Fred H. Moore was a lawyer who began his career working for railroad companies. He then established an office in Los Angeles. Moore became a socialist and in 1912 took the case of a friend, who was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and had been arrested while making a speech in San Diego.
After this case Moore usually represented IWW members. This included defending those people arrested during the strike at the American Woolen Company in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The Lawrence Textile Strike became so violent that as William Cahn has pointed out in his book Lawrence 1912: The Bread and Roses Strike (1977): "To safeguard the health of small children during the strike, parents would send them to relatives and friends in other cities. Small tots were bundled up, with identification tags hung around their necks, and sent off to spend a few weeks in New York or Bridgeport or Barre or Philadelphia. Usually a reception demonstration would be given the children upon their arrival in a community.
The governor of Massachusetts ordered out the state militia and during one demonstration, a fifteen-year old boy was killed by a militiaman's bayonet. Soon afterwards a woman striker, Anna LoPizzo was shot dead. The union claimed that she had been killed by a police officer, but Joseph Caruso, a striker, was charged with her murder. Arturo Giovannitti and Joseph Ettor, who were three miles away speaking at a strike meeting, were arrested and charged as "accessories to the murder".
Fred Moore was sent to was sent to Lawrence to defend the men. Faced with growing bad publicity, on 12th March, 1912, the American Woolen Company acceded to all the strikers' demands. By the end of the month, the rest of the other textile companies in Lawrence also agreed to pay the higher wages. However, Giovannitti and Ettor remained in prison without trial. Protest meetings took place in cities throughout America and the case eventually took place in Salem. On 26th November, 1912, both men were acquitted.
In 1919 the Workers Defense Union asked Fred Moore to defend Charles Krieger, an Industrial Workers of the World organizer who had been accused of dynamiting the home of a Standard Oil official in Tulsa, Oklahoma. IWW leader Elizabeth Gurley sent Eugene Lyons to help him. In his autobiography, Assignment in Utopia (1937): "Moore, rather sinister-looking under his broad-brimed Western hat took in my hundred-odd pounds of scrawny youthfulness, my poetic haircut, the bohemian untidiness of my clothes, in one scowling inspection. He did not trouble to hide his disgust." Moore commented: "And I thought Gurley was sending us a man!" Another helper was the writer, Lola Darroch, who later married Moore.
During the trial that lasted ten weeks, Moore and Lyons had a tip-off that a vigilante group under the control of Standard Oil, Committee of One Hundred, intended to lynch Moore and Lyons. This never happened because according to Lyons, after the trial they discovered "that we had been under the sharp-eyed protection of a little army of private gunmen, under orders to shoot down the first man who touched us." Fred Moore managed to show that Krieger was a victim of a Standard Oil frame-up and the jury found him not guilty. Lyons argued: "Books about the American labor and radical movements have not done justice to Moore. A brilliant lawyer, quixotically devoted and self-sacrificing, he was handicapped by a genius for non-conformity."
On 5th May, 1920, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were arrested and interviewed about the murders of Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli, in South Braintree. The men had been killed while carrying two boxes containing the payroll of a shoe factory. After Parmenter and Berardelli were shot dead, the two robbers took the $15,000 and got into a car containing several other men, and driven away. Several eyewitnesses claimed that the robbers looked Italian. A large number of Italian immigrants were questioned but eventually the authorities decided to charge Sacco and Vanzetti with the murders. Although the two men did not have criminal records, it was argued that they had committed the robbery to acquire funds for their anarchist political campaign.
Moore agreed to defend the two men. Eugene Lyons, carried out research for Moore. Lyons later recalled: "Fred Moore, by the time I left for Italy, was in full command of an obscure case in Boston involving a fishmonger named Bartolomeo Vanzetti and a shoemaker named Nicola Sacco. He had given me explicit instructions to arouse all of Italy to the significance of the Massachusetts murder case, and to hunt up certain witnesses and evidence. The Italian labor movement, however, had other things to worry about. An ex-socialist named Benito Mussolini and a locust plague of blackshirts, for instance. Somehow I did get pieces about Sacco and Vanzetti into Avanti!, which Mussolini had once edited, and into one or two other papers. I even managed to stir up a few socialist onorevoles, like Deputy Mucci from Sacco's native village in Puglia, and Deputy Misiano, a Sicilian firebrand at the extreme Left. Mucci brought the Sacco-Vanzetti affair to the floor of the Chamber of Deputies, the first jet of foreign protest in what was eventually to become a pounding international flood."
The trial started on 21st May, 1921. The main evidence against the men was that they were both carrying a gun when arrested. Some people who saw the crime taking place identified Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco as the robbers. Others disagreed and both men had good alibis. Vanzetti was selling fish in Plymouth while Sacco was in Boston with his wife having his photograph taken. The prosecution made a great deal of the fact that all those called to provide evidence to support these alibis were also Italian immigrants.
Vanzetti and Sacco were disadvantaged by not having a full grasp of the English language. Webster Thayer, the judge was clearly prejudiced against anarchists. The previous year, he rebuked a jury for acquitting anarchist Sergie Zuboff of violating the criminal anarchy statute. It was clear from some of the answers Vanzetti and Sacco gave in court that they had misunderstood the question. During the trial the prosecution emphasized the men's radical political beliefs. Vanzetti and Sacco were also accused of unpatriotic behaviour by fleeing to Mexico during the First World War.
Eugene Lyons has argued in his autobiography, Assignment in Utopia (1937): "Fred Moore was at heart an artist. Instinctively he recognized the materials of a world issue in what appeared to others a routine matter... When the case grew into a historical tussle, these men were utterly bewildered. But Moore saw its magnitude from the first. His legal tactics have been the subject of dispute and recrimination. I think that there is some color of truth, indeed, to the charge that he sometimes subordinated the literal needs of legalistic procedure to the larger needs of the case as a symbol of class struggle. If he had not done so, Sacco and Vanzetti would have died six years earlier, without the solace of martyrdom. With the deliberation of a composer evolving the details of a symphony which he senses in its rounded entirety, Moore proceeded to clarify and deepen the elements implicit in the case. And first of all he aimed to delineate the class character of the automatic prejudices that were operating against Sacco and Vanzetti. Sometimes over the protests of the men themselves he cut through legalistic conventions to reveal underlying motives. Small wonder that the pinched, dyspeptic judge and the pettifogging lawyers came to hate Moore with a hatred that was admiration turned inside out."
In court Nicola Sacco claimed: "I know the sentence will be between two classes, 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 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 of the oppressed class. Well, you are the oppressor." The trial lasted seven weeks and on 14th July, 1921, both men were found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. The journalist. Heywood Broun, reported that when Judge Thayer passed sentence upon Sacco and Vanzetti, a woman in the courtroom said with terror: "It is death condemning life!"
Bartolomeo Vanzetti commented in court after the sentence was announced: "The jury were hating us because we were against the war, and the jury don't know that it makes any difference between a man that is against the war because he believes that the war is unjust, because he hate no country, because he is a cosmopolitan, and a man that is against the war because he is in favor of the other country that fights against the country in which he is, and therefore a spy, an enemy, and he commits any crime in the country in which he is in behalf of the other country in order to serve the other country. We are not men of that kind. Nobody can say that we are German spies or spies of any kind... I never committed a crime in my life - I have never stolen and I have never killed and I have never spilt blood, and I have fought against crime, and I have fought and I have sacrificed myself even to eliminate the crimes that the law and the church legitimate and sanctify."
In 1925 Celestino Madeiros, a Portuguese immigrant, confessed to being a member of the gang that killed Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli. He also named the four other men, Joe, Fred, Pasquale and Mike Morelli, who had taken part in the robbery. The Morelli brothers were well-known criminals who had carried out similar robberies in area of Massachusetts. However, the authorities refused to investigate the confession made by Madeiros.
Important figures in the United States and Europe became involved in the campaign to overturn the conviction. John Dos Passos, Alice Hamilton, Paul Kellog, Jane Addams, Heywood Broun, William Patterson, Upton Sinclair, Dorothy Parker, Ben Shahn, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Felix Frankfurter, John Howard Lawson, Freda Kirchway, Floyd Dell, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells became involved in a campaign to obtain a retrial. Although Webster Thayer, the original judge, was officially criticised for his conduct at the trial, the authorities refused to overrule the decision to execute the men.
Eugene Debs, the leader of the Socialist Party of America, called for trade union action against the decision: "The supreme court of Massachusetts has spoken at last and Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco, two of the bravest and best scouts that ever served the labor movement, must go to the electric chair.... Now is the time for all labor to be aroused and to rally as one vast host to vindicate its assailed honor, to assert its self-respect, and to issue its demand that in spite of the capitalist-controlled courts of Massachusetts honest and innocent working-men whose only crime is their innocence of crime and their loyalty to labor, shall not be murdered by the official hirelings of the corporate powers that rule and tyrannize over the state."
By the summer of 1927 it became clear that Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti would be executed. Vanzetti commented to a journalist: "If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, 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, justice, for man'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 fish peddler - all! That last moment belong to us - that agony is our triumph. On 23rd August 1927, the day of execution, over 250,000 people took part in a silent demonstration in Boston.
The novelist, Upton Sinclair, decided to investigate the case. He interviewed Moore and according to Sinclair's latest biographer, Anthony Arthur: "Fred Moore, Sinclair said later, who confirmed his own growing doubts about Sacco's and Vanzetti's innocence. Meeting in a hotel room in Denver on his way home from Boston, he and Moore talked about the case. Moore said neither man ever admitted it to him, but he was certain of Sacco's guilt and fairly sure of Vanzetti's knowledge of the crime if not his complicity in it." A letter written by Sinclair at the time acknowledged that he had doubts about Moore's testimony: "I realized certain facts about Fred Moore. I had heard that he was using drugs. I knew that he had parted from the defense committee after the bitterest of quarrels.... Moore admitted to me that the men themselves had never admitted their guilt to him, and I began to wonder whether his present attitude and conclusions might not be the result of his brooding on his wrongs."
Sinclair was now uncertain if a miscarriage of justice had taken place. He decided to end the novel on a note of ambiguity concerning the guilt or innocence of the Italian anarchists. When Robert Minor, a leading figure in the American Communist Party, discovered Upton Sinclair's intentions he telephoned him and said: "You will ruin the movement! It will be treason!" Sinclair's novel, Boston, appeared in 1928. Unlike some of his earlier radical work, the novel received very good reviews. The New York Times called it a "literary achievement" and that it was "full of sharp observation and savage characterization," demonstrating a new "craftsmanship in the technique of the novel".
From one labor fight to another he drifted, taking on the cases that could not afford the more publicized attorneys, the hopeless, desperate cases in the labor struggle. Many of those legal battles have become famous in American labor history - the Ettore-Giovanniti case; the Spokane free speech fight; the Everett, Washington, case; the Bisbee, Arizona, case; the Wichita I.W.W. case-but no share of this fame accrued to him. Always he quarreled with the defense committees or the clients or got himself into some private emotional scrape and lost the laurels of victory. Even in the Sacco-Vanzetti case, to which he gave four years - and there probably would have been no such case if Moore had not taken hold of it and turned it to a cause celebre - a well-paid capitalist lawyer in the end reaped the credit and the fame.
The dynamiting charge against "Big Boy" Krieger, a tall, rawboned Pennsylvania Dutchman, was so palpably a frame-up that no one even pretended it was anything else. The average citizen of Tulsa, which was then ruled by a vigilante Committee of One Hundred, merely had a sporting interest in whether the Standard Oil crowd could make their fantastic invention stick. The case was the last stage of a determined effort of the oil interests to drive I. W.W, union agitation, which had been making considerable headway, out of the state. Organizers had been beaten, tarred and feathered, ridden out on rails. But they kept coming back like so many pesky flies. One night someone set off dynamite under the Pew porch, where Mrs. Pew normally slept. She wasn't there, it happened, and not much harm was done. But the press promptly headlined it as Red Terror and the authorities proceeded to round up every known and suspected I.W.W. in Oklahoma.
The police were considerably chagrined when it appeared that not one of the men taken into custody had been in or near Tulsa the night of the explosion. After the recent tar-and-feather parties, the Wobblies had apparently kept at a distance from the city. But that little detail did not checkmate patriotic ardor. The Red Terror, the police decided, had been applied by absent treatment.
Fred Moore was at heart an artist. Instinctively he recognized the materials of a world issue in what appeared to others a routine matter. A socialist newspaperman spent a few days in Boston and returned to New York to report that "there's no story in it ... just a couple of wops in a jam." Not one of the members of the defense committee formed immediately after the men's arrest suspected that the affair was anything larger than it seemed. When the case grew into a historical tussle, these men were utterly bewildered. But Moore saw its magnitude from the first. His legal tactics have been the subject of dispute and recrimination. I think that there is some color of truth, indeed, to the charge that he sometimes subordinated the literal needs of legalistic procedure to the larger needs of the case as a symbol of class struggle. If he had not done so, Sacco and Vanzetti would have died six years earlier, without the solace of martyrdom.
With the deliberation of a composer evolving the details of a symphony which he senses in its rounded entirety, Moore proceeded to clarify and deepen the elements implicit in the case. And first of all he aimed to delineate the class character of the automatic prejudices that were operating against Sacco and Vanzetti. Sometimes over the protests of the men themselves he cut through legalistic conventions to reveal underlying motives. Small wonder that the pinched, dyspeptic judge and the pettifogging lawyers came to hate Moore with a hatred that was admiration turned inside out. He was not "playing the game" according to their sacred rules.
Perhaps his most difficult task, and therefore his most creative achievement, was to show the two Italians as types and symbols of workmen everywhere. Labor elements in other countries recognized Sacco and Vanzetti as their own long before American workers consented to this identification. American labor, and especially the portion organized into conservative trade unions, at first rejected violently the implication that these two foreigners-self-confessed anarchists, internationalists, atheists-were in any sense representative American workers. Their social views were "unAmerican." To accept them as brothers was to throw doubt on the middle-class delusions of the bona fide labor movement.
It was Fred Moore, Sinclair said later, who confirmed his own growing doubts about Sacco's and Vanzetti's innocence. Meeting in a hotel room in Denver on his way home from Boston, he and Moore talked about the case. Moore said neither man ever admitted it to him, but he was certain of Sacco's guilt and fairly sure of Vanzetti's knowledge of the crime if not his complicity in it. This knowledge had not prevented Moore from doing whatever he could to save the two men, perhaps including illegal activities. The entire legal system was corrupt, Moore insisted, assuring Sinclair that "there is no criminal lawyer who has attained to fame in America except by inventing alibis and hiring witnesses. There is no other way to be a great criminal lawyer in America.