The Charlotte News

Monday, July 18, 1938


Site Ed. Note: "Intra-Sanctum Argument on Free Speech" appears to be one of those rare side-by-side discussions by Cash on the left and Dowd on the right regarding the same topic, much as with "Inter-Office Memos: Willkie or Roosevelt?", October 13, 1940, on the lead-up to the presidential election.

Needless to say, we side wholly with the resolution supported by Cash on this one.

And, should you disagree, damn you to hell.

If you dislike our invective, be careful on your means of retort. A sock in the jaw or a twist of the wrist to us is a very bad idea. So, too, is calling the cops over the exercise of speech, even an utterance of some invective or other in the transworld air terminal, even if you think that Mr. Hughes, himself, even in Marshal Dillon's shoes, might disapprove our speech and wholly support your ruthless fascism. We could care less. Damn you to hell all the same.

For, we, too, speak with the dead on occasion.

And they said to us that if you don't appreciate freedom of speech, you likely can't appreciate freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of travel, freedom of assembly, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, or the right to freedom of religious belief--as they all hang together or not at all.

Indeed, they continued, you probably cannot think, and, even though you may claim to be an American, you haven't the foggiest notion as to what the term means save that you have some vague fine bouche which leads on to an emotetator that it is all tied up brilliantly in one piece of tri-colored bunting we occasionally salute and to which we occasionally raise our voices before ballgames (and regarding which the current Congress wants to waste its time trying, by amendment to the Constitution, to ban its burning or desecration while stealthily shredding the rest of that document from which it draws its entire raison d'etre).

Moreover, they reverberated to us off the welkin, you are probably most likely to resemble, in noxious luminescence, that which, in the nighttime, when the shadows are most intense upon the greens, would be seated most usually, viewed from the gravest depths, inside the chalet de necessite in or near the old graveyard there.

So, again, they told us instructively and simply enough, should you not believe in this right to speak and think your mind, damn you to hell. You may think yourself vastly superior to the dead, they said; at which point you may learn, quickly, otherwise.

Let the Dead Speak

The discussion of an up-town comfort station is taking an undesirable turn. An amicable argument is on solely as to where a comfort station shall be built, if anywhere, but a much more important aspect, it seems to us, is what kind of comfort station it shall be.

Our own idea, of which we are inordinately fond, is that it should be a combination chalet de necessite and resting place, so to speak, with benches built circularly around the trunks of shade trees and placed along flower-lined walks and grassy plots. There should be a small fountain--by all means there should be a fountain, and it, rather than the purely utilitarian features of this proposed facility, should set the style of its architecture and landscaping.

For such a tranquil retreat in the midst of the city, there is only one possible site. And that is the old graveyard. Care may be taken not to disturb those who sleep there. In fact, they have authorized us to say that, far from looking upon such a conversion of their forlorn last resting place as an intrusion and a piece of disrespect to their ashes, they would welcome a little cheery company for a change.

Labor's Spokesman

North Carolina's Commissioner of Labor certainly gave the Press Association something to think about. He was quite positive that lower living costs in the South, which is the favorite argument in extenuation of a wage differential, was only another way of saying that the South was content with a lower living standard. He thought, besides, that most of the reasons why labor should accept a lower wage applied with equal force to the employer of labor.

He cited the need for a wage-payment law, to require the worker to be paid useful wages in cash rather than in receipts from some company store--a practice which, we believe, is dying out anyhow. He hoped that the next Legislature would pass an arbitration and conciliation law, and, most noteworthy of all, he came out strongly for a State minimum wage and hour act patterned after the Federal law and extending its provisions to employees in purely intrastate business.

How the Press Association received this labor program, accounts of the proceedings do not tell. We ourselves are not ready to move its adoption in part or in toto without the fullest examination. Nevertheless, Major Fletcher did for the newspaper conventioners what a guest speaker rarely does--he gave them, we say, something to think about.

The Only Way Out

In his survey of the hospital situation in Charlotte, Dr. Walsh brought out clearly that the City Government and the community as a whole are deficient in their provisions for the care of the indigent sick. The City Health Department's appropriation last year was only $15,000, which Dr. Walsh called "totally inadequate." Furthermore, neither the City nor any of the local hospitals provide for the segregation of communicable disease cases, with the result, according to Dr. Walsh, that both the morbidity and mortality rates are increasing. "Certain phases of this project," he concludes,

"are the direct responsibility of the City and County, and it is reasonable to expect these corporate bodies to contribute towards the sections for communicable disease, psychopathic cases and out-patient service. At the same time it would be expedient to use every possible influence to induce the public authorities to enter into an agreement with the [Memorial] hospital whereby the City and County shall contribute in the future more adequately to the cost of hospitalizing the indigent."

The demands upon our local governments have increased at such a rate in the last several years that now, in spite of the State's taking over of schools and roads and the Federal Government's shouldering of the larger relief burden, taxes are beginning again to go up. Taxes on real property are reaching, if they have not already reached, the point at which the law of diminishing returns takes effect. Therefore, it becomes essential to the extension of health and hospitalization services that a new source of revenue be found.

It was an available source of new revenue which Mr. Robert Lassiter, vice-president of the Hospital Savings Association, was pointing out in Sunday's News. Conservative estimates are that the City and the County would share some $300,000 in revenue annually merely by taking the liquor business away from the worst elements in the community and putting in a new system--a system which has worked so well in those North Carolina counties which have tried it that, except for the extreme die-hard prohibitionists, their people are wedded to it. At one blow this would knock the pins out from under the Robert Taylors, whom prohibition supports and makes powerful, would remove a prime cause of political corruption, would enable the two local governments to undertake services which are vital, and would raise great gobs of money painlessly and without further burdening home-ownership. It is such a logical proposal in every sense that we do not see how the people of the community can fail to endorse it and to insist upon its adoption.

Intra-Sanctum Argument on Free Speech

Vice Chancellor Leon Berry of the New Jersey judiciary has issued an order forbidding a CIO union from distributing circulars in the vicinity of certain stores in Newark by way of secondary picketing--i.e., picketing designed to dissuade people from trading with establishments which themselves trade with an industrial establishment with which the union has a quarrel. Ground on which he bases his order is that property is an absolute and inalienable right, that free speech is only a contingent right, really a privilege, granted by the constitution, which is necessarily secondary to property right, that the distributing of circulars damages the interests of the establishments at which they are aimed, and therefore that it should be enjoined.

An Absolute Right

This argument that property is an absolute right, inherent in human nature, and that all others are subordinate to it, is one that has often been made. But it is not borne out by the findings of anthropology, common sense, or everyday practice, which is to make property less than absolute at every turn. Its roots are in medievalism, and its chief elaboration in modern times has been at the hands of English jurists of the 19th century, bent on justifying laws forbidding strikes and labor organization.

In point of fact, all rights are contingent one upon the other. No man has a right to force himself into another man's house or upon his personal privacy by way of exercising the freedom of speech. But if the handing out in public streets of circulars which nobody need accept or read can be forbidden on the ground that it injures the property interests of those at whom they are directed--why, then, it is plain that you can do exactly what the 19th century English jurists claimed, and forbid all strikes and labor organization, since they certainly can be argued to be injurious to the interests of the factory owners. More, you can forbid all freedom of speech whatever which takes the form of criticism of any property interest.

A Limited Right

What most defenders of free speech (and hang the cops!) lose sight of is that basically it guarantees our right to cuss out the government. That it does not carry the right to cuss out individuals with impunity you can pretty well prove to your own satisfaction by trying it upon the next six-footer you meet. Either he will bash you one or, if he is more polite than you, he will call the nearest policeman, who will tell you to get moving.

Hence, we have established succinctly and at once that, in a practical sense, the right of free speech can sometimes collide with other rights so inherent to human nature that they don't even need putting down in constitutions. We have established further that, in such cases, the law has the unquestioned authority to order nuisances to get moving, and, if they refuse, to run them in.

That, precisely, is all that was involved in the New Jersey decision. Secondary picketing is a malicious nuisance, no more allowable to labor organizations than it would be between competitors in the same line of business. Free speech hasn't anything to do with it, for freedom of speech doesn't mean unrestricted freedom of behavior. It wouldn't be supportable if it did.

Site Ed. Note: All the rest of 'em.


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