SACCO'S LETTER TO HIS SON

(NICOLA SACCO/PETE SEEGER) (1926/1950s)

Sacco's family picture, which he used to try to apply for a passport at the Italian consulate in Boston on Apr 15, 1920 (as witnessed and sworn in an affidavit by consulate employee Giuseppe Andrower).

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND | SONG LYRICS


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...Vanzetti then began to speak of the origin, early struggles, and progress of other great movements for human betterment. He said that all great altruistic movements originated in the brain of some man of genius, but later became misunderstood and perverted, both by popular ignorance and by sinister self interest. He said that all great movements which struck at conservative standards, received opinions, established institutions, and human selfishness were at first met with violence and persecution. He referred to Socrates, Galileo, Giordano Bruno, and others whose names I do not now remember, some Italian and some Russian. He then referred to Christianity, and said that it began in simplicity and sincerity, which were met with persecution and oppression, but that it later passed quietly into ecclesiasticism and tyranny.

I said I did not think that the progress of Christianity had been altogether checked by convention and ecclesiasticism, but that on the contrary it still made an appeal to thousands of simple people, and that the essence of the appeal was the supreme confidence shown by Jesus in the truth of His own views by forgiving, even when on the Cross, His enemies, persecutors, and slanderers.

Now, for the first and only time in the conversation, Vanzetti showed a feeling of personal resentment against his enemies. He spoke with eloquence of his sufferings, and asked me whether I thought it possible that he could forgive those who had persecuted and tortured him through seven years of inexpressible misery.

I told him he knew how deeply I sympathized with him, and that I could not say that if I were in the same situation I should not have the same feeling; but I said that I had asked him to reflect upon the career of One infinitely superior to myself and to him, and upon a force infinitely greater than the force of hate and revenge. I said that in the long run the force to which the world would respond was the force of love and not of hate, and that I was suggesting to him to forgive his enemies, not for their sakes, but for his own peace of mind, and also because an example of such forgiveness would in the end be more powerful to win adherence to his cause or to a belief in his innocence than anything else that could be done....

I then made a reference to the possibility of personal immortality, and said that, although I thought I understood the difficulties of a belief in immortality, yet I felt sure that if there was a personal immortality he might hope to share it. This remark he received in silence.

He then returned to his discussion of the evil of the present organization of society, saying that the essence of the wrong was the opportunity it afforded persons who were powerful because of ability or strategic economic position to oppress the simple-minded and idealistic among their fellow men, and that he feared that nothing but violent resistance could ever overcome the selfishness which was the basis of the present organization of society and made the few willing to perpetuate a system which enabled them to exploit the many.

W. G. Thompson, "Vanzetti's Last Statement," ATLANTIC MONTHLY, August 22, 1927.



Lyrics as reprinted in liner notes for "Ballades de Sacco & Vanzetti" (French edition of "Ballads of Sacco & Vanzetti", Folkways/Le Chant du Monde, LDX 74467, 1960s); minor corrections by Manfred Helfert.


If nothing happens, they will electrocute us right after midnight.
Therefore here I am right with you, with love and with open heart, as I was yesterday.
Don't cry, Dante, for many, many tears have been wasted,
As your mother's tears have been already wasted for seven years,
And never did any good.
So, son, instead of crying, be strong, be brave,
So as to be able to comfort your mother.

And when you want to distract her from the discouraging soulness,
You take her for a long walk in the quiet countryside,
Gathering flowers here and there
And resting under the shade of trees, beside the music of the waters.
The peacefulness of nature, she will enjoy it very much,
And you will surely, too.
But, son, you must remember: Don't use all yourself,
But down yourself, just one step,
To help the weak ones at your side.

The weaker ones that cry for help, the persecuted and the victim,
They are your friends, friends of yours and mine.
They are the comrades that fight -- yes, and sometimes fall
Just as your father, your father and Bartolo, have fallen,
Have fought and fell, yesterday, for the conquest of joy,
Of freedom for all.
In the struggle of life you'll find, you'll find more love,
And in the struggle, you will be loved also.


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