Source: Railroad Telegrapher
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Assassination of the President”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 18
Issue number: 10
|“The Assassination of the President.” Railroad Telegrapher Oct. 1901 v18n10: pp. 887-88.|
|McKinley assassination (personal response); McKinley assassination (public response: criticism); McKinley assassination (religious response: criticism); T. De Witt Talmage (public statements); Henry R. Naylor (public statements); McKinley assassination (government response: criticism).|
|Cornelius N. Bliss; Leon Czolgosz; Eugene V. Debs; James A. Garfield; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Henry R. Naylor; Benjamin B. Odell, Jr.; T. De Witt Talmage.|
The Assassination of the President
SINCE our last issue went to press, President McKinley has succumbed to injuries
inflicted by an assassin.
There seems to have been no particular motive for the deed. It was simply the cowardly act of a half-witted degenerate, with an abnormal desire for notoriety. Even the assertion that he was an anarchist has been strenuously denied by those who are acknowledged leaders in that particular cult.
In the case of Abraham Lincoln, who had just prior to his assassination been a prominent actor in a national tragedy, there was some semblance of a motive; in that of James A. Garfield it was the insane act of a disappointed office-seeker; but the killing of William McKinley seems to have been actually without an incentive.
Under a despotic government, where oppression has reached an intolerable stage and the worker’s reward for his labor has been filched down to a bare subsistence, such acts may be expected. In Russia, for instance, where the common people and the government are in eternal opposition, where bomb-proof palaces are the antithesis of the mines of Siberia, who can wonder at the stolid-featured Nihilist when he says, “Blest be the hand that wields the regicidal steel.” To such men the assassin is the Prince of Heroes, and there is some ground for such ferocious sentiments.
Perhaps the world will never learn what method of reasoning prompted Czolgosz to take the life of the President, well knowing that his own life would immediately pay the forfeit.
The country is now recovering from a bad case of hysteria, brought on by the assassination, and many remarks have been made by prominent citizens that go to show that if those who have a disregard for the law of the land are to be deported, it would  be very difficult to find out just where the line should be drawn and which one sent away and which one retained.
The Rev. T. De Witt Talmage is reported to have said: “I wish that the policeman in Buffalo who seized the pistol of the scoundrel who shot our adored President, had taken the butt of the weapon and dashed the man’s brains out on the spot.”
The Rev. Dr. Naylor, of Washington, D. C, is reported to have made the remark: “If I had been in Buffalo I would have blown the scoundrel to atoms.”
Even such an eminent man as Governor Odell, of New York, expressed regret that the assassin was not promptly lynched. Hon. Cornelius Bliss declares that all avowed anarchists should be exterminated on sight—treated as mad dogs; while the New York Herald says, editorially, that for attack upon men elected to high office, “there should be punishment so inexorable and so terrible that the reptile chosen to commit it would face the vengeance of his associates or put an end to his own miserable existence a thousand times rather than incur the penalty.”
The excitement of the occasion may be some excuse for such an evident disregard of the law, but then there are other terrible things that have happened in the recent past that these good people did not get excited about. The wanton shooting down of peaceable coal miners at Hazleton, and many other similar occurrences, never caused them to lose their heads. They and their class have always seemed to regard such happenings with complacency.
A little item from the State capitol of Virginia tends to show that the assassination of the President is not only a back-set to all reform movements, but in some places actually brings to the surface a desire to return to medieval times. It reads:
“The Virginia Constitutional Convention to-day decided to eliminate from the Bill of Rights of the State the words ‘freedom of speech.’ This action was taken after a scene that was dramatic. In the present Bill of Rights occur the words ‘guarantee the liberty of the press and freedom of speech.’ The committee to which the instrument was referred for revision recommended the words ‘freedom of speech’ be eliminated.”
All this, taken in connection with the illegal arrest of persons who have peculiar views on the subject of freedom, and feel the constant necessity of giving them air, is sufficient to set people wondering whether or not the good sense of the American people has gone glimmering. The cry for justice from the lower strata of society has been disregarded, and only those who can force concessions can get them. Ideas of vengeance is the result, with a certain class, and vengeance, as a matter of course, begets vengeance.
Eugene V. Debs says that the deplorable incident “teaches the lesson that while there is injustice at the bottom there is no security at the top.” This strikes the keynote. If, instead of harrassing people who have opinions of their own and a desire to give them expression, the minds of the leaders of mankind are in the future directed toward the benevolent and statesmanlike amelioration of the condition of those who are discontented with the present status of affairs, the death of William McKinley will not have been in vain.