Assassination Attempts: William McKinley President of the U.S. Part 2

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

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

However, Emma Goldman wrote in her autobiography that she protested to the editor of the Free Society demanding proof for the "outrageous accusation" against Czolgosz. Apparently none was forthcoming and the paper printed a retraction, admitting that a mistake had been made. Goldman recalled that Czolgosz was a conscientious student of libertarian literature and was always seeking "the right books." Most historians do not mention this and prefer to portray Czolgosz as a social failure, a low creature unable to comprehend a political philosophy or act from a positive personal idea.

Czolgosz was born in Detroit in 1873, a short time after his parents arrived from Poland. His father worked in the sewers. Young Leon was considered the best educated of the 8 Czolgosz children, and although his early life was relatively "normal," he became more and more isolated as he grew older. At 16 he was working in a bottle factory. When his family moved to Cleveland, he got a job in a wire mill where he was considered a good steady worker. He gave his savings to his family to use toward the purchase of a 51-acre farm.

In 1893, the mill workers went on strike, and this had a profound political effect on Czolgosz. He and his only friend--older brother Waldek--began to rebel against the Catholic Church which had tormented them during their childhood. In 1894, Leon met a Cleveland upholsterer named Anton Zwolinski, who was a leader of a Polish educational group in which socialism and anarchism were openly discussed. Czolgosz, although personally very remote, joined a socialist club that met above his father's grocery-saloon. He is remembered as being silent during the meetings he attended.

Leon worked fairly steadily until 1898--3 years before the assassination--when he experienced some kind of a "breakdown," the nature of which is not exactly clear. He quit his job and retired to the family farm, where he spent his time sulking, reading, and making pottery.

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