Publication information

Source type: magazine
Document type: news column
Document title: “News”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: 14 September 1901
Volume number: 4
Issue number: 180
Pagination: 360-62

“News.” Public 14 Sept. 1901 v4n180: pp. 360-62.
McKinley assassination (public response); McKinley assassination; anarchism (Chicago, IL); McKinley assassination (investigation of conspiracy: Chicago, IL); anarchism (government response); Abraham Isaak (public statements); Leon Czolgosz (activities, whereabouts, etc.: Chicago, IL); Leon Czolgosz (connection with anarchists); Abraham Isaak; Emma Goldman; Emma Goldman (public statements); Leon Czolgosz (as anarchist); anarchism; T. De Witt Talmage (public statements); McKinley assassination (government response).
Named persons
Luke Colleran; George B. Cortelyou; Leon Czolgosz; William Goebel; Emma Goldman; Humbert I; Abraham Isaak; Peter Kropotkin [misspelled below]; William McKinley; Francis O’Neill; Harrison Gray Otis; Charles R. Schirm; Nathan Bay Scott; T. De Witt Talmage [misspelled below]; Walter Wellman; Esther Wolfson.
Quotation marks are included below as given in the original document.


     A vast concourse of people at the Buffalo exposition on the 6th were frenzied by an attempt upon the life of President McKinley. As the shocking news ran over the wires, the whole country shared for the moment in this feeling. But bulletins from the president’s bedside soon encouraged hopes of his recovery; and as hope ripened into confidence, the fury that at first threatened to possess the people gave way to the sober second thought. Many newspapers and some policemen, seconded by politicians of a certain type, have endeavored to keep up the unwholesome excitement; but upon the whole the public mind is singularly calm.


     The deplorable event occurred in the Temple of Music at the exposition. President McKinley was holding a reception. In this music temple were 3,000 persons, while 10,000 were pressing at the entrance for admission. A passage had been formed by two parallel lines of soldiers, through which the public passed, shaking the president’s hand as they went by him. In this line was an obscure man, Leon Czolgosz (Tshawlgosts), who is now notorious the world over. His right hand was covered with a handkerchief as if it had been wounded. In fact it concealed a derringer pistol. Czolgosz came into the president’s vicinity at about four o’clock in the afternoon. As he reached out with his left hand, apparently for the purpose of shaking the president’s outstretched right, he fired upon the president twice, through the handkerchief that concealed his weapon. One bullet struck the president on the upper portion of the breast bone. It did not penetrate, but glanced off. The other penetrated the abdomen, five inches below the left nipple and an inch and a half to the left of the median line. It passed through the stomach, and found lodgment in the muscles of the back, where it still remains and probably always will, the surgeons having decided to make no effort to extract it.


     The president sank into the arms of friends and was speedily carried to the emergency hospital, where distinguished surgeons operated upon him. They opened the body through the line of the bullet wound, closed the perforation of the front wall of the stomach with silk stitches, bound and closed the perforation of the back wall in the same way, and searched without success for the further course of the bullet. No injury to the intestines or any other abdominal organ was discovered. Such is the substance of the public statement made during the evening of the 6th by Mr. Cortelyou, the secretary to the president. Since then Mr. McKinley’s condition has steadily improved, and he is now considered out of danger.


     As the shots reverberated through the great music hall, a secret service officer, who stood directly opposite the president, struck Czolgosz, hurling him to the floor, while another seized the assassin’s hand and took away his pistol. As Czolgosz fell, a large Negro, the next person in line, threw himself upon him and would have mangled him to death had he not been rescued by some of the soldiers. When finally arrested the assassin gave the name of Nieman (German for no man), and explaining his crime said he was an anarchist and had done his duty. During the arrangements to remove him, lynching cries were raised in the crowd, and the carriage in which he rode was violently attacked by mobs. But some of the Buffalo police and the detachment of soldiers, to whom alike special credit is due for their intelligent efforts at the critical moment to perform their duty in a lawful manner, succeeded in carrying him safely to police headquarters, where he is still confined. Czolgosz has proved to be of American birth and a resident of Cleveland. He is about 27 years of age.


     Immediately after the commission of Czolgosz’s crime, the police of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities became active and sensational, as well as somewhat lawless, in what they describe as “rounding up anarchists.” They were especially vigorous in Chicago, where serious charges of corruption overhang them. Capt. Colleran, with a squad of five officers, went on the evening of the crime to the house of Abraham Isaak, the publisher of a communist-anarchist paper, and a friend and disciple of Prince Krapotkin. The paper is called Free Society. It has come to our office as an exchange for several months, and has seemed to be a perfectly legitimate publication, advocating individualistic and communistic principles of society and government in a reasonable manner, and in no way encouraging lawless methods. As no lawless quotations from its columns have yet been given out by the police, it may be fairly inferred that the paper is not a lawless publication. Arriving at Mr. Isaak’s house on the evening in question, the police broke in, and, without a warrant, arrested eight persons besides himself, including his wife and young daughter. Also without a warrant, they searched his house and seized his papers. The prisoners were locked up at the police station and subjected to what is known as the “sweat box” examination. Warrants for the prisoners’ detention were obtained on the 7th, and a hearing has been set for the 19th. The women prisoners have since been unconditionally released; but the others are still held without the privilege of giving bail, and upon that ground writs of habeas corpus have been issued in their behalf, returnable on the 13th.


     At the “sweat box” examination Isaak told in substance the following story, as reported by the daily press:

     It is possible that I may have met Czolgosz. There was a man I met July 12, the night Emma Goldman left Chicago. I had never seen him or spoken to him before, but he came to me and said his name was Czlosz. I suppose he spelled it that way, though it might have been Schloss, for all I know of the spelling. I went to the Rock Island station to see Miss Goldman depart, and she said to me: “There is a man there who wants to talk with you.” The man had spoken to her after her last lecture just before she left our home, and had come down to the city with her. He took me aside and asked about our secret meetings. He did not go away with Miss Goldman, but rode home with me on the elevated train, riding inside while I stood on the platform. When we got home he came into my house, remaining about ten minutes. He repeated his questions about our secret meetings, and wanted to know how to join. He said he was tired of theory, and was anxious [360][361] to do something active. He asked me if we would provide him means. I told him we would help him to get work, but would not give him money. Then I took him to Esther Wolfson’s lodging-house and paid for a room for him. I asked him to breakfast, but he did not come, and I never saw him again. I thought the man was a spy. He talked too violently. Then his question about secret societies showed he was not a true anarchist. We have no secret societies. All our meetings are public. If he had come to breakfast I would have had my friends there, and would have searched him thoroughly to see if he was square. We fear spies because there are lots of them, and they try to stir us up to violence that we don’t want, in order to betray us. They always talk about secret societies. I feared the man, and despised him. If he was as I thought, and as he has turned out to be, if he is the assassin, he was the kind of a man I wanted nothing to do with. I did not sympathize with him. I do not believe Czolgosz is an anarchist, or if he is he is a crazy one. I would not help him in any way. If he was sane, he took his chances, knew the penalty and will not ask help. I am an anarchist. I am for a campaign of education, not of violence, though. Assassination is not our way. We are fighting the system. If he had assassinated the czar I would have had sympathy with him. I sympathized with the man who killed King Humbert. There is tyranny in those countries. There is tyranny here, but the president is not necessarily a tyrant. He is like many other men—no better, no worse. Are our views responsible for this crime? Would you call the republican party responsible for the assassination of Goebel?


     After Czolgosz, the assassin, had been secured, he attributed his murderous impulse to a speech he had heard in Cleveland, delivered three or four months ago, by Emma Goldman. For this reason efforts to arrest Miss Goldman were promptly made. They resulted successfully on the 10th, when she was apprehended in Chicago. When she appeared before the chief of police, Mr. O’Neill, he offered his hand, but she refused to take it, saying: “If you were at your home, chief, I would not object to shaking hands with you, but I can’t shake hands with a police officer officially.” She also was put through the “sweat box” process. Her statement, as printed in the Chicago papers, was in substance, so far as it relates to her views and her possible complicity in Czolgosz’s crime, as follows:

     Czolgosz is not my disciple. I don’t believe he ever said he got his inspiration to kill the president from my lectures. “I never talked in favor of violence. I never advised anyone nor encouraged anyone, even in a general way, to kill or assassinate anyone. Anarchists don’t do such things.” If he heard my lecture in Cleveland it “must have been my lecture of May 6, for I have lectured there only twice this year. You can get a copy of the lecture and see for yourself whether it encourages violence. The subject was ‘Modern Phases of Anarchy,’ and the whole object was to show that anarchy is a philosophy of life, to be attained practically by education. It showed how the recent anarchy is all opposed to violence. That was a great point in the lecture.” I don’t know Czolgosz at all. I probably saw him the night of July 12, when I was leaving Chicago. We were having a little supper at Isaak’s house that evening, when some one came to the door and asked for Isaak. He was not in, and I was called to the door. I told the man that we were going to meet Isaak at the railway station, and that he could go down with us. At the depot I asked him how he got Isaak’s name. He said he was a subscriber to Free Society, and that he also knew me. I asked how he knew me, and he said he had heard me lecture at Cleveland. When Isaak came I pointed him out to the man, and had no further talk with him. I did not talk to him five minutes altogether. He did not go East with me. “I have never seen him since, that I know of. Certainly I have never talked to him or recognized him again. I don’t know whether I like his crime or not, for I know nothing of his psychology—whether he is crazy or not. I have never talked with him. I can’t say whether he is an anarchist or not. He may call himself an anarchist, but that does not mean necessarily that he understands anarchy.”

Interrupted by a detective with the declaration that “anarchy and murder are all the same,” Miss Goldman vehemently retorted:

     “That’s not true. Acts of violence have nothing to do with the philosophy of anarchy. Violence is the product of governmental conditions. Government is wholesale murder. It is not strange that some individuals murder, even though they are anarchists. . . . The anarchist is a man. If he is in despair and subject to the conditions that lead to murder, he will kill and slay, but he does it as a man, not as an anarchist. The very fact that Czolgosz approached us asking for help for violence and asking about secret societies, as Isaak tells us, indicates he was no true anarchist. Anarchists have no such societies. They have no secrets. They educate.”

Asked if Czolgosz’s crime and its effects meant “the death of anarchy in this country,” she replied:

     “No, no; you can kill all the anarchists, but you can’t kill their idea. The police are making anarchists by their acts toward me and the other prisoners. I was made an anarchist by the treatment of the Haymarket case. Thousands will be made anarchists by this treatment of us. They will make more anarchists than all of the lectures of the anarchists in the country can make. Facts convince.”

To the question, “Was the assassination a good thing?” she answered:

     I don’t know whether it was or not. That is for the man himself to decide.

And specifically asked if she had ever advocated assassination her response was—

     Never. How could I say: “Go and kill,” when anarchism will not tolerate it, has no secret organizations and is opposed to murder and violence?

She disclaimed all acquaintance with any of the Buffalo anarchists whose names have been mentioned in connection with Czolgosz’s crime; and while telling of having lectured in Paterson, N. J., said she did not know that group well, as she is ignorant of Italian. Miss Goldman is 35 years of age. She was born in Russia, the daughter of a tailor, and came to the United States at the age of 16. She lectures extensively, but makes her living as the representative of a supply house the identity of which she refuses to disclose. Seven years ago she served a term of imprisonment in the Blackwell’s island penitentiary, New York, on conviction of inciting a riot. While there she studied medicine and became a trained nurse. The hearing in Miss Goldman’s case is set for the 19th.


     As a result of Czolgosz’s crime, some extraordinary doctrines of violence have been preached, and revolutionary demands for change in the fundamental laws and principles of republican government have been made. The Philadelphia Press would apply to anarchists the “rigorous treatment practiced abroad.” The presiding elder of the Methodist churches of Washington, preaching in President McKinley’s church on the 8th, said in his sermon that the crime had almost converted him into “an advocate of lynch law;” while Dr. T. DeWitt Talmage, preaching on the same day at Ocean Grove, N. J., [361][362] called forth applause from 10,000 church goers by saying in his sermon:

     I wish the police at Buffalo who arrested the scoundrel who shot our adored president had taken the butt of the weapon and dashed the man’s brains out on the spot.

From Washington on the 8th, Walter Wellman reported that the president’s cabinet had agreed upon decisive action, which contemplates the drafting of a bill by the attorney general for submission to congress next winter making assaults upon the president as near like the monarchical crime of “lese majesty” as our constitution and form of government will permit. Congressman Schirm, of Maryland, proposes a constitutional amendment including conspiracies against the life of a president in the category of treason; and in this revolutionary proposal he is seconded by Senator Scott, of West Virginia, Gen. Harrison Gray Otis, of California, and other prominent men besides many newspapers.