On 22nd July, 1916, employers in San Francisco organized a march through the streets in favour of an improvement in national defence. Critics of the march such as William Jennings Bryan, claimed that the Preparedness March was being organized by financiers and factory owners who would benefit from increased spending on munitions.
During the march a bomb went off in Steuart Street killing six people (four more died later). Two witnesses described two dark-skinned men, probably Mexicans, carrying a heavy suitcase near to where the bomb exploded. The Chamber of Commerce immediately offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the dynamiters. Other organizations and individuals added to this sum and the reward soon reached $17,000. Offering such a large reward was condemned by the editor of the New York Times claiming it was a "sweepstake for perjurers".
On the evening of the bombing Martin Swanson went to see the District Attorney, Charles Fickert. Swanson told Fickert that despite the claims that it was the work of Mexicans, he was convinced that Tom Mooney and Warren Billings were responsible for the explosion. The next day Swanson resigned from the Public Utilities Protective Bureau and began working for the District Attorney's office. On 26th July 1916, Fickert ordered the arrest of Mooney, his wife Rena Mooney, Warren Billings, Israel Weinberg and Edward Nolan. Mooney and his wife were on vacation at Montesano at the time. When Mooney read in the San Francisco Examiner that he was wanted by the police he immediately returned to San Francisco and gave himself up. The newspapers incorrectly reported that Mooney had "fled the city" and failed to mention that he had purchased return tickets when he left San Francisco.
None of the witnesses of the bombing identified the defendants in the lineup. The prosecution case was instead based on the testimony of two men, an unemployed waiter, John McDonald and Frank Oxman, a cattleman from Oregon. They claimed that they saw Warren Billings plant the bomb at 1.50 p.m. Oxman saw Tom Mooney and his wife talking with Billings a few minutes later. However, at the trial, a photograph showed that the couple were over a mile from the scene. A clock in the photograph clearly read 1.58 p.m. The heavy traffic at the time meant that it was impossible for Mooney and his wife to have been at the scene of the bombing. Despite this, Mooney was sentenced to death and Billings to life-imprisonment. Rena Mooney and Israel Weinberg were found not guilty and Edward Nolan was never brought to trial.
A large number of people believed that Billings and Mooney had been framed. Those involved in the campaign to get them released included Robert Minor, Fremont Older, George Bernard Shaw, Heywood Broun, Samuel Gompers, Eugene V. Debs, Roger Baldwin, John Dewey, John Haynes Holmes, Oswald Garrison Villard, Norman Hapgood, Crystal Eastman, Norman Thomas, Upton Sinclair, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, Lincoln Steffens, H. L. Mencken, Burton K. Wheeler, Sherwood Anderson, Abraham Muste, Harry Bridges, James Larkin, James Cannon, William Z. Foster, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, William Haywood, William A. White, Carl Sandburg, Arturo Giovannitti and Robert Lovett.
Mooney's defence team complained about the method of selecting his jury. Bourke Cockran pointed out that in San Francisco "each Superior Court Judge places in the box from which the trial jurors are drawn the names of such persons as he may think proper. In theory he is supposed to choose persons peculiarly well qualified to decide issues of fact. In actual practice he places in the box the names of men who ask to be selected. The practical result is that a jury panel is a collection of the lame, the halt, the blind, and the incapable, with a few exceptions, and these are well known to the District Attorney who is thus enabled to pick a jury of his own choice." It was also discovered that William MacNevin, the foreman of Mooney's jury, was a close friend of Edward Cunha, who led the prosecution. MacNevin's wife later claimed her husband was in collusion with Cunha during the trial.
In 1917 the American government became concerned about the conviction and imprisonment of Tom Mooney and Warren Billings and the Secretary of Labor, William Bauchop Wilson, delegated John Densmore, the Director of General Employment, to investigate the case. By secretly installing a dictaphone in the private office of the District Attorney he was able to discover that Mooney and Billings had probably been framed by Charles Fickert and Martin Swanson. The report was leaked to Fremont Older who published it in the San Francisco Call on 23rd November 1917.
There were protests all over the world about this miscarriage of justice and President Woodrow Wilson called on William Stephens, the Governor of California, to look again at the case. Two weeks before Tom Mooney was scheduled to hang, Stephens commuted his sentence to life imprisonment in San Quentin. Soon afterwards Mooney wrote to Stephens: "I prefer a glorious death at the hands of my traducers, you included, to a living grave."
In November 1920, Draper Hand of the San Francisco Police Department, went to Mayor James Rolph and admitted that he had helped Charles Fickert and Martin Swanson to frame Mooney. Hand also confessed that he had arranged for John McDonald to get a job when he began threatening to tell the newspapers that he had lied in court about Mooney and Billings.
Mooney's defence team now began to search for MacDonald. He was found in January 1921 and agreed to make a full confession. He claimed he did see two men with the large suitcase but was unable to get a good look at them. When he reported the incident to District Attorney Charles Fickert he was asked to say the men were identify Warren Billings and Tom Mooney. Fickert said that if he did this "I will see that you get the biggest slice of the reward." Later two witnesses, Edgar Rigall and Earl K. Hatcher, came forward and provided evidence that Frank Oxman was 200 miles away during the bombing and could not have seen what he told the court at the trial of Mooney.
In February 1921 John McDonald confessed that the police had forced him to lie about the planting of the bomb. Despite this new evidence the Californian authorities refused a retrial. After the publication of this new evidence it was generally believed that Charles Fickert and Martin Swanson had framed Mooney and Billings. However, Republican governors over the next twenty years: William Stephens (1917-1923), Friend Richardson (1923-1927), Clement Young (1927-1931), James Rolph (1931-1934) and Frank Merriam (1934-39) all refused to order the release of the two men.
The international campaign to free Tom Mooney and Warren Billings continued. In a survey carried out in 1935 and it was discovered that Tom Mooney was one of the four best known Americans in Europe (other three were Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles A. Lindbergh and Henry Ford).
In 1937 a group of politicians led by Caroline O'Day, Nan Honeyman, Jerry O'Connell, Emanuel Celler, James E. Murray, Vito Marcantonio, Gerald Nye and Usher Burdick asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt to intercede in the case. When Roosevelt declined Murray and O'Connell introduced a resolution in the Senate calling on Governor Frank Merriam to pardon Mooney and Billings.
In November 1938 Culbert Olson was elected as Governor of California. He was the first member of the Democratic Party to hold this office for forty-four years. Soon after gaining power Olson ordered that Mooney and Warren Billings should be released from prison. Rena Mooney, who welcomed her husband as he left San Quentin, was quoted as saying: "These twenty-two long years have been moth-eaten. Life to me has been something like a cloak. There is little left but the tatters."
Behind the military banners and martial glory they (the workers) see the grinning skulls of Homestead, Latimer, Coeur d'Alene and Ludlow - skulls of working men, women and children, shot, murdered and burned to death by militia men - soldiers.
And close in front appear the thousands of graveyards in Europe - the international cemetery - and in liberty-loving America the ghastly, bleaching bone heaps, on the great desert, of the Mexican peons and poor people fighting unto death for the land and liberty.
Look, paraders and players for the bloody dripping dollars of the armament and munition trusts, the glorious human gore stream is rushing to engulf the marchers.
This great Republic may have foes abroad but some of its most deadly enemies are to be found right at home. They are the industrial vampires who undermine the Nation's vitality by cruel, merciless exploitation of labor. Special privilege, monopoly and greed are rampant. Starvation wages and long enervating hours of toil are imposed upon millions of
American toilers, of whom one-third are poverty-stricken all the year around. Yet they have the nerve to ask Organized Labor to take part in military preparedness parades designed to intimidate some unknown foreign foe when the known foes of the Nation who live among us, are brazenly taking the lead in these demonstrations.
I understand that there was an explosion on Market Street, today. It is not known who was responsible, and I hope that public judgment will be suspended. We do not know the possibilities underlying the tragedy, and I will not discuss them. But I want to remind you all of the old saying that he who lives by the sword, by the sword shall perish. Those who create
hatred in the minds of the people, those who favor training men to murder, can expect that their teachings will bring thoughts of murder to others. Those who are responsible for the preparedness movement are responsible for violence.
Wife and I left San Francisco last Monday 8:45, for week's vacation at Montesano. See by Examiner I am wanted by San Francisco police. My movements are and have been an open book. Will return by next train to San Francisco. I consider this attempt to incriminate me in connection with the bomb outrage, one of the most dastardly pieces of work ever attempted.
Gentlemen, the case here is by far more serious than any other case that was ever submitted to any jury. It is not a question of this defendant against Mrs. Van Loo; that unhappy woman is at rest; those orphan children must go through life, thinking of the scenes that were enacted there. But here, gentlemen, was the offense: This American flag—this American flag was what they desired to offend. They offended that by killing the women and men that worshipped it. Here is another photograph of Mrs. Van Loo, dying on the streets of our city, and in a feeble hand she holds the American flag, and if that flag is to continue to wave, you men must put an end to such acts as these. So far as I am concerned, no personal consequences are going to swerve me one jot from my sworn duty. What are personal consequences, what are political consequences in a crisis like this? Gentlemen, the very life of the Nation is at stake. No foreign foes were on our land at this time, but some traitor, some murderous villain, who, with his associates, perpetrated this crime, and to disgrace the flag, they took the life of this unfortunate woman.
Now, we have here, gentlemen, enough evidence at 721 Market Street - and God only knows, if it had not been for the action of Estelle Smith, and those who saw him there. God only knows, there may have been three or four hundred children of the working class of San Francisco blown into eternity.
He (Billings) probably delighted in hearing the cries of these women and children. My God! You have heard it described here, and I have seen it afterwards - women with babes in their arms, their legs shot away, crawling away from the wreck of the cruel shell, and if you could have heard the cries of some of those children, if you could have seen, like I have seen, my friend Lawlor there blown beyond recognition, you could not have thought lightly of it.
This historic case was spawned in the brain of a private detective named Martin Swanson, and hatched in the super-heated perfervid imaginations of the Smiths, the Kidwells, the Moores and the McDonalds, and fostered and brought into being and reared by the Fickerts, the Brennans, and the Traffic Squad.
Every bit of evidence, with the exception of those four men that were on the roof of the Eiler's Building, every bit of evidence that has been produced before this jury, had been volunteered at some time or another to the Prosecution, and had been put in the ashcan. Why? Because it did not fit the "dream" of McDonald.
This defendant and his fellow-anarchists, in the time of peace, murdered ten men and women because these anarchists were bent on destroying the very government which Lincoln preserved and defended. The question which concerns you, gentlemen, here, as well as every other citizen of this great republic, is either to destroy anarchy or the anarchists will destroy the State.
If the moral fibre of the people of this nation has been so weakened; if the seeds of anarchy have been so implanted in the body politic that we refuse or neglect to defend our citizens at home or abroad; when helpless women and children can be ruthlessly slain on the streets of our city, and those who murder them go unpunished, because those who have been sworn to enforce the laws have tailed through neglect or fear to do their duty - we can then say farewell to the greatness of our nation; our boasted civilization is then only a self-delusion resting on the edge of a political abyss.
The method of selecting jurors in San Francisco is that each Superior Court Judge places in the box from which the trial jurors are drawn the names of such persons as he may think proper. In theory he is supposed to choose persons peculiarly well qualified to decide issues of fact. In actual practice he places in the box the names of men who ask to be selected.
The practical result is that a jury panel is a collection of the lame, the halt, the blind, and the incapable, with a few exceptions, and these are well known to the District Attorney who is thus enabled to pick a jury of his own choice.
In the trial of Mooney, there was called as a witness by the people one Frank C. Oxman, whose testimony was most damaging and of the utmost consequences to the defendant. Indeed, in my opinion, the testimony of this witness was by far the most important adduced by the People at the trial of Mooney. In confirmation of these statements, I would respectfully call your attention to the transcript filed on the appeal. Within the past week there have been brought to my attention certain letters written by Oxman prior to his having been called to testify, which have come to the knowledge and into the possession of the defendant's counsel since the determination of the motion for new trial. The authorship and authenticity of these letters, photographic copies of which I transmit herewith, are undenied and undisputed. As you will at once see, they bear directly upon the credibility of the witness and go to the very foundation of the truth of the story told by Oxman on the witness stand. Had they been before me at the time of the hearing of the motion for new trial, I would unhesitatingly have granted it. Unfortunately, the matter is now out of my hands jurisdictionally, and I am therefore addressing you, as the representative of the People on the appeal, to urge upon you the necessity of such action on your part as will result in returning the case to this court for retrial. The letters of Oxman undoubtedly require explanation and
so far as Mooney is concerned, unquestionably the explanation should be heard by a jury which passes upon the question of his guilt or innocence.
I fully appreciate the unusual character of such a request coming from the trial court in any case and I know of no precedent therefor. In the circumstances of this case, I believe that all of us who were participants in the trial concur that right and justice demand that a new trial of Mooney should be had in order that no possible mistake shall be made in a case where a human life is at stake.
If the thing were done that ought to be done this whole God damn dirty low down bunch would be taken out and strung up without ceremony. They're a bunch of dirty anarchists, everyone of them, and they ought to be in jail on general principles. I'm not speaking now as an officer, I am just speaking as a man and a citizen, to show you my attitude. I'm disgusted with all this outcry over Mooney, - making a hero of him by Older and all that bunch where he is an anarchist and a murderer. If he ought to be out of jail let him get out. The Courts are open to him. But I'm not going to help him get out. If I knew that every single witness that testified against him had perjured himself in his testimony I wouldn't lift a finger to get him out. I told him to get out if he could.
And now people like Judge Griffin are going around saying he ought to have a new trial. Why, Judge Griffin almost cried there on the bench because we searched the Blast office without a search warrant. The Blast office, run by Berkman and that bunch of anarchists. Berkman's the man who shot Frick and he told me he did it on general principles because Frick is a capitalist. Berkman told me that he had no country and that he'd just as not spit on the American Flag. I ought to have murdered him right there for saying that. My only regret now is that I didn't. They'd talked in the Blast about stopping the Preparedness parade. They urged a meeting of protest and then they said that stronger measures should be taken. Do you think I was going to wait around 2 or 3 days for a search warrant for people like that? Now if it was your house or mine it would be different, but I'm glad there was a district attorneys office here with guts enough to go ahead and search those people without waiting for a warrant.
As one reads the testimony and studies the way in which the cases were conducted one is apt to wonder at many things - at the apparent failure of the district attorney's office to conduct a real investigation at the scene of the crime; at the easy adaptability of some of the star witnesses; at the irregular methods pursued by the prosecution in identifying the various defendants; at the sorry type of men and women brought forward to prove essential matters of fact in a case of the gravest importance; at the seeming inefficacy of even a well-established alibi; at the sangfroid with which the prosecution occasionally discarded an untenable theory to adopt another not quite so preposterous; at the refusal of the public prosecutor to call as witnesses people who actually saw the falling of the bomb; in short, at the general flimsiness and improbability of the testimony adduced, together with a total absence of anything that looks like a genuine effort
to arrive at the facts in the case.
These things, as one reads and studies the complete record, are calculated to cause in the minds of even the most blase a decided mental rebellion. The plain truth is, there is nothing about the cases to produce a feeling of confidence that the dignity and majesty of the law have been upheld. There is nowhere anything even remotely resembling consistency, the effect being that of patchwork, of incongruous makeshift, of clumsy and often desperate expediency.
It is not the purpose of this report to enter into a detailed analysis of the evidence presented in these cases - evidence which, in its general outlines at least, is already familiar to you in your capacity as president, ex officio, of the Mediation Commission. It will be enough to remind you that Billings was tried first; that in September 1916, he was found guilty, owing largely to the testimony of Estelle Smith, John McDonald, Mellie and Sadie Edeau, and Louis Rominger, all of whom have long since been thoroughly discredited; that when Mooney was placed on trial, in January of the year following, the prosecution decided, for reasons which were obvious, not to use Rominger or Estelle Smith, but to add to the list of witnesses a certain Frank C. Oxman, whose testimony, corroborative of the testimony of the two Edeau women, formed the strongest link in the chain of evidence against the defendant; that on the strength of this testimony Mooney was found guilty; that on February 24, 1917, he was sentenced to death; and that subsequently, to wit, in April of the same year, it was demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that Oxman, the prosecution's star witness, had attempted to suborn perjury and had thus in effect destroyed his own credibility.
The exposure of Oxman's perfidy, involving as it did the district attorney's office, seemed at first to promise that Mooney would be granted a new trial. The district attorney himself, Mr. Charles M. Fickert, when confronted with the facts, acknowledged in the presence of reputable witnesses that he would agree to a new trial. His principal assistant, Mr. Edward A. Cunha, made a virtual confession of guilty knowledge of the facts relating to Oxman, and promised, in a spirit of contrition, to see that justice should be done the man who had been convicted through Oxman's testimony. The trial judge, Franklin A. Griffin, one of the first to recognize the terrible significance of the expose, and keenly jealous of his own honor, lost no time in officially suggesting the propriety of a new trial. The attorney general of the state, Hon. Ulysses S. Webb, urged similar action in a request filed with the Supreme Court of California.
Matters thus seemed in a fair way to be rectified, when two things occurred to upset the hopes of the defense. The first was a sudden change of front on the part of Fickert, who now denied that he had ever agreed to a new trial, and whose efforts henceforth were devoted to a clumsy attempt to whitewash Oxman and justify his own motives and conduct throughout. The second was a decision of the Supreme Court to the effect that it could not go outside the record in the case - in other words, that judgment could not be set aside merely for the reason that it was predicated upon perjured testimony.
There are excellent grounds for believing that Fickert's sudden change of attitude was prompted by emissaries from some of the local corporate interests most bitterly opposed to union labor. It was charged by the Mooney defendants, with considerable plausibility, that Fickert was the creature and tool of these powerful interests, chief among which are the Chamber of Commerce and the principal public-service utilities of the city of San Francisco. In this connection it is of the utmost significance that Fickert should have entrusted the major portion of the investigating work necessary in these cases to Martin Swanson, a corporation detective, who for some time prior to the bomb explosion had been vainly attempting to connect these same defendants with other crimes of violence.
Since the Oxman exposure, the district attorney's case has melted steadily away until there is little left but an unsavory record of manipulation and perjury, further revelations having impeached the credibility of practically all the principal witnesses for the prosecution. And if any additional confirmation were needed of the inherent weakness of the cases against these codefendants, the acquittal of Mrs. Mooney on July 26, 1917, and of Israel Weinberg on the 27th of the following October would seem to supply it.
These acquittals were followed by the investigation of the Mediation Commission and its report to the President under date of January 16, 1918. The Commission's report, while disregarding entirely the question of the guilt or innocence of the accused, nevertheless found in the attendant circumstances sufficient grounds for uneasiness and doubt as to whether the two men convicted had received fair and impartial trials.
Ordinarily the relentless persecution of four or five defendants, even though it resulted in unmerited punishment for them all, would conceivably have but a local effect, which would soon be obliterated and forgotten. But in the Mooney case, which is nothing but a phase of the old war between capital and organized labor, a miscarriage of justice would inflame the passions of laboring men everywhere and add to a conviction, already too widespread, that workingmen can expect no justice from an orderly appeal to the established courts.
Yet this miscarriage of justice is in process of rapid consummation. One man is about to be hanged; another is in prison for life; the remaining defendants are still in peril of their liberty or lives, one or the other of which they will surely lose if some check is not given to the activities of this most amazing of district attorneys.
That sort of thing is always going on in America. I have no illusions about the Golden West; probably, however, it only
appears to be the worst place in the world politically and judicially, because there is less hushing up; that is, less solidarity among the governing class than in England and Russia.
Will you permit a suggestion from me in these troubled times which perhaps justify what I should feel hardly justifiable in other circumstances?
The suggestion is this: Would it not be possible to postpone the execution of the sentence of Mooney until he can be tried upon one of the other indictments against him, in order to give full weight and consideration to the important changes which I understand to have taken place in the evidence against him?
I urge this very respectfully indeed but very earnestly, because the case has assumed international importance and I feel free to make the suggestion because I am sure that you are as anxious as anyone can be to have no doubt or occasion of criticism of any sort attach itself to the case.
The public tolerated the trial methods because the lies knowingly given currency by the Hearst papers had convinced it that Mooney and his fellow prisoners were guilty. When Hearst denounces those methods he denounces himself. When he asks clemency for Mooney he asks that a wrong be undone which could never have been done without his conscious aid.
There can be no excuse or evasion for Hearst. All that he or his New York editor knows now about the trial of Mooney he and his San Francisco editors knew a year ago. If it appears now that Mooney has been unjustly treated it appeared so then.
The only difference is that a year ago it took courage and a willingness to make sacrifices, to demand justice for Mooney and that now it is dangerous for a newspaper to stand out against that demand.
Fickert's ship is going down. And the rats are leaving it.
I beg that you will believe that I am moved only by a sense of public duty and of consciousness of the many and complicated interests involved when I again must respectfully suggest a commutation of the death sentence imposed upon Mooney. I would not venture again to call your attention to this case did I not know the international significance which attaches to it.
They would have you believe that the Socialist Party consists in the main of disloyalists and traitors. It is true in a sense not at all to their discredit. We frankly admit that we are disloyalists and traitors to the real traitors of this nation; to the gang that on the Pacific coast are trying to hang Tom Mooney and Warren Billings in spite of their well-known innocence and the protest of practically the whole civilized world.
I know Tom Mooney intimately - as if he were my own brother. He is an absolutely honest man. He had no more to do with the crime with which he was charged and for which he was convicted than I had. And if he ought to go to the gallows, so ought I. If he is guilty every man who belongs to a labor organization or to the Socialist Party is likewise guilty.
What is Tom Mooney guilty of? I will tell you. I am familiar with his record. For years he has been fighting bravely and without compromise the battles of the working class out on the Pacific coast. He refused to be bribed and he could not be browbeaten. In spite of all attempts to intimidate him he continued loyally in the service of the organized workers, and for this he became a marked man. The henchmen of the powerful and corrupt corporations, concluding finally that he could not be bought or bribed or bullied, decided he must therefore be murdered. That is why Tom Mooney is today a life prisoner, and
Jim I lied to you in San Francisco last year when you asked me if Oxman was down there when that explosion took place. He was not there at that time any more than you was. He ate dinner at my house that day and never left Woodland until after a o'clock. He never got to San Francisco until after 5 o'clock that evening.
I have stood up for Oxman and been loyal to him because I considered him one of my best friends, but he has turned me down cold. It hurt me like the devil Jim to think he would treat me the way he has. Have written him several letters reminding him of his moral obligation to me. Some of them he doesn't even answer. He has made me lots of promises to help me out and every appeal I have made to him he has evaded. Jim I got my little wife to stand by the old man when he was in trouble. She lied to those attorneys when they came to Woodland, just to help Oxman.
Every thing has gone wrong with me this year and I could not make a dollar. When I asked Oxman for a loan to help feed and clothe my wife and babies he turned me down. Does that look right. If I had gone on the stand and told what I know, Oxman would be in the State Prison today.
Swanson sent for me and asked me to take Oxman to the North End station and show him Weinberg's auto. They had taken the car out there. I took Oxman to see the car. It was his first and only sight of the car. Oxman was very much concerned, when he saw the car, to find out if it were possible for a man to sit in it and hold a suitcase as he was going to describe in court. He had me get in the car and let my hand hang down over the side, as if I were holding a suitcase. He wasn't satisfied till I got in and did as he wanted; after that he thought his version was all right - that the defense wouldn't prove it impossible.
There wasn't any license plate on the car when I took Oxman to see it. If the plate had been there it would be bad for the prosecution if Oxman were asked if he hadn't got the number when he saw the car at the police station. Cunha had had the plate taken off that car. It was in a drawer in an inner office at the station. Cunha told me to copy the number. I did that and gave it to him. As far as I know Oxman never saw the license plate itself.
McDonald said to me, "Unless I get a job I'm going to spill everything to Fremont Older."
I went to Lieutenant Goff and warned him to arrange a job of some kind for McDonald. Then he was given a job - in Tracy or somewhere in the interior of the state.
He didn't tell everything then, but I'm sure that he'd tell the truth if he were brought here now.
About a week before the trial of Thomas J. Mooney, Assistant District Attorney Ed Cunha sent for me and I went into his private office. He read over the testimony which I had given in the Billings trial. He said to me: "You had better make the time that you saw the man set the suitcase at 1:30 instead of 1:50." I said to him: "Mr. McNutt will grab that right away; he will see that I changed my testimony from what it was in the Billings trial."
He said, "Oh, hell, we will beat him on that. You can say that you were not positive about it at the time of the first trial." He said, "You see, if that suitcase was set at 1:30 that would give them time to get back up Mission street on top of the Eilers' building".
I followed the instruction of Mr. Cunha, and said that I was not positive, that it might be between 1:30 and 1:45.
It was inevitable that the case of Tom Mooney should become a fixation of liberals. An aggressive labor leader in San Francisco, he was deliberately "framed" as having caused an explosion which resulted in the death of several participants in a "preparedness" parade. Felix Frankfurter, on a mission to examine and report to President Wilson on labor difficulties in the West, saw through the plot and warned the president of the danger in the execution of an innocent man whose fate was exciting workers all over the world.
After commutation of the sentence to imprisonment for life, the long struggle began. One by one the folds of perjury were peeled away until the nucleus of the noxious growth was reached. The bluff cattle buyer "who had seen Mooney plant the bomb" was shown to have been miles away from the scene. He was also revealed as having written to a friend in Ohio to come to California to add another lie. Was he prosecuted for perjury? To ask the question is naive. Year after year governors and the Supreme Court of California wriggled like snakes to avoid a formal admission of the criminality of the state. It was not until the Christmas of 1938 that Tom Mooney was pardoned.
Speaking very frankly, it seems to me that the great obstacle in the way of Mooney's pardon has been his alleged bad reputation. In other words, he has been denied real justice because the opinion seems to be prevalent, that he is a
dangerous man to be at large and therefore should be, innocent or guilty, kept in prison. Conceding, for the sake of argument, that Mooney has been all he is painted, it is, to say the least, most specious reasoning; indeed, no reason at all, why Mooney should be denied the justice which, under our system, is due even the most degraded. Moreover, such a doctrine is more dangerous and pernicious than any Mooney has been accused of preaching.
I don't expect the Communists to love me, and I'm not going to love them. I hope from time to time to say many things about them, and I expect the same in return. But I think it would be a fine idea not to fight until Tom Mooney is free and the Scottsboro boys are acquitted.
The Mooney case festered unresolved for more than twenty years, its causes widespread, its consequences pernicious. The trials and imprisonment of Mooney and Billings revealed dramatically the intolerance and injustice accorded radical dissenters before, during, and long after the First World War. The case, developing out of class social tensions and public anxieties accompanying the Preparedness Day crime, was forged through the repeated abuse of fair procedures by local law enforcement officials.