The Charlotte News

Friday, April 1, 1938


Site Ed. Note: "Freedom for Nuisance", concerning Lovell v. City of Griffin, Ga., 303 US 444, overturning as violative of freedom of the press an ordinance applied to prohibit the distribution of Jehovah's Witness literature, takes a contra view, highly unusual for Cash on matters of free speech, assuming it, as it appears to have been, his editorial. Indeed, in "Bad News", August 14, 1940, he would call such efforts by localities to restrict the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses, or for that matter any other religious sect, a "disgracing...malignant frenzy". And in "Mask Off", October 21, 1940, he would term the practice as "dreadful intolerance". What caused him to go from viewing such circulars as a nuisance, much as the Lumberton Mayor complained in response to "Bad News", back to his more usual stand against any such restriction on freedom of expression we couldn't say--unless either this day's piece was by someone else, or, more likely, it simply caught Cash in a bad mood. He didn't drive or own an automobile and so it was not because someone had dropped a leaflet in or on his car; he lived in a downtown apartment building without any substantial yard out front and so it wouldn't likely have been any personal litterbugging bother. Perhaps, initially the matter seemed a mere bagatelle, until he understood it to be cloaking other, more invidious forms of discrimination, spreading as a pandemic through the country.

In any event, Chief Justice Hughes also said the following:

We think that the ordinance is invalid on its face. Whatever the motive which induced its adoption, its character is such that it strikes at the very foundation of the freedom of the press by subjecting it to license and censorship. The struggle for the freedom of the press was primarily directed against the power of the licensor. It was against that power that John Milton directed his assault by his "Appeal for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing." And the liberty of the press became initially a right to publish "without a license what formerly could be published only with one." While this freedom from previous restraint upon publication cannot be regarded as exhausting the guaranty of liberty, the prevention of that restraint was a leading purpose in the adoption of the constitutional provision. See Patterson v. Colorado, 205 U.S. 454, 462 , 27 S.Ct. 556, 10 Ann.Cas. 689; Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 , 713-716, 51 S.Ct. 625, 630; Grosjean v. American Press Company, 297 U.S. 233, 245 , 246 S., 56 S.Ct. 444, 447. Legislation of the type of the ordinance in question would restore the system of license and censorship in its baldest form.

The following piece on Hoover's isolationist stance versus a restrained but concerned approach by Roosevelt points up the marked change in this country's predominant view of its role in the world since World War II. Few would today take the Hoover view. On the other hand, it should not be the case, we think, that the United States should go beyond quarantine and actively interfere with the chosen government of a people simply because that government is disagreeable to the United States. We obviously have the right to choose with whom we wish to trade and to counsel other nations to join in boycotting trade with certain rogue nations. But to go further, to do as we have done in Iraq, using the chimera of weapons of mass destruction as pretext for offensive preemptive action, is a foolhardy policy which the party of Hoover might improve next time by listening at least some to the Hooverian dogma as a counterpoise to the overwrought will of its mayhap trigger finger.

And, we suggest strongly, not heading down the same idiotic course now with Iran.

Mix a little Hoover restraint and temperance in there with that Texas hot chilli. Or, just be more Rooseveltian in approach to the menu. The latter didn't do a half bad job as head chef, after all.

Mr. Hoover Talks

Mr. Hoover was, we suspect, more partisan than ingenuous in that speech at New York last night. For no one will have forgotten that it was Mr. Hoover's Secretary of State, Mr. Stimson, who, in the case of Manchuria, attempted to set up the policy of the "co-operating" in national affairs with Great Britain.

Said Mr. Hoover, in reference to President Roosevelt's "quarantine" speech.

"The forms of government which other peoples pass through in working out their destinies are not our business..."

Nobody in his senses has suggested that it is, and least of all the President. What has been suggested is that a form of government organized for foreign conquest through war, a form of government which is actively engaged in following out that aim, might eventually have to be our concern, and that perhaps it were better to face that fact before the form of government in question waxes too powerful.

There's Many a Slip

In his satire on justices of the peace last night, President Winslow of the North Carolina Bar Association was careful to draw a distinction between decent and indecent jaypees, between the professionals and the honest man. The first kind he tore into with gloves off, citing incident after incident of subversion of the State's authority to the end of personal gain, without any slight regard for justice. He stressed both the criminal and civil malpractices of the jaypees, especially of the squire he called a "house magistrate," who derives income from one or two companies and "who always gives judgment for his regular customers."

But his first and last premise was that the system, rather than individual practitioners, is wrong. This is another way of saying that the whole rotten business is the State's fault, that the State creates a number of these petty law officials--nobody knows how many-- nd turns them loose to prey upon the ignorant and the helpless. Hence, while occasionally a justice of the peace may be exposed at his racket and punished for it, the only comprehensive remedy lies in revising the whole system and procedure--in fine, by legislation. And, for some reason, previous Legislatures have been strangely reluctant to do the needful.

Specter of the Auctioneer

The special committee named by the President to look into the question of loans to small businesses is giving consideration to the establishment of regional Federal banks. Those regional banks, it is explained, would do for small business men what Joint Stock Land Banks do for the farmers. Heaven forbid!

What the land banks have done for the farmers is a-plenty. On their last statement, they showed these two items:

Mortgage Loans...................................$126,517,000

Real Est. Sheriff's Certificates, etc.........50,998,000

What this means is simply that after putting great numbers of farmers through the forced-sale wringer, the land banks have in repossessed but unsold property two-fifths as much as they have in loans outstanding, many of which undoubtedly are delinquent. But that isn't the worst thing they've done. They introducef the farmers to the vice of borrowing money, to that old American incubus of paying interest, to the purchase of equipment that was to fancy for the farm, in many instances, and to a scale of living that than had a longer [indiscernible word] outlay than the soil can be made to yield. These land banks were a forerunner of Resettlement, only they resettled many a farmer off his own acres onto rented or share-cropped acres.

Besides, it isn't credit that most small businesses need so much as it is sales. Is the idea, d'you suppose, to get them in debt to Regional Small Business Banks and then subsidize them for the business they don't do?

New Formula

Mr. Chamberlain's "new formula for the removal of troops from Spain" is the same old formula which Mussolini has thumbed his nose at a dozen times in the last year. In fact, it is no formula at all. If Italy "agrees," which she hasn't yet, a census of soldiers in the Peninsula will have first to be taken--a matter of months, in which the Loyalist Government's fate would certainly be sealed.

That Mr. Chamberlain himself believes in this "formula" seems incredible. More likely he is either preparing to write Spain off as a total loss or is stalling for time in which to shape another policy. But it is incredible, too, that he can be planning to write Spain off, for the Peninsula, as Bonaparte and Wellington both knew, is the key to the British and French power in the Mediterranean and on the Continent. On the other hand, Mr. Chamberlain clearly has little time left for the making of a new policy.

Lord Halifax told Commons yesterday the British people had no hope or purpose of staying out of what is happening on the Continent, that they intended to have a great voice in Continent councils. But whatever their hope and intention, they can certainly be shoved out of what is happening in Europe--are right now, indeed, being rapidly shoved out.

No Dictator Here

That the President was entirely candid in his dictatorship letter yesterday, we haven't a doubt. The worst charge that can truthfully be made against him is simply that he has sometimes been too hasty and overbearing about the means he employed toward ends he considered desirable in a democracy. Some of his measures, as the NRA and the court bill, have in fact looked in the direction of dictatorship, regardless of what he intended.

But, all the James Truslow Adamses to the contrary notwithstanding, we think he was justified in dismissing the charge of the dictatorship in connection with the reorganization bill as a mere partisan "bogey." As he pointed out, there are only two possible ways to bring about executive reorganization--direct Congressional action or a blanket mandate to the President. And as he also pointed out, Congress has failed to do anything about it directly, despite the fact that "seven or eight" of his predecessors in the Presidency have urged it. We ourselves believe that Congress must always fail to do anything about it directly, because of the vested interests of Congress in every existing bureau and agency.

The real question here, as we have said before, is not whether the bill will lead to dictatorship--it won't--but whether it will actually lead to reorganization. Certainly, there is nothing in the President's record to suggest that he'll really use the power once he gets it. For five years he has been professing ardent love for efficiency in administration, without ever doing any of the things that all along have lain in his power to do.

Freedom for Nuisances

The Supreme Court has held that ordinance of Griffin, Ga., requiring persons distributing circulars or advertisements to obtain a license from the city authorities, is unconstitutional. Chief Justice Hughes pointed out in his opinion on the case that such legislation "would restore the system of license and censorship in its baldest form," and goes on:

"The liberty of the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets... The press in its historic connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion..."

It should have gone without the saying. Indeed, if it hadn't been for they hot political pamphlets which Old Sam Adams surreptitiously distributed about Boston under the noses of the British, freedom itself, not simply of the press, might have been less passionately desired. And licensing the distribution of pamphlets, as Boss Hague does it in Jersey City, is obviously illegal.

But to save us, we cannot bring ourselves to look on the fellows who put cards or circulars into parked automobiles as anything but a common nuisance. And as for leaving unsolicited and unwanted throwaways on doorsteps, to be whisked around the yard by every vagrant breeze, if that's a privilege that comes under the freedom of the press, why, there's no such thing as trespass and a man's home is not his castle, it's every man's trash depository.


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