The Letters of Franklin K. Lane
by Franklin K. Lane
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MY DEAR JOHN,—Hail to you brave leader of the Moral Forces! Isn't that an offensive title? You see I have been asked to join you in "Potentia." Isn't that word out of the Middle Ages?

I would like to join against crooks, thieves, and liars. But the American people don't like anyone to assume that he represents the Moral Forces. And "Potentia" sounds too mystic for any land this side of Egypt. Am I not right? Answer in one of your sane moments. You cannot go against ridicule in America. Bishops here are not the same as Lords in England. They cannot save from ridicule pretentious good things. Now Ross and you are wise things. How do you stand for "Moral Forces" and "Potentia"? No, no, dear John!— less hifalutism!

I write for information. Tell me—do you think good will come of it? My immediate judgment is against it, strongly. In purpose— good, in method, name,—impossible. It is as if one were to say, "Come let us gather together the Good and the Wise, and say who shall be called honest men." Cicero, I believe, formed government by the "boni." No one likes the good who advertise. I don't. Am I all wrong? ...


To Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt

[Pasadena], March 25, [1921]

Your letters, my dear Mrs. Franklin, are refreshing breezes. They are quite what breezes should be—warm, kindly, stimulating; not hard, stiff, compelling things, off a granite Northern shore. Anne rejoices in them, without words.

I have been lately with my one brother on his ranch—a large name implying vast herds quietly grazing over infinite valleys and mountains. But all farms here are ranches, as you doubtless know, as all weather is fine. My brother's ranchita is eighty acres of beauty; a stream below, running up to manzanita crowns on good- sized hills, and oaks and sycamores and bays, and many other trees between. He has a house, all of which he planned in fullest detail himself, with as lovely a site as anywhere, and a pretty and artistic wife; a good saddle horse, a noble dog, a loyal and most excellent cook, many books—and what more could he have in heaven? Outside his dining-room window he has built a dining-table for the birds, and so as we dined within, they dined without. Each morning I saw the sun rise, and I whistled as I dressed. One morning I climbed the hills and found the cow and drove it in for the man to milk. But my only morning duty was to pick a golden poppy or a cherokee rose or a handful of wild forget-me-nots for my button- hole. All day I sat in the sun, or drove a bit or walked a little —talking, talking, talking; of law, and Plato, and Epictetus, and Harry Lauder, (whom we imitated, at a distance; for my brother sings Scotch songs); and we talked too of our old girls and the early days of good hunting in this semi-civilized land, and of Woodrow Wilson and H. G. Wells and Emerson and Henry George, and of Billy Emerson, the negro minstrel, and William Keith our great artist. And we planned houses, adobe houses, that should be built up above, over the manzanita bushes, and the swimming-pool that should just naturally lie between the two live-oaks hidden behind the natural screen of mountain laurel, but open clear up to the sun. Each night we closed with a round of songs, and maybe a hymn. And bed was early. Now wasn't that a good place to be?

Not so very different in atmosphere from Hyde Park! But what would Broadway say of such a life! Oh, the serenity of it all, the dignity, the independence, the superiority over so much that we think important. There one could get a sense of proportion, and see things more nearly in their natural color and size. Truly, I could have been religious if I lived in the country—and not been too hard driven for a living! (For one can't be anything good or great when pressed and bullied by necessity of any kind.)

So I grew in strength on the little ranch and unwillingly came back for treatment here, which was not half so good for soul or body as to sit in the sun and see the birds daintily pick their crumbs and know that the dog at my knee understood what I did not tell him.

Give to the Ducal lady at Hyde Park my spring greetings, and to the "young lord lover" who bears your name my respectful regards. I expect to go to Rochester, or elsewhere, in May, and in the meantime think me not silly because I like you and have written of what I like.

F. K L.

To John W. Hallowell

Los Angeles, March 31, 1921

DEAR JACK,—I went to your Church on Sunday. Now there! Real Friends. I wondered, "Why the two doors?" as I went up the steps, but I said, "I'll take the nearest." Someone was talking, so I plumped down in the backmost seat. Then I looked about and found that I was faced by three rows of sisters, in poke bonnets on a raised platform, at the end of the room. Around me were women, women, women, and children. Not a man!

My wits at last came to me. I discovered there were two rooms really, divided by pillars. And there were the men, the blessed, homely men. So up I lifted hat and coat and piled over on the man's side and breathed again.

The speaker looked like the late Senator Hoar and was intoning or chanting his speech or address or sermon. I had never heard it done and the cadence was charming. It adds to the emotionalism of what is said. When he sat down, there was a long pause, and then a sister, on the opposite side now, quoted, modestly, a psalm. Two more, a man and woman, spoke. Then a prayer and at twelve, with one accord, we all rose and went out.

It is the essence of Democracy and I fear the forward there, and not the most worthy of being heard, come to the front. Please tell your mother how good I was! And write me, you scoundrel!

F. K. L.

Postcard to John G. Gehring

April 20, [1921]

On the eastbound train, traveling toward a little man who carries a little knife in his hand and beckons me toward the north. I do not go gladly, because I am feeling so much better. Have had whole days and nights without pain, by the exercise of all kinds of care. Still that is living "on condition." Is there never again to be freedom? You see I am a natural Protestant. Good luck to you, dear man.


To Hall McAllister

R.R. Train, Minnesota, April 22

DEAR HALL,—I am now on the St. Paul road going to Lake City, where, it is said my son is to be married to a charming, little Irish girl, one generation away from Ireland.

Right now, I am sitting opposite Mrs. Franklin K. Lane who is, in turn, sitting beside my brother who has come East with me as secretary, nurse, doctor, mentor, spiritual advisor, valet, and companion. On my right is the Mississippi river, of which you may have heard. On Sunday I hope to go to Rochester again and then be cut in two, tho' I am not sure they will do it.

I left California last Tuesday. It was quite pleased with itself and full of pity for all the rest of the world. It surely has much to say for itself, and says it with frequency and normalcy. The only disappointment in dying will be the unfortunate contrast—eh, you Californian? But then you and I are not like those transplanted Iowans who fill Southern California, most of whom have never seen Mt. Tamalpais nor the Golden Gate and yet think they know California!

I look at the paper and see "Harding" at the top of every column. Then I think of W. W. looking at the paper and seeing the same headlines. Oh, what unhappiness! Not all the devices of Tumulty for keeping alive illusions of grandeur could offset those headlines. Ungrateful world! Un-understanding world!

I hope you like your new boss. He will be a good western Secretary, and is quite likely to get into a row with our eastern conservation friends. I am glad he is from the Senate, they care for their own.

I don't like Harrison jumping on Harvey after confirmation. Looks little, weakens his influence as "our" man, and is not sportsmanlike. We must take our medicine and let Harding have his own way, and it won't be such a bad way, but surely very different.

... I should like to get back to Washington and loaf for a time around Sheridan Circle. I know a woman there who intrigued me (as you writers say) long, long ago with various fascinations of spirit and mind and eye and voice. But I fear she would not know me any more.

Now do not be discouraged because you have a bit of sickness. You are youth, you can beat old whiskered Time. Life has many a laugh in it yet for you. Why you look forty years younger than Joe Redding—but don't tell him I told you.


To Mrs. Frederic Peterson

Rochester, Minnesota, April 26, [1921]

MY DEAR MRS. PETERSON,—... Once more I am going through the grinding of the Mayo mill, and this time I hope to some concrete purpose, and have an end to this coming out "by that same door wherein I went" The dear old meditative, contemplative Orientals threw up their hands in despair long years ago and found the figure of the unending wheel to symbolize all processes and procedures: a world, a universe, without termini. Sometimes I think them right, but then again my western mind will not have it that the riddle of the Sphinx may not be solved. Our assurance meets every challenge; mystery may make us humble; we may be baffled; but we do not despair because we know we are Gods to whom all doors must open eventually. That seems to be the real underlying strength of our position. Why men go on with research excepting out of some such philosophy I cannot see—nor why they go on with life.

Tell your good man that I long to look once more into the sweet face of the Shepaug, and that while I have been wandering in the delicious and rare places, I have not forgotten the fresh wholesomeness of the Hoosatonic. My first visit shall be to the meeting place of the Three Rivers. Why might not fortune lead us to have a summer in Connecticut and a winter in California? "I know a place where the wild thyme grows," many such places indeed, and high hillsides of wild lilac and a wee mountain crowned with the flowering manzanita. Oh, this world is a place to make souls grow if one can get an apple tree, a pine and an oak, a few lilies, a circle of crimson phlox, a stretch of moving water and a sweep of sky, that can be called one's own.

We saw Cordy Severance's place on Sunday—went there from the wedding of my boy to Catherine McCahill—and found a volume of the Chinese Lyrics [Footnote: By Dr. Frederic Peterson.] in the big room. Great chap Cordy, and a great room he has to play the organ in, and more people love him than anyone else I know, for he loves them with an aggressiveness that few men dare to show, that gives him distinction and is a glory.

How far away the war seems—way back yonder with the fight for Independence and the French Revolution, almost back to Caesar. Well, I must quit mental meanderings. With all good will,


To Roland Cotton Smith

Rochester, Minnesota, [April] 30

And you know that I cannot even write Spoon River! Vain man! Strutting cock o' the walk! Knight of the Knickerbocker Club! Gazer upon Fifth Avenue and the Foibles and Frivolities! Reveller in things of life and Enjoyer of Gaiety!

Look thou upon me. To Minnesota driven. In a hospital-hotel. Punched and tapped by every stray Knight of the Golden Fleecers. Awaiting a verdict from puzzled doctors. ... Bless you, I have been through years of watchful waiting but not of this kind, and a few weeks of this is enough. But I am a patient, long-suffering, Christian martyr upon whom the Pagans work their will.

And you, poor man. Tied to a woman's foot! Now that is what I call humiliating. Worse than being tied to her apron strings or to her chariot, (in the latter, they say, there is often much joy.) Why should people have feet anyway in these days of autos? A mere transportation convenience! Well, all our transportation facilities seem to be out of order these days. Fallen arches, in sooth! Reminds one of Rome. Very much more aristocratic than infected gall-bladder after all. And I do hope they can be restored, those arches, and the world once more put on its peripatetic way.

But you do not tell me of yourself. Can you chop wood or saw wood or play golf or do aught else that doth become a man of muscle, energy, life, vim, go, pep? Take a trip to the South Seas, a knock-about trip, casting off clerical garb and living in the open, mixing with the primitive peoples, seeing beauteous nature, climbing mountains, swimming in soft waters, not seeing newspaper or book. They tell me that in Burmah live a happy people who love beauty, are always smiling and follow the Golden Rule far nearer than those who live by trade and are blest by civilization. Ah, that I might see such a people! The nearest I ever came was at Honolulu, and there was the taint of the Christian, alack-a-day! The White Man's Burden is the weight of the load of sin, disease, death, and misfortune he has dropped on the happy ones who never knew a Christian creed. We have given them bath tubs in exchange for cheerful living!

I am as much in the air as to the future as I was in the russet days of Bethel. But one of these days, let us hope we may gather over a bottle of something sound and mellow, and laugh together over our adventure into the land of the woebegone. I do not take to it, tho' they say some people live in it by choice, for they find something to talk of there, and feel saintly because they suffer. Well, we will have more knowledge in that happy future and more of sympathy. What a lot one must endure to gain a wee bit of wisdom. And then to have it die with us. Maybe it does not, eh? Maybe it somehow, somewhere finds a corner into which it drops and carries someone over a hard place. I don't know what kind of theology this is that I am dripping from my pen, but I cannot yet be beaten to the point where I say it is all purposeless. And that is the faith that may not save a soul but does save souls, I guess.

I wish you the joy and elevation of spirit that you have many times given to my sick soul and to others. Did I tell you my boy is married—to a Catholic girl too, of much charm? They were married on the ancestral farm with the ancestor of ninety years present and in high spirits. A Dios, Padre mio,

F. K. L.

To John G. Gehring

Rochester, Minnesota, [April] 30, [1921]

Tomorrow will be May day—once, before the world became industrial, a day of gladness, now a day of dread, another result of mal-adjustment.

What ever would these doctors do if they had no cheeks in which to hold their tongues while telling sick folk what ails them, and the cure? You are learning, Sir, how much of wisdom some men lack who have certain knowledge. And wisdom is what we are after, we Knights of the Mystic Sign. Wisdom—the essence of lives lived; knocks, blows, pains, tortures reduced to fears, and these incorporated into a string or queue of people who have eyes, nerves, and powers of inference, and the initiative to experiment and the impulse to try, and try again. Result—a nugget no larger than a mustard seed of intellectual or spiritual radium, y-clept wisdom. It does not grow on ancestral trees or on college campuses, nor does it come out of laboratories or hospitals, tho' it is sometimes found in all these places. A Carpenter is known to have possessed more of it than any other man; tho' most of us don't possess enough wisdom to know that He did possess so much of it. An Indian Prince is also celebrated for the richness of his supply. These men have been followed by others who sometimes carried mirrors, but some had tiny grains of the real thing also. And those are called Optimists and Transcendentalists and Idealists and Fools who think that more and more of these grains will come into the hearts and minds of men; while those are called sensible, and shrewd, and sane, who assert that the supply is uniform, stationary in quantity but moved about from time to time, producing nothing but the illusion that something is worth while.

But you and I say, "Suffer the Illusion to come into me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." Emerson says each man is an "inlet" of the Divine Spirit—just a bit on the side, out of the infinite ocean. Thus all of us are connected up, and thus there is hope that some day doctors will be wiser than today. ...

I should like to hold your hand for a time. It's the best service one man can give another. We are great hand-holders, we men, natural dependents, transfusers of sympathy and understanding and heartening stuff. They tell me here that your blood for purposes of transfusion is 1, 2, 3 or 4. The last is common denominator blood and will go into anyone safely, but is uncommon. All the other three will kill if not put into those of corresponding quality of blood. Well, you and I like each other because we have the same wave-length to our nerve current, perhaps, and we could hold hands without danger to the other fellow, and possibly with some benefit to the world,—for human sympathy makes good medicine.

Good fortune betide you! My brother, who is sitting by, wishes his affectionate regards to go with mine, and he hopes you will some day see him in that vale of Paradise where he lives.

F. K. L.

To Adolph C. Miller Federal Reserve Board

Rochester, Minnesota, May 1, [1921]

May Day, Glad Day, Day of Festival and Frolic,—once. Now Day of Portent, of Threats and the Evil Eye. Such is the miracle worked by Steam Engine, Mechanics, Quick Exchanges, Industry!

With this happy opening let me to your letter in which you love me a little, which I very much like, calling me baby,—child, anyway. And so I am. I laugh at myself. I cannot think of myself as Grandad or possible Grandad. In fact, I should not be Grandad or Dad, notwithstanding the beauty and noblemindedness and capacity of my dear kids. But I have always been a priest, married to things undomestic, and without the time which every father should have to train and educe the mind of his offspring; especially to give sound and substantial bread and meat to their subconscious mind when they are young. Then, too, a father should have a religion, a sense of relation between himself and the Master, and be able to instill this by gentle and non-didactive method into his bairns, so that they may steer by the North Star and not by shiftier, flashier stars.

Yes, altho' I am now tottering, bruised, battered, down on the floor like a prostrate prize-fighter "taking the count" and hoping for strength enough to rise, altho' an "aged man" as I was once described in my hearing, I am the youngest thing inside that I know; in my curiosity and my trustfulness and my imagination, and my desire to help and my belief in goodness and justice. I want to strike right out now and see the world, and having found the good bring it back and distribute it. And I see every day things that should be done which make me long to live, even tho' I only tell others that they should be done. And one thing that bothers me right now is our money scheme. I know I am far off from your standpoint, but there is something wrong when there is so great a variation in the purchasing power of things produced. Why is not Irving Fisher on the right road? I should like to lay a quieting hand upon the feverish desire for things which so possesses our people. So few things will do, rich, beautiful, solid things, but not many; and then to live with them, proud of them, revelling in them, and making them to shine like well-handled bronze—not glossily but deeply. The great luxury we will not allow ourselves is repose; that is because we are not essentially dignified. The soul is not respected sufficiently; it is not given that food on which it grows. Curious, the turn of my mind now, too. Having been thinking, and while I still am thinking, in large terms,—the city, the state, the nation, all peoples (I have grown through them all, never really thinking of the family unit)—I am now thinking of a nest, a roof of my own, a bit of garden, a tree of my planting—little things, indeed, on which the mind can rest, after casting an eye over the world and talking in terms of continents. (And I wonder if the gardens of the British—their week-ends at home with flowers and birds, may not bring them down to those little things which make for good sense, sanity, wisdom!) But I fear me I may never so indulge myself, and that is wrong— that a man should live for fifty-seven years and never thrust his hand into his own bit of his country's soil—such condition makes against loyalties that are essential.

Now I have talked with you for a long time, but not long enough. How I should like to sit in the big re-upholstered chair beside the lamp, beyond the fire, and throw a match into your brain stuff that would start it blazing. Yes, and I would like to gather around that fire a few whom I love. You and Aleck and Sid. and Pfeiffer and Jack Hallo well and John Burns and Brydon Lamb and Lathrop Brown and Cotton Smith and John Finley and Dr. Gehring and John Wigmore—the real world is very small, isn't it?

It just may be that the verdict here will be one of exile to California, to my brother George's farm; ah, yes he should be with the few great, and I say 'exile' for I wonder if I should ever see any of you then? My doctor in Pasadena said that I should live as a country gentleman, and I answered, "But that takes money." Yet I would not know where the farm should be, for climate is not all. So long, old man.


Many months later, writing to Mrs. Lane this friend of many years says, "I want also to recall the remark Frank made when you and Mary, and he and I, were rain-bound in the little chalet at St. Mary's in Glacier Park, nine years ago. That was an outstanding experience in my long friendship with Frank. We had many hours to discuss things, and no matter on what road we started, we always came back to a discussion of life; what it was all for, and what it was about, and what principle a chivalrous man should take in adjusting himself usefully to the going world. I remember late one night we sat in the dimly lighted room after a long discussion, he arose, and turning to me said: 'Doesn't it, after all, just come to this,—To spend and to be spent—isn't that what life is?' Every subsequent experience with Frank confirmed me in the belief that that was his personal philosophy. That is why he lived greatly while he lived, and died nobly when his life was spent."

To Robert Lansing

Rochester, Minnesota, May 2, [1921]

MY DEAR LANSING,—I am to be operated on on Friday and so send you this line that you may know that I have yours of April sixteenth, and have rejoiced very much at its good news, that you were better, and that you were not bitter because of the come-back campaign.

Really, I think Harding is doing well, or rather that the whole administration is being supported well by the country. Oh, these Republicans have the art of governing, and we do so much better at talking! No one knows just what his foreign policy is, but something will work through that will satisfy a very tired people. There seem to be comparatively few out of work now. We are not out of the woods yet. But the Lord will take care of them. He may even keep Johnson from bolting Harding. They will temporize through; that's my guess.

Good English the people don't know. Ideality they have had enough of for a time. They just want to get down to brass tacks and make some money, so that the Mrs. can have more new dresses. I do earnestly wish them luck. God gave us the great day, and you and I, anyway, are not ashamed of the parts we played. In fact, the party loomed pretty large those days—the whole country breathed lung-fuls and felt heroic. We shall not look upon such another time nor act for a people so nobly inspired.

Please give to Mrs. Lansing my very best regards—fine spirit, that she is—and to you, as always, dear Lansing, my affection and esteem.


To James D. Pkelan

Rochester, Minnesota, May 2, 1921

MY DEAR JIM,—Glad to hear from you and to get so cheerful a word, for surely you are justified in looking upon the world as very much of a friend of yours. You have a rare home, in which to gather your many friends, and you have had honors in abundance, and now may rest and write and speak and adjust yourself to things—terrestrial and celestial—and other service will call you. There must be some Democrats appointed to adjust European or other difficulties, even by a Republican, and you will be the prominent one. So I can look across the mountains to Montalvo and find you ripening into a fine old mellow age, conscious of usefulness, in health and in happiness. May it be so!

Just as soon as my boy gets here, I shall be operated on. ... Ned is now on his honeymoon with his darling little bride, a Catholic Irish girl named Catherine McCahill, whose grey-whiskered grandfather of ninety quite took the shine off the bride at the wedding. He is a Democrat (State Senator for thirty years) a Sinn Feiner of the most robust sort, and a fanner of many acres.

Poor Anne, she is in for a bad time, with Nancy sick, but she has a good stout heart and a most adequate and comfortable religious faith, which throws things that are personal into a very minor place. The theory of relativity has more than one expression indeed, and things are small when looked at from a height. And it is good to find one who can be both religious and large.

The country seems to be liking Harding and his cabinet more and more. They do have a faculty for getting things done, those Republicans, and they are subjected to so little criticism. It is really good to see them do their work and get away with things so neatly. ... As always,


To Mr. and Mrs. Louis Hertle Gunston Hall on the Potomac

Rochester, Minnesota, May 2

DEAR PEOPLE,—What good angel ever put it into your heart to wire us—and such a warm electric message!

I tell you this is not Gunston Hall—so few birds, flowers, trees —but I like the great sweep of the sky out here. There is nothing mean about this land of ours. It gives you something, and gives it to you generously, something lovable wherever you are.

The Doctors have not decided what to do with me. ... But we'll be out of suspense this week, I expect.

I can see your garden now—fountain, hedge, roses, bird-boxes, pergola, box and all—with the dignified, stately Potomac way out yonder, beyond the cleared fields and the timber. Lucky people, and you deserve it all. No one, not even the Bolsheviks, would take it from you. Cordially yours always,


To Alexander Vogelsang

Rochester, Minnesota, May 4, 1921

DEAR ALECK,—I must pass under the knife, that is the verdict. On Friday morning the act takes place. And out will come gall- bladder, adhesions, appendix and all things appertaining thereto, including hereditaments, reversions, lives in posse, and sinecures. So that's that!

They say that my heart has grown much worse in the last three months, but that I probably have four chances out of five of pulling through, which is more chance than I ever had in politics in California. I believe I am to be operated on while conscious, as they fear to give ether. I trust my curiosity will not interfere with the surgeon's facility.

Ah well, this old shell is not myself, and I have never felt that the world's axis was located with reference to my habitat. But this is so interesting an old world that I don't want to leave it prematurely, because one does run the risk of not coming upon one equally interesting. So I shall think of you and try to see you later, in the new offices in the Mills Building. May clients come thick as dogwood in Rock Creek Park; and trout streams in hidden places be revealed unto you, within an hour's flight by aero. Affectionately,


P. S. Give my regards to the boys with you and in the office, when you see them—and to Wade Ellis and Ira Bennett and others who may be interested. Love to your dear Lady!

To John Finley New York Times

Rochester, Minnesota, May 4, [1921]

MY DEAR FINLEY,—I have your postal from London and it cheereth me—Yea, thou hast done a kindly act to one who is sore beset. ...

When you and I can talk together I want to urge a new field upon your great paper. Perhaps you can take it up with Mr. Ochs and perhaps he can see how he can add to his usefulness and to the glory of his paper's name.

My thought is that there should be somewhere—and why not in New York?—a Place of Exchange for the New Ideas that the world evolves each year, a central spot where all that is new in science, philosophy, practical political machinery, and all else of the world's mind-products shall be placed on exhibition where those interested may see. Why should not the Times do this?

It would cost very little. All the plant needs would be a building which would contain one or two fine halls for public speaking, and a few properly appointed apartments. No faculty—but a super- university with all the searchers and researchers, inventors, experimenters, thinkers of the world for faculty. No students—but every man the world round interested in the theme under consideration, welcome, as student without pay. The only executive officer a Director, whose business would be to see that the great minds were tapped,—a high class impresario, who would know who had thought thoughts, developed a theory, found a new problem, or a new method of solving an old one, and [would] bring the thinker on the stage and present him to those who knew of what he talked; and could intelligently, quickly, distribute it to the ends of the earth.

Money? The lecturer would get his expenses from his home and back again, and be cared for appropriately in one of the apartments. Otherwise the incidental expenses of administration. Aside from the single and simple building the whole thing should not cost more than $100,000 a year.

To illustrate—it took years for the world to know what Rutherford was doing with radium. Why should he not have been brought to some central place and there, before all the students who might choose to come, tell his story? Pasteur, Einstein, Bergson, Wright Brothers, Wells (theory of Education). These names are suggestive. The great of the world could walk, as it were, in the groves with their pupils and critics, and we could have a new Athens. Whatever progress the world had made, in whatever line, would be reported at that time. And the world would know in advance that this was to be so. Germany has been the world thought center for forty years. England is now planning to take Germany's place. Why not America? But the government has not the imagination, and this must be done quickly.

Why not the Times? And why shouldn't you start it for the Times— be the first Director?

Then I want someone to take over another of my ideas—a sort of Federal Reserve Board on the good of the nation, an unofficial group of men with foresight, who would be a spur to government and suggest direction. Somebody whose business it would be to attend to that which is nobody's business and so waits, and waits, until sometimes too late. Why should we have had no plans for caring for our soldiers as to employment and giving them the right bent on their return?

There was no one to concentrate attention—the attention of Congress and the public—on any definite plan. I tried it with my scheme for making farms for soldiers, but Congress, as soon as it found that I was really agitating, passed laws making it impossible for me to use a sheet of paper or the frank for the purpose. I do not say my plan was the best possible. Then someone should have come forward with another, and pushed it against a Congress made up of Republicans who feared that Democrats would get the credit, and Democrats who feared Republicans would. Hence, deadlock, and a great opportunity lost! ...

Seers, or see-ers, that's what these men should be. Elder Statesmen, if you please, independent, away above politics.

Doesn't it seem to you that we are coming to be altogether too dependent on the President? That office will be ruined. Every one with a sore thumb has come into the habit of running to the President. This is all wrong, all wrong. He cannot do his job well now. And he is only nominally doing it, and only nominally has been doing it for years. But each month seems to add to his duties as arbiter of everything from clothes to strikes, from baseball to disarmament.

I see a tremendous field for a body of a few ripe minds who would talk so little, and so wisely, and so collectively, that they could get and hold the ear of the country, governmental and otherwise.

I outlined for Mezes, in your old job, a series of lectures by Americans who have done things on Why America is Worth While—and he has expanded it into a whole course on America, so that I believe he will have something new and great—teaching history, geology, art, everything, by the history of that thing in America, and how it came to come here, or be here, or what it means here.

Well, I have written you a book and must stop—I don't know where to address you but will send this to the Times. Please remember me to Mr. Ochs—who can see things, and here's hoping it won't be long before we meet. Yours always,


To James H. Barry San Francisco Star

Rochester, Minnesota, May 5, [1921]

MY DEAR JIM,—I have nothing of importance to say, except that I am to be operated on tomorrow and hope for the best, for Dr. Will Mayo is to do the operating, and I am not in a very run-down condition.

I find myself quite serene, for I can look forward even to the very worst result with the feeling that there is no one to meet me over there to whom I've done any wrong. And while I haven't done my best, my score hasn't been blank. I honestly believe I've added a farthing or two to the talent that was given me.

My brother George is here, with his splendid philosophy and his Scotch songs; and Ned, my boy, and his bride have just come back, so that Anne and I are very well content that things are just as they should be. I go to St. Mary's Hospital where they have nuns for nurses, and when time comes for recuperation I shall go to the near-by estate of my old friend, Severance, the big St. Paul lawyer, whom I have known these thirty years.

I hope, my dear old man, that you will find new occupation soon that will give you use for your pen, and sterling love of justice. My regards, sincere and hearty to your family, and my other friends.


To Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Rochester, Minnesota, May 5, [1921]

Just because I like you very much, and being a very old man dare to say so, I am sending this line, which has no excuse in its news, philosophy or advice; has no excuse, in fact, except what might be called affection, but of course this being way past the Victorian era, no one admits to affections! I will not belittle my own feeling by saying that I have a wife who thinks you the best Eastern product—and probably she'd move to strike out the word "Eastern." At any rate, I think I should tell you myself that I am to be operated on tomorrow, by Dr. Will Mayo, and am glad of it. We shall see what we shall see.

I find myself quite serene about the matter, altho' I believe my heart is so bad that they fear giving ether and will keep me conscious if they can, applying only a local anesthetic.

I'd like to have Anne's perfect sureness as to the future, but lacking it, I do not look forward with fear, even if the worst should happen. I've never done a wrong to any man or woman or child that I can now recall—but maybe my memory is failing.

My boy and his bride came back this morning—happy! Oh, so happy! And my "best beloved" brother who sings Scotch songs is here—a great philosopher whom you would deeply admire—and our friends the Severances of St. Paul, thirty year-old friends, they come over tonight. So we will be a merry, merry company. I'd love to see you and the gay Cavalier, but let us hope it won't be long till we meet! Au revoir!

F. K. L.

To friends who had telegraphed and written urgently for news

May 11, 1921

It is Wednesday afternoon and I am now sitting up in bed talking to my good friend, Cotter. Until yesterday I did not clearly visualize any one thing in this room and did not know that it had a window, except that there was a place that noise came through, but I did know that it had a yellow oak door that stared at me with its great, big, square eye, all day and all night.

Last Friday, you see, about ten in the morning, I took the step that I should have taken months, yes, years ago. I was stretched on a stiff, hard table, my arms were clamped down and in three- quarters of an hour I had my appendix and my gall bladder removed, which latter was a stone quarry and the former a cesspool. Today, most tentatively, I crawled on to a chair and ate my first mouthful of solid food. But four days ago I managed to shave myself, and I am regarded as pretty spry.

I have seen death come to men in various ways, some rather novel and western. I once saw a man hanged. And I have seen several men shot, and came very near going out that way myself two or three times, but always the other fellow aimed poorly. I was being shot at because I was a newspaper man, and I should have been shot at. There must be public concern in what is printed, as well as its truth, to justify it. That is something that newspapers should get to know in this country. After the earthquake in San Francisco, I saw walls topple out upon a man. And I have had more intimate glimpses still of the picturesque and of the prosaic ways by which men come to their taking off.

But never before have I been called upon deliberately to walk into the Valley of the Shadow and, say what you will, it is a great act. I have said, during the past months of endless examination, that a man with little curiosity and little humor and a little money who was not in too great pain could enjoy himself studying the ways of doctors and nurses, as he journeyed the invalid's path. It was indeed made a flowery path for me, as much as any path could be in which a man suffered more humiliation and distress and thwarting and frustration, on the whole, than he did pain.

But here was a path, the end of which I could not see. I was not compelled to take it. My very latest doctor advised me against taking it. I could live some time without taking it. It was a bet on the high card with a chance to win, and I took it.

I undressed myself with my boy's help, in one of the hospital rooms, and then arraying myself in my best suit of pajamas and an antique samurai robe which I use as a dressing gown, submitted myself to being given a dose of dazing opiate, which was to do its work in about fifteen minutes. I then mounted a chair and was wheeled along the corridor to the elevator, stopping meantime to say "adieu" to my dear ones, who would somehow or other insist upon saying "good-bye," which is a different word. I was not to be given the usual anesthetic, because my heart had been cutting up some didos, so I must take a local anesthetic which Was to be administered by a very celebrated Frenchman. I need not tell you that this whole performance was managed with considerable eclat, and Doctor Will Mayo, probably the first surgeon of the world, was to use the knife; and in the gallery looking on were Doctor Finney, of Johns Hopkins, Doctor Billings, of Chicago, Doctor Vaughan of the Michigan University, and others. On the whole, it was what the society reporter would call a recherche affair. The local anesthetic consists of morphine and scopolamin. It is administered directly by needle to the nerves that lead to those particular parts which are to be affected by the operation. This I watched myself with the profoundest interest. It was painful, somewhat, but it was done with the niceness and precision that make this new method of anesthesia a real work of art. I should think that the Japanese, with their very rare power at embroidery, might come to be past masters in this work. There were some insertions very superficial and some extremely deep. Over the operator's head, there were a half dozen heads peering intently at each move he made, while the patient himself was free to lift his head and look down and see just what was being done. I did not test myself, as I should have, to see whether I was paralyzed in any part.

Just when this performance came to a head, Doctor Mayo came in and said, "Well, I am going in for something." I said, "That's right, and I hope you will get it."

His statement did not conclusively prove confidence that he would find the cause of my trouble by going in. ... I knew there could be no such definiteness, but I said to myself, "He will get it, if it's there."

For two days I had had knowledge that this operation was to take place at this time, and my nerves had not been just as good as they should have been. Those men who sleep twelve hours perfectly before being electrocuted have evidently led more tranquil lives than I have, or have less concern as to the future. Ah, now I was to know the great secret! For forty years I had been wondering, wondering. Often I had said to myself that I should summon to my mind when this moment came, some words that would be somewhat a synthesis of my philosophy. Socrates said to those who stood by, after he had drunk the hemlock, "No evil can befall a good man, whether he be alive or dead." I don't know how far from that we have gone in these twenty-four hundred years. The apothegm, however, was not apposite to me, because it involved a declaration that I was a good man, and I don't know anyone who has the right so to appreciate himself. And I had come to the conclusion that perhaps the best statement of my creed could be fitted into the words, "I accept," which to me meant that if in the law of nature my individual spirit was to go back into the great Ocean of Spirits, my one duty was to conform. "Lead Kindly Light" was all the gospel I had. I accepted. I made pretense to put out my hand in submission and lay there.

"All through, doctor?"

"Yes, doctor."

"Very well, we will proceed."

And I was gradually pushed through the hall into the operating room. The process there was lightning-like. I was in torture.

"Lift me up, lift me up."

"What for?"

"I have one of those angina pains and I must ease it by getting up and taking some nitro."

That had been my practice, but I did not reason that never before had the pain come on my right side.

"Give him a whiff of ether." The tenderest arms stole around my head and the softest possible voice—Ulysses must have heard it long ago—"Now do take a deep breath." I resisted. I had been told that I would see the performance.

"Please do, breathe very deeply—just one good deep breath." That pain was burning the side out of me. I tried to get my hand up to my side. Of course it was tied down. I swore.

"Oh Christ! This is terrible."

"It will stop if you will reach for a big breath,"—and I resigned myself. Men who are given the third degree have no stronger will than mine. I knew I was helpless. I must go through. I must surrender to that Circean voice.

I heard the doctor in a commonplace monotone say, "This is an unusual case—"—the rest of this sentence I never heard.

There was a long ray of gray light leading from my bed to my door. I had opened my eyes. "I had not died." I had come through the Valley.

"I wonder what he got."

In the broad part of the ray was my wife smiling, and stretching out to that unreachable door were others whom I recognized, all smiling. Things were dim, but my mind seemed definite.

"What did he get?" I had expected eternal mysteries to be unraveled. Either I would know, or not know, and I would not know that I would not know.

"He got a gall-bladder filled with stones and a bad appendix, and now you are to lie still."

Then to this the drama had come, the drama beyond all dramas—a handful of brownish secretions and a couple of pieces of morbid flesh!! Ah me!

I am doing well, cared for well, as happy as can be; have had none of my angina pains since the operation. And as I lie here, I contemplate [making] a frieze—a procession of doctors and nurses and internes, of diagnosticians and technicians and experts and mechanics and servitors and cooks—all, the great and the small, in profile. They are to look like those who have made their pretenses before me during the past year;—the solemn and the stupid; the kindly, the reckless; the offhand; the erudite, the practical; the many men with tubes and the many men with electrical machines. Old Esculapius must begin the procession but the Man with the Knife, regnant, heroic size, must end it.

What a great thing, what a pride, to have the two men of greatest constructive imagination and courage in surgery in the world as Americans, Dr. Charles and Dr. Will Mayo.

To Alexander Vogelsang

Rochester, Minnesota, May 14, [1921]

This is a line by my own hand, dear Aleck, just to show you that I am still this much master of myself. ...

I am going through much pain. Inside I am a great boil. But Nature is doing all she can, and I am helping. They think me a right model sort of patient, for I made a showing of exceptional recovery. When T.R. shaved the day after, I said, "Hip Hip!" Well, I done it too! I guess as how I haven't been so very bad a boy all these fifty-seven years or I couldn't play as good as "par" at this game, and they say they have no better record than mine on the books.

The National Geographic Society did a nice thing. Today I got a resolution of the most sympathetic kind from them. Some gentlemen still alive, eh?

I dictated a bit of a thing about my experience the other day to Cotter—something to send off to the chaps who wrote or wired—and sent you one. I hope it wasn't soft or slobby. Did you think it was all right to come from a sick bed?

It will be three weeks or more yet of hospital, and then much of recuperation. But I have no complaint. I feel a faith growing in me, and I may yet draw my sword in some good fight. Affectionately,


To John W. Hallowell

Rochester, Minnesota, May 14, 1921

DEAR JACK,—I've been down into the Valley since I heard from you, but I'm up once more and with new light in my eye, new faith in my heart, more sense of the things that count and those that don't. And affection, love for the good thing of any kind; loyalty, even mistaken loyalty, these are the things that the Gods treasure. They live longest. So I turn to give you my hand, dear boy,

I was most badly infected, but I really never felt better than when I stepped out of the auto on to the hospital steps. And it took some nerve for me to say, "Go to it," under such circumstances. (I am patting myself on the back a bit now.)

Well, Glory be!—that step is taken and now I must fight to get fit. They say I am making as good a record as a boy, as to recovery, so all my Scotch whiskies, and big cigars and late nights with you politicians have not ruined me.

Say dear things to your Mother for me, Jack, and give greetings to all your family.

F. K. L.

To Robert Lansing

Rochester, 14 [May, 1921]

MY DEAR LANSING,—I am disturbed because you may be disturbed. As I lie in bed I read and am read to, and some of the papers do not treat you decently. The very ones that were loudest in their declarations against W. W. at every stage, now suggest that you might have quit his service if you didn't like it. I hope it will not get under your skin ...

What comfort you would have given the enemy if you had resigned! Have they thought of that? I came to the brink when the President blew up my coal agreement to save three or four hundred million dollars for the people, But I was stopped by the thought, "Give no comfort to Berlin." ... Good night and good luck.


Manuscript fragment written May 17, 1921, and found in his room. Franklin K. Lane died May 18, 1921.

And if I had passed into that other land, whom would I have sought—and what should I have done?

No doubt, first of all I would have sought the few loved ones whose common life with me had given us matter for talk, and whom I had known so well that I had loved dearly. Then perhaps there might have [been] some gratifying of a cheap curiosity, some searching and craning after the names that had been sierras along my skyline. But I know now there would have been little of that. It would not have been in me to have gone about asking Alexander and Cromwell little questions. For what would signify the trifle which made a personal fortune, that put a new name up upon some pilaster men bowed to as they passed? Were Aristotle there, holding in his hand the strings and cables that tied together all the swinging and surging and lagging movements of the whole earth's life—an informed, pregnant Aristotle,—Ah! there would be the man to talk with! What satisfaction to see him take, like reins from between his fingers the long ribbons of man's life and trace it through the mystifying maze of all the wonderful adventure of his coming up. The crooked made straight. The 'Daedalian plan' simplified by a look from above—smeared out as it were by the splotch of some master thumb that made the whole involuted, boggling thing one beautiful, straight line. And one could see, as on a map of ocean currents, the swing and movements of a thousand million years. I think that I would not expect that he could tell the reason why the way began, nor where it would end. That's divine business, yet for the free-going of the mind it would lend such impulse, to see clearly. Thus much for curiosity! The way up which we've stumbled.

But for my heart's content in that new land, I think I'd rather loaf with Lincoln along a river bank. I know I could understand him. I would not have to learn who were his friends and who his enemies, what theories he was committed to, and what against. We could just talk and open out our minds, and tell our doubts and swap the longings of our hearts that others never heard of. He wouldn't try to master me nor to make me feel how small I was. I'd dare to ask him things and know that he felt awkward about them, too. And I would find, I know I would, that he had hit his shin just on those very stumps that had hit me. We'd talk of men a lot, the kind they call the great. I would not find him scornful. Yet boys that he knew in New Salem would somehow appear larger in their souls, than some of these that I had called the great. His wise eyes saw qualities that weighed more than smartness. Yes, we would sit down where the bank sloped gently to the quiet stream and glance at the picture of our people, the negroes being lynched, the miners' civil war, labor's hold ups, employers' ruthlessness, the subordination of humanity to industry,—


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