Local Column

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/February 25, 1863  

THE UNRELIABLE—This poor miserable outcast crowded himself into the Firemen’s Ball, night before last, and glared upon the happy scene with his evil eye for a few minutes. He had his coat buttoned up to his chin, which is the way he always does when he has no shirt on. As soon as the managers found out he was there, they put him out, of course. They had better have allowed him to stay, though, for he walked straight across the street, with all his vicious soul aroused, and climbed in at the back window of the supper room and gobbled up the last crumb of the repast provided for the guests, before he was discovered. This accounts for the scarcity of provisions at the Firemen’s supper that night. Then he went home and wrote a particular description of our ball costume, with his usual meanness, as if such information could be of any consequence to the public. He never vouchsafed a single compliment to our dress, either, after all the care and taste we had bestowed upon it. We despise that man.

“MANY CITIZENS”—In another column of this paper will be found a card signed by “Many Citizens of Carson,” stating that the County Commissioners of Ormsby county have removed the Sheriff from office and appointed someone else in his stead. They also ask whether the Commissioners really possess the power to remove the Sheriff, or the Governor of the Territory, or the President of the United States, at pleasure.

This is all well enough, except that in the face of our well known ability in the treatment of ponderous questions of unwritten law, these citizens have addressed their inquiries to the chief editor of this paper—a man who knows no more about legal questions than he does about religion—and so saturated with self-conceit is he, that he has even attempted, in his feeble way, to answer the propositions set forth in that note. We ignore his reply entirely, and notwithstanding the disrespect which has been shown us, we shall sink private pique for the good of our fellow men, and proceed to set their minds at rest on this question of power.

We declare that the County Commissioners do possess the power to remove the officers mentioned in that note, at pleasure. The Organic Act says so in so many words. We invite special attention to the fist clause of section 2 of that document, where this language is used, if we recollect rightly: “The executive power and authority in and over said Territory of Nevada shall be vested in a Governor and other officers, who shall hold their offices for four years, and until their successors shall be appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the County Commissioners.”

That is explicit enough, we take it. “Other officers” means any or all other officers, of course, else such dignitaries as it was intended to refer to would have been specifically mentioned; consequently, the President of the United States, and the Governor and Sheriff being “officers,” come within the provisions of the law, and may be shoved out of the way by the Commissioners as quietly as they would abate a nuisance. We might enlarge upon this subject until Solomon himself couldn’t understand it—but we have settled the question, and we despise to go on scattering pearls before swine who have not asked us for them. In thus proving by the Organic Act, and beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the County Commissioners are invested with power to remove the Sheriff or the Governor or the President, whenever they see fit to do so, we have been actuated solely by a love of the godlike principles of right and justice, and a desire to show the public what an unmitigated ass the chief editor of this paper is.

Having succeeded to our entire satisfaction, we transfer our pen to matters of local interest, although we could prove, if we wanted to, that the County Commissioners not only possess the power to depose the officers above referred to but to hang them also, if they feel like it. When people want a legal opinion in detail, they must address their communications to us, individually, and not to irresponsible smatterers, like the chief editor.

THE FIREMEN’S BALL—About seventy couples assembled at Topliffe’s Theatre night before last, upon the occasion of the annual ball of Virginia Engine Company No. 1. The hall was ablaze, from one end to the other, with flags, mirrors, pictures, etc.; and when the crowd of dancers had got into violent motion, and thoroughly fuddled with plain quadrilles, the looking-glasses multiplied them into a distracted and countless throng. Verily, the effect was charming to the last degree.

The decoration of the theatre occupied several days, and was done under the management of a committee composed of Messrs. Brokaw, Robinson, Champney, Claresy, Garvey and Sands, and they certainly acquitted themselves with marked ability. The floor was covered with heavy canvass, and we rather liked the arrangement—but the wind got under it and made it fill and sag like a circus tent, insomuch that it impeded the Varsovienne practice, and caused the ladies to complain occasionally.

Benham’s “People’s Band” made excellent music; however, they always do that. We have not one particle of fault to find with the ball; the managers kept perfect order and decorum, and did everything in their power to make it pass pleasantly to all the guests. They succeeded.

But of all the failures we have been called upon to chronicle, the supper was the grandest. It was bitterly denounced by nearly everybody who sat down to it—officers, firemen, men, women and children. Now, the supposition is, that somebody will come out in a card and deny this, and attribute base motives to us: but we are not to be caught asleep, or even napping, this time—we have got all our proofs at hand, and shall explode at anybody who tries to show that we cannot tell the truth without being actuated by unworthy motives.

Chief Engineer Peasley and officer Birdsall said that the supper contract was for a table supplied with everything the market could afford, and in such profusion that the last who came might fare as well as the first (the contractor to receive a stipulated sum for each supper furnished)—and they also say that no part or portion of that contract was entirely fulfilled. The entertainment broke up about four o’clock in the morning, and the guests returned to their homes well satisfied with the ball itself, but not with the supper.

SMALL POX—From Carson we learn, officially, that Dr. Munckton has been sent down to Pine Nut Springs to look after some cases of smallpox, reported as existing among the Washoe Indians there. It is said that three men and a mahala are afflicted with it; the doctor intends vaccinating their attendants and warning the other Indians to keep away. Capt. Jo says one of the Indians caught the disease from a shirt given him by a white man. We do not believe any man would do such a thing as that maliciously, but at the same time, any man is censurable who is so careless as to leave infected clothing lying about where these poor devils can get hold of it. The commonest prudence ought to suggest the destruction of such dangerous articles.

SCHOOL-HOUSE—An addition is being built to the public school house, and will be completed and put in order for occupation as soon as possible. Mr. Mellvile’s school has increased to such an extent that the old premises were found insufficient to accommodate all the pupils. As soon as the new building is completed, the school will be divided into three departments—advanced, intermediate and infant—and one of these will occupy it.

TRIAL TODAY.—Sam Ingalls, who attempted the life of Pease the other day with a bowie knife, will be up before Judge Atwill today on a charge of drawing a deadly weapon. A case of this kind should never be allowed to pass without a severe rebuke, and if the evidence finds the prisoner guilty, he will probably catch it today; if it does not, why, no one wants him rebuked, of course.

DISTRICT COURT—The testimony for both sides in the case of the Burning Moscow vs. Madison Company was completed yesterday, and the lawyers will begin to throw hot shot at each other this morning—which is our military way of saying that the arguments of counsel herein will be commenced today. A great deal of interest is manifested in this suit, and the lobbies will be crowded during its trial.

SUICIDE—We learn by a note received last night per Langton’s Express, that a German named John Meyer, a wood dealer in Downieville, committed suicide there on the night of the 19th inst., by blowing his brains out with a pistol. The cause is supposed to have been insanity.

TELEGRAPHIC.—A message for S. S. Harman remains uncalled for at the Telegraph office.

The works of Mark Twain and other American journalists are now freely available at The Archive of American Journalism. Visit our bookstore for single-volume collections–-ideal for research, reference use or casual reading.