The Miserable Assassin
Justice has been done upon President
McKinley’s assassin. The righteous judgment of the law has been
executed. He struck at social order and popular institutions, but
he had as fair a trial as if he had been guilty of the least offense
known to the statutes. Hence he had a less painful death than would
have befallen him had the people taken his execution into their
own hands. They would have liked to trample on him as on a snake.
Czolgosz was aware of that. He said
shortly before his execution that he did not want to get out of
the penitentiary, for “they”—the people—“would kill me outside.”
He did not dread the electric chair, but he did dread the rough
methods of lynchers. Probably Czolgosz was not far out of the way
in his belief that his release would have meant his death. The common
people are still resentful and vindictive concerning this man who
murdered the blameless McKinley. They are the more vindictive because
he murdered Mr. McKinley only because he was President and the representative
of the people. Nor is this feeling abated when the public beholds
the assassin going to his doom, unabashed and unrepentant, regretting
nothing except his inability to make an anarchistic harangue to
“a lot of people” and get a little notoriety on the edge of eternity.
Among men of some degree of education
and of calm judgment there has been less than might be expected
of that feeling of personal hostility towards Czolgosz which has
animated the general public. These more thoughtful persons have
esteemed him too insignificant a creature to be the object of personal
hate. They have looked on him as an irresponsible instrument in
the hands of a malevolent fate. They have had no more desire to
wreak fierce personal vengeance on him than on some insect the law
of whose being it is to sting—as upon a wasp or a mosquito.
From the point of view of these persons
the assassin was a poor, wretched, half-educated degenerate. He
had no employment and did not desire employment. He was not one
of the “good working people” whose enemy he falsely says McKinley
was. He was a non-moral creature with a brain half crazed by the
wild theories of violent anarchism. He fancied that he could overturn
the social order with a pistol shot, or that he could gain by making
the attempt to do it a notoriety honest labor never could secure
A piece of wood or iron or even a
wretched insect might disarrange costly and delicate machinery.
The whole fabric might be thrown out of gear for a time or even
wrecked. It might have to be repaired at great cost, while many
men were thrown out of employment. Sensible people would not spend
their time in storming at the cause of the damage. They would repair
the works and endeavor to devise methods for protecting the machinery
from disturbance by other such insects or interferences in the future.
Czolgosz has been properly executed.
No one should say his punishment was inadequate. It was the punishment
impassive justice has prescribed for his offense. He was a venomous
worm differing in infamy from the other anarchistic worms in that
he sought notoriety by murdering a ruler while they talked of doing
it. The notoriety he coveted should be denied him as far as possible.
A matter of more importance than the
denunciation of Czolgosz has to be attended to. That is the devising
of methods for the better protection of future Presidents from small
anarchistic creatures of the Czolgosz type.