Source: Truth Seeker
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Enemies of Liberty”
Date of publication: 12 October 1901
Volume number: 28
Issue number: 41
|“Enemies of Liberty.” Truth Seeker 12 Oct. 1901 v28n41: pp. 644-45.|
|Kate Austin; anarchists (Caplinger Mills, MO); McKinley assassination (personal response: criticism); McKinley assassination (personal response); McKinley assassination (impact on society); anarchists (Chicago, IL); Emma Goldman; anarchism (laws against); Leon Czolgosz (execution: personal response); lawlessness (mob rule); Loran L. Lewis (public statements).|
|Kate Austin [misspelled once below]; Leon Czolgosz; Emma Goldman; Loran L. Lewis; William McKinley; Johann Most.|
Click here to view the letter to the editor by Kate Austin that the editorial (below) is written in response to.
Click here to view the 21 September 1901 Truth Seeker editorial in which the phrase “assassinated our liberties” (quoted below) appears.
In the original source, the editorial includes 41 misspelled words, all resulting from a replicated typographical error. This problem has been corrected below.
Enemies of Liberty
In another place Mrs. Kate Austin of Caplinger
Mills, Missouri, expresses her dissent from The Truth Seeker’s position regarding
the deed of Czolgosz and the best way of dealing with the murderous school he
represents. Let us see how far she is justified in her strictures.
We condemn the act of President McKinley’s assassin because it was murder and all that the word implies. It was a cowardly murder: with a concealed weapon Czolgosz shot McKinley as the latter put forth his hand in amity to grasp that of his assassin. Few men would shoot an enemy’s dog that had bitten him, under such circumstances. It was a useless murder, for it raised to the presidency a man who can be depended upon to carry out McKinley’s policy in the direction most criticised by Americans, or to inaugurate one still less likely to meet the approval of those who were dissatisfied before. Furthermore, by attributing his deed to the influence of spoken and published opinions, Czolgosz has precipitated an attack upon the freedom of press and of speech, and we shall be extremely fortunate if during the next decade we enjoy that liberty of utterance which has prevailed during the last one.
Since experience shows that the election of a citizen to the presidency exposes him as a target for assassins, it might be no more than fair to afford him extra protection, as we do, for example, the carriers of United States mails. The particular law protecting the person of the chief executive might not prove to be the one that should work “injustice to innocent people,” but the act of violence giving rise to it would be made  the excuse for both. That is what we mean when we say that Czolgosz, in assassinating our President, has “assassinated our liberties,” for that is what happens when the innocent suffer with the guilty. It is all very well to say that “no man can kill liberty,” but we should suppose that the Isaak family and Emma Goldman, in jail for the crime of another, would be of a different mind. They might be justified in thinking that if Czolgosz had not assassinated their liberty for the time, he had come near striking it a fatal blow.
There is a powerful agitation in favor of the most stringent laws against the exponents of the doctrine of Anarchy; the agitators being altogether blind, as we expect that the legislators will prove to be, to the distinction, wide as the world, between philosophical or non-resistant Anarchy and the school that teaches “propaganda by deed.” Already the bumptious Herr Most and the innocuous Home colonists of the state of Washington have been in the toils. A comprehensive law might also gather in such merely literary Anarchists as Mrs. Austin. If such a condition of affairs, the direct outcome of the act of President McKinley’s assailant, does not constitute an assassination of liberty, it comes near enough to it to justify the use of the phrase on an occasion when emphatic language was desired.
In asserting that we know her imprisoned comrades (meaning the publishers of Free Society and Emma Goldman) to be innocent of complicity, Mrs. Anstin ascribes to us knowledge we do not possess. We believe, however, that as rational beings they have too much sense to think there is anything to be gained for their cause by assassination, and have no doubt that when all the facts are known their arrest will pass as an outrage. The police authorities are not immune from panic, and such things are bound to occur so long as Brescis and Czolgoszes assassinate kings and presidents.
The argument that the judge upon the bench who condemns to death a man who has never injured him is as guilty as Czolgosz does not excuse the latter. The line of reasoning pursued by Mrs. Austin may lead her to that conclusion; but what then? Our judges, if guilty, will never be reformed by such examples as Czolgosz has set them.
We remain of the opinion that if capital punishment is ever justifiable, it is so in the case of President McKinley’s assassin. It was a premeditated crime, by the perpetration of which the criminal knowingly incurred the death penalty. It was not done in the heat of passion or in self-defense. The Truth Seeker does not, in revenge, demand an eye for an eye, but having due appreciation of the sanctity of human life, it bows to the necessity of adopting measures calculated to insure its safety. Mrs. Austin does not read this paper if she really thinks it dares not to condemn the spirit of mob violence fostered by press and pulpit. We say, as Judge Lewis of Buffalo said in what was technically called his defense of the prisoner, these exponents of lynch law “are a more dangerous class of the community than the Anarchists about whom we read so much.”