The Charlotte News

Monday, December 18, 1939


Site Ed. Note: While nominally "Broun's Last", this piece opining on the likelihood of a third term run for FDR, which Broun had both predicted and endorsed during August, 1938, one more editorial would appear the following day on Herod's search for the Star-crossed child of old. Whether that one had been written earlier in the month, perhaps, of course, we don't know. Still one more piece by Broun on Christmas, presumably from a previous Christmas, would appear on December 22.

"City Slickers" regarding the Rebel Yell not being found at the opening of "Gone With the Wind" in Atlanta on December 15, strikes us as being an editorial written in quite a bit of code, one which may be read as not only the exposition of the origin of that yell for the sake of hounds hunting possum but also the hounds of Hecate hunting down quarry for the sake of demonstrable results to the populace at large to stay in their place, that is the gruesome reality of lynching, which as often as not, though not often dwelled upon, went far beyond merely the notion of a tree and a rope, descending into the most primitive and torturous practices imaginable.

For a late example of the authentic yell, hear that of Thomas N. Alexander of Charlotte, one of the last Confederate veterans of Mecklenburg to die, as chronicled in "1841-1938", June 4, 1938, and the pieces linked from the note associated with it.

One night in 1991, around Halloween it was, Mr. Alexander, we have to believe, paid us a visit...with a knock upon our chamber door.

He was courteous enough to tell us, in his own way, all about the death of W.J. Cash...a sort of possum hunt you might say...albeit in another land, and accomplished by hunters of another breed altogether, one with which Cash was ill-equipped to deal at the time, as were most at the time. For a Nazi is a lost soul which simply does not see.

Mr. Alexander, it would appear, perhaps found his way back between the shadows, after a long journey in the twilight. And so we tip our hat to him for his assistance.

But should the print, sort of like Lottie's eyes, begin to move around on you a little, fear not. It is just one of those things inexplicable in any rational, reductionist sense.

Ah, Juicy Fruit...

Broun's Last

By Heywood Broun

The horsemen and footmen are gathering at the capital from many quarters of the country to see the major political event of 1940. I think that they have the correct candidate in mind and the likely party but why pick on the city of Washington?

The more we announce our repugnance to dictatorial processes, eagerness to avoid these Governmental devices may lead us into the very blasphemies which we purport to shun. For instance, it is held that the decision as to whether Mr. Roosevelt shall run for a third term can only come after a very definite word from him. I do not agree, although I grant that to a mild extent it is up his alley. The public seemingly was dissuaded from following after the feet of Calvin Coolidge. It was said that Mr. Coolidge did not choose to run. You couldn't tell by his feet. I'm not sure he actually meant it. I think that a small determined band of one man or less might have sneaked up to Calvin's room the night before he refused the nominations and by threatening him that refusal would have meant being ridden into the White House on rails, the young man might have given way to the cowboys. But there were no cowboys.


Now of course we know Franklin D. Roosevelt a good deal better than Calvin Coolidge. Indeed, his newspaper mind is singularly open to the convenience of correspondents. Some of them don't think he is going to run, because they don't think he wants to run. A few believe it is more or less a matter of social hygiene. Naturally anybody who knows anything about it thinks that if he is nominated he will be re-elected, and that's the way to bet.

We do Mr. Roosevelt a great disservice by constantly speaking as if the decision to run or not to run were his to make. If you please, that simply isn't in his province. He is a great man, but he is the servant of the people and they will have to tell him what he should do.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt moves about the world as a man with great charm because he has the gift of being able to listen to someone as if he were really paying attention. This piece of good manners is occasionally unfortunate. It flatters men into speeches which are far too long and often convinces a Washington visitor that he has scored a signal point, although in all truth his message was not much appreciated. But I have no doubt that if ten public men in Washington got together and held a hat pool on the basis of international acumen, that Cordell Hull would play, that Borah could be nagged into it, that Johnson would not abstain, and that Roosevelt would be willing.

Now, if you think of yourself as among the group best situated to lead your country in a particular crisis, it is decidedly an unpatriotic duty to throw that leadership away until you know in which direction it is going.


There seems to be very many evidences now that Roosevelt is less keen for a third term than he was previously. If the chance to act as an international mediator does not come before the conventions of 1940 are held, it is not likely to come at all. And the third term of any American President may be a constant grim-lipped enterprise of keeping our own barbed wire up when it is smashed by passing shell raids. Who wants such a third term in his right senses? Nobody. But to hold the office marks the man in history. Your son, and your son's son can look it up in the almanac, and in there it will read, under some farmer's joke, "I told you," the boy said, "that my great-grandfather Fred used to be the President of the United States. That's how he got his start. Now he is working in the shops in Wichita."

Depend upon it, there won't be very much of a show when Roosevelt makes up his mind yes or no on the third term issue. He'll go into a room and there will be three persons there: the President, his better nature, and his devotion to his country. That should be a committee quite satisfactory to anyone.

[Note: This is the last column Mr. Broun wrote before entering the hospital to die.--Editors, The News.]

Musty Passage*

Situation Of 1932 Repeats Itself With A Change Of Casts

When Senator Taft spoke up in Boston last week for a balanced budget "in about two years," President Roosevelt was quick to poke fun at him. For a full bill of particulars on how this was to be done, he said, he would offer a very handsome prize.

The President renders disservice, of a sort, in inviting Republican candidates to present specifications along with their high promises. After eight years of Roosevelt, it is going to be a difficult job, perhaps an impossible job and certainly an unpopular job, to bring Federal expenditures down to a level which even the most onerous kind of tax system will sustain.

Nevertheless, it is downright amusing to observe how the shoe has changed feet since the time back in 1932 when the Democrats were on the outside looking in. In their admirable platform, the one on which Roosevelt was elected, they righteously condemned--

"The open and covert resistance of administrative officials to every effort... to curtail the extravagant expenditures of the Government, and to revoke improvident subsidies granted to favorite interests."

And now look! And listen!


A Texas Jury Stalls New Deal Plans For A Martyr

According to the Washington Merry-Go-Round, the gentle New Dealers are kind of sorry Maury Maverick got acquitted by a San Antonio jury on the charge of paying the poll taxes of somebody who wanted to vote for him in the election which made him the mayor of the city.

It appears they wanted to make a test case out of it, and carry it all the way up to the Supreme Court in the hope of getting rid of the poll tax laws, which still exist in eight Southern states, on the ground of unconstitutionality.

Which does not seem exactly kind of them. Probably, it is desirable to get rid of those laws. But what about Maury, a good sort even his enemies admit. Suppose he lost? He'd have gone into stripes and disgrace. Or should he have felt glad that he had been chosen to play the role of martyr to the holy cause?


Reasons Given For Scuttling Spee Are Less Than Adequate

The scuttling of the Graf Spee remains something of a mystery. Reasons given by the Nazi Government and various military and naval "experts" seem nonsensical, or certainly less than adequate.

Nonsense is the German claim that it was done because the Uruguayan Government had refused time to make the vessel seaworthy. Actually, the Uruguayan Government had played fast and loose with international law, and had given the ship at least four times as long as it was entitled to.

Inadequate are the claims that it was done (1) because Germany recalls that Uruguay declared war on her in the last war, fear that it might happen again and that the Allies would get the ship; and (2) to keep spies from discovering the ship's "invaluable naval secrets."

The chance that Uruguay will declare war this time is exceedingly remote, and the ship was too valuable to be thrown away on any such contingency. And it is a pretty safe bet that the ship's "secrets" are already known to all the admiralties in the world. Certainly, she used every trick in her book in the battle off Uruguay. And in view of the outcome, it does not seem probable that anybody will hereafter suppose this type of ship to be invested with magical powers.

More unconvincing still is the German argument that Hitler wanted her to avoid the ignominy of defeat before superior odds, and to save the lives of the crew. She had already suffered the ignominy of defeat before inferior odds. And if the object had been for her to redeem her fame no better way could have been found than for her to steam out and die fighting to the last. The tradition of the navies of the world, indeed, demanded that she do just that.

But that would have been a mere senseless slaughter of a thousand sailors? Not from the naval viewpoint, since it was quite plausible that she might sink one or two of the British and French ships before she herself went down. And moreover, the British and French would have been under obligation to pick up her survivors.

Perhaps ultimately it was merely an act of futile rage, rising out of one of Hitler's tantrums. But perhaps, too, it was a tacit admission that the Nazis expect that Britain will win the war, and were merely repeating the same trick they pulled at Scapa Flow, when they scuttled the Imperial German Fleet rather than let the hated Englishmen come into possession of it.

Major Victory

Britain Has Achieved More Than Sinking One Ship

In any case the Spee is destroyed and England has won a notable victory. Far more notable in fact than the destruction of one of Germany's five battleships--though that in itself is a major feat.

What she has done is to restore the prestige of British naval might. It was tottering sadly. People were beginning to say openly that the British navy did seem to be on the run before the Germans and that the Germans seemed always to have the best of every encounter. The little nations to whom Britain offered her alliance and protection looked at her askance and wondered if it was really quite sensible to climb into a frail and leaking boat. The nations already in alliance, like Turkey, were less than happy. Russia acted up. In the East, the Japanese tweaked the lion's nose and pulled his tail at leisure.

But in the chancellories and admiralties, the cities and the ruralsides of the world, there is another story now. In the first major open engagement of the war, two British light cruisers and one heavy one, outweighed on every count, have roundly trounced and ultimately achieved the destruction of one ship, one of Germany's most vaunted and feared new weapons. In tactics and gunnery the British had all the best of it. The German commander himself conceded that defeat was "unbelievable."

In short, the great ghost of Horatio Nelson still bestrides the seas, and you may be sure that the fact is being soberly observed not only in Berlin but in Ankara and Bucharest and Athens and Belgrade and Copenhagen and Stockholm and Oslo and the Hague and Brussels and Rome and Moscow, and Tokyo.

City Slickers

A Tip For Some Slightly Embarrassed Confederates

The funniest thing developed in Atlanta's Gone With the Wind celebration was that a lot of people down there had trouble in learning how to voice the Rebel Yell. Of course, a lot of those who had that difficulty were durn Yankees (see, sirs, how the old feeling has softened down). Atlanta is fuller of 'em even than Charlotte--and, like Charlotte, glad to have most of them.

But it appears that there were also a great many Southerners who not only didn't know how to emit the sound but who found it hard to learn. That is probably causing a great deal of commotion in Confederate graveyards. But, in reality, it is not wonderful at all. Trouble simply is that these Southerners are city slickers of the second, third, or even fourth generation. And that yell just naturally never was city-broke.

It couldn't be heard, anyhow, mighty as it is, against the automobile horn-smackers waiting at the stop lights. But in its inner essence, it is a country yell.

There is no mystery about where it came from. The Confederate troops didn't invent it. It is the old hunting yell of the pioneers, who needed to keep in touch with one another over great distances, and who discovered that the woods and hills served as sounding boards for special pitches of the vocal apparatus. Maybe it was brought over from the hills of Scotland or Ireland first. But that is going too far back, and we wouldn't know.

Nowadays it survives almost alone among the possum-hunting clan. When the hounds mourn in the Fall woods, you can hear it on almost any copper-mooned evening reigning over almost any Southern countryside, the loneliest sound on earth.

But, of course, virtually every Southern country boy is still a possum hunter--or do they prefer the evenings at the roadhouses now? Anyhow, if Atlanta wants to learn the authentic article, it'll have to round up some possum hunters.

Site Ed. Note: Incidentally, the odd reference to "copper-moon", is perhaps to one of those bright yellow summer moons, as opposed to "Blood on the Moon", October 3, 1938, maybe. "Cuckoo" always being the most salient word in the lexicon by which to glean an entrance to the understanding necessary to staunch the flow from the opened veins.

And we only just found out that Mr. Palance passed away on November 10, 2006, we of the little bit slow sometimes to catch up with some of the news, and so we wish peace to his soul as well. He provided us many fun moments down there at the Bijou, from childhood onward. He was one hell of a wrangler, even if he did graduate from Stanford University with a degree in the dramatic arts, among other things. If you wonder why he should come to mind just now, well, you will find it out soon enough--that thing, the hole in your shoe.

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