For the third time since
the war of the rebellion a president of the United States has been
struck down by the hand of an assassin. Of the seven presidents
elected to that office since the beginning of 1864, three have so
fallen. Within some six years the butchery of a President of France,
an Empress of Austria, the King of Italy, and this last tragedy
have taken place. The European murders were in all cases the work
of professed anarchists, and the wretch who sought the life of President
McKinley seems to be a member of the same school of assassins.
At the time of writing there is some
reason to hope that the attempt to take the life of the President
of the United States has failed. But the nature of the wound is
such as to make the result uncertain for some days at the best,
while the worst may be reported at any moment. The life of an eminent
and worthy man, who has filled with credit to himself and his country
the highest position in the gift of the nation, hangs in the balance.
President McKinley has been the Governor
of his state, the leader of his party in congress both in power
and in opposition, and the author of the most important tariff measures
in the history of the country. He has been twice elected president[,]
and in that position has had the control of the greatest national
enterprises which the nation has attempted since the civil war.
Whatever objection may be taken to the policy for which he stood,
it is everywhere admitted that he has courageously, manfully and
honorably worked out his share of it. Moreover, he is a man of a
chivalrous nature and kindly disposition, who has made more friends
and fewer enemies than most public men in his country. But these
things count for nothing with the type of criminal who lies in wait
to murder the rulers of the land. When the kindly Empress Elizabeth
was slain at Geneva, some of the horde who applauded the act said
that there was more need to kill good queens than bad ones, as they
made royalty popular. The same doctrine was propounded after the
murder of King Humbert of Italy, one of the best of sovereigns.
This crime would at any time awaken
feelings of horror and execration throughout the British Empire.
But at this particular period in the history of the kindred nations
the expression of sympathy with the afflicted republic will be most
generous, hearty, universal and sincere. In truth the British people
who were forformerly [sic] disposed to consider the Cleveland school
of democrats their friends, rather than the authors of the McKinley
bill, and the imperial class of republicans, have learned many things
of late. It was not from the Harrison and McKinley governments,
but from the two Cleveland cabinets that nearly all the offences
against international good manners, good faith and good law were
perpetrated against Great Britain and Canada. From President McKinley
and his administration it has not always been possible for Canada
to obtain what we thought was just, but at least the United States
position has been maintained with dignity and courtesy and with
a decent regard for the amenities of national intercourse. If Great
Britain found the United States repudiating or refusing to confirm
a treaty signed by her own secretary of state, the fault was not
with the President, but of the senate which rejected his advice.
Therefore there are personal reasons, besides the common impulse
of humanity, why this murderous act should shock and anger the people
of the Empire.
If this crime prove to be the work
of one of the anarchists who have found shelter in the United States,
it will lead to some searching of hearts. The man who killed the
King of Italy is said to have gone to that country from a New Jersey
city, charged to commit this act. We have all read in various New
York papers reports of speeches made in Paterson and elsewhere commending
this regicide. What wonder that among the men who have heard the
murderer praised as a hero, and honored as a martyr, some one or
more should be found to imitate him? Here is where the responsibility
of the nation comes in. So long as the victims were European sovereigns
these encouragers and instigators of assassination were allowed
to go on with their propaganda. The orators are not the murderers.
As a rule they are too careful of their own skins to adopt that
role. But they are a source of crime, and perhaps it will now be
found necessary to limit the privilege of free speech in America
as has been done in some parts of Europe.