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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Gold Is The Reason For The Wars We Wage

Erik at LGF tells a fascinating tale of the struggle between gold miners and owners in 19th-century CO:

Fearing a complete massacre, Governor Waite stepped in. In an extremely rare move for the Gilded Age, Waite issued an order declaring the owners’ private army illegal and ordered the capitalists to disband it, sending in the state militia as a peacekeeping force. He then went to the miners and got their approval to be their bargaining agent with the mine owners.

To say the least, the mine owners were apoplectic. This was the age of the Great Railroad Strike, of Homestead, of Pullman. Capitalists expected the state to do their bidding. When Waite called a meeting of the union and owners in Colorado Springs, a mob whipped up by the companies formed outside and threatened to lynch Waite and the unionists. Through a decoy, they snuck out the back door and escaped. Despite this, Waite forced the mine owners to agree to restore the eight hour day at the previous wages of $3 a day (about $73 today, so basically the equivalent of about $9 an hour for extremely dangerous work).

Even though they had reached an agreement, mine owners wanted revenge. Bowers could not control the 1200 deputies. After a confrontation with the state militia at Victor, the deputies went to Cripple Creek, where they arrested hundreds of miners on trumped up charges. They even formed a gauntlet and forced townspeople to run through it while being beaten. The state militia then rounded up the deputies, essentially arresting the police. The mine owners refused to disband the private army but the governor said he’d keep the militia in town for another month which meant that the owners would have to pay the private army to do nothing. Finally, they gave up. It was arguably organized labor’s biggest win in the entire Gilded Age.

Those militia sure come in handy for the government...


February 7, 2013 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink


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