Sacco and Vanzetti. To the Editor of The Nation and Athenaeum
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[ 611 Sacco and Vanzetti1 To the Editor of The Nation and Athenaeum The Nation and Athenaeum, 45 (20 Apr 1929) 72 SIR: I was interested by Sir Horace Plunkett’s letter in your issue of the 13th inst. On the general question of this case, I sympathize with Mr. Mortimer; and I hasten to add that I have no closer knowledge of it than has Mr. Mortimer.2 But I feel quite sure that in underlining President Lowell’s words, Mr. Mortimer mistook hasty words for a hurried conclusion , and bad English for a bad conscience. I know the type of American which Lawrence Lowell represents; and I have not the slightest doubt that he was honestly convinced of the guilt of the accused. Yours, etc., 57, Chester Terrace, S.W.1. T. S. Eliot April 14th, 1929. Notes 1. Nicola Sacco (1891-1927) and Bartelomeo Vanzetti (1888-1927), Italian-born anarchists, were convicted and imprisoned for murdering two men during an armed robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1920. The controversial trial, conflicting evidence, and growing world support urging their pardon led the Massachusetts governor to appoint a three-man commission to hear a final appeal in 1927. Sentenced to death, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair on 23 Aug 1927. 2.Inhisreviewof TheLettersofSaccoand Vanzetti(1929) intheissueof6Apr,theEnglishcritic and editor Raymond Mortimer (1895-1980) focused on the governor’s Commission of Inquiry that heard the appeal. Mortimer pointed to one member of the Commission, Lawrence Lowell (18561943 ), President of Harvard University, who “heard the witnesses, pondered the evidence, and decided that ‘On the whole, beyond all reasonable doubt, Vanzetti was guilty.’ . . . Mr. Lowell was notknaveenoughtodenyentirelyhisuncertainty,orelsehewastoostupidtorealizethatinacouple of phrases he had betrayed it. The men were electrocuted, and their blood is on Mr. Lowell . . . His name will not be forgotten” (18). Horace Plunkett (1854-1932), Anglo-Irish author, politician, and leader of the Irish agricultural cooperative movement, came to Lowell’s defense in the issue of 13 Apr,statingthatheknewLowell“aswellasIknoworhaveeverknownanyhumanbeing,”andthat while he recognized the “bad impression” of Lowell’s carelessly stated words, he “did not foresee thatitwouldbethebasisofanindictmentcastingthebloodofSaccoandVanzettiontheshoulders of one of the most honoured men in the English-speaking world.” Plunkett requested that Mortimer “give Mr. Lowell the benefit of the doubt . . . on account of the hope we must all cherish that the tragedy will, in due time, point the moral so many Americans clearly see” (40). ...