October 5, 1880
Walla Walla, Washington
The very pleasant, witty, and humorous welcome to which we have just listened, makes me feel entirely at home among you. The only objection that I have affecting the pleasant relations with the people of Walla Walla, is that the rope which has been placed around the platform keeps them too far off, and it would be very agreeable to me if some bright, bold boy would set the example by breaking through, that all might come this way. My friends, they say that as I have taken down the barriers that held you back, I am responsible for the good conduct of the crowd. Judging by your intelligent faces, I am willing to take that responsibility. This Territory of Washington, of which my friend has given us such a very agreeable description, is, as perhaps you know, further away, more distant, from the center of population of the United States. It is also further away from the capitol of the United States than any other organized community, and yet I feel very much at home with you. Indeed, I can almost address you as neighbors. We came together because we agree on some of those common settlements and ideas which tend to make, and which do make us Americans, and give us national fellow feeling. You came not to see any mere individual. As a mere individual you care nothing for me, and in addressing you, I do it in the sense of representing our nationality and our flag. As such representative I am glad to greet you to-day and I am glad to be greeted by you. I trust our meeting will contribute something toward the increase of that sentiment of patriotism which makes you free men in the full sense of American citizenship. The better we know each other the more we become attached to each other. All of sectional animosity and all of bitterness that there may be between people living widely apart, disappear as we come together and meet each other face to face, and shake each other’s hands. The visit of Gen. Sherman, Gov. Ramsey, myself and the ladies who are with us, may I hope, do something toward the increase of this sentiment. But I turn to things in which you are more closely interested. You are identified with this new country of the Pacific coast. The people of the other side are interested in your welfare, and I am pleased to be able to say to you that whatever concerns you, concerns us on the other side. We wish to see you prosperous and growing and enjoying all the benefits that come from that prosperity. We wish to see your railroads built that shall enable you to see your old homes, on the other side again, in one tenth, yes, one fortieth of the time when you first made your wearisome journey coming here a quarter of a century ago. We wish to see our country united by iron bands, and wherever there are water courses that may be employed in the great carrying traffic we wish to see them opened by the government; and that is one of the great things we wish to see done for this country, and now we have come to see it ourselves. Almost all of the good country of the United States is what we of the old Western states have called the Far West, has been occupied, and the people are looking more and more for homes and farms to the Pacific states. I am satisfied that you have great mineral wealth and many other attractions here. It is one of the indisputable facts in the history of the settlement of this country that regions which at first were supposed to be unfitted for civilized settlement have afterward been discovered to be better than those first chosen. This is one of the facts in the history of other States. It is true of New England, it is true of Ohio and it is also true of Minnesota. You will find the area of good land constantly increasing as settlement comes upon it. I doubt not but that I am now in sight of land of which this is true, land which was considered ten or twenty or even a less number of years ago, as entirely worthless, and which is now by reason of settlement and discovery of its productiveness, known as good land; and I doubt not that in ten or twenty year, the area of your good land will be doubled by your experience with that to which I have just referred. But you have enough, no doubt, without going into the future. I have heard of your land, I know something of it. My friend suggests that there are Munchausens here. I had taken precaution to have a suspicion of that kind before I heard that suggestion. I had heard of wonderful productions; I had head of 30 and 40 and 50 or more bushels to the acre, and managed to hold my peace, but when I heard of your crops it reminded me of the history of the war. In the war it was this way: Some of the men who volunteered went for three months. Then, as the war went on, they volunteered for three years, and then in for three years more. Now you cultivate, you raise your crop, then you harvest your crop and then have a volunteer crop after that. I can believe that but when it comes to the fourth or fifth volunteer crop on the old enlistment bearing 10 or 15 bushels to the acre, I begin to doubt. Having a regard for my reputation as I ought to have, I shall not tell these things when I go home, but I shall give a good enough account of your country no doubt, With the completion of the railroads now building you will gain an increase of immigration, the like of which you have never witnessed. I asked a gentleman below of the population of Washington Territory, and he told me it was 27,000. That was about as high as I put it ten years ago; but in going about the cars I found a gentleman from your town and I learned that the population is about 75,000 now. Important as that advance in population is—about 50,000 in ten years—my judgment is that, with the advantage of soil and climate you have, the next ten years will give you five times as great an increase as you have had in the last ten years. And this part of Walla Walla valley will undoubtedly have the lion’s share. It is hardly necessary to “carry coals to Newcastle,” so I shall no further talk about the products of this country. There is large a community I wish to call attention to, and that is known as the central western states, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Illinois. None of these had the advantages you have. You had and have a healthy country for the early settler. Look at that girl there with her healthy cheek. That speaks for itself. That is one of the great advantages you have over the states in any of the country settled by our fathers. That with the other advantages, if properly advertised, will be valuable to you. I may be of aid to you as an advertising medium. If in that way I could be of use to you I shall be glad. Looking at your advantages, I have no doubt you are destined to have a large immigration to Washington Territory.
I was told by the courteous gentleman who received us that we are to meet the people of Walla Walla; in other words that we are to have a reception, which means a friendly shaking of hands. I am glad upon the whole that we shall get through the disagreeable part right here at the depot, so that in the future we shall be ready to hear from you. Having done that no one shall have the right to call upon me for a speech from me again. We have Gen. Sherman and Secretary Ramsey, both of whom are eloquent talkers, and it is one of my amusements to put them so high that when they are ready to speak they will feel embarrassed. Governor Ramsey is, as you know, an old campaigner, and always goes through well. General Sherman, you know too, is also an old campaigner, and goes through finely-even if it is marching through Georgia. I have the pleasure of introducing the Secretary of War, Hon. Alexander Ramsey, of Minnesota.