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Pictures and Illustrations.

John P. Altgeld.


Interview on Anarchy in Illinois.

(Chicago "Tribune," August 31, 1893.)

Governor Altgeld, in the course of an interview on reports of recent activity among anarchists in Chicago, said:

"All talk of that kind is a malicious libel upon the great city of Chicago and the fair name of our State, and it is that kind of irresponsible talk in the past that has done incalculable injury to our good name, and it should be stopped, not only by individuals, but by the newspapers that have been indulging in it."

"Why do you say it is a libel?"

"Because it is and always has been absolutely without foundation, and has been indulged in, in part, for sensational purposes, and in part because certain individuals found that they could not only make political capital out of it, but could derive personal benefit and advantage by it."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because the man who was chief of police at the time the so-called anarchist agitation was at its height some years ago, the man who was one of the most honest and able chiefs of police Chicago ever had, has not only stated that he investigated the whole matter carefully, and watched the so-called anarchists, and that he came to the conclusion that there was not much in the whole anarchist talk, but he has further stated that there were prominent police officials who wanted to have bogus anarchist conspiracies formed in order to get the credit of dispersing them, and who wanted to keep the conservative public in a state of alarm, in order that they themselves might derive personal advantages out of it in the way of achieving glory and promotion. Since that, the same tactics have been resorted to repeatedly by self-called detectives; and I have been informed at different times during the last seven or eight years, that some wealthy business men of Chicago were kept in such a state of uneasiness by this anarchistic talk, that they were induced, from time to time, to pay money to these fellows for the ostensible purpose of watching the maneuvers of a class of people who in reality had no existence.

"They have not yet found out who threw the bomb at the riot in 1886, consequently there is nothing to show that he was an anarchist. Vast sums of money have been spent and great efforts have been made to find out all about it, and if the police have any information on the subject, then the fact that they refuse to say who it was, would show almost conclusively that he was not an anarchist.



"Now, there is an election to be held in Chicago this fall, and some of the newspapers there have again shown a readiness to slander that great city by publishing paragraphs about anarchists, in order, as they imagine, to make some political capital out of it."

"Do you think, Governor, that there are no anarchists in Chicago?"

"I have examined the whole subject carefully. I have been in communication with all classes of people, including newspaper men and others, who had previously talked much on this subject, and I am convinced that there are not and there never have been fifty anarchists in the whole State of Illinois. I don't believe there are fifty in all America. Of course, small agitators will assert to the contrary, but that signifies nothing. We have our criminal classes, as all other States and cities have. We have our percentage of thieves, of robbers, murderers, and of swindlers, but no more than our percentage. We have discontented people, as every State and country, in the world has. We have all manner of theorists, but they are law abiding. We occasionally have serious labor troubles, as every industrial community has. Let me say now that Illinois is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, industrial State on the face of the earth and, considering the extent of its industries, we have not the percentage of labor troubles that they have in other States. During times of strikes there are occasional collisions with the authorities, just as there are in other States, and in times of serious labor trouble, there is more or less irresponsible and wild talk, all of which subsides and is forgotten the moment the labor trouble is over. At present the outlook for laborers is bad, and we have a great many thousands of idle men.


"Nobody likes to starve while there is bread in sight, and we may have an occasional bread riot, but it will be by people nearly every man of whom would fight for the Stars and Stripes. There are to be found in all cities a few irresponsible agitators who talk loud and make a noise, and if the newspapers will give them space the public may be led to believe that there are many men talking. The fact is, it is time our people were developing a little more State pride. The growth of the State has been so marvelously rapid, and its development so wonderful, that our people do not yet fully understand that in everything that goes to make up a civilized and a mighty people,


Illinois is the greatest State upon earth. Yet such has been the course of some of our great newspapers in the past, that an unfavorable impression has been made upon the world, and as a consequence, some of the States, that have scarcely anything left but an overweening conceit and a threadbare reminiscence, actually assume an air of superiority towards us. We can afford to smile at those pretensions, but while the people of the world are coming to us in great numbers, and are amazed at our achievements and our greatness, I hope the press will not stoop to slander the good name of our great State and of marvelous Chicago."