Baltimore Evening Sun (13 February 1913): 6.
Boil your drinking water! Cover your garbage can! Let your nose so shine that no one will dare accuse you of using cosmetics!
The suffragettes, by the way, are now preparing a constitutional amendment against shiny noses, and it will be submitted immediately after they get the vote. They are also hard at work upon their act prohibiting roaches.
THE VICE CRUSADE
Immoral women should be compelled to live in certain prescribed districts, and forbidden to scatter at will through the residential and business precincts of a city. When segregated they can be regulated and kept under close police surveillance, and better protected from the extortions and brutality of that class of men who prey upon such unfortunates.—James W. Reynolds, Chief of Police, New Orleans.
Some ingenious and daredevil fellow, anonymous of course, proposes in today’s Letter Column that I submit myself to a recall election—the idea being, as I understand it, that I am to quit my job and return to bartending in case the vote goes against me. With no more hesitation than a suffragette shows in accepting a proposal of marriage, I reject this plan and proposition without thanks. And my reason therefor is simplicity itself: I fear that the vote would be at least 20 to 1 against me—and I don’t want to do any more bartending if I can help it.
Not that I believe the vice crusaders and their associate windjammers have a 20-to-1 majority in Baltimore. Far from it. As a matter of fact, I am convinced that their actual majority is no more than 6 to 1—that fully 20 per cent. of the wholly adult citizens of Baltimore, irrespective of sex, are too sound and tough in mind ever to be influenced by their bosh. But to be influenced by bosh is one thing, and to be excited by a public execution is quite another thing. In brief, I fear that thousands would vote against me out of a mere desire to see me jump—and, as I have said, I am extremely comfortable in my present luxurious quarters. Not that I am disinclined to do my share of jumping—in truth, I do a good deal more than iny share—but I have a strong yearning, so long as it is possible, to stick to that variety which allows a graceful coming down after a harsh going up.
Which brings us to a curious human trait—the almost universal love of cruelty. We civilized Americans like to argue that we have got over it, that we no longer delight in torture for its own sake, and in witness thereof we bring forward our abandonment of bear-baiting, infant damnation, cock-fighting, witch-burning, the ducking-stool, the bastinado, and other such joys and comforts of our grandfathers. But, as a matter of fact, we are still hot for bloodshed and butchery. We still get pleasure out of the shrieks of the victim. The only progress we have really made is from physical torture to psychical torture, and that is a progress, not toward a greater humanity but toward a keener pain. Once the American people gloated over Quakers at the stake; now they gloat over Lieutenant Becker in the death-house. Most of them, I daresay, believe that he will not actually go to the chair, but meanwhile ge is suffering, and that is enough.
This desire to inflict pain, to rowel and torture, to make somebody yell, is plainly an important ingredient of the vice crusade, as it is of all other such pious jehads. The picture of reform drawn by some of the crusaders is undistinguishable from a picture of a woman-hunt. They propose to chase the girls as one might chase wolves—from house to house, from street to street, from city to city. To capture the quarry is not part of their plan: they wouldn’t know what to do with her if they caught her. Most. of them, indeed, would run like deer if she halted, surrendered and asked for board in their homes. But meanwhile, it is a lot of fun to start the hounds after her, and to hear her yelp, and to see her stumble and fall, and to come within an ace of catching her.
Is this delight in the chase peculiar to vice crusaders? Not at all. As I have said, it is almost universal in man. I myself am perhaps the gentlest and most sentimental being in all Christendom, yet I get a certain indubitable joy out of outraging the crusaders. If, by any chance reaction of narcotics, I am enabled to perpetrate some particularly offensive wheeze against them, it darn near tickles me to death. What is more, it seems to tickle many other folk. I get telephone calls, souvenir postcards, invitations to oyster roasts. One crusader comes in to chuckle over some other crusader. I get innumerable suggestions for further buffooneries. Solemn argument, however sagacious, is never so poular. It is the loud crack of the slap-stick, the flabbergasting hiss of the seltzer siphon, that fills the collection plate. Ask Anderson.
But that any personal hatred is mixed up with this delight in butchery I seriously doubt. When I myself am the victim—when some virtuosi of virtue has at me in the Letter Column, stabbing me with rusty saws, removing my hide by inches, putting me to sanguinary laparotomies—the joy of my friends and acquaintances is enormous and undisguised. Here in The Evening Sun office there is the atmosphere of circus day; the whole staff comes in to see how I am taking it. And if, perchance, the murder is done in some other print, then I get from 25 to 200 marked clippings from relatives and well-wishers. No clipping agency ever served a man as faithfully as his friends. Four or five years ago a book of mine was put to the torture in an obscure paper published in Scotland. My clipping agency missed the article entirely—but no less than four wandering Baltimoreans sent it in.
Such is the nature of man. Such is the human race. As an humble member of it, I blush every time I look at a dog. Can you imagine a dog wagging his tail while his master’s ears are being cut off? Can you imagine a dog luring his friends, by subtle arts, into the aura of a dog-catcher? Can you imagine a dog chuckling over the news that his brother has become the father of twins? I hope not. I shouldn’t like to think you so ignorant of canine virtue. And yet men do these things. And not only mere men, but also super-men, self-confessed archangels, great moralists, prime donne of the pulpit, chemical purists, suffragettes.