Source: Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Nation Mourns”
Author(s): Bryan, William Jennings
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 31
Issue number: 4
|Bryan, William Jennings. “The Nation Mourns.” Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine Oct. 1901 v31n4: p. 592.|
|William Jennings Bryan (public statements); McKinley assassination (personal response); anarchism (personal response).|
|“Written previous to the president’s death” (p. 592).|
The Nation Mourns
THE nation bows in sorrow and in humiliation—in sorrow because its chief executive,
its official head, is passing through the valley of the shadow of death—in humiliation
because the president of our republic has fallen a victim to the cruel and cowardly
methods employed in monarchies where helpless and hopeless subjects sometimes
meet arbitrary power with violence.
In morals and in the contemplation of law all lives are of equal value—all are priceless—but when seventy-five millions of people select one of their number and invest him with the authority which attaches to the presidency he becomes their representative and a blow aimed at him is resented as an attack upon all.
Beneath the partisanship of the individual lies the patriotism of the citizen, sometimes dormant, it is true, but always active in hours of peril or misfortune. While the president’s life hangs in the balance there are no party lines. The grief of personal friends and close political associates may be more poignant but their sympathy is not more sincere than that extended by political opponents. Although none but his family and physicians are admitted to his room, all his countrymen are at his bedside in thought and sentiment and their prayers ascend for his recovery. It was characteristic of his thoughtfulness that, even amid the excitement following the assault, he cautioned his companions not to exaggerate his condition to his invalid wife.
The latest dispatches give gratifying news of his improvement, but there is still deep solicitude lest unfavorable symptoms may yet appear.
And the humiliation! Are our public servants—those who are chosen by the people and who exercise for a limited time the authority bestowed by the people—are these to live in constant fear of assassination? Is there to be no difference between our constitutional government and those despotic governments which rest, not upon the consent of the governed, but upon brute force?
There is no place for anarchy in the United States; there is no room here for those who commit, counsel or condone murder, no matter what political excuse may be urged in its defense. The line between peaceful agitation and violence is clear and distinct. We have freedom of speech and freedom of the press in this country, and they are essential to the maintenance of our liberties. If anyone desires to criticise the methods of government or the conduct of an official, he has a perfect right to do so, but his appeal must be to the intelligence and patriotism of his fellow citizens, not to force. Let no one imagine that he can improve social or political conditions by the shedding of blood.
Free governments may be overthrown, but they cannot be reformed, by those who violate the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Under a government like ours every wrong can be remedied by law and the laws are in the hands of the people themselves. Anarchy can be neither excused nor tolerated here. The man who proposes to right a public wrong by taking the life of a human being makes himself an outlaw and cannot consistently appeal to the protection of the government which he repudiates. He invites a return to a state of barbarism in which each one must, at his own risk, defend his own rights and avenge his own wrongs.
The punishment administered to the would-be assassin and to his co-conspirators, if he has any, should be such as to warn all inclined to anarchy that while this is an asylum for those who love liberty it is an inhospitable place for those who raise their hands against all forms of government.