The Life, Trial, & Death of Francisco Ferrera
with a special introduction by Alan Dershowitz
This book recounts the notorious Spanish trial and execution of Francisco Ferrer. Ferrer was a hapless freethinker, anticleric, and poverty-stricken reformer of education. In 1909 the Spanish authorities convicted and executed Ferrer on charges of being the “author and chief” of a violent rebellion. The evidence against him was lacking, and his teaching of anti-clericalism and anti-patriotism were not a crime. What was a crime was leading a rebellion but this could not be proved. Authorities decided to deny Ferrer the kind of trial he could challenge the evidence. A military trial was the solution: no cross examination of witnesses; no restrictions on anonymous hearsay allegations; no independent fact finder; no realistic appeal. The author of this account of the Ferrer trial, William Archer, who examined the case soon after its denouement, convincingly concludes that although Ferrer was certainly not the chief of the rebellion – indeed, he calls that charge a “monstrous absurdity” – he may well bear some small moral responsibility for creating an atmosphere conducive to an anticlerical rebellion. Yet Ferrer’s work as a radical educator could not “possibly count for more than a drop in the bucket of popular anti-clericalism,” considering its many other causes in early twentieth-century Spain. McClure's Magazine commissioned William Archer to go to Spain to investigate the controversial case. So thoroughly and objectively did he fulfill his charge that, in our own time, his book has been called "still the best source in English on the event, one of a chain of occurrences which led eventually to the Spanish civil war."