What do Lindbergh Sr.’s leftist politics tell us about his son’s character and courage?
Said the New York Times editorially of Charles August Lindbergh, Jr., on May 23, 1927: “This clear-headed, clean-lived, modest but daring son of America who… drew the peoples of many nations together in their concentration upon something of their common and supreme admiration” &mdash a sentence which expresses aptly the sentiments of some millions of Americans about their countryman.
Said the New York Times editorially of Charles August Lindbergh, Sr., on May 29, 1918, after commenting on the fact that Mr. Lindbergh, then Nonpartisan League candidate for Governor of Minnesota, had been refused a hall in Duluth for a political speech, and after quoting from his book “Why Is Your Country at War”: “Such is the gospel which Duluth refused to hear. Such is the platform of this candidate of the Nonpartisan League. More fortunate than many of the managers and orators of that concern, Mr. Lindbergh, so far as we know, is not under indictment for sedition”!
It is not entirely fair to the Times, perhaps, so to quote chapter and verse against it in its treatment of the Lindbergh family. It was not the only paper which found the utterances of Lindbergh, Senior, seditious, “Bolshevik,” pacifist, unpatriotic. But in both cases it was voicing the opinion of the majority, it was accepting the current hurrah as gospel. And the Lindberghs, both father and son, have distinguished themselves by refusing to do just this thing: the father would not be stampeded by the patriots into blind acceptance of the war, the son would not permit himself to be swept off his feet by temptations of money, movie fame, vaudeville popularity, or the opportunity of being a nine-days’ wonder in the tabloid press.
Lindbergh, flying without stir or stop across the 3,000-mile gray plain of the Atlantic &mdash that achievement lifts us all on sure wings, we all take part through type and story in his victory, and in a measure we can even understand how with cool head and perfect mechanical sensitiveness this boy arrived beyond the door of miracle.
The post-phenomena of flight have been harder to understand. How a boy of twenty-five, flying into the uproar of applause and idolatry, kept his head, remained simply an aviator, turned down offers of millions for cheap exploitation seemed a more superhuman victory &mdash until one recalled the “Junior” trailing his name like an heraldic banner. It is from his father that young Charles August got his ballast of decisiveness, courage, untouchable naturalness.
In the New York Public Library are two slender volumes, well-read to judge by the thumbmarks, which tell a part of the story of the Lindbergh character.
“Why Is Your Country at War and What Happens to You After the War, and Related Subjects” is the cumbersome title of the father’s volume, published in 1917. When the levees of peace gave way and the World War rushed over the United States, Lindbergh was a Republican member of Congress from Minnesota. He had been in Congress since 1907, with a clear and courageous record all through those ten years, consistently on the side of the Farmer-Labor group, consistently against what he termed the Money Trust and the war-for-profit group.
As early as December, 1915, Lindbergh warned the President: “Speculations and loans in foreign fields are likely to bring us into the war.” On July 15, 1916, he spoke of himself as “inspired by the logic, eloquence, and candor of La Follette.” “I believe that I am as patriotic as any one,” he said. “To be that implies bias in favor of my own country.” And then followed the “huts,” his pacifist, prolabor conscience speaking out, though in the minority: “The war-for-profit group has counterfeited patriotism.” “There is a fourth group, the profiteers of peace, the patrioteers of war, who busy themselves with the other three groups [farmer, wage-earner, business man], exploiting them.” And finally “Peace with universal victory and no defeat is what we must get out of this war; not as a logical result of war, but as a sequence to the absurdity of war.”
Lindbergh was attacked for these pacifist proletarian opinions, naturally. And for saying: “We have been dragged into the war by the intrigue of the speculators.” In June, 1918, the Chicago Tribune staff writer, Arthur M. Evans, wrote of his book: “The reader looks instinctively to see if it bears a German copyright. It doesn’t, but it contains many choice morsels of thought that might be gobbled with relish in Potsdam.” The Tribune’s Washington correspondent telegraphed a report of an attack made by Representative Miller in which Lindbergh was declared “because of the attacks which he has made upon the American government, a friend of the Kaiser.”
In Congressman Lindbergh’s book there is a delightful frontispiece &mdash the two Lindberghs, senior and junior, both very clean and Swedish-looking, the father thoughtfully and courageously sitting for his picture, while young Charles &mdash the world’s young Charles now &mdash a little boy of ten or so, seriously and proudly stands beside his dad.
Lindbergh’s second book, “The Economic Pinch” (Dorrance, Philadelphia, 1923), was written with a pen dipped in hatred &mdash hatred of the so-called Money Trust and of the profiteers who according to his conviction had kept the United States from becoming a leader among nations. The book seethes with his contempt for those who profiteer at the expense of many. His Congressional record showed him fighting the Esch-Cummins Act, the Federal Reserve Act, and instigating the Money Trust Investigation, and the same economic-political background looms large in his book.
Today, as he was a few years ago, Lindbergh’s father would be called Radical, Red, even Bolshevik.
Young Charles is too much a son of his father, we believe, to mind. He will take his victor’s crown on his fair head with a smile; he will be decorated by kings and he will chat with princes; he will even come home on a triumphant warship (whose construction his father fought) &mdash unspoiled. It may be that he will be a flier all his life, a doer of deeds; or it may be that after maturity his broad wings may weary of the empty air-lanes, and he may turn, following his father, to a new but not less spectacular flight in the realm of ideas. For only by the flights of those who are far ahead of the majority is progress in human relations achieved. And liberal leaders of courage and intelligence are almost as rare as trans-Atlantic fliers.