MARK TWAIN'S LETTERS FROM WASHINGTON.
(SPECIAL CORRESPONDENCE OF THE ENTERPRISE.)
WASHINGTON, December 16, 1867
J. ROSS BROWNE'S REPORT.
It is voluminous, and has remarks and statistics concerning all the mines of any importance - figures that will show at a glance what each has done, what it is doing, and what it has cost and is costing to do it; what the profits are, what the losses are, etc. It contains as good information as could be gout concerning new districts and their prospects. To get this varied information and these manifold statistics Mr. Browne had to employ persons residing in the several mining localities to furnish them. These gentlemen have performed their duties pretty faithfully, but of course they have yielded to the natural mining instinct to glorify the leads of their part of the country with weighty adjectives; we were all prone to do that in our day and generation. They speak of "prodigious veins" and "magnificent deposits" and "wonderful richness," etc., and behold their tongues are touched with inspiration and they prophecy! They reveal the things that shall come to pass, with the easy confidence of Elishas newly invested with the enchanted mantle. They trench upon the jurisdiction of the Almighty, and disclose the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven to Congress with a comfortable indifference to consequences that could originate nowhere on earth save in the placid breast of an honest miner. I understand this thing - we all do, that have been miners. For all miners are, by nature and instinct, prophets.
We understand it, but Congress wouldn't. So it has been necessary to drive a pen straight through all these revelations of the things that are to come. The most shining prophecies are to be utterly extinguished. In truth, all the prophecies that are not manifestly authorized from on high, will be pitilessly expunged. Mr. Brown[e] wishes the report to be received with the utmost good faith by the world, and to bear upon its face the evidences that it is worthy of such a reception. Consequently it will not do to bring suspicion upon it with prophecies in this age of skepticism. The rich deposits or adjectives that occur all through the sub-reports will be expunged also, and for the same reason that the words of prophecy are condemned. No "puffs" will be allowed to remain, lest they impair the confidence of the public in the truthfulness of the book. Therefore, you can now understand that, voluminous as the work is, it must all be re-written, and thoroughly weeded of its defects. This is a vast labor, and much time and patience will have to be devoted to it. The book will not be ready for the press for some time yet. The reports from all the great mines - I mean statistics of their yield of ores in tons, and the result of the same in bullion, etc., will be brought up to about the present time, and the book be thereby made as complete as possible.
The moral of this long report - the verdict of it - may be summed up in a few sentences: Save in the great underground gravel channels, "placer" mining is finished - is dead. Nothing but deep mining - vein mining - will do now. The muscle mining of the pan and shovel must give place to critical science. Miners must adjourn from the exhausted hillsides to the chemist's laboratory and be educated to the higher grades of their profession. Therefore, the proposed National School of Mines is become a necessity. Such is the verdict.
Hovey is here. General Hovey of Nevada. He is a member of the Senate, I think. I recollect that he ran for that position.
Mr. Stowe is here, also - Stowe of Carson City - once Sergeant-At-Arms of the Legislature. The nation gets along better, now.
There are other Nevadians in Washington. Thomas D. Julien of Humboldt, John S. Mayhugh of Esmeralda (in Maryland just at present), George T. Terry of Austin, Robert M. Howland and wife are expected.
Julien is looking after his Indian affairs. He has claims. His prospects promise well.
S. T. Gage has gone to Ohio. He thinks of returning to Nevada overland. He desires that no mention shall be made of it.
Judge McCorkle of your city is here and will sail for the Pacific in the course of a week or two. He has been visiting his home in Ohio.
S. E. Huse of Gold Hill is here, also. He has been looking at lands in Virginia and Iowa, with a view to investing; likes Iowa best. He will return to Nevada very shortly, to stay a while.
J. M. Walker comes to Washington occasionally. He looks well, and is prosperous. I hear that he is speculating in lands and one thing or another in Virginia, and that he has bought him a homestead at Binghamton, New York, for which he paid $25,000.
Pat Hickey of the city of Virginia and other places in Nevada, was here the other night, so I am told. I am sorry I failed to see him. But I hear that he is flourishing, and, from what I can gather, he was feeling well. His toast was the same one ("Be kind to your friends," and he had fifty to drink it) that beat Beggs that snowy night that Beggs and I got the school report especially for the Virginia Union, and somehow it appeared in the ENTERPRISE in the most mysterious manner the next morning and failed to appear where it was intended to appear. But if it were the last act of my life I would affirm that it was through no connivance of mine. The scrub who had charge of the public school would not let me have the report for the ENTERPRISE, because it had said he was an ass, which was true, and if he had been half a man he would have been flattered by it. But he would give it to Beggs, because he had nothing against the Union particularly. I found Beggs at 8 o'clock in the evening. He had his little dark lantern. That looked badly. Because whenever Beggs got out his lantern there was going to be trouble. We went down and got the report, and, coming back through the driving snow, we met Pat Hickey, and went in and drank "Be kind to your friends." It took forty minutes to do it properly, and then Beggs proposed, himself, to go to the ENTERPRISE and leave a copy of the report, which was done. It was duly copied, and he took the original and started to go to the Union with it. At midnight, when we were going home, we passed McCluskey's and heard a familiar voice. We went in, and Beggs was standing on a table reading the manuscript school report by the light of his lantern to a crowd of mellow but singularly appreciative and enthusiastic Cornishmen from the Ophir nightshifts, who didn't understand a word of it, but seemed to like it all the better on that account. They cheered all the pauses, with the strictest impartiality. John Church entered at the same moment we did - looking angry, Beggs stopped, and smiled down upon Church his smile of naive suavity - a smile that was gilded all over with honest pride, with conscious merit - with triumph! - and said: "I ain't (e-uck!) I ain't to be depended on when I carry my lantern, ain't I! By G--, I've had this old report four hours!" And so he had. That was why the Union was obliged to go to press without it. Beggs was a good fellow; and no one can say that I ever intentionally helped him to get into trouble. I wish I could have seen Pat Hickey the other night. They say he had all Williards' Hotel responding to his, "Be kind to your friends" till well along toward day-break.
E. A. Pretois, formerly of Virginia and Sacramento, is Senator Stewart's private secretary, now.
Mr. Stewart made a speech in the Senate a day or two ago in reply to Garritt Davis of Kentucky. Davis's was a carefully prepared manuscript speech wherein he attempted to show that the tendency of legislation at present could have but one result if persisted in - the result of investing the negro with the power to rule over white men and dictate the course they should pursue. Stewart's reply was extemporaneous, and consequently had more fire in it, perhaps, than polish. The point it made was the manifestly strong one that one negro cannot rule or dictate to ten white men; and that as long as the two colors are divided in that proportion in the country, the devil raised up in Mr. Davis's prophetic visions could never amount to much of a devil practically. There was nothing about one negro that ten white men need to fear. The speech met with a flattering reception by the Senate.
Senator Nye and Stewart have both just introduced bills of great importance to Nevada. Nye's is declaratory of the purpose of the Nevada town site law passed by Congress early in 1867. Secretary Browning, although aware that that law was one which had been greatly desired by the citizens of Virginia, at least, did not feel at liberty to execute it while the law of 1864 remained unrepealed and must in some cases interfere with its operation. If passed, Governor Nye's bill will straighten the matter out.
Senator Stewart's bill gives Nevada the privilege of locating the public lands according to her wherever she pleases - on the sections along the railroad that alternate with those belonging to the railroad company if she chooses. It gives her the privilege of locating the lands donated to the Public Building Fund, and issuing scrip upon them at once. It also makes the salt springs and mines of Nevada the property of the State. If the bill should pass in its present shape it would bring some $50,000 or $60,000 into the State Treasury.
Are approaching. Congress will adjourn on Friday for a couple of weeks. Washington will be deserted the next day. I shall help desert it. I suppose, of course, I shall stay in New York till the national wisdom congregates again. If I hear anything while I am gone I will report it to you.
[photocopy available in Mark Twain Papers, University of California, Berkeley, CA]
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