As the date of the executions neared, and all forms of appeal through the courts had failed, the amnesty movement gained considerable support by enlisting several Chicagoans whose commitment to law and order in particular and to the welfare of the city in general was above question. These included judges Murray F. Tuley, Thomas Moran, William K. McAllister, and Frank Baker; Lyman Trumbull, former judge, senator, and law partner of Abraham Lincoln; and numerous clergymen, attorneys, and elected officials. People of similar standing in other cities also appealed to the governor.

The petition that many Chicagoans signed read as follows:

"We, the undersigned, residents of Chicago and vicinity, holding in abhorrence the doctrines and methods of anarchy, yet believing that the great ends of justice and the safety of the State would be better served by a commutation of the sentence against Spies, Schwab, Fielden, Parsons, Engel, Fischer, and Lingg than by carrying it into effect, most earnestly and respectfully ask you to exercise your prerogative of clemency at this time."

Tuley said that he agreed with Salter's view that there were different degrees of guilt among the defendants. Tuley was also troubled by the fact that several of the prisoners were all too eager to die for their cause. He felt that "the best interests of the society lie in not permitting them to become martyrs." As noted, even Judge Gary, who did not appreciate his fellow judges' questioning his conduct of the trial, recommended clemency for Fielden.

Several leaders of the predominantly Republican business community also favored commutation of the sentence, among them Lyman Gage (on the left, in a cabinet card photograph by Mosher & Company), vice president (soon to be president) of the First National Bank, president of the American Bankers' Association, and future secretary of the treasury in the McKinley administration.

But these Republicans hardly represented the majority viewpoint among their peers, or among "respectable" Chicago as a whole. To remind the public why the anarchists were on death row, the Chicago Tribune's front page on November 6 carried a two-column story on the "Haymarket Victims." The story included portraits of the slain policemen and members of the fatherless families, as well as descriptions of the officers' terrible wounds and pain, and of their wives' and children's suffering and sense of loss. The paper also listed contributions to date for a proposed monument to the police.

Numerous others, including department story magnate Marshall Field, remained fixed in their opposition to clemency. Immediately after the bombing, Field had been one of a group of businessmen who told Mayor Harrison to crack down on social radicals. One of Field's employees, Frank Osborne, served as foreman of the jury, and another, Malvern Thompson, provided key testimony for the state (see Act III).

Field was among the fifty leading businessmen called together by Gage just before the execution when the latter had received an indication from Governor Oglesby that he would commute the sentences of Parsons, Spies, Schwab, and Fielden if such a group recommended it. Gage made his appeal, but Field's opposition to clemency caused the banker's efforts to fail. Field did not himself discuss the issue, but instead brought along State's Attorney Julius Grinnell to speak for him in opposition to clemency. According to social reformer Henry Lloyd, one of the most active members of the clemency movement, Field's influence was too much for Gage to overcome.