Special Punishment for Presidential Assassination
The argument of Solicitor-General Richards, in his recent speech
in Philadelphia, to prove that especial laws for the punishment
of Anarchical attempts on our Presidents would be Constitutional,
gives us a foretaste of the discussion of this matter by the ensuing
Congress. It seems to me that the first question to be decided is,
not whether such laws are Constitutional, but whether they are expedient.
If such laws are inexpedient, all argument to prove that they are
Constitutional is not only entirely gratuitous, but also inexpedient.
It is a well-recognized fact that this crime is not likely to be
committed—as an Anarchical crime at least—except by persons whose
unbalanced and morbid minds are so inflamed by the spectacular features
of the act that the legal punishment is rather an incentive than
a deterrent. This plainly indicates the impropriety of investing
the crime with avoidable spectacular features peculiar to itself.
Our safety lies in the fact that our system of government renders
the murder of the President utterly without even a plausible Anarchic
excuse, because it is absolutely abortive and nugatory as an attack
on governmental institutions. This is the obvious lesson of the
late assassination, that needs to be particularly emphasized. But
it seems that many of the leaders of our people are themselves so
befogged by the spectacular features which distraught nerves and
a vivid imagination may attribute to the case, that they are determined
to exaggerate the merits of the crime from the Anarchistic point