The Charlotte News

Tuesday, April 5, 1938


The Boy Rapist

We trust that the story from Raleigh, which we printed yesterday, is wrong, and that Governor Hoey is not actually about to let the execution of the Negro boy, Mann Smith, take place Friday. The crime for which he was convicted, the repeated rape of a 13-year old white girl, was a particularly atrocious one, granted. But he was barely fifteen at the time, and it is more than probable that he is insane. Psychiatrists, indeed, are universally agreed that the rapist always is insane. And it is nothing against that conclusion that he showed a high degree of premeditated cunning in carrying out the crime. Insanity is by no means equivalent to imbecility.

But, sane or insane, the State of North Carolina cannot, we think, afford to execute him. Maybe, probably, it would be better for everybody if he were out of the way. Nevertheless, North Carolina sets up to be a civilized state. And civilized men cannot, and do not, pin the theory of complete moral responsibility upon an ignorant Negro of fifteen years. Civilized men, however much emotion may urge them, do not drag a mere child into a gas chamber and kill him in cold blood. Merely, they will make sure that he is kept safely under lock and key for the rest of his days.

Hard but Fair

It is unworthy, of course, to take any pleasure in other people's discomfiture, and we are trying our best to resist the impulse. At the same time, the rush of delinquent taxpayers to settle their accounts with the City--collections of back taxes in March, 1938, were 68.46% greater than in March of last year--will be good news for the prompter taxpayers, and, besides, we don't know but that the delinquents got exactly what they had coming to them.

There is a class of people, more numerous here than in most cities of the size, who, having no real property, somehow manage to avoid paying their fair share of municipal upkeep. This is the fault of the ante-diluvian tax system, in the main, since nobody pays taxes if he can help it, but these people not only got off light in the assessment of taxes against them; they simply didn't pay at all. They probably had convinced themselves that, being landless, they were judgment-proof.

Well, the City dispelled that illusion. It began to garnishee salaries and levy on bank accounts, and as a result, the lines formed at the tax collector's window. Together with foreclosures on real estate, which induced many large taxpayers to come across, the City has realized both a large amount and a large number of settlements. And since it is written that every man shall chip in according to his store, we imagine that there is almost as much rejoicing in City Hall over the redemption of one of these six-bucks delinquents as over the biggest transgressors of them all.

Propaganda de Luxe

Sunday the Rev. Dr. Joseph B. Code, Professor of History in the Catholic University of America, told alumni of Notre Dame that the Spanish Ambassador to the United States has spent $13,000,000 "to swing American public opinion to the side of the Communist-dominated Spanish leftist Government."

We have no way of knowing whether that may or may not be true--as we have no way of knowing whether the Valencia Government may or may not be "Communist-dominated," save the assurances of such first-ranking American historians as Dr. Charles A. Beard and Professor James Shotwell that it isn't. In any case, if it is true that the Loyalists have spent $13,000,000 for propaganda here, we'd like very much to know how much the Italians and Germans have spent for the same purpose in the name of Franco. To judge from our own experience, the sum must be truly staggering. As newspaper editors, we are targets for all such propaganda. But the Loyalist releases we get are not numerous and are mainly cheaply printed, whereas the Insurgent releases come to us in quantity and are magnificent jobs in printing and engraving on the best paper stocks.

So That's It*

Senator Glass, Senator Byrd, Senator Bailey, Dorothy Thompson, General Johnson, Frank Gannett are hardly the kind of people one would imagine going down the line for the preservation of political pap. Yet, according to the axiom that things equal to the same things are equal to each other, it is precisely pap for which, in part, they stand, along with the more practical suckling politicians in the House.

For it developed yesterday that at least some of the opposition to the reorganization bill has pap for its main ingredient. The favorite Governmental agency for the dispensation of pap is the Veterans Bureau, the medium through which Congress disburses five or six hundred million dollars annually to the large and well-organized veterans vote. And while this is done by law, and while, furthermore, the Veterans Bureau has a name for efficiency and impartiality, the mere thought that reorganization might interrupt the flow of pap was enough to stampede the House. Hence the Veterans Bureau, an ordinary executive agency, is to be given special treatment and exempted from any executive reorganization as a price for the rest of reorganization. And this will please Father Coughlin and the suckling politicians immensely, but it finds the conservative opposition to the reorganization bill in queer company.


The more we examine into the reorganization bill, the more the conviction grows upon us that the people who are howling it down--including our columnist, Dorothy Thompson--wouldn't like it if it was good. Take that uproar about the Comptroller General, for instance. To hear them talk, you'd think that this official is a direct creation of the constitution, that he is about to be abolished, and that with him will go the last vestige of Congressional control over the national purse.

The fact is that the office was created by the Budget Bill of 1921. The fact is that he has never pre-audited more than 4 per cent of the expenditures of the Government, and that he hasn't submitted a complete report to Congress in fifteen years. The fact is that he is not to be deprived of the function of pre-auditing at all. Merely, he is to be stripped of a power he ought never to have had--the power to audit himself. That power is to be handed over to an Auditor General. And will this one be the creature of the President? Not so. The bill specifically provides that he shall hold office for fifteen years, and shall be removable only by a joint resolution of Congress or impeachment!

That is all, save for this: that when a question of law is involved, he does not do as the late Mr. McCarl did and assume to interpret it, but must submit the question to the Attorney General for a ruling. Nobody who actually believes in our form of government can very well object to that.

The Newest Occupation*

The job of dispensing social security and welfare must be one of the most difficult in the world to do exactly right. To begin with, the clientele is probably not the most intelligent and perhaps, in spite of being poor, not the most honest. And they are, in the main, inaccessible to the telephone; many of them change addresses frequently; they have only a vague understanding of what they are entitled to and a helplessness at complying with the regulations which are laid down because they have to be.

And then, the welfare authorities themselves must guard against (a) not giving relief to people who really deserve it, and (b) giving relief to people who don't deserve it. Sympathetic impulse has no place in the decision. Some of the most pathetic unfortunates are the biggest frauds. On the other hand, some of the most deserving persons still dislike the idea of relief enough to be curt about asking for it. Others just don't know what it's all about.

No, welfare service is no place for an impulsive nature and weak legs. It takes thorough investigation, investigation which must be done from door to door and checked across the street. Much as we may dislike doing that, the depression has created a new occupation, a whole new demand for technicians to administer this growing business of relief.


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