Confession of an Atrocious Crime Against the Anarchists Tried at Chicago

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Confession of an Atrocious Crime Against the Anarchists Tried at Chicago.

[Lysander Spooner, as "O"]

The Boston "Sunday Herald" of August 22, 1880, has this "Special Dispatch to the Herald ":

Chicago, 111., August 21,1886. —Captain Michael Schaack, who is credited with having obtained the chief evidence against the condemned Anarchists, was asked today if the police were now through with their labors.

"Through!" said the officer; "why, they have hut barely commenced."

"You mean you have others who are indicted on the same charge?"

"You mustn't ask too much. I tell you the Anarchist business in Chicago has only commenced, and before it is through with we will have them all in jail, hanged, or driven out of the city."

"Did you place any men under arrest yesterday?"

"That I do not wish to tell."

"The report is that you have secured warrants for the arrests of a large number of persons."

"If you think a minute, you can see how foolish the idea would be. We have no accommodations for any large number of people, and it would be a needless expense to the State arresting too many at once. I can get them all as I want them. I don't need to arrest them now."

"They may try to leave the city."

"Time enough to arrest them when they do. I can get them just the same."

"Will any of the women be arrested?"

"Why not the women? Some of them are a good sight worse than the men."

"Do you think," continued the captain, "if I had told the newspapers what I was doing while the Anarchist trial was going on, that the jury would have brought in the verdict of yesterday? No, sir; a thousand times no. The prisoners would have gone free. Every reporter who came to me got nothing. I was making up the evidence, little by little, piece by piece, and putting it together where it belonged. If / had told all I know [knew?] as fast as I got points, the defence would have known what evidence was to be brought against them, and have been prepared to meet it. There was but one beside myself who knew anything about what I was doing," said the officer, in conclusion.

It is claimed that the attorney for the State always relied on a verdict of guilty. They maintained that there was no doubt concerning the result.

This declaration of Schaack's, "No, sir; a thousand times no. The prisoners would have gone free. ... If I had told all I knew as fast as I got points, the defence would have known what evidence was to be brought against them, and have been prepared to meet it," is equivalent to a declaration that, if the accused persons had known what evidence was to be brought against them, they would have brought evidence that would have been sufficient to acquit them "a thousand times" over.

Here, then, is an explicit confession that these seven men were condemned to death upon evidence that was kept secret from both themselves and the public, and finally sprung upon them at the trial, when no opportunity was given them to meet it; but that they would have been acquitted "a thousand times" over, if they had known of this evidence, and been permitted to contradict or explain it.

This is equivalent to a confession that the men were innocent; and that this Captain Schaack knew that they were innocent; or — what is the same thing— that he knew that there was evidence that would have acquitted them "a thousand times" over, if they had been allowed an opportunity to produce it. But he glories in the fact that he was too smart for them; that, by keeping his evidence secret from both them and the public, he was enabled to bring them into the trap which he and "one other man" (evidently the State's attorney) had prepared for them, and thus secured their conviction.

If this is not a confession that he (Schaack) and "one other man," his accomplice, set themselves deliberately at work to procure the judicial murder of seven innocent men, — men known by him and his accomplice to be innocent, — what is it?

Plainly it is nothing else in the world.

Schaack's confession that the evidence, on the part of these men, was such as, if permitted to be introduced, would have acquitted them "a thousand times" over, is equivalent to a confession that it was true; and that to procure their conviction, by the suppression of this evidence, was to procure the judicial murder of innocent men.

And this work, says Schaack, is to go on, until "we have all the Anarchists in jail, hanged, or driven out of the city."

And this end is evidently to be accomplished by the same methods that have been so successful in procuring the conviction of these seven men; that is, by evidence "made up, little by little, piece by piece, and put together, where it belonged," kept secret from the accused persons, and finally sprung upon them at the trial, when it is too late for them to contradict or explain anything.

What stronger evidence can be required to prove the infamous character of what are called our criminal courts? Evidently the courts themselves are criminal, whether the persons they convict are criminal or not.

Manifestly a trial can have no color of justice or reason, or be anything else than a conspiracy to convict, whether the accused person be innocent or guilty, unless he is permitted to know beforehand, as fully as the government officers themselves, every scrap of evidence that is to be brought against him, and then have all possible reasonable time allowed him in which to find and produce all the rebutting evidence that can be found and produced.

And yet I suppose that nearly every accused person is brought to trial, in our courts, in greater or less ignorance of the evidence that is to be given against him.

And I suppose that some, at least, if not all, of our prosecuting officers really consider it a smart thing to do, to bring out on a trial evidence which the accused person knew nothing of, and was unprepared to meet.

The confession of this scoundrel, Schaack, is one that the whole country is bound to take notice of. In fact, the trial at Chicago was not a trial of seven men only, nor of Chicago Anarchists only, but it was also a trial of the government of Illinois, and still more of the United States government itself. The oppressions of which these so-called Anarchists complained (if they were oppressions) were such as the government of the United States is responsible for, and such as many millions of persons — in fact, nearly all the people of the United States — are crying out against; some in more desperate tones than others, but all in tones that it will not do for any government to disregard.

In this state of things, a murder is committed by some one—not by these seven, nor any one of them, but by some one as yet unknown. These seven are confessed, by the chief agent in procuring their conviction, to be innocent; and to have had abundant proof of their innocence, if they had been permitted an opportunity to produce it.

But the government, which, in the opinion of these despairing, if not desperate, millions, is responsible for their wrongs, does not brook any forcible resistance by even so much as one single man. It regards this single man but as a torch that may explode vast numbers of others. It therefore demands not merely a victim, but victims. And victims it must have, whether they be innocent or guilty. The innocent will answer for examples, as well as the guilty. So, being unable to discover the one guilty man, the machinery is set at work to convict seven innocent ones in his stead.

And now all these suffering millions, who have not yet been brought quite up to the point of open rebellion, are taught that this is no country for those who are liable to become desperate under its oppressions; that it is only the patient sufferers who are tolerated here.

Well, perhaps this verdict will have that effect. But perhaps it will not. O.

  • Lysander Spooner, “Confession of an Atrocious Crime Against the Anarchists Tried at Chicago,” Liberty 4, no. 9 (September 18, 1886): 4-5.