The Charlotte News

Thursday, July 27, 1939


Site Ed. Note: We set forth the entire April 7, 1775 entry--occurring twelve days before, across the sea, a battle would occur on Lexington Green involving many anti-patriots--on the conversation with Johnson as chronicled by Boswell containing the oft-quoted--and always timely--aphorismic caveat to which Cash makes reference in "Poison Bait".

Friday, April 7, I dined with him at a Tavern, with a numerous company. JOHNSON. "I have been reading Twiss's Travels in Spain, which are just come out. They are as good as the first book of travels that you will take up. They are as good as those of Keysler or Blainville; nay, as Addison's, if you except the learning. They are not so good as Brydone's, but they are better than Pococke's. I have not, indeed, cut the leaves yet; but I have read in them where the pages are open, and I do not suppose that what is in the pages which are closed is worse than what is in the open pages. It would seem (he added,) that Addison had not acquired much Italian learning, for we do not find it introduced into his writings. The only instance that I recollect, is his quoting 'Stavo bene; per star meglio, sto qui.'"

I mentioned Addison's having borrowed many of his classical remarks from Leandro Alberti. Mr. Beauclerk said, "It was alledged that he had borrowed also from another Italian authour." JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, all who go to look for what the Classicks have said of Italy, must find the same passages; and I should think it would be one of the first things the Italians would do on the revival of learning, to collect all that the Roman authors have said of their country."

Ossian being mentioned; JOHNSON. "Supposing the Irish and Erse languages to be the same, which I do not believe, yet as there is no reason to suppose that the inhabitants of the Highlands and Hebrides ever wrote their native language, it is not to be credited that a long poem was preserved among them. If we had no evidence of the art of writing being practised in one of the counties of England, we should not believe that a long poem was preserved there, though in the neighbouring counties, where the same language was spoken, the inhabitants could write." BEAUCLERK. "The ballad of Lilliburlero was once in the mouths of all the people of this country, and is said to have had a great effect in bringing about the Revolution. Yet I question whether any body can repeat it now; which shews how improbable it is that much poetry should be preserved by tradition."

One of the company suggested an internal objection to the antiquity of the poetry said to be Ossian's, that we do not find the wolf in it, which must have been the case had it been of that age.

The mention of the wolf had led Johnson to think of other wild beasts; and while Sir Joshua Reynolds and Mr. Langton were carrying on a dialogue about something which engaged them earnestly, he, in the midst of it, broke out, "Pennant tells of Bears--"[what he added, I have forgotten.] They went on, which he being dull of hearing, did not perceive, or, if he did, was not willing to break off his talk; so he continued to vociferate his remarks, and Bear ("like a word in a catch" as Beauclerk said,) was repeatedly heard at intervals, which coming from him who, by those who did not know him, had been so often assimilated to that ferocious animal, while we who were sitting around could hardly stifle laughter, produced a very ludicrous effect. Silence having ensued, he proceeded: "We are told, that the black bear is innocent; but I should not like to trust myself with him." Mr. Gibbon muttered, in a low tone of voice. "I should not like to trust myself with you." This piece of sarcastick pleasantry was a prudent resolution, if applied to a competition of abilities.

Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." 1 But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest. I maintain, that certainly all patriots were not scoundrels. Being urged, (not by Johnson) to name one exception, I mentioned an eminent person, [Edmund Burke, who had recently made a speech in Parliament on March 22 on conciliation with America], whom we all greatly admired. JOHNSON. "Sir, I do not say that he is not honest; but we have no reason to conclude from his political conduct that he is honest. Were he to accept of a place from this ministry, he would lose that character of firmness which he has, and might be turned out of his place in a year. This ministry is neither stable, nor grateful to their friends, as Sir Robert Walpole was, so that he may think it more for his interest to take his chance of his party coming in."

Mrs. Prichard being mentioned, he said, "Her playing was quite mechanical. It is wonderful how little mind she had. Sir, she had never read the tragedy of Macbeth all through. She no more thought of the play out of which her part was taken, than a shoemaker thinks of the skin, out of which the piece of leather, of which he is making a pair of shoes, is cut."

1 We may compare with this Dryden's line: "Usurped a patriot's all-atoning name." Absalom and Achitophel, l. 179. Hawkins (Life, p. 506) says that "to party opposition Johnson ever expressed great aversion, and of the pretences of patriots always spoke with indignation and contempt." He had, Hawkins adds, "partaken of the short-lived joy that infatuated the public" when Walpole fell; but a few days convinced him that the patriotism of the opposition had been either hatred or ambition. For patriots, see ante, i. 296, note, and post, April 6, 1781.

On Friday, April 6, [1781] he carried me to dine at a club, which, at his desire, had been lately formed at the Queen's Arms, in St. Paul's Church-yard. He told Mr. Hoole, that he wished to have a City Club, and asked him to collect one; but, said he, "Don't let them be patriots." 2 The company were to-day very sensible, well-behaved men. I have preserved only two particulars of his conversation. He said he was glad Lord George Gordon had escaped, rather than that a precedent should be established for hanging a man for constructive treason; which, in consistency with his true, manly, constitutional Toryism, he considered would be a dangerous engine of arbitrary power. And upon its being mentioned that an opulent and very indolent Scotch nobleman, who totally resigned the management of his affairs to a man of knowledge and abilities, had claimed some merit by saying, "The next best thing to managing a man's own affairs well is being sensible of incapacity, and not attempting it, but having full confidence in one who can do it:" JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, this is paltry. There is a middle course. Let a man give application; and depend upon it he will soon get above a despicable state of helplessness, and attain the power of acting for himself."

2 In the fourth edition of his Dictionary, published in 1773, Johnson introduced a second definition of patriot: "It is sometimes used for a factious disturber of the government." Gibbon (Misc. Works, ii. 77) wrote on Feb. 21, 1772: "Charles Fox is commenced patriot, and is already attempting to pronounce the words, country, liberty, corruption, &c.; with what success time will discover." Forty years before Johnson begged not to meet patriots, Sir Robert Walpole said: "A patriot, Sir! why patriots spring up like mushrooms. I could raise fifty of them within the four-and-twenty hours. I have raised many of them in one night. It is but refusing to gratify an unreasonable or an insolent demand, and up starts a patriot. I have never been afraid of making patriots; but I disdain and despise all their efforts." Coxe's Walpole, i. 659. See ante, ii. 348, and iii. 66.

Poison Bait

Those Red, White And Blue Circulars Are False

Yesterday there appeared in Charlotte a flood of circulars all done up in red, white and blue--obviously for the purpose of persuading the credulous that the thing they advocated was necessary to the patriotic defense of the republic.

"Patriotism," growled the old Dr. Johnson, "is the last refuge of scoundrels." He seems to have been slightly in error. In these days, it is the standard stock in trade of such gentry.

What the circulars, issued by a propaganda outfit masquerading under a misleading name, were up to was the peddling of falsehood and hate under the guise of answering a recent statement of Eddy Cantor to the effect that the Hon. Robert Rice Reynolds, Coughlin, Van Horne Moseley, and others of the chief peddlers of poison were the "enemies of all of America"--and the wrangling of money out of the pockets of poor laboring men who fear for their jobs.

The principal argument was that to agree with Cantor would be to flood this country with foreigners to take the jobs of men at work.

That happens to be demonstrably a falsehood.

According to official figures of the U. S. Bureau of Immigration, in the six-year period 1932-38 only one-forth as many immigrants as were eligible to come here under the present quotas actually entered this country. More than that, 4,000 more aliens left this country in that period than entered it.

The people of Charlotte will be well-advised to keep their money in their pockets. The true purpose behind all this is utterly vicious, and has nothing to do with protecting jobs. It is the pumping up of a crusade of hate for the aggrandizing of a few ambitious and unscrupulous men who haven't the intelligence and dignity to achieve power otherwise.

After The Inch

The Little Brown Man Grabs For His Mile

That the British Government has made a bad mistake in yielding to Japan's demands in the case of Tientsin, already begins to seem highly probable. The little brown man, having been given an inch, which translates to interstellar distances in terms of his peculiar psychology of "face," seems to be out now to take miles in actuality. Beginning by slapping Uncle Sam around somewhat tentatively, he has now boldly announced that he means to close up the Pearl River at Canton for two weeks, as against all shipping, including both British and American. That is by far the most daring step he has yet taken, and one which he clearly knows the Western powers are likely to regard as very grave. Hence his out--that two weeks limit. Apparently he wants to close the river as a test. If the powers submit, then he will hereafter assume to open it only on his own terms. Should they refuse, if he can hold out two weeks, he can still save his "face."

For Washington this is a serious problem, for acceptance of the blockade means de facto acceptance of Japan's power in China, and brings Japan closer to the Philippines. But for the British, it is many times more serious. For the closing of the Pearl River amounts to a blockade of Hong Kong, the British island possession which stands off its mouth. The Pearl River is navigable for 380 miles into the interior of the rich Kwantung Province, and, of course, controls the commerce of the great city of Canton, with its population of nearly one million. And it is for and by the commerce of this river that Hong Kong exists. If the Japanese make good in their effort here, Hong Kong will have become valueless and Britain will have lost her single greatest stake in China.

Nevertheless, she may submit. Hong Kong is fortified, but it is doubtful that it could be used as a base for extensive naval operations. And the next nearest British naval base is Singapore, a steaming distance of 1,520 miles away. The French have nearer bases in the Gulf of Canton, but these also are too small for extensive operations. And even if Uncle Sam co-operated, Manila is 900 miles away, and, as Admiral Cervera once sadly found out, is anything else than a good naval base.

Cox's Army

There's Gene, Lamar, Ode, Mrs. Jim, Charles, Etc., Etc.

There was a time when, if you called a politician a nepotist, you'd better smile. Back there in 1931 and 1932, it was an unfamiliar and ugly word.

Literally the bestowal of patronage upon nephews, it had been stretched by usage to include the whole danged family. So had the patronage. The Congressional Directory was full of clerks and office-holders of the same surname as many a Senator and Representative.

John Nance Garner himself, at that time Speaker of the House, was a practitioner. In fact, the Congressional Directory still lists three Garners beside the Vice-President.

People got pretty indignant about it then, because times were hard and jobs scarce and it didn't seem right that entire family connections should pull at the public teat. But with the advent of Roosevelt and free rides on the Federal gravy train, nepotism was placed in a different, less unbecoming perspective. By New Deal standards of patronage, embracing whole strategic states, nepotism became small potatoes.

And so when Washington Merry-Go-Round disclosed a day or so ago that the heroic Hon. E. E. Cox of Georgia was No. 1 Dipper-Into-the-Public-Trough, who drew together with his relatives more salary from the Government than any single officer except the President, it created not even a ripple. Indeed, about the only memorable result at all was the inspired caption over this article.

Penny Wise*

Budget Climbs Up A Step And Slips Back Seven

"Economy," proclaims Senator Bailey, "is abroad in the land." He hails as a sign of its advent the Senate Commerce Committee's action in sidetracking the omnibus bill authorizing 400-millions for rivers and harbors and other public works dear to the heart of Congressmen.

The Senator's inability to see eye to eye with the Administration about "all that money" is well enough known to suggest that he may have been indulging in satire. For at the very time his Senate Commerce Committee was putting off the expenditure of 400 millions, the Senate as a whole was taking up the expenditure of six or seven times as much.

Worse still, Majority Leader Barkley was arguing that there was no cause for alarm, that the Government was only spending these vast sums because private capital was timid about going to work, and that it all came to the same thing in the end.

Ouch! He forgets something. That whereas private capital is in the hands of a bunch of total strangers, this money the Government spends so freely is OUR money. At least we're going to have to pay it back.


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