Demonstrators filling downtown's Piatt Park on Garfield Place as part of the anti-corporate, Occupy Wall Street protests should take heart: The park's namesakes likely would support your actions.
In an excellent post on The Daily Bellwether blog, writer Bill Sloat looks at the history of the Piatt brothers, Donn and Abram, and the causes they held dear. Abram Piatt was a wealthy farmer and poet who served as a general for the Union Army during the Civil War. Donn Piatt was a staff officer for the Union Army.
After the war, the brothers published Belford's Magazine, which had a decidedly populist bent. Despite their posh background, the Piatts used their position to rally opposition against corrupt Wall Street executives and politicians including President Ulysses S. Grant.
The land for the park was given to the city in 1817 by Benjamin M. Piatt, a federal judge who was the father of Abram and Donn.
As Sloat writes, “While wealthy and prominent themselves, the Piatts of the 1870s and 1880s raged against Wall Streets's influence over Washington politicians. Two Piatt brothers, Donn and Abram, published and edited Belford's Magazine after the Civil War, which reported that Wall Street was screwing soldiers out of their benefits by manipulating elected officials and the U.S. Treasury. The magazine's owners also denounced President Grant's administration as corrupt and controlled by financiers. It said the Republicans sold out to the big money crowd. Donn Piatt so inflamed the D.C. political establishment that he was indicted for fomenting insurrection in 1877, a charge that was eventually tossed out of court. He complained about the 'kings of Wall Street' with their chests of money in the Gilded Age.”
Somewhere, Abram and Donn are smiling at the demonstrators and wishing them well.