If the whole might of Government was used in the aggrandizement and perpetuation of a propertied aristocracy, what was its specific attitude toward the working class ?  Of the powerful few, whether political or industrial, the conventional histories hand down grossly biased and distorted chronicles.  These few are isolated from the multitude, and their importance magnified, while the millions of obscure are nowhere adequately described.  Such sterile historians proceed upon the perfunctory plan, derived from ancient usage in the days when kingcraft was supremely exalted, that it is only the mighty few whose acts are of any consequence, and that the doings of the masses are of no account.


Hence it is that most histories are mere registers of names and dates, dull or highly-colored hackneyed splurges of print giving no insight into actual conditions.

In this respect most of the prevailing histories of the United States are the most egregious offenders.  They fix the idea that this or that alleged statesman, this or that President or politician or set of politicians, have been the dominating factors in the decision and sway of public affairs.  No greater error could be formulated.  Behind the ostentatious and imposing public personages of the different periods, the arbiters of laws and policies have been the men of property.  They it was who really ruled both the arena and the arcana of politics.

It was they, sometimes openly, but more usually covertly, who influenced and manipulated the entire sphere of government.

It was they who raised the issues which divided the people into contesting camps and which often beclouded and bemuddled the popular mind.  It was their material ideals and interests that were engrafted upon the fabric of society and made the prevailing standards of the day.

From the start the United States Government was what may be called a regime swayed by property.

The Revolution, as we have seen, was a movement by the native property interests to work out their own destiny without interference by the trading classes of Great Britain.  The Constitution of the United States, the various State Constitutions, and the laws, were, we have set forth, all reflexes of the interests, aims, castes and prejudices of the property owners, as opposed to the non-propertied.  At first, the landholders and the shipping merchants were the dictators of laws.  Then from these two classes and from the tradesmen sprang a third class, the bankers, who, after a continuous orgy of bribery, rose to a high pitch of power.  At the same time other classes of property owners were sharers in varying degrees in directing Government.  One of these was the slaveholders of the South, desperately increasing their clutch on government administration the more their institutions were threatened.  The factory owners were likewise participants.  However bitterly some of these propertied interests might war upon one another for supremacy, there was never a time when the majority of the men who sat in Congress, the legislatures or the judges did not represent, or respond to, either the interests or the ideals of one or more of these divisions of the propertied classes.

Finally, out of the landowners, slaveowners, bankers, shippers, factory masters and tradesmen a new class of great power developed.  This was the railroad-owning class.  From about the year 1845 to 1890 it was the most puissant governing class in the United States, and only ceased being distinctly so when the industrial trusts became even mightier, and a time came when one trust alone, the Standard Oil Company, was able to possess itself of vast railroad systems.

These different components of the railroad-owning class had gathered in their money by either outright fraud or by the customary exploitative processes of the times.  We have noted how many of the landholders secured their estates at one time or another by bribery or by invidiously fraudulent transactions ;  and how the bankers, who originally were either tradesmen, factory owners or landowners, had obtained their charters and privileges by widespread bribery.  A portion of the money thus acquired was often used in bribing Congress and legislatures for railroad charters, public funds, immense areas of land including forests and mines, and special laws of the most extraordinary character.


Since Government was actually, although not avowedly or apparently, a property regime, what was the condition of the millions of non-propertied ?

In order to get a correct understanding of both the philosophy and the significance of what manner of property rule was in force, it is necessary to give an accompanying sketch of the life of the millions of producers, and what kind of laws related to them.  Merely to narrate the acts of the capitalists of the period is of no enduring value unless it be accompanied by a necessary contrast of how Government and capitalist acted toward the worker.  It was the worker who tilled the ground and harvested the produce nourishing nations ;  whose labor, mental or manual, brought forth the thousand and one commodities, utensils, implements, articles and luxuries necessary to the material wants of civilization.  Verily, what of the great hosts of toilers who have done their work and shuffled off to oblivion ?  What were their aspirations, difficulties, movements and struggles ?  While Government, controlled by both the men and the standards of property, was being used as a distributing instrument for centering resources and laws in the hands of a mere minority, what were its methods in dealing with the lowly and propertyless ?

Furthermore, this contrast is indispensable for another reason.  Posterity ever has a blunt way of asking the most inquisitive questions.  The inquirer for truth will not be content with the simple statement that many of the factory owners and tradesmen bribed representative bodies to give them railroad charters and bountiful largess.  He will seek to know how, as specifically as the records allow, they got together that money.  Their nominal methods are of no weight ;  it is the portrayal of their real, basic methods which alone will satisfy the delver for actual facts.

This is not the place for a voluminous account of the industrial development of the United States.  We cannot halt here to give the full account of the origin and growth of that factory system which has culminated in the gigantic trusts of to-day.  Nor can we pause to deal with the manifold circumstances and methods involved in that expansion.  The full tale of the rise and climax of industrial establishments ;  how they subverted the functions of government to their own ends ;  stole inventions right and left and drove inventors to poverty and to the grave ;  defrauded the community of incredible amounts by evading taxation ;  oppressed their workers to a degree that in future times will read like the acts of a class outsavaging the savage ;  bribed without intermission ;  slaughtered legions of men, women and children in the pursuit of profit ;  exploited the peoples of the globe remorselessly — all of this and more, constituting a weird chapter of horrors in the progress of the race, will be fully described in a later part of this work.1

But in order to contribute a clear perspective of the methods and morals of a period when Government was but the mannikin of property — a period even more pronounced now — and to give a deeper insight into the conditions against which millions had to contend at a time when the railroad oligarchy was blown into life by Government edict, a few important facts will be presented here.

The sonorous doctrines of the Declaration of Independence read well, but they were not meant to be applied to the worker.  The independence so much vaunted was the independence of the capitalist to do as he pleased.  Few, if any, restrictions were placed upon him ;  such pseudo restrictions as were passed from time to time were not enforced.  On the other hand, the severest laws were enacted against the worker.  For a long time it was a crime for him to go on a strike.  In the first strike in this country of which there is any record — that of a number of sailors in New York City in 1803, for better wages — the leader was arrested, indicted and sent to prison.  The formidable machinery of Government was employed by the ruling commercial and landed classes for a double purpose.  On the one hand, they insisted that it should encourage capital, which phrase translated into action meant that it should confer grants of land, immense loans of public funds without interest, virtual immunity from taxation, an extra-legal taxing power, sweeping privileges, protective laws and clearly defined statute rights.


At the same time, while enriching themselves in every direction by transferring, through the powers of Government, public resources to themselves, the capitalists declared it to be a settled principle that Government should not be paternalistic ;  they asserted that it was not only not a proper governmental function to look out for the interests of the masses of workers, but they went even further.

With the precedents of the English laws as an example, they held that it devolved upon Government to keep the workers sternly within the bounds established by employers.  In plain words, this meant that the capitalist was to be allowed to run his business as he desired.  He could overwork his employees, pay them the lowest wages, and kill them off by forcing them to work under conditions in which the sacrifice of human life was held subordinate to the gathering of profits, or by forcing them to work or live in disease-breeding places.2  The law, which was the distinct expression of the interests of the capitalist, upheld his right to do all this.  Yet if the workers protested ;  if they sought to improve their condition by joining in that community of action called a strike, the same code of laws adjudged them criminals.  At once, the whole power of law, with its police, miltary and judges, descended upon them, and either drove them back to their tasks or consigned them to prison.

The conditions under which the capitalists made their profits, and under which the workers had to toil, were very oppressive to the workers.  The hours of work at that period were from sunrise to sunset.  Usually this rule, especially in the seasons of long days, required twelve, and very often fourteen and sixteen, hours a day.  Yet the so-called statesmen and the pretentious cultured and refined classes of the day, saw nothing wrong in this exploitation.  The reason was obvious.  Their power, their elegant mansions, their silks and satins, their equipage and superior opportunities for enjoyment all were based upon the sweat and blood of these so-called free white men, women and children of the North, who toiled even harder than the chattel black slave of the South, and who did not receive a fraction of the care and thought bestowed, as a corrollary of property, upon the black slave.  Already the capitalists of the North had a slavery system in force far more effective than the chattel system of the South — a system the economic superiority of which was destined to overthrow that of black slavery.

Most historians, taking their cue from the intellectual subserviency demanded of them by the ruling propertied classes, delight in picturing those times as “ the good old times,” when the capitalists were benevolent and amiable, and the workers lived in peace and plenty.


History in the main, thus far, has been an institution for the propagation of lies.  The truth is that for thousands of years back, since the private property system came into existence, an incessant, uncompromising warfare has been going on between oppressors and oppressed.  Apart from the class distinctions and the bitterness manifested in settlement and colonial times in this country — reference to which has been given in earlier chapters — the whole of the nineteenth century, and thus far of this century, has been a continuous industrial struggle.  It has been the real warfare of modern times.

In this struggle the propertied classes had the great advantage from the start.  Centuries of rulership had taught them that the control of Government was the crux of the mastery.  By possession of Government they had the power of making laws ;  of the enforcement or non-enforcement of those laws ;  of the directorship of police, army, navy, courts, jails and prisons — all terrible instruments for suppressing any attempt at protest, peaceful or otherwise.  Notwithstanding this massing of power and force, the working class has at no time been passive or acquiescent.  It has allowed itself to be duped ;  it has permitted its ranks to be divided by false issues ;  it has often been blind at critical times, and has made no concerted effort as yet to get intelligent possession of the great strategic point,— governmental power.  Nevertheless, despite these mistakes, it has been in a state of constant rebellion ;  and the fact that it has been so, that its aspirations could not be squelched by jails, prisons and cannon nor by destitution or starvation, furnishes the sublimest record in all the annals of mankind.


Again and again the workers attempted to throw off some of their shackles, and every time the whole dominant force of society was arrayed against them.  By 1825 an agitation developed for a ten-hour workday.  The politicians denounced the movement ;  the cultured classes frowned upon it ;  the newspapers alternately ridiculed and abused it ;  the officials prepared to take summary action to put it down.  As for the capitalists — the shipping merchants, the boot and shoe manufacturers, the iron masters and others — they not only denied the right of the workers to organize, while insisting that they themselves were entitled to combine, but they inveighed against the ten-hour demand as “ unreasonable conditions which the folly and caprice of a few journeymen mechanics may dictate.”  “ A very large sum of money,” says McNeill, “ was subscribed by the merchants to defeat the ten-hour movement.”3  And as an evidence of the intense opposition to the workers’ demands for a change from a fourteen to a ten-hour day, McNeill quotes from a Boston newspaper of 1832 :

Had this unlawful combination had for its object the enhancement of daily wages, it would have been left to its own care ;  but it now strikes the very nerve of industry and good morals by dictating the hours of labor, abrogating the good old rule of our fathers and pointing out the most direct course to poverty ;  for to be idle several of the most useful hours of the morning and evening will surely lead to intemperance and ruin.

These, generally speaking, were the stock capitalist arguments of the day, together with the further reiterated assertion that it was impossible to conduct business on a ten-hour day system.  The effect of the fourteen-hour day upon the workers was pernicious.  Having no time for reading, self-education, social intercourse or acquainting themselves with refinement, they often developed brutal propensities.  In proportion to the length of time and the rigor with which they were exploited, they degenerated morally and intellectually.  This was a wellknown fact, and was frequently commented upon by contemporaneous observers.  Their employers could not fail to know it, yet, with few exceptions, they insisted that any movement to shorten the day’s labor was destructive of good morals.

This pronouncement, however, need not arouse comment.  Ever has the propertied class set itself up as the lofty guardian of morals although actuated by sordid self-interest and nothing more.  Many workers were driven to drink, crime and suicide by the exasperating and deteriorating conditions under which they had to labor.  The moment that they overstepped the slightest bounds of law, in rushed the authorities with summary punishment.  The prisons of the period were full of mechanics whom serfdom or poverty had stung on to commit some crime or other.  However trifling the offence, or whatever the justifiable provocation, the law made no allowance ; the letter of the statutes was strictly construed, and always administered with a heavy hand.


The whole of uppermost society was aligned against the hard-driven working class.  The employers deplored the audacity of the workers in forming unions and attempting to get shorter hours of labor.  The capitalist changed his tactics like an acrobat.  If the workers struck for a less burdensome workday he would asure them that he could not recognize such an untenable position ;  he might sympathize with their efforts for higher wages, but he must combat any effort for shorter hours.

But when the workers struck specifically for more wages, then the capitalist summoned the judiciary to help him out, as happened in New York City, in 1836, when twenty-one journeymen tailors were fined by Judge Edwards sums ranging from $100 to $150.  As many of them could not pay it, they were despatched to jail.  The clergy virulently assailed the trade-union movement.  “ We regret to say,” read a statement of a general meeting of the mechanics of Boston and vicinity, issued on January 8, 1834, “ that no one of our respected clergy are present.  Application having been made to twenty-two different societies for the use of a meeting house on this day for trades unions, the doors of all were shut against us.”. . .

Year after year the struggle continued for a ten-hour day throughout the North and East.  Time after time the workers were driven back to their jobs by utter impoverishment.  Repeatedly defeated, they renewed the attempt as often.  Wherever they applied for aid or sympathy they met with hostility.  In 1836 a Baltimore trades-union memorialized Congress to limit the hours of labor of those employed on the public works to ten hours a day.  The pathos of this petition !  So unceasingly had the workers been lied to by politicians, newspapers, clergy and employers, that they did not realize that in applying to Congress or to any legislature, that they were begging from men who represented the antagonistic interests of their own employers.  After a short debate Congress laid the petition on the table.  Congress at this very time was spinning out laws in behalf of capitalist interests ;  granting public lands, public funds, protective tariffs and manifold other measures demanded or lobbied for by existing or projected corporations.

A memorial of a “ Portion of the Laboring Classes of the City of New York in Relation to The Money Market ” complained to Congress in 1833 that the powers of the Government were used against the working class.

“ You are not ignorant,” they petitioned,

That our State Legislatures have, by a usurpation of power which is expressly withheld by our Federal Constitution, chartered many companies to engage in the manufacture of paper money ;  and that the necessities of the laboring classes have compelled them to give it currency.
      The strongest argument against this measure is, that by licensing any man or set of men to manufacture money, instead of earning it, we virtually license them to take so much of the property of the community as they may happen to fancy, without contributing to it at all — an injustice so enormous that it is incapable of any defense and therefore needs no comment.
      That the profits of capital are abstracted from the earnings of labor, and that these deductions, like any other tax on industry, tend to diminish the value of money by increasing the price of all the fruits of labor, are facts beyond dispute ;  it is equally undeniable that there is a point which capitalists cannot exceed without injuring themselves, for when by their exertions they so far depreciate the value of money at home that it is sent abroad, many are thrown out of employ, and are not only disabled from paying their tribute, but are forced to betake to dishonest courses or starve.

This memorial was full of iron and stern truths, although much of its political economy was that of its own era ;  a very different petition, it will be noticed, from the appealing, cringing petitions sent timidly to Congress by the conservative, truckling labor leaders of later times.  The memorial continued ;

The remaining laborers are then loaded with additional burdens to provide laws and prisons and standing armies to keep order ;  expensive wars are created merely to lull for a time the clamors for employment ;  each new burden aggravates the disease, and national death finally ends it.

The power of capital, was, the memorial read on, “ in the nature of things, regulated by the proportion that the numbers of, and competition among, capitalists bears to the number and destitution of laborers.”  The only sure way of benefiting labor, “ and the way best calculated to benefit all classes,” was to diminish the destitution among the working classes.  And the remedy proposed in the memorial ?  A settled principle of national policy should be laid down by Congress that the whole of the remaining of the public lands should forever continue to be the public property of the nation “ and accordingly, cause them to be laid out from time to time, as the wants of the population might require, in small farms with a suitable proportion of building lots for mechanics, for the free use of any native citizen and his descendants who might be at the expense of clearing them.”  This policy “ would establish a perpetual counterpoise to the absorbing power of capital.” The memorial concluded :

These lands have been bought with public money every cent of which is in the end derived from the earnings of the laboring classes.
      And while the public money has been liberally employed to protect and foster trade, Government has never, to our knowledge, adopted but one measure (the protective tariff system) with a distinct view to promote the interests of labor ;  and all of the advantages of this one have been absorbed by the preponderating power of capital.4


But it was not only the National Government which used the entire governing power against the workers.  State and municipal authorities did likewise.  In 1836 the longshoremen in New York City struck for an increase of wages.  Their employers hurriedly substituted non-union men in their places.  When the union men went from dock to dock, trying to induce the newcomers to side with them, the shipping merchants pretended that a riot was under way and made frantic calls upon the authorities for a subduing force.  The mayor ordered out the militia with loaded guns.  In Philadelphia similar scenes took place.  Naturally, as the strikers were prevented by the soldiers from persuading their fellow workers, they lost the strikes.

Although labor-saving machinery was constantly being devised and improved to displace hand labor, and although the skilled worker was consequently producing far more goods than in former years, the masters — as the capitalists were then often termed — insisted that employees must work for the same wages and hours as had long prevailed.

By 1840, however, the labor unions had arrived at a point where they were very powerful in some of the crafts, and employers grudgingly had to recognize that the time had passed by when the laborer was to be treated like a serf.  A few enlightened employers voluntarily conceded the ten-hour day, not on any humane grounds, but because they reasoned that it would promote greater efficiency on the part of their workers.  Many capitalists, perforce, had to yield to the demand.  Other capitalists determined to break up the unions on the ground that they were a conspiracy.  At the instigation of several boot and shoe manufacturers, the officials of Boston brought a suit against the Boston Journeymen Boot makers’ Society.  The court ruled against the bootmakers and the jury brought in a verdict of guilty.  On appeal to the Supreme Court, Robert Rantoul, the attorney for the society, so ably demolished the prosecution’s points, that the court could not avoid setting aside the judgment of the inferior court.5

Perhaps the growing power of the labor unions had its effect upon those noble minds, the judiciary.  The worker was no longer detached from his fellow workmen :  he could no longer be scornfully shoved aside as a weak, helpless individual.  He now had the strength of association and organization.  The possibility of such strength transferred to politics affrighted the ruling classes.  Where before this, the politicians had contemptuously treated the worker’s petitions, certain that he could always be led blindly to vote the usual partisan tickets, it now dawned upon them that it would be wiser to make an appearance of deference and to give some concessions which, although of a slight character, could be made to appear important.  The Workingmen’s party of 1829 had shown a glimmer of what the worker could do when aroused to class-conscious action.


Now it was that the politicians began the familiar policy of “ catering to the labor vote.”  Some rainbow promises of what they would do, together with a few scraps of legislation now and then — this constituted the bait held out by the politicians.  That adroit master of political chicanery, President Van Buren, hastened to issue an executive order on April 10, 1840, directing the establishment of a ten-hour day, between April and September, in the navy yards.  From the last day of October, however, until March 31, the “working hours will be from the rising to the setting of the sun ”— a length of time equivalent, meal time deducted, to about ten hours.

The political trick of throwing out crumbs to the workers long proved successful.  But it was supplemented by other methods.  To draw the labor leaders away from a hostile stand to the established political parties, and to prevent the massing of workers in a party of their own, the politicians began an insidious system of bribing these leaders to turn traitors.  This was done by either appointing them to some minor political office or by giving them money.  In many instances, the labor unions in the ensuing decades were grossly betrayed.

Finally, the politicians always had large sums of election funds contributed by merchants, bankers, landowners, railroad owners — by all parts of the capitalist class.  These funds were employed in corrupting the electorate and legislative bodies.  Caucuses and primaries were packed, votes bought, ballot boxes stuffed and election returns falsified.  It did not matter to the corporations generally which of the old political parties was in power ;  some manufacturers or merchants might be swayed to one side or the other for the self-interest involved in the reŽnactment of the protective tariff or the establishment of free trade ;  but, as a rule, the corporations, as a matter of business, contributed money to both parties.


However these parties might differ on various issues, they both stood for the perpetuation of the existing social and industrial system based upon capitalist ownership.  The tendency of the Republican party, founded in 1856, toward the abolition of negro chattel slavery was in precise harmony with the aims and fundamental interests of the manufacturing capitalists of the North.  The only peril that the capitalist class feared was the creation of a distinct, disciplined and determined workingmen’s party.  This they knew would, if successful, seriously endanger and tend to sweep away the injustices and oppressions upon which they, the capitalists, subsisted.  To avert this, every ruse and expedient was resorted to :  derision, undermining, corruption, violence, imprisonment — all of these and other methods were employed by that sordid ruling class claiming for itself so pretentious and all-embracing a degree of refinement, morality and patriotism.

Surveying historical events in a large way, however, it is by no means to be regretted that capitalism had its own unbridled way, and that its growth was not checked.  Its development to the unbearable maximum had to come in order to prepare the ripe way for a newer stage in civilization.  The capitalist was an outgrowth of conditions as they existed both before, and during, his time.  He fitted as appropriate a part in his time as the predatory baron in feudal days.

But in this sketch we are not dealing with historical causes or sequences as much as with events and contrasts.  The aim is to give a sufficient historical perspective of times when Government was manipulated by the capitalist class for its own aggrandizement, and to despoil and degrade the millions of producers.

The imminence of working-class action was an ever present and disturbing menace to the capitalists.  To give one of many instances of how the workers were beginning to realize the necessity of this action, and how the capitalists met it, let us instance the resolutions of the New England Workingmen’s Association, adopted in 1845.  With the manifold illustrations in mind of how the powers of Government had been used and were being increasingly used to expropriate the land, the resources and the labor and produce of the many, and bond that generation and future generations under a multitude of law-created rights and privileges, this association declared in its preamble :

Whereas, we, the mechanics and workingmen of New England are convinced by the sad experience of years that under the present arrangement of society labor is and must be the slave of wealth ;  and, whereas, the producers of all wealth are deprived not merely of its enjoyment, but also of the social and civil rights which belong to humanity and the race ;  and, whereas, we are convinced that reform of those abuses must depend upon ourselves only ;  and, whereas, we believe that in intelligence alone is strength, we hereby declare our object to be union for power, power to bless humanity, and to further this object resolve ourselves into an association.

One of the leading spirits in this movement was Charles A. Dana, a young professional man of great promise and exceptional attainments.  Subsequently he was bought off with a political office ;  he became not only a renegade of the most virulent type, but he leagued himself with the greatest thieves of the day — Tweed and Jay Gould, for example — received large bribes for defending them and their interests in a newspaper of which he became the owner — the New York Sun — and spent his last years bitterly and cynically attacking, ridiculing and misrepresenting the labor movement, and made himself the most conspicuous editorial advocate for every thieving plutocrat or capitalist measure.

The year 1884 about marked the zenith of the era of the capitalist seizing of the public domain.  By that time the railroad and other corporations had possessed themselves of a large part of the area now vested in their ownership.  At that very time an army of workers, estimated at 2,000,000, was out of employment.  Yet it was not considered a panic year ;  certainly the industrial establishments of the country were not in the throes of a commercial cataclysm such as happened in 1873 and previous periods.  The cities were overcrowded with the destitute and homeless ;  along every country road and railroad track could be seen men, singly or in pairs, tramping from place to place looking for work.

Many of those unemployed were native Americans.  A large number were aliens who had been induced to migrate by the alluring statements of the steamship companies to whose profit it was to carry large batches ;  by the solicitations of the agents of American corporations seeking among the oppressed peoples of the Old World a generous supply of cheap, unorganized labor ;  or by the spontaneous prospect of bettering their condition politically or economically.

Millions of poor Europeans were thus persuaded to come over, only to find that the promises held out to them were hollow.  They found that they were exploited in the United States even worse industrially than in their native country.  As for political freedom their sanguine hopes were soon shattered.  They had votes after a certain period of residence, it was true, but they saw — or at least the intelligent of them soon discerned — that the personnel and laws of the United States Government were determined by the great capitalists.  The people were allowed to go through the form of voting ;  the moneyed interests, by controlling the machinery of the dominant political parties, dictated who the candidates, and what the so-called principles, of those parties should be.  The same program was witnessed at every election.  The electorate was stimulated with excitement and enthusiasm over false issues and dominated candidates.  The more the power and wealth of the capitalist class increased, the more openly the Government became ultra-capitalistic.


It was about this time that the Senate of the United States was undergoing a transformation clearly showing how impatient the great capitalists were of operating Government through middlemen legislators.  Previously, the manufacturing, railroad and banking interests had, on the whole, deemed it wise not to exercise this power directly but indirectly.  The representatives sent to Congress were largely lawyers elected by their influence and money.  The people at large did not know the secret processes back of these legislators.  The press, advocating, as a whole, the interests of the capitalist class, constantly portrayed the legislators as great and patriotic statesmen.

But the magnates saw that the time had arrived when some empty democratic forms of Government could be waved aside, and the power exercised openly and directly by them.  Presently we find such men as Leland Stanford, of the Pacific railroad quartet, and one of the arch-bribers and thieves of the time, entering the United States Senate after debauching the California legislature ;  George Hearst, a mining magnate, and others of that class.

More and more this assumption of direct power increased, until now it is reckoned that there are at least eighty millionaires in Congress.  Many of them have been multimillionaires controlling, or representing corporations having a controlling share in vast industries, transportation and banking systems — men such as Senator Elkins, of West Virginia ;  Clark, of Montana ;  Platt and Depew, of New York ;  Guggenheim, of Colorado ;  Knox, of Pennsylvania ;  Foraker, of Ohio, and a quota of others.  The popular jest as to the United States Senate being a “ millionaires’ club ” has become antiquated ;  much more appropriately it could be termed a “ multimillionaires’ club.”  While in both houses of Congress are legislators who represent the almost extinguished middle class, their votes are as ineffective as their declamations are flat.  The Government of the United States, viewing it as an entirety, and not considering the impotent exceptions, is now more avowedly a capitalist Government than ever before.  As for the various legislatures, the magnates, coveting no seats in those bodies, are content to follow the old plan of mastering them by either direct bribery or by controlling the political bosses in charge of the political machines.

Since the interests of the capitalists from the start were acutely antagonistic to those of the workers and of the people in general from whom their profits came, no cause for astonishment can be found in the refusal of Government to look out, even in trifling ways, for the workers’ welfare.  But it is of the greatest and most instructive interest to give a succession of contrasts.  And here some complex factors intervene.  Those cold, unimpassioned academicians who can perpetuate fallacies and lies in the most polished and dispassionate language, will object to the statement that the whole of governing institutions has been in the hands of thieves — great, not petty, thieves.  And yet the facts, as we have seen (and will still further see), bear out this assertion.  Government was run and ruled at basis by the great thieves, as it is conspicuously to-day.


Yet let us not go so fast.  It is necessary to remember that the last few decades have constituted a period of startling transitions.

The middle class, comprising the small business and factory men, stubbornly insisted on adhering to wornout methods of doing business.  Its only conception of industry was that of the methods of the year 1825.  It refused to see that the centralization of industry was inevitable, and that it meant progress.  It lamented the decay of its own power, and tried by every means at its command to thwart the purposes of the trusts.  This middle class had bribed and cheated and had exploited the worker.  For decades it had shaped public opinion to support the dictum that “ competition was the life of trade.”  It had, by this shaping of opinion, enrolled on its side a large number of workers who saw only the temporary evils, and not the ultimate good, involved in the scientific organization and centralization of industry.  The middle class put through anti-trust laws and other measure after measure aimed at the great combinations.

These great combinations had, therefore, a double fight on their hands.  On the one hand they had to resist the trades unions, and on the other, the middle class.  It was necessary to their interests that centralization of industry should continue.  In fact, it was historically and economically necessary.  Consequently they had to bend every effort to make nugatory any effort of Government, both National and State, to enforce the anti-trust laws.  The thing had to be done no matter how.  It was intolerable that industrial development could be stopped by a middle class which, for self-interest, would have kept matters at a standstill.  Self-interest likewise demanded that the nascent combinations and trusts get and exercise governmental power by any means they could use.

For a while triumphant in passing certain laws which, it was fatuously expected, would wipe the trusts out of existence, the middle class was hopelessly beaten and routed.  By their far greater command of resources and money, the great magnates were able to frustrate the execution of those laws, and gradually to install themselves or their tools in practically supreme power.  The middle class is now becoming a mere memory.  Even the frantic efforts of President Roosevelt in its behalf were of absolutely no avail, the trusts are mightier than ever before, and hold a sway the disputing of which is ineffective.


With this newer organization and centralization of industry the number of unemployed tremendously increased.  In the panic of 1893 it reached about 3,000,000 ;  in that of 1908 perhaps 6,000,000, certainly 5,000,000.  To the appalling suffering on every hand the Government remained indifferent.  The reasons were two-fold :  Government was administered by the capitalist class whose interest it was not to allow any measure to be passed which might strengthen the workers, or decrease the volume of surplus labor ;  the second was that Government was basically the apotheosis of the current commercial idea that the claims of property were superior to those of human life.

It can be said without exaggeration that high functionary after high functionary in the legislative or executive branches of the Government, and magnate after magnate had committed not only one violation, but constant violations, of the criminal law.  They were unmolested ;  having the power to prevent it they assuredly would not suffer themselves to undergo even the farce of prosecution.  Such few prosecutions as were started with suspicious bluster by the Government against the Standard Oil Company, the Sugar Trust, the Tobacco Trust and other trusts proved to be absolutely harmless, and have had no result except to strengthen the position of the trusts.  The great magnates reaped their wealth by an innumerable succession of frauds and thefts.  But the moment that wealth or the basis of that wealth were threatened in the remotest by any law or movement, the whole body of Government, executive, legislative and judicial, promptly stepped in to protect it intact.

The workers, however, from whom the wealth was robbed, were regarded in law as criminals the moment they became impoverished.  If homeless and without visible means of support, they were subject to arrest as vagabonds.  Numbers of them were constantly sent to prison or, in some States, to the chain-gang.  If they ventured to hold mass meetings to urge the Government to start a series of public works to relieve the unemployed, their meetings were broken up and the assembled brutally clubbed, as happened in Tompkins square in New York City in the panic of 1873, in Washington in 1892, and in Chicago and in Union square, New York City, in the panic of 1908.  The newspapers represented these meetings as those of irresponsible agitators, inciting the “ mob ” to violence.  The clubbing of the unemployed and the judicial murder of their spokesman, has long been a favorite repression method of the authorities.  But as for allowing them freedom of speech, considering the grievances, putting forth every effort to relieve their condition, — these do not seem to have come within the scope of that Government whose every move has been one of intense hostility — now open, again covert — to the working class.

This running sketch, which is to be supplemented by the most specific details, gives a sufficient insight into the debasement and despoiling of the working class while the capitalists were using the Government as an expropriating machine.  Meanwhile, how was the great farming class faring ?  What were the consequences to this large body of the seizure by a few of the greater part of the public domain ?


The conditions of the farming population, along with that of the working class, steadily grew worse.  In the hope of improving their condition large numbers migrated from the Eastern States, and a constant influx of agriculturists poured in from Europe.

A comparatively few of the whole were able to get land direct from the Government.  Naturally the course of this extensive migration followed the path of transportation, that is to say, of the railroads.  This was exactly what the railroad corporations had anticipated.  As a rule the migrating farmers found the railroads or cattlemen already in possession of many of the best lands.  To give a specific idea of how vast and widespread were the railroad holdings in the various States, this tabulation covering the years up to 1883 will suffice :  In the States of Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi about 9,000,000 acres in all ;  in Wisconsin, 3,553,865 acres ;  Missouri, 2,605,251 acres ;  Arkansas, 2,613,631 acres ;  Illinois, 2,595,053 acres ;  Iowa, 4,181,929 acres ;  Michigan, 3,355,943 acres ;  Minnesota, 9,830,450 acres ;  Nebraska, 6,409,376 acres ;  Colorado, 3,000,000 acres ;  the State of Washington, 11,700,000 acres ;  New Mexico, 11,500,000 acres ;  in the Dakotas, 8,000,000 acres ;  Oregon, 5,800,000 acres ;  Montana, 17,000,000 acres ;  California, 16,387,000 ;  Idaho, 1,500,000, and Utah, 1,850,000.6

Prospective farmers had to pay the railroads exorbitant prices for land.  Very often they had not sufficient funds ;  a mortgage or two would be signed ;  and if the farmer had a bad season or two, and could no longer pay the interest, foreclosure would result.  But whether crops were good or bad, the American farmer constantly had to compete in the grain markets of the world with the cheap labor of India and Russia.  And inexorably, East or West, North or South, he was caught between a double fire.

On the one hand, in order to compete with the immense capitalist farms gradually developing, he had to give up primitive implements and buy the most improved agricultural machines.  For these he was charged five and six times the sum it cost the manufacturers to make and market them.  Usually if he could not pay for them outright, the manufacturers took out a mortgage on his farm.  Large numbers of these mortgages were foreclosed.

In addition, the time had passed when the farmer made his own clothes and many other articles.  For everything that he bought he had to pay excessive prices.  He, even more than the industrial working classes, had to pay an enormous manufacturer’s profit, and additionally the high freight railroad rate.

On the other hand, the great capitalist agencies directly dealing with the crops — the packing houses, the gambling cotton and produce exchanges — actually owned, by a series of manipulations, a large proportion of his crops before they were out of the ground.  These crops were sold to the working class at exorbitant prices.  The small farmer labored incessantly, only to find himself getting poorer.  It served political purpose well to describe glowingly the farmer’s prosperity ;  but the greater crops he raised, the greater the profit to the railroad companies and to various other divisions of the capitalist class.  His was the labor and worry ;  they gathered in the financial harvest.


While thus the produce of the farmer’s labor was virtually confiscated by the different capitalist combinations, the farmers of many states, particularly of the rich agricultural States of the West, were unable to stand up against the encroachments, power, and the fraudulent methods of the great capitalist landowners.

The land frauds in the State of California will serve as an example.  Acting under the authority of various measures passed by Congress — measures which have been described — land grabbers succeeded in obtaining possession of an immense area in that State.  Perjury, fraudulent surveys and entries, collusion with Government officials — these were a few of the many methods.

Jose Limantour, by an alleged grant from a Mexican Governor, and collusion with officials, almost succeeded in stealing more than half a million acres.  Henry Miller, who came to the United States as an immigrant in 1850, is to-day owner of 14,539,000 acres of the richest land in California and Oregon.  It embraces more than 22,500 square miles, a territory three times as large as New Jersey.  The stupendous land frauds in all of the Western and Pacific States by which capitalists obtained “ an empire of land, timber and mines ” are amply described in numerous documents of the period.  These land thieves, as was developed in official investigations, had their tools and associates in the Land Commissioner’s office, in the Government executive departments, and in both houses of Congress.  The land grabbers did their part in driving the small farmer from the soil.  Bailey Millard, who extensively investigated the land frauds in California, after giving full details, says :

When you have learned these things it is not difficult to understand how one hundred men in the great Sacramento Valley have come to own over 17,000,000 acres, while in the San Joaquin Valley it is no uncommon thing for one man’s name to stand for 100,000 acres.  This grabbing of large tracts has discouraged immigration to California more than any other single factor.  A family living on a small holding in a vast plain, with hardly a house in sight, will in time become a very lonely family indeed, and will in a few years be glad to sell out to the land king whose domain is adjacent.  Thousands of small farms have in this way been acquired by the large holders at nominal prices.7


Official reports of the period, contemporaneous with the original seizure of these immense tracts of land, give far more specific details of the methods by which that land was obtained.  Of the numerous reports of committees of the California Legislature, we will here simply quote one — that of the Swamp Land Investigating Committee of the California Assembly of 1873.  Dealing with the fraudulent methods by which huge areas of the finest lands in California were obtained for practically nothing as “ swamp ” land, this committee reported, citing from what it termed a “mighty mass of evidence,” “That through the connivance of parties, surveyors were appointed who segregated lands as `swamp,’ which were not so in fact.  The corruption existing in the land department of the General Government has aided this system of fraud.”

Also, the committee commented with deep irony, “ the loose laws of the State, governing all classes of State lands, has enabled wealthy parties to obtain much of it under circumstances which, in some countries, where laws are more rigid and terms less refined, would be termed fraudulent, but we can only designate it as keen foresight and wise (for the land grabbers) construction of loose, unwholesome laws.”8

After recording its findings that it was satisfied from the evidence that “the grossest frauds have been committed in swamp matters in this State,” the committee went on :

Formerly it was the custom to permit filings upon real or alleged swamp lands, and to allow the applications to lie unacted upon for an indefinite number of years, at the option of the applicants.  In these cases, parties on the “ inside ” of the Land Office “ ring” had but to wait until some one should come along who wanted to take up these lands in good faith, and they would “sell out” to them their “rights” to land on which they had never paid a cent, nor intended to pay a cent.
      Or, if the nature of the land was doubtful, they would postpone all investigation until the height of the floods during the rainy season, when surveyors, in interest with themselves, would be sent out to make favorable reports as to the “swampy” character of the land.  In the mountain valleys and on the other side of the Sierras, the lands are overflowed from melting snow exactly when the water is most wanted ;  but the simple presence of the water is all that is necessary to show to the speculators that the land is “swamp,” and it therefore presents an inviting opportunity for this grasping cupidity.9

In his exhaustive report for 1885, Commissioner Sparks, of the General Land Office, described at great length the vast frauds that had continuously been going on in the granting of alleged “ swamp ” lands, and in fraudulent surveys, in many States and Territories.10  “ I thus found this office,” he wrote, “ a mere instrumentality in the hands of ` surveying rings.’ ”11  Sixteen townships examined in Colorado in 1885 were found to have been surveyed on paper only, no actual surveying having been done.12  In twenty-two other townships examined in Colorado, purporting to have been surveyed under a “ special-deposit ” contract awarded in 1881, the surveys were found wholly fraudulent in seven, while the other fifteen were full of fraud.”13

These are a very few of the numerous instances cited by Commissioner Sparks.  Although the law restricted surveys to agricultural lands and for homestead entries, yet the Land Office had long corruptly allowed what it was pleased to term certain “ liberal regulations.”  Surveys were so construed as to include any portion of townships the “ larger portion ” of which was not “ known ” to be of a mineral character.  These “ regulations,” which were nothing more or less than an extra-legal license to landgrabbers, also granted surveys for desert lands and timber lands under the timber-land act.  By the terms of this act, it will be recalled, those who entered and took title to desert and timber lands were not required to be actual settlers.  Thus, it was only necessary for the surveyors in the hire of the great land grabbers to report fine grazing, agricultural, timber or mineral land as “ desert land,” and vast areas could be seized by single individuals or corporations with facility.

Two specific laws directly contributed to the effectiveness of this spoliation.  One act, passed by Congress on May 30, 1862, authorized surveys to be made at the expense of settlers in the townships that those settlers desired surveyed.  Another act, called the Deposit Act, passed in 1871, provided that the amounts deposited by settlers should be partly applied in payment for the lands thus surveyed.  Together, these two laws made the grasping of land on an extensive scale a simple process.  The “ settler ” (which so often meant, in reality, the capitalist) could secure the collusion of the Land Office, and have fraudulent surveys made.  Under these surveys he could lay claim to immense tracts of the most valuable land and have them reported as “ swamp ” or “ desert ” lands ;  he could have the boundaries of original claims vastly enlarged ;  and the fact that part of his disbursements for surveying was considered as a payment for those lands, stood in law as virtually a confirmation of his claim.


“ Wealthy speculators and powerful syndicates,” reported Commissioner Sparks,

covet the public domain, and a survey is the first step in the accomplishment of this desire.  The bulk of deposit surveys have been made in timber districts and grazing regions, and the surveyed lands have immediately been entered under the timber land, preŽmption, commuted homestead, timber-culture and desert-land acts.  So thoroughly organized has been the entire system of procuring the survey and making illegal entry of lands, that agents and attorneys engaged in this business have been advised of every official proceeding, and enabled to present entry applications for the lands at the very moment of the filing of the plots of survey in the local land offices.
      Prospectors employed by lumber firms and corporations seek out and report the most valuable timber tracts in California, Oregon, Washington Territory or elsewhere ;  settler’s applications are manufactured as a basis for survey ;  contracts are entered into and pushed through the General Land Office in hot haste ;  a skeleton survey is made . . . entry papers, made perfect in form by competent attorneys, are filed in bulk, and the manipulators enter into possession of the land. . . . This has been the course of proceeding heretofore.14
Commissioner Sparks described a case of where it was discovered by his special agents in California that an English firm had obtained 100,000 acres of the choicest red-wood lands in that State.  These lands were then estimated to be worth $100 an acre.  The cost of procuring, surveys and fraudulent entries did not probably exceed $3 an acre.15

“ In the same manner,” Commissioner Sparks continued, “ extensive coal deposits in our Western territory are acquired in mass through expedited surveys, followed by fraudulent pre-emption and commuted homestead entries.”16  He went on to tell that nearly the whole of the Territory (now State) of Wyoming, and large portions of Montana, had been surveyed under the deposit system, and the lands on the streams fraudulently taken up under the desert land act, to the exclusion of actual settlers.  Nearly all of Colorado, the very best cattleraising portions of New Mexico, the rich timber lands of California, the splendid forest lands of Washington Territory and the principal part of the extensive pine lands of Minnesota had been fraudulently seized in the same way.”  In all of the Western States and Territories these fraudulent surveys had accomplished the seizure of the best and most valuable lands.  “ To enable the pressing tide of Western immigration to secure homes upon the public domain,” Commissioner Sparks urged, “ it is necessary . . . that hundreds of millions of acres of public lands now appropriated should be wrested from illegal control.”18  But nothing was done to recover these stolen lands.  At the very time Commissioner Sparks — one of the very few incorruptible Commissioners of Public Lands, — was writing this, the land-grabbing interests were making the greatest exertions to get him removed.  During his tenure of office they caused him to be malevolently harassed and assailed.  After be left office they resumed complete domination of the Land Comtissioner’s Bureau.19


The frauds in the settlement of private land claims on alleged grants by Spain and Mexico were colossal.  Vast estates in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and other States were obtained by collusion with the Government administrative officials and Congress.  These were secured upon the strength of either forged documents purporting to be grants from the Spanish or Mexican authorities, or by means of fraudulent surveys.

One of the most notorious of these was the Beaubin and Miranda grant, otherwise famous thirty years ago as the Maxwell land grant.  A reference to it here is indispensable.  It was by reason of this transaction, as well as by other similar transactions, that one of the American multimillionaires obtained his original millions.  This individual was Stephen B. Elkins, at present a powerful member of the United States Senate, and one of the ruling oligarchy of wealth.  He is said to possess a fortune of at least $50,000,000, and his daughter, it is reported, is to marry the Duke of the Abruzzi, a scion of the royal family of Italy.

The New Mexico claim of Beaubin and Miranda transferred to L.B. Maxwell, was allowed by the Government in 1869, but for ninety-six thousand acres only.  The owner refused to comply with the law, and in 1874 the Department of the Interior ordered the grant to be treated as public lands and thrown open to settlement.  Despite this order, the Government officials in New Mexico, acting in collusion with other interested parties, illegally continued to assess it as private property.  In 1877 a fraudulent tax sale was held, and the grant, fraudulently enlarged to 1,714,764.94 acres, was purchased by M.M. Mills, a member of the New Mexico Legislature.  He transferred the title to T.B. Catron, the United States Attorney for New Mexico.  Presently Elkins turned up as the principal owner.  The details of how this claim was repeatedly shown up to be fraudulent by Land Commissioners and Congressional Committees ;  how the settlers in New Mexico fought it and sought to have it declared void, and the law enforced ; 20 and how Elkins, for some years himself a Delegate in Congress from New Mexico, succeeded in having the grant finally validated on technical grounds, and “ judicially cleared ” of all taint of fraud, by an astounding decision of the Supreme Court of the United States — a decision contrary to the facts as specifically shown by successive Government officials — all of these details are set forth fully in another part of this work.21

The forgeries and fraudulent surveys by which these huge estates were secured were astoundingly bold and frequent.  Large numbers of private land claims, rejected by various Land Commissioners as fraudulent, were corruptly confirmed by Congress.  In 1870, the heirs of one Gervacio Nolan applied for confirmation of two grants alleged to have been made to an ancestor under the colonization laws of New Mexico.  They claimed more than 1,500,000 acres, but Congress conditionally confirmed their claim to the extent of forty-eight thousand acres only, asserting that the Mexican laws had limited to this area the area of public lands that could be granted to one individual.  In 1880 the Land Office reopened the claim, and a new survey was made by surveyors in collusion with the claimants, and hired by them.  When the report of this survey reached Washington, the Land Office officials were interested to note that the estate had grown from forty-eight thousand acres to five hundred and seventy-five thousand acres, or twelve times the legal quantity.22  The actual settlers were then evicted.  The romancer might say that the officials were amazed ;  they were not ;  such fraudulent enlargements were common.

The New Mexico estate of Francis Martinez, granted under the Mexican laws restricting a single grant to forty-eight thousand acres, was by a fraudulent survey, extended to 594,515.55 acres, and patented in 1881.23  A New Mexico grant said to have been made to Salvador Gonzales, in 1742, comprising “ a spot of land to enable him to plant a cornfield for the support of his family,” was fraudulently surveyed and enlarged to 103,959,31 acres — a survey amended later by reducing the area to 23,661 acres.24  The B.M. Montaya grant in New Mexico, limited to forty-eight thousand acres, under the Mexican colonization laws, was fraudulently surveyed for 151,056.97 acres.  The Estancia grant in New Mexico, also restricted under the colonization act to forty-eight thousand acres, was enlarged by a fraudulent survey to 415,036.56 acres.25  In 1768, Ignacio Chaves and others in New Mexico petitioned for a tract of about two and one-fourth superficial leagues, or approximately a little less than ten thousand acres.  A fraudulent survey magnified this claim to 243,036.43 acres.26

These are a very few of the large number of forged or otherwise fraudulent claims.

Some were rejected by Congress ;  many, despite Land Office protests, were confirmed.  By these fraudulent and corrupt operations, enormous estates were obtained in New Mexico, Colorado and in other sections.  The Pablo Montaya grant comprised in all, 655,468.07 acres ;  the Mora grant 827,621.01 acres ;  the Tierra Amarilla grant 594,515 acres, and the Sangre de Cristo grant 998,780,46 acres.  All of these were corruptly obtained.27  Scores of other claims were confirmed for lesser areas.  During Commissioner Sparks’ tenure of office, claims to 8,500,000 acres in New Mexico alone were pending before Congress.  A comprehensive account of the operations of the land-grabbers, giving the explicit facts, as told in Government and court records, of their system of fraud, is presented in the chapter on the Elkins fortune.


Reporting, in 1881, to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, Henry M. Atkinson, U.S. Surveyor-General of New Mexico, wrote that “ the investigation of this office for the past five years has demonstrated that some of the alleged grants are forgeries.”  He set forth that unless the court before which these claims were adjudicated could have full access to the archives, “ it is much more liable to be imposed upon by fraudulent title papers.”28  In fact, the many official reports describe with what cleverness the claimants to these great areas forged their papers, and the facility with which they bought up witnesses to perjure for them.  Finding it impossible to go back of the aggregate and corroborative “ evidence ” thus offered, the courts were frequently forced to decide in favor of the claimants.  To use a modern colloquial phrase, the cases were “ framed up.”  In the case of Luis Jamarillo’s claim to eighteen thousand acres in New Mexico, U.S. Surveyor-General Julian of New Mexico, in recommending the rejection of the claim and calling attention to the perjury committed, said :

When these facts are considered, in connection with the further and well-known fact that such witnesses can readily be found by grant claimants, and that in this way the most monstrous frauds have been practiced in extending the lines of such grants in New Mexico, it is not possible to accept the statement of this witness as to the west boundary of this grant, which he locates at such a distance from the east line as to include more than four times the amount of land actually granted.29

“ The widespread belief of the people of this country,” wrote Commissioner Sparks in 1885, “ that the land department has been largely conducted to the advantage of speculation and monopoly, private and corporate, rather than in the public interest, I have found supported by developments in every branch of the service. . . . I am satisfied that thousands of claims without foundation in law or equity, involving millions of acres of public land, have been annually passed to patent upon the single proposition that nobody but the Government had any adverse interest.  The vast machinery of the land department has been devoted to the chief result of conveying the title of the United States to public lands upon fraudulent entries under loose construction of law.”31  Whenever a capitalist’s interest was involved, the law was always “ loosely construed,” but the strictest interpretation was invariably given to laws passed against the working population.

It was estimated, in 1892, that 57,000,000 acres of land in New Mexico and Colorado had, for more than thirty years, been unlawfully treated by public officers as having been ceded to the United States by Mexico.  The Maxwell, Sangre de Cristo, Nolan and other grants were within this area.  The House Committee on Private Land Claims reported on April 29, 1892 :  “ A long list of alleged Mexican and Spanish grants within the limits of the Texas cession have been confirmed, or quit claimed by Congress, under the false representation that said alleged grants were located in the territory of New Mexico ceded by the treaty ;  an enormous area of land has long been and is now held as confirmed Mexican and Spanish grants, located in the territory of Mexico ceded by the treaty when such is not the fact.”31

In Texas the fraudulent, and often, violent methods of the seizure of land by the capitalists were fully as marked as those used elsewhere.

Upon its admittance to the Union, Texas retained the disposition of its public lands.  Up to about the year 1864, almost the entire area of Texas, comprising 274,356 square miles, or 175,587,840 acres, was one vast unfenced feeding ground for cattle, horses and sheep.  In about the year 1874, the agricultural movement began ;  large numbers of intending farmers migrated to Texas, particularly with the expectation of raising cattle, then a highly profitable business.  They found huge stretches of the land already preŽmpted by individual capitalists or corporations.  In a number of instances, some of these individuals, according to the report of a Congressional Committee, in 1884, dealing with Texas lands, had each acquired the ownership of more than two hundred and fifty thousand acres.

“ It is a notorious fact,” this committee reported, “ that the public land laws, although framed with the special object of encouraging the public domain, of developing its resources and protecting actual settlers, have been extensively evaded and violated.  Individuals and corporations have, by purchasing the proved-up claims, or purchases of ostensible settlers, employed by them to make entry, extensively secured the ownership of large bodies of land.”32  The committee went on to describe how, to a very considerable extent, “ foreigners of large means ” had obtained these great areas, and had gone into the cattle business, and how the titles to these lands were secured not only by individuals but by foreign corporations.  “ Certain of these foreigners are titled noblemen.  Some of them have brought over from Europe, in considerable numbers, herdsmen and other employees who sustain to them a dependent relationship characteristic of the peasantry on the large landed estates of Europe.”  Two British syndicates, for instance, held 7,500,000 acres in Texas.33

This spoliation of the public domain was one of the chief grievances of the National Greenback-Labor party in 1880.  This party, to a great extent, was composed of the Western farming element.  In his letter accepting the nomination of that party for President of the United States, Gen. Weaver, himself a member of long standing in Congress from Iowa, wrote :

An area of our public domain larger than the territory occupied by the great German Empire has been wantonly donated to wealthy corporations ;  while a bill introduced by Hon. Hendrick B. Wright, of Pennsylvania, to enable our poor people to reach and occupy the few acres remaining, has been scouted, ridiculed, and defeated in Congress.  In consequence of this stupendous system of land-grabbing, millions of the young men of America, and millions more of industrious people from abroad, seeking homes in the New World, are left homeless and destitute.  The public domain must be sacredly reserved to actual settlers, and where corporations have not complied strictly with the terms of their grants, the lands should be at once reclaimed.


Without dwelling upon all the causative factors — involving an extended work in themselves — some significant general results will be pointed out.

The original area of public domain amounted to 1,815,504,147 acres, of which considerably more than half, embracing some of the very best agricultural, grazing, mineral and timber lands, was already alienated by the year 1880.  By 1896 the alienation reached 806,532,362 acres.  Of the original area, about 50,000,000 acres of forests have been withdrawn from the public domain by the Government, and converted into forest reservations.  Large portions of such of the agricultural, grazing, mineral and timber lands as were not seized by various corporations and favored individuals before 1880, have been expropriated west of the Mississippi since then, and the process is still going, notably in Alaska.  The nominal records of the General Land Office as to the number of homesteaders are of little value, and are very misleading.  Immense numbers of alleged homesteaders were, as we have copiously seen, nothing but paid dummies by whose entries vast tracts of land were seized under color of law.  It is indisputably clear that hundreds of millions of acres of the public domain have been obtained by outright fraud.

Notwithstanding the fact that only a few years before, the Government had held far more than enough land to have provided every agriculturist with a farm, yet by 1880, a large farm tenant class had already developed.  Not less than 1,024,061 of the 4,008,907 farms in the United States were held by renters.  One-fourth of all the farms in the United States were cultivated by men who did not own them.  Furthermore, and even more impressive, there were 3,323,876 farm laborers composed of men who did not even rent land.  Equally significant was the increasing tendency to the operating of large farms by capitalists with the hired labor.  Of farms under cultivation, extending from one hundred to five hundred acres, there were nearly a million and a half — 1,416,618, to give the exact number — owned largely by capitalists and cultivated by laborers.34

Phillips, who had superior opportunities for getting at the real facts, and whose volume upon the subject issued at the time is well worthy of consideration, thus commented upon the census returns :

It will thus be seen that of the 7,670,493 persons in our country engaged in agriculture, there are 1,024,601 who pay rent to persons not cultivating the soil ;  1,508,828 capitalist or speculating owners, who own the soil and employ laborers ;  804,522 of well-to-do farmers who hire part of their work or employ laborers, and 670,944 who may be said to actually cultivate the soil they own :  the rest are hired workers.

Phillips goes on to remark :

Another fact must be borne in mind, that a large number of the 2,984,306 farmers who own land are in debt for it to the money lenders.  From the writer’s observation it is probable that forty per cent. of them are so deeply in debt as to pay a rent in interest.  This squeezing process is going on at the rate of eight and ten per cent., and in most cases can terminate in but one way.35


These are the statistics of a Government which, it is known, seeks to make its showing as favorable as possible to the existing regime.  They make it clear that a rapid process of the dispossession of the industrial working, the middle and the small farming classes has been going on unceasingly.  If the process was so marked in 1900 what must it be now ?  All of the factors operating to impoverish the farming population of the United States and turn them into homeless tenants have been a thousandfold intensified and augmented in the last ten years, beginning with the remarkable formation of hundreds of trusts in 1898.  Even though the farmer may get higher prices for his products, as he did in 1908 and 1909, the benefits are deceptively transient, while the expropriating process is persistent.

There was a time when farm land in Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin, and many other States was considered of high value.  But in the last few years an extraordinary sight has been witnessed.  Hundreds of thousands of American farmers migrated to the virgin fields of Northwest Canada and settled there — a portentous movement significant of the straits to which the American farmer has been driven.

Abandoned farms in the East are numerous ;  in New York State alone 22,000 are registered.  Hitherto the farmer has considered himself a sort of capitalist :  if not hostile to the industrial working classes, he has been generally apathetic.  But now he is being forced to the point of being an absolute dependant himself, and will inevitably align his interests with those of his brothers in the factories and in the shops.

With this contrast of the forces at work which gave empires of public domain to the few, while dispossessing the tens of millions, we will now proceed to a consideration of some of the fortunes based upon railroads.


1 See “ Great Fortunes from Industries.”

2 The slum population of the United States increased rapidly.  “According to the best estimates,” stated the “ Seventh Special Report of the U.S. Commissioner of Labor — The Slums of Great Cities, 1894,”  “the total slum population of Baltimore is about 25,000 ;  of Chicago, 162,000 ;  of New York, 360,000 ;  of Philadelphia ;  35,000” (p. 12).  The figures of the average weekly wages per individual of the slum population revealed why there was so large a slum population.  In Baltimore these wages were $8.65½ per week ;  in Chicago, $9.88½ ; in New York, $8.36, and in Philadelphia, $8.68 per week (p. 64).
      In his “ Modern Social Conditions,” Bailey, basing his statements upon the U.S. Census of 1900, asserted that 109,750 persons had died from tuberculosis in the United States in 1900.  “Plenty of fresh air and sunlight,” he wrote, “will kill the germs, and yet it is estimated that there are eight millions of people who will eventually die from consumption unless strenuous efforts are made to combat the disease.  Working in a confined atmosphere, and living in damp, poorly ventilated rooms, the dwellers in the tenements of the great cities fall easy victims to the great white plague (p. 265).

3 “The Labor Movement”: 339.

4 Executive Documents, First Session, Twenty-third Congress, 1834, Doc. No. 104.

5 Commonwealth vs. Hunt and others ;  Metcalf’s Supreme Court Reports, iv:III.  The prosecution had fallen back on the old English law of the time of Queen Elizabeth, making it a criminal offence for workingmen to refuse to work under certain wages.  This law, Rantoul argued, had not been specifically adopted as common law in the United States after the Revolution.

6 “The Public Domain,” House Ex. Doc. No. 47, Third Session, Forty-sixth Congress: 273.

7 “The West Coast Land Grabbers.” Everybody’s Magazine, May, 1905.

8 Report of the Swamp Land Investigating Committee, Appendix to California Journals of Senate and Assembly. Twentieth Session, 1874, Vol. iv, Doc. No. 5:3.

9 Report of the Swamp Land Investigating Committee, etc., 5.

10 House Documents, First Session, Forty-ninth Congress, 1885-86, Vol. ii.

11 Ibid., 166.

12 Ibid., 165.

13 House Documents, etc., 1885-86, ii: 165.

14 House Documents, etc., 1885-86, ii: 167.

15 House Ex. Docs., etc., 1885-86, ii:167.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid., 168.

18 Ibid.

19 The methods of capitalists in causing the removal of officials who obstructed or exposed their crimes and violent seizure of property were continuous and long enduring.  It was a very old practice.  When Astor was debauching and swindling Indian tribes, he succeeded, it seems, by exerting his power at Washington, in causing Government agents standing in his way to be dismissed from office.  The following is an extract from a communication, in 1821, of the U.S. Indian agent at Green Bay, Wisconsin, to the U.S. Superintendent of Indian Trade :
      “The Indians are frequently kept in a state of intoxication, giving their furs, etc., at a great sacrifice for whiskey. ... The agents of Mr. Astor hold out the idea that they will, ere long be able to break down the factories [Government agencies] ;  and they menace the Indian agents and others who may interfere with them, with dismission from office through Mr. Astor.  They say that a representation from Messrs. Crooks and Stewart (Mr. Astor’s agents) led to the dismission of the Indian agent at Mackinac, and they also say that the Indian agent here is to be dismissed.  . . .”—U.S. Senate Documents, First Session, Seventeenth Congress, 1821-22, Vol. i, Doc. No. 60:52-53.

20 “Land Titles in New Mexico and Colorado,” House Reports, First Session, Fifty-second Congress, 1891-92, Vol. iv, Report No. 1253.  Also, House Reports, First Session, Fifty-second Ccngress, 1891-92, Vol. vii, Report No. 1824. Also, House Reports, First Session, Forty-ninth Congress, 1885-86, ii: 170.

21 See “The Elkins Fortune,” in Vol. iii.

22 House Reports, First Session, Forty-ninth Congress, 1885-86, ii: 171.

23 Ibid., 172.

24 House Reports, etc., 1883-86, ii: 172.

25 Ibid., 173.

26 Ibid.

27 See Resolution of House Committee on Private Land Claims, June, 1892, demanding a thorough investigation. The House took no action.— Report No. 1824, 1892.

28 “The Public Domain,” etc., 1124. Also see note 29.

29 Senate Executive Documents, First Session, Fiftieth Congress, 1887-88, Vol. i, Private Land Claim No. 103, Ex. Doc. No. 20:3.  Documents Nos. 3 to 11, 13 to 23, 23 to 29 and 38 in the same volume deal with similar claims.

30 House Ex. Docs., 1885-86, ii: 156.

31 House Report, 1892, No. 1253:8.

32 House Reports, Second Session, Forty-eighth Congress, 1884-85, Vol. xxix, Ex. Doc. No. 267:43.

33 House Reports, etc., 1884-85, Doc. No. 267:46.

34 Tenth Census, Statistics of Agriculture : 28.

35 “ Labor, Land and Law ” : 353.
      It is difficult to get reliable statistics on the number of mortgages on farms, and on the number of farm tenants.  The U.S. Industrial Commission estimated, in 1902, that fifty per cent. of the homesteads in Eastern Minnesota were mortgaged.  Although admitting that such a condition had been general, it represented in its Final Report that a large number of mortgages in certain States had been paid off.  According to the “ Political Science Quarterly” (Vol. xi, No. 4, 1896) the United States Census of 1890 showed a marked increase, not only absolutely, but relatively in the number of farm tenants.  It can hardly be doubted that farm tenantry is rapidly increasing and will under the influence of various causes increase still more.