Publication information
view printer-friendly version
Source: Contributions to Medical Research
Source type: book
Document type: article
Document title: “The Mental State of Anarchists and of Others Who Kill or Attempt the Life of Rulers or Public Personages”
Author(s): Dewey, Richard [article]; anonymous [book]
Publisher: George Wahr
Place of publication: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Year of publication: 1903
Pagination: 204-15 (excerpt below includes only pages 209-10)

Dewey, Richard. “The Mental State of Anarchists and of Others Who Kill or Attempt the Life of Rulers or Public Personages.” Contributions to Medical Research. Ann Arbor: George Wahr, 1903: pp. 204-15.
excerpt of article
McKinley assassination; Leon Czolgosz (mental health); assassinations (comparison); anarchists; Leon Czolgosz (as anarchist); assassins (mental health); anarchism (psychology of).
Named persons
Gaetano Bresci; Sante Geronimo Caserio; Leon Czolgosz; Edward VII; Emma Goldman; John Jasper; Jean Baptiste Sipido.
From title page: Contributions to Medical Research. Dedicated to Victor Clarence Vaughan. By Colleagues and Former Students of the Department of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Michigan on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of His Doctorate.

“Richard Dewey, A.M., M.D., Wauwatosa, Wisconsin” (p. 204).


The Mental State of Anarchists and of Others Who Kill or Attempt
the Life of Rulers or Public Personages

     The act of Czolgosz is too recent, too familiar, and too deeply impressed upon all our hearts to require review in detail. I only wish to emphasize certain characteristics it has in common with the other purely anarchical attempts. It was carefully premeditated and planned with satanic ingenuity. Czolgosz has himself related how he went to Buffalo for this sole purpose; how he followed the president’s movements for two days in a feverish state of excitement, meditating upon the, to him, inspiring eloquence of Emma Goldman, his only fear being that fate might after all deprive him of the joy and glory of ending the life of a man honored and beloved by the people as few have been in any age or country. The diabolical “ruse” of enveloping his right hand, which grasped the pistol, with a handkerchief as if the hand were disabled, and of giving the left to shake, thus leaving his victim more defenseless and giving himself a fatal advantage—all this is but too well remembered. His avowal all the way through that he was an anarchist, that he had no confederate, as if he feared part of the glory might be given others, his exhibition of cool- [209][210] ness even in the chair of electrocution, the lack of any evidence of insane delusions or mental unsoundness in his conversation or conduct, and the findings of the post-mortem examination of body and brain—all constitute a case in which there is nothing that suggests diseased mind, unless all abhorrent acts and all fantastic beliefs are proof of unsound mind.
     These cases of Caserio, of Bresci, of Czolgosz, are all typical of anarchy. They furnish unmistakable evidence of a murder conceived and committed with malice aforethought, by men capable of unusual self-control, free from passion or excitement, free from the symptoms of insanity. It was murder in the first degree; these men presented no evidence, mental or physical, of insanity. Caserio and Czolgosz were carefully examined by competent men, and Bresci’s career and all we know of him raises no presumption of insanity, but the reverse. Finally, their acts were avowedly prompted by the doctrines of anarchy. These doctrines are, indeed, delusional, but not insanely so, i. e., irrational ideas growing out of disease or defect in the brain. Again I emphasize the difference between insane delusions and ordinary or sane delusions. The most ridiculous ideas may be perfectly sane, like the delusions of perpetual motion, or the sun revolving around the earth. Reverend Jasper of Richmond, who claimed “The sun do move” around the earth, and wrote a book to prove it, was not insane, he was simply ignorant. His brain was not diseased nor defective, considering his education and his opportunities.
     The ideas of the anarchists are delusions, but these misguided men are strictly accountable for their beliefs and the acts that grow out of them, unless there is something else to indicate insanity. It is true, many of them are not sincere, and many weak-brained and irresponsible dupes and tools who cannot be held responsible for their acts are dominated by the more masterful spirits; like Sipido, the boy assailant of King Edward VII., then Prince of Wales. The genus known as “cranks” are peculiarly prone to espouse these dangerous ideas; but before any anarchist can be deemed insane, it must be shown by other evidence than belief in anarchy. If such a person has inborn and hereditary weakness, or if degeneracy of brain or disease of brain is shown by other unmistakable symptoms, a case of insanity may be made out.



top of page