Title: Assassination and Political Violence, Vol. 8 (Preview)
Subtitle: A Report to the National Commission on the Cause and Prevention of Violence
Date: October 1969


    Front Matter

      Title Page





      A. Summary

      B. Organization

    Conceptual and Structural Analysis of Assassination

      A. Problems of Definition

      B. Categories of Assassination4

      C. Preconditions for Assassination'5

      D. The Impact of Assassinations on Government Institutions and Policy



      A. Introduction1

      B. Case Method Discussion of Assassinations

        Presidential Assassinations

        Gubernatorial Assassinations

        Senatorial Assassinations

        Congressional Assassinations

        Mayoral Assassinations

        Assassinations of State Legislators

        Judicial Assassinations

      C. Conclusions and Statistical Overview



      A. Presidential Assassination Attempts1

        Andrew Jackson

        Abraham Lincoln

        James A. Garfield

        William McKinley

        Theodore Roosevelt

        Franklin D. Roosevelt

        Harry S. Truman

        John F. Kennedy

        Robert F. Kennedy

      B. The Psychology of Presidential Assassins

        1. Similarities between Presidential Assassins

        2. A Comparison of the Presidential Assassin and the Normal Citizen30

      C. A Psychiatric Perspective Upon Public Reaction To the Murder of a President.32

      D. A Survey of Public Reaction to Assassinations

        1. Emotional Responses of Specific Groups to Assassination





A. Summary

B. Organization

Conceptual and Structural Analysis of Assassination

A. Problems of Definition

B. Categories of Assassination............................................. 2

C. Preconditions for Assassination ....................................... 5 <

D. The Impact of Assassinations on Government Institutions and Policy 6

Chapter 1-Deadly Attacks Upon Public Office Holders In the United States 9

A. Introduction................................................................... 9

B. Case Method Discussion of Assassinations ..................... 21

Presidential Assassinations...................................................... 21

Gubernatorial Assassinations .................................................. 23

Senatorial Assassinations........................................................ 26

Congressional Assassinations ................................................. 29

Mayoral Assassinations........................................................... 31

Assassinations of State Legislators .......................................... 34

Judicial Assassinations............................................................ 38

Miscellaneous Assassinations ................................................. 40

C. Conclusions and Statistical Overview ............................. 42

Chapter 2-Assassination Attempts Directed at the Office of the President of the United States 49]]

Introduction-Summary ................................................................. 49

A. Presidential Assassination Attempts............................. 49

Andrew Jackson ................................................................................ 49

Abraham Lincoln............................................................................... 50

James A. Garfield............................................................................... 52

William McKinley............................................................................. 54

Theodore Roosevelt ........................................................................... 56

Franklin D. Roosevelt *...................................................................... 57

Harry S. Truman ............................................................................... 58

John F. Kennedy................................................................................ 61

Robert F. Kennedy............................................................................. 62

B. The Psychology of Presidential Assassins...................... 62

1. Similarities Between Presidential Assassins................ 62

2. A Comparison of the Presidential Assassin

and the Normal Citizen................................................. 67

C. A Psychiatric Perspective Upon Public Reaction to the Murder of a President 70

D. A Survey of Public Reaction to Assassinations............. 73

1. Emotional Responses of Specific

Groups to Assassination..................................................................... 78

2. Summary................................................................ 85

3. Polarized Subgroup Analysis....................................... 85

E. Political Consequences Traceable to Assassination of Presidents of the United States 91

F. Strategies for the Reduction of Presidential Assassinations............. 92

1. Protection of the President ........................................ 92

2. The Symbolic Content of the Office of the

President ........................................................................................... 96

3. Campaign Style and the Risk of Assassination ... 102

G. The Presidency and Assassinations: Sugesstions and Conclusions. 107

1. The Presidency ........................................................ 108

2. The Congress .......................................................... 109

3. The Political Party System........................................ 109

4. Campaign Methods.................................................. 110

5. The Federal System.................................................. 110

6. Conclusion............................................................... 110

Chapter 3-Cross-National Comparative Study of Assassination .... 113

Introduction-Summary ............................................................... 113

A. Assassination: A Cross-National Perspective............ 113

B. Political Violence and Assassination........................... 128

C. Violence, Assassination, and Political Variables ... 136

1. Level of Development and Political Violence ... 136

2. Systemic Frustration-Satisfaction and Violence . . 139

3. Rate of Socioeconomic Change and Violence ... 139

4. Coerciveness of Political Regimes and Violence . . 142

5. External Aggression, Minority Tension, Homicide, and Suicide ... 146

D. Conclusions .............................................................. 163

Chapter 4-Political Violence in the United States......................... 171

Introduction-Summary................................................................ 171

A. Historical Overview of Political Violence.................... 172

1. Vigilantism.............................................................. 172

2. Abolitionism and Anti-Abolitionism.......................... 173

3. Reimposing White Supremacy in the South After the Civil War (The First Ku Klux Klan) ... 173

4. Defense of American Nativism and Moralism-

Native American Party-Know-Nothings- White Caps—Second Ku Klux Klan 174

5. Agrarian Reform ................................................ 176

6. Labor Violence ........................................................ 178


7. PoUtical Violence in Contemporary America ... 179

B. Historical Comparison of the Intensity of Political Violence in the United States 181

C. Profile of Support Within the United States for Political Violence. 190

1. Analysis of Groups Whose Attitudinal Responses

Indicate Support for Political Violence............................................... 192

2. Political Vengeance.................................................. 193

3. Political Vengeance and Other Types of

Violence: An Attempt at Validation of the Measure ........................... 193

D. The Rhetoric of Vilification and Violence in Contemporary America 225

E. Two Contemporary Violent or Potentially Violent White Vigilante-Type Groups 229

1. North Carolina Ku Klux Klan.................................... 230

2. North Ward Citizens’ Council................................... 234

F. Summary: Cultural Origins and Impact of Violence . 235

G. Conclusion.................................................................. 237


A. Data on Assassination Events .............................................. 243

1. Data Collected by Leiden Group ............................... 243

2. Data Collected by Feierabend Group........................ 267

B. The Rethoric of Vilification and Violence ............................. 285

1. White Racist Groups ................................................ 285

2. Right Wing Extremists............................................. 287

3. Black Extremist Groups ........................................... 288

4. The New Left........................................................... 289

5. Schooling in Weaponry............................................ 290

6. The Relationship Between the Rhetoric of Violence and Violent Action 293

C. Alienation Today Conveyed Through the Words of Peter Young 295

D. The Contemporary Ku Klux Klan......................................... 299

1. The Traditional Perspective ...................................... 299

2. Violence and the White Ghetto................................. 314

3. Summary of Tapes Made by Peter Young ................. 318

E. National Survey Questionnaire............................................. 351

Special Research Report

Attitudes Toward Political Violence

By Sheldon G. Levy.................................................... 383

1. Method.................................................................... 383

2. Dimensions of Psychological Orientation .................. 386

3. Discussion of Factor Analytic Traits.......................... 388

4. Response to Governmental Injustice.......................... 399

5. Summary................................................................. 416


Introduction ............................................................................... 419

A. Political Violence and Terror in Nineteenth and

Twentieth Century Russia and Eastern Europe By Feliks Gross .... 421

1. Introduction............................................................. 421

2. Types and Function of Terror.................................... 423

3. Terror in Russia....................................................... 433

4. Violence and Terror Against Foreign Rule in Eastern Europe.. 442

5. Political Assassination in Balkan Politics................ 448

6. From the Terror of the Totalitarians to the Underground Struggle Against Conquerors, 1918-1945 452

7. Overview: Russian, Balkan and Polish Terrorism . 464

B. Assassination and Political Violence in Twentieth

Century France and Germany By Harold Deutsch......................... 477

1. Introduction............................................................. 477

2. The Early Twentieth Century.................................... 478

3. Political Violence in the Early Weirnar Republic . 482

4. The German Political Crisis, 1929-33 ...................... 489

5. The Nazis in Power.................................................. 492

6. Anti-Hitler Plots and Assassination Attempts ... 494

7. Germany Since 1945 .............................................. 495

8. The Later Third Republic ......................................... 495

9. France after World War II ........................................ 498

10. Summary and Conclusion ...................................... 499

C. Political Assassinations in China 1600-1968 By Daniel Tretiak 503

1. Introduction.............................................................. 503

2. Political Assassinations in China 1600-1968 .... 505

3. Politics and Political Assassination in Traditional China ......... 519

4. On the Legitimation of Assassination of Chinese Officials....... 524

5. The Impact and Effectiveness of Assassination in China.......... 525

6. A Post-Script: Some Relevant Comparisons on

Political Assassinations in China and the U.S. . . . 526

D. Assassination in Japan By James R. Soukup .......................... 531

1. Introduction.......................................................... 531

2. Causes of Assassination........................................... 533

3. Impact of Assassination .......................................... 535

4. Effectiveness of Assassination.................................. 535

E. Assassination in Latin America By Karl M. Schmitt ............... 537

1. Introduction............................................................. 537

2. Causes of Assassination........................................... 538

3. The Impact of Assassination on Political Systems . 539

4. Effectiveness of Assassination as a Political Technique .......... 541

F. Assassination in the Middle East By Carl Leiden.................... 545

1. Some Introductory Comments .................................. 545

2. Overview................................................................ 545

3. Causes of Assassination........................................... 549

4. The Impact of Assassination.................................... 550

5. The Effectiveness of Assassination .......................... 551

6. Conclusion.............................................................. 551

C. Political Assassinations in China 1600-1968 By Daniel Tretiak 503

1. Introduction.............................................................. 503

2. Political Assassinations in China 1600-1968 .... 505

3. Politics and Political Assassination in Traditional China ......... 519

4. On the Legitimation of Assassination of Chinese Officials....... 524

5. The Impact and Effectiveness of Assassination in China.......... 525

6. A Post-Script: Some Relevant Comparisons on

Political Assassinations in China and the U.S. . . . 526

D. Assassination in Japan By James R. Soukup .......................... 531

1. Introduction.......................................................... 531

2. Causes of Assassination........................................... 533

3. Impact of Assassination .......................................... 535

4. Effectiveness of Assassination.................................. 535

E. Assassination in Latin America By Karl M. Schmitt ............... 537

1. Introduction............................................................. 537

2. Causes of Assassination........................................... 538

3. The Impact of Assassination on Political Systems . 539

4. Effectiveness of Assassination as a Political Technique .......... 541

F. Assassination in the Middle East By Carl Leiden.................... 545

1. Some Introductory Comments .................................. 545

2. Overview................................................................ 545

3. Causes of Assassination........................................... 549

4. The Impact of Assassination.................................... 550

5. The Effectiveness of Assassination .......................... 551

6. Conclusion.............................................................. 551

G. Assassination and Political Violence in Canada By Denis Szabo 553

1. Introduction.............................................................. 553

2. Problem of Canadian Identity.................................... 553

3. Historical Context of Political Violence in Modem Canada .... 554

4. Fertile Ground for Political Violence: Quebec . . 559

5. Conclusion............................................................... 562

H. Assassination in Great Britain By Task Force Staff................. 565

I. Introduction.............................................................. 565

J. Assassination Attempts............................................. 565

Front Matter

Title Page


VOL. 8

A Report to the
National Commission on
the Causes and Prevention of


James F. Kirkham
Sheldon G. Levy
William J. Crotty

October 1969

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, D.C. 20402 - Price $2.50

Official editions of publications of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence may be freely used, duplicated or published, in whole or in part, except to the extent that, where expressly noted in the publications, they contain copyrighted materials reprinted by permission of the copyright holders. Photographs may have been copyrighted by the owners, and permission to reproduce may be required.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 74-603981


The Commission was directed to “go as far as man’s knowledge takes” it in searching for the causes of violence and the means of prevention. These studies are reports to the Commission by independent scholars and lawyers who have served as directors of our staff task forces and study teams; they are not reports by the Commission itself. Publication of any of the reports should not be taken to imply endorsement of their contents by the Commission, or by any member of the Commission’s staff, including the Executive Director and other staff officers, not directly responsible for the preparation of the particular report. Both the credit and the responsibility for the reports lie in each case with the directors of the task forces and study teams. The Commission is making the reports available at this time as works of scholarship to be judged on their merits, so that the Commission as well as the public may have the benefit of both reports and informed criticism and comment on their contents.

Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower, Chairman



James F. Kirkham Sheldon G. Levy William J. Crotty


Robert C. Herr Robert C. Nurick Linda G. Stone


Vicky Clinton


Anthony F. Abell

Commission Staff Officers

Lloyd N. Cutler, Executive Director

Thomas D. tour, Deputy Director

James F. Short, Jr., Marvin E. Wolfgang, Co-Directors of Research

James S. Campbell, General Counsel

William G. McDonald, Administrative Officer

Ronald Special Assistant to the Chairman Joseph Laitin, Director of Information

National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence

Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower, Chairman


From the earliest days of organization, the Chairman, Commissioners, and Executive Director of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence recognized the importance of research in accomplishing the task of analyzing the many facets of violence in America. As a result of this recognition, the Commission has enjoyed the receptivity, encouragement, and cooperation of a large part of the scientific community in this country. Because of the assistance given in varying degrees by scores of scholars here and abroad, these Task Force reports represent some of the most elaborate work ever done on the major topics they cover.

The Commission was formed on June 10, 1968. By the end of the month, the Executive Director had gathered together a small cadre of capable young lawyers from various Federal agencies and law firms around the country. That group was later augmented by partners borrowed from some of the Nation’s major law firms who served without compensation. Such a professional group can be assembled more quickly than university faculty because the latter are not accustomed to quick institutional shifts after making firm commitments of teaching or research at a particular locus. Moreover, the legal profession has long had a major and traditional role in Federal agencies and commissions.

In early July a group of 50 persons from the academic disciplines of sociology, psychology, psychiatry, political science, history, law, and biology were called together on short notice to discuss for 2 days how best the Commission and its staff might proceed to analyze violence. The enthusiastic response of these scientists came at a moment when our Nation was still suffering from the tragedy of Senator Kennedy’s assassination.

It was clear from that meeting that the scholars were prepared to join research analysis and action, interpretation, and policy. They were eager to present to the American people the best available data, to bring reason to bear where myth had prevailed. They cautioned against simplistic solutions, but urged application of what is known in the service of sane policies for the benefit of the entire society.

Shortly thereafter the position of Director of Research was created. We assumed the role as a joint undertaking, with common responsibilities. Our function was to enlist social and other scientists to join the staff, to write papers, act as advisers or consultants, and engage in new research. The decentralized structure of the staff, which at its peak numbered 100, required research coordination to reduce duplication and to fill in gaps among the original seven separate Task Forces. In General, the plan was for each Task Force to have a pair of directors: one a social scientist, one a lawyer. In a number of instances, this formal structure bent before the necessities of available personnel but in almost every case the Task Force work program relied on both social scientists and lawyers for its successful completion. In addition to our work with the seven original Task Forces, we provided consultation for the work of the eighth “Investigative” Task Force, formed originally to investigate the disorders at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and the civil strife in Cleveland during the summer of 1968 and eventually expanded to study campus disorders at several colleges and universities.

Throughout September and October and in December of 1968 the Commission held about 30 days of public hearings related expressly to each of the Task Force areas. About 100 witnesses testified, including many scholars, Government officials, corporate executives as well as militants and activists of various persuasions. In addition to the hearings, the Commission and the staff met privately with scores of persons, including college presidents, religious and youth leaders, and experts in such areas as the media, victim compensation, and firearms. The staff participated actively in structuring and conducting those hearings and conferences and in the questioning of witnesses.

As Research Directors, we participated in structuring the strategy of design for each Task Force, but we listened more than directed. We have known the delicate details of some of the statistical problems and computer runs. We have argued over philosophy and syntax; we have offered bibliographical and other resource materials, we have written portions of reports and copy edited others. In short, we know the enormous energy and devotion, the long hours and accelerated study that members of each Task Force have invested in their labors. In retrospect we are amazed at the high caliber and quantity of the material produced, much of which truly represents, the best in research and scholarship. About 150 separate papers and projects were involved in the work culminating in the Task Force reports. We feel less that we have orchestrated than that we have been members of the orchestra, and that together with the entire staff we have helped compose a repertoire of current knowledge about the enormously complex subject of this Commission.

That scholarly research is predominant in the work here presented is evident in the product. But we should like to emphasize that the roles which we occupied were not limited to scholarly inquiry. The Directors of Research were afforded an opportunity to participate in all Commission meetings. We engaged in discussions at the highest levels of decisionmaking, and had great freedom in the selection of scholars, in the control of research budgets, and in the direction and design of research. If this was not unique, it is at least an uncommon degree of prominence accorded research by a national commission.

There were three major levels to our research pursuit: (1) summarizing the state of our present knowledge and clarifying the lacunae where more or new research should be encouraged; (2) accelerating known ongoing research so as to make it available to the Task Forces; (3) undertaking new research projects within the limits of time and funds available. Coming from a university setting where the pace of research is more conducive to reflection and quiet hours analyzing data, we at first thought that completing much meaningful new research within a matter of months was most unlikely. But the need was matched by the talent and enthusiasm of the staff, and the Task Forces very early had begun enough new projects to launch a small university with a score of doctoral theses. It is well to remember also that in each volume here presented, the research reported is on full public display and thereby makes the staff more than usually accountable for their products.

One of the very rewarding aspects of these research undertaking has been the experience of minds trained in the law mingling and meshing, sometimes fiercely arguing, with other minds trained in behavioral science. The organizational structure and the substantive issues of each Task Force required members from both groups. Intuitive judgment and the logic of argument and organization blended, not always smoothly, with the methodology of science and statistical reasoning. Critical and analytical faculties were sharpened as theories confronted facts. The arrogance neither of ignorance nor of certainty could long endure the doubts and questions of interdisciplinary debate. Any sign of approaching the priestly pontification of scientism was quickly dispelled in the matrix of mutual criticism. Years required for the normal accumulation of experience were compressed into months of sharing ideas with others who had equally valid but differing perspectives. Because of this process, these volumes are much richer than they otherwise might have been.

Partly because of the freedom which the Commission gave to the Directors of Research and the Directors of each Task Force, and partly to retain the full integrity of the research work in publication, these reports of the Task Forces are in the posture of being submitted to and received by the Commission. These are volumes published under the authority of the Commission, but they do not necessarily represent the views or the conclusions of the Commission. The Commission is presently at work producing its own report, based in part on the materials presented to it by the Task Forces. Commission members have, of course, commented on earlier drafts of each Task Force, and have caused alterations by reason of the cogency of their remarks and insights. But the final responsibility for what is contained in these volumes rests fully and properly on the reserch staffs who labored on them.

In this connection, we should like to acknowledge the special leadership of the Chairman, Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower, in formulating and supporting the principle of research freedom and autonomy under which this work has been conducted.

We note, finally, that these volumes are in many respects incomplete and tentative. The urgency with which papers were prepared and then integrated into Task Force Reports rendered impossible the successive siftings of data and argument to which the typical academic article or volume is subjected. The reports have benefited greatly from the counsel of our colleagues on the Advisory Panel, and from much debate and revision from within the staff. It is our hope, that the total work effort of the Commission staff will be the source and subject of continued research by scholars in the several disciplines, as well as a useful resource for policymakers. We feel certain that public policy and the disciplines will benefit greatly from such further work.

To the Commission, and especially to its Chairman, for the opportunity they provided for complete research freedom, and to the staff for its prodigious and prolific work, we, who were intermediaries and servants to both, are most grateful.

James F. Short, Jr.

Directors of Research

Marvin E. Wolfgang


This Report is necessarily not the work of any one person; it draws together the contributions of many diverse scholars recruited by the Task Force. Accordingly, the Report has breadth of approach and diversity of viewpoint on the many facets of assassination and political violence.

For example, approaches include psychiatric post facto examinations of previous assassins; descriptive and historical treatments of assassinations; quantitative comparative analyses of the relationship between acts of political violence and assassinations and the occurrence of assassinations cross-nation- ally; interpretive discussions of aspects of United States culture which may support violence and, more specifically, violence directed against prominent individuals in the society; and contemporary reports of groups whose rhetoric and previous activities are associated with a variety of kinds of politically violent acts. Each approach contributes a different vantage point from which to examine assassinations and political violence.

The Task Force staff has brought the materials together and has presented them in three major parts: the report itself, Appendices to the report, and a Supplement to the Report. The Appendices contain materials that document in greater detail many of the points raised in the Report, including much of the unrefined data employed in the analyses contained within the Report. The Supplement presents more intensive historical and interpretative explorations of political assassinations in other countries and other regions of the world. These studies, along with the quantitative analyses of comparative aspects of violent behavior, assist in placing the experience of the United States in a world context.

In commissioning studies for the Task Force Report, the codirectors attempted to include reports by individuals distinguished in their understanding of the topic in question. The final Report of the Task Force is based on these studies, many of which are incorporated in whole or in part. In a few cases, the editing has been relatively severe. In all cases, at least some minor editorial changes have been made by the staff. In each instance, however, the original author has been identified and the extent of his contribution to the Report described as accurately as possible. In addition, some sections were written entirely by the staff, including much of the introductory and explanatory material. Thus, the result is neither a book of selected readings by different authors nor a presentation which is homogeneous in style and viewpoint. We have instead attempted to combine the different approaches and viewpoints within a systematic structure. This will enable us to treat the resulting product as a whole and draw conclusions based upon all the different approaches to the subject matter.

The codirectors of Task Force I, Assassination and Political Violence, wish to extend their sincere thanks to the Commissioners and the administrative staff of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence for their constant help, support, suggestions, and contributions to this report. Essential to all the Task Force Reports, and to this report in particular, was the continuing loyal support of the Executive Director, Lloyd N. Cutler. In addition, we wish to acknowledge a special debt to the Commission’s codirectors of research, Dr. James F. Short, Jr., and Dr. Marvin E. Wolfgang, and the Commission’s indefatigable administrative officer, Col. William G. McDonald. To single out particular staff members, however, is necessarily unfair. All worked well beyond what could be reasonably expected in helping this and the other Task Forces. ,

This Report would not exist but for the consultants to the Task Force, and we should like at this point to acknowledge the contributions of each.

Reports submitted by the following were directly drawn upon in one form or another in the text of the Report; as with all consultant papers, some editing was done by the staff.


Richard Maxwell Brown Department of History College of William and Mary

Ivo K. Feierabend

Rosalind Feierabend

Betty A. Nesvold

Franz N. Jaggar

Department of Political Science San Diego State College San Diego, Calif.

Lawrence Z. Freedman, M.D. Department of Psychiatry University of Chicago

Clinton E. Grimes

Judith H. Grimes

Department of Political Science University of Idaho Moscow, Idaho

Feliks Gross

Department of Sociology Brooklyn College

Carl Leiden

Murray C. Havens Karl M. Schmitt James Soukup Department of Government University of Texas Austin, Tex.

Project Title

Violence in American History.

Political Violence and Assassination: A Cross-National Assessment- 1948-1968

Assassins of Presidents of the United States: Their Motives and Personality Traits

Personalism, Partisanship, and Assassination

Political Violence and Terror in 19th and 20th Century Russia and Eastern Europe

Assassinations Worldwide 1918-1969


James McEvoy III Components of Political Violence

Department of Sociology

University of California, Davis


Department of Political Science

University of California, Berkeley

Rita J. Simon

Department of Sociology University of Illinois Urbana, Ill. Political Violence Directed at Public Office Holders: A Brief Analysis of the American Scene
Peter B. Young Summit, N.J. Whose Law, Whose Order?
Doris Y. Wilkinson Jerry A. Gaines Department of Sociology University of Kentucky Lexington, Ky. Sociological Insights into the Assassin
Jerome Bakst Anti-Defamation League New York, N. Y. Political Extremism and Violence in the United States Reports from the following are reprinted in the Supplement:

Harold Deutsch Department of History University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn.

Feliks Gross Department of Sociology Brooklyn College New York, N.Y. Assassination and Political Violence in 20th Century France and Germany
Political Violence and Terror in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Russia and Eastern Europe
Murray C. Havens Department of Government University of Texas Austin, Tex. Assassination in Australia
Carl Leiden Department of Government University of Texas Austin, Tex. Assassinations in the Middle East
Karl M. Schmitt Department of Government University of Texas Austin, Tex. Assassination in Latin America
James R. Soukup Department of Government University of Texas Austin, Tex. Assassination in Japan
Denis Szabo Department of Criminology
University of Montreal
Assassination and Political Violence in Canada
Inkeri Auttila Assassination in Finland
Kias Lithner Assassination in Sweden

Daniel Tretiak Political Assassinations in China,

Advanced Studies Group 1600-1968

Westinghouse Electric Corp.

Waltham, Mass.

The following also submitted papers or appeared at hearings before the Commission and provided valuable insights that contributed to the Report:

Dr. David Abrahamsen Department of Psychiatry Roosevelt Hospital New York, N.Y.
Joseph Bensman Department of Sociology City College of New York New York, N.Y. Social and Instructional Factors
Determining the Level of Assassination
Lynne Iglitzin
University of Washington Seattle, Wash.
Violence and American Democracy
Seymour M. Lipset
Carl Sheingold Department of Government and Social Relations Harvard University Cambridge, Mass.
Values and Political Structure:
An Interpretation of the Sources of Extremism and Violence in American Society
Harold L. Nieburg
Department of Political Science University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Wis.
The Political Uses of Assassination
Dr. David A. Rothstein Michael Reese Hospital Chicago, Illinois
Richard E. Rubenstein The Adlai Stevenson Institute Chicago, Ill. Assassination and the Breakdown of American Politics
Dore S chary
National Chairman Anti-Defamation League
B’nai B’rith
Joyce A. Sween Rae L. Blumberg Department of Sociology Northwestern University Reactions to the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Stanford Research Institute Henry Alberts A Study of Game Theory and Probability Models as Employed in the Prediction and Prevention of Assassination
Edward A. Zeigenhagen Department of Political Science Wayne State University Detroit, Mich. Systematic Constraints and Political Assassination

Roy Nagle Assassination of President McKinley

Buffalo, N.Y.

The original version of each of the foregoing papers is contained in the files of the Commission, as are the transcripts of the testimony.

One final word of appreciation: with almost no exceptions, the consultants to this Task Force were very generous with their time and professional abilities. Again with almost no exceptions, the amount of work each of the consultants contributed to this Task Force far exceeded the compensation received. In addition, both the Advanced Studies Group of Westinghouse Electric Corporation and the Stanford Research Institute generously donated their services. This Task Force received whole-hearted support from those whose help it sought. Nothing could have been accomplished without that support.

Special thanks is owed Robert C. Herr, who helped direct the work of the Task Force from its inception, and our research assistants, Robert Nurick and Linda Stone, who contributed not only notable ability, but continuing good cheer, notwithstanding the severe pressures of time and performance under which the Task Force operated. Our sincere appreciation is also extended to Victoria Clinton, the secretary of the Task Force, who maintained all its records in addition to assuming the main burden of its clerical work; she cheerfully worked nights and weekends to complete her many tasks.

We appreciate the diligent, painstaking, and patient work of Mr. Anthony F. Abell, who established the overall style for this volume and prepared the manuscript for publication.

The greatest debt of all is owed to Katherine Kirkham, Mary Lois Levy, and Nan Crotty, the wives of the codirectors. Each of us on very short notice left our wives and small children in other parts of the country to come to Washington, D.C., for the Commission. None of us could or would have imposed that hardship upon our wives without their loyal and enthusiastic support for the work we undertook.





A. Summary

The National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence was established by President Lyndon Johnson immediately after the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy. Senator Kennedy’s assassination occurred within months of that of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and both followed by less than five years the assassination of President John Kennedy.

The Commission divided its staff into various Task Force groups. This Task Force was to investigate and respond to the questions and issues raised by the phenomenon of assassination and the related phenomenon of political violence. It sought among other things, to shed light on the patterns, if any, that exist in assassination and other acts of political violence; the relationship between assassinations and other forms of political violence; the social and political consequences of assassination; the relative incidence of assassinations and other acts of political violence in the United States vis-a-vis other nations; and the environmental factors that encourage groups or individuals to attack political leaders. This report presents and assesses the evidence available on each of these aspects of political assassinations.1

Assassinations have occurred throughout the history of the United States and have been employed on occasion to achieve political and ideological goals, although such use has been limited almost entirely to the Reconstruction period in the South.

The number of assassinations and acts of general political violence in the United States is high, compared with other nations, particularly when with more politically stable and economically developed countries. However, despite the assassinations that have taken place during the 1960’s, physical attacks against politically prominent individuals do not appear to be increasing.

The risk of assassination is considerably greater for elective as opposed to appointed public officials in spite of the fact appointed officials may wield greater power. Also, the risk of assassination is directly proportional to the size of constituency of the officeholder. The presidency is the most striking example. In relation to the number of officeholders, the position of President has been the object of by far the greatest proportion of assassination attempts.

Truly “political” assassinations, that is assassinations that are part of a rational scheme to transfer political power from one group to another or to achieve specific policy objectives, are rare in the United States. Assassinations did occur in the Reconstruction period in the South combined with terrorist activities employed in an effort to reinpose white supremacy after the Civil War. But most assassinations in the United States have been the products of individual passion or derangement.

As an example, each of the persons who attempted, either successfully or unsuccessfully, to assassinate Presidents of the United States, with the possible exception of the so-called Puerto Rican nationalists who attacked President Truman, evidenced serious mental illness. None of them were chosen representatives of political movements, although most claimed X, allegiance to broader political groups and cited political reasons for their act. 1 Each assassin seemed to be acting out some inner pathological need. Despite this, the public, in reaction to the assassinations, has sometimes attempted to W tiejhe-assassinilo.^political movements or conspiracies, The presidential assassins have a number of characteristics in common. Still,6 we are as yet unable to comprehend the_in^dduaUnd social forces at work sufficiently to__be_able to identif&feotential assassins hnjdxaute of their attack^.<Karacteristics common to assassins are-sTafeT^Tlarge number of M5mzd1s.lt is, however, both impossible at this point and probably undesirable i in a democratic political system to attempt to identify and isolate potential/ _assassins_oaaoyjbroad scale based on present knowledge.^' *-- ' '

As a result, prevention of assassinations must remain fundamentally a problem of physical protection. The Secret Service has the principal responsibility for protecting the President and is engaged in a continuing program to evaluate and upgrade its capabilities and to reduce the exposure of the President to risk.

Assuming the assassin to be mentally ill, there remains the question what factors tend to channel such mental illness into an assassination event. Our studies show that assassination correlates highly with general political turmoil.

Political turmoil and violence have characterized the United States throughout its history. Levels of political violence appear to crest during periods of accelerated social change. Agrarian reform abolitionism, the Reconstruction era, the fight to organize labor, and the periodic recrudescence of American nativism in its various forms were each accompanied by high levels of political violence. The 1960’s have witnessed a level of violence and political turmoil comparable to other high points of violence in the nation’s history.

Also, specific cultural and social factors in the United States may support -politicaLviotence,including assassinations. Recent years have seen a number of movements that justify violence as a legitimate tactic in seeking political ends. There has been frequent use of rhetoric villifying institutions and individuals. Such rhetoric is frequently a precondition for physical assaults directed against politically prominent individuals. In addition, some segments of the population view our democratic government as ineffectual in meeting Jhe-neods of its people.

The likelihood of assassination should decrease as thejevel_of political unrest within the country diminished

Neither panic nor complacency is an appropriate response to this Report. We should not surround our elected representatives with guards or otherwise risk isolating political leaders from their contact with the people. Our data suggest that isolated acts of assassination, unconnected with systematic terrorism, rarely bring fundamental change to a nation and have not had such impact in the United States, with the possible exception of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. On the other hand, our data suggest that isolation of political representatives from the people may have a long-range corrosive effect upon the perceived legitimacy of democratic institutions.

Nor should we seek specific legislation purporting to respond directly to the problem of assassination alone. The most effective defense against assassination in a society that seeks to preserve freedom of the individual is an overwhelming consensus that the government is legitimate and responsive to the people. A government supported by such a consensus will have the political strength and purpose to defend itself firmly and effectively at all levels against those who reject the ideals of democracy.

Thus, we report that the continuing urgent search for strategies to cope with fundamental causes of present disaffection in the United States, such as racial inequality, mounting crime, and the questioned use of military force in our foreign affairs, is of direct relevance to the overall problem of assassination. Such disaffection weakens the consensus upon which the strength of the government is based. We have not found a specific remedy for assassination and political violence in a democracy apart from the perceived legitimacy of the government and its leaders.

B. Organization

The introductory section of this report begins by discussing definitional problems associated with the study of assassination. It presents five categories of assassination, distinguishing between, for example, a palace coup, and the attack of an individual acting out private pathological needs. This part of the report helps to establish a framework in which to evaluate the American experience.

The section also describes preconditions, or factors conducive to assassinations, based on the patterns found in the historical and comparative studies of assassination in a variety of different countries. While, strictly speaking, the precondition to an assassination is a man with a weapon and sufficient motivaticm.tQjjiuider-a political lead^thi&^section attempts to Id^tilybroader^re basicfactorsthat shape an environment conducive .to J assassination,

The introductory section concludes with an overview of the impact of assassinations upon governmental policies and political institutions, again based upon historical and comparative studies. The conditions necessary for an assassination to provoke fundamental change are reviewed and the likelihood of these occurring at the time of a specific assassination is discussed.2

The remainder of the report is divided into four chapters. Chapter 1 describes all attempts on the lives of officeholders in the United States. The perspective is historical and the time period covered is from the inception of the Nation to the present. The offices analyzed are President, US Senator, US Congressman, Governor, State Legislator, Judge, Mayor, and other local offices.

Chapter 2 analyzes in greater detail presidential assassinations, describing the events connected with each assassination and evaluating, to the extent possible, the motives and emotional stability of the assassins. The chapter reports on public reaction to the assassination and the impact that presidential assassinations have had on political institutions and policy. The symbolic attraction of the office of President for assassins is explored, and several general recommendations are put forward to direct attention to the limits of the office, as well as the alternative points of decisionmaking avilable within the political system. The problems of physical protection of the President are dealt with from the perspective of the Secret Service, the agency charged with this task.

Chapter 3 employs cross-cultural comparative data to compare the American experience with assassinations in other nations. The data show that the United States ranks high in political assassinations. The analysis also describes the relationship between assassination and other forms of political violence. These data, in addition to providing a perspective on assassinations in the United States, contribute a framework and basepoint from which to begin a more intensive exploration of the historical studies of individual nations and regions contained in the supplement to this report.

While Chapter 3 employs quantitative data to discover patterns of political violence among nations, Chapter 4 explores the cultural factors that underlie the high incidence of assassinations and other politically violent acts in the United States. The chapter presents historical overviews of political violence, including both an historical review of the major political movements and groups associated with violence and an analysis of trends in politically violent behavior obtained from a sampling of newspaper accounts over a 150-year period. With this as background, the contemporary levels of violence in the United States are analyzed in several ways. From an original survey of data, the demographic characteristics of those persons in our society who express support for political violence are described. Then, several examples of the rhetoric of violence, drawn from the more extensive materials contained within the appendix to this report, are put forward. Such rhetoric is often a . precursor of attacks directed against individuals. The chapter, and the volume, ends with a personalized exploration of two contemporary groups which pose typical problems for those concerned with political violence.

Conceptual and Structural Analysis of Assassination

A. Problems of Definition

Although this is a report about assassination, we do not undertake to define precisely what is meant by an “assassination,” nor do we limit consideration in this Report to a particular consistent definition of “assassination.” There are at least three separate elements woven into the concept of “assassination” which identify it as a particular kind of murder: (1) a target that is a prominent political figure; (2) a political motive for the killing; (3) the potential political impact of the death or escape from death, as the case may be.

Most murders that would be called “assassinations” contain in greater or lesser degree all three elements, as for example, the killing of a head of state by an agent of a rival political party for the purpose of changing the regime. All three elements, however, do not necessarily coexist. A murder which contains any one of the foregoing three elements should properly be considered in any investigation of the phenomenon of assassination. For example, during the 1920’s in Germany, there were a great number of politically motivated killings of persons whose political stature was trivial, but these political killings and assaults had great significance. The terrorism during the Reconstruction era in the South often had nonpolitical figures as its object. In recent years, civil rights workers-not political figures by ordinary definition-have likewise been murdered or assaulted for political motives. Such acts of political terrorism are assassinations in some senses; they should be and are treated as such in this report.

At the other extreme, the head of state or a crucial political figure could be murdered by his estranged wife or simply by a burglar with no political motivation. Nonetheless, the impact upon the political system involved could be profound. Again, in some senses, these would be assassinations and are treated as such in this report.

In assessing the impact of assassination or the level of assassination in a given country, it could be argued that the relevant inquiry becomes, “What ( factors within a country produce high or low impact upon the removal of a political figure, whether by assassination or not.” As Carl Leiden points out, the natural death of a political leader under certain circumstances can have a far more profoundly disruptive political effect than would the assassination of a political leader under other circumstances.

Also, how does one categorize attempts by mentally disturbed persons, such as the typical attacker of a President of the United States? A distinguished psychiatrist and contributer to the Commission, Dr. Lawrence Z. Freedman, has suggested that in some senses, with the possible exception of the attack upon President Truman, there have been no political assassination attempts directed at the President of the United States. The attacks are viewed as products of mental illness with no direct political content. This view is certainly arguable.

Our approach has been to avoid the definitional swamp by simply going around it, using routes dictated by common sense and practicality. In Chapter 1, we have treated all attacks against officeholders in the United States as worthy of our attention, although in most instances the attacks did not have a primary political motivation. In Chapter 2, we treat all attempts upon the lives of Presidents or of presidential candidates as assassinations.

In Chapter 3, our cross-national comparative study of assassination, we draw upon the work of two groups, one headed by Prof. Ivo Feierabend at San Diego State College, and the other headed by Professor Carl Leiden at the University of Texas.

Each group was in a position to make a valuable contribution to the study of assassination despite severe time constraints. Each had already begun gathering relevant data prior to the formation of the Commission. Each group had been working independently. In presenting their materials we adopted the definition of assassination used by each of these groups, although the definitions are not entirely the same. We did so because: (1) no reasonable alternative was feasible or desirable in terms of coordinating and reworking data which had already been gathered by the two groups, and which spoke of different times periods and (2) definitional consistency is irrelevant. Each group made cross-national comparisons only in terms of its own data: that is, all comparisons are based on a consistent definition.

Nor need the definitions used in Chapter 3 be consistent with those used in Chapters 1 and 2. The validity of comparisons of relative incidence of assassination and political violence is unaffected by the fact that the data banks used for comparative purposes may or may not have included all the Presidents of the United States or all the officeholders listed in Chapters 1 and 2 as “assassinations.”

In Chapter 4, we have treated low-level political violence as a proper subject for this Report-i.e., violence for political purposes, but not necessarily directed toward political figures. Again, whether the deliberate murder of a Pinkerton guard or a union leader in an earlier time would be considered a “true” assassination is a meaningless question. As we will demonstrate, low-level violence keys into high-level violence. Low-level violence has political implications and impact. Such conduct must be treated in any discussion of political assassination.

B. Categories of Assassination4

Acts of assassination can occur in different social and political contexts and may be committed for different reasons. While avoiding the problem of precise definition of assassination as such, it is useful to describe the various categories of assassination and examine the experience of the United States and other regions in the world in light of these categories.

1. The first category we can identify is assassination by one political elite to replace another without effecting any substantial systemic or ideological change. The purpose of such an assassination is simply to change the identity of the top man and the ruling clique.

This kind of assassination appears in the Middle East. Palace revolutions, or coups in Latin America would also come under this heading. Coups in Latin America, however, have not always ended in assassination. The object of the coup has usually relinquished his position and those taking power have been content to let him live.

This type has been successful in countries where the government has little de facto impact upon the vast body of the citizens outside the capital city. As long as governments can come and go with little impact or participation by peon or fellahin, as the case may be, palace revolutions appear to be a practical way of gaining power. This type of assassination has not appeared in the United States.

2. A second category is assassination for the purpose of terrorizing and destroying the legitimacy of the ruling elite in order to effect substantial systemic or ideological change.

Such assassination may be directed against high government officials or against mid-level officials to undermine the effectiveness of the central government at the local or provincial level. When such terror is directed toward a chief of state, the assassin may accomplish part of his goal even though the attempt is unsuccessful. For example, the members of the group which set out to assassinate the Czar in the 1880’s realized that they had no realistic chance of short-term success in changing the basic political structure of Czarist Russia. They pointed out, however, that if they forced the Czars to retreat into their palaces or surround themselves with guards, the symbolic separation of the leaders from their people would, in the long run, undermine the legitimacy of the Czarist government.

Our studies show that this kind of assassination is effective in achieving the long-range goals sought, although not so in advancing the short-term goals or careers of the terrorists themselves. Our studies show that, at least in modern history (post-1850), it cannot be said that in the long run any terrorist group was unsuccessful, except in those countries such as Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany where the ruling elite was willing to use massive counter-terror to suppress potentially terroristic groups. Once a terrorist group is well established, the only effective response is either counterterror or agreement to the basic demands of the terrorists-demands which may or may not be compatible with a democratic society. The Nazis, for example, rose to power on a wave of terrorism.

The best defense against terrorism is a government which has the broad popular support necessary to control terrorist activities through normal channels of law enforcement without resorting to counterterror. Terrorists often correctly perceive that their greatest enemy is the moderate who attempts to remedy whatever perceived injustices form the basis for terrorist strength. It is often these moderates who are the targets of assassination.

For example, Premier Stolypin of Russia, whose energy and force might have made the Duma a practical instrument of constitutional monarchy, fell to an assassin in 1911. Archduke Ferdinand, whose death triggered World War I, advocated federalism and limited autonomy for Serbian nationals within the Austrian Empire. The representatives of Serbian nationalism who killed him apparently feared that this moderate policy might undermine the support upon which they counted.

It should be pointed out that even the strategy of remedying the perceived injustices from which the terrorists gain their strength may not work or may be impractical, because that strategy may be consistent with the basic goals of the central government.

An example is the British presence in both Cyprus and Palestine. It was the British presence itself that was the perceived injustice. In both instances, terrorism was effective in spite of all counter-strategies. As can be seen, terrorism is particularly effective when the government is viewed by a substantial portion of the local population as a foreign conqueror or otherwise illegitimate.

This type of assassination terrorism appeared in the South directly after the Civil War. The imposed ruling class was viewed as illegitimate by a substantial portion of the population. Assassination of Northern Republican officeholders, combined with systematic terrorism practiced on Southerners sympathetic to the then “foreign elite,” eventually forced Northern capitulation. The so-called “Southern way of life” was reestablished, and lasted virtually unchallenged until the 1950’s.

Even where the government is neither foreign nor otherwise illegitmate, if terrorism has established itself, it may become so institutionalized and professionalized as a way of life that no concession is sufficient. A concession may please one group but offend another. This is apparently what happened in the case of the IMRO, or Black Hand, in the Balkans. Thus, it is important that potential terrorism be recognized and counteracted at an early stage.

3. A third category is assassination by the government in power to surpress political challenge.

This strategy, including mass counterterror, has appeared in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. A recent example was the assassination of the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian Government. Such strategy is not necessarily ideologically based. Machiavelli advised this strategy for the prince who has just come to power-to kill relatives of the previous prince and other potential challengers with promptness in order to make his power secure. Such a strategy is an indication and confession of weakness by the central government. This type of assassination has not occurred in the United States.

4. A fourth category is assassination to propagandize a political or ideological point of view. This is the so-called “propaganda of the deed,” popular with anarchists at the turn of the century.

Its purpose is to dramatize and publicize perceived injustice. Some of the assassins of Presidents of the United States may marginally fall within this category, as well as within the fifth category.

The success of such strategies cannot easily be measured, for the assassin does not purport directly to advance his ideaology except through publicity. A cause-and-effect relationship cannot be unravelled. For example, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand may fall in part within this category-to publicize Serbian national aspirations. The effect, we can speculate, was to create upheavals far beyond those anticipated, and still there is no Serbian national state-although Yugoslavia perhaps comes closer than Austria. The speculation remains whether the assassins and the group they represented would prefer Yugoslavia today to the rule of the Austrian Empire prior to World War I.

5. The fifth and last category is assassination unconnected with rational political goals which satisfies only the pathological needs of the mentally disturbed attacker. This represents the typical attacker of Presidents of the United States. Whether such assassinations achieve the goal of the assassin is a matter of psychiatric speculation. To the extent that such assassins seek attention, publicity, and importance, they consistently have achieved their goals in the United States.

C. Preconditions for Assassination'5

Cross-national comparative studies demonstrate that other forms of political violence correlate highly with and may be preconditions to assassination. That is, political turmoil itself may spawn assassination without regard to distinctions between types of turmoil.

We believe, however, that our studies of assassination in specific regions and countries throughout the world enable us to identify more precisely certain preconditions for assassination.

At the kind of government towards which the assassination is directed. The

An analysis of the preconditions of assassination cannot ignore the issue of study of assassination and terrorism in the late nineteenth andtwenty centunes_j£monstrates thatJhJ/preconditions fof^ assassination democracy differ from pre^Hditions under oppressive foreign or autocratic rule, where political expression is nt comparative studies suggest three there is oppressive rulek assassination: (1) the/ ., . ‘ existence of a political party with an ideology and technique of direct action;} J ; (2) perception of oppression; and (3) presence of activists, i.e., persons willing\ to respond with violence to the conditions of oppression.

In a democracy, however, where physical oppression is absent, its equivalent must be created through (1) a weakening of shared democratic 0 values, or a crisis in which the democratic institutions are incapable of taking I V A effective remedial action; and (2) a pre-assassination process of defamation > . and vilification of democratic politicians and institutions. The remaining OS preconditions are also shared with the oppressive rule situation-(3) the existence of a party or groups of persons with an ideology and tactics of I rC' direct violence, and (4) the presence of persons with propensities for violence/) A once the antecedents are present.

A number of the preconditions for assassination are latent in the United States. Some groups may perceive the government as oppressive, in which case the model describing oppressive rule is applicable. It is, however, a \ ri reverse sentimentalism to distort the overall picture of political conditions iiL-jjf-V the United States by dwelling on its admitted imperfections. The United ' States is a remarkably free country. Most of its citizens enjoy perhaps morez real freedom, including the freedom from hunger and other material deprivations, than any other nation. Thus, it is the second model, preconditions for assassination in a democracy, which is of particular interest to us.

SpecificaUy, the rhetoric of vilification of political leaders and the advocacy of violence may have a more profound effect than we have realized. The fact that our most tragic assassinations have been at the hands of persons who were mentally deranged, or not part of any political conspiracy, does not weaken the point. As Professor Feliks Gross points out, by way of example:

Before the assassination of President Gabriel Narutowicz in 1922 in Poland, in a pre-assassination stage, a vituperous defamation campaign was launched against him by the parties of the right. The assassination was an isolated, political act of killing, not a result of a terroristic tactic. The assassin, Eligious Niewiadomski, believed that he had performed a heroic act and a patriotic duty. There was neither conspiracy nor organized terroristic party. But in the climatg.nf vilification, once the political actor was “morally” branded, Eliminated, and destroyed, psychological restraints and controls of a potential assassin were weakened or even removed, and in his view assassination was justified (Supplement, section / A).

Professor Gross is not alone with his concern for the impact of such rhetoric. Dan Watts, editor of The Liberator magazine, a Negro, and an early advocate of black nationalism, made the same point in an interview with a consultant for this Task Force, that there should be a deescalation of violent talk before it leads to violent action (see Appendix D). On the other hand, a stabilizing strength peculiar to the United States is its unique capacity to absorb and adopt the rhetoric and symbols of radical challenge. To this extent, one can agree with and rejoice in one of the basic theses of Herbert Marcuse that the United States has a tremendous capacity to absorb and thus to emasculate radical challenges. One early exponent of the “hippie” movement complained that the movement was not a success in challenging basic American values because trying to change the United States was like “tilting with a marshmallow; you end up getting smothered.”6 In effect, the movement has been in large part absorbed through diffusion of its symbols into the very establishment which the hippies challenged. This process has a two-fold benefit. In the process of absorbing the destructive radical challenge, the establishment in the United States also experiences renewal and change, not by a destruction of fundamental values, but by an evolutionary awareness and adaptation to the challenging point of view. It is this capacity for absorption and the good-humored refusal of mainstream America to allow itself to be teased into overreaction by irrelevant symbols-well publicized, short-term exceptions to the contrary notwithstanding-which contributes to America’s great capacity for keeping its basic democratic values intact while making the necessary adjustments and responses to continuing change.

D. The Impact of Assassinations on Government Institutions and Policy

It takes a congruence of unusual circumstances for assassinations to achieve fundamental long-run changes within a political system. An assassination of whatever category is not likely in itself to cause any basic, alterations in institutional forms or policy.7 Under a combination of unusual circumstances, however, the removal of a key figure-for example, a Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt (unsuccessfully attacked just before he took office) in the United States, an Abdullah in Jordan-can have unanticipated and


1. The assassins of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, both of whom were before the courts at the time this Report was being compiled, are not treated here. The public reactions to those assassinations, however, are discussed in Chapter 2.

2. The studies from which these parts of the Report are primarily derived can be found in the Supplement.

3. See Leiden’s analysis of assassination in the Middle East in the Supplement F.

4. The following categories are taken directly from a paper submitted by Prof. Feliks Gross, “Political Violence and Terror in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Russia and Eastern Europe,” which appears in section A of the Supplement.

5. This section is drawn primarilyfrom the paper submitted to the Commission by Prof. Feliks Gross.

6. Tate Alumni Magazine, November 1967, p. 10.

7. The exception, as pointed out above, is assassination in conjunction with systematic terrorism, which involves the cummulative effect of multiple assassinations.

8. Carl Leiden has co-authored The Politics of Violence (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968) and is preparing with colleagues a book on The Politics of Assassination. His reviews of the consequences of assassinations in the Middle East are found in section F of the Supplement.

9. See Supplement F. We are referring to the absence of fundamental impact through assassination upon the political system or upon basic national policies. We do not suggest that there has been no traceable political consequence of assassinations, and in particular we discuss the political consequences traceable to assassinations of Presidents of the United States m Chapter 2.


A. Introduction1

During all stages of our Nation’s history, violence has been one response offered to many of the controversial issues confronting our society. The establishment of independence, the relationship of settlers with the American Indian, the slavery and secession questions, and the trade union and civil rights movements are prime examples. Included in this history of violence are deadly attacks on persons holding public office. Chapter 1 is addressed to this particular kind of political violence.

It is important to state clearly at the outset the definition of assassination used in this chapter. We consider “assassinations” all deadly attacks upon public office holders in the United States by any person for any reason. Included is violence (in the form of direct physical assault, use of firearms, or conspiracies, the aim of which is death or injury) directed at persons both holding or actively aspiring to such office. The offices considered cover a wide range: Presidents, cabinet members, governors, senators, congressmen, mayors, state legislators, judges, tax collectors, state and district attorneys, etc. Not included are politically prominent leaders or workers for social causes or political movements and organizations who did not hold public office, were not actively aspiring to public office, or were not former officeholders.

In specific terms, this section reviews all reported deadly attacks upon public officeholders or aspirants to public office without regard for motive for the attack-whether “personal” or “political”-from revenue collectors to Presidents. But this section does not consider attacks upon persons such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, or George Lincoln Rockwell. By including all officeholders who have been the victims of attack, we gain confidence in the validity of our conclusions as to the nature and scope of the problem of deadly political violence in the United States. Virtually none of the deadly attacks against officeholders had a dominant rational political purpose; but most were in some way related to politics. Thus, the soundest approach is to include all such attacks in our investigation; no subjective judgements had to be made about whether the dominant motive for the attack was political, and the entire scope of such violence is before us. In excluding attacks upon all non-officeholders, we again avoid the problem of subjective judgment. Further, we avoid severe historical bias, because the names of the “politically prominent” of a given era tend to fade more rapidly from the pages of history than do the names of officeholders.

Table 1 lists all eighty-one of the recorded assassinations or attempted assassinations in chronological order. Working with this limited but useful definition of assassination, two conclusions can be drawn from the data in Table 1. First, the more powerful and prestigious the office, the greater the likelihood of assassination. Second, there is much greater likelihood that the occupant of or aspirant to an elected public office will be the victim of an assassination than will the occupant of an appointed position, even though the position may be a powerful one, such as Secretary of State, Justice of the Supreme Court, or Attorney General.

The relationships between the importance of the office and the likelihood of assassination are dramatically demonstrated by Table 2. This table compares the proportion of successful or attempted assassinations in four offices which differ significantly in degree of power or prestige.

Despite the crudeness of the estimates upon which the figures inTable 2 are based, the differences among the four categories are still sufficiently large that the relationship between importance or prestige of position and likelihood of assassination is demonstrated. One out of four Presidents has been a target of assassination, compared to approximately one out of every one hundred and sixty-six governors, one out of one hundred and forty-two Senators, and one out of every one thousand congressmen.2

We can suggest that the correlation between importance of elected office and likelihood of assassination is affected by the fact that the importance of the office and the size of the constituency are directly related. The President’s constituency is much larger than that of any other elected office. Similarly, a senator’s or a govenor’s constituency is greater than that of any congressman. Of the eight senators and eight governors who have been assassination targets, all but one were attacked by members of their own constituency.

The absence of assassination attempts on the vice president may also be consistent with this observation; the office of vice president has no elective independence from the presidency, and, in effect, has no constituency for purposes of this analysis. In any event, the office is sufficiently anomalous that lack of assassination attempts directed at the vice president does not necessarily invalidate the postulated relationship between assassination and size of constituency.

The second point is that persons in elected positions are more likely to be assassinated than are occupants of appointed offices. Of approximately four hundred and fifty cabinet members, and of approximately one hundred and two Supreme Court Justices, only one in each category has been the target of an assassin.

With the exception of attacks upon Republicans in the South during the Reconstruction era, only a very small portion of the deadly attacks against officeholders was rationally calculated to advance political aims of the assassin. With the possible exception of the attack upon President Truman by two self-avowed Puerto Rican nationalists, none of the presidential

Deadly Attacks Upon Public Office Holders in the United States 11

assassinations or assassination attempts were made under the aegis of any organized political group or to advance any rational strategy for political change. Still, the unbalanced minds of the presidential assassins focused themselves on high political officeholders rather than nonpolitical targets, and the question of why those acts became political still remains.

Similarly, the attacks on other officeholders were related to politics without being “conspiratorial” or “political” in the sense of seeking power. Senator Charles Sumner, the antislavery senator from Massachusetts, was severely beaten on the floor of the Congress by Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina three days after Sumner had made a strong speech denouncing slavery. Several other public officials were attacked in quarrels over political issues. A number of officeholders were attacked by constituents who harbored a personal grudge over political treatment they thought they had received.

Perhaps as many as eleven public officials were victims of assassination attempts by elements of organized crime. These were mostly lower-level officials who were either involved with the criminals or whose activities represented a threat to organized crime. We may speculate that such attacks were well planned and “political” in the sense of seeking to control legislative or executive conduct vis-a-vis the attackers. These may be the only examples that are comparable to the classic form of “assassination” in other nations, i.e., for direct political payoff.

Of all the assassinations and assassination attempts against officeholders in U.S. history, perhaps only one, excepting those related to organized crime, fits the classic picture of an assassination for a rational political purpose-that of Governor William Goebel of Kentucky in 1900. Goebel narrowly won a . hotly contested three-way fight for the governorship between Populist Democrats (Goebel’s party), Conservative Democrats, and the incumbent Republicans. Three men associated with the Republican party were convicted of conspiracy to assassinate the Governor.

Other assassinations for rational political purpose might include the caning of Senator Sumner in 1856, the death in a duel of Senator Broderick in 1857 (both based on the passions of the impending Civil War), the assassination of Senator Huey P. Long, and the wounding of the five members of the House of Representatives by the self-appointed advocates of Puerto Rican nationalism.

Perhaps the murder in 1885 of John P. Bowman, former mayor of East St. Louis and a member of the Republican Party, should be added. He was killed by unknown persons, theJVew York Times stating, ‘The dead man had so many enemies, that police are puzzled where to begin.”3

Thus it can be seen that a deliberate effort to remove officeholders for rational political purposes is a rarity, even among the eighty-one attacks against officeholders in the United States.

In the next section of this chapter, we use a case method to analyze how the assassinations of different types of officeholders may have varied by the motivation and personal social characteristics of the would-be assasins, and by the context in which the acts have occurred. In the third section, we return to a statistical overview and examine rates of assassination over time and by geographical region. The special issues raised by assassination of a President are treated in detail in Chapter 2 of this report.

Table 1.-Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults*

Method of Attack Location of Assailant and Professed
Year Victim and Result Attack or Alleged Reason
1835 Andrew Jackson President Attempted shooting, gun misfired Washington, D.C. Richard Lawrence; considered mentally unbalanced; said Jackson was ruining the country.
1856 Charles Sumner Senator, Massachusetts Assaulted, severely Washington, D.C. Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina; revenge for antislavery speech made by Sumner.
1857 David C. Broderick Senator, California Shot in duel, killed California David S. Terry; insults over political stand on slavery and legal feud.
1865 Abraham Lincoln President Shot, killed Washington, D.C. John Wilkes Booth; loyalty to the Confederacy; revenge for defeat; slavery issue.
William H. Seward Secretary of State Shot, wounded Washington, D.C. David Herold, Lewis Paine; part of Lincoln plot.
1867 G. W. Ashburn

Delegate to Georgia Constitutional Convention
Shot, killed Georgia Unknown; 10 prominent citizens implicated in the murder of the Republican delegate during Reconstruction.
Almon Case State senator, Shot, killed Tennessee Frank Farris; anti-Union guerrilla leader.
L. Harris Hiscox delegate to New York Constitutional Convention Shot, killed New York Cole; personal affair over Cole’s wife.

♦This list represents all acts reported in the New York Times, and other prominent widely circulated newspapers, such as The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the St. Louis Dispatch, etc. Also consulted were basic American histories and interpretative texts of various periods in American history, such as the Reconstruction period, the Depression of the 1930’s and the pre-World War I era. It would be foolish to believe that the list prepared for Table 1 accounts for every attempted or successful assassination that has ever occurred in the United States. We are reasonably sure, however, that it accounts for every President, Senator, ana Governor; and probably even for every Congressman. But the degree of certainty obviously decreases with the power and publicness of the office involved. Also, under the category “attempted,” we do not include “threatening letters” or “crank phone calls”; an overt act must have been committed.

J. W. C. Horne Shot, killed Georgia Unknown Negro Judge shot
o o Judge, Georgia over incident involving his
son and a colored girl.
CT H. W. Fowler Shot, killed Texas D. B. Bonfoey, collector of
o Assistant collector of revenues Revenues; no motives ascertained.
O John P. Slough Shot, killed New Mexico Capt. William L. Rynerson;
O-O Chief Justice, New feud and insults over
ri Mexico Territory Rynerson’s attempt to have Slough recalled.
1868 V. Chase Shot, killed Louisiana Band of Rebels; Chase was a
Judge, Louisiana Union man.
Robert Gray Shot, killed Louisiana Unknown(s).
Justice, Louisiana Harrington Attempted shooting Alabama Unknown;ambushed while
State legislator; canvassing county together
Pennington for Republican Party.
State senator Alabama
James Hinds Shot, killed Arkansas George M. Clark; was Secretary
Representative, of Democratic Committee; Hinds
Arkansas was campaigning for Republi
c cans, Clark was drunk at the
z time of shooting.
2 ™ CD B. Saulet Shot, killed Louisiana Unknown(s).
> in >3 § 1 ~< o. A O P Sheriff, Caddo Parish, Louisiana
-y- QI. Samuel W. Beall Shot, killed Montana George M. Pinney; Beall
Hi ex-Lieutenant attacked Pinney over articles
> z Q 2 governor, Wisconsin Pinney wrote; acquitted as
2 self-defense.
1869 M. McConnel Shot, killed Illinois Unknown; believed to be over
State senator, property litigation.

Deadly Attacks Upon Public Office Holders in the United States Illinois w





Table 1.-Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults. -(Continued)

Victim Method of Attack and Result Location of Attack Assailant and Professed or Alleged Reason
Benjamin Ayers

State Legislator, Georgia
Shot, killed Georgia Wilson; robbery believed motive
William S. Lincoln Representative New York Cane assault Maryland Joseph Segar; lost contested seat for Representative from Virginia
John W. Stevens State senator, North Carolina Stabbed, hung, killed North Carolina Wiley and Mitchelle, apparently acted with consent of Democratic Party of Caswell County; Stevens was a Republics
Gaylord Clark District Judge, Shot, killed Texas Frank William; sought judgeship for himself.
A. P. Crittedon Judge, California Shot, killed California Laura D. Fair, his mistress, when he attempted to break off relationship.
Alden McLaughlin Customs Inspector, Shot, killed Texas Smugglers; in the line of duty.
William Pitt Kellog Governor, Louisiana Attempted shooting Louisiana Charles R. Rainey, Melvin H. Cohen; many disputed his election, open rebellion in parts of Louisiana.
Samuel Clark Pomeroy ex-Senator, Kansas Shot, wounded Washington, D.C. M. F. Conway; both men had been in Kansas politics at statehood; Conway blamed Pomeroy for his circumstances.
T. S. Crawford District County Judge Arthur H. Harris Shot, killed Louisiana Assumed to have been ambushed by the Tom Wayne gang, with whom both had previously been involved in a case.
District Attorney Monroe, Louisiana





Edwin S. McCook Territorial Secretary of Dakota

H. P. Farrow

U.S. District Attorney, Georgia

James O’Brian ex-State senator New York

E.G. Johnson

Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue and State legislator, Florida

Belden ex-Parish J udge Louisiana

Daniel O’Connell Alderman, New York

G. A. Roderty tax collector, Grant Parish, Louisiana

Stephen B. Packard Governor, Louisiana

James A. Garfield President

Smith State senator, Tennessee

Shot, killed

Clubbed, wounded

Attempted shooting

Shot, killed

Shot, killed


Shot, killed

Shot, wounded

Shot, killed

Shot, wounded

Dakota Territory


New York



New York





P. P. Wintermute; dispute over railroad bonds.

Unknown; had got indictments against five men; papers ranted against him and tried to intimidate jury.

Richard Croker, George and Henry Hickey, John Sheridan; Tammany group dispute with O’Brian.

Unknown(s); shot in still house.

Sherburn; was judge at time; motive unknown.

John T. Cox; personal matter over Cox’ sister.

John B. McCoy,ex-sheriff.

Deadly Attacks Upon Public Office Holders in the United States

W. H. Weldon; apparently part of group that challenged legality of election.

Charles Guiteau; wanted political appointment.

John J. Vertress; political feud over way Smith voted, Vertress claimed Smith was _ bribed.

Table 1.-Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults.*-(Continued)

Method of Attack Location of
Victim and Result Attack Assailant and Professed or Alleged Reason


1885 John B. Bowman ex-mayor, East St. Louis, Illinois Shot, killed Illinois
1889 Stephen J. Field

Supreme Court Judge | Assaulted | California |

David S. Terry Judge, California Shot, killed California
W. L. Pierce Superior Judge, San Diego, California Shot, wounded California
1890 William P. Taulbee ex-Representative, Kentucky Shot, killed Washington
1892 R. D. McCotter State senator, North Carolina Shot, killed North Carolina
1893 Carter H. Harrison mayor, Chicago Illinois Shot, killed Illinois
Henry S. Tyler mayor, Louisville Kentucky Threatened with gun Kentucky
1896 Col. Albert Jennings Shot, killed New Mexico Fountain ex-State legislator, New Mexico Territory

Unknown; previous attempts made after several men killed in Republican-Democratic clashes at City Hall during his term.

David S. Terry; had threatened Field in legal dispute.

David Nagel, U.S. deputy marshall assigned to guard Field, shot and killed Terry.

W. S. Clendennin; because of unfavorable decision handed down by Pierce.

Charles E. Kincaide; fued over articles Kincaide wrote linking Taulbee to scandal; Kincaide acquitted.

Unknown; assumed to be personal; wife’s family did not like his behavior.

Patrick E. Prendergast; disappointed officeseeker.

P. J. Schwartz; did not want city limits extended to his property.

Unknown; long conflict between cattle association and outlaws backed by opposite political party.












William Goebel

Governor, Kentucky

William McKinley President

Frank Steunenberg ex-Governor, Idaho

John F. Fort

Governor, New Jersey

William Gaynor

Mayor, New York City

Theodore Roosevelt President

B. P. Windsor

Mayor, Mt. Aubcorn, Illinois

Henry Cabot Lodge

Senator, Massachusetts

Charles Henderson

Senator, Nevada

Robert Young

Thomas, Jr.

Representative, Kentucky

Jeff Stone

mayor, Culp, Illinois

Shot, killed

Shot, killed

Dynamite killed

Attempted bombing

Shot, wounded

Shot, wounded

Shot, killed


Shot, wounded


Shot, killed


New York


New Jersey

New York



Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.



Caleb Powers; tried and convicted of conspiracy; disputed election.

Leon F. Czolgosz; anarchist ideology.

Harry Orchard; labor union against which Governor called out troops involved.

Unknown; suspect either crackpot or parties angered by liquor law enforcement.

John J. Gallagher; fired from city job, angered at Gaynor’s trip.

John Schrank; had vision that McKinley wanted him to avenge his death; Schrank declared insane.

Fay D. State; quarrel over editorial

Pacifists: A. Bannwart, Rev.

P. H. Drake, Mrs. M. A. Peabody, outbursts because he did not support staying out of war; not serious attempt on life.

August Grock; personal quarrel over money.

G. Baker; political opponent; Baker angered by Thomas’ remarks.

Unknown; suspected political gangster bootlegging tie-in.

Deadly Attacks Upon Public Office Holders in the United States

Table 1.-Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults.*-(Continued)

Method of Attack Location of Assailant and Professed
Year Victim and Result Attack or Alleged Reason
1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt President Attempted shooting Florida Guiseppe Zangara; hated rulers and capitalists.
Anton Cermak mayor, Chicago, Illinois Shot, killed Florida Cermac was hit in hail of bullets aimed at Roosevelt.
1935 Huey P. Long
Senator, Louisiana
Shot, killed Louisiana Dr. Carl Weiss; apparent concern over Long’s power, and having his father-in-law’s judgeship taken away.
Thomas J. Courtney State’s attorney, Illinois Shot, killed Illinois Unknown; suspected Capone gang.
1936 J. M. Bolton State legislator, Illinois Shot, killed Illinois Assumed to be gangsters; alliance of crime and politics.
1939 Louis E. Edwards mayor, Long Beach, New York Shot, killed New York Alvin Dooley; angered that Edwards used influence to keep him from being elected to office in police organization.
1945 Warren G. Hooper State senator, Michigan Shot, killed Michigan Conspirators: Harry and Sam Fleisher, Mike Selik, Pete Mahoney; Hooper had been key witness in an investigation.
1947 John William Bricker Senator, Ohio Shot, wounded Washington, D.C. William L. Kaiser; personal grudge over money lost when Bricker was attorney general.
Hubert H. Humphrey mayor, Minneapolis, Minnesota Attempted shooting Minnesota Unknown; several attempts made conflicts over crimelabor unions. iination and Political Violence

Thomas Anglin Shot, wounded Oklahoma Jim Scott; personal;
1949 State senator, Oklahoma
Elihu H. Bailey
Attempted dynamite Kentucky Anglin’s law firm represented Scott’s wife in divorce.

Unknown; mayor thought |

1950 mayor, Evarts, Kentucky

Harry S. Truman | Attempted shooting | Washington, D.C. | it was bootlegger he was fighting.

Oscar Collazo, Griselio |

1954 President

Kenneth Allison Roberts | Shot, wounded | Washington, D.C. | Tofresola; Puerto Rican Independence

Puerto Rican extremists: |

1958 Representative, Alabama Benton Franklin Jensen

Representative, Iowa

George Hyde Fallon

Representative, Maryland

Alvin Morell Bentley

Representative, Michigan

Clifford Davis

Representative, Tennessee Paul A. Wallace | Shot, killed | South Carolina | Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, A. F. Corcera;

attack on Congress by independence group.

Henry Rogers; assumed mad, |

1959 State senator, South Carolina

J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. | Attempted shooting | Virginia | hanged self in mental institution.

Unknown; suspected segre|

1963 Governor, Virginia

JohnF. Kennedy | Shot, killed | Texas | gationist, during school integration period.

Lee Harvey Oswald; |

1968 President

John Connally

Governor, Texas

Robert F. Kennedy | Shot, wounded

Shot, killed | Texas

California | motivation unknown.

Lee Harvey Oswald;

accident assuming assassin was aiming at President.

Sirhan Sirhan, accused; foreign | Deadly Attacks Upon Public Office Holders in the United States

policy statements vis a vis the Middle East.

Tabic 2.-Likelihood of assassination by type of public office (1790-1968)

Office Number of man terms Estimates of the number holding office Number of assassinations attempted Percentage of universality
President 45 35 8b 23
Governors3 1,710 1,330 8 00.6
Senators3 2,271 1,140 8C 00.7
Representatives3 27,930 8,349 9 00.1

a Number of man terms was computed from apportionment census material listed in Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1961 (Reynolds U.S. Government Printing Office.

The representatives were multiplied by 5 indicating five terms per decade, the Senators by 1.67. The Governors were computed by the number of States the Union for each census period and then multiplying by 2.5. The figure for estimated Governors actually served was computed by taking 77.8 percent man terms-the same as that for president. The Senators are based on an average of 0.81 per page and Congressmen 5.93 per page for 1,408 pages in the ographical sketch section of the above-cited volume.

bIncludes Theodore Roosevelt, an ex-President who was also a presidential candidate.

includes Senator Robert Kennedy who was also presidential candidate.

B. Case Method Discussion of Assassinations

Presidential Assassinations

In the one hundred and thirty-three years between the attempt made on the life of Andrew Jackson in 1835 and the successful assassination of presidential candidate Robert Kennedy in 1968, seven other Presidents or aspirants to the presidency have been assassination targets. Table 3 lists each of the men involved with a summary description highlighting the main facts surrounding each case.

We can draw several important conclusions about presidential assassinations. Party affiliation, public policies, term of office, and political strength provide few clues about the likelihood of assassination. The men who have been targets differ considerably. For example, Lincoln was the President of a divided nation during a civil war, Garfield was a compromise candidate of a faction-torn party, and McKinley was a popular President of a relatively unified and stable society. All were assassinated.

The list of assassination victims is not limited solely to Presidents who have exhibited strong leadership or enhanced the power of the office. Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy fit this model; Presidents Garfield and McKinley do not. Franklin Roosevelt was shot at before he had a chance to demonstrate his leadership qualities. There are no later reports of attempts on his life. And Woodrow Wilson, who was certainly as strong a President as Truman or Kennedy, was never a target.

Party affiliation does not appear to be relevant except in indicating the hegemony of one party or the other during particular historical periods. The period of Republican dominance from Lincoln to F. D. R. (1860-1932) shows only Republican victims (or, in the case of Theodore Roosevelt, a splinter Republican candidate), while the period of Democratic dominance (1932-68) shows only Democratic victims. This is hardly unexpected, however. Only two Democrats, Grover Cleveland (1884-88, 1892-96) and Woodrow Wilson (1912-20) held office during the first period, and only one Republican, Dwight David Eisenhower, held office (1952-60) during the second. Nor is there any particular era during which assassinations have frequently occurred. From Lincoln to John F. Kennedy, assassination attempts against Presidents or presidential candidates have occurred at fairly regular in- tervals of one every eleven to twenty-one years. Those of President Jackson (thirty years before Lincoln), and Robert Kennedy (only five years after his brother) deviated from this pattern. Until more time has passed, it is impossible to determine whether the short interval between the Kennedy assassinations has meaning or is simply an anomaly in an otherwise consistent pattern.

The political philosophy of a President or presidential candidate also appears to bear little relevance to an attack. McKinley and Garfield were moderate conservatives, while Kennedy and Truman were liberals; FDR was attacked at a time when his political philosophy was not yet identifiable (indeed, one might have classified him as somewhat conservative on the basis of his balance-the-budget and fiscal-integrity speeches during the presidential campaign of 1932). Of the six attempts in the 20th century, however, it is true that five attempts were made on liberal Presidents or presidential candidates and only one on a conservative President (McKinley). Most Presidents in this century have been of a liberal rather than conservative bent.

Table 3.-Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults of Presidents and presidential candidates

Year Victim Political party Length of administration of time of attack Location Method of attack and result Assailant and professed or alleged reason
1835 Andrew Jackson Democrat 6 years Washington, D.C. pistol, misfired Richard Lawrence, declared insane; said Jackson was preventing him from obtaining large sums of money.
1865 Abraham Lincoln Republican 4 years, 1 month Washington, D.C. pistol, killed John W. Booth, loyalty to the Confederacy; revenge for defeat; slavery issue.
1881 James Garfield Republican 4 months Washington, D.C. pistol, killed Charles Guiteau, disgruntled officeseeker; supporter of opposite faction of Republican Party.
1901 William McKinley Republican 4 years, 6 months Buffalo, N.Y. pistol, killed Leon F. Czolgosz, anarchist ideology.
1912 Theodore Roosevelt Progressive

(Bull Moose) | Candidate (had served before, 1901-09) | Milwaukee, Wise. | pistol, wounded | John Schrank, declared insane; had vision that McKinley wanted him to avenge his death. |

1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrat 3 weeks prior to 1st inauguration Miami, Fla. pistol, bullets missed the President Guiseppe Zangara, hated rulers and capitalists.
1950 Harry S. Truman Democrat 5 years Washington, D.C. automatic

weapon, prevented from shooting at President | Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola; Puerto Rican independence. |

1963 John F. Kennedy Democrat 3 years Dallax, Tex. rifle, killed Lee H. Oswald, motive unknown.
1968 Robert F. Kennedy Democrat Candidate Los Angeles, Calif. pistol, killed Shirhan Sirhan, accused

If Theodore Roosevelt is considered as a liberal, liberals have occupied the White House for forty-three of the last sixty-nine years.

An interesting pattern that does emerge is that the assassination attempts seem to correspond with the general levels of civil strife. The greater such strife, the more likely the President in office will be attacked. In Chapter 4 we set forth a graph of the amount of political violence that occured in the United States since 1819, based upon a survey of newspaper reports of politically violent incidents since 1819. Every assassination attempt against a President or presidential candidate occurred at or near a peak of civil strife in this country, as shown by the graph.4

This pattern is given weight in Chapter 3 of this report, which indicates that the single best predictor of whether a nation will experience assassination attempts is whether that nation experiences high levels of other forms of civil strife. Turmoil in general seems to be a factor which releases, creates, or signals tendencies to assault the President within mentally unbalanced individuals in the population.

Although there may be other factors, the key element in each presidential assassination appears to be the state of mind of the potential assassin. In every case (with the possible exception of the attempt upon Truman) the assailants were alienated figures, and were even confused about the prospects and strategies of the causes they thought they represented.5 All the assassins but the two who attacked President Truman-Lawrence, Booth, Guiteau, Czolgosz, Zangara, Shrank, and Oswald-showed strong evidence of serious mental disturbance. In addition, each case is conspicuous by the absence of an effective political organization. Even the two presidential assassination attempts which were conspiracies of two or more persons-the attempts against the lives of Lincoln and Truman-were poorly organized, haphazard affairs, and neither would have done much to bring about the triumph of the political causes the assailants favored. Indeed, the assassination of Lincoln was a complete failure in this regard.

We will treat presidential assassination and the special problems raised by such attacks upon the office of President in Chapter 2.

Gubernatorial Assassinations

Only one of the approximately thirteen hundred and thirty men who have held the office of governor from 1790 until the present has been killed. Five others who were targets for political assassination were either wounded or escaped unharmed.6 In addition, one ex-governor and one ex-lieutenant governor were killed after they had left public office.7 The first attempt, the killing in self-defense of the ex-lieutenant governor, was in 1868, the last was the wounding of Governor Connally in 1963. Table 4 summarizes the major facts surrounding each case.

The one governor who was assassinated in office was William Goebel. He was declared the victor by his supporters and the state legislature in a disputed election in Kentucky in 1900. Goebel had been declared the victor over the Republican incumbent (Taylor) only a few weeks before he was killed. Goebel shared many characteristics with Andrew Johnson-for example, his Populist-like support within the Democratic Party and his antipathy for the old landed aristocracy and “privileged class” that controlled



Table 4.-Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults of governors

Victim Samuel W. Beall ex-Lieutenant Governor, Wisconsin Method of attack and result
Shot, killed Location of attack
Montana Assailant and professed or alleged reason
George M. Pinney; Beall attacked Pinney over articles Pinney wrote; acquitted as self-defense.
1873 William Pitt Kellogg Governor, Louisiana Attempted shooting Louisiana Charles R. Rainey, Melvin H. Cohen; many disputed his election, open rebellion in parts of Louisiana.
1877 Stephen B. Packard Governor, Louisiana Shot, wounded Louisiana W. H. Weldon; apparently part of group that challenged legality of election.
1900 William Goebel
Governor, Kentucky
Shot, killed Kentucky Caleb Powers; tried and convicted of conspiracy; disputed election.
cz zr cz < 2 m CD -T) 1905 Frank Steunenberg ex-Govemor, Idaho Dynamite, killed Idaho Harry Orchard; labor union against which Governor called out troops.
Original f

ISITY OF ANA-CH/ | 1908 | John F. Fort

Governor, New Jersey | Attempted bombing | New Jersey | Unknown; suspect either crackpot or parties angered by liquor-law enforcement. |

5 2 1959 J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. Governor, Virginia Attempted shooting Virginia Unknown; suspected segregationist, during school integration period.
2 > 1963 John Connally Governor, Texas Shot, wounded Texas Lee H. Oswald; Governor was hit while riding with Kennedy when the latter was assassinated.

the Democratic Party in Kentucky and throughout much of the South. After Goebel had gained the nomination, the “old school” Democrats left the Party and ran a candidate of their own. Goebel’s support came from the small landowners and nonpropertied classes.

Three men were tried and convicted for Goebel’s death: Caleb Powers, Henry Youtsey, and James Howard. Powers was secretary of state under the Republican governor. Youtsey was a young lawyer who was employed by the state in the Auditor’s Office. He was a strong supporter of the Republican Party. Howard was known as an outlaw with a murder charge hanging over him. During the trial, both testified that they went to Power’s office on the morning Goebel was shot, but each claimed that the other did the actual shooting. Powers was charged with conspiracy and convicted along with Youtsey and Howard.

Of the five governors who survived assassination attempts, two, William Kellogg and Stephen Packard, were Republicans who held public office in the South during the Reconstruction period. Both Kellogg and Packard were governors of Louisiana who held office by virtue of the presence of Union troops and Negro police in Louisiana. The Kellogg and Packard cases are part of the one period in American history, the Reconstruction era, during which assassinations were an organized political response to perceived injustice. The Reconstruction period will be discussed in Chapter 4.

The other gubernatorial targets were John Fort of New Jersey (1908), who was the intended recipient of an envelope containing explosives, presumably because of his enforcement of the state liquor laws in the Atlantic City resort area; Lindsay Almond of Virginia (1959), who was the target of an unidentified sniper, presumably because of his recently-adopted “moderate” position on school integration; and John Connally of Texas (1963). It will probably never be known who was Oswald’s intended target-Connally, Kennedy, or both. Connally was Secretary of the Navy when Oswald’s application to the Navy to have his discharge changed to “honorable” was denied.

The most “sensational” assassination occurred in 1905 when Harry Orchard confessed to the killing of the ex-governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg. Steunenberg had been elected as a Populist in 1897, and had the support of the miners. During his term of office, however, a labor dispute arose in which there was a good deal of violence. In response to this violence, Steunenberg called for federal toops to restore law and order. The case attracted notoriety because it involved the leadership of the then powerful IWW, and particularly, the local head of the Western Foundation of Miners, William (Big Bill) Haywood. In his confession, Orchard charged that Haywood had paid him to kill Steunenberg. Orchard also confessed that he was paid to bomb several copper mines, to shoot a detective and a superintendent of a mine, and to assassinate Governor Peabody and several justices of the Idaho Supreme Court. All these successful or attempted acts of violence, Orchard claimed, were at the instigation of Haywood.

The defense, under the direction of Clarence Darrow, charged that Orchard was in the employ of the Mine Owners Association and that he killed Steunenberg only to satisfy a personal grudge. The defense claimed that Orchard had a part interest in a mine which he had been forced to sell below value, and that he blamed Steunenberg for his loss. Haywood was

subsequently acquitted and Harry Orchard was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The assassination of William Goebel, and possibly that of Frank Steunenberg, represents violence of direct political motivation not found in presidential assassinations. The Goebel case in particular seems to fit the model of an assassination planned and motivated by representatives of a political movement to enhance the objectives of their cause. In the Steunenberg, case, the accusation of involvement of a well-organized political movement was made, but, as pointed out above, the alleged instigator of the plot was acquitted, having defended himself on the ground that the killing was done for personal reasons.

Senatorial Assassinations

Of the approximately eleven hundred men elected to the United States Senate, only two, David C. Broderick in 1859 and Huey P. Long in 1935, have been victims of assassination.8

Four others, two after their term of office had expired, were targets, but only one of them was seriously hurt.9 He was Charles Sumner, the strong antislavery senator from Massachusetts, who was attacked on the floor of Congress by Representative Brooks of South Carolina. According to the New York Times, Brooks “repeatedly hit Sumner on the head until he collapsed in a pool of blood.”10 Three days before his attack, Sumner had made a strong antislavery speech in which he singled out for special attention South Carolina’s senator, Andrew P. Butler, who happened to be Brooks’ uncle. According to the Times, the attack on Sumner was premeditated. A group of Southerners met the evening before and decided on their course of action. Their intention was to kill the senator from Massachusetts. Why they chose the floor of the Senate (if, in fact, this was their intent), is not explained by the Times story.

The other three assassination attempts had little or no rational political content. Senator Bricker (Ohio, 1947) was wounded by one of his constituents who had suffered financial losses fifteen years earlier when Bricker was attorney general of Ohio and who believed Bricker had not done all he should have to help him recover his money. Senator Henderson (Nevada, 1921) was shot and wounded the day after his term of office ended by August Grock, a Reno lawyer who had harbored a grudge against Henderson for twenty-five years because Henderson had refused to act as Crock’s attorney in a land suit. Grock had been under treatment for mental “troubles” for several years prior to his attack on Henderson. Ex-Senator Pomeroy (Kansas, 1873) was also wounded by an assailant with ahistory of mental illness. In this case, Conway (the assailant) had worked together with Pomeroy in state pohtics and was the first member of Congress from Kansas. But in his later years he apparently became mentally iU, broke his ties with former associates, left his wife, became despondent, and had no means of support. Just a few days prior to his attack on Pomeroy, Conway had tried, unsuccessfully, to borrow money from him.

Of the two successful assassinations, the victim in the first was David C. Broderick, a senator, from California, who was shot in a duel in 1859.

Table 5. -Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults of Senators

Year Victim Method of attack and result Location of attack Assailant and professed or alleged reason
1859 Charles Sumner
Senator, Massachusetts
Assaulted, severely beaten Washington, D.C. Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina; revenge for antislavery speech made by Sumner.
1857 David C. Broderick Senator, California Shot in duel, killed California David S. Terry; insults over political stand on slavery and legal feud.
1873 Samuel Clark Pomeroy ex-Senator, Kansas Shot, wounded Washington, D.C. M. F. Conway; both men had been in Kansas politics at statehood; Conway blamed Pomeroy for his circumstances.
1917 Henry Cabot Lodge Senator, Massachusetts Assaulted Washington, D.C. Pacifists: A. Bannwart, Rev. P. H. Drake, Mrs. M. A. Peabody; outbursts because he did not support staying out of war; but not serious attempt on life.
1921 Charles Henderson
Senator, Nevada
Shot, wounded Washington, D.C. August Grock; personal quarrel over money.
1935 Huey P. Loi® Senator, Louisiana Shot, killed Louisiana Dr. Carl Weiss; apparent concern over Long’s power, and having his father-in-law’s judgeship taken away.
1947 John William Bricker Senator, Ohio Shot, wounded Washington, D.C. William L. Kaiser; personal grudge over money lost when Bricker was attorney general.

Broderick was a Democrat who supported the Union. His Republican opponent, in a three-way race (the Democratic Party in California was divided on the slavery issue and each faction put forth a candidate) was State Supreme Court Justice David Terry.11 Terry accused Broderick of misleading the public concerning his position on the slavery issue, and Broderick in essence called Terry a liar. Terry responded by challenging Broderick to a duel from which Terry emerged the victor. Broderick died of a bullet wound in his left lung. Terry was arrested, tried, and subsequently acquitted.

The victim of the other successful senatorial assassination was the Senator from Louisiana, Huey Pierce Long. Long’s assassination, like that of William Goebel, is something of a departure from the American pattern. In reporting Long’s death, Nation described it as “a deliberate political act, one of the very few in its category in American experience.”12

Father Coughlin, a friend and political supporter of Long, recognized the difference between Long’s assassination and the assassinations of other public officials. He touched on at least one distinctive characteristic by noting that the real target in most of the presidential assassinations was as much the “office” as the particular officeholder. Huey Long was shot not because of the particular office he held, but because his assassin believed that his power had extended far enough to threaten in a very immediate sense the lives of the people he had been elected to represent.

There are other reasons why Long’s case is “different.” His assassin did not share the social and personal characteristics of many of the presidential assassins, and the public did not respond to him as they had to other political assassins. Carl Weiss, Long’s assassin, was a twenty-nine-year-old physician from a wealthy, educated, professional family. His father was also a doctor, and his father-in-law, who was one of the leaders of what remained of the anti-Long forces in Louisiana, was a judge from an old and prominent Southern family. Weiss, who was born in Louisiana, was a successful young man with no history of mental disturbance or imbalance, and with little apparent political interest.

In trying to explain how Carl Weiss came to commit an act that he must have known would (and did) cost him his own life, the press relied mostly on what they assumed to be Weiss’ growing concern over Long’s well-publicized plan to have legislation introduced which would gerrymander his father-in-law out of public office. Some suggested that Weiss was less disturbed by Long’s activities in Louisiana than by the increasing likelihood that Long would make a bid for national power before the 1936 presidential election. Weiss, just a few years before, had witnessed the rise of Hitler and the Nazi movement in Germany. He had been a student in Vienna when Hitler was named Chancellor. To someone with this background, Huey Long in 1935 could have appeared extremely dangerous.

Another unique factor of the Long assassination was the public reaction. While there may always be some who privately applaud the assassination of a public official, the usual response is one of shock, abhorrence, and denunciation. In this case, though, the assassin became a hero. Thousands of people, including prominent business, civic, and social leaders from all over the South, as well as a former Governor of Louisiana (John M. Parker), a Congressman, and the district attorney for Baton Rouge, attended Weiss’ funeral.

The public responded to Huey Long’s death with as much variety as they had responded to his public policies and political strategies. The fact that he was a controversial figure is still another reason why the Long case does not quite fit into what we have come to consider the American pattern.

Congressional Assassinations

Proportionately, there have been fewer assassinations of congressmen than there have been of governors or senators. Of the approximately eight thousand three hundred and fifty Representatives, only three have been assassinated and seven have been targets of unsuccessful attempts.

Of those seven, five were shot in one episode in 1954. Three members of the Puerto Rican National Party entered the visitors’ gallery in the Capitol and by their own admission began shooting in order to bring attention to the American people and the world that Puerto Rico was not free. None of the congressmen was seriously injured.

The two other occasions probably do not merit consideration under assassination attempts. The first occurred in 1836, when Representative William Stanbury drew a gun on Sam Houston after Houston began caning him on Pennsylvania Avenue because Stanbury had accused Houston of misconduct. Neither Houston nor Stanbury was seriously hurt. In 1924, Representative Thomas of Kentucky was attacked by his Republican opponent, George Baker, when Baker became angered at remarks made by Thomas during the congressional campaign.

Three congressmen (two after they had completed their term of office) were fatally wounded by assassins. Two of them, Representative Hinds from Arkansas, and ex-Congressman W. S. Lincoln from New York, were killed during the Reconstruction period.

Hinds, a former Democrat who had supported Lincoln in 1860, had been a delegate to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention in 1867, and was sent by the Republican ticket to Washington in 1868. His assassin was George Clark, who was secretary of the Democratic committee of Monroe County. Clark was drunk at the time of the shooting and when arrested was in a condition bordering on delirium tremens. W. S. Lincoln, an ex-Congressman from New York, was caned by Joseph Segar, an unsuccessful applicant for a seat in the House as a member-at-large. Segar attacked Lincoln with a cane in a Baltimore train depot the day after a Baltimore paper had carried a story ridiculing his claim to a seat and his general conduct around the House in connection with the matter.

William Taulbee of Kentucky was shot and killed in 1890 by Charles Kincaide, the Washington correspondent tor the Louisville Times. His is the most recent case of the killing of a representative. Taulbee’s case is notable mainly because his assassin gained acquittal on a self-defense charge. Taulbee had apparently been threatening and actually assaulting Kincaide for several months because Kincaide had published a story linking Taulbee with a scandal in the Patent Office. One day, after Taulbee had attacked Kincaide in the main hall of the Capitol, Kincaide shot Taulbee “in self-defense.” Sentiment, as reflected in the Washington newspapers and by the names of persons who offered to put up bail for Kincaide, was against the congressman and on the side of the assassin. Kincaide was acquitted.

Table 6. -Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults of congressmen

Year Victim Method of attack and result Location of attack Assailant and professed or alleged reason
1868 James Hinds
Representative, Arkansas
Shot, killed Arkansas George M. Clark; was Secretary of Democratic Committee; Hinds was campaigning for Republicans, Clark was drunk at time of shooting.
1870 William Slosson Lincoln
Representative, New York
Cane assault Maryland Joseph Segar; lost contested seat for Representative from Virginia.
1890 William P. Taulbee ex-Representative, Kentucky Shot, killed Washington Charles E. Kincaide; feud over articles Kincaide wrote linking Taulbee to scandal. Kincaide acquitted.
1954 Robert Young Thomas, Jr. Representative, Kentucky

Kenneth Allison Roberts Representative, Alabama

Benton Franklin Jensen Representative, Iowa

Geoige Hyde Fallon Representative, Maryland

Alvin Morell Bentley Representative, Michigan

Clifford Davis

Representative, Tennessee | Assaulted

Shot, wounded | Kentucky

Washington, D.C. | G- Baker; political opponent; Baker angered by Thomas’ remarks.

Puerto Rican extremists: Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda,' A. F. Corcera; attack on Congress by independence group. |

Mayoral Assassinations

Ten mayors from cities in five states (Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, and Minnesota) have been targets of assassination. Of this number seven were killed and three were unharmed13

Not including Anton Cermak, only two of the ten targets were mayors of large cities: William Gaynor of New York was shot by a watchman who was fired from his job on the New York City docks for incompetence (1910), and Carter Harrison of Chicago was shot and killed by a disgruntled officeseeker (1893).

Three of the other four victims were also mayors of cities in Illinois. In 1885, the former mayor and leader of the Republican Party in East St. Louis, John B. Bowman, was shot and killed by an assassin whom the police were never able to locate. After having been elected to three successive terms of office, Bowman was defeated when he sought a fourth term. He remained an important political figure in the area, and at the time of his death the New York Times said: “The dead man had so many enemies, the police are puzzled where to begin.”14

In 1878, While Bowman was mayor, the local Democrats had tried to capture City Hall by force. Bowman met their advances “with shot and shell, and in the clashes between the two parties, several persons were killed and wounded.”15 Bowman was reelected after the riots. Although the assassin was never found, both the local newspapers and the Times were convinced that one of Bowman’s numerous political enemies in both parties had hired someone to kill him. In the course of their investigation, the police learned that several earlier attempts were contemplated on Bowman’s life. In each instance, the assassin was hired by opposing political factions.

The other two deaths of Illinois mayors were those of B. P. Windsor, the mayor of Mt. Auburn, who was shot by the editor of the local newspaper after a quarrel (1913), and Jeff Stone of Culp, who was lolled by gangsters who controlled the bootlegging operations in the area (1926). His assassin was never found.

In 1939, Louis Edward, the mayor of Long Beach, a suburb of New York City, was killed by Alvin Dooley, a police officer. Dooley had been president of the local Policeman’s Benevolent Association, and had failed to gain reelection. He claimed that it was the mayor’s prestige that prevented his reelection. As mayor, Edward had forced Dooley to pay part of his salary to Dooley’s estranged wife.

The assassinations of big city mayors Carter Harrison and William Gaynor contain the same mixture of personal and political elements that were involved in the death of the mayors of the smaller communities. When Harrison’s assassin, Eugene Patrick Joseph Prendergast, turned himself in at a local police station, he said: “I am Eugene Patrick Prendergast. I worked hard for Carter Harrison in his campaign. He promised he would make me corporation counsel. He failed to do this and I shot him.”16

Prendergast also said that he had been justified in killing the mayor because, “he broke his word with me about track elevators.” During the campaign, Harrison had said that he favored abolishing railroad crossings at street grades (there had been a number of accidents at the railroad crossings

Table 7.—Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults of mayors

Year Victim Method of attack and result Location of attack Assailant and professed or alleged reason
1885 John B. Bowman ex-mayor, East St. Louis, Illinois Shot, killed Illinois Unknown; previous attempts made after several men killed in Republican-

Democratic clash at City Hall during his term |

1893 Carter H. Harrison

mayor, Chicago, Illinois | Shot, killed | Illinois | Patrick E. Prendergast; disappointed officeseeker. |

Henry S. Tyler mayor, Louisville, Kentucky Threatened with gun Kentucky P.J. Schwarz; did not want city limits extended to his property.
1910 William J. Gaynor mayor, New York City Shot, wounded New York John J. Gallagher; fired, from city job, angered at Gaynor’s trip.
1913 B.P. Windsor mayor, Mt. Auburn, Illinois Shot, killed Illinois Fay D. Slate; quarrel over editorial.
1926 Jeff Stone

mayor, Culp, Illinois | Shot, killed | Illinois | Unknown; suspected political-gangster- bootlegging tie-in. |

1933 Anton J. Cermak

mayor, Chicago, Illinois | Shot, killed | Florida | Cermak was hit in hail of bullets aimed at Roosevelt. |

1939 Louis E. Edwards mayor, Long Beach, New York Shot, killed New York Alvin Dooley; angered that Edwards used influence to keep him from being elected to office in police organization.
1947 Hubert H. Humphrey mayer, Minneapolis Minnesota Attempted

Shooting | Minnesota | Unknown; several attempts made; conflicts over crime-labor unions. |

1949 Elihu H. Bailey mayor, Evarts, Kentucky Attempted dynamite Kentucky Unknown; mayor thought it was bootelegger he was fighting.

and the plan was to elevate the railroads), but after the election, nothing more was heard about this proposal. Most of the Chicago newspapers used the occasion of the mayor’s death to attack Governor Altgeld and Harrison for their policy of laxness toward labor agitators and anarchists. Harrison had been mayor when the Haymarket Riot occurred. According to Louis Adamic, “Harrison went milling in the crowd, and since no trouble was brewing, he instructed the police that no intervention would be necessary and he went home. After he left, the police charged the crowd and the bomb went off.” Adamic concludes, “the police were apparently under the orders of one other than the Mayor.”17

During his time in office, Harrison resisted pressures from propertied groups to suppress the “radical elements” in Chicago. He showed a willingness to permit radicals to carry on activities until they actually violated the laws.18 Harrison and the newspaper he owned, the Chicago Times, praised Governor Altgeld when he pardoned three of the anarchists implicated in the Hay Market Affair. For acts such as these (he also gave members of the Socialist Party jobs in municipal government), Harrison was continuously attacked by wealthy groups in Chicago.

His death took on political significance, for, despite the fact that his assassin had no connection with the socialist-anarchist elements, the newspapers and leaders of the community made the connection. For example, the Tribune ran an editorial which said:

Those not in authority, the people at large, well may stop to consider to what extent the mad act of Prendergast was due to the mistaken leniency of the State Executive towards red-handed anarchy, and his dangerous recklessness in the use of the pardoning power and the release of scores of murderers and other criminals who were convicted and justly punished.

The circumstances of Harrison’s death were also compared with those of President Garfield’s (a dozen years earlier), and the dangers to public figures from disgruntled officeseekers were widely publicized.

New York Mayor William Gaynor (who died three years after he was shot) was also the victim of a disappointed jobseeker. In this case, the assassin had been fired from his job as a watchman on the New York City docks for incompetence, and had appealed without success to the mayor to reverse the decision of the Civil Service Board. According to the New York Times, Gallagher claimed in his confession that he had been haunting the mayor’s office for three weeks and kept repeating, “he took away my bread and meat.”20 Gallagher shot Gaynor aboard a ship that was to take the Mayor to Europe. The bullet which lodged itself in Gaynor’s larynx was never removed, and although he lived and was politically active, his health was apparently impaired and his life shortened.

The assassination attempt considerably increased Gaynor’s chances of gaining the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912. Even before the attack, Gaynor had been viewed as a likely candidate, and his “brush with death” increased those chances-at least as reported by the New York press.

Two of the three mayors who survived attack by an assassin, Elihu Bailey (Evarts, Ky., 1949) and Hubert H. Humphrey (Minneapolis, 1947), were targets of criminal elements who were opposed to the clean-up campaigns launched by the mayors against gambling, bootlegging (Evarts is m a dry county), and organized crime. Neither Humphrey, who was shot at three times, nor Bailey, who found twenty-four sticks of dynamite under his bedroom window, was hurt by the attempt: their would-be assassins were never found.

In Louisville, Ky., in 1893, P. J. Schwarz, a property owner, pulled a revolver and told Mayor Henry Tyler that he was going to kill him because he (Schwarz) thought that the city limits of Louisville would be extended to include property he owned. The mayor seized Schwarz’s weapon and the police carried Schwarz away. The local papers reported that a crank had made an attempt to kill the Mayor.

Thus, of the ten mayors who were victims or intended victims, one had the misfortune of sitting next to a President, three were victims of disgruntled officeseekers, and three were considered threats to the operations of organized crime.

Assassinations of State Legislators

Of the twelve state legislators who were victims or intended victims of assassinations, ten were killed and two were either wounded or escaped unharmed.

During the Reconstruction period, three state representatives were killed and two had attempts made on their lives. The three who were killed were pro-Union men elected to Southern legislatures (Ashburn of Georgia, Stevens of North Carolina, and Case of Tennessee) while the states were still under military control. In none of the cases was the assailant found, although the man who killed Senator Case of Tennessee (Frank Farris), was a well-known member of a guerrilla band, notorious for the atrocities it committed against Union sympathizers during and after the war.

On the morning of Senator Case’s murder, Farris rode into Troy (Case’s hometown) with a Union man, Morris Kinnan, and while talking with him in a friendly manner in the public square, pulled a gun and shot him. No effort was made to arrest Farris, who then rode off to Case’s home, and, after learning from his wife that he had gone into town but was expected back shortly, met him en route and killed him. In reporting the assassination of Senator Case, the New York Times wrote:

That the murder of Senator Case was a well-known and pre-arranged affair is evident from the arrival of the two confederates just in time to give Farris aid if necessary.... The outlaws of Ohion County and the adjacent region have been committing outrages with impunity for a long while. The swamps of Reel Foot Lake furnish them a secure hiding place. A young man of this place, while on a recent visit to Jackson, was threatened with a mob for speaking favorably of General Sherman. A rebel boasted not long since that there were 1,700 men organized to prevent the enforcement of Brownlow’s Law in West Tennessee /1

On the day preceding the deaths of Kinnan and Case, a deputy sheriff who was a staunch Union man had been shot and killed by the same group of guerrillas.

A year later in Alabama, the Speaker of the House, Senator Harrington, and another state senator (Pennington) were ambushed while they were canvassing for the Republican Party. They escaped without injury, but the would-be assassin was never found.

Table 8.-Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults of State legislators

Year Victim Method of attack and result Location of attack Assailant and professed or alleged reason
1867 G. W. Ashburn delegate to Georgia Constitutional Convention Shot, killed Georgia Unknown; ten prominent citizens implicated in the murder of the Republican delegate during Reconstruction.
L. Harris Hiscox delegate to New York Constitutional Convention Shot, killed New York Cole; personal affair over Cole’s wife.
Almon Case

State senator, Tennessee | Shot, killed | Tennessee | Frank Farris; anti-Union guerrilla leader. |

1868 Harrington

State legislator;


State senator, Alabama | Attempted shooting | Alabama | Unknown; ambushed while canvassing county together for Republican Party. |

1869 M. McConnell

State senator, Illinois | Shot, killed | Illinois | Unknown; believed to be over property litigation. |

Benjamin Ayers

State legislator, Georgia | Shot, killed | Georgia | Wilson; robbery believed motive. |

1870 John W. Stevens

State senator, North

Carolina | Stabbed, hung, killed | North Carolina | Wiley and Mitchelle; apparently acted with consent of Democratic Party of Caswell County; Stevens was a Republican. |

1874 James O’Brian

ex-State senator, New York | Attempted shooting | New York | Richard Croker, George and Henry Hickey, John Sheridan; Tammany group dispute witness O’Brian. | Deadly Attacks Upon Public Office Holders in the United States

Table 8.-(Cont.)

Year Victim Method of attack and result
1875 E. G. Johnson

Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue and State legislator, Florida | Shot, killed |

1881 Smith

State senator, Tennessee | Shot, wounded |

1892 R. D. McCotter State senator, North Carolina Shot, killed
1896 Col. Albert Jennings Fountain ex-State legislator, New Mexico Territory Shot, killed
1936 J. M. Bolton

State legislator, Illinois | Shot killed |

1945 Warren G. Hooper

State senator, Michigan | Shot, killed |

1947 Thomas Anglin

State senator, Oklahoma | Shot, wounded |

1958 Paul A. Wallace State senator, South Carolina Shot, killed Location of attack Assailant and professed or alleged reason

Florida Unknown(s); shot in still house.

Tennessee John J. Vertress; political feud over way Smith voted, Vertress claimed Smith was bribed.
North Carolina Unknown; assumed to be personal; wife’s family did not like his behavior.
New Mexico Unknown; long conflict between cattle association and outlaws backed by opposition political party.
Illinois Assumed to be gangsters; alliance of crime and politics.
Michigan Conspirators: Harry and Sam Fleisher, M.

Selik, Pete Mahoney; Hooper had been key witness in an investigation. |

Oklahoma Jim Scott; personal; Anglin’s law firm represented Scott’s wife in divorce. South Carolina Henry Rogers; assumed mad, hanged self in mental institution.

Two other assassinations of state legislators occurred in the same decade but were unrelated to the problems posed by Reconstruction policy. L. Harns Hiscox, a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention, was shot and killed by General Cole because, according to Cole, Hiscox had tried to seduce his wife while he was away. And in Illinois in 1869, State Senator McConnell was shot in his home by an unknown assailant. According to the Chicago newspapers, the assassination was prompted by McConnell’s involvement in litigation concerning valuable property in Chicago.

The next assassination of a state, legislator occurred in the South in 1892 when Senator McCotter of Pamlico County, N. C., was ambushed and killed by a group of men. It is assumed that the men belonged to the White Caps (a variation of the Ku Klux Klan), because some time before his death a delegation of White Caps had visited McCotter and warned him to stop seeing “the other woman” and return to his wife. None of the assassins was found.

Three of the remaining four assassinations of state legislators were connected in one way or another with organized crime. Colonel Albert Fountain, a former state legislator of the Territory of New Mexico, was killed (along with his young son) in an ambush. The Territory of New Mexico was the scene of a good deal of open warfare, and the death of Colonel Fountain in 1896 marked the climax of a long-standing feud between him and a Democratic Party judge. The fight was over control of cattle rustling and the prosecution of politically protected rustlers in the Territory. Before Fountain’s death, both men (Fountain and Judge Fall) had hired their own gunmen to protect their interests.

In 1936, an Illinois state representative from the West Side of Chicago was shot and killed by what newspapers labelled “men from the rackets.” In 1945, State Senator Warren Hooper of Michigan was shot before he could appear as a key witness in an investigation of bribery charges against members of the State legislature. The bribery charges were connected with passage of legislation favorable to parimutuel betting in Michigan.

The most recent assassination of a state legislator occurred in South Carolina in 1958 when County Court Clerk Henry Rogers shot State Senator Paul Wallace while Wallace was listening to election returns indicating that he had gained renomination on the Democratic Ticket. Rogers was committed to the State mental hospital, and hanged himself two weeks after he killed Wallace.

The three unsuccessful assassinations of state legislators after the Reconstruction period followed the same pattern as the successful ones: connections with organized crime or purely personal motives. In 1874, former State Senator O’Brian (of New York) swore out a warrant against four criminal gang members for assault and battery. He never pressed charges, presumably because these same men were already under indictment for the murder of a minor state official who had intervened between O’Brian and the assailants to protect O’Brian.

Personal motives were represented in the shooting on the floor of the Senate in Texas of Tom Anglin by a fellow legislator, Jim Scott. Anglin’s law firm had represented Scott’s wife in a recent divorce proceeding.

State Senator Smith of Tennessee was killed by John Vertress, an attorney who accused Smith of having accepted a bribe. The legislature was considering an investigation into Vertress’ charges, and after Vertress shot

Smith, the resolution to conduct the investigation was adopted.

The assassinations or attempted assassinations of state legislators share characteristics with the assassinations of both mayors and congressmen. Both state legislators and mayors have been attacked as a result of their ties or conflicts with organized crime, something not found in the murders of higher public officials. Both congressmen and state legislators were assassinated because they were Republicans seeking or holding office in the South during the Reconstruction period.

Judicial Assassinations

The facts that surround the murders of ten state judges provide more evidence about sordid forces that precipitate violence against officeholders than does the information coUected about other categories of assassination victims.

Some appear to have little, if any, political content. For example, in 1870, a judge in San Francisco was shot by his mistress after he had broken off their affair in anticipation of his family’s return. Another was shot as a result of mistaken identity.22

On the other hand, three judges were shot and killed between 1867 and 1875 as a result of intraparty conflict. Chief Justice Slough in the Territory of New Mexico was killed by William Rynerson, a member of the Territorial Senate, after Rynerson demanded that Slough retract insulting remarks made after Rynerson had passed a resolution in the Senate ordering the removal of Slough. Judge Gaylord Clark of the District Court in El Paso, Texas, was killed by Frank William; William had sought the office for himself. Clark was named because party leaders thought his appointment might more adequately serve to unite the radical and conservative wings of the Republican Party. In Louisiana in 1875, a former parish judge was shot by the incumbent.

Three other judges were shot and killed in Louisiana between 1868 and 1873. Judge Crawford of Monroe Parish was killed by an escaped murderer whom Crawford had sentenced to life imprisonment. The same assassin also killed the man who prosecuted him, District Attorney Arthur Harris. Judge Chase of St. Mary’s Parish was killed by a band of rebels because of his stand in support of the Union. Judge Robert Gray was shot in his home by “unidentified assailants.”

In 1889, Judge Pierce of San Diego, Calif., was shot and seriously wounded by a man whose case he had heard earlier and had decided against.

The last known member of the judiciary who was a victim of assassination was Judge David Terry of the California Supreme Court. This is the same David Terry who, thirty-two years earlier, had killed Senator Broderick in a duel. Judge Terry had made verbal threats against Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field. When Justice Field decided to visit his native state of California, the Justice Department sent a U.S. marshal along to protect him (presumably against Terry, who by this time was sixty-six years old).

Both Field and Terry had been powerful political figures in California for years. About ten years earlier, Field sought to be the favorite son candidate for the presidency; Terry, who was one of the delegates, was powerful enough to block his nomination. Terry claimed that Field was a corrupt judge who sold his decisions.23 The enmity between Field and Terry

Table 9.-Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults of judges



Year Victim

1867 John P. Slough

Chief Justice, New Mexico Territory

J. W. C. Horne

Judge, Georgia

1868 V. Chase

Judge, Louisiana

Robert Gray

Justice, Louisiana

1870 A. P. Crittedon

Judge, California

Gaylord Clark

District judge, Texas

1873 T. S. Crawford

Parish Judge

Monroe, Louisiana

1875 Belden

ex-Parish Judge, Louisiana

1889 W. L. Pierce

Superior Judge, San Diego, California

Stephen J. Field

Supreme Court Judge

David S. Terry

Judge, California

Method of attack

and result | Location of attack | Assailant and professed or alleged reason |

Shot, Killed New Mexico Captain William L. Rynerson; feud and insults over Rynerson’s attempt to have Slough recalled.
Shot, killed Georgia Unknown Negro; judge shot over incident involving his son and a colored girl.
Shot, killed Louisiana Band of rebels; Chase was a Union man.
Shot, killed Louisiana Unknown(s)
Shot, killed California Laura D. Fair, his mistress; when he attempted to break off relationship.
Shot, killed Texas Frank William; had wanted judgeship for himself.
Shot, killed Louisiana Assumed to have been ambushed by the Tom Wayne gang, whose previous trial the judge presided over.
Shot, killed Louisiana Sherburn, was judge at time; motive unknown.
Shot, wounded California W. S. Clendennin; because of decision unfavorable to him handed down by Pierce.
Assaulted California David S. Terry; had threatened Field in legal dispute.
Shot, killed California David Nagel; U.S. deputy marshal assigned to guard Field, shot and killed Terry. Deadly Attacks Upon Public Office Holders in the United States

w so

increased after Field had ruled against Terry’s wife when she sued to receive part of Senator Sharon’s estate by claiming that she had been Sharon’s common-law wife before her marriage to Terry.

When Field’s train arrived in Lathrop, Calif., Field and Deputy U.S. Marshal David Nagle went into the dining room at the train station for breakfast. Soon after, Judge Terry and his wife entered the room. Mrs. Terry recognized Justice Field and left.24 Terry then went over to the table where Field was sitting and slapped him across the face. Nagle arose from his seat and shot Judge Terry through the heart. In the newspaper accounts following Terry’s death, Nagle was described in the following manner:

There is not the slightest doubt that Nagle went, as his associates say, with his finger on the trigger and meant to make short work of Terry, who represented all that was objectionable to him in politics as well as in personal characteristics. Nagle, like many veteran gunfighters, had faith in the old fashioned single action Colt six-shooter.25

But the newspapers also claimed that Terry was “prepared to make a deadly assaulton Judge Field.”26 Nagle was tried and acquitted, and Field continued to serve as a member of the Supreme Court.

Miscellaneous Assassinations

In this last category we report the assassinations of men who occupied a variety of public offices that are considered generally lower in prestige and power than those in previous sections (see table 10).

With the exception of the aiderman in Brooklyn, whose life was threatened because of an affair with his sister-in-law, and the secretary of the Territory of the Dakotas, who was killed in a dispute about the status of railroad bonds, the other eight targets fall into one of two categories: law enforcement officials and tax collectors.

In the first group, Sheriff Saulet of Caddo Parish, La., was shot in bed by an unidentified assailant in 1868. In 1873, District Attorney Arthur Harris was shot and killed by a man whom he had prosecuted for murder (the case is mentioned in the previous section on judges). Also in 1873, H.P. Farrow, a U.S. district attorney in Georgia, was severely beaten by “unknown assailants” who, it is presumed, were motivated by the fact that Farrow had just obtained an indictment against local white citizens involved in the bloody riots following the election of a Republican governor in Georgia in 1872. In 1935, Thomas Courtney, a state attorney in Illinois, was killed by men believed to have been members of Al Capone’s gang. No one was ever brought to trial.

Between 1867 and 1875, four tax collectors were killed in the South. A customs inspector at Corpus Christi was killed by smugglers just before he was scheduled to testify about smuggling activities across the Mexican-Texas border. A deputy collector of Internal Revenue was shot and killed at a still in Florida by unknown assailants; and two others were murdered in Texas and Louisiana by unknown assailants for unexplained reasons.

In this category more than in any other, the number of attempted murders of public officials that our research has been able to uncover is probably less than the number of actual events. But even if the figures reported for this category were to be multiplied tenfold, they would still represent a comparatively small number.

Table 10.-Chronological list of political assassinations and assaults of appointed and minor officials

Method of attack

Year | Victim | and result | Location of attack | Assailant and professed or alleged reason |

1865 William H. Seward Secretary of State Shot, wounded Washington, D.C. David Herold, Lewis Paine; part of Lincoln plot.
1867 H. W. Fowler assistant collector of Revenues. Shot, killed Texas D. B. Bonfoey; collector of Revenues; no motives ascertained.
1868 B. Saulet Sheriff, Caddo Parish, Louisiana. Shot, killed Louisiana Unknown(s).
1871 Alden McLaughlin custom inspector. Texas Shot, killed Texas Smugglers, in the line of duty.
1873 Arthur H. Harris district attorney, Monroe, Louisiana. Shot, killed Louisiana Assumed to have been ambushed by Tom Wayne gang, whom he had previously prosecuted in a case.
H. P. Farrow U.S. District Attorney, Georgia. Clubbed, wounded Georgia Unknown; had gotten indictments against 5 men; papers ranted against him and tried to intimidate jury.
Edwin S. McCook Territorial Secretary of Dakota Shot, killed Dakota Territory P. P. Wintermute; dispute over railroad bonds.
1875 G. A. Roderty tax collector, Grant Parish, Louisiana. Shot, killed Louisiana John B. McCov, ex-sheriff.
Daniel O’Connell

Aiderman, New York | Gun-threat | New York | John T. Cox; personal matter over Cox’s sister. |

1935 Thomas J. Courtney State’s attorney, Illinois Shot, killed Illinois Unknown; suspected Capone gang.

C. Conclusions and Statistical Overview

We return in this last section of Chapter I to a statistical overview and note first the distribution of the eighty-one attempted and successful assassinations discovered. Figures 1 and 2 show the number of assassinations over time and by geographic region.

Figure 1.-Political assassinations and assaults by decade and population

^The number inside the bar graph is the absolute number of assassinations and assaults per ten year period. Assassinations and assaults are counted for five years on either side of census years; i.e., 1870 includes from 1865 through 1874.

^Includes five congressmen shot by Puerto Rican nationalists in 1954 in a single attack. Otherwise the total would be six, which would indicate no substantial change in the rate of assassination attempts.

includes Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.

i'wo facts stand out most sharply. Over two-thirds of the assassinations occurred in the southern part of the United States, and over one-third occurred during the Reconstruction period (that is, in the census period between 1865 and 1874). Table 11 shows that, of the twenty-nine acts of political violence which occurred during the Reconstruction period, approximately three-quarters took place in the South. A comparison of the number of acts of political violence occurring only in the South in the twelve census periods shows that one census period accounted for at least three times as many attempted or successful assassinations as any other-the Reconstruction period.27

Figure 2.-Political assassinations and assaults by geographical region and population

‘‘Summed census totalled for each decade since 1840, see Table 11. bAbsolute number of assassinations and assaults (81 total)

Northeast Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania

Southeast Delaware, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida

North Central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas

South Central Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas


Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California

The pattern between 1865 and 1875 does not occur anywhere else. In the South, after the Civil War and for as long as federal troops were stationed there, the men who were elected to public office were not considered “legitimate” incumbents of those offices. The level of office was immaterial. Governors, senators, state legislators, etc., were being elected on the Republican Party ticket, primarily, by former slaves and by persons migrating to the South after the war who opposed the traditional Southern white governing classes.

Those who had held public office prior to the Civil War were largely ineligible for such positions because many of them had not yet been “pardoned” for their participation in the War. Also, many Southern white voters were disenfranchised through political manipulation. The governors of Louisiana, such as Kellogg and Packard, held office because of the presence of Northern troops, former slaves who were made policemen, and recently emigrated Northern Republicans.

Thus, many of the men who held public office in the South during this period were not considered to be legitimate incumbents by those they supposedly represented. This is demonstrated by the fact that these men failed to gain reelection when Northern troops were withdrawn and Southern life returned to “normal.”

Outside of the Reconstruction period, there seems to be no other distinctive period in American history marked by political violence. The South, both before and after the Civil War, has had more incidents of political violence than any other region, but there is no particular time pattern attached to it.

We turn next to another aspect of the examination of the eighty-one cases. Table 12 summarizes the motives for assassination either given by the assassin or observed by others.

All the presidential assassinations fit category one with the possible, but not probable, exception of President Kennedy. Oswald’s motives are unknown. None of the gubernatorial, senatorial, or presidential assassinations fit category three, involvement with organized crime.

The pattern suggests that the higher the office, the more impersonal and more political the motive for assassination. The lower the office, the more personal the motive. All the presidential cases, with the exception of the attempt upon President Truman, could also to a greater or lesser degree have been coded under category six-“mental derangement of the assassin.” Their somewhat arbitrary inclusion in category one, however, does not distort the point made here. Even if the violence of the assassin was a product of mental derangement, the object of the violence was selected and focused by political issues.

After reviewing, case by case, the acts of political violence in section 2, we find no indicators that isolate specific individuals as targets of assassins. Scientists today would be no more likely to predict which Presidents, governors, or senators-let alone holders of lesser offices-might be assassinated than they would in any previous time. Particularly in the case of the higher elected offices, assassination seems to be a function of how a particular officeholder is perceived by an assailant who is by and large outside the main social and political stream of the society, and who is responding to cues that others are not likely to recognize.



As pointed out in Chapter 1, the presidency has been the object of a disproportionate number of the assassination attempts directed against officeholders in the United States. With the exception of the attempt on the life of President Truman by Puerto Rican nationalists, each presidential assassin has shown signs of serious mental illness; none was the agent of a plot or conspiracy rationally calculated to achieve political goals.

In this chapter, section A consists of short descriptions of each presidential assassination attempt. Section B is a discussion of the psychological characteristics of each of the would-be assassins to determine what patterns emerge. Section C presents a psychiatric perspective upon public reactions to presidential assassinations. Section D describes the reactions of the American public to assassinations, based upon survey data. Section E is an analysis of the political consequences traceable to the assassination of Presidents of the United States. Section F explores possible strategies of prevention: first, strategies to reduce the attractiveness of the office of President to potential assassins, and second, strategies for the physical protection of the President. Section G sets out the conclusions drawn from the previous sections.

A. Presidential Assassination Attempts1

Andrew Jackson

The first victim of an assassination attempt was Andrew Jackson. He miraculously escaped death on Jan. 30, 1835, when both pistols of his assailant, Richard Lawrence, misfired.

Lawrence attacked Jackson as he was walking through the rotunda of the Capitol after having attended a funeral service for a congressman. Lawrence, who had stationed himself in the rotunda, fired at Jackson from a range of approximately thirteen feet. The cap went off with a loud report, but the powder did not ignite and the pistol did not fire. Lawrence dropped the first pistol and transferred the other to his right hand. Meanwhile, Jackson rushed at Lawrence with his cane upraised. Lawrence fired the second pistol into Jackson’s chest at pointblank range. It also misfired. Subsequent examination of the pistols showed that they were properly loaded. Their misfiring was attributed to humidity and near-miraculous good fortune.

Jackson was no stranger to violence, and his attack in response to the first shot was typical. Jackson had killed a man in duel in 1806, and had been shot in the shoulder during a brawl in 1813. After he entered the White House, Jackson was hit in the face by a former Navy lieutenant who had been discharged for misappropriating government money. The then elderly Jackson grabbed his cane and chased the man, who ran away. Having been unable to punish him personally, Jackson refused to prosecute his assailant. He said that he always followed his mother’s advice never to use the law in response either to assaults or slander; these matters should either be taken care of personally or not at all.

Richard Lawrence was a native Englishman who had moved to Washington with his parents when he was about twelve years old. Little is known of his family life. He was well-behaved as a child and moderate in his habits as an adult. He became a competent house painter and painted landscapes as a hobby. He never married.

At the age of thirty-two, approximately two and one-half years prior to the assassination attempt, a marked change took place in Lawrence’s personality. He lost interest in his work and became threatening, violent, and abusive. He began to have delusions. On occasion, he imagined himself to be King Richard III of England. At other times, he claimed to have two great estates in England, or a realm that extended to Rome and Holland. He believed that he had claims for large sums of money against the United States, and began attending sessions of Congress to keep check on the progress of these claims. He came to believe that Jackson, in conspiracy with steamship companies, was preventing him from obtaining this money. In addition, his mind focused upon a hot political issue of the day, Jackson’s veto of the bill to recharter the Bank of the United States. Lawrence apparently believed that killing the President would benefit all workingmen by causing the bank to be rechartered.

At the time of his trial, there was a great deal of hostility toward Lawrence among some of Jackson’s supporters who suspected that he was part of a Whig conspiracy. Nonetheless, the prosecutor, Francis Scott Key, courageously cooperated with the defense, and helped establish a liberal test for msamty. Lawrence was to be found not guilty by reason of insanity if the deed was the “immediate, unqualified offspring of the disease,”-even if at the time of the attack he comprehended the nature of the act and knew the difference between right and wrong. The jury found Lawrence not guilty by reason of insanity, and he spent the rest of his life in mental institutions.

Abraham Lincoln

On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth entered the Ford Theatre box from which. President Lincoln was watching a play. The man assigned to guard Lincoln’s box had abandoned his post in favor of a neighboring bar. Booth shot the President in the head with a single-shot derringer. Lincoln immediately lost consciousness, and never recovered.

Lincoln was a tall, physically powerful man who engendered personal feelings of respect and affection. He was killed in the midst of the Nation’s celebration that marked the end of the Civil War. The Nation’s mood on the day Lincoln was shot is depicted in the tone of an editorial that appeared in the New York Daily Tribune:

A new world is born, and the Sun of Peace rises in splendor to send abroad over the land its rays of warmth and light. Never before had a nation so much cause for devout Thanksgiving; never before had a people so much reason for unrestrained congratulations and the very extravagance of joy.2

With the exception of the Puerto Rican nationalist attack on President Truman, Lincoln’s assassination is the only one that can be considered a genuine conspiracy. It appears, however, that the conspiracy was entirely Booth’s creation. The other conspirators were a motley few, and the plot did not have the sanction of Southern leaders.

Booth’s father, Junius, was an Englishman. After his marriage, he fell in love with a flower girl and, when he learned she was pregnant, he left England with her and settled in America. John Wilkes was the ninth of ten children born to them. He was illegitimate until his thirteenth birthday, when Junius married his mother after finally obtaining a divorce from his first wife. Booth’s father and other brothers were absent for long periods of time on theatrical tours, and he grew up largely under his mother’s tutelage. He was unruly and undisciplined.

Booth was said to have been an excellent companion. As he grew older, he was very attracted and attractive to women, and reputedly had many affairs. Although he was apparently engaged at the time of the assassination, his most stable relationship was with a prostitute who, during his absences, lived in her sister’s brothel, and presumably practiced her trade while he practiced his.

Booth never completed the equivalent of a high school education. He was apparently unable to apply himself either to formal schooling or later to the formal discipline of acting technique.

Booth decided in his late teens to follow the family career and become an actor. He apparently had a great natural talent, but never developed it properly. Beginning in the shadow of his more famous and accomplished father and older brothers, Booth received mixed or unfavorable reviews until a tour in the South brought him acclaim and an adopted homeland.

Approximately a year and a half before the assassination, Booth’s voice began to grow hoarse and weak. Whether this was a result of inadequate voice training or the first symptom of mental illness cannot be known. He began to identify more and more with the Southern cause. He never became a soldier, although he once donned the uniform of a socially prominent Richmond company to witness the hanging of John Brown. On one occasion he nearly strangled his own brother-in-law for slighting Jefferson Davis. He apparently came to believe that Lincoln had achieved the presidency through fraudulent voting and intended to make himself king.

Booth originally planned to kidnap Lincoln and hold him for ransom in exchange for captured Southern soldiers. The practice of exchanging

prisoners had been halted by the North because it worked in favor of the South, with its limited manpower. This plan was not far-fetched under the prevailing conditions, but was frustrated by circumstances. For instance, Booth originally insisted upon capturing Lincoln in a theater to dramatize the deed. When the war ended, the plot was changed to the assassination of the President, vice president and secretary of state. The man who was to kill the Vice President wavered at the last moment, and did not make an attempt. Secretary of State Seward was viciously attacked, but survived. Only Lincoln was killed.

After shooting the President, Booth leaped to the stage and shouted, “sic semper tyrannis"-fae motto of the State of Virginia. He broke his leg in the jump to the stage, but escaped for the moment. He wrote that he had acted as an agent of God and that he had only done God’s will. Twelve days later he was cornered by Union troops, who surrounded a barn in which he was hiding. He refused to surrender, and the barn was set on fire. He died from a bullet in the head, either by his own hand or by the hand of a Union sergeant who claimed to have shot Booth, also as an agent of God.

The passion engendered by the assassination precluded any semblance of a fair trial for the alleged conspirators. All the conspirators, and probably some who were not conspirators, were tried before a military commission and executed.

James A. Garfield

Charles J. Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield in the back with a pistol on July 2, 1881. They were in a train station where Garfield was leaving for a vacation some four months after having assumed office.

Garfield was a vigorous, forty-eight-year-old soldier, educator, and Congressman, with a full gray beard and the frame of a longshoreman.3 A darkhorse compromise candidate, he had been nominated after a bitter fight between the Stalwart (conservative) and Half-Breed (liberal) wings of the Republican Party. He was nominated on the thirty-sixth ballot, after the two leading contenders, Blaine, the Half-Breed, and Grant, the Stalwart, were unable to obtain a majority of the delegates’ votes. Garfield, who leaned to the Half-Breed side, had stayed clear of the feud. To balance the ticket, Chester A. Arthur, a Stalwart, was chosen as his running mate.

Garfield’s nomination and subsequent election by a plurality of less than 10,000 votes, made clear the necessity to unite the two dissident factions within the party. However, shortly after taking office, segments of the press and his party saw Garfield as favoring the Half Breeds at the expense of party unity. His nomination of James Blaine, the Half-Breed convention nominee, as secretary of state appeared to support this view.

Guiteau was born in 1841. His mother died when he was seven. His father, Luther W. Guiteau, had a strong interest in the Republican Party and religion, believing with Reverend John H. Noyes, founder of the Oneida community, that the second coming of Christ had already occurred in A.D. 70. He led a useful, respectable, middle-class life for his seventy years.

There was a history of mental illness in the family. One of Guiteau’s uncles died insane, the sanity of two of his sisters was questionable, and a niece and nephew, Charles’s first cousins, were placed in asylums.

Guiteau, like Oswald, seemed to have spent much of his life seeking some organization or cause to which he could dedicate himself, but each new-found cause seemed to give him neither success nor peace of mind.

Guiteau attempted to enter the University of Michigan, but found he did not have enough credits; he enrolled in high school to meet the requirements. Instead of studying, however, he read the Bible and tracts about the Oneida community which his father sent him. The following summer he joined the Oneida community, an early religious utopian experiment in communism. The community practiced both economic and sexual communism. Copulation was encouraged, but marriage was considered an exploitive ownership relationship.

Guiteau stayed for five years, and then left to found a newspaper to be known as the New York Theocrat. He anticipated immediate success and wrote his father, “I claim that I am in the employ of Jesus Christ & Co., the very ablest and strongest firm in the universe.”4 His venture failed, and four months later he was readmitted to the Oneida community. He remained for approximately a year, and then left again. This time he turned against the community, and urged criminal proceedings in an anonymous pamphlet entitled, “An Appeal to All Lovers of Virtue.” The pamphlet deplored the sexual license of the Oneida community which he himself had enjoyed.

He studied in a law office, and was licensed to become a lawyer under the lax practices then prevalent. His practice consisted in large part of accepting collection cases on commission, dunning the debtors, and then pocketing the money himself.

He married a sixteen-year-old girl, but the marriage was unsuccessful and they were ultimately divorced on the grounds of Guiteau’s adultery. Guiteau began to travel around the country, cheating railroads out of their fares, running out on boarding-house bills, borrowing money whenever he could, and failing to repay. He made a precarious living by publishing religious tracts and lecturing on religious subjects. His ideas were stolen mostly from Reverend Noyes, but according to Guiteau they came directly as an inspiration from God. He also tried, without much success, to sell life insurance.

In 1880, Guiteau focused his wandering attention upon politics. He wrote a speech (apparently never used) for Grant, the Republican candidate of the Stalwart faction, and then changed to Garfield when Garfield received the nomination. When Garfield was elected, Guiteau attributed Garfield’s success to his speech and felt himself entitled to the Austrian ambassadorship. He later tempered his ambitions to a consulship in Paris. At first Guiteau’s requests were treated courteously although his ambitions had no reasonable basis. Ultimately, he became a pest, and was refused access to the White House.

At this time it occurred to Guiteau that God wanted him to save the country from ruin by eliminating Garfield and restoring the Stalwart faction of the party to power in the person of Chester A. Arthur, the vice president.

Guiteau bought a forty-four caliber pistol with borrowed money. He paid an extra dollar in order to get a fancier handle, because he thought it would look better in a museum. The owner of the gunshop showed Guiteau how to load the revolver and suggested a spot where Guiteau could practice.

Guiteau had several opportunities to kill Garfield. Once, in a train station, he refrained because Mrs. Garfield was with Garfield. On another occasion, it was such a hot, sultry night that Guiteau felt too tired. On the day he finally determined to kill Garfield, Guiteau hired a hack to wait for him and take him immediately to the jail lest angry mobs harm him.

His trial was a circus, and Guiteau reveled in the limelight. He took the position that he had acted as an agent of God and was thus guiltless. He was found guilty and sane, and was hanged in front of a large crowd.

Public opinion ran very high against Guiteau. There were two widely approved attempts to kill him while he was in custody. Plots were imagined as having been spawned by the Stalwarts. Guiteau’s sister, in writing of the assassination, conceded that Guiteau had fired at and had wounded the President, but that Garfield had actually been killed by a second assassin hidden in a dark doorway. According to Guiteau’s sister, this man was a representative of the Stalwarts, who had treated her noble brother so shamefully and ungratefully.

William McKinley

On Sept. 6, 1901, Leon F. Czolgosz shot William McKinley as the President was about to shake Czolgosz’s hand at a reception in the temple of music at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. While Czolgosz was in the reception line he took a pistol out of his pocket and wrapped his hand and the pistol with a handkerchief so that his hand appeared bandaged. The shots were fired at such point-blank range that there were powder burns on McKinley’s vest. McKinley died eight days later.

McKinley was an extremely popular President. He was killed less than a year after his reelection to a second term in which he carried every state in the Union outside of the then “solid South” and four silver-mining states. Unlike Garfield, his popular vote was over a million more than his opponent’s, and his advantage in electoral votes was almost two to one. During McKinley’s first term, the triumph of the United States over the Spanish fleet, the liberation of Cuba, and the acquisition of the Philippines made the United States a world power for the first time.

However one views the foreign policy of the United States during McKinley’s first term, most historians credit him with having brought a new internal unity to the United States.

Czolgosz, the fourth of eight children, was born to Polish immigrant parents four months after they had arrived in the United States. His mother died when he was twelve. He was quiet and shy, with no close friends except Waldek, his older brother.

As a young man, Czolgosz was obsessively neat and possessed an extreme dislike for cruelty, even to the point of refusing to kill insects. He was a steady worker at a Cleveland wire mill from the time he was sixteen until he was twenty-three. During this time, he was a devout Catholic, and on the occasion of a strike at the wire mill, he and his brother prayed fervently, but without favorable result. Thereafter, Czolgosz began to suspect that priests were fooling him, and he ultimately broke with the Church.

At the age of twenty-two, he began to become remote and listless, and at twenty-five he apparently suffered a nervous breakdown. His older brother recalled that he had “gone to pieces.” He never returned to a steady job. He retired to the family farm where he read and brooded. He feuded with his stepmother (his father had remarried some years before), and began preparing his own food and eating it in his room- according to Dr. Hastings, “probably because he was under the delusion that his food was being poisoned or at least tampered with.”5

The assassination of King Humbert I in mid-1900 by an anarchist fascinated Czolgosz. He began reading about anarchism and went to Cleveland to listen to a lecture by Emma Goldman, a leading anarchist, whose speech, incidentally, did not advocate violence. Czolgosz tried to join an anarchist group, but acted so strangely that he was thought to be a police spy. The group published a warning against him just five days before he killed McKinley.6

Czolgosz had no remorse for his action. He said that he removed an enemy of the good working people and that one man should not have so much service and another man none.

The country was outraged. Although Czolgosz said he was acting alone, and appeared to have done so, an extensive anarchist plot was believed to have existed. Prominent anarchists were arrested, including Emma Goldman, who was subsequently released. Even Dr. E.C. Spitzka, the most important of the psychiatrists who unsuccessfully testified in 1881 that Guiteau was insane, hinted at a female conspirator (Emma Goldman) by asserting that Czolgosz’s covering his pistol with a handkerchief reflected a feminine touch.

The press wrote many inflammatory editorials attacking anarchist leaders and anarchist ideology. For example, the New York Herald wrote:

There is reason to believe that other anarchists stand ready to complete the work of Czolgosz if the President recovers. This fact will be established if all the ramifications of the conspiracy to kill the President can be brought to light. The authorities are already in possession of evidence pointing in this direction but there is nothing yet to indicate who the men are who will make the next attempt. It is hoped that some of the anarchists now under arrest may reveal the substantial plan.

And The Washington Post observed:

We parade as a matter of patriotic pride those dangerous political dissipations which should be a cause of patriotic sorrow and alarm. We open our arms to the human sewage of Europe ; we offer asylum to the outcasts and malefactors of every nation . . «

Local vigilante committees were organized to seek out and attack well-known anarchists and to destroy anarchist communities. Congress, influenced no doubt by Theodore Roosevelt’s impassioned plea for legislation,9 passed a series of laws that added anarchists to the list of excluded immigrants and restricted the activities of those already in this country.

Czolgosz did not testify at his trial, which took place four days after McKinley’s funeral. The trial lasted only eight hours and twenty-six minutes, including time for impaneling the jury. The jury brought in the guilty verdict after only thirty-four minutes. No appeal was filed, and Czolgosz was electrocuted. When Czolgosz was being strapped into the electric chair he said, “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people-the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.”10 He was twenty-eight years old.

Theodore Roosevelt

On Oct. 14, 1921, in Milwaukee, John N. Schrank shot Theodore Roosevelt in the chest from a range of about six feet. Roosevelt was emerging from dinner at a hotel and was on his way to give a speech.

Roosevelt, the Rough Rider and hero of San Juan Hill, was vice president when McKinley was assassinated and was elected to another term in his own right. Although he had pledged after the assassination to follow McKinley’s policies to the letter, his administration was notable for taking a strong new stand on “trust-busting.” He refused the nomination for a second full term, supporting Taft, who was elected. Taft’s more conservative policies displeased Roosevelt, and, after four years, he again sought the nomination. When the Republican convention rejected his bid, he accepted the nomination of a third party, the Bull Moose.

Shrank would most likely have killed Roosevelt, had the bullet not spent much of its force passing through Roosevelt’s metal glass case and the fifty-page manuscript of a speech he was to give, which was folded double in the breast pocket. According to Donovan, “The bullet had struck him in the right breast an inch below and slightly to the right of the nipple and bored inward and upward about four inches, fracturing the fourth rib.”11 Seeing that he was wounded, Roosevelt coughed into his hand. When he saw no blood, he determined that the bullet had not penetrated his lung and therefore, the wound need not interrupt his speaking schedule. He thereupon intervened with the lynch-minded crowd on Shrank’s behalf, went to the lecture hall, and excoriated big business and Republican bossism, with his shirt soaking up blood. Only thereafter did he consent to hospital treatment. “It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose,”12 said Roosevelt.

Shrank was born in Bavaria. His father died soon after his birth. His mother remarried and gave Shrank’s aunt and uncle the task of rearing the child. The aunt, uncle, and Shrank emigrated to the United States when he was thirteen. Shrank tended bar in his uncle’s New York saloon, and at twenty-eight, became the owner. Shrank was orderly and polite, but a loner. He once said, “I never had a friend in my life.”13 He did have a girl friend at one time, but she died along with more than one thousand other persons on the steamship “General Slocum,” which burned in the East River.

At the age of thirty, Shrank sold the saloon and thereafter worked only from time to time, otherwise reading, writing, and wandering around New York City. Hastings speculates that perhaps at that time he had become too mentally ill to shoulder the responsibility of keeping the saloon.

As early as 1901, McKinley’s ghost appeared to Shrank in a dream and accused Roosevelt of the assassination. Shrank, somewhat atypically, apparently did not identify himself with any particular group or movement. He did develop for himself, however, a political philosophy which he announced in essays. The most important point of his philosophy was that the no-third-term tradition never be violated. On the eleventh anniversary of President McKinley’s death, while Roosevelt was campaigning on the Bull Moose platform, the ghost of McKinely again appeared to Shrank, touched him on the shoulder, and told him not to let a murderer become President. This apparently confirmed Shrank’s conviction that he must be the agent of God to see that Roosevelt did not live to win what Shrank construed to be a third term—though, of course, it would not be a third full term, since Roosevelt had only been elected once in his own right.

Having determined to kill Roosevelt, Shrank set out to stalk him on his campaign tours. In more than two thousand miles and twenty-four days of travel in eight states, Shrank managed to be in the same city at the same time as Roosevelt in only three instances-Chattanooga, Chicago, and Milwaukee. In Chattanooga, Shrank said his nerve momentarily failed him. He refrained from shooting Roosevelt in Chicago for fear of damaging the reputation of that city. He finally acted in Milwaukee.

After Shrank’s arrest, the court appointed five psychiatrists to examine him. They unanimously reported that he was insane. There was no further trial, and Shrank spent the rest of his life in Wisconsin mental institutions.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

On Feb. 15, 1933, Guisseppe Zangara attempted to assassinate Franklin D. Roosevelt, then President-elect, while Roosevelt was giving a speech at Bayside Park in Miami, Fla. Zangara, although he arrived an hour and a half before the speech, was too late to get a good seat. When he tried to shoulder his way forward, he was prevented from doing so by a resentful spectator. Just as Roosevelt was leaving, one of the audience left his chair and Zangara, seizing the opportunity, stood on the chair (he was only five feet tall) and fired. The shots missed the President-elect, but fatally wounded Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago, who was standing near Roosevelt’s car. As Secret Service men tried to rush Roosevelt’s car from the scene, Roosevelt insisted that the car be stopped to take aboard the wounded Cermak.

Zangara was born in Italy in 1900. When he was two, his mother died and his father remarried before long. When Zangara was six he began school, but after two months his father took him out of school and put him to work. Thereafter, he always resented the fact that he had been unable to go to school, blaming “the capitalists.” In addition, he attributed the stomach trouble which plagued him throughout his life to his having had to work at such an early age.

Just after World War I he served for five years in the Italian Army. Sometime during this period he bought a pistol in order to assassinate the King of Italy but was discouraged by the guards and crowd surrounding the king. At the age of twenty-three, shortly after his discharge from the Italian Army, he emigrated to the United States. At first he worked well and without incident as a bricklayer. He prized solitude, had no interest in entertainment, and never went out with girls. He rejected the suggestion of an uncle that he return to Italy to find himself a wife.

He complained constantly of stomach trouble. When he was twenty-five, his appendix was removed, but it turned out to be in fairly good condition.

The operation failed to alleviate the stomach condition which Zangara believed was aggravated by cold weather. An autopsy after his execution did not show any abnormality in Zangara’s gastrointestinal tract.

Until 1931, Zangara worked without incident, although he frequently expressed resentment over the privileges of the rich and the poor lot of the laborer. Some two years before the assassination attempt, Zangara stopped regular work and did only odd jobs. He traveled to warm regions in hopes of curing his stomach troubles.

In the winter of 1932-33, he was apparently determined to kill President Hoover. However, the cold weather in Washington deterred him. When he learned that President-elect Roosevelt planned to be in Miami, Zangara took this opportunity to assassinate him in a warm climate.

Zangara was found to be sane and electrocuted. He apparently bore no personal ill will toward President Roosevelt, but attempted to kill him simply as the chief of state. He said he would have killed either Hoover or Roosevelt, but once Mr. Hoover had left the office, he would have had no further desire to kill him.

He felt no remorse, He wrote an autobiography when in jail which concludes, “I go contented because I go for my idea. I salute all the poor of the world.”

On the day of his execution he sat himself in the electric chair, saying he was not scared of it. He was incensed at the “lousy capitalists” because no one was there to take a picture of him. When strapped in the electric chair, he said, “Go ahead. Push the button.”14

Harry S. Truman

On Nov. 1, 1950, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola stormed Blair House, intending to kill President Truman. In the melee, twenty-seven shots were fired. Both Torresola and White House policeman Leslie Coffelt were killed. Collazo and two other White House policemen were wounded. President Truman, awakened from his nap, came to the window to see what the noise was about. A guard below shouted for him to get back.

Collazo and Torresola were natives of Puerto Rico and ardent Puerto Rican nationalists. Their attempt on President Truman was not out of personal hatred (Truman in fact had done much to advance self-determination in Puerto Rico), but rather to dramatize the cause of an independent Puerto Rico.

Collazo was thirty-four at the time. He had been born in Puerto Rico, the youngest of fourteen children. His father died when he was six years old, and Collazo went to live with an older brother. Collazo’s father had been a small landholder and Collazo always blamed United States imperialism for destroying his father in particular and small Puerto Rican landholders in general. When Collazo was eighteen, he joined the Puerto Rican nationalist party of Albizu Campos. He apparently never ceased to work for the cause of an independent Puerto Rico, and felt that the United States was exploiting his country.

Apart from his ardent support of Puerto Rican nationalism, Collazo could be an example of making the best of life under most difficult circumstances. In his teens, at the very depth of the depression, Collazo came to the United States and worked long, hard hours for little pay. He married and supported his wife, who remained in Puerto Rico. He gave a home to his young daughter. In later years he selflessly helped other Puerto Ricans who had emigrated to New York to make the difficult adjustment.

His last job was that of metal polisher in a firm that made purses. His employer counted him as one of the eight or ten best workers he had. Collazo was elected by his fellow workers to represent them in union negotiations, and was respected by both sides. He divorced his first wife on grounds of unfaithfulness and several years later married a fellow metal polisher who had two daughters by a previous marriage. Collazo was a good family man, and was apparently well-loved by his stepdaughters, who ultimately changed their name to Collazo out of affection for him.

Torresola, except for his ardent Puerto Rican nationalism, was cut from different cloth. Although he was married, he was reputed to be something of a gigolo. He had been fired from his job at a stationery and tobacco shop, and for six months before the assassination attempt had been living on relief in New York.

The attack upon President Truman is unique in that, with the possible exception of the Booth plot, this is the only assassination attempt that meets many of the “formal” requirements of an organized, politically motivated plot. Yet, the attempt does not bear great resemblance to a serious political act.

Perhaps the most unrealistic quality was the man chosen as the assassination target. Shortly after he became President, Truman had sent a special message to Congress recommending that four proposals for changing the status of Puerto Rico, including outright independence, be submitted to the Puerto Ricans for their choice. In 1946, he appointed Jesus T. Pinnero as the first native governor of Puerto Rico, and the following January, under his prodding, Congress granted Puerto Ricans the right to select their own governor and other national officers other than auditor and judges of the Puerto Rican Supreme Court. In 1949, Congress made provision for Puerto Rico to write its own Constitution, to be approved by a referendum among Puerto Ricans. This enabling act was signed by Truman on July 3, 1950. As the first step in the process, a registration of voters was set for November 4 of that same year. Thus, throughout his presidency, Truman showed sympathy for self-determination in Puerto Rico.

From the evidence available, one can only conclude that there was very likely a plot, though a singularly inept one. The evidence lies in other violent acts in support of Puerto Rican independence at about the same time as the assassination attempt, and in documents suggesting a conspiracy. A nationalist coup in Puerto Rico, planned for Nov. 3, 1950, began prematurely in southern Puerto Rico on Oct. 29, 1950, and spread quickly to towns around the island. In San Juan there was intense fighting, and the governor’s palace was fired on. Government action quelled the revolt by October 31, the day before the attempt on Truman’s life. P. Albizu Campos, president of the nationalist party, was arrested, and his car was found to contain arms.15

Other signs of a plot come from documents and statements. At the time he was killed in the shooting outside Blair House, Torresola had in his pocket a letter from Albizu Campos which read as follows:

My dear Griselio-If for any reason it should be necessary for you to assume the leadership of the movement in the United States, you will do so without hesitation of any kind. We are leaving to your high sense of patriotism and sane judgment everything regarding this matter.

Cordially yours,

Pedro Albizu Campos.16

Collazo claimed after his arrest that it was news of the revolt in Puerto Rico that led to the plan to create a demonstration in Washington, although their first impulse was to go to Puerto Rico to help the rebels. They decided instead to create a violent incident in Washington because it seemed to be a better way of shocking Americans into turning their attention to conditions in Puerto Rico.

Two days later they went to Washington, where they studied a map of the city in a classified directory they found in their hotel room. Then they hired a taxi and had the driver cruise in the vicinity of Blair House (the President’s temporary residence during the remodeling of the White House), in order to observe the positions of the guards. Sometime during this two-day period, Torresola gave Collazo a two-hour lesson in the shooting and reloading of his automatic pistol.

Early in the afternoon of November 1, they approached Blair House from opposite directions. Collazo fired first and his gun jammed, a mishap that doomed whatever slight chance for success the plan might have had. The President was never in any danger.

In the subsequent trial, Collazo refused to allow his lawyers to plead insanity. The defense chose to attempt to convince the jury that Collazo had planned only to stage a demonstration in front of Blair House without intending to kill anyone, and that Torresola-who had been killed in the melee-had started the shooting. The jury rejected this assertion and found Collazo guilty of the murder of Coffelt, and the attempted murder of the President and the two White House guards. He was sentenced to death, but President Truman commuted that sentence to life imprisonment. Collazo and Torresola may have been the least mentally disturbed of all the would-be presidential assassins. A psychiatrist who examined CoUazo twice concluded that he was not mentally ill. Nonetheless, their plan of action and the relationship of the act to their goals shows little grasp of reality.

There was widespread reaction to their attempt indicating that Puerto Ricans supported neither the would-be assassins nor their political aims. A letter signed by 119,000 Puerto Ricans was delivered to President Truman by the resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. It declared that, “during 450 years never before have we seen such an arbitrary act of violence as the one carried on recently by a small group of fanatic nationalists.”17 Puerto Rican children raised money for the children of Coffelt, the guard Torresola killed.

American journals, notably the liberal ones which presumably were most sympathetic to the plight of the Puerto Rican people, labeled Collazo and Torresola fanatics and declared that their compatriots were shocked by their action. The New Republic argued that the nationalists did not represent the people.1 Commonweal said, “So far as one can tell, going at it without firsthand knowledge, the nationalists’ revolt was abortive because it was unsupported.”19

Nonetheless, in a real sense Collazo and Torresola were patriots. The judge who sentenced Collazo to death said, “The Court has no reason to believe that you are not sincere. The Court doesn’t think you are an inherently evil man. The Court, as an individual, is sorry for you.”20 Collazo was asked if he had anything to say before being sentenced and he replied, “Anything that I had done I did it for the cause of liberty of my country, and I still insist, even to the last, that we have the right to be free.”21

John F. Kennedy

On Nov. 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three rifle shots in Dallas at a car containing President and Mrs. Kennedy and Governor John Connally of Texas. President Kennedy was killed; Governor Connally was wounded. More is known about this assassination and the assassin than about any other presidential assassination. The details are contained in the Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (the Warren Report). There is no reasonable basis for retracing the meticulous steps of the Warren Commission..

Oswald did not have a normal family life. His father died two months before he was bom. His mother remarried when Oswald was five, but the marriage only lasted three years. Oswald was a loner; he had few friends. In early adolescence he was diagnosed as an “emotionally quite disturbed youngster” while in public school in New York City.

Oswald apparently tried to submerge his identity in organizations and causes. He joined the Marines at the earliest possible age. He did not succeed; he was resentful of authority, and ultimately obtained an early discharge, ostensibly on hardship grounds to help support his mother. He did return home to his mother upon discharge from the Marines, but then left for Russia. He tried to defect, but the Russians would not accept him as a citizen, although they did allow him to remain as an alien. In Russia Oswald married, but the marriage was not a success; his wife often taunted him for his sexual inadequacies. Oswald did not make a success of his defection to Russia and returned to the United States with his wife.

At first Oswald was steadily employed but was soon unable, for whatever reason, to hold a job. At about this time, he attempted to kill General Edwin A. Walker, firing at and narrowly missing- him with a rifle. He apparently attached himself to another cause, this time the revolution in Cuba, but his association with the cause had little basis in reality. He was the sole member of his Fair Play for Cuba Committee, for which he passed out handbills in New Orleans.

Oswald resented the fact that his Marine discharge had been changed from honorable to general in response to his attempted defection. He complained to John Connally, whom Oswald thought was still Secretary of the Navy, although Connally had resigned shortly before.

Oswald, unlike other assassins, denied that he had harmed anyone, although he was seen to have shot Officer Tippit. He is also unique among attackers of a President in using a rifle rather than a pistol.

Oswald was in turn assassinated by Jack Ruby before Oswald’s motives and intended target could be determined.

Robert F. Kennedy

On June 4, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, brother of President Kennedy and candidate for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, was assassinated. He was shot in the head with a pistol from pointblank range. A young Jordanian national named Sirhan Bishara Sirhan has been convicted of the crime and his appeal is pending.

B. The Psychology of Presidential Assassins

1. Similarities between Presidential Assassins

All those who have assassinated or attempted to assassinate Presidents of the United States (with the possible exception of the Puerto Rican nationalist attempt upon President Truman) have been mentally disturbed persons who did not kill to advance any rational political plan. One psychiatrist, Dr. Donald W. Hastings, states that all but Collazo and Torresola were insane. Indeed, Dr. Hastings goes so far as to diagnose their mental illness as, “schizophrenia, in most instances a paranoid type.”24

Such a diagnosis, however, does not tell us why such persons become assassins, or how to identify and distinguish the assassination-prone personality.25 Furthermore, seven persons-the number of the actual assassins or would-be assassins (excepting Collazo and Torresola)-do not constitute a sufficient sample from which to generalize with any confidence. Yet these men do have a striking number of similarities.

All were male, white, not tall, and slender. Lawrence, Shrank, and Zangara were foreign born. Czolgosz was born a few months after his parents emigrated to the United States, and Booth’s parents came to the United States after Booth’s mother had become pregnant with their first child, Booth’s older brother. Only the parents of Guiteau and Oswald were native born.

On the other hand, neither socioeconomic class nor employment seems to establish a common thread. The families of both Guiteau and Booth can be called middle class, as can Shrank as owner of a bar and tenement property. Booth moved in high social circles in the South. The remainder could be called craftsmen or members of the working class.

All for whom we have information experienced an absence or disruption of the normal family relationship between parent and child.

John Wilkes Booth was an illegitimate child. His father did not marry his mother until John was thirteen. His father and older brothers were away for long periods of time on theatrical tours while he was reared, an unruly child, by his mother.

Guiteau’s mother died when he was seven. Czolgosz’s mother died when he was twelve. Shrank’s father died when Shrank was a child, and his mother remarried, moved to another town, and left Shrank to be reared by an uncle and aunt. Zangara’s mother died when he was two, and his father remarried a woman with six daughters. Oswald’s father died just after Oswald was born. His mother remarried when Oswald was about five years old, but the marriage ended in divorce in three years.

The only possible exception, paradoxically, is Lawrence, whose delusions of wealth and high estate fit most perfectly with the popular notion of the madman. As far as can be determined, he alone of all the assassins had the benefit of both parents throughout his childhood.

There is an hypothesis that the absence of a strong father figure may contribute to an assassin’s frame of mind. In as many cases as not, the disruption of the family was the early death of the mother, not the absence of the father. However, this does not necessarily defeat the hypothesis. For example, Guiteau’s father, deeply involved in the heteradox religious views of Noyes, may have had little time for his son. Zangara’s father took him out of school at the age of six and put him to work. Because of this, Zangara may have felt alienated from his father. What one writer has called “extreme ordinality” may be added to a list of common characteristics.”26 Ordinality is the position of a child amongst his siblings by order of birth. Of the eight presidential assassin discussed, including Collazo, two (Shrank and Zangara) were “only” children. Guiteau, Collazo, and Oswald were the youngest in families of three, fourteen, and three children, respectively. Booth was the ninth youngest of ten children. We have no data as to Lawrence’s siblings, if any. Only Czolgosz was a middle child, the fourth of eight. Psychiatrists have suggested that ordinality is significant in the development of the personality, and it would seem that ordinal position of the assassins is extreme enough to warrantconsideration.

Almost all the assassins were loners who had difficulty making friends of either sex, especially in establishing lasting relationships with women. Booth is an exception, at least in part. He was reputed to be excellent company among men and irresistible to women. He undoubtedly had affairs, and he apparently considered himself engaged to be married at the time of Lincoln’s assassination. Nonetheless, the number of affairs he had suggests some inability to establish a mature relationship. When he died, he was found to have the pictures of five different women with him, including one of his fiancee. His most stable relationship was apparently with a prostitute.

Guiteau was somewhat similar to Booth, although he seems to have had no close male friends. For a total of six years he lived in the Oneida community, which practiced sexual communism. Guiteau, by his own admission, had casual liaisons with a number of women there. His subsequent marriage ended in divorce on the grounds of adultery.

Lawrence, Czolgosz, Shrank, Zangara, and Oswald fall most closely into this pattern. All seem to have been quite withdrawn, with very few friends of either sex. Shrank had a girl friend at one point, but she was killed in an accident several years prior to his assassination attempt. We know of no other women in his life. Lawrence never married. Zangara avoided the company of women and never married. Czolgosz wrote that he had no friends except for brother Waldek. Oswald proposed to one girl while in Russia and married another, but was unable to make a success of the marriage.

A striking similarity is the fact that, from one to three years prior to an assassination attempt, each of the assassins apparently became unable to hold a job, although there is no evidence of physical disability in any case.

Lawrence was a competent house painter whose hobby was landscape painting. Two years before his attempt on President Jackson, he quit work and moved in with his sister. Booth did not appear to quit work voluntarily, but approximately a year before the assassination a hoarseness and deterioration of his voice forced him to reduce his acting schedule substantially. Guiteau did not work in the ordinary sense. He lived as a petty swindler, lawyer, pamphleteer, evangelist, and insurance salesman. Nonetheless, there seems to have been a period of deterioration after Guiteau began to focus on politics. At times, just before the assassination, he appeared in public without socks and with his coat collar turned up to hide the fact that he was not wearing a shirt.

Czolgosz left his job at the wire mill where he had been a steady, reliable worker. His brother refers to the fact that he appeared to have a nervous breakdown and to grow listless.

Shrank also quit regular work. When he was twenty^ight, his uncle gave him the family saloon, where he had been tending bar. Two years later Shrank sold the saloon and began drifting, concentrating on reading and writing.

Zangara worked as a bricklayer until about three years before his attempt on Franklin Roosevelt, when he sought to cure his imagined stomach trouble in a warmer climate.

Oswald did not hold a steady job after he returned to the United States from Russia.

Another common characteristic is the tendency to identify with a cause or an ideologically based movement, but being unsuccessful or unable to participate with others in this cause or movement.

Booth identified strongly with the Southern cause. However, he could not or did not participate in the Southern war effort. He put on the southern uniform to witness the hanging of John Brown. Booth found the experience very moving, and considered John Brown’s demeanor and manner of death heroic and admirable. He never wore the uniform again.

Guiteau felt that he was divinely inspired. He tried on two occasions, once for five years, and once again for a year, to become part of the Oneida religious community. He ultimately identified with the Republican Party and particularly its Stalwart (conservative) wing. In neither case was he successful in becoming part of the organization with which he identified.

Czolgosz was originally a devout Roman Catholic. He became disillusioned with the Church and felt that priests were fakes. He later identified with the anarchist cause, but again he was unsuccessful in relating to or becoming part of the organization.

Shrank and Zangara do not fall into this pattern as neatly as the others. Although Shrank did not appear to identify with any particular group, he did develop a series of essays on political theory with respect to the United States, the most important principle of which was the “no-third-term” concept. Zangara joined the Italian Army at approximately the same age as Oswald joined the Marines. He served for five years, and then emigrated to the United States.

Oswald fits the pattern; he attempted to join the Marines when he was too young, and then enlisted at his earliest opportunity. He was not or could not let himself be accepted in the Marines. In Russia he was again unsuccessful in Kennedy’s assassination that the next assassin would probably be short and slight of build, foreign born, and from a broken family-most probably with the father either absent or unresponsive to the child. He would be a loner, unmarried, with no steady female friends, and have a history of good work terminated from one to three years before the assassination attempt by a seeming listlessness and irascibility. He would identify with a political or religious movement, with the assassination triggered by a specific issue which relates to the principles of the cause of movement. Although identitying with the cause, the assassin would not in fact be part of or able to contribute to the movement. Not every presidential assassin has had every one of the foregoing traits, but some combination of the above has characterized them all.

One commentator, Dr. Doris Y. Wilkinson, applies the concept ot status incongruence in an attempt to explain presidential assassins.27 Status incongruence exists where the achievement level of a person is inconsistent with what he expects because of his education or other factors, such as race, sex, ethnicity or nationality, family or social class background, or view of society. The argument can be made that each of the presidential assassins exhibited such an expectation-achievement gap. The question of why the psychic distress derived from status mcongruence became politicized in the form of a deadly attack upon a high political officeholder remains unanswered.

One intriguing aspect of the status incongruence approach is that it may provide a partial explanation for two curious facts. First to be noted is the absence of Negroes from our list of presidential assassins-indeed, no Negroes are reported to have attempted to assassinate any high officeholders or persons of political prominence who are white. Second, all the assassins but Guiteau and Oswald either emigrated to America at a young age or were first-generation Americans.

With respect to the Negro phenomenon, it is suggested that, in America, the distinction between black and white has been, until perhaps very recent times, a master-determining status. The black man has a scapegoat. He can blame the system for defining him not in terms of what he does, but what he is. But a white person who fails to achieve his goals, although part of the favored racial class, has no such explanation for his “failure.” The hypothesis is too broad, but it is at least a start towards a more specifically explanatory hypothesis.

Applying the expectation-achievement hypothesis to the first-generation phenomenon, the immigrant could explain his absence of status or lack of opportunity in the mother country, but upon immigration to the “land of opportunity” this explanation would seemingly be lost. Still, the immigrant might not have an expectation-achievement gap, because he could perceive his immigrant status as a limiting factor. No such explanation for failure would be available to the first-generation Americans, however. The son of the immigrant—the child who grew up in the “land of opportunity”-might subsequently experience this expectation-achievement gap when conscious of the reality of his failure.

The tragedy of assasination in this nation may be caused in part by the possession of a social ideology or ethic which promises more than is in fact delivered. Again, the hypothesis proves far too much but does provide a starting point for the construction of hypotheses that are more specifically explanatory.

In an attempt to further the limited understanding of what compels people to attack political officeholders, some investigators have examined those imprisoned for threatening a President’s life.28 David Rothstein, for example, has analyzed twenty-seven inmates of the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo., who had indicated an intention to attack the President. The threatmakers bore simihanties to Lee Harvey Oswald. Most came from unhappy homes. They had domineering mothers and weak, ineffectual fathers. Most joined the military service at an early age, yet their experiences proved to be unhappy. Rothstein interprets their actions in threatening the President as the manifestation of a hostility towards their mother redirected against authority symbols-the government and, more specifically, the President.

In another study of fourty^ight individuals who attempted to force their way into the White House, Sebastiani and Foy found these individuals to be paranoid, persistent, and self-destructive.29

Both studies deal with individuals who threatened the President rather than those who have actually attacked him. The link between such threats and any intention actually to injure a President is not known. It may be that the violent letters to the White House or the attempts to invade its grounds are ends in themselves, designed to attract the type of attention the instigators desire, and not preliminaries to assassinations. No presidential assassin, with the possible exception of Guiteau,has publicized his intentions in advance..

In conclusion, it must be emphasized that we do not know why the characteristics discussed above appear in assassins, nor do we know why in a few instances those characteristics may lead to assassination, while in the overwhelming number of cases there is no such result. Many persons with more disruptive family lives and with the absence of a father figure become mentally healthy, productive citizens or at least do not assume an assassin’s role.

2. A Comparison of the Presidential Assassin and the Normal Citizen30

Dr. Freedman, a psychiatrist and consultant to this Task Force, points out that presidential assassins follow patterns which in other contexts would not only be approved but considered heroic. The typical violent offender strikes out at someone with whom he has at least been acquainted, and often at someone with whom he is intimate. After his attack he is filled with guilt or remorse. But common men-clerks, lawyers, scientists, and the like-can be recruited as soldiers to kill perfect strangers without remorse or regret, in the name of a cause. In this regard, the assassin resembles the patriot, not the typical murderer.

The mentally ill resemble the so-called “well-adjusted” person far more closely than is generally realized. The less severely maladapted who are treated by psychotherapists-and the overwhelming majority of people who get along, more or less successfully, without psychiatric assistance-do so with latent paranoid and grandiose projections, much like the psychotic person.

Everyone periodically sees himself as the center of some constellation of human relationships when in fact his role is peripheral or nonexistent. The “normal” person sometimes feels that he is being criticized or snubbed when in actuality he is not. This feeling is very common. The sense of being elevated in the eyes of those around him is comparatively rare. This tendency of the “normal” person to suffer from the disapproval of others is the normal counterpart of the paranoidal projections of the deluded.

In one sense, the assassin grapples with his private misery more concretely, even more practically or realistically, than does the normal person, the neurotic, or the deluded psychotic. However horrible his deed, however pathological his interpretation of events, the assassin is a man who has politicized his private miseries. He has attempted to become part of a social institution which promises him freedom from his overpowering self-loathing. Guiteau and Oswald actually experimented with life in systems that seemed to promise escape from themselves, their fantasies, and their frustrations. Each turned against the community he had attempted to join and then discovered that he carried his private miseries and public disaffections with him wherever he went.

The assassin denies responsibility for his failure. (He does not deny his own failure; he is well aware of that.) He blames his sense of failure on others. However, the assassin does not live in a true community of men. His relationships are not immediate or personal. Unloved, he is unloving. He lacks the quality of emphathy. The assassin relates rather to an abstraction such as aggregate man or the political community. The fault as he sees it lies not m himself but in the structure of the community wherein he lives, and it is concentrated in the person who is the leader of that community, the President. The assassin disassociates the presidency from the man who occupies the office, and can kill him because of this lack of human identification which has characterized most of the assassin’s relationships.

The assassin combines this capacity to project onto the President the responsibility for his personal misery with an increasing preoccupation with a fanciful, abstract political, or governmental alternative to his unbearable surroundings. If the President is responsible for the failures of his society as well as of himself, then the potential assassin, in the name of all suffering humanity, in the name of an ideology, or as Guiteau claimed, in the name of God, is sometimes impelled even against his own will to carry out his mission. The assassin seeks fame and recognition as the killer of the President and acclamation and martyrdom from the community for having accomplished his “mission.” There is, however, no existing community of men for whom this mission is accomplished. It exists only in the fantasy of the assassin. But, in carrying out the assassination, the assassin denies the unreality of his “community,” and preserves his delusion.

Dr. Freedman suggests that many persons fall upon a continuum of self-loathing. At one end of the spectrum we find the “normal” people failing in their fondest hopes and ambitions, fighting their sense of worthlessness and failure, but successfully maintaining a balance so they can continue to function in a job, support a family, and make a contribution to society. At the other end of the scale are those whose self-loathing is so great that they must escape to a world of fantasy. This world is so pervasive that they lose touch with reality to such a great extent that they cannot function and must be cared for in mental institutions. At the center is the person perched precariously on the edge of reality. He is incapable of sustained work toward a long-range goal, but is capable of bursts of frenzied activity which are ultimately doomed to failure. Each such failure reinforces the self-loathing and the need, in one tremendous burst of directed planning and energy, to accomplish something of great worth. As Booth remarked, the person who pulled down the Colossus of Rhodes would be famous throughout history. One such act, which can be accomplished in a burst of directed activity and which can assure a person a place in history, however infamous, is the assassination of the President of the United States.

One attempt to explain the politicization of the disordered mind of the assassin31 is based on the notion that a person requires and creates an “ideal self,” i.e., a conception of his own identity, and that he orders his conduct and personality in terms of this conception. When a person’s basic identity concept is threatened, he may lash out violently against the threat. Persons usually develop their identity by close contact with fellow human beings during childhood and early adulthood, especially close family members. As they grow to adulthood they continue to define their identity by reacting to persons bearing close relationships to them. Thus, most victims of violent or deadly attack bear a close relationship to the attacker-husband, wife, lover, best friend. These are the persons most in a position to threaten the attacker’s basic conception of his identity.

The assassin is unusual in having no such apparent personal relationship to the political figure he attacks. However, assassins of Presidents of the United States have had their normal personal relations disrupted at an early age. Typically, the family was disrupted by the death or absense of one parent. As an only or youngest child, the assassins may have been denied close relationships with siblings. Most of the assassins did not have satisfactory relationships with women. Thus the assassins had insufficient close personal relationships on which to define the basic conception upon which their entire identity depended; they were forced to define and relate their identity not to specific persons but to an abstract such as The State or an ideological movement. Such a person would have a kind of “lover” or “best friend” relationship with The State or ideological movement, and would create his fundamental self-image from this relationship. This sets up the psychological conditions that politicize such a personality to explose in deadly violence against the head of state as the symbol and embodiment of his lover. Under the same conditions, the “normal” person would react violently against an individual-husband, wife, mistress, or best friend, as the case may be.

We realize that we still have not explained why the potential assassin deviates from the large number of persons who share with him the same kind of background but who become well-balanced productive citizens. Nor have we explained why the assassin differs from those who can channel and control their identification with a cause and need for recognition, and whose perception of the goals of their society sufficiently accords with reality that they truly serve their society by selfless acts of heroism.

C. A Psychiatric Perspective Upon Public Reaction To the Murder of a President.32

There are extraordinary regularities in the sequence of events following the assassination of a President of the United States. Those regularities emanate from the tremendous impact of the death of a President on the American public. The impact is not political as such-as pointed out in section E, no basic policy or structural change in the United States is attributable to a presidential assassination-but a personal, emotional impact.

The first regularity to be noted is that where the assassin has been successful, our system of justice has reacted harshly and primitively. Where the assassin has failed, he has usually been treated with compassion.

The very first assassination attempt, that by Richard Lawrence, could have set a precedent to which the United States could have pointed with great pride. The court, at the courageous instance of the prosecution, adopted a liberal rule for the test of insanity: whether the deed was the “immediate, unqualified offspring of the disease”-even if at the time of the attack, the assassin knew the nature of his act and the difference between right and wrong. The jury found Lawrence not guilty by reason by insanity. Shrank, another unsuccessful assassin, was also recognized as insane, and was hospitalized, not executed.

Successful assassins, however, have all been killed. Oswald was gunned down by Ruby. Booth, historians agree, probably shot himself rather than be arrested, but a Union sergeant, Boston Corbett, claimed to have done the act himself as an agent of God and received wide public approval and acclaim for the alleged killing. Two attempts were made on Guiteau’s life prior to his trial and execution, also with widespread though not unanimous approval. The following was written in 1881 of one attempt on his life. It could have been written, with very few changes, in 1963 about Ruby’s murder of Oswald.

I am sorry it should have taken place, for it can only add to the wretchedness of the whole thing. We are disgraced as a nation by such an occurrence. What will foreigners think of us? The assassination of the 2nd of July was a dreadful calamity, but then we can look upon that as the freak of a lunatic or the desperate act of a dangerous and baffled man. But now, when that man is on trial for his life and the judicial hearing is proceeding in a regular way, and with no danger of any but a perfectly just and fair conclusion, to have someone take upon himself the office of executioner is entirely inexcusable. It begins to look as if we were in fact a lawless community . .. This Washington fool steps up and insults every law-abiding citizen of the land by his act..33

Czolgosz, Guiteau, and Zangara who, although he missed Franklin Roosevelt, killed Mayor Anton Cermak, appear to have merited treatment as insane persons as much as Lawrence or Shrank. However, all were found sane and executed. The trial of Booth’s fellow-conspirators was a disgrace. They were denied their right to a jury and were summarily tried and sentenced to death by a military tribunal. The trial of Guiteau was a circus; although the judge’s charge to the jury was fair-minded on the issue of insanity, the jury found him guilty and he was executed in front of a large crowd. The trial of Czolgosz was a farce that lasted only eight hours and twenty-six minutes. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty after only thirty-four minutes. Thus, one disastrous effect of an assassmation may be the failure of our system of justice to respond humanely to the mental illness of the successful assassin.

Perhaps of even greater interest from a psychiatric point of view is the initial and sometimes lasting insistence that the assassin was part of a widespread conspiracy. Lawrence was considered by some to be part of a Whig conspiracy against Jackson. The conspiratorial theories surrounding the assassination of Lincoln still rage, including the view that Cabinet members such as Stanton or even Andrew Johnson headed the plot.

Guiteau’s sister has written that, although Guiteau did fire one shot at Garfield, the fatal shot was fired by a member of the Stalwart faction.

Czolgosz was widely assumed to have been an agent of the anarchists. Leading anarchists were arrested, including Emma Goldman. No evidence connecting her with the killing was discovered, and she was subsequently released.

Zangara was seriously mentally disturbed. He freely admitted that his intention was to kill Roosevelt as the head of state. Zangara sprayed five pistol shots in Roosevelt’s direction, killing Anton Cermak, Mayor of Chicago. Despite the contrary evidence, the rumor still persists that Zangara was the agent of a gangland conspiracy to kill Chicago’s mayor.

The twenty-six volume report of the Warren Commission demonstrates that in all probablity no murder in the history of the United States has ever been as thoroughly investigated as that of John F. Kennedy. Evidence was taken from anyone who could possibly have anything to contribute. Probably no trial has exceeded the Warren Commission’s efforts to be fair and to conceal nothing that could possibly contribute to public understanding.

Yet the proliferation of conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy is familiar to all. There is even a book denouncing the books that denounce the Warren Report.

How can we explain the prevalence of theories that presidential assassinations sprang from powerful, widespread conspiracies? These theories are created and maintained tenaciously, despite the absence of evidence and despite empirical demonstration of the irrationality of such theories. Indeed, they are elaborated, like some phobias, by an everwidening network of large and small events that become consciously incorporated into the original theory of conspiracy.

Dr. Freedman attempts neither to disprove the conspiratorial theories nor to strengthen the homicidal-isolate hypothesis. Rather, he asks us to speculate with him about the explanations for the acceptance of conspiratorial theories in the face of seemingly overwhelming evidence which renders them at best inconclusive.

The murder of a President is no ordinary homicide. The impact of the murder of the key figure of the government is so vast, so terrible, so widespread, that it is incomparable to the murder of a private citizen. We are agitated and depressed at even the remote prospect that our elected leader may be killed while in office. In contrast, the death of former Presidents does not concern us nearly as much.

The legal precedents of criminal responsibility and insanity that now apply to all legal acts spring from the early precedents established in these rare cases of assassination. Regicide, as Erskine said in defense of Hadfield, is equated with parricide, the murder of the father. Thus, in our jurisprudal system, culpability and punishability are based on social and personal values which express our horror of killing the father. The violent removal of the father threatens the viability of his offspring Even the fratricide of Cain in the Old Testament fould be compromised by the God-father. Cain, the murderer, was stigmatized but spared. Parricide, however, could never be compromised or ignored. It profaned the killer. It aroused unbearable anxiety and guilt. It demanded retribution by the father’s survivors. The anxiety, the guilt, the sense of profanation, and the resultant need to seek absolution and to become eligible once again to be accepted in the sacred brotherhood which shared the common father afflicted the murderer no less poignantly than it did his rudely deprived peers.

Protanation of the father’s sexual partner by gaining erotic access to her was only slightly less horrifying an act. The murder of the father and taking his place as the sexual possessor of the mother are the primal crimes of mankind. Nonetheless, Oedipus, the unwitting and unwilling archoffender, was himself a father, and the drama of his redemption and the redemption of his values by and through his children reflects the continuity of the problem.

It is now generally held that the human personality is the product of the enactment in each person’s life of this Oedipal drama, no less potent because it is only symbolically and psychically reenacted-indeed, possibly more powerful as a determinant of our adult character than if it were physical fact rather than psychic fantasy. Whether or not these speculations are accepted the empirical evidence demonstrates the awesome significance of parricide to those who are under the paternal influence, bound to each other because of their common bond of ambigious affection for, awe of, dependence upon, and challenge to the common father figure.

Presidential assassination is, for the overwhelming majority of Americans, the equivalent of parricide. Most Americans felt after the assassination of John F. Kennedy that they had lost a member of their own family, almost always their father. They had responded similarly to the death of President Roosevelt.

Many not only compared their sense of loss to the death of their fathers but expressed a more profound sense of shock, loss, and deprivation than they had felt at the death of their own father. Two-thirds of those interviewed complained not only of depression, but of almost unbearable nervousness and tension. One-half of them could not eat or sleep.

Dr. Freedman suggests that the vast audience which is apparently so willing and anxious to be convinced of a conspiracy exists because the alternative is unbearable. It is unbearable because it makes the entire system of controlled relationships within which they live, and upon which the security and sense of their lives rest, vulnerable to destruction by the vagaries of the totally unpredictable. The most conspicuous and most powerful representative of the principles that shape and guarantee their lives can be destroyed in seconds by the attack by a nonentity. It seems incredible that the man who commands the largest power in the world could be destroyed by a man who commands no one, not even himself. It cannot be that the whole complex and mysterious enterprise of government is unable to protect itself.

It must not be that he upon whose decisions so much depends, who determines for millions whether they shall live or die on some battlefield, is incapable of making decisions to prevent the taking of his own life. It cannot be that, in short, the great and all-powerful father from whom all strength and protection comes, is as humble, weak, and vulnerable as one suspects or knows oneself to be.

If we must suffer parricide, if our father is to be taken from us, he must be taken by a most powerful, if malignant, counterforce. We cannot lose him to a casual crank. To do so is to stand shivering and unprotected, not only bereft of our father but exposed within ourselves to our own vulnerability. Far better to be convinced of a manichean diabolism than a trivial mechanical doll as the instrument of our destruction.

Dr. Freedman’s analysis, if correct, does not itself disprove the existence of malign far-reaching conspiracies to kill the President. We cannot hope to convince those whose own psychic needs require a belief in such conspiracies. We can, however, comfort the many who accept the overwhelming weight of evidence of the lone, mentally ill assassin, but who still feel disturbed and uneasy about that evidence. This uneasiness is a product of the primal anxieties created by the archetypal crime of parricide-not the inadequacy of the evidence of the lone assassin.

D. A Survey of Public Reaction to Assassinations

This section will deal with the emotional impact of assassination on the American public. The first portion is based upon data collected by a Commission survey35 concerning six assassinations that have occurred in recent years; President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and George Lincoln Rockwell.

In order to make judgments about the impact, different emotions as well as the different targets were examined. The emotions that were examined were presented in the form of scales that had two different poles. In some cases the ends of the scale represented opposite emotions, but this was not the case for every scale. The scales were:

hopeful 1 2 3 4 5 hopeless
not surprised 1 2 3 4 5 shocked
unafraid 1 2 3 4 5 afraid
calm 1 2 3 4 5 angry
sad 1 2 3 4 5 relieved
at a loss 1 2 3 4 5 not affected The respondent was asked to indicate the number on each scale that best represented his feelings at the time he first heard about the assassination. Table 1 presents the average value that the respondents gave to each variable for each assassination. Each scale had five categories which were scored from one to five. The middle category, which represented a neutral position between the two extremes, received a score of three. Results that fell to the left side of the scale received scores of one or two with the average being less than three for a group of scores. If a group of scores fell primarily to the right side of the scale, the average was above three.

Table 1.-Average reactions of respondents to each of the assassinations


HOPEFUL-HOPELESS 2.925 4.071 3.412 3.034 4.345 3.637
NOT SURPRISED-SHOCKED 2.401 4.497 3.361 2.607 4.793 3.437
UNAFRAID-AFRAID 2.195 3.398 2.914 2.574 3.752 3.158
CALM-ANGRY 2.226 3.910 3.224 2.642 4.144 3.350
SAD-RELIEVED 3.000 1.316 2.114 2.856 1.216 1.970
AT A LOSS-NOT AFFECTED 3.929 1.837 2.839 3.499 1.471 2.584 1.5

1 | 2.5

1 | 3.5

1 | 4.5

1 |

SCALE OF POSITIONS <strong> ____</strong>

1 | 1 | _J___ _____ 1 |


2.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 5.0 |

Because the assassinations occurred over a five-year period between 1963 and 1968, several refinements must be considered in the interpretations of the data. First, what was the time lapse between the assassination and the survey? The survey, conducted in October of 1968, was closest to the assassinations of Senator Kennedy and Dr. King, and furthest from those of President Kennedy and Medgar Evers. In addition to the time variable, there is also a confounding factor present because while all of those interviewed had heard of the assassinations of President Kennedy, Dr. King, and Senator Kennedy, only seventy-two percent had heard of the Malcolm X assassination, sixty-three percent that of Medgar Evans, and fifty-five percent that of George Lincoln Rockwell. Thus, the table represents the reactions of different sets of respondents, not reactions of the whole survey population.

It can be seen from the table that the reaction of the population to the assassination of President Kennedy was more extreme than the reaction to the other five. This is in spite of the fact that the assassination of President Kennedy, among the major figures, was furthest removed in time from the survey.

The variable that appeared to bring forth the most intense reaction was the scale that went from sad to relieved. It should be recalled that the most extreme “sad" response a person could give would be a score of one. The average for respondents on the assassination of President Kennedy was 1.22, for Senator Kennedy it was 1.32; and the next most extreme response was for Dr. King, 1.97. The degree of sadness was significantly greater on the part of the general population to the assassinations of President Kennedy and Senator Kennedy than for any of the others. It is also interesting to note that for none of the assassinations, including that of George Lincoln Rockwell, was the average response on the relieved side of the neutral point. In the case of Rockwell, the average was in the middle, between sad and relieved. The average response to the assassination of Malcolm X, 2.86, was also quite close to this middle category. Of course, the average in itself does not indicate the distribution of responses; although it is on one side of the neutral point, there could be a large number of individuals in the population whose response was on the other side. Figure 1 presents the averages on the sad-reheved scale. It can be seen that three pairs emerge. At the extreme sad end are President Kennedy and Senator Kennedy. At the neutral point are both Malcolm X and George Lincoln Rockwell. Between those two extreme groups are Kmg and Evers. These three groupings will reappear throughout the analysis.








Intensity of Emotional Reactions to Six Assassinations

The scale that brought the next most intense response was tne scale of not surprised to shocked. Again, there was the greatest surprise at the assassination of President Kennedy, despite the fact that he had been assassinated almost five years before.

It is interesting to note that the degree of shock at the assassinations of Dr. King and Medgar Evers was far less than that for the Kennedys. The degree of shock was about the same for both these individuals, although everyone in the population had heard of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., while less than two-thirds had heard about that of Medgar Evers. Finally, in the case of both Malcolm X and Rockwell, the average response was on the not surprised side of the scale. It is possible that, because each of these individuals was a leader of extreme groups within the society, the general impression of the population was that they might meet violent death.

These results are presented in Figure 2. Again the three groups of two appear. In this case, the King-Evers pair is close to the neutral point and is closer to Rockwell-Malcolm X than to the two Kennedys.



1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0


Figure 2.-N0T SURPRISED-SURPRISED SCALE Intensity of Emotional Reactions to Six Assassinations

The scale that brought forth the third most intense response was at a loss-not affected, the last scale on the table. The results here parallel those that have already been presented, although two exceptions should be noted. Although the population in general was more at a loss over President Kennedy’s assassination than over any of the others, the difference between President Kennedy and Senator Kennedy was greater on this scale than on the previous two. Similarly, it should be noted that again Malcolm X and Rockwell fall on the not affected side of the scale. There is, however, a fairly large discrepancy. The population in general was less affected by Rockwell’s assassination than by the assassination of Malcolm X. The results are diagramed in Figure 3.









Intensity of Emotional Reactions to Six Assassinations


1. Emotional Responses of Specific Groups to Assassination

This section will examine the emotions of specific groups. Tables 2 to 7 present the results for each of the scales taken separately.

Examination of Table 2, which deals with the hopeful-hopeless scale, indicates that seventy-eight percent of the population reacted with a feeling of hopelessness to the assassination of President Kennedy. Among Negroes, the percentage was even larger-ninety-one percent, and among suburban residents it was eighty-six percent. In the total population, sixty-eight percent reacted with hopelessness to Senator Kennedy’s assassination. But among Negroes this percentage was eighty-three percent, and among the highly politically active it was eighty percent.

For the country as a whole, only forty-six percent reacted to the assassination of Dr. King with hopelessness, but among Negroes the percentage was almost as large as for President Kennedy’s-eighty-five percent.

A majority of Negroes also reacted to the assassination of Medgar Evers with hopelessness—fifty-nine percent-as opposed to thirty-four percent for the whole sample. Similarly, Negroes reacted more strongly to the death of Malcolm X than did the sample as a whole. In fact, the hopeful percentage for the sample was almost equal to the hopeless-fifteen percent compared to seventeen percent. In the case of George Lincoln Rockwell, a slightly greater percentage was hopeful (seventeen percent) than were hopeless (twelve percent).

In general, it appears that Negroes have been particularly shaken by the political assassinations that have occurred.

The results, presented in Table 3, are confirmed on the not surprised-shocked scale. Again, the pattern repeats itself, although a slightly higher proportion of the citizenry was shocked at each of the assassinations than reacted with the emotion of hopelessness. In the case of George Lincoln Rockwell, more than a majority who heard said that they were not surprised when they heard of the assassination. Even for Malcolm X, the percentage of not surprised was forty-two percent, this was twice as large as the percentage that said they were shocked (twenty percent). It is apparent again that Negroes reacted more strongly to the assassinations.

Fear as an emotion did not occur as widely as did either shock or hopelessness. Nevertheless, sixty-one percent of the sample did react this way upon hearing of the assassination of President Kennedy. For Senator Kennedy, the percentage was forty-five percent, but more than half of both females and Easterners reacted with fear to the Senator’s assassination. Similarly, although only thirty-six percent of the population reacted with fear to Dr. King’s assassination, fully sixty-three percent of the Negroes in the sample indicated that they reached with this emotion. The picture that is emerging is one of shock and hopelessness over major assassinations in this country and reduced, but stfll substantial, amounts of fear (see Table 4). Anger was a stronger response than fear in the population. The results for this scale are presented inTable 5. Seventy-five percent of the sample reacted with anger to the assassination of President Kennedy. More than half (fifty-eight percent) also reacted this way to the assassination of Senator Kennedy and almost half (forty-six percent) did so upon hearing of Dr. King’s assassination.

Table 2. -Analyses of emotional responses to the assassinations hopeful-hopeless scale

RURAL 10 NEGRO 83 68

HIGH POL. ACT. | 80 |


SOME HS | 10

9 | 6 | |



49 | 34 |

over 65 21 NEGRO 38 17

HIGH POL. ACT. | 28 |


SOUTH | 11

7 | 4 | |



86 | 78 |



12 | 9 | |



61 | 46 | Assassination Attempts Directed at the Office of the President