The Charlotte News

Tuesday, April 12, 1938


Site Ed. Note: "A Ship at Sea" describes the once majestic sea-going state of the Queen Mary. Now, of course, it is permanently docked in Long Beach, California, where since its final voyage in 1967 it has served as a floating museum, restaurant and hotel--and, they say, it's haunted, too.

"Essence of Democracy" tells of one of the early actions of Joseph P. Kennedy as Ambassador to Great Britain, discouraging the crush to get at royalty. He had been appointed at the beginning of the year and officially assumed the post March 1. For his initial reaction to his confirmation on January 13, see this letter to FDR. For his earliest take on the European situation after arriving in London, see this letter to FDR of March 11. Notably, he indicates, "My own impression is that Hitler and Mussolini, having done so very well for themselves by bluffing, they are not going to stop bluffing until somebody very sharply calls their bluff."

Sounds Familiar

We don't think that this is particularly important, but it's at least pointed, anyhow.

In commenting on the railroad report handed to Congress yesterday, RFC's Chairman Jesse Jones took occasion to say:

"Many railroad securities are selling at absurdly low prices."

Six years ago the Democrats, outdone with the Hoover Administration, embodied in a platform their furious condemnation of the policies and practices of that administration. Among the things condemned was this:

"Action and utterances of high public officials designed to influence stock exchange prices."

What had really got under Democratic skins, of course, was that every time the Hoover Administration took a bullish position on the stock market, prices sagged another two or three hundred points. We trust Mr. Jones's remarks won't have the same proportionate effect.

Explaining Mr. Whitney

The spectacle of Mr. Richard Whitney pleading guilty to it all instead of following the customary procedure for Americans of his social level and hiring smart lawyers to keep him indefinitely out of jail--the spectacle of Mr. Whitney acting thus is so much a novelty that it has many of his editorial countrymen hard put to it to explain him. One thinks, for instance, that he's probably only pleading guilty to lesser charges to escape greater ones. And not a few of them think he's a character straight out of Dostoevsky's novels.

But our own guess is simpler: that while Mr. Whitney is a thief, he is also that anachronistic character, a gentleman. Behind him lies a tradition which the world has by now pretty well forgotten--a tradition full of all sorts of quaint notions. As for instance, that a gentleman accepts the responsibility for his acts, and that, having gambled for his shirt and lost it, he pays up with as little fuss as possible and gets it over with.

A Pal For Cordell

It turns out, after all, that Dr. Cordell Hull isn't the single surviving member of the race of old-fashioned let-trade-be-as-free-as-possible Democrats. Mr. Peter Molyneaux, editor of the Texas Weekly, seems to belong to the same breed.

Last week Mr. Molyneaux told the American Cotton Association that in the four years ending January 1, 1938, foreign cotton manufacturers used 9,500,000 bales less of cotton grown in the United States and 18,500,000 bales more of cotton grown outside the United States than in the four-year period ending January 1, 1929. And that, unless something could be done to regain the loss, the nation would shortly face the most serious problem that has ever confronted it--in the poor whites and Negroes who have hitherto made their lean living by growing the staple.

Then Mr. Molyneaux proceeded to assess the blame for this. Well, and so he naturally named the current Father of Evil, Franklin Roosevelt, and his New Deal? Not Mr. Molyneaux. He said that the Republican tariff policy all through the 1930's, and particularly the Hawley-Smoot tariff of 1930, did it. That these tariffs throttled foreign trade, made it increasingly impossible for foreign cotton manufacturers to lay hand on American dollars and pay them for American cotton, set up a swiftly rising demand for cotton that could be bought with other cheaper and more-freely-come-by currencies.

And however quaint and anachronistic it may sound to hear a man talk like that, yet, when you look at it closely, it does seem curiously to make a kind of sense, even though nothing much is to be done about it at this late day.

Your Baby, Boys

The President is canny. Nobody, we believe, has any idea what to do about the railroads, least of all the President himself. Consolidation, which would be good for the companies and would reduce costs, would at the same time be bad for the potent railroad labor unions. And as for letting the railroads stew in the juice of their own mismanagement and top-heavy capital structures, this would entail quite a lot of stewing in other quarters, notably in those of life insurance companies, whose portfolios are crammed with railroad bonds.

It is this little problem that the President, affecting a slight case of pique at Congress's undermining of reorganization, hands the boys with instructions to do something about it--quick. And not having any idea ourselves just what should be done, and like the President having gone down the line for reorganization, which Congress would have none of, we shall follow the President's lead. Come on, boys; do something--quick!

A Ship At Sea

She is the greatest ship afloat--the greatest ship man has ever built--the Queen Mary. When she swings majestically out of New York harbor on her way to sea, she looks the embodiment of resistless power, the incarnation of strength and safety. But yesterday when she encountered a 70-mile gale on the Atlantic, she was only relatively a cockleshell, hardly less so than those 200-tonners with which Columbus braved the jumping-off place. Waves, described by Author Marc Connelly as a hundred feet high roared over her boat deck. She stood on her stern, buried her nose under, flattened on her side, her screws beating the air. Furniture broke loose, men and women could not hold their grip on companion rails and life-lines. And when she crawled at last under the shelter of the Isle of Wight and made for Southampton, 40 of her passengers were suffering with more or less serious injuries.

In short, the sea remains, as it has always been, incalculable, treacherous, sudden, and murderous. If men no longer sell their goods and make their wills before embarking upon her, yet, however stout the ship and however bravely the bands play, they may not even now be certainly sure that she will allow them to pass safely to shore again.

Note on Liberties

New York Catholics are said to be determined to defeat Governor Lehman at the next election for having vetoed the bill which would have barred "radicals" from the civil service and school-teaching posts. The Governor vetoed the law on the ground that the State has no right to impose any penalty for opinion, and that to impose such penalty is to destroy civil liberties. But Catholic leaders had sponsored the bill as a part of the Church's world-wide fight against Communism. And they are bitter about its defeat.

Nobody will deny, of course, that they are within their rights. But the wisdom of their course is open to great question. Catholics are a minority in this country, and they have plenty of enemies who would be glad to impose penalties upon them for their beliefs. As much as any other group among us, they have a direct interest in the preservation of civil liberties--the liberties not only of those with whom they agree but by all means of those with whom they disagree, no matter how hotly. In fact, that last is the whole sum and substance of civil liberties.

Essence of Democracy

The American Ambassador to the Court of St. James' has done away with court presentations, the infrequent occasions upon which selected American debutantes and matrons were permitted to curtsy to Their Majesties--and pass on. The American Ambassador--plain old Joe Kennedy in real life--thought that it was becoming a nuisance. More women clamored for the honor, he said, than could possibly be accommodated; and the lucky ones were those who had applied the most pressure and pulled the biggest wires, which he called undemocratic. And in its elimination, a court presentation was perhaps the antithesis of democracy. After all, these Windsors come down in direct line from fat old George III.

But the processes by which the ladies got their heart's desire, the exchange of a curtsy for a Royal nod--what could have been more democratic than to exert pressure and pull strings? Heavens above! How do we ever get anything done by the political powers in this country except by exerting pressure and pulling strings? The ladies were only emulating all the rest of us, except that they cost the taxpayers nothing.


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