Jerome Hart, publisher of the Argonaut, wrote of Kearney and the
anti-Chinese riots of the late 1870's:
On October 29, 1877, a sensational meeting was held on Nob Hill, as the highest point of
California Street hill is called. This magnificent view-point had been chosen by the
railroad magnates as a home site. There Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Mark
Hopkins, three of the builders, had erected large and luxurious residences. Another
handsome house was that of General D. D. Colton, a high railroad official; after his death
his house was purchased by C. P. Huntington, another one of the Big Four. Some time
after, A. N. Towne, another high official, built a house across the street from Colton's.
About sixty feet of the crest of Nob Hill had been cut off, and a plateau leveled for
buildings. There was much open ground, and Kearney determined to call a night meeting
on Nob Hill instead of at the Sand Lot. There, in the midst of the millionaires' palaces, he
advised his followers to defy the rich. Several thousand responded to his call. From an
improvised platform, with great bonfires blazing and lighting up the dark, the agitator
thundered forth his philippics against the rich. It was here that he threatened to "lynch
railroad magnates, thieving millionaires, and scoundrelly officials." He declared that
stenographers were among his hearers, surreptitiously taking notes preparatory to indicting
him. He defied the Grand Jury to indict him, and threatened that if he were jailed his
followers would "destroy all the rich hell-hounds in California." This Nob Hill
speech and his preceding utterances caused such disquiet that on November 3, 1877, at a
meeting in Kearny Street he was arrested and jailed by the police for incendiary language
and inciting to riot. At a meeting the following day, November 4, two other Workingmen's
agitators, H. L. Knight and J. G. Day, were also arrested and jailed.
The San Francisco supervisors met and passed an ordinance against incendiary speech,
entitled after its author "The Gibbs gag law." Kearney protested to the Mayor that he had
been incorrectly reported in the newspapers, and promised to mend his ways. Thereupon
the charge against him was dismissed, and he and the other two agitators, after a fortnight's
imprisonment, were freed.
Kearney's imprisonment had excited sympathy among the Workingmen, and on
Thanksgiving Day a procession in his honor marched through the city, terminating at the
Sand Lot, where speeches of the same threatening character were delivered; this parade
numbered some seven thousand.
IN: In Our Second Century : From an Editor's Note-book
San Francisco : The Pioneer press, 1931, pp. 52-63
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