Overspeeding

By Mark Twain
Harper's Weekly (Nov. 4, 1905): 1906.


Dublin, N. H., October 18, 1905.

To the Editor of Harper's Weekly:

Sir, -- Equal laws for all. It is good in theory, and I believe it would prove good in practice, if fairly and dispassionately tried. The law dresses a convict in a garb which makes him easily distinguishable from any moving thing in the world at a hundred and twenty-five yards, except a zebra. If he escapes in those clothes, he cannot get far. Could not this principle be extended to include his brother criminal the Overspeeder, thus making the pair fairly and righteously equal before the law? Every day, throughout America, the Overspeeder runs over somebody and "escapes." That is the way it reads. At present the 'mobile numbers are so small that ordinary eyes cannot read them, upon a swiftly receding machine, at a distance of a hundred feet -- a distance which the machine has covered before the spectator can adjust his focus. I think I would amend the law. I would enlarge the figures, and make them readable at a hundred yards. For overspending -- first offense -- I would enlarge the figures again, and make them readable at three hundred yards -- this in place of a fine, and as a warning to pedestrians to climb a tree. This enlargement to continue two months, with privilege of resuming the smaller figures after the first thirty days upon payment of $500. For each subsequent offense, reenlargement for six months, with privilege of resuming the smaller figures upon payment of $1000 at the end of three. With auto numbers readable as far as one could tell a convict from a barber-pole none of these criminals could run over a person and "escape."

Two months ago a touring 'mobile came within an indeterminable fraction of killing a member of my family: and its number was out of sight-range before the sharpest eyes present could make it out, it was so small and the spectators so dazed by momentary fright. I have had two narrow escapes in New York, and so has everybody else. None of us has succeeded in capturing the auto number. I feel a sort of personal interest in this suggested reform.

I am, sir, M. T.








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