Anent the Word Assassin
One week ago Czolgosz might have
chalked his crooked name on the gate of Lincoln Parkway, and no
one but the keeper might have cared to notice it. Today that name
is known in every civilized quarter of the globe, but with it is
coupled the hated epithet of assassin. Before the commission of
his dastardly crime the wretch Czolgosz was but an atom in that
vast aggregate of millions called the people; today his name is
one for lawless folk to conjure with; a name which makes crowned
heads shake with palsy and presidents of republics look to the doubling
of their bodyguard.
A nobody—Nieman is his alias—he fires
a shot truly “heard ’round the world,” plunges 70 millions of people
into grief, and passes into history. For, with the record of the
President whom he tried to kill, and whom may God preserve! will
be coupled the name of the meanest assassin yet hatched by the brood
of anarchistic vipers.
The etymology of the word assassin
is of peculiar interest at present in view of the great calamity
that has befallen our Chief Executive. Webster tells us that it
is derived from the Arabic word “hashishin,” meaning one who has
drunk of the hashish. The latter is a narcotic derived from common
hemp and has long been used in the East because of its intoxicating
effect. Readers of Monte Cristo will recall how Dumas employs the
well-known use of this drug among Orientals to heighten in one of
his chapters the vividness of his romantic story.
“The Old Man of the Mountain,”
a title occurring in Oriental history, designates the Iman
who founded a powerful dynasty in Syria towards the so-called close
of the eleventh century, and who was chief of a band of assassins,
because he first plied them with the pernicious drug, hashish, before
sending them out to kill some selected enemy.
Doses of hashish are still administered,
but mostly by medical prescription under the name of cannabis Indica.
There may be those who, knowing its powerful effects, degrade themselves
by its use after the manner of opium or cocaine fiends, but no one
thirsting to become an assassin need drink (or eat) beforehand the
drug of the Iman Hassan Ben-Sabbah. He has only to listen to the
ravings of such pests of society as Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons,
Herr Most (or Herr Least), to inhale an intoxicant which will, if
encouraged, produce more baneful effects than any recorded of the
hemp juice which Sabbah dispensed to his bloodthirsty henchmen.
A fleck of foam from the chops of
a mad dog, if introduced into one’s veins, will not bring on the
horrors of hydrophobia more quickly than the frothings of these
maniacs will madden cowards into the perpetration of deeds whose
boldness and wantonness fill the prince of devils with envious rage.
We kill mad dogs, if we can, before they have spread their rabies,
but we wait until the hashish of anarchy has done its dreadful work