Another National Tragedy
“Anger is a short madness,” saith
the ancient proverb. Madness means
and we all know that it is useless to reason with the insane. If
we would help the insane to sanity we must seem to agree with them
to gain their confidence.
At this writing the American people—the
great majority of them, are insane—insane with rage and thirst for
revenge; hence I regard it as time wasted to attempt to reason with
the average man or woman. I am glad to know, however, that there
are a few, women as well as men, who do not lose their heads when
the crowd goes mad. To these, the comparative few, I would say a
word or two only, as the time of going to press is near.
Some of us have lived long enough
to remember more than one national tragedy, similar to the one that
occurred the other day at the Pan-American Exposition. One of these
was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by Wilkes Booth. This tragedy
came as the climax to, or the legitimate result of, the far greater
national tragedy which had begun four years before, at the firing
on Fort Sumpter [sic].
During all these four years the American
nation had been , crazy drunk, so
to speak—drunk with the blood of the slain in battle and with the
tears of the widows and orphans of the slain in battle or the prisoners
starved to death in military stockades; and now the killing of the
nation’s president served to intensify the national madness many-fold.
Goaded on by fear and hate, deeds were done that must forever cause
a pang of regret to the heart, if not a blush of shame to the cheek,
of every one calling himself an American.
Not satisfied with the killing of
the assassin himself—under the savage code of “an eye for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth[,] a life for a life,” four persons were hanged
as aiders and abetters of the assassination, among these a woman—after
the real danger crisis had passed and after men’s passion had ample
time to cool.
Twenty years after the beginning of
the great national tragedy the last act of which was the spectacular
killing of the nation’s chief executive, came the shooting of James
A. Garfield by Chas. Guiteau. Differing in some respects from the
first Presidential assassination there were many points of resemblance.
It was politics mainly that caused the civil war and the consequent
assassination of Lincoln, and it was politics mainly that caused
the killing of Garfield. The feud between the two opposing factions
of the Republican party was intensely bitter. Believing himself
divinely commissioned to save the Republican party and through it
to save the nation from ruin, the half-demented Guiteau “removed”
the president as the surest way to save the party and the nation,
and under the law of revenge, ,
was in turn executed—hanged by the neck till he was dead; his flesh
scraped from his bones and his skeleton kept for exhibition to morbid
As in the case of Lincoln the shooting
of Garfield caused the greatest consternation and alarm. Men looked
into each other’s faces only to see terror and rage pictured there.
At first the cry was, “A plot, a plot! an atheistic, communistic
plot to destroy our Christian Republic.” But this theory was soon
abandoned when it became clearly established that Guiteau was a
Republican of the Republicans, a “stalwart of the stalwarts,” a
Christian of the Christians—an unusually devout believer in the
Bible, the whole Bible, including the lesson of Abraham offering
up his son Isaac. If he had inspirers and accomplices the less said
about the better for the Bible and
for Republicanism. And hence this poor half-crazed victim of bad
heredity and of superstitious training was left, or compelled, to
be the scape-goat for his Christian and Republican inspirers.
And now again, just twenty years after
the slaying of Garfield the nation is shocked, crazed, from center
to circumference by another spectacular attempt to assassinate its
chief ruler, by another apparently half-demented victim of bad heredity
and perhaps still worse training or environment. As in the cases
previously cited, the leaders of public opinion, civil and religious,
are moving heaven and earth to establish the fact of —a
plot to kill all rulers and overthrow by violence the present social
and political system or systems. The would-be assassin Czolgoscz,
is reported to have declared himself an “Anarchist,” that he has
quite lately become such, having been inspired or converted to that
political (or unpolitical) belief by hearing a lecture in Cleveland,
Ohio, by Emma Goldman, and that in consequence of such conversion
he decided to kill President McKinley.
Having learned from long observation,
the wholly unreliable character of reports by the popular press,
when treating of Anarchism and Anarchists, I close for this week
by saying that twelve persons, including the editor of “Free Society”
and his family, were arrested in Chicago, the evening following
the wounding of President McKinley, and that they are still held
in close confinement, no bail being allowed, awaiting further developments
as to possible complicity with Czolgoscz—except the three women
mentioned elsewhere as having been released. Emma Goldman was arrested
yesterday (Sept. 10.) in Chicago and is being held on a like charge
of conspiracy to commit murder, which charge she strenuously denies.
Of course we need not say that the
shooting of President McKinley is wholly condemned by this office,
as the suicidal act of a madman.