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Source: Lucifer, the Light-Bearer
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Sentenced to Die”
Author(s): Harman, Moses
Date of publication: 5 October 1901
Volume number: 5
Issue number: 38
Series: third series
Pagination: 308

Harman, Moses. “Sentenced to Die.” Lucifer, the Light-Bearer 5 Oct. 1901 v5n38 (3rd series): p. 308.
full text
law (criticism); death penalty; Leon Czolgosz (sentencing); society (criticism); Leon Czolgosz (trial: personal response); Leon Czolgosz (mental health); Leon Czolgosz (public statements); Leon Czolgosz; McKinley assassination (investigation: criticism); McKinley assassination (news coverage: criticism).
Named persons
William S. Bull; Leon Czolgosz; Emma Goldman; Ida McKinley; William McKinley.
The date of publication provided by the magazine is October 5, E. M. 301.

Whole No. 885.

Alternate magazine title: Lucifer, the Lightbearer.


Sentenced to Die

     “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.” “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed.” This is the LEX TALIONIS—the law of retaliation; the law of revenge; the law by which savage man in all ages of the world has been governed.
     Under this law Leon Czolgosz the slayer of William McKinley, has been sentenced to die on the 28th day of this present month. If this sentence is carried out it will show that the doctors of law in New York have not progressed beyond the ethics of savages; and all who approve the sentence of death will show that they, too, are savages at heart.
     They tell us that Czolgosz had a fair trial; that he had the benefit of able counsel, and now nothing can be done but to “let the law take its course”—that the “majesty of the law” must be vindicated and justice must be satisfied. In thus speaking we show ourselves the legitimate children of savages—with crude, immature minds. We speak as though “the law” and “justice” are realities, personalities, like unto the paternal despots of the old world, whose personal honor must be guarded and whose anger must be placated by sacrifice.
     If we were really sane and rational we would say: McKinley is dead; nothing we can do will bring him back to life. To kill the man who killed him will do no good; there would then be two murders instead of one. Reason and experience teach us that like produces like; that killing produces more killing. That the fear of death does not prevent men from becoming murderers. That killing—except strictly in self-defence, is a mania, a self-repeating mania, and that hence the only rational way to prevent future murders is to STOP KILLING, and stop it NOW!
     I have all the while maintained that Czolgosz is insane, or was insane when he shot McKinley. His statement in court when sentenced to die, confirms that view. Here is the report, and inasmuch as the trial was public we may reasonably presume that this report of what the condemned man said is approximately correct:

     “Tell the people I am sorry I did it. It’s too late to do me any good to say this now. So you may believe it. It was a mistake. It did nobody no good. I can’t see why I thought it right to shoot the President. What I said to the Judge in Court today is true. There was nobody with me. One thing more I want to tell you. I would give my life, if it was mine to give, if it would help Mrs. McKinley; that is the saddest part of it. But what’s the use talking about that now? The law is right, it is just, it was just to me and I have no complaint, only regret. I don’t know where I got my ideas. I got an idea and thought it was right, now I know it was wrong. Well, I have done all the harm a man could. It’s no use talking and it will soon be over. That is all the consolation.”
     “There was no one else but me. No one else told me to do it, and no one paid me to do it. I was not told anything about that crime and I never thought anything about the murder until a couple of days before I committed the crime.”

     When Czolgosz says he doesn’t know why he did the shooting he acknowledges that his act was that of an unsound mind, an irrational mind. If to plead the “baby act” would help him out of his trouble we might suppose this plea to be insincere, but the prisoner seemed fully aware when making it that it could do him no good.
     His talk in court confirms the view that Czolgosz is a Christian, in theory at least, and not a rationalist—not an Anarchist, since all philosophic Anarchists are rationalists. He speaks as a “penitent” before his “confessor,” as one who hopes for the forgiveness at the bar of “heaven” which he now knows the courts of earth will not grant him.


     His statement, in view of certain death, confirms the oft repeated accusation that the reports in the papers that the assassin implicated Emma Goldman and others, are wholly false, made for the express purpose of inflaming the popular mind against the teachers of Anarchism. “I don’t know where I got my ideas,” gives the lie direct to the statements of Chief Bull—a very appropriate name it would seem—that he had important evidence implicating the Chicago Anarchists and others. If this typical Bull, and the editors who helped him to create the furore [sic] against all Anarchists, had any sense of shame they would at least make an humble apology for their egregious mistake—not to say criminal blunder, since, besides causing the imprisonment of more than a dozen innocent persons it came perilously near resulting in their death by mob violence. But a proper and normal sense of shame is not to be expected in this case.
     There is great satisfaction, however, for all lovers of liberty and justice in this speedy vindication of the innocent and falsely accused, by the prisoner himself, who is of course the most important witness in the case of the police and the newspapers against Anarchy and the Anarchists.
     Much more might be said in comment upon this text, but our space is full.



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