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Source: Lucifer, the Light-Bearer
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Looking Backward”
Author(s): Harman, Moses
Date of publication: 26 December 1901
Volume number: 5
Issue number: 50
Series: third series
Pagination: 404-06 (excerpt below includes only pages 404-05)

Harman, Moses. “Looking Backward.” Lucifer, the Light-Bearer 26 Dec. 1901 v5n50 (3rd series): pp. 404-06.
United States (foreign policy); William McKinley (presidential policies); McKinley assassination (personal response); McKinley assassination (impact on society); William McKinley (presidential character); Leon Czolgosz (as anarchist); McKinley assassination (public response); Metta F. Cuming (public statements); Leon Czolgosz; assassins.
Named persons
Grover Cleveland; Metta F. Cuming [misspelled below]; Leon Czolgosz; Benjamin Harrison; Humbert I; Louis XIV; Samuel W. McCall; William McKinley; George Washington.
The excerpt below comprises two nonconsecutive portions of the editorial. Omission of text within the excerpt is denoted with a bracketed indicator (e.g., [omit]).

The date of publication provided by the magazine is December 26, E. M. 301.

Whole No. 897.

Alternate magazine title: Lucifer, the Lightbearer.


Looking Backward [excerpt]

     The events of the year just closing are of a nature so exceptional as to mark them epoch-making events in the world’s history. Prominent among these phenomenal or record-breaking events is the attitude assumed, the position assumed, by the United States of America as a first-class military and diplomatic power among the nations of the world.
     Hitherto the policy of this government has been that of non-interference with the affairs of Europe, Asia or Africa, contenting itself with the affairs of America proper, and especially with the countries thereof called republics—the enforcement of the “Monroe doctrine,” which in substance is that if the nations of Europe and Asia will keep their hands off the territory now claimed by the Republics of the New World the United States will not meddle with the affairs of the Old World, so-called.

*     *     *

     Not that the change of policy from non-interference to interference in the affairs of the old world was BEGUN by the Washington government during the year 1901, but that an event occurred during that year—just one event, that fixed upon us the policy of interference, the policy of EXPANSION in the territory of the eastern hemisphere, as no other event had ever done.
     I need not say that that event was the tragical death of WILLIAM MCKINLEY.
     Previous to the sixth of September last the absorption of the Philippines as part of our national domain could hardly be said to be the fixed policy of our political leaders. Not only Democratic politicians but many of the ablest Republicans as well, were strenuously opposed to the policy of imperial expansion on the opposite side of the globe, but the “martyrdom” of the head of the administration that had made itself responsible for the new departure seems to have crushed the spirit of the opposition and COMPELLED, so to speak, the complete abandonment of the policy inaugurated by President Washington in his Farewell Address to the American people.


     As already indicated, the most notable event, the event most tremendous in its consequences upon our political institutions that has occurred during the year now closing, is the death of William McKinley, by the hand of Leon Czolgosz. Not that the effects of this tragical event will be [404][405] at once apparent to the eye of the average observer of human affairs. The effect, the far-reaching influence, of the tragical death of the Nazarene and of his immediate apostles, in shaping the history of the world, was not apparent till some centuries after these tragedies occurred. Not till the Roman Pontiff became king of kings, lord of lords and bishop of bishops, in the political and religious life of Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa, did the full significance of Christian martyrdom make itself known, and though shorn of much of its political power the Christian church—the result of Christian martyrdom, not of intellectual power or prestige—still remains the most impassable of all barriers to human progress, over nearly the whole of Europe and America.

*     *     *

     And so, likewise, will it probably be with the martyrdom of William McKinley. If this man had been permitted to serve out his second term as president of the United States he would probably have retired to private life with little more of honor or lasting distinction than had Grover Cleveland or Benjamin Harrison. The policies with which his administration had become identified would have stood in history upon their own merits, and might, perhaps, have been reversed during the incumbency of his successor in office.
     In passing, however, it may be said that while as a man of genius or of culture William McKinley was probably not above the average American chief magistrate, in one particular he was eminent if not pre-eminent, and that is in the possession of TACT. As was said of Louis the Fourteenth of France, often called the “Grand Monarch,” namely, that while he was not a great statesman; not a great captain; not a great philosopher nor great man in any sense, he was in pre-eminent degree a great KING. He understood kingcraft as few kings had ever done.
     In like manner it can truthfully be said of McKinley: He was not a great warrior; not a great statesman; not a great philosopher or great MAN in any sense, but he was, in one respect at least, a great PRESIDENT. He understood PRESIDENT-CRAFT. He understood how to prevent party strife, how to head off the factional spirit that so often disrupts and defeats political parties in the hour of victory.

*     *     *

     But the fates that preside over human destinies—if there be such fates—did not allow William McKinley to end his days in peaceful retirement, as is the wont of our ex-presidents. When at the height of his popularity—personal and political—and while still in the prime of a vigorous manhood he is struck down by the hand of an assassin whose chief and only claim to distinction is that he was accused and heralded far and wide as a believer in a philosophy or cult the most feared and hated of all cults, philosophies or political faiths that have ever been preached or promulgated in the annals of this world—that of ANARCHISM—with the natural result, the logical sequence, that in order to show their hatred of Anarchism and their love and reverence for the victim of Anarchism, the loyal and patriotic citizens of this country—Democrats no less than Republicans, will now do their utmost to carry out the policy inaugurated by the fallen political chief.
     A few “voices in the wilderness,” like that of McCall, may still be heard, warning of the dangers ahead, but these voices will probably soon be drowned in the wild cry, “Down with all Anarchists and all sympathisers with Anarchy! Long life to the Empire and the EMPEROR!”
     Not without carefully weighing my words have I said that Czolgosz was ACCUSED of being an Anarchist. if [sic] he ever called himself an Anarchist he did so in ignorance of the meaning of the word, and of the methods of propaganda taught by the leaders of that cult. In his ignorance he probably had heard that the slayers of King Humbert and other European crowned heads were Anarchists, and may have thought it would add to his own fame to call himself by that name.

*     *     *

     While it is much too soon to expect a rational estimate to be put upon the life and character of either Czolgosz or McKinley it is interesting to note that a quiet reaction is going on against the insane folly of the first utterances in regard to the tragedy of September 6. One month ago the “Chairman of the Current Events Committee of the Worcester (Mass.) League of Unitarian Women,” Mrs. E. O. Cumming, had the courage to say, in a paper read before a session of that League:

     “William McKinley will go down in history as one of our loved American martyrs, but to my view there is a sadder phase to that tragedy than the death of our President, a greater martyr, whose name will only be heaped with revilings and execrations for all time, but whose undoubted bravery and unflinching martyrdom to what he believed was duty, in the face of the hatred of the entire world, was more than courage, it was sublime in its simplicity and directness, and the evil of his action does not detract from the fact that martyrdom to a belief was poor Czolgosz’s portion fully as much as ever [sic] martyr of old died for a mistaken cause.”

     That there are many thoughtful persons of both sexes who think as Mrs. Cumming does, but who lack the courage to speak out their thoughts, is very probable. For myself, while freely giving to Leon Czolgosz the credit of good intentions I confess to finding it hard to feel sympathy for those who voluntarily seek the martyr’s crown. When imprisonment or death is forced upon anyone while non-invasively discharging self-imposed duties, it is quite another thing, but while I have no word of condemnation, as such, for the Ehuds, the Cordays, the Brescis and the Czolgoszes of history I have absolutely no sympathy for their methods of trying to make the world better.



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