Source: Violence and the Labor Movement
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “Seeking the Causes” [chapter 6]
Author(s): Hunter, Robert
Publisher: Macmillan Company
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1919
Pagination: 90-122 (excerpt below includes only pages 101-03)
|Hunter, Robert. “Seeking the Causes” [chapter 6]. Violence and the Labor Movement. New York: Macmillan, 1919: 90-122.|
|excerpt of chapter|
|assassination; McKinley assassination (personal response).|
|Alexander Berkman; Otto von Bismarck; John Wilkes Booth; Thomas Carlyle; Richard Croker; Leon Czolgosz; Eugene V. Debs; Henry Clay Frick; Albrecht Gessler; Samuel Gompers; James Keir Hardie; Abraham Lincoln; David Lloyd George; Tom Mann; William McKinley; Charles F. Murphy; John D. Rockefeller; William Tell.|
The excerpt (below) excludes two footnotes appearing on page 101.
This book is copyrighted for 1914; however, the year 1919 is given on the title page.
From title page: By Robert Hunter, Author of “Poverty,” “Socialists at Work,” ETC.
Seeking the Causes [excerpt]
Still other seekers after the causes
of terrorism have pointed out that the ethics of our time appear to justify
the terrorist and his tactics. History glorifies the deeds of numberless heroes
who have destroyed tyrants. The story of William Tell is in every primer, and
every schoolboy is thrilled with the tale of the hero who shot from ambush Gessler,
the tyrant. From the Old Testament down to even recent history, we find story
after story which make immortal patriots of men who have committed assassination
in the belief that they were serving their country. And can anyone doubt that
Booth when he shot President Lincoln or that Czolgosz when he murdered President
McKinley was actuated by any other motive than the belief that he was serving
a cause? It was the idea of removing an industrial tyrant that actuated young
Alexander Berkman when he shot Henry C. Frick, of the Carnegie Company. These
latter acts are not recorded in history as heroic, simply and solely 
because the popular view was not in sympathy with those acts. Yet had they been
committed at another time, under different conditions, the story of these men
might have been told for centuries to admiring groups of children.
In Carlyle’s “Hero Worship” and in his philosophy of history, the progress of the world is summarized under the stories of great men. Certain individuals are responsible for social wrongs, while other individuals are responsible for the great revolutions that have righted those wrongs. In the building up, as well as in the destruction of empires, the individual plays stupendous rôles. This egocentric interpretation of history has not only been the dominant one in explaining the great political changes of the past, it is now the reasoning of the common mind, of the yellow press, of the demagogue, in dealing with the causes of the evils of the present day. The Republican Party declared that President McKinley was responsible for prosperity; by equally sound reasoning Czolgosz may have argued that he was responsible for social misery. According to this theory, Rockefeller is the giant mind that invented the trusts; political bosses such as Croker and Murphy are the infamous creatures who fasten upon a helpless populace of millions of souls a Tammany Hall; Bismarck created modern Germany; Lloyd George created social reform in England; while Tom Mann in England and Samuel Gompers in America are responsible for strikes; and Keir Hardie and Eugene Debs responsible for socialism. The individual who with great force of ability becomes the foremost figure in social, political, or industrial development is immediately assailed or glorified. He becomes the personification of an evil thing that must be destroyed or of a good thing that must be protected. It  is a result of such reasoning that men ignorant of underlying social, political, or industrial forces seek to obstruct the processes of evolution by removing the individual. On this ground the anarchists have been led to remove hundreds of police officials, capitalists, royalties, and others. They have been poisoned, shot, and dynamited, in the belief that their removal would benefit humanity. Yet nothing would seem to be quite so obvious as the fact that their removal has hardly caused a ripple in the swiftly moving current of evolution. Others, often more forceful and capable, have immediately stepped into their places, and the course of events has remained unchanged.