The Charlotte News

SUNDAY, MAY 22, 1938


And They Sought to Hang Jefferson

--By W.J. Cash

Site ed. note: "Trickle down" economics or big government? Trickle-downers who hate the President and who might seek to hang him? Big business interests seeking only to maintain their own grand style of living? Tricklers yelling negative labels at those with whose policies the yeller-tricklers disagree? Trickle-trickers proclaiming themselves the only true saviours of democracy and freedom? (Old musty and stale out-of-date events and issues from the early years of the Nineteenth century, long ago resolved, and certainly not to be repeated after the turbulent 1930's, yes?)

Is, as the book being reviewed in 1938 suggests, a more powerful central government the answer to oppose the "trickle down" policies favored by big business and their political cronies? Cash is dubious of the solution of big government panaceas and foresees danger to liberty in it, but even more so of the trickle-downers and their tricklings.


Mr. Alfred J. Snyder seems to think he has discovered something. Mr. Snyder is a Philadelphia lawyer who teaches at Temple University. And he has written a book. It is called "America's Purpose," and was published by the Declaration Press of Philadelphia to sell at three smacks. It poses the fateful question as to whether America must accept Fascism or Communism, and whether there may be a strictly American way out. And concludes that America need not accept Fascism or Communism and that there is a typical American way out which completely solves everything.

The book seems to be a pretty good one for several purposes. It contains a very fair analysis of the actual facts of American history, and effectually lays several current shibboleths. One of these is that there is no truth behind the term, "economic royalist." The belief that there isn't is a perfectly natural swing back from the exaggerations of rabid New Dealers and the vague utterances of Mr. Roosevelt, which all of us were falling into the habit of mouthing a few years back--from the hyperbolic notion that every man of any property or financial power is naturally an enemy of society. And nevertheless, it is perfectly true that there is and always has been a body of men and opinions in the United States which is admirably described by the term. In the early days of the Republic they were recruited mainly from the ranks of the merchants and lawyers of Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, with a sprinkling of planters from Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina, and sailed under the Federalist banner. They hated Jefferson, as afterward, sailing under other banners, they hated Jackson, just as hotly as sailing under the banner of the American Liberty League, they hate Mr. Roosevelt today. They hated Jefferson so hotly, indeed, that, after his election to the Presidency, they actually planned to kidnap him as he rode into Washington and to hang him, and might have gone through with the scheme if an enterprising journalist had not exposed it beforehand.


And they assailed Jefferson, as they assailed Jackson, in precisely the same terms they have used on Mr. Roosevelt. From first to last they have proceeded on the principle mouthed by Hamilton, who was such a snob as only a man of low origin can be, that "The people is a great beast," and ought properly only to be dealt with by the whip. They have argued the belief that the proper business of government is to take care of themselves, and that the people would be taken care of by their prosperity which would "trickle down." In all cases they have, therefore, never been content to criticize the leaders they hated for the things in their programs which seemed dubious but have attempted to damn them, and with them their whole programs, as "Reds." And in 1800, they yelled "jacobin and communist" just as they yell "Russian Communist" today. And, standing against every reform, they very often profess to be the only true champions of democracy and freedom--because they cannily understood the power of those terms over the mass mind.

I think Mr. Snyder is quite right when he makes out American history to be largely the story of the struggle of the body of the people against them in their efforts to dominate the National Government.

Mr. Snyder's book is valuable, too, for its mass of not commonly known quotations from the great leaders of the struggle of the American people--particularly from Jefferson. Some of the American Liberty League crowd have taken to mouthing his name at great length lately. But if you think he had any sympathy with their primary position and sins you might look into Mr. Snyder's book.


All the same I don't think he has anything new to offer by way of solving our current dilemma. He lays it on finance rather than on the machine, and that may be right. But he simply proposes in the end that the Government shall go further along the way of the New Deal and replace private finance by Government finance. He proposes, indeed, that the same Government shall also take good care to preserve the individual rights laid down in the first ten amendments to the Constitution. But how he proposes to make sure that it will do any such thing does not appear. At the root of his whole argument, in truth, lies the notion that government, if only it be properly elected and approved, can be safely trusted with vast power, whereas private persons and associations of persons cannot be. And that certainly is not borne out by history. They may be a little more amenable to the will of the people so long as bureaucracy has not entrenched itself. But once that is done, and it always has been done, it invariably waxes insolent.

We may be coming inevitably to something of the kind Mr. Snyder proposes. But if we are, it is hard to believe that our civil rights will really survive, or that the order which is set up, however much it may depart from European Fascism or Communism in detail, will be really very greatly different from them in essentials.

Framed Edition
[Go to Links-Page by Subject] [Go to Links-Page by Date] [Go to News--Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.