Red Web - Blair Coan

'Get Daugherty!'—Why?

As has already been pointed out, the radicalism that now dominates in Mexico, bringing that country into a state of chaos and bolshevism not far removed from soviet Russia, achieved its power by capturing control of the railway system of the country.

By attempted coercion and by a widespread propaganda, radical leadership in the railroad brotherhoods, and in other sections of the labor movement in the United States had sought to sovietize the railroads of this country by means of the Plumb plan. As heretofore shown, this contemplated capture of control of the "key industry" was intended as only the first step toward application of the same principles to all phases of industry in the United States.

Although I do not say that the decision of the communists to "come into the open" and engage in parliamentary political action, and the decision of the Socialist party to rally all radical and labor organizations for mass political action, and the decision of the chiefs of the railroad brotherhoods to bring about the railroad strike of 1922 were definitely related to one another, I do say that these decisions were reached within a few weeks of one another, in about the order named (in the summer months of 1921); and that if they are coincidences, they are very remarkable coincidences indeed. And although I do not say there was a definite agreement among these three general organizations, at the time of formulating these decisions, either for consolidation of effort in a political program for 1922 or for teamwork in support of the railroad strike of 1922, I do say that there was, indeed, remarkable teamwork among them both in politics and in the railroad strike.

Agreement or no agreement, understanding or no understanding, coincidence or no coincidence, it is almost self-evident hypocrisy for anyone to attempt to deny that the railroad brotherhoods had the whole-hearted support and active cooperation of the left wing communists and the right wing socialists, to say nothing of a galaxy of pinks and parlor bolsheviki, in precipitating and carrying out the railroad strike of 1922. And, as will be shown later, the respective and similar, if not in fact identical, political program—whether by agreement, understanding or coincidence—bore such intimate relationship in the Congressional elections of 1922 that to deny either the appearance or effect of cooperation and fraternity is to indulge in hypocritical quibbling.

When the Wilson administration had been succeeded by the Harding administration, one of the early accomplishments of the new administration was the return of the railways to their rightful owners under the provisions of the Transportation act, which, also provided for a Railroad Labor Board for the adjustment of wages. The return of the railroads to their owners, of course, had been fought without stint by the railroad brotherhoods and by all shades of radicalism in the country, and the establishment of the Labor Board particularly enraged the chiefs of the railroad brotherhoods and Bert M. Jewell, head of the Railway Department of the American Federation of Labor.

"Immediately following the enactment (1921) of the Transportation Act," H.S. Jeffrey, former chairman counsel of the Philadelphia-Camden advisory boards of the Philadelphia branch of the Railway Department of the American Federation of Labor, wrote to Attorney General Daugherty, March 27, 1923, "Mr. Jewell sent for me at his office, then in Washington, and stated that it had been concluded not to go along with the law, but to stage a fight, and desired to know if I could line up all the men in Philadelphia. "

"Later I had many talks with Jewell in Chicago, Columbus, Philadelphia, etc., also with William H. Johnston, president of the International Association of Machinists. Their whole plan was to force the board (Railroad Labor Board) out of business and return to government operation as during the war.

"About the middle of 1921 the strike call on July 1, 1922, was planned. I opposed the same, and the result was that Jewell, Johnston, etc., made most clear to me that I must support them 100 percent or take the consequences. I refused to support their insane policy.

"I could not begin to cite you all the facts that I am acquainted with, but do know that the shopmen strike of July was a conspiracy against our government, and the shopmen today do not know why they went on strike."

Jeffrey took "the consequence," which he declared Jewell and Johnston warned he would have to take. Perhaps the least of these "consequences" was his removal as advisory board chairman-counsel and his deposition from the labor organization of which he had for four years been an official.

The railroad strike took place on July 1, 1922, as the reader already is aware from reading the foregoing quotation from Mr. Jeffrey. In an effort to make the strike effective in every way and to prevent the transportation of coal, food and other necessities, as well as the mails entrusted to the United States government for distribution, the strikers, with the aid of particularly active communist elements and with the support and applause of the whole radical movement of the country, sought every opportunity to damage and wreck the locomotives and rolling stock of the railroads, to make defective the safety appliances which the railroads, under the law, were obliged to maintain, and completely to paralyze transportation by practices of the most flagrantly criminal character.

"We will tie up every train, both freight and passenger; every ferryboat and every railway shop, and not a wheel will turn anywhere," was the boastful threat made and circulated with official sanction from the brotherhood chiefs who were the leaders in the strike and were the official authority for the order which brought it about. The threat was, in sound, at any rate, something of an echo of the threat proclaimed by Bert M. Jewell in 1919 when, as a member of the executive committee of the Plumb Plan League for nationalization of the railroads and as chief spokesman for the Railway Department of the American Federation of Labor, he said: "We will tie the railways up so tight that they will never run again."

The months of July and August were months of such paralysis in transportation and of such a widespread condition of violent industrial warfare in virtually every section of the country where railway tracks are laid that the situation was one closely bordering upon civil war. The patience of the government was great. It was so great, in fact, that popular restiveness and public demand for action of a vigorous and conclusive character became in escapably apparent to President Harding, and he went before Congress with a special message on the 18th of August, saying:

"We must reassert the doctrine that in this republic the first obligation and the first allegiance of every citizen, high or low, is to his government, and to hold that government to be the just and unchallenged sponsor for public welfare and the liberty, security and rights of all its citizens. No matter what clouds may gather, no matter what storms may ensue, no matter what hardships may attend or what sacrifices may be necessary, government by law must and will be sustained. Wherefore I am resolved to use all of the power of the government to maintain transportation and sustain the right of men to work."

Sympathetic strikes had been called by radical labor leaders responsive to influences from the most red revolutionary quarters, and others were in the making.

"Deserted transcontinental trains in the desert regions of the Southwest," the President told Congress, "have revealed the cruelty and contempt for law on the part of some railway employes, who have conspired to paralyze transportation, and lawlessness and violence in a hundred places have revealed the failure of the striking unions to hold their forces to law observance. . . . There is a state of lawlessness shocking to every conception of American law and order violating the cherished guarantees of American freedom. . . . It is fundamental to all freedom that all men have unquestioned rights to lawful pursuits, to work and to live and choose their own lawful ways to happiness. In these strikes, these rights have been denied by assault and violence, by armed lawlessness. In many communities the municipal authorities have winked at these violations, until liberty is a mockery and the law a matter of community contempt. These conditions can not remain in free America. .

"Tt is not my thought to ask Congress to deal with these fundamental problems at this time. No hasty action would contribute to the solution of the present critical situation. There is existing law by which to settle the prevailing disputes. There are statutes forbidding conspiracy to hinder interstate commerce. There are laws to assure the highest possible safety in railway service. It is my purpose to invoke these laws, civil and criminal, against all offenders alike."

In what manner was this promise of the President fulfilled? Naturally, here had arisen a situation which called for action, and what arm of the government acts in such an emergency?

So long as it can be made to survive the assaults of destructionists and detractors, the Federal Department of Justice, as I have said, is the bulwark of ordered civil government. Acting through the medium of the courts, it is for the Department of Justice to make the nation not merely safe from individual criminals, great and small, but safe from the chaos and wreckage of mob lawlessness as demonstrated in the railway strike of 1922.

President Harding went to his Attorney General in time of such a crisis as then confronted the country. The Attorney General was prepared for the emergency, not simply in his possession of an efficient organization adequately equipped and backed by the entire administrative department of the government, but by a knowledge of law excelled by few who have occupied the same position and by a personal courage surpassed by none.

On the 1st of September the government, through Attorney General Daugherty in his official capacity, acted in conformity to the promises President Harding had held forth to the people through his message to Congress. The action taken was deliberate, definite and determined. It was taken on behalf of a suffering American public, and in the interests of nobody else. It was taken in defense of a government the foundations of which were being attacked and their destruction threatened.

The railway strike of 1922 had attained such proportions and such scope and such seriousness, that it was a matter entirely beyond and above either the railroads, the operators and owners of the railroads, the striking railroad workers, the officials who had called the strike or the men who had refused to strike or who had sought to fill the places of the men who had obeyed the strike order and who had turned their attention to practices of violence, sahotage, kidnapping and other forms of lawlessness characteristic of bolshevism in practice and mobocracy in action. The crisis was one to be met entirely independent of the interests of any of these elements. It was one to be dealt with solely as one of concern to the general public and of importance to the fulfillment of the chief function of the Federal Department of Justice—namely, the maintenance of order and the enforcement of law. Solely upon this principle, therefore, did the government act. Very definitely refusing to be joined by the railways or by any other interest than the public interest, and taking the step entirely as an officer of his government, the Attorney General acted for his government.

His case supported by evidence of no less than 17,000 instances of unlawful acts and upheld by affidavits and convincing circumstantial evidence of conspiracy against the government, Mr. Daugherty went, as Attorney General of the United States, himself personally before Judge Wilkerson in the federal court at Chicago and obtained a preliminary restraining order—a step preceding a temporary injunction and the subsequent court act of making the injunction permanent. The precedent was the Debs case of 1894. It was a court proceeding, not to enjoin the men from striking, not to compel them to return to work, not to deny the right of union organization or of collective bargaining or of any other lawful right recognized by the Constitution and by federal statute, but to enjoin the conspirators from further executing their conspiracy and to enjoin the law violators from the hindrance of the conduct of interstate commerce and the transportation of the United States mails by mob violence and lawlessness.

The preliminary restraining order was in itself a body blow at the strikers and their chiefs and a stern warning to the reds who were the leading spirits in violent manifestations of disorder and destruction. The effect was immediately discernable; enforcing officers throughout the country began to take their jobs seriously and to enforce the law; the lawless began to lose some of the courage and bravado they had shown; the strikers began to understand that the federal government meant business and had no intention of being long flouted, defied and trifled with; the transportation system began to function; the paralysis of passenger and freight traffic and of distribution of the mails began to be relieved.

And the Federal Department of Justice began at once to be the object of an exceptionally bitter assault from its natural foes. The reds, the pinks and the yellows now opened up on it with their heavy artillery.

Attorneys for the Railway Employes' Department of the American Federation of Labor et al. endeavored to make a show at contesting the legal step taken in behalf of the government and the public by the Attorney General. But the record of the proceedings is ample indication of their full consciousness of the futility of their cause before the law. They seemed to confine their defense to a systematic attack on the Attorney General. This was continued throughout his term and still continues. They never in court, much less out of court, discussed the facts or the law. That they sought to conceal by drawing him into a personal controversy. This they failed to do, for he made no answer to attacks but devoted his energies to the government's case and the law and facts involved.

The government was loaded with evidence in support of its case and before the entering of the final court order the testimony of more than 700 witnesses had been heard and set down in a court record of nearly 4,000 pages. The witnesses were from fifty different railroads covering the entire country. Oral testimony and affidavits presented by the Attorney General showed that the cost of the strike, wholly aside from damages to property, losses incurred by business, loss by claims for damages, and from increased cost of doing business, had amounted to nearly $97,000,000. Practically all railway. terminals, shops and roundhouses had been picketed, it was shown, and "the conduct and general demeanor of the pickets and strikers was aggressive, belligerent, violent and lawless."

The record in the case established such facts as the following:

  • Approximately a score of known deaths, due to violence and assault by strikers;
  • Some 1,500 instances of various kinds of assaults by strikers on employes of the railroads and on men seeking such employment;
  • Sixty-five cases of kidnapping, with accompanying brutal assaults;
  • Eight instances of victims of strikers or their sympathizers being tarred and feathered;
  • Fifty cases of arson and dynamiting, or attempted destruction by these means, of railroad bridges, for the purpose of wrecking freight, passenger and mail trains;
  • 250 instances of bombing or burning, or attempted bombing or burning, of railroad property or property and homes of non-striking employes;
  • Fifty cases of train-wrecking or attempted train-wreckingby derailment; and
  • Innumerable instances of flagrant practices of sabotage in its various forms.
  • One thousand mail trains required to be taken off and abandoned on account of the mobs.

The Attorney General had appointed six thousand deputy United States marshals all over the country upon the recommendations of courts and government officials prior to his application for the injunction to preserve property, protect lives and try to keep down disorder and interference with transportation. He spent over $2,000,000, which Congress afterwards approved without a question,

In court the case for the strikers and conspirators was weak. It was so weak, in fact, that their own counsel confessed it to Judge Jacob M. Dickinson, special assistant to the Attorney General, handling the proceedings in the court at Chicago, on the final hearing. ''Counsel for defendants told me on that day (May 2, 1923) that we already had sufficient evidence to win the case, and that, in view of this, their clients were unwilling to expend any more money." Judge Dickinson reported to the Attorney General the day the final hearing of evidence was held, May 15, 1923. "I think it is perfectly manifest that they did not dare take the stand to deny the allegations of the bill, and subject themselves to cross-examinations and the exposure of their papers."

"The allegations of the bill are fully sustained," said Judge Dickinson further. 'We have not, and could not expect to get any direct evidence of coming together and conspiring. The conspiracy must be inferred from proven facts showing concert of arrangement, purpose, and action."

With no case in court, but obliged nevertheless to make a show at contesting the determined steps taken by the government, through the Attorney General, without the risk of submitting the strikers' chiefs to cross-examination or their books and correspondence to the scrutiny of the court, the leading actors in the conspiracy sought to defeat the government by a system of threats and the practice of intimidation against the Attorney General and the Department of Justice.

As Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Daugherty symbolized the power of that arm of the government to circumvent not merely the conspiracy against the government indicated by the railroad strike of 1922, but other correlated and illegal movements and acts. "Get Daugherty!" therefore became the resonant slogan of the enemies of the government and of their pink defenders and yellow apologists.

The conspiracy of 1922 was but a prelude to the frameup that was yet to come, and with which the most of the remainder of this book will have to do.