Arturo Giovannitti's Address to the Jury

November 23, 1912

Among the many Wobblies who came to Massachusetts to show solidarity with the Lawrence textile strikers was Arturo Giovannitti, an Italian born poet and labor organizer. Soon after their arrival, Giovannitti and his friend Joseph Ettor were accused by the mill owners of inciting violence. After a soldier in the Massachusetts state militia killed an Italian woman, Ana LoPizzo, during the strike, local authorities charged an Italian striker and arrested Giovannitti and Ettor as "accessories to the murder." An international campaign was organized to support the three defendants, who were finally acquitted in November 1912, eight months after the textile strike had ended in victory. Here is Giovannitti's address1 to the jury before the verdict.

From Voices of A People's History, edited by Zinn and Arnove

Mr. Foreman and gentlemen of the Jury:

It is the first time in my life that I speak publicly in your wonderful language, and it is the most solemn moment in my life. I know not if I will go to the end of my remarks. The District Attorney and the other gentlemen here who are used to measure all human emotions with the yardstick may not understand the tumult that is going on in my soul in this moment.

But my friends and my comrades before me, these gentlemen here who have been with me for the last seven or eight months, know exactly. If my words will fail before I reach the end of this short statement to you, it will be because of the superabundance of sentiments that are flooding my heart.

I speak to you not because I want to review this evidence at all. I feel that I have had, as the learned District Attorney said, one of the most prominent if not the most prominent attorney in this state to plead for my liberty and for my life. I shall not enter into the evidence that has been offered here, as I feel that you, gentlemen of the jury, have by this time a firm and set conviction. By this time you ought to know, you ought to have realized whether I said or whether I did not say those words that have been put into my mouth by those two detectives.

You ought to know whether it is possible, not for a man like me but for any living human being to say those atrocious, those flagitious words that have been attributed to me. I say only this in regard to the evidence that has been introduced in this case, that if there is or ever has been murder in the heart of any man that is in this courtroom today, gentlemen of the jury, that man is not sitting in this cage. We had come to Lawrence, as my noble comrade — I call him a noble comrade — Mr. Ettor — said, because we were prompted by something higher and loftier than what the District Attornev or any other man in this presence here may understand and realize.

Were I not afraid that I was being somewhat sacrilegious, I would say that to go and investigate into the motives that prompted and actuated us to go into Lawrence would be the same as to Inquire, why did the Saviour, come on earth, or why, as my friend said, was Lloyd Garrison in this very Commonwealth, in the city of Boston, dragged through the streets with a rope around his neck? Why did all the other great men and masters of thought — why did they go to preach this new gospel of fraternity and brotherhood? It were well — it is well — to inquire into the acts of men.

It is just that truth should be ascertained. It is right that the criminal should be brought before the bar of justice, but one side alone of our story has been told here. As Mr. Peters said, one-half has never been told. They have brought you a pamphlet of the Industrial Workers of the World and the District Attorney has not dared to introduce more evidence against the Socialist movement, because he knew that here was a man that was capable of contending with him and answering him more than he had been capable of realizing at the beginning.

There has been brought only one side of this great industrial question, only the method and only the tactics. But what about, I say, the ethical pan of this question? What about the human and humane part of our ideas? What about the grand condition of tomorrow as we see it, and as we foretell it now to the workers at large, here in this same cage where the felon has sat, in this same cage where the drunkard, where the prostitute, where the hired assassin has been?

What about the ethical side of that? What about the better and nobler humanity where there shall be no more slaves, where no man will ever be obliged to go on strike in order to obtain fifty cents a week more, where children will not have to starve any more, where women no more will have to go and prostitute themselves—let me say, even if there are women in this courtroom here, because the truth must out at the end—where at last there will not be any more slaves, any more masters, but just one great family of friends and brothers.

It may be, gentlemen of the jury, that you do not believe in that. It may be that we are dreamers. It may be that we are fanatics, Mr. District Attorney. We are fanatics. But yet so was Socrates a fanatic, who instead of acknowledging the philosophy of the aristocrats of Athens, preferred to drink the poison. And so was Jesus Christ a fanatic, who instead of acknowledging that Pilate, or that Tiberius was emperor of Rome, and instead of acknowledging his submission to all the rulers of the time and all the priest craft of the time, preferred the cross between two thieves.

And so were all the philosophers and all the dreamers and all the scholars of the Middle Ages, who preferred to be burned alive by one of these very same churches concerning which you reproach me now of having said that no one of our membership should belong to them. Yes, gentlemen of the jury, you are judges. You must deal with facts. You must not deal with ideas. Had not this last appeal to patriotism been injected in this case, had not the District Attorney appealed to you, knowing well your sentiments, in the name of all the feelings that are deep-rooted and sweet to the heart of man, in order to blind you to the real issues in this case, I would not have spoken. I am very humble. I am very low in my own appreciation of myself. I have been in the background during this trial.

I have never talked to any American audience ; I, the man from southern Italy, have not told them how they should run their business. I am not here now to tell you what the future of this country should be. I know this, though, that I come from a land which has been under the rod of oppression for thousands of years, oppressed by the autocracy of old, oppressed during the Middle Ages by all the nations of Europe, by all the vandals that often passed through it. And now Italy is oppressed, I may say, even by the present authority, as I am not a believer in kingship and monarchy. And I, gentlemen of the jury, since I was a little boy, have learned upon the knees of my mother and father to reverence with tears in my eyes the name of a republic. When I came to this country it was because I thought that really I was coming to a better and a freer land than my own. It was not exactly hunger that drove me out of my house. My father had enough money saved and he had enough energy saved to go and give an education to my brothers. He could have done the same with me and I could now be a professional man down there.

But I thought I could visit the world and I desired coming here for that purpose. I have no grudge against this country. I have no grudge against the American flag. I have no grudge against your patriotism. But I want to say that your kind — or rather, I want to say something about the kind of patriotism that is instilled into your heads. I shall not pander, gentlemen of the jury, to your prejudice. I shall be straightforward and sincere as my friend has been, and even more so.

I ask the District Attorney, who speaks about the New England tradition, what he means by that — if he means the New England traditions of this same town where they used to burn the witches at the stake, or if he means the New England traditions of those men who refused to be any longer under the iron heel of the British aristocracy and dumped the tea into Boston Harbor and fired the first musket that was announcing to the world for the first time that a new era had been established — that from then on no more kingcraft, no more monarchy, no more kingship would be allowed, but a new people, a new theory, a new principle, a new brotherhood would arise out of the ruin and the wreckage of the past.

You answer that, and if you believe that human progress is a thing that cannot be stopped and cannot be checked, if you believe that this gentleman here, for whom I have the highest respect and the highest admiration, for he has surely presented his case wonderfully and if I were allowed I would be glad even to shake hands with him — do not, gentlemen of the jury, believe that Mr. Attwill, standing in front of you with upraised hands, will check this mighty flow of this wonderful working class of the world — its myriads and myriads of men and women, the flower of the land, who are rushing forward towards this destined goal of ours.

He is not the one who is going to strangle this new Hercules of the world of industrial workers, or rather, the Industrial Workers of the World, in its cradle. It is not your verdict that will stem, it is not your verdict that will put a dam before this mighty onrush of waves that go forward. It is not the little insignificant, cheap life of Arturo Giovannitti offered in holocaust to warm the hearts of the millionaire manufacturers of this town that is going to stop Socialism from being the next dominator of the earth. No. No.

If there was any violence in Lawrence it was not Joe Ettor's fault. It was not my fault. If you must go back to the origin of all the trouble, gentlemen of the jury, you will find that the origin and reason was the wage system. It was the infamous rule of domination of one man by another man. It was the same reason that forty years ago impelled your great martyred President, Abraham Lincoln, by an illegal act, to issue the Proclamation of Emancipation—a thing which was beyond his powers as the Constitution of the United States expressed before that time.

I say it is the same principle now, the principle that made a man at that time a chattel slave, a soulless human being, a thing that could be bought and bartered and sold, and which now, having changed the term, makes the same man—but a white man—the slave of the machine.

They say you are free in this great and wonderful country. I say that politically you are, and my best compliments and congratulations for it. But I say you cannot be half free and half slave, and economically all the working class in the United States are as much slaves now as the negroes were forty and fifty years ago; because the man that owns the tool wherewith another man works, the man that owns the house where this man lives, the man that owns the factory where this man wants to go to work—that man owns and controls the bread that that man eats and therefore owns and controls his mind, his body, his heart and his soul.

Gentlemen, it may be that this argument is out of place. I am not a lawyer. I told you I was not going to discuss the evidence. It may be that the honorable Court would object to my speech, or rather my few remarks, on the ground that it is not referring to the evidence as given in here.

But I say and I repeat, that we have been working in something that is dearer to us than our lives and our liberty. We have been working in what are our ideas, our ideals, our aspirations, our hopes—you may say our religion, gentlemen of the jury. You may understand why the American missionary, fired by the power of his religion, goes into darkest Africa amongst the cannibals. Mr. Attwill will tell you that that man goes there because he gets $60 a month; $100 a month. Mr. Attwill, with his commercial mind, will say that that man simply goes there on account of his salary or because he wants to collect money 'from the poor savages down there, so that the Catholic church in America or the Methodist church in America might have five cents a month for dues or ten cents a month for dues or twenty cents a month for dues. But I say that there is something greater and deeper than that, gentlemen, and you know and you realize it yourselves. But I say that I came here for another purpose than the one that he has intimated to you as being the real one. I came here because I cannot suppress it. He says we cannot claim divine Providence. Well, I do not claim divine Providence. Neither do I think that the District Attorney can claim divine Providence when at the end of his speech he was actually afraid of telling you that you should convict us, that you should send us to the electric chair, that it was well and good that our voices should be strangled, that our hearts should cease to beat for the simple fact that a certain unknown person shot Anna Lo Pizzi, a striker in Lawrence.

He has not dared to say it in Lawrence; even he has not dared to tell you that we ought to be convicted.

But I say, whether you want it or not, we are now the heralds of a new civilization. We have come here to proclaim a new truth. We are the apostles of a new evangel, of a new gospel, which is now at this very same moment being proclaimed and heralded from one side of the earth to the other.

Comrades of our same faith, while I am speaking in this case, are addressing a different crowd, a different forum, a different audience in other parts of the world, in every known tongue, in every civilized language, in every dialect, in Russia as in Italy, in England as in France, in China as in South Africa—everywhere this message of socialism, this message of brotherhood, this message of love, is being proclaimed in this same manner, gentlemen of the jury, and it is in the name of that that I want to speak and for nothing else.

After having heard what my comrade said and what I have said, do you believe for one single moment that we ever preached violence, that a man like me as I stand with my naked heart before you — and you know there is no lie in me at this moment, there is no deception in me at this moment — could kill a human being?

You know that I know not what I say, because it is only the onrush of what flows to my lips that I say. Gentlemen of the jury, you know that I am not a trained man in speaking to you, because it is the first time I speak in your language. Gentlemen, if you think that there has ever been a spark of malice in my heart, that I ever said others should break heads and prowl around and look for blood, if you believe that I ever could have said such a thing, not only on the 29th of January, but since the first day I began to realize that I was living and conscious of my intellectual and moral powers, then send me to the chair, because it is right and it is just. Then send my comrade to the chair because it is right and it is just.

But I want to plead for another man. Whatever you do, for heaven's sake take the case of this man at heart (pointing at the defendant, Caruso). This man has been with me two months in this cage here, and I know every thought of his mind. Whatever you do to us, we are the responsible ones. Joe Ettor was the leader of that strike. I was aiding and abetting him in that strike. We alone are responsible.

If Anna Lo Pizzi has been killed and you think Anna Lo Pizzi has been killed through our influence, consider that we alone are responsible for it. Say that it is good that we ought to be convicted, regardless of who killed her, if we uttered those words. But consider this poor man and his wife, his child; this man who does not know just now in this moment why he is here — who keeps on asking me, "Why didn't they tell the truth? What have I done? Why am I here?" It may be I am appealing to your heart, not to your intelligence, but I am willing to take all the responsibility.

Gentlemen of the jury, I have finished. After this comes your verdict. I do not ask you to acquit us. It is not in my power to do so after my attorney has so nobly and ably pleaded for me. I say, though, that there are two ways open. If we are responsible, we are responsible in full. If what the District Attorney has said about us is true, then we ought to pay the extreme penalty, for if it is true it was a premeditated crime. If what he said is true, it means that we went to Lawrence specifically for that purpose and that for years and years we had been studying and maturing our thoughts along that line; then we expect from you a verdict of guilty.

But we do not expect you to soothe your conscience and at the same time to give a helping hand to the other side—simply to go and reason and say, "Well, something has happened there and somebody is responsible; let us balance the scales and do half and half." No, gentlemen. We are young. I am twenty-nine years old—not quite, yet; I will be so two months from now. I have a woman that loves me and that I love. I have a mother and father that are waiting for me. I have an ideal that is dearer to me than can be expressed or understood. And life has so many allurements and it is so nice and so bright and so wonderful that I feel the passion of living in my heart and I do want to live.

I don't want to pose to you as a hero. I don't want to pose as a martyr. No, life is dearer to me than it is probably to a good many others. But I say this, that there is something dearer and nobler and holier and grander, something I could never come to terms with, and that is my conscience and that is my loyalty to my class and to my comrades who have come here in this room, and to the working class of the world, who have contributed with a splendid hand penny by penny to my defense and who have all over the world seen that no injustice and no wrong was done to me.

Therefore, I say, weigh both sides and then judge. And if it be, gentlemen of the jury, that your judgment shall be such that this gate will be opened and we shall pass out of it and go back into the sunlit world, then let me assure you what you are doing. Let me tell you that the first strike that breaks again in this Commonwealth or any other place in America where the work and the help and the intelligence of Joseph J. Error and Arturo Giovannitti will be needed and necessary, there we shall go again regardless of any fear and of any threat.

We shall return again to our humble efforts, obscure, humble, unknown, misunderstood—soldiers of this mighty army of the working class of the world, which out of the shadows and the darkness of the past is striving towards the destined goal, which is the emancipation of human kind, which is the establishment of love and brotherhood and justice for every man and every woman in this earth.

On the other hand, if your verdict shall be the contrary,—if it be that we who are so worthless as to deserve neither the infamy nor the glory of the gallows—if it be that these hearts of ours must be stilled on the same death chair and by the same current of fire that has destroyed the life of the wife murderer and the parricide, then I say, gentlemen of the jury, that tomorrow we shall pass into a greater judgment, that tomorrow we shall go from your presence into a presence where history shall give its last word to us.

Whichever way you judge, gentlemen of the jury, I thank you.


1 Arturo Giovannirti's Address to the Jury (November 23, 1912). First printed in Ettor and Giovannitti Before the Jury at Salem, Massachusetts, November 23, 1912 (Chicago: IWW, n.d. [circa 1913]). Reprinted in Joyce Kornbluh, ed., Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology (Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan Press, 1964), pp. 193,194,195.

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