That's the slogan on the two-story high advertising mural found recently on a building in Galesburg, Illinois. (Photo here.) It is an ad for Henry George 5 cent cigars. (See also this page of cigar ads.)
The "I am for men" slogan was on a pin I found on ebay a few years ago. The seller made some comment about it being anti-feminist. Well, she or he didn't know much about George.
When I googled the phrase, I found some interesting things. Here's one:
Henry George, a nineteenth-century American author and political economist, was nominated for the office of mayor of New York in 1886. He was called to a meeting at the Cooper Institute to speak to working men. The chairman of the meeting gave him a flowery introduction with the customary political rhetoric. The chairman concluded by saying, "Henry George is the friend of the working men." As soon as Mr. George rose to his feet, slowly and emphatically he said, "I would like to announce that I am not the friend of the working man." Stunned silence ensued -- a strange kind of bewilderment. He went on, "Nor am I the friend of capital. I am for men simply as men, regardless of any accidental or superfluous distinctions of race, creed, color, class, function, or employment." [source.]
I found a front-page article in the Scranton (PA) Tribune and Kansas City Journal (among others) of October 30, 1897, the day after Henry George's death, which reported some of the campaign speeches George had given on his last day, a few days before the 1897 mayoral election. Here is one of them:
At College Point there were 1,200 common laborers, a rough crowd, closely packed in the hall. Mr. George was introduced as the friend of the working man.
He began: "I have never claimed to be a friend of the workingmen. I do not now make any such claim (there was a pause of dead silence). I have not and do not intend to advocate anything in the special interest of the laboring man (another dead pause; Mr. George walked the full length of the platform and let out his full voice in a shout:). I am for men! (The crowd set up such a cheering and stamping that the room was filled with a choking dust). I am for men! -- the equal rights of all men. Let us be done with asking privileges for the laboring men."
I also found a 1906 book called "Looking Forward," by August Cirkel, which has a chapter by that title which starts with these paragraphs:
"I am for men." This famous expression, uttered by Henry George, sounds the keynote of the true spirit in which every public policy should be tested. Does it make men? Does it make them stronger, or wiser, or better? These are the all-important questions to be asked, when the effect of any system is to be noted. If the answer cannot be made affirmatively, sophistical must be the arguments that support it.
The kind of laws and institutions any people lives under is the kind of laws and institutions that that people deserves to live under. Every thing of life builds the body that it inhabits, and what kind of abode it constructs for itself, that is the kind of abode it must dwell in. Every people makes its own government. Where a race is ruled by tyrants, craven fear smites the hearts of the masses, and rather than endure the dangers of asserting their divine prerogative of freedom, they shuffle through life in cowardly submission to a few men no stronger than themselves.
I found a 1910 speech by Theodore Roosevelt, entitled "New Nationalism" which contains these paragraphs:
I believe in shaping the ends of government to protect property as well as human welfare. Normally, and in the long run, the ends are the same; but whenever the alternative must be faced, I am for men and not for property, as you were in the Civil War. I am far from underestimating the importance of dividends; but I rank dividends below human character. Again, I do not have any sympathy with the reformer who says he does not care for dividends. Of course, economic welfare is necessary, for a man must pull his own weight and be able to support his family. I know well that the reformers must not bring upon the people economic ruin, or the reforms themselves will go down in the ruin. But we must be ready to face temporary disaster, whether or not brought on by those who will war against us to the knife. Those who oppose reform will do well to remember that ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism.
Near the end of the same speech, TR says this:
One of the fundamental necessities in a representative government such as ours is to make certain that the men to whom the people delegate their power shall serve the people by whom they are elected, and not the special interests. I believe that every national officer, elected or appointed, should be forbidden to perform any service or receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, from interstate corporations; and a similar provision could not fail to be useful within the States.
The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens. Just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest, capable of sound judgment and high ideals, active in public affairs; but, first of all, sound in their home, and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well; just so far, and no farther, we may count our civilization a success.
(TR by that time had become quite comfortable with Henry George's ideas. See his party's 1912 platform "A Confession of Faith.")
In 1917, Luke North (James Hartness Griffes) published a book of poetry entitled "Songs of the Great Adventure" which included this:
"I AM FOR MEN"
He stood for Men —
Not for parties, sections, classes;
Not for dogmas, doctrines, isms —
Nor all the minutiae of over-elaborated plans for the future,
Nor for craven caution, dissimulation, equivocation —
Patience that now outrages virtue —
Program'd ways and means which if not followed
The world may stay in hell.
He stood for Men —
For in his soul he knew the line of cleavage
Was not between the robber and the robbed —
Was not marked by external difference,
By rank or class or occupation or wealth or poverty.
He knew that poor men could be very cruel and rich men kind.
He knew the line of cleavage was in the heart — those who care and those who don't —
This Henry George who wrote "Progress and Poverty."
He stood for Men —
And was he wrong to yield no tithe to classes?
What has now become of all the appeals
To class interest, class consciousness, class solidarity?
The human heart will not respond to them — in every class are tyrants.
The human mass forgets its every interest,
Flings to the wind all self and class advantage
And goes out to die for a word.
He stood for Men —
And showed the world how to unshackle the chains that bind men.
He showed how poverty begins,
Where modern slavery has its roots,
And how to tear them up.
The earth is for all men, he said —
And his word has gone around the world —
And now it's time to act!
He stood for Men —
Not creeds and doctrines, nor all the lesser details of future contingencies.
He bared the earth to man.
It is for us to take it.
He tried to gain it, and was beaten back to his death.
Now we will gain it —
At whatever cost!
Check out this fine book of poetry -- and if you know of a songwriter looking for inspiration, send them to this starting page.
It is ironic that Henry George's name became associated with cigars. He smoked, and that likely contributed to his premature death at age 58. He wrote about cigar-making and taxation as follows, in Chapter 8 of "Protection or Free Trade?"
It is no wonder that princes and ministers anxious to make their revenues as large as possible should prefer a method that enables them to "pluck the goose without making it cry," nor is it wonderful that this preference should be shared by those who get control of popular governments; but the reason which renders indirect taxes so agreeable to those who levy taxes is a sufficient reason why a people jealous of their liberties should insist that taxes levied for revenue only should be direct, not indirect.
It is not merely the ease with which indirect taxes can be collected that urges to their adoption. Indirect taxes always enlist active private interests in their favor. The first rude device for making the collection of taxes easier to the governing power is to let them out to farm. Under this system, which existed in France up to the Revolution, and still exists in such countries as Turkey, persons called farmers of the revenue buy the privilege of collecting certain taxes and make their profits, frequently very large, out of the greater amount which their vigilance and extortion enable them to collect. The system of indirect taxation is essentially of the same nature.
The tendency of the restrictions and regulations necessary for the collection of indirect taxes is to concentrate business and give large capital an advantage. For instance, with a board, a knife, a kettle of paste and a few dollars' worth of tobacco, a competent cigar maker could set up in business for himself, were it not for the revenue regulations. As it is, in the United States, the stock of tobacco which he must procure is not only increased in value some two or three times by a tax upon it; but before the cigar maker can go to work he must buy a manufacturer's license and find bonds in the sum of five hundred dollars. Before he can sell the cigars he has made, he must furthermore pay a tax on them, and even then if he would sell cigars in less quantities than by the box he must buy a second license. The effect of all this is to give capital a great advantage, and to concentrate in the hands of large manufacturers a business in which, if free, workmen could easily set up for themselves.
But even in the absence of such regulations indirect taxation tends to concentration. Indirect taxes add to the price of goods not only the tax itself but also the profit upon the tax. If on goods costing a dollar a manufacturer or merchant has paid fifty cents in taxation, he will now expect profit on a dollar and fifty cents instead of upon a dollar. As, in the course of trade, these taxed goods pass from hand to hand, the amount which each successive purchaser pays on account of the tax is constantly augmenting. It is not merely inevitable that consumers have to pay considerably more than a dollar for every dollar the government receives, but larger capital is required by dealers. The need of larger capital for dealing in goods that have been enhanced in cost by taxation, the restrictions imposed on trade to secure the collection of the tax, and the better opportunities which those who do business on a large scale have of managing the payment or evading the tax, tend to concentrate business, and, by checking competition, to permit large profits, which must ultimately be paid by consumers. Thus the first payers of indirect taxes are generally not merely indifferent to the tax, but regard it with favor.
The other passage about cigars which I recalled turned out to be not from Henry George, but from his friend Louis F. Post, who went on to be President Wilson's Secretary of Labor:
Though land value has no effect upon the price of good, it is easier to sell goods in some locations than in others. Therefore, though the price and the profit of each sale be the same, or even less, in good locations than in poorer ones, aggregate receipts and aggregate profits are much greater at the good location. And it is out of his aggregate, and not out of each profit, that rent is paid, For example: A cigar store on a thoroughfare supplies a certain quality of cigar for fifteen cents. On a side street the same quality of cigar can be bought no cheaper. Indeed, the cigars there are likely to be poorer, and therefore really dearer. Yet ground rent on the thoroughfare is very high compared with ground rent on the sidestreet. How, then, can the first dealer, he who pays the high ground rent, afford to sell as good or better cigars for fifteen cents than his competitor of the low priced location? Simply because he is able to make so many more sales with a given outlay of labor and capital in a given time that his aggregate profit is greater. This is due to the advantage of his location, and for that advantage he pays a premium in higher ground rent. But that premium is not charged to smokers; the competing dealer of the side street protects them. It represents the greater ease, the lower cost, of doing a given volume of business upon the site for which it is paid; and if the state should take any of it, even the whole of it, in taxation, the loss would be finally borne by the owner of the advantage which attaches to that site — by the landlord. Any attempt to shift it to tenant or buyer would be promptly checked by the competition of neighboring but cheaper land.
Location, location, location! Or, as a friend in the advertising business put it when I told him about George's ideas, Location, Location, Taxation!