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that has always characterized human society? Such spirit has always existed, and even when the penalty of death was visited upon nearly all offenses against life and property. Blackstone tells us (Book IV, Chap. 1) that in the Eighteenth Century it was a capital offense to cut down a cherry tree in an orchard-a penalty which should increase our admiration for George Washington's courage and veracity.
We are apt to see the past in a golden haze, which obscures our vision. Thus, we think of William Penn's "holy experiment” on the banks of the Delaware as the realization of Sir Thomas More's dream of Utopia; and yet Pennsylvania was called in 1698 “ the greatest refuge for pirates and rogues in America," and Penn himself wrote, about that time, that he had heard of no place which was more overrun with wickedness than his City of Brotherly Love, where things were so “openly committed in defiance of law and virtue-facts so foul that I am forbid by common modesty to relate them.”
Conceding that lawlessness is not a novel phenomenon, has not the present age been characterized by an exceptional revolt against the authority of law? The statistics of our criminal courts show in recent years an unprecedented growth in crimes. Thus, in the federal courts, pending criminal indictments have increased from 9503 in the year 1912 to over 70,000 in the year 1921. While this abnormal increase is, in part, due to sumptuary legislation-for approximately 30,000 cases now pending arise under the prohibition statutes—yet, eliminating these, there yet remains an increase in nine years of over 400 per cent in the comparatively narrow sphere of the federal criminal jurisdiction. I have been unable to get the data from the state courts; but the growth of crimes can be measured by a few illustrative statistics. Thus, the losses from burglaries which have been repaid by casualty companies have grown in amount from $886,000 in 1914 to over $10,000,000 in 1920; and, in a like period, embezzlements have increased fivefold. It is notorious that the thefts from the mails and express companies and other carriers have grown to enormous proportions. The holdup of railroad trains is now of frequent occurrence, and is not confined to the unsettled sections of the country. Not only in the United States, but even in Europe, such crimes of violence
are of increasing frequency, and a recent dispatch from Berne, under date of August 7, stated that the famous International Expresses of Europe were now run under a military guard.
The streets of our cities, once reasonably secure from crimes of violence, have now become the field of operations for the footpad and highwayman. The days of Dick Turpin and Jack Shepherd have returned, with this serious difference that the Turpins and Shepherds of our day are not dependent upon the horse, but have the powerful automobile to facilitate their crimes and make sure their escape.
In Chicago alone, 5000 automobiles were stolen in a single year. Once murder was an infrequent and abnormal crime. Today in our large cities it is of almost daily occurrence. In New York, in 1917, there were 236 murders and only 67 convictions; in 1918, 221, and 77 convictions. In Chicago, in 1919, there were 336, and 44 convictions.
When the crime wave was at its height a few years ago, the police authorities in more than one city confessed their impotence to impose effective restraints. Life and property had seemingly become almost as insecure as during the Middle Ages.
As to the subtler and more insidious crimes against the political state, it is enough to say that graft has become a science in city, state and nation. Losses by such misapplication of public funds—piled Pelion on Ossa—no longer run in the millions but the hundreds of millions. Our city governments are, in many instances, foul cancers on the body politic; and for us to boast of having solved the problem of self-government is as fatuous as for a strong man to exult in his health when his body is covered with running sores. It has been estimated that the annual profits from violations of the prohibition laws have reached $300,000,000. Men who thus violate these laws for sordid gain are not likely to obey other laws, and the respect for law among all classes steadily diminishes as our people become familiar with, and tolerant to, wholesale criminality. Whether the moral and economic results overbalance this rising wave of crime, time will tell.
In limine, let us note the significant fact that this spirit of revolt against authority is not confined to the political state, and therefore its causes lie beyond that sphere of human action.
Human life is governed by all manner of man-made laws-laws of art, of social intercourse, of literature, music, business—all evolved by custom and imposed by the collective will of society. Here we find the same revolt against tradition and authority.
In music, its fundamental canons have been thrown aside and discord has been substituted for harmony as its ideal. Its culmination--jazz-is a musical crime.
In the plastic arts, all the laws of form and the criteria of beauty have been swept aside by the futurists, cubits, vorticists, tactilists, and other æsthetic Bolsheviki.
In poetry, where beauty of rhythm, melody of sound and nobility of thought were once regarded as the true tests, we now have the exaltation of the grotesque and brutal; and hundreds of poets are feebly echoing the "barbaric yawp” of Walt Whitman, without the redeeming merit of his occasional sublimity of thought.
In commerce, the revolt is one against the purity of standards and the integrity of business morals. Who can question that this is pre-eminently the age of the sham and the counterfeit? Science is prostituted to deceive the public by cloaking the increasing deterioration in quality. The blatant medium of advertising has become so mendacious as to defeat its own purpose.
In the recent deflation in commodity values, there was widespread "welching
welching” among business men who had theretofore been classed as reputable. Of course, I recognize that a far greater number kept their contracts, even when it brought them to the verge of ruin. But when in the history of American business was there such a volume of broken faith as a year ago ?
In the greater sphere of social life, we find the same revolt against the institutions which have the sanction of the past. Laws which mark the decent restraints of print, speech and dress have in recent decades been increasingly disregarded. The very foundations of the great and primitive institutions of mankindlike the family, the church, and the state-have been shaken. Nature itself is defied. Thus, the fundamental difference of sex is disregarded by social and political movements which ignore the permanent differentiation of social function ordained by God himself.
All these are but illustrations of the general revolt against the authority of the past—a revolt that can be measured by the change in the fundamental presumption of men with respect to the value of human experience. In all former ages, all that was in the past was presumptively true, and the burden was upon him who sought to change it. Today, the human mind apparently regards the lessons of the past as presumptively false--and the burden is upon him who seeks to invoke them.
Lest I be accused of undue pessimism, let me cite as a witness one who, of all men, is probably best equipped to express an opinion upon the moral state of the world. I refer to the venerable head of that religious organization which, with its trained representatives in every part of the world, is probably better informed as to its spiritual state than any other organization.
Speaking last Christmas Eve, in an address to the College of Cardinals, the venerable Pontiff gave expression to an estimate of present conditions which should have attracted far greater attention than it apparently did.
The Pope said that five plagues were now afflicting humanity. The first was the unprecedented challenge to authority. The second, an equally unprecedented hatred between man and man. . The third was the abnormal aversion to work. The fourth, the excessive thirst for pleasure as the great aim of life. And the fifth, a gross materialism which denied the reality of the spiritual in human life.
The accuracy of this indictment will commend itself to men, who like myself are not of Pope Benedict's communion. I trust that I have already shown that the challenge to authority is universal and is not confined to that of the political state. Even in the narrower confine of the latter, the fires of revolution are either violently burning, or, at least, smoldering. Two of the oldest empires in the world, which, together, have more than half of its population (China and Russia) are in a welter of anarchy; while India is in a stage of submerged revolt. If the revolt were confined to autocratic governments, we might see in it merely a reaction against tyranny; but even in the most stable of democracies and among the most enlightened peoples, the underground rumblings of revolution may be heard.
The government of Italy has been preserved from overthrow, not alone by its constituted authorities, but by a band of resolute men, called the "fascisti," who have taken the law into their own hands, as did the vigilance committees in western mining camps, to put down worse disorders.
Even England, the mother of democracies, and once the most stable of all governments in the maintenance of law, has been shaken to its very foundations in the last three years, when powerful groups of men attempted to seize the state by the throat and com pel submission to their demands by threatening to starve the community. This would be serious enough if it were only the world-old struggle between capital and labor and had only involved the conditions of manual toil. But the insurrection against the political state in England was more political that it was economic. It marked, on the part of millions of men, a portentous decay of belief in representative government and its chosen organ-the ballot box. Great and powerful groups had suddenly discovered-and it may be the most portentous political discovery of the twentieth century—that the power involved in their control over the necessaries of life, as compared with the power of the voting franchise, was as a 42 centimeter cannon to the bow and arrow. The end sought to be attained, namely, the nationalization of the basic industries, and even the control of the foreign policy of Great Britain, vindicated the truth of the British Prime Minister's statement that these great strikes involved something more than a mere struggle over the conditions of labor, and that they were essentially seditious attempts against the life of the state.
Nor were they altogether unsuccessful; for, when the armies of Lenine and Trotsky were at the gates of Warsaw, in the summer of 1920, the attempts of the governments of England and Belgium to afford assistance to the embattled Poles were paralyzed by the labor groups of both countries, who threatened a general strike if those two nations joined with France in aiding Poland to resist a possibly greater menace to western civilization than has occurred since Attila and his Huns stood on the banks of the Marne.
Of greater significance to the welfare of civilization is the complete subversion during the World War of nearly all the