FINDING OF THE ALIENISTS.
We find that John Schrank came to New
York at the age of 12, and lived with his uncle and aunt as foster
parents, who kept a saloon at 370 East Tenth street, New York City.
Before coming to this country he had 5 years of the
public schools of his native village in Bavaria, and after arrival in
this country his only schooling was such as he could obtain at night
schools in New York during 3 or 4 years.
Up to this time no peculiarity had been observed in
him, from any evidence available. We note the fact that he was most
especially interested in history and government, as illustrated by
political writings and by the Bible. He speaks frequently of his very
great admiration for the character of George Washington.
At 15 or 16 years of age he became greatly interested
in poetry. This perhaps corresponds to the period of development at
which eccentricities are wont to appear.
He represents that in the saloon in which he worked
he was chiefly engaged in supplying beer to residents of neighboring
tenements; that there was no gambling or other immoral conduct practiced
or encouraged in this business place. He went on for over 12 years as
barkeeper. His uncle and aunt had during this time accumulated means for
the purchase of a small tenement. At the death of the uncle and aunt in
1910 and 1911 the defendant came into possession of this property.
In the last year and a half has not been in any
regular business or employment, and spent his time in long walks about
New York and Brooklyn, during which he meditated upon poetical
compositions, and political and historical questions, jotting down ideas
upon loose slips of paper as they came to him, night or day, forming the
basis of his poems. He spent his evenings in a saloon, retiring early.
The average daily quantity of stimulants or beer taken by him was
insufficient to produce intoxication. He also states that in 1902 and
1903, for a period of nearly 2 years, he drank no intoxicants at all.
He states that in 1901, between 1 and 2 o'clock in
the morning of the day after President McKinley's death he experienced a
vivid dream, in which he appeared to be in a room with many flowers and
a casket, and saw a figure sit up in the casket, which he says was the
form and figure of the assassinated President McKinley, who then pointed
to a corner of the room, and said, "Avenge my death." He then looked
where the finger pointed and saw a form clad in a Monkish garb, and
recognized the form and face of this individual as the form and face of
At the time this made a strong impression, but was
not dwelt upon especially except in the light of later events.
Prior to the nomination of Colonel Roosevelt for the
Presidency in the year 1912, he had felt great interest in the political
campaign, and had read articles expressing great bitterness toward the
idea of a third term, and toward Colonel Roosevelt personally in the
newspapers of New York, and after the period when the nomination of
Colonel Roosevelt began to be actively agitated, meditated more deeply
upon these matters. He had always studied with the greatest interest the
questions of free government, as illustrated by the Declaration of
Independence, and Washington's Farewell Address. In this connection, the
Monroe doctrine also assumed great importance in his mind, and the
converse thereof, the duty of this nation to refrain from war of
conquest; and out of these meditations grew what he elaborated into his
declaration as to the unwritten laws, or "The Four Pillars of our
Republic," namely (1) the Third Term Tradition, (2) the Monroe Doctrine,
(3) that only a Protestant by creed can become president, (4) no wars of
conquest. This document, hereunto annexed as Exhibit 1, fully sets forth
his views on these subjects.
These "four unwritten laws" had assumed in his mind a
character of sacredness. They were "sacred traditions" to be maintained
at all hazards, and, as subsequently appeared, even the hazard of life.
The following are some quotations from
"Tradition is an unwritten law."
"I would doubt the right of a court to have
jurisdiction over a man who had defended tradition of his country
"The oldest of these traditions is the 'third term
tradition,' it has never been violated and is an effective safeguard
against unscrupulous ambition, but never before has been established a
test case of its inviolability as a warning to coming adventurers."
"For the first time in American history we are
confronted by a man to whom practically nothing is sacred, and he
pretends to stand above tradition."
"Anybody who finances a Third Term Movement should
be expatriated and his wealth confiscated."
"The dangers in this campaign are these, the third
termer is sure that the nomination has been stolen, and that the
country and the job belongs to him, therefore, if he gets honestly
defeated in November he will again yell that the crooks of both
parties have stolen the election and should he carry a solid West, he
and the hungry office-seekers would not hesitate to take up arms to
take by force what is denied him by the people, then we face a Civil
War, * * * * * * and that he who wilfully invites war deserves death.
We would then be compelled to wash out the sin of violating the Third
Term with the blood of our sons. Yet this is not the gravest danger we
are facing. We have allowed an adventurer to circumtravel the Union
with military escort with the torch of revolution in his hands to burn
down the very house we live in."
"Have we learned no lesson about a one man's rule
experienced in France with such disastrous results as the end of the
reign of Napoleon I and Napoleon III."
"Are we trying to establish here a system like our
ancestors have done in Europe, which all revolutions of a thousand
years could not abolish."
"Are we overthrowing our Republic, while the heroes
of the French revolutions, and the martyrs of 1848 gladly gave their
lives to establish Republican institutions."
"The abolition of the Third Term tradition is the
abolition of the Monroe doctrine also."
"Hardly any revolution has started without
pretending that their movement was progressive."
"The prudence of our forefathers has delivered to us
an equally sacred unwritten law which reads that no president should
embrace another creed than Protestant, if possible, a sect of the
English Church. I am a Roman Catholic. I love my religion but I hate
my church as long as the Roman parish is not independent from Rome, as
long as Catholic priests are prevented from getting married, as long
as Rome is still more engaged in politics and accumulation of money
contrary to the teachings of the Lord. The Roman Catholic Church is
not the religion for a president of the United States."
"The Fourth unwritten law, which is practically
supplementary to the second, we find in George Washington's Farewell
Address, where he advises us to live in peace with your neighbor. We
have no right to start a war of conquest."
In his examination in this connection
he stated as follows: "Four-fifths of the United States would take up
arms to defend the Third Term tradition. Trying to get perpetual power
and dictatorship would justify killing."
He also said he would be justified to the same extent,
that is, by killing, a man who would seek the presidency and was a Roman
Catholic; and also for a man who would start a war for conquest; and he
thought also of the possibility of foreign powers to help Roosevelt
possibly to annex the Panama Canal and break down the Monroe Doctrine.
He said he believed the country would be facing a civil war if Roosevelt
went on as he had done.
He gives as a reason for his present attack upon
Roosevelt, that he did not wish to give him (Roosevelt) an opportunity
to plead that no defense of the Third Term tradition had been made in
1912 should he aspire to another term in 1916. Asked as to how he
reconciled his act with the commandment "Thou shalt not kill," he
replied that, "religion is the fundamental law of human order, but to
kill to try and do a good thing, and to avenge McKinley's murder,
justifies the killing."
The proof of his position came to him in his dream
and in his vision.
"Roosevelt's ambition and conduct proves to every man
that he was back of McKinley's assassination in some way or other."
The defendant says that he prayed God to find a
leader among men who would take this responsibility, and he expected all
along someone else would do this thing, but no one did it, and as he was
a single man of 36, without a family, and thought the deed was a good
deed, and it made no difference to him, he was willing to sacrifice his
life for that end, even if he were torn to pieces by the mob. He
therefore concluded that it was his mission, and desired to make of this
a test case.
He thinks the election returns corroborate the fact
that the people have been awakened to the idea of no Third Term.
In the progress of the campaign, when the progressive
movement had taken shape, and Colonel Roosevelt had been nominated as
the head of a third party, and on August 7th, 1912, the dream which had
come to him in 1901, as above related, began to assume more importance,
and special significance in his mind. He felt extreme agitation on this
subject continuously. On the morning of September 15th, 1912, the
anniversary of the date of his dream in 1901, having retired as usual
the night before with his manuscript by his bedside, he suddenly
awakened between 1 and 2 A.M., with the completion of a poem entitled
"Be a Man" uppermost in his mind.
We insert the poem at this point:
1. Be a man from early to late
rise in the morning
Till you go to bed
Be a man.
2. Is your country in danger
And you are called to
Where the battle is
And death be the end
Face it and be a man.
3. When you fail in business
And your honor is at stake
When you bury all your
And your heart would break
Face it and be a man.
4. But when night draws near
And you hear a knock
And a voice should whisper
Time is up; Refuse to
As long as you can
Then face it and be a man.
He found his ideas were taking shape, and getting up
he sat writing, when he suddenly became aware of a voice speaking in a
low and sad tone, "Let no murderer occupy the presidential chair for a
third term. Avenge my death!" He felt a light touch upon his left
shoulder, and turning, saw the face of former President McKinley. It
bore a ghostlike aspect. This experience had a decisive effect in fixing
in his mind the iniquity of the third term, and from this time he
questioned as to his duty in the matter, and he finally regarded this
vision and its connection with the exact anniversary of the dream as a
command to kill Roosevelt, and as an inspiration. When asked by us
whether he considered this as imagination or as inspiration and a
command from God, while showing some reluctance to claim the vision as
an inspiration, he finally answered decisively that he did.
When asked whether a man had a right
to take a weapon and hunt down a man who had violated tradition, he
submitted his written statement in reply, which is hereto annexed as
Exhibit 2, some quotations from which are as follows:
"I should say where self-sacrifice begins the power of
law comes to an end, and if I knew that my death during my act would
have this tradition more sacred I would be sorry that my life was
spared so convinced am I of my right to act as I did that if I were
ever a free man again I would at once create an Order of Tradition."
"I presume you men would declare Joan d'Arc, the
Maid of Orleans insane because the Holy Virgin appeared to her in a
"When we read that God had appeared to Moses in the
shape of a burning thorn bush, then again as a cloud, we will find
many people who doubt the appearance of God to man in human or other
"Why then in cases of dire national needs should not
the God appear to one of us in vision."
The defendant states that at no time
and under no circumstances did he communicate to anyone his intention.
In fact, he kept it as an inviolable secret and took measures to throw
off the scent persons who might inquire about his leaving New York. The
defendant stated in this connection that he did not wish to commit the
act in New York, as it would then be claimed that he had been "hired by
Wall Street" and in that way the real purpose of the act would be
(BEFORE SANITY COMMISSION.)
On September 21, 1912, he left New
York City, having first borrowed $350, and purchased a 38-caliber
revolver, for which he paid $14. His efforts from this time were
continuous to come within shooting distance of Colonel Roosevelt. He
missed him at Chattanooga and at Atlanta, and then went to Evansville,
where he remained seven days awaiting Colonel Roosevelt's return to the
West. He then sought to come within range of Colonel Roosevelt in
Chicago, and states that he waited for him at the exit of the building,
where he spoke, but found afterwards that he had left by a different
exit. He then preceded him to Milwaukee, arriving here at 1 o'clock P.M.
the day preceding the attack.
On the evening of the shooting Schrank arrived at the
hotel, where he had learned Colonel Roosevelt would stay, in advance of
the time he was expected to start for the place of meeting. When a crowd
began to collect around the automobile awaiting Colonel Roosevelt at the
curb, he went into the street, standing near the automobile in a line
just behind the front seat on the left hand side opposite the
chauffeur's seat. He says,
"Seeing him enter the automobile and just about to
seat himself, I fired. I did not pick any particular spot on his body.
The crowd was all around me and in front of me. The next minute I was
knocked down, but was not rendered insensible, and the gun was knocked
out of my hands."
The defendant insists that he said nothing during his
assault. He was then dragged to the sidewalk, and getting on his feet
was hurried into the hotel, and the doors were locked. Here he said
nothing, and was taken by the police through the back door to police
From the examination at police headquarters, made at
9:25 P.M., October 14, 1912, by the Chief of Police, John T. Janssen, we
find that he objected to telling his name, but did so when it was
insisted upon. We also find that his statements made to the police
concerning his following and attempting to gain access to Colonel
Roosevelt, and his visits to various localities correspond, and his
explanations of his acts agree with those made to us.
Some of his statements to the Chief of Police, are as
follows, as extracted from document submitted herewith, marked Exhibit
Q. Why did you want to meet him?
A. Because I wanted to put him out of
the way. A man that wants a third term has no right to live.
Q. That is, you wanted
to kill him?
A. I did.
Q. Have you any other reason in wanting
to kill him?
A. I have.
Q. What is that?
A. I had a dream several years ago that
Mr. McKinley appeared to me and he told me that Mr. Roosevelt is
practically his real murderer, and not this here Czolgosz.
Q. Did you know Johann Most when he was
A. No, sir.
Q. Did you ever hear him talk?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did you ever hear Emma Goldman?
A. No, sir; I am not an anarchist or
socialist or democrat or republican; I just took up the thing the way I
thought it was best to do.
(It seems worth while to note that the defendant
differs from many assassins of rulers or prospective rulers in having no
anarchistic ideas or connections, but rather that he intended to be an
upholder of established government.)
"Mr. Grant was refused"
(a third term) "and he was satisfied; this man was refused and he is not
satisfied; it's gone beyond limits; if he keeps on doing this after
election, he can't possibly carry a solid Western state; the next thing
we will have a civil war, because he will say the scoundrels and thieves
and crooks stole my nomination, and now they will steal my election, and
they will take up arms in all the Western states; we are facing a civil
war just to keep him in a third term."
Q. Where did you get all this idea from?
A. I have been reading history all the
Q. What schooling did you have?
A. Well, I have attended school in the
old country, and I attended night school in New York for about four
winters; that's all the schooling I had.
Q. You haven't a very good education
A. Indeed I ain't.
Q. Have you always enjoyed good health?
A. Yes, sir; I am a healthy sane man,
never been sick.
Q. Well, do you believe that that is a
sane act that you committed this evening?
A. I believe that is my duty as a
citizen to do, it's the duty of every citizen to do so.
Q. Well, how did you happen to get the
idea that it was your duty among all the people that live in the United
A. I don't know, I thought maybe
somebody else might do it before I got there.
Q. And you spoke to no
one about your intention on all the route you took concerning this,
A. No, sir; nobody.
While in jail the prisoner prepared a written defense,
which we submit herewith as Exhibit 4, and we extract certain sentences
from the same, as follows:
"Gentlemen of the Jury, I appeal to you as men of
honor, I greet you Americans and countrymen and fathers of sons and
daughters. I wish to apologize to the community of Milwaukee for
having caused on October 14th last, great excitement, bitter feeling,
"Gentlemen of the Jury: When on
September 14th last I had a vision, I looked into the dying eyes of the
late President McKinley, when a voice called me to avenge his death, I
was convinced that my life was coming soon to an end, and I was at once
happy to know that my real mission on this earth was to die for my
country and the cause of Republicanism."
You see that I have appeared here
today without assistance of a counsellor at law, without any assistance
save that of God, the Almighty, who is ever with him who is deserted,
because I am not here to defend myself nor my actions."
"The law I have
violated for which you will punish me is not in any statute book."
"The shot at Milwaukee which created an echo in all
parts of the world was not a shot fired at the citizen Roosevelt, not
a shot at an ex-president, not a shot at the candidate of a so-called
prog. pty. (Progressive party), not a shot to influence the pending
election, not a shot to gain for me notoriety; no, it was simply to
once and forever establish the fact that any man who hereafter aspires
to a third presidential term will do so at the risk of his life."
"If I do not defend tradition I cannot defend the
country in case of war. You may as well send every patriot to prison."
(As showing the erratic reasoning of
the defendant, the following passage, intimating that the assassination
of President McKinley was a part of a conspiracy to elevate Colonel
Roosevelt to a permanent control of the destinies of the United States,
we quote further:)
"Political murders have occurred quite often, committed
by some power that works in the dark and only too frequently of late
the assassin was classed as an anarchist, but the real instigators
could never be brought to justice. Whoever the direct murderer of
President McKinley has been it could never be proven that he has ever
been affiliated with any anarchistic or similar society, but we may
well conclude that the man who in years after willingly violated the
third unwritten law of the country whenever he thought it profitable
to change his creed while president, perhaps to the mother of
(From the remarks of the prisoner in
our examination of him, we find by "the mother of monarchies" that he
refers to the Roman Catholic Church.)
We further quote:
"Such was his fear that his machine, built up in 7˝
years will be destroyed over night, that he threatened not to leave
the chair unless he were allowed to nominate his successor."
"Gentlemen of the jury: The 3t (third termer) 'never
again will I run for pres.' (president) has a parallel in the history
of Rome. Whoever read the history of Julius Caesar knows that this
smart politician while elected dictator managed to become so popular
with the people that they offered him the kingly crown, but J. Caesar
knew that he had to bide his time, that the rest of Senators know of
his ambition, and after refusing three times he knew they would offer
it to him a fourth time, and when then he accepted it he was murdered
for ambition's sake."
"He" (Colonel Roosevelt) "was ambitiously waiting
for the Government at Washington to start a military intervention in
Mexico, but the leaders of the Republican party feared that the 3t (third
termer) would muster an army of volunteer Rough Riders and return at
election as the conquering hero."
"The danger even more grave than civil war is the
possibility of intervention of foreign powers, who may help the 3t (third
termer) in order to keep the Union disunited and separated." * * * * *
"We would at once realize that we are surrounded by
a pack of hungry wolves ready to destroy this hated Republic, ready to
destroy Monroe Doctrine, ready to annex the Panama Canal and the great
land of the brave and free, the home many millions free people, the
dream of all heroes and martyrs for political freedom to 1848 would
have ceased to be owing to the ambitions of one man, and one man's
rule. I hope that the shot at Milwaukee has awakened the patriotism of
the American nation."
"I have been accused of having selected a state
where capital punishment is abolished. I would say that I did not know
the laws of any state I travelled through. It would be ridiculous to
fear death after the act as I expected to die during the act, and not
live to tell the story, and if I knew that my death would have made
the third term tradition more sacred, I am sorry I could not die for
"Now, Honorable Men of the Jury, I wish to say no more,
in the name of God go and do your duty, and only countries who ask
admission by popular vote and accept the popular vote never wage a war
of conquest murder for to steal abolishes opportunity for ambitious
"All political adventurers and military leaders have
adopted the career of conquering heroes wholesale murder, wholesale
robbers called national aggrandizement. Prison for me is like
martyrdom to me, like going to war. Before me is the spirit of George
Washington, behind me, that of McKinley."
(The last sentence the prisoner
explained, was written hastily, and he expected to revise it.)
From the testimony of the jailor who
had been in charge from the date of Schrank's arrest to the present
date, we learn that he was a quiet, pleasant man, well-behaved in all
respects, and fastidious as to dress and food, uniformly cheerful and
happy. It was noticeable that he showed much less concern or anxiety as
to his fate than the average prisoner. This is also corroborated by the
examination of a detective concerned in his arrest.
The impression we have derived from the demeanor of
the prisoner in our several examinations is that he is truthful in his
statements and shows no desire to conceal anything. He undoubtedly has
an elevated idea of his importance, but is free from bombast. In the
course of his examination when the question of his views or opinions
about himself came up he drew from his pocket the document herewith
submitted as Exhibit 4, which he says he prepared as a defense, saying:
"Perhaps I can help you, Gentlemen." He has shown every disposition to
assist us in arriving at facts. He shows a knowledge and command of the
English language unusual in a foreigner who has only had very limited
schooling. He is self-confident, profoundly self-satisfied; is dignified,
fearless, courteous and kindly. He shows a sense of humor and is
cheerful and calm under circumstances that severely test those qualities.
Beneath all of this is an air which is illustrated by his concluding
sentence, that the spirit of George Washington is before him, that of
McKinley behind him. He gives the impression that he feels himself to be
an instrument in the hands of God, and that he is one of the band of
historic heroes paralleled by such characters as Joan d'Arc and other
saviours of nations. He undoubtedly considers himself a man of heroic
mold. At no time did he express or exhibit remorse for his act.
We have limited the scope of our investigations to
the questions that we have been asked to determine and summarize briefly:
John Schrank, age 36 years, single, barkeeper and saloon keeper, and of
limited educational opportunities, with insane heredity (see Exhibit 5),
was born in Bavaria, on March 5, 1876, and came to this country twelve
years later. Apparently he developed normally, but early in life showed
a particular fondness for the study of the histories of this and other
countries, and also for the composition of poetry. In the course of his
studies of history, and especially of the Constitution of the United
States, and of Washington's Farewell Address, he developed the belief
that this Republic is based upon the foundation of four unwritten laws,
to which he also refers as the "Four Sacred Traditions," as is more
fully set forth in the preceding report.
In 1901 he had a very vivid dream,
which at that time he recognized as only a dream, the memory of which
has frequently recurred to him ever since. In the course of a pre-convention
campaign, the belief that the four unwritten laws or the "Four Sacred
Traditions" are in danger comes to him, and later, upon the nomination
of a presidential candidate by the Progressive Party, he begins to
attach particular significance to the dream he had in 1901. He meditates
deeply upon this and, in the course of a few weeks there appears to him
a vision accompanied by a voice which, in effect, commands the killing
of the man through whose acts and machinations he believes the sacred
traditions to be endangered, and who, he also believes is, through a
conspiracy, concerned in the assassination of a former president. He
continues to ponder upon the subjects set forth, awaiting the appearance
of a person who would carry out the act suggested by the vision, but
shortly arrives at the conclusion that he, and not someone else, is the
chosen instrument. He at once sets forth to accomplish his mission,
following his victim until he finally comes up with him.
During his examination as to his sanity, he conducts
himself in perfect accord with his beliefs, and expresses a regret at
not having died at the hands of the mob if such a result would have
proven of benefit to his chosen country.
SCHRANK DISCUSSES VISIONS.
(BY JOHN FLAMMANG SCHRANK.)
Has a man a right to take a weapon and
hunt down a man who has violated tradition? In answer to this I would
like to ask the gentleman the following question. How and by what means
would you expect to withhold from a man that right. You know that
according to the old Roman law the atonement for the taking of a life
has been the giving of a life, and to this day our power of state with
the laws and instruments for punishment is limited to the taking of
man's life there is no severer penalty than death sentence. Now then
when a man concludes to take a weapon and hunt down another man and he
then willingly sacrifices his own life in defense we say of tradition,
does such man then not willingly give what otherwise the law could take
from him, is then not the right with him, I should say where self-sacrifice
begins to power of law comes to an end and if I knew that my death
during my act would have this tradition more sacred.
I would be sorry that my life was spared, so
convinced am I of my act to act as I did, that if I were ever a free man
again I would at once create an order of tradition sole purpose to
You gentlemen claim that you would think a man insane,
that could have such things as a vision appear to him. There might be
exceptions, but I disagree with you in making this the rule. Then I
presume you men would declare Joan d'Arc the Maid of Orleans insane
because the Holy Virgin appeared her in a vision. France as a nation
passed in those days through a grave trial, her very existence as a
nation was at stake. To our shame we must admit that while we prosper
and are far from danger we hardly ever give it a thought, that all our
comfort is granted to us by God the Almighty, and it is an old saying
that when the danger is over the saints are mocked. But in days of hard
stress, dire need and want, we at once knew that we are indebted to a
power above us, we at once realize that we are sinners, we feel that our
good spirit is a small particle to the Holy Spirit God that we are
helpless children and related to the good father God. We then pray with
innermost contrition that God may forgive, that God may enlighten one of
us that God may find a leader among us.
And such is the mercy of God that for the repentance
of one man for the acknowledgement for one good deed, God will forgive
the sins of a whole nation. When we read about the destruction of Sodom
Gomorrha, when Lot asked the Lord, wouldst Thou spare these cities if
there were ten honorable and just men within its walls and God answered,
if I could find one honorable and just man I would spare that people.
We may conclude from these words that God had long
before this forsaken them when a nation is confronted with grave trials
it is then nearing the boundary line of God's patience, no doubt the
people of Sodom had arrived there and God had weighed their deeds and
found them too light he would not enlighten one of them to be a leader
and who would impress upon his people to come back to the safe avenue of
God and leave the road of destruction. In our health and prosperity we
are too easily over-confident and self-possessed when we read that God
had appeared to Moses in the shape of a burning thorn bush, then again
as a cloud, we will find many people who doubt the appearance of God to
man in human or other shape. When I see a tree growing out of rocks it
appears to me as if God spoke to me that he wants all people to live a
temperate life as it requires but little to live and proper as is shown
in that tree. Now then does God appear to us in our journey through this
life. Has he ever appeared to you. Has there never been a time when you
would say, O what a lucky dog I was that I did not do this or that. Have
you ever refused for some reason an invitation to a joy ride, a pleasure
trip or others, and after you would find one or the other of your
friends killed while you escaped. Everyone of us is confronted at once
in life with a grave trial which requires all the good in you to
overcome temptation and find the right way out of it, is not this the
secret assistance of God the Almighty when you appeal to Him and He
weighs your deeds and either enlightens you or punishes Science
discoveries. When then in cases of dire national needs should not God
appear to one of us in vision the greatest injustice.
(Schrank's copy is followed closely in all presented
here from his pen.)
Our conclusions are as follows:
First—John Schrank is suffering from insane
delusions, grandiose in character, and of the systematized variety.
Second—In our opinion he is insane at the present
Third—On account of the connection existing between
his delusions and the act with which he stands charged, we are of the
opinion that he is unable to confer intelligently with counsel or to
conduct his defense.
Dated, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nov. 22nd, 1912.
RICHARD DEWEY, M. D., Chairman
W. F. BECKER, M. D.
D. W. HARRINGTON, M. D.
FRANK STUDLEY, M. D.
WM. F. WEGGE, M. D.
John Flammang Schrank expected to
conduct his own defense before a jury, if tried for his assault upon ex-President
This is demonstrated by the fact that he had prepared
a defense to be read to the jury. In this defense he alluded to the fact
that he "is not represented by counsel."
This defense is remarkable in that it shows clearly
the thought which overcame his mental strength.
Schrank's defense is presented as he wrote it, with
the exception of two or three corrections to enable readers to realize
what Schrank is trying to say. The defense was prepared by Schrank in
the county jail. He was writing it when it was reported that he was
writing verse. The defense follows:
Gentlemen of the jury: I appeal to you as men of
honor. I greet you Americans and countrymen and fathers of sons and
daughters. I wish to apologize to the community of Milwaukee for having
caused on October 14 last great excitement, most bitter feeling and
expenses. I wish to apologize to you honorable men of the jury that I am
causing to you this day unpleasantness in asking you to pass a verdict
in a matter which should have better been tried by a higher than earthly
Gentlemen of the jury, when on September 14 last
during a vision I looked into the dying eyes of the late President
McKinley, when a voice called me to avenge his death, I was convinced
that my life was coming soon to an end, and I was at once happy to know
that my real mission on this earth was to die for my country and the
cause of Republicanism.
Gentlemen of the jury, you see that I have appeared
here today without the assistance of a counsellor at law, without any
assistance save that of God the Almighty, who is ever with him who is
deserted, because I am not here to defend myself nor my actions. I am
here today to defend the spirit of forefathers with words what I have
defended with the weapon in my hand, that is the tradition of the four
unwritten laws of this country. Tradition is above written statute,
amended and ineffective. Tradition is sacred and inviolable,
irrevocable. Tradition makes us a distinct nation. Order of tradition.
The law I have violated for which you will punish me is not in any
statute book. Gentlemen of the jury, the shot at Milwaukee, which
created an echo in all parts of the world, was not a shot fired at the
citizen Roosevelt, not a shot at an ex-President, not a shot at the
candidate of a so-called Progressive party, not a shot to influence the
pending election, not a shot to gain for me notoriety. No, it was simply
to once and forever establish the fact that any man who hereafter
aspires to a third presidential term, will do so at the risk of his life.
If I cannot defend tradition I cannot defend the country in case of war.
You may as well send every patriot to prison. It was to establish a
precedent for the third term tradition, which for the first time in the
history of the United States one man dared to challenge and to violate.
Gentlemen of the jury, the third term tradition is
the most sacred, because it has been established by the greatest
champion of liberty in all ages past and to come by our first President,
George Washington, when he modestly declined a third term nomination by
saying that two terms are enough for the best of Presidents. The two
great American political parties have since guarded this tradition most
jealously, have regarded it as a safeguard against the ambitions of
probable adventurers. The great Republican party, the party of an Abe
Lincoln, the party of the new U. S., that party as a medium between
government and the people, the party to which we are greatly indebted
for our achievements and our greatness among the family of nations, it
was that party that was destined to give birth to and to nurse the first
offender of that tradition, who gradually proved to be the evil spirit
of the country, and that great party which was born during a national
crisis and which had bravely faced and overcome many a grave trial,
nobly faced the coming storm and survived it with its honor unimpaired.
Gentlemen of the jury, when we inquire into the past
of that man, we will find that his ambitious plans have all been filed
and laid down long before he has been President. All doubt that these
plans were towards establishing at the least a perpetual presidency in
these United States have been removed during last summer, when a certain
senator unearthed from within the library of the white house a written
document deposited there during the third termer's presidency. This
document was an order for repairing to be done in the white house, and
this order closed with the following words: "These alterations should be
done, to last during my lifetime." When the third termer was informed of
the finding of this document, he admitted and absorbed the all-important
matter by simply saying: "Some people have no more brains than guinea
Gentlemen of the jury, his rough rider masquerade
during the Spanish-American war was his first important step towards his
goal, it gained for him the governorship of the Empire state and that
important office made him an influential factor in the councils of the
Republican party. During his term as secretary of the navy he gained the
popularity among the men in that branch of the mailed fist of the
country by increasing the salaries of those men, who might some day be
of vital benefit to his cause. The Republican leaders of those days were
soon aware of the dangerous ambitions of this man and also knew that
this man would never be safe enough to fill the highest office of the
nation, for this reason these men thought it wise to make him vice-Presidential
candidate on the same ticket with McKinley, for it must not be new to
you that the office of a vice-President has always been regarded as the
suicide to a man's political ambitions. But, gentlemen of the jury, now
came the time when a man's ambitions blindfolded him to all reason. The
desire to overcome the obstacle robbed him of his sane judgment, and in
such a case the spoiler invites himself, political murders have occurred
quite often, committed by some power that works in the dark and only too
frequently of late the assassin was classed as an anarchist, but the
real instigators could never be brought before justice. Whoever the
direct murderer of McKinley has been it could never be proven that he
has ever been affiliated with any anarchistic or similar society, but we
may well conclude that the man who in years after so willingly violated
the first unwritten law, which is the third term tradition, may have
readily promised to violate the third unwritten law of the country
whenever he thought it profitable to change his creed while president,
perhaps to the mother of monarchies.
Gentlemen of the jury, a man's first presidential
term begins when he takes the oath of office and constitutes a full term
if it will only last twenty-four hours after oath and a man's third term
is his third when he seeks it or is given to him twenty years or more
after his second. When Roosevelt took the oath of office at McKinley's
departure, he had ceased to be a Republican. He at once began to build a
political machine of his own. It was then in fact that his one man party
so-called Progressive party was born, parts of which we find later in
the insurgents, handicapping Mr. Taft wherever they could. Later in
August at the convention of treason he took the material where and as he
found we see him trying hard to bring the money power of the union into
his service, we find him extorting large sums for his political
campaigns from the so-called despisable trusts, since then we became
accustomed to look upon every man of wealth and the great industrials
corporations who have been and are today of incalculable value and
benefit to our national welfare, as nothing more or less than
contemptible criminals, whom he offended in the most profane language
during his crusade against them, if they refused to become a part of his
machine. At the decline of his second term the remainder of the
Republican party, those who had not been absorbed by "my policies" could
no longer be in doubt as to the third termer's real intentions, and for
the first time the third termer realized the magnitude and importance of
the third term tradition and most men of influence in those used their
power to scare him out of office at the same time comforting him with
the fairy tale that if not succeeded by two consecutive terms another
term would not be a third term but such was his fear that his machine
built up in seven and a half years would be destroyed over night, that
he threatened not to leave the chair unless he were allowed to nominate
Gentlemen of the jury, now comes the time when the
third termer committed his second crime against friends, party, nation
and republic. With his innermost conviction that his successor would be
incompetent, incapable and that he would commit so many blunders while
in office that at the expiration of his term the people would
unanimously demand the renomination of the third termer, he thought to
remove that obstacle of the third termer and to make it appear that he
was not ambitious and that a renomination would have to be forced upon
him, he solemnly declared, "Never again will I run for president," but
again ambition had blindfolded him and robbed him of his judgment of men
in selecting William H. Taft as his successor although his most intimate
friend Mr. Taft was aware of his oath of office and his duties toward
the nation, there never was a whiter man in the white house and no one
ever more deserved a re-election as an honor for his services to the
country against the revolutionary machine of the third termer in the
house and senate than William H. Taft.
Gentlemen of the jury, the third term, "never again
will I run for president," has a parallel in the history of Rome.
Whoever read the history of Julius Caesar, knows that this smart
politician, while elected dictator, managed to become so popular with
the people that they offered him the kingly crown, but Julius Caesar
knew that he had to bide his time, that the rest of senators knew of his
ambition, and after refusing three times, he knew they would offer it to
him a fourth time, and when then he accepted it, he was murdered for
ambition sake. Never again will I run for president and under no
circumstances, said this man, and four years later we find him eagerly
seeking renomination at Chicago, to his friends, who advise him to run,
he didn't have the heart to tell that if he were not a man of word he
could never be a man of honor, but what shame lies in between his never
again and his profane declaration that the crooks, thieves, scoundrels
and liars had stolen the nomination from him, although he knew that the
party could not give him what they had a third term not to give for the
great Republican party determined to sooner go down to defeat than to
violate the third term yet.
Gentlemen of the jury, the third
termer had license to create a new party and be the power behind the
throne and perhaps lead his party to victory. But having been deceived
by the selection of his successor and having removed the mask he
determined to insist on a third term. Had we lived in a time of panic,
general disorder, strikes with armies of unemployed, most likely the
third termer would have an easy walkin. He was anxious waiting for the
government at Washington to start military intervention in Mexico, but
the leaders of the Republican party feared that the third termer would
muster an army of volunteer rough riders and return at election as the
Gentlemen of the jury, the danger of the third termer
was less in his probable election than in his sure but close defeat. The
man who cried of the theft at Chicago would never submit to the verdict
on November 5, however honest it may be; he would again yell robbery,
and if he carried a solid west as was then expected, he would give way
to his fighting nature and try to take the presidency on the battlefield
and so invite civil war, yet, Ab. Lincoln said that war is hell, and
that he who wilfully invites war deserves death. Do we realize the
horrors of civil war; are we willing to wash out the sin of violating
the third term with the blood of our sons imagine torn from home, family
and parents, from prosperity to dire want in order to place a man to the
presidency he is legitimately not entitled to? Yet, gentlemen of the
jury, the United States may still be able to subdue the rebels the
danger the more grave than even civil war is the possibility of
intervention by foreign powers, who may help the third termer in order
to keep the union disunited and separated for we must know that our
strength is not in our army and navy, money power, our strength is in
our union, we would at once realize that we are surrounded by a pack of
hungry wolves ready to destroy this hated republic, ready to destroy
Monroe doctrine, ready to annex the Panama canal and the great land of
the brave and free, the home many millions free people, the dream of all
heroes and martyrs for political freedom to 1848 would have ceased to be
owing to the ambitions of one man and one man's rule.
I hope that the shot at Milwaukee has awakened the
patriotism of the American nation, that it has opened their eyes to the
real danger and shown them the only safe way out of it as is proven by
election returns in the great Democratic party the north, south, east
and west is once more and more solidly united and proudly can we prove
to the nations of the world that the spirit of 1776 is still alive and
shall never die, and that self-government is an established fact and a
I have been accused of having selected a state where
capital punishment is abolished. I would say that I did not know the
laws of any state I traveled through, it would be ridiculous for me to
fear death after the act, as I expected to die during the act and not
live to tell the story and if I knew that my death would have made the
third term tradition more sacred, I am sorry I could not die for my
Now, honorable men of the jury, I wish to say no
more, in the name of God, go and do your duty, and only countries who
ask admission by popular vote and accept the popular vote never wage a
war of conquest, murder for to steal abolishes opportunity for ambitious
adventurers, for all political adventurers and military leaders have
adopted the career of conquering heroes, wholesale murder, wholesale
robbers called national aggrandizement. Prison for me is like martyrdom
to me, like going to war.
Before me is the spirit of George Washington, behind
me that of McKinley.
SCHRANK'S UNWRITTEN LAWS.
The following are John Flammang Schrank's four
unwritten laws, "The Pillars of the Republic," he calls them. They are
presented exactly as written by Schrank, and as incorporated in the
report of the alienists.
BY JOHN FLAMMANG SCHRANK.
When in the course of human events, it
becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which
have hitherto connected them with another, due respect to mankind
requires that we should declare the cause of such action. In these
modest lines our forefathers have at once laid out the roads on which we
should travel, it demonstrates their willingness to consult the opinions
of others, as well as it duly respects the rights and feelings of others.
In these critical days it is more than necessary to call the attention
of the nation to the three wonderful documents which have established
our people as an independent nation and under their guidance laid down
in these documents we have become the most powerful nation on earth. The
Declaration of Independence; The Constitution, and the farewell-address
of George Washington. The most sacred custom of all nations has ever
been their reverence for their ancestors, the honor they pay to their
dead, and the utmost respect to the good deeds who live after them,
these customs observed hundreds of years handed down from one generation
to another, we have come to call the traditions of a people. Tradition
is an unwritten law when it concerns a whole nation, it is above the
written statute, I would doubt the right of a court to have jurisdiction
over a man who has defended tradition of his country, against violation.
As we are not an original nation or race, the founders of the republic
were the sons of the nation whose language we speak, it is tradition
with us especially that identified us as a nation. This nation has four
unwritten laws, the oldest and most sacred, because established by Geo.
Washington, is the third term tradition, it has never been violated and
is an affective safe-guard against unscrupulous ambition, but never
before has been established a test case of its inviolability as a
warning to coming adventurers. In the present campaign for the first
time in American history we are confronted by a man to whom practically
nothing is sacred and pretends to stand above tradition. This man abused
our constitution, he wants it amended until it is abolished. If our
constitution is too old and in the way of progress after we have grown
to be a rich nation with it, then the ten commandments so many thousand
years old, must be a useless piece of junk. He has abused our highest
Courts, he has spoken in the profanest language of our legislators, he
has abused our best and most venerable citizens, calling them liars and
scoundrels, he has shamefully abused our president, thereby undermining
the dignity of the office, how can we expect our foreign born citizens
to respect our institutions when an ex-President circumtravels the Union
telling everybody that those honorable men at Chicago were thieves and
crooks. Shall the people rule, is one of his demagogic phrases, yet he
knows that in the very sense he wants this catchword to be understood is
an impossibility, the people and herewith I mean the rich as well as the
poor never rule in a republic, they cannot rule, they have no time to
rule, therefore they elect a body of honorable men to do the ruling to
the benefit of all, in other words they entrust a body of men with their
government, that is why Grover Cleveland said that a public office is a
public trust. And a political party is the medium between the people and
the elected government, and any party that should nominate a man in
violation of the third term tradition does no longer deserve to be a
party entrusted by the people. This third termer could have been of more
value to the country had he lent his advice and honest opinion to his
party and our president who eagerly sought his advice, for a man's
honest advice is his ideas and convictions but with man's ideas it is
like digging a pan of sand from a river from the gold regions, the sand
must be sifted and filtered, there might be one or more grains of gold
found in it. A man's ideas must pass through the brains of other men, to
be sifted and filtered and every grain of gold found will be appreciated,
but a man who claims that he knows it all better, is equal to saying
that his pan of sand is all gold. The third termer claims that it is not
a third term, if not followed by two consecutive terms, then a second
term would not be a second, if given to man 8 years after his first, I
wonder what to call such term, after a while he will tell us that a
monarchy in this country is not a monarchy if the monarch is a native
born; let it be established now and forever that it is a man's third
term if he has twice been in office and if each time only twenty-four
hours after taking oath and if third term is given to him or he seeks it
twenty years after the second. If the third termer thought that the
republican party whom he hailed from needed chastisement because she
refused to violate tradition in his favor, he had the right to create a
third party, nominate all officials for same and be the very soul and
power behind the throne, but when it became evident that the whole party
movement was only enacted to give him a third term, he had forfeited his
citizenship and his life. Anybody who finances a third term movement
should be expatriated and his wealth confiscated. It is ridiculous to
say that if he is defeated in November it is also a verdict of the
people to uphold the third term tradition, as we may as well say it is
the verdict of the people to abolish the third term if he wins in
November, the third term tradition has never been before the people as
an issue to vote and for this reason it should never be put before them.
It is almost a certainty, that if voted upon last year, the people would
have declared in favor of upholding the tradition, while it is dead sure
that if we were living this year in a panic, a business depression, with
hundreds of thousands out of work instead of a general prosperity, the
third termer would walk in over the decision of the previous year. The
dangers in this campaign are these, the third termer is sure that the
nomination has been stolen and that the country and the job belong to
him, therefore if he gets honestly defeated in November he will again
yell that the crooks of both parties have stolen the election, and
should he carry a solid West, he and the hungry office seekers would not
hesitate to take up arms to take by force what is denied him by the
people, then we face a civil war, and it was Ab. Lincoln who said that
war is hell and that he who wilfully invited war deserves death. We
would then be compelled to wash out the sin of violating the third term
with the blood of our sons. Yet, this is not the greatest danger we are
facing. We have allowed an adventurer to circumtravel the Union with
military escort, with the torch of revolution in his hands to burn down
the very house we live in while we should be aware that we are
surrounded by a pack of wolves ever ready to jump on us. Does anybody
think that the European powers would sit idly while we are disunited,
would a certain power hesitate to help the third termer and make good
the gravest mistake that power has made in 1861 by not keeping this
country disunited and separated while we are just getting ready to
become their greatest competitor on the seas after the completion of the
Panama Canal. Our strength is not in our Army or Navy nor in our Money
power, our strength is in our Union. In Union alone can we uphold the
Monroe Doctrine our second unwritten law so much hated and dreaded by
all the world. The sister republic's Transvaal and Orange Free State
were not destroyed because it was the connecting link between Egypt and
the Cape, not because gold was found, no, but because Great Brit. could
not allow a second United States to establish a Monroe Doctrine on
African soil. Reciprocity would have profited both the Union and Canada
but England fears a too close a relation between the two nations and
Premier Leurier's sin was that he was first a Canadian, second an
American and third a Britisher, he had to be replaced by a man who is in
the first, second, and third place a Britisher. The outcome of the
present campaign interests the powers more than us, all actions of
Congress or Cabinet are sooner known in the Cabinets of Europe than we
hear about them. There is today a "Cato" in the Senate of every country
and in the folds of his cloak he has concealed several figs of unusual
size, everyone of these figs represent one of our great American Trusts,
and he concluded every speech with Carthage must be destroyed. With our
Union destroyed we would cry with the Israelites in the desert: Lead us
back to the meat pots of Egypt, give us a thousand trusts sooner than
one third termer. If we think that we need a one man's rule, whose place
cannot be filled by another among millions intelligent citizens, then it
were about time that we got a licking from somewhere. What are we about
to do, do we want the great building we have helped to build tear down
and give everybody a brick, the people which is only the present
generation cannot do what they want, for what they have and what they
are they are greatly in obligation to the past and earlier generations
who also helped to build up, therefore this generation called the people
cannot do as they please which is so ardently advocated by the third
termer. Have we learned no lesson about a one man's rule experienced in
France with such disastrous results as the end of the reign of Napoleon
I and Napoleon III.
We are trying to establish here a system like our
ancestors have done in Europe which all revolutions of a 1,000 years
could not abolish, it would be useless to forcibly remove a third
president because the system would then be established. Are we under no
obligation to the heroes of all wars for freedom and independence, are
we overthrowing our republic while the heroes of the French revolutions
and the martyrs of 1848 gladly gave their lives to establish republican
institutions. May God enlighten the nation, may the spirit of 1776 still
be alive, and when they tell us that there is a Rome on the other side
let them understand that U. S. A. is not Carthage. In this campaign we
may observe that prosperity is as dangerous to our institutions as hard
times are, people are too busy making money, they gradually lose all
interest in politics, unless a third termer tells them that government
is only medium to enrich them still more, how else can we explain his
remark that Mr. Perkins wants his children to live better in this
country after his departure, a millionaire's children can only live
better when the third term party doubles the millions of their father.
In this critical time I find that men have more interest in the baseball
results than to register, think and vote. But of course some people have
no more sense than three guinea pigs. His movement is not progressive,
they are insurgents, insurgents and revolutionary. Hardly any revolution
has started without pretending that their movement was progressive.
The abolition of the third term tradition is the
abolition of the Monroe Doctrine also. In this Doctrine we are
overtaking the guardianship over all republics on the American continent
against Foreign encroachments. Naturally the third termer would prove
too in 1916 that the fourth term is only his second, to do this he would
have to become the conquering hero, we would commit the same faults
France did 100 years ago National aggrandisement, yet France no larger
today than before Napoleon I. The fourth termer could hardly gather
laurels in a European or Asiatic war the natural consequences would that
South America would become the field of his actions. We have upheld the
Monroe Doctrine without the consent of these countries so she could
prevent those nations from inviting a European power to protect them by
declaring that inasmuch as the third term tradition is abolished, the
Monroe Doctrine is no longer binding, because they are more afraid of
the third termer than they would be of any foreign prince. The prudence
of our forefathers has delivered to us an equally sacred unwritten law
which reads that no president should embrace another Creed than
Protestant if possible a sect of the English church. I am a Roman
Catholic. I love my religion but I hate my church, as long as the Roman
parish is not independent from Rome, as long as Catholic priests are
prevented from getting married, as long as Rome is still more engaged in
politics and accumulation of money contrary to the teachings of the
Lord, the Roman Catholic church is not the religion for a president of
the United States. The separation of state from church in France has
sufficiently proved that Rome and republic are enemies.
The fourth unwritten law which is practically
supplementary to the second we find in George Washington's farewell
address where he advises us to live in peace with your neighbor. We have
no right to start a war of conquest with any nation and our relations to
the South American republic can be improved if we remove their fear of a
steady conquest by us by observing this law. Does it not look ridiculous
that established governments in this enlightened age sends thousands of
unfortunates to prison as punishment for murdering, for to steal and rob,
while these same nations are armed with all descriptable weapons like so
many bandits ever ready to jump at each other's throat. What else is war
but murder for to rob that which belongs to others. Since men have
learned to work they have no more right to war. The salvation of the
human family must be worked out by international Commercialism the
sooner all industrial establishments of the world unite like in the days
of the Hansa can the social questions be solved. International
Commercialism must have individual legislation and jurisdiction,
independent from national legislation, but must be acknowledged by all
states and the United States is the only power ruled by commercialism
without a mailed fiat and will be the first to recognize International
Commercialism for this alone will abolish and distribute wealth more
fair and just, and work to a higher state of civilization.
UNUSUAL COURT PRECEDENT.
Judge August C. Backus' method of conducting the
Schrank case has established a precedent for such cases, and the action
of the court in establishing a new form of procedure has met with
favorable comment on the part of lawyers, alienists, court officials and
editors all over the world.
Instructing the commission of five alienists in its
duties Judge Backus said:
Gentlemen of the Commission:
"You have been appointed as an
impartial commission to examine into the present mental condition of the
defendant John Schrank, who is charged with the crime of assault with
intent to kill and murder Theodore Roosevelt, with a loaded revolver, on
the 14th day of October, 1912, in the city and county of Milwaukee and
state of Wisconsin.
"The court in this proceeding will finally determine
the issue. I have decided to take this method of procedure instead of a
jury trial, because as a rule in trials by jury the case resolves itself
into a battle of medical experts, and in my experience I have never
witnessed a case where the testimony of the experts on one side was not
directly contradicted by the testimony of as many or more experts on the
other side. Where men especially trained in mental and nervous diseases
disagree, how can it be expected that a jury of twelve laymen should
agree? Such testimony has been very unsatisfactory to the jury and to
the court, and generally very expensive to the community.
"Bear in mind, gentlemen, that your appointment has
not been suggested by either counsel for the state or for the defendant,
or by any other party or, source directly or indirectly interested in
this inquisition. You are the court's commission, and you must enter
upon your duties free from any bias or prejudice, if any there be. You
should assume your duties, and I know you will, with the highest motives
in seeking the truth, and then pronounce your judgment without regard to
the effect it may have upon the state or upon the defendant; in other
words, in your inquiry and deliberation you are placed on the same plane
as the judge.
"If any person seeks to influence you or talks to you
as a commission, or to any member of the commission, who is not duly
requested to appear before you, report him to the court so that an order
to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt may issue.
"If there be any witnesses you desire, the court will
command their attendance. The court will grant you the services of a
phonographic reporter so that everything that is said and done may
appear of record.
"This commission may now retire, select a moderator
and proceed with the inquiry.
"Now, gentlemen, perform your duties fairly and
impartially and render such findings to the court as your consciences
and your judgments approve.
"The question for your determination is, 'Is the
defendant John Schrank sane or insane at the present time?'"
Editorial comment from three newspapers is herewith
presented as showing the general trend of comment on the course followed
by Judge Backus:
The Milwaukee Free Press said:
"The findings of the alienists appointed by Judge
Backus to determine the mental condition of Schrank were foreseen.
There has been little doubt at any time of the derangement of that
unfortunate man. This fact, however, does not detract from
appreciation of the excellent and novel course pursued by Judge Backus
in taking advantage of the statute that permitted him to submit the
question of Schrank's sanity to a body of alienists appointed by
himself instead of leaving the question to a jury at the tender mercy
of alienists employed alike by state and defense.
"The judge justified his procedure in these words,
when instructing the examining physicians:
"'I have decided to take this method of procedure
instead of a jury trial, because as a rule in trials by jury the case
resolves itself into a battle of medical experts, and in my experience
I have never witnessed a case where the testimony of the experts on
one side was not directly contradicted by the testimony of as many or
more experts on the other side. Where men specially trained in mental
and nervous diseases disagree, how can it be expected that a jury of
twelve laymen should agree? Such testimony has been very
unsatisfactory to the jury and to the court, and generally very
expensive to the community.'"
"Worse than that. It has been a scandal to the
medical profession, a source of travesty to judicial procedure and all
too often a means of defeating the ends of justice.
"The very course pursued by Judge Backus was
advocated by President Gregory of the American Bar association not
very long ago, and the outcome in this instance at least is such as to
recommend its adoption by the bench wherever the statutes permit."
The Chicago Record-Herald said:
"It is notorious that 'expert testimony' is too often
confused and confusing testimony which jurors and judges feel
themselves bound to disregard in favor of mere horse sense. The stated
experts are matched or overmatched by the experts for the defense, and
the conflict of 'scientific' testimony assumes in many cases the
proportions of a public scandal.
"Hence the 'Wisconsin idea' as applied by Judge
Backus of Milwaukee, who is presiding over the trial of John Schrank,
is an admirable one. Under a statute of Wisconsin a judge may summon a
certain number of experts and make them officers of the court. They
testify as such officers, and presumably the state pays them
reasonable fees. Under such a plan as this there is no temptation to
strain science in the interest of a long purse, and impartial opinions
is likely to be the rule.
"Statutes similar to that of Wisconsin are needed in
all other states. 'Expert testimony' has long been a byword and
reproach. Of course, under Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence no defendant can
be deprived of the right to call witnesses of his own choosing, and
after all a medical expert is only a witness who gives opinions
instead of facts. Still, a law which authorizes the court to call
truly impartial experts would not seem to be 'unconstitutional.' It is
certainly not unfair or unreasonable from the lay point of view."
The Saturday Night of Toronto, Ont., said:
"In the stress attending on matters of greater moment
which have been occupying the attention of the daily press of late,
the judicial wisdom of Mr. A. C. Backus, municipal judge of the city
of Milwaukee, charged with the task of trying John Schrank, the man
who attempted to slay Col. Roosevelt, has been overlooked.
"Nevertheless, he established a precedent with
regard to the trial of prisoners where insanity is the only defense,
that should be copied not only by every state of the American Union,
but by every province of Canada.
"It was not generally known that the laws of the
state of Wisconsin gave a presiding justice the plenary powers he has
exercised, but every good judge who has presided over cases where
alienists have been employed to furnish testimony must have yearned
for similar authority.
"In the Schrank case Judge Backus decided to
eliminate all direct testimony by alienists, and to constitute such
experts into an auxiliary court who should co-operate with him in the
final judgment of the case.
"His auxiliary, consisting of five physicians, was
directed to elect a moderator who would preside over their
deliberations and decide the issues of sanity or insanity in case of a
"It would be difficult to say what objection could
be taken to this system in any case where alienists are subpoenaed. It
is even possible that by carefully protecting the rights of the
prisoner the same system could be worked out in any case where medical
testimony beyond the mere proving of the crime is required. In many
murder cases physicians have been heard swearing to contrary positions
until the jurors, disgusted with the confusion of the testimony, have
simply thrown up their hands, neglected their duty to consider the
reasonable facts of the case, and allowed murderers to go free.
"Judge Backus has taken a forward step in the
administration of justice on this continent, and it is to be trusted
that the effects of it will be far-reaching."