March 17, 2012
Our Godless Past

This is a letter dated 17th July 1902 to Mr. W.F. Clark of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, from George F. Baer, president of the Philadephia & Reading Railway Company. Mr. Clark had urged Mr. Baer to end an ongoing strike of his railroad:

I see that you are a religious man; but you are evidently biased in favor of the right of the working man to control a business in which he has no other interest than to secure fair wages for the work he does.

I beg of you not to be discouraged. The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for — not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of the country, and upon the successful management of which so much depends. Do not be discouraged. Pray earnestly that right may triumph, always remembering that the Lord God Omnipotent still reigns, and that His reign is one of law and order, and not of violence and crime.

The Hearst paper in New York said, “The pious pirate is no new thing. Baer and the relations between a just God and the thieving trusts must be left to the pulpit for adequate treatment.” The Times said the letter “verged very close upon unconscious blasphemy.”

The religious newspapers went farther. From Chicago: “selfish ignorant cant that this captain of industry mistakes for religion. This is the sort of thing that makes anarchists.”

From New York: “A ghastly blasphemy.”

From Boston: “The doctrine of the divine right of kings was bad enough, but not so intolerable as the doctrine of the divine right of plutocrats to administer things in general with the presumption that what it pleases them to do is the will of God.”

Today these hostile reactions from the MSM of 1902 read as odd relics of the nation’s remote pre-Christian past. Today Mr. Baer’s views have become the guiding principle of one of America’s two large — I can’t bring myself to say great — political parties.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at March 17, 2012 11:19 AM
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They're "odd relics" not least because they share the old practical "Is Your Bathroom Breeding Bolsheviks?" assumption -- the one that even conservatives shared before the Great Hoover-McCarthy Blandification took hold -- that extreme political opinions have identifiable, preventable causes in the form of gratuitously provoking injustices or ostentations of privilege.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on March 18, 2012 12:53 AM

Made me an Anarchist. And Atheist.

Posted by: Ten Bears on March 18, 2012 10:42 AM

Thanks Martha. I always wondered where Dylan got that reference to the Communists in his toilet bowl in his "Talkin' John Birch Society Paranoid Blues" song.

http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/talkin-john-birch-paranoid-blues

Now I know.

Posted by: Buck on March 18, 2012 3:00 PM
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