RCC Honors History Project

Address at the Haymarket Trial

Posted by nrohr on April 27, 2009

Address at the Haymarket Trial
by August Spies, 1886

In addressing this court I speak as the representative of one class to the representative of another. I will begin with the words uttered 500 years ago, on a similar occasion, by the Venetian Doge Faberi, who, addressing the court, said: “My defense is your accusation; the causes of my alleged crime your history!”

I have been indicted on a charge of murder, as an accomplice or accessory. Upon this indictment I have been convicted. There was no evidence produced by the state to show or even indicate that I had any knowledge of the man who threw the bomb, or that I myself had anything to do with the throwing of the missile, unless, of course, you weigh the testimony of the accomplices of the state’s attorney and Bonfield, the testimony of Thompson and Gilmer, by the price they were paid for it. If there was no evidence to show that I was legally responsible for the deed, then my conviction and the execution of the sentence is nothing less than willful, malicious, and deliberate murder, as foul a murder as may be found in the annals of religious, political, or any other sort of persecution.

There have been many judicial murders committed where the representatives of the state were acting in good faith, believing their victims to be guilty of the charge accused of. In this case the representatives of the state cannot shield themselves with a similar excuse; for they themselves have fabricated most of the testimony which was used as a pretense to convict us; to convict us by a jury picked out to convict! Before this court and before the public, which is supposed to be the state, I charge the state’s attorney and Bonfield with the heinous conspiracy to commit murder.

I will state a little incident which may throw light upon this charge. On the evening on which the Praetorian guards of the Citizens’ Association, the Bankers’ Association, the Association of the Board of Trade men, and the railroad princes attacked the meeting of workingmen on the Haymarket — with murderous intent — on that evening, about 8 o’clock, I met a young man, Legner by name, who is a member of the Aurora Turnverein. He accompanied me and never left me on that evening until I jumped from the wagon, a few seconds before the explosion occurred. He knew that I had not seen Schwab that evening. He knew that I had no such conversation with anybody as Mr. Marshall Field’s protégé, Thompson, testified to. He knew that I did not jump from the wagon to strike the match and hand it to the man who threw the bomb.

He is not a Socialist. Why did we not bring him on the stand? Because the honorable representatives of the state, Grinnell and Bonfield, spirited him away. These honorable gentlemen knew everything about Legner. They knew that his testimony would prove the perjury of Thompson and Gilmer beyond any reasonable doubt. Legner’s name was on the list of witnesses for the state. He was not called, however, for obvious reasons. Aye, he stated to a number of friends that he had been offered $500 if he would leave the city, and threatened with direful things if he remained here and appeared as a witness for the defense. He replied that he could neither be bought nor bulldozed to serve such a damnable and dastardly plot.

When we wanted Legner, he could not be found; Mr. Grinnell said — and Mr. Grinnell is an honorable man! — that he had himself been searching for the young man, but had not been able to find him. About three weeks later I learned that the very same young man had been kidnaped and taken to Buffalo, N.Y., by two of the illustrious guardians of “law and order,” two Chicago detectives. Let Mr. Grinnell, let the Citizens’ Association, his employer, let them answer for this! And let the public sit in judgment upon the would-be assassins!

No, I repeat, the prosecution has not established our legal guilt, notwithstanding the purchased and perjured testimony of some, and notwithstanding the originality of the proceedings of this trial. And as long as this has not been done, and you pronounce upon us the sentence of an appointed vigilance committee acting as a jury, I say, you, the alleged representatives and high priests of “law and order,” are the real and only lawbreakers, and in this case to the extent of murder. It is well that the people know this. And when I speak of the people I don’t mean the few coconspirators of Grinnell — the noble politicians who thrive upon the misery of the multitudes. These drones may constitute the state, they may control the state, they may have their Grinnells, their Bonfields, and other hirelings! No, when I speak of the people I speak of the great mass of human bees, the working people, who unfortunately are not yet conscious of the rascalities that are perpetrated in the “name of the people” — in their name.

The contemplated murder of eight men, whose only crime is that they have dared to speak the truth, may open the eyes of these suffering millions; may wake them up. Indeed, I have noticed that our conviction has worked miracles in this direction already. The class that clamors for our lives, the good, devout Christians, have attempted in every way, through their newspapers and otherwise, to conceal the true and only issue in this case. By simply designating the defendants as anarchists and picturing them as a newly discovered tribe or species of cannibals, and by inventing shocking and horrifying stories of dark conspiracies said to be planned by them, these good Christians zealously sought to keep the naked fact from the working people and other righteous parties, namely: that on the evening of May 4, 200 armed men, under the command of a notorious ruffian, attacked a meeting of peaceable citizens! With what intention? With the intention of murdering them, or as many of them as they could.

I refer to the testimony given by two of our witnesses. The wage workers of this city began to object to being fleeced too much; they began to say some very true things, but they were highly disagreeable to our patrician class; they put forth — well, some very modest demands. They thought eight hours’ hard toil a day for scarcely two hours’ pay was enough. This “lawless rabble” had to be silenced! The only way to silence them was to frighten them and murder those whom they looked up to as their leaders. Yes, these “foreign dogs” had to be taught a lesson so that they might never again interfere with the high-handed exploitation of their benevolent and Christian masters. Bonfield, the man who would bring a blush of shame to the managers of the St. Bartholomew night — Bonfield, the illustrious gentleman with a visage that would have done excellent service to Doré in portraying Dante’s fiends of hell — Bonfield was the man best fitted to consummate the conspiracy of the Citizens’ Association, of our patricians.

If I had thrown that bomb, or had caused it to be thrown, or had known of it, I would not hesitate a moment to say so. It is true that a number of lives were lost — many were wounded. But hundreds of lives were thereby saved! But for that bomb, there would have been a hundred widows and hundreds of orphans where now there are a few. These facts have been carefully suppressed, and we were accused and convicted of conspiracy by the real conspirators and their agents. This, your honor, is one reason why sentence should not be passed by a court of justice — if that name has any significance at all.

“But,” says the state, “you have published articles on the manufacture of dynamite and bombs.” Show me a daily paper in this city that has not published similar articles! I remember very distinctly a long article in the Chicago Tribune of February 23, 1885. The paper contained a description and drawings of different kinds of infernal machines and bombs. I remember this one especially, because I bought the paper on a railroad train, and had ample time to read it. But since that time the Times has often published similar articles on the subject, and some of the dynamite articles found in the Arbeiter-Zeitung were translated articles from the Times, written by Generals Molineux and Fitz John Porter, in which the use of dynamite bombs against striking workingmen is advocated as the most effective weapon against them.

May I learn why the editors of these papers have not been indicted and convicted for murder? Is it because they have advocated the use of this destructive agent only against the “common rabble”? I seek information. Why was Mr. Stone of the News not made a defendant in this case? In his possession was found a bomb. Besides that, Mr. Stone published an article in January which gave full information regarding the manufacture of bombs. Upon this information any man could prepare a bomb ready for use at the expense of not more than ten cents. The News probably has ten times the circulation of the Arbeiter-Zeitung. Is it not likely that the bomb used on May 4 was one made after the News’ pattern? As long as these men are not charged with murder and convicted, I insist, your honor, that such discrimination in favor of capital is incompatible with justice, and sentence should therefore not be passed.

Grinnell’s main argument against the defendants was — “They were foreigners; they were not citizens.” I cannot speak for the others. I will only speak for myself. I have been a resident of this state fully as long as Grinnell, and probably have been as good a citizen — at least, I should not wish to be compared with him. Grinnell has incessantly appealed to the patriotism of the jury. To that I reply in the language of Johnson, the English litterateur, “an appeal to patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel.” …

Grinnell has intimated to us that anarchism was on trial. The theory of anarchism belongs to the realm of speculative philosophy. There was not a syllable said about anarchism at the Haymarket meeting. At that meeting the very popular theme of reducing the hours of toil was discussed. But, “Anarchism is on trial!” foams Mr. Grinnell. If that is the case, your honor, very well; you may sentence me, for I am an anarchist. I believe with Buckle, with Paine, Jefferson, Emerson, and Spencer, and many other great thinkers of this century, that the state of castes and classes — the state where one class dominates over and lives upon the labor of another class, and calls this order — yes, I believe that this barbaric form of social organization, with its legalized plunder and murder, is doomed to die and make room for a free society, voluntary association, or universal brotherhood, if you like. You may pronounce the sentence upon me, honorable judge, but let the world know that in a.d. 1886, in the state of Illinois, eight men were sentenced to death because they believed in a better future; because they had not lost their faith in the ultimate victory of liberty and justice! …

You, gentlemen, are the revolutionists! You rebel against the effects of social conditions which have tossed you, by the fair hand of fortune, into a magnificent paradise. Without inquiring, you imagine that no one else has a right in that place. You insist that you are the chosen ones, the sole proprietors. The forces that tossed you into the paradise, the industrial forces, are still at work. They are growing more active and intense from day to day. Their tendency is to elevate all mankind to the same level, to have all humanity share in the paradise you now monopolize. You, in your blindness, think you can stop the tidal wave of civilization and human emancipation by placing a few policemen, a few Gatling guns, and some regiments of militia on the shore; you think you can frighten the rising waves back into the unfathomable depths whence they have arisen by erecting a few gallows in the perspective. You who oppose the natural course of things, you are the real revolutionists. You and you alone are the conspirators and destructionists!

Said the court yesterday, in referring to the Board of Trade demonstration: “These men started out with the express purpose of sacking the Board of Trade building.” While I can’t see what sense there would have been in such an undertaking, and while I know that the said demonstration was arranged simply as a means of propaganda against the system that legalizes the respectable business carried on there, I will assume that the 3,000 workingmen who marched in that procession really intended to sack the building. In this case they would have differed from the respectable Board of Trade men only in this — that they sought to recover property in an unlawful way, while the others sack the entire country lawfully and unlawfully — this being their highly respectable profession.

This court of “justice and equity” proclaims the principle that when two persons do the same thing, it is not the same thing. I thank the court for this confession. It contains all that we have taught and for which we are to be hanged in a nutshell! Theft is a respectable profession when practised by the privileged class. It is a felony when resorted to in self-preservation by the other class. Rapine and pillage are the order of a certain class of gentlemen who find this mode of earning a livelihood easier and preferable to honest labor — this is the kind of order we have attempted, and are now trying, and will try as long as we live to do away with.

Look upon the economic battlefields! Behold the carnage and plunder of the Christian patricians! Accompany me to the quarters of the wealth creators in this city. Go with me to the half-starved miners of the Hocking Valley. Look at the pariahs in the Monongahela Valley, and many other mining districts in this country, or pass along the railroads of that great and most orderly and law-abiding citizen Jay Gould. And then tell me whether this order has in it any moral principle for which it should be preserved. I say that the preservation of such an order is criminal — is murderous.

It means the preservation of the systematic destruction of children and women in factories. It means the preservation of enforced idleness of large armies of men, and their degradation. It means the preservation of intemperance, and sexual as well as intellectual prostitution. It means the preservation of misery, want, and servility on the one hand, and the dangerous accumulation of spoils, idleness, voluptuousness, and tyranny on the other. It means the preservation of vice in every form. And last, but not least, it means the preservation of the class struggle, of strikes, riots, and bloodshed. That is your “order,” gentlemen. Yes, and it is worthy of you to be the champions of such an order. You are eminently fitted for that role. You have my compliments!

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