The increasing wealth of Puritanism has not only augmented its scope and audacity, but it has also had the effect of attracting clever men, of no particular spiritual enthusiasm, to its service. Moral endeavor, in other words, had become a recognized trade, or rather a profession, and there have appeared men who pretend to an expert and enormous knowledge of it, and who show enough truth in their pretension to gain the unlimited support of Puritan capitalists. The vice crusade, to mention but one example, has produced a large crop of such experts, and some of them are in such demand that they are overwhelmed with engagements. The majority of these men come from the social settlements and freshwater colleges, with a sprinkling of unsuccessful physicians and second-rate lawyers to lighten the mass, and they seldom show the slightest flavor of sacerdotalism. They are not pastors, not even lay preachers, but detectives, press agents, statisticians and mob orators, and not infrequently their secularity is distressingly evident. Their aim, as they say, is to do things.

Their success is measured by the turmoil they can stir up and the number of scalps they can take. And so, with moral sentiment behind them, they override all criticism and opposition without argument, and proceed to the business of dispersing prostitutes, of browbeating and terrorizing weak officials, and of forcing extravagant legislation through city councils and State legislatures.

--- From Mencken's America
©2004 Ohio University Press

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