Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial column
Document title: “News of the Week”
City of publication: London, England
Date of publication: 14 September 1901
Volume number: none
Issue number: 3820
Pagination: 337-39 (excerpt below includes only page 337)
|“News of the Week.” Spectator 14 Sept. 1901 n3820: pp. 337-39.|
|McKinley assassination; William McKinley (medical condition); anarchism (dealing with); McKinley assassination (international response).|
|Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
News of the Week [excerpt]
ENGLISHMEN were horrified on Saturday last by news of an attempt to assassinate the President of the United States. Mr. McKinley was on Friday week holding a reception in the “Temple of Music,” a large hall in the Exhibition at Buffalo, which he had gone to visit, and, according to the wearisome custom established in America, shook hands with every one who passed. A man at length approached with his hand bound up in a handkerchief, and the President, fancying him crippled, stepped slightly forward. The man, however, had a revolver concealed, and fired twice at Mr. McKinley, one bullet hitting him in the breast, but scarcely penetrating, and the other passing through both walls of the stomach, to remain embedded in the muscles of the back. The President, who was surrounded by detectives, fell apparently mortally wounded, the assassin was knocked down by a negro, and but for the determined exertions of the police he would have been lynched. It has been ascertained that he is a young Pole of twenty-three, that his name is Czolgosz, though he is known as Mr. Nieman (Mr. Nobody), that he has indulged in Anarchist clubs and Anarchist literature, and that he avows himself an Anarchist. Though poor, he has no personal grievance against Mr. McKinley, except that he is the elected chief of the Republic. He exults in his crime, declares that he has done his duty, and, though quite sane, expresses surprise that the people should have fallen on him. He was, in fact, quite shocked at their ferocity.
Many men in South Africa have survived a similar wound even without those resources of conservative surgery which were within half-an-hour at the disposal of the President. Mr. McKinley has now survived his wounds for nearly seven days, and up till Thursday evening the best surgical opinion in America was that, failing complications, he would recover in about another month. He is only fifty-eight, and is a strong, active man, with perfect nerves, who has led a very abstemious and healthy life. It he recovers—which at the moment of our going to press seems unlikely, grave symptoms of heart failure having suddenly supervened—the joy of the people will be broken only by the reflection that by the laws of New York the assassin will be liable only to ten years’ imprisonment. That is clearly an inadequate punishment, but there are grave reasons for not adopting the death penalty now so eagerly demanded. It would destroy the motive for avoiding actual murder which now influences, as much experience on the Continent seems to prove, many Anarchist agents. By wounding without killing they obey their orders without sentencing themselves.
The crime enrages Americans even more than it would enrage the subjects of a Monarchy. The devolution of power is no doubt easy, as Mr. Roosevelt would if Mr. McKinley had died have become President at once; but Americans are proud to think that their institutions and their prosperity forbid the generation of murderous political hatreds. The assassination is a rude shock to their self-esteem, and they are ardently discussing means for restraining the spread of Anarchy. Some propose to expel all Anarchists, others to declare the profession of subversive opinions a criminal offence, and others to imprison all known Anarchists. None of these things are likely to be done; but Anarchist writing may be made libel, known or suspected Anarchists may be refused entry, and the vigilance of the police in all States may be considerably increased. It should be remembered that each State makes its own criminal law, and that the general Government cannot act, except indeed by framing treaties to increase the facilities for extradition when foreign Sovereigns are threatened. As regards the Presidents, they are protected like other men by the death penalty for murder, and by a vigilant police, which even in this instance almost surrounded Mr. McKinley. No vigilance, however, not involving imprisonment will guard a conspicuous man from an enemy careless if he loses his own life.
The deep sympathy for Mr. McKinley, and of indignation at the crime, which has been expressed throughout the British Islands, has been remarkable for its absolute spontaneousness and sincerity. Not only has Mr. McKinley won the regard of the British people as a great and worthy figure, but there has been a genuine and heartfelt participation in the national anxiety. The truth is, as we noted at the time of the Queen’s death, that it is impossible for one part of the race to be deeply stirred without an answering chord sounding in the other. We may feel for foreign nations at times of national sorrow or anxiety. We feel with the Americans as a man feels with those of his own house and blood. We may note that the King’s messages, which have been simple and natural and full of good feeling, have been greatly appreciated in America.