The Charlotte News

Tuesday, June 28, 1938


Site Ed. Note: For more Cash carping on government relief for artists, as found below in "Pap for the Arts", see the by-lined piece of June 29, "Utopia for the Artist".

Well, Why Not?

Occasionally, up here in our air-cooled ivory tower, we have a flash of inspiration, usually traceable to a telephone call in which some helpful friend tells us, "Say, why don't you..."

An inspiration of this description has just come to pass. The City and the County have been cogitating for some months the idea of a community forest park, or something like that. At one time, the County was grousing around for a suitable site, but it never acquired one. And yesterday our helpful friend called up and told us, "Say, why don't you"--

Why don't we urge the donation to the City and County of the old McIntyre Farm place, eh, with its house dating back to the Revolution and its historical associations, as the perfect site for a community forest park? Well, now, it seems an excellent suggestion, and the least we can do is to pass it on.

Swedish Anniversary

New Sweden they called it once, the land we know as Delaware. Henry Hudson sailed up the wide estuary of that river in 1609, and the Dutch West India Company planted a colony at Lewes in 1631. But the Indians promptly wiped it out. And it was the "Australian Company" of the South Company of Sweden which was to plant the first permanent settlement on that soil, coming by its title through the same persons who had founded the Dutch East India.

In 1638 Peter Minuit and his colonists landed at the place called "The Rocks," at the junction of the Christiana and Delaware Rivers, and founded Christianaham, which is known to us as Wilmington. Many of the colonists were Germans rather than Swedes. But in 1642 the New Sweden Company was formed, a governor was sent out by the Swedish crown, and under his direction new colonies of Swedes were planted on the island of Tinicum, near what is now Chester, Pa., at the mouth of Salem Creek, in New Jersey, and at the mouth of the Schykill River. But that brought the Swedes into conflict with the Dutch at New Amsterdam, and in 1654 Claudius Rising, a second Swedish royal governor, seized Fort Casimir from the Dutch. That fetched old Peter Stuyvesant into the river with seven ships and 700 men, to capture Wilmington and annex the country. So ended forever New Sweden in America. There was an interlude in which the territory was owned by the city of Amsterdam which had purchased it from the Dutch West India Company. And then it was in 1654 the Duke of York's ships were lying in the harbor at New York, and Delaware had become an English colony.

Something About Money

Colonel Kirkpatrick was so impressed with Senator Norris's inchoate idea of printing up a billion dollars in new currency to be handed over to local governments for public works, that he has sat down and written a letter to the Senator urging him to see it through. There is not, wrote the Colonel, enough of the medium of exchange in circulation. "The business of the country, including its private individuals, stands badly in need of more money with which to do business."

Well, we know how the Colonel feels, and frequently we feel the same way. If people just had plenty of money, life would be a bowl of cherries. But it is a paradox of these times we have been going through that the supply of money--real [indiscernible words] money--has been unusually plentiful. Last year, for instance, there was in circulation enough money to give every person in the United States $49.85. In the lush days in 1929, money in circulation came to only $39.08 a head; and 1937 couldn't hold a candle to 1929 for activity.

It looks, Colonel, as though money in circulation actually had very little to do with prosperity. In fact, the reverse comes close to being true, as the experience in 1932 shows. Just before the banks were closed, money in circulation increased enormously, which was a paradox unto itself. What was happening was that money had gone out of circulation and into mattresses and old shoes and pots behind the barn.

What really counts, Colonel, is the velocity of money in circulation: the rapidity with which it changes hands and goes into the banks to serve as a basis for loans, which is to say credit. For example, bank loans in 1929 were nearly 42 billions, whereas in 1937 they had declined to 22 1-2 billions. In contrast to that shrinkage of 20 billions in credit, the issuance of a mere billion dollars in new currency looks puny indeed.

Alas for Initiative

Suppose it had been Henry Wallace speaking to a delegation of farmers yesterday, instead of Aubrey Williams, deputy WPA administrator, the Communist David Lasser's Workers Alliance--would anybody have questioned the propriety of Henry's telling them to "keep your friends in power"? Perhaps, but without much conviction. The whole keynote of Governor Landon's 1936 campaign was an appeal to business to put its friends back in power.

What's the difference, then, between urging relief clients to vote for the crowd that feeds them and urging farm relief clients to vote for the crowd that feeds them? There is a difference, all right, it's soon stated. The genius of this country is in the initiative of its people, and in subsidizing agriculture the New Deal has made a severe contribution to the preservation and encouragement of that initiative. But in nursing a class of permanent relief supplicants looking directly to the Government for their careers, initiative has been abased. To subvert this direct relief, a stop-gap, to political uses is to perpetuate dependency and to exalt organized mooching.

Pap for the Arts

But Mr. Williams' greatest contribution to whoosh was in that crack in support of the WPA "art" projects:

"People won't have to go begging to a few stuffed shirt philanthropists for help before they can write a book or paint a picture or organize a symphony."

Nobody in these states ever did have to go begging to a stuffed shirt to write a book, or paint a picture., or compose a symphony. Anybody at all who has pen and paper or paint and canvas, plus a modicum of talent, can do it. And if what he produces has any spark of merit, he can get it published, exhibited, or performed. And it doesn't matter how radical or how abstruse and unusual it may be. Thorstein Veblen had no trouble finding a publisher, and Granville Hicks has no trouble today. Nor for that matter do T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, or e. e. cummings. Has Deems Taylor needed any stuffed shirts? Has Benton needed them to paint, or had the radical tone of his murals modified by them? And as for organizing a symphony or orchestra--people with plenty of money have to support them simply because the general public won't.

WPA projects may occasionally help people with talent who are just beginning to learn the trades of writing, painting, and composing. But by and large, all they can do is to keep false hope alive in mediocrities who have only a vague yearning to be artistic.

And when you come to that, what is the difference between asking any stuffed shirt if you may write a book, or paint a picture, or compose a symphony, and asking a bureaucrat in Washington? Eh?

Capping the Caps

The cap industry, which thought up the promotion stunt of sending a custom-made cap to each United States Senator upon adjournment of the Senate, meant well, but as is inevitable in promotion stunts some mistakes were made. When smart fellows go to stunting, with snap judgment, impulses zig-zaggings and "That's what the public wants, J. B." mistakes are bound to happen. The first mistake was in thinking that since every Senator had a cap everybody would want one. Didn't it occurr to the promotion-stunters that some people don't care to be mistaken for a Senator?

Again, the caps were all alike, the same color, shape, even the same button. President Roosevelt could have given the stunt boys some advice there. He would have prescribed dunce caps for a certain set of Senators and a cap with a feather in it for "Dear Alben." And old Cotton Ed Smith down in South Carolina--Cotton Ed would have designed a sort of pre-Freshman cap for some of those who are running for the Senate for the first time, a small, skull-like cap, with miniature coattails streaming from it.

And besides, wouldn't bonnets have been more appropriate for some of the Senators--bonnets with a bee buzzing in each of them?

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