The Great Railroad Strike of 1877
Document 3: The Strike and the Troops

Albany Argus masthead

scanned newspaper article

Transcription of
The Albany Argus:
Saturday, July 21, 1877, Vol. LI., No. 18.985

(original spellings & punctuation maintained)

The Constitution of the United States, and the laws passed in pursuance thereof, make provision for precisely such emergencies as that which occurred in connection with the strike on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, in West Virginia. Domestic violence existed. The State is practically without a militia. A few companies of Federal soldiers were needed. They were legally asked for and promptly granted.

How widely different this is from violent and revolutionary interference for political purposes, no one needs to be told. The New York Evening Post, however, gravely regards such interference as a violation of Democratic doctrine. The position is so puerile, that one might regard it as an attempt to be clever, if that paper was ever gifted in that direction, and the article itself was not as ponderous as a labored English leader, although by no means as able.

A few weeks since, when Governor Robinson acted with such energy as to prevent riot, those who were eager to find fault found in his promptness an occasion for complaint. In the wide disturbances which now exist hasty critics may read their own rebuke.

In almost all riotous disturbances a few desperate characters lead, while the rest are passive clay in their hands. The rioters who personally assaulted the energetic Governor of West Virginia ought to be severely punished, not only by the law, but by the sentiment of the very men in whose cause they professed to be acting.

The sole provocation of the riot was a reduction of ten per cent in the wages of the employes. Men who have not learned from falling prices and decaying business, that wages must fall also, are, perhaps, not to be reasoned with. If, however, they must resort to force, then they must be met in like manner.

A wise business man is slow to reduce wages. The more he is compelled to pay, the more he can receive, unless business becomes hopelessly depressed. When that point is reached, wages fall, not because employers wish, but because they must reduce them. If during the prevalence of high prices, wages had been suddenly reduced, the public would have compelled an immediate reduction in charges also. Hence, it is only under the pressure of tumbling prices that wages go down.

No one can resist the present depression, wherever its effects are felt. If employes do not realize this, and resort to force, the blame is only upon themselves.

Last Updated: January 17, 2012