Tuesday, March 3, 2015

An Esperantist at the White House

Roosevelt giving a speech.
Probably not in Esperanto.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have been the President. However, the newspapers of March 3, 1908 make it clear that, however briefly, and to what little effect, there was an Esperanto speaker in the White House on March 2, 1908.[1] In my earlier post, I noted some doubt, given the news reports, as to whether the meeting took place or not, but the later articles make it clear that the meeting did take place.

This much is also clear: Roosevelt did not promote Esperanto at any time. When Edmond Privat showed up, Roosevelt’s universally ignored presidential order that federal agencies use simplified spelling had resulted in just ridicule for the President. Even a bull moose was unlikely to tangle with that again. Plus, was in the last year of his presidency. He had probably already decided that he wasn’t going to run again, so why take on the advocacy of a cause like Esperanto?

Many newspapers covered Edmond Privat’s brief meeting with Roosevelt, and some of them even got the Esperantist’s name right. The New York Times, (“Edmond Privato”), the New York Sun, and the Stark County Democrat (“Edmond Privot”) were not among these. Privat was trying to encourage the study of Esperanto in public schools, an issue that just kept coming up.

The Washington Herald (which got his surname right, but choked on the first name) reported:
President Urged to Favor Introduction in Public Schools.
Edmund Privat, of Geneva, Switzerland, an exponent of Esperanto, the proposed universal tongue, delivered a lecture at the Young Men’s Christian Association last night on that subject. He will speak again this afternoon, at the Library of Congress, under the auspices of the Esperanto Society of Washington.

President Roosevelt was urged yesterday to use his influence on the behalf of Esperanto, to the end that the language will be taught in public schools everywhere, and become universal.

Private, who called on the President yesterday, has cherished the hope that since Roosevelt joined the simple spellers, he may consent to interest himself in the universal language. The President was busy when Privat called.
Busy, but he did listen. The Stark County Democrat made it clear that Roosevelt did not commit to anything. Beyond misspelling Privat’s name, they got another major piece of information wrong.
Washington, March 2.—President Roosevelt was urged today to use his influence on behalf of Esperanto, to the end that the new language will be taught in public schools everywhere, and to that extent become universal as the author desires. Edmond Privot, the inventor of the language, who called on the president today has cherished the hope that since Mr. Roosevelt joined the simple spellers he may consent to interest himself in the “universal language.”

The president was very busy when Mr. Privot called and he said nothing which would lead the inventor to believe that he will introduce Esperanto into the executive departments of the government. Mr. Privot submitted some papers and Mr. Roosevelt said he would look them over.
Much of the same language (indicating a common source), with the erroneous notion that Edmond Privat had created Esperanto. The Sun repeats much of this, again with the name “Privot.” The first paragraphs of the Sun article are identical to the article in the Stark County Democrat, other than using the spelling “to-day.” The second is the final sentence of the other article. The Sun adds:
Since Congress placed its ban on simplified spelling the correspondence at the White House when not intended to be put in type at the Government Printing Office has still been carried on according to the new forms. Most of the Executive departments have abandoned simple spelling. Secretary Cortelyou never did use it, finding it convenient to ignore the President’s order on the subject in 1906.
We have two newspapers (from some source) erroneously reporting that Edmond Privat was the creator of Esperanto. The Sun makes it clear that the history of Roosevelt’s advocacy of simplified spelling made it unlikely that the President had any help to offer the Esperanto movement. Finally, the New York Times reported:
Tries to Interest Him in the New Universal Language.
WASHINGTON, March 2.—An effort was made to-day to interest President Roosevelt in Esperanto, the new universal language. The matter was brought to his attention by Edmond Privato, who represents the Esperanto Congress and the Universal Congress of Peace, which met in Munich in September. He was presented by Leo Vogel, Minister of Switzerland.

The President said he would look over the papers submitted to him, which point out the advantages of the universal language and of the campaign which is to be started to have Esperanto talked in the public schools of the United States.
I’ve seen nothing of this campaign. It seems to have gone nowhere.

There’s an old adage that it doesn’t matter what they say about you in the papers as long as they spell your name right. In which case, poor Edmond Privat.

The image on this post is from a 1902 stereo view of Theodore Roosevelt (he was clearly popular). In keeping with my previous post about him, and my general interest in stereo photography, I’ve appended an anaglyph version of the stereo view below.

  1. There have probably been plenty subsequently. I am not among the number of Esperantists who have met a President, and for that I can blame Newt Gingrich.  ↩

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 impofthediverse@gmail.com.
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...