New Sinclair Letter Discovered on Sacco and Vanzetti Case
Jean O. Pasco of the Los Angeles Times has reported an interesting discovery regarding Upton Sinclair's take on the infamous case of the trial and execution (on Aug. 23, 1927) of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, the Italian immigrants accused of killing two men in the robbery of a Massachusetts shoe factory.
A Newport Beach attorney and collector, Paul Hegness, while looking through an Irvine auction warehouse, found a box stuffed with old papers and holiday cards. Inside the box, an envelope with a return address of "Upton Sinclair, Long Beach." Hegness said "I stood there for 15 minutes reading it over and over again." Sinclair wrote:
"This letter is for yourself alone. Stick it away in your safe, and some time in the far distant future the world may know the real truth about the matter. I am here trying to make plain my own part in the story."
The story was Boston, Sinclair's 1920s novelized condemnation of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial. During his research, Sinclair met with Fred Moore, the men's attorney, in a Denver motel room. Moore "sent me into a panic," Sinclair wrote in the typed letter that Hegness found at the auction a decade ago.
"Alone in a hotel room with Fred, I begged him to tell me the full truth,... He then told me that the men were guilty, and he told me in every detail how he had framed a set of alibis for them."
Hegness plans to donate it to Sinclair's archives at Indiana University, where it will join correspondence that reveals the ethical quandary that confronted Sinclair.
"I faced the most difficult ethical problem of my life at that point,...I had come to Boston with the announcement that I was going to write the truth about the case."
Other letters at the Indiana archive illuminate why one of America's most strident truth tellers kept his reservations to himself. As Sinclair wrote Robert Minor, a confidant at the socialist Daily Worker in New York, in 1927:
"My wife is absolutely certain that if I tell what I believe, I will be called a traitor to the movement and may not live to finish the book... Of course, the next big case may be a frame-up, and my telling the truth about the Sacco-Vanzetti case will make things harder for the victims...It is much better copy as a naïve defense of Sacco and Vanzetti because this is what all my foreign readers expect, and they are 90% of my public."
Just a thought. (and thanks to R. Christian Ross on Atlantis II