Baltimore Evening Sun (25 February 1914): 6.
Polite note from an estimable Old Subscriber:
It is months since you printed anything about the super-Mahon. Have you forgotten him?
Not at all. Who could forget him? Do the Neapolitans ever forget Vesuvius? But why go on and on and on with an endless Henriad? While the fate of the hon. gent. was still in doubt, while the people of this town were still weighing his words and his acts, it was an agreeable task, and no lesss virtuous than agreeable, to point out spots whereat he was bogus. It is upon the ardent discharge of such grave duties that journalists hang their hopes of Heaven. It is thus that they instruct and entertain the plain people, and so pile up merit.
But the time for such special pleading has long since past. The public trial of the Hon. the super-Mahon is over and he has been discharged with honor by a jury of his lieges. Six months after he left the City Hall it is probable that the people of Baltimore were against him by at least 2 to 1. At the end of first year that majority had grown to 3 to 1. But since then he has been winning his way day by day, and if he were a candidate for re-election tomorrow, I believe that he would triumph hands down. He has devoted himself to rehabilitating himself, and he has succeeded. He deserves all the high honors and immunities that go with such success.
Curiously enough, both of the pleas upon which the hon. gent. won his case were wholly unsound. On the one hand, he maintained that he should have full credit for all of the public improvements under way, whereas every sane hearer knew, of course, that nine-tenths of them had been planned and started before ever he was heard of. And on the other hand, he maintained that the “hostile”--i. e., the decent--newspapers were persecuting and misrepresenting him, whereas the fact was that their attack upon him was singularly inept and halfhearted. Not once, to my recollection, did they actually unlimber their heavy ordnance against him. They bombarded him sporadically with popguns, but they never let him have a single broadside of genuine artillery. One such broadside, say, in the autumn of 1912, would have blown him up with a bang. He was very vulnerable then--and the newspapers let him go.
The truth is that most of the ill will that the hon. gent. suffered from at that time was not the fruit of journalalistic attack at all, but of journalistic flattery and bootlicking. It was the humorless greasing of the Hot Towel that came near ruining him, and not the occasional brickbats of the vacillating Sunpaper or the mixed cabbages and creampuffs of the Evening News. It was the Towel that led him into his Vice-Presidential clown show, and that started him upon his ill-starred campaigning in the counties, and that turned the stomachs of thousands against him. Not until he ordered this doglike fawning stopped did he make any appreciable progress in public esteem. He apparently saw the benefits of the change at once, for he soon tried to accentuate it by proposing to switch the city advertising from the Towel to the Municipal Journal. And in the end he performed a masterstroke of politics by converting the Hon. Goose Grease Altfeld into a jobseeker and statesman. With Altfeld lost, the Towel was hamstrung. He was an unguenter without a brother.
The Hon. Dashing Harry, after emerging from all these dire perils by flood and field, is probably as good an imitation of an efficient Mayor as Baltimore will ever get. He is still, true enough, full of strange and fantastic weakness. He still plays the fake martyr and low comedian on the slightest provocation; he is still the slave of a curiously infantile vanity; he is still surrounded by his motley crew of Sunday-school Fields and McCay McCoys; he is still unable to differentiate the public good from his own profit, political or financial. But after all (and here is the secret of his growing popularity), he is a harmless fellow. All of his chicanerous enterprises are held in check by the new virtue of prudence; he has tasted the bitter pill of public indignation; he is almost pathetically afraid of the newspapers. What he would do if he had the courage, no man knoweth, and it is vain to guess. But what he does with that deadly fear at his vitals is substantially what a man of four times his honesty and intelligence would do.
Such a Mayor, I opine, is far more satisfactory than a docile and characterless creature of the Mahool type. Life, after all, is only serious in spots; we stand in greater need of humor than of wisdom, or even than of virtue. It is the capital mark of the Hon. Mr. Harry that he always gives a good show, that he may be trusted to dramatize everything he touches, that he reacts promptly and grotesquely to stimuli, that he is most amusing when he is most earnest. Judged by his theories, his threats and his probable yearnings, he takes on the aspect of an horrific hobgoblin, half Murphy and half Blease. But judged by his actual acts, the offspring of his theories out of his prudence, he is a pretty fair specimen of American public official. We have had worse in the past, and we shall no doubt have worse in the future.
The Rev. Dr. Charles M. Levister, assistant superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League, fills today’s Letter Column with fulminations against my recent attempt to get at the truth regarding the effects of prohobition in Coatesville, Pa. To that end he first seeks to impeach my main witness, and then brings in a number of witnesses of his own. My exposure of conditions in Coatesville was made on February 14, and it took Dr. Levister eight days to obtain his evidence in rebuttal. My answer to his sophistries will be ready in much less time. In order to obtain it promptly I have withdrawn four of my expert snouters from Annapolis and dispatched them to Coatesville. Their report will be spread upon the minutes the moment it is received.
Six or seven weeks more, and then the salubrious hiatus, the medicinal interregnum! I offer my space, while I am gone, to Col. Jacobus Hook, K. T., to fight off the thousands who would make him Mayor in 1916.
Incidently, the “moral” element will take notice of the fact that the Hon. Mitchell Kennerley, of New York, snared by the Hon. Anthony Comstock for publishing a novel called “Hagar Revelly,” has been triumphantly acquitted by a jury. Such are the setbacks that the New Inquisition has to suffer!
Rising to a question of personal privilege, I give thanks to Cartoonist Evans for not putting the Mother Hubbard on me.
And after Hook, why not Hooker?