Publication information
view printer-friendly version
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Assassin Has No Moral Sense”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: St. Louis, Missouri
Date of publication: 6 October 1901
Volume number: 54
Issue number: 46
Part/Section: 2
Pagination: 1

“Assassin Has No Moral Sense.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch 6 Oct. 1901 v54n46: part 2, p. 1.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (incarceration: Auburn, NY); Leon Czolgosz (mental health); Leon Czolgosz (public statements); Leon Czolgosz; Leon Czolgosz (activities, whereabouts, etc.: Cleveland, OH); Leon Czolgosz (as anarchist).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; Waldeck Czolgosz; John Gerin; Emma Goldman; William McKinley.


Assassin Has No Moral Sense


Sullen, Perverse and Hateful as a Child.
Says He Repents His Crime Now, but That Is Only Because of the
Dreadful Consequences That Have Befallen Himself.

Special to the Post-Dispatch.
     AUBURN, N. Y., Oct. 5.—It is with the greatest difficulty that even the guards who watch the every movement of the cowardly assassin of President McKinley can induce him to speak.
     All day long he lies on his cot in the house of death from which he will emerge in 30 days to pay the penalty of his crime. His nerve is entirely gone.
     Since his warm reception at the hands of the mob at the gates of the prison he has been paralyzed with fear. He crouches in the furthest corner of his cell and comes reluctantly when he is called to the door, as if in fear of a renewal of the recent attack.
     Physically he has been pronounced in good condition by the prison physician, Dr. Gerin. The physician made another examination of him today. The assassin appeared to be afraid of the doctor, but submitted.
     Dr. Gerin reported at the conclusion of the examination that the assassin was in good health, but that mentally he was at a point bordering on hysteria and was likely to collapse again at any minute.
     The guards who will spend their entire time watching him will see to it that he does not attempt any harm himself.
     One of them enters his cell every half hour and looks him over. If he is awake he shrinks from them without an attempt to conceal his fear. They do not expect that he will attempt any violence to himself, mainly because of his cowardly nature.

Is Without Moral Sense.

     To them, as to others who have studied him at close range, he appears to be utterly without moral sense or gratitude. He receives every attention with sullenness. He has said he is sorry that he shot the President, and has admitted that his crime was a mistake. But he is not really sorry for anybody except himself. He only repents his crime because of the terrible consequences to himself.
     No one could witness his panic-stricken collapse of last week without accepting the predictions of his guards that he will be dragged, shrieking, to the death chair.
     As he was towed into the yawning mouth of the prison at 3 o’clock yesterday morning he appeared to be suffering from epilepsy, but was the epilepsy of personal fear.
     Viewed at close range as he was by the correspondent of the Post-Dispatch he appears to be a strange creature of moods, a dreamy, uncanny sort of individual in whom the quality of imagination has been abnormally developed.
     There is in his manner of speech and slow, awkward grasp of the questions asked him nothing to suggest the educated fanatical reformer who has come to regard society as his enemy by reason of individual wrongs or because of a mistaken, unselfish desire to better the conditions of others that have been wronged.
     His selection of words is poor. One sentence he employed several times during the journey from Buffalo was indicative of his reflection of the terror that filled his craven mind.
     “I hope I don’t do anything that will make me ashamed for myself,” he said.
     He meant that he hoped he would be able to meet death as becomes anarchists—fearlessly and with the courage born of sincere conviction.

His Education Is but Meager.

     That his education has been of the most meager sort is shown by every sentence he utters. That he has never been a student of social conditions that would have necessitated extensive reading was manifest when an attempt was made to have him describe the sort of books or periodicals from which he gained the inspiration to commit a crime that he supposed would remedy a condition he himself could not outline in the crudest manner.
     “I read some newspapers,” he replied to a question, “but not much. They were Polish papers.”
     “Did you read any books?”
     “Yes, I read books sometimes.”
     “What were they?”
     “Oh, I don’t know the names of them.”
     “Did you read any English newspapers?”
     “Yes, I read ’em sometimes.”
     “What were they?”
     “Oh, the papers in Cleveland and Buffalo. I can read good. I never saw a New York newspaper.”
     Persistent urging to tell the names of the books he had read, or the names of the authors of them, elicited no response.
     Concerning his own family he was just as uncommunicative, except in the case of his brother Waldeck, who called on him at the Buffalo prison the day before he was sentenced to death. The only real show of emotion he made was in speaking of this brother.
     “I hope they don’t think he had nothing to do with it,” he said.

As Sullen as a Bad Boy.

     The life history of the assassin, as outlined by his brother and sister, who came to Buffalo to bid him farewell, is that of a strange boy of perverted ideas. His nature was always sullen. None of the members of the family pretended to understand him. He evinced a singular dislike for women. He would not eat at the same table with his stepmother. He had many quarrels with her. As a young boy he would not participate in the diversions of games of boyhood or associate with other boys. He was not a good pupil and remained away from school. He was of a complaining, secretive nature.
     When he grew toward manhood and went with the family from Detroit to Orange, in Ohio, near Cleveland, he used to wander from the farm. It was his custom to leave the farmhouse long before the rest of the family was awake and go with a fishing pole to a stream a mile away. He usually took food with him from the scant family larder. Several times he took the family breakfast.
     He remained away all day, coming home in a sullen mood, rarely speaking to any member of the family and never to his stepmother.
     He received the punishment of his father with dogged resistance. All the other children were afraid of him. The family was abjectly poor. At 13 he was put to work in a wire mill and the family moved to Cleveland. His wages were small—those of a “water boy.”
     He made no pretense of helping the family until his father compelled him to contribute to the joint expenses. This he did unwillingly. When he earned more money he never increased his contribution.
     But he did not spend money on himself nor anyone else. He concealed his money. He did not intrust it to savings banks not to the building and loan association in which his other brothers held shares. None of the family know what he did with his money.
     He saved $250 by the time he was 21. His brothers induced him to buy a share in the farm at Orange, but he did so with ill grace, demanding a full fourth.

Was Shiftless in His Habits.

     He was shiftless in his habits. He cared nothing for good clothes, but was very vain about his hair, which is now a rich auburn, turning to bronze as the light shifts upon it. He liked “loud” neckties, but paid as little for them as possible. He rarely associated with his fellow-workers in the wire mill, but spent much of his time in roaming about the streets of Cleveland at night.
     Sometimes he remained away from home several nights at a time. He did not tell the members of the family where he had spent his time. He complained about his money in the farm.
     As far as his parents and brothers and sisters knew, he did not squander his earnings. They knew that he was never generous with them—never gave them presents.
     His first exhibition of an interest in anarchy was about five years ago, when he was 23 years old. He did not talk much about it at home. His brothers read the Polish newspapers, which frequently contained articles on socialism and anarchy. He declared his belief in the doctrine of equality and force when these articles were read to him in pretty much this manner:
     “That’s right; that’s right. I believe in that.”
     But he never attempted to inflict his views on the other members of the family. He entertained a rather contemptuous view for their humble beliefs. He did not confide in them.
     He first appeared at an anarchist meeting in 1896 at a hall on Superior street in Cleveland. He went there many times, always at night. He did not attempt to take an active part in the speeches or discussions.
     The promoters of these meetings did not regard him seriously. They thought he was attracted more by curiosity than by any sincere belief in their teachings. Sometimes he remained away from the meetings for weeks at a time. He came in sullenly, ill-dressed, and usually sat in moody silence during the proceedings.

Applauded Radical Views.

     Sometimes he would show his satisfaction at the more radical speeches by saying:
     “That’s right; that’s right! I believe in that!”
     Sometimes he would talk with the speakers after they had left the hall, but they did most of the talking. He indorsed [sic] their rabid views.
     His irregular appearances at the anarchist meetings continued over a period of three years. All this time he continued the same moody figure at home. It is not known that he ever saw or heard Emma Goldman more than once.
     Last spring—the date is rather uncertain—he demanded the money he had put in the farm—$250. He was given $50 at first. He threw up his place in the wire mill and went to Chicago. He mixed up with the cult that makes money by printing and dissemination of anarchistic newspapers. He tried to join the Free Society, and gave as a reference the Sila Society of Cleveland.
     He was suspected by the Chicago Reds. They thought he was a spy and did not encourage his visits, and he returned to Cleveland.
     It was then that he heard Emma Goldman. He seemed to be deeply impressed by her address, which, according to the Cleveland police with whom the Post-Dispatch correspondent talked, was of the most rabid kind.
     If the assurances of the Cleveland police are correct Miss Goldman not only suggested the use of force as a corrective for the supposed evils of society, but argued that it was the duty of young men not to marry.
     The wretch that killed President McKinley seemed to construe her ravings in the most literal sense. He disappeared from Cleveland.
     He turned up in Chicago and sought Miss Goldman. She probably told the truth about his coming to the house of the Isaaks, where she was staying, and accompanying her to the railway station. Nor is there any evidence to disprove her assertion that she never saw him again.
     When he returned to Cleveland after meeting her it was to demand more of his money. One of his brothers consented to buy out his interest on the installment plan. He received more than $100 in five weeks.
     He went to Buffalo and fraternized with the people in the foreign district. None of them knew anything about him. They thought he was a laborer out of work. They knew him as an anarchist, but paid no particular attention to him. He did not spend much time with them, but went to live at West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo. The people there with whom he lodged knew nothing about him.
     He disappeared after receiving a money order for $10 from his brother on account of the farm at Orange.
     He went to Cleveland to demand more. He got it—either $30 or $40—and left again.
     The next heard from him by the family was that he had killed the President. He himself told the Post-Dispatch correspondent that he had not decided to do it “until about one day before he done it,” though it had been in his “mind for several days.”



top of page