This Day in History

Jan. 29, 1834: Federal Troops Suppress Labor Protest

Time Periods: Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849
Themes: Labor, Organizing

The fifth column from the left indicates the number dead since the prior report. Source: Assistant Engineer, John A Byers, July 27, 1833, enumerating workers and equipment from USGenWebArchives. Click for more info.

Recruitment signs posted in Ireland by the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal companies promised: “Meat! Three times a day! Plenty of bread! and fresh vegetables with generous portions of liquor and good wages!”

The advertisements turned out to be false and the immigrants barely survived the brutal and dangerous work. One letter home in 1860 said: “The rarest sight in America, is that of a grey haired Irishman.”

As a result, workers organized to protest the dangerous working conditions and low pay.  On Jan. 29, 1834, Andrew Jackson used federal troops to suppress organizing; setting a dangerous precedent for future labor-management relations.

When labor uprisings increased toward and into the turn of the century, business leaders were confident in the knowledge that they could turn to local, state, or federal government leaders to defend them against organized labor. (Adapted from Learn more about this event from Andrew Jackson and the C & O Canal by Joshua Rothman at We’re History.

Below is a photo of another time that armed forces were called in to protect the interests of company owners against the workers, this time in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912.