The New International Encyclopædia/Kearney, Denis

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KEARNEY, Denis (1847—). An American labor agitator, the leader of the movement known as Kearneyism in California. He was born in Oakmont, Ireland; went to sea as a cabin-boy at the age of eleven, and in 1872 settled in San Francisco, Cal., where he obtained employment as foreman of a gang of stevedores, and soon afterwards went into the draying business on his own account. In 1877 he began to incite the laboring men of San Francisco against the wealthier classes, and soon gained almost complete ascendency over the mass of them. Great meetings were held on the ‘Sand Lots’ near the city, where Kearney ruled supreme, soon attracting general attention by his savage attacks upon capital, Chinese labor, and various alleged grievances. His influence rapidly increased, until his adherents were strong enough to pack a constitutional convention and force the adoption of a new State constitution, which was largely in their own interest, and was most detrimental to capital and vested interests generally. In the summer of 1878 Kearney visited the Eastern States, and delivered incendiary and intemperate speeches in the larger cities. He did not succeed in winning many new adherents, however, and returned to California, where his old following gradually drew away from him, and he himself soon relapsed into insignificance. Consult the chapter “Kearneyism in California,” in Bryce's American Commonwealth (last ed., New York, 1895).