The Charlotte News

Tuesday, May 16, 1939


Site Ed. Note: For a little history and some photos of the 1939 Harlan County coal miners' strike, on which Cash comments in "Funambulist", in which Governor Chandler brought in 900 National Guardsmen to maintain order and prevent harassment by maltreated striking miners of the scabs crossing the picket line, go here.

"The High Sheriff of Hazard was a hard working man
To be a fine Sheriff is his only plan
He digs in our pockets and takes what he can,
For he's the High Sheriff of Hazard.
He looked through my pockets, he searched them with care,
But nary a nickel or penny was there.
So I got thirty days and some bumps in my hair.
God bless the High Sheriff of Hazard.

He caught me one evening and here's what he said:
'You look like a Russian, you look like a Red,
And if you are fond of your skin and your head,
Beware the High Sheriff of Hazard.'
I thanked him politely, I thanked him for all,
And five minutes later, I made a phone call
To call a strike meeting at our union hall,
And damn the High Sheriff of Hazard"

--1964 lyric by Tom Paxton


As Drawn By A Daring New Italian Lexicographer

It is interesting to observe what words have come to mean in the new lexicon rapidly being shaped up for the world by the Fascist powers. Sunday at Turin Mussolini thundered and roared for peace, declared the Axis has had no notion or thought of anything but peace. Only, he said, the Axis powers were resolutely resolved to repel any attack by England and France. Only, he said, peace, of course, must be "peace with justice."

And then he went on to make it perfectly clear that he regarded England and France as already engaged in an attack by reason of their present efforts to form an alliance to head off yielding to the demands formulated by Germany and Italy.

All of which seems to add up to these definitions: Justice: the fulfillment of all demands that Herr Hitler or Signor Mussolini may now or hereafter make on their neighbors. Attack: any effort on the part of those neighbors to get themselves into position to refuse to fulfill those demands. Peace: a condition in which Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler would perpetually have all their way.


Chandler Has A Very Narrow Line To Stay On In Harlan

Governor "Happy Chandler" of Kentucky is into position of a funambulist a-balancing on his tight rope--in that use of troops in Bloody Harlan County. So far as the troops are used in the maintaining of order and the insuring of the rights of everybody equally, nobody, including the union, can well object. And, though the union will in fact object to it, bona-fide non-union miners are entitled to protection from mass intimidation if they genuinely do want to go back to work without waiting for the signing of the union contract.

But there is very grave danger that the troops may serve other purposes. The record overwhelmingly shows that for years the coal operators of Harlan have (1) ruled the county with a ruthless and entirely illegal tyranny; (2) waged a bitter-end war to root the union completely out of their satrapy; and (3) balked at nothing, including gross corruption, the prostitution of the police force, organized terrorism, and even outright murder, to maintain their position and achieve their purpose.

Governor Chandler had better remember that, in keeping his eye and his hand closely on those troops. For if they should be used to cover the occupation of the mines and the mine towns, not by bona-fide miners but by hired strike-breakers (plug-uglies and gunmen, such as the Harlan operators are known to have used many times before this); if even by indirection the use of these troops should contribute to the operators' purpose of breaking the union and to maintaining their high-handed government in those parts, then he probably would, and ought, to be held responsible.


To The Notable Traits Of Mecklenburg And Charlotte

That Mecklenburg and Charlotte commonly enjoy a reputation in the state somewhat akin to that of Kilkenny cats is well known. That is, it is almost universally believed about us that no two people within the purlieus of the county and the town have ever been known to agree on anything. That, of course, is only a base libel invented in the infidel parts; for it is a matter of fact a great many of 'em, these people, can and do agree among themselves. The Blue Law'ers, for example, can and do get together in solid ranks, though the antis can't. And so on and so on. Still, perhaps there is a measure of truth in the charge.

All of which is by way of introduction to remarking that there is another characteristic which seems to have been overlooked by the mocking in partibus infidelium. We mean that, if the conduct of the governing bodies in these parts can be taken as a criterion, there is in evidence in Mecklenburg and Charlotte a vast reluctance to take any definite decision of any sort. Forty times in the last two years the City Council has been advertised to do this or that decisive thing, but when the time came they always climbed up on the fence, and when driven at last into action performed like a small boy condemned to take a bath. And so with the County Commissioners--as witness their actions yesterday in the case of Jailer Howell.

We are not arguing that Jailer Howell may not actually deserve another chance, though by the record it is a little hard to believe. We are merely remarking on the extreme reluctance of our masters to take the decisions they are represented beforehand as being determined to take. But maybe it is a good thing, as serving at least to head off precipitate action like that the City Council was recently about to take in connection with the police department. Anyhow, it keeps us from running out of controversies.

A King's Aim

It's Propaganda All Right, But He Won't Bite Us For All That

What General Ironpants Johnson argues in his column today is, of course, basically true. The King and Queen of England have come to Canada primarily to tighten anew the old bond of that country with the motherland, which of late has been growing increasingly loose. And after Canada they are coming over to Washington to the end also of building up good-will for England among us, and doing their best to prepare us for siding England in war--if war comes.

But while that is true, it is totally unnecessary to get as exercised about it as Ironpants obviously is. As one who, somewhat belatedly, has turned isolationist, he seems to subscribe to the standard isolation theories, which have it that we were euchred into the last war through (1) cunning British propaganda, and (2) the machinations of Walter Hines Page as Ambassador to the Court of St. James, and (3) perhaps the machinations of the House of Morgan, anxious to rescue its loans to the Allies. But all that is mainly a myth, and much too simple a one to explain the case. After the Germans, the British are the poorest of all propagandists, as anyone who has listened to the BBC stations should know. And in fact, we went to war in 1917 primarily not because of any of the things maintained in the isolationist thesis, but for what President Wilson and most Americans judged to be excellent and sound reasons of national interest. Perhaps they were mistaken. But if after reading Johnson, you read Dorothy Thompson for today--if you consider what might have been the case had the Germans won the war--, you'll perhaps no longer be so sure of it.


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