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STATE OF ILLINOIS,
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, Jan. 5, 1887. To the General Assembly:
Your respective bodies, constituting the Legislative Department of the State Government, are again in session to enter upon the discharge of the grave and responsible duties imposed upon that Department by the Constitution of the State. I shall attempt, briefly as possible, to discharge an important duty imposed by the same instrument upon the Executive Department. The meeting of the General Assembly is always regarded as an event of unusual gravity and dignity, and duly sensible, I trust, of the serious responsibilities incumbent upon these Departments of the State Government, I invoke upon your deliberations the favor of Divine Providence.
I shall not detain you with an account of the general condition of the State. It is within the knowledge of all men who take an interest in the public and general welfare. The exceptional conditions and the state of the law applicable to them seem to me alone to demand attention.
The public peace, and the usual and common sway of the law, have been interrupted on several occasions since the adjournment of the Thirty-fourth General Assembly, and in one instance before. It is important to inquire into such occurrences, to bring them to the attention of the Legislature, and further to inquire if any just excuse can be found for such lapses of duty on the part of citizens, and if not, how they may be remedied.
For a long time discussion has been going on in this country by the public press, the stump orator, and political parties, as to the condition of laboring men, the relation of labor to capital, the wages of labor, labor organizations, and the aggressions of capital upon labor, organized or individual, and generally upon the whole subject of the present state and condition of our political, social and economical relations. There has been no recognized limit to the freedom of this debate, and apparently up to the present time no real approach to an intelligent and satisfactory settlement of the supposed grievances discussed, beyond the usual and old-fashioned way of treating and dealing with those old subjects of universal interest. Many of the extravagant ideas held upon these questions, expressed in equally extravagant language and argument, have led unthinking men into the belief that one of the proper modes to be adopted to right supposed wrongs was to inaugurate methods of their own to redress them, and thus allow themselves to go so far as to appear to defy the usual and lawful methods recognized in this State for correcting any real or imaginary evils.
Strikes of any kind, individual or organized, are not unlawful; indeed, where the object is an honest effort to better the condition as to wages and hours of labor of the laboring masses of our citizens, to protect their rights in the hope of bettering their condition, to remonstrate against conditions which seem inevitably to tend to narrowing the field and lowering the standard of labor, skilled or unskilled, in any civilized nation or community, are the most natural agencies of self-defence.
It is plain to any reflecting mind that a strike necessarily implies loss, although it may be limited and temporary; still implies great inconvenience and loss to the interest, the person, or the corporation against which it aims, and to that extent would be a force to induce compliance with the requests or demands which it makes. It is but a natural emotion to sympathize with the earnest efforts of laboring men to better their condition and to share liberally in the gains of labor in its vast field of usefulness, and in the blessings it bestows upon mankind. No nation can ever rise to great distinction or command an imposing place among civilized people, without the aid of educated and enlightened labor. Such a force in any country will ultimately demand and receive the just recognition to which it is entitled in the moral and political economy of the world. Potent as the strike may seem to be as an agency to bring about a better understanding of the claims and the rights of labor, the moment it departs from the admitted power it wields as a peaceable remedy, and puts on the appearance of open resistance to law, or sets itself up to say who shall and who shall not work in the vast field of labor, it, to a large extent, forfeits the sympathy of that large class of thinking people who believe in fair dealing and a fair field for the play of all the energies of man, and will drive from its support considerate and earnest men, willing advocates of all it claims so long as, like other great interests, it seeks to gain its ends by peaceable means and in accustomed ways. In this country the public ear is open to the persuasions of reason; it is instinctively closed against force. And that cause will flourish most naturally and inevitably which relies upon the support that reason and free discussion always bring to its aid. The foregoing remarks were suggested from the fact that strikes in every instance led to what seemed a necessity to resort to the military in aid of the civil powers of the State.
In April, 1885, the strike of the quarrymen of Will and Cook counties grew to such dimensions and assumed such character that the Sheriffs, respectively, of those counties felt obliged to call upon the Governor for military assistance. On the first day of May a force deemed sufficient was called out and ordered to report, first to the Sheriff of Will, and subsequently to the Sheriff of Cook county. The men who went out on the strike, instead of standing on the justness of their demand for an increase of wages, and if the demand should be denied, retiring peaceably from the quarries and giving way to such fellow laborers as might be willing to take their places and wages, insisted on occupying the quarries and driving away all comers in their stead. This cause led to riot, the riot became a mob, and very soon the mob grew threatening and defiant. The officers of the law were, as they claimed, unable to preserve the peace. The military force, under the direction of the Sheriff of Will county, soon dispersed the rioters, who reassembled again across the line in the county of Cook, and became more threatening than before. The Sheriff of that county directed the commanding officer of the military force to disperse them; they stubbornly resisted, were fired upon, and three of them fatally wounded before the peace could be restored.
In April, 1886, the strike of the switchmen on all the railroads centering at East St. Louis, in St. Clair county, again occasioned the use of the militia. On the afternoon of March 29, 1886, several gentlemen representing various railroads at that place, called upon me and presented a paper from the Sheriff of St. Clair county, which I take the liberty to quote here :
EAST ST. LOUIS, March 29--11:20 P. M. There is an unlawful mob assembled in East St. Louis of fully one thousand men, which refuse to peaceably disperse when commanded by me, as Sheriff of St. Clair county, in the name of the State of Illinois, to do so I had with me my regular deputies and all the specials I could get; I called the posse, but it was of the mob; this mob kille engines, pulls pins, sets brakes, obstructs the track and prevents the management of freight trains by these means, and by violence and intimidation, Myself and deputies attempted to make arrests, but were prevented by the mob. I and all my combined force, and all the posse comitatus who would assist, were unable to protect the Vandalia freight train a few minutes ago. I am powerless to protect a single freight engine or freight train which attempts to move, and am unable to disperse the unlawful assembly which is interfering witn this class of property. I refer the matter to you, as Governor of the State, and ask your assistance to aid us to enforce the law.
I did not feel such a communication, under the circumstances, without further inquiry, would justify me in calling out the militia. I therefore addressed the following inquiry to the sheriff :
March 29, 1886. Fred. Ropiequet, Sherit St. Clair County, East șt Louis, Ill.:
If possible and prudent for you to leave, report to me here in person to-morrow morning, leav ing East St. Louis on first train. If you cannot come, send me written communication giving exact statement of condition of affairs in East, St. Louis; state what you have done in discharging your duties as Sheriff ; what number you have summoned as posee comitatus, and what number responded to your summons and were effective as such, and especially whether you summoned posse from other portions of the county than East St. Louis.
On the 30th the Sheriff telegraphed that on account of his health le could not go to Springfield, repeating in substance the condition of affairs there as represented in his communication of the 29th.
I felt under the circumstances I would be justified in visiting St. Clair county and making personal inquiry and examination on the ground. Upon my arrival at East St. Louis I found that although it was plain three or four hundred men were on a strike, and were adroitly, and in some instances openly, urging engineers, firemen and others not to run trains upon any of the railroads against which the strike was aimed; and it was claimed, and as I believe truthfully, were doing all they could to hinder the use of locomotives and trains upon any of the railroads, with perhaps one exception, running into East St. Louis, annoying and aggravating the officers and employes of all such railroads, and evidently inflicting great loss upon the railroad companies, and greatly annoying legitimate trade on and over such roads, still it was equally plain that the Sheriff had not made such use of the ample means at his command to arrest the disorder that the law confers upon him. I felt an occasion had arisen when the civil powers of the State should be tested, and, if possible, fairly tested, before resorting to military power.
The law of the State empowers the Sheriff of any county to appoint and arm deputies; to call out the entire male population of the county and arm it. St. Clair county contains a population of more than sixty thousand people. It would seem that if ever the posse comitatus of the county, or indeed any county, was to be made available, an occasion had arisen in the wealthy and densely populated county of St. Clair to test the reliability and utility of such a force. I therefore insisted, in several interviews with the Sheriff, that he should appoint a large number of deputies and call out the power of his county, and at least make an earnest effort to restore order, preserve the peace, execute the law and assert its supremacy before calling on the Governor to aid him with a miliitary force. The Sheriff assured me he would make the best effort he could, and also repeatedly expressed to me his opinion and gave me his assurance that there would be no occasion for calling out the militia. Upon such assurance I returned to Springfield, after, however, directing the Sheriff to keep me advised by telegraph several times daily of affairs under his charge.
The Sheriff did increase the number of his deputies, and did summons the posse of his county and made some additional effort to restore the supremacy of the law.
Finally, on the 9th of April, after such effort as had been made to restore peace and order, he again made formal request for aid, and I thereupon immediately ordered a necessary militia force to report to him. This force was from time to time relieved by additional force sent to supply the withdrawal of companies after a term of duty from ten to fifteen days each, until finally, on the 24th of May, all the companies were relieved from duty there.
During the interval between the Sheriff's first and second request • for aid, the railroad companies, or some of them, advertised for and secured at high rates of wages the services of men who seem to have come from other States, and who were appointed by the Sheriff of the county, deputies, to aid him in preserving the peace. This force, such as it was, felt called upon, on the 9th day of April, to fire upon a crowd of people gathered upon a bridge, some of whom probably Were annoying them, and killed and wounded six or eight persons. After the arrival of the militia quiet was restored and the usual methods of trade under peace and order were resumed.
On the 7th day of November, 1886, the Sheriff of Cook county personally called upon me and urged the use again of the militia in that county. He presented a formal request for such aid, dated Chicago, Nov. 6th, which will be found in the report of the Adju
tant General. In that report will be found, consecutively arranged, all requests for such aid, and all orders, telegrams and communications hearing upon or relating to the various occasions when the military forces of the State were made available. In response to this request of the Sheriff of Cook county, I issued the necessary orders for a sufficient militia force to assemble, and to report to him and aid him in the execution of the law in that county. On the 20th day of November the Sheriff informed me there was no further occasion for the use of such force, and the militia, under proper order, was relieved from further duty in that county.
There were several other occasions of violence in Cook county and in the city of Chicago, somewhat formidable and threatening, but as no requisition was made upon me either by the Sheriff of the county or the Mayor of the city, the militia was not called out to aid those functionaries in preserving the peace. I think all considerate people must feel that where the Sheriff of the county and the Mayor of any city believe themselves, with the aid of deputies, the posse, and the police, able to preserve order and execute the law, and make an honest and earnest effort to do so, such course and such civil methods must be preferable to a call for or a reliance upon the militia to restore order.
Ours is a republican form of government. Such a government, if it is expected the spirit which created and animates it shall endure, must ever instill into the hearts of the people sacred reverence for peaceable methods, and an eternal reliance upon the devotion of the people to free institutions. The less such a people shall rely upon armies and militia to preserve order and execute law, the longer may we hope our institutions will stand. The many signs of willingness of a large portion of our people, especially of incorporated wealth, to impatiently demand the use of the militia in all cases of threatened or real violence, without an effort to secure the protection of the law through the civil forms and procedure provided by law, is an unpleasant augury, and one to be constantly watched by the ardent friends of constitutional liberty. And the fact that such incorporated wealth can command a part of the press of our country to malign, misrepresent and aim to intimidate any who feel it a solemn duty to execute law by observing law, is a potent indication of no common evil.
I have presented the foregoing brief statement of important events because I wish to invite the attention of your honorable bodies to the law bearing upon the subject, and to suggest such amendments as may
necessary to make it more effective, definite and satisfactory.
The Constitution demands that the Governor
Shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
The Governor shall be Commander-in-Chief of the military and naval forces of the State,
and may call out the same to execute the laws, suppress insurrection and repel invasion.