A WORD WITH OUR FRIENDS
[The Theosophist, Vol. II, No. 4, Supplement to January, 1881, pp. 1-2]
That cause must be weak and desperate indeed, that has to resort to the arts of the slanderer to prop it up and injure its chosen victims. And it is truly lamentable to see people adopting these tactics against the Theosophical Society and its Founders. Soon after we reached India we were obliged to begin legal proceedings against a missionary organ, to compel its Editor to apologize for some base slanders he had indulged in; and the readers of The Theosophist are aware of the conduct of the Christian party in Ceylon, and their utter discomfiture at Panadure. However great our efforts to avoid any conflict with them, some strange fatality seems to be forever urging these good people to adopt questionable measures to hasten their own ultimate ruin. Our Society has been their favourite mark. The most recent shot was fired at Benares by a well-known convert to the Christian faith, who, unable to lay hold upon anything disreputable in our Indian career, did his best to injure us in a certain important direction by sneeringly suggesting to a very high personage that Colonel Olcott was a man of no position in his own country, and had doubtless come to India as an adventurer, to make money out of the people. Happily his venom was poured into unsympathetic ears. Yet, as he is a man of a certain influence, and others of our friends have also been similarly approached by him and other enemies of ours, such calumnies as these cannot be well overlooked. We are quite aware that a document of such a nature as the present, if launched on the public without a word of explanation, would give rise to criticism, and perhaps be thought in bad taste, unless very serious and important reasons can be shown for its
appearance. Such reasons unquestionably exist, even were no account to be taken of the malicious plot of our Benares opponent. When, in addition to this, we reflect that ever since we landed in this country, impelled by motives, sincere and honest—though, perhaps, as we now find it ourselves, too enthusiastic, too unusual in foreigners to be readily believed in by natives without some more substantial proof than our simple word—we have been surrounded by more enemies and opponents than by friends and sympathizers; and that we are two strangers to rulers as well as the ruled—we believe that no available proof should be withheld that will show that, at least, we are honest and peaceful people, if not actually that which we know ourselves to be—most sincere friends of India and her sons. Our personal honour, as well as the honour of the whole Society is at stake at the present moment. “Tell me what your friends were and I will tell you what you are,” is a wise saying. A man at Colonel Olcott’s time of life is not likely to so change in character as to abandon his country where he has such an honourable past and where his income was so large as it was, to come to India and turn “adventurer.” Therefore, we have concluded, with Colonel Olcott’s permission, to circulate the following documents. They are but a few out of many now lying before us, that show his honourable, efficient and faithful career, both as a member of the Bar, a private gentleman, and a public official, from the year 1853 down to the very moment of his departure from the United States for India. As Colonel Olcott is not a man to sound his own praises, the writer, his colleague, may state that his name has been widely known in America for nearly thirty years as a promoter of various public reforms. It was he who founded (in 1856) the first scientific agricultural school there upon the Swiss model; it was he again who aided in introducing a new crop now universally cultivated; addressed three state legislatures upon the subject by invitation; wrote three works upon agriculture, of which one passed through seven editions, and was introduced into the school libraries; was offered by Government a botanical mission to Caffraria, and, later, the Chief
Commissionership of Agriculture; and was offered by M. Evangelides, of Greece, the Professorship of Agriculture in the University of Athens. He was at one time Agricultural Editor of Horace Greeley’s great journal, The Tribune, and also American Correspondent of The Mark Lane Express. For his public services in connection with agricultural reform he was voted two Medals of Honour by the National (U.S.) Agricultural Society, and a silver goblet by the American Institute.
The breaking out of the fearful civil war in America called every man to serve his country. Colonel Olcott after passing through four battles and one siege (the capture of Fort Macon), and after recovering from a severe illness contracted in the field, was offered by the late Secretary of War the highly honorable and responsible appointment of Special Commissioner of the War Department; and two years later, was, at the request of the late Secretary of the Navy, ordered on special duty in connection with that branch of the service, additional to his regular duties in the War Department. His services were most conspicuous, as his papers—which include a complimentary report to the U.S. Senate, by the Secretary of the Navy—prove, and as the reader of the following documents will easily infer.
At the close of the war the national army of one million men was quietly disbanded, and was re-absorbed back into the nation as though nothing had happened. Colonel Olcott resumed his profession, and was shortly invited to take the secretaryship and practical direction of the National Insurance Convention—a conference or league of the officials of the various State governments for the purpose of codifying and simplifying the laws affecting insurance companies. Accepting, he was thus for two years or more in the closest contact with, and the trusted adviser of, some of the leading State public functionaries of the Union; and a statute drafted by him, in connection with another well-known legal gentleman (Mr. Abbott), was passed by ten state legislatures and became law. What his public services were in this connection, and how he was thanked and honoured for them, may readily be seen by consulting the
two large volumes of the Convention’s Transactions, which are in the Library of the Theosophical Society, at Bombay.*
This brings us down to the year 1872. In 1876 he was deputed by His Honour the Mayor of New York City to collect a public subscription in aid of a charitable object. In 1877 he was one of an International Committee chosen by the Italian residents of New York to erect a monument to Mazzini, in Central Park. The same year he was Honorary Secretary of a National Committee—one member of which was the just elected President of the United States, General Garfield—formed to secure a worthy representation of American arts and industries at the Paris Exposition Universelle, of 1878. In the following year he left New York for India, and just before sailing received from the President and the Secretary of State (whose office corresponds with that held by Mr. Gladstone, in England) a diplomatic passport, such as is only issued to the most eminent American citizens, and circular autograph letters recommending him to the particular favour of all U.S. Ministers and Consuls, as a gentleman who had been requested to promote in every practicable and proper way the mutual commercial relations of the United States and India. And now if the enemies of the Theosophical Society can produce an “adventurer” with such a record and such testimonials of integrity and capacity, by all means let them name their man.†
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
* [These two volumes are now in the Adyar Library. They contain the Official Report of the Proceedings of the National Insurance Convention held at New York, May 24 to June 2, and Oct. 18 to 30, 1871. They were compiled by Col. H. S. Olcott who was Secretary to the Convention, and contain Prefaces from his pen. On page 124 of Volume I, the Colonel has penciled the words: “They gave me $5,000.”—Compiler.]
† [Pertinent information concerning Col. Henry S. Olcott may be found in the Olcott Centenary Number of The Theosophist, Vol. LIII, No. 11, August, 1932, and in a small but very worthwhile pamphlet by Kewal Motwani, entitled Colonel H. S. Olcott. A Forgotten Page of American History. Madras, India: Ganesh & Co., 1955. 16 pp.— Compiler.]