Statement on Abraham Isaak, September 10, 1901



Chicago, Sept. 10.–- Miss Jane Addams of Hull House caused something of a sensation in the city hall by appearing there in behalf of Abraham Isaak, the Anarchist, accused of conspiracy to assassinate President McKinley.  Her mission was to learn whether the imprisoned man wished for the services of an attorney and if so to enable him to employ one.  Shortly before noon she appeared at Captain Colleran's office with an order from the mayor to the effect that she be permitted to talk with Isaak.

"The way I came to be mixed up with this matter," explained Miss Addams, laughing, "is simple and reasonable enough, and when properly explained, will exonerate me from any suspicion of sympathy with Anarchists or their methods.  I happen to know Mr. Isaak, and by the way, although he is a professed Anarchist, he isn't at all bloodthirsty, fierce or unkind--not at all the sort of man who would conspire to kill anybody.


"Last evening a lot of his friends, some of them neighbors of Hull House, called there in a state of great excitement. They imagined that the Isaak family was in dire danger at the hands of the law; they didn't understand exactly what the police meant to do with the Anarchists and they were most anxious to offer Mr. Isaak the services of a lawyer.

"They told me that they had made several ineffectual attempts to see him; that the police had refused to allow anyone to communicate with the prisoner and that their only hope of learning Isaak's wishes was to get some citizen in good standing to see him for them.  Would I, as a citizen in good standing, act as their intercessor with the authorities?

"I said I would try to get permission for them to communicate with Isaak.  Of course I would do that much for anybody.  Do you know I think many Anarchists are made by mistaken terror of the law and its representatives?


"In this case, for instance, I think the accused Anarchists should be given the full benefit of the law; they should be allowed to have their attorneys; they should be shown that their chances for justice is equal to anybody's.  And so I agreed to go to the mayor and see if I could not get permission for these people to communicate with Isaak.  All they wanted was to find out whether or not he wished for a lawyer to defend him in the preliminary trial Monday.

"With Mr. [Robins], a young clergyman, who knows the Isaak family,  I called on Mayor Harrison.  He agreed with me that it was quite fair that the accused men should have a chance to engage attorneys, and so gave me a note to Captain Colleran.  I went to the police headquarters and Mr. Colleran at once summoned Isaak.  We asked him if he wanted a lawyer and he said that he didn't think it was necessary.  He said that he would answer all questions asked of him and was ready to help the authorities sift the case.  That was all that happened.


"I talked with the prisoner about three minutes, and Mr. [Robins] carried the news to Mr. Isaak's friends, quieting their mistaken anxiety by assuring them that he didn't want a lawyer.

"Of course, everybody who knows me knows that I am neither an Anarchist nor in sympathy with Anarchy.  I have no special interest in the Isaak family beyond a desire to see  them and everyone justly treated and given every opportunity to defend themselves.  Some of the more ignorant Anarchists think that, right or wrong, the law is against them.

"Personally, I think that if they could be made to understand that the law is on their side so long as they are right they would abandon the hateful regard in which they hold all authority.

"However, I am not an authority on such subjects.  I don't think the Isaak family is implicated in this horrible affair, but at all events it seems just that they should have a chance to prove their innocence.  That is as far as my interest in the matter goes."