The American: His New Puritanism

H. L. Mencken

The Smart Set/February, 1914

NOT, of course, that the Puritan spirit of 1620 has ever gone into actual eclipse in These States, or suffered more than a temporary damping. Far from it, indeed! Make the most cursory review of American history that you will, and you must surely be impressed by the persistence of the Puritan outlook upon the world, the Puritan conviction of the pervasiveness of sin, the Puritan lust to make a sinner sweat and yell. If there is one mental vice, indeed, which sets off the American people from all other folks who walk the earth, not excepting the devil-fearing Scotch, it is that of assuming that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that ninety-nine percent of them are wrong. This is the one great American contribution to the science of ethics, and the cornerstone of the American philosophy.

There has never been a large political or social question before the American people which did not quickly resolve itself into a moral question. Even so dull a row as that over the currency produced its vast crop of saints and succubi, of Iokanaans and Pontius Pilates, of crimes, heathenries and crowns of thorns. Nor has there ever been any letting up of that spiritual eagerness which lay at the bottom of the original Puritan’s moral obsession: the American has remained, from the very beginning, a man genuinely interested in the eternal riddles. The frank theocracy of the New England beach had scarcely succumbed to the libertarianism of a licentious Crown before there came the Great Awakening of 1734, with its orgies of homiletics and its chase of sinners. The Revolution, of course, brought another setback. But the moment the young Republic got out of the nursery and could protect itself from foes abroad, its citizens resumed the glad business of dragging one another up to grace, and the Asbury revival made that of Whitefield, Wesley and Jonathan Edwards seem a mild and puerile thing.

Thereafter, down to the outbreak of the Civil War, the whole populace joined in pulling the devil’s tail. On the one hand, this great campaign took a purely theological form, with a hundred new and outlandish cults as its fruits; on the other hand, it crystallized into the hysterical temperance movement of the thirties and forties, with its Good Templars on horseback and its drunkards in cages; and on the third hand, as it were, it established a prudery in thought and speech from which we are still but half delivered. Such ancient and innocent words as “wench” and “bastard” disappeared from the American language; we are told by Bartlett, indeed, that even “bull” was softened to “male cow.” The word “woman” became a term of opprobrium, verging close upon downright libel; legs became the inimitable “limbs”; the “stomach” began to run from the “bosom” to the pelvic arch; pantaloons faded into “unmentionables”; the newspapers spun their parts of speech into such gossamer webs as “a statutory offense,” “an interesting condition” and “a house of questionable repute.” And meanwhile evangelists of all sorts swarmed in the land like a plague of locusts, and the lyceum and the camp meeting, father and mother to the chautauqua of a later day, were born. State after state went “dry”; legislature after legislature stepped up to sign the pledge. Even the national House of Representatives was penetrated by this primeval uplift, and on more than one occasion it offered its rostrum to some eminent flayer of the Rum Demon, and spread his excoriations upon its minutes.

Beneath all this gay bubbling on the surface, of course, ran the deep and swift current of anti-slavery feeling — a tide of passion which historians now attempt to account for on economic grounds, but which showed no trace of economic origin while it lasted. Its true quality was moral, devout, ecstatic; it culminated, to change the figure, in a supreme discharge of moral electricity, almost fatal to the nation. The crack of that great spark emptied the jar: the American people forgot all their pledges and their pruderies during the four years of the Civil War. The Good Templars, indeed, were seldom heard of again, and with them into memory went many other singular virtuosi of virtue — for example, the Millerites. But this truce with the devil was for the moment only: it was no more than the adjournment of the patent medicine show while the circus parade went by. The instant the smoke of the battlefields cleared away, the Puritans returned to their old sport of shaking up the erring, and by the middle of the seventies they were at it in full fuming and fury. The high points of that holy war halt the backward-looking eye: the Moody and Sankey uproar; the recrudescence of the temperance agitation and its culmination in prohibition; the rise of the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Sunday school and the Christian Endeavor movement; the triumphal entry of the Salvation Army, regardless of all the warnings of Thomas Henry Huxley; the dim beginnings of the vice crusade; the injection of moral concepts and rages into party politics (the “crime” of 1873!); the loud preaching of baroque Utopias (Populism, Bellamyism, “If Christ Came to Chicago,” Bryanism); the invention of muckraking and trust busting; the mad, glad war of extermination upon the Mormons, the anarchists, the Spaniards; the hysteria over the Breckinridge-Pollard case; the enormous multiplication of moral and religious associations, each with its sure cure for all the sorrows of the world; the spread of zoophilia, the dawn of the uplift, and last but far from least, Comstockery.

In Comstockery, if I do not err, the new Puritanism took its formal departure from the old, and moral endeavor suffered a general overhauling and tightening of screws. The difference between the two forms is very well represented by the difference between the program of the half-forgotten Good Templars and the program set forth in the Webb Law of 1913, or by that between the somewhat diffident prudery of the forties and the astoundingly ferocious and uncompromising crusading of today. In brief, a difference between renunciation and denunciation, asceticism and Mohammedanism, the hair shirt and the flaming sword. The distinguishing mark of the elder Puritanism, at least after it had attained to the stature of a national philosophy, was its appeal to the individual conscience, its exclusive concern with the demon within, its strong flavor of self-accusing. Even the rage against slavery was, in large measure, an emotion of the mourner’s bench. The thing that worried the more ecstatic Abolitionists was their sneaking sense of responsibility, the fear that they themselves were flouting the fire by letting slavery go on. The thirst to punish the concrete slave owner, as an end in itself, did not appear until opposition had added exasperation to fervor. In most of the earlier harangues against the sinful Southern planter, indeed, you will find a perfect willingness to grant his good faith, and even to compensate him for his property.

But the new Puritanism — or, perhaps more accurately, considering the shades of prefixes, the neo-Puritanism — is a frank harking back to the primitive spirit. The stammvater Puritan of the bleak New England coast was not content to flay his own wayward carcass: full satisfaction did not sit upon him until he had also butchered a Quaker. That is to say, the sinner who excited his highest zeal and passion was not so much himself as the other fellow; to borrow a term from psychopathology, he was less the masochist than the sadist. And it is that very peculiarity which sets off his descendant of today from the milder Puritan of the period between the Revolution and the Civil War. The new Puritanism is not ascetic but militant. Its aim is not to lift up the saint but to knock down the sinner. Its supreme manifestation is the vice crusade, an armed pursuit of helpless outcasts by the whole military and naval forces of the Republic, a wild scramble into Heaven on the backs of harlots. Its supreme hero is Comstock himself, with his pious glory in the fact that the sinners he has jailed, if gathered into one penitential party, would fill a train of sixty-one railroad coaches, allowing sixty to the coach.

But how are we to account for this turning inside out? How did the Puritan come to transfer his holy ire from the Old Adam within him to the happy rascal across the street? In what direction are we to look for the springs and causes of that revolutionary change? In the direction, I venture to opine, of the Golden Calf. In the direction of the fat fields of our midlands, the full nets of our lakes and coasts, the belching factory smoke of our cities — even in the direction of Wall Street, that devil’s chasm. In brief, Puritanism has become militant by becoming rich. Moral endeavor has become a huge and well-organized business, heavily capitalized, superbly officered, perfectly armed. Wealth, coming to the aid of piety, has reached out its long arms to grab the distant and innumerable evildoer, the far-flung rebel, the happy runaway; it has gone down into its deep pockets to pay for his capture, his extradition, his flaying; it has created the Puritan deluxe, the daring organizer of Puritanism, the moral Lorenzo the Magnificent, the czar and pope of snoutery, the busybody of the fourth dimension. And by the same token, it has created a new science and art of sinner hunting, and issued its letters of marque to the Puritan mercenary, the professional hound of Heaven, the specialist in crusading, the moral “expert.”

The Puritans of the elder generation, with few exceptions, were poor. All Americans, down to the Civil War, were poor. And, being poor, they leaned irresistibly toward a sklavmoral, for all their surface contentment. That is to say, they were spiritually humble. Their eyes were fixed, not upon the abyss behind and below them, but upon the long and rocky road ahead of them. Their moral passion was limitless, but it had a habit of turning into self-accusing, self-denial, self-scourging. They began by howling their sins from the mourner’s bench; they came to their end, many of them, in the supreme immolation of battle. But out of the war came prosperity, and out of prosperity came a new and more assertive morality, to wit, the herrenmoral. Many great fortunes were made in the war itself; an uncounted number got started during the two decades following. What is more, this material prosperity, so soothing to the troubled soul, was generally dispersed through all classes: it affected the common workman and the remote farmer quite as much as the actual merchant and manufacturer. Its first effect, as we all know, was a universal cockiness, a rise in pretentions, a comfortable feeling that the republic was a success, and with it its every citizen. This change made itself quickly obvious, and even odious, in all the secular relations of life. The American became a sort of braggart playboy of the Western world, enormously sure of himself and ludicrously contemptuous of all other men, including his own countrymen. Kipling, coming later, embalmed him in an unforgettable stanza:

Enslaved, illogical, elate,

He greets th’ embarrassed Gods, nor fears

To shake the iron hand of Fate

Or match with Destiny for beers.

And on the ghostly side there appeared the same accession of confidence, the same sure assumption of authority, though at first less self-evidently and offensively. The religion of the American began to lose its old inward direction; it became less and less a scheme of personal salvation and more and more a scheme of pious derring-do. The revivals of the seventies had all the bounce and fervor of those of half a century before, but the mourner’s bench began to lose its old standing as their symbol, and in its place arose the collection basket, the endowment, the kriegskasse. Instead of reviling and damning himself, the tear-soaked convert now volunteered to track down and bring in the other fellow. His enthusiasm was not for repentance, expiation, atonement, but for what he began to call service. In brief, the national sense of energy and fitness gradually superimposed itself upon the Puritanism, and from that marriage sprang a keen wille zur macht, a lusty will to power. The Puritan began to feel his oats. He had the men, he had the guns and he had the money, too. All that was needed was organization. The rescue of the unsaved could be converted into a wholesale business, unsentimentally and economically conducted, and with all the usual aids to efficiency, from skillful sales management to seductive advertising, and from rigid accounting to the ruthless shutting off of competition.

Out of this new will to power, founded upon the old Christian idea that even the devil may be bought off, there came many brobdingnagian and wind-filled enterprises, with the so-called “institutional” church at their head. Piety, once so simple and so lowly, became bumptious and protean. It was cunningly rolled in sugar and rammed down unsuspecting throats. It became basketball, billiards, bowling alleys, gymnasia. The sinner was lured to grace with Turkish baths, lectures on Gothic architecture and free instruction in stenography, rhetoric and double entry book keeping. The prevailing Christianity lost all its old contemplative and esoteric character and became a frankly worldly venture, a thing of balance sheets and ponderable profits, magnificently capitalized and astutely manned. Naturally enough, there was no place in this new scheme of things for the spiritual type of leader, the fledgling archangel, the master devotee, with his white chokers, his affecting austerities and his interminable “fourthlies.” He was displaced by a brisk gentleman in a “business suit,” who looked, talked and thought like a seller of Mexican mining stock.

Plan after plan for the swift evangelization of the nation was launched, some of them of truly astonishing sweep and daring. They kept pace, step by step, with the mushroom growth of enterprise in the commercial field. The Y. M. C. A. swelled to the proportions of a Standard Oil Company, a United States Steel Corporation. Its huge buildings began to rise in every city; it developed a swarm of specialists in new and fantastic moral and social sciences; it enlisted the same gargantuan talent which managed the railroads, the big banks and the larger national industries. And beside it rose the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor, the Sunday school associations and a score of other such grandiose organizations, each with its millions of adherents and its fathomless treasury. No new device of rapid-fire conquest was too ridiculous to bring forth volunteers and money. Even the undertakings that had come down from an elder and less expansive day were pumped up and put upon a Wall Street basis: the American Bible Society, for example, began to give away Bibles by the million instead of by the thousand, and to invent new languages to print them in, and the venerable Tract Society took on the feverish activity of a daily newspaper, even of a yellow journal. Down into our own day this trustification (to coin a bad word) of pious endeavor has gone on. The Men and Religion Forward Movement proposes to convert the whole country, including the insular possessions, by twelve o’clock noon of such and such a day; the Student Volunteer Movement announces that, given so many more millions, the whole mainland of Asia will be as good as saved; the Order of Gideons announces that it will make every traveler read the Bible (American Revised Version!), whether he will or not; in a score of cities there are committees of opulent hadjis who take half-pages in the newspapers and advertise the Decalogue and the Beatitudes as if they were commodities of trade.

Thus the national energy which created the Beef Trust and the Oil Trust has achieved equal marvels in the field of religious organization, and by the same methods. One need be no very subtle psychologist to perceive in all this a good deal less actual religious zeal than mere lust for staggering accomplishment, for empty bigness, for the unprecedented and the prodigious. Many of these great evangelical enterprises, indeed, lost all save the faintest flavor of devotion soon after they were set up — for example, the Y. M. C. A., which is now no more than a sort of national club system, with its doors open to anyone not palpably felonious.

But while the war upon godlessness thus degenerated into a purely secular sport in one direction, it maintained all its pristine quality, and even took on a new ferocity, in another direction. Here it was that the lamp of American Puritanism kept on burning. Here it was, indeed, that the lamp became converted into a huge bonfire, or rather a blast furnace, with flames mounting to the very heavens, and sinners stacked like cordwood at the hand of an eager black gang. In brief, the new will to power, working in the true Puritan as in the mere religious sportsman, stimulated him to a campaign of repression and punishment perhaps unequalled since the Middle Ages, and developed an art of militant morality as complex in technique and as rich in professors as the more ancient art of iniquity.

If we take the passage of the Comstock Postal Act, on March 3, 1873, as a starting point, the legislative stakes of this new Puritan movement sweep upward in a grand curve to the passage of the Mann and Webb acts, in 1911 and 1913, the first of which ratifies and re-enacts the Seventh Commandment with a salvo of artillery, and the second of which puts the overwhelming power of the Federal Government behind the enforcement of the prohibition laws in the so-called “dry” states. The mind at once recalls the salient campaigns of this war of a generation: first the attack upon “vicious” literature (i.e., upon Tolstoi’s “The Kreutzer Sonata,” Hauptmann’s “Hannele” and the whole canon of Zola!) begun by Comstock and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, but quickly extending to every city in the land; then the long fight upon the open gambling houses, culminating in its retreat behind the skirts of a corrupted constabulary; then the revival of prohibition, abandoned at the outbreak of the Civil War, and the grotesque attempt to enforce it in a growing list of states; then the successful onslaught upon the Louisiana lottery, and upon its swarm of rivals and successors; then the gradual stamping out of horse racing, and the ensuing attack upon the poolroom; then the rise of a theater censorship in all of the large cities, and of a moving picture censorship following; then the renaissance of Sabbatarianism, with the Lord’s Day Alliance, a Canadian invention, in the van; then the attack upon the army canteen; then the gradual tightening of the laws against polygamy, with the Roberts and Smoot cases and the unenforceable New York Adultery Act as typical products; and lastly, the general plowing up and emotional discussion of sexual matters, chiefly by man-haters male and female, with compulsory instruction in “sex hygiene” as its mildest manifestation and the medieval fury of the vice crusade as its worst.

Differing widely in their targets and working methods, these various Puritan enterprises have had one character in common: they are all efforts to combat immorality with the weapons designed for crime. In each of them there is a visible effort to erect the individual’s offense against himself into an offense against society. Beneath all of them there is the dubious principle—the very determining principle, indeed, of Puritanism — that it is competent for the community to limit and condition the most private acts of its members, and with it the inevitable corollary that there are some members of the community who have a special talent for such legislation, and that their arbitrary fiats are, and of a right ought to be, binding upon all. This is the essential fact of Puritanism, new or old: its recognition of the moral expert, the professional sinhound, the virtuoso of virtue. The difference between the old and the new is merely a difference in organization, in magnitude and in virulence.

Under the theocracy, of course, the chase and punishment of sinners was a purely ecclesiastical function, and almost of a sacramental character. The laity might lend a hand, but only under sacerdotal direction. Even the sworn officers of the law, when they took to the trail of heretics, did so as mere agents of the higher power. But with the disintegration of the theocracy, there came a gradual augmentation of lay authority, and by the time the new Puritanism dawned, the secular arm was triumphant. That is to say, the special business of pursuing and flaying the erring was taken away from the preachers and put into the hands of laymen diligently trained in its technique and mystery, and there it remains today. The new Puritanism has created an army of inquisitors and headmen who are not only distinct from the hierarchy, but who, in many instances, actually command and intimidate the hierarchy. This is conspicuously evident in the case of the Anti-Saloon League, a nationwide and enormously effective fighting organization, with a large staff of highly accomplished experts in its service. These experts do not wait for ecclesiastical support, nor even ask for it: they force it. Any clergyman who presumes to protest against their furious war upon the saloon, even upon the quite virtuous ground that its excesses make it ineffective, runs a risk of condign and merciless punishment. So plainly is this understood, indeed, that in more than one state the clergy of the Puritan denominations openly take orders from the lay specialists, and court their favors without shame. It is in that direction that all ecclesiastical preferment lies, and by that route more than one bishop has been manufactured. Here a single Puritan enterprise, heavily capitalized and superbly officered, has engulfed the entire Puritan movement, and a part has become more than the whole.

In a dozen other sanguinary fields of moral combat this tendency to transform a religious business into a purely secular business, with lay backers and lay commanders, is plainly visible. The increasing wealth of Puritanism has not only augmented its scope and audacity, but it has also had the effect of attracting clever men, of no particular spiritual enthusiasm, to its service. Moral endeavor, in other words, has become a recognized trade, or rather a profession, and there have appeared men who pretend to an expert and enormous knowledge of it, and who show enough truth in their pretension to gain the unlimited support of Puritan capitalists. The vice crusade, to mention but one example, has produced a large crop of such experts, and some of them are in such demand that they are overwhelmed with engagements. The majority of these men come from the social settlements and freshwater colleges, with a sprinkling of unsuccessful physicians and second-rate lawyers to lighten the mass, and they seldom show the slightest flavor of sacerdotalism. They are not pastors, nor even lay preachers, but detectives, press agents, statisticians and mob orators, and not infrequently their secularity is distressingly evident. Their aim, as they say, is to do things. Their success is measured by the turmoil they can stir up and the number of scalps they can take. And so, with “moral sentiment” behind them, they override all criticism and opposition without argument, and proceed to the business of dispersing prostitutes, of browbeating and terrorizing weak officials, and of forcing extravagant legislation through city councils and state legislatures.

The very cocksureness of these self-constituted authorities is their chief source of strength. They combat objections with such violence and with such devastating cynicism that all objectors are quickly driven to flight. The more astute politicians, in the face of so ruthless a fire, commonly profess conversion and join the colors, just as their brethren go over to prohibition in the “dry” states, and the newspapers seldom hold out much longer. The result is that the “investigation” of the social evil, a business demanding the highest prudence and sagacity, becomes an orgy of quacks and mountebanks, and that the ensuing “report” of the inevitable “vice commission” is made up of two parts pornographic fiction and three parts pious platitude. Of all the vice commissions that have held the stage in the United States of late, not one has done its work without the help of these singularly vociferous rabble-rousers, and not one has contributed a single new idea, nor even an old idea of undoubted value, to the solution of the problem.

But it is not only in the twin wars upon the brothel and the saloon that the new Puritan specialist has usurped the old office of the clergy, nor does he here best reveal his growing potency. These wars, after all, are quite as much secular as religious: an atheist might conceivably be as strongly in favor of closing dramshops and hounding prostitutes as the most orthodox pietist. But what of the campaign for Sabbath observance, and, in particular, for the drastic enforcement of draconian Blue Laws? The call here would seem to be upon the gentlemen of the cloth: the whole argument against recreation on Sunday is essentially a theological one, whatever may be the character of the argument against work. And yet the direction of the campaign has been gradually taken over by lay bravos, and the general staff is now a purely secular organization, with trained sub-staffs for handling definite portions of the work — for example, the collection of contributions and informers’ fees, the preparation and circulation of literature, the gathering of evidence against offenders, and last but far from least, the operation of legislative lobbies. So successful and inviting has this business become, indeed, that a good many clergymen have actually abandoned the pulpit in order to engage in it. It is interesting, it is lucrative, and in view of the nine lives of the devil, it promises to be permanent. In nearly every state there is now a strong central organization with a multitude of branches, all living upon the country, all adding local embellishments to the main jehad. And in Washington there is a national bureau with its guns trained upon Congress — and more than once of late the law makers have performed wild mazurkas to its whistling.

But I need not go on piling up examples of this new form of Puritan snouting and rowelling, with its radical departure from a religious foundation and its elaborate development as an everyday business. The impulse behind it I have called a wille zur macht, a will to power. In terms more homely, it was described by John Fiske as “the disposition to domineer,” and in his unerring way he lays its dependence upon the gratuitous assumption of infallibility, an immemorial characteristic of the Puritan mind. Every Puritan is a one-horse Pope, a Sheik ul Islam, an amateur Messiah: to dissent from his private revelation is to be nominated for his hell. He cannot imagine honesty in an opponent, nor even ordinary decency. But still stronger than his superstitious reverence for his own inspiration is his hot yearning to make someone jump. He has an ineradicable taste for cruelty in him; he is a sportsman even before he is an exegete and moralist, and very often his blood lust leads him into lamentable excesses. The various vice crusades offer innumerable cases in point. In one city, if the press dispatches are to be believed, the proscribed women of the Tenderloin were pursued with such ferocity that seven of them were driven to suicide. And in another city, after a campaign of repression so unfortunate in its effects that it was actually denounced by clergymen elsewhere, a distinguished (and very friendly) connoisseur of such affairs referred to it ingenuously as “more fun than a fleet of airships.”

Such disorderly and pharisaical combats with evil, of course, produce nothing but more evil. It is a commonplace, indeed, that a city is always in worse condition after it has been “cleaned up” by Puritans than it was before. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Des Moines offer evidence as to the social evil, and Savannah, Atlanta and Charleston, S. C, as to the saloon. Four or five years after Los Angeles had been made chemically pure by policewomen, searchlights and an incomparable spy system, it was discovered that the city harbored houses of vice so unutterably vile that even Port Said would have been ashamed of them. And in Des Moines, to take but one other example, the enforcement of the so-called Iowa Red Light Law led to such a saturnalia of sex that even the army surgeon at Fort Des Moines was staggered. But the Puritans who finance these enterprises are not daunted by untoward results. They get their thrills, not out of any possible obliteration of vice, but out of the galloping pursuit of the vicious. There is fair reason for assuming, indeed, that they would oppose any scheme of hunting which promised to exterminate the game. In all the “dry” states they have left loopholes for the speakeasy, and when the Webb Law stopped those loopholes, they promptly made new ones. The thing that gives them pleasure is to spy out, track down and apply the switch to a sinner — preferably an attractive fille dejoie, but failing that, a gambler, a bootlegger, a Sabbath breaker or a turkey trotter. Their ideal quarry is the white slave trader, who is four-fifths a myth and hence not permanently crippled by their artillery. They can kill him all over again once a week.

Naturally enough, this organization of Puritanism upon the scale and basis of baseball, racing and vaudeville has tended to attract and create a type of “expert” crusader whose determination to give his employers a good run for their money is uncontaminated by any consideration for the public welfare. The result has been a steady increase of scandals, a constant collapse of moral organization, a frequent unveiling of whited sepulchres. Various observers have sought, of late, to direct the public attention to this significant and inevitable corruption of the new Puritanism. On May 8 last the New York Sun, in the course of a protest against the appointment of a vice commission for New York, denounced the paid agents of private Puritan organizations as “notoriously corrupt, undependable and dishonest,” and three days later the Rev. W. S. Rainsford, in a letter to the same paper, bore testimony, out of his abundant experience, to their lawlessness, their absurd pretensions to special knowledge, their questionable methods of gathering evidence and their devious devices for forestalling honest criticism. A few months later the Baltimore grand jury made somewhat similar accusations against certain agents of the local vice society — a society chiefly managed, curiously enough, by a former Attorney General of the United States. Proofs have been added to such accusations more than once. In fully a score of cities the agents of vice societies have come to grief for violating the very laws they profess to enforce. And the other Puritan brotherhoods, notably the Anti- Saloon League, have nourished plentiful tribes of bogus Puritans, some of whom have gone over to the opposition, and are now serving the hosts of darkness as gallantly as they once served the angels.

But does all this raise a public row? Do the American people show any sign of putting down this debauch of sham virtue, this orgy of snouting and quackery? Alas, I am unable to report that they do. A few courageous critics mount the rostrum to protest — Rainsford, Brand Whitlock, Carter Harrison, the late Mayor Gaynor, Father Russell in Washington. But the majority of Americans get too much fun out of the show to spoil it. It costs them nothing: all of the bills are paid by a small group of opulent saints. The average vice society is supported by half a dozen men. And say what you will against these bondholders of Heaven, they at least offer good sport to the populace here on earth. They keep the newspapers supplied with hot stuff. They dramatize the dullness of everyday.

(Source: Hathitrust.org, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101076380409&view=plaintext&seq=283)

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