The National Tragedy
Nearly a century ago, when the British premier Perceval was assassinated
by a lunatic, a member of the house of lords improved the opportunity
to score against the peers of the opposition party by exclaiming:
“You see, my lords, the consequence of your agitating the question
of Catholic emancipation.”
A casual review of the daily papers
of the past three weeks reveals eighteen different causes of the
crime of Czolgosz, assigned by different distinguished persons or
periodicals, positively and with all the fine composure of ignorance.
To maintain a reputation for wisdom one must always have a reason
for things that happen; and when the real cause for such happenings
is hid in the constitution of society itself; most people, if there
is blame to be placed, place it as did the noble lord, upon their
pet antipathy. One is disposed to ask why the assassin is to be
put to death when so many causes of his crime outside of himself
have been discovered.
The poor old potentate of the Vatican
stopped playing chess long enough to advise the bishops of southern
Italy that beside Anarchism and Socialism,—which are always the
causes of everything,—the Jews and the Free Masons are the principal
culprits. The pope’s special telegrams from the fountain of wisdom
must seem pretty thin to those who are not under Catholic domination.
Perhaps the wires are crossed and the simple old man is getting
his information from the wrong place. Henry George’s masterly analysis
of the religion in the present pope’s encyclical on “the condition
of labor,” showed conclusively that the pope is hardly an original
mind. He gets his ideas at second hand, and most of them are too
shopworn for availability in a crisis. To cry out against the Jews
and the Free Masons is but to prove that “his holiness” is dozing
over things in the last century. There are live men and women in
the world now, and live questions to solve.
If the old man in Rome is absurd in
his panic to keep up the decaying fences of Catholicism, the plutocratic
press is equally absurd in its efforts to perpetuate the capitalist
system. A crisis precipitated by a social wrong is always distinguished
by a scurrying on the part of those who are sleeping in the crater
of the social volcano. To those who have gone beneath the surface
and have found the cause of assassination festering deep down in
the sub-soil of our civilization, these scurrying efforts of the
parasites to find suitable cover are interesting lessons in self-preservation.
It is like the consternation manifested by the bugs and worms under
a flat stone Let in the light and they scurry. Light is a disagreeable
phenomenon to those who choose to sit in darkness; it is dis- 
concerting, and shows up decay. A worn-out coat does not look so
threadbare in the dark.
So when a German paper under capitalistic
“inspiration” assigns the assassination of the late president to
“liberal institutions,” we may plainly see that it is edited by
one sitting in darkness. A light above the horizon would show him
the German Kaiser quaking through his native streets literally enveloped
by mounted troops. Those others who attack free speech at this time
seem to forget that the system of censorship has been tried for
thousands of years without staying the assassin’s hand. You cannot
rid your house of sewer-gas by covering up; you must uncover;—let
in the light and air.