Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Present Laws against Anarchism”
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 69
Issue number: 3
|“Present Laws against Anarchism.” Outlook 21 Sept. 1901 v69n3: pp. 146-47.|
|McKinley assassination (public response); lawlessness (mob rule); anarchism (laws against); McKinley assassination (conspiracy theories).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Emma Goldman; William McKinley; Johann Most.|
Present Laws against Anarchism
The National humiliation over the President’s assassination came very near being deepened by a resort to anarchy to avenge the crime. The President’s calm command, “Let no one hurt him,” saved the Nation this further humiliation at the time of the assault, and the efficient action of the Buffalo police when the President was plainly sinking on Friday maintained the law’s supremacy during those feverish hours. But it was not alone in Buffalo that the desire for mob  law became alarming. In all parts of the land it received some sanction in the pulpit, much in the press, and much more in impulsive talks on the streets and in the stores. The excuse for it everywhere was the inadequacy of present laws for the present emergency. It soon became known that if the President lived the maximum penalty for the assault upon him was ten years’ imprisonment, and it was widely believed that speeches and articles inciting men to such assaults could not be punished by any law, State or Federal, unless some overt crime were the direct result. This last belief was unwarranted, so far at least as it related to incendiary speech. In New York State, for example, the present law provides that—
Whenever three or more persons assemble with intent to commit any unlawful act by force; or assemble with intent to carry out any purpose in such a manner as to disturb the public peace; or, being assembled, attempt or threaten any act tending toward a breach of the peace, or any injury to person or property, or any unlawful act, such an assembly is unlawful, and every person participating therein by his presence, aid, or instigation is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Under this statute the mere presence at meetings in which there are calls to violence may be punished by imprisonment for one year, and both John Most and Emma Goldman, who have been arrested in connection with the present crime, have already served terms in the penitentiary—the former’s plea that he had told his audience that the time was not yet ripe for action being ruled out by the court as entirely non-essential. In point of fact, no evidence of the existence of a plot to kill President McKinley has been discovered. Emma Goldman and other reputed Anarchists have been arrested, the first because Czolgosz declared that her general denunciation fired his brain, the other because the police rightly propose to probe all possible theories to the bottom.