The Charlotte News
Friday, October 11, 1940
Site Ed. Note: For a follow-up to "Cameroons", see "Camel Army", February 1, 1941.
Or Is It That the Boys Don't See That Fire?
That was a quaint situation in Washington yesterday, and in other times we might have smiled and let it go at that. We didn't smile.
Congress adjourned at 2:34 PM. It hadn't been intended that it should adjourn, as Speaker Rayburn had announced, for "reasons that are sufficient to us." The Democratic leader had echoed that. And Representative Joe Martin, the Republican leader, has said that the Republicans weren't going to have adjournment, even for three days, either. But he explained his ground more fully than the cryptic Mr. Rayburn.
The Republicans, he said solemnly, had to stay there to defeat the dastardly plot of Franklin D. Roosevelt to get us into war and so get himself re-elected.
It was easy to see more rational ground and that why Congress should stay in session. There was a great crisis in the Far East, upon which the destiny of the United States for many years to come might hang. And there was absolutely no assurance that that crisis would not have to be met, decision taken, in a few short hours. And so it was the simplest common sense that Congress should remain in session, ready to perform the constitutional functions for the discharge of which it is paid.
But Congress had to adjourn. There wasn't a quorum. The boys, it was explained, had slipped away home to mend political fences and campaign for their own re-election.
It seemed a depressing indication of what values the boys put first. Or of their total failure to comprehend what is going on in the world.
It Furnishes a Good Base For Revolt Against Vichy
Cameroons in itself amounts to little for the war. There is a large floating dock at Duala which might have been of use to the Nazis in their attempt to throttle British commerce. And the colony produces quantities of ivory and gold, good for dollar credits in the United States, as well as such useful foodstuffs as bananas, yams, coffee, etc. Its population is more useful, for it includes about 2,500,000 Bantus--a superior Negro stock which makes excellent soldiers. Kipling's Fuzzy-Wuzzy came of the same breed.
But the great value of the place to the Free French and their British Allies is strategic. Situated some 2,000 miles southeast of Dakar, just where the great western hump of Africa joins the long leg reaching down southward toward the Cape of Good Hope. Duala will be of some use in blocking German depredations in the South Atlantic. But the main use of the Cameroons lies elsewhere.
All French West Africa is continuous with it through the Lake Chad province, and immediately northwest of Duala lies British Nigeria, again with French West Africa beyond that. It is possible to strike Dakar from the rear, flank Libya, or to block any Italian-German attempt against the Anglo-Sudan, though the operations would be over desert territory and difficult. But before any of that comes to pass, there is probably something else to be done. Cameroons furnishes a perfect base for rallying all the tribes of French West Africa to the Free French standard, which they are said to favor. Before long we may see a new revolt in the desert.
Uncle Sam Unduly Kind and Unduly Unkind to This Bird
The case tried in Federal Court here this week--one of those sordid cases which throws humanity into the most unbecoming light--brought out a couple of absurdities. Without going into the low details, we think they can be made clear.
A man was on trial for violation of the Mann Act. In the early years of the century Congress passed the Mann Act to break up the white slave traffic, a racket which had given rise to many lurid stories, some of them probably true. But over the course of the years the Mann Act has been widely interpreted to give the Federal Government jurisdiction in cases where a man transported any woman over state lines for immoral purposes.
Be the woman as willing accomplice as could be asked, or, as in this instance, common law wife, the Federal Government righteously maintains the attitude that interstate immorality is a thousand times worse than simple domestic fornication.
That, we think, is an absurdity.
The other came out of the course of the testimony. The same undesirable chap and his identical lady love were surprised by the cops in the room of the hotel in Augusta. He jumped out of the window, broke his ankle. And where did he take it for treatment?
Why, he was admitted to the U. S. Veterans Hospital in Augusta. An ex-soldier, he was entitled to the free hospitalization which Congress has made available to all ex-soldiers, no matter whether their disability traces to war service or, as in this instance, is sustained while jumping out of a hotel window to escape arrest.
Confederate Veterans Smile Upon an Old Yankee Song
Fifty years ago they would not have believed that ever in the revolutions of the planet among the stars it could come to pass--that the armies of the Confederacy could foregather in the Yankee capital in the Willard Hotel, where the Yankee woman, Julia Ward Howe, had written the Yankee hymn, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"--should foregather in the shadow of a huge plaque announcing to the world that it was there that song had been made.
For then it seemed but yesterday that Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, the Bonnie Blue Flag had fallen, and the Confederate States of America had gone to join the ranks of the nations that were and are not. Even "Remember that Maine!" and the Battle of Manila Bay were still in the womb of time. And the memory of fratricidal war and its aftermath was bitter under their tongues.
But fifty years after the armies of the Confederacy had dwindled to a host of headstones--and 57 old men, from 90 to 125 years of age, who were still able to travel over the great distances of the American land. And the Yankee capital had become again and beyond all questioning and forever, the capital of one nation--sealed as such by the blood of Southerner and Northerner alike, who had died side by side in far and shining fields. And so there they were, and pleased to be there, with the beatitude of old men and autumn leaves upon their faces--the last fading, pathetic, and splendid survivors of a past that had once made that capital tremble but whose glory had become a part of the pride, not of the South alone but of all those who bore the name of Americans.
And what they talked of now was less the great sweep of Lee through the valley of Pennsylvania or the thunder of the guns at Vicksburg than their fierce will that the sinister dream of a little tyrant in faraway Berlin for the restoration of slavery should be stayed and broken--if necessary, even at the cost of American blood, North and South.
And even upon the plaque and upon the song the plaque celebrated they smiled through the dim eyes of old men. For that song also had been before now sung by Southerner and Northerner alike, standing shoulder to shoulder in common cause. And its majestic words in music had passed over from connoting merely the contested faith of one side in an old and sectional war and had become the voice of a far wider faith--the faith of a Republic which, for all its stumblings and its divisions and its disputes, had, in all its parts, never ultimately doubted its high destiny as the champion of man's freedom and the enemy of man's slavery.
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