Crimson Banners Fly: The Rise of the American Left


"The Treason of the Senate," Cover from Cosmopolitan Magazine, April 30th, 1905 - Source: Starkman/Cosmo

Speaker Cannon's spectacular fall from grace appeared to embody yet another political earthquake courtesy of President Roosevelt. The House Revolt and its subsequent passage of the Sulzer Resolution proved an intense blow to the Old Guard and its notion of congressional invincibility. Congress had pulled the brakes on Bryan's radical proposals - Why was Roosevelt immune? The keen New Yorker, as became apparent early on in his tenure, possessed a knack for putting together informal coalitions regardless of political party. Bryan, for all his base popularity, did not carry an equivalent degree of professional statesmanship and blanket progressive appeal. He would not have been able to accomplish such a bipartisan feat, but Roosevelt represented its possibility.

The president won a substantial battle over effective command of the House of Representatives, illustrated through the election of the unprincipled, conciliatory Speaker Butler, but succeeding in a duplicate manner for senatorial control would require nothing short of a miracle. Even in the period following the enactment of the 16th Amendment, the United States Senate did not contain the same democratic expectations of accountability that the House had. Many long-serving senators, like Senators Thomas Platt, Nelson Aldrich, and John Spooner, skillfully established that they could win direct elections to the legislature. Unlike in the lower chamber, the Senate did not designate official leadership positions (aside from the vice president), but the Republican Party ceremoniously recognized an appointed conference chairperson as their de facto floor manager. In the 59th Congress, this post was awarded to fierce anti-progressive Senator Charles Fairbanks.

Fairbanks, commander of the Indiana Republican Party since the death of President Beveridge, validated his worth to the Old Guard from the moment of his 1896 senatorial ascension. He played a key part the organization of the 1904 Depew Campaign (famously bowing out of the race to support Depew's renomination alongside Foraker) and was nominated vice president by the Republican Party that same year. Fairbanks was granted a seat at the table with fellow influential conservatives, and at only 52 years of age was designated Chairman of the U.S. Senate Republican Conference. With the future of his career at stake, Fairbanks paid close attention to the House Revolt and took steps to ensure an identical scenario would not play out in the Senate.

At about the same time Cannon was facing removal from power, Senate Republicans were placing the finishing touches on a vital new piece of legislation. Looking to spurn Roosevelt and cast revenge for the electoral degradation of President Depew, Fairbanks authorized the creation of a bill, co-authored by Senator Nelson Aldrich, intended to repeal in its totality the American Safeguards Act. This, the law which forbade the issuing of injunctions by courts to breakup labor strikes, was widely viewed as the final vestige of anarchic pro-labor reform passed by President Bryan. Depew reportedly planned to go forward with such a repeal if he were to be elected, but Roosevelt had no such inclination. Fairbanks needed support from two-thirds of the Senate in the likely outcome of a presidential veto, and, by all historical accounts of this moment in history, he may have been on the verge of attaining it. Conservatism, as well as the fortitude of the Republican Old Guard, evidently thrived in the upper chamber far more so than the lower.

However, fewer than 48-hours prior to the initial vote on the repeal at the tail end of April 1905, a Cosmopolitan magazine article ominously entitled, "The Treason of the Senate," reached store shelves. Written by "muckracker" (a slang term for a reform-minded anti-corruption journalist) David Graham Phillips, this editorial was a toxic exposé on the corrupt tendencies of Senator Aldrich. "Treason is a strong word," the article began, "but not too strong to characterize the situation in which the Senate is the eager, resourceful, and indefatigable agent of interests as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be." Phillips accused Aldrich of possessing close ties with the vast Rockefeller interests, and that "the millions for watchers, spellbinders, halls, processions, posters, pamphlets, that are spent in national, state and local campaigns" were paid in full by that wealthy dynasty. The article went on, claiming that the Rhode Island senator controlled his state legislature, bribed his electoral opponents, forged an unholy alliance with Arthur Gorman, and guided public policy to systematically benefit the Rockefeller trusts via tariff legislation.

Yet again, the nation was captivated with the outrageous dealings in Washington. With the powerful Aldrich name ran through the theoretical muck, the American public questioned why his likeness was attached to the Safeguards repeal. The simple answer was, of course, that Rockefeller interests would benefit tremendously by the (re)legalization of strike injunctions. A deafening outcry for the bill's defeat followed suit, threatening to relegate its fate to the historical dustbin. Fairbanks and the Republican leadership, albeit shaken by the ordeal, retained the party line that such yellow journalism was untrustworthy and "ridiculous falsehoods masterminded by Bill Hearst." Ironically, Hearst did assist Phillips with the sensationalist story, but historical evidence, not conjecture, backs up many of the aforementioned claims.

Flagrantly ignoring the demand of the people and the command of the president, Fairbanks reiterated his intent to see the vote take place. In spite of his wish to see it through, the senator's staff discovered, upon further examination, that the odds of overriding Roosevelt's anticipated veto were very poor. About a dozen Republicans announced their intent to vote against the measure, and nearly the entire Democratic delegation readied itself to sink the bill. Forgoing the embarrassment of a failed vote, Fairbanks scuttled the effort and declared the Aldrich bill dead. As Senator Tillman relayed to the press that day, "Poor Johnny [Rockefeller] will have a good long cry into his wallet."

Nevertheless, the base issue of blocking the majority of Roosevelt's Square Deal endured. Phillips pressed on, printing monthly iterations of "The Treason of the Senate" as its revealings continuously pummeled self-righteous senators. As it went on, the series highlighted the blatant corruptibility of Senator Gorman taking bribes from the sugar industry, Senator Spooner's sketchy connections with the Great Lake railway barons, Senator Knox silently working against the prosecution of banking trusts, and Former President Depew's dealings with the Vanderbilt family. 20 senators (and one president) in all were criticized by the Phillips articles. Although some notable incumbents treated the accusations as frivolous yellow journalism, others feared electoral consequences and gradually softened their anti-Roosevelt stances. "The 'Treason'," explained historian Gus J. Thompson in The Political Press, "had a profound effect on the tenable ability of the Senate leadership to maintain order and discipline among the ranks. Moderates who sought to distance themselves from any remote association with the increasingly unpopular Old Guard broke ranks and called for a debate on the Square Deal."

Fortunately for the president, he did manage to enact part of his ambitious legislative agenda as planned. The 59th Congress passed several Rooseveltian proposals in 1905 and 1906. First, the Patterson Agricultural Reclamation Act was signed in mid-July, appropriating federal funds for the construction of irrigation projects in the American West and placing 230 million acres of land under federal protection. Congress also agreed to vote affirmatively on the American Antiquities Act in 1905, a measure granting the president newfound executive authority to create national monuments to protect natural or cultural environments. Roosevelt secured passage, narrowly in the Senate but rather easily in the House, of the Federal Employers Liability Act in 1906, compensating railroad workers injured on the job due to "legally negligent" conditions. Last, and perhaps the initiative which required the most arm-twisting, was the reinstatement of the Sulzer-Hepburn Act (reintroduced as the Hepburn Rebate Act of 1906) with finer guidelines that more broadly affected consolidation. The HRA passed 287-99 in the House, 46-45 in the Senate (Taft broke the tie).
 
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Part 4: Chapter XII

"Next On the Waiting List of the Roosevelt Club," Chicago Tribune Cartoon, April 10th, 1906 - Source: Wiki Commons

Chapter XII: A Few Bad Men: Market Resistance and the Invisible Government

President Roosevelt was ecstatic to witness genuine progress win out in Congress, but his impatience led to a discovery that executive privilege allowed for a quicker and more forceful route of reform. More so than any predecessor, the Progressive president was fascinated by the prospect of an executive order. He enjoyed the idea of issuing presidential directives to better suit his policy objectives, and was undeterred by conservative criticism on the matter. Cannon commented on the president's inclination to supplant congressional policy-making, remarking "That fellow at the other end of the avenue wants everything from the birth of Christ to the death of the devil." Roosevelt later wrote in response, "There was a great clamor that I was usurping legislative power. I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power."

The first area in which the president utilized the executive order was in conservation. He was a champion of preserving the majesty of untouched nature and taking precious care of the American countryside and its fauna. Passage of the American Antiquities and Patterson Reclamation Acts were a fine start, but far more had yet to be accomplished. Roosevelt passed executive initiatives to quadruple the amount of protected land (to 172 million) and designate hundreds of new national forests under jurisdiction of the National Forest Service. He also crafted dozens of federal monuments under the Antiquities Act, most significant of which was the Arizona-based Grand Canyon.

Beyond conservation, the president explicitly wished to tackle economic issues on the Executive level and without congressional input. By 1905, the 200 or so monopolistic trusts that ransacked the entrepreneurial landscape of the United States mastered the nation as firmly, if not more so, than Cannon once did the House. Trusts implanted themselves into every avenue of trade and controlled prices on common goods - from coal and steel to tobacco and animal products. They set the railroad rates (until the late-1906 implementation of the HRA), managed worker wages, and decimated small businesses who had the nerve to compete. As previously inferred, over 30% of American companies disappeared during the merger wave of the early twentieth century. Roosevelt, having been elected on a platform of regulating the vast consolidation of American industries, now had these trusts in his sights.

Outraged by villainous consolidation, Roosevelt charted a course for active intervention in opposition to "the restraint of trade." In the belief that the government needed to act as a counterweight to corporate power, the president hastened the creation of an informal Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, spearheaded by Attorney General McKenna, to enforce U.S. antitrust laws. Despite intense pressure by the Rockefeller and Morgan interests, McKenna's Justice Department brought forth a spree of antitrust lawsuits targeting these omnipresent powers. "The great corporations," President Roosevelt proclaimed, "which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is duty bound to control them wherever the need of such control is shown."

The Antitrust Division considered its options and soon arrived at the conclusion that the first step ought to be its most monumental. Instructed by Roosevelt and McKenna, the Justice Department opened a heavily-publicized suit regarding the monopolistic nature of the Northern Securities Company. This specific trust, bolstered by President Depew's tolerant, laissez-faire administration, now effectively controlled the railway system of the American West. Rates and shipping fees had skyrocketed in the span of 1902 to 1905 in areas managed by Northern Securities. Just as they feared at the onset of the merger, Midwestern and Western state governors were forced to placate the owners of the company and submit to its demands, lest their cities be ransacked by deliberately worsened schedules and fees. Roosevelt watched this unfold during his time in the Depew Administration, and recounted in his personal memoirs that his predecessor's toleration of Northern Securities played a significant part in the decision to formally break from the Republican Party.

This was one of the first major SCOTUS cases decided in the post-Gilded Age period. Theodore Roosevelt's Justice Department argued for the prosecution of the merged interstate railroad corporation stating that its establishment was the textbook definition of a monopoly, and under the guidelines of the Sherman Antitrust Act, its formation and existence was an illegality. Attorneys working in the service of the company's chief executive, James J. Hill, argued for the defense, pleading their case that the merger did not fit the parameters of a monopoly and, furthermore, that the prosecution gravely threatened a precedent of federal overreach. On February 19th, 1906, the Supreme Court decided against the trust and ordered its breakup.

Northern Securities Company v. United States: Decision 5-4
Chief Justice Melville Fuller - Dissent
Justice John M Harlan - Plurality
Justice David J Brewer - Concurrence
Justice Henry B. Brown - Plurality
Justice Edward D. White - Dissent
Justice Rufus W. Peckham - Dissent
Justice Joseph M. Carey - Plurality
Justice William R. Day - Plurality
Justice John W. Warrington - Dissent

Ronald L. Chapman, A Concise History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 2011

Experiencing an unexpected morale boost from the decision, the Antitrust Division conducted itself in double time, pressing forward with an unprecedented chain of new lawsuits. Roosevelt brought twenty more cases before the federal court system within a period of two years, surpassing the combined 14 antitrust violations prosecuted by the previous five presidents. Northern Securities' defeat, and the court precedence of recognizing prominent trusts as illegal monopolies, frankly spelled misery for the fate of the merger wave. In a lettered response to a plea from J.P. Morgan for an arbitrated agreement on the remainder of his industrial holdings, Roosevelt wrote, "If your enterprises are proven unlawful, there is no alternative solution than that which befell Northern Securities."

To make matters worse for the commercial giants, the Supreme Court ruled thrice more in 1906 on the side of the oft-described 'trust-buster.' In Swift & Co. v. United States, the court ruled unanimously in favor of the prosecution, concurring that the federal government's regulation of the meat industry (the infamous Beef Trust which commanded half of the national market) was lawful as it protected commerce from a monopolistic force. Mirroring the case opinions cited above, the Supreme Court ruled again against massive corporate combinations in Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States and U.S. Steel Co. v. United States. In both instances, as was the case in the Northern Securities decision, the plurality sided with the Justice Department's allegations pertaining to monopolistic illegality. Standard Oil, in its gobbling up of virtually all petroleum refining companies in the country, and U.S. Steel, in controlling a 3/4ths market share, were each found violating the Sherman Act. To the immense displeasure of John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, SCOTUS ordered the breakup of their trusts in mid-to-late 1906.
 

"The Busy Showman," Harper's Weekly Cartoon, May 6th, 1906 - Source: Wiki Commons

Drawing on the power of the Executive Branch, President Roosevelt sought an active presence on the world stage not unlike President Beveridge before him. From his time in the War Department, and in numerous consultations with Secretaries Hay and Moore, Roosevelt developed his knowledge on world affairs and became an astute inquisitor of American overseas influence. Blusterous jingoism oft characterized the Roosevelt wing of the Republican Party and the Beveridge presidency as a whole, but the New Yorker was not blind to the fact that the U.S. needed to utilize diplomatic means and work alongside other global governments whenever possible.

During the 1904 campaign, in a speech delivered to a crowd of enthusiasts at the St. Louis World's Fair, Roosevelt perfectly encapsulated his perspective on international matters. He exclaimed that the United States could assert its national power and expand itself economically without resorting to the horrors of the Philippines. "Right here," he said, "let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick – you will go far.' If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power." Proclaiming that the nation ought not to take part in self-glorification and outright condemnation of other peoples and governments, Roosevelt indicated a centralized approach far removed from the Beveridge years.

Roosevelt understood that the disaster of the Philippines War could never be allowed to repeat itself. The stunning death toll of that war was unconscionable, and the imperial ends did not brush away those deplorable means. He was contented with the result of that war, but from thence on the president looked to less glaring intervention that would not invoke a harsh reaction by the American press. For all intents and purposes, Roosevelt's stance served as a response to Democratic criticism of the war in the Philippines and helped to assuage Bryan's worst fears of an magisterial regime. The president pledged to only utilize a ground invasion when all other tactics were exhausted in the name of preserving democratic governance/ Nevertheless, Roosevelt refused to evolve past the opinion that expansion was inevitable and it was the divine destiny of the United States to step onto the international stage.

Under the guidance of Navy Secretary Mahan, and with halfhearted approval by then-President Depew, the U.S. Navy modernized with a major face-lift. Mahan's Navy Department and Roosevelt's War Department enacted a proliferation initiative that dramatically expanded the capabilities of both sections of the Armed Forces. Naval fortifications were renovated and the number of cruisers, battleships, and submarines doubled on Mahan's watch. The Navy Secretary had argued that an improved fleet was necessary for securing efficient and safe trade throughout the Pacific and the Americas. "Whether they will or no," Mahan once declared, "Americans must now continue to look outward. The growing production of the country demands it." His successor, George von Lengerke Meyer, held similar views regarding naval expansion. Leonard Wood, Roosevelt's pick for War Secretary, too dreamed for the perpetuation of the modernization effort.

Alongside their president, Root and Meyer concurred that the preceding administrations were focused so intensely on the Pacific markets that they passed on their own backyard. It was long past due, according to the Roosevelt Administration, for the United States to act with a tougher line in Latin America: the natural locale for economic and strategic benefits. Since the end of the Spanish-American War and the explosion of U.S. investment into the region to its South, exports tripled and commercial investments escalated three-fold. John Hay's Open Door Policy accelerated entrepreneurial interest in profitable commercial havens like Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, but Roosevelt looked to expand the U.S. sphere of influence into Central and South America as well. He plotted ahead toward several consequential goalposts, including more stridently intervening in Honduras and Nicaragua as well as exploring the pursuit of an isthmian canal in Central America, but one in particular caught his attention.

More than anything, Roosevelt desired and championed for an international policy which served to garner prestige and notoriety for the republic. In time, the president stated, the United States would become a sufficient world power. At the time, however, the recent activities of the young nation tarnished its legitimate place as a haven for peaceful democracy. Roosevelt was profoundly discouraged by the tumultuous foreign policy choices enacted by his friend and mentor, Albert Beveridge, during the Philippines War. That conflict, from the shameful execution of Aguinaldo to the genocidal practices of the Generals Otis and Smith, considerably eroded the perception of the United States as a global force for benevolence. Though he did not condone these facets of the war and, with Hay at his side, worked to convince Beveridge to pursue a less blood-soaked path, Roosevelt's public insistence that there was no systematic cruelty did a severe number to his reputation in the Pacific. The consequences of this development did not become clear until the autumn of 1905 when the Japanese government flatly declined an offer by President Roosevelt to mediate a treaty with Russia to formally end hostilities in the Russo-Japanese War. This instance exemplified the urgent need to restore national prestige.

A second chance arose with the dawn of 1906. In the North African country of Morocco, a crisis had broken out pertaining to European oversight. The German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, proclaimed during a tour of Tangier that the Sultan of Morocco rightly deserved sovereignty from French influence. He demanded a neutral conference be held to discuss the rights of the African power to self-govern, or, more specifically, be released from its de facto status as a French protectorate. Wilhelm reached out to President Roosevelt to assist in mediating the affair, trusting that their Pacific trading partner would come to their side as needed and thereby avoid total isolation. Roosevelt was hesitant, considering the reluctance of the Senate to condone international dealings with European matters, but, recounting the missed opportunity in settling the Russo-Japanese War and wishing to retain friendly relations with the German government, he agreed.

The Algeciras Conference, taking place in Southern Spain, began in January of 1906 and lasted through April. Thirteen nations were present, including Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Russia, Britain, Spain, Italy, the United States, and, of course, Morocco. From the get-go, lines were drawn separating the Entente Cordial (Britain and France) from Germany. Representatives from the Italian and Spanish governments hedged their bets on the Entente side of the room, supporting their proposals and shaking their heads at the German ministers. The main issues meant to be discussed, ownership and control of the banking and police systems in Morocco, essentially surrounded the idea of French oversight. French diplomat Paul Révoil transparently fought in favor of subjecting the Bank of Morocco to French laws and a French-style judicial system, a division of capital in which France would hold a majority share (27%), and the preferential right to make loans held by France. They also hoped to ensure police instructors were French and that their own officers would determine the distribution of precincts.

Knowing their chance of victory was extraordinarily slim, German representative Joseph Maria von Radowitz proposed a compromise. Objecting to France's terms, the Germans offered an equal division of capital among the powers of Europe and neutral supervision of the institution. They also upheld the original concept that the Sultan would retain organizational powers over the police, and any foreign officers would be freely selected by him. This arrangement fell far short of the expectation of Kaiser Wilhelm to totally eradicate Entente influence in Morocco, but it too prevented an outright French protectorate. Initially, the opposing powers deemed the German plan unacceptable, with Britain firm in the belief that France should have a greater share of influence. Dissuading the German ministers from displaying bluster or otherwise bullying the smaller powers present, the U.S. Ambassador Henry White urged the Entente to concede their ground avoid any further crisis. Gaining support of Austria and Italy, the United States pressed the compromise to the Entenete, arguing that the German plan offered the greatest possible compromise. Losing face, Révoil reluctantly backed down.

Tension immediately relaxed at the tail-end of the Algeciras Conference. The Moroccan government, albeit strengthened by the compromise, was not thrilled with Radowitz' concessions, nor was he disappointed by France's trouncing. Undoubtedly, France lost this bout and the Entente, weakened, was reeling from that gut-punch. Succeeding in their mission to reduce French influence, the outcome of the Moroccan Crisis was a solid victory for the German Empire. Roosevelt, on a personal level, was unsure whether White navigated the arena properly, but a closer relationship with their trading partner was not a terrible after-effect. White and Roosevelt were certainly under tremendous pressure from Pacific interests to not jeopardize ongoing arrangements with the German government, so the end result was not a complete shock. All in all, the conference concluded with the United States gaining the valuable prestige it desired, but too worsened ties with the British and the French.
 
Hmm. While it’s hardly certain, I’m beginning to suspect that the US‘s leftward drift comes at least partly as a reaction to involvement in an alt-WWI. There have been some hints that the country is more involved in European affairs than IOTL. If it ends up at war with Britain, the only power able to threaten the heartland, that has all the hallmarks of a bloody slog through Canada and repeated bloodbaths in the Atlantic.

Just the thing to radicalize returning veterans against the status quo and those who run it.
 
Hmm. While it’s hardly certain, I’m beginning to suspect that the US‘s leftward drift comes at least partly as a reaction to involvement in an alt-WWI. There have been some hints that the country is more involved in European affairs than IOTL. If it ends up at war with Britain, the only power able to threaten the heartland, that has all the hallmarks of a bloody slog through Canada and repeated bloodbaths in the Atlantic.

Just the thing to radicalize returning veterans against the status quo and those who run it.
You have a keen eye, my friend! WWI will be quite the ordeal when we get there + Isolation vs. Intervention will look very different ITTL than OTL.
 
You have a keen eye, my friend! WWI will be quite the ordeal when we get there + Isolation vs. Intervention will look very different ITTL than OTL.
Isolation is pretty difficult in a world of growing trade and connections I'm just wondering how other nations wiull grow here, especially the understated powers like Mexico. Russia's monarchy is still likely doomed and the Ottoman is approaching its point to either rebuild itself or collapse
 

First Charter of the Industrial Workers of the World, 1906 - Source: Wiki Commons

Since the 1904 elections, the Socialist Party bounded forward and grew steadily each passing year. Fierce and strenuous rank-and-file organization, the wide circulation of radical publications like Wayland's Appeal to Reason, and the extensive touring by orators in the mold of Eugene Debs had led to the left-wing party's massive increase in notoriety. Socialists were elated when former shoe factory worker John C. Chase (S-NY) won a seat in the national legislature on the SP line - the first in U.S. history. Chase now formally represented New York's 13th District in Congress, and although he collaborated with Progressive leaders in the lower house, he officially served as the minority leader for the Socialist Party.

Debs recognized that, despite the natural growth of Socialism manifesting with a slow-drip of political representation, the educational procedure of whistle-stop campaigning and assistance in unionizing efforts more directly influenced the changing current in America. As cemented at its 1901 founding, the official labor policy of the Socialist Party did not take an absolutist stance on unionism. Instead, it recommended socialists of all creeds join, develop, or create trade unions within their own workplaces in conjunction with the American Federation of Labor framework.

The main complication with this plank was that the AFL actively worked against the mission of the Socialist Party. In addition to their well-documented ineptitude during the Anthracite Strike, the AFL was managed by, as described by Hillquit, "conservative and incapable leaders.". Samuel Gompers, the AFL President, was especially emblematic of such criticism. In 1903, during a Boston convention of the union, Gompers self-righteously announced, "I want to say to you [Socialists] that I am entirely at variance with your philosophy. I declare it to you, I am not only at variance with your doctrines, but with your philosophy. Economically, you are unsound; socially, you are wrong; industrially, you are an impossibility."

Berger, Hillquit, and others in the central organizing committees of the SP began to reckon with an veritable truth that the AFL, in its viciously anti-socialist policies and unmovable insistence on limited craft unionism (which rejected unskilled workers - the majority of the working class), was counterproductive to their progressive ideals. Gompers' and Mitchell's conservatism, Debs recalled, undermined the strength of the working class. The socialist leader evolved past the position of AFL-affiliation at about the time of Roosevelt's presidency, but the prospect of abandonment with the entire labor movement never entered the organizer's mind. Something new was necessary to replace the old, and a suitable stand-in for the AFL finally came about in the summer of 1905.

Mine worker and prospector William Dudley "Big Bill" Haywood was a part of a contingent of Idaho silver miners that joined the militant Western Federation of Miners in the 1890s. The active and eager Haywood quickly rose up the ranks of the union, operating the WFM local and shifting leftward in the process. In his time involved with that union, he led its turn to industrial unionism, Marxist-inspired class analysis, and its 1901 promotion of "a complete revolution of social and economic conditions." These notions directly and deliberately countered the more conservative craft union theories espoused by the AFL. The WFM headed a handful of violent miner's strikes typically grouped together as the 'Colorado Labor Wars' in 1903 and 1904, and those experiences forced the workers to consider a broader industrial collective: a radical iteration of the AFL, if you will.

Haywood, in addition to Western labor leaders and members of the WFM, agreed to meet in June of 1905 to found a novel revolutionary union with a staunch commitment to class struggle. That union became the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Over three hundred delegates traveled to Brand's Hall in Chicago, including an assortment of well-known political activists and labor movement icons. Among them were Eugene Debs, Daniel DeLeon, socialist theorist Algie M. Simons, WFM Local 63 President Vincent Saint John, Catholic priest and Colorado organizer Thomas J. Hagerty, prominent community activist Mary "Mother" Jones, radical orator Lucy Parsons, and Irish republican activist James Connolly. The tall and booming Haywood opened the first meeting of the IWW.


Fellow Workers. In calling this convention to order I do so with a sense of the responsibility that rests upon me and rests upon every delegate that is here assembled. This is the Continental Congress of the working class. We are here to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class from the slave bondage of capitalism. [...] The American Federation of Labor, which presumes to be the labor movement of this country, is not a working class movement. There are organizations that are affiliated with the A.F. of L. in which their constitution and by-laws prohibit the initiation of a colored man; that prohibit the same of foreigners. What we want to establish at this time is a labor organization that will open wide its doors to every man that earns his living by brain or his muscle.
Bill Haywood, "IWW Opening Plenary Address", June 26th, 1905

The radical approach of the IWW rejected craft divisions and binding trade agreements, turning away from the labor policies of the nineteenth century and asserting the "foundational right to strike". These delegates agreed in the proposition that the union should never depend on government benevolence as the AFL had, seeing as the calamitous Anthracite Strike proved that policy's flagrant irresponsibility. The IWW also outright refused business unionism and the notion of mediation with the employing class, proposing instead an explicitly revolutionary strategy of worker-owned industries.

These ferocious attacks on "morally bankrupt" conservative unionism resonated with a significant faction of workers associated with the United Mine Workers of America. Still recovering from the abysmal failure of their Pennsylvania strike, as well as an additional wretched defeat in the Cripple Creek District of Colorado, a wide swathe of the AFL-affiliated union was immeasurably disillusioned with Mitchell's leadership, or lack thereof. Observing the discontent of their fellow miners, IWW advocates began reaching out to UMWA members in order to elucidate the idea of broad industrial unionism and the IWW framework through which the WFM and UMWA might, theoretically, coalesce. Such a scenario, that of a united miners' union, stood to categorically weaken the AFL and seriously bolster the IWW (as well as confute pro-AFL SP members).

With opposition to Mitchell and Gompers at its apex, an outline for a joint-meeting of the two unions came to a vote at the 1907 UMWA convention. Debs and Haywood (who were extremely active in rallying support behind the scenes) opted to address the convention delegates personally. "Mere craft unionism," Debs put forth, "no matter how well it may be organized, is in the present highly developed capitalist system utterly unable to successfully cope with the capitalist class. [...] It is no part of the mission of this revolutionary working class union to conciliate the capitalist class. We are organized to fight that class, and we want that class to distinctly understand it." Then, in a moment that forever stood to alter the landscape of the United States labor movement, the dissident socialist faction broke through.

Signifying an evolution, and perhaps a revolution, the vote to break with the AFL passed with a slim majority. The United Mine Workers, from thence on, would be associated with the Industrial Workers of the World. This not only meant a far stronger mining coalition, but it gave the legitimized IWW a significant union base that it hadn't yet achieved. Debs was astonished, gladdened yet shocked, and cheerfully expressed a pledge to Haywood that the Socialist Party would do all it could to foster deep ties with the IWW: the logical organizing arm of the revolutionists. This result brought Haywood and Debs closer, effectively ended John Mitchell's career, and practically guaranteed the Socialist Party's final abandonment of the AFL. On the less optimistic side of the coin, however, the now-infuriated Gompers would introduce an element that otherwise might never have come to pass. Starting in 1907, the AFL president explored the drafting of paid informants to spy on the new national union organization. Conservative resistance, after all, is a common feature of revolutionary progressive change.
 

Crowd at the Federal Hall National Memorial in New York City, September 10th, 1906 - Source: Wiki Commons

On July 19th, 1906, John D. Rockefeller recorded his thoughts on the state of the economy in a letter to banker Charles W. Morse. He wrote, "[Roosevelt] has declared war on prosperity. That madman will disrupt every acquisition administered from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I fear for the future of United Copper. Our economy may sink to a depression if nothing is done." Morse, a crooked shipping, banking, and ice magnate (in some circles he was known as the "Ice King"), concurred with Rockefeller that the economy was teetering on the brink. Shining a light on his timely insight, the banker returned a short message to Rockefeller. "I will say this - if prosperity is snuffed out, nevermore will a man like Roosevelt win a position of authority above dogcatcher."

There is no historical evidence indicting Roosevelt's policies for the market conditions of the latter half of 1906, despite what some contemporary conservative economists may assert, but it was certainly the case that the stock market began sliding from the moment the Supreme Court justices read aloud their decision in the Northern Securities case. Rumors had begun to circulate among stockholders that the National Bank of Commerce, a relatively powerful financial institution based out of Kansas City, would be considered a future target of the courts for its position as the prime correspondence bank in Missouri and Illinois. Its stock value sharply fell on September 2nd, and all but collapsed by the 3rd. In a ripple effect, spurred on by reports of mismanagement and overextended credit by high-profile institutions like the Knickerbocker Trust Company and the First National Band of Brooklyn, patrons of other banking conglomerates began fearing for their savings. A series of textbook bank runs ensued as tens of thousands demanded their holdings withdrawn.

Coinciding with the rising trend of bank closures, the New York Stock Exchange very nearly shut down as stock prices plummeted by the hour. Stockholders rushed to the exchange at the same speed account holders darted to the banks, causing an uproar in the financial district. Only by the private insistence by J.P. Morgan that closing the exchange could reinforce economic uncertainty was the decision made to keep the doors open. By this point, around September 10th, the ongoing banking panic rose to a fever pitch with confidence at its lowest in a decade. Wall Street, it appeared, faced the prospect of ruination. The situation seemed bleak, and those in charge of the financial sector had immense difficulty in manufacturing a viable solution.

Speculators, financiers, and political analysts squarely blamed Roosevelt for the crisis, deeming him responsible for inciting the panic by prosecuting the trusts. Many Standpatter Republican senators concurred, with Fairbanks leading that charge in Congress. "The actions by this administration," proclaimed the Indianan, "to tarnish the good name of American commerce have led us here. The unfounded charges of widespread misdeeds and malfeasance have taken a mighty toll. [...] To quote scripture, 'For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.'" The upper class, in one unified voice, damned Roosevelt for the sudden financial hardship, but did little to actually remedy the crisis.

President Roosevelt, having embraced the hatred of corporate economists and wealthy capitalists, ignored their verbal assaults and explored the necessary steps to calm the air. He recognized that a tumble on Wall Street and an escalation of bank closures could adversely affect the larger United States economy and spread hardship unforeseen since the early 1890s. Still, he was not delighted with the idea of assisting the very businessmen who resoundingly despised his presence in Washington, nor was he thrilled to help the trusts that operated in a mannerism counter to the people's interest. It was a textbook quagmire, but Roosevelt, being a man of action, did not see fit to let it all crumble away.


Roosevelt, not desirous of new enemies, struggled to find the correct tone in addressing the ears of the citizenry. All he could do was to soothe the public with unspecific promises of forthcoming recovery. At the White House, the president held a Cabinet meeting to discuss the administration's plan, and eventually did settle on a verdict. Roosevelt directed Treasury Secretary L.M. Shaw, a former commercial banker, to conduct a cordial gathering of bank owners and elites in New York. Mr. Shaw followed the directive, and by the end of the week met with red-nosed J.P. Morgan, First National Bank President George Baker, and National City Bank Chairman James Stillman. None of these aristocrats were particularly conciliatory, but Shaw hoped for a mediated settlement as they conferred for an entire evening.
The inevitable impasse arrived soon enough, it being on the central topic of recovery investment. In the simplest terms, Shaw insinuated that it was the patriotic obligation of Morgan and his clan to invest their vast fortunes in the banks to retain solvency. It ought not to be the duty of the government, he professed, to bail out the financial sector responsible for the crisis. Morgan thought otherwise. To him, and his financier partners, the burden lied with Roosevelt to accumulate the funds. Morgan pointed to the president's incessant demonization of big business as the cause of the panic, and, already acutely enraged by the administration's prosecution of Northern Securities and U.S. Steel, would not consider investing his own monies. [...] Shaw wired Roosevelt with the details. Roosevelt asked whether the ordeal was rectifiable, to which Shaw responded negatively.
Thomas O'Conner, A Radical History of American Politics: Vol. 5, 2016

On the morning of September 18th, when Secretary Shaw was in the process of boarding a D.C.-bound train, President Roosevelt delivered an address on the subject of Progressivism to a gaggle of reporters in Buffalo, New York. He motioned to several landmark initiatives that had the potential to curb an outright collapse, such as launching inquiries into the closed banks and coordinating a deal with the New York Cleaning House. Roosevelt also (begrudgingly) authorized the U.S. Treasury to dedicate tens of millions in accumulated funds, and an equal amount in loans, toward the recovery. However, he made it a point to emphasize that the best-known names on Wall Street had seen fit to lean back and witness the chaos unfold (in truth, Rockefeller and Morgan deposited some millions into a number of New York banks, yet, when scaled with their total amassed fortune, the donations were minuscule).

Roosevelt stated, "The investigation of malignant trusts conducted by the Justice Department have unearthed the rotted core of plutocratic indulgence. In the interest of the public welfare, we must be sure of the proper conduct of the interstate railways and the proper management of interstate business as we are now sure of the conduct and management of the national banks, and we should have as effective supervision in one case as in the other. Ridding the notorious rascality of industry combinations is what shall save the economy. Succumbing to plutocracy is what leads to calamity." This segment of the speech, thus far in his presidency the harshest Roosevelt had been to corporate America, boosted middle and working class adoration to new heights and succeeding in restoring a degree of public confidence within the Empire State.

Morgan, innately disturbed by the virulently anti-business demeanor of Secretary Shaw at their meeting, was further appalled by the presidential address. Roosevelt demolished his most valuable holdings, disregarded his advice at every turn, and now publicly deflected blame onto the trusts for the panic. Driven to spitefulness, Morgan refused to allow the president to escape the crisis unscathed. In a move typically cited by historians as a slice of requital against the administration, he retracted a last-ditch fundraising appeal by New York City Mayor Edward M. Shepard (D-NY). The mayor had worked throughout the crisis to raise sufficient funds to avert a double-drip panic, but, in defiance of ample bond purchases by the some of the city's wealthiest residents, he remained $20 million short. With October on the horizon, Mayor Shepard prepared to announce that the City of New York had fallen into bankruptcy. "He made his bed," Morgan said of Roosevelt, "and now he shall lie in it."
 
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The robber barons are so arrogant and conceited, they are going to torpedo the only chance the country has for non-revolutionary reform, quite possibly dooming themselves in the future.
 

Site at the New York Stock Exchange, September 29th, 1906 - Source: Wiki Commons

New York City's economic outlook appeared grim. Once Morgan disclosed his refusal to service the struggling government, Mayor Shepard worried for the financial solvency of his city. At the start of the crisis, even as bank runs threatened the fate of Wall Street, the mayor felt assured in the his government's ability to speedily settle its existing loans (underwritten by J.P. Morgan). The city owed upwards of $40 million in loans it initially requested as a means to transiently finance its expenditures. Now, with the municipal government already unable to meet payroll contracts and recompense its contractors, it required a minimum $20 million just to keep itself afloat.

Mayor Shepard, along with the city controller, asked to meet with Morgan personally, but the robber baron would not see them. They appealed four times that September, but were constantly rebuffed. On the 25th, a message arrived from J.P. Morgan & Company (likely written by George Perkins) addressed to the Office of the Mayor. "Discuss city finances elsewhere," the correspondence read. "We realize the gravity of your situation, but this company has accommodated sufficient capital and will do so no more unless the allowance is repaid." Perkins also snidely indicated that Shepard would have no better luck dealing with Baker and Stillman. Evidently, the New York City brush fire would not be extinguished by the capitalists.

Disgruntlement resonating from New Yorkers toward the banker class was intense. Socialists generally anticipated such activity by the moneyed elite, but the more judicious Progressives were astonished by the audacity of those like Morgan who happily allowed the governments of the United States to bail out an ungrateful Wall Street, yet knowingly turned away at the prospect of paying that kindness forward. Morgan's scornfullness for the Roosevelt Administration was not a well-kept secret by 1906, but to refuse monetary assistance when New York was in such dire straights was inexcusably reprehensible. Even some conservatively-oriented Republicans, who otherwise would never dare to criticize affluent industrialists, could not help but express their discontent with the circumstances as well. This aforementioned group did not include the Republican National Committee, nor its most reputable politicians who heavily relied on financial investitures by the elite banking clan.

President Roosevelt expected no better from his fiercest antagonists. He thenceforth bristled at the mere mention of J. Pierpont Morgan, and vowed never again to grant the trust owners the benefit of the doubt. It was the duty of the wealthiest Americans, he once configured, to contribute what it could to ensure a functioning republic. The bad trusts required regulation, he had reckoned, but there were too upstanding businessmen who earned their wealth through legal means and knew how to responsibility manage it. Now, a fortiori, the president realized that those of profound wealth were, by their very class status, adversaries of the general welfare. There was no longer a separation in Roosevelt's mind between benevolent elites and wicked elites. All of them were immoral, and redistribution was the only viable path.

During a presidential address pertaining to the handling of the city budget crisis, held on September 27th at the base of the New York Public Library in Manhattan, Roosevelt contemptuously declared, "It may well be that the determination of the government (in which, gentlemen, it will not waver) to punish certain malefactors of great wealth, has been responsible for something of the trouble; at least to the extent of having caused these men to combine to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of the government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing. [...] I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free country—the people through their governmental agents, or a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization." The gloves were thrown off, and, at the end of the bankruptcy emergency, the president had his sights at the ready.

Insofar as the solution was concerned, President Roosevelt, working closely with Governor Frank W. Higgins (R-NY) and Mayor Shepard, confirmed a viable plan that stood to forestall bankruptcy. First, the governor authorized the creation of a rather haphazard Emergency Financial Solvency Board. This agency conducted significant budget cuts to reduce expenditures, including reducing municipal worker pay, freezing new appointments in all city service branches, and cutting the police, ambulatory, and government workforces(temporarily) by about half. Secondly, Roosevelt bludgeoned any lingering affable New York bankers and businessmen into merging resources to shore up the necessary funding. In addition to meager pledges by the federal and state treasurers and some notable revenue bond acquisitions by prominent officials like Senators Platt and McClellan, the zero-hour effort raised a sufficient sum: $21.5 million.

Therefore, the final push was successful and the city staved off bankruptcy. It bounced back over the ensuing months, and Mayor Shepard was extensively commended for his role in that recovery. Budgetary constraints lessened the effectiveness of the city administration and its services, but by 1909 the bulk of the emergency measures were rescinded. When discussing long-term effects of the bankruptcy squeeze, the chief consequence had been a significant shift in how working Americans perceived profane wealth (particularly in New York). Fortunes once hailed as proof of American ingenuity and promise were now eyed by an increasingly critical general public as undeserved.

"J.P. Morgan's legacy in the twentieth century," wrote biographer John Hauser, "was not his dynastical rule, nor was it the consolidated steel and railroad companies he built up. Morgan's role in the Panic of 1906 and the New York City Bankruptcy Crisis validated the Socialist argument against capitalist accumulation and accelerated the movement for economic democracy, and it is for that he is remembered."
 
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Yeah, this was inevitable. I'm pretty sure when it comes to the very wealthy industrialists and so on, only few who will be remmebered pretty fondly would be those like George Westinghouse
 
Yeah, this was inevitable. I'm pretty sure when it comes to the very wealthy industrialists and so on, only few who will be remmebered pretty fondly would be those like George Westinghouse
Come to think of it, someone might remember the Johnstown Flood, and how Carnagie and all those rich investors who owned the club whose dam failed skated away....
 
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