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"Civic Virtue" from Independent

by Ellis Parker Butler
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  • Independent (April 15, 1922)   "Civic Virtue"   A Judge Hooper story. One illustration by Tony Sarg. p 365.  [EPBLIB]

from Independent
Civic Virtue
by Ellis Parker Butler

"Down in New York," said Joe Pencod, the boss of the Third Ward, to our eminent jurist, Justice of the Peace Lem Hooper, "there are objections to a statue a man named MacMonnies carved. The statue is to be set up in front of the City Hall and the name of it is 'Civic Virtue'."

Civic Virtue

"Well, of course, boss," said Judge Hooper, "if that is the name of the statue anyone can see it would be a mean insult to put it right in front of a City Hall."

"No, Judge," said Boss Pencod, "that's not why there are objections. The ladies don't like the statue. This MacMonnies carved 'Civic Virtue' in the form of a man with a sword and he has a foot on the neck -- so to speak -- of a lady who represents 'Civic Wrong.' He has killed her. The ladies resent the imputation."

"And I don't blame them!" said Judge Hooper heartily. "It's not true. Nothing like that ever happens to 'Civic Wrong." At the worst the lady should be shown in no more dire predicament than standing in line in front of a Western Union window, wiring for hotel accommodations at Hot Springs or Palm Beach, where she will repose comfortably until the storm blows over.

"It is a fine thing, boss, for a city to have inspiring statues, but if one of them shows a man frog-stabbing Evil to death it ought to be labeled 'Civic Virtue in Patagonia,' so the little children would not get a wrong idea of life in America. A statue of 'Triumphant Civic Virtue in this Latitude,' boss, ought to show the head of the reform ticket being snowed under by 87,000 majority with 234 precincts yet to hear from, while in the background a grand jury gets ready to investigate his campaign expenses and over to the left is the brick jail the poor worm will be lucky to stay out of. The jail cost $500,000, of which $112,000 went where it would do the most good. If a lady 'Civic Wrong' was wanted in the composition, boss, you could show her between the jail and the City Hall, sawing wood and having nothing to say to our reporter but looking well and hearty.

"Now that the Indian-killer of the Dime Novel is dead and the two-gun man of the movies under bonds to be good, we can't be too wary of the effect of these rough guys in our statuary on the tender minds of the youth of America. We ought to do something about it. If one of the dear little lads goes down to the City Hall to admire the statue of 'Civic Virtue' he's liable to run home and peel off all his clothes worth mentioning and a few more and grab a sword and injure a lot of important citizens before mamma can spank the idea out of him. We ought to join the ladies, boss, and prohibit these marble sword-slashers.

"You and I know, boss, that nowadays Mr. Civic Virtue don't go around minus his underwear chopping at folks with a bowie-knife. The active Civic Virtuoso of today, boss, hooks his shell spectacles behind his oversize ears and dictates a letter asking me to subscribe $25 to the cause and then tells the stenographer that if no more money comes in by Saturday noon she'll have to hunt another job. And usually she hunts. I can see plainly enough that Mr. MacMonnies was never boss of the Third Ward or he would not have made the mistake.

"You know mighty well, boss, that I'm no sculpist. I'm not, but I've been J. P. in this town fifteen years and if I was called upon to make a statue of 'Civic Virtue' as he is in this day and generation I'd carve the allegorical figure of a fussed white rabbit cowering in the midst of his numerous progeny, waiting for the Mayor and City Council to slug him again with a tax bill. He could be made of rubber and every time he was hit he would squeak 'Thank heaven it is no worse!' You could get the rubber from the cast off tires the Assistant Park Commissioner wore out while campaigning in the car you made the Mayor put back in the budget, boss.

"This whole statuary business is wrong, boss. It got a wrong start. When a sculpist gets an order for 'Agriculture' he carves out a plump lady togged out in the kind of clothes Kansas would pass a law against, and shows her holding in one hand the kind of sickle Hennery P. Bimps uses to trim the grass around his pansy bed, and in the other arm ten cents worth of hay. That's wrong. In the first place, if the lady was that plump she would not be standing around holding a bunch of hay -- she would be upstairs doing the Sixteen Simple Contortions for Reducing the Flesh. In the second place, she wouldn't be 'she,' she would be 'he,' and he would be down at the Citizens' and Farmers' Bank trying to have the note renewed for another four months.

"I think the ladies are right, boss. 'Civic Virtue' is not realistic enough. I've been civilly virtuous for quite some time and I'll swear I wouldn't recognize myself as that man with a sword unless the statue had my name carved under it. A statue of 'Civic Virtue in America' ought to show a nervous little male in a last year's suit trying to mind his own business and hoping he won't be fined ten dollars because the hired girl left the lid off the garbage can this morning. If you need a woman in it you can mold in the man's wife in the act of wondering whether she ought to give her last five-dollar bill to the Association For Painting the Park Fence or buy a pair of shoes for little Civvy Virtue, Junior."

"Lem," said Mr. Pencod, "you don't think anything of the sort, and you know it! You've been one of the confoundedest civic virtue pests in this town, and you know that, too! You're always kicking because the City Council don't do this or does do that -- always wanting something done or something undone."

"And always getting what I want, too, boss," Judge Hooper reminded Mr. Pencod.

"And always getting what you want," agreed the boss. "And if you don't call that using a sword I don't know what you do call it!"

"I call it using a grin, boss," said Judge Hooper.



Saturday, October 07 at 1:13:41am USA Central
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