New York Times
MAYOR INSINCERE ON VICE,
Vigilance Association Challenges Statements in Gaynor’s University Forum
VICE LAW NOT A DEAD LETTER
And Only Three States Are Without a Statute Against Adultery, Association
The current issue of Vigilance, the official organ of the American Vigilance Association, of which David Starr Jordan of Leland Stanford University is President, contains a reply to Mayor Gaynor’s address on "The Control of Vice and Crime," delivered on Dec. 6 before the Forum of New York University. The reply takes exception to the Mayor’s facts and his law. It was written by Herbert E. Gernert, a lawyer and a representative of the Vigilance Association, which has as Vice Presidents Cardinal Gibbons, Dean Sumner, and ex-President Eliot of Harvard. The association is dedicated to the suppression of vice, and to the promotion of the highest standard of public and private morals.
"In the course of his speech," the reply says, "he (Mayor Gaynor) made several statements which must of necessity be questions of fact — statements that can be easily proved or disproved by records and statistics. Whether Mr. Gaynor’s assertions were true or untrue, they must have taken deep root in the minds of his youthful, attentive listeners. The nature of his subject and the importance of his position made this result inevitable.
"As Mayor Gaynor stated at the outset of his address, it is necessary to speak plainly, if we are to get at the bottom of these subjects, and it may be added that it is equally essential that we speak truthfully and authoritatively. Our personal opinions of what ought or ought not to be the law, or how rigidly a specific statute out to be enforced, would have little weight; but the fact that certain laws are on our books, that convictions have taken place under them, and that courts of records have given them certain constructions must be taken seriously and without prejudice."
The reply denies that such relations between the sexes as the Mayor cited "is not forbidden by any law." "It may interest Mayor Gaynor to learn," says the reply, "that in the usual sense of the term it is made a criminal offense in thirty-nine states of the Union."
The reply goes on to quote the Mayor as saying:
In a few States of the Union they have a law making adultery a criminal offense. But it is a dead letter. Who is prosecuted for it ? Nobody.
"There are only three States in the Union," says the reply in contradiction, "that have not declared adultery a crime, namely, Delaware, Louisiana, and Tennessee; and yet Mr. Gaynor attempts to inform us that only a few States have enacted such a law."
It is pointed out that in 1904 the United States Department of Commerce and Labor took a census of the adult prisoners in all the penitentiaries and prisons and reformatories throughout the United States, and the figures of that census are offered as the latest and most authentic of their kind. They showed 612 commitments in 1905 for the offense which Mayor Gaynor said was not forbidden by law anywhere in the world, and which, with the exception of prostitution, appeared as the most commonly punishable of all the offenses against morals. The reply continued:
The New York Statute on adultery is very similar to the law of other States, and any one who knows social conditions throughout the country will admit that there must be as many violation of this law in New York as in most jurisdictions of the six, clime, &c., of that State. It seems strange, therefore, that such States as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana should have so very many more convictions for this offense than New York. In justice to ourselves, our State, and Mayor Gaynor, were are forced to admit that the blame rests upon those officials whose duty it is to enforce the law, rather than the law itself.
Exception is also taken to the Mayor’s treatment of the question of prostitution, and especially to his omissions. The reply seems to hold as unfair his failure to refer to the tenement house law, the common law, Section 1.145 of the penal law, and Section 887 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
"In reference to the duty of the Police Department in suppressing prostitution," the reply says, "we need only quote a portion of Section 315 of Ash’s Greater New York Charter of 1906:
It is hereby made the duty of the Police Department and force at all times of the day and night and the members of such force are hereby thereunto empowered * * * to carefully observe and inspect * * * all houses where common prostitutes reside * * * and to suppress and restrain all unlawful and disorderly conduct therein: to enforce and prevent the violation of all laws and ordinances in force in said city; and, for these purposes, to arrest all persons guilty of violating any law or ordinance for the suppression or punishment of crimes as aforesaid.
"In the light of these omissions it was unfair of Mr. Gaynor to conclude his remarks with these words:
"‘Now that is the extent of the law on the subject, and that is the extent of the field of police endeavors with regard to them.’
"Perhaps what he said is the extent of the field of police endeavor, but it is not the extent of the law or their duty under the law.
"Mr. Gaynor has been a lawyer, a Judge, and an executive. He has had considerable experience in dealing with crime and criminals. It is only logical for one to conclude that somewhere in his studies, his travels, or his experiences, he must have stumbled upon some of these laws or facts which we have quoted. Why should he withhold them from an audience which had little opportunity to discover the true state of affairs?"