Saturday, August 2, 2014

Esperanto at Twenty, No Matter What the Sun Says

Esperanto was a youthful twenty.
The first American Esperanto conference wouldn’t take place until July 1908, but in 1907 the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, New York was already holding Esperanto events and classes (no doubt this was one reason why the American Esperantists chose it as the location for their first conference). The New York Sun is short on the particulars of what drew Henry Forman to Chautauqua to make remarks on Esperanto (or the specific date of these remarks). They reported on this on August 2, 1907.

At the time, George Harvey, the publisher of the North American Review had been promoting the idea of an American Esperanto society for several months. It can’t be dated from the publication of the Unua Libro, since that happened in 1887, twenty years prior. The title of the piece is counts from the formation of the first Esperanto society (thirteen years prior).
The Progress of the Universal Language in America and Elsewhere.

From an address at Chautauqua by Henry J. Forman of the North American Review.[1]

The first society devoted to the study of Esperanto was organized in St. Petersburg in 1894. It did very little work, however. Into France Esperanto made its way as early as 1888, one years after its publication. It there came to the notice of that fine scholar, linguist and traveller the Marquis de Beaufort.[2] He had been thinking himself upon the problem of a universal language. After twelve years of work he created the language “Adjuvanto,” “the helper”: its idea being much like that of Esperanto. He found that Esperanto was in many respects superior to his own, and so he gave up his own Adjuvanto, though it had represented so much of his lifework. He compiled a text book of French in Esperanto, which he published in 1892, and in 1888 formed a society for the study of Esperanto. The Paris exposition brought a great many scholars to France, and the French Esperanto Society[3] made an effort to bring it to their notice. They succeeded in this to a large extent, and since then Esperanto has been spreading rapidly all over Europe. There are now one hundred clubs in France devoted to the propaganda of Esperanto, all connected with the central society. Esperanto is being taught to the army and navy officers of France; and there is now a bill which has good prospects of being passed before the Assembly providing for the teaching of Esperanto in the schools of France like any other language. There are now one hundred clubs in England, but Esperanto made little progress until 1902, about which time it was taken up by W. T. Stead.[4] The London Chamber of Commerce now gives examinations in Esperanto just as in any other language.

In America Esperanto has not been growing so rapidly, the trouble seeming to be that it has not been brought sufficiently before public notice. Secretary Root[5] has told me, however, that he thinks seriously of introducing it as a requirement of preparation for the consular service.

There have been two international congresses held. The first was a Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1905, at which Dr. Zamenhof was decorated with the cross of the Legion of Honor. That in Geneva last year was attended by representatives of twenty-eight nations. It was a most impressive sight to see them all gathered in one of the churches of the city for services in Esperanto. The next Congress is to be held at Cambridge, August 13, and is considered the most important as an opportunity of bringing Esperanto before the English speaking world.

You can readily see the purpose of Esperanto in it commercial and scientific aspects, and for purposes of travel. Its usefulness there is very great, but the founder of Esperanto had another object in view, to make the nations of the earth brothers. The ideal object of Esperanto is the promotion of human justice and brotherhood, and whatever may make to a better understanding among the nations of the earth. We are working for treaties, for arbitration, but mutual understanding by means of a common language would do more than all the treaties in the world. Perhaps this object in Esperanto may fill you with more enthusiasm than the more general purposes. Dr. Zamenhof is very desirous that we Americans, with our enthusiasm and our strength as a nation, should take it up. He feels that it is not merely our Pan-American but our world-wide position that calls upon us to be leaders. In a pamphlet addressed to us as he says: “O Americans, this language whose ideal is the future union of mankind we hand on to you, in the name of freedom, peace and justice for which the forefathers of most of you suffered so much.”
The New York Times identified Henry Forman as “the Esperantist of the North American Review” and noted that the Chautauqua Institute had asked him to lecture during the summer.

Forman address should probably been better titled "Thirteen Years of the Esperanto Movement," since the Esperanto movement was (for obvious reasons) much younger than the language itself. From my perspective in 2014 (even though I've been involved in Esperanto since 1981), it's amazing how active the movement was in the early part of the twentieth century.

It’s interesting (to me, at least) how much of Forman’s address concerns the work of Louis de Beaufront. There has, apparently, long been doubt that “Adjuvanto” ever existed. Further, only a few months later, Beaufront would leave the Esperanto movement in order to promote Ido, which was also his own creation, although based on Esperanto. While Beaufront may have given up Adjuvanto, he certainly hadn’t given up the idea of creating an international language.

I do like this, which is an expression of what Esperantists call the interna ideo, the “inner idea” of Esperanto:
The ideal object of Esperanto is the promotion of human justice and brotherhood, and whatever may make to a better understanding among the nations of the earth.
I’m enough of a cynic that I doubt that any language could actually do that. But enough of a romantic that I do yearn for human justice and brotherhood. (We need a non-sexist term for it, since I really mean acknowledgement of the human family. Esperanto solves this neatly, since I would just put it as gefrateco, which would correspond to “siblinghood.”)

  1. The North American Review had been promoting the study of Esperanto and pushing for the formation of a national group. Its editor had been named the president of the Esperanto Association for North America at the Chautauqua meeting.  ↩
  2. Forman’s error for “Beaufront.” Who was neither a marquis nor really named Beaufront. Born Louis Chevreux, he styled himself Louis de Beaufront.  ↩
  3. The Société Pour la Propagation de l’Espéranto (Society for the Propagation of Esperanto).  ↩
  4. William Thomas Stead, the British newspaper editor and early British Esperantist. He died in the sinking of the Titanic.  ↩
  5. Elihu Root, the Secretary of State from 1905 – 1909.  ↩

You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...