The world once more
stands aghast at the crime of an unrestrained Nihilist. The American
people—impotent in their benevolence, tolerant to the last degree
of any and every extreme social and political heresy that airs itself
under the aegis of free speech—stand at the bier of one of their
best beloved Chief Magistrates, and tacitly confess that they see
no remedy under the constitution and the laws. The situation, shorn
of its elements of direst tragedy, would be grim in its suggestion
merely of what is helpless and maladroit.
To the mind of the sociologist—of
the scientist who studies the pathology of the body politic, just
as the physician studies that of the body physical—the situation
does not present itself as such a paradox. If there is any standing
principle in pathology it is that a disease process should be rooted
out. This whole cankerous process of nihilism and anarchy is a disease—social
and political infection.
Let no one misapprehend the real elements
of this problem. We do not intend for a moment to raise in these
columns the threshed out questions of insanity and responsibility.
Fortunately and indubitably these questions ought not to be raised
in this case. But there may be more than one kind of pathological
process in the state. Ignorance, superstition, crime, class hatred,
insanity and degeneracy—these are not interchangeable terms. However
closely they may dovetail with one another (and that they are mutually
reinforceful is not to be denied) they are nevertheless distinct
and individual. They must be studied apart as well as together.
They must be analyzed and dissected, and the morbid state of each
must be differentiated. The modern school, headed by Lombroso, which
confuses criminality and insanity, has gone too far. Ignorance is
more potent than either of these for harm to the State.
So long as a civilized state commits
itself to the theory that any harebrained doctrines are harmless
(and therefore permissble [sic]) so long as they are merely
spoken, just so long will such a state be subject to the rude surprises
that come when such doctrines are bodied forth in deeds. To such
a rude surprise have we come now in this country, as we sit in our
supreme sorrow and our profound humiliation. This assassination
is the foul discharge of a local gangrene in the political body,
and the moral, drawn from medical science, is obvious.