Primary Source: Oklahoma (The New York Times - April 19, 1889)

"Oklahoma" - The New York Times (April 19, 1889). Slightly Edited for Classroom Use.

All the advices from the borders of Oklahoma indicate that the procession of emigrants into the Territory when it is opened for settlement next week will partake the character of an invasion. 

There has been nothing in history exactly comparable to the position of this new Territory, neither in the great expansion of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries nor in the expansion of the civilized world that our own century has witnessed. In the former case the first colonies were commonly undertaken either under the express direction of Governments or under corporations deriving their power from their respective Governments and possession ample appliances for maintaining order. They were what our law now opposes as “induced emigrations.” The great expansion of the modern world has been the population of the Western Hemisphere from the Eastern, and especially the immigration to the United States. But this immigration, though spontaneous, has been so steady and continuous, and has been so dispersed when it has reached our shores, that it is only through the study of statistics that we can begin to realize its magnitude. In spite of such episodes in it as the Anarchist insurrections, the wonder is that it should have reached proportions so enormous with so little dislocation of the ordinary life and the normal development of the country. 

The nearest parallel we can find to the opening of Oklahoma is the sudden stimulus given to emigration by the discovery of gold in California and Australia. These discoveries allured restless and adventurous spirits from all settled and civilized countries, and the result was in each case a temporary paralysis or law and destruction of order. Even if the great majority of the emigrants had been sober and decent people they could not possibly have been “law-abiding” people. While they were waiting for law to establish itself the lawless would not have waited. In both cases lynch law was the code of “the better element.” The Vigilance Committee of San Francisco undoubtedly commanded the sympathies even of the decent citizens who stood aloof from it, and the same thing is true of the mining camps both of California and of Australia.

The case of Oklahoma differs from either of these in this respect, that the land now opened to settlement has been withheld from it not by natural but by artificial causes. But for the legal prohibition Oklahoma would now be a settled community. It is surrounded on three sides by settled communities. It is in communication by railway and telegraph with the world outside, and as soon as the legal barriers are thrown down it will be overrun. 

Moreover, for ten years or more it has been an object of interest to the men who are now camped upon its borders. Among them are men who have already decided upon their “claims,” which they mean to hold and occupy without any regard to whether they have or have not the priority of actual application which legally determines the ownership. They have made an organization of their own, and they intend to divide the Territory among themselves without reference to any right but that of the strongest. 

This is a very formidable organization in a Territory where courts are not yet established. Its existence is an open menace to law and order, and to the supremacy of the Government. There is no doubt that the “boomers” are resolute men, and that they mean all they threaten. The duty of the Government to see that they are not allowed to carry out their threats becomes a very serious responsibility, in the face of the preparations they are making for the invasion. There is nothing to oppose them except the unorganized force of the settlers, who mean honestly to take their chances in securing claims, to submit if they are beaten, and to look to the Government to sustain them if they win. 

The Government is represented by a detachment of the army which is under the command of a capable and experienced officer, but which can scarcely be numerous enough to make sure of maintaining order, now that the invasion has reached so much larger proportions than were anticipated a few weeks ago. Gen. Merritt has doubtless made suitable representations to the War Department, and if he has asked for reinforcements these should be furnished to the utmost capacity of the department. The opening of Oklahoma to anarchy would be a national disgrace as well as a national disaster. 

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