I watched the forming of our caravan, and I saw again that canvas which I have mentioned, that picture of the savages who traveled a thousand years before Christ was born. Our picture was the vaster, the more splendid, the more enduring. Here were savages born of gentle folk in part, who never yet had known repulse. They marched with flocks and herds and implements of husbandry. In their faces shone a light not less fierce than that which animated the dwellers of the old Teutonic forests, but a light clearer and more intelligent. Here was the determined spirit of progress, here was the agreed insistence upon an equal opportunity! Ah! it was a great and splendid canvas which might have been painted there on our Plains—the caravans west-bound with the greening grass of spring—that hegira of Americans whose unheard command was but the voice of democracy itself.
We carried with us all the elements of society, as has the Anglo-Saxon ever. Did any man offend against the unwritten creed of fair play, did he shirk duty when that meant danger to the common good, then he was brought before a council of our leaders, men of wisdom and fairness, chosen by the vote of all; and so he was judged and he was punished. At that time there was not west of the Missouri River any one who could administer an oath, who could execute a legal document, or perpetuate any legal testimony; yet with us the law marched pari passu across the land. We had leaders chosen because they were fit to lead, and leaders who felt full sense of responsibility to those who chose them. We had with us great wealth in flocks and herds—five thousand head of cattle went West with our caravan, hundreds of horses; yet each knew his own and asked not that of his neighbor. With us there were women and little children and the gray-haired elders bent with years. Along our road we left graves here and there, for death went with us. In our train also were many births, life coming to renew the cycle. At times, too, there were rejoicings of the newly wed in our train. Our young couples found society awheel valid as that abiding under permanent roof.
At the head of our column, we bore the flag of our Republic. On our flanks were skirmishers, like those guarding the flanks of an army. It was an army—an army of our people. With us marched women. With us marched home. That was the difference between our cavalcade and that slower and more selfish one, made up of men alone, which that same year was faring westward along the upper reaches of the Canadian Plains. That was why we won. It was because women and plows were with us.