A PICTURE OF CIVILIZATION AT THE CLOSE OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
JOHN HENRY MACKAY
THE TRAGEDY OF CHICAGO.
THE days beginning the second week of November seemed shrouded in smoke and in blood.
While in London the cry for "labor or bread" grew more and more ominous in the ears of the privileged robbers and their protectors, the eyes of the world were fixed on Chicago, on the uplifted hand of power. Would it fall? or, "pardoning," relax? ---
The events of the day followed thick and fast, one precipitating another.
Auban had passed the first days of the week in his office, working hard, for he wished to have the last two as much as possible to himself.
When on Wednesday after luncheon he went to his coffee-house, he saw Fleet Street and the Strand covered with gay-colored flags and streamers, which stood out in strange relief against the melancholy gray of the sky, the slimy black of the street mud, the impenetrable masses of people who monopolized the sidewalks on both sides. Lord Mayor's show! According to ancient custom the procession of the newly elected mayor of the city was moving through the streets with great pomp and ceremony, and for a few hours the people forgot their hunger in the contemplation of the gay, childish farce.
What an age! thought Auban. The city pays this worthless talker ten thousand pounds annually for his useless labors, and while he dines at Guildhall in wasteful revelry, hunger for a piece of bread is gnawing at the vitals of countless thousands!
He did not wish to see the procession. He sought his way through half-deserted side streets. A fine rain was ceaselessly dripping down. Dampness, cold, and discomfort penetrated the clothing.
He bought a morning paper and rapidly ran through it. Trafalgar Square in every column! Meetings of the unemployed day after day --- now permitted, now forbidden. . . . --- Arrests of the speakers. . . . --- Alarming rumors from Germany: the disease of the crown prince said to be incurable . . . faint, timid surmises as to its nature . . . cancer . . . the fate of a country for weal or for woe dependent on the life and death of a man! . . . --- France --- nothing . . . --- Chicago! . . . Brief remarks on the petitions for pardon of four of the condemned to the governor of Illinois, in whose hands rests the final decision after the refusal of a new trial. . . . On the discovery of bombs in one of the cells. . . . Indeed, certainly! Public sentiment is too favorable to the condemned. So bombs were suddenly "discovered" --- discovered in a prisoner's cell guarded by day and by night! --- and it again takes an unfavorable turn! --- That discovery came too opportunely at a moment when the petitions for pardon --- these petitions which, as the newspapers graphically described, would form a line eleven miles in length if attached one to another --- were being filled with hundreds of thousands of signatures, to leave any doubt in regard to the conscious, deliberate intention of the report.
Auban crumpled the paper in his hands and threw it away. Now his last hope had fled. In terrible clearness the coming days rose before him, and the frosty air shook him like a fever.
The eleventh of November fell on a Friday. Auban was sitting in his room at the table covered with papers, pamphlets, and books. It was about five o'clock in the afternoon, and the light of the day was fading away between the gloomy rows of houses.
Auban, aided, by the abundant material which his American friend had placed at his disposal, had devoted the entire day to a review of the tragedy, on whose last act the curtain had just fallen, in each of its separate phases, from beginning to end.
What he had seen rise and grow in each of its parts now stood before him as a perfect whole.
But he was still looking through the piles of papers and turning the leaves of pamphlets in nervous haste, as if he wished to gain additional light on some of the points that seemed not yet to have been set forth in sufficient clearness.
The impossibility of his to-day's task of picturing to himself in perfect clearness the whole, as well as its separate parts, almost drove him to despair. The contradictions were too numerous. The tragedy on which the last veil had fallen to-day would never be thoroughly understood.
Nevertheless, the facts rose in tangible form before Auban.
Before his mind's eye stands Chicago, one of the largest cities of the United States: fifty years ago still a little frontier town; twenty years ago a pile of ruins, made so in a night by a great conflagration, but rebuilt in a day; to-day the magnificent city by the great lake, the granary of the world, the centre of a boundless traffic, exuberant with an energy of which the aging life of the East no longer knows anything. . . . In that city of rapid growth, with a population of almost a million, of which one-third are Germans, in all their terrible clearness the consequences of legally privileged exploitation of human labor: the accumulation of wealth in a few hands to a dizzy height, and in faithful correspondence with it ever larger masses driven to the edge of the impossibility of supporting their lives. . . . And hurled into that fermenting city, like a new and more terrible conflagration, the torch of the social creed: fanned by a thousand hands, the flames spread so rapidly as to make it appear that the days of the revolution are at hand. . . .
The authorities send their police; and the people sends its leaders whom it follows. The former club and shoot down striking workingmen, and the latter call in a loud voice: "To arms! To arms!" --- and point to the device; "Proletarians, arm yourselves!" as the only remedy.
Force against force! Folly against folly!
The movement in favor of the eight-hour workday in the United States, the "eight-hour movement," which dated back almost two decades, and the end of which a million workingmen, four hundred thousand "Knights of Labor," and an equal number belonging to the "Federated Trades Unions," expect to see in the first of May, 1886, is the point around which both parties are engaged in equally hot contention. . . . What the agitation of former years had already here and there secured as a written "right" remained an unacquired right.
'The "International Workingmen's Association," founded in 1883 by German revolutionists in Chicago who called themselves Anarchists, but who preached the Communistic creed of common property, although it regards universal suffrage simply as a means with which to cheat the workingmen out of economic independence by the pretence of political liberty, nevertheless takes a position on that question which is rapidly becoming the sole issue of the day, in order not to let slip an important field of propagandism. . . .
The first of May is preceded by unexpected events in Chicago, the centre of the eight-hour movement; the closing of a large factory --- in consequence of which twelve hundred workingmen are without bread --- is followed by meetings that culminate in serious collisions with the official and unofficial police, the private detectives of the Pinkerton Protective Agency in the service of the capitalists, the notorious "Pinkertonians." . . .
Thus, after more than forty thousand workingmen had laid down their work in Chicago alone, on the impatiently expected first of May, and three hundred and sixty thousand in the States, the police on the third of May made an attack on the workingmen, in which a large number of them were wounded. The object of the meeting, called for the fourth of May at the Haymarket by the "Executive Committee" of the I. W. A., was to protest against those outrages of the constituted authorities.
On the same day one of the leaders, the editor of the great German "Arbeiter-Zeitung," wrote a circular which was destined to achieve a terrible celebrity under the name of the "Revenge Circular."
It is written in two languages: the one in English addresses itself to the American workingmen, whom it exhorts to prove themselves worthy of their grandsires and to rise in their might like Hercules; the one in German reads: ---
"REVENGE! REVENGE! WORKINGMEN, TO ARMS!
"Working people, this afternoon the bloodhounds, your exploiters, murdered six of your brothers at McCormick's. Why did they murder them? Because they dared to be dissatisfied with the lot which your exploiters made for them. They asked for bread, and were answered with lead, mindful of the fact that the people can thus be most effectively brought to silence. For many, many years you have submitted to all humiliations without a murmur, have slaved from early morning till late in the evening, have suffered privations of every kind, have sacrificed even your children, --- all in order to fill the coffers of your masters, all for them! And now, when you go before them and ask them to lessen your burden, they send their bloodhounds, the police, against you, in gratitude for your sacrifices, to cure you of your discontent by means of leaden balls. Slaves, we ask and entreat you, in the name of all that is dear and sacred to you, to avenge this horrible murder that was perpetrated against your brothers, and that may be perpetrated against you tomorrow. Working people, Hercules, you are at the parting of the ways! Which is your choice? Slavery and hunger, or liberty and bread? If you choose the latter, then do not delay a moment; then, people, to arms! Destruction upon the human beasts who call themselves your masters! Reckless destruction, --- that must be your watchword! Think of the heroes whose blood has enriched the path of progress, of liberty, and of humanity --- and strive to prove yourselves worthy of them.
The meeting at the Haymarket on the fourth of May is so orderly that the mayor of the city, who had come with the intention of closing it at the first sign of disorder, tells the police captain he may send his men home.
The wagon from which the speakers are talking is on one of the large streets that lead to the Haymarket. It is surrounded by several thousand people, who are calmly following the words, first of the writer of the manifesto, then of the elaborate address of an American leader on the eight-hour movement; there are many details touching the relation of capital to labor.
A third speaker also makes an address in English.
Clouds, threatening rain, rise on the sky, and the larger portion of the audience disperses. Then, as the last speaker is closing, the police, numbering about a hundred men, make a set attack on those remaining. At this moment a bomb falls into the ranks of the attacking party, hurled by an invisible hand; it kills one of them on the spot, inflicts fatal wounds on six others, injures a large number, about fifty. Under the murderous fire of the police, those remaining seek refuge in the side streets. . . .
The frenzy of fear reigns in Chicago. No one of the enemy sees in the throwing of the bomb an act of self-defence on the part of one driven to despair. . . . And, while in labor circles, the false assumption is gaining ground that it is the deliberate deed of a police agent which was to enable threatened and terrified capital to deal a fatal blow against the eight-hour movement, the press, in the pay of capital, is inflaming public opinion by monstrous reports of bloody conspiracies against "law and order," by reprinting incendiary passages from labor editorials and speeches, while it had itself prescribed lead for the hungry tramp, and a mixture of arsenic and bread for the unemployed, in order to get rid of them. . . .
The three speakers of the evening are arrested. Likewise, four other well-known individuals in the movement; the eighth, the American publisher of an American labor paper, the "Alarm," later surrenders himself voluntarily. . . . Of the many who are arrested and examined, these eight are held and summoned to appear before the court.
Thus stood the facts of the early history before Auban's eyes: a battle had been fought in the great conflict between capital and labor, and the victors sat in judgment on their prisoners.
But the conflict had been brought to a sudden halt for a long time to come.
The second act of the tragedy begins: the trial.
Slowly before Auban's eyes the curtain is lifted from the trial as he had followed it in all its stages by the aid of the countless reports of the newspapers, as he knew it from the speeches of the condemned, and as he had studied it again to-day in the brief submitted to the supreme court of Illinois.
It had indeed been a laborious task to which he had devoted the day. Doubly laborious for him in the foreign --- to his mother tongue so entirely foreign --- language. But he wished once more, and for the last time, to see if the enemy had not at least the appearance of right on his side.
From that standpoint, too, the conviction of the condemned is nothing but murder. If a conspiracy had really been on foot to meet the next attacks of the police with the throwing of a bomb, the individual act of the fourth of May was certainly in no relation to it. No one was more surprised by its folly than the men who were to suffer so terribly from its consequences. . . .
In the first place, the selection of the jury is arbitrary. Although about a thousand citizens are summoned, they are men whose admitted prejudice against the movement of Socialism compels the attorneys of the defendants to reject them, until finally they must accept men who, by their own confession, have already formed an opinion before the trial has yet begun. Of nearly one thousand citizens summoned, only ten belonged to the working class, which alone represents a hundred and fifty thousand in a population of three-quarters of a million, and those ten live in the immediate neighborhood of the police station. The State challenges most of them; those whom it accepts it is sure of in advance. Such is the jury in whose hands is placed the power over life and death! . . . Ignorance, joined by arrogance, is ever ready to play the part of the ridiculous and contemptible; it becomes terrible, when, as here, it is re-enforced by the brutality of authority. --- Then woe to all who fall into its clutches! . . .
The remaining preliminaries consist of the arrest and torment of innumerable persons belonging to the working class; the chief of police, a vain demagogue of the commonest type, regards no brutality too brutal, no artifice too contemptible, to get from them what he wants to know, --- that there has been a conspiracy. He arrests whom he pleases; he lengthens or shortens the period of arrest as he sees fit; he treats his victims as he likes. No one prevents him. No emperor ever ruled with more sovereign sway than the bloated insignificance of this brutal demagogue.
By the middle of July these preliminaries, too, are completed. The State's attorney calls upon the defendants to answer to the charge of conspiracy and murder. The great trial which had begun in the middle of June, by the selection of the jury, enters its second stage. A day later the hearing of the witnesses begins in the presence of an unexampled throng of the public, which continues undiminished as long as the trial lasts.
The State has very different kinds of witnesses. Some are confronted with the alternative of being themselves indicted with the prisoners or of testifying against them. They and their families have received support from the police, and held long interviews with them. Even so, they cannot say more than that bombs have been manufactured and distributed, but they must add that the distribution was not for the purpose of use at the Haymarket meeting.
Another State's witness is a notorious liar of most ill repute among all who know him. His testimony proves the most decisive. He also received money from the police. He saw everything: who threw the bomb and who lit it; he knows who was absent and who was present; only of the speeches that were delivered he heard nothing. And he knows the whole conspiracy in all its details.
All these State's witnesses contradicted each other's testimony --- but the bloody clothes of the killed policeman are spread before the jury; some of the defendants never saw a dynamite bomb --- but the State's attorney reads some stupid passages from the conscienceless book of a professional revolutionist on "Revolutionary Warfare"; a number of the defendants have never stood in any relations with each other, hardly knew each other --- but the jury is flooded with extracts from speeches and articles born of the excitement and passion of the moment, and which in many cases date far back. . . .
For "Anarchy is on trial." By the sacrifice of these eight men a ruinous blow is meant to be dealt against the entire movement, which is to paralyze it for a long time, the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, class against class!
The attorneys of the defendants do their best to rescue the victims from the clutches of authority. But as they are compelled to meet the enemy on his own ground in order to fight him, the ground described as in mockery "the common law," they are necessarily doomed to defeat. And they are defeated.
By the end of August the jury brings in its verdict, which dooms seven men to an untimely death.
Thus finally the fool spectacle of that trial which lasted a quarter of a year is brought to a close. A new trial, urgently demanded, is refused.
The defendants deliver their speeches before the judge, those now celebrated speeches through which the sufferings, the complaints, the wishes, all the despair and all the hope, all the expectations and all the defiance of the people, speak in all the tones of an outraged heart so impressively and so boldly, so simply and so passionately, so vehemently and so --- vaguely. . . .
A whole year passes before the butcher State can roll up his sleeves to strangle these victims with his insatiable hands. And it almost seemed as if things were to take a different turn. For while the workingmen are cheerfully making all necessary sacrifices to accomplish the utmost that is still possible, a revulsion of popular feeling is gaining ground, and the conviction of the innocence of the condemned is taking the place of intimidated fear and of artificially produced hatred.
The weathercock of "public opinion" is beginning to turn.
Nevertheless the supreme court of Illinois to whom the case was appealed in March of the following year, affirmed the judgment of the lower court in September.
And likewise the Supreme Court of the United States at Washington.
The day of the murder is at hand.
The power of staying the threatening hand of death rests now with a single man, the governor of Illinois. His is the power to pardon.
Three of the condemned submit a written statement in which they describe the indictment as alike false and absurd, but regret having championed violence; the remaining four, in letters full of pride, courage, and contempt, decline a pardon for a crime of which they are innocent. They demand "liberty or death." In those letters one of them writes: ---
" --- Society may hang a number of disciples of progress who have disinterestedly served the cause of the sons of toil, which is the cause of humanity, but their blood will work miracles in bringing about the downfall of modern society, and in hastening the birth of a new era of civilization."
"The experience which I have had in this country, during the fifteen years I have lived here, concerning the ballot and the administration of our public functionaries who have become totally corrupt, has eradicated my belief in the existence of equal rights of poor and rich, and the action of the public officers, police, and militia, has produced the firm belief in me that these conditions cannot last long."
And a third one, after leaving the governor the choice of being "a servant of the people" or "a mere tool of the monopolists": "Your decision in that event will not judge me, but yourself and those whom you represent. . . ."
Thus they themselves press the martyr's crown more deeply into their defiant brows.
The governor is besieged on all sides. At hundreds upon hundreds of meetings, hundreds upon hundreds of resolutions are passed protesting against the sentence. Expressions of sympathy, of indignation, are heard in all parts of the world; everywhere people call for a postponement, for pardon . . . only in Chicago itself the hand of authority closes the mouth of the people with brutal might.
Only in the case of three death is commuted into a living grave; five of them must die.
Then, at the last moment, when the waves of popular sympathy threaten to make the murder which is planned impossible, bombs are suddenly found in the cell of one of the condemned. The venal press does its share. It does not inquire in what other way than with the knowledge of the police the bombs could have been placed where they are discovered so opportunely; it sounds anew its cries of fear about "public order being endangered," and fabulous rumors about bloody plans contemplating the destruction of the jail, of the whole city, are having their effect of intimidation. The wave of sympathy recedes. . . .
Another scene: Weeping women are lying before the man who embodies authority and power. They clasp his knees; a poor mother pleads for the life of her son; a woman, who could join hands in union with the man she loved only through prison bars, demands justice; a helpless wife points to her trembling children as her words fail her; but nothing can touch the soulless picture of stone, in whose heart only the desolation of barrenness, in whose brain only the prejudices of mediocrity hold sway.
Shuddering, liberty turns away.
The second act of the tragedy is closed. On the death agonies of eighteen months drops finally the black curtain of the past.
Auban rose and walked to and fro, his hands crossed behind his back. It had grown dark. The fire went out.
He was absorbed in his thoughts. The rustle of a paper startled him; the evening paper was pushed through the door. He bent down and took it up eagerly.
Death or life?
A cry of despair escaped from his lips. By the light of the dying fire he ran through a short cable despatch: "Special edition --- 6.15 P.M. --- Chicago, November 10 --- Terrible suicide --- One of the condemned --- just now --- in his cell --- shattered his head --- with a bomb --- lower jaw entirely torn away --- "
The atmosphere of his room lay oppressively on Auban. He felt as if he were choking. Away! --- away! --- Hastily he took his hat and cane and hurried away.
When he returned, an hour later, he found Dr. Hurt at the fireplace, his pipe in his mouth, in one hand a newspaper, in the other a poker with which he was stirring the fire into a fresh glow. He was surprised. It was the first time since the death of his wife that the doctor had visited him, except on the Sunday afternoons.
"Do I disturb you, Auban? Had a call near by, thought it would be good to warm my feet and have a sensible talk in these days, when men are all again acting as if the world were coming to an end --- "
Auban pressed his hand firmly.
"You could not have done anything better, doctor," he said. He spoke each word clearly and distinctly, but his voice was entirely toneless. Dr. Hurt looked at him as he lit the lamp, prepared boiling water, and brought out whiskey-glasses and tobacco.
Then they sat opposite each other, their feet stretched towards the fire.
Evidently neither of them wished to begin the conversation.
Finally Auban pointed to the newspaper which Dr. Hurt was holding in his hand, and asked: "Have you read?"
Hurt nodded gravely.
But when, looking at Auban, he saw how pale and troubled his face was from the suppressed pain within, he said solicitously: ---
"How you look!"
Auban waved his hand deprecatingly. But then he bent forwards and buried his face in both his hands.
"I have passed through a night of illusion," --- he said slowly, and in a low tone, reciting the verse of a modern poet. . . .
Dr. Hurt sprang up, and for the first time putting aside the mask of his icy reserve, placed his hand on Auban's shoulder, and said: ---
"Auban, my friend, do not take it so hard! --- Things had to come to this pass sooner or later --- "
"What would you expect?" he continued more impatiently. "What would you expect of the governments? --- That they should fold their hands and look calmly on while the tide of the movement devours them? --- No; you who like myself know that right is nothing but might, and the struggle for life nothing but the desire for might, no, you cannot see in the events of Chicago anything but the sad episode of a common struggle which to your reason must appear as a necessity."
Auban looked at the speaker. His eyes flashed and his lips trembled.
"But I abominate all cowardice. And I cannot conceive of any greater and more contemptible cowardice than this cold-blooded murder. Courage, indeed! To murder --- with the fools behind you, with prejudice by your side, and with the 'divine consent' above you. What cowardice, to let a battle be fought for you! Not to stand man against man, but to hide yourself behind the robe of the law, the bayonets of soldiers, the fists of savage hirelings, --- stupid beasts who know of no other will than that of their masters! What cowardice, I say, to have the majority of ignorance on your side and then to declare you are in the right! Is there a greater?"
As his visitor made no reply, he continued: ---
"For me there is but one truly noble and dignified frame of mind: the passive; and but one form of activity whose results I call great: that of one's own powers. I hold all those who have developed out of themselves, who stand and fall by themselves, in boundless esteem; but equally boundless is my aversion towards those whom folly elevates to-day, to let them fall back into their nothingness tomorrow."
"Yes, everything is thrown in a heap, true and false merit," said Dr. Hurt.
"Why are there still rulers on thrones? Because there are still subjects. Whence this social misery? Not because some raise themselves above others, but because the others renounce themselves. On our lives rests the curse of an entirely unnatural idea: the Christian idea. We have cast off some of the externalities of the religions. But little is yet noticeable of the blessings that would result if we threw overboard the idea of religion, of the stiff breeze that would then swell our sails. Believe me, doctor, there is an intrinsic relationship between a bourgeois and a Social Democrat. But there is no bridge leading from either of them to me. There is a chasm between us --- between the professors of the State and those of liberty!"
"You think like nature," said the other, meditatively, "and therefore health and truth are on your side."
And taking up the thread of their former conversation, he asked: ---
"And was not your abhorrence aroused when you heard of the throwing of the bomb?"
"No. I saw in it only an act of justifiable self-defence. On their own responsibility the police made an attack upon a peaceable assembly. For once their brutality was punished, while it usually goes unpunished. I deplore the act, not only as entirely useless, but also as harmful. But still more do I deplore those who will not understand that such acts are always only the outbreak of a despair which has no longer anything to lose because everything has been taken from it."
"And those who always incite only others to violence without ever taking part themselves, --- what is your opinion of them?"
"That they are pitiable cowards, and that the paper was not at all wrong in suggesting some time ago that the man in New York, who was incessantly clamoring for the head of some European prince, ought to be sent to Europe at the general expense, to afford him an opportunity to get it there himself. . . ."
Dr. Hurt had again sat down, and a grave silence reigned. They talked. about other things. Then Hurt said again: ---
"I begin to hate the people. It is like a Moloch that has opened his arms and now devours victim after victim. This grown-up child, which has so long been chastised with the rod, is suddenly indulged to a ridiculous degree. It reaches manhood, and is surprised at the strength of its own limbs. When it shall have become fully conscious of it, it will trample on everything that comes under its feet. It has already learned all the attitudes of power: ridiculous infallibility, haughty conceit, narrow self-complacency. I tell you, Auban, the time is not distant when it will be impossible for any proud, free, and independent spirit to still call himself a Socialist, since he would be classed with those wretched toadies and worshippers of success, who even now lie on their knees before every workingman and lick his dirty hands simply because he is a workingman!"
Now Dr. Hurt was excited, while Auban seemed lost in a brooding sadness which was only intensified by what he heard, because he had to agree with it.
"Every age has its lie," continued Dr. Hurt. "The great lie of our age is 'politics,' as that of the coming age will be 'the people.' All that is small, weak, and not self-reliant, is caught in its rushing current. All men of 'to-day'! There in the current they fight their little, worthless, everyday battles. But the men of tomorrow, and to them we belong, remain on the shore or come back to it again, after the current has threatened to devour them for a time. And there, on the shore of truth, we stand, and so we want to let the daily events of our age, whose witnesses we are, pass before us. Is it not so?"
Auban was moved. For the first time in all these long years he had known him, this strange and singular man laid open his heart to him, and showed him its scarred wounds. What must he also have suffered before he became so firm, so hard, and so alone?
"You are indeed right," he said. "I too swam in the current, and I too stand on the shore. And at my feet and before my eyes are drifting the bloody corpses of Chicago."
"They are not the first, and they will not be the last."
"You are indeed right," said Auban again. "I was among those who struggled in the current. When I was twenty; when I knew nothing of the world; when, in my eyes, some men were conscious sinners, others innocent angels; when I mistook effects for causes, and causes for effects, --- then they listened to me as I talked to them. Where I got the courage to parade my phrases before those large audiences, I no longer know. I was proof against all harm; I stood in the service of the cause. How could I fail under such circumstances? I derived all my strength from that thought; not from myself. From it often I drew my indefatigability, my unshaken belief, my indifference towards myself. And the farther I got from the reality of things, the nearer I came to my hearers. Often I went farther than I intended."
"That was also the way of the leaders of Chicago; they were driven on, and could not go back. They had to outdo themselves in order to maintain themselves. That is so often the tragic fate of all those who look to others for the measure of their 'worth.'"
"My fate would have been theirs," said Auban further. "However, I was not happy. I do not believe that self-sacrifice can make us truly happy. --- And I should not have liked to die so --- I felt it again to-day. No; I want to battle and conquer without receiving a wound!"
"Many will say that is very convenient --- "
"Let them say so. I say, it is more difficult than to sacrifice one's self to the delight of our enemies and to no good of our friends. And do you want to know what brought me to this perception? A smile, a scornful, frigid smile. It was on the occasion of my speech before the judges. I hurled truths at them that fairly startled some, while they enraged others. I spoke of the rights of man that were mine, and of the rights of might which were theirs; in short, it was a pompous, passionate, and entirely uncommon speech wholly without policy and of course also without any purpose, the childish speech of an idealistic man. It is always ridiculous to approach men with ethical commands, especially such half-wild, unreasonable, ignorant men who derive all their wisdom from paragraphs and formulas. But I had not learned that then. While I was speaking so --- I really spoke more to those who did not hear me --- I noticed on the shrewd face of an officer a smile, a scoffing, pitiful, cutting smile, which said: You fool, what do we care about your words, so long as they do not become deeds! ---
"But no; I must correct myself. I did not see the smile, for I kept on talking unconcerned. Only later, in prison, I remembered that I had felt it, and then it pursued me a long time; I can see it to-day if I close my eyes!
"It grinned at me through the cracks of the prison wall. It was an enemy that I had to overcome. But I saw it was not one that allowed itself to be put to flight by words. There was but one means to lay it: to acquire a like smile. Only against it would the other be powerless. I acquired it. I had time, and everything I had experienced and seen seemed changed in the light of this new way of looking at things. I see men as they are; the world as it is. No longer people smile at me."
"It was certainly the greatest deed of your life, Auban, that you had the strength to tear yourself away and get on your own feet; but the Communists, --- is it conceivable that most of them speak with indignation about the petitions for pardon of some of the condemned? To see treason, a debasement in the signing of a bit of paper with which I can save my life out of the hands of my murderer! I should sign a thousand such scraps of paper and laugh at the blockhead who expected 'honesty' of me, while he got me into his power by cunning and force. Auban, these Communists are fanatics; they are sick, confused, afflicted with moral spooks --- "
"I said what I had to say last Sunday," Auban remarked calmly.
"And all to no purpose. No, those people must grow wise through experience. Let them alone."
"The experience will be a terrible one. It is sad for me to see how the very people who have already suffered so much, cause new sufferings to themselves."
Again there was a digression in the conversation, which during the following hour turned on things far from Chicago.
The doctor had filled the room with smoke which he sent in short, rapid puffs from his pipe, never letting it go out. The plain severity of the room was tempered by the rays of the lamp and the flames of the fire. A breath of comfort almost filled it as the hours wore on.
"Do you know the legend of the emperor's new clothes?" asked Auban. "It is so with the State, too. Most people, I doubt not, are inwardly convinced that they could get along much better without it. They pay unwillingly the taxes which they instinctively feel as a robbery of their labor. But the notion that 'it must be so because it has always been so' prevents them from speaking the word that would save them; they look at one another, doubtful and hesitating. But it requires all the ingenuousness of an unspoiled character to overthrow this artificial barrier, the source of all our external misery, with the words: 'Why, he has nothing on!' The whole thing is a piece of clear humbug of the most stupid kind, --- and the saving word has been found; it is Anarchy!"
Auban continued, as his listener remained in silent meditation: ---
"Or let us take the following example: It is on the morning of a battle. Two armies are facing each other, brought together for mutual destruction. In an hour the slaughter is to begin. How many on either side, do you think, if the individual could have his free choice, would remain to become murderers; and how many would throw aside the weapons forced on them and return home to the peaceful employments of their life? All would return, would they not? And only the small number of those would perhaps remain who make of war and the exercise of power a calling. And, nevertheless, all the others act against their own will, their reason, their better knowledge, because things have not become clear to them. They must; for the curse of illusion --- a something, something intangible, something incomprehensible, something terrible, --- urges them on. . . . Tell me, doctor, what it is, that dreadful something?"
"Habit, ignorance, and cowardice," said Hurt.
"Oh, I do not object to war! Do not think that!" exclaimed Auban, and heaped up the papers on his writing-desk that the other might not see how excited he was growing. "Not in the least. There have always been rowdies and brutes. But let them fight out their battles and quarrels among themselves, and not compel other entirely innocent people who prefer to live in peace to take part in their brutal brawls under the lying pretence that it is for their own interest to mutually murder each other in the name of the 'holy war for the fatherland' and similar nonsense! I do not object to war," he exclaimed once more, "but let it be fought by those who want it. So much the better --- pounce upon each other, you brutal butchers, tear yourselves into pieces, exterminate each other; the earth will breathe a sigh of relief when it is rid of you!"
"But for the present we are still sitting in the cages of our States, cowering in the corners, mutually watching and observing each other, always on the alert, pressing against the bars of the grating, growling at each other, until we grasp each other by the throat because there is not room enough for us, and the food falls too unequally to our lots," said the doctor, sarcastically.
Auban replied in the same tone.
"That is the struggle for existence, my friend; the strong crush the weak; --- thus nature has willed it!"
"Yes, that phrase, the catchword of a science not understood, came very opportunely for them!"
"It serves them as an apology for their despotic tyranny and the compression of nature within the unnatural limits of the compulsory organization of the State and the stupid laws which they consider infallible, although they themselves made them. It is always the same: labor may compete until it perishes in the midst of the superabundance it has created; capital is exempt from competition."
At Auban's words Hurt had again suddenly become very excited.
"I can tolerate anything, only not that science, clear, confident, relentless, incorruptible science, is placed in the service of those swindlers of power and the 'existing order,' and thus falsified!" he exclaimed.
Auban continued, sarcastically: ---
"And what splendid specimens of the genus man survive as the fittest in 'that struggle for existence'! For example: Here is one of the Upper Ten, a member of the jeunesse dorée, a tall hat, a monocle, buckled shoes. He does not do a stroke of work. But his capital works for him. It yields him annually one thousand pounds. He is lazy, stupid, without interests, a wreck at thirty.
"On the other hand, there are a hundred workingmen, young fellows, energetic, fresh, full of courage and the will to put their powers to use; they are prevented from doing as they would like. Everything is closed against them. They flag, grow tired, get dull, succumb. When they die, their life has been nothing but work and sleep. They finished the former only to lie down to the latter; and they rose from sleep only to go to work.
"Some have the means not to work; others have not the means to work. Thus the vampire sucks up one after another: he is the product of the squandered labor of a hundred persons. A sickly, unproductive life has simply destroyed a hundred healthy, productive lives. The former has been enervated by idleness, the latter exhausted by overwork.
"What do they call it, eh? --- Struggle for existence? Divine wisdom? The order of nature?" ---
He paused a moment, and looked at the doctor, who was blowing great clouds of smoke from his pipe. Then he continued: ---
"Or, again, --- another picture, equally edifying. 'Her Ladyship!' During the day she reads novels, or meddles with the work of her 'domestics,' of which she knows nothing. In the evening she drives to the ball. What she wears on her body, the diamond ornaments, are in themselves without any value whatever --- "
"In itself nothing has value," Hurt interrupted him.
"But it represents a fortune in value," Auban continued, unconcerned.
But he was again interrupted.
"Ah, let us have done with that, Auban!" muttered Hurt. "As long as the workingmen will not become more sensible, such lives, and even worse ones, will be the inevitable, entirely natural result."
It had grown late. The atmosphere of the room was oppressive and hot. The fire was weary. Hurt looked at his watch. But before he rose, the secret, bashful, hot, almost reluctant love of this peculiar man for all the oppressed and suffering burst forth suddenly and vehemently like a flame in angry words which passionately dropped from his lips:
"The fools! Will they never grow sensible? --- To throw bombs, what nonsense! --- To make it as easy as possible for the governments to destroy them! --- But it seems to me that these people make a point of excelling each other in sacrifices and of seeking their pride not in victory, but in defeat! Sacrifice upon sacrifice! No, I do not want to have anything more to do with them; if they do not want to become sensible, they need not!"
He had risen. Turning towards Auban, whose sad eyes seemed riveted on the table on which the crumpled newspapers lay like an unsolved problem, he added, in an apparently lighter vein: ---
"You must not expect too much of me, Auban. I am a daily witness of death-bed scenes --- what is the life of a few individuals who are forcibly torn away against the crowds whom no one counts and no one mentions, but who are also only victims of the others, although they never tried to defend themselves!"
He extended his hand to him.
"Read history. Open it where you like. Everywhere the conquerors and everywhere the vanquished. The thing has always been the same, only the numbers were different. Whether they fall, shot on the battlefield, starved at the street corner, choked on the gallows --- is it not one and the same thing? Not to fall, to conquer --- it is for that we are here!"
Auban could not answer. He was seized by a restless fear of the night that was coming, in which he was to remain alone with himself.
Hurt was getting ready to go. But when he had already taken hold of the door-knob, he turned once more towards Auban, stepped up to him, and said: ---
"However, I wish to thank you. I wanted to do it long ago. You know I am an old sceptic. I believe in nothing, and all Utopias are an abomination to me. Consequently, I do not believe in liberty as an ideal either. But you, you have had such a way of explaining to me liberty as a business, that I want to tell you, in case you care to hear it: in your sense I am an Anarchist!"
With that he firmly pressed his hand, and the eyes of the two men met for a moment; now they knew each other. It was not a union sealed by blood into which they entered. They gave no promise that was binding on them. They assumed no obligations towards each other.
But they said to each other by their looks: We know what we want. Perhaps the time is not too distant when we shall feel strong enough to hold our ground against authority. Then we may stand together. Until then, vigilance and patience! . . .
Auban was alone. And he arose with a violent movement and paced up and down his room for certainly an hour, while the fire entirely went out.
When fatigue overcame him, it was still ringing in his ears again: Read history!
Without choice he drew forth the next volume, and read through the night until dawn.
Up to his knees he waded through the blood of the past. He saw the rise and fall of nations. He saw the responsibility for their life rolled on the shoulders of a few, and he saw those few break down beneath its weight, or play with it like the child with his ball. . . .
He saw how those who "wished the good" produced the bad: error.
He saw how those who "strove after the bad" brought about the good: destroyed error.
He saw how everything that had been could not have been different, precisely because it had been so and not different. It was not for us to mourn and to curse, therefore, but to understand.
To avoid recognized errors, --- such the watchword, such the use, such the blessing of history, such its lesson. . . .
Auban read. And over the downfall and ruins of nations he forgot about Chicago. . . .
Then sleep closed his eyes. Gently it drew the book from between his fingers. It slipped on the floor.
The light, however, continued to burn.
Heavy dreams sank upon the sleeper. Restlessly his breast rose and fell, and the pain at other times concealed by the sharp, hard lines about the mouth had crept from its hiding-place, and now lay on his thin cheeks. His pale lips were slightly open.
Thus the night came to an end, the dreaded night.
When Auban awoke morning had come. He changed his dress.
Then he took up the newspapers. He knew what he should read. When he saw how the hand trembled with which he turned the paper, he paced up and down a few times before he began. He wanted to be strong.
Then he read, without haste, pale, with a gloomy calm. But his heart stood still.
It was the last act of the tragedy of Chicago: the morning of the eleventh of November.
The city is in a state of siege, every public building is under guard; everything is feared; above all, incendiarism; the military is concentrated, the fire department called out; at the hotels every arrival is watched; the jurymen, the judges, the State's attorney, the chiefs of the police, are placed under protection. . . . The larger factories are closed. . . . The jail is surrounded by an impenetrable line of armed policemen. . . . A tumult arises: a despairing woman wanders along the living wall with her weeping children, and attempts in frenzied fear to reach her husband before it is too late. She is seized by brutal hands, and must pass the most terrible hours of her life inside the stone walls of a prison cell. . . .
Silence, the silence of fear, reigns again. In the neighboring streets men are jostling each other. Where they form groups, they again separate. They are paralyzed under the burden of those hours. . . .
In the interior of the jail: ---
The condemned have awaked. They write their last letters; they are even now molested by the contemptible obtrusiveness of a clergyman whom they decline to see; they take their last meal; across the distance of their cells they exchange their last words of friendship and hope in behalf of the cause for which they die, and their emotions find expression in strophes which their memory awakens in them, and whose unfamiliar sound echoes powerfully along the rigid walls: ---
Ein Fluch dem Götzen, zu dem wir gebeten ---
Der uns geäfft, gefoppt and genarrt ---
Ein Fluch dem König, dem König der Reichen, ---
Der uns wie Hunde erschiessen lässt ---
Ein Fluch dem falschen Vaterlande ---
Wo nur gedeihen Schmach und Schande. . . .
Poor creatures! Afraid of the darkness
Who groan at the anguish to come?
How silent I go to my home!
Cease your sorrowful bell ---
I am well!
And that immortal song in which all four join, the Marseillaise of Labor, of labor struggling for emancipation ---
Von uns wird einst die Nachwelt zeugen!
Schon blickt auf uns die Gegenwart. . . .
Yes; the present which was willing to pave the way for a brighter future, not the present which in impotent blindness was about to revive a buried past, had fixed its gaze upon them in this hour, in pain and in sorrow. . . .
The sheriff appears. The condemned embrace each other, press each other's hands, which are shackled; the death warrants, dead words with which authority seeks to justify its murder, are read.
The death march begins.
They pass through the door which leads into the yard of the jail; the gallows rises before their eyes. One after another they ascend its steps, pale, but undaunted. White caps are drawn over their heads. In this last moment their voices are heard from behind the coverings: ---
"There will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle to-day!" exclaims the first.
"Hurrah for Anarchy!" accompanied by a laugh, the second. And: ---
"Hurrah for Anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life!" falls in the third.
Finally the fourth and last: ---
"Will I be allowed to speak, O women and men of my dear America?" ---
The sheriff gave the signal. Then once more: ---
"Let me speak, sheriff! Let the voice of the people be heard! O --- "
The trap falls. . . . And cowards see how heroes die.
So far Auban was able to read; the following sentence his eyes just grazed, for suddenly the jail yard of Chicago rose before him in tangible clearness: he sees the crowd of two hundred persons that fills it, the twelve of the jury, the higher court officers, the guard, the newspaper reporters, --- a herd of cowardly hirelings; he sees the gallows, the four men whose features he had so often seen in the picture, erect, defiant, great; and he sees their dying, the convulsive movements of their death struggle which lasts fourteen minutes. . . . Fourteen minutes! The butcher kills his cattle at one blow, the robber his victim at one stroke; only these murderers take a horrible delight in the "victory of justice," which they themselves personify, and fortify their own cowardice behind the word with which authority has hitherto always justified all crimes: "His will be done. . . ."
So clearly, like a vision, the end of the tragedy stood before Auban's eyes that he could no longer endure it, and let his brow sink forward on his arms stretched across the table. So he lay a long time. For he had to fight down everything again that had newly risen in him, of pain, anger, wrath, of sorrow and of hatred.
When he arose he was again himself. But he again paced up and down the length and breadth of his room with his restless steps.
The tragedy of Chicago!
What an audience! All mankind who call themselves civilized! Not one who does not take a part; all compelled to make a choice. . . .
On the one side: the thirst for blood satisfied, beastly joy; the Jubilant victory of authority; a sigh of relief after danger passed; sordid philistinism boasting over the triumph of order; morality priding itself upon its own narrowness; awakening compunctions of conscience; new fear of coming events; and the first gleams of understanding.
On the other: cries of horror, strangled by fear and by awe; impotent rage and growling wrath; shame of one's own cowardice, anger and pain at that of the others; bitterness, sinking to the very bottom of all hearts; dull surrender to the inevitable; a thousand hopes of earthly justice buried, a thousand new ones risen in the final victory of the cause that has just been baptized in blood; the thirst for revenge on the day of reckoning intensified to an intolerable degree; sentimental sorrow; and the first gleams of understanding.
All the slumbering feelings of which the heart is capable aroused! All the passions called from their hiding-places, struggling in the frantic rage of death! All deliberation, all calm reason, obscured by the clouds of smoke and blood, --- these were the fruits of this murder. . . .
The tragedy of Chicago!
What scenes! What changes in them!
In the first act: ---
The trembling of the earth which presages the outbreak of the volcano.
The hosts gather on both sides for the conflict.
Deliberating, rousing themselves, resolving, suspecting the danger, calling all forces to aid, arming themselves.
The noise of the battle-cry: Eight hours!
The first collisions: the whiz of the bullets, the gnashing of teeth, the howl of rage, the cries of indignation, the groans of the dying, the weeping of women.
Over countless glowing heads and feverish hearts the uproar of feverish words full of fire and flame.
A thundering crash: smoke and shrieks. Death and destruction.
The mad dance of the passions rushes past.
* * *
In the second act: ---
After the noisy, open battle on the public plain, the quiet, hidden, but far more terrible struggle in the "domain of the law."
Spacious courtrooms and narrow prison-cells. Iron gratings which separate friend from friend, and high prison walls, so high that the sun itself cannot scale them. . . . O golden sun of liberty --- not to see you for eighteen months, and then without having caught one of your rays to sink into eternal night.
* * *
And finally in the last and third act: ---
The curtain had dropped. But the tragedy was not at an end.
No; those who had put it on the stage had forgotten the epilogue!
An epilogue, an unexpected epilogue, had to follow with inevitable necessity. It was the propaganda which this damnable deed produced: the echo which the history of these lives and deaths would call forth as an answer in countless still slumbering hearts. Thousands would ask: "Why were these men forced to die?" Thousands would answer: "For the cause of the oppressed." And again: "We are the oppressed, every hour tells us that. But is it not our destiny to suffer?" And again the answer: "No; it is your destiny to be happy. The days of your emancipation have come. Those men died for your happiness. Read their speeches --- here they are. Learn from them who they were, what they wanted, that they were no murderers, but heroes." And the oppressed are awakening. They lift their tired brows, and the chains on their hands rattle. And now they hear their rattle. Then rage seizes them, they revolt, and the chains break. And swinging the iron weapons high in the air, they pounce upon their oppressors, seize and strangle all crying for mercy. Their hands are about to relax, but a voice calls: "Chicago!" Only this one word: "Chicago!" And all thoughts of mercy vanish. The greatest conflict the trembling earth has ever seen is fought to an end without mercy. . . .
To the graves of their dead go the victors. They uncover their heads and say: "You are avenged. Sleep in peace."
And returning home they teach their boys who those were whom they so honored, how they lived and how they died.
That would be the epilogue of the tragedy of Chicago. . . .
Bent over the crumpled newspapers lay Auban, covering them with his arms and his brow, as if he could thus choke what rose from them, stupefying, like the vapor of fresh blood. . . . His beating heart cried for a word of deliverance from this hour.
"Folly!" his reason whispered to him.
But he felt that it was too cheap a word. And so it died on his lips.