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What Should be the Policy of the National Government?

[Extract from a Lecture by Col. S. W. Downey?)

"This brings me to consider what should be the policy of the National government toward the Territories during the period of their approach toward Statehood. I believe the controlling portion of the population of the Territories are true and loyal Americans, not loyal simply in the partisan sense, but men and women proud of their nationality, proud of their national institutions, history and spirit, and eager to guard their national reputation and honor. Being such, they do not ask or desire to be fed at the public crib.

They do not desire that the national treasures be exhausted in the development of their resources. But they do ask, and have a right to demand that their character, aims, and inevitable destiny be known, felt and appreciated. Let it be understood that pioneers and frontiersmen have the same tastes, affections and passions as other men. That they are not necessarily, nor in fact, less cultured, ruder, or more uncouth. That often the noblest emotions of the soul, flaming up in the hearts of fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons, have led them to seek alone the vaguely comprehended wilderness of the West, to carve out a fortune that should minister to the blessing of the loved and left.

Let it be remembered too, that brave mothers and loving wives have followed and accompanied husbands and fathers, leaving homes of luxury, daring the dangers and enduring the hardships of the overland route, forgetting or never regretting the luxuries forsaken and indulgencies foregone, but with their sweet ministrations of unwearying, tender assiduities, strewing flowers in paths that would else be barren and unlovely; soothing the perturbed spirit, encouraging the faint and weary by the matchless splendor of their own peculiar, unfaltering heroism; making home charming, even in the wilderness; even daring to grapple with the maelstrom of evil and sin, that whirls man away in its strong current, man, strong to boast, weak to dare. Let us at least evince, if not adequately, yet emphatically, our appreciation of the sacrifice they have made, and the bliss they have conferred, and own woman's sacrifice, woman's friendship, and woman's love, these three, the brightest gems in the crown of humanity; that a scalping-knife sprinkling the palatial walls of New York or Philadelphia is no more horrible to imagine or endure, than the blood-drops of our own innocents upon the unhewn logs and earthy floor of a Western cabin.

That the true pioneer has been wont to find at his door the wily, loathsome, treacherous savage, knowing that like a serpent he might, within a day, turn and sting the fostering hand that fed him. For this is no imaginary picture, but history.

That there is a vast un-peopled realm beyond the Missouri, teeming with gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, coal and precious stones, rich in manufacturing facilities, and agricultural and pastoral capacity. That nuclei have been established for the rapid spread of civilization; and that the heart of American population and influence must ultimately be at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

In the youth of individuals, attachments and animosities are formed that last through life. The same is measurably true of sections and nations.

It should be the policy of the United States government to guard reasonably the ties that bind in friendly union all parts of the land which nature seems to have set apart and ranged with mountain chains, and traced with majestic rivers, to be forever indissoluble. The inhabitants of the West are children of the East. They cherish recollections of the past while living in the present, and looking to the future. The East is already jealous of the growth and power of the West, and like our British ancestry, they already manifest a disposition to impede our progress and curb our growth. Had the British Parliament and ministry shown toward the American Colonies a parental spirit, encouraged them in their young growth, and fostered their interests, they would have remained long a loyal help and support, and part of the British realm; for then, like the wandering German, they loved their fatherland. Will not the old States remember the words of Patrick Henry: "I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience; I know of no way of judging the future but by the past." And remembering, appreciate the fact, that the time is coming when the Atlantic States will be but as suburbs of the great Republic.

The visitor to our national capitol, after passing through the vast rotunda, whose massive walls are lined with the paintings of our noblest artists, and who have given us pictures in our nation's history dear to every American, wanders onward in search of the gallery over-hanging the vast and beautiful hall, in which one branch of the Congress of the United States assemble. As he mounts the marble steps leading to that gallery, he suddenly stops, chained to the spot, for his eyes are riveted upon a painting, which, in my judgment, has no superior in either hemisphere. It represents an emigrant train crossing the Rocky Mountains. You see before you the ponderous wagon, drawn by the ever-plodding oxen, with all the implements of frontier life in full view. Far back you behold the dying embers of their last night's camp, and immediately in front of the main party you see the guide and stalwart hunter mounted upon his steed, with his ever ready rifle in front of him, ready for use. The train seems to be defiling through a rocky and precipitous pass of the mountains. All this is taken in at a single glance, and more too, for you see before you mountain after mountain towering high up, until the very clouds are rent asunder, and upon one of the loftiest crags, lo! a detachment of hardy freemen from that brave band of pioneers is planting our national flag.

"The Stars and Stripes!
God bless the dear old flag,
The nation's hope and pride,
For which our fathers fought,
For which our children died!
And long as there shall beat t
A heart to freedom true,
Preserve the rights we won
When this old flag was new."

This painting is fitly named, "Westward the course of Empire takes its way;" and it represents fully the vast trains, the countless hosts which have from time to time crossed the Laramie Plains on the Overland Route, leaving happy homes in search of happier ones, and to build up and develop the resources of a great country. That broad highway is deserted now, for it has given place to another, whose trains are impelled with the speed of the wind, and what before was a journey of weary month's of toil, is now but a pleasure trip, made in a few days with all the comforts of a palace to beguile the way.

Future of the Rocky Mountains

What inspired hand shall trace upon the historic walls of the Capitol the future of this great Western Land? Methinks the obscuring veil of future centuries rolls back from the mountains and reveals what lies beyond. The grand old snow-crowned range is there as rest, and the streams roll down the mountain canons, but the arid dust of the plains is gone; forests of green trees wave in the breeze, vines droop with their purple clusters, meadows, lawns and slopes mirror the coloring hand. Domes, towers and minarets point up from every valley, and the busy hum is heard on every side. The mountain slopes are terraced and castled. The mountains themselves are in-wrought with a network of penetration, whence treasures of silver and gold have been gathered for ages. Locomotives thunder on over level ways thousands of feet beneath the mountain summits and emerge at vast cities in the valleys between the ranges. Old men gather the children at evening and tell them strange stories of the almost fabulous long ago, when a tramp over the dry plains was a work of weary months, and the prospector wandered with pick and pan over pathless heights in search of coveted gold. And the morning sun shall rise as erst, not on barren rocks and arid plains, but on the last realm of westward moving empire, now become the populous heart of the enlightened world.

 

Source: History and Directory of Laramie City, Wyoming Territory, By J. H. Triggs, Laramie City: Daily Sentinel Print, 1875.

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