Publication information
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Source: North American Review
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “A Defence of General Funston”
Author(s): Twain, Mark
Date of publication: May 1902
Volume number: 174
Issue number: 546
Pagination: 613-24 (excerpt below includes only page 619)

Twain, Mark. “A Defence of General Funston.” North American Review May 1902 v174n546: pp. 613-24.
Leon Czolgosz (compared with Frederick N. Funston); McKinley assassination (personal response).
Named persons
Emilio Aguinaldo; Frederick N. Funston.


A Defence of General Funston [excerpt]

     Some of the customs of war are not pleasant to the civilian; but ages upon ages of training have reconciled us to them as being justifiable, and we accept them and make no demur, even when they give us an extra twinge. Every detail of Funston’s scheme—but one—has been employed in war in the past and stands acquitted of blame by history. By the custom of war, it is permissible, in the interest of an enterprise like the one under consideration, for a Brigadier-General (if he be of the sort that can so choose) to persuade or bribe a courier to betray his trust; to remove the badges of his honorable rank and disguise himself; to lie, to practise treachery, to forge; to associate with himself persons properly fitted by training and instinct for the work; to accept of courteous welcome, and assassinate the welcomers while their hands are still warm from the friendly handshake.
     By the custom of war, all these things are innocent, none of them is blameworthy, all of them are justifiable; none of them is new, all of them have been done before, although not by a Brigadier-General. But there is one detail which is new, absolutely new. It has never been resorted to before in any age of the world, in any country, among any people, savage or civilized. It was the one meant by Aguinaldo when he said that “by no other means” would he have been taken alive. When a man is exhausted by hunger to the point where he is “too weak to move,” he has a right to make supplication to his enemy to save his failing life; but if he take so much as one taste of that food—which is holy, by the precept of all ages and all nations—he is barred from lifting his hand against that enemy for that time.
     It was left to a Brigadier-General of Volunteers in the American army to put shame upon a custom which even the degraded Spanish friars had respected. We promoted him for it.
     Our unsuspecting President was in the act of taking his murderer by the hand when the man shot him down. The amazed world dwelt upon that damning fact, brooded over it, discussed it, blushed for it, said it put a blot and a shame upon our race. Yet, bad as he was, he had not—dying of starvation—begged food of the President to strengthen his failing forces for his treacherous work; he did not proceed against the life of a benefactor who had just saved his own.



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