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Source: Free Society
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “Who Killed McKinley?”
Author(s): James, C. L.
Date of publication: 28 December 1902
Volume number: 9
Issue number: 52
Pagination: 2-3

James, C. L. “Who Killed McKinley?” Free Society 28 Dec. 1902 v9n52: pp. 2-3.
full text
McKinley assassination (personal response: anarchists); McKinley assassination (public response: criticism); McKinley assassination (public response: anarchists); McKinley presidency (criticism); Leon Czolgosz (as anarchist); McKinley assassination (opinions, theories, etc.); assassins; Leon Czolgosz (religion).
Named persons
Anthony Babington; Aaron Burr; Edmund Campion; Jacques Clément; Leon Czolgosz; Guy Fawkes; Balthasar Gérard [variant spelling of first name below]; Charles Gibbs; Henry III (France); William Kidd; Juan de Mariana; Mary (b); William McKinley; Philip II (Spain); Phocion; François Ravaillac; Theodore Roosevelt; William Walker; Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau.


Who Killed McKinley?

     Fifteen months and more have passed since the bullet of Czolgosz avenged humanity for a series of acts about which only one opinion ought to exist among Anarchists, Socialists, believers in republican institutions, in the American Constitution, the Monroe Doctrine, or the independence of the United States. The events of these months undoubtedly constitute the most formidable crisis thru [sic] which Anarchism ever passed, and the most brilliant victory it has ever achieved. On the night of McKinley’s death,—a night probably few American Anarchists are likely to forget,—there seemed every probability that the history of our struggle against fraud and ignorance would be marked by a St. Bartholomew. In all the large cities, most of us sufficiently known to attract personal interest, had been, by way of preparation, imprisoned or put under surveillance of blue-bellied hangdogs. Half the Bible-bangers and all the bourgeois pencil-pushers in America had employed the previous week in inflaming the passions of the multitude against us. The millionaire thieves, we, of course, knew to be the inspirers of the movement. The police and militia might be counted on to assist the proposed massacre with a properly perfunctory attempt at its prevention. The ass who was becoming president had not yet brayed, as he did when Congress convened a few weeks later; but that he would do as his masters required was not within the limits of reasonable doubt. That was, for us Anarchists, among the moments which tell what each man is. Let us draw a veil over the salient outlines of the fact that there were Anarchist editors who absolutely conceived it timely to eulogize McKinley! De mortis [sic] nil nisi bonum sounds well, to be sure, but that was rushing things. There were other comrades whose appreciation of the dying “Napoleon” and his slayer went such lengths that it made them mad to have anyone say Czolgosz was not an Anarchist! This appeared to me, as it still does, unnecessary. But the moment was that in which whatever feeling the occasion had excited reached its height. Within a few hours there was a visible rise in the barometer. Our enemies showed signs of having found out that they had failed. The mob which they appealed to, did not respond. The courts, which they had besieged with Gary law, turned them down unanimously. The very Bible-bangers (I can give examples if desired) went to work next “Sabbath” deprecating that violence they had preached on the preceding. The legislatures either showed their good sense by shelving all anti-Anarchist bills, or, as in the case of New York and New Jersey, those made into buncombe laws were so refinedly ridiculous as to convey a suspicion of sarcastic intention. Roosevelt alone remained, first message to Congress in hand, inviting all nations to admire the man still willing to play that tune which extracted from his neighbors the idiomatic criticism, “Rats!” Within a month, more Anarchistic literature had been circulated thruout [sic] the United States than in the previous fifteen years.
     These things—with their sequelæ,—constituted the glorious victory of Anarchism above referred to. Its causes were various. Without doubt one was the courageous attitude and evident physical strength of the Anarchists at such places as Spring Valley, where the row must needs begin. But it would be absurd to accuse the American people of shrinking from a military encounter with such a foe. The American people had clearly got some new lights on the whole subject of Anarchism since 1887. That was what left the trusts and hoodlums, the spouters and scribblers, helpless; and awoke them to consciousness of having exposed themselves—Terrified Ted, I need not add, excepted.
     The matter being now over—for it cannot be much expected that what fizzled in September, 1901, can be revived in earnest during the winter of 1902-3—I, for one, feel more inclined to talk about it than I did while the prevailing fault was talking a great deal too much.
     Posterity, I have not the slightest doubt, will mark the administration of President McKinley as the worst in American history. Our traditional policy departed from; our most solemn guarantees violated; a mad grab made for a colonial empire which can exist only in shameful subserviency [sic] to the greater naval power of England; the neutrality laws suspended to assist our old enemy and present mistress in crushing the heroic resistance of a sister republic; our flag openly exhibited on the city hall of New York below the British; our currency altered to accommodate foreign bondholders; our forces employed upon the lines indicated formerly by Aaron Burr and William Walker, by Captain Gibbs and Captain Kidd; our arms disgraced by atrocities which extenuate those of Weyler; our Constitution and Declaration of Independence publicly held up to mockery by the mouthpieces of a dominant party;—all this, surely, is quite enough to account for “our beloved president’s” being assassinated, and for the more ominous but very evident fact that, after the first shock of the tragedy, no one really cared a button. Mr. McKinley’s life-long game of pleasing everybody resulted, according to the ancient fable, in pleasing nobody. Readers of FREE SOCIETY will remember that I distinctly foresaw the probability of some such event as happened at Buffalo, not because I knew anything about its being meditated, but because there is a discernable [sic] connection between causes and effects. Any one might have foreseen it.

“Sæpe malum hoc nobis, si meus [sic] non læva fuisset,
De cœlo tactas memini prædicre [sic] quercus.
Sæpe sinistra cava prædixit ab ilice cornix.”

     And readers of FREE SOCIETY may also recollect that, far from desiring any such event before it happened, I was afraid of it, and, much as I disliked McKinley, strongly deprecated such abuse of him as might suggest dangerous ideas to susceptible individuals. I have seen no reason to change my mind. If Czolgosz had been an Anarchist, and his act had done Anarchism some more positive good than showing the change of public sentiment below the surface, I should still say, with Phocion, “The result of the battle was fortunate; but it was bad generalship to fight the battle.”
     Czolgosz, however, was not an Anarchist. If there are comrades who still dislike hearing that said, I must remind them that an historian’s first duty is to facts. The facts are that no one at Cleveland or elsewhere ever found Czolgosz out to be an Anarchist; that during his short visit to Chicago, where the comrades generally took him for a spy, he showed his ignorance of Anarchism by inquiring what he must do to be “initiated” into the “lodges” of our secret society, which does not exist; that the whole allegation of his Anarchism turned out at the trial to be an invention of the Buffalo police so ineffably clumsy that this silent desperate enthusiast was made to skulk behind the skirts of a woman. Total failure to establish the affirmative of any proposition—such as that Czolgosz was an Anarchist—is all proof the negative requires or usually admits.
     But tho [sic] not an Anarchist, Czolgosz evidently was a fanatic of some sort, and it becomes interesting accordingly to inquire of what kind. I have pointed out that there were many parties who had much better reason to desire McKinley’s assassination than the Anarchists. One of these is the Catholics. McKinley had broken up the oldest, most bigoted, and greatest Roman Catholic empire in the world. He had terminated the rule of the friars in one of the few countries where it still existed. The names of Ravaillac, Babington, Fawkes, Jacques Clement, Balthazar Gerard, are sufficient to remind every reader of history that assassination is a familiar practise of Catholic enthusiasts. The underhand methods by which such things can be encouraged “without scandal” have been proverbial ever since the Society of Jesus was organized. But, to give the devil his due, the Jesuits make no great secret of their general approbation for bloody deeds done in the interest of the Church. Mariana, addressing Philip II, plainly takes the ground that magistrates excommunicated by the pope may properly be assassinated; and, to exclude all doubt of his meaning, selects for especial eulogy the murder of Henry III by Clement. Has the Holy Apostolic Church altered her maxims since the sixteenth cen- [2][3] tury? It is her well known boast she never changes them.
     Coming down to the particular facts again, we observe that while Czolgosz was never known as an Anarchist, everybody knows he was a Catholic. Even the garbled accounts allowed to be published by the censors at Buffalo and Albany show that he had not become an infided [sic], but, in at least some important respects, professed Catholicity while preparing for death. It is also very significant that he had a long and private interview with a priest, of whose substance nothing was published but what the priest chose to tell. Everyone who knows anything at all about such matters know [sic] that it is against priests’ ordinary practise to tell what penitents tell them. And at this point, another positive fact becomes highly significant—that is, the extreme reticence of Czolgosz. That he was not much encouraged to talk by the court is true; but the reporters gave him opportunity enough and could get nothing out of him. “We do not seem to recognize the Anarchist in that,” an intelligent bourgeois said to me at the time. We do not. An Anarchist is a man who believes he has something to say, and therefore seldom neglects an opportunity of saying it. But we do recognize there the fanatic acting under Jesuitical instruction. Ravaillac, Clement, Gerard, Fawkes, Babington, Campion, Mary Queen of Scots, all died as mum as Czolgosz. In the long roll of Catholics who have committed capital crimes and suffered capital punishment for their cause, it would be difficult to find one who spoke, except to take all the blame on himself and clear the Church from aspersions. They are instructed that silence is safe; and with jailers also Catholic, which they are pretty sure to have here, it is likewise very easy.
     The view of Czolgosz here presented, I by no means offer for sufficiently established fact; but it is at least possible, and perusal of the Socialist press will show that it is growing in favor. Of the Monster Slayers alleged to have been Anarchists, some doubtless were such. But we shall lose nothing by keeping in mind that there is scarcely a king or other chief magistrate in the modern world whom the ultramontanes have not quite as good reason for wishing removed as the Anarchists; that to have it done by Catholics eager for a free ticket thru [sic] purgatory, and attribute it to Anarchists, is a double policy very like the Jesuit sky-pilots; and that in what has become the most notorious event of this kind the mark of their fingers is actually rather more conspicuous than ordinary.



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