“It is a beautiful night, Lord, upon which to die…” – an excerpt from Jungle Justice by Jim Tully

Excerpt from Jungle Justice by Jim Tully. To be included in the first published collection (heretofore untitled) of short stories and essays by Jim Tully, released by Underworld Amusements early 2011. The scene is a hobo camp, or “jungle”, and the ‘bos have seized a railroad security guard (known as a “bull”) to try him by kangaroo court and execute him. One of the gathered gives a prayer:

“It is a beautiful night, Lord, upon which to die. The stars and the moon and the beautiful river shall sing his threnody. And Lord, if one of us should be shuffled off the gallows to dance with broken arches before Thy throne, it would not be amid such beauty. Rather would the knot be tied behind our left ears, Lord, and as we fell through the trap, dear Lord, the knot would jerk our heads forward and break our immortal necks, dear Lord. We would hang like a cracked scarecrow, All-merciful Lord, while a doctor listened to our hearts pounding their way on the road to Your blessed arms, dear Lord.

“But, Blessed Lord, we are not as those men who do such deeds. We profess no creed, dear Lord. We are but humble servants in Thy name. Ours is a gentler method, Lord. It comes suddenly, Lord. The soul of the departed flies suddenly before You from a hole which a bullet makes. It is more lenient, Lord. There is dignity in death by a bullet. . .”

“Shut up!” snapped Dugan. “Do you think you’re the only one He’s got to listen to?”

Frisco Eddie resumed: “For they who taketh up the Smith and Wesson must die by a Colt, for so it is written, ever and anon, before dinner and after, from now on, Amen.”

God’s Idiots – a selection from Havelock Ellis’ The Task of Social Hygiene (updated)

From The Task of Social Hygiene by Havelock Ellis
The first result of reform at this point was that procreation became a deliberate act. Up till then the method of propagating the race was the same as that which savages have carried on during thousands of years, the chief difference being that whereas savages have frequently sought to compensate their recklessness by destroying their inferior offspring, we had accepted all the offspring, good, bad, and indifferent, produced by our indiscriminate recklessness, shielding ourselves by a false theology. Children “came,” and their parents disclaimed all responsibility for their coming. The children were “sent by God,” and if they all turned out to be idiots, the responsibility was God’s. But when it became generally realized that it was possible to limit offspring without interfering with conjugal life a step of immense importance was achieved. It became clear to all that the Divine force works through us, and that we are not entitled to cast the burden of our evil actions on any Higher Power. Marriage no longer fatally involved an endless procession of children who, in so far as they survived at all, were in a large number of cases doomed to disease, neglect, misery, and ignorance. The new Social Hygiene was for the first time rendered possible.
And updating with a few more quotes:
When at the end of the seventeenth century, Muralt, a highly intelligent Swiss gentleman, visited England, and wrote his by no means unsympathetic Lettres sur les Anglais, he was struck by a curious contradiction in the English character. They are a good-natured people, he observed, very rich, so well-nourished that sometimes they die of obesity, and they detest cruelty so much that by royal proclamation it is ordained that the fish and the ducks of the ponds should be duly and properly fed. Yet he found that this good-natured, rich, cruelty-hating nation systematically allowed the prisoners in their gaols to die of starvation. “The great cruelty of the English,” Muralt remarks, “lies in permitting evil rather than in doing it.” [1] The root of the apparent contradiction lay clearly in a somewhat excessive independence and devotion to liberty. We give a man full liberty, they seem to have said, to work, to become rich, to grow fat. But if he will not work, let him starve. In that point of view there were involved certain fallacies, which became clearer during the course of social evolution.
Whenever human beings breed in reckless and unrestrained profusion—as is the case under some conditions before a free and self-conscious civilization is attained—there is an immense infantile mortality. It is claimed, on the one hand, that this is beneficial, and need not be interfered with. The weak are killed off, it is said, and the strong survive; there is a process of natural survival of the fittest. That is true. But it is equally true, as has also been clearly seen on the other hand, that though the relatively strongest survive, their relative strength has been impaired by the very influences which have proved altogether fatal to their weaker brethren.
The duty of purifying, ordering, and consolidating the banks of the stream must still remain. [8] But when we are able to control the stream at its source we are able to some extent to prevent the contamination of that stream by filth, and ensure that its muddy floods shall not sweep away the results of our laborious work on the banks. Our sense of social responsibility is developing into a sense of racial responsibility, and that development is expressed in the nature of the tasks of Social Hygiene which now lie before us.
“Increase and multiply” was the legendary injunction uttered on the threshold of an empty world. It is singularly out of place in an age in which the earth and the sea, if not indeed the very air, swarm with countless myriads of undistinguished and indistinguishable human creatures, until the beauty of the world is befouled and the glory of the Heavens bedimmed. To stem back that tide is the task now imposed on our heroism, to elevate and purify and refine the race, to introduce the ideal of quality in place of the ideal of quantity which has run riot so long, with the results we see. “As the Northern Saga tells that Odin must sacrifice his eye to attain the higher wisdom,” concludes Fahlbeck, “so Man also, in order to win the treasures of culture and refinement, must give not only his eye but his life, if not his own life that of his posterity.”
The compulsory presentation of certificates of health and good breeding as a preliminary to marriage forms no part of Eugenics, nor is compulsory sterilization a demand made by any reasonable eugenist. Certainly the custom of securing certificates of health and ability is excellent, not only as a preliminary to marriage, but as a general custom. Certainly, also, there are cases in which sterilization is desirable, if voluntarily accepted. [25] But neither certification nor sterilization should be compulsory. They only have their value if they are intelligent and deliberate, springing out of a widened and enlightened sense of personal responsibility to society and to the race.
A problem which is often and justly cited as one to be settled by Eugenics is that presented by the existence among us of the large class of the feeble-minded. No doubt there are some who would regret the disappearance of the feeble-minded from our midst. The philosophies of the Bergsonian type, which to-day prevail so widely, place intuition above reason, and the “pure fool” has sometimes been enshrined and idolized. But we may remember that Eugenics can never prevent absolutely the occurrence of feeble-minded persons, even in the extreme degree of the imbecile and the idiot. [26] They come within the range of variation, by the same right as genius so comes. We cannot, it may be, prevent the occurrence of such persons, but we can prevent them from being the founders of families tending to resemble themselves.
It is not only in themselves that the feeble-minded are a burden on the present generation and a menace to future generations. In large measure they form the reservoir from which the predatory classes are recruited. This is, for instance, the case as regards prostitutes. Feeble-minded girls, of fairly high grade, may often be said to be predestined to prostitution if left to themselves, not because they are vicious, but because they are weak and have little power of resistance. They cannot properly weigh their actions against the results of their actions, and even if they are intelligent enough to do that, they are still too weak to regulate their actions accordingly. Moreover, even when, as often happens among the high-grade feeble-minded, they are quite able and willing to work, after they have lost their “respectability” by having a child, the opportunities for work become more restricted, and they drift into prostitution. It has been found that of nearly 15,000 women who passed through Magdalen Homes in England, over 2500, or more than sixteen per cent—and this is probably an under-estimate—were definitely feeble-minded. The women belonging to this feeble-minded group were known to have added 1000 illegitimate children to the population. In Germany Bonhoeffer found among 190 prostitutes who passed through a prison that 102 were hereditarily degenerate and 53 feeble-minded. This would be an over-estimate as regards average prostitutes, though the offences were no doubt usually trivial, but in any case the association between prostitution and feeble-mindedness is intimate. Everywhere, there can be no doubt, the ranks of prostitution contain a considerable proportion of women who were, at the very outset, in some slight degree feeble-minded, mentally and morally a little blunted through some taint of inheritance.
These classes, with their tendency to weak-mindedness, their inborn laziness, lack of vitality, and unfitness for organized activity, contain the people who complain that they are starving for want of work, though they will never perform any work that is given them. Feeble-mindedness is an absolute dead-weight on the race. It is an evil that is unmitigated. The heavy and complicated social burdens and injuries it inflicts on the present generation are without compensation, while the unquestionable fact that in any degree it is highly inheritable renders it a deteriorating poison to the race; it depreciates the quality of a people. The task of Social Hygiene which lies before us cannot be attempted by this feeble folk. Not only can they not share it, but they impede it; their clumsy hands are for ever becoming entangled in the delicate mechanism of our modern civilization. Their very existence is itself an impediment. Apart altogether from the gross and obvious burden in money and social machinery which the protection they need, and the protection we need against them, casts upon the community, [38] they dilute the spiritual quality of the community to a degree which makes it an inapt medium for any high achievement.

Dance-Hall Lady – Lou Wylie – The American Mercury, 1933

The American Mercury
Vol. 29, Number 116
August 1933
Pages 269-274

Dance-Hall Lady

Lou Wylie

A TIP from an Associated Press man that additional jobs had been made for women in dance-halls by the return of beer sent me scurrying over to Manhattan in spite of the rain.

I picked the biggest hall I knew of to apply for my job as hostess. The A. P. man had said they were weeding out the old types and wanted college women. I didn’t know it as I clambered up the red velvet carpeted stairs, but this was just one more phony rumor. It was like the story another A. P. man told me last Summer about out-of-work newspaper men sleep ing on the floor at the Press Club, and picking up cats off people’s doorsteps and peddling them around the chain stores at fifty cents each for money to buy dough nuts and coffee.

Looking backward, I could see across the wet pavement the reflection of the coruscant lights blinking along Broadway. Ahead of me two youths were buying tickets. I fumbled with my bag, but the clasp was mashed and did not open quickly.

Before I had time to protest one of them had paid my admission and handed me the string of tickets the chopper passed him. They ascended the rest of the stairs ahead of me, and turned aside to check their coats.

I was bent on asking for a job and so walked straight into the foyer, which was gray with tobacco smoke. Through it paunchy men in unpressed clothes, and shallow, shiny-haired youths in double-

breasted coats could be seen galloping up and down the dance floor with women in evening dress, or standing aloof and self-consciously watching the dancers. Here and there I saw a woman clad in street clothes.

Suddenly, for no conscious reason the words of a song I had heard many years before at a Holy Roller meeting began to run through my mind.

Dance-hall lady, you gotta die, you gotta die,

It may not be today and it may not be tomorrow

But you gotta die, you gotta die.

I could almost smell the odor of the bloom on the locust trees outside the pine meeting-house. It had been April then, and with all the superiority born of my freshman year at college, and all of the snobbishness of a faith that had long ago weeded such crudities of expression from its litany, I had stood within the meeting house door.

Coatless, barefooted men shifted wads of tobacco in their mouths to shout the words with more power. Mousey-haired, flat-footed women thick around the middle shrieked them with delight. Now for the first time since that night they danced in my mind again.

The boy who had bought my tickets advanced toward me. I noticed the shuffling way his feet in their square-toed shoes slid in and out in the wide cuffs of his trousers. I did not like him, but I could not decently refuse to dance with him when he asked me.

I attempted to slide my rain-soaked shoes across the polished floor in stride with the many unusual steps which he made. The music seemed to have no bearing on the case at all. One moment my knee was grasped firmly between his; then I was spun around, and his cheek was against mine, and his hand at the small of my back. In this latter pose, with his torso rigid, he would gallop off across the floor, disregarding the music entirely.

The dance was finally over and I made my excuses and retired to the ladies’ room. If I were going to ask for a job it be hooved me to look my best. The rain and the close proximity of my partner’s cheek had done no good to a nose always in clined to shine. I felt self-conscious about my hair, too. It had not been marvelled since the bank holiday.

As a newspaper reporter I have inter viewed judges and millionaires, and even talked to the mother of a President, but I never felt so self-conscious about my ap pearance before in my life. Perhaps that was because, with only thirty cents in my purse, a job never meant so much to me before.

II

In the ladies’ room I was assailed with the odor of talcum powder, sweat and tobacco smoke. I sank on a red-lacquered settee upholstered in bright blue imitation leather, and from it looked about me.

From a row of seats ranged before a mirror a number of hostesses were making up. They eyed me with evident hostility—the professional jealousy which the dance-hall hostess always feels and shows toward the amateur who crashes the hall in street clothes.

Street clothes make a woman something different from a hostess. She is plainly a hireling. She may be the wife of a well to-do speak-easy man, or a stenographer or a Swedish housemaid out for a nigh of adventure. Or she may be, as I was an out-of-work newspaper woman wishing someone would buy her a beefsteak sandwich.

The hostesses returned to their makeup and their conversation. A platinum blonde in a poppy red taffeta sat directly in front of me. She was speaking to a fat woman with henna in her hair. Her dress was black velvet, cut high in the front and with no back. The rouge she was using was an obnoxious orange yellow.

“Get a slice of this, wontcher!” the platinum blonde said.

I could see Henna Hair getting a slice of it by regarding me intently in the mirror. I fumbled in my purse and found a cigarette to light and hide my nervousness. I was sure they knew that my room rent was unpaid, that I had made only six dollars during the past week at the office. They certainly could tell that my shoes were worn thin and that I needed new gloves.

They regarded me for a few moments longer and returned to a more intimate discussion.

“Ed ain’t brought nothing home for three weeks,” Henna Hair said to Platinum Blonde, as she expertly arched an eyebrow with a finger-tip dampened in her mouth.

“Whatcher goin’ do? Put him out?”

“Naw, I guess he can hang round an other week or so. There ain’t anybody else. Nobody’s got money these days. Only thing is, when he did have money I never seen him more’n twice a week. As ’tis, I can’t do nothin’, knowing I would find him home if I asked anyone in.”

“Men are like that, ain’t they?” Platinum Blonde replied, brushing the powder from her shoulders and the bosom of her dress.

They trailed out of the room, watching the undulations of their hips as reflected from the mirrors until they reached the door.

I ground out my cigarette in the ornate red ash tray, and with a futile dab at my face with my powder puff followed after them, conscious of the inhospitable stare of four pairs of eyes still making up before the mirror.

Outside the orchestra was grinding away. Women in all sorts and colors of cheap and tawdry evening gowns squirmed and galloped about the dance floor, or chatted in groups by the ropes, their eyes restlessly imploring the stag line for a dance.

In my gray unpressed tailored suit, seedy from its long waiting on benches outside editorial rooms and clammy from the rain, I felt in anything but a gay mood. All of my job-seeking ardor was gone. There seemed to be no one to apply to, and the effort of finding the office and get ting to the manager suddenly appeared as a stupendous task.

I was making my way toward the door when I was accosted by a bespectacled man in a tweed suit, who wanted to dance. I attempted to explain about my rain-soaked shoes, and that I was not there for the Purpose of dancing after all. Then I saw the floor manager, a tall, pimply-faced blond man in a shiny Tuxedo. He was looking at me in a way that really frightened me.

Without more attempt at explanation I danced with the man in the tweed suit. As we moved about the floor I noticed several other girls in street clothes. One of them, a small person with black bobbed hair and a Greta Garbo hat, gave me a knowing smile as I galloped by in the em brace of the man in the tweed suit.

When the dance was over, and it was not a long one, I left my panting partner and found myself a seat in a straight chair in a secluded part of the room. The girl with the bobbed hair soon found me.

“New?” she asked with a cynical smile, as if knowing the answer beforehand.

“Well, yes,” I replied, somewhat at a loss for an answer.

I could see that the black crepe the girl was wearing was greenish from age. A crisp white organdy collar and bow took the curse away from it to some extent, but its cut followed the fashion predating the big sleeve and wide shoulder period.

She opened her cigarette case with a polished thumb nail, saw it was empty and snapped it shut again. I opened my bag and fished out the crumpled package which still contained two cigarettes.

She took one, snapped it into shape against the arm of the chair adjoining mine, and seated herself beside me.

“Out of a job?” she asked pleasantly.
“Yes. I was on a Brooklyn paper until November: then they cut the staff. I have been on assignments and they have about run out. Nothing doing until next Fall, and I have to eat.”

It all came out in a burst, and then I was ready to laugh at myself. For two years I had been writing that same sort of drivel, trying to boost collections for the Emergency Relief. Now, in a maudlin mood, I was spilling it to a stranger who couldn’t do anything to help me, unless encouraging me to cry would be of benefit to me.

“Sure, I know. I was on the Graphic when it folded. Now I am playing the dance-halls.” She shook her head bitterly.

“I came here to apply for a job,” I hazarded, willing to cash in on her experiences.

“Don’t do it. Look at ’em, just so much beef on the hoof,” and she waved to a bunch of hostesses trailing their draggled silks past us.

“Free lance, Pal, if you are going in for this racket, and let me give you a tip.”

She bent over to whisper it to me as a man approached with the evident intention of asking her to dance.

“Keep away from the young ones. There’s nothing to them. They’re either petty gangsters or underpaid office boys. If there is any hoarding around here it’s in the pockets of the older men.”

She walked briskly away with her customer, a fat man, slightly bald, and in her stead I found a girl in a blue suit and a plaid silk blouse.

“If you want a partner you mustn’t sit around,” she warned me. “Let’s walk. It’s the same here as anywhere. Nobody ever dances with the wall flowers.”

I stood up hastily.

“New?” she asked me.

I told her that I was.

“Well, you’ll find it a hell of a racket, but what isn’t these days?” She offered me a cigarette.

The youth who had paid my admission was advancing toward me.

“Steer clear of him,” she warned me under her breath. “He took one of the hostesses out from here, and when she wouldn’t do what he wanted he broke her jaw and knocked out two of her teeth.”

I felt a touch on my elbow. It was the man in tweeds, asking to dance again. He had no tickets and I bethought myself of the string I had in my bag. I brought it out, only to have it snatched from my hand.

“I guess I get something out of bringing you in here,” a voice said, and I recognized it as belonging to my host at the ticket box. “You are too good to dance with me, but you can at least give me the tickets I bought.”

My elderly partner blinked at the youth for a minute and I was glad to see that he did not feel called upon to make an issue of it.

“I guess the floor manager still has tickets,” he said mildly and purchased a dollar’s worth, as if to show how little he cared.

On our non-stop flight about the floor I got glances here and there of people on the sidelines waiting, and of those dancing, and I saw that while many of the hostesses stood idly along the ropes or danced with the men professionals about the place, all of the women in street clothes had dance partners.

The woman with henna in her hair was twisting and untwisting the skirt of her black velvet evening dress into unbelievable bundles about her legs as she contorted about the floor with a boy in a sailor’s uni form. With chins uptilted, cheeks together and eyes shut, they raced as one body round the floor. Sometimes they paused and squirmed about in one spot for several seconds, and then they went into a series of whirls that sent the wide black skirt whipping and flapping. After that they would settle down to a mad racing around again.

“Galloping dominoes,” my partner whispered in my ear when he saw me regarding them, although considering his avoir dupois he had not been moving slowly himself.

When the dance was over I remembered the wall flowers and did not return to my chair, although my legs ached and my back was tired. I stood awkwardly in the middle of the floor, feeling more out of place in my street clothes amongst these women in their pitiful evening finery than I had ever felt when, as a reporter, I had

gone to grand affairs at the Biltmore or the Hotel New Yorker, and was the only woman not in evening dress.

The girl who claimed to be a former Graphic reporter came to my rescue.

“Let’s powder our noses,” she suggested.

Back in the atmosphere of talcum and cigarettes we sank exhaustedly upon the red and blue settee.

“I got some cigarettes now,” she ex claimed exultantly, breaking open a new, cellophane-wrapped package.

“Not what I smoke but you take what you can get in this racket,” she continued philosophically.

Somehow I felt differently about the butterfly row before the mirrors now. I noticed there were sweat stains about the armholes of the light colored silks, and the acrid odor of cheap rayon was in my nostrils.

“Back home,” I was telling myself, “people bought the best in evening clothes that money could buy. When they wore out one stayed at home until there was money to replace them with something equally good.” This was somehow comforting to remember. I had a very good evening dress at home, but no shoes to go with it.

My revery was broken by a query from my newly found friend.

“Did you date your dancing partner?” I admitted that I had not.

“You better land him before some of these professionals get hold of him. He looks like he’d be good for a supper and taxi fare home—if you don’t want to go any farther with him.”

“Taxi fare home?” I asked.

My companion explained that often an out-of-town man would pay a dance partner’s taxi fare home if he had enjoyed dancing with her. When this happened, she explained, it was a good idea to give some address in the Bronx or Brooklyn, and when the cab got around the corner pay off the driver and dive into the subway. That often left one three or four dollars in change, almost enough to eat for two weeks, if spent with care.

“I went to dinner with a man last night, and found out he was a truck driver,” my companion was confiding. “I don’t know why, but when he told me what his job was I was so sick and disgusted that I could have gone home and turned on the gas. Then I seemed to see them setting the story up in type, and it seemed even more cheap and screwy than what was happening to me, so I ordered beefsteak and mushrooms instead.”

“That comes from working on a news paper,” I told her, and we both laughed.

But she was right. I have had the same experience several times. Once, when I wasn’t used to being dunned for the rent, I went out on Brooklyn Bridge determined to jump off, but when I got to thinking of who would get the story, and that it would run about three sticks, and all that, it so disgusted me that I turned around and came back, although I had to tiptoe through the hall when I reached home.

“I guess we better be getting back so you can date Elmira,” the girl beside me was saying.

“Elmira?”

“Sure, don’t he look like Elmira to you ? A Kiwanian and a member of the Lions Club, and I bet he drives a sedan that has golf sticks in the back, and a little red worsted monkey that jumps up and down in the back window of the car.”

We slipped back into the dance room, which was so charged with heat and an inescapable mob something that it said “Congo” as plainly as the throbbing of drums in a jungle.

Elmira was evidently waiting for me, for he came toward me immediately. De

spite his age, which I guessed was around fifty, there was an exhilaration and a glow of health about him that were absent from the younger men in the room. His smile seemed sincere and sweet, even when he held me too tightly as we danced.

I felt that when he went back home he would be a little wiser and more tolerant of his home town people because he nourished the secret that he was a gay dog himself.

We danced a few more numbers, and although I was conscious that he was making advances over my shoulder at different women on the floor, in my sudden understanding of him I felt that he was as securely mine, if I wanted him for the night, as he was the woman’s back in Elmira who wore his ring, and pretended to believe the story of his business trips to New York.

When at last we left it was still raining, but the chill wet air had a sweet smell and I breathed it deeply.

We went to a little restaurant and had scrambled eggs and bacon, and bottled beer, and talked quite a lot about the wickedness of the city. Our knees touched under the table, and all of the things which seemed so possible up in the dance-hall, as I talked in the dressing-room, faded out of the realm of possibility as the sleepy-eyed waiter served us on a soiled tablecloth.

I suddenly invented an old maid sister who kept such a close watch over my morals that even now she was sitting at the door waiting to see me come home. I could not stay at a hotel all night because she thought I was at work and would call the office if I didn’t show up. That immediately tabulated me as one having a job and automatically put me out of the class of women that a man might like to help, even in a platonic way, because of the Depression.

The result was that I found myself going down the stairs to the Brooklyn trains, tearing up a card with an address and telephone number on it in case I should change my mind, for he was to be in town for a week.

“Dance-hall Lady, you got to die, got to die,” the train rattled and clacked at me. I could see myself back in the Holy Roller meeting-house, and I damned myself for ever having gone there, blaming the song for what I had done.

I had only thirty cents in my purse, and I knew I could have had more. I was not wise, neither was I good. I had wanted food and shelter and shoes at any price and I had been cheated out of them because once, on an April evening when locusts were in bloom, I had gone to a Holy Roller meeting. I had laughed to see the faithful squirm about on the floor. Ugly, common mountain people I had thought them, with their snuff sticks and bare feet, and because of them I would be hungry to morrow, hoarding my nickels to help me answer advertisements for jobs that never turned up.

I looked at the worn toe of my shoe, and sat crying in the subway train.

H.L. Mencken calls for a “new Ingersoll”

The American Mercury
Volume 3, Number 11
November 1924
pages 290-293

EDITORIAL

WHAT the country lacks is obviously an Ingersoll. It is, indeed, a wonder that the chautauquas have never spewed one forth. Certainly there must be many a jitney Demosthenes on those lonely circuits who tires mightily of the standard balderdash, and longs with a great longing to throw off the white chemise of Service and give the rustics a genuinely hot show. The old game, I sus­pect, is beginning to play out, even in the Bible Belt. What made the rural Method­ists breathe hard and fast at the dawn of the century now only makes them shuffle their feet and cough behind their hands. I have spies in such lugubrious regions, and their reports all agree. The yokelry no longer turn out to the last valetudinarian to gape at colored pictures of the Holy Sepulchre and the Mount of Olives, or to hear a sweating rhetorician on “The Fu­ture of America.” They sicken of Service, Idealism and Vision. What ails them is that the village movie, the radio and the Ku Klux Klan have spoiled their old taste for simple, wholesome fare. They must have it hot now, or they don’t want it at all. The master-minds of Chautauqua try to meet the new demand, but cannot go all the way. They experiment gingerly with lectures on eugenics, the divorce evil, women in politics, and other such porno­graphic subjects, but that is not enough. The horticulturists and their wives and issue pant for something more dreadful and shocking—something comparable, on the plane of ideas, to the tarring and feath­ering of the village fancy woman on the plane of manly sports. Their cars lie back and they hearken expectantly, and even somewhat impatiently. What they long for is a bomb.
My guess is that the one that would blow them highest, and that would shake the most money out of them going up and coming down, is the big black bomb of Atheism. It has not been set off in the Fed­eral Union, formally and with dramatic effect, since July 21, 1899, when Bob Inger­soll was snatched to bliss eternal. Now it is loaded again, and ready to be fired, and the chautauquan who discovers it and fires it will be the luckiest mountebank heard of in these latitudes since George Harvey thrust the halo on Woodrow’s brow. For this favorite of fortune, unlike his fellows of the rustic big tops, will not have to drudge out all his days on the lonesome steppes, racking his stomach with fried beefsteak and saleratus biscuit and his limbs with travel on slow and bumpy trains. He will be able almost at once, like Ingersoll before him and the Rev. Billy Sunday in the lost Golden Age, to horn into the big towns, or, at all events, into the towns, and there he will snore at ease of nights upon clean sheets, with his roll in his pantaloons pocket and a Schluck of genuine Scotch under his belt. The yokels, if they want to hear him, will have’ to come to Babylon in their Fords; he will be too busy and too prosperous to waste himself upon the cow-stable mias­mas of the open spaces. Ingersoll, in one month, sometimes took in $50,000. It can be done again; it can be bettered. I believe that Dr. Jennings Bryan, if he sold out God tomorrow and went over to Darwin and Pongo pygmaus, could fill the largest hall in Nashville or Little Rock a month on end: he would make the most profound sensation the country has known since the Breckenridge-Pollard case, nay, since Han­nah and her amazing glands. And what Bryan could do, any other chautauquan could do, if not exactly in the same grand manner, then at least in a grand manner.
But this is a Christian country! Is it, in­deed? Then it was doubly a Christian country in the days of Bob the Hell-Cat. Bob faced a Babbittry that still went to church on Sunday as automatically as a Prohibition enforcement agent holds out his hand. No machinery for distracting it from that ancient practice had yet been invented. There were no Sunday movies and vaudeville shows. There were no auto­mobiles to take the whole family to green fields and Wet road-houses: the roads were too bad even for buggy-riding. There was no radio. There was no jazz. There were no Sunday comic supplements. There was no home-brewing. Moreover, a high tide of evangelistic passion was running: it was the day of Dwight L. Moody, of the Sal­vation Army, of prayer-meetings in the White House, of eager chapel-building on every suburban dump. Nevertheless, Bob hurled his challenge at the whole hier­archy of heaven, and within a few short years he had the Babbitts all agog, and after them the city proletariat, and then finally the yokels on the farms. He drew immense crowds; he became eminent; he planted seeds of infidelity that still sprout in Harvard and Yale. Thousands aban­doned their accustomed places of worship to listen to his appalling heresies, and great numbers of them never went back. The evangelical churches, fifty years ago, were all prosperous and full of pious enter­prise; the soul-snatching business was booming. Since then it has been declining steadily, in prosperity and repute. The typical American ecclesiastic of 1870 was Henry Ward Beecher, a pet of Presidents and merchant princes. The typical American ecclesiastic of 1924 is the Rev. Dr. John Roach Straton, a pet of yellow journals.
In brief, the United States, despite its gallant resistance, has been swept along, to some extent at least, in the general current of human progress and increasing enlight­enment. The proofs that it resists are only too often mistaken for proofs that it hasn’t moved at all. For example, there is the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Superficially, it appears to indicate that whole areas of the Republic have gone over to Methodist voodooism with a bang, and that civiliza­tion is barred out of them as effectively as the Bill of Rights is barred out of a Federal court. But actually all it indicates is that the remoter and more forlorn yokels have risen against their betters—and that their uprising is as hopeless as it is idiotic. Whenever the Klan wins, the fact is smeared all over the front pages of the great organs of intelligence; when it loses, which is at least three times as often, the news gets only a few lines. The truth is that the strength of the Klan, like the strength of the Anti-Saloon League and that of the Methodist-Baptist bloc of moron churches, the pa of both of them, has always been greatly overestimated. Even in the most barbarous reaches of the South, where every village is bossed by a Baptist dervish, it met with vigorous challenge from the start, and there are not three Con­federate States today in which, on .a fair plebiscite, it could hope to prevail. The fact that huge hordes of Southern politi­cians jumped into night-shirts when it began is no proof that it was actually mighty; it is only proof that politicians are cowards and idiots. Of late all of them have been seeking to rid themselves of the tell-tale tar and feathers: they try to ride the very genuine wave of aversion and dis­gust as they tried to ride the illusory wave of popularity. As the Klan falls every­where, the Anti-Saloon League tends to fall with it—and the evangelical churches are strapped tightly to both corpses.
This connection, when it was first de­nounced, was violently denied by the Bap­tist and Methodist ecclesiastics, but now everyone knows that it was and is real. These ecclesiastics are responsible for the Anti-Saloon League and its swineries, and they are responsible no less for the Klan. In other words, they are responsible, di­rectly and certainly, for all the turmoils and black hatreds that now rage in the bleak regions between the State roads—they are to blame for every witches’ pot that now brews in the backwoods of the Union. They have sowed enmities that will last for years. They have divided neighbors, debauched local governments, and enormously multiplied lawlessness. They are responsible for more crime than even the wildest foes of the saloon ever laid to its discredit, and it is crime, in the main, that is infinitely more anti-social and dangerous. They have opposed every honest effort to compose the natural dif­ferences between man and man, and they have opposed every attempt to meet igno­rance and prejudice with enlightenment. Alike, in the name of God, they have ad­vocated murder and they have murdered sense. Where they flourish no intelligent and well-disposed man is safe, and no sound and useful idea is safe. They have preached not only the bitter, savage moral­ity of the Old Testament; they have also preached its childish contempt of obvious facts. Hordes of poor creatures have fol­lowed these appalling rogues and vaga­bonds of the cloth down their Gadarene hill: the result, in immense areas, is the conversion of Christianity into a machine for making civilized living impossible. It is wholly corrupt, rotten and abominable. It deserves no more respect than a pile of garbage.
What I contend is that hundreds of thou­sands of poor simpletons are beginning to be acutely aware of the fact—that they are not nearly so stupid as they sometimes appear to be—above all, that there is much more native decency in them than is to be found in their ecclesiastical masters. In other words, I believe that they tire of the obscenity. One glances at such a State as Arkansas or such a town as Atlanta and sees only a swarm of bawling Methodists; only too easily one overlooks the fact that the bawling is far from unanimous. Logic is possible, in its rudiments, even to the Simiidae. On the next step of the scale, in the suburbs, so to speak, of Homo sapiens, it flourishes intermittently and explo­sively. All that is needed to set it off is a suitable yell. The first chautauquan who looses such a yell against the True Faith will shake the Bible Belt like an earth­quake, and, as they say, mop up. Half his work is already done for him. The True Faith, the only variety of the True Faith known to those hinds, is already under their rising distrust and suspicion. They look for the Ambassador of Christ, and they behold a Baptist elder in a mail-order suit, describing voluptuously the Harlot of Babylon. They yearn for consolation, and they are invited to a raid on bootleggers. Their souls reach out to the eternal mys­tery, and the evening’s entertainment is the clubbing of a fancy woman. All they need is a leader. Christianity is sick all over this pious land. The Christians have poisoned it. One blast upon a bugle horn, and the mob will be ready for the wake.
H. L M.

HL Mencken on The Crowd

The Crowd

Gustave Le Bon and his school, in their discussions of the psychology of crowds, have put forward the doctrine that the individual man, cheek by jowl with the multitude, drops down an intellectual peg or two, and so tends to show the mental and emotional reactions of his inferiors. It is thus that they explain the well-known violence and imbecility of crowds. The crowd, as a crowd, performs acts that many of its members, as individuals, would never be guilty of. Its average intelligence is very low; it is inflammatory, vicious, idiotic, almost simian. Crowds, properly worked up by skilful demagogues, are ready to believe anything, and to do anything.

Le Bon, I daresay, is partly right, but also partly wrong. His theory is probably too flattering to the average numskull. He accounts for the extravagance of crowds on the assumption that the numskull, along with the superior man, is knocked out of his wits by suggestion— that he, too, does things in association that he would never think of doing singly. The fact may be accepted, but the reasoning raises a doubt. The numskull runs amuck in a crowd, not because he has been inoculated with new rascality by the mysterious crowd influence, but because his habitual rascality now has its only chance to function safely. In other words, the numskull is vicious, but a poltroon. He refrains from all attempts at lynching a cappella, not because it takes suggestion to make him desire to lynch, but because it takes the protection of a crowd to make him brave enough to try it.

What happens when a crowd cuts loose is not quite what Le Bon and his followers describe. The few superior men in it are not straightway reduced to the level of the underlying stoneheads. On the contrary, they usually keep their heads, and often make efforts to combat the crowd action. But the stoneheads are too many for them; the fence is torn down or the blackamoor is lynched. And why? Not because the stoneheads, normally virtuous, are suddenly criminally insane. Nay, but because they are suddenly conscious of the power lying in their numbers— because they suddenly realize that their natural viciousness and insanity may be safely permitted to function.

In other words, the particular swinishness of a crowd is permanently resident in the majority of its members—in all those members, that is, who are naturally ignorant and vicious—perhaps 95 per cent. All studies of mob psychology are defective in that they underestimate this viciousness. They are poisoned by the prevailing delusion that the lower orders of men are angels. This is nonsense. The lower orders of men are incurable rascals, either individually or collectively. Decency, self-restraint, the sense of justice, courage—these virtues belong only to a small minority of men. This minority never runs amuck. Its most distinguishing character, in truth, is its resistance to all running amuck. The third-rate man, though he may wear the false whiskers of a first-rate man, may always be detected by his inability to keep his head in the face of an appeal to his emotions. A whoop strips off his disguise.

I’ve found much truth in all religious texts….

I thought the following comment I made in a thread was quite clever, but that also leads me to think I’ve unknowingly stolen it from someone else. If you know the source, clue me in.

I’ve found much truth in all religious texts as well. Mainly the words “the”, “a”, “and” and “to”. The other words get fuzzy from there.
For me, I’ve never claimed there was no “truth” to any religious system, but that Islam, Christianity, Judaism, et. al. are not the truth they claim. They claim to be divinely inspired. What this means is that you pretty much need to take the bad with the good. You don’t HAVE to, but then you’re not a follower of the religion, you’re a tourist with a camera who picked up something from the gift shop to take home.What “truth” or “goodness” does the Quaran or Bible contain that cannot be found completely independent of it?

The source of white genes in black Americans

Shared by Kevin I. Slaughter

This is interesting supplemental information to go along with the (as of yet unfinished) notes from “Up from Slavery”

Vanishing American writes:

Another reprehensible myth that is all too widely accepted by many Whites is the idea that ”most blacks have some White ancestry” — a notion that I think is exaggerated –and moreover, that this infusion of White DNA into the black gene pool is the result of ‘rapist slave owners.’ Somehow everybody seems to accept the allegation that slave-owning aristocrats routinely forced their ‘attentions’ on female slaves. There is little evidence to back up this notion. Presuming that the White genes were introduced back during slavery, why assume that the slave owner was the source? Why not overseers, White field hands, or others at lower levels of society?

An analysis of census data tends to support VA:

Evidence is also available indirectly from the censuses of 1850 and 1860. The enumerators of these censuses listed the color of slaves as black or mulatto. The percentage of mulattoes reported in the slave population was 7.70 in 1850 and 10.41 in 1860. [. . .]

Historians have implicated all social classes in miscegenation. Slaves lived in closest contact with owners and overseers, and unmarried owners and overseers on absentee estates may have been most heavily involved. According to Stampp, “Men of the nonslaveholding class were responsible for much of the miscegenation . . . Female slaves were quite accessible to both rural and urban nonslaveholders.” Contacts were usually casual but relationships sometimes evolved into concubinage that lasted sev- eral years and occasionally for life. [. . .]

The estimated regression is used to calculate the probabilities that a slave child was mulatto. The probabilities are an index of the relative frequency of sexual relations. The chances that a child was a mulatto declined with the size of the holding and the number of slaves per dwelling, and they increased with the proportion mulatto among adults aged 15-49 on the plantation, the proportion white among males aged 15-49 in the county, and with city size. The probabilities were relatively higher on sugar plantations as compared with cotton plantations, in urban areas, in the slave exporting states, and on small holdings where no slave dwellings were listed. The probability was lower on rice plantations as compared with cotton plantations.

Several explanatory variables are positively related to the chances that a slave woman would have encountered a white who did not live on the holding, which suggests that a high proportion of sexual contacts were not attributable to the owner. Increasing the proportion white among males aged 15-49 in the county from .45 to .55 nearly triples the probability that a child was mulatto. The probability was also low in rice agriculture where the density of white settlement was low, and was high in urban areas where the density of white settlement was high.

[Richard H. Steckel. Miscegenation and the American Slave Schedules. Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 251-263.]

That American blacks average 18-22% white genes suggests only a very low incidence of miscegenation per generation:

one out of every four Negroes living in a southern city was a mulatto. But among rural slaves, who constituted 95 percent of the slave population, only 9.9 percent were mulatto in 1860. For the slave population as a whole, therefore, the proportion of mulattoes was just 10.4 percent in 1860 and 7.7 percent in 1850. Thus it appears that travelers to the South greatly exaggerated the extent of miscegenation because they came into contact with unrepresentative samples of the Negro population. They appear to have had much more contact with the freedmen and slaves of the urban areas than with slaves living in the relative isolation of the countryside. Far from proving that the exploitation of black women was ubiquitous, the available data on mulattoes strongly militates against that contention.

The fact that during the twenty-three decades of contact between slaves and whites which elapsed between 1620 and 1850, only 7.7 percent of the slaves were mulattoes suggests that on average only a very small percentage of the slaves born in any given year were fathered by white men. [. . .]

Measurements of the admixture of “Caucasian” and “Negro” genes among southern rural blacks today indicate that the share of Negro children fathered by whites on slave plantations probably averaged between 1 and 2 percent.

[Fogel and Engerman. Time on the cross: the economics of American Negro slavery.]

BookLiberator DIY Kit Let's You (Slowly) Digitize Your Entire Library [DIY]

Shared by Kevin I. Slaughter

I’ve been looking at these two-camera book scanners over the past few months, trying to decide if I want to try to build one. If these guys put out a kit, I might jump on it. – KIS

BookLiberator DIY Kit Let's You (Slowly) Digitize Your Entire LibraryThe BookLiberator Project is kit of open source hardware and software, designed to help you digitize your personal library without damaging your collection. It won’t spare you from having to turn each page, but it is some seriously clever design.

The process works by photographing each page, two at a time, via two simple point and shoot cameras attached to the BookLiberator frame. You’ll have to supply the cameras yourself unless you want to buy them from BookLiberator, but the frame streamlines the process immensely by insuring that the pages will be lined up in each shot. From here, the accompanying software scans the photographed pages and converts them into organized text, spitting out a digitized ebook in a variety of formats. The only caveat is that you’ll still need to pick up the frame and turn each page manually, so consider stretching out before tackling the digitization of War and Peace.

We’ve covered book scanning technology before, but this method looks like it could hit a sweet spot between cost, convenience, and simplicity (or lack thereof).

The group behind the BookLiberator hopes to have kits ready for sale soon ($120 sans cameras, $200 if you need them), and instructions are available online if you want to make your own right now. [BookLiberator Project via MAKE]