Sacco And Vanzetti Essay, Research Paper
Sacco and Vanzetti
In May of 1920, Italian anarchists- Sacco and Vanzetti, were charged and tried for the murders of a paymaster and guard at a South Braintree shoe factory. After being found guilty and put to death, questions quickly erupted from the public. It is the belief of many, including myself, is that one or neither of these men were guilty. The trial was unjust and the judge was bias and lead the jury toward a conviction! These men were prosecuted without a proper chance to prove their innocence and were treated badly from the start because of their anarchistic backgrounds.
Let us begin at their beginning. It was in Torremaggiore, Italy 22 April 1891 that Fernando “Nando” Sacco was born to Michele and Angela Mosmacotti-Sacco as their third son of seventeen children. Sacco was a healthy child who loved the out door life, he spent many days working with his brothers and sisters on his family farm. Sacco never finished school, in fact, he quit school after only reaching third grade to help on his family?s farm.(Avrich, 10) Sacco?s closest friend was a man named Sabino. No one was ever as close to Sacco as Sabino- they worked together, drank together and shared hopes and dreams. It was after Sabino returned from the army that Sacco began developing strong political views. Sabino had learned much in the army from other soldiers, who were angered by the governments decisions in treaties of land and sent many the soldiers off to die. (Avrich, 16) Both Sacco and Sabino were becoming socialists and joined others in
their crusades. They would often go to “socialist clubs” in town. Now, burning in both their hearts was need to immigrate to America.
He loved the idea of a free country where he could speak his mind and not be silenced. Sacoo said it best at his trial, “I was crazy about this country,” which was perhaps another high point because it was thousands of miles from his father, who was loyal to the government as a Mazzinian Republican- clearly created friction between the two, however out of respect, Sacco would not discuss politics very often with his father and was not a loud voice in public, perhaps saving that for America. (Avrich, 23)
Meanwhile, on the other end of the country, a man named Bartolmeo Vanzetti also planned his move to the U.S. Life started for Vanzetti on the 11 June 1888, he was the eldest of four children born the Giovan Battista and Giovanna Niello Vanzetti. Similar to Sacco, Vanzetti was a farm boy, he raised pigs and his family also had a farm. However, contrary to Sacco, Vanzetti had always been known as very intelligent. (Avrich, 30) By all that knew Vanzetti, he was thought to have become a professor or priest, but his father did not want Vanzetti to go off to higher learning , he believed it best for Vanzetti to become a laborer as he had. Vanzetti held many odd jobs including work as a cook at his father?s restaurant, not knowing what he was to make of his life. He later worked at a bakery for over a year and a half beginning in 1901, never feeling he was living up to his potential. (Joughin, 109) Form 1904 to 1907 Vanzetti had done everything from
bartending to making Carmel. He resented his father for depriving his of knowledge and forcing him into hard labor. When his father became ill in 1907, Vanzetti returned home, later writing?
And So I returned after six years spent in the
fetid atmosphere of bakeries and restaurants kitchens,
with rarely a breath of God?s air or a glimpse of His glorious world.
Six years that might have been beautiful to a boy
avid of learning and thirsty for a refreshing draught
of the simple country life of his native village.
Years of the great miracle which transforms the child into the man. (Avrich,188)
It is clear that Vanzetti wanted more for himself. This led to his immigration in June of 1908, just two months after Sacco arrived with his dear friend Sabino. Sacco found himself in Milford when he got to the U.S. and life was good for Sacco. (Avrich, 35) He grew up quickly from the boyish seventeen year old he started as to be a married man with child. He loved his wife Rosina and his son Dante and worked very hard for their happiness. Sacco became what every immigrant wanted, he immigrated to America and became a success. A good job, a great family, and utter happiness. Vanzetti on the other hand was not so lucky, he in fact had a terrible time after his immigration. He held laborious jobs and found himself in dead end jobs all over the New England area.
It was the I.W.W. weekly Il Prolentario that sparked anarchistic beliefs in Sacco again. He saw how workers were striking for more rights in the work place and in 1912, they felt like slaves and demanded benefits from their employers. (Russell, 94) This led Sacco to join the crusade by helping the strikers families with food and money. He realized that something had to be done, the working man deserved more. Although they did not meet yet, this same strike caught the attention of Vanzetti, who contributed money and spoke out on the worker?s behalf, said Vanzetti, “I worked. I wished with all my faculties that the social wealth would belong to (everyone)?so well as it was the fruit of the work of all.” (Russell, 100) Vanzetti after all, was included in this statement- he was a hard worker as well. While Sacco joined the Circolo di Studi Socialo, which was an anarchist group meeting to speak out again the capitalist system, Vanzetti began giving speeches on such topics and providing literature for the Cronaca Sovversiva, which was an anarchist magazine. He dove completely into making people aware of anarchist view point and the flaws in the government. The worst was yet to come however, on the 6 April 1917, President Wilson declared war on the Central Powers of Europe. (Aiuto, 30-31)
The government made it a requirement for all men ages 17-25 to register to go into the army, as many men refused to be a part of the war effort; this included both Sacco, Vanzetti and many of their fellow anarchists! The penalty for not registering was jail time, fines, and for immigrants- deportation! Sacco and Vanzetti, like many other anarchists, decided that they should flee to Mexico, where they would not be caught by
U.S. officials. It was not much later that Wilson passed the Espionage Act and most importantly the Sedition Act, which took away American?s first Amendment. (Aiuto, 75) This of coarse outraged many Americas, especially anarchists who used their First Amendment rights to speak their minds and spread their message. Dozens of anarchists around this time were arrested and the public and government began seeing them as terrible sinners who were going against America as they put it down in such a severe time in war. Wilson expected nothing short of, “100% Americanism.”(Russell, 60) It was the time in Mexico that Sacco and Vanzetti finally met, they shared views and joined and formed organizations in Mexico together. It was in 22 February 1918, that the FBI managed to get a warrant and obtain many documents from the Cronaca Sovversiva, the newsletter that held information on many active anarchists including Sacco and Vanzetti, these simple men from Italy were now wanted men.
Things truly “exploded” in 1919, as a large anarchist leader, Galleani, was deported. Fellow anarchists held demonstrations in his honor, setting off bombs in heavily populated areas, Sacco and Vanzetti were later linked to these bombings. (Avrich, 133) The Anarchists that were caught, were immediately departed, often without trial. One such anarchist brother who died around this time was a Mr. Salsedo who had a family, a wife and three children. Salsedo was very important in revolutionizing anarchy and anarchist organizations. Both Sacco and Vanzetti were close to the family and had written a letter to others in their organization to raise money for the family. On their way to
deliver the letter they were stopped by the police and at 9:40 PM, 5 May 1920, Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested for the murder of a paymaster and a guard at a shoe factory. (CourtTV)
Now is when things get complicated. The police really had no concrete evidence that would convict either man. Witnesses saw three men, only in the shadows, saying one was only 5?2, which neither Sacco, nor Vanzetti fit. Also, both men had alibis on the night in question, 24 December 1919. The only incriminating evidence was that Sacco had a Colt .32, which matched the gun that was used in the murders, but the Colt .32 was a very popular weapon at the time and ballistics evidence, which we will go more in-depth in later, was not sufficient enough to match them exactly. Newspapers and the police led the public to believe that they had the right men however, nothing could be farther from the truth, however their innocence was clouded by the mistakes made by the men early on. (CourtTV) They lied to the police investigator, Chief Michael E. Steward. They were known to be anarchists by the documentation found by the FBI. Sacco and Vanzetti, not knowing this, denied their anarchist backgrounds because they believed that would put them under even more harsh scrutiny. Also, they did not immediately hand over their guns. Though there still shouldn?t have been enough to convict them, prosecutors presented their case to go to trial and hoped that the animosity toward anarchists would lead to a conviction. (Joughin, 155)
Sacco and Vanzetti did however go to trial for the murders of both men. Any other possible witnesses were suspects, (who were local gang members and other members of anarchist organizations),were dismissed and only one credible witness testified saying he saw three shadowed figures of men firing their guns at the victims and taking their money. The witness also indicated Sacco and Vanzetti specifically in the court room, though earlier recordings of his story did not include having a facial visual. With their anarchist background hanging over their heads, prosecutors pushed their beliefs into the laps of the jurors shocking them in a time when “Americanism” as Wilson called it, was very important to American citizen and government officials. And finally, although the evidence was limited, both Sacco and Vanzetti were found guilty on 14 July 1921 for murder in the first degree; they were sentenced to death. They were finally executed on 23 August 1927. (Aiuto, 160)
And so for the last 80 years, the government recorded Sacco and Vanzetti as anarchistic murderers, however just as fast as the guilty verdict came back, theories of their innocence surfaced as well. To begin with, the judge in this case was Judge Webster Thayer, were was very openly antianarchist. He would sustain objections by the defense, sway the jury by comments he would make, and publicly brag about how he would see that Sacco and Vanzetti would get exactly what was coming to them; is this not bias? Also, the lead defense attorney, long standing friend of Sacco, Frederick H. Moore
was known as a defender of radicals. He was known also to having a personal grudge with the judge before, during and after the trial. Moreover, some of the jurors were personally chosen by sheriff deputies. (Avrich, 196-199) The same sheriff deputies who aided the prosecution toward a conviction, is this not bias? The United States is supposed to provide a quick and fair trial for everyone This included Sacco and Vanzetti, and yet- its seems now as though they did not get that. Possibly the most shocking was that no one else was ever convicted, even though the witness saw three figures. Also, Sacco and Vanzetti never confessed to the crimes even until their dying day.
Further suspicions came up when a man in prison spoke out about the Morelli Gang who was infamous around the area for many crimes and many more murders. According to one prisoner, who was never identified, because he feared for his life as he was directly related to the gang said the Morelli gang, “? had stolen the payroll, killing two people. They bragged about it. Everyone knew that the metal boxes which had contained the payroll were thrown into the deepest end of Canada Pond. So I am not at all surprised that (Sacco and Vanzetti) were railroaded?”. (Joughin/Avrich) Could this be true? Could the Morelli gang be involved in such a crime? This certainly isn?t far fetched as this was on their “terf” so to speak, but still, to prove beyond a shadow of doubt, the evidence would have had to been severe, and at the time it was not. There were also holes everywhere and the main focus, which pinned Sacco?s Colt .32 to the murder weapon could not be proved with ballistics in 1920, the science was not sophisticated enough just
yet. (CourtTV) The next step was appeals, but the Judge, as expected threw out any appeal saying enough evidence could never be presented to prove the innocence of the two men. Finally in 1926, the governor, made a final decision that the penalty would stick. Some thirty years after both men were put to death ballistics science was sufficient and Sacco?s gun was reviewed endlessly?it matched exactly to the weapon used to kill the victims, Sacco, not Vanzetti was involved. This meant that any bearing on ballistics that swayed the jury to a conviction, could not be used against Vanzetti, now leaving no real evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he (Vanzetti), was guilty.
Yet still, after eighty years since the verdict, not all the questions for the Sacco and Vanzetti trial have not been answered. Some believe the gun was planted and tampered with. Still others focus on the trial which was given to the men, it was unfair and unjust. One or both of the men were truly not guilty, and it was because they were pioneers in fight the loss of the First Amendment and fleeing to Mexico that sunk them in court. (Avrich, 58) The juror were men that had just seen a terrible war, a world war and anti-government supporters were not on the top of their list of people to give the benefit of the doubt. It was exactly what Sacco and Vanzetti fought in their life of freedom that lead to their life of incarceration and inevitably death, government corruption. Vanzetti wrote on death row, “If we have to die for a crime of which we are innocent, we ask for revenge, revenge in our names and in the names of our living and dead?I will try to see Thayer
death?I will put fire into the human breaths!” Until the day they died, both men proclaimed their innocence.