Source: San Francisco Call
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Anti-Anarchist Legislation”
City of publication: San Francisco, California
Date of publication: 17 December 1901
Volume number: 91
Issue number: 17
|“Anti-Anarchist Legislation.” San Francisco Call 17 Dec. 1901 v91n17: p. 6.|
|anarchism (government response); anarchism (laws against); anarchism (laws against, impracticality of); penal colonies (anarchists).|
|Leon Czolgosz; George F. Hoar; William McKinley.|
THAT some effort would be made at this Congress to procure the
enactment of Feederal [sic] laws against anarchists has been a foregone
conclusion ever since the assassination of the President. Burning with a righteous
wrath against the cruel and wanton slayer of McKinley, the voice of the people
fiercely demanded not only the punishment of the wretch actually guilty of the
crime, but also of those who incited it. There was, moreover, a demand that
anarchists be excluded from this country altogether, and the demand was made
emphatically enough to impress itself upon the minds of statesmen. Consequently
it is but natural that as soon as Congress got ready for business there should
be presented a large number of bills dealing with the issue.
Up to date it is said there have been submitted more than a dozen anti-anarchist bills. Of the whole lot, however, it is doubtful if a single one would win the approval of the American people, now that they have become calm. The problem is, in fact, much more difficult than it appeared at first thought. It is not easy to define anarchy. It is not easy to determine just where public criticism of officials ceases to be legitimate politics and becomes anarchistical. Furthermore, when a definition of anarchy has been found that will stand the test of the courts there remains the difficulty of providing an adequate penalty.
Senator Hoar has suggested the adoption of an international agreement setting apart some island in the ocean as a place of imprisonment for anarchists, and to which all such enemies of law and government should be deported. The suggestion when first made received considerable approval. It seemed something like poetic justice that men who are opposed to government should be given an island of their own where they be forced to live with one another. There are, however, difficulties in the way. Should the agreement be made the United States would have to assist in holding in such imprisonment persons sent to the island from countries where a fair trial is not always guaranteed to an accused. We might have to set United States soldiers to act as jailers for Russia, and that would not suit the American people for any great length of time.
Considerations of a similar nature affect every one of the more extreme propositions submitted in the way of anti-anarchist legislation. Something will be done to exclude them from the country, but the question of punishment for the commission of crime will doubtless be left as it is now, to the States. The national Government could not have dealt with Czolgosz with any more firmness, dignity and dispatch than did the courts of New York. It would seem, then, that in the main our laws are good enough, and anything like radical legislation for the suppression of anarchy or the punishment of anarchist assassins will not be undertaken.