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Are Sleeping Cars Protected by the Constitution? Mr. Dooley on the Pullman Strike

In 1893 the newspaperman Peter Finley Dunne began publishing a regular series in the Chicago Evening Post featuring dialogues between an Irish bartender named Martin Dooley, and his Irish friend and customer, Henessey. The local column quickly achieved national renown and syndication in newspapers across the country. Dunne’s dialogues drew upon prevalent ethnic stereotypes that were a staple of late nineteenth-century American humor. Dooley regularly commented on both local and national events. Thus, it was not surprising that he would have something to say about the dramatic strike by the American Railway Union against Chicago’s Pullman Palace Car Company that had shut down rail lines across the United States in 1894. In the July 7, 1894, column included here (read by an actress), Dunne poked fun at George Pullman’s claims that the strike was a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

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“Th‘ counthry,” said Mr. Dooley, "do be goin’ to wrack an‘ roon. I have nayether limons n’r ice in th’ house. Th‘ laws is defied an’ th‘ constitootion is vilated. Th’ rights iv citizens is thrampled upon an‘ ye can get nayether ice n’r limons f’r love ’r money. Ordher out th‘ sojers, says I, an’ tache th‘ miscreents what th’ 'ell. For why did George Wash’n‘ton an’ Andhrew Jackson and Jeremiah Houlihan fight an‘ die if a band iv thraitors can come along an’ wrinch from an American citizen his limons an' his ice! Am I right! Am I right, Jawn! Am I right! Am I right! I am.

"This ain’t no sthrike. A sthrike is where th‘ la-ads lave off wurruk an’ bate Germans an‘ thin go back to wurruk f’r rajooced wages an’ thank hivin f’r it. This here is a rivolution again constitooted authority. I seen it in th‘ pa-aper an’ by gar it must be thrue. I niver r-read th‘ constitootion an I niver seen anny wan that r-read it, but it must be all right, for an’ because ‘twas made wan hundherd years ago or more be min that is now dead an’ in their graves. God rest their sowls, especially Jawn Caroll iv Carrollton, that was a grandfaather iv Carroll, th‘ stove docther. He was, he was. Carroll said so. Could thim pathriots do wrong? Did they know what was best f’r us afther fightin’ f’r our liberties? I should smoke a ham.

"Th‘ constitootion, Jawn, provides f’r Pullman. I don’t know th’ ma-an, but I wint in wan iv his ca-ars to th‘ convintion at Peeory with th’ lith’ry club, an‘ I must say th’ convayniences is nice. All ye have to do is lave ye’er shoes on th‘ flure an’ ye git some wan’s else’s in th‘ mor-rnin’. Thin ye crawl into th‘ side iv th’ ca-ar an‘ whin ye’er removin’ ye’er pa-ants a dhrunk man fr’m th‘ eighth wa-ard comes an’ climbs on ye’er back f’r to get into th‘ hole above ye. ’Tis nice an‘ quite, an’ th‘ smill iv it is not ba-ad. Ye have some excitement findin’ ye’er shirt in th‘ mornin’, but 'tis all a matther iv sport.

"This here Pullman makes th‘ sleepin’ ca-ars an‘ th’ constitution looks afther Pullman. He have a good time iv it. He don’t need to look afther himsilf. He have limons an‘ ice to give to his neighbors if he wanted to. He owns towns an’ min. He makes princes iv th‘ rile blood iv Boolgahria go round to th’ kitchen dure. He is stiffer than wan iv his own towels. Whin he has throuble ivry wan on earth excipt thim that rides in smokin‘ ca-ars whin they rides at all r-runs to fight f’r him. He calls out George Wash’n’ton an‘ Abraham Lincoln an’ Gin’ral Miles an‘ Mike Brinnan an’ ivry human bein‘ that rayquires limons an’ ice an‘ thin he puts on his hat an’ lams away. ‘Gintlemin,’ says he, ‘I must be off,’ he says. ‘Go an’ kill each other,‘ he says. ’Fight it out,‘ he says. ’Defind th‘ constitution,’ he says. ‘Me own is not of th’ best,‘ he says, ’an‘ I think I’ll help it be spindin’ th‘ summer,’ he says, ‘piously,’ he says, ‘on th’ shores iv th‘ Atlantic ocean.’

“That’s Pullman. He slips out as aisely as a ba-ar iv his own soap. An‘ th’ whole wurruld turns in an‘ shoots an’ stabs an‘ throws couplin’ pins an‘ sojers ma-arch out an’ Gin’ral Miles looks up th' sthreet f’r some wan to show that he can kill min too. Ye take Abraham Lincoln, but give me Pullman.”

Mr. Dooley paused for a while after this deliverance. Then he said: “Jawn, are ye goin' home?”

“Yes,” said Mr. McKenna.

“Then dhrop off at Willum Joyce’s,” said Mr. Dooley, "an‘ get th’ constitootion an‘ (whisper) look at th’ siction about sleepin‘ ca-ars an’ see if it don’t say something about limons an' ice too."

Source: Chicago Evening Post, 7 July 1894. Reprinted in Barbara C. Schaaf, ed., Mr. Dooley’s Chicago (Anchor Press/Doubleday, New York: 1977), 341–343.

See Also:"For the Further Benefit of Our People": George Pullman Answers His Strikers
Father Knows Best?: Strikers Denounce Pullman