Publication information
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Source: Sydney Mail
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Attempted Assassination”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: Sydney, Australia
Date of publication: 14 September 1901
Volume number: 72
Issue number: 2149
Pagination: 656

“The Attempted Assassination.” Sydney Mail 14 Sept. 1901 v72n2149: p. 656.
full text
McKinley assassination (international response); assassination; assassins (mental health); anarchism (international response).
Named persons
Gaetano Bresci; Sante Geronimo Caserio; Leon Czolgosz; Edward VII; Emma Goldman [first name wrong below]; Charles J. Guiteau; Luigi Luccheni; William McKinley; Karl Nobiling; Felice Orsini; Jean Baptiste Sipido.
Alternate newspaper title: Sydney Mail [and] New South Wales Advertiser.


The Attempted Assassination

     Since the tragical news of the attempted assassination of President M’Kinley was carried round the globe by cable, the normal sense of civilisation has had time to recover from the shock to which it was subjected, and this process has been assisted by the successive medical bulletins. During the week the attention of the world has been concentrated on that darkened chamber at Buffalo where the Head of the State lies on the border between life and death. To say that every message relating to the victim’s welfare has been read with painful anxiety is hardly to do justice to the fact, but it is at the least a melancholy witness to the universal respect which the President of the United States has won in his high office. Royalty and commonalty alike, the most conservative and the most democratic rulers and peoples, have vied with each other in sympathy and in reprobation of the outrage which has just shocked humanity. “The crime of the century” is a phrase which has been somewhat hackneyed by ignoble use, but it would have been applicable here had it not been for the reassuring tidings that the wounds inflicted by the assassin Czolgosz are not now likely to prove fatal. But that happy anticipation, if it should be finally borne out by the event, in no way lessens the gravity of the occasion, or the importance of the reflections the crime suggests. That the Head of the State should thus be stricken down at a moment of public rejoicing, in a country which has so much reason to boast of the large measure of freedom enjoyed by each citizen as a personal heritage, and by the hand of an obscure individual, whether lunatic or anarchist or both, discovers a condition of things which must compel the guardians of society everywhere to seriously consider the situation. For the crime does not stand alone. The list of assassinations and attempts in recent years is long. The King of Italy, the Empress of Austria, the French President, and the Czar of Russia have been slain by the hand of the assassin, and it is not long since an attempt was made at Brussels on the life of King Edward VII., when Prince of Wales. The list of attempts, indeed, is a menace in itself. Now we have this attack on the President of the United States, where already two other Presidents had fallen within thirty-five years. These instances suggest a high average of assassination among rulers—far too high, indeed, to make the trade of Kings or Presidents a “desirable risk” from the point of view of any reputable life assurance company. Divesting the outrage of last week of all other circumstances and considerations, this one fact is important enough to compel those who have the interests of law and order in their keeping to take thought.
     Medical specialists have long since recognised the existence of a specific type of mental disorder which makes the individual subject to insane homicidal impulse, coupled with a proneness to direct it in such a way as to minister to a morbid vanity and craving for notoriety. What more tempting mark for such a maniac than a King or a President? For the moment the meanest assassin feels stronger than the whole population, and superior to the combined forces of the law with the strength of the military and police power behind them. The ruler by his will can move fleets and armies, but for the moment any crazed miscreant may prove himself the stronger. And so the motive for the crime is manufactured. No doubt in scores of cases the impulse might come and go without leading to any definite result, if there were nothing behind it and outside the mind of the potential criminal lunatic. But, as it happens, there has been of late such an outside force always in existence in the shape of those anarchist organisations which profess to defend and justify their high political crimes. We do not often find the anarchist hand actually in evidence, but the influence of the anarchist teaching is almost always traceable. The crazy incoherencies of the criminal himself immediately after capture make clear the extent to which his mind has been wrought upon by the pernicious doctrines of people to whom, perhaps, they are mere words. To him they supply just the directing power and inspiration needed to turn his criminal impulses into actual crimes. The cases of nearly all those who have been identified with this kind of outrage bear this out. Few are educated men, like Orsini, Guiteau, and Dr. Nobiling. For the most part they are obscure and ignorant wretches like Caserio, Luccheni, Bresci, Sipido, and this Czolgosz now in evidence. They form ready tools in the hands of cleverer or more designing people than themselves, who cast their anarchist seed abroad in the knowledge that at any moment it may fructify in the disordered brain of some criminal lunatic, and take effect in some act of outrage or assassination. It is now reported that there was a closer connection between organised anarchy and the assailant of President M’Kinley, and the development of the Cincinnati plot will be watched with interest in view of possible disclosures. But there is no reason why authority should wait for proof of a direct link of association between Czolgosz and the woman Anna Goldman, to realise the necessity for certain action. Why, it may be reasonably asked, should any individual or organisation be allowed to openly advocate crime, whether that of assassination or any other? We may laugh at the insincerity or the braggadocio of the firebrands who talk and write in this fashion, but we cannot afford to ignore the result when we find it taking shape in the acts of such as Bresci and Czolgosz. Society and authority owe it to themselves to protect even the weak-minded and the potential criminal lunatic from what is now sufficiently proved to be an active public danger.



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