NEW IPO Logo - by Charles Larry Home Search Browse About IPO Staff Links
C U R R I C U L U M    M A T E R I A L S
Delores F. Rauscher


Main Ideas
This lesson focuses on the Haymarket riot, its aftermath, and the resulting socio-economic and political situations. The Haymarket tragedy focuses students' attention on a pivotal moment in the history of the labor movement. It also highlights Chicago's economic and social make up during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Such an emphasis on Chicago offers a quintessential glimpse of social and economic shifts taking place in large cities during that time and the impact of those shifts. The lesson culminates with a critical analysis of how the justice system can falter when fear and propaganda manipulate judicial decisions. Studying John Peter Altgeld's pardon of the imprisoned anarchists allows students to analyze the trial court's decisions and


to compare Altgeld's reflective reasoning to that expressed by the media and public officials at the time of the trial.

Connections with the Curriculum
This lesson is especially appropriate for studying Illinois history, U. S. history, and for economics classes dealing with the history of U. S. economic growth. The activities may be appropriate for meeting the following Illinois Learning Standards for Social Science: 14.D.1; 14.D.2; 14.F.2; 14.D.4; 14.D.5; 14.F.5; 16.A.4a; 16.A.5a; 16.B.5b (US); 16.C.4C (US); 16.C.5b (US); 16.D.5(US).

Teaching Level
These activities are appropriate for grades 10-12; they may be modified for earlier grades.

Materials for Each Student
• A copy of the narrative portion of the lesson
• A copy of each activity sheet
• Recommended: access to computer, World-Wide Web, a spreadsheet program

Objectives for Each Student
• Interpret social and economic statistical data
• Infer the historical meaning of social and economic statistical data
• Draw conclusions based on evidence to determine cause-and-effect relationships
• Examine viewpoints of individuals, groups, and media before and after the Haymarket tragedy
• Compare how viewpoints influenced public opinion and public policy
• Identify consistencies and inconsistencies between ideas and actual practices with regard to the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution
• Judge when and if speech should be considered an action
• Examine Governor Altgeld's reasons for his pardon of the anarchists
• Assess Governor Altgeld's reasoning


Opening the Lesson
In addition to covering John Peter Altgeld and his pardon of those accused of the Haymarket Riot, the narrative portion of this lesson gives a good deal of background information about the political, social, and economic situations in Chicago prior to the Haymarket tragedy, which is essential to understanding the city's and state's volatility, a situation out of which developed "one of the most unjust trials in the annals of American jurisprudence."

One aim of the lesson is to show how a volatile social and economic climate can contribute to an American tragedy. Teachers should spend some time reviewing the article's discussion of social and economic changes taking place during the Gilded Age. Students should understand that the eight people tried and convicted for the Haymarket bomb-throwing were only the most conspicuous participants in a larger social and cultural phenomenon. Union activism, economic disparities, rapid population growth—spawned by mass immigration—political movements, and employment instability beset Chicago. Changes and instabilities rocked the foundations of urban society, creating an atmosphere in which those challenging the status quo became suspect.

Another aim of the lesson is to prompt students to think critically about past and present practices of the news media and the interactive nature of the media with the public. Critical discussion points to ponder are, How much did the news media influence public opinion during the Haymarket Affair? How much did public opinion influence the news media? The discussion might extend to a discussion of media coverage of present day events.

The activities in this lesson are numerically arranged to foster student understanding and comprehension in a graduated fashion: for instance, Activity 2 builds on knowledge acquired in Activity 1, and so on. This arrangement does not preclude assigning the activities out of numerical order, however, since each activity will still have meaning and value on its own.

Developing the Lesson
The teacher may want to discuss the following terms with the students: xenophobia, Utopia, socialist propaganda machine, pacifist, red scare, and posthumously. The article defines several other terms, such as anarchists, in context. Students should understand that anarchists' beliefs differ: some advocated overthrowing government through violent means and instituting a lawless society, while others desired non-violence and the founding of Utopian society of communal living without governmental authority (somewhat like communism). During the time, however, the public and government officials lumped all socialists, communists, and anarchists together as the "radical" fringe of society.

Activity #1—The students may work in groups to answer the questions corresponding to the charts. The questions do not have "right" answers since all answers are inferences based upon the information in the charts, as explained before chart 1.1. The censuses


from this time period do not explain specifics about the data each number represents: thus, on the numbers alone, we can make limited generalizations.

Teachers should remind students that many people were unemployed during these years and that many lived in abject poverty The statistics charted here do not reflect their situations in significant ways. Students should be sure to read information that appears below the charts.

—Chart 1.1: The fire might have devastated Chicago physically and economically. Statistics suggest it had the opposite affect. Firms grew rapidly and some manufacturers outstripped others in production very quickly showing rapid change and growth. Growth, however, was uneven and erratic.

—Chart 1.2: The chart suggests that some industries, such as iron and steel, grew phenomenally during this time. At the same time, some industries suffered due to the depressions of the 1870s and 1880s. Carpenters suffered loss of jobs, (perhaps due to lumber shortages created by over-demand), while the value of lumber shot up. An increase in value without an increase in the number of workers might be attributed to inflation. A decrease in the number of workers might also denote technological advances replacing workers. In addition, the counting of many small family businesses in the statistics might increase the number of firms without raising the counted number of workers in a manufacture.

—Chart 1.3: The students might speculate about why production in some industries rose sharply relative to other industries.

—Charts 1.4 and 1.5: The census defined native-born as anyone whose family had been in the United States for at least two generations—that is, they had grandparents who were immigrants. Second-generation refers to those whose parents were foreign-born. Students are asked to consider the population increases. For instance the numbers of Irish coming to the United States may have remained steady or even increased, but a large increase in population may have diluted their showing.

—Charts 1.6 and 1.7: These charts deal with nativity of the Chicago population. Not all persons were counted since the census counted head-of-household nativity only. Such a method of census-taking may denote segregation of ethnic groups or nationalities, information that reinforces what the narrative says about xenophobia. These charts also suggest that many new immigrant groups, such as the Polish, came to the U. S. as unskilled workers, while others such as the Russians and Germans came with skills. (Table 1.1 is self-explanatory)

Activity #2—This activity gives the students a limited but more personal look at the convicted men. It is mainly to be used as reference information for the other activities in the lesson. Students should consider if the men's characteristics fit the statistical data in Activity 1.
—Pair students to interview one another for brief biographical sketches. Gather data on such things as a family's nativity parental or guardian occupations and/or education, square feet of living space, number of televisions, number of bathrooms, number of languages spoken, rural or urban dwellers, and so on. To simplify the work of compilation, divide students into groups of five and have each group collate their group's information. Come together as a class and chart all information on the chalkboard. Use a computer-spreadsheet to chart information.

Activity #3 - Twentieth-century historical accounts view the Haymarket trial quite differently from those of the late nineteenth. Most recent accounts contend that the eight men were convicted, hanged, or jailed for their beliefs. Indeed, some people have recently renamed the entire event the Haymarket Tragedy. These people have done so partly to reflect the injustices to the eight convicted men but also to recognize the anti-immigrant feelings that encouraged the convictions. This activity focuses on the controversial issues surrounding the convictions.

The quotes in this activity are meant to stimulate thought and discussion about key aspects of our republic: the "rule of law" and the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment—specifically freedom of speech, press, and assembly Again, as with the other activities, the questions are meant to promote discussion and critical thinking about the issues. They do not necessarily have "right" answers.

Teachers may wish to have the class as a whole discuss the answers to the questions and then enter into debate on some of the more controversial aspects of the issues. Another way to approach the lesson is to have the students individually write their thoughts and ideas on paper. Students might debate the issues in groups or set up debate teams. Some students may wish to take a side they do not agree with in order to hone their debating skills.

Activity #4 - See below, Assessing the Lesson


Concluding the Lesson
Ask the students in what ways statistical data aids historians in studying the past. Ask them about the reliability of such data. Discuss again the importance of "the rule of law" to American democracy. Ask if doing the activities in this lesson has caused them to change their opinions about rights to freedom of speech, press, and assembly. With reference to Governor Altgeld's pardons, discuss the importance of doing what is right and just, even though one may suffer scorn and retribution. With regard to the last question, you might take up the issue of Illinois Governor George Ryan's moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.

Extending the Lesson
• To extend the lesson to language arts, consider using Carl Sandburg's poem, "Chicago." This poem and activities appear in Illinois History Teacher, "History and Literature in Illinois," Vol. 7:2, 2000, p. 9. You might also want to locate Sandburg's poem, "The Dynamiter," which appeared in his collection Chicago Poems, 1916, Consider, too, the 1925 poem "The Eagle That Is Forgotten" by Vachel Lindsay. Governor Altgeld is the poem's subject.
• For dramatic learning, consider the mini-play "The Haymarket Affair" by Larry Stevens (Stockton, Cal.: Stevens & Shea, 1989). The play is appropriate for high school audiences. It has three acts covering the McCormick events, Haymarket, and the trial.
• You might wish to set up a field trip including visits to the monuments to the Haymarket martyrs and to the police statue. The monument honoring the Haymarket martyrs and other social activists stands in the Forest Home cemetery. The Illinois Labor History Society published a short book The Day Will Come ... about the cemetery in 1994 (see bibliography).
• The teacher may wish to extend the discussion of free speech, press, and assembly. The lesson connects with modern-day controversies, especially those surrounding "hate" groups and anti-abortionists who advocate violent acts. The teacher may wish to extend the discussion to cover recent topics.
• Teachers may wish to have students visit the Chicago Historical Society's web site . The site maintains a digital collection of photos and cartoons about Haymarket.
• All regional libraries should have copies of U. S. government censuses. Illinois has more than 50 regional depositories of documents. Visit for the location of a library near your school. Advanced students may benefit from studying the wealth of information available through the censuses.

Assessing the Lesson
Use Activity #4 for assessing this lesson. After having worked through the earlier portions of the lesson, students should have enough knowledge about the case and the accompanying issues to write a fairly extensive essay explaining aspects of Governor Altgeld's reasoning. Since the issues are complex and controversial, grades should be a based upon clarity of thought and strength of argument.

Using Statistical Data to Understand Haymarket

The information plotted on the following charts comes from Chicago census data gathered in 1870,1880,1890, and 1900. Statistical data plotted on charts give a visual image that may show patterns, trends, and inconsistencies that are not always apparent when looking at the values alone. Social scientists, historians, and other scholars sometimes use statistical data to make inferences about the socio-economic situation of a period. Such inferences are generalizations that sometimes are inconclusive. One reason for the uncertainty of the generalizations is that data-gathering methods often are skewed due to built-in biases and imprecise methods of gathering and reporting. Data-gathering methods can also vary greatly from one census to another. In addition, certain types of information that might help scholars draw conclusions may be lost or may not have been gathered at all. Despite those problems, scholars can still make inferences about what the data means, and they can combine that with information gathered from other sources to gain a more complete understanding of the socio-economics of the time period.

Average Yearly Wages Per Worker
Chicago's Top Ten Manufactures, 1870,1880,1890

Source: U.S. Dept. of Interior, Ninth Census, 1870, "Manufactures," Vol. Ill, Washington: GPO, 1872: p. 649; Tenth Census, 1880, "Compendium," Pt. 2, Washington: GPO, 1883: pp. 391-393 and 1046-1051; Eleventh Census, 1890, "Statistics of Cities," Pt 2, Washington: GPO, 1895: pp. 130-145, Chart is based on top ten industries as selected by Bruce C. Nelson in Beyond the Martyrs, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988: pp., 12-13.

Chart 1.1

What were the average wages per firm of Chicago workers during this time period?

See if you can draw some inferences about the economic and social situation in Chicago during the Haymarket time period as you study the charts and answer the questions.

• The United States suffered a series of depressions during the last third of the nineteenth century. One spanned the time from 1873 to 1878; a second from 1882 to 1886. Overall, an international depression of which the U. S. was part spanned the years 1873 through 1896. Keep


this in mind as you work through the following discussion questions.

1. What does the narrative tell us happened to Chicago in 1871? In what ways might such a catastrophic event affect a city such as Chicago?

2. According to the chart, which manufacturers dropped out of the top ten in 1890? What might be some reasons for the loss of their place among the top-producing firms?

3. What do charts 1.1 and 1.3 indicate about the rate of industrialization during the last third of the nineteenth century? For example, you might be able to generalize about the steadiness of growth in the industries.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Interior, Ninth Census, 1870, "Manufacturers," Vol. Ill, Washington: GPO, 1872; p. 649; Tenth Census, 1880, "Compendium," Pt 2, Washington: GPO, 1883: pp.391-393 and 1046-1051; Eleventh Census, 1890, "Statistics of Cities," Pt 2, Washington: GPO, 1895: pp. 130-145.

Chart 1.2

• This chart represents only a few of the manufacturers from the top ten. How many workers were employed per firm?

1. Study chart 1.2 Notice that the iron and steel industries line shows a steep rise in the average number of workers employed from 1870 to 1880 but that it levels off in the years between 1880 and 1890. What might account for the industry's growth in numbers of workers between 1870 and 1880 when compared to 1880 to 1890?

Note that in the lumber industry the average number of workers employed in lumber stayed relatively even during the thirty-year period, but the value of lumber shot up (Chart 1.3). What might be some reasons for difference in growth between the number of workers needed and the value of the products produced? Now consider that the number of firms producing lumber in 1880 was 56; that number rose to 130 in 1890. What might account for these changes?

2. Note that the average number of workers employed in the tobacco industry declined slightly, Now consider that the number of firms producing tobacco products rose from 111 in 1870 to 291 in 1880. Consider, too, the average wages per worker in the tobacco industry (chart 1.1) during these times. What sort of inferences might we make about the manufacture of tobacco products based upon a comparison of this data?

Value of products: Chicago's Leading Manufacturers, 1870, 1880, 1890

Source: U.S. Dept. of Interior, Ninth Census, 1870, "Manufactures," Vol. Ill, Washington: GPO, 1872: p. 649; Tenth Census, 18

Chart 1.3

*Slaughtering data has been omitted from this chart since its value is significantly larger than all other values and thus would make other values too small to visibly register on the chart. The slaughtering figures in millions of dollars are as follows: 1870 = 19.2; 1880 = 85.3; 1890 = 194.3,

** The Value of the Products is calculated by adding the value of the materials used in making the products with the additional costs and profits added by the manufacturer. For example, in 1880 the value of the materials used to make men's clothing was $13,195,716 and the value added by the manufacturer was approximately $6,703,255.


1. Chart 1.3 shows that the value of almost all the products rose significantly every ten years, despite the devastation of the 1871 fire. What impact might the fire have had on manufacturers?

2. In what way might the simultaneous rise of the iron and steel, foundry and machine shop, railroad cars, and agricultural implements be tied?

What nationalities made up Chicago?

Here are pie charts showing proportions of population by country of origin. As you can see, these charts show no numerical values but offer a visual comparison of slice sizes.

Chart 1.4

Chart 1.5

SOURCES: U.S. Dept. of Interior, Ninth Census, 1870, "Population," Pt. 1. Washington: GPO, 1872: pp. 386-391; Eleventh Census, 1890, "Population," Pt 1. Washington: GPO 1895: pp. 670-673. See p. cxxxiv for a bar chart of nativity. See p. xciii for a chart comparison of "Constituents of the Population of the Great Cities, 1890."

• Not shown on these charts are French, Bohemian, Dutch, Polish and Russian. All have percentages of less than 4% of the whole.

• The total population of Chicago in 1870 was 298,000; by 1890 it was 1,099,850; and in 1900 it was 1,698,575.

• For distribution maps of Chicago's population in 1900 visit this Internet site: This site has links to the Learning Page, which was developed to help students and their teachers gain access to the vast online collections of the Library of Congress.

• Another site that shows Chicago's growth is

1. According to the charts 1.6 and 1.7 (see below), how is native-born defined? We might naturally expect the native-born piece of the pie to get larger as time goes by. Why would we expect that slice to increase in size?

2. Note the population rise between 1870 and 1890 listed in the information below this chart. Based upon these figures, what might be two reasons why the Irish population shrank in proportion to some of the other groups on the chart?


Who did what kind of work?

Distribution of Occupation by Nativty, Chicago 1870

SOURCES; Charts 1.6 and 1.7
U.S. Dept. of Interior, Ninth Census, 1870, Washington: GPO, 1872: Charts are adapted from the tables in Edward Bubny, Chicago 1870 and 1900, Wealth, Occupation, and Education. Ph.D.diss., University of Illinois, 1978:4.1, p. 69 and 4.2, P. 70.

Chart 1.6 (Column chart with depth)

Distribution of Occupation by Nativty, Chicago 1900

SOURCES: Charts 1.6 and 1.7
U.S. Dept. of Interior, Ninth Census, 1870. Washington: GPO, 1872: Charts are adapted from the tables in Edward Bubny, Chicago 1870 and 1900, Wealth, Occupation, and Education. Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois, 1978: 4.1, p. 69 and 4.2, p. 70.

Chart 1.7 (Column chart with depth)

• Nativity is based upon the head-of-the-household in these charts.


Questions for charts 1.6 and 1.7.

1. Remember that the data in the charts we are working with present statistics as recorded in the 1870, 1880, 1890, and 1900 censuses. Note that the information presented in the charts 1.6 and 1.7 includes information about the head-of-the-household only. Who was left out? How might those people left out have made a difference in the numbers on this chart? What does taking a census that includes only the nativity of the head-of-the-household tell us about the mixing of ethnic groups or nationalities during this time?

Might today's censuses also omit certain people? What might be some reasons why some people miss being counted in certain categories even today?

2. The chart shows that a sizeable proportion of German workers are skilled and semi-skilled for both census years. What might be some reasons that Germans rate high in this category for both years?

Most of the anarchists involved in the Haymarket riot were of German descent. What does this chart tell us about the occupations of Germans living in Chicago at the time? How do they compare to other groups on the chart? For instance, if we look at the yearly wage chart 1.1, in what manufactures might we expect German workers to be engaged?

3. If we look back at the notes under charts 1.4 and 1.5, we see that the Polish and Russian populations were less than 4% of the total in 1870. What has happened to those two groups according to Charts 1.6 and 1.7? What inferences can we make about each groups' population numbers and job skills?

Look at the "city as a whole" columns for 1870 and 1900. Considering the huge increase in population during this time, what do the city-as-a-whole numbers suggest about the proportions of white to blue collar laborers?

How was the wealth distributed?

The table below shows data that has not been charted or graphed.

• Perhaps you will want to use your math skills to compare percentages of wealth between groups.

• If you have had an economics class, you might want to speculate about the significance of the mean and median scores in this table. For instance, how does native-born total wealth compare to foreign-born total wealth? How can German mean wealth levels be comparatively low while their median wealth is so high?

• A fun activity might be to enter this data on a program such as Excel and use its features like Chart Wizard to chart this data in several ways.

• Another activity might be to visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics site at or the Census Bureau's home page at and then compile data using the latest U.S. census information. Then compare what you find with the figures, table, and charts in this lesson. Do not forget that data-gathering methods have changed a great deal since the nineteenth century; thus, you may not be able to make many significant one-to-one comparisons.


Table 1.1

Nativity and Distribution of Wealth, Chicago 1870




All Real Wealth




All Personal Wealth




All Total Wealth




Native-born Total Wealth




German-born Total Wealth




Irish-born Total Wealth




English-speaking Total Wealth




Scandinavian Total Wealth




SOURCE: Permission to use table data granted by the author, Edward Bubnys.
Table appears in his article "Nativity and the Distribution of Wealth: Chicago, 1870," Explorations in Economic History, 19 (1982): 101- 9.

• Real Wealth refers to property—usually real-estate property.

• Personal Wealth refers to household goods and possibly items used by self-employed persons.

• Total Wealth refers to the sum of Personal Wealth and Real Wealth.

• Totals come from a sample of 1,226 families.

• Only 1.2% of the city's population was made up of persons of color during this time period.


Brief Biographies of the Convicted Men

George Engel (1836 -1887)
German; came to U. S. in 1866; to Chicago, 1874. Worked as painter, in sugar refinery, in a wagon factory, opened his own toy store in 1876. Active in labor movement, active in extreme left anarchist movement; not present at Haymarket meeting. Hanged.

Samuel Fielden (1847 - 1922)
English; no schooling; worked textile factory as child; in teens, became a Methodist preacher. Came to U. S. in 1868; to Chicago in 1869. Married with two children. Active in labor movement. Head of city's largest atheist group. Charter member of Chicago's first Teamster's Union. Imprisoned. Pardoned by Governor Altgeld, 1893.

Adolph Fischer (1858 - 1887)
German; came to U. S. in 1873 at age 15. At 15, got work as apprentice compositor on German-language newspaper. Member of German Typographical Union. Married with one child. Worked on anarchist daily paper Arbeiter-Zeitung; edited journal Der Anarchist. Active in extreme left anarchist movement. Helped plan Haymarket meeting; left before bomb exploded. Hanged.

Louis Lingg (1864 - 1887)
German; came to U.S. in 1885. Organizer of Carpenter's Union; blacklisted for refusing to be strikebreaker during carpenter's walkout; active in Trades and Labor Assembly; clubbed in McCormick Reaper plant protest; considered most dangerous anarchist in Chicago. Died while in jail; ruled a suicide; widely believed to have been killed by police.

Oscar Neebe (1850-1916)
Born in New York; educated in Germany. Worked in numerous jobs in several cities; became a skilled tinsmith and artisan of precious metals. Married. Came to Chicago in 1877. Worked at manufacturing firm. Fired and blacklisted for labor organizing activities. Established business, Acme Yeast Company Helped organize brewery workers; supported Socialist Publishing Co.; publisher of anarchist daily Arbeiter-Zeitung; active in Chicago Central Labor Union. Imprisoned. Pardoned by Governor Altgeld, 1893.

Albert R. Parsons (1848 -1887)
Native of U. S ; came to Chicago in 1887; wife, Lucy of African-American descent, also active in labor movement; had children. Was anti-slavery Republican; Member of Socialist Labor Party. Member Chicago Typographical Union, member Knights of Labor. Helped build Workingman's Party, ran for several city offices. Edited English-language anarchist paper Alarm. Led May 1, 1886, labor march. Militant views. Hanged.

Michael Asher Schwab (1854 - 1898)
German; bookbinder as teen; joined Socialist Democratic Party in 1872. Came to U. S. in 1879; to Chicago in 1879. Co-wrote leaflet of protest against police for McCormick Reapers strike and announcing Haymarket rally. Briefly attended Haymarket rally. Imprisoned. Pardoned by Governor Altgeld, 1893.

August Spies (1855 - 1887)
German. Came to U. S. in 1872; to Chicago in 1873. Active in labor movement; joined Socialist Labor Party; delegate at Socialist Convention, 1881; edited Arbeiter-Zeitung. First speaker at Haymarket rally. Hanged.

SOURCE: Permission to quote select passages granted by Les Orear, President, Illinois Labor History Society. Most of the information compiled in these biographies comes from Joe Powers and Mark Rogovin, eds., The Day Will Come: Stories of the Haymarket Martyrs and the Men and Women Buried Alongside the Monument. Published for the Illinois Labor History Society by Charles H. Kerr P.C., 1994.

Read the biographies above and then look again at the charts in Activity 1. Do these men's characteristics support the information we find in these charts? For instance, do their occupations and nativity follow the statistics charted for their groups? Explain.





everyone, no matter who, should always obey the laws.

The Convicted, the Press, and the Court

Freedom of Speech, Press, and Assembly ...
The U. S. Constitution. Amendment 1. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

... And The Rule of Law
A fundamental idea underlying our system of government is the "rule of law." The "rule of law means that our system of government is based upon laws, some people-made ("man-made"), some "natural." Natural laws (from which come natural rights) cannot be changed or altered; they just exist. For instance, a fundamental "natural" law on which our government is based is that all persons are created equal. Laws made by people are those enacted by our government officials, People-made laws can be changed or altered by following certain procedures. Regardless of whether laws are made by people or exist as a part of nature, following the "rule of law" means that everyone, no matter who, should always obey the laws.

The excerpts are taken either from the convicted men's speeches or their publications, the newspapers that covered the Haymarket riot and its aftermath, or statements made during the trial proceedings. The sampling here is representative of various groups' viewpoints at the time concerning freedom of speech, press, and assembly, laws and statutes, republican government, and anarchy.

Group A:

The Anarchists

The Alarm —A Newspaper, edited by Albert Parsons

1. (April 18, 1885) — "... Anarchists want liberty—liberty for themselves and all other human beings.... Every human act is now held in subordination to 'statute law' and all these laws are, without exception, the tricks of the cunning few to deprive their fellow men of their natural rights.... Down with authority; away with the state and all man-made laws and law manufacturers. ... Let each man be a law unto himself, for thereby alone can each 'sit under his own vine and fig tree, with none to molest or make him afraid,' for where all are equally free to do right, none dare then do wrong."

2. (November 19,1887, six days after the executions) — "Law, the father of all crime, the source of all injustice, the barrier to all voluntary cooperation, stands grim and red-handed over us."

3. (Used as People's Exhibit #30 in the trial (November 29, 1884) — "Nothing but an uprising of the people and a bursting open of all stores and store houses to the free access of the public, and a free application of dynamite to every one who opposes, will relieve the world of the infernal nightmare of property and wages. Down with such wretched nonsense. No rascality or stupidity is sacred because it is old. Down with it."

4. (April 18, 1885) — "[Tells how to make and use dynamite to destroy buildings and thereby promote revolution.] The efficiency of dynamite has so far shown its best at the various mechanical applications .... A revolutionary operator may get a chance to place his charge in a building so that it may be somewhat continued, such as in ventilation ducts in the walls, a chimney hole, gas, heating, water or sewer pipes.... Dynamite is a peacemaker, because it makes it unsafe to wrong our fellows."


Group B:

The Trial

States Attorney Julius S. Grinnel, Prosecutor

5. (Trial opening address, July 15, 1886) — "I think [Fort Sumter] was nothing compared with this insidious, infamous plot to ruin our laws and our country secretly and in this cowardly way; the strength of our institutions may depend upon this case, because there is only one step beyond republicanism-that is Anarchy. See that we never take that step.... Although, perhaps, none of these men personally threw the bomb, they each and all abetted, encouraged and advised the throwing of it, and therefore are as guilty as the individual who in fact threw the bomb. They are accessories...."

Judge Joseph E. Gary, Presiding Trial Judge

6. (ca., August 19,1886) — "Freedom of speech is limited by the laws of the land, to the extent, among other limitations, that no man is allowed to advise the committing of any crime against the person or property of another; and the statute provides: 'An accessory is he who stands by and aids, abets and assists, or who, not being present, aiding, abetting or assisting, hath advised, encouraged, aided or abetted the perpetration of the crime.'"

Group C:

The Press

Description of August Spies

7. (Chicago Times May 6, 1886) — "With a grimace meant to be a smile, in which a row of white, wolfish teeth were shown, a small, blonde-looking man about 35 years of age answered that he was August Spies."

Description of Michael Schwabs brother-in-law

8. (Chicago Inter Ocean Newspaper, May 8, 1886) — "He was one of the prominent figures on the speaker's wagon on Desplaines street. His long, black, unkempt hair, and "specs" giving him the unmistakable air of a conspirator, thereby adding to his importance in the eyes of the cowardly curs who were looking at him."

Description of Albert R. Parsons

9. (Chicago Times, May 6,1886) — "This fiend, who for months past has advocated the torch and dagger, the husband of a negress, and a most arrant coward withal."

Description of Louis Lingg by Mr. Osborne, a jail worker

10. (The Alarm, November 19, 1887) — "I wish all the young men in town were as pure in their morals and thought as Louis Lingg is. In all the time I have known him in the jail, as thoroughly as I have come to know him, I have never heard him use a profane word or make an indelicate illusion."

Subjects for debate:

1. The first speaker in group A wants to protect liberty by doing away with "man-made" laws. What kinds of laws made by people reduce our liberty? The speaker at the same time wants to protect natural laws and natural rights. Can natural rights be protected without "man-made" laws? What sort of society must the speaker be envisioning?

2. The second Group B speaker, Judge Gary says "freedom of speech is limited by the laws of the land." He is referring not only to the Illinois Constitution of 1870 and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution but also to an Illinois statute that specified when a person's speech made him an accessory to a crime. Do you think that Amendment 1 of the United States Constitution can be construed to limit speech as well as protect it? If so, how so? If not, how could an Illinois statute be enacted that limited free speech in such a way as described—can state laws run contrary to federal law? Judge Gary's concern is to protect a person's property from another's offenses. To what sorts of property might Judge Gary be referring?

3. Group B speaker Attorney Grinnel urges that the anarchists be held accountable for the murder because they "abetted, encouraged and advised the throwing of the bomb." Considering that the anarchists are being held accountable based upon their words and views, were the anarchists "directly" responsible for the throwing of the bomb? Should a distinction be made between being responsible and being directly responsible?

4. Speakers 3-4 in Group A, advocate getting rid of government and bringing about the changes they envision through the use of violence. Do you think that people should be allowed to advocate violence against another group or against the government in a public forum; for instance, should Internet sites that explain how to make bombs be allowed to operate? Should public hate-speeches against certain ethnic groups, races, or genders be allowed? Should a person's words or speech make them accountable for the unlawful actions of another? Do you think the anarchists' words violated the statute to which Judge Gary was referring? Do you think that the eight defendants should be held accountable for the bomb-throwing murder committed by an unknown assailant?

Think of recent examples in which one person's free speech may have contributed to a violent act of another. Do you agree with the legal outcome of the cases? Why or why not?

5. The first three speakers in Group C paint ugly verbal pictures of the anarchists connected with Haymarket. The press here employs what is sometimes called character assassination. Osborne's description as well as the biography information in Activity 2 do not seem to support the press reports. Should a newspaper print a story that makes an accused person look guilty before the trial? Do you think such newspaper reports (and there were many) had an impact upon public opinion?

Do you think public opinion had an impact on reporter bias? Should the press be allowed to make less than factual reports that might sway public opinion? Do you think the press practices such tactics today? If so, what methods do they use? For instance, suppose you watch a television network's coverage of an event; the camera shows a small gathering; you later read that that a large crowd was present. Is the press simply practicing free speech?

6. Speaker 4 in Group A says that "Dynamite is a peacemaker, because it makes it unsafe to wrong our fellows." In what ways is this argument different from arguments made by those who today protest restrictions on hand guns? In what ways is this argument different from those who today advocate arms build up?

Now that you have had a chance to debate the key issues in the conviction, consider Governor Altgeld's reasons for pardoning the anarchists:

I. On the method of the jury selection: "The record in the trial shows that the jury in this case was not drawn in the manner that juries usually are drawn; ... the trial judge appointed one, Henry L. Ryce as special bailiff to go out and summon such men as he, Ryce, might select to act as jurors."

II.On the method of interviewing the potential jurors: "It is difficult to see how, after a juror has avowed a fixed and settled opinion as to a person's guilt, a court can legally be satisfied of the truth of his answer that he can render a fair and impartial verdict."

Governor John P. Altgeld

III. On the basis of the conviction: "The conviction has not gone that they [the defendants] did have actually any personal participation in the particular act which caused the death of Degan [a policeman], but the conviction proceeds upon the ground that they had generally, by speech and print, advised large classes of people, not particular individuals, but large classes, to commit murder."

IV. On the evidence: "The two [news]papers in which articles appeared at intervals during the years were obscure little sheets having scarcely any circulation and the articles themselves were written at times of great public excitement when an element of the community claimed to have been outraged ... the apparently seditious utterances were such as are always heard when men imagine that they have been wronged or are excited or partially intoxicated ... much violent talk was indulged in by irresponsible parties, which was forgotten when the excitement was over."

V. On the prosecutor's case: "[The bomb-throwing] was an act of personal revenge and the prosecution never discovered who threw the bomb."

Write an essay explaining the reasoning behind these five conclusions of Governor Altgeld. You might want to use information you gained in the three preceding activities to help you show how and why Altgeld reasoned as he did. For instance, the Governor refers to "times of great public excitement when an element of the community claimed to have been outraged." What were the "times" like? Why might certain people be outraged?

You may not in each case agree with Governor Altgeld's reasoning. If not, explain why his reasoning is faulty.

Click here to return to the article


|Home| |Search| |Back to Periodicals Available| |Table of Contents| |Back to Illinois History Teacher 2002|
Illinois Periodicals Online (IPO) is a digital imaging project at the Northern Illinois University Libraries funded by the Illinois State Library