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Jo Labadie and His Gift to Michigan

A Legacy for the Masses

Leon Czolgosz (1873-1901)




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Special Collections Library
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

The assassination of President William McKinley by obscure, self-proclaimed anarchist Leon Czolgosz at the Pan-American Fair in Buffalo, September 6, 1901, electrified and shocked the nation. A tidal wave of vengeful anger was directed at all those who used the name anarchist. Many anarchists were arrested and detained without warrant, their clubs and homes were raided, and dozens were physically attacked.

Generally anarchists had reviled McKinley for his brutal imperialist policies in the Philippines and elsewhere and his violent antagonism toward labor, but few condoned the assassination. Emma Goldman became a particular object of hatred and fear after the press quoted Czolgosz as saying that a speech by Goldman, to whom he was unknown, had firmed his resolve to kill the President. However, Goldman, along with other anarchists such as Voltairine de Cleyre, Jay Fox, Abe Isaac, Max Baginski, and Kate Austin, saw Czolgosz as a victim of the violence of war and oppression committed by the state under McKinley's rule. They were extremely distressed at the vicious treatment of Czolgosz, which included several severe beatings, a flagrantly unfair trial, and death in the electric chair, after which his head was dissected and his body was burned in acid and lime.

In Detroit, which was Czolgosz's birthplace, Jo Labadie condemned the killing of the President as the act of an insane man, and asserted the assassin was not even an anarchist. Emma Goldman and others saw Czolgosz's crime as the desperate act of a fighter for the cause of liberty. Despite their opposing views, all anarchists were classified together in the public eye. In 1903 Congress passed legislation which banned immigrants who advocated the overthrow of government.



On violence: "From my point of view the killing of another, except in defense of human life, is archistic, authoritarian, and therefore, no Anarchist can commit such deeds. It is the very opposite of what Anarchism stands for..."

From an essay, Anarchism and Crime by Joseph Labadie



"Anarchy infuses the human heart with feelings of comradeship and a love of Liberty, Justice and right-doing beyond comparison."

Jay Fox, Roosevelt, Czolgosz, and Anarchy