Baltimore Evening Sun (20 May 1913): 6.
The Hon. Charles M. Levister, camerlengo to the Hon. William H. Anderson, favors me with the following liverish note:
Having noticed your various and frequent references to the illicit sale of liquors in prohibition territory, and not having seen anything from your trenchant pen concerning the illicit sale of liquors in license territory, I respectfully submit herewith a clipping from the New Republic, of May 6, for your perusal and such action as you may see fit to take thereon.
The clipping tells of the discovery that one Morris Katz, a milk dealer, has been selling moonshine whisky from milk cans on the New York East Side. Interesting stuff--but not at all surprising. When have I ever argued that license wipes out moonshining, that the licit sale of liquor makes its illicit sale impossible? Never. On the contrary, I have devoted columns of space to showing that the license laws are violated at Back River every Sunday.
But all this is no argument for prohibition. The thing the prohibitionists promise is that they will stamp out the whole liquor trade, both licit and illicit. The thing we rum demonits maintain is that they can’t do it. All they can do is to stamp out the licit sale; the blind pig remains. And so long as the blind pig remains, the liquor traffic remains. In a word, their remedy won’t work. It is bogus. It is a moral peruna. Therefore, why go to the trouble and expense of swallowing it?
Liquor laws are enforceable only so long as they are supported by a practically unanimous public opinion. If nine-tenths of the people in a given community believe that prohibition is a good thing, then prohibition will work there, and even the blind pig will tend to disappear. But it is almost impossible to find a community in which nine-tenths of the people believe any such thing. Usually prohibition is put through by a bare majority--and the result is the wholesale violation of the law. Very few persons are willing to have their personal morals regulated by a majority. They must be convinced themselves, or they will evade the laws.
This is the trouble with our present Sunday law in Maryland. Fully two-fifths of all the people of Baltimore think that it is archaic, oppressive and nonsensical. Therefore, it is copiously and persistently violated. If nine-tenths of the people were in favor of it, it might be enforced, for the dissenting minority would be small enough to coerce. But no police force in Christendom has ever permanently coerced a minority running into the thousands. No police force, however large and ardent, will ever make the shores of Back River dry.
Even moonshining is hard to put down, though perhaps 99 per cent. of the people of the United States are against it. In some States, whewre the majority against it is small, it goes on almost openly. In other States, where the majority against it is very large, it is but rarely practiced. But moonshining is not to be compared to ordinary violations of the liquor laws. It involves swindling the Government, and hence it has an element of moral turpitude. Even the folks who practice it, at least north of the Potomac, are commonly willing to admit that they are doing something wrong. But the folks who drink at Back River on Sundays admit nothing of the sort. On the contrary, they believe that they are exercising an inalienable right. They believe that all of the wrong is on the side of those who seek to oppress and punish them.
This feeling, I think, is not to be dismissed lightly, as evidence of a subnormal decency. The crowd at Back River on Sunday is just as decent as any other Baltimore crowd of the same general wealth and education. Despite the libels of professional tear-squeezers and plate-pushers, it is very orderly. If there are criminals in it, they are there against the will of the majority. It does not permit acts that common decency disapproves. It may be loud and vulgar, but it is very far from vicious. All its alleged viciousness, in truth, is the creation of the petty tyrants and moral fictioneers who beset it.
The Hon. Paving Bob Padgett having been done to death by a pasteboard sword in the hands of the Hon. Dashing Harry, his corpse has been carried from the stage by supers, and is now enjoying a refreshing seidel of beer in the green-room. But the heroic McCay McCoy still holds the boards, snorting at “the city’s enemies,” exposing his hideous greasepaint wounds, carrying on the benign business of finding jobs for the faithful. This is the same McCay McCoy who dismissed Assistant Engineer Paige because Padgett objected to him, and who gave Padgett the Oliver street and Eutaw Place paving contracts without inviting bids, and who frankly announced, on April 1, 1913, that “the men who voted for me are our first care.”
How this “first care” business has actually worked is shown in the case of E. F. Cole, an old, old employe of the city. When Dashing Harry went into office Mr. Cole had been working for the city for 20 years, a foremen on important work. He understood paving, concrete and many other things: he was a very competent man. Hearing Harry’s chatter about “efficiency,” he filed an application with McCay McCoy for promotion to an inspectorship. Did he get it? He did not. He was told to go to his ward executive for indorsement--after 20 years of first-rate service! And why didn’t he go? Because the ward executive was a laborer under him! He had indorsements from most of the city engineers for 20 years back, including the Hon. Key Compton, but without the vise of his own subordinate McCay McCoy wouldn’t appoint him!
Naturally enough, the common self-respect of this Mr. Cole stood in the way of any such proceeding, and so he left the city service and sought private employment. Him place was taken by some fellow more in harmony with the old-fashioned way of doing things. Many other such fellows got Jobs at the same time. The taxpayers have since learned how well they have served the city.
The estimable Democratic Telegram makes a bid for the vote of art lovers this week by presenting an elegant mezzotint of the Hon. Richard H. Johns, showing him superbly garmented and barbered. In addition, it praises the paving decision as “the crowning result of one of the most vigorous and thoughtful efforts of Mayor Preston’s administration,” encourages the Hon. Isaac Lobe Straus to keep up his war upon the Hon. Woodrow Wilson, denounces the recall, has a kind word for the White Wings, takes a hack at woman suffrage, pronounces a eulogy upon the late John R. Wise, and presents a hand-painted portrait of the new Victoria Theatre at Shamokin, Pa. An excellent issue of the most entertaining weekly paper in Christendom.--Adv.