Publication information
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Source: Free Society
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Leon Czolgosz”
Author(s): Winn, Ross
Date of publication: 16 February 1902
Volume number: 9
Issue number: 7
Pagination: 4

Winn, Ross. “Leon Czolgosz.” Free Society 16 Feb. 1902 v9n7: p. 4.
full text
McKinley assassination (personal response: anarchists); Leon Czolgosz (as anarchist); anarchism; society (impact on Czolgosz); McKinley assassination (opinions, theories, etc.); society (criticism); Leon Czolgosz (mental health).
Named persons
John Wilkes Booth; Marcus Junius Brutus; Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley.


Leon Czolgosz

     I do not know whether Czolgosz was an Anarchist or not. And I do not know whether his act can be reconciled with the philosophy of Anarchism, because I am not sure that that philosophy, in its last analysis, does not imply non-resistance. I admit frankly that I am not clear upon this point. But I do know that the ethics of Anarchism can only apply, in their universal sense, to a state of Anarchy—to a free society in which all aggression is eliminated—because aggression denies non-resistance. As long as there is aggression, non-resistance admits slavery; and the slave can no more be a consistent Anarchist than the enslaver. So I say, that this question of resistance or non-resistance, in its relation to the philosophy of Anarchism, is, with me, an unsolved problem.
     But I believe that human nature is stronger than social philosophy. I believe that environment has more to do with social action and with individual conduct, than theories and ideals. If the slayer of McKinley was an Anarchist, he struck, not because he believed in peace but because he abhorred war; not because he loved liberty, but because he hated tyranny. Because he knew that peace would not be established by his act—that freedom would not come from McKinley’s death. Present conditions made him a rebel. It was not the ideal of Anarchy that pulled the pistol’s trigger, but the misery and wrong and crime of the existing order, of which McKinley was the representative. Czolgosz was the nemises [sic] which reckless wrong, clothed in official purple, nourished and brought forth. The power that shot down defenseless workingmen at Hazleton under the very shadow of the American flag, and which spread death and desolation thruout [sic] the Philippine Islands; which murdered by majesty of law and pilfered in patriotism’s name, that power created Czolgosz. It sowed injustice; it reaped retribution. It called forth the spirit of war and violence to be the servant of its lust and greed; and the servant, for one moment, turned upon its masters.
     I do not think Czolgosz was insane. His act was not an insane act. He showed none of the characteristics of insanity. He was as sane as Brutus—as rational as Booth. We really know nothing of the psychology of his act. We can only guess his motive. Other alleged criminals were allowed to tell their own story, but Czolgosz was sent to the grave unheard.
     Czolgosz was not insane. Neither was he a criminal. I cannot bring myself to approve his act. I do not believe in violence, except in defense of human life and liberty. And I do not think the death of McKinley has served that purpose. We who denounce vengeance and retaliation, when done in the name of the law, cannot consistently approve of this spirit, when resorted to by individuals in the name of Anarchy. But I do not see that anyone can call Czolgosz a criminal. If his deed was a crime, the cause of it was tenfold more a crime.
     And, as I have said, the cause of Czolgosz’s act was those conditions that generated in him the spirit of rebellion. Under Anarchy, the spirit of violence, having nought upon which to feed, will die. Under government, which is the embodiment of violence, there can be nothing but violence. Like is the creator of like.



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