Publication information

Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: none
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 4
Issue number: 181
Pagination: 369-72

[untitled]. Public 21 Sept. 1901 v4n181: pp. 369-72.
full text
McKinley assassination (personal response); William McKinley (mourning); William McKinley (death: public response: criticism); lawlessness (mob rule); anarchism; McKinley assassination (investigation: Buffalo, NY: criticism); Thomas Penney (public statements); Elihu Root; Rufus A. White (public statements); anarchism (religious response); McKinley assassination (public response: criticism); Frank Crane (public statements); John R. Crosser (public statements); Peter J. Muldoon (public statements); Charles D. Williams; resolutions (St. Louis Single Tax League); McKinley assassination (public response); resolutions (City Council, Chicago, IL); McKinley assassination (government response); Virginia Constitutional Convention; McKinley assassination (government response: criticism); freedom of speech (restrictions on); Quincy Ewing; anarchism (Russia); Leo Tolstoy.
Named persons
Frank I. Bennett; Allen Caperton Braxton; William S. Bull; Charles J. Byrne; Frank Crane; John R. Crosser; Winfield P. Dunn; Quincy Ewing; Benjamin Franklin; Emma Goldman; Julius Goldzier; Carter H. Harrison, Jr.; Patrick Henry; David Bennett Hill; Thomas Jefferson; James Madison; William Mavor; William McKinley; Peter J. Muldoon; Thomas Penney; Elihu Root; John E. Scully; John F. Smulski; Hiram W. Thomas; Leo Tolstoy [variant spelling below]; Rufus A. White; Charles D. Williams.


     At the time of our last issue it was expected that Mr. McKinley would recover. Since then he has died. But this calls for no revision of our comment, made under the impression that he would survive the murderous assault upon him. It is the assault, not the president痴 death, that constitutes the essence of the crime. The death inspires deeper sorrow for the victim, warmer sympathy for the bereaved, a keener sense of the grandeur of democratic-republican institutions, which have by this murder been impotently assailed. But the essential conditions are unaltered.


     The fatal outcome of the crime, however, has garbed a nation in mourning. For one brief interval on the funeral day it literally stood still. Every railroad train and street car stopped wherever they happened to be at the instant. The thought of this is impressively suggestive of a people turning from their routine of duties and with one accord mourning their dead. Nor could anyone hesitate at joining in a ceremony so simple and so strictly significant of the death of a chief magistrate and of nothing else. It was free from partianship [sic], free from revengeful impulses, free from the mob spirit, free from hysteria. Wherever one might be, and whatever his opinion of the record of the dead, he could but welcome an opportunity to bow in unison with all his fellow citizens as a token of national respect for the departed first servant of the republic.


     No well balanced man, left to his own reflections can stand in the presence of death unawed. None can think of a wife widowed, without sorrow. None can contemplate a murder without horror. None can consider the portentous significance of the assassination of the head of a democratic republic with unblanched cheek. So no American citizen who appreciates his responsibility and whose mind is unruffled can regard the assassination of President McKinley even with apparent indifference. If any have done so, it is only fair to assume that they have recoiled from giving pronounced expression to their sorrow under circumstances which were practically coercive. It is not an uncommon characteristic for men to gratify even their own wishes grudgingly or not at all, when under compulsion or appearances of compulsion.


     Unhappily the spirit of coercion has been too much in evidence in connection with this national mourning. One shrinks instinctively, of course, from doubting the sincerity of the general expression of sorrow; yet the dead president痴 admirers over the country have adopted methods which unhappily do leave it open to suspicion. By mobbing embittered men whose coarse or thoughtless utterances against the dead president should have been quietly ignored, and by making their own extravagant praises of his personality and public service a standard of patriotism to be accepted by all under more or less thinly veiled threats, they have brought the sincerity of this national expression of sorrow into legitimate question. Who can distinguish the sincere from the hypocritical, when fear reigns? Had a wiser, not to say more manly, course been pursued, had vulgar detractors been left alone, and pains been taken to show that hypocritical professions of sorrow instead of being demanded were not desired, the national mourning would have been sincere beyond cavil, and at least as general and all the more cordial because absolutely free.


     In one respect the dangers resulting from the murderous attack upon President McKinley will probably be very much intensified by his death. 鄭narchy for the suppression of anarchy, as one Chicago clergyman aptly puts it, is more likely to stalk abroad than if the president had recovered. His death appeals to the diseased imaginations of the lawless-minded who manage newspapers, who get into pulpits, and who in the name of law and order instigate mobs to ignore the law and to create disorder.


     This menacing spirit has gone so far as to incite influential men coolly to urge even sworn officers of the law to blink at perjury in order to make a case where no case exists. The evidence appears in two morning papers. In a Buffalo dispatch of September 12, published in the Chicago Chronicle of the 13th, this statement was made:

     Mr. Penney and Superintendent of Police Bull would undoubtedly have applied to the governor of New York for requisition papers to extradite Miss Goldman if only for the purpose of giving a reason for the Chicago police to retain their hold on the woman, but the plan met with such serious opposition from Secretary Root and other members of the cabinet that it was abandoned. Now Penney and Bull are indifferent as to whether Miss Goldman is held or turned loose. They simply say they do not want her in Buffalo.

Compare that statement with this dialogue from another Buffalo dispatch of the same date published in the Chicago Record-Herald of the 13th. The dialogue takes place between the correspondent and District Attorney [369][370] Penney, of Buffalo. Questioning Mr. Penney, the correspondent said:

     的t has been charged, he was told, 鍍hat an endeavor has been made to bring Emma Goldman here on trumped-up charges.
     典hat is quite true, he replied. 典hose most concerned in the conviction of the president痴 assailant have desired that the whole truth be known, but they have been constantly opposed to getting beyond the limits of the law of the state. It is generally believed that if Emma Goldman was once delivered to the Buffalo authorities we could strengthen our case. I am compelled to admit that strong pressure has been brought to bear upon me to permit of a trumped-up charge being filed against the woman, thus insuring her delivery by the Illinois authorities. I am fully alive to the necessities which confront me, but I cannot ignore the requirements of the law, and the police have not been able to justify the demand for her transfer from Illinois.

We forbear comment upon this disclosure of anarchistic influences of the worst kind擁nfluences which would strike at the integrity of the law itself. The two dispatches speak too plainly to need interpretation, and comment would be altogether superfluous.


     It is gratifying to note, however, that Secretary Root has appeared throughout this whole tragedy as a man who preserves his balance and who believes in law and order謡ho really believes in it. And although the pulpit of most denominations has been disgraced at this critical moment with utterances inspired by the most vicious spirit of mobocracy, and its twin sister autocracy, some ministers have proved themselves as level headed as Mr. Root. It would be impossible to name all. Needless to say that Dr. Hiram W. Thomas, of Chicago, is one. Rev. Rufus A. White is another. Says Mr. White:

     A little more general respect for law by all classes, a full appreciation of the fact that every man who breaks laws, be he rich or poor, high or low, practices anarchy, will do more to destroy the anarchy of the Herr Mosts than much talk and many persecutions. No compromise with that kind of anarchy; but in the meantime let many newspapers, preachers, organizations and corporations now clamoring for revenge against the 途eds repeat the old adage: 撤hysician, heal thyself.

Dr. Frank S. Crane is another Chicago minister whose sensible words are worth remembering:

     Above all, let each honest man search himself and see if there be in his thought, word or deed anything of injustice, of pride, of the prostitution of his advantages of gifts or of talents that may in any wise have given semblance of cause for the fact that some of the human beings among us have left off the proper joy of life and have given themselves over to the propaganda of diabolism, murder, anarchy and hate.

Here is another reassuring sentiment. We quote from the Rev. John R. Crosser:

     I am not afraid that the anarchy on Carroll avenue will ever destroy our institutions. It is too black and ugly. The anarchy to be found on the boulevards is the most dangerous, the anarchy which buys a legislature. Anarchy cannot be put down with laws. We can learn nothing from European countries in this regard except what not to do. We must be careful not to go too far in annihilating the class of anarchists found on Carroll avenue, lest we injure many others who really have the best interests of our country at heart.

Dr. Muldoon, the auxiliary bishop of the Catholic arch-diocese of Chicago, gives wise counsel:

     In the present moment of excitement we who love liberty should be careful that our love for the dead president does not tempt us to acts or expressions that, in themselves, injure or lessen the effects of constitutional form. No provocation on the part of disciples of anarchy will permit us to deprive them of any of their constitutional rights and privileges. It is sad to see, in these moments of excitement, that certain clergymen and public men go so far as to intimate that the people should take the law in their own hands, and not wait for the proper procedure in the line of punishment.

In the same strain was the sermon of Charles D. Williams, dean of Trinity cathedral, Cleveland, who, as reported by the Plain Dealer, 殿dopted a somewhat different tone from the other Cleveland ministers. After 電welling upon the noble character of the president and the awfulness of the crime, says the Plain Dealer, he

went on to say that it was the duty of all good citizens of a Christian nation to protest against the clamor for lynch law which had arisen since the shooting of the president. He declared that this desire for bloody revenge was unworthy a Christian community. He also protested against overhasty legislation against anarchists. He said that if it is desired to make the lives of our rulers precious the lesson must be taught that all human life is precious. This can be taught not by oppression, he said, but by the kindly effort to help the unfortunate and elevate the lowly.

Pulpit pronouncements like these預nd many more like them might be quoted,容ncourage the hope that a more orderly spirit will quickly succeed the frenzy which for the past two weeks has seemed to possess so many persons who are usually neither criminal in purpose nor insane in speech.


     The best resolutions on the assassination of President McKinley that have come to our attention are those adopted by the St. Louis Single Tax league. They stand out conspicuously and reassuringly from the mass of sickly rhetoric and un-American appeals to the mob spirit with which a crazed people have been deluged. Although adopted when it was expected that the late president would recover, they need no alteration now. We think them well worthy of reproduction in full:

     We regard with horror and detestation the attempted assassination of President McKinley, and rejoice in the prospects of his speedy recovery. We believe that all men are by natural, unalienable right equally free, and that the sole rightful function of government is the preservation of equal freedom and the prevention of aggression by any persons against the persons and property of other persons. Any such aggression is a crime against nature and against all people, and one of the greatest and most horrible of such aggressions is the crime of deliberate assassination. While the crime would be equally great if committed against the poorest and most obscure man or woman, because President McKinley occupies the position of a representative and agent of the whole people, selected by popular vote to execute laws made by the people themselves, the man who attempted his murder struck a blow at every one of us and at free popular government, by which alone right political principles can be established. We insist, however, that through liberty alone [370][371] can we escape the terrors of anarchy溶ot political freedom, merely, but economic liberty as well. When we return to natural economic laws, and labor reaps its full reward, and only then, shall we have a generally happy and prosperous people, in which anarchy and aggression will disappear.


     In this connection, also, the mayor and aldermen of Chicago deserve especial recognition and praise. While other bodies were passing resolutions with reference to the president痴 death, in which disregard of the genius of our institutions and even of the dignity of our laws was either expressly urged, or indirectly encouraged by silence on that point when the mob spirit was rampant in high places, the mayor and aldermen of Chicago struck a high note for law and order. They denounced the crime of Mr. McKinley痴 assassin, as vehemently as any other public body, characterizing it

as a crime against the illustrious man, as a crime against his sorrowing family, as a crime against the high and useful office he held, as a crime against the free institutions of our democratic-republican government.

They furthermore demanded

that the perpetrator of this crime, and all instigators and confederates, should any be discovered, be subjected to the penalties of the criminal law in their full severity.

But they did not stop there. They went on to rebuke the lawless spirit of the hour by insisting that punishment in these cases should be inflicted in no hysterical or vindictive spirit, but

with all the dignity of outraged justice, and strictly in conformity to those sacred institutions of our republic which are designed for the protection of innocence and the preservation of order and liberty.

The committee which reported these resolutions was chosen by Mayor Harrison, and was composed of Aldermen Mavor, Goldzier, Bennett, Smulski, Dunn, Scully and Byrne. The council adopted the resolutions unanimously. In a city in which there has been so marked a disposition by mobs incited擁n the name of law and order, God save the mark傭y some newspapers and some individuals, this action of the mayor and council is especially gratifying. They, and not the promoters and stimulators of hysteria, have, as we believe, faithfully represented the sentiment of Chicago.


     Virginia has more to mourn than the death of a president. The half-masted flags and the somber draperies that mark her public buildings tell a double story of humiliation and sorrow. For Virginia, the home of Jefferson and Madison and the scene of Patrick Henry痴 thrilling speech for liberty, has become the first to propose repudiation of free government as a failure. Her constitutional convention, carried away let us hope by the emotional insanity of the hour, has decided to strike 吐reedom of speech out of the liberties guaranteed in her bill of rights. This must have been in obedience to a crazy impulse, for who can conceive an act so self-destructive and revolutionary, as deliberately possible in the organic-law-making body of any American state? With those words struck out of the constitution of Virginia, any Virginia legislature can prohibit public speaking of any kind that it disapproves. To give up such a right, the right of free speech, for which our race has fought for more than a thousand years, is to give up one of the great essentials of liberty. And for what? To secure safety for the lives of public officials? No. Free speech is a better guarantee against assassination than suppression is. Where free speech goes out, underground conspiracies come in. That is one of the lessons of history. But suppose it were otherwise. Suppose that safety for officials could be purchased by putting a gag upon public speech. Would it be worth the price? Is not old Ben Franklin痴 maxim as true in spirit to-day as in the days 鍍hat tried men痴 souls? Here is one of the best lessons which that sage of our infant republic left us:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Is it yet too late for the Virginia convention to withdraw from the path of absolutism upon which it has entered? Cannot the one voice that was raised in that convention against this suicidal action, the voice of A. C. Braxton, one of the republican leaders幼annot he resurrect the deadened democracy of his Democratic colleagues? Shall panic, played upon by traitors to liberty, be allowed to swamp this republic as it has swamped all others? And shall Virginia熔f all the states, Virginia耀hall she lead the way into the quagmires of absolutism?


     How short a time since the people of the south were supposed to have almost a monopoly of the lawless spirit which has risen now black and grim above the whole country. Southern mobs have burned negroes suspected of crimes against women, and Southern opinion, Southern papers, Southern pulpits and Southern statesmen have apologized for it揺ave even urged it on. Northern as well as Southern mobs are now possessed of the same spirit of crime. They would tear limb from limb men and women whom they do not even suspect, whom no one really suspects, but whom they wish to suspect, of complicity in the murder of the president. How plainly this shows that the spirit of the mob belongs exclusively to no section. It is all one, the burning of negroes with impunity by mobs in the South, and the cry for mob vengeance against 殿narchists by press and preachers and public officials in the North. But out of the South there comes a voice to which in this hour of popular madness the whole country should stop and listen. Quincy Ewing, rector of an Episcopalian church in Mississippi, a southerner of southerners, preaches to a Mississippi congregation against Southern lynching in a tone that should reach the ear of the North also溶ot as a lesson to the North on the sins of the South, but as a lesson on its own sins. Mr. Ewing痴 sermon, republished from the Boston Herald in our Miscellany department this week, comes to the country as a message with ref- [371][372] erence to lynching 殿narchists, almost as pointedly as if that, instead of Negro lynching, were its burden. The same remark applies to the Boston Herald editorial with which we introduce the sermon. It is to hoped [sic] that in discussing the murder of President McKinley, the Herald has preserved the same balance.


     In Russia they make no 吐ine-spun distinctions about anarchy. Says a news report of September 12, from St. Petersburg:

     The pupils of a young ladies school near Count Tolstoi痴 residence at Yasnaia, who, with the teacher and other young persons of the neighborhood, called upon him and presented the count with flowers, have been arrested and their teacher has been dismissed.

That attitude of government toward such anarchists as Tolstoi, influenced as it is by no 吐ine-spun distinctions between anarchists who want to kill and those who want to stop killing, ought to be satisfactory even to David B. Hill.