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Francis Mairs Huntington-Wilson.

Stultitia, a nightmare and an awakening; in four discussions online

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Monroe Doctrine the party'd go out and stay out
for a hundred years. The President ought to is-
sue a reassuring statement.

A pause.

THE GENERAL
( With his eyebrows raised and very drily ) Mr.
Shuffler, I believe you asked me how long it would
take this Government to be prepared for war. I
mean real war.

MR. SHUFFLER

Yes, how long would it?

A pause

THE GENERAL

{Thoughtfully) If all the measures of na-
tional defense had been passed by Congress as
recommended by the last administration just three
and one-half years ago — let's see, we allowed in
the bills for rush work — yes, we should be ready
today.



146 STULTITIA

MR. SHUFFLER

But, General, what we want to know is, how
long will it take now?

THE GENERAL
{After a pause and glancing up at the ceiling}
Precisely three and one-half years. You see we
should have had the battleships and our merchant
marine for transports and naval reserve. We
should have had a well-trained militia and then —
(to Drake) Mr. Drake, the conventions for the
railroad to Panama and the loan to clean up Co-
lonia needed nothing but ratification by the Sen-
ate, did they?

MR. drake
Oh, no, that's all.

SENATOR HYHEAD

But, General, this is most extraordinary. My
constituents —

SENATOR DORMANT

Now the peace movement —

The Senators exchange words in a low tone
and Senator Rock leans over to say some-



FOURTH DISCUSSION 147

thing privately to Senator Dormant. The
door opens and a man about forty, in an over-
coat with his hat in his hand, rushes in, evi-
dently under great excitement. He pauses
a moment and glances about, taken aback at
seeing so many people in the room.

THE GENERAL

(Rising) Good evening. (They shake
hands) Senators, this gentleman occupies the
post our friend Drake used to have in the State
Department, head of the Political Bureau. Mr.
Harrison.

MR. HARRISON

(He bows very hurriedly to the Senators with-
out shaking hands, and says to The General)
Would you mind coming over here a moment ?
He leads him to one side and hands him a large
sheet of paper. The General reads it, his
hand trembling slightly.

MR. HARRISON

The President has it already. I thought you
ought to know. I'm just on my way to the White
House.

He hurries out.



148 STULTITIA

SENATOR DORMANT

Who's this man Harrison?

MR. DRAKE

Oh, he's a nice fellow, — a particular friend of
your great statesman. He used to be a doctor.
You see when a man's all things to all men him-
self, he naturally thinks all men are adapted to
all things. So he calls in a doctor for his diplo-
macy. To even up, I trust he calls in a diploma-
tist when he's sick. All the old gang of profes-
sionals who used to work like niggers day and
night when we had foreign policies have been
fired. He's put in a lot of political friends. He
couldn't have a decent policy because the wise
ones were taboo, you see, because we'd evolved
them. If I was a little meaner I'd think they
wanted to get the country into trouble to muddy
the water for political advantage. I couldn't
think that; but I wish to hell the politicians who
drifted us into this war could be the ones killed
in it. There'd be some sense and justice in that,
anyhow.

The telephone on the desk where Hawk is

seated rings violently. A young officer goes

and answers.






FOURTH DISCUSSION 149

YOUNG OFFICER

The White House, General. It's for you.

THE GENERAL

{Reaches for the telephone on his desk)
Hello — Oh, good evening, Mr. President.
(The General instinctively bows as he speaks
through the telephone. Everyone in the room is
silent and intently watching General Middle-
ton) Tomorrow morning? — Then it will be
out in the afternoon papers? — Yes, to Tampa,
Guantanamo - — Yes, a divisional commander,
General Murray is the man — Yes, I'll see the
Secretary of the Navy tonight — Very well, Mr.
President, I'll come over there in an hour. Good-
bye, Sir.

The three Senators and Representative
Shuffler look taken aback and lean for-
ward eagerly.

SENATOR DORMANT

Well? Well? What's this?

SENATOR ROCK

Why, you don't mean there's trouble really com-
ing?



150 STULTITIA

MR. SHUFFLER

Now, the feeling in the West —

Drake and Hawk have been watching the
Senators with a rather cynical expression.
General Middleton rises and walks quietly
over to where Drake and Hawk are sit-
ting. He looks older and more broken and
his gait is heavy. He draws the paper from
his pocket and shows it to Drake, who takes
it. They read.

SENATOR ROCK

What's up?

SENATOR DORMANT

General, if there's anything going on, we insist
upon knowing it. The dignity of the Senate —

THE GENERAL

{Who is standing near Drake and Hawk)
Gentlemen, Mr. Drake is my son-in-law, Captain
Hawk was for years my military secretary. This
is a matter of personal privilege. In regard to
diplomatic affairs I must refer you to the Presi-
dent or to the Department of State. It is the
wish of the President that this matter remain con-



FOURTH DISCUSSION 151

fidential until the President's message is read in
both houses of Congress tomorrow at noon.
Now, if you'll excuse me I'll have to issue some
orders.

The Senators rise, looking rather dazed.

SENATOR ROCK

Well, this is a pretty situation.

SENATOR DORMANT

( Turning to The General) Now, what's the
sense of your getting us into trouble over Colonia ?
Why all those little South American republics
don't amount to shucks. Let 'em fight it out.
We've got the Monroe Doctrine. If you've got
some question with Europe, why there's arbitra-
tion. Now Doctor Harmony was telling me
about this peace movement. Somebody must have
blundered. The idea of our getting into trouble
over Colonia. I doubt very much whether Con-
gress can support you on this question.

THE GENERAL

{Draws himself up to his full height, standing
behind his desk) Senator Dormant, there is no
question. The Monroe Doctrine is squarely chal-



152 STULTITIA

lenged. Whatever you may think of Colonia, the
honor of America is involved. There is no ques-
tion of arbitration. This is a case for shot and
shell and not Doctor Harmony.

SENATOR DORMANT

I don't believe it. It's one of those little South
American rumpusses. Why if Europe, — that's
another question. (Raising his stick and bang-
ing it down) I've always believed in enforcing
the Monroe Doctrine up to the hilt !

SENATOR ROCK

Oh, come on, Senator, there's an election com-
ing. War talk's popular, you know.
They go out.

Drake and Hawk walk rapidly up to The
General as he seats himself behind his desk.

MR. drake
This is horrible.

CAPTAIN HAWK

Are we in the way? Have you any orders to
issue ?



FOURTH DISCUSSION 153

THE GENERAL

No, I'd like your company. What little I can
do is all prepared. IVe only a few telegrams to
send. I saw this coming. {Almost sobbing)
Merciful God, there is little enough I can do.
{He clears his throat loudly) Captain Jeffries,
give me those telegrams.

Captain Jeffries goes to a safe against the
wall, undoes the combination and brings
about twenty-jive telegrams all written out.
He lays them in front of The General and
blots them as The General signs. Mean-
while Hawk has lit a cigarette and begins
pacing nervously up and down the room, his
hands deep in his pockets and his shoulders
elevated. Drake still sits at the desk. He
also lights a cigarette and his eye follows
Hawk up and down. The Young Officer
rings a bell, whereat the Clerk appears.
He hands the telegrams to the Clerk.

YOUNG OFFICER

Send these. Give those to Tampa and San
Antonio right of way. Only about half of them



154 STULTITIA

are enciphered. No, let the enciphered ones go
on the wire first.

The Clerk hurries out.

THE GENERAL

{Wagging his head and spreading his arms
with a gesture) That's all I can do.

MR. DRAKE

Dear old father-in-law, it's not your fault, you
must brace up and keep well. You're needed.
{After a pause and in a voice of sarcastic bitter-
ness with an affectation of levity) How very in-
teresting it is to remember that not four years
ago I carefully explained to that Senate Commit-
tee that we had the biggest sphere of influence
on earth through the Monroe Doctrine ; that Co-
lonia was a vital point; that with the convention
we could put it out of danger. Then if we'd bit
off more than we could chew we could chuck the
Monroe Doctrine south of the Isthmus.

THE GENERAL

{Sternly) It humiliates me as an American
that this country should talk big about the open
door in China and the Monroe Doctrine and de-



FOURTH DISCUSSION 155

liberately invite humiliation by not being prepared
for war. No self-respecting country should have
pretensions it cannot back up. No one but a fool
would believe that our foxy friends in Europe,
who all hate us, took any stock in this peace talk
or could keep their envious eyes off the whole
American continent.

MR. DRAKE
{In the same tone as before) Possibly the
most interesting point of all is that at that time
I carefully explained, under instructions from the
President, that it was highly probable that within
four years the much-advertised European duel
would come off. It was perfectly plain that the
victor would command the seas of the earth and
would think Central America should be rescued
from its condition of unexploited turmoil and ar-
rested development. It was explained with equal
clearness that the alternative of this was an al-
liance of the two Powers, ostensibly in the inter-
ests of peace, but really to show that the earth
belongs to the lions and eagles and not to the tur-
keys. It was for Congress to choose whether the
American emblem should be an eagle or a turkey.



156 STULTITIA

THE GENERAL

A pretty easy prophecy, John, but nobody
would believe it. Well, Hawk, I'll begin giving
out commissions tomorrow. Even young Barney
will stand a show now. I suppose you're going
back? I'll put you in the 13th cavalry. {Laugh-
ing sarcastically) It's a long ride to the Panama
Canal.

Hawk faces about flushed.

CAPTAIN HAWK

When I was a little boy, I was sure that Amer-
ica was everything that was fine and noble. I
was brought up on the idea that we were a nation
of sturdy idealists, high-minded, but practical; free
from cant; a happy family living together for
the greatest good of the greatest number. We
were a nation with a soul. We worked for those
ideals. My great-great-grandfather died in the
Revolution, fighting for those ideals. {With a
nervous laugh) You remember, General, that's
his sword over there. {Pointing to the crossed
swords on the wall) We faced the world's great-
est empire, and triumphed for our free represen-
tative democracy. My father carried that other
sword at Shiloh when he lost his arm, again fight-



FOURTH DISCUSSION 157

ing for our ideal of a united happy nation under
free institutions. Where is the patriotism of the
fathers, calm and self-contained? No blatant
scream of the eagle. " Aim low, wait till you see
the whites of their eyes." Patriotism! Look at
the press. Look at the politician riding his hobby
intent on his own fame. They don't even give
their own Government the benefit of the doubt.
Partisanship eclipses patriotism. They argue the
foreigner's case. {Turning to Drake and ges-
ticulating in a pleading manner} Why, I grew
up with the idea that American civilization, Amer-
ican free representative government, and the noble
soul of America would be a magnet of irresistible
force. When Rome was great, to become part
of the Roman Empire was an honor sought by
neighboring states. So, I thought, one day the
struggling republics at our door, schooled by our
influence to better citizenship, would be made
worthy and would come begging for admission
to our glorious Union. (Hawk is evidently lost
in abstraction and moves about the room ges-
ticulating, self-absorbed and looking straight be-
fore him. He laughs bitterly) And what do I
find? A mob divided by a thousand selfish in-
terests. A nation of ninety millions? Bah!



158 STULTITIA

And the literacy test is gravely discussed, as if
reading gave a man a soul! Do we send our
agents abroad to look at the character of immi-
grants; to make fitness, as shown by honest toil,
the test? Do we take advantage of the laws of
nature that the best men to join our nation are
those now getting the best wages ? Oh, no. Be
degenerates, be defectives. Only read. Educa-
tion in a wicked mind; firearms in wicked hands;
money in the pockets of the foolish, the frivolous,
the selfish. These are our many dangers. The
jealousy of the churches banishes religion from
our schools. We need no God. Do we need no
ethics? The Chinese have at least Confucius.
We educate the mind. We pretend to believe in
the soul, but what do we do for it? We have
pure food laws for the body. Our press is free
to poison the soul day after day. Yet we pretend
to believe in the soul, — canting nonsense. The
farmer selects the seed for his wheat. We raise
wonderful hogs. We gain millions in money.
Three or four little citizens are born to our great
European rivals for one American of the old
American stock. Our birth rate is falling. We
blame it on the women. Do they prefer feathers
and silks to the motherhood of good citizens?



FOURTH DISCUSSION 159

Money ! Money ! Money to squander the health
of those who should be the fathers of a noble
race. We spurn happiness and choose the pleas-
ure of a day. What do we do for the soul? Is
money our God? Money is international.
Money knows no country. Like master, like man.
If money's his God the citizen, too, becomes hard,
and the duties of citizenship become the mere har-
lots of self-interest. We abolish the canteen.
We're prohibitionists. We'll become righteous
by legislation. We'll found societies for right-
eousness. Senator Hyhead will cure the neglect
of the barest functions of loyal citizenship by
doubling the duties with his precious referendums
and isms. All this talk is so much easier than a
little self-control and individual effort and sincer-
ity. Our strongest citizens cry to the national
conscience till it wakes and will heed them. Then
they poison us with the lessons of casuistry and de-
base our ideals of truth, make us cynics. What
a spectacle. The reformers howl. We examine
them and find them, in the name of the people's
rule, only urging their favorite upon us. Co-
operation, the magic of business efficiency. Do
we find it in our Government? Oh, no. In pub-
lic affairs you find no patriotic trust. Here's the



160 STULTITIA

beauty of competition. Do you find the bravest
and the most intelligent and most just working
together forgetting themselves in a solemn effort
to make good laws? No (very sarcastically) it
is not what shall we do, it is only who shall do it.
We're to live or die by the election of Congress-
man Smith, or Senator Jones, or President Brown.
It is personalities not principles. It is not what
is good for the people, it's the party's interest.
If the key to Heaven were discovered by one party
the opposition would throw it in the sea as the
key to hell. I know. I've been in Congress. I
was a sore-head. I ventured to criticize, to aspire
to better things. (With a bitter laugh) To
criticize is considered unpatriotic, though patri-
otic criticism is the key to national progress. If
I'd criticized as a partisan, I should have been
lauded as a good party man. I criticized as a
patriot, and was jeered as a dreamer. They
dared to call me unpatriotic. The correct thing
is to say, " All's well " ; to say " We can lick crea-
tion," — to say it again till we believe it and to go
blindly on. Reading? Study? No, we're too
busy in the chase for money. We've no time.
We must be quick with our half-baked ideas to
outstrip the opposition; to get the credit. We



I



FOURTH DISCUSSION 161

can't stop to be thorough. A sudden sensation;
a popular cry; a makeshift; a compromise. We're
too clever to study the past. History is reaction-
ary. Intuition, luck, the mercy of God. And the
cries like hounds on a trail. Once they're off
what does it matter? The big trusts and all the
little grocery men with their combinations and
cartels sucking the blood of their neighbors;
cheering the fight on their cleverer brothers, hop-
ing to hide themselves. And peace fiends and
faddists. {He laughs an unnatural laugh) And
we're supposed to have a sense of humor. Look
at them. Each with his own idea. Humor?
Horse play! Not even sense of the ridiculous.
Humor is sense of proportion. {Putting his
hands to his head) My God, this is too ridicu-
lous ! And think of Stone and the labor organiza-
tions being taught class hatred; taught that we're
aristocrats. Look at Senator Rock, a poor boy,
a laborer, grows rich and grinds down his fellow
laborers. They point to him as the aristocrat.
I'm a plain American. I like gentlemen whether
they can read or not. I've no thought for our
country that I would not share with any honest
American day laborer and be sure of his sym-
pathy. I believe in fair play and the equality of



162 STULTITIA

honorable truthful people who are not hogs or
tricksters. And they try to put me in an aris-
tocracy of money as if I couldn't have money and
have an idea above money. {Wringing his
hands) Oh, where's the America I believed in?
Where are we drifting? And now a national
humiliation, a sure defeat in war. Think of the
fine soldiers and sailors, good Americans all, that
are going to die for nothing but sure defeat. Oh,
the blindness ! Oh, how horrible !

He wrings his hands and has an almost hys-
terical manner.

The General and Drake, who have been lis-
tening with intense and disturbed attention }
both get up and put their arms on his shoul-
ders. The General in a fatherly manner.

MR. DRAKE

( Taking his hand) Look here, old man, you
can't run on like this.

THE GENERAL

You'll feel better, my boy, when you get in a
uniform and start for the front.



FOURTH DISCUSSION 163

CAPTAIN HAWK
{Pulling himself together and clearing his
throat, in a dreamy manner) Oh, to the front.

THE GENERAL

Yes, I'll get you appointed tomorrow a Cap-
tain in the 13th Cavalry. As a former officer,
you'll be promoted right away.

CAPTAIN HAWK

{Abstractedly) To the front.

He laughs nervously , throws himself in a chair,
fumbles for his cigarette case and lights a
cigarette. Drake and The General
stand side by side at his right. Hawk puffs
the cigarette awhile in silence.

CAPTAIN HAWK

I've seen how things are done. IVe been two
years in Congress. In a generation — let me see
— I can put in about forty million dollars. My
wife and I like to live simply. That will leave
us enough. § With a string of newspapers and
some magazines and an organization extending
into every State, town and ward and getting some



164 STULTITIA

other fools like us to join, we can get the nation's
interests understood and lay the foundation for
making this a real nation and a happy family.
Then there'll be something worth while.

MR. DRAKE

{Assuming an air of optimism) Oh, cheer up,
old man, I'll be with you in the work; but you're
in a horrible state of mind.

THE GENERAL

What about that commission in the 13th Cav-
alry ?

CAPTAIN HAWK

{Wearily) To fight for what? {Speaking
rapidly) I'm perfectly willing to go down there
and get shot. We're accustomed to it in my fam-
ily. But theirs represented something. They
fought for a logical reason, for a holy cause.
{More vehemently and rising and resuming walk-
ing up and down) What do you want me to fight
for? Am I fighting for the pride of the most dis-
graceful criminal statistics a nation ever had ? Am
I fighting for the half-baked immigrants who can
read and nothing else, for the Caros and Gold-
steins ? Is it for the international bankers, or the



FOURTH DISCUSSION 165

big trusts or the little trusts ? Am I fighting for
the people at Mrs. Barney's dinner, who draw
nothing but their incomes from the sacred soil of
our country? Am I fighting for Senator Hyhead,
who snaps his fingers at the constitutional repre-
sentative government of our forefathers? What
on earth am I fighting for? For the selfishness of
Senator Rock's capitalists or Mr. Stone's labor
organizations? Am I fighting for national inco-
herency, for a mob drunk with wealth, absorbed in
money grubbing; for a lot of faddists who think
in segments when great national questions are at
issue? Am I fighting for somebody's re-election?
My God, I'd like to know what I am fighting for !
Toward the end of this outburst, Drake has
gone over and sat down at the end of The
General's desk facing Hawk.

mr. drake
{Very quietly) Old man, the new generation
has got to atone for the sins of the old. America
is passing through a crisis.

Meanwhile The General walks over beyond
his desk halfway between it and the wall
where the crossed swords hang under the por-
traits of Washington and Lincoln.



166 STULTITIA

THE GENERAL

{Taking out his watch) Hawk, I've got to go
over to the cabinet meeting now.

CAPTAIN HAWK
(Still looking down and self-absorbed) All
right, we'll go home. Come on, Drake.

The General walks over and takes down the
newer of the two crossed swords and clears
his throat. He then goes over to Hawk,
examining the sword.

THE GENERAL
(In a perfectly matter-of-fact voice) The de-
sign of sabres has not changed much since the Civil
War. You'd better take this one. (Musingly)
Your father was a great cavalry-man. Well,
good-night. (Holding out the sword) Come
down at ten in the morning and I'll give you your
commission in the 13th Cavalry.

CAPTAIN HAWK
(Taking the sword, in a natural voice) Very
well, sir. Good night.

Drake shakes The General's hand and looks
into his eyes for a moment. Then he throws



FOURTH DISCUSSION 167

one arm around Hawk's shoulders and the
other around The General's, and they
stand in a group with their heads together }
their shoulders shaken with sobs.

Curtain



Scene II

The curtain has been lowered to indicate the pas-
sage of six months. The scene is in the office
of The Chief of Staff precisely the same as
in the previous scene except that it is a summer
evening; there is no noise of typewriters, the
door into the outer office being closed; and
through the windows are seen the trees of the
White Lot and the Washington monument
bathed in the amber light of the setting sun.
Senator Dormant, Senator Rock, Senator
Hyhead and Representative Shuffler are
seated in conference with General Middle-
ton, who looks shockingly aged and worn.
His visitors all show the aging effects of care
and strain and sorrow.



168 STULTITIA

SENATOR ROCK

(In a distressed voice) What a horrible
thing the blowing up of that battleship in the steel
strike was.

SENATOR DORMANT

Just as it was nearly completed too. That sets
us back some more.

SENATOR HYHEAD
Well, Senator, this comes of you capitalists
holding out against the great popular movement.

SENATOR DORMANT

I'm tired of hearing about your great popular
movement. What did your party ever do? Rain-
bow promises; the latest novelties in government.
You made a lot of theorists and socialists, that's
about all. What we want is a party that will
make patriotic citizens, not old fools like we've
been.

MR. SHUFFLER

The Senator's right. I detect in the West a
great reaction in favor of the old representative
institutions. Politics will never be the same
again.



FOURTH DISCUSSION 169

SENATOR ROCK

I was the worst of all. My eyes are opened
now. {With a bitter laugh) I remember so well
one night at the White House three or four years
ago the President was telling me, — heigh-ho,
that's spilt milk. We ought to have worked for
industrial peace. I know Stone the labor leader
feels the same. We used to hate each other like
poison, but now we're going to talk things over
and try to get together. There've been too many
Caros; and capital hating labor and labor hating
capital. That's been the trouble. There're al-
ready about a hundred thousand laboring men
and their families being fed at soup kitchens main-
tained by wicked trust magnates. This calamity
brings agony enough to citizens of every station.
May it bring the love that comes to comrades in
affliction! Now human relations between em-
ployer and employed and a good immigration
law —

MR. SHUFFLER

Humph! None of us will have any more law
making to do.



i 7 o STULTITIA

SENATOR DORMANT

No, I reckon this peace treaty'll be about the
last act of our official life. {Taking out his


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Online LibraryFrancis Mairs Huntington-WilsonStultitia, a nightmare and an awakening; in four discussions → online text (page 6 of 7)