Baltimore Evening Sun (9 July 1913): 6.
The sagacious Evening Sunpaper on the grand jury’s proposed crusade against crusaders:
It was hinted that * * * members of the grand jury might have suffered cold feet since they decided to take up the vice investigation. It was said that in view of the possible denunciations they might sustain, etc., etc.
A very discreet and humane way of putting it. The truth is, of course, that a good many jurymen are likely to be frozen clear to the knees before this inquiry proceeds much further, particularly if it is conducted with anything approaching scientific thoroughness. The vice crusaders will see to that. They are adepts at that sort of refrigeration. The moment any man ventures to raise his voice against their pious field sports they consecrate themselves to the holy task of scaring him to death--and nine times out of ten they succeed. Not even the boozehounds, indeed, are more skillful at spiritual roughhouse. I speak by the book: I have been scared by both, and it is only by accident that any circulation is left in my hooves today.
Far be it from me to take any personal credit for this survival. As I say, it has been accidental--the fortuitous product of a peculiar and unforeseen combination of circumstances--and I am scarcely optimist enough to regard it as permanent. No; every fool who heaves a brickbat at the Moral Hussars is pretty sure to be run down and sabred soon or late. There are matadors among them who make a specialty of punishing such blasphemers, and they have attained, it must be said, to an admirable technique. I could a tale untold--but not yet, not yet! Time enough when the embalmer is in the offing. Racy stuff for a swan song!
No wonder, then, that the vice crusaders have it their own way and head off every serious attack upon their highly romantic and perilous campaign. Here in Baltimore, unless I am in error to the extent of actual imbecility, four-fifths of all educated and intelligent men are against them. Not a day has passed since last November that I have not received from one to six letters urging me to print this or that argument in rebuttal of their sophistries. What is more, most of these arguments have been very good ones (usually, indeed, too good to print!), and many of them have come from men of conspicuous position and unquestioned repute. But how many such men have publicly objected to the vice crusade, in their own names? You can count them on your fingers!
Is this a proof of a general intellectual cowardice? Let us not regard it so harshly. Let us call it prudence instead. The fault doesn’t lie so much in the weakness of these pianissimo critics as in what the Hon. Charles J. Bonaparte–a famous crusader!--once called the “malevolent credulity” of the public. The crusaders have that malevolent credulity behind them every time they tackle a critic. They know that the public will be inclined to believe anything they say, or even hint about him. Moreover, the critic himself knows it. Why should he loose this avalanche? What would he gain by it? Nothing whatever. Is it any wonder, then, that he hesitates--and remains silent?
Here, I dare say, we have an explanation of a fact that has puzzled many good.men: the fact, to wit, that every vice commission ever appointed in the United States, without a single exception, has brought in a unanimous verdict for the complete suppression of the social evil. Such a recommendation, of course, is an absurdity on its face; as well recommend the complete suppression of thunderstorms. But does it show that the reflective minority on these vice commissions is reduced to lunacy by the hysterical majority? Not at all. What it does show is that the reflective minority, given time to think it over calmly, comes to the conclusion that the truth is not worth fighting for. Why risk one’s hide for so ungrateful a lady?
Would you do it, dear reader? I offer 100 to 1 that you wouldn’t. As for myself, I make no shame about confessing that I should sign the usual report with infinite gusto--that is, supposing me to be, like the typical vice commissioner, a man of respectable position in the community, and of hitherto unblemished reputation for virtue. What good would it do such a man to go against the inevitable majority? Would he serve the truth thereby and get in his lick for civilized government? Scarcely. Even supposing a vice commission reporting for regulation instead of for suppression, no American Legislature would dare to embody its recommendation in legislation. No; the vice crusaders would scare the Legislature to death at the first whoop. They are professors of that science.
The Hon. William H. Anderson, hot for the mazuma, makes a slick effort in today’s Letter Column to “cut in,” as the ganovim have it, on the Billy Sunday fund. But in vain, in vain! That fund, so long as I have blood left in me to shed in its defense, is not going to fall into the prehensile claws of the Anti-Salopon League, that squeezer of Sunday-schools. Its purpose and destination, in truth, are precisely the contrary. I propose to bring the Rev. Dr. Sunday to this town, not to aid the Hon. Mr. Anderson to further extortions, not to lure more victims to his net, not to make him even richer than he is, but to soften and mellow him, to make him repent, surrender and disgorge. The Rev. Dr. Sunday is a man of powerful eloquence: he will drag the Hon. Mr. Anderson up to grace, he will turn him from his evil courses, he will make a Christian gentleman of him. Such, at least, is my hope. Such is my aim in bringing Dr. Sunday to our fair city. And to that hope and aim I hereby pledge my life, my fortune and my sacred honor.
Boil your drinking water! Sign the Harry petition! Watch Anderson! Cover your garbage can! Give a cheer for Young Cochran! Swat the fly! Forward the vice crusade! Hang Jeff Lankford on a sour apple tree!
Polite note from an estimable correspondent:
What has become of the Anti-Cigarette League?
Don’t fret! The Anti-Cigarette League is still going forward. The Hon. William H. Anderson has combated it with all his satanic talent for intrigue, and it has encountered bitter opposition from other distinguished moralists, but its organization is proceeding apace, and before the end of the summer it will be ready for trade. The executive committee, working in secret, has lately perfected arrangements with 27 local clergymen whereby it will get the plate privileges twice a year in return for certain assistance in the way of holiday expenses. But of all this, more anon.