Reform by Assassination
The assassin of the Governor-General of Finland, General Bobrikoff,
was a man who loved his country more than he loved his own life,
but he did not love her wisely. From a letter which was found upon
Eugene Schaumann, the culprit, it is inferred that he decided upon
this criminal means of calling the attention of the Czar and of
the civilized world to the intolerable wrongs of his country. He
says in this letter that he is a “most humble and truest subject”
of his Majesty, the Czar, and that his desperate deed was inspired
by the sufferings inflicted upon his people by their conquerors.
Assassination has never, we believe, helped the cause of the oppressed.
If it did, it would be practiced on so general a scale that no public
servant would be safe even though he possessed all the virtues of
Aristides, the Just. Furthermore, reform by assassination would
become so popular that every political murderer on trial before
a jury for his life would attempt to justify his crime by calling
it an act of patriotism. Four hun- 
dred years before Eugene Schaumann, the assassin of General Bobrikoff—before
Czolgosh, the assassin of President McKinley, and Wilkes Booth,
the assassin of one of America’s best loved men, President Lincoln,—Balthazar
Gerard murdered William the Silent from precisely the same motives.
Balthazar Gerard was a Catholic and he believed that by removing
this Protestant prince he would restore peace and prosperity to
the whole world. He devoted many years to planning his murder, wrote
down all the details thereof, and finally succeeded in removing
the man who, in his judgment was the curse of his country. But what
did he gain? What did the Catholics gain? How absurd for an impulsive
and inexperienced youth, like Czolgosh, or Booth, or Schaumann,
to think that they hold in their own hands the salvation of humanity.
Yet, if in Poland, Finland and the Baltic provinces,—if in Armenia
and Macedonia, the people are often driven to fearful deeds, it
is because a regime of oppression and wrong, shameless and cruel,
has set their brains afire—has so maddened them that only some crazy
act like that committed by Eugene Schaumann, can restore the equilibrium
of their senses, or, to put it differently, wake them out of their
feverish dream. Assassination is the shadow that hugs tyranny. Where
there is oppression, there revolution, like a tigress, is steadying
herself for her sudden spring. There is something in human nature
which will unceasingly protest against wrong. Man is unconquerable.
Tyrants can chain him,—hang him even, but they cannot enslave him
for good. This is the intellectual might of man, which in time is
sure to prevail against all his oppressors. We have all heard the
story of the King who so loved his horse that he fed him on human
flesh. But the flesh-eating horse one day turned upon his royal
master and devoured him as though he had been a piece of ordinary
flesh. If rulers, Sultans and Czars teach and practice oppression,
some day they will themselves be the victims of their own doctrine.
What was that which Macbeth learned from his bitter experience?
“This even-handed Justice
“Commends the ingredients of our
“To our own lips.”