Source: Tolstoy as a Schoolmaster
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “A Chapter on Penology” [chapter 13]
Author(s): Crosby, Ernest Howard
Publisher: Hammersmark Publishing Co.
Place of publication: Chicago, Illinois
Year of publication: [1905?]
Pagination: 72-83 (excerpt below includes only pages 76-77)
|Crosby, Ernest Howard. “A Chapter on Penology” [chapter 13]. Tolstoy as a Schoolmaster. Chicago: Hammersmark Publishing, [1905?]: pp. 72-83.|
|excerpt of chapter|
|death penalty; McKinley assassination (personal response).|
|Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley; Leo Tolstoy.|
The author’s name is given as Ernest Howard Crosby on the book cover.
From title page: By Ernest Crosby, Author of “Tolstoy and His Message,” “Plain Talk in Psalm and Parable,” “Swords and Ploughshares,” etc.
A Chapter on Penology [excerpt]
Tolstoy’s attention was first called
to capital punishment when, as a young man, he witnessed an execution by the
guillotine at Paris, and he instinctively felt then and there that the whole
thing was evil and only evil. It was simply one man killing another. We talk
of the “State’s” hanging a man, but a State cannot hang. We cannot avoid responsibility
for our individual acts in that way. And what good does capital punishment do?
Life is just as safe in countries where it no longer prevails. 
It has no deterrent effect, and this was shown by the assassination of President McKinley. He had just completed a journey through fifteen or more of the States, in several of which capital punishment had been abolished. A week before his murder he had passed several days in Michigan, where they stopped hanging people thirty years ago. Czolgosz might have shot him there (and it was nearer the murderer’s home than the actual scene of the deed) with the absolute certainty of escaping with his life. But what did he do? He waited until the President had entered a State where speedy expiation by death was inevitable, and here it was that he accomplished his design. If capital punishment had any effect at all, it was to precipitate the crime, and it is not impossible that the prospect of a trial for his life and the dramatic surroundings of an execution really had some influence in fixing his choice of place for the crime. But the fact is that criminals rarely think of punishment. Their mind is engrossed with the criminal act, and they either snap their fingers at the penalty or expect to avoid it.