The Charlotte News

Thursday, February 10, 1938


Site Ed. Note: A typical reaction of shysters appears in the letters to the editor column of today's page, referring to a piece which appeared in the column on October 1, 1937, "Justice and the Fee System". Given the authority enjoyed by such individuals, even unto this day, for one to become incensed and threaten contempt for expressing in the public press criticism of the system, proves of course the very point "An Archaic System" makes: that a large number of these individuals were so poorly equipped mentally and deficient generally in character for honesty, both in terms of integrity and intellect, and so lacked understanding of our overall system of jurisprudence under the Constitution that they formed a system which amounted to justice for hire, in complete corruption of fair and unbiased jurisprudence, the belief apparently subsisting among some of them that the position of public trust they in fact held was instead a private fiefdom, handed to them by patronage, one with which to render "justice" as they subjectively saw fit, not determined by any body of law governing them. For of that they could most likely make one truthful claim: total lack of awareness.

As we have remarked before, in an age where trained lawyers are plentiful, there ought not be persons unskilled and untrained in the law sitting anywhere in the land in any judicial or quasi-judicial capacity, except by the consent of those before the tribunal or where they are sitting in a purely administrative capacity with neither fines nor imprisonment within their authority to administer. It is a disgrace in every setting for it to be otherwise; for eternally and eventually, it leads to the same result: a bending of the rules, an abandoning of the rules, an ignorance of the rules, or plain deceit and payoffs to bend, abandon or ignore the rules. Consequently, there are no rules, there is no justice, and respect for the entire system breaks down. For it is often the case that these very settings are where the bulk of the public is most likely to encounter the justice system. Consequently, it should be exemplary at such levels and peopled by well qualified persons of impeccable character, not political hacks appointed as some local pol's payoff to his cousin for support in the last election.

An Archaic System*

Detective Chief Littlejohn's passage with the Justice of Peace at Hendersonville once more points the evil of the fee system under which all justices of the peace, most deputy sheriffs, and many constables and turnkeys operate.

The system had its origin in a time when the office of justice of the peace was an honor only inferior to that of a real judge, and went to persons who were not dependent upon it for a living. But in our time the state has come to swarm with not less than ten thousand justices of the peace, and with an even vaster army of deputies and other small police fry, nearly all of them making their living by the practice of justice as a trade. They are not necessarily bad men, but most of them are simple men--some of the justices of the peace being almost completely illiterate. And they are directly and naturally interested in multiplying their fees.

The result is that many entirely useless arrests are made, that traffic traps are set up and turned into money-machines, that justice is made into a profitable farce, and that cities like Charlotte which do not pay fees, find it extremely difficult to get rural co-operation in the apprehension of criminals.

A great part of these people are superfluous for the ends of law enforcement and their offices ought to be abolished. The rest ought to be put on a flat salary basis, under the strictest supervision.

Great Expectations*

To the pleas of business, big and little, and the arguments of the economists, now is added labor's voice for the repeal or modification of the undistributed profits and capital gains tax. The AFL's executive council, affirming that labor, industry and government must pull together, and noting a bad psychological effect from the continuance of these irksome taxes, suggests that Congress do the needful.

Well, that makes it practically unanimous. Everybody, even the liberals in Congress, thinks that these taxes ought to be changed. They are given discredit for a large part of what has happened to business, so that business has worked itself into a state of believing that if only they were changed, life would become a bowl of watermelons. But we doubt it.

For while the undistributed profits tax, in particular, is unsound in certain applications, it is in principle precisely as sound and as workable as the whole income tax structure. It only endeavors to get at the individual who takes cover behind a corporation, and that in the process it jeopardizes the safe operation of all corporations is due to easily corrected imperfections in the law as it was improvised.

Besides, it is more the total take of the Federal Government than the manner of assessing taxes that is the incubus which leaves business exhausted before the battle for profits begins. It may have a favorable psychological effect to rearrange the order of the letters, but if they still spell h-i-g-h t-a-x-e-s, business will continue to be loaded down.

Explaining Kilkenny

Mr. R. F. Craig of Stanley who attended the Little Business Men's conference in Washington, said yesterday in a statement to The News that the conference turned into a war [indiscernible words] of [indiscernible word] cats from Kilkenny mainly because the [indiscernible word] attempted to [indiscernible words] to hand-[indiscernible words] to make sure that it jumped properly through the New Deal hoop.

General Hugh Johnson, though, thought the other day the fiasco was due to the fact that most of the little men had a Plan, and that little men with Plans go berserk when they encounter other little men with Plans of their own.

Rodney Dutcher, again, thought it was something else--that the little boys pattern their thinking closely after the big ones, that they are much less restrained in expressing them, and that they went to Washington, for the main, with a set purpose of venting their rage against the New Deal. Further still, our own representatives from Charlotte thought the main trouble was a handful of wild men from New York and Pennsylvania, either touched in the head or simply out to make grief for the administration.

And so on and so on and so on... Each of the little men there, and each of the men, big and little, who saw it, seems to have a separate diagnosis. For ourselves, we throw up the sponge. The thing is over, it seems to have been an incredible mistake, and--after all, who can explain why a tom from Kilkenny lays on so hard when you put him in a pit?

The Rule Doesn't Fit

Tom Glasgow told the City Council yesterday that the Blue Law group he represented "is willing to allow the will of the people to prevail."

And that, by Jove, would be very generous and fair-minded of them, save for one little thing--that majority rule plainly has nothing to do with this argument. Majority rule is properly a device used by democracies to resolve conflicts of interest. But in the case in hand, the only conflict is of beliefs.

Ah, now, let us see. These Blue Law folk rest their argument on the grounds, (1) that Sunday laws are necessary to insure working people at least one day's rest a week, and (2) that Sunday observance is a part of the Christian religion. But as to the first--shades of the New Deal and staid South Carolina's flirting with a 40-hour week for mill people! It is the most obvious fact of our times that working people are in no conceivable danger of being deprived of at least one holiday a week. And what the Blue Law contention really comes down to is that the civil power ought to be invoked to force what is admittedly a religious observance.

And it happens to be one of the best established principles of the American system that no majority, however great, has the right to use the civil power to enforce religious observance upon a minority, however small. If there were but a single Jew, a single Mohammedan, a single Hindu, a single agnostic or atheist in Charlotte, it would still be a gross violation of civil liberty and the freedom of conscience--not to say fair play--for the rest of the citizenry to force him to observe the Christian Sunday. And since there are at least several thousand persons in Charlotte who prefer going to baseball games on Sunday to staying at home, coercion is all the more unbecoming to the Blue Law advocates, whether they be in the majority or the minority.

Site Ed. Note: For more on the Washington Naval Treaty and its various violations, to which the piece refers, and the progress in the race to build ships advanced by two more years, see "Baffled" and the accompanying note, January 12, 1940.

This intense international competition for a superior navy in a pre-nuclear, pre-jet world was the primary reason why scrap iron had become such a precious commodity to the Japanese, to form the steel to form the hulls and bulkheads--the bulk of it prior to Pearl Harbor coming from the United States.

Of the ships below mentioned, four, the Pennsylvania, the West Virginia, the Maryland, and the Oklahoma, were partially sunk or sustained heavy damage at Pearl Harbor during the attack of December 7, 1941.

The Big Ships

The stories about expansion of the navy are coming so thick and fast that they are apt to be a little confusing. Anyhow, for ourselves we found it advisable to look up the facts as to what already exists and what is proposed. And, in our usual devotion to service, having looked them up, we pass them on.

At present we have fifteen capital ships which are now afloat. One of them, the Arkansas, was built in 1912, two in 1914, and three, including the flagship Pennsylvania, in 1916. All the rest were built before 1921, save the West Virginia and the Colorado, which were completed in 1923. Tonnage ranges from 27,000 for the Texas to 33,400 for the Idaho and the New Mexico. And speed from 19.68 knots an hour for the Oklahoma to 21.50 for the Idaho. The Colorado, the Maryland, and the West Virginia carry main batteries of eight 16-inch guns. The Arkansas has twelve 12-inchers. And the rest have from ten to twelve 14-inch rifles. These old ships cost from $10,028,826 for the Arkansas to $27,564,481 for the Maryland.

Two other ships are presently building, the North Carolina and the Washington. They run to 35,000 tons, will have a maximum speed of 29 knots, will cost $55,000,000 each, and will carry twelve 14-inch rifles. Three others have been authorized but not yet appropriated for. But under the President's proposals for expansion, they probably will be. And if Japan turns out to be building ships greater than treaty tonnage, the next ones laid down will probably go back to the size planned by the Naval Department in 1921--42,400 tons. Batteries on these last may run to 16-inch guns, and removal of treaty limits will probably mean that even the North Carolina and Washington will be equipped with the twelve 16-inch guns they can carry.

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