Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Three - The Church of the Servant-Girls

King Coal

The proof of these statements is written all over the industrial life of America. I will stop long enough to present an account of one industry, asking the reader to accept my statement that if space permitted I could present the same sort of proof for a dozen other industries which I have studied - the steel- mills of Western Pennsylvania, the meat-factories of Chicago, the glass-works of Southern Jersey, the silk-mills of Paterson, the cotton-mills of North Carolina, the woolen-mills of Massachusetts, the lumber-camps of Louisiana, the copper-mines of Michigan, the sweat-shops of New York.

In a lonely part of the Rocky Mountains lies a group of enormously valuable coal-mines owned by the Rockefellers and other Protestant exploiters. The men who work these mines, some 12- or 15,000 in number, come from all the nations of Europe and Asia, and their fate is that of the average wage-slave. I do not ask anyone to take my word, but present sworn testimony, taken by the United States Commission on Industrial Relations in 1914. Here is the way the Italian miners live, as described in a doctor's report:

Houses up the canyon, so-called, of which eight are habitable, and 46 simply awful; they are disreputably disgraceful. I have had to remove a mother in labor from one part of the shack to another to keep dry.

And here is the testimony of the Rev. Eugene S. Gaddis, former superintendent of the Sociological Department of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company:

The C.F.&I. Company now own and rent hovels, shacks and dug-outs that are unfit for the habitation of human beings and are little removed from the pig-sty make of dwellings. And the people in them live on the very level of a pig-sty. Frequently the population is so congested that whole families are crowded into one room; eight persons in one small room was reported during the year.

And here is what this same clergyman has to say about the bosses whom the Rockefellers employ:

The camp superintendents as a whole impressed me as most uncouth, ignorant, immoral, and in many instances, the most brutal set of men that I have ever met. Blasphemous bullies.

Sometimes the miner grows tired of being robbed of his weights, and applies for the protection which the law of the state allows him. What happens then?

"When a man asked for a checkweighman, in the language of the super he was getting too smart."

"And he got what?"

"He got it in the neck, generally."

And when these wage-slaves, goaded beyond endurance, went on strike, in the words of the Commission's report:

Five strikers, one boy, and 13 women and children in the strikers' tent colony were shot to death by militiamen and guards employed by the coal companies, or suffocated and burned to death when these militiamen and guards set fire to the tents in which they made their homes.

And now, what is the position of education in such camps? The Rev. James McDonald, a Methodist preacher, testified that the school building was dilapidated and unfit. One year there were four teachers, the next three, and the next only two. The teacher of the primary grade had 120 children enrolled, 90 percent of whom could not speak a word of English.

Every little bench was seated with two or three. It was overcrowded entirely, and she could hardly get walking room around there.

And as to the political use made of this deliberately cultivated ignorance, former United States Senator Patterson testified that the companies controlled all elections and all nominations:

Election returns from the two or three counties in which the large companies operate show that in the precincts in which the mining camps are located the returns are nearly unanimous in favor of the men or measures approved by the companies, regardless of party.

And now comes the all-important question. What of the Catholic Church and these evils? The majority of these mine- slaves are Catholics, it is this Church which is charged with their protection. There are priests in every town, and in nearly every camp. And do we find them lifting their voices in behalf of the miners, protesting against the starving and torturing of 30- or 40,000 human beings? Do we find Catholic papers printing accounts of the Ludlow massacre? Do we find Catholic journalists on the scene reporting it, Catholic lawyers defending the strikers, Catholic novelists writing books about their troubles? We do not!

Through the long agony of the 14 months strike, I know of just one Catholic priest, Father Le Fevre, who had a word to say for the strikers. One of the first stories I heard when I reached the strike-field was of a priest who had preached on the text that "Idleness is the root of all evil," and had been reported as a "scab" and made to shut up. "Who made him?" I asked, naively, thinking of his church superiors. My informant, a union miner, laughed. "We made him!" he said.

I talked with another priest who was prudently saving souls and could not be interested in questions of worldly greed. Max Eastman, reporting the strike in the "Masses," tells of an interview with a Catholic sister.

"Has the Church done anything to try to help these people, or to bring about peace?" we asked. "I consider it the most useless thing in the world to attempt it," she replied.

The investigating committee of Congress came to the scene, and several clergymen of the Protestant Church appeared and bore testimony to the outrages which were being committed against the strikers; but of all the Catholic priests in the district not one appeared - not one! Several Protestant clergymen testified that they had been driven from the coal-camps - not because they favored the unions, but because the companies objected to having their workers educated at all; but no one ever heard of the Catholic Church having trouble with the operators. To make sure on this point I wrote to a former clergyman of Trinidad who watched the whole strike, and is now a first lieutenant in the First New Mexico Infantry. He answered:

The Catholic Church seemed to get along with the companies very cordially. The Church was permitted in all the camps. The impression was abroad that this was due to favoritism. I honor what good the Church does, but I know of no instance, during the Colorado coal-strike or at any other time or place, when the Catholic Church has taken any special interest in the cause of the laboring men. Many Catholics, especially the men, quit the church during the coal-strike.

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