Conan Doyle Fears Drastic Uprising Against Militants

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Conan Doyle Fears Drastic Uprising Against Militants is an article published in The New-York Times on 31 may 1914.

Conan Doyle Fears Drastic Uprising Against Militants

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Lady Doyle. (Copyright, American Press Association.)
The New-York Times (31 may 1914)

Believes the Time Is Close at Hand When the English People Will Take the Law Into Their Own Hands and the Result Will Be Nothing Short of Lynching.

"Why do you come to America? " was the natural question to put to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on his arrival in New York last Wednesday, for any one who would visit New York City In the Summer time is immediately suspected of some tremendous ulterior motive.

The creator of Sherlock Holmes mopped his big, round, English face desperately.

"Just for fun — though it doesn't look much like It, I must confess."

Sir Arthur is a huge man, well over six feet, with a powerful frame. He is somewhat heavier than when he Was here twenty years ago, and his hair is a little gray, but his step is as light and his slow smile as pleasant as It ever was.

He Ignored the question of his visit to America for the moment and hurried to get a grievance off his mind. It was not the weather that was bothering Sir Arthur quite so much as American journalism.

"I am In a bad humor," he announced genially. " I am in a wretch-ed humor, all of It due to American journalism. In the first place, I made the great mistake of not seeing the Whole horde of newspaper people at Once. Consequently, I have seen at least forty, strung along every minute since 9 o'clock this morning.

"But that is not the trouble. It Is What your reporters make me say about the militant movement. I open the late editions of your amazing papers, and find myself headlined as desiring to lynch the militants!

Lynching a Possibility.

"I must correct that or I shall not dare to return to England. I have many very good friends among the militants and among those who favor the militant movement. Now, what I did say to your reporters was that I was afraid the time was close at hand when some very drastic action would be taken. That I very much feared that the people would take the law Into their own hands, and that the result would be nothing short of lynching." That would be a terrible outcome — I can conceive of nothing more horrible, except that I myself should subscribe to such an action! But the situation Is very, very grave indeed — I do not think that you on this side of the water realize the seriousness of the pass to which we are coming.

"So far the Government has followed public opinion and so far public., opinion has not demanded the suppression of the militants. But the patience of the public has just about reached the breaking point, and I am very much afraid that something is going to happen. Up to this time the police _have been able to. protect the women against the violence of the mob, but It is becoming more and more difficult"

"What about the argument advanced that the militants Will step aside just in time to let the Government crawl out of its difficulty by granting suffrage at the request of the non-militants?"

"I have never heard that argument advanced, 'but. on the face of It. it is not only specious, it is thoroughly Immoral. The militants have already gone too far, and I am afraid that the reaction is coming very soon, and that It is going to be disastrous.

As England Knows Him.

This is not the Sir Arthur whom the school-boy reader of his detective tales would picture to himself, but It is the Sir Arthur whom England knows, the man who has a keen interest In his country's affairs, the man who has devoted much of his life to reform measures — reform not only In criminal law, which, of course, interests him most, but In the divorce laws — who has devoted the service of his pen to such problems as the Congo question.

"I know that you want to ask me about the police system and the place of the detective story in literature. and so on, but will you not let me speak of that which Interests me most just at present? I should like to say a word In praise of American legislation for the excellent. example which it has set us in England on the mil:ilea of plumage laws.

"We have worked hard in England to get our bill through, and I think we have won our fight. America has given us a good lead. You are surprised that I should be interested in such things? Any humanitarian should be. And some must he more energetic than others. It has been a hard task to awaken our people to a sense of the inhumanity in our bird slaughter.

"Public opinion is aroused now, however. When the Queen or Denmark drove through the streets of London recently wearing a hat fairly covered with aigrettes, It created a very disagreeable impression and much unfavorable comment. Just as the white feather of cowardice Is the worst thing that a man can show, so the white feather that means slaughter of the mother bird is the worst thing with which a woman could 'decorate her hat."

Sir Arthur stopped to wave his hand at the tree-tops of Central Park stretched out below his window.

"That's a fine sight. We have nothing in all England to compare with It.

"I am amazed, fairly paralyzed at the sight of Nev York. It seems as though some one had gone over the city with a watering pot and these stupendous buildings had grown up overnight as a result. When I was here twenty years ago The World Building was your skyscraper. Today It Is lost — it Is a mere pedestal. New York is a wonderful city, as America is a wonderful country, with a big future."

"What do you think of our Becker case?" This with firmness.

Sir Arthur always replies immediately. He never hesitates for a word. He speaks with a curious steadiness, neither slow nor fast.

"I know only what I have read of the ease in the cable dispatches, and you know, of course, how inadequate such information Is I have no first-hand knowledge of the case.

"In Its general aspect It looks as though Becker would be executed, and not unjustly. You have sent the gunmen to their death, and the world is well quit of them.

"I That is a terrible, philosophy," he added under his breath, looking up quickly. "A terrible philosophy!

Police System the Base.

"But, viewing the case in its general aspects, it is a very ugly business. Your police system is the foundation of your State. And once your police system gets going wrong, then everything goes wrong. If you've got a police system informed with integrity, then your form of government matters but little. It makes me think of a verse from Pope:

"'For Forms of government let fools contest;
The land that's best administered is best.'

"The Frank case is a different proposition."

In view of the fact that Sir Arthur was met at the boat by W. J. Burns, this chance remark sounded interesting.

"Do you think Frank is Innocent?"

"I have not followed the case in sufficient detail — yet. Yes, I have spoken with Mr. Burns about It. He, as you know, is deeply convinced that here is an instance of wrongful convictions and I am inclined to think that he is right."

Saved a Man from Prison.

It was through the efforts or Sir Arthur, for the time turned Sherlock Holmes himself, that George Edalji, a young Englishman of good character and excellent birth, was saved from seven years of penal servitude. Edalji had been convicted of a number of curious crimes, none of them, however, approaching the horror of the Prank case. Sir Arthur, reading the accounts of his trial, be-came convinced that George Edalji was an innocent man. He bent all his efforts to an unraveling of the case, and succeeded at last In bringing about Edalji's acquittal and the complete clearing of his name.

This is not the only case where Sir Arthur has slipped, as if were, Into the shoes of his awn Sherlock Holmes, known the world over. He has made a searching examination of the case of Oscar Slater, condemned under Scottish law for murder in 1909, and now in penal servitude. Even Sir Arthur's efforts have as yet produced no results in Slater's case.

Sir Arthur will stay In New York for a week, and then start with Lady Doyle for a campaign trip in the Selkirk Range of the Canadian Rockies, north of Banff. This is where Sir Arthur camped when he was here twenty years ago on an extensive lecture tour and he expects to have the same guide that he had then. He is enthusiastic about outdoor life and is a great sportsman.

"I want to see the developments in Western Canada. Canada is a big and Important place — I think it is going to climb up tremendously in the next few years. It has already made big strides.

"You are interested in the Ulster question here? I am for home rule in Ireland and home rule in Ulster. As for the recent developments I am convinced that the men of Ulster will never submit to an Irish home Parliament I tell you those men are not bluffing. They are in earnest. The outcome will be so serious as to amount practically to a civil war, or it will turn out to be nothing at all.

"I hear that your Col. Roosevelt is back with his account of a new river. Of course, he has discovered his river if he says so, you may rely on that. Col. Roosevelt is a Super-man if there ever was one."

In fact, it is not difficult to under stand Sir Arthur's admiration for our energetic ex-President. He Is a hunter In the same sense that the Colonel is a hunter; he is passionately fond of exploration and adventure in wild lands. When still a young man he set sail for the arctic regions in a whaling vessel, and he has made an extended trip along the west coast of Africa, taking with him the keenest powers of observation and a marvelous memory for scientific facts, which do not remain stored up unused in his mind, but come forth incorporated in such characters, for example, as Dr. Challenger.

It was partly this love of travel and of adventure, and partly that earnest desire to be of service, that sent him off to the Doer war as surgeon In the Langman Hospital. It is curious to think of him as Dr. Doyle, but he was for several years a practicing physician at Southsea before he became the writer whose reputation became In a very few years world-wide.

His First Success.

Strangely enough, "Sherlock Holmes" was not the first book which attracted attention, but "The Return of Micah Clark." "Sherlock Holmes had preceded it in 1891, but it was not until his later work became fairly well known that his most popular book came into its own. Since then, he has written, as he talks, steadily and evenly. But it must not be imagined that he writes only detective stories. He has published two books on the Boer war; he is the author of numerous contributions to magazines on subjects of current interest, and one of his discussions of the problem of war has been translated into twelve languages and a hundred thousand copies of It distributed gratuitously.

Sir Arthur comes of a distinguished family. Grandson of John Doyle, a famous caricaturist, he is also the nephew of the well-known "Dicky" Doyle of Punch.