Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 39

Virgin Soil

Virgin Soil.

It is a pretty prevalent delusion that so long as plenty of unused ground remains anywhere there need be no distress among the poor. But the trouble is that the very people who are recommended to emigrate to those distant regions cannot get there, and, what is more, if they were taken there they would forthwith wish themselves back again. Weaklings are at a discount among the pioneers.

The real worth of new lands to a country is moral rather than material. Amid the vast solitudes of those broad, silent plains, where the buffalo and the antelope stilt range, in many a little turf house, almost as obscure as the burrows of the prairie dogs, there is growing up a lot of shoeless, ragged boys and girls whose spirits and whose minds are free.

What a career it is, that of the frontier man! He grapples with a very Cerberus, and chokes him throat by throat. Ere the day dawns he sallies forth, not to return till dark, with axe on shoulder, to hew himself a clearing in the bush. At home remains the wife, with or without young children. This is a brave woman. She cannot (that with her next-door neighbor forty miles off, having no telephone; she has for company the racoons and owls, or now and then a bear. There reigns the silence of the grave; all is hushed in a primeval slumber; to borrow a figure from another sense, it is a very stillness audible, save when Jove's thunder reverberates like untold artillery, or when the tornado in its furious race tears down the giants of the woods. The bush is liable to catch fire and sweep all away; the savages may descend blooded from their internecine wars; or, when with painful toil the man has raised a first patch of maize or buckwheat, the blight may strike it just before the harvest, and the gaunt wolf of famine may show his grim visage on the threshold. Solitude, want, desolation, doubt and danger, five horrors, hem in this lonely pair, but they are self-dependent. Lean page 18 hunger's shadow dims their path, but there is no repining, nor submission, baser; no prayer to heaven; no charity blankets; no lady bountiful with condescension broth. What a morale is theirs, and what high hearts expand beneath their tattered clothes!

It is there, if anywhere, that a pure Democracy may be developed. There are no drudges broke loose and stirred by greed and envy, but sober people with sense of dignity, thirst of knowledge, and the idea of responsibility. There is no caste, and therefore no place for demagoguism. There is not much done, but there exists the raw material of a great society. A new growth and a new morale may be hoped for, and I think expected. In a new world, where taste and culture shall flourish in the absence of caste, a new type of Democrat may arise who would have charmed and converted Tocqueville, most generous yet most hypercritical of aristocrats. And there, it may be, in that far Western land, where Berkeley saw such hope, there is now in the process of formation a Social Democratic Republic.