essays

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1897

After Nestor: The Chicago Martyrs

Instead of a Book, By a Man Too Busy to Write One

Despite his initial reactions, Tucker settles in to sympathize with the “martyrs” convicted of and executed for the Haymarket Square bombing.

Instead of a Book, By a Man Too Busy to Write One

Part Seven: Methods

 

Convicted by a Packed Jury. 

(published in Liberty on September 18, 1886)

Unjust as the Chicago verdict was, the trial brought out certain facts regarding Illinois juries by which other communities might profit and at which Lysander Spooner must rejoice. In his great work, now out of print, Trial by Jury, Mr. Spooner shows how the practice regarding jury trial has been turned by usurpation from the original theory, until it has lost altogether the three features that made it most potent as a safeguard of individual liberty. These three features were: 1, that the jury must be chosen by lot from a wheel containing the names of the whole body of citizens of the vicinity, instead of from a selected panel; 2, that it must be judge, not only of the facts, but of the law and the justice of the law; 3, that it must decide, not only the guilt or innocence of the accused, but, in case of guilt, the nature and severity of the penalty.

It appears from the charge of Judge Gary to the jury in the trial at Chicago that Illinois law has restored, nearly, if not quite intact, the second and third of these features. Said the judge:

If the accused, or any of them, are found guilty by the jury, they shall fix the punishment by their verdict.

And further:

The jury in a criminal case are, by the statutes of Illinois, made judges of the law and the evidence, and under these statutes itis the duty of the jury, after hearing the arguments of the counsel and the instructions of the court, to act upon the law and facts according to their best judgment of such law and such facts. The jury are the judges of the law and the facts, and you, as jurors, have a right to disregard the instructions of the court, provided you, upon your oaths, can say that you believe you know the law better than the court.

It is evident that in the hands of an unprejudiced jury endowed with such powers as these the life and liberty of a person unjustly accused would be well-nigh secure. The trouble in Chicago was the prejudice of the jury. And this jury was made up wholly of prejudiced men, simply because the first of the three safeguards referred to was not restored along with the second and third. If the twelve men composing it, instead of being sifted from a selected panel by a method of examination that enables the prosecution to practically pack the jury, had been chosen by lot from all the citizens of Chicago, there would have been a large percentage of workingmen among them, some or all of whom would undoubtedly have seen to it that no such fate was meted out to the eight prisoners as that under the awful shadow of which they now rest. But, as it was, the whole twelve men were men whose sympathies and interests ranged them on the side of capital and privilege, and they were determined from the start to hang the men who had questioned the sacred prerogatives of constituted power. It is needless to say that the State will never sound its own death-knell by restoring the safeguard that is still lacking, and that it never will be restored until the people themselves restore it by boycotting the State.

 

Why Expect Justice from the State? 

(published in Liberty on September 18, 1886)

Charles T. Fowler has written and Lucifer has published a very able article showing that the prosecution at Chicago was a prosecution of opinion and not of criminality, that the verdict was a verdict against Anarchy and not against bomb-throwing, and that the offence for which the victims are to be punished was not actual, but purely constructive. Setting aside the doubtless manufactured but certainly direct evidence put forward by the prosecution, of the man who swore that he saw Spies light the fuse and hand the bomb to Schnaubelt, and that then Schnaubelt threw it, Mr. Fowler’s position is a sound one. Sound also is the position taken by “O,” that the convictions were secured by a trick of the detectives. Sound also is my own position, that the convictions would have been impossible without a packed jury.

But, sound as all these positions are, what do they amount to? Something, perhaps, as so many instances of the infernalisms practised by the State; but nothing more. If urged in the hope that the State will ever do better, they are futile in the extreme. Is not the State an infernal institution? Why expect from it, then, anything but infernalisms? “Let the people of Chicago,” says Mr. Fowler, “learn that there is no such thing as the crime of incendiary speech.… Then they will no longer prosecute Anarchy or persecute Anarchists, but hunt up the man who threw the bomb.”

It is evident that Mr. Fowler here uses “the people of Chicago” as one with the State, because it is the State which is prosecuting Anarchy. But why should the State “hunt up the man who threw the bomb?” Why should it do anything in this matter but prosecute Anarchy? Is not Anarchy its deadliest foe? Is it to be expected that the State will pay heed to anything but its own existence and prosperity?

No whining, then! Let us not complain of the injustice practised by the State, except we do so for the sole purpose of exhibiting it to the people in its enormity and determining them to throw off its tyrannical yoke. One of the wisest comments that have been made upon the verdict is that of Louis Lingg, the maker of most of the bombs so prevalent in Chicago and the youngest of the convicted men. He is reported to have said, after the verdict, something like this: “There is no reason to complain. Had I been in the judge’s place and he in mine, I would have sent him to the gallows inside of twenty-four hours.” The attitude of this brave Bohemian boy is superior to that of his older comrades. Louis Lingg understands the situation. He knows that Anarchy has challenged the State. He knows that the State has picked up the gauntlet. He knows that it is a duel to the death.

Both Lingg and his comrades, however, are fatally weak in that they do not really represent Anarchy. They have challenged in Anarchy’s name, but to institute and secure one of the most revolting of Archies,—the Archy of compulsory Communism. They propose to win and uphold it by methods the most cruel and bloody. The strength of a righteous cause against tyranny lies in the fact that, as long as it remains itself innocent of offence, its persecution will bring it popular sympathy and aid. The so-called Anarchists of Chicago, by making their cause unrighteous, by announcing their readiness to commit any offences, however enormous, and by standing on a platform of Communistic tyranny, have cast aside this strength, alienated this popular sympathy for injured liberty, and thrown it upon the side of the enemy. And what is worse, by adopting the name of the real friends of Liberty and thus confusing the popular mind as to the character of Anarchy, they perhaps have made it possible for the enemy to carry out, sustained by popular sanction, what it dared not before attempt, from fear of popular rebellion,—the immediate suppression of the true Anarchists, who pursue Liberty as an end through Liberty as a means. If we could have gone on in our own way, we should have grown stronger and stronger, until the State would have had to face the alternative of frank surrender on the one hand, or, on the other, death in the last ditch through sacrificing popular support by assuming the offensive against innocent autonomists. As it is, the road to our sure triumph will probably be a much harder one to travel.

But what of the terrible predicament, it will be asked, in which these men who have injured our cause now find themselves? The answer is ready. They are of the noble few who, however mistaken as to the way of obtaining it, desire universal human comfort and for it are willing to cast their lives into the balance; we will snatch them, therefore, from the jaws of the wild beast, if we consistently can. To that end everything shall be done short of treason to our cause. But there we stop. If we cannot save these men except by resorting to their own erroneous methods and thus indefinitely postponing the objects we have in view, then the wild beast must have its prey. Nothing requires us to sacrifice that which is dearest to us to save misguided men from consequences which we did nothing to bring upon them. Those who think this cruelty may make the most of it. Call me brute, call me coward, call me “kid-gloved Anarchist,” call me what you will, I stand to my post. I have yet to learn that it is any man’s duty to sustain his reputation for bravery at the cost of his loyalty to truth. By my attitude upon that day—which, if its coming was inevitable, will come the sooner now—when I in turn shall find myself at close quarters with the wild beast, I consent to have my courage judged. For that day I wait. And while I wait I work.

 

The Lesson of the Hour. 

(published in Liberty on September 24, 1887)

Unlike some of my friends, I have never entertained any hope that the supreme court of Illinois would overturn the verdict against the condemned Socialists of Chicago; and so, terrible as the recent news from that city is, I was not disappointed at it. But my heart grows heavier as the resources of defence diminish and the day approaches on which the brutal State proposes to execute upon these rash but noble men a base and far more rash revenge. To avert this act of madness and the unspeakable terrors to which it very possibly will lead, there remain but two cards yet to play in that game of statutory “justice” in which there is a percentage of chances in favor of the State that, if possessed by the backer of the games at Monte Carlo, would ruin him by driving all his victims to suicide. One of these cards is appeal to the supreme court of the United States; the other is appeal to the governor of Illinois. Now, as experience teaches us that the ascending scale of judicial “supremacy” generally registers a corresponding increase of stupidity and cold-bloodedness, there seems little reason to expect more fairness from Washington than Ottawa; and unless Governor Oglesby is far less a tool of capital than the average Republican governor seeking political advancement, appeal to that quarter will be equally useless. Still no stone should be left unturned. Let ample funds flow in, in order that all that can be done may be done, regardless of cost; and though capital’s faintest whisper should sound louder in official ears than labor’s mighty voice, let that voice give all its power to protest loud and long. Only so shall we have no error to regret.

Above all, we must not fail to learn the lesson of these troublous days. In all that Liberty has had to say about this sorry business from the first, the effort has been to make plain the folly of supposing the State to be at all concerned about justice. More than ever am I convinced of this after reading the long opinion of the Illinois judges. Their very able summary of the testimony offered at the trial confirms me in the opinion that under the law as it stands there was a sufficiency of evidence to convict the prisoners of murder. For it takes but precious little. For aught that I can see, the State’s attorney has it in his power to hang thousands upon thousands of innocent citizens of Chicago as easily as he will hang the seven victims now under sentence. It is the infernal conspiracy law itself which is responsible for this iniquity; and this law, which passes almost without question, shows how inevitably the State becomes an instrument of tyranny. This monster cannot be reformed; it must be killed. But how? Not by dynamite; that will not harm it. How, then? By light? It thrives in the darkness of its victims’ ignorance; it and they must be flooded with the light of liberty. If the seven must die, such must be the lesson of their death.

 

Convicted for Their Opinions. 

(published in Liberty on September 24, 1887)

The judges of the supreme court of Illinois are in accord with the Communists of Illinois upon at least one point. They say in their opinion: “Law and government cannot be abolished without revolution, bloodshed, and murder.” Despite the sanction which the Communists thus receive from so exalted a quarter, Anarchists will continue to hold the contrary opinion, and to maintain that only under very rare and extreme circumstances is bloodshed essential to the abolition of government, that under other circumstances it can be no more than incidental to it, and that it will not be even that when there is a little more intelligence abroad regarding the principle of liberty, which, revolution or no revolution, must in any event be the chief factor in the abolition of government. Disregarding, however, the question whether the view of the judges and the Communists is correct or not, it is interesting to note the connection in which the former put it forward. Answering the claim of the counsel for the defence that one of the jurors was incompetent because he admitted a prejudice against Socialists, Communists, and Anarchists, the judges say that this is no disqualification; for, since Anarchism involves the destruction of law and government, which in turn involves revolution, bloodshed, and murder, and since Socialism or Communism involves a destruction of the right of private property, which in turn involves theft, “the prejudice which the ordinary citizen, who looks at things from a practical standpoint, would have against Anarchism and Communism would be nothing more than a prejudice against crime.” After this judicial declaration, will the jackals and jackasses of the capitalistic press dare to claim longer that the seven men under death sentence at Chicago were not tried and convicted for their opinions?

 

To the Breach, Comrades! 

(published in Liberty on November 19, 1887)

Of the tragedy just enacted at Chicago, what is there to say? Of a deed so foul perpetrated upon men so brave, what words are not inadequate to paint the blackness on the one hand and the glory on the other? My heart was never so full, my pen never so halt. As I write, the dying shout of noble Spies comes back to me from the scaffold: “At this moment our silence is more powerful than speech.” But, who speaks or who keeps silent, all of us, I am certain, will from this time forth face the struggle before us with stouter hearts and firmer tread for the examples that have been set us by our murdered comrades. If we add to these a clearer vision, the result will not be doubtful.

And when it is achieved and history shall begin to make up its verdict, it will be seen and acknowledged that the John Browns of America’s industrial revolution were hanged at Chicago on the Eleventh of November, 1887. The labor movement has had its Harper’s Ferry; when will come the emancipation proclamation?

“Not good-by, but hail, brothers!” telegraphed Josephine Tilton to Albert Parsons on the morning of the fatal day; “from the gallows trap the march shall be taken up. I will listen for the beating of the drum.”

The drum-tap has sounded; the forlorn hope has charged; the needed breach has been opened; myriads are falling into line; if we will but make the most of the opportunity so dearly purchased, victory will be ours.

It shall be; it must be!

For, as Proudhon says, “like Nemesis of old, whom neither prayers nor threats could move, the Revolution advances, with sombre and inevitable tread, over the flowers with which its devotees strew its path, through the blood of its champions, and over the bodies of its enemies.”

 

On Picket Duty.

It is one thing to admit the possibility of revolution; it is a second thing to point out that, in the presence of certain conditions and in the absence of certain other conditions, revolution is inevitable; it is a third and entirely different thing to so vividly “foresee” revolution that vision in every other direction becomes more and more obscure. When a man’s “foresight” of revolution has arrived at this dazzling pitch, it is safe to conclude that in his heart of hearts he desires revolution, clings against his reason to a superstitious belief in its economic efficacy, and would openly urge it instead of “foreseeing it,” did he not know that he could not defend such a course against reasoning men. Knowing this, however, he contents himself with “foreseeing,” but “foresees” so constantly and absorbingly that his prophecies have all the effect of preaching, while enabling him to dodge the preacher’s responsibility.—Liberty, July 21, 1888.

Henry George’s Standard makes a protest against the attitude of the Chicago authorities toward public meetings and processions. It is too late in the day, Mr. George, for you to pose as a champion of freedom of speech. You once had a chance to vindicate that cause such as comes to a man but once in a lifetime, and in the trial hour you not only failed the cause, but betrayed it. Let one of the meetings against the suppression of which you now protest be held; let some one present throw a bomb and kill an officer; let the speakers be arrested on a charge of murder; let a jury packed with the hirelings of capital convict them; let a judge sentence them to be hanged; let the supreme court formally sanction the whole; let a large portion of the people, hounded on by a bloodthirsty and prostituted press, clamor for these men’s death; and let this culminate in the middle of a political campaign in which you are running for office; under these circumstances should we not see you do again what you have done once already,—declare that a supreme court can do no wrong, that in face of its opinions you recant yours, that the convicted men deserve to be hanged, and that you will not lift voice or pen to save them? We have known you, Henry George, in the past, and we know you for the future. The lamp holds out to burn, but for no such vile sinner as yourself. In vain your efforts to return to the fold. As Ingersoll says, “‘Twon’t do.”—Liberty, January 5, 1889.

Judge Gary, of Chicago, having to pass upon a “color-line” case recently, rendered his decision in favor of the rights of the negro. But if Judge Gary had occupied the bench thirty years ago, and John Brown, who was so largely instrumental in accomplishing the revolution by virtue of which the black man is now able to vindicate his rights in court, had been brought before him on a charge of treason, it can scarcely be doubted that he would have sentenced his prisoner to be hanged with as little compunction as he showed in condemning Spies and his comrades to the gallows and with the same shedding of crocodile tears.—Liberty, January 19, 1889.

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