August Spies

The Famous Speeches of the Chicago Anarchists in Court

August Spies (1855-1887) August Spies was born in Landeck, Germany in 1855. Spies emigrated to the United States in 1872 and settled in Chicago where he became an upholsterer. He became involved in trade union activities and joined the revolutionary movement in 1877. Three years later he began contributing to the anarchist journal, Arbeiter Zeitung, and became editor in 1880.

YOUR HONOR: In addressing this court I speak as the representative of one class to the representative of another. I say to you: “My defense is your accusation.”

I have been indicted on the charge of murder. Upon this indictment I have been convicted. There was no evidence produced by the State to show or even indicate that I had any knowledge of the man who threw the bomb, or that I myself had anything to do with the throwing of the missile…

If there was no evidence to show that I was legally responsible for the deed, then my conviction and the execution of the sentence is nothing less than willful, malicious, and deliberate murder, as foul a murder as may be found in the annals of religious, political, or any other sort of persecution.

There have been many judicial murders committed where the representatives of the State were acting in good faith, believing their victims to be guilty of the charge accused of. In this case the representatives of the State cannot shield themselves with a similar excuse. For they themselves have fabricated most of the testimony which was used as a pretense to convict us; to convict us by a jury picked out to convict!

This contemplated murder of eight men, whose only crime is that they have dared to speak the truth, may open the eyes of  suffering millions; may wake them up. Indeed, I have noticed that our conviction has worked miracles in this direction already.

The capitalist class that clamors for our lives have attempted in every way, through their newspapers and otherwise, to conceal the true and only issue in this case.

By simply designating the defendants as “Anarchists,” picturing them as a newly discovered tribe or species of cannibals, and by inventing shocking and horrifying stories of dark conspiracies. The capitalists have sought to keep the naked fact from the working people and other righteous parties, namely: That on the evening of May 4, 200 armed men – the police – attacked a meeting of peaceable citizens.

With what intention? With the intention of murdering as as they could.

The wage-workers of this city began to object to being fleeced too much-they began to say some very true things. They put forth some very modest demands. They thought eight hours hard toil a day for scarcely two hours’ pay was enough.

“But,” says the State, “you anarchists have published articles on the manufacture of dynamite and bombs.” Therefore you are guilty of supporting murderers.

Well then, show me a daily paper owned by the rich in’ this city that has not published similar articles!  I remember one in which the use of dynamite bombs against striking workmen is advocated as the most effective weapon against them.

May I learn why the editors of these papers have not been indicted and convicted for murder? My efforts on behalf of the disinherited and disfranchised millions, my agitation in this direction, the popularization of economic teachings-in short, the education of the wage-workers, is declared “a conspiracy against society.”

The word “society” is here wisely substituted for “the State,” as represented by the politicians of today. It has always been the opinion of the ruling classes that the people must be kept in ignorance, for they lose their servility, their modesty and their obedience to the powers that be, as their intelligence increases.

The education of a black slave a quarter of a century ago was a criminal offense. Why? Because the intelligent slave would throw off his shackles at whatever cost. Why is the education of the working people of today looked upon by a certain class as an offense against the State? For the same reason!

What have we said in our speeches and publications? We have interpreted to the people their conditions and relations in society.  We have, by way of scientific investigation, incontrovertibly proved and brought to their knowledge that the system of wage labor is the root of the present social iniquities-iniquities so monstrous that they cry to Heaven.

We have further said that the wage system must prepare the way and furnish the foundation for a social system of cooperation – that is, Socialism.

It is not likely that the honorable judge and the state’s attorney can conceive of a social order not held intact by the policeman’s club and pistol, nor of a free society without prisons, gallows, and State’s attorneys. In such a society they probably fail to find a place for themselves. And is this the reason why Socialism is such a “pernicious and damnable doctrine?”

You may pronounce the sentence upon me, honorable judge, but let the world know that in 1886, in the State of Illinois, eight men were sentenced to death, because they believed in a better future!