Hellraisers Journal: Eugene V. Debs on Roosevelt’s Quandary: What to do with Troops in Goldfield, Part I

The people are as capable of achieving
their industrial freedom as they were
to secure their political liberty,
and both are necessary to a free nation.
-Eugene Victor Debs


Hellraisers Journal, Monday January 6, 1908
Goldfield, Nevada – What to do with Roosevelt’s Troops, Part I

From the Appeal to Reason of January 4, 1908:

Federal and State Authorities in a Quandary
as to What to Do With the
Soldiers at Goldfield.

Instantaneous and Widespread Effect of the
“Goldfield Extra” Issued by the
Appeal to Reason Protesting
Against Troops.
[Part I]

Pres T Roosevelt, SF Call p37, Dec 29, 1907

When President Roosevelt issued his order, based upon the requisition of Governor Sparks and the Mine Owners of Nevada, converting the mining town of Goldfield into a military camp, the whole country was more or less surprised. It was the suddenness of the action of the president rather than the action itself which created such intense interest and elicited approval of provoked condemnation, according to the point of view.

The telegraphic dispatch containing this military order struck the APPEAL almost as if it had been a blow in the face.

There was absolutely nothing in the Goldfield situation to warrant such an arbitrary act of interference in a purely local situation. The president knew it, and so did every one else at all familiar with the situation. The act could have but one meaning and one purpose. The APPEAL instinctively understood it. The blow had been struck without warning; it must be returned without delay. The facts of the case must be given to the working class as promptly and as fully as the means and facilities at the command of the APPEAL would allow.

A “Goldfield Extra” Must Be Issued.

The truth must be stated, and all the facts made known.

The whole office force was set to work, and work it did, with vengeance. Within a few hours the editorial staff had the copy ready, and within a few hours more it was in type, and rolling through the big press at terrific speed. The next day the “Extra” was speeding over all the railways out of Girard to the remotest parts of the country, and within four days after the president had issued his despotic military order, a million and a half readers of the Appeal had its interpretation from the working class point of view. The effect was electric. The APPEAL called upon all its readers to send their protests to the president and to senators and congressman, and they lost no delay in letting these public officials know that the outrage would be resented in every way, and to the full extent of their power. The big politicians got scared, especially on the verge of a presidential election, and on the verge of a presidential election, and got busy with efforts, trying to counteract the effect of the president’s action, and to quiet and turn back the rising tide of indignation.

It was this, and nothing but this, that caused the president to revoke his order and withdraw the soldiers.

Of course all other Socialist and working class papers did their full duty, and are entitled to their meed of praise for recognizing the treachery and danger, and acting with such commendable vigilance and vigor in resisting the attack of the federal administration upon the Western Federation of Miners, and its striking members.

It will be observed that but a few days elapsed between the date of the order of President Roosevelt, sending the troops into Goldfield, and the date of the order of revocation. In the latter the president, with an air of indignation, censors Governor Sparks of Nevada for misrepresenting matters to him, and for making no effort to maintain the peace in the face of alleged threats. There was just time enough between the two orders for the president and congress to hear from the country, especially that part of the country stirred to action by the hot appeal of the “Goldfield Extra,” and it did not take them and the political managers at the capitol long to realize that a stupendous blunder had been committed, and that no time must be lost in righting it so far as that was possible.

The plea of Roosevelt that he had been imposed upon is too flimsy to deserve an instant’s credibility. President Roosevelt has infinite resources at his command for obtaining accurate and reliable information in reference to any locality within and hour’s notice. He could easily, had he been so disposed, satisfied himself as to the situation at Goldfield before exercising the czar’s prerogative in a republic of quieting discontent with the bullet and bayonet.

The president did not wait to hear the working class side of the story. He totally ignored labor. He was perfectly true to himself, and to his capitalistic instincts and predilections. He heard only the demand of the mine owners, repeated to him by their hireling in the gubernatorial chair, and with characteristic eagerness to serve capital and crush labor, he issued the order which sped to California on wings of lightning and set Funston, the Jimcrow hero, in motion with his patriotic (?) regulars to surround the miners at Goldfield and administer the scrip prescribed by the mine-owning quacks at the point of federal bayonets.

That was the object of the order and the spirit in which it was issued, notwithstanding the plea subsequently made that it was only to preserve the peace, and that the soldiers were to take no part in the class war. To what extent this hypocritical apology was in good faith is known of all men who have had any experience in past strikes where soldiers have appeared upon the scene. The neutrality (?) of the blue coats is a ghastly joke to the strikers who see their places filled by scabs, and the scabs protected by federal bayonets. [To be continued…]

[Photograph added.]


Appeal to Reason
(Girard, Kansas)
-Jan 4, 1908

Pres T Roosevelt, SF Call p37, Dec 29, 1907

See also:

More from the Appeal on Federal Troops in Goldfield:
AtR of Dec 21, 1907, p4
AtR of Dec 28, 1907, p4

Ida Crouch-Hazlett covers the Goldfield Strike:
Montana News
(Helena, Montana)
-Jan 2, 1908

The IUB covers the Goldfield Strike:
The Industrial Union Bulletin
(Chicago, Illinois)
-Jan 4, 1908

Brissenden on Goldfield:
The I. W. W.: A Study of American Syndicalism
-by Paul Frederick Brissenden
Columbia University, 1919
Chap VIII: “Job Control” at Goldfield

Goldfield, Nevada, Labor Troubles of 1906-1907

Duty in Goldfield, Nevada 1907-1908
1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

For more on President Roosevelt v Governor Sparks:
The San Francisco Call
(San Francisco, California)
-Dec 29, 1907

President Orders Troops to Stay Five Days
Pending State Action

Must Call Session or Soldiers
Will Be Withdrawn