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This book appears in Anarchy Archives courtesy of International Institute for Social History.

McCabe, Joseph. The Martyrdom of Ferrer. Watts & Co., London, 1909.







SINCE the Dreyfus case set France quivering with agitation and drew the earnest attention of the whole civilised world, no judicial or semi-judicial procedure has stirred the feelings of men and women so profoundly as the execution of Francisco Ferrer y Guardia. The eyes of Europe have been directed to Barcelona with a keenness and suspicion that has completely baffled the Spanish censorship. Strictures have been passed on the Spanish Government's conduct by grave bodies of lawyers in France and Belgium, and by some of the most authoritative Conservative journals in Europe; while a wave of popular indignation has fallen on Madrid with a force that has dislodged the Government from its position. By an inevitable reaction the Press of Europe has been employed by a corps of anonymous contributors to besmirch the memory of the dead man, and to vindicate those who are responsible for his death. While leaders of culture, such as Sudermann, Maeterlinck, and Anatole France, have branded the execution of Ferrer as a judicial murder, a flood of stories and documents has been poured out which, if one-half the statements were true, would place the Spanish Government in the position of the most tolerant power on earth for its long forbearance.

Which side in the great controversy is right? It is no academic question. If a man whose only object in life was to uplift his fellows by educating them who had no share whatever in the violent outbreak. which was put to his charge, has been hypocritically tried and executed by persons whose corrupt interests were endangered by his educational work, then a foul and repellent in order has been perpetrated. Such murders do stain the chronicles of nearly every country in Europe, but they belong to a barbaric past. If Spain has stooped to such a murder in the twentieth century, the tattered mantle of its pride must be stripped from its shoulders; the corrupt system which finds room or need for such a crime must he laid here to the eyes of the world.

A sympathetic student of Spanish life and letters, I have endeavored to ascertain the true story of Ferrer's life, work, and death. I have conscientiously considered the statements of both sides. I have scanned the columns of Spanish, French, Italian, Belgian, German, and French journals, and listened to the special pleadings Of Roman Catholics, Conservative Spaniards, Freethinkers, Socialists, and Anarchists. I have, in a special visit to the Continent, closely examined men who had taught in Ferrer's schools- men who were in the midst of the tumult at Barcelona from July 20 to 29. 1 have plied Ferrer's Intimate friends, some of whom are friends of my own, searched diligently for authoritative documents, submitted legal points to lawyers, listened to the pleas of' opponents in a word, made every conceivable effort to learn the truth. And that truth I now place before English readers in a plain narrative, with an enormous accumulation of proof.

The brief and outstanding summary which I give here will be fully substantiated in the following chapters. I must ask the incredulous, shuddering reader to examine carefully the evidence i have gathered, and the counter evidence which i analyse, before he allows his feelings to submerge his judgement. the number of english readers who understand Spain is exceedingly small. I trust that this plain and fully documented story of the real Situation will prevent that fine and promising people from having its annals again stained, by those who hold power over it, with another such crime against humanity as the murder of Francisco Ferrer.

For Ferrer was murdered. He had no connection whatever with the fatal disturbances which recently wet the streets of Barcelona with blood. He was in England a few weeks before the outbreak, and intended to remain in England for some months. The news that a dearly-loved niece was dangerously ill caused him to return to Barcelona. The child died; but another accident, a request for information from Paris, detained him in Barcelona over the fatal day. He wrote to a friend from Barcelona in the midst of the riots -wrote as a spectator, wondering what would happen next. Every word of this was proved by his letters to intimate friends. And when those friends sent these decisive letters to his advocate at Barcelona:they were stolen by the officials, and not suffered to be used in his defence.

Ferrer had for many years held aloof from politics. Of the two chief groups of advanced political enthusiast in Barcelona, the Republicans and the Anarchists, neither recognised him as entirely belonging to them. His work was education alone, and not one line of his school-books has yet been quoted, with chapter and verse, in the journals of any country in support of the calumny that his schools taught violent rebellion. They did not. Ferrer had political ideals, which I will duly describe; but his personal task was to make the people of Spain competent to use their judgment on political, social, and religious Subjects. With single aim and noble self-sacrifice lie used a comfortable estate in providing the schools which the Government refuses-in view of its own laws --- criminally refuses, to provide. For providing those school he was murdered.

But who in Modern Spain could seek a man's life for erecting Schools in which violent insurrection was not suggested? Here is the second part of my task. By a similar collection of authoritative proof I have to show how education alone, without any inspiration of violence, endangered certain corrupt interests and moved high-placed men to perpetrate a thinly,cited crime. As far as the Roman Church is concerned, the task is not difficult. From time immemorial it has not argued with heretics, but burned them, Where the conditions were medieval. The conditions are medievil in Spain. My evidence will show that it was the Barcelona clergy who first demanded that the riots should he Put to the account of the founder of the Modern Schools. Other and most extraordinary evidence of the guilt of tile Spanish clergy will be found in the pertinent chapter; but if I indicated its nature here apart from the evidence itself, the reader would deem it incredible.

At first sight I seem to have a more difficult task in extending the guilt to the statesmen of Spain. In reality, one who is acquainted with Spanish literature could fill whole chapters with weighty denunciations of utter corruption of the Spanish political system. I will lay before the reader such proof, even in the words of Señor Maura himself, of that corruption that he will understand Spanish politicians dread the educator of the people. I will show that the device of "suspending the constitutional guarantees"-or suspending civilisation--is a scandoulous trick for throwing on legally incompetent military men the work of ridding the corrupt system of its critics without the inconvenience of a trial. I will show that the bomb outrages which are pleaded in justification are the work of the clergy and the civic officials. I will show that the witnesses against Ferrer--who were never cross-examined--would have failed ignominiously in any civil court, and that in a fair trial a mass of rebutting testimony would have been produced. All this was known to the Home Secretary, Señor La Cierva, and the Prime Minister, Señor Maura, and they also knew that only a military council would condemn Ferrer. I warned them that the evidence would be produced when Ferrer was dead. They have been swept from office by the indignation and disgust of Europe, but the memory of a brave and noble spirited man remains to be vindicated.

This is the gist of the story which the following chapters will tell and substantiate. England stirred to some purpose with effective anger and disgust when Papal and Austrian power fought their bloody fight to retain the domination of Italy; but no single deed was done by those Powers comparable in enormity to this; for Ferrer used the pacific weapon of enlightenment. England was not restrained by consideration of France's internal politics when a corrupt body attempted to consign Dreyfus to a living death; and a greater wrong was done to Ferrer than was contemplated against Dreyfus. Many English journals, dissenting from Ferrer's views, have nobly pleaded for justice in Spain's treatment of him. But many English journals have opened their Columns to the lying and reckless statements of the Spanish and clerical agents, mantled with anonymity, who have set out to poison the mind of Europe, and who fancied that bold mendacity Would suffice where proof was wanting.

This little work is not made up of the contrary assertions of anonymous informants. It is built on solid and stable evidence. I never met Ferrer, and do not write under the influence of his great personal charm. I do not share the ideal of anarchism -- a system, however, which must not be confounded with the use of explosives and do not write in defence of a school of thought. I write as one who, after laborious search for the true features of the case, feels that a man of noble aspirations has been murdered by corrupt politicians, at the instigation of an equally corrupt Church, and I trust that an exposure of their corruption will enable English men and women to keep in memory the name of one more man who has died i what he believed to be the cause of humanity, and to watch the course of events in Spain with more enlightened interest.


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