As result of the Industrial Revolution, people in America earned more money, most of which they used to open new businesses and factories. There were now many different types of machines to do the work that people had to do themselves in the past. Thus, machines rapidly replaced people. Now with less people working and getting paid, there were people that could afford what these factories were making. Most of the people working in the United States at this time were immigrants, so they were forced to work for very low wages.
A working adult would be considered lucky to bring home a daily income of only $2. 00. Kids on the other hand, only made about 70 cents a day for spending their entire childhood sorting through coal or performing other strenuous jobs. Most people worked between ten and fourteen hours each day with peanuts for income. As result, Chicago Illinois, as well as many other cities in the United States, fell into poverty. However, not all employees at this time were cruel and blackhearted. Most at the time though just wanted to get the most out of their employees for the least amount of pay.
Soon the Labor Union movement started. People in this union wanted to ban child labor, increase pay, and to create shorter workdays. Conflict after conflict broke out spawning from the Labor Union; many of which the police were brought in to settle. By 1886, the major concern of the Labor Union was to establish an eight-hour workday. By now there were several unions, all of which could not agree with one another on how to fight for this rightfully deserved demand. Finally, the Knights of Labor, who originated in Chicago, organized a nation wide strike.
However, the newspapers, business leaders, and politicians didn t agree with these actions. They said, the new eight-hour workday would promote loafing, gambling, rioting, debauchery and drunkenness (Simon). Knowing that they would be fired, workers still stood up for what they believed in and followed through with the strike. On May1, 1886, the strike stared. More than 300,000 workers went on strike in nine different cities across the vast nation. One of these cities was Boston. However, only a few employers nation wide granted their employees the shorter workday.
As result, the next two months were filled with the police, the strikers, and the scabs. Scabs were people who refused to go on strike with the rest of their coworkers. They acquired this name from the angry strikers. On May 3, 1886, more than 500 strikers met up with some scabs as they were leaving a plant in Chicago. The agitated mob blasted the scabs with sticks, rocks, and just about anything they could possible get their hands on. This continued until police arrived and eventually broke up the fight. August Spies then proceeded to organize a protest meeting in Haymarket Square.
The strikers were told to be armed in case the police resorted to violence on them. The following day when Spies came to the meeting he spoke in front of about 1,200 people. Albert Parsons, along with Spies and other speakers, spoke of the McCormick riot, and the rights and the responsibilities of the American worker. Then as it began to rain, people slowly began to leave and head home. One of the many to leave was the mayor of the city, Charter H. Harrison. On the way home he stopped off at the police station to tell the officers on stand-by that they could go home because the protest was peaceful.
About ten minutes later, two undercover agents came to the police station and said that there were some offensive things being said at the protest, and that the officers should go break it up. When the police arrived at Haymarket Square, some words as well as actions were shared between the strikers and the police. Before long, a bomb was anonymously thrown into the crowd of police. This was the first time a bomb like this was used in the United States. Quickly responding to the bomb, the police officers began to fire into the crowd of strikers and all hell broke loose.
As result of the bomb, one police officer was killed instantly, and six others died within the next two weeks because of serious wounds. The following day the newspapers were loaded with headlines which accused Spies, Parsons, and Fielden of releasing this deadly bomb into the crowd. Some newspapers even said that the Haymarket riot, anarchists, and socialists were the reason for other disturbances around the country. They said that punishments should be dealt to Spies, Parsons and Fielden, because people of the United States were accusing them of murder.
However, one newspaper reported that if the police hadn t raided the protest, there wouldn t have been a bomb thrown, because there wouldn t have been anything to spark the argument. Another newspaper, the Labor Enquirer, wrote in one of it s articles, twice as many honest men were murdered in coal mines as have been killed in Chicago, and there isn t any noise at all about it (americanhistory. com). Still other papers wrote that is working and living conditions were better, then none of this probably would have happened.
Captain Michael J. Shaak was so outraged by the Haymarket riot that he arrested hundreds of people who attended the protest that day, or even the people who were suspected of being there. While making all these arrests, the captain discovered secret societies and bombs, on top of many other conspiracies. Without warrants, he continued his investigation by breaking into houses. Then he proceeded to beat and bribe people into saying that they were witnesses to what went on in the Haymarket Square. However, out of all these hundreds of people who were arrested, only eight people were brought to an actual trial.
These eight people were August Spies, Albert Parsons, Samuel Fielden, Adolph Fisher, Michael Schwabb, Louis Lingg, Oscar Neebee, and George Engel. Horribly enough, only three out of these eight men were actually at Haymarket square when the riot broke out. On June 21, 1886, the trial for these eight men began. The defendants were said to be the underdogs because the jury was hand-picked by Judge Joseph E. Gary, who desperately wanted these men to be convicted of murder. Many people considered the defendants guilty, and these people wanted the men to face the same punishment as the people who lost their lives in the riot.
In other words, they were wanted dead. Before the trial started, Judge Joseph E. Gary was quoted saying, those fellows are going to be hanged as certain as death (Encarta 99). The main attack by the defense during the trial was that the jury was prejudice. However, the judge simply overruled all these attempts made by the defense, and the unfair trial proceeded. During the trial, the state s attorney was allowed to ask whatever he wanted to. Also, the defense was not allowed to cross-examine the witnesses, who were mostly police men or false witnesses, in order to convict the men of the crime.
As the trial proceeded, the police repedily showed bombs and referred to the men as anarchists. Even though there was no evidence to prove that the defendants knew anything about the bomb or who threw it, they were eventually convicted of murder. On the morning of August 20, the jury entered the courtroom with their verdict. Seven out of the eight men on trial were sentenced to death. Oscar Neebee was the only one who was sentenced to jail time. He received a whopping fifteen years in jail for a crime he did not even commit. However, he was the only one out of the eight men who was allowed to live.
Some newspapers reported that these men were on trial only because of their political views. However, most people did not care to agree with these statements and controversy continues to brew. When the verdict was announced that dreadful morning, people outside the courtroom lit up with excitement and joy. Some were so happy that they were willing to award the jury with a cash bonus just for convicting the defendants. The only people that were sad over the verdict were the families of the defense, the lawyers, and of course the defendants themselves.
The press then went on to say that the only bad thing about the whole trial was that the defendants were not able to appeal seeing as how they were sentenced to death. Appeal to the verdict was exactly what the defendants lawyers did. On March 13, 1887, six judges from the Illinois Supreme Court met in Ottawa to listen to the appeal. When the judges were done reviewing the case they admitted that it was a very unfair trial. However, they failed to do anything about it. The defense attorney, Mr. Black, then tried for an appeal at U. S. court headquarters, but they refused to even look at the case.
Finally the defense went to their last resort, the governor of Illinois, to ask for a pardon. It was great timing by the defense because the public was beginning to feel sorry for the seven doomed men. Some people wrote to the governor stating that the only thing these men were guilty of was their opinion. Finally the governor decided to hold a hearing for these men. That day was filled with a lot of appeals and arguments. On November 11, 1887, the governor announced that there would be no pardon. However, now only four out of the eight men would be executed.
It would have been five but Louis Lingg was found earlier that morning with half his head blown off. It was ruled a suicide. Michael Shwab and Samuel Fielden got their death sentences lessened to life in prison. So now Parsons, Spies, Fisher, and Engel would be put to death. Amazingly they accepted this sentence without any outrage or resistance. That same day, the four remaining men walked to their deathsite. As they were being prepared to be hanged, Spies bellowed out his last words which were, There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!
Immediately after Parsons let out his final words, Will I be allowed to speak for men of America? Let the voice of the people be heard! But before they could all finish they were hanged. Their funeral was held at Waldheim Cemetery, and was attended by more than fifteen thousand people. Eventually what these courageous men fought for was granted. The eight men hour workday was established, and these eight men became known as heroes. After these men were killed, the governor of Illinois, John P. Altged, reviewed the case and issued a pardon for all eight men that were tried.
He discovered that the jurors were unfair, what the judge did was illegal, and ultimately that all eight men were innocent. As result, the three men in jail, Feilden, Schwab, and Neebee, were all released from jail and acquitted of all charges. Still to this day, it is unknown who threw the bomb in Haymarket Square, and killed the policemen. We will probably never know who the actual bomber really was. However, there is now an international workers holiday on May 1, dedicated to what went down that day in Haymarket Square, which has now became known as the Haymarket Riot.
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