Thursday, September 20, 1928

Shelby, N.C.

C. J. Mabry .. President

J. Nelson Callahan .. Business Manager

W. J. Cash .. Managing Editor

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Site Editor's Note: When in early September of 1928 Shelby printer and businessman C. J. Mabry decided to start a small semi-weekly newspaper in Shelby, he asked the 28 year old Jack Cash, living with his parents down the road in Boiling Springs, to be the editor. Cash agreed and began walking ten miles in each direction every day to establish a liberal, progressive voice in a small country southwestern North Carolina town which counted among its most celebrated sons Thomas Dixon, author of the turn-of-the-century The Leopard's Spots and The Clansman, the racist trash novels on which D.W. Griffith's ground-breaking epic 1915 film, "Birth Of a Nation", was based. Cash wished to shake up the stolid town fathers of the ancien regime. The articles transcribed herein prove that he probably did, if only for four fortnights. (See W.J. Cash: A Life, by Bruce Clayton, L.S.U. Press, 1991, pp. 61-78, "Editing a Country Newspaper", and "Found: The Missing Editorship of W.J. Cash," by Joseph l. Morrison, North Carolina Historical Review, XLVII (January, 1970), for extended discussion of this phase of Cash's writing career.)

The long daily perambulation, combined with the yeoman's toil necessary to put together an entire newspaper and write all of its editorials, wore on Cash quickly. By mid-November, he gave his notice and walked the lonely railroad tracks back to Boiling Springs for the last time, penning his last piece for the November 16 edition. The paper then folded in January, 1929. By late winter Cash would be working on his first piece for H. L. Mencken's American Mercury, "Jehovah of the Tar Heels", published in the July, 1929 edition.

Though only lasting for sixteen issues, Tuesdays and Fridays, under Cash's tutelage, The Cleveland Press enabled Cash to hone his writing craft to a higher art, preparing him well for the writing ahead in the Mercury,writing which would lead to his notice by the Knopfs and the offer to write the book. He left behind in the newspaper's small archive (available today on microfilm through the Cleveland County Public Library) some thoughts likely not seen before in print in Shelby--or for that matter, in most Southern towns of that era.

Lancing at racism and the Klan, if sometimes only by indirection, religious intolerance and the campaign to derail Catholic Democrat Al Smith's Presidential campaign of 1928, obscurantism, squelching of free speech and press, and intolerance generally, Cash wrote feverishly in these two months as if this little $2 per year newspaper carried on its shoulders the very weighty fate of the democracy--as if it would reach far beyond the quaint tree-lined streets and lazy hollows of foothill-tucked Shelby, the confines of which its issues likely never escaped. Though, for its one-man effort, the sheer weight of the work prevented the pieces from being possessed uniformly of the same polish, spark and spangle which would come to characterize Cash's Mercury writing of the next five years; the inditements were nevertheless bold, even at times poetic, in their simple continuing message: Live in a democracy; accept that a pact is formed such that all who are part of it are free and equal, no matter how ugly and imperfect the result. No doubt, some readers felt the message to be from somewhere a bit north of Shelby. No wonder, perhaps, that the page's career was a quick one.

Cash left physically and emotionally drained from what he later described to Alfred Knopf as the "bitter fight" of the religion-smeared 1928 campaign. On a couple of occasions, Cash had even formally spoken on behalf of Smith to small groups in and around Shelby to try to stem the fear of "Romanism" which had been so Burchardly hurled into the popular mind by such seemingly oddly aligned forces as Senator Furnifold Simmons, usually progressive Josephus Daniels, and the hierarchy of the Methodist clergy of North Carolina. How easy it is to slip from the suspicion of another's religion, to be cuittled to the canards allied with sectionalism, with racism--and finally to lump all the distrusted and calumnied outsiders as under the aegis of "socialism" or "communism", no matter how absurd the premise. By the time of Joe McCarthy and the other allied bile-spewing red-baiters and race-haters of the Fifties and Sixties, the long tradition of finger-pointing and holier-than-thou posturing was well-formed. Perhaps, we have not come so far really in seventy years, just exchanged our more jack-booted labels for those sounding less strident in television-mimed parlance--like, "lacking in char-ac-ter and mau-rals", (translated: "in char-ak-ter und mau-ral mangelnd"), yet aimed essentially at the same chimera, the things and people we do not quite understand but with whom, we are sure by the very difference of their appearance or verbiage or accent, we thoroughly and most consistently must--why, yes we must, stridently, militantly, even violently--disagree.

Cash begins this September 20 opening piece much as he had left off the previous spring in his four short-lived "Moving Row" columns for The Charlotte News, speaking of the religious intolerance of the country as a whole. Refusing to accept the candidacy of Al Smith as a trumpet of progress or even to engage in debate on the substantive issues of the day, the loudest antipathists insisted on the myopic view of first examining the New York Governor's religion and, seeing him Catholic, refused to see more. As Cash understood it, Smith's supposed support of repealing Prohibition became the rallying cry to hide what was at base plain old prejudice, both as to class and religion. In the end, the vaunted "humanitarian" Herbert Hoover won overwhelmingly on election day, garnering the support of most formerly loyal partisan Southern Democrats in the process, based on two primary issues, religious fervor in favor of Prohibition and religious bigotry against Smith as a Catholic. But by October 29 of the following year, the laissez-faire policies of Hoover would list the country into its worst economic depression ever and cause many of those same antipathists to jump ship back to their more native Democratic Party to elect in 1932 even more overwhelmingly the 1920 vice-presidential candidate and 1928 winner of the New York gubernatorial race, Franklin Roosevelt.

Though certainly heard to a far lesser extent, the cries echoing the 1884 election invective against the Democrats as the Party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion", and the similar shouts of 1928, would not be totally silent even 32 years hence during John Kennedy's successful campaign for President. Yet, while many segments of the nation were not happy with the policies of the Kennedy Administration, few were ever heard to chafe about his Catholicism after his election. We do progress, if only by being swept inexorably in increments to the opinion, perhaps so only for want of the fiercest strains of those who, like the eventually stilled voices of regression in 1928, had not the strength to fleet from the rugged dell of Intolerance, seisin of the Deil, but chose instead to remain and die there and by it finally cease their censure.

There is no whispering campaign. There are crawling tales "told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Ignore them.

* * * * *

That reminds us of that one about getting the dear girls to wear cotton stockings. It would help the farmer so. What about the girls?

* * * * *

Hoover, says Senator Capper, will carry the East, North, West, and South. Al, says M. Raskob1, has 309 electoral votes safely stowed away. Of the prophets we choose November 6.

* * * * *

Dr. Coolidge is to speak in New England. If he should go to New Bedford, it might be wise to lay off that prosperity one. Prosperity is not so prosperous either in New England or the West

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We expect to say on this page what we think. But we expect to let you do exactly the same thing. Two restrictions only. Nothing over 800 words and no duplication. Stuff we can't read will promptly be thrown in the waste basket.

If you've got it in your system and simply must get it out, we'll even allow you to tell Cleveland about the Pope and his vast hunger for fresh roasted Baptist babies. But we aren't going to print 7,000 or even two such letters. Once said is enough. In other words we're extending you the tolerance as aptly illuminated by a remark by M. Francois Marie Arouet--otherwise Voltaire--on a celebrated occasion: "I do not agree with one word you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!"

So if you can write or can't and, if you can think or can't, let us have it. But--try and think of a new one. Now, maybe, we're entirely too good for this world hoping for that, but, somehow, we are so trustful by [unreadable word] that we can't resign ourselves to "smell the roses on the sepulchres of the dead gods, to pick the violets from the sepulchres of our dead loves" and sometimes we doubt that the "wisest are they who read old books, drink old wines (alas, poor Yorick), converse with old friends, and let the rest go." We even believe in democracy and so wouldn't shoot Republicans! Allons!

* * * * * *


Shelby needs a library!

One comes back to find new factories, new buildings, all the signs of a healthy and normal growth. That in the face of two major catastrophes in six months. It is well. One finds again the old sense of leisure, the atmosphere that is almost that of an old world market town. Become industrial, become commercial, Shelby, like the old towns of Flanders, remains a fair town, without the morass, the grime that too often has marked the rise of other such cities.

But why not a library? We ask for a Scribner's magazine. It is the first call in years we are told. Why? The town is full of college women, college men. Where their reading habits? We have done with education? Schools, colleges ended that? Well, then we have done with thinking. Life surely is the only college. Degrees are meaningless symbols. The buffs and rebuffs of the marketplace, the making of a living. Well, so why not the making of a Life? Why not a library?

Understand us. We know that there are many citizens of the town who do read, who do know what is going on in the great world, they buy their own books. But, there are many others. We call this to the attention of the city administration, the god citizens of the town. Why not a library?

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Apparently there is much puzzlement concerning the "national origins" immigration law with which Governor Smith is out of sympathy. The law takes the census of 1890 as its basis. If say there were one hundred people of English extraction in the United States in 1890, then say ten may be admitted in 1928 from England. If, however, in 1890, there were only ten people of German extraction in the United States, only one German would be admitted in 1928.

A more absurd bill was never passed. Actually it was framed largely by anti-Catholics and Anglomaniacs. Mr. Wilson vetoed substantially the same thing. As a matter of fact, the best immigrants we get come from South Ireland, from Germany, from the Scandinavian countries, from Poland and from Hungary. To the latter two groups belong most of the credit for building such states as the Dakotas. The bill purports to be "Nordic," but, ironically, it cuts the quotas of the true Nordic countries to almost nothing. England comes in for, we believe, some forty percent of the total.

Consider that for a moment. Since the War, England has been maintaining 600,000 men on the Dole, that is a few dollars paid weekly by the Government. Most of these beneficiaries are the dregs of London. Just now, England tired of spending billions, is shipping these men to her colonies where they are not wanted. What a relief it must be to know that she has a wide open door through which to pour us her ill-smelling Bow-Bells gift. And the sturdy Irish, the stout German, the Viking of the North are almost barred. Think it over.

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A great many gentlemen have been tilting with windmills--which do not exist. This campaign has heard much prating of independence, much talk of conscience and morals. There have been woeful cries to the effect that Democrats were being coerced, denied their liberties. Many gentlemen have taken occasion to be heroic. "They shall not pass."

Personally, we should not mind if there existed in this State a large body of intelligent independents holding the balance of power between two parties. In such case, honest Tar Heels could sleep in peace, knowing, even under a Republican regime, that the hounds of the 14th and 15th Amendments were safely chained. And Senators might not become too autocratic.

But if one is going to be an independent in politics, his independence ought to be thorough-going. It ought to begin at the proper beginning-place. In politics that means the precinct vote, the primary vote. One ought not to go down to the polling place and engage in a Democratic quarrel or a Republican one. Hands-off till the candidates are chosen ought to be the rule of every independent. Then he is free, having entered into no contract with either party. Oh, yes, we know that to do otherwise is quite legal. We weren't, however, speaking of legalities.

* * * * * *


The news from Europe that the powers have agreed to settle the matter of the evacuation of the Rhine and the [unintelligible words] among themselves is the single most striking proof yet offered that some sort of an ethic is growing up for international relationships, that the League of Nations sometimes a catspaw, may actually become a powerful agency for peace. German reparations are now set at 33,000,000,000 marks, a preposterous figure. She has asked it be made 5,000,000,000. The United States has suggested 11,000,000,000. When the Danzig corridor, Jugo-Slavic, the Franco-Italic, the Tyrolese, the Austo-Hungarian problems are so recognized and openly dealt with, we may begin to believe that the policies which were reported by Signor Machiavelli have at last been scrapped.


"We are no more than a moving row
of fantastic shapes that come and go."


I know just now of one comprehensive reason for voting for Governor Smith. It is Tolerance.

There have been other reasons. They have gone from the arena. Says the Rev. Mr. Fountain, of New York, in Current History for March (p. 778) "Not only should no Catholic be President, but no Catholic should be elected to office". There are 19,000,000 of these Catholics. This man, calling himself a minister of the Christ, would deny them en bloc a liberty--because of their religion.

An Ohio Methodist Conference is on record, at the urge of Mrs. Mabel Willebrandt, who holds office under the United States, as being opposed to Governor Smith because he is Catholic.

"Created free and equal". "No religious test". "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or abridging the free exercise thereof."

The answer is, they tell me, that no religious test is being exacted, that men are merely exercising the right to vote as they please. But what is this Constitution? A compact between the several States and their peoples, is it not? And one of the provisions of that compact is that religion shall be ruled out of State affairs--that every man may follow the dictates of his own conscience without suffering any penalty therefor. Well, if a Catholic must become a Protestant before he can hold office? Is that the free exercise of religion? Free? Free?

The thing is deliberate. Primarily, it is the work of such infamous sheets as the Menace and the Fellowship Forum. It is Profitable. It offers a chance of power to those so manifestly unfit that they might not aspire to it otherwise. Hence demagogues have their aid. Finally, it has an irresistible appeal to fanatics, such as the dean of the Divinity School at Northwestern. These men are honest. So also was Luther honest when he penned his "Smile, strike, slay and burn" to send a hundred thousand helpless German serfs to their doom.

The dupes are those who lack historical background. Those who read and believe without questioning. The method is the wrenching of the Councils of Constance, Basle, Toledo, Pisa, out of the 15th century and setting them down in Pittsburgh and Birmingham in 1927. It quotes, from documents, "our country," neglecting to say that those documents were penned before the birth of Columbus. It trots out the pallid ghosts of Innocent III of Gregory VII, of Alexander VI as of men who died last year. Not one single article of their claims will stand the test when considered in the light of the period in which it properly belongs.

There is more at stake than the election of a President. There is at stake the principle of popular sovereignty. Can the people rule wisely? If not? Will not the people of America respect the spirit of the Constitution? Will they see to it that no man is deprived of equal rights? Shall Catholics exercise their religion free, free, free? Or shall they exercise it under the penalty of being deprived of office? The answer is heavy with the Fate of the Republic.


1 "M. Raskob" refers to John J. Raskob, Chairman of the Democratic Party in 1928.

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