On the shooting of Henry Clay Frick

by Alexander Berkman

From 'Living My Life'

by Emma Goldman

"It was May 1892. News from Pittsburg announced that trouble had

broken out between the Carnegie Steel Company and its employees

organized in the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers. It

was one of the biggest and most efficient labour bodies of the

country, consisting mostly of Americans, men of decision and grit,

who would assert their rights. The Carnegie Company, on the other

hand, was a powerful corporation, known as a hard master. It was

particularly significant that Andrew Carnegie, its president, had

temporarily turned over the entire management to the company chairman,

Henry Clay Frick, a man known for his enmity to labour. Frick was also

the owner of extensive coke fields, where unions were prohibited and

the workers were ruled with an iron hand."

"The high tariff on imported steel had greatly boomed the American

steel industry. The Carnegie Company had practically a monopoly of it,

and enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. Its largest mills were in

Homestead, near Pittsburgh, where thousands of workers were employed,

their tasks requiring long training and skill. Wages were arranged

between the company and the union, according to a sliding scale based

in the prevailing market price of steel products. The current

agreement was about to expire, and the workers presented a new wage

schedule, calling for an increase because of the higher market prices

and enlarged output of the mills."

"The philanthropic Andrew Carnegie conveniently retired to his castle

in Scotland, and Frick took full charge of the situation. He declared

that henceforth the sliding scale would be abolished. The company

would make no more agreements with the Amalgamated Association; it

would itself determine the wages to be paid. In fact, he would not

recognize the union at all. He would not treat with the employees

collectively, as before. He would close the mills, and the men might

consider themselves discharged. Thereafter they would have to apply

for work individually, and the pay would be arranged with every worker

separately. Frick curtly refused the peace advances of the workers'

organization, declaring that there was `nothing to arbitrate'.

Presently the mills were closed. `Not a strike, but a lockout', Frick

announced. It was an open declaration of war."

... ... ...

"Far away from the scene of the impending struggle, in our little

ice-cream parlour in the city of Worcester, we eagerly followed

developments. To us it sounded the awakening of the American worker,

the long-awaited day of his resurrection. The native toiler had risen,

he was beginning to feel his mighty strength, he was determined to

break the chains that had held him in bondage for so long, we thought.

Our hearts were filled with admiration for the men of Homestead."

... ... ...

"One afternoon a customer came in for an ice-cream, while I was alone

in the store. As I set the dish down before him, I caught the large



CARRIED OUT INTO STREET BY SHERIFFS'. I read over the man's shoulder

Frick's dictum to the workers: he would rather see them dead than

concede to their demands, and he threatened to import Pinkerton

detectives. The brutal bluntness of the account, the inhumanity of

Frick towards the evicted mother, inflamed my mind. Indignation swept

my whole being. ... ... "

... ... ...

"I locked up the store and ran full speed the three blocks to our

little flat. It was Homestead, not Russia; I knew it now. We belonged

in Homestead. The boys, resting for the evening shift, sat up as I

rushed into the room, newspaper clutched in my hand. `What has

happened, Emma? You look terrible!' I could not speak. I handed them

the paper."

"Sasha was the first on his feet. `Homestead!' he exclaimed. `I must

go to Homestead!' I flung my arms around him, crying out his name. I,

too, would go. `We must go tonight,' he said; `the great moment has

come at last!' Being internationalists, he added, it mattered not to

us where the blow was struck by the workers; we must be with them. We

must bring our great message and help them see that it was not only

for the moment that they must strike, but for all time, for a free

life, for anarchism. Russia had many heroic men and women, but who was

there in America? Yes, we must go to Homestead, tonight!"

... ... ...

"On the way we discussed our immediate plans. First of all, we would

print a manifesto to the steel-workers. We would have to find somebody

to translate it into English, as we were still unable to express our

thoughts correctly in that tongue. We would have the German and

English texts printed in New York and take them with us to Pittsburgh.

With the help of the German comrades there, meetings could be

organized for me to address. Fedya was to remain in New York till

further developments."

... ... ...

" ... The manifesto was written that afternoon. It was a flaming call

to the men of Homestead to throw off the yoke of capitalism, to use

their present struggle as a stepping-stone to the destruction of the

wage system, and to continue towards social revolution and anarchism."

"A few days after our return to New York, the news was flashed across

the country of the slaughter of steel-workers by Pinkertons. Frick had

fortified the Homestead mills, built a high fence around them. Then,

in the dead of night, a barge packed with strike-breakers, under

protection of heavily armed Pinkerton thugs, quietly stole up the

Monongahela River. The steel-men had learned of Frick's move. They

stationed themselves along the shore, determined to drive back Frick's

hirelings. When the barge got within range, the Pinkertons had opened

fire, without warning, killing a number of Homestead men on the shore,

among them a little boy, and wounding scores of others."

"The wanton murders aroused even the daily papers. Several came out in

strong editorials, severely criticizing Frick. He had gone too far; he

had added fuel to the fire in the labour ranks and would have himself

to blame for any desperate acts that might come."

"We were stunned. We saw at once that the time for our manifesto had

passed. Words had lost their meaning in the face of the innocent blood

spilled on the banks of the Monongahela. Intuitively each felt what

was surging in the heart of the others. Sasha broke the silence."

"`Frick is the responsible factor in this crime,' he said; `he must be

made to stand the consequences.' It was the psychological moment for

an *Attentat*; the whole country was aroused, everybody was

considering Frick the perpetrator of a coldblooded murder. A blow

aimed at Frick would re-echo in the poorest hovel, would call the

attention of the whole world to the real cause behind the Homestead

struggle. It would also strike terror in the enemy's ranks and make

them realize that the proletariat of America had its avengers."

"Sasha had never made bombs before, but Most's `Science of

Revolutionary Warfare' was a good textbook. He would procure dynamite

from a comrade he knew on Staten Island. He had waited for this

sublime moment to serve the Cause, to give his life for the people. He

would go to Pittsburgh."

"`We will go with you!' Fedya and I cried together. But Sasha would

not listen to it. He insisted that it was unnecessary and criminal to

waste three lives on one man."

"We sat down, Sasha between us, holding our hands. In a quiet and even

tone he began to unfold to us his plan. He would perfect a time

regulator for the bomb that would enable hom to kill Frick, yet save

himself. Not because he wanted to escape, No; he wanted to live long

enough to justify his act in court, so that the American people might

know that he was not a criminal, but an idealist."

"`I will kill Frick,' Sasha said, `and of course I shall be condemned

to death. I will die proudly in the assurance that I gave my life for

the people. But I will die by my own hand, like Lingg. Never will I

permit our enemies to kill me.'"

"I hung on his lips. His clarity, his calmness and force, the sacred

fire of his ideal, enthralled me, held me spellbound. Turning to me,

he continued in a deep voice. I was the born speaker, the

propagandist, he said. I could do a great deal for his act. I could

articulate its meaning to the workers. I could explain that he had no

personal grievance against Frick, that as a human being Frick was no

less to him than to anyone else. Frick was the symbol of wealth and

power, of the injustice and wrong of the capitalistic class, as well

as personally responsible for the shedding of the workers' blood.

Sasha's act would be directed against Frick, not as a man, but as an

enemy of labour. Surely I must see how important it was that I remain

behind to plead the meaning of his deed and its message throught the


"Every word he said beat upon my brain like a sledge-hammer. The

longer he talked, the more conscious I became of the terrible fact

that he had no need of me in his last great hour. The realization

swept away everything else- message, Cause, duty, propaganda. What

meaning could these things have compared with the force that made

Sasha flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood from the moment that I

had heard his voice and felt the grip of his hand at our first

meeting? Had our three years together shown him so little of my soul

that he could tell me calmly to go on living after he had been blown

to bits or strangled to death? Is it not true love - not ordinary

love, but the love to share to the uttermost with the beloved - is it

not more compelling than aught else? Those Russians had known it,

Jessie Helfmann and Sophia Perovskaya, they had gone with their men in

life and death. I could do no less."

"`I will go with you, Sasha," I cried; "I must go with you! I know

that as a woman I can be of help. I could gain access to Frick easier

than you. I could pave the way for your act. Besides I simply must go

with you. Do you understand Sasha?'"

... ... ...

The dialogue goes on to describe Sasha's experiments in building a

bomb. It didn't work. Sasha leaves for Homestead. Emma stays in New

York. Sasha needs money, and the text goes on to describe Goldman's

failed humorous attempt at prostitution to raise money to send to

Berkman. She finally succeeds in borrowing money from friends.

... ... ...

"In the early afternoon of Saturday, July 23, Fedya rushed into my

room with a newspaper. There it was, in large black letters: `YOUNG



"Working-men, working-men overpowering Sasha? The paper was lying! He

did the act for the working-men; they would never attack him."

"Hurriedly we secured all the afternoon editions. Every one had a

different description, but the main fact stood out - our brave Sasha

had committed the act! Frick was still alive, but his wounds were

considered fatal. He would probably not survive the night. And Sasha -

they would kill him. They were going to kill him, I was sure of it.

Was I going to let him die alone? Should I go on talking while he was

being butchered? I must pay the same price as he - I must stand the

consequences - I must share the responsibility!"

... ... ... a few days later ...

"In feverish excitement we read the detailed story about the `assassin

Alexander Berkman'. He had forced his way into Frick's private office

on the heels of a Negro porter who had taken in his card. He had

immediately opened fire, and Frick had fallen to the ground with three

bullets in his body. The first to come to his aid, the paper said, was

his assistant Leishman, who was in the office at the time.

Working-men, engaged on a carpenter job in the building, rushed in,

and one of them felled Berkman to the ground with a hammer. At first

they had thought Frick dead. Then a cry was heard from him. Berkman

had crawled over and got near enough to strike Frick with a dagger in

the thigh. After that he was pounded into unconsciousness. He came to

in the station house, but he would answer no questions. One of the

detectives grew suspicious about the appearance of Berkman's face and

he nearly broke the young man's jaw trying to open his mouth. A

peculiar capsule was found hidden there. When asked what it was,

Berkman replied with defiant contempt: `Candy.' On examination it

proved to be a dynamite cartridge. The police were sure of a

conspiracy. ..."

... ... ...

"Meanwhile the daily press carried on a ferocious campaign against the

anarchists. They called for the police to act, to round up `the

instigators, Johann Most, Emma Goldman, and their ilk.' My name had

rarely before been mentioned in the papers, but now it appeared every

day in the most sensational stories. The police got busy; a witch hunt

for Emma Goldman began."

... ... ...

Soldiers occupy Homestead after the further violence. One of the

soldiers cheers Berkman's act from the ranks.

... ... ...

"After a long, anxious wait a letter came from Sasha. He had been

greatly cheered by the stand of the militiaman, W. L. Iams, he wrote.

It showed that even American soldiers were waking up. Could I not get

in touch with the boy, send him some anarchist literature? He would be

a valuable asset to the movement. I was not to worry about himself; he

was in fine spirits and already preparing his court speech - not as a

defence, he emphasized, but in explanation of his act. Of course, he

would have no lawyer; he would represent his own case as true Russian

and other European revolutionaries did. Prominent Pittsburgh attorneys

had offered their services free of charge, but he had declined. It was

inconsistent for an anarchist to employ lawyers; I should make his

attitude on this matter clear to the comrades. ..."

... ... ... Goldman begins to defend Berkman in public rallies

"`Possessed by a fury,' the papers said of my speech the next morning.

`How long will this dangerous woman be permitted to go on?' Ah, if

only they knew how I yearned to give up my freedom, to proclaim loudly

my share in the deed- if only they knew."

... ... ...

"Weeks passed without any indication of when Sasha's trial would

begin. He was still kept on `Murderer's Row' in the Pittsburgh jail,

but the fact that Frick was improving had considerably changed Sasha's

legal status. He could not be condemned to death. Through comrades in

Pennsylvania I learned that the law called for seven years in prison

for his attempt. Hope entered my heart. Seven years are a long time,

but Sasha was strong, he had iron perseverance, he could hold out. I

clung to this new possibility with every fibre of my being."

... ... ...

Goldman answers publicly one of Berkman's critics from with the

anarchist camp. Most was her former teacher, suitor, and close friend.

... ... ...

"At Most's next lecture I sat in the first row, close to the low

platform. My hand was on the whip under my long, grey cloak. When he

got up and faced the audience, I rose and declared in a loud voice: `I

came to demand proof of your insinuations against Alexander Berkman.'"

"There was instant silence. Most mumbled something about `hysterical

woman," but he said nothing else. I then pulled out my whip and leaped

towards him. Repeatedly I lashed him about the face and neck, then

broke the whip over my knee and threw the pieces at him. It was all

done so quickly that no one had time to interfere."

... ... ...

`Living My Life' is an extremely interesting and humorous book. I urge

anyone interested in the conclusion of the story to read it there. We

all know that Frick lived, and Berkman went to jail. But a final

thought from Goldman on this incident. Just before being deported from

the US in 1919, she learned of Frick's death.

... ... ...

"During the farewell dinner given us by our friends in Chicago, on

December 2, reporters dashed in with the news of Henry Clay Frick's

death. We had not heard of it before, but the newspaper men suspected

that the banquet was to celebrate the event. `Mr. Frick has just

died,' a blustering reporter addressed Sasha. `What have you got to

say?' `Deported by God,' Sasha answered dryly. I added that Mr. Frick

had collected his full debt from Alexander Berkman, but that he had

died without making good his obligations. `What do you mean?' the

reporters demanded. `Just this: Henry Clay Frick was a man of the

passing hour. Neither in life nor in death would he have been

remembered long. It was Alexander Berkman who made him known, and

Frick will live only in connection with Berkman's name. His entire

fortune could pay not for such glory."