In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

C H A P T E R F I V E “Coxey Is Coming” “These poor fellows are beggars, and so are the millionaires. The government helps the one, but refuses to help the other.”1 Governor James Hogg (D-TX) A S T H E R E P O RT E R S W E R E gathering in Hagerstown for the dinner hosted by Mayor Keedy, seventy miles away in Washington ,DC,anticipation mounted over the arrival of the Commonweal . A lone protester camped out in front of the White House on April 25 was reported to be the first indication that the Coxey forces were entering the city. President Cleveland’s cabinet convened to discuss the possibility of an armed insurrection. The president’s men had earlier dispatched Secret Service agents to follow the march, and now a cavalry unit was headed toward Hagerstown to intercept the oncoming invasion of industrials. Based on telegrams Browne reportedly had recently received, one hundred thousand unemployed marchers would soon descend on the city. The press tried to reassure its readers that a large force of the military was available within the District. “If the artillery at Washington barracks, the cavalry at Fort Myer, and the marines at the navy yard are not sufficient, strong reinforcements are near at hand at Fort McHenry, Md., Fort Monroe, Va., and Governor’s Island NY.,” the Evening Star reassured its readers. The chief of the Capitol police meanwhile tried to calm the House sergeant at arms that no harm would come to the Capitol. Yet all the military-like preparations made tensions run even higher.2 From Hagerstown it was another seventy miles to Washington. But the arrival at the Capitol, which had seemed ludicrous a month before, now seemed well within reach. While the press coverage had unnerved federal and city officials, in the poor neighborhoods of the nation’s capital the disenfranchised and the jobless saw in the approaching Commonweal a reason for hope. For weeks in advance of its arrival, word that African Americans played a prominent role in the Commonweal had captured “Coxey Is Coming” 87 the attention of Washington’s growing black community. The leading black newspaper each Saturday heralded,“Coxey Is Coming!” on the masthead of its newspaper. Now what had seemed only a distant hope weeks before was about to become reality.3 As a town dedicated to government rather than industry,Washington was largely spared the worst effects of the depression. Building construction did slow, the government lost revenues, and the naval ordnance works laid off a thousand employees. However, the cadre of federal government employees continued to grow. Factory closings were typically in the industrial northeast , not in the District. As the Atlanta Constitution reported,“Washington has been less affected, perhaps, by the Panic in financial circles than any other city.”While millions were out of work across the country, government employees continued to receive their salaries paid in gold coin.4 Washington, DC, seemed still a genteel city, charmed by a growing intelligentsia and a“slow pace of life that left its people time to enjoy it.”One visiting British writer commented,“It looks a sort of place where nobody has to work for his living,or at any rate,not hard.”The District even had become a fashionable warm-weather winter haven for the newly rich. This new “aristocracy of the parvenus,” as Mark Twain described them, was largely comprised of self-made“bonanza kings,” often from west of the Mississippi, who had struck it rich in mining, ranching, or railroads. Many of this era’s nouveau riches found Washington a most attractive city and chose to spend their winters or early retirement in newly erected mansions in Georgetown, Kalorama, and the northwest suburbs. However, their ostentatious incursion pushed the resident black population, many living at subsistence levels, further away from the city center.5 Indeed the idea of Coxey’s approaching“industrial army”seemed at odds with Washington’s identity as a government town. The city’s influx of German , Greek, Chinese, Italian, and other immigrants was far smaller (about 8 percent of the population) than that of northern industrial cities, and they tended to be more skilled and entrepreneurial.Meanwhile,in the thirty years following the Civil War, the number of government employees had doubled to some twenty-one thousand. Thus as America’s industrial base formed to the north, Washington had little firsthand familiarity with either the waves of immigrants...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.