Baltimore Evening Sun (21 December 1911): 6.


Down go taxes! Stop! Up go assessments! Look! Up go water rents! Listen!

The current issue of Baltimore, the monthly comic paper of the Merchants and Manufacturers’ Association, contains a page article, apparently by the chairman of the Committee on Bogus Statistics, upon the death rate in Baltimore, largely made up of an attack upon me for persistently calling attention to the height of that death rate. I am accused of gloating over it; I am denounced as a public enemy; it is gently hinted that if I lived in certain other towns, and carried on any such campaign of slander, something very disagreeable would happen to me. But with all this, the Merchants and Manufacturers’ Association, now for the first time and after many silly and labored denials, openly and unequivocally acknowledges that my figures are and have always been entirely correct, while its own figures have been entirely wrong.

Here we have, with exquisite clarity, an expression of the boomiferous philosophy. The death-rate in Baltimore is scandalously high, but the man who calls attention to it to a marplot and a rascal. The figures of the Health Department are sophisticated and ridiculous—but the Health Department is a patriot for defending them. In other words, it is a the part of a good citizen, not to point out and discuss evils in the communal life, in the hope of remedying them, but to deny them flatly, or, at least, to be silent about them. Morphine for appendicitis—that is the boomer’s cure. Let the patient die, if such be his fate—but for goodness sake don’t let the news get about that he has a colic! And beyond all things, don’t make the slightest nick in his tender hide!

The statistician of the Honorary Pall-Bearers, in the course at his philippic, undertakes to account for Baltimore’s high death-rate, now acknowledged at last, in various ways. For one thing, he points out that Baltimore is an old town and one receiving few immigrants, and that the death-rate in all such towns tends to be high. For another thing, he indicates, with a sorrowing gesture, the niggero, that incubator of plagues. For yet another thing, he calls attention to the fact that there are other American towns in which the death-rate is even higher than here.

These considerations have a certain force, but they are by no means sufficient, even in combination, to excuse our staggering mortality. Baltimore is an old town, true enough, but it probably receives its fair share of immigrants, and their average age is probably as low as elsewhere. And yet our death rate is 2 points higher than that of Boston, another old town. And what is worse, our white death rate, excluding the niggeros entirely, is slightly higher than the whole death rate in Boston—which probably has enough niggeros to make a difference, between its white death rate and its whole death rate, of half a point more.

It is impossible, in truth, to put more than a part of the blame upon the niggero—that is, directly. Cincinnati, like Baltimore, is a town with a lot of blackmoors in it, and yet the general death rate there is nearly two points less than Baltimore’s. Louisville is another black-and-tan town, and yet its general death rate is but 16.7, while Baltimore’s rate, for whites alone, is more than 17.2, and for the whole population is 19.2. St. Louis, too, has its swarming Ethiops, and yet its general death rate is but 15.3. Atlanta, black enough to have race wars, shows but 18.9.

Nor is the beautiful theory that cities of stationary population always have high death rates sufficient to account for Baltimore’s pre-eminence. What of Cincinnati, with an increase of population, between 1900 and 1910, of but 11.8 per cent.—and a death rate of but 17.4? What of Louisville, with 9.4 and 16.7, respectively? The figures for Baltimore are 9.7 and 19.2. Good old Baltimore!

As for the fact that other and smaller cities have even higher death rates, I fail to see that it excuses our own. Some of the smaller cities of the United States, as everyone knows, are filthy pest-holes. One such is Now Orleans. Another is Savannah. There are yet others in the South, where mediævalism still reigns. There are a few in the mining regions of Pennsylvania and in the more backward parts of New England. But is it fair to compare Baltimore to these wallows? I think not. Baltimore must be compared to her equals—i. e., to cities of the first class—and among her equals she leads. Her death rate is 1.3 points, or nearly 8 per cent. higher than that of the next most pestilential American city of 500,000 population.

But all this, of course, is beside the issue. I have no quarrel with the Honorary Pall-Bearers over the causes of Baltimore’s high death-rate, nor over their attempt to show that it might be higher. What I objected to at the start was their effort to obfuscate and sophisticate the true figures. And what I have objected to since then has been the oblique endeavor of their boggus statisticians to wriggle out of that offense against the facts. Now, at last, they confess that I have been right all along, and promise to change their figures. But why didn’t they offer to change these figures when I first tackled them—to wit, fully four months ago?

The truth is that the whole epside has well revealed the characteristics of the boomiferous mind, and the eternal folly and futility of boomery. Here for four months these boomers have been engaged in a vain effort to prove me a liar, and to that effort they have brought, not only a high degree of artificial patriotic ardor, but also a considerable talent for downright chicanery—as witness their cunning substitution of “from 16 to 18" for “16 per 1,000 of population.” And all the while they have done nothing whatever to interest the intellectual giants who govern us in the disgraceful condition of the city. The death rate remains high. Instead of making an intelligent campaign for its reduction—a campaign which might have resulted in great and lasting good to the whole community—they have devoted themselves to silly denials of the truth.

How long is Baltimore to stand for such cavortings? How long is this booming nonsense to continue? How long are we to follow the band like darkey boys, and so neglect all real opportunities for improving and civilizing Baltimore? How long, finally, is the Merchants and Manufacturers’ Association, by its own confession our leading civic organization, to waste its funds upon idle tomfoolery? Certainly, it must have, beside its banqueters, its professional Prominent Baltimoreans and its honorary pallbearers, a few members of sense. Well, what do these members of sense think of its booming?