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Letters of Franklin K. Lane   By: (1864-1921)

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This etext was produced by Robert Rowe, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team


Personal and Political




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

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

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

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

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

His letters are peculiarly autobiographical, for whenever his active mind was engaged on some personal, political, or philosophical problem, his thought turned naturally to that friend with whom he would most like to discuss the subject, and, if he could possibly make the time, to him he wrote just what thoughts raced through his mind. To Ambassador Page he wrote in 1918, "I have a very old fashioned love for writing from day to day what pops into my mind, contradicting each day what I said the day before, and gathering from my friends their impressions and their spirit in the same way... Continue reading book >>

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