Copyright
Edward Everett Hale.

We, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day online

. (page 2 of 15)
Online LibraryEdward Everett HaleWe, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day → online text (page 2 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


secret. How do you do it?"

Purkett never smoked, so he did not have to
take his cigar from his mouth. He only
laughed and said, "My secret?"

"Yes, of course," the other men said. But if
it was his secret it was the club's secret. What
was our motto? We had taken it from "The
Three Musketeers." "All for each, each for all."
The club was entitled to the secret and would
have it, if Purkett meant to be treasurer of the
club after this next election.

Purkett did not seem to me to care much for
the office of treasurer. But he laughed again
and said he would just as lief as not tell us the
secret. He made us take out our pencils and
our note-books, to be sure we got it right, and
when he had made a lot of fun with this, he
said, "All ready, go! This is the secret: 'Bet
on the country.' '

[17]



, THE PEOPLE*



I knew Purkett very well, and Purkett always
succeeded. But this was the only rule I ever
heard him lay down about investments.

It is a right good rule for an American in
everything. He must "bet on the country."
First in mere outside matters, coal, oil, wood,
salt, iron, and the other things. A country
where iron lies loose on the ground, all the way
from Alabama to Lake Superior, will be rather
apt in the long run to get the better in the matter
of iron of countries where you have to dig a
kilometre into the ground and dig out the ore
with pickaxes and dynamite. So it is a good
thing to bet on a country where a farmer in
Illinois can dig his coal out of the side of a road-
way on his farm and carry it home in his wheel-
barrow. In that country you do not pay fifteen
dollars a ton for coal many weeks together.

But this was not Purkett's first reason for bet-
ting on the country. He bet on the country, be-
cause in the long run the right man has so good
a chance to do the thing you want done. A man
like Edison makes your electricity for you and
handles it. A man like Roebling builds your
bridge for you. A man like Abraham Lincoln
runs the whole machine for you. And you do
not have to inquire whether his grandfather's
great-grandfather did or did not fight at this or
[18]



AMERICA



that battle of Armageddon, or whether his
grandmother's great-grandmother was or was
not a favorite of King Egbert the Eleventh. It
is as well to bet on the country of which one of
the mottoes is,

"Get the Best."

And there is Sam Patch's motto, which be-
longs to the nation : "Some things can be done as
well as others." I would not bet on a country
where they kept the Custom House business
blanks, or the Law Courts, or the Assembly
Houses, in the language of 1701, because nobody
had dared to change a word in the form. I
want to bet on a country where if a man invents
a telephone to-day, the man in the government
office will use it to-morrow, if it be the best thing
to use. You bet on a country where the "ins"
like to stay in, and where they cannot stay in
long till they learn how to "get there," how to
"get the best," and that "some things can be
done as well as others."

But all this means that you and I keep up the
standard to the very best mark. We must see
that the country has good water, good air, good
wood, good coal, good newspapers, good books,
good women, and good men. And this we shall
not have unless you and I take hold.

[19]



, THE PEOPLE"



FORESTS.

THE protection of forests, not to say the
creation of forests, begins to assert
itself among the national duties of the
United States. It is interesting, in-
deed, to see that the Nation is thus resuming a
duty which it took almost of course in the be-
ginning, but which has been gradually lost sight
of as time went on.

Even in the days of "strict construction,"
when men who called themselves statesmen could
not spend money on the National Road, there
was no scruple whatever about providing and
maintaining forests. The earlier reports of the
Secretaries of the Navy went into detail every
year as to our live-oak forests at the South.
Perhaps some spirited youngster in the Navy
Department may like to see what has become of
them.

It was not until wood was no longer needed
for shipbuilding that the national care of forests
disappeared from the annual reports of the
Navy Department. And what may be called
the inborn hatred of a tree has always asserted
itself in the national life. They say at Andover
that half a century ago one of their young stu-
dents thought to ingratiate himself with his new
[20]



AMERICA

teachers by going out with his axe at daybreak
and cutting down two of the beautiful trees in
their great avenue, before anybody was awake.
The story illustrates what we may call that sort
of inborn hatred of a tree in which traces linger
in the blood of a nation where men are not many
generations off from pioneers. It is like the
inborn hatred of a snake, which lingers still
among some of the daughters of Eve.

But the time has come for the Nation to assert
again, not simply its right to take care of forests,
but the duty of maintaining them. The duty
springs from the necessity. For if the nation,
as a nation, does not take care of its forests, no
one will. In the management of most property,
there is a certain class of people who are called
capitalists, because they wish to preserve the
property for its uses. But, with regard to for-
ests, no such private interest shows itself. If a
man owns a ship, he wants to keep it in good con-
dition as long as he can. And some ships have
lasted a hundred years. But if the same man
buys a forest, he cuts it down, perhaps in the first
year. That is, he makes money by its destruc-
tion and not by its use. Why is there this dif-
ference ?

It springs from a certain natural indifference
or doubt which men have about a distant future.

[21]



"WE, THE PEOPLE'



I can go among business men with a new inven-
tion, or a new discovery, which will be profitable
say two or three years hence in 1904 or 1905 ;
and I can find men who will take stock in my
plan or patent. But if, on the other hand, I
explain that the value of the invention cannot be
developed until 1910, everybody will laugh at
me. Nobody will take one share in my com-
pany. This is so entirely understood that old
business men will tell you squarely that they
never look forward more than six years.

This, in few words, is the reason why in all
civilized communities the preservation of forests
eventually falls into the hands of the govern-
ment, of the people collectively, if the forests
are preserved at all. The states of the conti-
nent of Europe derive large revenues from the
public ownership of forests. The state, as a
state, does not die. The State, as a state, there-
fore, can look forward more than six years. The
State, as a state, can take care of this generation
and the next and the next. So, Frederick the
Great, a hundred years ago, took such care of
the Prussian forests that the taxes are lighter
on the people of Prussia to-day. On the other
hand, the State of Massachusetts a hundred
years ago left its forests to the greed of individ-
uals. The annual product of those forests is
[22]



AMERICA



probably not now worth so much as it was then.
And thus the State of Massachusetts to-day is
hesitating whether it will buy a few acres on the
top of Mt. Tom, while the Kingdom of Prussia
to-day collects millions of dollars from the prod-
ucts of its forests.

The State does not die. Individuals do; but
the State means to be eternal. It is, therefore,
to the advantage of the state to invest in forests,
while no individual man pares to bet even on his
own life, if the bet looks forward more than six
or eight years. It is only occasionally that there
is an exception.

When Watson, known to old-fashioned theo-
logians as the Watson of "The Apology," was
made Bishop, he was very angry with Charles
Fox because he gave him what Watson would
have called the poorest see in England. It was,
alas, the only bishopric Fox could give him.
But Watson was that sort of man that he was
always on the attack, and, finding himself in the
north of Wales, where the savagery of genera-
tions had destroyed all the wood, the young
bishop spent all his spare sixpences and shillings
in planting firs upon ground which seemed
worthless. He outlived the six-year period
which most capitalists make their limit. He
kept on raising his seedling firs and planting

[23]



, THE PEOPLE"



them, and when he died his children found
themselves, to their own surprise, among the rich
men in England, because the trees had grown
even while their father was sleeping. That
was Dugald Dalghetty's phrase, as it had been
embodied in his dying father's counsels.

"Plant trees, Dugald," said the dying man;
"they will grow while you sleep. My father
said so to me when he was dying; but I have
never had time to attend to it." Unfortunately,
Dugald himself never found more time for this
duty than his father had.

But States do not die, or ought not die. States
take that name because they are established.
And any American State which has a statesman
at the head of its finance department will do well
to invest its sinking funds, so called, in forests.
Take the State of Massachusetts, again, for an
instance. It is our excellent plan here when we
contract a loan to begin to pay it at once. If the
loan is for fifty years, one per cent of the amount
is paid in the first year into the sinking fund of
that loan. It is "invested" for the benefit of
that loan. The proceeds of the investment go
into the sinking fund. And when fifty years are
past the sinking fund is more than ready to re-
deem the bonds.

This is an admirable plan. It keeps the credit



AMERICA



of Massachusetts at the very highest point. Still,
it is only a paper plan after all. One can imag-
ine a hundred ways in which it should break
down. A hard-pressed legislature might bor-
row from the sinking fund, as English parlia-
ments have borrowed from their sinking funds
once and again. It is even to be conceived that
the bonds which belong to the sinking fund
might disappear before fifty years are over, if
some irresponsible clerk got hold of a key which
he should not handle. But, on the other hand,
if the Governor had a right to invest this one
per cent annually in forests or in trees, why, at
the end of fifty years, Massachusetts would have
a great landed property which had been im-
proving itself every hour of every day.

Massachusetts could do what no man or
woman could do Massachusetts could make the
proper laws to protect her property and detail
the proper officers to enforce them. If a man
flung away a cigar in a Massachusetts forest, he
could be treated as the King of Saxony would
treat a man who flung away a cigar in the Black
Forest. Saxony received in 1900 a million and
a half dollars, after all expenses of administra-
tion were paid, from her forests. Prussia re-
ceived in the same year from hers nearly ten
million dollars, after a similar amount had been



, THE PEOPLE"



charged to the forests for their development and
care.

And this is no matter of accidental detail.
There are many things which states can do and
individuals cannot. This is the reason why men
found states and especially why they found re-
publics. States can maintain the post office bet-
ter than individuals can, and so of lighthouses;
so of justice between man and man; so of the
coining of money; so of the regulation of com-
merce; so of preserving the public health.

When, therefore, "we, the People of the
United States," made the nation of that name,
our Constitution stated six definite objects which
the Government of the nation may and must
attend to. Besides these, the Constitution au-
thorized the National Government to "provide
for the common defence and the general wel-
fare." Under this clause, sometimes with much
discussion and sometimes with none, the Govern-
ment undertakes other national duties. Such
are the protection of the national health. This
may be called a part of the common defence.
The nation would have been fully justified in
its war with Spain had it been made simply to
keep out yellow fever. Again, the General
Government appropriates money freely for rail-
roads and even for other roads. When it needs,



AMERICA



the General Government builds telegraphs and
maintains them.

Since the States of the Rocky Mountain slopes
were established, the nation has found out that
it must assume as a national duty the business of
irrigation, and with every year Congress legis-
lates in that direction. For precisely the same
reason, it has now assumed the business of main-
taining national forests. The appropriation of
five million dollars for a forest on the water di-
vides of the southern Appalachians will be an
important step in this direction.

It is most important because it shows that we
have statesmen who are alive to one of the most
central of national duties.

FORESTS.

THIS nation ought never to be surprised
when new conditions bring new duties.
It is no fault of the makers of the
Constitution that they did not state in
advance all the details of duty which would de-
mand our attention a century after their time.
Thus, in their time it took Carver the better part
of a year to go from the Atlantic to Lake Mich-
igan; and it took him as long to come back the
next year. Now I can go from New York to

[27]



WE, THE PEOPLE*



Lake Michigan in a day, and it is not queer that
the nation which has to regulate commerce be-
tween New York and Lake Michigan should
have some duties in 1902 which it did not have
in 1789.

Among these duties which belong to the na-
tion, is the duty of preserving or maintaining the
forests of the nation. In a small way, the
National Government undertook this a century
ago. The Navy Department used to have its
preserves of trees for shipbuilding, because it
did not choose that the nation should be depend-
ent on private resources or be the victim of pri-
vate rapacity. And in those days, at the begin-
ning of the last century, the average American
still regarded the forest as his enemy. But now
the forest is no man's enemy. On the other
hand, the world knows only too well that the
destruction of forests has been the signal for the
decline and downfall of empires. In Asia Mi-
nor and in Syria were once the finest regions of
the civilized world. Those regions received
the first blow to their civilization in the wanton
'destruction of their forests.

The United States has turned over a new leaf
in reserving the control of large districts in the
west, so that their forests cannot be cut away
without the permission of the central Govern-

[28]



AMERICA



ment. We are now carrying the same policy
farther in the reservation of a great national
park in the highlands of Tennessee and North
Carolina. The bill providing for this great
park went through the Senate last year by a
handsome majority. We may hope that even in
the stress of the short session it may go through
the House without serious opposition.* In the
highlands, which will thus become national prop-
erty, are the headwaters of the rivers which water
Maryland and Virginia, both Carolinas, Ken-
tucky, Tennessee and the Gulf States south of
them. We now know that for regular water
supply you must retain the forests, which arrest
the moisture of the passing clouds and feed with
it the headwaters of the rivers below.

This is the proper time for all the citizens of
New England and New York to see to it that
their alpine highlands also are taken into the
great National Park system. The alpine regions
of the United States are not extensive. One
could wish they were more extensive than they
are. Some summits in the Carolinas, Mt. Mar-
cy and other high summits of New York, the
White Mountains in New Hampshire, and Mt.
Katahdin in Maine are the only four alpine sys-

*Alas ! It did not. But hopes remain



, THE PEOPLE*



terns on the Atlantic side of the Rocky Moun-
tains.

The care and oversight of the forests in all
of these regions belongs to the National Gov-
ernment. It must not be left to lumber men
or pulp men or mill owners. The water which
flows from these summits is the water of the
Nation; the forests which clothe them at their
bases must be maintained for centuries to come,
and this necessity can be commanded only by
such perpetual and systematic care of the Nation.
We are glad to see public movements in this
direction in the centres of opinion in the States
most interested.

WE, THE PEOPLE: OR WAR LORDS.

A "WAR LORD" on a visit to another
"War Lord" in Europe, has to receive
a regiment at the first moment after he
arrives at his friend's house. It is
just as you think you must have a decanter of
whiskey ready when certain people come to see
you.

But when a leader of men comes to see you,
you do not offer him a glass of whiskey. When
Edison calls on you, or Mitchell, or Howells, or
Bishop Potter, you know your man, and you do

[30]



AMERICA



not offer him a glass of whiskey. King Edward
knew his man. He, therefore, gave him a
chance to review a regiment when he made him
a visit. This is what an old-fashioned king,
who still keeps up the traditions of "War
Lords," has to do when another "War Lord"
comes to see him. Each of them has to dress up
like a soldier and to ride on a horse and to show
each other how well they could do if they went
out to fight. In point of fact, bluff old King
George, the second of that name, as you remem-
ber, is the last of the House of Hanover or
the House of Cobourg who ever smelled gun-
powder in battle.

How do "We the People" entertain our guests
when "We the People" put the "War Lords"
into their fit place and when "We the People"
have a distinguished stranger coming up the
Bay? In the days just after the Civil War, I
had a good deal to do with an accomplished
Russian gentleman who had come up the Bay
on a command from the Czar. They have a
capital institution in the government of Russia
which provides what is known as the Civil Staff
for the Emperor. Just as the gentlemen on his
military staff know about "right shoulder shift,"
and percussion caps, and embalmed beef, the
gentlemen on his Civil Staff have to know about

[30



, THE PEOPLE"



the administration of government. They are
kept in motion all over the world where there is
any good governing done. Now, it happened
that the Emperor of Russia emancipated the
serfs of Russia; it happened that "We the Peo-
ple" on this side of the Atlantic had emancipated
our negroes, and so my friend had been sent over
to spend two or three years in studying the ar-
rangements which "We the People" had made
and were making in local government.

I wish that I had and could print in this book
the quarterly reports which that man made to his
Chief of Staff. For when he went away, he knew
more of the detail of the local administration
of all our States north of the northern line of the
Carolinas and of Tennessee than any other man
who was living at that time knew. He would
spend a month on the frontier to find out how the
pioneers built their roads and established their
schools. He would spend another month in a
back county in Virginia, to see how the local
justices under their old English forms of law
decide cases between man and man whose ox
gored whose cow.

And after two such years of life in villages,
and at cross-road inns, he appeared again in our
civilization with his dress coat of evenings, and
still learning something new.



AMERICA



"Well," he said to me one day, "it is two years
that I have been knocking about in America, and
I have never seen a soldier."

"Why should you?" I said. "What do you
want of soldiers?" "Well why perhaps
don't you think that the sight of a soldier
reminds people that there is a government, that
there is such a reality as law?" To which ques-
tion of his, I said that I thought it was a very
good thing that people should be reminded of the
government. But, I said, fortunately with us,
sovereigns do not sit on a throne supported by
bayonets. I said that the sovereign here showed
himself in his acts of beneficence to everybody.
I remember I put to him this question: "Have
not your letters been well delivered here?" And
he said that they had been admirably delivered,
that the mail service of the country was the best
which he could conceive of, giving me the history
of the way in which a particular letter had fol-
lowed him. I said, and I was proud to say, that
in such service to each of the people, "We the
People" were able to show what government is
and what it is for. Government is an arrange-
ment which all the people make for the benefit
of each of the people. The Swiss Confederacy
has put it on its coat of arms, "All for each, and
each for all."

[33]



, THE PEOPLE"



This is a new discovery to the people who
have been trained under feudal institutions, un-
der aristocratic institutions, or autocratic insti-
tutions. But it is the old habit of people who
havebeen trained as Americans have been trained,
who have been of the government and of the gov-
erned for nearly three hundred years.

A great deal better preparation for the busi-
ness of government has the average American
citizen who has worked out his taxes on the high-
way than any man who has known nothing but
the forms of the military institutions of Europe,
as those Russian gentlemen had been trained, or
this unfortunate "War Lord" of Germany, who
is going a-visiting. Governments, like other
things, are tested by their fruits, not by their fuss
or feathers, by their epaulettes or their dress
parades.

"We the People" have a good many servants.
We expect them to earn their wages, and, on the
whole, they do.

PEOPLE OR KINGS? TAXES.

IN the old-fashioned government of the Old
World, taxes were imposed for the use
of the King or the Emperor. He wanted
an army, or he wanted a palace. The
people who worked for him, therefore, put on

[34]



AMERICA



the taxes where the money could be most easily
collected. And the whole system of revenue,
as it is understood in the books, began in that
system. It was natural enough, and from the
King's point of view it answered every purpose.

But in the absolute change of everything,
between government by an autocrat and govern-
ment of the people, all this changes in a republic,
or ought to change. The people needs taxes.
It is willing to pay them. But it does not need,
as the King did, to place them here or there,
where it is handiest for the publicans to get to-
gether the money. On the other hand, it wants
to collect the money, not by taxing articles of
prime necessity, but by taxing such luxuries as
those who like them can afford to pay for.

Take the central instance of water again.
Everybody, literally everybody, needs water,
must have it. How absurd it would be to tax
water. We say everybody shall pay for the
water he uses, just what it costs us to bring it to
him. We cannot do this precisely. But we do
it as nearly as we can. And when the water
dues afford more money than the cost of the
service and of the money which was needed to
bring it, we reduce the water rates. We do not
tax the water.

Another necessity of life is wood. In a

[35]



'WE, THE PEOPLE'



country like ours we need wood right and left,
everywhere. We need it to burn, we need it
for the shingles over our head, and the floors
under our feet. We need it for the chairs we
sit on, and for hoe handles and for ships, and for
the backs of clothes brushes, as a friend at my
side reminds me.

Wood was, therefore, an excellent thing to
tax in the European system of government.
"Oh, yes! see, all these poor things must have
wood. So we will tax their wood and they will
have to pay." Natural enough.

But suppose these "poor things" become the
Sovereign?

Why should the sovereign annoy himself?
Why should he forever be taxing his toothpicks,
the wheels of his carriage, the floor of his house
and the shingles on his roof?

When he learns what it is to be sovereign, he
will make his own business as easy for himself
as he can.

In our affair, why do we tax the Canadian
lumber? Every man of us wants to have lumber
cheap.

Nobody wants to have our forests cut down,
and our streams dried up, except the lumber
lords, who want to steal from the future, to pile
up what is stolen in barns to-day.

[36]



AMERICA



Everybody literally wants cheap fuel, quite as
much as cheap water. Why should the sov-
ereign tax his own fireplace and palace furnace?


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryEdward Everett HaleWe, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day → online text (page 2 of 15)