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
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 , and stop it !
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
“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 C[o]urt 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
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 love[r]s 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.