THE PACIFIC RAILROAD
All Hail and Farewell to the Pacific
Railroad! The telegraph
tells us that the Indians have begun to tear up the rails, to shoot
passengers and conductors on this road. We see great good in this.
At last the poor victim has found the vulnerable spot in his tyrant.
"Thank God America has resisted," cried Lord Chatham. Our
feeling is the same. For seventy years and more the Indian has
begged this great nation to attend to his wrongs. His cries have
been unheard. Ruthless and unheeding we have trampled him down.
To-day the worm turns and stings us.
Last year Indians destroyed
locomotives and shot conductors. Timid Durant forbade the telegraph
wires to report the fact. He trembled for his road. To-day fifteen
thousand warriors on the war-path—a thousand miles of exposed
road; this railway the pet plaything of the American people! Would
our words could reach every Indian chief. We would tell him, lay
down your gun, but allow no rail to lie between Omaha and the
mountains. "The accursed code" is O’Connell’s best
weapon, said Sheil. The Pacific Railway is the Indians’ Alabama.
Every blow struck on those rails is heard round the globe. Haunt
that road with such dangers that none will dare use it.
Some men may think us needlessly
aggressive. No, citizenship, they may say, would be a better remedy.
Yes, by-and-by. At present citizenship means little. Heaven forbid
we should betray the Indian to such protection as
"citizenship" gives to the Georgia Negro and loyalist. No,
we are thankful the Indian has one defense that the Negro never had.
He is no citizen and has the right to make war. Well may he use that
last right, and never yield it till "citizenship" means
more than it does now.
An Abolitionist may well glory in
these Red men. When, in
1865, General Sanborn carried to the Seminoles the news of
emancipation, they instantly set their slaves free. But, more just
than we, they proceeded at once to divide their possessions with
them fairly; shared with them their pension-money, and, last winter,
in Washington, were specially earnest to secure such a teacher as
these emancipated men would prefer. When two or three years ago
Sherman’s Commission met the Indians, the Navajoes refused to come
into conference unless their women could be admitted on equal terms
with themselves to share the debate. Could these men be persuaded to
undertake, for a few years to come, the task of reconstruction! What
a saving of time! What a saving of honor!
Earnestly do we wish that this
nation could rise to the level of once doing an act of justice from
pure and simple motives of honesty and duty. But it does not seem as
if this level would ever be reached in our day. In default of that
we rejoice to see that nation scourged to its duty. Long and weary
were the years of blood and misfortune that finally broke us into
willingness to emancipate the black. May our stubbornness yield
sooner and easier in this matter of the Indians! It seems probable.
By the time Congress assembles again we think its members will be
ready—as they never have been—to listen on this topic.
The sad and ponderous documents stored in the Capitol will at last
be read; and we shall learn that a nation, by its own confession
always in the wrong, must seek some other path out of its troubles
than by sending butchers to waste treasure and blood in the vain
effort to "exterminate" a braver race than ours. We spent
a hundred millions really—fifty confessedly—to "exterminate
and remove" the Seminoles from Florida. But there are
everglades in Florida to-day where no white man enters, and which
the Seminole still holds. If this be the case in Florida with a
thousand Seminoles, how likely are we to "exterminate"
twenty thousand such, spread over the boundless West? Sherman is
bartering the glories of Atlanta for defeat, utter and shameful and
well-deserved, on the prairies.