Source: Medical World
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial column
Document title: “Our Monthly Talk”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 19
Issue number: 10
|“Our Monthly Talk.” Medical World Oct. 1901 v19n10: pp. 449-52.|
|McKinley assassination (personal response); presidential assassination (laws against); Stephen Russell Mallory (public statements); McKinley assassination (government response); presidential assassination (legal penalties); Benjamin F. Tracy (public statements); resolutions (Municipal League of Philadelphia); freedom of speech; anarchism (personal response); William McKinley (presidential character); William McKinley (personal character); Theodore Roosevelt; Theodore Roosevelt (presidential policies); Theodore Roosevelt (public statements); Theodore Roosevelt (political philosophy); presidential succession.|
|John Wilkes Booth; Alexander C. Botkin; James Buchanan; William D. Bynum; Antonio Cánovas del Castillo; Marie François Sadi Carnot; Leon Czolgosz; Stephen J. Field; James A. Garfield; Charles J. Guiteau; Marcus Hanna; Abraham Lincoln; Stephen Russell Mallory; William McKinley; Johann Most; Theodore Roosevelt; David S. Terry; Benjamin F. Tracy; Daniel Webster.|
|In the original source, the editorial column continues beyond page 452 (the note at the bottom of page 452 reading “Continued over next leaf”). However, no additional pages for this issue of the journal are included in the online scanned version used for the transcription below.|
Our Monthly Talk
There is only one subject to talk about this month. We stand aghast at an assassin’s crime, and with bowed heads before an open grave. The loss is the loss of all—of all collectively, and of each one individually. The Nation has lost a noble man and a useful and patriotic citizen. As sad as that is, it is not our present special grief, for we have left many other noble men and useful and patriotic citizens. But a foul blow has been dealt against our Government. That is what makes our grief universal. Our Government is our most precious possession, for without it we could not have the blessings of civilization which we now enjoy—we could not have our schools for education; we could not have our courts for justice; we could not have our churches for worship. Property is impossible without security. Neither life nor property can be secure (except on a lonely island) without government. So the man who strikes at government strikes at all of us—strikes at the existence of our institutions, our freedom and our lives. What crime can be greater? Murder takes only one life away, and the rest of us, our institutions, etc., go along just the same as before. But a stroke at our government is a stroke at all, and all that we hold dear. The enormity of this crime is beyond comparison with any or all other crimes.
Inadequacy of Law Against This Crime.
We are sharply reminded of the inadequacy of our legislation against this crime. Other assassinations of presidents (Lincoln and Garfield) were committed in the District of Columbia, so these offenses came under National laws, and the offenders were tried in Federal courts. We are now rudely awakened to the fact that if a president is attackt [sic] in any state, there is no law to punish the offender except the law of that state. For example, if a president should be murdered in Maine, Rhode Island, Michigan, Wisconsin or Colorado, which states have abolisht [sic] capital punishment, the only punishment of the murderer would be imprisonment. Had President McKinley not died, the extreme punishment of Czolgosz would have been imprisonment for ten years, which, with the usual reductions for good behavior, etc., could have been reduced to a little over six years, after which time this cold-blooded monster could have been set free again, possibly endangering another president’s life. I have often said that we should spell Nation with a capital N—that certain functions heretofore local should become National—that we should grow in the direction of knitting our various parts together into a firmer National unity (however, without violence to the largest local liberty in local matters). Our flag should mean more definit [sic] things wherever it waves; and these things should grow in scope and definitness [sic] with each generation. There should certainly be a National law against murderous attacks upon our presidents. This problem has been puzzling our constitutional lawyers. They say it can hardly be put under the head of high treason, for the Constitution defines that to be “conspiring against” or “levying war upon” the United States, or “adhering to its enemies.” It is said that a single individual cannot “conspire” nor “levy war.” But it seems to me that Czolgosz has “levied war” against the United States Government to the extent of his ability,  and he has succeeded most terribly in his treasonous design. That is “levying war” most effectually for a single individual, and the crime, whether successful in killing the head of our Government or not, should be punisht [sic] as an act of treason. However, without calling it treason, the way seems clear to make an attempt to take the life of the President because he is the President, and for the purpose of injuring the Government of the United States, a distinct offence punishable by death wherever committed. Senator Mallory, of Florida, very aptly says:
“An assault, or an attempted assault, upon the President should be made a distinct offense, and should be punishable by death. The high and honored office which he holds as the President of our whole people should have this protection. The consequences of an assault upon the President are so great, the effect upon the country so tremendous and disturbing and the general result so terrible, that the crime is one of the greatest magnitude, and the punishment should be fitting and speedy.”
In this connection the following news item is of interest:
Washington, Sept. 13.—Messrs. Botkin and Bynum, members of the commission to revise and codify the criminal and penal laws of the United States, since the attack on the life of the President have been investigating the authorities, with a view to the preparation of a law making an assault upon the President, with intent to murder, cognizable in the courts of the United States and punishable by death. They have prepared a draft of a bill, to be submitted to Congress, making assault upon the President a felony and punishable by death, when the assault is for the purpose of obstructing the operations of government. It is believed that this qualification will have the effect of giving the Federal courts jurisdiction in such cases.
The following, clipt [sic] from the Philadelphia Ledger, shows another way:
General Benjamin F. Tracy, formerly Secretary of the Navy, and considered one of the ablest lawyers in New York, has no doubt whatever that Congress has power to provide the penalty for such crimes as that of Czolgosz, and this without any change in the Constitution. The crime, however, cannot be treated as treason, for treason in this country is clearly defined and limited by the Constitution itself to armed resistance to the power of the Government, or giving aid and comfort to its enemies. But the same result can be reacht [sic] in another way. “In the Nagle [sic] case,” says General Tracy, “when Terry was killed by a Deputy Marshal for an attack on Justice Field, the Supreme Court determined, for the first time in the history of this country, that there is such a thing as a breach of the peace of the United States as distinguished from a breach of the peace of the Commonwealth or State. When one man commits an assault upon another, the State takes no cognizance of the injury to the individual, but resents and punishes the injury done to it—in other words, the breach of its peace. Similarly, when an attack is made on a Federal officer while in the discharge of his duty, an injury is done to the United States, and the Federal Government undoubtedly has power to prescribe a suitable penalty for a breach of its peace. This follows from the Supreme Court decision I have referred to. It would be strange, indeed, if the Government had no power to protect its officers in the discharge of their duty. That it has not done so up to this time, has no bearing on the matter. I think we have reacht [sic] a point now where action is necessary. Concerning what penalty should be fixt [sic] by Congress for attacks made on the officers of the Government there may be much difference of opinion. My own idea is that an assault made on the President or Vice-President should be punisht [sic] with death, while a similar attack made on other officers of the Government should be a felony, punishable by imprisonment for a long term.”
After one of our citizens has been made President, his safety is a matter of deep concern to all, regardless of previous or present party affiliation. He is the man that the majority of our citizens elected; and he who attacks the man chosen attacks our liberty of choice. This is certainly a National offence, and it should be covered by a National law.
Inciting to Such Crimes.
Freedom of speech has been our boast in this country. But even the most liberal can now plainly see that speech can be too free for safety. For example, here is a quotation from Herr Most’s Freiheit (his anarchist paper) for September 7:
“The greatest of all follies in the world is the belief that there can be a crime of any sort against despots and their accomplices. Such a belief is in itself a crime. Despots are outlaws; they are in human shape what the tiger is among beasts—to spare them is a crime.
“As despots make use of everything, treachery, poison, murder, etc., so everything should be employed against them.”
For this he was very properly arrested, and I think he is still in jail. He claims that these are merely sentiments that have been printed in various forms thousands of times in the last fifty years. If so, our officers and our citizens have been too indifferent to the mischief that has been going on, until now we see the dreadful fruit of the seed thus sown. In this connection, the following resolution recently past [sic] by the Municipal League, of Philadelphia, is of interest:
Realizing that we have scattered throughout our land a considerable number of persons morally incapable of judging between right and wrong, and who can easily be influenced to commit any crime, and who are therefore a perpetual menace to society, it is
Resolved, That urgent appeals be made to the National and State legislators to suppress, by necessary legislation, the advocacy, by speech or in print, of assassination or other crimes, and that any attempt to take the life of a President or Vice President of the United States shall subject the guilty person or persons to the same penalty that would be inflicted if the attempt had been successful.
However, this is the first assassination of
a president in this country by an anarchist. President Lincoln was killed by
Booth, an actor and an enemy to the then existing Government, but not an anarchist;
and President Garfield was shot by Guiteau, a disappointed office seeker, and
not well balanced in mind. He “removed” the President for political reasons
that seemed to him sufficient—to put the “stalwarts” in power, which he thought
would be to his political advantage—a thought only possible to an unbalanced
mind like his.
Anarchistic assassinations of heads of governments, and attempts at assassination, in Europe have been frequent. The comparativly [sic] recent successful ones are the King of Italy, July 30, 1900; Empress of Austria, September 10, 1898; Canovas, the Spanish Premier, August 8, 1897; and President Carnot, of France, June 24, 1894. This list, with President McKinley added, makes a dreadful indictment of the anarchists. They want no law, no government, no rulers. Then let them go to a new country and try to settle it up without law and without government. We who want government have a right to have it; and we should be careful how we tolerate those who advocate violence against government. We have now tasted the bitter fruit. What shall we do with the vine? 
In monarchies the head of the government is removable only by death. In this country there is no excuse for killing, for there are other ways of removing a President. Impeachment has never yet succeeded, but the ballot succeeds in selecting a President every four years. Sometimes an incumbent is thus removed, and sometimes he is not. This is the way to do it in this country, and we don’t want anybody here who is not willing to do it in this peaceful way.
The President’s Life Sacred.
We doctors are accustomed to considering all human life sacred; but the President’s life is specially sacred, because he is the head of our Government, and our Government is sacred—it is so important to us. However, it is our privilege, and upon occasion our duty, to criticize the public acts of our President and his appointees, for he and they are our servants. We are the Government, they are the temporary instruments of government. It is by constant, intelligent and well meant censorship that we make our Government better.
Our Third Martyred President.
While, naturally, many of our people conscientiously
disagreed with President McKinley in some of his policies, and rightfully spoke
freely in criticism thereof, few, remarkably few, had anything bitter, or even
disagreeable, to say about the President himself. Personally, he sought to be
the friend of all with whom he came in contact, and to make a friend of every
one with whom he came in contact, and he succeeded in a remarkable degree. Politically,
within his party, he unified and harmonized rather than led; and in unifying
and harmonizing he was remarkably successful. To this faculty was largely due
his political strength and success. In his relations with the general public
he was amiable and always tactful. His public speeches were felicitous, eloquent
and elegant. In his last public speech, delivered at Buffalo a day or two before
he was shot, may be seen the traits and character of William McKinley. The preamble
to that speech is a model of elegant modesty; and the entire speech a model
of felicitous, elegant oratory. But in it is shown his tendency to be controled
[sic] by those who were politically behind him; for in it he adroitly
favors the ship subsidy measure, which, as is well known, is Senator Hanna’s
pet measure, and which is vigorously opposed by a very large and influential
part of his own party. However, whatever he did, by consummate tact he seemed
to be able to do it in a way to add to his general popularity, or to his political
strength with those who managed his party, and frequently both. Personally he
was always courteous, kind and thoughtful; hence the devotion of those near
He was a great politician in the best sense of the term. And here I am reminded of a story. In the days when a senator could take a friend on the floor of the Senate, a friend of both Senators Webster and Buchanan visited Washington. He first called on Webster, who took him to his desk. One by one he quietly pointed out the celebrities to his visitor, occasionally making comments. “That man over there is Buchanan, of Pennsylvania; a great politician, but no statesman.” When the visitor called on Buchanan, the same process was gone thru, the senator not knowing that his visitor had previously called on Webster. When Buchanan pointed out Webster he said: “That is Webster, of Massachusetts; a great statesman, but no politician.” The “great politician” became president, which the “great statesman” tried in vain to do. However, there is no comparison between the administration of Buchanan and that of McKinley. It seems that Buchanan’s power, even as a politician, left him when he became president. Not so of McKinley—distinctly not so.
It is a grand thing to be a great politician of the McKinley sort, for he was not of the “boss” kind. He knew how to divine the sentiment of the people, and to felicitously express and represent that sentiment. This is a rare faculty. Many have sought to attain it, but have failed. It is a faculty rather than an accomplishment. Few men have ever attained the political success that William McKinley did, and it is doubtful if any have ever done so and made as few enemies; and, what is even more remarkable, there was almost, if not quite, the same scarcity of enemies among his political opponents as among the members of his own political party.
And lastly, he was a good patient. He submitted promptly and willingly to whatever seemed best to his medical attendants. This included a heroic operation soon after the shooting, and arduous restraint thereafter, all of which he bore bravely and patiently. Hence the excellent getting along for the first 5 or 6 days; and recovery would have been the reward had it not been for the failure of the healing process. As to the cause of this failure I hope we will know more ere long.
The New President.
During the campaign last fall he was “Teddy
Roosevelt;” now he is Our President; and as such we owe him every kind
wish and every aid and cooperation that is possible for the people of a republic
to give to their Chief Magistrate. While I have never liked his militarism,
his bloodthirstiness, his spectacularism, his “lick-all-creationism,” yet there
are many traits in his character that I have always admired. He is not only
physically bold, but he is morally brave. Moral courage is a much more rare
quality than physical courage, but he has plenty of both. His party contains
no more picturesque or courageous figure; nor does his party contain a man more
able to give our country a vigorous, efficient administration. As a Civil Service
Commissioner he first gained my admiration. This was increast [sic] by
his efficient administration as Police Commissioner of New York City. This was
still further increast [sic] by his forcing the passage of the Franchise
Tax Law when he was Governor of New York, in spite of the opposition of the
state boss. These things, and not his “Rough Rider” antics, prove his fitness
for the office to which a great National calamity has called him. However, in
Cuba his moral  courage came to the surface
in the celebrated “round robin.”
As to his policy, his recent Minneapolis speech indicates that he will not be as tolerant of trusts as his predecessor. Upon taking the oath of office as President, he declared that it would be his “aim to continue absolutely unbroken the policy of President McKinley for the peace and prosperity of our beloved country.” It is said that he emphasized the word “peace.” This is well, for it will calm those who might fear his tendency toward “jingoism.” Later he explained to a friend that his announcement had special reference to the financial policy of the late administration. This explains the word “prosperity” in his announcement, and this is all the further his announcement commits him. But Roosevelt is not a man whose policy has to be guessed at. With phenomenal promptness and characteristic courage he announced his policy before leaving Buffalo. The Associated Press gives it as follows:
Buffalo, N. Y., Sept. 16.—Yesterday the President gathered some personal friends and those members of the Cabinet who were here and gave them such ideas as he had already formulated for the conduct of public affairs and his own policy.
As outlined to his friends at yesterday’s conference he will be for a more liberal and extensiv [sic] reciprocity in the purchase and sale of commodities, so that the overproduction of this country can be satisfactorily disposed of by fair and equitable arrangements with foreign countries.
The abolition entirely of commercial war with other countries and the adoption of reciprocity treaties.
The abolition of such tariffs on foreign goods as are no longer needed for revenue, if such abolition can be had without harm to our industries and labor.
Direct commercial lines should be establisht [sic] between the Eastern coast of the United States and the ports in South America and the Pacific coast ports of Mexico, Central America and South America.
The encouraging of the merchant marine and the building of ships which shall carry the American flag and be owned and controled [sic] by Americans and American capital.
The building and completion as soon as possible of the Isthmian Canal, so as to give direct water communication with the coasts of Central America, South America and Mexico.
The construction of a cable owned by he [sic] Government [Italics mine] connecting our mainland with our foreign possessions, notably Hawaii and the Philippines.
The use of conciliatory methods of arbitration in all disputes with foreign nations so as to avoid armed strife.
The protection of the savings of the people in banks and in other forms of investments by the preservation of the commercial prosperity of the country and the placing in positions of trust of men of only the highest integrity.
If he carries out his past civil service record, the spoilsman will receive no comfort from his hands.
Extracts From Minneapolis Speech.
Extracts from the speech of the then Vice President Roosevelt, at Minneapolis, on September 2nd will be of interest.
“No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to where our legislation shall stop in interfering between man and man, between interest and interest.
“All that can be said is that it is highly desirable on the one hand not to weaken individual initiativ [sic], and on the other hand, that, in a constantly increasing number of cases we shall find it necessary in the future to shackle cunning as in the past we have shackled force.
“It is not only highly desirable, but necessary, that there should be legislation which shall carefully shield the interests of wage workers, and which shall discriminate in favor of the honest and humane employer by removing the disadvantage under which he stands when compared with unscrupulous competitors who have no consciences, and will do right only under fear of punishment. Nor can legislation stop what are termed labor questions. The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital which have markt [sic] the development of our industrial system, create new conditions and make necessary a change from the old attitude of the State and Nation toward property.
“There is only the scantiest justification for most of the outcry against men of wealth, as such; and it ought to be unnecessary to state that any appeal which finally entails the possibility of lawlessness and violence is an attack upon the fundamental properties of American citizenship. Our interests are at bottom common. In the long run we go up or down together. Yet more and more it is evident that the State, and, if necessary, the Nation, has got to possess the right of supervision and control as regards the great corporations, which are its creatures; particularly as regards the great business combinations, which derive a portion of their importance from the existence of some monopolistic tendency.”
Sorrow, Humiliation and Congratulation.
Thus in our sorrow for the loss just sustained, and while the loss of a president in such a way is very humiliating to us, we can congratulate ourselves on the prospect of a safe, vigorous and efficient administration from the man who was elected as vice-president. The importance of the careful selection of candidates for vice-president is thus forced upon us. The selection of candidates for that office should be done with as great care as the selection of candidates for president. William McKinley was elected to be president for four years more. After six months of this time he is killed, and the man who was nominated and elected vice-president with him is to serve the remaining three and a half years. We never know, when we are electing a candidate for vice-president, how soon he will be president; therefore, political conventions should take equal care in selecting candidates for each office. And prominent citizens should not be guilty of declining a nomination for “second place,” as is too frequently done, for we never know when “second place” will become “first place;” and then the country needs a good man to fill it.