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San Francisco vs. The Sand-Lot

The Sand-lot agitation has gone beyond a joke. It has become a serious matter, and the sooner we look it gravely and steadfastly in the face the better for all of us. We have been accustomed—both newspapers and individuals—to treat the agitation as of no importance, as something to be laughed at, and allowed to run at its own sweet will. In one sense we ere right, for, truly, a more absurd and farcical exhibition than the Sand-lot has entertained us with never served to amuse a good tempered community. But, in another and more pertinent sense, we have done egregiously wrong; for by our lenient, not to say jocular, way of looking at an evil which in any other country would have been nipped in the bud, we have encouraged and advertised a side show which has now become a nuisance that only force can abate. It is all very well to have a pet serpent to play with; but to coddle the reptile till it grows strong enough to strangle you, unless you strangle it, is a dangerous whim to humor. We do not mean to imply by this that the so-called Workingmen have actually grown, or are in danger of growing, too strong for the peaceable and law-abiding portion of the community. On the contrary, we recognize the fact they comprise, at the most, but one and a half per cent of our population. The peril does not lie in their actual power, physical or moral, present or prospective. It lies in the fact that, by tolerating their incendiary, seditious and bloodthirsty threats—vapid and meaningless though we know them to be—we convey the impression, both at home and abroad, that we who put up with these things are in the minority, and that ruffianism rules the roost in California. Under a mistaken notion of what true liberty consists in, we have permitted a handful of unprincipled and ignorant men to threaten murder, arson and pillage; to openly defy our laws, and make others to suit themselves; to insult our State and city authorities, and to slap us all in the face with impunity. Because we set great value on freedom of speech we have patiently, aye even smilingly, listened to treasonable and insolent tirades which, in any other community, would have called for swift and severe chastisement. Herein we have made a very grievous mistake. If we can afford to laugh at the Sand-lotters, we can not afford to let others laugh at us for doing so. We may feel never so confident in our ability to protect ourselves and others entitled to our protection, but if we do not make use of this ability at a time like the present, we shall not be credited with possessing it. It cannot be denied that the disgraceful agitation now raging in California has depressed business, shaken confidence, driven home capital away from the State, and kept foreign capital out of it. If, with these evils before our eyes, we still persist in tolerating the nuisance that has created them, we must not wonder that we are believed to be unable to take care of our own interests and uphold our own dignity. Acting under this very justifiable belief, the great Eastern journals are now beginning to talk about Federal interferences in our behalf. A pretty page that would be in California’s history, whereon it was recorded that she was obliged to call upon the Federal authorities for the maintenance of law and order within her borders! But we are convinced that this page will never be written. San Francisco is the center of the trouble, and San Francisco has on several former occasions proved quite able to take care of herself. We have no doubt that she will be equal to the emergency again. But this we would once more impress upon our citizens: The mere consciousness of power will not save your credit abroad; you must use your power, and that firmly and promptly. When a party of lawless vagabonds are buying weapons and threatening the use of dynamite in our midst, it is high time for vigorous measures to be adopted.

San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser
February 28, 1880