The Single Tax and Fels Fund Conference
Clarence E. Todd, Secretary
From the minutes take by Mr. Todd, at the conference
held in San Francisco, California, 1915. Reprinted from the Single
Tax Review, July-August 1915]
In place of filling in the details in these notes of the San
Francisco Conference so as to provide a running story, we present,
with but slight modifications, the minutes as received. These, with
the excerpts from a number of the speeches, give a not unfair
impression of an interesting and successful Conference. - Editor Single
August 23rd, 10 A.M.
The meeting was called to order by temporary Chairman Daniel Kiefer,
who paid tribute to the work of Joseph Fels which is now being
advanced by Mrs. Fels. Mrs. Alice Thatcher Post was chosen permanent
Chairman of the Conference. Sylvester McAtee represented Mayor Rolph
in welcoming the members of the Conference to San Francisco and A. L.
Cowell gave special greeting from the Panama-Pacific Exposition.
Mrs. Clarence E. Todd was then elected recording secretary of the
Mrs. Fels spoke in reference to the most effective propaganda for
Single Tax work, and to the present world status of the Single Tax. A
letter was read from Governor Hiram W. Johnson regretting his
necessary absence, as were also cablegrams from John Paul and British
co-workers, and from the Argentine Single Tax League.
Mr. Kiefer read a statement of receipts and disbursements of the Fels
Dr. C, K. Hale asked just what the Ground Hog has been doing to
justify expense of the Fels Fund in its behalf. Here followed a
discussion of the merits of the Single Tax paper, the Ground Hog.
Among those who spoke were: Mrs. Cridge, Mr. J. L. Howe, Mr. Edmund
Norton, Mrs. Fels, Mr. E. O. F. Ames, Miss Parker, Mr. Adelman. The
discussion was postponed to 2 P.M.
Mr. Susuki, President of the Japanese Friendly Society, the
organization which in Japan corresponds to the American Federation of
Labor, was introduced to the Conference.
Mr. Troy spoke on the timber harvest tax, saying that it is not a
Single Tax measure.
The meeting then adjourned to 2 P.M.
August 23rd, 2 P.M.
The Conference convened again at 2 P.M.
It was moved by Dr. Hale, seconded by Mr. A. T. Ames, that it be the
sense of the meeting that the support of the Ground Hog be continued
for six more months.
The Chairman accepted the motion on condition that it be understood
that it was merely an advisory motion.
Mrs. Fels said that there was no question of future support of the
Ground Hog by the Fels Fund Commission. Whereupon Dr. Hale withdrew
his motion with consent of Mr. Ames. There was further discussion of
the merits of the Ground Hog by Messrs. John McGauran, J. G. Wright,
Isidor Jacobs ; Mr. Kiefer asked for a fuller discussion and Dr.
Hale's motion was re-introduced with Mr. Ames' amendment that the
discussion be limited to half an hour. Dr. Eggleston, Mrs. Fels, Mr.
Keegan, Mr. Jacobs, Mr. Post, Mr. McGauran and Mr. Hall then spoke.
The motion was amended to read: "Be it moved that it is the
sense of this meeting that the support of the Ground Hog be
recommended to Single Taxers generally." In this form it was
Dr. Kallen, of the University of Wisconsin, spoke on Zionism and the
Reports were made by Mr. Calahan of Arizona. S. P. Elias of Modesto
Irrigation District, C. E. Todd and E. P. E. Troy, for the California
League for Home Rule in Taxation, Hugh Craig of Piedmont, Mrs. Lona
Ingham Robinson, Judge Robt. L. Hubbard and Edmund Norton of Los
Angeles. Mr. Kiefer read a letter from James H. Griffes, of Los
Angeles. It was moved by Mr. U'Ren and duly seconded that the
discussion raised by the reports be tabled till Tuesday morning.
Carried. Miss Parker moved to reconsider the motion to lay on the
table - ^motion carried. The matter was taken from the table. It was
moved by Mr. Post, seconded by Mr. U'Ren, that Mr. Troy have the floor
for five minutes. This carried. Mr. Troy spoke and Mr. Post followed,
suggesting that reports of political campaigns come up as another part
of the programme. Mr. Kiefer moved that a committee of three,
including the chairman, be appointed to arrange a programme for the
following day. The motion was duly seconded and carried.
The Conference then adjourned till 10 A.M., August 24th.
MONDAY EVENING'S MASS MEETING
REPORTED BY STANLEY BOWMAR.
At the big mass meeting Monday Evening, the large' Auditorium Hall
was crowded. Isidor Jacobs presided.
Wm. S. U'Ren, the first speaker, describing the measure to be
submitted to the people of Oregon, said that they did not intend to
talk the fiscal side of the Single Tax; they were going right after
the ground rents of Oregon for the people of Oregon. They may decide
to go after the whole thing at one time, although their measure, as at
present drawn called for only 90c. on every dollar of ground rent.
Two-thirds of the revenue obtained from their measure, if adopted,
they proposed to distribute amongst the taxing powers in the same
proportion as the 1916 taxes will be distributed. The other one-third
was to go into what would be called the Home Makers' Loan Society, the
object of which was to help the young men and women who hap- pened to
be engaged in making homes, either in the city or the country
districts. On these loans to home-makers no interest was to be charged
the first five years. "We have subsidized," said Mr. U'Ren, "the
ship owners and monopolists of every kind at the expense of those who
want to make homes. Now we intend to reverse this situation and
subsidize, encourage, the makers of homes."
Louis F. Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor, said that if Oregon
adopted the measure it will have made much greater advance along
Single Tax lines than any other part of the world. The measure was not
ideal, but it made a long jump. Touching on the name "Single Tax,"
Mr. Post said it made little difference what the name was. Any man who
would be hurt by the Single Tax would recognize it no matter what the
name and those who would be helped by it would not recognize its value
until they turned around and looked at it. After telling the story of
Mr. H. F. Ring's conversion and of his early exuberant faith that he
could convert all Houston to the Single Tax in a day -- which he now
knew he couldn't -- Mr. Post closed with a short and brilliant
explanation of how the taxation of land values would work out. We
could not expect this measure to be quickly adopted. A lot of
propaganda work had to be done. All forms of propaganda were like the
old Scotchman's whiskies. "Some whiskies are better than others,"
the Scotchman said, "but all whiskies are good."
Dr. John W. Slaughter of London spoke on the conditions in England.
Referring to the reports that English workmen were showing disloyalty
by striking, he referred to the abnormal profits that many of the
manufacturers had made, especially in the early stages of the war, as
justifying dissatisfaction on the part of the men, whose wages had not
increased to offset the growing cost of living. One of the instances
he mentioned was the case of a milling company in the south of England
which paid in dividends since the war began, an amount equal to its
capitalization! Taxes were becoming heavier and heavier. Everything,
except land values, was taxed to the hilt, and as the British people
had learned, in their famous budget fight of 1910, to appreciate the
value of this source of revenue, there were hopes that the Government
would be forced to turn to it at the end of the war. One big step had
been made in the ending of the veto power of the House of Lords. "The
British people are very slow to move, but when they do move," he
said, ^'something had better get out of the way."
Oliver T. Erickson of Seattle spoke of the need of patience and
persistence in our campaigns and said the criticism of the recent
campaign in California should not be taken too seriously. It was not
always practicable to fight for the Single Tax blood raw. He had
fought for municipal ownership in his city because he felt there was
no force so corrupt in our city life as the corporation. A straight
Single Tax campaign in the State of Washington was impracticable. He
thought Single Tax should be taken into politics. Club meetings were
frequently ineffective. There came to them only those who were
converted, not the new people.
Mrs. Fels, who was honored by a rising vote, counseled at this
meeting as she did on several other occasions, straight Single Tax
campaigns wherever practicable.
J. H. Ralston, J. Stitt Wilson and ex-Mayor Cotterill of Seattle also
spoke, but very briefly on account of the lateness of the hour.
August 24, 10 A.M.
The Conference was called to order August24, at 10 A.M. The Chairman
called for a report of the Committee on programme for the day. Mr.
Todd reported that the Committee proposed that discussion of
propaganda methods be taken up August 24th, at 3 P.M., as a special
order of business.
Here, at the suggestion of Mr. Kiefer, Mr. U'Ren read a motion which
he will make at 3 P.M. The motion reads as follows:
"Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Conference
that Single Taxers should hereafter propose nothing less than
constitutional amendments for the full measure of State- wide Single
Tax, and that every such amendment should be sufficiently complete
in detail to be self-operative, without further legislation after
its adoption by the people."
The Conference then proceeded to regular business.
Mr. Todd read letters from:
- Jas. G. Maguire, bearing the kind remembrance of Mr. H. W.
McFarlane to the members of the Conference.
- From the San Jose Chamber of Commerce.
- From Wm. Kent in regard to the cutting of timber in Humboldt
- From the Wellington, New Zealand, S. T. Conference and from
members of the Delaware Single Tax Society.
On motion of Mr. Kiefer, duly seconded and passed, a letter from Mr.
Hemingway in regard to Washington, D. C. was referred to a committee
of three appointed by the chair. Messrs. John Salmon, Louis F. Post
and Daniel Kiefer were appointed on the Committee.
On motion of Mr. Sample, duly passed, all other letters of length
were referred to this Committee.
Mr. Kiefer read letters from Brand Whitlock commending the Public,
from John Z. White on the Pueblo campaign, from J. J. Pastoriza
advocating support of work in Pueblo by Single Taxers. Mr. Kiefer
suggested that this recommendation be brought up at the afternoon
session in the regular order of business at 3 o'clock.
Mr. Kiefer proceeded to read letters from the Single Tax Club of
Pittsburgh, from Mme. Bjomer of Denmark, from A. G. Huie of the
Sydney, New South Wales* Single Tax League, and from the Single Tax
League of South America.
On motion of Mr. U'Ren, duly carried, other letters, except the
briefest, were referred to the Committee on Communications.
Mr. Kiefer read a transcription made by Will Atkinson from a Spanish
letter, and then letters from J. Darien of France and from Herbert
On motion, time was extended indefinitely to Dr. L. Gutierrez de
Lara, who spoke in behalf of the Mexican people, stating that the
present Revolution, as well as the two preceding ones, was due to the
system of feudal land tenure which has prevailed in Mexico; that is,
in behalf of agrarian reform, and that the Revolution has already
accomplished three results, (1) the closing of the Catholic Church as
an exploiting organization, (2) the abolition of the old Federal army,
(3) agrarian democracy. He prophesied that there will be no more
so-called "strong men" in Mexico, but that there will be
instead, a strong Mexican people. Questions were asked of Dr. de Lara,
and Mr. Post rose to a point of order that time had not been extended
indefinitely for the purpose of questions.
On request of Mr. Kiefer, Mrs. Anna de Mille, daughter of Henry
George, rose to greet the Conference.
It was moved by Dr. Eggleston, duly seconded and passed, that a
committee be appointed by the Chair to draft resolutions on the loss
to the Single Tax movement in the death of Joseph Fels, and it was
moved by Dr. Eggleston, duly seconded and passed that this, or another
committee, be appointed by the Chair to draft resolutions endorsing
the peace policy of President Woodrow Wilson.
The Chair appointed on the first conmittee, Messrs. Jas. H. Barry, of
San Francisco, J. B. Howarth, of Detroit, and Bolton Hall, of New
York, and on the second committee. Dr. Eggleston of San Francisco,
Mrs. Lona Ingham Robinson of Los Angeles, and Otto Cullman of Chicago.
It was moved by Mr. Kiefer, duly seconded and passed, that a committee
be appointed to consider methods of assuring permanent peace,
suggesting that Dr. Logan be appointed a member and that the
resolutions of this committee be brought up on August 25th. The Chair
appointed Dr. C. L. Logan of Chicago, Chairman, J. Stitt Wilson of
Berkeley, and Earl Barnes of Philadelphia, on this committee.
Mr. Post moved that except on a three-quarter vote the five minute
rule be in order with one exception, that of Judge Jas. G. Maguire, to
whom unlimited time should be accorded.
Mr. Kiefer made an amendment to this motion that the Chair be allowed
to rule arbitrarily on time. This amendment was lost. The movement was
then duly seconded and passed. The Chairman then announced that there
would be a special session at 8.00 P.M., August 24th.
The meeting adjourned to reassemble at 2 P.M.
August 24th, 2 P.M.
The order of the day was broken in order that Mr. Post make a motion
that a committee be appointed to draw resolutions of recognition of
the death of Mr. James Bellangee and of appreciation of his work. Dr.
Eggleston suggested that the name of the late John S. Crosby be
referred to the same committee, and Mr. Kiefer added the names of Mrs.
Avery, and of Levi H. Turner of Boston, and proposed that all other
names of Single Taxers who have died recently be passed to this
committee. The motion was duly seconded and passed. The Chair
appointed to this committee, Mrs. Lona L Ingham Robinson of Los
Angeles, Mr. P. Y. Albright of Fairhope, Mr. Bolton Hall of New York,
Mr. Daniel Kaefer of Cincinnati, Mr. Stanley Bowmar of Chicago, and
Mr. J. C. O'Brien of Boston.
The order of the day was then resumed. Mr. Albright reported for
Judge James G. Maguire spoke, stating that in Henry George*s time no
one expected that by 1915, the Single Tax would reach the state of
world- wide advancement now existing. J. G. McGauran, of Colorado, was
called and found absent.
Mr. John Salmon reported for Washington, D. C. and Maryland.
Mr. R. N. Douglas of Iowa was not present and Mr. Miller spoke in his
place. A report from Illinois was made by Dr. Logan of Illinois and by
Otto Cullman, President of the Chicago Single Tax Club. Mr. McGuaran
of Colorado, spoke of the work in Denver and Pueblo.
Mr. J. B. Howarth of Detroit spoke for Michigan.
At 3 P.M. the matter of methods of propaganda came before the
meeting. Mr. J. Stitt Wilson moved, and it was duly seconded and
passed, that speakers be allowed ten minutes with extension at the
will of the meeting.
The Chairman stated that discussion would be limited to two themes.
1st, a discussion of doctrinal bases, and, 2nd, a discussion of what
we have a right to do in the future as Single Taxers.
Mr. U'Ren made a motion that in the opinion of this Conference, any
constitutional amendment intended to advance the Single Tax principle,
in States that have the Constitutional Initiative, should be so
complete in detail that it will be self-operative, without further
legislation after its adoption by the people.
Mrs. Robinson, Mr. Post, Mr. Zant, Mr. Norton, Judge Hubbard, Mr.
Craig, Miss Parker, Mr. Cridge, and Mr. Teel, spoke to the question.
The motion was duly seconded and carried.
Mr. Troy read a letter from E. Yancy Cohen, written from Merriewold
Park, in regard to making a Single Tax group in each political party.
Here the Chair appointed Mr. Erickson in Dr. Eggleston's place on the
committee, to approve the President's Peace Policy, as Dr. Eggleston
had asked to be excused. Disciission was then continued by J. Stitt
Wilson, W. S. U'Ren, Herman Gutstadt, John W. Slaughter, Louis F.
Post, Walter P. Lowenstein.
Mr. Post moved this resolution:
Resolved, (1) That it is the sense of this Conference
that the question of organizing the Single Taxers of the United
States is ripe for consideration; (2) that a committee be organized
for the purpose of considering this question; (3) that such
committee consist of forty-nine members, one from each State and one
from the District of Columbia; (4) that the committee be appointed
on or before October 1, 1915, by the Chairman of this Conference in
conjunction with the Joseph Fels Fund Commission; (5) that in case
of favorable consideration, such committee proceed to a provisional
organization of the Single Taxers of the United States; (6) that
such provisional organization be based upon the Single Tax platform
which was prepared by Henry George as chairman of the platform
committee of the first Single Tax Conference, and adopted by that
Conference at Cooper Union, New York, in 1891, and reaffirmed by the
third Fels Fund Conference which was held at Boston in 1912.
This matter was made matter of special business for 9 P.M.
Mr. Kiefer asked the privilege of the floor for Mr. de Lara, who
spoke of the financing of his book.
The Conference then adjourned to 8 P.M.
August 24th, 8 P.M.
The Conference reassembled at 8 P.M. Order of business was a
continuation of reports.
Reports from Oregon-were made by Mr. Cridge of Portland, and I. H.
Teel of Grant's Pass.
Mr. Kiefer reported for Ohio.
Prof. Earle Barnes reported for Pennsylvania.
Mr. Bolton Smith reported for Tennessee.
Mr. Oliver T. Erickson and Mr. Verral reported for the State of
Washington. Mr. Rand spoke for Victoria.
Dr. J. W. Slaughter spoke for Western Canada.
Dr. Curry for Missouri.
Special Order, 9 P.M.
Mr. Post's motion of the afternoon session was again laid before the
house, seconded by J. W. O'Brien. Messrs. Erickson, Sahnon, U'Ren,
Judge Hubbard, Prof. Barnes, Mr. Cridge, Mr. Troy, Mr. Post, and Mr.
Norton spoke to the motion. An amendment was passed to vote on the
whole resolution at once. Mr. Zion moved an amendment that there be
not more members of the committee than one from each State and that
all States need not necessarily be represented. Carried. The question
of the whole resolution as amended was put and carried. The Conference
adjourned till 10 o'clock, August 25th, to meet again at the Recital
Hall, Exposition Grounds.
Special Order for 9 P.M., August 24.
The house was thrown open for the discussion of Louis F. Post's
resolution which has been drafted to sound the sentiment of the
Conference regarding the advisability of effecting an organization of
Mr. Post read the resolution, which has been divided into six
headings to facilitate discussion. He then explained that the Fels
Fund Commission had thought it possible to formulate a more democratic
means of administering the Fund than was provided in the present plan.
Hence the resolutions.
Mr. Erickson of Seattle, took the floor and expressed the opinion
that such an organization would do more harm than good because a
centralized body could hardly adapt itself to meet the varying
conditions in the several States.
Mr. Kiefer arose to explain that the Fels Fund Commission had been
characterized as an arbitrary commission ; and that Mr. Fels had hoped
before his death to organize Single Taxers so as to make the
administration of the Fund more democratic.
Mr. Erickson then continued. After paying tribute to the work of such
men as Barry, Maguire, Leggett, Todd and Troy, who in spite of their
self- sacrificing work had been criticized time and again, he
suggested that the Fels Fund Commission should not feel hurt if its
labors were often criticized. In conclusion, he expressed himself ?s
in favor of leaving the administration of the fund in the hands of the
Mr. U'Ren expressed the opinion that a body of 49 men would never be
able to accomplish anything. The leaders of the Single Tax movement
are learning by their failures. After each failure, it is only natural
that they should be criticized. He thinks the Fels Fund Commission is
unduly sensitive when it heeds the criticism that it is undemocratic,
as none of the critics have been able to offer a better plan. He
suggested leaving the fund in the hands of the present commission.
Mr. Kiefer interrupted to ask the speaker what he would advise the
Commission to do for instance in the case of the controversy between
the Los Angeles and the San Francisco factions in the California
Mr U'Ren replied that in his opinion the two factions should be left
to settle their own differences; and that after they had come to an
agreement, the Commission could then consider the advisability of
aiding them in their plans.
Judge Hubbard of Los Angeles, took the floor in favor of a compact
national organization. He thought such a step indispensable to the
furtherance of the movement; but would leave the administration of the
fund in the hands of the present Commission. The national organization
would act mainly in an advisory capacity.
Prof. Earl Barnes pointed out that while the tendency of the world
today is toward collectivism, Single Taxers are working against the
current in striving for absolute individualism.
He added furthermore that the Single Tax, like many other radical
movements, tends to produce little more than "intensive
pleasurable excitation" by discussion among its members instead
of active propaganda work among outsiders. For the purpose of carrying
on effective propaganda organization is necessary.
After paying a glowing tribute to Joseph and Mary Fels for having
spent all their income except a small allowance for living expenses,
in the promotion of the Single Tax, he pointed out that large masses
of individualized wealth, such as several of the immense private
foundations for educational purposes, are a distinct menace to
progress; and he thought it possible that the Fels Fund itself might
some day degenerate into such a menace unless the manner of its
administration was made more democratic. Mr. Barnes then expressed the
opinion that no great reform had been brought about by the backing of
Mr. U'Ren arose to point out that the Australian ballot and
Initiative, Referendum and Recall, had been introduced in many States
by the efforts of individuals working in harmony, but not bound
together into any definite organization.
Mr. A. R. Cridge, after explaining that he had had wide experience's
an organizer not only in Single Tax work, but for several fraternal
orders also, expressed the opinion that organization among Single
Taxers would facilitate the work. He advocated, first, however,
organization by municipalities, counties and districts, and the
formation of a national organization on that foundation. At present,
Single Taxers must work through the Socialist, Prohibition, Labor
Union or other organizations in order to gain strength. They should
have their own organization, but the organization should grow from the
bottom up, and not from the top down.
Edw. P. E. Troy compared the operations of the proposed commission of
forty-nine members to the old convention system which has been done
away with in many States. He thought the interests might organize to
control such a commission. He pointed out also that the expense of
assembling such a large body composed of members from each of the
States, would pay the cost of a State- wide campaign for the Single
Tax. He thought it better to allow each State to follow out such plans
of organization as it thinks necessary, and sees no need for changing
the present system.
Herman Gutstadt failed to understand how anyone can oppose the plan
for organization. The Australian ballot would never have been adopted
in California if there had not been a strong organization back of it.
California had a strong Single Tax organization 25 years ago with
branches all over the State, and was as strong at that time as it is
now. The machinery back of the popular legislation was organized
labor. There would be no Home Rule League in California today if there
had not first been a Single Tax organization.
Mr. Teel of Oregon, spoke in favor of organization and then asked the
Mr. Zant pointed out that it was contrary to parliamentary provision
to ask the question after having spoken on it.
Before the Chair could rule on the matter, Mr. Teel withdrew his
motion with the consent of his second.
Mr. Ericksen arose to point out that it was evident that the intent
of the resolution under discussion was not entirely clear. He had
opposed it because he thought it proposed a national organization.
Others had handled the matter as though the object was local
Mr. Post formulated the intent of the resolution as follows: Shall we
abandon our past more or less planless policy or shall we endeavor to
lay plans for a coherent organization from the bottom up? Is the time
ripe for real organization? Has a change come over the situation that
would make it possible to form a real organization in place of the
paper organizations that always resulted from similar efforts in the
August 25th, 10 A.M.
The Conference reassembled in Recital Hall, at 10 A.M. The Recording
Secretary read the minutes of the preceding day. Reports of committees
were in order. At suggestion of the Chairman, Mr. John Salmon, Mr.
Post read the report of the Committee on Communications. The report
was adopted. Mr. Erickson reported for the Committee to approve
President Wilson's Peace Policy, and moved that the report be adopted.
Carried. Mr. Salmon moved that this report be sent to the press.
Amendment was made by the Secretary that the report be sent directly
to the President. The motion was carried as amended.
For the Committee on Memorial Resolutions Mr. Post spoke in memory of
Mrs. Susan Look Avery, and Mr. Kiefer added a short tribute to her
democratic spirit; Mr. Albright and Mrs. Robinson spoke of Mr. James
Bellangee, Mr. J. Z. O'Brien of Levi H. Turner, Mr. Norton of Mme.
Caroline M. Severance, and Mr. Bowmar was called on to speak on other
names, but said that none had been reported to him. Mr. Bolton Hall
read a tribute to Joseph Fels, as the report of the Committee headed
by J. H. Barry. This report was accepted by rising vote.
Prof. Barnes reported for the Committee on Plans for Permanent Peace
that the Committee was agreed that in the present state of
international affairs, this is not the time for this body to take
action on this matter. Adopted.
Mr. Bolton Hall reported for New York and New Jersey, and
incidentally spoke of the colony plan.
Mrs. Fels spoke on the work of the women of New York. It was voted to
hold an afternoon session. Mr. Post moved to reopen the question of
organization. Carried. Mr. J. Salmon moved that this business be made
special order for the afternoon session; motion lost. The Chair moved
that the five minute rule apply. Mr. Post spoke to the effect that the
question resolved itself simply into parts (1) do we want any
organization whatever, municipal, state or national; (2) if so, what
kind of an organization do we want. Mr. Post then moved that the first
clause of the motion which had passed the previous evening be taken up
separately at this time, as he was convinced that there had been a
mistaken idea, in that he had not intended to propose any special
method of organization. Mr. Post said that something must be effected
in the nature of democratic organization. Mr. Gutstadt moved an
amendment that a special form of organization be considered. The Chair
ruled that this amendment was not germane. The first clause of the
motion in question was read and passed by the house. Mr. Post's motion
that the second clause be adopted, was carried.
Mr. M. L. Gable moved that the Chair appoint a committee of five to
report to the afternoon meeting a method of organization. Mr. Norton
seconded the motion. A motion to act as a committee as a whole on the
matter was: lost Mr. Salmon moved a substitute -- that a committee of
five be appointed by the Chair, to confer with the Fels Fund
Commission in regard to the best methods of Single Tax organization.
This was carried.
Mr. Cowell announced that the Y. M. C. A. Assembly Hall might be used
by the Conference for the afternoon meeting. Mr. Kiefer's motion to
adjourn at 12.30 was carried.
Invitations were now read to the Conference for next year's meeting-
from Baltimore, Niagara, New York City, Providence, R. I., Cleveland
Those were asked to stand who could attend at each city and the
result was as follows: Baltimore, 10; Niagara, 9; New York City, 6;
Providence, 9; Cleveland, 4; Detroit, 7.
Mrs. Robinson moved that there be a committee of ten, five of whom
should be appointed by this body and five by the Chair, to discuss
organization with the Fels Fund Commission. Mr. U'Ren moved to lay
this matter on the table indefinitely. Carried.
Mr. Troy moved that the Chair appoint a committee to investigate the
application of the Single Tax to timber lands and to report their
findings to the Fels Fund Commission as soon as possible, suggesting
the names of W. S. U'Ren and Mayor Cottrell, of Washington. Carried.
Mr. Post suggested that Mr. Murphy be on this committee. Mr. Post
moved to make this a committee of five. Carried. Mr. Sahnon suggested
that Mr. Troy be appointed on this committee.
The meeting then adjourned to 2 P.M., to meet in the Y. M. C. A.
August 25th, 2 P.M.
The Convention reassembled at 2 P.M. The Chair appointed a committee
of E. P. E. Troy, Louis Murphy, W. S. U'Ren, Adella M. Parker, Wm.
Kent, to investigate the application of the Single Tax to timber
Discussion was then reopened on the subject of methods of propaganda.
Mr. J. Stitt Wilson was called upon to speak as he had said that he
had further engagements for the afternoon, but he was not present.
Mr. Kiefer read a letter from the San Diego Single Tax League, urging
a straight Single Tax measure for California. Mr. Wilson was now
present, and spoke in behalf of a land movement in California. Mr.
Jacobs spoke in behalf of Home Rule in Taxation. Miss Parker urged
that we note that the socialist point of view, that every man should
have what he produces, is exactly what Single Taxers urge. Mr. Norton
spoke for a straight land platform. Mrs. Robinson reported the
sentiment of the Los Angeles League. Mr. Salmon spoke for the taxation
of land values. Mr. Cridge urged organization in the by-ways. Mr.
Lowenstein spoke for Single Tax straight. Mr. Zant spoke in favor of
Home Rule in Taxation. Mr. J. G. Wright spoke in favor of sending men
into the by-ways to urge the land for the people. Mr. U'Ren spoke in
behalf of teaching Single Tax to the young. Mr. Post spoke for Home
Rule in Taxation and for all other steps necessary to the advancement
of the Single Tax. Resolution: That the question of the character of
political campaigns be referred to the Single Taxers of the political
subdivisions respectively to which such campaigns from time to time
Mr. Salmon made this motion:
Resolved, by the Single Tax Conference, that we
recommend the separate assessment of land, and the publication of
assessment foils by States and municipalities. Carried. Mr. Salmon
moved: Resolved, That whereas the present system of general taxation
has failed, producing the grossest inequalities, and
Whereas, taxes should be levied only according to benefits
conferred; and, whereas, site values alone shows the benefit
conferred from Government activities, and
Whereas, rent being the product of site value bears all taxes in
the last analysis; therefore.
Be it resolved, that a direct Single Tax on rent would simplify
administration and promote equality, and we recommend its adoption
as soon as possible in all States and municipalities.
Amended to the effect that copies be sent to all papers by the
Mrs. Fels spoke urging that the Single Tax be not veiled. Mr.
McGauran reported on the effect of work in Pueblo.
Mr Troy moved that the Joseph Fels Fund and Single Tax Conference at
the Panama-Pacific Exposition at San Francisco, extend greeting to Dr.
W. E. Macklin at Nanking, China, and thank him for the Single Taxers
of the world for his translation of Progress and Poverty and
Henry George's Protection and Free Trade into Chinese, and for
his many Single Tax pamphlets printed in Chinese, and be it further
resolved, that we congratulate Dr. Macklin and other brethren in that
country on the progress which the Single Tax has made in China.
Mr. Kiefer suggested that all reports and letters not read be
officially acknowledged by this body.
Mr. J. Z. O'Brien moved that this Conference place a tablet on the
house where Henry George wrote Progress and Poverty. The
motion fell, as there was no particular house where he wrote this
Mr. Norton moved that this Conference urge that the Modesto Circular
be no longer circulated. The motion was tabled.
Mr. Teel made this motion:
Resolved, That the members of this Conference hereby
express their grateful appreciation for Mrs. Post's excellent
service as its presiding officer, and to Daniel Kiefer for
suggesting her name for that position; to Mrs. Todd for her
effective work as Recording Secretary of the Conference, and in
keeping the record clear and up to the minute at all times; to Mr.
Todd and his committee for their full and complete plan and
arrangement of the programme and work of the Conference; to His
Honor, the Mayor of San Francisco, and to the management of the
Exposition and to the Single Taxers of California, for their
hospitable welcome and for many courtesies extended to this
Motion to dispense with reading of the final minutes carried. Mr.
Jacobs moved that the Chair appoint a committee of three to draw up
resolutions of appreciation of the work of Mr. Frank Walsh, and to
send them to him. Carried. The Chair appointed Mr. Barnes, Mr. Post,
and Mr. Kiefer on this Committee.
Mr. Post moved that this Conference express satisfaction and
gratification with the editorial and business management of the
Mr. Kiefer moved that appreciation be expressed of the work of the
Single Tax Review and the San Francisco Star.
The Conference then adjourned.
THE BANQUET, AUGUST 25th
The National Single Tax Conference and meeting of the Joseph Fels
Fund was brought to a brilliant close on Wednesday evening by a
banquet at Campi's. Louis F. Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor, was
Introducing Mrs. Mary Fels, Mr. Post said: Mr. Fels was the only man
of modem times who, a large money earner himself, devoted all his
wealth to the cause he believed in, and gave his life to. No person
could be a more appropriate speaker for the evening than Mrs. Fels.
Mrs. Fels said Mr. Fels was an ideal democrat. Kings and waiters were
all the same to him. He would shake hands with the stewards on the
liners, and the whole conduct of his life indicated that he felt that
if anyone had to apologize it was he and not the workers -- apologize
for possessing wealth he knew he had not earned. Many amusing
incidents could be related to illustrate his life outlook. Rich people
were not good enough for him. They were often poor company.
Mr. Post here presented the medal from the Panama Pacific Exposition
to Mrs. Fels.
Mr. Post now introduced Mr. Bolton Hall, who said:
I have very little to say, but perhaps a story I will
tell will 'say some- thing.' Here is my story, in memory of James T.
Bamett: A man had a herd of half-starved cattle; over the fence
there was a rich pasture. The owner, being charitable, put grass
through the fence. Someone suggested taking the fence down, but the
owner replied, "I don*t think pasture will cure all the ills
these cattle are heir to. Quit your suggesting and help me pull
grass for the hungry calves." The moral is that housing,
tenement regulation, palliatives of any kind are feeding the grass
through the fence.
J. Stitt Wilson, the next speaker, said: All the people looking and
working for freedom should find a common ground. A farmer who knew
cows, horses and sheep, was sure there was no such thing as a giraffe.
In the same way, some people are positive there is no such thing as a
Socialist- Single Taxer. There is. I am one.
Living in a democracy, the speaker continued, we will not need brute
force as a solvent but political action ; also we need a revolt of
women, maybe even a revolt of the children. Touching on co-operation,
Social beings must co-operate. I am an individualist as
well as a Socialist. But I would rather go to hell with my fellows
than to Heaven alone!
Alice Thacher Post, Chairman of the Conference, was the next speaker,
and gave to the audience a beautiful, colorful picture of what our
political economy phrases, translated into life, really mean. **We
should begin," she said, "by taking the land, the natural
resources, terminal facilities, franchise values - ^what dead,
colorless phrases! But when we have learned to think of these phrases,
we must remember the grass and flowers of the earth, the cascades, the
rivers wide and deep, sweeping to the ocean. Without these life would
be nothing, and it is this message of what the earth, warm and
friendly, responsive and beautiful, will give to us and our children,
abroad or at home, and even to our brethren of the past -- it is this
message that we must bring to the people."
James H. Barry, of the San Francisco Star, said he had the honor to
set type on the author's edition of Progress and Poverty. With
all of the other intelligent printers he had wondered what license
Henry George had to write a book. After George had marked the proofs
until the printers couldn't read them, they used to remark: "Ah!
who will read that book but that little red- headed 'son-of-a-gun'
himself." Every broken down printer claims to have set type on
Progress and Poverty, but the speaker never took that as
personal! He didn't consider himself a broken down printer!
Telling how he became a Henry George man, Mr. Barry said: "Judge
Maguire once brought to my office an article. I said I could not print
it because it favored confiscation. We did print it, but with a note
of explanation, saying that it would be answered later. We slunk out
and bought a copy of Progress and Poverty." That article
of Judge Maguire's was never answered!
Mr. Oliver T. Erickson, President of the City Council of Seattle,
spoke on the question of getting support from all types of
organizations, and illustrated his point with this story: A boy
dropped potatoes down the chimney of an old woman's hut. He peeped in
the window. The old woman was thanking the Lord for the potatoes. "The
Lord did not give them to you," called the boy. The old woman
replied, "I prayed to the Lord for them, and I don't care if the
devil brought them."
Mr. Post, introducing Dr. John W. Slaughter, of London, told Judge
Maguire's story of "seeing the cat." Judge Maguire saw a
crowd around a window, looking for a cat in a picture. The
enthusiastic crank in the crowd said, "Don't you see the claw,
the face, etc," and at last he did see them, and could see
nothing else. The cat got him and it got Dr. Slaughter when he lived
with Mr. and Mrs. Fels in London. Dr. Slaughter made some of the five
minute rules of the Conference. He felt like the cabby who met a
funeral procession and shouted "why don't you wait, your party
ain't in a hurry!" He also offered some new Commandments: 1. Let
another Single Taxer live. 2. Thou shalt work for a Home Rule
Amendment if thou wantest to. 3. Don't argue.
Dr. Gutierrez de Lara, author of The Mexican People and Their
Struggles for Freedom, said he felt somewhat like the old Mexican
who became ill because everyone told him he was sick. When he (de
Lara) came to the U.S., the first man said, "you Mexicans are
lazy;" the second said "you don't work;" the third, "you're
hopeless." Booker T. Washington said in a lecture: "Mexicans
are worse than the negroes." Mexicans portrayed in books on
Mexico were not like any of the natives he had ever seen.
Mr. W. S. U'Ren, Mr. J. B. McGuaran and Mrs. Lona Ingham Robinson
SPEECH OF EDWIN MARKHAM
I will not call you ladies and gentlemen. I know you too well for
that. Henry George has always been to me one of the supreme heroes of
humanity. There are patriots you know of countries -- patriots
belonging merely to their national allegiance; then there are others
who rise to a high and beautiful atmosphere and look upon the human
race as one family. These are patriots of humanity.
Now, without detaining you very long, I will read to you a verse of
mine which I have been asked to read. It is entitled "A Comrade
Called Back." If Henry George had been the one at that time in my
mind the poem should have been directed to him. It was instead written
for one of the noblest men that has ever appeared upon this planet; a
man who is known to every one of you.
I am not so specially concerned about the particular kind of dogma or
doctrine that a man holds, so long as he holds to it with all his
soul. The great trouble is that the most of us are too comfortable
ourselves to take a vital interest in our pressing social problems.
Ernest Crosby is the exception. Crosby, poet and reformer, died
January 3d, 1907. He is one of the beautiful memories of my life. I
like to look back on that high erected spirit, that beautiful face so
perfectly frank and so absolutely concentrated on some- thing bigger
than the individual. Little souls, you know, are concentrated on
themselves. We must become concentrated on something bigger than
ourselves in order to live a true human life, and that was the case
with this beautiful spirit that I shall never forget until the River
of Death closes over me.
ADDRESS OF GUTIERREZ DE LARA
CONDITIONS IN MEXICO BEFORE THE CONFERENCE, TUESDAY, 24th.
Mr. de Lara said he came from his brothers in Mexico who were trying
to solve the land problem for their country. In the United States we
had the ballot by which sociological problems can be settled, but in
Mexico they had the same problems, more pressing, but they did not
have the ballot. It had been absolutely refused them. They were
compelled to appeal to revolution.
It was wonderful to see how in the history of Mexico, since the
conquest of Spain, all social movements ran round one pivot, the land
question. Five years ago, four hundred families controlled the great
bulk of the land and allied to them were all other privileged classes.
They were supported by the psychological force of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic clergy used their religious influence to hold down the
large majority of the people. They preached submission.
Referring to Carranza, Mr. de Lara said that he may have done well or
badly, but that did not concern him. What have the people
accomplished? That was the question. Answering his own query the
speaker said, "the people had overthrown the Catholic Church. The
bishops had fled. In San Antonio, where he had recently been, there
were twenty-three bishops -- the whole gang were there." The
priests of Mexico had grown rich at the expense of the common people,
but the common people had now kicked them out. Still the majority of
the people were Catholics and would continue to be, but they are going
to have no more mediaeval superstition in the name of religion. These
things had not been accomplished by Mr. Caranza or Mr. Villa or by
Madero, but by the common people. In the old times, everywhere you
could see being taken for the army the strongest men -- taken from
their wives and families. That system was gone. Now men fought for
Mexico because of their will to fight, not because they were forced
to. Today the lands of Mexico were in the hands of the people. The
farm products do not now go to a few land owners, but to the man who
tills the soil. The feudal class was gone, but they had the
speculator, and these speculators are the men who are making all the
trouble in Mexico today.
In reply to a question with reference to Villa, the speaker said he
had proved a wonderful organizer and fighter, but the propertied class
had got his ear. They backed Villa. One Los Angeles wealthy man gave
Villa $5,000,000 in one day. This was the beginning of Villa's
defeats. He became a strong man, an iron leader. But the day of the
strong man in Mexico was gone. The people were awakening to their own
power. Never in history has a revolution been the work of one man. It
has always been a social growth. Revolution was always the work of
purification. So it was in Mexico. Americans should not be impatient.
Mexicans were not impatient of American revolutions -- and reforms!
The present revolution would bear wonderful fruit -- the people would
reap the harvest. In the two previous revolutions, the fruits had been
lost to the people because of foreign intervention. Now Europe was too
busy to bother about Mexico, and the United States, with Wilson at the
head, could be trusted. If they were allowed to finish this
revolution, violence in Mexico would be a thing of the past.
COMMUNICATIONS TO THE CONFERENCE
SHOWING THE PROGRESS OF THE MOVEMENT
Hon. J. J. Pastoriza.
I regret exceedingly that my duties as tax commissioner prevent me
from remaining in San Francisco so as to be present at the Convention,
or rather Single Tax Conference. No doubt everyone who attends the
Conference has been a reader of the Public, and therefore is posted as
to the progress of the Houston plan of taxation up to the time of the
suit which was filed by five land speculators of the city of Houston.
They succeeded in getting an order from the Court, instructing me to
assess all forms of property according to the Constitution. This I
have done, but the people, that is, the taxpayers, decided
differently. (^The great majority, while accepting our full valuation
on lands, stubbornly resisted the assessment of buildings at their
full value. So, I have about decided, as chairman of the board of
appraisement, to listen to the voice of the people rather than to the
order of Court, and when the assessments for 1915 are completed, I
rather suspect that land will be assessed at its full value and
buildings at from forty to fifty per cent, of their value, and while
we have made a great effort to assess all forms of personal property
this year, I firmly believe that next year there will be no personal
property assessed that was exempted under the Houston plan of
taxation. This is the will of the people, and certainly coincides with
my desire. If the aforesaid five tax kickers don't like what the
people have decreed why I will then give them another opportunity to
file suit to destroy the "people's plan" of taxation for the
City of Houston. The only difference between what I call the "people's
plan of taxation" and the Houston plan of taxation is that under
the people's plan of taxation, the buildings will be assessed at 10 or
15 per cent, higher than they were under the Houston plan of taxation,
while the personal property exempted by the Houston plan will still be
exempted by the people's plan. An amusing thing about it all is, that
the very fellows who filed the suit against the Houston plan, when
they found out that they could not get their land assessed at less
than full value, took an oath that their buildings were not worth more
than 25 to 50 per cent, of their real value. Some of them assessing at
25%; some at 40%, some at 50%. Not one of them assessed their
buildings at over $.50 on the dollar.
PITTSBURGH PROMOTES PROGRESS IN TAXATION Wayne Paulin
In 1910 Pittsburgh had one of the most inequitable systems of
taxation in the country. There were three classifications of real
estate, urban, rural and agricultural. Urban embraced the closely
built up district and was assessed at full value. Rural embraced the
suburban districts and was assessed at about two-thirds of its value.
Agricultural embraced large tracts of vacant land which was assessed
at half its value. Aside from this each ward of the city was a
government unto itself regarding the conduct of the schools. The
school directors of each ward had absolute control of the collection
and expenditure of school funds. As a result each ward in the city had
a different school tax rate, and as the number of children in each
ward was not proportionate to the assessed valuation, the school taxes
were inequitable. An analysis of the above system showed that as usual
the burden fell heavily upon the small home owner, whereas the owners
of vacant tracts escaped lightly. Further, an Act of the Legislature
exempted from taxation the real estate of the Public Utilities within
The awakening came in 1909 when the Pittsburgh Board of Trade
launched a movement to abolish the three classifications. Other civic
organizations joined in the demand for tax reform so that in 1911 the
Pittsburgh Civic Commission, the Allied Boards of Trade, the Chamber
of Commerce, the Pittsburgh Teachers Association and the Federation of
Women's Clubs massed their forces before the State Legislature and
secured from it abolition of the classifications and a new school code
which provided a uniform school tax rate throughout the city. A bill
was also put through exempting machinery from taxation in second class
cities. This latter enactment was the beginning of the policy of
exempting industry from taxation, which was closely followed up in
1913 by what is known as the Graded Tax Law for second class cities.
Shortly after the Legislature of 1911 adjourned, the Pittsburgh Civic
Commission began a thorough analysis of the taxation system of the
city with the end in view of lifting the burden of taxation from
industry and placing more of it upon the great land holders of the
city, who were impeding the city's progress by holding the land at
prices prohibitive to industries and residents. To bring about this
result the committee which made the investigation, recommended that
all buildings in the city be taxed at a rate 10% less than land values
the first year, 20% the second year, 30% the third year and so on
until the tax rate on buildings would be one-half that on land values,
at which time it was expected that the plan would have so far
justified itself, that at one more step buildings would be entirely
exempted from taxation. The report of the committee, together with its
recommendation, was printed and widely circulated. The attention of
Mayor Magee was enlisted and his support to a bill embodying the
recommendation of the committee was secured, so that in 1913 the bill
was introduced into the Legislature as an administration measure.
However, before passage it was found necessary to modify it so that
instead of reducing the rate on buildings 10% each year it was reduced
10% each triennial assessment or every three years. In this shape the
bill was passed, and became a law. Effects of the law were almost
immediately apparent, many properties which would not have paid a
sufficient return under the old system were built upon and improved
profitably under the new, so that in 1913 and 1914, while other
industries of the city lagged, the building business flourished.
However, the effect was also felt by the large land owners who set
about to secure the repeal of the law. The support of our stupid
Mayor, Mr. Armstrong, and his majority in the City Council was secured
for the repealer and as a city administration measure it was passed by
the Legislature of 1915, against the determined and stubborn
opposition of the Pittsburgh Civic Commission, the Allied Boards of
Trade, the Pittsburgh Realty Owners Association, the North Side
Chamber of Commerce, the Pittsburgh Single Tax Club and other
organizations. Fortunately, however, for the City of Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania for the first time in many years, has a real Governor,
who vetoed the repealer. In vetoing the bill Governor Burnbaugh said:
"This bill is a repealer. It applies only to cities
of the second class. It repeals the Graded Tax Law in these cities.
The present tax law, passed in 1913, makes a separation of land and
of buildings for taxable purposes, and reduces triennially ten per
cent, the tax on buildings until the minimum of 50% is reached.
"The act of 1913 was urged by all parties in interest. This
repealer is opposed by the largest group of protestants that have
been heard on any bill. It is advocated by those now in charge of
the fiscal policy of one of the two cities concerned.
"Inasmuch as there is such a conflict of opinion, and inasmuch
as the law has scarcely yet been tried, it is well to allow it to
operate until a commanding judgment decrees its fate. Let the people
concerned study freely and fairly the operations of the present law
and, if found after two years to be inadequate to the needs of the
cities or unfair in its provisions, it can then be repealed. To
disturb it now when a preponderance of opinion favors it is unwise.
For these reasons the bill is not approved."
Whether or not the bill will have to be defended before each
successive Legislature until 1926 is a matter of conjecture; however,
it seems reasonable to suppose that with each additional 10% exemption
the large land owners will feel the pinch more seriously and will make
redoubled efforts to secure the repeal of the measure. But this
activity should be more than offset by the support enlisted throughout
the city by the beneficial results accruing to the actual operation of
the law. To this also should be added the support of two or three
friendly newspapers and an active body of favorable opinion among the
THE MOVEMENT in DENMARK SIGNE BJORNER
Since we are not to have the privilege of a personal representation
at this gathering of fellow workers, to whom the Henry George
disciples in Denmark send their very best wishes, let this report
carry some evidence of our modest efforts. Since 1887, when Henry
George ideas were first brought before the Danish people, by Jakob E.
Lange, in a series of weekly articles in
Hojsholebladet, a periodical which has later given much space
to this subject, thousands of articles, speeches and discussions have
kept the name of Henry George and the principles he stood for before
After the first common interest in the subject had waned and the
first passionate opposition had subsided, there was a period of quiet
growth. A small number of faithful disciples kept up the literary
work. J. Lange and one or two others gave lectures and kept up the
discussions. Several of the leaders of our High Schools -- which are
free institutions, conducted independently -- had been possessed by
the views of Henry George, and year after year these schools sent out
young men and women whose minds had been imbued with these views. In
certain parts of the country, where this quiet propaganda had its
centers, societies were formed. In 1902, when the present Henry George
Society was formed by a small group of men from different parts of the
country, the propaganda took on a new phase. In connection with the
leaders of the newly organized small farmers' movement, Mr. Sophus
Berthelsen, a young lawyer of great ability, brought new energy into
the movement and gave excellent support to J. Lange, who was still
pushing the cause, as he had been from the first. The Single Tax
periodical, Ret, was started by Mr. Berthelsen, with the
support of the Henry George Society, which organization in the course
of a few years gathered in those who had been won to active interest
by the educational work of the pioneers. A number of new lecturers and
writers came forward, and, with the small means at its disposal, the
society helped along the good work.
Then, in 1909, came a new force to help us, when Joseph Fels, on a
visit to Denmark, gave us his spirited example, sensible advice and
financial support. The different institutions of the movement were
brought into closer co-operation. A central office was established in
Copenhagen, to be supported by the Fels Fund. A commission to take
charge of the Fund was elected, and now the propaganda work was
carried on on a much larger scale, though much along the same lines.
Especially the newspaper work took on larger dimensions, so that
clippings from practically all the newspapers of the country brought
back items and articles sent out by the office. This office has been
kept up since, now mainly supported by the Henry George Society, which
has a membership of about 3,000, in 82 leagues all over the country.
The Society now publishes its own periodical, a fortnightly paper
called Den lige Veg, edited by member of "Yolkebinget,"
Dr. Phil. Starcke. Meantime the monthly. Ret, has won such support on
its own merit that it carries on its educational work independently,
in the charge of Mr. Berthelsen.
Moreover, the small farmers, through the programme of their
organization, which numbers 40,000, demand the solving of the land and
the labor question by means of taxing land values and untaxing
industry, thus deliberately making Henry George's proposition their
own. The movement, as represented by the Henry George Society and the
Small Farmers' League is, of course, non-partisan. But several
political parties have taken up a measure of our proposal, in
proportion, of course, to the liberality of their platform. The
present government party, the radicals, are in strong support, urged
on particularly by the rural contingent.
During the first term of its government, the radical party carried
and completed a sample valuation of land values. A bill was brought
forward proposing separate valuation of all land values, with a view
to changing the real estate taxes to land values taxes. This has not
been carried, as the former Landsting, then ruled by land monopolists,
opposed the bill, but it is expected to be taken up presently.
The whole land question will loom up in connection with the tariff
revision, which normally should take place next year. The large
majority of our people are absolute free traders and the abolition of
duty taxes necessitates considering the taxation of land values. The
difficulties of the present situation, which requires strong
co-operation of all parties for the preservation of peace, keeps the
government from urging, at present, such measures as would be likely
to break into present party arrangements and result in new party
alignments. Therefore it is quite possible that the whole question,
land and tariff reform, will have to wait until conditions outside are
But since our new charter amendment, which was given this June 5th,
has deprived the large landowners of their special political
privileges and given equal suffrage to all men and women, we can
afford to wait until the time is ripe, always hoping that we may prove
ourselves worthy of the peace we are having by faithful adherence to
just principles and consistent progress toward the light of freedom.
THE MOVEMENT IN SOUTH AMERICA C. Macintosh.
Progress here is now being made along satisfactory lines.
The oldest of the present day advocates of the reform is Dr. Felix
Vitale, of Montevideo, followed by Dr. Manuel Herrera y Reissig. also
In Argentine, the movement is of recent date -- but its progress has
been very gratifying. Propaganda work was being carried on by Mr.
Robert Balmer, a Canadian and Mr. Charles N. Macintosh, a New
Zealander. The work done by these two began to take root. Later the
late Joseph Fels kindly placed, through the Spanish League, literature
in Spanish and the sum of [unreadable] 30, at the disposal of the
latter. The outcome was the formation of the "Liga Argentina para
el Impuesto Unico."
This organization has its headquarters in Buenos Aires, at 56 Calle
The outstanding features of the South American movement are:
- The steady support given to the taxation of land values in the
Brazilian Province of Rio Grande do Sul. The Governor of that
Province, Dr. Borges de Madeira, is a staunch and declared
supporter of land value taxation.
- The adoption by the Chambers of the Legislature of Uruguay of a
law taxing the Dept. of Montevideo on the value of land, as
distinct from the value of land and improvements, thus applying
the same system of taxation to the Capital as rules in the rural
areas of Uruguay, i.e., The land tax is there levied on land
- The adoption for the year 1916 of Taxation of Land Values in
the rural parts of the Province of Cordoba as the basis of raising
the provincial revenue required to replace the amounts derived in
former years from taxes on cattle, grains, skins, etc. The
Minister of Finance of the Province of Cordoba, in introducing the
bill, already approved, promised that during 1915-1916 the
valuation of the land as apart from improvement will be made in
the municipalities of the Province and that for the 1917 income,
the provincial authorities will be able to levy the provincial tax
in rural and municipal areas on the basis of the value of the land
as apart from improvements.
In Buenos Aires, the Liga Argentina para el Impuesto Unico has
promoted meetings of the representatives of most of the leading
organizations, with the object of taking joint action in elections for
the Municipal Council and for representatives in the Legislature. The
League is well organized, directed by men who understand the question
and its difficulties; while each Sunday public meetings are addressed
by various members of the Society.
With a view to operating in a wider sphere on this continent, the
Comite Sud Americano para el Impuesto Unico has been formed, with
headquarters in Buenos Aires. Dr. Felix Vitale is president, with
Ingeniero Angel Silva (Argentina), Ingeniero Luis Lavadenz (Bolivia),
Sr. Octaviano Alves de Lima (Brazjl), Dr. Manuel Herrera y Reissig
(Uruguay), as vice presidents, with Sr. A. de Queiros Telles, Jr., as
secretary. This committee is pushing the discussion of fiscal systems
in the various republics of South America and endeavors to form
Leagues in each Republic.
THE MOVEMENT IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA E. J. Craigie.
The Single Tax League of South Australia desires me to convey
fraternal greetings to the Single Taxers who will assemble at San
Francisco, and trusts that the gathering will be very successful, and
be the means of providing a source of inspiration for all those who
are privileged to attend.
The propaganda on our part takes various forms. Chief among them is
the writing of letters to the daily papers, a weekly letter to the
country press, open air meetings each Sunday afternoon in the Botanic
Park, and addresses in halls before members of literary, debating and
trade societies. The newspaper work is very important, as in this way
we reach a lot of people, and the requests which we get for literature
and for further information on the Single Tax question is sure proof
that the letters are read, and doing good work.
Special propaganda work is undertaken in connection with Land Values
Rating for Local Government Purposes. First we send literature
explaining the principle to every member of the Council, accompanied
by a leaflet dealing with the machinery clauses of the Land Values
Assessment Acts. We endeavor to get the Councils to agree to a poll
being taken, so that ratepayers shall have the opportunity of saying
how revenue for local government purposes shall be raised. If we are
successful in this respect, a tentative assessment has to be prepared
showing the rates now paid by each citizen, and the amount each would
pay under land values if the poll should be successful. This
assessment must be open to the public for at least 21 days before the
taking of the poll. We go through these tentative assessments and take
the names and addresses of every ratepayer whose rates will be reduced
under the proposed system, and send them a post card stating the
amount of rates now paid, also the financial gain to them in the event
of the poll being carried. Literature explaining the principle is sent
to every person on the roll, and we urge the people to go and record
As a result of our work, twelve municipalities in South Australia are
now raising all their revenue from land values only, and we are
hopeful that others will fall into line at the elections next
The Land Values Assessment Acts have been hedged around by all sorts
of restrictions to prevent the system being adopted. This was done by
the Landlord party in our Upper House which is elected on a property
qualification. Before the poll can be effective, at least 25 per cent,
of the actual ratepayers on the roll must vote in the affirmative.
Then again, the power of deciding whether a poll shall be taken rests
entirely with the Council. Every other ratepayer may desire to effect
the change, but should the members of the Council be antagonistic,
they can block the will of the people. We are endeavoring to secure an
amendment of the Act from the present government.
In connection with our State revenue, we now levy one-half penny in
the pound ordinary tax on land values, an additional half-penny on all
estates over £5,000, with 20 per cent, extra added for absentees.
An absentee is one who for a period of 12 months is absent from the
State. The total amount of revenue collected from land values during
the year was £141,807. We are hoping that in the future a larger
proportion of revenue will be collected from this source. At the last
general election in March last, the Labor party secured a majority of
representatives in the House of Assembly, and their taxation proposals
provided for an increase in the land values tax on the all round
principle, coupled with the abolition of certain stamp duties, the
lifting of the income tax exemption from £200 to £300; and
the reduction of the railway freights and fares, the deficiency to be
made good by making the interest on the capital cost of construction a
charge on land values. We shall use every effort to see that the
government fulfill their pledges. £ The present government are
also pledged to put through a measure providing for proportional
representation during the first session of Parliament.
If this becomes law it will be a big step forward for the cause of
democracy, as it will enable Single Taxers to secure direct
representation in the legislative halls of the State. The chief
advantage of such representation would be that it would enable our
people to have someone who would receive the benefit of the free
railway pass granted to all legislators, and with this pass we could
get out into the country districts at much less expense than at
present. We should therefore be able to do much more effective work
for the Single Tax movement.
We watch with interest the account of the work done by co-workers in
America, and are pleased to note that it is bearing fruit.
SPEECH OF S. P. ELIAS
OF MODESTO IRRIGATION DISTRICT
Representing the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, I am here today to
speak to you of the Modesto Irrigation District, of its single land
tax, and of the effect of the latter upon the development and progress
of the community.
Through the publicity given to it in the writings of the chairman of
your Speaker's Committee, the Modesto Irrigation District has become
famous for its experiment in taxation, by the adoption of the single
land tax, and I feel safe in asserting that this District was the
first public corporation in the United States to adopt under
permissive State law this sort of a tax on land as the exclusive means
of raising revenue. Naturally, therefore, the experiment would be
fraught with great interest to students of taxation and of economics
Ignoring for the moment the discussion of the land tax of the Modesto
Irrigation District, I desire to say by way of introduction, that
Stanislaus County presents in its industrial and economic revolution,
an interesting study. Its history exhibits the transition from a
virgin and primitive state to one of intense cultivation of the soil
and a high grade of civilization. Running parallel with this
transition and development appears the desire on the part of the
people for a more just method of taxation in the Irrigation District
-- a method which at once would prove more equitable and further
promotive of urban development.
Originally settled by the miners who came down from the mountains
that skirt the eastern extremity of the State -- men who sought the
new Eldorado after the privation of travel in the early days --
grazing and stock raising were the industries of the sparse and
scattered population of Stanislaus County at the earliest period of
its history. As additional population came down from the mines, new
lands were preempted from the Government and the large ranges divided
into wheat ranches. By the year 1868, Stanislaus County had become the
banner wheat growing district of California -- and this leadership in
wheat extended over a period of twenty years. As the constant growing
of wheat had robbed the soil of its nutriment, it became apparent to
the land owners that irrigation was a manifest necessity to restore
the soil and to retain productivity and prosperity. In 1886,
therefore, the Legislature enacted the Wright Irrigation Law, under
which the Modesto Irrigation District -- the first in the State -- was
organized. This law provides for the public ownership by the people of
water for irrigation purposes. After years of litigation, the law was
safely settled, and the works of the district completed. This law
permits a public corporation to organize in such a manner as to build
irrigation canals, ditches, dams and all other necessary works for the
distribution of water for irrigation purposes. This law also gives to
such a corporation the power to tax for these purposes.
It was over ten years ago that the waters were first turned into the
canals from the massive dam at La Grange. Then came an unexampled era
of progress and development in the Modesto Irrigation District. With
the land owning the water, and each acre entitled to water in
proportion to the tax that it paid, and fructified by the waters from
the canals, it blossomed forth with a fertility unparalleled. The
progress of the district under irrigation is shown in the advancement
made by the City of Modesto alone.
Ten years ago. Modest) was. a typically quiet country village of a
little over 1,700 people. Today it is a bustling cosmopolitan city --
one of the cleanest and prettiest of the modem cities in the State --
with a population of 8,000 people and a tributary population of over
10,000 or more. Its growth has been due exclusively to irrigation. So
rapid has been this growth in this short period of time that it has
been a Herculean task for the school authorities to provide
accommodations for the yearly increasing numbers desiring to take
advantage of Modesto's excellent educational departments.
While the Wright Irrigation Law was the first enactment of its kind
in the United States providing for the municipal ownership of water
primarily for irrigation purposes and while the Modesto Irrigation
District was likewise the first quasi-public corporation in the
country to adopt this plan of public ownership and distribution of
water as provided therein, the operation of the law produced a
widespread economic effect. It showed plainly the effect of increased
taxation upon relatively non-productive property, and its ownership.
In order to complete the irrigation works required, it was necessary
to levy a yearly increase in tax upon property in the district. This
tax running as high as from three to four per cent, upon assessed
valuation in the early period of the District's existence, it fell
heavily upon many of the large landholdings to such an extent as to
make their continued ownership unprofitable under the then mode of
cultivation. The result was the placing upon the market for sale at
reasonable prices many of these large tracts of land. This made
possible the subdivision of the large land holdings to such an extent
as to increase the population of the district by the smaller farmer
and tenant. The result was a more intensive cultivation of the soil,
thereby increasing its productivity and rendering the land and its
adjoining holdings more valuable. With an increased population living
together in closer proximity -- many parts of the district appearing
upon first view to be but a scattered city -- came other social and
economic demands, which were quickly satisfied. In other words, the
first fruits of the operation of the Irrigation Law were the
subdivision of the land, the influx of population, the intensive
cultivation of the soil, increased property valuations, the
imperceptible blending of city and country life to the advantage of
each socially. It is evident therefore, that the legitimate use of the
sovereign taxing power by the people frequently operates beneficially
as it has done in Irrigation Law.
It was early seen in the workings of the Irrigation Law, that while
the development of the district was fairly rapid, the tax system
hampered progress to a very large extent, and in fact, was alleged by
many thoughtful persons to retard development. The plan of the
Irrigation Law was to tax similarly to the system generally in vogue,
land and improvements thereon, though no personal property was ever
taxed. When the irrigation tax amounted from three to four per cent,
of assessed valuation, and when this per cent, was added to the tax on
the land, it fell heavily upon the farmer who wished to improve as it
did upon the city dweller who desired to build. It helped the owner
who erected a mere shack upon his place or held the land back for
increased valuation due to increasing population. To remedy this evil,
an enactment of the legislature was procured permitting irrigation
districts to exempt improvements from tax whenever the voters choose
to adopt the plan.
The Modesto Irrigation District was the first in the State to adopt
this plan in the year 1911 and the Single Land Tax has been in
operation since the year 1912, when it went into effect in this
district. In 1911, Modesto district's country real estate was assessed
for $3,795,050; city real estate for $848,545; improvements in country
$525,280; improvements in city $854,690, making a total assessment of
$6,235,565. The tax rate was three per cent. in this year. The
following year of 1912, when the Single Land Tax went into effect,
country real estate was assessed at $5,358,790, and the city real
estate at $1,590,330, a total of $6,949,120.. It is evident that the
assessed valuation of improvements was the following year under the
operation of the Single land tax, thrown back upon the land, although
the assessed valuation of the land increased only by a total of over
$900,000, as against the loss of the previous assessed valuation of
improvements of over $1,200,000. The tax on improvements has ever
since been thrown back upon the land exclusively. The tax rate for the
year 1912 was 2-%. This reduction in the tax rate was not caused by
the adoption of the Single Tax, but was due to the fact that no
special assessment was levied during that year. The total assessed
valuation for 1914 is country real estate, $5,362,390, city real
estate, $1,598,855; total $6,961,245.
The result of the adoption of the Single Land Tax in the Modesto
Irrigation district may be briefly summarized. It promoted and
encouraged development from the outset. Under the old scheme when the
farmer borrowed money with which to improve his holdings, his
improvements were subject to a tax. This really penalized improvement
in that it added the tax per cent, to the interest already being paid,
resulting practically in an increased interest in proportion to
percentage of tax imposed. With the tax on improvements removed,
improvements progressed rapidly and in the city of Modesto, nearly two
large blocks of business houses including two new hotels, and a number
of new and beautiful residences were erected. It likewise helped the
small homeowner, for it removed his improvement tax.
It compelled a large number of land owners to immediately dispose of
their land which theretofore had been idle upon the market or to
devote it to more productive purposes. It also placed upon an equality
the man who improved with the man who failed to improve, for each
holding was taxed according to the value of the land and not according
to improvements thereon. Throughout the district and in the city of
Modesto, it encouraged building -- and what was more desirable, the
erection of substantial homes and other creditable improvements upon
the farms. It can be truthfully said that the single land tax has had
a most salutary effect upon the development of the district and on the
city of Modesto. It has worked well in the Irrigation District.
I am frank enough to say that Modesto during the past several years
has given to the Single Tax as applied to the Irrigation District the
credit for most of its prosperity, and I will also say that the people
of the Modesto Irrigation District are highly pleased with its
In conclusion I desire to invite the members of the convention to
visit Modesto and the Modesto Irrigation District. You will have
presented to you in a concrete form an illustration of the industry
and development which in this latter day is weaving and producing the
material greatness of the Golden State of California.
In Memory of Joseph Fels.
The only resolution that would have pleased Joseph Fels is the
resolution that we would carry the torch that he never laid down but
passed on into our hands.
The only Memorial that seemed to him worth while is that monument in
which he, though dead, is, like every other working Single Taxer, now
and always, a living stone.
In Joseph Fels' removal we recognize that our loss is simply a
personal one and that his spirit goes on with us toward certain
In the midst of battle is no time to grieve for the
fallen ; it is rather the time to cheer the advancing guard, and
especially her who must do double duty because her comrade and ours
has dropped out of the visible ranks. Therefore, be it resolved that
our Memorial Resolution to Joseph Fels be the determination to
redouble our support to Mary Fels and the Single Tax.
James H. Barry / John B. Howarth / Bolton Hall
Commending President Wilson's Peace Policy
Resolved, That the Fels Fund Commissioners and Single
Taxers national conference assembled, express their grateful
appreciation of the faithful and persistent efforts of President
Wilson in preserving the peace of our country, during one of the
most trying times in its history.
Oliver T. Erickson, Chairman. / Otto Cullman / Lona Ingham Robinson.
NIGHT LETTER OF THE CONFERENCE TO HON. FRANK P. WALSH
Hon. Frank P. Walsh,
Chairman Commission on Industrial Relations,
Kansas City, Mo.
The members of the Fels Fund-Single Tax Conference assembled in San
Francisco, wish to express to you their admiration for the fearless
and effective manner in which you have conducted the investigations
entrusted to your Commission.
During these later years individuals and corporations have gained a
monopoly of most of the natural resources of this country. Aided by
their wealth and by the brains which they can, unfortunately, command,
they have placed themselves above the laws and beyond the reach of
ordinary public opinion. Our officials and servants have not dared to
call these exploiters of the public to account and it has been
impossible for an individual or for any group of individuals to
ascertain the titles on which these monopolies rested, the actual
conduct of industrial struggles or the personal attitude of such
exploiters toward the public.
Pushing aside outworn methods of inquiry, ignoring the sacred majesty
of money, regardless of your own personal or political future,
actuated as we firmly believe only by a desire to free the earth for
its children, you have brought to the light and have given to the
public a body of facts concerning the iniquitous means by which great
monopolies have been created and maintained; you have shown us the
accompanying wretchedness and misery of the exploited masses and you
have compelled corporations and men ordinarily inaccessible to the
public to face their acts, recognize their responsibilities, and speak
like ordinary men.
In this work, if you have won the hatred of the few, the kings and
potentates of the modem industrial world, you have won the esteem, the
affection and the lasting gratitude of helpless millions and you have
given to us the facts which we pledge you we will use in all
legitimate ways until the earth is returned to those who must live on
its bounty or perish miserably that a few may corrupt the world and
destroy themselves with excessive and corrupt wealth.
Louis F. Post, Chairman of the Committee / Earl Barnes / Daniel