Must Read Books:
A People's History of the United States - continued

A People's History of the United States. by Howard Zinn. NY: Harper & Row, 1980.

Excerpts compiled by Colby Glass.


The Other Civil War

The Anti-Renter Movement in the Hudson Valley -- 1839-1869 (see Tin Horns and Calico, by Henry Christman) -- protesting the patroonship system: a few families controlled two million acres and 300,000 people.

1841 -- Dorr's Rebellion -- caused by Rhode Island's charter which allowed only landowners to vote... Martial law was declared... finally went to the Supreme court (Luther v. Borden, 1849).

"[Andrew] Jackson was the first president to master the liberal rhetoric -- to speak for the common man... It was the new politics of ambiguity -- speaking for the lower and middle classes to get their support..." (212). Even when Jackson sent troops in to break up strikes, he still managed to get the votes for organized labor.

"The two-party system came into its own in this time. To give people a choice between two different parties and allow them... to choose the lsightly more democratic one was an ingenious mode of control. Like so much in the American system, it was not devishly contrived by some master plotters; it developed naturally out of the needs of the situation" (212).

1850-1857 railroad men bribed Congressmen in Washington with money, shares of stock, and free railroad passes. In return "they got 25 million acres of public land, free of charge.." (215).


"In 1835, twenty mills went on strike to reduce the workday from thirteen and a half hours to eleven hours, to get cash instead of company scrip, and to end fines for lateness. Fifteen hundred children and parents went out on strike and it lasted six weeks... That year and the next, there were 140 strikes in the eastern part of the United States" (224-5).

As a result of the 1857 economic crisis shoe prices went up, and wages in the factories were cut. ".. by the fall of 1859 men were earning $3 a week and women were earning $1 a week, working sixteen hours a day" (226).

"Trying to understand why this fierce class spirit [of strikes] did not lead to independent revolutionary political action, Dawley concludes that the main reason is that electoral politics drained the energies of the resisters into the channels of the system" (227).

[Lesson of history here is that electoral politics can be used to disarm objections.]

"Dawley says, "an entire generation [of revolutionaries] was sidetracked in the 1860's because of the Civil War" (228). [Lesson of history here is that was can be used to disarm objections.]


Robber Barons and Rebels

"The Horatio Alger stories of "rags to riches" were true for a few men, but mostly a myth, and a useful myth for control" (248).

"Most of the fortune building was done legally, with the collaboration of the government and the courts... Thomas Edison promised New Jersey politicians $1,000 each in return for favorable legislation. Daniel Drew and Jay Gould spent $1 million to bribe the New York legislature to legalize their issue of $8 million in "watered stock" (stock not representing real value) on the Erie Railroad" (248).

"The wild fraud on the railroads led to more control of railroad finances by bankers, who wanted more stability -- profit by law rather than by theft" (249).

J.P. Morgan made his money, during the Civil War, by purchasing defective rifles for $3.50 and selling them to generals in the field for $22 each. "The rifles.. would shoot off the thumbs of the soldiers using them. A congressional committee noted this in the small print of an obscure report..." (249).

While the heads of railroads were making their fortunes in 1889, "records of the Interstate Commerce Commission showed that 22,000 railroad workers were killed or injured" (250).


"...the usual form of [presidential] election campaigns, concealing the basic similarity of the parties by dwelling on personailities, gossip, trivialities" (252).


"The chief reform of the [Grover] Cleveland administration gives away the secret of reform legislation in America. The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 was supposed to regulate the railroads on behalf of the consumers." But, the reality was explained by a railroad attorney, Richard Olney: "It satisfies the popular clamor for a government supervision of railroads, at the same time that that supervision is almost entirely nominal.." (253).

The Supreme Court, "its members.. former wealthy lawyers, and almost always.. from the upper class... in 1895.. interpreted the Sherman [Anti-trust] Act so as to make it harmless" (254).

"Very soon after the Fourteenth Amendment became law, the Supreme Court began to demolish it as a protection for blacks, and to develop it as a protection for corporations" (254).

In 1886 alone, "the Court did away with 230 state laws that had been passed to regulate corporations" (255).

"Control in modern times requires more than force, more than law. It requires that a population dangerously concentrated in cities and factories, whose lives are filled with cause for rebellion, be taught that all is right as it is. And so, the schools, the churches, the popular literature taught that to be rich was a sign of superiority, to be poor a sign of personal failure, and that the only way upward for a poor person was to climb into the ranks of the rich by extraordinary effort and extraordinary luck" (256).

[Contrast this to the message of the Catholic movement in South America called Liberation Theology.]


Education and Orthodoxy

In the meantime, the spread of public school education [after the Civil War]... It was important that these people learn obedience to authority" (257).

"This continued into the twentieth century, whem William Bagley's Classroom Management became a standard teacher training text, reprinted thirty times. Bagley said: "One who studies educational theory aright can see in the mechanical routine of the classroom the educative forces that are slowly transforming the child from a little savage into a creature of law and order, fit for the life of civilized society"" (257).

[Note here the common confusion between SELF-discipline and EXTERNAL discipline. The necessity of inculcating external discipline came from the organization of schools as factories. There were too many students in each class for true teaching to occur, so external discipline became a convenient necessity, resulting in the destruction of independent thinking which leads to self-discipline.]

"It was in the middle and late nineteenth century that high schools developed as aids to the industrial system, that history was widely required in the curriculum to foster patriotism" (257). [Patriotism defined as unquestioning loyalty to the policies of the elite leaders of the country.]

"Against this gigantic organization of knowledge and educcation for orthodoxy and obedience, there arose a literature of dissent and protest, which had to make its way from reader to reader against great obstacles. Henry George, a self-educated working man from a poor Philadelphia family, whoc became a newspaperman and an economist, wrote a book that was published in 1879 and sold millions of copies, not only in the United States, but all over the world. His book, Progress and Poverty, argued that the basis of wealth was land, that this was becoming monopolized, and that a single tax on land, abolishing all others, would bring enough revenue to solve the problem of poverty and equalize wealth in the nation" (258).

"...Edward Bellamy, a lawyer and writer from western Massachusetts... [wrote] Looking Backward, [a novel] which described socialism vividly, lovingly, sold a million copies.. " (258).


Populist Movement

"It was the Farmers Alliance that was the core of the great movement of the 1880s and 1890s later known as the Populist Movement" (277).

Farmer found it almost impossible to make a living because they had to borrow money for machinery and the cost of operations. The railroads were a monopoly and the banks were a monopoly and charged high prices. If the farmer's grain didn't bring high prices in a given year, they were in deep trouble (277).

"The farmers who could not pay saw their homes and land taken away. They became tenants. By 1880, 25 percent of all farms were rented by tenants, and the number kept rising. Many did not even have money to rent and became farm laborers" (278).

"It was in Texas [in 1877] that the Farmers Alliance movement began" (278).

[See The Democratic Promise, by Lawrence Goodwin, a study of the Populist movement.]

The Alliance elected governors in Georgia and Texas. In 1892, the Populist Party ran James Weaver for president. "Weaver got over a million votes, but lost" (283).

"In the election of 1896, with the Populist movement enticed into the Democratic party, [William Jennings] Bryan, the Democratic candidate, was defeated by William McKinley, for whom the corporations and the press mobilized, in the first massive use of money in an election campaign" (289).


Empire and the People

"American merchants did not need colonies or wars of conquest if they could just have free access to markets. This idea of an "open door" became the dominant theme of American foreign policy in the twentieth century. It was a more sophisticated approach to imperialism than the traditional empire-building of Europe" (294).


Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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