Assassination Attempts: William McKinley President of the U.S. Part 1

About the assassination of William McKinley, President of the U.S. at the hand of Leon Czolgosz, history of the event.

The Victim: WILLIAM McKINLEY, 25th President of the U.S.

The Date: September 6, 1901.

The Event: The President was shaking hands with a bustling line of well-wishers in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y. Fifty soldiers and Secret Service agents roamed the premises, and although no searches were made, the crowd was carefully scrutinized. The President, flanked by his aides and several agents, wanted to shake more hands, and asked that the line be speeded up.

A 28-year-old ex-factory worker and farmhand named Leon Czolgosz moved toward McKinley and drew an Iver Johnson .32 caliber revolver from his pocket. Holding it in his right hand, he wrapped it in a large white handkerchief. He advanced toward the front of the line. A Secret Service agent touched his shoulder. Czolgosz (pronounced Chol-gots) turned slowly. "Hurt your hand?" the agent asked. Czolgosz nodded. "Maybe you better get to a first-aid station. . . ." Czolgosz shook his head and struggled to keep his voice calm. "Later," he muttered. "After I meet the President. I've been waiting a long time." Czolgosz approached McKinley and said, "Excuse my left hand, Mr. President." McKinley shook his left hand and the farmhand moved on. After several more citizens extended their greetings, Czolgosz stepped up again, standing not more than 3' from the President. Secret Service agent Samuel Ireland grabbed Czolgosz's shoulder in order to move him along quickly. Czolgosz brushed away the agent's hand and lunged forward, firing twice in rapid succession. The time was 4:07 P. M. One bullet was deflected by McKinley's breastbone, but the other bullet ripped through his stomach and lodged somewhere in his back muscles. McKinley shuddered, stiffened, stared at Czolgosz in astonishment, and collapsed into surrounding arms. He did not lose consciousness. Czolgosz was knocked to the floor and severely beaten by 8 or 9 guards. "Be easy with him boys!" McKinley is supposed to have said. Czolgosz murmured, "I done my duty." The President died 8 days later.

The Assassin: Leon Czolgosz claimed to be an anarchist. He said he didn't believe in governments, rulers, voting, religion, or marriage. Historians are quick to point out that only a week before the assassination, an anarchist periodical, Free Society, had published a warning against Czolgosz, denouncing him as a spy, a police agent, and a dangerous crank. Czolgosz had definitely made contact with established anarchist groups, like the Liberty Club in Cleveland, but he alienated its members due to his ignorance of libertarian literature and his indiscreet questions about violence and assassinations. It is said that Czolgosz approached the radical groups seeking conspirators for his already-formulated plans rather than for enrichment or a sense of community. He is said to have had little more than a leaflet-sized knowledge of the principles of antiauthoritarianism, and based much of his desire to be an anarchist on a newspaper clipping that described the assassination, in Italy, of King Humbert I by the self-avowed anarchist Gaetano Bresci on July 29, 1900.

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