September 10, 1880
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: I am very much obliged to the President of the Agricultural Society and to this Association for the opportunity of enjoying this event with you. I am, perhaps, very familiar with agricultural fairs. I cannot claim to be a farmer, as perhaps is the Secretary of War, for he is almost everything. But I have had experience in attending agricultural fairs. From the first time that I held a public position, I considered that I could not spend the time more usefully than by adding something by my presence to such events as these. The farmers, in all time, are the great workers, and will be in all time to come. We have manufactures and mining, but at last humanity is to rise refreshed from the earth. Even today the profits of agriculture in the country vary largely, more largely than any other interest, contribute to the restored prosperity in which the whole country is now rejoicing. I shall have to make a little qualification to that sentence. It is common in the East to believe that the mining industry is not altogether as prosperous as in the former years, but that the permanent industry is agriculture. The capital and the skilled labor are enjoying a degree of prosperity never surpassed in any country, or any age. I am glad to be here, to enjoy your Agricultural Fair, if I can for a few moments contribute to its interest. As I came along on the cars, I began to think over, as most people do, when they are to make an extemporaneous speech, what I should say to you. I find in California a very enterprising corps of gentlemen connected with the newspapers, whose courteous attention and desires for an interview I am always glad to grant. Now, I intend to do what very often I do not do to my pleasant and gentlemanly friends of the press, and what many of the interesting and entertaining corps connected with newspapers attempt. I intend to do with you what I sometimes do with them. An interview is a conversation. Now, I don’t know which way to face. It is out of the question to face everybody. So I will look where the Secretary of War would look – where most of the ladies are. And now, my friends, when a stranger comes to your town or your country, or even to your home, you say “Well, I wonder what he thinks of us.” This interview shall give my view of California. How philosophical and valuable they may be, you may judge when I tell you I came into California a long time ago. It may be 46 or 47 hours ago, I don’t remember the exact number. I came to California in a different way from that which the ‘49ers came. But they have not much reason to boast of their way of getting here. General Sherman says he came in a ship around the Horn. I came into San Francisco in a steamer, and not very far from a horn. I did not have much to do with the horn, though.
I think the Secretary of War did. First, after passing the peaks of the Sierra, I came by steamboat into California across Lake Tahoe, at an elevation of 6200 feet. If there is a more beautiful place of scenery in the world than Lake Tahoe, I would be glad to visit it. I began with a good impression of California. When General Sherman and I first talked of this trip, we thought of coming when the green hills were in their glory, and the flowers decked them, but last spring at the end of the short session of Congress, there was a special session, and I could not come. I was told, when we determined to visit California in the Fall, that the country would be looking like a desert-dried up and covered with dust. Where’s that desert? Where’s that desolation? Look at this prospect! This is California as it is at its worst, I am told. The yellow of these beautiful hills tell of a harvest and of grass for cattle. Instead of coming to a country which disappointed us, we are delighted with it just as it is. Take these trees scattered over the hills. They look like apple trees. There is in comparison to the height of the tree than in the cast. They are one-sided, too, showing that a wind has blown into them as it gave courage and health and vigor and intellect to the people. We are greatly pleased with California. I would like to talk of San Francisco, but I may not think of it so well after a while as I did last evening. The people of this country are united with the nation, and I know you wish that the perpetuity and stability of the Government may continue, and that for all time it may be the home of freedom and the refuge of the oppressed of every age and every clime.