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The Clarence Darrow Letters

John Mitchell to Clarence Darrow, May 5, 1905

Mitchell is referring to Clarence Darrow's work on behalf of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW) in the aftermath of the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902. In May of 1902 one of the most important labor strikes in the history of the United States began when nearly 150,000 members of the UMW went on strike in the Anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania. The strike led to shortages of coal as well as much higher prices and the situation became very serious when winter approached. President Theodore Roosevelt became very concerned and tried to get both sides to negotiate. Eventually both sides agreed to let President Roosevelt choose an arbitration commission and to be bound by the commission's findings. This led to the UMW ending the strike on October 23, 1902 after 163 days. John Mitchell asked Darrow to represent the union and Darrow became the lead union attorney before the commission.

Click on the image to view as a PDF. A transcription of the letter is on the right.

Office Of President,
United Mine Workers of America
Second Vice President American Federation of Labor.
John Mitchell
Room 1111 State Life Building

Indianapolis, Ind., May 5, 1905.

Mr. C. S. Darrow,

Ashland Block,

Chicago, Ill.

My dear Mr. Darrow:

While in Chicago a few days ago, I heard that you were being criticized by some labor men, one statement made being that your interest in organized labor was a purely selfish one. In justification of this allegation it was said that you had charged our organization ten thousand dollars for services rendered as chief counsel before the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission.

I feel it my duty to write you saying that these criticisms did not emanate from members of our organization. We were entirely satisfied with the services you rendered and the fee paid you was not commensurate with the work performed. As a matter of fact, each of the coal companies employed several lawyers and I understand that none of them received less than twenty-five thousand dollars as compensation.

I understand that it is customary for lawyers to charge in proportion to the result secured. Now, the miners of the anthracite districts have gained about six or seven million dollars a year in wages, as well as

C.S.D. -2-

other improvements in the condition of their employment. Of course it would not be fair to say that all this gain was due to the presentation of their case before the Commission, but I have always felt that the best possible presentation was made and that your argument at the close of the hearing contributed in no small degree to the advantages gained by our people. It gives me pleasure to offer this voluntary statement of our feeling, in order that you may know that we have neither sympathy for nor participation in the unjust criticisms that have been made by a few persons that are undoubtedly inspired by malice.

I am,

Yours truly,

John Mitchell

President U.M.W.of A.

After five days return to

John Mitchell
Room 1106 State Life Building,
Indianapolis, Indiana

Mr. C. S. Darrow,

Ashland Block,