Source: Chicago Daily Tribune
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Miserable Assassin”
City of publication: Chicago, Illinois
Date of publication: 30 October 1901
Volume number: 60
Issue number: 302
|“The Miserable Assassin.” Chicago Daily Tribune 30 Oct. 1901 v60n302: part 2, p. 12.|
|Leon Czolgosz (execution: personal response).|
|Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley.|
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 for him.
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.