At President McKinley’s Bier
That masterly “anatomy of crime,”
Dante’s “Inferno,” and withal as sublime as it is a profound treatise
on morality, places not the malefactors of ostensibly equal crimes
in the same circles of hell. Not all the thieves, for instance,
nor all the homicides are lumped together. Where theft is aided
by “breach of trust,” the evil-doer is relegated to a deeper groove;
and so where homicide has treachery or hypocrisy for its handmaid,
the crime is marked of deeper dye, and its perpetrator consigned
to direr tortures.
The assassination of rulers is nothing
new. It is no special product of the present system. Throughout
the ages it has made its appearance, under all forms of society.
This notwithstanding, the deed of Czolgosz, following so close upon
that of Santos, the assassin of President Carnot, and accompanied
with such close resemblance therewith, takes it from the general
head of rulercide, and gives notice to society that it has to deal
with a Dantescan variety of intensified crime.
Whether personal resentment, private
interest, or personal malice hitherto steeled the arm of the assassins
of rulers, their deed ever bore the mark of virile boldness. The
deed of the Czolgoszes and Santoses lacks this mark; in its stead
it carries the brand of hypocrisy and treachery. And it is natural;
and herein lies the ominousness of the manifestation.
Former assassinations of rulers were
the acts of ORGANIZED forces; the Santos-Czolgosz species is AUTONOMOUS.
Organization, however dastardly its purpose, has physical strength
in its make-up, is conscious thereof, and demeans itself accordingly:
Treachery, therefore, is a mark it need not and does not assume.
Otherwise with individualistic autonomy. The single man, whatever
his field of operation, is weak as a reed, all the more when his
purpose calls for physical effort. Hence what his acts lack in the
backing of physical fibre, is substituted with perfidy. Santos clears
his way to his victim with a bouquet, in which a dagger lies concealed;
Czolgosz throws the guards off their watch with the d[e]meanor of
a cripple, his hand that holds the murderous pistol being bandaged
with a handkerchief. In the one case as in the other deep-dyed treachery,
double-facedness, is the distinguishing feature;—and that is the
hellish depth, that, by an inevitable chain of causes and effects,
is reached from the premises of individualistic autonomy, or be
it the “Manchester School,” or be it the intellectual mother of
Not a stricken family merely, mourning
the loss of a beloved member; not even millions of partisans merely,
mourning the loss of their triumphant standard-bearer; no, not these
merely, but the human heart and intellect, standing at President
McKinley’s bier, is steeped in gloom at the contemplation of the
Santos-Czolgosz flowers of the Upas tree of Individualistic Autonomy.