all that, however, I believe any such effort is wrong,
because it is sure to be ineffectual. It is on a par
with all charity. What every writer and every artist
wants is not charity, but honesty. If Mr. Tarkington
would introduce a bill into his legislature making it
a crime to indulge in the remunerative trade of piratical
publishing, he would be doing a real service to American
letters and to our badly smutched American honor.
a workman makes a pair of shoes, we recognize them as
his property. [At least we profess to do so. Of course,
as a matter of fact, the landlord grabs them, and tosses
the man a pittance for his labor. But that is another
tale.] And we allow him to dispose of them at any price
he chooses. More than that, if any one comes along and
filches the shoes, we call it a misdemeanor, and the
arm of the people overtakes the thief and punishes him.
when Mr. Tarkington writes a book that is worth many
thousands of dollars we don't recognize it as his property
in that way at all. We make him conform to a lot of
red tape regulations before he can claim any right whatever
in the new and valuable piece of wealth he has created.
Our miserable copyright law is as full of holes as a
sieve; but when the author has conformed to it he has
no protection from the state for his new property. He
must defend it himself with expensive lawsuits. To rob
a writer is no crime in the United States. You might
remember that when you are tempted to congratulate yourself
on the civilization of the twentieth century.
course, enfringement of copyright should be a criminal
offense. And the mere registration of a new work in
any country should be enough to secure its copyright
in all civilized nations. That does not seem a very
complicated nor difficult proposition. It is the least
that common honesty demands. But we don't seem to be
able to secure it. Our sense of profit is still too
strong for our sense of honor. The way to improve American
literature is not by pauperizing its authors, but by
liberating its readers. There will always be encouragement
enough of literature and art among people who are really
free. For where people are free they work with spirit
and pleasure, and even the humblest work is done with
zest and has some artistic merit. So that the commonest
mechanic has some pride in his own work, and a consequent
sympathetic understanding with all creative work. But
under our system a workman is not his own master; he
has neither choice nor time; it is absurd to ask him
to have any sense of beauty left when his last ounce
of energy is needed to keep him from starvation.
we shall never have any general national sense of the
beautiful, any widespread feeling for the art, any universal
appreciation of the best things in literature until
we rectify our miserable slave-making industrial conditions.
Certainly no amount of education will serve to give
us these qualities. How absurd it is to educate a child
or a man, and then fling him into the slave-shed to
toil the rest of his days under the lash of necessity.
The more you educate him, the worse off he is, of course.
But men would educate themselves, if they didn't have
to work to death. If we want to be an intelligent, educated
people, we must make ourselves free people first of
all. President Eliot seems to be discouraged at the
puny results of education in the Unites States. He doesn't
see that education in America is an acorn planted in
a flower pot. The young oak cannot break the pot, because
there isn't enough soil to feed it. We must smash the
flower pot and plant the acorn in the ground. Then it
will grow all right. We have heard not a little lately
of child labor in the south. But logically it is not
a bit worse than man labor everywhere. It offends our
sentiment and appeals to our sympathy; that's the only
difference. What we need is freedom, not education.
Mr. Tarkington can persuade his constituents that the
state of Indiana belongs to the people who live in it,
to the people who have given it value by their labor,
and not merely to the speculator, the monopolist and
the landlord, he will not need to offer paltry prizes
to mendicant scribblers. He will be the founder of the
first free republic in the world. Doubtless he will
not believe this; but if he ever heard of it, would
smile genially as at the jabber of a maniac; and we
shall all go on a while longer (an age or two, I suppose)
enjoying our self-imposed slavery, our offensive charities,
and our servile sense of mistaken gratitude.