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Source: The Diseases of Society
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “Anarchy in Its Relations to Crime” [chapter 6]
Author(s): Lydston, G. Frank
Edition: Fourth edition
Publisher: J. B. Lippincott Company
Place of publication: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Year of publication: 1906
Pagination: 229-302 (excerpt below includes only pages 253-55)

Lydston, G. Frank. “Anarchy in Its Relations to Crime” [chapter 6]. The Diseases of Society. 4th ed. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1906: pp. 229-302.
excerpt of chapter
Leon Czolgosz (mental health); Leon Czolgosz (as anarchist).
Named persons
Alexander II; Walter Channing [in footnote]; J. Sanderson Christison; Leon Czolgosz; John Alexander Dowie; Ignaty Grinevitsky [identified as Elnikoff below]; John the Baptist; William McKinley.
Within this chapter is an unnumbered plate (between pages 254 and 255) featuring two photographs of Czolgosz, labeled “Fig. 12” and “Fig. 13.”

This portion of the chapter (below) includes the following two footnotes. Page numbers for the footnotes appear in brackets following each footnote. Click on the superscripted number preceding each footnote to navigate to the respective locations in the text.

1 The Mental Status of Czolgosz, Walter Channing; American Journal of Insanity, October, 1902. [254]

2 Epilepsy and Responsibility in the Czolgosz Case. Was the Assassin Sane or Insane? Dr. J. S. Christison. [255]

From title page: The Diseases of Society: The Vice and Crime Problem.

From title page: By G. Frank Lydston, M.D., Professor of Genito-Urinary Surgery, State University of Illinois; Professor of Criminal Anthropology, Chicago-Kent College of Law; Surgeon to St. Mary’s and Samaritan Hospitals; Member of the London Society of Authors, Etc.


Anarchy in Its Relations to Crime [excerpt]

     Czolgosz, the slayer of President McKinley, had a somewhat indefinite history. So far as could be learned, he had an extremely morbid period of pubescence. He had never been considered well-balanced mentally, although there was never any suspicion of insanity. He had always been solitary and unsocial in his habits, taciturn, and somewhat morose. He was at one time an ardent advocate of State socialism, and enthusiastically accepted McKinley’s doctrine that opening the large mills would necessarily make labor in general prosperous. He was a Pole by birth, and had a long line of revolutionary ancestry behind him. The Polish race of all others is the most likely to advocate revolution and assassination as “reform” measures. Long years of oppression, and reaction against it, are responsible for this trait. The “removal” of political and social obstacles was, therefore, an inborn principle with Czolgosz. What heredity had begun education completed, for he was trained in Polish parochial schools. His grievance against McKinley must have been based upon general rather than personal grounds. He believed that McKinley had broken his promise by failing to open the mills. To the assassin this seemed to be due to perverse volition on the President’s part. He evidently gave both the mill question and Mr. McKinley’s responsibility in the matter undue importance. That he was insane seems probable to the author, although this is not so plain as would be the case with an American similarly placed. The latter has not so much of the revolutionary psychology. An education out of harmony with his environment might explain the murderer’s perverted ideas. I do not believe that Czolgosz was an anarchist, although the matter of nomenclature is of little moment in the face of so terrible a crime as the assassination of McKinley. I protest, however, against obscuring true causes by a fallacious nomenclature. If all the anarchists in the world were slain, assassins of crowned heads and presidents [253][254] would still be at hand. The name by which each would be known would matter but little, either to society at large or to our large army of degenerates. Elnikoff, who slew the Czar, Alexander II., was styled a nihilist. He would have fitted the rôle of anarchist equally well.
     Czolgosz was considered an anarchist because he claimed to be one after the assassination. The same line of reasoning should settle the identity of John Alexander Dowie, who claims to be John the Baptist. The assassin knew nothing of anarchistic doctrines, and was repudiated by both the philosophic and destructivist branches of that cult. His claim was based upon the suggestion afforded by anarchistic literature, his egotism, which impelled him to enlarge the importance of his deed, and, in a sense, upon cowardice. The suggestion to assassinate and the suggestion that he was an anarchist were simultaneous, and founded upon radical expressions in anarchistic publications.
     Whether a fair study of Czolgosz was possible in the state of public excitement and resentment is open to question. A comparison of the rapidity with which his case was hurried through, with the drag of ordinary murder trials, is suggestive.
     That facial and cranial asymmetry were marked in Czolgosz his photographs plainly show. This, irrespective of the bearing it may have had upon his case.
     A distinguished alienist, writing of Czolgosz, says,¹

     “His interest in anarchism appears to have been of late growth and foreign to the ordinary current of his life, and played but a small part in it until after the crime, when he said he was an anarchist, and his statements were accepted as a satisfactory explanation. Certainly it was most extraordinary that the man who committed the crime, and was at once branded as an anarchist, should have been publicly denounced in the leading anarchist publication of the country but five days before as a spy and dangerous character, not to be trusted by anarchists.
     “I believe that he was dominated by a delusion, as stated by the expert for the defence, the delusion of a man of unsound mind, which was much broader than his belief that the President was an enemy of the working people. Not only that, but the President was going around [254][255] the country deceiving people and shouting ‘prosperity’ when there was no prosperity for the poor man. Then, as he was also told by an anarchist leader, things were getting worse and worse, and something must be done; he did not believe in the Republican form of government; and there should not be any rulers. For all these reasons, he was himself called on to do something. This, then, was the essence of the delusion, that he had a duty to perform, which was to kill the President, because he was the enemy of the good working people, and things were getting worse and worse.
     “Speaking from the stand-point of the medical expert, it is to me very difficult to believe that any American citizen of sound mind could plan and execute such a deed as the assassination of the President, and remain impervious to all influences after his arrest, and up to the time of the of the execution.”

     Christison² says, in reference to the act,—

     “It may first be observed that acts themselves indicate the mental condition of the actors when all the circumstances are known. Up to the age of twenty-eight, and after a long record of an abnormally retiring, peaceful disposition, Czolgosz suddenly appears as a great criminal. Had he been sane, this act would imply an infraction of the law of normal growth, which is logically inconceivable. Such a monstrous conception and impulse as the wanton murder of the President of the United States, arising in the mind of so insignificant a citizen, without his being either insane or a degenerate, could be nothing short of a miracle, for the reason that we require like causes to produce like results. To assume that he was sane is to assume that he did a sane act,—i.e., one based upon facts and having a rational purpose.”



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