I have very little sympathy with [the defendants' beliefs]... But when these men are gagged and their pens broken by the strong hands of a tyrannical government, then their cause becomes my cause, and I protest for them as I would protest for myself.
By this point, public sentiment had undergone a profound shift. Radicals and members of the general public alike demanded a new trial. People were outraged that the eight men, only two of whom had actually been present at the riot, were going to be executed because of their ideology.
Flooded with demands for clemency, Illinois Governor Richard Oglesby commuted the sentences of Fielden and Schwab to life in prison. The death sentences of Spies, Parsons, Fischer, and Engel, who had all adamantly refused to ask for mercy, would be carried out on November 11, 1887.