The Greatest Free Speech Trial of the War, February 1921


The Greatest Free Speech Trial of the War

was the I.W.W. conspiracy case at Chicago in 1918, under the Espionage and other war acts in which ninety-eight members were sentenced to terms ranging up to 20 years in Leavenworth Penitentiary.

The recent decision in the case by Circuit Court of Appeals at Chicago makes it clear beyond argument that the men were guilty of opposing the war and conscription only by spoken or written words -- placing their case in the same class as that of Eugene V. Debs and scores of other political offenders under the Espionage Act.

The I.W.W. is appealing to the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review this decision. The brief will be filed in a few days. The chief constitutional point at issue is the effect of the illegality of the search warrants under which practically all the documentary evidence was seized. The Circuit Court of Appeals admitted that the warrants were invalid -- but nevertheless sustained the conviction by some involved reasoning.

This case is one of three federal conspiracy cases brought by the Government against the I.W.W. All three cases are before appellate courts.

The legal defense of these cases is costing the General Defense Committee of the I.W.W. sums unprecedented in American labor trials. The Committee has already collected and spent over $225,000 and raised over half a million dollars in bail for the men out on appeal bond. $10,000 more is needed at once to carry on the defense. The resources of the membership and their sympathizers have been taxed to the limit.

This is an appeal to liberal-minded Americans to help the I.W.W. carry their case through the appellate courts. Whatever one may think of the I.W.W. they are entitled to the fullest possible hearing before the courts. Misrepresentation and sustained attacks from all quarters have made adequate legal defense exceedingly difficult.

The undersigned appeal for contributions to assist directly with the legal defense work and with publicity for the issues involved -- issues of law, of free speech and of the rights of the defendants to an adequate hearing before the highest court in the land.

Contributions should be sent to Paul J. Furnas, Treasurer, at 138 West 13th Street, New York City.