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Andrew Carnegie on John Muir

(Reprinted from the John Muir Newsletter , Vol. 1, No.2, Spring 1991)

[Editor's note: This undated clipping from the San Francisco Chronicle , ca. 1910, was found in an envelope enscribed in John Muir's hand: "Carnegie on Water supply & J.M. etc." Muir and Andrew Carnegie corresponded occasionally and met in person at least once. In 1910 Muir attended a special dinner in Southern California in Carnegie's honor. From the John Muir Papers, Holt Atherton Library, University of the Pacific, Series VI, Related Articles and Scraps]

Andrew Carnegie has long ago come to be regarded as a traitor to the camp of "the interests." Although in a sense one of them, he is not with them, at least in sentiment, and is often quite annoying to his old associates because of his habit of clear thinking expressed in plain speech. He has said some distressing things about certain forms of tariff robbery of which he had intimate personal experience, and ... he has come to be regarded as a heretic whom the American Protective Tariff league would rejoice to burn at the stake.

Mr. Carnegie delivers a shrewd sidewinder directed at his sentimental fellow countryman, John Muir, who has got off wrong on the Hetch Hetchy question. Says Mr. Carnegie:

John Muir is a fine Scotchman, like my friend John Burroughs ; but for all that it is too foolish to say that the imperative needs of a city to a full and pure water supply should be thwarted for the sake of a few trees or for scenery, no matter how beautiful it might be.

The Tweed ring in New York was corrupt, there is no question of that, but it was composed of men with broad views on some things, and they prepared for the future of New York. Now New York has a magnificent water supply, a young sea, up in the hills, which can supply a population of 10,000,000 people with all the water that they can use. New York also has a fine system of wharves, which will be a splendid investment to the community. The parks of the city are exceptionally fine.

Doubtless Mr. Carnegie's common sense view of the matter will prevail when it comes up for settlement. It is not pressing, as the city must first exhaust the Lake Eleanor possibilities.

[Secretary of the Interior] Ballinger's adjudication will settle nothing one way or the other, but when the time comes that the bay cities can demonstrate that there is real need of the Hetch Hetchy supply neither congress nor the administration will refuse the grant.

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