Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial column
Document title: “The Week”
Date of publication: 26 September 1901
Volume number: 73
Issue number: 1891
Pagination: 235-37 (excerpt below includes only page 235)
|“The Week.” Nation 26 Sept. 1901 v73n1891: pp. 235-37.|
|John R. Dos Passos; anarchism (dealing with); anarchism (laws against); anarchism (legal penalties).|
|Alexander II; Leon Czolgosz; John R. Dos Passos; Tomás Estrada Palma.|
|The item below is the second of three excerpts taken from this issue’s installment of “The Week.” Click here to see the first and third excerpts.|
The Week [excerpt]
Mr. John R. Dos Passos publishes in the Times is views of anarchism and the proper methods of dealing with it by law. The difficulties of the subject are candidly acknowledged by the writer, and for the most part carefully treated. He rules out, as any lawyer must, the method, most commonly advocated by public meetings and by extempore speakers, of “stamping out”—which, if it means anything, means the employment of anarchy to suppress anarchism. Mr. Dos Passos also deprecates the plan for making any attempt upon the life of a President or Vice-President, or other ruler, whether successful or not, punishable by death. Other crude conceptions of the moment to which the crime of Czolgosz gave birth are “stamped out” by Mr. Dos Passos. So much for the negative side of his argument. On the positive side he suggests, first, a method of dealing with anarchistic societies and demonstrations by international action. The plan proposed is the appointment of an International Commission to discuss the whole subject in conferences with like commissioners appointed by other countries. Details of the process of hunting down the anarchists of all countries are not supplied. They are left to the imagination mostly. Therefore, the only comment that occurs to us at this point is that an international commission would scarcely be able to devise or execute more drastic means for hunting down anarchists than those which Russia adopted and put in force against nihilists. Yet it is remembered that, in spite of everything, they compassed the death of Alexander II. in broad daylight in the streets of St. Petersburg, and blew up a train on which his successor was travelling from Odessa to Moscow. It does not follow from these facts that no steps should be taken to hunt down those who plot against the lives of rulers. The facts do serve to show how difficult is the problem we have to deal with.
Taking up the subject of separate State action, Mr. Dos Passos thinks that the laws of New York against unlawful assemblages are already ample, but that the penalty for assembling to commit an injury to person or property or a breach of the peace should be made a felony, instead of a misdemeanor. We agree to this also; but let us remark, in passing, that nobody who has made up his mind to play the part of an anarchist by taking the life of a ruler will be deterred from attending a forbidden assemblage by the legal difference between felony and misdemeanor. Closely following this suggestion, Mr. Dos Passos says:
“I would add a section to it, making it a felony punishable as to members two years, and as to officers ten years, in State prison, to belong to or aid or contribute to the support of any society having for its object the overthrow of this or any foreign Government, or the killing or attempted killing of any supreme ruler or officer thereof. Of course, I am now merely throwing out rough suggestions.”
This suggestion seems to us much too “rough,” for, if it had been in force four years ago, it would have subjected the members of the Cuban society in this country of which Mr. Estrada Palma was the head, to punishment by imprisonment from two to ten years. It would have subjected the Kossuth societies of 1849 to similar punishment. The Fenians and other organizations conspiring to overthrow English rule in Ireland would have been equally under the ban, and, to go further back, our Revolutionary fathers would have sinned against the same law. However, we welcome Mr. Dos Passos’s letter as one of the saner communications of the hour, one of those which bring the light of reason to bear upon much reckless writing and speech that can hardly be distinguished from anarchical literature itself.