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Message-Id: <199509220011.UAA23307@orion.sgi.net>
From: "Dan Sullivan" <pimann@pobox.com>
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 1995 19:03:50 -0500
Subject: (Fwd) LandAccess #6 Mark Twain on Land Monopoly

From: "Dan Sullivan" <pimann@pobox.com>
To: Tentative.Georgist.Mailing.List@orion.sgi.net
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 1995 23:06:53 -0500
Subject: LandAccess #6 Mark Twain on Land Monopoly

Mark Twain on Land Monopoly

From Dan Sullivan <pimann@pobox.com>
21 September 1995

The Henry George School of New York has the major Twain article, "Archemedes," on its gopher site. You might just want to send a pointer to it. Check out the site first:


Also, noted Twain expert Jim Zwick has contacted me and chimed in with the belief that this is authentic Twain, and plans to include it on his site:


Enclosed is the full text plus a few other Twain quotes from later years that strongly support its authenticity, from a digest sent to a mailing list I manage called LandAccess. The list is dedicated to breaking up land monopoly through the implementation of a tax on land values. Let me know if you have any further questions, if you have interest in the 1920 Churchill speech on the same subject, or if you are interested in the mailing list. It is a fairly low volume list at this time, with about one digest per week.

To fellow LandAccess list members:

The following will be cross-posted tomorrow (Monday, September 18, 1995) on several Usenet newsgroups, including alt.politics.economics, alt.politics.greens, and alt.politics.libertarian. If your internet service includes access to these newsgroups, feel free to chime in on the debate that is likely to follow. I have generally been avoiding reference to Henry George, partly because I find it easier to resist quoting him at all than to quote him in moderation, and I find I have more credibility if I avoid sounding like a "Jehovah Georgist."

This is so long that I am giving it its own digest number. Other messages will follow. If you have something to tell the group, send it in.

Dan Sullivan

A month or so ago I posted a Winston Churchill speech condemning land monopoly. (which you can have if you drop me an e-note) This month is the Twain articles.

Those who treat land and natural resources as no different from legitimate capital are at odds not only with Churchill and Twain, with the very icons of free enterprise, including:

The French (laissez faire) Physiocrats,
John Locke,
Adam Smith,
John Stuart Mill,
William Penn,
Benjamin Franklin
, Thomas Jefferson,
Abraham Lincoln,
David Nolan (Libertarian Party Founder), and
Karl Hess (former editor of the LP News)

I will eventually post quotes (in context) from each of these.

The following article, ostensibly written by Mark Twain, equates land monopoly with slavery.

Shortly after a Mark Twain visit to Australia, the following article appeared in the Australian Standard, a partisan newspaper dedicated to abolition of land monopoly through application of land value taxation. The name of the auther was listed as Twark Main.

Except for a few photocopies circulated among land tax advocates, the article has been generally out of circulation since its original publication in 1887.

There is some dispute among Mark Twain scholars as to whether he actually authored this piece. It has Twain's drippingly sarcastic style, in which he pretend to be enthused about what he was actually condemning. More importantly, many statements that Twain made later are strikingly similar to statements made in this article. So if this is not genuine Mark Twain, the author was not only an excellent imitator, but clairvoyant.

The article is followed by quotations from later works of Mark Twain's that reinforce the perspective originally put forward in "Archimedes," strongly indicating that he wrote it.

Article Follows


by Twark Main [Mark Twain?]

"Give me whereon to stand", said Archimedes, "and I will move the earth." The boast was a pretty safe one, for he knew quite well that the standing place was wanting, and always would be wanting. But suppose he had moved the earth, what then? What benefit would it have been to anybody? The job would never have paid working expenses, let alone dividends, and so what was the use of talking about it? From what astronomers tell us, I should reckon that the earth moved quite fast enough already, and if there happened to be a few cranks who were dissatisfied with its rate of progress, as far as I am concerned, they might push it along for themselves; I would not move a finger or subscribe a penny piece to assist in anything of the kind.

Why such a fellow as Archimedes should be looked upon as a genius I never could understand; I never heard that he made a pile, or did anything else worth talking about. As for that last contract he took in hand, it was the worst bungle I ever knew; he undertook to keep the Romans out of Syracuse; he tried first one dodge and then another, but they got in after all, and when it came to fair fighting he was out of it altogether, a common soldier in a very business-like sort of way settling all his pretensions.

It is evident that he was an over-rated man. He was in the habit of making a lot of fuss about his screws and levers, but his knowledge of mechanics was in reality of a very limited character. I have never set up for a genius myself, but I know of a mechanical force more powerful than anything the vaunting engineer of Syracuse ever dreamed of. It is the force of land monopoly; it is a screw and lever all in one; it will screw the last penny out of a man's pocket, and bend everything on earth to its own despotic will. Give me the private ownership of all the land, and will I move the earth? No; but I will do more. I will undertake to make slaves of all the human beings on the face of it. Not chattel slaves exactly, but slaves nevertheless. What an idiot I would be to make chattel slaves of them. I would have to find them salts and senna when they were sick, and whip them to work when they were lazy.

No, it is not good enough. Under the system I propose the fools would imagine they were all free. I would get a maximum of results, and have no responsibility whatever. They would cultivate the soil; they would dive into the bowels of the earth for its hidden treasures; they would build cities and construct railways and telegraphs; their ships would navigate the ocean; they would work and work, and invent and contrive; their warehouses would be full, their markets glutted, and

The beauty of the whole concern would be That everything they made would belong to me.

It would be this way, you see: As I owned all the land, they would of course, have to pay me rent. They could not reasonably expect me to allow them the use of the land for nothing. I am not a hard man, and in fixing the rent I would be very liberal with them. I would allow them, in fact, to fix it themselves. What could be fairer? Here is a piece of land, let us say, it might be a farm, it might be a building site, or it might be something else - if there was only one man who wanted it, of course he would not offer me much, but if the land be really worth anything such a circumstance is not likely to happen. On the contrary, there would be a number who would want it, and they would go on bidding and bidding one against the other, in order to get it. I should accept the highest offer - what could be fairer? Every increase of population, extension of trade, every advance in the arts and sciences would, as we all know, increase the value of land, and the competition that would naturally arise would continue to force rents upward, so much so, that in many cases the tenants would have little or nothing left for themselves.

In this case a number of those who were hard pushed would seek to borrow, and as for those who were not so hard pushed, they would, as a matter of course, get the idea into their heads that if they only had more capital they could extend their operations, and thereby make their business more profitable. Here I am again. The very man they stand in need of; a regular benefactor of my species, and always ready to oblige them. With such an enormous rent-roll I could furnish them with funds up to the full extent of the available security; they would not expect me to do more, and in the matter of interest I would be equally generous.

I would allow them to fix the rate of it themselves in precisely the same manner as they had fixed the rent. I should then have them by the wool, and if they failed in their payments it would be the easiest thing in the world to sell them out. They might bewail their lot, but business is business. They should have worked harder and been more provident. Whatever inconvenience they might suffer, it would be their concern, and not mine. What a glorious time I would have of it! Rent and interest, interest and rent, and no limit to either, excepting the ability of the workers to pay. Rents would go up and up, and they would continue to pledge and mortgage, and as they went bung, bung, one after another, it would be the finest sport ever seen. thus, from the simple leverage of land monopoly, not only the great globe itself, but everything on the face of it would eventually belong to me. I would be king and lord of all, and the rest of mankind would be my most willing slaves.

It hardly needs to be said that it would not be consistent with my dignity to associate with the common rank and file of humanity; it would not be politic to say so, but, as a matter of fact, I not only hate work but I hate those who do work, and I would not have their stinking carcasses near me at any price. High above the contemptible herd I would sit enthroned amid a circle of devoted worshippers. I would choose for myself companions after my own heart. I would deck them with ribbons and gewgaws to tickle their vanity; they would esteem it an honour to kiss my glove, and would pay homage to the very chair that I sat upon; brave men would die for me, parsons would pray for me, and bright-eyed beauty would pander to my pleasures. For the proper management of public affairs I would have a parliament, and for the preservation of law and order there would be soldiers and policemen, all sworn to serve me faithfully; their pay would not be much, but their high sense of duty would be a sufficient guarantee that they would fulfil the terms of the contract.

Outside the charmed circle of my society would be others eagerly pressing forward in the hope of sharing my favours; outside of these would be others again who would be forever seeking to wriggle themselves into the ranks of those in front of them, and so on, outward and downward, until we reach the deep ranks of the workers forever toiling and forever struggling merely to live, and with the hell of poverty forever threatening to engulf them. The hell of poverty, that outer realm of darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth - the social Gehenna, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched - here is a whip more effective by far than the keenest lash of the chattel slave owner, urging them on by day, haunting their dreams by night, draining without stint the life blood from their veins, and pursuing them with relentless constancy to their graves. In the buoyancy of youth many would start full of hope and with high expectations; but, as they journeyed along, disappointment would follow disappointment, hope would gradually give place to despair, the promised cup of joy would be turned to bitterness, and the holiest affection would become a poisoned arrow quivering in the heart!

What a beautiful arrangement - ambition urging in front, want and the fear of want bringing up the rear! In the conflicting interests that would be involved, in the throat-cutting competition that would prevail, in the bitterness that would be engendered between man and man, husband and wife, father and son, I should, of course, have no part. There would be lying and cheating, harsh treatment by masters, dishonesty of servants, strikes and lockouts, assaults and intimidation, family feuds and interminable broils; but they would not concern Me. In the serene atmosphere of my earthly paradise I would be safe from all evil. I would feast on the daintiest of dishes, and sip wines of the choicest vintage; my gardens would have the most magnificent terraces and the finest walks. I would roam mid the umbrageous foliage of the trees, the blooming flowers, the warbling of birds, the jetting of fountains, and the splashing of pellucid waters. My palace would have its walls of alabaster and domes of crystal, there would be furniture of the most exquisite workmanship, carpets and hangings of the richest fabrics and finest textures, carvings and paintings that were miracles of art, vessels of gold and silver, gems of the purest ray glittering in their settings, the voluptuous strains of the sweetest music, the perfume of roses, the softest of couches, a horde of titled lackeys to come and go at my bidding, and a perfect galaxy of beauty to stimulate desire, and administer to my enjoyment. Thus would I pass the happy hours away, while throughout the world it would be a hallmark of respectability to extol my virtues, and anthems would be everywhere sung in praise.

Archimedes never dreamt of anything like that. Yet, with the earth for my fulcrum and its private ownership for my lever, it is all possible. If it should be said that the people would eventually detect the fraud, and with swift vengeance hurl me and all my courtly parasites to perdition, I answer, "Nothing of the kind, the people are as good as gold, and would stand it like bricks, and I appeal to the facts of today to bear me witness."


Twain on Cecil Rhodes as a land monopolizing enslaver...

What is the secret of his [Cecil Rhodes's] formidable supremacy? One says it is his prodigious wealth--a wealth whose drippings in salaries and and in other ways support multitudes and make them his interested and loyal vassels; another says it is his personal magnetism and his persuasive tongue, and that these hypnotize and make happy slaves of all that drift within the circle of their influence; another says it is his majestic ideas, his vast schemes for the territorial aggrandizement of England, his patriotic and unselfish ambition to spread her beneficent protection and her just rule over the pagan wastes of Africa and make luminous the African darkness with the glory of her name; and another says he wants the earth, wants it for his own, and that the secret belief that he will get it and let his friends in on the ground floor is *the* secret that rivets so many eyse on him and keeps him in the zenith...

I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope as a keepsake... The great bulk of the savages must go. The white man wants their lands, and all must go excepting such percentage of them as he will need to do his work for him on terms determined by himself. Since history has removed the element of guesswork from this matter and made it certainty, the humanest way of diminishing the black population should be adopted, not the old, cruel ways of the past. Mr. Rhodes and his gangs have been following the old ways. They have been chartered to rob and slay, and they lawfully do it, but not in a compassionate and Christian spirit. They rob the Mashonas and the Matabeles of a portion of their territories in the hallowed old style of "purchase" for a song, and then they force a quarrel and take the rest by strong hand. They rob the natives of their cattle under the pretext that all the cattle in the country belonged to the king whom they have tricked and assassinated. They issue "regulations" requiring the incensed and harrassed natives to work for the white settlers, and neglect their own affairs to do it. This is slavery, and it is several times worse than was the American slavery which used to pain England so much; for when the Rhodesian slave is sick, superannuated, or otherwise disabled, he must support himself or starve--his master is under no obligation to support him.

The reduction of the population by Rhodesian methods to the desired limit is a return to the old-time slow-misery and lingering-death system of a discredited time and a crude "civilization." We humanely reduce an overplus of dogs by the swift method of chloroform; the Boer humanely reduced an overplus of blacks by swift suffocation; the nameless but right-hearted Australian pioneer humanely reduced his overplus of aboriginal neighbors by a sweetened swift death concealed in a poisoned pudding. All these are admirable, and worthy of praise; you and I would rather suffer either of these deaths thirty times over on thirty successive days than linger out one of the Rhodesian twenty-year deaths, with its daily burden of insult, humiliation, and forced labor for a man whose entire race the victim hates. Rhodesia is a happy name for that land of piracy and pillage, and puts the right stain upon it. --from *Following the Equator*


From "The Lowest Animal"

Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country-takes possession of it and drives him out of it or destroys him. Man has done this in all the ages. There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed.

Man is the only Slave. And he is the only animal who enslaves. He has always been a slave in one form or another, and has always held other slaves in bondage under him in one way or another. In our day he is always some man's slave for wages, and does that man's work, and this slave has other slaves under him for minor wages, and they do his work. The higher animals are the only ones who do their own work and provide their own living.

Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people's countries, and to keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for "the universal brotherhood of man"-with his mouth.


from an address to Congress on copyrights

(Twain was arguing the injustice that land titles are perpetual but that copyrights are not. He lampoons the oft used claim that people ae entitled to be enriched by land monopoly because of their foresight in realizing that the land will increase in value.)

I put a supposititious case, a dozen Englishmen who travel through South Africa and camp out, and eleven of them see nothing at all; they are mentally blind. But there is one in the party who knows what this harbor means and what the lay of the land means. To him it means that some day a railway will go through here, and there on that harbor a great city will spring up. That is his idea. And he has another idea, which is to go and trade his last bottle of Scotch whiskey and his last horse-blanket to the principal chief of that region and buy a piece of land the size of Pennsylvania.