On this day on 29th October

On this day in 1618 Walter Raleigh died. Henry Howard, youngest brother of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, wrote to King James questioning the loyalty of Walter Raleigh after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Howard described Raleigh as "an atheist, indiscreet, incompetent, hostile to the very idea of James's succession". It is believed that Howard wrote these letters on behalf of Robert Cecil, who saw Raleigh as a potential rival for the important post of chief government minister.

Walter Raleigh was stripped of his monopolies and captaincy of the guard in May, and was given notice to quit Durham Place, Tobias Matthew, bishop of Durham, having successfully petitioned James for the return of his London home. On 15th July, Raleigh was detained for questioning in connection with a plot to put Arabella Stewart on the throne. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and on 27th July he tried to stab himself to the heart using a table knife.

Raleigh was tried in November 1603. As a result of an outbreak of plague in London it was decided to hold the trial in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle. (79) According to one source "when Raleigh was escorted from the Tower by a guard of fifty horse, it was touch and go whether he would make it out of the city alive, for the mob was determined to see the disdainful courtier dashed to the ground."

The main evidence against him was the signed confession of Henry Brooke, 11th Baron of Cobham. However, Brooke, withdrew his accusations almost as soon as they were made. Raleigh argued: "Let my accuser come face to face, and be deposed". However, the jury was not told about this and Brooke was not allowed to testify and be cross-examined.

Walter Raleigh was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hung, drawn and dismembered. However, King James granted him a last-minute reprieve and was ordered to spend the rest of his life confined to the Tower of London. Raleigh was also stripped of all his titles. His letters reveal the depths of his depression and hopelessness during this period. Eventually, he decided to spend his time studying history and science.

Walter Raleigh
Walter Raleigh

On this day in 1877 Nathan Forrest died. On the outbreak of the American Civil War Forrest enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private. An outstanding soldier, promotion was rapid and he organised the cover for the retreat at Shiloh. Forrest was badly wounded but after he recovered he conducted raids on the Union Army. Appointed a brigadier general by 21st July, 1862, he took part in Chickamauga. After a dispute with General Braxton Bragg he was transferred.

In April, 1864, Forrest and his men captured Fort Pillow in Jackson, Tennessee. The fort contained 262 African American and 295 white soldiers. It was afterwards claimed that most of these soldiers were killed after they surrendered. After the war an official investigation discovered evidence that "the Confederates were guilty of atrocities which included murdering most of the garrison after it surrendered, burying Negro soldiers alive, and setting fire to tents containing Federal wounded."

Forrest caused William Sherman serious problems during his Atlanta Campaign. Sherman was quoted as saying that Forrest had to be "hunted down and killed even if it costs 10,000 lives and bankrupts the Federal treasury." Forrest joined John B. Hood for the Nashville campaign and was still creating havoc when Robert E. Lee surrendered on 9th April, 1865. Joseph E. Johnston claimed that Forrest was the most impressive general of the American Civil War.

The first branch of the Ku Klux Klan was established in Pulaski, Tennessee, in May, 1866. A year later a general organization of local Klans was established in Nashville in April, 1867. Most of the leaders were former members of the Confederate Army and the first Grand Wizard was Nathan Forrest. During the next two years Klansmen wearing masks, white cardboard hats and draped in white sheets, tortured and killed black Americans and sympathetic whites. Immigrants, who they blamed for the election of Radical Republicans, were also targets of their hatred. Between 1868 and 1870 the Ku Klux Klan played an important role in restoring white rule in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

Nathan Forrest
Nathan Forrest

On this day in 1879 Franz von Papen was born. After the First World War Papen joined the Catholic Centre Party (BVP) and in 1921 was elected to the Reichstag. Two years later he purchased a controlling stake in its leading paper, the Germania. Papen immediately sacked the editor and over the next few years attempted to use the newspaper to impose his right-wing views on the party. This plan was unsuccessful and was considered as an outsider in the BVP.

As Papen had only a small political following it came as a great shock when Paul von Hindenburg decided to appoint Papen as chancellor on 31st May, 1932. Papen now decided to gain the support of the Nazi Party by lifting the ban on the Sturm Abteilung (SA) that had been introduced by Heinrich Brüning. This was followed by deposing the Social Democratic Party government in Prussia and aggressive statements about not keeping to the terms of the Versailles Treaty.

Papen's reactionary policies upset Kurt von Schleicher who favoured a coalition of the centre. When Schleicher managed to persuade several government ministers to turn against Papen he resigned from office. Papen now began to plot with Adolf Hitler in an effort to oust Schleicher who was now chancellor of Germany.

With the support of industrial leaders such as Hjalmar Schacht, Gustav Krupp, Alfried Krupp, Fritz Thyssen, Albert Voegler and Emile Kirdorf, Papen persuaded President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Adolf Hitler as chancellor. Papen, who became vice-chancellor, told Hindenburg that he would be able to prevent Hitler from introducing his more extremist policies.

After the Night of the Long Knives, which included the murder of Kurt von Schleicher, Papen sent a letter to Hitler praising him for "crushing the intended second revolution." Soon afterwards Papen resigned as vice-chancellor and was sent as ambassador to Austria (1934-39) where he plotting successfully for the achievement of Anschluss. This was followed by the post of ambassador to Turkey (1939-44).

Papen retired to Westphalia where he was arrested by Allied forces on 10th April, 1945. He was charged with conspiring to start the Second World War at Nuremberg. He was found not guilty but the German government had him re-arrested and charged him with other offences committed while in Hitler's government.

On 1st May 1947 Papen was judged to be a "major offender" and sentenced to eight years imprisonment. However, like other wealthy supporters of the Nazi regime he was soon forgiven for his crimes and was released in January, 1949.

Franz von Papen
Franz von Papen

On this day in 1897 Henry George, philosopher and economist died. In 1870 George published Our Land and Land Policy. In the book he developed the philosophy and economic ideology known as Georgism. He argued that everyone owns what he or she creates, but that everything found in nature, most importantly land, belongs equally to all humanity.

Henry George followed this with Progress and Poverty (1877). In the book he tried to explain the growing gap between rich and poor. "The reason why, in spite of the increase of productive power wages constantly tend to a minimum which will give but a bare living, is that, with increase in productive power, rent tends to even greater increase, thus producing a constant tendency to the forcing down of wages."

George went on to argue: "It is true that wealth has been greatly increased, and that the average of comfort, leisure and refinement has been raised; but these gains are not general. In them the lowest class do not share. This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times. There is a vague but general feeling of disappointment; an increased bitterness among the working classes; a widespread feeling of unrest and brooding revolution. The civilized world is trembling on the verge of a great movement. Either it must be a leap upward, which will open the way to advances yet undreamed of, or it must be a plunge downward which will carry us back toward barbarism."

In these two books George argued that the gap between the rich and the poor could only be closed by replacing the various taxes levied on labour and capital with a single tax on the value of property. Paul Thompson argues in his book, Socialist, Liberals and Labour (1967) that the book resulted in the growth in socialism: "The real socialist revival was set off by Henry George, the American land reformer, whose English campaign tour of 1882 seemed to kindle the smouldering unease with narrow radicalism. This radical voice from the Far West of America, a land of boundless promise, where, if anywhere, it might seem that freedom and material progress were secure possessions of honest labour, announced grinding poverty, the squalor of congested city life, unemployment, and utter helplessness."

Henry George
Henry George

On this day in 1901 Leon Czolgosz, was executed. Czolgosz rejected his family's Roman Catholic beliefs and in 1900 became excited by the news that the Italian immigrant, Gaetano Bresci, had returned to Italy and assassinated King Umberto. He kept newspapers cuttings of the assassination and started to read anarchist newspapers.

While in Chicago Czolgosz read that President William McKinley was planning to visit the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. On 3rd September Czolgosz bought a pistol and two days later was in the audience when McKinley gave a speech at the Temple of Music. Although surrounded by fifty bodyguards, Czolgosz was able to walk up to McKinley and fire two shots at him. Hit in the chest and abdomen, McKinley shouted out "Be easy with him, boys" as secret service agents beat Czolgosz with fists and pistol butts.

William McKinley was taken to hospital where it was discovered that the chest wound was superficial but the other bullet had torn through the stomach wall. For the first few days his condition improved and newspapers reported that he would recover. However, the path of the bullet that had passed through the wall of the stomach and his kidney, had turned gangrenous and he died on the 14th September, 1901.

When questioned Czolgosz claimed he had been incited to kill McKinley by the speeches of Emma Goldman. She was arrested and imprisoned for questioning. When she was finally released she shocked the public by stating that: "He (Czolgosz) had committed the act for no personal reasons or gain. He did it for what is his ideal: the good of the people. That is why my sympathies are with him." However, as Bill Falkowski pointed out: "He (Czolgosz) was roundly denounced by spokespersons of the Left, with the lone sympathetic exception of Emma Goldman, who nonetheless advised against individual acts of political violence."

Leon Czolgosz was tried and found guilty of killing McKinley. Before being executed Czolgosz remarked that: "I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people - the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime."

Leon Czolgosz
Leon Czolgosz

On this day in 1911 Joseph Pulitzer, Hungarian-American publisher, died. Pulitzer, the son of a grain dealer, was born in Budapest, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in April, 1847. He emigrated to the United States in 1864 and settled in St. Louis. He worked as a mule tender, waiter and hack driver before studying English at the Mercantile Library. In 1868 Pulitzer was recruited by Carl Schurz for his German-language daily, the Westliche Post .

Pulitzer joined the Republican Party and was elected to the Missouri State Assembly. In 1872 he, like many Radical Republicans, supported Horace Greeley against Ulysses S. Grant, the official Republican candidate. Despite the efforts of Pulitzer and Carl Schurz in Missouri, Grant won the presidential election by 286 electoral votes to 66.

In 1872 Pulitzer was able to purchase the St. Louis Post for $3,000. This venture was a success and six years later was able to buy the St. Louis Dispatch for $2,700. He combined the two newspapers and launched crusades against government corruption, lotteries, gambling, and tax fraud. Pulitzer told his readers: "The Post-Dispatch will serve no party but the people; be no organ of Republicanism, but the organ of truth; will follow no causes bit its conclusions; will not support the Administration, but criticize it; will oppose all frauds and shams wherever or whatever they are; will advocate principles and ideas rather than prejudices and partisanship."

By 1883 Pulitzer was a wealthy man and was able to purchase the New York World for $346,000. The newspaper, which had been losing $40,000 a year, was turned into a journal that concentrated on human-interest stories, scandal and sensational material. Pulitzer also promised to use the paper to expose corruption: "We will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty."

Pulitzer continued to promote investigative reporting and in 1909 the New York World exposed a fraudulent payment of $40 million by the United States to the French Panama Canal Company. The federal government indicted Pulitzer for criminally libeling President Theodore Roosevelt and the banker John Pierpont Morgan. However, Pulitzer won an important victory for the freedom of the press when the courts dismissed the indictments.

Pulitzer eyesight deteriorated rapidly during his later years and he was forced to retire. His newspaper empire came under the control of his son, Ralph Pulitzer. In 1911 the New York World published a letter from Joseph Pulitzer: "Every issue of the paper presents an opportunity and a duty to say something courageous and true; to rise above the mediocre and conventional; to say something that will command the respect of the intelligent, the educated, the independent part of the community; to rise above fear of partisanship and fear of popular prejudice. I would rather have one article a day of this sort; and these ten or twenty lines might readily represent a whole day's hard work in the way of concentrated, intense thinking and revision, polish of style, weighing of words."

In his will Pulitzer left $2 million for the establishment of a school of journalism at Columbia University. Pulitzer explained: "I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism, having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people. I desire to assist in attracting to this profession young men of character and ability, also to help those already engaged in the profession to acquire the highest moral and intellectual training." He also left a fund that established annual prizes for literature, drama, music and journalism. Since 1922 Pulitzer Prizes have also been awarded to cartoonists.

Joseph Pulitzer
Joseph Pulitzer

On this day in 1921 the beginning of the second trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Vanzetti and 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.

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."

Many observers believed that their conviction resulted from prejudice against them as Italian immigrants and because they held radical political beliefs. The case resulted in anti-US demonstrations in several European countries and at one of these in Paris, a bomb exploded killing twenty people.

Fifty years later, on 23rd August, 1977, Michael Dukakis, the Governor of Massachusetts, issued a proclamation, effectively absolving the two men of the crime. "Today is the Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Memorial Day. The atmosphere of their trial and appeals were permeated by prejudice against foreigners and hostility toward unorthodox political views. The conduct of many of the officials involved in the case shed serious doubt on their willingness and ability to conduct the prosecution and trial fairly and impartially. Simple decency and compassion, as well as respect for truth and an enduring commitment to our nation's highest ideals, require that the fate of Sacco and Vanzetti be pondered by all who cherish tolerance, justice and human understanding."

Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco
Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco