Suicides and Martyrs
A shadow crept into my life the
past few weeks.
It came, and has gone; and yet the
memory that will remain is more vivid than the shadow.
The name of the shadow was Sela Paine
His home—but he had no home—I will
call it, therefore, his “starting place,” was Tampa, Florida.
He was what the world calls a common
laborer, and he was a wanderer.
He was past fifty years of age, sick
in body and sicker still in soul.
He was a slave—a wage slave—who had
discovered his slavery—rare event among slaves!—and the discovery
had become an awful burden. And yet he had worked at day labor nearly
up to the last, and had never begged a cent.
Poor fellow! he [sic] scarcely weighed
a hundred pounds, and the master class, you know, have little use
for weak slaves. So it was hard for him to find work any longer,
even at a pittance a day. He came to my home—pardon again, I have
no home, I am only, able by hard knocks, to rent a shelter, so I
will call it “where I and my dear ones stay”—he came to where I
stay, because he had heard I was a radical, and he, in his broken
down old age, had become a radical himself.
To know him was to pity him. It brings
tears to my eyes to think of him. He was a typical man of sorrows,
and he was very meek withal. Without strength to work any longer
at hard labor, he was attempting to eke out an existence canvassing
for a book—a medical work. He also wore an Appeal to Reason
button and took subscriptions for Socialist papers. He was eager
to read radical literature, and I supplied him to the best of my
ability. His face fairly illumined as he read F
I told him I was poor myself, or I
would gladly provide for his few wants, but even with my poverty
I told him not to go hungry, that there were a few of us in this
locality with souls large enough not to let him suffer. His reply
was that he “had money,” and that when it was gone he “had a place
to go to.”
I will never forget the look on his
wan face when he tried to smile and assured me that he had “a place
to go to” when his money was gone.
On Saturday afternoon, May 20 last,
he came to my home—I mean to the shelter I pay rent for—and told
me he was going away, and left me a memento to remember him by.
That night, at a lodging house in this town of Winfield, Kansas,
he took two ounces of laudanum—and went to the place he had to go
when his money was gone.
There was no other place for him.
I had more than half guessed the “place” before he went thereto.
On the Sunday following his death
I, in company with a friend or two, looked for the last time upon
his lifeless form. And thus I spoke to those with me:
“Suppose,” said I, “a fiercer strain
of blood had flowed thru [sic] the veins of poor Harrison—a more
rebellious strain than marks the meek and resigned face that lies
before us, would you wonder then at a deed like that of a Bresci
or a Czolgosz? What care the capitalist class, the rulers, at a
suicide like this, that makes no violent protest, but meekly succumbs
to the master’s tyranny? Such things as this have happened every
day in every clime for ages—and Cæsar only laughs. But once a Czolgosz,
with fiercer blood in his veins, dies and dies with an awful protest
against the master class, and all plutocracy trembles! I do not
uphold assassination, I only ask you if you are so blind that you
do not see that it would have taken but a little of sterner stuff
to have changed the suicide Harrison into the regicide Czolgosz?”
As for myself, I uphold neither assassination
of the master nor the self. To me, non-resistance is the greatest
force conceivable. But I cannot be blind to cause and effect, nor
refuse to admit that a desperation of which I, fortunately, have
not been forced to taste, can create a Harrison—or a Czolgosz.
I believe in non-resistance. I believe
in the kingdom of heaven—the up-lifted society—wherein “ye shall
take no worry of the morrow, of what ye shall eat or what ye shall
drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed,” but because all men
do not believe in it, because one half the men (when I speak of
men I refer to the race, male and female) do not believe in it,
because one quarter nor one third the men believe in it, I look
for hell to pop, and that not very far away. Armageddon will be
fought, and fought to a finish. And the slaves will win. Otherwise
evolution is a lie.
Man, when he destroys his master
and acknowledges his own brotherhood, is absolutely divine. And
the evolution from the monkey to the Republican party is just as
wonderful as the evolution to the free society that shall deify
Gods! Man is a god, and just as figures
are the expression of mathematics, so Man is the expression of the
Soul of the universe! Man, kingless and priestless and free, with
Love dominating every action of his life, is the sum total of evolution,
the companion of the stars.
And the kings must go. The masters
of every class, kind, and description must go. With Malachi, the
old Hebrew seer, I exclaim, “The day cometh, that shall burn as
an oven, and all the proud . . . shall be stubble; and the day that
cometh shall burn them up.” Then the people will live. And the martyrs—Jesus,
and Harrison, and poor Czolgosz—will be glorified, and the monument
at Waldheim will be a sacred place.