Volume 2, Chapter 45
Volume 2, Chapter 45
THE HATED ROMANOVS WERE AT LAST HURLED FROM THEIR throne, the Czar and his cohorts shorn of power. It was not the result of a political coup d' état; the great achievement was accomplished by the rebellion of the entire people. Only yesterday inarticulate, crushed, as they had been for centuries, under the heel of a ruthless absolutism, insulted and degraded, the Russian masses had risen to demand their heritage and to proclaim to the whole world that autocracy and tyranny were for ever at an end in their country. The glorious tidings were the first sign of life in the vast European cemetery of war and destruction. They inspired all liberty-loving people with new hope and enthusiasm, yet no one felt the spirit of the Revolution as did the natives of Russia scattered all over the globe. They saw their beloved Matushka Rossiya now extend to them the promise of manhood and aspiration.
Russia was free; yet not truly so. Political independence was but the first step on the road to the new life. Of what use are "rights," I thought, if the economic conditions remain unchanged. I had known the blessings of democracy too long to have faith in political scene-shifting. Far more abiding was my faith in the people themselves, in the Russian masses now awakened to the consciousness of their power and to the realization of their opportunities. The imprisoned and exiled martyrs who had struggled to free Russia were now being resurrected, and some of their dreams realized. They were returning from the icy wastes of Siberia, from dungeons and banishment. They were coming back to unite with the people and to help them build a new Russia, economically and socially.
America also was contributing its quota. At the first news of the Czar's overthrow thousands of exiles hastened back to their native country, now the Land of Promise. Many had lived in the United States for decades and acquired families and homes. But their hearts dwelt more in Russia than in the country they were enriching by their labor, which nevertheless scorned them as "foreigners." Russia was welcoming them, her doors wide open to receive her sons and daughters. Like swallows at the first sign of spring they began to fly back, orthodox and revolutionists for once on common ground --- their love and longing for their native soil.
Our own old yearning, Sasha's and mine, began to stir again in our hearts. All through the years we had been close to the pulse of Russia, close to her spirit and her superhuman struggle for liberation. But our lives were rooted in our adopted land. We had learned to love her physical grandeur and her beauty and to admire the men and women who were fighting for freedom, the Americans of the best caliber. I felt myself one of them, an American in the truest sense, spiritually rather than by the grace of a mere scrap of paper. For twenty-eight years I had lived, dreamed, and worked for that America. Sasha, too, was torn between the urge to return to Russia and the necessity of continuing his campaign to save the life of Mooney, whose fatal hour was fast approaching. Could he forsake the doomed man and the others whose fate hung in the balance?
Then came Wilson's decision that the United States must join the European slaughter to make the world safe for democracy. Russia had great need of her revolutionary exiles, but Sasha and I now felt that America needed us more. We decided to remain.
The declaration of war by the United States dismayed and over awed most of the middle-class pacifists. Some even suggested that we terminate our anti-militarist activities. A certain woman, a member of the Colony Club of New York, who had repeatedly offered to supply money for anti-war work in the European countries now demanded that we discontinue our agitation. Having declined her previous offers, I felt free to tell her that true charity begins at home. I could see no reason for giving up the stand on war that I had maintained for a quarter of a century, just because Woodrow Wilson had tired of his watchful waiting. I could not alter my convictions merely because he had ceased to be "too proud" to let American boys do the fighting, while he and other statesmen remained at home.
With the collapse of the pseudo-radicals the entire burden of anti-war activity fell upon the more courageous militant elements. Our group in particular redoubled its efforts, and I was kept feverishly busy traveling between New York and nearby cities, speaking and organizing the campaign.
A contingent of Russian exiles and refugees was preparing to leave for their native land, and we helped to equip its members with provisions, clothing, and money. Most of them were anarchists, and all of them were eager to participate in the upbuilding of their country on a foundation of human brotherhood and equality. The work of organizing the return to Russia was in charge of our comrade William Shatoff, familiarly known as Bill.
This revolutionary anarchist, compelled to take refuge in America from the tyranny of the Russian autocracy, had during his ten years' sojourn in the United States shared the life of the true proletarian and was always in the thick of the struggle for the betterment of the workers' condition. Having worked as a laborer, longshoreman, machinist, and printer, Bill was familiar with the hardships, insecurity, and humiliation that characterize the existence of the immigrant toiler. Many a weaker man would have perished spiritually, but Bill had the vision of an ideal, an inexhaustible energy, and a keen intellect. He devoted his life to the enlightenment of the Russian refugees. He was a splendid organizer, an eloquent speaker, and a man of courage. These qualities enabled him to gather into one great body the various small groups of Russians in America. He was eminently successful in helping to weld them into a powerful and solidaric organization, known as the Union of Russian Workers, which embraced the United States and Canada. Its aim was the education and revolutionary development of the vast numbers of Russian workers whom the Greek Catholic Church in America sought to ensnare, as it had done at home. Bill Shatoff and the comrades active with him had for years worked to awaken their dark Russian brothers to their economic situation and to enlighten them on the importance of organized co-operation. Most of them were unskilled men, laboring long hours and ruthlessly exploited at most arduous toil in mines and mills and on the railroads. Thanks to Bill's energy and devotion, these masses were gradually united into a strong body of rebels.
Shatoff was also for a time manager of the Ferrer Center, and in that capacity his intelligence and enthusiasm proved as efficient as in evervthing else he undertook.
No less fine was our Bill in the personal relationships of life. Charming and jovial, he was a splendid companion, dependable in every emergency and especially in difficult situations. A staunch and brave friend, Bill insisted on accompanying Sasha when the latter was in danger of attack by San Francisco detectives because of his work in behalf of Mooney. On Sasha's journey to various cities Bill acted as his self-constituted body-guard, and it afforded me great relief to know that any person attempting to do violence to Sasha would meet with the additional resistance of our stouthearted Bill.
With the first news of the miracle that had taken place in Russia, Shatoff began organizing the thousands of his radical compatriots eager to return home. Like a true captain of a ship he had determined to see everyone safely on his way, without thought of himself. He would go last, he told us, when we urged that his experience and abilities would be more valuable in Russia than in America. He remained until his own departure had grown almost perilous.
I had known for some time of the presence in New York of Mme Alexandra Kolontay and Leon Trotsky. From the former I had received several letters and a copy of her book on woman's share in the world's work. She had asked me to meet her, but I had been unable to spare the time. Later on I had invited her to dinner, but she was prevented by illness from coming. Leon Trotsky I had also never met before, but I happened to be in the city when an announcement was made of a farewell meeting which he was to address before leaving for Russia. I attended the gathering. After several rather dull speakers Trotsky was introduced. A man of medium height, with haggard cheeks, reddish hair, and straggling red beard stepped briskly forward. His speech, first in Russian and then in German, was powerful and electrifying. I did not agree with his political attitude; he was a Menshevik (Social Democrat), and as such far removed from us. But his analysis of the causes of the war was brilliant, his denunciation of the ineffective Provisional Government in Russia scathing, and his presentation of the conditions that led up to the Revolution illuminating. He closed his two hours' talk with an eloquent tribute to the working masses of his native land. The audience was roused to a high pitch of enthusiasm, and Sasha and I heartily joined in the ovation given the speaker. We fully shared his profound faith in the future of Russia.
After the meeting we met Trotsky to bid him good-bye. He knew about us and he inquired when we meant to come to Russia to help in the work of reconstruction. "We will surely meet there," he remarked.
I discussed with Sasha the unexpected turn of events that made us feel closer to Trotsky, the Menshevik, than to Peter Kropotkin, our comrade, teacher, and friend. The war was producing strange bedfellows, and we wondered whether we should still feel near to Trotsky when in the course of time we should reach Russia, for we had only postponed, not given up, our return there.
Shortly after Trotsky's departure the first group of our comrades sailed. We gave them a joyous sendoff at a large party attended by many of our American friends, who also generously contributed to the needs of the men. Sasha had conceived the idea of a manifesto to the Russian workers, peasants, and soldiers, and we wrote it just in time to send it with the group. Among them were a number of men and women who had worked with us in our various campaigns in the Blast and Mother Earth. The manifesto was entrusted to Louise Berger and S.F., our closest and most dependable friends. It was an appeal to the masses of Russia to voice their protest to Washington against the condemnation of Tom Mooney and Warren K. Billings. We thought it the only method left to save the innocently convicted men.
In the spirit of her military preparations America was rivaling the most despotic countries of the Old World. Conscription, resorted to by Great Britain only after eighteen months of war, was decided upon by Wilson within one month after the United States had decided to enter the European conflict. Washington was not so squeamish about the rights of its citizens as the British Parliament had been. The academic author of The New Freedom did not hesitate to destroy every democratic principle at one blow. He had assured the world that America was moved by the highest humanitarian motives, her aim being to democratize Germany. What if he had to Prussianize the United States in order to achieve it? Free-born Americans had to be forcibly pressed into the military mold, herded like cattle, and shipped across the waters to fertilize the fields of France. Their sacrifice would earn them the glory of having demonstrated the superiority of My Country, 'Tis of Thee over Die Wacht am Rhein. No American president had ever before succeeded in so humbugging the people as Woodrow Wilson, who wrote and talked democracy, acted despotically, privately and officially, and yet managed to keep up the myth that he was championing humanity and freedom.
We had no illusions about the outcome of the conscription bill pending before Congress. We regarded the measure as a complete denial of every human right, the death-knell to liberty of conscience, and we determined to fight it unconditionally. We did not expect to be able to stem the tidal wave of hatred and violence which compulsory service was bound to bring, but we felt that we had at least to make known at large that there were some in the United States who owned their souls and who meant to preserve their integrity, no matter what the cost.
We decided to call a conference in the Mother Earth office to broach the organization of a No-Conscription League and draw up a manifesto to clarify to the people of America the menace of conscription. We also planned a large mass meeting as a protest against compelling American men to sign their own death-warrants in the form of forced military registration.
Because of previously arranged lecture dates in Springfield, Massachusetts, I was unfortunately not able to be present at the conference, set for May 9. But as Sasha, Fitzi, Leonard D. Abbott, and other clearheaded friends would attend, I felt no anxiety about the outcome. It was suggested that the conference should take up the question of whether the No-Conscription League should urge men not to register. En route to Springfield I wrote a short statement giving my attitude on the matter. I sent it with a note to Fitzi asking her to read it at the gathering. I took the position that, as a woman and therefore myself not subject to military service, I could not advise people on the matter. Whether or not one is to lend oneself as a tool for the business of killing should properly be left to the individual conscience. As an anarchist I could not presume to decide the fate of others, I wrote. But I could say to those who refused to be coerced into military service that I would plead their cause and stand by their act against all odds.
By the time I returned from Springfield the No-Conscription League had been organized and the Harlem River Casino rented for a mass meeting to take place on May 18. Those who had participated at the conference had agreed with my attitude regarding registration.
In the midst of our activities Sasha met with a serious accident. I was living again in the little room behind the Mother Earth office in One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, while Sasha and Fitzi had moved the Blast to the room on the upper floor, formerly occupied by our friend Stewart Kerr. There was no telephone connection in the house except in my office, and one day Sasha, hurrying to answer a call, slipped and fell down the whole length of the steep stairway. Upon examination the ligaments of his left foot were found torn, and a physician ordered him to bed. Sasha would not listen to it; with the amount of work on hand and with only a few comrades to look after it, he could not rest, he said. Though in great pain and able only to hop about on crutches, he was bent on attending the meeting at the Harlem River Casino.
On May 18 Fitzi and I resorted to every feminine trick we could think of to persuade our cripple to remain at home, but he insisted on coming with us. He was helped by two husky comrades down the stairs and lifted into a taxi, and the same performance was repeated later at the hall.
Almost ten thousand people filled the place, among them many newly rigged-out soldiers and their woman friends, a very boisterous lot indeed. Several hundred policemen and detectives were scattered through the hall. When the session opened, a few young "patriots" tried to rush the stage entrance. Their attempt was foiled, because we had prepared for such a contingency.
Leonard D. Abbott presided, and on the platform were Harry Weinberger, Louis Fraina, Sasha, myself, and a number of other opponents of forced military service. Men and women of varying political views supported our stand on this occasion. Every speaker vigorously denounced the conscription bill which was awaiting the President's signature. Sasha was particularly splendid. Resting his injured leg on a chair and supporting himself with one hand on the table, he breathed strength and defiance. Always a man of great self-control, his poise on this occasion was remarkable. No one in the vast audience could have guessed that he was in pain, or that he gave a single thought to his helpless condition if we should fail to carry the meeting to a peaceful end. With great clarity and sustained power Sasha spoke as I had never heard him before.
The future heroes were noisy all through the speeches, but when I stepped on the platform, pandemonium broke loose. They jeered and hooted, intoned The Star-Spangled Banner, and frantically waved small American flags. Above the din the voice of a recruit shouted: "I want the floor!" The patience of the audience had been sorely tried all evening by the interrupters. Now men rose from every part of the house and called to the disturber to shut up or be kicked out. I knew what such a thing would lead to, with the police waiting for a chance to aid the patriotic ruffians. Moreover, I did not want to deny free speech even to the soldier. Raising my voice, I appealed to the assembly to permit the man to speak. "We who have come here to protest against coercion and to demand the right to think and act in accordance with our consciences," I urged, "should recognize the right of an opponent to speak and we should listen quietly and grant him the respect we demand for ourselves. The young man no doubt believes in the justice of his cause as we do in ours, and he has pledged his life for it. I suggest therefore that we all rise in appreciation of his evident sincerity and that we hear him out in silence." The audience rose to a man.
The soldier had probably never before faced such a large assembly. He looked frightened and he began in a quavering voice that barely carried to the platform, although he was sitting near it. He stammered something about "German money" and "traitors," got confused, and came to a sudden stop. Then, turning to his comrades, he cried: "Oh, hell! Let's get out of here!" Out the whole gang slunk, waving their little flags and followed by laughter and applause.
Returning from the meeting home we heard newsboys shouting extra night editions --- the conscription bill had become a law! Registration day was set for June 4. The thought struck me that on that day American democracy would be carried to its grave.
We felt that May 18 was the beginning of a period of historic importance. To Sasha and myself the day had also a profound personal meaning. It was the twelfth anniversary of his resurrection from the Western Penitentiary of Pennsylvania, the first time in years that he and I were together in the same city and on the same platform.
Streams of callers besieged our office from morning till late at night; young men, mostly, seeking advice on whether they should register. We knew, of course, that among them were also decoys sent to trick us into saying that they should not. The majority, however, were frightened youths, fearfully wrought up and at sea as to what to do. They were helpless creatures about to be sacrificed to Moloch. Our sympathies were with them, but we felt that we had no right to decide the vital issue for them. There were also distracted mothers, imploring us to save their boys. By the hundreds they came, wrote, or telephoned. All day long our telephone rang; our offices were filled with people, and stacks of mail arrived from every part of the country asking for information about the No-Conscription League, pledging support and urging us to go on with the work. In this bedlam we had to prepare copy for the current issues of Mother Earth and the Blast, write our manifesto, and send out circulars announcing our forthcoming meeting. At night, when trying to get some sleep, we would be rung out of bed by reporters wanting to know our next step.
Anti-conscription meetings were also taking place outside of New York and I was busy organizing branches of the No-Conscription League. At such a gathering in Philadelphia the police came down with drawn clubs and threatened to beat up the audience if I dared mention conscription. I proceeded to talk about the freedom the masses in Russia had gained. At the close of the meeting fifty persons retired to a private place, where we organized a No-Conscription League. Similar experiences were repeated in many cities.
A week after the Harlem River Casino meeting I received a telegram from Tom Mooney indicating the hoplessness of further legal proceedings in his case and urging an appeal to the people of the country. His telegram read:
May 25, 1917
The conviction of Warren K. Billings, in spite of absolute proof of his innocence, had caused the defense to investigate the witnesses for the prosecution. Virtually every one of them was proved to be a tool of District Attorney Charles Fickert, and several confessed that their testimony for the State was purchased by threats and bribery. The jury also was found to have been tampered with by agents of the Chamber of Commerce. It was too late to save Billings, but it warned the defense of what it had to expect in the trial of Tom Mooney.
Fickert realized that some of his old witnesses, exposed as perjurers and professional prostitutes, could not be used against Mooney. He therefore prepared others of a similar caliber, the star among them being a certain Frank C. Oxman, an alleged Western cattleman. It was mainly on the evidence of Oxman that Mooney was convicted. He testified that he was in San Francisco on Preparedness Day, and he identified Mooney as the man whom he saw placing a suit-case (supposedly of explosives) on a street-corner along the route of the march. An investigation proved that Oxman had not been in San Francisco on the date of the parade. Moreover, a letter by Oxman to his friend F. E. Rigall was produced, in which Oxman urged him to earn "a piece of money" by coming to testify against Mooney. Rigall was at the time in Niagara Falls and had never been in San Francisco. The proof of Oxman's perjury was so overwhelming that District Attorney Fickert was compelled to bring him to trial. Notwithstanding all these developments, in spite even of the admission of the trial judge, Franklin A. Griffin, that Mooney had been convicted on false testimony, the Supreme Court of California refused to intervene. Mooney was doomed to die!
The country-wide campaign that Sasha had started for Mooney almost a year previously had meanwhile borne fruit. The case had been taken up by radical and progressive labor organizations throughout the land, and many liberal organizations as well as influential individuals had become interested. Work to save the convicted man from the gallows continued without abatement.
At the peace meeting in Madison Square Garden, arranged jointly by the more radical anti-war organizations on June 1, several of our young comrades were arrested for distributing announcements for our Hunt's Point Palace meeting on June 4. Learning of it, we dispatched a letter to the District Attorney, taking entire responsibility for what the arrested boys had done. We pointed out that if it was a crime to give out the handbill, we, its authors, were the guilty persons. The letter was signed by Sasha and me, and we enclosed a special-delivery stamp for an immediate reply. But no answer came and no action was taken against us.
The arrested boys included Morris Becker, Louis Kramer, Joseph Walker, and Louis Sternberg. They were charged with conspiracy to advise people not to submit to the Conscription Law. Their trial took place before Federal Judge Julius M. Mayer. Kramer and Becker were convicted, the jury recommending clemency for the latter. The Judge's idea of clemency was a scurrilous denunciation of the defendants. He called Kramer a coward and gave him the limit of the law, two years in the Federal penitentiary at Atlanta and ten thousand dollars' fine. Becker received one year and eight months and was also condemned to pay a similar fine. The other two boys, Sternberg and Walker, were acquitted. Harry Weinberger had conducted their defense in his usual able way and he appealed their case. Louis Kramer, while in the Tombs awaiting transfer to Atlanta, refused to register for the draft and was sentenced to serve an additional year.
The June issue of Mother Earth appeared draped in black, its cover representing a tomb bearing the inscription: 'IN MEMORIAM -- AMERICAN DEMOCRACY.' The somber attire of the magazine was striking and effective. No words could express more eloquently the tragedy that turned America, the erstwhile torch-bearer of freedom, into grave-digger of her former ideals.
We strained our capital to the last penny to issue an extra large edition. We wanted to mail copies to every Federal officer, to every editor, in the country and to distribute the magazine among young workers and college students. Our twenty thousand copies barely sufficed to supply our own needs. It made us feel our poverty more than ever before. Fortunately an unexpected ally came to our assistance: the New York newspapers! They had reprinted whole passages from our anti-conscription manifesto, some even reproducing the entire text and thus bringing it to the attention of millions of readers. Now they copiously quoted from our June issue and editorially commented at length on its contents.
The press throughout the country raved at our defiance of law and presidential orders. We duly appreciated their help in making our voices resound through the land, our voices that but yesterday had called in vain. Incidentally the papers also gave wide publicity to our meeting scheduled for June 4.
Our busy and exciting life was not conducive to Sasha's speedy recovery. He continued to suffer much pain and discomfort. Most of his writing had to be done in bed or with his leg perched up on a chair. He could barely hop about on crutches, but he was again adamant in his decision to attend the mass meeting. We knew he was suffering, but he cracked jokes and scolded Fitzi and me because we were making "too much fuss."
When we got within half a dozen blocks of Hunt's Point Palace, our taxi had to come to a stop. Before us was a human dam, as far as the eye could see, a densely packed, swaying mass, counting tens of thousands. On the outskirts were police on horse and on foot, and great numbers of soldiers in khaki. They were shouting orders, swearing, and pushing the crowd from the sidewalks to the street and back again. The taxi could not proceed, and it was hopeless to try to get Sasha to the hall on his crutches. We had to make a detour around vacant lots until we reached the back entrance of the Palace. There we came upon a score of patrol wagons armed with search-lights and machine-guns. The officers stationed at the stage door, failing to recognize us, refused to let us pass. A reporter who knew us whispered to the police sergeant in charge. " Oh, all right," he shouted, "but nobody else will be admitted. The place is overcrowded."
The sergeant had lied; the house was only half filled. The police were keeping the people from getting in, and at seven o'clock they had ordered the doors locked. While they were denying the right of entry to workers, they permitted scores of half-drunken sailors and soldiers to enter the hall. The balcony and the front seats were filled with them. They talked loudly, made vulgar remarks, jeered, hooted, and otherwise behaved as befits men who are preparing to make the world safe for democracy.
In the room behind the stage were officials from the Department of Justice, members of the Federal attorney's office, United States marshals, detectives from the "Anarchist Squad," and reporters. The scene looked as if set for bloodshed. The representatives of law and order were obviously keyed up for trouble.
Among the "alien enemies" in the hall and on the platform were men and women prominent in the field of education, art, and letters. One of them was the distinguished Irish rebel Mrs. Sheehy-Skeffington, the widow of the pacifist author murdered in the Dublin uprising the previous year. A lover of peace and an eloquent pleader for freedom and justice, she was a sweet and gentle soul. In her was personified the spirit of our gathering, the respect for human life and liberty that was seeking public expression that evening.
When the meeting was opened and Leonard D. Abbott took the chair, he was greeted by the soldiers and sailors with catcalls, whistles, and stamping of feet. This failing of the desired effect, the uniformed men in the gallery began throwing on the platform electric lamps which they had unscrewed from the fixtures. Several bulbs struck a vase holding a bunch of red carnations, sending vase and flowers crashing to the floor. Confusion followed, the audience rising in indignant protest and demanding that the police put the ruffians out. John Reed, who was with us, called on the police captain to order the disturbers removed, but that official declined to intervene.
After repeated appeals from the chairman, supported by some women in the audience, comparative quiet was restored. But not for long. Every speaker had to go through the same ordeal. Even the mothers of prospective soldiers, who poured out their anguish and wrath, were jeered by the savages in Uncle Sam's uniform.
Stella was one of the mothers to address the audience. It was the first time she had to face such an assembly and endure insults. Her own son was still too young to be subject to conscription, but she shared the woe and grief of other, less fortunate, parents, and she could articulate the protest of those who had no opportunity to speak. She held her own against the interruptions and carried the audience with her by the earnestness and fervor of her talk.
Sasha was the next speaker; others were to follow him, and I was to speak last. Sasha refused to be helped to the platform. Slowly and with great effort he managed to climb up the several steps and then walked across the stage to the chair placed for him near the footlights. Again, as on May 18, he had to stand on one leg, resting the other on the chair and supporting himself with one hand on the table. He stood erect, his head held high, his jaw set, his eyes clear and unflinchingly turned on the disturbers. The audience rose and greeted Sasha with prolonged applause, a token of their appreciation of his appearance in spite of his injury. The enthusiastic demonstration seemed to enrage the patriots, most of whom were obviously under the influence of drink. Renewed shouts, whistles, stamping, and hysterical cries of the women accompanying the soldiers greeted Sasha. Above the clamor a hoarse voice cried: "No more! We've had enough!" But Sasha would not be daunted. He began to speak, louder and louder, berating the hoodlums, now reasoning with them, now holding them up to scorn. His words seemed to impress them. They became quiet. Then, suddenly, a husky brute in front shouted: "Let's charge the platform! Let's get the slacker!" In an instant the audience were on their feet. Some ran up to grab the soldier. I rushed to Sasha's side. In my highest pitch I cried: "Friends, friends -- wait, wait!" The suddenness of my appearance attracted everyone's attention. "The soldiers and sailors have been sent here to cause trouble," I admonished the people, "and the police are in league with them. If we lose our heads there will be bloodshed, and it will be our blood they will shed!" There were cries of "She's right!" "It's true!" I took advantage of the momentous pause. "Your presence here," I continued, "and the presence of the multitude outside shouting their approval of every word they can catch, are convincing proof that you do not believe in violence, and it equally proves that you understand that war is the most fiendish violence. War kills deliberately, ruthlessly, and destroys innocent lives. No, it is not we who have come to create a riot here. We must refuse to be provoked to it. Intelligence and a passionate faith are more convincing than armed police, machine-guns, and rowdies in soldiers' coats. We have demonstrated it tonight. We still have many speakers, some of them with illustrious American names. But nothing they or I could say will add to the splendid example you have given. Therefore I declare the meeting closed. File out orderly, intone our inspiring revolutionary songs, and leave the soldiers to their tragic fate, which at present they are too ignorant to realize."
The strains of the Internationale rose above the approval shouted by the audience, and the song was taken up by the many-throated mass outside. Patiently they had waited for five hours and every word that had reached them through the open windows had found a strong echo in their hearts. All through the meeting their applause had thundered back to us, and now their jubilant song.
In the committee room a reporter of the New York World rushed up to me. "Your presence of mind saved the situation," he congratulated me. "But what will you report in your paper?" I asked. "Will you tell of the rough-house the soldiers tried to make, and the refusal of the police to stop them?" He would, he said, but I was certain that no truthful report would be published, even if he should have the courage to write it.
The next morning the World proclaimed that "Rioting accompanied the meeting of the No-Conscription League at Hunt's Point Palace. Many were injured and twelve arrests made. Soldiers in uniform sneered at the speakers. After adjournment the real riot began in the adjacent streets."
The alleged riot was of editorial making and seemed a deliberate attempt to stop further protests against conscription. The police took the hint. They issued orders to the hall-keepers not to rent their premises for any meeting to be addressed by Alexander Berkman or Emma Goldman. Not even the owners of places we had been using for years dared disobey. They were sorry, they said; they did not fear arrest, but the soldiers had threateneed their lives and property. We secured Forward Hall, on East Broadway, which belonged to the Jewish Socialist Party. It was small for our purpose, barely big enough to seat a thousand people' but no other place was to be had in entire New York. The awed silence of the pacifist and anti-military organizations which followed the passing of the registration bill made it doubly imperative for us to continue the work. We scheduled a mass meeting for June I4.
It was not necessary for us to print announcements. We merely called up the newspapers, and they did the rest. They denounced our impudence in continuing anti-war activities, and they sharply criticized the authorities for failing to stop us. As a matter of fact, the police were working overtime waylaying draft-evaders. They arrested thousands, but many more had refused to register. The press did not report the actual state of affairs; it did not care to make it known that large numbers of Americans had the manhood to defy the government. We knew through our own channels that thousands had determined not to shoulder a gun against people who were as innocent as themselves in causing the world-slaughter.
One day, while I was dictating letters to my secretary, an old man came into the Mother Earth office and asked for Berkman. Sasha was engaged in the rear room. Engrossed in work, I did not take the time even to invite the caller to sit down. I pointed to the back, indicating that he might enter. In a few minutes Sasha called me in. He introduced the visitor as James Hallbeck, for years a subscriber of Mother Earth and the Blast, whom he had met in San Francisco. The name was familiar to me and I remembered the man's ready response to our appeals. Sasha told me that the comrade wanted to make a contribution to our work. We needed money for our campaign desperately and I was glad that someone had come forward with an offer. The indifferent reception I had given Hallbeck made me somewhat embarrassed when he handed me his check. I apologized by explaining how busy we were, but he assured me that he understood and that it was perfectly all right. He had very little time, he said, and, hastily bidding us good-bye, he edged his way out. When I looked at the check, I discovered to my amazement that it was for three thousand dollars. I was sure the old comrade had made a mistake and I quickly went to call him back. But he shook his head and assured me that there was no error about it. I begged him to return to the office and tell us something about himself. I could not take the money without knowing whether he had enough left to secure his old age.
He told us that he had emigrated from Sweden to America sixty years previously. A rebel since his youth, the judicial murder of our Chicago comrades had made him an anarchist. For a quarter of a century he had lived in California as a wine-grower and he had saved a little money. His own needs were small, and he had no kin in the United States, never having married. His three sisters in the old country were in comfortable circumstances, and they would also get a modest legacy after his death. He was very much interested in the No-Conscription campaign, and, being too old to participate actively, he had decided to put a little money at our disposal for the work. We need have no scruples about accepting the check, he assured us. "I am eighty," he added, "and I have not much longer to live. I want to feel that whatever I can spare will benefit the cause I have believed in during the largest part of my life. I don't want the State or the Church to profit by my death." Our venerable comrade's simple manner, his devotion to our work and generous gesture, affected us too profoundly for banal expressions of thanks. Our hand-clasp showed our appreciation, and he left us as unostentatiously as he had come. His check was deposited in the bank as a fund for anti-war activities.
June I4, the day of our Forward Hall meeting, arrived. In the late afternoon I was called on the telephone, and a strange voice warned me against attending the gathering. The man had overheard a plot to kill me, he informed me. I asked for his name, but he declined to give it; nor would he consent to see me. I thanked him for his interest in my welfare and hung up the receiver.
Jocularly I told Sasha and Fitzi that I must prepare my will. "But I shall probably reach a disgusting old age," I remarked. To be prepared for any eventuality, however, I decided to leave a note directing that "the $3000 contributed by James Hallbeck should remain in charge of Alexander Berkman, my lifelong friend and comrade in battle, to be applied to anti-war work and the support of imprisoned conscientious objectors." The Mother Earth fund, consisting of $329, was to pay our office debts; our stock of books was to be sold and the proceeds used for the needs of the movement. My personal library I bequeathed to my youngest brother and Stella. My only property, the little farm in Ossining, which my friend Bolton Hall had recently deeded to me, I left to Ian Keith Ballantine, Stella's little boy. Sasha and Fitzi witnessed the document with their signatures.
Reaching East Broadway, where Forward Hall is located, we were met, not by ordinary plotters, but by the entire police department. At least it seemed so to us, judging by the number of New York's "finest" that lined the street and the whole of Rutgers Square adjacent to our meeting-place. The crowd had been pushed back to the farthest end of the square. Those who had succeeded in getting into the building found themselves locked in and held as prisoners, as it were. No conspirators having designs upon my life had the ghost of a chance to get near me or Sasha, so closely were we encircled by husky officers, who hurried us into the building.
The hall was filled to suffocation. There were police galore and an array of Federal officials, but no soldiers. Forward Hall had probably never before held such a large American attendance. People seemed to realize that free expression on the war and conscription had become a rarity, and they were eager to lend their support.
The meeting was very spirited and our program was carried out without a hitch. But at the close every man in the hall who appeared subject to the draft was detained by the officers, and those who could not show a registration card were placed under arrest. It was apparently the intention of the Federal authorities to use our meeting as a trap. We therefore resolved to hold no more public gatherings unless we could make sure that those who had not complied with the registration law would keep away. We decided to concentrate more on the printed word.
On the following afternoon we were all busy in our offices. Sasha and Fitzi were on the upper floor, preparing the next issue of the Blast worked with mv new secretary, Pauline, while our friend Carl, the "Swede," was mailing our circulars. He was a staunch and dependable comrade who had been with us for a long time, first in Chicago, where he had helped with my lectures, then in San Francisco, where he was associated with the Blast, and now in New York. Carl was among the most trustworthy and level-headed men in our ranks. Nothing could ruffle his even temper or make him give up a task once undertaken. He was being assisted in the office by two other active comrades, Walter Merchant and W. P. Bales, who were true American rebels.
Above the hum of conversation and the clicking of the typewriter we suddenly heard the heavy stamping of feet on the stairway, and before any one of us had a chance to see what was the matter, a dozen men burst into my office. The leader of the party excitedly cried: "Emma Goldman, you're under arrest! And so is Berkman; where is he?" It was United States Marshal Thomas D. McCarthy. I knew him by sight; of late he had always stationed himself near the platform at our No-Conscription meetings, his whole attitude one of impatient readiness to spring upon the speakers. The newspapers had reported him as saying that he had repeatedly wired Washington for orders to arrest us.
"I hope you will get the medal you crave," I said to him. "Just the same, you might let me see your warrant." Instead he held out a copy of the June Mother Earth and demanded whether I was the author of the No-Conscription article it contained. "Obviously," I answered. "since my name is signed to it. Furthermore, I take the responsibility for everything else in the magazine. But where is your warrant?" McCarthy declared that no warrant was necessary for us; Mother Earth contained enough treasonable matter to land us in jail for years. He had come to get us and we had better hurry up.
Leisurely I walked towards the stairs and called: "Sasha, Fitzi -- some visitors are here to arrest us." McCarthy and several of his men roughly pushed me aside and dashed up to the Blast office. The deputy marshals took possession of my desk and began examining the books and pamphlets on our shelves, throwing them in a pile on the floor. A detective grabbed W. P. Bales, the youngest of our group, and announced that he was also under arrest. Walter Merchant and Carl were commanded to stand back until the search was over.
I started for my room to change my dress, aware that a night's free lodging was in store for me. One of the men rushed up to detain me, taking hold of my arm. I wrenched myself loose. "If your chief didn't have the guts to come up here without a body-guard of thugs," I said to him, "he should at least have instructed you not to act like one. I'm not going to run away. I only want to dress for the reception awaiting us, and I don't propose to let you act as my maid." The men ransacking my desk laughed coarsely. "She's a caution," one remarked, "but it's all right, officer, let her go to her room." When I emerged with my book and small toilet outfit, I found that Fitzi and Sasha, who was still on crutches, were already down. McCarthy was with them.
"I want the membership list of the No-Conscription League," he demanded.
"We ourselves are always ready to receive our friends the police," I retorted; "but we are careful not to take chances with the names and addresses of those who cannot afford the honor of an arrest. We don't keep the No-Conscription list in our office, and you can't find out where it is."
The procession started down the stairs to the waiting automobiles, McCarthy and his assistants in front, Sasha and I behind them. In the rear two deputy marshals leading Bales, followed by officers of the "bomb squad." With Sasha I was given the place of honor in the Chief Marshal's car. We fairly flew through the congested streets, frightening people by the screeching of the horn and sending them scampering in all directions. It was after six o'clock and masses of workers were streaming from the factories, but McCarthy would not permit the chauffeur to slacken up, nor did he heed the frantic signals of the traffic policemen along the route. When I called his attention to the fact that he was breaking the speed regulations and endangering the lives of the pedestrians, he replied importantly: "I represent the United States Government."
In the Federal Building we were joined by Harry Weinberger, our pugnacious lawyer and unfailing friend. He asked for immediate arraignment and release on bail, but our arrest had purposely been staged for the late afternoon after the official closing hour. We were ordered to the Tombs prison.
The following morning we were taken before United States Commissioner Hitchcock. The prosecutor, Federal Attorney for the District of New York, Harold A. Content, charged us with "conspiracy against the draft" and demanded that our bail be set high. The commissioner fixed the bonds at twenty-five thousand dollars each. Mr. Weinberger protested, but in vain.
In the Tombs we were held incommunicado for several days. Subsequently we learned that the raiders had seized everything they could lay their hands on in the offices of Mother Earth and the Blast, including subscription lists, check-books, and copies of our publications. They had also confiscated our correspondence files, manuscripts intended for publication in book form, as well as my typewritten lectures on American literature and other valuable material that we had spent years in accumulating. The treasonable matter consisted of works by Peter Kropotkin, Enrico Malatesta, Max Stirner, William Morris, Frank Harris, C. E. S. Wood, George Bernard Shaw, Ibsen, Strindberg, Edward Carpenter, the great Russian writers, and other such dangerous explosives.
Our friends hastened to our aid in a spirit of most splendid solidarity. Our dear comrades Michael and Annie Cohn were in the lead with large sums of money. Agnes Inglis of Detroit sent financial help, as did scores of others from various parts of the country. Equally inspiring was the attitude of many poor working-men. They not only contributed their meager savings, but even offered their trinkets to help raise the fifty-thousand-dollar bond demanded by the United States Government.
I wanted Sasha bailed out first because of his injured leg, which still needed treatment; I did not mind remaining in the Tombs, for I was resting and enjoying an absorbing book Margaret Anderson had sent me. It was A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, by James Joyce. I had not read that author before and I was fascinated by his power and originality.
The Federal authorities were not anxious to let us out of prison. The three hundred thousand dollars' worth of real estate offered as our bond was refused on a flimsy technicality by Assistant Federal Attorney Content, who declared that nothing but cash would be accepted. There was enough on hand to bail out one of us. Sasha, always gallant, refused to come out first, and therefore the bond was given for me and I was released.
Although the newspapers could easily verify who had contributed towards my bail, the New York World had the temerity to print a story in its issue of June 22 to the effect that "a report is current that the Kaiser furnished the $25,000 for Emma's release." It was an indication of the extent to which the press would go to help dispose of undesirable elements.
The Federal grand jury brought in an indictment charging us with conspiracy to defeat the "selective" draft. The maximum penalty for this offense was two years' imprisonment and ten thousand dollars' fine. Our trial was set for June 27. I had only five days to prepare for my defense, while Sasha was still in the Tombs. It was imperative to concentrate all our energies on raising his bail.
But there was Ben, once more unable to face a vital issue and emotionally torn betwixt and between. No court decision had yet been handed down on his appeal from the Cleveland conviction. He had returned to New York when we began our No-Conscription campaign, and with his usual energy he had thrown himself into the work. All went well for some weeks, and then Ben again became, as he had so often before, a prey to his emotional upheavals. This time it was the young woman of his Sunday class. She was neither in danger nor in want, and her child was not expected for months to come. But Ben succumbed. At the very height of our anti-war campaign he left for Chicago to join the prospective mother. His failure to remain at his post at such a critical moment both exasperated and pained me. In vain I sought to explain away his apparent lack of stamina and courage by remembering that he could not have foreseen our arrest. Yet he had not returned when he knew that we were already in custody. Did it not prove breach of faith? The thought that Ben would deny me in my hour of need was tormenting. I felt deeply grieved and humiliated at the same time.
At last we succeeded in procuring the twenty-five-thousand-dollar cash bond demanded for Sasha, and on June 25 he was released from the Tombs. We were entirely at one regarding our trial. We did not believe in the law and its machinery, and we knew that we could expect no justice. We would therefore completely ignore what was to us a mere farce; we would refuse to participate in the court proceedings. Should this method prove impractical, we would plead our own case, not in order to defend ourselves, but to give public utterance to our ideas. We decided to go into court without an attorney. Our resolve was not due to any dissatisfaction with our counsel, Harry Weinberger. On the contrary, we could have wished for no abler attorney and more devoted friend. He had already rendered us services far beyond any monetary recompense, and he had done so although fully aware that we could not pay adequately. We fully appreciated Harry and we felt safe in his hands. But our trial would have meaning only if we could turn the court-room into a forum for the presentation of the ideas we had been fighting for throughout all our conscious years. No lawyer could help us in this, and we were not interested in anything else.
Harry Weinberger understood our attitude, but he strongly advised us against meeting the prosecution with folded arms. It would make no impression whatever in an American court, he said; we should be given the maximum penalty, and nothing would be gained for our principles. But if we would plead our own case, he would give us every legal assistance and suggestion possible.
The day before our trial I met by appointment a number of people at the Brevoort Hotel, before whom I placed our intention of ignoring the prosecution. Among those present were Frank Harris, John Reed, Max Eastman, Gilbert E. Roe, and several others. After I had explained why I had called the conference, Frank Harris, with whom I had been friendly for years, became enthusiastic with the idea. "Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, the arch-champions of active resistance, meeting their enemies with folded arms -- fine! Splendid!" he cried. In any European court such a stand would prove to be a magnificent gesture, he declared; but an American judge would only consider us flagrantly contemptuous, and the newspapermen would as little know what to make of us as the scribes of two thousand years ago had made of the Carpenter of Nazareth. Frank did not think we would be given a chance to carry out our plan, but in any event he was with us and we could fully count on his support.
John Reed did not believe in deliberately stepping into the lion's den. If one must go, one should fight all the way through, he thought. Whatever our decision, however, he would help in every way he could.
Max Eastman was not impressed by our suggestion. His opinion was that we could achieve more by a legal fight, with the aid of a competent lawyer to conduct our defense. It was more important, he held, that we should be free to continue our anti-war work than to go to prison without having tried every legal recourse.
It was Tuesday, June 27, at IO a.m., when, together with Sasha, still on crutches, I walked through the crowded court-room in the Federal Building to face the prosecution. Judge Julius M. Mayer and Assistant United States District Attorney Harold A. Content, their Prussianism carefully hidden, like wrinkles on a woman's face, under the thick paint of Americanism, were in their appointed places. Surrounding them were the lesser stars in the play about to be staged. In the background was a mob of soldiers, State and Federal officials, court attendants looking like holdup men, and a contingent of reporters. American flags and bunting added to the high spots of the scene. Only a few of our friends had been admitted.
I moved for postponement on the grounds that my codefendant, Alexander Berkman, suffering from an injury to his leg, was unable to stand the strain of a prolonged trial. As we had been released on bail only a few days, we had had no time to familiarize ourselves with the indictment, I also declared. Attorney Content protested, and Judge Mayer denied my motion.
Thereupon I said that, in view of the evident intention of the Government to turn the prosecution into persecution, we preferred to take no part whatever in the proceedings. His Honor had apparently never heard of such a thing before. He looked puzzled. Then he announced that he would appoint counsel to defend us. "In our free United States even the poorest are accorded the benefit of legal defense," he said. Upon our refusal the Court ruled that our trial should proceed after the noon recess. During luncheon we conferred with Harry Weinberger and other friends and returned to court in fighting trim.
June 27 happened to be my forty-eighth birthday. It marked twenty-eight years of my life spent in an active struggle against compulsion and injustice. The United States now symbolizing concentrated coercion, I could not have wished for a more appropriate celebration than to meet its challenge. It gave me much joy to feel that my friends had, in the excitement of the moment, not forgotten the event. On my return to court they presented me with flowers and gifts. The demonstration of their love and esteem on this special occasion moved me profoundly.
Active participation in our trial having been thrust upon us, Sasha and I determined to use it to best advantage. We decided to wring from our enemies every chance to propagate our ideas. Should we succeed, it would be the first time since 1887 that anarchism had raised its voice in an American court. Nothing else was worth considering in comparison with such an achievement.
I had known Sasha twenty-eight years. As far as one human being can foretell how another will act under stress or when confronted with the unexpected, I had always believed that I could in reference to him. But Sasha as a brilliant lawyer was a revelation even to me, his oldest friend. At the end of the first day I almost pitied the unfortunate talesmen whom he had been catechizing for hours. Like bullets Sasha fired his questions at the prospective jurymen, examining them on social, political, and religious matters, making them writhe at the exposure of their ignorance and prejudice, and almost convincing the victims themselves that they were not fit to try intelligent men. His flashes of humor and charming manners captivated the spectators.
When Sasha had finished quizzing the jurymen, they could hardly restrain their expression of relief. I followed to question them on marriage, divorce, sex enlightenment of the young, and birth-control. Would my radical views on these matters prevent their rendering an unbiased verdict? It was with the greatest difficulty that I was able to get my questions across. I was often interrupted by the Federal Attorney, became involved in verbal clashes with him, and was repeatedly admonished by the Judge to confine myself to "relevant" matters.
We knew very well that the twelve men we had finally selected could not and would not render an unbiased verdict. But by our examination of the talesmen we had succeeded in uncovering the social issues involved in the trial, had created a libertarian atmosphere, and had broached problems never before mentioned in a New York court.
Attorney Content opened his case by stating that he would prove that in our writings and speeches we had urged men not to register. As evidence he produced copies of Mother Earth, the Blast, and our No-Conscription manifesto. Cheerfully we admitted our authorship of every word, insisting, however, that the prosecution quote page and line where advice not to register was given. Unable to do so, Content called Fitzi to the witness-stand and tried to make her say that we had worked for profit. Though utterly irrelevant to the crime charged against us, the Court permitted the procedure. In her quiet, unruffled manner Fitzi very soon punctured this bubble.
The next "proof," played up as a trump card, was the insinuation of German money. " Emma Goldman deposited three thousand dollars in the bank a few days prior to her arrest. Where did that money come from?" the prosecutor demanded triumphantly. Everybody present pricked up his ears, and the reporters got busy with their pencils. We laughed inwardly. We could picture to ourselves their faces, now bursting with vindictiveness, when our venerable comrade James Hallbeck should testify. Our one regret was that we should have to call the poor soul into the stuffy court-room on such a scorching July day.
He came, a simple and unassuming little man, with a large heart and brave spirit. He recited his story on the witness-stand exactly as he had told it to us when he had brought his generous gift. "But why did you give Emma Goldman three thousand dollars? " Content demanded in a rage. "Nobody just throws away so much money."
"No, I did not throw it away," he answered with dignity. Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were his comrades, he explained. They were doing the work he believed in, but was too old to do. That was why he gave them the money. The German-money fuze fizzled out.
The next card was not original. It had been played in my first round with the State of New York in 1893. A detective, who in this case claimed also to be a stenographer, produced notes purporting to be a verbatim report of my speech at the Harlem River Casino. He quoted me as having said on that occasion: " We believe in violence, and we will use violence."
On cross-examination we brought out the fact that the detective had made his notes while standing on a shaky table, and that the highest number he could take was one hundred a minute. We confronted him with the champion stenographer, Paul Munter. The latter testified that it was difficult even for him to take Emma Goldman, especially in any intense speech, and yet his record was one hundred and eighty words a minute. Munter was followed by the proprietor of the Harlem River Casino. Though called by the prosecution, he told the Court that he had not heard me use the expression imputed to me, and he had listened very attentively to my talk. The meeting had been perfectly orderly in spite of a group of soldiers who had tried to cause trouble, he stated, "and it was Emma Goldman who saved the situation on that occasion." A sergeant of the Coast Guard corroborated his testimony.
The uninitiated wondered why the prosecution should stress what I had said on the 18th of May, before conscription had become a law, while no reference was made to my speeches after the bill had been passed. We knew the reason. At our last meetings we had had stenographer who sat on the platform in everybody's view. But we had been unable to secure a competent man for May 18. The State had evidently been apprized of that fact; therefore the stenographic detective was very convenient for the prosecution.
We produced a number of witnesses to show that the phrase "we believe in violence and we will use violence" had never been uttered by me or any other speaker at our gatherings. Our first witness was Leonard D. Abbott, admired by everybody for his charm and respected even by the most conservative for his sincerity. He had presided at the meetings of May 18 and June 4. He denied emphatically that I had used the words attributed to me at the Harlem River Casino or anywhere else. In fact, he told the Court, he had been somewhat disappointed with my speech, because he had expected a more extreme attitude. As to my having advised young men not to register, that could easily be disproved by a letter I had sent to the gathering at the Mother Earth office on May 9, Leonard stated.
His testimony was supported by a conscientious objector who related that he had gone to our office for advice about registration and had been told by us that we preferred to leave registration or military service to the conscience of those eligible for the draft. After him came Helen Boardman, Martha Gruening, Rebecca Shelley, Anna Sloan, and Nina Liederman. These women had all worked with us from the very beginning of the No-Conscription campaign, and they reiterated that they had never heard us urge anyone not to register.
The Federal Attorney demanded that we produce the original text of my letter, insinuating that the contents had been changed in the transcription. He knew that the original copy, like most of our other papers and documents, had been confiscated in the raid and was not in his possession. Yet he had the effrontery to make the demand. It did not produce the letter; it would have belied the charge against me.
However, the prosecution was resourceful; other devices were tried out. Now it was an attempt to play on the prejudices of the jury by creating the impression that our witnesses were mostly foreigners. Much to the chagrin of Federal Attorney Content, it soon developed that most of them had a background older than his own. Helen Boardman, for instance, was the sort of foreigner whose ancestors had come over in the Mayflower, and Anna Sloan was of old Irish-America stock. He had the same poor luck with our men witnesses, among whom were John Reed, Lincoln Steffens, Bolton Hall, and other "real" Americans.
Sasha followed the prosecution with a brief outline of our case. He declared that the charge of conspiracy was the height of absurdity, considering that he and his codefendant had openly propagated antimilitarism for twenty-eight years. It was therefore a conspiracy known to a hundred millions of our population. As Sasha continued talking, presenting our case with keen logic and incisive manner, some of the jurymen seemed impressed and showed lively interest. Content did not fail to take note of it. At the first opportunity he picked up a copy of Mother Earth of July 1914. I had quite forgotten that several copies of that issue had been left in our office. Some of the boys and girls who had participated in the unemployment campaign that Sasha had organized and in the demonstration after the Lexington tenement explosion had long drifted out of our ranks. Most of them had proved worthless, carried away by momentary excitement, but their violent effusions had unfortunately remained in cold print and they were now taken advantage of by the prosecution. Content proceeded to read the choicest bits, straining to impress the jury that all of us sponsored physical force and the use of dynamite. "It is true, Miss Goldman was at that time absent on a tour," he remarked, "and she could therefore not be held responsible for the articles in this particular number." It was an attempt to throw the entire burden on Sasha. I was on my feet before he got through. "The prosecutor knows perfectly well," I declared, "that I am the owner and publisher of Mother Earth, and that I am responsible for everything that appears in the magazine, whether I happen to be present at its publication or not." I demanded whether we were being tried for ancient history; otherwise it was difficult to understand why an issue that had appeared three years before the United States went into the war, which had neither been held up by the postal authorities nor objected to by the State of New York, should now be used in the case. It was irrelevant, I declared. But my objections were ruled out by His Honor.
Every day increased the tension in court. The atmosphere grew more antagonistic, the official attendants more insulting. Our friends were either kept out or treated roughly when they succeeded in gaining admittance. On the street below, a recruiting station had been erected, and patriotic harangues mingled with the music of a military band. Each time the national anthem was struck up, everybody in court was commanded to rise, the soldiers present standing at attention. One of our girls refused to get up and she was dragged out of the room by force. A boy was literally kicked out. Sasha and I remained seated throughout the display of patriotism by the mailed fist. What could the officials do? They could not very well order us removed from this Punch and Judy show; we at least had that advantage.
After endlessly repetitious "evidence" of our crime, which in reality proved nothing, the prosecution closed its case. The last round in the contest between ideas and organized stupidity was set for July 9. This left us about forty-eight hours to prepare our arraignment of the forces that had plunged the world into a vale of tears and blood. Since the beginning of our trial we had been compelled to keep up a terrific pace, and we felt exhausted. For the past week we had enjoyed the hospitality of Leonard D. Abbott and his wife, Rose Yuster, and now we pilgrimed to Stella's little place at Darien for a short rest.
I woke the next morning with the bright sunshine streaming into my room and wide stretches of blue hanging over the luscious green of trees and lawn. The air was pungent with the aroma of the earth, the lake was vibrant with soft music, and all of nature breathed enchantment. I, too, was under her magic spell.
On our return to court Monday, July 9, we found the stage set for the last act of the tragicomedy that had already lasted a week. Judge Mayer, Federal Attorney Content, and a large company of performers in the badly constructed plot were already on the stage. The house was filled with invited official guests and claqueurs to lead the applause. Scores of pressmen were present to review the show. Not many of our friends had been able to gain admittance, but there were more than on previous days.
Prosecutor Content could in no way compare in ability and forcefulness with his colleague who had prosecuted me in 1893; he had been drab and colorless all through the trial and stereotyped in his address to the jury. At one moment he had attempted to climb to oratorical heights. "You think this woman before you is the real Emma Goldman," he declared, "this well-bred lady, courteous, and with a pleasant smile on her face? No! The real Emma Goldman can be seen only on the platform. There she is in her true element, sweeping all caution to the winds! There she inflames the young and drives them to violent deeds. If you could see Emma Goldman at her meetings, you would realize that she is a menace to our well-ordered institutions." It was therefore the jury's duty to save the country from that Emma Goldman by bringing in a verdict of guilty.
Sasha followed the prosecutor. He held the close attention of the men in the box, as well as of the entire court-room, for two hours. That was no small feat in an atmosphere oozing with prejudice and hate. His playful and witty handling of the so-called evidence to prove our "crime" caused much merriment and often loud laughter. This was promptly stopped by stern rebukes from the bench. The testimony of the government thoroughly demolished, Sasha proceeded with an exposé of anarchism, masterly in its simple directness and clarity.
I spoke after Sasha, for an hour. I discussed the farce of a government undertaking to carry democracy abroad by suppressing the last vestiges of it at home. I took up the contention of Judge Mayer that only such ideas are permissible as are "within the law." Thus he had instructed the jurymen when he had asked them if they were prejudiced against those who propagate unpopular ideas. I pointed out that there had never been an ideal, however humane and peaceful, which in its time had been considered "within the law." I named Jesus, Socrates, Galileo, Giordano Bruno. "Were they 'within the law'?" I asked. "And the men who set America free from British rule, the Jeffersons and the Patrick Henrys? The William Lloyd Garrisons, the John Browns, the David Thoreaus and Wendell Phillipses -- were they within the law?"
At that moment the strains of the Marseillaise floated through the window, and the Russian Mission marched past on its way to the City Hall. I seized upon the occasion. "Gentlemen of the jury," I said, "do you hear the stirring melody? It was born in the greatest of all revolutions, and it was most emphatically not within the law! And that delegation your government is now honoring as the representatives of new Russia. Only five months ago every one of them was considered what you have been told we are: criminals -- not within the law!"
During the proceedings His Honor was assiduously reading. His desk was littered with the literature confiscated in our offices, and he seemed absorbed -- now in Sasha's Memoirs, now in my Essays, now in Mother Earth. His application had led some friends to believe that the Judge was interested in our ideas and inclined to be fair.
Judge Mayer fully rose to our expectations. In his charge to the jury he declared with much solemnity: "In the conduct of this case, the defendants have shown remarkable ability. An ability which might have been utilized for the great benefit of this country, had they seen fit to employ themselves in behalf of it rather than against it. In this country of ours we regard as enemies those who advocate the abolition of our government and those who counsel disobedience to our laws by those of minds less strong. American liberty was won by the forefathers, it was maintained by the Civil War, and today there are the thousands who have already gone, or are getting ready to go, to foreign lands to represent their country in the battle for liberty." He then instructed the jury that "whether the defendants are right or wrong can have no bearing on the verdict. The duty of the jury is merely to weigh the evidence presented as to the innocence or guilt of the defendants of the crime as charged."
The jury filed out. The sun had set. The electric lights looked yellow in the dusk. Flies buzzed, their swirl mingling with the whisperings in the room. The minutes crept on, clammy with the day's heat. The jury returned; its deliberation had lasted just thirty-nine minutes.
"What is your verdict?" the foreman was asked.
"Guilty," he answered.
I was on my feet. "I move that the verdict be set aside as absolutely contrary to the evidence."
"Motion denied," Judge Mayer said.
"I further move," I went on, "that sentence be deferred for a few days, and that our bail be continued at the sum already fixed in our case."
"Denied," ruled the Judge.
His Honor asked the usual meaningless question as to whether the defendants had anything to say why sentence should not be imposed.
Sasha replied: "I think it only fair to suspend sentence and give us a chance to clear up our affairs. We have been convicted because we are anarchists, and the proceeding has been very unjust." I also added my protest.
"In the United States, law is an imperishable thing," the Court declared in imposing sentence," and for such people as would nullify our laws we have no place in our country. In a case such as this I can but inflict the maximum sentence which is permitted by our laws."
Two years in prison with a fine of ten thousand dollars each. The Judge also instructed the Federal Attorney to send the records of the trial to the immigration authorities in Washington with his recommendation to deport us at the expiration of our prison terms.
His Honor had done his duty. He had served his country well and merited a rest. He declared court adjourned and turned to leave the bench.
But I was not through. "One moment, please," I called out. Judge Mayer turned to face me. "Are we to be spirited away at such neck-breaking speed? If so, we want to know it now. We want everybody here to know it."
"You have ninety days in which to file an appeal."
"Never mind the ninety days," I retorted. "How about the next hour or two? Can we have that to gather up a few necessary things?"
"The prisoners are in the custody of the United States Marshal," was the curt answer.
The Judge again turned to leave. Again I brought him to a stop. "One more word!" He stared at me, his heavy-set face flushed. I stared back. I bowed and said: "I want to thank you for your leniency and kindness in refusing us a stay of two days, a stay you would have accorded the most heinous criminal. I thank you once more."
His Honor grew white, anger spreading over his face. Nervously he fumbled with the papers on his desk. He moved his lips as if to speak, then abruptly turned and left the bench.
From : Anarchy Archives
No comments so far. You can be the first!
<< Last Work in Living My Life
Current Work in Living My Life
Volume 2, Chapter 45
Next Work in Living My Life >>
All Nearby Works in Living My Life