The Maoriland Worker on the Haymarket Martyrs
On the 11 November 1887 the ‘Haymarket Martyrs’ – August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer & George Engel, all anarchists – were murdered by the state in Chicago. A fifth, 23-year-old Louis Lingg, killed himself in his cell last night, cheating the state executioners.
This is how the Maoriland Worker commented on the anniversary in 1911.
The Chicago Martyrs.
The Men and Their Message.
There are certain outstanding dates in working-class annals which, on account of their colossal significance, must never, never be overlooked by the workers of the world. It is this feeling—this tumultuous emotion —that with cumulative reverence, leads to the ever-strengthening celebration of events which shine- as livid stars in the sky of history.
May Day, Paris Commune, Francisco Ferrer’s martyrdom, the Communist Manifesto, the execution of the Chicago Anarchists —these are typical international finger-posts of deep interest and import to the proletarians of all countries.
We propose this, week to honour the memory of the Chicago Martyrs —to set aside the ephemeral and deal with the everlasting. Let the worker gain an acquaintance with the red-dyed records of his own class, and nothing transitory shall lure him from the class path nor snare hi in into the capitalistic net.
November 11 is an anniversary to make the blood burn as its retrospect becomes fuel of the future. Twenty-four years ago some heroes of the mighty past were robbed of their lives and’ thus made moulders, of a mightier present —for this day by virtue of its yesterday conquers to-morrow.
Hail to the Chicago Martyrs! They suffered and died for the cause of labor and of liberty—their trial and hanging an outrage upon justice and upon freedom. This, year (as every year since 1887) the men and women of Toil fraternally assemble “to demonstrate how defiantly, and truthfully August Spies foretold; “There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle to-day.” Immortal words.
Where to commence the story we needs must tell, and how to encompass it in our available space, bothers us —with wealth of matter and matter of weight so abundant. We would like to tell of the beginnings of the Socialist Movement in America, and ofi its foreign origin; of the International! and its “red” and”black”; whip of the echeos in the United States; of the Marx – Bakunine quarrel and of the subsequent separation of Anarchists and Socialists.; with a position clarifying itself in the ’80’s, but still confused. Fascinating it all is. —but that re- ;
Fascinating it all is. —but that reference to the ’80’s may be our starting point, as enabling us to emphasise that Anarchism and Socialism were then thought to be almost the same thing. Thus it was that the Chicago Martyrs called themselves, both Anarchists and Socialists. Though they were tried as these, it is useful to remember that the prosecution nowhere defined either. In 1884 the American Federation of Trades and Labor Councils issued a manifesto proclaiming a general strike, in order to win recognition of the eight-hour day. Finally, it was agreed that the strike take place on May 1, 1886, which year was one of sore conditions and widespread social and industrial unrest. Oppression was rife, discontent general, organisation spreading. The Labor movement was strung to high intensity, noticeably in Chicago. At Chicago on May 1, 1886, 40,000 men struck in fulfilment of the agreement. There had never been such solidarity in the States. Twenty-five thousand men held a mass meeting, at which Spies, Parsons, Fielden and Schwab spoke. Excitement ran high, especially as the employers had also linked-up and were trying to smash the workers’ organisation. One of these employers, named McCormick, locked-out the men from his reaper works on May 2. At a meeting on the same day to protest against McCormick’s use of Pinkertons, Parsons and Schwab spoke. On May 3 the lumber-shovers held a meeting near McCormick’s, with Spies the chief speaker. At 4 in the afternoon the “scabs” were observed leaving McCormick’s. Stones were thrown, police sent for, revolvers used, and men, women and children fled in terror, leaving four dead and many wounded. In the evening Spies wrote and issued ‘his famed “Revenge Circular.” Next, the most fateful of the meetings—the eventful Haymarket meeting, held on the evening of May 4, and addressed by Spies, Parsons and Fielden. It was a quiet and peaceful meeting, witnessed by the Mayor, until at a late hour 180 police wantonly attempted to disperse it, when, in retaliation, a bomb was thrown by some person unknown, killing M. J. Degan, a policeman, instantly and wounding 60 (seven of whom died). What followed can be imagined. Hue and cry everywhere. Labor agitators’ hunted and imprisoned. Workers’ papers (including “Alarm” and “Arbeiter Zeitung”) suppressed. Workers’ meetings broken up and prohibited. Awful alarmist stories circulated of plots and conspiracies against law and order. Capitalist press calling for summary hanging of workers’ leaders. Some employers met secretly and formed the Citizens Association and in a few hours subscribed one hundred ‘ thousand dollars “to destroy Anarchy.”
On May 17 the Grand Jury indicted Engel, Fielden, Fischer, Lingg, Neebe, Parsons, Spies, Schwab, Schnaubelt, and Seliger for the murder of M. J. Degan. Seliger turned informer, Schnaubelt escaped. On June 21 the jury was empanelled (it took 22 days), but upon it there was not one member of the working-class. A prolonged trial, during which were ‘ delivered those memorable speeches now historical’, resulted in Neebe being sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and the rest to be hanged. The case was carried to the Supreme Court in the following year, and there affirmed. Qtt No^esi*-
On November 10, 1887, Lingg suicided, and the sentences on Schwab and Fielden were commuted to imprisonment for life. On November 11 Parsons, Engel, Fischer and Spies were hanged. In 1893, six years afterwards, the three men in jail were pardoned by Governor Altgeld, whose “argument” is a notable document and a severe, impeachment of jury, police and Judge Gary.
Such in bald outline is the story of the Chicago Martyrs. Its steps and its stages make a drama of intense human interest, a tragedy in working-class agitation, education, and organisation. No people’s story is fuller of vein-swelling, nerves-racking developments. The events prior to 1884 and from 1884 to 1888, the wondrous general strike and its motive, the trials of 1886 and 1887 and their bloody sacrifce, the agitation begetting Governor Altgeld’s inquiry, the evidence of the inquiry, the work of Lucy Parsons after the martyrdoms and, again, the character, and labors of the martyrs, their speeches and their writings, the men and methods of the prosecution, the informers, and the literature growing out of the whole—each and all provides scope for many articles.
We pass on to mention that John P. Altgeld, Governor of Illinois, advanced the theory that the fatal bomb was thrown in revenge, and said: “Judge Gary’s statement that ‘it is probably, true that Rudolph Schnaubelt threw the bomb’ is a mere surmise and is all that is known about it, and is certainly not sufficient to convict eight men on. In fact, until the State proves from whose hands, the bomb came, itis impossible to show any connection between the man who threw it and these defendants. Altgeld’s review of the trial is a damning document. It scathingly refers to the prejudice of the judge and the bias of the packed jury selected by a bailiff who had boasted that the men on trial would “swing.” Police methods and the extraordinary partisan conduct of high officials are alike exposed.
But nowadays quite a host of periodicals, pamphlets and books conclusively prove that the martyrs were innocent of crime, and were hounded to death because rebels for righteousness and passionate for working-class rights. We are inclined to agree with the view that the bomb-throwing was the work of a Pinkerton. The Colorado conspiracy is fresh in our memory. Debs remembered 1887 when, twenty years later, he penned his, glowing “Arouse, ye Slaves!” and cried to the taskmasters.: “You shed the blood of our champions twenty years ago. If you proceed to kill Moyer, Hhaywood, and Pettibone, we will meet you—and we will come with guns in our hands.”
Bearing, in mind ,that of the eight men sentenced, three fortuitously escaped the gallows, one suicided and four were hanged, let us glance at them biographically -in alphabetical order: —
GEORGE ENGEL was a German, born in 1856. His father died when George was 18 months old, and his mother when he was 12 years. Painter by trade. Went to America in 1873, and in Philadelphia, witnessing the militia suppressing strikers, turned his thoughts to the Labor question. Joined the International Working Peope’s Association. Judicially murdered in 1887.
SAMUEL FIELDEN was an Englishman, born in Lancashire in 1847. He lost his mother at 10 years old and his father at 19. Worked at factory. Said: “I think if the devil has a particular enemy whom he wishes to unmercifully torture the best thing for him to do would be to put his soul into the body of a Lancashire factory child.” Sentenced in 1887, he was pardoned in 1903. Known as “Good-natured” Fielden.
ADOLPH FISCHER, German, went to America at the age of 15, and learnt the printing. He was employed in the office of “Arbeiter Zeitung.” Murdered in 1887.
LOUIS LINGG, German, born in 1864. Carpenter. Travelled in Switzerland, and became converted to Socialism. Went to America in 1885, and was appointed organiser for the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. Suicided in jail on the day before his intended execution.
OSCAR NEEBE, an American of German parentage, born in Philadelphia in 1850, Well-to-do business man of anarchistic sympathies. Sentenced in 1887, pardoned in 1903.
ALBERT PARSONS, an American, born 1848. Father a manufacturer, and philanthropist. Lost his parents, before he reached five. and was educated by General Parsons. Learnt printing. Served in the Civil War, made name as press correspondent; In 1876 joined working-men’s, party and became, a trusted leader. Joined Knights, of Labor. Nominated by S.L.P. for Presidency of United States, but declinedthe honour. In 1884 founded “The Alarm,” organ of the International. Murdered 1887.
MICHEL SCHWAB, German, born 1853. Bookbinder by trade. Left orphan at 12. Joined S.L.P. In 1879 emigrated to U.S.A. Assistant editor of “Arbeiter Zeitung.” Pardoned.
AUGUST SPIES, German, born 1855. In America, in 1871. In 1880 becamei editor of “Arbeiter Zeitung,” and acquired great influence. Murdered in 1887.
The sayings and the doings of this illustrious band of men give skilful and striking testimony of the mental power and physical courage which comes of earnest participation in the proletarian movement for social justice. We hope some day to give a Character Sketch of each fighter for freedom. Turn we now to their wonderful speeches, delivered on October 7, 8, and 9, 1886, when asked if they had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon them.. Their speeches run into a goodly-sized volume (published at Is.) and prove themselves great utterances of men of knowledge and blazing reason. Parsons’ is the! longest, and occupied eight hours (running into two days) in delivery. It is a brilliant historical survey and economic exposition. We quote:—
“You ask me why sentence of death should not, be pronounced upon me, or, what is tantamount to the same thing, you ask me why you should give me a new trial in order that I might establish my innocence and the ends of justice be subserved. I answer you and say that this verdict is the verdict of passion, born in passion, nurtured in passion, and is the sum totality of the organised passion of the city of Chicago. I hold that you cannot dispute the charge which I make, that this trial has been submerged, immersed in passion from its inception to its close, and even to this hour, standing hero upon the scaffold as I do, with the hangman awaiting me with his halter, there are those who claim to represent public sentiment “in this city, and I now speak of the capitalistic press— that vile and infamous organ of monopoly of hired liars, the people’s oppressor—even to this day these papers standing where I do, with my, seven condemned colleagues, are clamouring for our blood in the beat and violence of passion. Can it be any longer denied that there is such a’ thing as the Labor question?’ I am an anarchist! Now strike; but hear me before you strike. What is Socialism or anarchism? Briefly it is the right of the toiler to the free and equal use of the tools of production, and the right of the to their product. That is Socialism.. The history of mankind is one of growth. It has been evolutionary and revolutionary. The dividing line between evolution and revolution, or that imperceptible boundary line where one begins an the other ends can never be designated. Who believed at the time that our fathesrs tossed the tea into Boston harbour that it meant the first revolt of the revolution separating this continent from the dominion of George III.? Evolution and revolution are synonymous. Evolution: is the incubatory state of revolution! The birth is the revolution —its process the evolution. . . Seven men are to be exterminated because they demand the right of free speech and exercise it. Seven men by this court of law are to be put to death because they claim the right of self-defence.; Do you think, gentlemen of the prosecution, that you will have settled the case when you are carrying my lifeless bones to the potter’s field? Do you think that this trial, will be settled by my strangulation and that of my colleagues? I tell you that there is a greater verdict yet to be heard.”
Spies thus concluded: “Now, these are my ideas. They constitute a part, of myself. I cannot divest myself of them, nor would I, if I could. And if you think you can crush out these ideas that are gaining ground more and more every day, if you think you can crush them out by sending us to the gallows- if you would once more have people suffer the penalty of death because they have dared to tell the truth—and I defy you to show us where we have told, a lie—l say if death is the penalty for proclaiming the truth, then I will proudly and defiantly pay the costly price. Call your hangman! Truth sacrificed in Socrates, in Christ, in Bruno, in Huss, in Galileo, still lives —they and others whose number is legion have preceded us on this path. We are ready to follow.” Schwab said: “To term the proceedings during this trial, “justice” would be a sneer. Justice has not been done—more than this, could not be done. If one class is arrayed against the other, it is idle and hypocritical to think about justice. Anarchy was on trial, as the State’s attorney put it in his closing speech; a doctrine, an opinion hostile to brute force, hostile to our present murderous system of production and distribution. . . . We contend for communism and anarchy—why? If we had kept silent, stones would have cried out. Murder was committed day, by day. Children were slain, women worked to death, men killed inch by inch, and these crimes are never punished by law. The great principle underlying the present system is unpaid labor. . . It seems to me that most violent speakers are not to be found in the ranks of the anarchists. Neebe said: “There is no evidence to show that I was connected with the bomb-throwing, or that I was near it, or anything of that kind. So l am only sorry your honour—-that is, if you can stop it or help it—l will ask you to do it —that is, to hang me, too, for I think it is more honorable to die suddenly than to be killed by inches. I have a family and children and if they know their father is dead, they will bury him. They can go to the grave, and. kneel down by the side of it; but they can’t’ go to the penitentiary and see their father, who was convicted for a crime that he has’nt had anything to do with. That is all I have got to say. Your honour, I am sorry I am not to be hung with the rest of the men.”
Fischer said: “I protest against my being sentenced to death, because I have committed no crime. I was tried – here in this room for murder and I was convicted of anarchy. But, however, if I am to die on account of my being an anarchist, on account of my love for liberty, fraternity and equality, then I will not remonstrate. If death is the penalty for our love of the freedom of the human race then I say openly I have forfeited my life. . . I publicly denounce Mr. Grennell, the State’s attorney, for his array of false witnesses, as being a murderer and an assassin if I should be executed. . . An anarchist is always ready to die for his principles. You will find it impossible to kill a principle, although you may take the life of men who confess these principles.” Lingg Said: “The fact is that at every attempt to wield the ballot, at every attempt to combine the effort of working-men, you have displayed the brutal violence of the police club, and this is why I have recommended rude force, to combat the ruder force of the police. . . . I repeat that I am the enemy of the “order” of the day, and I repeat that, with all my powers, so long as breath remains in me, I shall combat it. I declare again, frankly and openly, that I am in favour of using force. I have told Captain Schaaek, and I stand by it: ‘If you cannonade us, we shall dynamite you.’ ” Engel said: “My discoveries brought to me the knowledge that the same societary evils exist here that exist in Germany. This, is the explanation of what induced me to study the social, question, to become a Socialist. . . . I came to the opinion that as long as are working-men are economically enslaved they cannot be politically free. It ‘clear to me that the Working would never bring about a form of society guaranteeing work, bread and a happy life by means of the ballot. … Nor do I deny that I too have spoken at meetings saying that if every working-man had a bomb in his pocket capitalistic rule would soon come to an end. … I hate and combat not the individual capitalist, but the system that gives him those privileges. My greatest wish is that working-men may recognise who are their friends and who are their enemies. As to my conviction., brought about as it was, through capitalistic influence, I have not one word to say.”
Fielden said: “I learned then to hate slavery. I learned to hate kings and queens. I was a republican though I was born in a monarchy. There are some men who never grow out of their environments. … I have advocated the principles of Socialism and social equality, and for that and no other reason am I here, and is sentence of death to be pronounced upon me. What is Socialism? Taking somebody else’s property? That is what Socialism is in the common acceptation of the term. No; but if I were to answer it as shortly as it is answered by its enemies, I would say it is preventing somebody else from takng your property. We claim that we are convicted not because we have committed murder. We are convicted because we were very energetic in advocacy of the rights of Labor.”
One of the blackest pages in the persecution of the foregoing heroes is the one revealing how Mrs. Parsons was debarred from seeing her husband before his death. Parsons was singing “Annie Laurie” when Mrs. Parsons, the evening before the execution, went to the jail to plead for a last sad interview. She was denied an entrance, but told to come next morning. With children and a friend she called next morning. All were hustled into a wagon, insulted with cheap indignities, taken to dark and dirty stone cells, stripped to the skin and searched and kept imprisoned for the day without being offered even a cup of water! At 3 o’clock Mrs. Parsons and her children, and also Lizzie M. Holmes, were allowed to leave the vile lock-up. No marvel, is it, that Mrs. Parsons afterwards led that upheaving agitation which let the people of the world know the truth about the martyrdoms? In his speech from the dock Neebe testified of other outrage as follows: — “I have been in the Labor movement since 1865. I have seen how the police have trodden on the Constitution of this country and crushed the Labor organisations. . . . Mrs. Holmes and Mrs. Parsons were sitting writing in the “Zeitung” office*, when a man whom you could see was a noble democratic officer rushed in and said: ‘What are you doing here?’ Mrs. Holmes is a lady in my eyes, and she said: ‘I am corresponding with my brother. He is the editor of a Labor paper.’ As she said that the officer snatched at the lady, and she protested as an American woman. And as she protested, he said, ‘Shut up, you bitch, or I will knock you down.’ . . . Mrs. Parsons was called the same name by the officers. They called her a black bitch, and wanted to knock her down.” Lest we forget!! It is a relief to turn to Captain Black’s oration, delivered when the caskets containing the remains of the executed were transferred to the Waldheim. Cried he, thrillingly: “This is practical fraternity” (and) pointing to the caskets) “This it is to take up the cause for others. This it is to study the welfare of the poor and oppressed rather than one’s own advantage and profit.” We end with the death-agony defeated. As the four forces mounted the scaffold on their last day they were brave and defiant members of the working-class army. As the caps and nooses were being adjusted Spies cried, “There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle to-day.” Fischer called out, “This is the happiest moment of my life.” Engel shouted, “Hurrah for Anarchy!-” Parsons, asked, “Will I be allowed, to speak, O men of ‘America? Let tme speak, sheriff—let the voice of the people be heard. Oh—-The trap had fallen. These men were triumphant orators. They knew how to die. They learned in suffering what we sing in song. Yes, the article for to-morrow is this, the review for to-morrow is “The Bomb,” the oration for to-morrow is Debs. A tear for the innocent dead, a curse for the System whose crimes are endless —then
Hurrah! hurrah! in Freedom’s van are we,
(transcribed from the original-spelling and grammar mistakes have been left in)
Hurrah! hurrah; we march to Liberty,
To the cities of the Commune, and the glorious time to be,
Carrying the Red Flag to victory.