Link to Ferris Homepage
Print this window
The Copper Strike. (Lecture. 1914.)

In all the sixty-one years of my life I was never so paralyzed as when I received that first message from Sheriff Cruse asking for the state troops to quell disorders occasioned by the copper workers' strike. I never dreamed but that all was peaceful and secure throughout Michigan. When I received similar messages, not a few but many, from others, all persons I could rely upon, men who had attended my school and whom I knew personally, adding their plea to that of the sheriff, I knew that the time for action had come.

When the sheriff telegraphed the second time for troops to help the civil authorities in compelling order, I called up adjutant General Vandercook and told him to send the whole twenty eight hundred Michigan National Guardsmen to the Copper country for the protection of the lives of men, women and children and the safeguarding of the property of all. If I had sent only five hundred there are none here now who could have foretold what might have happened. My action then must be compared with the calling of a doctor to wait upon an ill person before it is too late to save life.

I hope some day General Abbey's letters may be published. The troops were continually commanded to 'bear and forebear,' not to shout unless absolutely necessary in the defense of life. How well were those pleas, those orders, obeyed? Not a single person, during all the time the state troops were here, lost his or her life through action of the state guardsmen. Furthermore not a single guardsmen of all the twenty-eight hundred lost his life through the action of any person of the copper country, showing respect and forbearance on the side of both.

The guardsmen were sent to the Copper country not to take sides but to protect the lives and property of all and they did that.

In this trial through which you have passed you have not solved the great problem of capital and labor but the day is coming when that problem will be solved. Capital cannot afford to organize on the basis that labor is its enemy. Labor cannot afford to organize on the basis that capital is its enemy.

Source: Newton, Roy, editor. Life and Works of Woodbridge N. Ferris. (Big Rapids, Michigan: n.p., 1960), 241-242.