A parody on the law: organized labor, the convict lease, and immigration in the making of the Texas state Capitol.
|Abstract:||In 1884, the Texas Capitol's builders brought prisoners from the state's convict, lease to cut costs and maximize profits. Members of the National Granite Cutters Union were outraged, and refused to train the prisoners to work on such a symbolically important project. In response, the builders sent to Aberdeen, Scotland, and, in direct violation of the Foran Act, contracted Scots workers to break the Union's boycott. Prisoners resisted exploitation in numerous ways, but the granite cutters, white men with citizenship status, brought legal suit against the builders. The subjects of this literal story of state-formation--black, white, and Mexican convicts, skilled Scottish immigrants, organized white male workers and their enemies--confronted each other's visions of American citizenship. Moreover, the case revealed how the Foran. Act's meaning was transformed from its original intent--skilled workers trying to exclude skilled strikebreakers--to the nativist prohibition of pauper labor. It also revealed the how the convict lease system was refined to support an emergent segregated system. In each stage of building the capitol, the large lessons were clear. Elites who broke the law would be hardly penalized, while a poor man who stole a cow could be worked to death.|
Labor disputes (History)
Labor disputes (Management)
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Social History Publisher: Journal of Social History Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: History; Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Journal of Social History ISSN: 0022-4529|
|Issue:||Date: Summer, 2010 Source Volume: 43 Source Issue: 4|
|Topic:||Event Code: 290 Public affairs; 200 Management dynamics; 440 Facilities & equipment Canadian Subject Form: Labour disputes; Labour disputes Computer Subject: Company business management|
|Product:||Product Code: 8637000 Unions-Construction NAICS Code: 81393 Labor Unions and Similar Labor Organizations SIC Code: 8631 Labor organizations|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Name: Texas; Texas Geographic Code: 1U7TX Texas; 1USA United States|
Octavio Aleman, age forty-five, and Joaquin Duran, age twenty-two,
both of Comargo, Mexico, were arrested on November 25, 1885 in Starr
County, Texas. Aleman, a farmer, was arrested for cow theft, and Duran,
a barber, for stealing a horse. They were sentenced to two years, and
five years, respectively, at hard labor in the Texas convict lease. On
December 22, they were sent to "Granite Mountain," the quarry
in Burnet County, to hew the red stone from which the Texas State
Capitol was being built. Six months later Octavio Aleman was dead
"from the effects of overheating"--worked to death under the
June Texas sun. Joaquin Duran, younger and perhaps stronger, survived to
work in the quarries for another eight months, until February 25,1887,
when he was granted a full pardon by Governor L. S. Ross. Upon review of
the case, Ross determined that Duran was not actually guilty of stealing
a horse. In addition, Ross wrote that "Joaquin Duran was tried with
no lawyer or defender" and that "he knew nothing of the
English language." At the urging of a large number of the citizens
of Starr County, Governor Ross finally pronounced "this man ought
not to have been convicted." One year and four months after his
wrongful arrest, and after the death of Octavio Aleman, Joaquin Duran
was a free man once again. (1)
In Aberdeen, Scotland, other granite cutters faced their own troubles. Known for the gray in its skies and the stone in its buildings, the Granite City was in an economic slump. Newspapers advertised for skilled granite cutters around the world, and younger cutters were often willing to oblige for the promise of wages, experience, and adventure. The March 15, 1886 Aberdeen Evening Gazette announced work on "the Capitol Building of Texas, which is to be second only in America to the Capitol Building of Washington." (2) Prestigious work, then, and good wages to boot. The Aberdonians who signed on scarcely knew the turmoil they would enter on arrival in the United States, or that they were being used to break a strike by the American National Granite Cutters Union. Nor could they have predicted that some would testify before Congress a few years later, because the Capitol builders hired them in direct violation of the Foran Act, also known as the Anti-Immigrant Contract Labor Act, passed the year before their arrival. As members of the American National Granite Cutters' Union (NGCU) would lament, "What a parady (sic) on the laws of Texas! [T]he State Government furnishing state convicts' to a violator o( the United States Laws!" (3)
The construction of the Texas State Capitol provides insight into the global nature of late 19th century American political economies, the repressive effects of the law, and the calibrations of citizenship and its denials in a particularly symbolic site. Here, the convict lease, the labor movement and its enemies, and international migrants joined to produce a piece of monumental architecture and, in the process, test newly-passed federal legislation. The subjects of this literal story of state-formation--black, white, and Mexican convicts; organized white male workers; and skilled Scottish immigrants--each confronted different aspects of American citizenship, a form of national belonging differentiated by identity, power, and struggle. Prisoners were denied nearly every aspect of their being: criminal conviction and the 13th Amendment enforced a legal status that removed not just legal rights, but threatened their very biological existence. Yet, as became cleat in the capitol quarries, such denials were increasingly structured by race, and did not operate uniformly across the convict lease system. (4) In contrast to the convicts, organized granite cutters--white men with formal citizen standing--made claims for substantive economic citizenship, which they felt that the state and powerful business interests denied them. (5) The NGCU, joined by the Knights of Labor, used legal means to assert those claims: first, through strikes and later, through legal suit. The case the NGCU brought against the Capitol's builders reveals an absent chapter in the history of immigration law, demonstrating how the Foran Act's meaning was transformed from its original intent--skilled workers trying to exclude skilled strikebreakers--to the nativist prohibition of "pauper" labor, which has seized public and historical interest ever since. (6) Differing from both the prisoners and the organized American granite cutters, the Scots migrants displayed something of an aspirational citizenship. Countless migrants shared their desires of American belonging, but the Scots' esteemed skill, recognized whiteness, and manliness made them candidates for legal citizenship and national entry--all qualities that would undercut the NGCU's case--and permitted them entry despite the Gilded Age's increasingly restrictive notions of citizenship. In each stage of building the capitol, the lessons were clear. Elites who broke the law would be hardly penalized, while a man who stole a cow could be worked to death.
Ninety delegates from across Texas met in late 1875 to design a new constitution that would dismantle the emancipatory gains of Reconstruction and return Texas to a nostalgically evocative if currently enacted form, of white rule. They discussed frontier warfare against native peoples; how to eject remaining radicals from the state house; reduce the amount of debt; and the need for a new Capitol building that would pronounce the grandeur of all things Texan. (7) Texas was in many ways a besieged state, threatened from within the ranks of citizens by Populists and Socialists, from so-called criminals and bandits, from Apache and Comanche Indians to the West, and from Mexicans to the South. Ideologues in the conservative Texas press called for a statehouse that could simultaneously absorb and tame threats to political legitimacy. If states "state" their authority in daily life, public ritual, and architecture, the Capitol itself would be an important instantiation of state power. The lessons of the statehouse were meant for one and all to understand at a glance, proclaiming the government's righteousness, sovereignty, and durability.
Little headway was made in building the capitol until 1879, when it was determined that the only way to pay for the building would be by making use of public land, the cash-poor state's most abundant asset. To this end, the Capitol Board made some three million acres of land in the Texas panhandle available to the builders of the capitol. A fire burned down the existing Capitol, adding considerable urgency to the project, and the construction contract changed hands until it landed with the firm of Taylor, Babcock and Company. Known as the Capitol Syndicate or the Chicago Syndicate, this august group included Col. Abner Taylor, Illinois Representative to the U.S. Congress; Charles B. Farwell, U.S. Senator from Illinois; John V Farwell; and Amos Babcock, a large Illinois landholder. The Capitol Freehold Land and Investment Company, a consortium of British capitalists with authorized capital of $15 million dollars, whose members included no less than the Earl of Aberdeen, and Member of Parliament Sir Henry Seton-Karr, offered further financial support. (8) Together, they played a considerable role in the boom of late 19th century European speculative investment in the American West. (9) The three million acre ranch the investors gained, known as the "XIT Ranch," would remain in Texas lore for years to come. (10)
A complication quickly arose for the builders when the limestone that architects envisioned for the capitol proved unsuitable, because it discolored with age. Favoring the use of "native Texan" materials, the Capitol Building Commission decided upon a substantial red granite deposit at Granite Mountain, fifteen miles south of the town of Burnet. (11) However, the change to granite would increase building costs, and, in order to offset these unforeseen expenses, the contractors demanded that they he able to use convict workers and make minor changes in the building plans. (12) The contractors would pay the state sixty-five cents per day for each convict, and the state would be responsible for feeding, clothing, and guarding the prisoners. (13) Despite petitions from across the state, on July 25, 1885, the Governor and Capitol Building Commission agreed to the contract. (14) Prisoners soon began laying the necessary railroad to connect the quarries to main railroad lines and erected the buildings that would house inmates at the quarries. Convict workers labored in the Oatmanville and Granite Mountain quarries from late October, 1885, until May 20, 1887. (15)
Texas was hardly unique among American states that found the convict lease both profitable and expeditious in the management of its growing prison populations after the Civil War. Across the South--and this element of Texas life rendered it "southern"--large numbers of former slaves and their children were criminalized for vagrancy or petty theft, previously tolerated acts that became radically punishable during and after Reconstruction. Large institutions at Huntsville and Rusk formed the Texas Prison System's administrative core. Officials had experimented with leasing the entire prison system to private entrepreneurs, but by 1884 the state assumed control of Huntsville and Rusk. They continued leasing prisoners to private farms and railroad builders, however, in hopes of keeping the profits made. This form of the lease "ushered in a period of great prosperity for the state." (16)
The convict lease formed a central strand in the web of racist labor coercions and the return of Democratic rule in Texas, a web that included debt peonage, tenant farming and sharecropping, anchored by highly restrictive labor contracts. As the Reconstruction government was dismantled, new repressive powers became manifest in systems of coercion and punishment. The Texas prison population increased by approximately 700 percent between 1870 and 1912. (17) Black Texans made up one-fifth of the statewide population across the lease era, but were three-fifths of its state prisoners. A typical prisoner in Texas's lease era was a young, black, illiterate male serving a first sentence for burglary or theft, and, according to historian David Oshinsky, "his trial took place without a lawyer, in a matter of minutes, before an all-white jury prone to discount 'nigger testimony' as a pack of lies." (18) Yet many saw even the patently cruel lease as too lenient. Lynch rule would augment repressive state capacities, as whites deemed cursory trials too dignified for blacks accused of egregious crimes, or for challenging the numerous and shifting bases of white rule. (19) So too did constabulary control extend further into the reaches of west Texas, as military expeditions tried to wrest control of the land from the last holdouts of indigenous resistance to colonization. (20) Texas differed somewhat from its more strictly Southern neighbors in that Tejanos, though formally recognized as racially white by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, were in fact marginalized and exploited as "greasers," and were similarly caught in the emergent webs of racialized labor control. (21)
Convict labor dramatically advanced the Southern and Texan economy. Forced to work at a set price and in conditions that no free worker would tolerate, prisoners lay the very foundations for economic modernization--placing railroad track, mining coal, harvesting turpentine. Unlike the slaves or peons of a previous era, lessees had neither property nor reciprocal relationships invested in convicts' lives, and thus drove them as hard as possible while cutting every cost. "This place is nine kinds of hell," reflected one leased prisoner, "Am suffering death here every day." (22) Yet a prisoner's hell was the leasee's heaven, for convicts were unparalleled as exploitable workers. "Why?" mused one railroad official, "Because he is a convict ... and if he dies it is a small loss, and we can make him work there, while we cannot get free men to do the same kind of labor for, say, six times as much as the convict costs." (23) It is no surprise, then, that mortality rates could reach astounding levels. Guards were quick to resort to lead or leather to drive workers and prevent escape. Farmers living near Texas prison camps complained that they could not sleep at night for "the groans and entreaties of the convicts." (24) Officials responded by gagging the prisoners to muffle their cries. (25)
However, some Texas reformers and nascent Progressives grew concerned about the convict lease's brutality. (26) Humanitarians believed that such violence undermined the moral Legitimacy of government. They were especially concerned about the treatment of those relatively few whites finding themselves on the wrong side of the law, and forced into close proximity with black or Mexican criminals. White criminals were commonly understood as "the lowest of their race" and, as historian Edward Ayers notes, "racial lines blurred in convict lease camps." One southern governor averred that for those whites imprisoned for "the lower grades of homicide ..., who are otherwise respectable ... [i]t is unjust to compel such men to a daily association with thieves, robbers, and assassins." Ayers continued, "It was wrong, in other words, to imprison together white murderers and a black who had stolen a pig--it was unjust, to the whites." (27) Texas officials would find ways to address this.
In the American South and West, where skilled workers were scarce, strong unions could demand wages higher than their employers were willing to pay. Southern entrepreneurs and politicians--usually cordial friends--found in convicts a supply of workers to suit their needs precisely to break those unions. The Capitol Syndicate and Gustav Wilke, the lead agent to whom it had contracted the project, were no different. Members of the Granite Cutters' Union were acquainted with Wilke from the previous year when he used non-union workers to build the capitol's water-table and foundation. (28) Shortly after they learned about prisoners in the capitol quarries, the NGCU issued this circular:
They felt the threat on numerous levels. First of all, unfree, unwaged labor undercut the price of their labor. The Union agreed upon and demanded "Austin wages," at $4-00 a day. Custom had it that the Union would demand prices based on those of the neatest quarry--in this case, Graniteville, Missouri, where wages were $3.50 per day. Wilke had offered "about the Graniteville bill of prices" instead of Austin wages, and this was unacceptable to NGCU members. (30) A different circular warned all granite cutters of the dangers of working with Wilke and with convicted workers, "If 200 granite cutters work with, and teach 100 convicts the trade the probability is that in twelve months time there will be but 100 granite cutters and the number of convicts would be increased to 200." They continued that "if free granite cutters learn convicts the trade," convicts would train other convicts "and thus drive out free labor all together." (31) Moreover, bringing convicts into the granite cutters' trade challenged both older traditions of restrictive artisanal craft apprenticeship as well as emergent trade unionism. Much of the ideology and fragile pride behind the cutters' words was based on the understanding of "skill." as a political definition in separating members of the privileged working class from relatively weaker members. (32) There was a distinction between "quarrying" granite, and "cutting" granite. Cutting granite involved shaping the quarried but still unfinished stone into its final shape and dimensions according to architectural plans, and was understood to be the more delicate and technically difficult craft. This bad been established as the privileged domain of the economically independent, white, manly union workers. When convicts began to work in the quarries, black, Mexican, and poor white men began to learn the skills and secrets of the stonecutters' trade.
The Union responded with an overwhelming vote to boycott the capitol building project, officially calling it a "scab" job. (33) They also threatened to ostracize any cutter who worked on the building. The names of the few who did were listed in the Granite Cutter's Journal, along with denigrating remarks and symbolic ousting from the brotherhood. (34) The scabs' identities "should not be forgotten by the union for they have worked faithfully for Wilkie [sic] to keep the men from striking." (35) In December 1885, the Austin Statesman, whose repotting consistently supported the Capitol builders, encouraged mote workers to break the strike: "Keep away from all alliances that prevent you from earning an honest livelihood and take the work offered by Mr. Wilkie[sic] if he will pay a fair price for it." (36) Drawing on classic liberal and Bourbon Democratic reasoning, the Statesman justified using prisoners: "If the state refused to use its convicts to cut the stone you would have to be taxed to pay for the feeding and clothing, medical attention, etc., of these convicts ... in elegant ease and idleness." (37) Such descriptions of the convict lease or penitentiary life could hardly have been further from the truth. The Statesman's appeals to protecting citizens as taxpayers repressed the granite cutters' vision of producerist citizenship, in which states should protect white male citizens at the point of production, rather than as taxpayers.
The NGCU mixed metaphors when they referred to the "convicts, scabs and imported contract labor," which brought "slavery into our trade." Yet their language consistently invoked themes of degradation, indications of their implicitly raced and gendered concern over the status of their labor, and themselves, and their citizenship. The Knights of Labor made similar claims when they supported the NGCU, resolving that no " K. of L. or Union man ... who considers himself better than a serf would work for Wilke." (38) But if these claims cut downward against convicts, slavery metaphors were also strategic attacks against global capitalism and an unjust state by claiming the moral belonging of free male citizens. (39) Much as Theresa Case has shown of the Texas Knights of Labor in 1885 and 1886, movement against both the convict lease and immigrant (especially Chinese) laborers on railroads shored skilled and unskilled white workers' identities as white men and American citizens. (40) By hiring convicts and scabs, Wilke challenged the prestige of granite cutting, simultaneously assaulting the Union workers' white racial status, their manhood as independent mechanics capable of earning a family wage, and their economic standing as organized members of the working class, and their belonging as American citizens. (41) They were forced to act.
With the support of the Knights of Labor, then some 700,000 strong, the National Granite Cutters' Union boycott was effective enough that Wilke had difficulty finding skilled workers to train the prisoners to quarry and cut the granite in Burnet and the limestone that would be taken from the quarry at Oatmanville. The boycott was literally concurrent with the final days of the Great Southwest Strike, and the Knights of Labor, though weakened by confrontation with Jay Gould's railroads, were still near the apex of their power. In April 1886, Wilke sent George Berry, an employee and assistant foreman, to Aberdeen, Scotland, in search of skilled granite cutters to break the strike. The Capitol Syndicate bought advertisements in newspapers and listing meetings to be held in Aberdeen. The Aberdeen Evening Gazette announced "Wanted, 150 Granite Cutters; Blacksmiths." Generally unsympathetic stories about the "mobs" and "incendiaries" of Knights of Labor doing battle with Jay Gould's railroads were interspersed with the ads for the Texas Granite Cutters, which may have influenced the Aberdonians' perceptions of labor conflict in the U.S. (42)
It is unclear precisely how Aberdeen was chosen as the site to supply the desired strikebreakers, but the Earl of Aberdeen's presence as a prime investor in the Capitol Freehold Land and Investment Company surely played as much a role as the city's reputation for stonemasonry. Advertisements for stonecutters wanted in the US and Canada appeared almost daily in Aberdeen newspapers in March, April and May 1886. Travel to the United States, Canada, or South Africa became commonplace for Aberdonian granite cutters in the last decades of the 19th century. Often they stayed, but they frequently returned home with enough savings to open small yards of their own. (43) Surely the Earl's patronage networks helped motivate men and local fraternal societies to support the venture.
Economic historians have suggested that Aberdeen was not in a terrible crisis relative to the rest of Britain in the mid-1880s, but feeling on the ground suggested otherwise. (44) As regional demand for agricultural labor lessened in the 1880s, larger numbers of rural migrants made their way to the city, and pools of available workers in the quarrying districts deepened. (45) Moreover, trade unionism in Aberdeen granite industries was in a relative lull. The Aberdeen Lodge of the Scottish Operative Mason's Society had been crippled by depression in the late 1870s and never regained its previous strength. (46) Rather than unions, workers tended to rely on apprenticeship traditions and the high degrees of skill involved in the granite trade to limit participation in the labor market and to exert some control over production. The small scale in most parts of the industry also may have limited tendencies toward unionism. An Operative Masons' and Granite Cutters' Union would form later in the decade, but its base only existed within the City center and did not extend to wider areas. Aberdonian granite workers would be inspired by the 1889 London dock strike, but in 1886, when Berry called for granite cutters to travel to Texas, relatively little support for trade unionism existed among Aberdeen's granite workers, and the industry saw relatively few labor disputes in the last decades of the 19th century. (47)
Berry held the first meeting in Aberdeen on March 31, 1886, and others soon followed. Some three hundred men attended an April 12 meeting at the Northern Friendly Society's Hall. Newspapers reported that around 100 cutters had already been secured. Berry led the meeting and explained the details of the work and travel, which would be paid for by the capitol builders. (48) He also called on Robert Hall, a local employer and builder to speak. Hall called the project a "grand opportunity" for Aberdeen's cutters. Hall had not seen the economy this bad in twenty years, and suggested that migrants who traveled to Texas would help themselves, and also those they left behind. Hall had spent four years in South Carolina, which was "about the same latitude as Texas," and he testified to the region's "salubrious clime." (49) Apparently some of the Aberdonians had heard that this was a scab job, and that they would be working with prisoners, and Alexander Steele, who would later travel to Texas, asked George Berry if this was the case. Berry, who dishonestly claimed to be a member of the NGCU, admitted that it was. He also said that convicts were only being used because insufficient tree labor was available, and that the Granite Cutters' Union "scabbed the job unjustly." Moreover, according to Steele, Berry promised that "the convicts would be discharged" once the Scots arrived. None of this would prove to be true. (50)
The Scots had little time to make their decision; they would leave on the Anchor Line's ship Circassia the following Thursday morning. Though the exact number of Aberdonians who left, for Texas is unclear--it was probably eighty-six--a large crowd of friends gathered and cheered to see them off. (51) When they arrived in New York ten days later, they must have been surprised when three NGCU members met them on the wharf at Castle Garden, and informed them in no uncertain terms that they were being used as scabs. Berry was likely the most surprised of all, when the NGCU members and a U.S. Deputy Marshall brought him to the New York U.S. District Attorney's office for investigation into violation of the Foran Act. The Act, passed just months before, made it illegal
Violators of the Act would be fined $1000 for each immigrant contracted to labor in the United States. (52) Because the NGCU members could not the produce proof that the Scots were brought to the U. S. under contract, Berry was released to continue the trip to Texas. Twenty-four of the Scots, convinced by the Granite Cutters' pleas, broke from the party to seek unionized work in the northeast. The rest continued. (53)
Alexander Greig related his journey to the Lone Star State in a letter published in the Aberdeen Evening Gazette. Greig marveled at the size of the cities and the distances between them, the beauty of landscapes he crossed. "This is the most splendid country I have ever seen." (54) Yet terrors came with the thrills. Their train narrowly missed a disastrous derailment, and neatly as unsettling were the "enormous amount of niggers" in the country--a reference suggesting that regardless of what others may have felt, he had little doubt of his relative whiteness. (55) After eighteen days and seventeen nights of travel, during which many complained of the high costs of food on the long journey, Greig and his fellow migrants finally arrived to a "hearty welcome from the people of Burnet." He found himself in "a good house, a good bed, and [eating] good meat, and 1 think ... a nice landlord." Given reports of their previous diet and the variance of working class housing in and around Aberdeen, the initial impression must have been quite good. (56) "You can tell anybody who asks about us that everything is right, and that we have been treated well." They began work right, away.
Apparently they quickly soured on the project. Perhaps Greig became disenchanted too. Though he promised to send weekly letters to his family, he never wrote them, or if he did, they were not published. (57) The Galveston Daily News reported "Bitter feelings and homesickness ... cropping out everywhere" among the Scots cutters. Berry promised the Scots in Aberdeen that once free workers were secured, the prisoners would be returned and all the stone would be "cut ... with white labor." Instead, more convicts arrived. (58) The Scots found themselves working under grim conditions, and must have began to feel like prisoners themselves. The work shed they had been promised never materialized, and surely the eight-foot high fence that surrounded their workspace contributed to their discontent. "Working out in the sun with the thermometer standing at 80 or 90, and four to six men packed in a lodging room ... along with indifferent food, is something that was not calculated upon." (59) More shockingly, three of the Scots had died by October 1886. In addition, along with American-born strikebreakers, they were ostracized by members of the granite cutters' union, who posted their names in circulars and denounced them as traitors, prostitutes, "foreign mercenaries," and--just as bad--inept workmen. Prisoners reportedly called John Morrison (from Massachusetts) "Bummecky John," after a mixture used to cover up botched corners. (60) It appears that at least some of the Scots were unskilled--perhaps they had been idle in Aberdeen for a reason. Advertisements for replacements in later Aberdeen papers would warn that only "men of undoubted ability and good character need apply," suggesting something about the workmanship of the previous migrants. (61) In any case, the conditions in the quarries may have politicized the remaining Scots; at the very least, many did what the convicted workers could not do so easily: they left. By May 1887 only fifteen of the original Aberdonians remained, still honoring the contracts they had signed before crossing the Atlantic. (62)
Granite Mountain quarry lay about fifteen miles south of the town of Burnet, among the rolling hills, live oak trees, and creeks and washes that give this area its reputation as one of the most beautiful parts of Texas. Part of the Llano Uplift, Granite Mountain is a basolith--a large rounded layer of granite uncovered through the erosion of the soil that once covered it. Granite Mountain was girded by the narrow gauge railroad that free and convicted workers built in the summer and fall of 18S5. Prisoners in the quarries used large air-engine derricks to load the granite blocks onto mule-drawn flatbed railroad cars. The convicts then drove the train to the cutting yard, where other prisoners shaped the granite according to Wilke's specifications. A high picket and barbed wire fence enclosed the cutting yard, which was situated on about two acres of land. Some sixty prisoners cut granite here, supervised by an experienced, free granite cutter, likely a Scottish immigrant or perhaps a local strikebreaker. Next to the yard, and within the fence, stood the prisoners' quarters: a large "L" shaped, whitewashed wooden building, with grates across the windows. The two wings, built at right angles to each other, were lined with bunks, and a trough ran along the wall of one wing. The "dining room" ran the length of one of the wings, and was filled with long tables and benches, where all the convicts, black, white and Mexican, ate together. Some cooking was done outside in large iron pots, and the smell of the food, according to one report, was "neither appetizing nor savory." In the kitchen proper, three workers could be found cutting onions into a large pan or working up immense batches of bread to feed the nearly 400 workers and guards. Three others would be washing dishes virtually around the clock. Nearby were the administrative buildings, and also nearby stood the Captain's "comfortable looking quarters," where Ellen Stuckey, a mulatto sentenced for murder and the sole woman assigned to the quarries, likely worked as a domestic servant. (63) A whitish path worn into granite led away from the yard, through another barbed wire fence and up the slope of the mountain. (64) The half-mile path marked the trail where convict's boots trod from their quarters to the quarry site and hack again. A contingent of guards looked down from a central point atop the mountain, rifles across their shoulders, bloodhounds on chains resting in whatever meager shade they could find. Below, nearer where the convicts worked with air-driven drills to break the stone from the earth, guards sat on improvised chairs--barrels, boxes, or unusable stone. (65) Prisoners stood, heaved stone, and swung hammers. They were afforded few opportunities to sit in the shade.
As elsewhere in the convict lease, prisoners in the capitol quarries were not separated by race. Segregation was not yet developed as a technology of racial differentiation, though its implementation in Texas prisons would be understood by whites as a sign of social progress. A Special Correspondent writing under the byline "Ralphine" described the quarries in the Austin Daily Statesman. The whole lot of prisoners were beyond the pale of human compassion, she believed, even those who were sickly and dying. Seeing the convicts eat with unwashed fingers made her doubt that any of them were human at all, and confirmed her belief that they deserved the suffering they endured. In a moment she described as one of feminine weakness, she felt pity for those prisoners dying in the bunkhouse, without a "woman's hand" to care for them. She quickly changed her mind. "They had placed themselves beyond the pale of things like these and were paying the penalty of violated law." Describing the filth of the quarry as "inexpressibly revolting," Ralphine decided that the conditions were "calculated to inspire a wholesome aversion to that sort of life and a salutary respect for the law." If her readers could not witness the punishment themselves, her reporting ensured that convict labor granted a pedagogical lesson in respect for state power and the law. (66)
When the Scots cutters arrived in Texas, they joined a diverse group of prisoners. If Alexander Greig was troubled by the number of black women and men he saw on his travels, he might have been relieved to know that the capitol quarries were disproportionately populated by white and Mexican prisoners. Ralphine saw the quarry prisoners as an undifferentiated and wholly wicked lot, but prison officials increasingly felt otherwise. Though no means of racial segregation existed in the quarries, such provisions were in fact being developed on a system-wide basis, Indeed, assignment to the quarries was a highly privileged job among the range of degradations that the convict lease offered. Officials conceived of "white" work forces and "colored" work forces, and the prison administration assigned these groups to specific locations based upon their racial identification. Because Mexicans did not easily fit the Southern binary, their position in penal racial hierarchies was somewhat ambiguous. As a result, Mexicans were included among the white forces. As a result, they might be best understood as "not-black," rather than as being fully or even marginally white. They escaped the full insult of the prison's treatment, which was increasingly reserved for black inmates.
Black prisoners were channeled to the sugarcane and cotton fields, where punishments, hygiene, conditions, and mortality rates were nightmarish. Ninety-nine of the 124 prisoners outside the walls who died between November 1, 1886 and October 31, 1888, died at farms. Yet official explanations for shocking mortality rates on prison farms dismissed both violence and putrid conditions as their cause. On the contrary, Prison Superintendent T.J. Goree and its physician, Dr. Jameson, were convinced that the high mortality rate in the cane fields was black prisoners' own fault. Goree asserted that black prisoners arrived at "the penitentiary with the seeds of disease in their system, which does not show when received." Illness apparently lay dormant among the lazy, as black criminals were believed to be, but, opined Goree, it "rapidly develops when the convict is put to hard labor." Thus the prison administration blamed black workers for the diseases they acquired while working for the state and on lease to private farms. (67) Black prisoners, then, were denied not just political citizenship in the franchise, or the substantive citizenship that economic independence would promise, but often their very lives. Here, they might easily be worked to death. Quarry prisoners might have had no "woman's hand" to care for them, as Ralphine reflected, but even modest state paternalism was superior to the outright neglect of the lease. Criminal conviction denied them political or economic rights to control of themselves or their labor, but white and Mexican prisoners' lives were marginally more valued.
Goree quickly transferred available white work forces to the quarries when the opportunity arose, removing them from the cane farms and the paired dangers of disease and guard violence. He also found medical justification. Haywood Brahan, the Financial Agent for the Penitentiaries, wrote that "white men could not stand the miasmic influences of the Brazos bottoms and retain their health," and thereby justified their transfer. (68) Some black prisoners would be assigned to the quarries on an ad hoc basis, as workers were needed or newly-arrived but unassigned prisoners needed to be dispensed with.
Differences between the quarry prisoners and the general prison system demonstrate the quarries' privileged status within the lease, protecting whites and further degrading black prisoners. (69) By two significant measures--education and crime committed--prisoners at quarries and those assigned elsewhere were remarkably similar. All prisoners were overwhelmingly poor and uneducated, Just three percent of quarry prisoners were listed as having a "fair" or "good" education, while ninety-seven percent listed common, limited, or no education at all, which made them roughly comparable to the rest of the prison system. The crimes that prisoners committed system-wide and in the quarries were also quite similar, though quarry prisoners were somewhat more frequently (29 percent) convicted of violent acts than the general prison population (28 percent). The inverse held true for property offences: seventy-two percent of all prisoners were convicted of property crimes, while slightly fewer, seventy-one percent of quarry prisoners were convicted of property crimes. (70) More differences existed when examining inmates' occupations. Quarry prisoners listed some trade or profession more often than the rest of the prison population. Twenty percent of the quarry prisoners had named trades, though these were often relatively unskilled professions--cooks and barbers were listed alongside machinists, cowboys and vaqueros. Seven percent of quarry prisoners were farmers, and four percent might be classified as professionals: doctor, engineer, etc. (71) The remaining seventy percent were unskilled workers. In contrast, eighty-three percent of the whole prison population were unskilled workers.
Yet the most important difference between quarry prisoners and the rest of the prison system came in terms of race. After all, when prison officials wrote of a de-site to transfer inmates to the quarries, they referred to their race, not their skill levels. Relative to the rest of the prison population, inmates at the quarries were disproportionately white or Mexican. In 1886, black prisoners were 51 percent of the total inmate population, but just fourteen percent of quarry prisoners. Thirty-nine percent of all prisoners were white, but sixty-four percent of prisoners at the quarries were white. Mexicans comprised nine percent of the total prison population, but were twenty-two percent of the quarries' prisoners. (72)
Conditions in the Burnet and Oatmanville quarries were undoubtedly better than those in plantations and on railroad crews. Despite reports of unsavory food at the quarries, it was almost certainly superior to the rations provided by lessees to convicts working on private farms. Superintendant Goree also pointed out another difference, reporting "the discipline is no where better than at these two camps." (73) One important factor was that, unlike the farms where black prisoners were leased, guards at the quarries were state employees, and were compelled to obey whatever modest paternal oversight was offered. Thus guards' violence was disciplined at the quarries, as much as prisoners' behavior was. In addition, the large number of prisoners at the quarries justified a large guard force in ways that smaller railroad assignments did not, and officials believed that this economy of scale benefited control. Moreover, the actual space of the quarry contributed to more effective discipline. Perched on high positions at the top of the mountain, guards' relatively clear lines of sight allowed for more thorough and preventive surveillance, and thus mitigated the uses of physical violence to prevent escapes, as was the case on prison farms and railroad camps.
Just because this was a relatively privileged assignment, within the Texas lease's race and labor hierarchies did not mean that prisoners worked willingly or happily. They opposed the terms of their incarceration in numerous ways, from breaking tools to working slowly, mouthing off to guards and to each other. They escaped in significant numbers--the most spectacular of these involved eight black and white men who stole a train to make their getaway. Punishment logs reflected these and other transgressions. Fifteen lashes for impudence here, twenty lashes for laziness there; twenty more for refusing to work. Daniel Mclvor got eight lashes for waving his hat and cheering while other men ran off. (74) Though many were punished for resisting, others were also rewarded for obedience. When Antonio Flores attacked a guard in an escape attempt', Felix Jones, a black prisoner, killed him. (75) Rather than joining in the escape, Jones "came to the rescue of Capt. M. Ezell ... when he was murderously assaulted. (76) It is impossible to say if Jones was a trustee, or if he felt that he was doing his duty and earning good time towards his legal release. Jones had been ten years old when the Civil War ended. Perhaps he had known enough whipping then, and knew enough to find the best way to avoid more. In any case, Jones's sentence was commuted from twenty to five years for this "extra-meritous conduct."
In contrast to successful resistance, which would have generally escaped witnesses, state-inflicted violence was meant to be seen and known by prisoners. Convicts at the quarries and elsewhere were whipped, hanged from their thumbs, put in stocks, or placed in the "dark cell"--the duration of each torture depended on various exchange values of misconduct and intended levels of pain. The impact of the lash was on a prisoner's back; but it was also in other prisoners' eyes. Like the capitol itself, scars made from a two-inch-wide greased rawhide strap constituted a text meant to be understood by people who could neither read nor write, or who did or did not understand the state's favored English. (77)
Prisoners smoked cigarettes, talked, gambled, and probably sang when guards were unwilling or unable to enforce disciplinary silence. Some fought, some had sex, and most simply survived under brutal conditions. Some did not, and mortality rates in the quarries topped 6 percent. (78) Many, however, were not placated with infrapolitical resistance and rebelled more violently. They were neither working class heroes nor were they helpless martyrs in the face of capitalist development. They were sometimes violent, sometimes docile people, not terribly different from other poor men in Texas. The Bourbon democratic state sought to discipline and instruct behavior proper to the changing political economy of white rule. As evidenced by their consistent punishment, convicted workers resisted these imposed norms of behavior and whatever "honest" work ethic punishment was supposed to entail.
Neither members of the Granite Cutters Unions nor the Knights of Labor needed to spend time in the capitol quarries or see a whipping to know that they opposed the exploitation of convict labor or competition with imported contract workers like the Scots. The cutters might have had few legal defenses against employers who exploited prisoners to build the State Capitol, but at least the Foran Act, passed in 1885, would protect them from competition with foreign contract workers. When the NGCU brought suit against the Capitol builders for violation of the Foran Act, they sought legal protection for themselves, but also a showcase trial to benefit other organized workers; it was their final effort to reclaim some meaning and power from the Capitol building project.
The Foran Act's history would suggest that the NGCU had a strong case against the capitol builders for importing the Aberdoninan strikebreakers under contract. The original impetus behind the Act came from skilled workers organized under Window Glass Workers Assembly 300, whose situation bore an uncanny resemblance to the granite cutters'. Like the NGCU, the Window Glass Workers Union had been in a position to demand high wages in western, labor-scarce areas, and tried to raise all window glass workers' wages. In response, the glass workers' employers contracted skilled European glass blowers to break their strike. (79) Though skilled unionists drove the Foran Act, contributing much evidence to Congressional debates and some language of the Act itself, on the floor of the Congress, its language was quickly racialized--something by no means antithetical to the unionists' perspective. To no small measure the Foran Act became an effort to stigmatize European immigrants as ineligible for citizenship, much as the 1882 Exclusion Act had done to the Chinese. (80) After offering evidence drawn directly from the Window Glass Workers' experiences, Ohio Congressman Martin Foran, who oversaw the bill's passage in the House of Representatives, quickly turned to the racial dangers that contract workers posed. Immigrant workers would lead to low wages for all, he suggested, threatening the nation's foundation in republican citizenship: "Low wages mean cheap men, ignorant, degraded, dangerous citizens. ... Low wages signify debasement, ignorance, degradation, brutality. High wages signify intelligence, ingenuity, invention, and a higher order of manhood." (81) The Knights' Terrence Powderly furthered the nativist opprobrium: "We have Hungarians at work who are no more fit to live in this country than a hog is fit to grace a parlor." (82) If the Act was conceived by skilled workers to exclude skilled immigrants under contract, its language emphasized the dangers of unskilled, debased, and racialized pauper labor. (83) It was the latter meaning and memory that took hold among activists and historians alike. Nevertheless, based on their intimate knowledge of the Foran Act, the Granite Cutters knew that Wilke and the Syndicate had acted illegally. Having paid the travels and contracted the Scots to come to Texas, the Capitol builders violated the law to the very letter. (84)
The day George Berry and the Scots arrived at Castle Garden, NGCU representatives implored them not to go to Texas, and met with the U.S. District Attorney to press charges against the Capitol Syndicate. The U.S. District Attorney initially dismissed the granite cutters' tickets as insufficient evidence of the Syndicate's violation of the Foran Act. However, Union representatives, apparently more familiar with the Act than the U.S. Attorney, demonstrated that the law forbade an employer to prepay an immigrant's transportation. The Attorney advised the granite cutters to bring suit against Wilke in Texas. With the help of the Austin-based 78th District Assembly of the Knights of Labor, they did just that. (85) In the meantime, they gathered evidence from the Scots who broke from the Texas party, including full evidence of contracts provided and passage paid.
Armed with the Foran Act, the Granite Cutters' Union undertook suit against the Capitol Syndicate, but found their way barred time and again. The Capitol Syndicate's case was helped when railroad magnate Jay Gould, seeing this as another front in his counterattack against the Knights of Labor, offered the Syndicate his lawyer's service. (86) Nevertheless, the NGCU brought the case forward in Austin, and in July 1886 the U.S. District Attorney filed charges against Wilke and the Capitol Syndicate.
Almost immediately, Wilke and the Syndicate mounted a public defense against the charges. When asked by reporters, Wilke claimed the Scots came "in answer to an advertisement" and "were not solicited or paid to do so," though this was patently untrue. Wilke and the Syndicate also began to parse differences between skilled and unskilled workers to justify their actions. They insisted they had not "brought any laborers from Scotland ..., but skilled granitecutters." (87) The distinctions Wilke and the Syndicate drew, then, addressed not the letter of the law, which clearly prohibited paying for travel, or the unionists' original intent behind the act, which was to prevent the importation of skilled strikebreakers. Instead, Wilke shifted attention to the Foran Act's nativist dimensions, the elements that Rogers M. Smith would call "ascriptive inegalitarian" citizenship, stressing the debased and servile nature of the immigrants that Foran would prevent from entry. (88) Because the Scots were skilled men, Wilke reasoned, they should not be excluded. It seems that Emigration Board members and Congressional investigators were compelled by the logic differentiating the Scots from "other" migrants, and they frequently stressed the Scots' identity as skilled tradesmen. One Commissioner reportedly believed that if all immigrants who came to the U.S. were like the Scots cutters: "strong, skillful mechanics with money in their pockets," then they were welcome. (89) As a result, the Foran Act was understood as only partially applicable to the Aberdonians. The gendered implications and stated skill levels indicated to this official, at least, that the Scots had the prerequisites for citizenship and national entry, while unskilled and poverty-stricken migrants did not. (90) Despite the original drive behind Foran, this new meaning, wholly focused on pauper and servile labor, took sway, to the Syndicate's benefit and the NGCU's loss.
For reasons that remain murky, the hearings were postponed until August 1887. This delaying tactic, repeated numerous times, would blunt the fervor and excitement of what might have become a symbolically important labor victory. When the case came to trial in August 1887, depositions from the Scots cutters were taken, but yet again, the trial was postponed, and the District Attorney moved to strike the names of the most prestigious members of the Capitol Syndicate from the indictment. Both of the Farwells and Babcock were removed from the investigation, thereby robbing the Union's case of its most sensational elements. Stressing credulity further, the U.S. Marshall claimed to have been wholly unable to serve papers on Abner Taylor, and Congress declined to appropriate money to carry out the Court. Yet even this was insufficient, it seems, in preventing the trial from taking place. On the day set for the District Attorney to take testimony, he was called out of town. Knights and Union officers had to secure lawyers on short notice, though the Capitol Syndicate's lawyers were well prepared for the cross-examination. (91)
Despite concerted and effective tactics to blunt its impact, as the first real test of the Foran Act, the case garnered national attention. (92) A House Investigative Committee formed in 1888 to examine violations of the Act in its three years of existence. Testimony gathered added to the evidentiary basis of the Granite Cutters' case, which finally came to trial in August 1889. The four most important members of the Capitol Syndicate were removed from the case: the firm of Taylor, Babcock, and Company successfully argued that it had "let" the contract to Wilke, and therefore its members had nothing at all to do with the employment of convicts or hiring of Scots. Gus Wilke stood alone, and acknowledged full responsibility in the face of overwhelming evidence. (93) Because he had overseen the importation of sixty-four cutters--the number who had arrived finally in Texas--Wilke was liable for $64,000 as penalty. Yet Wilke successfully applied for a stay to appeal for executive clemency. He did not receive it, but inexplicably, in March 1893, the Clerk of the District Court in Austin received word that Wilke would be liable for just. $8,000 and costs rather than the full $64,000 dollars. Perhaps the letter from the Honorable Gilbert A. Pierce, a U.S. Senator from North Dakota (with no discernible interests in a sub-contractor in Austin), played a role in swaying the decision. Perhaps this Senator, surely on at least friendly working terms with Senator Farwell and Congressman Taylor, exerted some influence. Perhaps because the Scots were skilled workers, of relatively unquestioned manhood and whiteness, officials believed that Wilke violated the letter of the Foran Act, but not its newer, nativist spirit. Whatever the reason, the Knights of Labor and the newly-formed American Federation of Labor took a justifiably cynical tone. In a letter to the President, they implored that "the law not be tampered with, but carried out to the full extent, the same as if the defendant was a person without [the] influence of a syndicate backing him up." (94) Recent scholarship suggests that the non-enforcement of the Foran Act reflected rapid shifts in doctrinal interpretation of the Foran Act toward "liberty of contract" in the late 19th century. (95) Yet the Granite cutters had reason to believe that simpler forces of cronyism were at work. As would become clear in coming years, organized labor, and especially the AFL, would find little support and much antagonism from the judiciary, increasingly turning toward a narrow philosophy of labor voluntarism. (96) Their legal victory came in name only.
As granite cutters lamented, the law treated Gustav Wilke and the Capitol Syndicate quite differently than it did a poor Mexican horse thief, a poor white fence cutter, or a black burglar. The Janus face of justice was not lost on the Granite Cutters' Union:
Constructing the capitol was more than just another building project, and the actors involved knew it to be such. It was symbolic of larger structures and designs, filled with contested meanings and implications for those involved in the building process, and those who would witness its lessons. Corporate and state power solidified control in the face of working peoples' sometimes violent, sometimes litigious opposition. Nonetheless, organized workers, racialized and criminalized subjects, and the Scots who gave testimony of the state's own illegality contested the rule of the state and the market. The Texas capitol, with its multiple meanings of power, control and legitimacy, was one of its most sophisticated and durable instruments.
Officials understood leasing prisoners to build the capitol as a success for the prison system--it occupied the time of nearly 500 prisoners, helped keep many white prisoners from the malarial bottomlands while keeping black prisoners in those profitable but horrid farms, and helped develop emergent techniques of racial segregation in the prison system. Moreover, the prisoners earned a tidy profit of $14,114.40 for the state, far surpassing all the expenses spent on feeding, guarding, and punishing them. (98) Wilke also did well for himself. When he returned to Chicago in 1890, he did so a millionaire. (99)
Members of the organized working class would look at the new capitol and know that state power had favored their exploiters over themselves, effectively dismissing their claims to substantive citizenship in contradiction to its own laws. Ralphine, The Austin Statesman's Special Correspondent, reflected more positively in her account of the Granite Mountain tour and waxed poetic about the final destination of the gleaming granite blocks before her. A true patriot, she mused about "THAT BEAUTIFUL NASCENT BUILDING, to which all faithful Texans will, incoming [sic] years, turn their eyes, perhaps, when they pray." (100) Joaquin Duran, and other convicted workers who contributed to this capitol, would certainly have other, more critical thoughts, as they looked toward the fruit of their labor, a symbol of government that would scarcely be theirs.
Department of History
Crawley WA 6009
The author would like to thank Paul Taillon, Shae Garwood, Marjory Harper, Neil Foley, Gunther Peck, Paul Lucko, Clare Corbould, Ryan Carey, George Robertson, Brooke Lamperd, and Phil Keirle.
(1.) See Joaquin Duran, #3443 and Octavio Aleman, #3444, in the Huntsville Penitentiary Convict Record (henceforth Convict Record), and Huntsville Penitentiary Convict Conduct Register (henceforth Conduct Register). Texas Stare Library and Archives Collection, Austin, Texas (TSLAC). Also, Secretary of State Records, Executive Clemency and Pardons, Box 2-9/340, TSLAC.
(2.) Sec stories in the Aberdeen Evening Express, the Evening Gazette. Aberdeen Journal across March and April 1886, but especially "Aberdeen Emigrants Bound for Texas," Aberdeen Evening Gazette, March 15, 1886, p2. Aberdeen Public Library (APL).
(3.) National Granite Cutters' Union Journal, May 1886, International Granite Cutters Association, ppl-2 Folder 1, Box 2E309, in The Labor Movement in Texas Papers (LMTP), Center for American History, Austin, Texas. All references to Granite Cutters' circulars are from this archive.
(4.) Literature an the lease focuses primarily on its role in securing racialized labor relations in a stage between slavery and industrial capitalism in a peripheral economic region The implications of market faces are necessarily global in scope, but seldom do analyses of the convict lease actually assess those global components. Moreover, literature on the lease has tended to he too homogeneous. The lease was brutal everywhere, but, as will be argued below, it was not everywhere the same. Alex Lichtenstein, Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of the Convict Lease in the New South (New York, 1996); Edward L. Ayers, Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Violence in the 19th-Century South (New York, 1984). See, however, Mathew Mancini, One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866-1928 (Columbia, 1996). On Texas prisons, Donald R. Walker, Penology for Profit (College Station, 1988); Paul M. Lucko, "Prison Farms, Walls, and Society: Punishment and Politics in Texas, 1848--1910," (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, Austin, 1999); Robert Reps Perkinson. "The Birth of the Texas Prison Empire, 1865--1915," (Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University, 2001).
(5.) I am indebted to Alice Kessler-Harris's definition of economic citizenship: "the independent status that provides the possibility of full participation in the polity." In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America (New York, 2001), 5.
(6.) Charlotte Erickson, American Industry and the European Immigrant, 1860--1885 (Cambridge, MA, 1957); Catherine Collomp, "Unions, Civics, and National Identity: Organized Labor's Reaction to Immigration, 1881--1897," Labor History, 29, 4 (1988), 450--474; Gunther Peck, Reinventing Free Labor: Padrones and Immigrant Workers in the North American West, 1880--1930 (New York, 2000).
(7.) Frederick W. Rathjen, "The Texas State House: A Study of the Building of the Texas Capitol Based on the Reports of the Capitol Building Commissioners," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 60,4 (1957), 433--462.
(8.) Rathjen, "The Texas State House"; William Elton Green '"A Question of Great Delicacy': The Texas Capitol Competition, 1881," in The Texas Capitol: Selected Essays from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 29; Marjory Harper. "Emigrant Strikebreakers: Scottish Granite Cutters and the Texas Capitol Boycott," in Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 95, (April 1992), 465-484, especially 469, 470. Handbooak of Texas Online, s.v. "Capitol Freehold and Land Investment Company," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/CC/djcl.html, accessed 23 March 2009.
(9.) Broadly, William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York, 1991); specifically, David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836--1986 (Austin, 1987), 62-3, 86.
(10.) Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "XIT Ranch," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/XX/apxl.html, accessed April 6 2009.
(11.) Third Biennial Report of the Capitol Building Commission [henceforth CBC], November 1, 1886 (Austin: Triplett and Hutchings, State Printers, 1886), 31,32, and Exhibit J, 201.
(12.) July 16, 1885 correspondence from Abner Taylor to the Capitol Building Commission, in Third Report of the CBC, 31, 32.
(13.) ibid., Exhibit H, 198, and Exhibit K, 203-205.
(14.) ibid., July 18, 1885 meeting, 34. We can surmise that petitions came from the NGCU or locals of the Knights of Labor. See various articles Box 2E309, Folder 14, LMTP.
(15.) These dates are derived from the "location" listings in the Conduct Registers.
(16.) Walker, Penology for Profit, 79, 83. On the convict lease, Ayers, Vengeance and Justice; Lichtenstein, Twice the Work of Free Labor; Mancini, One Dies, Get Another; Karin A. Shapiro, A New South Rebellion: The Battle Against Convict Labor in the Tennessee Coalfield, 1871--1896 (Chapel Hill, 1998).
(17.) Walker, Penology for Profit, 113. Incarceration rates bear little correspondence to actual crimes committed, but rather reflect social and political decisions around social control. George Rusche and Otto Kirchheimer, Punishment and Social Structure (New Brunswick, 2003 ), and more recently, Angela Y. Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (New York, 2003).
(18.) David M. Oshinsky, Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York, 19961), 61
(19.) David Garland, "Penal Excess and Surplus Meaning: Public Torture Lynching in Twentieth-Century America," Law and Society Review, 39, 4 (2005), 793-834: William D. Carrigan, The Making of a Lynching Culture; Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916 (Urbana, 2006).
(20.) Walker, Penology for Profit, 113.
(21.) Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans: Arnoldo De Leon, They Called them Greasers: Anglo Attitudes inward Mexicans in Texas, 1821--1900 (Austin, 1983); Ana Maria Alonso, Thread of Blood: Colonialism, Revolution, and Gender on Mexico's Northern Frontier (Tucson, 1995); Timothy Dunn, the Militarization of the US-Mexico Border, 1973-1992: Low-Intensity Conflict Doctrine Gomes Home (Austin, 1996).
(22.) Quoted in Ayers, Vengeance and Justice, 200.
(23.) Quoted in Oshinsky, Worse than Slavery, 59.
(24.) Report of the Commission Appointed by the Governor, 1875, pp. 100-105, in Walker, Penology for Profit, 38.
(25.) Oshinksy, Worse than Slavery, 61.
(26.) Perkinson," The Texas Prison Empire," esp. Ch 3.
(27.) Ayers, Vengeance and Justice, 198-199.
(28.) Builders requested prisoners to lover costs after the switch to granite, but Wilke had solicited fifty convicts to work in the Oatmanville quarries prior to the switch. See J.T. Dickinson correspondence to Wilke, June 15, 1883, Penitentiary Records 4-2/1250 pp. 39, 44. TSLAC. William Elton Green brought this and other important documents to my attention.
(29.) Austin Statesman, December 10, 1885.
(30.) Correspondence from Lawrence Foley of the Granite Cutters' International Association of America to Ben L. Owens, August 29, 1938. LMTP, box 2E309, Folder 1. There is some confusion over the "Bill of Prices" that Wilke offered. Harper records Graniteville Prices as $2.75-$3.00 per day, which I found to be the Quincy, Massachusetts, Bill of Prices. The sources I have examined show Graniteville prices at $3.50 per day.
(31.) September 1885 NGCU Journal.
(32.) On "skill" as politically charged term, see Devon G. Pena, Terror of the Machine (Austin, 1997), 179, 180; and Ava Baron, "Gender and Labor History: Learning form the Past, Looking to the Future," in Work Engendered: Toward a New History of American Labor, ed. Ava Baron (Ithaca, 1991), 14.
(33.) October 1885 NGCU Journal. One source reports 560-1 and others show 500-1 voting for the boycott. Nevertheless, support for the boycott was overwhelming.
(34.) September 1886 NGCU Journal.
(35.) December 1886 NGCU Journal.
(36.) "The Sword of Damocles Has Fallen," Austin Statesman, December 10, 1885, Folder l, LMTP.
(37.) "The Sword of Damocles Has Fallen," Austin Statesman.
(38.) The resolution was made by the Capitol Assembly Knights of Labor 2182 on December 3 1885. See Folder 1, Granite Cutters International Association, pp 4-5, LMTP.
(39.) On the connections between property value in labor, whiteness, and citizenship, see especially Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Unequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor (Cambridge, MA, 2002). Gunther Peck stresses that white slavery metaphors should he read as strategic statements rather than as strict expressions of identity Peck, "White Slavery and Whiteness: A Transnational View of the Sources of Working-Class Radicalism and Racism," Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, 1, 2 (2004), 41--63, esp. 53.
(40.) There is no indication that once free, these workers would refuse organization, or that the Union would be willing to extend membership to black or Mexican workers, despite the Knights of Labors' biracialism in Texas or its relative inclusivity nationwide. Theresa Case, "The Radical Potential of the Knights' Biracialism: The 1885--1886 Gould System Strikes and Their Aftermath," Labor: Studies in Working-Class History or the Americas, 4, 4 (2007), 83--107, esp.96--99. Leon Fink, Workingmen's Democracy: The Knights of Labor and American Politics (Urbana, 1983), and "The New Labor History and the Powers of historical Pessimism: Consensus, Hegemony, and the Case of the Knights of labor," Journal of American History, 75, 1 (1988), 115--136.
(41.) This fear eventually came true. Though perhaps Goree embellished the truth to make the system seem more benevolent than it actually was, he reported that one third of the convicts in the quarries "have become very good stone and granite cutters." 1886 Biennial Report, 20.
(42.) Aberdeen Evening Express, April 8, 1886, p. 3, and ibid, April 10, 1886, p.3. Woodside Branch, APL.
(43.) Tom Donnelly, The Aberdeen Granite Industry (Aberdeen, 1994), 130.
(44.) Kenneth D. Buckley, Trade Unionism in Aberdeen, 1878--1900 (Edinburgh and London, 1955), 14-15.
(45.) Donnelly, The Aberdeen Granite Industry, 126.
(46.) Buckley, Trade Unionism in Aberdeen, 35.
(47.) Donnelly, 148-150; Buckley, 35-40.
(48.) Affidavit of Charles Falconer, read in House Misc. Documents No 572, 50th Congress, 1st Session, 1888, Serial 2579, 139.
(49.) "Aberdeen--Emigration of Granite Cutters to the United States," Aberdeen Journal, April 13, 1886, p4, University of Aberdeen Special Library and Archives (UASLA). It is possible that Hall took his own advice. One Robert Hall appeared among the Scots in Texas. However, a different nineteen-year-old Robert Hall, unmarried and whose profession was listed as Mason, also appeared in the 1881 Aberdonian census. Given the tendency for established builders to remain and for younger, less established ones to travel, it is more likely that this was the younger Hall. 1881 Census, Microfiche p. 02035, Aberdeen and Northeastern Scotland Family History Society, Aberdeen.
(50.) Cross examination of Alexander C. Steele in Circuit Court of the United States, Western District of Texas, in Austin, Mar. 24 1887, Case No. 2082. Quoted in Harper, "Emigrant Strikebreakers," 482. Also, Folder 1, Granite Cutters International Association, pp 10-11, LMTP.
(51.) "Aberdeen--Emigration of Granite Cutters to the United States," Aberdeen Journal, April 13, 1886, p4, UASLA; "Aberdeen--Meeting of Granite Cutters," Aberdeen Evening Gazette, April 13 1886, p4, Woodside Branch, APL; Aberdeen Journal, April 16, 1886, p4; Harper, "Emigrant Strike-breakers," 475.
(52.) Text here drawn from 23 Slat, 332; 8 U.S.C., reproduced in Michael LeMay and Elliot Robert Barkan, eds., U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History (Westport, CT, 1999), 56-57.
(53.) "Gus Wilke, The Law Breaker," Granite Cutters Journal, May 1886. See also James K. Anderson testimony, House Misc. Documents No 572, 50th Congress, 1st Session, 1888, Serial 2579, 149-151.
(54.) "The Texas Emigrants," Aberdeen Evening Gazette, May 17, 1886, p3. Woodside Branch, APL.
(55.) Immigrants' own understandings of their racial identities was lacking in early whiteness literature. Eric Arnesen, "Whiteness and the Historian's Imagination," International Labor and Working Class History, 60 (2001), 3-32; Kevin Kenny, "Violence, Race, and anti-Irish Sentiment in the Nineteenth Century," in J. J. Lee and Marion Casey, eds., Making the Irish American: The History and Heritage of the Irish in the United States (New York, 2006), 289-301.
(56.) Donnelly, The Aberdeen Granite Industry, 146-147.
(57.) Harper, "Emigrant Strikebreakers," 478.
(58.) David Dorson testimony, House Misc. Documents No 572, 50th Congress, 1st Session, 1888, Serial 2579, p146.
(59.) Galveston Daily News, quoted in Harper, "Emigrant Strikebreakers," 479.
(60.) NGCU Journal, Feb 1886, May 1886, Sept 1886. See also the letter from "Western Tramp," published in the Dec 1886 Journal. NGCU references to the Scots as prostitutes were oblique, but when they called George Berry a "pimp," they participated in what Peck identifies as the feminization of white slavery discourse. Peck, "White Slavery and Whiteness," 47.
(61.) "Situations Vacant/To Stonecutters," Aberdeen Journal, Oct 9 1886, p1. May 1886 NGCU Journal, and Harper, 473-482.
(62.) Harper, "Emigrant Strikebreakers," 479.
(63.) Ellen Stuckey, #2583 Convict Ledger and Conduct Register, TSLAC.
(64.) Although the uses of barbed wire in inflicting pain on cattle was just becoming apparent, it seems its uses on humans were already evident. Reviel Netz, Barbed Wire: an Ecology of Modernity (Middle-town, 2004).
(65.) "Letter from Burnet," Austin Daily Statesman, April 13, 1886.
(66.) Apparently a number of tours did go through the capitol quarries. Ralphine asked a guard if many people toured the grounds. "Oh, yes," he replied, "lots of them every day, and more on Sundays than other days." Beside her own group, there "were five other wagon loads" of quests visiting the quarry. "Letter From Burnet," April 13, 1886 Austin Daily Statesman."
(67.) 1888 Biennial Report, 5-7.
(68.) 1886 Biennial Report, 69.
(69.) I collected data from convict ledgers and conduct registers, recording those prisoners whose locations listed "Oatmanville" or "Rock Quarry" among the farms and railroad assignments. My data set consists of 253 prisoners, just over half of the total number of prisoners assigned to the quarries.
(70.) These numbers are calculated from my own data, and are compared to Walker, Penology for Profit, Table 8, 121. Walker only counted crimes listed for which there were more than twenty convictions. I define violent crimes as murder, assault, sodomy, and rape. Where violence was involved in property crime ie, assault and robbery, it is counted as violent. Property crimes are defined as theft, theft of horse, burglary, forgery, arson, embezzlement, etc. Because bigamy does not fit easily in either category, I have not counted it here.
(71.) I categorize inmates by profession as 1) laborer, 2) farmer, 3) specified/skilled laborer, and 4) professional. Skilled/specified workers were a diverse group and could include such workers as hatmakers, cowboy/vaqueros, brushmakers, carpenters, cooks, miners, railroaders, painters, barbers, silversmiths, machinists. Professional here were physicians, engineers, photographers, plus one trader and one gambler.
(72.) Walker, Penology for Profit, Table 2, 114. One factor chat complicates comparison is that race was not directly noted in the ledgers I use (and these are the only places where assignment is recorded), though it was tabulated in the Annual Reports Walker uses for the prison overall. However, "Complexion, Hair and Eye color" were noted in the ledgers. For my calculations of quarry prisoners, I count as Black those prisoners who had "Black" or "Mulatto" written across or in all three of the categories. Mexicans were the same. Whites, however, had much greater variation in each category, listing, for example, fair, dark, sallow, or sandy in complexion, etc. I count these as White. In one case (Dick Smith, Rusk #2136), an inmate's complexion was listed as dark but his hair and eyes as "mulatto" and thus he is dealt with here as Black/mulatto. In another case, Francisco Fuentes, born in Mexico, Huntsville#2973, is listed as "Dark" complexion, Brown eyes and black hair. Here I count him as Mexican.
(73.) 1886 Biennial Report, 8.
(74.) Convict Records, Conduct Registers.
(75.) Convict Record and Conduct Register, Felix Jones (#3184), and Antonio Flores, (#2492).
(77.) Oshinsky, Worse than Slavery, 66. On brutality in the Texas lease, see Walker, esp. 126-142.
(78.) Calculated from Convict Records, Conduct Registers.
(79.) Erickson, American Industry and the European Immigrant, 141-142, 145; 148-166; 154-158. Erickson argues that one reason the Foran Act met little opposition was that manufacturers recognized what a small threat it posed to their business 159.
(80.) Gwendolyn Mink, Old Labor and New Immigrants .in American Political Development: Union, Party, and State, 1875-1920 (Ithaca, 1986), 18.
(81.) 15th Congressional Record, 5351 (1884). Quote in Matthew J. Lindsay, "A Power 'Inherent in Sovereignty and Essential to Self-Preservation'; National Security and the Origins of Federal Immigration Power," 38. Unpublished paper, http://www.law.harvad.edu/faculty/faculty-workshops/lindsay.immigration.10.21.8.doc, accessed April 7, 2009.
(82.) 15th Congressional Record, (1884), 5356. Quote in Lindsay, "A Power 'Inherent in Sovereignty," 39-40.
(83.) Erickson, American Industry, 165.
(84.) Erickson, American Industry, 139-166; Collomp, "Unions, Civics, and National Identity," esp. 456.
(85.) May 1886 Granite Cutters' Journal, "Gus Wilkie (sic), Lawbreaker."
(86.) The Knights of Labor gave five thousand dollars in support of the legal action. Allen, "The Capitol Boycott," 322-333.
(87.) "A Novel Suit in Texas," New York Times, Jul. 15 1886, p5. Emphasis added.
(88.) Rogers M. Smith, Civic Ideals; Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History (New Haven, 1997).
(89.) "Arrivals at Castle Garden," New York Times, April 30 1886, p8. See also questions by Mr. Guenther and testimony by David Dorson. House Misc. Documents No 572, 50th Congress 1st Session, 1888, Serial 2579, 146-149.
(90.) At least some of the Scots indicated that they intended to become citizens. "Scotch Contract Labor," New York Times, Jul 31, 1888, p8.
(91.) Allen, "The Capitol Boycott," 322-333.
(92.) The first review of Foran was more refinement than test. United States vs. Craig, Records of the United States Supreme Court, 1886, in Federal Reporter (Washington, D. C, 1886), 795-802.
(93.) "Employed No Convicts," Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov. 6 1888, p3.
(94.) Quoted in Allen, "Capitol Boycott," 24.
(95.) Peck, Reinventing Free Labor, 85-86.
(96.) Mink, Old Labor and New Immigrants; William E. Forbath, Law and the Shaping of the American Labor Movement (Cambridge, MA, 1989).
(97.) September 1889 NGCU Journal.
(98.) 1886, 1888 Biennial Reports, and 1888 Biennial Report 69.
(99.) Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Gustav Wilke," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/arrticles/WW/fwiam.html (accessed May 21, 2009).
(100.) "Letter From Burnet," Austin Doily Statesman, April 13, 18S6. Capitals in original.
By Ethan Blue
University of Western Australia
Granite Cutters keep away from Austin, Texas, until the contractors stop hiring convicts on the Austin .State Capitol building. The subcontractor said he would hire convicts, scabs and imported contract labor. Granite Cutters of America, show ... the Chicago Syndicate, that free men will not submit to the introduction of slavery into our trade under the guise of contract convict labor, and that you will not teach our trade to convicts to enrich these schemers, who care for nothing hut the almighty dollar and now seek to degrade our trade to fill their pockets. (29)
for any person, company, partnership or corporation ... to prepay the transportation or in any way assist or cue outage the importation ... of any alien ... into the United States ... under contract ... made previous to the importation or migration of such alien ... to perform labor or service of any kind.
Wilke pleaded guilty, and judgments were given against him, yet he is allowed practically to go free and laugh at the law, but if some poor starving fellow steals a loaf of bread there is no "stay of proceedings" granted to him, he has no syndicate with political influence and capital to hack him and he must suffer. (97)
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|