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Source: Lucifer, the Light-Bearer
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Cowardly Murder—McKinley and Czolgosz”
Author(s): Harman, Moses
Date of publication: 31 October 1901
Volume number: 5
Issue number: 42
Series: third series
Pagination: 340-41

Harman, Moses. “Cowardly Murder—McKinley and Czolgosz.” Lucifer, the Light-Bearer 31 Oct. 1901 v5n42 (3rd series): pp. 340-41.
full text
McKinley assassination (personal response); Leon Czolgosz (execution: personal response); Leon Czolgosz; assassinations (comparison); McKinley assassination (impact on society); United States (government: criticism); Leon Czolgosz (execution: impact on society); William McKinley.
Named persons
Julius Caesar; Leon Czolgosz; Ehud; Jael; Joab; Joan of Arc; Leonidas I; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; Arnold von Winkelried [misspelled below; variant form of name given below].
Click here to view a response to Harman’s contention (below) that “the medical doctors” were partly responsible for McKinley’s death.

Click here to view Harman’s explanation of how “the medical doctors” were partly responsible for McKinley’s death.

The date of publication provided by the magazine is October 31, E. M. 301.

Whole No. 889.

Alternate magazine title: Lucifer, the Lightbearer.


Cowardly Murder—McKinley and Czolgosz

     To kick or strike a man when he is down and disarmed, even though an enemy, is always considered a mean act, a cowardly act—an act that no honorable or brave man will be guilty of.
     To kick or strike an unarmed, unresisting or surrendered enemy, so hard that he dies from the effect of the blow, is usually considered murder, cowardly murder, and punished as such.
     On the sixth of last month, at the Buffalo Exposition, a murder was committed. It was a treacherous act, a stupid, idiotic crime, but it was not a cowardly murder. McKinley was not down, and though himself unarmed he was closely guarded by armed men—an instructive commentary, by the way, upon our costly police service when these well-paid guardians of the official head of the national government allowed their charge to be approached by an unknown man with his right hand muffled in a handkerchief, and this hand tucked away under the lappel [sic] of his coat.
     Yes, it was a treacherous murder, because, like unto Ehud, Joab, Jael and other Bible heroes and heroines, Czolgosz approached his victim under the guise of friendship, and without giving warning of his murderous intent; but it was not a cowardly murder. The assailant knew full well, if not wholly demented, that if he succeeded in his purpose his own life would be forfeited to the Christian’s code of justice. To do that which will bring certain death to the doer is not commonly called a cowardly act.

*     *     *

     But what of the electrocution that is to take place Oct. 31, within the silent walls of the Auburn prison?
     The victim in this case will be down; he will be unarmed and helpless. He has long since surrendered to superior force. He has long since acknowledged his mistake—provided reports do not lie; says he does not know why he fired the fatal shot, and is sorry he did it. His assailant, the executioner, will not meet him on equal terms, but will be armed with the means to kill. And not one assailant alone, but the entire force of the prison guards, and these backed by the armies and navies of a nation numbering more than seventy millions of people, will do the killing.
     Under such very unequal conditions, will not the killing of the helpless prisoner Czolgosz be MURDER? COWARDLY murder? Murder such as the “roughs” and “toughs” of frontier life would scorn to be guilty of?


     Yes, the killing of the man McKinley was a crime, one of the very worst of the calendar. A crime because it was committed against a MAN, and NOT against a RULER; for mark you! the ruler was not hurt at all. Rulership went on all the same as before, and would have gone on if Roosevelt and all the officers of the national government had been slain. Rulership would have gone on if the NATION, as such, had been slain, for the nation means simply the officials of the artificial machine called the national government. The people would have remained, but with their present superstitious notions about government they would at once have elected a new set of rulers. Like the frogs in the fable they must have rulers if for no other purpose than to be devoured by them.
     Yes, the act of Czolgosz was a crime, not against McKinley alone—to whom as a man life was probably as sweet as to any other man; as sweet, perhaps, as to the overworked and underpaid father of a numerous family, such as McKinley did not have—but a crime against the cause of the working man and woman, a crime against the cause of human liberty and justice, in whose behalf it is supposed the deed was committed. Hence it was MORE than a crime, it was a political BLUNDER, which, as can easily be shown, is worse than an ordinary crime, because it has the power of multiplying itself manifold.
     Czolgosz had seen and felt, doubtless, the utter powerlessness of the working people as against the monopolistic trusts. He had seen, perhaps, the cartoons, “Willie and his Papa,” in the daily papers, representing McKinley as the product or child of the trusts, and imagined, illogically imagined, that if he could kill the child the parent would die; which is simply another way of saying that if he could kill a ruler he would kill rulership—with the result that while the man McKinley is dead rulership still lives; rulership is more alive, much more alive than ever before. The trusts are much more firmly established than ever before, because now they have their MARTYR!

*     *     *

     It was the martyrdom of the Nazarene reformer and of his apostles that made creedal Christianity a success. It was the martyrdom of Abraham Lincoln, more than any other one thing, that made nationalism a success in this country. It was the martyrdom of Julius Cæsar that made Roman imperialism a success, and no event in our political history has given such impetus to the drift towards imperialism as has the assassination, the martyrization of William McKinley by Leon Czolgosz.
     And what is imperialism? What but the concentration of irresponsible power in the hands of one man or of a few men. In former times power meant militarism, mainly. Now it means COMMERCIALISM, mainly, with the military arm to enforce its behests.
     What is this but Mark Hannaism, J. Pierpont Morganism, Schwabism, Rockefellerism, behind the national government?
     Yes, the crown of martyrdom placed upon the head of William McKinley was all that was needed, two months ago, to establish imperialistic commercialism as the recognized policy of our national government. The pocket pistol of Leon Czolgosz supplied the long-felt want, and now, henceforth and forever, he who says a word or writes [340][341] a line against the TRUSTS, or against the figure-heads that they may set up, shall be deemed guilty of treason, and dealt with as a traitor against the national government, the plutocratic empire.

*     *     *

     But just here there comes a suggestion that perhaps the martyr business may be OVERDONE. There is a proverb which says, it is a poor rule that wont [sic] work both ways. If the pistol of Czolgosz set the crown of martyrdom upon the head of William McKinley, may not the electric bolt of a New York sheriff do the same thing for Leon Czolgosz; and may not the canonization of McKinley’s assassin lead to other assassinations?
     If McKinley’s name will go down to posterity as the martyr of and for capitalistic imperialism, will not that of Czolgosz be regarded by many as fit company for Leonidas, the immortal Spartan; of Arnold Winkelreid, the deliverer of Switzerland; of Joan of Arc, and of thousands more who in all the ages have bravely thrown their lives away in the forlorn hope that humanity, the larger self-hood, would profit by the sacrifice?

*     *     *

     Let me not be misunderstood. Most sincerely do I desire to do no injustice to the memory of these two men. Regarding the earthly career of both as now run, I would say that neither did anything in life to merit the canonization of martyrdom. Neither was a hero, a philanthropist or benefactor of his race, in any large sense or degree, and yet it is probable if not certain that each did what he thought to be right and best under the circumstances. Neither was exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. With like heredity and environment I myself would have done as McKinley did, and with like heredity and environment I would have done as Czolgosz did. Each was probably the slave of “duty,” as each understood that much used and much abused term.
     What more can be said?
     Praise and blame are alike irrational, illogical, unphilosophical. McKinley was an opportunist; a very capable man, a very practical man, with instincts that led him to side with the rich and powerful few, rather than with the poor and oppressed masses. Hence he easily persuaded himself that a strong centralized government in the hands of a few strong and capable rulers was better for all concerned than any attempt at self-government by the poor, the ignorant, the incapable. In his youth he took the sword—to invade the people of the south,—and in his riper years he sent his armies to invade the people of the Philippines, and in his case is now fulfilled the saying, “He that taketh the sword shall be slain by the sword”—figuratively speaking.
     Czolgosz was in most things the counterpart or exact opposite of the man whose life he cut short—he and the medical doctors! Czolgosz was impractical—a dreamer, as I take it—incapable of adapting himself to his environment. Had he been capable of becoming a monopolist, he too might have been found among the oppressors of the poor and the weak.
     But why go on! To sum up:
     Our irrational, artificial, anti-natural, conventional, tradition-ruled human society will continue giving birth to McKinleys and Czolgoszes, especially the latter, until WOMANHOOD awakes to a sense of its responsibility, and demands the conditions necessary to create a better race of human beings. Then and not till then, will rulers cease to rule, and assassins cease to kill rulers.



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