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TWENTY-FOURTH ANNUAL MEETING
MARYLAND STATE BAR
Hotel Chelsea, Atlantic City, N. J,
June 26. 27, and 28, 1919
June 26, 1919.
The first session of the Twenty-fourth Annual Meeting of the Maryland State Bar Association was called to order at 10 o'clock A. M. by President Edward C. Peter.
BY EDWARD C. PETER. Gentlemen of the Maryland State Bar Association, Ladies
I have the honor of formally opening the twenty-fourth annual meeting of the Maryland State Bar Association, a meeting which will be unique, for no future meeting can present the same stimulating attractions.
Down in Kentucky a man gave to his servant a bottle of :·liquor, and the morning after he asked Sam what sort of whiskey was it. "Jes' puffect, boss!” stated Sam, enthusiastically; "jes' absolutely puffect! Hit couldn't a' been no puffecter.” “What do you mean, perfect?" "Well, suh, if hit'd been any better'n whut it wuz, you'd a drunk hit yo’se'f, suh. An' ef hit'd been any wuss n' whut hit wuz, I'd 'a' had to throw hit away." Now, I am going to express the hope, in advance, that this address will prove at least as good as Sam's liquor. Whether it does or does not, I am going to get it down you, and then, if you can, you may throw it away. It may contain an emetic for some.
When I had the pleasure of speaking to you last year, I told you, if the war had ended, the subject of my address at this meeting would be "Reconstruction After the War." Then only the most sanguine thought I would have the opportunity to redeem my promise, yet in a little while the gloom of war which then hung as a pall over the earth, had lifted, and peace, though slow-moving, had taken its place. When, however, I review this country, and I intend to speak of no other, I find the war has left nothing for reconstruction, though it has left much for reformation. Candor compels the admission that the wealth of the nation has been greatly increased by the war. Even the loss to the country in man-power, when measured by its economic value, is negligible. From the beginning of the war our production in all lines continued to increase, and yet we were unable to keep pace with foreign demand for our products at our own prices. When we entered the war there was more money in this country than ever before, and it was better distributed. Hence, when we entered the war, we were financially able not only to finance our own government, but also to aid largely in financing our allies. Though the amounts required were stupendous, we were able to meet every call because by far the major part of the money raised was immediately spent among our own people, presenting the anomalous condition of spending money and having it, too. This has produced an inflation of the currency and the resultant increase in the cost of the necessaries of life. This increase in the cost of living is extremely oppressive to persons of small fixed incomes. But there is no substance in the complaints' of others of the high cost of living because they are all making others pay what they spend. The cost of living is high, but at the same time there is no limit to extravagance except the high blue sky. The duration of our present prosperity cannot be foretold; but it looks as if, with domestic tranquility, it ought to last a long time. In the prosecution of the war there was an enormous waste of public funds.
When we consider the nature and extent of the undertaking, the uncertainty as to the duration of the war, and our total unpreparedness to engage in war, we are compelled to admit that this waste could not have been avoided without delaying our preparations. While we were sending our men into battle, money was of little consideration, and now, after the war has been won, few are interested in congressional inquests over spent money. The people, however, are profoundly concerned about the gross and indefensible waste of the public funds that is now going on in every department of the Federal Government, and they are looking to both the executive and legislative branches of the Governwent to stop this waste now. If the President had the power to veto items in appropriation bills this would prevent much legislative waste. On the other hand, if the budget system was adopted, that would limit executive extravagance; provided the budgets were prepared by experts who had no part in the expenditure of the money. It would be fatuous to expect any government to be conducted on economic principles, but the people have a right to demand that the law.ess, indefensible, unpardonable waste of their money that is now going on should be stopped to the end that the weight of taxation they are bearing may be promptly lightened.
A subject which has occupied the thoughts of our people for a long time is the prohibition amendment, the effect of which will be so acutely felt in a very short time. One of the outstanding characteristics of real Americans is their regard for the laws of the land. While many right-thinking people opposed the adoption of this amendment, now that it has been adopted, it will be found that the mass of Americans will obey and encourage the enforcement of the prohibition. The amendment will be violated and its strict enforcement will be difficult and the occasion of some disorder and violence, especially in the large centres of population. This is to be expected because the fixed habits of men cannot be changed as a garment, and alcohol can be secretly, cheaply, quickly and easily produced. Discussion of the policy of the amendment at this time is useless and pernicious. The same may be said of the discussion of what is the meaning of the word "intoxicating," but that this discussion should have arisen is not remarkable in view of the divergent opinions of real experts as to when a person is intoxicated. Certain it is that the meaning of the word was not changed by its use in the amendment nor can it now be changed by executive order, legislative enactment or judicial interpretation; though the Congress, and possibly the State Legislatures may, if necessary to the enforce