It was in 1886 that Martin Irons, as chairman of the executive board of the Knights of Labor of the Gould southwest railway system, defied capitalist tyranny, and from that hour he was doomed. All the powers of capitalism combined to crush him, and when at last he succumbed to overwhelming odds, he was hounded from place to place until he was ragged and foot-sore and the pangs of hunger gnawed at his vitals.
For fourteen long years he fought single-handed the battle against persecution. He tramped far, and among strangers, under an assumed name, sought to earn enough to get bread. But he was tracked like a beast and driven from shelter. For this "poor wanderer of a stormy day" there was no pity. He had stood between his class and their oppressors--he was brave, and would not flinch: he was honest, and he would not sell; this was his crime, and he must die.
Martin Irons came to this country from Scotland a child. He was friendless, penniless, alone. At an early age he became a machinist. For years he worked at his trade. He had a clear head and a warm heart. He saw and felt the injustice suffered by his class. Three reductions in wages in rapid succession fired his blood. He resolved to resist. He appealed to his fellow-workers. When the great strike came. Martin Irons was its central figure. The men felt they could trust him. They were not mistaken.
When at the darkest hour Jay Gould sent word to Martin Irons that he wished to see him, the answer came, "I am in Kansas City." Gould did not have gold enough to buy Irons. This was the greatest crime of labor's honest leader. The press united in fiercest denunciation. Every lie that malignity could conceive was circulated. In the popular mind Martins Irons was the blackest-hearted villain that ever went unhung. Pinkerton blood-hounds tracked him night and day.
But through it all this loyal, fearless, high-minded workingman stood steadfast. The courts and soldiers responded to the command of their masters, the railroads; the strike was crushed and the workingmen were beaten. Martin Irons had served, suffered for and honored his class. But he had lost. His class now turned against him and joined in the execration of the enemy. This pained him more than all else. But he bore even this without a murmur, and if ever a despairing sigh was wrung from him it was when he was____________________