American Radicals Some Problems and Personalities

By Harvey Goldberg | Go to book overview

7
John Peter Altgeld: Governor for the People

RUSSELL FRASER


I

IT WAS 1869 WHEN ALTGELD went West. In Chicago, which lay along his route, the palace cars of George M. Pullman were building, Marshall Field was engrossing his millions, men like Swift and Armour were making of their city hog butcher to the world. More flamboyant, if not so pregnant with success, was the agitation of anarchist and socialist, born of the failure of 1848 when radicals by thousands fled the Old World to seek freedom in the New. They found it the province of Cyrus McCormick, spelled out by the Tribune of Joseph Medill, girt round by a resurgent Know-Nothing Party which proclaimed, amid riots: "Put None But Americans On Guard."

John Peter Altgeld did not tarry in Chicago. His youth--he was just twenty-one--his consciousness of great expectations, were those of America itself, trekking westward, eager for a hazard of new fortunes, expressing, in a popular song, its faith that "Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a farm!" For intangibles like social justice

-127-

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