Henry George

Henry Ware Allen

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, July-August, 1933]

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!"