Law in Its Relation to the Assassination of the
THERE is no law that a civilized people would put upon its statute
books, that would have deterred the hand of the silly crank who
took the President’s life.
He intended to kill the President;
he knew the penalty of his deed was death; he defied the penalty
of the law and the vengeance of the mob, and did his dastardly work
in the open without the slightest chance of escape, and with no
apparent effort or provision for escape.
What can you do with a thing like
Certainly no law can reach it.
Granted that there ought to be a law
against attempts upon the life of public officers, it would be futile
as a means of security against creatures like Czolgosz, and Giteau
Every crowd like that which surrounded
the President at Buffalo contains just such hair brained monomaniacs
who would feel it to be their “duty” to “remove the President.”
There is no objection to any amount of law for such monsters, but
that would not protect their victims. The more law the more glory
to the perpetrator who defies it.
Anarchy, and fads, and fools cannot
be suppressed by law. Anarchy is arrayed against law. It is arrayed,
in this country, against the best government on earth. To make laws
does not destroy but magnifies its mission. You may drive it into
obscurity by the terror of the law, but you only intensify its spirit,
and enhance the public danger from its operations.
What then will we do with the anarchist,
and the fool, and the man with a fad?
Evidently society cannot surrender
to them. And there is no law that will reach them. We might let
a fool-killer loose with plenary power to exterminate, but he would
 doubtless overlook the most
The main consideration involved is
not the punishment of the crank-murderer but the security of his
victim. It is almost humiliating to concede that all that government
or law can do, is to concede that a man like President McKinley,
occupying the highest post in the nation, and holding the respect,
the admiration, the love, and the confidence of the whole people—that
the life of such a man is at the mercy of a wretch like Czolgosz,
and that all you can take in exchange for such a life is the life
of one who deserves the universal execration of mankind. But that
is the situation.
Conceding then, that cranks exist
and will always exist, the high public official—the President at
least—who goes openly into a large assemblage of people; who undertakes
to meet individually, and shake hands with a mass of people, risks
his life, no matter how formidable the force present to protect
him, or how severe the penalties of the law against injury to his
The only reasonable conclusion from
these conditions is that the President of this Republic should not
take such risks. This is a people’s government, and the President
is a servant of the people, chosen directly by them, and we are
loth to conclude or to recognize the necessity or propriety of the
President standing aloof from the people, and taking on the seclusion
of an austere monarch. But hand-shaking of the crowd must, at least,
be conceded to be a useless and unnecessary ceremony, foolhardy
in the President who takes the risk, and ought to be abandoned as
a measure of common sense and safety. The public ought not to demand
it under such conditions and the President ought not to indulge
it. There are other ways and conditions under which he can meet
the people which ought to satisfy the public and save him from any
seeming exclusiveness and seclusion.
So far as the anarchist and crank
are concerned there  ought
to be an international comity of governments, that would apply at
least to the former, and exclude him from the propagation of his
doctrines and the open attitude of antagonism to law which he has
heretofore been permitted to assume and flaunt before the public.
Admitting that it is a hard matter to deal with under a free government,
the chief difficulty will be overcome when a clear cut definition
of the term “anarchist” has been made, and a special summary proceeding
under the law has been devised for disposing of him.
We are glad that in [the] case of
the reptile who took the life of President McKinley the forms of
law have been strictly and admirably maintained, and that even under
such severe provocation, the supremacy of law has been absolutely
preserved; that he will undoubtedly have as fair a trial, and as
formal and lawful an execution as any other prisoner who could come
into our courts. Not only so but he will be represented by the best
legal talent of the State, without money and without his request.
In view of the frequent instances of disregard for law in these
days, this is an object lesson for our country which may do good.
But we would not justify his attorneys in making a technical and
dilatory defense of their client in this case.
We hope the attorneys will also set
the Profession an example, of simply seeing that the forms of law
are observed in the trial, and that no unwarranted obstruction to
the ends of justice may be interposed to protect a client whom they
know to be guilty. The character of these attorneys and the circumstances
of their appointment to the case, is the best assurance that the
case will be conducted on the part of the defense—not after the
manner of the trial of Giteau—but that “the highest traditions of
the profession shall be upheld, and that the trial shall be dignified,
just and impartial.”