[McKINLEY, William, President--ASSASSINATION]. CZOLGOSZ, Leon F. (1873-1901), Presidential Assassin. Manuscript document signed twice ("Leon F. Czolgosz"), comprising the final two-pages of a signed confession to the McKinley assassination. [Buffalo, N.Y.], 6 September 1901. 2 pages, 4to, ruled paper. Transcribed, witnessed and counter-signed by Vincent T. Haggerty, M. J. O'Laughlin and John Martin.
AN ASSASSIN'S CONFESSION: "I INTENDED TO KILL HIM...BECAUSE I DID NOT BELIEVE IN PRESIDENTS OVER US"
INSIDE THE MIND OF THE MURDERER. A confession by Czolgosz, taken down by interrogators on the very day of the shooting. Czolgosz explains how he read about McKinley's planned trip to Niagara Falls and the Buffalo exposition, and decided to make his fatal strike. "I saw in the papers what building the president was going to be in and I went there & waited for him to come in. I went right in when he came. I took the gun out and wrapped it in handkerchief at boarding house. I think I shot through handkerchief. I shot once and then again. I did not think one shot was enough. As soon as I fired second shot I was knocked down & tramped on, and gun taken away from me. The gun was fully loaded. All I have told you I have told of my own free will. Everything I have said is the truth."
The confession continues in the next paragraph--likely after a renewed round of questions about motive--and stresses the premeditated nature of his actions. "I made my plans 3 or 4 days ago to shoot the President. When I shot him I intended to kill him and the reason for my intention in killing was because I did not believe in presidents over us. I was willing to sacrifice myself & the president for the benefit of the country. I felt I had more courage than the average man in killing president and was willing to put my own life at stake in order to do it." The next paragraph also shows a change in theme, as investigators probed his connections to radical groups. Referring to the anarchist meetings he briefly attended, Czolgosz says "I heard people talk about the duty they were under to educate the people against the present form of government and they should [do] all they could to change form of Government..." He signs the confession, then adds a postscript: "I planned this all out for 2 or 3 days. I had an idea there would be a big crowd at the reception. I expected I would be arrested. I did not intend to get away." Then he writes--but thinks better and strikes out--the following lines: "I was willing to take chance of being electrocuted or hung if I could kill the president. I am willing to take consequences. I realized what it meant."
McKinley died nine days later. Czolgosz never wavered in either his admission of guilt or his lack of remorse. A judge overrode his guilty plea and ordered a trial, which lasted only eight hours. The jury took a mere 34-minutes to return their verdict. As he sat strapped in the electric chair on the morning of 29 October 1901, Czolgosz's final words were: "I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people--the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime."
Debate has raged ever since about whether Czolgosz's act was the result of revolutionary politics or mental derangement. The government saw the red menace at work and cracked down on radicals and stiffened immigration laws. While it's true that Czolgosz turned towards radicalism after losing his job in the great depression of 1893, it's also true that he shares many of the psychological deformities of all American assassins. A chronic misfit and a loner, he even wore out his welcome with his local anarchist group in Pittsburgh. His odd behavior and questions at meetings prompted suspicions that he was a government spy. One historian has concluded that "Neither pathological nor exclusively political, Czolgosz's act was essentially that of an awkward and dull-witted young man who rarely attracted much notice, except for one day when, energized in some complex way by radical rhetoric, he set forth on a path that fatefully intersected with that of the president" (Mark C. Carnes, American National Biography Online).
AUCTION RECORDS RECORD NO OTHER CZOLGOSZ AUTOGRAPH MATERIAL OF ANY KIND AT AUCTION SINCE AT LEAST 1933, let alone documents directly relating to the assassination. Popular revulsion resulted in all his papers and clothing being burned in acid following his execution.