The Charlotte News

Tuesday, February 22, 1938


Site Ed. Note: The previous piece of January 25 noted in "A Lucky Hiatus", re the insistency and regularity through the years with which lynching occurred, was "Of Time and the Filibuster".

"Broun and the Useless" refers to the piece by Heywood Broun of February 19 on the Federal Theater Project.

"PLOW, n. An implement that cries aloud for hands accustomed to the pen." --from The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce.

Speaking of whom, in continuance of yesterday's note, we should indicate that Mr. Bierce worked for Mr. Hearst out in San Francisco as a columnist for some twenty years, after he got through being a soldier, including his turns as a picket, in the Civil War. In 1901, Mr. Bierce brought some degree of obloquy apparently to Mr. Hearst regarding a poem Mr. Bierce had delivered up in early 1900 on the occasion of the assassination of Governor Goebel of Kentucky, rumored to have been at the hand of his late election opponent. Even Cash, 39 years after the fact, saw fit to offer some comments on the assassination of Governor Goebel, in "The Dark and the Bloody", August 7, 1938.

In this controversial bit of verse, Bierce stated:

The bullet that pierced Goebel's breast
Can not be found in all the West;
Good reason, it is speeding here
To stretch McKinley on his bier

Whereupon, after September 6, 1901, when President McKinley was assassinated at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, some apparently suggested that Mr. Hearst, as publisher of the verse, had somehow aided and abetted the shooting.

Of course, that is pretty far-fetched. The assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was the son of Polish immigrants, a self-styled anarchist, and lived in Cleveland, far from the madding crowd readily able to peruse either the San Francisco or New York newspapers bearing the Hearst masthead. Indeed, Hearst didn't own a single newspaper in the entire state of Ohio. Whether Czolgosz read it or not, it is quite unlikely that four lines of doggerel published nineteen months earlier would have actuated very much even the most assiduously dedicated to insane orchestration within an unbalanced mind, such that the result would coalesce in assassination of the President, or anyone else. The words above simply do not carry or imply such profound gravity. If anything, they would likely diffuse any such extant notions, even among anarchists.

Some even radically proclaim, by way of urban legends and folderol of doubtful authenticity, that this sole incident ended the political aspirations of Mr. Hearst; there were many things otherwise plentiful which were available to end Mr. Hearst's political aspirations, such that no one need ring up, loudly or softly, such an arcane datum as the Bierce verse to afford the excuse. Indeed, McKinley's most comprehensive biography to date, In the Days of McKinley, by Margaret Leech, Harper, 1959, (a book, together with a novel by Disraeli, which Henry Luce once caught Senator Kennedy reading in 1960), does not even so much as mention the incident.

Nevertheless, all of that swings us back round to the Pink Walrus and his mention of Orson Welles in his February 19 column as a prominent graduate of the Federal Theater, by way of touting its beneficence to society and the suggestion that the WPA engage itself similarly in the newspaper business, to which Cash takes ample umbrage below.

Well, we don't know about that. We suppose that inevitably such a program would have provoked cries of a government run press, and one so inept as to be necessarily peopled by jobless journalists incapable of finding steady work in the usual privately endowed organs of dissemination. But without such a haven to the devil-may-care print-starved ploughmen, bondsmen and ditchmen, the feeling is likely to be left to pervade among the populace of a press run by elite insiders, not the callused hands or feet of the street dancers, even within the class of practical pauper's pay which most journalists of Cash's day occupied.

So, does the idea imply democratization of the Fourth Estate, or does it portend a stooge syndicate, much as was the rule in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Russia of the time? Neither, but just a way to feed starving journalists?

Cash didn't care for the Federal Theater or the Federal Writers' Project either, as witness, "Utopia for the Artist", June 29, 1938, "Movies from Washington", September 1, 1938, "And a Third", December 30, 1938, and "Obstinacy in Relief", February 8, 1939. Of course, when one is earning $50 per week to hammer out the sort of polished and erudite material Cash normally turned over to the printers, it was no doubt hard to accept that there were writers in New York earning two or three times that in some instances, while doing nothing more utilitarian and salutary than turning out drivel for Red propaganda sheets at the expense of the taxpayer.

And, on November 5, 1938, Arturo Toscanini premiered Adagio for Strings, by Samuel Barber.

The rest of the page is here.

Let Freedom Ring

We wonder if anybody has thought of combining National Air Mail Week, which Postmaster Paul Younts has been chosen to head up, and May the Twentieth. It happens that the 163rd anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration comes within the time set aside for the celebration of the Twentieth anniversary of air mail. And while we would never suggest horning in on Uncle Sam's parties, a pretentious May the Twentieth would not necessarily interfere with the local observance of National Air Mail Week. In fact, the one would complement the other.

Besides, it has been a long time since we celebrated Mecklenburg Declaration Day at all fittingly. In these days when whole peoples are enthusiastically handing over their freedom and their liberties to self-chosen bosses, it would be all the more appropriate to rededicate Mecklenburg to independence.

Site Ed. Note: For more on the Mecklenburg Resolves, its disputed effect, date, and even actuality as a non-invented event, see "1775-1940" and its accompanying note, May 20, 1940, and "Charlotte Is Out", December 9, 1938.

A Lucky Hiatus

On January 25 we heaved a shudder and remarked that, according to the law of averages for recent years, the South could be expected to lynch at least eight Negroes in 1938, one, that is, for every forty-five and a half days. Moreover, the first lynching had almost invariably come in the first forty-five-and-a-half-day period. And therefore, we concluded, the filibusterers in the Senate were running a desperate race with time, since a lynching would obviously turn their faces the color of flame.

But fifty-two and a half days of the year have gone, the filibuster is over and done with, and still there has been no lynching, and not many attempts at lynching. Only once, as far as we know, has it ever happened so before. In 1936, it was March 2 before the first one took place. But in 1937, it came on February 2; in 1935 on January 11; and in 1934 on January 24.

Maybe it means that the South, as the filibusterers have been arguing, is getting ready to be done with the business altogether. Maybe it's just one of those lulls that came in 1936, and means nothing at all (total for that year, nine). And in any case the filibusterers may thank their lucky stars, and so, by gad, may the usual first victim.

Broun and the Useless

Harry Hopkins, who wants the Federal Government permanently to take up the role of Lorenzo the Grand, and to continue to support the "artists and writers" on WPA rolls, is gone one better by Heywood Broun, the pawky gentleman who holds forth in a column to leeward four days a week. For Heywood wants the WPA to start its own newspaper, by way of giving work to "unemployed newspaper men."

That might be more convincing if there were any evidence around that any competent newspaper men are out of jobs. But, casting over the field, as we know it, we can think of scarcely one who is worth his salt as such. And we never have held for the theory that born ditch-diggers or plough-boys or bond salesmen are to be encouraged to go on pretending that they are newspaper men--or artists or writers--simply because they've always had a yen so to be. The plain fact is that, by and large, even writers and artists who are really competent should be able to support themselves, at least after a year or two of apprenticeship, if they work at their trades. And the rule holds doubly for newspaper men.

For Heywood is going to tell us that capitalistic newspapers wickedly refuse to hire men on account of their private views, regardless of competency? Look at Heywood himself, a pink if ever there was one. But a highly competent pink, with the result that capitalistic newspapers of the land are currently paying him the economic royalist salary of $37,200 annually to write his pinkish column for them!

Site Ed. Note: For more cynicism re Chamberlain's optimistic proclamation, see "So Soon a Generation", six days hence.

The words below suggest that, to Cash, Munich was already foreordained, seven months ahead of time--and a month before Joseph Kennedy took his place as Ambassador to Great Britain.

Peace--It's Wonderful!

From this distance Mr. Neville Chamberlain seems to be a man of sardonic, if perhaps unconscious, humor. He advised the House of Commons yesterday that he expected that his deal with Italy and Hitler would "preserve the peace of the continent for a generation."

By way of preserving "the peace of the continent for a generation," you understand, Mr. Chamberlain proposes, in flat violation of British pledges, to throw Spain, which already for eighteen months has been overrun by one of the most murderous invading armies known to history, wide open for Signor Mussolini to send in bigger and better invading armies. And, in flat violation of British pledges, to hand over Austria and Czechoslovakia to the mercies of Hitler. Austria probably can't and won't fight. But the Czechs, a proud and brave people, probably will, with the result that, in all likelihood, we shall presently see the Spanish story happening all over again in Bohemia.

But perhaps, so far as England goes, Mr. Chamberlain is right. It does not seem unlikely that if Mussolini is given Spain, Gibraltar will become simply another useless rock, and that the English will be made incapable of sustaining a war for thirty days--that, in short, "the peace of the continent will be preserved," but on Italy's and Germany's terms, not on England's.

Site Ed. Note: For two other similar pieces in praise of the distilling of Washington's human essence, see "A Great Man", February 22, 1939, and "Washington", February 22, 1940.

On February 22, 1941, no piece on Washington appeared; but "Calmed Down", on Japan's invasion of Indochina, lends some irony to history, as Ho Chi Minh, stirring the inceptive choler of his revolutionary ardor during the Japanese occupation of his country, patterned himself after the great general, George Washington.

It was Parson Weems, incidentally, who, apparently wholly whittling the matter from soft wood, gave us the cherry tree chopper vignette.


The realists in recent years have kicked Parson Weems and all the claptrap patriots into the discard, and have given us, instead of the old priggish lay figure, a hard swearing redhead with a mole on his cheek, a taste for sack, the peremptory manners of a cavalry captain, and a considerable dislike for democracy.

We need dispute none of it. We should be grateful, perhaps, that he has been presented to us in human terms: for Thomas Carlyle to the contrary notwithstanding, the cult of demi-gods is dangerous for man, as events in Europe currently prove. But that this is the whole man is nonsense. Nor, to prove that, do we need to go to universal testimony of his time that his presence was tremendous--that in any company in which he stood he stood by common consent as first, not because he had the greatest intellect of his time--they knew very well he didn't--but because of the great dignity and strength and poise in him.

This man, as James Truslow Adams has pointed out, drove through the American Revolution to success almost by himself. Far from the country's being filled with patriots yearning to battle England, soldiers were hard to get and harder to keep, and it was only the confidence he inspired that held the army together at all. More than that, he undoubtedly served as the balance wheel of the republic in its most dangerous period. Without him, indeed, the chances are that the squabbling states would never have got together. Make him homely, say he liked wine, that he knew his cuss words, and could get along with only a small helping of democracy, and the score still adds up the fact that he was by all manners of reckoning a very great man.

Man on a Limb

Senator Schwellenbach is apparently an innocent soul. Else he'd never have cooked up that plan to have the nations which owe us war debts pay off "in produce." So far as that goes, the only way they ever could have paid off was "in produce"--that is, by selling American firms more than they bought from American firms, and transferring the difference to the credit of the United States. For since the war there has not been enough gold in all their hands to begin to pay up in that medium. But, apparently, what the Senator has in mind is that the debtor governments shall buy goods in their own countries with their own more or less money, and ship them direct to--our Federal Government!

Great jumping catfish! Try to imagine the uproar in the shoe industry, already as mad as a hornet over Dr. Hull's trade agreements, when a consignment of shoes came in from Czechoslovakia, and the Government, as the alternative to letting them go to pieces, began to peddle them out to wholesalers at what-have-you? Or in the textile industry when a consignment of cotton cloth blew in from Lancashire! Or in the California wine trade when France dutifully came through with a cargo of Chablis 1912 or Pol Roger 1896? Or in the cowbarns of Wisconsin when a freighter docked with German butter and cheese in her holds! Or in the linseed and flour mills when an Italian ship began to discharge olive oil and spaghetti by the ton!

Senator Schwellenbach had better put up his saw and climb down--fast.

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