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- The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 50/86 -

Washington, [September 2,1917]

MY DEAR MR. DORR,--You do not know what good you did my tired politics-soaked soul by showing me, under such happy conditions, the beauties and the possibilities of your island. And I came to know two men at least, whose heads and hearts were working for a less pudgy and flat-footed world. ... To have enthusiasm is to beat the Devil. So I have you down in my Saints' book.

You know a man in politics is always looking about for some place to which he can retire when the whirligig brings in another group of more popular patriots. Now I can frankly say that if I could have an extended term of exile on your island with you and your friends, I would feel reconciled to banishment from politics for life, provided however (I must say this for conscience' sake) that we had time and money to make the Park what it should be--a demonstration school for the American to show how much he can add to the beauty of Nature.

A wilderness, no matter how impressive and beautiful, does not satisfy this soul of mine, (if I have that kind of thing). It is a challenge to man. It says, "Master me! Put me to use! Make me something more than I am." So what you have done in the Park--the Spring House and the Arts Building, the cliff trails and the opened woods, show how much may be added by the love and thought of man. May the Gods be good to you, the God of Mammon immediately, that your dreams may come true, and that you may give to others the pleasure you gave to yours sincerely,



Washington, September 21, 1917

MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT,--It will interest you to know that the Commission which I sent up this year to Alaska to look into the Alaskan Railroad matters has just returned. The engineer on this Commission was Mr. Wendt, who was formerly Chief Engineer of the Pittsburg and Lake Erie Railroad, and who is now in charge of the appraisal of eastern roads under the Interstate Commerce Commission. He tells me that our Alaskan road could not have been built for less money if handled by a private concern; that he has never seen any railroad camps where the men were provided with as good food and where there was such care taken of their health. They have had no smallpox and but one case of typhoid fever. No liquor is allowed on the line of the road. The road in his judgment has followed the best possible location. Our hospitals are well run. The compensation plan adopted for injuries is satisfactory to the men.

I have directed that all possible speed be made in connecting the Matanuska coal fields with Seward. This involves the heaviest construction that we will have to undertake, which is along Turnagain Ann, but by the middle of next year, no strikes intervening, and transportation for supplies being available, this part of the work should be done. Faithfully and cordially yours,


In Lane's Annual REPORT OF THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, dated November 20, 1919, he writes of the Alaskan railroad enterprise:-- "One of the first recommendations made by me in my report of seven years ago was that the Government build a railroad from Seward to Fairbanks in Alaska. Five years ago you intrusted to me the direction of this work. The road is now more than two-thirds built and Congress at this session after exhaustively examining into the work has authorized an additional appropriation sufficient for its completion. The showing made before Congress was that the road had been built without graft; every dollar has gone into actual work or material. It has been built without giving profits to any large contractors, for it has been constructed entirely by small contractors or by day's labor. It has been built without touch of politics; every man on the road has been chosen exclusively for ability and experience."

This memorandum touching the early history of Alaska was found in Lane's files.


Washington, December 29, 1911

Last night I dined with Charles Henry Butler, reporter for the Supreme Court and a son of William Alien Butler, for so long a leader of the New York bar.

In the course of the evening Mr. Charles Glover, President of the Riggs National Bank, told me this bit of history. That when he was a boy, in the bank one day Mr. Cochran came to him and handed him two warrants upon the United States Treasury, one for $1,400,000. and the other for $5,800,000. He said, "Put those in the safe." Mr. Glover did so, and they remained there for a week, when they were sent to New York. Mr., Glover said "These warrants were the payment of Russia for the Territory of Alaska. Why were there two warrants? I never knew until some years later, when I learned the story from Senator Dawes, who said that prior to the war, there had been some negotiations between the United States and Russia for the purchase of Alaska, and the price of $1,400,000. was agreed upon. In fact this was the amount that Russia asked for this great territory, which was regarded as nothing more than a barren field of ice.

"During the war the matter lay dormant. We had more territory than we could take care of. When England, however, began to manifest her friendly disposition toward the Confederacy, and we learned from Europe that England and France were carrying on negotiations for the recognition of the Southern States, and possibly of some manifestation by their fleets against the blockade which we had instituted, (and which they claimed was not effective and merely a paper blockade), we looked about for a friend, and Russia was the only European country upon whose friendship we could rely. Thereupon Secretary Seward secured from Russia a demonstration, in American ports, of Russian friendship. Her ships of war sailed to both of our coasts, the Atlantic and Pacific, with the understanding that the expense of this demonstration should be met by the United States, out of the contingent fund. It was to be a secret matter. "The war came to a close, and immediately thereafter Lincoln was assassinated and the administration changed. It was no longer possible to pay for this demonstration, secretly, under the excuse of war, but a way was found for paying Russia through the purchase of Alaska. The warrant for $1,400,000. was the warrant for the purchase of Alaska, the warrant for $5,800,000. was for Russia's expenses in her naval demonstration in our behalf, but history only knows the fact that the United States paid $7,200,000. for this territory, which is now demonstrated to be one of the richest portions of the earth in mineral deposits."



Washington, November 3, 1917

MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT,--On April 7, 1917, the Council of National Defense adopted a report, submitted by the Chairman of the Executive Committee on Labor of the Advisory Commission of the Council, urging that no change in existing standards be made during the war, by either employers or employees, except with the approval of the Council of National Defense. ...

The next step for producing efficiency must be no strikes.

The annual convention of the American Federation of Labor, consisting of international unions, will be held at Buffalo on November 12th. I would urge that about thirty executives of the unions, which more directly control essential war production, be invited to confer with you prior to that date, to determine on a policy which will prevent the constant interruption of production for war purposes. The Commissioners of Conciliation of the Department of Labor and the President's Commission have a wonderful record of accomplishments for settling strikes after they have occurred. Organized labor should give the Government the opportunity to adjust controversies before strikes occur.

At this conference it could safely be made plain that for the war, employers would agree not to object to the peaceable extension of trade unionism; that they would make no efforts to "open" a "closed shop"; that they would submit all controversies concerning standards, including wages and lockouts, to any official body on which they have equal representation with labor, and would abide by its decisions; that they would adhere strictly to health and safety laws, and laws concerning woman and child labor; that they would not lower prices now in force for piece work, except by Government direction; that if a union in a "closed" shop after due notice was unable to furnish sufficient workers, any non-union employees taken on would be the first to be dismissed on the contraction of business, and the shop restored to its previous "closed" status; that the only barrier in the way of steady production is the unwillingness of the unions to uphold the proposition of settlement before a strike, instead of after a strike.

The imminence of this convention seems to me to make some step necessary at this time. I would take the matter up with Secretary Wilson were he here, and have sent a copy of this letter to him. You undoubtedly can put an end to this most serious situation by calling on the international labor leaders to take a stand that will not be so radical as that taken in England, and yet will insure to the men good wages and good conditions, and make sure that our industry will not be paralyzed. Cordially yours,



Washington, December 21, 1917

MY DEAR JACK,--My spirit does not permit me to give you an interview on the moral benefits of the war. This would be sheer camouflage. Of course, we will get some good out of it, and we

The Letters of Franklin K. Lane - 50/86

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