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Henry George and the Crisis of InequalityProgress and Poverty in the Gilded Age$
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Edward O'Donnell

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231120005

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231120005.001.0001

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“The Country is Drifting into Danger”

“The Country is Drifting into Danger”

(p.169) 6 “The Country is Drifting into Danger”
Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality

Edward T. O’Donnell

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the labor unrest that rocked the United States in 1886 and prompted Henry George to wonder whether the country was “in danger of revolution”. The year 1886 unfolded as one of the most tumultuous in American history. The number of strikes that year was nearly triple the average of those that took place in the years 1881–1885. The number of boycotts imposed likewise exploded. In early March of that year, 200,000 workers, most of them affiliated with the Knights of Labor, commenced a massive railroad strike against the lines owned by Jay Gould, one of the nation's most notorious capitalists. Workers across the country then participated in the largest protest in the nation's history. It was a protest for the eight-hour workday, culminating in the Haymarket Square riot in Chicago. George hoped the mounting crisis would force political leaders to pay some attention to his single tax solution. Taken as a whole, these events transformed the often abstract ideas and ideological tenets of working-class republicanism into a cold, harsh reality.

Keywords:   labor unrest, Henry George, strikes, boycotts, Knights of Labor, Jay Gould, Haymarket Square riot, single tax, republicanism, workers

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