Haymarket Affair Digital Collection

Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial transcript no. 1.
Testimony of John J. Ryan, 1886 July 22.

Volume J, 127-139, 13 p.
Ryan, John J.
Retired Naval Officer.

Direct and re-direct examination by Mr. Grinnell. Cross-examination by Captain Black. Testified on behalf of the Prosecution, People of the State of Illinois.

Retired Naval Officer, attended speeches given by the defendants on the Lake Front. Testified on various topics (page numbers provide a partial guide): plans for warfare against the police and/or capitalists (vol.J 129), call for workingmen to arm themselves (vol.J 129), Lake Front meetings (vol.J 127), actions of police during the Haymarket meeting (vol.J 135), Fielden's response to the police advance at Haymarket (vol.J 312), Spies, August (vol.J 127), Parsons, Albert (vol.J 129), Schwab, Michael (vol.J 127), Neebe, Oscar (vol.J 127).

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a witness for The People, having been duly sworn, was examined in chief by Mr. Grinnell, and testified as follows:

Q What is your name?

A John J. Ryan.

Q Mr. Ryan, what is your business?

A I am a retired officer of the United States Navy.

Q Where do you live?

A 274 North Clark Street.

Q How long have you been in Chicago?

A Three years

Q Do you know any of the defendants? Have you ever seen any of them?

A I have seen three or four of them.

Q Who are they?

A Mr. Spies, Mr. Neebe, Mr. Parsons, Mr. Fielden and Mr. Schwab.

Q Spies -- who else?

A Fielden and Mr. Parsons and Mr. Schwab and Mr. Neebe.

Q Where have you seen them?

A Seen them on the lake Front, sir, or Lake Park.

Q On what occasion?

A Their Sunday afternoon meetings during summer and fall.

Q When?

A The summer of last year and the year previous.

Q Did you ever hear them speak?

A Yes, sir.

Mr. SALOMON: We object to all this testimony.

Q Begin with then ---

A I have heard some of them speak, not all of them.

Q Which of them have you heard speak?

A Mr. Spies

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Mr. Parsons and Mr. Fielden.

Q Speak in English?

A Yes, sir.

Q Tell what they have said in the order in which you have named them.

Mr. BLACK: We would like to have the witness locate some particular time when some speech was made, and let us get at them in order and find out who was present at that time, so that we can make intelligent objections.

Mr. GRINNELL: He said he heard them several times on the Lake Front last summer and the year before.

THE COURT: The witness can state as nearly as he can remember, each occasion by itself, and give the date as near as he can. Select one and inquire in regard to that one.

Mr. GRINNELL: Well, Mr. Ryan mention some particular meeting at which you have attended, designate it by time, if you can?

A I cannot designate any of the meetings, except two of them, that they were the two meetings, one previous to their picnic they had last year, and one Sunday afterwards, directly afterwards.

Q The Sunday directly after it?

A Yes, sir. That was in July of last year, I think.

Q Very well, in regard to those meetings that you particularly mention, state what you heard those men say, whom you have mentioned.

THE COURT: Take one at a time and one meeting.

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Mr. GRINNELL: Take Spies.

Mr. BLACK: Now, in behalf of all others except Spies we interpose an objection, especially in behalf of Lingg, Engel and Fischer.

Objection overruled and exception by defendant.

A I cannot say that I saw Mr. Spies at that, at either of those meetings.

Mr. GRINNELL: Very well, mention the individual's name whom you did see?

A Mr. Parsons I remember at one of them

Q State what he said.

Objected to in behalf of all the defendants, except Parsons.

A Well, I cannot give it in his exact words. He was speaking in a general way about trouble with the workingmen and the people, what he called the proletariat class, and spoke about their enemies, as he termed them, the police and the constituted authorities.

Q Well, what did he say, if anything, in reference to those?

A Well, he said that they were their enemies and that they would use force against them, the authorities would use the police and militia, and they would have to use force against them.

Q What kind of force, if any, was designated?

A Well he advised them to purchase rifles, if they hadn't money enough to buy rifles to buy pistols, and if they couldn't

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buy pistols they could buy sufficient dynamite for twenty-five cents to blow up a building the size of the Pullman building, and pointed to it.

Q What, if anything, did you hear Fielden say at that or any meeting -- at that meeting particularly now?

Objected to on behalf of the defendants other than Fielden.

A The speeches were very nearly alike. They didn't use the same language, but they used the same terms, spoke about dynamite and fire-arms.

Q Well, in what connection were those things to be used?

A They were to be used against the police and against any one who opposed them in their designs.

Q Well, was any expression given as to what their designs were, what they wanted?

A They wanted to regulate society and have things run their way.

Objected to.

THE COURT: What did he say?

A I cannot exactly--

Q Which one said, and what did he say?

A Mr. Fielden made the remark, in fact they all did, they used about the same. The speeches were alike Sunday after Sunday.

Mr. BLACK: Tell us what Fielden said. One at a time.

THE WITNESS: Well, that is what he said.

MR. GRINNELL: When did you hear Spies speak?

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A I cannot name any particular day. I heard him speak several times.

Q Where -- at the Lake Front?

A On the Lake Front yes, the only place.

Q What time in reference to these other times that you have mentioned, before or after them?

A Well, before and after.

Q What did he say?

A Well, he said -- he used about the same language.

Q Well, give me his language as near as you can.

A Well, he represented, as he said, the oppressed class, the workingmen and the workers, as opposed to the capitalists and property holders; that a property holder or a capitalist was the enemy of the workingmen; if they could not get their rights in a peaceable manner they must get them in a forcible way.

Q Well, was any indications given by him as to what force and how that was to be administered?

A About the same way as the others.

Q Well, give me the language, and state it as near as you can?

A I cannot do that, sir, I cannot give the exact language.

Q How many times have you heard that talk?

A Well, ten or fifteen times, I cannot say how often. I would go down there, I boarded at the Clifton House and would go down there Sunday afternoons after dinner and listen to them a

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little while.

Q These meetings were quite frequent down there?

A Every good Sunday, unless late in the fall.

Q Was anything said at those meetings, at those speeches about experimenting with dynamite?

A After the picnic Mr. Parsons I think -- I won't be sure of that -- spoke about a young German experimenting with dynamite at this picnic; he had dynamite in a can a tomato can, and spoke of how the thing was thrown into a pond or lake, and how much execution could be done with that amount of dynamite

Q Well, did he proffer, or give any advice?

Mr. BLACK: What did he say?

Mr. GRINNELL: Yes, what did he say in that connection?

A He stated that this young German had a small quantity of dynamite in a tomato can; it was thrown into a pond or lake near this picnic ground and he spoke of the force this amount of dynamite exerted, and what could be done with it in destroying buildings and property in the city.

By Mr. Black.

Q Mr. Ryan, where on the Lake Front did you hear these speeches?

A Close to the railroad, sir, the Illinois Central track, and I guess about two blocks south of the station.

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Q South of which station?

A Van Buren Street Station at the Lake Front.

Q That was a public place, was it not?

A Yes, sir

Q Was there anything to obscure or hide the meetings from passers-by upon Michigan Avenue?

A Nothing at all.

Q It was in plain view?

A Plain view.

Q A public meeting?

A Public meeting.

Q In every instance?

A Yes, sir.

Q What is the largest number of persons you ever saw attend one of those meetings when you were there?

A One hundred, or one hundred and fifty. I don't think more than one hundred and fifty at any time.

Q And you say those meetings occurred frequently?

A Yes, sir.

Q How often do you think you attended them altogether?

A I cannot say exactly. Ten or fifteen times. I was in the habit of going down nearly every clear Sunday from the Clifton House after I had had my dinner -- walked down on the Lake Front and listened to them for a while.

Q How long did the meetings usually last that you attended?

A Two or three hours.

Q And the speaking was usually done, as I understand you, by Fielden and Parsons?

A Spies, Parsons and Mr. Fielden and two or three others.

Q But Spies I understand did not speak at either of

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these particular meetings.

Mr. GRINNELL: Two or three others I understood him to say.

THE WITNESS: No, sir, I cannot say that I heard Mr. Spies.

Mr. BLACK: What two or three others have you heard speak on the Lake Front at those meetings whom you now recall?

A Well, there is Mr. Henry, Mrs. Parsons, Mrs. Holmes and I heard one Sunday afternoon a young Englishman speak, whose name I did not hear.

Q Have you given us now the full list of speakers so far as you recollect it?

A So far as I know, so far as I can recollect their names. There was also an Irishman who spoke, whose name I did not hear, never heard.

Q What hour in the day were these meetings usually held that you attended?

A Well, I was down there after two o'clock, half past two; I was there several times when the meeting was called to order by the chairman.

Q In other words, these were meetings held on Sunday afternoon, mid afternoon, publicly and openly, to which practically everybody was invited?

A Yes, sir.

Q Did you observe that there were policemen around the meetings?

A There was one policeman.

Q Always?

A He was walking up and down the Park - had apparently charge of the Park - would be around

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there different times.

Q How were the speeches made, in a loud clear tone of voice, or otherwise?

A Loud clear tones, sometimes very loud when they would get excited.

Q No trouble in every person who was in the immediate vicinity hearing what the speakers had to say, was there?

A No, sir.

Q Referring particularly to those two meetings which you have singled out and the talk that was had there, you say that Mr. Parsons stated to his audience that the police and what other class?

A Constituted authorities.

Q Constituted authorities?

A Yes, sir.

Q Were the natural enemies of the workingman?

A Yes, sir.

Q He also, as I understand you, said that they would use force against the workingman?

A Yes, sir.

Q And the workingmen would have to prepare to meet force with force?

A Yes, sir.

Q He suggested his belief that the workingmen could not obtain their rights peaceably?

A Yes.

Q That they would have to secure them in the final result by force?

A Yes, sir.

Q And he advised them to prepare for that ultimate result, did he?

A Yes, sir.

Q You never heard of either of them proposing immediate

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action, did you?

A I heard Mr. Parsons say once that now was the time to do it.

Q Well, but did he propose to do anything right then and there?

A Not then and there, no sir.

Q That is what I mean when I say propose immediate action. You never saw either of them start with any dynamite for the Pullman Building, did you?

A No, sir.

Q Nor anything that looked that way?

A No, sir.

Q This was a general propagation of ideas and doctrines wasn't it, down there on the Lake Front, wasn't it, publicly?

Q Publicly, yes.

Q Through what period of time have you personally known of those meetings being held there in plain view of the entire public and the police, and in which the advocacy of these doctrines has been going on?

A Only these times that I was present last year and the year previous.

Q So that for the period of two summers you have known of such meetings being held, down there on the Lake Front?

A Yes, sir.

Q Can you fix about the date of this picnic that you have spoken of?

A Except it was in July; I won't be positive about that either -- July of last year.

Q Did Parsons, if you remember, tell what the tomato can did?

A Well, no, sir.

Q Or what the Dutchman did with the tomato can?

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A Throwed it into the pond of water.

Q Did he tell what happened to the pond?

A No, sir.

Q He spoke of the fact, as I understand, that a Dutchman had taken a can?

A A German, I said.

Q A German, excuse me -- had taken a can of dynamite and thrown it into a pond of water?

A Yes, sir.

Q And therefore dynamite was a great thing?

A Yes, sir.

Q Did you ever hear the suggestion in the advocacy there and talks of Parsons and of Fielden particularly of a desire to secure rights by peaceable means, but no hope that that could be done?

A No, sir, I did not.

Q Did not hear that?

A No, sir.

Q You simply heard the opinion expressed that the rights of the working people they would have to secure by force?

A Yes, sir.

Q And therefore they ought to prepare for it?

A Yes, sir.

Q But, as I said, you never heard the Pullman building threatened?

A No, sir.

Q With any immediate destruction?

A No, sir.

Q Twenty-five cents' worth of dynamite was sufficient for that purpose?

A Yes, sir.

Q According to Mr. parson' suggestion?

A Yes, sir.

Q And that was publicly made?

A Yes, sir.

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Q So that the policeman could have heard it if he had wanted to?

A Yes, sir.

Q Are you certain as to whether you ever heard Mrs. Holmes speak there?

A Yes, sir.

Q On the Lake Front -- certain of that?

A Yes, sir, at least -- I was going to say it was a woman who was pointed out to me as Mrs. Holmes.

Q As Mrs. Holmes?

A Yes, sir.

Q Do you think you would recognize the lady if you would see her now?

A I think I would, yes.

Q You said there was one other person whose name you did not know?

A No, sir.

Q What nationality?

A He was an Englishman apparently, by his accent. He had a strong English accent, what is known as a Cockney accent; he looked like a Londoner.

Q What was the appearance of that gentleman?

A Well, he looked like a man that was in very poor circumstances, like a man that had wrestled pretty hard to get living. He was not a very prepossessing looking man, and finally a hint was given to him by one of the leaders of the meeting to get down, and he got down.

Q When was it that that man made his speech and was asked down?

A I cannot name the date. It was one of the meetings that I attended.

Q Was it before or after the picnic?

A I think it

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was before the picnic.

Q Did you say there was one Irishman who did speaking there?

A Well, he was an Irishman, I thought, from his accent.

Q You do not know his name, either?

A No, sir, I do not know it.

Q The same general sentiments as expressed by the other speakers?

A Yes, sir.

Q Nobody asked him to step down and out?

A No, sir, he appeared to be one of the party. He was there every Sunday I was there. Sometimes he would speak and sometimes he wouldn't.

Q He was one of the regular attendants?

A Regular attendants. He would fill in once in a while and make a speech.

By Mr. Grinnell.

Q There is one question I omitted. I understood you to say first that you had heard Mr. Neebe speak?

A No, sir, I never heard Mr. Neebe speak.

Q You said you had seen him?

A I saw him, yes.

Q See him at any of these meetings?

A Saw him about there, yes.

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