Source: Gunton’s Magazine
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Can We Stamp Out Anarchy?”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 21
Issue number: 4
|“Can We Stamp Out Anarchy?” Gunton’s Magazine Oct. 1901 v21n4: pp. 349-53.|
|anarchism (dealing with); anarchism (personal response); William Jennings Bryan; yellow journalism; anarchism (laws against).|
|William Jennings Bryan; Grover Cleveland; D. E. R.|
Can We Stamp Out Anarchy?
Editor G’ M ,
Dear Sir:—Do you think it feasible for the civilized nations of the world to join in a wholesale movement to stamp out anarchy, root and branch? If our constitution is considered to prevent us from suppressing anarchist meetings and publications, is it not about time that we modified either the constitution or the interpretation of it, so as to except those who preach against government itself? To attack goverment [sic] policies is one thing, but to attack government itself is a form of treason, whether it be done by force of arms or indirectly by incendiary propaganda which incites to violence and assassination of goverment [sic] officials. Why should we not suppress the cause of murderous assaults upon the government, as well as punish the criminals after the deed is done?
D. E. R.
How to deal with anarchy is truly
a question that civilization must decide. Civilization rests on orderly government;
anarchy is the open and sworn enemy of both order and government. It is also
true, denials to the contrary notwithstanding, that anarchy logically leads
to and implies the use of physical force for disruption of government, and therefore
it has developed thus far in the sneaking, cowardly assassination of public
officials, regardless of their personal characteristics. This is lower and viler
and altogether more reprehensible than the crime of the masked highwayman. In
fact, predatory barbarism never furnished anything so treacherously villainous
and cowardly brutal as this system of anarchistic assassination. There is no
political, social, economic or moral reason why known anarchists should be permitted
at large in modern society. The talk about theoretical anarchy as a system of
society is talk only. There is no such thing; there can be no such thing. Anarchy
and order are incompatible. Order is possible only with the recognition of rules
of conduct, enforced if needs be by the social aggregate. Whether it is feasible
for civilized nations to join in a compact to “stamp out anarchy” 
is a question. They can agree on almost nothing, although they might be as nearly
unanimous on this as on anything. But this country should do something whether
others do or not.
Anarchy and socialism, which theoretically are the antithesis of each other but practically are identical in their attitude toward existing institutions and propaganda, did not have their rise in this country. They do not arise out of the conditions that exist in this country. Russia and Germany have practically furnished the world with anarchy and socialism. These doctrines of social disruption have had their rise rather naturally out of the despotic and progress-repressing conditions in those countries. Anarchy is as natural to Russia as pineapples are to South America, and the theory and propaganda of socialism are no less the normal product of German conditions. But in this country, where the institutions are constructed on the basis of all the freedom that is dreamed of in either socialism or anarchy consistent with order, safety and progress, these doctrines could not rise, and have not. They are imported from Russia and Germany.
But that alone is not the real cause of the boldness of the assassin. So long as only these ignorant and depraved advocates of anarchy and socialism merely preached to those who would listen to them and espoused their real object, they were limited to the back rooms of saloons, and made no impression whatever on public sentiment. The really dangerous element in the whole situation is the assistance that these anarchists have received from the unscrupulous journals and politicians in our own country. The boldness of the assassin is really the logical outcome of the systematic and utterly unscrupulous and often villainous attacks upon capital and corporations in this country, and mostly for political and journalistic reasons. It has taken the form of  denouncing large corporations and rich men as robbers who fatten on the plunder of the poor and through their wealth control the government. And the last phase of it is that the president and federal government are simply the tool of large corporations and the head of a conspiracy to rob the people of their wealth and freedom.
This propaganda was really first given body and respectability by Mr. Cleveland in his thoroughly demagogic attack upon trusts in his last campaign, and in his last message to congress. This same sentiment gave rise to the populist movement, which was an organized American phase of political anarchy directed against every form of successful enterprise. Railroads, banks and corporations were treated as the common enemy. Added to this, the free silver propaganda which further inflamed the same feeling, and the argument for 16 to 1, were based upon the same statements, treating the banks as a conspiracy against the people and the government as the tool of the banks, until millions of workmen and farmers believed that the government of the United States was an organized conspiracy against the people in favor of railroad, industrial and money trusts.
Mr. Bryan received his nomination as the result of one of the most inflammatory, anarchistic speeches that has ever been made. He has conducted two campaigns in which he has delivered many hundreds of addresses to millions of people, propagating all the essential elements of anarchy, and contributing to the mere financial success of such papers as the New York World and Journal. These papers, like Mr. Bryan, have got their wide circulation and popularity by dealing out in popular platitudinous form venom against existing industrial institutions and the government as the cat’s paw of trusts. It is this persistent advocacy of anarchy in  the wanton, interminable attacks upon our institutions by the Hearsts and Pulitzers and Bryans, and their followers, that has given the murderous anarchists excuse and justification for the boldness of their action. Hearing their own ideas expressed by Bryan from the rostrums of our large cities and applauded by thousands and millions, and echoed by the Townes and “Coin” Harveys and numerous populist orators, and repeated by the New York Journal and World, and reechoed through the populist press throughout the country, they regard the cause of their “great revolution” as progressing and being endorsed by American public sentiment. They were thus emboldened to their murderous effort in the belief that they are martyrs for freedom.
These are the real causes of the anarchy in the United States which has just murdered the most peaceful and kindly president that ever occupied a public office. To stamp out anarchy in this country, therefore, two things must be done. One is for the American people absolutely to renounce all papers and public men who direct political propaganda by appealing to the passions of the ignorant poor against our industrial institutions. Mr. Bryan’s conduct of the last presidential campaign was that of anarchy in the name of democracy. It was devoted to arousing the passions of the people against the industries and government of the country, solely for political purposes. If this country is to be freed from anarchy, such campaigning and such propaganda must be despised, and those who indulge in it treated as demagogues. Then no politician could rise to power and no paper prosper by dealing out this kind of sedition.
This part of the remedy is in the hands of the people to exercise as a moral and social influence. It cannot be enforced by law. The second step should be  legal. It should come in the form of a revision of our immigration laws, which should prohibit for ten or twenty years at least all immigration to this country of peasants who did not possess the equivalent of at least a year’s American wages paid to laborers in their own industry. And second, that no immigrants should be permitted to land who have been in any way connected with the propagation of anarchy or who have been known to be even theoretical anarchists. Belief in order, government and the vested rights of property should be a condition of all immigration to this country for a generation at least.