The Charlotte News

Tuesday, April 18, 1939


Site Ed. Note: "Free Speech" refers to the case of Kessler v. Strecker, 307 US 22, which declined to uphold an order of deportation against an alien for past membership in the Communist Party. The Court ruled that the statutes under which the man was ordered deported, passed in 1917 and 1918 in the wake of the Communist Revolution in Russia, applied only to present membership in an organization advocating the overthrow of the government and not past membership, and so remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings to determine whether the man had present affiliation with any such organization. The Court did not take up the issue of the constitutionality of the statute in the first place.

And, though having nothing to do with this day's editorials in 1939, (other than that perhaps volcanoes sometimes are premonitory of earthquakes in other locations), we would be remiss not to point out that April 18, 2006 is the 100th anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake. Having worked from a building for many years which, in the process of construction at the time, survived that earthquake, and having been heading toward that same building when the earthquake of 1989 struck, we feel a certain, unsettling shake in the ground beneath our feet whenever we think of either incident.

Drys Disagree

Three Commissioners Listen To Reason

One bit of information adduced in the County Commissioners' discussion yesterday of whether to sell confiscated bottled liquor to ABC stores or to pour it down the drain: all five Commissioners went on record as having voted dry in recent liquor elections, and were proud of it. Mr. Harkey and Mr. Wearn, indeed, contended that the question before the House, the practical question of what to do with the stuff, had already been settled by the mandates of 1933 and 1937, but the other three Commissioners reasoned among themselves that the Eighteenth Amendment and the proposition of liquor stores for Mecklenburg County were extraneous to the business in hand, and accordingly brought their judgment to bear on it independently.

And that, messires, is encouraging. For the worst thing about prohibition is that, once its supporters do their duty of voting for it, they go their ways convinced that the liquor traffic has been safely turned back again and that all is precisely as it should be. And unless we mistake, a majority of the Commissioners yesterday dissented from the view and virtually conceded that liquor, even in the face of statutory prohibition, remains almost as much a problem as ever.

Gentleman's First

Career Of R. G. Rhett, Modern Charlestonian

In the career of R. Goodwyn Rhett, who died at Charleston Sunday, there was much of what one naturally expects from a Charleston Rhett. He was educated at Porter Military Academy, the Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., and the University of Virginia. And that a Rhett should attend military school, that he should be an Episcopalian, and that he should go to that citadel of Southern gentility, Virginia, was as natural as the getting up of the sun in the morning.

But there were some curious exceptions in the ancient pattern in his career. Born in 1862, perhaps it was not only marvelous that he was a banker, for the notion that "trade" was unbecoming to a gentleman never was so strong in Charleston as in some other parts of the Old South. But it is somewhat startling to observe that this Rhett from Charleston--a town which still largely holds out against the Chamber of Commerce idea--was President of the United States Chamber of Commerce as long ago as 1918. And most curious of all is the fact that he is said to have been the first baseball pitcher to throw a curved ball in South Carolina. Outdoor sports? Certainly, the old Charleston gentry always went in for them, but only for such of them as have immemorially been called "gentlemanly." And baseball was both a Yankee invention--when everything Yankee was anathema in Dixie--and also rather distinctly plebian!

Nothing can more strikingly mark the great passage through which the South went in the Civil War and the years that followed.

Free Speech

Strecker Decision Was Inevitable Under Our Bill Of Rights

The decision of the Supreme Course court in the Strecker case was a foregone conclusion. The Court apparently confined itself purely to the question of the statute and did not go into its constitutionality. And the statute itself obviously applied only to immigrants entering the country--not to those already here. More than that it is aimed only at those who do not believe in organized government at all--at anarchists, who were the Great Menace at the time it was written. But Communists are not opposed to organized government; on the contrary they believe in it with a vengeance, want to make it all powerful, to give it all rights as against the individual. Old Marx himself, indeed, dreamed of a time when government would eventually be unnecessary in his proletarian paradise, but in practice the Communists have never taken that seriously.

The single way in which the statute might have been made to apply was to do what Justice McReynolds and Butler demanded in their minority opinion, and make it mean that what would have served to bar an alien in the first place would always hold against him so long as he was here. But that would have been to stretch its meaning all out of reason, and in addition to ignore the Constitution. For that document says quite plainly (Amendment One, Bill of Rights) that "The Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." Which, is to say, of course, the freedom of opinion. You can reasonably argue that aliens may be barred out for their opinions, on the ground that the Amendment was meant to apply only within our own borders. But once an alien is allowed to enter here, he inevitably comes under the protection of the provision. Else the way is open for the destruction of the right of all of us to hold and assert our opinions.

Headline Stuff

Relief Investigation Hunts For Sensations

That House investigation of relief, which everybody took as a good sign of Congressional independence and a re-examination of policies hastily adopted, has got off to a start that makes it look like a subsidiary of the Dies Committee. The whole of the first day was taken up with a look-see into the Soviet connections of David Lasser, Redish head of the Workers Alliance, a WPA union. Particular attention was paid to the uncomplimentary things Lasser had said about Congress's bad faith and misrepresentations in cutting the relief appropriation.

The extent of radicalism in relief is an interesting sidelight, but hardly of first importance. A Red, after all, must eat, and it is pointless to make him sing The Star-Spangled Banner for his supper. On the other hand, there are a number of mysteries about relief and the good or bad effects of relief which ought to be cleared up. How much of it, for example, is rank patronage? What effect does it have on individual initiative? How did all these people get along before there was such a thing as relief? What proportion of it goes to the amelioration of genuine hardship, and what to the subsidization of ne'er-do-wells? How much of the annual outlay of billions is essential, and how much a gratification of the socialistic yearnings of such high-placed officials as Aubrey Williams of National Youth Administration?

David Lasser is known in advance for a highly unadmirable person, by traditional American standards; an opportunist spawned by relief as certainly as he would have been spawned by the lack of any relief. But he is an incidental effect. What the House needs to look into is causes.

In The Volcano

Three Moves By Hitler Which Indicate How He Means Peace

Three things in the European news are particularly interesting.

First is the fact that the "Free City" of Danzig (actually already Nazi controlled) yesterday ordered all residents to turn their money into the official currency. That looks like a move on the part of Hitler to concentrate the gold in the place, so he can cart it off to Berlin once he gets his hooks on the town.

Second is the report that a halt has been called on the plans of Danzig Nazis to present the town to Der Furious Thursday as a birthday present. That seems to suggest that he may be playing for time. But it may be a feint. In any case, he certainly means to take it. Not that it is important in itself. It includes 754 square miles of territory and 400,000 people. But 50 per cent of Poland's trade at present passes through it. And if he takes it, it is doubtful that the new Corridor port of Gdynia can be expanded rapidly enough to take care of that trade. In short, the possession of Danzig will probably enable him to control Poland's economic destiny, and so, in the end, its political destiny.

Last is the information that the German fleet has sailed from Kiel to "maneuver" near the Strait of Gibraltar. It is manifestly a threat for England. In the last war, the German fleet was bottled up in the Baltic. If war comes now, it won't be. And it is by no means impossible that this German fleet may attempt to steam into the Mediterranean, to back up Mussolini. If it did, the British and French would be faced with a fateful decision--whether to destroy it as it attempted the Strait or to let it pass in the hope still of averting war--knowing that it would make the Italian dictator far stronger for challenging them.


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