Baltimore Evening Sun (26 February 1914): 6.


Curious note in the Baltimore Southern Methodist of July 31, 1913:

The average Sunday-school is a travesty as a religious institution.

But certainly not the Sunday-school of the Hon. Sunday-school Field, LL D., president of the Sunday-school Trust!

A DAILY THOUGHT. Most people start giving only after they have fully satisfied their own desiress.–Gustave Flaubert.

My learned friend the Hon. Jack Cornell, acting counsel for the Society for the Suppression of Vice, has at me in today’s Letter Column with a long letter from the Hon. John Gillespie, Police Commissioner of Detroit, the burden of which, according to the Hon. Mr. Cornell’s own interpretation of it, is that he told the truth when he assured the Judiciary Committee of the State Senate that “commercialized vice can be suppressed” and that all his “efforts to locate a house of prostitution” in Detroit were “futile.” But the discerning, I opine, will halt and think well before they accept either the virtuous indignation of the Hon. Mr. Gillespie or the interpretation of the Hon. Mr. Cornell as convincing evidence, and among the discerning I beg leave to be numbered this pleasant winter day.

The Hon. Mr. Gillespie makes the usual distinction, so dear to vice-crusaders everywhere, between “commercialized” vice and other vice--that is to say, between the tolerated brothel and the secret brothel. The former, it may be freely granted, has been practically abolished in Detroit, for all the police need to do in most cases, to abolish it, is to cease tolerating it, but that the latter still flourishes is amply borne out by sound evidence, and some of that evidence is supplied by one of the Hon. Mr. Gillespie’s own subordinates, to wit, Superintendent Downey of the Detroit police. So late as February 12 Superintendent Downey said to a Detroit News reporter: “We will drive the women of the streets out and close up vice resorts.” This was two weeks ago--and it was after the Hon. Mr. Gillespie’s “strong-arm” squad had made its raids. Those raids, as the police court records of Detroit show, brought in 80 women–and still there were women on the streets and more “vice resorts” to close!

That the police fiat of October 15 last did not even close all of the unmistakable brothels, every one of which ought to have been known to the police, and therefore easy to watch, is admitted by the Hon. Mr. Gillespie himself. He says that “three white houses of prostitution were found” in the raids of February 11 and “several colored resorts.” But, according to the Detroit News of the next day, these were by no means the only places discovered by the raids. I quote from the record:

May Butler’s resort, on First street, was entered after the door was battered down. * * * The squad then searched Catherine street, closing five houses. * * * Five houses were closed on West Congress street, five women being taken from one house. * * * Hastings street, Esat Fort, Beaubien, Mullett and Madison streets were visited at the same time by another squad. Several houses were raided. * * * The Grand Central Hotel was entered and four couples were taken. * * *

Here we have records of 11 plus “several” houses–say 14. This is eight more than the Hon. Mr. Gillespie’s three plus “several.” And there is no evidence whatever that his raiders, for all their ardor, invaded all of the clandestine brothels in the town--as the Detroit Free Press describes them, “flats where rooms may be rented without question”--or half of them, or even, for that matter, 5 per cent. of them. The proprietors of such places do not notify the police when they open. On the contrary, it is their chief eadeavor to keep the police from knowing that they have opened--and in that endeavor they very often succeed. And when they are discovered and raided, it is usually impossible to convict them, as is proved by Police Justice Jeffries’ discharge of 78 out of the 80 women taken in the Detroit raids of February 11.

In brief, suppression does not suppress. It may be easy enough, as the Hon. Mr. Gillespie seeks to show, to close the open-and-above-board brothel, with its red light and its complaining piano, and it may even be feasible to drive most of its photographed and bertilloned inmates out of town, at lesat temporarily. The thing has been done, indeeed, in Washington--and some of the women have come to Baltimore. But, as the Hon. Mr. Gillespie himself admits, such measures, in themselves, do not stamp out prostitution. They must be followed up, he hints, by spectacular raids by “strong-arm” squads--raids which snare a few women, perhaps 4 or 5 per cent., and pass the rest over. It is such raids that give delight to the “moral” element and sustenance to professional spies and snouters. But that they accomplish any other intelligible purpose is admitted by no competent observer–and least of all by that Hon. Abraham Flexner whom the Hon. Mr. Cornell and the rest of the local virtuosi are so fond of quoting.

To believe that not a single house of prostitution could be found in Detroit last November, as the Hon. Mr. Cornell assured the Senate committee--and his own manuscript, now before me, shows that he used the general term, “house of prostitution,” and not merely “house where commercialized vice was carried on” (i. e., open brothel, run by a madame), as he says in his letter today--to believe this is to achieve a truly staggering feat of credulity. Even the Hon. Mr. Gillespie, for all his enthusiasm, dpes not say so. What he does say is that no “resort” could be found–i. e., no open and undisguised house. So much, of course, may be admitted: the undisguised houses had been closed but two weeks before. But in order to believe that no house of prostitution of any sort could be found, we must believe that every prostitute in the city departed on October 15, stayed away during November, and then came back, a thing very hard to believe, indeed, and a mighty poor testimonial to suppression if it is true.

Recent poetry that will repay you for the reading of it:

“Salt Water Ballads,” by John Masefield. (Macmillan.) “The Drift of Pinions,” by Marjorie L. Pickthall. (Lane.) “The Gardener,” by Rabindranath Tagore. (Macmillan.)

Books that you ought to read before you die:

“On the Enforcement of Law in Cities,” by Brand Whitlock. (Bobbs-Merrill.) “Old Fogy,” by James Huneker. (Presser.) “What Is Man?” by Samuel L. Clemens.

Ten thousand dollars cash to anyone who can think of a sound reason for voting against Col. Jacobus Hook for Mayor in 1915.