Chad E. PearsonMay 2, 2023
Klansmen, Lawmen, and Employers in the Long Nineteenth Century
University of North Carolina Press 2022
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, employers, government officials, journalists, and powerful individuals deployed a variety of violent tactics to control ordinary people and workers who sought to secure power in and out of workplaces. In the face of worker resistance, employers and their allies collaborated to use a variety of extralegal repressive techniques, including whippings, kidnappings, drive-out campaigns, incarcerations, arsons, hangings, and shootings, as well as less overtly illegal tactics such as shutting down meetings, barring speakers from lecturing through blacklists, and book burning.
Drawing together the various groups who engaged in this violence, Chad E. Pearson's book Capital's Terrorists: Klansmen, Lawmen, and Employers in the Long Nineteenth Century (UNC Press, 2022) shows how the original Ku Klux Klan, various Law and Order Leagues, Stockgrowers' organizations, and Citizens' Alliances engaged in violence and were driven by unambiguous economic and managerial interests. While often discussed separately, all of these groups employed similar language to smear ordinary people, including former slaves, populists, political radicals, and striking workers, as menacing an violent villains who threatened polite society - justifying their actions by insisting that they were upholding "law and order." This book thus suggests that law and order politics emerged in the campaigns of organized terror against an assortment of ordinary people across racial lines conducted by Klansmen, lawmen, vigilantes, and union busters during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Douglas Bell is a writer, teacher, and historian who lives in the Netherlands. His research interests center on American military history, American foreign policy, German history, and European Studies. Tweet him @douglasibell.