For Henry George, there was to be one last campaign. His son says of his father’s health by 1897:
Though now only in his fifty-eighth year, Mr. George felt further advanced in life than most men do at that age. While organically sound, the iron constitution with which he had started out was perceptibly weakening under the incessant toil since boyhood and the extraordinary strain of the last sixteen years in putting the breath of life into a world-wide movement and inspiring it with his own passionate enthusiasm.
Henry George, between demands to speak here or there, was in these years toiling over The Science of Political Economy
In this year, his daughter, Jennie, had come home to visit and died of typhoid fever, which tells us something of New York City in those days. Then comes the final distraction when Henry George, much weakened yet still lionhearted, is talked into standing again for Mayor of New York, standing as an Independent Democrat. There seemed genuine hope of victory this time. Doctors advised against it in the strongest terms, but he said:
But I have got to die. How can I die better than serving humanity? Besides, so dying will do more for the cause than anything I am likely to do for the rest of my life.
And so he was off electioneering again. Thomas Jefferson had said:
The earth belongs to the living and not to the dead. The earth is given as a common stock for men to labor and live on.
This time around, Henry George's decided that his party would be named The Party of Thomas Jefferson.
And he gave himself to the world right to the noble end; on the eve of his death, he addressed four different meetings, physically struggling to keep his voice strong and distinct. He died the next morning, four days before the election.
Henry George’s coffin lay in state at Grand Central Station in New York, and his funeral was held on 30 October, 1897.
His son, Henry Jr., says:
Beyond party lines, Henry George's fellow-men gave him the acknowledgment he had said would come when he was dead. He had made his fight the theatre of the world, and messages poured in not merely from neighbouring cities and all parts of the nation, but from Great Britain, France, Germany and Denmark, from Africa, Australia, Japan and China to lay garlands of tribute on his bier.
Joseph Cottler tells us, in his book Champions of Democracy:
He was a tribune of the people," agreed the newspapers the next day, "poor for their sake when he might have been rich. All his life long he spoke, and wrote, and thought, and prayed, and dreamed of one thing only -- the cause of the plain people. He died as he lived, striking at the enemies of the people. …He was a thinker whose work belongs to the world's literature. His death has carried mourning into every civilized country on the globe.
Of his funeral, his son says:
All day Sunday the body lay in state in the Grand Central Palace, with the bronze bust executed by the son Richard looking down upon the bier. From early morning old and young, poor and rich, passed to take a silent farewell. "Never for statesman or soldier," said one of the press, "was there so remarkable a demonstration of popular feeling. At least one hundred thousand persons passed before his bier and another hundred thousand were prevented from doing so only by the impossibility of getting near it. Unconsciously they vindicated over his dead body the truth of the great idea to which his life was devoted, the brotherhood of man.
200,000 wanted to pay their respects by filing past his casket. That doesn’t happen for many people, very few, and it didn’t happen for anyone who Henry George had ever lost an election to. This man is an absolute giant of history, who had an extraordinary American life story, and we wonder that Hollywood have never thought to make the film. We can only assume they’ve never heard of Henry George, that’s probably it. It remains a truth that stays hidden.
Here’s Mason Gaffney on Neoclassical Economics and the imperative to hush up Henry George.
Those that hushed up Henry George knew exactly the power of what they were hushing up. This was eventually achieved to the extent that the third most famous man in the USA, for whom 200,000 turned out for his funeral, does not merit an entry in the 36 volumes or so of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Actually, we do now find an entry in the online version of EB, but he’s definitely not there an earlier printed version we saw.
There’s not even a street named for him, in Philadelphia, San Francisco or New York. That’s how thoroughly Henry George was written out of history, that’s how important it was to keep him quiet. The astonishing story of the hushing up of Henry George is, in itself, eloquent testimony to the importance of his ideas, and generally we are finding his name coming up more. People are looking for answers.
For Henry George’s gravestone, his friends took his own words, from Progress and Poverty.
The truth that I have tried to make clear will not find easy acceptance. If that could be, it would have been accepted long ago. If that could be, it would never have been obscured. But it will find friends, those who will toil for it; suffer for it; if needs be, die for it. This is the power of truth.