The Scourge of Socialist Charity in City Planning 1909

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Adding a dash of cold water onto the high flying (and oftentimes fanciful and alarmist) rhetoric of the City Planning Conference of 1909 was none other than the US Speaker of the House of Representatives. Speaker Joseph Cannon, a forbiddingly august looking fellow that seems to have stepped out of an H G Wells novel gave quite a lecture on the dangers of Socialism, and interestingly predicted a nation of 500 million people. Join us after the jump as we continue to document the foundational essays of America's first national City Planning conference.

Address of Hon. Joseph Q. Cannon, Speaker of the House of Representatives,  at the Banquet Saturday Night, May 22, 1909.  

"It is well enough to plan for the future of this country, this country which is to have 500,000,000 inhabitants in the years to come. There are a great many things which can be done in planning for those years, but no plans that we, in this generation, can map out will be big enough or broad enough to meet the coming needs.

'I bid godspeed to this planning that you are working for, but for heaven's sake don't  follow the example of some and try to relieve conditions that you don't understand.  I have no patience with those theorists who are trying to relieve what they are pleased to call the agricultural section of this country. This country life commission that has been trying to uplift the poor farmer with  theories. They have been dishing out literature on the subject, carloads of it.

'Heavenly Father, I'll take oath that they don't know what they are talking about. There  are several excellent gentlemen on that commission, but what they have compiled is  pure rot, if what I have read of it is a fair sample. The country life commission is a flat failure, because it has dealt with conditions that didn't require dealing with by theorists and because its members don't know what they are talking about.  

'Open the sensational newspapers and the magazines and you'll read all about the activities of the idle rich, their foolishness and their fads. They are of no real consequence. They bear about the same relation to the great mass of the American people that the ant on the elephant's trunk bears to the elephant, but they give the excuse for demagogues, who live, not by the sweat of their faces but by the sweat of their tongues, to inveigh against economic conditions existing in this country. That is why they constitute a real evil.  Once in a while when other methods of seeking notoriety have failed, they declare themselves to be friends of the people and proclaim themselves to be socialists.  

The Most Harmful Folks.
Let me tell you that the people who do the most harm are the people who give to what they call "charity" either for notoriety, or to bribe God — the people who would pauperize the poor. They are a real and a crying evil.   I don't regret immigration. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that. I'd be scattered over the continent of Europe. There'd be a little of me in the low Country, a mite in France, a portion in Ireland, and some more in England and Scotland. The great bulk of our immigrants live by the sweat of their faces, and anyone who does that is worthy to be given recognition in this country of ours.  "