People's History: Labor 1830-80 (Chap 10)

Music: Female Choir

Is history about the heroes, leaders, great
accomplishments and victories that resonate
throughout the ages? Or the masses: women, men,
and children toiling, falling back, and then
returning to the field or factory,
constructing nations in obscurity.

Jacksonian Democracy aimed rhetoric
at common people, while the body politic
was mollified by promises and perks
and patronage. For most, essential public works
were nonexistent -- filthy water, mounds of waste
"alive with rats" as modern business, in its haste
for tariffs, open markets, eminent domain,
and labor policy, endeavored to restrain
the working man and woman, challenging "The Myth"
of thriving immigrants, as mason, tinker, smith,
and seamstress built the nation for a special few.
The Civil War allowed the cream and residue
of all the northern states to blend in unity
awhile, as human dignity through "Liberty"
became the cry of passion from the rich, but worse
than ever was the poorman's plight: the public purse
ran dry, and prices rose, and strikers were attacked
by men for hire and troops, and the Sedition Act
curtailed the voice of protest. Poor men went to war
while rich men, North and South, made payoffs to ignore
the call to arms. And business said "conspiracies
to hamper trade" described the unions, though with ease
they handled most. But soon the call of agony
from hunger ("Burn the den of aristocracy!")
was heard throughout New York and Philadelphia,
Chicago, Boston, as the rich man's Shangri-La
was shaken by demand for wages and humane
conditions -- "Lowell Girls" refusing to remain
in smoky noisy sweaty weaving rooms through days
of 14 hours; and shoe repairers in displays
of anti-capital dissent. The violence
of railroad strikes resounded; as a consequence
the "Party of the Workingman" would motivate
the workers to demand their rights, and cultivate
a Socialist approach, St. Louis in the lead.
Despite the workers' willingness to strike (and bleed!),
the rich, who used militia men to apprehend
the union leaders, would be winners in the end.

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