1900 Citizens on the 'Task' of the Century

Politician and lawyer William Jennings Bryan thought it was the defense of individual rights. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie thought it was an end to war. But when asked in 1900 about the most important task of the twentieth century, science fiction writer Jules Verne — accustomed to looking into the future in his fiction — thought it might be too soon to say.

Read on and learn the thoughts of other prominent 1900-era citizens as they appeared in William Randolph Hearst’s Sunday [San Francisco] Examiner Magazine on Dec. 23, 1900.

— Michael S. James, ABCNEWS.com

‘What is the Most Important Task of the 20th Century?’

Ex-Gov. Altgeld

The question is too big for me, but it looks to me as if the establishment of a more equal justice were the great problem of the immediate future.

Susan B. Anthony

If I could return to the earth at the close of the 20th century, I would like best to see this great republic practicing the principles embodied in the declaration, “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed” — governed women as well as governed men. I would like to see a time when to be a woman is not a crime to be punished with disenfranchisement.

The Duke of Argyle

That knowledge grow from more to more and more of reverence in us dwell.

Sir Robert Ball

I desire to see a reform of the educational systems as shall give to science its true position. Too much importance is at present given to the study of languages.

William Jennings Bryan

During the last quarter of a century greed for gain has been gradually obscuring the inalienable rights of the individual. I know of no more imperative task for the 20th century than the restoration of man in his rightful position of paramount importance.

Lloyd Bryce

These are the most important tasks: The substitution as a political factor of the school house for the saloon; the abolition in national, State and municipal affairs of the “pull,” a decrease in the hours of labor and the suppression in our lawless border communities of outrages upon negroes, which discredit the name of American civilization.

Jules Cambon

My fondest hope is that the friendship between the government of France and the United States and the sympathy that unites the people of both republics, which were characteristics of the 19th century, may be so continued during the twentieth that they will last forever.

Andrew Carnegie

I should like to see the profession of arms, now considered by many the most honorable, held in the 20th century to be of all human occupations the most dishonorable. I should like to see the killing of men under the name of war abolished and the earth thereby freed from its foulest stain.


The 20th century must produce nations that will give as much evidence of mutual tolerance as intelligent individual have in their relations with one another. Although nations have to maintain proudly their self-respect, they lack sadly now in courteous respect for their respective susceptibilities.

G. Clemenceau

Considering the events of the last years of the 19th century, I would like to see the triumph of justice in all the possible acceptations of that word — the triumph of right over force and human imbecility.

F. Marion Crawford

A modus vivendi which shall assure a just and permanent distribution of wealth and division of labor. He who solves this problem will be the Earth’s greatest man.

Francesco Crispi

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...