The Assassination of President McKinley

The Assassination of President McKinley

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The Assassination of President McKinley

In Cleveland, Ohio, on May 6, Emma Goldman, "The Anarchist," gave a speech. She outlined the principles and methods of anarchy in this beautiful speech, where she said, "We ... desire complete individual liberty, and this can never be obtained as long as there is an existing government." Toward the end of her speech, Goldman said that most Anarchists were not violent; she added that she believed in their motives, since some people are unable to act without force. All the while, police were ready to arrest her if she said anything too radical. The entire time, Leon Czolgosz was the most supportive of anyone in the audience (Berkeley 1).

On September 5, 1901, Leon Czolgosz entered the Pan-American exposition. He blended in with the crowd, and surveyed the security, grounds layout, and crowds. An enormous crowd was gathered to see President McKinley, and Leon pushed his way through the masses until he was close enough to hear the speech. Leon pushed his way through the crowd, determined to get close enough to shoot the President. A security guard blocked his chance, and the President was escorted away (Assassin Arrived... 1).

The next day, Leon and McKinley returned to the exposition. In the afternoon, the President began shaking hands with people lined up by the Temple door. Near the end of this line, Leon waited patiently. His hand was wrapped in a handkerchief, which he held close to his chest, but no one seemed to notice. When the President reached him, Leon extended his left hand, pressed it against the President's chest, and shot him twice with the gun he held under his handkerchief (Secret Service Guard...1). He did not have a chance to fire again, because a black man - next in line to shake the President's hand - had already tackled him. In seconds, more than a dozen men had tackled him and were beating him up. At the same time, Secret Service officers and exposition police seized Leon and tore the gun from his hands. US Artillery soldiers beat Leon after this. McKinley, in the middle of this panic, is reported to have said, "Go easy on him, boys" (Assassination of... 2).

When news of the attack spread, the thousands in attendance began a riot; some shoved their way into the temple, trying to see if the rumor was true, while others demanded that Leon be hanged.

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At the police headquarters, Leon confessed to the murder: "I am a disciple of Emma Goldman. I killed the President because I have done my duty. I did not feel that one man should have all this power while others have none." The police led him to his cell, where he would await trial. Meanwhile, McKinley was on his deathbed, getting worse each day from the wounds to his stomach.

Outside Buffalo's First Precinct Police Station where Leon was housed the 65th Regiment stood on alert, dispersing some of the hundreds of furious protesters (President McKinley Shot...1). On September 27, 1901, Leon was moved to an Auburn prison. There, he was violently dragged and shoved through a crowd of 300 people who constantly mauled him. Handcuffed, Leon struggled to walk, and after repeated beatings from the crowd, he had to be dragged up the stairs by prison guards. The guards threw him on the floor of the prison office, and Leon realized that, outside the prison, people were chanting, "GIVE HIM TO US! GIVE HIM TO US!" (The Trial and Execution...1).

On September 23, 1901, at 10:00 AM, Leon was tried (2). Before he was tried, he said, "There was no one else but me. No one else told me to do it, and no one paid me to do it" (4). (This was impressive since he could have pled insane or blamed and sentenced other people to death.) Leon was sentenced to death. Days later, he was electrocuted for a minute before he died. McKinley had already been dead since September 14, 1901. McKinley's assassination was a turning point in the Secret Service's protection policies and yet another example of the inconsistent security around Presidents. The assassination also decimated anarchist groups. Most importantly, Teddy Roosevelt, the leader of numerous reforms, became the President.

Works Cited

Emma Goldman Online Exhibition: Article on President McKinley Assassination. Berkeley Digital Library. 29 Aug. 1996
The Assassin Arrived in Buffalo with Intent to Kill The President. Aaron T. Heverin. 3 Oct. 2000
President McKinley Shot at Public Reception in The Temple of Music. Aaron T. Heverin. 3 Oct. 2000
Secret Service Guard Ireland Tells Story of Anarchist's Deed. Aaron T. Heverin. 3 Oct. 2000
The Trial and Execution of Leon Czolgosz. Aaron T. Heverin. 3 Oct. 2000
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