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SPEAKING OUT:  What's Important?

Browsing through KanColl, we find that the voices of KanColl have much to say to us.  We've collected a few excerpts that all seem to answer the question, 'What's important?'

Charles M. Sheldon: In His Steps (1896)

[Edward Norman writes in his editorial for the 'Daily News':]


     "The editor of the 'News' has always advocated the principles of the great political party at present in power, and has, heretofore, discussed all political questions from the standpoint of expediency, or of belief in the party, as opposed to other political organizations. Hereafter, to be perfectly honest with all our readers, the editor will present and discuss all political questions from the standpoint of right and wrong. In other words, the first question asked in this office about any political question will not be, 'Is it in the interests of our party?' or 'Is it according to the principles laid down by our party in its platform?' but the question first asked will be, 'Is it in accordance with the spirit and teachings of Jesus, as the author of the greatest standard of life known to men?' That is, to be perfectly plain, the moral side of every political question will be considered its most important side, and the ground will be distinctly taken that nations, as well as individuals, are under the same law, to do all things to the glory of God, as the first rule of action.

     "The same principle will be observed in this office toward candidates for places of responsibility and trust in the Republic. Regardless of party politics, the editor of the 'News' will do all in his power to bring the best men into power, and will not knowingly help to support for office any candidate who is unworthy, no matter how much he may be endorsed by the party. The first question asked about the man and about the measures will be, 'Is he the right man for the place? Is he a good man with ability? Is the measure right?'"

[And elsewhere in the 'News':]

     "This morning Alexander Powers, Superintendent of the L. and T. R. R. shops in this city, handed in his resignation to the road, and gave as his reason the fact that certain proof had fallen into his hands of the violation of the Interstate Commerce Law, and also of the state law which has recently been framed to prevent and punish railroad pooling for the benefit of certain favored shippers. Mr. Powers states in his resignation that he can no longer consistently withhold the information he possesses against the road. He will be a witness against it. He has placed his evidence against the company in the hands of the Commission, and it is now for them to take action upon it.

     "The 'News' wishes to express itself on this action of Mr. Powers. In the first place, he has nothing to gain by it. He has lost a very valuable place, voluntarily, when, by keeping silent, he might have retained it. In the second place, we believe his action ought to receive the approval of all thoughtful, honest citizens who believe in seeing law obeyed and law-breakers brought to justice. In a case like this, where evidence against a railroad company is generally understood to be almost impossible to obtain, it is the general belief that the officers of the road are often in possession of criminating facts, but do not consider it to be any of their business to inform the authorities that the law is being defied. The entire result of this evasion of responsibility on the part of those who are responsible is demoralizing to every young man connected with the road. The editor of the 'News' recalls the statement made by a prominent railroad official in this city a little while ago, that nearly every clerk in a certain department of the road understood that large sums of money were made by shrewd violations of the Interstate Commerce Law, was ready to admire the shrewdness with which it was done, and declared that they would all do the same thing, if they were high enough in railroad circles to attempt it.*

*This was actually said in one of the General Offices of a great western railroad, to the author's knowledge.

     "It is not necessary to say that such a condition of business is destructive to all the nobler and higher standards of conduct; and no young man can live in such an atmosphere of unpunished dishonesty and lawlessness without wrecking his character.

     "In our judgment, Mr. Powers did the only thing that a Christian man could do. He has rendered brave and useful service to the state and the general public. It is not always an easy matter to determine the relations that exist between the individual citizen and his fixed duty to the public. In this case, there is no doubt in our minds that the step which Mr. Powers has taken commends itself to every man who believes in law and its enforcement. There are times when the individual must act for the people in ways that will mean sacrifice and loss to him of the gravest character. Mr. Powers will be misunderstood and misrepresented; but there is no question that his course will be approved by every citizen who wishes to see the greatest corporation, as well as the weakest individual, subject to the same law. Mr. Powers has done all that a loyal, patriotic citizen could do. It now remains for the Commission to act upon his evidence, which, we understand, is overwhelming proof of the lawlessness of the L. and T. Let the law be enforced, no matter who the persons may be who have been guilty."

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Joseph McCoy: Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest (1874)

     .....During the summer of 1872 petitions were freely circulated and numerously signed, praying, inviting, begging the cattle men to return with their herds, but alas! it was too late. The trade had been turned to Western points, which were only too glad to profit by Abilene's suicidal folly. The editor busied himself with making excuses for the decline of Abilene's business and pretending that the cattle trade was of no benefit. He was an adept at making pretensions as well as insinuations. There was nothing so sacred or profane that he would halt or shrink from assuming or pretending to be, if it but promised him future political preferment.

     Every secret society that would receive him upon any terms, he joined and sought to place himself at the head thereof. In fact there was nothing he would hesitate to prostitute to his own selfish purposes--that of aiding himself to get an office. It was his thought by day and his dreams by night. The rule by which all his acts were squared. The overshadowing, all prevailing ambition of his being. No stone was left unturned or unplaced that would, no matter how remotely, aid him to obtain an office. As to talent, or even average ability, he had little or none. Low cunning, shrewd wire-pulling, and cheeky presumption, coupled with loathsome flunkyism, and vindictive, unscrupulous hatred of all whom he could not manipulate, constituted his make up and capital. A closer inspection of the personal appearances of the editor, caused the gravest discussion and doubts in the minds of the villagers, whether he was a real human, or only an extremely well developed specimen of the ape family. The disposition and degree of manhood, or rather lack of manhood, that he soon developed, fixed the conviction that if at some time in the distant future, some enterprising phrenological Darwin should chance to exhume his cranium, it would be regarded as a rare specimen and as conclusive proof of the soundness of the "Darwinian Theory," an undeniable connecting link between the animal and human race. However, as the cranial formation would show but little brains before the ears, and still less above the eyes, but an enormous development behind the ears, where the bump of self-esteem and ambitious proclivities to seek office are supposed to be located; it would doubtless be classed as of doubtful origin or classification and labeled "A what is it." He spent many years in Ohio, unsuccessfully intriguing, planning and scheming to obtain office a kind of standing candidate. After practising diligently, his well learned tactics in Kansas for three or more years, he came forward for the office of State Senator from his district. On the meeting of the nominating convention he found that he was in the minority, but not to be daunted or defeated in his predetermination to serve and represent the people, whether they desired him or not, he, aided by the political clique or cabal, set about influencing the delegates by promises of future promotion or by threats of vengeance and political ostracism. By such means in connection with his misrepresentations and falsehoods concerning his opponents, he succeeded in securing the nomination by a bare majority. He freely used whisky and other unfair and indecent means to secure votes. His majority was near fifteen hundred less than that of his ticket. A Presidential campaign only saved him from utter defeat. Soon after his election he became suddenly interested in a little town site, laid out near a water mill, built by a little Dutchman who had just previously held the office of County Treasurer.

     It is surprising how, after holding the office of County Treasurer for one or two terms in Kansas, even a pauper can build expensive mills or palatial residences. But the public were at a great loss to understand of what earthly use a State Senator would be to the owner of a water mill.

     But soon after he took his seat in the Legislature, he quietly introduced a bill, (No. 151) which was for an act, the provisions of which would have practically and completely placed the entire milling privileges of the river and county in the hands of the little Dutch miller, thus creating an oppressive monopoly. This measure was quietly passed through the Senate, the Senator making a naming speech in its behalf then tried to prevent his constituents from getting hold of it, but without success. The leading citizens of Abilene sent one of their number to the Capitol to look after the mysterious Senate bill, No. 151. Before it had passed the House and become a law, the delegate extraordinary from Abilene arrived, and lost no time in privately showing the members of the house the infamous intent of the measure, and they made short work of it. Thus the Senator's nice little scheme not only failed, but was ventilated and exposed to the eyes and understanding of his constituent. A more disgusted, exasperated and enraged people are not often seen. All over the county public meetings were held, the Senator denounced and called upon to resign.

     When the Senator found his nice laid plans to sell out the farmers' interests had miscarried, his anger and furious passions knew no bounds. Upon returning to his home at Abilene he was publicly hooted and hissed, by a host of boys, yelling milldam in his ears. He was demoniacal in his rage, and frantic in his wrath. He denounced everybody connected with his exposure and humiliating downfall, especially the delegate sent down from Abilene, was the victim of his special vindictive malice. But the people had got their eyes thoroughly opened, and understood the animus of his vindictive malicious charges, and the object of their publication. A few of Abilene's leading business men established another paper which fast supplanted the Senator's. The community loathed him as a traitor, and corrupt dishonest legislator. The following fall the people of Dickinson county elected Dr. J. M. Hodge to the House, greatly to the disgust of the Senator; the very man whom he had villified so monstrously. This they did because the Doctor was a good able man; the one most capable of watching the Senator and protecting the peoples' interest from the Senator's dishonest schemes; and for the additional purpose of rebuking the Senator in unmistakable terms. Finally the Senator sold out his paper and home and left the district in disgust, but entirely unlamented. The tedious notice of the Senator has been somewhat prolonged that the reader could see what an unprincipled hypocritic scalawag can get into office in Kansas, and how he will try to enrich himself at the expense of his constituents and how, in time, he meets his merited downfall....

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Sherman Peter Young: "A Factual History of Kansas" (1954)

     One hundred years have passed since Kansas was organized as a territory. How differently we work and play today. Yet, human nature is the same. Some strive and fail; some work and succeed; some weep, and some rejoice and how few of us become masters of our souls; yet, we all respond with one accord to the stirring call of Kansas.

     "Of Kansas, Sunny Kansas, I am Dreaming
      No matter where my Wandering Steps May Go.
      'Neath her Skies the Star of Hope is ever Beaming
      In Kansas, Where the Sunflower Grows."

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Sara Kennedy: "Autobiography of Sara Edna Eutsler Kennedy" (1956)

On Dec. 8, 1879 a browneyed - brownhaired baby girl was born to the young couple. They named her Sarah Edna but nicknamed her Sadie, the name she went by the remainder of her life. Jan. 30, 1882, another baby girl came to live with them. They named her Anna Laura. She was browneyed too and had brown curly hair.

Later a little son was born. The mother took sick with fever and soon left this world - leaving the father and grandmother (Hollingsworth) with three babies- the eldest not quite four years of age. In about six months the baby boy passed away.

The oldest little girl can remember her little sister Anna standing at the window crying for her "mama". She can remember of trying to comfort her in her childish way. The father became ill with asthma and could not live in Kansas and work during the summer. So the grandmother took care of Sadie and Anna while their father went to Colorado and worked in the higher altitudes. We were very poor so when Sadie got old enough to go to school the kind teacher said Anna could come too so the grandmother began to teach school again. One of the uncles would take the little girls to school and come for them in bad weather but in nice weather they walked with other boys and girls. The school was three fourths of a mile from their home.

Sadie can remember how the grandmother would get the two little girls ready for school early. We wore hair in long curls or braids so Sadie would wash dishes while the grandmother combed Anna's hair and then Anna would take her turn at the dishes while Sadie's hair was combed. Then the grandma would have to leave for her school in another district.

Later on she taught a few years in our home school and Sadie and Anna went to school to their grandmother which they did not like very well although they love their grandmother dearly.

Although a very busy woman the grandmother took time to teach the girls as they should be taught and lead them to love and serve the lord. She also found a way to buy an organ for us to learn to play on and would sit down and help us often with our lessons.....

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Roscoe Fleming: "Kansas: 'Ad Astra Per Aspera'" (1957)


It seemed that Kansans had to be larger and stronger
     than life, even to survive in that old Kansas,
Let alone to subdue it.
So that they put on pride like an overcoat that is
     donned to hide the patches beneath.
As when the haughty princess asked Dorothy in Oz:
"Are you of royal blood, by any chance?"
Dorothy tilted her small snub nose just one tilt higher
     than the princess',
Her sonsy face glowing with honest pride,
And answered in her forthright prairie twang:
"Better than that, Ma'am! I come from Kansas!"

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Voices 'Contents'

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We are very grateful to Wayne Berg for permission
to use his photograph in the "Kansas: 'Ad Astra Per Aspera'" selection;
he is as he looks, a good man, one of those rock-solid Kansans
that you can always count on.
Copyright applies to all original works and designs,
and 1950s selections (please request permission before using).