Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA367 January 5, 1930
ARE WE TOO SMART TO BE HAPPY?
Well all I know is just what I read in the Papers. Well let’s see what we got to “Blather about” this weekend. I know you all had a fine Xmas and New Years. Those that dident have it will have it on “Roshashona and Yomkipper.” But a funny thing is that our good Jewish Citizens are getting so they get as big a kick out of our Xmas as we do. It’s just about a real Universal celebration.
Take it all around everything passed off pretty good. Xmas is getting kinder like one of our old time western dances. They wait till the dancing is all over and then they sorter sweep out to see how many was left laying around. We are killing off some mighty good citizens with our Xmas cheer and it has been discussed quite openly as to whether the whole thing was worth the tallow or not. Since Santa Clause has been pretty thoroughly disscredited by even our Babe’s in Arms, and on account of Xmas cost to everybody, there has come up in this country quite a wide movement to just let the yuletide go by default. Of course in the old days when the Democrats were at their Zenith, and the old Reindeers and the jingling Bells were considered official, why then there was cause for all this. But now when they dress up some poor old fellow as Santa, why the kids get one peep at him, and say, “Oh look at the old Geeser trying to fool the old folks.”
That’s the trouble with the whole things. Kids are getting too wise. Why I was a big old chuckle-headed Nestor maby ten years old before I really even suspicioned that our old friend of the long whiskers wasent delivering into my stocking every Xmas morning the sack of candy, horn, and cap pistol. But nowadays you start asking a Baby, “What he wants Santa to bring him,” and he will bounce his empty nursing bottle off your bean.
In other words we just ain’t fooling nobody, and are buying a lot of stuff and giving it to folks that don’t understand why you was so half-witted as to get that particular object. It was the last thing on earth they would want. In fact we ourselvs have gotten so wise that even when we are buying it for them we know it won’t suit, but the etiquette of Xmas tells us that we must get them something. Of course the whole thing started in a fine spirit. It was to give happiness to the young, and another holiday to the old, so it was relished by practically everybody. It was a great day, the presents were inexpensive and received with much joy and gratification, and it was a pleasure to see the innocent little souls as they rushed down to the big room with the fireplace on Xmas morning in their bare feet, and generally the back end of their little sleepers unbuttoned and a dragging. They remembered right where they had hung their stocking, and they dived into it with great glee and anticipation. No matter why they dug out, it was great. It was just what they wanted him to bring for they had confidence in him. The merest little toy was a boon to their young lives, and what a kick it was to the parents to have them rush back up to the bedroom and show you “what Santa brought.”
Then the mother would finally venture down and look into her big-top stocking to see what the sly old father had deposited during the night. Maby it was just more cotton stockings. Maby it was a new “sofa.” Maby it was a new Axe for wood splitting. Maby a hot water bottle. But whatever it was it was the most acceptable thing in the world. It was just what she wanted “her man” to get her. Ah! Them was the days lads! When you could satisfy ’em with a squirrell Muff, and a box of five cent Cigars practically cinched your friendship with a Male friend for the coming year. Then they talk about Civilization. Say there ain’t no civilization where there ain’t no satisfaction, and that’s what’s the trouble now, nobody is satisfied.
In the old days where a nice crayon Picture would be just the thing as a present, why now an unborn Lamb would be unacceptable. They would wonder why you dident send Mink. And a wife, why she will sneeze at a Buick! If she don’t find a new Cord auto in her short sock why you will be the cheapest husband she ever had. The whole prospectus of the thing has changed. We not only don’t believe in Santa Clause, we don’t believe in anything, and the Kids say they don’t care anything about a “Train that will run if you wind it up.” They want an Aeroplane that will Fly, and NOT wound up either.
You start talking about sending them a ten-cent horn that will blow and they want a Saxophone that will annoy, and as for a Cap Pistol and a dozen boxes of caps, why say, he wants a machine gun. He has read about Chicago. A football? “Is it regulation?” If it’s not, you are wasting your time giving it. They know better than you do. If it’s a Girl Baby and you are sending some pink Sachet Powder you are all wet again. The “She” infant will rise up and demand an overnight bag, some Nose Paint, and a lip stick, and when they get it they will examine the brand.
So you just wonder sometimes if the ones who want to abolish Xmas are not about half right. Everybody faces it with, “Oh my goodness, Xmas is coming, and how I dread it!” Then you decide “The whole thing is the bunk I will just send cards.” Then about three days before Xmas you commence to get a few little boxes and remembrences from alleged friends, and you say, “I can’t do this. I have to return something.” Then out you go at the last minute to round up some tokens for friends who in your heart you curse for sending you anything. So the whole thing is an uproar from about Thanksgiving on.
In fact that’s what they have Thanksgiving for, it’s your last day of peace for that year. I sometimes think some bright merchants are not really taking advantage of their opportunities. Suppose along about a day or so after Xmas, the merchant went to each house and said, “Now this is confidential, but what did you get for Xmas that you don’t want and what do you want in cash for it?” They buy it for ten cents on the dollar, they hold it over a sell at some simp the next Xmas, and you are ten percent ahead. But anyhow it’s worth thinking about, this doing away with it. It would be all right if we could again believe in Santa Clause. But our smartness has defeated our own happiness.
WA368 January 12, 1930
WHAT’LL WE SINK NOW?
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Now just what has been adjitating the Natives in the public prints here lately? Course they got Xmas and New Years off their minds and are just now getting through exchanging all the presents, and so we can settle down to the serious side of life.
It’s only a few days now till the opening of the big Dissarmament Conference in London. I wanted to get over there and see what the boys were doing. But it looks like these people that I am working for are actually going to demand some of my time here in Beverley Hills making faces and odd sounds for the benefit of posterity.
Can you imagine just when I wanted to get to London and see what my old friends Mr. Dawes, Mr. Morrow, Joe Robinson, Dave Reed and Admiral Hilary Jones was doing, why these Fox people got the nerve to tell me I have to go to work!1
Just for a little I would tell them something. (A little salary.)
Course I don’t need to tell you that I don’t think the Boys are going to do much over there. Mind you I think it’s a fine thing, and it may be a step in the right direction. But the road is so long that step don’t make much showing. You know they say that all the education, all the learning we have is just from reading and studying what was done in the past. Everything after all according to the learned, is what has the past taught us. Mind you that’s what all the educated people say. But I am kinder personally like Henry Ford. History don’t mean much to me. Never mind what some other old Geeser did in 324 B. C. It’s what are you going to do in 1930. And to my mind the less you read about him the better. For no condition that existed during his time is around today. Now mind you that’s only the ignorant view. We must string the educated for they are the ones that taught us what little us ignorant ones know.
So the educated say that everything is based on what has happened, in other words there is a historical precedent to everything. Now here is where we will lick ’em on their own argument in regard to the success of this conference. If there had never been a Dissarmament Conference in the past why we would look to this one with great anticipation. We would figure that they was going to really dissarm. But since 1922 in Washington at one when I had the good fortune to be, (Not as a Deligate) Secretary Hughes was pinch hitting for me there, and then there was another in 1926 at Geneva.2
I went over on the Leviathan with our Deligation. Mr. Hugh Gibson, (who was then not an Ambassador as he is now but only Minister to Switzerland) and a very very competent man, he will be on this one too, then Admiral Jones, Admiral Andy Long, Mr. Alexander, all a fine bunch of men.3
Well I went down to Geneva too, to see what they would do. Well outside of paying board they dident do anything. We had sunk and sunk at the Washington Conference, till we dident have anything else left above water line, so naturally at the Geneva one as we had nothing to sink, there was no sinking. So it flopped.
It was like going to a Prohibition New Years party, there was just nothing to keep the thing going that was all. Then the next year they had another. But it did nothing. Now this is just another one. Of course mind you they will decide on some little thing such as the limiting of Battleships, (which are washed up anyhow) and they may do something about Cruisers. But there will be nothing done about Instruments of war.
If some fellow gets up and says, “What do you say about prohibiting the entire use of Chemical gasses during the next war?” Say they will throw that guy in the Thames River.
Suppose some Deligate says, “Aeroplanes are an unfair method of warfare, for they can drop things on defenseless people, what do you say we abolish them?” Well I will tell you what they would say, they would say, send that Deligate home to have his head examined.
Now you see what I mean by us profiting by what has taken place in history is that we have held all these Dissarmament Conferences and nothing has been done, so if we base the future on the past why nothing will be done. It just is not in the cards. Naturally every Nation wants to protect themselves according to their own needs. They don’t want war. Neither do they want to be left entirely defenseless, so you can’t blame ’em. England and America may make a big too-doo about cutting down till it’s a parity in Battleships and Cruisers. But that won’t mean a thing. If you and I are evenly matched, that don’t mean that we won’t fight. It really means that we are more liable to fight, for each will naturally think they have the edge on the other.
But the whole thing may lead to something. It sets people thinking in the right direction. But as far as doing anything to prevent war, why it’s not liable to do that. There has been war since the beginning of time, and we are no smarter than the people that have gone before us, so there is awful apt to be some more war. So let’s sink something with ’em, but don’t sink anything that we are liable to need.
1For Charles G. Dawes see WA 331:N 2; for Dwight W. Morrow see WA 325:N 8. Joseph Taylor “Joe” Robinson, Democratic United States senator from Arkansas from 1913 until his death in 1937; minority leader of the Senate from 1923 to 1933. For David A. Reed see WA 348:N 1. Hilary Pollard Jones, American naval officer who attained the rank of vice admiral before retiring in 1927. Jones and the other individuals that Rogers mentioned represented the United States at the London Disarmament Conference of 1930.
2For Charles Evans Hughes see WA 351:N 1.
3Hugh Simon Gibson, American career diplomat who served as United States ambassador to Belgium from 1927 to 1933; formerly held similar posts in Poland and Switzerland; chairman of the American delegation to the preliminary commission for the disarmament conference at Geneva, Switzerland, from 1926 to 1927. Andrew Theodore Long, American naval officer; member of the general board of the Navy from 1923 to 1930; naval adviser to Gibson at Geneva.
WA369 January 19, 1930
TARIFF, HOOTCH AND ROYALTY
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers.
We got some pretty big things been happening in the last week or so. Our Deligation to the Conference of Peace Propaganda landed O.K. and have rehearsed and are ready to open Tuesday. We sent over a mighty fine cast. It opens with great expectations, and I do hope something good comes from it. But I kinder look for the Boys to come sneaking back here one by one exhausted with really nothing done, unless we decide to do the sinking.
Prohibition has been the small table talk here lately. People are getting so they get pretty excited in Boston and New York when there is a run-in between the Coast Guard and Gentlemen of our fastest growing industry. You shoot a Bootlegger now and they take it up in Congress.
You shoot the Town’s leading Citizen in an attempted Holdup and even the local papers won’t make much of a to-do over it. That shooting up along the New England Coast, I don’t know what they thought the Coast Guard Boys should have done when the boat wouldent halt. Just let ’em go and lay it to unruliness I guess. The Commission that Mr. Hoover has out now “to see if there is any drinking going on, and if so why?” why it’s turning in its report now. Well when that comes in the Senate will break out again. The same old argument will start again. How much time in the way of salary do you suppose has been wasted in Congress just on argueing on Prohibition? And you just as well argue on the tarriff. Nothing is ever going to be done about either one.
Well we are going through the siege now of looking at the pictures of the Italian wedding.1
Say she is a pretty stern-faced young Lady ain’t she? Boy I would hate to beat her to a parking space. She looks like she took that Queen stuff serious.
Did you know that her Mother was Montenegroian? No it’s not as bad as it sounds. She came from a country called Monte-Negro. I looked all this up when I was over in Italy prowling around writing about them. Her father was the king there and he had a pack of daughters, and either he or someone was a mighty fine matchmaker, for he married every one of them off to somebody who would be King some day. He had ’em scattered all around those little “Balking” Nations. It got so you couldent hardly meet a Queen over there that wasent the daughter of the King of Monte-Negro. Course this one to Italy really landed what would be called the Piece-De-Resistance of the bunch of them. Course lots of these others dident stay Queens long, but that wasent their Father’s fault, he couldent be responsible for knowing that there was going to be a war and send pretty near all the Kings back to the bench. He was the King of a pretty poor little Country, and one time somebody asked him “what was the principal product of his Country?” He said, “Raising Queens.”
They were all very pretty and very domesticated. You know there is a great deal of misunderstanding in regard to the standing of the Royal Family of Italy, on account of the great publicity and prominence of Mussolini. It is most generally supposed that the King there is nothing. Well nothing could be further from the fact. That’s one of the smart things that Mussolini has done is to always show great reverence and respect for the King and his family and their position, and say if you think the King there is not popular with the people you are away off, he is very popular, and don’t think Mussolini don’t know that, and he always gives the King preference (unless he is really going to do something important.)2
But no, really he does get on great with him.
They claim at any big public function in most parts of Italy that the King will get a much bigger public reception than the “Duce.”3
He is a very small fellow, and he has always been very self-conscious about it. He only likes to attend functions where it’s on a hill, and he can be on the upper side. He did some very nice things during the war, and all the Soldiers like him very much. He really went right up to where they were at the front and helped to minister to their wants and ills. And the Queen did wonderful work then.
There dident seem to be any of the “Hooey” and Applesauce, about that Royal family that surrounds all those others. Course they had a lot of it, but they are modest, plus, in comparison to all the others. That old thing of doing away with the Kings, it will never be done there if the people themselves have anything to do with it, at least not while he is alive.
You know this Mussolini is a wise Bird. He knows that, and he knows that they don’t do any harm, and like the one in England, and all of them, they fill a certain social place, that the men who run the Country havent time or wouldent monkey with.
Those people over there like it and we eat it up over here. We are the biggest Yaps in the World to fall for stuff like that. Buckingham Palace has the Iron railings all wore off with the noses of Americans trying to peep through the cracks of the bars.
I really think the King of Spain has more to do with the affairs of his country than any of them.4
They have a Dictator, but the King put him in, and he can throw him out. But this little fellow in Italy is very popular, no more so than King George is in England, but much more so than people think, who have the impression that Mussolini is the only one in Italy that ever got a hand. So happy life to the young folks, they are no better or no worse than the rest of us. They got their troubles cut out. This Kinging is a tough job I imagine. And just think where would we be with our weeklies. You know Mr. Hoover don’t come out and be shot with everybody like Mr. Coolidge used to, so a Royal wedding now and then is mighty welcome.
1Humbert, crown prince of Italy, married Princess Marie Jose of Belgium on January 8, 1930. The princess’ mother, Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, was a former duchess of Bavaria.
2Victor Emmanuel III, king of Italy from 1900 to 1946. He was married in 1896 to Princess Elena, daughter of the future king of Montenegro.
3Alfonso XIII, king of Spain from 1886 to 1931. His reign was marked by the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (see WA 339:N 5).
4For George V see WA 336:N 8.