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Denis Kearney

Denis Kearney

Denis Kearney (1847-1907), Irish-born American labor agitator, became the leader of unemployed workingmen of San Francisco during the 1870s.

Denis Kearney was born in County Cork on Feb. 1, 1847. He went to sea as a cabin boy at the age of 11 and rose to the rank of first mate by 1868, when he first arrived in San Francisco. For 4 years Kearney served as an officer on a coastal steamer but left his job after he was accused of deserting the ship in danger. He married in 1870 and in 1872 settled in San Francisco, where he purchased a hauling business. By 1877, when he emerged as a representative of the Draymen and Teamsters' Union, Kearney owned three wagons. He studied public speaking and frequented newspaper offices, where he exchanged views on current affairs and social philosophy.

Although he had no coherent ideology, Kearney seemed to attribute the distress of the working class to their shiftlessness; and on one occasion, at least, he stated that white workers should emulate the thrift and industry of the many Chinese on the West Coast. In 1877 he was elected secretary of the Workingmen's Trade and Labor Union of San Francisco.

However, in September 1877 Kearney called for the organization of an independent workingmen's party and initiated a series of meetings on a vacant lot adjoining City Hall. These "sandlot meetings," usually held on Sundays, were Kearney's focus of activity for 3 years. The crowds grew to over 2,000, and Kearney spoke eloquently on such themes as uniting all the poor and workingmen, land monopoly, and the "dangerous encroachments of capital." He warned especially that the presence of cheap Chinese labor robbed "Americans" of decent employment.

Kearney's platform manner was rude but effective, drawing on all the oratorical tricks of the day. His inflammatory speeches carefully stopped short of incitement to riot, but his followers frequently struck out at San Francisco's Chinese population. The Workingmen's party failed because of internal dissensions and the strong reaction against the party. Kearney was himself repudiated by the sandlotters when he supported the Greenback-Labor presidential candidate in 1880. Between 1880 and 1883 he spoke occasionally but could not command enthusiastic support. In 1883 he returned to private life, built up a profitable drayage business and employment agency, and invested successfully in stocks, real estate, and commodities. He died on April 24, 1907, a wealthy and even socially acceptable businessman.

Further Reading

There is no biography of Kearney or much information with which to work. Readers should consult these general works: James Bryce, American Commonwealth (3 vols., 1888; 2d rev. ed., 2 vols., 1896), which has the best account of Kearney; Lucile Eaves, A History of California Labor Legislation (1910); and Ira B. Cross, A History of the Labor Movement in California (1935). □

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Kearney, Denis

Denis Kearney (kär´nē), 1847–1907, American political agitator, b. Co. Cork, Ireland. He was a sailor and then a San Francisco drayman. When California suffered a depression in 1877, Kearney began addressing workers and the unemployed in vacant San Francisco sand lots. He denounced the Central Pacific RR monopoly, political and economic abuses, and particularly Chinese labor, ending many of his speeches with the words, "The Chinese must go." His inflammatory harangues attracted many followers, and after organizing the Workingmen's Party of California—often called the "Sand-Lotters" —he led in the 1870s in driving the Chinese from their factories, in burning their laundries, and in threatening violence to those who employed Asian workers. The party united with the Granger organization and sent a large number of delegates to the California constitutional convention of 1878, where their influence brought about many new laws. The state judicial system was reformed, a railroad commission was established, and home rule was set up in San Francisco. The Chinese were forbidden to hold property and to engage in specified occupations. The provisions denying the Chinese civil liberties were later voided by the courts. His anti-Chinese stance was influential in the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882). Kearney went East to popularize the Workingmen's party, but, gaining little success, he dropped back into obscurity after 1884.

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son

son / sən/ • n. a boy or man in relation to either or both of his parents. ∎  a male offspring of an animal. ∎  a male descendant: the sons of Adam. ∎  (the Son) (in Christian belief) the second person of the Trinity; Christ. ∎  a man considered in relation to his native country or area: one of Nevada's most famous sons. ∎  a man regarded as the product of a particular person, influence, or environment: sons of the French Revolution. ∎  (also my son) used by an elder person as a form of address for a boy or young man: “You're on private land, son.” PHRASES: son of a bitch (pl. sons of bitch·es ) used as a general term of contempt or abuse. son of a gun (pl. sons of guns) inf. a jocular or affectionate way of addressing or referring to someone: he's a pretentious son of a gun, but he's got a heart of gold. DERIVATIVES: son·ship / ˈsənˌship/ n.

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son

son horny-handed son of toil a labourer. The phrase was originally coined by the Conservative statesman Lord Salisbury in 1873. The expression was popularized in the US by Denis Kearney (1847–1907).
my son is my son till he gets him a wife, but my daughter's my daughter all the days of her life proverbial saying, late 17th century; meaning that while a man who establishes his own family relegates former blood ties to second place, a woman's filial role is not affected by her marriage.
son of a gun a jocular or affectionate way of addressing or referring to someone (with reference to the guns carried aboard ships: the epithet is said to have been applied originally to babies born at sea to women allowed to accompany their husbands).
Son of Heaven a title given to the Emperor of China, translating Chinese tiānzǐ.
Son of Man a title of Jesus Christ, as in Matthew 8:20.

See also like father, like son, sons.

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Sǒn

Sǒn (Korean). Chʾan/Zen in Korea. During the latter half of the Silla dynasty (668–935), the nine Sǒn traditions (‘Nine Mountains’), which comprise Sǒn Buddhism, were founded, seven of them being derived from the lineage of Matsu Tao-i (709–88) of the southern school of Chinese Chʾan. These nine traditions were integrated into the Chogye sect by Chinul (1158–1210), and it is this Chogye tradition that became dominant at the end of the 16th cent. and continues to this day to be the most influential Buddhist sect in Korea.

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son

son OE. sunu = OS., OHG. sunu (Du. zoon, G. sohn), ON, sunr, sonr, Goth. sunus :- Gmc. *sunuz, rel. more immed. to Balto-Sl. and Indo-Iran. forms (OSl. synū, Skr. sūnú-), and remotely to OIr. suth (:- *sutu) offspring, Gr. huiús, huiós (:- *sujus) son
.

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son

sonbegun, bun, done, Donne, dun, fine-spun, forerun, fun, gun, Gunn, hon, Hun, none, nun, one, one-to-one, outdone, outgun, outrun, pun, run, shun, son, spun, stun, sun, ton, tonne, tun, underdone, Verdun, won •honeybun • handgun • flashgun •air gun • sixgun • popgun • shotgun •blowgun, shogun •speargun • scattergun • homespun •endrun • sheep run • grandson •stepson • godson • kiloton • megaton •anyone • everyone • someone

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SON

SON Spear of the Nation (military arm of African National Congress)

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