Click on the title page on the left to read Governor Altgeld's pardon of the surviving Haymarket defendants (the document is over 16,000 words, and it might take a moment to appear).
The bulk of Altgeld's lengthy statement focused on his analysis of the several reasons offered for pardoning the anarchists: the jury was intentionally packed, its members were "by their own answers" during examination not competent to try the accused, the defendants were not proved guilty of the actual crime with which they were charged, the state's attorney himself believed that there was no case against Neebe, and "the trial judge was either so prejudiced against the defendants, or else so determined to win the applause of a certain class in the community, that he could not and did not grant a fair trial."
Altgeld made it very clear at the outset that, while institutions in the United States were imperfect, they were the best available and must be protected. Sounding very much like Grinnell or Gary, Altgeld agreed that "Government must defend itself," and murder, whether committed by an individual directly or by someone acting on that individual's advice, "must be punished." As for the defendants' politics, Altgeld declared, "The soil of America is not adapted to the growth of anarchy."
Altgeld then reviewed the list of objections to the conduct of the trial. Citing bailiff Henry Ryce's proud claim that he had managed the selection of jurors to make sure that the defendants would be convicted, Altgeld found that the jury was indeed packed and prejudiced. Quoting from the questioning of more than a dozen representative men from the jury pool, Altgeld demonstrated that they freely admitted their bias. As for the twelve men who tried the case, they, too, admitted that their prejudices before saying that they would, nevertheless, try to listen impartially.
Altgeld pointed out that the Illinois Supreme Court had stated in a recent case that once it is "clearly shown that there exists in the mind of the juror, at the time he is called to the jury box, a fixed and positive opinion as to the merits of the case, or as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant he is called to try, his statement that, notwithstanding such opinion, he can render a fair and impartial verdict according to the law and evidence, has little, if any tendency to establish his impartiality." The Haymarket jury was clearly incompetent by this standard. Once Judge Gary ruled them competent "simply because they had, under his adroit manipulation, been led to say that they believed they could try the case fairly on the evidence, then the proceedings lost all semblance of a fair trial."
Altgeld next weighed the evidence itself. He dismissed as preposterous Grinnell and Gary's argument that men could be convicted of conspiracy to commit murder if the identity of the actual murderer was unknown, or if it was known but the state could prove no direct personal connection to the supposed "conspirators." His scorn evident, Altgeld stated that "in all the centuries during which government has been maintained among men, and crime has been punished, no judge in a civilized country has ever laid down such a rule before." Unless the state could name the bomb-thrower, it could not connect these men to the crime.
Referring to Superintendent Ebersold's derisive comments about Captain Schaack's raids, Altgeld dismissed the whole notion of "a gigantic anarchistic conspiracy" as totally absurd. In addition, he criticized the police and the Pinkertons for their overzealous brutality. Altgeld cited statements from several people—including the vice president of People's Gas Light and Coke Company and even Michael Schaack—that condemned the indiscriminate and unprovoked clubbing during the streetcar strike of 1885 and during eight-hour activity the following year. Altgeld theorized that the bombing was an act of personal revenge caused by such violence, "and that Capt. Bonfield is the man who is really responsible for the death of the police officers."
As for Fielden and Schwab, Altgeld cited statements from Grinnell and Gary themselves questioning the extent of the men's guilt. And, after examining the evidence against Neebe, the governor contended that "it utterly fails to prove even the shadow of a case against him."
Turning finally to Judge Gary's conduct of the case, Altgeld joined Black and his colleagues in questioning the correctness of trying the eight men together, of restricting the defense's questioning while giving the state free rein, and of making insinuating remarks intended to influence the jury. Coming from the judge, such comments were "far more damaging than any speeches from the State's Attorney could possibly have been."
In short, according to Altgeld, Gary had acted throughout with "malicious ferocity." Although Altgeld said that he would not raise personal charges, he severely criticized Gary's recent article in the Century (see "Judge Gary Files his Plea" in the "Absolute Pardon" section of this Act) as an indication that he was "yet full of venom." Altgeld closed with an expression of astonishment that Gary went so far as to criticize Black's remarks at the anarchists' funeral, stating that that such vindictiveness was "without a parallel in all history; that even Jeffries in England [Baron Jeffreys, the notoriously brutal and corrupt late-seventeenth-century judge and royal adviser] contented himself with hanging his victims, and did not stoop to berate them after death."
Altgeld then concluded:
"These charges are of a personal character, and while they seem to be sustained by the record of the trial and the papers before me, and tend to show the trial was not fair, I do not care to discuss this feature of the case any farther, because it is not necessary. I am convinced that it is clearly my duty to act in this case for the reasons already given, and I, therefore, grant an absolute pardon to Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe and Michael Schwab, this 26th day of June, 1893."