[pp.323-324 only - Table of Contents not reproduced here as in the original. ]
The horror with which the news of the attempt upon the president's life was received, and the joy which was felt when it became almost certain that he would recover from his wounds, is a measure of the respect and affection in which President McKinley is held at home and abroad. It is always difficult to understand what an assassin expects to accomplish by murdering the head of a nation, but in the case of the murder of an elected president of a happy and prosperous country, the asylum for the oppressed of every land-a president whose life had almost precluded the possibility of his having enemies, personal or political-reason is absolutely lacking.
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. It is not to be compared to the "removal" of an autocratic ruler or the representative of a system of government which may be accused of bringing suffering upon a nation. Those who know Czolgosz say that he was incapable of planning and carrying out his dastardly crime; it is quite unlikely, for other reasons, that he acted alone or without the knowledge and connivance of other anarchists. The inspiration of the crime is, for these reasons, more important than the crime itself, Mr. McKinley's life now being, it is believed, beyond immediate danger. "Paterson Reds Can Not Conceal Their Joy" was one of the bulletins displayed by the newspapers in New York last week. They should be compelled to conceal it, and it is recommended in more than one quarter that some radical steps be taken to prevent the propagation of anarchy in this country. The right of free speech surely does not comprehend the right to preach destruction of government and murder of government's representatives. If a band of political revolutionists should openly advocate the kidnapping of children or the burning of houses, they would be quickly exterminated, but anarchists may plot and inflame without hindrance. This is absurd and dangerous.
On the day the president was shot, Herr Most's paper, the Freiheit, contained this statement on its editorial page:
Strangely enough, however, Most condemns Czolgosz's act and says that it was inspired by "yellow journals," the New York Journal in particular. This can not be proved, but it is quite possible that the Journal's abuse of the administration and the means it has taken to render it contemptible and execrated would induce a slightly unbalanced person to remove the subject of the Journal's slanders and abuse. This is an opinion which finds frequent expression.
If Mr. McKinley had not survived the attack on his life, he would have left a noble message to the American people in the speech he delivered at Buffalo last Thursday. This was probably the most remarkable speech of his life in that it showed the extent of the president's growth of ideas and conceptions. His main point was that reciprocity, not retaliation, was in harmony with the times. His concluding sentences might have been a farewell address to the people of America and the world:
The Attempt upon the President's Life
President McKinley was shot
by a Polish anarchist at the Pan-American exposition last Friday. One
bullet inflicted a trifling wound in the breast and the second penetrated
the abdomen. The president's assailant was Leon Czolgosz, who approached
Mr. McKinley at the public reception and shot him with a revolver concealed
in a handkerchief. The reports from the president's physicians have steadily
encouraged the hope and belief that he will recover from the effects of
his wounds. This is the prayer of the whole nation and of the civilized
world. The comment below is confined largely to the political aspects
of the crime.
"Whether President McKinley lives or dies, the American people should learn certain lessons at his bedside," says the Boston Transcript: "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; that liberty of speech is not license to instigate assault; and that finally charity of construction of act and motive in public men is a safeguard against that fierceness of political passion that before now has been known to consume not alone men hut governments." The Boston Herald thinks that the "only possible conclusion is that anarchist agitations in the United States must be stamped out by the most rigorous enforcement of the law; and, if existing statutes do not suffice for this, then new and sufficiently comprehensive ones must be enacted. We can not afford to nurse in our midst a nest of vipers to sting and poison those who have given them shelter and protection."
"Not only his own, but all other countries, are watching in suspense, anxiety, and prayer for the latest word from President McKinley's bedside," the Washington Times truly says; "hoping, and with reason for hope, that God will defeat the object of the murderous wretch who attempted his life, and restore him in health to his family and friends, and the great people with whom he has been more notably popular than most public men of his day and generation." "This 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.
In no section of the country does the newspaper comment show a deeper feeling of sorrow and regret than is shown in the south. All the papers emphasize the south's affection for the president. "He is recognized as a safe man, and a kindly man, who never purposely harmed anything or anybody," says the Chattanooga Times. 'He has always been a model man in his private life as a husband and citizen and neighbor. What heart but the heart of a madman or an insensate beast would be hard enough to even contemplate a deadly attack on one so gentle, so democratic, so little given to the exercise of power?" The Richmond Times extols Mr. McKinley as "president of the nation, without regard to section or faction," as an exemplar in morals, in religion, and in his domestic relations, and seeks in vain for an explanation of the murderous attack upon such a man. "The nation is shocked at the dastard deed; the hearts of the people bleed for the distinguished victim; but nowhere is the shock deeper nor the affliction felt stronger than in the south," the Atlanta Constitution says.
the Cincinnati Enquirer,
an old political enemy, says, "loved to be among the people. When
he was cruelly stricken down he was happily in his best element, cordially
grasping the hands of as many as he could reach. Such a tragedy must necessarily
be a national sorrow-a matter of deep international concern. Ohio must
claim to be the chief mourner." "A great calamity like this
the more clearly shows us our duty. Anarchy must be suppressed. The freedom
of this country does not mean license to shoot our foremost citizens.
Our duty is to suppress this element and drive the foes of all government
from our shores. Has not the time fully come to act promptly in this matter?"
asks the Toledo Blade.
Of all the editorial opinions, we think the most valuable comment comes
from the Chicago Chronicle,
which says: "If with this honest, well-meaning and laborious public
servant stricken before their eyes, the people of these states do not
take to heart some lessons which they need to learn, the terror, the humiliation,
and the shame of yesterday's scene at Buffalo will have been in vain.
They will find in this murderous assault and in the circumstances leading
up to it proof that republics no less than monarchies, democracies no
less than despotisms, must inculcate respect for authority and must put
down most resolutely the malignant spirit which seeks to array class against
class and which lodges in the minds of the ignorant and the desperate
the idea that government is a monster to be slain in its personal representatives
rather than reformed by the intelligent and unselfish efforts of the people
Source: Public Opinion, vol. 31, no. 11 (September 12, 1901) pp. 323-324.