Henry Demarest Lloyd Papers, 1840-1937


Henry Demarest Lloyd--journalist, lecturer, writer, and reformer--offered a program of economic and social reform to America's Gilded Age. A forerunner of the Progressives, he may also be called one of the first of the muckrakers for his exposure of injustices and abuses in American society, but unlike the later writers so labeled he did not write for a mass audience. He complemented his critiques with proposed solutions based on his ethical philosophy of social welfare and his faith in the inherent goodness of a liberal, democratic society. During his lifetime, recognition came to him nationally and internationally as one of the great champions of social and economic justice.

Lloyd was born on May 1, 1847, in New York City, the eldest son of Aaron and Maria Christie Demarest Lloyd. Although he eventually rejected the rigid Calvinism of his grandparents and of his father, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, he did retain their beliefs in an ethical code of conduct, the value of education, and the right of independent thought.

The Lloyd family moved to Pekin, Illinois, in 1857, where Aaron Lloyd served as minister until 1860. The Lloyds were in Pekin during the time of the Lincoln-Douglas senatorial campaign. It was there that young Henry probably first became aware of the midwestern farmers' complaints about the oppressive practices of banks and railroads and the greed of national financiers.

Following the Lloyd family's return to New York City, Henry enrolled at Columbia College, where he was a student from 1863 to 1867. He became a leader of his class and noted for his literary abilities. During his college years he exhibited increasing interest in the need to combat social and economic oppression, special privileges, and monopoly. After graduation, he continued his studies at Columbia Law School and was admitted to the New York bar in 1869.

The practice of law, however, did not interest him as a career. Rather, Lloyd decided to express his interest in the mercantile world and in social and economic reform by joining the staff of the American Free-Trade League as a lecturer and recruiter. The summer of 1869 saw him working in New York state and northern Ohio to popularize the League's program of tariff reform and opposition to monopoly. Soon Lloyd was promoted as assistant secretary to Mahlon Sands, executive secretary of the League. While serving in this position, he submitted to the New York Evening Post a series of anonymous letters using the nom-de-plume “No Monopoly.” These letters contained such excellent statements of the League's positions that Sands appointed Lloyd editor of the League's organ, The Free Trader, thus beginning Lloyd's career as a journalist.

In 1872, the Free-Trade League joined the Missouri Liberal Republicans, the New England Revenue Reform League, and other groups in forming the Tax-Payers' Union. Lloyd was selected editor of the Union's monthly People's Pictorial Tax Payer. This monthly campaigned against tariff-fostered monopoly, the spoils system, lobbying, and special-interests legislation. It offered a positive program of civil-service reform, sound currency, free trade, and proportional representation.

As early as 1871, when he joined the Young Men's Municipal Reform Association, Lloyd had taken part in the opposition to New York's Tammany Hall. The following year he also led the unsuccessful fight to prevent the admission of Horace Greeley to the Liberal Republican movement. Disenchanted by Greeley's presidential campaign, Lloyd welcomed the opportunity to leave New York and become a member of the editorial staff of the Chicago Tribune in midsummer, 1872.

For nearly thirteen years Lloyd served the Tribune in such capacities as night city editor, literary editor, scientific editor, and financial editor. Sometimes his editorial opinions clashed with those of his chief editor, Horace White (1872-1876) and later Horace Medill (1876-1885). His witty piercing editorials on behalf of reforms in business and government attracted national attention; they were instrumental in making the Tribune the leading American anti-monopolist newspaper and a pioneer in liberal policies. His editorials most often attacked the “great monopolies” in business, but they also covered such diverse topics as pure food legislation, forest conservation, regulation of railroads, tariff reform, Negro landed proprietorship, preventive medicine, and changes in immigration procedures. During his years with the Tribune, Lloyd also published essays in the Atlantic Monthly and the North American Review.

Lloyd's marriage to Jessie Bross, on Christmas Day, 1873, brought him into the mainstream of Chicago society. His father-in-law William Bross was the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and a former lieutenant-governor of Illinois. Lloyd refused to let his new social prominence compromise his cherished independence of thought. On one occasion William Bross punished him for this independence by withholding the financial resources Lloyd needed to head his own newspaper. (The ownership of his own newspaper was an ambition Lloyd nurtured into the 1890's but could never fulfill.)

Ill and exhausted by nervous tension, Lloyd left the Tribune in March, 1885. Accompanied by his wife, that summer he made his first trip to Europe, where meeting British socialists and literary men refreshed him. Upon his return to Illinois, Lloyd became assured of an independent income through his opportunity to purchase ten shares of Tribune stock and through William Bross' generous gift of land in Winnetka, a village near Chicago. These acquisitions freed him of the obligation of working as a journalist for a living. For the remainder of his life, he was able to travel and to freelance as a writer and lecturer, while continuing to study and to oppose social and economic injustices.

The first such injustices he attacked were the arrest, trial, and execution of the anarchists convicted of conspiracy in the Chicago Haymarket bombing of May, 1886. Lloyd had no sympathy for the tenets of anarchism or for the use of violence in labor or political disputes, but he felt that the court had been used as an instrument of oppression and class vengeance in the case of the anarchists. Defying public opinion, he pleaded for the mitigation of the anarchists' sentences, and was influential in securing commutations for two of them. In 1893 John P. Altgeld, Governor of Illinois and close friend of Lloyd, pardoned the surviving prisoners. Lloyd's defiance, in which he was aided by his wife, also resulted in his disinheritance by William Bross and in temporary social ostracism.

During his work for the anarchists Lloyd became aroused in 1889 by the plight of the coal miners of Spring Valley, Illinois. These miners and their families were unemployed and starving as a result of a company lockout in retaliation for the miners' unionization. After visits to Spring Valley and a personal knowledge of the misery there, Lloyd was spurred to organize a relief program and to write vividly of the injustice and suffering felt by the entire mining community of Spring Valley. This was the topic of many newspaper articles and his first book, A Strike of Millionaires Against Miners, published in two editions (1890 and 1891).

The book had a poor circulation as a result of the failure of the company that published the book, though enough copies did circulate in the United States and England to bring Lloyd into close association with the international labor movement and its leaders. In subsequent lectures to industrialists and union members, Lloyd promoted labor's right to organize and to work an eight-hour day. In addition, he worked with Chicago's striking carpenters in 1890, helped Milwaukee's street car workers to organize in 1893, and supported Eugene V. Debs in the 1896 Pullman strike.

The culmination of Lloyd's years of opposition to the great business monopolies was the publication of Wealth Against Commonwealth in 1896. The book was the product of years of gathering information from clippings, legislative proceedings, court records, and other sources to document the growth and abuses of the trust system. Lloyd believed that the Standard Oil Company best illustrated the corrupt methods and the deceitful practices by which the trusts duped the public. Consequently, his book most systematically focused on and attacked the Standard Oil Company's operations. In addition to being a documented exposure and denunciation of the trust system, Wealth Against Commonwealth made a plea for “the application of ethical and religious principles to the business administration of the industrial resources of our common humanity.”

Lloyd addressed Wealth Against Commonwealth to an audience of clergy, journalists, and other enlightened men and women--the intelligent elite of middle-class society. He hoped that his book would incite a public uprising in the United States and Great Britain to combat the abuses he had exposed. When no uprising occurred, his reaction was one of surprise and disappointment. However, his faith in liberal democracy was strong; he solaced himself with the thought that some day a dramatic event would arouse the public from its inertia and cause it to demand legislative safeguards for society's economic liberties.

Though Lloyd had abstained from active politics since 1872, the National People's Party attracted him in the 1890's. He joined a coalition of Illinois labor representatives in 1896 to endorse the party and consented to run as Populist candidate for Congress in Illinois' Seventh District. His refusal to campaign actively resulted in his anticipated defeat. By 1896 he withdrew from the movement, dissatisfied by the silver issue and by the fusion of Populists and Democrats in support of William Jennings Bryan as presidential candidate.

In later years Lloyd was attracted to the socialists, but he never joined the Socialist Party. Much can be learned of his fear of party affiliation and his attraction to the socialist program from his unfinished article “Why I Join the Socialists” (1903).

Lloyd never ceased to play an active role in local politics. In Winnetka he served as vice president of the Council, 1886-1886; village treasurer, 1887-1888; president of the Town Meeting, 1898; and member of the Board of Education for several terms. Through his vigorous leadership, the village adopted a progressive form of government which included such features as the initiative and referendum and municipally-owned public utilities.

In order to familiarize himself with constructive experiments in social and economic reform in other parts of the world, Lloyd traveled widely in the years 1897 to 1902. In Great Britain and Ireland he observed co-operatives and was especially impressed by projects involving labor copartnership. In Australia and New Zealand he saw firsthand the salutary effects of minimum wage laws, compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes, government regulation of land, and government ownership of railroads. In Europe in 1902, he particularly studied the Swiss democratic process in operation, paying close attention to the initiative and the referendum. His critical observations and discussion of his experiences abroad provided material for his books Labor Copartnership (1898), A Country Without Strikes (1900), Newest England (1900), and the posthumous volume A Sovereign People, edited by John A. Hobson (1907).

Lloyd also observed similar American experiments. He visited the Shakers at Mount Lebanon, New York, in 1896; corresponded with members of the Colorado Co-operative Company and other communal ventures; and laid the cornerstone of the Ruskin College of the New Economy in the co-operative colony of Ruskin, Tennessee, in 1896.

The victims of attacks on academic freedom in American education also found a champion in Lloyd. The most notable were Edward Bemis and George D. Herron. In support of their cause, Lloyd freely contributed his articles, addresses, and financial help. The textbook monopolists represented another threat to education, because they often radically altered or edited the information offered to schoolchildren. Lloyd contributed his talents to the exposure of this monopoly.

The problems of the American Negro--of disenfranchisement and of the need for better education--also attracted his attention, but Lloyd never formulated his opinions on these subjects for use in his public lectures or writings. These opinions can only be surmised from his correspondence and his acts of private philanthropy and hospitality.

The last two years of Lloyd's life were dominated by two issues: the anthracite coal strike of 1902 and the campaign for municipal ownership of the Chicago street railways in 1903. During the coal strike he vigorously opposed the policies of the mine operators and led a relief program for the miners and their families. In the arbitration proceedings, in which President Theodore Roosevelt played a key role, Lloyd joined Clarence Darrow and the mineworkers' leader, John Mitchell, in successfully presenting the miners' case.

Although exhausted by his labors in the strike and the arbitration proceedings, Lloyd immediately assumed a leading position in the movement to secure municipal ownership of the Chicago street railways, a movement precipitated by the question of renewing private franchises. Despite the weakened state of his health and the advent of a severe cold, Lloyd continued to participate in meetings which he considered crucial to the outcome of the struggle. In mid-campaign his cold developed into pneumonia, from which he died on September 28, 1903. His wife, Jessie Bross Lloyd, posthumously published The Chicago Traction Question, a pamphlet which Lloyd had drafted. Lloyd's last effort was in vain; in the final popular vote municipal ownership was defeated by a narrow margin.

Throughout his life Henry Demarest Lloyd and his wife had exhibited social charm and a genuine interest in people of whatever education or occupation. The Lloyd homes in Winnetka, Boston, and near Little Compton, Rhode Island, were always open to an international circle of friends and reformers. House guests frequently included slum residents, socialites, clergymen, Negro poets and educators, and union members. Also invited were social workers, economists, sociologists, Socialists, English Fabian and ethical leaders, and friends of the four Lloyd sons. This hospitality on the part of Henry and Jessie contributed greatly to Lloyd's popularity and reputation as one of the great reform leaders from the 1880's.