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Monday, July 4, 2011

Mark Twain's Fourth of July

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either.
- Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar


Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people's countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood of his hands and works for "the universal brotherhood of man"- with his mouth.
- "The Lowest Animal"


...the liberty of the Press is called the Palladium of Freedom, which means, in these days, the liberty of being deceived, swindled, and humbugged by the Press and paying hugely for the deception.
- "From Author's Sketch Book, Nov. 1870," reprinted in The Twainian, May 1940



And then there's this:

You know my weakness for Adam, and you know how I have struggled to get him a monument and failed. Now, it seems to me, here is my chance. What do we care for a statue of liberty when we've got the thing itself in its wildest sublimity? What you want of a monument is to keep you in mind of something you haven't got - something you've lost. Very well; we haven't lost liberty; we've lost Adam.
Another thing: What has liberty done for us? Nothing in particular that I know of. What have we done for her? Everything. We've given her a home, and a good home too. And if she knows anything, she knows it's the first time she ever struck that novelty. She knows that when we took her in she had been a mere tramp for 6,000 years, biblical measure. Yes, and we not only ended her troubles and made things soft for her permanently, but we made her respectable - and that she hadn't ever been before. And now, after we've poured out these Atlantics of benefits upon this aged outcast, lo! and behold you, we are asked to come forward and set up a monument to her! Go to. Let her set up a monument to us if she wants to do the clean thing.

But suppose your statue represented her old, bent, clothed in rags, downcast, shame-faced, with the insults and humiliation of 6,000 years, imploring a crust and all hour's rest for God's sake at our back door? - come, now you're shouting! That's the aspect of her which we need to be reminded of, lest we forget it - not this proposed one, where she's hearty and well-fed, and holds up her head and flourishes her hospitable schooner of flame, and appears to be inviting all the rest of the tramps to come over. O, go to - this is the very insolence of prosperity.

-- Mark Twain was asked to contribute to the album of artists' sketches and autograph letters, to be raffled for at the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund Art Loan Exhibition. This is his response, which accompanied his contribution...

from the Digby blog

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau