Hearing before the Senate Committee on Public Lands (Sixty-
STATEMENT OF MR. ROBERT U. JOHNSON, OF NEW YORK, FORMEREDITOR OF THE CENTURY MAGAZINE.
Mr. Johnson. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, at the risk of losing a minute or two of my own time-
Justice David Davis, who was at one time a member of the United States Senate, was once holding forth at Indianapolis in the United States circuit. A case had arisen which had been postponed once or twice on account of the absence of the defendant's attorney. The prosecuting attorney insisted upon going on with the case, and finally, after placing himself upon his rights in the matter, the judge said to him; "Mr. Brown, you are clearly within your rights in this matter. The time has been set in this case, and we have called it for this morning. The attorney for the defendant is absent. I have received a letter from him in which he gives me what I regard a reasonable excuse for being absent; but I wish to tell you that in a similar case just closed in Jacksonville, Ill., when I was opening court there, the attorney for the defense was absent; the presenting attorney insisted upon going on with the case; the result was that somebody had to appear for the defense, and it seems somehow, nobody else being present, naturally it fell to me, and, curiously enough, we beat them."
Now, gentlemen, I desire to say to you in all respect that with the exception of this morning there has been but one person heard before a committee of the present Congress in the sense of the position held by the opponents of this bill. That person is Mr. Whitman, who has taken the trouble to come again this morning to be card. We had no representative of our position from the State of California-
I do not wish to cast any reflections upon people who own water supplies which they wish to sell to the city of San Francisco. I know that two crimes have been committed in this agitation, in this movement to take Hetch Hetchy. One is the crime of being a nature lover. Think of it, the approbrium of being a nature lover.
On the other hand there is the crime of being the owner of property which might be a source of supply to San Francisco, and which San Francisco might under some circumstances buy.
I claim that a man may have been guilty of criminal action, and if he were the owner of a source of supply which San Francisco wanted, the fact that he had been a criminal is no reason why San Francisco should not consider that source.
I am not here to take a brief for anybody or any person, except for those who believe that the Senate of the United States, which now almost the final appeal in this matter, is in danger of making a tremendous mistake in a matter of this importance.
Now, I shall try to hasten through with the points I have to make. I ask your attention, gentlemen, to the pitiless logic of our position. First, we confess that the city needs water. Our sympathies are with the city in its desire to have water.
Second, it is confessed by the Army board-
Now, let us have the facts-
It is not a question of this large array of officials, three Cabinet officers, and various heads of bureaus, who I venture to say would have a great deal of temerity to contravene the judgment of their chiefs. I am not here to say these men are not respectable men; that they are not honorable men; that they are not patriotic men. They have my highest respect, but I say this: That the question is not whether they favor this thing but wether they ought to favor it, and that is the question which has to be put up to this committee, whether they ought to favor this thing under the circumstances.
Somebody has said, Mr. Chairman, that it is the safety of the world that bad men are not always wise. I will also say in supplement to that statement that it is the peril of the world that good men are not always wise, and I take this to be one of the instances in which many good men are not wise.
Now, we come down, then, to the question of cost. I claim, gentlemen, and I believe this would be found to be true in any court of law-
Now, it is the business, it seems to me, of the United States Senate in this matter-
You are here as the trustees of the United States of America to at least see that an impartial, thorough investigation of these other sources of supply is made, because it is upon that assumption that the whole thing turns.
Mr. Freeman. The Bartel report was made at my request.
The Chairman. Well, now, Mr. Freeman, I think you had better include that in your own statement to the committee. I think it will expedite matters to do it that way.
Mr. Freeman. Very well, I will do so.
Mr. Johnson. I think the Bartel report was made, perhaps not at the instance of Mr. Manson, but Mr. Manson made notes on the Bartel report which strengthened it as a source of water supply. I am not here to say to you gentlemen, and candor will not permit me to say to you, that I believe the Mokelumne region, or that I know the Mokelumne region is sufficient for a water supply. I am merely saying that you are under obligations to make a thorough and impartial investigation.
Senator Chamberlain Has not that investigation already been made! Has not this matter been ascertained and been before Congress and the Interior Department for the past 10 years, starting about 1900?
Mr. Johnson. No; it has been 10 or 12 years since this investigation started.
Senator Chamberlain. I understand there are volumes of testimony and books down here, records and letters, that would fill dozens of volumes if all were printed.
Senator Thomas. Mr. Johnson, would you regard any investigation as impartial that did not reach your conclusions?
Mr. Johnson. Senator, with due respect to the members of the committee, I hardly think that is fair. I come here hoping to find Senators open minded on this subject at the last moment; and here we are making the first statement that has been made of this thing to the Senate.
The Chairman. There is no question but what there have been a great many investigation and that those investigations have covered a great many years time.
Mr. Johnson. I hope my position will be treated with some dignity and sincerity.
Senator Norris. Mr. Johnson, would you rather not be interrupted as you are making your statement, or would you rather wait until you have finished? I have some questions I would like to ask you.
Mr. Johnson. If the Senator will kindly permit me to conclude, I should like very much to make my argument. Then I shall be very glad to answer any inquiries that may be asked of me to the best of my ability.
I do not claim to be an engineer; I do not claim to have a knowledge of gallons of water, and so on. I am simply basing my statement on the evidence that is in. That is the burden of my proof.
Now, let us see: I maintain that we are not under any obligations whatever to take affirmative of the proposition that there are other water supplies, since the Army board has reported that there are other water supplies. It is not our obligation to prove that the Eel River source is a better source. We are not under obligations to prove that the Mokelumne River offers a better source.
Three years ago prominent banking firm of Boston tried to negotiate with the city of San Francisco for that as the best one. It is not for us to say that the Dry River Creek, which was called to the attention of Secretary Fisher by Mr. Francis Burton Harrison, is the alternative one. Those things are clearly made out for us by the Army board's report-
Now, what shall we give up to San Francisco, what price shall we pay for San Francisco's water supply; and then if you are willing to pay that price for San Francisco's water supply, are you willing to pay that price for the cities of Boston, or Chicago, or any other great city's water supply? Is not one city entitled to be considered in this matter as well as another city? Is the fact that San Francisco has gone through a terrible calamity, with which we all sympathize and with our power and ability have all helped to alleviate-
I have been an advocate of conservation for 25 years, ever since I went to the Yosemite National Park. I was converted to that partly by John Muir, with whom I camped out at the upper Tuolumne Meadows, above the Hetch Hetchy, and with whom I went half way dow toward the valley. I did not go all the way to the valley. In all the time of my allegiance to the cause of conservation I have never held, I have never claimed, I have never pretended that these national reservations-
I now come to a fundamental question, and I beg your honest, sincere attention to this: I can not disabuse myself of the impression-
The point I want to make is this: I believe that there is a very great difference between the forest reserves-
I hope some time to present to this committee a little more in detail the proposition in regard to that. Nothing of that kind ever came up at the White House conference.
I therefore claim that there is a great difference between the saving of the forest reserves-
Now, let me tell you why it was that this Yosemite National Park was reserved or put aside. I know why it was put aside. Mr. Muir and I are probably the only men living who were engaged in the project to create this national park. As I have said to you, Mr. Muir fell in with my proposition. Mr. Muir drew on this map the original draft of the national park [indicating]. Since then, for various reasons, areas on the edges of the park have been taken off, so that the present aspect of it is somewhat different than it was at the beginning. You will notice here that it is a matter of straight lines. It is the same way with all other national reservations. You are dealing to-
I must hurry along. First let me read to you what is in entire conformity with what I have always said was the purpose of the Yosemite National Park, by the text of the resolutions from the Committee on Public Lands in 1890. Perhaps I weary you gentlemen with details in regard to this, but these are exactly the grounds on which Mr. Muir and I urged this thing upon Congress. It was not any achievement because there was no obstacle. Nobody appeared against it; and there was no feeling against it. I presented to the committee Mr. Muir's articles regarding this national park, which he had written for the Century Magazine; I presented pictures of it; and they at once responded instinctively to the demand of the higher sentiment in regard to preserving this wonderful national park.
This from the report of the Committee on Public Lands:
Gentlemen, we are engaged in a great experiment in democracy in this country. I have as much confidence in the future as any man possibly can have, and I am trying to consecrate my life, as far as I can, to show that nothing is too good for America.
Now the question is whether we are not, as a matter of fact, the trustees, not of our own country, but the trustees of the world. Not at the present time, but the trustees of the future for this great scenery. I have not come in here to ask you to preserve a little bit of the Mohawk Valley; I have not come in here to ask you to preserve a little bit of the scenery along the Susquehanna River, beautiful as both those places are. I have come here to ask you to save for the people of this country and for their children and for their children's children and to make it accessible to them, this great natural forest, this wonderful Yosemite Valley; to bring in bills to provide roads, to make this thing accessible for the entire future and for the world to come.
I want to call your attention to the fact that not only is this desirable in itself, not only it is a great piece of scenery, as everybody has testified who has been here-
Now we come to the question of whether or not we shall destroy this valley. People seem to think that the valley is two walls. The valley is not the walls; the valley is the whole thing. Frederick Law Olmstead, who was probably the greatest landscape artist the world has ever known, said in a letter, at the time California's care of Yosemite Valley was under consideration, that the great effect, the great beauty of these gorges of the Sierra, consisted in the contrast between the magnificent rugged, bare, superb elevated walls on the one hand and the exquisite sylvan character of the floor of the valley on the other-
People coming from the East, who have never seen trees before-
Now, gentlemen, I come to another point. I want you to understand exactly where this is going to take you. This is a revolution in legislation. This is the first time, so far as I know, that the Congress of the United States has turned its back and gone in the other direction from conservation. I am proud to say that I was happily associated with the first step, when it turned its face in the right direction. For years we went on here with the public-
But in 1889 we turned in our tracks, and under the administration of Mr. Harrison and under the leadership of that pioneer of conservation in this country, Gen. J. W. Noble, Secretary of the Interior, when Mr. Pinchot was still in Yale College, by the way, we began a series of reservations here which are to-
I want to call your attention to one more point and I am done. I want to call your attention to the fact, and I believe that I am quite within bounds; I desire to speak moderately on this question. I do not wish my indignation to be moderate, and I hope you will not mistake my indignation and my sincerity and my sorrow at what has been presented to us. I hope you will not mistake me in any way. I have nothing else here other than the strength of my convictions.
I want to say to you-
Now, gentlemen, one other thing: There is something deeper in this matter than the question of whether you are going to destroy the great valley; whether you are going to turn in your tracks in this matter of conservation; whether you are going to expose all the national parks to invasion on similar pretexts, and, as I say, that is the fundamental question.
This is a crisis.
It is a fundamental question in the minds of the people whether they can trust the Congress of the United States and the Senate of the United States when a matter of commercialism comes into contact with the higher interests of the people. If you go out into the street and ask the first man whom you meet, he will tell you what I do not believe, for I have been before Congress many times, never for my own personal interests, but for causes like international copyrights, free art, and forest conservation-
I am not here to accuse the representatives of San Francisco of having used money wrongfully in this thing. Money is not used wrongfully, but I tell you the things which are behind this bill are apparent, and the people are going to consider whether or not this is another instance in which the interests of the people, of which the Congress of the United States is the guardian, are to be sacrificed to make up this grant to a great city. Are you going to sustain the confidence of the people in security, in the rightfulness of the law, and in the impartial administration of the law? Are the fundamental principles of freedom going to be protected? As Emerson says: "What avail, or plough, or sale, or land, or life if freedom fail."
Senator Norris. Mr. Johnson, I want to ask you a few questions. Just at the close of your remarks you made the statement that this bill was anticonservation.
Mr. Johnson. Not at all.
Senator Norris. What is the project of the argument that you have been making? I realize that men may disagree as to even the meaning of conservation, but I had always supposed that the utilization, for instance, of water power was one of the fundamental principles of conservation. Why are not the people who are in favor of the building of this dam and the use of this water power and the use of the water itself entitled just as much to the designation of conservationists as those who are opposed to that and who desire to keep the park undisturbed?
Mr. Johnson. I will tell you, sir. You must go back to the object for which the park was made; the purpose for which it was created. I read you the report of the Committee on Public Lands in regard to that, and I say to you, gentlemen, that there should be a distinction drawn between the forest reserve and the national park. The forest reserves were made for the purpose-
Senator Norris. I am not talking about the forests reserves. I am talking about this particular bill. While I concede there is a chance for argument, perhaps, on both sides of it, I am trying to get your idea as to what conservation is.
Mr. Johnson. Conservation is maintaining the natural resources of the Government for the use of the people; for the highest use that each one may properly have. I do not think that the highest use of Niagara would be the running of electric works.
Senator Norris. Possibly so; but the question is not involved here to-
Mr. Johnson. The Almighty put it here to be looked at.
Senator Norris. There is not a reclamation project in the country, Mr. Johnson, which has ever been undertaken by the Government but what it destroys some of the beauties of nature somewhere.
Mr. Johnson. The point I make, Senator, is not that we shall not do it; but that we should consider the character that the reservation was made for.