A Remembrance of James H. Barry
Louis F. Post
[Reprinted from Land and Freedom,
ONE of the very few remaining friends of Henry George to cross the
threshold of the year 1927 has passed over the line of earthly life.
His name was James Henry Barry. To the country at large and even in
his own city of San Francisco he was best known and most appreciated
as the owner and editor of The San Francisco Star.
Barry was born at New York in the year 1856, about the time that
Henry George was sailing the seas as "a common sailor." When
the Barry boy was about three years old his family moved to San
Francisco, where Henry George, then a young man of twenty, had already
settled down as a printer, the identical trade that Barry was him self
to learn, and of which he made a commercial business in 1879 the very
year in which Henry George first published Progress and Poverty.
At about this time, when George was somewhat more than forty and Barry
about twenty-five, the two progressive typesetters came into personal
Barry's Star was one of the first periodicals to advocate public
ownership and operation of public service franchises; also equal
rights for women, the initiative and referendum, and Henry George's
economic principles and policies. In its editorial policy the Star was
always frank and courageous.
That policy often brought Barry into uncomfortable situations. On one
occasion, after he had denounced a well-known local editor for
blackmailing schemes, two henchmen of the newspaper met him in the
street probably by design and one deliberately spat in his face, with
the intention undoubtedly of making Barry involuntarily reach for his
handkerchief a gesture which could be wilfully misconstrued as
reaching for a pistol, and be made an excuse for immediately shooting
him down. But Barry, with lightning grasp of the situation and
extraordinary self-control, walked calmly forward until beyond his
Such hostility took another turn in 1890 when Barry's exposure in the
Star of the corruption of a local judge subjected him to one-sided
contempt proceedings. Barry was commanded to apologize. He refused on
the ground that he could not conscientiously apologize for telling the
truth, whereupon he was sentenced to a five-days' term in jail. He
served the sentence, but on the night of his release the largest mass
meeting ever held in San Francisco, and attended by all classes of
people, demanded a radical amendment of the law regarding contempt of
court, a demand which resulted in the adoption of "the Barry law"
which deprives California judges of their old power to punish their
critics without a jury trial.
Among other services incidental to Barry's journalistic and business
activities was his leadership in introducing the eight-hour workday in
the printing trade along the Pacific Coast.
In politics Barry was a democratic Democrat. This was his reason for
supporting Bryan for the Presidency, and Wilson as Bryan's choice.
Under Wilson he served for eight years as Naval Officer at the Port of
San Francisco, resigning in 1921. At about that time he withdrew from
his printing establishment and terminated the career of the San
Francisco Star, which for many years he had edited and for many years
had financed out of the earnings of his printing establishment rather
than swap its economic and political principles for deceptive
James H. Barry was a straight man from the ground up. He was devoted
to the principles of natural and moral law and to policies in so far
as they were handmaidens of principle. He was a friend of Henry George
to the heart's core and Henry George of him. They were Democrats of
the same variety, Christians of the same type, and men of like mould.