19 April 1927, Dedham, Massachusetts, USA
In April 1920, two employees of a Massachusetts shoe company were killed during the execution of a payroll robbery. Three weeks later two Italian aliens, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were arrested, primarily because they were admitted anarchists. Despite a lack of eyewitness evidence, in July 1921 the jury found both men guilty of robbery and murder. The defense continued to fight using motions, appeals, and petitions until 1927, when both men were sentenced to death. They were both executed on August 23, 1927.
In 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis pardoned both men.
The first two speeches were courtroom statements before execution: Then Vanzetti's last words:
Statement by Nicola Sacco
. . . I am not an orator. It is not very familiar with me the English language, and as I know, as my friend has told me, my comrade Vanzetti will speak more long, so I thought to give him the chance.
I never know, never heard, even read in history anything so cruel as this Court. After seven years prosecuting they still consider us guilty. And these gentle people here are arrayed with us in this court today.
I know the sentence will be between two class, the oppressed class and the rich class, and there will be always collision between one and the other. We fraternize the people with the books, with the literature. You persecute the people, tyrannize over them and kill them. We try the education of people always. You try to put a path between us and some other nationality that hates each other. That is why I am here today on this bench, for having been the oppressed class. Well, you are the oppressor.
You know it, Judge Thayer,--you know all my life, you know why I have been here, and after seven years that you have been persecuting me and my poor wife, and you still today sentence us to death. I would like to tell all my life, but what is the use? . . . Among that peoples and the comrades and the working class there is a big legion of intellectual people which have been with us for seven years, but to not commit the iniquitous sentence, but still the Court goes ahead. And I think I thank you all, you peoples, my comrades who have been with me for seven years, with the Sacco-Vanzetti case, and I will give my friend a chance. . .
Statement of Bartolomeo Vanzetti
Now I should say that I am not only innocent of all these things, not only have I never committed a real crime in my life—though some sins but not crimes—not only have I struggled all my life to eliminate crimes, the crime that the officials and the official moral condemns, but also the crime that the official moral and the official law sanctions and sanctifies—the exploitation and theoppression of the man by the man, and if there is a reason why I am here as a guilty man, if there is a reason why you in a few minutes can doom me, it is this reason and none else...
We were tried during a time that has now passed into history. I mean by that, a time when there was a hysteria of resentment and hate against the people of our principle, against the foreigner, against slackers...
Well, I have already said that I not only am not guilty...but I never commit a crime in my life—I have never stole and I have never killed and I have never spilt blood, and I fought against crime and I have fought and have sacrificed myself even to eliminate the crimes the law and the church legitimate and sanctify.This is what I say: I would not wish to a dog or to a snake, to the most low and misfortunate creature of the earth—I would not wish to any of them what I have had to suffer for things that I am not guilty of. But my conviction is that I have suffered for things I am guilty of. I am suffering because I am a radical and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was an Italian, and indeed I am an Italian; I have suffered more for my family and for my beloved that for myself; but I am so convinced to be right that if you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times, I would live again to do what I have done already.
I have finished. Thank you.
The following day, Vanzetti passed additional remarks to friends, that he failed to read in the court because sentence was pronounced, about Sacco.
I have talk a great deal of myself
but I even forget to name Sacco.
Sacco too is a worker,
from his boyhood a skilled worker, lover of work
with a good job and pay,
a bank account, a good and lovely wife,
two beautiful children and a neat little home
at the verge of a wood, near a brook.
Sacco is a heart, a faith, a character, a man;
a man, lover of nature, and mankind.
A man who gave all, who sacrifice all
to the cause of liberty and to his love for mankind:
money, rest, mundane ambition,
his own wife, children, himself
and his own life.
Sacco has never dreamt to steal, never to assassinate.
He and I have never brought a morsel
of bread to our mouths, from our childhood to today
which has not been gained by the sweat of our brows.
Oh yes, I may be more witfull, as some have put it;
I am a better babbler than he is, but many, many times
in hearing his heartfull voice ringing forth sublime,
in considering his supreme sacrifice, remembering his heroism
I felt small at the presence of his greatness
and found myself compelled to fight back
from my eyes the tears,
and quench my heart
trobling to my throat to not weep before him:
this man called thief and assassin and doomed.
But Sacco’s name will live in the hearts of the people
and in their gratitude when Katzmann’s bones
and yours will be dispersed by time;
when your name, his name, your laws, constitutions
and your false god are but a dim remembering
of a cursed past in which man was wolf
to the man...
If it had not been for these thing
I might have lived out my life
talking at street corners to scorning men.
I might have die, unmarked, unknown, a failure.
Now we are not a failure.
This is our career and our triumph. Never
in our full life could we hope to do such work
for tolerance, for justice, for men's understanding
of man, as now we do by accident.
Our words, our lives, our pains - nothing!
The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and
a poor fishpeddler -
all! That last moment belongs to us -
that agony is our triumph.