I am not finding fault with this use of our flag, for in order not to seem eccentric I have swung around now and joined the nation in the conviction that nothing can sully a flag. I was not properly reared, and had the illusion that a flag was a thing which must be sacredly guarded against shameful uses and unclean contacts lest it suffer pollution; and so when it was sent out to the Philippines to float over a wanton war and a robbing expedition I supposed it was polluted, and in an ignorant moment I said so. But I stand corrected. I concede and acknowledge that it was only the government that sent it on such an errand that was polluted. Let us compromise on that. I am glad to have it that way. For our flag could not well stand pollution, never having been used to it, but it is different with the administration.
But a much more conspicuous comment on the Philippine policy was the so-called “Defense of General Funston” for what Funston himself referred to as a “dirty Irish trick”; that is to say, deception in the capture of Aguinaldo. Clemens, who found it hard enough to reconcile himself to-any form of warfare, was especially bitter concerning this particular campaign. The article appeared in the North American Review for May, 1902, and stirred up a good deal of a storm. He wrote much more on the subject—very much more—but it is still unpublished.
THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE
One day in April, 1902, Samuel Clemens received the following letter from the president of the University of Missouri:
My dear Mr. Clemens, Although you received the degree of doctor of literature last fall from Yale, and have had other honors conferred upon you by other great universities, we want to adopt you here as a son of the University of Missouri. In asking your permission to confer upon you the degree of LL.D. the University of Missouri does not aim to confer an honor upon you so much as to show her appreciation of you. The rules of the University forbid us to confer the degree upon any one in absentia. I hope very much that you can so arrange your plans as to be with us on the fourth day of next June, when we shall hold our Annual Commencement.
Very truly yours,
R. H. Jesse.
Clemens had not expected to make another trip to the West, but a proffered honor such as this from one’s native State was not a thing to be declined.
It was at the end of May when he arrived in St. Louis, and he was met at the train there by his old river instructor and friend, Horace Bixby—as fresh, wiry, and capable as he had been forty-five years before.
“I have become an old man. You are still thirty-five,” Clemens said.
They went to the Planters Hotel, and the news presently got around that Mark Twain was there. There followed a sort of reception in the hotel lobby, after which Bixby took him across to the rooms of the Pilots Association, where the rivermen gathered in force to celebrate his return. A few of his old comrades were still alive, among them Beck Jolly. The same afternoon he took the train for Hannibal.