Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

That was an answer worthy of the "Times" at its best. Delane was speaking greatly of a great trade. I am quite content not to put it higher than that. I do not claim to be engaged in an art or a profession.

In a similar way, Lord Northcliffe, while he was successful-that is, up till middle life-was a true trader in news even if not one who could claim to be very well inspired or very thoughtful or very reflective. The moment, however, that he began to use the great lever he had forged for other purposes than those for which it was meant he got into difficulties and began to lose his influence. Curiously enough, in some confused way Lord Northcliffe seemed to have realized this himself. Only a few months ago, in a wild pamphlet which he wrote about millionaire newspaper proprietors, he made a vehement attack on men who owned newspapers, not because they wanted to carry on a successful trade, but because they had ulterior motives. With a good deal of his invective on this point I found myself in agreement. Un

fortunately, however, Lord Northcliffe was like the lady of whom Congreve wrote in his famous poem:

She is the thing that she despises. He was all the time doing the very thing that he was denouncing-i. e., the man who used his papers, not for trade, but for other purposes.

Before I end this sketch of Lord Northcliffe and the journalistic lessons of his career I want to say once more that, though I have had to speak plainly about him, I am strongly touched by the tragic irony of his end. I should have been only too glad if I could have honestly said, "At any rate, he succeeded in doing what he tried to do." Respect for the truth will only let me say that he succeeded in this up till the middle of his life, and then that the abundance of his success led him to failure. How this came about is easily seen by any one who regards the facts of his life. When still a very young man, and without experience he was not one of the people who possessed an intuitive knowledge of life and men-he reached a position in

which he was toadied, flattered, and cajoled by the majority of those with whom he came in contact.

Considering the temptations to which he was exposed, and considering also the facts of his career, one might very well say that the wonder was, not that he suffered a kind of intellectual shipwreck, but that he did not do a great deal more harm than he in fact did. That, in my opinion, is the just view, and, being so, I feel bound to record it.

I have a word to add by way of postscript. My readers may think it strange that I have said nothing about Lord Northcliffe and the part he played in the war. I have not dealt with his war record because I believe that his influence on the war was absurdly exaggerated. If, then, I had touched the matter, I could not have avoided being strongly polemical. Also, I must have spoken more harshly than I want to speak. Finally, I wanted to put what I think is a true account of the man before the American public, not to plunge into an infructuous controversy.

I

NEVER camped in all my life. I hated exercise. I was afraid to sleep with my windows open. So now when I see a husky, salmon-colored American camper, proud of his fresh sun-blisters, I look at him resentfully.

Tents with wooden floors! Real gas stoves! Portable phonographs! Andthe crowning glory of it all-folding bathtubs! And he calls this camping! Why, if a Russian housewife laid her eyes on all the American camper's kitchen outfit, she would unhesitatingly forsake her city house for the "wild" life in the open.

"To rough it"-you call your camping! You luxury-swamped sybarites! And you have the nerve to call the poor Russian city-mole an effeminate person! In Russia we seldom camp of our free will. And it is not because we are more effeminate than you. If we do not open our windows at night, even if it overlooks the sheltered street in the city, it is because we cannot afford to waste so much heat. To sleep with the windows wide open in winter-why, it would call for steam heating, or at least for allwool underwear! No average Russian was ever as rich as that!

And to move to the country with all the array of canned food, stoves, cameras, Victrolas, and-above all-with a bathtub! The luxury of ancient Rome had nothing on you, modern American campers!

When I saw for the first time the famous tent city of San Diego, on Coronado Beach, I thought almost with tears: "If one-tenth of our peasants could afford a tent dwelling with a

SHEER ENVY

BY MARIA MORAVSKY

screened porch, a swinging hammock, a gas-stove, and a rubber bathtub, we would consider ourselves a nation of

millionaires!"

Sheer envy is and will be the predominant feeling of a foreigner gazing at all these camp luxuries until you be

THE DREAD TYPHOON

Do you remember the island of Yap? It figured not long ago in the press despatches as a center of international discord. But Yap is not young as a disturbing factor in the world; it is the nest from which the dread typhoon arises to carry death and destruction to eastern Asia and the ships of the Pacific.

LIEUTENANT CLIFFORD A. TINKER recounts the family history of the typhoon in a forthcoming issue of The Outlook.

gin sharing them with the great barren camp called the after-war Europe. We need your trading in portable bungalows, little stoves, hand showers, cheap articles of hygiene, and scores of civilization's substitutes for immediate use, because the war-ridden countries cannot be rebuilt at even a year's notice. make the beggar-like conditions of life less painful many a European country should be put on a camping basis. Temporary homes, with at least a ghost of comfort-this is what we need immediately. What you mean by reconstruction is a thing far too solid for us.

To

You want to rebuild us at once and thoroughly; to put us firmly on our feet; to give us modern electric fixtures, fine railways (provided you obtain profitable concessions for building them), up-todate plumbing (provided we can pay millions of rubles, marks, or kronen to your engineers). Wonderful task, and well worth spending your and our energy and money! But, as the ancient Slav proverb goes: "A golden plate is of no use to the hungry."

Do not give us a golden plate alone. Don't start a wonderful system of plumbing without giving us in the meantime cheap water filters-to save us from cholera and her sister epidemics. A tent erected immediately is better than the most comfortable house next season. We have to live somehow in the meantime. We have to camp, not for pleasure, but for the sake of saving our lives, to "rough it" in the severest sense of the word. And who, if not Americans, campers par excellence, will teach the world how to camp?

M

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF OSCAR S. STRAUS

CHAPTER II-LAW AND LETTERS

Y brother Nathan at this time carried through a bit of youthful business enterprise which added greatly to his joy and mine. Having collected some old hemp rope, which was very scarce at the time, he received enough money for it to enable him to buy a handsome bay pony. This became our joint and most treasured possession. Nathan in later years became noted as a horse fancier, a driver of trotters, the owner of a fine stable. It is an old axiom that the man who really knows horses knows men also. Nathan knew both. But few things ever gave Nathan and myself as much pleasure as the possession of that pony. So it was a hard blow for us when he became a Yankee prisoner of war.

On April 16, 1865, General James H. Wilson, commanding 15,000 Federal soldiers, marched against Columbus. Lee had surrendered nine days earlier, but this was unknown to General Wilson and to our citizen soldiers, composed chiefly of superannuated men and schoolboys. There was a feeble defense, and Wilson's army took possession. Soon afterwards the rabble from the factories commenced looting. Led by drunken Federal soldiers, they burned the cotton warehouses. Lost were the savings of many, including most of my father's. All horses were seized, our little pony among the rest. I never saw him again, though I still retain a vivid mental picture of him. Frequently since, when I have met that fine old veteran, General Wilson, who is still among the living, hale and hearty, I have jestingly reproached him for taking my most treasured possession.

"Go South" had been good enough advice in 1852, but "Stay South" under what was known as Reconstructionstay there under conditions serious enough to break the strongest and discourage the most enterprising this was not suitable to my father's enterprise. Again he forced a situation analogous to that after the '48 Revolution-much more serious, though. He was older.

The North offered an outlet for enterprise. There, too, my father could more readily dispose of the remainder of his cotton. His idea was to pay off pre-war debts contracted in New York and Philadelphia and make a fresh start. Isidor was able to help him considerably. A youngster of nineteen, but already a sagacious man of experience, a stay of two years in London had netted him several thousand dollars. Sent there as secretary of a commission to buy supplies for the State of Georgia, he had turned to brokerage when the effective blockade of Southern ports stopped shipments. He had made his profit selling

Confederate bonds. Returning, he used part of the proceeds to purchase a house for his mother and added the balance to his father's money, with which they established a wholesale china and glassware business in New York City.

When the Confederate Government canceled the commercial obligations of Southern merchants to Northern creditors and ordered this indebtedness paid to the Government instead, the debtors regarded themselves morally free from paying their creditors. My father, though, was true to his original obligations, saying:

"I propose to pay my debts in full and leave to my children a good name even if I should leave them nothing else."

The dry-goods house of George Bliss & Co. was his principal New York creditor, and the sum between four and five thousand dollars. When my father called about the debt, Mr. Bliss was amazed, asked many questions, and even then found it difficult to grasp how this man of fifty-seven, with four children, stood ready to plunge into a new venture and handicap himself at the start by paying off an old debt.

"I don't think you are fair to your family and yourself," said Mr. Bliss, "to deprive yourself of the slender means you tell me you possess by paying out your available resources. I will compromise with you for less than the ful! amount, in view of the hardships of war and your family obligations."

PREPARING FOR COLLEGE

Isidor arranged for my schooling. A picture of Columbia College in my geography text-book set me to thinking how wonderful it would be to study there. Being only fourteen and a half when we came to New York, and not having the entrance requirements, I was instead enrolled in the Columbia Grammar School. It was my first experience with a high-grade school. The teaching was much more thorough. It seemed to me I had to learn everything anew. Considering the modest income of the family, the tuition fee and the cost for books were large, but my father, economical in all other respects, was liberal beyond his means where education was concerned. My brother, moreover, was desirous that I should have the advantage of the college training which circumstances, notably the war, had withheld from him.

I appreciated to the full the privilege I was permitted to enjoy, and applied myself whole-heartedly to study. The school regulations required that the parents should fill out a blank each week stating, among other things, the number of hours we studied at home. Three or

four hours were the average for most students, but, as my average was fully double that, I felt rather ashamed to give the exact number, so I stated less.

The school was at Fourth Avenue and Twenty-seventh Street and our home was in West Forty-ninth Street. 1 always walked both ways, saving carfares and at the same time conserving my health.

Despite my hard work, I made a poor showing, though on one occasion I shone with accidental glory. It was the custom when a question was asked to pass it from pupil to pupil, and to set the one who gave the correct answer at the head of the class. It so happened once that I gave a fortunate answer and moved forward to occupy the seat of scholastic eminence. I sat there enjoying a near view of the teacher's countenance, wondering how long I would thus remain distinguished, and looking back occasionally to note how the last row looked. At this moment a visitor entered who was none other than the inventor of the telegraph, S. F. B. Morse, whose grandson was in my class. Knowing the custom and observing me in the seat of honor, he remarked upon my having a large head in comparison with my body, something like himself, and added that I must be a bright boy. There was humiliation rather than elation in being thus praised when I, as well as the rest, knew I did not deserve it.

The principal, Dr. Bacon, encouraged us individually when the time for college-entrance examinations approached in the spring of 1867. For me he had consolation in addition to encouragement, for he feared that because of my lack of early training I might not pass. There were still two weeks before the examination. I crammed night and day. I knew that I could not expect my father to keep me in school another year when after two years of preparation I had shown myself deficient. That thought was my spur, though I am quite sure that both Isidor and my father, knowing I had done my best, would have insisted upon my taking another year for preparation.

I was not prepared, therefore, for so surprising a result as to be the only one in my class to pass all examinations without a single condition. "Lucky dog!" said the others who flunked; and I could not but admit it was luck rather than brilliancy. The professor who examined my classmates in ancient geography was the author of the text-book upon which the examination was held. A meticulous pundit, he regarded that book as supreme and absolute. A good answer, if not exactly according to that book, was as good as no answer a*

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[graphic][merged small]

was to become boisterous and lacking in proper decorum in the lecture-room, particularly when the subject was not to their liking.

A compulsory and most unpopular subject in the senior class was Evidence of Christianity, and, as that gentle, good-natured professor Rev. Dr. McVickar was entirely lacking in the power to maintain discipline, Evidence of Christianity was a battle-ground. It gave rise to many boisterous demonstrations. The study was compulsory and denominational, and a number of the students who were not Episcopalians resented it. In common with most of the class, I strongly favored that the subject should be elective instead of compulsory. Yet the College found a legal, if unreasonable, justification for the study, based upon the fact that Columbia was originally an Episcopalian foundation. Dr. McVickar complained to the College Board. President Barnard gave serious attention to the matter, but nothing was done to improve the situation.

CLASS-ROOM DIPLOMACY

The disturbance in the lecture-room one day grew unbearably boisterous, and the professor was in considerable distress. I arose and told him I knew how he could have an orderly, class. He was in such a plight that any suggestion would have been favorable to him. I asked him to let me take his chair for a moment, which he did. The class was silent, curious to know what I was about to do.

I made an appeal, reminding them briefly that we were now seniors, and that some of us, especially those who intended to study for the ministry, were interested in the subject but were un

able to follow it because of the dis-
turbance. As I paused I heard several
jeers of "Professor Straus." Then I
called upon those who were opposed to
the study of Evidence of Christfanity-
and I knew there were a number-to
rise. They arose.

"You may leave the room," I said.
Eight or ten remained. Turning to Dr.
McVickar, I said: "Here is a class you
can teach."

Subsequently a petition was drawn up and signed by a majority of the seniors requesting that the class be excused from examinations in Evidence of Christianity. The request was denied.

Among the few collegiate prizes was one known as the Alumni Prize for the most deserving students in the graduating class. The College Board nominated William H. Sage, J. F. Vermilye, and myself as the candidates, and the class elected Vermilye, to whom the prize was awarded.

[graphic]

AN INTERVIEW WITH GRANT

I had a short-lived notion at this time of entering the army. Reading in the newspapers that President Grant had a few cadetships open for West Point, I obtained from President Barnard, of Columbia, a letter of introduction to Grant, in which I was commended highly.

I called on the President, who was in the city. He received me kindly, and said the few appointments allowed him by the law must be offered first to sons of officers who had been killed in the war. If sufficient were not available for

all the appointments, he would be glad

to give me a chance. I told him I
thought he was perfectly right. That
ended my great military career.

Not from special aptitude, but because
I preferred it to business, I chose the
law for my profession. My entire out-
look was idealistic rather than practical.
As with other young men, it cost me
considerable mental struggle to harmo-
nize the two divergent views into a
workaday plan. As my father and
brothers had begun to prosper in busi-
ness, and as I had no one but myself to
look ahead for, I felt free to follow my
own bent. Besides, being the youngest,
I had the benefit of their brotherly in
terest and economic protection if there
were need for it. This served to en-
courage my utmost efforts not only on
my own account, but to justify their
interest and help.

I graduated sixth in my class and was designated to deliver the class poem at Commencement. The choice, I remember, lay between Brander Matthews and myself, and for some reason which I have not been able to ascertain to this day, I was chosen. "Truth and Error," which I had had gravely entitled the poem, was well received by the large audience of proud parents and sympathetic friends who gathered at the Academy of Music.

Joseph H. Choate, distinguished lawyer, with whom Mr. Straus rode horseback every morning for several years

lumbia Law School, after enjoying the first vacation I had taken since I came to New York. Other summers I had spent assisting in some branch of my father's business, not because I relished work unduly, but because I regarded it less as labor than as diversion.

My first vacation, in the Wyoming Valley, near Wilkes-Barre, was a success in spite of the farmer with whom I boarded. Perhaps I did not have a right to expect much for the five dollars a week which I paid him, but, whatever I expected, I remember that I received less. But there were fish in the brooks, and I do not recall that I starved.

MEMOIRS OF LAW SCHOOL

The Law School, which was at that time situated in Lafayette Place, was under the direction of Theodore W. Dwight, who deserved his great reputation as the most distinguished teacher of law in the country.

Our professor in political science, whose lectures we attended once a week, was the distinguished Francis Lieber, a Prussian veteran who had fought in the Battle of Waterloo. At the close of the Napoleonic wars he returned to his studies in Berlin, and thereafter was several times arrested for his outspoken liberal views. After frequent persecution, and even imprisonment, he fled to England, and in 1827 came to this country. He was the author of many books, legal and political, among them being "Civil Liberty," which was adopted as a text-book in several of our universities.

He prepared in 1863 "Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field," which Lincoln promulgated as a general order of the War Department. It was a masterly In the autumn of 1871 I entered Co- piece of work, embodying advanced

From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, July 10, 1875

Before an audience that packed the immense Gilmore's Garden, which then occupied the present site of Madison Square Garden in New York, Mr. Straus delivered his "poetic swan song" in 1875 at a fair for the benefit of Mount Sinai Hospital. This is a view of Gilmore's Summer Concert Garden in its heyday

manitarian principles. It formed the basis for several later European codes.

Usually egotism and real merit do not co-ordinate, but negate one another; Lieber was an exception. He combined both in a marked degree, sometimes in

a manner that afforded amusement to his students. He referred continuously to "My Civil Liberty" as a book of extraordinary erudition, new in its field, the last word on the subject. He was a short, solidly built man, with a distinct German accent, and so full of his subject that he was apt to lose himself in the vast field of his philosophical and historical knowledge. As his course was optional, those who came to listen came to learn, and we received a larger view of the function of law in civil society than we derived from all our studies of municipal law.

The course at the Law School covered two years, and successful examination at the end of it entitled a student to admission to the bar without a further State examination. I was graduated in June, 1873, and immediately entered the law office of Ward, Jones & Whitehead, a prominent New York law firm, whose senior member, John E. Ward, had presided over the Democratic National Convention which nominated Buchanan in 1856. Later he served for two or three years as Minister to China. He was a friend of my brother Isidor, and took me into his office largely out of friendship for him.

I remained with his firm about six months, forming a partnership later in 1873 with James A. Hudson, who was associated with the Ward firm and was about ten years my senior. The new firm was Hudson & Straus, with offices on the fourth floor of 59 Wall Street.

He

On the same floor was the office of Charles O'Conor, then the acknowledged head of the American bar. was practically retired, but still kept a small office and a clerk. Frequently,

feeling fatigued during the one or two weekly visits to his office, he would rest himself on a lounge in the room set aside in our office for a library.

It was an unusual privilege for a young lawyer like myself to enjoy such pleasant personal relations with this great leader of his profession. We received our first important case through him, and collected so much more of an old debt than our client had expected that he sent us a check for ten thousand dollars, saying that if we did not regard it as sufficient he would make the check larger. With five thousand dollars in reserve, I felt rich and independent. My wants were simple, and our general practice was encouraging.

FOUNDING OF YOUNG MEN'S HEBREW
ASSOCIATION

At about this time I first became active in public-spirited undertakings. The Young Men's Christian Association a few years before had opened its Twentythird Street Branch in New York, and the movement, on the whole, was getting much publicity and proving very successful in its work among young men. But it was an institution for Christians, and it occurred to several of us-as I remember it, there were two of my fellow-members of the bar, Meyer S. Isaacs and Isaac S. Isaacs, Dr. Simeon N. Leo, Solomon B. Solomon, and myself

that it would be a useful undertaking if we organized a Young Men's Hebrew Association for the cultural and intellectual advancement of Jewish young men.

We launched our project early in 1874. We rented a house in the vicinity of Nineteenth or Twentieth Street and began in a very modest way. Our first entertainment was of a purely literary nature, and I recollect on that occasion addressing the members of the infant enterprise on the subject of literary clubs, ancient and modern, from the time of Socrates and Plato to the days of the coffee-houses of Addison, Steele, and Goldsmith. The Y. M. H. A. subsequently had its years of struggle for existence, but to-day its place in our cities as an influence for the development of culture and patriotism is assured, as well as that of its sister organization of later birth, the Young Women's Hebrew Association.

[graphic]

CONCERNING PSYCHOLOGICAL SPREES In 1876 or thereabouts we removed our office to the New York Life Building, at 346 Broadway, corner of Franklin Street, because our practice was largely commercial, and this location was more convenient for our clients. Adjoining our office on the same floor was the office of Chamberlain, Carter & Eaton, then one of the leading commercial law firms, of which subsequently Charles E. Hughes became a member. In 1878 Simon Sterne, then one of the younger leaders of the bar, entered the firm, which became Sterne, Hudson & Straus; afterwards, when our managing clerk entered the firm, Sterne, Straus & Thompson. Hudson withdrew to devote himself to patent law.

Thompson, who replaced him, was the author of books upon psychology which were commended by Herbert Spencer and other leading European and American authorities. He was more interested in psychology than in law; and Sterne, who could be very sarcastic, once said: "Do you know that Thompson is dissipating?"

I expressed surprise.

"Of course he is," he went on. "When he leaves here, he works till all hours of the night writing psychology, and returns next morning to his legal work with an exhausted brain. I'd rather he went on a spree, instead, for one gets over that quite definitely."

was

The firm had a varied practice, ranging from collection cases to important questions regarding street railways and Sterne other public utilities. rapidly achieving a reputation as a leading authority upon railways and railway legislation. In 1879 he was retained as legislative counsel by an Assembly committee to investigate political corruption influenced by railway corporations. The chairman of the com mittee was A. Barton Hepburn, then an Assemblyman from St. Lawrence County. The committee sat intermittently for nine months. The report, including certain recommendations for legislation partly drafted by Sterne, was the first impressive and well-directed attempt to deal with the public regulation of transportation companies, and resulted in the

« AnteriorContinuar »