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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Kearney, Denis

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KEARNEY, kär'nĭ, Denis, American labor agitator: b. Oakmont, County Cork, Ireland, 1847; d. Alameda, Cal., 24 April 1907. He went to sea from 1858 to 1872, and in 1872 settled in San Francisco, becoming foreman of stevedores and later going into the draying business. In 1877 he began an agitation among the workingmen, his attacks being directed mostly against the rights of capital and the importation of Chinese labor. Large mass-meetings were held in the so-called “Sand Lots” near the city, and the movement grew rapidly in power and importance, but dominated entirely by Kearney. Finally he was able to pack a convention which adopted a new State constitution in the interests of his movement, and very detrimental to capital and property interests. In 1878 he visited the Eastern States, speaking in the large cities, but failed to gain an important following; on his return to California he gradually lost his influence and his party sank into obscurity. Consult the chapter “Kearneyism in California,” in Bryce's ‘American Commonwealth’ (Vol. II, New York 1910).