Spies v. People (In re Anarchists)

Decision Date14 September 1887
Citation122 Ill. 1,12 N.E. 865
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Error to criminal court, Cook county.

For concurring opinion, see 17 N.E. 898.

The defendants August Spies, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden, Albert R. Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, and Oscar W. Neebe, were tried for the murder of Mathias J. Degan on May 4, 1886, in the city of Chicago, and found guilty; Neebe being sentenced to imprisonment in the penitentiary for 15 years, and the other prisoners being sentenced to death.

The evidence against the defendants showed that, for a number of years, there had existed in Chicago a branch of a society variously known as the International Association of Workingmen;’ the International Arbeiter Association;’ the ‘International,’ or the ‘I. A. A.’ The platform of this society advocated the destruction of the existing social order, with its laws and institutions; and the common division of property. It charged that the government, the law, the schools, the churches, and the press were in the pay and under the control of the capitalists, who would never concede the laborers' demands unless compelled by force. It advocated a conflict of a violent, revolutionary character, and urged the laborers to organize and arm for the purpose of rebellion.

In 1885–86 the Chicago branch of this association was divided into ‘groups,’ some of them self-governing, others sending delegates to a central committee. The groups were divided into armed and unarmed sections; the former regularly meeting for drill and instruction in the use of arms. They were under the control of an armed socialistic organization called the ‘Lehr und Wehr Verein,’ whose members were all members of the ‘International’ groups, but of a higher rank and greater perfection in the use of weapons. Altogether, at the period referred to, there were some 3,000 armed socialists in the city.

The association also controlled three newspapers, through the medium of which its doctrines were propagated. The organ of the German-speaking groups was known as the Arbeiter Zeitung,’ which was published and had its office and editorial rooms in the building No. 107 Fifth avenue. It was owned by a corporation, was printed in the German language, and had, besides its daily issue, a ‘Sunday edition, called ‘Die Fackel,’ and a weekly edition called ‘Der Vorbote.’ Its circulation was about 3,600. The general committee of the association met at its rooms, which were also the headquarters of a Bureau of Information operated by the organization. The organ of the English-speaking groups was the ‘Alarm,’ published in the same building, having a circulation of about 2,000, and first issued as a weekly and then as a semi-monthly paper. All bills for its printing were paid by the Arbeiter Zeitung. Another newspaper, called the ‘Anarchist,’ was founded in January or February, 1886, by three of the groups, who thought the Arbeiter Zeitung not sufficiently outspoken in its anarchical views.

The defendants were all intimately connected with the association, and actively engaged in its work. They were all members of one or other of the groups, and of the central committee. Spies was the superintendent and chief editor of the Arbeiter Zeitung, and a manager of the Bureau of Information. Schwab was his co-editor. Neebe was the next most active man connected with it. Fischer was the head foreman printer. Parsons was the editor of the Alarm, and a manager of the Bureau of Information. Engel was the editor of the Anarchist. Most of the defendants held stock in one or other of the newspapers. Lingg was actively engaged in the preparation of explosives and explosive weapons for use by the members of the armed groups of the association.

The principles of the International, and the manner in which they were propagated by the defendants, may be gathered from the extracts collated by the eminent judge who prepared the opinion, and which are contained in the statement preceding it. Attention may, however, be particularly directed to (1) the so-called ‘Platform’ of the International; (2) ‘Bakunin's Groundwork for the Social Revolution,’ a document published in the Alarm, purporting to be a code of ethics and a manual of tactics for the members of the association, but really ‘as cold-blooded, wicked, and diabolical an article as was ever conceived or penned;’ and (3) Johann Most's ‘Science of Revolutionary War. Manual for Instruction in the Use and Preparation of Nitro-Glycerine, Dynamite, Gun-Cotton, Fulminating Mercury, Bombs, Fuses,

During 1885–86 the defendants were

During 1838–86 the defendants were unceasing in their dissemination of revolutionary literature. They persistently advised the workingmen to arm themselves for a conflict with the capitalists, police, and militia. They gave the most complete instructions for the manufacture and use of pernicious and destructive weapons. They were proved to have been in possession of specimens of the weapons themselves. They manufactured and experimented with explosives. They advocated through the press and by speech, in public and in private, the doctrines which they held, and the methods by which they proposed to carry them into effect.

It was the intention of the defendants, and others connected with the association, that the revolution which it was their object to bring about, should take place on May 1, 1886. On that day the workingmen, not only in Chicago, but throughout the nation, intended to initiate the eight-hour movement. There were in Chicago alone, large numbers of workingmen on strike, who were laboring under great excitement, and, by taking advantage of their discontent and disaffection, the defendants hoped to bring about a general conflict between labor and capital.

As the time approached, the agitation became more violent. The first of May, however, passed. On Sunday, May 2d, there reappeared in Die Fackel an article describing the condition of the eight-hour movement, and declaring that the movement must culminate by Monday or Tuesday or all would be lost. On the same day a meeting of a company of the Lehr und Wehr Verein and one of the armed groups was held, at which Engel and Fischer were present, and a plan was there suggested by Engel, and adopted, that whenever it should come to a conflict between the police and the groups, bombs should be thrown into the police stations, and the police shot down as they came out; proceeding in that way until they arrived at the heart of the city.

On Monday, May 3d, the defendant Spies attended a meeting of the Lumber-Shovers' Union, near a factory known as ‘McCormick's Factory;’ the men from which were on strike, and in which a number of non-union men had been employed in place of the strikers. The meeting was called solely for the lumber-shovers, and to consider negotiations by them for an amicable settlement of the difficulty with their employers. Spies and another socialist made violent speeches, and aroused the passions of the crowd to fighting pitch. The non-union men employed in the factory, upon leaving work, were pelted with stones. The police were called and a conflict ensued, in which both sides used revolvers and stones. Spies left before the result of the fight was known, and immediately published, in German and English, an inflammatory circular calling upon the workingmen to arm, and revenge the murder of six of their brethren by the police. This circular was printed in the Arbeiter Zeitung office and extensively circulated throughout the city. The defendant Neebe himself distributed a number of the circulars.

On the same day there had appeared in the ‘Letter-Box’ of the Arbeiter Zeitung the sign ‘Y.—Komme Montag Abend.’ (Y.—Come Monday night.) This was the usual signal calling upon the armed sections of the groups, and the members of the Lehr und Wehr Verein, to meet at a place called ‘Greif's Hall,’ 54 West Lake street. Some 70 or 80 of them attended. Engel and Fischer were present. There is evidence that Lingg was also present, although this was stoutly denied. He was, however, proved to have known the purpose of the meeting, and the resolutions arrived at. The meeting was secret. Spies' ‘Revenge Circular’ was distributed. The plan for the destruction of the police and militia, suggested by Engel at the former meeting, was discussed and adopted. Its details were to be communicated to absent members, and, as one Schnaubelt suggested, to comrades in other towns. The signal for the inauguration of the attacks upon the police was to be the publication of the German word ‘Ruhe!’ (Peace!) in the letter-box column of the Arbeiter Zeitung. A meeting of workingmen, at which it was expected that 25,000 would be present, was arranged to be called by circular for the next evening, and from this the Internationals hoped to gain considerable accessions. The Market square was suggested as the place of meeting, but Fischer said that ‘was a mouse-trap,’ and on his suggestion it was determined to hold it in the Haymarket. Notice of any disturbance was to be immediately conveyed to the distributed groups of armed men, who would thereupon march inwards. The duties of convening the mass meeting of workingmen, publishing the signal ‘Ruhe!’ for the general uprising, and conveying intimations of disturbance to the armed groups, were intrusted to the same committee.

The next morning, Tuesday, May 4, 1886, the word ‘Ruhe!’ appeared in the Arbeiter Zeitung in heavy type, and underscored. Spies wrote the instruction for this insertion. Fischer wrote a circular headed, ‘Attention, Workingmen!’ calling a mass-meeting for 7:30 that evening, to denounce the police, and concluding, ‘Workingmen, arm yourselves, and appear in full force,’ signed ‘THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE.’ This circular was afterwards changed by striking out the appeal to arm. That morning there also appeared in the Arbeiter Zeitung an article head...

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