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Strike at Homestead Mill: A New Judas Iscariot


m_run.html m_partner.html mh_horror.html mf_flames.html In the wake of Homestead, Carnegie was roundly criticized by the public, the pulpit, and the press. Just six years earlier, he had been congratulated for his unusual position as an industrialist championing the labor cause. Now he had locked out his workers and imported strike breakers. The word "hypocrite" was on everyone's lips.

"One would naturally suppose that if he had a grain of manhood, not to say courage, in his composition, he would at least have been willing to face the consequences of his inconsistency," railed the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "But what does Carnegie do? Runs off to Scotland out of harm's way to await the issue of the battle he was too pusillanimous to share. A single word from him might have saved the bloodshed-but the word was never spoken.... Say what you will of Frick, he is a brave man. Say what you will of Carnegie, he is a coward. And gods and men hate cowards."

"While the slaughter was going on," joined the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Partner Carnegie was at his castle in Scotland enjoying his more than princely income and posing as a benefactor of the working class and a general friend to humanity." Senator Voorhees of Indiana added, "Men like Carnegie and his class are so bloated, arrogant, and plethoric of wealth...that they think they can employ a private army themselves to ride over American citizens."

Even Carnegie's Radical labor friends in Britain now snubbed him. The Glasgow Trades Council formally declared Carnegie "a new Judas Iscariot," and he was nearly kicked out of Britain's National Liberal Club. At home, the conservative Cleveland Chamber of Commerce banned Carnegie from honorary membership. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh workers loudly protested the city's acceptance of a Carnegie library and art museum.

Frick, too, came under fire. During a memorial service at Homestead, the Rev. J.J. McIlyar called Frick "the only one of them who had little enough blood in him to carry out this awful work.... There is no more sensibility in that man than in a toad."

While very few supported Frick's decision to hire Pinkertons, fewer still defended the workers' brutal treatment of the detectives. "The conduct of the Homestead workmen was utterly unjustifiable legally, and atrocious morally," The Nation intoned. The House committee investigating Homestead agreed. "If the washerwoman of [labor leader John McLuckie] refuses to wash for what he is willing to pay, that is her right," the committee said, "but she has no right to stand in front of his door and fling stones at another woman who comes to take her place and do the work under the new scale of wages which he is willing to pay."

Ultimately, Homestead turned popular sentiment against "Pinkertonism." In the seven years after the Homestead battle, 26 states passed laws against the hiring of outside guards in labor disputes.


Next: The Steel Business


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