Library of Congress

Teachers

The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Chicago Anarchists on Trial

[Detail] The anarchist riot in Chicago

The Appeal, Execution, and Pardon

Act IV and Act V of the Special Presentation, The Dramas of Haymarket, provide a detailed account of the events that followed the conviction of the eight defendants, beginning with defense attorney Black's appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. Search on Illinois Supreme Court for a variety of materials including Black's assignment of errors, listing the injustices of State of Illinois v. August Spies, et al. The Illinois Supreme Court outline of proceedings summarizes the appeal, in which attorney Leonard Swett represented the anarchists, while the Decision in response to the Writ or Errors presents the Illinois Supreme Court's lengthy decision to uphold the verdict reached in Judge Gary's court.

While Black and Swett appealed to the Court, the Defense Committee Fund, which had arranged for the anarchists' legal defense, appealed to the public through rallies and publications. The convicted made their own appeals from prison, writing autobiographies and creating the Anarchist Publishing Association, which published the speeches they had made in Judge Gary's court before sentencing. From prison cell 29, Albert Parsons made "An appeal to the people of America," extolling the cause of labor and defending articles from the Alarm that had been used against him during the trial.

Public support for the convicted grew over time. After the Illinois Supreme Court made its decision and set a new execution date of November 11, 1887, the Amnesty Association got tens of thousands of signatures to press Governor Richard Oglesby to grant the prisoners clemency. When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Haymarket verdict on November 2, the governor's clemency became the prisoners' final recourse. In order for the governor to grant clemency, however, the prisoners would have to petition him for forgiveness. Fielden and Schwab both did so, followed by Spies, who later withdrew his petition after being accused of cowardice. Lingg, Fischer, Engel, and Parsons refused to petition the governor, with Parsons demanding "liberty or death."

  • Why would Lingg, Fischer, Engel, and Parsons have refused to petition the governor for clemency?
  • What statement was Parsons making in echoing American Revolutionary Patrick Henry's call for "liberty or death"?

Five days before the execution, bombs were found in Lingg's cell. On November 9, lawyers filed for an insanity hearing on his behalf, but the next morning Lingg killed himself by detonating a bomb in his mouth. Search on suicide for two depictions of the tragedy. The same afternoon, Governor Oglesby commuted the sentences of Fielden and Schwab to life in prison, but was unmoved by attorney Black's final appeal for clemency on behalf of the others.

  • How do the illustrations and their captions represent Lingg's suicide?

The bombs found in Lingg's cell did nothing to assuage fears that labor radicals would make one final attempt to rescue the condemned or commit a reprisal. Heavy security was in force at the jail and other locations throughout the city on the day of the execution. Reporters had kept the Haymarket story alive throughout the appeal process and appeared in full force on the day of the execution. Search on Frank Leslie's Illustrated and Pictorial West for illustrations of the prisoners' final visits, preparations for the hanging, and the four figures of Fischer, Engel, Parsons, and Spies in hooded shrouds before the gallows. Search on execution for other items, such as telegrams reporting the hangings.

On November 12, the bodies of the executed were publicly displayed. The following day, a large crowd gathered to watch as funeral coaches transported the bodies to Waldheim Cemetery for burial. Search on funeral and grave for illustrations of the solemn events.

After paying tribute to the dead, many supporters turned their attentions to Fielden, Schwab, and Neebe. The Amnesty Association swelled to a membership of 100,000 people as it continued to represent the prisoners over the years. Finally, on June 26, 1893, Governor John Peter Altgeld granted absolute pardon to the prisoners in a thorough statement condemning the errors made in State of Illinois v. August Spies, et al. Search on Altgeld for his portrait, statement of pardon, and the editorial cartoon below.

  • What were Governor Altgeld's reasons for issuing the pardon shortly after assuming office?
  • Why did Altgeld consider the jury to have been "packed"? What evidence did he give in the pardon message to support that belief?
  • What were the governor's views of police activity at Haymarket?
  • Why did Altgeld hold Captain John Bonfield responsible for the death of police officers at Haymarket?
  • What criticisms did the governor express regarding Judge Gary and his rulings during the trial?
  • What are the symbols used in the cartoon of Governor Altgeld? How do they portray the governor and his action?
  • What does the cartoon reveal about the depth of feeling regarding the Haymarket affair seven years later?

Top