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Friends in High Places: A Pro-Labor Governor Speaks Out

Davis Waite, the Populist and pro-labor governor of Colorado, won national notoriety in the summer of 1893 after he declared that if change would not come peacefully, it was “better, infinitely better that blood should flow to the horses’ bridles than our national liberties should be destroyed.” A Republican-controlled lower house blocked many of Waite’s initiatives, but he was nonetheless able to use his administrative powers to support workers. In the Cripple Creek strike of 1894, he brought in state troops on behalf of the striking miners—a rare use of state police power in an era when troops were routinely employed to break strikes. When opponents charged Waite’s administration with partisanship, he replied defiantly: “Well, what if it is? Is it not the truth that for thirty years the two old parties have been legislating for the creditor class? It is true, and turn about is fair play.” This same spirit was evident in his 1893Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.

Whereas, the President of the United States has designated Thursday, the 30th of the present month, as a day of thanksgiving and praise, I, Davis H. Waite, Governor of Colorado, do hereby appoint the same day as a day of thanksgiving for this State, and recommend to the good people thereof that they assemble on that day and render unto Almighty God praise and prayer for His blessings. No war, famine or pestilence has vexed the land during the past year, and the earth has yielded bountifully of her increase. But in this thanksgiving I invoke the people of Colorado to remember especially their “brethren in bonds”—the forty-five thousand miners of silver, who in a land of boundless natural resources, have been deprived of employment by tyranny and by corrupt and unconstitutional legislation, and, in many cases, have been compelled to abandon their homes;—the agriculturists of our State, whose crops cannot be marketed for the cost of production, and who find, as their products decrease in price, the value of the notes and mortgages which represent their indebtedness correspondingly increase; and the real estate owners and business men of Colorado, who, under a system of trust deeds and attachment laws, the most infamous since the days of Caligula, find their property, when incumbered, often sacrificed at a tithe of its value, and all this injustice is perpetrated to increase the inordinate riches of extortioners whose avarice and greed, aided by corrupt legislation, have grasped in the hands of thirty thousand people more than half of all the wealth in the United States, and is fast reducing to pauperism the common people of the world.

I implore the citizens of Colorado, on this day of prayer and praise, most fervently to petition Almighty God that He will arouse the public sentiment to a sense of the dangers which threaten not only our State and Nation, but civilization itself; and that in His mercy He will so order it, that “this government of the people, by the people, and for the people, may not perish from the earth.”

Done at the Capitol, Denver, Colorado, Nov. 8, 1893.


Governor of Colorado


( SEAL )


Secy. of State

Source: Joseph Columbus Manning, Fadeout of Populism: Presenting, in Connection, the Political Combat Between the Pot and the Kettle (New York: T.A. Hebbons, 1928), 134–135. Reprinted in George Brown Tindall, ed., A Populist Reader: Selections from the Works of American Populist Leaders (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 169–170.