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Upton Sinclair: The plea of Nicola Sacco, “What is war?”


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Upton Sinclair: Selections on war


Upton Sinclair
From Boston

[From Nicola Sacco’s testimony at his murder trial]

I love men to get everything that nature will give best, because they belong, – we are not of any other place, but we belong to nations. So that is why my idea has been changed. So that is why I love people who labor and work and see better conditions every day develop, makes no more war. We no want fight by the gun and we don’t want to destroy young men. The mother be suffering for building the young man. Some day need a little more bread, so when the time the mother get some bread or profit out of that boy, the Rockefellers, Morgans, and some of the peoples, high class, they send to war. Why? What is war? The war is not shoots like Abraham Lincoln and Abe Jefferson, to fight for the free country, for the better education to give chance to any other peoples, not the white people but the black and the others, because they believe and know they are mens like the rest, but they are war for the great millionaire. No war for the civilization of men. They are war for business, million dollars come on the side. What right we have to kill each other? I been work for the Irish. I have been working for the German fellow, with the French, many other peoples. I love the people just as I could love my wife, and my people for that did receive me. Why should I go kill them men? What he done to me? He never done anything, so I don’t believe in no war. I want to destroy those guns….


July 7th was the date of this oration. Three days previously all patriots had celebrated the Declaration of Independence, with its opening assertion that “all men are created equal.” If the author of that document, “Abe Jefferson,” could have been present in the Dedham court-house, he would have been able to understand the blundering protest of an uneducated foreigner, chained for life to an edge-trimming machine in a shoe-factory.


[From the final statement to the court of Bartolomeo Vanzetti]

“We believe more now than ever that war is wrong, and we are against war more now than ever, and I am glad to be on the doomed scaffold if I can say to mankind, ‘Look out’; you are in a catacomb of the flower of mankind. For what? All that they say to you, all that they have promised to you – it was a lie, it was an illusion, it was a cheat, it was a fraud, it was a crime. They promised you liberty. Where is liberty? They promised you prosperity. Where is prosperity? They promised you elevation. Where is elevation?”

“…Where is the moral good that the war has given to the world? Where is the spiritual progress that we have achieved from the war? Where are the security of life, the security of the things we possess for our necessity? Where is the respect for human life? Where are the respect and the admiration for the good characteristics and the good of the human nature? Never before the war as now have there been so many crimes, so much corruption, so much degeneration as there is now.”

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