Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: The Free Company
Show: His Honor, The Mayor
Date: Apr 06 1941

Series: The Free Company

Show: His Honor, the Mayor

Date: Apr 06 1941

ANNOUNCER:

The Columbia Broadcasting System presents ... "The Free Company."

MUSIC (theme)

BOYD:

"For what avail, the plow or sail, Or land or life, if freedom fail?"

MUSIC (up)

BOYD:

This is James Boyd, chairman of "The Free Company," speaking from New York.

Today "The Free Company" presents Orson Welles in his own play, "His Honor, the Mayor."

The Free Company is a group of writers, actors, and radio workers who have come together voluntarily to present a series of plays about our basic liberties. We are unpaid, unsponsored, and uncontrolled. Just a group of Americans saying what we believe about this country and about freedom. Trying to say it by means of plays, just as the Bible parables or the anecdotes that Lincoln used to tell illustrate other truths by means of stories.

Some of our plays deal with the whole subject of freedom, others with the different basic civil rights on which that freedom rests. Today the theme is that anceient and fundamental democratic right, which will become clear to you as you listen to the play.

This week's author is Orson Welles and the cast is recruited from his own Mercury Theatre. Most appear prominently in Mr. Welles' forthcoming motion picture, "Citizen Kane," and are now to be seen on Broadway in the Mercury's new success, "Native Son."

We present -- "His Honor, the Mayor."

WELLES:

This story happened in a small town near the Mexican border. We'll call it Benton, because I never heard of any town by that name. Our hero, who's the mayor of the town, we'll call Knaggs -- Bill Knaggs -- because I don't know anybody called Bill Knaggs. Right here I want to say that this broadcast isn't intended to be uplifting or inspirational; it hasn't any moral at the end of it, or any message. You can draw your own conclusions and I hope you do. I'd like to know what you think of Mayor Knaggs' problem, and if you think he solved it the right way. Maybe you'll say he didn't solve it at all. That's possible. Believe me, I'm not campaigning for Knaggs' re-election. He's a friend of mine, but I don't want to get mixed up in municipal politics, particularly in a town that's almost two thousand miles away from my own. I'm just going to tell you what happened.

MRS. KNAGGS:

Bill-- Bill-- Time to get up!

KNAGGS:

(groans)

MRS. KNAGGS:

I'm not going to tell you again.

KNAGGS:

Lemme sleep another half hour.

MRS. KNAGGS:

No, sir.

KNAGGS:

Just one little half hour more.

MRS. KNAGGS:

I know why you don't want to get up today. (Slight pause.) Hear me, Bill?

KNAGGS:

(groans)

MRS. KNAGGS:

It's always the same. When you're in trouble and don't want to face it, you try to stay in bed.

KNAGGS:

If I have troubles I stay awake. When I finally do drop off, I like to take advantage of it. I don't know why you always assume that my motives are mean and petty and niggling.

MRS. KNAGGS:

What does "niggling" mean?

KNAGGS:

Picayune.

MRS. KNAGGS:

What does that mean?

KNAGGS:

Niggling. (Musing.) Niggling--picayune. Picayune, niggling. (He laughs.) Doesn't sound like English.

MRS. KNAGGS:

Are you awake now?

WELLES:

The Knaggs are a good couple, and although neither of them believes it, each has a better opinion of the other than is usual in marriages as old as theirs. They have better reasons than most, maybe. Anyway, they think they have, which is the best reason of all.

Mrs. Knaggs looks a little older than she ought to because her life hasn't been easy. But she wears the smartest clothes she can afford, which isn't true of most of the other ladies in town; doesn't especially enhance her popularity. Her husband, the mayor, looks younger than his years and his job, not because he doesn't work as hard as anybody in the state; his features just never grew up with the rest of him, and he stands very straight.

KNAGGS:

This morning I want flap-jacks.--Hey, Mary!

MRS. KNAGGS:

(off) Yes, Bill.

KNAGGS:

I don't care how fat I get! Today I want flap-jacks and maple syrup.

MRS. KNAGGS:

Today you shall have them.

KNAGGS:

Thanks!

WELLES:

Take my word for it, when resposibilities get to be almost unendurable, a man on a diet takes to his sugars and starches as an addict retreats to his opium-pipe, or a drunkard to his bottle. On this particular day, Mayor Knaggs ate three helpings of Mrs. Knaggs' flap-jacks, two nut-bars before a lunch which included potatoes, among other forbidden fruits like bread and butter, and custard pie.

I won't reveal the full catalogue of what His Honor consumed during the course of that day, but by the time he got to bed -- claiming to Mrs. Knaggs that he'd lost ten years of his life -- she says he'd gained at least five pounds.

SOUND:

(Car draws up and stops.)

JERRY SIMMONS:

Mornin', Bill!

KNAGGS:

'Lo, Jerry!

JERRY:

What'll it be?

KNAGGS:

Fill her up.

JERRY:

Okay, Bill.

SOUND:

(the measured "bing-bing" of the gas dispenser)

JERRY:

What you aimin' to do about the meetin' tonight, Bill -- the White Crusaders' rally?

KNAGGS:

Don't know yet.

JERRY:

Hadn't you oughta make up your mind, Bill?

KNAGGS:

Reckon so. What do you think about it, Jerry?

JERRY:

Well, there's conditions in this town's got to be changed. You know that, Bill.

KNAGGS:

Reckon so -- which conditions?

JERRY:

These here Reds ...

KNAGGS:

You mean Communists?

JERRY:

Yeah.

KNAGGS:

We only got one Communist in town, Jerry. Joe Enochan, and he can't hurt anybody -- he's eighty-seven years old. Besides, there's nothin' illegal about bein' a Communist.

JERRY:

That's what you say, Bill.

KNAGGS:

That's what I say. There's no law in this country against havin' opinions.

JERRY:

What about them labor organizers that come into town? They're Reds, ain't they?

KNAGGS:

I don't think so. They're just tryin' to get the hands over at the factory to form a union.

JERRY:

Yeah -- unions!

KNAGGS:

If the hands get paid more for their work, they're going to spend more. Maybe buy some new tires for their cars from you. Maybe buy some new cars. Wouldja object to that?

JERRY:

Unions is what's wreckin' the country--

KNAGGS:

Check my oil.

JERRY:

(fading slightly. Footsteps) Holdin' up defense!

KNAGGS:

Heap o' money in them big defense orders. Don't you guess part of it belongs to labor?

JERRY:

Your oil's all right.

KNAGGS:

Who you mad at, Jerry? (He laughs.) Bet you don't know -- hey, Jerry?

JERRY:

(off) Yeah?

KNAGGS:

You goin' to that meetin' tonight?

JERRY:

Sure am.

KNAGGS:

(slight pause) I'll see you there.

SOUND:

(Car starts up.)

MUSIC

WELLES:

On his way to work, Mayor Knaggs always looks in at Carter's, after he's been to Jerry's Garage. It's right next to the City Hall. Carter's Drugs and Stationery.

KNAGGS:

Mornin', Mrs. Carter!

MRS. CARTER:

Mornin', Mr. Knaggs! Here's yer papers. My -- can't see how you ever get around to readin' all them papers, Mr. Knaggs.

KNAGGS:

I get 'em for my conscience.

MRS. CARTER:

Your conscience?

KNAGGS:

I just take 'em all up and put 'em on my desk, so's I can look at the words on the mast-heads durin' the couse of the day. All them big words like Dallas and Houston and Denver and Chicago and Seattle and New York. Makes me think I keep up with the world. 'Course, I don't.

MRS. CARTER:

Mr. Knaggs--

KNAGGS:

Mm -- mm?

MRS. CARTER:

What you goin' to do about that Crusader's rally?

KNAGGS:

Mrs. Carter, what should I do?

MRS. CARTER:

You oughtn't to let 'em hold it. It's going to make trouble. Them White Crusaders hanged a Mexican in effigy last week.

KNAGGS:

With a sign on him that said, "I tried to vote."

MRS. CARTER:

No tellin' what they'll do after this meetin'. They may get after some real live Mexicans. You can't tell, Mr. Knaggs. You know what the boys is like when they get excited.

KNAGGS:

Yes, I know.

MRS. CARTER:

'Course, ever'body agrees we mustn't let them Mexicans get the vote, but still--

KNAGGS:

Why not?

MRS. CARTER:

Why not what?

KNAGGS:

Why shouldn't the Mexicans vote same as we do?

MRS. CARTER:

Oh, Mr. Knaggs, you know, just as well as I do.

KNAGGS:

Like to hear your reasons.

MRS. CARTER:

There're so many of them. Why, if we let the Mexicans vote, they'd run the whole town.

KNAGGS:

Mrs. Carter, didn't folks ever tell you 'bout all that federal money I throw away on the Mexicans for their schools, and what not? Naturally I want the poll tax abolished so they'll vote for me.

MRS. CARTER:

Mr. Knaggs, you're jokin'!

KNAGGS:

Haven't you heard that if the Mexicans could afford to vote, they'd make me a dictator?

MRS. CARTER:

You'd be a wonderful president. I'd like to see you in the White House, Mr. Knaggs, I really would -- but not if we gotta get rid of the poll tax to do it.

KNAGGS:

'Couse, I'm biased., Mrs. Carter, but haven't you ever heard this is a government of the people, by the people, and for the perople?

MRS. CARTER:

Sure thing, Mr. Knaggs -- American people -- them Mexicans don't even speak English.

KNAGGS:

We don't give 'em much reason to learn it. (Sound of coin on counter) I got to go to work.

MRS. CARTER:

What's that for, Mr. Knaggs?

KNAGGS:

Gimme a candy bar -- with nuts in it.

WELLES:

Pearl Huylers is passionately in love with Mayor Knaggs. She is his secretary.

PEARL:

Good morning, Your Honor!

KNAGGS:

Mornin', Pearl -- Colonel Egenhorn!

EGENHORN:

Mr. Mayor.

KNAGGS:

Well--?

EGENHORN:

Just for a moment, may I have your private ear?

KNAGGS:

Come on into the office.

PEARL:

Your Honor--

KNAGGS:

Yes?

PEARL:

Lou Rudnick, over the Sentinel's been trying to get you. He says it can't wait.

KNAGGS:

Put him on.

PEARL:

Yes, Your Honor. It's about the White Crusaders. He wants to know if you're going to let that meeting go on tonight. He wants a statement for the paper.

KNAGGS:

Get him on the 'phone.

PEARL:

Yes, Your Honor!

KNAGGS:

And don't call me "Your Honor."

SOUND:

(door closes)

EGENHORN:

I'll get right to the point.

KNAGGS:

Thanks.

EGENHORN:

The White Crusaders, Mr. Mayor -- you may not realize it, but I have considerable interest in that organization.

KNAGGS:

I know all about you, Colonel Egenhorn.

EGENHORN:

Do you indeed?

KNAGGS:

Yes, I do indeed.

EGENHORN:

What do you know about me, Knaggs?

KNAGGS:

Well, I don't know how old you are, or where you were born. You made a million dollars on patent medicines before you moved into the county and built that big ranch. I know that, and from there on, I really know about you. You're supposed to be retired, but you keep pretty busy, Colonel. You bought up the old Dayton print shop, for instance, and you turn out a lot of stuff from there. Bet you write most of it.

EGENHORN:

I write it all, Mr. Mayor. Do you mind?

KNAGGS:

Yes, I mind. I don't like that literchure of yours goin' out all over the country with my town's postmark on it.

EGENHORN:

Your town?

KNAGGS:

I'm a citizen. Benton's my town. I work hard for it, and I don't like it to be a return address for all that anti-Semitic garbage.

EGENHORN:

That's a loose term, Mr. Mayor.

KNAGGS:

What's a loose term, "garbage"? I agree with you.

EGENHORN:

No, "anti-Semitism"! The international Jew--

SOUND:

(door opens)

PEARL:

Mr. Rudnick on the 'phone, Your Honor!

KNAGGS:

(Sound: 'phone off hook) Lou? -- Yes. -- Yes, Lou. I know what it means. Fascism's just one word for it. A loose term-- Nothing! -- Lou, you can print it in your paper, that I can't stop it. -- I said I can't stop it -- I know about refusin' and revokin' licenses -- just say I can't stop the meetin' -- Lou -- (Sound: receiver being jiggled.) Lou--

EGENHORN:

Hung up on you, didn't he? (Sound of receiver on hook.) -- Hung right up!

KNAGGS:

Yes --

EGENHORN:

Glad to see you taking that stand, Mr. Mayor ... I don't forget any favors.

KNAGGS:

Don't thank me.

EGENHORN:

I'll do more than thank you. By the way, here's a copy of The White Crusader -- a little monthly publication of ours. Read it, Mr. Mayor. -- Keep an open mind -- I think you're big enough to admit your mistakes. As for the Crusade itself -- our ranks are always open to men of your mettle --

KNAGGS:

And color?

EGENHORN:

Naturally.

KNAGGS:

How about my religion?

EGENHORN:

You're a Christian.

KNAGGS:

Maybe you forgot, Colonel -- I'm a Catholic.

EGENHORN:

(slight pause) I had forgotten-- Well, Mr. Knaggs, we always manage to make exceptions.

KNAGGS:

That's very nice of you, Colonel, but as far as I'm concerned, you can--

WELLES:

For broadcasting purposes, I have to censor the rest of Mr. Knaggs' remarks. Enough to say that these remarks were unanswerable and that Colonel Egenhorn left the Mayor's office very red in the face and in quite a hurry.

The Mayor spent the rest of the morning receiving committees and talking on the telephone. The subject was always the White Crusaders' rally. The first committee came from Benton College and was headed by Knaggs' old friend, Noble Cornflower, the president. The second was semi-officially from the Chamber of Commerce, and the third was sent by the American Legion. Everybody telephoned. Nobody wanted the Crusaders to hold their meeting.

KNAGGS:

-- Yes, Dr. Evers -- I know what they stand for -- I know-- Well, we'll see-- I said, we'll see! Thanks for calling.

SOUND:

(receiver hung up)

PEARL:

Mrs. Dewey on the other line, Your Honor.

KNAGGS:

I talked to her before.

PEARL:

She's calling again.

KNAGGS:

I've talked to everybody in town .... Do I have to talk to them all twice? (He laughs)

PEARL:

What's funny, Your Honor?

KNAGGS:

I was thinkin' -- that can't be a very big meeting tonight -- everybody's objectin' to it! There ain't nobody left to attend!

PEARL:

Your Honor--

KNAGGS:

I know -- Mrs. Dewey. And don't call me "Your Honor." Tell her I'm out to lunch -- and that's where I am, darn it -- out to lunch!

WELLES:

Father Hatton and Mayor Knaggs went to school together when they were kids. Now Father Hatton hears Mayor Knaggs at confession -- every so often. They meet for lunch all the time. There was some coolness between them during the Mayor's gambling reform a couple of months back when a fanatic, or at least tactless, member of the police -- under orders to clean up every game in town -- embarrassed one of the church's bingo socials. Nothing serious, though, and never any real difference of opinion.

HATTON:

Bill, I don't agree with you--

KNAGGS:

More coffee, Father?

HATTON:

Thanks.

KNAGGS:

I wish you did.

HATTON:

It isn't just that these White Crusaders oppose the Church. -- They're lined up by their own admission against everything anybody could possibly mean by Christianity.

KNAGGS:

I know. I know.

HATTON:

Worse than that, they've recruited every convenient branch of intolerance. -- They're anti-labor, anti-Semitic--

KNAGGS:

Anti-everything but themselves. Yeah, there's a dozen more more little clubs here and there like the White Crusaders. All those nuts are the same.

HATTON:

"Those nuts!" Bill, that's what they said in Germany! -- about the Nazis a while ago, when Adolph Hitler was still on a soap-box. "Those nuts." -- Nobody thought "those nuts" could do any harm.

KNAGGS:

Germany was a young democracy. Don't forget it. Her republic was only a few years old and and it lacked experience. We're the oldest democracy on the planet. We know our way around. Gosh, I got too much faith in America to think Colonel Egenhorn, or any reasonable facsimile, could march in and start givin' us orders. Look at the way our folks are risin' up against this White Crusader business, right here in town!

HATTON:

Listen, Bill--

KNAGGS:

Folks just won't stand for it!

HATTON:

They won't if they can help it. People are decent and good at heart. They won't listen to lies unless you make them.

KNAGGS:

I'm not makin' 'em! Excuse me for shoutin' -- losin' respect for cloth, Father--

HATTON:

Forget my cloth, Bill--

KNAGGS:

Well, darn it all, I'm not makin' anybody listen to lies! I'm just upholdin' the Bill of Rights--

HATTON:

Why do you think they're having this meeting?

KNAGGS:

What?

HATTON:

You heard me.

KNAGGS:

Yes, I heard you.

HATTON:

Let me tell you what you know. Benton has a factory that makes auto parts and ships 'em up east. Who owns the factory? Nobody in Benton. Who works in it?

KNAGGS:

Everybody in Benton that'll take the wages.

HATTON:

That's the whole point! -- Now, I don't care about unions, Bill, they're not my concern. But last a week a couple of organizers were beaten up in my parish. One of them takes communion in my church. I don't want that to happen again. And it's going to happen just as long as the White Crusaders get their way-- I warned you, I was going to tell you what you know. (Slight pause.) Well, here's something maybe you don't know. I've heard that some of my parishioners, and a whole lot of our citizens, are planning to visit that meeting tonight -- that is, if you allow it to be held.

KNAGGS:

What?

HATTON:

Don't keep saying "What?" -- You hear me perfectly well.

KNAGGS:

How do you know?

HATTON:

Sometimes a priest knows more about the world than you might think.

KNAGGS:

Yeah, -- sometimes he knows more about a town than the mayor himself.

HATTON:

Well?

KNAGGS:

Well?

HATTON:

I don't want you to have to call out deputies, Bill -- or ask the governor for help. What I'd really hate would be for you to stop the right people from doing the wrong thing. (Pause. Then almost angrily.) Do you understand me?

KNAGGS:

(very quietly) I understand you. (Pause.) Waiter!

WAITER (fading in) Yes, Mr. Mayor?

KNAGGS:

Get me another piece of pie.

WELLES:

Mayor Knaggs is just about as stubborn as they come. You may have guessed that Father Hatton didn't convince him. But he worried him sorely, because Mayor Knaggs could see that everything the priest told him was true.

KNAGGS:

Sure it's true! And so's the Bill of Rights!

PEARL:

What's that, Your Honor?

KNAGGS:

The Bill of Rights!

PEARL:

I didn't understand you.

KNAGGS:

You know what the Bill of Rights is, Pearl. (Phone rings.) Answer the telephone.

PEARL:

No, I don't, Your Honor.

KNAGGS:

Go to the public library and look it up.

PEARL:

All-righty. Shall I make a transcript (Phone rings.) and bring it back to you?

KNAGGS:

(bellowing) Memorize it! Learn it by heart! And then go to the corner of Main Street and Central and recite it! [Phone rings

PEARL:

That's a scream!

KNAGGS:

Go on! Go out and find me ten citizens like you that never heard of the Bill of Rights! (Phone rings.) Find as many as you can! Bring 'em back here and I'll recite it!

PEARL:

You mean I get the afternoon off, Your Honor? [Phone rings.

KNAGGS:

If you get out of here quick enough!

PEARL:

(fading) Gee, thanks. You'd better answer (Phone rings.) the telephone.

SOUND:

(receiver being taken off the hook)

KNAGGS:

Hello -- and don't call me "Your Honor"! -- No, not you, Mrs. Dewey! -- (Start slow board fade -- another phone rings) -- Just a second, please. (Sounds of receiver off hook.) Hello? -- Just a minute. (Third phone rings.) Hold on a minute, please!

WELLES:

Three more calls came in from Mr. Dewey before the afternoon was over. But, now, most of the calls weren't complaints -- most of them were threats. Some political, some social, -- a lot of them the kind of threats Father Hatton was afraid of. These were all anonymous. By supper-time, Bill Knaggs had listened to enough of them to know that things were serious. For the sake of the record, I must tell you that Pearl went to the public library -- after treating herself to a malted at Carter's -- and looked up the Bill of Rights. She didn't learn it, of course; but she read it all through, including the place where it says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

SOUND:

(KNAGGS' automobile. Then another, obviously a Ford V-8. KNAGGS' car slows down)

KNAGGS:

Hey! Joe Enochan!

SOUND:

(the Ford hiccoughs to a halt)

JOE:

What do you want?

KNAGGS:

I want your advice.

JOE:

You won't take it.

KNAGGS:

Maybe I will. You never agree with anybody, Joe. This time I don't either. What about the White Crusaders?

JOE:

Don't let 'em congregate! Goodbye.

SOUND:

(Ford starts up)

KNAGGS:

Hey! Joe Enochan!

SOUND:

(Ford stops)

JOE:

What is it now?

KNAGGS:

You know, I thought you were the one man in town might agree with me.

JOE:

I don't agree with you.

KNAGGS:

Joe, I can't start interferin' with the people's right to assemble.

JOE:

They ain't people. They're Fascists! Everybody else wants you to interfere, don't they?

KNAGGS:

Yes, they do.

JOE:

There's the people for you: Everybody else! Ever hear of the will of the people?

KNAGGS:

Ever hear of the Bill of Rights?

JOE:

Where'd the Bill of Rights come from? The will of the people! Where'd the Constitution come from? It didn't come down from Mt. Sinai, Bub -- God didn't write it! Listen, "This country with its institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.

KNAGGS:

Naturally you'd advocate overthrowin' the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Joe. You're the town Communist.

JOE:

I didn't say that. Abe Lincoln said it. And I don't advocate overthrowin' it any more'n he did. I just believe in the will of the people. So did he. So should you. Don't set yourself up against the will of the people, Knaggs. You're their servant, they pay you to serve! Besides, I ain't a Communist. I'm an Anarchist.

SOUND:

(Ford starts up -- then fades)

MRS. KNAGGS:

Sit right down, Bill. Don't wash up unless you want to. There's creamed chicken and baked potatoes and hot bread.

KNAGGS:

Mary, have you seen today's Sentinel--

MRS. KNAGGS:

And chocolate cake for dessert.

KNAGGS:

It says I'm going to lose my job--

MRS. KNAGGS:

And I sent out for some ice cream.

KNAGGS:

If I don't stop that meeting, I guess I will.

MRS. KNAGGS:

What do you want me to say, Bill?

KNAGGS:

If I don't keep my job, I'll never grow up to be Abraham Lincoln like you want me to be.

MRS. KNAGGS:

What do you want me to say?

KNAGGS:

I want you to tell me what to do.

MRS. KNAGGS:

You never asked me that before.

KNAGGS:

Well?

MRS. KNAGGS:

You'll never grow up to be Abraham Lincoln -- like I want you to be -- if you do something just to keep your job.

KNAGGS:

I'm never going to be Abraham Lincoln, honey -- But I promise you it won't be because of that.

WELLES:

The White Crusaders' rally was scheduled for nine o'clock at Nicky's Dance Hall. Mary and Bill Knaggs arrive at eight-thirty.

SOUND:

(car coming to a stop. Low murmur of crowd)

SAM:

Mr. Knaggs, the sheriff's been trying to get you. You didn't answer your phone.

KNAGGS:

I know I didn't. What's he want, Sam?

SAM:

He wants to swear in some deputies.

SOUND:

(car door opening)

KNAGGS:

Tell him to sit tight.

SOUND:

(car door closing and footsteps on gravel)

SAM:

(frightened) Where you going?

KNAGGS:

To the meetin'.

SAM:

In there?

KNAGGS:

My own meetin' ... Right now, I'm goin' to greet my friends.

SAM:

The Crusaders?

KNAGGS:

No, the ones that ain't.

MRS. KNAGGS:

"Aren't."

KNAGGS:

The ones that aren't. Sam, you stay by the car here and watch out for Mrs. Knaggs.

WELLES:

As I told you, this story hasn't any moral or any message of mine tied to it. It's about morals and messages though, and I was serious when I said I hoped you draw your own conclusions. I don't insist that Mayor Knaggs did the right thing. I do believe the subject is worth conversation and I'd like to hear your opinion of how he solved his problem. Also, I admitted earlier that he mightn't have solved it all.

By nine o'clock the White Crusaders had gathered. A lot of members may have been too scared to come, because there wasn't much of a crowd inside the hall-- The crowd was outside.

VOICE:

Get away from that door, Knaggs!

VOICE:

If you don't break up that meetin', Knaggs, we will!

VOICE:

Let us at them dirty--

WELLES:

Half the town was there at least. Central Street which runs past the dance hall was jammed so you couldn't move.

VOICE:

Go on, Knaggs, get away!

KNAGGS:

Why?

VOICE:

We're goin' in!

KNAGGS:

You belong to the White Crusaders, Charlie?

A short silence, then low laughter from the back of the crowd.

KNAGGS:

There's nothin' to see in there. Just a couple dozen anonymous citizens in fancy dress and there's nothin' to hear. You know what they're talkin' about?

VOICE:

We know!

KNAGGS:

So do I! They're talkin' about scarin' the Mexicans to keep 'em from votin' for me!

[More muffled laughter.

KNAGGS:

They're talkin' about keepin' unions out of the factory so's the town doesn't get any more of that money from up north. Maybe that's all right, but here's somethin' that ain't. They're talkin' about hatin' the Jews. We only got one Jewish family in the county -- the Mankiewiczes -- Anybody hate the Mankiewiczes?

Silence.

KNAGGS:

Anybody want to join the White Crusaders?

Silence.

KNAGGS:

No. We got a better club out here. Not so exclusive but more fun. We're the Loyal Order of Fellow-men. We're supposed to love each other -- remember? The rules out here are easier to follow, and we didn't make 'em.

VOICE:

(from the back of the crowd) Aw, shut up, Bill, we're gonna--

KNAGGS:

(sharply) What's that? You, back there? Can't see you! What's your name? You got the floor!

Murmurs.

KNAGGS:

No further remarks? All right, the chair'll resume.

VOICE:

Why don't you break up that meetin'?

KNAGGS:

Because I'm holdin' one of my own!

Laughter and applause.

KNAGSS:

Friends-- (Applause subsides) Friends, you all know perfectly well I'm demagogue-in' you. Sure I'm demagogue-in' you same as Colonel Egenhorn in there's demagogue-in' the Crusaders. Only I ain't fomentin' and incitin' to riot! Just the reverse!

KNAGGS:

I ain't kiddin' you. You know I'm filibusterin' until that gang breaks up. I don't like what's goin' on in there any more'n you do. Believe me, I like it less than most of you! You say this is a free country, and you got a right to stop a meetin' if you want to. I say, it's a free country and anybody can hold a meetin'! You say, who's the Mayor to stand up against the whole town?
I say, who's the town to stand up against the mayor it elected?
As long as I'm in office, the laws are going to be obeyed. That's what I'm paid for. If you don't like me, elect somebody else! If you don't like the laws, change 'em!
But don't start forbiddin' anybody the right to assemble. Democracy's a rare and precious thing and once you start that -- you've finished democarcy! Democracy guarantees freedom of assembly unconditionally to the worst lice that want it. If they don't get it, they'll go underground so's we can't see 'em. Let 'em thumb their noses at the Stars and Stripes, just so long as they don't touch it. Let 'em jeer at everything we're willing to die for. That's anybody's right -- the right to jeer -- the right to be what's called nowadays "un-American." Like this White Crusaders rally -- that's "un-American" all right. But listen, if we break up that meetin', we're "un-American" -- for keeps! A lot of you work in the factory and you want a union. How would you like it if I didn't let you hold a strike meeting?
All of you've read the history books. You know what the right to assemble and worship God meant to most of those folks that first came here, the ones that couldn't pray the way they wanted to in the old country? -- Are you convinced?

(Silence)

 

KNAGGS:

Maybe so, maybe no. Anyway, you're not going to break the law, are you? All right, neither's the White Crusaders! Let 'em raise a hand against a livin' soul, -- and by glory, -- I promise you -- the law's got 'em. Hello, Colonel Egenhorn!

(Murmurs.)

 

KNAGGS:

Folks, the rally's over! You and your dirty shirts goin' home, Colonel?

(Laughs)

 

EGENHORN:

I demand a police escort.

KNAGGS:

I don't guess you'll need it, Colonel.

EGENHORN:

Well, I think I do.--

KNAGGS:

I'm going to take a chance on it. Good-night, Colonel. Folks -- the Colonel and his boys are askin' for trouble. Let's not give it to 'em.

WELLES:

The crowd gave way and let the Crusaders go home. They went meekly. There wasn't an illegal move.

(Laughter.)

 

KNAGGS:

Thanks, everybody. If you don't like what I've done, please wait 'til Election Day-- The meetin's adjourned.

WELLES:

Then the crowd broke up and Mayor Knaggs went back to where his wife was waiting for him in the car and they drove home together.

(Pause -- then -- music.)

 

BOYD:

Like his honor, the Mayor, then, let us stand fast by the right of lawful assembly. Let us say with that great fighter for freedom, Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Thus one of our ancient, hard-won liberties will be made secure and we, differing though we may at times among ourselves, will stand together on a principle to make sure that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

WELLES:

This is Orson Welles. I just want to tell you who was in today's cast. Of course, they're Mercury people. Mayor Knaggs was played by Ray Collins; Mrs. Knaggs was Agnes Moorhead; Paul Stewart played Father Hatton; Erskine Sanford was Colonel Egenhorn, and Everett Sloane was Jerry and also Joe Enochan. All these ladies and gentlemen of the Mercury are featured in "Citizen Kane," and "Native Son." The rest of the cast is equally distinguished. Betty Garde, an old friend of ours, was Mrs. Carter; Alic Frost, another Mercury girl from way back, was Pearl; and Richard Wilson was Sam. This is our cast which remains, with your producer -- as always -- obediently yours.