Archive for May 18th, 2010

The Forgotten Man

May 18, 2010

“The forgotten man” has become a sort of a joke, even among Democrats. But it doesn’t seem funny to the man looking for a job.

Berkeley Daily Gazette – May 11, 1933


IT WOULD NOT be easy, if possible, to advance a serious political thought that had never occurred to any thinker before, or to express it with a catchy phrase never used before — unless by coining a brand new slang phrase — and it is not to be supposed that so sincere and scholarly a person as Franklin D. Roosevelt had any notion of impressing the country with anything entirely original when he brought out his “Forgotten Man.” Nevertheless it struck the country either as something new or in a new place, and has aroused much discussion, doubtless because most people thought it was new. Brisbane having said that Roosevelt “invented” it set the literary folks to digging and here are the results.

The “Forgotten Man” was “invented” as far back as 1883 by Professor William Graham Sumner of Yale University who wrote a treatise on “What Social Classes Owe to Each Other,” in which appeared one chapter headed, “A Certain Man Who Is Never Thought Of,” and another headed, “The Case of the Forgotten Man Further Considered.” In these chapters Professor Sumner wrote:

“The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society, through C’s interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man.

“It is plain that the Forgotten Man and the Forgotten Woman are the real productive strength of the country. The Forgotten Man works and votes — generally he prays — but his chief business in life is to pay. His name never gets into the newspapers except when he marries or dies. He is an obscure man. He may grumble sometimes to his wife, but he does not frequent the grocery, and he does not talk politics at the tavern.

“The Forgotten man is not a pauper. It belongs to his character to have something. Hence he is a capitalist, though never a great one. He is a poor man in the popular sense of the word, but not in a correct sense. In fact, one of the most constant and trustworthy signs that the Forgotten Man is in danger of a new assault is that the poor man is brought into the discussion. ***

“Any one who cares for the Forgotten Man will sure to be considered a friend of the capitalist and an enemy of the poor man. *** The Forgotten Man never gets into control. He has to pay both ways.”

Since that time many politicians have used this idea with particularly telling effect. There is a strong emotional appeal in being a “Forgotten Man,” or in considering such a man. Walter H. Page, formerly ambassador to Great Britain once used it to describe the more unfortunate people of the Southern states. Governor Roosevelt described the “Forgotten Man” at some length in a radio address last April, in which he said:

“These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized, but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917, that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the “Forgotten Man” at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”

St. Petersburg Times – Oct 10, 1932

Interesting how the author of the above opinion piece quotes Mr. Sumner, and even uses the asterisks to draw attention to the quotes, then goes on to quote FDR, whose statement is completely contradictory to those quotes!

Lofty, Yes. But noble? Probably not. Edwin Markham seems to have read The Forgotten Man, but I am not so sure he grasped the real meaning, or just chose to ignore it.  Mr. Sumner’s point, as I understood it,  was  in order to “give” to somebody, you must take it from someone else, and it is always taken from the Forgotten Man.  If that’s the case, then in order to really help him, you need to cut spending,  cut taxes, and eliminate  cronyism and trade unions, which create the burden that is heaped  onto  The Forgotten Man.

The Forgotten Man

NOT on our golden fortunes builded high —
Not on our boasts that soar into the sky —
Not upon these is resting in this hour
The fate of life future; but upon the power
Of him who is forgotten — yes on him
Rest all our hopes reaching from rim to rim.
In him we see all of earth’s toiling bands,
With crooked backs, scarred faces, shattered hands.

HE seeks no office and he asks no praise
For all the patient labor of his days
He is the one supporting the huge weight;
He is the one guarding the country’s gate
He bears the burdens on these earthly ways;
We pile the debts, he is the one who pays.
He is the one who holds the solid power
To steady nations in their trembling hour.
Behold him as he silently goes by,
For it is at his word that nations die.

SHATTERED with loss and lack,
He is the man who holds upon his back
The continent and all its mighty loads —
This toiler who makes possible the roads
On which the gilded thousands travel free —
Makes possible our feasts, our roaring boards,
Our pomps, our easy days, our golden hoards.
He gives stability to nations he
Makes possible our nation, sea to sea.
His strength makes possible our college walls —
Makes possible our legislative halls —
Makes possible our churches soaring high
With spires, the fingers pointing to the sky.

SHALL then this man go hungry, here in lands
Blest by his honor, builded by his hands?
Do something for him; let him never be
Forgotten; let him have his daily bread;
He who had fed us, let him now be fed.
Let us remember all his tragic lot —
Remember, or else be ourselves forgot!

ALL honor to the one that in this hour
Cries to the world as from a lighted tower —
Cries for the Man Forgotten. Honor the one
Who asks for him a glad place in the sun.
He is a voice for the voiceless. Now, indeed,
We have a tongue that cries the mortal need.

Gettysburg Compiler – Oct 22, 1932