Friday, May 22, 2015

Tombstone Series ~ Those Big Business Sons of Bitches ~ Letter to Donovan Richardson ~ November 10, 1949

The following is a letter written by my grandfather, John Sherman Bagg, to Donovan Richardson, Chief Editorial Writer of the Christian Science Monitor. The original is typed on onion skin paper, both sides, and would have been unreadable if scanned. The few letters I have tell only part of the story, but I find them fascinating none the less. 

As a miner and mining engineer, grandfather had a unique perspective and intimate knowledge the conditions miners were forced to work under. During his time in Washington, DC he also took on Standard Oil, Land Grant Railroads, Bureau of Mines, Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Department to expose the "thefting and framing" of the American public out of billions of dollars of mineral rights. He felt it was his mission to bring the heat to the feet of those "Big Business Sons of Bitches". 

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La Salle Hotel
Washington 6, DC
November 10th, 1949

Donovan Richardson, Esq. 
Editor, Christian Science Monitor
1 Norway Street, Boston, 15, Mass

My Dear Donovan Richardson:

I am impelled, by the almost unanimous attitudes of the press, in their condemnation of John L. Lewis, to inquire into the situation a bit. 

I can understand and in a measure sympathize with the reporters and editors of newspapers whose news and editorials must temper their reporting and comment, with one eye and or ear on the income from advertising. But in the case of the Monitor, this is not deterrent to free reporting and honest comment. 

Throughout the recent battle between Mr. Lewis and the coal mine owners, Mr. Lewis appears to be the sole and only villain, who is starving his miners, boosting the price of Coal, so that General Motors cannot pay its top brass hundreds of thousands in salaries and bonuses, and fill the news columns full of boast and bombast, that they have just declared the greatest dividend to stockholders in their history. 

Did you ever stop to realize that the $26,000,000,000 (26 billion) in Kentucky is really stored labor? Labor which the labored DIDN'T get paid for? Did you ever stop to realize that coal in the ground is stored sunlight?  And that without labor, IT COULD NOT BE UTILIZED again? 

Did you ever work underground in a mine 11 1/2 hours per day, portal to portal, for $2.50 per day, less board and lodging, and come off shift so tired that you had to bomb your guts with 3 cups of black coffee before you could coax them into excepting what passed for food?

I worked under those conditions, in the mine that the Miners Union blew up in Idaho two years before I went there (The Dynamite Express, Bunker Hill Mine, Coeur d'Alene Mining District, April 29, 1899). It was the Big Bill Haywoods and Gompers and Greens and John L Lewises, that corrected those "Free enterprise" abuses. Today, that same mine is building homes for its men, offering them every inducement to bring their families and get a minimum of $10 per day for eight hours portal to portal. They are no longer animals to be worked to death and thrown over the dump, but reclaimed, self respecting Americans, supporting and fighting for their birthright. 

It was the Big Bill Haywoods, Gompers, Greens and John L Lewises, that brought that about. I wonder if you ever thought of making a trip to the coal fields and seeing just what the conditions are in those spots. Have you ever seriously tried to look at this problem through the eyes of the men who spend their sunlight hours in the damp dark? These are what we are trying to build a democracy with. A Christian democracy.

You know, Lincoln and Douglas met and debated the issues. Dulles asked Lehman to do the same thing but he ducked issue. I wonder if the Monitor would start a debate column using the present reporters, and news sources, and give me the free use of the other side of the debate? I can assure you that I could paint a very different picture than the one that is being vended as honest news.

Just so you won't think that I am trying to help the John L Lewis HOLD WHAT HE HAS HIJACKED out of poverty stricken "free enterprise", I will add that I think that he should stick to the battlefield until he has doubled the take his men are now getting, and then he would still be on the short end of the ledger. 

Have you ever studied how the farmers have and are licking the "Free Enterprise Profit System" through their co-operatives. That according to the 1936 (not 1946) U.S. Government reports, refunded over $40,000,000 in profits to their members? 

Do you know, that at a recent meeting of the Coal, Oil, Miners Union, that the free enterprise boys had the BIG JITTERS for fear that John L. Lewis was going to announce that the UMW was going into co-operative COAL? 

Do you know that the Farmer's Co-ops have licked the fertilizer trust, and have the big oil tycoons on the run with their Co-op ownership of over 100,000 BBLS daily capacity oil refineries, marketing facilities, and producing oil wells? 

Have you ever read Kipling's "Sons of Martha"? I commend it to your reading very soon.

I know what you face, I fully sympathize with your inhibitions in getting a clear, unbiased slant at the factual picture when so much is arrayed against you. Hence this loving, pointed, thoroughly brotherly unadorned screed. 

Via con Dios and Good Hunting 
Sincerely, 
John Sherman Bagg   


Here is the he response received from Donovan Richardson