An Inappropriate Speech
THE speech of Judge Lewis before the jury in the
Czolgosz case was a remarkable exhibition of bad taste, but it was
not unexpected. The hesitation of Judge Titus to accept the appointment
of the court gave an indication that the two gentlemen selected
as Czolgosz’s counsel were paying more attention to criticisms regarding
their connection with the case than was to be expected of men of
reputable standing in their profession. They sought with painful
solicitude to escape criticism that was not worth noticing; they
succeeded in inviting criticism that has much greater foundation.
When the time came for a presentation
of the defense of the assassin Czolgosz to the jury it was incumbent
upon his counsel to say what could be said in his defense, and stop
there. If nothing could have been said, silence would have been
more dignified and more in keeping with the duties of the occasion
than a lengthy address on other topics, nominally delivered to the
jury, but in reality intended for the general public. It was, in
brief, an elaborate and needless defense of the counsel and a symposium
on lynch law instead of a defense of the prisoner.
Granting the logic of every word that
was said, the time and place of its saying were altogether inappropriate.
Buffalo is to be congratulated on the fact that mob law did not
reign at the moment when the nation’s chief was stricken down, and
the police officials are entitled to all credit for their capable
efforts in the direction of maintaining order under the circumstances.
But the jury trying Czolgosz was not impaneled to pass upon any
question regarding the evils of lynch law, nor was it called upon
to decide the propriety of counsel appearing to defend Czolgosz—propriety
that is unquestioned by all right-thinking citizens.
There was another element in the speech
that cannot be passed over. In citing instances of lynch law, Judge
Lewis laid stress upon deplorable occurrences in the South. Without
pausing to think that in sparsely settled communities the difficulty
of combating the mob spirit may be much greater than in a well-regulated
city he impliedly placed in odious comparison certain events occurring
in other sections and the respect for the law that prevailed in
his own town.
Here is a distinct and culpable revival
of the sectionalism which the late Chief Executive did so much to
allay and bury. It need not be feared, however, that the ideals
of McKinley will be endangered by the narrowness of Judge Lewis.
The latter will be soon forgotten. Chance gave him an opportunity
to utter words that millions peruse, but he has apparently used
that chance to his own detraction.