Susette La Flesche Tibbles

Extra Manuscript - c. 1880

Susette La Flesche Tibbles
January 01, 1880
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All of the bolded text below was underlined in the original copy.


[handwritten] Political Speech written by Bright Eyes - is not extra manuscript for "B + B days" - AKB [handwritten]


When anything is wrong, when laws are made by men for the government of men,, which bring about bad social conditions the greatest obstacle toward the removal of those laws seem to be that nearly every one considers the evils springing from those laws as inevetable, as something we can not help even if we would. That feeling tends to keep us from making any attempt to remove those laws and put something better in their place. We do not stop to consider that the laws under wh which we suffer were originally made by man, who were human beings like ourselves and as liable to make mistakes as we. Some of those laws were good at the time they were made, centuries ago, more or less, and suited the scale of development to which the people had attained at the time.

And because they suited the scale of development to which humanity had attained in those times, they do not suit the scale of develope ment [sic] at which we have arrived. When I hear the Republican party say that we must vote their men into office because George Washington used to believe so and so about the tariff, it makes me think of a mother who would try to compel her grown up son of twenty-five to wear the garments he wore when he was a baby, just because he had worn them when he was a baby.

When I hear the Democratic say that we musy [sic] vote to put their men in office because--because, Well'! I really don't know what it was the Democratic party wanted to do! Do any of you know?

Again there are laws which have been originated and put into operation by sharp unscrupulous men for the enriching of themselves individually, or for the particular class to which they belong, regardless of the welfare and interest of the masses of people to which you and I belong.

These sharp unscrupulous men have been helped in their work by men who were good men perhaps, but who were not sharp enough to see the full scope of the laws they were putting in operation, or who followed the head of one of their party leaders because they were too indolent to think for themselves.

What has been the trend of the monetary legislation for the past twenty-five years? You can see and think it our for yourselves. Ther is no question of the fact that the poor have been getting poorer and more numerous, and the rich have been getting richer and fewer in number during these years.

There is a cause for it. There is a reason for it. It is not a fact that it has been inevitable. It is something that can be helped and that must be helped if you do not want your condition and those of your fellow beings to grow worse than it is. The money question is a question that goes down into the very life of the people, therefore we, the Populist party have taken it for the foremost plank in our platform of principles. We intend that these monetary laws which have been made by the money classes shall be changed into laws which shall be for the interest of the whole people.

Look at this broad and beautiful land we are living in. There are trees enough on it to build a comfortable home for every human being living on it. There is coal enough to keep warm and comfortable every man, woman and child through the cold weather. I saw in the papers last winter cases where women were brought before the courts for stealing coal to keep themselves and their little ones from freezing to deah death, and they were prosecuted by the coal compaby [sic]. Who gave this coal company the exclusive right and possesion [sic] of this product of the earth, necessary to the life of human beings.

I am sure God did not say to the half a dozen men, more or less who own the coal mines, I have created this necessary product of the earth for your sole use and benefit and you must not let your fellow creatures have any unless they pay you well for the use of it, even if they freez [sic] to death without it. No, God created the earth and every thing in it for the use and welfare of all his creatures.

It was man who made the laws which put into the exclusive posssion [sic] of these half a dozen human beings a product of the earth necessary to the welfare of all human beings. And if these laws were made by man, they can be unmade by man.

There is gold and silver enough in the earth to provide a circulating measure of value for all the needs of trade and commerce without going into debt either national or private.

As for the surface of the earth, is it so poor that it cannot raise enough for us all to eat? We see the boundless harvest of golden wheat and corn on every side, thousands upon thousands of acres. Every sort of fruit and food that grows on the surface of the globe somewhere or other in the United States. What does not grow in one part of the country grows in another. Then it is not the fault of God or nature that there are thousands among us who have not enough to eat, who live in a state of semi-starvation, physical and intellectual, intellectual because those who are fortunate enough to have work at all, have to work so long in the day that they have not time or intellectual development, and who besides have to work so hard that all their thought is rest for their weary bodies, when their work is over for the day.

Neither is it the fault of God or of nature that there are thousands of us who are not able to clothe ourselves decently when the material lying around on every side.

Think of the thousands in Chicago alone last winter who had no where to lay their heads and how the public buildings of Chicago had to be opened for them at night lest they should perish, and how they scrambled over each other in their eagerness for the morsel of bread doled out by charity.

Think of the thousands upon thousands of workmen out of work begging for the work which lies around on every hand waiting to be done because there is not enough money in circulation to set the work going. Whose fault is it?

As I have said before, this money question is a question which goes into the very life of the people. It affects their physical well being, their liberty, their morality. When a man has to struggle all his life for bare food and clothes and shelter, he is apt to let is liberty lokk [sic] out for itself, and he has not much time to think about is mind and soul. And his mind and soul were given him by the creator to develop and cultivate so that he should at last become as perfect as God intended him to be.

The condition of things which I have attempted to describe and toward which we have been tending for the last twenty-five years under the leadership of the Republican party, is as bad for the rich man as it is for the poor man. It is as bad for the millionaire as it is for the tramp.

Do you realize that neither of those two words, millionaire and tramp was in existence thirty years ago? Because the millionaire has so much and can make so much by taking advantage of the existing laws, he gets to thinking that the world was made for him to take his pleasure in regardless of the rights of others, and the worst of it is that the people gets to thinking so too, when they get to thinking that such a condition of affairs is inevitable. The rich become selfish, coldhearted, avaricious, grasping.

The condition of things brought about by laws enacted from wrong principles leads him to think that he need do nothing for humanity while all humanity must do everything for him, who is really of no more account before the Creator than you or I. He forgets the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. He becomes a dead loss to the community, and not only that, he becomes a detriment.

He stands in the way of progress; he uses all his money, and all the power which his money gives him to keep the bad laws, through which he made his money, in existence, so that there shall be no change toward better condition for the rest of humanity.

He believes in corporations and monopolies because they want to keep conditions as they are, and with them, he pours money in to the coffers of the two old political parties, for two old political parties are the machinery through which he and the corporations can do their work.

One of our Populist Senators, Allen of Nebraska, extracted from Havemeyer when the latter was before the Senate Investigating Committee, the admission, that the sugar trust had contributed to both the old parties, so that they could do as they pleased whichever party happened to come uppermost in their scramble for offices.

When we consider how vital the money question is to us all it seems strange that we have allowed the financial policy of the nation to pass into the control practically of one man, John Sherman. He is one of of the ablest and shrewdest men in the country. After having watched on the floor of the Senate almost day after day during the past year, after having compared the speeches he made at one time with those he made at another time, the speeches he made before election with those he made after his election, after comparing the statements he made at one time on the floor of the Senate with those he made on the same floor on the same subject and matter at another time; after looking at the character of all the money bills he introduced and engineered through Congress, I have come to the conclusion that he is a man without a conscience in regard to the interests of his fellow beings, and that he , for his own interest and those of his own class, deliberately brought about the present condition of things.

One of the most respected men of his own party, Teller of Colorado, got up on the floor of the Senate last spring and said that for years past Sherman had been in the habit of stating untruths on the floor of the Senate. What did Sherman do? That was the question we, who had heard Teller make the change, asked day after day for a week. Did he challenge the statement? Not all. He kept silence. There he showed his ability and shrewdness.

He did not want the matter made public, which it would be if he answered the charge, besides which the charge could be proved.

Sherman is a tall thin man with delicately cut features which sharpen into eagerness only when the money question is brought on the floor. He was most on the alert when the two Populist Senators, Allen and Peffer had the flo r [sic] on some money resolution which they wished to bring forward in the interest of the people.

It was significant of the fact that the Populists are on the right track for the settlement of the money question. He took the trouble to squelch their resolutions and made the attempt to answer their arguments when he did not think it worth his while to pay any attention tot the resolutions of any other Senators in either of the old parties. It was a new experience for him to have his financial policy questioned, his statements contradicted, his word discredited, he whose head had been blindly followed by the men of his party for years, and whose manipulation of the national currency had affected the welfare of the whole nation; and all this brought on him by two comparatively unknown men if a dispised party, just springing into existence.

I sometimes think that the good men of a party are greater obstructions in the path of progress than the bad men in it, for there are a few good men left in them. For instance there is Hoar of Mass.

His round smooth face beams with geniality and twinkles all over with fun when he gets of some little joke on his colleagues, or criticises the wording of some resolution. He is full of classical quotations and learned historical illusions to the times of the ancients. He is considered an able lawyer, and yet he got up on the floor of the Senate this summer and unblushingly stated that he had been in the habit of following the lead of his friend John Sherman on all financial questions.

What good is all his good nature and culture, to humanity when they do not even lead him to take enough interest in the welfare of the of the pe le he represents to take the trouble of studying one of the most vital questions of the day for himself/.

Instead, he has been following blindly the lead of a man without a conscience. In, the result, John Sherman's conscience becomes literally his conscience, and yet he would be shocked if he were told he were a man without a conscience, or any moral sense. If all the men in a party were bad men, it would be easy to sweep aside the men who stand in the way of progress and better conditions for humanity.

As it is, the average man gets to thinking that because there are good men in a party, the party must be all right. That is bad logic. Harrison was a good man but he was at the beck and call of the money classes. The good men like Harrison and Hoar are just as much a detriment to humanity as the bad men, when they follow the lead of bad men unquestioningly. There is one thing I have noticed in the Senate and that is that all the unprincipled men in it all work together and hold together, no matter which of the two parties they belong to, if the interests and privileges of the moneyed class are endangered.

For instance when the sugar trust lacked a vote on the Democratic side, the lacking vote was supplied by Quay, of Penn. a Republican; and viceversa.

I think that we, as a people have paid too much attention to the men we have hired to do the work of the nation,. and not enough to the principles which we advocate and want to put into practice. Ideas worked into principles and principles enacted into laws are the only things which move the world or change the conditions in it. And yet what sort of men have we put into office from President and Senators down, to carry our ideas into practice. What sort of a man have we as a people placed at the head of the nation. Let Gorman of Maryland, the Presidents right hand men and one of the great leaders of his own party answer.

I heard him last July on the floor of the Senate, with his face as white as a sheet, in the presence of one of the greatest audiences ever seen in the Senate Chamber, declare that he himself, Brice of Ohio, Smith of New York had waded through mud and filth and slime to place Grover Cleaveland in the Presidential Chair. What a statement to make of the head of a nation by his own especial followers.

The people ought to have known that a man who could be false to all the duties and trusts of ordinary private life would be false to all his national duties and trusts. And as for Gorman and Brice, and Smith, and Hill. What of them?

Gorman's statement proved that they were fully as bad as Cleaveland himself, in that they could wade through mud and filth and slime, to place such a man as that at the head of affairs to wield the destinies of a nation. What a set of men have we as a people hired to make our laws and do our work! What an unbusinesslike proceeding to hire men to do a certain piece of work and then give them their salary and pay them all honors in addition, whether they have performed their work or not. If a hired man in private life does not do the work he is set to do or does it badly, he is discharged. In your national life if your hired man does not do what he was sent to Congress to do, he is re-elected and sent back with honors. Take for instance one of your own Congressmen, McNagny. He was sent to Congress on his promise to vote for free silver. He voted against it, but received his salary, came home and was again nominated by his party, and this fall you are expected to vote to send him back to Congress, and to work hard and with the toil of your hands earn enough money to help pay his salary of five-thousand a year and no one knows how much more besides. It is a curious condition of affairs to say the least. You will give through your vote enough of your hard earned money to pay this man to keep up the present condition in which you do all the hard work and he takes all the benefit and pleasure.

These men, from the President down are literally your servants, for your money goes to pay their salaries. You should at least see to it that these men perform the work you set them to do, and that they work in the interest of their masters. If they don't, discharge them unpaid, and select men who will. The time has come when from lack of principle on either side the two old parties have practically become one. They have nothing to work for but their own interest and they only cling to the name Democrat of Republican because it is the only way by which they can obtain offices.

At my old home, in the little town of Bancroft, Neb., two men who were cousins were also partners in business. One was a Democrat, the other a Republican. When Cleaveland was in, the Democrat was the postmaster, When Harrison was in, the Republican was the postmaster. The plan worked beautifully so far as keeping the money in the family was concerned.

The Republican party has been in power so long that they as well as the Democratic party utterly scorned all the efforts of the people to better their own condition.

Look at the triumph of the Sugar Trust during the past year in spite of all the efforts of the people, and all the revelations that were made as to its transactions. Look at the cynical admissions of Havemeyer who said before the Committee that the trust knew no politics, and had given money equally to the two parties to carry on their campaigns. Our new party of reform which has pledged itself above all things to work for principles instead of men, as the two older parties do, has in its platform two other planks almost as important as the one on mone y [sic] They are those on land and transportation. The correct settlement of these three questions will do away with all the monopolies and corporations which are squeezing the life out of the people. They have already squeezed so much out of us that some of us are only just beginning to realize that it is still in our power to crush them out of existence.

We have tried the present system of managing these national functions and we can all see that the present system has worked disastrously.

One of the editions of our paper for whom I have been working a year past, asked me how I happened to become interested in politics.

I could not answer the question at the moment but you may have thought of the same question. I will try to answer.

In the first place, I am an Indian and was brought up in the midst of my people. Neither my father or mother could speak English or read or write. You might search the world over and you could not find a better father and mother, intellecually and morally, and I speak this understandingly for I have had the privilege of knowing intimately some of the very highest and best among your people in all parts of the world. No child could have had a happier childhood than I. Family affection among the Indians is peculiarly strong. My father died about four years ago; my mother is still living. My father was one of the chiefs of the Omaha Tribe who sold the land Omaha City stands on, and then the government placed us on a Reservation, forbade us to leave it without permission of an agent, and left us there cooped up where we could not come into contact with any civilization but our own, without any schools, and expected us to become civilized. The Agent and his employees interested themselves very little in the Indians, but staid there simply for the purpose of intercepting the money which the government reached out to us as pay for the lands we had sold, and we came into very little personal contact with them. We Indians began to fret because the government eventually prevented us from leaving the Reservations to go out on the buffalo hunts.

The buffalo were literally the life of the Indians. They were food and shelter, and clothing to the Indians. We were shut up there without any occupation. We had no schools.

By and by the Presbyterian board sent two or three missionaries to our reserve to open up a little Mission school. My father sent my sisters and myself to the school that we might learn to speak English, and read and write. As I grew up, I began to see how the government treated us Indians through its agents and employees. If it had not been for the missionaries we would not have known that there were any good people among the White people. Some of the worst of the Agents put in jail some of our very best men because they would not submit to indignities, or because they had been saucy to an employee. There was no law to punish a white man who stole from an Indian or who killed an Indian. On the other hand, if an Indian killed a white man, instead of the Indian being tried and punished for his crime as a white man would have been, troops were sent by the government to make war on the whole tribe, and the whole tribe was punished for what two or three men did. We could know that the Agent was stealing from us and we had no way of redressing our wrongs unless we fought, and we knew what the result of that would be. The white man's story was spread broadcast in all the newspapers of the land. The Indian had no way of making his side of the story heard. Sometimes some of the Indians would think that the President cound [sic] not know what his Agents were doing, and they would get myself and my sisters to write to the President for them, telling him about these things, but the letters would be sent straight back to the Agent, and he would make his displeasure felt by those who had sent and written them. When I grew old enough to think, I saw there was no help for us Indians unless we were made citizens, and titles to our lands were given us so that we could not be torn from our homes any more by the government. If we were citizens we could vote and our lives and property would be protected by the laws of the land. There were others who thought so too, and an opportunity occurring, we started an agitation on the subject throughout the Country. Eventually, and after having the whole Interior Department to fight against, we succeeded in having laws passed which changed the old conditions of things, and gave the Indians the same chance to live that white men had. My tribe was one of the first to become citizens, and get titles to lands in severalty. Hitherto the Indians had acted on the principle that God had given the land to everybody, ad that the land was as free to every human being as the air and water. They would as soon have thought of individual ownership to air and water as individual ownership of land; but when they saw how the white people put a price on land, they became eager to own land individually. After we had passed the laws we wanted I went to our reservation to live. I watched the experiment,for those who fought against the passage of our bills said an Indian wouldn't work, and that he could neither be civilized nor educated.

Indians who had never been taught to harness a horse or hold a plow began to farm and put up little homes, and build stables. They carried their wheat to the railroad elevators to sell. They farmed more and more every year. They voted; and voted the old party tickets, as the new party was not yet organized. So far they exceeded all expectations, but there it seemed to end. Where was the practical result of their labor? They barely received enough for their work to keep them decently clothed and fed. They lived in a state of semi-starvation as before, and yet, they were working harder than they ever worked before. In a certain sense, they were worse off than before so far as clothing was concerned , since the old condition of things they did not care much wheather [sic] they wore any clothing or not, when they did want any they killed deer and buffalo and prepared their skins for clothing. Civilization brought new wants in its train. I lived on the boundary line of the reservation. I looked around on the white farmers and I began to notice how they worked and lived. I saw white women who arose before sunrise, summer and winter, milk the cows, get the breakfast, see their children off to school, wash the dishes, take care of the milk, churn; scrub, make their own, their husband's and their children's clothes, keep their houses in order, do the washing and ironing for the whole family, and I could see that they worked harder than any Indian woman I had ever known. Sometimes they did not sit down during the day excepting to eat their meals. Their husbands worked as hard as they, their lives did not look as if they were worth while to live. They had no leasure [sic] for culture, and no beauty and joy. In one way I found we Indian were better of than they, because the land on which they lived and were working so hard, was mortgaged to some man or company, and everything they could make above their bare food and clothes went to the bank or company who held the mortgage; while in the law by which we Indians held our land, was a provision which forbade the mortgaging of our lands or the payment of taxes for twenty-five years. We Indians were free from the fret and worry of knowing that a mortgage might be foreclosed on our lands and homes at any time, and that after a lifetime of hard work, we might be turned out to starve or die by the roadside. The home of nearly every farmer in our neighborhood was mortgaged. I have listened to the farmers as they talked; I heard them say that they did not get enough for their crops to pay the expenses of planting. All this set me to thinking as to the cause of such a condition. I had heard my husband discuss the money question for years without paying any attention; I now began to listen.

My husband began writing articles of finance for the leading daily paper of the West: The Omaha World-Herald, and which attracted the attention of Senators in Congress because they reflected of the new reform party just springing into existence. He threw himself heart and soul into the new movement. The editors of the leading reform paper, American Nonconformist, proposed that we should go to Washington to correspond for their paper about the doings of Congress.

It seemed to me that one of the greatest needs of the people and new party was knowledge, and truth as to the doings of Congress and the kind of laws made there for the people. I saw that the great daily papers were controlled through the press corporations and by the money classes and that they covered up the things which it was to the interests of the people to know. My husband and I accepted the offer and he commenced our work on the day the silver session opened and he kept at it the whole year.

So you can see how natural it was that I brought up by a father to whom the welfare of the community which they were placed was paramount too all other considerations, come to join the reform movement.

Christ, the greatest man off all the ages was a social reformer. Who drove the money changes out of the temple? It was Christ . Who taught the religious classes of that day that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath? What is the principle that underlies that statement? It is worth the thinking out for your selves.

Who heard Christ Gladly? "The common people," like you and me . When Christ dined with the common people, what did the religious and money classes say? They said he dined with publicans and sinners. He "had not where to lay his head" was therefore dispised by the religious and money classes of the day and yet he spent his whole life, not in the making and getting of money for himself, but in teaching and showing the common people that the conditions under which they lived were not inevitable and that they were capable of reaching up to the very highest. I think that some of us are just beginning to understand the teaching of His whole life, the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.

That means opportunity, liberty, Fraternity, equality for all and not only for a small class of men.

It was Christ who added, "Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself" to the old Commandment, and He would not have held it as an ideal to live up to if it had been impossible to practice or enact it into laws for our dailt [sic] living. I think the Populist Party should adopt as its motto, "What is to the interest of one is to the interest of all and what is to the hurt and injury of one is to the hurt and injury of all." The Gospel statement "Love is the fulfilling of the law" is literally a statement of scientific fact; and it for each one of you to help put into effect as far as possible by your vote.

La Flesche Tibbles, Susette. "Extra Manuscript." Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. National Museum of the American Indian Archives Transcription Center, 1880.