Remembrance of Joseph Dana Miller
Land and Freedom, May-June 1939]
Serene, with a certain detachment, yet allowing himself to be part of
the event. That's the way you would find Joseph Dana Miller at
meetings and gatherings. And you would usually find him in a group
where people were speaking with hope, planning, and asking "What
are we going to do next?" Such things would evoke his presence.
But let the conversation turn into a dispute over a small matter, or
an internecine feud, and he would turn and walk away. Almost like a
force of nature. Certain combined compounds produce life; break up the
compounds and life disappears.
Always ready for the task at hand, looking forward, but not
questioning the future too far, and never lingering on the past. That
was Miller in his work. That attitude kept him young I could never
think of him as aged. Somehow I got the impression that he was
growing. Well, he was always on the lookout for new events in the
movement, hopeful signs of progress, and he was always absorbing new
ideas. "What's new? Any new lectures going on tonight? When are
you coming down again? Did you see this letter I got today?" Pass
some trite compliment on his latest essay and he would be tickled.
Samuel Johnson was Miller's favorite figure in the world of letters.
He himself was a sort of Johnson in the movement. People would gather
round him. come to him with their ideas, problems and disputes. He was
father-confessor for a great variety of sins.
He was smiling, always, with a smile that gave forth benediction,
Even now I see that smiling happy face. Yes, it was a happy face he
was happy in his work. He was one of those who kept at quiet, steady,
constructive toil, not noise and shouting. And how imposing are the
results of all those years of chronicling the movement! Great,
impartial spirit, he realized that the movement was larger than
himself and his ideas, hence he gave space in LAND AND FREEDOM to all
representative ideas and activities in the movement, whether or not he
agreed with them, and regardless of whether the writers criticized his
own views. For instance, he allowed many stormy battles to be waged in
the pages of LAND AND FREEDOM, over the question of interest. As for
himself, he said "There is no problem of interest!"
Miller was a man of principle. He was not over-anxious to ascertain
the exact figures on land values, how much rent land owners are
collecting, whether there would be enough or too much for government
expenses. "I don't care," he said, "whether tlie
landowners are collecting 90 per cent or 10 per cent of the rent.
They're not entitled to one cent of it. It belongs to society as a
When Miller left the literary world to enlist as a full-time worker
in the Georgeist movement, men of letters felt that a great leader had
departed from their ranks. But if he deserted Parnassus it was to
climb Nebo for a greater vision. He saw the world with serious social
problems confronting it. He saw the Georgeists with the true remedy
for the ills of society. He saw a great variety of efforts on the part
of Georgeists to bring the truth to humanity trials and errors,
achievements and failures, even disputes which split the movement. But
within all the churning, he saw a great work on behalf of suffering
mankind. And he chronicled this epic for forty years.
Was this not greater poetry than verse-making?