“This is America; if the people are true to themselves, no room for force is necessary in this contest.”

I mentioned finding the speech General Theodore Harvey Barrett made to the National Farmers’ Alliance in 1887. I don’t have all of the historical context, but this passage seems eerily prescient and applicable, and I offer it as my last post before Thanksgiving:

Back of all this machinery which penetrates every corner of the continent — nay, every quarter of the globe, sit a few men in numbers, constantly growing less — who directs its operations. They are men of power. In their offices are key-boards, and from the keys wires have been strung into all the habitable zones and under all the oceans. By a touch of the keys they may influence the fortunes for good or evil, of vast numbers of people on more continents than one.

No men, however honest or capable they may be, ought to be entrusted by a free people with such tremendous power.

Nor can a people who, under such circumstances, quietly submit to the abuses which have been heaped upon the people of many sections of the country for the last few years, long remain free. The machinery of a great republic and all the forms of freedom may for a time remain; but unless the people look well to the future, the substance will have gone out to return no more. In this changing civilization… let not the people be deceived, it is liberty that is at stake. The institutions which our fathers made are able to protect the people in this new crisis if they shall be able to resist that corruption, degarding influence which whispers its serpent hiss into the ears of every many whom it desires to control. This is America; if the people are true to themselves, no room for force is necessary in this contest. They can lawfully combat and tramp beneath their feet this last, and if unchecked, soon to become to greatest, most perfect, most dangerous system of centralized power that civilization has yet produced. The father would have no kings — no House of Lords — they said in so many words “There shall be no nobility.” In the hands of the great body of people they left the political power… It is for this generation to complete the work.

– General Theodore H. Barrett, Address delivered before the National Farmers’ Alliance at its Seventh Annual Meeting Held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Tuesday, October 4th, 1887.


7 Responses to ““This is America; if the people are true to themselves, no room for force is necessary in this contest.””

  1. 1 Stan Churchill 27 November 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I stumbled across your blog and found it very interesting. As a young girl, my mother was a housekeeper at the Barrett Ranch. She remembered the general’s Civil War sword hanging above the fireplace. The town of Barrett may have been named after Theodore Barrett, but it is no where near the Barrett Ranch. The actual ranch was located on Barrett Lake, midway between Herman and Donnelly, Minnesota. The main house was very large with a porch going all the way around the outside. There was a cupola on top of the house where the general could watch his farm hands work with the aid of a spy glass.

    Stan Churchill
    Wheaton, MN

    • 2 Richard Barrett 27 November 2012 at 6:35 pm

      Wow — thanks very much for leaving your comment! Your mother’s description matches perfectly with the photos I’ve seen, and yes, in the last year I’ve found out that the town and the ranch were two entirely different places.

      I’d love to hear more. Please keep in touch!

  2. 3 r schliesman 21 February 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Greetings, thank you for the information on your relative Theodore H Barrett. Did you know he surveyed the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation in North and South Dakota? His survey and notes are available online.

    • 4 Richard Barrett 3 March 2020 at 2:09 pm

      I don’t think I’ve seen the notes. Where can I find them?

      • 5 rschliesman 3 March 2020 at 6:43 pm

        Hi, I just started time off and am away from all my notes. It was several years ago that I saw Barrett’s notes, but I think they are in the Government Land Office online records. His supervisor’s name is on the database instead of Barrett’s. His survey was one of the first in Dakota Territory/South Dakota, 1869-70, if I remember correctly. I’ll look up more when I get back. 🙂

      • 6 r schliesman 30 March 2020 at 3:02 pm

        Hi, Richard,

        Here are several links for the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation survey.

        Bureau of Land Management, Government Land Office records, State of South Dakota, Counties of Codington, Day, Grant, Marshall, and Roberts, Original Survey plat maps for all townships within the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. https://glorecords.blm.gov/search/default.aspx.

        North Dakota State Water Commission, Counties of Richland and Sargent. Original Survey plat maps for townships within the Lake Travers Indian Reservation. http://survey.swc.nd.gov/


  1. 1 “When we name our children, we should do so as ones who are identifying them as God’s heirs” « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 15 July 2012 at 8:31 am

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