The following essay by Benjamin DeCasseres was published in E. Haldeman-Julius’ “Little Blue Book” No. 1411, titled The Real Thomas Edison, published circa 1929. Haldeman-Julius had a page count that he wanted to reach for his famous little booklets, and since the titular essay only constituted 15 pages, we can assume he included the three other essays to fill the rest of the 64 pages. It is the only Litle Blue Book DeCasseres was included in, though his writing did appear in some of E. Haldeman-Julius’ journals.
Of note is the website Little Blue Books Bibliography. Any research into the publishing history of the E. Haldeman-Julius catalog will show that not only were publishing records not clear, but he often reused catalog numbers for different booklets, and would also retitle booklets just before they were published, but after promotional material was released! Jake Gibbs, the author of the website, worked on the bibliography for fifteen years, and it was completed just before his death. It is a monumental worth that others have attempted before, but his is certainly the most definitive by a long shot.
Mr. Gibbs describes the booklet:
1411. A. L. Shands. The Real Thomas A. Edison. c1929.
1 LBB (c).
2 copyright, PUSA.
5-19 “The Real Thomas A. Edison,” A. L. Shands.
20-33 “The Amazing Ignatius Donnelly,” Miriam Allen deFord.
34-49 “Deus Americanus,” Benjamin deCasseres.
50-61 “Was Thoreau an Anarchist?” C. Hartley Grattan.
Previous to Mr. Gibbs work was http://haldeman-julius.org/, which is sadly now only available through archive.org. There is a great deal of information there found nowhere else.
The essay itself is about Theodore Roosevelt, the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900, and then the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909.
I want to thank S.P. for this assistance in proofreading this transcription.
HOW THE PERFECT ONE BECAME THE LIVING SOUL
OF THESE STATES
The noblest activity of Man is the creation of myths and gods. Man is a lie-loving animal. He calls it the search for the Ideal. Euclid, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and Edison have no power over his psychical life, and very little over his practical life. No human being has ever patterned his life on the type of the impersonal, cold, reasoning truth-seeker. It is Venus, Apollo and Hercules; Siegfried, St. George and St. Patrick; Christ, Buddha, Mahomet, Swedenborg; Hamlet, Huckleberry Finn, Pollyanna; Caesar, Napoleon, Lincoln; Kit Carson, Byron, Paul Revere, that are deified. Try to make a hero out of Eli Whitney in a school boy’s mind if he is reading the life of Daniel Boone! Try to make a heroine out of Madame Curie in the mind of a schoolgirl if she is reading the life of Joan of Arc!
The elect are not yet cold in the grave when they are lovingly lifted out of their coffins and swaddled in attributes that they never possessed. Their least gesture exaggerated to heroic proportions, they are set to suckle at the fat breasts of credulity; and so they rise, trailing their garments of mythic glory, into the empyreans of the imagination, where they reign as richly festooned prototypes, or, rather, as generating stud-horses and mares of the Ideal.
Every people must have an archetype of its national consciousness. The Greeks delighted in personifying all the elements of the Greek soul and of life. The modems are somewhat slower at the beautiful art of deification, although it has gradually accumulated a stock of Alfred the Greats, St. Genevieves, and, later, quite a litter of Joan of Arcs, Garibaldis, Bismarcks, Cromwells and other variations of Thor, Prometheus and Mexitl.
America had no national Deus until God decreed the mighty conflict of San Juan Hill. Neither Washington nor Lincoln quite filled the bill. Both are destined to become gods, no doubt, and float around in the skulls of posterity as immaculate prototypes of Liberty and Equality. They have already passed into the semi-legendary stage; but they both lack the quality of university, of cosmical versatility, of physical prowess. Washington and Lincoln were specialists. They were supermen by accident, not by divine intention, as was he who was born unto us, like Buddha, amid purple and fine linen, in the annus mirabilis 1858, but who chose deliberately the Common Way, the suffrages and approbation of the lowly.
I make no less a claim—which I shall prove—for this man than an incarnation. He was Deus Vulgus, the People incarnate, the body, brain and breath of America made corporeal. His evolution from foetus to Pantheon was as clearly ordained as was the assassination of McKinley, which cleared the way for his emergence from military fame to civic glory.
There is not an element in the American character that is not found magnified with startling clearness in our Deus. He is the very lexicon of all our virtues. By our “virtues” I mean of course our strengths, our root-motives, which I have catalogued in “The Complete American.” For those who have not read that wonder-book I will give here a list of those elemental American characteristics of which Deus Amcricanus is the supreme Hanuman: The passion for the circus; love of good, honest humbug; dialectical righteousness; camp-meeting mysticism; blare; hearth, home and mother; Pragmatic idealism; belief in the divinity of statistics; Our Hero; belief in nonogenarian wiseacres; the sentimental reformer; hullabaloo; upward and onward; respectability; you’re a liar; autoscopy; Chauvinism; keep smiling!—or grinning! Multiply, multiply! acrobatie superficiality; healthy, prolonged and manly exhibitionism; the masterful courage that first discovers the will of the people and then follows it resolutely to the end; speed; gregariousness; resonant, torse, ethico-orotund, ethico-magniloquent, ethico-detonating phrases like “a square deal,” “predatory interests,” “malefactors of great wealth.”
These constitute the very gizzard of the American’s Thirty-nine Articles, all en-souled in our Deus. And much more, for Deus Americanus was not only a mold into which was poured the soil-sap of a people but he was a creator as well. He o’er-leaped the mold and gave his people new values, new nebulae for posterity in which it could sun itself and worship from afar. He was a Hercules of physical strength, a mighty, planet-roving Nimrod; a Columbus of lost rivers and lost lands, a patron of the arts, sciences and the new spelling; a mighty warrior; a Mazeppa of the Dakotas; a super-policeman; a world-feared boxer and fencer; conqueror of the Jungfrau and the Matterhorn; maker of republics, with or without their consent; the constructor of a mighty canal; a naval-lord after several sea-goings; the conserver of American womanhood and childhood; the discoverer of Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Hart Benton; a super-Linnaeus, a super-Audubon, a super-Thoreau; the Great Peacemaker; Ambassador-at-Large to all peoples and all royal funerals; founder of the Ananias Club, which he convened and prorogued at his pleasure; patron saint of the Boy Scouts and Madonna to the Campfire girls; founder of the American Lourdes, Sagamore Hill; he taught His People to fear God and do their part; father of the Dry Sunday; Big Brother to all coal-strikers; and, above all, the divine Gascon of the Strenuous Life. Since Adam delved and Eve bit has any people ever had such a Deus? Take all the Dei and semi-Dei out of Homer, Asgard and Nibelheim, fuse them into a single Deus and you would not find in him the universality and perfectability of our Deus Americanus!
Every authentic god must have at least one temptation, one Gethsemane, one wrestling match with the Devil, one dragon to his credit. The god must or else he cannot become a god. Our Deus had such a test put on him, and he came out triumphant, having beheaded the Foe in four words—”that dirty little atheist!” That Deus Americanus deliberately cast around to find a Fiend with which to wrestle—as some Doubting Thomases have intimated—I reject, after profound thought and study, as utterly ridiculous. Tom Paine had long been in the minds of all Real Americans the Arch-Fiend and the Anti-Christ. The Methodists had pictured him with horns and tail and the cloven hoof. Millions of American babies were scared into untimely righteousness with “If you are not a good little boy, Tom Paine’ll get you!” He was universally anathema. George Washington turned his back on the Devil when he returned from Europe, and so, shortly afterward, soared to the Heaven of the Saved. Paine was therefore inexorably listed by Fate as one of the Great Labors of Deus Americanus.
This final slaughter of Tom Paine by our Deus was, I believe, the greatest of his Labors because the conflict was spiritual and was hidden from the public gaze. Our god must have reconnoitered the Anti-Christ of the American Revolution from all angles before he began his attack, before there issued from his mighty pen the searing and deadly phrase “that dirty little atheist!” Our Lohengrin-Siegfried found his deepest suspicion realized; the fiend Paine was dirty, little and an atheist. More, he found confronting him a poxy, malignant dwarf, who under the mask of reason practiced the obscene black mass which he had learned in a French prison, where he had been thrown for trying to overthrow the God of Louis XIV and Tor quemada. The battle was short and decisive Hallelujah! Tom Paine is no more, our little children sleep in peace, and Deus Americanus‘ for reward, now sits beside Elohim and watches the writhings of Paine the Anti-Christ and Anti-God in Hell. Sursum corda!
Deus Americanus was the looking-glass of all mythological genius, but much. more. If he was Hercules, Nimrod, Lohengrin, Mars and St. George, he also held in that mighty soul a Confucius, a Tartarin, a Marco Polo, a Taras Bulba, a Munchausen, a Wilhelm the Second. “I am large; I contain multitudes!” he might have said just as well as did a minor American poet whom Deus Antericanus never took up because, no doubt, he saw in him a rival of the doctrine of the Strenuous Life. Our Deus would tolerate no rivals. To him alone, and for him alone, the khaki and the sword, the medals and the decorations, the bay and the laurel. That which did not come from Sagamore-Horeb was terefah, scabby, ratty, un-American. A summons was a command. Has any American dared to reject a call to Sagamore-Horeb from Deus Amcricanus? Not even James Huneker dared to face the wrath of the expunger of Tom Paine and the Attila of San Juan Hill!
No godlet could ever become Deus Americanus unless he was impeccably respectable. Respectability and sexual rectitude are to .the American what bacchic and venusian bohemianism was to the ancients. So there is no smirch on the Earth-life of Deus Antericanus. He comes up clean—as clean as the whistle of Gabriel. No whisper shadowed him through life. He was Made in America, where Family Life is the cornerstone of the Temple. He sprouted from the loins of our most ancient and adamantine virtue. Had Tom Paine, the Foe, a wife or even children? I never heard of them (I am not an authority on demonology). Ben Franklin might have been Deus Americanus, but he, who incarnated so many of our traits, failed in two characteristics—he had no San Juan Hill and his puritanism was tainted with common Latin habits. George Washington ran a still, gambled and they do say——. Lincoln told Boccaccian stories. They were automatically ruled out. But the Immaculate One was found in a cradle in East Twentieth street. Destiny’s dice were set. The Perfect American—sans peur et sans reproche— was born unto us!
Deus Americanus of course had his enemies while he was still in the woof and mesh of the flesh. What god had not his enemies? The Strenuous Life stimulates the birth of rivals. Deus Americanus was, in fact, always at Armageddon. Every day was Armageddon to him. Carrying in his larynx the very Voice of the quick and the dead, his brain weaving ideals for countless unborn Boy Scouts, feeling within his depths the Message of the Square Deal of Posterity, hearing in the cyclopean thump of his fist on thousands of tables the muffled drum-beat of his immortality, uttering through those great carnivorous teeth a defy to the enemies of His People, who, naturally, were the enemies of the Lord of Righteousness; casting out in the fire of his nostrils Malefactors of Great Wealth (no names given), slaughtering with mighty Isaiahan epithet those who dared disagree with him. battling for the Lord in rain or shine. Yankees win or Yankees lose—it would, indeed, have been miraculously unique if this Mighty Killer of the Moose and the Lion had not had his Lucifer, his Cain, his Brutus. The New York World even went so far as to sue Deus Americanus for libel. As well try to smash an Idea with a bamboo walking-stick!
They have accused him of disloyalty. How un-Deus-like such charges seem to us today, we who are molding for posterity the Great Legend! A god may be—nay, must be—inconsistent. He is protean. A law unto himself—sublime and impeccable egotist that he was!—those who could not do a volteface in perfect step with our Deus Amenicanus were flung to the ambulance corps. He was true to himself and to his heaven-storming dreams. Little men of Earth! Little men of Earth!—you who speak of loyalty, consistency! You live in realities, While our Deus was an Absolute. Loyalty! Gratitude! Consistency! A dog’s virtues! A nationalist when he spoke to the Egyptians in Egypt, imperialist when he addressed Englishmen in England—that was typically American, and therefore right. Our fishers of men and votes, do they not have one doctrine for the white aristocracy of the South, another for the Hog and Wheat Blocs of the West, another for the Mammon-sodden peoples of the East, and still another for the Harlem Ethiopian Belt? Consistency, thou art neither an American nor a Deus. Every blasphemy that has been uttered against Deus Americanus has been uttered by Prometheus against Zeus; but Zeus (and his heirs) still reigns and the vultures still nibble at the penitent liver of Prometheus.
The divinity of our Deus was squarely proven in his lifetime. He was bullet-proof. Twice was the Sign given. Twice did Deus Americanus come forth a greater than Siegfried, who, it will be remembered, had a vulnerable spot in the back which worked his undoing. But the King of the Nibelungs of the West—our Deus—although he had bathed in the blood of many Dragons of Evil, had been a Friend of Nature since boyhood, and so even the trees held their breath in brotherly awe and stayed the naughty leaf from falling on his back when he raged against the Malefactors and atheistic heathens.
Soaked in Dragon’s blood! No! Our Deus was soaked in something far greater. He was soaked in American Virtues and American Ideals. We Americans are baptized in the blood of Righteousness, and neither Excalibur nor the hosts of Tom Paine shall prevail against us! At the height of the Homeric contest on San Juan Hill, when the thunders from the fifty-mile-long Spanish artillery were shaking the world, Deus Americanus abandoned his horse, like Napoleon at Lodi, and, pistol in hand, charged with his handful of men into the frightful rain of shells and bullets. The great Spanish Army collapsed at the daring, miraculous feat and surrendered. San Juan Hill was the whirling fiery egg that hatched a Deus. An invulnerable incarnation had appeared amongst us. The Great Legend had begun to jell!
Again, many years later, when the voice of Achilles, which by its sound alone had shattered the Trojan army, had taken possession of our Deus the second Sign of invulnerability was given. It was in Milwaukee. An unknown man—a descendant or a disciple of the dirty little atheist, no doubt—shot at Deus Americanus, but so completely and miraculously was he panoplied in American Home Virtues and Ideals that he went right on speaking to his audience with most miraculous tongue. Unshatterable proof this, and finally, that he was our Deus!
He had his play-moments, too, that endeared him to us probably beyond all else, for we are a play-people, almost infantile, it would seem, sometimes. We are the laughing baby-eye of the world, and ’twas fit that that element of our national character should appear in Deus Americanus. He played for us in the White House for many years. What gambols, what clownings, what sensational pranks he put on for us! How we guffawed, rocked, shook with mirth! So much so that when the Deus left the White House to retire into the Desert, like St. Francis of Assisi, for meditation and counsel with the lions of the Zambesi, he gave Utterance to the most celebrated mot of any abdicating ruler, “Well, I’ve had a corking good time!” Only a god could indulge in and get away with (as the saying goes) such a sportive remark after guiding for eight years the spiritual, moral and physical destinies of His People. Life is always a comedy to the gods—and what has an Olympian to do except have “a corking good time”?
Deus Americanus was a being of sublime moral courage, another trait that is almost uniquely American and which is one of the reasons, no doubt, why the Zeitgeist chose him as the Living Soul of These States. While he was reveling in his “corking good time” in the White House he executed one of those sudden morale coups that got him the name in some quarters of the Spiritual Marechal Ney, “the bravest of the brave.” He invited Booker T. Washington to dine with him and told the Associated Press so point-blank. There were gasps and sputterings among us Earth-whiffets, especially among the whiffets of the Southland. A Negro on terms of equality with the greatest of the White House Dei! But the Deus had resolved to go Lincoln one better. The latter had merely set the Negro free physically, but Deus Americanus had resolved to set him free socially and politically, which he did, as is known of all men, for he followed up his recognition of Booker T. Washington by enforcing throughout the Southland the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. This being one of the celebrated Twelve Labors, I will not touch upon it further. If Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, the Deus was certainly the Great Necromancer, for in assuring the Negroes of the South during their lifetime and unto unborn posterities the right to vote he accomplished one of the greatest moral and seemingly impossible victories in history.
Deus Americanus had not a provincial soul. He was never a local god. He went forth, when the Call came, unto all the world with the Big American Idea. He proclaimed it from the Sorbonne, from the Pyramids, on the Banks of the Amazon, at the very doors of the Vatican, from the Tower of London, on the Nile, and he fairly slapped it into the back of that fellow-Deus. Kaiser Wilhelm II, at Potsdam, where he uttered that famous toast which terrified the world, “With an army like that, I could lick the world!” Did he say “I” or “you”? N’importe! As a good American and a sound Deusian, I prefer to believe he said “I.” It sounds American, it is American, for we can lick the world, by Jingo!—as was said of yore. Messenger, handshaker and Ambassador to all the world was our Deus, and he was received wherever he went as Caesar Americanus by vast mobs that shouted Viva! and Prosit!
Like all genius, like all beings destined for apotheosis, he knew as a youth that he was born for a Purpose. The attractions are proportioned to the destinies, says Swedenborg. He first of all prepared himself for his secretly foretold Deushood by strengthening his body and his will. All gods are perfect physically and have almighty wills, he read in his dictionary of mythology. He was in his younger adolescent days a weakling, timid, almost sickly. By acts of fortitude and discipline such as only the Pre-Destined dare undertake he finally achieved, after many years, the title of Bwana Tombo, the Fat Man.
All greatness in action is founded on the exclusion of some universal human quality. No man can act continuously and have a continuous sense of humor. For humor is the supreme critic, the supreme disintegrator, the supreme paralyzer of action. Deus Americanus, like Narcissus, Alexander the Great, Cromwell and Napoleon, was totally devoid of a sense of humor. It was his pillar of strength, else he would not have undertaken the Labor of “Drying up” New York for one whole Sunday when he was Police Commissioner, a Labor which was so signally and admirably successful and grows so great in the eye of Fame that Deus Dry Sunday will, no doubt, in the calendars of posterity oust Easter Sunday as a day celebrating the rise of a regenerated New York from the hells of Swizzle.
Of all the elements which have gone to making Deus Americanus the body, blood and brain of our national, innermost self no small credit is due to the “style” of his many books. Nothing can be farther from “literature,” which among us is feminine for writin’. And there was, of course, nothing feminine in the Deus. His collected Logos is the American Style, as plain as a hitching post, as devoid of metaphor as an income-tax blank, as raw as the meat of pre-Promethean anthropophagi. Indeed, as his enemies can vouch, did he not verbally “eat ’em alive?”—he who would have branded in his pistol-shot prose Pan himself a “Nature Fakir” if the latter had ever questioned the eye and ear of the great Wilderness Hunter? No American writer, Deus or semi-Deus, has ever given us such home-grown and root-American epigrams: “The good woman is the best of all good citizens.” “Deeds, not words, alone shall save us.” “Let us pray with our bodies for our souls’ desire.” (This last is the one mystical flight in the prose of the Deus, and is almost Sapphic in its pagan grandeur.) “I believe in hard work and honest sport.” “I believe in a sane mind in a sane body.” (Our Deus translated this from the mens sana in corpore sano of an obscene Roman reformer named Juvenal, and, although he gives him no credit—gods have plenary rights in expropriation—the perfect translation of the difficult phrase proves the profound nature of his scholarship. Besides, the phrase achieved American validity only at the exact moment that Deus Americanus wrote “I believe” in front of it.) “These nations (Germany and Turkey) in this crisis stand for the reign of Moloch and Beelzebub on this earth.” “A churchless community is a community on the rapid down grade.” These are but a few of the epigrams from the vast treasure-house of Sagamorean wisdom, which has already. swept away forever the moral pot-shots of Epictetus, Confucius, Aurelius, Poor Richard, Oscar Wilde and Godey. The style is the god, verily.
But I do not ask trans-Atlantic and cis-Atlantic mankind to take my word alone that he of whom I have written is the veritable soil-and-soul Deus Americanus. Here follows the proclamation from Pantheon of the Deus on East Twentieth Street, New York City, where one may see the sacred relics and vestures of the American. I do not know who is the author of this sublime apotheosis of the greatest Police Commissioner New York ever had; but I do know that in it he has condensed the soul of Deus Americanus. To wit:
“He was found faithful over a few things and he was made ruler over many; he cut his own trail clean and straight and millions followed him toward the light. He was frail; he made himself a tower of strength. He was timid; he made himself a lion of courage. He was a dreamer; he became one of the great doers of all time. Men put their trust in him; women found a champion in him; kings stood in awe of him, but children made him their playmate. He broke a nation’s slumber with his cry, and it rose up. He touched the eyes of blind men with a flame that gave them vision. Souls became swords through him; swords became servants of God. He was loyal to his country and he exacted loyalty; he loved many lands, but he loved his own land best. He was terrible in battle but tender to the weak; joyous and tireless, being free from self-pity; clean with a cleanness that cleansed the air like a gale. His courtesy knew no wealth, no class; his friendship, no creed or color or race. His courage stood every onslaught of savage beast and ruthless man, of loneliness, of victory, of defeat. His mind was eager, his heart was true, his body and spirit, defiant of obstacles, ready to meet what might come. He fought injustice and tyranny; bore sorrow gallantly; loved all nature, bleak spaces and hardy companions, hazardous adventure and the zest of battle. Wherever he went he carried his own pack; and in the uttermost part of the earth he kept his conscience for his guide.”
America, behold your soul; behold your one Olympian double!