PRESIDENTIAL WESTERN TOUR

 

September 4, 1880

Cheyenne, Wyoming

 

Governor of Wyoming Territory, Mayor of Cheyenne, ladies and gentlemen of Cheyenne and of Wyoming: I assure you I am very glad to greet you this morning. We are glad to be welcomed by you to this mountain territory; we come fully, I think, unprepared. I know I am, but possibly General Sherman, who is careful about such things, is prepared with a careful speech. This trio, the president, the secretary of war and General Sherman, constituting, I believe, the oratory of our party, are none of us probably prepared for anything else than plain talk with plain people, telling them why we come, why we are glad to see them, and where we are going. That is a very short story to tell, and yet I am tell it while we are getting acquainted. I doubt I have time to shake hands with all of you. If I should undertake it, probably the best way to do it would be in my style or in General Sherman’s style. Every man that is in public life, who has had experience in handshaking falls upon some particular way of doing. I notice General Sherman does it in this way. I do not think this shows enough respect to citizens of the United States. I say we must hold our hands in this way, and now I give you a hearty Buckeye shake. Now that brisk way of doing is much quicker, and on such occasion as this, is much quicker, anon on such occasion as this, is more congenial than the old-fashioned retail way. And now I think we are pretty well acquainted.

 

I will tell you about our journey: About a year and a half ago General Sherman and I were talking about what are called the Pacific States; that includes the mountain states and territories, about four states, I believe, and seven or eight territories; and he showed me that in an absence from Washington of about sixty days I could visit all of them; that no president in office had yet done it; that it would be a good thing to do, and it so happens that the government was running smoothly, and a president was not of much use anywhere, but in particular he was not very much needed in Washington. But there was an extra session of Congress and trouble, and I could not go then. So we let it be known, that some months ago, we were going on a great tour all though the western states and territories to see what the people would say about us and drew the fire of criticism which always occurs when a public officer is going to do anything. Now do not misunderstand me, I am not one of those people who are thin-skinned about criticism. I rather like abuse. The truth is, when you are rather well abused by one set of men there is another set of men who praise you a good deal more than they ought to, and the average is kept about right. Now we looked about for criticism, but such is the interest which the people east of the Mississippi feel in the people who have the hardihood, the enterprise and courage to face the dangers and difficulties of this new country and to make it a part of the great nation, such is their interest in you, that for the first time in any administration, has a president undertaken to be absent that length of time without a single word of criticism, so far as I know, from any man or paper in the country. They are glad to have us come. We are not of much use in Washington. If you can go out there and assure those people that we admire what they are doing, that we want to do for them whatever the eastern people can do for the people that are conquering this wilderness—if you can assure them of that, it is a good work, and so I come from the nation east of the mountains to say that they wish you all a God-speed and God bless the whole of you.

That is the feeling, and they wise me to learn your wants, your prejudices, your feelings on public questions and on all questions that interest you with a view when I return of doing what I may in that place to gratify you in your reasonable desire. But instead of making an every day conversation I am drifting into a speech. That is what I do not mean to do. A man who undertakes to speak in the presence of the locomotive and of these ladies that go with us, who will talk all the time – a man who undertakes to speak under such circumstances, I say, leaves at each place some respectable fragment of his voice. So without further talking I simply say to you for your welcome, for your reception, we thank you. As to your condition, your desires, your prospects, our prayer is: May God bless you.

 

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