Lattimer in International News

The Lattimer massacre was not (and arguably is not) just a regional or national issue.  Aside from the strike and shooting reaching all corners of the U.S. (newspapers carried the story in Utah, New Mexico, Louisiana, New York, the Dakotas, Texas, etc.), sentiment was stirred up in Europe as well.

Austria-Hungary in 1911, from U Texas Libraries

The strikers were nearly all from Southern and Eastern Europe.  Those who died were largely from what was then Austria-Hungary (see map, left).  Only one of the victims had applied for citizenship by the strike (Michael Cheslock); none were yet U.S. citizens.  As such, the Austro-Hungarian Empire took issue with the killing of its citizens, and demanded indemnity from the U.S.  Quite a bit of fear revolved around what would happen with international relations.

Following are a few newspaper accounts of Austria-Hungary’s demands, and reactions thereto:

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Source: The Enquirer-Sun, Columbus, GA. 16 September 1897, p.6:

Vienna’s View of Our Riots :Austria Will Demand Indemnity From Us for the Rioters Who Were Killed

London, Sept. 13 — A dispatch to the Daily Telegraph from Vienna says that much excitement has been caused there by the news of the shooting by deputy sheriffs at Lattimer, Pa., of a number of Austrian and Hungarian subjects.  Consular reports of the affair that have been received characterize the conduct of the deputies as unjust and unneccessary.  The foreign office will demand strict compensation from the United States.”

Source: The Sioux City Journal, Sioux City, Iowa. 14 October, 1897, p. 1

PROTEST BY AUSTRIA: Claims Rights of Her Subjects Were Violated in the Lattimer Affair

Harrisburg, Pa., Oct. 13 — Gov.  Hastings has received a letter from Secretary Sherman, stating that the Austrian minister at Washington has filed a communication with the department of state, claiming that there was a violation of the rights of Austrian subjects in the firing on the mob at Lattimer, Pa., when a score of miners were killed.  Secretary Sherman requests the facts and status of affairs in relation to these cases.  Gov. Hastings has referred the communication to Sheriff Martin and Gen. Gobin, with the request that they enlighten Secretary Sherman as early as possible.” (this article was also carried by the Wilkes-Barre Times (Wilkes-Barre, PA) as “The Lattimer Shooting” and The Sun (Baltimore, MD) as “The Shooting at Lattimer”)

Source: The Wilkes-Barre Times, Wilkes-Barre, PA.  21 October, 1897

THE LATTIMER SHOOTING: Sheriff Martin’s Story of the Affair Prepared for Gov. Hastings (by Associated Press)

Harrisburg Oct 21 — Sheriff Martin of Luzerne county was in Harrisburg yesterday with his attorney Geo. S. Ferris, to confer with Governor Hastings, who was unavoidably absent.  The executive wrote to the sheriff recently asking for a statement of the shooting at Lattimer to be used by Secretary of State Sherman in making reply to the Austrian government, which has instructed the minister at Washington to get all the details of the affair.  The sheriff has prepared a statement giving his side of the story which will be submitted to the governor in confidence on his return from Philadelphia.  The statement in brief recites that the sheriff and his deputies were in the discharge of their duty as public officials when the shooting occurred.”

Source: The World-Herald, Omaha, NE. 20 March, 1899

NO QUARREL WITH AMERICA: Austria Will Have No Trouble With Us Over Lattimer Affair

London, March 19 — The Vienna correspondent of the Standard referring to the recent editorial allusions by the Politiasche Correspondez, to the Hazelton shooting and its announcement that the Austrian foreign minister intends to press the ‘just claims advanced in half of Austrian subjects,’ says, ‘I have reason to believe that the Austrian government has not the slightest intention to seek a quarrel with the United States.  The press however, is constantly accusing the government of neglecting its duty in the Hazleton affair, and the government will not let the matter drop until Count Goluchowski (the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister), gets an opportunity to explain to the delegations that the standpoint of the American government indicated by the latter note of February 4 is legally and morally incontrovertible, though the sheriff of Lattimer might have waited longer before giving the order to fire on the excited strikers.” (also carried by The Butte Weekly Miner (Butte, MT) as “The Hazleton Shooting”)

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA. 12 August, 1899, p. 8

There Was nothing to Arbitrate

The refusal of the United States Government to accede to the request of Austria-Hungary to submit to the arbitration of a claim for the payment of an indemnity on account of the killing of Hungarians in the memorable Lattimer riot is entirely justifiable, and it is indeed surprising tha the request should have been made.  The killing in question was the subject of judicial proceedings, the result of which was to vindicate its legality.

It will be recalled that the rioting occurred in connection with a strike of coal-miners.  In the course of that strike, and as a means of intimidating the employers, a number of men, among whom were the Hungarians on account of whose death the claims were made, had assembled and had begun to act in a threatening and disorderly manner.  Called upon by the Sheriff of the county to disperse, they refused to do so and they suffered as a consequence of their refusal.  The verdict of a jury confirmed the rightfulness of the Sheriff’s action and there is not the slightest basis upon which to found a claim against the United States.

There is no parallel between this case and that of the Italians who were taken from a New Orleans jail and lynched, and for whom this country did pay a compensation.  The Lattimer rioters had no one to blame but themselves, and as the facts are undisputed and undisputable, there is absolutely nothing to arbitrate.  The Austro-Hungarian Government could hardly have been serious in its request.”

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So – what do you think?  Did the Austro-Hungarian Government have a case?  The “facts” of the case are certainly disputable, although the Sheriff was acquitted.  Should the government have received payment?  Victims’ families?  Anyone?

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About LM Project
The LMP is a collaborative endeavor which aims to recognize the events surrounding the Lattimer Massacre, an incident that changed the labor movement and impacted the world by bringing to light economic disparities and ethnic tensions in the anthracite region of PA.

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