September 06, 1901
Leon Czolgosz’s Confession to the Assassination of President William McKinley
Just hours after shooting the president, the assassin Czolgosz confesses how and why he set out to murder William McKinley. He had read about McKinley’s planned trip to Niagara Falls and the Buffalo Exposition, he says, when he decided to make his fatal strike…
I saw in the papers what building the president was going to be in and I went there & waited for him to come in. I went right in when he came. I took the gun out and wrapped it in handkerchief at boarding house. I think I shot through handkerchief. I shot once and then again. I did not think one shot was enough. As soon as I fired second shot I was knocked down & tramped on, and gun taken away from me. The gun was fully loaded. All I have told you I have told of my own free will.
The confession continues in the next paragraph – seemingly after a renewed round of questions about motives – and stresses the premeditated nature of his actions.
I made my plans 3 or 4 days ago to shoot the President. When I shot him I intended to kill him and the reason for my intention in killing was because I did not believe in presidents over us. I was willing to sacrifice myself & the president for the benefit of the country. I felt I had more courage than the average man in killing president and was willing to put my own life at stake in order to do it.
The following paragraph also shows a change in theme, as investigators probed his connections to radical groups. Referring to the anarchist meetings he briefly attended, Czolgosz says,
I heard people talk about the duty they were under to educate the people against the present form of government and they should [do] all they could to change form of Government.
He then signs the confession, but adds a postscript: “I planned this all out for 2 or 3 days. I had an idea there would be a big crowd at the reception. I expected I would be arrested. I did not intend to get away.” Struck out, however are the following lines: “I was willing to take chance of being electrocuted or hung if I could kill the president. I am willing to take consequences. I realized what it meant.” He signs the postscript, and is done.
McKinley died nine days later. Czolgosz never wavered in either his admission of guilt or his lack of remorse. A judge overrode his guilty plea – so that he might, under New York law, be eligible for the death penalty – and ordered a trial. It lasted eight hours, with the jury taking 34 minutes to return their verdict. As he sat strapped into the electric chair on the morning of October 29, 1901, Czolgosz’s final words were: “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people. I am not sorry for my crime.”
Manuscript Document Signed (twice), 2 pages, folio, no place [Buffalo, New York], September 6, 1901. Transcribed, witnessed and countersigned by Vincent T. Haggerty, M.J. O’Laughlin and John Martin. Of the utmost rarity.