Francisco Ferrer y Guardia (1859 –1909), anarchist, internationally renowned educationalist and founder of the rationalist ‘Modern School’ (La Escuela Moderna), was arrested in September 1909 in the wake of the popular and violent protests in Catalonia against Spain’s highly unpopular war against Moroccan tribesmen. The events of that week in July 1909 came to be known as the ‘Tragic Week’ (La Semana Tragica) for which the Spanish government and Catholic Church selected their most hated enemy, Francisco Ferrer, as the scapegoat — ‘the author in chief of the popular rebellion”. Within a month he had faced a mock military trial – a drumhead court martial – and on October 13 he was escorted to the ‘ditch of many sighs’ in Montjuich Castle and executed by a firing squad.
This account of the life, trial and death of Francisco Ferrer Guardia was written by William Archer for the October and November issues of McClure’s Magazine for 1910. Archer, a freelance journalist, was commissioned by the magazine editor to travel to Spain to find new material on the Ferrer case, as public interest in the affair had been revived. During his stay in Spain, Archer interviewed Ferrer’s family and friends, as well as his opponents. He also consulted the many new books on the Tragic Week that had, at the time, just been published, and the official trial report, Juicio Ordinario Seguido … contra Francisco Ferrer Guardia. This version — which includes Ferrer’s last letters and a transcript of a speech at London’s Memorial Hall on October 21 1909 by Peter Kropotkin — first appeared in The Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, No. 3 (Autumn 1977).