Poster announcing the
--Defense Attorney William Foster (closing argument)
--Prosecutor Julius Grinnell (closing argument)
When an anarchist--whose identity remains a mystery even today--tossed a homemade bomb into a great company of Chicago police at 10:20 P.M. on the night of May 4, 1886, he could not have appreciated the far reaching consequences his reckless action would have. His bomb, thrown in a light drizzle as the last speaker at a labor rally climbed down from the speaker's wagon, set off a frenzy of fire from police pistols that would leave eight officers and an unknown number of civilians dead, and scores more injured. It led to the nation's first "Red Scare," refocused national labor and immigration policy, and set the stage for one of the most infamous trials in the history of American jurisprudence. The Haymarket Trial, the cause celebre for American radicals in the 1880s, produced death sentences for seven of Chicago's most prominent labor leaders--convicted more for their words than deeds at a time when the First Amendment provided scant protection against an outraged public.
The German-language newspaper, Arbeiter-Zeitung, became the voice of militant socialism in Chicago. Managed by Spies, with the assistance of Oscar Neebe, the Arbeiter-Zeitung became the most widely circulated and important radical newspaper in America. One of its energetic reporters was a Bavarian bookbinder named Michael Schwab, who wrote on topics such as the devastating impact increased mechanization was having on skilled workers and the destitution he discovered in overcrowded South Side slums. In October 1882, revolutionary hero Johann Most spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of 6,000 immigrant workers at the North Side's Turner Hall. Most's call for direct militant action struck a responsive chord with many in the audience, including Spies and Schwab.
Parsons, meanwhile, had concluded that the eight-hour day provided the key to a better life for workers, and--working through the Knights of Labor--he dedicated himself to building a labor crusade around the issue. He understood that the battle would not be easy, noting that workers would confront "the discharge, black-list and lockout...enforced by the militiamen's bayonet and the policeman's club."
When Chicago fell into another depression in 1884, class consciousness rose to new heights. The Arbeiter-Zeitung complained that as wealthy businessmen lived opulently, workers suffered and unemployment rose. Even in companies where profits rose sharply, employers cut wages. Strikes became more common--and some led to violence. When members of the state militia shot striking quarry workers in May 1885, anarchists responded with a call to establish both an armed militia and "a school of chemistry," where instructors would teach the manufacture and use of explosives. According to a Chicago Tribune reporter present at the meeting, Lucy Parsons called for "a war of extermination against the rich" and urged taking the battle to "the avenues where the wealthy live." Anger among workers intensified in July when, during a streetcar strike, Police Captain John Bonfield led a clubbing army of 400 officers against crowds attempting to block a line. By the end of 1885, the bloody streets of Chicago seethed with unprecedented anger and suspicion.
The ultramilitants grew to see dynamite bombs as the great equalizer in the coming war with capitalists. Lucy Parsons called dynamite "the voice of force, the only voice which tyranny has ever been able to understand." Spies handed a newspaper reporter the casing for a dynamite bomb and said, "Take it to your boss and tell him we have 9,000 more like it." Whereas for many anarchists dynamite was merely talk, for carpenter Louis Lingg, it was his passion. Lingg applied his skills toward developing dynamite bombs that might be used to deadly effect.
Labor organizations around the nation mobilized for "Emancipation Day." Chicago's Eight-Hour Association and the Knights of Labor prepared for the largest strike in city history. Momentum seemed to be working in labor's favor. In Chicago, nearly 50,000 employees won shorter work days without a cut in pay. In April, the Chicago City Council approved an eight-hour day for city workers. When the long-anticipated strike day arrived, business in Chicago came to a virtual halt. May 1 saw celebrating laborers parade with banners and signs through industrial districts and toast each other at West Side saloons. The day ended without violence.
At the same time, however, labor conditions at various plants around Chicago were tense. Nowhere were conditions more combustible than at the McCormick Reaper Works. The Reaper Works' hard-nosed owner, Cyrus McCormack, Jr., ordered a lockout at the factory in response to a union plan to call for a strike. Management hired replacement workers and arranged for an army of 400 police officers to guard the strikebreakers. As the plant reopened, striking workers gathered near the factory to listen to speeches by Albert Parsons and Michael Schwab. During the May 1 strikes, even the nonunion workers were swept up in the enthusiasm, and half left work. Management--in an act of desperation--promised replacement workers an eight-hour day, while refusing to extend the same offer to its original union workers.
Two days later, a violent clash at the Reaper Works pushed events in the direction of an even more violent climax at Haymarket Square. On the afternoon of May 3, as August Spies spoke to several thousand workers near the plant gates, the factory bell sounded, signaling the end of a shift. As if on cue, many of the workers hurried off to heckle the replacement workers leaving the factory. A patrol wagon and 75 police officers rushed in to protect the replacement workers. When some hecklers began to throw rocks, police responded with gunfire, killing at least two strikers.
A furious August Spies wrote and published a leaflet, with the heading "Workingmen to Arms!", giving his version of the incident at the Reaper Works. In a dramatic flourish, the leaflet ended with the words: "To arms we call you, to arms!" On the evening of May 3, about 1,200 copies of the leaflets were distributed by horseback in working neighborhoods. Some of the inflammatory circulars were dropped off that night at Grief's Saloon on West Lake Street, and distributed to a group of German anarchists who had gathered there for a meeting. (Later, prosecutors would attach great significance to the meeting--"the Monday night conspiracy.") A motion was made and adopted to hold a rally at 7:30 the following night. The place would be the Haymarket. Adolf Fischer ordered 25,000 handbills printed in German and English promoting the Haymarket rally. "Good speakers will denounce the latest atrocious act of the police," the handbill promised.
The final speaker for the evening, Samuel Fielden, mounted the speaker's wagon, under threatening skies, about 10:00. With rain apparently imminent, most of the crowd drifted away. Only about 300 persons remained when Fielden launched into the night's most inflammatory rhetoric. Fielden urged the crowd to "lay hands on [the law] and throttle it until it makes its last kick." Two detectives in the crowd rushed off to tell Police Chief Bonfield that the speaker was urging attacks on lawmen, prompting Bonfield to order ranks of his officers to march on the Haymarket and break up the rally. Stopping a few feet from the speaker's wagon, Police Captain William Ward shouted, "I command you, in the name of the people of the state of Illinois, immediately and peaceably to disperse!" Fielden insisted that the gathering was peaceable, but agreed to end the rally: "All right, we will go." At that moment, a sphere whizzed over the audience and landed in the police ranks. The bomb exploded with a deafening roar. Wounded police fell to the ground. Officers began firing into the crowd. Shots continued for two or three minutes, as workers ran in every direction chased by angry police. The Haymarket riot lasted only about five minutes, but it left seven police officers--and an unknown number of civilians--dead. Sixty more officers received serious wounds. There would, everyone seemed to agree, be a heavy price to pay.
Headlines in Chicago papers cried out for vengeance against the mostly immigrant workers believed to have inspired the Haymarket riot. Typical of the the blood lust was an editorial in the Chicago Times that urged, "Let us whip these slavic wolves back to the European dens from which they issue, or is some way exterminate them." Responding to the public clamor for justice, police (without a warrant) searched the offices of the pro-labor German-language newspaper, the Arbeiter-Zeitung. Schwab and Spies, in the office writing copy for the next issue, were arrested and taken to jail. At the jail, according to Spies, officers "jumped upon us, tore us from one end to the other." Police rounded up Oscar Neebe, the Arbeiter-Zeitung's assistant manager, at his home the next morning. Samuel Fielden, still recovering from a bullet wound to his leg, was picked up on May 6. Police also raided the offices of the Alarm, only to discover that Parsons--taking his wife's advice--had fled Chicago. (Parsons hopped trains to Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he stayed at the home of a socialist friend.) For the next several weeks, civil liberties took a vacation in Chicago as police--usually without warrants--ransacked the homes of known socialists and anarchists, often beating and threatening occupants in the process.
The arrested men claimed to know nothing about the bomb throwing--and condemned the act. Protestations of innocence, however, mattered little to the coroner's jury convened as part of the inquest into the death of officer Mathias Degan, the first officer to die on May 4. The jury concluded that Degan's death was "aided, abetted, and encouraged" by Spies, Schwab, Fielden, and Parsons.
Police continued to search for the bomb thrower. On May 14, they arrested Louis Lingg who had been fingered as an explosives maker and was suspected of having thrown the fatal bomb. Other evidence, however, pointed to an anarchist named Rudolph Schnaubelt, a man who police had interviewed earlier, then released, as the perpetrator of the Haymarket crime.
On May 27, a Chicago grand jury indicted twelve persons in connection with the Haymarket riot. In addition to Lingg and those previously cited by the coroner's jury, the list included George Engel, Oscar Neebe, Adolf Fischer, Rudolph Schnaubelt, and William Seliger. (Schnaubelt fled Chicago and was never tried; Seliger avoided prosecution by turning state's evidence.) The jury's report concluded: "We find that the attack on the police of May 4 was the result of a deliberate conspiracy, the full details of which are now in the possession of the officers of the law." Trial of the Chicago anarchists was set to open on June 21, 1886.
The defendants could not have been pleased with the twelve men chosen as jurors--chosen, it turned out, from a jury pool that had been handpicked by the bailiff, rather than from one randomly selected, as had been the customary practice. None of the jurors selected was an immigrant or laborer or professed radical political beliefs.
Julius Grinnell argued in his opening statement for the prosecution that August Spies was the mastermind of the bomb plot. His speeches, Grinnell claimed, revealed his belief that justice for workers could only be achieved through violence. It was Spies's revenge circular that incited the bomb throwing at the Haymarket, Grinnell contended. Grinnell also suggested that the Grief's Hall meeting on May 3, attended by George Engel and other anarchists, authorized the use of bombs at the Haymarket and that Engel had contacted Lingg about providing explosives that he hoped would start a citywide workers' uprising. Grinnell conceded that the actual bomb thrower was not in court, but told jurors not to let that deter them from conviction: "The question for you to determine is, having ascertained that a murder was committed, not only who did it, but who is responsible for it, who abetted it, assisted it, or encouraged it?"
Labor leader Gottfried Waller, who chaired the May 3 meeting of anarchists at Grief's Hall, turned state's evidence and provided details about the decision to hold a rally at the Haymarket. Waller, however, denied that dynamite was ever discussed at the meeting. We anticipated no police intervention, he said, so the topic never came up.
The most damning prosecution testimony came from two witnesses who tied Schwab and Spies directly to the bombing. M. M. Thompson claimed to have overheard Schwab and Spies discussing how to respond to the overwhelming police presence at the rally. According to Thompson, Spies asked Schwab, "Do you think one is enough or hadn't we better get more?" Thompson assumed the men were talking about the number of bombs needed. Thompson also testified that he saw the Spies and Schwab talking later with a man he identified from a photograph as Schnaubelt, the man widely assumed at the time to have been the actual bomber. The second witness, H. L. Gilmer, offered even more sensational testimony, though his credibility more in question. Gilmer, when asked whether he could identify the man who lit the bomb, pointed his hand directly at Spies and said, "There is the man." Spectators in the hot courtroom erupted in excitement with this pronouncement, causing Judge Gary to hammer his gavel for several minutes in an attempt to quiet the crowd.
Much of the prosecution case, however, was less dramatic. Prosecutors bored jurors and spectators by introducing so many radical newspapers and pamphlets that they filled exhibit tables and spilled on to the courtroom floor. The most interesting of the documents was a handwritten note (apparently in the hand of Spies) with the German word "Ruhe." Prosecutors alleged that the word "ruhe" was to be, when published in the letter column of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, a signal to militant labor activists to take violent action against authorities. In addition to the documentary evidence, prosecutors also presented nervous jurors with a collection of bombshells, dynamite, and fuses.
Mayor Carter Harrison testified as the star witness for the defense. The mayor told jurors that the Haymarket gathering was peaceable and that he saw no evidence of weapons among those in attendance. He testified that he told Police Chief Bonfield that he should send his reserves home, as no violence seemed likely to occur. Mayor Harrison's testimony was supported by several other defense eyewitnesses.
The defense called witnesses to contradict prosecution testimony tying Schwab and Spies to the bomb throwing. Witnesses testified that the bomb came from a position far removed from the speaker's wagon, and the Spies at the time was in no position where he could have handed a lighted bomb to the alleged thrower. Witnesses also testified that all the shots they saw fired after the bomb came from the police, suggesting strongly that most police casualties came from "friendly fire."
On August 7, the defendants themselves began parading to the witness stand. Samuel Fielden offered jurors a sample of the speech he gave at the rally--delivered so eloquently that writers suggested he could make a handsome living on the lecture circuit. August Spies conceded that he wrote the circular announcing the Haymarket rally, but said that he had directed that the words calling workers to arms be removed--as they were from many of the later-published leaflets. Spies testified that he remained on the speaker's wagon the entire time and was as shocked as anyone when the bomb exploded.
Defense attorney William Foster picked up where Ziesler left off. Foster argued that Spies had no knowledge of the alleged significance of the word "ruhe," when it appeared in his newspaper. He also insisted that Albert Parsons would never have brought his wife and children to the Haymarket if he had any idea that violence was likely to erupt there. Foster admitted that Lingg was in fact a bomb maker, but argued that no testimony linked his bombs to the one thrown at the Haymarket. Oscar Neebe, Foster claimed, sat at the defense table for no reason other than having left a few copies of the Haymarket circular at a bar and having weapons in his house. The decision to prosecute on such weak evidence, Foster told jurors, showed that the prosecution case was based largely on passion and prejudice. He told jurors to remember their sworn duty to apply the law without prejudice and not to do something that will "haunt you to the grave." Foster concluded by calling the prosecution "a farce."
The final argument for the defense came from William Black. Black told jurors that the testimony of the prosecution's two eyewitnesses, Thompson and Gilmer, had been thoroughly discredited and that the entire prosecution case rested on the slimmest of circumstantial evidence. He noted that six of the defendants were not in the Haymarket at the time the bomb was thrown, and that Spies and Fielden both stood on the speaker's wagon when the explosion resounded. It is not enough to convict for murder, Black said, to show that the defendants favored unpopular or even violent deeds. Black closed by quoting Jesus, who he referred to as the "Divine Socialist": "As ye would that others should do to you, do even so to them."
Closing arguments for the state were presented by Francis W. Walker, George Ingham, and Julius Grinnell. Walker argued that the eight defendants were part of a vast labor conspiracy to launch a revolution--a conspiracy that cost the lives of dedicated public servants such as patrolman Mathias Degan. Ingham saw the case as presenting a choice between anarchy and order: "The very question itself is whether organized government shall perish from the earth." Grinnell batted last for the prosecution. Grinnell, in a powerful address, warned that freeing the defendants would be taking a dangerous step toward anarchy. Acquittals, he argued, would cause the militants to flow into the streets again "like a lot of rats and vermin." He concluded by telling jurors: "You stand between the living and the dead. You stand between law and violated law. Do your duty courageously, even if the duty is an unpleasant and severe one."
The jury retired on the afternoon of August 19, 1886, to begin its deliberations. Within hours, they reached their verdict. At 10:00 the next morning, the jury foreman announced the verdict to a crowded courtroom. Seven of the eight defendants were found guilty of murder and had their penalty fixed as death. Oscar Neebe was also found guilty, but sentenced to fifteen years. Chicago papers, such as the pro-business Chicago Tribune, reported "universal satisfaction with the verdict." The Chicago Times declared that the defendants had been "fairly prosecuted and ably defended under the processes of the law which they would have throttled, and twelve good and true men have doomed them all save one to death."
Appeals, Execution, and Pardon
Work began on an appeal to the State Supreme Court of Illinois. The defense in its November 1886 arguments before the Supreme Court cited six principal reasons for overturning the Haymarket convictions: (1) that some of the instructions of the court, both given and refused, were in error; (2) that some of the remarks of the court were sufficiently improper to be considered erroneous; (3) that errors obtained in connection with the impaneling of the jury; (4) that the closing argument of the State's Attorney appealed unduly to passion and prejudice; (5) that the State's theory of conspiracy, upon which the whole case rested, was untenable; and (6) that illegally obtained evidence had been introduced against the defendants. On September 14, 1887, the Court issued its decision rejecting each of the defense objections and upholding the convictions. The defendants appealed again to the United States Supreme Court. The Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Waite on October 27, refused the writ of error contending that the defendants were denied "due process" under the fourth and sixth amendments. The Court ruled that their were no substantial federal questions presented in the case.
A last-ditch clemency effort garnered 100,000 signatures from American citizens. Writers including William Dean Howells, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde voiced criticism of the trial and urged mercy. The head of Chicago bar, a former Illinois U. S. Senator and various Chicago civic leaders urged the governor to grant at least some of the condemned men clemency. Hundreds of telegrams--on both sides of the issue--poured daily into the office of Governor Richard Oglesby in early November 1887. The job of reviewing an 8,000-page trial record overwhelmed the governor. After listening to final pleas on November 10, Governor Oglesby announced his decision: the sentences of Fielden and Schwab, who had requested commutation in writing, would be reduced to life in prison; the others, who had not made such a request, would die as scheduled.
On the morning of Friday, November 11, 1887, dozens of armed police officers surrounded the jail. Shortly before 11:00, 250 reporters and other selected witnesses were ushered into a corridor in back of the courthouse. At noon, the four (Lingg had committed suicide the day before by lighting dynamite held in his mouth) condemned men marched in white robes toward the raised gallows that had been constructed the previous night. Engel, Fischer, Spies, and Parsons took their places in a line behind their respective nooses. The crowd watched quietly as guards fastened straps around the prisoners' ankles, nooses around necks, and shrouds over heads. The executioner lifted the axe that would cut the cord tripping all four trapdoors.
Neebe, Schwab and Fielden served six years of their sentences before being pardoned in 1893 by Governor John P. Altgeld, who sacrificed a promising political career to right what he he viewed as a judicial wrong.
Principal sources for this commentary include Death in the Haymarket (2006) by James Green
and The Haymarket Tragedy (1984) by Paul Avrich.
The Haymarket Trial
Samuel Gompers quoted a manufacturer who said, "I regard my employees as I do a machine, to be used to my advantage and when they are old and of no further use I cast them in the street". These few words expressed the views of many employers, who only sought to make a profit at the expense of cheap labor, long hours and dangerous conditions. This labor was mostly provided by immigrants, who were ill equipped to resist and make effective challenges to their practices. In 1882 Johann Most, a socialist from Germany, arrived in New York at the request of the Social Democratic Party. With his arrival he brought the ideology of social revolution by anarchy. In the eighteen-eighties, the socialist movement was relatively weak and unorganized. Most toured the country giving speeches. He also wrote a column in the Freiheit, a socialist newspaper, about the need for the working class to revolt and achieve true liberation from the hands of business and rich landowners. Chicago, along with New York, were perfect seeding grounds for the social revolutionary movement. Working conditions were extremely dangerous, the pay was ridiculously low (on average $1.50 a day) and the working hours were long. Some owners had steel and mill towns established. The workers would have to buy food and clothing from company owned stores at a higher rate than other stores in nearby cities or towns. Due to extreme working and living conditions the International Working Peoples Association (IWPA) was formed to help bring about a eight hour work day . The purpose of the organization was simply "propaganda by deed".
The Chicago Scene
The IWPA expounded violence by deed. This was done chiefly through the Alarm, a German publication led by Albert Parsons, August Spies and the Central Labor Union. One proposed method to achieve equality was with the use of dynamite as a means to uplift the working class from statutory law and permit the laws of nature to uplift them to a place of equality. On May 1st, 1886 a strike was held by workers throughout the United States to support a eight-hour work day. On May 4th, 1886 in Chicago a meeting was scheduled at Haymarket Square to protest police violence that had erupted the day before in response to picketing for an eight hour workday. Samuel Fielden was concluding a speech at Haymarket Square to a crowd of people (due to rain, smaller in size than when the protest began), when a contingent of police arrived to disperse the peaceful demonstration. A bomb was thrown into the police ranks and exploded. Seven police officers died and roughly seventy officers were wounded. It was later officially reported that the police killed one and injured twelve others--but it is now believed that the actual number of civilian deaths and injuries were five to six times those numbers. On May 5 1886, newspapers in Chicago and around the country began to give accounts of the previous day's activities. Many of these articles contained false information. Anarchists, of course, were assumed to have thrown the bomb. Many Chicago citizens were sent into a frenzy of anger, fear and hatred. Prominent businessmen of Chicago took swift action against the socialist radicals and provided for $100,000 to hire witnesses and to initiate prosecutions against the anarchist and socialist movements. August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Michael Schwab, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, Albert R. Parsons, Rudolph Schnaubelt, William Seliger, and Oscar Neebe were arrested as co-conspirators in a plot to commit murder and riot.
The State's Evidence
On June 21st, 1886 the trial began for the eight suspects. They were defended by Captain William Perkins Black, William A. Foster, Moses Salomon and Sigismund Zeisler. Attorneys for the State were Julius S. Grinnell, Francis W. Walker and Edmund Furthman, assisted by George C. Ingham. The presiding judge was Joseph E. Gary. From the very beginning of the trial it was clear these eight defendants would have a difficult time getting a fair trial. Most prospective jurors said they had already formed a opinion about the case based on what they had read or heard. During the selection process, on more than one occasion, Judge Gary would overrule a defense challenge for cause when the person being questioned stated they did not believe they could reach a fair and impartial verdict on behalf of the defendants. Judge Gary instead would choose to voir dire the person to the point of exhaustion, when they finally would claim that they could reach a fair result. At this point in the proceedings the actions by Judge Gary rulings showed his bias and prejudice against the defendants. The evidence produced by the State presented the defendants as murderers, conspirators and rioters. The State introduced newspaper articles which outlined the anarchists' strategy of overcoming harsh working conditions by instilling fear of violence in owners. August Spies was shown to have suggested that dynamite might level the playing field and help liberate the underclass. The state further alleged (among other things) a Monday Night Conspiracy, whereby the group met to plan the bombing at Griefs Hall in Chicago. They produced two witnesses who testified under oath that they were privy to the planned bombing. In actuality, only Engel and Fisher--among the eight defendants--had met at Griefs Hall to discuss the upcoming meeting at Haymarket Square. The prosecution put people on the stand who had been granted immunity for their testimony but who, by all historical accounts, were not qualified to give accurate and detailed testimony. The State's strongest case was against defendant Louis Lingg, who was shown to be a dynamite maker--and more prone to violence than his co-defendants. A expert witness testified for the State the bomb that exploded at Haymarket Square was similar in composition to those made by Lingg. The State still failed to show that Lingg and the other co-defendants threw the bomb or acted in a conspiracy to commit such an act.
The Defense Evidence Produced At Trial
The defense produced evidence to show that Engel was home at the time of the bombing and Fisher was not present at the Haymarket meeting. Evidence showed that Fielden and Parsons were unaware of the Griefs Hall meeting.
The defense raised serious questions about the credibility of prosecution star witness, Harry L. Gilmer. Gilmer testified that he knew the bomber by sight, but not by name. He described the bomber as five foot ten inches, broad chested, full-faced with deep set eyes, a light sandy beard and weight of approximately 180 pounds. From a photo he identified Rudolph Schnaubelt as the man he saw throwing the bomb. The defense was able to show inconsistencies in this statement by offering evidence that Gilmer had told the Chicago Times the man he saw was of medium height, perhaps whiskered, and wearing a soft slouch hat. The defense, during further cross examination, established that Gilmer was never called before a grand jury and that he had received small sums of money from one of the detectives involved in the case. The defense, through the examination of thirteen witnesses, presented evidence that August Spies was atop the wagon where he had given a speech when the police arrived and the bomb exploded. (Gilmer had testified that Spies had left the wagon and lit the fuse for the bomb thrower.) Gilmer testified Fisher was present when the bomb exploded, but the defense presented evidence to show Fisher was at Zepf's Hall when the bombing occurred.
In the State's closing argument, Grinnell hammered home the point that the United States must not stand idly by, but must punish those who commit murder for ideals which were opposed by a democratic society. The defense chose to pick away at the inconsistencies of the prosecution's witnesses. They argued that the State was playing on the prejudices of the jury by using irrelevant material which did not amount to the guilt of the accused.
The jury deliberated for only three hours and came back finding Spies, Schwab, Fielden, Parsons, Fisher, Engel and Lingg guilty of murder to be punished by death. Neebe was found guilty of murder and the penalty was fixed at fifteen years imprisonment. The verdict was swift and severe, despite the mountain of evidence produced at trial and the seriousness of the charges. The Chicago Times declared the next day that the defendants had been "fairly prosecuted and ably defended under the processes of the law which they would have throttled, and twelve good and true men have doomed them all save one to death." On October 1, 1886 the defense presented a motion for a new trial before Judge Gary. On the basis the jury was prejudiced and the men had not been proved guilty of murder and conspiracy. Judge Gary denied this motion and work was begun by the defense to appeal the decision of the trial court to the State Supreme Court of Illinois
The defendants appealed their case to the State Supreme Court of Illinois on November 25, 1886. The key arguments were based on seven miscues by the trial court: (1) that some of the instructions of the court, both given and refused, were in error; (2) that some of the remarks of the court were sufficiently improper to be considered erroneous; (3) that errors obtained in connection with the impanelling of the jury; (4) that the improprieties of the closing argument of the State's Attorney were ground for a complaint of error; (5) that the State's theory of conspiracy, upon which the whole case rested was untenable in the light of the facts and the law; (6) that illegal evidence had been brought to bear against the defendants; and (7) that errors had obtained after the verdict when the petition for a new trial had been rejected.
The Court issued its decision on September 14, 1887. The Court upheld the verdict rendered by the trial court. It accepted the State's arguments that the defendants acted in a conspiracy to make bombs and carry out violent acts in the name of anarchy.
The defendants next took their plea to the United States Supreme Court. The Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Waite on October 27, refused the writ of error submitted by the defense that they were denied "due process" under the fourth and sixth amendments. The Court ruled that their were no substantial federal questions presented in the case. The conviction of the trial Court would stand and the defendants' sentences would be carried out.
--by Jesse Rivers, Tamara Jameson and Vincent Bates
1. "Attention Workingmen!" Meeting Announcement: Exhibits of the Prosecution and Defense
The image on the left is of the announcement of the meeting at Haymarket printed on May 4, 1886. The poster was introduced as evidence by the prosecution on July 16, 1886 as "People's Exhibit 5." The prosecution exhibits features a version of the announcement with the inflammatory language (encircled in the image below), "Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force!" The image on the right is of the same announcement, except without the line making the controversial call to arms. The announcement on the right was introduced on August 2, 1886 as "Defense Exhibit 1." The controversial line written by Adolph Fischer. Albert Spies feared that the call to bring arms to the rally would scare potential supporters and reduce the crowd. When Spies threatened not to speak at the rally unless the line was taken out, the presses were stopped and the line removed--but not before a few hundred copies of the first version were in circulation.
(Chicago Historical Society image)
(Chicago Historical Society image)
The circular below was written by Albert Spies in response to the killing of workers on May 3, 1886 at the McCormick Reapers Works. The circular was written in both English and German. The prosecution introduced the circular into evidence on July 16, 1886 as "People's Exhibit 6." Hundreds of copies of the "Revenge" circular were distributed by anarchists on the night of May 3.
According to prosecution witnesses, George Engel, at a May 3 meeting of anarchists at Grief's Hall (a saloon), announced a plan involving the German-language paper Arbeiter-Zeitung. Under Engel's plan, the appearance of the German word "Ruhe" (meaning "rest") in the notices column of the paper would be a signal to North Side activists to take militant action including bombing police stations, shooting police officers, and pulling down telegraph lines. In fact, the word "Ruhe" did appear in the notices ("Briefkasten") column of the Arbeiter-Zeitung edition of May 4 (image at left). The prosecution used this to link Albert Spies to the violence at Haymarket, although Spies claimed to have had no knowledge of the word's significance when it appeared in the paper. The image on the right is of a note in the handwriting of Spies introduced by the prosecution as "People's Exhibit 10."
National Labor Union passes a resolution calling for an eight-hour work day.
Illinois enacts the nation's first eight-hour law, but employers refuse to comply and the law is rendered meaningless.
Albert Parsons becomes secretary of Chicago's Eight-Hour League.
The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Union declares its goal of having eight hours constitute a legal day of work, beginning May 1, 1886.
April 1886 American laborers rally and lobby in support of an eight-hour work day with no reduction in pay. In Chicago, nearly 50,000 workers win such this concession from employers. The Chicago City Council, with the support of Mayor Harrison, approves an eight-hour work day for city employees.
May 3, 1886 While Spies speaks, police attack demonstrators with clubs and bullets at McCormick’s Reaper Works. Spies writes a circular (the “Revenge Circular”) urging a militant response to the death of "six brothers." In the evening, 8-hour leaders meet at Grief's Hall to discuss strategy. Prosecutors will later describe this meeting, attended by Engel and Fischer, the "Monday Night Conspiracy."
May 5, 1886 August Spies, Henry Spies, Lizzie Holmesand Michael Schwab are arrested at the office of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, as the police raid the newspaper. Elsewhere, police arrest Adolph Fischer, Gerhard Lizius, Herman Pudewa, Lucy Parsons, Sarah Ames, and Samuel Fielden..... In response to the Haymarket Riot, Mayor Harrison proclaims that all public gatherings are now illegal.
May 7, 1886 Rudolph Schnaubelt is arrested.
May 7-10, 1886 Parsons travels to Waukesha, Wisconsin.
May 14, 1886 After an intense struggle with a police officer, Lingg is arrested.
May 17, 1886 Grand jury is called.
May 18, 1886 The Grand jury begins its examination of witnesses.
November 2, 1887 The U.S. Supreme Court denies the writ of error.
November 6, 1887 Four bombs are found in the cell of Louis Lingg.
November 9, 1887 The Amnesty Association presents a petition with 41,000 signatures from Chicago residents.
November 10, 1887 Governor Oglesby announces he is commuting the sentences of Samuel Fielden and Michael Schwab to life sentences. Lingg commits suicide in his cell, by biting on a dynamite cap.
November 11, 1887 Spies, Parson, Fielden, and Engel are hanged at noon.
June 26, 1893 Fielden, Schwab, and Neebe are pardoned by Governor John Peter Altgeld. The move effectively ends Altgeld's promising political career.
The Fair Labor Standards Act makes eight hours a legal days work in the United States.
Map Showing Key Locations Concerning the Haymarket Riot
[May 5, 1886]
A Hellish Deed
A Dynamite Bomb Thrown Into a Crowd of Policemen
It explodes and covers the street with dead and mutilated officers –A storm of bullets follows- The police return the fire and wound a number of rioters- Harrowing scenes at the Desplaines Street Station- A night of terror.
A dynamite bomb thrown into a squad of policemen sent to disperse a mob at the corner of Desplaines and Randolph streets last night exploded with terrific force, killing and injuring nearly fifty men. The following is a partial list of the dead and wounded policemen:
JOSEPH DEAGAN, West Lake Street Station; fell dead in front of the Desplaines Street Station, in the arms of Detective John McDonald. He had sufficient vitality to walk from the scene of the shooting to the spot where he expired.
LIEUT. JAMES STANTON, West Lake Street Station, shot in both legs; not badly hurt.
JACOB HANSEN, West Lake Street Station, shot in both legs.
THOMAS SHANNON, Desplaines Street Station, shot in foot, leg, and arms; married and has three children. Lives at No. 24 Mather Street.
JOHN K. MCMAHON, West Chicago Avenue, shot in thigh and calf of right leg. Married, and has three children; lives at No. 118 North Green Street.
JOHN B. DOYLE, Desplaines street, bomb wounds in leg, knee, and back. Married, and as one child; lives at No. 142 ½ Jackson street.
TIMOTHY FLAVIN, Rawson Street Station, shot in leg, resides at station, married.
JOHN H. KING, Desplaines Street Station, bomb wound in neck, feet, and arms.
JAMES PLUNKETT, Desplaines Street Station, shot in the hand.
EDWARD BARRETT, West Chicago Avenue, shot in knee and ankle, has wife and six children, lives at No. 297 West Ohio Street.
J. SIMONS, West Chicago Avenue, shot in side; wife and two children; lives at No. 241 West Huron street.
A. C. KELLER, Desplaines Street Station, shot in side; lives at No. 36 Greenwich Street.
L. J. MURPHY, Desplaines Street, shot in neck and hand; foot hurt by bomb; married; lives at 317 ½ Fulton Street.
T. BUSTERLY, West Lake Street, shot in hand, wife and one child, lives at No. 436 West Twelfth Street.
H. T. SMITH, Desplaines Street, shot in the right ankle, single, lives at No. 36 Keith Street.
ARTHUR CONLEY, Desplaines street, bullet wound in leg and right shoulder, and bomb wound on right leg, maimed; lives at No. 318 West Harrison street.
The following circular was distributed yesterday afternoon:
Tonight, at 7:30 o’clock
HAYMARKET, RANDOLPH STREET, BETWEEN DESPLAINES AND HALSTED.
Good speakers will be present to denounce the latest atrocious act of the police—the shooting of our fellow-workmen yesterday afternoon.
THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
In response to this about 1,500 people gathered, but a shower dispersed all but 600. Several speeches had been made of a more or less rabid character when Sam Fielden, the Socialist, put in an appearance.
“The Socialists,” he said, “are not going to declare war; but I tell you war has been declared upon us; and I ask you to get hold of anything that will help to resist the onslaught of the enemy and the usurper. The skirmish-lines have met. People have been shot. Men, women, and children have not been spared by the ruthless minions of private capital. It had no mercy. So ought you. You are called upon to defend yourselves, your lies, your future. What matters it whether you kill yourselves with work to get a little relief or die on the battle-field resisting the enemy? [Applause.] What is the difference? Any animal, however loathsome, will resist when stepped upon. Are men less than snails or worms? I have some resistance in me. I know that you have too. You have been robbed. You will be starved into a worse condition.”
At this point those on the outskirts of the crowd whispered “Police,” and many of them hastened to the corner of Randolph Street. Six or eight companies of police, commanded by Inspector Bonfield, marched rapidly past the corner. Fielden saw them coming and stopped talking. When at the edge of the crowd Inspector Bonfield said in a loud voice: “in the name of the law I command you to disperse.” The reply was a bomb, which exploded as soon as it struck. The first company of police answered with a volley right into the crowd, who scattered in all directions.
Fielden had just started speaking when part of the crowd, scenting danger, left. Numerous detectives mingled with the mob surrounding the wagon used as a speakers’ stand. A stiff breeze came up from the north and anticipating rain, more of the crowd left, the worst element, however, remaining. In a few minutes the police from the Desplaines Street station, marching abreast the breadth of Desplaines street, approached. A space of about two feet intervened between each line and they marched silently, so that they were upon the mob almost before the latter knew it. The glittering stars were no sooner seen than a large bomb was thrown into the midst of the police. The explosion shook the buildings in the vicinity, and played terrible havoc among the police. It demoralized them, and the Anarchists and rioters poured in a shower of bullets before the first action of the police was taken. Then the air overhead the fighting mass was a blaze of flashing fire. At the discharge of the bomb the bystanders on the sidewalk fled for their lives, and numbers were trampled upon in the mad haste of the crowd to get away. The groans of those hit could be heard above the rattle of the revolvers. In two minutes the ground was strewn with wounded men. Then the shots straggled, and shortly after all was quiet, and the police were masters of the situation.
What Another Reporter Saw.
Please stay tuned for Part Two.....