We teach the boys to atrophy their independence. We teach them to take their patriotism at second-hand; to shout with the largest crowd without examining into the right or wrong of the matter —exactly as boys under monarchies are taught and have always been taught. We teach them to regard as traitors, and hold in aversion and contempt, such as do not shout with the crowd, & so here in our democracy we are cheering a thing which of all things is most foreign to it & out of place—the delivery of our political conscience into somebody else’s keeping. This is patriotism on the Russian plan.
Howells tells of discussing these vital matters with him in “an upper room, looking south over a quiet, open space of back yards where,” he says, “we fought our battles in behalf of the Filipinos and Boers, and he carried on his campaign against the missionaries in China.”
Howells at the time expressed an amused fear that Mark Twain’s countrymen, who in former years had expected him to be merely a humorist, should now, in the light of his wider acceptance abroad, demand that he be mainly serious.
But the American people were quite ready to accept him in any of his phases, fully realizing that whatever his philosophy or doctrine it would have somewhat of the humorous form, and whatever his humor, there would somewhere be wisdom in it. He had in reality changed little; for a generation he had thought the sort of things which he now, with advanced years and a different audience, felt warranted in uttering openly. The man who in ’64 had written against corruption in San Francisco, who a few years later had defended the emigrant Chinese against persecution, who at the meetings of the Monday Evening Club had denounced hypocrisy in politics, morals, and national issues, did not need to change to be able to speak out against similar abuses now. And a newer generation as willing to herald Mark Twain as a sage as well as a humorist, and on occasion to quite overlook the absence of the cap and bells.
MARK TWAIN—GENERAL SPOKESMAN
Clemens did not confine his speeches altogether to matters of reform. At a dinner given by the Nineteenth Century Club in November, 1900, he spoke on the “Disappearance of Literature,” and at the close of the discussion of that subject, referring to Milton and Scott, he said: