Source: The Anarchists: Their Faith and Their Record
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “King Humbert—Bresci—President McKinley—Czolgosz (1898-1901)” [chapter 10]
Author(s): Vizetelly, Ernest Alfred
Publisher: John Lane
Place of publication: London, England
Year of publication: 1911
Pagination: 240-59 (excerpt below includes only pages 251-59)
|Vizetelly, Ernest Alfred. “King Humbert—Bresci—President McKinley—Czolgosz (1898-1901)” [chapter 10]. The Anarchists: Their Faith and Their Record. London: John Lane, 1911: pp. 240-59.|
|excerpt of chapter|
|William McKinley (personal history); McKinley assassination; Leon Czolgosz (trial); Leon Czolgosz (execution); Leon Czolgosz (last words).|
|Johann Sebastian Bach; John Wilkes Booth; Gaetano Bresci; William Jennings Bryan; George B. Cortelyou; Leon Czolgosz; Paul Czolgosz; Victoria Czolgosz; Waldeck Czolgosz; Edwin F. Davis [misspelled below]; George F. Foster; James A. Garfield; John Gerin; Emma Goldman; Charles J. Guiteau; Samuel R. Ireland; Andrew Jackson; Richard Lawrence; Loran L. Lewis; Abraham Lincoln; Luigi Luccheni; Carlos F. MacDonald [misspelled below]; Ida McKinley; Nancy Allison McKinley; William McKinley; William McKinley, Sr.; John G. Milburn; Johann Most; Walter Nowak; James B. Parker [middle initial wrong below]; Theodore Roosevelt; Edward A. Spitzka; Harry K. Thaw; Robert C. Titus; Truman C. White.|
This portion of the chapter (below) includes the following six footnotes. Page numbers for the footnotes appear in brackets following each footnote. Click on the superscripted numbers preceding each footnote to navigate to the respective locations in the text.
An illustration of Leon Czolgosz appears as an unnumbered plate facing page 256.
From title page: The Anarchists: Their Faith and Their Record; Including Sidelights on the Royal and Other Personages Who Have Been Assassinated.
From title page: With Six Illustrations.
King Humbert—Bresci—President McKinley—Czolgosz (1898-1901) [excerpt]
The first United States President
to be attacked by an assassin was Jackson, whose life was attempted by a man
named Richard Lawrence in January 1835. Thirty years later, on the evening of
April 14, Booth, the actor, assassinated Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre at
Washington. Then, at the expiration of another sixteen years, President Garfield
was shot by Guiteau, as we previously recorded.* There was no
connection between Anarchism and any of those crimes. But it was different with
respect to the assassination of President McKinley, which was the outcome of
the propaganda carried on by Johann Most, Emma Goldman, and others, and the
examples successfully set in Europe by Luccheni and Bresci.
Born at Niles in Ohio, on January 29, 1843, McKinley was of mingled Scotch and Irish ancestry. His great-grandfather, a native of Pennsylvania, had fought in the War of Independence. His father, named William McKinley like himself, married a Miss Nancy Allison, and the future President was their seventh child. The majority of the family were engaged in the iron industry, but young McKinley was doing duty as a school teacher when, in 1861, the War of Secession began. He at once enlisted on the Federal side, and ultimately rose to be brevet-major, each step in rank being gained by his bravery in the field. The war over, he applied himself to the study of law, and ended by joining the bar of Canton, Ohio. He was afterwards gradually led towards a political career, and in 1876 was elected as a Republican member of Congress, in which he retained  a seat for seven terms. By 1890 his name had become widely known as that of the chief advocate of a high-tariff policy. He lost his seat in Congress, but was elected Governor of Ohio in 1891 and again in 1893, and still remained the leading exponent of Protectionism in the United States. Men began to talk of him as a candidate for the Presidency, and in 1896 the Republican party officially adopted him as its nominee. Opposed by William J. Bryan of Nebraska, the zealous advocate of a silver versus a gold standard, McKinley was elected, and four of the most eventful years in the history of the United States ensued. War broke out with Spain, which ended by surrendering Cuba and the Philippines, and extreme Protectionism became one of the chief tenets of the Republic’s policy, and led for a time to acrimonious relations with more than one foreign country. In 1900 McKinley secured re-election, and on this occasion the Vice-Presidency of the States was secured by Mr Theodore Roosevelt, who had figured prominently in the war with Spain.
During the following year a so-called Pan-American “Exposition” was held at Buffalo (N.Y.), and early in September the President repaired thither. At his first visit he made a great speech on the prosperity of the country, and advocated peace and goodwill among all nations. Then, on the afternoon of Friday the 6th, it was arranged that he should hold a public reception in a building, somewhat pompously styled the “Temple of Music.” Naturally enough some thousands of people assembled to defile before the President and shake hands with him, according to the usual practice. He stood in front of a kind of palm bower, with Mr Milburn, the President of the Exhibition, on his right hand, and his secretary, Mr Cortelyou, on his left. Quite near were two secret-service men named Foster and Ireland. Amid the strains of the organ, which played Bach’s Sonata in  F, the crowd, which included many women and children, approached along a kind of aisle which was lined with police officers attached to the exhibition, and with men of the 73rd Sea-Coast Artillery.
The secret-service men, who were on the look-out for any persons of suspicious appearance, particularly noticed a short, heavily built individual with a brown face, a heavy black moustache, and glistening black eyes, whom they judged to be an Italian. Whether he was a confederate of McKinley’s assassin is uncertain, but at any rate the assassin walked immediately behind him. Whatever reason the secret-service officers may have had to suspect the swarthy-looking individual whom we have mentioned, there was not much to attract their attention to the one who followed. He was about 5 feet 7 inches high, beardless, with light brown hair and of extremely youthful appearance, looking indeed very much younger than he really was. Clad in a striped suit, he had the air of a respectable mechanic, and the only thing really noticeable about him was that a handkerchief covered his right hand,* which he carried raised and close to the back of the man who preceded him. The detectives imagined, not unnaturally, that the young man’s right hand had been injured, a surmise which seemed to be confirmed by the circumstance that he offered the left one to the President when he at last confronted him. McKinley, smiling, was about to take it, when from under the young fellow’s handkerchief there suddenly appeared the muzzle of a revolver, and two shots rang out sharply above all the buzz of conversation and the tramping and shuffling of feet.
The President drew his hand to his chest, threw back his head, staggered, and fell, half-fainting, into the arms of his secretary, Mr Cortelyou. At the same time a coloured waiter named James P. Parker, who was just  behind the assassin, attempted to seize him; and with the assistance of the detectives Ireland and Foster he was secured. The crowd wished to lynch him on the spot, and before he could be conveyed to an office in the Temple of Music he was badly cuffed, kicked, and struck in the face. Ultimately, under the guard of a number of police and marines, he was removed in a hired carriage to the police headquarters at Buffalo.
Meantime the Sea-Coast Artillerymen drove the crowd out of the Temple of Music, fixing bayonets and using great violence, in such wise that there were several casualties. The President’s friends, on their side, tore down bunting and overturned plants in order to convey him to a seat where they fanned him vigorously. He was very faint and in great pain. Before long, however, it was possible to remove him to the emergency hospital in the Exhibition grounds, and there one of the bullets was easily extracted, the wound which it had inflicted in the chest being little more than superficial. But the doctors were unable to locate the position of the second bullet, and matters remained serious, although during the first few days all the bulletins were distinctly favourable, so favourable, indeed, that Theodore Roosevelt, then in the West on one of his hunting expeditions, was advised that it would be unnecessary for him to return. On the ensuing Friday, however—that is exactly a week after the crime—the President’s condition suddenly became alarming. The doctors could do nothing further for him. He sank rapidly, and at a quarter past two o’clock on the following morning (September 14) he expired. His last words were, “Good-bye. God’s will be done. It is His way.”
It was ascertained at the ensuing post-mortem examination that the bullet which the doctors had been unable to locate was lodged in the abdominal wall behind the stomach. It had damaged the abdominal cavity, and  gangrene had supervened. McKinley’s remains lay in state, first at the City Hall of Buffalo and secondly at the Capitol at Washington.* Then they were transferred to Canton for the last funeral rites and interment (September 25). Mr Roosevelt now became President of the United States, and travelled to Washington with all possible dispatch.
When the assassin was first interrogated he declared his name to be Frederick Nieman, asserted that his home was at Toledo, and that he had arrived about a week previously at Buffalo, where he had engaged a lodging in the Broadway. A certain Walter Nowak of Cleveland, however, identified him as Leon F. Czolgosz, an iron-worker, and mentioned that he had relatives living at Cleveland—notably his father, Paul Czolgosz, a brother named Waldeck, and a sister, Victoria. These relations repaired to Buffalo soon after the crime, but the prisoner refused to see them; and, in a measure for their own protection, they were placed under detention by the police.
Leon Czolgosz was born at Detroit in 1873, and was therefore twenty-eight years old at the time of his crime. His appearance, however, suggested that he was barely twenty, and judging by the medical report of the post-mortem examination of his remains, we do not think that he was ever much of a worker.* His body was described, indeed, as resembling that of a young man of leisure, the arms being far from muscular, but smooth, round, and fair. He was of Polish extraction, as his name indicates, and had been brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, which he had renounced, however, on attaining manhood. He could read and write, but apart from that he had very little education. His Anarchist ideas were beyond question, some Anarchist literature was found on him or  at his lodgings after his arrest, and he admitted that he had belonged to a little unnamed “group” at Cleveland.* At the same time he strenuously denied that his crime was the result of any scheme preconcerted with others. It was his idea, however, that the actual form of government of the United States was extremely unjust, and that the most effective manner of remedying it would be to kill the President. For that purpose, on the day preceding his crime, he had followed Mr McKinley on an excursion to the Falls, and would have shot him then had he been able to get near enough. Briefly, his demeanour after his arrest was alternately callous and defiant; he failed to exhibit the slightest sign of remorse. At first he refused the assistance of counsel, but, ultimately, two lawyers, ex-Judge Loran L. Lewis and Mr Robert Titus, were selected to defend him. At the instigation of the authorities, who desired to treat Czolgosz with the utmost fairness, he was medically examined prior to his trial in order that it might be ascertained whether he was mentally deficient, in which case he would simply have been consigned to an asylum. But he spoke quite rationally, and nothing in his appearance suggested any degree of insanity.*
His trial before the State Supreme Court of Buffalo took place towards the end of September and lasted only a few hours. There were no such frantic efforts to save him from his fate as were made in later years on behalf of the young “millionaire” Thaw. In fact, his counsel did virtually nothing for him. At the outset of the pro-  ceedings he pleaded guilty, but this was overruled by Justice Truman White, who conducted the trial, and who ordered a plea of not guilty to be entered on the record. The evidence of the secret-service men who had arrested Czolgosz and of a few other witnesses of his crime was then taken. No witnesses were called for the defence. Ex-Judge Lewis simply made a brief speech, saying nothing about the prisoner but lamenting the death of so eminent and good a man as McKinley. The other counsel—Mr Titus—did not speak at all, except to remark that he thought it unnecessary to add anything to what his colleague had said. As for the prisoner, he merely declared, “I am an Anarchist and have done my duty.” The jury retired, and at the expiration of about half an hour returned with a verdict of guilty. This occurred on September 24, and two days later the prisoner was again arraigned and received his sentence, which was that he should be executed according to the forms of law during the week beginning October 28.
The method of inflicting the capital penalty was electrocution, which was carried out at the penitentiary of Auburn (N.Y.), whither Czolgosz was removed under the guard of twenty deputy-sheriffs. He collapsed on his arrival, and for the first and only time expressed regret for his deed and sympathy with Mrs McKinley.
The execution took place about seven o’clock on the morning of October 29, after the prisoner had partaken of a hearty breakfast of coffee, toast, eggs, and bacon. He was brought into the death chamber by a couple of warders, one of whom supported him on each side. Davies, the official electrician, was in attendance, and the operations were directed by Drs Macdonald and Gerin, five other medical men also being present. When Czolgosz had been seated in the chair, and while the warders were strapping him, he said: “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people—the working people. I am  not sorry I did so, but I am sorry now that I did not see my father.” The strapping being finished, electrical contact was established, the electro-motive pressure being maintained at 1800 volts during the first seven seconds, after which it was reduced to 300. At first the body was thrown against the straps, which creaked perceptibly. The hands clinched, and the whole attitude became one of extreme tension. But on the pressure being reduced to 300 volts the body suddenly collapsed. At the expiration of 23 seconds Dr Macdonald ordered the pressure to be increased to 1800 volts again; and 4 seconds later it was once more reduced to 300 volts for a space of 26 seconds, after which the contact was broken. Dr Macdonald then examined the prisoner and noticed no pulsation, but as a precautionary measure, so to say, he ordered a pressure of 1800 volts to be reapplied for the space of five seconds. Czolgosz was then pronounced to be dead. From the moment of the first contact the operation had lasted exactly one minute and five seconds.
The prisoner’s brother Waldeck, who had amazed the authorities by asking permission to witness the electrocution, had originally intended to have the remains cremated, but yielded to the proposal of the officials that they should be interred in the prison cemetery and practically destroyed by acid. This was carried out after the post-mortem examination, and at the same time all the deceased’s clothes and personal effects were burnt, much to the mortification of those souvenir seekers who abound in the United States. It should be added that prior to the execution of Czolgosz, proceedings had been taken for one or another reason against several prominent Anarchists, and notably the notorious Johann Most, who was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for having published in his organ, a short time before the assassination of McKinley, an article inciting his readers to  murder the heads of States. Early in the following year, moreover, Congress passed a law excluding Anarchists from the classes allowed to enter the country. Those resident there have since been subjected to strict supervision.