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| Coxey's Army
During the winter of 1893-94, the unemployment rate in America peaked at an staggering 18 percent. Ohio labor leader, Jacob Coxey called for a march on Washington. Desperate workers from the West and Mid-West converged on the capital, setting up make-shift camps in D.C. and Virginia. They marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and rushed the Capitol steps to demand work relief, but were dispersed by the police.
A new style of political action was invented by "Coxey's Army."
Estimates of the size of Coxey's Army range from 5,000 to 12,000. "Troops" started out from many parts of the country, with the largest groups coming from California and Ohio. Many of the "Army of the Unemployed" lost their momentum as court injunctions prevented them from temporarily seizing railroad lines, which was how the men traveled.
Those who arrived in Washington numbered about 2,000. Jacob Coxey was arrested just as he was about to give his speech on the steps of the Capitol building. In 1944, fifty years later, at the age of 90, Coxey finally finished his speech with formal blessing from Congress.
Here is an excerpt from that speech.
"The Constitution of the United States guarantees to all citizens the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances, and furthermore declares that the right of free speech shall not be abridged. We stand here today to test these guaranties of our Constitution. We choose this place of assemblage because it is the property of the people. . . Here rather than at any other spot upon the continent it is fitting that we should come to mourn over our dead liberties and by our protest arouse the imperiled nation to such action as shall rescue the Constitution and resurrect our liberties."