Publication information
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Source: Truth Seeker
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial column
Document title: “Observations”
Author(s): Macdonald, George E.
Date of publication: 5 October 1901
Volume number: 28
Issue number: 40
Pagination: 631-32

Macdonald, George E. “Observations.” Truth Seeker 5 Oct. 1901 v28n40: pp. 631-32.
Leon Czolgosz (confession); duty; McKinley assassination (personal response); William McKinley (presidential policies); William McKinley (death: public response: criticism); yellow journalism; the press (criticism); hymns (“Nearer, My God, to Thee”).
Named persons
Sarah Flower Adams; Moncure D. Conway; Leon Czolgosz; Benjamin Flower; Eliza Flower; W. J. Fox; William McKinley; Thomas Paine; Benjamin R. Tucker; Richard Watson.
The excerpt below comprises two nonconsecutive portions of the column (pp. 631-32 and p. 632). Omission of text within the excerpt is denoted with a bracketed indicator (e.g., [omit]).


Observations [excerpt]

     In a sigued [sic] statement written for publication Czolgosz says: “I killed President McKinley because I done my duty.” The grammar is not good, but the sentiment is orthodox. To do one’s duty fearlessly has always been regarded as the sum of human excellence. When the question of the destiny of this nation arose before William McKinley and those who thought they saw in his policy a tendency toward imperialism, he replied that duty determined destiny. He meant that if a man or nation attended strictly to duty destiny would take care of itself. So both the President and his [631][632] assassin are martyrs to duty, it being perhaps unavoidable that their duties should conflict and their destinies get mixed.
     In the great book wherein the true basis of anarchy is expounded—to wit, “Instead of a Book,” by B. R. Tucker—the author lays down the maxim that anarchists have no duties, and are under obligation to neither God nor man to do anything; whence it appears that the act of Czolgosz was wholly unphilosophical and not anarchical. Of a truth, his deed and the motive he alleges are both fanatical. There is no argument weaker than murder, and there are few excuses so vague as duty.
     Mr. Czolgosz deserves some credit for not pleading the “higher law.” In consideration of this, when he is good and dead we will overlook his grammar.


     Now the finger of odium is pointed from press and pulpit at persons who did not observe the day of McKinley’s burial as a day of worship and prayer. The President’s friends should stop this. His claim to martyrdom is not strengthened by creating the impression that he was butchered to make a public holiday.


     Of course the publishers of the yellow journals that reviled and cartooned McKinley alive and went into ostentatious mourning when he died, are hypocritical in the extreme, and deserve condemnation. But there are mitigating circumstances. For instance, their abuse was as insincere as their praise.


     All the world sang “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” on the day the President was buried. It was his favorite hymn. The world and the President were indebted for that hymn to Miss Sarah Flower, a young Englishwoman. She was the daughter of a Unitarian minister, Benjamin Flower, who in the early part of the last century went to jail for criticising the Bishop of Llandaff, author of Watson’s “Apology for the Bible,” a reply to Paine’s “Age of Reason.” There were two of the Flower girls, Sarah and Eliza. Sarah wrote the words of the hymu [sic] in 1840, and Eliza set them to music. Both were regular attendants at the South Place chapel, London, of which Dr. Moncure D. Conway has long been the minister, during the term of his predecessor, Mr. W. J. Fox. Many years ago “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” was condemned as a Unitarian hymn, containing, “not an atom of gospel.”



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