John Peter Altgeld


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(1847–1902), born at Nassau, Germany, was brought as a child to Ohio, where he received little formal education. He moved to Chicago in 1875, and in 1886 was elected to the Superior Court of Cook County. In Our Penal Machinery and Its Victims (1884) he set forth his belief that American judicial systems were weighted against the poor, and after he was elected governor of Illinois (1892) he pardoned three anarchist leaders convicted of fostering the Haymarket Riot. During the Pullman strike, he protested against Cleveland's sending U.S. troops into Chicago without his permission. He was defeated for reelection in 1896 because of his alleged radical sympathies. He is the subject of Vachel Lindsay's poem “The Eagle That Is Forgotten” and Howard Fast's novel The American (1946).

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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