The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind

Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post:

Screenhunter_13_aug_23_2247Eighty years ago this week, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts executed two first-generation immigrants from Italy, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, for crimes they almost certainly did not commit. Before and after the executions, passions aroused by the case, in the United States and around the world, were incredibly intense. In part, this was because the case had strong political overtones at a time when much of the country was swept up in the Red Scare. In part, it was because, as the noted newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann wrote, “No man . . . should be put to death where so much doubt exists.” And, in part, it was because Sacco and Vanzetti were appealing men, whatever one may have thought of their politics. In an interview with the New York World three months before his execution, Vanzetti was quoted as saying, in halting but powerful English:

“If it had not been for these thing, I might have live 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 can we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man’s understanding of man as we now do by dying. Our words, our lives, our pains — nothing! The taking of our lives — lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler — all! That last moment belongs to us — that agony is our triumph!”

More here.