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Publication information
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Source: Lucifer, the Light-Bearer
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Nation’s Crime”
Author(s): Harman, Moses
Date of publication: 7 November 1901
Volume number: 5
Issue number: 43
Series: third series
Pagination: 348-49

 
Citation
Harman, Moses. “The Nation’s Crime.” Lucifer, the Light-Bearer 7 Nov. 1901 v5n43 (3rd series): pp. 348-49.
 
Transcription
full text
 
Keywords
McKinley assassination (personal response); McKinley assassination (impact on society); Leon Czolgosz (execution: personal response); Leon Czolgosz (execution: impact on society); society (criticism); Leon Czolgosz (as anarchist); Czolgosz memorialization.
 
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley.
 
Notes
Click here to view the Lucifer editorial (referenced below) in which the McKinley assassination is described as a “stupid, idiotic crime.”

The date of publication provided by the magazine is November 7, E. M. 301.

Whole No. 890.

Alternate magazine title: Lucifer, the Lightbearer.
 
Document

 

The Nation’s Crime

     Some years ago, in Jackson County, Mo., there was a public hanging. Looking over the crowd of spectators, numbering many hundreds if not thousands, an old physician remarked to a friend,
     “This is the saddest sight I ever saw.”
     “Why so?” was the reply. “Is not the condemned man guilty? and [sic] does he not deserve hanging?”
     “It is not the guilt or innocence of the man who is to suffer the extreme penalty, that I was thinking of. Do you note that a large part of this vast concourse of people is composed of women? To the eye of a physician this fact means that more murders, and then more hangings, will result from this day’s job.”
     “How do you make that out?” replied the friend.
     “Easy enough. Of the women present a score or two, at a low estimate, are expectant mothers. This means that some of these mothers will give birth to children marked with a homicidal tendency. In other words, some of these children will be born murde ers [sic]. Then, in due time, more work for the hangman.”

*     *     *

     The killing of McKinley sent a thrill of horror over the land, followed quickly by a cry for VENGEANCE upon the assassin. That cry, that demand, has had its effect upon thousands, perhaps millions of expectant mothers. Whether these mothers sympathized with the slain McKinley or with his slayer, the natural effect, the inevitable effect, of such sympathy of the mother upon the sensitive plate of the mind of the unborn child, must be DISASTROUS. Such is the teaching of all time.
     It will perhaps be argued that inasmuch as these expectant mothers did not witness the murder of the president nor the electrocution of Czolgosz, little or no impression has been or will be made upon their offspring. She or he who argues thus forgets the power of imagination, especially when that imagination is excited and fixed by daily reports in the papers, and by frequent appeals from pulpit and public platform.
     The public announcements telling the day and hour when the man Czolgosz was to be put upon the fateful chair and the burning current sent sizzling through his veins and nerves, was itself a CRIME AGAINST POSTERITY, a national crime, the magnitude of which surpasses all power of human calculation.

*     *     *

     The writer of these lines is personally acquainted with at least one parent who got little or no good sleep on the night preceding the electrocution of Czolgosz. Though a MAN, and though condemning the assassin’s deed, this parent saw in endless phantasmal procession, not only the distorted features of the condemned man but also those of his OWN CHILDREN who, in some mysterious way, seemed to him connected with the execution and suffering with or for the victim of “civilized” vengeance. [348][349]
     If this father—a man not usually considered hysterical, or even imaginative, could suffer for many hours in this way, what must have been the effect of the published announcement of the electrocution upon the sensitive minds of millions of women, and especially the millions of expectant mothers?
     In this view of the matter the crime of the one man Czolgosz—putting the worst possible construction thereon, dwindles into insignificance when compared to the crime committed upon the race of mankind by the millions composing what we call the American Nation—which means of course the rulers and the voting population thereof.

IT IS FINISHED.”

     In popular and unscientific estimation the great tragedy is finished. The great spectacular American tragedy of the first year of the new century—the tragedy that began with the public shooting of McKinley on the sixth of September, and ended with the private killing of Czolgosz by the prison officials at Auburn, N. Y., on the twenty-ninth of October following, is now regarded as a thing of the past—a night-mare dream of the past, as it were, nevermore to return.
     But is it so? Alas, No!
     In the light of science, physical and mental, the tragedy whose chief acts or incidents, thus far, are the shooting of the nation’s political head, at Buffalo, and the burning to death of his slayer by electricity some seven weeks later—these are but the beginnings of a tragedy, a national drama, the end of which no mortal eye can see, and no mortal mind rightly estimate.
     If the Archists—the governing classes—of this country had been SANE; if they had been as nearly sane as McKinley himself seemed to be when he said, “Let no one hurt him” (or words to that effect), then there might have been some ground of hope that the bloody tragedy of which he was the victim would not be repeated. But “whom the gods destroy they first make mad,” seems to be as applicable to the affairs of men to day [sic] as when this maxim was first uttered some thousands of years ago.
     If the act of Czolgosz at Buffalo was that of an insane man then the act of his slayers at Auburn, backed and authorized as it was by the great majority of the American people, was as much more insane as the numbers, the intelligence and the power of the murderers of Czolgosz exceeded the number, the intelligence and the power of McKinley’s slayer.
     If, as Lucifer has contended, the shooting of McKinley was a “stupid, idiotic crime,” then the burning to death of Czolgosz in what may be called the refinement of barbarism—the “electric chair”—was a crime millions of times more stupid and idiotic.

*     *     *

     What then? As rational human beings, what may we expect?
     What shall the harvest be from such sowing?
     Is insanity to be cured by more insanity?
     Are stupid crimes, idiotic crimes, to be prevented by the commission of crimes incomparably more stupid, more idiotic?
     Already the sowing—the Archistic sowing of dragon’s teeth—is beginning to bear fruit. Czolgosz was not an Anarchist, in any proper or etymologic sense of the word, but the Archists have so persistently advertised him as such—lionized him as such—that the common people, the ignorant common people, are beginning to think better of Anarchy and Anarchists, are beginning to accept Czolgosz as the type of the savior that is to come—the savior of the working masses, the oppressed masses, from the tyranny of the trusts, and of the government that creates and upholds the trusts.
     Already a plan is on foot and widely advertised, to erect a two hundred thousand dollar monument to the memory of Czolgosz.
     Already his memory is being honored by admiring parents who call their babes by his name.

*     *     *

     The fact that Czolgosz was denied the right to a last word to a crowd large enough to make it probable that his dying words would be correctly reported to the world, will be regarded as evidence that the officers of the law have been persistently lying to the public, and that they did not dare to let the persecuted prisoner, the oppressed and suppressed prisoner speak for himself.
     These and many other facts that could be named, did space permit, make it reasonably certain that the McKinley-Czolgosz tragedy is not yet ended—perhaps scarcely yet begun.
     Bloomington, Illinois.

 

 


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