New York Sunday Mercury/February 7, 1864
Our lively correspondent, Mark Twain, sends us his “opinions and reflections” upon recent political movements in Nevada Territory, which will be found interesting:
CARSON CITY, NEVADA TERRITORY,
January 4, 1864
EDITOR T. T.: The concentrated wisdom of Nevada Territory (known unto and respected by the nations of the earth as “Washoe”) assembled in convention at Carson recently, and framed a constitution. It was an excellent piece of work in some respects, but it had one or two unfortunate defects which debarred it from assuming to be an immaculate conception. The chief of these was a clause authorizing the taxing of the mines. The people will not stand that. There are some 30,000 gold and silver mining incorporations here, or mines, or claims, or which you please, or all, if it suits you better. Very little of the kind of property thus represented is improved yet, or “developed” as we call it; it will take two or three years to get it in a developed and paying condition, and will require an enormous outlay of capital to accomplish such a result. And until it does begin to pay dividends, the people will not consent that it shall be burdened and hindered by taxation. Therefore, I am satisfied they will refuse to ratify our new constitution on the 19th inst.
It had an amusing feature in it, also. That was the Great Seal of the State. It had snow-capped mountains in it; and tunnels, and hafts, and pickaxes, and quartz-mills, and pack-trains, and mule-teams. These things were good; what there were of them. And it has railroads in it, and telegraphs, and stars, and suspension-bridges, and other romantic fictions foreign to sand and sage-brush. But the richest of it was the motto. It took them thirty days to decide whether it should be “Volens et Potens” (which they said meant “Able and Willing”), or “The Union Must and Shall be Preserved.” Either would have been presumptuous enough, and surpassingly absurd just at present. Because we are not able and willing, thus far, to do a great deal more than locate wild-cat mining-claims and reluctantly sell them to confiding strangers at a ruinous sacrifice—of conscience. And if it were left to us to preserve the Union, in case the balance of the country failed in the attempt, I seriously believe we couldn’t do it. Possibly, we might make it mighty warm for the Confederacy if it came prowling around here, but ultimately we would have to forsake our high trust, and quit preserving the Union. I am confident of it. And I have thought the matter over a good deal, off and on, as we say in Paris. We have an animal here whose surname is the “jackass rabbit.” It is three feet long, has legs like a counting-house stool, ears of monstrous length, and no tail to speak of. It is swifter than a greyhound, and as meek and harmless as an infant. I might mention, also, that it is as handsome as most infants; however, it would be foreign to the subject, and I do not know that a remark of that kind would be popular in all circles. Let it pass, then—I will say nothing about it, though it would be a great comfort to me to do it, if people would consider the source and overlook it. Well, somebody proposed as a substitute for that pictorial Great Seal, a figure of a jackass-rabbit reposing in the shade of his native sage-brush, with the motto “Volens enough, but not so d____d Potens.” Possibly that had something to do with the rejection of one of the proposed mottoes by the Convention.
State Nominating Convention
We do not fool away much time in this country. As soon as the Constitution was duly framed and ready for ratification or rejection by the people, a convention to nominate candidates for state offices met at Carson. It finished its labors day before yesterday. The following nominations were made: For Governor, M. N. Mitchell; Lieutenant-Governor, M. S. Thompson; Secretary of State, Orion Clemens; Treasurer, Wm. B. Hickok; Member of Congress, John B. Winters; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Rev. A. F. White. Now, that ticket will be elected, but the Constitution won’t. In that case, what are we to do with these fellows? We cannot let them starve. They are on our hands, and are entitled to our charity and protection. It is different with them from what it is with other people, because, although the Almighty created them, and used to care for and watch over them, no doubt it was long, long ago, and he may not recollect them now. And I think it is our duty to look after them, and see that they do not suffer. Besides, they all owe me something for traducing and vilifying them in the public prints, and thus exciting sympathy for them on the score of persecution, and securing their nomination; and I do not think it right or just that I should be expected to do people favors without being paid for it, merely because those favors failed to produce marketable fruit. No, Sir; I elected those fellows, and I shall take care that I am fairly remunerated for it. Now, if you know any small state, lying around anywhere, that I could get a contract on for the running of it, you will oblige me by mentioning it in your next. You can say that I have all the machinery on hand necessary to the carrying on of a third-rate state; say, also, that it is comparatively new, portions of it never having been used at all; also, that I will part with it on pretty nearly any terms, as my constitution is prostrated, and I am anxious to go into some other business. And say my various state officers are honest and capable—however, don’t say that—just leave that out—let us not jest on a serious matter like this. But you might put in a little advertisement for me in the following shape, for instance. And it would be a real kindness to me if you would be so good as to call attention to it in your editorial columns. You see I am a sort of an orphan, away out here, struggling along on my own hook, as it were. My mother lives in St. Louis. She is sixty years of age, and a member of the Presbyterian Church. She takes no pride in being gay; in fact, she don’t rush around much in society, now. However, I do not ask any man’s sympathy on that account. I was simply going to offer my little advertisement.
For Sale or Rent
One Governor, entirely new. Attended Sunday-school in his youth, and still remembers it. Never drinks. In other respects, however, his habits are good. As Commander-in-Chief of the Militia, he would be an ornament. Most Governors are.
One Lieutenant-Governor—also new. He has other merits, of minor importance, beside. No objection to going into the country—or elsewhere.
One Secretary of State. An old, experienced hand at the business. Has edited a newspaper, and been Secretary and Governor of Nevada Territory—consequently, is capable; and also consequently, will bear watching; is not bigoted—has no particular set of religious principles—or any other kind.
One small Treasurer — (second-hand). Will make a good officer. Was Treasurer once before, in states. Took excellent care of the funds—has them yet.
One Member of Congress—new, but smart, sometimes called “Old Smarty, from Mud Springs.” Has read every newspaper printed in Nevada Territory for two years, and knows all about the war. Would be a good hand to advise the President. Is young, ardent, ambitious, and on it. No objection to traveling, provided his mileage is paid.
One Superintendent of Public Instruction—good as new. Understands all the different systems of teaching, and does not approve of them. It is his laudable boast that he is a self-made man. It has been said of him by his admirers that God Almighty never made such a man. It is probably so. He is the soul of honor, and is willing to take greenbacks at par. No objection to making himself generally useful; can preach, if required.
Also, a large and well-selected assortment of State Legislators, Supreme Judges, Comptrollers, and such gimcracks, handy to have about a State Government, all of which are for sale or rent on the mildest possible terms, as, under present circumstances, they are of no earthly use to the subscriber.
For further particulars, address
MARK TWAIN, Carson, N.T.
Our Constitution Illegal
Now, joking aside, these are all good, honest, capable men, and would reflect credit upon the several positions for which they have been nominated; but then the people are not going to ratify the Constitution; and, consequently, they will never get a chance. I am glad that such is the case. In the legislature, last year, I was wielding the weapon which, under just such circumstances, is mightier than the sword, at the time that the Act authorizing the calling together of a convention to form a state constitution was passed; and I know the secret history of that document. It was reported back from the committee with a lot of blanks in it (for dates, apportionment, and number of members, amount of money appropriated to defray expenses of the convention, etc.). Both Houses passed the bill without filling those blanks; it was duly enrolled, brought back, and signed by the presiding officers of the legislature, and then transmitted, a worthless, meaningless, and intentionally powerless instrument—to Gov. Nye for his signature—at night. And lo! a miracle. When the bill reached the governor, there was not a solitary blank in it! Who filled them, is—is a great moral question for instance; but the enrolling clerk did not do it at any rate, since the emendations are in an unknown and atrocious handwriting. Therefore, the bill was a fraud; the convention created by it was a fraud; the fruit of the convention was an illegitimate infant constitution and a dead one at that; a state reared upon such a responsibility would be a fraudulent and impotent institution, and the result would be that we should ultimately be kicked back into a territorial condition again on account of it. Wherefore, when men say, “Let our constitution slide for the present,” we say Amen.
(Source: Twainquotes.com, http://www.twainquotes.com/mercury/DoingsInNevada.html)
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