Letter from Carson City

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/December 5, 1862

EDITOR ENTERPRISE: If your readers are not aware of the fact, I take pleasure in informing them that the [Nevada] Supreme Court will meet in Carson City on the 13th of the present month; and in connection with this intelligence I present the following item, giving it in the language in which I received it for fear of mistakes—for its terms are darkly, mysteriously legal, and I have not the most distant conception of what they mean, or what they are intended to have reference to—thus: “Wm. Alford vs. Nathaniel Dewing et als.—Ordered filed, denying rehearing.”

There it is, and I wash my hands of the matter. I don’t know Alford, and I don’t know Dewing, and I don’t know Et Als—and I never heard of either, or any of these gentlemen until this very day, when the Clerk of the Supreme Court brought me this written nightmare, which has been distressing me up to the present moment.

If it is a charge, I do not make it; if it is an insinuation, I do not endorse it; if its expression less exterior conceals a slur, I do not father it. I simply publish the document as I received it, and take no responsibility upon myself for the consequences. I do not wish these gentlemen any harm; I would not willingly and knowingly do them the slightest possible wrong—yet, if they ought to be filed—mind, I say if they ought to be filed—if it is entirely right and proper that they should be filed—if, in the opinion of the people of this commonwealth, it is deemed necessary to file them—then, I say, let them be filed and be d——[here the manuscript was illegible.—ED.]

Now you have the document and the facts in the case; and if there be a fault in the matter it is the Clerk’s, and I know what that Chinaman did it for. If you have forgotten the circumstance, I said in a letter that he had been cast for a Chinaman in the recent tableaux here.

The Roads and Highways bill was considered in Committee of the Whole in the House yesterday. A clause in it provides for a tax of $4 on each voter, or a day’s work on the roads in lieu thereof. Storey was relieved from the payment of this tax, which was entirely proper, since there is not a free road in the whole county.

These grave and reverend legislators relax a little occasionally, and indulge in chaste and refined jollity to a small extent. Col. Williams is engineering a certain toll road franchise through the House, and the other night he was laying before the Committee on Internal Improvements some facts in the case, pending which he had occasion to illustrate his theme with pencil and paper, and the result was a map, which, in view of its grandeur of conception, elegance of design and masterly execution, I feel justified in styling miraculous. Mr. Lovejoy, Chairman of the Committee, captured it, incorporated it into his report, and presented it before the House yesterday, thus: REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS

Map of Col. Williams’ road “from a certain point to another place,” as drawn by himself, and which was conclusive evidence to your Committee.

Your committee would ask that it be referred to Col. Howard of the Storey county delegation.

[Signed] LOVEJOY, Chairman


It was so referred by the Speaker.

Col. Howard will report to-day. I have procured a copy of the forthcoming document, and transmit it herewith.


Your committee, consisting of a solitary but very competent individual, to whom was referred Col. Williams’ road from a certain point to another place, would beg most respectfully to report:

Your committee has had under consideration said map.

The word map is derived from the Spanish word “mapa,” or the Portuguese word “mappa.” Says the learned lexicographer Webster, “in geography a map is a representation of the surface of the earth, or any part of it, drawn on paper or other material, exhibiting the lines of latitude and longitude, and the positions of countries, kingdoms, states, mountains, rivers, etc.”

Your committee, with due respect to the projector of the road in question, would designate what is styled in the report a map, an unnatural and diabolical scrawl, devoid of form, regularity or meaning. Your committee has in times past witnessed the wild irregularity of the footprints of birds of prey upon a moist sea shore. Your committee was struck with the strong resemblance of the map under discussion to some one of said footprints.

Your committee, during his juvenile days, has watched a frantic and indiscreet fly emerge from a pot or vase containing molasses; your committee has seen said fly alight upon a scrap of virgin paper, and leave thereon a wild medley of wretched and discordant tracks; your committee was struck with the wonderful resemblance of said fly-tracks to the map now before your committee.

Yet your committee believes that the map in question has some merit as an abstract hieroglyphic.

Your committee, therefore, recommends, the Council concurring, that the aforesaid map be photographed, and that one copy thereof, framed in sage brush, be hung over the Speaker’s chair, and that another copy be donated to the Council, to be suspended over the chair of the President of that body, as a memento of the artistic skill and graphic genius of one of our most distinguished members—a guide to all future Pi-Utes. All of which is respectfully submitted.

HOWARD, Chairman and Sole Committee

A resolution passed the House yesterday, authorizing the Secretary of the Territory to purchase and preserve files of the various papers published in the Territory.

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