Source: Canadian Magazine
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial column
Document title: Current Events Abroad
Author(s): Ewan, John A.
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 17
Issue number: 6
|Ewan, John A. Current Events Abroad. Canadian Magazine Oct. 1901 v17n6: pp. 568-71.|
|McKinley assassination (international response); anarchism (international response); anarchism (dealing with); Emma Goldman; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt (assumption of presidency: personal response).|
|Agur ben Jakeh; Andrew Carnegie; Emma Goldman; John Hay; William McKinley; Spencer Perceval [misspelled below]; Theodore Roosevelt.|
|In the magazine the column (below) is accompanied on page 568 by a Fergus Kyle editorial cartoon from the Toronto Star titled A Nuisance on International Street. An illustration of McKinley and Roosevelt appears on page 569 and 570 respectively.|
Current Events Abroad [excerpt]
THE assassination of President McKinley was the most extraordinary incident of the past month. The men of this generation have seen three Presidents of the United States struck down by the hand of the assassin. When the first of these perished a million men were in arms ready to obey to the death, if need be, a wave of his hand or a nod of his head. Yet the puny blow of a hysterical strolling play-actor laid him low. There have been incidents of this kind in the past, but the murders of the Duke of Buckingham and of Spencer Percival, for example, were due to the indulgence of personal grievances, real or fancied. The assassin of President McKinley had no personal grievance against his victim. The blow was aimed at society. The President was the personification of government and law and order, and as such he was struck down. Of course none of these things were actually struck down or imperilled [sic] in any way, so that if the world is to be reformed by means such as these, we must look for a long succession of brutal, cowardly and treacherous assassinations as the footprints of this red beast of revolution.
Reasoning with anarchy is like reasoning with the inmates of Bedlam. The crime, say the defenders of anarchy, is the expression of social despair. Despair on the part of whom? The assassin has youth and health and strength, had money enough to enable him to travel about the country and put up at comfortable stopping places. No indication is afforded that he found difficulty in obtaining employment. He has never been in worse case than some of the men at certain periods of their lives who have occupied the Presidential chair. Numbers of men from like condition have raised themselves to positions of influence and affluence. There was nothing to prevent this Polish youth from achieving a measure of competency and independence. While such is the case, why should  youth and health and strength despair? If it was on behalf of others that he struck, that the despair of others moved him, one would think that so sympathetic a nature could scarcely be induced to approach an inoffensive man with his hand outstretched to greet him, while the other held the weapon of murder.
Is the attitude of the masses of the United States an attitude of despair? That there is discontent is undoubted, but is it not a discontent that, far from despairing, is struggling towards better conditions, and not struggling towards them with revolver in hand? Was there ever a time when there was so general a recognition of the principle that the toiler was entitled to a greater proportion of the wealth he creates, that he should have something better to look forward to than an old age of penury and misery? He may complain that the finding of remedies seems a slow process. In this, however, it resembles everything that has contributed to the progress of man.
Discontent is probably a chosen instrument by which the vast design for mans advancement is carried out. A world that was wholly contented with itself would stand still. That we have not reached that stage yet is perfectly clear. The labourer is discontented that he is not a mechanic, the mechanic that he is not foreman, the foreman that he is not proprietor, the proprietor that he is not a millionaire, the millionaire that he is not Carnegie. And I presume the circle of discontent is completed when we speculate that Carnegie never meets a rosy-cheeked country lad on the Sutherlandshire roads, but he wonders how much of his millions he would be willing to part with to exchange places. A man has observed and reflected very little who has not seen happiness blossoming in the most unexpected places. Let each man look about him and he will probably find that the most cheerful man he knows is not he who lives in the greatest pomp and state, but probably some poor old man or woman whose prospects to the worldly eye seem dark enough.
This is all trite enough and perhaps to some ears it has an echo of cant. That does not impeach its truth. None of us wants to be poor. An ambition of that kind could be most easily gratified. The wise man repeats the words of Agur:Remove far  from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. The multitudes of the coming century could easily have a worse bed-head motto than that. If all the worlds good things were evenly divided we would not all be rich. Some of us would be more comfortably off. There can be little doubt that the trend of democracy will be in the direction of rendering millionairism less possible, but whether it can reduce the rewards and at the same time maintain the energy which in the past has been exerted to win them, may fairly be doubted. The fact is, that democracy scarcely seems to know what it wants, and certainly does not accept the leadership of assassins. One of the large pieces of irony connected with this startling event was the sight of the minions of authority protecting the life of the rebel against its laws from the rage of those in whose interest he convinces himself he is acting.
The question as to how anarchy should be dealt with arises each time that fresh attention is directed to it by its horrid acts. Some increased violence in the punishment is the popular suggestion, but would be quite ineffective, and would, moreover, degrade humanity. If it were possible to surround the culprit from the very moment of the commission of his crime with absolute secrecy and namelessness, something might be accomplished. If from that hour he became as one that was not, one whose identity was lost, nameless, placeless, futureless, a great incentive to such crimes, namely, diseased egotism, would be removed. For the next few weeks this worthless creature will be made the central figure of a continent, and every other weak-minded, exaggerated first person singular will see the road to attaining the notoriety and attention for which he now thirsts. If it were possible with due regard for the maxims with respect to individual liberty, to arrest, try and sentence such fellows so that neither their name, their place of detention, nor their fate would ever be known, the killing of prominent men for the sake of the notoriety in it would be deprived of much of its present attraction for that type of freak who is now about to begin his performances at Buffalo.
American gallantry may prompt the authorities not to be severe with the Goldman woman, and if that plan had been followed from the first she might not now be the dangerous person she is. But it is worth remembering that a woman anarchist gifted with the power of inflammatory speech is more dangerous than one of the other sex. A man counselling [sic] to desperate deeds is apt to be asked why he does not do these things himself. Such is not the case with the female incendiary. She may fittingly appeal to men to do deeds that she would not be expected to do herself. She takes the place in the anarchic revolution that the gentle lady takes in chivalry. She sends forth her red knights pledged to fearful deeds, and the mysterious power of sex is enlisted  in the ranks of murder. In some of the confessions of Mr. McKinleys assailant it is suggested that his admiration for the Goldman woman is not wholly intellectual, and one can fancy his going forth on his mission determined at any cost to win the regard and applause of this modern Hecate.
Mr. McKinley was not a great figure, but he had a perfect genius for attracting devoted friends and conciliating opposition. Office had conferred on him calmness, dignity and kindliness withal. His refusal to participate in the active work of his second campaign lent to him the character of being, not the chief of a party, but the chief of the State. The fortitude with which he met his doom, and the consideration he showed for others, even for the treacherous wretch who murdered him, leave a sweet savour behind them. The ovation delivered the day before his death was a composition well worthy of the Chief Magistrate of a great peaceful nation. It breathed commercial and industrial as well as physical peace, and it is a happy augury for the Republic that Mr. Roosevelt, his successor, specifically states that he intends to pursue Mr. McKinleys policy. The best guarantee of this is that he continues Mr. McKinleys advisers in office. A Cabinet of which John Hay is the head is a guarantee of safe, sound and conservative relations with the rest of the world.