The Charlotte News
Friday, June 28, 1940
Site Ed. Note: It is not clear that "Starnes Case" is from Cash; he was solidly opposed to the death penalty. Nevertheless, as it continues a long editorial vein regarding murders in Charlotte, and the South generally, especially those committed by African-Americans on African-Americans, we include it here for general historical interest.
Willkie Was Only Possible Republican Winner
The Republican Party has nominated its only man who had any chance of being elected President. Willkie's selection is primarily the result of a popular movement among certain segments of the party, and indeed, to some extent, of the American people: for enthusiasm for him passed over party lines in many cases.
His merits are that he seems to have integrity, candor, intelligence, the capacity to handle men and large enterprises, that he is willing to face facts, that he is obviously free from ordinary partisanship (he had been a Republican only two years, voted for Roosevelt), and above all just now that he is apparently aware of what is arising in Europe and what it means to us. No other candidate among the Republicans seemed to have any inkling of that case.
His political assets are that he will have the full backing of Business, Big and Little. That of most of the generally conservative prosperous middle-class in the towns of the East and perhaps in those of the Middle West and the Far West. And that many other people who are sick and tired of professional politicians and their shabby ways.
He has certain handicaps. He has no experience with government, in which the conditions are often essentially different from those of private business. He has no experience with foreign affairs, a thing the next President is almost certain to need. He is not the production genius he is being generally set down for. His experience is that of a lawyer who reorganized the financial structure of a utility company and so greatly cut its rates.
His political liabilities are that he is a big utility man and that he is connected with the banking house of Morgan. That these connections are innocent is plain from the record. But it is going to be hard to convince a part of Labor, many Liberals, and most of the farmers of the Middle West, heirs to the Populist tradition, that it is so. The Middle West showed less enthusiasm for him last night than any other section.
Platform Is at Opposite Poles From Mr. Willkie
But the worst handicap for Mr. Willkie, particularly if he should be elected, is that the Republicans have hung a millstone about his neck in the shape of the platform adopted before his nomination.
That platform was deliberately designed to stop Willkie. Instead of adopting the sensible position which was his own, that it is impossible fully to anticipate the course of international events in the next year or so, perhaps in the next few months, and that therefore no explicit commitments should be made--instead of this it adopted a "Peace and Preparedness" (PAP) plank. The essential idea contained therein is the isolationist idea that we can lock ourselves up tight inside our own continental borders and be safe. In view of what is going on in Latin America even now, any President who attempted to follow that through would probably wreck this nation beyond hope of recovery. It is to be hoped that Mr. Willkie will do what Roosevelt did in 1932 with regard to certain Democratic platform planks and make it quite plain that he intends to interpret this slogan with the greatest looseness.
Again, it weasels completely on the question of aid to Great Britain, refuses to even mention that country by name, though it was within the protection of its navy that we got to be a great nation, and tells us that we must give aid only within international law. That is, Hitler must be allowed to break international law at will while we scrupulously observe the absolute letter of that law in dealing with him. The idea behind this is the silly idea that Hitler can be appeased by "neutrality"--an idea repudiated by the history of every one of his victims. Mr. Willkie should make it plain that he will not be bound by such nonsense, in the full assurance that the body of the American people will support his stand.
Nor does it end with the foreign policy as related to the present crisis. The Republican platform repeals the old falsehood about "tariff protection for agriculture and labor," and pumps for higher and better tariffs than even the Hawley-Smoot one--tariffs made by the old log-rolling method in Congress.
That policy is the policy that wrecked the United States in the years between 1920 and 1929--which led directly to the great Depression. There is no such thing as tariff protection for farmers, for the simple and good reason that the principal crops of the United States--cotton, wheat, corn, etc.--must be sold in a world market.
What Hawley-Smoot tariffs actually do is to raise the price of everything the farmer has to buy to inordinate heights without being at all able to raise the price of what he must sell. On the contrary, they continually beat down the price of what he must sell. For they make it more and more difficult for sellers in foreign lands to send goods here to be exchanged for farmers products, more and more difficult to the buyer in foreign lands to lay hand on American money to be used by American farmer's products.
And the result of that is that the foreign buyers look elsewhere for sources of supply. The difficulties of the Southern cotton farmer from 1927 down to date have been largely due to the fact that the Republican tariff policy drove our chief cotton customers, with England at their head, to encouraging and aiding the extension of cotton growing in China, India, Brazil and other countries.
Nor do Hawley-Smoot tariffs aid Labor. On the contrary, they damage it. For its wages never quite keep pace with the increase in the prices of what they met must buy.
Hawley-Smoot tariffs help only a few fat cats.
An attempt to restore this policy now, to restore this policy in a world in which we may have to compete with a Nazi state monopoly controlling two-thirds of the world, would be incalculably mad.
Mr. Willkie, who does not agree with it, will have to repudiate it if he is elected and is to govern with any chance of success.
It Represents A Step Toward Control of Murder
The conviction of the Negro, Frank Starnes, for first degree murder and the imposition of the death sentence is a salutary beginning toward wiping out the city's eminence in murder.
We say that not out of any wish to see Starnes singled out for death. Or even out of any lack of understanding of the effect that the environment has played in making him. Ultimately, the slum conditions under which he grew up must bear a good deal of the blame for his crime.
Nevertheless, the law provides the death penalty for first degree murder. The evidence was overwhelming that Starnes was guilty of first degree murder. In the past, Charlotte courts, like those in North Carolina and all the South generally, have been far too lax about this business of first degree murder among Negroes.
When one was convicted in Mecklenburg in 1936 and actually executed for the crime, it was a nine days' wonder in the state and South. The thing hadn't happened in the state in many years, had happened in most of the rest of the South even less often. Almost invariably Southern courts had set down the murder of a Negro by a Negro as at worst second degree murder, more often mere manslaughter. Penalties ranged from two to twelve years, and sometimes they were no more than those meted out to chicken-stealers. In many instances, indeed, the killer could count on the case being prosecuted so lackadasically that he would get off altogether.
Result was that tough Negroes got to believe they could kill without any greater risk than having to spend a few years in jail, with every prospect that parole would make the term even shorter.
This is only a beginning, however. We began once before and then forgot about the matter. Will it be done again?
Certainly Negro killers are entitled to every safeguard, must not be indiscriminately convicted for first degree murder when they are in fact guilty of lesser crimes. But until every first degree killer is certain that he is going to be convicted and executed, there is not likely to be much of a drop in the murder rate among Negroes.
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