The murder of William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States of America, took place on September 6, 1901, when he was shot and received a lethal wound. The killer, whose name was Leon Czolgosz, did not try to hide and was immediately taken into custody. He was soon convicted and sentenced to the death penalty, and the case was closed since there has been no evidence that Czolgosz had any accomplices or superiors. However, in the present day, historians and researchers are again raising the issue of assassination and questioning the motives and the capabilities of the killer.
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A lot of information about the investigation of the case is available to the modern researchers, including the records of hearings, confessions of Czolgosz and a variety of articles in the press, which reflect different views on the incident. The investigation has been very brief since the killer confessed to his crime and pleaded guilty in front of the court, and he was sent to the electric chair within two weeks after he committed the murder. His motives seemed clear, as he claimed he was inspired by previous assassinations of President James A. Garfield in 1881 and King Umberto I of Italy the previous year. He also claimed to be an anarchist, although he had never been accepted in any society and a radical newspaper called “Free Society” even issued a warning about him, naming Czolgosz a government spy (Simkin, 2014, par.3).
The Role of Anarchist Community in the Incident
It is well-known that the anarchist society members have immediately refused to have anything to do with this crime, for example, Emma Goldman, whose speeches and writings inspired Leon Czolgosz, has denounced his crime, although she “courageously came to the defense of the hapless young man, if not his act” (Glassgold, 2012, p.17). However, later Goldman and other anarchists devoted some of the articles in the journal named “Mother Earth”, to commemorate the man. The actual links of Czolgosz to other anarchists, like Emma Goldman, Max Baginski and Abraham Isaak have led many researchers, as well as conspiracy theorists to question the existence of a murder plot. Tony Bonn, in his article referencing John Koerner’s book “The Secret Plot to Kill McKinley: Conspiracy, Curses, and Ghosts in Western New York”, states that “McKinley was murdered in a well-planned conspiracy … Czolgosz was thus no patsy, but he hid very well the identities of the conspirators who murdered the president” (Bonn, 2015, par. 1-7).
He studies the evidence given by Koerner and makes a rather convincing conclusion that the killer did not act alone. Speculations on the same topic are also found in another book, “The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century”, by Scott Miller. These publications once again emphasize that recently the demand for information and interest has developed in the opinion contradicting the official investigation.
Thus, despite the fact that more than a century had passed since the assassination of President McKinley, it is still unknown, whether his death was the result of a single madman’s actions or a secret anarchist society conspiracy. Nevertheless, it is an encouraging fact that distant historical events still arouse interest in modern researchers and inspire them to search for the truth, even though it may never be found over the years.
Bonn, T. (2015). The Conspiracy to Murder William McKinley. The American Chronicle [Blog Post]. Web.
Glassgold, P. (2012). Anarchy!: An Anthology of Emma Goldman’s Mother Earth. Berkeley, CA: COUNTERPOINT.
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Simkin, J. (2014). Leon Czolgosz. Web.