our family gathered for a Thanksgiving feast in the 1940s or 1950s,
one of the elders would pronounce it "enough for Coxey's army," except
to my immature and ignorant ear, I thought they said "Cox's army."
Either way, they referred to a not-so-current event from their youth—1894—that
must have left a lasting impression. Here's what happened.
The United States suffered one of the periodic downturns evidently
a characteristic of our capitalism system. Our nation had been doing
that every 20 years or so, usually with increased severity because
more people had moved to the city and surrendered subsistent agriculture
as a survival device. This one coincided with a national debate over
maintaining a monetary system based exclusively on gold, expanding
it to include the "free coinage of silver," or even printing paper
Jacob Sechler Coxey of Massillon, Ohio, wanted the government to issue
$500 million in paper currency and spend it on public works—roads,
municipal buildings, etc. Such an infusion of "new" money would put
the out-of-work on a payroll and simultaneously demonstrate the utility
of a monetary system not exclusively golden.
Naturally, men out of work everywhere thought this a splendid idea
and willingly joined Coxey's call for an "army" of them to march on
Washington to convince national legislators to get off their reluctance
to adopt Coxey's plan. This occurred long before everyone marched
Austin—over anything, and
the prospect did, at first, frighten the faint of heart.
The part of Coxey's Army that might have benefited from our heavily
laden table started out from Los
Angeles, first marching and then illegally occupying freight trains,
until they reached Sierra
Blanca, near El
Paso, near Easter in March 1894.
Governor James Stephen Hogg resisted those who urged him to ask
for assistance from US Army forces in Fort Bliss but did offer additional
police assistance if needed to the City of El
Paso. Coxey's army remained pacific while there, waiting for a
train, so to speak. They finally caught a freight train, but Southern
Pacific officials stopped it 70 miles east of El
Paso, where it remained for three days. Ranchers contributed a
few cows and sympathetic Mexican families provided water, but the
men remained essentially without sustenance until the citizens of
El Paso chartered
a train to take them on east.
Coxey's Army's special train traveled to San
Antonio, Austin, and
eventually made stops in Palestine
and Longview before
taking the men on eastward toward Washington.
Meantime, Jacob Coxey led his on portion of his "army" to Washington,
where he was arrested for walking on the grass outside the Capitol—where
I, one day, played touch football during a break while attending a
humanities meeting in the capital city.
Coxey was not without some influence, though—many people credit him
with introducing the basic concept of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New
by Archie P. McDonald - Order Here
Source Accounts of the Civil War