Mark Twain's Speeches
Part 2 out of 5
The best-dressed man I have ever seen, however, was a native of the
Sandwich Islands who attracted my attention thirty years ago. Now, when
that man wanted to don especial dress to honor a public occasion or a
holiday, why, he occasionally put on a pair of spectacles. Otherwise the
clothing with which God had provided him sufficed.
Of course, I have ideas of dress reform. For one thing, why not adopt
some of the women's styles? Goodness knows, they adopt enough of ours.
Take the peek-a-boo waist, for instance. It has the obvious advantages
of being cool and comfortable, and in addition it is almost always made
up in pleasing colors which cheer and do not depress.
It is true that I dressed the Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court
in a plug-hat, but, let's see, that was twenty-five years ago. Then no
man was considered fully dressed until he donned a plug-hat. Nowadays I
think that no man is dressed until he leaves it home. Why, when I left
home yesterday they trotted out a plug-hat for me to wear.
"You must wear it," they told me; "why, just think of going to Washington
without a plug-hat!" But I said no; I would wear a derby or nothing.
Why, I believe I could walk along the streets of New York--I never do--
but still I think I could--and I should never see a well-dressed man
wearing a plug-hat. If I did I should suspect him of something. I don't
know just what, but I would suspect him.
Why, when I got up on the second story of that Pennsylvania ferry-boat
coming down here yesterday I saw Howells coming along. He was the only
man on the boat with a plug-hat, and I tell you he felt ashamed of
himself. He said he had been persuaded to wear it against his better
sense. But just think of a man nearly seventy years old who has not a
mind of his own on such matters!
"Are you doing any work now?" the youngest and most serious reporter
Work? I retired from work on my seventieth birthday. Since then I have
been putting in merely twenty-six hours a day dictating my autobiography,
which, as John Phoenix said in regard to his autograph, may be relied
upon as authentic, as it is written exclusively by me. But it is not to
be published in full until I am thoroughly dead. I have made it as
caustic, fiendish, and devilish as possible. It will fill many volumes,
and I shall continue writing it until the time comes for me to join the
angels. It is going to be a terrible autobiography. It will make the
hair of some folks curl. But it cannot be published until I am dead, and
the persons mentioned in it and their children and grandchildren are
dead. It is something awful!
"Can you tell us the names of some of the notables that are here to see
I don't know. I am so shy. My shyness takes a peculiar phase. I never
look a person in the face. The reason is that I am afraid they may know
me and that I may not know them, which makes it very embarrassing for
both of us. I always wait for the other person to speak. I know lots of
people, but I don't know who they are. It is all a matter of ability to
observe things. I never observe anything now. I gave up the habit years
ago. You should keep a habit up if you want to become proficient in it.
For instance, I was a pilot once, but I gave it up, and I do not believe
the captain of the Minneapolis would let me navigate his ship to London.
Still, if I think that he is not on the job I may go up on the bridge and
offer him a few suggestions.
Five hundred undergraduates, under the auspices of the Woman's
University Club, New York, welcomed Mr. Clemens as their guest,
April 3, 1906, and gave him the freedom of the club, which the
chairman explained was freedom to talk individually to any girl
I've worked for the public good thirty years, so for the rest of my life
I shall work for my personal contentment. I am glad Miss Neron has fed
me, for there is no telling what iniquity I might wander into on an empty
stomach--I mean, an empty mind.
I am going to tell you a practical story about how once upon a time I was
blind--a story I should have been using all these months, but I never
thought about telling it until the other night, and now it is too late,
for on the nineteenth of this month I hope to take formal leave of the
platform forever at Carnegie Hall--that is, take leave so far as talking
for money and for people who have paid money to hear me talk. I shall
continue to infest the platform on these conditions--that there is nobody
in the house who has paid to hear me, that I am not paid to be heard, and
that there will be none but young women students in the audience. [Here
Mr. Clemens told the story of how he took a girl to the theatre while he
was wearing tight boots, which appears elsewhere in this volume, and
ended by saying: "And now let this be a lesson to you--I don't know what
kind of a lesson; I'll let you think it out."]
In my capacity of publisher I recently received a manuscript from a
teacher which embodied a number of answers given by her pupils to
questions propounded. These answers show that the children had nothing
but the sound to go by--the sense was perfectly empty. Here are some of
their answers to words they were asked to define: Auriferous--pertaining
to an orifice; ammonia--the food of the gods; equestrian--one who asks
questions; parasite--a kind of umbrella; ipecaca--man who likes a good
dinner. And here is the definition of an ancient word honored by a great
party: Republican--a sinner mentioned in the Bible. And here is an
innocent deliverance of a zoological kind: "There are a good many donkeys
in the theological gardens." Here also is a definition which really
isn't very bad in its way: Demagogue--a vessel containing beer and other
liquids. Here, too, is a sample of a boy's composition on girls, which,
I must say, I rather like:
"Girls are very stuckup and dignified in their manner and behaveyour.
They think more of dress than anything and like to play with dowls and
rags. They cry if they see a cow in a far distance and are afraid of
guns. They stay at home all the time and go to church every Sunday.
They are al-ways sick. They are al-ways furry and making fun of boys
hands and they say how dirty. They cant play marbles. I pity them poor
things. They make fun of boys and then turn round and love them.
I don't belave they ever kiled a cat or anything. They look out every
nite and say, 'Oh, a'nt the moon lovely!'--Thir is one thing I have not
told and that is they al-ways now their lessons bettern boys."
DELIVERED AT THE ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL, 1872, OF THE SCOTTISH
CORPORATION OF LONDON
Mr. Clemens replied to the toast "The Ladies."
I am proud, indeed, of the distinction of being chosen to respond to this
especial toast, to "The Ladies," or to women if you please, for that is
the preferable term, perhaps; it is certainly the older, and therefore
the more entitled to reverence. I have noticed that the Bible, with that
plain, blunt honesty which is such a conspicuous characteristic of the
Scriptures, is always particular to never refer to even the illustrious
mother of all mankind as a "lady," but speaks of her as a woman. It is
odd, but you will find it is so. I am peculiarly proud of this honor,
because I think that the toast to women is one which, by right and by
every rule of gallantry, should take precedence of all others--of the
army, of the navy, of even royalty itself--perhaps, though the latter is
not necessary in this day and in this land, for the reason that, tacitly,
you do drink a broad general health to all good women when you drink the
health of the Queen of England and the Princess of Wales. I have in mind
a poem just now which is familiar to you all, familiar to everybody. And
what an inspiration that was, and how instantly the present toast recalls
the verses to all our minds when the most noble, the most gracious, the
purest, and sweetest of all poets says:
"Woman! O woman!---er
However, you remember the lines; and you remember how feelingly, how
daintily, how almost imperceptibly the verses raise up before you,
feature by feature, the ideal of a true and perfect woman; and how, as
you contemplate the finished marvel, your homage grows into worship of
the intellect that could create so fair a thing out of mere breath, mere
words. And you call to mind now, as I speak, how the poet, with stern
fidelity to the history of all humanity, delivers this beautiful child of
his heart and his brain over to the trials and sorrows that must come to
all, sooner or later, that abide in the earth, and how the pathetic story
culminates in that apostrophe--so wild, so regretful, so full of mournful
retrospection. The lines run thus:
--and so on. I do not remember the rest; but, taken together, it seems
to me that poem is the noblest tribute to woman that human genius has
ever brought forth--and I feel that if I were to talk hours I could not
do my great theme completer or more graceful justice than I have now done
in simply quoting that poet's matchless words. The phases of the womanly
nature are infinite in their variety. Take any type of woman, and you
shall find in it something to respect, something to admire, something to
love. And you shall find the whole joining you heart and hand. Who was
more patriotic than Joan of Arc? Who was braver? Who has given us a
grander instance of self-sacrificing devotion? Ah! you remember, you
remember well, what a throb of pain, what a great tidal wave of grief
swept over us all when Joan of Arc fell at Waterloo. Who does not sorrow
for the loss of Sappho, the sweet singer of Israel? Who among us does
not miss the gentle ministrations, the softening influences, the humble
piety of Lucretia Borgia? Who can join in the heartless libel that says
woman is extravagant in dress when he can look back and call to mind our
simple and lowly mother Eve arrayed in her modification of the Highland
costume? Sir, women have been soldiers, women have been painters, women
have been poets. As long as language lives the name of Cleopatra will
live. And not because she conquered George III.--but because she wrote
those divine lines:
"Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
For God hath made them so."
The story of the world is adorned with the names of illustrious ones of
our own sex--some of, them sons of St. Andrew, too--Scott, Bruce, Burns,
the warrior Wallace, Ben Nevis--the gifted Ben Lomond, and the great new
Scotchman, Ben Disraeli.--[Mr. Benjamin Disraeli, at that time Prime
Minister of England, had just been elected Lord Rector of Glasgow
University, and had made a speech which gave rise to a world of
discussion]--Out of the great plains of history tower whole mountain
ranges of sublime women: the Queen of Sheba, Josephine, Semiramis, Sairey
Gamp; the list is endless--but I will not call the mighty roll, the names
rise up in your own memories at the mere suggestion, luminous with the
glory of deeds that cannot die, hallowed by the loving worship of the
good and the true of all epochs and all climes. Suffice it for our pride
and our honor that we in our day have added to it such names as those of
Grace Darling and Florence Nightingale. Woman is all that she should be
gentle, patient, longsuffering, trustful, unselfish, full of generous
impulses. It is her blessed mission to comfort the sorrowing, plead for
the erring, encourage the faint of purpose, succor the distressed, uplift
the fallen, befriend the friendless--in a word, afford the healing of her
sympathies and a home in her heart for all the bruised and persecuted
children that knock at its hospitable door. And when I say, God bless
her, there is none among us who has known the ennobling affection of a
wife, or the steadfast devotion of a mother but in his heart will say,
WOMAN'S PRESS CLUB
On October 27, 1900, the New York Woman's Press Club gave a tea
in Carnegie Hall. Mr. Clemens was the guest of honor.
If I were asked an opinion I would call this an ungrammatical nation.
There is no such thing as perfect grammar, and I don't always speak good
grammar myself. But I have been foregathering for the past few days with
professors of American universities, and I've heard them all say things
like this: "He don't like to do it." [There was a stir.] Oh, you'll hear
that to-night if you listen, or, "He would have liked to have done it."
You'll catch some educated Americans saying that. When these men take
pen in hand they write with as good grammar as any. But the moment they
throw the pen aside they throw grammatical morals aside with it.
To illustrate the desirability and possibility of concentration, I must
tell you a story of my little six-year-old daughter. The governess had
been teaching her about the reindeer, and, as the custom was, she related
it to the family. She reduced the history of that reindeer to two or
three sentences when the governess could not have put it into a page.
She said: "The reindeer is a very swift animal. A reindeer once drew a
sled four hundred miles in two hours." She appended the comment: "This
was regarded as extraordinary." And concluded: "When that reindeer was
done drawing that sled four hundred miles in two hours it died."
As a final instance of the force of limitations in the development of
concentration, I must mention that beautiful creature, Helen Keller, whom
I have known for these many years. I am filled with the wonder of her
knowledge, acquired because shut out from all distraction. If I could
have been deaf, dumb, and blind I also might have arrived at something.
VOTES FOR WOMEN
AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE HEBREW TECHNICAL SCHOOL FOR GIRLS,
HELD IN THE TEMPLE EMMANUEL, JANUARY 20, 1901
Mr. Clemens was introduced by President Meyer, who said: "In
one of Mr. Clemens's works he expressed his opinion of men,
saying he had no choice between Hebrew and Gentile, black men
or white; to him all men were alike. But I never could find
that he expressed his opinion of women; perhaps that opinion
was so exalted that he could not express it. We shall now be
called to hear what he thinks of women."
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--It is a small help that I can afford, but it is
just such help that one can give as coming from the heart through the
mouth. The report of Mr. Meyer was admirable, and I was as interested in
it as you have been. Why, I'm twice as old as he, and I've had so much
experience that I would say to him, when he makes his appeal for help:
"Don't make it for to-day or to-morrow, but collect the money on the
We are all creatures of sudden impulse. We must be worked up by steam,
as it were. Get them to write their wills now, or it may be too late by
-and-by. Fifteen or twenty years ago I had an experience I shall never
forget. I got into a church which was crowded by a sweltering and
panting multitude. The city missionary of our town--Hartford--made a
telling appeal for help. He told of personal experiences among the poor
in cellars and top lofts requiring instances of devotion and help. The
poor are always good to the poor. When a person with his millions gives
a hundred thousand dollars it makes a great noise in the world, but he
does not miss it; it's the widow's mite that makes no noise but does the
I remember on that occasion in the Hartford church the collection was
being taken up. The appeal had so stirred me that I could hardly wait
for the hat or plate to come my way. I had four hundred dollars in my
pocket, and I was anxious to drop it in the plate and wanted to borrow
more. But the plate was so long in coming my way that the fever-heat of
beneficence was going down lower and lower--going down at the rate of a
hundred dollars a minute. The plate was passed too late. When it
finally came to me, my enthusiasm had gone down so much that I kept my
four hundred dollars--and stole a dime from the plate. So, you see, time
sometimes leads to crime.
Oh, many a time have I thought of that and regretted it, and I adjure you
all to give while the fever is on you.
Referring to woman's sphere in life, I'll say that woman is always right.
For twenty-five years I've been a woman's rights man. I have always
believed, long before my mother died, that, with her gray hairs and
admirable intellect, perhaps she knew as much as I did. Perhaps she knew
as much about voting as I.
I should like to see the time come when women shall help to make the
laws. I should like to see that whip-lash, the ballot, in the hands of
women. As for this city's government, I don't want to say much, except
that it is a shame--a shame; but if I should live twenty-five years
longer--and there is no reason why I shouldn't--I think I'll see women
handle the ballot. If women had the ballot to-day, the state of things
in this town would not exist.
If all the women in this town had a vote to-day they would elect a mayor
at the next election, and they would rise in their might and change the
awful state of things now existing here.
ADDRESS AT AN EARLY BANQUET OF THE WASHINGTON
The twelfth toast was as follows: "Woman--The pride of any
profession, and the jewel of ours."
MR. PRESIDENT,--I do not know why I should be singled out to receive the
greatest distinction of the evening--for so the office of replying to the
toast of woman has been regarded in every age. I do not know why I have
received his distinction, unless it be that I am a trifle less homely
than the other members of the club. But be this as it may, Mr.
President, I am proud of the position, and you could not have chosen any
one who would have accepted it more gladly, or labored with a heartier
good-will to do the subject justice than I--because, sir, I love the sex.
I love all the women, irrespective of age or color.
Human intellect cannot estimate what we owe to woman, sir. She sews on
our buttons; she mends our clothes; she ropes us in at the church fairs;
she confides in us; she tells us whatever she can find out about the
little private affairs of the neighbors; she gives us good advice, and
plenty of it; she soothes our aching brows; she bears our children--ours
as a general thing. In all relations of life, sir, it is but a just and
graceful tribute to woman to say of her that she is a brick.
Wheresoever you place woman, sir--in whatever position or estate--she is
an ornament to the place she occupies, and a treasure to the world. [Here
Mr. Clemens paused, looked inquiringly at his hearers, and remarked that
the applause should come in at this point. It came in. He resumed his
eulogy.] Look at Cleopatra! look at Desdemona!--look at Florence
Nightingale!--look at Joan of Arc!--look at Lucretia Borgia!
[Disapprobation expressed.] Well [said Mr. Clemens, scratching his head,
doubtfully], suppose we let Lucretia slide. Look at Joyce Heth!--look at
Mother Eve! You need not look at her unless you want to, but [said Mr.
Clemens, reflectively, after a pause] Eve was ornamental, sir--
particularly before the fashions changed. I repeat, sir, look at the
illustrious names of history. Look at the Widow Machree!--look at Lucy
Stone!--look at Elizabeth Cady Stanton!--look at George Francis Train!
And, sir, I say it with bowed head and deepest veneration--look at the
mother of Washington! She raised a boy that could not tell a lie--could
not tell a lie! But he never had any chance. It might have been
different if he had belonged to the Washington Newspaper Correspondents'
I repeat, sir, that in whatever position you place a woman she is an
ornament to society and a treasure to the world. As a sweetheart, she
has few equals and no superiors; as a cousin, she is convenient; as a
wealthy grandmother with an incurable distemper, she is precious; as a
wetnurse, she has no equal among men.
What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be
scarce, sir, almighty scarce. Then let us cherish her; let us protect
her; let us give her our support, our encouragement, our sympathy,
ourselves--if we get a chance.
But, jesting aside, Mr. President, woman is lovable, gracious, kind of
heart, beautiful--worthy of all respect, of all esteem, of all deference.
Not any here will refuse to drink her health right cordially in this
bumper of wine, for each and every one has personally known, and loved,
and honored the very best one of them all--his own mother.
ADVICE TO GIRLS
In 1907 a young girl whom Mr. Clemens met on the steamer
Minnehaha called him "grandpa," and he called her his
granddaughter. She was attending St. Timothy's School, at
Catonsville, Maryland, and Mr. Clemens promised her to see her
graduate. He accordingly made the journey from New York on
June 10, 1909, and delivered a short address.
I don't know what to tell you girls to do. Mr. Martin has told you
everything you ought to do, and now I must give you some don'ts.
There are three things which come to my mind which I consider excellent
First, girls, don't smoke--that is, don't smoke to excess. I am seventy-
three and a half years old, and have been smoking seventy-three of them.
But I never smoke to excess--that is, I smoke in moderation, only one
cigar at a time.
Second, don't drink--that is, don't drink to excess.
Third, don't marry--I mean, to excess.
Honesty is the best policy. That is an old proverb; but you don't want
ever to forget it in your journey through life.
TAXES AND MORALS
ADDRESS DELIVERED IN NEW YORK, JANUARY 22, 1906
At the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Tuskeegee
Institute by Booker Washington, Mr. Choate presided, and in
introducing Mr. Clemens made fun of him because he made play
his work, and that when he worked hardest he did so lying in
I came here in the responsible capacity of policeman to watch Mr. Choate.
This is an occasion of grave and serious importance, and it seems
necessary for me to be present, so that if he tried to work off any
statement that required correction, reduction, refutation, or exposure,
there would be a tried friend of the public to protect the house. He has
not made one statement whose veracity fails to tally exactly with my own
standard. I have never seen a person improve so. This makes me thankful
and proud of a country that can produce such men--two such men. And all
in the same country. We can't be with you always; we are passing away,
and then--well, everything will have to stop, I reckon. It is a sad
thought. But in spirit I shall still be with you. Choate, too--if he
Every born American among the eighty millions, let his creed or
destitution of creed be what it may, is indisputably a Christian--to this
degree that his moral constitution is Christian.
There are two kinds of Christian morals, one private and the other
public. These two are so distinct, so unrelated, that they are no more
akin to each other than are archangels and politicians. During three
hundred and sixty-three days in the year the American citizen is true to
his Christian private morals, and keeps undefiled the nation's character
at its best and highest; then in the other two days of the year he leaves
his Christian private morals at home and carries his Christian public
morals to the tax office and the polls, and does the best he can to
damage and undo his whole year's faithful and righteous work. Without a
blush he will vote for an unclean boss if that boss is his party's Moses,
without compunction he will vote against the best man in the whole land
if he is on the other ticket. Every year in a number of cities and
States he helps put corrupt men in office, whereas if he would but throw
away his Christian public morals, and carry his Christian private morals
to the polls, he could promptly purify the public service and make the
possession of office a high and honorable distinction.
Once a year he lays aside his Christian private morals and hires a ferry-
boat and piles up his bonds in a warehouse in New Jersey for three days,
and gets out his Christian public morals and goes to the tax office and
holds up his hands and swears he wishes he may never--never if he's got a
cent in the world, so help him. The next day the list appears in the
papers--a column and a quarter of names, in fine print, and every man in
the list a billionaire and member of a couple of churches. I know all
those people. I have friendly, social, and criminal relations with the
whole lot of them. They never miss a sermon when they are so's to be
around, and they never miss swearing-off day, whether they are so's to be
around or not.
I used to be an honest man. I am crumbling. No--I have crumbled. When
they assessed me at $75,000 a fortnight ago I went out and tried to
borrow the money, and couldn't; then when I found they were letting a
whole crop of millionaires live in New York at a third of the price they
were charging me I was hurt, I was indignant, and said: "This is the last
feather. I am not going to run this town all by myself." In that
moment--in that memorable moment--I began to crumble. In fifteen minutes
the disintegration was complete. In fifteen minutes I had become just a
mere moral sand-pile; and I lifted up my hand along with those seasoned
and experienced deacons and swore off every rag of personal property I've
got in the world, clear down to cork leg, glass eye, and what is left of
Those tax officers were moved; they were profoundly moved. They had long
been accustomed to seeing hardened old grafters act like that, and they
could endure the spectacle; but they were expecting better things of me,
a chartered, professional moralist, and they were saddened.
I fell visibly in their respect and esteem, and I should have fallen in
my own, except that I had already struck bottom, and there wasn't any
place to fall to.
At Tuskeegee they will jump to misleading conclusions from insufficient
evidence, along with Doctor Parkhurst, and they will deceive the student
with the superstition that no gentleman ever swears.
Look at those good millionaires; aren't they gentlemen? Well, they
swear. Only once in a year, maybe, but there's enough bulk to it to make
up for the lost time. And do they lose anything by it? No, they don't;
they save enough in three minutes to support the family seven years.
When they swear, do we shudder? No--unless they say "damn!" Then we do.
It shrivels us all up. Yet we ought not to feel so about it, because we
all swear--everybody. Including the ladies. Including Doctor Parkhurst,
that strong and brave and excellent citizen, but superficially educated.
For it is not the word that is the sin, it is the spirit back of the
word. When an irritated lady says "oh!" the spirit back of it is "damn!"
and that is the way it is going to be recorded against her. It always
makes me so sorry when I hear a lady swear like that. But if she says
"damn," and says it in an amiable, nice way, it isn't going to be
recorded at all.
The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong; he can swear and
still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and, benevolent and
affectionate way. The historian, John Fiske, whom I knew well and loved,
was a spotless and most noble and upright Christian gentleman, and yet he
swore once. Not exactly that, maybe; still, he--but I will tell you
One day, when he was deeply immersed in his work, his wife came in, much
moved and profoundly distressed, and said: "I am sorry to disturb you,
John, but I must, for this is a serious matter, and needs to be attended
to at once."
Then, lamenting, she brought a grave accusation against their little son.
She said: "He has been saying his Aunt Mary is a fool and his Aunt Martha
is a damned fool." Mr. Fiske reflected upon the matter a minute, then
said: "Oh, well, it's about the distinction I should make between them
Mr. Washington, I beg you to convey these teachings to your great and
prosperous and most beneficent educational institution, and add them to
the prodigal mental and moral riches wherewith you equip your fortunate
proteges for the struggle of life.
TAMMANY AND CROKER
Mr. Clemens made his debut as a campaign orator on October 7,
1901, advocating the election of Seth Low for Mayor, not as a
Republican, but as a member of the "Acorns," which he described
as a "third party having no political affiliation, but was
concerned only in the selection of the best candidates and the
Great Britain had a Tammany and a Croker a good while ago. This Tammany
was in India, and it began its career with the spread of the English
dominion after the Battle of Plassey. Its first boss was Clive, a
sufficiently crooked person sometimes, but straight as a yard stick
when compared with the corkscrew crookedness of the second boss, Warren
That old-time Tammany was the East India Company's government, and had
its headquarters at Calcutta. Ostensibly it consisted of a Great Council
of four persons, of whom one was the Governor-General, Warren Hastings;
really it consisted of one person--Warren Hastings; for by usurpation he
concentrated all authority in himself and governed the country like an
Ostensibly the Court of Directors, sitting in London and representing the
vast interests of the stockholders, was supreme in authority over the
Calcutta Great Council, whose membership it appointed and removed at
pleasure, whose policies it dictated, and to whom it conveyed its will in
the form of sovereign commands; but whenever it suited Hastings, he
ignored even that august body's authority and conducted the mighty
affairs of the British Empire in India to suit his own notions.
At his mercy was the daily bread of every official, every trader, every
clerk, every civil servant, big and little, in the whole huge India
Company's machine, and the man who hazarded his bread by any failure of
subserviency to the boss lost it.
Now then, let the supreme masters of British India, the giant corporation
of the India Company of London, stand for the voters of the city of New
York; let the Great Council of Calcutta stand for Tammany; let the
corrupt and money-grubbing great hive of serfs which served under the
Indian Tammany's rod stand for New York Tammany's serfs; let Warren
Hastings stand for Richard Croker, and it seems to me that the parallel
is exact and complete. And so let us be properly grateful and thank God
and our good luck that we didn't invent Tammany.
Edmund Burke, regarded by many as the greatest orator of all times,
conducted the case against Warren Hastings in that renowned trial which
lasted years, and which promises to keep its renown for centuries to
come. I wish to quote some of the things he said. I wish to imagine him
arraigning Mr. Croker and Tammany before the voters of New York City and
pleading with them for the overthrow of that combined iniquity of the 5th
of November, and will substitute for "My Lords," read "Fellow-Citizens";
for "Kingdom," read "City"; for "Parliamentary Process," read "Political
Campaign"; for "Two Houses," read "Two Parties," and so it reads:
"Fellow--citizens, I must look upon it as an auspicious circumstance to
this cause, in which the honor of the city is involved, that from the
first commencement of our political campaign to this the hour of solemn
trial not the smallest difference of opinion has arisen, between the two
"You will see, in the progress of this cause, that there is not only a
long, connected, systematic series of misdemeanors, but an equally
connected system of maxims and principles invented to justify them.
Upon both of these you must judge.
"It is not only the interest of the city of New York, now the most
considerable part of the city of the Americans, which is concerned, but
the credit and honor of the nation itself will be decided by this
At a later meeting of the Acorn Club, Mr. Clemens said:
Tammany is dead, and there's no use in blackguarding a corpse.
The election makes me think of a story of a man who was dying. He had
only two minutes to live, so he sent for a clergyman and asked him,
"Where is the best place to go to?" He was undecided about it. So the
minister told him that each place had its advantages--heaven for climate,
and hell for society.
ADDRESS AT THE CITY CLUB DINNER, JANUARY 4,1901
Bishop Potter told how an alleged representative of Tammany
Hall asked him in effect if he would cease his warfare upon the
Police Department if a certain captain and inspector were
dismissed. He replied that he would never be satisfied until
the "man at the top" and the "system" which permitted evils in
the Police Department were crushed.
The Bishop has just spoken of a condition of things which none of us can
deny, and which ought not to exist; that is, the lust of gain--a lust
which does not stop short of the penitentiary or the jail to accomplish
its ends. But we may be sure of one thing, and that is that this sort of
thing is not universal. If it were, this country would not be. You may
put this down as a fact: that out of every fifty men, forty-nine are
clean. Then why is it, you may ask, that the forty-nine don't have
things the way they want them? I'll tell you why it is. A good deal has
been said here to-night about what is to be accomplished by organization.
That's just the thing. It's because the fiftieth fellow and his pals are
organized and the other forty-nine are not that the dirty one rubs it
into the clean fellows every time.
You may say organize, organize, organize; but there may be so much
organization that it will interfere with the work to be done. The Bishop
here had an experience of that sort, and told all about it down-town the
other night. He was painting a barn--it was his own barn--and yet he was
informed that his work must stop; he was a non-union painter, and
couldn't continue at that sort of job.
Now, all these conditions of which you complain should be remedied, and I
am here to tell you just how to do it. I've been a statesman without
salary for many years, and I have accomplished great and widespread good.
I don't know that it has benefited anybody very much, even if it was
good; but I do know that it hasn't harmed me very much, and is hasn't
made me any richer.
We hold the balance of power. Put up your best men for office, and we
shall support the better one. With the election of the best man for
Mayor would follow the selection of the best man for Police Commissioner
and Chief of Police.
My first lesson in the craft of statesmanship was taken at an early age.
Fifty-one years ago I was fourteen years old, and we had a society in the
town I lived in, patterned after the Freemasons, or the Ancient Order of
United Farmers, or some such thing--just what it was patterned after
doesn't matter. It had an inside guard and an outside guard, and a past-
grand warden, and a lot of such things, so as to give dignity to the
organization and offices to the members.
Generally speaking it was a pretty good sort of organization, and some of
the very best boys in the village, including--but I mustn't get personal
on an occasion like this--and the society would have got along pretty
well had it not been for the fact that there were a certain number of the
members who could be bought. They got to be an infernal nuisance. Every
time we had an election the candidates had to go around and see the
purchasable members. The price per vote was paid in doughnuts, and it
depended somewhat on the appetites of the individuals as to the price
of the votes.
This thing ran along until some of us, the really very best boys in the
organization, decided that these corrupt practices must stop, and for the
purpose of stopping them we organized a third party. We had a name, but
we were never known by that name. Those who didn't like us called us the
Anti-Doughnut party, but we didn't mind that.
We said: "Call us what you please; the name doesn't matter. We are
organized for a principle." By-and-by the election came around, and
we made a big mistake. We were triumphantly beaten. That taught us a
lesson. Then and there we decided never again to nominate anybody for
anything. We decided simply to force the other two parties in the
society to nominate their very best men. Although we were organized for
a principle, we didn't care much about that. Principles aren't of much
account anyway, except at election-time. After that you hang them up to
let them season.
The next time we had an election we told both the other parties that we'd
beat any candidates put up by any one of them of whom we didn't approve.
In that election we did business. We got the man we wanted. I suppose
they called us the Anti-Doughnut party because they couldn't buy us with
their doughnuts. They didn't have enough of them. Most reformers arrive
at their price sooner or later, and I suppose we would have had our
price; but our opponents weren't offering anything but doughnuts, and
those we spurned.
Now it seems to me that an Anti-Doughnut party is just what is wanted in
the present emergency. I would have the Anti-Doughnuts felt in every city
and hamlet and school district in this State and in the United States.
I was an Anti-Doughnut in my boyhood, and I'm an Anti-Doughnut still.
The modern designation is Mugwump. There used to be quite a number of us
Mugwumps, but I think I'm the only one left. I had a vote this fall, and
I began to make some inquiries as to what I had better do with it.
I don't know anything about finance, and I never did, but I know some
pretty shrewd financiers, and they told me that Mr. Bryan wasn't safe on
any financial question. I said to myself, then, that it wouldn't do for
me to vote for Bryan, and I rather thought--I know now--that McKinley
wasn't just right on this Philippine question, and so I just didn't vote
for anybody. I've got that vote yet, and I've kept it clean, ready to
deposit at some other election. It wasn't cast for any wildcat financial
theories, and it wasn't cast to support the man who sends our boys as
volunteers out into the Philippines to get shot down under a polluted
ADDRESS AT THE ANNUAL DINNER OF THE ST. NICHOLAS SOCIETY, NEW YORK,
DECEMBER 6, 1900
Doctor Mackay, in his response to the toast "St. Nicholas,"
referred to Mr. Clemens, saying:--"Mark Twain is as true a
preacher of true righteousness as any bishop, priest, or
minister of any church to-day, because he moves men to forget
their faults by cheerful well-doing instead of making them sour
and morbid by everlastingly bending their attention to the
seamy and sober side of life."
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN OF THE ST. NICHOLAS SOCIETY,--These are,
indeed, prosperous days for me. Night before last, in a speech, the
Bishop of the Diocese of New York complimented me for my contribution to
theology, and to-night the Reverend Doctor Mackay has elected me to the
ministry. I thanked Bishop Potter then for his compliment, and I thank
Doctor Mackay now for that promotion. I think that both have discerned
in me what I long ago discerned, but what I was afraid the world would
never learn to recognize.
In this absence of nine years I find a great improvement in the city of
New York. I am glad to speak on that as a toast--"The City of New York."
Some say it has improved because I have been away. Others, and I agree
with them, say it has improved because I have come back. We must judge
of a city, as of a man, by its external appearances and by its inward
character. In externals the foreigner coming to these shores is more
impressed at first by our sky-scrapers. They are new to him. He has not
done anything of the sort since he built the tower of Babel. The
foreigner is shocked by them.
In the daylight they are ugly. They are--well, too chimneyfied and too
snaggy--like a mouth that needs attention from a dentist; like a cemetery
that is all monuments and no gravestones. But at night, seen from the
river where they are columns towering against the sky, all sparkling with
light, they are fairylike; they are beauty more satisfactory to the soul
and more enchanting than anything that man has dreamed of since the
Arabian nights. We can't always have the beautiful aspect of things.
Let us make the most of our sights that are beautiful and let the others
go. When your foreigner makes disagreeable comments on New York by
daylight, float him down the river at night.
What has made these sky-scrapers possible is the elevator. The cigar-box
which the European calls a "lift" needs but to be compared with our
elevators to be appreciated. The lift stops to reflect between floors.
That is all right in a hearse, but not in elevators. The American
elevator acts like the man's patent purge--it worked. As the inventor
said, "This purge doesn't waste any time fooling around; it attends
strictly to business."
That New-Yorkers have the cleanest, quickest, and most admirable system
of street railways in the world has been forced upon you by the abnormal
appreciation you have of your hackman. We ought always to be grateful to
him for that service. Nobody else would have brought such a system into
existence for us. We ought to build him a monument. We owe him one as
much as we owe one to anybody. Let it be a tall one. Nothing permanent,
of course; build it of plaster, say. Then gaze at it and realize how
grateful we are--for the time being--and then pull it down and throw it
on the ash-heap. That's the way to honor your public heroes.
As to our streets, I find them cleaner than they used to be. I miss
those dear old landmarks, the symmetrical mountain ranges of dust and
dirt that used to be piled up along the streets for the wind and rain to
tear down at their pleasure. Yes, New York is cleaner than Bombay.
I realize that I have been in Bombay, that I now am in New York; that it
is not my duty to flatter Bombay, but rather to flatter New York.
Compared with the wretched attempts of London to light that city, New
York may fairly be said to be a well-lighted city. Why, London's attempt
at good lighting is almost as bad as London's attempt at rapid transit.
There is just one good system of rapid transit in London--the "Tube," and
that, of course, had been put in by Americans. Perhaps, after a while,
those Americans will come back and give New York also a good underground
system. Perhaps they have already begun. I have been so busy since I
came back that I haven't had time as yet to go down cellar.
But it is by the laws of the city, it is by the manners of the city, it
is by the ideals of the city, it is by the customs of the city and by the
municipal government which all these elements correct, support, and
foster, by which the foreigner judges the city. It is by these that he
realizes that New York may, indeed, hold her head high among the cities
of the world. It is by these standards that he knows whether to class
the city higher or lower than the other municipalities of the world.
Gentlemen, you have the best municipal government in the world--
the purest and the most fragrant. The very angels envy you, and wish
they could establish a government like it in heaven. You got it by a
noble fidelity to civic duty. You got it by stern and ever-watchful
exertion of the great powers with which you are charged by the rights
which were handed down to you by your forefathers, by your manly refusal
to let base men invade the high places of your government, and by instant
retaliation when any public officer has insulted you in the city's name
by swerving in the slightest from the upright and full performance of his
duty. It is you who have made this city the envy of the cities of the
world. God will bless you for it--God will bless you for it. Why, when
you approach the final resting-place the angels of heaven will gather at
the gates and cry out:
"Here they come! Show them to the archangel's box, and turn the lime-
light on them!"
CHINA AND THE PHILIPPINES
AT A DINNER GIVEN IN THE WALDORF-ASTORIA HOTEL, DECEMBER, 1900
Winston Spencer Churchill was introduced by Mr. Clemens.
For years I've been a self-appointed missionary to bring about the union
of America and the motherland. They ought to be united. Behold America,
the refuge of the oppressed from everywhere (who can pay fifty dollars'
admission)--any one except a Chinaman--standing up for human rights
everywhere, even helping China let people in free when she wants to
collect fifty dollars upon them. And how unselfishly England has wrought
for the open door for all! And how piously America has wrought for that
open door in all cases where it was not her own!
Yes, as a missionary I've sung my songs of praise. And yet I think that
England sinned when she got herself into a war in South Africa which she
could have avoided, just as we sinned in getting into a similar war in
the Philippines. Mr. Churchill, by his father, is an Englishman; by his
mother he is an American--no doubt a blend that makes the perfect man.
England and America; yes, we are kin. And now that we are also kin in
sin, there is nothing more to be desired. The harmony is complete, the
blend is perfect.
The New Vagabonds Club of London, made up of the leading
younger literary men of the day, gave a dinner in honor of Mr.
and Mrs. Clemens, July 8, 1899.
It has always been difficult--leave that word difficult--not exceedingly
difficult, but just difficult, nothing more than that, not the slightest
shade to add to that--just difficult--to respond properly, in the right
phraseology, when compliments are paid to me; but it is more than
difficult when the compliments are paid to a better than I--my wife.
And while I am not here to testify against myself--I can't be expected to
do so, a prisoner in your own country is not admitted to do so--as to
which member of the family wrote my books, I could say in general that
really I wrote the books myself. My wife puts the facts in, and they
make it respectable. My modesty won't suffer while compliments are being
paid to literature, and through literature to my family. I can't get
enough of them.
I am curiously situated to-night. It so rarely happens that I am
introduced by a humorist; I am generally introduced by a person of grave
walk and carriage. That makes the proper background of gravity for
brightness. I am going to alter to suit, and haply I may say some
When you start with a blaze of sunshine and upburst of humor, when you
begin with that, the proper office of humor is to reflect, to put you
into that pensive mood of deep thought, to make you think of your sins,
if you wish half an hour to fly. Humor makes me reflect now to-night, it
sets the thinking machinery in motion. Always, when I am thinking, there
come suggestions of what I am, and what we all are, and what we are
coming to. A sermon comes from my lips always when I listen to a
I seize the opportunity to throw away frivolities, to say something to
plant the seed, and make all better than when I came. In Mr. Grossmith's
remarks there was a subtle something suggesting my favorite theory of the
difference between theoretical morals and practical morals. I try to
instil practical morals in the place of theatrical--I mean theoretical;
but as an addendum--an annex--something added to theoretical morals.
When your chairman said it was the first time he had ever taken the
chair, he did not mean that he had not taken lots of other things; he
attended my first lecture and took notes. This indicated the man's
disposition. There was nothing else flying round, so he took notes; he
would have taken anything he could get.
I can bring a moral to bear here which shows the difference between
theoretical morals and practical morals. Theoretical morals are the sort
you get on your mother's knee, in good books, and from the pulpit. You
gather them in your head, and not in your heart; they are theory without
practice. Without the assistance of practice to perfect them, it is
difficult to teach a child to "be honest, don't steal."
I will teach you how it should be done, lead you into temptation, teach
you how to steal, so that you may recognize when you have stolen and feel
the proper pangs. It is no good going round and bragging you have never
taken the chair.
As by the fires of experience, so by commission of crime, you learn real
morals. Commit all the crimes, familiarize yourself with all sins, take
them in rotation (there are only two or three thousand of them), stick to
it, commit two or three every day, and by-and-by you will be proof
against them. When you are through you will be proof against all sins
and morally perfect. You will be vaccinated against every possible
commission of them. This is the only way.
I will read you a written statement upon the subject that I wrote three
years ago to read to the Sabbath-schools. [Here the lecturer turned his
pockets out, but without success.] No! I have left it at home. Still,
it was a mere statement of fact, illustrating the value of practical
morals produced by the commission of crime.
It was in my boyhood just a statement of fact, reading is only more
formal, merely facts, merely pathetic facts, which I can state so as to
be understood. It relates to the first time I ever stole a watermelon;
that is, I think it was the first time; anyway, it was right along there
I stole it out of a farmer's wagon while he was waiting on another
customer. "Stole" is a harsh term. I withdrew--I retired that
watermelon. I carried it to a secluded corner of a lumber-yard. I broke
it open. It was green--the greenest watermelon raised in the valley that
The minute I saw it was green I was sorry, and began to reflect--
reflection is the beginning of reform. If you don't reflect when you
commit a crime then that crime is of no use; it might just as well have
been committed by some one else: You must reflect or the value is lost;
you are not vaccinated against committing it again.
I began to reflect. I said to myself: "What ought a boy to do who has
stolen a green watermelon? What would George Washington do, the father
of his country, the only American who could not tell a lie? What would
he do? There is only one right, high, noble thing for any boy to do who
has stolen a watermelon of that class he must make restitution; he must
restore that stolen property to its rightful owner." I said I would do
it when I made that good resolution. I felt it to be a noble, uplifting
obligation. I rose up spiritually stronger and refreshed. I carried
that watermelon back--what was left of it--and restored it to the farmer,
and made him give me a ripe one in its place.
Now you see that this constant impact of crime upon crime protects you
against further commission of crime. It builds you up. A man can't
become morally perfect by stealing one or a thousand green watermelons,
but every little helps.
I was at a great school yesterday (St. Paul's), where for four hundred
years they have been busy with brains, and building up England by
producing Pepys, Miltons, and Marlboroughs. Six hundred boys left to
nothing in the world but theoretical morality. I wanted to become the
professor of practical morality, but the high master was away, so I
suppose I shall have to go on making my living the same old way--
by adding practical to theoretical morality.
What are the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome, compared
to the glory and grandeur and majesty of a perfected morality such as you
see before you?
The New Vagabonds are old vagabonds (undergoing the old sort of reform).
You drank my health; I hope I have not been unuseful. Take this system
of morality to your hearts. Take it home to your neighbors and your
graves, and I hope that it will be a long time before you arrive there.
The Young Men's Christian Association asked Mr. Clemens to
deliver a lay sermon at the Majestic Theatre, New York, March
4, 1906. More than five thousand young men tried to get into
the theatre, and in a short time traffic was practically
stopped in the adjacent streets. The police reserves had to be
called out to thin the crowd. Doctor Fagnani had said
something before about the police episode, and Mr. Clemens took
I have been listening to what was said here, and there is in it a lesson
of citizenship. You created the police, and you are responsible for
them. One must pause, therefore, before criticising them too harshly.
They are citizens, just as we are. A little of citizenship ought to be
taught at the mother's knee and in the nursery. Citizenship is what
makes a republic; monarchies can get along without it. What keeps a
republic on its legs is good citizenship.
Organization is necessary in all things. It is even necessary in reform.
I was an organization myself once--for twelve hours. I was in Chicago a
few years ago about to depart for New York. There were with me Mr.
Osgood, a publisher, and a stenographer. I picked out a state-room on a
train, the principal feature of which was that it contained the privilege
of smoking. The train had started but a short time when the conductor
came in and said that there had been a mistake made, and asked that we
vacate the apartment. I refused, but when I went out on the platform
Osgood and the stenographer agreed to accept a section. They were too
Now, I am not modest. I was born modest, but it didn't last. I asserted
myself; insisted upon my rights, and finally the Pullman Conductor and
the train conductor capitulated, and I was left in possession.
I went into the dining--car the next morning for breakfast. Ordinarily
I only care for coffee and rolls, but this particular morning I espied an
important-looking man on the other side of the car eating broiled
chicken. I asked for broiled chicken, and I was told by the waiter and
later by the dining-car conductor that there was no broiled chicken.
There must have been an argument, for the Pullman conductor came in and
remarked: "If he wants broiled chicken, give it to him. If you haven't
got it on the train, stop somewhere. It will be better for all
concerned!" I got the chicken.
It is from experiences such as these that you get your education of life,
and you string them into jewels or into tinware, as you may choose.
I have received recently several letters asking my counsel or advice.
The principal request is for some incident that may prove helpful to the
young. There were a lot of incidents in my career to help me along--
sometimes they helped me along faster than I wanted to go.
Here is such a request. It is a telegram from Joplin, Missouri, and it
reads: "In what one of your works can we find the definition of a
I have not answered that telegram, either; I couldn't. It seems to me
that if any man has just merciful and kindly instincts he would be a
gentleman, for he would need nothing else in the world.
I received the other day a letter from my old friend, William Dean
Howells--Howells, the head of American literature. No one is able to
stand with him. He is an old, old friend of mine, and he writes me,
"To-morrow I shall be sixty-nine years old." Why, I am surprised at
Howells writing that! I have known him longer than that. I'm sorry to
see a man trying to appear so young. Let's see. Howells says now,
"I see you have been burying Patrick. I suppose he was old, too."
No, he was never old--Patrick. He came to us thirty-six years ago. He
was my coachman on the morning that I drove my young bride to our new
home. He was a young Irishman, slender, tall, lithe, honest, truthful,
and he never changed in all his life. He really was with us but twenty-
five years, for he did not go with us to Europe, but he never regarded
that as separation. As the children grew up he was their guide. He was
all honor, honesty, and affection. He was with us in New Hampshire, with
us last summer, and his hair was just as black, his eyes were just as
blue, his form just as straight, and his heart just as good as on the day
we first met. In all the long years Patrick never made a mistake. He
never needed an order, he never received a command. He knew. I have
been asked for my idea of an ideal gentleman, and I give it to you
UNIVERSITY SETTLEMENT SOCIETY
After the serious addresses were made, Seth Low introduced Mr.
Clemens at the Settlement House, February 2, 1901.
The older we grow the greater becomes our, wonder at how much ignorance
one can contain without bursting one's clothes. Ten days ago I did not
know anything about the University Settlement except what I'd read in the
pamphlets sent me. Now, after being here and hearing Mrs. Hewitt and
Mrs. Thomas, it seems to me I know of nothing like it at all. It's a
charity that carries no humiliation with it. Marvellous it is, to think
of schools where you don't have to drive the children in but drive them
out. It was not so in my day.
Down-stairs just now I saw a dancing lesson going on. You must pay a
cent for a lesson. You can't get it for nothing. That's the reason I
never learned to dance.
But it was the pawnbroker's shop you have here that interested me
mightily. I've known something about pawnbrokers' shops in my time, but
here you have a wonderful plan. The ordinary pawnbroker charges thirty--
six per cent. a year for a loan, and I've paid more myself, but here a
man or woman in distress can obtain a loan for one per cent. a month!
I've been interested in all I've heard to-day, especially in the romances
recounted by Mrs. Thomas, which reminds me that I have a romance of my
own in my autobiography, which I am building for the instruction of the
In San Francisco, many years ago, when I was a newspaper reporter
(perhaps I should say I had been and was willing to be), a pawnbroker was
taking care of what property I had. There was a friend of mine, a poet,
out of a job, and he was having a hard time of it, too. There was
passage in it, but I guess I've got to keep that for the autobiography.
Well, my friend the poet thought his life was a failure, and I told him I
thought it was, and then he said he thought he ought to commit suicide,
and I said "all right," which was disinterested advice to a friend in
trouble; but, like all such advice, there was just a little bit of self-
interest back of it, for if I could get a "scoop" on the other newspapers
I could get a job.
The poet could be spared, and so, largely for his own good and partly for
mine, I kept the thing in his mind, which was necessary, as would-be
suicides are very changeable aid hard to hold to their purpose. He had a
preference for a pistol, which was an extravagance, for we hadn't enough
between us to hire a pistol. A fork would have been easier.
And so he concluded to drown himself, and I said it was an excellent
idea--the only trouble being that he was so good a swimmer. So we went
down to the beach. I went along to see that the thing was done right.
Then something most romantic happened. There came in on the sea
something that had been on its way for three years. It rolled in across
the broad Pacific with a message that was full of meaning to that poor
poet and cast itself at his feet. It was a life-preserver! This was a
complication. And then I had an idea--he never had any, especially when
he was going to write poetry; I suggested that we pawn the life-preserver
and get a revolver.
The pawnbroker gave us an old derringer with a bullet as big as a hickory
nut. When he heard that it was only a poet that was going to kill
himself he did not quibble. Well, we succeeded in sending a bullet right
through his head. It was a terrible moment when he placed that pistol
against his forehead and stood for an instant. I said, "Oh, pull the
trigger!" and he did, and cleaned out all the gray matter in his brains.
It carried the poetic faculty away, and now he's a useful member of
Now, therefore, I realize that there's no more beneficent institution
than this penny fund of yours, and I want all the poets to know this.
I did think about writing you a check, but now I think I'll send you a
few copies of what one of your little members called 'Strawberry Finn'.
PUBLIC EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
ADDRESS AT A MEETING OF THE BERKELEY LYCEUM, NEW YORK,
NOVEMBER 23, 1900
I don't suppose that I am called here as an expert on education, for that
would show a lack of foresight on your part and a deliberate intention to
remind me of my shortcomings.
As I sat here looking around for an idea it struck me that I was called
for two reasons. One was to do good to me, a poor unfortunate traveller
on the world's wide ocean, by giving me a knowledge of the nature and
scope of your society and letting me know that others beside myself have
been of some use in the world. The other reason that I can see is that
you have called me to show by way of contrast what education can
accomplish if administered in the right sort of doses.
Your worthy president said that the school pictures, which have received
the admiration of the world at the Paris Exposition, have been sent to
Russia, and this was a compliment from that Government--which is very
surprising to me. Why, it is only an hour since I read a cablegram in
the newspapers beginning "Russia Proposes to Retrench." I was not
expecting such a thunderbolt, and I thought what a happy thing it will be
for Russians when the retrenchment will bring home the thirty thousand
Russian troops now in Manchuria, to live in peaceful pursuits. I thought
this was what Germany should do also without delay, and that France and
all the other nations in China should follow suit.
Why should not China be free from the foreigners, who are only making
trouble on her soil? If they would only all go home, what a pleasant
place China would be for the Chinese! We do not allow Chinamen to come
here, and I say in all seriousness that it would be a graceful thing to
let China decide who shall go there.
China never wanted foreigners any more than foreigners wanted Chinamen,
and on this question I am with the Boxers every time. The Boxer is a
patriot. He loves his country better than he does the countries of other
people. I wish him success. The Boxer believes in driving us out of his
country. I am a Boxer too, for I believe in driving him out of our
When I read the Russian despatch further my dream of world peace
vanished. It said that the vast expense of maintaining the army had made
it necessary to retrench, and so the Government had decided that to
support the army it would be necessary to withdraw the appropriation from
the public schools. This is a monstrous idea to us.
We believe that out of the public school grows the greatness of a nation.
It is curious to reflect how history repeats itself the world over. Why,
I remember the same thing was done when I was a boy on the Mississippi
River. There was a proposition in a township there to discontinue public
schools because they were too expensive. An old farmer spoke up and said
if they stopped the schools they would not save anything, because every
time a school was closed a jail had to be built.
It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. He'll never get fat. I believe
it is better to support schools than jails.
The work of your association is better and shows more wisdom than the
Czar of Russia and all his people. This is not much of a compliment, but
it's the best I've got in stock.
EDUCATION AND CITIZENSHIP
On the evening of May 14, 1908, the alumni of the College of
the City of New York celebrated the opening of the new college
buildings at a banquet in the Waldorf Astoria. Mr. Clemens
followed Mayor McClellan.
I agreed when the Mayor said that there was not a man within hearing who
did not agree that citizenship should be placed above everything else,
Have you ever thought about this? Is there a college in the whole
country where there is a chair of good citizenship? There is a kind of
bad citizenship which is taught in the schools, but no real good
citizenship taught. There are some which teach insane citizenship,
bastard citizenship, but that is all. Patriotism! Yes; but patriotism
is usually the refuge of the scoundrel. He is the man who talks the
You can begin that chair of citizenship in the College of the City of New
York. You can place it above mathematics and literature, and that is
where it belongs.
We used to trust in God. I think it was in 1863 that some genius
suggested that it be put upon the gold and silver coins which circulated
among the rich. They didn't put it on the nickels and coppers because
they didn't think the poor folks had any trust in God.
Good citizenship would teach accuracy of thinking and accuracy of
statement. Now, that motto on the coin is an overstatement. Those
Congressmen had no right to commit this whole country to a theological
doctrine. But since they did, Congress ought to state what our creed
There was never a nation in the world that put its whole trust in God.
It is a statement made on insufficient evidence. Leaving out the
gamblers, the burglars, and the plumbers, perhaps we do put our trust in
God after a fashion. But, after all, it is an overstatement.
If the cholera or black plague should come to these shores, perhaps the
bulk of the nation would pray to be delivered from it, but the rest would
put their trust in the Health Board of the City of New York.
I read in the papers within the last day or two of a poor young girl who
they said was a leper. Did the people in that populous section of the
country where she was--did they put their trust in God? The girl was
afflicted with the leprosy, a disease which cannot be communicated from
one person to another.
Yet, instead of putting their trust in God, they harried that poor
creature, shelterless and friendless, from place to place, exactly as
they did in the Middle Ages, when they made lepers wear bells, so that
people could be warned of their approach and avoid them. Perhaps those
people in the Middle Ages thought they were putting their trust in God.
The President ordered the removal of that motto from the coin, and I
thought that it was well. I thought that overstatement should not stay
there. But I think it would better read, "Within certain judicious
limitations we trust in God," and if there isn't enough room on the coin
for this, why, enlarge the coin.
Now I want to tell a story about jumping at conclusions. It was told to
me by Bram Stoker, and it concerns a christening. There was a little
clergyman who was prone to jump at conclusions sometimes. One day he was
invited to officiate at a christening. He went. There sat the
relatives--intelligent-looking relatives they were. The little
clergyman's instinct came to him to make a great speech. He was given to
flights of oratory that way--a very dangerous thing, for often the wings
which take one into clouds of oratorical enthusiasm are wax and melt up
there, and down you come.
But the little clergyman couldn't resist. He took the child in his arms,
and, holding it, looked at it a moment. It wasn't much of a child. It
was little, like a sweet-potato. Then the little clergyman waited
impressively, and then: "I see in your countenances," he said,
"disappointment of him. I see you are disappointed with this baby. Why?
Because he is so little. My friends, if you had but the power of looking
into the future you might see that great things may come of little
things. There is the great ocean, holding the navies of the world, which
comes from little drops of water no larger than a woman's tears. There
are the great constellations in the sky, made up of little bits of stars.
Oh, if you could consider his future you might see that he might become
the greatest poet of the universe, the greatest warrior the world has
ever known, greater than Caesar, than Hannibal, than--er--er" (turning to
the father)--"what's his name?"
The father hesitated, then whispered back: "His name? Well, his name is
At a beefsteak dinner, given by artists, caricaturists, and
humorists of New York City, April 18, 1908, Mr. Clemens, Mr. H.
H. Rogers, and Mr. Patrick McCarren were the guests of honor.
Each wore a white apron, and each made a short speech.
In the matter of courage we all have our limits.
There never was a hero who did not have his bounds. I suppose it may be
said of Nelson and all the others whose courage has been advertised that
there came times in their lives when their bravery knew it had come to
I have found mine a good many times. Sometimes this was expected--often
it was unexpected. I know a man who is not afraid to sleep with a
rattlesnake, but you could not get him to sleep with a safety-razor.
I never had the courage to talk across a long, narrow room I should be at
the end of the room facing all the audience. If I attempt to talk across
a room I find myself turning this way and that, and thus at alternate
periods I have part of the audience behind me. You ought never to have
any part of the audience behind you; you never can tell what they are
going to do.
I'll sit down.
THE DINNER TO MR. CHOATE
AT A DINNER GIVEN IN HONOR OF AMBASSADOR JOSEPH H. CHOATE AT
THE LOTOS CLUB, NOVEMBER 24, 7902
The speakers, among others, were: Senator Depew, William Henry
White, Speaker Thomas Reed, and Mr. Choate. Mr. Clemens spoke,
in part, as follows:
The greatness of this country rests on two anecdotes. The first one is
that of Washington and his hatchet, representing the foundation of true
speaking, which is the characteristic of our people. The second one is
an old one, and I've been waiting to hear it to-night; but as nobody has
told it yet, I will tell it.
You've heard it before, and you'll hear it many, many times more. It is
an anecdote of our guest, of the time when he was engaged as a young man
with a gentle Hebrew, in the process of skinning the client. The main
part in that business is the collection of the bill for services in
skinning the man. "Services" is the term used in that craft for the
operation of that kind-diplomatic in its nature.
Choate's--co-respondent--made out a bill for $500 for his services, so
called. But Choate told him he had better leave the matter to him, and
the next day he collected the bill for the services and handed the Hebrew
$5000, saying, "That's your half of the loot," and inducing that
memorable response: "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."
The deep-thinkers didn't merely laugh when that happened. They stopped
to think, and said "There's a rising man. He must be rescued from the
law and consecrated to diplomacy. The commercial advantages of a great
nation lie there in that man's keeping. We no longer require a man to
take care of our moral character before the world. Washington and his
anecdote have done that. We require a man to take care of our commercial
Mr. Choate has carried that trait with him, and, as Mr. Carnegie has
said, he has worked like a mole underground.
We see the result when American railroad iron is sold so cheap in England
that the poorest family can have it. He has so beguiled that Cabinet of
He has been spreading the commerce of this nation, and has depressed
English commerce in the same ratio. This was the principle underlying
that anecdote, and the wise men saw it; the principle of give and take--
give one and take ten--the principle of diplomacy.
ON STANLEY AND LIVINGSTONE
Mr. Clemens was entertained at dinner by the Whitefriars' Club,
London, at the Mitre Tavern, on the evening of August 6, 1872.
In reply to the toast in his honor he said:
GENTLEMEN,--I thank you very heartily indeed for this expression of
kindness toward me. What I have done for England and civilization in the
arduous affairs which I have engaged in (that is good: that is so smooth
that I will say it again and again)--what I have done for England and
civilization in the arduous part I have performed I have done with a
single-hearted devotion and with no hope of reward. I am proud, I am
very proud, that it was reserved for me to find Doctor Livingstone and
for Mr. Stanley to get all the credit. I hunted for that man in Africa
all over seventy-five or one hundred parishes, thousands and thousands of
miles in the wilds and deserts all over the place, sometimes riding
negroes and sometimes travelling by rail. I didn't mind the rail or
anything else, so that I didn't come in for the tar and feathers. I
found that man at Ujiji--a place you may remember if you have ever been
there--and it was a very great satisfaction that I found him just in the
nick of time. I found that poor old man deserted by his niggers and by
his geographers, deserted by all of his kind except the gorillas--
dejected, miserable, famishing, absolutely famishing--but he was
eloquent. Just as I found him he had eaten his last elephant, and he
said to me: "God knows where I shall get another." He had nothing to
wear except his venerable and honorable naval suit, and nothing to eat
but his diary.
But I said to him: "It is all right; I have discovered you, and Stanley
will be here by the four-o'clock train and will discover you officially,
and then we will turn to and have a reg'lar good time." I said: "Cheer
up, for Stanley has got corn, ammunition, glass beads, hymn-books,
whiskey, and everything which the human heart can desire; he has got all
kinds of valuables, including telegraph-poles and a few cart-loads of
money. By this time communication has been made with the land of Bibles
and civilization, and property will advance." And then we surveyed all
that country, from Ujiji, through Unanogo and other places, to
Unyanyembe. I mention these names simply for your edification, nothing
more--do not expect it--particularly as intelligence to the Royal
Geographical Society. And then, having filled up the old man, we were
all too full for utterance and departed. We have since then feasted on
Stanley has received a snuff-box and I have received considerable snuff;
he has got to write a book and gather in the rest of the credit, and I am
going to levy on the copyright and to collect the money. Nothing comes
amiss to me--cash or credit; but, seriously, I do feel that Stanley is
the chief man and an illustrious one, and I do applaud him with all my
heart. Whether he is an American or a Welshman by birth, or one, or
both, matters not to me. So far as I am personally concerned, I am
simply here to stay a few months, and to see English people and to learn
English manners and customs, and to enjoy myself; so the simplest thing I
can do is to thank you for the toast you have honored me with and for the
remarks you have made, and to wish health and prosperity to the
Whitefriars' Club, and to sink down to my accustomed level.
HENRY M. STANLEY
ADDRESS DELIVERED IN BOSTON, NOVEMBER, 1886
Mr. Clemens introduced Mr. Stanley.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, if any should ask, Why is it that you are here as
introducer of the lecturer? I should answer that I happened to be around
and was asked to perform this function. I was quite willing to do so,
and, as there was no sort of need of an introduction, anyway, it could be
necessary only that some person come forward for a moment and do an
unnecessary thing, and this is quite in my line. Now, to introduce so
illustrious a name as Henry M. Stanley by any detail of what the man has
done is clear aside from my purpose; that would be stretching the
unnecessary to an unconscionable degree. When I contrast what I have
achieved in my measurably brief life with what he has achieved in his
possibly briefer one, the effect is to sweep utterly away the ten-story
edifice of my own self-appreciation and leave nothing behind but the
cellar. When you compare these achievements of his with the achievements
of really great men who exist in history, the comparison, I believe, is
in his favor. I am not here to disparage Columbus.
No, I won't do that; but when you come to regard the achievements of
these two men, Columbus and Stanley, from the standpoint of the
difficulties they encountered, the advantage is with Stanley and against
Columbus. Now, Columbus started out to discover America. Well, he
didn't need to do anything at all but sit in the cabin of his ship and
hold his grip and sail straight on, and America would discover itself.
Here it was, barring his passage the whole length and breadth of the
South American continent, and he couldn't get by it. He'd got to
discover it. But Stanley started out to find Doctor Livingstone, who was
scattered abroad, as you may say, over the length and breadth of a vast
slab of Africa as big as the United States.
It was a blind kind of search. He was the worst scattered of men. But I
will throw the weight of this introduction upon one very peculiar feature
of Mr. Stanley's character, and that is his indestructible Americanism--
an Americanism which he is proud of. And in this day and time, when it
is the custom to ape and imitate English methods and fashion, it is like
a breath of fresh air to stand in the presence of this untainted American
citizen who has been caressed and complimented by half of the crowned
heads of Europe who could clothe his body from his head to his heels with
the orders and decorations lavished upon him. And yet, when the untitled
myriads of his own country put out their hands in welcome to him and
greet him, "Well done," through the Congress of the United States, that
is the crown that is worth all the rest to him. He is a product of
institutions which exist in no other country on earth-institutions that
bring out all that is best and most heroic in a man. I introduce Henry
DINNER TO MR. JEROME
A dinner to express their confidence in the integrity and good
judgment of District-Attorney Jerome was given at Delmonico's
by over three hundred of his admirers on the evening of May 7,
Indeed, that is very sudden. I was not informed that the verdict was
going to depend upon my judgment, but that makes not the least difference
in the world when you already know all about it. It is not any matter
when you are called upon to express it; you can get up and do it, and my
verdict has already been recorded in my heart and in my head as regards
Mr. Jerome and his administration of the criminal affairs of this county.
I agree with everything Mr. Choate has said in his letter regarding Mr.
Jerome; I agree with everything Mr. Shepard has said; and I agree with
everything Mr. Jerome has said in his own commendation. And I thought
Mr. Jerome was modest in that. If he had been talking about another
officer of this county, he could have painted the joys and sorrows of
office and his victories in even stronger language than he did.
I voted for Mr. Jerome in those old days, and I should like to vote for
him again if he runs for any office. I moved out of New York, and that
is the reason, I suppose, I cannot vote for him again. There may be some
way, but I have not found it out. But now I am a farmer--a farmer up in
Connecticut, and winning laurels. Those people already speak with such
high favor, admiration, of my farming, and they say that I am the only
man that has ever come to that region who could make two blades of grass
grow where only three grew before.
Well, I cannot vote for him. You see that. As it stands now, I cannot.
I am crippled in that way and to that extent, for I would ever so much
like to do it. I am not a Congress, and I cannot distribute pensions,
and I don't know any other legitimate way to buy a vote. But if I should
think of any legitimate way, I shall make use of it, and then I shall
vote for Mr. Jerome.
The Dramatic and Literary Society of London gave a welcome-home
dinner to Sir Henry Irving at the Savoy Hotel, London, June 9,
1900. In proposing the toast of "The Drama" Mr. Clemens said:
I find my task a very easy one. I have been a dramatist for thirty
years. I have had an ambition in all that time to overdo the work of the
Spaniard who said he left behind him four hundred dramas when he died.
I leave behind me four hundred and fifteen, and am not yet dead.
The greatest of all the arts is to write a drama. It is a most difficult
thing. It requires the highest talent possible and the rarest gifts.
No, there is another talent that ranks with it--for anybody can write a
drama--I had four hundred of them--but to get one accepted requires real
ability. And I have never had that felicity yet.
But human nature is so constructed, we are so persistent, that when we
know that we are born to a thing we do not care what the world thinks
about it. We go on exploiting that talent year after year, as I have
done. I shall go on writing dramas, and some day the impossible may
happen, but I am not looking for it.
In writing plays the chief thing is novelty. The world grows tired of
solid forms in all the arts. I struck a new idea myself years ago.
I was not surprised at it. I was always expecting it would happen.
A person who has suffered disappointment for many years loses confidence,
and I thought I had better make inquiries before I exploited my new idea
of doing a drama in the form of a dream, so I wrote to a great authority
on knowledge of all kinds, and asked him whether it was new.
I could depend upon him. He lived in my dear home in America--that dear
home, dearer to me through taxes. He sent me a list of plays in which
that old device had been used, and he said that there was also a modern
lot. He travelled back to China and to a play dated two thousand six
hundred years before the Christian era. He said he would follow it up
with a list of the previous plays of the kind, and in his innocence would
have carried them back to the Flood.
That is the most discouraging thing that has ever happened to me in my
dramatic career. I have done a world of good in a silent and private
way, and have furnished Sir Henry Irving with plays and plays and plays.
What has he achieved through that influence. See where he stands now--
on the summit of his art in two worlds and it was I who put him there
--that partly put him there.
I need not enlarge upon the influence the drama has exerted upon
civilization. It has made good morals entertaining. I am to be followed
by Mr. Pinero. I conceive that we stand at the head of the profession.
He has not written as many plays as I have, but he has lead that God-
given talent, which I lack, of working hem off on the manager. I couple
his name with this toast, and add the hope that his influence will be
supported in exercising his masterly handicraft in that great gift, and
that he will long live to continue his fine work.
DINNER TO HAMILTON W. MABIE
ADDRESS DELIVERED APRIL 29, 1901
In introducing Mr. Clemens, Doctor Van Dyke said:
"The longer the speaking goes on to-night the more I wonder how
I got this job, and the only explanation I can give for it is
that it is the same kind of compensation for the number of
articles I have sent to The Outlook, to be rejected by Hamilton
W. Mabie. There is one man here to-night that has a job cut
out for him that none of you would have had--a man whose humor
has put a girdle of light around the globe, and whose sense of
humor has been an example for all five continents. He is going
to speak to you. Gentlemen, you know him best as Mark Twain."
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN,--This man knows now how it feels to be the
chief guest, and if he has enjoyed it he is the first man I have ever
seen in that position that did enjoy it. And I know, by side-remarks
which he made to me before his ordeal came upon him, that he was feeling
as some of the rest of us have felt under the same circumstances. He was
afraid that he would not do himself justice; but he did--to my surprise.
It is a most serious thing to be a chief guest on an occasion like this,
and it is admirable, it is fine. It is a great compliment to a man that
he shall come out of it so gloriously as Mr. Mabie came out of it
tonight--to my surprise. He did it well.
He appears to be editor of The Outlook, and notwithstanding that, I have
every admiration, because when everything is said concerning The Outlook,
after all one must admit that it is frank in its delinquencies, that it
is outspoken in its departures from fact, that it is vigorous in its
mistaken criticisms of men like me. I have lived in this world a long,
long time, and I know you must not judge a man by the editorials that he
puts in his paper. A man is always better than his printed opinions.
A man always reserves to himself on the inside a purity and an honesty
and a justice that are a credit to him, whereas the things that he prints
are just the reverse.
Oh yes, you must not judge a man by what he writes in his paper. Even in
an ordinary secular paper a man must observe some care about it; he must
be better than the principles which he puts in print. And that is the
case with Mr. Mabie. Why, to see what he writes about me and the
missionaries you would think he did not have any principles. But that is
Mr. Mabie in his public capacity. Mr. Mabie in his private capacity is
just as clean a man as I am.
In this very room, a month or two ago, some people admired that portrait;
some admired this, but the great majority fastened on that, and said,
"There is a portrait that is a beautiful piece of art." When that
portrait is a hundred years old it will suggest what were the manners and
customs in our time. Just as they talk about Mr. Mabie to-night, in that
enthusiastic way, pointing out the various virtues of the man and the
grace of his spirit, and all that, so was that portrait talked about.
They were enthusiastic, just as we men have been over the character and
the work of Mr. Mabie. And when they were through they said that
portrait, fine as it is, that work, beautiful as it is, that piece of
humanity on that canvas, gracious and fine as it is, does not rise to
those perfections that exist in the man himself. Come up, Mr. Alexander.
[The reference was to James W. Alexander, who happened to be sitting--
beneath the portrait of himself on the wall.] Now, I should come up and
show myself. But he cannot do it, he cannot do it. He was born that
way, he was reared in that way. Let his modesty be an example, and I
wish some of you had it, too. But that is just what I have been saying
--that portrait, fine as it is, is not as fine as the man it represents,
and all the things that have been said about Mr. Mabie, and certainly
they have been very nobly worded and beautiful, still fall short of the
INTRODUCING NYE AND RILEY
James Whitcomb Riley and Edgar Wilson Nye (Bill Nye) were to
give readings in Tremont Temple, Boston, November, 1888. Mr.
Clemens was induced to introduce Messrs. Riley and Nye. His
appearance on the platform was a surprise to the audience, and
when they recognized him there was a tremendous demonstration.
I am very glad indeed to introduce these young people to you, and at the
same time get acquainted with them myself. I have seen them more than
once for a moment, but have not had the privilege of knowing them
personally as intimately as I wanted to. I saw them first, a great many
years ago, when Mr. Barnum had them, and they were just fresh from Siam.
The ligature was their best hold then, the literature became their best
hold later, when one of them committed an indiscretion, and they had to
cut the old bond to accommodate the sheriff.
In that old former time this one was Chang, that one was Eng. The
sympathy existing between the two was most extraordinary; it was so fine,
so strong, so subtle, that what the one ate the other digested; when one
slept, the other snored; if one sold a thing, the other scooped the
usufruct. This independent and yet dependent action was observable in
all the details of their daily life--I mean this quaint and arbitrary
distribution of originating cause and resulting effect between the two-
between, I may say, this dynamo and the other always motor, or, in other
words, that the one was always the creating force, the other always the
utilizing force; no, no, for while it is true that within certain well-
defined zones of activity the one was always dynamo and the other always
motor, within certain other well-defined zones these positions became
For instance, in moral matters Mr. Chang Riley was always dynamo, Mr. Eng
Nye was always motor; for while Mr. Chang Riley had a high--in fact, an
abnormally high and fine moral sense, he had no machinery to work it
with; whereas, Mr. Eng Nye, who hadn't any moral sense at all, and hasn't
yet, was equipped with all the necessary plant for putting a noble deed
through, if he could only get the inspiration on reasonable terms
In intellectual matters, on the other hand, Mr. Eng Nye was always
dynamo, Mr. Chang Riley was always motor; Mr. Eng Nye had a stately
intellect, but couldn't make it go; Mr. Chang Riley hadn't, but could.
That is to say, that while Mr. Chang Riley couldn't think things himself,
he had a marvellous natural grace in setting them down and weaving them
together when his pal furnished the raw material.
Thus, working together, they made a strong team; laboring together, they
could do miracles; but break the circuit, and both were impotent. It has
remained so to this day: they must travel together, hoe, and plant, and
plough, and reap, and sell their public together, or there's no result.
I have made this explanation, this analysis, this vivisection, so to
speak, in order that you may enjoy these delightful adventurers
understandingly. When Mr. Eng Nye's deep and broad and limpid
philosophies flow by in front of you, refreshing all the regions round
about with their gracious floods, you will remember that it isn't his
water; it's the other man's, and he is only working the pump. And when
Mr. Chang Riley enchants your ear, and soothes your spirit, and touches
your heart with the sweet and genuine music of his poetry--as sweet and
as genuine as any that his friends, the birds and the bees, make about
his other friends, the woods and the flowers--you will remember, while
placing justice where justice is due, that it isn't his music, but the
other man's--he is only turning the crank.
I beseech for these visitors a fair field, a singleminded, one-eyed
umpire, and a score bulletin barren of goose-eggs if they earn it--and I
judge they will and hope they will. Mr. James Whitcomb Chang Riley will
now go to the bat.
DINNER TO WHITELAW REID
ADDRESS AT THE DINNER IN HONOR OF AMBASSADOR REID, GIVEN BY THE
PILGRIMS' CLUB OF NEW YORK ON FEBRUARY 19, 1908
I am very proud to respond to this toast, as it recalls the proudest day
of my life. The delightful hospitality shown me at the time of my visit
to Oxford I shall cherish until I die. In that long and distinguished
career of mine I value that degree above all other honors. When the ship
landed even the stevedores gathered on the shore and gave an English
cheer. Nothing could surpass in my life the pleasure of those four
weeks. No one could pass by me without taking my hand, even the
policemen. I've been in all the principal capitals of Christendom in my
life, and have always been an object of interest to policemen. Sometimes
there was suspicion in their eyes, but not always. With their puissant
hand they would hold up the commerce of the world to let me pass.
I noticed in the papers this afternoon a despatch from Washington, saying
that Congress would immediately pass a bill restoring to our gold coinage
the motto "In God We Trust." I'm glad of that; I'm glad of that. I was
troubled when that motto was removed. Sure enough, the prosperities of
the whole nation went down in a heap when we ceased to trust in God in
that conspicuously advertised way. I knew there would be trouble. And
if Pierpont Morgan hadn't stepped in--Bishop Lawrence may now add to his
message to the old country that we are now trusting in God again. So we
can discharge Mr. Morgan from his office with honor.
Mr. Reid said an hour or so ago something about my ruining my activities
last summer. They are not ruined, they are renewed. I am stronger now
--much stronger. I suppose that the spiritual uplift I received
increased my physical power more than anything I ever had before. I was
dancing last night at 1.30 o'clock.
Mr. Choate has mentioned Mr. Reid's predecessors. Mr. Choate's head is
full of history, and some of it is true, too. I enjoyed hearing him tell
about the list of the men who had the place before he did. He mentioned
a long list of those predecessors, people I never heard of before, and
elected five of them to the Presidency by his own vote. I'm glad and
proud to find Mr. Reid in that high position, because he didn't look it
when I knew him forty years ago. I was talking to Reid the other day,
and he showed me my autograph on an old paper twenty years old. I didn't
know I had an autograph twenty years ago. Nobody ever asked me for it.
I remember a dinner I had long ago with Whitelaw Reid and John Hay at
Reid's expense. I had another last summer when I was in London at the
embassy that Choate blackguards so. I'd like to live there.
Some people say they couldn't live on the salary, but I could live on the
salary and the nation together. Some of us don't appreciate what this
country can do. There's John Hay, Reid, Choate, and me. This is the
only country in the world where youth, talent, and energy can reach such
heights. It shows what we could do without means, and what people can do
with talent and energy when they find it in people like us.
When I first came to New York they were all struggling young men, and I
am glad to see that they have got on in the world. I knew John Hay when
I had no white hairs in my head and more hair than Reid has now. Those
were days of joy and hope. Reid and Hay were on the staff of the
Tribune. I went there once in that old building, and I looked all around
and I finally found a door ajar and looked in. It wasn't Reid or Hay
there, but it was Horace Greeley. Those were in the days when Horace
Greeley was a king. That was the first time I ever saw him and the last.
I was admiring him when he stopped and seemed to realize that there was a
fine presence there somewhere. He tried to smile, but he was out of
smiles. He looked at me a moment, and said:
"What in H---do you want?"
He began with that word "H." That's a long word and a profane word.
I don't remember what the word was now, but I recognized the power of it.
I had never used that language myself, but at that moment I was
converted. It has been a great refuge for me in time of trouble. If a
man doesn't know that language he can't express himself on strenuous
occasions. When you have that word at your command let trouble come.
But later Hay rose, and you know what summit Whitelaw Reid has reached,
and you see me. Those two men have regulated troubles of nations and
conferred peace upon mankind. And in my humble way, of which I am quite
vain, I was the principal moral force in all those great international
movements. These great men illustrated what I say. Look at us great
people--we all come from the dregs of society. That's what can be done
in this country. That's what this country does for you.
Choate here--he hasn't got anything to say, but he says it just the same,
and he can do it so felicitously, too. I said long ago he was the
handsomest man America ever produced. May the progress of civilization
always rest on such distinguished men as it has in the past!
ROGERS AND RAILROADS
AT A BANQUET GIVEN MR. H. H. ROGERS BY THE BUSINESS MEN OF
NORFOLK, VA., CELEBRATING THE OPENING OF THE VIRGINIAN RAILWAY,
APRIL, 3, 1909
"I have often thought that when the time comes, which must come
to all of us, when we reach that Great Way in the Great Beyond,
and the question is propounded, 'What have you done to gain
admission into this great realm?' if the answer could be
sincerely made, 'I have made men laugh,' it would be the surest
passport to a welcome entrance. We have here to-night one who
has made millions laugh--not the loud laughter that bespeaks
the vacant mind, but the laugh of intelligent mirth that helps
the human heart and the human mind. I refer, of course, to
Doctor Clemens. I was going to say Mark Twain, his literary
title, which is a household phrase in more homes than that of
any other man, and you know him best by that dear old title."
I thank you, Mr. Toastmaster, for the compliment which you have paid me,
and I am sure I would rather have made people laugh than cry, yet in my
time I have made some of them cry; and before I stop entirely I hope to
make some more of them cry. I like compliments. I deal in them myself.
I have listened with the greatest pleasure to the compliments which the
chairman has paid to Mr. Rogers and that road of his to-night, and I hope
some of them are deserved.
It is no small distinction to a man like that to sit here before an
intelligent crowd like this and to be classed with Napoleon and Caesar.
Why didn't he say that this was the proudest day of his life? Napoleon
and Caesar are dead, and they can't be here to defend themselves. But
The chairman said, and very truly, that the most lasting thing in the
hands of man are the roads which Caesar built, and it is true that he
built a lot of them; and they are there yet.
Yes, Caesar built a lot of roads in England, and you can find them. But
Rogers has only built one road, and he hasn't finished that yet. I like
to hear my old friend complimented, but I don't like to hear it overdone.
I didn't go around to-day with the others to see what he is doing. I
will do that in a quiet time, when there is not anything going on, and
when I shall not be called upon to deliver intemperate compliments on a
railroad in which I own no stock.
They proposed that I go along with the committee and help inspect that
dump down yonder. I didn't go. I saw that dump. I saw that thing when
I was coming in on the steamer, and I didn't go because I was diffident,
sentimentally diffident, about going and looking at that thing again--
that great, long, bony thing; it looked just like Mr. Rogers's foot.
The chairman says Mr. Rogers is full of practical wisdom, and he is.
It is intimated here that he is a very ingenious man, and he, is a very
competent financier. Maybe he is now, but it was not always so. I know
lots of private things in his life which people don't know, and I know
how he started; and it was not a very good start. I could have done
better myself. The first time he crossed the Atlantic he had just made
the first little strike in oil, and he was so young he did not like to
ask questions. He did not like to appear ignorant. To this day he don't
like to appear ignorant, but he can look as ignorant as anybody.
On board the ship they were betting on the run of the ship, betting a
couple of shillings, or half a crown, and they proposed that this youth
from the oil regions should bet on the run of the ship. He did not like
to ask what a half-crown was, and he didn't know; but rather than be
ashamed of himself he did bet half a crown on the run of the ship, and in
bed he could not sleep. He wondered if he could afford that outlay in
case he lost. He kept wondering over it, and said to himself: "A king's
crown must be worth $20,000, so half a crown would cost $10,000."
He could not afford to bet away $10,000 on the run of the ship, so he
went up to the stakeholder and gave him $150 to let him off.
I like to hear Mr. Rogers complimented. I am not stingy in compliments
to him myself. Why, I did it to-day when I sent his wife a telegram to
comfort her. That is the kind of person I am. I knew she would be
uneasy about him. I knew she would be solicitous about what he might do
down here, so I did it to quiet her and to comfort her. I said he was
doing well for a person out of practice. There is nothing like it.
He is like I used to be. There were times when I was careless--careless
in my dress when I got older. You know how uncomfortable your wife can
get when you are going away without her superintendence. Once when my
wife could not go with me (she always went with me when she could--
I always did meet that kind of luck), I was going to Washington once, a
long time ago, in Mr. Cleveland's first administration, and she could not
go; but, in her anxiety that I should not desecrate the house, she made
preparation. She knew that there was to be a reception of those authors
at the White House at seven o'clock in the evening. She said, "If I
should tell you now what I want to ask of you, you would forget it before
you get to Washington, and, therefore, I have written it on a card, and
you will find it in your dress--vest pocket when you are dressing at the
Arlington--when you are dressing to see the President." I never thought
of it again until I was dressing, and I felt in that pocket and took it
out, and it said, in a kind of imploring way, "Don't wear your arctics in
the White House."
You complimented Mr. Rogers on his energy, his foresightedness,
complimented him in various ways, and he has deserved those compliments,
although I say it myself; and I enjoy them all. There is one side of Mr.
Rogers that has not been mentioned. If you will leave that to me I will
touch upon that. There was a note in an editorial in one of the Norfolk
papers this morning that touched upon that very thing, that hidden side
of Mr. Rogers, where it spoke of Helen Keller and her affection for Mr.
Rogers, to whom she dedicated her life book. And she has a right to feel
that way, because, without the public knowing anything about it, he
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