was accepted with the promptitude and cordiality corresponding with the invariable professions of this Government. A foundation appeared to be laid for a sincere and lasting reconciliation. The prospect, however, quickly vanished. The whole proceeding was disavowed by the British Government, without any explanation which could, at that time, repress the belief, that the disavowal proceeded from a spirit of hostility to the commercial rights and prosperity of the United States. And it has since come into proof, that at the very moment, when the public Minister was holding the language of friendship, and inspiring confidence in the sincerity of the negociation with which he was charged, a secret agent of his Government was employed in intrigues, having for their object, a subversion of our Government, and a dismemberment of our happy union.
In reviewing the conduct of Great Britain towards the United States, our attention is necessarily drawn to the warfare just renewed by the Savages, on one of our extensive frontiers; a warfare which is known to spare neither age nor sex, and to be distinguished by features peculiarly shocking to humanity. It is difficult to account for the activity, and combinations, which have for some time been developing themselves among tribes in constant intercourse with British traders and garrisons, without connecting their hostility with that influence; and without recollecting the authenticated examples of such interpositions, heretofore furnished by the officers and agents of that Government.
Such is the spectacle of injuries and indignities which have been heaped on our Country: and such the crisis which its unexampled forbearance and conciliatory efforts have not been able to avert. It might at least have been expected, that an enlightened nation, if less urged by moral obligations, or invited by friendly dispositions on the part of the United States would have found, in its true interest alone, a sufficient motive to respect their rights and their tranquility on the high seas; that an enlarged policy would have favored that free and general circulation of commerce, in which the British nation is at all times interested, and which in times of war, is the best alleviation of its calamities to herself, as well as to other Belligerents; and more especially, that the British Cabinet, would not, for the sake of a precarious and surreptitious intercourse with hostile markets, have persevered in a course of measures, which necessarily put at hazard in invaluable market of a great and growing Country, disposed to cultivate the mutual advantages of an active commerce.
Other Councils have prevailed. Our moderation and conciliation, have had no other effect than to encourage perseverance, and to enlarge pretensions. We behold our Seafaring Citizens still the daily victims of lawless violence, committed on the great common and highway of nations, even within sight of the Country which owes them protection. We behold our vessels, freighted with the products of our soil and industry, or returning with the honest proceeds of them, wrested from their lawful destinations, confiscated by prize Courts no longer the organs of public law, but the instruments of arbitrary Edicts; and their unfortunate crews dispersed and lost, or forced, or inveigled in British ports, into British fleets: whilst arguments are employed, in support of these aggressions, which have no foundation but in a principle equally supporting a claim, to regulate our external commerce, in all cases whatsoever.
We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain a state of War against the United States; and on the side of the United States, a state of peace towards Great Britain.
Whether the United States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpations, and these accumulating wrongs; or, opposing force to force in defense of their national rights, shall commit a just cause into the hands of the almighty disposer of events; avoiding all connections which might entangle it in the contest or views of other powers, and preserving a constant readiness to concur in an honorable re-establishment of peace and friendship, is a solemn question, which the Constitution wisely confides to the Legislative Department of the Government. In recommending it to their early deliberations, I am happy in the assurance, that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic councils, of a virtuous, a free and a powerful Nation.
Having presented this view of the relations of the United States with Great Britain, and of the solemn alternative growing out of them, I proceed to remark, that the communications last made to Congress, on the subject of our relations with France will have shown, that since the revocation of her Decrees, as they violated the neutral rights of the United States, her Government has authorized illegal captures, by its privateers and public ships: and that other outrages have been practiced, on our vessels and our citizens. It will have been seen also, that no indemnity had been provided or satisfactorily pledged, for the expensive spoliations committed under the violent and retrospective orders of the French Government, against the property of our Citizens seized within the jurisdiction of France.
I abstain, at this time, from recommending to the consideration of Congress, definitive measures with respect to that nation, in the expectation, that the result of unclosed discussions between our Minister Plenipotentiary of Paris and the French government, will speedily enable Congress to decide, with greater advantage, on the course due to the rights, the interests, and the honor of our Country.” James Madison, “War Message to Congress;” 1812
Numero Dos—“Could we choose our environment, and were desire in human undertakings synonymous with endowment, all men would, I suppose, be optimists. Certainly most of us regard happiness as the proper end of all earthly enterprise. The will to be happy animates alike the philosopher, the prince and the chimney-sweep. No matter how dull, or how mean, or how wise a man is, he feels that happiness is his indisputable right.It is curious to observe what different ideals of happiness people cherish, and in what singular places they look for this well-spring of their life. Many look for it in the hoarding of riches, some in the pride of power, and others in the achievements of art and literature; a few seek it in the exploration of their own minds, or in the search for knowledge.
Most people measure their happiness in terms of physical pleasure and material possession. Could they win some visible goal which they have set on the horizon, how happy they would be! Lacking this gift or that circumstance, they would be miserable. If happiness is to be so measured, I who cannot hear or see have every reason to sit in a corner with folded hands and weep. If I am happy in spite of my deprivations, if my happiness is so deep that it is a faith, so thoughtful that it becomes a philosophy of life,—if, in short, I am an optimist, my testimony to the creed of optimism is worth hearing. As sinners stand up in meeting and testify to the goodness of God, so one who is called afflicted may rise up in gladness of conviction and testify to the goodness of life.
Once I knew the depth where no hope was, and darkness lay on the face of all things. Then love came and set my soul free. Once I knew only darkness and stillness. Now I know hope and joy. Once I fretted and beat myself against the wall that shut me in. Now I rejoice in the consciousness that I can think, act and attain heaven. My life was without past or future; death, the pessimist would say, “a consummation devoutly to be wished.” But a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living. Night fled before the day of thought, and love and joy and hope came up in a passion of obedience to knowledge. Can anyone who has escaped such captivity, who has felt the thrill and glory of freedom, be a pessimist?
My early experience was thus a leap from bad to good. If I tried, I could not check the momentum of my first leap out of the dark; to move breast forward is a habit learned suddenly at that first moment of release and rush into the light. With the first word I used intelligently, I learned to live, to think, to hope. Darkness cannot shut me in again. I have had a glimpse of the shore, and can now live by the hope of reaching it.
So my optimism is no mild and unreasoning satisfaction. A poet once said I must be happy because I did not see the bare, cold present, but lived in a beautiful dream. I do live in a beautiful dream; but that dream is the actual, the present,—not cold, but warm; not bare, but furnished with a thousand blessings. The very evil which the poet supposed would be a cruel disillusionment is necessary to the fullest knowledge of joy. Only by contact with evil could I have learned to feel by contrast the beauty of truth and love and goodness.
It is a mistake always to contemplate the good and ignore the evil, because by making people neglectful it lets in disaster. There is a dangerous optimism of ignorance and indifference. It is not enough to say that the twentieth century is the best age in the history of mankind, and to take refuge from the evils of the world in skyey dreams of good. How many good men, prosperous and contented, looked around and saw naught but good, while millions of their fellowmen were bartered and sold like cattle! No doubt, there were comfortable optimists who thought Wilberforce a meddlesome fanatic when he was working with might and main to free the slaves. I distrust the rash optimism in this country that cries, “Hurrah, we’re all right! This is the greatest nation on earth,” when there are grievances that call loudly for redress. That is false optimism. Optimism that does not count the cost is like a house builded on sand. A man must understand evil and be acquainted with sorrow before he can write himself an optimist and expect others to believe that he has reason for the faith that is in him.
I know what evil is. Once or twice I have wrestled with it, and for a time felt its chilling touch on my life; so I speak with knowledge when I say that evil is of no consequence, except as a sort of mental gymnastic. For the very reason that I have come in contact with it, I am more truly an optimist. I can say with conviction that the struggle which evil necessitates is one of the greatest blessings. It makes us strong, patient, helpful men and women. It lets us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to coöperate with the good, that it may prevail. I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best a part of my life. The world is sown with good; but unless I turn my glad thoughts into practical living and till my own field, I cannot reap a kernel of the good.
Thus my optimism is grounded in two worlds, myself and what is about me. I demand that the world be good, and lo, it obeys. I proclaim the world good, and facts range themselves to prove my proclamation overwhelmingly true. To what is good I open the doors of my being, and jealously shut them against what is bad. Such is the force of this beautiful and wilful conviction, it carries itself in the face of all opposition. I am never discouraged by absence of good. I never can be argued into hopelessness. Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.
As my college days draw to a close, I find myself looking forward with beating heart and bright anticipations to what the future holds of activity for me. My share in the work of the world may be limited; but the fact that it is work makes it precious. Nay, the desire and will to work is optimism itself.
Two generations ago Carlyle flung forth his gospel of work. To the dreamers of the Revolution, who built cloud-castles of happiness, and, when the inevitable winds rent the castles asunder, turned pessimists—to those ineffectual Endymions, Alastors and Werthers, this Scots peasant, man of dreams in the hard, practical world, cried aloud his creed of labor. “Be no longer a Chaos, but a World. Produce! produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fraction of a product, produce it, in God’s name! ’Tis the utmost thou hast in thee; out with it, then. Up, up! whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy whole might. Work while it is called To-day; for the Night cometh wherein no man may work.”
Some have said Carlyle was taking refuge from a hard world by bidding men grind and toil, eyes to the earth, and so forget their misery. This is not Carlyle’s thought. “Fool!” he cries, “the Ideal is in thyself; the Impediment is also in thyself. Work out the Ideal in the poor, miserable Actual; live, think, believe, and be free!” It is plain what he says, that work, production, brings life out of chaos, makes the individual a world, an order; and order is optimism.
I, too, can work, and because I love to labor with my head and my hands, I am an optimist in spite of all. I used to think I should be thwarted in my desire to do something useful. But I have found out that though the ways in which I can make myself useful are few, yet the work open to me is endless. The gladdest laborer in the vineyard may be a cripple. Even should the others outstrip him, yet the vineyard ripens in the sun each year, and the full clusters weigh into his hand. Darwin could work only half an hour at a time; yet in many diligent half-hours he laid anew the foundations of philosophy. I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. It is my service to think how I can best fulfil the demands that each day makes upon me, and to rejoice that others can do what I cannot. Green, the historian, tells us that the world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker; and that thought alone suffices to guide me in this dark world and wide. I love the good that others do; for their activity is an assurance that whether I can help or not, the true and the good will stand sure.
I trust, and nothing that happens disturbs my trust. I recognize the beneficence of the power which we all worship as supreme—Order, Fate, the Great Spirit, Nature, God. I recognize this power in the sun that makes all things grow and keeps life afoot. I make a friend of this indefinable force, and straightway I feel glad, brave and ready for any lot Heaven may decree for me. This is my religion of optimism.” Helen Keller, “Optimism Within;” Optimism: An Essay, 1903
Colorado coal-strike, and so began one of the most sensational
episodes of my life. It is a long story, but I shall tell it in
full, because it is not a personal story, but a story of eleven
thousand miners with their wives and children, living in
slavery in lonely mountain fortresses, making a desperate
fight for the rights of human beings, atid crushed back into
their slave-pens by all the agencies of capitalist repression.I had been to Colorado, and knew intimately the conditions.
Now the strike was. on, and the miners and their families
living in tent-colonies had been raided, beaten, shot up by
gun-men. Finally a couple of machine-guns had been turned
loose on them, their tent-colony at Ludlow had been burned,
and three women and fourteen children had been suffocated
to death. I sat in Carnegie Hall, New York City, amid an
audience of three thousand people, and listened to an account
of these conditions by eye-witnesses; next morning I opened
the newspapers, and found an account in the New York
Call, a Socialist paper, and two inches in the New York
World — ^and not a line in any other New York paper!
I talked over the problem with my wife, and we agreed
that something must be done to break this conspiracy of
silence. I had trustworthy information to the effect that
young Rockefeller was in charge of what was going on in
Colorado, though he was vigorously denying it at this time,
and continued to deny it until the Walsh commission pub-
lished his letters and telegrams to his representatives in
Denver. Evidently, therefore, Mr. Rockefeller was the shin-
ing mark at which we must aim. It happened that one of
the speakers at the Carnegie Hall meeting had been Mrs.
Laura G. Cannon, whose husband was an organizer for the
United Mine Workers, and had been thrown into jail by the
militia and kept there without warrant or charge for a con-
siderable time. So we called on Mrs. Cannon to go with us
to the offices of Mr. Rockefeller.
We were received by a polite secretary, to whom we de-
livered a carefully phrased letter, asking Mr. Rockefeller to
meet Mrs. Cannon, and hear at first hand what she had per-
sonally witnessed of the strike. We were invited to come
back an hour later for our reply, and we came, and were
informed that Mr. Rockefeller would not see us. So we
presented a second letter, prepared in advance, to the effect
that if he persisted in his refusal to see us, we should consider
ourselves obligated to indict him for murder before the bar
of public opinion. To this letter the polite secretary in-
formed us, not quite so politely, there was “no answer.”
What was to be done now? I had learned by experience
that it would be necessary to do something sensational. An
indignation meeting in Carnegie Hall, attended by three
thousand people, was not enough. At first I thought that I
would go to young Mr. Rockefeller’s office and watch for
him in the hall,~and give him a horse-whipping. But this
would have been hard on me, because’ I am constitutionally
opposed to violence, and I did not think Mr. Rockefeller worth
such a sacrifice of my feelings. What I wanted was some-
thing that would be picturesque and dramatic, but would not
involve violence; and finally I hit on the idea of inviting a
group of people to put bands of crepe around their arms, and
to walk up aiid down in front of 26 Broadway in dead silence,
to symbolize our grief for the dead women and children of
Ludlow. I called a group of radicals to discuss the project;
also I called the newspaper reporters.
Picketing, except in labor strikes, was a new thing at that
time, though the suffragists have since made it familiar. The
novelty of the thing, plus the fact that it was being done
by a group of well-known people, furnished that element of
sensation which is necessary if radical news is to be forced
into the papers. A dozen reporters attended our meeting
at the Liberal Club, and next morning the newspapers re-
ported the proceedings in full.
So at ten o’clock, when I repaired to 26 Broadway, I found
a great crowd of curious people who had read of the matter ;
also, a number of reporters and camera-men. The reporters
swarmed about me and besought me for interviews, but ac-
cording to agreement I refused to speak a word, and began
simply to walk up and down on the sidewalk. I was joined
by three ladies who had been present at the meeting of the
night before, one of them Elizabeth Freeman, a well-known
suffragette. A number of others had promised to come^ but
apparently had thought better of it in the cold light of the
morning after. However, the deficit was made up by a lady,
a stranger to us all, who had read about the matter that
morning, and had hastily made herself a white flag with a
bleeding heart, and now stood on the steps of 36 Broadway,
shrieking my name at the top of her voice. It had been agreed
that the “mourning pickets” were all to preserve silence, and
to make no demonstration except the band of crepe agreed
upon. But alas, we had no control over the actions of this
Of course there were a number of policemen on hand,
and very soon they informed me that I must stop walking
up and down. I explained politely that I had made inquiry and
ascertained that I was breaking no law in walking on the
sidewalk in silence; therefore I didn’t intend to stop. So I
was placed under arrest, and likewise the four ladies. We
were taken to the station-house, where I found myself con-
fronting the sergeant at the desk, and surrounded by a dozen
reporters with note-books. The sergeant was considerate, arid
let me tell the entire story of the Colorado coal-strike, and
what I thought about it; the pencils of the reporters flew,
and a couple of hours later, when the first edition of the after-
noon newspapers made their appearance on the street, every
one of them had three or four columns of what I had said.
Such a little thing, you see! You just have to get yourself
arrested, and instantly the concrete-walls turn into news-
There is one detail to be recorded about this particular
action of the news-channels. The United Press, which is a
liberal organization, sent out a perfectly truthful account of
what had happened. The Associated Press,’ which is a re:-
actionary organization, sent out a false account, stating ‘that
my wife had been arrested. My wife, knowing how this
report would shock her family and friends in the South, sent
a special delivery letter to the Associated Press calling their I
attention to the error, but the Associated Press did not correct;
the error, nor did it reply to this letter. My wife’s mother,]
an old-fashioned Southern lady, took the first train out of
Mississippi, to rescue her child from jail and from disgrace;
but by the time the good lady reached New York, she was so
ill with grief and shame that if her child had really been in
jail she could have rendered but little assistance. All she
could do was to inform her that even though she was not in
jail, her father had disinherited her after reading his morning
paper. My wife was informed by lawyers that she was in
position to collect large damages from the Associated Press,
and from every newspaper which had printed the false report.
Some thirty suits were filed, but my wife’s health did not
permit her to go on with them.
We were taken to the Tombs prison, where the ladies
sang the Marseillaise, and I wrote a poem entitled “The Mar-
seillaise in the Tombs,” and again found it possible to have
my poetry published in the New York newspapers! The
magistrate who tried us was an agreeable little gentleman,
who allowed us to talk without limit — ^the talk all being taken
down by the reporters. The charge against us read “using
threatening, abusive and insulting behavior.” The witnesses
were the policemen, who testified that my conduct had been
“that of a perfect gentleman.” Nevertheless we were found
guilty, and fined three dollars, and refused to pay the fine, and
went back to the Tombs.
The newspapers tore me to pieces for my “clownish con-
duct,” but I managed to keep cheerful, because I saw that
they were publishing the news about the Colorado coal-strike,
which before they had banned from their columns. The “New
York World,” for example, published a sneering editorial
entitled, “Pink-tea Martyrdom.” “No genuine desire to effect
a reform actuates them, but only morbid craving for notoriety.”
But at the same time the “World” sent a special correspondent
to the coal-fields, and during the entire time of our demon-
stration and for a couple of weeks thereafter they published
every day from half a column to a column of news about the
Several of these reporters were men of conscience. One, Isaac Russell of the “Times,” became our friend, and day after dky he would tell us of his struggles in the “Times” office, and how nearly every word favorable to myself or to the strikers was blue-penciled from ^ his story.
So during this Broadway demonstration, and the affair in Tarrytown which followed it, we lived, as it were, on the inside of the “Times” office, and watched the process of strangling the news. We have seen the tears come into Russell’s eyes as he told about what was done. And on top of it all, Mr. Adolph Ochs gave a banquet to the “Times” staff, to celebrate some anniversary of the paper, and got up and made a speech to them — a speech to Isaac Russell ! — ^telling what a wonderful institution he had made out of the “Times,” and how it stood consecrated to the public welfare and the service of the truth!
P. S. — Isaac Russell reads the above, and corrects one serious error. He writes in emphatic capitals: “WE REPORTERS PAID FOR THAT DINNER !” …
It must be understood that at this time the Colorado coal- strike had been going on for six or seven months. Most of the tent Colonies had been broken up, and the miners were being slowly starved into submission.
To one who comes into close touch with such a situation and realizes its human meanings, it becomes an intolerable nightmare, a slow murder committed in a buried, dungeon. My mail was full of letters from the miners and their leaders, and I went out to Colorado to see what else could be done to reach the consciences of the American people.
I arrived in Denver at a time when the first public fury over the Ludlow massacre had spent itself, and silence had once more been clamped down upon the newspapers. I spoke at a mass meeting in the State capitol, attended by one or two thousand people, and when I called on the audience to pledge itself never to permit the prostituted State militia to go back into the coal districts, I think every person in the legislative chamber raised his hand and took the pledge.
Yet not a line about my speech was published in any Denver newspaper next morning, and needless to say, not a line was sent out by the Associated Press. The Associated Press was playing here precisely the same part it had played with the “condemned meat industry;” that is, it was a concrete wall. I have now to tell about a thorough test of this leading agency of capitalist repression. I consider the incident the most important which this book contains, and therefore I shall tell it in detail.
By far the greater part of the news which the American people absorb about the outside world comes through the Associated Press, and the news they get is, of course, the raw material of their thought. If the news is colored or doctored, then public opinion is betrayed and the national life is corrupted at its source. There is no more important question to be considered by the American people than the question. Is the Associated Press fair? Does it transmit the news?
Some time previous to the Colorado coal-strike I had attended a dinner of the Socialist Press Club, at which the question of dishonest newspapers was debated, and one of the speakers was Mr. Fabian Franklin, then editor of the. “Evening Post,” an amiable old gentleman who quite naively referred to the Associated Press as he would have referred to the Holy Trinity. He told of some radical friend of his who had pointed out that the Associated Press had circulated the news of a defeat of the Initiative and Referendum in Oregon, and subsequently, when the Initiative and Referendum had been victorious, had failed to report the victory.
“Just think of it!” said this amiable old gentleman. “My radical friend actually believed that the Associated Press would have some motive in suppressing news about the success of the Initiative and Referendum in Oregon!” I was called upon to answer this argument. I quote from an account of the discussion in the “New York Call”: Sinclair was saying that when the fusion of capitalism beat Seidel (Socialist) in Milwaukee, the wires were full of it, but when Duncan (Socialist) beat a fusion in Butte, the press was as silent as the tomb.
Franklin said that it was merely that Butte had no news value, while Milwaukee, “Schlitz beer — everybody wants to know about Milwaukee/’. Incidentally I might mention in passing that this amiable old gentleman, Mr. Fabian Franklin, who thinks that the Associated Press would be incapable of suppressing news about a triumph of the Initiative and Referendum, and that it would naturally send out political news about Milwaukee be- cause Schlitz beer is made in Milwaukee, has just recently been selected by a group of reactionaries to conduct a weekly organ of safety and sanity, “The Review.” The reader will be able from the above anecdote to form an idea of the intellectual status of Mr. Franklin, and the likelihood of his having anything worth while to say to the American people in this greatest crisis of history!
Shortly afterwards came the case of the “Masses,” which published a cartoon representing the president of the Associated Press as pouring a bottle labeled “Poison” into a reservoir entitled “Public Opinion.” The Associated Press caused the arrest of Max Eastman and Art Young on a charge of criminal libel. They knew that by starting such a proceeding they would gain an opportunity of propaganda, and of this they hastened to make use.
They issued an elaborate statement attacking the “Masses” and defending their own attitude toward the news, which statement was published in practically every paper in New York. I remember particularly that our organ of civic virtue, the “New York Evening Post,” published it in full. It included this sort of “dope”: If these young men had investigated before they spoke, they would never have said what they did; for if there is a clean thing in the United States it is the Associated Press.
The personnel of the service is made up as a whole of newspaper men of the finest type; throughout the profession employment in its service is regarded as an evidence of character and reliability. No general policy of suppression or distortion could be carried on without the knowledge and indeed the active connivance of these men, stationed at strategic points all over the world. Aside from that, the Associated Press has the active competition of several other aggressive press associations, and thousands of special correspondents, and any laxity or deliberate failure on its part would be exposed instantly to its members, who would be quick to resent and punish any such procedure.
These members, some nine hundred in number, represent every shade of political and economic opinion, and it is absurd to suppose that a general policy of distortion or suppression could be carried on without immediate exposure. The editors of the “Masses,” of course, proceeded to collect evidence, and the Associated Press must have realized very quickly that they were in for serious trouble.
They caused a subservient district attorney to bring another indictment, charging libel against the individual who had been portrayed in the cartoon: the purpose of the change being that they hoped to exclude from the trial all evidence against the Associated Press as an organization, and to force the “Masses” to prove that this one individual had had personal knowledge of each instance of news suppression and perversion.
Gilbert E. Roe, who was preparing the case for the “Masses,” asked me to tell him of my experiences with the Associated Press, and in talking the matter over he explained what would be required to constitute legal evidence of the suppression of news. I had no such legal evidence in the case of the “condemned meat industry,” because I had not kept copies of my letters to the Associated Press, and I had not kept the clippings of what they actually did send out on the story.
I promised Mr. Roe that the next time I went to the bat with the “A. P.,” I would take pains to get proper evidence; and now in Denver I came suddenly upon my opportunity. I got real legal evidence, and the Associated Press knows that I got it, and I have been told that because of this they will never again dare to bring radicals into court, or to defend the thesis that they handle the news impartially. In my challenge I deliberately repeated the words for use of which the “Masses” editors were indicted, as follows: I now, over my own signature and as a deliberate challenge, charge that the Associated Press has poisoned the news of the Colorado situation at its source. Will the owners and managers of the Associated Press take up this challenge and make an attempt to send me to prison?
I am waiting, gentlemen, for your answer. This was published May 30, 1914, and I am still waiting. I made every effort, both public and private, to get this answer. I besieged the Associated Press and also the Associated Press newspapers, but no answer could be had, so I think I may fairly say that the Associated Press admitted its guilt in this case.
The story, first published in the “Appeal to Reason,” was written within a few hours of the events narrated, and gave all the documents. With the addition of a few explanations, made necessary by the lapse of time, the story is given unchanged in the next two chapters. It is a long story, but it will repay study, for there are few narratives of recent events which take you quite so far into the “inside,” or reveal quite so clearly how Politics, Journalism, and Big Business work hand in hand for the hoodwinking of the public and the plundering of labor. I urge the reader to follow the narrative carefully, for every detail is necessary to the proper comprehension of the plot. …
The crux of the struggle in Denver during these critical
months was the State militia. This militia had been called
out and sent to the strike-field because of violence deliberately
and systematically committed by the armed thugs of the Bald-
win-Felts Detective Agency. There were one or two thousand
of these thugs in the field, and they had beaten up the strikers
and their wives, and turned machine-guns upon their tent-
colonies. The militia had come, supposedly to restore law and
order, but the militia authorities had proceeded to recruit new
companies from among these detectives and thugs. This was
systematically denied by the newspapers, not merely in
Colorado, but all over the country; later on, however, the
State legislature forced the production of the roster of the
militia, and it appeared that of one single company, newly
recruited, one hundred and nineteen members out of one
hundred and twenty-two had been employes of the strike-
breaking agencies, and had continued on the pay-rolls of th(
coal-companies while serving in the State militia! They had
been armed by the State, qlothed in the uniform of the State,
covered by the flag of the State — and turned loose to commit
the very crimes they were supposed to be preventing! The
culmination of this perversion of government had been the
Ludlow Massacre, which drove the miners to frenzy. There
had been a miniature revolution in Colorado ; armed working-
men had taken possession of the coal-country, and the helpless
State government had appealed to the Federal authorities to
send in Federal troops.
The Federal troops had come, and the miners had loyally obeyed them. From the hour that the first regulars appeared, no shot was fired in the whole region. The Federal authorities preserved law and order, and meantime the State legislature was called to deal with the situation. This State legislature was composed of hand-picked machine politicians, and all its orders were given from the offices of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, Senator Van Tilborg, machine-leader, personally declared to me his opinion that all the State needed was ‘three hundred men who could shoot straight and quick.’ The State authorities meant to find these three hundred men; they passed a bill appropriating a million dollars for military purposes, and another bill providing for the disarming of all people in the State who were not in the service of the corporations.
The strike at this time had continued for seven months, and the strikers were in their tent-colonies, sullenly awaiting developments. The program of the corporations was to strengthen the State militia, then have it take charge and maintain itself by machine-guns. The attitude of the general public to this proposition may be gathered from the mass-meeting in the State capitol, where one or two thousand people raised their hands and pledged themselves that they would never permit the prostituted militia to go back to the mines.
So stood the situation on Saturday, May 16, 1914, the day the State legislature was scheduled to adjourn. President Wilson, who had sent in the Federal troops reluctantly, was waiting in Washington to see what measures the State authorities would take to put an end to the prevailing civil war. By Saturday morning he had come to realize that no adequate measures were being taken, and he sent from Washington a telegram to Governor Ammons of Colorado:
Am disturbed to hear of the probability of the adjournment of your legislature, and feel bound to remind you that my constitutional obligations with regard to the maintenance of order in Colorado are not to be indefinitely continued by the inaction of the State legislature. The Federal forces are there only until the State of Colorado has time and opportunity to resume complete sovereignty and control in the matter. I cannot conceive that the State is willing to forego her sovereignty, or to throw herself entirely upon the government of the United States, and I am quite clear that she has no constitutional right to do so when it is within the power of her legislature to take effective action.
And now begins a story of political crookedness, the like of which had never come under my personal observation. I had been in Denver four days, and had opportunity to meet a score of people who knew the situation intimately, and who were able to put me on the ‘inside.’ So I can invite you into the Governor’s private office at eleven o’clock on Saturday morning, when the above telegram from President Wilson arrived. First, let me describe this Governor, as I wrote about him in the Denver Express: I went yesterday afternoon to see your Governor. I wish to be Very careful what I say of him. He is apparently a kindly man; in intellectual caliber fitted for the duties of a Sunday-School superintendent in a small village. He is one of the most pitiful figures it has ever been my fate to encounter. He pleaded with me that he was a ranchman, a workingman, that he was ignorant about such matters as mines.
When I pointed out to him that, according to government figures, there were twelve times as many miners killed and injured by accidents in the southern Colorado fields as elsewhere, his only answer was that he had heard some vague statement to the effect that conditions were different in other places. He pleaded tearfully that he had brought upon himself the hatred of everyone, he admitted that he was utterly bewildered, and had no idea what to do in this crisis. His every word made evident his utter ignorance of the_ economic forces which have produced this frightful situation. He cried out for some solution; yet, every time that I sought to suggest a solution, and to pin him down to a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ upon a certain course_ of action, he lost control of himself and cried out that I was trying to make him “‘xpress an opinion.’
He, the Governor of the State, had no business to have opinions about such a dispute! It is no accident, of course, that a man of this type comes to be governor of a State like Colorado. The corporations deliberately select such men because they wish to be let alone, and they prefer men who are too weak to interfere with them, even if they wish to interfere. So now at eleven o’clock on Saturday morning this poor pitiful Governor sends for his advisors — the leaders of the hand-picked machine majority in the State legislature.
What is to be done? If the President’s telegram is sent to the legislature, it may refuse to adjourn, and insist upon considering the President’s demand. Therefore, at all hazards, the telegram must be suppressed. Also, it must be sent to the coal-operators in the city, in order that they may consult and tell the Governor what reply to make to the President. All the newspaper men in Denver knew the names of the two men who took the message about to the operators. It was considered by the operators for three or four hours, and a reply drafted and sent; and meantime desperate efforts were made by the machine leaders to obtain the adjournment of the legislature.
The reply drafted by the operators and sent by the Governor was as follows: Hon. Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, Washington: _ I regret exceedingly that you have been misinformed. The legislature has just passed an act, which I have approved, providing for a bond issue of one million dollars for the purpose of paying the indebtedness which has been incurred and which may be incurred in suppressing insurrection and defending the State. As soon as these bonds can be issued, these funds will be available and this State can and will control the situation. This is the only constitutional method of raising funds in immediate future. In addition to this act the legislature has enacted a law permitting the Governor to close saloons in time of disorder, and also a law prohibiting the carrying and disposition of firearms in time of disorder. Moreover, a committee on mediation on the present strike has been provided for and appointed.” Upton Sinclair, The Brass Check; the story of the author’s engagement with the Colorado Coal Strike, 1919
Numero Cuatro—“The former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, is 87 years old but still sharp. He told a delegation of 30 Americans in a two-week visit to Russia organized by the Center for Citizen Initiatives, ‘This is a time to be concerned. We should worry about relations between our two countries. … Things cannot continue as they are.’
President Gorbachev recalled his initial meetings with President Reagan, which came after six years of poor relations and hostility. In the first summit meeting, Reagan issued a long list of accusations against the Soviet Union; Gorbachev responded with his own accusations against the U.S. After that meeting Gorbachev said ‘He’s not a hawk; he’s a dinosaur’ while Reagan said about Gorbachev ‘He’s a die-hard communist.’
At the next summit meeting, Reagan continued lecturing Gorbachev. After listening for 15 minutes. Gorbachev stopped Reagan saying, ‘That’s enough. If you want to talk as equals we can go very far. Differences can be bridged. Problems can be resolved. But as equals.’
Reagan asked how the Soviet Union would respond if the United States was at risk because of some kind of natural calamity. When Gorbachev said his people would want to help, not take advantage, the mood changed.
Gorbachev recalled his own friendly experience talking with average Americans. He suggested that perhaps the U.S. needs its own perestroika. He reminded us that it was President John F Kennedy who said ‘We need peace but not a Pax Americana ….. not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women.’
Gorbachev continued saying, “The current situation is not right. We need to change that. Let us stop provoking each other. Let us stop trying to tear up other countries. …. Our two countries are still central to world peace. We need peace in order to resolve other world problems. One percent of the world controls 90 percent of the wealth. The ruling class is happy with this but things cannot continue as they are. … Budgets smell of gunpowder. … Fear is being cultivated. This is resulting in a new arms race.”
Gorbachev asked, “Does the USA want Russia to just submit?” Referring to Russia’s history with invasions by France in the early 1800s and Germany in the 1940s, he explained “This is a country that can never submit…. There will be no winners in a nuclear war.”
The Ukraine Crisis
The 30-member delegation has been having informative meetings with numerous people to gain a better understanding of modern Russia and its relations with the United States and the world. Another especially interesting meeting was held with Vladimir Kozin, member of the Russian Academy of Military Science.
Vladimir Kozin is an arms control specialist and member of the Russian Academy of Military Science who has worked on arms control issues since the 1970s. Kozin says that Russians see themselves being encircled by NATO. Of the 16 countries bordering Russia, eight have anti-Russia sentiments. He notes that the U.S. military budget is 12 times greater than that of Russia and increasing.
Kozin said it is a “fairy tale” that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. What is NOT a fairy tale, he said, is that the U.S. has spent a huge amount of money to influenceRussian elections in the past and funded 400 Non-Governmental Organizations (or NGOs), which were part of the destabilization campaign in Ukraine leading to the 2014 coup.
Regarding key conflict points emerging from the Ukraine crisis, Kozin noted that Crimea was part of Russia since 1783. He added that the despite the presence of 16,000 Russian troops (who were in Crimea as part of the Sevastopol naval base agreement) and 18,000 Ukrainian troops, the Crimea plebiscite to re-unify with Russia was handled without violence, with huge turnout and overwhelming vote in favor.
As for hostilities in eastern Ukraine, Kozin asked why this fighting has happened just because the largely ethnic Russian population resisted the overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych and demanded some form of autonomy from Kiev.
If Scotland can consider secession from the United Kingdom and Catalonia from Spain, he argued, what’s wrong with Donbass (eastern Ukraine) wanting more autonomy within Ukraine? Why has Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko turned to military conflict instead of negotiating with the dissidents in eastern Ukraine?
Kozin believes it is vital to have an arms control summit meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin. He thinks we should work toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons by 2045. In the meantime, the easiest way to reduce tension and the risk of war would be an agreement on ‘No First Use of Nuclear Weapons,’ he said.
In a sober assessment of Trump’s first 100 days as President, Kozin concluded, ‘Aggravating these facts of life is the deep degree of mistrust between Washington and Moscow, which the Americans spawned and have continued to nurse. A vicious circle has emerged in the interrelationship between weapons and trust … Clearly such an irrational phenomenon cannot go on indefinitely.’
From both Kozin and Gorbachev the message was clear: We need to do something to restore discussion and stop the slide toward ever greater tension and danger.” Rick Sterling, “Gorbachev Warns of Growing Danger;” Consortium News, 2017