Baltimore Evening Sun (29 August 1912): 6.


Beware of spy-glasses sticking out of the Munsey Building! Burns has ’em trained N. E. by E.!

Perhaps some advocate of universal manhood suffrage will now come into court and explain the triumph of the Hon. Cole L. Blease in South Carolina and the renomination by direct primary of eight of the indicted City Councilmen in Detroit. Are these things new evidence that the plain people are infinitely sagacious and infinitely honest? Do they prove anew that their voice is the voice of God? I hope so, as in duty bound, but meanwhile it may not be wholly indecent for me to intimate that I’ll be darned if I believe it. Do you? If so, why?

Is it a fact, indeed, that the common people are in favor of decent government? Put away your platitudes and think it over calmly. In 1895, after 20 years of rhetoric, a handful of monomaniacal reformers convinced the voters of Baltimore that gang rule was evil. Out went the gang and in came the Hon. Thomas Gordon Hayes. McLane followed and after him Mahool. But by that time the voters were sick of virtue. When a new candidate now came before them, promising frankly and faithfully to restore the good old days, they put him into office. Baltimore is once more run by professional politicians. All men who would serve the city are judged, not by their ability, not by their good intent, but by their value to the machine. We have a genuinely old-fashioned administration.

Do the common people rear, roar and rage? Not at all. They seem to be wholly content. If the present Mayor of Baltimore were a candidate for re-election tomorrow, he would be re-elected, I believe, by a majority at least as large as that he received last year. And he would receive that majority, not for trying to be a good Mayor, as he has undoubtedly sometimes done, but for trying to be a boss. In brief, the average voter admires political enterprise a great deal more than he admires anti-political enterprise, and in the long run, whatever his occasional emotional treason, he comes back to it with his vote.

What sane man believes that the present reform movement in Philadelphia will last? After Blankenberg, what? Obviously, a reaction. Philadelphia, five years from now, will be just as hoggish as it was five years ago. New York today, after Strong and Low, is in the very depths of debauchery. Boston is bossed by Fitzgerald, a clown. New Orleans, clean up to 10 years ago, is ready to be cleaned up again. Detroit renominates and vindicates its indicted Councilmen. Our own ballot-box stuffers gradually take on the guise of affecting martyrs. Goldsborough, if he is not careful, will be defeated on the Burns issue in 1915. Hayes is already forgotten. Mahool is the memory of a nightmare.

Some progress, of course, is made. The frog climbs a bit farther than he slips back. It is now possible to go to the polls, for example, without danger of being killed. But that progress is desperately slow. Government still costs us three times too much. We are still forced to support a huge army of political parasites, grafters, drones. The business of city and State is still an open conflict between taxpayers on the one side and professional job-mongers on the other. And the job-mongers still have the better of it.

What to do? Perhaps we shall come some day to the one remedy that promises genuine relief. Perhaps we shall abandon the crazy doctrine that ignorant and purchaseable men are wise and honest, that they are more wise and more honest than men who am not ignorant and not purchaseable. Perhaps, here in Baltimore, we shall deny at last that the man whose highest aim is to get a job in a street-cleaning gang is a man competent to determine the expenditure of $23,000,000 a year. Perhaps, in brief, we shall put away universal manhood suffrage, with its fallacies and its rottenness, and go back to something cleaner and decenter, and more logical and more workmanlike.

Boil your drinking water. It is chemically pure, of course--but boil it anyhow!

Father Hartwell, who writes me down in today’s Letter Column, falls unfortunately into a number of errors. In the first place, he assumes that I am an agnostic in the matter of free will. The fact is that I am not an agnostic at all, but a determinist--with a lingering doubt or two, perhaps, but still a determinist. All I allege agnostically is that honest inquirers have never agreed about the matter, and that I see no prospect of unanimous agreement in future. But I myself have few doubts.

In the second place, he alleges that the arguments of the libertarian with whom I discussed the matter were “overwhelming.” How does he know that they were? Even supposing overwhelming arguments to exist, how does he know that this friend presented them? As a matter of fact those actually presented seemed to me anything but overwhelming, and in consequence they did not convince me. Would Father Hartwell have me confess conviction when I am not convinced?

In the third place, he alleges a contradiction between my argument that life is dynamic and my argument that the discussion of free will has remained practically a drawn battle for 10,000 years. That contradiction is a mere appearance. A battle need not end in victory to be a genuine battle. In the struggle over free will, each side, at one time or another, has made gains. Now one has been ahead, and now the other. Neither is victorious today. Neither I believe will be wholly victorious tomorrow. Such a struggle is dynamic. Any struggle, indeed, is dynamic. The only thing static about it to its dynamicality.

In the fourth place, Father Hartwell is unduly pessimistic when he alleges that “the present age has committed intellectual suicide.” The ancients were just as much puzzled by free will as we are. They never settled the problem. Even the Fathers of the Church, I believe, divided over it. Besides, it seems to me that there can be no sign of “intellectual suicide” at a time when a Christian clergyman makes a straightforward effort to convince an honest doubter, not by the force of authority, but by the force of reason. That is not suicide, but health. So long as discussion is frank and free, the truth must inevitably grow clearer. And in things intellectual clearness to the whole of health.

The old-fashioned School Board hunts high and low for male teachers. Where are Dan’s uncles?

The Old-Fashioned Councilmen in Atlantic City are also having an awful time of it.