CHANGE THE NAME OF ARKANSAS? HELL, NO!

A legendary piece of American folklore, recounted in the book "Folklore of Romantic Arkansas" (Allsopp, 1931), relates the story of a proposal to change the name of the state of Arkansas by legislative enactment during the latter 1800’s. It is said that this question was actually introduced at a session of the Legislature, and that a member delivered a fiery speech on the subject to the assembly. "Change the name of Arkansas? Hell, No!" he is supposed to have declared. Apparently, however, investigations of state archives have failed to find any official record of such a deliverance, though it is frequently referred to at banquets and other convivial occasions where it is usually recited in wickedly lurid terms. Botkin (1944) provides two reprinted versions of the supposed famous oratory which are combined below to let the reader know how we feel about Arkansas!

Gentlemen, you may tear down the honored pictures from the halls of the United States Senate, desecrate the grave of George Washington, haul down the Stars and Stripes, curse the Goddess of Liberty, and knock down the tomb of U.S. Grant, but your crime would in no wise compare in enormity with what you propose to do when you would change the name of Arkansas! Change the name of Arkansas? Hell-fire, NO! Compare the lily of the valley to the gorgeous sunrise; the discordant croak of the bullfrog to the melodious tones of a nightingale; the classic strains of Mozart to the bray of a Mexican mule; the puny arm of a Peruvian prince to the muscles of a Roman gladiator - but never will you change the name of Arkansas! Hell, NO!

Hear me, gentlemen - The man who would CHANGE THE NAME OF ARKANSAS is the original iron-jawed, brass-mounted, copper-bellied corpse-maker from the wilds of the Ozarks! Sired by a hurricane, dammed by an earthquake, half-brother to the cholera, nearly related to the small-pox on his mother’s side, he is the man they call Sudden Death and General Desolation! He takes nineteen alligators and a barrel of whiskey for breakfast, when he is in robust health; and a bushel of rattlesnakes and a dead body when he is ailing. He splits the everlasting rocks with his glance, and quenches the thunder when he speaks!

Change the name of Arkansas? Hell, NO! Stand back and give him room according to his strength. Blood’s his natural drink! And the wails of the dying music to his ears! Cast your eyes on the gentleman, and lay low and hold your breath, for he’s ‘bout to turn himself loose! He’s the bloodiest son of a wild-cat that lives, who would change the name of Arkansas! Hold him down to earth, for he is a child of sin! Don’t attempt to look at him with your naked eye, gentlemen; use smoked glass. The man who would change the name of Arkansas, by gosh, would use the meridians of longitude and the parallels of latitude for a seine, and drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales! He would scratch himself awake with the lightning, and purr himself to sleep with the thunder! When he’s cold, he would "bile" the Gulf of Mexico and bathe in it! When he’s hot, he would fan himself with an equinoctial storm! When he’s thirsty, he would reach up and suck a cloud dry like a sponge! When he’s hungry, famine follows in his wake! You may put your hand on the sun’s face, and make it night on earth; bite a piece out of the moon, and hurry the seasons; shake yourself and rumble the mountains; but, sir, you will never change the name of Arkansas! Hell, NO!

The man who would change the name of Arkansas, would massacre isolated communities as a pastime. He would destroy nationalities as a serious business! He would use the boundless vastness of the Great American Desert for his private grave-yard! He would attempt to extract sunshine from cucumbers! Hide the stars in a nail-keg, put the sky to soak in a gourd, hang the Arkansas River from a clothesline; unbuckle the belly-band of Time, and turn the sun and moon out to pasture; but you will never change the name of Arkansas! The world will again pause and wonder at the audacity of the lop-eared, lantern-jawed, half-breed, half-born, whiskey-soaked hyena who has proposed to change the name of Arkansas!

He’s just starting to climb the political banister, and wants to knock the hay-seed out of his hair, pull the splinters out of his feet, and push on and up to the governorship. But change the name of Arkansas? HELL, NO!