First as tragedy

May 19th, 2015



From the William Tecumseh Sherman papers, Library of Congress Manuscript Division


“Except for the institution of slavery and the political issues that sprang directly from it, the position of parties is exactly as it was before the war. A North, a South, the Potomac and Ohio the boundary, social prescription and disenfranchisement, the South a massive political unit, two or three dough face states in the North, impudent vindication of crime on the floor of the Senate—all this, and more, is one of those lamentable repetitions which sometimes recur in history. . . .

“Instead of one great corporation (slavery), the country is governed by many corporations. They influence every department of the State and National governments. The situation of the laboring classes is not satisfactory. In the time immediately preceding the French Revolution, Foulon, who was called une ame condamne de parlement, when asked what the French people would say to certain proposed additional exactions upon them, which did not also effect Church property and that of the nobility, answered:“Let them eat grass!” In our time, Vanderbilt, une ame condamne of the corporate monopolies, answering a similar question, said: “The people be damned.” In a few years Foulon heard the cry “a la lanterne!” and died swinging from the lamp post with that death sentence ringing in his ears.

“I regard the present situation as so dangerous that, whenever I consider it, the reflection arises that from such a condition of resentful feeling the step to the gun is a very short one.”

— C. K. Davis, letter of January 29, 1885


Leave a Reply