Hellraisers Journal: Judge Hilton Defends Plea Deal in Mesabi Cases, Lauds IWW Men and Praise Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

MN16, ON Hilton speech, LW, Dec 23, 1916


Hellraisers Journal, Saturday December 23, 1916
Mesabi Range, Minnesota – Plea Agreement & Vindication Meeting

Today’s Duluth Labor World discusses the issues of Justice surrounding the plea agreement reached last week which led to the release of I. W. W. organizers Tresca, Scarlett, and Schmidt:

MN16, Tresca Scarlett Schmidt Released, LW, Dec 23, 1916


Tresca Scarlett Schmidt, ISR, Nov 1916

Tresca, Scarlett and Schmidt are freed. Last Friday they were let out of the dingy, over-crowded St. Louis county jail and given their liberty.

Months ago The Labor World made the prediction that the cases against these men would never come to trial; that as soon as the trouble on the ranges blew over these men would be let go. Our prediction was correct, although we have no inclination to claim the virtues of a prophet.

Undoubtedly the position of The Labor World has been misunderstood by many people. But in sympathizing with these three defendants, and the others as well, we were not supporting the tactics of the Industrial Workers of the World. We believe the methods employed by this organization are futile.

The Labor World stands solidly behind the principles adhered to by the American Federation of Labor. We believe that ultimately the American Federation of Labor will have something to say concerning industrial conditions on the iron range; that both sides to the controversy must recognize the principle of collective bargaining, and that the United States Steel corporation will some day be forced to accept this principle and agree to do business with a responsible labor organization, under the banner of the American Federation of Labor.

We stood behind Tresca, Scarlett and Schmidt because we believed they were being persecuted. We still hold to that belief. That men should be accused of murder when they were admittedly miles from the scene of the fight, on the theory that they “acquiesced” in what had been done, is contrary to human understanding, and we believed then as we do now, that the officials in charge of the prosecution never had the slightest idea of their ability to convict.

Meanwhile, of course, Tresca, Scarlett and Schmidt were confined in jail.

Charges have been made that Nick Dillon murdered a candy-vendor in the melee, when the Myron tragedy occurred. Dillon, clothed with the authority of law, but paid by a private mining corporation, sought to serve a warrant for unlawful assembly. Dillon, it is charged, shot the candy-vendor*.

Why hasn’t Nick Dillon been arrested? Why weren’t the officials of the mining companies in whose employ Dillon was, arrested and thrown into jail on the theory that they “acquiesced” in the murder of the candy-vendor?

[*Tomi Ladvalla was murdered by deputized company gunthug, Nick Dillion, at Biwabik, Minnesota, July 3, 1916. WE NEVER FORGET.]

Attitude of Press.

The public press has spared no pains to bring out the undesirable features of the Industrial Workers of the World as an organization, in attempting to cover up the bold injustices done under the cloak of the law with respect to Tresca, Scarlett and Schmidt.

The county attorney’s office has been in possession of all the evidence they thought they needed to go ahead with the trials of these men months ago. We appreciate the fact that the recent requests for continuance came from the defense, but did not the county attorney know months ago, as well as last week, that the evidence against these men was insufficient to convict?

Meanwhile, as we stated heretofore, Tresca, Scarlett and Schmidt remained in the dingy, over-crowded, foul county jail.

The Commission on Industrial Relations, in its report to congress some time ago, gave as one of the reasons for industrial unrest, “the denial of justice.”

The Labor World all along has believed there was a flagrant denial of justice in the cases of these three men. These men have fought, and undoubtedly will continue to fight, the battles of the workingclass as they understand how to fight them.

But whether they are anarchists, socialists, presbyterians or just plain citizens, they are entitled to certain guarantees under the law of the land, and whenever The Labor World believes those rights are being violated it proposes to fight for their protection the best way it knows how.


[Photograph of Tresca, Scarlett, and Schmidt added.]

On page four of this same issue of The Labor World, we find a report on the I. W. W. meeting held in Virginia on Sunday December 17th:


Denver [Attorney] Gives High Praise
to Men Who Pleaded Guilty-
Ettor Refutes Statement Funds
Will Not Be Accounted For.

ON Hilton, Labor World, Dec 9, 1916

At a vindication meeting held in Virginia last Sunday, Philip Masonovich, Joseph Cernogotovich and Joseph Nikich, the Biwabik I. W. W.’s, were characterized as “martyrs to the I. W. W. cause,” by Judge O. N. Hilton of Denver, leading counsel for the defendants.

The three men pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree in connection with the Myron murder.

[Said Judge Hilton:]

I want you to know the “whys” and “wherefores” of the settlement of these so-called murder cases with the state. I do not wish any carping criticism after Carlo Tresca, Sam Scarlet, Joe Schmidt and other leaders are gone. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn has consecrated her magnificent ability to the I. W. W. cause. Tresca, Scarlett, Schmidt, Masonovitch, Cernogotovich and Nickich have set unexampled examples of devotion and self-sacrifice. I want you to realize the game was worth the candle.

Judge Hilton reviewed the various steps that led to the settlement of the I. W. W. cases in Duluth.

Lauds County Attorney.

[He continued:]

I found County Attorney Greene very courteous and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He showed me every consideration. His assistant, Edward L. Boyle, was also kind and friendly. They showed a disposition to be frank with the defense, so negotiations were opened for the settlement of the so-called murder cases.

I agreed that if there was not a dissenting voice among the I. W. W. defendants the murder charges against the Biwabik men be changed to manslaughter and that action against Tresca, Scarlet and Schmidt be withdrawn. I met the I. W. W. committee from Virginia. It was headed by J. Gilday and in its personnel was a woman. No side considered the planned disposition of the cases as a triumph or a surrender.

In outlining the points that decided the I. W. W.’s in favor of a settlement of the action, Judge Hilton declared the following were the chief reasons:

The possible conviction of the leaders and an expensive appeal to the supreme court. The expense of five or six trials.

Continuing, Judge Hilton said:

The eight defendants, from the I. W. W. organization, conferred with me and the Virginia committee over the proposals in the case. We decided that unless the disposition of the matter was the best thing for our cause we would not consider it. It was on this basis that all concerned discussed the matter. We did not consider individual and personal matters.

The speaker painted Masonovich, Cernogotovich and Nickich as “soldiers of the cause.”

[Shouted the speaker:]

The Biwabik men were eager to go to jail so that Tresca, Scarlet and Schmidt could be helped. They did not care for themselves. Nickich was eager to go to the penitentiary, saying he wished Masonovich freed.

As I saw the devotion of the Biwabik men, I felt that if I had 100,000 Croatins I could lick the world. The men were anxious to go to jail as “soldiers,” feeling the honor and glory they would gain from their fellow workers. Never in my twenty-five years in this peculiar work have I ever, seen such sacrifice and devotion. George Orlandich, who was dismissed, will act as Mrs. Masonovich’s protector.

You are getting raises and better treatment. A strike is never lost.

Defense Fund Is O. R.

The defense fund accounts were kept religiously and carefully. Do not worry about inference that there has been any fraud in connection with the books, and contributions.

When the Biwabik Montenegrins stepped into the shadows it was for you and your cause.

Carlo Tresca, who during the strike was the idol of the strikers, was given a good reception on arising to speak in Italian. He has not lost any of his ability as a speaker and as he strode back and forth across the platform to help his delivery it reminded his hearers of the talks he gave on the same stage seven months ago, before starting for the county jail.

Sam Scarlet [Scarlett], the Scot organizer, was bitter in his denunciation of Nick Dillon, who he branded as the murderer of John Ladvalla, the Biwabik pop man, who was killed during the Biwabik melee July 3.

[Said Scarlett:]

We should work to see that Philip Masonovich and his wife, Malka, are soon united. If you work together you will have the pleasure of seeing Malka and Philip embrace each other on this stage in the near future.

For National Prohibition.

Scarlet introduced something that was not touched upon during the whole strike, when he urged national prohibition.

[Said he:]

We workers should smash the saloons. Close them up. That should be one of our missions. Stay by your firesides and your families.

The speaker declared that during the strike 400 men and women were imprisoned.

To Report on Funds.

Organizer Joe Ettor, chairman of the meeting, defended the leaders:

[Said Ettor:]

Regarding the defense fund, which was in charge of Gilday and myself, I will say that the books will be closed at the end and a complete report of the finances sent to, every contributor to our cause. We owe no reports to anyone else. I will make no other statements at this time regarding the fund. I have been charged with misusing the fund, but I do not care what my enemies say. I conduct myself so that there will be no criticism from my friends, the laboring men.

[Photograph added.]



The Labor World
(Duluth, Minnesota)
-Dec 23, 1916

WE NEVER FORGET: The Martyrs of the Mesabi Iron Range Strike of 1916

MN16, Tresca Scarlett Schmidt Released, LW, Dec 23, 1916
Tresca Scarlett Schmidt, ISR, Nov 1916
ON Hilton, Labor World, Dec 9, 1916

See also:

Sept 7, 1916-Hellraisers Journal: George P West on Mesabi Iron Range Strike: 1000 Gunthugs Deputized by Sheriff Meining

Oct 28, 1916-Hellraisers Journal: George P. West Reports: Strikebreaking Agencies Import Criminal Gunthugs, Often Deputized

For links to CIR’s Manly Report on Causes of Industrial Unrest:
Dec 5, 1916-Hellraisers Journal: Biwabik Times Advocates Everett-Style Murder for the Miners of Mesabi Should They Dare to Strike Again