Socialistic and Other Assassinations
THE very frequent failure of attempts to assassinate sovereigns and eminent public persons long warranted the belief that in most instances they were not genuine, and possibly their authors had no other motive than a morbid craving for notoriety. But the more recent attempts show that there is much less of vanity than of political hate in these dastardly attacks. There can be no doubt, or should be none, that a serious disturbance of sentiment and opinion exists among certain classes in all parts of the civilized world. Certain men have awakened but recently to a realization of their power in the state, and the breaking of old bonds of habit and feeling has accompanied and even occasioned the new consciousness of strength. Distress and discontent aggravate the vague sense of power, and the classes which were once peaceful and apathetic look for means by which they can make life more agreeable, and their opinions felt more effectively.
Let us review the terrible crimes of the year 1878 in the order in which they occurred. On the 11th of May Emil Max Hoedel attempted the life of the venerable emperor of Germany ; and hardly had this great crime been frustrated than Europe and America were again startled by the more daring attempt of Dr. Nobiling on the same sovereign. The history of Hoedel and his crime is very remarkable. He was only nineteen years of age. He was born in 1859, at Leipsic, where his mother is still living. His parents and those who knew him when a boy give a bad account of his conduct. He was impudent and dishonest, and was repeatedly flogged for theft. Finally, he was sent to the Reformatory at Zeitz, where he was taught the trade of a tinsmith. Soon after this he made his appearance as a professional agitator of the most disreputable type. When very young he had been a socialist, and these agitators do not intend to reform the world without the aid of some sort of government. He did not believe in organization, and therefore transferred his services to the anarchists, who declare open war on all compromise, all moral agencies, all toleration of existing institutions. An idea presented itself to this villain, and he declared to many people that bad times could never end until a certain “ thickheaded person ” was dispatched. He had his photograph taken, telling the operator that thousands of copies of his picture would be sold as soon as a certain piece of intelligence was flashed through the world. He purchased a revolver which he was assured would carry across the street, and having inquired at what hour the emperor was in the habit of driving out waited his opportunity. On the 11th of May, — the same day of the same month when Mr. Perceval was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons, — between three and four o’clock, from the pavement of Unter den Linden, he fired at the emperor, as the latter passed by in an open carriage. He was not more than three or four yards distant from the monarch, yet he missed, and firing again as he ran away was no more successful than before. He then fired one shot at his pursuers, but missing them threw his pistol away and surrendered. He was soon after tried and sentenced to death. He received the announcement of his conviction and the sentence passed upon him with sneering indifference; nor were his last moments on the scaffold less revolting. He was taken out of his cell at daybreak, on the morning of Friday, August 16th, and beheaded in the court yard of the new prison at Berlin. On the same day a distinguished Russian general was brutally assassinated, as will be shown further on.
The fate of Dr. Nobiling was less tragic than that of Hoedel, he having died on the 10th of September, after a sickness of nearly eight weeks and an imprisonment of over three months. On the 2d of June, less than three weeks after Hoedel’s attempt on the emperor, Carl Nobiling Jired twice with a double-barreled gun at the emperor from a window not far distant from the scene of the other attempt. The emperor was riding by with only a personal attendant. He received about thirty shot in the head, face, both arms, and back. When the assassin’s door was forced he fired upon and wounded the hotel-keeper, and also attempted to commit suicide, inflicting upon himself wounds which brought on his fatal sickness. Three of Nobiling’s brothers are officers in the Prussian army, and another graduated a short time ago from the University of Halle, and is an agricultural director in Saxony. The brothers in the army asked permission to resign their commissions ; but a council of officers was held, and their request was refused. They were then granted permission to change their names, which they did at once. Nobiling himself was carefully educated in the government schools, and was sometime employed in one of the government offices in Berlin. He was always a socialist in theory, and held extravagant ideas.
The next and most daring crime of this sort was the assassination of Lieutenant-General Nicholas Vladimirovich Mezentsoff, chief of the St. Petersburg police. General Mezentsoff was in the habit of walking between eight and nine o’clock in the morning, for the most part alone. On the morning of the 16th of August the general as usual went out for a stroll, accompanied by Colonel Makaroff, a former comrade in the Crimean campaign. They walked side by side, the colonel being on the general’s right hand. When they reached a certain corner of the street they observed in the angle of the house two persons approaching the square. To this, however, they attached no importance ; but no sooner was the general in a straight line with this corner than one of these persons rushed out and delivered a violent thrust with a dagger, inflicting a very deep wound in the stomach. At this moment Colonel Makaroff flung himself on the assassin, but his companion interposed, discharging a revolver at the head of the colonel. The ball did not take effect, but in the confusion the assassins escaped. The unfortunate general was removed to his own house, and shortly after five o’clock that same day he died.
He was a man of upright and honorable character. He had the regard of all who knew him, and all the circumstances exclude the idea that this cruel outrage can have been dictated by private revenge, and point to political motives as its true cause.
Close upon the heels of this outrage came intelligence of the assassination of Mehemet Ali, the distinguished Turkish soldier, who, while serving as extraordinary commissioner of the Porte, was with his suite massacred at Jakovo by the Albanians. This occurred early in September, 1878.
Then came the attack upon King Alfonso, on the 25th of October. That day the young king had returned to his capital, after a month’s absence on a military tour through the northern provinces of Spain. The young monarch had reviewed his small army before exPresident Grant and distinguished officers of the French and German staff, and was riding through Madrid on horseback. Everywhere he was received with hearty welcomes ; the crowds cheered, and ladies showered bouquets of flowers upon him from the balconies. As the royal cortège passed along the principal street of Madrid a young man pressed through the soldiers who kept the line, and, drawing a pistol, fired point-blank at Alfonso. The bullet missed its aim. The would-be assassin was instantly seized, and he proved to be one Juan Oliva Moncasi, a cooper, twenty-three years of age. He had for several years been noted in the district of Tarragona, in the province of Catalonia, where he was born, for his very exaggerated ideas in politics. He was uncommonly daring and cool in his behavior after his arrest, and he declared that he did not feel the slightest remorse. He had meditated this crime for a long time past, and came to Madrid with the firm resolve to carry out his design. e admitted that he had forfeited his life, but said he believed that he was, like Nobiling and Hoedel, furthering the objects of his school in social questions.
The young king, who displayed great courage in these trying circumstances, comes of a fated and unfortunate race. Scarcely ten years have passed in the last hundred years in which some prince of the house of Bourbon has not met with a violent end. In the Reign of Terror, Louis XVI. was guillotined ; Louis XVII. was put to death in prison by still fouler means ; Philippe Egalité was guillotined. In our own century the great Condé branch of the Bourbons was extinguished by the judicial murder of the Duke d’Enghien ; the Duke de Berri, heir to the throne of France, was stabbed by the villain Louvel ; and Don Henri, the Bourbon cousin of King Alfonso, was shot in a duel by the king’s father-in-law, the Duke de Montpensier.
The trial of Moncasi was commenced on the 28th of October. He refused legal assistance, and an advocate for his defense was consequently appointed by the court. It was soon discovered that he had no accomplices in Madrid. After a fair trial he was sentenced to death.
On the 6th of November an attempt was made at Madrid to assassinate General Bregna, ex-minister of war, two shots having been fired at him by a man who formerly served in the army. The general, fortunately, escaped unhurt, and the perpetrator of the attempt was arrested.
In less than a fortnight after this attempt in Spain, the young king of Italy was assailed. As Humbert IV. was entering Naples in state on Sunday, November 17, 1878, a man named Giovanni Passanante attempted to assassinate him with a poniard attached to a long staff. Signor Cairoli, chief of the Italian ministry, who was in the carriage with the king, laid hands on the assassin, and was wounded in the thigh. The king displayed great coolness, and struck the villain with his sword.
Many interesting particulars concerning the history and antecedents of this would-be regicide have appeared in print. He was born in February, 1848, in the territory of Naples, where his mother still lives, and two of his brothers are laboring men. He is believed to be the illegitimate son of a captain who served with Napoleon at Waterloo. He early learned to cook, and has served as cook in many families and eatinghouses. Turned away from school for having produced a composition which contained maxims and statutes for a new form of government, he united himself with all the workmen’s societies within his reach. Recently he has frequented an evangelical school at Naples, and that, it is claimed, had the effect of still further exciting his mind. He continually had a Bible in his hands, and went about saying that he was studying profoundly for the good of humanity, and that the sacrifice of one’s life for the good of the people was a worthy commemoration of Christ and his maxims. He had been heard on more than one occasion to say that he was capable of killing the king, for that kings ought not to exist.
On the 20th of November the news reached us that General Manuel Pardo, ex-president of Peru, and formerly president of the senate, had been cruelly assassinated. The terrible crime was committed November l6th, or the day before the attempt was made on King Humbert. General Pardo was just entering the senate-house, when a sergeant of the guard raised his musket and shot him in the back. He died soon afterward. The guard made no effort whatever to arrest the assassin, and it was soon discovered that the bloody act was but carrying out a conspiracy which had been fully arranged beforehand.
On the morning of December 13th, the London papers announced that several letters threatening the life of Queen Victoria had been received at the Home Office. The letters in question have not as yet been made public, but it is known that the author, whose name is Edward Byrne Madden, having as he supposes some claim either against the queen in person or the country, wrote to one of the secretaries of state intimating that unless his claim was immediately taken into consideration he should do something desperate. The man, who was fifty-six years of age, and was believed to be insane, was arrested. He admitted that he had written and sent the letters, further adding that he had commenced writing a fourth one to Lord Lyons, but had not yet concluded it. This is the sixth time that her majesty’s life has been either attempted or at any rate threatened.
It is a remarkable fact that there have been more attempts on the lives of royal personages, rulers, and prominent officials during the last hundred years than at any other period of history. This fact is explained in more ways than one, but the chief reason seems to be that great personages are less well guarded now than they used to be. But fanatics have lived in all ages, and some of the worst political and royal murders that the world has known occurred more than two hundred years ago. The two Henrys of France were slain by bigots, who hoped to reach heaven by killing kings whom they considered to be enemies of their church. The assassination of Henry IV. by Francois Ravaillac was one of the most dastardly known to history. In the spring of 1610 the king resolved to set out from Paris to commence war in Germany, and appointed his second wife, Mary de’ Medici, to be regent in his absence. She became possessed with an earnest desire to be solemnly crowned. Although it was much against his own wish, the king yielded to the importunities of the queen, and the day was fixed. Almost immediately Henry was filled with the notion that advantage would be taken of the coronation by the fanatical Catholic party to commit some outrage. He even went so far as to presage that he should not survive it, but having given the queen his word he would not countermand the orders already issued for the occasion. The air was filled with rumors of conspiracies formed against his person. Advices had reached him from more than twenty places that his assassination was contemplated, his conversion to Catholicism being set down as a mere matter of state policy, and his toleration of the Huguenots, of whom he had formerly been the head, being held to be sufficient proof that he still sympathized with the heretics.
On May 13th the ceremony of Mary’s coronation was publicly performed with all possible magnificence, and the Sunday following was fixed for her entry into Paris. On the morning of Friday, on the 14th of May, King Henry was observed to remain kneeling at prayer longer than usual. After hearing a report of some military officers who had been out reconnoitring, Henry seemed in better spirits, and went to hear mass at a convent founded by himself in the Rue St. Honoré. He was followed there by a man named Francois Ravaillac, who was watching an opportunity to stab him, but was hindered by the presence of the Duke de Vendôme. After dinner, which took place shortly afternoon, the king conversed with some of his ministers about the reforms he intended to make after the war was over, and particularly the suppression of such taxes as were the most burdensome to the people, and the reduction of the revenue staff. After that he grew extremely uneasy, went to a window, and, leaning his head upon his arm, was heard to say softly, “ My God! what is this within me that will not suffer me to be quiet! ” About four o’clock Henry ordered his coach, in which, having seated himself, he placed the Duke of Epernon next him on his right hand. The Duke of Montbazen, the Marquis de la Force, the Marquis de Mirabeau, and Mesdames de Ravardin, Roquelaure, and de Liancourt, were also seated in the coach. Asked by the coachman where he was to go, the king answered, “ Drive me from hence, anywhere ! ”
The man Ravaillac followed the coach, intending to have struck the king between the two gates, where there was necessarily a short stoppage; but he was hindered by finding the Duke of Epernon where the king used to sit. Once outside the palace yard, the king gave the coachman fresh orders, and last of all bade him drive to St. Innocent’s church-yard. In the Rue de la Ferronière, which was a very narrow street, there was a stop occasioned by two carts, one loaded with wine, the other with hay. The guards had been sent away, and only two pages accompanied the coach. One of them went before to clear the way, while the other stooped down to garter up his stocking.
The assassin seized the opportunity, He mounted on the rear wheel of the coach, and with a long, double-edged knife struck the king over the Duke of Epernon’s shoulder, while he was listening to a letter the duke was reading. So sudden was the assassination perpetrated, and so unobservant were the occupants of the coach, that none of them knew of it until they heard the king cry, “ I am wounded!” They did not even see the murderer, and had he thrown the knife under the coach he might have escaped ; but he stood on the wheel like a statue, with the bloody knife in his band. A gentleman ran up, seized Ravaillac, drew his sword, and was about to run him through the body, but was prevented by the Duke of Epernon, who cried out, “ Save him, on your life! ”
The wounded king was hastily driven back to the Louvre, where he soon after died, and was buried on the 29th of June. The assassin was tried, and after his examination he appeared surprised at nothing so much as at the universal abhorrence in which he was held by the people. The jailers were forced to guard him strictly from his fellow prisoners, who would otherwise have murdered him. The butchers of Paris desired to have him put into their hands, affirming that they would flay him alive, and that he should still live twelve days. On the day of his execution he was tied to a wooden cross. The knife with which he slew the king being then fastened in his right hand, it was first burnt off in a slow fire ; next, the fleshy parts of his body were torn with red-hot pincers, and melted lead, hot oil, pitch, and resin were poured into the wounds, and, through a clay funnel, into his bowels by the navel. The people refused to pray for him, and he was finally dragged to pieces by four horses.
In those days kings were truly regarded as the anointed of the Lord, and it remained for the French Revolution to disabuse people’s minds of this notion, and to revive the ancient rant about the lawfulness of slaying tyrants for the good of mankind. From that time kingly and political murders have been freqtient, and scarcely a monarch in Europe has been allowed to reign long without having his life threatened. Indeed, there have been as many as forty attempts, or threats, to take the lives of royal personages and rulers during the last forty years. Before giving these, however, I wish to mention a few of the more prominent political murders accomplished and attempted between 1792 and 1848.
On the 16th of March, 1792, Gustavus III. of Sweden was shot at a masked ball in the theatre of Stockholm by Colonel Ankarström, who had four accomplices, all gentlemen of good family. The king survived his wound thirteen days. Ankarström was executed, but his accomplices escaped. On the 19th of April, 1799, the French plenipotentiaries who had been at Rastadt negotiating a peace with Germany, after Napoleon’s Italian campaign, were treacherously murdered. The great Napoleon himself was frequently in danger. On the 24th of December, 1800, he was very near being killed by an infernal machine, which exploded as he was riding out of the Place du Carrousel. The conspirators were royalists. Four years later Georges Cadoudal, a Breton, plotted another attempt of the same kind with General Pichegru, and with seven or eight more was guillotined. Pichegru died in prison by his own hand. Napoleon had many other narrow escapes: one was at St. Cloud, in 1804, when he was shot at in his own garden by a person who was never caught; and another at Dresden, where his aggressor was a student, who was executed. The late Bayard Taylor, in a poem entitled Napoleon at Gotha, relates in graphic and graceful verse the details of an attempt made upon the great captain’s life by the ducal huntsman’s son, a “ proud and bright-eyed stripling, scarce fifteen years of age.” This lad saw with rising indignation that all were slaves and cowards before the one great man, Napoleon. His young blood was fired, and he swore to free the land of its conqueror. Upon one life hung all this shame and degradation. “I’ll take it with my own hand,” he said, “ and earn my country’s gratitude.” He took an old musket down from the wall, and cleaned and loaded it, and started out as though for a day’s sport. But he had not gone far when he returned to the castle of Friedenstein, and lay in wait for the emperor. Soon his watch was rewarded. He discerned the wellknown figure, with the arms crossed behind the back, walking leisurely and alone toward him. The boy raised the gun, and pointed it directly at the emperor ; his finger was on the trigger. Just as he was about to fire Napoleon saw him, and fixed his piercing gaze upon the lad, then walked calmly past him without even looking back. The gun fell from the boy’s hands, and he stood rooted to the spot. Napoleon had with one glance of his eagle eye disarmed the misguided boy.
The Emperor Paul I. of Russia was strangled in his palace at St. Petersburg on the night of March 23-24, 1801. The terrible event is described by Napoleon, in volume ii. of his Memoirs. This monarch (said the emperor at St. Helena) had exasperated part of the Russian nobility against himself by an irritable and over-susceptible temper. His hatred of the French Revolution had been the distinguishing feature of his reign. He considered the familiar manners of the French sovereign and princes and the suppression of etiquette at their court as one of the causes of that revolution. He therefore established a most strict etiquette at his own court, and exacted tokens of respect by no means conformable to our manners, and which excited general discontent. To be dressed in a frock coat, wear a round hat, or omit to alight from a carriage when the Czar or one of the princes of his house was passing in the streets or public walks was sufficient to excite his strongest animadversions, and to stamp the offender as a Jacobin in his opinion. After his reconciliation with the first consul he had partly given up some of these ideas ; and it is probable that had he lived some years longer he would have regained the alienated esteem and affection of his court. The English, vexed and extremely irritated at the alteration which had taken place in him in the course of a twelvemonth, took every means of encouraging his domestic enemies. They succeeded in causing a report of his madness to be generally believed, and at length a conspiracy was formed against his life. . . .
The evening before his death, Paul, being at supper with his mistress and his favorite, received a dispatch, in which all the particulars of the plot against him were disclosed. He put it into his pocket, and deferred the perusal to the next day. In the night he was murdered. This crime was perpetrated without impediment. P– had unlimited influence in the palace ; he passed for the sovereign’s favorite and confidential minister. He presented himself at two o’clock in the morning at the door of the emperor’s apartment accompanied by B–, S–, and O–. A faithful Cossack who was stationed at the door of the chamber, made some difficulty of allowing them to enter. He was instantly massacred. The noise awakened the emperor, who seized his sword ; but the conspirators rushed upon him, threw him down, and strangled him. It was B–who gave him the last blow and trampled on his corpse.
On May 11, 1812, Mr. Perceval, who had been prime minister of England since 1809, was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons by Bellingham, who was hanged the same month. On January 28, 1817, the prince regent was fired at as he was driving to the House of Lords to open Parliament, the ball shattering the window of his coach, but doing him no harm. The year 1819 was marked by the murder of the dramatist Kotzebue, which caused a profound sensation throughout Germany. Kotzebue having rendered himself unpopular by his reactionary writings, some students of Mannheim entered into a plot, and drew lots as to who should kill him. The lot fell upon Karl Sand, a young man whose mildness of temper unfitted him to be a murderer, but who nevertheless perpetrated his crime with reckless daring. Afterwards, having ineffectually attempted to commit suicide, he went to the scaffold without quailing. In 1820 the world was startled by two political outrages : first the stabbing of the Due de Berri, father of the Count de Chambord, on the steps of the old Opera House in Paris, on the 13th of February; and, second, the London conspiracy, by which Thistlewood and his accomplices planned to murder the principal members of Lord Liverpool’s ministry on the occasion of a dinner held at Lord Harrowby’s house on the 20th of February. The enterprise failed, and Thistlewood was hanged ; but Louvel’s attempt on the Due de Berri was only too successful.
Coming down to King Louis Philippe, who reigned in France from 1830 to 1848, we find that he was shot at no fewer than nineteen times. The most determined effort to take his life was that of the Corsican Fieschi, by means of an infernal machine contrived with gun-barrels, on the 28th of July, 1835. Fieschi had two accomplices in Pepin and Morey. They missed the king with their infernal machine, but succeeded in slaughtering nearly forty persons, including Marshal Mortier. Fieschi was himself wounded. He had been a political spy and a hired bravo in Italy, — a wretch who stabbed for money, — and it was absolutely for a pecuniary reward that he tendered his services to a few fanatics who wished to get rid of the citizen king. The Corsican turned craven on the scaffold, and fainted while he was being strapped to the plank. Henri Sanson, who was “ bourreau de Paris ” under the monarchy of July, guillotined between 1832 and 1844 no fewer than five assassins who had attempted the life of Louis Philippe. His first three were Fieschi, Pepin, and Morey, the fourth was a young sailor named Alibaud, and the fifth a man named Marius Darmés, who had fired at the king.
In 1840, on the 10th of June, a halfwitted lad named Oxford fired twice at the queen as she was driving with Prince Albert in Hyde Park. The boy was tried at the Old Bailey, and was detained for some time as a lunatic. In 1842 John Francis fired at her majesty, and some five weeks afterwards a man named Bean presented a pistol at her. Ten years later, in 1852, a fellow named Pate, formerly a lieutenant in the hussars, lay in wait for the queen as she was driving out of the residence of the Duke of Cambridge, and aimed a violent blow at her with his walking-stick, crushing her bonnet over her forehead. He was transported. In February, 1872, occurred the fifth attempt to frighten her. A lad named O’Connor, a silly shop-boy whose head had been turned with reading sensational romances, drew a pistol on her majesty as she was about to alight from her carriage at Buckingham Palace. He was sentenced to a year’s hard labor and a good flogging.
In 1848 an attack was made on the late Duke of Modena and the Prince of Prussia (now the emperor of Germany). In 1852 an infernal machine intended for Napoleon III. was discovered at Marseilles. In the following year Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria was slightly wounded by an Italian named Libenyez ; an attempt was also made on Victor Emmanuel, and Napoleon was again fired at opposite the Opéra Comique. In 1854 the Duke of Parma was mortally stabbed, and in 1855 the life of the French emperor was once more imperiled by an Italian named Pianori. In 1856 a police agent at Madrid seized a man named Fuentes as he was about to shoot Queen Isabella ; and the same year Milano, a soldier, wounded King Ferdinand of Naples with a dagger. Three Italians, who had been refugees in London, were convicted in 1857 of conspiracy to assassinate Napoleon III., and on January 14, 1858, came the culmination of the Orsini plot, the terrible explosion in the Rue Lepelletier, and the sacrifice of many innocent lives. The emperor escaped, but fourteen persons were killed or wounded by the explosion, the imperial coach being penetrated in several places by the shell fragments.
Some half dozen other attempts were made upon Napoleon’s life, and two of these have remained shrouded in mystery. It is known that in 1859 he was shot at by a forester in the forest of Compiègne ; but the papers received orders not to mention the affair. Again, in 1864, an Italian who had joined in the Greco-Trabuco plot for assassinating the emperor was pistoled in the courtyard of a house in the Rue de Vaugirard, while resisting the detectives who had been sent to arrest him; but the public heard nothing of this affair until the private papers of the Tuileries were published in 1870.
In 1861 the king of Prussia was twice fired at, but not hit, by the student Becker, at Baden; and in the following year a Greek student named Buesios fired at the queen of Greece. In 1865 Abraham Lincoln, the patriotic, good, and virtuous president, was cruelly assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, at Ford’s Theatre, Washington. The particulars of this horrible crime can never be forgotten by the American people. The life of the Czar Alexander II. has been often attempted. Two attempts have also been made upon Prince Bismarck,— by Blind in 1860, and Kullmann in 1874. In 1868 Prince Michael of Servia was assassinated, and Amadeo, ex-king of Spain, was attacked in 1872. One year before this latter event Marshal Prim, the ablest leader of the Spanish revolution, was waylaid and treacherously murdered by a band of assassins in Madrid, on the same day that King Amadeo landed on the shores of the Peninsula. Many arrests were made of suspected persons, and not a few were detained for several years in the prisons of Madrid. Some of the accused died in jail; others were liberated for want of sufficient proof; and in the summer of 1878 a man called José Lopez Perez, who had been confined for years, was brought before the Audiencia of Madrid to answer to the charge of participation in the assassination of the Duke of Castillijos. This man made a declaration in court which caused so much sensation that it was commented on by almost every paper in the capital. He solemnly assured his judges that he was able and ready to make full and complete revelations of the crime committed in the Calle Tarco; but he added that he would not venture on any revelation unless the court undertook at once to have him removed to a fortress or prison where his life would be in safety. This remarkable declaration produced such an impression when it took place that the judges suspended the hearing of the case, and sent the man back to prison. After that no more notice was taken of the man or his offers. About the 12th of September the evening journals of Madrid announced that a scuffle had taken place in the Saladero prison, and that one of the inmates had been dangerously stabbed by one of his fellowprisoners. On the morning of September 15th the El Imparcial announced, “ Jose Lopez Perez, accused in the suit pending on the murder of General Prim, said before the Audiencia, some days ago, that if they guaranteed his life he would speak; since yesterday he lies in the hospital wounded with two fearful stabs received in the Saladero of Madrid.”
The president of the republic of Peru was murdered in 1872; the President of Bolivia in 1873; the president of Ecuador in 1875; the President of Paraguay in 1877 ; and in the year 1878 we had the two attempts upon the emperor of Germany, the murders of General Mezentsoff, Mehemet Ali Pasha, and of General Pardo, and the attempts upon King Alfonso, King Humbert, Queen Victoria, and Emperor Francis Joseph. No doubt the list is far from complete, but enough has been written to show that these fearful offenses, though of such frequent occurrence, fail, fortunately, oftener than they succeed.
Considerations of compassion for misguided men, or unwillingness to believe in the existence of human wickedness in a positively diabolical degree, might induce the assumption that all regicides and political assassins are more or less insane. But the truth of the matter is that the number of lunatics or semilunatics is more than counterbalanced by an array of desperate and unscrupulous wretches like Orsini, like John Wilkes Booth, like Max Hoedel, like Giovanni Passanante.
Perhaps there was something in Orsini’s idea that an insurrection in Italy would follow the revolution in France, which the killing of Napoleon III. would bring about. There may also have been something plausible in the notion of young Blind, who made an attempt on the life of Bismarck, that the great hope of the Prussian Tories was an obstacle to German unity. But the more recent attempts have been made on men whose deaths could hardly have any political effect. All the nihilists in Russia could not prevent the Czarowitch from succeeding Emperor Alexander. The death of the emperor of Germany would only elevate the crown prince to the throne, and he is a man of uncommon energy.
The dynasties of Spain and Italy would not be extinguished by murdering the reigning sovereigns. There would be no real and permanent change created if all these attempts had been as successful as the cowardly murder of General Pardo ; and this fact certainly proves that men who are morally capable of political murder are mentally incapable of political reasoning.
James Henry Haynie.