Henry Ware Allen
[Reprinted from Land and Freedom,
Those who knew Henry George personally are happy to have had that
privilege. He was one who commanded the same personal respect as did
Lincoln. He was a man apart from others. It was felt that he spoke
with authority. His first interest at all times was to spread the
truth of the natural law which he himself had discovered, and he
required of his followers when they called upon him reports of what
they were doing to spread that philosophy.
Reviewing briefly the career of Henry George, we find him at first
with the responsibility of his family, chagrined and puzzled at the
difficulty in finding an opportunity to earn a living. In this he had
the same experience of millions of others but instead of accepting the
situation complacently as something inevitable this man with greater
heart and greater mind felt that the condition was a contradiction to
what ought to be, and he took upon himself a solemn vow that he would
not rest until he had found the reason for the persistence of
undeserved poverty with unparalleled progress and the remedy therefor.
This was not a mere prayer for enlightenment. He read everything
available which would throw any light upon the subject and as a result
of his unparalleled research there came upon his mind as by a flash a
complete enlightenment of the whole puzzle.
The problem was made clear to him and, as has been the case with his
followers, this gave him a new faith in God, a new vision of what the
world might be if natural law instead of inimical man-made laws should
be followed. His next task was to place his conclusions in proper form
to be given to the world. At last this was accomplished and "Progress
and Poverty" was immediately given the reception that is only
accorded great books. It was translated into every modern language.
This was supplemented
by editorial work, by magazine and newspaper articles, by speeches,
addresses, sermons and lectures and by the dissemination of literature
through organizations which sprang up in various countries of the
world. At last we find him in October of 1897 accepting the nomination
for Mayor of New York City.
Henry George was then far from robust and his physician warned him
that this act of his would probably cost him his life "How
better," replied Mr. George, "than to give one's life in
this way." The campaign was short but strenuous. Five days before
election was to take place we find Mr. George facing an audience of
working men. His work was finished. He was to be known by future
generations as the one man who had done more than any other to make
effective by a working programme the Democratic principle of equal
rights for all and special privileges for none together with
fulfillment of the Christian's prayer, "Thy will be done on Earth
as it is in Heaven." He was to be known as the greatest
internationalist of modern times, the greatest liberator, the greatest
benefactor of the race. As he faced this audience of working men two
things he did not know; one was that he was not to see the light of
another day, and the other that he was to be tested by trial. As the
cheers and applause subsided, the chairman of the meeting introduced
Henry George as "the great friend of labor and Democracy."
Mr. George was very weary but his mind was alert and he caught the
inference of special favor involved in that introduction. Should he
accept a statement that he was the special friend of any class of men?
Why not? There were a dozen different reasons why he should let it
pass. To take exception to it might annoy the chairman, it might
displease the audience, it might be considered an academic distinction
without a difference. There was necessity for haste. There were one or
two more meetings to be held that very night. Why split hairs about
the meaning of a word? Why quibble about technical terms? He owed a
great deal to his committee. They were impatient for him to begin his
speech. But no! Henry George was thoroughly honest as Lincoln was
honest. He did not know that he was on trial in these last hours of
his life but he never faltered. Henry George's sterling honesty would
not permit even the slightest suggestion of favor for any one class.
Said he, "I have never claimed to be a special friend of labor.
What I stand for is the equal rights of all men!" He turned to
the audience, exclaiming, "I am for men!"