October Twenty-Ninth, 1901
IT was in St. Louis, the 6th of September, 1901. I was just entering
a street car, after a day’s hard work soliciting orders for a firm.
Suddenly my ears caught the sound, “Extra, extra, the President
shot!” I was too fatigued and miserable to heed the cry; besides,
one is so used to newspaper “extras,” one rarely stops to investigate.
At dinner in a friend’s house I learned
that President McKinley had been shot by a man by the name of Nieman.
One of our company remarked jokingly, “I should not be surprised
if they will connect you with the act.” The man spoke more prophetically
than he realized.
The following morning I started on
my day’s task, which promised to be particularly hard, as I had
to employ my skill to induce a business house to close a large order.
It took all morning to settle the matter 
and left me even more dejected than the previous day. I dragged
myself to the nearest restaurant and, while waiting to be served,
I looked at the papers. There it was, in large black headlines,
“President McKinley shot by an Anarchist, Leon Czolgosz—the man
confessed to having been incited by Emma Goldman—the house of the
publisher of the Anarchist paper Free Society raided—8 Anarchists
arrested to be held until Emma Goldman is found—detectives sent
to all parts of the country to arrest the dangerous woman.”
The whole thing seemed so absolutely
preposterous that it took me some time to realize its significance;
but after an hour’s reflection, while I sat in the restaurant with
people discussing E. G. around me, I decided to make for Chicago
that very evening. It was not easy to get away, without arousing
suspicion. My St. Louis friends had arranged a small dinner party
for me on that same date, the 7th. To leave abruptly would have
caused an inquiry as to my whereabouts, which under the circumstances
had to be avoided. I therefore went through with the affair, and
then made the night train for Chicago.
Ten years have passed since that terrible
time,—terrible, because it disclosed, as in a flash, the savagery,
the blind fury, the yellow human soul. Not only the knavish soul
of the newspaper clique, nor yet the brutal soul of the police;
nor even the mob soul, so appalling in its massiveness. But more
than all else, it was the soul of the so-called radicals, manifesting
itself in such contemptible cowardice and moral weakness, that impressed
me with never-to-be-forgotten vividness. They, more than the yellow
Hearsts, more than the prostitute press, more than the mad public,
proved the loudest defamers of the boy who had dared to strike the
But for them Leon Czolgosz would not
have been dragged to the block, like a sheep to slaughter. But for
them, his last moment would not have been agonized by the consciousness
of being deserted, betrayed, forsaken by his own brothers, even
“All men are equal before the law,”
is one of our slogans. What a farce, what hypocrisy! The case of
Leon Czolgosz has stamped this American boast as a lie. Indeed,
there is no parallel in the annals of this 
country, where a human being has received less equality, less justice,
less fair play, less humanity, than did this truest American child,
Leon Czolgosz. From the very moment when he was nearly beaten to
death on the Exposition grounds by a fury-drunk mob and the police,
until he was dragged to the “trial,” this modern Christ was forced
to go through a thousand Golgothas. Not a kind word, not a human
touch, during all those awful days between September 6th and October
29th, when in the name of a “merciful God” and a “just law” he was
done to death.
True, the law was observed,—Leon Czolgosz
was assigned two lawyers to “defend” his case. This farce must have
made the angels weep. As if even a child did not know that the victim
would be denied the simplest human rights. And the lawyers! What
a disgrace to the human species, how despicably, how cringingly
they acted! A defence, indeed! Ferocious beasts might have shown
more humanity. What pigmies these worthy disciples of Justice represent
compared with the man who defended Francisco Ferrer!
Spain is an autocracy ruled by the
military and clerical rod. In 1909 anti-military uprising ran high,
creating the same excitement, the same fury, the same savage craving
for victims as with us in September, 1901. More,—there was the blood-thirsty
monster of 1,800 years, the Catholic Church, ready to devour its
prey. Ferrer’s lawyer had everything to lose and nothing to gain.
Yet, how daring, how sympathetic was that man!
William Archer in his “Life of Ferrer,”
tells how the man disliked taking the case, because of his antagonism
to his client. But Ferrer had chosen him,—one more example of the
superior sense of justice even of an autocracy to our free country.
The former grants the privilege to choose your defender, the latter
imposes legal aid, which by its very dependency upon the court must
be partial and unfair. He came, unprejudiced, big and fine, with
the sublime mission of pleading for a human life as the sole consideration.
With earnestness and devotion this man pleaded for his client as
if for his own life, carrying everyone with him in the soul-stirring
True, Francisco Ferrer was innocent
of the charge  for which
he was tried; Czolgosz was not. But, as far as the court and his
accusers were concerned, Ferrer was as guilty as his American comrade.
Then, too, he was before a military court, subject to absolute methods
of procedure. Not so the court that tried Leon Czolgosz. It pretends
fair play, impartiality, justice, democracy. Yet it remained for
this court to sit in judgment over a man morally and physically
bound, blindfolded and gagged, a pitifully helpless human prey,
turned over to the block. Were America glorious with a thousand
noble deeds, her brutal inhumanity to the boy in Buffalo would forever
condemn her as the most savage and cruel nation of the world.
Ten years have passed since the hideous
hour of October 29th, but the spirit of Leon Czolgosz is not dead.
How could it be, with its roots in the depths of the ever-growing
conflict between the disinherited millions and the possessors of
“I did it for the good of the people,”
were the last words of the solitary youth in the death-chair of
Auburn prison. But the people knew him not, the people passed him
by in blind hatred. Yet with all that, he was flesh of their flesh
and blood of their blood. He suffered for them, endured humiliation
for them, gave his life for them. His tragedy consisted in his great
and intense love for the people, but unlike many of his brother
slaves he could neither submit nor bow his neck. Thus he had to
It is said that I inspired the act.
I repudiate the charge. Not because I would not take my stand with
this victim of our time, but because I know that he whose hatred
of injustice and tyranny burns at white heat is beyond external
influences. And Leon Czolgosz must have hated tyranny, else he could
never have died such an heroic death. No, he could not have remained
so serene, so wonderfully oblivious to all the trivialities of his
It is this death, solitary and sublime,
that will always stand out as the great symbol in my recollection
of that sombre figure of October 29th, 1901.