Part 7: Leading up to Execution in the Haymaker Affair

About the year following the Haymaker Affair decision and the days leading up to the execution for those who fought for unions.

On the Way to the 8-Hour Day--The Haymarket Affair

By David Wallechinsky

Michael Schwab, born in 1853, had come to Chicago from Bavaria when he was 26. Like Spies, he took the opportunity to explain his doctrines and, like Spies, he used the words communism, socialism, and anarchism as if they meant the same thing--a naive misconception which was exposed years later during the Russian Revolution when Lenin and Trotsky killed or imprisoned every active anarchist their special police could get their hands on.

The 3rd defendant to speak was 36-year-old Oscar Neebe, of German descent, but born in New York City. A quiet, simple man, he was not a revolutionary and he knew little about anarchism and socialism.

"Before the 4th of May I committed some other crimes. My business [yeast-peddling] brought me in connection with the bakers. I saw that the bakers in this city were treated like dogs . . . I said to myself: 'These men have to be organized, in organization there is strength.' And I helped organize them. That is a great crime. The men are now working, instead of 14 and 16 hours, 10 hours a day . . . And I committed a greater crime than that . . . I saw in the morning when I drove away with my team that the beer brewers of the city of Chicago went to work at 4 o'clock in the morning. They came home at 7 and 8 o'clock at night. They never saw their families, they never saw their children by daylight . . . I went to work and organized them."

". . . hang me, too; for I think it is more honorable to die suddenly than to be killed by inches. I have a family and children; and if they know their father is dead, they will bury him. They can go to the grave, and kneel down by the side of it; but they can't go to the penitentiary and see their father, who was convicted for a crime that he hasn't had anything to do with. That is all I have got to say, your honor, I am sorry not to be hung with the rest of the men."

Twenty-eight-year-old Adolph Fischer was born in Bremen and arrived in the U.S. when he was 15. He had become interested in socialism in Germany as a result of an instructor's attack against it.

"I protest against my being sentenced to death because I have committed no crime. I was tried . . . for murder, and I was convicted of anarchy. I protest against being sentenced to death, because I have not been found guilty of murder. However, if I am to die on account of being an anarchist . . . I will not remonstrate."

The 5th to speak was 22-year-old Louis Lingg. Lingg was the only one of the 8 defendants who was actively a violent revolutionary. He made bombs and he was not ashamed to admit it. Born in Mannheim, Germany, his father died when Louis was 7. He was apprenticed to a carpenter, traveled to Switzerland, and then came to the U.S. to avoid military service. He addressed the court in German.

"I do not recognize your law, jumbled together as it is by the nobodies of bygone centuries, and I do not recognize the decision of the court . . . I repeat that I am the enemy of the order of today, and I repeat that, with all my powers, so long as breath remains in me, I shall combat it . . . You laugh. Perhaps you think, you'll throw no more bombs; but let me assure you that I die happy on the gallows, so confident am I have spoken will remember my words, and when you shall have hanged us, then, mark my words, they will do the bomb throwing! In this hope do I say to you: 'I despise you. I despise your order; your laws, your force-propped authority! Hang me for it!'"

George Engel, 50 years old, had come to the U.S. in 1873.

"We see from the history of this country that the 1st Colonists won their liberty through force, that through force slavery was abolished, and just as the man who agitated against slavery in this country had to ascend the gallows, so also must we.

"I hate and combat, not the individual capitalist, but the system that gives him those privileges."

Samuel Fielden, spoke at great length about his life, beliefs, and his innocence of any wrongdoing.

Next to speak was Albert Parsons, and speak he did, for 2 hours on October 8 and 6 hours the next day. An excellent orator, he took this opportunity of his last public appearance to tell the history of the working classes in the U.S. He freely admitted his support for the use of dynamite because, "today dynamite comes as the emancipator of man from the domination and enslavement of his fellow men. . . . It is democratic; it makes everybody equal. . . .Now I speak plainly. Does it follow, because I hold these views, that I committed or had anything to do with the commission of that act at the Haymarket?"

The last speaker was Judge Gary. "In substance and effect it is that the defendant Neebe be imprisoned in the State Penitentiary at Joliet at hard labor for the term of 15 years. And that each of the other defendants, between the hours of 10 o'clock in the forenoon and 2 o'clock in the afternoon of the 3rd day of December next, in the manner provided by the statute of this State, be hung by the neck until he is dead. Remove the prisoners."

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