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EDWARD OLIVER

OLIVER WOLCOTT

THE BRIGHT LAND TO WESTWARD

(Speech of Edward O. Wolcott at the eighty-second annual dinner of the New England Society in the City of New York, December 22, 1887. The President, ex-Judge Horace Russell, introduced the speaker as follows: “ It was an English lawyer who said that the farther he went West the more he was convinced that the wise men came from the East. We may not be so thoroughly convinced of this after we have heard the response to the next regular toast, 'The Pilgrim in the West.' I beg to introduce Mr. Edward O. Wolcott, of Colorado.”)

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN:-It was with great diffidence that I accepted the invitation of your President to respond to a toast to-night. I realized my incapacity to do justice to the occasion, while at the same time I recognized the high compliment conveyed. I felt somewhat as the man did respecting the Shakespeare-Bacon controversy; he said he didn't know whether Lord Bacon wrote Shakespeare's works or not, but if he didn't, he missed the greatest opportunity of his life. [Laughter.]

The West is only a larger, and in some respects a better, New England. I speak not of those rose gardens of culture, Missouri and Arkansas, but otherwise, generally of the States and Territories west of the Mississippi, and more particularly, because more advisedly, of Colorado, the youngest and most rugged of the thirty-eight; almost as large in area as all New England and New York combined;

with room about her hearth for all mankind”; with fertile valleys, and with mines so rich and so plentiful that we occasionally, though reluctantly, dispose of one to our New York friends. (Laughter.] We have no very rich, no very poor, and no almshouses; and in the few localities where we are not good enough, New England Home Missionary

Societies are rapidly bringing us up to the Plymouth Rock standard and making us face the Heavenly music. (Laughter.] We take annually from our granite hills wealth enough to pay for the fertilizers your Eastern and Southern soils require to save them from impoverishment. We have added three hundred millions to the coinage of the world; and, although you call only for gold, we generously give you silver, too. [Laughter.] You are not always inclined to appreciate our efforts to swell the circulation, but none the less are we one with you in patriotic desire to see the revenues reformed, provided always that our own peculiar industries are not affected. Our mountains slope toward either sea, and in their shadowy depths we find not only hidden wealth, but inspiration and incentive to high thought and noble living, for Freedom has ever sought the recesses of the mountains for her stronghold, and her spirit hovers there; their snowy summits and the long, rolling plains are lightened all day long by the sunshine, and we are not only Colorado, but Colorado Claro! [Applause.]

Practically, as little is known of the great West by you of the East as was known a century ago of New England by our British cousins. Your interest in us is, unfortunately, largely the interest on our mortgages, your attitude toward us is somewhat critical, and the New England heart is rarely aroused respecting the West except when some noble Indian, after painting himself and everything else within his reach red, is sent to his happy hunting grounds. (Laughter.] Yet, toward the savage, as in all things, do not blame us if we follow the Christian example set us by our forefathers. We read that the Court at Plymouth, more than fifty years after the colony was founded, ordered “That whosoever shall shoot off any gun on any unnecessary occasion, or at any game whatsoever, except an Indian or a wolf, shall forfeit five shillings for every such shot "; and our pious ancestors popped over many an Indian on their way to Divine worship. [Laughter.] But when in Colorado, settled less than a generation ago, the old New England heredity works itself out and an occasional Indian is peppered, the East raises its hands in horror, and our offending cowboys could not find admittance even to an Andover Probation Society. [Laughter.]

Where we have a chance to work without precedent, we can point with pride of a certain sort to methods at least peaceful. When Mexico was conquered, we found ourselves with many thousand Mexicans on hand. I don't know how they managed it elsewhere, but in Colorado we not only took them by the hand and taught them our ways, but both political parties inaugurated a beautiful and generous custom, since more honored in the breach than in the observance, which gave these vanquished people an insight into and an interest in the workings of republican institutions which was marvellous: a custom of presenting to each head of a household, being a voter, on election day, from one to five dollars in our native silver. [Great laughter.]

If Virginia was the mother of Presidents, New England is the mother of States. Of the population of the Western States born in the United States, some five per cent. are of New England birth, and of the native population more than half can trace a New England ancestry. Often one generation sought a resting-place in Ohio, and its successor in Illinois or in Iowa, but you will find that the ancestor, less than a century ago, was a God-fearing Yankee. New England influences everywhere predominate. I do not mean to say that many men from the South have not, especially since the war, found homes and citizenship in the West, for they have; and most of them are now holding Federal offices. [Laughter.] It is nevertheless true that from New England has come the great, the overwhelming influence in moulding and controlling Western thought. [Applause.]

New England thrift, though a hardy plant, becomes considerably modified when transplanted to the loam of the prairies; the penny becomes the dime before it reaches the other ocean; Ruth would find rich gleanings among our Western sheaves, and the palm of forehandedness opens sometimes too freely under the wasteful example which Nature sets all over our broad plains; but because the New England ancestor was acquisitive, his Western descendant secures first of all his own home. [Applause.] The austere and serious views of life which our forefathers cherished have given way to a kindlier charity, and we put more hope and more interrogation points into our theology than our fathers did; but the old Puritan teachings, softened by the years and by brighter and freer skies, still keep our homes Christian and our home life pure. And more, far more than all else, the blood which flows in our veins, the blood of the sturdy New Englanders who fought and conquered for an idea, quickened and kindled by the Civil War, has imbued and impregnated Western men with a patriotism that overrides and transcends all other emotions. Pioneers in a new land, laying deep the foundations of the young commonwealths, they turn the furrows in a virgin soil, and from the seed which they plant there grows, renewed and strengthened with each succeeding year, an undying devotion to republican institutions, which shall nourish their children and their children's children forever. [Prolonged applause.)

An earnest people and a generous! The Civil strife made nothing right that was wrong before, and nothing wrong that was right before; it simply settled the question of where the greater strength lay. We know that

“Who overcomes
By force, hath overcome but half his foe,"

and that if more remains to be done, it must come because the hearts of men are changed. The war is over; the very subject is hackneyed; it is a tale that is told, and commerce and enlightened self-interest have obliterated all lines. And yet you must forgive us if, before the account is finally closed, and the dead and the woe and the tears are balanced by all the blessings of a reunited country, some of us still listen for a voice we have not yet heard; if we wait for some Southern leader to tell us that renewed participation in the management of the affairs of this nation carries with it the admission that the question of the right of secession is settled, not because the South was vanquished, but because the doctrine was and is wrong, forever wrong. [Great applause.]

We are a plain people, too, and live far away. We find all the excitement we need in the two great political patties, and rather look upon the talk of anybody in either party being better than his party, as a sort of cant. The hypercritical faculty has not reached us yet, and we leave to you of the East the exclusive occupancy of the raised dais upon which it seems necessary for the independent voter to stand while he is counted. [Applause and laughter.]

We are provincial; we have no distinctive literature and no great poets; our leading personage abroad of late seems to be the Honorable “ Buffalo Bill ” [laughter), and we use our adjectives so recklessly that the polite badinage indulged in toward each other by your New York editors to us seems tame and spiritless. In mental achievement we may not have fully acquired the use of the fork, and are “but in the gristle and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood.” We stand toward the East somewhat as country to city cousins; about as New to Old England, only we don't feel half so badly about it, and on the whole are rather pleased with ourselves. (Laughter.] There is not in the whole broad West a ranch so lonely or so remote that a public school is not within reach of it. With generous help from the East, Western colleges are elevating and directing Western thought, and men busy making States yet find time to live manly lives and to lend a hand. All this may not be asthetic, but it is virile, and it leads up and not down. Great poets, and those who so touch the hearts of men that the vibration goes down the ages, must often find their inspiration when wealth brings leisure to a class, or must have “ learned in suffering what they teach in song." We can wait for our inspired ones; when they come, the work of this generation, obscure and commonplace, will have paved the way for them; the general intelligence diffused in this half century will, unknown or forgotten, yet live in their numbers, and the vivid imaginations of our New England ancestors, wasted in depicting the joys and torments of the world to come, will, modified by the years, beautify and ennoble the cares of this. [Applause.)

There are some things even more important than the highest culture. The West is the Almighty's reserve ground, and as the world is filling up, He is turning even the old arid plains and deserts into fertile acres, and is sending there the rain as well as the sunshine. A high and glorious destiny awaits us; soon the balance of population will lie the other side of the Mississippi, and the millions that

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