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The outcome of both of these matters will prob- l in opposition to those laws, in the interest of “ Lib. ably be manifest before this article can see the eralism,” and we publish his article, not because we light, but at this present writing it is altogether un- are convinced by his arguments, but in the interest certain. We wish the President could know how of fair play; and because the article is, on the whole, entirely the people are with him in this struggle the best we have seen on that side of the question. with the boss of the machine, and how much obliged of the argument on the unconstitutionality of the they would be to him for killing him off as a power laws we have nothing to say. There are tribunals in the State of New York. Bosses and machine where that matter can be settled. It can hardly be politics are constantly in the way. They are not settled between Mr. Palmer and the editor; but only in the President's way; they are in the peo- there are other points that call for comment. The ple's way. The President cannot get the men he plea that it is difficult to define obscenity is, it seems wants to execute his will, and the people are denied to us, quite frivolous. Laws against obscenity have their most earnest wishes, all out of deference to long existed. The test of obscenity was long ago the supposed interests of the machine. If President established by the highest court in England, and the Garfield wishes to make himself unmistakably and decision has been sustained in America in all the undeniably the most popular man in America, he cases tried under our laws. Mr. Palmer's illustra. will make short work with every political boss who tion of the prudish maiden and the traveled dame lays his insolent hands on him and his prerogatives. proves, if it prove anything, that one may get so There is no mistaking the temper of the people in used to dirt that he will not recognize it when he this matter. They are tired of the dictation of the sees it. Mr. Palmer is a man of pure instincts, and machine, and they resent its interference with the there could hardly be a difference of opinion between legitimate sphere of power upon which the man of him and any sensible Christian on any given case their choice has entered. Men may hereafter try to involving a charge of obscenity. Practically it is ruin where they cannot rule, from revenge, but the not at all a hard crime to define, and the danger edifice which they may succeed in pulling down is that any one would ever suffer from a loose definisure to crush them in its fall, and so accomplish one tion of the word is not worth considering. The great public good, much needed and warmly desired. difference between a sound apple and a rotten one is
too great to permit mistakes to be made. P. S.-Since the above was placed in type, Mr. It is frequently the case that the reasoning of the Conkling has resigned his place as Senator, and in doctrinaire seems plausible and even sound when his absence from the Senate Chamber, Judge Robert- facts are kept out of view. If the readers of Mr. son has been confirmed by acclamation ; and, at Palmer's article will notice the omission, they will this writing, the question whether Mr. Conkling see that not one of the evils which, in his view, are is to be returned to the Senate, “ vindicated” by a involved in the Comstock laws, has been realized. legislature that took early occasion to indorse the Mr. Comstock, as special agent of the Post-Office, nomination of Robertson, is undecided. We de- has never profaned a seal in the prosecution of his voutly trust that he will receive liberty to remain at work, and, so far as individuals or the public are home. He has been a hindrance, a burden, a polit- concerned, nobody has been unjustly dealt by. No ical nuisance, ever since the inauguration of Mr. innocent man has suffered through the Comstock Garfield's administration, and in his voluntary with laws, but it is quite demonstrable that great good drawal from a fight in which he foresaw that he
to the great public through them. would be worsted, he has given a fearful blow to the Schemes of fraud that were cruelly preying upon machine of which he was the “boss." The talk the community have been broken up and banished, that some of even Mr. Garfield's friends have in. in repeated instances. Villains who were robbing dulged in, in regard to the anti-civil-service reform their dupes far and wide have been detected through attitude of the President as illustrated in the dis- the mails, and the mails themselves have been missal of Gen. Merritt, does not seem forcible to us. purged of their lies and their wares, by the aid of Anything that mends the machine is in favor of re- these laws. Theoretically, we do not doubt that form. Anything that cripples Conkling is in favor Mr. Palmer sees great danger in these laws; pracof reform. Gen. Merritt's services in public life tically, there is none. Practically, they have demon. have been retained in another field, and a man fully strably done great good. If Mr. Palmer will look his equal has been appointed as collector. The through Mr. Comstock's recent book, he will find President, for reasons sufficient for himself, pre- that by the aid of the laws which he condemns great ferred Judge Robertson to Gen. Merritt for this evils have been remedied. office, and there is no good reason why, preferring There should something be said, too, in regard him, he should not appoint him. We cannot see to the matter of decoy, of which Mr. Palmer says so how the good of the public service has in any way much. It so happens that the decoy business is all been compromised by this change.
on the other side. When a man sends a missive
through the mails, offering to the simpleton who The Comstock Laws.
reads it something very valuable or very desirable
for quite an inadequate consideration, his offer is a We publish in this number of the magazine an decoy, as much as the wooden duck which the hunter article from the pen of Mr. Courtlandt Palmer, on places in the water to attract the silly flock. When what are called “ The Comstock Laws." He writes a man accepts his offer, he is befooled by the decoy. If Mr. Comstock, mistrusting the decoy, | Wakeman, and industriously echoed by Bennett, tests it by the means which the advertiser himself and his free-love associates, was exactly what they establishes, it is ridiculous to call him a “ decoy”
needed to carry their point. By a year of such unand a tempter. Nothing, in our judgment, can be
scrupulous falsification as we never saw equaled,
and such as can be appreciated only by those who more legitimate than to catch a rogue in his own
have waded through it, the vicious and sensual type trap; and to speak of the performance as mean or of liberalism contrived most absurdly to identify immoral is to trifle with the facts. The iniquities itself in myriad credulous minds with the love of that have been stopped by this means—the floods liberty; the higher type of liberalism remained of fraud and impurity that have been turned back apathetic and indifferent to clear and repeated warnon their inventors through this machinery—are suf
ings; and the consequence was that the National ficiently notable to earn the gratitude of the public, service to the liberal cause, was suffered to fall into
Liberal League, with all its splendid possibilities of and vindicate the right of the Comstock laws to
the hands of the free-love ring by the mere abstenremain upon the statute-book.
tion of those who ought to have been present. It is through the means of these laws that Mr. From that day, it sank lower, until now it threatens Comstock has been enabled to do his beneficent to render its name of liberal' a hissing and a bywork in this community. There has been a great
word for years." reform in the matter of obscene publications,-in
Has anybody among Christian people said anytheir production and their dissemination,-and this
thing harder than this? Has anybody more thorreform has been wrought almost entirely by Mr.
oughly identified the majority of liberals with the Comstock and the society which he represents, love of obscenity than the old president of the liberthrough the instrumentality of the laws with which
als themselves ? “The vicious and sensual type of Congress and the State legislature have armed them.
liberalism ” went against the Comstock laws. ReWe are sorry that Rev. Dr. Potter should sneer at
peal was the rallying cry by which they carried their the Society for the Prevention of Crime, and furnish
victory. Their prominent organ announced “Our thus an argument against the Society for the Sup- platform ” to be “ Immediate, unconditional, and pression of Vice. It is all very well to pass the
permanent repeal of all laws against obscenity, maintenance of the laws over to the officers of the
whether municipal, State, or national." Pure and law, but suppose the officers of the law do not care,
honest as Mr. Palmer undoubtedly is, we quote Mr. and will not, or do not, do their duty ? How
Abbott's authority for the statement that he is in bad important an office did the Committee of Seventy
company—in the company of those who have no perform in ridding this city of “the Ring”! Why sympathy with his pure aims, and who scorn his should such a committee have been formed ?
caresul argument in their behalf in the support of a The laws against peculation and bribery were all in existence, and all the necessary machinery | vicious inclination.
position which they take through natural taste and of justice was established. What an impertinence the Committee of Seventy must have been! There
The Rich and the Poor. is, while we write, a committee of twenty-one in existence, who have undertaken to get the streets THERE are many and various indications, in the cleaned. But there are laws relating to this busi- state of affairs all over the civilized world, that a ness, and there are men already whose duty it is to
struggle has been initiated, on the part of the poor, have the streets cleaned. Why not put the work
for a better chance to win competence or wealth. where it belongs? We cannot, for the life of us, The trades unions and their influence form one of see why citizens may not associate themselves for
these indications. We have no faith in them what. special purposes in securing good laws and looking
ever. They have been in the main mischievous. after their enforcement by the appointed officers. They are wrong in principle, and particularly wrong Mr. Wakeman's proposed bill against obscenity in method and operation. They have been led by does not improve the laws already in existence, but demagogues, and led more frequently to disaster than shows its purpose in the fourth clause, which wipes
to any other issue. They have been short-sighted, out the legal functions of the Society for the Sup- despotic, illiberal, and inconsiderate. Their tend. pression of Vice.
ency has always been to make a breach between Mr. Palmer is displeased with our identification
labor and capital, and destroy the sympathy between of “ liberalism” with the love of moral dirt. Will employers and employed; and there is no question he pardon us if we call his attention to what one of that any agency is bad and impolitic that tends to his brethren has been careful to speak upon the sub- alienate the sympathy of these two classes from each ject, as a man inside of the liberal host, knowing the other. Still, it is a notable indication of the deep element intimately that was engaged in the move- discontent of the laborer with his lot, and, as such, ment for the repeal of the Comstock laws ? In deserves the serious attention of all political econspeaking of the efforts of those advocating the repeal, omists and all patriots. President Abbott said in 1879:
The granger movement in the West was, in its
very recent day, a significant indication in the same " For some time they (the repealers] had looked with longing eyes at the National Liberal League,
direction. The producers of grain saw the profits whose growing size and importance began to make
of their labor melt away under the grasping demands it a prize in their estimation. The cunning demand of great corporations—corporations which enriched for · repeal of the postal-law,' originally inspired by their stockholders and left the farming and produce
ing interest insufficiently rewarded. It is true that the reasoning by which he arrives at this startdemagogues seized upon this movement, as they do ling conclusion, but his pamphlet on “The Irish upon all movements of the kind, for the furthering Land Question” is worth any man's reading. One of their own selfish purposes, but, after all, the in- thing is certain : this question will never be settled dication of discontent was genuine, however much until it is settled right. It may take many years of injustice may have been involved in the consid- for the British Government to find out what the erations on which it was based. The farmers right mode of settlement is, but it may be certain worked hard and did not get rich—did not get the that there is constant trouble before it until the right mortgages off their farms—while railroad men grew mode shall be found. into railroad kings, with millions at their com- Coöperation is another indication of the popular mand, and with the power, by the writing of their discontent. This indication is one of an encouragnames, or by breathing a word, or by making a ing, rather than a menacing, character. In Great combination with other kings, to squeeze every Britain, coöperation in production and commerce bushel that passed through their hands still tighter has made great headway, and is now recognized as in their exactions of toll.
an important feature of the national life. The peoA few weeks or months ago, a large meeting was ple saw that manufacturers and merchants became held in this city in the interest of an anti-monop- rich on the profits of goods sold to them, while they oly” movement. No matter how unwise its decla- remained poor and helpless. So they set their rations may have been, it was an indication of the brains to work to secure for themselves the fruit of same discontent in which the granger movement their own labor, and the coöperative stores and originated. It was the protest of private persons, factories are the healthful and fruitful result. The helpless against the exactions and despotisms of day for the exercise of irresponsible power over monopolies and combinations of monopolies. They the souls, bodies, and material interests of men had seen great corporations doubling their capital- has passed by. The body of the dead Tsar bears stock, and insisting on filching dividends out of the witness to this, and the protests that come to us people for that which cost them absolutely nothing. from the various movements to which we have They had seen this again and again. They had seen called attention are a warning to governments and men made superfluously rich at their expense. monopolies that henceforward the people are to be They had felt the exercise of the power of monop- considered; that universal human right to the prodolies upon their prosperity, and they protested ucts of the soil must be recognized, and that every against this power. They felt that they had no man must have a fair chance to win for himself chance against these gigantic combinations, which and his family a competent portion of the world's not only had the power at any moment to deprive goods. them of the profits of their industry, but also to We believe the winning of wealth to be a perpurchase or dictate the laws necessary to keep them fectly legitimate pursuit. Wealth has great and secure in their enormous privileges."
beneficent uses, and the world would go very slowly A more notable indication of popular discontent is if money could not be accumulated in wise and enthe present position of what is known as the Irish terprising hands; but wealth may be used to make all Land Question. Not that the Irish land question is men near it prosperous and happy, or it may be very different from the land question in any country, used to make them poor and miserable. When a for the Irish are not sinned against more than rich man is only excited by his wealth with the deothers—more, indeed, than the English and the sire to be richer, and goes on to exact larger profits Welsh. The Irish laborer finds that he cannot and to grind the faces of the poor, in order that he possibly get a living out of the land of Ireland in may be superfluously rich, he becomes inhuman and the way in which he is obliged to manage and work unchristian. The Christian use of wealth is what we it; and, with plenty all around him, he starves be- need in this country and in all countries. It is not cause he has absolutely nothing to buy food with. that wealth does not give in charity. It is not that That is what makes the Irish land question, and wealth is not sufficiently taxed for the support of that is what is destined to keep it a question until those who are wrecked in health or fortune, but it is settled in such a way that Pat and Bridget can it is that wealth does not give the people a chance get a living off the land. No temporizing measure to escape from poverty ; that it does not share its can settle this question. Not even good harvests chances with the poor, and point the pathway for can settle it for long, for a people living on the the poor toward prosperity. As a rule, wealth is frightful edge of starvation cannot possibly be quiet, only brotherly toward wealth, and the poor man particularly if they live out-of-doors. Mr. Henry feels himself cut off from sympathy with those George has a prescription for this evil, but it is who have the power of winning money. We may quite too radical for this generation, and it is doubtful rest assured of one thing, namely, that the poor whether the world will ever be ready for it, namely, in the future will insist on being recognized. If the relegation of all landlord rights to the state, and they are not recognized—if they are ignored in the making Ireland and all lands public property, with mad greed for wealth at any cost to them—they will the absolute destruction of all private property in make the future a troubled and terrible one for our land. We have no space here to give a sketch of children and our children's children.
The Comstock Postal-Laws.
that Christianity indorses the Comstock postal-laws and that liberalism opposes them.
That the liberals are, from the stand-point of ChrisEDITOR OF SCRIBNER'S MONTHLY.
tian orthodoxy, “infidels,” they do not hesitate to Sir: In SCRIBNER'S MONTHLY for April, page acknowledge, but they maintain that they, therefore, 950, in a notice of Mr. Anthony Comstock's book, no more sympathize with “ dirt” than do the great “ Frauds Exposed," occurs the following passage : masters they variously learn of, such as Herbert
Spencer, Auguste Comte, Victor Hugo, George Eliot, " He [Mr. Comstock] has done these things [i. e.
Harriet Martineau, Profs. Draper, Huxley, Tyndall, suppress obscenity] with great faithfulness, and de. serves the thanks of all good people for his benefi
Haeckel, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and cent work. For this he has been persecuted, not
the immortal poet, Goethe, not to mention others of only by the men and women whose business he has the greatest souls of our times, whose minds and disturbed or destroyed, but by a large class of peo- hearts are, and have been, given to mankind. All ple who call themselves ‘liberals.' Liberalism, as true liberals are quite willing to be stigmatized as the word is used by those who profess it, is another “ infidels” in such companionship, but in none less name for infidelity, and if infidelity naturally sympathizes with dirt, it is well that we all know it. At
noteworthy. any rate, • liberals' are the only professed and open
Let me now, in a categorical manner, state some defenders of dirt, as it is represented by the men of the reasons why liberals and infidels oppose Mr. who are interested in pushing impure literature Comstock's methods. I say his methods, for they through the mails and distributing the means of do not oppose his aims and objects. In no announcedebauching the children of the country through the
ment or official publication of the National Liberal same channels. They are the only people who have labored for the repeal of what are called 'the Com
League can any indorsement or support of indecency stock laws'-laws which form the only barriers be
or obscenity be found. On the contrary, in every tween a set of unclean scoundrels and the youthful resolution that bears upon this subject, the utmost innocence of the land. No class in society defends detestation of all such nastiness is expressed in the the swindler; a large class defends the dispenser of strongest terms. I proceed, then, to state, one by moral filth, and raves about his right to make of the
one, the objections which liberals entertain toward United States mails a gutter through which to pour
these so-called Comstock postal-laws. his abominations upon the youth of the country.
First. Liberals believe them to be unconstitutional. They are all as bad as the man they defend. They are not only sympathetic with his foul spirit, but In spite of the general belief to the contrary, these they do their best to defend and help him. Chris-laws have not yet been authoritatively pronounced tianity can afford this exhibition of the spirit and constitutional by the Supreme Court sitting in full tendency of infidelity; can ‘liberalism'? If giving bench. They have only been sustained by what up. Christianity means taking on dirt, among long- lawyers call an obiter dictum, delivered in another, haired men and short-haired women,' then it strikes us that liberalism' has not a very brilliant prospect
and we think irrelative, case, on the subject of lotin America."
teries. We feel convinced that, when they come to
be fairly argued, this obiter dictum will be reversed, This extract is of the same character as a longer or, in default of that, that the people themselves will article published in a previous issue of SCRIBNER, reverse it as they did the Dred Scott decision. entitled “The Apotheosis of Dirt,” and both are a And liberals believe this because our great charter fair exemplification of the general and complete mis- of American liberty simply confers on Congress in understanding concerning the position of the liberals this connection the power “ to establish post-offices on this subject-a misunderstanding which is natural and post-roads,” and no more. Of course, the duty enough on the mere superficial presumption that the to do this carries with it every incidental and necesComstock postal-laws “ form the only barriers be. sary power to conduct that department, but gives no tween a set of unclean scoundrels and the youthful authority beyond. For postal reasons, that is, for innocence of the land.”
the “conveniency” of the service, the Government The writer for two years was the treasurer of the may properly discriminate concerning mailable matNational Liberal League, which is the special lib- ter. “Dynamite may be excluded; liquors may be eral organization referred to in the above quotation. excluded, because they endanger the fulfillment of He is so reported in Mr. Comstock's book, and he the contract with all other senders of mail matter. feels that it is due to the public and to himself that But the Government is not called upon to sit in the motives, aims, and objects of the liberals in this judgment upon the moral character or intellectual matter should be correctly represented; so in default quality of the parcels intrusted to it.” The efficiency of an abler champion, he proposes herewith, as best and not the morality of the post-office is what the he can, and in as an impersonal and dispassionate Government has alone to consider. If these words a manner as possible, to state the liberals' side of are insufficient on this point, let me cite in their supthe question.
port the authority of some of America's most notable The writer will take it for granted, in common with the panegyrist of Mr. Comstock and his book, Judge Story says in his work on the Constitu
tion that “Congress cannot use this power (viz., , go into the mails, founded on the sentiments of the “ to establish post-offices and post-roads ”'] for any paper, and making the deputy-postmaster a judge, other ulterior purpose.” In 1836, the principle in
he should say was expressly unconstitutional.' volved in this exclusion of obscene matter from the
Second. Because, even were the Comstock postalmails was brought up in Congress when alleged at
laws constitutional, their operation and enforcement tempts to circulate insurrectionary matter among involve the methods of all others most hateful to freethe slaves was charged. Mr. John C. Calhoun,
men-I mean a system of decoy and espionage such though he evidently wished for power to exclude
as the “Sun ” newspaper, in its issue of March 22, such publications and supervise the mails in the
1881, in a leading article entitled “The Espionage interest of slavery, still felt that the most that he
of the Mails,” said “the British people would not could ask was that, by the comity of nations, the
quietly submit to for a single week.” By these obUnited States should restrain the postmasters from noxious methods the special agent of the post-office delivering such matter in the States which had made (Mr. Comstock), “or any other officer of the postal its circulation illegal. The question was fully dis- service," instead of being limited in his postal duty cussed in a Senate of unequaled ability, and even
to seeing that the weight and postage are correct, etc., this limited restraint, as proposed by Mr. Calhoun, etc., has also imposed upon him the moral duty of was held by a vote of twenty-five to nineteen to be
censor of the press; that is, he or the deputy-post. impossible under the Constitution. ("Con. Globe,'
master is, “upon his own inspection,”-so says the 1836, pp. 36, 150, 237, 239, 288, etc.) In the debate, dictum of the Supreme Court in the Jackson case,Henry Clay said :
to see that the printed matter “is not objectionable." "When I saw that the exercise of a most extraor
If this is not an inquisition, by what name can it be dinary and dangerous power had been announced
called ? by the head of the post-office, and that it had
Third. These laws are useless. The forbidden been sustained by the President's message, I turned articles can be sent everywhere by express, by railmy attention to the subject and inquired whether road, by mercantile agencies, by commercial travel. it was necessary that the General Government
ers, and even by the mails themselves when sent as should, under any circumstances, exercise such a
first-class matter, that is, in sealed envelopes; though power, and whether they possessed it. After much
some contend that the Government, in certain inreflection, I have come to the conclusion that they could not pass any law interfering with the subject stances, invades and disregards even the sanctity of a in any shape or form whatever. The evil complained seal. of was the circulation of papers having a certain Fourth. Because these laws involve the inherent tendency. The papers, unless circulated, and while difficulty of reaching any proper definition of what in the post-office, could do no harm; it is the circula
obscenity is. tion solely—the taking out of the mail and the use to
Chancellor Livingston, one of the greatest of be made of them—that constitutes the evil. Then it is perfectly competent to the State authorities to apply American jurists, in his task of codifying the laws of the remedy. The instant that a prohibited paper is
Louisiana, confessed, on this very point, that one handed out, whether to a citizen or to a sojourner, of his embarrassments arose from “the difficulty of he is subject to the laws which compel him either to defining the offense." It is certain that the prim surrender or burn it.'”
and prudent village maiden will blush in shame
at a group like the Laocoön or a statue like the To the question of Senator Buchanan of Pennsyl.
Venus of Melos, before which the traveled metropolivania, to the effect that the post-office did give Con
tan dame would stand enraptured. Mr. James Pargress the right to regulate morally what shall be carried in the mails, he replied in the negative,
ton aptly says in this regard that “it is not possible
to put into human language a definition of the word saying if such doctrine prevailed, the Government
obscene which shall let the Song of Solomon, Rabemay designate the persons or parties or classes who
lais, Juvenal, and Tom Jones pass, and keep out shall have the benefit of the mails, excluding all
works intended and calculated to corrupt.” others. “ Honest John” Davis said, during this
Fifth. Because these laws confer upon the United debate :
States courts a dangerous, because indefinite, enlarge" It would be claiming, on the part of the Gov. ment of their criminal jurisdiction. ernment, a monopoly and exclusive right either to The criminal jurisdiction of the United States send such papers as it pleased or to deny the privilege courts is very strictly defined, and it is only inof sending them through the mail. Once establish
tended that such jurisdiction shall apply under the the precedent and where will it lead to ? The Gov.
most exact constructions; but now comes in a law, ernment may take it into its head to prohibit the transmission of political, religious, or even moral or phil.hurriedly passed, I am told, at the close of an excitosophical publications, in which it might fancy there ing session of Congress, which, among other clauses, was something offensive; and under this reserved prohibits from the mails “ anything intended or right, contended for in this report, it would be the adapted for any indecent or immoral use.” Think duty of the Government to carry it into effect.” of it! What vast indefiniteness ! what ample opporDaniel Webster expressed himself as “shocked"
tunity for persecution ! If the views of the village at the unconstitutional character of the whole pro
* I have quoted all of the above commanding authorities from ceeding, and said :
the Faneuil Hall speech of Mr. T. B. Wakeman, who has made
an exhaustive examination of the whole subject. And I shall * Any law distinguishing what shall or shall not have occasion on other points to rely on his learning.