Baltimore Evening Sun (11 June 1912): 6.
Professor Boardman to the Old-Fashioned School Board:
All I ask of you is common decency–and d------d little of that.
Those critics who now denounce the Hon. Theodore Roosevelt on the ground that he practices mountebankery overlook entirely the plain fact that if he didn’t he would quickly lose his hold upon the American people. The most dangerous quality that a public man can show in our fair republic is cold-blooded intellectual honesty--the most dangerous, that is to say, to his own fortunes. Once he puts aside frank appeals to the emotions and begins to disdain those little chicaneries which the American people love, that soon will he see his star set. If he would keep his leadership he must play the game according to the rules--which rules provide, first of all, that there be incessant bellowing and, secondly, that there be plenty of black magic.
All talk of winning the people by appealing to their intelligence, of conquering them by impeccable syllogism, is so much moonshine. They have never been conquered thus, and they never will be. Not even Washington and Lincoln prevailed by sheer force of their ideas. What made Washington a hero and a lawgiver was his military enterprise. His appeal, in brief, was to the emotions of the people and scarcely at all to their judgment. And the popularity of Lincoln was chiefly founded, not upon the originality of his thought but upon his high capacity for putting commonplaces into thrilling phrases. Add to that his fantastic peculiarities of person and manner—i. e., his quality of romance—and you have an explanation of his strength.
Both of these men, true enough, were genuinely great. Washington, indeed, was probably of far more capacity as a statesman than as a general, and Lincoln was obviously a man of the very first rank. But the point is that they were constantly hampered by having to work in terms of popular emotion. Early in the Revolution Washington found that it was impossible to reason with the people, or even with their elected representatives, so he confined himself to fighting battles—a business not more to his taste, but far more likely to get him what he wanted. As for Lincoln, he was always under the handicap of having to do, not what he thought was best, but what the people thought was nicest. Upon the three great issues of those troublous days he stood against the mob. He was in favor of conciliating the South, he was against enfranchising the negro and he was against punishing the South after the war. In every case popular emotion overcame him. His first administration was marked by an incessant effort to yield to such orgiastic ratiocination as little as possible—and yet, on many questions, and some of them of the first importance, he had to yield.
Therefore, let us not denounce Theodore too harshly for beating the tom-tom. An acutely observant man, he has learned the lesson that it is impossible to reach the thoughts of the plain people save by the process of shocking their diaphragms, and so he proceeds to the grim business. But behind the rabble-rousing Roosevelt there is a Roosevelt of great foresight and sagacity—a man who has given sober thought to most of our public problems and has come to conclusions concerning them that are certainly not insane. You will find that Roosevelt in his books and essays, and even in some of his acts. He is not an orthodox man, true enough, but he is at least a man who supports his reasoning intelligently, and shows intellectual hospitality and alertness.
In that character, of course, he would fail to arouse, or even to interest, the folks who now yell ecstatically whenever he shows his teeth. Of all such folks, indeed, not one in a thousand has ever read any of his books or made acquaintance otherwise with his esoteric and genuine doctrines. Phrases are mouthed, but their actual bearing and significance, as parts of a connected theory of life, are not even suspected. So it is necessary for Theodore to play a part comprehensible to his audience. If he bellows, it is because that audience delights in wind music. If he does tricks with the political cards, if he produces political rabbits from plug hats, it is because that audience takes childish joy in magic. And if, to the calm observer, he seems occasionally to descend to downright deceit—if he appears, in brief, to argue against his own best instincts and intelligence—then it is because his audience views the cold truth with suspicion, as a form of sorcery and the plaything of scoundrels. Say he lies if you will, but don’t forget to add that he lies as little as possible.
The saving grace of the Colonel appears in the fact that he keeps a cool head in the midst of his whooping–that he is seldom, if ever, deceived by his own mountebankery. He knows how to use the common people—how to tickle their midriffs and stimulate their windpipes and make their eyes to pop—and having used them, he knows how to sit on them. A dangerous man? Yes and no. If he really believed his own campaign balderdash, he would be the worst enemy the republic has ever had—but what reflective man accuses him of believing it?
Announcement by the super-Mahon in his official newspaper:
Several of Mayor Preston’s friends have taken it upon themselves to furnish delegates to the Democratic National Convention with literature pertaining to his personal character and home life.
Who were these presumptions fellows? The Hot Towel doesn’t give their names. My spies, however, report the following:
The Hon. James H. Preston. The Hon. J. Harry Preston. The Hon. James Harry Preston. The Hon. J. H. Preston. The Hon. the super-Mahon. The Hon. Young Cleveland. The Hon. Maroni Amicus. The Hon. Ego-Ego.
The Corrupt Practices Act—The comic supplement to the Public General Laws of Maryland. ——— Thorn in the side of the Old-Fashioned School Board:
I think the teachers ought to feel free to express their views on any subject under discussion relating to the welfare of the schools.—The super-Mahon to his Amazons, August 24, 1911.
Incautious utterance by the usually discreet Hot Towel:
Mayor Gaynor of New York has been suggested by certain people as the proper man to be the Democratic candidate for vice-president.
“Certain people?” Obviously, a euphemism for “a corrupt and licentious press.”
If the rest of us were as sure that Baltimore will soon be the American Munich as the Hon. William H. Anderson is sure that it won’t be, life would be a good deal more bearable this summer.