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"Frontier Justice in Dakota" - Visual Evidence - Documents

Document 1. The Marquis’ letter to Roosevelt

Another of the many myths that surround the Marquis is his relationship to Roosevelt and the supposed challenge to a duel. At the time of the murder trial several men who were testifying against the Marquis had obtained money from Joe Ferris who served as a banker for some of the local cowboys. Because Ferris was regarded to be an employee of Roosevelt, it appeared to the Marquis that Roosevelt must be behind the opposition to him. At this time several newspapers published accounts of an alleged quarrel between Roosevelt and De Mores. One paper stated that the main reason for their antagonism was that they were like "two very big toads in a very small puddle." While the Marquis was in jail in connection with this second trial (he was again acquitted), and under a serious mental strain, he wrote the following letter to Roosevelt, which has been interpreted by some as a challenge to a duel:

Bismarck, Dak., Sept 3 1885

My dear Roosevelt
My principle is to take the bull by the horns. Joe Ferris is very active against me and has been instrumental in getting me indicted by furnishing money to witnesses and hunting them up. The papers also publish very stupid accounts of our quarelling — I sent you the paper to N. Y. Is this done by your orders. I thought you my friend. If you are my enemy I want to know it. I am always on hand as you know, and between gentlemen it is easy to settle matters of that sort directly.

Yours very truly,
I hear the people want to organize the county. I am opposed to it for one year more at least.

Document 2. Roosevelt’s Reply

An undated draft of Roosevelt's reply follows:

Most emphatically I am not your enemy; if I were you would know it, for I would be an open one, and would not have asked you to my house nor gone to yours. As your final words however seem to imply a threat it is due to myself to say that the statement is not made through any fear of possible consequences to me; I too, as you know, am always on hand, and ever ready to hold myself accountable in any way for anything I have said or done.

Yours very truly,
Theodore Roosevelt.

Questions for Documents 1 & 2

  1. Why did Roosevelt assume from the information in the Marquis letter that he was being challenged to a duel?
  1. Does the comment “two very big toads in a very small puddle” describe why they may have reacted as they did?

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