TO LAWRENCE F. ABBOTT OUTLOOK
Washington, December 4, 1911
My dear Abbott,— ... We are making history fast these days, and at the bottom of it all lies the idea, in the minds of the American people, that they are going to use this machine they call the Government. For the centuries and centuries that have passed, government has been something imposed from above, to which the subject or citizen must submit. For the first century of our national life this idea has held good. Now, however, the people have grown in imagination, so that they appreciate the fact that the government is very little more than a cooperative institution in which there is nothing inherently sacred, excepting in so far as it is a crystallization of general sentiment and is a good working arrangement. And the feeling with relation to big business, when we get down to the bottom of it, is that if men have made these tremendous fortunes out of privileges granted by the whole people, we can correct this by a change in our laws. They do not object to men making any amount of money so long as the individual makes it, but if the Government makes it for him, that is another matter.
I have been meeting ... with some of the committees, in Congress and out, that are drafting bills regulating trusts, and I expect something by no means radical as a starter.
You ask as to leadership in both Houses. There is not much in the Lower House that can be relied upon to do constructive work, so far as I can discover. Our Democratic leaders all wear hobble skirts. But in the Senate there is some very good stuff.
I expect to be in New York in January, and then I hope to see you. Very truly yours,
When he was running for Governor in 1902, Lane made prison reform one of the foremost issues of his campaign. Several years later when a movement was started petitioning the Governor to parole Abraham Ruef, who had served a part of his term in the penitentiary for bribery in San Francisco, Lane signed the petition. This brought a letter of remonstrance from his friend Charles McClatchy, editor and owner of the Sacramento Bee, who felt that such a movement was ill-timed and not in the interest of the public good.
Washington, December 12, 1911
My dear Charles,—I have your letter regarding the paroling of Abraham Ruef, and, far from taking offense at what you say, I know that it expresses the opinion of probably the great body of our people, but I have long thought that we dealt with criminals in a manner which tended to keep them as criminals and altogether opposed to the interests of society. I am not sentimental on this proposition,