Source: Public Opinion
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “The Attempt upon the President’s Life”
Date of publication: 12 September 1901
Volume number: 31
Issue number: 11
|“The Attempt upon the President’s Life.” Public Opinion 12 Sept. 1901 v31n11: p. 324.|
|McKinley assassination (public response); McKinley assassination (quotations about); McKinley assassination (news coverage); anarchism (public response).|
|Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley.|
The Attempt upon the President’s Life
President McKinley was shot by a Polish anarchist
at the Pan-American exposition last Friday. One bullet inflicted a trifling
wound in the breast and the second penetrated the abdomen. The president’s assailant
was Leon Czolgosz, who approached Mr. McKinley at the public reception and shot
him with a revolver concealed in a handkerchief. The reports from the president’s
physicians have steadily encouraged the hope and belief that he will recover
from the effects of his wounds. This is the prayer of the whole nation and of
the civilized world. The comment below is confined largely to the political
aspects of the crime.
“This attempt at assassination was not made because of any enmity against Mr. McKinley individually, for such enmity does not exist,” says the New York Sun; “his character makes it impossible. The impulse that fired the shot came from the spirit of savage vindictiveness against the civilized government and civilized society and the law and order which Mr. McKinley represents. That is the sort of feeling which a whole school of journalism, spawned of recent years, is ostentatiously working to kindle into passionate violence.” The New York Times thinks it “awful that any malignant fool who can get hold of a pistol should be able to affect the destinies and override the choice of 75,000,000 of people. Can it be that in this country, where the will of the people so unquestionably prevails, we must come to the precautions that are taken in Russia, where the will of the people is systematically overridden! Must the freely chosen chief magistrate of all these prosperous and happy believers in their country and its government go through crowds of his countrymen at a gallop, with galloping squadrons before him, behind him, and on each flank? The thought is intolerable,” says the Times, but it suggests no alternative.
“Whether President McKinley lives or dies, the American people should learn certain lessons at his bedside,” says the Boston Transcript: “That anarchy is hating as it is hateful; that it will strike as readily at the freely chosen executive of a republic as at a king ruling by ‘divine right’; that anarchism must be suppressed here; that liberty of speech is not license to instigate assault; and that finally charity of construction of act and motive in public men is a safeguard against that fierceness of political passion that before now has been known to consume not alone men but governments.” The Boston Herald thinks that the “only possible conclusion is that anarchist agitations in the United States must be stamped out by the most rigorous enforcement of the law; and, if existing statutes do not suffice for this, then new and sufficiently comprehensive ones must be enacted. We can not afford to nurse in our midst a nest of vipers to sting and poison those who have given them shelter and protection.”
“Not only his own, but all other countries, are watching in suspense, anxiety, and prayer for the latest word from President McKinley’s bedside,” the Washington Times truly says; “hoping, and with reason for hope, that God will defeat the object of the murderous wretch who attempted his life, and restore him in health to his family and friends, and the great people with whom he has been more notably popular than most public men of his day and generation.” “This is a land of freedom, but it is not an asylum for assassins. Those who are banded together for the commission of murder are outlaws, and the most sacred human right—that of self-protection—demands that they be suppressed. Their presence in this country is a cancerous growth upon our republican form of government, and the most drastic measures used to remove them will not be too severe,” says the Baltimore Herald.
In no section of the country does the newspaper comment show a deeper feeling of sorrow and regret than is shown in the south. All the papers emphasize the south’s affection for the president. “He is recognized as a safe man, and a kindly man, who never purposely harmed anything or anybody,” says the Chattanooga Times. “He has always been a model man in his private life as a husband and citizen and neighbor. What heart but the heart of a madman or an insensate beast would be hard enough to even contemplate a deadly attack on one so gentle, so democratic, so little given to the exercise of power?” The Richmond Times extols Mr. McKinley as “president of the nation, without regard to section or faction,” as an exemplar in morals, in religion, and in his domestic relations, and seeks in vain for an explanation of the murderous attack upon such a man. “The nation is shocked at the dastard deed; the hearts of the people bleed for the distinguished victim; but nowhere is the shock deeper nor the affliction felt stronger than in the south,” the Atlanta Constitution says.
“President McKinley,” the Cincinnati Enquirer, an old political enemy, says, “loved to be among the people. When he was cruelly stricken down he was happily in his best element, cordially grasping the hands of as many as he could reach. Such a tragedy must necessarily be a national sorrow—a matter of deep international concern. Ohio must claim to be the chief mourner.” “A great calamity like this the more clearly shows us our duty. Anarchy must be suppressed. The freedom of this country does not mean license to shoot our foremost citizens. Our duty is to suppress this element and drive the foes of all government from our shores. Has not the time fully come to act promptly in this matter?” asks the Toledo Blade. Of all the editorial opinions, we think the most valuable comment comes from the Chicago Chronicle, which says: “If with this honest, well-meaning and laborious public servant stricken before their eyes, the people of these states do not take to heart some lessons which they need to learn, the terror, the humiliation, and the shame of yesterday’s scene at Buffalo will have been in vain. They will find in this murderous assault and in the circumstances leading up to it proof that republics no less than monarchies, democracies no less than despotisms, must inculcate respect for authority and must put down most resolutely the malignant spirit which seeks to array class against class and which lodges in the minds of the ignorant and the desperate the idea that government is a monster to be slain in its personal representatives rather than reformed by the intelligent and unselfish efforts of the people themselves.”