A Poor Wise Man HTML version

Chapter 24
The strike had been carried on with comparatively little disorder. In some cities
there had been rioting, but half-hearted and easily controlled. Almost without
exception it was the foreign and unassimilated element that broke the peace.
Alien women spat on the state police, and flung stones at them. Here and there
property was destroyed. A few bomb outrages filled the newspapers with great
scare-heads, and sent troops and a small army of secret service men here and
In the American Federation of Labor a stocky little man grimly fought to oppose
the Radical element, which was slowly gaining ground, and at the same time to
retain his leadership. The great steel companies, united at last by a common
danger and a common fate if they yielded, stood doggedly and courageously
together, waiting for a return of sanity to the world. The world seemed to have
gone mad. Everywhere in the country production was reduced by the cessation
of labor, and as a result the cost of living was mounting.
And every strike lost in the end. Labor had yet to learn that to cease to labor may
express a grievance, but that in itself it righted no wrongs. Rather, it turned that
great weapon, public opinion, without which no movement may succeed, against
it. And that to stand behind the country in war was not enough. It must stand
behind the country in peace.
It had to learn, too, that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The weak
link in the labor chain was its Radical element. Rioters were arrested with union
cards in their pockets. In vain the unions protested their lack of sympathy with the
unruly element. The vast respectable family of union labor found itself accused of
the sins of the minority, and lost standing thereby.
At Friendship the unruly element was very strong. For a time it held its meetings
in a hall. When that was closed it resorted to the open air.
On the fifteenth of July it held an incendiary meeting on the unused polo field,
and the next day awakened to the sound of hammers, and to find a high wooden
fence, reenforced with barbed wire, being built around the field, with the state
police on guard over the carpenters. In a few days the fence was finished, only to
be partly demolished the next night, secretly and noiselessly. But no further
attempts were made to hold meetings there. It was rumored that meetings were
being secretly held in the woods near the town, but the rendezvous was not