Vive la Révolution!

Friday, March 30, 1906

Three days ago a neighbor brought the celebrated Russian revolutionist, Schaykoffsky, to call upon me.  He is grizzled, and shows age — as to exteriors — but he has a Vesuvius, inside, which is a strong and active volcano yet.  He is so full of belief in the ultimate and almost immediate triumph of the revolution and the destruction of the fiendish autocracy, that he almost made me believe and hope with him.  He has come over here expecting to arouse a conflagration of noble sympathy in our vast nation of eighty millions of happy and enthusiastic freemen.  But honesty obliged me to pour some cold water down his crater.  I told him what I believed to be true — that the McKinleys and the Roosevelts and the multimillionaire disciples of Jay Gould — that man who in his brief life rotted the commercial morals of this nation and left them stinking when he died — have quite completely transformed our people from a nation with pretty high and respectable ideals to just the opposite of that; that our people have no ideals now that are worthy of consideration; that our Christianity which we have always been so proud of — not to say vain of — is now nothing but a shell, a sham, a hypocrisy; that we have lost our ancient sympathy with oppressed peoples struggling for life and liberty; that when we are not coldly indifferent to such things we sneer at them, and that the sneer is about the only expression the newspapers and the nation deal in with regard to such things; that his mass meetings would not be attended by people entitled to call themselves representative Americans at all; that his audiences will be composed of foreigners who have suffered so recently that they have not yet had time to become Americanized and their hearts turned to stone in their breasts; that these audiences will be drawn from the ranks of the poor, not those of the rich; that they will give, and give freely, but they will give from their poverty and the money result will not be large.  I said that when our windy and flamboyant President conceived the idea, a year ago, of advertising himself to the world as the new Angel of Peace, and set himself the task of bringing about the peace between Russia and Japan and had the misfortune to accomplish his misbegotten purpose, no one in all this nation except Dr. Seaman and myself uttered a public protest against this folly of follies.  That at that time I believed that the fatal peace had postponed the Russian nation’s imminent liberation from its age-long chains indefinitely — probably for centuries; that I believed at that time that Roosevelt had given the Russian revolution its death-blow, and that I am of that opinion yet.

Tchaykoffsky said that my talk depressed him profoundly, and that he hoped I was wrong.

I said I hoped the same.

He asked me to come to last night’s meeting and speak, but I had another engagement, and could not do it.  Then he asked me to write a line or two which could be read at the meeting, and I did that cheerfully.

New York Times.

Revolutionist Speaks to Cheering Audience of 3,000.
Mark Twain Writes That He Hopes Czars and
Grand Dukes Will Soon Become Scarce.


When Nicholas Tchaykoffsky, hailed by his countrymen here as the father of the revolutionary movement in Russia, spoke this word last night in Grand Central Palace 3,000 men and women rose to their feet, waved their hats, and cheered madly for three minutes.  The word means “Comrades!”  It is the watchword of the revolutionists.  The spirit of revolution possessed the mass meeting called to greet the Russian patriot now visiting New York.

Fight is what he wants, and arms to fight with.  He told his audience so last night and, by their cheers, they promised to do their part in supplying the sinews of war.

Mark Twain could not attend  because he had already accepted an invitation to another meeting, but he sent this letter:

Dear Mr. Tchaykoffsky:  I thank you for the honor of the invitation, but I am not able to accept it because Thursday evening I shall be presiding at a meeting whose objective is to find remunerative work for certain classes of our blind who would gladly support themselves if they had the opportunity.

My sympathies are with the Russian revolution, of course.  It goes without saying.  I hope it will succeed, and that I have talked with you I take heart to believe it will.  Government by falsified promises, by lies, by treachery, and by the butcher knife, for the aggrandizement of a single family of drones and its idle and vicious kin has been borne quite long enough in Russia, I should think.  And it is to be hoped that the roused nation, now rising in its strength, will presently put an end to it and set up a republic in its place.  Some of us, even the whiteheaded, may live to see the blessed day when the Czars and Grand Dukes will be as scarce there as I trust they are in heaven.  Most sincerely yours,


Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume I, ed. Harriet Elinor Smith et al. (Berkeley and Los Angeles:  University of California Press, 2010), 462 – 464.

Permanent link to this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.