The New York Times, January 23, 1906
CHOATE AND TWAIN PLEAD FOR TUSKEGEE
Brilliant Audience Cheers Them and Booker Washington.
HUMORIST RAPS TAX DODGERS
Says Everybody Swears, Especially Off - Friends of Negro Institution Trying to Raise $1,800,000.
To give Booker T. Washington a good start toward collecting the $1,800,000 he wants to carry back from the North to Tuskegee Institute, Mark Twain, Joseph H. Choate, Robert C. Ogden, and Dr. Washington himself spoke in Carnegie Hall last night. Incidentally, it was a "silver jubilee" celebration, since Tuskegee Institute was founded, in 1881.
The big house was crowded to its utmost capacity, and there were as many more outside who would have gone in had there been room. The spectacle reminded one of the campaign days last November, when District Attorney Jerome and his attendant spellbinders were packing Carnegie Hall.
But last night it was by no means a gathering of the "populace" alone. Women in brilliant gowns, resplendent with jewels, and men in evening dress filled the boxes. Despite the avowed object of the meeting - to get money from the audience and others - there was an atmosphere of good humor and lightheartedness. Mark Twain's "teachings" were met with such volleys of laughter that the man who never grows old could hardly find intervals in which to deliver his precepts. That part of Mr. Clemens's address which referred to wealthy men who swear off tax assessments was applauded with especial fervor.
The occupants of the boxes included Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Mrs. Henry H. Rogers, Mrs. Clarence H. Mackay, Mrs. Morris K. Jesup, J. G. Phelps Stokes, Isaac N. Seligman, George Foster Peabody, John Crosby Brown, Carl Schurz, Mrs. W. H. Schieffelin, Mrs. William Jay Schieffelin, Mrs. Joseph H. Choate, Mrs. Henry Villard, Nicholas Murray Butler, Mrs. Robert C. Ogden, Mrs. Cleveland H. Dodge, Mrs. Alfred Shaw, Mrs. Felix M. Warburg, Mrs. R. Fulton Cutting, Mrs. Collis P. Huntington, Mrs. Robert B. Minturn, Mrs. Jacob H. Schiff, Mrs. Paul M. Warburg, and Mrs. Arthur Curtis James.
A negro octet sang between the speeches. Their songs were old-fashioned melodies and revival songs, and their deep, full voice filled the whole house.
William Jay Schieffelin opened the meeting by telling its object and urging that all the help possible be given to Dr. Washington. He announced that in April a special train would leave New York for Tuskegee and that the round-trip ticket would cost $50, covering all expenses. On this occasion the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Tuskegee will be celebrated at the school itself by speeches by Secretary of War Taft, President Eliot of Harvard, Bishop Galloway, and Andrew Carnegie.
Choate Praises Washington.
"We assembly tonight," said Mr. Choate, when Mr. Schieffelin presented him, "to celebrate the 'silver jubilee' of Tuskegee Institute, twenty-five years old today, the success of which as a nucleus and center of negro education in the South is the triumph and glory of Dr. Booker T. Washington. I believe he does not claim to be the originator of it. It began in 1881 in a shanty and thirty pupils. Now what do we behold? a great educational establishment with 2,300 acres and more than eight buildings, peculiarly fitted for the tasks they are supposed to assist.
"It has sent forth more than 6,000 pupils as examples to and teachers of the negro race. It has now an enrollment of 1,500 pupils and an endowment fund of more than $1,000,000. Like all the other great educational institutions of today, the more it has and the more it wants the more it gets and the more it can use.
"I read that in a recent speech Dr. Washington declared that he was proud of his race. I am sure his race is proud of him. And I know I can say that North and South, are also proud of him. And there are few Americans on whom European nations look with such peculiar interest and sympathy as Dr. Washington. It was my pleasure to see him in my own hired house [laughter] in London, surrounded by English men and English women, who were delighted to make his acquaintance and listen to his words.
Negro Problem a Wide One.
"This tremendous negro problem, which was left when slavery was abolished and will last much longer than slavery lasted, no more rests on the white people of the South than on the negroes or on the white people of the North. It was forced upon the South by the irresistible force of the whole Nation. In the South they, white and negro, have done their part well. I read in a book, which I hope everybody has read, by Mr. Murphy, Secretary of the Southern Education Board, that the illiteracy of the negroes in the South has been wiped away more than one half since the war. How has it been accomplished? Out of the means of the Southern States. They have done nobly. By taxation $109,000,000 was raised between 1870 and 1900 for the education of negroes. How many people in the South - like some people we have had here in New York - stood between the appropriation and the recipients, I do not know, but it was a great achievement.
"None of the Tuskegee graduates is in an asylum. It is not the educated negroes who make themselves enemies to the South; it is uneducated negroes. The desire for these Tuskegee can satisfy.
Integrity of the Races.
"The maintenance of the integrity of the races, which, with the approval of both races, has formed the basis of Southern civilization, has given opportunity to negro lawyers, negro doctors, and ministers in every profession and industry, and the negroes are making the most of it."
Then Mr. Choate turned toward Mark Twain.:
"If I were to present the next speaker as Samuel L. Clemens," he said, "some would ask, 'Who is he?' but when I present him as Mark Twain - "
He could get no further. The applause which broke out lasted a full three minutes.
"I heard him speak at the dinner on his seventieth birthday," continued Mr. Choate, "and the gist of his speech was that had never done any work in his life. He said he had never worked at anything he didn't like, and so it wasn't work at all. He said that when he had an interesting job before him he lay in bed all day. And today, I understand, he has been in bed all day."
When Mark Twain could be heard he said:
MARK TWAIN'S ADDRESS "These habits, of which Mr. Choate has told you, are the very habits which have kept me young until I am seventy years old. I have lain in bed all day today, expect to lie in bed all day tomorrow, and will continue to lie in bed all day throughout the year. There is nothing so refreshing, nothing so comfortable, and nothing fits one so well for the kind of work which he calls pleasure. Mr. Choate has been careful not to pay me any compliments. It wasn't because he didn't want to - he just couldn't think of any.
"I came here in the responsible capacity of policeman - to watch Mr. Choate. This is an occasion of grave and serious importance, and it seemed necessary for me to be present so that if he tried to work off any statements that required correction, reduction, refutation or exposure, there would be a tried friend of the public here to protect the house. But I can say in all frankness and gratitude that nothing of the kind has happened. He has not made one statement whose veracity fails to tally exactly with my own standard. I have never seen a person improve so.
"This does not make me jealous, it only makes me thankful. Thankful and proud; proud of a country that can produce such men - two such men. And all in the same century. We can't be with you always; we are passing away - passing away; soon we shall be gone, and then - well, everything will have to stop, I reckon. It is a sad thought. But in spirit I shall still be with you. Choate, too - if he can.
Nothing to Refute.
"There being nothing to explain, nothing to refute, nothing to excuse, there is nothing left for me to do, now, but resume my natural trade - which is, teaching. At Tuskegee they thoroughly ground the student in the Christian code of morals; they instill into him the indisputable truth that this is the highest and best of all systems of morals; that the nation's greatness, its strength, and its repute among the other nations, is the product of that system; that it is the foundation upon which rests the American character; that whatever is commendable, whatever is valuable in the individual American's character is the flower and fruit of that seed.
"They teach him that this is true in every case, whether the man be a professing Christian or an unbeliever; for we have none but the Christian code of morals, and every individual is under its character-building powerful influence and dominion from the cradle to the grave; he breathes it in with his breath, it is in his blood and bone, it is the web and woof and fibre of his mental and spiritual heredities and ineradicable. And so, every born American among the eighty millions, let his creed or destitution of creed be what it may, is indisputably a Christian to this degree - that his moral constitution is Christian.
Two Codes of Morals
"All this is true, and no student will leave Tuskegee ignorant of it. Then what will he lack, under this head? What is there for me to teach him, under this head, that he may possibly not acquire there, or may acquire in a not sufficiently emphasized form? Why, this large fact, this important fact - that there are two separate and distinct kinds of Christian morals; so separate, so distinct, so unrelated, that they are no more kin to each other than are archangels and politicians. The one kind is Christian private morals, the other is Christian public morals.
"The loyal observance of Christian private morals has made this nation what it is - a clean and upright people in its private domestic life, an honest and honorable people in its private commercial life; no alien nation can claim superiority over it in these regards, no critic, foreign or domestic, can challenge the validity of this truth. During 363 days in the year the American citizen is true to his Christian private morals, and keeps undefiled the nation's character at its best and highest; then in the other two days of the year he leaves his Christian private morals at home, and carries his Christian public morals to the tax office and the polls, and does the best he can to damage and undo his whole year's faithful and righteous worth.
"Without a blush he will vote for an unclean boss if that boss is his party's Moses, without compunction he will vote against the best man in the whole land if he is on the other ticket. Every year, in a number of cities and states, he helps to put corrupt men in office, every year he helps to extend the corruption wider and wider; year after year he goes on gradually rotting the country's political life; whereas if he would but throw away his Christian public morals, and carry his Christian private morals to the polls, he could promptly purify the public service and make the possession of office a high and honorable distinction and one to be coveted by the very best men the country could furnish. But now - well, now he contemplates his unpatriotic work and sighs, and grieves, and blames every man but the right one - which is himself.
As to Tax Dodgers
"Once a year he lays aside his Christian private morals and hires a ferry boat and piles up his bonds in a warehouse in New Jersey for three days, and gets out his Christian public morals and goes to the tax office and holds up his hand and swears he wishes he may never-never if he's got a cent in the world, so help him! The next day the list appears in the papers - a column and a quarter of names, in fine print, and every man in the list a billionaire and a member of a couple of churches.
"I know all those people. I have friendly, social, and criminal intercourse with the whole of them. They never miss a sermon when they are so as to be around, and they never miss swearing-off day, whether they are so as to be around or not. The innocent man can not remain innocent in the disintegrating atmosphere of this thing. I used to be an honest man. I am crumbling. No - I have crumbled. When they assessed me at $75,000 a fortnight ago, I went out and tried to borrow the money, and couldn't; then when I found they were letting a whole crop of millionaires live in New York at a third of the price they were charging me, I was hurt, I was indignant, and said: 'This is the last feather! I am not going to run this town all by myself.' In that moment - in that memorable moment - I began to crumble.
Mark Twain Disintegrates
"In fifteen minutes the disintegration was complete. In fifteen minutes I was become just a mere moral sand pile; and I lifted up my hand along with those seasoned and experienced deacons, and swore off every rag of personal property I've got in the world, clear down to cork leg, glass eye, and what is left of my wig.
"Those tax officers were moved; they were profoundly moved. They had long been accustomed to seeing hardened old grafters act like that, and they could endure the spectacle; but they were expecting better things of me, a chartered professional moralist, and they were saddened. I fell visibly in their respect and esteem, and I should have fallen in my own, except that I had already struck bottom, and there wasn't any place to fall to.
Does a Gentleman Swear Off?
"At Tuskegee they will jump to misleading conclusions from insufficient evidence, along with Dr. Parkhurst, and they will deceive the student with the superstition that no gentleman ever swears. Look at those good millionaires; aren't they gentlemen? Well, they swear. Only once a year, maybe, but there's enough bulk in it to make up for the lost time. And do they lose anything by it? No, they don't; they save enough in three minutes to support the family seven years. When they swear. do we shudder? No - unless they say damn. Then we do. It shrivels us all up.
"Yet we ought not to feel so about it, because we all swear - everybody. Including the ladies. Including Dr. Parkhurst, that strong and brave and excellent citizen, but superficially educated. For it is not the word that is the sin, it is the spirit back of the word. When an irritated lady says 'Oh!' the spirit back of it is 'damn,' and that is the way it is going to be recorded against her. It always makes me so sorry when I hear a lady swear like that. But if she says 'damn,' and says it in an amiable, nice way, it isn't going to be recorded at all.
"The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong; he can swear and still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and benevolent and affectionate way. The historian, John Fiske, whom I knew well and loved, was a spotless and most noble and upright Christian gentleman, and yet he swore once. Not exactly that, maybe; still he - but I will tell you about it.
"One day when he was deeply immersed in his work, his wife came in, much moved and profoundly distressed, and said, 'I am sorry to disturb you, John, but I must, for this is a serious matter, and needs to be attended to at once.' Then, lamenting, she brought a grave accusation against their little son. She said: 'He has been saying his Aunt Mary is a fool and his Aunt Martha is a damned fool.' Mr. Fiske reflected upon the matter a minute, then said: 'Oh, well, it's about the distinction I should make between them myself.'
"Mr. Washington, I beg you to convey these teachings to your great and prosperous and most beneficent educational institution, and add them to the prodigal mental and moral riches wherewith you equip your fortunate proteges for the struggle of life."
Robert C. Ogden, after his introduction by Mr. Choate, said that before he began his formal address, which was "Financial Rousement" of the occasion he wanted to answer Mark Twain's remarks on profanity.
"I want to say," said Mr. Ogden, "that my friend's allusions to the ethics of profanity are not at all original. I knew all about them years ago, and he would not have known as much as he does had he never lived in Hartford. I remember hearing a distinguished Puritan say once there, banging his fist on the desk in front of him during a debate, that he'd be damned if he would allow such a proposition to through. In answer to this Henry Clay Trumbull said that it was fine to see a man who could say damn with such profound reverence."
Mr. Ogden then went on to tell the needs of Tuskegee. He said that the best intelligence of the country, North and South, admitted the peculiar educational duty that was owing to the negroes that had become a part of the population of the Nation.
Applause for Washington.
Mr. Ogden said that there were three distinct appeals. An added income of $90,000 a year was needed, an added endowment of $1,800,000 was essential, and a heating plant, to cost $34,000, was necessary.
Just before Booker T. Washington entered the hall a messenger boy handed him a note from Thomas Dixon, Jr., in which the writer said he would contribute $10,000 to Tuskegee if Mr. Washington would state at the meeting that he did not desire social equality for the negro, and that Tuskegee was opposed to the amalgamation of the races. When asked what he had to say on the subject Mr. Washington said:
"I will make no answer whatever. I have nothing to say."
Mr. Washington got a fine reception when he came forward to speak, and there was great applause when he said in the course of his address:
"One point we might consider as settled. We are through experimenting and speculating as to where the ten millions of black people are to live. We have reached the unalterable determination that we are going to remain here in America, and the greater part of us are going to remain for all time in the Southern States. In this connection I do not hesitate to say that from my point of view the great body of our people find a more encouraging opportunity in the South than elsewhere.
"Since we are to forever constitute a part of the citizenship of this country, there is but one question to be answered: Shall we be among the best citizens or among the worst?
"Every race of people should be judged by its best type, not by its lowest," said Mr. Washington. "One has no right to pass judgment upon a people until he has taken the pains to see something of their progress, after they have had a reasonable chance.
"Wherever we have been able to reach the people through education they have improved morally at a rapid pace, and crime has decreased. After making diligent inquiry we cannot find a single man or woman who holds a diploma from the Hampton Institute in Virginia or the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in the walls of a penitentiary.
"No two groups of people can live side by side where one is in ignorance and poverty without its condition affecting the other. The black man must be lifted or the white man will be injured in his moral and spiritual life. The degradation of the one will mean the degradation of the other.
"I do not overlook the seriousness of the problem that is before us, nor do I set any limits upon the growth of my race. In my opinion, it is the most important and far-reaching problem that the Nation has had before it; but you cannot make equally good citizens where in one part of the country a child has $1.50 expended for his education and in another part of the country another child has $20 spent for his enlightenment.
"The negro in many ways has proved his worth and loyalty to this country. What he now asks is that through such institutions as Hampton, Fisk, and Tuskegee he shall be given the chance to render high and intelligent service to our country in the future. I have faith that such an opportunity will be given him."