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The San Francisco Daily Morning Call, September 6, 1864


Some witless practical joker made a false entry, a few days ago, on a slate kept at the dead-house for the information of the public, concerning dead bodies found, deaths by accident, etc. The Alta, Bulletin, and Flag, administered a deserved rebuke to the Coroner's understrappers, for permitting the entry to remain there, and pass into the newspapers and mislead the public, and for this reason the slate has been removed from the office. Now it is too late in the day for such men as these to presume to deny to the public, information which belongs to them, and which they have a right to demand, merely to gratify a ridiculous spite against two or three reporters. It is a matter of no consequence to reporters whether the slate is kept there or not; but it is a matter of consequence to the public at large, who are the real injured parties when the newspapers are denied the opportunity of conveying it to them. If the Coroner permits his servants to close the door against reporters, many a man may lose a friend in the Bay, or by assassination, or suicide, and never hear of it, or know anything about it; in that case, the public and their servant, the Coroner, are the victims, not the reporter. Coroner Sheldon needs not to be told that he is a public officer; that his doings, and those of his underlings at the coffin-shop, belong to the people; that the public do not recognize his right or theirs to suppress the transactions of his department of the public service; and, finally, that the people will not see the propriety of the affairs of his office being hidden from them, in order that the small-potato malice of his employes against two or three newspaper reporters may be gratified. Those employes have always shown a strong disinclination to tell a reporter anything about their ghastly share in the Coroner's business, and it was easy to see that they longed for some excuse to abolish that slate. Their motive for such conduct did not concern reporters, but it might interest the public and the Coroner if they would explain it. Those official corpse-planters always put on as many airs as if the public and their master, the Coroner, belonged to them, and they had a right to do as they pleased with both. They told us yesterday that their Coronial affairs should henceforth be a sealed book, and they would give us no in formation. As if they - a lot of forty-dollar understrappers - had authority to proclaim that the affairs of a public office like the Coroner's should be kept secret from the people, whose minions they are! If the credit of that office suffers from their impertinence, who is the victim, Mr. Sheldon or the reporters? We cannot suffer greatly, for we never succeeded in getting any in formation out of one of those fellows yet. You see the dead-cart leaving the place, and ask one of them where it is bound, and without looking up from his newspaper, he grunts, lazily, and says, "Stiff," meaning that it is going inquest of the corpse of some poor creature whose earthly troubles are over. You ask one of them a dozen questions calculated to throw more light upon a meagre entry in the slate, and he invariably answers, "Don't know" - as if the grand end and aim of his poor existence was not to know anything, and to come as near accomplishing his mission as his opportunities would permit. They would vote for General Jackson at the "Bodysnatchers' Retreat," but for the misfortune that they "don't know" such a person ever existed. What do you suppose the people would ever know about how their interests were being attended to if the employes in all public offices were such unmitigated ignoramuses as these? One of these fellows said to us yesterday, "We have taken away the slate; we are not going to give you any more information; the reporters have got too sharp - by George, they know more'n we do!" God help the reporter that don't! It is as fervent a prayer as ever welled up from the bottom of our heart. Now, a reporter can start any day, and travel through the whole of the long list of employes in the public offices in this city, and in not a solitary instance will he find any difficulty in getting any information which the public have a right to know, until he arrives at the inquest office of the Coroner. There all knowledge concerning the dead who die in mysterious ways and mysterious places, and who may have friends and relatives near at hand who would give the world and all its wealth for even the poor consolation of knowing their fate, is denied us. Who are the sufferers by this contemptible contumacy - we or the hundred thousand citizens of San Francisco? The responsibility of this state of things rests with the Coroner, and it is only right and just that he should amend it.

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