Judge Hooper on the Four-Power Treaty
by Ellis Parker Butler
Having instructed Court-officer Durfey to fill the inkwell, the eminent Riverbank jurist, Justice of the Peace Lemuel Hooper, put his spectacles on his nose and remarked that court was open.
"No cases this morning, your honor," said Officer Durfey.
"Crime is sort of slack, hey?" said the judge as he put his feet on his desk and opened the morning newspaper.
"Yes, your honor," said Officer Durfey, "but the day is young and I have hopes."
"And why, Durfey; why?" asked Judge Hooper, scanning the headlines.
"Well, your honor," said Mr. Durfey, "do not courts and the troubles for the courts to settle run side by side, sir? 'Twould be a shame, your honor, if the knowledge that we are here and ready to maintain justice and preserve the peace was not sufficient to induce the population to indulge in riot and misdemeanor."
Judge Hooper put down his paper and looked at Officer Durfey sternly.
"Durfey," he said, pointing a stubby finger, "you make me think of Senator Borah, down there at our glorious Capitol in the magnificent but costly city of Washington. A little more talk like that, Durfey, and you'll be qualified to enter the Senate and enunciate the doctrine that every treaty of peace is a road to war. I can see you, Durfey, standing there, hand in hand with Mr. Borah, singing the chorus to his favorite song, "I Don't Care What Its Words May Be, Every Treaty Looks Alike to Me.'"
"Who is Borah?" asked Mr. Durfey.
"He is the man," said Judge Hooper, "who so successfully convinced many that black was black that now he seems unable to stop. He sees nothing but black. To the Senator black is black, and white is black, and pale blue with pink spots is black. He is like the man that looks at the sun too long, Durfey. He looked at the Treaty of Versailles and Article X so long and hard, Durfey, that he sees them everywhere, even in the Treaty of Four Nations, No doubt he would see Article X in the Ten Commandments if they were put in the form of a treaty. 'Thou shalt not steal' is a dangerous sentiment, Durfey, when put into a treaty concerning the Pacific Islands.
"If you were a Senator like Borah, Durfey, you would arise in the Senate and clear your throat and talk:
"'Fellow Senators and Gallery,' you would orate. 'Observe the hideous iniquity of this outrageous Treaty of Four which that bloodthirsty Hughes and gore-loving Harding are trying to put over on us. Was ever a peacefully inclined nation requested to sign such a dangerous document? What does it say, gentlemen? It says, in frightful words of dire import, that the high contracting parties "agree between themselves to respect their rights in relation to their insular possessions in the regions of the Pacific Ocean!" To respect their rights, gentlemen! That means war! Is it not a well-known historical fact, gentlemen, that whenever one nation respects the rights of another there is bloodshed and murder? I fear that word "respect"!
"'Gentlemen,' you would continue, Durfey. 'Sit still and let the full significance of this sink into your thick skulls. It means we agree not to steal each other's islands. That means war. You may not understand it so but I have a better scoopful of brains. The only way to prevent the Pacific Ocean from becoming the Bellicose Ocean is to have all hands free to sneak up on an unsuspecting island any dark night and steal it. But that is not all, gentlemen! There is worse. If trouble comes, the four high contracting parties agree to call a conference to talk things over and to meet the exigencies of the particular situation.
"'Gentlemen,' you would continue, Durfey, 'could anything be worse? You may not think getting together to talk over what is to be done means war, but you're wrong. I know! I have had experience. Whenever I get together to talk there is war. That proves it!"
"To my notion, Durfey, Mr. Borah has specialized so continuously in the science of finding snakes in woodpiles that he can see them lurking in everything from an ice cream cone to a pumpkin pie. If you shake my hand and wish me a happy New Year, Durfey, I do not consider that you are agreeing to get a gun and murder my brother-in-law if he borrows my socks without asking. If I take out an insurance policy on my barn, Durfey, it does not mean that I have to join the Relief Hook & Ladder Company and wear a leather helmet for life. You're my friend, Durfey, and it is understood that you'll not burn down my chicken-coop and I'll not burn down yours, but if your doghouse catches fire, I'll go to the fire or not, as I choose. And I don't say but what, if your doghouse stands close against my barn, I'll be most likely to be on hand. I'd be on hand whether you were my friend or not, Durfey, and that's all this famous treaty amounts to.
"The four Powers, Durfey, are like four sane-enough men whose backyards butt up together. Instead of waiting until all their gardens are dug up and everybody so mad they see red, they get together and agree to keep their chickens at home where they belong. And, furthermore, Durfey, they agree that if trouble comes, they will get together over the back fence and decide what to do about it. Even, it may be, if it happens to be a fifth neighbor's chicken that makes the trouble. And where's the harm, Durfey? Does it mean that one and all must start to throw bricks? So Mr. Borah seems to think, Durfey, but it is more likely that instead of a deluge of gore and murder a friendly talk would lead to nothing worse than putting up a few more feet of chicken wire."
"But why have any treaties if having none keeps us out of foreign wars, your honor?" asked Durfey.
"Because having none keeps us out of foreign wars the way having none kept us out of the World War."