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The New York Times, February 13, 1937

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When Twain Sat Down

MARK TWAIN was one of the earliest sit-down strikers. The circumstance is recalled by a London commuter revolt described in a special dispatch to this paper. The passengers on a train labeled for a certain terminus were ordered to change cars at a way-station. Exasperated by a long course of mistreatment, they refused to leave their coaches. The train finally carried them to the original destination.

A long passage in MARK TWAIN'S autobiographical notes has to do with such an incident. The cry, "All change, this car for the barns," used to be a familiar one in these United States, and MARK TWAIN said it was one instance of the supine acquiescence of the American people in the violation of their personal rights on every hand. So on one occasion when he was riding on a surface car and was ordered out he refused to budge, and was hauled into the car barns in a state of solitary grandeur.

Leisure for Defense

The colloquy between MARK TWAIN and the car officials was in his best manner; indeed, the whole episode may have contained more poetry than truth. The distinguished author was at pains to assure his hearers that he had all the leisure in the world. He had always been interested in the routine of car barns. He had often wondered what happens to a surface car when it goes off duty, &c.

What the outcome was in this particular affray hardly matters. But in more serious vein MARK TWAIN did go on to urge the need of an American leisure class for the defense of the people's elementary rights. Most men are to much in a hurry to get down to work and too tired after work to stage a long fight for justice. It takes much less time to change cars than to argue in a car barn. That is why MARK TWAIN went on to sketch out something like H. G. WELL'S idea of an Order of Samurai who should go about town combating petty oppressions not contemplated in the Bill of Rights.

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