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November 18, 2004

Sid Says: Don't Get Anxious About New York: Let New York Get Anxious About You

John Siddall and Family, circa 1902 - 1904
Front Row - Roger and Dudley Siddall, nephews of John Siddall
Second Row - Eugene A. Siddall, Charles J. Siddall, Sarah Orinda Candee Siddall, Mary Beard Siddall, William A. Siddall, Bessie Parker Siddall
Third Row - Nettie Danielson Siddall, John MacAlpine Siddall, George Bennett Siddall, Miranda Colby Siddall, Eugenia Siddall

Siddall descendant Hampton Wilmot, who obligingly sent me the picture above, notes that it was likely taken on a Sunday, as James F. Siddall, the family patriarch and devout Quaker, refused to be photographed on that day.

He also wouldn't read the Sunday paper; his sons chided him that he had it mixed up, he shouldn't read the Monday paper which carried the Sunday news.

I've now put more of the Siddall genealogy online than I have of my own. It will likely stay that way, as what my mother has discovered about the family tree now fills several large notebooks, and is thus too big of a project to contemplate. Interestingly, we've managed the neat trick of being descended both from one of Jefferson Davis's cabinet makers as well as the head of his Masonic Lodge. Who says the upper and lower classes don't mix?

Today's Siddall essay was one of his more popular; Don't Get Anxious About New York: Let New York Get Anxious About You. Kind of has an eerie "advice to the Red-State voter" ring to it, doesn't it?

However, it's exactly the opposite, as Siddall advises all those out in the sticks to stay there if they've any reason to fear failure.

Note: For those of you who have managed to get this far, yet happen to be unfamiliar with this series of posts; John Siddall was a minor figure in the muckraking movement of early 20th century journalism--though he managed in one way or another to brush up against most of the major figures in journalism, politics and business of that era. Were a novelist to construct a historical fiction of that time, the central character would almost have to resemble Siddall in some form or another. Through sheer happenstance, I've ended up as his biographer. The first post in this (very occasional) series may be found here.


Don't Get Anxious About New York: Let New York Get Anxious About You

An old friend called to ask my advice the other day. He came to New York from a little Indiana town. He has a wife and four children—and a poor job. As I talked with him I kept picturing him where he belongs—back in the old home town. If he had stayed there he might have worked into a $1,000 or $1,200 job, which would have been sufficient to satisfy all his needs and most of his wants. He could have had a garden, a yard, a savings bank account and a membership in the local lodge. Evenings he could have sat on his porch and held converse with his neighbors. On the Fourth of July he could have been "some punkins" at the neighborhood picnic. He might have become a village councilman; and when the fall campaign arrived, he could have been on the committee to welcome the congressman when that great personage came to town in search of votes. In other words, he might have had a real place in the community.

Now what does he get in exchange for the $1,000 or $1,200 that he earns in New York? Well, I suppose he gets a measly little flat with dark bedrooms, a fine assortment of cheap lunches, two chances daily to hang by his eyelids in the subway, a great fund of loneliness and a woe-begone feeling of uselessness.

That is the trouble with these whaling big cities like New York and Chicago. They are all right for men of known ability—men of force and ambition who have learned how to direct their talents. But they are hard on untried men—men who have not yet found themselves. This is not said for the purpose of scaring venturesome and unattached young fellows of ability who want to try their muscles on the big town. There is no danger of scaring them. They cannot be scared. The morning trains are bringing them in by the hundreds— this very day—and all the printing presses in the world could not drive them back. But it is said for the purpose of causing every small-town man, with responsibilities, to consider carefully before coming whether he has a definite aim in coming, and whether he has faith and conviction that he really has something to give to the big town.

Don't come just for the ride. Don't come except from positive choice. Don't come just because others are coming. The best rule of all is this—if you have no definite, compelling reason within yourself to come, don't come until you are invited. Do your job well at home. If the big town wants you she will call for you. A hundred telegrams went out from New York today to various and remote parts of the United States carrying offers of good jobs to smart chaps who have done so well that New York has heard of them. Only last week I met a young man from Massachusetts who had just been offered an $8,000-a-year place in New York. He said he hadn't the least idea how the thing started—except that he had done work that had been brought to the attention of several New York bankers, one of whom had looked him up and then flashed him the offer of a job.

So leave your name and address with the local operator and go back to your knitting. New York is not tongue-tied. If she needs you she'll wire. Of course, if you think you are a record-breaking genius you will probably take the first train for Broadway—and maybe it will be just as well for you to do so. A genius is just as unhappy one place as another. But, genius or no genius, there won't be any brass band to meet you when you arrive at the Grand Central Station.


Next: It Is Sometimes Better To Remain A Bore Than To Make Yourself Too Interesting

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August 19, 2004

Sid Says: Consider Your Ears--They Are Not Purely Decorative

Aside from Ida Tarbell, the person who had the most influence on John Siddall's career was John Sanborn Phillips, the editor of McClure's magazine during the height of its power and popularity. Phillips (coincidentally, the grandfather of post 9/11 bestselling author Samuel Phillips Huntington) hired Siddall on at McClure's as a desk editor. The desk editor position at McClure's was a unique one, functioning for much of the life of the magazine as a kind of testing ground for new talent hired at the magazine. Willa Cather was a desk editor at McClure's, as were three of the muckraking giants of the era; Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, and Lincoln Steffens. Peter Lyons, in his McClure autobiography Success Story, describes the post.

At this time, Miss Tarbell was running the editorial desk.

They were always casual about titles on McClure's (so long as everybody remembered that S.S. was the Chief) and this post was treated most indifferently of all. Many men and a few women sat at the editorial desk, sometimes grandly styled managing editor, sometimes meanly deprecated as desk editor. It was a post with little authority, although S.S. would often try to make it seem as if whoever filled it could make the lightning to flash and the heavens to rumble. The duties of the desk editor were clear enough: to handle the routine editorial correspondence, dispose of would-be contributors who insisted on calling in person, and be sufficiently alert to recognize any obvious talent that drifted past; to maintain liaison with the London office; and to keep S.S. (and any other editor who happened to be out-of-town) abreast of features and fiction scheduled for future publication. A bright desk editor soon learned that he could easily dump most of this work into Bert Boyden's lap. Boyden was a cheerful, likeable youngster who had come straight from Harvard to the art department. McClure had been favorably impressed by his knack for keeping everybody happy and had made him the editorial production manager; Boyden had entirely justified McClure's confidence.

Broadly speaking, however, the abler the man, the briefer his tenure as desk editor. John Finley, for example, stayed only a few months before accepting Woodrow Wilson's offer of a chair as professor of government at Princeton. After him others had come and gone, and now Miss Tarbell was filling in temporarily. Someone would have to be found at once; Miss Tarbell was too valuable to waste on the editorial desk.

Phillips had for some time had his eye on Lincoln Steffens. Steffens had left The Evening Post to become city editor of The Commercial Advertiser, he had written five or six articles for McClure's and a few for other magazines, he had acquired a slender reputation. He was about thirty-five, talented and thoroughly aware of it; a banty rooster of a man, who wore a pince-nez, a mustache, and a Vandyke beard. He had a quick, coruscating wit and a quick, calculating eye on the main chance. Phillips considered at length and then wrote Steffens a brisk letter offering him a job as managing editor at ninety dollars a week. "We want you as soon as you can possibly arrange to come," said Phillips, "the sooner the better; in one week rather than two."

Steffens accepted the offer but insisted on first taking a long vacation. It was then May: he would come to work in October. So Ray Baker obligingly came east to manage the editorial desk until Steffens should be ready to take over.

Of the three muckrakers above, Steffans was the only one who had a less than positive view of Siddall, perhaps because Siddall filled the position soon after Steffens left it. It's only human nature to view those that follow after on with a jaundiced eye. I'm saving his opinion for a future Siddall post, however. As thin on the ground as the Siddall pickings are, I wouldn't make sense to cram them all into one post.


Consider Your Ears--They Are Not Purely Decorative

Have you ever had a good dinner for nothing? I had one the other night. It was absolutely free. I don't refer to the cost of the meal. I refer to the cost of the conversation.

From start to finish I gave nothing and received everything. The man with whom I dined started in with his business and his ideas and his s prejudices, and they were the only topics up for discussion throughout the entire evening. When he lagged in his monologue all I had to do was to prompt him with a question, and he was off again.

It was the easiest work I ever did. I got the most with the least effort. I say I got the most—and I did. For he is a wonderfully clever man. If I should name him, most of you would recognize him.

But in spite of all the interesting things he said, I must admit that I don't regard him as really able—at least, I don't think he is as able as he might be if he showed more curiosity about the facts and ideas that are in the possession of others. Putting it differently, I think he is a bad trader. He gives too much and receives too little in return. During this dinner I honestly think I got the best of him—simply because I gained a lot of useful information while he was getting nothing except vocal exercise and the satisfaction that comes from having an attentive listener. Perhaps, indeed, there was nothing of value to him in my point of view. But how did he know? He did not even try to find out.

The fact has frequently been impressed upon me that nearly all really able men are eager devourers of other people's information and ideas. They are too good traders to be always giving and never receiving. They know better than to tap continually their reservoir of wisdom without setting a catch-basin for a new supply. Not long ago a journalist of my acquaintance went out to Chicago and had several extended talks with J. Ogden Armour in preparation for some articles. When he returned to New York one of the first things he had to say was that Armour had asked him more questions than he was possibly able to ask Armour. Theodore Roosevelt is a human question mark. Peter Dunne (creator of "Mr. Dooley," and one of the wisest men on this planet) never lets any grass grow under his feet if he suspects that you have a new fact or a fresh point of view concealed on your person.

Ordinarily, the man who ceases to ask questions has ceased to learn. And when a man ceases to learn he grows complacent. Smugness sets in and he begins to deteriorate. The lack of curiosity in a man is a sign of age. You can be sure that you are getting old if you have lost curiosity. But old age—intellectually—comes on very early with some people, and with others it never seems to come. Many old people have younger and more eager minds than their children.
In New York recently, Willie Collier put on a show that has one extraordinary line in it. It is a line that might suggest a good New Year's resolution for many people. One of the characters says to another "Say, don't you know that you were given one mouth and two ears for a purpose?"


Next: Don't Get Anxious About New York: Let New York Get Anxious About You.

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August 05, 2004

Sid Says: Good Brains Don't All Travel The Same Way

What with one thing and another, I had let slide the series of Sid Says posts that I'd started with such enthusiasm last year. The wife would say that this was nothing more than typical, that I flit from interest to interest like a butterfly from flower to flower, or a fly from one pile of shit to another, more like, never staying with one thing. For two weeks she can't get me to shut up about the passion du jour, then I never speak of it again.

When I bring up the fact that the blog has been around for over two years now, she accuses me of keeping it alive just to annoy her.

She's probably more right than she knows.

So, anyway, the pace of the Siddall posts had slackened, though if anyone had asked I would have said it was due more to a lack of available material than dwindling enthusiasm. The only sources left for information on Siddall's life are in collections of papers located in out-of-state libraries--all of which want me to pay for access. I don't mind researching John M.--rather like it, in fact, but having to pay for the privilege slows down the process somewhat. It also cut into the sheer enjoyment of it all.

When I first started the series, I had nothing more than a vague feeling that the Siddall essays, and practically everything else over a certain age in my library, should be put on the web--not that they had any great value to me, but because I had the idea that they were bound to have value for someone, somewhere, at some point in time. To me it was a close equivalent to putting a message in a bottle and tossing it out to sea, not because I needed help, but because I wanted some stranger to have the thrill of finding it. Everyone wants to find a message in a bottle, don't they?

Everyone wants to, but no one expects to. Yet every now and then someone does. The thrill of finding a message in a bottle must be great indeed, but I wonder...Is it really a bigger thrill than knowing that someone has found one of yours?

Thank you very much for your comments and information on John Siddall, my great-great uncle (my grandmother's uncle, my great-grandfather's brother). Thanks to you I ordered and now have the best two of the three "Sid Says;" both my 88-year-old mother and I am enjoying his essays. I had made copies from the old American Mag in library stacks of many for my uncle, also a journalist. But the book is priceless. I had not known about the John Reed reference. Thanks again. I must read the Ida Tarbell biographies..have searched some for references.

Some info you might be interested in. John MacAlpine Siddall was the youngest of six brothers (one died as a youngster) born in Oberlin, Ohio, where he did his undergraduate work. His progressive views were certainly influenced by the school and town and his father's Quaker habits. Family lore believes the Siddalls who moved there in 1857 were involved in the Underground Railroad. When he did the legwork for Ida Tarbell he joined John D. Rockerfeller's Sunday school class, just to be up close to the guy. He also snuck onto the grounds of the Cleveland mansion to observe and prowl. He is thought to have been aided with some inside information from his brother Ben, who was a highly situated Cleveland lawyer. (again, family lore). Minnie Siddall was his sister-in-law, wife of brother William, a Cleveland dentist. Jean Joiner was his wife. They had no children. When he knew he was dying, sadly so prematurely, he prepared eight months of Sid Says columns for use after his death.

There are relatively few Siddall descendants, but we are very proud of his life and legacy. Thank you for keeping them alive.


Good Brains Don't All Travel The Same Way

In their mental operations I see about me all the time two groups of men—the mosquito fleet and the elephant brigade. The mosquito boys think quickly, and dart to conclusions like lightning. You will get an opinion out of them instantly that will be superior to any they will be able to produce after consideration. The elephant boys take more time. They move slowly. They like to think things over. Ask them for an opinion, and they will do better if they meditate. There is no special choice between these two groups. In each group there are quantities of men of great ability. I can at this moment think of two wonderful Presidents of the United States—one a mosquito and the other an elephant.

As between men and women, it can be said in general that women are of the mosquito type. They pride themselves on their instinct for quick judgment. Men call it intuition. The "bright" boy at school is usually of the mosquito type. His intellectual performances are rapid and showy. He may or may not go on and succeed—but if he does make good he won't get any particular credit for it from his schoolmates, simply because they "always knew he was smart." It takes a successful elephant to go back to his class reunion and stir up enthusiasm. Nobody expected much of him, and consequently everybody is prepared to applaud his achievements.

It is amusing to watch these two kinds of men meet. The mosquitoes bother the elephants, and the elephants bother the mosquitoes. In games, especially, the irritation between the two reaches its height. If it is cards, the mosquito, with his leaping mind, knows in a second what he wants to do, while the elephant has to wait for his inspiration. Some games are better adapted to one of these groups than to the other. Take chess, for example—an admirable game for the elephant type of mind. There is a game which two elephants can enjoy for a week at a stretch.

The worst thing that can happen to a man is to think himself an elephant when he is a mosquito, or a mosquito when he is an elephant. Some of the most terrible misfits in the world are misplaced elephants and misplaced mosquitoes. For example, a mosquito and an elephant can go into law practice to-gether and supplement each other's talents beautifully. But the elephant had better keep out of court, where nimbleness of mind is peculiarly required.

Another point is that the mosquitoes ought never to tease the elephants to try to take on mosquito-like speed. Neither should the elephants tease the mosquitoes to try to take on elephantine deliberation. It can't be done. Let every man work according to his own instinct. The minute he begins to imper-sonate somebody else he loses himself, and his judgments and decisions are of less value.

As a final observation, it may be well to record the fact that both classes of men are entirely satisfied with their equipment. The mosquitoes think there is nothing so greatly to be desired as agility, and the elephants pride them-selves on their deliberation, which is, I suppose, as it should be—for without self-appreciation man would surely perish.


I suspect that the presidents Sidall mentions are Theodore Roosevelt (mosquito)and Woodrow Wilson (elephant), but that's only a hunch. Were I to break down bloggers into elephants and mosquitoes, I'd start with USS Clueless and This Blog Is Full Of Crap respectively--more because of their style than any actual knowledge of their mental processes. For myself, I would claim to be a mosquito masquerading as an elephant--something I have a strong suspicion John M. would entirely disapprove of.

Next: Consider Your Ears--They Are Not Purely Decorative

Posted by Bigwig at 11:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 24, 2004

Civilization and Its Enemies

I've started reading Lee Harris's Civilization and Its Enemies : The Next Stage of History on the bus rides to and from work each day. It makes a change from Fooling America, that's for sure.

I was barely five pages in when the itch to start scanning whole pages, then posting them to the web awoke within me.

Fortunately, I'll not have to risk the ire of the publisher by doing so. Mr Harris has done my work for me.

Posted by Bigwig at 11:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

Sid Says: You Can Go Farther If You Take Others With You

To put John Siddall in context, I've had to learn a lot about the muckraking movement, and the founder of the magazine that began it, S.S. McClure.

On December 31st, 1902, there was no muckracking movement. A month later, there was, though the epithet itself did not exist until Teddy Roosevelt began using it 4 years later. The January 1903* issue of McClure's contained the third installment of Ida Tarbell's Standard Oil expose, Lincoln Steffan's The Shame of Minneapolis, and Ray Stannard Baker's story on the United Mine Workers. It was, and is still, considered one of the most important issues of a magazine ever published in the U.S.

And McClure knew it.

How many of those who have read through this number of the magazine noticed that it contains three articles on one subject? We did not plan it so; it is a coincidence that the January McClure's is such an arraignment of American character as should make every one of us stop and think. How many noticed that?

The leading article, "The Shame of Minneapolis," might have been called "The American Contempt of Law." That title could well have served for the current chapter of Miss Tarbell's History of Standard Oil. And it would have fitted perfectly Mr. Baker's "The Right to Work." All together, these articles come pretty near showing how universal is this dangerous trait of ours.

Miss Tarbell has our capitalists conspiring among themselves, deliberately, shrewdly, upon legal advice, to break the law so far as it restrained them, and to misuse it to restrain others who were in their way. Mr. Baker shows labor, the ancient enemy of capital, and the chief complainant of the trusts' unlawful acts, itself committing and excusing crimes. And in "The Shame of Minneapolis" we see the administration o£ a city employing criminals to commit crimes for the profit of the elected officials, while the citizens - Americans of good stock and more than average culture, and honest, healthy Scandinavians - stood by complacent and not alarmed.

Capitalists, workingmen, politicians, citizens - all breaking the law, or letting it be broken. Who is left to uphold it? The lawyers? Some of the best lawyers in this country are hired, not to go into court to defend cases, but to advise corporations and business firms how they can get around the law without too great a risk of punishment. The judges? Too many of them so respect the laws that for some "error" or quibble they restore to office and liberty men convicted on evidence overwhelmingly convincing to common sense. The churches? We know of one, an ancient and wealthy establishment, which had to be compelled by a Tammany hold-over health officer to put its tenements in sanitary condition. The colleges? They do not understand.

There is no one left; none but all of us. Capital is learning (with indignation at labor's unlawful acts) that its rival's contempt of law is a menace to property. Labor has shrieked the belief that the illegal power of capital is a menace to the worker. These two are drawing together. Last November when a strike was threatened by the yard-men on all the railroads centering in Chicago, the men got together and settled by raising wages, and raising freight rates too. They made the public pay. We all are doing our worst and making the public pay. The public is the people. We forget that we all are the people; that while each of us in his group can shove off on the rest the bill of today, the debt is only postponed; the rest are passing it on back to us. We have to pay in the end, every one of us. And in the end the sum total of the debt will be our liberty.

John Siddall played a important part in the birth of the muckraking movement, though admittedly it is an easily overlooked one. In battle, Generals aren't much good without a staff to organize things, though the staff gets precious little recognition at the end of the campaign. Staffers are integral, but overlooked.

So it was with Siddall, as this longish passage from the McClure biography, Success Story, illustrates;

The best-grounded, most careful, most substantial, and most devastating contribution made by the muckrakers to the general enlightenment was by Miss Tarbell. Her History of the Standard Oil Company, at first planned as a series of three articles and extended to six on the basis of her preliminary research, reached a total of nineteen before she was done. Few if any serials in American magazine history have had so great an impact on their period.

At the time she was writing, Standard Oil enjoyed almost a complete monopoly. The company refined nearly eighty-five per cent of the country's crude oil, most of which was still produced in the Oil Regions of Pennsylvania; it owned nearly all the forty thousand miles of pipe lines and carried through them virtually all the crude oil produced; it manufactured more than eighty-six per cent of the country's illuminating oil; its control over the price of all types of oil was absolute. This monopoly, so cordially detested at the time, so respectfully admired in retrospect, was the more remarkable because the wells it owned produced less than two per cent of the total. Standard Oil's strangle hold had been applied at the expense of the producers; it was maintained at the expense of the consumers. Most remarkable of all, John D. Rockefeller and his associates had constructed their monopoly in less than twenty years. It was the story of this commercial exploit that Miss Tarbell had undertaken to tell.

She set out to write a balanced study, to be neither apologist nor critic but only dispassionate historian. She conscientiously sought out those Standard Oil officials who would talk to her—notably Henry Rogers, the suave and courtly chairman of the company's manufacturing committee, and Henry Flagler, who had been one of Rockefeller's earliest partners—to check the accuracy of her material and to solicit the company's point of view. She used terms of the highest praise for the company's "perfection of organization" and for the "ability and daring," the "extraordinary intelligence and lucidity," and the "indefatigable energy" of its officers. It was, she wrote, "the most perfect business machine ever devised."

But in the course of her thorough, painstaking inquiry, Miss Tarbell was bound to form a bias. It was inescapable. Each fact she found—each affidavit, each of the many legislative investigations into the burgeoning monopoly, each of the many judicial proceedings mounted against it—served to deepen her cold contempt for the Standard's "illegal and iniquitous" policies, for its "huge bulk, blackened by commercial sin," for its "contemptuous indifference to fair play," for the "greed [and] unscrupulousness" of its officers. It was the logic of those facts that set her against the Standard and ranged her on the side of the independent producers.

To dig up the facts was not easy, for Rockefeller and his associates had been at pains to conceal their methods. Secrecy was second nature to the officials of Standard Oil. But Miss Tarbell found a valuable research assistant, John Siddall, a short, plump, excitable youngster who was anti-Standard by background, by temperament, and by conviction. Siddall had been born and raised in the bitterly anti-Standard Oil Regions, and when Miss Tarbell hired him he already had the crusader's zeal, for he had served as secretary of the Board of Education in Mayor Tom Johnson's reform administration of Cleveland. At Miss Tarbell's request, Siddall went on the payroll of McClure's and was later put to work as a desk editor in New York.

McClure was by all accounts a genius, and generous to boot. He was also notoriously... not unstable, exactly, but prone to alternating fits of optimism and despair. We'd be quick to label him a manic-depressive today, I suspect.

But he helped launch or popularize the the careers of hundreds of people--among them Arthur Conan Doyle, Willa Cather, Rudyard Kipling, Theodore Dreiser and Jack London. The list could easily go on. Though the editorial below is ostensibly about Charles Schwab, one can easily picture Siddall reflecting back on his years at McClure's when he wrote it.


You Can Go Farther If You Take Others With You

It is easy to understand how a man might be three or four or even ten times as successful in business as the general average of men. But when a man is a hundred or a thousand times as successful as his fellows we look on with amazement, and, because we cannot comprehend it, we usually say that he is a howling genius, and let it go at that.

But calling a man a howling genius does not get us anywhere. It does not explain anything. It is an unsatisfactory definition, because it contains no hint or help. Nobody knows exactly what a genius is.

Now, I am no diagnostician of greatness. I am just as much puzzled as anybody when it comes to defining the qualities that make for superlative achievement. Take, for example, Charles M. Schwab, whose story captivates the imagination of most men. I cannot take Schwab apart and show you why, starting as a day laborer without influence or a dollar to his name, he has turned out to be what he is—a giant in the business world. But I know his story through and through, and as I have considered it this thought has come to me:

There are probably dozens of men in the steel business who know almost as much about that business as Schwab knows. But where other men concentrate on their own personal contribution to the perfection of some part of the business, perhaps some technical part, Schwab takes an enormous interest in studying and developing men whose talents can be used in broadening and extending the business. You will find that note running all through his story—a curious watchfulness for the new man and almost childlike enthusiasm when he discovers him. Take his delight over Eugene Grace, for example. Grace was a switchman eight years ago, and now Schwab has made him president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and his income is a million dollars a year. Schwab is so tickled over Grace that he can hardly hold himself in. He predicts that Grace will someday be the biggest industrial figure in America!

In otherwords, a man like Schwab, by finding and encouraging men, and by inspiring their loyalty, carries himself and all his associates on to a success which none of them could achieve alone. He establishes a long battle line of organization in which there are great numbers of men intelligently used and genuinely appreciated by a commander who realizes that his own success is manifolded by the work of his associates.

In business it is not the individual producer who gets the biggest or the surest rewards: it is the organization builder. And any man, no matter how small his business, ought to recognize that fact. Unless an employer is interested in finding, training, holding and dividing with good men, the business he is engaged in can never grow. It will remain the work of one man; and the work of one man is bound to be limited in size and profits.

You may think that you are in the shoe business or the shirt business or the furniture business—but you are mistaken. After all is said and done, we are all in the same business—the man business—no matter what we make or sell. Some of the "big fellows" see that point more clearly than the rest of us do--and multiply their power and profits accordingly.


Next: Good Brains Don't All Travel The Same Way

*The January 1903 issure of McClure's exists in many places, the UNC Libraries among them. It does not, however, appear to be online in any fashion. Once I've finished with Siddall it might be something to consider publishing to the Net. However, to do the magazine justice would require posting large image files of each page rather than just the text--expensive in storage and bandwith terms.

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January 10, 2004

Editors & Critics

The wife hates it when I read passages aloud from whatever I happen to be reading, not the least because I do it so often.

So this time, instead of bothering her, I'll enlighten the Internet with my recycled words of wisdom.

From Peter Lyon's biography of S.S. McClure, Success Story, which I'm reading as part of my John Siddall research.

Indeed, any editor, to work at his best, must have much of the small boy alive in him, perpetually inquisitive, perpetually fresh-eyed, perpetually naive, perpetually finding all around him new and wonderful. It is a quality that can make a man a bore to his intellectual superiors, and it was bound to make McClure a puzzle or a figure of fun to many (but not all) of the writers with whom he dealt, since their eyes were fixed on different grails. But the best writers always recognize—as they did with McClure—the editor's precious, if simple-minded, gift; they cherish and protect it even while they permit themselves, every now and again, a private, secret smile.

The point cannot be too much labored, for writers and literary folk generally are prone to confuse the editorial with the critical function. If an editor seem a cut below them in literary spit and polish, if he relish an E. P. Roe or a Gene Stratton-Porter (to confine the examples to those safely dead), then the literary folk grow amused and supercilious, and commence to question the editor's judgment. They want the editor to be a critic; but if, overnight, he were to become one he should forthwith resign, for the two functions are (or should be) quite distinct. The good critic reads discriminatingly, the good editor catholically. The good critic is gourmet, the good editor gourmand. The one sips and considers and touches his lips with double damask, the other gulps and smacks his lips and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. The one is fastidious, the other voracious. And, most significant difference of all, the editor plunks down his money to back up his judgement, but thus far no critic has appeared who is prepared to do the same.

Fascinating stuff, ain't it?

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December 15, 2003

Sid Says: Some Poetry Is Made To Be Heard--Not Heeded

Dale Carnegie on John Siddall, from The Quick and Easy Way To Effective Speaking

Some years ago I wrote a series of articles for the American Magazine and I had the opportunity of talking with John Siddall, who was then in charge of the Interesting People Department.

'People are selfish," he said. "They are interested chiefly in themselves. They are not very much concerned about whether the government should own the railroads; but they do want to know how to get ahead, how to draw more salary, how to keep healthy. If I were editor of this magazine," he went on, "I would tell them how to take care of their teeth, how to take baths, how to keep cool in summer, how to get a position, how to handle employees, how to buy homes, how to remember, how to avoid grammatical error, and so on. People are always interested in human interest stories, so I would have some rich man tell how he made a million in real estate. I would get prominent bankers and presidents of various corporations to tell the stories of how they battled their ways up from the ranks to power and wealth."

Shortly after that, Siddall was made editor. The magazine then had a small circulation. Siddall did just what he said he would do. The response? It was over-whelming. The circulation figures climbed up to two hundred thousand, three, four, half a million. Here was something the public wanted. Soon a million people a month were buying it, then a million and a half, finally two million. It did not stop there, but continued to grow for many years. Siddall appealed to the self-interests of his readers.

The Siddall articles went the way of the hard drive for a time. Of the three computers in the guest bedroom, only one is both compatible and fast enough to connect to the scanner. As much as I like John, I'm not going to key in his stuff by hand.

I didn't discover much about him during the downtime, either. None of his putative relatives have written back, the U of Montana is taking forever to mail me his Tarbell letters, and there's not much written about him to begin with.

So, a number of the future Siddall Posts will be in effect "nude," without much in the way of comment or contextual amplification on my part.

Oddly enough, that's probably how John M. would have preferred it. Certainly that's how they originally appeared.


Some Poetry Is Made To Be Heard--Not Heeded

AFTER a lively day at the office I wedged into the subway the other evening, opened up a New York evening paper, and found on the editorial page the following inspiring and cheerful line:

Ambition has but one reward for all—
A little power, a little transient fame,
A grave to rest in, and a fading name.

I began to wonder why I had gone downtown in the morning if this was all I was going to get out of it. Then I tried to imagine what good it would have done me to stay at home and sit in a rocking chair all day. If my wife went out and rought me my evening paper, wouldn't I be just as unhappy when I came upon the poet's words? If poets are going to "kid" me when I work and relatives when I loaf, what can I do? I can't sit off at one side on a star and ruminate on these matters. I have to mix around on earth, where life is real and creditors are earnest. Where shall I go and how shall I manage? What do you recom-mend, Mr. Poet? I don't enjoy being a poor miserable worm any more than you enjoy seeing me one.

As a matter of fact, the "little power" and the "transient fame" which the poet complains of are first-class things to strive for. They are the best rewards in the market. To refuse to struggle for them is cowardly and unsportsmanlike. The human being who won't play and take his part in the game of life is the most useless of creatures. Here we are on this earth NOW—not 100,000 years ago or 100,000 years hence, but NOW. And here are others like us. Here is work to do and here are pleasures to enjoy. It is up to us to take hold and accept those forms of satisfaction which are available. Perhaps we shall all meet again in another existence where the rewards of ambition are better or, at least, different. If so, go after them when you get there, would be my advice.

The poet who got up this dose of philosophy probably has not the slight- est idea of swallowing it himself. He had a fine time writing the lines, and probably he hopes that they will live! No doubt if you stole his poem and tried to palm it off as your own he would chastise you. You would not find him ready to have his name fade yet. He would fight for his rights, and fight to keep his work from being annihilated— which is what we are put in the world for.

Don't order your life on the plans and specifications laid down by a poet. Remember that what a poet writes must rhyme. Often a perfectly well-intentioned and optimistic poet wanders off into the gloom factory looking for odd sizes in metrical feet. A poet would rather scan well than be President.


The above appears to be one of the most blog-like to my eye. John read something in the paper he didn't care for, then went home and wrote about it.

Next: You Can Go Further If You Take Others With You

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November 06, 2003

Sid Says: Strive as We Will--Our Brows Slope Gently Downward

Almost done with the first Tarbell biography--there's not much more in the way of Siddall nuggets to be had, as she's already past his death in her memoirs. John Siddall did get married eventually, and he owned a cat. Ida gives the reader the cat's name, but omits the wife's.

The Siddalls came often, for in the summer we kept their famous cat "Sammy Siddall."

I wonder if there wasn't a slight bit of jealousy there. John had basically been at Ida's beck and call for almost two decades, and now was under the direction of another female. Not that Ida would admit anything of the sort. She vowed at 14 never to marry, and there is not the slightest hint of a romantic entanglement in her entire autobiography.

I'm also wondering how the Sammy the cat came to be famous. I suspect that the answer, if there is one, is found somewhere in the 8 years back issues of the American Magazine Siddall edited. Given the relative popularity of cat stories on the Internet, I suspect that there has been an audience for such for thousands of years. At some point we'll realize all of Minoan A is about the cute things Patches did with the mouse today.


Strive as We Will--Our Brows Slope Gently Downward

One of the most amusing facts of life is that "Bud" Fisher, maker of newspaper comics, should get for his work fully ten times as much per year as ex-President Eliot of Harvard ever got.

Bud" makes $150,000 a year, and, although Dr. Eliot never confided in us about personal matters, we can make a mighty good guess that he never saw more than $15,000 a year in his life.

Let's be frank. Ex-President Eliot is a wonderfully smart man. We all respect him and feel that we are way below him. We know that he thinks deep thoughts and knows how to write them down. We realize that if it were possible to measure a man's brains and ability by dollars he would start in at about $10,000 a week and get a raise before the end of the month. But Dr. Eliot doesn't get the money. He can't get the money. He can't bring it into the box office.

Now the joke, if there is one, is not on Dr. Eliot: it is on us. You and I are the ones who decide how much Dr. Eliot shall have and how much "Bud" shall have. What is the explanation? The explanation is that we won't pay anything like as much for the dignified impersonal expression of principles and wisdom as we will pay for wisdom served, as "Bud" serves it, with "pep" and personalities.

There is still another way to get at an understanding of "Bud." Take the cartoonist of the old school, who caricatures public men and public events. Why does that kind of cartoonist have to be satisfied with less than "Bud's" income? The answer runs about this way:

Human beings think first of themselves. They can't help it. They are built that way. In this fact is found the reason why the modern newspaper comic strip is more popular than cartoons of public men or events. The newspaper comic, such as "Bud" and Goldberg draw, is about you and me. The old-fashioned cartoon is about somebody else—Woodrow Wilson or Theodore Roosevelt, for example—and, while you and I regard Wilson and Roosevelt as interesting, we cannot honestly say that we are as much interested in them as we are in ourselves. The newspaper comic maker, either instinctively or by design, has discovered this truth. So, instead of giving us a picture of Wilson or Roosevelt, he gives us a picture of a comical happening right in our own home or our own office. There in the picture is you—and there am I—and over there is that bonehead we know, who acts just that way. We have seen him do that a thousand times! Oh, what an idiot he is!

And so, wedged into the New York subway, or on a Euclid Avenue car in Cleveland, we look first at these pictures and chuckle over them. After which, with diminished enthusiasm, we proceed to a solemn consideration of the news of the day and the editor's discussion of liberalism in Russia.


Next: Some Poetry Is Made To Be Heard--Not Heeded

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November 03, 2003

Sid Says: This Is A Want Ad For A World-Beater

When Ida Tarbell decided she should write a history of the Standard Oil Company, the first thing she decided to do was to hire a researcher

The third young man came, short and plump, his eyes glowing with excitement. He sat on the edge of his chair. As I watched him I had a sudden feeling of alarm lest he should burst out of his clothes. I never had the same feeling about any other individual except Theodore Roosevelt. I once watched the first Roosevelt through a White House musicale when I felt his clothes might not contain him, he was so steamed up, so ready to go, attack anything, anywhere.

The young man gave me his report; but what counted was the way he had gone after his material, his curiosity, his conviction that it was important since I wanted it. I thought I had my man. A few more trials convinced me John M. Siddall was a find. He at that time was an associate of Frank Bray in the editing of The Chautauquan, the headquarters of which had been shifted to Cleveland from Meadville.

When Siddall once understood what I was up to he jumped at the chance—went to work with a will and stayed working with a will until the task was ended. He was a continuous joy as well as a support in my undertaking. Nothing better in the way of letter writing came to the McClure's office. In time everybody was reading Siddall's letters to me, whether it was a mere matter of statistics or a matter of the daily life in Cleveland of John D. Rockefeller, the head of the Standard Oil Company. If anything in or around Ohio interested the magazine the office immediately suggested, "Ask Sid." And Sid always found the answer. Mr. McClure and Mr. Phillips began to say, "We want Sid as soon as you are through with him." Sid saw the opportunity, and as soon as I could spare him in Ohio he joined the McClure's staff.

The above was taken from Ida's autobiography, All In A Days Work, which now sits on my nightstand alongside three other Tarbell biographies. Almost all there is to know about John Siddall is inside them, other than a few letters at the University of Wyoming. From the description of them on the Net, they would appear to be part of the series that Ida mentions above, and thus at least as historically important as any of the other Gutenberg posts. The librarian at the U of W tells me they are on the way.

The muckraker movement was the scion of others, but John Siddall was one of the midwives that birthed it. He's unknown to history, and to his present day relations, as far as I can tell, but the roots of modern journalism were shaped in part by his research on Standard Oil.

This Is A Want Ad For A World-Beater

I wonder when it is going to he easier for people to get through this world without being bored. The capacity of human beings to bore and be bored is enormous.

Think of all the school children who are being bored. There they are—millions of them—bottled up in schoolhouses patiently learning the art of trying to look interested in something that doesn't interest them. When they get out of school they take up post-graduate work along the same line. They go into the law, when they have real love for the dairy business, and into music, when they are born hardware dealers. Schooled to believe that they ought to like this or that, they are ready to try what is "expected" of them—to adopt other people's ideas of what would be a reputable and proper calling for "one of your position," and so on through a lot of foolishness. Anyway, they get off on the wrong tack and stay there.

No wonder the world is filled with people who talk and talk about the good time coming when they can retire. To hear them complain about their work you might think they were in jail. They are.

Every employer is familiar with this great Army of Misfits. They are honest. They try. But they haven't the joy of the game in their eyes. And to save your life you cannot tell how to release their powers and give them wing.

Apparently educational systems are the crudest of all human institutions. The necessary genius has not yet arrived—the man who can show us how to take a boy, start with his best inclinations, and work out his education, holding his interest, making him proud rather than ashamed of his enthusiasms, turning his enthusiasms to good account, yet cultivating discipline and self-control. A big job! No wonder the man needed is hard to find, and slow in boarding what Herbert Quick calls "this good ship, earth." But he will arrive. There are rumblings.

In the meantime children are listening for the three-o'clock bell, and wondering whether the teacher's cold may not keep her home tomorrow.

Next: Strive as We Will--Our Brows Slope Gently Downward

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October 31, 2003

Sid Says: Let's Break Away from Granddaddy

John Siddall's first essay as editor of the American Magazine was an appeal for women's suffrage. He may have a had a personal reason for doing so--a Minnie Siddall from Ohio was an at-large member of the Ohio delegation to the Democratic National convention in 1924. Presumably she was a suffragette nine years before that---would she have had some influence on John's stance on the question? It's a rare surname. Give the relative closeness of Toledo, where Minnie hailed from, and Oberlin, where John was born, there would almost have to be some degree of kinship there.

But John would not have needed a suffragette relation to influence his take on the matter. He'd been affiliated with progressive causes for years.

John McAlpin Siddall was hired in 1903 by the muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell as a researcher for her expose on Standard Oil. He was working in Cleveland as an associate editor of The Chataquan magazine at the time, the publication that Tarbell helped to create and had written for 20 years earlier. He remained a protégé of hers for the rest of his life, following Tarbell first to McClure's magazine, then to the American Magazine. With her help he became editor of that magazine in 1915 and remained in that position until 1923, when I suspect he learned of the cancer that would kill him. He died that year.

Ida Tarbell said this about John Siddall in her autobiography, All In The Day's Work.

"I have never known any one in or out of the profession with his omnivorous curiosity about human beings and their ways. He had enormous admiration for achievement of any sort, the thing done whatever its nature or trend. His interest in humankind was not diluted by any desire to save the world. It included all men. He had a shrewd conviction that putting things down as they are did more to save the world than any crusade. His instincts were entirely healthy and decent. The magazine was bound to be what we call wholesome. Very quickly he put his impress on the new journal, made it a fine commercial success."

What intrigues me is that Siddall has the air of the lead character in a historical novel, a man who rubs shoulders with the famous but leaves no mark on history of his own. Due to his association with Tarbell, he would have been an intimate of the most famous turn of the century muckrakers, as they were dubbed by Theodore Roosevelt, and his 8 years at American Magazine would have put him in touch with almost an entire generation of American writers. His photo was taken by one of the most famous photographers of his day, Arnold Genthe, and an entire stanza of a poem was devoted to him by John Reed, a notorious radical poet and journalist, a personal friend of Lenin's, and subject of the 1981 Warren Beatty film Reds.

Comes SIDDALL with a cynic lip up-curled,--
SIDDALL, our dormer window on the World!
Kind-eyed behind his glasses, best of friends,
With the World's foibles at his finger-ends.
Roars out a jest, and praises with a damn,
And pricks our bubbles with an epigram;
SIDDALL, as sensible as he is keen,--
The high-brow low-brow of the Magazine;
"The SPORTING EDITOR has joined the bunch"
Cries he "Here's NORRIS, and it's time for lunch."

Yes, I know a little bit more about John Siddall today than I did yesterday. But that's almost everything that is known about him, and none of it is collected into one place. I seem to have become his biographer by default.

Let's Break Away from Granddaddy
By John M. Siddall
October, 1915

I am for woman suffrage, or almost any kind of suffrage. I would have just as many voters as possible. There are too few, rather than too many.

The whole human race is given over to the granddaddy theory: "Now just you leave everything to me. I know best, and I will decide. You are not smart enough, or you are a woman, or you are a foreigner, or you haven't had the experience. Anyway, I am your grandpa, and I know what is what and I will tell you what to do."

Everybody wants to do that. We all do: we all want to boss. We all want to keep other people from sharing authority with us. We all want fifty-one per cent of the stock. We want control.

And what is the result? The women and all the rest who do not enjoy the suffrage have an everlasting "alibi." They have an excuse. They would have done things differently if they had had the say. No, sir! I would give them all a chance—if for no other reason, just to find out for once how little the whole crowd, acting together, really knows. It might teach the human race a little humility. Out of the experience there might grow a more enlightened body politic. I would give the suffrage freely just as an educational aid. I would say: "There it is! Take it, if you want it. If you can do anything with it, all right. All the tools for your improvement in the world are at your disposal."

Frankly, I presume that an extended suffrage might mean a worse world for the time being. I have an idea that things might grow worse before they got better. But what of it? It seems to me that unless there is something inherently wrong in the ballot it is foolish to keep it away from this person and give it to that person. Why not give it to all who want it—who express a desire to use it? It seems to me that it comes right down to this point of the inherent right or wrong of it. If it is inherently right, a good thing in itself, how can you predict who will make the best use jof it? If it is aimed to benefit all those who are using it, why might it not benefit others?

In conclusion, let us refer to one other granddaddy idea: Granddaddies of all kinds have the notion that the young or the inexperienced or the minority
stockholder or the outsider is going to grab a new instrument for the purpose of killing himself. Ridiculous! The old forget the self-preserving instinct of the young. The young have no idea of destroying themselves. Of course they make mistakes, but on the whole they strive to improve themselves, to save their own skins. If the young were as untrustworthy with their own hides as some of their elders foolishly believe, Broadway would be strewn every morning with the dead bodies of young men and women who have come to the great city from the country.

But it isn't. And such an instrument as the ballot is not going to be used by women or by anybody else for purposes of general, or self, destruction. A greater danger lies in the possibility that the ballot will interest too few.

I should like to see the world really try sometime to find out what all the people can and will do. Everybody talks about democracy, but nobody wants to try it.


Next: This Is A Want Ad For A World-Beater

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October 30, 2003

Sid Says: A Great Ancestor Would be All Right If So Many Outsiders Didn't Butt In

The October 1915 American Magazine was the first published under the aegis of John M. Siddall. The first Sid Says, an appeal for women's suffrage, appeared in the November issue. It's the fourth essay in Siddall's book, so it should appear tomorrow, barring turbulence in the life stream.

I know this because I discovered an entire run of the American Magazine in Davis Library on the UNC campus this morning. I only had time for a quick glance at the first two issues published under Siddall; neither had much in the way of biographical information--surprising to the modern eye. Nowadays a change in editor at a major magazine occasions great comment in the press. Tina Brown is to blame, I expect.

It's a slow slog, but I've managed so far to run across new tidbits of information about Mr. Siddall each day without having to start emailing random Siddalls to ask about a connection, though I suspect that will come soon enough.

The photo in the first post, for instance, was taken by Arnold Genthe, a German Immigrant and acclaimed photographer around the turn of the century. It now resides in the Library of Congress, along with a number of other examples of Genthe's work, like this one of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Aside from the mildly distressing lack of Siddall information within them, the bound issues of The American Magazine in Davis are a treasure trove. Each are chock full of ads, portraits, and essays from one of the least studied, most forgotten eras of American History, the pre WWI years. The cover art alone is stunning. Aside from "Remember the Maine", "Bully!" and the McKinley assassination, most people would have difficulty recalling the era from 1890 to 1917, though some might have a vague memory of trust-busting, Gibson girls and the muckrakers.

Had I the money and the time, I'd like to scan the pages of every issue of the American from that time up until....well, sometime in the 30's at this point, since copyright would kick in at some point. Then I could start on McClure's, or the Saturday Evening Post.

I've no idea why I have this compulsion to pour the textual equivalent of raw materials into the gaping maw of the Internet-- it just feels like something that needs doing. There's no other reason I can think of to explain what I'm doing, other than the need to document a native curiosity, when it comes to John M. Siddall, who at best is a minor, minor figure in American Literature.


A Great Ancestor Would be All Right If So Many Outsiders Didn't Butt In
By John M. Siddall, circa 1915

A man tackled me for a job the other day. After enumerating his various accomplishments he wound up with a final claim that was intended to impress me with his importance once and for all. He said that he was a direct descendant of Bishop Ump-t-ump—the most learned man of his time in England. I asked what time that was, and he said that it was about four hundred years ago. I told him that—allowing twenty-five years for each generation— he must be the sixteenth descendant. "No, not the sixteenth," he said, "but the fifteenth." "All right," I said, "call it the fifteenth. Now let's take a sheet of paper and see what your credentials really are. Let's see—you had one father and one mother, two grandfathers and two grandmothers, four great-grandfathers and four great-grandmothers, eight great-great-grandfathers and eight great-great-grandmothers—and so on."

Carrying the multiplication back to the fifteenth preceding generation I showed that at the time the bishop lived, my friend, the applicant, had exactly 32,768 ancestors. In other words, the bishop was only one of the 32,768 human beings who were his forebears at that time.

"You have mentioned the bishop, but what about the other 32,767?" I asked.
"It seems to me that I ought to hear something about them if I am to judge you by the good blood which you say is in you. The bishop was all right. You are lucky to have as much of him in you as you have. But the bishop's stock has been considerably watered. I don't believe he would recognize you. What about the rest?"

That is the trouble with this heredity game—if you carry it back very far. Old Mother Nature is a wonderful leveler. Apparently her idea is to carry the race forward together, and not to play favorites. She won't let geniuses or boneheads breed in a straight line. To the weak she frequently gives a child of incredible talent—to keep the neighbors from getting abusive. To the brilliant and favored of the earth she often presents a choice piece of ivory in the shape of a dull son. If Nature didn't protect the rest of us in this manner, it wouldn't be long until we would all be working for one family, made up entirely of giants.

Another feature of the scheme is that it keeps us all interested. Surprises abound on all sides. There is no telling where the next worldbeater and the next dunce are coming from.


Next: Let's Break Away from Granddaddy

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October 29, 2003

Sid Says: Men Can't be Geared Up—Unless They Are Cheered Up

The second Siddall essay from Sid Says deals with the workplace, and were it not for the writing style one could not tell whether it appeared 80 odd years ago, or yesterday.

I was going to research more on John M. Siddall today at the UNC libraries, but a server crisis pulled me out of the shower this morning. By the time everything had settled down it was after 10, and neither diamonds nor pearls will buy a parking spot at Carolina after ten on a weekday.

I tell a lie. There are pay spots available in downtown Chapel Hill, so diamonds and pearls will buy a parking space. But since they are in Chapel Hill, it takes a inordinate amount of pressed carbon and solidified shellfish spit to use one for an hour.

So I worked from home today. In place of careful research, I'll offer the introduction to the book, written at the seventh hole* of the Dunwoodie Golf Club in Yonkers, New York by one Robert H. Davis, who seems to have been at least a little bit drunk as well as a good bit racist, on July 27th, 1917.

Introducing John M. Siddall

John M. Siddall was born in Oberlin, Ohio. His father and mother, realizing the necessity for supplying the boy with the right kind of ammunition in the campaign of life, loaded him up at Oberlin College and tamped the charge down at Harvard. From that intelligence armory young Siddall stepped into the reporters' room of the Cleveland Plain Dealer; from there to the Chautauquan Magazine; thence to the editorial staff of McClure's Magazine, and finally to The American Magazine, of which publication he became editor-in-chief in 1915. A swift journey from Oberlin to the main battery of opportunity.

Along the road he had been gathering powder and shot with which to fire upon readers. He had passed through every rank in the grand army of experience and knew what he was gunning for.

One perfect day he loaded the old-fashioned pumpgun of ambition which never explodes prematurely or dislocates one's shoulder, took deliberate aim, and let fly his first slug of "Sid Says." A regiment of readers fell under this fire of wisdom, poured into the trenches of doubt. The battle raged fiercely from week to week. The campaign was conducted by a gunner directing his fire from a revolving chair against the central powers of mediocrity, detonating his batteries with the spark of genius.

Conceding the justification for all twelve-inch ordnance fired in the name of democracy, and with the sincere hope that the parliament of man in the federation of the world is not far remote, let us now observe what "Sid Says" in the following pages, confident that they will continue to serve, long after the world is disarmed, the excellent purpose for which they were written.

I now resign to your hands this White Book, from the pen of a white man, guided by the white light of experience.

--Robert H. Davis


Men Can't be Geared Up—Unless They Are Cheered Up
By John M. Siddall, Circa 1917

I used to know a man who was a wonder at taking the heart out of those who worked under him. He was the original killjoy—a paragon of pessimism. He would roll over on anyone who showed enthusiasm, and flatten him out until he looked like a punctured toy balloon. I don't think he intended to do all the damage he wrought. He simply did not know any better.

His specialty was criticism. The minute you approached him with a suggestion he got out his instruments and amputated your new idea. Then he bathed you with an antiseptic wash of gloomy words calculated to render you immune to the development of any fresh outpouring of inspiration. If someone did a good job in the office, this man, who happened to be the boss, would come around and cheer him up by telling him how it could have been done better. He never even admitted that a good job had been done at all, but immediately set about to point out imperfections in the work. In his line, which was criticizing, he held the world's championship. If he had been present at the creation of the earth, which is said to have been put over quite cleverly in record time, he would have hinted that the thing could easily have been done in five days instead of six—and possibly by Friday noon, or in four and a half days, if certain precautions had been taken and if the work had been more efficiently laid out with a view to speed.

The man about whom I write this heartfelt tribute is dead. While he lived he was about as popular as the hives. Nobody derived any benefit from him. But when he passed away he left behind him (in other minds) a thought. Here it is:

If you have people working for you, one way to encourage them to do more and better work is occasionally to pick out instances where they have shown signs of ability, and commend them. Any worker, particularly a young worker, is likely to be unable to discriminate between his good work and his poor work. If you are his boss it is up to you to help him distinguish between the two. It is also up to you to take the young man in hand and explain to him why the good job is good and why the poor job is poor. In the first instance he will be hearing something pleasant and inspiring, and in the second instance he will be in a better mood to listen to you. You can also depend upon it that the man who is intelligently praised for a good piece of work will try to duplicate that work so that he may earn more praise.

These gloom boys—like the one I have characterized above—keep an office so dark with their doubts that nobody can see where to go.

Next: A Great Ancestor Would Be All Right if so Many Outsiders Didn't Butt In

*It's a par 3. I hope he let the group behind him play through.

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October 28, 2003

Sid Says: To Get Thoroughly Married Takes Time and Trouble

The first few reprints in what I've taken to calling the Gutenberg posts, after Project Gutenberg, were basically single essays, unrelated to each other or anything else aside from the fact that they possessed some historical value and to the best of my knowledge were not available anywhere else on the Net.

The next few entries in that category, 24 to be exact, are columns written by a man almost entirely lost to history, at least on the Internet--John M. Siddall, the editor of the American Magazine from 1915 to 1923 and the fellow whose mug graces the top of the post. I'll see what I can find out about him over the next couple of weeks from non-web sources, and attempt to rectify that situation somewhat.

While he was the American editor, Mr. Siddall began a column called "Sid Says", a title that should explain my attachment to the book to most of you. As for the the rest of you---tough. Hang around long enough and you'll figure it out.

Some of the columns under the "Sid Says" imprint were later collected into the book I'm now scanning them out of. Despite years of years of variously working in or patronizing used bookstores, I've never seen another.

Sellers at Alibris, one of whom calls the book "extremely rare" are offering three copies, none for less than $17.95. That's actually a pretty good price for an 86 year old hard cover, but you can still get it here for less, eventually.

Most of the essays Siddall wrote for the book fall into the "light humorous advice and observations" genre. They're literary potato chips, which is one reason why they fell out of the public conciousness in the years afterward, if indeed the essays ever penetrated the public conciousness to begin with. At this point I don't know enough about Mr. Siddall to tell for sure. Even if they did have some impact on the public mind in the years prior to World War One, few of the things written before that conflict would have survived the wrenching cultural changes in the years after it. Essays written in 1915 would have been as relevant to the minds of the 1920's as pre September 11th notions of the "End of history" are to us. They were a product of a more innocent time.

But, just because a thought from 1915 wasn't relevant to the world the Roaring Twenties doesn't mean that it remains irrelevant. Humans themselves have changed less than they would think in the last century, though our institutions have in some cases been drastically altered. Writings based on a knowledge of the human condtion should always have some relevance.

But here, decide for yourself.


To Get Thoroughly Married Takes Time and Trouble
By John M. Siddall, Circa 1917

SOME people don't understand marriage. They think—before tackling it anyway—that it is a natural institution. Their idea is that man by nature first loves and then marries.

Now the love part is natural, but the marriage part is an artificial scheme worked out by Society to prevent too frequent changes in the organization. Society finds a couple of youngsters who have a natural attraction for each other and it says to them: "Now, isn't this nice! You two think a lot of each other, don't you? And you don't want to lose each other, of course! Isn't it a shame you can't see each other except when Ma or Aunt Henrietta is home? I wonder if there isn't something we can do about it. Say, how would this little plan of mine do—marriage? All you have to do is to agree to it and sign a little document. Then you can live together. Yes? You like it? All right —just put your names down here. There now. That's fine! Just the thing!"

Then the young folks learn for themselves the difference between love and marriage. They learn that while love may turn out to be the short haul, marriage is the long haul. Love may get tired and want to quit before the piano needs tuning, but marriage runs right on through the World's Fair, Roosevelt's administration and the opening of the Panama canal. It becomes the one permanent job of life—a job hard to resign from and difficult to get fired from. Some people get so disgusted they can't stand it any longer and give up in a huff. But there stands Society, pointing the finger of shame at them and calling them welchers and quitters. Others work at the job indifferently, never win success, never quite fail, and go on from year to year afraid to give up, but dazed and mystified until the end of their days. Some glare at each other like meat axes. Others hate each other in their hearts, but for the sake of children or for other reasons live in a state of armed peace under a flag of truce. In cases of this kind both usually derive enormous self-satisfaction out of the fortitude and self-control which they display. Many work capably, unselfishly and energetically at the job and make a great success of it. To such as do the job well the rewards are greater than any to be obtained elsewhere in the world.

In business, if you make a great success, there may come a time when people begin to suggest that you ought to get out and give others a chance. Not so with marriage. If you win out in matrimony nobody wants you to quit. You are never superannuated or put on a pension. If you make a success everybody wants you to keep right on, stay in the neighborhood, and come around for the evening.

Marriage furnishes every man a chance to be a great man. In the married relation a young man can be as wise as Washington, as entertaining as Lincoln and as diplomatic as Bismarck. No married man ever has the right to stand up before the world and claim that he hasn't had opportunities.


Tomorrow, or next, depending on the events between now and then: Men Can't Be Geared Up--Unless they Are Cheered Up.

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October 26, 2003

The Normal Majority

In 1925, Will Rogers wrote a newspaper column on the occasion of Washington's birthday entitled "The Normal Majority." A couple of quotes from it have made it down through the years to be remembered in the present, notably "This country is not where it is today on account of any one man. It is here on account of the real common sense of the Big Normal Majority."-- but like The Hireling Ministry, the entire text of the column is not to be found on the Internet, at least not by me, and I'm pretty good at looking.

So I've reproduced the column here, at the bottom of the post. I wasn't totally sure if the essay had passed into the public domain yet or not, thanks to Sonny Bono, may he roast for a thousand years in the dripping pans of Hell, but according to this site The Normal Majority passed into the public domain in 1993.

The Normal Majority was pretty influential for its time. Even though the essay itself is not now a part of current discourse, some of the ideas it first introduced are. Pat Buchanan was obviously recalling it when he included the term "Silent Majority" in Nixon's speech of the same name, though the original coinage has been claimed by others.

It's worth reading the essay just to see what things Will Rogers thought ought to be capitalized, but many of the points he makes easily make the transition from 1925 to today. One just has to update the groups he's talking about.

Or not, as the case may be.

On the impact of Radical Left:

So that's how it is with this so called Radical Element. Let them have a Park or a Hall as an exhaust Pipe. Then when they have some particular Noted Denouncer, why, you will hear a loud report. You will listen, or read what he said and go on about your business the same as the listeners to a back fire.

On Bloggers?:

Give 'em a Hall or a Box to stand on and say "Sic 'em; knock everything in sight" and when they have denounced everything from Bunions to Capitalistic Bath Tubs, then they will go home, write all week on another speech for the following Sunday and you never have any trouble with them.

On the Self-Importance of Politicians:

We lost Roosevelt TR, a tough blow. But here we are still kicking. So, if we can spare men like Roosevelt and Wilson there is no use in any other Politician ever taking himself serious.

I'd quote more, but there wouldn't be much of the essay left, and it deserves to be read in context. I've added explanatory links where I felt they would be useful, but the text itself is all Will.


The Normal Majority
--Will Rogers, 1925

THE LAST FEW DAYS I have read various addresses made on Lincoln's Birthday. Every Politician always talks about him, but none of them ever imitate him. They always make that a day of delivering a Lecture on "Americanism." When an Office Holder, or one that has been found out, can't think of anything to deliver a speech on, he always falls back on the good old subject, AMERICANISM. Now that is the one thing that I have never delivered an Essay on, either written or spoken. They have all had a crack at it every Fourth of July and Lincoln's Birthday. So now I am going to take up the subject and see what I can wrestle out of it. Let's get our rope ready and turn it out, and we will catch it and see really what brands it has on it. Here it comes out of the Corral. We got it caught; now it's throwed and Hog Tied; and we will pick the Brands and see what they are.

The first thing I find out is there ain't any such animal. This American Animal that I thought I had here is nothing but the big Honest Majority, that you might find in any Country. He is not a Politician, He is not a 100 percent American. He is not any organization, either uplift or downfall. In fact I find he don't belong to anything. He is no decided Political faith or religion. I can't even find out what religious brand is on him. From his earmarks he has never made a speech, and announced that he was An American. He hasn't denounced anything. It looks to me like he is just an Animal that has been going along, believing in right, doing right, tending to his own business, letting the other fellows alone.

He don't seem to be simple enough minded to believe that EVERYTHING is right and he don't appear to be Cuckoo enough to think that EVERYTHING is wrong. He don't seem to be a Prodigy, and he don't seem to be a Simp. In fact, all I can find out about him is that he is just NORMAL. After I let him up and get on my Horse and ride away I look around and I see hundreds and hundreds of exactly the same marks and Brands. In fact they so far outnumber the freakly branded ones that the only conclusion I can come to is that this Normal breed is so far in majority that there is no use to worry about the others. They are a lot of Mavericks, and Strays.

A bunch of Bobbed Haired men gathered in Madison Square Garden last Sunday at a meeting of these Reds, or Bolsheviki, or whatever they call themselves. It was one of their denouncement meetings. They denounced the heavy snow, Declaration of Independence, 5 cent Street Car Fare, Floods in Georgia, Mayor Hylan's Bathing Suit, Twin Beds, and the Eclipse. A Kid 14 years old delivered such a tribute to Lenine that he made it look like George Washington or Abe Lincoln couldn't have caddied for Lenine. Oh, this Boy had got disgusted with America young in life. Incidentally, while he was making this tirade, NORMALISM of his age, at least a million of them were out skating.

Now some say that a thing like that should not be allowed. Why sure it should be allowed! England can teach any Country in the World how to handle discontent. (Maybe it's because they have more of it.) They give 'em a Park, Hyde Park, they even furnish the Soap Boxes (as the former contents of the Box is generally as foreign to the Speakers as his Nationality is to the Country he is speaking in). Give 'em a Hall or a Box to stand on and say "Sic 'em; knock everything in sight" and when they have denounced everything from Bunions to Capitalistic Bath Tubs, then they will go home, write all week on another speech for the following Sunday and you never have any trouble with them.

It's just like an exhaust on an Automobile. No matter how high priced the Car, you have to have an exit for its bad Air, and Gasses. They have got to come out. It don't do any particular harm, unless you just stand around behind smelling of it all the time, but who would want to follow a Car to smell of its exhaust when you could just as well be in the Car riding?

Now sometimes there is a loud explosion, and everybody on the Streets will turn around and see what it is. The minute they see, they will go right on their business. They know there has been no damage done. So that's how it is with this so called Radical Element. Let them have a Park or a Hall as an exhaust Pipe. Then when they have some particular Noted Denouncer, why, you will hear a loud report. You will listen, or read what he said and go on about your business the same as the listeners to a back fire. You know it's necessary.

Now I am not much on History but I don't think any of these people were drafted over here, nor that there are any Immigration Laws in Europe against this Country. I have often thought what would happen if the Government sent somebody to one of those meetings and he got up and announced that he was instructed to send every one of them back to the Country where they come from, and had been raving about. Say, there would be such a stampede they would tear down the building to keep from going. You couldn't Shanghai them out of here.

No, sir! This country is too big now. To stop this Country now would be like spitting on a Railroad track to stop a Train. These Reds are on their backs snoring and they ain't keeping anybody awake but each other. No Element, no Party, not even Congress or the Senate can hurt this Country now; it's too big. There are too many men just like those Dog Team drivers and too many Women like that Nurse up in Nome for anything to ever stampede this old Continent of ours. That's why I can never take a Politician seriously. They are always shouting that "such and such a thing will ruin us, and that this is the eventful year in our Country's life."

Say, all the years are the same. Each one has its little temporary setbacks, but they don't mean a thing in the general result. Nobody is making History. Everybody is just drifting along with the tide. If any office holder feels he is carrying a burden of responsibility, some Fly will light on his back and scratch it off for him some day. Congress can pass a bad law and as soon as the old Normal Majority find it out they have it scratched off the books.

We lost Roosevelt TR, a tough blow. But here we are still kicking. So, if we can spare men like Roosevelt and Wilson there is no use in any other Politician ever taking himself serious.

Henry Ford has been a big factor in the Industrial development of the Country. Yet if he was gone there would still be enough of those things left to clutter up the Highways for Years. John D. Rockefeller who has done a lot for humanity with his Gifts; yet when he is gone and Gasoline raises 2 Cents, and all expenses and the Estate is settled we will kick along. Even when our next War comes we will through our shortsightedness not be prepared, but that won't be anything fatal. The real energy and minds of the Normal Majority will step in and handle it and fight it through to a successful conclusion. A war didn't change it before. It's just the same as it was, and always will be, because it is founded on right and even if everybody in Public Life tried to ruin it they couldn't. This Country is not where it is today on account of any man. It is here on account of the real common Sense of the big Normal Majority. A Politician is just like a Necktie Salesman in a big Department Store. If he decides to give all the Ties away, or decided to pocket all the receipts, it don't affect the Store. It don't close. He closes, as soon as he is found out.

So I can find nothing for alarm in our immediate future. The next time a Politician gets spouting off about what this Country needs, either hit him with a tubercular Tomato or lay right back in your seat and go to sleep. Because THIS COUNTRY HAS GOT TOO BIG TO NEED A DAMN THING.


Now that I've gotten the scan to text process down on the scanner, I'll be reproducing other essays from the past that haven't yet made it onto the web for some reason--not that they will by any stretch of the imagination be as historically important as The Normal Majority and The Hireling Ministry. It'll be stuff I run across, or have a particular liking for, much like a Lileks matchbook, though it will text instead of images.

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October 07, 2003

The Hireling Ministry, None of Christ's

The idea that the United States is a "Christian Nation" has been getting more press lately, quoted by those who rally in support of the display of the 10 commandments in Alabama, by those who oppose homosexual marriage, and on a somewhat smaller scale, by those who believe that the mayor of Crystal River, Florida should be allowed to open City Council meetings with a prayer. Nebulous "founding fathers" and their ideas are invoked by both sides of the separation of church and state debate, ironically enough taking the authoritative position previously occupied by God and the Scriptures in moral arguments of an earlier time.

I thought it might be interesting to both sides to see the thoughts of a decidedly unnebulous founding father, the Reverend Roger Williams, the founder of not only the first Baptist church in America, but of the colony of Rhode Island.

Following is his essay on The Hireling Ministry, None of Christ's, which though ostensibly about the forcing of tithes to support ministers, partakes of writings on the relationship between church and state that Williams had published earlier in The Bloody Tenet. I've not been able to find a copy of The Hireling Ministry, None of Christ's on the Net, which is fast becoming one of my pet peeves, so I've reproduced the essay in it's entirety here.

The Hireling Ministry, None of Christ's

The civil state of the nations, being merely and essentially civil, cannot (Christianly) be called "Christian states," after the pattern of that holy and typical land of Canaan, which I have proved at large in the Bloudy Tenent to be a nonesuch and an unparalleled figure of the spiritual state of the church of Christ Jesus, dispersed yet gathered to Him in all nations.

The civil sword (therefore) cannot (rightfully) act either in restraining the souls of the people from worship, etc., or in constraining them to worship, considering that there is not a tittle in the New Testament of Christ Jesus that commits the forming or reforming of His spouse and church to the civil and worldly powers....

If it shall please our most noble governors to search into the institution and constitution (as they have done of the diocesan so also) of the national and parish churches. . .

If they please to take off the yokes, the soul yokes of binding all persons to such parochial or parish forms, permitting them to enjoy their own belief, whether within or without such parish worships, parish maintenance, parish marryings, parish buryings, by which the souls and consciences of so many have been inbondaged in life and death, and (their bodies, in respect of bury-
ings) after death.

If they shall please so far (if not to countenance yet) to permit impartially all consciences, and especially the consciences, the meetings and assemblings of faithful and conscionable people (the volunteers in preaching Christ Jesus), so as that what people and persons please, may peaceably frequent and repair to such spiritual meetings and assemblies as they do the parish churches, I am humbly confident that, as to the point of converting souls to God (so far as the present state of Christianity can be so promoted), the souls of thousands will bless God more than if millions of hirelings were sent abroad from all the universities, both of popish and Protestant countries.

[And] upon the grounds first laid, I observe the great and wonderful mistake, both our own and our fathers, as to the civil powers of this world, acting in spiritual matters. I have read ... the last will and testament of the Lord Jesus over many times, and yet I cannot find by one tittle of that testament that if He had been pleased to have accepted of a temporal crown and government that ever He would have put forth the least finger of temporal or civil power in the matters of His spiritual affairs and Kingdom.

Hence must it lamentably be against the testimony of Christ Jesus for the civil state to impose upon the souls of the people a religion, a worship, a ministry, oaths (in religious and civil affairs), tithes, times, days, marryings, and buryings in holy ground, yet in force, as I have (I hope), by the help of God, fully debated that great question with Master Cotton, and washed off all his late washings of that bloody tenent of persecution, etc.

What is then the express duty of the civil magistrate as to Christ Jesus, His Gospel and Kingdom?

I answer: I know how woefully that Scripture, "Kings shall be thy nursing fathers," etc., has been abused. ... I humbly conceive that the great duty of the magistrate, as to spirituals, will turn upon these two hinges:

First, in removing the civil bars, obstructions, hindrances in taking off those yokes that pinch the very souls and consciences of men, such as yet are the payments of tithes and the maintenance of ministers they have no faith in; such are the enforced oaths and some ceremonies therein, in all the courts of justice; such are the holy marryings, holy buryings, etc.

Second, in a free and absolute permission of the consciences of all men in what is merely spiritual. . . .

But how will this propagate the Gospel of Christ Jesus?

I answer thus: The first grand design of Christ Jesus is to destroy and consume His mortal enemy antichrist. This must be done by the breath of His mouth in His prophets and witnesses. Now, the nations of the world have impiously stopped this heavenly breath and stifled the Lord Jesus in His servants. Now, it shall please the civil state to remove the state bars set up to resist the holy spirit of God in His servants (whom yet finally to resist is not in all the powers of the world), I humbly conceive that the civil state has made a fair progress in promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This mercy and freedom is due to the (merely) religious consciences of all men in the world. Is there no more due from the magistrate to Christ Jesus. His saints and Kingdom?

I answer: While I plead the conscience of all men to be at liberty, doubtless I must plead the liberty of the magistrate's conscience also; and, therefore, were his bounties and donations to his bishops and minis ters as large as those of Constantine — who but the Holy Spirit of God in the mouths of His prophets can restrain him? . . .

But under the pretense of propagating the Gospel of Christ Jesus (it may be said), what horrible opinions and spirits will be vented, as woeful experience has manifested.

I answer: Opinions offensive are of two sorts: some savoring of impiety, and some of incivility.

Against the first, Christ Jesus never called for the sword of steel to help the sword of the spirit, that two-edged sword that comes out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus. . . .

The second sort, to wit, opinions of incivility, doubtless the opinions as well as practices are the proper object of the civil sword. . . .

But ought not the civil magistrates to repeal their ordinance for tithes, and also to appoint some course for the maintenance of the ministry?

I answer: Upon that ground of removing soul yokes, and not restraining nor constraining conscience, I humbly conceive that the civil state cannot by any rule from Christ Jesus either forbid the payment of tithes to such whose conscience is to pay them, or enjoin them where the conscience is not so persuaded. For the further clearing of which assertion, I distinguish of the people of this nation into two sorts:

First, such as have a freedom in their mind to frequent the public parish assemblies of the nation; and they are also of two sorts: (1) such as conscientiously frequent such places, either out of a conscientious zeal of worshiping of God, or out of a superstitious and traditional awe; (2) such as can go or not go, and care not what religion themselves and the state be of.

There is a second sort of people in this nation which, out of conscience, dare not frequent such places, and they are such: (1) such as indeed fear God and are in their consciences persuaded of an indelible character of holiness upon such temples as temples dedicated to a parish worship; (2) such as, out of an utter dislike of all Protestant worship and a high esteem of their own Catholic faith, are as far from love to such places as the former sort.

Now, all these consciences (yea, the very conscience of the Papists, Jews, etc., as I have proved at large in my answer to Master Cotton's washings) ought freely and impartially to be permitted their several respective worships, their ministers of worships, and what way of maintaining them they freely choose.

But if the civil state enjoin not the maintenance of the ministry, if they quite let loose the golden reins of discipline (as the Parliament expressed and the Scots objected), what will become of the ministry of the Gospel and the souls of men? For if each man's conscience be at liberty to come to church or not, to pay to the minister or not, the profane and loose will neither pay nor pray, but turn atheistic and irreligious. The ministers of worship will be discouraged and destitute, and parents will have little mind to expend their monies to make their children scholars, when the hope of their preferment is cut off.

I answer, first, that the Supreme Court in their declaration never declared to bar up all the doors and windows of that honorable House, so that no further light from Heaven should break into their . . . councils from the most glorious sun of all righteousness, the Lord Jesus.

Although the loose will be more loose (yet) possibly being at more liberty they may be put upon consideration and choice of ways of life and peace, yet, however, it is infinitely better that the profane and loose be unmasked than to be muffled up under the veil and hood of traditional hypocrisy, which turns and dulls the very edge of all conscience either toward God or man.

Third, it is not to be doubted but that each conscience, the Papists and the Protestants, both Presbyterians and Independents, will . . . strive for (their not only conscience but) credit sake to excel and win the garland in the fruits of bounty, etc. Thus a Jesuit once in Newgate boasted of the Papists' charity to a Protestant . . . for, pulling out his hand full of gold, look here (said he) are the fruits of our religion.

Fourth, such parents or children as aim at the gain and preferment of religion do often mistake gain and gold for godliness, godbelly for the true God, and some false for the true Lord Jesus. I add, such priests or ministers as can force a maintenance of tithes or otherwise, by the sword, or else cease preaching for want of such or such a maintenance, or can remove from bishoprics or benefices ... for fatter and ranker pastures, or, wanting spiritual work and maintenance, are too fine to work with their hands as the first patterns, Christ's first ministers, did — how can they say, as Peter to Christ Jesus, "Lord, Thou knowest all things. Thou knowest I love Thee," etc.?

[Therefore] lastly, the Father of Spirits graciously be pleased to preserve the spirits of our higher powers from laying on the hay and stubble, though upon the golden foundation Christ Jesus, for all such work in matters spiritual which our forefathers, either popish or Protestant, in their several changes in this nation have made, they have been consumed and burned (like hay and stubble) and come to nothing.

The summa totalis of all the former particulars is this:

First, since the people of this nation have been forced into a national way of worship, both popish and Protestant (as the wheels of time's revolutions, by God's mighty Providence and permission, have turned about), the civil state is bound before God to take off that bond and yoke of soul oppression, and to proclaim free and impartial liberty to all the people of the three nations to choose and maintain what worship and ministry their souls and consciences are persuaded of; which act, as it will prove an act of mercy and righteousness to the enslaved nations, so is it of a binding force to engage the whole and every interest and conscience to preserve the common freedom and peace; however, an act most suiting with the piety and Christianity of the Holy Testament of Christ Jesus.

Second, the civil state is humbly to be implored to provide in their high wisdom for the security of all the respective consciences, in their respective meetings, assemblings, worshipings, preachings, disputings, etc., and that civil peace and the beauty of civility and humanity be maintained among the chief opposers and dissenters.

Third, it is the duty of all that are in authority, and of all that are able, to countenance, encourage, and supply such true volunteers as give and devote themselves to the service and ministry of Christ Jesus in any kind, although it be also the duty, and will be the practice, of all such whom the spirit of God sends upon any work of Christ's . . . than the work and service of their Lord and Master should be neglected.

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July 05, 2003

Patton Is A Problem Child

Elsewhere in the Eisenhower to Marshall letter I mentioned below was an anecdote about George Patton that I hadn't seen before. It didn't really fit in with the Unseen History stuff, so I thought I'd give it a post of its own.

Patton's latest crackpot actions may possibly get some publicity. One involved the arbitrary relief of a censor (over whom he had no authority whatsoever) for what Patton considered to be an error in judgement. All the censor did was to allow the printing of a story saying we had captured some of the German monetary reserves. Three or four newspapers have written very bitter articles about Patton, on this incident, and to my disgust they call it another example of "Army Blundering". I took Patton's hide off, but there is nothing else to do about it. Then again, he sent off a little expedition on a wild goose chase in an effort to liberate some American prisoners. The upshot was that he got 25 prisoners back and lost a full company of medium tanks and a platoon of light tanks. Foolishly, he then imposed censorship on the movement, meaning to lift it later, which he forgot to do. The story has now been released and I hope the newspapers do not make too much of it. One bad, though Patton says accidental, feature of the affair was that his own son-in-law was one of the 25 released. Patton is a problem child, but he is a great fighting leader in pursuit and exploitation.

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March 18, 2003

New Clear Days

Got a Letter to Osama in my inbox yesterday. The title reminded me of a Vapors song from 20 years ago. No, not "Turning Japanese".

Letter from Hiro.

I went googling for the lyrics, but apparently no one has thought to transcribe them for eternity yet. I thought that was a shame, if for no other reason than it was a piece of my youth in danger of being lost.

I think it was Thursday, I think it was late.......1938
Got a letter from Hiro, he'd left out the date
He said he was waiting for an outbreak

Took a look in the mirror, it should have been me
But there was nothing to see
Pulled a thought from the curtains and I went downstairs
It was utterly futile, so I combed my hair

All the kids in the factory say
My letter from Hiro came too late

Communication leaves me out of touch
You say it means nothing, well, nothing much
Like the sign on the door, too hard too see too soft to touch
The Age of Reason is out to lunch

All the kids in the factory say
My letter from Hiro came too late

5 o'clock in the morning sun rising in my hand
And I'm not quite sure if I'm just insecure or if the problem
Is simply that I really don't understand
'bout the guns and the crossfire and the social disease
And when the sun was rising somewhere in the East
And when a flag meant more to Hiro than to me

All the kids in the factory say
My letter from Hiro came too late

I've always thought it a haunting lyric (though I fear what that implies about my musical taste) and slightly more representative of the Vapors sound than "Turning Japanese," though their fascination with the East is clearly evident in "Letter to Hiro" as well.

Update: Links to sound files are only temporary. If it's gone, you were too late. :)

Posted by Bigwig at 01:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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