Friday, May 6, 2011

Finding the Facts

This is a slightly updated comment (shuffled a few words and made corrections) I wrote quite some time ago in the blog guest book. I had meant to re-publish as a main blog post but apparently missed doing so or just can't find it on my own blog. You can find the original, along with an excellent anonymous response from a reader, in the guest book too. Click on the above link or look for the guestbook over in the left hand column not far down from the top of the blog. Go visit and feel free to add your own comments or email me directly.

I have been very pleased to receive comments and direct emails from individuals who have obviously done a lot of studying and writing about the history of these struggles and they continue to teach me more everyday.

October 2009
We know that Orchard, and the events surrounding the Haywood trial, Steunenberg assassination, and the complex issue of capital versus labor, elicit many opinions and emotions in all of uscertainly myself included. Although I sometimes fail in my efforts, I try to focus on factual information as much as possible and pay particular attention to the source material of articles, books and periodicals from that period. There was certainly plenty of deceit, coercion and manipulation (and downright law breaking) on all sides to go around. My only point is to look for what we can substantially establish as fact, while viewing with great skepticism the various accounts that have been written by those with an ax to grind, a political agenda or a particular view. Certainly that applies even to contemporary issues and sometimes means looking at ourselves.

As an example, when I read the booklets, The Class War in Idaho. The Horrors of the Bullpen
(1900) and the opposing view in the Criminal record of the Western Federation of Miners, Coeur d'Alene to Cripple Creek 1894-1904 (1904), I do so with the expectation that what I am reading is not necessarily, nor even intended, to be factual. If we read a book written by Harry Orchard, The Man God made Again, we get one view as opposed to in another book written by Big Bill Haywood, The Autobiography of Big Bill Haywood. In terms of Haywood’s trial and Orchard’s testimony, Debaters and Dynamiters by David Grover, albeit now a bit dated, remains the most in-depth and well documented analysis and Big Trouble by Anthony Lukas, although falling a bit short in his final analysis, remains the best documented (in terms of his referencing and footnoting) so that we can assess the sources of the authors information. There are many other books and documents related to these event, some on this blog and my bookshelf and more yet to be discovered.

None of us, certainly not I, are totally objective. Even among our own family we have disagreements when it comes to these issues and events. I believe finding Bill Haywood “not guilty” was the correct verdict based upon the facts presented in the courtroom and under Idaho law in 1907. Others say he should have hung for the murder of my great grandfather. I might even wish that to have been the casebut my opinion that Haywood was a co-conspirator, and having the benefit of 100 years in retrospective, is irrelevant to what occurred in that courtroom in 1907. I have written the same elsewhere.

The emotional impact of oppression, murder and manipulation that occurred in this case often taints our viewpoints. After all, we are just humanbut we must strive to understand what occurred based on the facts as best we can find and document them―and not on statements, hearsay or someone’s opinion. At best, as I have said before, only sometimes am I successful in that regard. John

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