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"Josiah Milton Kirkpatrick"

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4 December 2005

JMK.gif (11717 bytes)Josiah Milton Kirkpatrick was my great-grandfather.  He died when my mother was a baby, so obviously I never met him, but I'm getting to "know" him through the writings that he left behind.

When I was at my mother's the day before Thanksgiving, she handed me a book of his writings that my cousin had retyped and printed.  Then I interviewed her a bit about what she knew about him.   I'm so happy to have the story, in her own words, and also these writings.  He had been a teacher and a reporter (and ultimately editor of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat), so was quite literate.  The thing that struck me in reading these things is how applicable they are to today.  Oh, the language is a bit more flowery, but the basic issues haven't changed since the late 1800s (which is actually pretty depressing, when you think about it!).

Here are excerpts from two that struck me particularly forcefully...

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This was written following the campaign of Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel J. Tilden

Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness, some boundless contiguity of shade, says the poet when disgusted w the f rivolities and frauds of fashion, the hollow pretensions of gilded hypocrites, and the servile flatteries of court and attitudes.   But your correspondent is not yet quite so much disgusted with his fellow creatures as to pine for a brush camp among the chaparral, except when the tax gatherer is making his annual visit.

We wish, however, to enter an energetic and solemn protest against this everlasting tirade of political misrepresentation and abuse.  Tilden is a democrat, therefore he is all that is dishonest, dishonorable or ungentlemanly.   Hayes is a republican; therefore, he is a thief and a hypocrite.  I am sick, tired and disgusted with such narrow-minded partisan bigotry, such illiberal and unfair dealing.  Each one should consider that others are equally interested with himself in arriving at the truth in reference to all matters of importance, and are no doubt equally anxious to do so.  What puerile folly, then, for either party to denounce the other as traitors and villains.

Both parties are equally interested in perpetuating our government, though they may differ, and honestly, too, as to the best means of accomplishing the desired result.  We object to the lavish uncalled for use of detraction and misrepresentation by the editors of political organs, so-called.  We object to it because it is not only subversive of the good order and peace that should prevail in society, but because it violates the command, "thou shalt not lie," and also its fellow, "thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

We object to any more politics in ours for the present. We are surfeited to loathing with this stale innutrious diet.  Give us a rest. "Let us have peace" long enough to regain our appetite.  And inasmuch as man's life does not wholly consist of skill in State Government and the theories of party leaders, please give us a change in the bill of fare; even a plate of hash would be palatable just now by way of change.  And dropping the simile for sober facat, we fer the cooks are muchly responsible many a bile-tinged editorial.  They set before the poor quill drivers such masses of indigestible materials that he must have a stomach equal to an ostrich or a coffee mill to assimilate even a small portion of the nutriment they are supposed to contain. 

The poor, hunger-bitten mortals of necissity swallow it, and in their fruitless and agonizing effort to digest it, they imagine as many impending horrors, asan topeer after soaking himself a week with crooked whiskey.

(...and just think--he lived before television and the bombardment of the media with negative campaign ads!)

This was also a very wise observation, still applicable today:

Far back in the dim distant history of the venerable past, we discover the germs of intolerance spreading like a foul blot, a moral leprosy, obscuring the better qualities of man's nature....

...Those who go into ecstasies over man's native dignity, never take trouble to scan his history from the beginning; they only look at some bright spot where the influence of Christian principles overcame the natural selfishness of his disposition.   For say what you will, man's disposition, when untempered by the mild precepts of religion, is fiercely, fiendishly selfish and intolerant, and like the wild berasts of the forest consults only his own happiness.

I believe it is generally admitted this is an age of progress, that man is bursting the shackles that have doomed him to mental servitude and rising superior to the narrow-minded prejudices, which disgrace him.  But any one who will take the trouble to open his eyes and heed what is continually transpiring around him, will be convinced that much yet remains to be done....

...Taking in the whole range of history, we see hopeful improvement, but how long will it be ere man can look upon his fellow who differs with him in opinion without feeling the spirit of intolerance rise in his breast.

My great grandfather died in 1920, and we're still dealing with how long it will be ere man can look upon his fellow who differs with him in opinion without feeling the spirit of intolerance rise in his breast.





Woodland, CA


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