Attempts on the Life of Presidents
the passions of grave and conservative men were stirred by the assassination
of the President is shown by the utterances, while the President’s
life still hung in the balance, of distinguished public men advocating
lynch-laws. Could anything show more clearly than this how deeply
the poison of lynch-law has penetrated the body of the nation? For
our own self-respect and our good name among nations, we cannot
tolerate this thing, but we should seek to devise legislation which,
when an emergency arises, will remove the temptation to mob-violence.
It has been proposed to make an attempt to assassinate the president
or vice-president, or possibly some of the heads of departments,
a capital offense. With regard to attempts on the life of the president,
this seems to us a wise measure. It is objected that in the United
States no difference should be made between the person of the president
and that of a private individual. But we elect the president to
a position where he is in especial danger, and our sense of common
fairness would indicate that we should take special measures to
protect him, not as above the people but as the people’s chief servant.
The same principle applies in the case of the other officers indicated,
but we should not go beyond our experience, and our experience indicates
that political assassins aim always at the responsible head of a
government or the titular ruler of a country, and that subordinate
officials are in no particular danger from this source.