The land shall not be sold forever; for the land is Mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.
We’re no theologians, but that seems pretty clear as to how land should be viewed by humanity.
Henry George kept on campaigning and reading and writing with huge energy and passion, a messianic zeal. Justice in the world was his religion. He toured the world proclaiming to the people that this world and the gifts of nature was theirs, as they themselves are the gifts of nature. He truly was, if it can be imagined, a speaker on economics and politics who gained the status of folk hero.
In 1890, he was off to Australia and New Zealand, returning to his first ever destination as a 16 year old seaman. He returned, at 51, one of the most famous and vaunted men in Australia. He was feted across the country and the influence of his ideas lasted a long time in these countries and persists today, and demonstrably worked extremely well in a clear and measurable way. More later on about why this didn’t continue and how all this has been surveyed.
He returned to New York to find more honour being heaped upon his head, a national convention of Single Taxers, where he heard himself dubbed Saint George, to add to the other nickname he’d picked up: The Prophet of San Francisco, once framed as a sly insult by opponents, then picked up as a badge of honour by his followers. But this exhausting schedule told on his health eventually and he suffered a minor stroke.
These last few years of his life were relatively comfortable thanks to some wealthy benefactors (a good deal of funds coming from Britain) who wanted him to be free to carry on his work. For the first time in his life, he didn’t have to worry about money. Albert Nock says:
It is an interesting fact that George stands alone in American history as a writer whose books sold by the million, and as an orator whose speech attracted thousands, yet who never made a dollar out of either.
But all around the world his ideas were seemingly making headway. And in the preface Henry George writes to a later, definitive edition, he was able to say what few writers of such a work were ever able to say, that he had not met with one single argument to his assertions that had stood up for a moment, and most of which he had already covered in the book if they’d read it with open eyes. He was ravenous for argument about it, he needed to test it against everything. But all that he had said is sound and irrefragable.
Yes, irrefragable; Nock used this word and we looked it up, and it means indisputable, not able to be disputed. Nice word.
After his stroke, he is said to not be quite the same afterwards, though this doesn’t seem to have slowed him up too much.
In 1891, Pope Leo XIII condemned what he saw as the Socialist scheme: the destruction of private property. Henry George wrote an open letter to the Pope explaining clearly how his own proposals differed from the Socialist scheme and how completely consistent they were with Christian teaching.
Another hint at the moral universality of Henry George’s teaching is a piece by Pakistani economist, Shahrukh Rafi Khan, which we haven’t been able to read yet, entitled Henry George and an Alternative Islamic Land Tenure System. We’ll need to do some learning to understand properly. There’s another reference here.
As Henry George says in Progress and Poverty about the highest expressions of religious truth include the widest generalizations of political economy, and the remedy arises from universal morals.
1892 finds Henry George in Britain, exerting a massive influence and where, though not a British subject, he was adviser and field-general in land reform strategy to the Radical wing of the Liberal Party, and practically writing Liberal Party policy. Liberal leaders to come, Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith, and Lloyd George, would continue to espouse Georgist policies.
In 1893, back in the USA, there was a financial crisis, bubbles and bank failures. This, of course, is what we’re very much up-the-creek with now, in monstrously multiplied form. No one seems to ever learn anything from them. 1893’s edition led to the worst depression the United States had ever experienced up to then.
Of course, Henry George was thinking very hard about all this, as well, the money question. There was a company in San Francisco that almost went under but survived this depression because of some innovative advice Henry George gave them. (Much more on these themes much later.)
Much more later about Britain, and the enormous influence Henry George was to have here after his death, including a couple of fantastic, forgotten occasions when Georgist measures were actually passed into law by the House of Commons, and Winston Churchill might even have been immortally famous in Britain for a quite different reason than he is.
Here in Britain, 118 years after his death, we certainly feel revitalised to finally know of Henry George, and it’s with a longed-for certainty that we rejoice in the truth he revealed.
Mason Gaffney calls Henry George the Great Reconciler, for he demonstrates how the interests of society and the interests of the individual are actually one and the same thing, and more of one is more of the other. And we think that is amazing. We are still agog to have had that explained to us, and remain rapt to discover that that is really so.
So, teenage sailor, printer, tramp, gravel-shovelling labourer and failed gold prospector, desperate parent, clothes-mangle peddler, warring journalist and editor, Mayor of New York City that never was, Solver of the Riddle of the Sphinx, Unraveller of the Gordian Knot, Prophet of San Francisco, the tireless teacher of humanity, the author of what we’re sure is the most important book you can read, we’re proud to humbly associate ourselves with this great personage. We take his skills of communication as an inspiration. He should be, and will be, seen as one of the most important thinkers in history. An honest man, a deeply moral person and a very courageous one. We’ll try to take his lead, and we put ourselves in his service to Humanity.
We are beginners in the study of Henry George and his ideas – there is so much more he said in other books - it’s only in the last year we have discovered all of this, and this is just our little bit of where we are so far, but it’s started off a quest, as he had a quest. And we hope you’ll join us in a quest to try to understand how the world works and why our lives are like they are, and how they could be. Whatever, the crucially important thing is, you must read Progress and Poverty, you must see this cat.
Henry George, of course, wouldn’t have been concerned in his time with issues about what we call natural energy, but we feel comfortable that he wouldn’t be at odds with our reading of the issues involved with power generation. (Indeed, his analysis has manifold implications here, more of which later.) We don’t think such a clear and far-reaching mind as his would be surprised to learn about biosphere distress, and his remedy is crucial to how we face the uncertain future and start to live with our planet with wisdom. The analytical system he gives us is the guide to all questions.
We’ll certainly not be deluded with the belief that he might enjoy our music, (he’d prefer to be reading, anyway) but we like to flatter ourselves that he wouldn’t disapprove of our little band.
At just five cents each Henry George Cigars were, naturally, among the cheapest available. He doesn’t seem to have made much money out of being a cigar brand, either. One day, we’ll get a Henry George cigar box as an indulgence, that would be a fine thing to have, especially this one, where women are represented. And in this happy and collegiate band from different walks of life, she is cast as an industrial labourer. Please let us know if you have this box. If anyone ever wanted to get Staneb a present, a Henry George cigar box would be very well received.