Source: Truth Seeker
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Enough of This!”
Date of publication: 5 October 1901
Volume number: 28
Issue number: 40
|“Enough of This!” Truth Seeker 5 Oct. 1901 v28n40: p. 628.
|Henry Codman Potter (public statements); anarchism (personal response); freedom of speech; McKinley assassination (personal response: criticism); William McKinley (presidential character); McKinley assassination (personal response); McKinley assassination (public response: criticism).
|Marie Joseph Lafayette; William McKinley; Thomas Paine; Henry Codman Potter; George Washington.
Enough of This!
Bishop Henry C. Potter of the Episcopal diocese of New York boils over in the following uuwonted [sic] manner:
“There is something wrong in our hereditary American doctrines. Certain elements in the Constitution are wrong. There were among those who made it men who drew their inspiration from the French revolutionists. To them the modern anarchist might be extravagant. The principles of modern anarchy would not be extravagant. Free speech would not be extravagant to them. There is no such thing. It is licentiousness.
“Real free speech is an impossibility in decent society. If I go into your home and by my spoken words poison the minds of your growing sons and daughters it is not a proper free speech. It is monstrous. It is licensed speech. There should be no more law for that sort of free speech than for free gunpowder.”
The words are taken from the World’s report of Bishop Potter’s sermon of September 22. The element in our Constitution which he asserts is wrong is the first amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
There are few ministers of any denomination
who like that part of the Constitution. It is particularly obnoxious to priests
of the Episcopal church, which would have become the established church if that
amendment had not been adopted along with the Constitution. Bishop Potter’s
dislike for it, therefore, is hereditary and inexpugnable. There is, however,
no connection between that part of the Constitution and Anarchy. Anarchy of
the sort that expresses itself in homicide, and whose adherents do not differ
from members of any other order of assassins, was not bred in the same soil
as that element of the Constitution, but it is a product of political and religious
tyranny in the Old World. The Anarchists, like the Episcopalians, are of Romau
[sic] Catholic antecedents. They therefore have the same inherited inability
to appreciate our institutions as Bishop Potter. They confound our president
with the crowned heads of Europe; he thinks the purpose of government is to
suppress instead of protect freedom.
That guarantee of free speech in the Constitution is worth more to the country than all the preaching of the Episcopal pulpit since the first chaplain of Congress turned Tory and prayed God to make another of George Washington. If our fathers had listened to the priests of Potter’s church, this country would not have become a republic; had it achieved independence it would have been as an American monarchy.
In the bishop’s allusion to the French Revolutionists he has placed the effect before the cause, or, as the homely saying is, the cart before the horse, for the American Revolution antedated the French Revolution by nearly two decades and our Constition [sic] was adopted before the French Revolution broke out. France credited America with having set the example which she tried to follow, and after her Revolution Lafayette sent the key of the Bastile [sic] to Washington in acknowledgment of the principles which had opened and destroyed that fortress of oppression. The words inscribed on the Liberty Bell, “Proclaim liberty throughout the laud [sic], unto all the inhabitants thereof,” were not quoted from the “French Revolutionists,” but from a book that Bishop Potter professes to believe was inspired by God. The man whose writings made this country a republic was not a French Revolutionist, but an Englishman; his name was Thomas Paine, and he was outlawed by Episcopal England.
The other day there arrived in this country a United States transport bringing the bodies of more than three thousand American soldiers who had given their lives to uphold President McKinley’s policy in the Philippine Islands. Whether that policy was right or wrong it does not now concern us to discuss, but we call attention to the fact that this sacrifice of life elicited no cry of horror from Bishop Potter, nor did he say that there were some elements in the business that were wrong. The death of these men does not prove the policy wrong, for the right as well as the wrong has its martyrs. And neither does the death of President McKinley discredit the principle of freedom enunciated by the Constitution.
President McKinley appears to have been a sincere believer in the equality of men, and although warned that he put his life in jeopardy when he stood upon the floor of the Temple of Music in Buffalo to meet his countrymen as equals, he did not shrink. He died in illustrating the American principle of republicanism; and the attack on liberty which has followed his death might well put tongues in the “poor dumb mouths” of all his wounds to cry out against the purposes for which the circumstances of his death are used by demagogues and priests.