Publication information

Sydney Morning Herald
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Attempted Assassination of the President”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: Sydney, Australia
Date of publication: 9 September 1901
Volume number: none
Issue number: 19811
Pagination: 6

“The Attempted Assassination of the President.” Sydney Morning Herald 9 Sept. 1901 n19811: p. 6.
full text
McKinley assassination (international response); McKinley assassination (news coverage); assassinations (comparison); presidents (public access to); presidents (protection).
Named persons
Marie François Sadi Carnot; Leon Czolgosz; James A. Garfield; Humbert I; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley.

The Attempted Assassination of the President

     It is no conventional use of a stereotyped form of words to say that a thrill of horror passed through the mind of civilisation on Friday and Saturday when the attempt on the life of President M’Kinley was made known. The news reached Sydney in the course of Saturday, and the sympathetic response here was as spontaneous and immediate as in any part of the world. Of the depth and widespread nature of that sympathy our cables this morning eloquently speak. From all parts of the Union and from its humblest citizens the flood of feeling goes on in ever-widening waves until it takes in the expressions of European royalties and commoners alike, of the press of three continents, of the Pope and the French President, and includes a message of regret and condolence from the Australian Commonwealth and our own State Government. The remarks of the Lord Mayor of London cabled this morning may be taken as embodying the common opinion of British citizens. We read without surprise that the Continental press is horror-struck, for such an attack on the democratic ruler of a State enjoying a most popular form of government, even apart from the intrinsic criminality of the act, reduces to an absurdity all the arguments by which political extremists abroad of the Bakounin type are or were accustomed to palliate crimes of this kind. It is cabled that the London press is astounded. That feeling will be shared by those who appreciate and understand constitutional government in its broader sense everywhere. If the object of such government is to secure prosperity and equality of opportunity to all, it would seem to have been achieved by the conditions on which the London press lays stress; that is to say, by the unexampled prosperity of the United States, the successful statesmanship of the President, and his undoubted popularity as evidenced by his re-election to the chief office of the Republic in November last. The attempted assassination of a ruler personifying these things and the evolution of political ideas which led up to them must come as a shock to all believers in the theory underlying democratic, constitutional, or republican government.
     It is not too much to say that the mind of civilisation is divided to-day between sympathy and astonishment. The merely personal details of the attempted assassination—the President’s moment of enjoyment of the popular greeting, the treachery of the act performed at the instant when he was about to shake his assassin by the hand, the pathetic meeting between the wounded chief of the State and his afflicted wife—bring out those touches of our common nature which make the whole world akin. Nor is it difficult to understand that a pall of gloom has fallen over the Union at the news that the President has been stricken down under these cowardly and mean circumstances. Perhaps of all spectacles of gloom that of a nation in mourning is the most impressive. The British Empire witnessed it in all its parts on the death of the late Queen at the beginning of the year. Seven years ago France was plunged into national mourning by the assassin’s stroke which carried the fate of President Carnot at Lyons. In Italy the assassination of King Humbert and in Austria that of the Empress had the same general effect. But in the present instance there is still reason to hope that the victim will recover, and that the death of President M’Kinley will not raise the record to three assassinated rulers of the United States within forty years. This is far above the average of any monarchical State, and the fact is of grave importance when we remember how completely the control of American affairs rests in the hands of the people and how strictly accountable politicians of all grades are to the popular vote. It is sometimes said that the party and caucus system has succeeded in shifting this popular power into the hands of the few in some cases. Perhaps by the wildest stretch of improbability it might be suggested that the act of the assassin in this instance—Czolgosz or Niemans [sic], as the name is differently given—was by way of being a wild protest against oligarchic or party domination. We are not yet in a position to form any well-based opinion as to this. The facts so far are meagre. At first blush it would appear that the act of the criminal in this instance was due to an impulse of insanity, with the usual vulgar craze for notoriety behind it. After all, that would be the most satisfactory way of accounting for so great a national calamity. But, unfortunately for this theory, it is announced this morning that the police believe the assassin’s act to be the result of a deliberate plot, and as further confirmation of this two arrests of anarchists have been made, and the discovery of two dynamite bombs reported at Chicago.
     If this theory of anarchist responsibility should prove correct the situation is even more serious than at present appears. We cannot ignore the history of previous assassinations. In the case of King Humbert of Italy it was stated that the crime was planned and the assassin selected in the United States, and there have been other stories as to the assistance of American confederates in that assassination. One of the unpleasant incidents associated with the Buffalo attempt is the suspicious conduct of a person who preceded the assassin in shaking hands with the President. The police theory seems to be that he was a confederate acting in conjunction with Czolgosz, and if that was not the case it certainly should be easy enough to trace and identify him. Then there is the admission of the assassin himself that he is an anarchist at least in sympathy, familiar with anarchist lectures and literature, together with his statement after arrest that he had done his duty. The fact that the attempted assassination is disavowed by the Paterson anarchist group is hardly convincing enough, while the silence of the socialistic press in Europe is as significant one way as the other. It is perhaps premature to form theories on the subject, but the ultimate working out of the question here suggested will be watched with considerable interest. Just at present it would seem to be a more urgent matter to consider if the democratic simplicity and easy popular accessibility of the ruler of so great a nation as that of the United States do not in some measure offer a premium to assassins, whether anarchist or merely lunatic. Lincoln, Garfield, and now M’Kinley have fallen victims to this custom, and the case of Carnot adds another instance. When President M’Kinley made his partial progress through the Union lately it was objected that the function took on too much the appearance of Imperial display, but is it not possible, if the average of assassinations continues to rise in this way, that the republican President will have to learn the lesson which in older countries takes the concrete form of armed monarchical and imperial guards? The civilian detective, apparently, is not able to offer sufficient protection. It will be noticed that Canada is redoubling its precautions for the safety of the Heir-Apparent in that portion of his tour, but it would almost seem that the divinity which doth hedge a king is his best safeguard when it takes the form of a ring of steel and a rigidly exclusive etiquette.