The Faith of a Liberal: Selected Essays

By Morris R. Cohen | Go to book overview

only irresponsible to any earthly power, but also independent of adequate knowledge of the social consequences of their decisions?


20
THE SACCO-VANZETTI CASE REWEIGHED

NO CRIMINAL CASE since the Dreyfus affair has stirred the world so much as that of Sacco and Vanzetti. The conviction of Mooney was a clearer instance of the miscarriage of justice; the trial judge himself is now convinced that it was brought about by deliberate perjury. But if William James be trusted, insensibility to abstract justice is characteristic of the American people; and those who disapprove of Mooney's career in the labor movement can say, as they do: "He is a bad man, and ought to be in jail, even if not guilty of the particular outrage of which he was convicted. The State of California did enough for him by commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment." Not so in regard to Sacco and Vanzetti. They are now dead, and in life were either cold-blooded, mercenary murderers or else, as their letters reveal them, singularly high-minded, if unpractical, idealists. Their guilt or innocence is thus a matter of intense faith to millions who have never examined the record of the case. Nor is the latter task an easy one. Very few have the time and the disposition to go through six volumes of detailed testimony, motions, arguments, and technical judicial decisions, in

____________________
Published in The Nation, Vol. 133, p. 702 ( December 23, 1931), as a review of Osmond K. Fraenkel, The Sacco-Vanzetti Case.

-193-

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