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Articles by D. W. Ross

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Irrigation Age, Volume 08, Number 3, March 1895, Page 104 - 105

A Triumph In Idaho - While the National Committee has been pushing the agitation in the East. by means of pamphlets, newspaper articles and public meetings, its members have also been alert and aggressive in the West. It looks now as if 1895 would be a very great year for the cause of irrigation, on both sides of the continent. The favorable action of the Wyoming Legislature was noted in these pages last month. We deeply regret to be obliged to record the failure of the effort to utilize the Carey Law in Oregon. No blame attaches to Chairman Brigham and his associates of the State Commission. They fought hard and well, and were unexpectedly defeated at the last moment. In Idaho a triumph of the most marked kind was achieved in the face of the hardest conditions. Idaho, like most of our Western States, has been strangely indifferent in the matter of irrigation legislation. Her opportunities in connection with the Carey Law are extraordinary and the friends of the cause early determined to make the strongest possible effort to obtain wise supplementary legislation. But they encountered disappointment at the start. To their very great astonishment, the Governor made no mention of the matter in his inaugural address. Then the member of the National Committee elected at Denver advised the chairman that he could not organize a State Commission, that he could not give the matter the attention it required, and that opposition and indifference were such that no results this year could be expected. He tendered his resignation, which was accepted, and Douglas W. Ross, of Payette, appointed in his place. It was very late in the day to attempt to organize the forces for victory when Mr. Ross was named. There was no money available for railroad fares, hotel bills, telegraph or postage. But the new member repaired to Boise and entered with rare courage into the unequal fight. He not only fought for a law, but for a good law. He scornfully rejected offers of help on the basis of legislation which should sacrifice the great principle of public ownership of works when their cost has been returned by full payment for water rights. The battle lasted up to the hour when the Legislature adjourned. But victory came after all, and the chairman of the National Committee was inexpressibly cheered by the receipt, while in conference with the leading citizens of Boston, of the following telegram:

"Boise, Idaho, March 9."
" Idaho offers one million aces for colonization. Satisfactory bill signed by the Governor."
(Signed.) "Douglas W. Ross,"
"Member for Idaho."

Ten years hence the people of Idaho will realize, as they cannot do to-day, the debt of gratitude they owe Mr. Ross for his gallant fight. Idaho is, of course, indebted to many others, chief among whom are Governor McConnell and leading members of the Legislature, but Mr. Ross was the official representative of the organized irrigation sentiment, and upon him devolved the responsibility of obtaining legislation at this critical an opportune time. He has splendidly vindicated the faith of his friends.

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Irrigation Age, Volume 10, Number 3, September 1896, Page 99 - 100, Chicago, Illinois

NO one more fully appreciates the attitude of The Irrigation Age toward the great question of reclamation of the arid lands of the West than I do. The Age, ever since its birth, has advocated a national policy broad enough to include plans for the reclamation of our arid plains as well as the uplifting of humanity at large. The policy advocated has been too broad, too generous, and therefore impracticable. This work, I believe, is too great for our civilization; our institutions are too corrupt. At present they will not aid us to take up this work in the most local manner.

There seems to be an invisible but all-powerful force at work whose sole purpose is to defeat any and every measure which has for its object the "greatest good for the greatest number." "Private enterprise " must not be discouraged, even if it is busy in the work of overthrowing our republic.

At times during the past five years our unemployed have numbered millions. The misery of the poor in our cities surpasses that of Europe's most degraded. A Medici could not have been more corrupt than the heads of some of our own city governments. We are taxed to build battle ships at a time when the whole world never had better reasons for maintaining peace, and the price paid for one such battle ship would, if expended in watering lands of the West, provide homes for a hundred thousand people. When Congress, like the press, is the mouthpiece of corporations and trusts; when the people are taught that "paternalism," or the public ownership or control of monopolies, threatens the liberty of the nation, and that private ownership of the planet itself is preferable; when we, with all our boasted facilities for the expression of the will of the people, are a quarter of a century behind civilized Europe in modern reform, we have but little reason to expect the federal government to aid in any work which might carry with it a blessing to humanity.

Let us turn from the impossible chances of federal aid to opportunities of taking a step forward through state influence. The people of this state (Idaho) are preparing for a contest to be settled in November. For what purpose? For the inauguration of some prearranged state policy of development? for the strengthening and building up of state institutions? We have not had a state policy outlined for years. This contest is being entered into simply for office. The old parties are now torn into factions, and men, through their partisan zeal, have lost sight of the state with its future. This occurs periodically, and the meetings of our legislatures are remembered as marking the disgusting contests for public office. The event of a session is the election of a United States Senator; all other acts are subordinated to this great undertaking, for which preparation is begun at the people's primaries, and work prosecuted to the detriment of all needed legislation through the "trades," "compromises" and "combinations" made by members, until worn out or bought out, a small faction gives in, and the greatest of all the gifts of the people, next to tho presidency, is won by a man who had the ability to "get there," and the legislature adjourns. We have reached a condition where a good, clean, honest government would be an innovation.

Those who will think, believe we are now feeling the first pulsations of a great national upheaval. We know that all appeals for national aid in the work of reclaiming arid lands fall upon deaf ears. Our state legislature cannot be induced to pass a sensible resolution on the subject, so absorbed are they in the welfare of men ambitious for national honors. I feel safe in predicting that for the present nothing will be done by either state or nation in this matter. Let us wait until our present pressing troubles have been overcome, until the great period of reconstruction is upon us, then we may inaugurate a policy of development as broad and generous to the masses as that pursued by the Incas of Peru. We are barbarians!

Just now we have thousands of acres already watered crying for occupants, we have, as have other states, plenty of broken down irrigation companies, and under the present disorganized condition of public affairs I neither hope nor care to see the prosecution of new enterprises until the ones already perfected are upon a paying basis, and under every canal a contented and prosperous community.

The Irrigation Congress of the future, in order that it may be a potent factor in the work of reclamation of arid lands, must direct itself to state issues, for through the example and influence of the "arid states" will follow all national aid and blessings.

Why should we ask Congress to do more than we are doing? We, who have been on the ground for years and appreciate the importance of the work and the great blessings which would be sure to follow the development proposed.

We should all pray God that the rotten methods of administration, that the spirit of corruption which seems to pervade the very sanctuary, the place where law is given birth, might have passed away, and that a broad, generous public policy, embracing the best interests of the common people, might be the order of the day before the great rivers of the West are poured out upon the deserts and started upon the work of redeeming more bonds.

Before these great canals are built by the national government our national policy will have undergone a complete change, for the work of building must go hand in hand with the work of relieving suffering humanity. These canals must belong to the people who use them, and under them millions will find homes, and the work, when completed, will stand as the greatest monument to an enlightened nation.

An enduring monument must have a broad base and a firm foundation. We must therefore first clear away the prejudices of the times due to past errors, dig through the rottenness of today down to the first principles of sound government, and upon this foundation, and this alone, erect a structure from whose highest pinnacle prosperity shall proclaim peace and happiness to all who labor in the sunny "arid West."

D. W. Ross.
Payette, Idaho, August; 1890.

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