Monday, August 11, 2014

The Honorable Gentleman from Esperantio

Sinjoro Bartholdt
If I had to make a guess, I would estimate the current number of Esperanto speakers in the United States Congress at zero. I could be wrong, but I’m basing this on a lack of any evidence that any member of Congress speaks Esperanto.[1] No, I haven’t compared the names in the Esperanto-USA membership list with the names of the members of Congress. And I can imagine that if a member of Congress were a member of Esperanto-USA, he or she might not want to be listed.

But in the early part of the twentieth century, there was a member of Congress who made no secret of it. Richard Bartholdt, a Republican from Missouri, was a proponent of Esperanto. According to the dates listed in Wikipedia, he joined Congress at a time when Esperanto was pretty much unknown in the United States, although he had emigrated from Germany only a few years before Zamenhof published Esperanto.

I’m guessing for a somewhat later date, as to when he learned Esperanto, given the article in the August 11, 1910 Spanish Fork Press, of Spanish Fork, Utah. The newspaper describes Bartholdt as “a real Esperantist,” but article seems to indicate that he is one of fairly recent vintage.
Congressman a Real Esperantist.
Congressman Richard Bartholdt of St. Louis is an enthusiastic student of Esperanto, the international language. He took it up because of his intense interest in the peace movement, being convinced that such a medium of exchange would contribute largely thereto. Bartholdt declares he is already a graduate in the language and soon will be able to make speeches in Esperanto. There hangs on the wall of his private office in Washington a small blackboard on which are written Esperanto characters.[2] This serves to keep the matter always in the congressman’s mind.
Still a student. In 1910, Bartholdt was not yet “able to make speeches in Esperanto” (imagine that: a member of Congress unable to make a speech). The Honorable Mr. Bartholdt was, apparently, a great advocate of peace, and like many in that era, saw Esperanto as a potential tool for fostering world peace.

In my title, I’m playing off the joking name Esperantists give to a gathering place of Esperanto speakers. Esperantio is “land of the Esperantists.”

  1. Yes, I know that an absence of evidence is not an evidence of absence.  ↩
  2. They can’t mean ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ. ŝ, and ŭ, but then I don’t know what they mean.  ↩

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