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- The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 20/86 -


March 17, 1912

MY DEAR SIR,--Let me thank you at once for your Virginia address, which I have just received and just read--read with the greatest pleasure. I admire its eloquence, its imagination, its style. I sympathize with its attitude and with most of its implications. I gain heart from its tone of hope. I am old--by the calendar at least--and at times am more melancholy, so that it does me good to hear the note of courage. One implication may carry conclusions to which I think I ought to note my disagreement,--the reference to unequal distribution. I think the prevailing fallacy is to confound ownership with consumption of products. Ownership is a gate, not a stopping place. You tell me little when you tell me that Rockefeller or the United States is the owner. What I want to know is who consumes the annual product, and for many years I have been saying and believing that to think straight one should look at the stream of annual products and ask what change one would make in that under any REGIME. The luxuries of the few are a drop in the bucket--the crowd now has all there is. The difference between private and public ownership, it seems to me, is mainly in the natural selection of those most competent to foresee the future and to direct labor into the most productive channels, and the greater poignancy of the illusion of self-seeking under which the private owner works. The real problem, under socialism as well as under individualism, is to ascertain, under the external economic and inevitable conditions, the equilibrium of social desires. The real struggle is between the different groups of producers of the several objects of social desire. The bogey capital is simply the force of all the other groups against the one that is selling its product, trying to get that product for the least it can. Capital is society purchasing and consuming-- Labor is society producing. The laborers unfortunately are often encouraged to think capital something up in the sky which they are waiting for a Franklin to bring down into their jars. I think that is a humbug and lament that I so rarely hear what seem to me the commonplaces that I have uttered, expressed. Your fine address has set me on my hobby and you have fallen a victim to the charm of your own words. Very truly, yours,


P. S. Of course I am speaking only of economics not of political or sentimental considerations--both very real, but as to which all that one can say is, if you are sure that you want to go to the show and have money enough to buy a ticket, go ahead, but don't delude yourself with the notion that you are doing an economic act. I make the only return I can in the form of the single speech I have made for the last nine years.


Washington, March 20, 1912

MY DEAR MR. JUSTICE,--I sincerely thank you for the warmth and generosity of your comment on my Virginia speech. Your economic philosophy is fundamentally, I think, the same as mine--that the wealth produced is a social product. And men may honestly differ as to how best that stream of foods and other satisfactions may be increased in volume, or more widely distributed. May I carry your figure of the stream further by suggesting that the riparian owner in England has the superior right, but in an arid country the common law rule is abandoned because under new conditions it does not make for the greatest public good? The land adjoining feels the need of the water, and society takes from one to give to the other.

The last century was devoted to steaming up in production. This century, it appears to me, will devote itself more definitely to distribution. It is nonsense, of course, to say that because the rich grow richer the poor grow poorer; but the poor are not the same poor, they, too, have found new desires. Civilization has given them new wants. Those desires will not be satisfied with largesse, and with the machinery of government in their hands the people are bound to experiment along economic lines. They will certainly find that they get most when they preserve the captain of industry, but may it not be that his imagination and forethought may be commanded by society at a lower share of the gross than he has heretofore received, or in exchange for something of a different, perhaps of a sentimental nature? ... Please pardon this typewritten note, but my own hand, unlike your copper-plate, is absolutely illegible. I have been raised in a typewriter age.

Again thanking you for your letter, believe me, with the highest regard, faithfully yours,



Washington, April 3, 1912

MY DEAR JOHN,--You overwhelm me. ... You have no right to say such nice things to an innocent and trusting young thing like myself. The flat, unabashed truth is that I appreciate your letter more than any other that I have received concerning that speech. By way of indicating the interest which it has excited I send you copies of some correspondence between Mr. Justice Holmes and myself.

Our plans for the summer are very unsettled. The probability is that we will go up to Bras D'Or Lakes, in Cape Breton, where we can have salt-water bathing and sailing and be most primitive. I should like greatly to run over with you to Europe, and, by way of making the temptation harder to resist, let me know how you expect to go, and where.

Give my love to the Lady Wigmore. As ever yours,

F, K. L.


Washington, June 19, 1912

MY DEAR MR. WILLARD,--That was a warm cordial note that you sent me regarding my University of Virginia address, and what you say of my sentiments confirms my own view that property must look to men like yourself for protection in the future--men who are not blind to public sentiment and whose methods are frank. The worst enemy that capital has in the country is the man who thinks that he can "put one over" on the people. An institution cannot remain sacred long which is the creator of injustice, and that is what some of our blind friends at Chicago do not see. Very truly yours,



Washington, March 23, 1912

MY DEAR JOHN,--I am very glad indeed to hear from you and to know that you are in sympathy with my "eloquent" address at the University of Virginia. You give me hope that I am on the right track. As for Harmon and representative government, you won't get either. ... Please see Mr. R. W. Emerson's Sphinx, in which occurs this line:

"The Lethe of Nature can't trance him again Whose soul sees the perfect, which his eye seeks in vain."

Fancy me surrounded by maps of the express systems of the United States, digging through the rates on uncleaned rice from Texas to the Southeast, dribbling off poetry to a man who sits in a tall tower overlooking New York, who once had poetry which has per necessity been smothered! Dear John, read your Bible, and in Second Kings you will find the story of one Rehoboam, that son of Solomon, who was also for Harmon and representative government.

I am looking out of the window at the funeral procession for the Maine dead, and it strikes me that our dear friend Cobb has overlooked one trick in his campaign against T. R. Of course he has other arrows in his quiver, and no doubt this one will come later, but why not charge T. R. with having blown up the Maine? No one can prove that he did not do it. He then undoubtedly was planning to become President and knew that he never could be unless he was given a chance to show his ability as a soldier- patriot. He stole Panama of course, and is there any reason to believe that a man who would steal Panama would hesitate at blowing up a battleship?

I hope you ... are giving over the life of a hermit--not that I would advise you to take to the Great White Way, but the side streets are sometimes pleasant. As always, devotedly yours,





Politics--Democratic Convention--Nomination of Wilson --Report on Express Case--Democratic Victory--Problems for New Administration --On Cabinet Appointments


Washington, April 30, 1912

MY DEAR DOCTOR,-- ... You certainly are very much in the right. Everything begins to look as if the Republican party would prove itself the Democratic party after all. Our Southern friends are so

The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 20/86

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