Geo[rge] G. Mackenzie
R[obert] U[nderwood] Johnson
Raymond, Fresno Co., Cal.
Dec. 28, '90
Dear Mr. Johnson:
Many thanks for the information in your letter of the 17th. I owe you many excuses, too, for the persistency with which I have troubled you with my letters, when you have so much work on hand. There will probably be less occasion hereafter for my assaults on your patience. At present I wish to say that if the Secretary of the Interior shall carry out the military scheme it will be the final destruction of any hope of improving matters around the Yosemite. The soldier idea is exactly what the ring wants. As I passed Wawona the exact place was pointed out to me where Newsham and the Washburns had chosen the site for a military camp. The plan is to have a troop of cavalry there - very profitably to the hotel, bar and hay business - and just where the offensiveness of military domination would be most conspicuous, and would incite the most opposition to the National Park. The troopers are to take a scout once in a while, and the result would be absolutely worthless. That plan of guarding the reservation would be a greater farce than the present Yosemite fraud. The possiblity of such a plan being operated will close my mouth from this time on in favor
of the Nat'l Park. I foresee an anti-military agitation that will bring the whole affair into popular disrepute, and I probably will lend my hand freely to help that agitation along. I enclose a copy of a draft of an address that will immediately be got before the public, and one of similar tenor will, if I can manage it, be sent to the Legislature, asking that body to address a protest to the Secretary. The Legislature may refuse, but the Park business will be "done up," as far as popular support goes. The question will perhaps be dragged into politics. Of course the responsiblity for that resets with Mr. Noble. I don't doubt the perfect sincerity of his judgment, but he cannot be well informed of the necessities of the work on hand. The military scheme may be excused as a makeshift, but we all know how quickly makeshifts grow into rooted customs. I, for one, much prefer to see that country run by a money ring than by a ring of the military order. But, even as a makeshift the thing is exactly calculated to fit the money ring's wishes. It would be a false start, and that is all that the monopoly wants at present. That concern always fights by working through others for delay, and when the other party has lost interest or is tired out the monopoly quickly takes a firmer grip than ever on the country.
It is expected that Senator Stanford's university will be opened in May, and that the President, Cabinet officers, and other men of influence will assist. The party will be taken to Yosemite hedged around carefully by Southern Pacific influences which support the monopoly's interest. Everything wrong will be explained away or as much as possible concealed. There will be no one who can and will show the truth. And by assiduous attentions the governing powers will be brought into the belief that all the critics of past management are liars or imbeciles, and the whole matter will be fixed up nicely to the monopoly's satisfaction. The knowledge of this scheme, which has been planned for a long time, has had much to do with my anxiety to see Mr. Noble start aright and before that visit. Should he persist in the soldier idea, I predict that another year will see the monopoly people more firmly in power than ever before and acting in a worse spirit than ever before, knowing that the last fight has been made against them. Ever since I took a hand in this contest, people of large experience have been telling me that I was wasting my time - injuring myself and without a prospect of the public being benefitted. I begin to believe in the soundness of that advice. The task of getting around the stumbling block of official perversity ought to be shunned by a person in
my humble circumstances. The last kick I will make in the matter, if the plan of militarism shall be followed, will be a kick against militarism. It may not amount to much, but I know the California audience pretty well, and don't doubt that I can destroy much of the favor which I have helped to build up in support of the Nat'l Park scheme. The weak points in that scheme are well known to me, and if it is to be made a tool of a combined ring of stablemen and lieutenants I will attack it as willingly as the old Yosemite institution. I don't doubt that you recognize the objections to the soldier business, but I think it right to recall some of them as explanation of the course that I am now desposed to take - which is in fact not different from that which we both have followed heretofore. I take it for granted that you and Mr. Ward (whom I know very well by name, but do not remember to have met) informed the Secretary that your recommendation of me was not of my soliciation. Otherwise, if it should come to his knowledge that I opposed the military idea, he might think that the opposition grew out of personal disappointment or some other vanity of that sort.
Yours Very Truly
Geo. G. Mackenzie
I think that the taking the [halves?] of Townships 5 into the Park is a mistake. The land around the Grove is all, or nearly all, owned by private persons. Merely calling it a Park wouldn't amount to anything except to make some owners object. But I will not for the present be that against the bill.
Hon. John W. Noble,
Secretary of the Interior,
The report being current that you propose to send United States troops to guard the Yosemite National Park, the undersigned, citizens of California, wish to enter a respectful but emphatic protest against the proposed measure. Among other grounds on which we base our protest are the following:
1. The presence of an armed soldiery in the Yosemite Park would be an insult to the people of California. It would be a standing advertisement to the world at large that Californians are of such an undisciplined and unruly nature that, even in the ordinary affairs of civil life, they must be suppressed by the cavalry sabre, the infantry rifle, and bayonet, or the machine gun of the artillery. 2. The use of a military force as guardians of the Park would be entirely foreign to the purpose for which the people, by their taxes, support an army. That purpose is to defend the people, in case of need, against their enemies in arms, and not to override the people themselves in the
pursuit of their peaceful industries and pleasures. 3. The Act of Congress setting aside the Yosemite Park as a forest reservation placed the control of that territory in the hands of the Secretary of the Interior exclusively. If Congress had intended or wished the reservation to be a military establishment, the control of the Park would undoubtedly have been entrusted to the War Department. 4. The presence of soldiers in the Yellowstone Park cannot be admitted as a precedent. In that place we understand that an army force is primarily maintained in the strict line of military business, and is used merely incidentally as park police. In the Yosemite region there is nothing whatever of military concern that can serve as a pretext for the invasion of a peaceful part of California by a military power, whose presence would be, at the least, a constant threat against the personal safety of all travellers and residents. 5. The probability of the uselessness of soldiers as protectors of Park property is indicated in the latest annual report of the Secretary of the Interior. In that report attention is drawn to the fact that during the
past year fires of a particularly destructive kind have swept over the Yellowstone country. 6. While desirous of giving all the cordial support in our power to the management of the Yosemite National Park, we are inflexibly convinced that it would be better that the last stick of timber in that and other reservations should be destroyed than that the infintely worse evil of military domination should be given a foothold in this State.
1890 Dec 28
Original letter dimensions: 28.5 x 20.5 cm.
Mackenzie, George G., "Letter from Geo[rge] G. Mackenzie to R[obert] U[nderwood] Johnson, 1890 Dec 28 ." (1890). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 1987.
Reel 06, Image 0793
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