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Source: Inlander
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “A Philosophic View of Anarchy”
Author(s): Heap, W. Lionel
Date of publication: November 1901
Volume number: 12
Issue number: 2
Pagination: 56-67 (excerpt below includes only pages 56-57)

Heap, W. Lionel. “A Philosophic View of Anarchy.” Inlander Nov. 1901 v12n2: pp. 56-67.
William McKinley (death: personal response); anarchism.
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley.
Full title of source: The Inlander: A Literary Magazine by the Students of Michigan University.


A Philosophic View of Anarchy [excerpt]

     The American nation has again been led, by the death of its President, to meditate upon those things which concern it most deeply. It seems as if we can almost afford to endure a national affliction, even as great as death, if by the destruction of the corporeal there is born the spiritual; and it must be a source of great gratification to all the lovers of democratic institutions that in the face of a trial, sufficiently acute to inflame the coldest nature, the great body of our countrymen gave way, not to passion but to reflection, and received, with chastened and calm minds, the light which sorrow always brings. It may be safely affirmed that since the assassination of President McKinley the American people have thought carefully and profoundly, revolving in their minds many theories of government and of liberty. The process of thought, perhaps, has not gone on publicly or conspicuously, but if an observer were to sit in the parlors or at the supper-tables of the great mass of the people, he would hear, almost universally, disputations and speculations. It is interesting to know that these have not all been of one tone. There have been two classes of opinions. On the one hand there has been a vague feeling that perhaps there was more reason than fanaticism in the supposed madness of Czolgosz. On the other hand, there has been a current of opinion [56][57] running strongly toward the support of government, of the status quo, of legalism and of practicality. The latter is undoubtedly the sentiment of the great body of the American people, and The Outlook, a journal of singular poise, is in consonance with public opinion when it says: “[The anarchist] doctrine is so irrational, so subversive of all civilization, so impossible of application, so like the dream of a disordered brain, that it never can find much currency outside an insane asylum.”
     It seems incredible that in an age of so much enlightenment, an eminent and representative periodical can characterize as foolish a doctrine which actually exists and which finds root in the minds of many men. As regards anarchism, one of two things must be true. Either some nefarious divinity has surreptitiously imparted it in the minds of its devotees, or else it is the creature of circumstances. Now the first hypothesis is inexpressibly silly to anyone who will take a moment to think; for, with the theory of origins now prevailing, it is inconceivable that an idea or an object should be created out of nothing; that it should be thrust extraneously into a given environment and be expected to live there and find a home. The only possible belief is that anarchy, somehow or other, is the expression of a certain set of circumstances; and if this is so, how can anarchy be condemned? The conditions out of which it grows may seem to those who are not anarchists to be horrid, dark and abnormal, but are they not, nevertheless, rather sacred and solemn? If we trace out their genesis we shall find that they are connected with other circumstances, and these circumstances, in turn, with still other circumstances, until, by an infinite process, we have included the whole universe. Anarchy, indeed, is a universe-production: it is of human nature. We can say that this universe is without law in quite as deep a sense as that it is with law. As regards ourselves, does not each one of us feel momentarily, or rather as his deepest though seldom expressed conviction, that there is a harmony in him which transcends the law, and that, in a fundamental sense, government, with its parliament houses, its tribunals, and its jails, is a mere plaything, totally beside the case.



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