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Source: Lucifer, the Light-Bearer
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Lesson of the Hour”
Author(s): Harman, Moses
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 5
Issue number: 36
Series: third series
Pagination: 292-93

Harman, Moses. “The Lesson of the Hour.” Lucifer, the Light-Bearer 21 Sept. 1901 v5n36 (3rd series): pp. 292-93.
full text
McKinley assassination (personal response); William McKinley; Moses Harman; William McKinley (religious character); William McKinley (last words); McKinley presidency (criticism); Leon Czolgosz; Richard F. Pettigrew (public statements); anarchism (laws against, impracticality of); anarchism (dealing with); assassinations (comparison).
Named persons
Amasa; Croesus; Leon Czolgosz; Elizabeth; James A. Garfield; Carter H. Harrison, Sr.; Humbert I; Joab; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Richard F. Pettigrew; Solon; Benjamin R. Tucker.
Click here to view a letter to the editor by George C. Brooks written in response to the editorial below.

Click here to view a letter to the editor by W. Fretz written in response to the editorial below.

The date of publication provided by the magazine is September 21, E. M. 301.

Whole No. 883.

Alternate magazine title: Lucifer, the Lightbearer.


The Lesson of the Hour

     “All the world’s a stage and all men are players,” is an oft quoted saying. This particular drama—rather the particular “act” in the great continuous drama of human life on this planet, that has attracted more attention, perhaps, than any other within the past few months, has just been played at Buffalo, New York, the chief “characters” in which act I need not say, are William McKinley, President of the United States of America, and Leon Czolgosz, a young man calling himself an “anarchist.”
     In the technical language of the stage, the “act” of which we now speak is called TRAGEDY, and while the most sensational part thereof is now numbered with the things that were, the really tragical and especially the spectacular features of the “act” that opened with the shooting of President McKinley by the man who thus, in a moment, sprang from obscurity to world-wide notoriety, not to say fame—is by no means ended.
     Studying causes as well as effects—as the student of nature—including man and his institutions, must do in order to deserve the name of philosopher and scientist, let us take the principal actors in this sensational act in the great drama of human life, and briefly consider how and why it was that they were at the Pan-American Exposition on the afternoon of Friday the sixth day of the present calendar month, and how and why it was that one received a fatal wound and the other became a homicide, narrowly escaping death at the hands of the bystanders.
     Speaking first of him whose term as President of the United States and whose term of life were alike cut short by the pistol in the hand of Leon Czolgosz, and speaking for myself alone, I would say that William McKinley was a man greatly favored by heredity—by a long line of ancestry trained and developed in the “storm and stress” of feudal life in Scotland and England. Nature had made him well. In this respect he was a man of ten thousand, if not one of a million. Some years ago, and before his first nomination as candidate for the chief magistracy of the American nation I stood within a few feet of this favored child of fortune while he delivered one of his characteristic political speeches. As I read him then, and as I have read him since in his pictured likenesses and in his public utterances and public acts, I saw in him a born leader of men—that is, of men who need leaders and who will have leaders regardless of cost to themselves and others. He was not a man of towering genius; not a philosopher; not a profound reasoner, but he had that which was far better as qualification for successful leadership than genius, philosophy or logic, he had PRACTICAL TALENT in pre-eminent degree. He had TACT. He had been trained in the tactics of the law, and well he knew how to use these as a political leader. There was that in his physical make-up, as well as in his voice and manner of speaking, that inspired men with confidence in his honesty, in his earnestness and sympathy with and for others.
     Remembering the impressions received from listening to the address of Wm. McKinley in the state house square, Topeka Kansas [sic], and the effect that address had upon the assembled thousands, I can easily understand how and why the still larger crowd at the Pan-American Exposition went wild with applause on “President’s Day,” and also how and why it was that the same crowd went wild with grief and rage when at the public reception their idol was struck down by one who played the Judas act—or rather the Joab act, as told in the second book of Samuel, twentieth chapter:

     “Art thou in health my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him. But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hands, so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib. . . . and he died.”


     As for the real merits of the life and work of William McKinley and the place to be assigned to his name in the history of this country or of the world, of course this article and this issue of Lucifer are neither the place nor the time for such estimate. Solon, the great Athenian law-giver and sage is reported to have said to Crœsus, King of Lydia, that it is impossible to rightly estimate a man until you know how he met his death. If this be a true criterion then the death of William McKinley stamps him a superior man, notwithstanding the seeming adhesion to superstitious theology in his last moments, when he is reported to have said, “It is God’s way; we must submit.” With his religious training, and remembering that his life as a politician was not favorable to the formation of logical or philosophic habits of thought, it is not strange that he would seek to give comfort to his wife in this way. His courage through it all; his expressed desire that no violence should be done to his assailant; his uniform cheerfulness and hopefulness indicate a well-balanced mind. One chief cause of regret, as I see it, is that—in his last moments—or rather before the near approach of death had clouded his mental powers, he did not enter a specific and earnest protest against the infliction of the death penalty upon Czolgosz. If he really meant what he said when telling his wife, “It is God’s way,” and if he could really say, with him whose example he professed to follow, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do,” why did he not leave it as part of his last will and testament that his misguided and probably demented assailant should be kindly and humanely treated—kept in confinement if need be to keep him from injuring himself or others, but never to be made an example of the old barbaric law, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed”—if William McKinley had done this he would have done more to embalm his name in the grateful remembrance of coming generations, would have [292][293] done more to prevent repetitions of tragedies such as the one of which he himself was the victim—than he had done by any act of his life, or any words of political wisdom now recorded of him.


     In my estimate of the character of William McKinley I mean always to give him the credit of good intentions. From the standpoint of mental philosophy, of mental and physical science, I can do no less than this. To accuse him of bad intentions would be to accuse myself, for my philosophy teaches me that under like conditions, prenatal and postnatal, I would have done PRECISELY as McKinley did.
     Even when making what I conceive to be his saddest mistakes—instance, when, in conjunction with his fellow rich men—the plutocrats of the United States Senate, he took twenty millions of dollars of the people’s money—money that neither he nor the senators had earned, and with that money bought the robber claim of Spain to the islands called the Philippines, and then proceeded, after the fashion of all robber rulers, to take more of the people’s money to make war upon the inhabitants of those islands—with fire and sword and gatling gun to subdue those islands and hold them as conquered provinces, so that the United States could take its place among nations as a “world power,” as an empire with dependent colonies, in all this, I repeat, with like heredity and like training or surroundings I would have done precisely as McKinley did.


     Having given William McKinley the credit of good intentions—of doing the best he knew under the circumstances, with the lights before me I can do no less in the case of his assailant—his weak-minded, misguided murderer, Leon Czolgosz. Go back far enough and we shall find an efficient cause, a COMPELLING cause for the killing of the twenty-fifth President of the United States, on Friday the sixth day of September 1901, current calendar. This is not the doctrine of pessimism, nor of fatalism, it is simply the irresistible LOGIC of rationalism, or naturalism—of natural causation, of natural sequence. CŒTERIS PARIBUS—“other things being equal,” as the wise old Latins used to say, McKinley would have been the murderer and Czolgosz the victim. Where, then is there rational ground for hate, for revenge—for vengeance such as is now expressed everywhere, with few exceptions, against Czolgosz, and against all who are supposed to hold similar views in regard to government, and the causes of the inequalities and the miseries that we see everywhere around us?
     That Czolgosz was not a philosopher, not a reasoner—that he did not have practical talent, or what is called good “common sense” in adapting means to ends, it seems to me must be apparent to every one who thinks a moment. If his aim had been the exact opposite of what he says it was; if he had desired to defeat the purposes of Anarchism as taught by its logical thinkers and reasoners,—for instance in the extract from the speech of Benjamin R. Tucker, given on first page of this week’s Lucifer—if Czolgosz had desired to strengthen the power of the Trusts, and consolidate and perpetuate the rule of the few over the many, he could have done nothing better for his purpose than to slay the President of the United States, in the way and at the time he seems deliberately to have chosen.
     Saying nothing of what he must have known would be the inevitable consequences to himself, does not this view of the matter stamp Leon Czolgosz a fit subject for a lunatic asylum, or at least a man very much lacking in common sense?


     Having already exceeded my self-imposed limits I close for this week, by quoting the—in the main, very sensible words of Ex-senator Pettigrew of South Dakota:

     Anti-anarchy legislation by congress would be futile, in the opinion of former Senator R. F. Pettigrew of South Dakota. Mr. Pettigrew, who passed through the city yesterday afternoon on his way from New York to St. Paul, said anarchy could be effectually prevented only by removing the conditions that cause it—namely, imperialism, unequal social conditions and the rule of the money power.
     “There is a lot of extravagant talk these days about anarchist plots,” said the ex-senator. “It is my belief there was no plot. No plot of anarchists could be discovered by the European governments after the assassination of either Empress Elizabeth or King Humbert, although the greatest efforts were made to unearth some sort of conspiracy. Assassination is generally the act of some frenzied individual and anarchy is not often the cause.
     “Lincoln was not killed by an anarchist; neither was Garfield nor Mayor Carter H. Harrison. The making of anti-anarchist laws or the establishment of a penal colony for ‘reds,’ as proposed by an Iowa congressman, would do no good. We don’t need more laws, but what is required is the just enforcement of all laws and a return to the equitable conditions of the country under our forefathers. England once had laws which placed 120 different kinds of offenses under the head of capital crimes. Today, with less than a half dozen varieties punishable by death, England is much freer and has less crimes to deal with.”

     Yes, the falsely called Anarchism that seeks justice by killing rulers, can “only be prevented by removing the conditions that cause it.”



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