Selected Letters of Vanzetti from the Charlestown State Prison,
1925 through April 1927
Photo by Luca Russo,
CC BY-NC-ND License
November 13, 1925. Charlestown Prison
DEAR COMRADE BLACKWELL:
Your most welcome letter of Nov. 4th reached me in due time. Its news about your health assured me of your recovering and its arguments rouse many thoughts and sentiments within my being. I am going to answer with an attempt to express myself--and this will be a long random letter.
You blame to me, anarchist, Miss H----- because "she hates politics and never votes." Well, these facts cause me to add my admiration and my gratitude to her; and I don't believe that you have written in the hope that I would have approved your "blaming," for, you should believe that I have changed my ideas, in order to expect it. And I cannot see any reason for such belief I know that you are doing everything possible to my welfare. Therefore, I think that you have said it purposely to have me thinking of controversial arguments and forgetting my personal troubles and my environment. Thus, to beneficiate me. Most good of you. But, I will not discuss about yours and my different beliefs about ballot, etc., because I have many other things to tell you and I know that you know quite well the reasons of my disbelief--reasons advocate by men such as Bakounin, Kropotkin, Proudhon, Malatesta, Emerson, Shelley, William Godwin, Reclus, Galleani, Tolstoy, Spencer, and, it seems, also Christ, are named for the love of my beautiful anarchy, not for vanity or worse than that,--and, forgive me.
Now, something about hope, hopes and hoping. A Damiani's paradox says: "There is no faith without desperation, and no desperation which does not hope to the last." It is right, I believe. It is more than logic, --fatal, that my friends and comrades shall hope in my freedom. For, it is human, and honors them and proves to me their love. The hope would be the last goodness, were it not for the desperation. Our difference is a psycologic one of persons in different conditions and natures and beliefs, thus psycologically different.
To me, my life and my liberty are in the hands of enemies who can do what they please of us, because to give or to deny us a new trial is absolutely arbitrary to them. Which, in the world, and where are the reasons that make it reasonable to expect from them a new trial? All that could have been, or is, favorable to us,-- -in the sense to compel the enemies to give us, against their own will and wishes, a new trial,--has failed or is failing. So that such hope is contrary to all reason, knowledge, realities, facts, experiences, criteria and logic. The hope of the doomed. Our enemies know very well that by another trial we would be free, and this is the reason why they will forget it; save that they want to free us. I have hopes--but I hope in me and in others.
Yes, I am disappointed already, without having to wait for further damages and offenses. How could I not be disappointed? I should be insane and vanquished, while I have the soul of a winner. People have taken the bread out of their children s mouths to help us. Many have dedicated all their energy to the case; other prisoners were wronged; the same great cause has suffered because of us; we are chained, all our beloved in sorrow; the case is lost. We did not come to be vanquished but to win, to destroy a world of crimes and miseries and to re--build with its freed atoms a new world. I am disappointed, but not crushed. I have not become a rat or a renegade. And I can carry my burden to the last, and only that counts.
A good communist girl wrote me from Milwaukee: "We are celebrating the 7th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, and you too, I believe." How can I say to her that at the very thought of the Russian Revolutionary's failure all the sores of my heart open themselves, and all the anguish of my soul arises? Without hurting, or maybe, offending her? Ah, my passion for the truth! What a cross. Yet, I am glad of it, and I carry it with a strong heart. I adore freedom, it is my divinity, and the truth is its archangel of liberation....
[Comrade Blackwell refers to Alice Stone Blackwell, a supporter of Sacco and Vanzetti and a confidant of Vanzetti. Bakounin, Kropotkin, Proudhon, Malatesta, Emerson, Shelley, William Godwin, Reclus, Galleani, Tolstoy, and Spencer were poets, authors, and philosophers. Galleani refers to Luigi Galleani, the Anarchist leader to whom Sacco and Vanzetti were dedicated. Damiani refers to Gigi Damiani, the author of The Problem of Liberty.]
May 23, 1926 Charlestown Prison
Your letter of May 15th reached me last evening, but I had been previously informed of your opinion. As you know, I accepted the hiring of a good lawyer to present the case to the State Supreme Court, not because I trusted in a fair and favorable decision, but to avoid the mockery and the damage, as the case would have been had we assumed an incompetent lawyer. Now we have at least an incontrovertable historical document in our side.
I do not know how it is that you repute the actual Massachusetts' governor a liberal, contrary to the universal opinion and all his public act. Well, the life and the man are so mysterious, I know so little of them, that I would not wonder that a reactionary might be liberal in some circumstances, or that a libertarian might be reactionary in some other occasion. Yet, I will not lose a second in conjecturation, for, now and here, to act is more urgent than to phylosofy.
What is it that you would ask the Governor? A commutation of the sentence, or a pardon, or deportation, or what? What do you know, either directly or indirectly, but positively, about the Governor's intention towards us?
If it is for a commutation of the death sentence into one of the imprisonment, there would be no use to talk. In this regard, the less is contained into the more, which is, in this instance, a fight for freedom.
But if you know that the Governor will free us, even if through deportation, then, I ask you as I would to a brother of blood, faith and arms, jump to this shore, or appoint a person of your confidence to obtain it. We will accept and spare to us and to others further toil, sacrifices and anguish. If it is not so, I will remain for the continuation of the legal defense to the last, though I am convinced that it will be useless and we, beated. . . We will ask for revindication; we know that in digging our little graves, the reaction undermines its world, and anticipates its final collapse. . .
We have still evidences enough to obtain a trial, but I know that all is useless in our case. So, let us fight to the last; if we will fall, thousands will arise, determined, implacable, daring of the supreme audacities and of the extreme perdictions. Let us fight!
Please answer me as clear and as soon as possible, if you know nothing positively. And act ever more quickly, if the other hypothesis is the true one.
[Baldwin refers to Roger Baldwin, the American Civil Liberties Union director.]
Afternoon of July 20 1927. Charlestown Prison
DEAR MRS. HENDERSON:
Not knowing what t o think of your long silence, I wondered of it and thought many things: that you may have been unwell, or too busy, or abroad or traveling or--or that you might have been sorry for what I had said to you of the Governor. . .
I too would like to see you and have a good conversation with you--but, but it cannot be for now, and maybe, for nevermore.
The day before yesterday I asked my friend Aldino to send a telegram for my family to Giacomo Caldera, your interpreter at my home. I told him to tell my sister Luigina, if she can, to come here for I wish to see her before to die--since from all I can understand the Gov. is decided to execute us. I begged Giacomo to prepare my Ones to the bad news before to give it to them. Maybe I did wrongly, but I wish too much to see and talk at least with Luigina, before I die.
I see, dear Mrs. Henderson that you are still optimist and hopeful, greatly trusting in Governor Fuller. Maybe you are right and will be right--but for all that I am told and I can understand both the Governor and the Commission distrusts all our witnesses; trusts all the Government's perjurers; cannot or want not understand or both of that.
Gov. Fuller told Rosa that my lawyers at the Plymouth trial wanted me to take the stand; that I refused to take it and sent a boy of 12 years to talk for me by reciting a lesson leamt by heart. A greatest wrong than this was never done to truth and to an innocent man as I am. How can the Governor not believe in Beltrando and all my truthful witnesses? How can he believe that a 12 year old boy could have perjured and resist a three hours of cross-examination by Katzmann?--and Katzmann put him on the stand again, for more than an hour, next day, and without warning. If the Governor does not believe Beltrando, he neither believes all the other of my witnesses. How can he believe that a boy, a Beltrando is now, would insist in a perjury? Is capable of perjury? Why then, Beltrando tells now of his positiveness of my innocence everywhere? always? to all? How can the Governor believe in the States' perjurers against us, he who knows or should know that they changed three times their dispositions, in order to fit them to me and convict me?
And what of the Commission? Judge Grant is against us to death as he has always been since our arrest and without knowing the case. We know now positively that all he wants is to execute us.
Also the attitude of the other two members is against us. Few days ago they abuse three Italian men because they witnessed the truth. Lately it was found out that the three men had told the truth--but as an indication of feeling the fact remains.
These are the reasons why we began our hungry strike. If after seven years and three months of agony, during which we proved our innocence and the iniquity of our trial and trialers, we have to be murdered in such way as this for crimes of which we are innocent--we prefer to die of starvation rather than die without a protest. I wonder if our enemies can believe that we are wrong.
Well, tomorrow after having read your letter sent by Rosa, I will write something more. But while I have it in mind: If you are not sure of anything, try, yes, if you please, to encourage my people with words of fortitude, but don't be too optimist with them, because if I am not wrong and things are turning to the worst, is better to prepare them from now to bear my loss, rather than give them hopes which would make more terrible a fatal news.
[Mrs. Henderson refers to Mrs. Jessica Henderson, an early supporter of Sacco and Vanzetti who was long convinced of their innocence. Beltrando refers to Beltrando Brini, a boy whose family Vanzetti lived with for years and who testified on Vanzetti's behalf at the trial. Judge Grant refers to Judge Robert Grant, a former probate judge who was on the advisory committee that Gov. Fuller created to investigate the Sacco and Vanzetti case. Katzmann refers to Frederick G. Katzmann, the prosecuting attorney who tried Sacco and Vanzetti. Rosa refers to Sacco's wife Rosina.]