"THE STANDARD" AND THE ANTIPOVERTY SOCIETY
1886-1887 AGE, 47-48
The press, abroad as well as at home, recognised in him a new power in the public world. The London papers were thoroughly alive to this, the Tory "St. James's Gazette" observing that "the election should cause all respectable Americans to forget the trumpery of party fights and political differentism and face the new danger threatening the commonwealth." On the other hand, the Radical "Pall Mall Budget" said:
The "New York Times" expressed the views of many thoughtful persons at home in saying: "That a new party should suddenly have been called into existence in this city, and without an existing organisation, without a party fund, and under the leadership of men inexperienced in political work, should have given its candidate a vote nearly equalling that cast in recent years by any of the existing political parties is at once seen to be an event demanding the most serious attention and study."
And well might the press so speak. For letters of congratulation poured in upon Mr. George from all parts of the country, and in many places he was talked of as labour candidate for the presidency in 1888. Moreover, four days after the election a crowded meeting for rejoicing was held in the large hall of Cooper Union. Mr. George's speech was fine in tone. "It is not the end of the campaign," said he; "it is the beginning. We have fought the first skirmish." They must go on, pressing forward the land question and the kindred ideas.
And he now demanded a radical reform of those voting laws which, as he believed was instanced in the recent contest, enabled the unscrupulous to manipulate elections. He demanded the Australian ballot system. He had advocated this reform in magazine articles in 1871 and 1883; he had inserted it, though not in express terms, in the platform he had written and stood on in the mayoralty fight. But at this Cooper Union congratulation meeting on November 6, 1886, began the agitation of the idea for the first time seriously in American politics.
It was taken up by the trade unions and labour movements in various parts of the country, and acquiring support from other sources, was, in one form or another, within a few years adopted by most of the States in the Union, and ultimately by all.
With a view to carrying the land reform, ballot reform and lesser principles into practical effect, resolutions were passed at the Cooper Union meeting declaring that a permanent political organisation be effected in New York and elsewhere. It was also resolved to carry on systematic educational work through the medium of lectures and speeches and reading matter. A committee to direct this consisting of John McMackin, Rev. Dr. McGlynn and Prof. David B. Scott was named. The latter, on account of ill health, soon gave place to James Redpath, managing editor of the "North American Review." This committee opened an office in the Cooper Union building, and with Gaybert Barnes as secretary, at once commenced the organisation through the country, and especially through New York State, of "Land and Labour Clubs."
But more important than this, at least to Mr. George personally, was the announcement of his intention to start a weekly newspaper – the first number to be issued on January 8 of the new year. A prospectus he sent out brought in many yearly subscriptions, with money in advance; and with this money and $500 borrowed from a deeply interested English friend, Thomas Briggs of London, the paper was started, the printing being done on the presses of the "New York Herald," by courtesy of James Gordon Bennett. Mr. George had thought of naming his paper "Light," but on the suggestion of John Russell Young, he adopted the title of "The Standard."
The paper started with high expectations and a large salaried staff. Besides Mr. George as editor and proprietor, there were Wm. T. Croasdale, a trained newspaper man, as managing editor; Louis F. Post as editorial and special writer, Rev. John W. Kramer as special writer, J.W. Sullivan as labour editor and special writer, W.B. Scott as stenographer to Mr. George and exchange editor, Henry George, Jr., as correspondence editor; T.L. McCready, John V. George and Richard F. George in the business department, and William McCabe as foreman of the composing room – eleven men in all, besides the typesetters.
Mr. George said in his salutatory that he established the paper with the hope of aiding in the work of abolishing "industrial slavery." "Confident in the strength of truth," he said, "I shall give no quarter to abuses and ask none of their champions.... I shall endeavour to conduct this paper by the same rules on which a just man would regulate his conduct.... I hope to make this paper the worthy exponent and advocate of a great party yet unnamed that is now beginning to form, but at the same time to make its contents so varied and interesting as to insure for it a general circulation."
The first issues of the paper contained many well written articles on political and economic matters – in fact were "varied and interesting." But everything was thrown into eclipse by signed articles from Mr. George's pen on "The McGlynn Case," which was now attracting international attention.
As has been said in the previous chapter, Dr. McGlynn was suspended from his priestly office for two weeks during the mayoralty campaign for refusing to absent himself from the George meeting in Chickering Hall, while the Vicar-General of the diocese a few days before election wrote a letter that was published in the newspapers condemning Mr. George's principles as "unsound, unsafe and contrary to the teachings of the Church." A fortnight or more following the election the Archbishop, in a pastoral letter that was read in all the Catholic churches in New York, attacked "certain unsound principles and theories which assailed the rights of property." Though not naming Henry George, it was clear that the principles were those with which he was identified. A few days later an interview with Dr. McGlynn appeared in the "New York Tribune" avowing the very principles that the Archbishop had condemned, and taking direct issue in asserting that they were not contrary to the doctrines of the Church. For this the Archbishop suspended Dr. McGlynn for the remainder of the year and wrote a letter to the Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda laying the matter before him. This letter procured a cable ordering Dr. McGlynn to Rome. When the Archbishop by letter informed him of this, Dr. McGlynn by letter replied that several grave reasons, among them his physician's orders (he had heart trouble, which, with other complications, ultimately caused his death) would prevent his undertaking the journey. But he added:
The Archbishop responded to this declaration by extending Dr. McGlynn's suspension until such time as Cardinal Simeoni or the Pope should act.
Meanwhile, Mr. George had early in December (1886) addressed an open letter to the Archbishop answering that part of the pastoral "taken by the press as placing the Catholic Church in the attitude of a champion of private property in land." The article did not pass beyond a quiet discussion of economic principles. But when Archbishop Corrigan procured the order for Dr. McGlynn to go to Rome, Mr. George came out in a blazing article in the first issue of "The Standard." He presented the importance of the subject in this style:
He reached the heart of the matter when he said:
Some of Dr. McGlynn's friends, said George, advised the clergyman's obeying the summons to Rome, "in order to present the case of those Catholics who believe in the common right to land, and to force the question to an issue, which would forever still any pretence that this doctrine was condemned by the Church." To this Mr. George replied:
Mr. George quoted Vicar-General Preston to the effect that Dr. McGlynn was "not sent for to be complimented," but "to be disciplined." Proof, if any was needed, that the plan was to have the case prejudged came a little later when the Archbishop published, as coming from Cardinal Simeoni, a cable message directing him to "give orders to have Dr. McGlynn again invited to proceed to Rome and also to condemn in writing the doctrines to which he has given utterance in public meetings or which have been attributed to him in the press."
The first issue of "The Standard," or more particularly Mr. George's article, made a sensation, and two extra editions of the paper, or in all seventy-five thousand copies, were struck off. But "The Standard" was practically alone in the fight for Dr. McGlynn. Even papers with a strong Protestant bias and generally ready to seize upon any circumstances disadvantageous to the Catholic Church, now, because of the social and political upheaval threatened by George and McGlynn, were glad to side with an Archbishop who used tyrannical power against a liberal and public-spirited priest and with a foreign power that dared to interfere with and curtail the rights of a citizen of the United States. And the newspapers approved of the Archbishop's action when, in the middle of January, he removed Dr. McGlynn from the pastorate of St. Stephen's Church. Nor did they make any derogatory comments at the unseemly manner in which the order was executed, Rev. Arthur Donnally, until then of St. Michael's Church, the appointee, going to St. Stephen's rectory, without notice of any kind, and in the absence of Dr. McGlynn, walking into the latter's private room and attempting to take instant possession, notwithstanding the fact that clothes, books and papers scattered about gave evidence that the man who had occupied the chamber for twenty years was yet its occupant and would need a brief time to remove his effects. Father Donnally afterwards went into the Church proper and tore Dr. McGlynn's name from the confessional, and later still, attended by a police captain, ruthlessly broke in upon the solemn duties of confession, and in a loud voice ordered two of the assistant priests, and the people who had come to devotions, out of the place; and this and much more against the all but violent protestations of a great congregation by whom for a generation Dr. McGlynn had been deeply loved and venerated.
A chorus went up from the press that Henry George in "attacking the Catholic Church" had destroyed his political future and hope of "The Standard's" success. He replied that he did not attack "the Church," but the men who misused the Church; that he had no political aspirations, else he would not have re-entered journalism; and that if the time came when "The Standard" could not "freely and frankly take a stand on any question of public interest," then it would be "high time for it to give up the ghost."
The case of Dr. McGlynn now seemed to be in the hands of the Church authorities at Rome. Yet strangely enough at this very time Cardinal Gibbons wrote from Rome to Rev. Dr. Richard L. Burtsell, of the Epiphany Church, Dr. McGlynn's lifelong friend and legal adviser, that in personal interviews with Cardinal Simeoni and the Pope, both had stated to him that they had not passed judgment, much less condemned Dr. McGlynn. Cardinal Gibbons therefore urged Dr. McGlynn to go to Rome. As we have seen Dr. McGlynn had reluctance to going to Rome as he felt that he would get small chance of a hearing. Nevertheless he now sent word through Dr. Burtsell that he would go as soon as the weak state of his heart would permit, on condition that he should first be reinstated and that a public statement be made by some one in authority that no judgment had been passed upon the case and that his land doctrines had not been condemned at Rome. But Cardinal Gibbons for some reason or other failed to place before the Propaganda or the Pope Dr. Burtsell's letter and no effort at reinstatement or correction of public utterances was made.
Dr. McGlynn had not the least idea of receding from his position. He held that there was no conflict between the doctrine of the land for the people and the fundamental truths of the Church. Towards the end of March he repeated his land doctrines in a most emphatic and eloquent manner in a lecture in the Academy of Music on "The Cross of the New Crusade," before a very large audience, that was composed chiefly of Catholics and largely of St. Stephen's parishioners; and which marked every period with a burst of applause.
This led almost immediately to a movement to awaken in the hearts and minds of the poor and outcast of the great city a hope for a civilisation that should be based on social justice and bring peace and plenty to all. The idea had originated some time before with Thomas L. McCready of "The Standard" staff. His plan was to form a militant society against poverty, and with it to go into and rouse the New York tenement regions. It was a new scheme to educate the masses on the land question. After Dr. McGlynn's lecture on "The Cross of the New Crusade," the McCready idea took fire. The first steps towards organisation were taken at a little meeting in "The Standard" office, and a name suggested by McCready was chosen – "The Anti-Poverty Society."
By common voice Dr. McGlynn was named president, and Henry George, vice-president; with Benjamin Urner, a commission merchant, for treasurer, and Michael Clark, an editorial writer on the "Irish World," for secretary.
The first public meeting took place in Chickering Hall on Sunday evening, May 1. The hall was crowded and thousands were turned away. Dr. McGlynn's address was the chief feature of the meeting. Of it Mr. George said in his signed editorial in "The Standard":
Men and women of all religious denominations and of no religion at all came in flocks to enroll as members of the Anti-Poverty Society, and the next meeting on the following Sunday evening was in a larger place, the Academy of Music, when Henry George made the chief address. The press turned loose denunciation and ridicule, but that only served to extend the membership and to advertise the meetings which came to be held regularly every Sunday evening in the Academy.
The Archbishop early in May had apparently received a letter from Cardinal Simeoni, summoning Dr. McGlynn to Rome and giving him forty days from receipt of the letter in which to do so, under pain of excommunication, "to be incurred by the act itself and also by name," if he should fail.
Dr. McGlynn contented himself with his former reply that grave reasons would prevent his making the journey then. The conspicuous signs in the Anti-Poverty movement were that for his personal character, his doctrines on the land question and his consequent attitude towards his ecclesiastical superiors, Dr. McGlynn had a large and strong following – indeed, that a large part of his former parishioners had joined the movement and hung on every word that dropped from his lips. If these signs failed there could be no mistaking the size and character of a parade and demonstration held in his honour and in protest against the impending excommunication. It was composed mainly of Catholic working men. A not-friendly newspaper – the "New York Herald" – estimated that seventy-five thousand persons took part. But in anticipation of what seemed certain to occur, Henry George wrote in "The Standard" (June 25):
was imprisoned in the neighbouring palace
for having seen
that the earth revolves around the sun.
"In after years when the true-hearted American priest shall have rested from his labours, and what is now being done is history, there will arise by the spot where he shall be excommunicated such a statue and such an inscription. And days will come when happy little children, such as now die like flies in tenement houses, shall be held up by their mothers to lay garlands upon it."
The term of forty days having expired on July 3, the threatened penalty fell. The Archbishop did not attempt to make any ceremony of it. He merely wrote two letters, one to Dr. McGlynn and one to a Catholic newspaper addressing the clergy and laity of the diocese, saying that the Doctor having failed to comply with the order from Rome within the time set, had thereby incurred excommunication. Dr. McGlynn had already been stripped of his church and the right to perform his priestly offices, so that excommunication so far as the outside world could see went for little. And the loving regard of the Catholic poor of St. Stephen's parish remained unaltered. They continued to crowd into the Anti-Poverty meetings and wherever else their "soggarth aroon" publicly appeared. Nor did the excommunication in the least change Dr. McGlynn's own belief that he was still a Catholic and a priest, or lessen his sense of obligation to be true to the Catholic faith. Not only did he continue strictly to follow in private life that course which had made it impossible for searching enmity to breathe against his character as a priest or a man, but in the addresses before the Anti-Poverty Society and elsewhere he invariably opened with the reverent spirit of a devout minister of the gospel, and at the heart of every discourse was religion. "Once a priest, always a priest," he cherished in his heart of hearts as among the most precious of the ancient sayings.
Not content with the excommunication of Dr. McGlynn, Archbishop Corrigan, in the interpretation of general instructions he had received from Rome, based upon his own presentation of matters in New York, punished, by transferrence to less important missions in the diocese, a number of priests who failed to give outward sign of condemnation of Dr. McGlynn. Even Dr. Burtsell, eminent in the United States as an ecclesiastical jurist, was deprived of an important office in the diocese and eventually of his church in New York City, being sent in 1890 to the little Church of St. Mary, at Rondout, up the Hudson. The Archbishop in his reasons to the Propaganda for this latter action said: "Dr. Burtsell has the name of being, and is held by public opinion, as well as by the followers of Dr. McGlynn, as by the clergy and the faithful of New York, to be not only a personal friend of Dr. McGlynn, but also the leader of those few discontented priests who more or less sustain Dr. McGlynn, and moreover the counsellor, defender and abettor of the latter." Nor did the Archbishop stop here. In two instances he prevented burial of persons in the Catholic Calvary Cemetery, because, while these persons were known to be strict in their duties to the Church, they attended the Anti-Poverty Society lectures of Dr. McGlynn.
Meanwhile Henry George had been doing some lecturing in other cities on what now began to be called the "Single Tax" question. He made an important trip, under the auspices of Major James B. Pond's bureau, to Madison and Milwaukee, Wis., Burlington, Ia., Saginaw, Mich., and Chicago. But work on "The Standard" engaged most of his time up to the middle of summer of 1887.
Discussion over the excommunication had not entirely subsided when a new excitement commenced – a political contest for State and municipal offices. A State convention called by the United Labour Party of New York City, met in Syracuse on August 17, with representatives from political labour parties or Land and Labour Clubs in all the important centres in the Empire State. This was the direct outcome of the great vote for Henry George's candidacy for mayor the year before. George and most of his immediate supporters were confident that the labour movement would draw out a very large vote in the State this year, which would permanently establish the new party and make it a factor in the presidential campaign in 1888.
But weeks before the convention met it became evident that the socialists, who had supported George in 1886 and raised no objection to the platform on which he stood, and which he had himself written, were now bent on getting their principles to the front. They consisted of comparatively few men in New York City, but what they lacked in numbers they made up in earnestness and activity. They now undertook to steer the new political movement. They not only wished to keep their socialistic organisation intact while they acted as members in the larger United Labour Party, but their executive committee issued a statement insisting "that the burning social question is not a land tax, but the abolition of all private property in instruments of production." It was the same kind of opposition that George had encountered from the London socialists at the outset of his 1883-84 lecture campaign in Great Britain. He wrote in "The Standard" the week before the convention met that there could be no place for the socialists in the new party if they pressed their principles. "Either they must go out," said he, "or the majority must go out, for it is certain that the majority of the men who constitute the United Labour Party do not propose to nationalise capital and are not in favour of the abolition of all private property in the 'instruments of production.'"
The matter came to a head in the convention, to which the socialists sent contesting delegates from three of the New York City districts. They were given a hearing, but they were refused seats because they belonged to another political party. During that hearing they insisted on putting socialism forward and on the right to be members of the Socialistic Labour Party while active in the United Labour Party as well. They became very bitter about their exclusion and taxed George with throwing them over from motives of policy. They and their associates and supporters put in the field a list of their own candidates on a purely socialistic platform.
Thus Mr. George was compelled in public action to draw a line of demarcation which in writing "Protection or Free Trade?" in 1885 he had been at pains to make very clear as separating his own philosophy from that of socialism. It also happened that occasion arose for him to draw a line on anarchy, or rather on the Chicago anarchists sentenced to death for being accessory to the killing of several Chicago policemen in 1885. The breaking up in October, 1887, by the police of a public meeting in New Jersey called to express sympathy with the Chicago anarchists caused Mr. George to protest in "The Standard" in behalf of free speech, but at the same time to say that he believed after reading the review of the testimony which was given in the Supreme Court decision when the cases were appealed that the Chicago anarchists were guilty under the laws of Illinois. However, he thought mitigating circumstances and the fact that a "tragical death always tends to condone mistakes and crimes" would plead the commutation of the sentence of death to a sentence of imprisonment. He wrote this publicly in "The Standard," and privately he wrote a letter to the Governor of Illinois urging clemency on the same grounds.
But to return to the convention. Henry George and Dr. McGlynn, who also was a delegate, were the central figures. Henry George drafted the platform, in principle the same as that he had written for his mayoralty campaign the year before. It soon became evident that he would be pressed to accept the nomination for the chief place on the ticket – that of Secretary of State. He shrank from this because he did not like to appear as an office hunter and because he thought it bad party policy to run him just then. But an intimation that it might be said that he held back and wished another put forward because he saw small hope of election decided him to accept. The rest of the State ticket was filled out with men known in the labour movements of their respective localities, but little known in general politics.
Mr. George early entered on an active speaking campaign through the State and was accompanied by correspondents of the "Herald" and "World" of New York City, who gave fair reports of his speeches and their apparent effects. The Governor of the State, David B. Hill, having in a public speech made some reference to the labour party candidate and his principles, Mr. George invited him to joint debate, but the Governor ignored the challenge. However, Sergius E. Shevitch, an able representative of the socialists – one of the unseated Syracuse convention delegates – challenged Mr. George to debate their respective principles. The latter accepted and they met in Miner's Theatre on Eighth Avenue, New York City. Dr. McGlynn also travelled over the State making speeches, as did Louis F. Post, Judge James G. Maguire of California, Rev. Hugh O. Pentecost of Newark, and many others. Moreover, a million tracts, mostly on the land question, were distributed. It was a canvass remarkably widespread and effective, considering the lack of money and organisation. Collections were made at many of the meetings, and small sums came from individual sources, but most of the scant fund obtained for the campaign came from a fair held under the auspices of the Anti-Poverty Society and the superintendence of William T. Croasdale in Madison Square Garden during the first three weeks in October.
All the while opposition was not asleep. The politicians in both the great parties considered that this election involved the fate of New York, a pivotal State, in the national contest the next year, and therefore were bent on making strong party showings. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church of New York City of course set the seal of condemnation upon the new party and openly and secretly stirred up opposition everywhere. But what proved a great surprise to both George and McGlynn was that Patrick Ford broke with them and took the side of the Catholic Church authorities. He set aside the underlying land question, upon which in the past Henry George himself had not taken more radical ground, nor given a deeper foundation in ethics. He ignored the fact that Dr. McGlynn had on his invitation in 1882 made the very speeches that brought the first censures of the ecclesiastical authorities. He made no distinction between the officers or human representatives of the Church, whom they opposed, and the doctrines or spiritual part of the Church, which they did not oppose. He professed a continuance of personal friendliness to both men, but said that he must separate himself from their public course because they were warring on the Catholic Church. He set forth his views in three long, signed, double-leaded articles in the "Irish World," special editions of which were distributed widely over the State.
Then, too, George's attitude towards the socialists and the Chicago anarchists, while losing what support their small numbers represented, together with the far wider and more important support they were able to influence for the time being by charging him with mean motives, did not draw to him the privileged classes, who had the year before charged him with preaching blood and revolution. But notwithstanding opposition his courageous, sanguine nature soared. He was filled with high hopes. Neither the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, Fred. Cook, nor the Republican candidate, Colonel Fred. D. Grant, son of the late General U.S. Grant, made any particular canvass; whereas George spoke everywhere and to large audiences. He therefore became confident, as did those about him, of a big vote – he hoped 150,000. But fate decreed otherwise. He received only 72,000 votes, as against 459,000 for the Republican and 480,000 for the Democratic candidate, respectively. In New York City he received less than 38,000, as against 68,000 the year before. Louis F. Post, who was candidate for District Attorney on the local or county ticket of the labour party, was with Mr. George when news of the crushing defeat came. He has said:
Mr. George left the car to go to the labour party headquarters. There he found a crowd of men struck dumb and utterly disheartened with the defeat. He sprang upon the platform and words of hope and courage came from him, which loosed in his hearers a flood of emotions that showed themselves in frantic cheer on cheer and a pressing forward to grasp the leader's hands.