Heroes and the 'Dead Line' Against Riots: The Romantic Nationalist Conception of
Crowd Behavior, 1840-1914

By Gregory W. Bush

In May 1886, Edward Molineux, a former officer in the Union Army during the Civil War, noted a fundamental change in mob attitude and composition following the Haymarket Riot of 1886. In an article published in the Chicago Times, he wrote that earlier American riots were "regarded indifferently by the public, because as long as the socialistic and criminal elements were kept out, it was held that the good sense of the American mind, the teachings of a fair press, the methods of arbitration, and the superiority of mind over matter and brutal force would bring about a settlement for the difficulties without recourse to the force of arms." With the Haymarket Affair, however, he observed that "an American mob now contains all the vice, ignorance and criminality of every country of the globe." Women, transformed into furies, joined bohemians, idle Knights of Labor, and those uninterested in learning the English language in a "compound of villainy" that is "always to be found in crowded cities."1

As Molineux's comments suggest, most prominent analysts of mob violence in the mid-1880s still conceptualized American mobs without the benefit of the social science terminology that became popular by the mid-1890s. Wit the publication of works on crowd psychology by such European writers as Gustave LeBon and Gabriel Tarde, and Americans like Edward Ross, numerous writers commented, often with a knowing and professional air, about "laws of crowd psychology" operating within a wide array of phenomena about collective behavior in the United States. Loose talk surrounded such terms as "crowd", "mob", "mass", "horde", "public", and "congregation."2

This essay seeks to help define a romantic-nationalist conception of crowds that was widely accepted by Protestant-republican theorists in Victorian America. Born in reaction to the French Revolution and honed from the disorders of the "post-heroic age" of the 1830s and 1840s, this conception counter-poised heroes and republican notions of social cohesion against what were considered to be uncivilized forms of collective behavior. It was easily grafted onto images of various class, sectional, and ethno-cultural protests as they became more clearly politicized in the Gilded Age. The period from 1886 through the election of 1896 witnessed the culmination of this concept as it operated to stigmatize movements deemed threatening to republican visions of ordered liberty. Joel T. Headley, a popular mid-century historian, stands as one important exponent of the romantic-nationalist conception. By 1896, Theodore Roosevelt developed it into a prototype of what he later called his New Nationalism.

Broadly speaking, four elements formed the romantic-nationalist point of view. First, many political leaders associated with mobs were pictured as subverters of the national mission. Branding backers of Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson as fomenters of mobs in the 1790s and 1830s was an effective political weapon. Second, the reliance of many popular writers on battle spectacles and naturalistic literary conventions when characterizing present or past incidents of collective violence reduced historical causation into facile categories of order and disorder. Third, a quasi-spiritual identification with the point of view of military heroes masked a recurrent fear of class conflict and an antagonism towards lower class, especially immigrant, behavior. Finally, such characterizations of mobs fueled the prevailing legalistic and organicist models of social order posited by such noted Gilded Age social theorists as Francis Lieber, Elisha Mulford, Henry Maine, and James Bryce.

While the cultural function and historical context behind manifestations of collective behavior in the late nineteenth century deserve more attention, recent studies by intellectual historians cite the importance of early crowd psychologists, notably LeBon, who, in 1896, published his enormously popular, racist, and anti-democratic book The Crowd. Other work on violence and the literature of apocalypse, labor protests, lynchings, and changing modes of entertainment touched the subject of the crowd, but the actual images and conceptions of crowds in the mind of political leaders and social theorists escape most historians. Many cite the ideology of individualism and anti-urbanism in American intellectual life, but few chart the prevalent ideas about the most palpable manifestation of human collectivity --the crowd.3

The history of conceptions of the crowd involves more than seeing them as negative references. While many Gilded Age observers condemned those mobs involved in labor riots, others of the period sought to attract "a crowd" of buyers or dominate "the crowd" in a church or music hall. A bewildering array of ethnic and interest groups sorted out acceptable and unacceptable forms of collective behavior in Victorian America. Concurrently, various forms of institutionalization brought about massive crowd spectacles and encouraged the growing power of the press. As a result, both corporations and the state exercised increased control over social relations. Ultimately, perceptions of capital-labor conflicts, racial disorders, political upheavals, and a resurgent nationalistic spirit grew parallel to, and were affected by, the emerging "mass" market in ways that need further analysis in relation to the prevailing conceptions of crowds.4

The most focused analysis of the historical role of urban mobs in American history prior to the 1890s is a book entitled Great Riots of New York, first published in 1873, then updated in 1882 to reflect the impact of the 1877 Railroad Riots. Its author, Joel T. Headley, was a popular mid-century writer of military history. The book is illustrative of many of the attitudes held by contemporaries who feared what Charles Loring Brace called the "dangerous classes." Here, as in his published antebellum writings, the romantic-nationalist point of view strongly influenced Headley's notions about mobs and public opinion.5

The riots of the Jacksonian period, David Grimsted wrote, "along with the increasing problem of crime, made clear in urban areas at least that the old voluntary principle could no longer handle social control among a people growing, and growing apart in economic status and ethnic diversity." Many middle-class writers viewed the reluctance of the state to use force against "democratic" mobs as an increasingly serious problem. Gone were those founding fathers like Jefferson, who, while disliking cities, nonetheless found riots and insurrections as something less than treasonous in the 1780s and 1790s. Gone was the young John Adams who justified mob pressure directed towards public ends at the time of the Stamp Act crisis.6

Albeit somewhat more extreme, Headley's views in 1873 reflect the residual Whiggish vision of his times. Many wondered whether the great dreams of empire were not drowning in a sea of selfishness and violence. Like Headley, Abraham Lincoln had thought so. In his 1838 "Lyceum Address," the Illinois Whig decried the power of mobs as a illustration of the loss of respect for the republican bonds cemented by the Revolutionary War generation. What E.P. Thompson called the moral economy of the eighteenth century crowd was dissolving into new demands for order and more rigid structures of law and professionalized police powers to deal with rioters. Bourgeois values of order, regularity, and property were paramount.7

As writers lamented the passing of the older congregations of worship and the rise of urbanization and faction, a distrust of the masses became a badge of civilized opinion in terms fused with images of mobs. Many of the most illustrious mid-century English and American writers such as Emerson, Carlyle, Poe, Scott, Dickens, Cooper, and Henry Ward Beecher wrote disparaging and foreboding accounts linking mobs to anarchic violence and the coming of mass man. Whitman's exuberance about crowds was a rarity of his times, but disenchantment with the mediocrity of the United States as a mass culture soon dampened even his optimism. Respectable nineteenth century Protestants were often admonished to avoid certain popular events (including revivals) because they could destroy the work ethic and the relationship of an individual to nature and to God. Henry Ward Beecher wrote in his Lectures to Young Men that many "shall crowd to the Circus to hear clowns, and see rare feats of horsemanship; but a bird may . . . swoop from the high heaven . . . pouring liquid song as if it were a perennial fountain of sound - no man cares for that." The individual's relationship to his family, his church, and his God were under siege by forces for which the mob served as the clearest symbol. Polybius's warnings about the cycles of empires appeared to be at work in the land of endless frontiers.8

Like Headley, many mid-century writers used several naturalistic images in their quest to explain mob behavior. By the 1840s, for example, middle-class Americans were reading novels of Charles Dickens. In Barnaby Rudge, the Englishman told readers that mobs were usually mysterious urban creatures, "as difficult to follow to its various sources as the sea itself. Nor does the parallel stop there, for the ocean is not more fickle and uncertain, more terrible when roused, more unreasonable or more cruel." As irrational and infectious convulsions from the depths of an increasingly anomic society, the analogy of mobs to the mystery of the sea remained vital to many explanations. As late as the summer of 1877, an editor of the Chicago Times used Dickens's characterization in trying to understand the recent spate of railroad riots. The mystery of mobs remained while immediate repression became more urgent.9

Headley's literary style, political ideology, and notions of history helped to channel the increasingly rigid characterizations of riotous behavior in the period from 1830 to 1885. After graduating from Union College in 1839 and subsequent attendance at Auburn Theological Seminary, Headley became pastor of a church in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for a brief period until ill health forced him to resign. Europe beckoned, as it had to Emerson in similar circumstances. In speech at the University of Vermont delivered in August 1846, Headley reveals the impact of his long tour. He sounds remarkably similar to de Tocqueville in divulging a mixture of scorn and awe at the "democratic principle" that fueled the materialistic spirit of his times. One could see this power most clearly in voluntary associations, he said, which were "engine[s] of tremendous power [that] will yet uproot everything." Throughout Europe, he noted, "there is a moving of the masses, indicating life and energy soon to be expended somewhere on somebody." These masses, acting with "skill and energy," were being changed "from a mob into an organized body, with resolutions and appeal in their hands, investing them with a power nothing can withstand."10

What especially worried Headley was that, in a republic, the democratic principle tended towards "radicalism and anarchy...[progressing] faster than the virtue and knowledge of men." He suggested to Christian scholars disturbed by the disorders of the times to "be more practical" in directing the "spirit that is abroad carrying everything before it...My fears of the issue are stronger than my hopes," he said, having "little faith in the wisdom of the masses and still less in their virtue." His was a conservative world view of Victorian respectability, antagonistic towards the Democratic Party and fearful of the shifting arenas of power in a secularizing world. "Cut a nation loose from the restraints of Divine law," he later wrote, and "there is nothing short of anarchy."11

It is clear from the tone and substance of his writings, often stolen from the works of others, that Headley knew the stuff of popular appeal; his work reflects that of Thomas Carlyle. The pictures of mob behavior in the French Revolution sketched by Thomas Carlyle were influential among many American intellectuals as was his heroic brand of history. Central to Headley's biographical portraits was his dramatic rendering of power. "Order sprang from chaos at [Napoleon's] touch," he wrote, "the tottering government stopped rocking on its base the moment his mighty hand fell upon it - wealth flowed from the lap of poverty, and vast resources were drawn from apparent nothingness." Such was the role of a heroic leader; a man who could instantly summon resources through his will and personality. The hero was closer to having a civil-religious function than a business one. Indeed, Headley's penultimate leader may have been the Revolutionary War chaplain of a later work, who after closing services, retreated to the vestry room, donned a colonel's uniform, and "ordered the drum to beat for recruits." The result found the congregation rising "simultaneously to their feet, and the men gathered in a mass around their former pastor - scarcely one capable of bearing arms remaining behind." Ah, pity the poor armchair parson turned historian for not embodying those characters that so obsessed him.12

Headley's biographical accounts of the 1840s clearly provide the descriptive style and ideological overtones of the first edition of The Great Riots of New York in 1873. Many of the same elements surface again and again: the example of the bestiality of the French Revolutionary mobs, imagery which likened mobs to "swarms of bees," for example, or a "tiger unchained," are notable; the interest in sieges, crusades, and mass movements of people galvanized by military leaders; the desire to extinguish any sympathy for the demands of mobs; the nativism appeals.13

The main variation from Headley's earlier work involved his rising fear of class-based violence in the Civil War Draft Riots and the Paris Commune, along with the collateral increase in the incidence of ethnic violence in New York. Headley still conceived of urban collective violence in episodic terms, without specific reference to social-scientific theory. The "turbulent class" remained devoid of enduring political aims or identifiable leaders. Headley's aims were clear. He sought to endear local police and militia leaders to respectable people, to make them more heroic. Respectable people should stay out of any proximity to mobs; working-class Germans and Irish, in particular, were to exhibit their loyalty to the state even if that meant firing on their own people.14

The second edition of The Great Riots, published in 1882, included an extensive account of the 1877 riots in other cities. Headley introduced his narrative by noting the rise of labor organizations as an inevitable change in the organization of society. To strike was legitimate but "strikes have necessarily run into riots." When strikers prevented others from taking their places at work they passed "from legitimate organizations into riotous proceedings" and struck "at the very foundation of society," immediately becoming "the most tyrannical, outrageous monopolists in the country," he wrote.15

Thus, Headley was a proponent of immediate, violent repression against all rioters, defining what Andrew Carnegie later labeled a "dead line" that had been "fixed between the forces of disorder and anarchy and those of order. Rioters . . . will be remorselessly shot down . . . by the masses of peaceable and orderly citizens of all classes . . ." Neither man saw the existence of a quasi-political character to working-class assemblies that eventually turned into mobs. When the issue was one of civilization or anarchy, corrupt or unethical business practices were of no consequences." "A large company may be oppressive and unjust, but murder is worse than oppression," Headley intoned.16

The efficient and depersonalized quality of the police became models of modernity and exciting spectacle, easily adapted to history, fiction, and stage acts. Chicago police had been "so efficient, though radical," Headley wrote, that no more mobs dared to arise. Headley was impressed above all by what he described as the veteran Indian fighters, all bronzed and rugged. Their soldierly appearance, their total lack of excitement, the clock-like regularity of their step, and the determination depicted on the countenances of the commanding officers, and more than all , the appearance of those ounce-bore Spencer rifles, that shoot sixteen times without loading, indicated that when they got on the scene something would have to give way.

The attraction of such descriptions of technological violence on readers was a growing feature of the Gilded Age.17

True to form, the ultimate rationale for shooting down rioters came from God, from history itself, and from the proposition that shooting down five rioters today will prevent fifty more deaths in the future as violence spread. Beyond repeating the picture of Napoleon quelling the riots by firing on Parisian mobs, Headley invoked divine sanction with the startling comment that "the man who is shot down while committing rapine and murder falls as really by the hand of God as though struck by lightning." It is a characterization that admits of no ambiguity in the guilt or innocence of the victims of police violence. It assumes that all people in the street are equally culpable of "murder" when the protesters were more often than not engaged in forms of quasi-political bargaining or exacting vengeance against corporations unwilling to bargain for wages. Much evidence shows that police action - directed in league with corporate owners - actually caused much of the violence in labor-capital disputes.18

It was in this context that communism became part of Headley's analysis of the 1877 riots, but his was a simplistic lumping together of ideas under a label about which he had little understanding. Nowhere does Headley examine the scope of distress afflicting the railroad workers or give serious weight to the fact that many rioters elicited numerous sympathizers, even some among the more "respectable classes." His writing style and moralism, like those of his main contemporaries, formed an intellectual cage from which none could never emerge.19

The 1877 Railroad Riots produced a spate of books and articles that hardened attitudes towards the repression of rioters. In the September 1877 issue of the North American Review, the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Thomas Scott, wrote the "The late troubles may be but the prelude to other manifestations of mob violence, with this added peril, that now for the first time in American history, has an organized mob learned its power to terrorize the law-abiding citizens of great communities." As Headley had also shown, when linked to foreign ideologies and class jealousy, mob violence was a growing threat to republican values. But, in actuality, the 1877 strikes had been a spontaneous protest movement; no national leaders were singled out as part of a premeditated plot. It was not until the violence surrounding the Haymarket Affair of 1886 that the diverse fears expressed by Headley and Scott became personalized and focused on individual culprits. A demonology crystalized around mobs that aided the Republicans in the 1896 election while other notions about crowds as patriotic and respectable congregations were revitalized.20

In the two decades after the 1877 riots, the physical landscape of many American cities changed as armories, often immense and of gothic design, sprouted to combat mobs. While labor organizations battled corporations, Jackson Lears and others noted a revival of the medieval warrior as a significant mode of adapting to the dictates of an industrial society. Carlyle's History of the French Revolution was still being read but now by younger men like Edward Ross and Robert Park, who later became important sociologists in the new century. By the last years of the century, the speeches and writings of Edward Bellamy, Stephen Crane, and Oliver Wendell Holmes all testify to the widespread interest in the value of heroism and the solidarity of soldiers battling foes in righteous armies. Many were drawn to martial values, whether in the Union Army or a mythical industrial army. A whole genre of popular novels emerged whose basic themes involved civilized Anglo-Saxons leading the righteous against mobs of barbaric laborers.21

The Haymarket Affair of 1886 is an important symptomatic and symbolic event in the revival of the old hero-crowd dynamic. The press pictured the event as a bombing planned by anarchist leaders to kill a massed body of policemen, thereby sparking an extended period of class warfare. This was an erroneous image in that many of the police were shot when they mistakenly fired on each other. A Harper's Weekly engraving of Thure de Thulstrup makes clear that bombs were seen as weapons of the working class designed to unleash new mobs against the social order.22

At the center of the legacy of the Haymarket Affair existed a frightening image of working-class crowds that brings to mind Antonio Gramsci's observation that all social elites tend to posit something "barbaric and pathological" in those they consider their social inferiors. But this time eight men were accused of being conspirators in the bombing and four were hung, a warning to respectable members of the middle and working classes against sympathizing with the condemned men. A matrix of associations developed from 1886 through the election of 1896 featured radical demagogues influencing irrational working-class collectivities to threaten private property.23

Strikes and protests were widespread during the late 1880s and 1890s, especially after the onset of the brutal depression beginning in 1893. The startling march on Washington by what Thorstein Veblen called the "armies of the Comonweal" in the spring of 1894 was "an appeal to Caesar," he wrote, bearing "universal solvents" that might prove irresistible. By July, the Pullman strike captured national attention. Mobs inundated Chicago, most mainstream newspapers reported, as "King Debs" defied the law and fomented revolutionary activity.24

These incidents served to underscore the power of the legal fraternity now busily imparting stricter definitions of riots against strikers and in firm support of corporations. In the Farmers Loan and Trust Co. V. Northern Pacific case (1893), Judge Jenkins asserted that "it is idle to talk of the peaceable strike. None such has ever occurred. The suggestion is an impeachment of intelligence." In the final years of his life, Headley must have been grateful that so many forces now supported his calls for repression.25

Americans of the mid-1890s also responded to novel manifestations of mass persuasion (lower-priced magazines and the sensational press, for example) and to new heroes whose central role so often involved their ability to stand out from crowds and dominate them. Edward Bellamy's Nationalist Clubs, the Trilby craze of 1894, the popularity of populists tracts such as Coin's Financial School, and the revived obsession with Napoleon, all testify to the desire for a new generation of national activists leaders. More than what Richard Hofstadter called a "physic crisis" affected the American people in these harsh depression years; a cultural movement revitalized American identity in terms that promoted legitimized or "patriotic" congregations defined in direct contrast to mobs.26

Should we be surprised that to many a respectable Republican, irrational mobs and the "silver craze" became associated with the platforms of the Democratic Party and the Populist cause? The presiding chairman of the Democratic Party Platform Committee in 1896, Governor John Peter Altgeld, a foreign-born labor sympathizer who pardoned the remaining three Haymarket Anarchists in 1893, campaigned against the judge who had sentenced them. He also opposed the federal action against the Pullman strikers in 1894. Condemnation of his pardon had been swift and aggressive. The New York Times wrote that "Governor Altgeld has done everything in his power . . . to encourage again the spirit of lawless resistance and of wanton assault upon the agents of authority . . .exactly in tone with the wildest Anarchist leaders."27

While William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech mesmerized the crowd of Democratic Party convention delegates in July 1896, the press often featured the Svengali-type characters of Altgeld, Debs, the Haymarket anarchists, and the whole spectra of associations with mob violence. As if that were not enough, the Democratic Party platform plank, which criticized Cleveland's actions in quelling the Pullman strike, was branded the "free riot" plank by many Republicans and Gold Democrats. One historian writes that "the gold men were frightened out of all proportion to the actual threat. Indicative of the underlying inarticulate disturbance among them was the way in which they permitted silver to become a symbol of anarchism."28

It was a convenient fashion for uneasy patricians, journalists, business leaders, literary critics, and academics alike to join political opponents in repeating that Bryan was an incarnation of a mob leader. The Philadelphia Press commented that "the unkempt mob of agitators saw in [Bryan's speech] a glittering embodiment of their crude and disordered ideas, and they made the exponent of their creed of nihilism the hero of their crusade of destruction." The paper saw the platform as "the concrete creed of the mob." A columnist for The Critic lambasted the convention as "one of those expressive events which the Great Spirit seems to have substituted in modern times for prophecy. It reveals to a popular government a fact that it will have to face the fact that there is nothing more whimsical, more egotistical, more irresponsible, more thoughtless of everything but itself, than a crowd." The writer then proceeded to rail against the doleful impact of all types of crowds as a feature of modern civilization.29

E. L. Godkin's The Nation made specific associations between Bryan, the Altgeld pardon of the Haymarket anarchists, and mob violence. "Nothing could have been better calculated to provoke the silverite mob to personal violence upon advocates of the gold standard than Bryan's incendiary appeals." William Allen White remembered Bryan as "an incarnation of demagoguery, the apotheosis of riot, destruction, and carnage." Walter Lippman, in discussing "bogeys" years later, saw the election of 1896 producing on himself a "subtle prejudice against Democrats that goes deeper than what we call political conviction."30

When LeBon's The Crowd was finally read in the United States in 1896, it fit into the romantic-nationalist conception of crowds. Godkin's The Nation, in fact, linked LeBon's recently published book to "victims of the greenback craze or the silver craze . . ."adding that "it will undoubtedly also cover the readers of the yellow journals, and the jingles generally."31

One aspiring politician who used the romantic-nationalist conception of crowd behavior to his advantage was Theodore Roosevelt. In mid-October of 1896, Roosevelt viciously attacked William Jennings Bryan in front of an enthusiastic audience in the same Chicago auditorium where the Democrat delivered his triumphant speech three months earlier. He hammered away at what he considered to be the underlying issues of the campaign. Predictably contemptuous of the economic stupidity and greed behind demands for "free silver," he also made full use of Americans' fear of the growing threat of mobs and "windy demagogues." Together with greedy businessmen, Roosevelt predicted, these forces could lead the nation into anarchy. He prescribed a middle course to revitalize American civilization.

Roosevelt was alternately mocking and angry as he associated his mob-related political opponents with the French Revolution and primal tribes. "Bryan, Altgeld, Tillman, Debs, Coxey and the rest have not the power to rival the deeds of Marat, Barrere and Robsepierre," he said, "but they are strikingly like the leaders of the Terror of France in mental and moral attitude." He warned, that if given power, Bryan would replace "a government of the people, for the people and by the people . . .[with] . a government of a mob, by the demagogue, for the shiftless . . . disorderly . . .criminal and . . . semi-criminal." With Abraham Lincoln's son Robert applauding from behind, Roosevelt pursued his political prey in a manner that brought him new prominence as a leader of the Republican Party. Roosevelt addressed the concerns about riots and republican values expressed fifty-eight years earlier by Lincoln in his "Lyceum Address" and echoed in the writings of Headley.32

Unlike Headley, the future President never wrote a history of riots. Many observers mentioned the relationship between Roosevelt and crowds but only in passing. Mathew Josephson in The President Makers noted that Roosevelt and his closest friends were "men of culture, who thought often of the lessons of history, suffered from a fear of 'the mob' that, though expressed constantly in the form of jests, remained nevertheless their deepest obsession." This is one of the central unstated tenets of the Progressive Ethos. But how did Roosevelt's attitude come about and in what ways did they reverberate?33

There are several striking similarities between Headley and Roosevelt. Both were sickly younger men who identified adventurous heroic types as revitalizers of American patriotism. As writers, both disparaged the man of materialistic greed and little patriotic spirit while they promoted the power of the police in civil disturbances. Both were conservative "world" historians who wrote enthusiastic racist accounts of the frontier and laudatory biographies featuring Oliver Cromwell and other heroes of the British and American Revolutions. Wealthier, less florid in his writing, and more scholarly than Headley, Roosevelt shared with the older man a sharp deficiency in understanding the behavior of the poor. Ultimately, Roosevelt succeeded in embodying the type of heroic personality that Headley could only idolize.

No evidence has been uncovered to prove that Roosevelt ever read Headley, but it is likely that he was familiar with this illustrious contemporary of his father's generation. It is more important to recall Roosevelt's Victorian moralism when delving into his understanding of mobs and heroes. Strictly defined values that stressed males in their roles as warriors and advocates of a political party and women as mothers came to Roosevelt, as to so many of his contemporaries, from a social context in which order and civility were the highest values. The well-ordered home, full of Protestant purpose and love, was fit to project vestiges of itself out into the sordid street and into the seats of power. The boundaries of the home expanded in Roosevelt's mind so far as to see the need for "stern men with empires in their brains" to bring "order out of chaos" in the foreign islands of the Caribbean.34

To Roosevelt, a fit citizen and warrior was one who could be alone with nature in a way that invigorated his individualistic spirit. After the death of his wife in 1884, Roosevelt went to the Badlands to console himself. He wrote of being so alone in the "far reaching, seemingly never ending plains . . . Nowhere else does one seem so far off from all mankind . . ." While residing there sporadically over the next few years, he took on the aura of the chivalrous cowboy, a strong leader who worked closely with common ranch hands, hunted, and formed a vigilance committee with them. It is within this context that Roosevelt expressed vengeance against the Haymarket anarchists to his sister:

         My men here are hardworking, laboring men, who work longer hours for no greater wages than many of the strikers; but they are Americans through and through;I believe nothing would give them greater pleasure than a chance with their rifles at one of the mobs. When we get the papers especially in relation to the dynamite business they become more furiously angry that I do. I wish I had them with me, and a fair show at ten times our number of rioters; my men shoot well and fear very little.

Here was a man who believed the press accounts and buttressed his own sense of retribution against "the mobs" with the belief that his reactions were tame in comparison with those of the respectable and individualistic members of the frontier working class.35

Direct legislative and administrative experience likewise influenced Roosevelt's ideas about countering mobs. As a New York State Assemblyman in 1883, he supported a militia bill to aid municipalities in putting down riots. When labor spokesmen opposed the bill, Roosevelt reaffirmed his commitment to it by asserting that there should be no connection between the honest workingman and riots. Association with any form of riotous behavior - whether stimulated by the repressive actions of the army or not - thus became a touchstone of barbarousness, with Roosevelt joining others in trying to induce workers to always appear respectable. During his years as police commissioner in the 1890s, Roosevelt frequently sent police to control various disturbances and reportedly approved the selection of a chief of police after hearing the latter's professed belief in using "grape and canister" on riotous workers. Roosevelt urged newly promoted police captains on July 16, 1896, to do their duty "like soldiers on field of battle," since "sooner of later in this city there will be turmoil and riot."36

Roosevelt's conceptions of history and race also contributed to his understanding and interpretation of riots and rioters. The divine mission of America's geographic expansion westward and its quest for world leadership was entwined with his neo-Lamarckianism. Roosevelt's use of the term "race", though, was bandied about loosely. He believed social and environmental forces mediated racial characteristics, appropriating many of the views of Harvard professor Nathaniel Shaler. Environment was no longer as important in molding races as it had been earlier in world history. Through the proper inculcation of "character" and American ideals, many immigrants could be uplifted from any possibility of posing a collective danger to American society. Yet, to Roosevelt, it was difficult to develop much individuality of mind among members of certain racial groups, especially Blacks.37

By the early 1890s, Roosevelt and his friend Henry Cabot Lodge believed that part of the causes of disorders came from the unrestricted quality of immigration into the United States. Clannishness, especially when combined with foreign ideologies, led to protest movements of lower classes. Roosevelt applauded the efforts of Lodge to stem the flow of the unfit through the use of a literacy test. On Lodge's recommendation, Roosevelt read Lebon's Les Premieres Civilizations in April 1896, characterizing the Frenchman as "really a thinker." LeBon's comments on race were crude characterizations of inferior and superior races, then popular among many educated Americans but Roosevelt thought they were "very fine and true." Although he found the Frenchman too pessimistic about the future onslaught of inferior peoples upon the Anglo-Saxons, Roosevelt nonetheless appropriated many of his ideas. LeBon, however, had only put a scientific veneer on a conception of race and civilization that Roosevelt and others had gained from earlier organicist and Social Darwinian models.38

Political acquiescence to the growing spectra of segregation tended to mediate Roosevelt's concern about the lynching of Blacks throughout the South. Lynching was a form of mass violence over which he felt he had no control. Seldom, even during his presidency, did he use the same romantic nationalist ideals to condemn lynch mobs. Further, as Thomas Dyer writes, Roosevelt's "rejection of any concept bordering on race solidarity and his attempt to encourage blacks to inform on each other revealed his concern that blacks, as a group, posed a serious threat to white 'order'."39

By the mid-1890s, history proved to Roosevelt that any true democracy could not work without a kind of moral and racial oligarchy to lead it. Roosevelt wrote history to learn about the behavior of nationalist heroes and to project intellectual authority. In Hero Tales of American History, co-authored with Lodge, the heroes were fighters, frontiersmen, and extreme nationalists. "Times of war are iron times," he wrote, "and bring out all that is best as well as all that is basest in the human heart." This book proceeded from the same dichotomy Roosevelt often repeated. As he told the American Historical Association years later, America had avoided the "twin gulfs of despotism and mob rule" through the "teaching and practice of the men whom we most revere as leaders . . . like Washington and Lincoln . . ."40

Roosevelt's understanding of the French Revolution defined his "dead line" against mob violence as it had for Headley. In all probability, Roosevelt's views on the role of mobs and authority in the 1790s did not come from Headley, but more prominently from Carlyle, Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, Alexander Hamilton, and Gourverneur Morris. It animated his view of authority and democracy but it was not as deep or simple a hatred of democracy or "the people" as Hamilton or Morris himself had expressed. Roosevelt was, in fact, critical of Morris for being "marred by his incurable cynicism and deep-rooted distrust of mankind."41

In a number of articles during the months following the Pullman Strike, Roosevelt wrote about the need to split the respectable workingman from protesters, a theme he expressed at the time of the Haymarket Affair. America's archenemy was the "professional labor agitator . . . who arouses the mob to riot and bloodshed [and] is in the last analysis the most dangerous of the workingmen's enemies. This man is a real peril; and so is his sympathizer, the legislator, who to catch votes denounces the judiciary and the military because they put down mobs." He went on to compare Altgeld to Benedict Arnold for his role in the pardon of the Haymarket Anarchists. Roosevelt threw the Populists into his rhetorical stew as well. "Thrift, industry and business energy are qualities which are quite incomparable with the true Populist feeling. Payment of debts, like the suppression of riots, is abhorrent to the Populist mind." Ultimately, Roosevelt formed his emerging definition of patriotism in direct contradistinction to his historical misunderstanding of riots.42

At the time he had arrived in Chicago for his important speech against Bryan in October 1896, Roosevelt held a variation of the romantic-nationalist conception of crowds that provided a touchstone of his thought for years to come. By 1910, it helped to create his New Nationalism. By this time, however, earlier misconceptions about the behavior of mobs were indelibly grafted onto crowd psychology, and onto a host of ideological assumptions and institutions important in channeling American behavior. Ideas about social control and "mass society" took on a new urgency and definition, often in terms of reform. But, as John Dewey recognized, America's problems were more complicated than Roosevelt led his countrymen to believe; they related to "deeply rooted conditions and institutions, not with differences between malefactors of great wealth and benefactors of great virtue." Roosevelt fought with "symptoms rather than with causes," Dewey wrote in his obituary in 1919.43

The romantic heroes and the demonic mobs seen by both Headley and Roosevelt functioned in an important manner to legitimize a particular kind of authority in the late nineteenth century. Even so, notions relating to the crowd as metaphor were inexorably changing in literary treatments and in the popular consciousness. Frank Norris's turn-of-the-century novel The Octopus employs the device of a flock of sheep destroyed by a train to symbolize the destruction of men and women under the wheels of a corporate-controlled industry. More and more, the public came to be seen as crowd-like and pervasively susceptible to the impact of mass suggestion by many advertising men and self-help theorists. The "mob mind" was a legitimized term in the common parlance of the educated classes. Not everyone, of course, appropriated the convention. Critics Ernest Poole in his novel The Harbor and Carl Sandberg in his poem "I am the People. .." sputtered with anger and reverse aggression at the misuse of language about the people as dull crowds and faceless "masses."44

A writer for the Philadelphia Public Ledger was one of the few to question the ends to which the ambiguous conception of the crowd was being put. His (or her) remarks speak to our times and remain a challenge for us all.

       The public is not a crowd; even a public big enough to take in all who breathe is separable into personalities; and all of the are lonely, and all of them have their separate desires, their distinctive prayers, their own heart's bitterness, their own small place in the sun or the pelting rain to fortify. If your sole interest in the Public is to coin its aspirations into dollars, you must answer here or somewhere for the shame and the sin of that philosophy.45


Notes

1The Chicago Times, May 18, 1886. See also E. L. Molineux, Riots in Cities and their Suppression, (Providence, 1884). Another contemporary analyst of riots in Scranton, Pennsylvania, commented a year later that he was unaware "that any scientist has ever attempted to discover or reveal the law or method of mobs." He proceeded to define a mob as having similar characteristics among countries and across generations. It was "a brainless monster with a cowardly heart, which can only be begotten by a lawless spirit. It is a headless force whose vitality is to be found in its whole body. Its only remedy is quick and remorseless force, legally organized, and under the command of law." Samuel Logan, A City's Danger and Defense (Scranton, 1887), 3. go back

2For background on the changing idea of the crowd in European history see George Rude, The Crowd in History, 1730-1848 (New York, 1964); Susanna Barrows, Distorting Mirrors: Visions of the Crowd in Late Nineteenth-Century France (New Haven, 1981); Roberts Nye, The Origins of Crowd Psychology: Gustave LeBon and the Crisis of Mass Democracy in the Third Republic (London, 1975); R0ger Geiger. "Democracy and the Crowd: the Social History of an Idea in France and Italy, 1890-1914," Societas, 7 (1977), 47-71. Robert Holton wrote that LeBon used the term crowd "not as a sociological description of collective behavior but rather as a hostile symbol for what he saw as the irrationality of mass politics." Along with fellow Frenchman Gabriel Tarde, LeBon was widely read in the United States at the turn of the century and continued to be cited by authorities in fields such as public opinion, public speaking, and advertising well into the 1920s. Robert Horton, "The Crowd in History: Some Problems of Theory and Method," Social History, 3. (May 1978), 220. go back

     Numerous academics and popular social theorists used the crowd as a metaphor to describe their fears of the impact of immigration, urbanization, and industrialization. One writer commented that any person who attempted to interpret anything "either in art or life" without understanding the role of the crowd in modern society "is a spectator in the blur and bewilderment of this modern world, as helpless in it, and as childish and superficial in it, as a Greek god at the World's Fair, gazing out of his still, Olympian eyes at the Midway Pleasance." Gerald Stanley Lee, "The Dominance of the Crowd," Atlantic Monthly (December 1900), 761. Definitions of crowds and publics began to be conceived with somewhat more precision in the writings of Edward Ross, Robert Park, and other mass society theorists by the early twentieth century. But these men also fell prey to facile classifications and were the exception to a wide array of writers who wrote knowingly about the "mob in literature," laws about crazes and yellow journalism, and America as a crowd culture. By the turn of the century, the crowd had become a powerful yet ambiguous metaphor for middle-class writers who were both frightened of mobs yet desirous of attracting wider publics. See Julius Weinberg, Edward A. Ross and the Sociology of Progressivism (Madison, 40), 85-114 and Fred Mathews, Quest for an American Sociology: Robert E. Park and the Chicago School (Montreal, 1977), Ch. 2; Henri Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious (New York, 1970). See also Thomas Haskell, The Emergence of Professional Social Sciences (Chicago, 1977); Paul Boyer, (Cambridge, 1978); R. Jackson Wilson, In Quest of Community (New York, 1968); Dorothy Ross, "The Liberal Tradition Revisited and the Republican Tradition Addressed," in John Highman and Paul Conkin, eds., New Directions in American Intellectual History (Baltimore, 1979), 116-131; Gregory Bush, Lord of Attention: Gerald Stanley Lee and the Crowd Metaphor in Industrializing America (forthcoming from the University of Massachusetts Press). go back

     It should be noted that there were people who were critical of the ends to which the ambiguous usage of notions of crowds and mobs were put. By 1914, for example, British social theorist Graham Wallas's told readers of his book, The Great Society, that the field of crowd psychology needed to be re-examined and restated. "We must first get rid of the verbal ambiguities which are due merely to the employment of collective terms," he said. "Sometimes the use of collective terms results in statements loosely made in one sense being afterwards used as part of an argument in another sense." Graham Wallas, The Great Society, (Lincoln, 1967 [1914]), 133. Walla's warning was largely ignored in England and the United States as both the First World War and its aftermath provided tantalizing grist for the mills of crowd theorists. Writers blithely pictured modern man as an increasingly irrational and suggestible creature, whose personality dimmed as he slipped further and further from his earlier proximity to reason and nature. Analysis of crowds frequently dissolved into nostalgia for the frontier experience, for small town community cohesion, or for a mystical identification with nature, the nation, or a racial group. For other comments critical of the use of the loose talk about crowds in this period, see Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom (Englewood Cliffs, 1961), 74; "The Mob Spirit," The Chautauquan (Sept. 1902), 11-13; John Mitchell, Organized Labor (Philadelphia, 1903), Ch. 35; Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Politics (Ann Arbor, 1965 [1914]), 63; Everett Dean Martin, The Behavior of Crowds (New York, 1920). For further discussion on the evolution of the term "mass," see Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form (New York, 1974), 23; and Keywords (New York, 1978), 160. go back

3On violence see Richard Hofstadter and Michael Wallace, eds., American Violence: A Documentary History (New York, 1970); Richard Maxwell Brown, Strain of Violence in America (New York, 1975); Thomas Rose, ed., Violence in America (New York, 1969); Ted Robert Gurr, et al, Rogues, Rebels and Reformers: A Political History of Urban Crime and Conflict (Beverly Hills, 1976) relates in a cross cultural context that "the class interest explanation of the criminal law fits best the legislation aimed at controlling collective behavior. The changing fears and sympathies of the political elite and the rising political influence of new classes are traced in legislation governing collective behavior. The changing fears and sympathies of the political elite and the rising political influence of new classes are traced in legislation governing collective behavior, as surely as a seismograph records earthquakes and tremors." (113) On lynching, see especially the early twentieth century analysis that makes use of LeBon in James E. Cutler, Lynch Law (New York, 1905). Jacksonian Era riots can be sampled in Leonard Richards, Gentlemen of Property and Standing: Anti-Abolition Mobs in Jacksonian America (New York, 1970) and Michael Feldberg, The Turbulent Era: Riot and Disorder in Jacksonian America (New York, 1980). On images of crowds related to labor see the work of Herbert Gutman, especially his Op Ed piece in the New York Times, July 21, 1977,"As for the '02Kosher-Food Rioters . . ." published shortly after the New York City blackout. American intellectual history concerning the crowd is handled in Frederic Cople Jaher, Doubters and Dissenters (New York, 1964); Leon Bramson, The Political Context of Sociology (Princeton, 1960), Chs. 2, 3; Gene Leach, "Mastering the Crowd: Collective Behavior and Mass Communications in America Social Thought, 1917-1929," Journal of American Studies, 27 (Spring 1986), 99-114; Morton and Lucia White, The Intellectual and the City (New York, 1964); R. Jackson Wilson, In Quest of Community (New York, 1968). See also Nicholas Vardic, Stage to Screen (Cambridge, 1949), 136-151; Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America (New York, 1982), Ch. 3; Neil Harris, Humbug: The Art of P. T. Barnum (Chicago, 1973); John Kasson, Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (New York, 1978); Guy DeBord, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit, 1970). go back

4In what follows, no attempt will be made to analyze ideas and images about crowds among immigrant groups, Blacks, laborers, women, or others who were often victims of middle-class conceptions. Instead, this is an analysis of some of the operative assumptions that legitimized repression against those who were perceived to be the enemies of the ordered liberty of a free people whose form of political economy was derived from the will of God. go back

5The Miscellaneous Works of the Rev. Joel T. Headley 2nd ed. (New York, 1850), Ch. XXI. For background on Headley's life see the introduction by Thomas Rose and James Rogers, The Great Riots of New York, Vol. XXX (New York, 1970); Russell Headley, ed., The History of Orange County, New York (Middleton, 1908), 858-59; Carl Bode, The Anatomy of American Popular Culture 1840-1861 (Berkley, 1960), 241-248; Joy Bayless, Rufus Griswold, (Nashville, 1943), 132-136; Louis Scisco, Political Nativism in New York State (New York, 1901), 165-169. go back

     Headley was born in what he later recalled as a "wild and romantic spot on the banks of the Delaware" in upstate Walton, New York, in 1814. He later attributed his descriptive powers to the "glorious and grand scenery of my birthplace." After graduating from Union College in 1839 and study at Auburn Theological, he followed the path of his father and became a Congregational parson in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Joel T. Headley, The Beauties of Joel T. Headley with a Sketch of his Life (New York, 1851), 1-20. go back

     By 1842, however, ill health and the desire to influence a wider public pushed him to give up his pulpit, make the grand tour of Europe, and see the popular reception of two books of his observations about Italy. He unhappily performed a short stint in 1846 as associate editor of the New York Tribune, and was a well-known reviewer and author among the New York literati at mid-century. A few years as a New York Assemblyman and Know-Nothing Secretary of State in the mid-1850s were the only known political offices he held during a long career as a popular historian. From writing travel accounts of Europe and upper New York state, Headley quickly shifted his focus into historical narratives of nationalistic military figures such as Napoleon, Washington, and Grant. His later years found him living in Newburgh, New York, active in preserving Washington's Headquarters. He died in 1897. There is little we know about his personality except that he was a self-professed "vindictive" man who would not forget an injury. go back

6David Grimsted, "Rioting in its Jacksonian Context," American Historical Review (April 1972), 394-6. On Jefferson, see Rebecca Grumer, ed. American Nationalism 1783-1830 (New York, 1970), 110-111. On John Adams, see John Howe, The Political Thought of John Adams (Princeton, 1966), 12-13. For one of the most conservative views of mobs, see Bernard Bailyn, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (Cambridge, 1974), 75, 137. go back

7Abraham Lincoln, "Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois," in Roy Basler, ed., The Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. 1 (New Brunswick, 1953), 108-115. See also "Mobs," New England Magazine (December 1834), 471-76; George Forgie, Patricide in the House Divided (New York, 1979), 76-79, 110-116; Michael Feldberg, The Turbulent Era (New York, 1980); Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic: New York City & the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850 (New York, 1984); Maxwell Bloomfield, American Lawyers in a Changing Society (Cambridge, 1976), Ch. 6; E. P. Thompson, "The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century," Past and Present, No. 51 (May, 1977), 76-136; Nicholaus Mills, The Crowd in American Literature (Baton Rouge, 1985); David Rothman, The Discovery of the Asylum (Boston, 1971). go back

8Henry Ward Beecher, Lectures to Young Men (New York, 1855), 222. See also "Mobs," 471; Larzer Ziff, Literary Democracy (New York, 1981), Chs. 2, 3, 6; James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat (Baltimore, 1969 [1838]), 127, 154-5, 196-200. On Horace Mann, see Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America (New York, 1976), 166. For additional background on ideas about the crowd, see Salvador Giner, Mass Society (New York, 1976). On Carlyle's characterization of the crowd, see Philip Rosenberg, The Seventh Hero: A Study in the Social and Political Thought of Thomas Carlyle (Cambridge, 1974). go back

9"Dickens Description of the Mob," Chicago Times, July 29, 1977; See also Paul Stigart and Peter Widdowson, "Barnaby Rudge: A Historical Novel?" Literature and History, No. 2 (October 1973); On the later impact of Carlyle and Dickens on the film makes D. W. Griffith, see William K. Everson, American Silent Films (New York, 1978, 181. King Vidor's film "The Crowd" has similar overtones of individuals set in modern crowds as caught in the inevitable "stream" of life. go back

10Joel T. Headley, "The One Progressive Principle," an address delivered before the Literary Societies of the University of Vermont, August, 1846. Published by John S. Taylor, 1846. go back

11Ibid., 30-31; The Beauties of Joel T. Headley with a Sketch of his Life, 69; See also Arthur Erkich, The Idea of Progress in America, 1815-1860 (New York, 1944), 192; Stow Persons, The Decline of Gentility (New York, 1973). go back

     Headley countered criticism about the militaristic nature of his own writings by advising readers that "We need not fear the effect of stimulating too much the love of glory in this age of dollars and cents. Men of peace are straining every nerve to destroy the love of glory in our youth, while every war among civilized nations, probably for the next century, will be waged to secure the privileges of commerce . . . The grasping spirit is to be dreaded most, and for one I should prefer a little more of the chivalric sentiment blended with our thirst for gold." Joel T. Headley, Napoleon and His Marshalls, Vol. 1 (New York, 1847), v. By 1850, Headley again defended his writings by asserting that the expansion of human liberty necessitated it. Within his defense, however, he rationalized state violence in behalf of law and the property owning classes. Glory and power were stimulated by war and those who were squeamish of it all were chastised. In behalf of the proper principles and for the right God, violence was justifiable. Cromwell's example proved this to him. "There is a difference between the despotic act that crushed liberty," he wrote, "and the one that quells lawless violence. The forms of justice must sometimes be disregarded to save its spirit." He also began drawing a number of parallels to recent urban violence in the United States condemning, in particular, the Mayor of New York whose "extreme sensibility" towards rioters as a "crime for which a man should be held responsible, as much as for cowardice in battle." Joel T. Headley, The Life of Oliver Cromwell (New York, 1848), xii,357; Joel T. Headley, Miscellanies (New York, 1850), 221. go back

12Joel T. Headley, Napoleon and his Marshalls, Vol. 2 (New York, 1874), 9, 42, 46; Joel T. Headley, Chaplains and Clergy as quoted in Catharine Albanese, Sons of the Fathers (Philadelphia, 1976), 102. Ruth Elson addressed the lure of Napoleon in Guardians of Tradition (Lincoln, 1964), 142. One can also detect in Headley the continuing influence of mesmerism, anticipating the later theories of LeBon and Tarde. "The energy of a single soul," he wrote, "poised on its won great centre, gathering around it, as by sympathy, the mightiest spirits of the age, and crushing under its obstacles that before seemed insurmountable, has had no such exhibitions since the time of Ceasar." Headley, Napoleon and His Marshalls, 42. In 1846 Headley reviewed Carlyle's Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, praising the author effusively while criticizing the "extravagance" of his style. Joel T. Headley, "Oliver Cromwell," American 399, Russell Nye, Society and Culture in America, 1830-1860 (New York, 1974), Ch. 3. go back

13Joel T. Headley, The Great Riots of New York (New York, 1873), 17-23, 44-5, 61-2, 157. go back

14Joel T. Headley, The Great Riots . . .(1873), 17, 246, 305. During the Civil War, Headley published The Great Rebellion, a popular two volume tome in strong support of the Union cause. Thomas Pressly, Americans Interpret Their Civil War (New York, 1962), 37-40. On the development of police professionalism, see Roger Lane, Policing the City: Boston, 1822-1885 (New York, 1971) and "Urbanization and Criminal Violence in the Nineteenth Century: Massachusetts as the Test Case," Journal of Social History (Winter 1968), 333-56; James Thompson, The New York Police: Colonial Times to 1901 (New York, 1970), Chs. 6-9. On changing legal definitions of "riot law," see " F. J. Stimson, Popular Law Making (New York, 1910), 76-79, 275-283. See also G. Norman Lieber, "The Use of the Army in Aid of the Civil Power," American Law Review (May-June, 1898), 366-389; Robert Reinders, "Militia and Public Order in Nineteenth Century America," Journal of American History, 11 (April 1977), 81-101. go back

15Joel T. Headley, Pen and Pencil Sketches of the Great Riots (NY.; 1969), 340. Rioters who resorted to violence might "be perfectly just in their demands," he wrote, "and yet the way they take to obtain them be the greatest crime they can commit," (346). On the 1877 strikes, see Robert Bruce, 1877: Year of Violence (Chicago, 1959). go back

16Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth (Cambridge, 1962[1900]), 118. Labor journalist John Swinton warned that "riot should consist only in rioting - in actual resistance to authority. It should not be considered riot when some man of a multitude threatens to become riotous. . . .If we so considered it, we thereby give a power to our rulers dangerous to public liberties which may be wantonly used to suppress the popular right of meeting or speech." Headley saw riots from an opposite point of view. Swinton is quoted in Herbert Gutman, "The Tompkins Square 'Riot' in New York City on January 13, 1874: A Re-Examination of Its Causes and Its Aftermath," Labor History 6, (Winter 1965), 65; Headley, The Great Riots (1882), 346. go back

17Headley, The Great Riots, 446, 450; Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America (New York, 1982), 46, 48. See also John Kasson, Civilizing the Machine (New York, 1978), Ch. 5. For later developments, see David Axeen "'Heroes of the Engine Room': American 'Civilization' and the War With Spain," American Quarterly, 36 (Fall 1984), 481-502; Daniel Rogers suggests that the Civil War reinforced the equation of discipline and morality. Work Ethic in Industrializing America (Madison, 1978), 72. go back

18Headley, The Great Riots . . ., 346-47. go back

19There was a rising chorus of opinion reinforcing the idea that there was a precise boundary for which police violence was justified. Scribner's Monthly Magazine after the 1877 railroad strikes posited that "the moment [strikers] laid a finger on property not their own, or undertook to control the running of the trains, they became a mob of conspirators against the rights of property and the public order, and placed themselves upon even footing with the worst elements of human society." "The Great Strike," Scribner's Monthly (October 1877), 852-3. go back

20Thomas Scott, "The Recent Strikes," North American Review 125 (September 1877), 357. go back

21Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace (New York, 1982), Ch. 3; Kasson, Civilizing the Machine; Alexander Marshall, "The Necessity for Armories," The Bostonian (1895) 50-51; Rogers, The Work Ethic in Industrializing America, 69; George Frederickson, The Inner Civil War (New York, 1965), Ch. 14: Edmund Wilson, Patriotic Gore (New York, 1962), Ch. 16; John Thomas, Alternative America (Cambridge, 1983), 235; Jay Martin, Harvests of Change (Englewood Cliffs, 1967), 63. On the lingering influence of Carlyle, see Edward Ross, Autobiography, 21; see also Gregory Bush, "Unfocused Faces: the Image of the Crowd in American Film and Film Criticism 1913-1928," Unpublished paper delivered at the American Studies Convention, November, 1983; and Bush, Lord of Attention: Gerald Stanley Lee and the Crowd Metaphor in Industrializing America, Ch.2. go back

22Thure de Thulstrup, "The Anarchist Riot in Chicago - A Dynamite Bomb Exploding among the Police," Harper's Weekly, 30 (May 15, 1886), 312-13. See also the account by Josiah Strong, Our Country (Cambridge, 1963 [1886]), 137. For other reactions to the Haymarket Affair along this line see James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, Vol. 1 (New York, 1918), 298. On the desire to limit free speech and the growing radical power of mass suggestion see The Chicago Tribune, May 24, 1886; George Parsons, n.t. Atlantic Monthly, Vol. LVIII (July, 1886), 112. go back

     To Theodore Dreiser years later, the bomb had "brought to the fore, once and for all, as by a flash of lightening, the whole problem of mass against class." It acted as "a great stone cast in the water" with ripple rings that took in "such supposedly remote and impregnable quarters as editorial offices, banks and financial institutions generally, and the haunts of political dignitaries and their jobs." Soon afterwards, Paul Avrich writes, the image of the anarchist was also "reinforced by a series of crude psychological and anthropological treatises equating anarchism with depravity and violence." Theodore Dreiser, The Titan (New York, 1914), 173; Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy (Princeton, 1984), 428. See also Robert Wiebe, The Search for Order 1877-1920 (New York, 1968), 79. go back

23Gramsci is quoted from Boyer, Urban Masses and Moral Order, 129. The Chicago Tribune told readers that "masses are densely ignorant; they only know what they are told, and are as little to blame for their violence as is the dog which is instigated by its owner to attack some passer-by. . . . It is the owner, the one who urged the animal to make the attack, who should be punished." The Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1886. go back

     Reverend Washington Gladden wrote that ". . . .if workingmen do not want to exterminate private enterprise, and if they expect to have business relations with the employing class, they cannot too soon unlearn the bitter and violent habits of speech and thought into which they have been falling of late in their discussion of the labor question." Washington Gladdem, "Is It Peace or War?" Century, 32 (August 1886), 574. Perhaps Chicago's Reverend David Swing was most succinct when he told his congregation that "our nation must be held firmly to the ideas of our fathers or it will soon become a mere crowd of struggling men and not a Republic founded upon eternal law.' David Swing is quoted in Chicago Inter Ocean, May 10, 1886. Other accounts can be found in Henry David, The Haymarket Affair (New York, 1936); John Higham, Strangers in the Land (New York, 1967), 54-55; Edward Wagenknecht, Chicago (Univ. Oklahoma Press, 1969), 74-77; Richard Sennett, "Middle class Families and Urban Violence: The Experience of a Chicago Community in the Nineteenth Century," in Stephen Thernstrom and Richard Sennett, eds., Nineteenth Century Cities (New Haven, 1969), 386-420. go back

24Thorstein Veblen, "The Army of the Commonweal," Journal of Political Economy (June 1894), 459-60; Thomas Byrnes, "The Menace of Coxeyism: Character and Methods of the Men," North American Review 158 (June 1894), 696-701; Carlos Schwartes, Coxey's Army (Lincoln, 1985); Almont Lindsay, The Pullman Strike (New York, 1942), 192; Harold U. Faulkner, Politics, 129-137. Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree said that he imagined one half of Chicago to be in flames and the other to be filled with rioters after reading press accounts of the Pullman riots. go back

25Arnold M. Paul, Conservative Crisis and the Rule of Law, 121. This opinion was reinforced by the Supreme Court in the Re Debs case as well, 146. See also Capt. James Chester, "Martial Law and Social Order, "Journal of the Military Service Institutions (1895), 57-65. Lawrence Friedman, A History of American Law (New Work, 1973), 486. Jane Addams noted the relationship between law and mob violence when she wrote that "at times of social disturbance the law abiding citizen is naturally so anxious for peace and order, his sympathies are so justly and inevitably on the side making for the restoration of law, that it is difficult for him to see the situation fairly." Jane Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics (New York, 1907), 174-5. William Howard Taft wrote in his diary that the deaths of "only" six of the "mob" was "hardly enough to make an impression" on the public mind. Henry Pringle, The Life and Times of William Howard Taft (Hamden, 1964), 128. Perhaps the New York Times best described the "respectables" in direct contrast to those deemed susceptible to falling into mobs. The "respectables" were "that vast class of honest, industrious men and women who already have savings or who strive for them, who have the strongest interest in the present peace and order of society, and who know that their future and that of their children depend of the firm enforcement of the law." Quoted in n Public Opinion, July 15, 1886, 84. go back

26Richard Hofstadter, "Manifest Destiny and the Philippines," in Daniel Aaron, ed., America in Crisis (New York, 1952), 173-200; Lee Huebner, "The Discovery of Propaganda: Changing Attitudes Toward Public Communication in America 1900-1930," PhD Dissertation, Harvard University, 1968, Ch. II, especially, 75-78; Theodore Greene, America's Heroes (New York, 1970), Ch. 4; George DeMaurier, Trilby (New York, 1894); John Higham, "The Reorientation of American Culture in the 1890s," in John Weiss, ed., The Origins of Modern Consciousness (Detroit, 1965), 25-48. On self-help books, see John Cawelti, Apostles of the Self-Made Man (Chicago, 1965), 182-83. go back

27New York Times, June 28, 1893; Henry David, The Haymarket Affair, (New York, 1936), 479-507; Ray Ginger, Altgeld's America (Chicago, 1958), 80-87, 145-168; Harry Barnard, Eagle Forgotten: The Life of John Peter Altgeld (New York, 1938); Lindsay, The Pullman Strike, 274-363. go back

28J. Rogers Hollingsworth, The Whirligig of Politics (Chicago, 1963), 34. Bryan recognized the use made by opponents who associated him with the crowds of the French Revolution. Responding to Wisconsin Senator Vila's fears of a Robespierre, Bryan told the Chicago audience that "in this land of the free you need not fear that a tyrant will spring up from among the people." Three years earlier, Bryan had even identified himself with Jefferson who had been "called a demagogue and his followers a mob" but nonetheless went on to "plead the cause of the common people." William Jennings Bryan speech August 16, 1893, quoted in William Jennings Bryan, The First Battle (Chicago, 1896), 114. go back

     Bryan's simplistic language, a "vocabulary of romance" as Larzer Ziff labels it, was doubtlessly instrumental in goading his opponents to associate him with mob violence. Larzar Ziff, The American 1890s (New York, 1966), 84. But in this regard his was not a lonely voice in the western wilderness. What Lawrence Goodwyn calls a cultural movement of collective self-respect produced camp meetings and the wide distribution of Populist tracts. Lawrence Goodwyn, The Populist Moment (New York, 1978), 32-35. Populists even pointed with alarm at the social dynamite of urban areas. Underscoring that perception was Ignatius Donnelly's best-selling novel Caesar's Column (1889), for instance, that described urban social discontent as leading to the unleashing of an apocalyptic mob. The message of the book was clear: reform society or "mobocracy" ensued. Ignatius Donnelly's, Caesar's Column (Cambridge, 1960), 258, 220, 256. The chief antagonist to civilization and leader of the apocalyptic disorder, Caesar Lomenillini, embodied the "beastlike violence of the unleashed mob." The mob took on the old Dickens properties. ". . . Like a huge flood, long damned up," Donnelly wrote, "turbulent, turbid, muddy, loaded with wrecks and debris, the gigantic mass broke loose, full of foam and terror, and flowed in every direction. A foul and brutal and ravenous multitude it was, dark with dust and sweat, armed with the weapons of civilization, but possessing only the instincts of wild beasts." See also, 37-38, 289 Jaher, Doubters and Dissenters, 96-140; Mathew Josephson, The Politicos (New York, 1938), 614; F. B. Trace, "Menacing Socialism in the Western States," Forum, 25 (May 1893), 352. go back

29Philadelphia Press, July 10 and 11, 1896, as quoted in Barnes, "Myths of the Bryan Campaign," 73. Gerald Stanley Lee, "Hullabaloo," The Critic, August 22, 1896, 113-114. On the 1896 campaign, also see Harvey Wish, "Altgeld and the Background of the Campaign of 1896," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 24 (March 1938), 503-518; Boyce House, "Bryan the Orator," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 53 (Autumn 1960), 266-282. go back

30"Mob Violence," The Nation, October 29, 1896, 319,322; The Autobiography of William Allen White (New York, 1940), 278; Walter Lippman, Drift and Mastery (New York, 1961 [1914]), 135. H. L. Mencken remembered Altgeld as the "reigning hobgoblin of the U.S. . . . When I dreamed, it was of catching him in some public place and cutting off his head, to the applause of the multitude," H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: A Selection, ed. James T. Farrell, (New York, 1958), 202. Aside from the fear of the power of Bryan's oratorical feats displayed in an unprecedented national campaign that fall, numerous opponents noted the disorderly quality of Bryan's followers. "The appearance of this crowd was worse than that of any I had seen," Lloyd Bryce told readers of the North American Review about an election crowd in Evanston, Illinois, that fall. "The faces of the men were such as you might expect to meet in the crowded cities of an old civilization and not in an enterprising, flourishing, and prosperous young town." Lloyd Bryce, "A Study of Campaign Audiences," North American Review, 164 (1897), 84. Bryce wrote that seeing that crowd brought to mind his attendance at Victor Noir's funeral in Paris as a schoolboy. The Nation was disturbed at a circular disturbed by the "popocratic" campaign that was "intended to provoke strikes and riots on the eve of the election." The Nation, October 29, 1896, 319. See also Jaher, Ch. 8; Horace Kallen, ed., The Philosphy of William James (New York, 1925), 254, 306; Henry James, ed., Letters of William James, Vol. 2 (Boston, 1920), 28, 32. go back

     Gary Wills has written that "the 1896 campaign, far from bringing in change, signalled that no major change was going to take place, despite premonitory rumblings from the west." Although not discounting the role of ethnic divisions, the image of the mob and the coalescence of a long train of notions about crowd behavior was a significant undercurrent in the election. Brooks Adams had seen the Republicans moving "in their course like a squad of police against a mob," vanquishing the last great servile insurrection. Not only die-hard conservatives, but many nascent progressives associated with reform movements called for new legitimated forms of social solidarity and social control and more galvanizing leadership by culturally acceptable individuals. Among this group were even such Bryan supporters as sociologist and future advisor to Roosevelt, Edward Ross. Gary Willis, Confessions of a Conservative (Garden City, 1979), 101; Brooks Adams is quoted in Daniel Aaron, Men of Good Hope (New York, 1951), 261, Edward Ross, "The Mob Mind," Popular Science Monthly (July 1897) was the "embyro" of his later influential Social Psychology. Edward Ross, Seventy Years of It (New York, 1936), 57. go back

31"The Morality of Crowds," The Nation, March 17, 1898, 201. go back

32Edmund Morris, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (New York, 1979), 522; quote is from Howard Hurwitz, Theodore Roosevelt and Labor (New York, 1943), 181-85. go back

33Mathew Josephson, The President Makers (New York, 1940) 23. Roosevelt's aggressive leadership was "motivated both by rabid fear of the uncontrolled mob," Lee Huebner writes; while Hofstadter notes that "he despised the rich, but he feared the mob. Any sign of organized power among the people frightened him. . ." Lee Huebner, op. cit., 109; Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition (New York, 1948), 269; Alfred Kazin found that Roosevelt "so nicely balanced the scales of righteousness that to criticize him was to be either a malefactor of great wealth, or a wild-eyed anarchist." Alfred Kazin, On Native Grounds (New York, 1943), 103. Robert Wiebe mentioned how many issues of the late nineteenth century were collected into "rhetorical clusters" as "antagonists confronted each other behind sets of stereotypes [and] frozen images," assigning "the enemy a monolithic conspiratorial design, and input[ing] to it an almost supernatural potency," Wiebe, The Search for Order, 96. See also John Blum, The Republican Roosevelt (New York, 1974 [1954]), 60-61. With some overstatement William Leuchtenberg writes that Roosevelt "had a horror of mob violence; he saw in each new labor leader, in each new tribune of the people, a potential Robespierre," quoted from his introduction to Theodore Roosevelt's The New Nationalism (Englewood Cliffs, 1961), 9. See also Boyer, Urban Masses and Moral Order, 210. go back

     The year after Headley died, Roosevelt led his Rough Riders to fame in Cuba and himself to the governorship of New York. After his own death in 1919, most Americans no doubt concurred with John Dewey who wrote that Roosevelt had become the "phonograph in whose emphatic utterances the people recognized and greeted the collective composition of their individual voices." John Dewey, "Theodore Roosevelt," The Dial, 66 (February 8, 1919), 115. go back

     John Milton Cooper, The Warrior and the Priest (Cambridge, 1983), 22, writes that "a deep-seated conservatism formed his basic political outlook. Not only did he approve of and seek to uphold the existing distribution of power and privileges in society, but he began with the aristocratic assumption of one who believed he was or ought to be part of the 'governing class.'" His friendship with Jacob Riis and his tours of the tenements show, however, that Roosevelt's early years were marked by some concern for the plight of the poor. go back

34Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life (New York, 1900), 7. On the Victorian family, see Steven Mintz, A Prison of Expectations (New York, 1984); Boyer, Urban Masses and Moral Order 1978, Chs. 10-12. Roosevelt's moralism informed his desire to be practical in aiding the Republican Party, "true Americanism" and the memory of his stern but philanthropic father. With an extraordinary curiosity and a temperament that fought stubbornly against depression, Roosevelt had little hesitancy in thrusting his sense of righteousness and manhood on his many listeners. "We do not admire the man of timid peace," he wrote in 1899. "We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities to win in the stern strife of actual life." Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life, 2. His sister Corinne felt that Theodore's "aggressive personal passion for active military service in any national emergency was in part compensation for an unspoken disappointment" in his father's unwillingness to fight in the Civil War. Carleton Putnam, Theodore Roosevelt, Vol. 1 (New York, 1958), 48-49; Ross, Autobiography, 7. On Roosevelt and civility, see G. Edward White, The Eastern Establishment and the Western Experience (New Haven, 1968), 60. go back

35Theodore Roosevelt, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Vol. 1 of Works, 151-152; Theodore Roosevelt to Anna Roosevelt, May 15, 1886, Elting Morison, ed., The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, Vol. 1 (Cambridge, 1951), 100. See also Theodore Roosevelt, The Winning of the West (New York, 1963); Henry Nash Smith's chapter "Leatherstocking and the Problem of Social Order," in Virgin Land (Cambridge, 1950). go back

36Howard Hurwitz, Theodore Roosevelt and Labor (New York, 1943), 105-6, 156-158. go back

37Thomas Dyer, Theodore Roosevelt and the Idea of Race (Baton Rouge, 1980), 38; George W. Stocking, Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (New York, 1969), Ch. 10;      John S. Haller, Outcasts from Evolution: Scientific Attitudes of Racial Inferiority, 1859-1900 (New York, 1971), 166-187; Barbara Miller Solomon, Ancestors and Immigrants (Cambridge, 1956), 93; Howard K. Beale, Theodore Roosevelt and the World (New York, 1956), 41-43. See also Frank Ninkovich, "Theodore Roosevelt: Civilization as Ideology," Diplomatic History, 10 (Summer, 1986), 221-245; David Burton, "Theodore Roosevelt's Social Darwinism and Views on Imperialism," Journal of the History of Ideas, 26 (1965), 103-18. Robert Church writes that at Harvard by the early 1890s there were many race theorists who "postulated the promiscuous horde as a starting point for their surveys of cultural development," in "The Economists Study Society," in Paul Buck, ed., Social Sciences at Harvard (Cambridge, 1965), 60. go back

38Theodore Roosevelt to Henry Cabot Lodge, April 29, 1896 as quoted in Elting Morison, ed., Letters, Vol. I, 531. See also Solomon, Ancestors and Immigrants, 116. go back

     Ironically, in one of his final acts as President, Grover Cleveland vetoed Lodge's 1897 literacy test for new immigrants with the argument that "violence and disorder do not migrate with illiterate laborers. They are rather the victims of the educated agitator." Cleveland is quoted in Morton Keller, Affairs of State, (Cambridge, 1977), 446. See Henry Cabot Lodge, "Lynch Law and Unrestricted Immigration," North American Review (May, 1891), 605. On Roosevelt's views, see his letter to Cecil Spring Rice, May 29, 1897 in Morison, Letters, Vol. 1, 618; See also Solomon, Ancestors and Immigrants, 109-10, 154-57. According to Solomon, the Immigration Restriction League "played up the distress and alarm which occasional riots inspired." (110) See also John Higham, Send These to Me (New York, 1975), Chs. 2, 3; Higham, Strangers in the Land, Ch.4, especially, 96. go back

39Dyer, Theodore Roosevelt, 114; See also Theodore Roosevelt letter to Governor Durbin (August 6, 1903) in Elting Morison, ed., Letters, Vol. III, 540-43. After reviewing Karl Pearson's National Life and Character: A Forecast in the Sewanee Review in May 1894, Roosevelt wrote the author that the book was as influential in Washington as Mahan's Influence of Sea Power, but found his conclusions about national degeneracy too pessimistic. Roosevelt considered the problem in terms of insurrection of "inferior races" and pointed to the history of race war in the South. "An insurrectionary movement of Blacks in any one of our Southern States is always abortive, and rarely takes place at all; but any manifestation of it is apt to be accompanied by some atrocity which at once arouses the whites to a rage of furious anger and terror, and they put down the revolt absolutely mercilessly. In the same way an Indian outbreak on the frontier would this day mean something approaching a war of extermination . . . exactly as if they were crusaders . . ." Theodore Roosevelt to Charles Henry Pearson, May 11, 1894, Morison, Letters, Vol. I, 377. See also Dyer, Theodore Roosevelt, Ch. 5; George Frederickson, The Black Image in the White Mind (New York, 1971), 299-301. go back

40Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, Hero Tales From American History (New York, 1895), 201. Theodore Roosevelt, Presidential Address to the Association of American Historians, 1914, "History as Literature" quoted in Herman Hagedorn, The Americanism of Roosevelt (New York, 1923), 192. See also Theodore Greene, American Heroes (New York, 1970), 160-163. By and large, Greene sees Roosevelt and the heroism of the times as positive literature instead of a negative reference to mobs and poor leadership, a point that should be considered alongside the argument being made in the present article. For examples of the picture drawn between heroes and crowds in the work of Roosevelt's friends, see John Hay, The Breadwinners (New Haven 1973 [1883]), 65, 89, 192-215, 233. Tyler Dennett, John Hay (New York, 1934), 103-115; Henry Cabot Lodge, George Washington, Vol. 1 (New York, 1889), 27. go back

     The histories that Roosevelt produced, Richard Slotkin writes, "were designed to show the frontier as a source of a set of exemplary tales, which together would illustrate the workings of natural, social and moral law in history; from this set of narratives they intended to derive a paradigm of interpretation and a model of social behavior that would be useful to America as a restorative of endangered values." His histories thus functioned as object lessons for himself to learn the changing roles of national leaders. The attraction of the frontier to Roosevelt, in part, reflected its values as a safety valve (to use Turner's term) from urban crowds. Richard Slotkin, "Nostalgia and Progress: Theodore Roosevelt's Myth of the Frontier," American Quarterly, 33 (Winter, 1981), 610; David McCullough, Mornings of Horseback (New York, 1981), Ch. 15. See also George Holt, "Lynching and Mobs," American Social Science Association Journal, 32 (1894), 76, on the lure of vigilance committees, lynchings, Indian war, Buffalo Bill's, that "still appeals with unrivalled power to the American imagination." Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace (New York, 1982), Ch. 3. go back

41Theodore Roosevelt, Gourvernor Morris (New York, 1888), 121. On Morris (and Roosevelt's) view of the French Revolution, see Ch. 10, especially, 230. Hurwitz believed that "the fervency with which Roosevelt attacked advocates of free silver was undoubtedly stimulated by his desire to be close to the leadership of the Republican Party." Hurwitz, Theodore Roosevelt, 177. go back

42Theodore Roosevelt, American Ideals (New York, 1897), 6, 195. He went on: "A platform which declares in favor of free and unlimited rioting and which has the same strenuous objection to the exercise of the police power by the general government that is felt in the circles presided over by Herr Most, Eugene V. Debs, and all the people whose pictures appear in the detective bureaus of our great cities, cannot appeal to persons who have gone beyond the unpolished stone period of civilization."(196) He pictured those that objected to "government by injunction" as sympathetic to "their remote skin-clad ancestors who lived in caves, and fought one another with stone headed axes, and ate the mammoth and wooly rhinoceros."(204) go back

43John Dewey, "Theodore Roosevelt," The Dial, February 8, 1919, 117. go back

44Frank Norris, The Octopus (New York, 1957 [1901]), 35; Vernon Parrington, The Beginnings of Critical Realism in America 1860-1920 (New York, 1930), 333; Ernest Poole, The Harbor (New York, 1915); Carl Sandberg, "I am the People, the Mob," can be found in Mark Schorer, et. al., The Literature of America, Vol. 2 (New York, 1971), 389. See also Robert Bremmer, From the Depths: The Discovery of Poverty in the United States (New York, 1956), Ch. 6. go back

45Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 11, 1916 located in Box 6 of Ivy Lee Papers, Firestone Library, Princeton University. go back

go to top of page