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Dear Colonel:—It all come out jest exactly as I told you
'twould in my last dispatch, a few days before the 'lection.
The arthquakes and harrycanes was awful. Some of our
friends was throwed up sky high, and haint been seen nor
heard of since; some was swallowed up in the ground and
buried alive; and all of us was ship-wrecked and splashed
overboard, and left to the marcy of the wind and the tide. I
was lucky enough to get a-straddle of a plank, and made out
to keep my head above water. I drifted about awhile, kind
of confused like, and couldn't hardly tell whether I was on the
ocean, or on a lake, or where I was.


Page 316

At last I floated along into a river, and then I concluded,
of course, I was bound down Niagara, and should have to
plunge head and ears over the big falls. I seemed to be
floating along down the middle of the river, and away off
before me and away behind me I could see a good many others
going the same way; and, away in close to the shore, on
both sides of the river, there seemed to be a good many going
the other way—that is, as I thought, going up stream. I was
kept along in this way till I come to a narrow place in the
river, which I learnt afterward was called the half-way narrows.
Here the current grew more rapid, and I floated along
very fast; but I was so near the shore I could see folks on
both sides, and hear 'em speak.

Presently I met a man on one side of the river, footing it
along the shore, and towing a one-masted boat after him, as
I thought, up stream. At first, by his stooping walk and bald
head, I thought he was too old a man to be doing such hard
kind of work; but when he come nearer, I see he had flaxy
hair, and a young and almost boyish looking face. He went
straight ahead, with a line over his shoulder, drawing the
boat after him, and singing a merry kind of a song, which I
couldn't make out, only one varse of it, which seemed to be

“Life is real, life is earnest;
Things are jest what they do seem;
Down Salt River thou returnest,
Oh, my Tribune, 'tis no dream.”

When I saw who it was I was amazingly puzzled. I'd
heard a good many songs that had more truth than poetry in
'em, but this one seemed to have more poetry than truth.
Any how, if this was really Salt River, that we had heard
so much tell of, I couldn't seem to make out how I should be
sailing down stream so fast, and the Tribune-man be tugging

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[Description: 688EAF. Illustration page. A political cartoon. Uncle Sam wades in the river while two men pull boats whose sails are made from large sheets of newspaper. One of the boats has "abolition" written on it.]


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up stream so hard. This didn't agree with the election returns
at all. Something has got twisted round; things is not
jest what they seem. While I was bothering my head about
it, I looked over on t'other side of the river, and there was
another man with a line over his shoulder, towing a larger
and heavier boat up stream, as I thought. He was a tall,
officer-looking man, with large whiskers, and stood up straight,
and walked strong, as though he didn't care for nobody. He,
too, seemed to be singing a very merry song. All I could
hear of it was just this varse:

“Old Uncle Sam was a jolly old soul,
And a jolly old soul was he;
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl,
And he called for Taylor and me.”

As he passed by me I see the name on the starn of the
boat was New York Courier and Enquirer. I was in a great
puzzlement; these Whig chaps was all so merry; and yet,
if this was really Salt Rlver it seemed to me they was going
the wrong way, according to the 'lection, and I couldn't tell
what to make of it. As I was near enough to hail the Courier
man, I thought I would call to him and see if I could get any
light on the subject. So says I—

“Hullo, Colonel!”

He stopped and turned round, and answered, “Hullo”

Says I, “I ask your pardon, Colonel, but I'm a stranger in
these parts, and a stranger to you, but I know you by your
boat. Will you be so kind as to tell me where I'm bound
to? For I'm kind of lost.”

“Oh,” certainly,” says he, “with the greatest pleasure, my
dear sir. You are bound straight up to the head of Salt
River; you can't miss your way, for there isn't a single path
that turns out between here and there.”

“Well, now,” says I, “Colonel, you or I must be under


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some strange mistake. Don't you see I'm floating down on
the current? Ain't the river running down this way, and
carrying me along with it?”

At that he laughed outright, and says he, “I see you are
nothing but a fresh-water sailor, and don't know anything
about the navigation of Salt River.”

“Well, how should I,” says I; “for I never was in these
waters before?”

“Well,” says he, “Salt River runs up stream; jest bear that
in your mind, and you'll find it all plain sailing.”

“But that can't be possible,” says I; “you, nor I, nor nobody
else, ever knew a river to run up stream.”

“You may depend upon it,” says he, “Salt River runs up
stream; and I suppose that is the only river in America that
does run up stream.”

By this time I had floated so far by that I couldn't hear anything
more he said But it wasn't long before I was satisfied
the Colonel was right; for, as the current carried me along
back into the country, the land kept growing higher and
higher, and at last I found myself quite up among the mountains;
and, when I come to the head of the river, the current
run my plank right plump ashore.

I found a good many of our friends already here before me,
and I understand a great many more are on the way. Our
annexin' friend, Gineral Cass, hasn't got here yet; but he's
expected now every day. This is a pretty good sort of a
country up here, after all, and has a good many advantages.
But I haven't time to give you much account of it to-day; I'll
try to describe it more another time. I've spent considerable
time examining and exploring this curious river, and I think
I've learnt more about it than anybody that's been up here
afore. It's different from all the other rivers that I ever see.
It has no springs or streams running into it to feed it, but


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feeds itself from its own waters. All the center of the river
is a strong current, running up stream till it gets to the head
of the river; and then it divides and turns off each way, and
works along down in eddies and currents by each bank of
the river till it gets to the mouth; and then it turns round regular
into the center current agin, and up it comes.

This shows the reason why anybody that happens to get
into the current of Salt River has to go clear to the head of it
before he can stop. It shows the reason, too, why anybody
that sets out to go down with a boat, or a raft, or anything,
has to lead it along the shore by a line; for, if it happens to
get out a little too far from shore, and get ketched in the center
current, it's gone goose with it; it has to go clear back to
the head of the river, and take another start. This, of course,
makes the navigation of Salt River, on the passage out, very
hard and difficult.

Now, I'll tell you what I advise you by all means to do.
You know Congress is in a great taking to pass a bill for the
improvement of the navigation of lakes and rivers, and they
are afraid they can't do it this session because you'll put your
veto on it. Now, you jest strike a bargain with 'em; if they'll
put in a million of dollars into the bill to improve the navigation
of Salt River, and let Gineral Cass have the laying of it
out, you'll sign the bill. If we could get that bill through, it
would be of immense importance to us and our friends for a
good many years to come.

We can't, of course, look for you up here till after the 4th
of March; but I shall be getting everything ready for you as
fast as I can. I've got a notion in my head, however, that
you might hold on there at Washington some years longer
yet; and be in a situation to do our friends more good, may
be, than you could up here. I see they are looking round all
over the country for men to make up a Cabinet for Gineral Taylor;


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and they seem to be going upon the rule that them that
did the most toward electing him must have the first chance
in the Cabinet. Now, going upon that rule, the first chance
belongs to you, of course; for there isn't no other man in the
country that did a quarter so much toward electing him as
you did. In fact, if it hadn't been for you he never would a
been elected at all; and if he doesn't give you the first place
in his Cabinet, if you'll take it, he'll be the ungratefulest man
that ever lived. I think it would be best, all things considered,
for you to take a place at the head of the Cabinet.

As for dear old Mr. Ritchie, as the weather is warm and
pleasant, and comfortable for making the voyage, why not
start him right along? He'll find nothing to trouble him, for
I've been all round here, and there isn't no bears, nor wolves,
nor Federalists, nor anything of that sort. I don't think I
ever see a country clearer of Federalists in my life; and
every man I've talked with here is in favor of the resolutions
of '98.

I remain your friend and pioneer,


Editorial Note.—On the election of General Taylor to the Presidency,
November, 1848, the Whigs, who had been sojourning for four years in Salt
River Territory, came down the river in full force and high spirits, while
the Democrats moved quietly up and took possession, and went to work and
tried to organize the Territory, in order to get it admitted as a State. Major
Downing, in this letter, describes Salt River and the philosophy of its navigation
more accurately and satisfactorily than has ever been done by any other