Judge Hooper on the Club of Nations
by Ellis Parker Butler
Our truly admirable jurist, Justice of the Peace Lemuel Hooper, looked up from his newspaper and addressed Philemon Dodworthy, the affable president of the Riverbank Commercial Club.
"Phil," he said, "I see here that twenty-one member Governments failed to pay their League of Nations dues last year. That sounds sort of natural, Phil. How many members of this club do you suppose are posted right now?"
"Plenty, Lem; plenty," said Mr. Dodworthy, shaking his head.
"I guess so," said Judge Hooper. "Seems like the first thing a club has to buy when it starts going is a bulletin board to post delinquent members on. You might almost say a club ain't a real club until it has a bunch of delinquents posted for non-payment of one thing or another, and looking at it that way, Phil, you might almost think the League of Nations was a real club."
"Think so?" asked Mr. Dodworthy.
"Well, if it hasn't anything else," said Judge Hooper, "it has a list of delinquents, and that's something. I don't say that is much, but it shows that some of the nations think it is enough of a club to stop paying dues to.
"To my notion," the Judge continued, "one trouble with the League of Nations is that it set up to be a first-class club before there were enough first-class gentlemen nations to make a club. It looks to me as if Mr. Wilson has a good idea but mighty poor material to draw from. When it comes right down to facts, Phil, a man has to admit that a lot of those nations haven't got what you and I would call a real clubby spirit.
"I like a club where a man can drop in and sit in at a friendly poker game now and then without having to remember that six out of every ten members joined the club to get a chance to get back at him. When the members of a club get ready to spend a pleasant evening by putting six aces up one sleeve and a razor up the other I don't call those members thoroughly fitted for club companionship. When you have to build up a club with men -- or nations, Phil -- who will draw a gun quicker than they will shake a hand, you start wrong. When you try to mold a cozy little club and have nothing but men who are waiting for a chance to use a bowie-knife on the Chairman of the House Committee because his great-grandfather stole somebody's chickens back in 1647, you don't have a club; you have a gang, and you are liable to have the police pinch the place any minute as a rough-house.
"It looks a little as if the world was not quite ready for a Club of Nations, Phil. When a club has to have a sergeant-at-arms in the grillroom, and a cop and a fireman on each floor, to keep the members from murdering each other I don't know that I would call it a successful club.
"Sometimes, Phil, we forget that the rest of the world is not as civilized as the United States is. The States are so gentlemanly over here that we think all the foreign States must be the same. Since that little brotherly quarrel back in the sixties, when we got rid of our bile, we've behaved with the real clubby courtesy to one another. 'I'm sorry to trouble you, old top,' Iowa may say to Nebraska, 'but that last shift of the Missouri River put Island No. 231 on my side and, if you don't mind, I'll call it mine and collect taxes on it.' 'By all means, old chap,' says Nebraska, 'do so.' 'But not unless you insist, old boy,' says Iowa. 'Oh, forget it!' says Nebraska; 'what's an island between friends? Waiter, a couple more bottles of that 1922 grape juice, and see that it is cold.'
"But that is not the way over in Europe and Asia, Phil. The wars they have over there are not mere brotherly misunderstandings. When a nation goes to war over there it is because it has taken a fancy to its neighbor's shirt and don't care how it gets it, or it goes to war in the peevish spirit of the man who has had his shirt stolen and won't be happy until he gets it back. If there is a nation over there that hasn't stolen some of its neighbors' clothes, or had some stolen, I forget the name of it.
It is hard to maintain a satisfactory club spirit, Phil, when the sole thought of every member is that now is the chance to annex a hat and coat. When all are thinking that same thought, Phil, the atmosphere of the club is far from what it should be. There is an air of suspicion prevalent that is not met in the best clubs. When a member nation drops into the club meaning to pick up a good overcoat and finds that some member has lifted his watch and his scarf-pin he is apt to be sore. Especially if he don't get the coat.
"Probably one reason a lot of nations neglected to pay their club dues last year, Phil, was because they saw no chance to slip a few islands and provinces into their pockets while the other members were playing Kelly pool in the basement.
"My idea of a mighty poor sort of club, Phil, is one where a member feels safe only when he leaves all his clothes at home and goes to the club clad only in the bath-towel that got into his suitcase that time he stayed overnight at the hotel. Somehow the air of genial confidence is missing from a club like that. When the club members are afraid to smile lest the other members steal the gold fillings out of their teeth there is apt to be an atmosphere of restraint that detracts from the bonhomie. You can see the members paying real money into the treasury of the club out of sheer camaraderie, can't you? There are times, Phil, when I think Uncle Sam may have been right in this Club of Nations business."
"In what way, Lem?" asked Mr. Dodworthy.
"In organizing the Club of Nations and then resigning before the clerk had time to make out the bill for his dues," said Judge Hooper.