The Chicago Anarchists



The Chicago Anarchists[1]

They took these four men, full of life and health, and covered their shoulders with the shroud that, a few minutes later, would wrap their twisted limbs and hide their contorted faces—and their eyes popping out of the sockets to punish them for having seen too far and too high into the future of humanity; and their tongues hanging out of their mouths, gags of purple flesh sealing forever those lips guilty of having spoken of truth and justice!

They staggered along because ropes bit into their ankles and hobbled their feet like tied up animals before being thrown into the slaughterhouse.

They were pale because the night before their dear friend Louis Lingg had sacrificed himself in the hope of saving their four lives. They heard a sudden explosion, then the commotion in the prison and the cries of pain that his horrible wounds wrenched from him. They counted the minutes of his agony before their last night’s sleep was troubled by the double sound of hammering: the coffin they were nailing shut and the gallows they were building.

And the night before they had removed their hearts from this world. Their wives and mothers had wept in their arms, groaned against their chests and clasped their knees. There were dreadful scenes in that dungeon. Fisher’s companion and Parsons’, Spies’ mother, and that poor, beautiful Nina Van Zandt, his fiancée, had watered the floor of the cells with their tears.

Parsons’ wife came back in the morning. She dragged herself up the prison gate, knocked softly and begged, with words that would have softened up a wild beast, to allow her to give one last kiss to the man who was still alive but who had already made her a widow.


She said nothing, did not yell, did not cry, but her fingernails embedded in the bars of the gate suddenly let loose and she fell backward with a terrible shriek that resounded throughout the prison.

No one knows if Parsons recognized that cherished voice, but from that minute on his face was scored with frightful wrinkles so that he looked like he was sixty years old when the hangman took him.

The four condemned men had listened proudly, with something superhuman in their eyes, to the reading of the death sentence. Then while walking to the gallows, Fisher—the German Fisher—started singing at the top of his voice the French song, the heroic Marseillaise whose red wing hovered over these martyrs.

The executioner grabbed them. The ignominious ropes were knotted around their necks, the trapdoors dropped—and the four bodies swung in the air like four big bell clappers sounding the alarm of retaliation in the petrified air…

Before dying Spies said, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than our voices that you are strangling to death!”

Engel yelled, “Hurray for Anarchy!”
Fisher yelled, “Hurray for Anarchy!”

The last words of Lingg’s testament were, “Long Live Anarchy!”


–November 1887

[1] The Preamble to En Marche 1896, conerning the Haymarket Affair.


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