The Charlotte News
Saturday, September 24, 1938
Site Ed. Note: The storm to which the below editorial refers was the so-called "Long Island Express", before the 1950 convention of naming storms was established. It had passed north of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola on September 18-19 as a category 5 hurricane, skirted the U.S. coast, passing about 150 miles east of Cape Hatteras on the 21st, then turned northward at a furious pace, coursing vortically over Long Island the same afternoon, registering sustained winds of 121 mph with gusts reaching 183, minimum barometric pressure at 27.94, ranking it as a category 3 hurricane. The deadly storm, the worst ever to hit New England, as it did so without prior landfall, after tracking across Long Island, hurled itself across western Connecticut, and western Massachusetts, causing 10-12 foot storm surges in Narragansett and Buzzards Bays. The flooding, to which the editorial alludes, arose primarily from the banks of the Connecticut River.
Six hundred died, 8,000 homes were lost, and a third of a billion 1938 dollars in damage resulted, (4.748 billion adjusted for inflation).
The storm, until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, had the fourth highest death toll of any recorded storm in U. S. history and was the ninth most costly in property damage.
Now, it ranks fifth and tenth, respectively.
And it is the only time that Cash ever wrote about a hurricane. If you thought that we thus chose to come to this month's editorials in September, 2005 because of the whorling Katrina of August 29, 2005, after coursing through the four months of 1939 leading up to World War II during the period May to August, 2005, you'd be guessing incorrectly. It was by the purest coincidence that we landed here now--mainly, of course, chosen for the timing of Munich.
And this hurricane of 1938, perhaps a little coincidentally itself, had its origins a few hundred miles out from Dakar, about 500 miles north of Lomboko, near Sierra Leone, making initial landfall at Fire Island, about 40 miles west of Montauk Point, near which lies Culloden Point.
It was here at Culloden Point that an apparitional ship was discovered anchored, inhabited primarily by blacks, by a survey ship, the U.S. cutter Washington, on August 26, 1839.
It turned out, upon investigation aboard, that the ship had set sail from Havana in June with a cargo of 49 slaves bound for Guanaja; four days out upon the journey, there was a mutiny and the captain was killed by the slaves brandishing sugarcane knives.
The leader of the mutiny, one Cingue, had been kidnapped by four African men off the road near his home in Mani, in the Mendi country of Africa, ten days from the island of Lomboko from which those sold into slavery were disembarked to cut the cane in Cuba for the sugar and rum merchant trade. Cingue had been sold by his kidnappers first to an African Vai-man, then to a Spanish slaver, thence to Cuba.
A phrenologist who did a work-up on Cingue described him this way:
Cingue appears to be about 26 years of age, of powerful frame, bilious and sanguine temperament, bilious predominating. His head by measurement is 22 3-8 inches in circumference, 15 inches from the root of the nose to the occipital protuberance over the top of the head, 15 inches from the Meatus Anditorious to do. over the head, and 5 3-4 inches through the head at destructiveness.
The development of the faculties is as follows: Firmness; self-esteem; hope--VERY LARGE. Benevolence; veneration; conscientiousness; approbativeness; wonder; concentrativeness; inhabitiveness; comparison; form--LARGE. Amativeness; philoprogenitiveness; adhesiveness; combativeness; destructiveness; secretiveness; constructiveness; caution; language; individuality; eventuality; causality; order--AVERAGE. Alimentiveness; acquisitiveness; ideality; mirthfulness; imitation; size; weight; color; locality; number; time; tune--MODERTE and SMALL. The head is well formed and such as a phrenologist admires. The coronal region being the largest, the frontal and occipital nearly balanced, and the baislar moderte. In fact, such an African head is seldom to be seen, and doubtless in other circumstances would have been an honor to his race.
Gilabaru, second in command of the mutineers, was captured similarly on the road near his home in the Mendi and sold to a Vai-man who sold him to a Spanish slaver at Lomboko. In Gilabaru's case, his abduction was in recompense for the escape of one of two slaves purchased by his uncle in Bandi and then bartered in repayment of a debt. Gilabaru explained that Africans thus taken into captivity at Lomboko were chained together and fed fish and rice in scant enough equivalent necessary to keep them living for the voyage which lay ahead. Gilabaru, according to the narrative, was "very active, especially in turning somersets."
Another of the slave-mutineers, Kimbo, also from the Mendi country, had been taken as a slave by his king at the death of his father. He never saw any books in his country. "When people die in his country, they suppose the spirit lives, but where they cannot tell."
"NAZHA-U-LU, (a water stick,) also called from his country, Kon-no-ma, is 5ft. 4 in. in height, has large lips, and projecting mouth, his incisor teeth pressed outward and filed, giving him rather a savage appearance; he is the one who was supposed to be a cannibal, (see page 5,) tattooed in the forehead with a diamond shaped figure. He was born in the Konno country: his language is not readily understood by Covey, the interpreter. Kon-no-ma recognizes many words in Mungo Park's Mandingo vocabulary."
"Bur-na, the younger, height 5 ft. 2 in. lived in a small town in the Mendi country. He counts in Tim-ma-ni and Bullom. He was a blacksmith in his native village, and made hoes, axes, and knives; he also planted rice. He was sold for crim. con. to a Spaniard at Lomboko. He was taken in the road, and was four days in traveling to Lomboko. Has a wife and one child, a father, three sisters and brothers living."
And it goes on that way for the other 32 still living by May, 1840, when John Warner Barber penned his account of the mutineers, "A History of the Amistad Captives". Six others still living when captured aboard the ghost vessel had died in the interim at New Haven. The others had perished during the two months at sea since the mutiny.
In the ensuing Federal court case over whether the Spanish slavers had the right to ownership of these men as chattel or whether they were captured on American free soil and hence entitled to the rights of free men or whether they were shipped to Cuba in violation of Spanish law ab initio and hence to be returned to Africa, or whether only the courts of Cuba, not the United States, should have proper jurisdiction over this latter question, Gilabaru and Kimbo testified that they had recently been shipped from Africa to Cuba, thus Bozals in the language of Cuba. To become a Bozal, Gilabaru and Kimbo had been bound with their fellow captives by wrists and ankles in chains two by two day and night, crammed into four foot high decks crowded thick with others similarly captured out of the Mendi, mostly women and children, unable to sleep without pain, fed a little rice and a small amount of water daily, riding the seas in the vomit of their fellows, whipped to open sores into which gunpowder and vinegar were then poured, women and children crying in voyage, crying upon the occasion of reaching Cuba, those who didn't die in passage that is, faced with the separation forever from their fellow tribesmen of the Mendi; Gilabaru and Kimbo were sad, but did not cry, for they were men, they said.
Once purchased by two Cubans, Jose Ruiz and Pedro Montez, in Havana out of the Barracoons, the slave marts, to which all Bozals were immediately taken after landing, they were placed on board the Amistad for the journey to Granaja, constrained in iron collars about their hands, feet and neck, tied together by chains by night and whipped, given little food and water, told by the mulatto cook aboard ship that they were to be eaten upon coming to port at Principe. After four days of this torture, they managed to break the padlock holding the chain, seized the cane knives, killed the captain and the cook, and took the remaining crew and their owners captive for the voyage back home to the Mendi country.
The captive crew steered the ship in stealth northward and westward when they could, against the insistence exerted upon them on pain of death by the mutineers that they steer east toward Africa. After two months at sea, they wound up off Culloden Point.
Kimbo said of the people of New England, "They are good people--they believe in God, and there is no slavery here."
When the author of the account tried to explain to Cingue the form of government in the United States, however, it was not well understood:
"...[W]hen in answer to his inquiries I informed him that our 'great man' was not great man for life, but was elected once in four years, he seemed not a little astonished; surprise however soon gave way to boisterous laughter at my expense, in which nearly all his companions joined. The ideas of a democracy, and rotation in office, seemed to him new, strange, and ridiculous. The king receives his support from the contributions of his people. At the appearance of each new moon, they bring their offerings, the rich and the poor according to their ability."
Pervading the subsequent legal proceedings was the question of whether the Spanish government should be entitled under a 1795 treaty to the right of trial of the mutineers for murder of its citizens. The Van Buren Administration wished to acquiesce to the requests of the Spanish government to return the men to Cuba where they could attempt to prove before its courts that they were not properly slaves under Spanish law, as a defense to their conduct aboard ship in killing and kidnapping their kidnappers. Of course, had this position of the President been carried to action, it would have assuredly led to the men being tried in Cuba as murderous villains of Spanish citizens and inevitably shot or hanged. The coffers in Cuba, after all, grew fat from the trade, receiving an illegal payment of ten dollars per head for every one of the twenty to twenty-five thousand slaves imported annually since the slave trade had been outlawed by Spain fully 19 years earlier.
The District Court and Circuit Court of Appeals had determined that the men were taken into slavery illegally in violation of the Spanish law and thus directed the President to dispatch a ship to carry them back to Africa.
The case, controversial for its ramifications to slavery in general, landed finally before the Supreme Court where former President John Quincy Adams, together with future Connecticut Governor Roger Baldwin, who had successfully argued the case below, argued for the mutineers' freedom from tyranny, from slavery.
In The Amistad, 40 US 518, (1841), the Court in an 8 to 1 decision, with Justice Joseph Story writing for the majority, reached the conclusion that the men were kidnapped in violation of the laws of Spain and, having resisted legally the force of their kidnappers, were thereafter found awash in free territory of the United States, thus were henceforth free men.
Said Story of the mutineers:
"[T]hey were not pirates, nor in any sense hostes humani generis. Cinque, the master-spirit who guided them, had a single object in view. That object was--not piracy or robbery--but the deliverance of himself and his companions in suffering, from unlawful bondage. They owed no allegiance to Spain. They were on board of the Amistad, by constraint. Their object was to free themselves from the fetters that bound them, in order that they might return to their kindred and their home. In so doing, they were guilty of no crime, for which they could be held responsible as pirates. [Citation.] Suppose, they had been impressed American seamen, who had regained their liberty in a similar manner, would they in that case have been deemed guilty of piracy and murder? Not! in the opinion of Chief Justice MARSHALL. In his celebrated speech in justification of the surrender by President Adams of Nash, under the British treaty, he says: 'Had Thomas Nash been an impressed American, the homicide on board the Hermione would most certainly not have been murder. The act of impressing an American is an act of lawless violence. The confinement on board a vessel is a continuation of that violence, and an additional outrage. Death committed within the United States, in resisting such violence, would not have been murder.'" (Ibid. at 559)
The order of the lower courts for transport of the men back to Africa was thus reversed, but in all other respects affirmed.
And 99 years plus 26 days after the Brig Washington spotted the ghost ship at anchor off Culloden Point near Montauk on the easternmost point of Long Island, a ship described by one of the men aboard the Washington who first visited it as "such a sight as we never saw before and never wish to see again... bottom and sides of this vessel are covered with barnacles and sea-grass, while her rigging and sails presented an appearance worthy of the Flying Dutchman, after her fabled cruise...": 99 years plus 26 days after an American first laid eyes on that, this hurricane came storming out of the Atlantic basin, formed a few hundred miles west of Dakar in the roiling, briny wash westward across the treacherous three thousand mile voyage through landless turbidity, to the islands of the Caribbean; northward then it turned from there, outlining the Atlantic coast, swaying and jutting just as the land also sways and juts, by the Lighthouse at Hatteras, then fast, fast, striking land on Fire Island at Davis Park, Great South Beach, in the North.
The nickname of a storm pouncing on New England and Storm Troopers, in formation, readying themselves to pounce on Czechoslovakia, bore identical acronymic sigla of the day--Big Sigla--this day, full of coincidences, in 1938.
FROM MONTAUK POINT.
I STAND as on some mighty eagle's beak,
Eastward the sea absorbing, viewing, (nothing but sea and sky,)
The tossing waves, the foam, the ships in the distance,
The wild unrest, the snowy, curling caps--that enbound urge and urge
--Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
After the Storm
"There is nothing here but land, sea and sky," was the way a reporter described the scene in the Great Salt Pond section, containing the settlements of Jerusalem and Galilee, after the great hurricane had swept over diminutive Rhode Island. A while before it there had been the trappings of a sort of civilization, and then came an immense and a terrifying wind, wildly shrieking, obliterating all before it and leaving nothing but the land, the sea and the sky.
And in a time like that, all concerns lesser than the simple preservation of life and escape before the resistless wind and the mountainous waters piled up by the wind, are obscured. Man, puny little man with his vain pretensions, is brought into violent contact with the elements from which, when they are kind, all life is derived, and to which, when they are angry, life returns.
There is a lesson in it, probably, but there is no use stating it, for it will be forgotten, just as the lesser concerns of these harried people will again, that the storm has passed, become paramount. But for the moment they are experiencing the blessed relief of merely being alive and finding it sweet. Come to think of it, it is; only, we come to think of it so seldom.
Site Ed. Note: Foreshadowing Kristallnacht, to come in Germany proper on November 9 and 10, attacks had been launched by Sudeten Germans on Jewish synagogues in Cheb and Marienbad (Mariánské Lázn) in Czech territory, Bohemian towns near the German border, the day before. This day would see riots staged against Jews in Strasbourg, the central city in the territory ceded from Germany to France at Versailles, formerly Alsace-Lorraine. The Nazi needed his scapegoat, whether Czech or Jew, or later Pole, (still his good pals in 1938), to give rationalization for his Storm. There is no other way for a Nazi.
Lord Hitler has demanded that the Czechs demobilize and allow his troops to occupy the Sudeten regions at once. And that, you might think at first glance, is as "mild and conciliatory" as Berlin is this morning yelling that it is. After all, the Czechs themselves have already agreed to cede the Sudeten territory, haven't they? And if there isn't going to be a war, why should they be mobilized?
But--according to Havas, the French news agency, Lord Hitler has given not a single promise in return for the demands he makes. The boundaries of the territory which are to be his have not begun to be fixed. No provision whatever has been made for the orderly removal of the 750,000 Czechs now living in Sudeten territory and who emphatically do not want to be taken into Nazi Germany. And--not even the papier-maché promise to respect the boundaries, any new boundaries, of Czechoslovakia has been vouchsafed. Why, indeed, when you think of it, do you suppose that Lord Hitler is so urgent to get his troops into the area, to have the Czechs demonized? After all, he is certain to get the territory by orderly cession within a few months at most. And is there anybody who is idiot enough to believe that he actually fears the Czechoslovakian army might attack Germany?
The answer to it all is plain enough in the record. A thousand times the fellow has himself told us that Czechoslovakia must be destroyed, not in part but in toto. Der Angriff, the organ of Lord Goebbels, was even yesterday roaring that it be forthrightly partitioned. But Hitler's own organ, Der Beobachter, took a different line. It said merely that Hitler must be sure that the new Czechoslovakia have a government that would not turn to Communism. What that means, we know; for at Nurnberg Hitler reiterated his ancient proposition that democratic governments are the breeding ground of Communism. It means that Czechoslovakia must no longer have a democratic government but a Nazi government.
And who do you suppose will make up that government? Czechs? It is impossible. There are no Nazis among the Czechs, and will not be. The Czechs are a decent and honorable people, respecting the heritage of man, and they are no more likely to turn Nazi than they are likely to turn cannibal--or gorilla. But there will be several hundred thousand Germans living in the new Czechoslovakia, whatever her boundaries. And it will be these who will make up the Nazi government of Czechoslovakia,--a government which will certainly take orders direct from Berlin and which will disband the Czechoslovakian army completely as no longer necessary to the state in the protective custody of Lord Hitler.
There you have it. Lord Hitler wants to take over the Sudeten areas where all the Czechoslovakian fortresses are and to demobilize its army in order to strip it completely naked for the working of his whole will upon it. First he will fix the Sudeten boundaries exactly where he pleases. Then he will lop off probably so much as he wants the Hungarian and Polish dogs to have. And if his eagerness does not get the best of him and lead him simply to annex all the rest to Germany, he will set up such a puppet state as we have outlined. And, certainly, "lend" that new government hordes of his charming Storm Troopers to teach "subjects" and joyously to shoot them down, if they revolt, or store them in concentration camps.
Yes, and those 750,000 unfortunate Czechs in Sudetenland? We know his tender regard for the rights of minorities in the case of the Jew. And we know that he hates the Czechs even worse than the Jew. So we may fairly guess that what he plans is not to give these people time to sell their properties and honorably to remove to the new Czechoslovakia but to rob them in the same fashion that he has robbed the Jew, and afterwards use them in labor battalions. He needs men badly in the building of those fortifications against the French, and it would suit his sadistic sense of honor perfectly to make the Czechs build them.
It is a dreadful choice the Czechs face. They stand to be largely destroyed either way. But nobody can blame them if they say no, in the hope that at least, when it is over, the remnant of them shall have the satisfaction of seeing Lord Hitler and his whole pack of gangsters mount the gallows.
There is an art of coloring in writing and public speaking, as there is in painting, which is all the more engaging because it is seldom perceived. But there are, nevertheless, red words and white words and black words, and there are dark brown words and yellow words, and there are, finally, bright blue words.
Bright blue words--blue for true blue--Gov. Hoey was spreading all about him when in a speech at High Point he made this statement:
The enlightened state can afford to tie its own hands and throttle its legislature so that its full resources cannot be made available to meet any financial crisis.
Now, our Governor, you understand, is a delightful and earnest and also an artful man. He is determined that the credit of the State shall be maintained against all contingencies and he is proclaiming in the words in the passage above that a constitutional amendment prohibiting the diverting of highway revenues to any other purpose than highways should not pass.
But if we dissolve the blue of his words with the neutralizing [indiscernible words] which you find that the Governor is arguing merely for the use as needs be of stiff gas taxes for general government. The State has found an exceedingly lucrative, constant and virtually painless source of money for its disposal, and the State, begorra, is going to keep that source available without limitation and without upsetting itself over considerations of equity and fair play. The State you see is the thing. Motorists may go chase themselves, thereby burning up more gasoline which is one-third tax.
Beyond a Doubt?
They executed two Negroes in the gas chamber at Raleigh yesterday for the murder of a white man in a hold-up after Pardon Commissioner Gill and Governor Hoey had refused clemency. And that case, we suspect, may furnish grist for the movement in the state to make the death penalty discretionary with judges.
For one of these victims was only seventeen years old, and both died steadfastly maintaining their innocence. "Remember what I told you Mr. Wilson," said the older to the warden from the gas chamber. "Someday they will find out that I told you the truth." That, in itself, means nothing, perhaps. But what does mean something is that these men were convicted entirely on the evidence of two eye-witnesses to the hold-up, who saw them only briefly and under the stress of excitement. And one of them was identified by only one of these eye-witnesses.
Maybe they were guilty. Even probably. And yet--we cannot escape the feeling that there was doubt. Any reporter who ever tried to get the story of an accident from eye-witnesses or sat in a courtroom during a trial in which eye-witnesses figured, knows how dubious and uncertain is eye-witness testimony, and particularly about anything so vague as the face of a Negro is to most white men. And it is dreadful to think that there is any possibility that innocent men have been made to pay the death penalty.
TO THOSE WHO'VE FAIL'D.
TO those who've fail'd, in aspiration vast,
To unnam'd soldiers fallen in front on the lead,
To calm, devoted engineers--to over-ardent travelers--to pilots on
--Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
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