Letters of Bartolomeo Vanzetti from the Death House
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August 4, 1927.
From the Death House of the Massachusetts State Prison
TO THE DEFENSE COMMITTEE:
Governor Alvan T. Fuller is a murderer as Thayer, Katzmann, the State perjurors and all the other. He shake hand with me like a brother, make me believe he was honestly intentioned and that he had not sent the three carbarn-boy to have no escuse to save us.
Now ignoring and denia all the proofs of our innocence and insult us and murder us. We are innocent.
This is a war of plutocracy against liberty, against the people.
We die for Anarcy. Long life Anarcy.
[This letter was written directly after Vanzetti learned of the Governor’s decision not to commute Sacco and Vanzetti’s sentences or save their lives in any other way. The handwriting was extremely sloppy as opposed to Vanzetti’s other letters. Thayer refers to Judge Webster Thayer, the presiding judge at Sacco and Vanzetti’s trial and motion hearings. Katzmann refers to Frederick G. Katzmann, the prosecuting attorney who tried Sacco and Vanzetti.]
August 21, 1927.
From the Death House of the Massachusetts State Prison
DEAR FRIENDS AND COMRADES OF THE SACCO-VANZETTI DEFENSE COMMITTEE:
After tomorrow mid-night, we will be executed, save a new staying of the execution by either the United States Supreme Court or by Governor Alvan T. Fuller.
We have no hope. This morning, our brave defender and friend Michael Angelo Musmanno was here from his return from Washington, and told us he would come back this afternoon if he would have time for it. Also Rosa and Luigi were here this morning, and they too, promised us to return this afternoon. But now it is 5:30 P.M. and no one returned yet. This tells us that there is no good news for us, for, if so, some of you would have hurried to bring them to us. It almost tells us that all your efforts have failed and that you are spending these remaining few hours in desperate and hopeless efforts to evitate our execution. In a word, we feel lost! Therefore, we decided to write this letter to you to express our gratitude and admiration for all what you have done in our defense during these seven years, four months, and eleven days of struggle.
That we lost and have to die does not diminish our appreciation and gratitude for your great solidarity with us and our families.
Friends and Comrades, now that the tragedy of this trial is at an end, be all as of one heart. Only two of us will die. Our ideal, you our comrades, will live by millions; we have won, but not vanquished. Just treasure our suffering, our sorrow, our mistakes, our defeats, our passion for future battles and for the great emancipation.
Be all as of one heart in this blackest hour of our tragedy. And have heart.
Salute for us all the friends and comrades of the earth.
We embrace you all, and bid you all our extreme good-bye with our hearts filled with love and affection. Now and ever, long life to you all, long life to Liberty. Yours in life and death,
August 21, 1927.
From the Death House of Massachuessts State Prison
MY DEAR DANTE:
I still hope, and we will fight until the last moment, to revindicate our right to live and to be free, but all the forces of the State and of the money and reaction are deadly against us because we are libertarians or anarchists.
I write little of this because you are now and yet too young to understand these things and other things of which I would like to reason with you.
But, if you do well, you will grow and understand your father's and my case and your father's and my principles, for which we will soon be put to death.
I tell you now that all that I know of your father, he is not a criminal, but one of the bravest men I ever knew. Some day you will understand what I am about to tell you. That your father has sacrificed everything dear and sacred to the human heart and soul for his fate in liberty and justice for all. That day you will be proud of your father, and if you come brave enough, you will take his place in the struggle between tyranny and liberty and you will vindicate his [our] names and our blood.
If we have to die now, you shall know, when you will be able to understand this tragedy in its fullest, how good and brave your father has been with you, your father and I, during these eight years of struggle, sorrow, passion, anguish and agony.
Even from now you shall be good, brave with your mother, with Ines, and with Susie--brave, good Susie- -and do all you can to console and help them.
I would like you to also remember me as a comrade and friend to your father, your mother and Ines, Susie and you, and I assure you that neither have I been a criminal, that I have committed no robbery and no murder, but only fought modestily to abolish crimes from among mankind and for the liberty of all.
Remember Dante, each one who will say otherwise of your father and I, is a liar, insulting innocent dead men who have been brave in their life. Remember and know also, Dante, that if your father and I would have been cowards and hypocrits and rinnegetors of our faith, we would not have been put to death. They would not even have convicted a lebbrous dog; not even executed a deadly poisoned scorpion on such evidence as that they framed against us. They would have given a new trial to a matricide and abitual felon on the evidence we presented for a new trial.
Remember, Dante, remember always these things; we are not criminals; they convicted us on a frame-up; they denied us a new trial; and if we will be executed after seven years, four months and seventeen days of unspeakable tortures and wrong, it is for what I have already told you; because we were for the poor and against the exploitation and oppression of the man by the man.
The documents of our case, which you and other ones will collect and preserve, will prove to you that your father, your mother, Ines, my family and I have sacrificed by and to a State Reason of the American Plutocratic reaction.
The day will come when you will understand the atrocious cause of the above written words, in all its fullness. Then you will honor us.
Now Dante, be brave and good always. I embrace you.
P.S. I left the copy of An American Bible to your mother now, for she will like to read it, and she will give it to you when you will be bigger and able to understand it. Keep it for remembrance. It will also testify to you how good and generous Mrs. Gertrude Winslow has been with us all. Good-bye Dante.
[Dante refers to Sacco's son Dante. Ines refers to Sacco’s daughter Ines. Susie was a friend of Rosina Sacco’s with whom Rosina and the Sacco children lived during the last years of the ordeal. Mrs. Gertrude L. Winslow was a supporter and confidant of Sacco and Vanzetti.]
August 22, 1927. From the Death House of
Massachusetts State Prison
DEAR FRIEND DANA:
Rosa and my sister Liugi paid us a visit just now and told us of your letter to us, which they had forgotten home. They will bring it to us this afternoon, if they will come back. But they told us the contents of your letter, and I am writing now because it seems that nothing and no one is going to stop our execution after this midnight; so we may have no chance to see your letter.
Judge Holmes repelled our appeal on the ground that the State Supreme Court had passed on the case and he does not want to invade the State Court ground.
Yesterday, Judge Brandeis repelled our appeal on the ground of personal reasons; to wit, because he or members of his family are favorably interested in our case, as demonstrated by the facts that after our arrest Rosa and her children went to live for a month in an empty house of Justice Brandeis in Dedham, Mass.
These two justices are the symbols of liberalism in the Federal Supreme Court and they turned us their shoulders.
Now our lawyers are presenting the appeal to justice Stone. Since the other Federal Supreme justices are reactionary, well, that will be a good ground on which to repel our appeal. So that it is coming to pass that some justices repel our appeal because they are friendly with us and the other justices repel our appeal because they are hostile to us, and through this elegant Forche Caudine, we are led straight to the electric chair.
My poor sister and Rosa are really living on a cross. My sister was optimistic as all the world seemed to have been in our case that is not yet well understood not even by our most intelligent and experienced friends and comrades. But since she arrived here, on the place, and faced the real facts, her optimism withered away by degrees and this morning she was suffering terribly.
The Defense Committee, the Defense, our friends here, Rosa and Luigia are working frantically day and night in a desperate effort to avoid our execution, and they fail second by second and our execution appears always nearer and unavoidable. There are barely 12 hours to its moment, and we are lost--if we refuse to hope against reason.
And in our coffin will lay our friends' optimism and our pessimism. What I wish more than all in this last hour of agony is that our case and our fate may be understood in their real being and serve as a tremendous lesson to the forces of freedom--so that our suffering and death will not have been in vain.
I do not enter into particulars because I know you will learn of them before receiving this letter. But the situation appears to be in this moment as follows: All the Federal justices will repel our appeal and from hence the other few hours our fate will be completely in the hands of Governor Fuller. To me this means-- death. So much the better if I will be wrong.
So, dear friend and comrade Dana, I wish to thank you for all that you have done for Nicola, I, and for our families. My sister brought me your regards and informs me of your going to Italy and to our families. Please salute for us all the friends and comrades you will meet in Europe, and express to them what you know that we have in our hearts. And to you we send our extreme good-bye and brotherly embrace. Be brave and of good cheer, brother Dana.
Also for Nicola, we are yours,
NICOLA AND BARTOLOMEO
P.S.... I wish and hope you will lend your faculties in inserting our tragedy in the history under its real aspect and being.
[Dana refers to H. W. L. Dana, a lecturer and former Harvard faculty member. Rosa refers to Sacco’s wife Rosina. Judges (Oliver Wendell) Holmes, (Louis D.) Brandeis, and (Harlan F.) Stone were Supreme Court justices at the time of Sacco and Venzetti's trials and execution. Governor Fuller refers to Alvan T. Fuller, the governor of Massachusetts when Sacco and Vanzetti were jailed and executed.]