Plenty of Law Already
Probably no great harm will come
from the vast amount of ignorant and foolish talk now indulged in
by many people who ought to know better in regard to new penalties
The fact that even lawyers in all
parts of the country are quoted in favor of defining an attack upon
the president as treason; that other lawyers urge military trials;
that congressmen and others who should be better informed propose
that an ex post facto law should be passed covering Czolgosz’s case,
and the further fact that there is much clamor for immediate action
by congress in various directions, all go to show that there is
vast public ignorance of the law and the constitution, to say nothing
of the nature of our government.
The constitution of the United States
defines treason against the United States as levying war against
them or in adhering to their enemies or in giving the latter aid
and comfort. It also provides that no ex post facto law should be
passed. Elsewhere it is written that cruel and unusual punishments
shall not be inflicted.
There are laws enough in the United
States and in every state to punish adequately every attempt against
the life of any American citizen, from the highest to the humblest.
The only thing that is necessary in the case of Czolgosz is that
he shall be indicted, tried, convicted and punished for the crime
which he committed. For all this the laws of the state of New York,
and of all states, are adequate, except as to the matter of intent.
In his sober moments no intelligent
citizen of the United States would undertake to open the way, even
by a constitutional amendment, which would be necessary to that
end, for wholesale prosecutions on the charge of treason. The history
of the race shows the wisdom of the founders of this government
in strictly defining the crime of treason.
It has been held for many years that
our criminal laws are defective in respect to the punishment to
be inflicted upon a man intent upon murder who may not accomplish
his purpose. A great deal is to be said in favor of the proposition
that an assassin who proceeds to his murderous business with deliberation,
and who fails of his object through some fault not his own, should
receive the same penalties that would be inflicted in case death
resulted by his act. If the attempt upon the life of the president
shall happily prove unsuccessful the fact may induce many of the
states to change their laws in this respect.
Deliberate intent to commit murder,
whether the victim be the president of the United States or the
humblest citizen, should be punished much more severely than it
is. No other change in our laws appears to be necessary.—Editorial
in Chicago Chronicle of September 11.