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- The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 30/86 -

Cabinet divided as to what should be done. A group of us met in the afternoon and decided to ask for another meeting. I carried the message. The reply was that the matter must be held over till the next meeting, and meanwhile we were asked to suggest a program. Then I sent my message to you. I have told this to no one but Anne. You deserve no less than the fullest statement from me. Please treat it as the most sacred of secrets. Always gratefully yours,


The following letter, written about a year after Lane's entry into the Cabinet, shows what, in the course of a year, he had been able to accomplish in building the men of his heterogeneous department into a cooperative social unit by means of what he called his "Land Cabinet" and the Home Club.

To Albert Shaw Review of Reviews

Washington, April 8,1914

MY DEAR MR. SHAW,--Of course I saw the Review for April before your copies arrived, for somebody was good enough to tell me that there was a good word in it for me, and no matter how busy I am I always manage to read a boost ...

You ask what I am doing to bring about team-work in the Department. Many things. As you probably don't know, this has been a rather disjointed Department. It was intended originally that it should be called the Home Department, and its Secretary the Secretary for Home Affairs. How we come to have some of the bureaus I don't know. Patents and Pensions, for instance, would not seem to have a very intimate connection with Indians and Irrigation. Education and Public Lands, the hot springs of Arkansas, and the asylum for the insane for the District of Columbia do not appear to have any natural affiliation. The result has been that the bureaus have stood up as independent entities, and I have sought to bring them together, centering in this office.

One of the first things I did was to form what is called a Land Cabinet, made up of the Assistant Secretaries, the Commissioner of the Land Office, and the Director of the Geological Survey. We meet every Monday afternoon and go over our problems together. The Reclamation Commission is another organization of a similar sort, and we have constant conferences between the heads of bureaus which have to do with different branches of Indian work, lands, irrigation, and pensions.

Some time ago in order to develop greater good feeling between the heads of the bureaus we organized a noonday mess, at which all the chiefs of bureaus and most of their assistants take their luncheon ...

But the largest work, I think, in the way of promoting the right kind of spirit within the Department was the organization of the Home Club. This is a purely social institution, which the members themselves maintain. We have now some seventeen hundred members, all pay the same initiation fee and the same dues, and all meet upon a common ground in the club. Our club house is one of the finest old mansions in this city, formerly the residence of Schuyler Colfax ... It is a four-story building in LaFayette Square, within a half a block of the White House. This house we have furnished ourselves in very comfortable shape without the help of a dollar from the outside, and we maintain it upon dues of fifty cents a month. Each night during the week we have some form of entertainment in the club--moving pictures, or a lecture, or a dance, or a musicale.

I organized this club for the purpose of showing to these people of moderate salaries what could be done by cooperation. It is managed entirely by the members of the Department. There is no caste line or snobbery in the institution, and for the first time the people in the different bureaus are becoming acquainted with each other, and enjoy the opportunities of club life. The idea should be extended. We should have in the city of Washington a great service club, covering a block of land, containing fifteen or twenty thousand members, in which for a trifle per month we could get all of the advantages of the finest social and athletic club that New York contains. In the Home Club we have a billiard room, card rooms, a library, and a suite of rooms especially set aside for the ladies. We are fitting up one of the larger rooms as a gymnasium for the young men and boys, and expect to have bowling alleys, and possible tennis courts on a near-by lot. In this way I meet many of those who work with me, whom I never would see otherwise, and from the amount of work that the Department is doing, which is increasing, I am quite satisfied that it has helped to make the Department more efficient. Cordially yours,


To Charles K. Field Sunset Magazine

Washington, April 18, 1914

MY BEAR CHARLES,-- ... My picture on the cover of the May Sunset is altogether the best one I have had taken for some time, and the Democratic donkey is encouragingly fat.

I wish in some way it were possible to impress upon our Western Senators and Congressmen the advisability of putting through the bills that I have before Congress in line with my report--a general leasing bill, under which coal, oil, and phosphate lands could be developed by lease, and a water power bill. As it is now, a man runs the risk of going to jail to get a piece of coal land that is big enough to work; and the very bad situation in the oil field in California is entirely due to the inapplicability of our oil land laws. We have a couple of million acres of good phosphate lands withdrawn, totally undeveloped because no one can get hold of them, and no capital will go into our Western power sites because we can give at present only a revocable permit, whereas capital wants the certainty of a fixed term.

I have tried to draft laws, copies of which I inclose, that are the best possible under the circumstances. I mean by that, that they are reasonable and will be passed by Congress if the West can only show a little interest in them, but so far the men who have been fighting them are Westerners. Why? For no better reason than that these gentlemen are in favor of having all of the public lands turned over to the states. It is useless to argue this question as to whether it is right or wrong, because Congress would never do it, so that opposition to these bills is simply opposition to further development of the West.

Now if you can punch these people up a bit in some way and make them understand that the West should want to go ahead, rather than block development for all time, ... you will be rendering a public service.

With these few remarks I submit the matter to your prayerful consideration. As always, cordially yours,


To Frederic J. Lane

Washington, April 27, 1914

MY DEAR FRITZ,--I have just received your letter in relation to Stuart. I sent you a letter on Saturday saying that Daniels was going to recommend him. Of course, if he can't pass the physical examination that is the end of it, but I would let him try ...

Ned is a great deal like Stuart--smart and lazy, but you know that all boys can't be expected to come up to the ideal conduct of their fathers at sixteen and eighteen. They go through life a damn sight more human. I don't see any reason why a fellow should work if he can get along without it, and the trouble is that your boy is spoiled by you, and my boy is spoiled by his mother! You have raised Stuart on the theory that he was a millionaire's son and, as such, he can't take life very seriously.

I am figuring now on getting Ned off to some boarding-school where he will have more discipline than I can give him. The truth is that both of us, having had rather a prosaic Christian bringing up, have cultivated the idea in our youngsters that it is a good thing to be a sport, and the aforesaid youngsters are living up to it. If there was a school in the country where they taught boys the different kinds of trees, and the different rocks and flowers, birds, and fish, with some good sense, and American history, I would like to send Ned to it ... Affectionately yours,


To Edward E. Leake

Treasury Department

San Francisco, California

Washington, May 26, 1914.

MY DEAR ED,--I have yours of the 21st. I know that you are sincere, old man, when you tempt me with the governorship, and you write in such a winning manner that my blood quickens, but really it is quite out of the question. I want to see California lined up strongly on the Democratic side. I also want to see Phelan come to the Senate and I am ready to do all that I can to help out the old State, but my work is cut out for me here and until I have put over some of the things that I believe will benefit the West as a whole, I do not believe I should relinquish the reins of this particular portfolio. It is an honor to me, a big one, to be considered by my friends for the governorship and I know that they would stand gallantly behind me, and when I send this negative answer, you must believe me when I say that I send it with considerable regret.

I shall be very glad to see you at this end, when you are here, and you need no excuse to camp on my doorstep.

The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 30/86

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