The Charlotte News

Tuesday, November 30, 1937


Site Ed. Note: That letter from Mr. White, representing the feelings of the Manufacturers’ Representatives to the effect that the proper meted punishment for a person previously convicted of being drunk, a traffic offender, and a larcenist, and now being hauled forth before the law on a new such charge of petty larceny, but, according to the sole testimony of the killing officer, pulls a knife to effect escape, and then in process of escaping, the officer shoots, intending the shot, according to his statement, to be only warning or aimed at the absconding yegg’s legs, but, unfortunately, at just the moment fired, tripping down into a ditch, accidentally discharges his weapon into the head of the escaping misdemeanant, all that being quite proper and decent, then, under those circumstances, according to the November 22 statement of the Manufacturers’ Representatives; and that no guff should thereafter be hurled toward the fine, upstanding officer from anyone in response to it, that the officer's discretion should be final in the matter and not one into which probe should be made to undermine and thereby "halter" the police department’s effectiveness in deterring and remitting crime in the city.

All that being well and good, as long as the suspect was a black man.

But would it have been equally so, had Mr. White’s relative been the object of the accidental gunfire?

"And the Price Tag?" regarding the First Lady’s and Doris Duke’s trip** through West Virginia to some of the rebuilt Depression mining communities, questioning the worth of expenditure, given the still government-dependent results, may or may not have been written by Cash. Whether it was or wasn’t is inconsequential. It appears on the one hand practical, on the other, a little cold-hearted, even callous, toward at least an effort being put forth by the Administration to eradicate Depression-era poverty.

The ultimate gripe of the piece, however, appears perhaps to be directed toward the weighty hand of Washington bureaucratic morassism, turning a glowing ideal into only another glowing failure, ultimately disserving the notion of government welfare as remedy to social ills, to serve as target then against which all the Economic Royalists might carp and offer as Exhibit A to the supposed better remedy of free enterprise and private capital, unfettered by Washington, to afford the rebuilding. (Perhaps, too, the editorial was also carping at the choice of traveling companion for Mrs. R.)

But then, as the first editorial of the day, by contrast, notes another type of social ill and its preemption by undue individual force in the case at hand, would that form of vigilanteism, altered in its stark unfealty to the constitutionally democratic ideal only by its cloak in a blue instead of a white uniform, be a preferable solution, in lieu of government bureaucratic morassism, for affording due process? (Perhaps, after all, the other piece was meant only to try to balance the slate, to offset the humor offered at the expense of Miss Dixie a few days earlier, trying thereby to suggest neutrality in the sardonism department, to keep at bay for awhile the unhumored Kukus, lest they heave up a rope to a limb of a nearby tree to exact some Bowlin-style gutter-justice, that of the street and cottonfield, for the editorialist. "Let's go a-Bowlin (or a-Curlin)," as the Kukus might be apt to say...)

We cannot help but have the image arise to our mind, an image nicely recaptured in the film "Bobby" a year ago, of Robert Kennedy, during the early stages of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1968, walking among the impoverished of a mining town in West Virginia, all eager to greet him. We shall never know whether Mr. Kennedy’s plan, as we think it well might have, would have led to some better and more effective changes than that which has traipsed the landscape since to effect fog-beset adaptation to the otherwise inhospitable environs, that of wildly unmanaged Manufacturers’ Representatives—corporatocracy, i.e., the foundation pins of fascism.

Ah, the cynic will grouse, but you cannot have it both ways, the ideal of plenty, enough for all to be nourished, while at the same time, a smaller, more ideal form of the state working in perfect symbiosis with small business.

We disagree, and would be more than happy to debate the subject with that fractious cynic.

A good start might be a gander deeply into that which beset the Fayetteville Observer, obviously, as evidenced by the snippet on the page this date, and its entire backwater framework within the Confederacy itself of 1862, as well the very same complex besetting too much of it, even after a hundred years of Progress since that time had passed, since stupored Grant’s corporatocracy found flourish in reconstruction of the South, largely unabated in its destruction of ideals, until came the New Deal out of the necessity of a bankrupt system, a regulatory process which some insist even today should be severely curtailed or done away with entirely such that we might then happily collapse again into dispirited depression and economic chaos, just as, at least by the evidence a strong argument for which might be made, too great unregulated reliance on soil-leeching, boll-weeviled cotton as a staple ultimately led, as the little abstract on the page of today suggests and with which we agree, to the downfall of the South, both before and after the Civil War.

Or, was it quite so simple as that, in the early 1800’s of the frontier country, that being hewed from the wilderness daily against the dangerous backwater horde in the forest and beyond, the hewers growing restive and tired of workaday, needing then greater means to sustain the life in fine, and finer finery, than the backwoods might afford, as time passed and the dainties at home, whose hands had strained on the washboard once too often, saw the Yankee drawing rooms with their hoop-skirts aplenty at the ball within the Harper’s?

That start at gander might be made many places within the whole operation, but here may be made a fair slip into the other time, to see the Proclamation of September 22, 1862, set to take effect January 1, 1863, daring to proclaim from the position of Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of another country, a whole ‘nother country, the freedom of the slaves in the country in which the Observer sat, apart from it.

How dare he? Let us go find ten Yankee officers to kill forthwith to even the slate. Did they, after all, not kill ten o’ our’n?

End of debate.

Anyway, Mornin’, Morgantown…

For the Lowliest

When a jury of six white citizens agrees that a white police officer has unjustifiably shot a Negro--a Negro of bad reputation and with a police record, a Negro of no standing and no influence--and when this jury finds cause to bind over the officer to Superior Court that he may be tried by his peers, it is a sign that the ideal of an equal and an exact justice to all men, without regard to race, color, position or any other factor except simple right and wrong, is still strong within this Southern society.

On our part there has never been any disposition to assert baldly that the officer was or wasn't justified in the use of his pistol. Now that it is a case pending in criminal court, it would be highly improper to express any opinion about it. But all along we have insisted that the due processes of the law ought to be as readily invoked in behalf of the lowliest among us as in behalf of the highest; that police officers are as accountable as any others to the law of the land; that the State, which puts persons to death only after giving them every opportunity to plead defenses in fact and law, cannot afford lightly to delegate this responsibility to agents in the field. All we have maintained is that the law was bound to take cognizance of the killing--and apparently that is the way the coroner's jury felt about it.

It's Wrong; It's Right

In his message to Congress on housing yesterday, the President said:

"If the building industry is to play the vital part that it ought [grammatical error deleted] in our economic system, it must do it in the characteristic American way. It must develop, as other great industries have developed, the American genius for efficient and economical large-scale production..."

We ask you, now, if this isn't a direct contradiction of Presidential policies, denied over and over by word and deed, against bigness per se? We ask you if it isn't exceedingly confusing for the President to talk one day as though he wanted the American economic structure brought down to the level of Little Business and the next as though Big Business, with its large-scale production, were our prime hope of bringing about the more abundant life?

Hardly more than a year ago--on October 21, 1937, when the President was campaigning for reelection--he gave voice to an exactly contrary opinion. Defending basic tax changes instituted during his administration, in one instance he said:

"We decreased the tax rates on small corporations. Wasn't that the American thing to do?"

If the American thing to do is to tax bigness at a higher rate than smallness, and the characteristic American way is large-scale production, in fine, bigness, America obviously is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.

For the Record

Secretary Hull's note to Japan yesterday was, we take it, simply one for the record. Hereafter, what has always been clear will be clearer still--that the United States believes in China's sovereign right as a nation, that it desires and supports the open door for China trade, and that it will not recognize Japan's right to seize command of the government and customs of Shanghai and to attempt to hog the Chinese trade. But so far as the note's having any practical effect at the moment, of course it isn't going to have.

The little brown brother--or the brass-hats who run his country, anyhow--has already made it perfectly clear that the only thing he is prepared to respect is force. And he knows very well that the United States isn't prepared to use force. The primary interest of our government in the government of Shanghai is the safety of our nationals there, and he is probably going to be too canny to imperil that again. Only a small part of the revenue of the Chinese customs is pledged to us. And as for the China trade, we hate to lose it, but the mere cost of moving the American grand fleet into Oriental waters would almost outbalance its total value. It is worth fighting for under no view of the matter. And the American people are dead set against fighting in any case.

All that, the little brown man knows. And so, having dutifully filed our protest, he is going on cheerfully thumbing his nose at us.

More Jersey Justice

Jersey City and its Mayor Hague and its Judge Anthony Botti (of the fine old Colonial American Bottis, we presume) might very well take themselves to Governor Olin Johnston, of South Carolina, for a lesson in how to deal with the CIO. It astonishes us a little to find ourselves saying that, for we have not always admired the Governor. Nevertheless--.

Yesterday in Jersey City, pursuant to the announced determination of Mayor Hague to keep the CIO out of his town regardless, thirteen CIO organizers were hauled before Judge Botti (of the fine old American name) and sentenced to five days in jail for the great crime of distributing handbills. It was about as raw a proceeding as has figured in the American prints in a long time, for the Judge made no pretense of fairness and openly proclaimed that his decision was directed to the end of achieving Mayor Hague's purpose.

And Governor Johnston? Replying to the query of the Poinsett Klavern of the Ku Klux Klan, the Greenville chapter of the nightshirters, as to how he stood on the CIO, he had to say:

"I endorse any organization... devoted to the improvement of the living conditions of the working people of the state... so long as they do not violate the laws and statutes of South Carolina or the United States..."

Exactly. The Governor quite clearly understands the American system--as Hague, Botti and company just as clearly do not.

And the Price Tag?*

So Miss Eleanor and Miss Doris went traipsing over the West Virginia hills, the one expatiating on her pet projects and the other listening and looking and exclaiming and trying to take it all in. From Elkins to Tygart and from Tygart to Morgantown they dashed, stopping here to talk to families conscious of their roles as project people, stopping there to take in an impromptu square dance and to pat a child or so on the head. We can hear the assorted pair now, with Miss Eleanor doing most of the talking.

"Yes, you see, the mines closed down, and these people had absolutely nothing to do and no way to make a living. My dear, they lived in the most unbelievable poverty and with the most hopeless outlook, so I went to Franklin and he said I might try to do something for them. That nice Rex Tugwell was as sympathetic as anyone could have been, and together we worked out a scheme to build all the sweet little houses you see and to rehabilitate these people and give them jobs by establishing new industries.

"In the beginning there was right much confusion and delay because the houses didn't fit the foundations and because Congress wouldn't vote the money to establish new industries which they said would be in competition with industries in Congressmen's districts--you know how politicians are. But we persevered and finally these pretty little communities materialized and the people moved into their nice new houses and are getting along just splendidly, as you can see."

But Miss Doris, if she is anything like her hard-headed late father, probably wanted to know how much the nice new houses had cost per each, if the communities were now fully or largely self-supporting*, if the government would ever get any part of its money back, and if the model projects hadn't shown, by the very costliness of spreading exceptional benefits among so few people, the impracticality of ever re-making America direct from Washington. On second thought, Miss Doris probably wanted to know nothing of the kind. She is much too polite to throw cold water on her hostess's happy hankerings.

*[One out of every three wage-earners in Arthurdale is still "on the government."]

**Site Ed. Note: Her name was "Dilling", not "Billing", Time, but for our purposes 70 years later, "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" will suffice. Was she on NBC, too?

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