Invince Harvey, Jr.

Kenneth Burke, May 1913

Invince Harvey, Jr., the son of that world-famed political boss known generally as “Invincible Invince”, was sitting in his father’s great leather chair, his powerful limbs stretched out toward the artificial logs blazing bluishly before him, his magnificently formed head resting on a muscular right arm, his fingers slowly mussing a beautiful “pomp”, while his eyes were gazing sightlessly into the struggling flames ahead. In short, Harvey was thinking— and well he might.

For three years had he worked incessantly to one end only, and that, to satisfy a great craving for power, which was always foremost in his mind. But now, just as he was certain that the carfully-laid plans had, at last, been carried to the highest point of development, and was settling down for the fourth year, to be accompanied, of course, by his habitual control of the journal, and incidentally every bit of political power the school could give, he had met a sudden opposition that threatened to destroy utterly the fruits of the seed he had so carefully sown during the freshman, sophomore, and junior years.

There had appeared upon the horizon a freshman who intended, by using the same methods that had lead the great senior to victory, to gain for himself that supreme goal which Harvey so jealously guarded. And Invince, since he felt sure that the state of affairs was such that only by adopting a plan better than the one he had chosen three years before as absolutely impregnable could he hope to be victor once more, was entirely at a loss to find any means of attaining, or rather, retaining his ends.

And thus he sat, now clenching his teeth in a masterful determination to win over this insolent “freshy”, again closing his eyes as he tried to form some method which would over-top all his previous artifice. So it was only natural that his brain, acted upon by the force of the tempest within and the fire without, should require a brief respite from its gigantic task, and seek pleasure in a short review of former achievements.

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First, was Harvey as a freshman, cunningly laying his plans for future sovereignty?

The pondering lad remembered how, as soon as the reporters had been elected for the journal about-to-be, he had immediately commenced to cultivate their friendship, and within a month was on intimate terms with every freshman reporter. To these he gradually unfolded his plans, giving such promises as “excellent chance of getting a story in the journal” of “a lot of fun and excitement as the result of something new.” Since Harvey had, in each case, carefully studied the character of the person with whom he was dealing, he made no mistakes in the matter of promises, and thus, soon had all the reporters of his class in sympathy with the plan. It was very simple indeed, as Invince had intended, for he knew that it must be so at first, and then gradually expend with his increase of power until it would realize his utmost desires.

Harvey proposes that they have school politics; that the freshman unite and get control of the journal; and that he be allowed to use his own methods to accomplish this, for the first year, at least.

Now his happy memories skipped lightly over the time immediately following, in which he had worked diligently to convince the freshman that their only hope was in union, that he was the sole one able to bring this about, and that he should be allowed, just for the first year, to assume control. Finally, they had yielded after much reasoning, and had agreed to use their influence over their classes to get the whole freshman body to unite and favor Harvey.

Next came the thoughts of the first great victory.

Around the last of November, about a week before the election for editor-in-chief of the new journal, the information was given out that, owing to the fact that the freshman were necessarily not well acquainted with the majority of the high school students, only the three upper classes would vote.

Here Harvey had not hesistated, but before the close of the next day, had with the influence of his reporters, induced the entire freshman class to accept the following resolution: “This is to certify that we, the freshman class of—, request the right to place and vote for a candidate to the office of editor-in-chief of the journal at the coming election, and that we feel it our duty to refuse to support this journal in case we are denied rights equal to those of other members of the school.”

Since the freshman composed nearly half the school, and the petition in itself seemed just, it produced the desired result, and two weeks later Invince Harvey was filling the office of editor-in-chief of “The High”, as a result of the lack of a champion who could unite the upper classes, but chiefly, of the work of the freshman reporters.

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His mind glided over the second year of the reign of King Harvey, for it has presented no obstacles of any account. He had by both promises and the influence given by the fact that he was now a “big” man in the school, again captivated the good-will of the innocent freshies, and at the same time held a strong grip on his own classmates. Thus, in the second election, Harey showed an increasing influence when he won by a two-thirds vote.

But there was one event which the ever-growing power of Invince brought about in the sophomore year, and was largely responsible for his re-election the year following.

Harvey saw that he could never had absolute control so long as the teachers still retained a hand in his journal, and so he effected by popular vote (again using the influence of his reporters) that “The High” be given completely into the hands of the “students”, who now felt themselves well capable of managing it. Naturally, the faculty complied.

This gave Harvey the one great advantage that he had longed for—, he could now use the paper for political purposes; he could become a demagogue.

Now, if a student wished to run for any school office, he must be one of Harvey’s colleagues, or his name would not appear in the journal. To the contrary, “The High” always had a word of praise for one of Harvey’s party, and in that manner, toward the end of the second year, every important office in the school was held by a Harvey man.

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Next the dreaming conqueror saw again his third year.

Harvey had been fully aware that there was now no one in the school who dared to oppose him, because he knew that any wishing to do so realized that they were in no way fit to tackle the great Harvey machine, and that, if they would fail to defeat him, they stood no chance of making a name for themselves at that school. And as he had done much for the two classes that had favored him in preceding elections, these two bodies were, of course, easily made enthusiastic the ever-active reporters, who were always eager to be intimate with the “school president” just because he was such. But Harvey secured the freshman again in his third year and, of necessity, was an easy winner over the only other candidate, an unimportant senior, whom he had asked to run for appearance’s sake, and who was backed by one hundred fifty votes against Harvey’s ten hundred fifty.

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The endangered monarch stirred and awoke. His happy retrospect was finished, and in its stead he was confronted by plain, cold facts.

The remarkable successes of John Jones, the rebelling freshman, were again acquiring prominence in his thoughts. He clearly outlined the revolutionist’s method in a few words.

This Jones intended to gain, or better, had gained the support of his class. This was very simple, as the freshman would naturally prefer to be lead by a classmate.

He was exposing Harvey’s principles, showing the absolutism which the great senior had promoted. This was the strongest blow to the Harvey machine, which immediately began to fall away before public opinion, thus leaving the still determined leader like a king without his court, a commander without his lieutenants.

He was promising an absolutely open journal, to be run on an American basis.

And these three principles, simple as they were, had completely destroyed the once all-powerful party of Invince Harvey. His reporters, formerly the most useful tools, were lost, having completely deserted him when first they saw their classes being moved by the freshman’s convincing speeches. And thus, all that was left of the formerly invincible Harvey machine was himself and two classmates, who were his only true friends.

But his was a brain of power, a brain of resourcefulness, and before he went to bed that night Invince Harvey, Jr., the politician’s son, had devised a scheme whereby the Langeles High School should remain an absolute monarchy for one more year, and by its own choice.

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The day of the famous election had arrived. Besides the twelve hundred students that thronged the large hall, there were scores of visitors, come to see this great battle and the fall of the Harvey dynasty. But one man in the enormous gathering who doubted that this would occur, and he was Invince Harvey, Sr., who knew and trusted in the remarkable abilities of his son.

John Jones was, by the toss of the coin, the first speaker. As he arose and walked forward to the platform, almost the entire twelve hundred students thundered him a greeting, while the visitors applauded loudly this upholder of Americanism.

His address was brief, but definite. He briefly outlined his principles: to give every one an equal chance, to bring the journal back to an American basis, and to abolish the possibility of “machines” by prohibiting the use of “The High” for political purposes. Then he proceeded to demonstrate the absolutism of the Harvey rule. He showed how every important office in the school was dictated to by Harvey, because Harvey had secured these offices for the holders. He made clear how Invince had done this by using the power of “his” paper. Then he ended by appealing to the students, as "representatives of a free government, of the students, by the students and for the students”, and besought them, “as such representatives, to end the reign of Czar Harvey and place Langeles High School on a basis worthy of its name, to make everyone equal.”

The din at the close of this speech was appalling, and surely no one, no, not even Invince Harvey, Sr., could see how such a marked favor could be swayed.

After the enthusiastic spectators had quieted down somewhat, there arose another man, who walked firmly to the platform, his squared jaw protruding visibly, and a terrible impatience burning within. As Harvey stood facing those twelve hundred pupils he felt a sudden desire to cry out against them, to call them traitors, to curse them for their non-appreciation of the good he had done the school. But with a superhuman effort he overcame this impulse, and first smiling unconcernedly to his audience, began the greatest task he had ever undertaken, to defeat his own system.


"As you all know, I am here to once more run for that office which I have so tried to elevate in power and responsibility, and which I believe I have done all in my ability to raise to a position worthy of this great school. There is not a pupil among you but realizes that my “absolutism”, as my opponent chooses to call it, has made this school what it is today, and that this “absolutism” is the only cause of its state-wide frame. No, I am not here to sing you my praises—I do not have to. Every thinking pupil of the Langeles High school knows that the present greatness of our journal, and the renown of our societies, are due only to the ruling of this “machine”, which strives to elevate but the good stock of the school and keep all unworthy material from deceiving the students. But, believe this as you may. I care not, for I have yet graver things to tell you. I still have points to prove, of which you must undoubtedly see the truth, and be moved by their justness.

"My opponent has accused me of being a demagogue, has claimed that my ambitions are centered in self, and that I work for nothing but myself. Noble fellow-students, the mighty Caesar (if you will pardon the comparison) was accused and killed for this same principle I am now upholding, and yet all realize the error of that crime. But let us go on. It seems unreasonable to class myself with Caesar, and thus I must pass this point, too, without much emphasis.

"For the present purposes I will not deny the accusation of my opponent, but what is more, I will acknowledge it—, I am a demagogue. Now comes my greatest argument, my most important reason why you should down this freshman and vote for one who has had three years of constant labor and experience in making himself worthy of your confidence.

"John Jones has accused me of being a demagogue, and yet, to obtain his power, he has used the principles I employed when I was first working for the right to serve you. What does that mean? It means this, that John Jones, despite his promises, has determined to become a demagogue, and is using your innocence to secure that privilege!

"Now, if Jones gets control, you will have a freshman journal, and will be subjected to the same principles under which the journal is now run, with the exception that the three upper classes will be at the poor end. Now, take your choice.

"Elect a representative of the upper three classes, or let your journal be managed by the children of the school."

The hissing of the five hundred loyal freshmen was exceeded only by the thundering of the seven hundred upper classmen. The vote was taken, and Invince Harvey, Jr., won my a plurality of two hundred—a Caesar without a Brutus, a Napoleon without a Waterloo!