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On view here are two of the several publications issued on both sides of the Atlantic in behalf of the anarchists. A few of these were from voices outside the radical community. While he labored endlessly for clemency, William Salter of the Ethical Culture Society nevertheless angered many of the convicted men's political sympathizers in his lecture "What Shall Be Done with the Anarchists." Although he maintained that their crime was sedition, not murder, Salter conceded that all the defendants went beyond the limits of free speech and should be imprisoned, but he maintained that their crime was sedition, not murder.
In addition, he contended that there were different degrees of guilt among them, and that they should be punished accordingly. Lingg, Engel, and Fischer were the most culpable, and thus should receive a harsher treatment than the others, but none of the men deserved the death sentence. In Salter's opinion, expressed here and in another pamphlet, the cure for anarchy was social justice, not repression, and certainly not an unjust trial. Salter first presented "What Shall Be Done with the Anarchists" as a talk at the Grand Opera House on October 23, 1887, a little more than two weeks before the executions.
Matthew M. Trumbull, a Chicago attorney who had no regard for the anarchists' ideas but was appalled at the conduct of the trial, agreed with Salter's opinion that the state had turned sedition into murder. Trumbull called the verdict "a revengeful judgment" rendered by a "class jury." In his opinion, the handling of the case turned justice topsy-turvy: "Never before, except in burlesque, was the meaning of words reversed as in the Anarchist trial. Logic stood on its head, and reasoned with its heels." Trumbull said that there was no need for him to ridicule the contrived way in which the Illinois Supreme Court traced the crime back to a conspiracy. "It is the language of the opinion itself that throws sarcasm upon the decision."
Trumbull's view was understandably more warmly received by friends of the condemned men than was Salter's. In the week before the execution, Lucy Parsons sold copies of "Was It a Fair Trial" for five cents apiece in downtown Chicago. A newspaper story reported that she attracted "a dense crowd that filled up Clark Street and stopped traffic as completely as a Presidential parade could have done." According to the respectful article, Parsons found several customers. If she did endure some harassment from the police, she met with far less hostility than on many other occasions:
"In vain the cab-drivers rang their bells, and the expostulations of a hundred teamsters were equally in vain. Finally a couple of officers came up and took Mrs. Parsons before Chief Ebersold. That official thought the matter over, and decided that Mrs. Parsons had the same right to sell her books that other venders of literature had, and said she might continue in the book business as long as she pleased, provided she did not blockade the sidewalks and streets. Her demeanor during the interview with the Chief was modest and lady-like in the extreme, and in a subsequent talk with a reporter she said that she fully realized the necessity of the order to keep the streets clear, and would do all in her power to assist the officers in the work. Accordingly on returning to the office and getting a fresh supply of books she, instead of standing in front of the building, walked briskly down the street to the Post-Office handing out books faster than she could make change. On gaining the steps of the Government building she once more was surrounded by a large crowd, and was told by a Deputy Marshal to move on. She obeyed and continued to walk through the streets until completely exhausted, when she went up into Devine's office [where she had picked up the pamphlets]. In the few hours she was out she sold nearly 5,000 copies of the book at 5 cents each."