The Charlotte News

Monday, July 11, 1938


Site Ed. Note: It is called the "Free and Equal Blues"...

And the other free and equals, at least in degrees varying between the steeply inclined along the vertical axis to the more or less horizontal, or aspiring to such ideals, also.

Nice (Relief) Work

For wholly unskilled labor, WPA is now paying in Mecklenburg County 29 cents an hour, raised from 26. The maximum monthly wage for this kind of relief employee is fixed at $37.12, which works out to 126 hours a month or about 30 a week.

And as Mrs. Bingham brought out in her story in The News some weeks ago about the Household Service Demonstration Projects underway here, this wage and these hours also work out to far better jobs for Negro women in training under WPA than for domestics with jobs. To a cook who puts in twelve hours a day six days a week for a wage between $6 and $10, it must seem an invidious comparison that novices are being paid $8.70 a week for five days of a leisurely six hours each.

This seems all wrong and horribly unfair, and yet we know nothing that can be done about it. The Federal Government is consecrated to the principle that all men are free and equal, and it could never in the world afford to pay one wage to white and another to black. But it is paying a relief wage higher than the average of private wages, for hours of work less than half of private hours. Patently, relief work is nice work if you can get it, and who can blame them if they try?

The Law and the Profits

Al Smith is hardly the popular figure to champion unpopular causes these days, but he makes great gobs of sense in his remarks on gambling to a convention engaged in re-writing New York State's 1894 constitution. Smacking his fist into his palm, Al told 'em:

"Take this clause out of the constitution, let the Legislature make a sane and sensible definition of gambling, and you will be able to enforce it because the people are behind you."

With a sensible law, you'd be able to do vastly more than to enforce it. You take the butter 'n' eggs racket alone in Charlotte: if it were either regulated or run by some authorized agency, the odds against the players can be brought down from two-to-one (less 10% commission for the runner) to more of an even break, and the profit left over would still reduce the tax rate or permit indulgencies which our local governments cannot now afford. You take gambling and cards or dice: everybody knows that the rule against such pastimes is freely ignored in the more polite circles and that violations only in the lowest circles or in gambling joints bring the cops on the run to break them up.

You take betting on horse races, such as went on at Sportland before the place was pinched. Why, now, to come right down to it, shouldn't a man be privileged to put two dollars on Menow's nose if he feels like it? Please, somebody, tell us why.

Site Ed. Note: Despite the rumors of a political appointee, (see "Hold Fire!", September 2, 1938), to come from perhaps the ranks of the Senate again, as had Justice Black, to fill the vacated seat of Justice Cardozo, the President would do as the editorial the following day, "Wagner As a Judge", would suggest and place a scholar on the Court. The nomination of Felix Frankfurter would not be delivered until January; Harvard law professor, one of the founders of the A.C.L.U., Frankfurter was a liberal, but also a believer in judicial restraint, a view which ultimately led him to render conservative opinions on issues involving civil liberties at times. (See, e.g., "Wholly Acceptable", January 6, 1939, "Comfort for Conservatives", January 10, 1939, "A Man's Enemies", January 12, 1939, and "New Court Plan", May 2, 1939, and associated notes.)

Justice Cardozo

The death of Justice Cardozo is a serious loss to the nation. After Brandeis, he had the most lucid, if not the most powerful, mind of the nine justices. And he was perhaps the most learned of them, for he had given his whole life to the study of the law with a singleness of purpose which is rare.

Moreover, he solidly merited the title of liberal--not after the fashion of Mr. Justice Black but after that of Brandeis and the late Justice Holmes. "The great generalities of the constitution have a content and a significance that vary from age to age. The method of free decision (that is, treating previous decisions and precedents as not always necessarily binding) sees through the transitory particulars and pushes what is permanent behind them." So he wrote in an essay published some years ago, and it was from this position that he approached all cases that came before the court. There was danger in discarding precedents in favor of the judge's own reasoning, but it was less dangerous in the long run than the failure to recognize that new social conditions called for new laws. And personal bias of the judges, he thought, pretty well cancels itself out.

In fine, he was admirably fitted to sit on the bench at a time when the most fateful decisions that have been made since the Civil War were having to be made. And it will be hard to find a man to fill his place.

A Net Gain

There was a lynching, and a lynching in extremis, so to speak, but nevertheless an utterly merciless lynching near Cordele, Georgia, Saturday. But there was no murder in Charlotte last month: and the second statistic more than offsets the first.

For while lynching in the South is a matter of national concern, consuming the attention of Congress for weeks on end, having whole societies formed to suppress it, splitting political parties wide open: and while a lynching is always front page news; when it comes down to simple mortality, which is what counts most with the courts, murders in Charlotte take an annual toll of the colored population three and four times greater than that of the mobs over the entire nation.

It is quite true. In 1937, for example, eight Negroes were lynched in the United States, whereas 37 Negroes met violent death in the city of Charlotte. So far this year, the lynching in Georgia Saturday is the only one to have taken place, but there have been, by actual count, 21 murders in Charlotte.

And so, horrible as was the lynching in Georgia, where a sadistic mob administered a fiendish unction (which means, literally, to anoint with oil) to a dying Negro, the violent mortality tables show a net gain by reason of the absence of any murders in Charlotte in June. And that is something.

Pot and Kettle

The passing allusions to "Dear Alben" which the President let fall like rosebuds in the path of that Kentuckian are as nothing to the bunch of stinkweed he now has handed to rival Governor Chandler. Governor Chandler, the President said in a letter to Senator Logan, had wanted him "to traffic in judicial appointments--i.e., to make Logan a judge so that Chandler could appoint himself to the vacated Senate seat. And at Bowling Green, distinguished mainly as the place where the black cat hopped on the sewing machine and as the residence of Senator Logan, the President complimented that worthy for "standing firm against dragging the judiciary into a political campaign"--i.e., for rejecting Governor Chandler's proposed deal.

Oh ho! So it is contemptible, eh, to drag the judiciary into political campaigns? And who, pray, dragged the judiciary into Iowa's political campaign, where the scalp of Senator Gillette was sought by the administration because he had the effrontery to vote against the Supreme Court bill? And who, pray, was about to drag the judiciary into Indiana's campaign, to get Senator Van Nuys' scalp for the selfsame reason--until somebody had the wit to wonder if Van Nuys mightn't win as an independent or his toga be handed over to the Republicans?

Trafficking in judicial appointments is bad, but bearing a grudge against Senators for refusing to traffic in whole courts is far worse. The President, if he is wise or were well-advised, would do better to let the whole business be forgotten. It is perhaps the least praiseworthy chapter in the variegated story of the New Deal.

Trade Note

To a couple of good newspaper publishers in North Carolina came, this past political season, the siren call of public office. Over in the Eighth District Roland F. Beasley of the Monroe Journal cast his hat into the ring of Congressional candidates, and up in Burke County Miss Beatrice Cobb of the Morganton News-Herald consented that her name be placed before the Democratic convention as a candidate for the State Senate.

What happened to Mr. Beasley is of record. He got licked. And Miss Beatrice--the convention turned Miss Beatrice down in favor of a man named Hatcher. And the vaunted power of the press does not, it is plain to see, extend to the operators of the press.

But perhaps it is as well, for most politicians, if they lose, have no alternative trade to return to, whereas a newspaperman can always go back to newspapering. And besides, those fourth-estaters who can make the welkin ring, generally become contaminated and let the stump style creep into their typewriting, which is fatal.


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