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

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Lane found that in spite of the loss of the Governorship his
circle of personal contacts had been greatly widened by his
campaign. He had come to know, and be known by, the men most
prominent in California public affairs and he had made, and
confirmed, many friendships with men who had given themselves
whole-heartedly to his advancement. Of these friendships he wrote,
in 1920, to his friend Timothy Spellacy, "Eighteen years I have
known you and never a word or act have I heard of, or seen, that
did not make me feel that the campaign for Governor was worth
while because it gave me your acquaintance, friendship,
affection. ... When I get mad, as I do sometimes, over something
that the Irish do, I always am tempted to a hard generalization
that I am compelled to modify because of you and Mike and Dan
O'Neill, in San Francisco--and a few more of the Great Irish."

Lane's second child, Nancy, was born January 4, 1903.

Early in that year Lane was given the complimentary vote of his
party in the California Legislature for United States Senator.

He was chosen in April to go to Washington to argue the case of
the need of the City of San Francisco for a pure water supply from
the Hetch-Hetchy Valley, an unused part of the Yosemite Park.

A curious opposition to this measure had been worked up in the
East by a small group of well-intentioned nature lovers who did
not, perhaps, realize that this was one of many thousand valleys
in the Sierras, and one not, in any sense, unique in its beauty.
The plan proposed to convert a remote, mosquito-haunted marsh,
dreaded even by hunters because of the "bad-going" into a large
lake-reservoir to feed the city of San Francisco. This was the
first of Lane's fights to assure to man the use of neglected
resources, and at the same time, by great care, to protect natural
beauty for his delight.

While in Washington on this errand, he met President Roosevelt
several times. Their informal talks served to increase Lane's
strong liking for the vigorous man of action, then at the height
of his powers.

To his friend he writes of all this.

To John H. Wigmore San Francisco, May 9,1903

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--My trip East was a great success. After leaving
you I stayed three or four days in Washington, where I found the
Department of the Interior pretty well stacked against me; I,
however, succeeded in having a day fixed upon which an argument
would be listened to, and after this victory went to New York,
where I met many old friends and made some new ones. ...

Upon my return to Washington I had several days of argument before
the Department, saw the President [Roosevelt] twice and lunched
with him, and then went South; was invited by the Legislature of
Texas to speak before them, which I did with much satisfaction,
especially as there were but two Republicans in both houses.

I stopped with my old friend Mezes, in Austin, who is the dean of
the University, ... and easily the most influential man socially,
politically, and educationally in the institution. ...

I am having an extremely disagreeable time. The Democrats here
insist upon my running for Mayor, urging it as a duty which I owe
to the party, because they say I am the only man who can be
elected; and as a duty to the city, because they say that the
scoundrels who are now in office will continue, and worse ones
come in, unless we can elect some clean Democrat. I urge
everything against the thing, that comes to my mind, including my
poverty, the fact that I made four campaigns in five years, my
personal aversion to the office of Mayor, the inability of any one
to please the people of San Francisco as Mayor, the conspiracy of
the newspapers that exists against a government that is not
controlled by them, and the fact that to insist upon my taking
this office would be an act of political murder on the part of my
friends. ... Yours as always,


Heavy and continued pressure, through the spring and summer, was
brought, by his party, to bear upon Lane to accept the nomination
for Mayor of San Francisco. His letters show his reluctance and
distress. The appeal was made personal, with reminders of
sacrifices made for him. He at last agreed to run. His judgment of
the situation was fully confirmed in the final event. His defeat
was unequivocal. San Francisco had no idea of accepting a
Democratic mayor with a leaning toward reform. Lane analysed the
political situation in this letter:--

To John H. Wigmore

San Francisco, January 26, 1904

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--What the effect of my defeat for Mayor will be,
it is of course impossible to say. Its immediate effect has been
to throw me into the active practice of law, and thus far I have
not starved. It will, of course, not lead to my retirement from
politics, but it will postpone no doubt, the realization of some
ambitions. I think I wrote you just what my state of mind was
previous to the nomination. I did not wish to make the fight, did
everything that was in my power to avoid the nomination, and even
went so far as to hold up the convention in a formal letter which
I addressed to it, telling them that I did not wish to be Mayor of
San Francisco and begging them to get some one else.

The fight was along class lines entirely; the employers on one
side and the wage earners on the other. The Republican nominee
represented the employers, the Union Labor nominee, the wage
earners. I stood for good government, and in the battle my voice
could hardly be heard. It was a splendid old fight in which every
interest that was vicious, violent, or corrupt was solidly against
me. And while I did not win the election, I lost nothing in
prestige by the defeat, save among politicians who are always
looking for availability. It was not, in the nature of things, up
to me to run for Mayor, but my people all believed that I was
assured of election and felt that I was the only man who could
possibly be elected. I acted out of a sense of loyalty to my party
and a desire to do something to rid the city of its present cursed
administration. However, it may in the end be a very fortunate
thing, for I know no career more worthless than that of a
perpetual office-seeker.

I received a letter from a friend in New York yesterday telling me
that Senator Hill [Footnote: In campaigning New York for
Cleveland, Lane had met David B. Hill.] had told him that the New
York delegation would cast its vote for me for Vice-President at
the Democratic National Convention, and that he regarded me as the
most available man to nominate; but, of course, I sent back word
that that was not to be considered.

I should judge from the EXAMINER here, that Hearst was making a
very strong fight for a delegation from Illinois. His boom seems
to me to be increasing. That it is possible for such a man to
receive the nomination, is too humiliating to be thought of. ...
Very sincerely yours,


The day after his defeat Lane had written to thank a generous


San Francisco, Wednesday [November, 1908]

MY DEAR WILL,--I can't go to the country without saying to you
once more that your self-sacrifice and manliness throughout this
campaign have endeared you to me to a degree that words cannot

I had hoped the last day or two that I would be able to make your
critics ashamed to look you in the face, and that they would in
time come pleading to you for recognition. But now you must be
content with knowing that you did a man's part, and set a standard
in friendship and loyalty which my boy shall be taught to strive

I earnestly hope that your business relations will not be
disturbed by this trouble into which I got you. Had I been out of
it Crocker couldn't have won. My vote would largely have gone for

Give my love to Mrs. Wheeler and believe me, always your friend,


Wheeler, himself a Republican, belonged, at the time, to a firm of
irreconcilable Republicans, who had expressed sharp disapproval of
his activity in Lane's behalf.

Out of office and back to the practise of the law, Lane soon built
his private practise on a firmer basis than before. His close
identification with the Democratic Party was not impaired, but the
frequent demands for attendance at public conventions and meetings
he could not leave his practise to accept. In declining one of
these invitations he replied:--


San Francisco, April 7, 1904

... Permit me to say that we of the West look to you who are
closer to the center of things for leadership. ... This means only
that we must be true to the principles that make us Democrats. ...
The law must not be severe or lenient with any man simply because
he is rich nor because he is poor. It must not become the tool of
class antagonism for either the persecution of the well-to-do or
for the repression of the masses of the people.

... We must resist the base opportunism which would abandon our
strong position of devotion to these fundamental principles of
good government for the sake of gaining temporary strength from
some passing passion of the hour. To identify our party with an
idea which springs from class distrust or class hatred is to gain
temporary stimulation at the expense of permanent weakness. If we
are to heed the voice which bids us cease to be Democrats in order
that we may win, we shall find that we have lost not only the
victory of being true, but also the victory at the polls, which
can be ours only in case we are true.

... Our creed is simple and clear, but it cannot be recited by
those who would make our organization an annex to the Republican
party by catering to that conservatism which seeks only to bring
greater benefit to the already wealthy, nor by those who would
make it an annex to the Socialist party by joining in every
attack, no matter how unjust, upon the wealthy. Sincerely yours,


To the Iroquois Club of Los Angeles on the same day he wrote,--"It
becomes us to consider well the meaning of the signs of the times.
Miracles may not be worked with these waves of prosperity. It is
in no man's power to say 'Peace, be still' and quiet the troubled
sea of panic. But we may make sure that men of steady nerve, of
clear head and highest purpose are at the helm. I expect to see
the time when the Democratic party will, by fixed adherence to a
well-defined course, gain and hold the approval and support of the
majority of our people, not for a single election but for a long
series of elections, and if we begin now with this end in view we
certainly will be prepared for whatever may happen--victory or
defeat; and in both alike we will be proud of our party and give a
guarantee for the future."

While campaigning California for Governor, in 1902, Isadore B.
Dockweiler ran on Lane's ticket, for the office of Lieutenant
Governor, and Dockweiler still looked to him for counsel.


San Francisco, April 16, 1904

MY DEAR DOCKWEILER,--You ask in your favor of the 14th whether
California will send a delegation to St. Louis pledged to Mr.
Hearst and if this program has been agreed upon, as is the report
in Los Angeles.

I cannot tell what the Democrats of California will do, but I know
what they should do. A delegation should go from this state that
is free, unowned, unpledged, made up of men whose prime interest
is that of their party and whom the party does not need to bind
with pledges. To pledge the delegation is to make the delegates
mere pawns, puppets, counters, coins to trade with,--so much
political wampum.

The object in holding a national convention is not to please the
vanity nor gratify the ambition of any individual, but to select a
national standard bearer who will proudly lead the party in the
campaign and be a credit to the party and an honor to the nation,
if elected. Surely the Democracy of California can select
candidates who can be depended upon to be guided by these
considerations. To tie the delegates hand and foot, toss them into
a bag, and sling them over the shoulder of one man to barter as he
may please, is not consistent with my notion of the dignity of
their position, nor does it appeal to me as the most certain
manner of making them effective in enlarging and emphasizing the
power of the state. ...

As to your suggestion of a program to deliver this state to one
candidate--if there is such a program--I am not a party to it,
never have been, and never will be. ... The Democrats of
California ... will do much for the sake of harmony so long as
party welfare and public good are not sacrificed; but they must be
permitted to make their own program irrespective of the personal
alliances, affiliations, or ambitions of politicians.

Personally, I am not in active political life. My views upon party
questions I do not attempt to impose upon my party, yet I know of
no reason why I should hesitate to give them expression. I cannot
but believe that if many a man were more indifferent to his
future, he would be more certain to have a future.

There is one reason which to my mind should forbid my active
direction of any organized movement against Mr. Hearst, namely the
attitude of his paper during my recent campaign for the
governorship. I do not wish it to be said or thought that I am
seeking to use our party for purposes of personal retaliation.
Whatever reasons for bitterness I may have because of that
campaign I am persuaded it does not affect my judgment that it is
the part of wisdom to send an unpledged delegation to the national

The Democrats of California should determine with calmness and
without passion what course will be most likely to prove a matter
of pride to themselves, their state, and the nation, and in that
sober judgment act fearlessly.

Sincerely yours,


The Pacific Coast, in 1904, still suffered from transportation
problems of great complexity. The railroads, whose terminals were
here, were few and extraordinarily powerful and had, heretofore,
controlled rail traffic, to a large extent, in their own interest.
They wanted no regulation or interference from the Interstate
Commerce Commission and no Pacific Coast representative on that
Commission. The fruit, wheat, and lumber producers of the Western
Coast, on the other hand, felt the need of a strong representative
to protect their interests against the railroads, and to stabilize
freight rates. Lane's record for independence of sinister control,
his legal training and energy made him the natural choice of the
shippers for this position.

Benjamin Ide Wheeler, President of the University of California,
was a friend of Lane's and also a friend of President Roosevelt's.
While in the East, in the spring of 1904, Wheeler had a talk with
Roosevelt, about Lane's qualifications for the Interstate Commerce
appointment. He told Roosevelt why the producers in California
needed a man that they could trust to be fair to their interests
on the Commission. Roosevelt heartily concurred, and promised to
name Lane for the next vacancy.

When the vacancy occurred, however, just after an overwhelming
Republican victory, Roosevelt impulsively gave the appointment to
an old friend--Senator Cockrill of Missouri, a Democrat. Wheeler
at once telegraphed the President reminding him of the oversight,
and to this Roosevelt telegraphed this reply:--

"Am exceedingly sorry, had totally forgotten my promise about Lane
and have nothing to say excepting that I had totally forgotten it
when Senator Cockrill was offered the position. I can only say now
that I shall put him in some good position suitable to his great
talents and experience when the chance occurs. Of course when I
made the promise about Lane the idea of getting Cockrill for the
position could not be in any one's head. This does not excuse me
for breaking the promise, which I should never have done, and of
course, if I had remembered it I should not have offered the
position to Cockrill. I am very sorry. But as fortunately I have
another term, I shall make ample amends to Lane later."

In September, 1905, while matters were in this position, Lane went
to Mexico, as legal adviser for a western rubber company. In
October, Roosevelt announced his intention to place Lane on the
Interstate Commerce Commission, to fill the annual vacancy that
occurred in December. The announcement caused much newspaper
comment, especially in the more partisan Republican press, as the
coming vacancy would leave two Republicans and two Democrats on
the Commission.

When Lane reached the United States he wrote:--


San Francisco, November 13,1905

MY DEAR WHITNEY,--I have just returned from a two months' trip
through Mexico, from the Rio Grande to Guatemala, and from the
Gulf to the Pacific, and know nothing whatever concerning the
Interstate Commerce Commissionership, save what I have seen in the
papers since my return. ... I have not put myself in the position
of soliciting, either directly or indirectly, this appointment; I
have never even stimulated to a slight degree the activity ... of
my friends on my behalf. There is some misgiving in my own mind as
to whether acceptance of the position would be of benefit to me
either politically, or otherwise. I have no doubt the nomination
for Governor can be mine next year without effort, and what the
outcome of an election would be in 1906, even in a Republican
State, is not now to be prophesied, in view of the somersaults in
Ohio and Pennsylvania of a week ago. Of course, ... it is a great
opportunity to prove or disprove the capacity of this government
to control effectively the corporations which seem determined to
be its master.

It does look to me as if the problem of our generation is to be
the discovery of some effective method by which the artificial
persons whom we have created by law can be taught that they are
not the creators, the owners, and the rightful managers of the
government. The real greatness of the President's policy, to my
notion, is that he has determined to prove to the railroads that
they have not the whole works, and the policy that they have
followed is as short-sighted as it can be. It will lead, if
pursued as it has been begun, to the wildest kind of a craze for
government ownership of everything. Just as you people in New York
City were forced, by the delinquency and corruption of the gas
combine, to undertake the organization of a municipal ownership
movement, so it may be that the same qualities in the railroads
will create precisely the same spirit throughout the country.

I appreciate thoroughly your position in New York. ... [Hearst]
knows public sentiment and how to develop it very well, and will
be a danger in the United States, I am afraid, for many years to
come. He has great capacity for disorganization of any movement
that is not his own, and an equal capacity for organization of any
movement that is his personal property. He feels with the people,
but he has no conscience. ... He is willing to do whatever for the
minute the people may want done and give them what they cry for,
unrestrained by sense of justice, or of ultimate effect. He is the
great American Pander.

Reverting again to the Interstate Commerce Commissionership, I
think the railroads here are determined that no Pacific Coast man
shall be appointed. That has been the policy of the Southern
Pacific since the creation of the Commission. ...

One of the amusing reports that has come to me is that the
railroad feels friendly toward me. I think probably the extent of
their friendliness is in acknowledging that I am not a
blackmailer. They know that I would not hold them up, just as well
as they know that I could not be held up. In the various campaigns
that I have made, it has never been suggested that the railroads
had any more influence with me than they ought to have, or that
anybody else had, and in my fight for the Governorship they did
not contribute so much as a single postcard, nor did an individual
railroad man contribute a dollar to the campaign fund. I
say this because I heard yesterday that word had gone to the
President that I was something of a railroad man, which is about
the most amusing thing that I have heard for sometime. The charge
never was made in any of my five campaigns, and certainly is made
only for foreign consumption, end not for home consumption.

Do not in any way put yourself out regarding this matter. I am
satisfied that the President will do just what he wants to do and
just what he thinks right, without much respect to what anybody
says to him, and I don't want to bring pressure to bear upon him;
but, of course, I want him to know that I have friends who think
well of me. I am very appreciative of your offer and efforts, and
hope that, whether I am given this position or not, I shall before
very long have the opportunity of seeing you in New York. Very



San Francisco, December 9, [1905]

MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT,--I have not written you before because of
my expectation that I would see you soon, but as there now seems
some doubt as to immediate confirmation I will not longer delay
expressing the deep gratification which the nomination gave me.
You gave the one answer I could have wished to the whispered
charge that I was bound by obligation of some sort to the
railroads--a charge never made in any form here, not even in the
hottest of my five campaigns. My honor stood pledged to you--by
the very fact of my willingness to accept the post--that I was
free, independent, self-owned, capable of unbiased action. And
that pledge remains.

As to my confirmation, it has been suggested that it was the
customary and expected thing for me to go to Washington and help
in the fight. This I feel I should not do and have so written to
Senator Perkins and others. I do not wish to appear indifferent in
the slightest degree to the honor you have done me, or to the
office itself, but I feel that you will appreciate without my
setting them forth on paper the many reasons which hold me here.
This is no time for an Interstate Commerce Commissioner to be on
his knees before a United States Senator or to be thought to be in
that position. Very respectfully yours,


To Benjamin Ide Wheeler President, University of California

San Francisco, December 15, 1905

MY DEAR MR. WHEELER,--I enclose copy of a letter sent this morning
to Mr. Smythe of San Diego, who is temporarily with Senator
Newlands in Washington.

I wanted to tell you last night that I had written to the
President thanking him for the confidence he had shown in me, and
telling him that I did not think it was the right thing for me to
go to Washington under present circumstances. He may have a
different notion in this respect, and of course I should be guided
by his judgment ... I have no doubt that many of the Senators
would be quite willing to let the President have the law if they
could have the Commission ...

Personally I should be most pleased to meet these critical
gentlemen of the Senate and give them a very full account of my
eventful career. But the fact that I am a Democrat could not be
disproved by my presence in Washington, and I am not likely to
apologize for what one of my kindly Republican critics calls "this
error of his boyhood." I am concerned in this matter because I do
not wish to cause the President any embarrassment. He is fighting
for far larger things than this appointment represents. He knows
his own game, and I am quite willing to stand on a side line and
see him play it to a finish, or get in and buck the center if I am
needed. I must apologize for troubling you with this matter, but I
do not wish you to regard me as indifferent or unappreciative. And
if you think that I am too far up in the clouds I want you frankly
to tell me so. Sincerely yours,


To William E. Smythe

San Francisco, December 15,1905

MY DEAR MR. SMYTHE,--I have been out of town for a few days, else
I would have acknowledged your kind letter of congratulation
sooner. I sent a note the other day to our friend Senator Newlands
in recognition of the effort he has been making to secure action
upon my appointment, and I certainly regard myself as very
fortunate in having one who knows me upon that Committee.
[Footnote: The Interstate Commerce Committee.]

According to the press despatches here I am regarded as something
of a monster by the more conservative Senators, a sort of cross
between Dennis Kearney and Eugene Debs with a little of Herr Most
thrown in ... I wish for confirmation, but not at the price of
having it thought that I in any way compromised myself to obtain
the Senate's favorable action. I know that you are not alone in
this view as to the wisdom of my going on, for I have received
other messages to the same effect. But, as you know, the President
made this appointment upon grounds quite superior to those of
political expediency and upon recommendations not at all political
in their nature ... Very truly yours,


To John H. Wigmore

San Francisco, December 21, [1905]

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--Your letter bore good fruit ... As for
confirmation it is not as likely as I could wish. However, I am
enjoying the situation hugely, and if the fight is kept up I may
enlarge into a national issue.

The Press of California (notice the respectful capital) is
practically a unit for me ... My information is that the President
will stand pat. But the fight with the Senate is growing so large
that no one can tell what will happen. I have been urged to go to
Washington and meet the Senators, but I have refused. ... Am I not

Remember me very kindly to your wife, and to you both a Merry
Christmas. As always yours,


To Benjamin Ide Wheeler President, University of California

San Francisco, December 22, [1905]

MY DEAR MR. WHEELER,--It was mighty good of you to bring me that
message of good cheer last night. I have not told you, and cannot
now tell you the very great pleasure and gratification you have
given me by the many evidences of your personal friendship. To me
it is better to have that kind of friendship than any office.

I have just received a letter from the President [Roosevelt] that
is so fine I want you to know of it at once--but the original I
keep for home use. Here it is:--

"... I thank you for your frank and manly letter. It is just the
kind of a letter I should have expected from you. You are
absolutely right in refraining from coming here. I shall make and
am making as stiff a fight as I know how for you. I think I shall
carry you through; but of course nothing of this kind is ever
certain. ..."

Please remember me most kindly to Mrs. Wheeler and believe me
always, faithfully yours,


The California earthquake, of April 18, 1906, occurred at about
five o'clock in the morning. Lane was living in North Berkeley,
across the bay from San Francisco. His house built of light wood
and shingles, rocked, and his chimneys flung down bricks, in the
successive shocks, but with no serious damage. Meanwhile San
Francisco sprang into flames from hundreds of broken gas mains.
Lane reached the city early in the morning, and was at once put,
by the Mayor, upon the Committee of Fifty to look to the safety of
the City.

Will Irwin wrote this picturesque story of the episode after
having heard his friend describe this adventure:--

"Lane has said since that, although he was brought up in the old
West, his was a city life after all. He had never tested himself
against primitive physical force, tried himself out in an
emergency, and he had always longed for such a test before he
died. When the test came it was a supreme one: the San Francisco
disaster. ...

"On the last day but one of this visitation the fire, smoldering
slowly in the redwood houses, had taken virtually all the district
east of Van Ness Avenue, a broad street which bisects the
residence quarter. ... By this time the authorities had given up
dynamiting. Chief Sullivan, the one man among them who understood
the use of explosives in fire fighting, was dead. The work had
been done by soldiers from the Presidio, who blew up buildings too
close to the flames and so only scattered them. Lane stood on the
slope of Russian Hill, watching the fire approach Van Ness Avenue,
when a contractor named Anderson came along. 'That fire always
catches at the eaves, not the foundations,' said Lane. 'It could
be stopped right here if some one would dynamite all the block
beyond Van Ness Avenue. It could never jump across a strip so
broad.' 'But they've forbidden any more dynamiting,' said
Anderson. 'Never mind; I'd take the chance myself if we could get
any explosive,' replied Lane. 'Well, there's a launch full of
dynamite from Contra Costa County lying right now at Meigs's
Wharf,' said Anderson. Just then Mr. and Mrs. Tom Magee arrived,
driving an automobile on the wheel rims. Lane despatched them to
Meigs's Wharf for the dynamite. He and Anderson found an electric
battery, and cut some dangling wires from a telephone pole. By
this time the Magees were back, the machine loaded with dynamite;
Mrs. Magee carrying a box of detonators on her lap. Lane,
Anderson, and a corps of volunteers laid the battery and strung
the wires. 'How do you want this house to fall?' asked Anderson,
who understands explosives. 'Send her straight up,' replied Lane.

"'And I've never forgotten the picture which followed,' Lane has
told me since. 'Anderson disappeared inside, came out, and said:
"All ready." I joined the two ends of wire which I held in my
hands. The house rose twenty feet in the air--intact, mind you! It
looked like a scene in a fairy book. At that point I rolled over
on my back, and when I got up the house was nothing but dust and

"They went down the line, blowing up houses, schools, churches.
Then came bad news. To the south sparks were catching on the eaves
of the houses. Down there was a little water in cisterns.
Volunteers under Lane's direction made the householders stretch
wet blankets over the roofs and eaves. Then again bad news from
the north. There the fire had really crossed the avenue. It
threatened the Western Addition, the best residence district. The
cause seemed lost. Lane ran up and looked over the situation. Only
a few houses were afire, and the slow-burning redwood was
smoldering but feebly. 'Just a little water would stop this!' he
thought. The whole water system of San Francisco was gone, or
supposedly so, through the breaking of the mains. 'But I had a
hunch, just a hunch,' said Lane, 'that there was water somewhere
in the pipes.' He had learned that a fire company which had given
up the fight was asleep on a haystack somewhere in the Western
Addition. He went out and found them. They had been working for
thirty-six hours; they lay like dead men. Lane kicked the soles of
the nearest fireman. He returned only a grunt. The next fireman,
however, woke up; Lane managed to get him enthusiastic. He found a
wrench, and together he and Lane went from hydrant to hydrant,
turning on the cocks. The first five or six gave only a faint
spurt and ceased to flow. Then, and just when the fireman was
getting ready to go on strike, they turned a cock no more
promising than the others, and out spurted a full head of water.
No one knows to this day where that water came from, but it was
there! They shut off the stream. 'It will take three engines to
pump it to that blaze,' said the fireman. He, Lane, and Anderson
scattered in opposite directions looking for engines. When twenty
minutes later, Lane returned with an engine and company two others
had already arrived. But they had not yet coupled the hose up. The
companies were quarreling as to which, under the rules of the
department, should have the position of honor close to the
hydrant! Lane settled that question of etiquette with speed and
force. They got a stream on the incipient fire, and the water held
out. The other side of Van Ness Avenue gradually burned out and
settled down into red coals. The Western Addition was saved, and
the San Francisco disaster was over."

A few days later Lane started to Washington in an attempt to raise
money for the rebuilding of San Francisco. When he found that
Congress would not act in this matter, he, with Senator Newlands,
of Nevada, and some others, went to the President and the
Secretary of the Treasury to see if Federal help could be secured
for the ruined city.

To William R. Wheeler

New York, June 23, [1906]

MY DEAR WILL,--I have just returned from Washington, where I hope
we have accomplished some good for San Francisco, although it was
mighty hard to move anyone except the President and the Secretary
of the Treasury. But I did not intend to write of anything but
your personal affairs. Yesterday, on the train, I discovered that
you had met with another fire. This is rubbing it in, hitting a
man when he is down. The Gods don't fight fair. The decent rules
of the Marquis of Queensberry seem to have no recognition on
Olympus, or wherever the Gods live. I can quite appreciate the
strain you are under and the monumental difficulties of your
situation, dealing as you are with dispirited old men and
indifferent young ones, I hope this last blow will have some
benefit which I cannot now perceive, else it must come like almost
a knock-out to the concern. Brave, strong, bully old boy, no one
knows better than I do what a fight you have been making these
last few years and how many unkindnesses fortune has done you.
There is not much use either in preaching to one's self or to
another, the advantages of adversity. I don't believe that men are
made by fighting relentless Fate, the stuff they have is sometimes
proved by struggle,--that is the best that can be said for such

More power to you my dear fellow! I took occasion to give M ... a
warm dose of Bill Wheeler. He is an old sour-ball who thinks he is
alive but evidently has been in the cemetery a long time. He
talked all right about you, but all wrong about San Francisco ...

Give my regards to the dear wife whose heart is stout enough to
meet any calamity, and remember me most warmly to the Boy.
Sincerely and affectionately yours, FRANKLIN K. LANE

The Hepburn Bill provided for seven men on the Interstate Commerce
Commission, instead of five. Roosevelt intimated that he would
appoint two Republicans. All opposition to Lane was then

To John H. Wigmore

New York, June 27, [1906]

MY DEAR WIGMORE,--Thanks, and again thanks, for your letter to
Senator Cullom and yours to me. It looks now as if with a seven
man Commission the objection to my Democracy would cease. Senator
Cullom's letter is very reassuring, and I wish that I had met him
when in Washington. ...

Before another week this business of mine will have come to a
head, and I hope soon after to start West, via Chicago.

If the report to-day is true that Harlan of Chicago is to go on
the Commission, you will have two friends on the body. I
personally think most highly of Harlan and would be mighty proud
to sit beside him. His political fortune seems to have been akin
to mine, and we have one dear and cherished enemy in common.

Remember me most kindly to your wife and believe me, faithfully


Telegram. To John H. Wigmore

New York, June 30, [1906]

Confirmation has to-day arrived thanks to a friend or two like


To William R. Wheeler

Washington, July 2, [1906]

MY DEAR BILL,--I have waited until this minute to write you, that
I might send you the first greeting from the new office. I have
just been sworn in and signed the oath, and to you I turn first to
express gratitude, appreciation, and affection.

My hope is to leave here tomorrow and go to Chicago at once on
your affair, and then West.

Remember me most affectionately to your wife, and believe me
always most faithfully yours,


At the same time an affectionate letter of appreciation went to
Benjamin Ide Wheeler.




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

During the late summer of 1906, Lane was in Washington or
traveling through the South and West to attend the hearings of the
Interstate Commerce Commission. The Hepburn Act of 1906, among
other extensions of power to the Commission, brought the express
companies of the United States under its jurisdiction, and the
Commission began the close investigation into the rates, rules,
and practises, that finally resulted in a complete reorganization
and zoning of the companies. The new powers given the Commission,
by this Act, inspired fresh hope of righting old abuses,
associated with railroad finance, over-capitalization and stock-
jobbing. The Commission set itself to finding a way out of the
ancient quarrel between shippers and railroads in the matters of
rebating and demurrage charges.

In the latter part of the year, President Roosevelt called an
important meeting at the White House, for the purpose of deciding
whether an inquiry should not be made into the merging of the
Western railroads, then under the control of E. H. Harriman. Elihu
Root, then Secretary of State; William H. Taft, Secretary of War;
Charles Bonaparte, Attorney General, were present; Chairman Martin
A. Knapp and Franklin K. Lane of the Interstate Commerce
Commission, and the special Counsel for the Commission--Frank B.
Kellogg. The matter of the proposed inquiry was discussed, each
man being asked, in turn, to express his opinion. Root and Knapp
were not in favor of beginning an investigation of the railroad
merger, Bonaparte, Kellogg, and Lane favored an immediate inquiry.
Lane declared that, in a few weeks, when the report of the
Interstate Commerce Commission was published, it would be
impossible to avoid making the inquiry.

At this point, President Roosevelt turned to William H. Taft, who
as yet had expressed no opinion, saying, "Will, what do you think
of this?" Mr. Taft said quietly, "It's right, isn't it? Well, damn
it, do it then." And the plans for the famous Harriman Inquiry,
the first real step taken toward curbing the power of public
utilities, were then taken under consideration.

During the inquiry, when E. H. Harriman was on the stand for
hours, the Commissioners trying to extract, by round-about
questioning, the admission from him that he would like to extend
his control over the railroads of the country, Lane, who had been
silent for some time, suddenly turned and asked Harriman the
direct question. What would he do with all the roads in the
country, if he had the power? With equal candor and simplicity,
Harriman replied that he would consolidate them under his own
management. This answer rang through the country.


Washington, February 16, 1907

MY DEAR ADAMS,-- ... I think the standpoint taken by our railroad
friends in 1882 is that which possesses their souls to-day. I am
conscious each time I ask a question that there is deep resentment
in the heart of the railroad official at being compelled to
answer, but that he is compelled to, he recognizes. The operating
and traffic officials of the railroads are having a very hard time
these days with the law departments. They can not understand why
the law department advises them to give the information we demand,
and I have heard of some most lively conferences in which the
counsel of the companies were blackguarded heartily for being
cowards, in not fighting the Commission. You certainly took
advanced ground in 1882, ... --there can be no such thing as a
business secret in a quasi-public corporation. ... Very truly



Washington, March 31,1907

MY DEAR MR. WHEELER,-- ... I have taken the liberty of giving Mr.
Aladyin, leader of the Group of Toil in the Russian Duma, a note
of introduction. He's an immensely interesting young man, a fine
speaker and comes from plain, peasant stock. He will talk to your
boys if you ask him. During these days of panic in Wall Street the
President [Roosevelt] has called me in often and shown in many
ways that he in no way regrets the appointment you urged. I have
been much interested in studying him in time of stress. He is one
of the most resolute of men and at the same time entirely and
altogether reasonable. No man I know is more willing to take
suggestion. No one leads him, not even Root, but no one need fear
to give suggestion. He lives up to his legend, so far as I can
discover, and that's a big order. The railroad men who are wise
will rush to the support of the policies he will urge before the
next Congress, or they will have national ownership to face as an
immediate issue, or a character of regulation that they will
regard as intolerable.

You will be here again soon and I hope that you will come directly
to our house and give us the pleasure of a genuine visit. ...
Sincerely yours,



Washington, February 14, 1908

My DEAR MR. SECRETARY,--I have lately been engaged in writing an
opinion upon the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce
Commission over ocean carriers engaged in foreign commerce, and it
has occurred to me that an extensive American merchant marine
might be developed by some legislation which would permit American
ships to enjoy preferential through routes in conjunction with our
railroad systems. The present Interstate Commerce Law, as I
interpret it, gives to the Commission jurisdiction over carriers
to the seaboard. It is the assumption of the law that rates will
be made to and from the American ports and that at such ports all
ships may equally compete for foreign cargo.

Might it not be possible to extend the jurisdiction of the
Commission over all American vessels engaged in foreign trade, and
with such ships alone--they alone being fully amenable to our law
--permit the railroad which carries to the port to make through
joint rates to the foreign point of destination? There is so vast
a volume of this through traffic that the preference which could
thus be given to the American ship would act as a most substantial
subsidy. There may be objections to this suggestion arising either
out of national or international policy which render it unworthy
of further consideration. It has appealed to me, however, as
possibly containing the germ of what Mr. Webster would have termed
a "respectable idea." Faithfully yours,



Washington, December 19, 1908

MY DEAR MR. BEARD,--I have not seen the article in the CALL, to
which you refer, but have heard of it from a couple of
Californians, much to my distress. Of course I appreciate that at
a time of strain such as that which you shippers and business men
of California are now undergoing, it is to be expected that the
most conservative language will not be used. ... The trouble is
with the law. ... It is only upon complaint that an order can be
made reducing a rate, and I understand that such complaints are at
present being drafted in San Francisco and will in time come
before us but such matters cannot be brought to issue in a week
nor heard in a day, and when I tell you that we have on hand four
hundred cases, at the present time, you will appreciate how great
the volume of our work is, and that you are not alone in your
feeling of indignation or of distress. If you will examine the
docket of the Commission, you will find that the cases of the
Pacific Coast have been taken care of more promptly within the
last two years than the cases in any other part of the United
States. I have seen to this myself, because of the long neglect of
that part of the country. ...

I want to speak one direct personal word to you. You are now
protesting against increased rates. I have outlined to you the
only remedy [a change in the law] that I see available against the
continuance of just such a policy on the part of the railroads,
and I think it might be well for you to see that the Senators and
Representatives from California support this legislation. It is
not calculated in any way to do injustice or injury to the
railroads. ... This is a plan which I have proposed myself, and
for which I have secured the endorsement of the Commission. The
San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has endorsed it. The whole
Pacific Coast should follow suit enthusiastically.

Please remember that I am not the Commissioner from California;
that I am a Commissioner for the United States; and that it is not
my business to fight the railroads, but to hear impartially what
both sides may have to say and be as entirely fair with the
railroads as with the shippers. I am flattered to know that the
railroad men of the United States do not regard me as a deadhead
on this Commission. My aggressiveness on behalf of the shipping
public has brought upon my head much criticism, and it would be
the greatest satisfaction for those who have been prosecuted for
rebating or discovered in illegal practises to feel that they were
able in any degree to raise in the minds of the shippers any
question of my loyalty to duty.

I expect to be in California during January, for a few days, and
hope that I may see you at that time. Very sincerely yours,



Washington, February 13, 1909

MY DEAR GEORGE,--... I suppose you haven't seen my interview on
the Japanese question. I gave it at the request of the President
[Roosevelt], because he said that the Republican Senators and
Congressmen would not stand by him if it was going to be a
partisan question in California politics. So I said that I would
give the value of my name and influence to the support of his
policy, so that Flint, Kahn, ET AL., could quote me as against any
attack by the Democrats. The President has done great work for the
Coast. Congress never would have done anything at this time, and
by the time it is willing to do something the problem will
practically be solved. I am expecting to be roasted somewhat, in
California, but I felt that it was only right to stand by the man
who was really making our fight without any real backing from the
East, and without many friends on the Pacific--so far as the
"pollies" are concerned.

... The Harriman crowd seems to think that they will all be on
good terms with Taft, but unless I'm mistaken in the man they will
be greatly fooled. ...

Have you noticed that nice point of constitutional law, dug up by
a newspaper reporter, which renders Knox ineligible as Secretary
of State? He voted for an increase in the salary of the Secretary
of State three years ago. They will try to avoid the effect of the
constitutional inhibition by repealing the act increasing the
salary. Technically this won't do Knox any good, altho' it will
probably be upheld by the Courts, if the matter is ever taken into
the Courts.

Roosevelt is very nervous these days but as he said to me the
other day, "They know that I am President right up to March
fourth." I took Ned and Nancy to see him and he treated them most
beautifully. Gave Ned a pair of boar tusks from the Philippines
and told him a story about the boar ripping up a man's leg just
before he was shot, and to them both he gave a personal card.

F. K. L.

With this letter he sent a copy of a verse written by his
daughter, not yet seven.

"On through the night as the willows go weeping
The daffodils sigh,
As the wind sweeps by
Right through the sky."


Washington, March 20, 1909

My Dear McClatchy,--I am just in receipt of your letter of March
15th, with reference to my running for Governor next year.

There is nothing in this rumor whatever. I have been approached by
a good many people on this matter, and perhaps I have not said as
definitely as I should that I had no expectation of re-entering
California politics. When I was last in California some of my
friends pointed out to me the great opening there would be for me
if I would become a Republican and lead the Lincoln-Roosevelt
people. There does not seem to be any line of demarcation between
a Democrat and a Republican these days, so that such a change
would not in itself be an act of suicide. My own personal belief
is that the organization in California on the Republican side
could be rather easily beaten, and we could do with California
what La Follette did with Wisconsin. But I am trying not to think
of politics, and I told those people who came to me that I thought
my line of work for the next few years was fixed.

... No one yet knows from Mr. Taft's line of policy what kind of a
President he will make. Everybody is giving him the benefit of the
doubt. The thing, I find, that hangs over all Presidents and other
public men here to terrify them is the fear of bad times. The
greatness of Roosevelt lay, in a sense, in his recklessness. These
people undoubtedly have the power to bring on panics whenever they
want to and to depress business, and they will exercise that power
as against any administration that does not play their game, and
the "money power," as we used to call it, allows the President and
Congress a certain scope--a field within which it may move but if
it goes outside that field and follows policies or demands
measures which interfere with the game as played by the high
financiers, they do not hesitate to use their "big stick," which
is the threat of business depression. ...

There are a lot of things to be done in our State yet before we
both pass out. ... As always, very truly yours,



Washington, September 22, 1909

MY DEAR ABBOTT,-- ... President Taft's suggestion of a Commerce
Court is a very sensible one. We suggested the institution of such
a Court some years ago, so that the question of nullifying our
order will be brought up before men who have special experience.
... The trouble with the Courts is that they know nothing about
the question. Fundamentally it is not ... law but economics that
we deal with. The fixing of a rate is a matter of politics. That
is the reason why I have always held that the traffic manager is
the most potent of our statesmen. So that we should have a Court
that will pass really upon the one question of confiscation--the
constitutionality of the rates fixed--and leave experienced men
to deal with the economic questions. ...

I have long wanted to see you and have a talk about our work. At
times it is rather disheartening. The problem is vast, and we pass
few milestones. The one great accomplishment of the Commission, I
think, in the last three years, has been the enforcement of the
law as against rebating. We have a small force now that is used in
this connection under my personal direction, and I think the
greatest contribution that we have made, perhaps, to the railroads
has been during the time of panic when they were kept from cutting
rates directly or indirectly and throwing each other into the
hands of receivers.

The great volume of our complaints comes from the territory west
of the Mississippi River and practically all of the larger cities
in the inter-mountain country have complaints pending before us
attacking the reasonableness of the rates charged them, and it is
to give consideration to these that the Commission, as a body,
goes West the first of the month. ...

I have just returned from a trip to Europe, and I find that what I
said two or three years ago about the United States being the most
Conservative of the civilized countries is absolutely true.

By the way, at the Sorbonne at Paris they are exhibiting the chair
in which President Roosevelt will sit when he comes to deliver his
address and I am thinking that he will have quite as hearty a
reception in Paris as in any of our cities.

Very truly yours,



Washington, December 3, 1909

MY DEAR DOCTOR,--... I think there is but little doubt that De
Vries will receive the appointment, though of course everything
here is in absolute chaos. ... The best symptom in my own case is
that I have been called in twice to consult over proposed
amendments to the law, and the President's [Taft's] reference
thereto in his forthcoming message. He seems to think my judgment
worth something--more than I do myself, in fact--for down in my
heart, though I do not let anybody see it, I am really a modest

Since my return from the West we have had one merry round of
sickness in the house ... but all are on their feet once more and
as gay as they can be with a more or less grumpy head of the
household in the neighborhood, (assuming for the nonce that I am
the head of the household).

The President is going to appoint Lurton. [Footnote: To the
Supreme Bench.] He should have said so when he made up his mind to
do it, which was immediately after Peckham's death. He would have
saved himself an immense amount of trouble. Lurton seems to have
been very hostile to the Interstate Commerce Commission, and is
too old, but otherwise I hear nothing said against him. I really
would like to see Bowers put on the bench very much. He has made a
very favorable impression here, and is a clear lawyer, a very
strong man, and in sympathy with Federal control that's real.

By the way, I had a talk the other day with Attorney General
Wickersham regarding the treatment of criminals, and I believe you
can secure through him the initiation of an enlightened policy in
this matter. He told me that he was going to make some
recommendations in his report, and perhaps the President may deal
with the matter slightly in his message. Wickersham is a
thoroughly modern proposition, and as he has charge of all the
penitentiaries, and his recommendations, with relation to parole
and such things, absolutely go with the President, I believe you
could do more good in an hour's talk with him than you could
effect in a year otherwise. If you could run down, during the
holiday vacation, I would bring you two together for a talk on
this matter, and you, also, might take up the very live question
with the President of cutting off red-tape in the courts. Give my
love to Mrs. Wigmore, and tell her, too, that we would be most
delighted to see her here. Faithfully yours,


On December 9,1909, President Taft reappointed Franklin K. Lane as
a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission.


En route to California, Monday, March [1910]

... I have spent a rather pleasant day reading, and looking at
this great desert of New Mexico and Arizona. No one on board that
I know or care to know, but the big sky and my books keep me busy.
Do you remember that picture in the Corcoran Gallery with a wee
line of land at the bottom and a great high reach of blue sky
above, covering nine-tenths of the canvas? I have thought of it
often to-day--"the high, irrepressible sky." It is moonlight and
the rare air gives physical tone, so that I feel a bit more like
myself, as was, than is ordinary. ...

I have thought of a lecture to-day and you must keep this letter
as a reminder and make me do it one of these days: THE PROBLEMS OF

INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL AUTHORITY, which shall fix standards of
value, based on no one metal or commodity, but on a great number
of staples.

I have thought much of the farm. It will be so far away and so
impracticable of use! But such an anchor to windward, for two most
hand-to-mouth spendthrifts! ...


Washington, April 29, 1910

MY DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,--Mr. Kellogg tells me that he expects to
see you in Europe, and I avail myself of his offer to carry a word
of welcome to you, inasmuch as I must leave for Europe the day
after your arrival in New York, the President having appointed me
as a delegate to the International Railway Congress at Berne.

The country is awaiting you anxiously--not out of mere curiosity
to know what your attitude will be, but to lead it, to give it
direction. The public opinion which you developed in favor of the
"square deal" is stronger to-day than when you left, and your
personal following is larger to-day than it ever has been. There
is no feeling (or if there is any it is negligible) that the
President [Taft] has been consciously disloyal to the policies
which you inaugurated or to his public promises. He is patriotic,
conscientious, and lovable. This was your own view as expressed to
me, and this view has been confirmed by my personal experience
with him. It is also, I believe, the judgment of the country at
large. But the people do not feel that they control the government
or that their interests will be safeguarded by a relationship that
is purely diplomatic between the White House and Congress. In
short we have a new consciousness of Democracy, largely resulting
from your administration, and it is such that the character of
government which satisfied the people of twenty years ago is found
lacking to-day. Practically all the criticism to which this
administration has been subjected arises out of the feeling of the
people that their opinions and desires are not sufficiently
consulted, and they are suspicious of everything and everybody
that is not open and frank with them.

Outside of a few of the larger states the entire country is
insurgent, and insurgency means revolt against taking orders. The
prospect is that the next House will be Democratic, but the
Democrats apparently lack a realization of the many new problems
upon which the country is divided. Their success would not
indicate the acceptance of any positive program of legislation; it
would be a vote of lack of confidence in the Republican party
because it has allowed apparent party interest to rise superior to
public good. The prospect is that every measure which Congress
will pass at this session will be wise and in line with your
policies, but the people do not feel that THEY are passing the

I have presumed to say this much, thinking that perhaps you would
regard my opinion as entirely unbiased, and in the hope that I
might throw some light upon what I regard as the fundamental
trouble which has to be dealt with. Whether you choose to re-enter
political life or not, men of all parties desire your leadership
and will accept your advice as they will that of none other.

Pardon me for this typewriting, but I thought that you might
prefer a letter in this form which you could read to one in my own
hand which you could not read. Believe me, as always, faithfully


From Berlin, Lane received from Theodore Roosevelt, dated May 13,
1910, these lines,--

" ... I think your letter most interesting. As far as I can judge
you have about sized up the situation right. With hearty good
wishes, faithfully yours,



Washington, March 2, 1911

MY DEAR JOHN,--No other letter that I have received has done me as
much good or given me as much pleasure, or has been as much of a
stimulus, as has yours. The fact that you took the time to go
through the REPORT so carefully is an evidence of a friendship
that is beyond all price, and of which I feel most unworthy. I
have had the figures checked over, resulting in some slight
changes, and will send you a revised copy as soon as it is
printed. The newspaper criticisms are generally very friendly,
other railway organs are extremely bitter. The Western papers do
not seem to have been very much elated over the decision. It has
appeared to me from the beginning as if they had been "fixed" in
advance and that their reports were always biased for the
railroads, but the country at large will realize, I think, before
long, that the decisions are sound, sensible, and in the public
interest. Some of the least narrow of the railroad men also take
this view. The best editorial I have seen is in the New York
EVENING POST. Sincerely yours,


P. S. I got this note from Roosevelt this morning, headed THE

"Fine! I am really greatly obliged to you, and I shall read the
REPORT with genuine interest. More power to your elbow! Faithfully

"This report was known," Commissioner Harlan explains, "as the
Western Advance Rate Case. It was one of the first of the great
cases covering many commodities and applying over largely extended
territories. In his opinion denying the rate advances proposed by
the carriers, Commissioner Lane discussed the Commission's new
powers of suspending the operation of increased rates pending
investigation and the burden of proof in such cases. He marshalled
a vast array of facts and figures and announced conclusions that
were accepted as convincing by the public at large. He then
pointed out that the laws enforced by the Commission sought
dominion over private capital for no other purpose than to secure
the public against injustice and thereby make capital itself more


Washington, June 27, 1911

DEAR SIR,--Adverting to yours of June 22, IN RE express rates, I
beg to advise that nothing can be added to my previous letter
unless it is the expression of my personal opinion that a rate
should not be made for the carriage of 20,000 pound shipments by

We are receiving daily similar complaints to yours, respecting the
nonadjustment of express rates, and if you will call at this
office we shall be pleased to reveal the reason for our failure,
hitherto, to grant the relief desired. It is extremely warm in
Washington at the present time, but if anything could add to the
disagreeableness of life in the city it is the unreasoning
insistence on the part of the traffic bureaus of the country that
express rates shall be fixed overnight.

I desire to say that I have given some year or two of more or less
profane contemplation to this question, and have now engaged a
large corps of men, under the direction of Mr. Frank Lyon as
attorney for the Commission, to seek a way out of the inextricable
maze of express company figures. Whether we will be able to find
the light before the Infinite Hand that controls our destinies
cuts short the cord, is a question to which no certain answer can
be given. Would you kindly advise the importunate members of a
most worthy institution, that express rates to San Francisco
possess me as an obsessment. My prayer is at night interfered with
by consideration of the question--"What should the 100 pound rate
be by Wells Fargo & Co. from New York to San Francisco?" And at
night often I am aroused from sleep, feeling confident in my
dreams that the mystic figure of "a just and reasonable rate,"
under Section One, on 100-pound shipments to San Francisco, had
been determined, and awaken with a joyous cry upon my lips, to
discover that life has been made still more unhappy by the torture
of the subconscious mind during sleep.

No doubt your shippers are being treated unfairly, both by the
express companies and by the Interstate Commerce Commission. This
is a cruel world. Congress itself adds to the torture, by almost
daily referring to us some bill touching express rates or parcels
post, or some such similar service, and while the thermometer
stands at 117 degrees in the shade we are requested to advise as
to whether express companies should not be abolished. It has only
been by the exercise of a rare and unusual degree of self-control
on my part, and by long periods of prayer, that I have refrained
from advising Congress that I thought express companies should be
abolished and designating the place to which they should be

As perhaps you may have heard, I shall visit the Pacific Coast in
person during the next few weeks, and there I trust I may have the
pleasure of meeting you and your noble Governing Committees, to
whom I shall explain in person and in detail the difficulties
attaching to the solution of this problem. ... Sincerely yours,



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, but I think I am sensible. We are dealing with men
convicted of crime more harshly and more unreasonably than we deal
with dogs. Our fundamental mistake is that we utterly ignore the
fact that there is such a thing as psychology. We are treating
prisoners with the methods of five hundred years ago, before
anything was known about the nature of the human mind. ... There
are, of course, certain kinds of men who should for society's sake
be kept in prison as long as they live, just as there are kinds of
insane people that should be kept in insane asylums until they
die. ...

I think if you will get the thought into your mind that our
present penal system is Silurian and unscientific--the same to-day
as it was 10,000 years ago--you will see my stand-point. Our
penitentiaries develop criminals, they make criminals out of men
who are not criminals to begin with--boys, for instance. They
debase and degrade men. The state by its system of punishment
reaches into the heart of a man and plucks out his very soul. I am
speaking of men who are when they enter responsive to good
impulses. ...

I thoroughly appreciate the spirit in which you have written me,
and I hope that you will get my point of view. I have known Abe
Ruef for over twenty-five years. He was a perfectly straight young
man and anxious to help in San Francisco. I do not know the
influences that turned him into the direction that he took, but I
am absolutely certain that that man has suffered mental tortures
greater than any that he would have ever suffered if he had gone
to a physical hell of fire. He may appear brave, but he is in
fact, I will warrant you, a heart-broken man, because he has
failed of realizing his own decent ideals. ... He never was my
friend, politically, socially, or otherwise, but my judgment is
that society will be better off if he is allowed the limited
freedom that a parole gives and given an opportunity to live up to
his own ideal of Abe Ruef.

Regards to Val, your wife, and family. As always, faithfully



[Washington, January, 1912]

MY DEAR CHARLES,--I have your note regarding Ruef. ... It seems to
me you have made one good point against me, and only one,--that
there are poor men in jail who ought to be paroled at the end of a
year. Very well, why not parole them? If they are men who have
been reached by public opinion and are subject to it, I see no
reason why they should be kept in jail. Every case must be dealt
with by itself and to each case should be given the same kind of
treatment that I give to Ruef. You will be advocating this thing
yourself one of these days, calling it Christian and civilized and
denouncing those who do not agree with you as being barbarians. It
may be that Ruef fooled me when he was just out of college, but I
was a member of the Municipal Reform League which John H. Wigmore,
now Dean of the Northwestern University Law School, Ruef and
myself started. It did not last very long, but I think that Ruef
was as zealous as any of us for good government.

With many wishes for the New Year, believe me always, my dear
Charles, yours faithfully,



December 13, 1911

MY DEAR BURNS,--I have felt grievously hurt, at hearing from
Pfeiffer several times, that you had written him, and nary a word
to me. The idea that I should write to you when you had nothing in
the world to do but write me, never entered my head. I want you to
understand distinctly the position which you now occupy in the
minds of your friends. You are a gentleman of leisure, traveling
in Europe with an invalid wife, necessarily bored, and anxious to
meet with anything that will give you an interesting life. Under
the circumstances, you may relieve your mind at any time, of any
intellectual bile, by correspondence. ... If you wish something
serious to do, I will formally direct you to make a report upon
Railway Rates and Railway Service in Europe. This will give you
some diversion in between your attacks of religion and

Pfeiffer, I presume, has returned from the Far West, but so far I
have not heard from him. The last letter I got was from the
Yosemite. He seems to have been enchanted with that country. He
says there is nothing in Europe to compare with it. It is splendid
to see a fellow of his age, and with all of his learning, keep up
his enthusiasm. It seems to me that he is more appreciative and
buoyant than he was twenty years ago, and he is really very sane.
His sympathies, unlike yours, are with the present and not with
the dead past.

You will be interested in knowing that Mr. T. Roosevelt is likely
to be the next Republican nominee for President. Within the last
six weeks it has become quite manifest that Taft cannot be
elected. ... And so you see, the whirligig of time has made
another turn. Big Business in New York is looking to Roosevelt as
a statesman who is practical. The West regards him as the champion
of the plain people. He is keeping silent, but no doubt like the
negro lady he is quite willing to be "fo'ced."

On the Democratic side all of the forces have united to destroy
Wilson, who is the strongest man in the West. The bosses are all
against him. They recently produced an application which he had
made for a pension, under the Carnegie Endowment Fund for
Teachers, which had been allowed to lie idle, unnoticed for a year
or so after its rejection, but owing to campaign emergencies was
produced, at this happy moment, to show that Wilson wanted a
pension. As a Philadelphia poet whom you never heard of says:--

"Ah, what a weary travel is our act,
Here, there, and back again, to win some prize,
Those who are wise their voyage do contract
To the safe space between each others' eyes."

This line is in keeping with my reputation as an early Victorian.
... Do write me some good long letters. You have a better literary
style than any man who ever wrote a letter to me, and I love you
for the prejudices that are yours. Give my love to your wife. As
always yours,



Washington, December 10, 1911

MY DEAR COLONEL,--I have been thinking over what I said yesterday,
and I am going to presume upon my friendship and, I may say, my
affection for you to make a suggestion:

Even though the call comes from a united party and under
circumstances the most flattering, do not accept it unless you are
convinced of two things: (1) that you are needed from a national
standpoint and not merely from a party standpoint; (2) that you
are certain of election.

Sacrifice for one's country is splendid, but sacrifice for one's
party is foolish. You must feel assured before acceding to the
call, which I believe will certainly come, that it is more than
party-wide, and that it is sufficiently strong to overcome the
trend toward Democratic success. If I were asked I would say that
I think both of these conditions are present--that the desire to
have you again is much broader than any party, and so large that
it would insure your victory;--but no man is as wise a judge of
these things as the man himself whose fortunes are at stake.

Thanking you again for the pleasure of a luncheon, believe me, as
always, faithfully yours,


Roosevelt in a letter marked PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL replied:--
... "That is a really kind and friendly letter from you, and I
appreciate it. Now I agree absolutely with you that I have no
business under any circumstances to accept any such call, even in
the greatly improbable event of its coming, unless I am convinced
that the need is National, a need of the people and not merely a
need of the Party. But as for considering my own chances in any
such event, my dear fellow, I simply would not know how to go
about it. I am always credited with far more political sagacity
than I really possess. I act purely on public grounds and then
this proves often to be good policy too. I assure you with all
possible sincerity that I have not thought and am not thinking of
the nomination, and that under no circumstances would I in the
remotest degree plan to bring about my nomination. I do not want
to be President again, I am not a candidate, I have not the
slightest idea of becoming a candidate, and I do not for one
moment believe that any such condition of affairs will arise that
would make it necessary to consider me accepting the nomination.
But as for the effect upon my own personal fortunes, I would not
know how to consider it, because I would not have the vaguest idea
what the effect would be, except that according to my own view it
could not but be bad and unpleasant for me personally. From the
personal standpoint I should view the nomination to the Presidency
as a real and serious misfortune. Nothing would persuade me to
take it, unless it appeared that the people really wished me to do
a given job, which I could not honorably shirk. ..."


Washington, January 6, 1912

MY DEAR SAM,--... I, too, have been reading William James. His
VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE is the only philosophic work
that I was ever able to get all the way through. This thing gave
me real delight for a week.

Have just read Mr. John Bigelow's REMINISCENCES, or bits thereof,
and find that the aforesaid John is much like another John that we
know in this city, the fine friend of the Pan-American Bureau. He
seems to have been a dignified and solemn gentleman who carried on
correspondence with a great many men for a number of years,
without ... having indulged in a flash of humor in all his
respectable days. ...

Will you support me for Supreme Court Justice? I see that I am
mentioned. Between us, I am entirely ineligible, having a sense of
humor. As always yours,



Washington, February 15,1912

MY DEAR SID,--Your weather has been no worse than ours, I want you
to understand; in fact, not so bad. I think the glacial period is
returning and the ice cap is moving down from the North Pole.

The Supreme Bench I could not get because I am a Democrat, and the
President could not afford to appoint another Democrat on the
Bench. I do not know when McKenna goes out, and I am not going to
be disturbed about it anyway. If I had not been unlucky enough to
be born in Canada I could be nominated for President this year.
Things are in a devil of a condition. We could have elected
Wilson, hands down, if it had not been for Hearst's malevolent
influence. He is at the bottom of all this deviltry. His aim is to
kill Wilson off and nominate Clark, and Clark is in the lead now,
I think. God knows whether he can beat Taft or not. It looks to me
as if Taft will be nominated. I have a feeling somehow that the
Roosevelt boom won't materialize.

My love to the Missis and to Mr. House. As always yours,



Washington, February 19, 1912

MY DEAR JOHN,--For two weeks there has been standing on my desk a
most elegantly bound set of your CASES ON TORTS sent to me by
Little, Brown & Co. at your request. You do not need to be told, I
know, how much I appreciate a thing that comes from you and how
poverty stricken I am when it comes to making adequate return. I
can prove that I have been working hard, but my work does not
crystallize into anything which is worth sending to a friend.

The fact is that I have never worked as hard in my life as I have
lately. I get to my office about nine, and without going out of my
room (for I take my lunch at my desk), stay until six, and work at
home every night until half past eleven, and then take a volume of
essays or poems to bed with me for half or three-quarters of an
hour, and so to sleep.

If the man in the White House had as much sense as I have, he
would name you for the Supreme Bench without asking, and "draft"
you, as Roosevelt says. By the way, I gave the suggestion of
"draft" in a talk I had with him a month or so ago.

The political situation is interesting, but altogether un-lovely.
... It looks as if Clark might be the nominee on the Democratic
side. Taft is gaining in strength, and somehow I cannot feel that
Roosevelt will ever be in it, although you know how I like him.
The situation seems a bit artificial.

Give my love to Mrs. John. As always yours,



Washington, February 23, 1912

MY DEAR GEORGE,-- ... Yesterday I delivered an address before the
University of Virginia on A Western View of Tradition--which when
it is printed I will send out to you--and in the afternoon was
taken up to Jefferson's home, Monticello. It is on a mountain, the
top of which he scraped off. It overlooks the whole surrounding
country, most of which at that time he owned. He planned the whole
house himself, even to the remotest details, the cornices and the
carvings on the mantels, the kind of lumber of which the floors
were to be made, the character of the timbers used, the carving of
the capitals on the columns, the folding ladder that was used to
wind up the clock over the doorway, the registers on the porch
that recorded the direction in which the wind was coming, as moved
by the weather-vane on the roof, the little elevator beside the
fireplace ... and a thousand other details.

... I would like nothing better if I had any kind of skill in
using my hands than to take a year off and build a house. It is a
real religion to create something, and you do not need a great
deal of money to make a very beautiful little place. You must have
one large room, and the house must be on some elevation, and you
must get water, water, and water. ... It is water that makes land
valuable in California or anywhere else. Affectionately yours,

F. K. L.


Washington, March 6, 1912

MY DEAR CARL,--I have this minute for the first time seen the copy
of COLLIER'S, for February 24, 1912, and therefore for the first
time my eyes lighted upon your most delicious roast of the
Commerce Court. ...

I do not know what the outcome of this movement will be. The only
settled policy of government is inertia. The House of
Representatives Committee on Appropriations, I believe, proposes
to abolish the appropriation for the Court, which looks like a
cowardly way to get at the thing, but perhaps it is most
effective. However, I really doubt if they will have the nerve to
do this. It is a mighty critical year, I think, in our history. It
looks to me as if the reactionaries were going to get possession
of both parties, and that a third party will be needed and nobody
will have the nerve to start it. Roosevelt has got everything west
of the Mississippi excepting Utah and Wyoming, in my judgment.
That he will be able to get the nomination I am not so sure; but
he does not care a tinker's damn whether he gets it himself or
not. That is the worst of it because the people won't give
anything to a man that he does not want. ... Well, we are living
in mighty interesting times anyway.

As always yours,


On February 22, 1912, Lane delivered the annual address at the
University of Virginia. He spoke on American Tradition, saying
that as Americans are physically, industrially, and socially the
"heirs of all the ages" our supreme tradition is a "hatred of
injustice." That one of the great experiments that a Democracy
should make is to find a more equitable distribution of wealth
"without destroying individual initiative or blasting individual
capacity and imagination." This address brought a letter from
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Justice of the Supreme Court.


March 17, 1912

MY DEAR SIR,--Let me thank you at once for your Virginia address,
which I have just received and just read--read with the greatest
pleasure. I admire its eloquence, its imagination, its style. I
sympathize with its attitude and with most of its implications. I
gain heart from its tone of hope. I am old--by the calendar at
least--and at times am more melancholy, so that it does me good to
hear the note of courage. One implication may carry conclusions to
which I think I ought to note my disagreement,--the reference to
unequal distribution. I think the prevailing fallacy is to
confound ownership with consumption of products. Ownership is a
gate, not a stopping place. You tell me little when you tell me
that Rockefeller or the United States is the owner. What I want to
know is who consumes the annual product, and for many years I have
been saying and believing that to think straight one should look
at the stream of annual products and ask what change one would
make in that under any REGIME. The luxuries of the few are a drop
in the bucket--the crowd now has all there is. The difference
between private and public ownership, it seems to me, is mainly in
the natural selection of those most competent to foresee the
future and to direct labor into the most productive channels, and
the greater poignancy of the illusion of self-seeking under which
the private owner works. The real problem, under socialism as well
as under individualism, is to ascertain, under the external
economic and inevitable conditions, the equilibrium of social
desires. The real struggle is between the different groups of
producers of the several objects of social desire. The bogey
capital is simply the force of all the other groups against the
one that is selling its product, trying to get that product for
the least it can. Capital is society purchasing and consuming--
Labor is society producing. The laborers unfortunately are often
encouraged to think capital something up in the sky which they are
waiting for a Franklin to bring down into their jars. I think that
is a humbug and lament that I so rarely hear what seem to me the
commonplaces that I have uttered, expressed. Your fine address has
set me on my hobby and you have fallen a victim to the charm of
your own words. Very truly, yours,


P. S. Of course I am speaking only of economics not of political
or sentimental considerations--both very real, but as to which all
that one can say is, if you are sure that you want to go to the
show and have money enough to buy a ticket, go ahead, but don't
delude yourself with the notion that you are doing an economic
act. I make the only return I can in the form of the single speech
I have made for the last nine years.


Washington, March 20, 1912

MY DEAR MR. JUSTICE,--I sincerely thank you for the warmth and
generosity of your comment on my Virginia speech. Your economic
philosophy is fundamentally, I think, the same as mine--that the
wealth produced is a social product. And men may honestly differ
as to how best that stream of foods and other satisfactions may be
increased in volume, or more widely distributed. May I carry your
figure of the stream further by suggesting that the riparian owner
in England has the superior right, but in an arid country the
common law rule is abandoned because under new conditions it does
not make for the greatest public good? The land adjoining feels
the need of the water, and society takes from one to give to the

The last century was devoted to steaming up in production. This
century, it appears to me, will devote itself more definitely to
distribution. It is nonsense, of course, to say that because the
rich grow richer the poor grow poorer; but the poor are not the
same poor, they, too, have found new desires. Civilization has
given them new wants. Those desires will not be satisfied with
largesse, and with the machinery of government in their hands the
people are bound to experiment along economic lines. They will
certainly find that they get most when they preserve the captain
of industry, but may it not be that his imagination and
forethought may be commanded by society at a lower share of the
gross than he has heretofore received, or in exchange for
something of a different, perhaps of a sentimental nature? ...
Please pardon this typewritten note, but my own hand, unlike your
copper-plate, is absolutely illegible. I have been raised in a
typewriter age.

Again thanking you for your letter, believe me, with the highest
regard, faithfully yours,



Washington, April 3, 1912

MY DEAR JOHN,--You overwhelm me. ... You have no right to say such
nice things to an innocent and trusting young thing like myself.
The flat, unabashed truth is that I appreciate your letter more
than any other that I have received concerning that speech. By way
of indicating the interest which it has excited I send you copies
of some correspondence between Mr. Justice Holmes and myself.

Our plans for the summer are very unsettled. The probability is
that we will go up to Bras D'Or Lakes, in Cape Breton, where we
can have salt-water bathing and sailing and be most primitive. I
should like greatly to run over with you to Europe, and, by way of
making the temptation harder to resist, let me know how you expect
to go, and where.

Give my love to the Lady Wigmore. As ever yours,

F, K. L.


Washington, June 19, 1912

MY DEAR MR. WILLARD,--That was a warm cordial note that you sent
me regarding my University of Virginia address, and what you say
of my sentiments confirms my own view that property must look to
men like yourself for protection in the future--men who are not
blind to public sentiment and whose methods are frank. The worst
enemy that capital has in the country is the man who thinks that
he can "put one over" on the people. An institution cannot remain
sacred long which is the creator of injustice, and that is what
some of our blind friends at Chicago do not see. Very truly yours,



Washington, March 23, 1912

MY DEAR JOHN,--I am very glad indeed to hear from you and to know
that you are in sympathy with my "eloquent" address at the
University of Virginia. You give me hope that I am on the right
track. As for Harmon and representative government, you won't get
either. ... Please see Mr. R. W. Emerson's Sphinx, in which occurs
this line:

"The Lethe of Nature can't trance him again
Whose soul sees the perfect, which his eye seeks in vain."

Fancy me surrounded by maps of the express systems of the United
States, digging through the rates on uncleaned rice from Texas to
the Southeast, dribbling off poetry to a man who sits in a tall
tower overlooking New York, who once had poetry which has per
necessity been smothered! Dear John, read your Bible, and in
Second Kings you will find the story of one Rehoboam, that son of
Solomon, who was also for Harmon and representative government.

I am looking out of the window at the funeral procession for the
Maine dead, and it strikes me that our dear friend Cobb has
overlooked one trick in his campaign against T. R. Of course he
has other arrows in his quiver, and no doubt this one will come
later, but why not charge T. R. with having blown up the Maine? No
one can prove that he did not do it. He then undoubtedly was
planning to become President and knew that he never could be
unless he was given a chance to show his ability as a soldier-
patriot. He stole Panama of course, and is there any reason to
believe that a man who would steal Panama would hesitate at
blowing up a battleship?

I hope you ... are giving over the life of a hermit--not that I
would advise you to take to the Great White Way, but the side
streets are sometimes pleasant. As always, devotedly yours,




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