SIX PRINTERS AND A NEWSPAPER
1860-61 AGE, 21-22
It may have been to this performance of Richard III that Henry George referred more than thirty years later in life (February 4, 1890) in a speech in San Francisco, when, tracing the genesis of his thought on social questions, he said:
Many times such thought was to recur and, as he said, "to grow and grow''; but just now a matter of very different nature was to attract his attention. In a letter to his Sister Jennie (February 4) he referred to the newly discovered gold and silver mines in the Washoc mountains in Nevada Territory, just over the California line, perhaps a hundred miles beyond Placerville and not far from Carson. The stories coming in seemed incredible, yet this region was in the next ten years to yield $80,000,000 worth of bullion, mostly silver; to make celebrated the "Comstock Lode"; and to raise to world renown the names of the "Bonanza Kings," Mackay, Flood, O'Brien and Fair. The letter ran:
Other letters to and from home throw light upon events. From his mother (February 3):
From his father (April 10):
From Henry George to his Sister Jennie (April 18):
It was at this period, that, urged on by his mother's strong counsel, Henry George pushed out to make social acquaintances. He won the friendship of two young men named Coddington and Hoppel, and through them became acquainted with some young ladies. Both of these young men were ardent Methodists – Hoppel an enthusiast, almost a fanatic, and he urged George to attend his church. The young printer had for several years inwardly shrunk from a literal acceptance of the scriptures, such as he had been taught at old St. Paul's and in the family circle. Roving had bred, or at any rate quickened a revolt, so that, though he said little to hurt the feelings of others, and especially of the dear ones at home, he had come to reject almost completely the forms of religion, and with the forms had cast out belief in a life hereafter. He inclined towards materialism. But the burning enthusiasm of Hoppel, even if it expressed in the main only personal magnetism, was contagious to a sensitive, sympathetic nature; and George began to have new thoughts about religion. Drawn by this, and the desire to make acquaintances, he accepted Hoppel's offer, and went with him to the Methodist place of worship, where an upright, earnest, broad-minded man, Rev. S.D. Simonds, preached. Then the young printer wrote home that he had joined a church. Understanding this to mean more than he intended to convey, the quiet circle at Philadelphia received the news with a delight that was only little lessened when they afterwards learned that it was the Methodist and not the Episcopal Church to which he had attached himself. His mother wrote to him (July 2):
On September 2, 1860, Henry George came of age. He immediately joined the Eureka Typographical Union, and leaving his old boy's position, obtained work as substitute type-setter on the daily papers at journeyman's wages. This irregular work lasted but a short time. He soon returned to the "Home Journal" as foreman at thirty dollars a week, and allowed the use of his name as publisher. But shortly afterwards he wrote home that, the paper being weak, he did not know how long the position might last.
Up to this time frequent reference was made to a desire to visit home, but on the 12th of October, while he was yet foreman on the "Home Journal," Henry George for the first time met, through the offices of his friend, George Wilbur, a girl who was to affect the whole course of his career – Miss Annie Corsina Fox – the occasion being the quiet celebration of her seventeenth birthday.
Miss Fox was an orphan who had just returned from a convent school at Los Angeles, California, which was then a pretty Spanish town. She was of Catholic faith, and of mingled English and Irish blood. Her father, John Fox, an officer in the British army, was of English parentage and Protestant faith. He was thirty-six years old when he married, in Australia, Elizabeth A. McCloskey, a strict Catholic and scarcely out of her sixteenth year. Miss McCloskey was one of the four children, two sons and two daughters, of Henry McCloskey, who was born in Limerick, Ireland. His wife, Mary Ann Wall, born in Emus, County Clare, came of an educated family, having three brothers graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, two of whom had become clergymen in the English Established Church. She herself was a woman of refined and intellectual mind, and strong, commanding nature. Henry McCloskey inherited an established business and was himself a successful man. He had the roving spirit and took his family to Australia and thence to California, stopping for a period in the Hawaiian, or as they were then more commonly called, Sandwich Islands. In Sydney and in Honolulu the family lived in ample means, Henry McCloskey carrying on an important iron-mongering business, and deriving large profits from government contracts which were invested in real estate. He settled his family in California in 1851, and two years later returned to build a railroad in South Australia, where he contracted a fever and died. He was then fifty-four years old and on his way to a big fortune.
But before the family left Australia Major Fox had come to a disagreement with his wife's mother. She had urged the marriage, and when asked subsequently how it was that though staunch Catholic and intense Irish patriot, she had consented to her daughter's marrying a man who was a Protestant and wore a red coat, the reply was that she had been "a mother first and a Catholic afterwards," and had given her sweet, gentle daughter to a soldier and gentleman who could protect her in the new, rough country that Australia then was. Discord between the gentleman and his wife's mother at length ran so high that he requested his wife to choose between them. Elizabeth Fox, feeling a stronger sense of duty towards her mother than towards her husband, chose to stay with the former. The Major then took his last farewell and they never met again. The young wife realising her attachment for him after he had irrevocably gone, fell to grieving, which brought on consumption, of which she died in San Francisco at the age of twenty-nine.
Teresa and Annie were the two daughters of this marriage. Teresa had early shown a serious bent of mind, and at the age of eleven, while reading at her dying mother's bedside, had formed the desire to become a religious. Hope of some day meeting and comforting her father confirmed her in this desire, so that at seventeen she became a member of the Order of the Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul, better known as Sisters of Charity, retaining her name and being subsequently known as Sister Teresa Fox. Many times in after years the sisters tried to get some word of their father, but in vain. He had left the army in Australia, and all trace of him was lost. Sister Teresa died of influenza in St. Louis, Missouri, on January C, 1899, after a service in the order of forty years to the day.
On leaving school, Annie Fox made her home with her grandmother, who was now broken in health, and her aunt, Mrs. Flintoff, of San Francisco. The keen eyes of the grandmother apparently saw the trend of affairs between Annie and Mr. George, and though she was the kind of woman who could recognise and admire the quality of mind the young man exhibited, she regarded him as physically weak and endeavoured to divert the girl's attention, saying: "Annie, that Mr. George is a nice young man, but I fear he is delicate and will die of consumption." But the girl kept her own counsel. She was at that time engaged to a gifted and handsome young man, who had promise of a competency; but, under the ardent wooing of Henry George, a change of feeling came over her.
Meanwhile the calendar of outside events was being rapidly filled. The remarkable campaign of 1860 ended in the victory of the new Republican party. Henry George, now of age, cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln. A few weeks later, December 20, the State of South Carolina formally seceded from the Union. R.S.H. George about the same time (December 19) wrote to his son:
The minds of most men were charged with apprehension as the year 1861 was ushered in. The States of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana followed South Carolina's example and passed ordinances of secession. On March 4 the passive Buchanan went out of office and Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated President of the United States.
At this time Henry George was adrift again. Duncan had sold the "Home Journal" and George turned to "subbing" on the daily papers. For a time he considered a mining project of which he speaks in a letter to his Sister Caroline a year later (July 5, 1862):
The "Evening Journal" with which Henry George now became connected, grew out of a campaign newspaper called the "Constitution," which had been run in support of the Union party presidential condidates in the 1860 campaign – Bell and Everett. Five printers – James J. Knowlton, Abel Gee, son of the Major Gee who was to keep the Andersonville prison during the war; John G. Smith, afterwards an Episcopal clergyman in Missouri; Anson C. Benham, and Freeman A. Camp – entered upon a partnership to revive the paper under the name of the "Evening Journal." They all were poor, but they agreed in addition to gathering most of the news themselves to put in what at that time in California constituted the chief item of expense in newspaper making – their printer's services – each man to give his entire time and labour.
For telegraphic news, up to the time the "Journal" was started, did not occupy much space in West Coast papers. There was no wire connection with the East, and telegrams had to travel a long part of the distance on the "Overland Stage." But now a quicker means of transmission was established in what was known as the "Pony Express." Two relays a week of fast pony riders ran over the fifteen hundred miles of prairie and desert separating St. Joseph, Missouri, and Carson City, Nevada, to connect the Eastern and Western telegraph systems. But this was very expensive, and besides its infrequeney or intermittent nature, almost nine days were required for so-called telegraphic transmission from New York or Washington to San Francisco. Under such circumstances Pacific Coast newspapers did not carry much telegraphic matter, the columns being almost entirely filled with local news and comment and when intelligence of secession and hostilities began to come in from the East the general feeling was that these were only temporary things – mere ebullitions, or "flashes in the pan!" And its promoters believed that if the "Journal" could live the short time until peace and quiet should be restored it could then fall back on the local news and be on equal terms with its contemporaries.
Regarding the new daily as a good venture, Henry George bought an equal share with the others for something over a hundred dollars – money he had saved while foreman on Duncan's paper – and agreed with the others to give his whole time to the enterprise. He wrote to his Sister Jennie (April 10, 1861):
On April 12 the astounding, news spread over the North that the South had fired upon the United States flag at Fort Sumter. Owing to the slow means of communication, this information did not reach California until some days later; but when it did come it produced an extraordinary sensation.
Henry George had invited Miss Fox out to walk that evening, and he was so absorbed that she asked the cause; and when he said, "The terrible news," and told what had happened, she exclaimed: "Is that all? Why, I thought your dear old father was dead." He turned in astonishment: "All!" he said in some excitement; "why, what could be a greater calamity to this country?"
It was not to be wondered at that a young girl born in another country, and just fresh from a convent school, should, in San Francisco, far removed from the seat of the struggle, not at once grasp the significance of events; but the family in Philadelphia thoroughly understood, Mrs. George writing to her son (May 20) a few days after the President had called out seventy-five thousand volunteers for a three months' service:
His Sister Jennie (by same mail) wrote:
"It is all we women can do – give up our husbands and brothers cheerfully. A great many we know are going, some your old friends."
Later (June 10) his father wrote:
The dismissal from the Custom House which R.S.H. George feared came soon after this. At sixty-four years of age, and when business was demoralised, he was forced to seek means of livelihood. His son Henry, in his prosperous periods had been accustomed to send money home, and even during the hard struggling months on the "Evening Journal" had sent a few remittances. When he heard of his father's threatened plight he at once offered to sell out his interest in the paper for whatever it would bring and send the money on. But the old gentleman would not listen to this. He replied (August 3):
He told his son that he had hopes of success in a ship-brokerage business which he and a Custom House associate, who also had been displaced, intended to enter upon.
A never failing complaint in the communications from home at this period was that there were so few and such meagre letters from California. There was ground enough for these complaints, for all connected with the "Evening Journal" had to work long and hard. In a letter to his Sister Caroline (August 19) Henry George shows this:
The little band of poverty-stricken printers pressed resolutely on, with the earnest hopes of Henry George's folks at home. Indeed, the latter took so much interest in the enterprise that when her brother had written that he would sell out at any price to send his father some money, his Sister Jennie had replied (August 29): "I hope you won't sell your share in the paper. It seems hard to think of your commencing all over again. We all cried when we got your letter; it seemed so hard on you."
The bond between this brother and sister, always close by reason of congenial tastes, seemed now to grow more tender. By his encouragement, she wrote several long news letters from Philadelphia for his paper, and in her personal letters she constantly referred, with something like wistfulness, to the days that seemed long gone when they were happy children together:
A long letter to his Sister Jennie at this time (September 15) shows with some clearness the state of the young printer's mind:
"But the days have followed each other, and pretty much like each other, too, and nothing has happened – no prospect of war with European powers, no uprising of Secessionists, no appearance of the Sheriff's officers, nor even of that individual with more money than brains, and an exceedingly strong desire to go into the news paper business in a small way, whom I have been hoping would come along and buy me out. So we go. What a constant reaching this life is, a constant stretching forth and longing after something. But you know what Emerson in the 'Sphinx' makes his 'Œdipus' say:
And so it is – and so it will be until we reach the perfect, and that you and I and every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve, each for himself, knows we are very far from.
"Truly it seems that we have fallen upon evil days. A little while ago all was
fair and bright, and now the storm howls around us with a strength and fury
that almost unnerves one. Our country is being torn to pieces, and ourselves,
our homes, filled with distress. As to the ultimate end, I have no doubt. If
civil war should pass over the whole country, leaving nothing but devastation
behind it, I think my faith in the ultimate good would remain unchanged; but
it is hard to feel so of our individual cases. On great events and move ments
we can philosophise, but when it comes down to ourselves, to our homes, to
those we love, then we can only feel; our philosophy goes to the dogs....
"In the meantime we eagerly wait the arrival of each pony. Twice a week it arrives, and from the outer telegraph station in Nevada Territory the news is flashed to us in San Francisco. The last two or three times the news has seemed to me rather more encouraging, not so much by reason of anything that has been done, as by the evident determination of the loyal North to see the thing through.
"I do not get much time to read now. In fact, I have read very little for eighteen months – hardly more than the newspapers; certainly not enough to keep me posted on the current literature of the day. How I long for the Golden Age – for the promised Millenium, when each one will be free to follow his best and noblest impulses, unfettered by the restrictions and necessities which our present state of society imposes upon him – when the poorest and the meanest will have a chance to use all his God-given faculties, and not be forced to drudge away the best part of his time in order to supply wants but little above those of the animal.
"... – I had a dream last night – such a pleasant, vivid dream, that I must tell you of it. I thought 1 was scooping treasure out of the earth by handfuls, almost delirious with the thoughts of what I would now be able to do, and how happy we would all be – and so clear and distinct that I involuntarily examined my pockets when I got up in the morning, but alas! with the usual result. Is it an indication of future luck? or do dreams always go by contraries, and in stead of finding, am I to lose? But the latter supposition will not worry me, for 'he who lies on the ground cannot fall far...' No, I suppose I dreamed as starving men are said to of splendid feasts, or thirsty desert wanderers of shady brooks and spray-flinging fountains. 'Lust for Gold!' Is it any wonder that men lust for gold, and arc willing to give almost anything for it, when it covers everything – the purest and holiest de sires of their hearts, the exercise of their noblest powers! What a pity we can't be contented! Is it? Who knows? Sometimes I feel sick of the fierce struggle of our high civilised life, and think I would like to get away from cities and business, with their jostlings and strainings and cares altogether, and find some place on one of the hillsides, which look so dim and blue in the distance where I could gather those I love, and live content with what Nature and our own resources would furnish; but, alas, money, money, is wanted even for that. It is our fate – we must struggle, and so here's for the strife!...
"The days and weeks and months never flew so fast with me as they do now. Time we measure by sensa tions, and working so steadily, there is not room for many. I do not like my trade when forced to work at it so steadily – there is not action enough in it, hardly a chance for the movements of the mind. But it will not always be so. 'It is a long lane that knows no turning,' they say, and I hope the turn will come soon, for I really feel tired.
"It is harder for me to write to you than to anyone else. When I have business to write about I can sit down and spin it right off, but when it comes to writing home, I scrawl a few words and find myself lost in reverie, when I sit and think, and bite my pen, while Memory is busy till the hours fly away unnoticed.
"I am glad Bill Horner and Jim Stanley have gone to the wars. I should like to see them. If I were home, and situated as they are, I would go, too. Not that I like the idea of fighting my countrymen – not that I think it is the best or pleasantest avocation, or that the fun of soldiering is anything to speak of; but in this life or death struggle I should like to have a hand. If they die, they will die in a good cause; and if they live, they will always feel prouder and better when this time is mentioned than if they had remained safely at home while others faced the danger and did the work. I have felt a great deal like enlisting, even here, and probably would have done so, had I not felt that my duty to you all required me to remain, though I did not, and do not, think our volunteers are really needed or will do any fighting that will amount to anything; but I should like to place my willingness on record, and show that one of our family was willing to serve his country. We cannot tell. It may be my duty yet, though I sincerely hope not.
"I never hear from the Currys now, except through the medium of your letters, and at present there is no probability of my going up there....
"We have been having our usual fine summer, but the rainy season will soon set in and then we will make up for it. Eain is a very nice thing once in a while, but when it gets into the habit of coming down for a month at a time, you almost cease to appreciate it, and would be willing to have it change to snow. It is very little colder, however, in winter than in summer, and I wear precisely the same clothing the year round....
"I have been some time writing this much, but I think we will be able to make arrangements that will place us in a better position. As soon as they are completed I will write, probably in a day or two."
The "arrangements" that the young printer spoke of which should place those on the "Evening Journal" in a better position could not have been completed, or being completed, could not have been of more than temporary duration, for in a short time all connected with the paper were hard-driven again. "I worked," said he afterwards, "until my clothes were in rags and the toes of my shoes were out. I slept in the office and did the best I could to economise, but finally I ran in debt thirty dollars for my board bill."
Miss Fox called at the "Journal" office with some friends one day at this period, after the paper had gone to press. Mr. George was the only person there. He was standing at a case in his shirt sleeves distributing type. On seeing the visitors, he hurried to wash his hands, brush and put on his coat and make himself presentable. He showed Miss Fox about the little office and presently pointed to a kind of folding cot, with mattress, grey blankets and a pillow, that were under one of the imposing-tables. When he told her that that was his bed, the young girl exclaimed, "Oh, I hope your mother does not know of this." "Why," he replied, "this is nothing after a life at sea."
What brought the crisis on the "Journal" was the completion of the transcontinental telegraph in October. With the wire joining them to New York, Washington and all the East, the papers that were in the press asso ciation monopoly had so much advantage that Henry George concluded that for him to stay longer and fight at such odds would be worse than foolish. He expressed his desire to withdraw. Some friction had grown up between the other owners of the paper and so it was concluded towards the middle of November, 1861, to dis solve partnership. Of this Mr. Knowlton, one of the partners, has since said:
Even this sum – small, indeed, for the months of strain and privation – would have enabled Henry George to square his debts and have a little remaining with which to make a fresh start, but the instaying partners could not at once pay. In June he had written home that he had been "given a one-third interest in a gold lead in Butte County," but this too, had failed; so that when he went out of the "Journal" to look elsewhere for work his prospects were desperate. At this critical point in his affairs he was called upon to face one of the most important crises of his life.