From The Sacco Vanzetti case, vol. V. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1929. 4896-4905.
Statement by Bartolomeo Vanzetti
What I say is that I am innocent, not only of the Braintree crime, but also of the Bridgewater crime. That I am not only innocent of these two crimes, but in all my life I have never stole and I have never killed and I have never spilled blood. That is what I want to say. And it is not all. Not only am I innocent of these two crimes, not only in all my life have I never stole, never killed, never spilled blood, but I have struggled all my life, since I began to reason to eliminate crime from the earth.
Everybody that knows these two arms knows very well that I did not need to go in between the street and kill a man to take the money. I can live with my two arms and live well. But besides that, I can live even without work with my arm for other people. I have had plenty of chance to live independently and to live what the world conceives to be a higher life than not to gain our bread with the sweat of our brow. . . .
Well, I want to reach a little point farther, and it is this. . .not only have I struggled hard against crimes, but I have refused myself the commodity or the glory of life, the pride of life of a good position, because in my consideration it is not right to exploit man. I have refused to go into business because I understand that business is a speculation on profit upon certain people that must depend upon the business man, and I do not consider that that is right and therefore I refuse to do that.
Now, I should say that I am not only innocent of all these things. . .not only have I struggled all my life to eliminate crimes, the crimes that the official law and the official moral condemns, but also the crime that the official moral and the official law sanctions and sanctifies,--the exploitation and the oppression of the man by the man, and of there is reason why I am here as a guilty man, if there is a reason why you in a few minutes can doom me, it is this reason and none else.
I beg your pardon. [referring to paper.] There is more good man I ever cast my eyes upon since I lived, a man that will last and will grow always more near and more dear to the people, as far as into the heart of the people, so long as admiration for the goodness and for sacrifice will last. I mean Eugene Debs. I will say that even a dog that killed the chickens would not have found an American jury to convict it with the proof that the Commonwealth produced against us. That man was not with me in Plymouth or with Sacco where he was on the day of the crime. You can say that it is arbitrary, what we are saying, that he is good and he applied to the other his own goodness, that he is incapable of crime, and he believed that everybody is incapable of crime.
Well, it may be like that but it is not, it could be like that but it is not, and that man has a real experience of court, of prison and of jury. Just because he want the world a little better he was persecuted and slandered from his boyhood to his old age, and indeed he was murdered by the prison. He know, and not only he but every man of understanding in the world, not only in this country but also in other countries, men that we have provided a certain amount of a record of the times, they are all still slick with us, the flower of mankind of Europe, the better writers, the greatest thinkers of Europe, have pleaded in our favor. The scientists, the greatest scientists, the greatest statesmen of Europe, have pleaded in our favor. The people of foreign nations have pleaded in our favor.
It is possible that only a few on the jury, only two or three men, who would condemn their mother for worldly honor and for earthly fortune; is it possible that they are right against what the world, the whole world has to say it is wrong and that I know that it is wrong? If there is one that I should know it, if it is right or wring, it is I and this man. You see it is seven years that we are in jail. What we have suffered during these seven years no human tongue can say, and yet you see me before you, not trembling, you see me looking you in your eyes straight, not blushing, not changing color, not ashamed or in fear.
Eugene Debs say that not even a dog-something like that-not even a dog that kill the chickens would have been found guilty by American jury with the evidence that the Commonwealth have produced against us. I say that not even a leprous dog would have his appeal refused two times by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts-not even a leprous dog.
They have given a new trial to Madeiros for the reason that the Judge had either forgot or omitted to tell the jury that they should consider the man innocent until found guilty in the court, or something of that sort. That man has confessed. The man was tried and has confessed, and the court give him another trial. We have proved that there could not have been another Judge on the face of the earth more prejudiced and more cruel than you have been against us. We have proven that. Still they refuse the new trial. We know, and you know in your heart, that you have been against us from the very beginning, before you see us. Before you see us you already know that we were radicals, that we were underdogs, that we were the enemy of the institution that you can believe in good faith in their goodness-I don't want to condemn that-and that it was easy on the time of the first trial to get a verdict of guiltiness.
We know that you have spoke yourself and have spoke your hostility against us, and your despisement against us with friends of yours on the train, at the University Club of Boston, on the Golf Club of Worcester, Massachusetts. I am sure that if the people who know all what you say against us would have the civil courage to take the stand, maybe your Honor-I am sorry to say this because you are an old man, and I have an old father-but maybe you would be beside is in good justice at this time.
When you sentenced me at the Plymouth trial you say, to the best of my memory, of my good faith, that crimes were in accordance with my principle,--something of that sort,--and you take off one charge, if I remember it exactly, from the jury. The jury was so violent against me that they found me guilty of both charges, because there were only two. But they would have found me guilty of a dozen charges against your Honor's instructions. Of course, I remember that you told them that there was no reason to believe that if I were the bandit I have intention to kill somebody, so that they will take off the indictment of attempt to murder. Well, they found me guilty of what? And if I am right, you take out that and sentence me only for attempt to rob with arms,--something like that. But, Judge Thayer, you give more to me for that attempt of robbery than all the 448 men that were in Charlestown, all of those that attempted to rob, all those that have robbed, they have not such a sentence as you gave me for an attempt at robbery. . . .
We were tried during a time that has now passed into history. I mean by that, a time when there was a hysteria of resentment and hate against the people of our principles, against the foreigner, against slackers, and it seemed to me-rather, I am positive of it, that both you and Mr. Katzmann has done all what it were in your power to order to work out, in order to agitate still more the passion of the juror, the prejudice of the juror, against us. . . .
But the jury were hating us because we were against the war, and the jury don't know that it makes any difference between a man that is against the war because he believes that the war is unjust, because he hate no country, because he is a cosmopolitan, and a man that is against the country in which he is, and therefore a spy, and he commits any crime in the country in which he is in behalf of the other country in order to serve the other country. We are not men of that kind. Katzmann know very well that. Katzmann know that we were against the war because we did not believe it that the war is wrong, and we believe this more now after ten years that we understood it day by day,--the consequences and the result of the after war. We believe more now than ever that the war was wrong, and we are against war more now than ever, and I am glad to be on the doomed scaffold if I can say to mankind, "Look out; you are in a catacomb of the flower of mankind. For what? All that they say to you, all that they have promised to you-it was a lie, it was an illusion, it was a cheat, it was a fraud, it was a crime. They promised you liberty. Where is the liberty? They promised you prosperity. Where is the prosperity? They have promised you elevation. Where is the elevation?
From that day that I went in Charlestown, the misfortune, the population of Charlestown has doubled in number. Where is the moral good that the War has given to the world? Where is the spiritual progress that we have achieved from the War? Where are the security of life, the security of the things that we possess for our necessity? Where are the respect for human life? Where are the respect and admiration for the good characteristics and the good of human nature? Never as now before the war there have been so many crimes, so many corruptions, so many degeneration as there is now. . . .
When two or three women from Plymouth come to take the stand, the woman reach that point where this gentleman sit down over there, the jury were sit down in their place, and Katzmann asked this woman if they have not testified before for Vanzetti, and they say, yes, and he tell them, "You cannot testify." They left the room. After that they testified just same. But in the meanwhile he tell to the jury that I have been tried before. That I think is not to make justice to the man who is looking after the true, and it is a frameup with which he has split my life and doomed me.
It was also said that the defense has put every obstacle to the handling of this case in order to delay the case. That sound weak for us, and I think it is injurious because it is not true. If we consider that the prosecution, the State, has employed one entire year to prosecute us, that is, one of the five years that the case has last was taken by the prosecution to begin our trial, our first trial. That the defense make an appeal to you and you waited, or I think that you were resolute, that you had the resolute in your heart when the trial finished that you will refuse every appeal that we will put up to you. You waited a month or a month and a half and just lay down your decision on the eve of Christmas-just on the evening of Christmas. We do not believe in the fable of the evening of Christmas, neither in the historical way nor in the church way. You know some of our folks still believe in that, and because we do not believe in that, it don't mean that we are not human. We are human, and Christmas is sweet to the heart of every man. I think that you have done that, to hand down your decision on the evening of Christmas, to poison the heart of our family and of our beloved. I am sorry to be compelled to say this, but everything that was said on your side has confirmed my suspicion until that suspicion has changed to certitude. So that you see that one year it has taken before trying us.
That the defense, in presenting the new appeal, has not taken more time that you have taken in answer to that. Then there came to the second appeal, and now I am not sure whether it is the second appeal or the third appeal where you wait eleven months or one year without an answer to us, and I am sure that you have decide to refuse u a new trial before the hearing for the new appeal began. You take one year to answer it or eleven months,--something like that. So that you see that out of the five years, two were taken by the State from the day of our arrest to the trial, and then one year to wait for your answer on the second or third appeal.
Then on another occasion that I don't remember exactly now, Mr. Williams was sick and the things were delayed not for fault of the defense but on account of the fault of the prosecution. So that I am positive that if a man take a pencil in his hand and compute the time taken by the prosecution in prosecuting the case, and the time that was taken by the defense to defend this case, the prosecution has taken more time than the defense, and there is a great consideration that must be taken in this point, and it is that my first lawyer betrayed us,--the whole American population were against us. We have the misfortune to take a man from California, and he came here, and he was ostracized by you and by every authority, even by the jury, and is so much so that no part of Massachusetts is immune from what I would call the prejudice,--that is, to believe that each people in each place of the world, they believe to be the better of the world, and they believe that all the other are not so good as they. So of course the man that came from California into Massachusetts to defend two of us, he must be licked if it is possible, and he was licked all right. And we have our part too.
What I want to say is this: Everybody ought to understand that the first of the defense has been terrible. My first lawyer did not stick to defend us. He has made no work to collect witnesses and evidence in our favor. The record in the Plymouth Court is a pity. I am told that they are almost one-half lost. So the defense had a tremendous work to do in order to collect some evidence, to collect some testimony to offset and to learn what the testimony of the State has done. And in this consideration it must be said that even if the defense take double time of the State without delay, double time that they delay the case it would been reasonable, whereas it took less than the State.
Well, I have already say that I not only am not guilty of these two crimes, but I never commit a crime in my life,--I have never steal and I have never kill and I have never spilt blood, and I have fought against the crime, and I have fought and I have sacrificed myself even to eliminate the crimes that the law and the church legitimate and sanctify.
This is what I say: I would not wish to a dog or to a snake, to the most low and misfortunate creature of the earth-I would not wish to any of them what I have had to suffer for things that I am not guilty of. But my conviction is that I have suffered for things that I am guilty of. I am suffering because I am a radical; I have suffered because I was an Italian, and indeed I am an Italian; I have suffered more for my family and for my beloved than for myself; but I am so convinced to be right that if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times, I would live again to do what I have done already.