Part 2, Chapter 1 : Anarchy On Trial
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Part 2, Chapter 1
"Black says they are humanitarians. Don't try, gentlemen, to shirk the issue. Anarchy is on trial; the defendants -are on trial for treason and murder."
Mr. Black-- The indictment does not charge treason; does it, Mr. Grinnell?
Mr. Grinnell -No, sir.-Extract from closing speech of the State's Attorney.
Not until this announcement, in the closing words of the last speech by the attorney representing the State, were the eight defendants apprized, officially, or otherwise, that the question at issue was anarchy; for professing which, a verdict of death was then demanded.
This announcement was all the more startling from the fact that frequent attacks had been made upon them as socialists and anarchists throughout the trial; and the defendants had demanded of their counsel the privilege of introducing witnesses, to explain to the, judge, and the country, what was the meaning and purpose of the doctrine of which they were disciples, if not the apostles in America; and for entertaining which they were informed the death sentence was now invoked, not, however, until a few moments before the case was given to the jury.
Mr. Foster, who came into the case, with some local reputation in the State of his former residence as a criminal lawyer, persisted in trying the same, as one purely of homicide; to be determined upon the plain issue of law and facts pertaining to the alleged killing (as charged in the indictment of one Matthias J. Degan.
He scouted the idea that either the court or jury would try the political opinions of the defendants; as a criminal issue to be adjudged worthy of death as social heretics. Mr. Foster's idea, however, prevailed, though not without opposition from Capt. Black, who was overruled by the majority.
In the words of a Wisconsin, Eau Claire, correspondent to a leading Chicago journal: "Midway in the trial, while this question was still unsettled, there came a message from Chicago to Eau Claire summoning a well-known citizen of this city to appear at a conclave of the Chicago anarchists. The ,distinguished citizen was no other than Alderman Charles L. James, a who during a residence of over twenty years in this community, generally known as an advanced type of anarchistic socialism; he had laid the literatures of several languages under contribution to food for his theorizing, and, finally, that besides being a scholar himself, he was the youngest son of no less a scholar and litterateur than George P. R. James, the historiographer of William IV, the author of a whole library of romances-no other, indeed, than the 'Solitary Horseman.'
"Mr. James was one of the victims of that exclusive policy of Mr. Foster which choked the explanation of the propaganda. He came back from Chicago wearing a disappointment in his heart for that he was not allowed to speak. This disappointment, however, he shortly assuaged by addressing a communication embodying what he would have said, to the North American Review. The discriminating editor of that periodical published the letter in his July number, of which the following is an extract, and which is here given, because it is an embodyment of what would have been, and should have been, presented to the jury and the country, on the trial by Mr. James:
"'ANARCHY FROM AN ANARCHIST'S STANDPOINT.--Competition among capitalists is continually reducing the price of commodities to the cost of production. This necessitates increasingly minute subdivision of labor, destroying that technical skill which made the old-fashioned shoemaker or blacksmith independent; degrading the laborers into portions of the machine they operate; stimulating the competition for employment which prevails among them; increasing the frequency of those periods when they are thrown out of work and reduced from comfort to beggary, and of course contributing to increase the revolutionary discontent of educated men, nurtured in hope and enjoyment, who see themselves hopelessly distanced by those whom they can in no way regard as their superiors. The chasm which threatens to engulf our social system is still further widened by the destruction of small capitalists in the battle of competition and the growth of great monopolies, advancing pari passu with the pauperization of the laboring class. The miseries and dangers thus engendered by the very nature of modern trade and industry are greatly aggravated by the periodical -gorging of the market with goods produced in excess of the demand during seasons of speculation, and the consequent forced migration of capital to other branches by the dreary road along which lie bankruptcy, stagnation, reduced consumption, reduced production, slow liquidation, and that gradual revival of business which closes a financial crisis. The critical character of these periodical revulsions is greatly aggravated by the fluctuations of that uncertain currency which speculative business has everywhere introduced. It has so far been palliated by the extension of the market into new countries-America, India, Egypt, China, etc. But when this process reaches an end and one commercial system extends over the world, then, if not sooner, prices will actually fall to the cost of production, and the catastrophe of production for profit will be reached. Anarchy, therefore, according to anarchists, is the inevitable end of the present drift and tendency of things. Trimmers may devise means to put it off; Napoleons and Bismarcks may, for a time, stifle it in blood, but the longer it is deferred the more violent will be the reaction which brings it in at last. That only is wise statesmanship which gives up moribund institutions to die, That only is reform which anticipates in a less painful manner the work of revolution.'
Dyer D. Lum, C. S. Griffin, Mrs. Lucy E. Parsons, Mrs. Holmes, Mrs. Ames, A. W. Simpson, John A. Henry, William Holmes, and many other well-known anarchists, including the eight prisoners at the bar, requested repeatedly throughout the trial permission to explain and define to the court and jury the speculative philosophy known as anarchism, but were always told by the lawyers for the defense that it was entirely unnessary(sic), since their belief in the doctrines of "anarchy" was Hot upon trial. That anarchy really was on trial was made known when it was too late to explain or define it. At the close of the trial the prosecution sprung a new case upon the defendants, a charge which was not in the indictment, and against which these defendants were not permitted to defend themselves.
In their closing speeches the prosecution declared: "Law is upon trial.- Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the grand jury and indicted because they were leaders. They are no more guilty than the thousands who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury; convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save our institutions, our society."
It is mainly, if not wholly, on account of the declarations made by the prosecution in the paragraph quoted above that the author has written and compiled this work, towit: that not being permitted to defend or explain the belief we entertained; that having been condemned unheard for social heresy,--the world which is our final judge and to which we appeal, may know, as it has a right to know, in what our offense consisted.
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