Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Plenty of Law Already”
Date of publication: 14 September 1901
Volume number: 4
Issue number: 180
|“Plenty of Law Already.” Public 14 Sept. 1901 v4n180: p. 364.|
|anarchism (public response); anarchism (laws against); anarchism (legal penalties).|
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 for anarchists.
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.