8 AUGUST 1885, Page 12


SINCE the time when the English regicides found a safe asylum at Vevey, Switzerland has always extended a generous hospitality to the political waifs and strays of neigh- bouring nations. Whether the refugee be a princely Pretender with views inimical to the welfare of France, a German Minister fleeing from the wrath of Bismarck, a Communard, red- handed from a murderous conflict in the streets of Paris, or a Russian Revolutionist with a price on his head, he may count an a quiet life and freedom from molestation on the sole condition of respecting the laws of the land and refraining from acts which might embroil the Confederation with foreign Powers. As a rule, these conditions are observed, and instances of refugees so far forgetting themselves as to render necessary their expulsion from the national terri- tory have hitherto been remarkably rare. But last year, when it was discovered that a number of German and Austrian anarchists, who had sojourned in Switzerland—notably Kam- merer, Stellmacher, Knmics, Reinsdorf, and Lieske—were implicated in serious crimes—murders, dynamite explosions, and robberies, attempted or actually committed, in the Nieder- amid, Frankfort, Vienna, and elsewhere—the Federal Council deemed it expedient to take measures against those of their accomplices and sympathisers who remained in the country ; and in the course of 1884 the Department of Justice and Police ordered fourteen of the most active partisans of the "propa- ganda by action," all of whom were aliens, to be summarily expelled from the territory of the Confederation. These pro- ceedings were followed by a series of events, culminating, as was believed at the time, in a conspiracy to blow up the Federal Palace at Berne, which are set forth in a Report lately presented to the Federal Council by Herr Muller, Procurator-General of the Confederation. This document, besides being historically valuable, unfolds a tale as strange, probably, as it ever fell to the lot of a public prosecutor to narrate.

The first of the expulsions in question took place on March 22nd, the last on December 15th (1884), and a month after that last named—to be precise, on January 25th, 1885—the Federal Council received the first of a series of mysterious communications, the signature in each case being a figure or a letter, announcing the existence of a scheme for blowing up the Federal Palace "during a sitting of the Federal Assembly." The anonymous writer added that seventeen " com- panions " were ready and willing to carry out the scheme, and that a quantity of explosives, sufficient to raze Berne to the ground, was already in their possession. This letter—there were four letters in all--came from St. Gallen. The others were posted at Frauenfeld and Winterthur. The one last received entered the most fully into detail, saying, amongst other things, that the " companion " who had undertaken to play the part of Guy Fawkes possessed three passports in as many different names, and that letters "con- taining instructions" had been addressed to him at divers places, which were mentioned. One of these places was Wabern, in the neighbourhood of Berne, and there in effect the police found a letter addeessed to Jacques Muller, Poste Restante, and

bearing the postmark of Winterthur. It purported to be written by "Companion No. 2" to "Companion No. 8," and gave instructions as to the manipulation of a couple of infernal machines, or dynamite shells, which were to be used for the destruction of the Federal Palace. Did all this point to the existence of a real plot, or was it a mere mystification imagined by a visionary, or a wicked hoax con- cocted by a wag ? Nothing is easier than to write an anony- mous letter, and it was not likely that people engaged in a murderous conspiracy of the sort suggested would proclaim what they were about, much less send repeated warnings to

their intended victims. On the other hand, it is beyond dispute that anonymous letters do sometimes convey warnings which it would be dangerous to despise. If Lord Monteagle had treated with contempt the mysterious communication from a "Friend of the Throne and Religion" which led to the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, the Fifth of November, 1605, would probably have been marked by one of the greatest disasters that ever befell a nation. The Federal Council had also before them the facts that for a whole twelvemonth they had been fiercely assailed by the Freiheit and the Rebelle, papers which openly advocated "propaganda by action,"—that is to say, by murder, robbery, and fire-raising, or by any means likely to put the bourgeoisie into bodily fear, and prepare the working-classes for "social war,"— and that the writers who used this language were known to be friends, if not accomplices, of men who in Austria and Germany had carried their theories into practice with deadly effect. In these circumstances, the Federal authorities felt that to tarn a deaf ear to the warnings they had received would be a positive dereliction of duty. The public buildings of Berne were, therefore, placed under the protection of the police, and the Department of Justice was instructed to take stringent measures against "the individuals calling themselves Anarchists, who, on Swiss soil, have incited to the commission of crime, whether in this country or abroad, or in any other manner have sought by violence to overturn the established constitutional order and disturb the public peace."

To this end an investigation was ordered, and its manage- ment entrusted to Herr Muller, who showed himself fully competent for the task, which, by reason of every Canton having its own criminal code and separate police system, proved to be exceedingly onerous. For instance, one of the Anarchists most seriously compromised was only arrested (at Thurgau) by accident (with enough poison in his possession to kill forty persons), while another was expelled from Geneva without the fact being brought to the knowledge of the Federal authorities. As it appeared from information gathered by the police that the head-quarters of the Anarchist agitation were St. Gallen and Berne, an order was issued for the immediate arrest of all the Anarchists living at those places "considered to be dan- gerous." But nothing compromising was found either on their persons or at their lodgings, and a month later most of them were either unconditionally released or summarily expelled from the Confederation. During this interval however, facts came to light which convinced Herr Muller that the plot to blow up the Federal Palace was no mere mystification. After the close of the preliminary investigation on March 25th, warning and threatening letters were sown broadcast, some being addressed to the Federal Council, others to the editor of the Bund, one to the police of Frankfort. For a long time the police tried in vain to discover the author, but accident in the end gave a clue to the mystery. On November 13th, 1884, there had been arrested at St. Gallen a young man of the name of Haft, on a charge of stealing a pair of shoes from the Marlin Hotel. But as the offence imputed to him could not be proved he was discharged,—after a detention of twelve hours. In some of the Swiss Cantons it is the custom when a man has been imprisoned on a baseless charge to grant him an indepinity. Huft, however, by giving his name at the hotel as "Von Strauss" forfeited his right to the usual allowance. He nevertheless wrote several letters to the local police authorities demanding, in rather violent terms, a payment of fifty francs, "neither more nor less," as compen- sation for his temporary imprisonment. The police did not give him the money, but, unfortunately for him, they kept his letters. When Herr Muller began his investigation, one of his first pro- ceedings was to get photographed fac-similes of the mysterious letters received by the Federal Council and to send them to the police of the various Cantons. Some of these copies came into the hands of Herr Maggion, the Commandant of Gendarmes at St. Gallen, to whom Haft had addressed his demand for fifty francs, "neither more nor less." The Commandant had all along enter- tained the idea that Huft was at the bottom of the business, and a comparison of the writing of the fac-similes and of the letters in his possession went far to confirm this idea. He com- municated his suspicions to Herr Muller, and on March 31st (1885) Huft was arrested at Heiden. The principal and, up to this point, the only evidence against him was that of the experts in handwriting, who testified that, in their opinion, the requests for compensation addressed to the authorities of St. Gallen, and the warning letter to the Federal Council, dated from Winterthur and found at Wabern, were written by one and

the same person. Haft, nevertheless, vehemently repudiated the charge; but his answers being contradictory and his bearing auspicious, he was remitted to prison pending farther inquiry, especially as to his antecedents and recent movements. The German police were next communicated with, and by means of information obtained from them and from other sources Herr Muller was enabled to draw up a fairly complete biography of his prisoner, which, as that of a typical Anarchist of the period and a leader of the great Socialist army of Germany, possesses more than ordinary importance and interest.

Halt was born at Freiburg, in Breisgau, in 1858, and, after receiving a good education, learnt the trade of hairdressing. During the whole of his apprenticeship, moreover, he was a diligent student at the industrial school of Schopfheim (in the Grand Duchy of Baden). When be became a journeyman he set out on his travels, and after working a year or two at Lud- wigsburg and Tiibingen, he visited successively Russia, Sweden, England, France, Spain, and Switzerland. Having regard to the quality of instruction given in German schools, and the experience and knowledge of languages acquired in his travels, it is more than probable that this wandering Haarkrausler was better educated than many middle-class Englishmen. Herr Muller mentions, among other things, that Haft had "literary aspirations," and that he wrote easily and correctly on many subjects using, for the most part, the nom de guerre of "Von Strauss." It is a fact not without significance that this ultra. Socialist should have adorned his pseudonym with the aristo- cratic particle. He contributed largely to a journal called the Friseur ; several German-Swiss papers printed his articles, and he was much given to the discussion of social and political qnestions. All his spare time was spent in studying and writing. Haft, moreover, was a remarkably sober man, never drinking anything stronger than beer, and that only on Sundays. With women, however, he played the part of a Lothario, for be was in correspondence with no fewer than five young women, every one of whom thought herself sure of his heart. The police secured some of the missives addressed to these confiding damsels. All were written in the same correct yet pretentious literary style, interlarded with scraps of Latin. Huft seemed less concerned to protest his love than to vaunt his learning, and show his sweethearts how clever he was. With men, on the other hand, he was very reserved, his only friend being an Anarchist of the name of Klinger, to whom he seems to have been much attached.

On May 13th Haft was examined again, and, as it turned out, for the last time. He still denied being the writer of the Wabern letter, and contended "that, from a juridic point of view," the opinion of experts in handwriting was not evidence on which a man could be convicted. The examination over, Hutt withdrew in his usual nonchalant manner. Half-an-hour later the judge wanted him a second time, "to be confronted with another Anarchist." But when the warder went to his cell to fetch him, he found Haft hanging to the door of his cell —dead. This incident, as the Report quaintly puts it," singularly embarrassed the inquiry." But it appears to show that Hnft really knew so much, and feared so much from the investigation, that he thought death preferable to awaiting the result of the judicial inquiry.