Source: Socialist Spirit
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The National Tragedy”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 1
Issue number: 2
|“The National Tragedy.” Socialist Spirit Oct. 1901 v1n2: pp. 3-4.|
|McKinley assassination (public response: socialists); McKinley assassination (public response: criticism); society (criticism); McKinley assassination (religious response: criticism).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Henry George; Spencer Perceval.|
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.