Publication information
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Source: American Journal of Insanity
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “American Hysteria”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 58
Issue number: 2
Pagination: 319-20

“American Hysteria.” American Journal of Insanity Oct. 1901 v58n2: pp. 319-20.
full text
McKinley assassination (public response: criticism); anarchism (personal response).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; Pierre Janet.


American Hysteria

     If it is too early to pass final judgment upon the mental condition of Czolgosz, there is no untimeliness in commenting upon a morbid manifestation of the American mind with reference to his crime. Recent deplorable exhibitions have illustrated more than ever before the wide prevalence of cerebral insufficiency among our people, or a weakening of what Janet has called the faculty of psychological synthesis. For want of a better name we might call it hysteria without going far astray in our disparagement. We have seen once more that with all our vaunted self-poise, mankind in the mass is suggestible to a marked degree. For a time our beloved Republic seemed to have lost its head in discussing the doctrine of anarchism in its relation to the President’s assassination, and but for the sober second thought of the better newspapers and wiser pulpits we should have cut a still sorrier figure before the thoughtful world. Thousands of our people forgot wherein our chiefest blessing lies and why this country [319][320] of ours is what it is. For surely there is no safety for the individual or for the republic if, in this stage of our civilization, the attempt should be made, as was gravely proposed by some, to regulate by law private opinions as to government, or to hinder the full expression of them if so be there is no overt treason or incitement to violence. There is no principle more essential to the maintenance and development of our institutions than free discussion, and most alienists will admit that anarchists are not more but less dangerous if they are given an opportunity to blow off steam in vapid discussion of their crazy doctrines than in being suppressed by inquisitional police measures that have no place in our polity. It is time enough to interfere when the law of the land is defied and when the spirit of assassination is invoked, as witness the fatuous conduct of the American citizens who assembled at the Glasgow Exhibition and dragged the fair name of America in the mire by adopting a resolution expressive of their regret that Czolgosz had not been lynched on the spot. Happily this resolution advocating murder is offset by the noble words of the wretch’s victim, “Let no one hurt him,” a sentiment that will live in the hearts of the people when posterity shall have weighed the magnicide in the balance and marvelled at the deliberative body that met in a foreign country to set it at naught. The temptation is strong to assign Czolgosz and anarchists of his stripe to that borderland of psychopathy that implies by reason of inherent defect of structure a limited responsibility, but it is well to suspend a critical judgment till all the evidence is in. In the meantime is it not worth while to ponder, notwithstanding its tainted source, the utterance of the wife of a notorious Chicago anarchist who paid the penalty of his crime with his life fifteen years ago? This woman, herself an anarchist, is reported to have pronounced the action of Czolgosz as “the deed only of a lunatic,” because in her opinion no person of sound intellect would assail the head of the government in a republic where the chief executive is chosen by popular vote and holds his office for only a limited time.



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