Category Archives: Historical Perspectives

The Gurkhas: A fighting race.

From The New Review – 1909


ACCORDING to Sir Charles Dilke, who has dealt with this subject at some length in his “Problems of Greater Britain,” the only native soldiers fit to be placed in the field in Afghanistan are Gurkhas, Sikhs, Pathans, Afridies, and the best of the Punjab Mussulmans. This view is not universally accepted, but undoubtedly the races he specifies do furnish the best soldiers of our Indian army, and it is rather significant that with the exception of the Sikhs and Punjabis, they are all found outside our dominions. The recent disaster in Manipur has brought the Gurkhas more especially to the notice of the public, and in this article it is proposed to go briefly over their military history since we came i in contact with them, describing their characteristics and merits as fighting men, and to examine the credentials they can adduce of their worthiness to stand in line of battle shoulder to shoulder with British troops.

As is well known, the Gurkhas inhabit the hill districts of Nepaul which separate that kingdom from our northern territory. They are a mixed race (except the western tribes, who are the best fighting men), and are supposed to be the descendants of Hindu refugees who fled from before the Mussulman invasion and the Mongol tribes inhabiting the Nepaulese hills. Be that as it may, their physiognomy is of an unmistakably Chinese or Tartar character, with small eyes, fiat noses, and meagre whiskers. They are sturdily built, but in stature are very short; the average height of a Gurkha soldier cannot be much over five feet three inches. The present writer remembers, when his own was brigaded with two Gurkha regiments at a camp of exercise at Delhi many years ago, the difficulty, almost impossibility, experienced by the British riflemen, themselves not tall men, of conforming to the short, quick step of the Gurkhas when marching past with them. In those days there were some very old soldiers among them; one native officer was a white-haired veteran of fifty-two years’ service, but he still appeared hale and hearty. But comparatively few as his inches are, the Gurkha is a man every inch of him, and he is a standing proof that height is not a sine qud non in a soldier if his heart is in the right place and if his physique in other respects is satisfactory. It is true that in England a diminutive stature is apt to be accompanied by a diminutive chest, but still I am not sure that too much importance is not attached to the height standard.

No doubt, other things being equal, a good big man is better than a good little man, but there must be no mistake in the former quality. A tall, growing lad wants more nourishment than a short one, and in the classes from which our recruits are drawn this is not always or even often sufficiently procurable. It may well be doubted whether for the wear and tear of a campaign the cobby man of five feet five inches is not often far more effective than his more elongated comrade of six feet. I remember a Crimean veteran telling me his experience. He was only five feet four inches, and had great difficulty in being accepted as a recruit, but as he was of sturdy build an exception was made in his favor. I quote his own picturesque language : ” While it was peace I was always hid away in the centre of the rear rank and kept out of sight as much as possible, but when we come to the Crimea I never missed a hour’s duty the ‘ole time, and did the work of many a tall man dead or sick, and at Inkerman a bullet went through the ‘air of my ‘ead, which if I ‘ad been a inch higher it would have gone through my ‘ead.” However, this is a digression, and, to return to the Gurkhas no additional inches are required in his case to make a splendid fighting soldier.

Whether it is fighting hand to hand with the bayonet or with his national weapon, the kukri, a murderous-looking curved knife with the sharp edge on the inside like a sickle, or at long range with the modern arms of precision, is all one to him, and he thoroughly enjoys himself either charging or skirmishing. These kukris in their hands are formidable weapons; with them they can bisect goats or decapitate a bullock, and, of course, can use them on the human body with equal effect. In one of our frontier expeditions the Pathans were retreating up the hillside, pursued by some Gurkhas. One of them, the smallest man in his regiment, got above the. track by which the enemy were retreating, crouched behind a rock, and on a tall Pathan stopping just below him to fire, sprang out at him, and, as related to me by an eye-witness, cut his head in two like a pumpkin. Another eye-witness told roe that in the Mutiny he saw some Sepoys take refuge in a house, and a little Gurkha crouch down by a window, watching for his opportunity like a cat by a mouse hole. After some waiting a Pandy Cut his head cautiously out to reconnoitre, but he never drew it in again, the Gurkha having cut it off with a single blow. It must be confessed that there is something of the savage in the Gurkha, and his employment against a European enemy might be objected to by some over-sensitive philanthropists; but, after all, if you are to be killed in action, it does not matter much whether your head is sliced in two by a kukri or pierced by a bullet from a Mark II. magazine rifle, which, I suppose, may be taken as the most civilized lethal weapon now before the public. The Gurkhas are Hindus in religion, but they are not always averse to alcoholic indulgence or to hobnobbing with their English comrades, and in more than one instance very close bonds of union exist between British and Gurkha regiments. Thus the 4th Battalion Rifle Brigade and the 4th Gurkhas started an acquaintance when brigaded together at the Delhi camp of exercise in 1875, and this ripened into close friendship under the more exciting circumstances of the Afghan war of 1878.

The men used to help to pitch and strike each other’s tents; they drank tea, and perhaps rather stronger beverages, and gambled mildly with each other; on Christmas day each rifle company presented two sheep to the corresponding Gurkha company, which compliment, with the addition of a dram of rum per man, was returned later on; the Rifle Brigade presented the Gurkhas with a musketry challenge shield and a silver bugle. A similar brotherhood arose between the Sirmoor Gurkha Battalion (now the 2nd Gurkhas) and the 60th Royal Rifles during their association on the Ridge at Delhi in 1857, and the next time they met a symposium of a somewhat Bacchanalian character took place. This alliance was, I believe, renewed twenty years later in the Afghan war, though with a different battalion of the Rifles. This feeling should be encouraged and fostered whenever it exists, and if it became universal would do more than anything to weld our two Indian armies into one homogeneous whole. There does not seem to be the same tendency on the part of the Gurkhas to fraternize with other native regiments to the same extent. On the eve of the Mutiny a detachment of them in the musketry camp at Umballa asked leave to pitch their tents among those of the British troops, as they did not like being mixed up with the fcala log (black fellows).

Nor bad they any sympathy whatever with the latter in their aversion to the greased cartridges, the issue of which was one of the immediate causes of the outbreak; in fact, they asked that these cartridges should be served out to them for use at target practice. The restrictions of caste do not seem to press at all heavily on them, especially in war time, a great advantage whenever they serve outside India.

For many years there were not more than three or four battalions of Gurkhas in our service, and these were mostly composed of the best fighting type. It must be remembered that Gurkhas are not all alike, and the best of them are not always procurable. The fighting tribes are only found in three of the western districts of Nepaul, and though men from further east have served in considerable numbers in our ranks, those who have had experience of them do not consider them I equal to the real fighting class of Gurkhas found in the west. At first there does not seem to have been much difficulty in recruiting, but after a time the Nepaulese government, and especially Jung Bahadur, the famous prime minister, began to object to the loss of so many of their best fighting men, and serious obstacles were thrown in the way of the recruiting parties.

Men were more or less smuggled out of Nepaul, and some lost their lives in the attempt. It would have been difficult to keep up the regiments from foreign sources only — it took three years to fill up the ranks of the Sirmoor Battalion after Delhi — but a new and excellent supply of recruits became available in the “line boys.” These were the sons of soldiers, who, as a rule, were looking forward to the time when they could enlist and serve side by side with their fathers.

They were pure bred Gurkhas — when men were scarce, recruiting parties were sometimes encouraged to bring back Gurkha women, who found husbands in the regiments —and were as good as the foreign born recruits. Gurkhas could never return to Nepaul; hence a proposal was made to colonize a portion of the Dhoon country with discharged soldiers, and a scheme with this object was submitted to government by Sir Charles Reid, of Delhi renown, commandant of the 2nd Gurkhas, but nothing came of it, though it seems to have been practicable and desirable.The first experience we had of the fighting qualities of the Gurkhas in the Nepaulese war of 1814-16, when our troops met them as enemies for the only time in their history. This war was not one that added much to the laurels of our army. Though we put in the field the very considerable force of over twenty thousand regular troops, and some ten thousand irregulars, while it is doubtful if the Gurkhas had half that number, it took two years’ tough fighting to bring them to terms. The first year’s campaigning was almost entirely in their favor, but it must be added that the incapacity of most of the brigadiers employed contributed greatly to the unfortunate results. In this war the Gurkhas displayed against us all the splendid martial qualities which have been conspicuous on a hundred battlefields since, when they have been fighting shoulder to shoulder with British troops against Jats, Marathas, Sikhs, Sepoy mutineers, Afghans, Pathans, Malays, and Burmans.

N.G. Lyttleton


Extracted  from ‘The Historians History of the World’ – 1909

Ragnar Lodbrok and his heirs

The remarkable history of this Scandinavian adventurer has been so obscured by conflicting traditions and poetical embellishments as to create considerable difficulty in reconciling the chronology and other circumstances of his life with the accounts given in the Frankish and Anglo-Saxon annals.

The anachronism is generally explained by supposing two piratical chiefs of the same name, although this seems hardly consistent with the Sagas and other ancient Icelandic writings. All the northern chronicles agree in the main particulars related of the prince who reigned in Denmark and Sweden  in the latter part of the eighth century, and who could not, therefore, be the formidable invader that infested France and England about the middle of the ninth. It is not improbable, however, that the chieftain whose  exploits have been confounded with those of the more ancient Ragnar, was a prince of Jutland, whose real name was Ragenfrid, or Regnier, who became a  seaking on being expelled from his dominions in the time of Harold Klak (827), and subsequently invaded France under the reign of Louis le Debonnaire.

Without venturing to narrate the wars and piracies of this redoubted monarch, or the extraordinary feats of courage ascribed to him by Saxo we may record what tradition states as to the cause and singular manner of his death. While ruling his dominions in peace, his jealousy was excited by rumours of the daring achievements of his sons in various regions of Europe; and he determined to undertake an expedition that should rival their name. Two vessels were built of immense size, such as had never  before been seen in the North. ” The arrow,  the signal of war, was sent through all his kingdoms, to summon his champions to arms. With this apparently inadequate force he set sail, contrary to the advice of his queen, Aslauga, who presented him with a magical garment to ward off danger.

After suffering from storms and shipwreck, he landed on the coast of Northumberland, which had been so often ravaged by his predecessors. Jura, the Saxon king of that country, collected his forces to repel the invader. A battle ensued, wherein the valiant Dane, clothed in his enchanted robe, and wielding the huge spear with which he had slain the guardian serpent of the princess Thora, four times pierced the enemy’s ranks, dealing death on every side, whilst his own person was invulnerable. But the contest was unequal; his warriors fell one by one around him, until he was at last taken prisoner, stripped of his miraculous vest, and thrown alive (as the Saga relates), by order of (CHECK), into a dungeon full of serpents, in the midst of which he expired with a laugh of defiance, chanting the famous death-song called the Lodbrokar-cruidaf or Biarkcanal, which he is alleged to have composed in that horrible prison.

This ancient lay mentions his ravaging the coast of Scotland, and his battle with three kings of Erin at Lindis Eiri. The English chronicles also allude to the same invasion, when they relate that the monastery of St. Cuthbert, in the isle of Lindisfarne (Holy Island), was plundered in 793 by a band of pagan rovers from Denmark and Norway; and that their leader was taken the following year, and put to death in a cruel manner by the natives.

The life of this hero is represented as an uninterrupted course of wise measures, noble actions, and glorious victories; for not only did the British Isles quail at the terror of his name — the prowess of his arms was also felt by the Saxons, Russians, and Greeks on the distant Hellespont.

At the time when the father perished, the sons were engaged in foreign piracies; and the first news of his tragical fate they received after their return, while feasting in their hall, from the messengers sent by Jura to propitiate their anger. The Saga-men have carefully preserved their names, and the pastimes in which they were engaged. Sigurd Snogoje (Snake-eye) CHECK red at chess with Huitserk the Brave, whilst Bjorn Ironside polished the die of his spear. Ivar diligently inquired what kind of death Ragnar had suffered; and when the deputies narrated the dreadful story, and mentioned the words of the expiring king, “how the young cubs would rage when they learned their sire’s fate,” the youths ceased their amusements, and vowed instant revenge. An expedition, led by eight crowned heads and twenty jarls, and composed of the various Scandinavian tribes, was again directed against England. In a battle which took place at York, the Anglo-Saxons were entirely routed; Jura, being made prisoner, was subjected to the most barbarous treatment. According to a strange and savage custom of the vikings, the sons of Lodbrok ordered the figure of an eagle to be cut in the fleshy part of his back, the ribs to be severed from the spine, and the lungs extracted through the aperture. After this victory Northumbria appears no more as a Saxon kingdom; Ivar took possession of the sovereignty, while the rest of the Northmen wasted and conquered the country as far as the mouth of the Thames.

Sigurd Snake-eye inherited the Danish crown, but was slain in a battle with the Franks (803 A.D.), after extending his sway over all Jutland, CHECK, Halland, and part of Norway. Bjorn was placed on the throne of Sweden; and a third brother Gottrik (Gudrod or Godefrid), became king of Jutland, which again asserted its independence. The latter prince, by attempting to expel a troublesome colony of the Abodriti, planted on the Elbe by Charlemagne, involved himself in a quarrel with that powerful emperor, who was then carrying on a bloody war of extermination against the pagan Saxons, for refusing to be converted to Christianity. Gottrik for some time harassed his imperial adversary; and appearing with a fleet of two hundred barks on the coast of Friesland, he landed at three different points, dispersed the natives, slew their duke, Rurik, and levied an assessment of 100 pounds weight of silver, which the Frisians brought to his treasury and threw into a copper basin in his presence. Judging from the sound that the tributemoney was debased with alloy, he ordered every coin to be confiscated that did not ring to his satisfaction.

This daring marauder even attempted to take the emperor by surprise, in his palace at Aix-la-Chapelle; but he was himself cut off in the midst of his designs (810 A.D.) by the hand of aassassin. Charlemagne entered into a treaty with Hemming, the nephew and successor of Gottrik (813 A.D.), which stipulated that the Eider should form the boundary between Denmark and the Frankish Empire — the Danes thus abandoning all their conquests southward of that limit Harde-Knud, the heir of Sigurd, being young at the time of his father’s death, was left to the guardianship of his uncle Gottrik, regent of the kingdom.

During the prince’s minority, grievous commotions had arisen. Jutland threw off its allegiance, and the sovereignty was fiercely contested between the sons of Gottrik and Harold Klak, a petty king of Schleswig, and father of Rurik, who had taken violent possession of Friesland. He was repeatedly driven from his dominions, and his flight became remarkable as the means of shedding the first rays of Christianity over the pagan darkness of the North. In the peace which Charlemagne had concluded with Hemming, that politic conqueror did not attempt to impose his religion upon the Danes, which would have been rejected by them as a badge of slavery. However anxious to reclaim them from their wild and barbarous habits, he was unwilling to excite a spirit of hostility that might have spread to the bordering nations, by interfering with their obstinate attachment to idolatry.The achievement of this desirable object was reserved for his son and successor. Louis le D6bonnaire, whose court at Ingelheim, on the Rhine, was visited (826 A.D.), by the exiled prince of Jutland, accompanied with his Queen, his sons, and a numerous retinue, in a fleet of a hundred galleys. Here the solicitations of the emperor and his prelates induced Harold to
renounce the errors of paganism. His wife and children, and many of his followers, were baptised, having solemnly abjured, according to a rude formula still extant, ” the works and words of the devil, of Thor, and
Woden, and Saxon Odin, with all the evil spirits, their confederates.”

After the ceremony, the royal convert proceeded in his white garments to the imperial palace, where he received rich baptismal presents of mantles, jewels, armour, and other gifts. The day was ended with a magnificent festival, in which every means were lavished to impress the Danes with a lively idea of the pomp and splendour of the Romish religion, as well as the wealth and power of the Franks.

Sale’s brigade in Afghanistan





by George Robert Gleig


Afghanistan—Its Geographical Position, Climate, and Productions.

IT is impossible to fix, with any degree of accuracy, the present
limits of the kingdom of Cabul. When visited by Mr. Elphinstone
in 1809, it was said to extend from the west of Heraut in
longitude 62°, to the eastern portion of Cashmere in longitude
77° E.; and from the mouth of the Indus in latitude 24° to the
Oxus in latitude 37° N. It comprehended, according to the
nomenclature of our best works, the districts of Afghanistan and
Segistan, with part of Khorassan and of Makran; Balk with
Tokerstan and Kelan; Cuttore, Cabul, Sindey, and Cashmere,
together with a portion of Lahore and the greater part of Moultan.
But besides that, even in 1809, the obedience paid to the
king by many of these provinces was rather nominal than real,
the subsequent progress of events has materially crippled his
power, and contracted his dominions. When we speak, therefore,
of the Doorannee empire as being bounded on the north by
the Hindoo Cush, or Indian Caucasus, on the east by Hindostan,
by the Arabian sea on the south, and by Persia on the west, it
must be understood as assigning to it rather the limits by which
in theory it is circumscribed, than the extent of territory throughout
the whole of which the authority of the nominal government
is recognised.

The population of the country thus marked out has been taken at numbers varying from fifteen to nine millions. Probably the latter will be found to come, under existing circumstances, as near to the truth as the former. It is composed of many different races, of which the principal are Afghans, Belochees,

Tartars of all descriptions, Persians, including Tanjiks, Indians, such as Cashmerians, Juts, &c.; besides miscellaneous tribes, which are neither numerically considerable, nor exercise any
great moral or political influence in society.

The face of the country is very much diversified, being intersected in all directions by mountain ranges, which increase in altitude as you descend from the shores of the Arabian sea and the
great plain of the Indus, till you reach the foot of that branch of the Himalayahs, to which the name of the Hindoo Cush has
been given. The principal of these are the Khybeiry hills,
which follow the course of the Indus on both sides as far down
as Korrabaugh, or Callabaugh, in latitude 38° S.; the Suliman
mountains, which lie mainly to the west of this river, and push out
numerous spurs, till they connect themselves with the mountains
of Kund; the table-land, or rugged highlands of Kelaut; the
Khojak mountains; the Gaudava mountains; the Bolan; the
hills about Ghuznee; and, finally, the steep ridges which overhang
the elevated plain of Cabul on every side, and gradually lose
themselves towards the north and east in the great Indian Caucasus.
A country thus ribbed, and of which the elevation is everywhere
considerable, cannot but be, upon the whole, barren and
unproductive. A large proportion of its surface is mere rock ;
and the pasturage in the mountainous districts, though excellent
here and there, is generally scanty. Nevertheless, the valleys
which pass to and fro among the hills are remarkable for the
fertility of their soil, producing in abundance almost all the herbs
and fruits which thrive both in Asia and in Europe: for the
climate of Afghanistan (it may be best to use this term as
generic of the whole) differs greatly for the better from that of
Hindostan ; the heat in summer being generally less intense, and
the cold in winter more severe. Indeed, the snow, which never
melts upon the summits of many hills besides the Hindoo Cush,
comes down in smart showers upon the plains in the season, and
the ice on stagnant waters is often of such a consistency as to
Buatain both men and horses, as in the north of Europe.

The waters of Afghanistan are the Indus—with, its innumerable 

tributaries,—the rivers of Cabul, Kauskur and Helmund,

the Urghutidaub, the Khashrooa, the Ochus, a lake
near Cabul, and canals and watercourses innumerable, which
have been cut among the hills in different districts for purposes
of irrigation. Its animal productions are as varied as
the varieties perceptible in its soil. In addition to the wild
beasts which thrive among ourselves, there are to be found
here lions, tigers, panthers, hyaenas, wolves, and bears. Both
the lions and the tigers appear to be inferior in point of size
and ferocity to those of Africa, and the plains of the Ganges;
but they do considerable damage at times to the flocks and herds,
and are occasionally, though not often, destructive to human
life. One breed of horses— that reared in the district of Heraut—
is excellent; the rest are for the most part yaboos or ponies, but
they are exceedingly hardy and sure of foot, and, as well as
camels and asses, are numerous. There is no lack of cattle, and
sheep and goats are abundant. We find here, also, dogs, some
of which, especially the greyhounds, would be highly prized in
Leicestershire; hawks, trained and untrained; for falconry is a
favourite sport with the Afghan chiefs; and, as to domestic
poultry, every species which you meet in England is to be met
with here. Insects and reptiles likewise abound; but of the
latter few are dangerous, for all of the serpent kind appear to be
harmless ; and the bite of the centipede and scorpion, though it
may trouble for a while, has never been known to prove fatal.
Finally, the herbage, wherever it finds soil on which to grow,
is to the eye of a European peculiarly attractive, while most of
the trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits, grain, and grasses which come
to perfection in the temperate regions thrive here, with many
which require the suns of a tropical climate to mature and bring
them to perfection.

The state of society in Afghanistan is now, and seems from
time immemorial to have been, entirely different from that which
prevails in other countries of Asia. In name the government
is monarchical; but the authority of the monarch, except in
the great towns and throughout the districts immediately dependent
upon them, extends no farther over his subjects than
the authority of the first Jameses extended in Scotland over the

clans which occupied the most inaccessible of the highland districts.

Indeed, the Afghans bear, in this respect, a striking
resemblance to the Celtic portions of the population both of
Scotland and of Ireland, that they are divided into tribes, clans,
and septs, which pay little or no obedience, in the internal management
of their affairs, to any power except that of custom and
of their chiefs. To be sure, there is a point in which the spirit
of clanship in Afghanistan acts differently, and on principle too,
from its manner of operation either in Scotland or in Ireland.
In the latter countries the head of the tribe used to demand and
obtain the fealty of his clansmen to his person ;’ in the former
this fealty is paid more to the community than to the chief: and
hence it comes to pass that there is much more of individual
independence of character among the Afghans than seems to
have prevailed among the ancestors of the MacNeils or the
O’Connors; for though there are instances in the history of
the Celtic clans of the setting aside by his people of one chief
and the appointment on the same authority of another, the proceeding
was not only rare in itself, but seems never to have been
resorted to except in the last emergency; whereas in Afghanistan
the practice is of constant occurrence as often as by the
representatives of the principal families the chief is held to be
incompetent; or is found guilty of having transgressed those unwritten
laws which are understood by all, and by all reverenced
and obeyed from one generation to another.

The principal tribes among the Afghans are four, which
branch off respectively into a countless number of clans. These
are the Doorannees, the Ghilzies or Ghiljies, the Khyberrees, and
the Belooches, of which the Doorannees have, for the last hundred
years, possessed a preponderating political influence, though the
Ghilzies are perhaps numerically the stronger, and, as individuals,
assert the utmost conceivable share of personal independence.
The latter, indeed, are noted, even among the wild tribes of the
Caucasus, for their ferocity. Portions of them, which inhabit
the regions between Cabul and Jellalabad, have doubtless been
reduced, by the weight of the crown, to a certain show of order;
but the clans which dwell in the districts that extend from
Candahar to Ghuznee are described as removed by a very slight
bar from savageism. Two of these, the Oktaks and the Tohkees,

are said by one who sojourned a good while among them,

to be, as regards their male population, ” unsurpassed by any
other Afghan tribe for commanding stature and strength ;” but
it cannot be added that they use these advantages well, for
“their manners are brutal,” and the violence of their chiefs,
in their intercourse with strangers, is often such ” that they can
scarcely be considered in the light of human beings.” Neither
can much be stated in praise of their gentleness, whatever other
I good quality may be possessed by the Khyberree septs. They
rob all merchants, travellers, and strangers whom they can waylay,
and practise perpetual forays on the lands of their neighbours
; but they never murder in cold blood. An individual may
be slain in the attempt to defend his property ; a whole kaffela
or caravan may be cut to pieces ; but such an event as a deliberate
assassination, except for the furtherance of a political end,
seems to be unknown among them. Like their Celtic prototypes
they are, moreover, hospitable in the extreme, and as ready
to give a cloak to one wayfaring man who may need it, as to
take a cloak away from another whom they may attack. If you
throw yourself upon them in their own homes, you may almost
always assure yourself of protection; but it does not by any
means follow that, having escorted you to the extreme limits of
their territory, and seen you fairly across the line, they shall not
fall upon you the next minute and plunder you of every article
of value that you possess.

Historical Perspective on the Federal Reserve

We now have more need than ever for wise advice, so I have been delving around in our archives to see how our forefathers handled financial crises in the past. With this in mind I have included in this posting a few paragraphs from a debate between Professor Edwin Seligman, head of the Department of Economics at Columbia University, and Professor Scott Nearing from the Rand School of Social Science.

The stated premise of the debate is that “Capitalism has more  to offer to the workers of the United States than has Socialism.” Professor Seligman speaks in support of the motion, and Professor Nearing opposes the proposition. The debate occurred on 23rd of January 1921 at the Lexington Theatre, New York City.

The debate was prefaced by  a 1911 editorial from the New York Nation magazine by Hammond Lamont who said..

“Convinced though we are that the reasoning of the socialists is fallacious, we incline to the belief that a socialist agitation may in the long run prove beneficial to this country. We were opposed to the free coinage of silver, and yet we are convinced that the two great political campaigns in which that subject was treated so fully in the press and on the platform were extremely valuable in their educational effect. Thousands, nay, millions, of men and women who had grown up without the slightest notion of economics in general and finance in particular, became fairly well versed in the topic; they were made more intelligent and better citizens; and in the end they sustained the principle of sound money. In like manner Socialism may be the means of widening intellectual horizons; it may lay before Americans a new view of some of the larger questions of life—far larger than the petty tenets of trades-unionism. It may set us to thinking; and the salvation of a republic depends upon the efforts of its citizens to think seriously about its affairs.

For one thing, Socialism is eminently a peace movement; it is steadily opposed to militarism; and it will thus help us to see more clearly the silliness of the huge naval and military expenditures in which we seem bound to rival the groaning nations of Europe. And as for other questions—we cannot believe that error will permanently prevail over truth. We are confident that individualism, in its main features, is the policy which has formed and which must preserve our institutions. But if we conservatives are mistaken, we cannot but welcome a discussion which shall open our eyes and set us right. Our attitude toward this topic, as towards any other which touches the vitals of our nation, must be that of readiness to defend our faith in open forum, to meet and conquer with reason.”

Extract from Professor Nearing…

The United States I said was owned by capitalists— worse than that owned by capitalist corporations, owned impersonally, not by individuals who have made their pile and bought their machinery -owned by Trusts, owned by great organizations with their stocks and their bonds and their big business mechanisms. I wish I had time to read you this last report of the National City Bank to show you how that ownership works out. Here is a list of the Board of Directors. This is the biggest bank in North America. Here is a list of Board of Directors: Percy A. Rockefeller, William Rockefeller, J. Ogden Armour, Nicholas F. Brady of the New York Edison Company, Cleveland H. Dodge, Philip A. S. Franklin, etc. What is the National City Bank? Why, it is the center of a great web of economic power. Here is the report issued by the Pujo Committee. At the center of the spider’s web, they put a great banking concern, J. P. Morgan & Company and around that banking concern, they group railroads, public utilities, industries, mines and other forms of industrial enterprise. At the center of the power lies the strength and the weakness of the system, lies the banker. I have not time to dwell on that further than to call your attention to this fact that the Federal Reserve System with its 30,000 banks and its Board of Directors, sitting in one place around the table, has more power than any single Institution on the face of the civilized earth, and that Federal Reserve System is in private hands. It is privately owned practically. It is under government supervision, yes, but the Federal Reserve System is the nerve center, the center of authority, the center of power and what are they going to do with this control that they exercise through their banking machine? I want to read you a paragraph from a weekly letter sent by one business house to its clients. “The War taught employing classes in America the secret and power of wide-spread propaganda. Now, when we have anything to sell to the American people, we know how to sell it. We have learned. We have the schools, we have the pulpit.”

The employing class owns the Press, the economic power centering in the banks, schools, pulpit, press, movie screen, all the power of wide-spread propaganda now. “When we have something to sell to the American people, we know how to sell it. Slavery—going to the boss and asking for the privilege of a job;—slavery—sending your child to school and having him pumped full of virulent propaganda in favor of the present system. Slavery in every phase of life all tied up under this one banker’s control. Is it true that no man is good enough to rule another man without that man’s consent? Is that still true in America or in the world? If that be true, every worker in the shop shall have the right to say who shall exercise authority over him in the shop. Every worker in an industry has the right to pick these or help these members as Board of Directors. Do you suppose the workers in the National City Bank elected William Rockefeller and Percy Rockefeller and J. Ogden Armour?. In the United States, a worker goes to work on a machine owned by the boss. He works on materials owned by the boss. He turns out a product owned by the boss. He lives in a country where the organized power of the boss concentrated in the banking system is supreme over every phase of life. He is a slave—industrial slave—because he cannot call one economic right his own and we Socialists want to have industry not only owned by those who participate in it but we want to have those who participate in industry direct the industry in which they participate. Industrial self-control, self-government in industry as Mr. Cole has put it—that is all—simple ideas— ownership by the worker of his own job, the control by a man of his own economic life.


After carefully reading the the rest of the debate I decided against including the arguments of Professor Seligman. Professor Nearings argument seems to strike more of a chord with me – especially considering the seemingly forced adoption of Socialism that we now appear to be entering.

You can of course read the full debate in our archives at the Ultrapedia library…