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Our Century: The 1900s | The Nation

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Our Century: The 1900s

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There were almost no headlines in The Nation in the 1900s and 1910s, and no art. In the 1900s, no item was signed, on the principle that an author's views should not be judged by his--always his--renown.

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The Week.

July 26, 1900

THE DISPATCHES FROM the Philippine Islands continue to be made up of the most grotesquely inconsistent statements. A grand peace festival at Manila is announced, at which there will be games and banquets.... The dispatch continues with the statement the campaigning is very active. Two hundred natives were recently attacked by our troops, who killed seventy of them without suffering any casualties. It is further stated...[that] two hundred rebels have been killed since the last report. The censor at Manila evidently needs to pay more attention to his duties, and we fear that he either has no sense of humor, or else is tolerating jokes concerning the policy of the Administration which are not in good taste.


June 8, 1900

More Books for Music Lovers

THE VOLUME [of Negro Melodies transcribed by Mr. Coleridge-Taylor] is prefaced by an interesting biographical sketch and essay on negro music by Booker Washington. When he says that, "apart from the music of the redmen, the negro folk song is the only distinctly American music," he repeats a current misconception which is equally amusing and amazing. For the seventy millions or so of us who are not Indians or negroes, there is vastly more that is American and prophetic of the future of American music in the works of MacDowell, Loomis, Huss, and others, than in all the Indian and negro tunes.


October 18, 1900

IT IS A CURIOUS FACT that missionaries are to-day among the most ardent in urging the United States to lose no time in "stealing" some land away from the Chinese. Thus, even the venerable Mr. Martin of Pekin thinks that "we ought to take...the fine island of Hainan."... [T]aking a fine island is moderation itself compared with the grandiose schemes for doing people good by robbing them of their property which are entertained and expounded by Bishop Thoburn of the Methodist Church. He has discovered that it is "God's manifest plan" to "do away with small nations," and to leave in the world "only six or seven great empires." What particular sauce the small nations may prefer to be eaten with, the good Bishop did not specify. His idea seems to be that his six or seven great empires will live in a kind of Mohammedan Paradise of peace, if for no other reason, because gluttony will have made them torpid.


August 18, 1904


Between the unionists who originally used dynamite to murder their non-union competitors, and the Ku-klux Klan, which, in the interests of the operators, has terrorized whole sections and deported suspects without warrant of the law, there is as little to choose as between the negro ravisher of the South and the miscreant mob that roasts him.

--on the bloody mineworkers' battle in Cripple Creek, Colorado


April 11, 1901

"THE COUNTRY IS bleeding to death. Commerce is languishing. Agriculture is prostrate. Emigration of working-men is taking on alarming proportions, and distress prevails in all parts of the island." Is it of Ireland, does the reader think, that this is said? Or of Crete or Sicily? No, it is said of our own benevolently assimilated Porto Rico, and said by the leading financial and commercial organ of the island, the Boletin Mercantil of San Juan.... In the face of all this, what are we to think of Gov. Allen's official optimism? Why, we are to think that it is official optimism. Its indomitable nature may be sampled in his cheerful explanation of the reasons why laborers are emigrating from Porto Rico by the thousand. They are simply energetic, adventurous fellows who want to better themselves! Would Gov. Allen say the same of Irish emigration? And how did it happen that it never occurred to the emigrants that they were in need of "bettering" until the Americans took over their island?


November 12, 1903

The Panama Dishonor

THE SUDDEN SEPARATION of the State of Panama from Colombia looks unpleasantly like a vulgar plot with "millions in it." Have our consuls, or any of our military officers, intrigued to bring about this artificial revolution?...

...If the alleged republic of Panama got on its legs by itself, and asserted its power against the Government of Bogota, then, after weeks or months, the question of recognition would properly have come before us. At the outset our duty was to keep hands off and await developments. To attempt to force matters--above all, to attempt to smuggle through a canal treaty with the mushroom republic--was shocking....

...At one stroke, however, President Roosevelt and Secretary Hay have thrown American principles to the winds and have committed the country to a policy which is ignoble beyond words.... [A]nd all for what? To aid a struggling people? To take a stand for freedom or for republican institutions? To avert a danger? No; but just for a handful of silver, just for a commercial advantage which we ought all to spurn if not come by honorably. For this we have hurried into relations with the seceded State of Panama without giving Colombia a day's notice! It is the most ignominious thing we know of in the annals of American diplomacy.


December 29, 1904

"COROLLARIES OF the Monroe Doctrine"...which Mr. Root [War Secretary] dwelt upon at the New England dinner on Thursday night related to...our duty to make all American republics "just." He declared that the correlative of saying Hands off to foreign Powers was saying to ourselves Hands on.... Is the quality of justice strained? Can a people be filled with the spirit of justice at the same time that they are with cannon shot? Do we mean that the republics to the south of us will be just when they do just what we order? Such are the puzzles which confront us when we begin wandering among corollaries of the Monroe Doctrine.


January 26, 1905

IF ONLY BECAUSE the Fall River strike was the greatest ever known in the textile industry of this country, its settlement last week is of high importance.... Thousands of [workers] have been brought to the edge of starvation; and, as they go back to the mills at the 12 1/2per cent reduction in wages against which they struck on July 25, 1904, it must be clear to them now that the strike was a mistake from the beginning.... Gov. Douglas deserves praise for having brought his business knowledge and good relations with the employees so happily to bear. To the mill-owners, also, credit is due for having consented to an expert examination of their business, so as to prove to the public that they have paid as high wages as possible. This is a kind of voluntary publicity wholly admirable.


September 7, 1905

A Disease of Civilization

THE OLD QUESTION whether insanity increases as civilization advances is still open....

We are told that the industrial and commercial life of the present is so intense and rapid that even strong men bend and break under the pressure. There is work without recreation, excitement without rest, gayety without pleasure--in short, nervous expenditure without corresponding satisfaction....

...Fatigue, disease, and madness invite intemperance. It is not the intemperance of a former generation--the drunkenness of the three-bottle squire or of the luxurious rich. It is the intemperance of the poor, of the hard-worked men and women who live from hand to mouth, and who seek to bring a momentary idealism into their lives by an artificial stimulus. There are preparations of drugs innumerable, advertised everywhere, to add fuel to the fire beneath the cracked boiler.... Cities like flaming lamps attract the multitudes like moths. Bad sanitary conditions and crowded tenements beget weak bodies and weak minds, breed immorality and consequent disease. Thus the idea has become more or less prevalent that society is going downhill....

But this pessimistic conclusion is greatly weakened by other considerations of equal importance.... Almost all those who now suffer from mental diseases are sent to asylums.... Better accommodations for the patients, a greater number of institutions, the frequency of cures, the tendency to regard insanity as a disease like any other disease, and not as a moral obliquity--all these causes make people more ready to go or to send their afflicted relatives to public or private asylums for better care.


December 6, 1900

EVERY SIGN OF awakened conscience on the subject of our national disgrace, the lynching habit, is surely to be welcomed; and the Chicago protest...was of good augury. But the eagerness to get the President to "refer to the matter in his message to Congress" was disconcerting. Did not the movers of the resolutions know that a President's message is the graveyard of pious sentiments...? Very likely there was also, in this curious desire to induce the President to take official notice of lynching, a vague feeling that, in this way, we might salve our consciences. A sin officially deprecated can scarcely be charged up against us. We will stay the recording angel's hand by reminding him that our Chief Magistrate really wishes we would be good. As for the President's...actually recommending anti-lynching legislation, that was, of course, out of the question. The only place in which the United States, as a nation, can intervene to protect the lives of black men is in the Philippines. Our soldiers there habitually describe their present occupation as "nigger-killing." That the President can order stopped; he can do nothing to punish negro-slayers in Colorado or the South.


October 5, 1905


It is not probable that Socialism of any kind will make many converts among our younger university men, even those who have tasted the joys of collectivism under an athletic director at the training-table.

--"A Propaganda of Socialism"


October 25, 1906

THE EFFECT OF such a verdict [convicting Standard Oil of conspiracy] cannot be measured in dollars and cents. It represents the triumph of the law over the most dangerous and cynical of industrial corporations. We retain our belief that there is very limited help for present evils in mulcting those fictitious and fabulously wealthy personalities we call Trusts. We note that Jack the Giant Killer struck not at the pockets, but at the necks, of his foes. When we see a few high managers of criminal corporations wearing prison garb we shall be within hailing distance of real reform.


September 3, 1908

The Motor-Car Problem

THE MOTOR CAR has admittedly come to stay because of its marvelous convenience and because it is, when properly used, a genuine aid to good health. But how shall it be regulated?... Naturally, the wildest remedies have been suggested. There are men who think that every automobile should be so geared as to make it impossible to run more than twenty miles an hour. Others would compel the construction of motors that would not suck up the dust. The speed and the dust seem to be the chief causes of complaint....

...Many persons think the horn the worst feature; others are certain that if it is forbidden the number of accidents will increase--a point of view that seems to us correct.... Lord Willoughby de Broke voiced the prevailing sentiment...that the government should relentlessly compel a speed of ten or twelve miles an hour in all inhabited places.... Mr. Long, the author of the existing motor act,...would have no speed-limit and would hold every one responsible for the damage he does.


June 8, 1905

THE MUTINY ON the Kniaz Potemkin and murder of officers; the landing at Odessa of the dead body of an alleged victim of naval brutality, to be buried as if on a funeral pyre amid the flaming warehouses and shipping of the port fired by a demoniacal mob; the terrorizing of the port by the man-of-war; the failure of the rest of the fleet to molest it; its seeking provisions and coal in a Rumanian port and forcible expulsion, and its present piratic wandering in the Black Sea flying the red flag--this is the very climax of weirdness and mystery.

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