The American Pageant (12th Edition)

Chapter 24 – Page 551

Our Critique

551 “Tensions built up to the bloody Haymarket Square episode. Labor disorders had broken out, and on May 4, 1886, the Chicago police advanced on a meeting called to protest alleged brutalities by the authorities. Suddenly a dynamite bomb was thrown that killed or injured several dozen people, including police.
“Hysteria swept the Windy City. Eight anarchists were rounded up, although nobody proved that they had anything to do directly with the bomb. But the judge and jury held that since they had preached incendiary doctrines, they could be charged with conspiracy. Five were sentenced to death, one of whom committed suicide, and the other three were given stiff prison terms.”

Bailey’s description of the Haymarket Square bombing is not too clear, but where it is clear it is wrong in several particulars. First, Bailey says that “nobody proved that they [the anarchists] had anything to do directly with the bomb” thrown that “killed or injured several dozen people.” Second, Bailey has the judge and jury convicting the anarchists not on evidence, but because they “preached incendiary doctrines.” As a result of this conviction on improper evidence, “five were sentenced to death, one of whom committed suicide, and the other three were given stiff prison terms.” In the next paragraph, Bailey praises Governor Altgeld of Illinois for pardoning the three with prison terms: “Altgeld displayed courage in opposing what he regarded as a gross injustice.”

But the best evidence we have indicates that the trial was not “a gross injustice.” Historian Timothy Messer-Kruse is the foremost expert on the Haymarket Square bombing and has written two books on the subject. He concludes, from a careful reading of the trial transcript, that the anarchists did throw the bomb (he identifies Rudolph Schnaubelt, a friend of the anarchists, as the bomb thrower) and did so with intent to commit violence. The eight anarchists then went on to receive a fair trial and were convicted on good evidence. Just as Bailey often assumes businessmen are crooks, so he assumes that convicted killers—who were sympathetic to radical politics—must have been innocent.