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Professor Chafee's article on the Narragansett Park flare-up contains an enlightening discussion of the legal issues involved. These points of law are interesting indeed, but, as pointed out in the article, they hardly attract public attention as do the dramatic issues. All over New England people are watching the Rhode Island drama with nothing short of amazement, and the reason they are amazed is that they are witnessing the breakdown of law and order.
Libel suits involving public officials and prominent persons are almost certain to create a stir. But there is more than mere slander in the Narragansett fracas. The fight between two unscrupulous persons, one, a hot-headed politician, and the other, a person who, many believe, is trying to buy his way into politics, is bound to be no ordinary fray. Each man has demanded the removal of the other, with aspersions on character and integrity freely cast. Each man has defied the other, and each has taken up the other's dare. The courts have reversed the decision of the racing commission, but this made no difference, since neither of the two men were at all inclined to pay any attention to the courts' decisions. And finally there came the entirely unwarranted declaration of martial law, with all its ugly odor of disrespect for the rights of private citizens, justification for which was ludicrously attempted by the governor when he said a "state of insurrection" existed.
The battle goes on. Whatever be the decisions of the various courts which try the many cases involved, the damage will have been already done. For it is an invitation to anarchy to allow people to see disregard of law go unpunished.
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