Tragedy in Dedham: The Story of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case

By Francis Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

THE PUBLIC AND THE LOWELL COMMITTEE

Not only in Europe but around the world--in Shanghai, Tokyo, Melbourne, Calcutta, Buenos Aires--the names Sacco and Vanzetti were by now familiar syllables and the image had become fixed of two dissenters from the American way of life being done to death for their dissent. Where scores and then hundreds had demonstrated in isolated groups, now in the approaching climax thousands thronged to vast and passionate assemblies that somehow, the participants felt, by their very vastness and passion might force the Massachusetts executioners to stay their hands. There was a fierce joy, too, in such protests, a tensing of muscles, a sense of unity and a feeling among the urban masses that in their increasingly turbulent protests against the fate of Sacco and Vanzetti they were protesting against their own isolation and their own fate.

To Continental intellectuals disillusioned by the collapse of Wilsonian idealism, the Sacco-Vanzetti case was one more devastating example from postwar America, to be set beside Prohibition, Chicago gangsters, the white-sheeted Ku Klux Klan, and the Tennessee monkey trial. The fate of the two men was what one might expect from the heartless materialism of the transatlantic republic that had won a war with its money and the blood of others and now wanted the money back.

In July, Mussolini wrote to the American ambassador in Rome "not as the head of the Italian Government but as a man who is sincerely your friend," asking for a commutation of sentence as an

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