Matthew x. 27, 28
"PROGRESS AND POVERTY" PUBLISHED 1879-1880 AGE, 40-41
However, the author had meanwhile asked his brother, Thomas L. George, to go on from Philadelphia and confer on publication with Professor William Swinton, Henry George's old California friend, now living in New York, and with A.S. Hallidie, a member of the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Free Library, who had gone East to buy books. The three gentlemen called on William H. Appleton, the senior member of the firm, and found him disposed to reconsider the matter, though his strong feeling was that the publication of such a book would not pay. And there he halted, so that the manuscript was submitted to other houses. Thomas George wrote to his brother on May 13:
Meanwhile, and before Appleton had written the first letter of rejection, Henry George, not wishing to remain idle, and for that matter urged by necessity to do something to make a living which his office of meter inspector had not recently afforded, re-entered public affairs. He started a four-paged weekly paper, "The State" – "A journal of politics and opinion." It was printed by William M. Hinton, who had opened a printing office on Clay Street. Mr. George did most of the writing, but Dr. Taylor, James V. Coffey and other friends made contributions. The paper was high in tone and temperate, though strong in language. It forcibly opposed the new constitution that the convention had drawn up and which was to be submitted to a popular vote early in May. Mr. George held that such an instrument would strengthen the land and railroad monopolies and that it had many other serious faults. The masses of the people thought otherwise, however, so that it was adopted by a large vote.
"The State" afterwards dealt with a number of matters of public interest in California, and took a vigorous adverse position to General Grant, who purposed completing a circle of the globe by way of San Francisco, to the end, as many like George believed, of becoming candidate for a third term of the Presidency. To Henry George, Grant was distinguished as the President who had had the worst of all political rings and corruptionists about him. George's attack was so sincere and so strenuous that later, when Grant arrived, and John Russell Young, who was of the General's party, offered to arrange for a private interview, George refused.
"The State" had a short life, suspending with the eleventh number. Not that it was losing money, for while it did not have much of a circulation, it was just about paying for itself. Mr. George stopped it because, having undertaken to make plates of his book, he found that that far more important matter demanded all of his available time.
It is an old story how the copyright of Milton's "Paradise Lost" was originally sold for five pounds, and it goes with the history of literature how many famous books from "Robinson Crusoe" down to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" were at start thought to be such poor business ventures as to have to struggle for publication. "Progress and Poverty" had fallen into the same category. The ability it showed was conceded, but aside from its doctrines to which some objected, the book was thought unlikely to pay the expense of handling. In truth, no works of political economy up to that time had paid. There was nothing for the author to do but himself to make his plates and then try again for a publisher.
But to a man who had no money – who indeed, was in debt – the expense of making plates was a serious matter. The way cleared, however. "My old partner, Mr. Hinton," said Mr. George later, "who had got himself a printing office, thereupon said that he had faith enough in anything I should do to make the plates; and I put the manuscript in his hands." The diary on May 17 contains the note: "Commenced to set type on book. Set first two sticks myself."
But with characteristic pains, the author revised his manuscript, chapter by chapter, before the printers received it. Not a page or a paragraph escaped until it met whatever new questions had arisen in his mind. And he made many changes, but not one affecting principle. Most of them related to terseness, expression and arrangement.
Those competent to judge will perhaps hold with the author that taken altogether the changes made in the manuscript at the time of putting the work into type made a marked improvement in "Progress and Poverty," as still further clearing and smoothing an already graceful, lucid style; but it is to the termination of the work that chief attention will turn. The manuscript ended with the closing words of Book VIII, or what by subsequent numbering became Book X. The author had ended his task, he had answered the riddle of industrial depressions, shown the cause of increase of want with increase of wealth and pointed to the remedy. But thought still mounted, his heart still moved him; so that while the printers were busy setting type on what he had previously written, he now wrote a chapter entitled "The Problem of Individual Life" to form the conclusion. This was not a mere rhetorical flourish, a splendid peroration to an elevated argument. His soul's message was going out to the world. He had made the long, hard struggle to find the Truth and to tell it. Would the Truth prevail? He understood the conditions that beset it and he answered: "Ultimately, yes. But in our own times, or in times of which any memory of us remains, who shall say?" He made a supreme appeal to those "who in their heart of hearts have taken the cross of a new crusade"; to those who seeing the Truth, "will toil for it; suffer for it; if need be, die for it." It was a trumpet call to those who would fight with Ormuzd! And he followed this up later, at the first formal publication of the work, with a dedication of it "to those who, seeing the vice and misery that spring from the unequal distribution of wealth and privilege, feel the possibility of a higher social state and would strive for its attainment."
During all this labour of making plates, Taylor was of inestimable service to his friend, encouraging and suggesting, reading proofs, and even, like George, going back to the printer's case to set a few sticks of type. Nor did George forget his other friends. He now did as he had done during the previous work of writing – called for their aid whenever they could give it. For instance, John Swett has said:
"Mr. George did not ask me to pass upon the subject matter of the work. Nor would I have felt in a position to do so, because I had made no special study of such matters. He asked me to read for grammatical slips; and from what he said, I expected to find here and there a break. I was greatly surprised to find practically nothing to criticise. His ear was as good as the rules of syntax."
One of his friends had originally suggested that the book be published by subscription, and the author concluded to follow this idea to the extent of an informal "Author's Edition" of five hundred copies. He printed a descriptive circular or prospectus of the work announcing that he would issue in August a small "Author's Proof Edition," under the title, "Political Economy of the Social Problem." He sent this circular to those of his friends who he thought would take an interest in the matter, and he sold enough copies at three dollars apiece to enable him to pay part of the cost of printing the edition. One of the first copies he sent to his father in Philadelphia, who had reached his eighty-first year. With the book he sent this letter (September 15):
A fortnight after writing this letter, the author received from D. Appleton & Co. of New York a proposal to publish the book. This was in response to an effort he had again made to find a publisher. "I sent," he said, "copies of the author's edition without binding to publishers both in America and England, offering to put the plates at their disposal for printing. I received but one proposal, that of Appleton & Co. They offered to take it and bring it out at once, and I acceded to this." The publishers proposed to issue the book at two dollars a copy and agreed to give a royalty of fifteen per cent.
To his friend, John Swinton, of New York, brother of Professor William Swinton, Mr. George wrote in satisfaction:
Soon following this letter Mr. George wrote another to John Swinton:
Mr. George also received some cheer through complimentary copies of the "Author's Edition" which he sent to such distinguished persons as he thought would be interested in it; one copy going to Gladstone, who had just made a speech or two with radical tendencies on the land question, another to Sir George Grey, the master spirit of New Zealand; and others to Herbert Spencer and the Duke of Argyll, both of whom, the one as author of "Social Statics" and the other of "The Reign of Law" would, the author presumed, welcome a work harmonising with principles they had enunciated. Spencer does not appear to have responded, but the Duke sent a courteous acknowledgment. Gladstone on one of his customary postal cards said (Hawarden, November 11, 1879): "Accept my best thanks for the copy of your interesting work, which reached me to-day, and which I have begun to examine. There is no question which requires a more careful examination than the land question in this and other countries, and I shall set great store on whatever information you may furnish under this head." Sir George Grey wrote in a still more gratifying way (Auckland, N.Z., January 27, 1880). "I have already read a large part of the book," he said. "I regard it as one of the ablest works on the great questions of the time, which has come under my notice. It will be of great use to me.... It has cheered me much to find that there is so able a man working in California, upon subjects on which I believe the whole future of mankind now mainly hangs."
Early in 1880 John Russell Young went to London and carried a number of copies of "Progress and Poverty" with him which he presented with personal letters to notable men of his acquaintance, among them being W. Fraser Rae, L.H. Courtney, M.P., Dean Stanley, and Henry Labouchere, M.P., Thomas Hughes and Henry Fawcett, M.P., as well as the Irish Members of Parliament, A.M. Sullivan and J. O'Connor Power, and he wrote back to Mr. George that most of these copies of the book were getting read and that some would probably produce results.
But if such messages were beginning to come in from the outside world, recognition at home was slow. Friendly newspapers like the "San Francisco Examiner" and the "Sacramento Bee" said complimentary things, without attempting to discuss or even to notice extendedly. Most of the papers, if they did not treat the book with contemptuous silence, sneered at the "hobby" of "little Harry George," and said in substance with the "Alta California" that the book never would be heard of. This belief found expression beyond the newspapers, as indicated by an incident related by Mr. George in his "Science of Political Economy".
The Sacramento "Record-Union," the railroad organ, was really the first representative of the hostile newspaper interests to honour the book with a serious and extended criticism. The author was moved to reply. He filled four and a half columns, incidentally making some personal explanations that we should note.
"For my own part I am not lacking in respect for authority. Like everybody else, I am disposed to believe whatever I am told by those reputed wise and learned, and if I have been enabled to emancipate myself from ideas which have fettered far abler men, it is, doubtless, due to the fact that my study of social problems was in a country like this, where they have been presented with peculiar directness, and perhaps also to the fact that I was led to think a good deal before I had a chance to do much reading."
Mr. George was depressed by hearing from the Appletons that they would not attempt publication until after the Christmas holidays. They wrote, moreover, that their London agent had failed to induce any of the English houses to take the book, one publisher saying that "if the plates were sent free of cost" he would not publish it. The Appleton agent had concluded that English publishers generally would not look with much favour on the book because it antagonised the tenets of the current political economy. Nor did the Appletons themselves see any advantage for the author in putting in the American edition of the book the words "rights of translation reserved," since to their view there was small chance of anything of importance being done in the way of translation.
This dashed the hopes that had begun to rise, and what increased the author's depression was that though it had brought comparatively little return to him during the last two years, he was about to yield up his office of inspector of gas meters, George C. Perkins, a Republican, having been elected to succeed Governor William S. Irwin. While friendly with him, Mr. George would not ask, nor did he expect, anything from Mr. Perkins, and a few days after taking his chair in January, 1880, the new Governor appointed a Republican to the office of gas meter inspector.
Henry George had written a book which he was confident would some day become famous; but in writing it, he had chosen the hard road of the social pioneer, and in the fall of 1879, when his friend John Russell Young was in San Francisco with the General Grant party, he was beginning to realise with secret bitterness the difficult task he would have from now forward in making a living; for the world regards as an impractical man and a dreamer him who is in advance of his time. To a man with such a mission as Mr. George had set before himself, the making of a living would have been a difficult task even under good general circumstances; but California now was industrially under a cloud. He said later: "I could hardly walk a block without meeting a citizen begging for ten cents." Eighteen years later Mr. Young said:
About the time he was talking to Young, George expressed kindred sentiments in a letter to Charles Nordhoff, one of the chief editorial writers for the "New York Herald," whom he had met early in the seventies in San Francisco and whose strong belief in immortality made a deep impression on his mind. The letter (December 21) ran:
"As for the book itself, I believe it sets forth some very great truths that have been hitherto ignored and slurred over, and I think they will grow on you as they have grown on me. To write the book was not an easy task for me, and I could not have done it but for the animation of a very deep and very strong feeling, and when I got through it was with such a deep thankfulness that I cannot express it. I had hard work, too, to get it into print and to get it a publisher, and it has been weary waiting. But now Appletons write me that they will publish it in January.
"With all deference to your judgment, I think you are wrong in your opinion that I should have briefly stated the economic laws. That would have been sufficient if I had been writing for men like you. But I have aimed to reach a very much larger audience. I have tried to make a book which would be intelligible to those who have never read and never thought on such subjects before, and to do that in such a way as to get the primary truths firmly established in their minds. And it is astonishing and appalling how few there are capable of logical thought – or, rather, who are willing to undertake it.
"In the latter parts the book is too much condensed, I know, and I had to omit a good deal I should like to have said. The fact is it covers too wide a scope for one volume. The chapters, for instance, relating to the development of civilisation are but a bare skeleton of what I should like to say, and do not begin to present the argument as strongly as I feel it. But at least an outline seemed to me essential, and I did not know, even if I lived, if I should ever find opportunity to write again.
"If this book makes success enough to insure it a reception ... and if opportunity is given me, there are two books I should like to write – one a brief political economy, which, without controversy, should lay down the principles of the science, and make of it a harmonious whole; and the other a dissection of this materialistic philosophy which, with its false assumption of science, passes current with so many.
"You speak of the intellectual poverty of this coast. You can hardly understand how deep it is, for of course you came in contact with the highest people, and they must have seemed to you relatively far more numerous than they really are. This is bad enough; but what is worse is the moral atmosphere – at least in the circles in which I have moved and lived. Do you know what impressed me so much with you and made me want to talk with you, was that you actually believed in the immortality of the soul. It made you to me almost a curiosity, and I thought of it over and over again. It was like meeting a man whose opinion was worth something who told you he saw something which you would very much like to see; but which you could not make out for yourself and which every one around you whose opinion was worth anything said did not exist at all. At that time I should have gladly hailed any assurance that was to be found in spiritualism, but I found in it nothing but humbug, and in its believers, fools.
"But now I really, and for myself, believe with you. Out of the train of thought which is set forth in that book; out of the earnest, burning desire to do what I might to relieve human misery and make life brighter, has come to me a faith, which, though it is not as definite and vivid and firm as must be the Christian's faith, when it is really felt, is yet very much to me. The opportunity to write that book came out of crushing disaster, and it represents more than labour. But I would not forego this satisfaction for any success. And I feel that there is much, very much, of which I get only vague glimpses or rather suggestions of glimpses.
"I should like very much to talk with you. There are so many things on which I should like to compare notes with you. Sometime I may have the chance."
Thus it is clear that Henry George did not look for the initial advancemennt of his ideas in California. As John Russell Young subsequently said: "George never for a moment – never when under the grinding heel of bitter conditions – doubted the truth of his mission to mankind and its ultimate success. But this obviously was not to be attained in Eldorado."
All was not against him, for now two circumstances occurred that were of importance to him. One of these concerned the translation of "Progress and Poverty" into German by a cultured man named C.D.F. von Gutschow, who, having lost a fortune in Germany, had recently come to California to begin life anew, and who, chancing to read a copy of the "Author's Edition," was so impressed with the work that he at once asked for permission to translate it. Consent was gladly given on the single condition that the translation should be faithful. Mr. George could read no foreign tongue, but he afterwards had assurance that this translation was excellent – by far the best of three soon published in Germany.
The other circumstance of importance was the conversion of a scholarly Englishman, Dr. Montague E. Leverson, who had personally known and studied under William Ellis and John Stuart Mill, and who had in 1876 published in New York a primer of political economy for grammar and high schools and the lower colleges. He had come to California to arrange for the publication and introduction of the book on the Pacific Coast, but learning of "Progress and Poverty" through Professor Joseph Le Conte of the University of California, he declared, immediately on reading it, that he had met his master in the study and that not another copy of his primer should be issued until the work had been re-written. This manifestation of rare intellectual honesty was never forgotten by Mr. George.
But George's gaze was turned eastward. To Dr. Taylor, who had gone to Washington, D.C., on business, he wrote (February 17, 1880):
"By the bye, there is one thing I would like to have you do for me in the East which I forgot to mention. Among the many projects which I have been vaguely meditating is that of lecturing through the East. I wish if you can get time, you would go and see Redpath or some other of the Lecture Bureau people. I had a card from Redpath some time since asking about the publisher of the book. Possibly that will soon get advertised enough to enable me to begin to draw a little, and I have faith in my own ability if I once get started. I know you don't share that – but I have always felt it, and on two or three occasions have tested it. For the present I am doing a little hack work – and waiting. But soon my time for waiting will be past."
Mr. George sent his California University lecture, "The Study of Political Economy," to the "Popular Science Monthly," owned by the publishers of his book, D. Appleton & Co. It was accepted and appeared in the March number (1880). For the same periodical he wrote by invitation on "The Kearney Agitation in California," which appeared in August. The lecture on "Moses" was not suited to that magazine, but under the title of "The Leader of the Exodus," it was sent to another American, and afterwards to an English, periodical. The author was unknown and the article, though one of the most brilliant pieces of writing that ever came from his pen, was in both instances rejected.
Again George wrote to Taylor (March 12):
"I have been sick and am far from well – the old trouble of which I have several times spoken to you, growing more intense. The doctor says I must rest. That is the best prescription, but often the hardest to take."
The illness of which he spoke was writer's cramp and biliousness, with bladder trouble; all proceeding from overwork and nervous strain. First had come the year and a half of hard writing and then the long months of striving and waiting for results. He had written in December (1879) to John Russell Young:
Towards the middle of March (1880) a brilliant review, that covered most of a page, appeared in the "New York Sun," from the pen of M.W. Hazeltine. What it meant to the author he wrote to John Swinton (March 22):
Important reviews soon followed in other Eastern news papers and periodicals, so that the gaze in that direction was stronger than ever. Moreover, the Appletons wrote that if the author would consent to a reduction in copyright, they would issue a dollar, paper-covered edition of the work, to which he gladly agreed. One of the instruments in bringing this about was a young man in the Appleton employ, A.J. Steers, who had read the book and was enthusiastic about it. Mr. George wrote (April 4) in reply to a letter from him:
"But it is not this of which I speak so much as the sympathy and interest your letter expresses and which makes me feel that the book has spoken to you as I knew there would be some men to whom it would speak. This is my reward – the verification of my faith. It is very, very much to me – more than profit, more than fame. I knew when I wrote it that my book would sometime find such men, but whether I should ever know it, that I could not tell; for many a man does his work and in this life sees no result. And no matter how much of a success the book may become in my lifetime, I do not think I shall be proud of it, as men are proud of writing a successful history or novel. The feeling is one of deep gratitude that it has been permitted me to do something. And this, already, I know – your kind letter is one of the proofs of it – that every here and there is a man on whom these ideas have taken hold, as they have taken hold of me, and who in his turn will be a fresh centre.
"You speak of how little you can do. Did you ever think of it, how little we know of what we can do, or of what we do? Sometimes a word, a little act, starts a train that, if we could follow it, we should see leads to the widest results. But it is not the result so much as the effort to do what we can, with which we are concerned."
At length John Russell Young wrote hopefully of being able to get George a writing position in New York on the "Herald" that would permit him to do his work away from the office and give him much time to himself. Young perceiving his circumstances, voluntarily sent him money with which to go East. Having nothing to keep him, and arranging to pay those to whom he owed money at the earliest opportunity, in August of 1880 Henry George took train for New York, leaving his family behind him. His purse was so light that he was compelled to travel third class. But no sooner had he got well started than his spirits threw off their depression, and although he was going into practically a new world where he had not half a dozen friends, confidence came, for the time of waiting had passed. From Winnemucca he wrote back to Taylor, who had returned to San Francisco: "I am enjoying the trip and am full of hope. The spell is broken and I have taken a new start."
|As submitted to Appleton:|
"Progress and Poverty
"An inquiry into the Cause of Recurring Paroxysms of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increasing Wealth.
"A Remedy Proposed."
|As revised and printed:|
"Progress and Poverty
"An inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth.