‘Day of Martyrdom’ from The Alarm (Chicago). Vol. 1 No. 2. November 19, 1887.

Special. The original 1887 report on the execution of the Haymarket Martyrs from Albert Parson’s ‘The Alarm’ newspaper, which had been resurrected by Dyer Lum in November, 1887 to cover the executions. Still incredibly moving 135 years later.

‘Day of Martyrdom’ from The Alarm (Chicago). Vol. 1 No. 2. November 19, 1887.

The Modern Cross Erected by Industrial Barons for Nineteenth Century Heretics. Our Martyrs Refuse to Cower Beneath the Terrors of Caesar and Leave Their Mantle for Their Successors to Bear.


November Eleventh has introduced a new era. On this day were born immortal souls marching on in the hearts of the down-trodden to animate, inspire, and encourage in the path of duty.

Early in the morning our comrades were awake. Parsons ate fried oysters and seemed to enjoy them. While breakfasting he recited Marc Cook’s beautiful poem, entitled “Waiting,” with smiling features.

“Tell me, O sounding sea, I pray,
Eternally undulating,
Where Is the good ship that sailed away
Once on a long-gone summer’s day sailed
and left me waiting?”

After a while spent in conversation, the question of his funeral arising, he again drew upon his retentive memory and expressed his inmost thoughts in these beautiful lines:

“Come not to my grave with your mourning,
With your lamentations and tears,
With your sad forebodings and fears;
When my lips are dumb
Do not come!

“Bring no long train of carriages,
No hearse crowned with waving plumes,
Which the gaunt glory of death Illumes;
But with hands on my breast
Let me rest.

“Insult not my dust with your pity,
Ye who’re left on this desolate shore,
Still to suffer and lose and deplore,
Tis I should, as I do,
Pity you.

“For me no more are the hardships,
The bitterness, heartaches and strife,
The sadness and sorrow of life;
But the glory divine–
This Is mine!

“Poor creatures! Afraid of the darkness.
Who groan at the anguish to come,
How silent I go to my home!
Cease your sorrowful bell;
I am well!”

Engel rose at 6 o’clock, having had a good, sound night’s rest. “I hope we have a nice day and have a good time,” he said, jokingly. “If another minister comes let me see him. I hope I will do him more good than he does me.” George Engel, kind, tenderhearted, reserved only to strangers; a cool, philosophical thinker, needed no ”consideration.” The last words written on the morning of his martyrdom were:

Fuer Freiheit und Recht
Wlr kaempften nicht schlecht.
For freedom and right
We made a good fight.

The Jenkins of the press report: “Beneath the outer surface of the man there was more than even the closest observers dreamt of. When his hand touched the pen for the last time it did not tremble. Engel was a painter, and had given the angular letters of the Teutonic script quite an artistic flourish, signing beneath them his name in a firm hand.”

“Fischer,” said one of the deputies, “is the jolliest fellow of the lot. When I asked him last night what was, his last wish, he replied, sarcastically: “A bottle of champagne,” with the coolness and sangfroid of a veteran. Fischer, the youngest of the four, talked calmly of the situation; spoke tenderly and feelingly of his wife and family, and with a shrug of his shoulders said: “It is far easier for me to die than for my enemies to bear the burden of it.”

Upon turning away from his morning ablution Spies was asked how he felt; he simply raised his hand, calling attention to the fact that it was perfectly steady, and with his usual smile repeated these lines:

“This hand is as steady
As when in the old days
It plucked the already
Ripe fruit from Life’s tree-
The apples that weighted the boughs in the gold days
When blazed the great sun of promise for me.

“Yes, perfectly steady,
With no trace of trembling,
Though all is now ready,
This dainty glass here:
Pray, observe, there is nothing remotely resembling the outward expression of commonplace fear.”

The hour approached. Let us skip the details as related by the crowd of reporters who were eagerly watching for a symptom of weakness as the hawk does for its prey. Not a muscle quivered as the death warrant was read. Not a cheek blanched at the mummery of dressing them in white shrouds was performed. Spies smiled disdainfully. Fischer looked scornfully around. Engel stood as a soldier at “attention,” and during the reading his firmly set mouth became mobile, and a slight smile flitted over his face.” Parson’s hand “played carelessly with his short, black mustache.”

“Yes, we are ready to go before a higher tribunal,” said Spies, in clear unflinching tones. Their faces were lit up as by inspiration. As they moved out from their cells Parsons turned to the Jenkins of the press, who were carefully scrutinizing every action, and said, sarcastically: “won’t you come inside?”

A minute later they stood upon the scaffold. Permission had been refused to speak. The nooses were quickly adjusted, the caps pulled down, and ”an unusually hasty movement made for the traps.” Then from behind the hoods came these words: Spies: ”There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!”

Engel: “Hurrah for Anarchy!”

Fischer: “Hurrah for Anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life!”

Parsons: ”Will I be allowed to speak, O men of America? Let me speak, Sheriff Matson! Let the voice of the people be heard! O–“ But the signal had been given, and the officers of the state performed their mission by strangling both speakers and speech.

“Here endeth the first lesson! “

The Alarm was an extremely important paper at a momentous moment in the history of the US and international workers’ movement. The Alarm was the paper of the International Working People’s Association produced weekly in Chicago and edited by Albert Parsons. The IWPA was formed by anarchists and social revolutionists who left the Socialist Labor Party in 1883 led by Johann Most who had recently arrived in the States. The SLP was then dominated by German-speaking Lassalleans focused on electoral work, and a smaller group of Marxists largely focused on craft unions. In the immigrant slums of proletarian Chicago, neither were as appealing as the city’s Lehr-und-Wehr Vereine (Education and Defense Societies) which armed and trained themselves for the class war. With 5000 members by the mid-1880s, the IWPA quickly far outgrew the SLP, and signified the larger dominance of anarchism on radical thought in that decade. The Alarm first appeared on October 4, 1884, one of eight IWPA papers that formed, but the only one in English. Parsons was formerly the assistant-editor of the SLP’s ‘People’ newspaper and a pioneer member of the American Typographical Union. By early 1886 Alarm claimed a run of 3000, while the other Chicago IWPA papers, the daily German Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers’ Newspaper) edited by August Spies and weeklies Der Vorbote (The Harbinger) had between 7-8000 each, while the weekly Der Fackel (The Torch) ran 12000 copies an issue. A Czech-language weekly Budoucnost (The Future) was also produced. Parsons, assisted by Lizzie Holmes and his wife Lucy Parsons, issued a militant working-class paper. The Alarm was incendiary in its language, literally. Along with openly advocating the use of force, The Alarm published bomb-making instructions. Suppressed immediately after May 4, 1886, the last issue edited by Parson was April 24. On November 5, 1887, one week before Parson’s execution, The Alarm was relaunched by Dyer Lum but only lasted half a year. Restarted again in 1888, The Alarm finally ended in February 1889. The Alarm is a crucial resource to understanding the rise of anarchism in the US and the world of Haymarket and one of the most radical eras in US working class history.

PDF of full issue: https://dds.crl.edu/item/54019

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