Read CROWDS AND HEROES - CHAPTER XVII of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on


If I were a Noah and wanted to get a fair selection of people in London to be saved to start a new world, I would go out and look over the crowd who are watching the flying machines at Hendon, and select from them.

The Hendon crowd will not last forever.  People who would be far less desirable to start worlds with would gradually work their way in, but it is only fair to say that these first few thousand men and women of all classes who responded to the flying machine would be possessed, as any one could see with a look, of special qualifications for running worlds.

I shall never quite forget the sense I had the first day of the crowd at Hendon-those thousands of faces that had gathered up in some way out of themselves a kind of huge crowd-face before one-that imperturbable happiness on it and that look of hard sense and hope, half poetry, half science ... it was like gazing at some portrait, or some vast countenance of the future-watching the crowd at Hendon.  Scores of times I looked away from the machines swinging up past me into the sky to watch the faces of the men and the women that belonged with sky machines; these men and women who stood on the precipice of a new world of air, of sunshine, and of darkness, and were not afraid.

One was in a little special civilization for the time being, all the new people in it sorted out from the old ones.  One felt a vast light-heartedness all about.  One was in the presence of the picked people who had come to see this first vast initiative of man toward Space, toward the stars, the people who had waited for four thousand years to see it; to see at last Little Man (as it would seem to God) in this his first clumsy, beautiful childlike tottering up the sky.

One was with the people on the planet who were the first to see the practical, personal value, the market value, of all these huge idle fields of air that go with planets.  They were the first people to feel identified with the air, to have courage for the air, the lovers of initiative, the men and women that one felt might really get a new world if they wanted one and who would know what to do with it when they got it.

The other day in London near Charing Cross, as the crowds were streaming down the Strand, a heavy box joggled off over the end of a dray, crashed to the pavement, flew open and sent twenty-four hundred pennies rolling under the feet of the men and of the women and of the boys along the street.

Traffic was stopped and a thousand men and women and boys began picking the pennies up.  They all crowded up around the dray and put the pennies in the box.

The next day the brewer to whom the pennies belonged had a letter in the Times saying that not one of the twenty-four hundred pennies was missing.

He closed his letter with a few moral remarks, announced that he had sent the twenty-four hundred pennies as a kind of tribute to people-to anybody Who Happened Along the Strand-to a Foundling Hospital.

The man who told me this (it was at a business men’s dinner), told it because he knew I was trying to believe pleasant things about human nature.  He thought he ought to encourage me.

I will not record the conversation, I merely record my humble opinion.

I think it would have been better to have had just a few of those pennies in the Strand say seven or eight missing.

On Broadway probably eleven or twelve out of twenty-four hundred would have been missing-I hope.

And I am not unhopeful about England, or about the Strand.

There are two ways to get relief from this story.

First, the brewer lied.  There were fewer pennies stolen than he would have thought, and when he figured it out and found just a few pennies between him and a good story, he put the pennies in.  And so the dear little foundlings got them-the letter in the Times said.  They were presented to them, as it were, by the Good Little Boys in the Strand.

Second, somebody else put the pennies in, some person standing by with a sense of humour, who knew the letters that people write to the Times and the kind, serious, grave way English people read them.  He put the pennies grimly in at one end, then he waited grimly for the letter in the Times to come out at the other.

Either of these theories would work very well and let the crowd off.

But if they are disproved to me, I have one more to fall back upon.

If the story is true and not a soul in that memorable crowd on that memorable day stole a penny, it was because they had all, as it happened in that particular crowd, stolen their pennies before, and got over it.  It would seem a great pity if there had not been some one boy with enough initiative in him, enough faculty for moral experiment, to try stealing a penny just once, to see what it would be like.

The same boy would have seen at once what it was like, tried feeling ashamed of it promptly, and would never have had to bother to do it again.  He would have felt that penny burning in his pocket past cash drawers, past banks, past bonds, until he became President of the United States.

At all events the last thing that I would be willing to believe is that either America or England would be capable of producing a chance crowd in the street that out of sheer laziness or moral thoughtlessness would not be able to work up at least one boy in it who would have a sudden flash of imagination about a penny rolling around a man’s leg-if he picked it up and-did not put it in the box.

The crowd in the Strand, of course, like any other real crowd, was a stew of development, a huge laboratory of people.  All stages of experience were in it.

Some of the people in the crowd that day had a new refreshing thought, when they saw those pennies rolling around everybody.  They thought they would try and see what stealing a penny was like.  Then they did it.

Others in the crowd thought of stealing a penny too, and then they had still another thought.  They thought of not stealing it.  And this second thought interested them more.

Others did not think of stealing a penny at all because they had thought of it so often before had got used to it and had got used to dismissing it.

Others thought of stealing a penny and then they thought how ashamed they were of having thought of it.  Others looked thoughtfully at the pennies and thought they would wait for guineas.

But whatever it was or may have been that was taking place in that crowd that day-they all thought.

And after all what is really important to a nation is that the people in it-any chance crowd in a street in it should think.  I confess I care very little one way or the other about the pennies being saved, or about the brewer’s little touch of moral poetry, his idea that this particular crowd was solid Sunday-school from one end to the other, all through.  Whether it was a crowd that thought of stealing a penny and did or did not, if the pennies rolling around among their feet made them think, made them experiment, played upon the initiative, the individuality or invention in them, the personal self-control, the social responsibility in them, it was a crowd to be proud of.  And I am glad, for one, that the box of pennies was dumped in the street.

I would like to see shillings tried next time.

Then guineas might be used.

A box of guineas dumped in the street would do more good than a box of pennies because there are many people who would think more with the guineas rolling around out of sight around a man’s legs than they would with a penny’s doing it.

In this way a box of guineas would do more good.

Thousands of men and women that we have sent to India from this Western World have been trying with Bibles, and good deeds, and kind faces, and Sunday-schools to get the Hindoos to believe that it would not be a sin to kill the rats and stop the bubonic plague.

Nothing came of it.

In due time General Booth-Tucker appeared on the scene.

He came too, of course, with a Bible and with his kind face like the others, and of course, too, he went to Sunday-school regularly.

And while he was watching the bubonic plague sweeping up cities, he tried too, like the others, to tell the people about a God who would not be displeased if they killed the rats and stopped the plague.

But he could not convince anybody, or at best a few here and there.

The next thing that was known about General Booth-Tucker’s work in India was, that he had (still with his Bible, of course, and with his kind look) slipped away and established in the south of France a factory for the manufacture of gloves.

He then returned to his poor superstitious people in India who would not believe him, and told them that he knew and knew absolutely that they would not be punished for killing the rats, that the rats were not sacred, and that he could prove it.

He offered the people so much apiece for the skins of the rats.

The poorest and most desperate of the natives then began killing the rats secretly and bringing in the skins.

They waited for the wrath of Heaven to fall upon them.  Nothing happened, then they told others.  The others are telling everybody.

General Booth-Tucker’s factory to-day in the south of France is very busy making money for the Salvation Army, turning out Christian gloves for the West and turning out Christians or the beginnings of Christians for the East, and the ancient, obstinate theological idea of the holiness of the rats which the Hindoos have had is being ceaselessly, happily, and stupendously, all day and all night, disproved.

Incidentally the little religious glove factory of General Booth-Tucker’s in the south of France is giving India the first serious and fair chance it has ever had to stop being a pest house on the world, and to bring the bubonic plague with its threat at a planet to an end.

General Booth-Tucker’s Bible was just like anybody else’s Bible.  But there must have been something about the way he read his Bible that made him think of things.  And there must have been something about his kind look.  He looked kindly at something in particular, and he was determined to make that something in particular do.  He had the rats, and he had the gloves, and he had the Hindoo’s-and he made them do, and before he knew it (I doubt if he knows it now) he became a saviour or inventor.

In the big, desolate, darkened heart of a nation he had wedged in a God.

I wonder if General Booth-Tucker-that is, the original, very small edition of General Booth-Tucker-had been in that memorable crowd, that memorable day in the Strand when nobody (with a report that was heard around the world) stole a penny-I wonder if General Booth-Tucker would have been A Very Good Little Boy.

One of the pennies might have been missing.

I have no prejudice against the Very Good Little Boy.  It is not his goodness that is what is the matter with him.  But I am very much afraid that if there were any way of getting all the facts, it would not be hard to prove categorically that what has been holding the world back the last twenty-five years in its religious ideals, its business ethics, its liberty, candour, its courage, and its skill in social engineering, is the Very Good Little Boy.  He may be comparatively harmless at first and before his moustache is grown, but the moment he becomes a grown-up or the moment he sits on committees with his quiet, careful, snug, proper fear of experiment, of bold initiative, his disease of never running a risk, his moral anæmia, he blocks all progress in churches, in legislatures, in directors’ meetings, in trades unions, in slums and May-fairs.  One sees The Good Little Boys weighing down everything the moment they are grown up.

They have all been brought up each with his one faint, polite little hunger, his one ambition, his one pale downy desire in life, looking forward day by day, year by year, to the fine frenzy, to the fierce joy of Never Making a Mistake.

If I had been given the appointment and were about to set to work to-morrow morning to make a new world, I would begin by getting together all the people in this one that I knew, or had noticed anywhere, who seemed to have in them the spirit of experiment.  Any boy or girl or man or woman that I had seen having the curiosity to try the different kinds and different sizes of right and wrong, or that I had seen boldly and faithfully experimenting with the beautiful and the ugly so that they really knew about them for themselves-would be let in.  I would put these people for a time in a place by themselves where the people who want to keep them from trying or learning, could not get at them.

Then I would let them try.

I would put the humdrum people in another place by themselves and let them humdrum, the respectable people by themselves and let them respectabilize.

Then after my try-world had tried, and got well started and the people in it had finished off some things and knew what they wanted, I would allow the humdrums and the respectabilities to be let in-to do what they were told.

Doing what they are told is what they like.  So they would be happy.

Of course doing what they are told is what is the matter with them.  But what is the matter with them would be useful.

And everybody would be happy.

When the Titanic went down a little while ago and those few quiet men on deck began their duty in that soft, gracious moonlit night, of sorting out the people who should die from the people who should live-if one was a woman one could live.  If one was a man one could die.

No one will quarrel with the division as the only possible or endurable one that could have been made.

But if God himself could have made the division or some super-man ship’s officer who could have represented God, could have made it, it is not hard to believe that a less superficial, a more profound and human difference between people would have been used in sorting out the people who should live from the people who should die than a difference in organs of reproduction.

The women were saved first because the men were men and because it was the way the men felt.  It expressed the men who were on the deck that night that the women should be saved first; it was the last chance they had to express themselves like men and they wanted to do it.

But if God himself could have made the division with the immediate and conclusive knowledge of who everybody was, of what they really were in their hearts, and of what they and their children and their children’s children would do for the world if they lived no one would have quarrelled with God for making what would have seemed at the moment, no doubt, very unreasonable and ungallant and impossible-looking discriminations in sorting out the people who should live from the people who should die.

Possibly even Man (using the word with a capital), acting from the point of view of history and of the race and from the point of view of making a kind of world where Titanic disasters could not happen, would have chosen on the deck of the Titanic that night, very much the way God would.

From the point of view of Man there would have been no discrimination in favour of a woman because she was a woman.

The last cry of the last man that the still listening life-boats heard coming up out of the sea that night might have been the cry of the man who had invented a ship that could not sink.

There would not have been a woman in a life-boat or a woman sinking in the sea who would not have had this man saved before a woman.

If we could absolutely know all about the people, who are the people in this world that we should want to have saved first, that we would want to have taken to the life-boats and saved first at sea?

The women who are with child.

And the men who are about to have ideas.

And the men who man the boats for them, who in God’s name and in the name of a world protect its women who are with child, and its men who are about to have ideas.

The world is different from the Titanic.  We do not need to line up our immortal fellow human beings, sort them out in a minute on a world and say to them, “Go here and die!” “Go there and live!” We are able to spend on a world at least an average of thirty-five years apiece on all these immortal human beings we are with, in seeing what they are like, in guessing on what they are for and on their relative value, and in deciding where they belong and what a world can do with them.

We ought to do better in saving people on a world.  We have more time to think.

What would we try to do if we took the time to think?  Would there be any way of fixing upon an order for saving people on a world?  What would be the most noble, the most universal, the most Godlike and democratic schedule for souls to be saved on-on a world?

I think the man that would save the most other people should be saved first.  It would not be democratic to save an ordinary man, a man who could just save himself, just think for himself, when saving the man next to him instead would be saving a man who would save a thousand ordinary men, or men who have gifts for thinking only of themselves.

Of course one man who thinks merely of himself is as good as another man who thinks merely of himself, but from the point of view of a democracy every common man has an inalienable right-the right to have the man who saves common men saved first.

And the moment we get in this world, our first democracy, the moment the common man really believes in democracy, this aristocracy or people who save others (the common man himself will see to it) will be saved first.

He will make mistakes in applying the principle of democracy, that is in collecting his aristocracies, his strategic men, his linchpins of society, but he will believe in the principle all through.  It will be not merely in his brain, but in his instincts, in his unconscious hero-worship, in his sinews and his bones, and it will stir in his blood, that some men should be saved before others.

But if the world is not a Titanic, and if we have on the average thirty-five years apiece to decide about men on a world and put them where they belong, it might not be amiss to try to unite for the time being on a few fundamental principles.  What would seem to us to be a few fundamental principles for the act of world-assimilation, that vast, slow, unconscious crowd-process, that peristaltic action of society of gathering up and stowing away men-all these little numberless cells of humanity where they belong?

No one cell can have much to say about it.  But we can watch.

And as we watch it seems to us that men may be said to be dividing themselves roughly and flowingly at all times into three great streams or classes.

They are either Inventors, or they are Artists, or they are Hewers.

Of course in classifying men it is necessary to bear in mind that their getting out of their classifications is what the classifications are for.

And it is also necessary to bear in mind that men can only be classified with regard to their emphasis and may belong in one class in regard to one thing and in another class with regard to another, but in any particular place, or at any particular time a man is doing a thing in this world, he is probably for the time being, while he is doing it, doing it as an Inventor (or genius), as an Artist (or organizer), or as a Hewer.  Most men, it must be said, settle down in their classifications.  They are very apt to decide for life whether they are Inventors or Artists or Hewers.

But as has been said before, being on a world and not on a Titanic, we have time to think.

On what principles could we make out a schedule or inventory of human nature, and decide on world-values in men?

When I was a boy I played in the hollow of a great butternut tree-the one my mother was married under.  When I was in college I used to go back to it.  I used to wonder a little that it was still there.  When we had all grown up we all came back and got together under it one happy day and there it still stood, its great arms from out of the sky bent over lovers and over children on its little island, its wide river singing round it, still that glorious old hollow in it, full of dreams and childhood and mystery, and that old sudden sunshine in it through the knots like portholes ... then we stood there all of us together.  And the mother watched her daughter married under it.

I can remember many days standing beneath it as a small boy (my small insides full of butternuts, a thousand more butternuts up on the tree), and I used to look up in its branches and wonder about it, wonder how it could keep on so with its butternuts and with its leaves, with its winters and with its summers, its cool shadows and sunshines, still being a butternut tree, with that huge hollow in it.

I have learned since that if a few ounces or whittlings of wood in a tree are chipped out in a ring around it under the bark, cords of wood in the limbs all up across the sky would die in a week-if one chips out those few little ounces of wood.

Cords of wood can be taken out of the inside of the tree and it will not mind.

It is that little half-inch rim of the tree where the juice runs up to the sun that makes the tree alive or dead.

The part that must be saved first and provided for first is that slippery little shiny streak under the bark.

One could dig out a huge brush-heap of roots and the tree would live.  One could pick off millions of leaves, could cut cords of branches out of it, or one could make long hollows up to the sun, tubes to the sky out of trees, and they would live, if one still managed to save those little delicate pipe lines for Sap, running up and running down, day and night, night and day, between the light in heaven and the darkness in the ground.

Perhaps Men are valuable in proportion as it would be difficult to produce promptly other men to perform their functions, or to take their places.

If we cut away in society men of genius, leaves, and blossoms, in trees, men who reach down Heaven to us, they grow out again.

If we cut away in society great masses of roots, common men who hew out the earth in the ground and get earth ready to be heaved up to the sky-the roots grow out again.

But if we cut a little faint rim around it of artists, of inventive men-controllers, of the Sap-conductors, the men who make the Hewers run up to the sky and who make the geniuses come down to the ground, the men who run the tree together, who out of dark earth and bright sunshine build it softly-if we destroy these, this little rim of great men or men who save others, a totally new tree has to be begun.

It is the essence of a democracy to acknowledge that some men for the time being are more important in it than others, and that these men, whosoever they are, in whatever order of society they may be-poor, rich, famous, obscure-these men who think for others, who save others and invent others, who make it possible for others to invent themselves, these men shall be saved first.

One always thinks at first that one would like to make a diagram of human nature.  It would be neat and convenient.

Then one discovers that no diagram one can make of human nature-unless one makes what might be called a kind of squirming diagram will really work.

Then one tries to imagine what a flowing diagram would be like.

Then it occurs to one, one has seen a flowing diagram.

A Tree is a flowing diagram.

So I am putting down on this page for what it may be worth, what I have called A Family Tree of Folks.

Read across


Inventors Organizers Labourers

Imagination Applied Imagination Tool or Mechanism

Fecundity Control Activity

Seer Poet Actor

{ The Man who Sees the } The Man who Generalizes {General in the Particular} Action

The Deeper Permanent {The Immediate Significance} Hewing
Significance { or Meaning }

Light Applied Light or Heat Applied Heat orMotion

Stevenson and Wall James J. Hill Railway Hands

Creating Creative Selecting Hewing

The Democrat {The Aristocrat or} The Crowd{ Crowdman }

Gods Heroes Men

Centrifugal Power Equilibrium Centripetal Power

The Whirl-Out People The Centre People The Whirl-In People

Alexander Graham Bell Telephone-Vail Hands

Architect Contractor Carpenter

Genius Artist Workmen

Columbus Columbus Isabella and the sailors

The Prospector The Engineer }Scoopers, Grabbers}(in mind or body),}Hewers

David the poet David the king David the soldier

Shakespeare Shakespeare Shakespeare