Baltimore Evening Sun (8 September 1913): 6.


The Rev. Dr. Kenneth G. Murray, chief statistican of the Vice Crusade, on the strange failure of the grand jury’s catchpolls to reach him:

I desire to deny publicly that I avoided the jury. * * * I was within an hour’s run of the city and ready at any minute to answer their call.

A lovely example gentleman’s habitual frankness. Because the grand jury did not scour the State for him, and so give him the sort of circus publicity that all professional moralists crave, it must now stand accused of neglecting its duty. And all the while he knew very well, by reports in the newspapers, that a summons had been issued for him and that the jury’s bailiffs were seeking him! What would a frank man have done in like case–stepped up or remained in retirement?

It so happens that I myself was summoned by this same grand jury. When the summons was issued I was in New York city on private business of great importance to me. But I abandoned it the moment I heard that I was wanted and duly presented myself at the Clerk’s office of the Criminal Court to accept service. I do not offer this as proof of a lofty personal virtue, but merely as an indication of a common habit among citizens who have nothing to conceal. A man with a sincere desire to see the truth prevail does not dodge grand juries, nor does he try to excuse his dodging with infantile smartness afterward.

Nothing, I believe, could give better support to the grand jury’s report than the objections that are now being brought against it by various galled archangels. The Hon. Alfred S. Niles, for example, repeats his silly charge that it merely “reflects the views of a committee of five men,” though he is well aware that every juryman heard the evidence and that all 23 signed the report, including those who were opposed to the whole investigation at the start. The Hon. Mr. Niles also seeks to make it appear that the investigation was hurried and superficial. He knows that it was nothing of the sort. On the contrary, he knows that every effort was made to get at the facts about the vice crusade and that the Police Board was given opportunity to present both testimony and argument in support of its policy.

So far as I can take out, no invasion of the prerogatives of Dr. Goldsborough’s Vice Commission was attempted by the jury. The Vice Commission was appointed to investigate the general subject of prostitution, with particular reference to its bearing upon the public health, and to that end a physician of the highest standing was made its chairman. But the grand jury investigated a definite emergency, with particular reference to gross breaches of the public peace. It was obviously better fitted for that work than the Vice Commission, if only on account of its enormously greater powers. In particular, it was able to inquire into the specific acts of certain very noisy moralists--a business wholly outside the commission’s duties. And when it came to draw up its report, these moralists suffered the embarrassment of having the truth told about them.

Naturally enough, they are highly indignant. Amd naturally enough they seek to obscure the issue by making vague and ridiculous charges against the jury. For one thing, they charge that it neglected the chase and persecution of fugitive prostitutes. But inasmuch as the thing it chiefly denounced and deplored was that very sport, the intelligent citizen will not be greatly impressed by the objection. The grand jury duly indicted all genuine offenders against the laws, including the late chief agent and tear-squeezer of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. But it refused to give its aid to spying and snouting by policewomen, amateur detectives and other such public nuisances, or to indict persons deliberately tempted to do wrong, and in that refusal it probably has the unqualified support of 80 per cent. of all self-respecting Baltimoreans.

Snoutery, of course, is not yet dead in Baltimore. The militant moralists, far from being halted by the grand jury’s denunciation, will leap to martyrdom with great joy, and then proceed to even wilder exhibitions of their piety. And they will continue to get support at police headquarters, it would appear, until the present Commissioners retire from office. But soon or late there will come a day of reckoning for these misguided and extravagant enthusiasts. Soon or late an outraged public opinion will make itself felt, and we shall have an end of government by whooping preachers, volunteer detectives and self-canonized saints.

The Hon. Eva O. Wilson, in the estimable Maryland Suffrage News:

It would seem there were no way to please Mr. Mencken.

Not only clumsy English, but a heartless libel. Let the Suffrage News confine itself to arguing for the suffrage and have done with its bad mathematics and tin-whistle morality and I shall be so vastly pleased that the glow of my countenance will almost blind the eye. The suffrage cause is close to my heart: I have devoted my best efforts to promoting it. It is for that very reason that I lament to see it ruined and made a public joke by persons who care so little about it that they seek to make it a mere adjunct to vice crusading, that sport of charlatans. I venture to say that the cavortings of the Suffrage News have done the cause more damage in Maryland than all the foul conspiracies of the antis. And in that view I am joined by many other sincere suffragists, including some who hesitate to declare their faith for fear of being mistaken for moral mountebanks.

The Hon. Mrs. Wilson argues eloquently that the suffragettish vice crusaders have no concern with “private morality,” but merely yearn to put down “the commercialized form.” No contention could be less true or more ridiculous. The Suffrage News has consistently supported all donkeyish measures for making human beings virtuous by law, from the hypocritical Mann white slave act down the line. Not six months ago it was publicly advocating mutilation as a punishment for “private immorality,” and the Hon. Mrs. Wilson is well aware of it. It has done more than any other agency, I believe, to make vice crusading a burlesque and a nuisance in our midst, and for that benign service I offer it the thanks of all clean-minded and normal persons. But for the damage it has done to woman suffrage I pronounce upon it a devastating curse.

Boil your drinking water! Let the children read the Maryland Suffrage News! Watch Bob come back!

One week more, and then a brief escape from literary composition. I think of offering my space to the Hon. William H. Anderson during my absence. Does anyone second the motion?