at the Turn of the Century
Leon Czolgosz, the
assassin of President William McKinley, professed to being an anarchist.
Inspired by Emma Goldman, he stated in his confession, "I killed
President McKinley because I done my duty. I didn't believe one man should
have so much service, and another man should have none." With the
role of anarchists and the violence of the Haymarket Square Riot on the
minds of many Americans, the death of McKinley at the hands of the anarchist
son of immigrants was significant. While the idea that it enhanced the
link between immigrant laborers and anarchists in the minds of civic leaders
may be speculation, Czolgosz's deed and the attitude towards anarchism
was most certainly an integral part of the passing of the Alien Immigration
Act in 1903.
The Haymarket Square Riot
Anti-Anarchist/Anti-Immigrant Political Commentary
Legislation and the Courts Target Anarchists
Buffalo - a Labor Town Where Anarchists Failed
Born on June 27, 1869,
in Kovno (now Kaunas), Lithuania, Emma Goldman grew up there, in Königsberg,
East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) and in St. Petersburg. Her formal
education was limited, but she read widely and in St. Petersburg, associated
with a radical student circle. In 1885 she emigrated to the United States
and settled in Rochester, New York. There, and later in New Haven, Connecticut,
she worked in clothing factories and came into contact with socialist
and anarchist groups among her fellow workers.
Leon Czolgosz claimed to have
been "an Anarchist--a disciple of Emma Goldman."1
He had been inspired by her, having seen her speak in Cleveland before
the Franklin Liberal Club on May 6, 1901. Here she "laid down the
principles by which she expected universal Anarchy to prevail...."2
While she no longer condoned violence, preferring education as the vehicle
of social change, she did speak highly of the violent measures enacted
by anarchists, calling their motives high and noble and praising them
because they "could not stand aside while workers suffered."3
There is no evidence to show
that Goldman was ever directly involved in Czolgosz's scheme. In fact
he was scorned as too revolutionary by the anarchists with which Goldman
associated, including Emil Schilling of Cleveland's Liberty Club and Abraham
Isaak, editor of Free Society. Despite this, Goldman sympathized
with the President's assassin. In "The
Tragedy at Buffalo, " she wrote:
not know the man [Czolgosz]; no one as far as I am aware seems to
have known him, but from his attitude and behavior so far (I hope
that no reader of "Free Society" has believed the newspaper
lies), I feel that he was a soul in pain, a soul that could find
no abode in this cruel world of ours, ....
... As I write this,
my thoughts wander to the death-cell at Auburn, to the young man
with the girlish face, about to be put to death by the coarse, brutal
hands of the law, walking up and down the narrow cell, with cold,
cruel eyes following him,
watch him when he tries to weep
And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
The prison of its prey."
And my heart goes out
to him in deep sympathy, and to all the victims of a system of inequality,
and the many who will die the forerunners of a better, nobler, grander
in 1886 labor unions in Chicago were beginning the fight for an eight-hour
day. Serious trouble was anticipated and on May 1st many workers struck
for shorter hours. An active group of radicals and anarchists became involved
in the campaign. Two days later, one death occurred during a riot at the
McCormick Harvester plant when police tangled with the strikers.
The Haymarket Square Riot, depicted by a contemporary
On May 4, events reached a
tragic climax at Haymarket Square, where a protest meeting had been called
to denounce the events of the preceding day. At this meeting, while police
were attempting to disperse the crowd, a bomb exploded. Policeman Mathias
J. Degan was killed almost instantly and seven other officers died later.
While the bomber was never identified, eight men were finally brought
to trial. Judge Joseph E. Gary imposed the death sentence on seven of
them and sentenced the eighth to fifteen years in prison. Four were hanged,
one committed suicide and the sentences of the remaining two were commuted
from death to imprisonment for life. On June 26, 1893, Governor John P.
Altgeld granted pardons to those three in the penitentiary.4
The Haymarket Riots did have
direct bearing on reaction to McKinley's Assassination some fifteen years
later. The Buffalo Express
pointed out to its readers that the person who threw the bomb in 1886
was never caught. The four men hanged were in fact charged as accomplices,
giving the state precedence to charge any accomplices that Czolgosz may
have had. Emma Goldman and eleven of her anarchist friends were accused
of complicity in what was then the attempt on the President's life (McKinley
had not yet died.) None of the Anarchists, including Goldman, was ever
cartoonists and social commentators, directly related anarchy and immigration
in their columns and cartoons.
cartoons to see larger images
to the September 6, 1901 shooting of the president and his subsequent
death eight days later, publications printed much commentary denouncing
the actions of anarchists. One such publication, the weekly
Public Opinion, reprinted the opinions and statements made
in many of the nation's newspapers and journals. Below are excerpts from
September 12th and September 19th issues.
Czolgosz says that his deed was prompted by the teachings
of anarchy; he asserts that he has only done his duty
as he understands it. He is a Pole, but was born in this
country, speaks English well, and is, presumably, familiar
with the system of government under which he lived. If
so, he knew that his deed was not only brutal and criminal,
but senseless as well. ... p.323
Opinion, September 12th, 1901
President McKinley lives or dies, the American people should
learn certain lessons at his bedside," says the Boston
"That anarchy is hating as it is hateful; that it will
strike as readily at the freely chosen executive of a republic
as at a king ruling by 'divine right'; that anarchism must
be suppressed here ...
is a land of freedom, but it is not an asylum for assassins.
Those who are banded together for the commission of murder
are outlaws, and the most sacred human right-that of self-protection-demands
that they be suppressed. Their presence in this country is
a cancerous growth upon our republican form of government,
and the most drastic measures used to remove them will not
be too severe," says the Baltimore Herald. ...
p.324 [see more]
Opinion, September 19th, 1901
the avoidance of a repetition of crimes of the kind which
have deprived the nation of three of its presidents is the
subject of most earnest consideration, but no practicable
suggestions have yet been made. It is to be presumed that
the assailant expects to accomplish the death of his victim;
what then is to be gained by making an attempt upon the president's
life punishable by death without regard to the actual outcome
of the attempt? Probably nothing can be done to preclude the
possibility of such attacks upon the heads of nations, but
the preaching if not the mad practise of anarchy can be stopped,
and it doubtless will be until we again grow careless of the
safety of our highest state officials. ... p.355
Journal] ... Who is it that makes the Goldmans
and the Mosts, the Spieses and the Parsonses whose writings
and speeches thus incite men to assassination? From whom do
these teachers get their best encouragement in this country?
Whose teaching is it that anarchists think they only carry
to its logical conclusion when they advise and commit murder?
Deliberately and without hesitation we say the "yellow
journals" and the men behind them. ... p. 361.
the New York World]
... The response of the governors of many states to the inquiry
of the World
shows that the one point of emphatic agreement is that a change
alike in our law and practise regarding avowed anarchists
is necessary. ... Now that public opinion has been sharply
called to the deterrent inadequacy of the punishment provided
for a man who unsuccessfully tries to kill the nation's chief
magistrate, some such federal law will no doubt be enacted.
the entire September 19, 1901 Public Opinion article.]
the Courts Target Anarchists
and the Courts were not at all tolerant of anarchists and their teachings,
in part because of the Haymarket Square riots and the seemingly endless
growth in influence and power of the labor unions. The assassination of
President McKinley by a professed anarchist who was also the son of immigrants
contributed to the anti-anarchist fervor in Congress and the courts. The
supposed ties between anarchists and immigrants was addressed most effectively
with the passing of the Alien Immigration Act in 1903 ( 32 STAT 1213,
That the following classes of aliens shall be excluded from admission
into the United States: All idiots, insane persons, epileptics,
and persons who have been insane within five years previous; persons
who have had two or more attacks of insanity at any time previously;
paupers; persons likely to become a public charge; professional
beggars; persons afflicted with a loathsome or with a dangerous
contagious disease- persons who have been convicted of a felony
or other crime or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude; polygamists,
anarchists, or persons who believe in or advocate the overthrow
by force or violence of the Government of the United States or of
all government or of all forms of law, or the assassination of public
officials; prostitutes, and persons who procure or attempt to bring
in prostitutes or women for the purpose of prostitution;
to see full text]
In addition to excluding
anarchist immigrants from entry, the Act also allowed for the deportation
of those immigrants already in the United States who were found to be
anarchists. John Turner, a British national, was the first to be deported
under the Alien Immigration Act. He appealed the decision to the Supreme
Court in 1904. [Click
to see the full text]. The Fuller court upheld the earlier
The People v. Most
after the shooting of President McKinley, John Most was charged with a
misdemeanor for "Publication of an anarchical article" ... "an
act endangering the peace and outraging public decency, within Penal Code,
§ 675." Most was the publisher of the German language newspaper
and had reprinted an article
which advocated the use of murder as a proper
remedy to be applied against rulers or "enemies of the people."
The article, "Murder vs. Murder," was originally written
by Carl Heinzen
fifty years prior, but reprinted by Most in the September 7, 1901
issue of Die Freiheit.
The charges against
Most were summed up as follows:
and distribution, through the mail and to a local news company, of
a German newspaper, circulated in the city and county of New York,
reproducing an article, headed in display type "Murder vs. Murder",
originally written by another person fifty years ago against crowned
heads, teaching the doctrine of anarchy and declaring that all rulers
are enemies of mankind who should be hunted and destroyed through
blood and iron, poison and dynamite, make the publisher of the newspaper
guilty of a misdemeanor within Penal Code, § 675, providing that
"A person who willfully and wrongfully commits any act * * *
which seriously endangers the public peace * * * or which openly outrages
public decency, for which no other punishment is expressly prescribed
by this code, is guilty of a misdemeanor" -- and this although
it be not shown that the publication of the article was followed by
any overt act of physical injury to anyone.
is unclear whether or not the timing of this article was intentional.
Most's counsel maintained that "as soon as he learned of the assault
upon our late President, made all possible efforts to withdraw the newspaper
containing the article in question from circulation. That, with the exception
of those which had been sent through the mail and delivered to the International
News Company, no more copies had been sold, so far as known to the defendant."
assault on McKinley was, however, referred to in the opinion by Judge
... It is the
power of words that is the potent force to commit crimes and offenses
in certain cases. No more striking illustration of the criminal
power of words could be given, if we are to believe the murderer
of our late President, than that event presents. The assassin declares
that he was instigated and stimulated to consummate his foul deed
by the teachings of Emma Goldman. He is now awaiting execution for
the crime, while she is still at large in fancied security.
It is impossible
to read the whole article without deducing from it the doctrine
that all rulers are enemies of mankind, and are to be hunted and
destroyed through "blood and iron, poison and dynamite."
It is no answer to the evil and criminal nature of this article
to claim that it was written for the purpose of destroying crowned
heads. It inculcates and enforces the idea that murder is the proper
remedy to be applied against rulers. The fact that it was published
fifty years ago and again republished about fifteen years ago only
emphasizes and gives added point to the criminality of republishing
it at any time. It shows a deliberate intent to inculcate and promulgate
the doctrine of the article. This we hold to be a criminal act.
It is not necessary to trace any connection in this article with
the assassination of the late President. The offense here, in the
eye of the law, is precisely the same as if that event had never
occurred. The murder of the President only serves to illustrate
and illuminate the enormity of the crime of the defendant in teaching
his diabolical doctrines...
to see the full text]
John Most was found guilty,
and sentenced to be imprisoned for 1 year in the penitentiary. He lost
his appeal before the Supreme Court of New York in 1902.
: A Labor Town where Anarchists Failed.
the late nineteenth century strikes by labor unions and social unrest
among exploited immigrant workers were common. As a growing center of
industry with a large immigrant population, Buffalo was not immune to
labor strikes. In fact, there numerous work stoppages by those union workers
involved in constructing the Exposition. One of the more famous strikes
in Buffalo history, the Grain Scoopers' Strike of 1899 occurred less than
two years prior, when city leaders were planning to showcase Buffalo to
the world at the Pan-American.
Fr. James Quigley
1899 strike was significant in that it illustrated, in part, why labor
unions made up of primarily immigrant workers, the targets of socialist
and anarchist ideologists, were not influenced by this group as in other
U. S. cities. A key figure in the resolution of the Scooper's strike was
Bishop of the Buffalo Diocese, Fr. James Quigley, who refused to allow
socialism or the anarchist movement to displace the influence of the Catholic
Church. Quigley sided with the mostly Irish scoopers in their dispute
with saloon bosses but wanted the teachings of the
church to form the basis of the workers' ideology. Consider
the influence of the Catholic church in the lives of Buffalo's labor force.
Most were Poles and some Germans from the East Side, Italians from the
West Side and Black Rock and the Irish of the First Ward (and later, the
West Side.) In general, the Catholic Church was the center of social,
spiritual and cultural life in these ethnic communities. If Buffalo's
bishop condemned socialism and anarchy, certainly the laborers would be
listening. Quigley's opposition was vehement and amplified by the assassination
of McKinley. He worked intensely to keep socialist and anarchist ideologies
out of the church and out of the unions. Fr. Quigley's work was obviously
noticed and in 1903 he was appointed the Archbisop of Chicago.
Czolgosz; quoted in A. Wesley Johns, The
Man Who Shot McKinley. South Brunswick and New York : A. S.
Barnes and Co., 1970, p. 123.
2. Ibid., p. 35.
4. Emma Goldman, "The Tragedy
at Buffalo" Free
Society, October, 1901.
From the microform collection of the Emma
held by the
University of California. See also Emma Goldman
University of California. Online. URL: http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/
5. Johns, p. 146.
Goldman." Anarchy Archives:
An Online Research Center on the History and Theory of Anarchism.
Online. URL: http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/goldman/Goldmanarchive.html
Return to "The Legal Aftermath of the
of William McKinley"