Petition of Vanzetti's to Governor Fuller
May 3, 1927

Dedham jail, May 3, 1927.

To the Governor and Council of Massachusetts.

We, Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco, confined in the jail at Dedham under sentence of death after conviction of the crime of murder in the first degree, hereby pray you to exercise the power conferred upon you by the Constitution of Massachusetts publicly to investigate all the facts of our cases and set us free from that sentence, if the findings will so dictate to your understanding and conscience.  We deem the faculty of compassion to be one of the highest of the human attributes, but here we are asking not for mercy but for justice, and this is the reason why we have not used the printed form provided for petitions of this nature.  It contains the word 'pardon,' which we are unwilling to use, although our counsel has assured us that it does not necessarily mean forgiveness or convey the idea of a confession of guilt.  But we wish the utmost possible clearness and precision on this point and are unwilling to risk being misunderstood.

We are not sufficiently familiar with your language to express clearly the ideas we want to express.  For that reason we have asked our counsel to help us with our English; but it should be remembered that the thoughts are our own.

Our counsel has warned us that what we have to say may deepen the prejudice against us; but we are foremostly concerned to save what no human power except ourselves can deprive us of, our faith and our dignity, since we have already been deprived of almost all of what men can deprive men.

We have been told that Your Excellency stands and has always stood for honesty in public and private life as you understand it, and that you have a mind free and not in legalistic bonds.  So, since the nature of each human being is common with the fundamental nature of mankind, and consequently the sentiment of justice is fundamentally common to all men, we can safely speak to you as man to man, notwithstanding deep differences of opinion which divide us.

Our present request is made first and foremost on the ground of our innocence.  We had nothing whatever to do with the South Braintree crime.  Our instincts make us abhor and our principles condemn such a crime.

We understand that it would be most improper for us to argue our case here at length; we know that your burden is heavy; yet We pray you to forgive us the necessity of stating the fundamental facts and reasons upon which our prayer must be based.  It is not our fault if they are many, grave, and strong.

We call your attention to the undisputed facts that at the time of the crime, after it, and ever since we had come to this country, we had earned our own living with hard work; that one of us was able to make large wages and to accumulate a substantial savings bank deposit; that the other could easily have done the same were it not that being single and of a well-to-do family thought more to give than to save; and that both of us could have had an .dependent position in Italy regardless of our earnings here.  We find that Americans know little of Italian social conditions.  For that reason you will ive us if we say that one of us, Vanzetti, comes of an old, respected, and well-to-do family in Piedmont, northern Italy; and that the other, Sacco, comes of a family in Torre Maggiore, central Italy, near the Adriatic, which as been prominent in local affairs of government for many years, his mother having been mayor of Torre Maggiore, and several uncles memof the Town Council.  The family is in comfortable circumstances.  There no economic necessity for either of us to come to this country.  We came ause we had heard that it was a land of freedom-freedom not merely to in wealth, for which we cared little, but freedom of the mind and of ideas. e always think that a natural right, and in that is our happiness...

Much has been said in praise of the fairness of the judge who tried us. But we have learned to our sorrow that professions of fairness do not neces,3arily mean real fairness, and may cover an intention to use the great judicial power to secure a conviction which under the forms of law will stand.  We linderstanq that this power is called 'discretion,' and that the judge who tses his discretion to convict is beyond the reach of any other tribunal unless it can be proved that he was corrupt or irrational.  We do not intend to enter here a criticism of your system of law.

From the very beginning of the trial the judge stirred up the political, Special, religious, and economic hatred of the jurors, and their fears and antagonism against us, but covered himself by admonitions to the jury from fime to time to treat us fairly and impartially; so that we were really tried not for murder, but for being Radicals, draft evaders, and pacifists.  Of course the judge has many times denied this, but that that was his real attitude is conclusively shown by the affidavits which we are sending you with this request. . . .

Can anyone bring himself honestly to believe that such persistent prejudice, hostility. and despisement as are disclosed in these affidavits did not affect the discretionary rulings of the judge?  Is it to be believed that the operation of such prejudice was interrupted at the moment of each discretionary ruling?...

It seems that if a Radical, when accused of crime, does not testify, that is enough to convict him; and if he does testify, his radicalism will convict him anyway, and also he is blamed for opening up the subject of radicalism.  What is a Radical to do under these circumstances?...

But now we are here in spirit before you, a man of conservative principles, supreme authority of  a great state in its ethnic human meaning, to ask you justice.  Should we try to hide from you our beliefs and faith; to sneak before you in order to avoid contrast and antagonism, and so to propitiate you in our behalf-and thus be cowards and unfair before ou, mankind, and ourselves?  We refer you to our words to judge Thayer when we were sentenced, words that sprang extemporaneously from our very heart.  And permit us to say that we believe that you yourself would disapprove if we now said anything else.

We are anarchists, believers in anarchy, which is neither a sect nor a party, but a philosophy that like all the philosophies aims to human progress and happiness.  Our goal is the ultimate elimination of every form of violence and the utmost freedom to each and all actuated by the elimination of every form of oppression and exploitation of the man by the man.  Our sense and ideal of justice is based on the principle of man's self-respect and dignity; of the equality of men in their fundamental nature and in their rights and duties.

We call ourselves Libertarians, which means briefly that we believe that human perfectibility is to be obtained by the largest amount of freedom, and not by coercion, and that the bad in human nature and conduct can only be eliminated by the elimination of its causes, and not by coercion or imposition, which cause greater evil by adding bad to bad.

We are not so foolish as to believe or to advocate that human institutions be changed in a day.  The change must be gradual.  But we do believe that there ought to be a chinge, and that it should be in the direction of more freedom and not more coercion.  That is where we are opposed to every theory of authoritarian communism and socialism; for they would rivet more or less firmly the chains of coercion on human spirit, just as we are opposed to the present system, which is based upon coercion.

Such being our beliefs and goal, our policy is to ever stand against anything that is coercion, for we believe that only by freedom and by struggle for freedom does man acquire the capacity of freedom; and to ever stand against everything that is privilege, because privilege means masters and slaves, liberty to none, injustice, strife, and fratricide among men.  It is for these beliefs that we are outlawed and made outcasts from the society of so many of our fellow men, with whom we might co-operate, and whom we do not want to hate.

Our ideas are not new.  In one form or another they have influenced human thought in the western world, and therefore history, for at least two thousand years.  Among their modern champions are men such as William Godwin, Shelley, Carlo Pisacane, Proudhon, Reclus, Krapotkin, Bakunin, Tolstoi (in a sense), Flammarion, Malatesta, Galleani, and in your country Tucker, and other great intellects and hearts.  The great philosopher Ernest Renan said that Christ was a 'political anarchist.'

The term 'anarchy,' as your Excellency knows, means literally the absence of government, and 'anarchist' a disbeliever in government, and eventually in actual law.  We admit it before the supreme authority of a great (ethnically), even though it may cause us to appear monstrous to you; certainly to appear to most men dangerous criminals.  Forgive us an explanation, which we could make entirely in the words of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and other great Americans.  We know that to be free, man must be capable of freedom.  But we also know that suddenly to eliminate every means of public defence would be to fall into chaos and destruction; that the actual laws are better than certain ones of the past because of the peoples' will.  And, what is more, we do not intend to eliminate public and private defence, public legislation, etc., but to improve them and put them on k basis superior to the present.  Nor do we intend to deface from human spirits the notion of rights and duties, but to make their full application possible.  We cannot, in consideration of you, enter into details, or even attempt a synthetical explanation of our Credo. just a quotation from Jefferson, which we make from memory, I am not yet prepared to say that where there is no written law, no regulated tribunal, there is not a law in our hearts and a power in our hands given for righteousness, employment in maintaining right and redressing wrong.

Consider, please, the positive side of that negation.  How creative it is.  If  you for a full bibliography of our Credo we submit to you the article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica by Peter Krapotkin; ana if you wish to know the possibilities and criterions of our faith, we refer to the essays 'Politics' and 'The State' by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

If we would stop here, hundreds would say to you, 'These two men are here for an atrocious crime of violence.  They do disbelieve in private property and believe in violence.  They are trying to be magniloquent and to take a Messianic attitude while silent as to the acts of violence and robberies committed by some "comrades" of their own.' But do not believe them.  Men like that can say what they please without correction; for we are in prison, and this is our only chance to speak.  We cannot deny that acts of violence have been committed by men calling themselves anarchists, and sometimes by men who had a right to call themselves that.  But they were impelled by persecution and self-defence, or provoked by violence, oppression, and intolerance on the part of persons in power.  They were moved by sincere intentions caused by their deep sensibility to the spectacle of  human suffering, and by their feeling of helplessness to right in any other way the injustice inflicted upon them, their friends, and the people.  In a word, it has been the violence of tyranny that has provoked the violence of self-defence.

On principle, we abhor violence, deeming it the worst form of coercion an are with Garibaldi, "Only the slaves have the right to violence to free themselves; only the violence that frees is legitimate and holly." We lived in this country twelve years before our arrest, industriously, honestly, and without any act of violence.  The only violence that has been committed is the violence practiced against us and not by us.  For many theories and acts that we deem wrong, which are.justified in the name of our faith, we are not responsible.  Buf we love and venerate our Cause, our Maryrs, our Heroes, our Masters.  For this cause we are willing to suffer and to die, but not for the low and sordid South Braintree crime.

We have no doubt that at the present time many will be found who se cretly and behind closed doors will be willing to state as facts unverified rumors; to assure you that the evidence that might have been produced would have been conclusive against us; to furnish plausible explanations of the suppression and perversion of testimony and the other acts of unfairness to which we have called your attention; to offer you selected documents; to urge upon you that the prestige of your courts is more important than our lives; to whisper calumnies of ourselves and of our friends and, in general, to do whatever can be done without fear of detection to injure us.  Yet we are not aware that either the prosecuting officers or any of the persons who profess to desire our death solely in the interest of public justice have ever made any attempt to identify, apprehend, or punish our three supposed associates in this crime.  We know that they gave our counsel no help or sympathy in their effort to show who really did commit the crime.  To all such persons we say the time to produce your documents and your testimony, and to test your unverified rumors, was in open court, where they would have been subject to cross-examination and the scrutiny of our counsel.  Your institutions are said to be based upon open and evenhanded justice.  That claim cannot be made good if secret communications are now permitted to take the place of public testimony.  Nor can the prestige of your courts long survive the loss of respect which will be the certain result of unredressed injustice.

For these reasons, and because we realize how much time and labor will be required to deal adequately with the matters to which we have called your attention, we respectfully urge you, if you doubt our statements, to cause a preliminary public investigation of our case to be made by able and disinterested men.  The result cannot be convincing unless the investigation is public so that all may know what is said against us.  But in saying this we would not have you believe that we are asking for mercy or for anything but justice; or that we would purchase our lives by the surrender of our principles or of our self-respect.  Men condemned to die may be forgiven for plain speaking.  We would not urge upon you anything that might seem disrespectful or incredible; but in the long run the victims of public injustice suffer less than the government that inflicts the penalty.  We can die but once, and the pang of death will be but momentary; but the facts which show injustice cannot be obliterated.  They will not be forgotten; and through the long years to follow they will trouble the conscience of those whose intolerance has brought us to our death, and of generations of their descendants.  A mistake of justice is a tragedy.  Deliberate injustice is an infamy.

Governor Alvan T. Fuller, we have been in prison seven years charged with a crime we did not commit, awaiting the fate that every day came nearer and nearer.  Perhaps you can imagine what this has meant to us.  And do you realize what this has meant to Sacco's wife and children, and to Vanzetti's father and mother and family at home in Italy?  It is the thought not of our own approaching death, but of the suffering of those near and dear to us in the seven years that have passed, and of the greater suffering to come, that is the cause of our bitter grief.  And yet we ask you not for mercy but for justice.  We will not impose their sufferings or our own upon you.  You cannot justly consider their suffering or ours as a ground for your official action, except that that suffering may seem to you a reason for giving the most careful and unprejudiced consideration to the two grounds of our prayer--that we are innocent and that our trial was unfair.


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