Anarchy and Anarchists.
A history of the red terror and the social revolution in America and Europe.
Copyright, 1889 by Michael J Schaack
CHAPTER II Part One
Dynamite in Politics - Historical Assassinations - Infernal Machines in France -The Inventor of Dynamite - M. Nobel and his Ideas - The Nitro-Compounds - How Dynamite is Made -The New French Explosive - " Black jelly " and the Nihilists -What the Nihilists Believe and What they Want -The Conditions in Russia -The White and the Red Terrors -Vera Sassoulitch - Tourgeneff and the Russian Girl - The Assassination of the Czar - " It is too Soon to Thank God " -The Dying Emperor - Two Bombs Thrown - Running Down The Conspirators - Sophia Perowskaja, the Nihilist Leader -The Handkerchief Signal -The Murder Roll --Tried and Convicted - A Brutal Execution - Five Nihilists Pay the Penalty - Last Words Spoken but Unheard -A Deafening Tattoo - The Book-bomb and the Present Czar - Strychninecoated Bullets - St. Peter and Paul's Fortress - Dynamite Outrages in England -The Record of Crime -Twenty-nine Convicts and their Offenses - Ingenious Bomb-making -The Failures of Dynamite.
The attempt to gain political ends by an appeal to infernal machines is not a new one. It is as old as gunpowder -and the evangel of assassination is older still. Murder was the recognized political weapon of the Eastern and Western Empires, and the Chicago Anarchists have proved themselves neither better nor worse than the "old man of the mountain " or the Italian princes of the middle ages. During the reign of Mary Queen of Scots the mysterious explosion occurred in the Kirk of Feld in which Darnley lost his life. Somewhat later was the I I gunpowder plot," in which Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The petard and the hand-grenade were the grandfather and the grandmother of the modern bomb, and marderous invention came to its new phase in the infernal machine which Ceruchi, the Italian sculptor, contrived to kill Napoleon when First Consul -a catastrophe which was avoided by the fact that Napoleon's coachman was drunk and took the wrong turn in going to the opera-house.
France was fertile in this sort of machinery. Some years later Fieschi, Morey and Pepin tried to kill Louis Philippe with a similar apparatus on the Boulevard de Temple. The King escaped, but the brave Marshal Mortier was slain. Orsini and Pieri made a bomb, round and bristling with nippers, each of which was charged with fulminate of mercury, to explode the powder within, meaning to assassinate the Emperor Napoleon and the Empress Eugenie.
In the year 1866, according to the most trustworthy authorities, dynamite was first made by Alfred Nobel. In speaking of the invention, Adolf Houssaye, the French litterateur, recently said:
It should be remembered that nine-tenths, probably, of the dynamite made is used in peaceful pursuits; in mining, and similar works. Indeed, since its invention great engineering achievements have been accomplished which would have been entirely impossible without it. I do not see, then, much room for doubt that it has on the whole been a great blessing to humanity. Such certainly its inventor regards it. "If I did not look upon it as such," I heard him say recently, "I should close up all my manufactories and not make another ounce of the stuff." He is a strong advocate of peace, and regards with the utmost horror the use of dynamite by assassins and political conspirators. When the news of the Haymarket trag,edy in Chicago reache-I him, M. Nobel was in Paris, and I well remember his expressions of horror and detestation at the cowardly crime.
"Look you," he exclaimed. "I am a man of peace. But when I see these miscreants misusing my invention, do you know how it makes me feel? It makes me feel like gathering the whole crowd of them into a storehouse full of dynamite and blowing them all up together!"
Few people know what dynamite is, though it has attracted a good deal of attention of late, and before considering its use as a mode for political murder it may be well here to give an account of its making.
Nitro -glycerine, although not the strono-cst explosive known to science, is the only one of any industrial importance, as the others are too dangerous for manufacture. It was discovered by Salvero, an Italian chemist, in 1845. It is composed of glycerine and nitric acid compounded together in a certain proportion, and at a certain temperature. It is very unsafe to handle, and to this reason is to be ascribed the invention of dynamite, which is, after all, merely a sort of earth and nitro-glycerine, the use of the earth being to hold the explosive safely as a piece of blotting-paper would hold water until it was needed. Nobel first tried kieselguhr, or flint froth, which was ground to a nowder heated thoroughly and dried and the nitro-plvcerine was kneaded into it like so much dough. Of course, many other substances are now used, besides infusorial earth, as vehicles for the explosive-sawdust, rotten-stone, charcoal, plaster of Paris, black powder, etc., etc. These -are all forms of dynamite or giant powder, and mean the same thing. When the substance is thoroughly kneaded, work that must be done with -the hands, it is molded into sticks somewhat like big candles, and wrapped in parchment paper. Nitro-glycerine has a sweet, aromatic, pungent taste, and the peculiar property of causing a violent headache when placed, on the tongue or the wrist. It freezes at 40 Fahrenheit, and must be melted by the application of water at a temperature of 1oo. In dynamite the usual proportions are 25 per cent. of earth and 75 per cent. of nitro- glycerine. The explosive is fired by fulminate of silver or mercury in copper caps.
Outside of the French arsenals it is to be doubted if anybody knows anything more about the new explosive, melinite, further than that it is one of the compounds of picric acid-and picric acid is a more frightful explosive than nitro -glycerine. I find in my scrap-book the following excerpt from the London Standard, describing the artillery experiments at Lydd with the new explosive which the British Admiralty has lately been examining. The Standard, after declaring that the experiments are "entirely satisfactory," says :
The character of the compound employed is said to be "akin to melinite," but its precise nature is not divulged. We have reason to believe that the "kinship" is very close. The details of the experiments which have lately been conducted at Lydd are known to very few individuals. But it is unquestionable that the results were such as demonstrate the enormous advantage to be gained by using a more powerful class of explosives than that which has been hitherto employed. There could be no mistake as to the destructive energy of the projectiles. Neither was there any mishap in the use of these terrible appliances. The like immunity was enjoyed at Portsmouth. A deterrent to the adoption of violent explosives for war purposes has consisted in the risk of premature explosion. But there is still the consideration that the advantage to be gained far exceeds the risk which has to be incurred. France has not neglected this question, and she is ahead of us. Her chosen explosive is melinite, and with this she has armed herself to an extent of which the British public has no conception. All the requisite materials, in the shape of steel projectiles and the melinite for filling them, have been provided for the French service and distributed so as to furnish a complete supply for the army and the navy. Whatever may be said as to the danger which besets the use of melinite, the French authorities are confident that they have mastered the problem of making this powerful compound subservient to the purposes of war. Concerning the composition of this explosive great secrecy is observed by the French Government, as al,s-o with regard to the experiments that are made with it. But Col. Majendie states that melinite is largely composed of picric acid in a fused or consolidated condition. Of the violence with which picric acid will explode, an example was given on the occasion of a fire at some chemical works near Manchester a year ago. The shock was felt over a distance of two miles from the seat of the explosion, and the sound was heard for a distance of twenty miles.
The conduct of the French in committing themselves so absolutely to the use of melinite as a materiel of war clearly signifies that with them the use of such a substance has passed out of the region of doubt and experiment. Their experimental investigations extended over a considerable period of time, but at last the stage of inquiry gave place to one of confidence and assurance. So great is the confidence of the French Government in the new shell that it is said the French forts are henceforth to be protected by a composite material better adapted than iron or steel to resist the force of a projectile charged with a high explosive. In naval warfare the value of shells charged in this manner is likely to be more especially shown in connection with the rapid-fire guns which are now coming into use. The question is whether the ponderous staccato fire of monster ordnance may not be largely superseded by another mode of attack, in which a storm of shells, charged with something far more potent than gunpowder, will be poured forth in a constant stream from numerous guns of comparatively small weight and caliber.
Combined with rapidity of fire, these shells cannot but prove formidable to an armorclad, independently of any damage inflicted on the plates. The great thickness now given to ship armor is accomplished by a mode of concentration which, while affecting to shield the vital parts, leaves a large portion of the ship entirely unprotected. On the unarmored portion a tremendous effect will be produced by the quick-firing guns dashing their powerful shells in a fiery deluge on the ship.
Altogether the new force which is now entering into the composition of artillery is one which demands the attention of the British Government in the form of prompt and vigorous action. While we are experimenting, others are arming.
Dynamite, however, is the weapon with which the "revolution" has armed itself for its assault upon society. A terrible arm truly, but one difficult to handle, dangerous to hold, and certainly no stronger in their hands than in ours, if it should ever become necessary to use it in defense of law and order.
A number of Russian chemists, members of the Nihilist party, were the first to apply dynamite to the work of murder. It is to their researches that is to be credited the invention of the "black jelly," so called, of which so much was expected, and by which so little was done.
Nihilist activity in Russia commenced almost as soon as the emancipated peasantry began to be in condition for the evangel of discontent. It was Tourgeneff, the novelist, who baptized the movement with its name of Nihilism -and the truth is that it is a movement rather than an organization. It is a loose, uncentralized, uncodified society, secret by necessity and murderous by belief; but it is a secret society without grips or passwords, with out a purpose save indiscriminate destruction, and its very formlessness and vagueness have been its chief protection from the Russian police, who are, perhaps, after all is said and done, the best police in the world. A statement of Nihilism by that very famous Nihilist who is known as Stepniak, but who is suspected to be entitled to a much more illustrious name, runs thus:
By our general conviction we are Socialists and democrats. We are convinced that on Socialistic grounds humanity can become the embodiment of freedom, equality and fraternity, while it secures for itself a general prosperity, a harmonious development of man and his social progress. We are convinced, moreover, that only the will of the people should give sanction to any social institution, and that the development of the nation is sound only when free and independent and when every idea in practical use shall have previously passed the test of national consideration and of the national will. We further think that as Socialists and democrats we must first recognize an immediate purpose to liberate the nation from its present state of oppression by creating a political revolution. We would thus transfer the supreme power into the hands of Cie people. We think that the will of the nation should be expressed with perfect clearness, and best, by a National Assembly freely elected by the votes of all the citizens, the representatives to be carefully instructed by their constituents. We do not consider this as the ideal form of expressing the people's will, but as the most acceptable form to be realized in practice. Submitting ourselves to the will of the nation, we, as a party, feel bound to appear before our own country with our own programme or platform, which we shall propagate even before the revolution, recommend to the electors during electoral periods, and afterwards defend in the National Assembly.
The 'Nihilist programme in Russia has been officially formulated thus:
First- The permanent Representative Assembly to have supreme control and direction in all general state questions.
Second- In the provinces, self-government to a large extent; to secure it, all public functionaries to be elected.
Third- To secure the independence of the Village Commune ("Mir") as an economical and administrative unit.
Fourth- All the land to be proclaimed national property.
Fifth- A series of measures preparatory to a final transfer of ownership in manufactures to the workmen.
Sixth- Perfect liberty of conscience, of the press, speech, meetings, associations and electoral agitation.
Seventh- The right to vote to be extended to all citizens of legal age, without class or property restrictions.
Eighth- Abolition of the standing army; the army to be replaced by a territorial militia.
It must be remembered that the conditions in Russia are peculiar. The country is ruled by an autocracy~ government is not by the people, but by divine right." The conditions which the English-speaking people ended at Runnymede still exist in Muscovy. There is neither free speech, free assembly, nor a free press, and naturally discontent vents itself in revolt. There is no safety-valve. Russia is full of generous, high-minded young men and women, who find their church dead, and their state a cruel despotism. They find themselves face to face with the White Terror, and they have sought in the Red Terror a relief. Flying at last from the hopeless contest, they have carried the hate of government born of bad ruling into Western Europe, and it is the infection of this poison that we have to deal with here. The average Russian Nihilist is a young man or a youn woinan -very often the latter-who, by the contemplation of real wrongs and fallacious remedies, has come to be the implacable enemy of all-order and all system. Usually they are half-educated, with just that superficial smattering of knowledge to make them conceited in their own opinions, but without enough real learning to make them either impartial critics or safe citizens of non-Russian countries. We can pity them, for it is easy to see how step by step they have been pushed into revolt. But they are dangerous.
When one reads such a case as that which gave Vera Sassoulitch her notoriety, it is easier to understand Russia. General Trepoff, the Chief of Police of St. Petersburg, bad arrested Vera's lover on suspicion of high treason. The young man was by Trepoff's order frequently flogged to make him confess his crime. Sassoulitch called on Trepoff and shot him. She was' tried by a St. Petersburg jury and acquitted. Immediately a law was declared that no case of political crime should be tried by a jury, except when the Government bad selected it. The arrest of the woman was ordered that she might betried again under the new regulation, but in the meantime her friends had spirited her away.
A very similar crime was that attempted by another Nihilist heroine, Maria Kaliouchnaia, who attempted to kill Col. Katauski for his severity to her brother. In the assassination of the Czar, as I shall relate, a number of women were concerned, and their bravery was greatly more desperate than that of their male companions. The Russian woman is peculiar. I know no better picture of the "devoted ones" thean that given in Tourgeneff's "Verses in Prose":
I see a huge building with a narrow door in its front wall, the door is open, and a dismal darkness stretches beyond. Before the high threshold stands a girl-a Russian girl. Frost breathes out of the impenetrable darkness, and with the icy draught from the depths of the building there comes forth a slow and bollow voice:
"Oh, thou who art wanting to cross this threshold, dost thou know what awaits thee?"
"I know it," answers the girl.
"Cold, hunger, hatred, derision, contempt, insults, a fearful death even."
"I know it."
"Complete isolation and separation from all?"
"Iknowit. Iamready. I will bear all sorrows and miseries."
"Not only if inflicted by enemies, but when done by kindred and friends?"
"Yes, even when done by them."
"Well, are you ready for self-sacrifice?"
"For anonymous self-sacrifice? You shall die, and nobody shall know even whose memory is to be honored?"
"I want neither gratitude nor pity. I want no name."
"Are you ready for a crime?"
The girl bent her head. "I am ready -- even for a crime."
The voice paused awhile before renewing its interrogatories. Then again: "Dostthou know," it said at last, "that thou mayest lose thy faith in what thou now believest; that thou mayest feel that thou hast been mistaken and hast lost thy young life in vain?"
"I know that also, and nevertheless I will enter!"
The girl crossed the threshold, and a heavy curtain fell behind her.
"A fool!" gnashed some one outside.
"A saint!" answered a voice from somewhere.
With such material it was not difficult to buildup the tragedy of issi Before the day of the Czar's death came, there had been desperate attempts upon his life. Prince Krapotkin, a relative of the Nihilist of the same name, was murdered in FebruarY, 1879, and following this deed the terrorists applied themselves resolutely to the removal of the Emperor.
Excavated Dynamite Mine in Moscow
For instance, in November, 1879, was the mine laid at Moscow. It was intended to blow up the railway train upon which the Czar was to enter the city, and for this purpose Solovieff and his comrades laid three dynamite mines under the tracks. Hartmann, who subsequently figured in the assassination, was one of the leaders, and here, too, was Sophie Peroosky, another of the regicides. They hired a house near the railway tracks and tunneled under the road amidst incredible difficulties and always in the most imminent danger. One hundred and twenty pounds of dynamite was in position, but the Czar passed by in a common train before the imperial one on which he was expected, and his life was saved. On February 5, i88o, the mine under the Winter Palace was exploded - eleven persons were killed, but again the Czar escaped.