The Crime at Buffalo
AT FOUR O’CLOCK on the afternoon of Friday, September 6, President
McKinley was struck down by an anarchist’s bullet. When the country
heard the news it turned aside to weep. With the fuller accounts
of the next morning it only dared to indulge a faint hope. Sunday
hope was stronger. Monday smiles were seen upon the faces which
on Saturday last became wet with tears.
A STORY OF CRIME
A rapid story of this most extraordinary
episode in our national history is a story of crime—whether deep-laid
plot or individual action alone cannot now be told—of a great people
plunged in grief, of prompt and skilful action by the surgeons,
and of American emotionalism quickly mounting from the slough of
despond to the heights of a characteristic and wholesome national
That President McKinley did not succumb
almost immediately to the assassin’s bullet is due to the accomplished
surgeons who wielded the knife with so much skill.
Fate, or luck, or Providence, or whatever
you choose to call it, had something to do with it, too. The assassin,
after letting a dozen chances to do his work slip by him, chose
a moment when the President stood within a few hundred feet of one
of the best-equipped emergency hospitals in the world. There were
ready at hand instruments, anæsthetics, all the appliances and auxiliaries
of modern surgery. No waiting for anything, no long journey to a
place of refuge.
SUCCORED BY SKILFUL SURGEONS
In less than an hour
after he was hurt the President had been operated upon by a man
whose reputation was already spread far and wide as an expert in
The President was indeed most fortunate
in his doctors. Not only has surgery made more progress than any
other branch of medical science during the last twenty years, since
Garfield fell a victim to Guiteau’s bullet, but President McKinley’s
surgeons all worked in perfect harmony. It is a curious circumstance
that Mr. McKinley always believed Garfield’s life might have been
saved had he had proper surgical attention. Mr. McKinley was a great
favorite of Garfield’s and of Mrs. Garfield’s, and he knew the whole
wretched story of the Garfield medical scandal.
As soon as the members of the Cabinet
and other prominent men who had hastened to Buffalo had recovered
from the shock of the first announcement of the shooting, they began
to discuss ways and means of suppressing anarchy in this country
and of guarding the life of a President hereafter. It is agreed
that some way must be found to inflict more fitting punishment upon
such criminals as this wretched Pole, whether or not they succeed
in their murderous attempts. The worst the law can do for a criminal
who tries but fails to kill the President is to sentence him to
ten years in prison, with three years to come off for good behavior.
Next winter Congress
will doubtless enact a law which ex-Attorney-General Griggs is now
drafting—a law declaring an assault upon the President of the United
States to be treason, punishable with death. If it is treason to
fire upon the flag, which is merely the insensible emblem of national
authority, why should it not be treason to fire upon the man whose
brain and heart and hand are the executive authority of the Republic?
A nation is entitled to protect itself. To protect itself it must
protect its rulers, since their destruction at a critical moment
might mean the downfall of the nation itself. The power to protect
implies the power to punish. American public opinion, it is believed,
will sustain such a law. In our Republic we do not want lèse-majesté
in the sense that a disrespectful word spoken of the President may
consign its utterer to prison. But we do draw the line at force
A CRUSADE AGAINST ANARCHISM
As to a crusade against
anarchism, there are different opinions in Administration circles.
All wish to destroy anarchism, but some fear that rigorous repressive
measures will serve only to stir up other deeds of violence. It
has so worked in Europe. The anarchists, hunted and persecuted,
believe it is a war of forces. They nerve themselves for the struggle.
Like snakes, they crawl around till a good opportunity comes to
strike. In all the world there is no more complicated and difficult
problem than this of eradicating anarchism; and there can be no
more hopeless theory than the one that we dare not lift a finger
lest we stir the snakes to greater activity.
But there seems no hope for one of
our American ideals. We have long been proud of the fact that our
Presidents are of the people, and that they may mingle with the
people without fear of harm. But this fearless practice, miscellaneous
hand-shaking, indiscriminate receptions, unnecessary exposure of
the life of the chief of the nation, must cease. So all have agreed
in the councils at Buffalo. It is painful to give up a cherished
national ideal, but better that than a recurrence of such a crime
as that of Friday, September 6.