The Revival of Philosophy

H.L. Mencken

Chicago Tribune/August 14, 1927

The ancient nonsense known as philosophy seems to be enjoying a considerable revival in the world, and especially in the United States. Within the last year a book setting forth the notions of the principal philosophers has run to a sale of more than 150,000 among us, and the subject has got a great deal of notice in the popular reviews. Down to a few years ago a philosopher was regarded, by the average right thinking American, as an occult and somewhat dubious fellow whose days and nights were given over to searching for the philosopher’s stone which would cure gallstones and change lead into gold. But now philosophy becomes as familiar and as well esteemed as chiropractic, scenario writing, or sex hygiene, and presently, no doubt, the professional philosophers will emerge from their dens and launch upon lecture tours, and Kiwanis will hear the awful name of epistemology, and the American Bar Association will debate the law and the evidence in the Socrates case. 

This revival of philosophy, it seems to me, is not hard to understand. It is but one more proof that there is grave danger in trying to educate the great masses of the plain people beyond their IQ’s. In a hundred years all the exact sciences have made such immense progress that it now takes a man of special training, and even of a special sort of mind, to grasp their vast accumulation of new facts. When, therefore, an effort is made (as has been done throughout the federal union by half-educated and nitwit pedagogues) to ram these facts, or any substantial part of them, into the heads of pupils designed by God to be 100% Americans—when such follies are attempted, the result can be only disaster. The pupils, revolting against the intolerable strain upon their cortexes, go home with fantastic and inflammatory reports of what they have been taught, and their parents naturally rise in revolt. The issue of that revolt, on the lowermost level of the human intellect, is what is called fundamentalism. On a slightly higher level it is the revival of philosophy. 

The essence of philosophy is the theory that it is a waste of time to hunt facts—that all the problems which harass Homo sapiens may be solved, so to speak, with the naked mind. A philosopher is one who, by simply sitting down in his studio and yielding himself to thought, is capable of concocting an answer to any conceivable question, including even the question as to how, why, and with what he thinks. The philosophy books, which stretch down in an unbroken line from the time of Thales, a Greek who flourished in the sixth century B. C., are full of such answers. Many of them are of a truly astounding ingenuity, and so it is a pleasant intellectual exercise to study them. But no two of them agree.  

This philosophical way of dealing with problems was scarcely challenged until a century or so ago, but now it is under heavy fire from the scientists. The scientists hold that going into a room and sitting down to think is, in nine cases out of ten, a bad way to get at the truth. They believe that the conclusions reached by the process tend to be ingenious rather than sound, and that in any event they are determined more by the philosopher’s blood pressure, digestion, and theology than by the actual state of the facts. As an alternative they propose going to the facts themselves and letting them tell their own story. This is the so-called scientific method, which is based upon experiment and observation rather than upon cogitation. True enough, it admits some cogitation, too, and so it is occasionally corrupted by purely philosophical errors, but on the whole it is manifestly safer and more accurate than the method of the philosophers. 

But the philosophers. of course. dislike it. It not only tends to upset their own conclusions and make them look ridiculous; it also throws doubt and ridicule upon the axioms of the great heroes of their trade. The fundamentalists. as everyone knows, object to science for precisely the same reasons. Once a schoolboy of any genuine intelligence has learned the elements of biology, it is difficult to make him listen attentively to the expositions of the Baptist pastor. And once he has got beyond the elements, if God has gifted him with the strength, he is inclined to be contumacious even to Moses. 

The philosophers, facing the destructive competition of the scientists, make their last stand upon the carcasses of their great dead. It is a fact, indeed, that on the list of men who have adorned their art and mystery in the past there are many eminent names. Certainly no rational man would allege that Aristotle was a numbskull—and yet Aristotle, as everyone knows, was a philosopher. It is quite impossible to explain him away. But in dealing with him two facts, at least, may be kept in mind, and both of them rather diminish the value that the philosophers set upon him (and upon others of his sort) in their sales talks. 

The first is that, while Aristotle was undoubtedly a philosopher, he was also very much more—that philosophy constituted but a small part of his business. He was a scientist (as science was then understood); he was a politician; he was a critic of the fine arts; he was even what, in our present glorious age, would be called an editorial writer. It was in these fields that he did his soundest and most original work, and it is because of that work that he retains his importance for modern man. His “Poetics” remains a living work: no new book upon poetry or upon the drama comes out without some reference to it. But his philosophical speculations are of interest today only to philosophers; their influence upon the thinking of modern man is almost nothing. 

The second fact to be remembered is that philosophy, in Aristotle’s day, had infinitely more importance than it has today, and that he thus gave more thought to it than he would give if he were alive now. That was long before the age of science. The accumulation of facts had barely begun. Aristotle himself tried to further their accumulation, but he was two whole millennia ahead of his time. He was unquestionably a great man. Living in Greece, in the fourth century B. C., he worked with the materials available, and in part, at least, they were purely philosophical. His genius was sufficient to rid even philosophy of some of its customary nonsense. But, living today, he would be interested in it only as he might be interested in astrology, witchcraft, or the Bill of Rights. His main work would be in other directions. 

The truth is that philosophy, like its brother, theology, belongs to a relatively early stage in the evolution of the human mind. Theology comes first: it represents emerging man’s first efforts to use his head. Its purpose is to supply explanations of the inexplicable, not in terms of objective fact but in terms of subjective feeling. It naturally recedes with the advance of exact knowledge: there is no theologian alive today of a hundredth the influence exerted by the theologians of ancient Judea. Philosophy comes next. It represents an attempt to advance from purely mystical hypotheses to rational hypotheses. The rising tide of exact knowledge engulfs it precisely as theology is engulfed. It cannot survive facts. 

During the last century it has suffered immense losses and is now so badly battered that Aristotle would not know it. The science of psychology, once one of its divisions, has cut the old connection and gone over to biology. There are no longer any first-rate philosophers, but only psychologists and historians of philosophy. What is taught in the colleges is simply a long and mutually antagonistic series of dead ideas. Thus dismembered and dying, philosophy seeks to dignify its senility by claiming anyone who peeps into its death chamber—for example, Nietzsche, Croce, and many of the logicians and psychologists. But these men are not actually philosophers; they are simply enemies of philosophy. 

But there is a type of mind that still clings to philosophical ways of thought. It marks the sort of man who never grows up. One such man, carrying the infantile taste for games into maturity, is found on the golf links. Another writes poetry at the age of fifty. Another, unable to grasp the scientific point of view and thrown into alarm by facts, rants and rages as a fundamentalist. Yet another, somewhat less alarmed but still alarmed, devotes himself to the moony speculations of philosophers.


Human Race Making Progress, But at Leisurely Pace

H.L. Mencken

Omaha World Herald/April 17, 1927

Though we live in what is regarded as a go-getting and up-and-coming age, with novelties announced every day and a great deal of yelling and snorting always going on, it must be obvious that human progress, like every other sort of biological progress, continues to proceed at a very leisurely pace.

Is the United States senate appreciably superior to the Roman senate, either in learning or in integrity? Is Dr. Frank Crane actually a profounder philosopher than Socrates? Is the religion on tap in the anti-evolution belt any better than the religion practiced and believed in in the Teutoburger Wald? Can a modern Kansan leap higher, or run faster, or drink harder, or spell better, or die with greater style and finish than an ancient Assyrian?

It is highly improbable. In fact, it is plainly not so. Nevertheless it would be idle to deny that progress has been made, and doubly idle to deny that it has been sound and abiding. The governments in vogue in the world today, though they are certainly still far from perfect, are a great deal better than anything we ever heard of in the world of the Ptolemies, or even in the world of Elizabeth. 

They are still inordinately extravagant, incompetent and corrupt and they are still run mainly by inferior men. But it is at least less difficult than it used to be to keep those inferior men within bounds. A certain fear of consequences has got into them; they step a bit more softly than their predecessors. Do they yet plunge the human race at intervals into insane and disastrous wars? Then it is not as often as aforetime.

It is, indeed, the average man, the plain citizen, who has got the most out of human progress. He is safer than he used to be, and by the same token he is cleaner and fatter. In the genuinely civilized countries famines no longer menace him, save in time of war. His meals are secure, even when his immortal soul is in danger. Wild beasts no longer devour him; he cannot be butchered save by a long process and with the consent of his fellows; he is no longer haunted by ghosts and demons; plagues seldom alarm him.

I say that he is no longer haunted by ghosts and demons. This is not saying, of course, that he has ceased to believe in them. I think it would be quite safe to guess, indeed, that at least 90 per cent of the people of the United States still have some sort of belief in supernatural powers, especially those of an inimical character.

Not many Americans encountering an angel or an archangel up a dark alley would fail to emit low whistles of astonishment and incredulity; but nine-tenths of them, seeing a ghost, would grant its bona fides instanter. It is the theory of every religious sect in good repute among us that a man, on dying, continues to exist, and it is the theory of all save the Unitarians and Universalists that there are such things as demons, and that, under easily imagined conditions, they may work evil.

This belief in supernatural agencies, I am convinced, will survive in the world for long ages—so long, indeed, as the destiny and agonies of man remain unintelligible, which will probably be forever. It is simply impossible for the human mind to imagine an effect without a cause, and to all save an inconsiderable minority of men a cause is indistinguishable from an intent. 

Thus the major mysteries will continue to be ascribed to the will of God and the minor mysteries, many of them of such a character that it would be hard to think of a dignified God having any hand in them, will be blamed upon demons of various tribes, ranging from the devil himself down to uneasy dead men, banshees, fairies and witches. 

The notion that the belief in witches died out on earth is a great mistake. The number of Americans who actually disbelieve in them is probably as small as the number who actually disbelieve in democracy, and no doubt it is made up of much the same individuals. They are the natural skeptics of the race, and taken as a whole, they are a somewhat unpleasant party. 

The rest of humanity, as the phrase goes, is more open minded. Its belief in evil spirits and their human allies is not, to be sure, an ever-present ingredient of its thought, like its belief in its current Coolidges, Lenins, and Mussolinis: but it is always ready to grant their existence on proof—and that proof need not be very massive.

But even in this department there has been some progress since the days of the Babylonian empire, though we must resort to subtleties to describe it. Let me put it in these terms: That the ancient human belief in spooks and demons, though it has not been obliterated, has at least been made unfashionable. In other words, it has been converted from a public vice into a secret vice, and thus, by the moral theory prevailing in the world, has been rendered less discreditable that it used to be.

There was a time when any man who believed in witches or ghosts said so openly, and was respected accordingly. But now he keeps it quiet, as he keeps quiet, say, the fact that he sleeps in his underwear, reads the serials in the tabloid papers, is afraid to walk under a ladder, or loves his wife.

This has been the main effect of skepticism in the world, working and embarrassing to admit certain indubitable facts. Their unpopularity is due not to their destruction or abandonment but simply to the forensic talent of the skeptics, a bombastic and tyrannical sect of men, with a great deal of cruelty concealed in their so-called love of truth. It is not altruism that moves them to their assaults upon what other men hold to be precious; it is something no more than a yearning to make those other men leap. The fundamentalists of Tennessee are thus right in denouncing Clarence Darrow. Mr. Darrow, I have no doubt, loves the truth—but it is with a passion comparable to that a man has for an amiable maiden aunt. When he went to Tennessee he went on safari, which is a Hindu word signifying the chase.

The skeptics, pursuing this immemorial sport, have driven certain congenial beliefs of the human race under cover, and made them furtive and apologetic. When they tackled the belief in witches, two or three hundred years ago, it was as respectable as going to church; now it is so dubious that those who continue to cherish it keep the fear to themselves. In the course of time, perhaps they will reduce the belief in democracy to the same disrepute, but I don’t think they will ever obliterate it, for it seems to be quite as natural to man as the belief in witches.

However, there is no call to deplore this essential failure of skepticism, for so long as it succeeds on the surface it succeeds for all practical intents and purposes. Hunan progress is never complete, but only partial: the upper level moves much faster than any below it.

We see before us, even in this year of the enlightenment 1927, how vigorously the larger masses of mankind resist accepting the veriest commonplaces of scientific knowledge. What every schoolboy is supposed to know, as he knows that the world is round and that the sun rises in the east, is actually forbidden by law in two American states, and in the rest it is no more than a vague scandal to all but a very small minority of the people.

What is too often overlooked is that even Christianity, after two millenniums of ostensible acceptance by all the more civilized nations of the west, is still but imperfectly assimilated by nine Christians out of 10. Certainly no one would argue seriously that its ethical principles are anywhere put into practice in the world today; even its chief spokesmen abandon them at the first temptation, as in time of public war or when they are themselves engaged in controversy with other spokesmen.

The old pagan ethics have been driven under cover but they are still there, and they crop up whenever the band begins to play, or there is a dollar to be made. So on the theological side. The lofty and somewhat tenuous mysticism of Christianity is nowhere converted into an actual way of life, save by small groups of odd persons; on the lower levels, though it is official, it has little reality. When the test comes it always turns out that the majority of men actually believe in something far more elemental. The hell they fear goes back to Pleistocene times, and so do the demons. And the God they profess to venerate is hard to distinguish from the Grand Juju worshiped in the swamps of the Congo. 


The Radicals and Their Leaders

H.L. Mencken

Sunday Record/October 2, 1927

As one who believed and maintained (and still believes and maintains) that the so-called trial of the late Sacco and Vanzetti was grossly unfair and that their execution was brutal and dishonest, perhaps I may be permitted, without suspicion of 100 per cent Americanism, to express my regret that their ideas could not perish with them. They were, it seems to me, singularly sentimental and credulous men. Heavy readers, like all other radicals, they had read mainly what was not true. The result was a compound of false assumptions and fallacious inferences, informed and made gaudy by a dream of human perfectability hard to distinguish from that of Dr. Frank Crane, the poet Guest of Detroit, and the Baptist evangelists of the boll weevil belt.  

In all radicals, indeed, one detects this primitive Christian fervor. The second coming to them is always imminent. Let the world but adopt overnight their sure cure for all its sorrows, and at once a golden age of peace and plenty will come in, with sin and poverty abolished, and everybody as happy as the boy who killed his father. The Babbitts and wowsers of decaying Boston, scared into a pathological state by what seemed to be a menace to their investments, depicted Sacco and Vanzetti as prowling robbers and assassins, with bombs in their hands. It was almost as absurd as depicting Andy Mellon as a gambler or the D.A.R. as Bolshevik. Sacco and Vanzetti were simply romantic mushheads.

True enough, such mushheads often show a certain febrile indignation. They denounce any one who presumes to laugh at their Utopia or to object to it on grounds of enlightened self-interest. But that indignation of there is as purely formal and rhetorical as the indignation of a Baptist evangelist against evolution. The evangelist always hopes to convert the evolutionists and to save their souls; that, indeed, is precisely why he has at them so furiously.

Radicalism is thus a favorite refuge for soft-headed men who, by some accident of life in a wicked world, have lost their religious faith. The movement swarms with so-called liberal clergymen, i.e., clergymen who no longer believe that Jonah swallowed the whale, but are unable to get rid of their congenital fear of hell. They are removed from downright evangelists by no more than the thickness of a hair. Both show the same appalling lust to save men who have no desire to be saved. Both believe that, by changing a few of its basic ideas, mankind could be converted instanter into a race of angels. Both shiver and shudder over its strange reluctance to adopt their panaceas.

The most sincere philanthropist that I know in this world is a radical professor, thrown out of his college as a dangerous man! He is actually no more dangerous than a nun is dangerous. On the contrary he is one whose whole life has been made miserable by contemplation of the woes of his fellowmen. Once, coming to see me, he robbed me of five nights’ sleep with his tales of economic atrocity among the Pennsylvania steel workers. (That was during the palmy days of the sainted Judge Gary, and the twelve-hour day still prevailed.) I had to beg him to desist; he was breaking my heart. Moreover, I had been in Pennsylvania and seen the steel workers—drunk, bawdy, and happy. But this eminent radical mourned over them as a mother mourns over the toothache of her first born.

All the rest are like him—that is, all the rest of the intellectuals. Far from being anti-social, they are unanimously altruists of the first chop. They suffer from elephantiasis of the bump of sympathy. Every time they see or hear of a poor man they put themselves in his place and assume fatuously that he is suffering as much as they would suffer. And in the same way again the Baptist evangelist puts himself in the place of those who seem doomed, by his theology, to go to hell. What he always forgets is that they may actually like it in hell.

To be sure, there are radicals of a different sort, and sometimes they throw bombs, but there are very few of them in the United States, and it is not hard to detect them. What distinguishes them is their freedom from Utopianism. They have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world. They are simply against the boss who seems to be getting an undue share of the usufruct of their toil, and their libido for reform is commonly satisfied when they have punctured the tires of his automobile or broken the windows of his plant.

The west is the habitat of most of these gay dogs, and some years ago they were gathered together in a highly enterprising and amusing organization, the so-called I.W.W. Every time a train ran off the track west of the Mississippi in those days it was blamed upon the I.W.W.—and not infrequently, I believe, the I.W.W. was really to blame. But there was little genuine radicalism in that movement; was far more ameliorative than revolutionary. The I.W.W.s had no vision of an economic New Jerusalem, with every one sinless and happy; they simply aspired to scare the boss into giving them more money at the end of the week. When they began to set it they subsided. It was prosperity that dispersed them, not the police.

Moreover, many of them were no more than rough young fellows on a lark. What animated them was far less a body of ideas issuing out of the slums of Europe than the last spark of the spirit of the old west. They were pioneers making their final ribald resistance to standardization and the Ford Kultur. Nine-tenths of their bombings and train wrecking showed no purpose beyond that of raising hell; they terrorized the just and the unjust alike. Even such leaders among them as Tom Mooney (if Tom was ever actually an I.W.W.) were far less revolutionists than mere rebels. They liked to throw dead cats, break windows, and scare the sheriff. The one philosopher among them, Big Bill Haywood, is now in Moscow, and no doubt far more comfortable than he ever was in a logging camp.

The eastern radicals in the overwhelming main belong to another school and are horrified by the rough ways of their brethren of the west. They are full of ideas borrowed from books and have an almost superstitious veneration for the printed word; even the dull nonsense of Karl Marx seems to them to be intelligent and profound. What they aim at is not the butchery of the capitalist, but his salvation. They believe that he would feel better if he gave away his money and took to honest labor. More, they believe that every one else would feel better—that it would promote happiness to take away the very aspiration, to wit, to wealth and ease, which now keeps nine men out of ten at work.

This belief, it seems to me, is erroneous. It is grounded upon a faith in human virtue which goes counter to practically all of the observed facts. Wherever and whenever it has been subjected to pragmatic tests, for example, in Russia, it has revealed weaknesses so serious as to verge upon the disastrous. To attack it is a pleasant enterprise and one making no great demands upon the higher cerebral centers. I have accordingly engaged in it in the past, to the extent of a multitude of flamboyant articles and two whole books. But it presents obvious difficulties when the radicals who cherish it are forbidden to voice it. I object to being sent into action against an opponent who is being pursued by the police. I know of no effective argument against one who is sitting in an electric chair.

Thus I am opposed to the hounding of radicals and herewith protest against it. Right or wrong, they have a clear right to be heard—a right as plain as that of Dr. Crane, or that of the poet Guest, or that of the Baptist evangelist. If, perchance, they are able to convert the booboisie of this great land to their nonsense, then the booboisie, by the fundamental democratic theory, has a right to be converted to it. To argue otherwise is to argue against the idea at the bottom of the American system of government—and not only against that idea, but also against justice, fairness, honesty, self-respect, and common decency.


The Pedagogue’s Utopia Theme of Mencken

H.L. Mencken

Chicago Tribune/May 1, 1927

Schoolmaster, Once Lowly Individual, Has Gone Up the Ladder in Dignity and Emoluments, According to Writer–Teaching Operations Reduced to Mathematical Formulae

THE historians of the future will probably tell their customers that in the second decade of the twentieth century the furor pedagogicus reached its climax in the United States and then began to decline. The very worst manifestations of that frenzy, I daresay, are still ahead of us, though maybe not far off.

Half the towns and villages of the country are going bankrupt building new public schools and the endowments of the great rolling mills of the so called higher learning are increasing steadily and immensely. What the total annual cost of education has come to among us I don’t know precisely and neither does anyone else, for there are large expenses that do not enter into the official figures, but certainly it must be colossal. It goes far beyond the annual cost of the army and navy or of the police or of the churches, perhaps it even surpasses the annual bootlegging bill.

The schoolmaster, in the days of my nonage, was still a lowly and modest fellow. He operated in a bare and forbidding room, his garb was that of an evangelist in hard luck and his sole professional equipment equipment consisted of chalk and a rattan, The theory then was that he was a spiritual force, and hence needed no elaborate paraphernalia. His prototype was a mangy philosopher sitting on a log and passing the hat at the end of his lecture. But now he works in palaces that cover whole blocks and are fitted up with all the voluptuous lavishness of movie parlors. The average schoolhouse in America used to cost three hundred dollars. Now it costs 500 thousand dollars and it will cost one million dollars tomorrow.

Meanwhile the schoolmaster himself has gone up the ladder. His emolument was once that of a diligent bookkeeper or drug clerk; it is now that of a trust company vice-president. His sister, the school ma’m, used to get $15 a month and her board and lodging; her loftiest dream was to buy one good store dress a year and catch a husband in it. But now she goes to work in such gauds as Solomon’s wives might have envied and her pay and allowances approximate those of a chorus girl.

EDUCATIONAL theory has kept pace with educational equipment and honoraria. Down to the end of the nineteenth century at least in America it was very simple and even austere. The notion was that anyone who knew anything could teach it and that the better he knew it — and especially the better he loved it — the better he could teach it. The candidate for the birch had no need to perfect himself in the higher branches of human knowledge if he could spell accurately. and parse with fluency, and bound Afghanistan without hesitation, he was considered fit for his office.

But now even the most modest and obscure of schoolma’ms must take on such a load of intellectual baggage as would have bent the back of Sir Isaac Newton. In order to insert even the elements of the new enlightenment into the cerebrums of her pupils she must be hep to all the secrets of psychology — a difficult subject at best, and since Dr. Freud horned into it, often vaguely pornographic.

Her mathematical gifts in the old days were considered sufficient if she had mastered the rule of three but now even the differential calculus is scarcely enough to get her through her maze of graphs, curves. and statistical questionnaires She must know faunal biology and parliamentary law. She must be an ethnologist, a psychiatrist, and an expert in criminal jurisprudence.

Her purely technical equipment has kept pace with the improvement in the general culture The pedagogical journals used to be full of pleasant poetry and edifying fairy tales; they are no so heavy with scientific jargon that no layman can hope to read them at all. All the operations of teaching have been reduced to complicated mathematical formulae, full of Greek letters, modululi, derivatives, anti-derivatives, infinitesimals, and solidi. Grammar is translated into curves, sinuous and mysterious. The flag drill becomes an equation, bristling with x’s, equals, and o’s.

SUCH is human progress in these last gaudy sunset days of Homo sapiens. The lowly pedagogue, once a drudge on the level of a milkman or a church organist, is now lifted to professional parity with an orchestral conductor, a horse doctor, or an osteopath. His trade, once so simple, has become occult, and as it has become occult it has naturally increased in dignity. It was formerly regarded as so easy that any literate person could practice it just as any literate person could run a newspaper. But now it is so recondite that it lies wholly beyond the ken of the general and even the pedagogues themselves to judge by their professional papers seem to be convinced that at least two-thirds of their number are unfit to pursue it.

Well what is the net result of all this improvement? Is pedagogy, as it is now encountered in the republic, any more efficient than it was a generation ago, before graphs and formulae lifted it from a trade to a science? The pedagogues, I daresay, will instantly answer yes and in proof thereof they will point to many impressive facts.

Many a child of 10 whose father at the same age was scarcely able to bound Rhode Island is now an expert in solfeggio and competent to act as chairman of a mass meeting. The little girls whose mothers ran aground upon long division know all about calories and vitamins. Their brothers have learned the principles of rotary and how to tie knots. All alike have mastered the hardest words in the tabloids.

But what of their general sense and information? What of their basic fitness to live in the world? Has it improved or has it not improved? I doubt that many fair observers would answer that it has. The new pedagogy has crammed the poor kids with showy knowledge, but it has plainly failed to make them any better as human beings than their fathers.

At the high tide of its golden age, and in the country of its loftiest triumphs, the net product of all its sorceries is a proletariat distinguished mainly for its credulity, its fear of ideas, and its inability to think, and made of individuals who tend to be as alike as peas in a can.

HERE perhaps we have asked too much of the pedagogues. But what has been asked of them is surely no greater than what they have offered. The excuse for the immense expenditures that they demand is that by some mysterious magic they can turn the populace into something that it is not— that is, that they can turn sows’ ears into purses. But can they really? All the evidence seems to show that they cannot. The American people, taking them in the mass, reveal not the slightest sign of growing more intelligent than they used to be. On the contrary, they reveal every sign of growing dumber and dumber as year chases year.

The public schools in truth have probably helped along that process a great deal more than they have hindered it. There was a time when, encountering a pupil whose capacity for taking in knowledge was obviously nil, they turned him out at once and let him go to work on an ash cart. But now they hold him and struggle with him and the result is disastrous to the whole educational scheme.

It is not that pupils of actual intelligence are held back to accommodate the dolts — for that difficulty is being surmounted — but that the struggle with the dolts consumes a large part of the energy of the general machine and that its hopelessness promotes the concoction of high sounding but meaningless formulae fatal to all honest grappling with the problems of teaching.

These formulae naturally tend to proceed from the lower strata to the higher. That which conceals the inevitable failure of pedagogy when it deals with morons is also useful in giving it a false profundity when it deals with children who are not morons. Here, perhaps, are the origins of the dreadful hocus- pocus which now fills all the pedagogical journals and textbooks.

The old art of the schoolma’am, so simple and so effectives, has become transformed into a complicated and largely unintelligible necromancy, at which quacks are more apt and plausible than honest men. The first result is a vast and idiotic dissipation of the public funds. The second is the complete failure of the process to give help to those children who most need it and can best make use of it.


Ban Johnson Faces Three Way Fire as Major League Meetings Open

Westbrook Pegler

Muskogee Daily Phoenix and Times-Democrat/December 9, 1924

Even Own League to Adopt Resolution Condemning Him, Rumor; O’ Connell-Dolan Scandal Unlikely to Come Up

NEW YORK, Dec. 8 — Although the midwinter deliberations of the men who own the major league ball clubs ordinarily mean nothing at all to the man who takes his baseball in occasional doses at $1 a dose the impending congress of the National and American league in New York is likely to provide some jolly entertainment to break the monotony for the in-between season.

The old ponderous resolution, abounding in blah and references to the “integrity of the national game,” as the club owners like to call their business enterprise, will be repeated as usual in all their unimaginative dullness, but there will be the makings of three very amusing fights—all of them featuring Ban B. Johnson, president of the American league and in his serious moments one of the most amusing public figures in the country.

There will be the fight between Johnson and the directors of the Pacific Coast League, who have dallied in New York instead of going straight home from the minor league convention last week at Hartford, Conn., in order to make Johnson retract or prove his insinuations that gambling was rife in the coast league last summer.

There will be another between Johnson and the major league club owners who wish to rebuke him for loud public criticism of Judge K. M. Landis’ official conduct, Johnson being one of the signers of the famous club owners oath wherein they promise not to speak their opinions to one another, but to maintain an outward front of amity and mutual admiration.

And then there will be the main event, the starred final bout for the championship of organized baseball between Landis and Johnson.

All these encounters will be fought under strict D.A.R. rules, the contestants being limited to verbal hair pulling and whisker tweaking, but in the course of a strife the customers of baseball may learn some candid truths.

The Most Unkind Cut

Harry Williams, president of the Coast league, and Cal Ewing, of the Oakland club, will loiter around and attempt to swat Mr. Johnson with a resolution. They took up strong positions on a leather couch in “Peacock Alley” today intending to demand a certificate of purity from Johnson when the American league meets Wednesday. But Williams admitted in a tone of voice that spoke the bafflement of the Coast league, that they had no standing before an American league meeting and would have to depend on some kindly disposed member of the American league board to bring up officially the matter of Johnson’s allegations.

The American league club owners who last week were reported to have tired of the Landis administration are now said to be ready to give him a vote of confidence which would be a sort of rebuke to Johnson, their own president. Johnson is used to rebukes, of course, but this would be the severest of all.

No Scandal Probe

The question whether baseball is still as crooked today as it was three years ago or less so, or more so, probably will be dodged as nobody has yet signified any intention of demanding the details of the Dolan-O’Connell case within the New York Giants last fall. Landis’ disposition of this case left the country strewn with suspicions that not all the crooks had been discovered and he even admitted that the investigation was not at an end.

However, it is impossible to anticipate what will happen and the magnates have a tendency to huddle together and whisper instead of telling the truth aloud when scandal touches their business.

All Need Players

All major league managers are here now, or will have arrived by the time the National league goes into session tomorrow morning with the exception of Wilbert Robinson, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who is sick in Baltimore. Almost all of them need players and not many of them have any players to offer in trade.

Stanley Harris, manager of the Washington Senators, needs some reserve infield material to strengthen a club which had to use a lollipopping big outfielder at third base during the last world series when Roger Peckinpaugh was hurt and removed.

He will also need a first class pitcher to take the place of Walter Johnson, if the serious Scandinavian quits the team. The Yankees need a new pitcher, catcher and shortstop and Ty Cobb admitted that he had warrants for a good shortstop and a second baseman.

The Giants claim to be standing pat on their 1924 team, but they have an extra first baseman and are in a position to make a good trade as they need a catcher.

The Reds need a first baseman to take the place of the late Jake Daubent and the Boston Red Sox and Braves each need a new ball club.


Tied to a Stake On a Lone Rock in the Bay

San Francisco Examiner/April 2, 1900

SAN RAFAEL, April 1.—No Iroquois or Apache ever plotted a revenge more dreadful or a torture more cruel than the Chinese shrimp fishers attempted on Chung Hing Hook.

Yesterday patrolman George Agnew found him bound to a stake on an uninhabited island off McNear’s Point. He had been in this situation two days, without food or drink, broiling in the sun by day, drenched by the mists at night. He had been bound and left on the lone island to die.

Chung Hing Hook is a fisherman. He Is a member of the Suey Ow tong, and his being staked out to die was the result of warfare among the rival tongs which struggle for supremacy in the shrimp fisheries. King Ow Yang, formerly the Chinese Vice-Consul, has secured control of the shrimp market. Some of the fishermen hold out against his domination, and the rivalry and bitterness which have grown up around that fact were responsible for the dreadful torture of Chung Hing Hook.

A few weeks ago a small band of coolies was smuggled into this country, making a landing at Tomales Bay and reaching the McNear Point shrimp fisheries by way of California City. King Ow Yang took these men under his protection, but someone told the United States officials of their presence, and they were arrested by John Lynch of the Chinese Bureau. Partisans of King Ow Yang accused the Suey Ows of being the Informers, and soon after the arrest of the men proclamations were posted in the fishing camps along the bay shore warning informers and spies that if detected in giving information to the authorities they would be killed. Desperate men made threats of desperate revenges, but it was not supposed things would go further than a sudden stab with a knife or a blow with a murderous hatchet of the highbinder.

Chung Hing Hook, being an independent fisherman and a member of the hated Suey Ows, was suspected of being an Informer. The hatchetmen of the dominant tong came upon him by night, carried him to their retreat, gave him a mock trial in their tribunal and sentenced him to die the death. They then proceeded to kill him with fiendish torture.

At night they rowed him out to the lone island off the point. People rarely land on that inhospitable rock. The chances were one in a thousand that the victim would be found there. No steamers pass that way. No death cry could be beard on shore. So a great stake was driven in the soil and Chung Hing Hook was bound to it with heavy ropes.

Then the men who had been his judges and executioners rowed away and left him there to die the lingering death of a spy. That he cried out for help is known, for the crew of a schooner beating up the bay reported hearing a strange cry In the night. But none of his friends dared go near him, if they suspected where he was, or search for him if they did not know. So terrorized were they by King Ow Yang’s men that they dared not go away to inform the authorities of the victim’s plight.

But when Agnew went that way on his weekly round he was told by nods and signs and whispers that something was wrong on the lone island. Taking a friend with him, he rowed out to the rock and there found Chung Hing Hook, almost in the last gasp. The poor fellow was given stimulants and brought to San Rafael. As soon as he was able to travel further he was conveyed to San Francisco.

Now the officers are trying to secure Information as to the Identity of the ruffians wo condemned Chung Hing Hook to so fearful a fate. Probably there will be efforts at reprisal between the rival tongs, and bloodshed or further dreadful outrages are expected.

Agnew made this statement in reference to his rescue of the Chinaman: “I went to the fish camps on Friday morning and was there about half an hour. I had heard that there had been two Chinamen smuggled into the country, and that they were at McNear’s Point. I went there to see what I could find out about them. I was on my way back to San Rafael, and when near the brickyard was stopped by a Chinaman whom I had known for some time, who seemed almost scared to death, and it was some time before I could get from him what was the matter. Finally, after much questioning I learned that a Chinaman had been tied hand and foot because he was suspected of being an informer, and taken to one of the sister islands off McNear’s.

“I went back to the fish yard, got a boat and rowed over to the island. After looking around for some time, I found the man bound hand and foot, and almost unconscious. He was fastened to a stake. I untied the ropes and after giving him a drink of water, asked him some questions. He could not speak English and I could find out nothing from him. I took him to the fish yard and tried to get an interpreter, but all seemed to be afraid to speak.

“I took him to San Rafael, where I got an interpreter. He said he had been suspected of being a spy of a rival company. He said two men had seized him, bound him and placed him on the island. I took the man to San Francisco and put him on a Sacramento street car. He said he could find his friends in Chinatown.”


Walt Bowie: A Story of the Secret Service

Ray Stannard Baker

McClure’s Magazine/December, 1898

At the head of the Government Secret Service during the Civil War was Brigadier General Lafayette C. Baker, and serving with him intimately was his cousin, my father, Major J. Stannard Baker. My father has told me many stories of the adventures of himself and the other men of the Secret Service, and the following is one of them, given here in substantially the words and form in which he related it.

Running the picket lines during the early years of the Civil War was not confined wholly to avaricious speculators and poor whites. There were Snowdens, Camerons, Milburns, and Bowies among the number, and they rode and scouted, carried mail, and captured horses, with all the dash and spirit of the Southern blood. They were familiar with the country roads of Maryland and Virginia, and they knew the best crossings and fords of the Potomac. If they were trapped within the Federal lines, they appealed for protection at the nearest plantation, the owner of which was more than likely to be a cousin or an uncle, and when the searchers appeared, they were stowed safely away in an attic or hay-loft, and there they remained until danger was past. They were all dashing, reckless young fellows, the prodigal sons of respectable families, to whom the war came as a license for lawlessness.

One of the best known of these young marauders was Captain Walter W.W. Bowie. He was born in Maryland, near Lower Marlborough, his mother being one of the historic Snowden family. On his father’s side he was related to the famous Colonel James Bowie, duelist and companion of Crockett, who gave his name to the Bowie knife. Before the war opened Captain Bowie had made a reputation as a hard rider and a hard drinker, and there were few of the people of Maryland who did not know him. He is described as being above medium height, with dark, curly hair, dark eyes, a handsome face, and the manners of an accomplished gallant. At the outbreak of hostilities he was commissioned captain by General J. E. B. Stuart. He served for some time with the guerrilla bands of eastern Virginia, and then began his clandestine excursions through the Federal lines. The guerrillas could be driven off or captured, but Bowie was as nimble as a flea, and his stings were quite as frequent and irritating. For the whole of one season he demoralized several counties in central Maryland. The authorities at Washington sent out a number of expeditions to capture him, but he invariably eluded them, two or three times under the most desperate circumstances. Mrs. Surratt, who kept a tavern at Surrattville, and who was afterward famous for her connection with the Booth conspiracy, knew him well.

“You’ll never get Walt Bowie,” she told the detectives of the Secret Service; “he has a charmed life; you can neither capture nor kill him,” and she expressed the belief of many of the people of lower Maryland.

One dark night in the spring of 1863, Bowie was surrounded by a cavalry detachment on the banks of the Potomac, some miles above Port Tobacco. The lieutenant in command dismounted his men, and advanced cautiously through a strip of pine woods. They closed in and captured Bowie’s horse and a quantity of contraband goods, but Bowie himself had mysteriously disappeared. They spread out, and began to beat for him through the bushes. Half an hour later they found their lieutenant lying face upward in the weeds, with Captain Walt Bowie’s knife in his breast.

After this incident the case was referred by the War Department to General L. C. Baker of the Secret Service Bureau, and Traill was assigned the task of capturing Bowie. It seems that Traill and Bowie had been friends before the war, and in some way, best known to themselves, a mortal enmity had sprung up between them. Traill never told me the exact particulars, but I know that Bowie had threatened to shoot him on sight.

After several weeks of watching, Traill learned that Bowie was accustomed to visit the home of Colonel James H. Waring, one of the best known planters of southern Maryland. Bowie’s mother was distantly related to the Warings, as, indeed, she was related to many of the older families of the South. Colonel Waring’s house stood on a picturesque knoll, around which crooked the Patuxent River, leaving only a small neck of land to connect it with other parts of the plantation. The especial attraction which drew Bowie into this dangerous trap was Colonel Waring’s daughter, whom he had known before the war. Traill learned that he had made arrangements to pay one of his regular visits on the night of July 14, 1863.

General Baker at once detailed Odell, Brant, and me to go with Traill and make an arrest. We prepared the expedition with unusual caution, choosing the best and freshest horses we could get, and arming ourselves with two revolvers each.

It was past midnight when we rode through the gateway of the Waring plantation. We tethered our horses in a grove of trees at some distance from the drive, leaving them ready saddled and bridled in case of need. Then we crept up cautiously toward the house. We understood without specific orders that we were to shoot anyone who failed to halt on command.

Traill and I went to the front of the house, and Brant and Odell to the rear. I waited below in the walk and watched the windows while Traill thundered on the iron knocker. In a moment the whole plantation sprung into life. Dogs began to bark, negroes ran shouting from their quarters, and lights began to flash out one by one in the upper windows. Traill knocked again more violently, and presently an aged negro woman with white, kinky hair unbarred the door and started back, gasping, when we crowded in.

“Is Walt Bowie here?” demanded Traill.

“Dunno, massa; yain’t seed nothin’ ob him, massa.”

Traill remained at the front door questioning the negro, and I went down the long hallway and opened the back door, so as to establish communication with Odell and Brant. It was dark, and as I stepped out on the porch I stumbled over the prostrate body of a little house negro curled on the doorstep fast asleep. I seized him just as he was squirming away, and brought him sharply around, so that the light shone in his face.

“Where’s Walt Bowie?” I asked.

“He done come las’ night” and then he must have caught sight of a warning finger from some of the negroes who were gathering on the porch, for his tongue froze with fright and we could get nothing further out of him.

Brant and Odell were stationed outside of the house, and Traill and I began the search inside. We worked from the cellar to the attic, opening every closet and looking up the chimneys. At every step we were hindered in our search by the Waring house-negroes. They seemed half-frightened out of their senses; they stumbled aimlessly up and down the stairways, huddled in corners, and blocked the passageways. At that time we laid their peculiar actions wholly to abject terror, and Traill finally ordered them all into the big plantation dining-room, to remain until morning, although he came in later in the night. The white women of the family assembled in the parlor, and watched the search with apparent calmness, although their faces were pale.

In the room occupied by Colonel Waring’s daughter we discovered some important rebel mail, secreted between the mattresses of the bed, and in an adjoining room we found a handsome uniform belonging to a Confederate captain of cavalry, together with a saber and sash, two bowie-knives, and a handsome double-barreled gun with the name “Walter W.W. Bowie” engraved on the shoulder-plate. This gun played a most important part in Bowie’s subsequent history.

The presence of these personal belongings of Captain Bowie convinced us that he was secreted somewhere in the house; but search as we would, we could not find him. At last Traill called us together outside, and after a consultation we determined to keep watch until daylight, hoping that we might get Bowie when he left the house. Odell placed himself in the center of the isthmus formed by the crook in the Patuxent River, thus cutting off all egress from the house by land. Brant concealed himself immediately in front of the wide piazza, and Traill and I took our positions just behind the house, near a pathway that led down to the spring. Through a clump of leafy bushes we could command a clear view of every window and door at the back of the house without exposing ourselves. We dared give Bowie no opportunity for pistol play.

Just as morning was breaking, the back door was opened cautiously, and the red-turbaned head of an old negro auntie was thrust out. She looked this way and that, and, seeing nothing to alarm her, she stepped out on the porch and swung a small tub to her head. Following her came two other negro women carrying water-buckets. Straight down the pathway to the spring they came, swinging close together and glancing fearfully from side to side. Traill and I stepped out suddenly before them with our revolvers in our hands. At sight of us, two of the women started and cried out, but the third, with a low warning, dragged them along.

“Don’ shoot, massa!” begged one of the women; “don’ shoot! We’s only poo’ niggahs.”

It happened that both of us were exceedingly thirsty. We had worked all the sultry July night with nothing to drink, and we had not dared to desert our posts long enough to go to the spring. So we parted and let the three women go by, urging them to hurry back with the water. Just as they were disappearing in the half-light of the early morning, I saw one of the women drop her bucket and run. Instantly the ruse flashed upon me, and I went hot all over—one of the women was Walt Bowie.

We turned instantly and tore through the bushes toward the river shore. At the spring we found two of the negro women, but the third was missing. Thirty yards farther down, concealed in a clump of pines, we captured Bowie’s horse, saddled and bridled, left there for just such an emergency. More hopefully we spread out through the bushes, confident now that we should corner our prey somewhere on the river bank. We were both thoroughly alert, for we knew well enough what a fighter Walt Bowie at bay would be. Odell and Brant soon joined us, and we trusted no clump of bushes nor fallen log until we were sure that Bowie was not behind it.

Presently a shout came from Odell. I was near him on his right, and I ran through the bushes to his assistance. Odell was holding up a long, loose wrapper, such as negro women wore. He had found it entangled in one of the bushes where Bowie, hampered by its clinging folds, had thrown it off. We paused only a moment, and then plunged down the bank, calling for the other men to follow. The sun had not yet risen, and a soft mist hung over the river and filled the valley.

In the slushy sand close to the water’s edge we found two fresh footprints, and the shallows of the river itself were still stringy with mud where they had been disturbed. But we peered in vain out upon the misty water for signs of a swimmer’s head. Bowie was gone.

We stood there for a moment and looked at one another foolishly. We had been duped by the man whom we had come out to capture, and we were tired and hungry and thirsty.

Traill recovered first. Although he was a man of few words, he swore roundly, and declared that he was going after Bowie.

“I’ll catch him yet,” he said.

We argued with him that it would be useless to try to trace him now that he was alarmed, but Traill was obdurate.

“You fellows go back if you care to,” he said; “I’m going after Bowie.”

After I knew of the feud, I understood the almost frantic haste with which he ran up the hill, mounted his horse, and galloped away up the road.

Odell, Brant, and I returned to Washington, thoroughly dejected. Two days later Traill came in. He was gaunt and dirty and silent; we forbore asking him if he had captured Walt Bowie. Since our return the gun which we captured at the Waring place had stood in one corner of General Baker’s office. Traill’s eye fell on it almost as soon as he entered the room. He picked it up and turned it over in his hand. “I’ d like to have this gun,” he said.

“You can’t use it in the service,” objected the General.

“If you’ll give me this gun I’ll use it,” he said, significantly.

Traill might not have believed that Bowie’s life was charmed, but he was a Virginian, brought up among conjuring negroes, and doubtless he knew the old superstition that only the weapon of a “charmed” person is effective against the charm. And he took Bowie’s gun.

About this time I became an officer in the First District of Columbia Cavalry, then being organized by General Baker, and for several months I lost sight of Traill. On my return to Washington early in 1864, I met him at the Secret Service headquarters, and he told me the story of his subsequent search for Bowie, which was further amplified by the General.

After our failure in July, Traill kept to the scent with all the pertinacity of a bloodhound. I saw a note which Bowie had left for Traill. It was scrawled on yellow wrapping-paper, and it read something like this:

“Tell Traill that if he comes into lower Maryland again he will get shot. B.”

Traill carried this slip in an inside pocket all of that summer and fall. And Bowie kept growing bolder and bolder. He would appear suddenly in central Maryland with four or five men, loot a store, gather in a string of horses, and escape across the Potomac before the Union forces knew what had happened. And that was at a time when the Federal War Department flattered itself on the perfect impregnability of its lines. Indeed, it was said that Bowie himself had begun to believe in his own immunity from bullets and arrest, and he hunted Traill with almost as much enthusiasm as Traill hunted him. They tracked each other all over Maryland, each trying to get the other at a disadvantage. The General told me that Traill grew thin and haggard under the strain and that he would hardly answer when spoken to.

One day about the middle of December, Traill came in after an unusually long absence, and held a conference with his chief. Early the following morning he rode out across the navy-yard bridge with two revolvers in his holsters and Bowie’s gun thrown across the pommel of his saddle. He chose little-known roads and cow-paths, and kept well in toward the Potomac River. Upon nearing a little cross-roads known as Booneville, he led his horse across the fields and tied it in an old tobacco-house. Here he remained concealed until nightfall. He had made arrangements with a friend named Carton, who lived in the neighborhood, to keep a sharp watch for Bowie. Carton’s enmity had been fired by the loss of numerous horses and mules, and he had lain flat on his face in the hog-pines for two days watching Bowie’s movements.

When it was quite dark, Traill went down into the woods, crossed an old swale, and whistled sharply. The signal was answered, and Carton appeared a moment later. He was shivering with cold and fright. He told Traill that Bowie had passed him on his way to the Potomac not two hours before. He had two men and eight or ten horses with him.

On the supposition that Bowie intended to escape at once into Virginia, Traill, followed by Carton, ran down the road, hoping to intercept him before he crossed the river. The track was blind with pine shoots and fallen logs, and the darkness of a cloudy night was rendered even denser by the thickets which crowded up to the road on both sides. They tripped and fell a dozen times in the first mile, and then they went more cautiously for fear of alarming Bowie and his men, should they be concealed somewhere in the woods. After nearly an hour of exhausting pursuit, Traill dropped on his knees, scratched a match, and carefully examined the track. There was not a sign of horses’ hoofs. Carton could not explain the mystery, but he insisted that the road did not branch anywhere in its course from the old plantation to the river. Traill crept back silently for some distance, and finally found the tracks again. They turned from the road into the woods, where the hog-pines grew so thick that it seemed impossible for a man, much less a horse, to penetrate. Here Carton hung back.

“Bowie’s in there waiting for you,” he said; “and you can’t kill him.”

“Stay where you are, then,” answered Traill, “and see that he don’t shoot you.”

Traill turned from the road, and pushed his way cautiously through the pines. For a space he walked, stooping almost double, with Bowie’s gun thrust out before him; then he dropped on his hands and knees and crawled. If Bowie was watching for him, he knew that he would be lying on the ground in some thicket or behind some log, and he wanted to be ready for him. Bowie might have taken this very means for hunting his hunter. The dense darkness of the night was in Traill’s favor, although in the stillness of the woods every twig that snapped under his knees sounded like the report of a pistol.

In this way he crawled for twenty rods or more, and then of a sudden he looked up and saw through a rift in the pine thicket a glimmer of light against the black foliage of a group of larger pines beyond. Then he knew that Bowie had built a fire and camped. Still more cautiously he wriggled along the moist ground, always keeping the gun, ready cocked, before him.

Thirty paces farther on he emerged from the thicket into an open space, in the center of which he could see the faint glimmer of a camp-fire. A moment later he was startled by the restless stirring of horses. He had not counted on this interference, although he knew that Bowie depended on his horses to give notice of the approach of enemies. He lay still for a long quarter hour, until the horses were quiet again, and then he wriggled forward, feeling his way, and throwing aside every twig that might snap under his weight. And thus he came presently to a stump about twenty feet from the fire. Here he raised up just a little. He saw the dark forms of the horses picketed in a bunch some little distance to his right. Between them and the fire lay three figures closely wrapped in blankets with their heads on their saddles. Three pairs of cavalry boots were suspended bottom down over the fire to dry. There was no means of telling which of the men was Bowie; as they lay there they looked exactly alike. So Traill decided to capture them. He would rather have taken Bowie than any man in the Confederacy. He thought he could pounce on him while he was asleep and get his revolver, although he knew that Bowie never would submit without a fight, and, knowing Bowie, he knew what such a fight would be. He cared nothing for the other men; they were mere hostlers for the captured horses, and he knew they would submit readily enough if their chief was taken.

Traill left the protection of the stump, and wriggled forward again toward the fire. His eyes never left the three blanketed figures. When he was a man’s length away from their feet he raised to his hands and knees, and made ready to spring upon them. But he had not counted on the horses. At sight of him they lunged back, snorting with fright. Instantly the three men were on their feet. They stood facing the horses, and Traill was behind them. In the darkness he could not tell which was Bowie, and he would take no chances. He rose swiftly to his feet and brought the gun to his shoulder. It was already cocked.

“Walt Bowie!” he shouted.

Bowie whirled. “

Traill!” he said, and fired both revolvers.

At the same instant Traill’s fingers closed on the triggers of Bowie’s gun. Both barrels went off at once. Bowie’s head dropped back, and he fell face downward by the fire. When Traill reached him he was dead. The next day Traill rode into Washington’ with two prisoners and the personal effects of Walt Bowie. He was begrimed with dust, and his eyes were dark and hollow. He set Bowie’s gun in a corner behind the General’s desk.

“I’m through with that,” he said, in his drawling voice.

“Where’s Walt Bowie?” asked the General.

“Shot him,” said Traill.


Railway Blacklisting

Ray Stannard Baker

The Outlook/December 11, 1897

A DECISION of more than ordinary importance as affecting the relation of railroad corporations and their employees was rendered at Chicago on November 18. Fred R. Ketcham, who had been a freight conductor of tried worth previous to the American Railway Union strike of 1894, sued the Northwestern Railroad for $25,000 damages, alleging that he had been blacklisted and prevented from obtaining work on any of the railroads centering in Chicago.

For many years the blacklist system, as it is understood by the men, has been a fruitful source of discord between the railroad companies and their employees. It has been bitterly attacked by the labor organizations, and it has come up directly or indirectly in numerous suits at law, but in the past the corporations always have found shelter behind the simple declaration that blacklisting did not exist; and inasmuch as the proceedings of the General Managers’ Association were always secret, nothing could be proved. The men declared that wages could be reduced with impunity, hours lengthened, organization prevented, and their rights curtailed in other ways, and that they dared not rebel nor strike for fear that they would be refused the “clearance” necessary for them to secure work elsewhere. It was shown in the Ketcham case that hundreds of employees who left the service during the American Railway Union strike are now being punished under the blacklist system. The company for which Ketcham himself worked would not accept his services after the strike was declared off, and when he applied to other railroads he found that they were all barred against him until he should receive the written permission, known as a “clearance,” from the Northwestern Railroad. This he was unable to procure, and, having been a railroad man for many years, he found it difficult to make a living in other work for himself and his family.

In Illinois there is no statute against blacklisting. Consequently Attorney William J. Strong, who represented Ketcham, was compelled to base his suit upon the principles of the old common law. After a trial lasting more than two weeks, and the examination of scores of witnesses, he succeeded in convincing the jury that a conspiracy actually existed among the general managers of the Chicago railroads which effectually prevented Ketcham from obtaining work without the consent of the Northwestern Railroad. He was opposed by the full counsel of the defendant corporation, and the attorneys of other roads were present and watched the case with close attention. After less than three hours’ deliberation the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding him $21,666.33 damages, nearly $20,000 of which was “smart money.”

If the important precedent thus established is sustained in the higher courts, to which the case certainly will be appealed, hundreds of former railroad men will begin suits, and there is no telling where the struggle will have an end. Already more than fifty damage suits similar to Ketcham’s are before the courts.

The main contention of Ketcham’s attorney was that the various railroads having terminals in Chicago had formed a combination under the name of the General Managers’ Association, and that they had agreed that no railroad should accept the services of any employee until he could furnish evidence of a clean record from the company with which he last had service. This was construed as a conspiracy against the liberty of the employee to find work where he chose without hindrance from his former employer, and most of the evidence of the plaintiff went to prove the existence of such a conspiracy.

A report of a meeting of the General Managers’ Association held May 18, 1893, was produced. The matter of establishing an employment bureau under the auspices of the Association had been discussed, and the committee having it in charge reported that it would be of advantage, among other things, “in assisting the roads to guard against the employment of a man who has been proved unworthy on some other road.” Ketcham’s attorney asserted that this showed collusion between the roads in the matter of employment.

A letter written by H. W. Ballon, trainmaster of the Wabash Railroad, to A. L. Henton, a brakeman, who had gone out during the strike of 1894, was introduced in evidence. It read as follows: “Referring to attached, if you have not been concerned in recent strike and can bring clearance to that effect, showing where you were working June 30 and since, can give you job of braking.” Henton was acknowledged in testimony to be a faithful workman, but, owing to his inability to secure a clearance from the railroad for which he had worked before the strike, the Wabash road would not give him employment.

Ketcham’s story of the operation of the blacklist, as told before the court, was in substance as follows:

He had been in the employment of the Northwestern Railroad Company for a period of twelve years, earning an average wage of $100 a month. Since June 29, 1894, when he went out on the strike, he had earned only $2,100 in different employments. The last position he obtained was in the Michigan Central elevator at Kensington. He was discharged from that position two weeks before his suit was begun. The reason of the discharge was given as slack business, but he had watched the elevator every day since, and it was running just the same as when he was working in it. About July 3 or 4, 1894, after the strike began, he was standing in front of his home in California Avenue, when J. C. Stewart, Division Superintendent of the Northwestern Railroad Company, came to him and asked him to take out a train. Stewart told him he could have any two brakemen he wanted. He replied that he did not feel like taking the risk in such troublous times, and refused to do so, whereupon Stewart told him that if he did not take out the train he would have him arrested and enjoined; and he said, “I feel sorry for your family, and you will find it hard work to get employment from any other road if you don’t do it.” After Stewart made this threat Ketcham still refused to go, and, having heard that there was a blacklist, he determined to test it. So, on July 20, before the strike was over, he applied to the Chicago Great Western Railroad for a position. Trainmaster J. B. Strong hired him, and he took a freight train from Chicago to Dubuque and back. When he was hired, Strong asked him what road he had ever worked for, and he replied that he had worked for the Northwestern some time ago. Strong asked him if he was one of the Northwestern rioters, and he said “No.” He arrived home from Dubuque at five o’clock in the morning, and at seven he was arrested by a United States marshal, and kept away until August 6, the day on which the strike was declared off. He was required to give $3,000 bond, and the case was dismissed without any evidence having been offered against him. When he went back to report for duty with the Chicago Great Western road on August 6, two other conductors were with him. Trainmaster Strong said to him, “You are just the man I have been waiting to see. You deceived me when I hired you, and I have no further use for you.” Ketcham then asked him what his reasons were for discharging him. Strong answered, “You have lied to me, and I cannot put you to work unless you bring a clearance from the Northwestern Railroad.” Ketcham then said, “What is this? am I blacklisted?” Strong replied, “You can call it that or anything you please. If you are not satisfied, go and see Mr. Kelly, the Superintendent.”

Ketcham and the two other conductors then went to see Mr. Kelly. “Oh, yes,” said Kelly. “Ketcham, I am very sorry, but I will have to let you out. I am sorry to do it, because you are a good man. You made the best run that was ever made over our road, and I would be very glad to keep you in our employment; but it comes from above me, and I am compelled to discharge you. If you will get a clearance from Stewart, I will restore you to your regular rank and give you a run, but I cannot hire you without such clearance.” Ketcham then said: “It looks as though Mr. Stewart had me in his power, and that I cannot earn a living for myself and family without his consent.” Kelly replied, “That is about how it is.” Then Ketcham asked, “Mr. Kelly, what is the reason for my discharge?” Kelly replied, “I have heard that you were a Northwestern striker.” Ketcham then asked, “Where did you get your information?” Kelly said, “I get it from the one we all get it from.”

Ketcham’s testimony as to these interviews was corroborated by one of the conductors who was with him, and denied for the most part by the railroad officials.

Michael Driscoll, a railroad man of twenty-seven years’ experience, testified that when he went out with the strikers he was working for the Pittsburg and Fort Wayne Railroad. After the strike he obtained work under Superintendent Warner, of the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad. A few weeks later he was discharged, and he went to Mr. Warner and asked him, “How is it that you have allowed me to work until I have a regular job and then discharged me?” Warne replied that it was not he who was keeping Driscoll out of a job; that the Fort Wayne road was to blame. “If you can square yourself with the Fort Wayne,” he said, “it will be all right.” When Driscoll went to his friend Beltz, of the Fort Wayne road, Beltz said, “Mike , if I should give you a letter it would be the price of my own head. I cannot do it.”

There was much other evidence of similar import, showing a thorough understanding among the railroads that a man could not get employment with a railroad Company unless he brought the necessary clearance from the company for which he last worked.

Attorney Strong also introduced as evidence a blacklist of 524 names, issued by the Illinois Central Railroad Company. It bore the following heading:


Chicago Terminals Division, Chicago.

August 25,1894.

Form 1324.

The undernoted men in transportation department have been discharged or have left the services under circumstances rendering it undesirable to be employed by this company, and should they apply to you you shall refuse them employment without first conforming to Article 636.

[Article 636 says that men discharged shall not be employed without first having the consent of the head of the department under which they were last employed.]

Norman Ford, a clerk in the Illinois Central office, testified to having made fifty copies of this list on the mimeograph, and that he mailed copies to every railroad having offices in Chicago. The railroad officials, with one exception, denied any knowledge of the list. Superintendent Atwater, of the Grand Trunk Railroad, testified that he never had seen the list “until this morning, when I saw it in your office” —referring to the office of Mr. Harahan, of the Illinois Central Railroad.

One of the clearest pieces of evidence in the trial was that of Andrew Staeder. He testified that he had a leave of absence when the strike broke out, and that he was working for the Northwestern Railroad. He was not a member of the American Railway Union nor of any other organization. He went back to work on July 10, during the strike, and was afterwards discharged. He went to Master Mechanic Heath and asked for a clearance. Mr. Heath gave him this letter:

Chicago, April 26, 1895.

To whom it may concern:

This is to certify that the bearer, Andrew Staeder, has worked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company since July, 1890, as a locomotive fireman. Mr. Staeder had been laid off on account of depression in business causing a reduction in force. He has permission to work elsewhere, providing he can obtain a position that is satisfactory to himself, but in the event of his not getting work elsewhere he can return to us for service when we have work for him. Any favors shown Mr. Staeder will be appreciated.

Yours truly, JOHN HEATH, Master Mechanic.

It was proved on the stand that when the Northwestern Railroad became aware that Staeder was to testify it endeavored to get him out of the way by offering him a pass and thirty days’ leave of absence with full pay. Later he was discharged outright by the company. The defense put on eighty-seven witnesses to prove that there was no such thing as a blacklist. Thirty-one of these had secured their positions since the beginning of Ketcham’s suit. The position of the railroad officials who testified in the case was that of general denial or of professed ignorance as to the meaning of the documents submitted.


Kim Quey, Dyer’s Victim, Prey to Another Most Daring Abductor

San Francisco Examiner/April 14, 1900

Bert A, Herrington, the San Jose Attorney, Makes an Audacious Attempt to Carry off the Mongol Girl, Once Stolen from Palo Alto, Although She Was in Federal Custody.

Wild Race Through Mayfield in Which Inspector Gardner Beats Legal Advisor of the Slave Dealers.

Celestial Implicated in the Midnight Affair Near Menlo Park Is Held for Trial in the Superior Court.

MAYFIELD, April 13.—An attempt to abduct Kim Quey from the protection of the United States authorities is the crowning act of impudent unconcern for law and order exhibited by the coterie of men who, on fictitious charge, took the Chinese girl from the Presbyterian Mission in San Francisco and in the dead of night, on the deserted highway near Palo Alto, delivered her into the hands of two highbinders as their legal chattel.

This latest high-handed proceeding was attempted by Attorney Bert A. Herrington in broad daylight in the center of the town of Mayfield. That it ended in failure was due only to the lawyer’s Ignorance of the lay of the land.

The case of The People vs. Wong Fong, charged with the abduction of Kim Quey, began yesterday morning before Justice of the Peace Van Buren and continued without special incident until about 4 o’clock this afternoon, when the defense attempted to prevail upon the magistrate to dismiss the matter for lack of evidence. This Judge Van Buren refused to do and then in a curtained surrey that drove up to the Justice’s court, the surprised crowd saw Attorney Herrington with a Chinaman and a Chinese girl. The two were Kim Quey and her pretended husband, Wong Hing Ding. They were then put upon the stand to prove that the woman had been a willing participant in all that was done at Palo Alto on the unfortunate Friday morning when Justice of the Peace B. G. Dyer called the memorable session of his court on the open highway at an hour when honest men are in bed.

When Kim Quey had finished her story she was conducted again to the vehicle from which she had come, but not before Joseph B. Gardner, Federal Chinese Inspector, had placed her under arrest. Gardner was called into the court and left his prisoner with Deputy Sheriff William Brownell. The latter turned the Chinese girl over to Deputy Constable Spaulding, from whose custody she was taken shortly afterwards by Attorney B. A. Herrington.

Just as the trial was concluded, when the crowd began to file into the street, Attorney Herrington jumped into the vehicle in which was Kim Quey, called to Wong Hing Ding, and swinging his whip started away at full speed toward the railroad depot. Gardner came out a moment later, jumped into a two-wheeled cart and started in pursuit at full speed, down the main street of the town.

Around the block Gardner went at a break-neck pace, followed by a motley throng, afoot and awheel. Herrington was a third of a mile in the lead. One thing the attorney failed to count on. There is no back outlet to the town of Mayfleld, After searching in vain for some way to break into the Milpitas road the baffled lawyer found himself cornered in an out of the way portion of the town and gave up the race.

The whole affair occupied not more than twenty minutes, yet when Herrington was brought back to the Justice’s court half of Mayfield was there to see him.

A throng of people also followed Gardner and his prisoner to the depot here and watched them board the train for San Francisco.

Accompanying the Chinese girl was Mrs. Leonie Worth, a sister of Attorney Herrington. She asked that she be allowed to go with Kim Quey and Gardner told her she was perfectly welcome to do so, so far as he was concerned.

In all, to-day, the following witnesses were examined for the prosecution: Dr. B. F. Hall, Liveryman R. B. Bell, Miss D. M. Cameron, her attorney, G. G. Weigle, Liveryman Jaspar Paulsen, J. Evans Dent of San Jose and Louis Brant of Menlo Park. The Chinese woman testified that the charge was never explained to her and that at no time did she ever say she stole anything. She made it quite clear to the Court that she was never in the county of Santa Clara before her arrest and therefore could not have stolen the articles, as set out in the complaint. It developed also that Ah Kee, the Chinese who swore out the warrant, has not been seen since be made the complaint, on the 27th of March, and what is more, his present whereabouts are unknown.

Wong Hing Ding was called by the defense and told a story that gave the lie to Constable Harris and Justice of the Peace Dyer. The testimony of Evans Dent also contradicted Harris, who had maintained that he did not see the Chinese girl after the trial on the road. Both Dent and Wong Hing Ding testified that Harris accompanied her to San Jose and secured a room for her in a rooming-house, and they showed that Harris knew where Kim Quey was on Friday, when he told Miss Cameron he had not seen her since the night before.

Wong Hing Ding related the entire circumstances surrounding the pretended trial. He testified that the case was fixed up before anything was done, and that it was understood that the girl would be fined only $5 if a plea of guilty was entered.

After Wong Hing Ding had left the stand, Justice Van Buren announced that he would hold the prisoner, Wong Fong, to answer to the Superior Court to the charge of kidnaping. Bail was fixed at $5,000. Attorney J. N. E. Wilson, who represented the defendant, with B. A. Herrington, announced that a writ of habeas corpus would be sworn out tomorrow to bring the matter at once before the Superior Court. He said the defense would take the stand that there was no evidence rightly before the court in the case.

Inspector Gardner arrived in San Francisco with his prisoner on the 7:30 train last evening. In relating the Incidents of the day he said:

“I went to the trial as a check on the interpreter. After the girl testified I asked her if she had a certificate. She replied that she had not, and I thereupon arrested her for being unlawfully In the United States. Attorney Herrington Inquired of me regardlng my authority and I exhibited my badge as a Federal officer. I was called into the courtroom and left the girl in charge of Brownwell. He came to me later and said he would not be responsible for her unless I had a warrant. He told me he had left her in charge of Deputy Constable Spaulding. I told Dr. Hall that it would be well to keep an eye on her, as Herrington was passing in and out hurriedly, as if something was on the tapis. A little later, when Dr. Hall had gone out, I felt uneasy and also went to the door. The carriage with the prisoner, Herrington, the Deputy Constable and the lady accompanying them had dlsappeared.

“Just then Dr. Hall came up with a cart. He had acted without waiting for orders when he saw them drive away, and at once obtained means for pursuit. I jumped into the cart and away we went under whip. After driving about town for some time we whirled a corner and there, at the other corner, stood the objects of our pursuit, with Herrington out and peering around the opposite corner. We were upon them in a moment and he surrendered the girl. I shall consult with the United States District Attorney with a view to the prosecution of Herrington.”

The Chinese girl was placed In the matron’s room at the city prison and Herrington’s sister went to the residence of her brother, a physician of this city. When seen in company with Kim Quey last night, she stoutly denied that she was a sister of the attorney, but claimed to be acting only from motives of humanity.

SAN JOSE, April 13—Mrs. Leonie Worth, the sister of Bertram A. Herrington, who insisted on accompanying the Chinese girl Kim Quey to San Francisco, has resided in San Jose for a number of years and has, until the beginning of the agitation over the Palo Alto affair, been unidentified with her brother’s Chinese cases. She is a widow and her brother has made his home with her. Since the mass-meeting here, when Herrington made his dramatic play for a vindication, which so utterly failed, she has been an active partisan and has at all times stood up boldly for him. Her present action, which involves her in the abduction, is no surprise to her friends, who have heard her talk in defense of her brother.


The Lewis Institute of Chicago

Ray Stannard Baker

The Outlook/September 26, 1896

The Lewis Institute, opened in Chicago on September 21, marks another advance in the university extension idea of carrying the college to the pupils instead of asking the pupils to move to the college.

When Allen C. Lewis died in 1877, he left $550,000 for the establishment of an educational institution for boys and girls. Owing to certain complications with regard to the settlement of the estate, the real work of founding the school was not begun until July 9, 1895. At that time the Board of Trustees, made up of three prominent businessmen, prepared its report, which showed that the original endowment had more than tripled in its hands, the actual amount being something over $1,600,000. A handsome building costing $225,000 was erected at the comer of West Madison and Robey Streets, in the heart of the great west side of the city, where it would reach the greatest possible number of pupils in their homes. It is six stories high above the basement and fitted with classrooms, laboratories, manual training rooms, libraries, studios, and a lecture-hall with a seating capacity of seven hundred and fifty. In equipment it will have every convenience that a bountiful endowment can supply. The Board of Managers include William R. Harper, of Chicago University; Albert G. Lane, Principal of the schools of Chicago; George N. Carman, Director of the Institute; John A. Roach, C. C. Kohlsaat, John McLaren, and Thomas Kane. A faculty of twenty-six professors and instructors has been provided, and it is expected that at least five hundred pupils, half of the total capacity of the Institute, will be in attendance on opening day.

The aim of the Institute is to provide a high-grade secondary education at small expense to pupils. There will be many short courses of all kinds, and evening classes, instruction being given in mechanics, stenography, household economy, and manual training, in addition to the usual language, literature, and science courses. In every study instruction will be first-class as far as it goes. It is expected that a large number of young people who have neither the time nor the money to attend college will take advantage of this opportunity for obtaining an education. Being located in a populous district, pupils may live at home and take the courses, thus avoiding the largest item of college expense—that of board and lodging. The tuition is fixed at $60 a year. A graduate from the academic course of the Institute will be capable of entering those colleges and universities whose requirements for admission are the most advanced.