Living My Life
by Emma Goldman
New York: Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1931.
OUR WORK FOR THE COMMUTATION OF SASHA'S SENTENCE CONTINUED. At one of our weekly Meetings, in the latter part of December, I became conscious of the steady gaze of a man in the audience. He was tall and broad, well built, with soft blond hair and blue eyes. I particularly noticed the peculiar motion of his right leg, swinging back and forth regularly, while his hand kept steadily playing with matches. His monotonous movements were making me drowsy and I repeatedly had to rouse myself with an effort. Finally I walked over to the man and playfully took the matches away from him, remarking: "Children are not allowed to play with fire." "All right, grandmother," he replied in the same spirit, but you should know that I am a revolutionist. I love fire. Don't you?" He smiled at me, exposing beautiful white teeth. "Yes, in its right place," I retorted, "not here, with so many people about. It makes me nervous. And please stop moving your leg." The man apologized; a bad habit he had acquired in prison, he remarked. A feeling of shame overcame me; I thought of Sasha. I begged the man to go on and not to mind me. Perhaps some day he would tell me about his prison experience. I have a dear friend there now," I said. Evidently he understood whom I meant. "Berkman is a brave man," he replied. "We know about him in Austria and we admire him tremendously for what he did."
I learned that his name was Edward Brady and that he had just arrived from Austria after completing a term of ten years in prison for the publication of illegal anarchist literature. I found him the most scholarly person I had ever met. His field was not limited, like Most's, to social and political subjects; in fact, he rarely talked about them to me. He introduced me to the great classics of English and French literature. He loved to read Goethe and Shakespeare to me, or translate passages from the French, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire being his favourites. His English, although with a German accent, was perfect. On one occasion I asked him where he had received his schooling. "In prison," he replied unhesitatingly. He modified it by adding that he had passed through the Gymnasium first; but it was in prison that he had done his real studying. His sister used to send him English and French dictionaries, and he made it his practice to memorize so many words every day. In solitary confinement he had always read aloud to himself. It was the only way to survive, Many went crazy, particularly those who had nothing with which to occupy their minds. But for people with ideals prison is the best school, he said. "Then I ought to get to prison as quickly as possible," I remarked, "because I am awfully ignorant." "Don't be in such a hurry," be replied; "we have only just met and you are too young for prison." Berkman was only twenty-one," I told him. "Yes, that is the pity of it." His voice trembled. "I was thirty when I was imprisoned. I had already lived intensely."
He asked about my childhood and schooldays, evidently trying to change the subject. I had only had three and a half years of Realschule in Königsberg, I told him. The régime was harsh, the instructors brutal; I learned scarcely anything. Only my teacher of German had been kind to me. She was a sick woman, slowly dying of consumption, but patient and tender. She would often invite me to her home and give me extra lessons. She was particularly anxious for me to know her favourite writers: Marlitt, Auerbach, Heise, Linden, and Spielhagen. She loved Marlitt more than the others; so I, too, loved Marlitt. We used to read her novels together and we would both grow tearful over the unhappy heroines. My teacher worshipped the royal house; Frederick the Great and Queen Louise were her idols. "The poor Queen so cruelly treated by that butcher, Napoleon --the gracious, beautiful Queen," she would say with much feeling. She often recited to me the poem, the daily prayer of the good Queen:
Wer nie sein Brot in Tränen ass -
Wer nie die kummervollen Nächte auf seinem Bette weinend sass-
Der kennt euch nicht, Ihr himmlischen Mächte.
The moving stanza completely captured me. I, too, became a devotee of Queen Louise.
Two of my teachers had been altogether terrible. One, a German Jew was our instructor in religion; the other taught geography. I hated them both. Occasionally I would avenge myself on the former for his constant beatings, but I was too terrorized by the other even to complain at home.
The great joy of our religious instructor used to be to beat the palms of our hands with a ruler. I used to organize schemes to annoy him: stick pins in his upholstered chair, stealthily tie his long coattails to the table, put snails in his pockets - anything I could think of to pay him back for the pain of his ruler. He knew I was the ring-leader and he beat me the more for it. But it was a frank feud that could be met in the open.
Not so with the other man. His methods were less painful, but more dreadful. Every afternoon he would keep one or two of the girls after school-hours. When everybody had left the building, he would send one girl to the next classroom, then force the other on his knee and grasp her breasts or put his hands between her legs. He would promise her good marks if she kept quiet and threaten instant dismissal if she talked. The girls were terrorized into silence. I did not know for a long time about these things, until one day I found myself on his knee, I screamed, reached for his beard, and pulled it violently in my attempt to wriggle out of his hold. He jumped up, and I fell to the floor. He ran to the door to see if anyone was coming in response to my cry; then he hissed into my ear: "If you breathe one word, I'll kick you out of school."
For several days I was too sick with fright to return to school, but I would not say anything. The dread of being dismissed brought back the remembrance of Father's fury whenever I returned with bad marks. I went back to school at last, and for some days the geography lessons passed without incident. Because of my poor eyesight I had to stand close to the map. One day the teacher whispered to me: "You will remain behind." "I will not! I whispered back. The next moment I felt a stinging pain in my arm. He had stuck his nails into my flesh. My cries broke up the class and brought other instructors to the room. I heard our teacher telling them that I was a dullard, that I never knew my lessons and therefore he had to punish me. I was sent home.
At night my arm hurt a great deal. Mother noticed that it was all swollen and she sent for the doctor, who questioned me. His kindly manner led me to tell him the whole story. "Terrible!" he exclaimed; "the fellow belongs to the madhouse." A week later when I returned to school our geography-teacher was no longer there. He had gone on a journey, we were told.
When the time came for me to join Father in St. Petersburg, I hated to go. I could not part from my sick teacher of German, who had taught me to love everything Teutonic. She had induced one of her friends to give me French and music lessons and had promised to help me through the Gymnasium. She wanted tire to continue my education in Germany, and I dreamed of studying medicine so that I could be helpful in the world. After much pleading and many tears Mother consented to let me remain with my grandmother in Königsberg, provided I would pass the entrance examination for the Gymnasium. I worked day and night and I passed. But to become enrolled I needed a certificate of good character from my religious teacher. I loathed the idea of asking the man for anything; but I felt that my whole future depended on it, and I went to him. In front of the whole class he announced that he would never give me "a good character." I had none, he declared; I was a terrible child and would grow into a worse woman. I had no respect for my elders or for authority, and I would surely end on the gallows as a public menace. I went home heart-broken, but Mother promised to permit me to continue my studies in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately her plans did not materialize. I got only six months of study in Russia. However, the spiritual influences from my association with Russian students were most valuable.
"Those teachers must have been regular beasts," Brady declared; but you will admit that your religious fellow had a prophetic eye. You are already considered a public menace, and if you go on, you may be given a distinguished death. But console yourself; better people die on the gallows than in palaces."
Gradually a beautiful comradery matured between Brady and me. I now called him Ed. "The other sounds conventional," he had said. At his suggestion we started reading French together, beginning with Candide. I read slowly, haltingly, my pronunciation atrocious. But he was a born teacher, and his patience was boundless. On Sundays Ed would play host in the two-room apartment to which I had moved. Fedya and I would be ordered out of the flat until the meat was ready. Ed was a marvelous cook. On rare occasions I would be given the privilege of watching him prepare the meal. He would explain minutely, with evident gusto, every dish and I soon proved a much better pupil in cooking than in French. I learned to prepare many dishes before we were through reading Candide.
On Saturdays when I did not have to lecture, we used to visit the saloon of Justus Schwab, the most famous radical center in New York. Schwab was the traditional Teuton in appearance, over six feet tall, broad-chested, and strait as a tree. On his wide shoulders and strong neck rested a magnificent head, trained in curly red hair and beard. His eyes were full of fire and intensity. But it was his voice, deep and tender, that was his peculiar characteristic. It would have made him famous if he had chosen an operatic career. Justus was too much the rebel and the dreamer, however, to care about such things. The rear room of his little place on First Street was a Mecca for French Communards, Spanish and Italian refugees, Russian politicals, and German socialists and anarchists who bad escaped the iron heel of Bismarck, Everyone gathered at Justus's. Justus, as we affectionately called him,was the comrade, adviser, and friend of all. The circle was interspersed with many Americans, among them writers and artists. John Swinton, Ambrose Bierce, James Huneker, Sadakichi Hartmann, and other literati loved to listen to Justus's golden voice, drink his delicious beer and wine, and argue world-problems far into the night. Together with Ed I became a regular frequenter. Ed would dilate on the subtleties of some English, French, or German word, a group of philologists his forum. I would clash swords with Huneker and his friends about anarchism. Justus loved those battles and would urge me on. Then he would pat me on the back and say: "Emmachen, your head is not made for a hat; it is made for the rope. Just took at those soft curves--the rope would easily snuggle into them." At which Ed would wince.
The sweet companionship with Ed did not eliminate Sasha from my mind. Ed was also deeply interested in him and he joined the groups that were carrying on a systematic campaign in Sasha's behalf. Meanwhile Sasha had established an underground mail route. His official notes contained little about himself, but they spoke kindly of the prison chaplain, who had given him books and was showing human interest. His underground letters evidenced how outraged he felt over the sentence of Bauer and Nold. But they also breathed a little hope; he no longer felt so alone, with his two comrades under the same roof. He was trying to establish communication with them, his friends having been placed in a different wing of the prison. For the present, letters from the outside were his only link with life. I must urge our friends to write him often.
The consciousness that my correspondence would be read by the prison censor haunted me, The written words seemed cold and matter-of-fact, yet I wanted Sasha to feel that whatever happened in my life, whoever entered it, he would remain in it always. My letters left me dissatisfied and unhappy. But life went on. I had to work ten, sometimes twelve hours a day at the sewing-machine to earn my living. Almost nightly meetings and the need of improving my neglected education kept me engaged all the time. Somehow Ed made me feel that need more than anyone else had done.
Our friendship gradually ripened into love. Ed became indispensable to me. I had known for a long time that he also cared for me. Of unusual reserve, he had never spoken, of his love, but his eyes and his touch were eloquent of it. He had had women in his life before. One of them had given him a daughter, who was living with her mother's parents. He felt grateful to those women, he would often say. They had taught him the mysteries and subtleties of sex. I could not follow Ed when he spoke of these matters, and I was too shy to ask for an explanation. But I used to wonder what he meant. Sex had seemed a simple process to me. My own sex life had always left me dissatisfied, longing for something I did not know. I considered love more important than all else, love which finds supreme joy in selfless giving.
In the arms of Ed I learned for the first time the meaning of the great life-giving force. I understood its full beauty, and I eagerly drank its intoxicating joy and bliss. It was an ecstatic song, profoundly soothing by its music and perfume. My little flat in the building known as the "Bohemian Republic," to which I had moved lately, became a temple of love. Often the thought would come to me that so much peace and beauty could not last; it was too wonderful, too perfect. Then I would cling to Ed with a trembling heart. He would hold me close and his unfailing cheer and humour would dispel my dark thoughts. "You are overworked," he would say. "The machine and your constant anxiety about Sasha are killing you."
In the spring I fell ill, began to lose weight, and grew too weak to walk across the room. Physicians ordered immediate rest and a change of climate. My friends persuaded me to leave New York and I went to Rochester, accompanied by a girl who volunteered as nurse.
My sister Helena thought her place too cramped for a patient and she secured for me a room in a house with a large garden. She spent every spare moment with me, unfailing in her love and care. She took me to a lung-specialist who discovered an early stage of tuberculosis and put me on a special diet. Presently I began to improve, and within two months I had recovered sufficiently to take walks. My doctor was planning to send me for the winter to a sanatorium, when developments in New York gave a different turn to the situation.
The industrial crisis of that year had thrown thousands out of employment, and their condition now reached an appalling state. Worst of all was the situation in New York. Jobless workers were being evicted; suffering was growing and suicides multiplying. Nothing was being done to alleviate their misery.
I could no longer remain in Rochester. My reason told me it was reckless to go back in the middle of my cure. I had grown much stronger and had gained weight. I coughed less and the hemorrhages had stopped. I knew, however, that I was far from well. But something stronger than reason was drawing me back to New York. I longed for Ed; but more compelling was the call of the unemployed, of the workers of the East Side who had given me my labour baptism. I had been with them in their previous struggles: I could not stay away from them now. I left notes behind for the physician and Helena; I did not have the heart to face them.
I had wired Ed and he met me joyously. But when I told him that I had returned to devote myself to the unemployed, his mood changed. It was insanity, he urged; it would mean the loss of everthing I had gained in health through my rest. It might even prove fatal. He would not permit it - I was his now - his, to love and protect and watch over.
It was bliss to know that someone cared so much for me, but I felt it at the same time a handicap. His "to hold and protect"? Did he consider me his property, a dependent or a cripple who had to be taken care of by a man? I had thought he believed in freedom, in my right to do as I wished. It was anxiety about me, fear for my health, he assured me, that prompted his words. But if I was determined to resume my efforts, he would help. He was no speaker, but he could be useful in other ways.
Committee sessions, public meetings, collection of food-stuffs, supervising the feeding of the homeless and their numerous children, and, finally, the organization of a mass meeting on Union Square entirely filled my time.
The meeting at Union Square was preceded by a demonstration, the marching columns counting many thousands. The girls and women were in front, I at their head carrying a red banner. Its crimson waved proudly in the air and could be seen for blocks. My soul, too, vibrated with the intensity of the moment.
I had prepared my speech in writing and it seemed to me Inspiring, but when I reached Union Square and saw the huge mass of humanity, my notes appeared cold and meaningless.
The atmosphere in the ranks had become very tense, owing to the events of that week. Labour politicians had appealed to the New York legislature for relief of the great distress, but their pleas met with evasions. Meanwhile the unemployed went on starving. The people were outraged by this callous indifference to the suffering of men, women, and children. As a result the air at Union Square was charged with bitterness and indignation, its spirit quickly communicating itself to me. I was scheduled as the last speaker and I could barely endure the long wait. Finally the apologetic oratory was over and my turn came. I heard my name shouted from a thousand throats as I stepped forward. I saw a dense mass before me, their pale, pinched faces upturned to me. My heart beat, my temples throbbed, and my knees shook.
"Men and women", I began amidst sudden silence, "do you not realize that the State is the worst enemy you have? It is a machine that crushes you in order to sustain the ruling class, your masters. Like naïve children you put your trust in your political leaders. You make it possible for them to creep into your confidence, only to have them betray you to the first bidder. But even where there is no direct betrayal, the labour politicians make common cause with your enemies to keep you in leash, to prevent your direct action. The State is the pillar of capitalism, and it is ridiculous to expect any redress from it. Do you not see the stupidity of asking relief from Albany with immense wealth within a stone's throw from here? Fifth Avenue is laid in gold, every mansion is a citadel of money and power. Yet there you stand, a giant, starved and fettered, shorn of his strength. Cardinal Manning long ago proclaimed that 'necessity knows no law' and that 'the starving man has a right to a share of his neighbour's bread.' Cardinal Manning was an ecclesiastic steeped in the traditions of the Church, which has always been on the side of the rich against the poor. But he had some humanity, and he knew that hunger is a compelling force. You, too, will have to learn that you have a right to share your neighbours bread. Your neighbours-- they have not only stolen your bread, but they are sapping your blood. They will go on robbing you, your children, and your children's children, unless you wake up, unless you become daring enough to demand your rights. Well, then, demonstrate before the palaces of the rich; demand work. If they do not give you work, demand bread. If they deny you both, take bread. It is your sacred right!"
Uproarious applause, wild and deafening, broke from the stillness like a sudden storm. The sea of hands eagerly stretching out towards me seemed like the wings of white birds fluttering.
The following morning I went to Philadelphia to secure relief and help organize the unemployed there. The afternoon papers carried a garbled account of my speech. I had urged the crowd to revolution, they claimed. "Red Emma has great swaying power; her vitriolic tongue was just what the ignorant mob needed to tear down New York." They also stated that I had been spirited away by some husky friends, but that the police were on my track.
In the evening I attended a group meeting, where I met a number of anarchists I had not known before. Natasha Notkin was the active spirit among them. She was the true type of Russian woman revolutionist, with no other interests in life but the movement. A mass meeting was decided upon for Monday, August 21. On that morning the papers brought the news that my whereabouts had been discovered, that detectives were on their way to Philadelphia with a warrant for my arrest. I felt that the important thing for me was to manage to get into the hall and address the meeting before my arrest could take place. It was my first visit to Philadelphia, where I was unknown to the authorities. The New York detectives would hardly be able to identify me by the pictures that had so far appeared in the press. I decided to go to the hall unaccompanied and slip in unnoticed.
The streets near by were blocked with people. No one recognized me as I walked up the flight of steps leading to the meeting-place. Then one of the anarchists greeted me: "Here's Emma!" I waved him aside, but a heavy hand was immediately on my shoulder, and a voice said: "You're under arrest, Miss Goldman." There was a commotion, people ran towards me, but the officers drew their guns and held back the crowd. A detective gripped my arm and pulled me down the stairs into the street. I was given the choice of ridding in the patrol wagon or walking to the police station. I chose to walk. The officers attempted to handcuff me, but I assured them there was no need of it, as I did not intend to escape. On our way a man broke through the crowd and ran up to me. He held out his wallet, in case I needed money. The detectives promptly nabbed him and he was put under arrest. I was taken to police headquarters, in the tower of the City Hall, and locked up for the night.
In the morning I was asked whether I was willing to go back with the detectives to New York. "Not of my own free will," I declared. "Very well, we'll keep you until your extradition has been arranged." I was taken into a room where I was weighed, measured, and photographed. I fought desperately against the photographing, but my head was held pinioned. I closed my eyes, and the photograph must have resembled a sleeping beauty that looked like an escaped felon.
My New York friends were alarmed. They deluged me with telegrams and letters. Ed wrote guardedly, but I sensed his love between the lines. He wanted to come to Philadelphia, bring money, and get a lawyer, but I wired him to await developments. Many comrades visited me in the jail, and from them I learned that the meeting had been allowed to proceed after my arrest. Voltairine de Cleyre had taken my place and had protested vigorously against my suppression.
I had heard about this brilliant American girl and I knew that she had been influenced, like myself, by the judicial murder in Chicago, and that she had since become active in anarchist ranks. I had long wanted to meet her and I had visited her upon my arrival in Philadelphia, but I found her ill in bed. She always suffered a sick spell after a meeting, and she had lectured the previous evening. I thought it splendid of her to have gone to the meeting from a sickbed and to have spoken in my behalf. I was proud of her comradeship.
The second morning after my arrest I was transferred to Moyamensing Prison to await extradition. I was put into a fairly large cell, its door of solid sheet iron, with a small square in the centre opening from the outside. The window was high and heavily barred. The cell contained a sanitary toilet, running water, a tin cup, a wooden table, a bench, and an iron cot. A small electric lamp hung from the ceiling. From time to time the square in the door would open and a pair of eyes would look in, or a voice would call for the cup and it would he passed back to me filled with tepid water or soup and a slice of bread. Except for such interruptions silence prevailed.
After the second day the stillness became oppressive and the hours crept on endlessly. I grew weary from constant pacing between the window and the door. My nerves were tense with the strain for some human sound. I called for the matron, but no one answered. I banged my tin cup against the door. Finally it brought response. My door was unlocked and a large woman with a hard face came into the cell. It was against the rules to make so much noise, she warned me. If I did it again, she would have to punish me. What did I want? I wanted my mail, I told her. I was sure there was some from my friends, and I also wanted books to read. She would bring a book, but there was no mail, the matron said. I knew she was lying, for I was certain Ed had written, even if no one else. She went out, locking the door after her. Presently she returned with a book. It was the Bible and it recalled to my mind the cruel face of my religious instructor in school. Indignantly I flung the volume at the matron's feet. I had no need of religious lies; I wanted some human book, I told her. For a moment she stood horror-stricken; then she began raging at me. I had desecrated God's word; I would be put in the dungeon; later on I would burn in hell. I replied heatedly that she did not dare punish me, because I was a prisoner of the State of New York, that I had not yet been tried and therefore still had some civil rights. She flung out, slamming the door after her.
In the evening I had a violent headache, caused by the electric light scorching my eyes. I again knocked on the door and demanded to see the doctor. Another woman came, the prison physician. She gave me some medicine and I asked her for some reading-matter, or at least some sewing. Next day I was given towels to hem. Eagerly I stitched by the hour, my thoughts with Sasha and Ed. With crushing clarity I saw what Sasha's life in prison meant. Twenty-two years! I should go mad in a year.
One day the matron came to announce that extradition had been granted and that I was to be taken to New York. I followed her into the office, where I was handed a large package of letters, telegrams, and papers. I was informed that several boxes of fruit and flowers had come for me, but that it was against the rules for prisoners to have such things. Then I was handed over to a heavy-set man. A cab waited outside the prison and we were driven to the station.
We travelled in a Pullman car, and the man introduced himself as Detective-Sergeant--. He excused himself, saying he was only doing his duty; he had six children to support. I asked him why he had not chosen a more honourable occupation and why he had to bring more spies into the world. If he did not do it, someone else would, he replied. The police force was necessary; it protected society. Would I have dinner? He would have it brought to the car to save my going to the diner. I consented. I had not eaten anything decent for a week; besides, the City of New York was paying for the unsolicited luxury of my journey.
Over the dinner the detective referred to my youth and the life "such a brilliant girl, with such abilities" had before her. He went on to say that I never would earn anything by the work I was doing, not even my salt. Why shouldn't I be sensible and "look out for number one" first? He felt for me because he was a Yehude himself. He was sorry to see me go to prison. He could tell me how to get free, even to receive a large sum of money, if I would only be sensible.
"Out with it," I said; " what's on your mind? "
His chief had instructed him to tell me that my case would be quashed and a substantial sum of money presented to me if would give way a little. Nothing much, just a short periodic report of what was going on in radical circles and among the workers on the East Side.
A horrible feeling came over me. The food nauseated me. I gulped down some ice-water from my glass and threw what was left into the detective's face. "You miserable cur!" I shouted; "not enough that you act as a Judas, you try even to turn me into one - you and your rotten chief! I'll take prison for life, but no one will ever buy me!
"All right, all right," he said soothingly; "have it your own way."
From the Pennsylvania Station I was driven to the Mulberry Street Police Station, where I was locked up for the night. The cell was small and ill-smelling, with only a wooden plank to sit or lie down upon. I heard the clank of cells being locked and unlocked, crying and hysterical weeping. But it was a relief not to see the bloated face and not to have to breathe the same air with the loathsome detective.
The next morning I was taken before the Chief. The detective had told him everything and he was furious. I was a fool, a stupid goose who did not know what was good for her. He would put me away for years where I could do no more harm. I let him rave, but before I left, I told him that the whole country should learn how corrupt the Chief of Police of New York can be. He raised a chair as if to strike me with it. Then, changing his mind, he called for a detective to take me back to the station-house.
I was overjoyed to find Ed, Justus Schwab, and Dr. Julius Hoffmann waiting for me there. In the afternoon I was brought before a judge and charged with inciting to riot on three counts. My trial was set for the 28th of September; my bail, to the amount of five thousand dollars, was given by Dr. Julius Hoffmann. In triumph my friends took me to Justus's den.
In my accumulated mail I found an underground letter from Sasha. He had read about my arrest. "Now you are indeed my sailor girl," he wrote. He had at last established communication with Nold and Bauer and they were arranging a sub rosa prison publication. They had already chosen a name; it was to be called " Gefängniss-Blüthen (Prison Blossoms)." I felt a weight lifted off my heart. Sasha had come back, he was beginning to take an interest in life, he would hold out! At most he would have to serve seven years on the first charge. We must work energetically to get his sentence commuted. I was light-hearted and happy in the thought that we might yet succeed in wrenching Sasha from his living grave.
Justus's place was crowded. People I had never before seen now came to express their sympathy. I had suddenly become an important personage, though I could not understand why, since I had done or said nothing that merited distinction. But I was glad to see so much interest in my ideas. I never doubted for a moment that it was the social theories I represented, and not I personally, that was attracting attention. My trial would give me a wonderful chance for propaganda. I must prepare for it. My defence in open court should carry the message of anarchism to the whole country.
I missed Claus Timmermann in the crowd and wondered what could be keeping him away. I turned to Ed and asked what had happened to cause Claus to neglect such an opportunity for free drinks. Ed was at first evasive, but on my insisting he informed me that the police had raided my grandmother's grocery store, expecting to find me there. Later on they arrested Claus. Knowing that he was often under the influence of liquor, the police hoped to learn from him my whereabouts. But Claus refused to talk, whereupon they beat him into unconsciousness and then railroaded him to six months in Blackwell's Island on the charge of resisting arrest.
As my own trial was approaching, Fedya, Ed, Justus, and other friends urged the need of counsel. I knew they were right. Sasha's mock trial had proved that, and now also the fate of Claus. I, too, would have no chance if I went into court without an attorney. But it seemed like a betrayal of Sasha to consent to legal defence. He had refused to compromise, although he knew that a long sentence was awaiting him. How could I do it? I would defend myself.
A week before the trial I received a sub rosa letter from Sasha. He had come to realize that as revolutionists we had small chance in an American court in any event, but we were altogether lost without legal defence. He did not regret his own stand; he still held that it was inconsistent for an anarchist to have a legal representative or to spend the workers' money on lawyers; but he felt that my situation was different. As a good speaker I could do much propaganda for our ideals in court, and a lawyer would protect my right to talk. He suggested that some prominent attorney of liberal views, such as Hugh 0. Pentecost, might offer his services gratis. I knew it was Sasha's concern for my welfare that induced him to urge me to something he had so bravely denied himself. Or was it that his own experience had taught him our mistake? Sasha's letter and an offer of free counsel from an unexpected quarter changed my mind. The offer came from A. Oakey Hall.
My friends were delighted. A. Oakey Hall was a great jurist, besides being a man of liberal ideas. He bad once been mayor of New York, but had proved to be too humane and democratic for the politicians. His affair with a young actress presented the opportunity to make Hall politically impossible. Hall, tall, distinguished-looking, vivacious, gave one the impression of a much younger man than his white hair indicated. I was curious to know why he was willing to take my case free of charge. He explained that it was partly out of sympathy with me and partly because of his antagonism to the police. He knew their corruption, he knew how easily they swear away a man's freedom, and he was anxious to expose their methods. My case would give him the opportunity. The issue of free speech being of national importance, my defence would bring his name before the public again. I liked the man's frankness and agreed to let him plead my case.
My trial began on the 28th of September before Judge Martin, lasting ten days, during which time the court-room was filled with reporters and my friends. The prosecuting attorney presented three indictments against me, but Oakey Hall spoiled his scheme. He pointed out that one could not justly be tried on three separate charges for one offence, and he was sustained by the judge. Two of the three counts were set aside and I was tried only on the charge of inciting to riot.
At noon on the first day of the trial I went out to lunch with Ed, Justus, and John Henry Mackay, the anarchist poet. But when the court adjourned and my attorney was about to accompany me home, we were stopped. For the remainder of the trial, we were informed, I would be in the custody of the court. I would have to be sent to the Tombs. My counsel protested that I was out on bail, and that only in cases of murder was such procedure permissible. But to no purpose I had to remain in custody. My friends gave me an ovation, cheering and singing revolutionary songs, the voice of Justus thundering above the rest. I called to them to keep our banner flying and to drink my portion, in addition to their own, to the day when courts and jailers would be no more.
The star witness for the State was Detective Jacobs. He produced notes, taken by him on the Union Square platform, as he claimed, and purporting to represent a verbatim account of my speech. He quoted me as urging "revolution, violence, and bloodshed." Twelve persons who had been at the meeting and had heard me speak came forward to testify in my behalf. Every one of them stated that it would have been a physical impossibility to take notes at my meeting because of the overcrowding on the platform. Jacob's notes were submitted to a handwriting expert, who declared that the writing was too regular and even to have been written in a standing position in a crowded place. But neither his testimony nor that of the witnesses for the defence availed against the statements of the detective. When I took the stand in my own behalf, District Attorney MacIntyre persisted in questioning me on everything under the sun except my Union Square speech. Religion, free love, morality -what were my opinions on those subjects? I attempted to unmask the hypocrisy of morality, the Church as an instrument for enslavement, the impossibility of love that is forced and not free. Constant interruptions by MacIntyre and orders from the Judge to reply only with yes or no finally compelled me to give up the task.
In his closing speech MacIntyre waxed eloquent over what would happen if "this dangerous woman" were allowed to go free. Property would be destroyed, the children of the rich would be exterminated, the streets of New York would stream with blood. He talked himself into such frenzy that his starched collar and cuffs became flabby and began dripping sweat. It made me more uncomfortable than his oratory.
Oakey Hall delivered a brilliant address ridiculing Jacobs's testimony and castigating the police methods and the stand of the Court. His client was an idealist, he declared; all the great things in our world have been promulgated by idealists. More violent speeches than Emma Goldman had ever made were never prosecuted in court. The moneyed classes of America were seeing red since Governor Altgeld had pardoned the three surviving anarchists of the group hanged in Chicago in 1887. The New York police sought in the Union Square meeting an opportunity to make Emma Goldman an anarchist target. It was clear that his client was the victim of police persecution. He closed his speech with an eloquent plea for the right of free expression and the acquittal of the prisoner.
The Judge enlarged on law and order, the sanctity of property, and the need of protecting "free American institutions." The jury deliberated for a long time; it was evidently loath to convict. Once the foreman came back for instructions: the jury seemed especially impressed by the testimony of one of my witnesses, a young reporter on the New York World. He had been at the meeting and had written a detailed account of it. When he saw his story in the paper the following morning, it was so garbled that he had at once offered to testify to the actual facts. While he was on the witness-stand, Jacobs bent over to MacIntyre, whispered something, and a court attendant was sent out. He soon returned with a copy of the World of the morning after the meeting. The reporter could not charge some desk editor in open court with having tampered with his account. He became embarrassed, confused, and obviously very miserable. His report as printed in the World, and not as testified to by him on the witness-stand, decided my fate. I was found guilty.
My attorney insisted on an appeal to the higher court, but I refused. The farce of my trial had strengthened my opposition to the State and I would ask no favours from it. I was ordered back to the Tombs until the 18th of October, the day set for sentence.
Before being taken to jail I was allowed a short visit with my friends. I repeated to them what I had already told Oakey Hall: I would not consent to an appeal. They agreed that nothing could be gained except some respite while the case would be pending. A moments weakness overcame me, the thought of Ed and of our love, so young, so full of happy possibilities. The temptation was great. But -I must go the way many had gone before me. I would get a year or two; what was that compared with Sasha's fate? I would go the way.
In the interval before my sentence the papers carried sensational stories about "anarchists planning to storm the court-room" and "preparations for a forcible rescue of Emma Goldman." The police were getting ready to "cope with the situation," radical quarters were being watched, and the court-house was well guarded. No one except the prisoner, counsel, and press representatives would be allowed in the court building on the day of sentence.
My attorney sent word to my friends of his decision not to be present in court on that date because of my "stubbornness in refusing an appeal to a higher tribunal." But Hugh 0. Pentecost would be on hand, not as counsel, but as friend, to protect my legal rights and demand that I be permitted opportunity to speak. Ed informed me that the New York World had offered to publish the statement I had prepared for the Court. It would reach a great many more people in that way than my talk in the court-room. I wondered that the World, which had carried a falsified report of my Union Square speech, should now offer to publish my statement. Ed said that there was no accounting for the inconsistencies of the capitalist press. At any rate, the World had promised to permit him to see the proofs, and thus we should be assured against misrepresentation. My statement would appear in a special edition immediately after sentence had been passed. My friends urged me to let the World have the manuscript, and I consented.
On the way from the Tombs to the court New York looked as if it were under martial law. The streets were lined with police, the buildings surrounded by heavily armed cordons, the corridors of the court-house filled with officers. I was called to the bar and asked if I had "anything to say why sentence should not be passed." I had considerable to say; should I be given the chance? No, that was impossible; I could only make a very brief statement. Then I would say only that I had expected no justice from a capitalist court. The Court might do its worst, but it was powerless to change my views, I said.
Judge Martin sentenced me to one year in Blackwell's Island Penitentiary. On my way to the Tombs I heard the news-boys shout: "Extra! Extra! Emma Goldman's speech in court!" and I felt glad that the World had kept its promise. I was at once placed in the Black Maria and taken to the boat that delivers prisoners to Blackwell's Island.
It was a bright October day, the sun playing on the water as the barge sped on. Several newspaper men accompanied me, all pressing me for an interview. "I travel in queenly state," I remarked in light mood; "just look at my satraps." "You can't squelch that kid," a young reporter kept on saying, admiringly. When we reached the island, I bade my escorts good-bye, admonishing them not to write any more lies than they could help. I called out to them gaily that I would see them again within a year and then followed the Deputy Sheriff along the broad, tree-lined gravel walk to the prison entrance. There I turned towards the river, took a last deep breath of the free air, and stepped across the threshold of my new home.
EDWARD BRADY IN 1893
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