The Charlotte News
Tuesday, May 10, 1938
Site Ed. Note: "A Positive Man", reviewing Hugh Johnson's speech before the Charlotte Rotary Club the night before, is one of the earlier criticisms by Cash of the General.
Cash and Johnson saw eye to eye on civil liberties issues, as well as detesting anything which smacked of Fascism or Nazism.
But the General's latter day views of the New Deal, as displayed below, as well as his isolationism, became anathema to Cash as time wore on, as he saw Johnson's column almost daily alongside his own editorials.
The General's views on the New Deal were not formed until the preceding year, as he had been a solid supporter of Roosevelt in 1932 and had been himself a principal administrator within the National Recovery Administration during its first year of existence from 1933 to 1934. He was, in fact, named Time Man of the Year for 1933 for his work at the agency. Roosevelt transferred him, however, to WPA in 1934, heavy drinking on the job having been rumored as one reason, another being increasing bureaucratic entanglements within NRA. And, of course, the Act which created it ran into trouble when it was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1935 in Schecter Poultry v. U.S.
In 1935, Johnson left the Administration and began writing his daily column, traveling hither and thither as he did so. He supported Roosevelt in 1936 but, as did many, grew disaffected with him and the New Deal after the court-packing plan was put forth in 1937, early in the second term. Johnson believed Roosevelt to be grasping for too much power in the process, the plan being a proposal to Congress to enable the President to appoint an assistant justice for each justice reaching the age of 70, up to a total of 15 members of the Court. The plan's intent was to offset the aging, conservative Court, dubbed by the Administration and its supporters, the "nine old men", though among them only Justices Van Devanter, Sutherland, Butler, and McReynolds tended to vote fairly consistently against the New Deal programs which came before the Court, usually on the ground of contested usurpation of Constitutional authority either by the Executive or by Congress in enacting the programs. Justice Roberts and Chief Justice Hughes were often swing votes on New Deal favored cases, with Justices Stone, later appointed Chief by Roosevelt in 1941, Brandeis and Cardozo voting more usually than not, though not always, for the constitutional validity of the programs.
Whether the General's disaffection, and what Cash terms "bitterness", with the Administration was over the court-packing plan, the increasing spending (though a Cash piece the following day tends to dispel some of that myth by factoring in the necessary increase in military spending of the day) and ever-intricating bureaucratic maze which came to be from the New Deal, for which he regularly criticized the Administration in his column, or whether it came principally from something more personal from his couple of years spent within it, or a combination of all, is hard to say.
Regardless, the piece speaks to how Cash found him. Whether, incidentally, Cash was able to attend the meeting as a member of the press, or based his editorial on newspaper accounts, is not revealed by the piece. It is certain, however, given Cash's consistent use in both the newspaper and most especially within the pages of The Mind of the South, of this particular organization as emblematic, in its Southern incarnation anyway, of growing gaudy parvenuism and rodomontading Tartuffism, "smart" "go-getter" Babbittry, transplanted from the North and engrafted neatly onto the old horse-trader mentality of the South to form a rather easily detestable sort of Southern fellow by the early twentieth century, he was not admitted to the dinner speech as a member of this business-contact social club. Indeed, perhaps the fact that the General was an invited guest of the organization provided ample additional grist to Cash's millstone consistently hereafter grinding on the General's opinions whenever they differed so markedly from Cash's, while never once, so far as we have determined at this juncture, providing affirmation when the former's opinion matched his own, as it always did, for instance, on issues of freedom of speech and the press. Whatever the precise cause, Johnson came to be a nice foil from which Cash often opined his dissent.
Through a Smoked Glass*
With less than a month before the Democratic primary on June 4, the transcendent issue in the Bulwinkle-Jones Congressional race seems finally to have crystallized. It is smoke screens. Precisely. The candidates themselves define it as such. Out of the tussle over precinct chairmanships and the recriminations that followed, came Mr. Bulwinkle's statement that--
"Those who lost are attempting a smoke screen--"
To which Mr. Jones retorted that--
"... the claims of the Bulwinkle-Younts organization over Saturday's outcome is nothing more than a smoke screen to conceal the real Jones power and strength in Mecklenburg County."
The most disappointing feature of this race behind smoke screens is that in these days of invention and discovery it is no longer necessarily true that where there is smoke, there is fire. It's all done with smudges.
Words Without Deeds
In his message to B'nai B'rith last night President Roosevelt warned that alien influences--obviously those of communism and fascism--are attempting to destroy "American institutions." And went on to say that the first of all American institutions is liberty, and that:
"Our conception of freedom embraces complete liberty of conscience and of thought, freedom of education, freedom of the press, the right of free speech and assembly."
All of which is a very fine statement. We approve it enthusiastically and in toto. But, unfortunately, it is after all only a statement, and a generalized and vague statement at that. And meantime, there are two concrete things the President might do to emphasize and lend point to his words.
One of them is make it perfectly clear that he disapproves of the bill which his yes-man, Senator Minton, has introduced in the Senate to make it a crime to publish statements about public officials and their policies which are not known positively to be true. This bill strikes at the very foundation of free speech and a free press, for under it criticism would become impossible.
The other thing the President might do is to use his leadership of the Democratic Party to force the resignation of Boss Hague as Vice-Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. This fellow has abolished free speech and free assembly in Haguetown, and has indeed come very near doing it throughout New Jersey. He can and does represent himself as the ally of the New Deal in doing it. So long as that remains true, mere generalized statements about our institutions must seem a little unsatisfactory.
Rules for the Boss*
The court in New York was hearing the petition of National Electrical Manufacturers Association to enjoin the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers from allegedly boycotting the products of the manufacturers who belong to the association. Mr. Isaac Penner was testifying. Mr. Penner is an electrical contractor who lately has been executing some street lighting contracts along Shore Road in Brooklyn.
What Mr. Penner testified was this:
1--That the union allowed him to visit the job only one hour a day.
2--That he was not allowed to make his appearance anywhere on Shore Road in any time outside that hour, for any reason at all--could not even drive his wife along it in his automobile--under penalty of having the workmen called off the job.
3--That one of the men who set up for an electrician did not know how to attach wires to a socket in the street lamps, and that he (Contractor Penner) had to show him how.
4--That the same fellow ordered him (Contractor Penner) off his own job, and saw that he got off!
Labor, you observe, seems to be grievously impressed and downtrodden in New York.
A Positive Man
General Johnson was pretty bitter and pretty certain before the Rotary Club here last night. His address, indeed, was strictly in the vein of the character made famous in North Carolina annals by Dr. Needham Y. Gulley--the man who started in by alleging canine descent against his opponents and "worked up." The New Deal, as at present incarnated, said he, is unconstitutional, un-American, socialistic, crackpot, anti-Southern, and traitorous. And having said that, he proceeded to embroider the theme with all the resources of what is probably the most marvelous gift for invective the country has seen since old John Randolph of Roanoke was gathered to his fathers.
We don't envy the General his bitterness. But we do envy him his certainty. Ourselves, we can't claim to be so sure. There are some things the New Deal has done that we are quite as certain about as the General. There was the "court reform" scheme, for instance. There was the policy of governmental competition with business in the guise of unemployment relief. There was, and is, "all that money." And so on and so on. On the other hand, there are things the New Deal has done or proposed to do which we are just as positive are good. There was the reorganization bill, to mention one--a bill which General Johnson denounced up one side and down the other. And there is Dr. Hull's trade policy, and the foreign policy of the administration in general.
But as for much of the New Deal, we simply don't know. Was the frank monopolistic policy of the NRA--for which General Johnson is so enthusiastic--or the present anti-monopolism better? Is the farm act merely a fair offset to the system of tariffs for manufacturers, and necessary to the saving of agriculture and the prosperity of us all? Or is it, as General Johnson and Senator Bailey say, an entering wedge for fascism, and a device for losing our farmers their foreign markets? Is it absolutely necessary to spend $7,000,000,000 more now in order to take care of the unemployed and set the buying cycle in motion again? Or had we better proceed forthrightly to try to balance the budget, turn the care of the unemployed back to the local communities, trust business to take care of the buying cycle? And what about Social Security? How much of the present law is sound, how much unsound? And how far ought the policy to go?
To save our lives, we can't answer these questions, and a hundred others raised by the New Deal, with any certainty. And for that matter, we have our doubts that General Johnson can. But it must be a relief to be such a positive fellow that in case of doubt you can always out-argue yourself.
The Fishing Parson*
To forgive is divine, and divinity must hover over the Springfield Methodist Church up in Vermont these days. They forgave their pastor, the trustees did, for putting in a pulpit pinch-hitter on Sunday while he himself went a-fishing. He caught a trout, incidentally, a circumstance which must have borne some weight with other fishermen among his parishioners.
But the amazing part of the whole business is that the fishing parson did not, in order to obtain forgiveness, confess the error of his ways and promise to go and fish no more on Sundays. Quite the contrary. He was sorry he left his church to a supply pastor, but as for the angling excursion, it had been good fun and had done him, he insisted, no slight harm. Far from shivering in his boots at the denunciation that might have awaited him, he boldly denounced "meanness and narrowness," and as an ideal Sabbath program recommended attendance at church, wholesome recreation, complete unselfishness and rest from work.
Well, there's little point in trying to draw any great moral lesson from the incident or any invidious comparisons between the trustees of the Springfield Methodist Church up in Vermont and the trustees of the public behavior in Charlotte down in Carolina. But there's something sort of appealing and good humored and tolerant about the case of the parson who wet a fly on Sunday and got away with it. Christianity up that way must be more flexible than down here.
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