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The Law of Love - Page 2

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 Darrow's Law of Love speech.

It follows the full text transcript of Clarence Darrow's closing argument in the case The People of Michigan vs. Henry Sweet, delivered at Detroit, Michigan - May 11, 1926.

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Clarence Darrow - Speech [Lunch Break]

I was speaking before luncheon about the people around the house, and the wonderful protection the blacks had. Nobody can tell exactly how many were there, of course. Here is a man, a real estate dealer, who had an office at the corner of St. Clair and Charlevoix, just a block away. He came down that night,--he was in the habit of staying at his office, and he had a partner. Real estate men are pretty wary people, you know. They don't miss many chances. If there is anybody around that looks like a prospect, they are on hand. He came down and saw that crowd. What did he do? He went over to this apartment-building on the corner. He stuck around the apartment-building ten or fifteen minutes or half an hour, I don't know just how long, and he leaves his office open. He stuck around ten or fifteen minutes and then went back to his office; not to make a sale, but to get his partner, who was the only man in charge of the office. And so the two of them started back and stood there on the corner until the shooting began.
What do you suppose they were there for? Real estate men don't waste time with a crowd around the office. Not only was he content and brought his partner, and left nobody in the office. He didn't even stop to lock the door, and they stayed there on the corner until the shooting began.

Witnesses forget themselves and tell the truth. Why were the police telling people to move on? All the witnesses said they were not permitted to stand near the house. Why do they, every once in a while, pull themselves up and say that the crowd was so and so? Why does the little boy come into this court room and on the first trial of this case say: "I saw a large crowd," and then pull himself up; "I saw a great many people," and then say, "I saw a few?" And then on cross-examination admit that he had been told to do it, and had forgot himself when he said a great many people? This is in the record as coming from the last case, and he said it was true. It was true, and every man in this case who has listened to it knows that it is true.

Oh, they say, there is nothing to justify this shooting; it was an orderly, neighborly crowd; an orderly, neighborly crowd. They came there for a purpose and intended to carry it out. How long, pray, would these men wait penned up in that house? How long would you wait? The very presence of the crowd was a mob, as I believe the Court will tell you.

Suppose a crowd gathers around your house; a crowd which doesn't want you there; a hostile crowd, for a part of two days and two nights, until the police force of the city is called in to protect you. How long, tell me, are you going to live in that condition with a mob surrounding your house and the police-force standing in front of it? How long should these men have waited? I can imagine why they waited as long as they did. You wouldn't have waited. Counsel say they had just as good reason to shoot on the 8th as on the 9th. Concede it. They did not shoot. They waited and hoped and prayed that in some way this crowd would pass them by and grant them the right to live.

The mob came back the next night and the colored people waited while they were gathering; they waited while they were coming from every street and every corner, and while the officers were supine and helpless and doing nothing. And they waited until dozens of stones were thrown against the house on the roof, probably-- don't know how many. Nobody knows how many. They waited until the windows were broken before they shot. Why did they wait so long? I think I know. How much chance had these people for their life after they shot; surrounded by a crowd, as they were? They would never take a chance unless they thought it was necessary to take the chance. Eleven black people penned up in the face of a mob. What chance did they have?

Suppose they shot before they should. What is the theory of counsel in this case? Nobody pretends there is anything in this case to prove that our client Henry fired the fatal shot. There isn't the slightest. It wasn't a shot that would fit the gun he had. The theory of this case is that he was a part of a combination to do something. Now, what was that combination, gentlemen? Your own sense will tell you what it was. Did they combine to go there and kill somebody? Were they looking for somebody to murder?

Dr. Sweet scraped together his small earnings by his industry and put himself through college, and he scraped together his small earnings of three thousand dollars to buy that home because he wanted to kill somebody? It is silly to talk about it. He bought that home just as you buy yours, because he wanted a home to live in, to take his wife and to raise his family. There is no difference between the love of a black man for his offspring and the love of a white. He and his wife had the same feeling of fatherly and motherly affection for their child that you gentlemen have for yours, and that your father and mother had for you. They bought that home for that purpose; not to kill some body.

They might have feared trouble, as they probably did, and as the evidence shows that every man with a black face fears it, when he moved into a home that is fit for a dog to live in. It is part of the curse that, for some inscrutable reason, has followed the race--if you call it a race--and which curse, let us hope, sometime the world will be wise enough and decent enough and human enough to wipe out.
They went there to live. They knew the dangers. Why do you suppose they took these guns and this ammunition and these men there? Because they wanted to kill somebody? It is utterly absurd and crazy. They took them there because they thought it might be necessary to defend their home with their lives and they were determined to do it. They took guns there that in case of need they might fight, fight even to death for their home, and for each other, for their people, for their race, for their rights under the Constitution and the laws under which all of us live; and unless men and women will do that, we will soon be a race of slaves, whether we are black or white. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," and it has always been so and always will be. Do you suppose they were in there for any other purpose? Gentlemen, there isn't a chance that they took arms there for anything else.

They did go there knowing their rights, feeling their responsibility, and determined to maintain those rights if it meant death to the last man and the last woman, and no one could do more. No man lived a better life or died a better death than fighting for his home and his children, for himself, and for the eternal principles upon which life depends. Instead of being here under indictment, for murder, they should be honored for the brave stand they made, for their rights and ours. Some day, both white and black, irrespective of color, will honor the memory of these men, whether they are inside prison-walls or outside, and will recognize that they fought not only for themselves, but for every man who wishes to be free.

Did they shoot too quick? Tell me just how long a man needs wait for a mob? The Court, I know, will instruct you on that. How long do you need to wait for a mob?
We have been told that because a person trespasses on your home or on your ground you have no right to shoot him. Is that true? If I go up to your home in a peaceable way, and go on your ground, or on your porch, you have no right to shoot me. You have a right to use force to put me off if I refuse to go, even to the extent of killing me. That isn't this case, gentlemen. That isn't the case of a neighbor who went up to the yard of a neighbor without permission and was shot to death. Oh, no. The Court will tell you the difference, unless I am mistaken, and I am sure I am not; unless I mistake the law, and I am sure, I do not.

This isn't a case of a man who trespasses upon the ground of some other man and is killed. It is the case of an unlawful mob, which in itself is a crime; a mob bent on mischief; a mob that has no rights. They are too dangerous. It is like a fire. One man may do something. Two will do a much more; three will do more than three times as much; a crowd will do something that no man ever dreamed of doing. The law recognizes it. It is the duty of every man, I don't care who he is, to disperse a mob. It is the duty of the officers to disperse them. It was the duty of the inmates of the house, even though they had to kill somebody to do it. Now, gentlemen, I wouldn't ask you to take the law on my statement. The Court will tell you the law. A mob is a criminal combination of itself. Their presence is enough. You need not wait until it spreads. It is there, and that is enough. There is no other law; there hasn't been for years, and it is the law which will govern this case.

Now, gentlemen, how long did they need to wait? Why, it is silly. How long would you wait? How long do you suppose ten white men would be waiting? Would they have waited as long? I will tell you how long they needed to wait. I will tell you what the law is, and the Court will confirm me, I am sure. Every man may act upon appearances as they seem to him. Every man may protect his own life. Every man has the right to protect his own property. Every man is bound under the law to disperse a mob even to the extent of taking life. It is his duty to do it, but back of that he has the human right to go to the extent of killing to defend his life. He has a right to defend the life of his kinsman, servant, his friends, or those about him, and he has a right to defend, gentlemen, not from real danger, but from what seems to him real danger at the time.

Here is Henry Sweet, the defendant in this case, a boy. How many of you know why you are trying him? What had he to do with it? Why is he in this case? A boy, twenty-one years old, working his way through college, and he is just as good a boy as the boy of any juror in this box; just as good a boy as you people were when you were boys, and I submit to you, he did nothing whatever that was wrong.

Of course, we lawyers talk and talk and talk, as if we feared results. I don't mean to trifle with you. I always fear results. When life or liberty is in the hands of a lawyer, he realizes the terrible responsibility that is on him, and he fears that some word will be left unspoken, or some thought will be forgotten. I would not be telling you the truth if I told you that I did not fear the result of this important case; and when my judgment and my reason comes to my aid and takes counsel with my fears, I know, and I feel perfectly well that no twelve American jurors, especially in any northern land, could be brought together who would dream of taking a boy's life or liberty under circumstances like this. That is what my judgment tells me, but my fears perhaps cause me to go further and to say more when I should not have said as much.

Now, let me tell you when a man has the right to shoot in self-defense, and in defense of his home; not when these vital things in life are in danger, but when he thinks they are. These despised blacks did not need to wait until the house was beaten down above their heads. They didn't need to wait until every window was broken. They didn't need to wait longer for that mob to grow more inflamed. There is nothing so dangerous as ignorance and bigotry when it is unleashed as it was here. The Court will tell you that these inmates of this house had the right to decide upon appearances, and if they did, even though they were mistaken they are not guilty. I don't know but they could safely have stayed a little longer. I don't know but it would have been well enough to let this mob break a few more window-panes. I don't know but it would have been better and been safe to have let them batter down the house before they shot. I don't know.

How am I to tell, and how are you to tell? You are twelve white men, gentlemen. You are twelve men sitting here eight months after all this occurred, listening to the evidence, perjured and otherwise, in this court, to tell whether they acted too quickly or too slowly. A man may be running an engine out on the railroad. He may stop too quickly or too slowly. In an emergency he is bound to do one or the other, and the jury a year after, sitting in cold blood, may listen to the evidence and say that he acted too quickly. What do they know about it? You must sit out there upon a moving engine with your hand on the throttle and facing danger and must decide and act quickly. Then you can tell.

Cases often occur in the courts, which doesn't speak very well for the decency of courts, but they have happened, where men have been shipwrecked at sea, a number of the men having left the ship and gone into a small boat to save their lives; they have floated around for hours and tossed on the wild waves of an angry sea; their food disappearing, the boat heavy and likely to sink and no friendly sail in sight,--What are they to do? Will they throw some of their companions off the boat and save the rest? Will they eat some to save the others? If they kill anybody, it is because they want to live. Every living thing wants to live. The strongest instinct in life is to keep going. You have seen a tree upon a rock send a shoot down for ten or fifteen or twenty feet, to search for water, to draw it up, that it may still survive; it is a strong instinct with animals and with plants, with all sentient things, to keep alive.

Men are out in a boat, in an angry sea, with little food, and less water. No hope in sight. What will they do? They throw a companion overboard to save themselves, or they kill somebody to save themselves. Juries have come into court and passed on the question of whether they should have waited longer, or not. Later, the survivors were picked up by a ship and perhaps, if they had waited longer, all would have been saved; yet a jury, months after it was over, sitting safely in their jury-box, pass upon the question of whether they acted too quickly or not.
Can they tell? No. To decide that case, you must be in a small boat, with little food and water; in a wild sea, with no sail in sight, and drifting around for hours or days in the face of the deep, beset by hunger and darkness and fear and hope. Then you can tell; but, no man can tell without it. It can't be done, gentlemen, and the law says so, and this Court will tell you so.

Let me tell you what you must do, gentlemen. It is fine for lawyers to say, naively, that nothing happened. No foot was set upon that ground; as if you had to put your foot on the premises. You might put your hand on. The foot isn't sacred. No foot was set upon their home. No shot was fired, nothing except that the house was stoned and windows broken; and an angry crowd was outside seeking their destruction. That is all. That is all, gentlemen. I say that no American citizen, unless he is black, need wait until an angry mob sets foot upon his premises before he kills. I say that no free man need wait to see just how far an aggressor will go before he takes life.

The first instinct a man has is to save his life. He doesn't need to experiment. He hasn't time to experiment. When he thinks it is time to save his life, he has the right to act. There isn't any question about it. It has been the law of every English speaking country so long as we have had law. Every man's home is his castle, which even the King may not enter. Every man has a right to kill to defend himself or his family, or others, either in the defense of the home or in the defense of themselves.

So far as that branch of the case is concerned, there is only one thing that this jury has a right to consider, and that is whether the defendants acted in honest fear of danger. That is all. Perhaps they could have safely waited longer. I know a little about psychology. If I could talk to a man long enough, and not too long, and he talk to me a little, I could guess fairly well what is going on in his head, but I can't understand the psychology of a mob, and neither can anybody else. We know it is unreasoning. We know it is filled with hatred. We know it is cruel. We know it has no heart, no soul, and no pity. We know it is as cruel as the grave. No man has a right to stop and dicker while waiting for a mob.

Now, let us look at these fellows. Here were eleven colored men, penned up in the house. Put yourselves in their place. Make yourselves colored for a little while. It won't hurt, you can wash it off. They can't, but you can; just make yourself black men for a little while; long enough, gentlemen, to judge them, and before any of you would want to be judged, you would want your juror to put himself in your place. That is all I ask in this case, gentlemen. They were black, and they knew the history of the black.

Our friend makes fun of Dr. Sweet and Henry Sweet talking these things all over in the short space of two months. Well, gentlemen, let me tell you something, that isn't evidence. This is just theory. This is just theory, and nothing else. I should imagine that the only thing that two or three colored people talk of when they get together is race. I imagine that they can't rub color off their face or rub it out of their minds. I imagine that is it with them always. I imagine that the stories of lynchings, the stories of murders, the stories of oppression is a topic of constant conversation. I imagine that everything that appears in the newspapers on this subject is carried from one to another until every man knows what others know, upon the topic which is the most important of all to their lives.

What do you think about it? Suppose you were black. Do you think you would forget it even in your dreams? Or would you have black dreams? Suppose you had to watch every point of contact with your neighbor and remember your color, and you knew your children were growing up under this handicap. Do you suppose you would think of anything else?

Well, gentlemen, I imagine that a colored man would think of that before he would think of where he could get bootleg whiskey, even. Do you suppose this boy coming in here didn't know all about the conditions, and did not learn all about them? Did he not know about Detroit? Do you suppose he hadn't read the story of his race? He is intelligent. He goes to school. He would have been a graduate now, except for this long hesitation, when he is waiting to see whether he goes back to college or goes to jail. Do you suppose that black students and teachers are discussing it?

Anyhow, gentlemen, what is the use? The jury isn't supposed to be entirely ignorant. They are supposed to know something. These black people were in the house with the black man's psychology, and with the black man's fear, based, on what they had heard and what they had read and what they knew. I don't need to go far. I don't need to travel to Florida. I don't even need to talk about the Chicago riots. The testimony showed that in Chicago a colored boy on a raft had been washed to a white bathing beach, and men and boys of my race stoned him to death. A riot began, and some hundred and twenty were killed.

I don't need to go to Washington or to St. Louis. Let us take Detroit. I don't need to go far either in space or time. Let us take this city. Now, gentlemen, I am not saying that the white people of Detroit are different from the white people of any other city. I know what has been done in Chicago. I know what prejudice growing out of race and religion has done the world over, and all through time. I am not blaming Detroit. I am stating what has happened, that is all. And I appeal to you, gentlemen, to do your part to save the honor of this city, to save its reputation, to save yours, to save its name, and to save the poor colored people who can not save themselves.

I was told there had not been a lynching of a colored man in thirty years or more in Michigan. All right. Why, I can remember when the early statesmen of Michigan cared for the colored man and when they embodied the rights of the colored men in the constitution and statutes. I can remember when they laid the foundation that made it possible for a man of any color or any religion, or any creed, to own his home wherever he could find a man to sell it. I remember when civil rights laws were passed that gave the Negro the right to go where the white man went and as he went. There are some men who seem to think those laws were wrong. I do not. Wrong or not, it is the law, and if you were black you would protest with every fiber of your body your right to live.

Michigan used to protect the rights of colored people. There were not many of them here, but they have come in the last few years, and with them has come prejudice. Then, too, the southern white man has followed his black slave. But that isn't all. Black labor has come in competition with white. Prejudices have been created where there was no prejudice before. We have listened to the siren song that we are a superior race and have superior rights, and that the black man has none.

It is a new idea in Detroit that a colored man's home can be torn down about his head because he is black. There are some eighty thousand blacks here now, and they are bound to reach out. They have reached out in the past, and they will reach out in the future. Do not make any mistake, gentlemen. I am making no promises. I know the instinct for life. I know it reaches black and white alike. I know that you can not confine any body of people to any particular place, and, as the population grows, the colored people will go farther. I know it, and you must change the law or you must take it as it is, or you must invoke the primal law of nature and get back to clubs and fists, and if you are ready for that, gentlemen, all right, but do it with your eyes open. That is all I care for. You must have a government of law or blind force, and if you are ready to let blind force take the place of law, the responsibility is on you, not on me.

Now, let us see what has happened here. So far as I know, there had been nothing of the sort happened when Dr. Sweet bought his home. He took an option on it in May, and got his deed in June; and in July, in that one month, while he was deliberating on moving, there were three cases of driving Negro families out of their homes in Detroit. This was accomplished by stones, clubs, guns and mobs.
Suppose one of you were colored and had bought a house on Garland Avenue. Take this just exactly as it is. You bought it in June, intending to move in July, and you read and heard about what happened to Dr. Turner in another part of the city. Would you have waited? Would you have waited a month, as Sweet did? Suppose you had heard of what happened to Bristol? Would you have waited? Remember, these men didn't have any too much money. Dr. Sweet paid three thousand dollars on his home, leaving a loan on it of sixteen thousand dollars more. He had to scrape together some money to buy his furniture, and he bought fourteen hundred dollars worth the day after he moved in and paid two hundred dollars down.

Gentlemen, it is only right to consider Dr. Sweet and his family. He has a little child. He has a wife. They must live somewhere. If they could not, it would be better to take them out and kill them, and kill them decently and quickly. Had he any right to be free?

They determined to move in and to take nine men with them. What would you have done, gentlemen? If you had courage, you would have done as Dr. Sweet did. You would have been crazy or a coward if you hadn't. Would you have moved in alone? No, you would not have gone alone. You would have taken your wife. If you had a brother or two, you would have taken them because you would know, that you could rely on them, and you would have taken those nearest to you. And you would have moved in just as Dr. Sweet did. Wouldn't you? He didn't shoot the first night. He didn't look for trouble. He kept his house dark so that the neighbors wouldn't see him. He didn't dare have a light in his house, gentlemen, for fear of the neighbors. Noble neighbors, who were to have a colored family in their neighborhood. He had the light put out in the front part of the house, so as not to tempt any of the mob to violence.

Now, let us go back a little. What happened before this? I don't need to go over the history of the case. Everybody who wants to understand knows it, and many who don't want to understand it. As soon as Dr. Sweet bought this house, the neighbors organized the "Water Works Park Improvement Association." They made a constitution and by-laws. You may read the constitution and by-laws of every club, whether it is the Rotary Club or the--I was trying to think of some other club, but I can't. Whatever the club, it must always have a constitution and by-laws. These are all about the same. You cannot tell anything about a man by the church he belongs to. You can't tell anything about him by the kind of clothes he wears. You can't tell anything about him by any of these extraneous matters, and you can't tell anything about an association from the by-laws. Not a thing. I belonged to associations in my time. As far as I can remember, they all had by-laws.

Mr. Toms: All of them have the same by-laws?

Mr. Darrow: Yes, all have the same. They are all of them engaged in the work of uplifting humanity, and humanity still wants to stay down. All engaged in the same work, according to their by-laws, gentlemen. So, the "Water Works Park Improvement Club" had by-laws. They were going to aid the police. They didn't get a chance to try to aid them until that night. They were going to regulate automobile traffic. They didn't get any chance to regulate automobile traffic until that night. They were going to protect the homes and make them safe for children.

The purpose was clear, and every single member reluctantly said that they joined it to keep colored people out of the district. They might have said it first as well as last. People, even in a wealthy and aristocratic neighborhood like Garland and Charlevoix, don't give up a dollar without expecting some profit; not a whole dollar. Sometimes two in one family, the husband and wife, joined.
They got in quick. The woods were on fire. Something had to be done, as quick as they heard that Dr. Sweet was coming; Dr. Sweet, who had been a bellhop on a boat, and a bellhop in hotels, and fired furnaces and sold popcorn and has worked his way with his great handicap through school and through college, and graduated as a doctor, and gone to Europe and taken another degree; Dr. Sweet, who knew more than any man in the neighborhood ever would know or ever want to know. He deserved more for all he had done. When they heard he was coming, then it was time to act, and act together, for the sake of their homes, their families and their firesides, and so they got together. They didn't wait. A meeting was called in the neighborhood; we haven't a record of that, but we have a record of another one.

And then, what happened after that? Let me read you, not from the books of any organization; not from colored people; from what I have learned is a perfectly respectable paper, so far as papers go, the Detroit Free Press.

Mr. Toms: Free Press, the best morning paper.

Mr. Darrow: And the only real Free Press that I ever heard of. On July 12th, gentlemen, a month after Dr. Sweet had bought his home, this appears in the paper, the headlines: "Stop Rioting." "Smith Pleads with Citizens. Detroit Faces Shame and Disgrace as the Result of Fighting, he states." "Negro, held for shooting youth, vacates residence under police guard."

Here is the story, not published in colored papers: "While Detroit police were anticipating further outbreaks near the homes occupied by Negroes in white residential areas and had full complements of reserves in readiness to deal with any situation that might arise, Mayor John W. Smith late yesterday issued a statement asking the public to see that the riots ‘do not grow into a condition which will be a lasting stain on the reputation of Detroit as a law-abiding community."

"The storm centers are considered to be American and Tireman Avenues [in southwestern Detroit] where Vollington A. Bristol, Negro undertaker ..." Excuse me. This isn't the only time I ever heard of that Tireman Avenue.

"The storm centers are considered to be American and Tireman Avenues where Vollington A. Bristol, Negro undertaker still occupies the home he recently purchased there in the teeth of demonstrations on three successive nights and a residence on Prairie Avenue, near Grand River Avenue."

"John W. Fletcher, 9428 Stoepel Avenue, two blocks from Livernois and Plymouth Avenue, the Negro who is to be charged with causing grievous bodily harm in connection with the shooting of a white youth, Leonard Paul, 15 years old, 9567 Prairie Avenue, Friday night, relieved the situation in his district by moving out yesterday after less than forty-eight hours tenancy. Six patrolmen, under Lieutenant A. R. Saal of the Petosky Avenue Station, were at hand as Fletcher moved his furniture over his brick-strewn lawn from the house in which not one window remained whole."

Gentlemen, what kind of feeling does it give a white man? It makes me ashamed of my race. Now, to go on:

"There was no trouble. Latest reports from Receiving Hospital indicates that the youth, Paul, who was twice shot in the hip by Fletcher, according to the latter's alleged statement, is still in a serious condition. Although no demonstrations were held up to a late hour last night, police guards will be maintained for an indefinite period about the three homes, it was announced. Two of the houses have been purchased and occupied by Negro families, and negotiations are under way for the purchase of the third by a Negro, according to rumors which have reached the police. The latter is on Prairie Avenue."

"The police armored car, which was conditioned early last week and has been held in readiness in case of trouble, last night was moved near the scene of the recent disturbances. It will remain for the present in the vicinity of Tireman and American Avenues. Every available policeman and detective, and fifty deputy sheriffs also have been detailed to the locality."

"A meeting, attended by more than ten thousand persons, was held on West Fourth Street, a mile west of Lincoln Park Village last night. A speaker from Tennessee advocated laws to compel Negroes to live only in certain quarters of the city."

I don't know whether he was one of the policemen who was up at the Sweet house. This speaker was from Tennessee.

"The only incident noted occurred when Bristol left this house. As he greeted Sergeant Welsh and two officers who stood on guard, an automobile passed by and swerved towards the pavement where the Negro was. The latter jumped back hurriedly, and the car kept on its way."

Mayor Smith's statement is as follows:

"Recent incidents of violence and attempted violence in connection with racial disagreements constitute a warning to the people of Detroit which they cannot afford to ignore. They are to be deplored, and it is a duty which rests as much upon the citizenry as upon the public officials to see that they do not grow into a condition which will be a lasting stain upon the reputation of Detroit as a law-abiding community."

"The police department can have but one duty in connection with all such incidents, that is to use its utmost endeavors to prevent the destruction of life and property. In the performance of this duty, I trust that every police officer will be unremitting in his efforts. The law recognizes no distinction in color or race. On all occasions when the emotions are deeply stirred by controversy, the persons affected on all sides of the dispute are likely to feel that the police or other controlling force are siding against them. I hope and believe that the police during the recent attempts to preserve law and order have done so impartially."

"With the police department doing its utmost to preserve order, there is always the possibility that uncontrolled elements may reach such proportions that even these efforts will not be completely effectual. It is that fact that calls for earnest cooperation by all good citizens at this time. Curiosity seekers who go to scenes of threatened disorder add immeasurably to the problem of preserving order. Thus, the persons innocent of ill intentions are likely to be chiefly responsible for inexcusable incidents."

"The condition which faces Detroit is one which faced Washington, East St. Louis, Chicago and other large cities. The result in those cities was one which Detroit must avoid, if possible. A single fatal riot would injure this city beyond remedy."

"The avoidance of further disorder belongs to the good sense of the leaders of thought in both white and colored races. The persons either white or colored who attempt to urge their fellows on to disorder and crime are guilty of the most serious offense upon the statute books. It is clear that a thoughtless individual of both races constitutes the nucleus in each disorder, and it is equally clear that the inspiration for their acts comes from malign influences which are willing to go even to the limits of bloodshed to gain their ends. The police are expected to inquire and prosecute any persons active in organizing such disorder or inciting a riot. The rest of the duty for preserving order lies with the individual citizens--by refraining from adding to the crowds in districts where danger exists, from refraining from discussion which may have a tendency to incite disorder, and finally to rebuke at once the individual agitators who are willing to risk human life, destroy property, and ruin their city's reputation."

That is the Mayor's proclamation. The newspaper adds this: "To maintain the high standard of the residential district between Jefferson and Mack Avenues, a meeting has been called by the Water Works Improvement Association for Thursday night in the Howe School auditorium. Men and women of the district, which includes Cadillac, Hurlburt, Bewick, Garland, St. Clair, and Harding Avenues, are asked to attend in self-defense."

I shall not talk to you much longer. I am sorry I have talked so long. But this case is close to my heart. These colored people read this story in the paper. Do I need to go anywhere else to find the feeling of peril over the question of color? Dr. Sweet had to face the same proposition. Two nights after this story was in the paper, at the Howe School, across the street from Dr. Sweet's house, seven hundred people of the neighborhood were present; two detectives, and all the neighbors, and in their presence, a man from Tireman Avenue, who they say was radical, and who, this good gentleman, Mr. Andrews, says, called a spade a spade. Well, well, what do you know about that? He called a spade a spade. I suppose Andrews meant that he called a black man a "nigger," and "said that where the nigger showed his head, the white must shoot." He advocated force and violence. He told what had happened in his own neighborhood. He told of driving people out of their homes, and said that the Tireman Avenue Improvement Association could be called on to help at Garland and Charlevoix.

Gentlemen, we know the work of an improvement association. If you can only get enough improvement associations in the City of Detroit, Detroit will be improved. This meeting occurred July the 14th, and Sweet moved into the house September 8th. The people knew it. They were confronted with the mob. Their house was stoned. Their windows were broken. No more riotous combination ever came together than the one that was there assembled.

Who are these people who were in this house? Were they people of character? Were they people of standing? Were they people of intelligence?

First, there was Doctor Sweet. Gentlemen, a white man does pretty well when he does what Doctor Sweet did. A white boy who can start in with nothing, and put himself through college, study medicine, taking post graduate work in Europe, earning every penny of it as he goes along, shoveling snow and coal, and working as a bell hop, on boats, working at every kind of employment that he can get to make his way, is some fellow.

But, Dr. Sweet has the handicap of the color of his face. And there is no handicap more terrible than that. Supposing you had your choice, right here this minute, would you rather lose your eyesight or become colored? Would you rather lose your hearing or be a Negro? Would you rather go out there on the street and have your leg cut off by a street car, or have a black skin?

I don't like to speak of it; I do not like to speak of it in the presence of these colored people, whom I have always urged to be as happy as they can. But, it is true, Life is a hard game, anyhow. But, when the cards are stacked against you, it is terribly hard. And they are stacked against a race for no reason but that they are black.

Who are these men who were in this house? There was Doctor Sweet. There was his brother, who was a dentist. There was this young boy who worked his way for three years through college, with a little aid from his brother, and who was on his way to graduate. Henry's future is now in your hands. There was his companion, who was working his way through college,--all gathered in that house.

Were they hoodlums? Were they criminals? Were they anything except men who asked for a chance to live; who asked for a chance to breathe the free air and make their own way, earn their own living, and get their bread by the sweat of their brow?

I will read to you what the Mayor said. I will call your attention to one sentence in it again, and then let us see what the mob did. This was the Mayor of your City, whose voice should be heard, who speaks of the danger that is imminent to this city and to every other city in the north, a danger that may bear fruit at any time; and he called the attention of the public of this city to this great danger, gentlemen. And, I want to call your attention to it. Here is what he said:

"The avoidance of further disorder belongs to the good sense of the leaders of thought of both white and colored races. The persons, either white or colored, who attempt to urge their fellows to disorder and crime, are guilty of the most serious offences upon the statute books."

Gentlemen, were those words of wisdom? Are they true? They were printed in this newspaper on the 12th day of July. Two days later, on the schoolhouse grounds, a crowd of seven or eight hundred assembled, and listened to a firebrand who arose in that audience and told the people that his community had driven men and women from their homes because they were black; that the Tireman Avenue people knew how to deal with them, and advised the mob to violate the law and the constitution and the rights of the black; advised them to take the law into their own hands, and to drive these poor dependent people from their own homes. And, the crowd cheered; while the officers of the law were there, all within two days of the time the Mayor of this city had called the attention of the public to the fact that any man was a criminal of the worst type who would do anything to stir up sedition or disobedience to the law in relation to color.

The man is more than a firebrand who invited and urged crime and violence in his community. No officer raised his hand to prosecute, and no citizen raised his voice, while this man uttered those treasonable words across the street from where Sweet had purchased his home, and in the presence of seven hundred people. Did anybody say a thing? Did anybody rise up in that audience and say: "We respect and shall obey the law; we shall not turn ourselves into a mob to destroy black men and to batter down their homes, in spite of what they did on Tireman Avenue."

Gentlemen, these black men shot. Whether any bullets from their guns hit Breiner, I do not care. I will not discuss it. It is passing strange that the bullet that went through him, went directly through, not as if it was shot from some higher place. It was not the bullet that came from Henry Sweet's rifle; that is plain. It might have come from the house; I do not know, gentlemen, and I do not care. There are bigger issues in this case than that. The right to defend your home, the right to defend your person, is as sacred a right as any human being could fight for, and as sacred a cause as any jury could sustain.

That issue not only involves the defendants in this case, but it involves every man who wants to live, every man who wants freedom to work and to breathe; it is an issue worth fighting for, and worth dying for, it is an issue worth the attention of this jury, who have a chance that is given to few juries to pass upon a real case that will mean something in the history of a race.

These men were taken to the police station. Gentlemen, there was never a time that these black men's rights were protected in the least; never once. They had no rights, they are black. They were to be driven out of their home, under the law's protection. When they defended their home, they were arrested and charged with murder. They were taken to a police station, manacled. And they asked for a lawyer. And, every man, if he has any brains at all, asks for a lawyer when he is in the hands of the police. If he does not want to have a web woven around him, to entangle or ensnare him, he will ask for a lawyer. And, the lawyer's first aid to the injured always is, "Keep your mouth shut." It is not a case of whether you are guilty or not guilty. That makes no difference. "Keep your mouth shut." The police grabbed them, as is their habit. They got the County Attorney to ask questions.
What did they do? They did what everybody does, helpless, alone, and unadvised. They did not know, even, that anybody was killed. At least there is no evidence that they knew. But, they knew that they had been arrested for defending their own rights to live; and they were there in the hands of their enemies; and they told the best story they could think of at the time,--just as ninety-nine men out of a hundred always do. Whether they are guilty or not guilty makes no difference. But lawyers, and even policemen, should have protected their rights.

Some things that these defendants said were not true, as is always the case. The prosecutor read a statement from this boy, which is conflicting. In two places he says that he shot "over them." In another he said that he shot "at them." He probably said it in each place but the reporter probably got one of them wrong. But Henry makes it perfectly explicit, and when you go to your jury room and read it all, you will find that he does. In another place he said he shot to defend his brother's home and family. He says that in two or three places. You can also find he said that he shot so that they would run away, and leave them to eat their dinner. They are both there. These conflicting statements you will find in all cases of this sort. You always find them, where men have been sweated, without help, without a lawyer, groping around blindly, in the hands of the enemy, without the aid of anybody to protect their rights. Gentlemen, from the first to the last, there has not been a substantial right of these defendants that was not violated.

We come now and lay this man's case in the hands of a jury of our peers,--the first defense and the last defense is the protection of home and life as provided by our law. We are willing to leave it here. I feel, as I look at you, that we will be treated fairly and decently, even understandingly and kindly. You know what this case is. You know why it is. You know that if white men had been fighting their way against colored men, nobody would ever have dreamed of a prosecution. And you know that, from the beginning of this case to the end, up to the time you write your verdict, the prosecution is based on race prejudice and nothing else.
Gentlemen, I feel deeply on this subject; I cannot help it. Let us take a little glance at the history of the Negro race. It only needs a minute. It seems to me that the story would melt hearts of stone. I was born in America. I could have left it if I had wanted to go away.

Some other men, reading about this land of freedom that we brag about on the 4th of July, came voluntarily to America. These men, the defendants, are here because they could not help it. Their ancestors were captured in the jungles and on the plains of Africa, captured as you capture wild beasts, torn from their homes and their kindred; loaded into slave ships, packed like sardines in a box, half of them dying on the ocean passage; some jumping into the sea in their frenzy, when they had a chance to choose death in place of slavery. They were captured and brought here. They could not help it. They were bought and sold as slaves, to work without pay, because they were black.

They were subjected to all of this for generations, until finally they were given their liberty, so far as the law goes,--and that is only a little way, because, after all, every human being's life in this world is inevitably mixed with every other life and, no matter what laws we pass, no matter what precautions we take, unless the people we meet are kindly and decent and human and liberty-loving, then there is no liberty. Freedom comes from human beings, rather than from laws and institutions.

Now, that is their history. These people are the children of slavery. If the race that we belong to owes anything to any human being, or to any power in this Universe, they owe it to these black men. Above all other men, they owe an obligation and a duty to these black men which can never be repaid. I never see one of them, that I do not feel I ought to pay part of the debt of my race, and if you gentlemen feel as you should feel in this case, your emotions will be like mine.

Gentlemen, you were called into this case by chance. It took us a week to find you, a week of culling out prejudice and hatred. Probably we did not cull it all out at that; but we took the best and the fairest that we could find. It is up to you.
Your verdict means something in this case: It means something, more than the fate of this boy. It is not often that a case is submitted to twelve men where the decision may mean a milestone in the progress of the human race. But this case does. And, I hope and I trust that you have a feeling of responsibility that will make you take it and do your duty as citizens of a great nation, and, as members of the human family, which is better still.

Let me say just a parting word for Henry Sweet, who has well nigh been forgotten. I am serious, but it seems almost like a reflection upon this jury to talk as if I doubted your verdict. What has this boy done? This one boy now that I am culling out from all of the rest, and whose fate is in your hands,--can you tell me what he has done? Can I believe myself? Am I standing in a Court of Justice, where twelve men on their oaths are asked to take away the liberty of a boy twenty-one years of age, who has done nothing more than what Henry Sweet has done?

Gentlemen, you may think he shot too quick; you may think he erred in judgment; you may think that Doctor Sweet should not have gone there, prepared to defend his home. But, what of this case of Henry Sweet? What has he done? I want to put it up to you, each one of you, individually. Doctor Sweet was his elder brother. He had helped Henry through school. He loved him. He had taken him into his home. Henry had lived with him and his wife; he had fondled his baby. The doctor had promised Henry money to go through school. Henry was getting his education, to take his place in the world, gentlemen--and this is a hard job. With his brother's help, he had worked himself through college up to the last year. The doctor had bought a home. He feared danger. He moved in with his wife and he asked this boy to go with him. And this boy went to help defend his brother, and his brother's wife and his child and his home.

Do you think more of him or less of him for that? I never saw twelve men in my life--and I have looked at a good many faces of a good many juries,--I never saw twelve men in my life, that, if you could get them to understand a human case, were not true and right.

Should this boy have gone along and helped his brother? Or, should he have stayed away? What would you have done? And yet, gentlemen, here is a boy, and the President of his College came all the way here from Ohio to tell you what thinks of him. His teachers have come here, from Ohio, to tell you what they think of him. The Methodist Bishop has come here to tell you what he thinks of him.

So, gentlemen, I am justified in saying that this boy is as kindly, as well disposed, as decent a man as any one of you twelve. Do you think he ought to be taken out of his school and sent to the penitentiary? All right, gentlemen, if you think so, do it. It is your job, not mine. If you think so, do it. But if you do, gentlemen, if you should ever look into the face of your own boy, or your own brother, or look into your own heart, you will regret it in sack cloth and ashes. You know, if he committed any offense, it was being loyal and true to his brother whom he loved. I know where you will send him, and it will not be to the penitentiary.

Now, gentlemen, just one more word, and I am through with this case. I do not live in Detroit. But I have no feeling against this city. In fact, I shall always have the kindest remembrance of it, especially if this case results as I think and feel that it will. I am the last one to come here to stir up race hatred, or any other hatred. I do not believe in the law of hate. I may not be true to my ideals always, but I believe in the law of love, and I believe you can do nothing with hatred. I would like to see a time when man loves his fellow man, and forgets his color or his creed. We will never be civilized until that time comes.

I know the Negro race has a long road to go. I believe the life of the Negro race has been a life of tragedy, of injustice, of oppression. The law has made him equal, but man has not. And, after all, the last analysis is, what has man done?--and not what has the law done? I know there is a long road ahead of him, before he can take the place which I believe he should take. I know that before him there is suffering, sorrow, tribulation and death among the blacks, and perhaps the whites. I am sorry. I would do what I could to avert it. I would advise patience; I would advise toleration; I would advise understanding; I would advise all of those things which are necessary for men who live together.

Gentlemen, what do you think is your duty in this case? I have watched, day after day, these black, tense faces that have crowded this court. These black faces that now are looking to you twelve whites, feeling that the hopes and fears of a race are in your keeping.

This case is about to end, gentlemen. To them, it is life. Not one of their color sits on this jury. Their fate is in the hands of twelve whites. Their eyes are fixed on you, their hearts go out to you, and their hopes hang on your verdict.

This is all. I ask you, on behalf of this defendant, on behalf of these helpless ones who turn to you, and more than that, on behalf of this great state, and this great city which must face this problem, and face it fairly, I ask you, in the name of progress and of the human race, to return a verdict of not guilty in this case!

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