Address by George Engel, Condemned Haymarket Anarchist (1886)
European immigrants came to the United States seeking a better way of life. The factory condition they experienced contrasted with the promise of liberty that had attracted them to America. These condi- tions stimulated a radical labor response that erupted into violence at Chicago’s Haymarket Square in 1886, as George Engel explains.
When, in the year 1872, I left Germany because it had become impossible for me to gain there, by the labor of my hands,
a livelihood such as man is worthy to enjoy-the introduction of machinery having ruined the smaller craftsmen and made
the outlook for the future appear very dark to them-I concluded to fare with my family to the land of America, the land that
had been praised to me by so many as the land of liberty.
On the occasion of my arrival at Philadelphia, on the 8th of January, 1873, my heart swelled with joy in the hope
and in the belief that in the future I would live among free men and in a free country. I made up my mind to become a good
citizen of this country, and congratulated myself on having left Germany, and landed in this glorious republic. And I
believe my past history will bear witness that I have ever striven to be a good citizen of this country. This is the first occa-
sion of my standing before an American court, and on this occasion it is murder of which I am accused. And for what rea-
sons do I stand here? For what reasons am I accused of murder? The same that caused me to leave Germany-the
poverty-the misery of the working classes.
And here, too, in this “free republic,” in the richest country of the world, there are numerous proletarians for
whom no table is set; who, as outcasts of society, stray joylessly through life. I have seen human beings gather their daily
food from the garbage heaps of the streets, to quiet therewith their knawing hunger. . . .
When in 1878, I came here from Philadelphia, I strove to better my condition, believing it would be less difficult to
establish a means of livelihood here than in Philadelphia, where I had tried in vain to make a living. But here, too, I found
myself disappointed. I began to understand that it made no difference to the proletarian, whether he lived in New York,
Philadelphia, or Chicago. In the factory in which I worked, I became acquainted with a man who pointed out to me the
causes that brought about the difficult and fruitless battles of the workingmen for the means of existence. He explained to me,
by the logic of scientific Socialism, how mistaken I was in believing that I could make an independent living by the toil of
my hands, so long as machinery, raw material, etc., were guaranteed to the capitalists as private property by the State. . . .
I took part in politics with the earnestness of a good citizen; but I was soon to find that the teachings of a “free
ballot box” are a myth and that I had again been duped. I came to the opinion that as long as workingmen are economi-
cally enslaved they cannot be politically free. It became clear to me that the working classes would never bring about a
form of society guaranteeing work, bread, and a happy life by means of the ballot. . . .
I . . . joined the International Working People’s Association, that was just being organized. The members of that
body have the firm conviction, that the workingman can free himself from the tyranny of capitalism only through force;
just as all advances of which history speaks, have been brought about through force alone. We see from the history of this
country that the first colonists won their liberty only through force that through force slavery was abolished, and just as the
man who agitated against slavery in this country, had to ascend the gallows, so also must we. He who speaks for the
workingman today must hang. And why? Because this Republic is not governed by people who have obtained their office
Who are the leaders at Washington that are to guard the interests of this nation? Have they been elected by the
people, or by the aid of their money? They have no right to make laws for us, because they were not elected by the people.
These are the reasons why I have lost all respect for American laws.
The fact that through the improvement of machinery so many men are thrown out of employment, or at best,
working but half the time, brings them to reflection. They have leisure, and they consider how their conditions can be
changed. Reading matter that has been written in their interest gets into their hands, and, faulty though their education may
be, they can nevertheless cull the truths contained in those writings. This, of course, is not pleasant for the capitalistic class,
but they cannot prevent it. And it is my firm conviction that in a comparatively short time the great mass of proletarians
will understand that they can be freed from their bonds only through Socialism. One must consider what Carl Schurs said
scarcely eight years ago: That, “in this country there is no space for Socialism;” and yet today Socialism stands before the
bars of the court. For this reason it is my firm conviction that if these few years sufficed to make Socialism one of the
burning questions of the day, it will require but a short time more to put it in practical operation.
All that I have to say in regard to my conviction is, that I was not at all surprised; for it has ever been that the men
who have endeavored to enlighten their fellow man have been thrown into prison or put to death, as was the case with John
Brown. I have found, long ago, that the workingman has no more rights here than any where else in the world. The State’s
Attorney has stated that we were not citizens. I have been a citizen this long time; but it does not occur to me to appeal
for my rights as a citizen, knowing as well as I do that this does not make a particle of difference. Citizen or not-as a work-
Part Eighteen: Industrializing America
ingman I am without rights, and therefore I respect neither your rights nor your laws, which are made and directed by one
class against the other; the working class.
Of what does my crime consist?
That I have labored to bring about a system of society by which it is impossible for one to hoard millions, through
the improvements in machinery, while the great masses sink to degradation and misery. As water and air are free to all, so
should the inventions of scientific men be applied for the benefit of all. The statute laws we have are in opposition to the
laws of nature, in that they rob the great masses of their rights “to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I am too much a man of feeling not to battle against the societary conditions of today. Every considerate person
must combat a system which makes it possible for the individual to rake and hoard millions in a few years, while, on the
other side, thousands become tramps and beggars.
Is it to be wondered at that under such circumstances men arise, who strive and struggle to create other conditions,
where the humane humanity shall take precedence of all other considerations. This is the aim of Socialism, and to this I
The States Attorney said here that “Anarchy” was “on trial.”
Anarchism and Socialism are as much alike, in my opinion, as one egg is to another. They differ only in their tac-
tics. The Anarchists have abandoned the way of liberating humanity which Socialists would take to accomplish this. I
say: Believe no more in the ballot, and use all other means at your command. Because we have done so we stand arraigned
here today-because we have pointed out to the people the proper way. The Anarchists are being hunted and persecuted for
this in every clime, but in the face of it all Anarchism is gaining more and more adherents, and if you cut off our oppor-
tunities of open agitation, then will the work be done secretly. If the State’s Attorney thinks he can root out Socialism by
hanging seven of our men and condemning the other to fifteen years servitude, he is laboring under a very wrong impres-
sion. The tactics simply will be changed-that is all. No power on earth can rob the workingman of his knowledge of how
to make bombs-and that knowledge he possesses. . . .
If Anarchism could be rooted out, it would have been accomplished long ago in other countries. On the night on
which the first bomb in this country was thrown, I was in my apartments at home. I knew nothing of the conspiracy which
the States Attorney pretends to have discovered.
It is true I am acquainted with several of my fellow-defendants with most of them, however, but slightly, through
seeing them at meetings, and hearing them speak. Nor do I deny, that I too, have spoken at meetings, saying that, if every
workingman had a bomb in his pocket, capitalistic rule would soon come to an end.
That is my opinion, and my wish; it became my conviction, when I mentioned the wickedness of the capitalistic
conditions of the day.
When hundreds of workingmen have been destroyed in mines in consequence of faulty preparations, for the
repairing of which the owners were too stingy, the capitalistic papers have scarcely noticed it. As with what satisfaction and
cruelty they make their report, when here and there workingmen have been fired upon, while striking for a few cents
increase in their wages, that they might earn only a scanty subsistance.
Can any one feel any respect for a government that accords rights only to the privileged classes, and none to the
workers? We have seen but recently how the coal barons combined to form a conspiracy to raise the price of coal, while
at the same time reducing the already low wages of their men. Are they accused of conspiracy on that account? But when
working men dare ask an increase in their wages, the militia and the police are sent out to shoot them down.
For such a government as this I can feel no respect, and will combat them, despite their power, despite their
police, despite their spies.
I hate and combat, not the individual capitalist, but the system that gives him those privileges. My greatest wish
is that workingmen may recognize who are their friends and who are their enemies.
As to my conviction, brought about as it was, through capitalistic influence, I have not one word to say.
Part Eighteen: Industrializing America
18-8 Ida B. Wells-Barnett, from A Red Record (1895)
The rise of racial segregation was accompanied by racial violence that went punished by the law, including lynching. Journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett emerged as the strongest voice against lynching.
A word as to the charge itself. In considering the third reason assigned by the Southern white people for the butchery of blacks, the question must be asked, what the white man means when he charges the black man with rape. Does he mean the crime which the statutes of the states describe as such? Not by any means. With the Southern white man, any misal- liance existing between a white woman and a colored man is a sufficient foundation for the charge of rape. The southern white man says that it is impossible for a voluntary alliance to exist between a white woman and a colored man, and therefore, the fact of an alliance is a proof of force. In numerous instances where colored men have been lynched on the charge of rape, it was positively known at the time of lynching, and indisputably proven after the victim’s death, that the relationship sustained between the man and the woman was voluntary and clandestine, and that in no court of law could even the charge of assault have been successfully maintained.
It was for the assertion of this fact, in the defense of her own race, that the writer hereof became an exile; her property destroyed and her return to her home forbidden under penalty of death, for writing the following editorial which was printed in her paper, the Free Speech, in Memphis, Tenn., May 21, 1892:
“Eight Negroes lynched since last issue of the Free Speech: one at Little Rock, Ark., last Saturday morning where the citizens broke (?) into the penitentiary and got their man; three near Anniston, Ala., one near New Orleans; and three at Clarksville, Ga.; the last three for killing a white man, and five on the same old racket-the new alarm about raping white women. The same programme of hanging, then shooting bullets into the lifeless bodies was carried out to the letter. Nobody in this section of the country believes in the old threadbare lie that Negro men rape white women. If Southern white men are not careful, they will overreach themselves and public sentiment will have a reaction; a conclusion will then be reached which will be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women.”
But threats cannot suppress the truth, and while the Negro suffers the soul deformity, resultant from two and a half centuries of slavery, he is no more guilty of this vilest of all vile charges than the white man who would blacken his name.
During all the years of slavery, no such charge was ever made, not even during the dark days of the rebellion. . . . While the master was away fighting to forge the fetters upon the slave, he left his wife and children with no protectors save the Negroes themselves. . . .
Likewise during the period of alleged “insurrection,” and alarming “race riots,” it never occurred to the white man that his wife and children were in danger of assault. Nor in the Reconstruction era, when the hue and cry was against “Negro Domination,” was there ever a thought that the domination would ever contaminate a fireside or strike toward the virtue of womanhood. . . .
It is not the purpose of this defense to say one word against the white women of the South. Such need not be said, but it is their misfortune that the . . . white men of that section . . . to justify their own barbarism . . . assume a chivalry which they do not possess. True chivalry respects all womanhood, and no one who reads the record, as it is written in the faces of the million mulattos in the South, will for a minute conceive that the southern white man had a very chivalrous regard for the honor due the women of his race, or respect for the womanhood which circumstances placed in his power. . . . Virtue knows no color line, and the chivalry which depends on complexion of skin and texture of hair can command no honest respect.
When emancipation came to the Negroes . . . from every nook and corner of the North, brave young white women . . . left their cultured homes, their happy associations and their lives of ease, and with heroic determination went to the South to carry light and truth to the benighted blacks. . . . They became the social outlaws in the South. The peculiar sen- sitiveness of the southern white men for women, never shed its protecting influence about them. No friendly word from their own race cheered them in their work; no hospitable doors gave them the companionship like that from which they had come. No chivalrous white man doffed his hat in honor or respect. They were “Nigger teachers”-unpardonable offenders in the social ethics of the South, and were insulted, persecuted and ostracized, not by Negroes, but by the white manhood which boasts of its chivalry toward women.
And yet these northern women worked on, year after year. . . . Threading their way through dense forests, working in schoolhouses, in the cabin and in the church, thrown at all times and in all places among the unfortunate and lowly Negroes, whom they had come to find and to serve, these northern women, thousands and thousands of them, have spent more than a quarter of a century in giving the colored people their splendid lessons for home and heart and soul. Without protection, save that which innocence gives to every good woman, they went about their work, fearing no assault and suf- fering none. Their chivalrous protectors were hundreds of miles away in their northern homes, and yet they never feared any “great dark-faced mobs.” . . . They never complained of assaults, and no mob was ever called into existence to avenge crimes against them. Before the world adjudges the Negro a moral monster, a vicious assailant of womanhood and a
Part Eighteen: Industrializing America
menace to the sacred precincts of home, the colored people ask the consideration of the silent record of gratitude, respect, protection and devotion of the millions of the race in the South, to the thousands of northern white women who have served as teachers and missionaries since the war. . . .
These pages are written in no spirit of vindictiveness. . . . We plead not for the colored people alone, but for all victims of the terrible injustice which puts men and women to death without form of law. During the year 1894, there were 132 persons executed in the United States by due form of law, while in the same year, 197 persons were put to death by mobs, who gave the victims no opportunity to make a lawful defense. No comment need be made upon a condition of public sentiment responsible for such alarming results.
Part Nineteen: Immigrant and Urban Nation
19-8 Lee Chew, Life of a Chinese Immigrant (1903)
The following selection is from a biography of a Chinese immigrant commissioned by the reformist journal The Independent. Note that Chew arrived in the United States before the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and was therefore dictating this as a middle-aged man. Chew was involved in many of the jobs associated with Chinese immigrants during this period-mining, laundry, and railroad construction.
From The Independent, 54 (2818), February 19, 1903, 417-423.
The village where I was born is situated in the province of Canton, on one of the banks of the Si-Kiang River. It is called
a village, altho it is really as big as a city, for there are about 5,000 men in it over eighteen years of age-women and chil-
dren and even youths are not counted in our villages….
…I heard about the American foreign devils, that they were false, having made a treaty by which it was agreed that
they could freely come to China, and the Chinese as freely go to their country. After this treaty was made China opened
its doors to them and then they broke the treaty that they had asked for by shutting the Chinese out of their country….
The man had gone away from our village a poor boy. Now he returned with unlimited wealth, which he had
obtained in the country of the American wizards. After many amazing adventures he had become a merchant in a city called
Mott Street, so it was said….
Having made his wealth among the barbarians this man had faithfully returned to pour it out among his tribesmen,
and he is living in our village now very happy, and a pillar of strength to the poor.
The wealth of this man filled my mind with the idea that I, too, would like to go to the country of the wizards and
gain some of their wealth, and after a long time my father consented, and gave me his blessing, and my mother took leave
of me with tears, while my grandfather laid his hand upon my head and told me to remember and live up to the admoni-
tions of the Sages, to avoid gambling, bad women and men of evil minds, and so to govern my conduct that when I died
my ancestors might rejoice to welcome me as a guest on high.
My father gave me $100, and I went to Hong Kong with five other boys from our place and we got steerage pas-
sage on a steamer, paying $50 each….
…Of the great power of these people I saw many signs. The engines that moved the ship were wonderful monsters,
strong enough to lift mountains. When I got to San Francisco, which was before the passage of the Exclusion act, I was
half starved, because I was afraid to eat the provisions of the barbarians, but a few days’ living in the Chinese quarter made
me happy again….
The Chinese laundryman does not learn his trade in China; there are no laundries in China…. All the Chinese laun-
drymen here were taught in the first place by American women just as I was taught.
When I went to work for that American family I could not speak a word of English, and I did not know anything
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