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The Letters of Franklin K. Lane by Franklin K. Lane

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Personal and Political




Prom the thousands of typewritten letters found in his files, and
from the many holograph letters sent to me from his friends in
different parts of the country, we have attempted, in this volume,
to select chiefly those letters which tell the story of Franklin
K. Lane's life as it unfolded itself in service to his country
which was his passion. A few technical letters have been included,
because they represent some incomplete and original phases of the
work he attempted,--work, to which he brought an intensity of
interest and devotion that usually is given only to private

In editing his letters we have omitted much, but we have in no way
changed anything that he wrote. Even where, in his haste, there
has been an obvious slip of the pen, we have left it. Owing to his
dictating to many stenographers, with their varying methods of
punctuation and paragraphing, and because the letters that he
wrote himself were often dashed off on the train, in bed, or in a
hurried five minutes before some engagement, we found in them no
uniformity of punctuation. In writing hastily he used only a
frequent dash and periods; these letters we have made agree with
those which were more formally written.

With the oncoming of war his correspondence enormously increased--
the more demanded of him, the more he seemed able to accomplish.
Upon opening his files it took us weeks to run through and destroy
just the requests for patronage, for commissions, passports,
appointments as chaplains, promotions, demands from artists who
desired to work on camouflage, farmers and chemists who wished
exemption, requests for appointments to the War Department;
letters asking for every kind of a position from that of night-
watchman to that of Brigadier-General. For his friends, and even
those who had no special claim upon him, knew that they could
count on his interest in them.

One of his secretaries, Joseph J. Cotter, a man he greatly
trusted, in describing his office work says: "Whatever was of
human interest, interested Mr. Lane. His researches were by no
means limited to the Department of the Interior. For instance, I
remember that at one time, before the matter had been given any
consideration in any other quarter, he asked Secretary of
Agriculture Houston to come to his office, in the Interior
Department, and went with him into the question of the number of
ships it would take to transport our soldiers to the other side.
And as a result of this conference, a plan was laid before the
Secretary of War. I remember this particularly because it
necessitated my looking up dead-weight tonnage, and other matters,
with which I was entirely unfamiliar. ...

"I have never known any one who could with equal facility follow
an intricate line of thought through repeated interruptions. I
have seen Mr. Lane, when interrupted in the middle of an involved
sentence of dictation, talk on some other subject for five or ten
minutes and return to his dictation, taking it up where he left it
and completing the sentence so that it could be typed as dictated,
and this without the stenographer's telling him at what point he
had been interrupted."

His letters are peculiarly autobiographical, for whenever his
active mind was engaged on some personal, political, or
philosophical problem, his thought turned naturally to that friend
with whom he would most like to discuss the subject, and, if he
could possibly make the time, to him he wrote just what thoughts
raced through his mind. To Ambassador Page he wrote in 1918, "I
have a very old-fashioned love for writing from day to day what
pops into my mind, contradicting each day what I said the day
before, and gathering from my friends their impressions and their
spirit in the same way." And in another letter he says, "Now I
have gossiped, and preached, and prophesied, and mourned, and
otherwise revealed what passes through a wandering mind in half an
hour, so I send you at the close of this screed, my blessing,
which is a poor gift."

At home on Sunday morning before the fire, he would often write
many letters--some of them twenty pages in length and some mere
scrappy notes. He wrote with a pencil on a pad on his knee,
rapidly stripping off the sheets for me to read, in his desire to
share all that was his, even his innermost thoughts.

To the many correspondents who have generously returned to me
their letters, and with no restrictions as to their use, I wish
particularly to express here my profound gratitude. The limits of
one volume have made it possible to use only a part of those
received, deeply as I have regretted the necessity of omitting any
of them. In making these acknowledgments I wish especially to
thank John H. Wigmore, since to him we owe all the early letters--
the only ones covering that period.

For possible future use I shall be grateful for any letters that I
have not already seen, and if in the preparation of these letters
for publication we have allowed any mistakes to slip in, I hope
that the error will be called to my attention.

Anne Wintermute Lane

March, 1922





Politics--Newspaper Work--New York--Buying into Tacoma News
--Marriage--Sale of Newspaper

To John H. Wigmore
To John H. Wigmore
To John H. Wigmore
To John H. Wigmore


Law--Drafting New City Charter--Elected as City and County Attorney--
Gubernatorial Campaign--Mayoralty Campaign--Earthquake
--Appointment as Interstate Commerce Commissioner

To P. T. Spurgeon
To John H. Wigmore
To John H. Wigmore
To John H. Wigmore
To Lyman Naugle
To John H. Wigmore
To John H. Wigmore
To William R. Wheeler
To Orva G. Williams
To the Iroquois Club, Los Angeles, California
To Isadore B. Dockweiler
To Edward B. Whitney
To Hon. Theodore Roosevelt
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler
To William E. Smythe
To John H. Wigmore
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler
To William R. Wheeler
To John H. Wigmore
To William R. Wheeler


Increased Powers of Interstate Commerce Commission--Harriman
Inquiry--Railroad Regulation--Letters to Roosevelt

To Edward F. Adams
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler
To Elihu Root
To E. B. Beard
To George W. Lane
To Charles K. McClatchy
To Lawrence F. Abbott
To John H. Wigmore
To Mrs. Franklin K. Lane
To Theodore Roosevelt
To John H. Wigmore
To William R. Wheeler
To Lawrence F. Abbott
To Charles K. McClatchy
To Charles K. McClatchy
To John Crawford Burns
To Theodore Roosevelt
To Samuel G. Blythe
To Sidney E. Mezes
To John H. Wigmore
To George W. Lane
To Carl Snyder
From Oliver Wendell Holmes
To Oliver Wendell Holmes
To John H. Wigmore
To Daniel Willard
To John McNaught


Politics--Democratic Convention--Nomination of Wilson --Report on
Express Case--Democratic Victory--Problems for New Administration
--On Cabinet Appointments

To Albert Shaw
To Curt G. Pfeiffer
To George W. Lane
To Oscar S. Straus
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler,
To George W. Lane.
To John H. Wigmore.
To Timothy Spellacy.
To Adolph C. Miller.
To William F. McComba,
To Hugo K. Asher.
To Francis G. Newlands.
To Woodrow Wilson.
To William J. Bryan.
To James D. Phelan.
To Herbert Harley.
To Charles K. McClatchy.
To Ernest S. Simpson.
To Fairfax Harrison.
To James P. Brown.
To Adolph C. Miller.
To Edward M. House.
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
To Sidney E. Mezes.
To John H. Wigmore.
To John H. Wigmore.
To Joseph N. Teal.
To Edward M. House.
To Mitchell Innes.


Appointment as Secretary of the Interior--Reorganization of the
Department--Home Club--Bills on Public Lands


To John H. Wigmore.
To Walter H. Page.
To Edwin A. Alderman.
To Theodore Roosevelt.
To Lawrence F. Abbott.
To William M. Bole.
To Fairfax Harrison.
To Frank Reese.
To Mark Sullivan.
To Edward M. House.
To James H. Barry.
To Edward F. Adams.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson,
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
To Albert Shaw.
To Charles K. Field.
To Frederic J. Lane.
To Edward E. Leake.
To William R. Wheeler.
To his Brother on his Birthday.
To Cordenio Severance.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson.
To Theodore Roosevelt.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson.
To Lawrence F. Abbott.


Endorsement of Hoover--German Audacity--LL.D. from Alma Mater
--England's Sea Policy--Christmas letters

To William J. Bryan.
To John Crawford Burns.
To Alexander Vogelsang.
To John H. Wigmore.
To John Crawford Burns.
To Edward J. Wheeler.
To John Crawford Burns.
To William P. Lawlor.
To William G. McAdoo.
To John Crawford Burns.
To E. W. Scripps.
To George W. Wickersham.
To Frederic J. Lane.
To John Crawford Burns.
To Eugene A. Avery.
To John F. Davis.
To Dick Mead.
To John Crawford Burns.
To Sidney E. Mezes.
To Cordenio Severance.
To Frederick Dixon.
To Robert H. Patchin.
To Francis R. Wall.
To John H. Wigmore.
To Mrs. Adolph C. Miller.
To Mrs. Magnus Andersen.
To Mrs. Adolph C. Miller.


On Writing English--Visit to Monticello--Citizenship for Indians--On
Religion--American-Mexican Joint Commission

To William M. Bole.
To Mrs. Adolph C. Miller.
To Edward F. Adams.
To Carl Snyder.
To Mrs. Franklin K. Lane.
To Will Irwin.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson.
To Frederic J. Lane.
To Frank L Cobb.
To George W. Wickersham.
To H. B. Brougham.
To Frederic J. Lane.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson.
To Mrs. Franklin K. Lane.
To Mrs. Adolph C. Miller.
To Mrs. Franklin K. Lane.
To William R. Wheeler.
To James S. Harlan.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson.
To Alexander Vogelsang.
To Frederic J. Lane.
To Frank I. Cobb.
To R. M. Fitzgerald.
To James K. Moffitt.
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
To Roland Cotton Smith.
To James H. Barry.


Cabinet Meetings--National Council of Defense--Bernstorff--War--Plan
for Railroad Consolidation--U-Boat Sinkings Revealed--Alaska

To George W. Lane.
To George W. Lane.
To George W. Lane.
To Frank I. Cobb.
To George W. Lane.
To George W. Lane.
To Edward J. Wheeler.
To George W. Lane.
To Frank I. Cobb.
To George W. Lane.
To George W. Lane.
To Frank I. Cobb.
To Will Irwin.
To Robert Lansing.
To Henry Lane Eno.
To George B. Dorr.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson.
To John O'H. Cosgrave.


Notes on Cabinet Meetings--School Gardens--A Democracy Lacks
Foresight--Use of National Resources--Washington in War-time--The
Sacrifice of War--Farms for Soldiers

To Franklin K. Lane, Jr.
To George W. Lane.
To Albert Shaw.
To Walter H. Page.
To John Lyon.
To Frank Lyon.
To Miss Genevieve King.
To John McNaught.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson.
To Allan Pollok.
To E. S. Pillsbury.
To William Marion Reedy.
Notes on Cabinet Meetings.
To Daniel Willard.
To James H. Hawley.
To Samuel G. Blythe.
To George W. Lane.
To Edgar C. Bradley.


After-war Problems--Roosevelt Memorials--Americanization--Religion
--Responsibility of Press--Resignation

To E. C. Bradley.
To George W. Lane.
To George W. Lane.
To William Boyce Thompson.
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
To E. S. Martin.
To George W. Lane.
To Van H. Manning.
To E. C. Bradley.
To Mrs. Louise Herrick Wall.
To M. A. Mathew.
To Herbert C. Pell, Jr.
To Henry P. Davison.
To George W. Lane.
To C. S. Jackson.
To John Crawford Burns.
To Frank I. Cobb.
To Mrs. Louise Herrick Wall.
To Mrs. M. A. Andersen.
To George W. Lane.
To Daniel J. O'Neill.
To Hamlin Garland.
To Hugo K. Asher.
To Admiral Gary Grayson.
To Herbert C. Pell, Jr.
To Hon. Woodrow Wilson.
To Frank W. Mondell.
To Robert W. De Forest.


Suggestions to Democratic Nominee for President--On Election of
Senators--Lost Leaders--Lincoln's Eyes--William James's Letters

To William Phelps Eno.
To Roland Cotton Smith.
To James M. Cox.
To Timothy Spellacy.
To Edward L. Doheny.
To Franklin D. Roosevelt.
To Mrs. George Ehle.
To Isadore B. Dockweiler.
To Hall McAllister.
To Mrs. George Ehle.
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
To John W. Hallowell.
To John W. Hallowell.
To Robert Lansing.
To Carl Snyder.
To William R. Wheeler.
To George Otis Smith.
To George W. Wickersham.
Lincoln's Eyes.
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
To Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
To Lathrop Brown.
To Timothy Spellacy.
To Frank I. Cobb.
To John G. Gehring.
To John W. Hallowell.
To John G. Gehring.


To Mrs. Ralph Ellis.


Need for Democratic Program--Religious Faith--Men who have Influenced
Thought--A Sounder Industrial Life --A Super-University for Ideas
--"I Accept"--Fragment

To Mrs. Philip C. Kauffmann.
To Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
To Lathrop Brown.
To Mrs. George Ehle.
To Mrs. William Phillips.
To James H. Barry.
To Michael A. Spellacy.
To William R. Wheeler.
To V. C. Scott O'Connor.
Letter sent to several friends.
To John G. Gehring.
To Lathrop Brown.
To Lathrop Brown.
To Adolph C. Miller.
To John G. Gehring.
To John W. Hallowell.
To Curt G. Pfeiffer.
To John G. Gehring.
To D. M. Reynolds.
To Mrs. Cordenio Severance.
To Alexander Vogelsang.
To James S. Harlan.
To Adolph C. Miller.
To Lathrop Brown.
To John G. Gehring.
To John H. Wigmore.
To Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
To John W. Hallowell.
To John G. Gehring.
To Hall McAllister.
To Mrs. Frederic Peterson.
To Roland Cotton Smith.
To John G. Gehring.
To Adolph C. Miller.
To Robert Lansing.
To James D. Phelan.
To Mr. and Mrs. Louis Hertle.
To Alexander Vogelsang.
To John Finley.
To James H. Barry.
To Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
To friends who had telegraphed and written for news.--"I accept."
To Alexander Vogelsang.
To John W. Hallowell.
To Robert Lansing.



FRANKLIN K. LANE With his younger brothers, George and Frederic.

FRANKLIN K. LANE At eighteen.

FRANKLIN K. LANE As City and County Attorney.


FRANKLIN K. LANE WITH Ethan Allen, Superintendent of Rainier
National Park, Washington

In Lafayette National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine.

FRANKLIN K. LANE IN 1917 Taken in Lafayette National Park.

"LANE PEAK," Tatoosh Range, Rainier National Park


1864. July 15. Born near Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
1871-76. Taken to California. Went to Grammar School at Napa,
1876. Went to Oakland, California. Oakland High School.
1884-86. University of California, Berkeley, California. Special student.
1885. Reporting on Alta California in San Francisco for John P. Irish.
1887. Studied Hastings Law School.
1888. Admitted to the Bar.
1889. Special Newspaper Correspondent in New York for San
Francisco Chronicle.
1891. Bought interest in Tacoma News and edited that paper.
1892. Campaigned in New York for Cleveland.
1893. Married.
1895. Returned to California. Practiced law.
1897-98. On Committee of One Hundred to draft new Charter for San
1898. Elected City and County Attorney to interpret new Charter.
1899. Reelected City and County Attorney.
1901. Reelected City and County Attorney.
1902. Nominated for Governor of California on Democratic and
Non-Partisan Tickets.
1903. Democratic vote in Legislature for United States Senator.
1903. Nominated for Mayor of San Francisco.
1905. December. Nominated by President Roosevelt as Interstate
Commerce Commissioner.
1906. June 29. Confirmed by Senate as Interstate Commerce Commissioner.
1909. Reappointed by President Taft as Interstate Commerce Commissioner.
1913. Appointed Secretary of the Interior under President Wilson.
1916. Chairman American-Mexican Joint Commission.
1918. Chairman Railroad Wage Commission.
1919. Chairman Industrial Conference.
1920. March 1. Resigned from the Cabinet.
1920. Vice-President of Pan-American Petroleum Company.
1921. May 18. Died at Rochester, Minnesota.


Franklin K. Lane was the eldest of four children.
Father: Christopher S. Lane.
Mother: Caroline Burns.
Brothers: George W. Lane.
Frederic J. Lane.
Sister: Maude (Mrs. M. A. Andersen).
He was married to Anne Wintermute, and had two children:
Franklin K. Lane, Jr. ("Ned").
Nancy Lane (Mrs. Philip C. Kauffmann).





Although Franklin Knight Lane was only fifty-seven years old when
he died, May 18, 1921, he had outlived, by many years, the men and
women who had most influenced the shaping of his early life. Of
his mother he wrote, in trying to comfort a friend, "The mystery
and the ordering of this world grows altogether inexplicable. ...
It requires far more religion or philosophy than I have, to say a
real word that might console one who has lost those who are dear
to him. Ten years ago my mother died, and I have never been
reconciled to her loss." Again he wrote of her, to his sister,
when their brother Frederic--the joyous, outdoor comrade of his
youth--was in his last illness, "Dear Fritz, dear, dear boy, how I
wish I could be there with him, though I could do no good. ... Each
night I pray for him, and I am so much of a Catholic, that I pray
to the only Saint I know, or ever knew, and ask her to help. If
she lives, her mind can reach the minds of the doctors. ... I don't
need her to intercede with God, but I would like her to intercede
with men. Why, Oh! why, do we not know whether she is or not? Then
all the Universe would be explained to me."

From those who knew him best from childhood, no word of him is
left, and none from the two men whose strength and ideality
colored his morning at the University of California--Dr. George
H. Howison, the "darling Howison" of the William James' Letters,
and Dr. Joseph H. Le Conte, the wise and gentle geologist. "Names
that were Sierras along my skyline," Lane said of such men. To Dr.
Howison he wrote in 1913, when entering President Wilson's
Cabinet, "No letter that I have ever received has given me more
real pleasure than yours, and no man has been more of an
inspiration than you."

The sealing of almost every source of intimate knowledge of the
boy, who was a mature man at twenty-two, has left the record of
the early period curiously scant. Fortunately, there are in his
letters and speeches some casual allusions to his childhood and
youth, and a few facts and anecdotes of the period from members of
his family, from school, college, and early newspaper associates.
In 1888, the story begins to gather form and coherence, for at
that date we have the first of his own letters that have been
preserved, written to his lifelong friend, John H. Wigmore. With
many breaks, especially in the early chapters, the sequence of
events, and his moods toward them, pour from him with increasing
fullness and spontaneity, until the day before he died.

All the later record exists in his letters, most of them written
almost as unconsciously as the heart sends blood to the remotest
members of the body; and they come back, now, in slow diastole,
bearing within themselves evidence of the hour and day and place
of their inception; letters written with the stub of a pencil on
copy-paper, at some sleepless dawn; or, long ago, in the wide-
spaced type of a primitive traveling typewriter, and dated,
perhaps, on the Western desert, while he was on his way to secure
water for thirsty settlers; or dashed off in the glowing moment
just after a Cabinet meeting, with the heat of the discussion
still in his veins; others on the paper of the Department of the
Interior, with the symbol of the buffalo--chosen by him--richly
embossed in white on the corner, and other letters, soiled and
worn from being long carried in the pocket and often re-read, by
the brave old reformer who had hailed Lane when he first entered
the lists. This is the part of the record that cannot be

Franklin Knight Lane was born on July 15, 1864, on his father's
farm near Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, the eldest
of four children, all born within a few years. The low, white
farmhouse that is his birthplace still stands pleasantly
surrounded by tall trees, and at one side a huge, thirty-foot
hedge of hawthorn blooms each spring. His father, Christopher S.
Lane, was at the time of his son's birth a preacher. Later, when
his voice was affected by recurrent bronchitis, he became a
dentist. Lane speaks of him several times in his letters as a
Presbyterian, and alludes to the strict orthodoxy of his father's
faith, especially in regard to an active and personal devil.

In 1917, when in the Cabinet, during President Wilson's second
term of office, Lane wrote to his brother, "To-night we give a
dinner to the Canadians, Sir George Foster, the acting Premier,
and Sir Joseph Polk, the Under-Secretary of External Affairs, who,
by the way, was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and
says that he heard our father preach."

But it was from his mother, whose maiden name was Caroline Burns,
and who was of direct Scotch ancestry, that Franklin Lane drew
most of his physical and many of his mental traits. From her he
derived the firmly-modeled structure of his face; the watchful
Scotch eyes; a fine white skin, that weathered to an even brown,
later in life; remarkably sound teeth, large and regular, giving
firm support to the round contour of the face; and the fresh line
of his lips, that was a marked family trait. A description of him,
when he was candidate for Governor of California, at thirty-eight,
was written by Grant Wallace. Cleared of some of the hot sweetness
of a campaign rhapsody it reads:--

"Picture a man a little above the average height ... with the deep
chest and deep voice that always go with the born leader of men;
the bigness and strength of the hands ... the clear eye and broad,
firm, and expressive mouth, and the massive head that suggests
irresistibly a combination of Napoleon and Ingersoll."

These two resemblances, to Napoleon and to Robert Ingersoll, were
frequently rediscovered by others, in later years.

The description concludes by saying, "That Lane is a man of
earnestness and vigorous action is shown in ... every movement.
You sit down to chat with him in his office. As he grows
interested in the subject, he kicks his chair back, thrusts his
hands way to the elbows in his trouser pockets and strides up and
down the room. With deepening interest he speaks more rapidly and
forcibly, and charges back and forth across the carpet with the
heavy tread of a grenadier." As an older man this impetuosity was
somewhat modified. What an early interviewer called his "frank
man-to-manness" became a manner of grave and cordial
concentration. With the warm, full grasp of his hand in greeting,
he gave his complete attention to the man before him. That, and
his rich, strong laugh of pleasure, and the varied play of his
moods of earnestness, gayety, and challenge, are what men remember

Lane's native bent from the first was toward public life. His
citizenship was determined when his father decided to take his
family to California, to escape the severity of the Canadian
climate. In 1902, Franklin Lane was asked how he became an
American. "By virtue of my father's citizenship," he replied, "I
have been a resident of California since seven years of age,
excepting during a brief absence in New York and Washington."

In 1871, the mother, father, and four children, after visiting two
brothers of Mrs. Lane's on the way, finally reached the town of
Napa, California.

"They came," says an old schoolmate of Napa days, "bringing with
them enough of the appearance and mannerisms of their former
environment to make us youngsters 'sit up and take notice,' for
the children were dressed in kilts, topped by handsome black
velvet and silk plaid caps. However, these costumes were soon
discarded, for at school the children found themselves the center
of both good--and bad-natured gibes, until they were glad to dress
as was the custom here." The "Lane boys," he says, were then put
into knee-trousers, "and Franklin, who was large for his age and
quite stout, looked already too old for this style," and so
continued to be annoyed by the children, until he put a forcible
end to it. "He 'licked' one of the ringleaders," says the
chronicler, and won to peace. "As we grew to know Franklin ... his
right to act became accepted ... . There was always something
about his personality which made one feel his importance."

The little California community was impressed by the close
intimacy of the home-life of the Canadian family--closer than was
usual in hurriedly settled Western towns. The father found time to
take all three boys on daily walks. Another companion remembers
seeing them starting off together for a day's hunting and fishing.
But it was the mother, who read aloud to them and told them
stories and exacted quick obedience from them, who was the real
power in the house. There were regular family prayers, and family
singing of hymns and songs.

This last custom survived among the brothers and sister through
all the years. Even after all had families of their own, and many
cares, some chance reunion, or a little family dinner would, at
parting, quicken memory and, with hats and coats already on,
perhaps, in readiness to separate to their homes, they would stand
together and shout, in unison, some song of the hour or some of
their old Scotch melodies with that pleasant harmony of voices of
one timbre, heard only in family singing.

Lane had a baritone of stirring quality, coming straight from his
big lungs, and loved music all his life. In the last weeks of his
life he more than once wrote of his pleasure in his brother's
singing. At Rochester, a few days before his operation, he
reassured an anxious friend by writing, "My brother George is
here, with his splendid philosophy and his Scotch songs."

His love and loyalty to past ties, though great and persistent,
still left his ideal of loyalty unsatisfied. Toward the end of his
life he wrote, "Roots we all have and we must not be torn up from
them and flung about as if we were young things that could take
hold in any soil. I have been--America has been--too indifferent
to roots--home roots, school roots. ... We should love stability
and tradition as well as love adventure and advancement." But the
practical labors of his life were directed toward creating means
to modify tradition in favor of a larger sort of justice than the
past had known.

Resignation had no part in his political creed. "I hold with old
Cicero 'that the whole glory of virtue is in activity,'" comes
from him with the ring of authentic temperament. And of a friend's
biography he wrote, "What a fine life--all fight, interwoven with
fun and friendship."

[Illustration with caption: FRANKLIN K. LANE WITH HIS YOUNGER

All the anecdotes of his boyhood show him in action, moving among
his fellows, organizing, leading, and administering rough-and-
tumble justice.

From grammar school in Napa he went, for a time, to a private
school called Oak Mound. In vacation, when he was eleven years
old, he was earning money as messenger-boy, and at about that
time as general helper to one of the merchants of the little town.
He left in his old employer's mind the memory of a boy
"exceedingly bright and enterprising." He recalls a fight that he
was told about, between Lane "and a boy of about his size," "and
Frank licked him," the old merchant exults, "and as he walked away
he said, 'If you want any more, you can get it at the same

It was in Napa--so he could not have been quite twelve years old--
that Lane started to study Spanish, so that he might talk more
freely to the ranchers, who drove to town in their rickety little
carts, to "trade" at the stores.

In 1876, the family moved from the full sunshine of the valley
town, with its roads muffled in pale dust, and its hillsides
lifting up the green of riotous vines, to Oakland, cool and
cloudy, with a climate to create and sustain vigor. In Oakland,
just across the bay from San Francisco, Lane entered the High
School. Again his schoolmates recall him with gusto. He was
muscular in build, "a good short-distance runner." His hands--
always very characteristic of the man--were large and well-made,
strong to grasp but not adroit in the smaller crafts of tinkering.
"He impressed me," an Oakland schoolmate writes, "as a sturdy
youngster who had confidence in himself and would undoubtedly get
what he went after. Earnest and straightforward in manner," and
always engrossed in the other boys, "when they walked down Twelfth
Street, on their way to school, they had their arms around each
other's shoulders, discussing subjects of 'vast importance.'"

His capacity for organized association developed rapidly. He had
part in school orations, amateur plays, school and Sunday school
clubs. Many of these he seems to have initiated, so that, with his
school work, his life was full. He says somewhere that by the time
he was sixteen he was earning his own way. His great delight in
people, and especially in the thrust and parry of controversial
talk, held him from the solitary pleasures of fishing and hunting,
so keenly relished by his two younger brothers. One of them said
of him, "Frank can't even enjoy a view from a mountain-peak
without wanting to call some one up to share it with him." He
writes of his feeling about solitary nature to his friend George
Dorr, in 1917, in connection with improvements for the new
National Park, near Bar Harbor, "A wilderness, no matter how
impressive or beautiful does not satisfy this soul of mine (if I
have that kind of a thing). It is a challenge to man. It says,
'Master me! Put me to use! Make me more than I am!'" About his
"need of a world of men," he was equally candid. To his wife he
writes, "I am going to dinner, and before I go alone into a
lonesome club, I must send a word to you. ... The world is all
people to me. I lean upon them. They induce thought and fancy.
They give color to my life. Thrown on myself I am a stranded

His love for cooperation and for action, "dramatic action," some
one says, never left him. In his last illness, in apolitical
crisis, he rallied the energy of younger men. He wrote of the need
of a Democratic program, suggested a group of compelling names,
"or any other group," he adds, "put up the plan and ask them what
they think of it--tentatively--just a quiet chat, but START!" And
about the same matter he wrote, "The time has come. Now strike!"

To a friend wavering over her fitness for a piece of projected
work, he said drily, "There is only one way to do a thing, and
that is to do it." Late in life, the summation of this creed of
action seemed to come when he confessed, "I cannot get over the
feeling that we are here as conquerors, not as pacifists."

And words, written and spoken words, were to him, of course, the
instrument of conquest. But the search for the fit and shining
word for his mark did not become research. In a droll letter,
about how he put simpler English into the Department of the
Interior, he tells of finding a letter written by one of the
lawyers of the Department to an Indian about his title to land,
that was "so involved and elaborately braided and beaded and
fringed that I could not understand it myself." So he sent the
ornate letter back and had it put into "straightaway English."

His own practicable English he believed he had learned through his
newspaper training. He first worked in the printing office of the
Oakland Times, then became a reporter for that paper. He went
campaigning and made speeches for the Prohibition candidate for
Governor in 1884--before he was twenty-one. The next year he was
reporting for the Alta California, edited by Colonel John P.
Irish, himself a fiery orator, of the denunciatory type. Colonel
Irish recalls that he was at once impressed with the "copious and
excellent vocabulary" of his ambitious reporter, who was, even
then, he says, "determined upon a high and useful career." In a
letter to Colonel Irish, in 1913, Lane wrote, "That simple little
card of yours was a good thing for me. It took me for a minute out
of the maelstrom of pressing business and carried me back, about
thirty years, to the time when I was a boy working for you--an
unbaked, ambitious chap, who did not know where he was going, but
was trying to get somewhere."

It is interesting to notice that in youth he did not suffer from
the usual phases of revolt from early teachings. His father was a
Prohibitionist, and Lane's first campaign was for a Prohibition
candidate for Governor; his father had been a preacher and Lane,
when very young, thought seriously of becoming a minister, so
seriously that he came before an examining board of the
Presbyterian church. After two hours of grilling, he was, though
found wanting, not rejected, but put upon a six months' probation
--the elders probably dreaded to lose so persuasive a tongue for
the sake of a little "insufficiency of damnation" in his creed.
One of his inquisitors, a Presbyterian minister, went from the
ordeal with Lane, and continued to try to convert him to the
tenets of Presbyterianism. Then suddenly, at some turn of the
talk, the clergyman abandoned his position and said carelessly,
"Well, Lane, why not become a Unitarian preacher?"

The boy who had been walking the floor at night in the struggle to
reconcile the teachings of the church with his own doubts--knowing
that Eternal Damnation was held to be the reward for doubt of
Christ's divinity--was so horrified by the casuistry of the man
who could be an orthodox minister and yet speak of preaching as
just one way to make a living, that he swung sharply from any wish
to enter the church.

The strictness of the orthodoxy of his home had not served to
alienate his sympathies, but he was chilled to the heart by this
indifference. He remembered the episode all his life with emotion,
but he was not embittered by it. He was young, a great lover,
greatly in love with life.

[Illustration with caption: FRANKLIN K. LANE AT EIGHTEEN]

In 1884, when he entered the University of California, it was as a
special not as a regular student. "I put myself through college,"
he writes to a boy seeking advice on education, "by working during
vacation and after hours, and I am very glad I did it." He seems
to have arranged all his college courses for the mornings and
carried his reporting and printing-office work the last half of
the day.

College at once offered a great forum for debate, and a richer
comradeship with men of strong mental fiber. Lane's eagerness in
discussion and love of large and sounding words made the students
call him "Demosthenes Lane." In his letters it is easy to trace
the gradual evolution from his early oratorical style into a final
form of free, imaginative expression of great simplicity.
Meanwhile, as he debated, he gathered to himself men who were to
be friends for the rest of his life. The "Sid" of the earliest
letters that we have is Dr. Sidney E. Mezes, now President of the
College of the City of New York, to whom one of his last letters
was addressed. His friendship for Dr. Wigmore, Dean of Law at the
Northwestern University, in Chicago, dates almost as far back.

In college, Lane seized what he most wanted in courses on
Philosophy and Economics. "His was a mind of many facets and
hospitable in its interest," says his college and lifelong friend,
Adolph C. Miller, "but his years at Berkeley were devoted mainly
to the study of Philosophy and Government, and kindred subjects.
He was a leading figure in the Political Science Club, and intent
in his pursuit of philosophy. Often he could be seen walking back
and forth in a room in the old Bacon library, set apart for the
more serious-minded students, with some philosophical book in
hand; every line of his face expressing deep concentration, the
occasional light in his eye clearly betraying the moment when he
was feeling the joy of understanding."

In two years, not waiting for formal graduation, Lane was back in
the world of public affairs that he had scarcely left. In the same
short-cut way he took his Hastings Law School work, and passed his
Supreme Court examination in 1888, in much less than the time
usually allowed for the work.

By the time he left the law school, "a full fledged, but not a
flying attorney," his desire for aggressive citizenship was fully
formed. In fact, the whole active campaign, that was his life, was
made by the light of early ideals, enlarged and reinterpreted as
his climb to power brought under his survey wider horizons.

The sketchiest summary of his early and late activities brings out
the singleness of the central purpose moving through his life. His
first fight, in 1888, for Ballot Reform was made that the will of
the people of the State might be honestly interpreted; later, in
Tacoma, Washington, he sided with his printers, against his
interest as owner, in their fight to maintain union wages; once
more in San Francisco, he took, without a retaining fee, the case
of the blackmailed householders whose titles were threatened by
the pretensions of the Noe claimants, and with his brother,
cleared title to all of their small homes; he joined, with his
friend, Arthur McEwen, in an editorial campaign against the
Southern Pacific, in the day of its tyrannous power over all the
shippers of California; later he drafted into the charter of San
Francisco new provisions to improve the wages of all city
employees; as its young city and county attorney, he aggressively
protected the city against street railway encroachments,
successfully enforcing the law against infractions; as Interstate
Commerce Commissioner, he disentangled a network of injustices in
the relations between shippers and railroads, exposed rebating and
demurrage evils; formulated new procedures in deflating,
reorganizing, and zoning the business of all the express companies
in the country; as Secretary of the Interior, he confirmed to the
people a fuller use of Federal Lands, and National Park Reserves,
laid the foundation for the development, on public domain, of
water powers, and the leasing of Government oil lands, and built
the Government railroad in Alaska; during the War, he contributed
to the Council of National Defense his inexhaustible enthusiasm
for cooperation, with definite plans for swift action, to focus
National resources to meet war needs; and finally, his last
carefully elaborated plan--killed by a partisan Congress--was to
place returned soldiers upon the land under conditions of hopeful
and decent independence. These were some of the "glories" of
activity into which he poured the resources of his energy and

But no catalogue of the work or the salient mental characteristics
of Franklin Lane gives a picture of the man, without taking into
account his temperament, for that colored every hour of his life,
and every act of his career. The things that he knew seized his
imagination. Even when a middle-aged man he sang, like a
troubadour, of the fertility of the soil; he was stirred by the
virtue and energy of what he saw and touched; his heart leaped at
the thought of the power of water ready to be unlocked for man's
use--most happy in that the thing that was his he could love.

"To lose faith in the future of oil!" he cries, in the midst of a
sober statistical letter, "Why! that is as unthinkable as to lose
faith in your hands. Oil, coal, electricity, what are these but
multiplied and more adaptable, super-serviceable hands? They may
temporarily be unemployed, but the world can't go round without
them." A man who feels poetry in petroleum suffers from no wistful
"desire of the moth for the star." To his full sense of life the
moth and the star are of one essential substance, parts of one
glorious conquerable creation--and the moth just a fleck of star-
dust, with silly wings.

In truth, both then and throughout most of the days of his life he
was completely oriented in this world, at home here, with his
strong feet planted upon reality. He liked so many homely things,
that his friendly glance responded to common sunlight without

That his sympathies should have outrun his repugnances was of
great practical moment in what he was able to achieve in a life
shortened at both ends, for though he had to lose time by earning
his own professional equipment, he lost little energy in friction.
He wrote to a political aspirant for high office, in 1921, "Pick a
few enemies and pick them with discretion. Chiefly be FOR things."
To a man who was making a personal attack on an adversary of
Lane's, while in 1914, as Secretary of the Interior, he was
engrossed in establishing his "conservation-by-use" policy, in
opposition to the older and narrower policy of conservation by
withdrawal, Lane wrote, "I have never seen any good come by
blurring an issue by personal conflict or antagonisms. ... I have
no time to waste in fighting people ... to fight for a thing the
best way is to show its advantages, and the need for it ... and my
only solicitude is that the things I care for should not be held
back by personal disputes." ...

This lesson he had learned more from his own temperament than from
political expediency. It was bound up in his love of efficiency
and also in his sense of humor. During this same hot conservation
controversy he writes to an old friend, "I have no intention of
saying anything in reply to Pinchot. He wrote me thirty pages to
prove that I was a liar, and rather than read that again I will
admit the fact."

This preoccupation with the main issue, in getting beneficial
results was one thing that made him glad to acclaim and use the
gifts of other men. Through his sympathies he could follow as well
as lead, and he caught enthusiasms as well as kindled them. He
believed in enthusiasm for itself, and because he saw in it one of
the great potencies of life. In writing of D'Annunzio's placing
Italy beside the Allies, he rejoices in the beautiful spectacle of
the spirit of a whole people "blown into flame by a poet-patriot."
But "the ideal," he urges, "must be translated into the possible.
Man cannot live by bread alone--nor on manna."

His gay and challenging attitude toward life expressed only one
mood, for he paid, as men must, for intense buoyancy of temper by
black despairs. "Damn that Irish temperament, anyway!" he writes.
"O God, that I had been made a stolid, phlegmatic, non-nervous,
self-satisfied Britisher, instead of a wild cross between a crazy
Irishman with dreams, desires, fancies--and a dour Scot with his
conscience and his logical bitterness against himself--and his
eternal drive!"

His exaggerations of hope and his moods of broken disappointment,
his ever-springing faith in men, and in the possibility of just
institutions, were more temperamental than logical. Moods of
astonished grief, when men showed greed and instability, gave
place to humorous and tolerant analysis of characters and events.
Even his loyalty to his friends was subject to the slight magnetic
deflections of a man of moods. He was true to them as the needle
to the pole; and with just the same piquing oscillations, before
the needle comes to rest at the inevitable North.

Because he had caught, in its capricious rhythms, the subtle
movements of human intercourse he trusted himself to express to
other men the natural man within his breast, without fear of
misconstruction. He contrived to humanize, in parts, even his
government reports. They brought him, year by year, touching
letters of gratitude from weary political writers. The patient,
logical Scot in him that said, "I am going to take this thing up
bit by bit without trying to get a whole philosophy into the
work," anchored him to the heaviest tasks as if he were a true-
born plodder, while the "wild Irishman" with dreams and desires
lighted the way with gleams of Will-o'-the-Wisp. The quicksilver
in the veins of the patient Mercutio of railroad rates and
demurrage charges lightened his work for himself and others. Just
as in the five years when he served San Francisco, as City and
County Attorney, he labored to such effect that not one of his
hundreds of legal opinions was reversed by the Supreme Court of
the State, so he toiled on these same Annual Reports, so immersed
that, as he says, "I even have to take the blamed stuff to bed
with me." Fourteen and sixteen hours at his official desk were not
his longest hours, and sometimes he snatched a dinner of shredded
biscuit from beside the day's accumulations of papers upon his
heaped-up desk. He laid upon himself the burden of labor,
examining and cross-examining men for hours upon a single point of
essential fact--quick to detect fraud and intolerant of humbug,--
but infinitely patient with those who were merely dull, evading no
drudgery, and, above all, never evading the dear pains of
building-up and maintaining friendship.


MARCH, 1922





FRANKLIN K. LANE'S earliest political association, in California,
after reaching manhood, was with John H. Wigmore. Wigmore had
returned from Harvard, in 1883, with a plan, already matured, for
Civic Reform. The Municipal Reform League, created by Wigmore,
Lane, and several other young men, was to follow the general
outline of boss control, by precinct and ward organization, the
difference being that the League members were to hold no offices,
enjoy no spoils, and work for clean city politics. Each member of
the inner circle was to take over and make himself responsible for
a definite city district, making a card index of the name of each
voter, taking a real part in all caucus meetings--in saloon
parlors or wherever they were held--and studying practical
politics at first hand. "Blind Boss Buckley" was the Democratic
dictator of San Francisco, and against his regime the initial
efforts of the League were directed.

It was a giant's task, an impossible task, for a small group of
newspaper writers and college undergraduates. The short career of
the Municipal Reform League ended when Wigmore went East to study
law, leaving Lane determined to increase his efficiency by earning
his way through college and the Hastings Law School.

The first letters of this volume follow the theme of the political
interests of the two young men.


Oakland, February 27, 1888

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--I am thinking of getting back in your part of
the world myself, and this is what I especially wanted to write
you about. I desire to see the world, to rub off some of my
provincialisms, to broaden a little before I settle down to a
prosaic existence. So, as I say, I want to live in Boston awhile
and my only possibility of so doing is to get a position on some
Boston paper, something that will afford me a living and allow
some little time for social and literary life. However I don't
care much what the billet is. I can bring letters of
recommendation from all the good newspaper men in San Francisco,
both as to my ability at editorial work (I have done considerable
for the San Francisco NEWS LETTER and EXAMINER), and at all kinds
of reportorial work. ...

I passed the law examination before the Supreme Court last month,
so I am now a full-fledged--but not a flying, attorney. I have not
determined definitely on going into law. ...

Politically speaking we Mugwumps out here are happy. ...
California has been opposed to Cleveland on every one of his great
proposals (civil service reform, silver question, tariff reform),
and yet the Republicans must nominate a very strong man to get
this State this year. The people admire old Grover's strength so
much, he is a positive man and an honest man, and when the people
see these two exceptional virtues mixed happily in a candidate
they grow to love and admire him out of the very idealism of their

But I must not bother the Boston attorney any longer. Write me all
you know of opportunities there and believe me always your friend,



Oakland, May 9, 1888

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--Of course I would have to stand my chances in
getting a position. Newspaper men, perhaps more than any other
class, are rated by ability. Civil Service Reform principles rule
in every good newspaper office to their fullest extent. When I
wrote you, I was unsettled as to my plans for the coming year. My
brother desired to spend a year or so in Boston and I thought of
accompanying him. He has changed his plans and so have I. ... I am
regularly on the Chronicle staff, chiefly writing sensational
stories. I get a regular salary of twenty-five dollars a week
besides some extras, and have as easy and pleasant a billet as
there is on the paper, though editorial work would be more to my

These arrangements do not interfere, however, with my Boston plan,
for sooner or later I shall breathe its intellectual atmosphere,
that I may outgrow provincialism and become intellectual by force
of habit rather than will. How long it will be before the wish can
be gratified I cannot tell. Probably next year. You see the law is
not altogether after my taste. I feel it a waste of time to spend
days quarreling like school-boys over a few hundred dollars. I
feel all the time as if I must be engaged in some life work which
will make more directly for the good of my fellows. I feel the
need which the world manifests for broader ideas in economics,
politics, the philosophy of life, and all social questions.
Feeling so, I cannot coop myself in a law library behind a pile of
briefs, spending my days and nights in search of some authority
which will save my client's dollar. I am unsettled, however, as to
my permanent work. ...

Oakland, September 20, 1888

... The copies of the Massachusetts law have been duly received
and put to the best of use. On my motion our Young Men's League
appointed a Committee to draft a law for presentation to the
Legislature. Judge Maguire, Ferd, [Footnote: Ferdinand Vassault, a
college friend. ] and two others, with myself, are on that
Committee and we are hard at work. I send to-day a copy of the
Examiner containing a ballot reform bill just introduced by the
Federated Trades. It is based on the New York law but is very
faulty. We are working with that bill as a basis, proposing
various and very necessary amendments. We hope to get our bill
adopted in Committee as a substitute for the one introduced, and
believe that the Federated Trades will be perfectly willing to
adopt our measure. ...

Tell me, please, how you select your election officials in your
large cities. Our mode of selection is really the weak point with
us, for no matter how good a law we might procure, its enforcement
would be left to "boss" tools--corruptionists of the worst
class. ...

Oakland, December 2, 1888

... Your letter breathes the sentiments of thousands of
Republicans who voted against Cleveland. They are now "just a
little" sorry that so good a man is beaten. I never quite
understood your political position. Your letter to Ferd giving
your reason was, I must say, not conclusive, for I cannot believe
that you can find a greater field of usefulness or power in the
Republican than in the Democratic party, surely not now that the
new Democracy--a party aggressive, filled with the reform spirit,
and right in the direction it takes, now that such a party is in
the field.

You surely ought to join us on the tariff fight, but then I wish
you the best of fortune whatever your choice. Ferd and several
others with myself are now organizing what will some day be a
great state, if not a great national institution. We call it the
Young Men's Democratic League [Footnote: This plan seems to have
been to enlarge the influence of the League mentioned in a former
letter.]--it is to be made up of young men from twenty-one to
forty-five; its scope--national politics, election of President
and Congressmen, and its immediate purpose to inform the people on
the tariff question. When our Constitution is published you shall
have one. We expect to organize branches all over the State and in
a year or two will be strong in the thousands.

Your election article was of a singular kind but VERY good. I have
loaned it out among the old crowd. I spoke of it to Judge
Sullivan, who is compiling authorities on the "intention of the
voter" as governing, where the spelling is wrong on a ballot.
Sullivan ran for Supreme Justice and ran thousands ahead of his
ticket (the Democratic) but thinks that he was defeated by votes
thrown out in Alameda and Los Angeles counties because of
irregularities in the ballot--in one case his initials were
printed "J. D." instead of "J, F."--in another instance, his name
was printed a little below the title of the office, because of the
narrowness of the ticket. If these ballots were counted for him he
thinks he would have won. ...

Fourteen years later, when the electoral count was made of
Franklin K. Lane's ballots for Governor of the State of
California, between eight and ten thousand ballots were thrown out
on similar ground of "irregularities," and he was counted out,
"the intention of the voter" being again frustrated.

To John H. Wigmore

San Francisco, California, January 29, 1889

My dear Wigmore,-- ... I want to report progress. We now have our
bill complete. ... The bill I send has been adopted by the
Federated Trades and will be substituted by them for their bill
now before the House. ...

On Saturday evening there will be one of those huge "spontaneous"
mass meetings (which require so much preparation) in support and
endorsement of the bill. The most prominent men in both Houses of
the Legislature will speak. ...

San Francisco, February 17, 1889

... I never have been busier in my life than in the last two
weeks. Ballot Reform has taken up a very great portion of my time.
I have just returned from a lobbying trip to Sacramento. The bill
will not pass, though the best men in both Houses favor it. I went
up on the invitation of the chairman of the Assembly Committee to
address the Committee. I spoke for an hour and a half. At the end
of that time only one man in the group openly opposed the scheme,
and he confessed that the bill would do just what I claimed for
it, and made this confession to the Committee. "But," said he, "it
tends to the disintegration of political parties and as they are
essential to our life we must not help on their destruction." ...

The Committee of the Senate decided without any debate on the bill
to report adversely to it. I got them to reconsider their vote,
and we will have a hearing at any rate before the bill is killed.
The Legislature is altogether for boodle. ...

Your book has been of the greatest assistance to me. I virtually
made my speech from it and left the book with the chairman of the
Committee at his special request. ... If it had come out a month
sooner we would have stood fifty per cent better chance of getting
the bill through, because the papers would have come to the front
so much sooner and we would have been thirty days ahead with our
bill. I tell you I felt quite proud in addressing the
distinguished legislature to refer to "my friend Wigmore's book."

San Francisco, May 10, 1889

... I am coming nearer to you. On Monday I leave to take up my
residence in New York, as correspondent for the San Francisco
Chronicle. I do not know where I will be located, but mail
addressed to me at the Hoffman House will reach me when I arrive,
which will be in about ten days.

My purpose is to breathe a new atmosphere for a while so that I
may broaden. We must make arrangements soon to meet. I want to
know your New York reform friends. ...

New York, June 21, 1889

... This lapse of a couple of weeks means that I have been
enjoying the delights of a New York summer, in which only slaves
work and many of these find refuge in suicide. ...

Not a single reformer, big or little, have I yet met. Your friend
Bishop [Footnote: Joseph Bucklin Bishop, editor of Theodore
Roosevelt and His Time.] I have not called on, though I have twice
started to do so, and have been switched off. ... I will go within
a couple of days for the spirit must be revived. One day early in
this week I had an intense desire to visit you immediately and was
almost on the verge of letting things go and rush off, but duty
held me. ...

I see that Bellamy has captured Higginson, Savage, and others and
that they are going to work over the Kinsley-Maurice business.
Well, I would to God it would work. Something to make life happier
and steadier for these poor women and men who toil and never get
beyond a piece of meat and a cot! There is justification here for
a social-economic revolution and it will come, too, if things are
not bettered.

If you have a stray thought let me know it and soon.

Your friend,

F. K. L.

Lane's desire for stimulating companionship in New York was
quickly gratified. A spontaneous association of friendships, based
upon a young delight in life and a vast curiosity of the mind,
sprang up among a little group of men of very diverse types. All
were strangers in New York with no immediate home ties. "Women
played no part in our lives," one of them recalls. "We came
together to discuss plays, poetry, politics, anything and
everything--the great actors, comic operas, the songs of the
streets, science, politics." John Crawford Burns, Lane, Brydon
Lamb, Curt Pfeiffer formed the nucleus of what spread out
irregularly into larger groupings.

John Crawford Burns, who was slightly older than the rest, a
purist, and something of a "dour Scot," was a man of conservative
and cultivated tastes and the dean of the group. He was in a
business house that imported linens, and lived in a "glorious room
with two outside windows, and ample seating capacity," so the
friends often met there and learned something of Gothic
architecture and of the abominations of slang, in spite of
themselves. With Burns, and of his firm, was Brydon Lamb, "also of
Scotch descent, but born in America, a delightful combination of
strength, sweetness and light. The simple grace of his manner, his
unhurried speech, his urbanity, captivated us all. We loved him
for what he was, and we considered him our arbiter elegantiarum"
Of Lane at that period the same friend writes, "I remember a fine,
stocky, muscular presence with a striking head. A massive,
commanding man, he was, a persuasive and compelling leader." But
none of the men had any sense of anything but complete friendly,
boyish equality. "Lane was," Pfeiffer says, "interested in human
beings, not problems, excepting as their solution might be made
serviceable to the needs of individuals. He had great tolerance
for the most unusual opinions. I don't think Lane ever had much
interest in the dogmas of science, religion, or philosophy; he
lived by the spirit of them, that cannot be expressed in formulae.
He had the peculiar sensitiveness of a poet for words, for colors
and sounds, and for moral beauty, and blended with it the
statesman's observant awareness of conditions in the world of

At the beginning of their friendship, in 1889, Curt Pfeiffer
himself was only nineteen years old, a youth whose family had come
from Holland and Germany. He appeared in the boarding-house on
32nd near Broadway, where Burns lived, fresh from three months at
the Paris Exposition, a vacation that had followed a course of
scientific study at Zurich, Switzerland. The wonders of Paris,
a-glitter with the blaze of undreamed-of electrical beauty, and the
greater wonder of the scientific discoveries and speculations, of
the eighties, as taught at the University of Zurich, gave the
young traveler an instant place among the others. Because of his
love for exact statement and his scientific approach in
discussion, young as he was, he contributed something very real to
the group whose chief preoccupation--aside from the joy of living-
was with art, government, and literature.

They read separately, and when a book seemed intolerably good to
the discoverer, he brought it in and insisted on their reading
parts of it together. Browning, Darwin, the Vedic Hymns,
Stevenson, Taine, Buckle, Spencer, Kipling, Sir Henry Maine, on
primitive law, and Emerson! The relation of the men was almost
impersonal in the fervor of their explorations into life.
Differences of blood and tradition were not only easily bridged
but welcomed, because they assured, to the group as a whole,
sharper angles of mental refraction--breaking the ray of truth
they sought into more of its component colors.

Pfeiffer recalls that "one Saturday night, under the influence of
reading from the Vedic Hymns, and a talk on astronomy, we went up
on the roof of our boarding-place, and observed a complete
revolution of the starry heavens, from dusk to dawn. We drifted
into talk, ... and when we finally descended to our beds on Sunday
morning, we found ourselves drenched to the skin from the
drizzling dew. We never forgot that experience, but we never
repeated it either."

His political interests brought Lane into the Reform Club where
Progress and Poverty, Henry George's new book, was the center for
discussion upon the whole problem of the distribution of taxation.
Lane and Henry George established a cordial friendship.

John Crawford Burns says that in 1889 "Lane's chief hero was
Cleveland, and his oracle Godkin, of the EVENING POST"--later, the
NATION. "When I knew him in New York he represented a San
Francisco newspaper, the CHRONICLE, I think, as correspondent. He
was not whole-heartedly in sympathy with his proprietor, nor
indeed with the sensational aspect of journalism, and he always
scoffed at the idea of newspaper writers constituting a modern
priesthood. He laughingly justified his association with the
CHRONICLE by saying he gave tone to it. For this and other
services, he received, I think, two thousand dollars a year, which
even thirty years ago did not admit of luxury and riotous living."

Lane's whole stay in New York was less than two years in length,
but the vital ideas that he shared with disinterested minds made
of this period the seed-bed for future intellectual growth.

In 1891, in spite of the delights of personal friendships, in New
York, Lane grew increasingly dissatisfied with the limitations of
newspaper corresponding. He wanted a paper of his own, in which he
could express without reserve the ideals of social and political
betterment with which his mind was teeming. In this mood, the
first acclaim of the rapid growth of the pioneer towns of the far
Northwest reached him. He saw in this his opportunity, and acted
quickly and decisively. He gathered together his own savings,
borrowed from his friend, Sidney Mezes, a few more thousand
dollars and went to Tacoma, Washington, to buy the Tacoma Evening

As soon as the transfer was well made, Lane threw himself
enthusiastically into the politics of the new town, already
suffering from boss rule. By his editorials he succeeded in
stirring up the City Hall, and drove into Alaskan exile the Chief
of Police--who, by the way, was said to have become immensely rich
in Alaska while Lane's paper was running into bankruptcy in
Tacoma. But Lane's misadventure was not wholly due to his civic
virtue. He had "bought in" at just the moment when the instruments
were tuning up for the prelude to the great panic crash of 1893.
Tacoma, and the whole Northwest, had been mainly developed by
casual investments of speculative Eastern capital, and this
capital, sensitive to change, was being withdrawn to meet home
needs. Investors, to protect real interests, were willing to
sacrifice their "little Western flyers," at almost any discount.

As the terminal of the new Northern Pacific Railroad, Tacoma--
lying on the bluffs overlooking the great inland sea of Puget
Sound, guardianed by the vastness of its mountain--was backed by
forests whose wealth could scarcely be exaggerated, even by
promoter's advertisements. She was noisily proclaimed to be the
"Gateway to the Orient," but trade was not yet firmly established
with the Orient, and, indeed, what was Washington's wealth of
uncut timber when the capital to develop it was slowly ebbing

No paper without heavy capitalization, could have sustained a
policy of political reform, when, in the picturesque vernacular of
the time and place, "the bottom had dropped out of the town." A
rival newspaper, the LEDGER, in order to retrench, began a war on
the Printers' Union, to break wages. Lane repudiated the effort
made to "rat" his paper and to force the Union out. He sustained
his men in their fight to keep the Union rate, and lent them his
presses to carry on their propaganda. In after years he said, "As
to my labor record, it is a consistent one of thirty years length,
ever since I stood by the Union in Tacoma, and went broke." Again
he wrote to an acquaintance, "I often think of the old days in
Tacoma. We were a fighting bunch, and I think most of us are
fighting for the same things that we fought for then; a little bit
more decency and less graft in affairs, and a chance for a man to
rise by ability and not by pull alone."

In April, 1893, Lane had married Anne Wintermute--he needed all
he could find of cheer in those depressing days. The whole town
was beaten to its knees by loss and fore-closure. Lane was
struggling to hold together his paper, and save his friend's
investment and his own little stake. The one bright interlude of
that time for him lay in reading, and in his new friendships. He
loved to chant aloud to a group of stranded young fellows gathered
in his rooms, in his gay trumpeting way, brave passages from the
Barrack-Room Ballads, of Kipling, that were lifting the spirits
of the English-speaking world with their freshness and daring.
Stevenson, too, with his polished optimism delighted Lane. "I can
remember," says one of the group, "just how I heard him read aloud
the last words from Stevenson's essay, Aes Triplex, in those
melancholy Tacoma days--'those happy days when we were so

"All who have meant good work with their whole hearts, have done
good work, although they may die before they have the time to sign
it. ... Does not life go down with a better grace, foaming in full
body over a precipice, than miserably straggling to an end in
sandy deltas? When the Greeks made their fine saying that those
whom the Gods love die young, I cannot help believing they had
this sort of death also in their eye. For surely, at whatever age
it overtake the man, this is to die young. Death has not been
suffered to take so much as an illusion from his heart. In the
hot-fit of life, a-tip-toe on the highest point of being, he
passes at a bound on to the other side. The noise of the mallet
and chisel is scarcely quenched, the trumpets are hardly done
blowing, when, trailing with him clouds of glory, this happy-
starred, full-blooded spirit shoots into the spiritual land."

Still believing in the good work he had meant with his whole
heart, Lane turned from the bankruptcy of his paper, sold at
auction, to write to his friend of new adventures.

To John H. Wigmore

Tacoma, October 25, 1894

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--I have not heard from you for a year. You are in
my debt at least one, and I think two, letters. I have sent you an
occasional paper, just to let you know I was alive and I am
hazarding this letter to the old address. ...

My affairs here have not prospered and I am thinking of going
somewhere else. ... Do you think Japan has anything to offer a
man such as myself? Would there be any chance there for a
newspaper run by an American? Are there any wealthy Americans
there who would be likely to put up a few thousands for such an
enterprise? ... Life is not the "giddy, reeling dream of love and
fame" that it once was, and I have decided on gathering a few
essential dollars. Now Japan may not be the place I am looking
for, ... but unless I am greatly mistaken, a man who is up on
American affairs and alive to business opportunities could do well
in Japan. But then this is all a guess, and I want you to put me
right ...

Yours very truly,




Law--Drafting New City Charter--Elected as City and County
Attorney--Gubernatorial Campaign--Mayoralty Campaign--Earthquake
--Appointment as Interstate Commerce Commissioner

Late in the fall of 1894 Lane returned to San Francisco and for
some months associated himself with Arthur McEwen, on Arthur
McEwen's Letter, a lively political weekly which attacked various
forms of civic corruption in San Francisco, and made an especial
target of the Southern Pacific Railroad, then in practical control
of the State.

He also formed a law partnership with his brother, George W. Lane,
under the firm name of Lane and Lane. In 1895 a curious case,
estimated as involving about sixty million dollars worth of
property, was brought to the young attorneys. The Star, of San
Francisco, described the issue at stake by saying, "One Jose Noe
and four alleged grand-children of Jose Noe appear, who pretend
that they can show a clear title to an undivided one-half interest
in nearly forty-five hundred acres within the city, on which land
reside some five thousand or more owners, mostly men of small

Upon investigation Lane and his brother became convinced that the
suit had been instituted as a blackmailing scheme, in an attempt
to force the owners to pay for quit-claim deeds; they took and
energetically fought the case for the defendants, without asking
for a retainer. Their clients formed themselves into what they
called the San Miguel Defense Association. In a year the title of
the householders to their little homes was established beyond

With the warmth of Latin gratitude this service was remembered. In
1898 when Lane ran for his first political office, as City and
County Attorney, the San Miguel Defense Association revived its
energies, formed a Franklin K. Lane Campaign Club and sent out
vivid circulars about Franklin K. Lane, "who nobly fought for us.
... It is now our turn to stand by him and see that he is elected
by a very large majority." Their proclamation ended with the
appeal, "Vote for Franklin K. Lane, the Foe to Blackmailers."

As Lane's plurality in this first election was eight hundred and
thirty-two votes, there is little doubt that his grateful clients
played a real part in that success.

The Tacoma printers had also sent a testimonial, which was widely
distributed in the campaign, as to Lane's friendship to labor,
saying that they, in gratitude, had made him an honorary member of
their Typographical Union. The campaign was made on the rights of
the plain people, for its chief issue.

In the letter that follows, Lane, in 1913, tells of his formal
entry into politics, in 1898.

To P. T. Spurgcon Herald, McClure Newspaper Syndicate

Washington, December 30, 1913

DEAR MR. SPURGEON,--In reply to your inquiry of December 29,
permit me to say that I got into politics in this way:--

One day, while on my way to lunch, I met Mayor Phelan, of San
Francisco, who asked me if I would become a member of the
committee to draft a charter for the city. I said I would, and was
appointed. At that time I was practising law and had no idea
whatever that I would at any time run for public office, or take
any considerable part in public affairs. I helped to draft the
charter, and as it had to be submitted to the people for
ratification, I stumped the city for it. Later, when the first
election was held under it, my friends on the charter committee
insisted that I should accept the Democratic nomination for City
Attorney. Under the charter, the City Attorney was the legal
adviser of all the city and county officials, and it was his
business to define and construe this organic law, and the friends
of the charter wished some one who was in sympathy with the
instrument to give it initial construction.

I was nominated by the Democratic party by an independent movement
and was elected; later re-elected, and elected for a third term.
After an unsuccessful candidacy for the governorship, I was
appointed a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission by
President Roosevelt.

Cordially yours,


To John H. Wigmore

San Francisco, November 14, 1898

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--This is a formal note of acknowledgment of the
service rendered me in the campaign, which has just closed
successfully. There were only three Democrats elected on the
general ticket, the Mayor, Assessor, and myself. I ran four
thousand five hundred votes ahead of my ticket. It was a splendid
tribute to worth! I never before realized how discriminating the
American public is. A man who scoffs at Democratic institutions
must be a tyrant at heart, or a defeated candidate. I tell you the
people know a good man when they see one.

My opponent was the present Attorney General of the State, W. F.
Fitzgerald, a very capable man, and probably the best man on the
Republican ticket. He has been steadily in office for thirty
years, in Mississippi, Arizona, and California, and this is his
first defeat; and I sincerely regret that I had to take a fall out
of such a gentleman.

Now, the perplexing problem arises as to how long I shall hold
office. The term is for two years. The new charter comes up before
the coming Legislature for approval in January, and that
instrument provides for another election next fall, to fill all
City and County offices. ...

I don't want to stay in politics, two years in the office will be
long enough for me. I hope that I shall make a creditable record.
I can foresee that strong pressure will be brought to bear upon me
to act with the Examiner in making things disagreeable for the
corporations, and I will have no easy task in gaining the approval
of my own party, and of my conscience and judgment at the same

Let me thank you again very earnestly for what you did, and
believe me. Yours sincerely,


The City Charter that Lane had helped to draft, with its many new
provisions, never before adjudicated, made his first term as City
and County Attorney one requiring an especial amount of laborious
legal study. To meet the pressing need, Lane organized his corps
of assistants to include several men of marked legal ability and
the industry that the task demanded, appointing his brother,
George W. Lane, as his first assistant.

It was partly due to the good team-work of the office that his
opinions rendered in four years were as "numerous as those
heretofore rendered by the department in about sixteen years," and
that during one of the years of his incumbency "snot a dollar of
damages was obtained against the city."

[Illustration with caption: FRANKLIN K. LANE AS CITY AND COUNTY

To John H. Wigmore

San Francisco, September 25, [1899]

MY DEAR WIGMORE,-- ... As an evidence of what I am doing I sent
you a brief three or four days ago in the Charter case. I have
another just filed on the question of county officers holding over
under the Charter, a third on the new primary law which is a grand
thing if we can make it stick, and a fourth on the taxation of
bonds of quasi-public corporations, and a fifth on the taxation of
National Bank stock.

I have hardly seen my baby for six weeks; have been at the office
from nine A.M. to eleven P.M. regularly. And now that I am nearly
dead a new campaign is on and I must run again. And, of course, I
have enemies now which I hadn't last year.

Thank you once again for so kindly remembering me.

Yours sincerely,


Lane's first child, a son, was born in the spring of 1898. He is
the "Ned" of the letters--Franklin K. Lane, Jr. Lane's attitude
toward children is shown in many of his letters. His own boy gave
a strong impetus to his most disinterested social ideals. In
writing of the birth of a friend's baby he said, "For the child we
act nobly, its call to us is always to our finer side.

To John H. Wigmore

San Francisco, November 10

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--This is to be a mere bulletin. I am elected once
again--10,500 majority, the largest received by any candidate. You
expected me to run for Mayor I know. Well, it was offered me--the
nomination, I mean--and all my campaign expenses promised. But I
couldn't accept, having told the Labor Union people that I was a
candidate for City Attorney and not for Mayor. This Labor Union
Party is a new one, the outgrowth of the recent strike. They have
elected their Mayor, a musician named Schmitz, a decent,
conservative young man, who will surprise the decent moneyed
people and anger the laboring people with his
conservatism.[Footnote: Lane lived to smile at his too charitable
characterization of this San Francisco Mayor.] I didn't have one
single word of praise from a newspaper in the campaign. They
hardly mentioned the fact that I was a candidate. It was jolly
good therefore to win as I did.

And my congratulations to you, my honored friend, Dean Wigmore.
Next year I am to publish my Opinions, a copy of which, of course,
will go to you, but not by virtue of your office, old man. You are
arriving, of course, but there is something better in store. A
Federal Judgeship is the thing for you; and when I get into the
Cabinet you shall have it. But don't wait till then. I'm gray and
bald now and my boy patronizes me. So don't wait, but get your
lines out, and one of these days you'll make it. Where next I
shall land I don't know, probably in a law office, praying for
clients. ... Always yours,

F. K. L.

Lane's first majority in 1898 of 832 votes was increased to 10,500
in 1899, when he was re-elected; and two years later he won by a
still larger majority. A number of his opinions, as City Attorney,
were collected and bound in a volume, as none of them had been
reversed by the Supreme Court of the State.

He took much pleasure in a dinner club that he helped to form. The
members were University professors, lawyers, newspaper men, and a
few business men. "But," says one of them, "in spirit they were
poets, philosophers and prophets. They were aware that their
solutions of problems vexing to the brains of other men, would be
Utopian, but as they were not willing to be classed with ordinary
Utopians they named their club Amaurot, after the capital of
Utopia, thus signifying that while they dwelt in Utopia, they were
not subject to it but were lords of it--the teachers of its wisdom
and the makers of its laws."

His home life absorbed much of his leisure. He and his family had
moved into a modest house on Gough Street, in San Francisco, with
a view of the bay, Alcatraz Island, and the Marin Hills from the
upstairs living-room window--for no house was a home to Lane that
had no view--and in the back-yard, among its red geraniums and
cosmos bushes, he played Treasure Island and Wild West with his

In the summer of 1902, Lane was nominated as the Democratic and
Non-Partisan candidate for Governor of California. At the
Democratic Convention at Sacramento, an onlooker described the
excitement among the delegates before a selection was made,
"Throughout the night until late afternoon of the second day,
without any clear solution of the problem, came the roll-call of
the counties, then a wild stampede for the young City and County
Attorney of San Francisco, who was borne to the platform. ...

"It was Franklin K. Lane who stood a goodly and confident figure,
waving a palm-leaf fan for quiet. He said:--

"'I was in the rear of the hall when Governor Budd made his speech
and voiced the call of the party for a winner, and, in response to
his call, I have taken this platform.'"

This note of joyous truculence, with the little out-thrust of the
underlip, brought, as so often before and since, laughter and

A hot and spirited campaign followed. California is naturally
Republican, and Lane had many times challenged and attacked the
great powers of the State. He made as his chief issues,
Irrigation, Prison Reform, and a fairer share in the world's goods
for all the people. He traveled far and fast, often speaking six
times in a day, at different places, and sometimes riding a
hundred and fifty miles in twenty-four hours, over the rough roads
of remote counties.

While campaigning he outlined his notion of public service in this
way, "No man should have a political office because he wants a
job. A public office is not a job, it is an opportunity to do
something for the public. Once in office it remains for him to
prove that the opportunity was not wasted. ..." And again he
said,--"There is nothing that touches me so, in the little that I
have seen in political life, as this, that while it is a game in
which men can be mean, contemptible and dastardly, it is a game
also that brings out the finer, better, and nobler qualities. I
know why some men are in politics to their own financial loss.
Because they find it is a great big man's game, which calls for
men to fight it, and they want to stand beside their fellows and
do battle."

In regretting that he could not attend a Democratic meeting, at
Richmond, California, he sent this letter,--


MY DEAR MR. NAUGLE,-- ... The cause of Democracy is being given
more sincere and thoughtful interest this campaign than for many
years. One of its cardinal principles is that the individual is
more important to the State than mere property, and that the
welfare of the majority of our citizens must always be paramount
and their rights prevail, no matter what the weight of influence
in the other side of the balance. It is work and personal worth
which make a State great both politically and industrially, and in
my estimation they are to be found in largest proportions in the
Democratic party. For these reasons I believe there will be a very
large change in the vote of this State in our coming election.
Reports have reached me from many parts of the State, and I am
entirely satisfied that we shall win this fight provided that we
do our full share of earnest work, if that be lacking we don't
deserve it. ... Yours for honest victory,


At first Hearst's powerful paper, the San Francisco Examiner, took
a negative tone toward Lane's candidacy but soon became
dangerously, if covertly, antagonistic. Of Hearst's methods of
attack Lane wrote, in detail, on July 3, 1912, to Governor Woodrow
Wilson, then Democratic nominee for the Presidency. After
enumerating one specific count after another against the Examiner
Lane said:--

"When a boy putting myself through college I was business manager
of a temperance paper which advocated prohibition. He [Hearst]
published extracts from this paper and credited them to me, and on
the morning of election day sent a special train throughout the
whole of Northern California containing an issue of his paper,
appealing to the saloon-keepers and wine-growers for my defeat.

"... No editorial word of his disfavor appeared, but in every news
article there was in the headline a cunning turn or twist,
calculated to arouse prejudice against me. I notice in this
morning's issue of the American the same policy is being pursued
regarding you.

"Now the great mistake I made was in not boldly telling the public
just what I knew. ... I felt that it was a personal matter with
which the public was not concerned, but I know now, as I have
gotten older and seen more of politics, that it was a public
matter of the first importance, as to which the public should have
had knowledge.

"Later when he [Hearst] budded as a candidate for President, in
1904, he sought an interview with me and said that he was not to
blame for the policy that had been pursued. Our interview closed
with this dialogue:--

"'Mr. Lane, if you ever wish anything that I can do, all you will
have to do will be to send me a telegram asking, and it will be

"To which I responded, 'Mr. Hearst, if you ever get a telegram
from me asking you to do anything, you can put that telegram down
as a forgery.'"

In a State like California, one of whose chief industries was the
growing of wine-grapes, and where the Examiner was the farmer's
paper, at least one phase of the attack upon Lane bore heavy
fruit. Upon election day the count between Lane and Dr. George
Pardee, the Republican candidate, was found to be close. In the
end several thousand votes, unmistakably intended for Lane, were
thrown out upon technicalities. Lane was defeated, and Dr. Pardee
took office. It was a bitter blow.

The night when the final bad news was brought to Lane in his home,
he called his son, of four, to him, leaning down he put his arm
around the boy very gravely and tenderly, and said, "Ned, it isn't
my little son, it is Dr. Pardee's little boy that is going to have
that white pony."

The boy caught the emotion in his father's voice, and said
cheerily, "O, that's all right, Dad. That's all right."

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