Baltimore Evening Sun (12 August 1911): 6.


What a godsend to the virtuosi of virtue is the Astor-Force engagement! With what mad cries of joy they fall upon it! With what Christian charity they heave the first stone, and then the second, and then the third, and then a whole cartload! How they gloat lovingly over its every detail! How they prove and demonstrate their own virtue, their own chemical purity, by damning so magnificently, out of hand and without hearing, this young girl!

It is, of course, unheard of in our fair land for a divorcee to remarry. It is unheard of for a man of middle age to take a young wife. It is unheard of for a marrying maid to look to the solvency of her lover. These are crimes unprecedented, unspeakable, awful. They deserve the vociferous reprehension of every pure soul. And even if they don’t, they at least give every pure soul a chance to exhibit, before all men, its own so white, so resplendent and so exquisite purity.

The estimable Wegg, of Belair, still burdens the malls with epistles on the lamentable idolatry going on at Back River, but an inspection of his last letter, printed in The Evening Sun on Monday, convinces me that he has undergone a considerable change of mind since his epistolary frenzy set in. In brief, he comes into camp very gracefully, and so I beseech and belabor him no longer, simply because there are no more serious questions at issue between us. He admits, at last, that the persons who drink beer at Back River on Sunday are not necessarily scoundrels. He admits that he has no evidence that they engage in debauchery. He admits that drinking beer on Sunday is not, in itself, a sinful act, nor in any sense an un-Christian act. He admits that the Sunday laws of Maryland are not sacrosanct, and that a man may hold them to be childish and absurd and still qualify as a decent citizen. He admits, finally, that a large body of public opinion is against them, and that they may have to be changed before long. These are all propositions that I have maintained from the start; it, therefore, does not surprise me to see one more honest man embracing them.

But on one point Wegg still sticks to his guns. That is to say, he still insists that Sabbath-breaking is “improper, unlawful, wrong,” not because there is any inherent evil in it, but simply because it is in violation of the blue laws. In other words, it is wrong, per se, to break any law, without reference to the character of that law. If the Legislature of Maryland should pass a law requiring every adult male to wear a beard, it would be wrong, by the Weggian ethics, for any man to shave. The absurdity of a law cannot defend its violator, nor can he plead that the act which violates it is, in itself, perfectly natural, harmless and decent. The one essential thing, according to Wegg, is the fact that a law has been violated.

Very well. Let us admit it. But let us also take note of the fact that, by this Weggian rule, it is just as wrong to buy or sell a stick of chewing gum, or a bottle of ginger pop, or a 5-cent cigar in Baltimore on Sunday as it is to buy or sell a schooner of beer at Back River. The man who goes to Back River and drinks beer is exactly on a footing with the man who stays in Baltimare and drinks soda water. Both perform actions which, in themselves, are no more immoral (by Wegg’s admission) than swatting a fly, but both violate Section 10, Chapter 16 of the Acts of 1723, and its ridiculous successors, and therefore both deserve condemnation. The point is that the guilt of one is no less and no greater than the guilt of the other. The soda water drinker and the beer drinker are in exactly the same boat, and voyaging with them are the immoral little kids who suck at Sunday snowballs and chew Sunday chewing gum and eat Sunday taffy.

So I kiss the good Wegg good-by, agreeing with him fully upon all points save one. He sticks manfully to the doctrine that any law, however inquisitorial and ludicrous, must be obeyed to the letter by all good citizens. And I cling to the contrary doctrine that no man is under any obligation, moral or theological, to obey a law which insults his common sense, violates his common rights, and imposes upon him a tyranny that a self-respecting dog would not bear.

The following moving complaint comes from a baldheaded man:

I have, perhaps, one-fourth of a head of hair. It’s no more than a fringe around my neck, but I must get that fringe trimmed once in a while and the barbers always charge me for a full haircut. The other day, suffering in the chair. I suggested that the officiating mechanic go over my scalp with a razor, to root out a few stray hairs on top. He did so--and then handed me a check for 40 cents. “But isn’t the price of a haircut a quarter?” I asked. “So it is,” said he. “Well, man, why the extra 15?” Why should such robbery be permitted to go on? It takes two minutes to trim my fringe of hair. To trim it and then shave my bald spot takes maybe five minutes. A real haircut, given a finicky customer, takes from 20 minutes to half an hour. And yet I am assessed an extra 15 cents! Is this justice?

Undoubtedly it is not. And undoubtedly that sort of piracy is helping to ruin the profession of barbarity. Time was when practically every man who shaved at all patronized a barber shop. But now fully four-fifths of us shave ourselves. And why? In the first place, because it is cleaner, decenter, quicker. In the second place, because an ordinary shave, once to be had for 10 cents, now costs a quarter. The barbers grow more extortionate every day. Fifteen or 20 years ago they were satisfied with their 10 cents, Then they raised the price to 15 cents. Then they began looking for tips. Today a shave costs a quarter—15 cents for the operation itself and 10 cents for the professor’s honorarium. And there is even talk of a further raise!

Of course, it is possible to dodge the tip. But don’t do it–and then return to the scene of your dodging! If you do, you will learn just how dull a razor can be, and still not roll like a wheel. And you will also learn just how much scorn the human eye can emit in one flash. No, the tip must be forked over if you would escape with your hide. Barbers have lost their old simplicity and modesty. The profession has been corrupted by luxury. The old-time practitioner who operated in his shirt sleeves and was content with his 10 cents is no more. His successor is an elegant gentleman in a spotless duck suit, with a bartender’s diamond upon his chest and an automobile snorting outside. And for all this magnificence the tortured client must pay, pay, pay.

Texts for excellent sermons upon the observance of the Sabbath:

Matthew, xii, 2 and 3. Mark, ii, 27. Mark, iii, 3. John, v, 16.