Baltimore Evening Sun (29 April 1913): 6.


The court of inquiry in the Padgett case:

Judge Advocate–The Hon. the super-Mahon. Attorney for the defense--The Hon. the super-Mahon. Foreman of the jury--The Hon. the super-Mahon. Chief witness for the defense--The Hon. the super-Mahon. Co-defendant–The Hon. the super-Mahon. Sheriff--The Hon. the super-Mahon.

Some earnest moralist, characteristically anonymous, took me to task in the Letter Column the other day in these pained terms:

Those who have stood for more than a generation for the highest civic righteousness embodied in character, conduct and unstinted public service are not legitimate butts to be sneered at and jeered at by a passing professional jester wagging his fool’s cap and jingling his bells.

Sincere words, and thus worthy of a respectful hearing, but unluckily enough, there is a fallacy in them, and that is the fallacy of assuming that the bogus pieties of a self-consecrated archangel are identical with “the highest civic righteousness” and that his eager display of his own virtue constitutes an “unstinted public service.” The fact is, of course, that both assumptions are false. The “righteousness” preached by the archangel is commonly not righteousness at all, but merely an inhuman conspirary against innocence, happiness and joy. And his “public service,” nine times out of ten, consists wholly of a diligent endeavor to get honor and publicity for himself.

It seems to me that such men are not public benefactors, as they try to make us believe, but public nuisances. It seems to me that their effort to make large numbers of people do as they say, against the inclination and honest belief of those people, is an outrage upon liberty and a menace to public security. It seems to me that their constant assumption that they are perfect and infallible, that they alone know what is best to be done, that all persons who presume to disagree with them are ignoramuses and scoundrels, that the world will go to the devil unless their pet perunas are rammed down every throat--it seems to me that this assumption is intolerably unsound and idiotic, and that it is the duty of every good citizen to combat it with all his might.

Such men spend a great deal of time boasting about their piety and try to make it appear that their evil enterprise is inspired by a great yearning to save the erring, but I am thoroughly convinced that no such lofty motive is in them. What actually does move them, or, at any rate, most of them, is our old friend, the Nietzschean wille zur macht--the will to power. In other words, they want to boss and control their fellow-men. They are moral bosses, just as Mr. Mahon is a political boss and Mr. Morgan was a financial boss. They get their thrill out of exercising compulsion. Their aim is not so much to save the sinner as to compel the sinner. And so they concentrate their efforts, not upon undoubted evils, but upon things that most men do not regard as evils at all. In other words, they seek out opposition, and get their fun by battering down that opposition.

Thus it was, for example, that a pack of moralists attacked and disposed of the plan that was made three or four years ago for giving Sunday orchestral concerts at the Lyric. This plan was made by honest and decent men, with no desire for gain in them, and they hoped to make their concerts elevating and useful. They made sure of the highest ideals by engaging Mr. Hemberger as conductor. Their aim was to offer the people of Baltimore cheap and civilized entertainment on Sunday afternoons, when four-fifths of the churches are closed and thousands have nothing to do. They thought that they were doing a public service, and they were doing a public service.

But their series of concerts got no further than the first. A mob of professional moralists--old practitioners! familiar names!–descended upon them and put them to rout. They were denounced as bitterly as if they had proposed to give a series of burlesque shows. The police were called upon to suppress them. They were threatened with imprisonment if they went on. Imprisonment for giving first-class orchestral concerts on Sunday afternoons--such conrerts as are given in every other civilized city in the world: London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, even Washington! Imprisonment for giving Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or the “Hallelujah” chorus on the seventh day of the week!

Was this attack an act of morality? Was it even a thing of common decency? I don’t think so. On the contrary, it seems to me that the men who made it committed an offense against good order as serious as any ever committed by a Back River saloonkeeper. They struck at the contentment, healthy recreation and sound aspiration of the people. They made it measurably more difficult for the average Baltimorean to get through Sunday in a civilized and cleanly manner. They turned trade into the suburban beer gardens and dance halls. They delivered a blow at the public security by delivering a blow at decent amusement. They did something typical of whooping moralists. They played their evil game according to its evil cults.

With such men, however pious their pretenses, I have no patience. When they pry into the private morals of their fellow-men they commit an offense against that toleration and charity which should prevail between man and man. When they bully the police into enforcing bad and oppressive laws they range themselves with the politicians who try to bully the police into abrogating good laws. They accomplish no permanent good: their schemes never work. The one sure effect of their eternal snouting, posturing and browbeating is to curse the community with enmities and clog the wheels of intelligent progress. They are a dangerous bunch, believe me.

It is a pleasure to note that the advertisement of the Kellam Hospital of Richmond, which offers to guarantee the cure of cancer “without the use of a knife or x-ray,” is no longer printed in the estimable Baltimore Southern Methodist. It disappeared just two weeks ago, simultaneously with the departure of the Rev. Dr. Carlton D. Harris for the Holy Land. At the same time the advertisements of the Foley Kidney Pills, Hood’s Sarsaparilla, Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral, Dr. Green’s Dropsy Cure, Stuart’s Plapao Pads for Rupture and the Merit Medical Company’s $1.75 “solid gold” rings vrere also dropped. Inspired and inflamed by this good example, the Sunpaper, I hear, will shortly stop printing the advertisement of Chichester’s Diamond Brand Pills.

Boil your drinking water! Cover your garbage can! Help the boozehounds to save Besotted Baltimore!