Baltimore Evening Sun (31 December 1912): 6.


Some brash suffragette, whose discreet anonymity has not concealed her true name and address from my snouters, sends me a letter addressed as follows:

H. L. Mencken, The Knight Errant of Vice and Intemperance, The Baltimore Sun Office, Baltimore, Md.

Such a superscription upon a letter is a clear violation of Chapter III, Section 3893, of the Revised Statutes of the United States, which provides a penalty of “not less than $100 fine nor more than $5,000, or imprisonment at hard labor for not less than one year nor more than ten years, or both, at the discretion of the court,” for mailing “any letter upon the envelope of which * * * indecent or scurrilous epithets may be written or printed.” However, I am not going to be hard upon this doomed suffragette. That is to say, I am not going to have her pinched at once, but shall give her, in mercy and gemuethlichkeit, seven days in which to celebrate the New Year and settle up her worldly affairs before handing her over to the postoffice inspectors and the traditional rigors at the postal law.

The suffragettes, through the estimable Suffrage News, have been howling of late for the utmost cruelty of punishment. It is only by making penalties “shocking,” they maintain, that respect for virtue can be enforced upon a lawless populace. Well, let us see how this one likes the sensation when the Revised Statutes begin to shock her. She will begin to feel the first faint tickle of the lethal current on January 7.

Standing of the clubs in the National Typhoid League for the week ended December 7:

Baltimore.......................896 St. Louis....................147 New York.......................251 Chicago.....................091 Philadelphia...................193 Pittsburgh..................000 Boston............................149 Cleveland..................000

Between 1900 and 1910 the city of Cleveland forged ahead of Baltimore and became the sixth American city, Baltimore dropping from sixth place to seventh. The average population of Cleveland, during the decade, was 421,215; the average population of Baltimore was 533,721. The average death rate in Cleveland was 14.2 per 1,000 of population per annum; the average death rate in Baltimore was 18.3. The total number of deaths in Cleveland was 59,812; the total number in Baltimore was 97,670.

If the high death rate prevailing in Baltimore had also prevailed in Cleveland, the deaths in Cleveland would have totaled, not 59,812, but 77,082, and the population of Cleveland, in 1910, would have been 543,393 instead at 560,663. Thus Baltimore, with 558,485, would have been 15,092 ahead of Cleveland instead of 2,178 behind.

If, on the other hand, the low death rate prevailing in Cleveland had also prevailed in Baltimore, the deaths in Baltimore would have totaled, not 97,670, but 75,789, and the population of Baltimore, in 1910, would have been 580,367 instead of 558,495. Thus Cleveland, with 560,663, would have been 19,704 behind Baltimore instead of 2,178 ahead.

That moralist who argues in today’s Letter Column for Sunday holidays for the police betrays a sad ignorance of constabulary habits. What does a policeman do when he has a Sunday off? In summer he goes fishing; in winter he goes to an oyster roast down the river. Can it be that this alleged moralist is a covert foe to the Blue Laws?

Let the police not forget the two little girls of East Baltimore who fooled them Sunday with a hair-raising tale of kidnapping and assault. These youngsters, aged, respectively, 13 and 11, told a story so plausible and so rich in detail that it deceived even Captain League, certainly no credulous innocent. Had they accused any definite man, that man would have been locked up unfallibly, and luck would have been with him if he escaped a lynching. And even imagining him getting a fair trial, he would have been hard pressed to prove his innocence, and the abominable scandal of the accusation would have clung to him for the rest of his life.

And yet men are often put to death in Maryland upon evidence no more worthy of credence--particularly ignorant and helpless colored men. It is sufficient that the accusation be made: thereafter the whole burden of proof is upon the accused. No matter how vigorously he denies the charge, and no matter how improbable his guilt, it is always assumed, as a first principle, that a child could not manufacture such a story out of the whole cloth, that the infant mind is incapable of such florid and circumstantial imaginings. Let the judges and police officials who make that assumption give a careful reading to Dr. Albert Moll’s “Geschlectsleben d. Kindes.” Dr. Moll is the foremost living authority upon the depravities of childhood and adolescence. He is constantly called into the German courts as an expert in such cases. And what is his view of them? His view of them, in brief, is that the accusation is seldom true, that the knowledge and evil enterprise of children are vastly underestimated, that innocent men are constantly punished unjustly upon wholly bogus evidence.

A good lullah English translation of Dr. Moll’s book is published by the Macmillan Company. Let me recommend that every police captain in Baltimore get it and read it, and that every member of the Supreme Bench do likewise.

Boil your drinking water! Cover your garbage can! Forward the vice crusade!

Characteristic remark of the bloodthirsty Maryland Suffrage News:

Cable reports state that in Wuchang users of the drug [opium] who are under 40 years of age will be executed, while those above 40 will be imprisoned for life. Such legislation * * * is the result of enlightened public opinion.

But how about certain other provisions of the Chinese Penal Code? Does the Suffrage News approve them all? What of the law that a wife who disobeys her husband shall have her tongue cut out? What of the law that a mother-in-law who sets her daughter against her son-in- law shall have her ears cut off?

In further advocacy of its campaign for the hanging and mutilation of sinners, the Suffrage News argues that, unless penalties are made “shocking,” they will never promote virtue. In the old days, it says, it was necessary to punish horse-stealing by death. If any lesser penalty had been provided horse-stealing would have gone on. But if that is so, why was the penalty reduced to imprisonment? Was that change the product of “enlightened public opinion” or of reviving barbarism?