Saturday, October 17, 2015

Esperanto, the Uniter of Nations

Louis F. Post
Journalist, social reformer,
Expecting Esperanto to “unite nations” was probably somewhat beyond wishful thinking in October 1915. This was, after all, the year in which the Universala Kongreso had to be relocated since Germany had put all of waters around Great Britain into an exclusion zone, though which ships could only pass at their peril (ships like the Lusitania). The world, in 1915, seemed to be united only in so far that groups of nations were united in their efforts to conquer other groups of nations.

This did not stop Louis F. Post from extolling the virtues of Esperanto at a meeting of the Kolumbia Esperanta Klubo on October 14, 1915. It reached the pages of the Washington Post on October 17. There was certainly an aspect of preaching to the choir; you didn’t need to convince the Esperanto speakers of Washington D. C. that Esperanto was, on the whole, a good thing. Post was not the only speaker at the event, nor was the item in the Post the only article.

The Washington Times ran a long article on one of the other speakers, Hyman Levine, on October 14 (in advance of the evening lecture). Mr. Levine spoke on “Esperanto at Work.” The Times did a brief follow-up article on the meeting, but gave no detail of anyone’s statements. The Post quoted Mr. Post, probably not because of the similarity of names, but because he was the Assistant Secretary of Labor, a position he assumed in 1913, held until 1921, and for Wikipedia, is the start of his life story, merely omitting the first sixty-four years of his life.

Who accomplishes anything before turning sixty-four, anyway? Well, Post did. By 1913, he had had a career as a journalist, ending it to become the Assistant Secretary of Labor. Prior to that, he was the editor of The Public, which described itself as “a national journal of fundamental democracy & a weekly narrative of history in the making.” Looking (electronically) through back issues of The Public, it’s clear that the Esperanto movement advertised in that magazine, and The Public was advertised in the pages of Amerika Esperantisto. Clearly there’s some overlap here. What there doesn’t seem to be is any solid proof that Mr. Post spoke Esperanto.

In the Post, he seems to speak as one among compatriots.

Louis F. Post Tells Klubo It Will Bring About World Patriotism.
Esperanto, the “world language,” will be one of the strongest factors in bringing about a reign of “world patriotism” as distinguished from the “multiple national patriotisms” of today. Louis. F. Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor, told an audience of 200 persons at the Public Library at the first public fall meeting of the Kolumbia Esperanto Klubo.

“Understand, I am not belittling patriotism,” said Mr. Post. “I am only calling attention to its present limitations. A baby is the most selfish creature in the world at first, but in time it comes to show family affection—or family patriotism, we may say. This is widened eventually into community, State and national patriotism. But does the man who loves his country lose his ‘family patriotism’? Of course he doesn’t; and neither need the world patriot lose his national patriotism.”
Mr. Post said that he looks forward to the time when world patriotism will surely come, and in its coming, he declared, Esperanto will have a prominent part.

Mr. Post was followed by Hyman Levine, who spoke on “Esperanto at Work,” telling of the usefulness that the language has had in the int present war conditions in the exchanging of prisoners and in establishing communication between them and their relatives. John A. Shell, delegate for the District of Columbia from the Universal Esperanto Association, told of the activists of that organization.

Questions were answered by Charles W. Stewart, superintendent of naval records and library.

All the speakers emphasized the ease with which the artificial language can be learned and the fact that it is a living reality used by some 6,000,000 persons.

In addition to the addresses last night the Esperanto club presented a program of vocal and instrumental selections.
So, if “all the speakers the ease with which the artificial language can be learned,” can we assume that Mr. Post did such, and did not base this statements solely on the prior statements of Esperantists, but from his own experience. This is the case.

Mr. Post certainly attended the eighth congresses of the Esperanto Association for North America, which would have been a few months past when he made his remarks. At the eighth, which was also the eleventh Universala Kongreso, Mr. Post was the guest of honor, as noted in Amerika Esperantisto. Stirring words here:
La tuta mateno estis okupita je labor-kunsidoj, kaj sendube la oficialaj protokoloj montras ke multaj gravaj aferoj estis pritratktitaj. Mi montris min je la sesa posttagmeze, en la akceptejo de la Hotelo Romona kie okazos la komuna vespermanĝo. Ĉiu samideano, “preskau”- samideano, kaj tiuj kiuj iun tagon estos samideanoj, ĉeestis la kongres-bankedon. Ĉiu sidloko ĉe la longa tablo estis okupata. Miaj okuloj elserĉis la honor-gaston, kaj jen mi vidis malgrandan viron, kies inteligenta, afabla kaj bonvola aspekto forte frapis min. Lia vizaĝo sin montras la vizaĝo de la idealisto, la homaramanto. Subite mi konis lin,— tiu bonkonata sinjoro, Louis F. Post, la amiko de la mezklasa popolo, la propetanto por vera demokrateco. Viro, tre agema en tia inda movado—la terposeda reformo, li nun tenas la oficon de Helpsekretario pri Laborado en the Usona administracio.

The whole morning was occupied in working sessions, and of course the official minutes show that many important issues were taken up. I showed myself at six in the afternoon, in the reception of the Hotel Romona where will take place the communal dinner. Each like-minded person, “almost” - like-minded person, and those who one day will be like-minded, attended the congress banquet. Each seat at the long table was occupied. My eyes sought out the guest of honor, and I saw a small man, whose intelligent, kind and benevolent appearance struck me. His face shows itself the face of the idealist, the lover of mankind. Suddenly I knew him - that well-known sir, Louis F. Post, the friend of the middle-class people, the interceder for true democracy. A man, very active in such a worthy movment-the landholding reform, he now holds the office of Assistant Secretary of Labor in the US administration.
At the ninth EANA congress, we get this:
Mr. Reed informed us that Mr. Louis F. Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor, is an enthusiastic Esperantists and unfailingly encloses an Esperanto key in all of his correspondence, thus doing much for propaganda work.
This is clear: Louis F. Post was an Esperantist, and he was active in the movement, even taking part in the EANA’s Komitato por Komuna Komerca Lingo (Committee for a Common Commercial Language), which was headed by Henry W. Fisher, Rufus W. Powell, and James F. Morton.

Unfortunately, a century after Mr. Post delivered his remarks, we don’t seem to be a bit closer to people considering themselves to be all kin, all part of the same people, the people of Earth. There is no world patriotism, or if there is, it’s vanishingly small. Certainly, the members of the Esperanto movement see themselves as being part of a bigger thing that transcends national boundaries.

Oh, and I’m totally jealous of someone getting 200 people to a local Esperanto meeting. And six million Esperanto speakers in 1915! We’ve got some catching up to do!
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1 comment:

  1. "interceder" -- oh, very nice! I was trying to come up with something appropriate.

    On the other hand, might I suggest, "that well-known gentleman" ,
    and perhaps, "where the communal dinner was to take place"?



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