His lynching lays bare Southern anti-Semitism.
The election of Thomas E. Watson of Georgia to the Senate necessarily calls attention to the growing menace of racial and religious intolerance in the United States. Race hatred and prejudice have long festered in our body politic, and made mockery of some of our most cherished and highly vaunted professions. Bigots there have been in important public offices and even in the Senate, but never before has so conspicuous, so violent, so flaming an apostle of every variety of race hatred been invested with the power and dignity of the Senatorial Toga. Watson’s election, while due to a variety of circumstances and a combination of issues, is essentially the victory of a Fifth Estate, of the sinister forces of intolerance, superstition, prejudice, religious jingoism, and mobbism. It may be thought that Watson rode into office on the tide of revulsion against Wilsonism and the League of Nations, for he bitterly opposed the war, fought conscription tooth and nail; and was both prosecuted and persecuted for it. His opposition to the League of Nations has been as violent as his antagonism to the war, but his attacks on the League and the Treaty were neither those of an intelligent seeker after peace nor of an ordinary political dissenter. Watson proclaimed and induced thousands of his credulous followers to believe that the League was an agency through which the Vatican seeks to impress a Romanist and Jesuit super-government upon the world. President Wilson, he painted as the tool of the Pope whose political agent, according to Mr. Watson, is Mr. Joseph P. Tumulty, the President’s secretary. The reaction from the war and against Wilsonism undoubtedly played their part in electing Watson, but it was a small part. For years he has been a powerful figure in Georgia politics, his violence and his intransigeance gaining him the role of fearless prophet and leader.
The World War has of course left in its wake a rising tide of every kind of tribal hate, an intensification of every primitive human passion, but anti-Catholicism is not a new phenomenon in the Southern States. Men are swept to Congress on it, men ride into executive mansions on it, and whole legislatures and county and city administrations are elected on that single issue. It stands second only to the hatred of the Negro as the moving passion of entire Southern communities. Already the waves of hatred whipped up by Watson and his fellow mobbists have resulted in the midnight burning of a Catholic church and school building and in several unsuccessful attempts at similar outrages. Permitted a steady development we might some day expect to see the burning of Catholics at the stake and such other of the monstrous delights of inflamed ignorance as are now practiced on the Negro population. At Watson’s door, for instance, can be chiefly laid the responsibility for the orgy of anti-Semitism that culminated in the ghastly lynching of Leo Frank, of whose complete innocence of the murder charged to him there is not the slightest doubt. In his long campaign of journalistic frightfulness against Frank and against all Jews at the time, Watson convinced Southerners by the thousands that the Jewish faith condoned and encouraged atrocious crimes against the children of Christians. As a result of Watson’s carnival of falsehood against Frank, which led to Frank’s legal, and later to his actual, lynching, the belief became widespread in Georgia that one of the Hebraic rituals is the drawing of the blood of children and the drinking of it by adults. The lives of Jews were unsafe in Atlanta during the height of Watson’s campaign, conducted through his newspaper, the Jeffersonian. Since that paper was suppressed for alleged disloyalty during the war, Mr. Watson speaks through the Columbia Sentinel.