The Charlotte News



Getting Mr. Gannett

By W. J. Cash

As one of the few editorials for which Cash was given a by-line, this one fully attests his libertarian concern. The Reorganization Bill so violently opposed by the anti-New Deal publisher Frank E. Gannett (he foresaw a Roosevelt dictatorship) was simply an act to reorganize the Executive Department, a long-overdue reform. For Gannett's ideas Cash had small use; for Gannett's rights Cash had an eloquent defense.

--Note from W.J. Cash: Southern Prophet, by Joseph L. Morrison
(This article was re-printed in the Reader section of Prophet.)

M r. Frank Gannett, publisher of the Gannett chain of newspapers, is hopping mad these days. And for once I think he has excellent cause. Mr. Gannett is not one of my heroes. I think, as a working newspaperman, that large chains of newspapers, such as his, are unhealthy and dangerous. Moreover, it seems to me that Mr. Gannett's attitude toward the President of the United States is generally arbitrary and rabid. If he has ever found a single good thing in the whole body of things Franklin Roosevelt has done, I am not aware of it. On the contrary, he inveighs against every move as a diabolical scheme to destroy democracy, deprive us of our historical liberties, and hand us straightway over to communism or fascism.

But in one of the many excited communications with which he regularly favors this office, Mr. Gannett asks a question:

How would you feel tonight if two agents of the Government walked into your office or home, threatened you with jail, and ordered you to appear in your nation's capital tomorrow morning at ten o'clock with all your correspondence, letters, records, checks, books of accounts, all written records of every kind that you possess, for examination by inquisitors?

To which I am bound to respond that I'd be hopping mad, too.

The thing to which Mr. Gannett refers did not, as I understand it, happen to him in his capacity as a newspaper publisher. Merely, the Senate Lobby Committee (the so-called Black Committee) subpoenaed him in his capacity as president of his own outfit set up to fight the President's reorganization bill which was passed by the Senate Monday—the outfit he has named The National Committee to Uphold Constitutional Government. I don't like that name. I believe it is an appeal under false colors. And I don't believe the reorganization bill involves any Constitutional issue.

Nevertheless, the Constitution guarantees Mr. Gannett, along with all the rest of us, certain rights, to wit:

1—The freedom of speech.

2—The right of petition.

3—Freedom from searches and seizures of his person or papers save upon a warrant charging him with a crime against the laws, said warrant to issue only upon probable cause, and to specify the papers to be seized.

And in this case, there is no warrant. There is no charge that Mr. Gannett has committed a crime against the laws of the United States. There is no probable cause. There is no specification of the papers to be seized. There is only a blanket subpoena issued by this Senate committee in the hope of finding something with which to smear him, and failing that, still to make it so hot and unpleasant for him that other men will be deterred from following the course he has followed. In short, there is nothing but a manifest attempt by the Senate of the United States to do, by the use of subpoena, what it is forbidden to do directly. And, of course, the Senate has no right to do that.

If Mr. Gannett appeals to passion and prejudice with the name he tags on his organization, the right to appeal to passion and prejudice is inevitably a part of the right of free speech. But what he says is untrue? That is only a matter of opinion. He undoubtedly believes it is true. But even if he didn't—the right to peddle about what one knows to be untrue is also an inevitable part of the right of free speech. But Mr. Gannett has been stirring up people all over the country to deluge Congress with telegrams protesting the reorganization bill? That is an essential part both of the right to free speech and the right to circulate a petition. It is no violation of the law, furnishes no probable cause, and could not serve as the basis of a search and seizure warrant.

Mr. Gannett is strictly within his rights, therefore, when he refuses to obey the subpoena. And I trust that, if the Senate is foolish enough to attempt to force him, he will win in the courts. For such methods plainly have no place in America.

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