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The Haymarket Affair

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The Haymarket Affair For many, America is not just the country they happen to live in but also it is a place of freedoms, liberties and independencies and even a refuge for some people. In 1886 though, a group of people attempted to share their opinion in Haymarket Square, Chicago, which led to a dangerous riot and a series of trials with convictions and executions. Throughout the affair, innocent lives were lost, people were wrongly accused, and the judicial system was revealed as flawed.

Throughout the trial, Constitutional rights were overlooked in the name of prejudice and because of fear, just to please the public.

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The Haymarket Affair involved a violent riot caused by overbearing police officers; it also involved unfair trials which attempted to defend American ideals but instead, all it did was infringe the principle rights in the Constitution. The prominence of the belief in anarchy in the labor movements was prevalent in the prejudice that was made evident in the arrests and trials of the affair.

The anarchists of this time thought that the government and its laws were made to tyrannize the working people, and they wanted to get rid of the capitalist system.

As for their political movements, anarchists wanted an eight-hour work day, decent housing, an end to child labor, and free public schooling. Including these requests, anarchists gained the trust and respect of laborers because of their support of strikes and unions, their public writings on labor grievances, and their talk of revolution and elimination of bosses. Across the nation, discontent workers agreed to go on strike in demand of an eight-hour work day on May 1, 1886. The tension and excitement caused by the planned strike led to an editorial in the Chicago Mail.

The writer of this editorial wrote about two anarchists, Albert Parsons and August Spies, who he called dangerous. He said to, “Hold them personally responsible for any trouble that occur”. The writer of the editorial was accurate about these two men being accused for trouble; however the anticipated commotion happened three days later on May 4, 1886. On this date, an assembly was put together by a leading German anarchist in Chicago’s labor movement, and it took place in Haymarket Square.

The purpose of the assembly was to respond to the murder of several laborers the day before, when two hundred police open-fired on strikers in an attempt to gain control of the fighting. In Haymarket Square, by the time the police arrived to impede the rally, about only two hundred people were still in the crowd. At the rally, the speakers only discussed the violence from the previous day, and they did not request workers to fight back with weapons of their own. During one of the leader’s speeches, the police interrupted and asked them to disperse.

The speaker responded, “But we are peaceable”. Despite the lack of threat presented, the police asked them to leave yet again. A bomb was then thrown into the crowd of policemen. The bomb-thrower still remains anonymous to this day, but his action resulted in the importance of this gathering. After the homemade bomb was thrown, the police ordered an open-fire on the crowd and pandemonium resulted. Though an accurate death toll is still unknown, two civilians and seven police officers died and about seventy officers and one hundred civilians wounded were said to be wounded.

Even though the undercover bomber was unknown, eight anarchists were arrested and blamed for the deaths. During the trial six weeks later, prosecutor Julius Grinell did not accuse any of the men of throwing the bomb. The case against the eight was based on a broad conspiracy theory that charged the anarchists with inspiring the bomber. Along with prosecutor Grinell, the trial involved other faulty aspects such as its biased jury, behavior of judge, and dishonest witnesses. Also, Grinell had chosen jurors that were more likely to believe the anarchists as being guilty.

Before being seated, several of the jury even admitted to having an already determined thought that the eight were guilty. At the close of trial proceedings, the judge informed the jury that they could find the eight accused to be guilty even if the crime was committed by someone who was not charged. He also said that it was not necessary for the state to know the identity of the bomber or to prove that the bomber had read any of the articles or poster of the charged anarchists.

Though the judge, prosecutor, and jury can be considered misguided in their bias and actions of injustice, some of the witnesses against the accused are widely acknowledged as liars. In comparison to the eyewitnesses of the defendants, every part of their details went against those of the witnesses of the police. Though the defendants faced prejudice and discrimination, they kept on with their cases and appeals until the verdicts were determined. The attorneys of the accused were Black and Swett. Along with the allegation that Grinnell’s witnesses were lying, the defending lawyers said that none f the eight had intended for any form violence and they even offered proof that some of the accused were not even near Haymarket Square on May 4th. Furthermore along with their apparent innocence, six of the eight were not present when the bomb went off, and the two that were there, Spies and Samuel Fielden were both in plain view of the crowd and police. Despite the logic of the defendant’s case, passion and prejudice led the jury to conclude that the bombing was a direct result of a deliberate conspiracy. On August 20, 1886 , the jury decided the verdict of guilty for the eight defendants.

In persistence of their case, the “guilty” appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court on November 2, 1886. Unfortunately, this court appeal concluded that the original verdict was correct. In further efforts, the eight attempted to appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court, but the case was refused. In addition to their guilty verdict, the Illinois Supreme Court set November 11, 1887 as their date of execution. The eight anarchists who experienced the irrational accusations and prejudgment were August Spies, Albert Parsons, Samuel Fielden, Engel, Fischer, Michael Schwab, Louis Lingg, and Oscar Neebe.

All of these men were acknowledged anarchists who were publicly dedicated to overthrowing the “oppressive capitalistic government that enslaved the workers”. Even though eight men were accused, only three of them were speakers at the Haymarket rally, and these were Spies, Parsons, and Fielden. As a result of society’s discrimination of foreigners, another reason that the eight were accused arbitrarily is that six of them had been born in Europe. The only anarchist not given the death sentence was Neebe, who was also one of the two that were not foreign.

He was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor instead. Three of the others managed to prevent their scheduled deaths for the eleventh of November. In search of help and justice, Fielden, Schwab, and Spies wrote to the Illinois Governor, Richard Oglesby and Spies asked for only his death on behalf of the rest who should be released, but his sacrifice was unsuccessful. Despite this failure, Oglesby complied with Fielden and Schwab’s requests, and their death sentences were changed to life sentences.

On November 10, the other, Lingg, committed suicide in his jail cell by biting down on a dynamite cap. Though his escape was only from the formal and public aspects of the execution, this would be important to Lingg since he would not want the repressive government that he had been working against during his life be the ones to take it, in the end. The behavior of Parsons and the last words of the martyrs display the important meanings of their deaths but also the ridiculous justifications of their convictions. Throughout the affair, supporters of the anarchists also faced the same prejudice.

On their execution day, the four walked to their gallows with expressions of pride, sadness, anger, and even laughter. As for their last words, they each contributed from behind their muslin shrouds covering their faces. Spies proclaimed, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today”. The four were then hanged at noon on November 11, 1887. The various emotions and responses of the public widely contributed to the unfair convictions, however society did show some support for the anarchists throughout the affair and afterwards, as well.

At the beginning of the affair, the popular feeling, influenced by the press, was for vengeance towards all involved in the bombing and that each be thoroughly punished to the full extent by the law. There was also a memorial for the police officers, but it had to be relocated from Haymarket Square to the Chicago police station because of numerous well-deserved defacements over time. After all, there was victory for anarchists and their supporters who had been accusing the police of corruption throughout the affair.

The Haymarket case involves several issues such as discrimination against foreigners, ignorance in the law enforcement, and faults in the judicial system. In order to defend American ideals, society actually just ignored the Constitution. In the Constitution, the right to speak freely and meet with others to discuss ideas is clearly stated which gave the eight the rights to hold labor meetings and write about anarchy. Although the police were not seen specifically as the cause of the Haymarket riot, they only intensified it with their orders.

At this time they showed their ignorance of free speech and assembly. Some other rights of the Constitution, such as the right to a fair trial, were also disregarded throughout the issue like when the eight were irrationally accused and convicted because of their beliefs and public prejudice, for example. Bibliography Avrich, Paul, The Haymarket Tragedy (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986) 205. Burgan, Michael, The Haymarket Square Tragedy, We the People: Industrial American Series (Minnesota: Compass Point Books, 2006), 19.

Fliege, Stu, Tales and Trails of Illinois (Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 109. Green, James Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America (New York: Pantheon Publishing, 2006) 269. Werstein, Irving, Strangled Voices: The Story of the Haymarket Affair (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970), 14. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Irving Werstein, Strangled Voices: The Story of the Haymarket Affair (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970), 14. [ 2 ]. Ibid. [ 3 ]. Ibid. , 15. [ 4 ].

Michael Burgan, The Haymarket Square Tragedy, We the People: Industrial American Series (Minnesota: Compass Point Books, 2006), 19. [ 5 ]. Irving Werstein, Strangled Voices: The Story of the Haymarket Affair (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970), 26. [ 6 ]. Ibid. [ 7 ]. Stu Fliege, Tales and Trails of Illinois (Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 109. [ 8 ]. Michael Burgan, The Haymarket Square Tragedy, We the People: Industrial American Series (Minnesota: Compass Point Books, 2006), 22. [ 9 ]. Ibid. , 27. [ 10 ]. Stu Fliege, Tales and Trails of Illinois (Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 107. 11 ]. Ibid. , 110. [ 12 ]. Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986) 205. [ 13 ]. Ibid,. 227. [ 14 ]. Michael Burgan, The Haymarket Square Tragedy, We the People: Industrial American Series (Minnesota: Compass Point Books, 2006), 39. [ 15 ]. Ibid. [ 16 ]. James Green, Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America (New York: Pantheon Publishing, 2006) 286. [ 17 ]. Stu Fliege, Tales and Trails of Illinois (Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 107. [ 18 ]. Ibid. [ 19 ]. Ibid. , 110. [ 20 ].

Michael Burgan, The Haymarket Square Tragedy, We the People: Industrial American Series (Minnesota: Compass Point Books, 2006), 36. [ 21 ]. Ibid. , 32. [ 22 ]. Stu Fliege, Tales and Trails of Illinois (Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 110. [ 23 ]. Ibid. ,131 [ 24 ]. Michael Burgan, The Haymarket Square Tragedy, We the People: Industrial American Series (Minnesota: Compass Point Books, 2006), 39. [ 25 ]. Ibid. , 43. [ 26 ]. James Green, Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America (New York: Pantheon Publishing, 2006) 269. 27 ]. Ibid. , 230. [ 28 ]. Irving Werstein, Strangled Voices: The Story of the Haymarket Affair (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970), 51. [ 29 ]. Stu Fliege, Tales and Trails of Illinois (Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 111. [ 30 ]. Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986) 205. [ 31 ]. Michael Burgan, The Haymarket Square Tragedy, We the People: Industrial American Series (Minnesota: Compass Point Books, 2006), 35.

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The Haymarket Affair. (2016, Oct 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-haymarket-affair/

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