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Source: Truth Seeker
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “Roosevelt as a Sociologist”
Author(s): Pentecost, Hugh O.
Date of publication: 28 December 1901
Volume number: 28
Issue number: 52
Pagination: 819

Pentecost, Hugh O. “Roosevelt as a Sociologist.” Truth Seeker 28 Dec. 1901 v28n52: p. 819.
full text
Theodore Roosevelt (first annual message to Congress); anarchism (personal response); anarchism (government response: criticism); McKinley assassination (personal response: criticism); Theodore Roosevelt (criticism); anarchists; assassins; assassinations (comparison); McKinley assassination (public response: anarchists); government; anarchism (criticism); Theodore Roosevelt (presidential policies); McKinley assassination (personal response); society (criticism); economic system (impact on society); Theodore Roosevelt (personal character); trusts; freedom of speech (restrictions on).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; James A. Garfield; William Goebel; Elbert Hubbard; Jesus Christ; Peter Kropotkin [misspelled below]; William McKinley; Thomas Paine; Peter; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; Theodore Roosevelt; Henry David Thoreau; Leo Tolstoy.
The bracketed text in paragraph 15 (below) is part of the original text (i.e., not an editorial inclusion).

In the original source, the article includes 5 misspelled words, all resulting from a replicated typographical error. This problem has been corrected below.


Roosevelt as a Sociologist


“The President’s Eyes Are Closed by the Fat of Prosperity That Attends His Career”—Not All Anarchists Are Assassins, Nor Do All Soldier’s [sic] Shoot a Fleeing Enemy in the Back—The Deed of Czolgosz Repudiated by Opponents of Invasive Government.

     I take it for granted that all of you know that in his recent message to Congress President Roosevelt devoted about a newspaper column and a half to the discussion of the death of his predecessor, coupled with the subject of Anarchy and Anarchists.
     I have postponed comment on this portion cf [sic] the message until it was nearly two weeks old in order to avoid that heat of feeling that is so fatal to reasonable discussion.
     What surprised me was that the President should consider Anarchists of sufficient importance to justify such prominent attention. The kind of Anarchists he has in mind are few in number and, as a rule, very poor, so that when the President speaks of them as a menace to the nation it is almost amusing. But having elected to devote so much attention to them it is strange that he did not more fully inform himself of his subject. It is plain that our President has no more conception of what Anarchism and Anarchists are than he had of the real character of Thomas Paine when he called that great prophet of human liberty and profound believer in a personal God and the immortality of the soul a “filthy little Atheist.” If it had not been for Thomas Paine and such men as he Mr. Roosevelt would not be our President, for there would have been no presidency, but all that Mr. Roosevelt can say of Paine is that he was a “filthy little Atheist;” and he is equally ignorant and unjust with regard to Anarchists and Anarchism.
     It is true that there are some assassins who call themselves Anarchists, but it is no more true that all Anarchists are assassins or apologists for assassins than it would be true to say that all Republicans are assassins because a Republican, as a Republican, shot President Garfield, or, more recently, Governor Goebel of Kentucky.
     Is it not a little strange that the assassination of a public official by a man who calls himself an Anarchist is so much more shocking than the assassination of a public official by a Republican or a Democrat?
     It is no more true that all Anarchists are assassins or apologists of assassins because a particular murderer calls himself an Anarchist, than it is true that all soldiers are assassins because one particular soldier shoots a fleeing enemy in the back, or that all the apostles of Christ were assassins because Peter with a sword attacked an officer in the performance of his duty.
     The probability is that the man who slew President McKinley, and his deed, are more revolting to most Anarchists than to most non-Anarchists, for intelligent Anarchists, like all other intelligent people, have grown out of the barbarism of deeds of violence. Anarchists do, indeed, understand that the government is the agent of the predatory rich, by means of which they are enabled to despoil the poor, but they are not so gnorant [sic] as to suppose that the government can be killed by killing rulers. They know that the government exists not at the Capitol, nor the City Hall, but in the people’s minds, and that it will never cease until it is eliminated from the human mind.
     Now let us glance at some of the President’s sayings:
     Here is one: “Anarchy is no more an expression of ‘social discontent’ than picking pockets or wife beating.” Certainly not; but the two crimes mentioned are precisely expressions of “social discontent.” Were society equitably organized there would be no pocket-picking nor wife-beating. Only the discontented do these things.
     “The Anarchist is a criminal whose perverted instincts lead him to prefer confusion and chaos to the most beneficent form of social order.” This is an expression of the grossest ignorance. No man is a criminal until he violates the law; and if the President does not know that Proudhon, Count Tolstoy, Prince Krapotkin, Elbert Hubbard, and other Anarchists are the advocates of a social order beside which our present governments are “confusion and chaos,” he should not have touched the subject.
     “His protest of concern for workingmen is outrageous in its impudent falsity, for if the political traditions of this country do not afford opportunity to every honest and intelligent son of toil, then the door of hope is forever closed against him.” In this connection it is interesting to turn to another part of the message and read as follows: “Not only must our labor be protected by the tariff, but it should also be protected so far as it is possible from the presence in this country of any laborers brought over by contract, or of those who, coming freely, yet represent a standard of living so depressed that they can undersell our men in the labor market, and drag them to a lower level. I regard it as necessary, with this end in view, to reenact immediately the law excluding Chinese laborers and to strengthen it wherever necessary in order to make its enforcement entirely effective.” Here is a striking commentary on the “opportunity” that “every honest and intelligent son of toil” has in this country. What opportunity has the negro or the Indian? What opportunity has any son of toil to become anything but a son of toil, or an exploiter of other sons of toil?
     Every sensible person knows that it is a silly crime to kill a President for the benefit of working men, but every sensible person also knows that opportunities are owned in this country by the few, as they are in all countries—land, money, machinery, houses, opportunities to labor and to live are all owned by the few, and if any “son of toil” ever gets the advantage of these opportunities he doesn’t do it as a “son of toil,” but as a clever legal thief of one kind or another.
     If opportunities are so great in this country how is it that crime and pauperism, two symbols of despair, are increasing faster than population?
     The President’s eyes are closed by the fat of prosperity that attends his career as if he were some chosen son of the God of Success.
     I will refer to but one more of the President’s utterances on the subject in hand, viz.: “He [the Anarchist] is in no sense, in no shape or way, a product of ‘social conditions,’ save as a highwayman is ‘produced’ by the fact that an unarmed man happens to have a purse.” This is smartly said. The sentence is catchy. But, like many smart sayings, it isn’t true. I take it that every style of man we have is a product of social conditions: The priest and the politician, the saint and the sinner, the thief and the policeman, the ruler and the assassin of the ruler. To suppose that every sort of person but the Anarchist is the product of his environment is foolish. Even the highwayman is produced, not, indeed, by the fact that an unarmed man has a full purse, but by the fact that most full purses are full by reason of the emptiness of the empty purses.
     Mr. Roosevelt is no more shocked and horrified by the deed of a person who could shoot another as President McKinley was shot than I am, but he is mistaken when he says that these misguided fanatics are nothing other than common murderers; quite as mistaken as he would be if he should say that a man who shoots his foe on the battlefield is a common murderer. However much all enlightened people must reprobate the act of an assassin, no well-informed, unprejudiced person can fail to see that there is a difference between a fanatic who knows that he himself is going to certain death for an idea, and a common murderer. His idea may be erroneous, but he dies for it with a courage and devotion which is wholly lacking in the act of a common murderer. I very much question whether, if he had known he was going to certain death, Mr. Roosevelt’s patriotism would have led him to Cuba.
     Not only does the President fail to understand the political assassin, but he utterly fails to discriminate between those bloody-handed king-killers who call themselves anarchists and Anarchists like Tolstoy, who become such by trying to follow the teaching of Jesus, or like Thoreau and Elbert Hubbard, who become such by intellectual and emotional illumination far beyond that enjoyed by any armed hunter of man or beast. I am not surprised that the President does not understand the subject or the people of whom he writes, for, being a man of politics and a son of battle, he is in a stage of development which renders him incapable of knowing what manner of people real Anarchists are. Men of politics cannot understand men of ideals. Sons of battle cannot understand the children of peace.
     Every one who knows anything knows that the least danger that threatens this nation is that from so-called anarchist assassins, for among all the Presidents we have ever had only one has been slain by a so-called anarchist, but the President magnifies this little danger and expends his rhetoric upon it. Mark you now how gently he deals with a real danger, viz., the existence of the predatory trust. The sugar trust alone, with its legal larceny from the poor of $36,000,000 per annum, is an enemy of the nation that might well call for special and caustic attention, but on the subject of trusts Mr. Roosevelt roars you like a sucking dove. Observe his opening sentence on that theme: “The mechanism of modern business is so delicate that extreme care must be taken not to interfere with it in a spirit of rashness or ignorance.” If the predatory trust magnate ever had any fear of what the President intended so [sic] say about trusts, that single sentence would have banished all his terror. Stamp out the Anarchist, who strikes at an individual once in a hundred years! Deal gently with the trust that eats the vitals of the whole people every day and hour!
     What harm did the wretched, crazy Buffalo murderer do to this nation? Mr. Roosevelt himself says: “His deed worked not the slightest dislocation in our governmental system, and the danger of a recurrence of such deeds, no matter how great it might grow, would work only in the direction of strengthening and giving harshness to the forces of order.” The plain meaning of these words is, “Let the Anarchist rage. He cannot harm the government. He can only strengthen it.” But the predatory trusts can destroy the nation, and will destroy it unless it destroys them. That gang in Wall street [sic] who stack the cards and load the dice in the game they play, impoverish thousands and fill suicides’ graves every year. There is for them, however, nothing but honeyed words or gentle cautions in the message of the President. Hang the Anarchist, whether he practices or preaches, but foster the predatory trust by a protective tariff and subsidy bills!
     The President may not have meant it so, but his message is but an echo of the agitation that broke out immediately after the lamentable death of President McKinley for the suppression of all criticism of things as they are. It is not assassins that are feared; it is criticism, hence the President says: “Anarchistic speeches, writings, and meetings are essentially seditious and treasonable.” It is a fact that at the present time every publication in this country that advocates unconventional doctrines, religious, political, or sociologic, is having more or less trouble with the United States authorities. Under the pretense of reducing the quantity of second-class mail matter there appears to be an attack all along the line on radical publications. The strongest attempt for a hundred years to stifle free speech is now being made, and such an attempt always indicates irritation on the part of the powers that be at fair and honest criticism.
     If any one fancies for a moment that I have any fellowship with assassins, of course he wholly misapprehends my meaning. Or if any one imagines that I mean to attack the President, he is equally mistaken. The President is a very bright man, whose attention has been so much occupied by politics and war that he has not had time to study sociological questions as viewed by individualists; and all that I have tried to do is to show you that in his misapprehension of the true situation he set up a Krupp gun to kill an Anarchist fly all the while that he was warming in his bosom a predatory trust, a serpent that is destined to bite him.



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