November witnessed at Chicago the execution of four avowed and defiant anarchists. There were found at their funeral thousands who considered them heroes and martyrs, who denounced their execution as "legalized but atrocious murder," and their conviction by all the courts as tyranny, as a victory of the ruling class over the laboring class, and swore over the graves of their adored comrades that they would yet "avenge this foul murder."
Even a lawyer, a man whom we might expect would appreciate law and order, was present at that funeral, and comforted the Godless company [for avowed anarchists are almost always avowed atheists] as follows, as reported in the Press dispatches:—
He told his hearers that they had come to do honor to the soldiers and martyrs to truth. They had lost their lives in her service and they were numbered with those that in all history had died for the same cause. They were kind hearted and tender, manly, noble men. They loved humanity. They worshiped God by striving their utmost to benefit their fellow men, and it was in this strife that they offered up their lives. They were not standing there by the bodies of felons. There was nothing disgraceful about their death. They died for liberty, for the sacred right of untrammeled speech, for humanity, and his hearers should be proud that they had been their friends.—Times, Nov. 14, 1887.
And other thousands actuated some by fear of the results of the already made threats of anarchists, and some by a conscientious timidity, begotten of a false idea of God's provisions for these men,—fearful of putting them into God's hands, fearful lest He would not give them "a just recompense" for their evil deeds, fearful that He would plunge them into everlasting torment,—signed lengthy petitions to the Governor of Illinois for the commutation of the death penalty.
Since this matter has excited such general attention, particularly since other similar cases will come forward again, and because the church should as far as possible hold correct ideas on this as well as other subjects, we rehearse the matter as it appears to our View in the TOWER.
The riot at the Chicago hay-market meeting May 4th, 1886, was precipitated by the throwing of a death-dealing bomb among the police, present upon the occasion to preserve peace and order. The murderers of those properly appointed representatives of the majority of Chicago's citizens, were sought, and though it could not be ascertained positively whose hands had lighted and thrown the bomb or by whom it and other similar bombs found were made, it was proved that it was thrown from the wagon in which the leaders of the meeting stood, and that the men convicted and hanged were those leaders, who for months previous, at meetings, and through circulars and papers, and at this very hay-market meeting, had urged their followers to acts of riot, violence and murder, had advocated the use of just such bombs, and had given in detail particulars as to how such could be made, and what would make them most deadly.
A brave court and jury impartially selected from among their neighbors (with great difficulty because of natural timidity inspired by loud threats, secretly uttered, that any man brave enough to stand up for the law and order and bring in a true verdict in accordance with the law and the facts, would be assassinated), after hearing all the evidence and all the arguments which the able counsel for the anarchists could present in their favor, brought in its sworn verdict, that according to their honest conviction, the law and evidence proved these men guilty of murder—of premeditated murder—and that the death penalty provided in the law, should be inflicted. Appeals to the Supreme Courts of the state, and of the United States, confirmed the truthfulness and righteousness of that verdict.
It is a credit to Chicago that her citizens refrained from lynching those enemies of her laws and liberties: that cool deliberation and true manliness prevailed, and that the condemned had every possible opportunity to be legally cleared. It is no less a credit to them that, after making the best laws they knew how to make for the government of such cases, and for the protection of the people against the devilish piracy of a comparatively small number of lawless, godless, heaven and earth defying enemies of all order, all peace and all righteousness, they had men of sufficient moral courage to execute those laws.
But we must say a word on behalf of members of the trades unions which took part in the funeral parade, and thereby gave their assent to the principles of anarchy and to the terrible lawless deeds for which those men suffered. They are duped by blatant leaders, whose specious arguments are as follows:—
These men are, say they, martyrs in a grand cause, the cause of liberty, free speech, and elevation of the laboring classes; it was not proved that any one of them threw the bomb; hence instead of regarding them as felons, convicts, murderers, every working man should recognize in them the champions of his rights, of which FREE SPEECH is chief.
There is a specious deception about all this, which some do not quickly detect. Take the last sentence. Which is the ruling class in this land of freedom, where the majority rules and the ballot-box determines who shall represent that majority in the execution of its own laws? Just so surely as the majority of the people in this land are laborers—some laboring with the [R990 : page 2] plow, some with the pick, some with machinery, and some with their pens, just so surely the working class is the ruling class, and the windy orator should have expressed himself rather that it was a victory of the practical working class over work-talkers who labor not at all, but seek to cover themselves with glory and pose as ultra freemen when in reality they are a small minority, who, conscious that they can never convince a majority of the people that anarchy [lawlessness and destruction] is better than thrift and true liberty (liberty to do right and to permit each other to do the same), seek to overturn the freedom of the land which welcomed them to enjoy the blessing of her blood-bought liberties, when they fled as convicts and outlaws from the lands that gave them birth.
As to freedom, can it not be carried too far? Did not these "martyrs for freedom" (?) carry it too far—farther than the working class, the ruling class, is prepared to permit? Freedom to murder whom you please, or to burn whose house you please, is too much freedom to grant to any one until we are sure that the grace of God has so thoroughly refined the heart that this freedom would never be used.
Freedom of speech should be permitted; it is one of the strong bulwarks of liberty, which every true man should love and appreciate. There should be full freedom to criticize public officers and laws, to show their injustice or inefficiency if it can be shown, and thus to move the majority, the ruling and working class, to effect any change which can be shown to be for the benefit of the majority. But no well balanced mind, properly informed of the institutions of this land, could possibly urge that it is a proper use of the word FREEDOM which would permit men in the name of the liberty, guaranteed to all under the Constitution, to set at nought the will of the majority and the laws they have made, and publicly threaten the life and property of the masses, and of their servants and representatives appointed to enforce those laws. The true meaning of freedom is untrammeled liberty to do anything that is right. Does any one claim that murder is right? Yes, anarchists claim that. They claim that by any means, and at any cost of life and happiness to others, their theories should be carried out. They know that they constitute a hopeless minority. They have no hope of ever convincing a majority that their theory is desirable: hence they argue We must use force—We must force the majority to obey the minority. And strangely enough they call that a battle for LIBERTY. Despotism, we should call it, the bondage of the majority, of nine-tenths of society, of the working class, to the vicious class, who could not if they would, rule as well as the better educated despotic classes of the old world.
As to the sentence of death executed upon these men, we believe that society (i.e. the majority) did perfectly right in putting out of their midst those misguided and injurious members, who even if they did not throw the bomb, were the real perpetrators of the crime, having undoubtedly incited others to do that which perhaps they themselves were too cowardly to do. If it could be shown conclusively that another threw the fatal bomb, we could not excuse them on any ground but cowardice. No pity for the fearless men who represented the people, nor pity for their wives and babes, hindered those anarchists from each throwing bombs by [R991 : page 2] the dozen; their words over and over again prove this; only their cowardice prevented. Nothing else hindered that we can think of. So then, if a poor ignorant deluded wretch could to-day be found whose ignorant mind and courage they had talked up to the point of action, we, and we believe the people (the ruling working class) would say, More guilty far and more worthy of death were the cowardly talkers than the duped one who obeyed them—their tool.
But, is society (the people) justified in taking the life of such enemies of its life and peace? We answer, yes; far more so than they generally think. In taking away the life of such as these, it merely hastens (for the good of the whole) the death penalty under which the whole world rests. [Only believers have even reckonedly escaped that condemnation which came upon all through Adam's disobedience.] Society does not do more than this; it has no right to torture him. Neither can it go beyond the present life to interfere in any degree with that future resurrection life, which our Lord's ransom has made secure to every man. These men who have so misused the present brief spark of life, were no doubt deluded egotists who vainly supposed they knew far better than the people what is advantageous and beneficial for all, and in the next age (the Millenium) when they get their share of the ransom which our Lord gave for all, they will be enabled to see clearly, under the Great Teacher's instructions, the ways of righteousness, wisdom and peace, and some of them we may hope will be converted by that knowledge into servants of God and supporters of divine law and order.
The Law of God given to Israel directed and commanded them to visit capital punishment in such serious cases. Some, however, will perhaps remark—The TOWER's teaching is that the Law was for the Jewish nation, and that we are under the law of love during the Gospel age. Very true, we answer, and in our reference to "society", "the people", "the masses", etc., we had no reference to the little minority, the virgin of Christ, the church, the sanctified in Christ Jesus. These are "not of the world." In our consideration of the world, the people, and what they are justified in doing, viz., making laws, electing executors of those laws, prosecuting wars in defence of liberties etc., trying and executing anarchists, and all such business, we exempt and except the church (real) entirely and always, as the Lord and the apostles did. As consecrated new creatures, representatives of Christ our Lord in the world, we have nothing to do with such things, but are to leave those things to the world, while we follow the Master and exemplify his teachings, which are totally unsuited to the world under the evil conditions of the present. And not the least embarrassing feature of our case is that we must be misunderstood by many of our neighbors, who know us not, even as they knew not our Master and his course.—1 John 3:1.