Offence: Breaking Peace > libel
Verdict: Guilty > with recommendation
Punishment: No Punishment > sentence respited
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541. JOHANN MOST (35) was indicted for unlawfully and maliciously publishing in a newspaper called the Freiheit a libel attempting to justify the crime of assassination and murder. Second Count, with intent to incite persons to conspire against the lives of the Sovereigns of Europe.
Other Counts for encouraging and endeavouring to persuade persons to murder the Sovereigns and Rulers of Europe.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL, SOLICITOR-GENERAL, MR. A. L. SMITH, and MR. POLAND Prosecuted; MR. A. M. SULLIVAN and MR. COOPER WILLIS Defended.
CHARLES EDWABD MARR . I live at 10, Clare Road Terrace, South Kensington, and am a teacher of languages—on 25th March last I went to 101, Great Titchfield Street—I passed through the house and was directed to an office at the back of the yard—I there purchased four copies of the Freiheit newspaper of 19th March—I produce one of those copies—I recognise it by the initials—I cannot swear to the identity of of the man of whom I bought the copies of the paper—they were delivered to me in the front parlour of the house.
Cross-examined. I am a linguist by profession—I went to this place for the paper because in the course of casual conversation it was spoken of, and especially the first article in it, both exciting my curiosity—they were spoken of to me by a friend of mine—I decline to give names—I was not sent by the parties who are really responsible for the article—I bought the four copies—I read the article—it was not sympathy with the article that took me there, it was a natural curiosity arising from the fact that I had lived a long time in Russia for one thing, and that I had lived a long time in Germany for another—when I read the article I enclosed a copy of it to a Member of Parliament (Lord George Hamilton), and asked him to inquire of the Government whether proceedings would not be taken in the case—on reading the article I was very much disgusted both with the tenour of it and the tendency, and from this disgust and other considerations I felt a strong impulse to come forward and volunteer my evidence.
PHILIP JOSEPH HALL . I am a commission agent, and carry on business at No. 2, Well Court, in the Minories—I have been in the habit of selling copies of the German newspaper called the Freiheit—I first of all purchased those copies from an office in Percy Street, then afterwards at Rose Street, and afterwards at the office of the Freiheit, 101, Titchfield Street—I know the defendant, and I have seen his wife, Mrs. Most—I could not swear exactly to her—I have seen the defendant several times at Percy Street, also at Rose Street; several times I have seen him at Titchfield Street; I have bought some copies of the Freiheit—sometimes Mr. Most used to serve me, and sometimes somebody else used to be there—I bought a number of copies of the Freiheit with the red border round it of 19th March at the office in Titchfield Street—of the first edition I bought, I think it was four or five dozen, but of the second edition I could not get sufficient—I had an order for more than I could get—I think I bought two or three dozen of the second edition—I sold all those, and could have sold a great many more if I had them—I sold them in the ordinary way of business to my regular customers—I think they generally used to make a second edition of the red border—that used to come out every year upon the nominal day of the Revolution of 1848, of which I used to be a member—there had been no previous copy with a red border round it this year, but last year, on the same date, and every year on the nominal day, the 18th March, the date of the Revolution.
Cross-examined. I do not personally read the Freiheit.
Re-examined. I sold these copies to customers in the ordinary way of
business for the purpose of being read—I don't sell newspapers in the shop; they are ordered from me—I only sell French and German papers—I sell the Freiheit to those who order it from me.
RICHARD ROBERT DAVIS . I am a newsagent, carrying on business at Ludgate Hill, at the corner of the Imperial Arcade—for some years prior to 19th March, 1881, I have had the Freiheit for sale—we received 14 copies per week—I never went to Titchfield Street; I received the copies by post, sold what I could, and what were unsold a collector called for, and I paid the collector—I do not remember how many copies I received on 19th March of this particular number that there was this bother about—they were sold out, and more supplied—there was a greater demand than for others—they were mostly a number of gentlemen who applied for these copies; we usually sell the copies to respectable working men.
HENRY WARD (Policeman). On 29th of last month I went to 101, Great Titchfield Street—I saw the prisoner there—I asked for a copy of the Freiheit of 19th March; I spoke to him in German—he said there were no more of those numbers left, that they had had printed a second edition, but for the sale of the few they might still get rid of it was not worth while printing any more—I told him that I had a friend or some one to whom I should like to give one—he then gave me two printed sheets, which he said contained the leading article, and he supposed that was the principal thing I wanted—this (produced) is one of them—he took them off a pile about four inches in depth on a shelf.
Cross-examined. I was in plain clothes—I spoke German to him; I tried to look as like a German as possible—I asked for a copy of the Freiheit; I told him it was the article with the red border round it—I said, "Will you oblige me with a copy if you have it, as I wish to send it to my friends?"—I wanted to buy it; the friend was a pretence—he then said they were all sold out—I was sorry for that—I did not say I was sorry; I looked it; I put on a regretful countenance—after a little conversation about trifles, he said, "I have got some left; some reprints," and he gave me two of them—the conversation was merely relating to the Freiheit, but not on details that were written in it, because I had not read the Freiheit myself before going into the shop—I had seen no other copy before; I had heard of it—the conversation by which I induced him to give me the copy was that I was very sorry he had not one, as I really wished to send my friend one or two if I could get them, and I could not find out where I could get them now—I had never watched this office of the Freiheit before; I had never seen or heard of the prisoner before—I am a detective, but not on duty in the City of London—I was never sent on this sort of duty before.
Re-examined. I was instructed by my superiors to obtain a copy of this newspaper, for the purposes of justice, whatever they might be—I did not announce myself as an officer—this was a front room of the first floor, and this pile was in the room, and the prisoner took the two copies from it.
HENRY JAMES BALE . I carry on business as a printer in Great Titchfield Street; I am in partnership with my brother there—I know Johann Most, the prisoner, by that name; I have known him two years, I should think—I was originally employed to print the Freiheit by a person of the name of Weber; that was two years ago last Christmas—I knew the prisoner in connection with that newspaper about the time it was first commenced—he
simply came with others in reference to the matter, in the first instance—at first we used to set up the type from the written manuscript, and print—the prisoner has paid me personally for printing the newspaper—he first commenced to do so during the 12 months preceding last Christmas—during the year 1880 we printed 1,200 copies—it was a weekly paper—these are bills made out by me and addressed to Herr Most; they are bills for the printing of the Freiheit newspaper, and other things are included—one is receipted; they are headed at the top, "August 17th, 1880, Herr Most," and then comes the charge—we altered the mode of business and ceased to set up the type at Christmas, 1879, or at the end of the year—the type was then set up in Percy Street, I believe, and afterwards at 101, Great Titchfield Street—the type so set up was brought to us for the purpose of being printed—prior to March, 1881, the prisoner continued his connection with the paper just the same, and continued to pay us—other persons besides the prisoner paid us; various people, at different times, called with the money—I believe I never made out the bills to any one but the prisoner—he himself used personally to come sometimes to pay for the printing of the Freheit—his name appeared originally as editor of the newspaper, upon its face—it was reduced in size and then the name was removed and no other name appeared—Most's name appeared up to the end of 1879, I believe—I printed this article of 19th March—I do not understand German; I did not know its contents; I printed it as it was—I retained a copy; I can tell it by looking at it, because there is a signature upon it—that is the copy—for this copy the type came to us in the usual way from Titchfield Street—we printed two editions; the first numbering 1,200, the usual number, and the second 500, I think—we had printed a second edition before, I think, but not as a usual thing—we had never printed the paper with a red border before this; we had printed one on red paper, and we printed one, with red ink—that slip (produced by police-constable) was not printed by me, but looking at it as a skilled witness I should say it was printed from the same type that was brought to us to print the copies from.
Cross-examined. We saw Weber a good deal about this paper at first during the first twelve months—I can't say whether I saw Weber about it oftener than the prisoner; they came together—I never heard why we were told to remove the prisoner's name from the paper.
Re-examined. Weber has not interfered lately before March in connection with the paper—the prisoner was the person with whom I dealt.
By MR. SULLIVAN. Englehart is a compositor who works for us.
By the ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Englehart never paid us for publishing the paper.
WILLIAM BANGERT . I am the landlord of No. 101, Great Titchfield Street; it is a private house—I know the defendant Herr Most; he lived there—the front parlour on the ground floor was his room—he came to occupy that room two months before Christmas—he paid me the rent, 7s. a week—besides that room there was a workshop in the back yard; it was taken as a printing room by two gentlemen—it was used for printing—I don't know whether the defendant had anything to do with it—Mr. Sleskey, a lodger, paid for it first, but Mr. Most paid afterwards, when he came to my place—it was used for printing a little, while before the defendant came to live at my house, and afterwards when the defendant
came to live there he paid me for the rent of that printing-office 6s. 6d. a week—after that I knew that my house was the publishing office of the Freiheit.
CHARLES HAGAN (Police Inspector). On 30th March, at 4.45 p.m., I went to the house of Most in Titchfield Street—I saw him in the printing-office at the back of the yard—I asked him if he was Johann Most; he said "Yes"—I told him in English that I was an inspector of police, and had a warrant for his arrest—I asked him if he understood English well enough, or if I should read it in German; he said "You had better read it in German," and I did so—he called a man named Martin, a compositor, and made a few observations to him which I did not hear, and then he took what he had out of his pocket and put it on the bench before him—I told him he could not give those things to Martin, he must either place them back in his pocket or I must take possession of them—he left them on the bench, and I took them up—before I read the warrant he said "I expected this, because I see in this morning's paper there is to be a prosecution;" he had a morning paper in his hand—he said this in German—he said "I suppose this is in consequence of my article on the Czar;" I said "Yes, it is"—after I had read the warrant he said "It does not appear from that warrant who is the instigator of this"—I said "The warrant is signed by Sir James Ingham, the chief Magistrate at Bow Street, and I have to execute it, and that is all I know about it"—there was some type there set up ready for printing, and a quantity of loose type—I handed them to the witness Barrett—as I was about removing the type the prisoner said to me "Before you remove those things I beg to draw your attention to the fact that they are not my exclusive property; they belong to an association of persons, of whom I am one"—this piece of paper (produced) was in this small pocket-book, which I took possession of—I then went into the front parlour, and saw some copies of the Freiheit of 19th March found in that room—the prisoner was taken to the station, and asked in the usual way his name and occupation; he said "I am the editor of the Freiheit, and a literary man."
Cross-examined. I am a German—I have been nearly 24 years in the police—I knew the prisoner by sight before I called on him; I had heard of him—I knew by hearsay that he had been connected with the Freheit—I have never looked after a German political refugee—I have no especial knowledge of that description—I did not give him any caution that I should mention anything he said to me—I knew he was a foreigner and a stranger—he knew I was a police-officer; my first words to him were that I was a police inspector, but I gave him no caution as to the answers he might make to my questions—I found an enormous quantity of papers, besides those I have produced, and some loose type—I took possession of that property under the authority of the Director of Criminal Investigation; the warrant I had did not authorise me to seize it—the documents found were handed over to the Director, and sealed up immediately; I saw them sealed—they are sealed still, with the exception of this piece, which the Treasury have taken out; that was in the little purse—I don't know whose handwriting it is, it is evidently not the prisoner's—I never noticed this drawing on the back of it, I can't tell what it is—I did not see a Mr. Hartmann about the office; I never saw him; I was never sent to look after him—the prisoner had the Standard in his hand when he said "I expected this"—since those documents
were handed over to the authorities I have only seen the outside of the envelope, nothing more; they have not been used to my knowledge—they were examined before they were put into the envelope, and a list made of them—I have a copy of that list.
Re-examined. The prisoner knew from the first moment I went to his place of business that I was police-officer, and that I was acting in the execution of my duty upon a warrant—I did not keep that fact from him for one moment; as soon as he came into the office I said "I am an inspector of police"—when I took possession of the type I had no evidence in my possession as to the printing of the newspaper—the loose type was afterwards returned—a good many of the documents consisted of pamphlets and circulars—such documents as were required for the investigation at the police-court were handed over to the officials of the Treasury; the others were placed in the hands of my superior officers—no application has ever been made for the production of them, to my knowledge.
GUSTAV REINICH . I am German master at the King's College School—I have read the article as set out in the indictment, and have also gone carefully through the translation of it with the original—it is a correct translation. Read:
"At last! "Seize on this one, seize on that one, "'Some one, nevertheless, will reach thee.'—C. BEEK.
"Triumph! Triumph! the word of the poet has accomplished itself. One of the most abominable tyrants of Europe, to whom downfall has long since been sworn, and who therefore, in wild revenge breathings, caused innumerable heroes and heroines of the Russian people to be destroyed or imprisoned—the Emperor of Russia is no more. On Sunday last at noon, just as the monster was returning from one of those diversions which are wont to consist of eye-feastings on well-drilled herds of stupid blood-and-iron slaves, and which one calls military reviews, the executioner of the people, who long since pronounced his death sentence, overtook and with vigorous hand struck down the brute. He was once more on the point of drivelling about the 'God's finger,' which had nearly saved his accursed life, when the fist of the people stopped his mouth for ever. One of those daring young men whom the social revolutionary movement of Russia brought forth, Risakoff—with reverence we pronounce his name—had thrown under the despot's carriage a dynamite bomb, which effected a great devastation on the conveyance and the immediate neighbourhood, yet left the crowned murderer to pray uninjured. Michaelovitch, a princely general, and others at once fell upon the noble executor of the people's will. The latter, however, with one hand brandishes a dagger against the autocrat's face, and with the other hand guides the barrel of a revolver against the breast of the same. In an instant he is disarmed, and the belaced, betufted, and by corruption eaten through and through retinue of the Emperor breathe again on account of the supposed averted danger. There flies a new bomb neat this time. It falls down at the despot's feet, shatters for him the legs, rips open for him the belly, and causes among the surrounding military and civil Cossacks numerous wounds and annihilations. The personages of the scene are as if paralysed, only the energetic bomb-thrower does not lose his presence of mind, and is able safely to fly. The Emperor, however, is dragged to his palace, where yet for an hour and a half he is able, amid horrible sufferings, to meditate on his life full of crimes. At last he died. This in reference to the simple state of facts. Instantly the telegraph wires played up to the remotest corners of the earth to make the occurrence known to the whole world. The effect of this publication was as various as it was drastic. Like a thunderclap it penetrated into princely palaces, where dwell those crims-beladen abortions of every profligacy who long since nave earned a similar fate a thousandfold. For three years past has many a shot whistled by the ears of these monsters without harming them. Always and always again could they indemnify themselves in princely fashion for the fright endured by executions and regulations of the masses of all kinds. Nay, just in the most recent period they whispered with gratification in each other's ears that all
danger was over, because the most energetic of all tyrant haters—the 'Russian Nihilists '—had been successfully exterminated to the last member.
"Then comes such a hit! William, Prince of Prussia, the now Protestant Pope and soldier Emperor of Germany, got convulsions in due form from the excitement. Like things happened at other Courts. Howling and gnashing of teeth prevailed in every residence. But the other rabble, too, which in the other various countries pulls the wires of the Government mechanism of the ruling classes, experienced a powerful moral headache and melted in tears of condolence, whether it consisted merely of head lackeys on the steps of an Imperial throne or of Republican bandits of order of the first class. The whimpering was no less in France, Switzerland, and America than in Montenegro or Greece. A Gambetta carried through the adjournment of the Chambers, and thereby put an insult on France from which even Austria was saved by the then President of the Reichsrath. Public opinion is startled, and seeks in vain for the reasons of such a miserable attitude. One thinks of diplomatic motives and the like, but one misses the mark. Much, perhaps, may indeed have contributed here snd there which resembles mere political hypocrisy. In the main the grounds lie deeper. The supporters of the ruling classes see just in the destruction of an autocrat which has taken place more than the mere act of homicide itself. They are face to face with a successful attack upon authority as such. At the same time they all know that every success has wonderful power, not only of instilling respect, but also of inciting to imitation. From Constantinople to Washington they simply tremble for their long since forfeited heads. This fright is a high enjoyment for us; just as we have heard with the most joyful feelings of the heroic deed of those social revolutionaries of St. Petersburg who slaughtered the tyrant on Sunday last. In this time of the most general humility and woe, at a period when in many countries old women only and little children yet limp about the political stage with tears in their eyes, with the most loathsome fear in their bosoms of the castigating rod of the State night-watchman, now, when real heroes have become so scarce, such has the same effect on better natures as a refreshing storm. Let some say behind our backs we are carrying on a 'game with Nihilists'; let others blame us as cynical or brutal; yet we know that in expressing our joy at the successful deed we were disclosing not only our own feelings, but were also giving utterance to what millions of men, down-trodden and tyrannised over, thought with us when they read of the execution of Alexander. To be sure it will happen once and again that here and there even Socialists start up who, without that any one asks them, assert that they for their part abominate regicide, because such an one after all does no good, and because they are combating not persons, but institutions. This sophistry is so gross that it may be confuted in a single sentence. It is clear—namely, even to a mere political tyro, that State and social institutions cannot be got rid of until one has overcome the persons who wish to maintain the same. With mere philosophy you cannot so much as drive a sparrow from a cherry-tree any more than bees are rid of their drones by simple humming. On the other hand, it is altogether false that the destruction of a Prince is entirely without value because a substitute appointed beforehand forthwith takes his place. What one might in any case complain of is only the rarity of so-called tyrannicide. If only a single crowned wretch were disposed of every month, in a short time it should afford no one gratification henceforward still to play the monarch. Moreover, it is certainly a satisfaction for every right-thinking man when such a capital criminal is done away with—i.e., is punished according to his evil deeds. It does not occur to the jurists of civil society to hang no murderer or to lock up no thief because it is proved that these punishments do not remove murder and theft (both institutions of this society) out of the world. When one has entirely to do with such a subject as Alexander Romanow was, then one must accept his destruction with double satisfaction. If one could believe newspaper writers, then one must, according to their chatter, take it that the exterminated Czar was a real pattern of benevolence. The facts prove that he belonged to the worst doers of abominations that have ever disgraced humanity. Some 100,000 men were banished to Siberia during his reign, dozens were hanged after they had suffered the cruellest tortures. All these victims the Russian Crown Moloch claimed only because those concerned were striving for the improvement of society, wishing for the general welfare, perhaps had only passed on a single forbidden book, or written one letter in which a censure on the Government was expressed. Out of the war abominations which this tyrant conjured up we take but one scene from the last Turkish war. Alexander was celebrating his name-day, and wished a warlike spectacle. He ordered a storming of Plevna. The generals ventured to call to mind that such an one would not only fail, but would cost an enormous number of men. In vain! The order stood good, and in order
to witness the slaughter with more gratification the tyrant caused a special stand with a kind of Imperial box to be erected for himself, whence he might watch the storring without himself falling into danger. The result corresponded with the predictions of the generals. The storming was repulsed, and 8,000 dead and wounded covered the ground outside the walls of Plevna. But the 'little father', as the despot by preference caused himself to be called, had amused himself cannibalistically. All petitions, all wishes for the introduction of ever so slight reforms which were almost daily laid at his feet, he only answered by fresh meannesses of an Asiatic Government barbarism. Genuine dragonades followed every warning or threat, attempted but unsuccessful attacks on his person increased his baseness to the monstrous. Who is scoundrel enough really to bewail the death of such a beast? But it is said, 'Will the successor of the smashed one do any better than he did? We know it not. But this we do know, that the same can hardly be permitted to reign long if he only steps in his father's footsteps. Yes, we could actually wish that it should so happen, for we hate the hypocritical, mock-liberal monarchs no less than the despots sans phrase,' because the former perhaps have still greater power of retarding the development of civilisation than the latter. In addition, the persistence of the new Czar in the old principle of government must forthwith double and treble its enemies, because in Russia there are a number of people of that sort which has believed in the Crown-Prince legend usual in all countries, and at all times, according to which the successor spoken of only awaits the moment when he may be able to pour over the people a whole horn of plenty, full of blessings. All these enthusiasts are forthwith converted when they see that the new ukases smell as much of Russian leather as the old. Meanwhile be this as it may, the throw was good, and we hope that it was not the last May the bold deed, which—we repeat it—has our full sympathy, inspire revolutionists far and wide with fresh courage. Let all think of Herwegh's words—
" 'And where tyrants still exist " 'Then let us boldly seize them, " 'We have loved long enough, " 'And we wish at last to hate.' "
The following is also a correct translation:—
"The Social Revolutionary adherents of Most (it should be "advanced Socialists") have appointed for their next task to prepare, by the institution of widely-ramified and secret groups and clubs, limited to determined persons, acts of violence, according to the model of the Nihilists, against the representatives of State and social order, through the execution of which the universal revolution is to be introduced." I have looked at this piece of paper produced from the pocket-book—this is a correct translation, "Trieste is a safe address for the storage of dynamite"—at the top and at the end of the paper the prisoner's name appears, with the address, "Printed and published at 101, Great Titchfield Street, Oxford Street, W."
Cross-examined. The words commencing "The Social Revolutionary followers of Most," &c. appear to be an extract from a memorandum of the Government, as it is in inverted commas.
This being the case for the prosecution, MR. SULLIVAN submitted that as to the first two counts of the indictment, which were common law counts, they could not be supported, as the common law was intended to apply only to offences against the Queen's peace, and committed within this realm. The LORD CHIEF JUSTICE overruling this objection, MR. SULLIVAN further submitted that the Statute 2s. and 25 Vic. c. 100, See. 4, under which the other counts were framed, did not apply to such a case as the present; that it only applied to a personal encouraging and persuading by one individual to another, and not to what he characterised as general newspaper invective. The ATTORNEY-GENERAL contended that the words of the section must be read in connection with the ordinary statutory rule that the singular included the plural, and that the general publication of such an article as the present
was a clear inciting and endeavouring to persuade to the commission of the crime of murder. The LORD CHIEF JUSTICE entertaining some doubt as to the latter point raised, would, if necessary, reserve it for the consideration of the Court for Crown Cases Reserved.
GUILTY. Recommended to mercy by the Jury in consideration of this being the first paper of his which had such matter in it, and being a foreigner, and probably smarting under some wrong, real or imaginary. — Judgment Reserved.