Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Problem of Anarchy”
Date of publication: November 1901
Volume number: 34
Issue number: 2
|“The Problem of Anarchy.” Chautauquan Nov. 1901 v34n2: pp. 119-20.|
|anarchism (dealing with); anarchism (public response).|
|Jonathan P. Dolliver; Abram S. Hewitt; Charles Ellwood Nash.|
|Editorial is accompanied on p. 120 by a reproduction from the Detroit Evening News of a political cartoon with the caption, “Some things that do not tend to discourage anarchy.”|
The Problem of Anarchy
The question which has naturally arisen, and which
is being discussed with passionate earnestness, is the suppression or “extermination”
of anarchy. What can society do to protect its official chiefs and representatives?
What must it do, and how far should it and ought it to go? What methods
and remedies promise to be effective? These are the general heads of the discussion,
and the differences of opinion are the widest conceivable.
On the one hand newspapers, prominent men, and even ministers have advocated the severest measures of repression, such as the infliction of cruel and unusual penalties on anarchists guilty of crime; the deportation to some island or banishment of all men and women who profess anarchistic doctrines; the organization of an international system of espionage and general coöperation against revolutionary societies; the prohibition of such societies and of meetings and publications for the propagation of anarchistic views; the limitation of free speech in general, and so on. It is, of course, in the highest degree improbable that any of these suggestions will be adopted after a sober, second thought. But it is certain that congress will be called upon to consider some practical proposals looking toward the exclusion of anarchistic immigrants and the safeguarding of federal officials by national instead of state legislation.
In a number of cities committees have been appointed to inquire closely and carefully into the problem, and to recommend legislation that would stand the test of judicial scrutiny. The constitutional restrictions have to be considered, and also the spirit and genius of the American system of government. It is to be borne in mind that revolutionary anarchism is not an American product at all. It is an importation from  Europe—Italy, Russia, Germany, Poland, France, and Austria. The policy of rigorous repression has failed in Europe, and, in the words of President Nash of Lombard College, we have nothing to learn from the despotic and arbitrary governments. Senator Dolliver, of Iowa, in an address at Chicago, while approving reasonable measures against anarchy, uttered the following warning:
But these remedies in order to be effective must not invade the sense of justice which is universal, nor the traditions of civil liberty which we have inherited from our fathers. The bill of rights, written in the English language, stands for too many centuries of sacrifice, too many battlefields sanctified by blood, too many hopes of mankind, reaching toward the ages to come, to be mutilated in the least in order to meet the case of a handful of miscreants whose names nobody can pronounce.
Mr. Abram S. Hewitt, in a speech which attracted considerable
attention, blamed “yellow journalism” more for revolutionary outrages than he
did the anarchical press proper. In legislative remedies he expressed no faith,
but he appealed to public opinion to frown upon every form of lawlessness, violence,
and bigotry. Approval of lynch law, the killing and burning of negroes, the
unbridled license of campaign speakers and partisan organs, the use of physical
force by strikers—these and other phenomena, by no means exceptional with us,
are breeders of anarchy. We must learn to conduct our campaigns with moderation
and sobriety, and refrain from bitter and scurrilous denunciation of opponents.
We must inculcate respect for law and the will of the people. We must conform
our practise to our theory.
Honest criticism of society is not only proper, but essential to progress. Free speech and the freedom of the press are safeguards, not disadvantages. They strengthen free government, and do not impair it. They lessen and discourage violent attacks, and do not inspire them. No doubt there has been abuse of free speech and free publication, but greater vigilance on the part of the authorities will prevent that evil in the future. In every state in the union there is law enough to punish incitement to murder and the advocacy of physical force as a means of “reform” just as there is law enough to suppress incitement to arson, burglary and other crimes. If existing laws were vigorously enforced, and if public opinion were alert and active, the need of new legislation would indeed be slight.