Remarks to the Arctic Brotherhood in Seattle, Washington

May 23, 1903

Mr. Chairman, and you, men and women of Alaska:

Let me thank you and the members of the Arctic Brotherhood for their greeting. I am happy to say that during the last year or two the National Legislature has begun to realize its responsibilities in reference to Alaska; and that even those of our people who do not live on the Pacific Slope are beginning to understand that in the not distant future Alaska will be not merely a regularly organized Territory, but a great and populous State.

Very few European races have exercised a more profound influence upon Europe, and none has had a more heroic history, than the race occupying the Scandinavian peninsula of the Old World. And Alaska lies in the same latitude as, and can and will in the lifetime of those I am addressing support as great a population as, the Scandinavian pen insula. It is curious how our fate as a nation has often driven us for ward toward greatness in spite of the protests of many of those esteeming themselves in point of training and culture best fitted to shape the nation's destiny. In 1803, when we acquired the territory stretching from the Mississippi to the Pacific, there were plenty of wise men who announced that we were acquiring a mere desert, that it was a violation of the Constitution to acquire it, and that the acquisition was fraught with the seeds of the dissolution of the Republic. And think how absolutely the event has falsified the predictions of those men. So when in the late 60's we by treaty acquired Alaska, this great territory with its infinite possibilities was taken by this republic in spite of the bitter opposition of many men who were patriots according to their lights and who esteemed themselves far-sighted. And but five years ago there were excellent men who bemoaned the fact that we were obliged during the war with Spain to take possession of the Philip pines and to show that we were hereafter to be one of the dominant powers of the Pacific. In every instance how the after events of his tory have falsified the predictions of the men of little faith! There are critics so feeble and so timid that they shrink back when this nation asserts that it comes in the category of the nations who dare to be great, and they want to know, forsooth, the cost of greatness and what it means. We do not know the cost, but we know it will be more than repaid ten times over by the result; and what it may ultimately mean we do not know, but we know what the present holds, what the present need demands, and we take the present and hold ourselves ready to abide the result of whatever the future may bring.

When I speak to you of the Pacific Slope, to you of the new Northwest, whose cities are seated here by the Sound, I speak to people abounding in their youth and their virile manhood, who do not fear to grasp opportunity as the opportunity comes, and who weigh slight risk but lightly in the balance when on the other side of the scale comes the greatness of triumph, the greatness of acquisition. We took Alaska thirty-five years ago, and at last we have begun to wake up to the heritage that thereby we have handed over to our children. I speak to you, citizens of Alaska, people who have dwelt therein, to say how much all our people owe to you. During the last year many wise laws have been put upon the statute book in reference to Alaska; not as many as should have been put, but a good many. I earnestly hope that Congress will speedily provide for a delegate from Alaska, so that the people of the Territory may have some recognized exponent whose duty it shall be to place its needs before the National Legislature.

Meanwhile, with the assistance of the Senators and Representatives in Congress from this section of the country, I shall do all that in me lies to see that the proper kinds of legislation are enacted for the Territory.

The immediate cause of the great development of Alaska is of course to be found in its mines; but most of the people of this country are wholly in error when they think of the mines as. being the sole or even the chief permanent cause of Alaska's future greatness. Alaska has great possibilities of agricultural and pastoral development. Not only her mines, her fisheries, her forests, but her agriculture and her stock-raising will combine to make Alaska one of the great wealth-producing portions of our Republic. I am anxious that our laws should be framed in the interest of those who intend to go there and stay there and bring up their children there and make it in very fact as well as in name an integral part of this Republic. I ask your help and pledge you my help in the effort to secure such legislation. In the case of the mine you get the metal out of the earth, you cannot leave any metal in there to produce other metal; but in the case of the salmon fishery, if you are wise you will insist upon its being carried on under conditions which will make the salmon fishery as valuable in that river thirty years hence as now. Do not take all the salmon out and go away and leave the empty river for your children and children's children; take it out under conditions—the conditions are ready to be created for you by the National Fish Commission, which has been so singularly successful in its work—which will secure the preservation of that river as a salmon river, which will secure the perpetuation of salmon canneries along its banks, so that it will be not an industry carried on only by Orientals in the employ of three or four alien capitalists, but carried on in such a way as to be a perpetual source of income to the actual settlers resident in the locality. Just in the same way I want to have you see that the lumber industry is exploited in a way which, while giving a great return to those engaged in it at the moment, shall also secure the preservation of the forests for the settlers and the settlers' children that are to come in and inherit the land. I wish to see such land laws enacted and to see them so administered as to be in the interest of the actual settler who goes to Alaska to live, who desires there to produce crops, to raise stock, to make a home for himself; subject to that condition I desire to see legislation shaped in the spirit of the broadest liberality that will secure the quickest possible development of the resources of Alaska; and with that aim in view to have all the encouragement possible given to those seeking to establish by steamship line and by railway quick and efficient transportation facilities in the Territory.

Few things have been more typical of our people and have been more full of promise for the future than the way in which the resources have been developed; and when one sees what has been done here during the last few years I think we have cause to feel abundantly justified in our belief that the qualities of the old-time pioneers who first penetrated the woody wilderness between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi, who then steered their way across vast seas of grass from the Mississippi to the Rockies, who penetrated the passes of the great bar ren mountains until they came to this, the greatest of all the oceans, still survive in their grandsons and successors. Nor must we forget in speaking of Alaska the immense importance that the Territory has from the standpoint of the needs of the nation as a whole, as a dominant power in the Pacific. Exactly as with the building of the Isthmian Canal we shall make our Atlantic and our Pacific coasts in effect continuous, so the possession and peopling of the Alaskan sea coast puts us in a position of dominance as regards the Pacific which no other nations share or can share.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks to the Arctic Brotherhood in Seattle, Washington Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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