The Charlotte News
Monday, May 20, 1940
Site Ed. Note: The first article refers to the "Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence", which has been passed off in local North Carolina lore as the first declaration of independence in the colonies, hence its supposed date, May 20, 1775, on the North Carolina state seal. History has, however, cast doubt on the thesis as the document never surfaced until 1819, with doubtful provenance, and then with culled passages from the Declaration of July 4, 1776. The Mecklenburg Resolves of May 31, 1775 were genuine, however, but had a limited impact, that being to abolish all royal offices in the colony, not to declare independence per se from the Crown. Nevertheless, for many years, North Carolina took from this admirable spirit, whether based in fact or mostly fiction, its license plate theme of "First in Freedom". Then controversy arose and since, for many years, the embossment is instead "First in Flight"--which is, when one considers it, a little dubious sounding, especially when one further considers that the expression "Tar Heel" comes from the notion of steadfastness in the face of challenge. Ah, well, whoever said state legislators were blessed as a body with understanding of the poetic and the power of the symbol? And since it was the Wrights of Dayton, in the State of Ohio, (also the home of John Glenn), who were actually "first in flight", North Carolina's sand dunes at Kitty Hawk having provided only the convenient happenstance of a properly wind-lifting, untarred tarmac, that is, a big mac, the expression is perhaps equally as over-exalting as was the other one. Maybe the original one was best of all: "Drive Safely". When shall some enterprising state simply use the one word on which there is, or ought to be, universal agreement and acceptance: "Peace"?
The spirit of the "Ploughman" certainly still treads among us, as we have plainly seen countless times since September 11, 2001.
1775 - 1940
Celebration Falls at a Peculiarly Fitting Time
In one respect, it was a world not unlike the one in which we live--that one which existed when the little band of Mecklenburg farmers met in the old log Courthouse where Independence Square now is. There wasn't much freedom in it. But there was this difference.
Freedom was destined to wax swiftly to the world from the small fires now being lighted in America. Perhaps this was to be the very first little blaze. It was if you accept the declaration thesis, as honest Mecklenburgers of course do.
Now, however, the flame is withering rapidly instead of growing. In Europe and Asia despotism and slavery are returning, and gravely threaten to extinguish freedom altogether. But in Mecklenburg and America, it still lives--not perfectly, perhaps, but at least with a fullness that no other men in the world now know.
And so it is more than a little fitting that it should have been chosen again this year to celebrate the meeting which resulted in the first declaration of freedom in the world. The men who gathered in the old Courthouse faced odds as great as those which face the friends of freedom in the world today. Yet they would win, because they were willing to pay the price, because they held freedom to be the first of values.
Given that spirit, we shall win yet. If we lack it, we shall deserve to lose.
An Admirer of the Germans Pooh-Poohs the Danger
The United States expended its affection on Charles A. Lindbergh. No nation has been more poorly repaid.
A few years ago he shook the dust of the land angrily (though understandably) off his feet and returned to England, afterward to France. There he turned heavy thinker and became the disciple of Alexis Carrel, philosopher to the French Fascists. He visited the Nazis, took their medals, returned to France full of enthusiasm for them. They worshiped the machine. So did he.
When the war broke out, he announced loudly that this was merely another imperialistic war--a pronouncement which did much to confuse the nation and bring on the complacency from which we have now been startled awake. And now he emerges to attempt to repeat the performance--to tell us that it makes no difference who wins in Europe, that we are quite safe.
It makes no difference, that is, that innocent nation after innocent nation has been overrun by ruthless tyranny. It makes no difference that three million refugees pour along roads of Europe, as the result of the action of this tyranny. Makes no difference that the murder of women and children is a systematic part of the advance of this tyranny.
It makes no difference that the people in the victim nations are systematically robbed of their possessions, their intellectual leaders murdered, the masses reduced to slavery. It makes no difference that the high command of the United States army and navy, the President, say that we are in grave danger, that the overwhelming body of the competent observers agree.
It makes no difference. We are in no danger. And it may be so if you grant that tyranny, murder, pillage, slavery are of no moment as against the machine, that it would be an excellent thing to see the United States Nazified.
The Terrorists Work on Him to No Purpose
The peasant continued to plough.
Friday in his dispatch from somewhere in Belgium with the French Army, Associated Press man H. Taylor Henry wrote:
"Standing in front of a village church, I saw a squadron of some 30 German planes carry out a raid today. In a nearby field, a farmer continued his ploughing."
Ten miles away bombs were falling, and British and French planes strove in the clouds. An Englishman plunged to earth in a meadow four miles away, behind him coming a German whom he had shot down in his death throes.
It was not as though the peasant could fail to imagine what it meant or felt, that it had no reference to himself. Thursday the Germans had visited the peasant's own village from which the reporter watched. Bombs had fallen, a cafe had been struck, other houses. Afterwards, when the people thought it safe and ventured forth to succcor the wounded, the Nazi murderers had swept back to machine-gun them in the streets. Thirty-seven lay dead in the village, fifteen of them children. Well the peasant knew that the planes power diving almost over his fields might decide to kill him as they had killed many like him.
But, his blue blouse wet with sweat under the pale May sun of Belgium, he plodded on behind the great Flemish horse, calmly pursuing his immemorial daily way as though the world were not falling about his ears. If death came, it comes to all men one way or the other. If tomorrow the new Hun seized the farm from under him, that would be met in its time. Meanwhile--.
No wonder they feel impelled, the Nazi terrorists, to sweep down and murder his kind in the fields. For he is a challenge and an answer to all terror, and the unshaken solidarity which is his is ground for the hope that civilization will not in the end be lost.
An Antidote for Bad News from Europe
Ho for Harvard! Its sons' night attack at the fair Wellesleyans' festivities rather relieves the tense news from abroad.
Wellesley College in Massachusetts, you see, puts on every year this season a float night ceremony. Beautifully-decorated barges full of beautiful girls, the whole on an aesthetic plane, pass serenely by a reviewing stand on Lake Waban to the polite enjoyment of faculty members, parents and perhaps a few of the better townspeople.
Friday night only the first of the floats had arrived for its due applause when a burst of fireworks disclosed in the middle of the lake a fleet of Harvards in canoes. They too have a float. Its theme: Venus and Adonis. Its shocking possibilities: unlimited.
Maidenly shrieks rent the night air. Likewise burly laughter. Nobody paid attention to the parade. All thoughts were on the situation, which the Harvards had calculated. But they reckoned without the Wellesleys' lady crew coach.
Into a motor launch she hopped, out into the lake she sped, throttle wide. Round the daintily-balanced canoes she laid her course, leaving behind a wake. The glee of the Harvards changed to consternation, and as their canoes began to rock violently they saw that the tables had been turned.
They dug in for the opposite shore, where they solaced themselves with yells in defiance. But the Wellesley girls cheered with equal spirit for rival Yale. And the pageant went on and the whole thing somehow is a relieving counter-note to the meanness loose in the world.
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