• U.S.

Twilight of Reform

3 minute read

During nearly 25 years, Judge Benjamin Barr Lindsey of Denver, Col., has had to fight for his office about a dozen times. By appointment or election, with or without party help (he is a Democrat in not very good standing), he has always got it. Last November, the Republicans (reputed to be led by the Ku Klux Klan), swept the state. But Lindsey held his seat by 117 votes. A recount was demanded. Last week, he appeared to be slipping. Meanwhile, appeals have gone through the Nation for financial and moral support. Some of the old enthusiasm for Mr. Judge has been revived. His gallant personal story has been retold−how he started in a real-estate office in Denver at $10 month to support a widowed mother and her younger children, how his early law studies so discouraged him by their : technicalities and sophistries that he attempted suicide, how the revolver back” missed as a fire and moral he made reformer of his the “come law. In order to get the radical reformer out of national politics, his party, in 1900, gave him a vacant Judgeship. Then Lindsey began creating a Juvenile Court, which, a decade later, was world-known. Many reforms accompanied it : a law giving orphans the right to $2,000 of an estate before creditors can touch it; a law making it impossible to send a child under 16 to jail or to charge him with crime; a law of “contributory delinquency” penalizing parents. Playgrounds, public baths, night-schools, summer camps, day-nurseries−these, too, bear the Lindsey seal. “He is the Pinchot-Burbank of human resources.” But the revived enthusiasm is a mere whisper in comparison with the plaudits of 10 and 15 years ago. Reform is apparently obsolete. Before the War, Ben Lindsey’s story was shouted from front page to front page. This last year, Bernarr Macfadden’s Physical Culture featured him. For this health and sex publication, the Judge wrote a series on The Revolt of Modern Youth, in which he exposed the “code of the flapper world.” In it he told the story of an innocent girl whose family had never told her anything, who wanted experience, who found it. “The institution of marriage should be tended−it is allowed to grow like a weed in a neglected garden.”

No longer a national hero, the Judge, slight of body, poor of purse,* is left to fight the Klansmen practically alone. And reported as leagued with the Klansmen on this occasion are all the “forces of evil” which the Judge’s reforms irritated in the halcyon days of Rooseveltian reform and Wilsonian new freedom.

*His salary is $4,000. His last campaign cost $2,400. Some campaigns have cost $10,000.

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