Charles Erskine Scott Wood

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Charles Erskine Scott Wood
Charles Erskine Scott Wood 1910.jpg
Wood c. 1910
Born(1852-02-20)February 20, 1852
DiedJanuary 22, 1944(1944-01-22) (aged 91)
Other namesC.E.S. Wood
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUnited States Military Academy
OccupationAuthor, attorney, soldier, lawyer, satirist
Known forHeavenly Discourse
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Nanny Moale Smith, Sara Bard Field
ChildrenNan Wood Honeyman, Erskine Wood I

Charles Erskine Scott Wood or C.E.S. Wood (February 20, 1852 – January 22, 1944) was an American author, civil liberties advocate, artist, soldier, attorney, and Georgist.[1] He is best known as the author of the 1927 satirical bestseller, Heavenly Discourse.

Early life[edit]

Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, Wood graduated from West Point in 1874.[2] He served as a lieutenant with the 21st Infantry Regiment and fought in the Nez Perce War in 1877. He was present at the surrender of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. It was Wood who transcribed, and perhaps embellished, Chief Joseph's famous speech, which ended with: "My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."[3] The two men became close friends.

He raised his family in Portland at a house on King's Hill near the northeast corner of today's Vista Bridge. The site is now occupied by the Portland Garden Club in the Goose Hollow neighborhood. John Reed grew up a few blocks away and was greatly influenced by Wood.[4]

Oregon politics[edit]

Following his service he became a prominent attorney in Portland, Oregon, where he often defended labor unions and "radicals" including birth control activist Margaret Sanger.[5] He began to write, became a frequent contributor to The Pacific Monthly magazine, and was a leader of Portland's literary community.

In 1896, Wood was Oregon's sole representative on the national committee of the National Democratic Party, known as the Gold Democrats. The party, which had the blessing of Grover Cleveland, championed defense of the gold standard and free trade.

Like many Cleveland Democrats, including his long-time friend Mark Twain, Wood joined the American Anti-Imperialist League. The League called for the United States to grant immediate independence to the Philippines and other territories conquered in the Spanish–American War.


As a lawyer during the early twentieth century, Wood represented dissidents such as Emma Goldman.[3] He has been described as an anarchist.[6] He wrote articles for radical journals such as Liberty, The Masses, and Mother Earth.[3]

Wood was unflagging in his opposition to state power. He advocated such causes as civil liberties for anti-war protesters, birth control, and anti-imperialism.[3] In 1927, he wrote in Heavenly Discourse that the "city of George Washington is blossoming into quite a nice little seat of empire and centralized bureaucracy. The people have a passion to 'let Uncle Sam do it.' The federal courts are police courts. An entire system with an army of officials has risen on the income tax; another on prohibition. The freedom of the common man, more vital to progress than income or alcohol, has vanished."[7]


Wood not only advocated for the Native Americans, but he painted them. His love of painting generated numerous studies of landscapes and points of interest along the Oregon and California coastline. He also memorialized some of his favorite places in watercolor including Keats' grave and vistas from his home in Los Gatos, California. His primary medium was watercolor/graphite. The Huntington Library has a good sampling of his artwork online.[8]

Later years[edit]

Entry to "The Cats"

From 1925 until his death in 1944 Wood lived with his second wife, Sara Bard Field, in Los Gatos in a house named "The Cats."

His friends included Chief Joseph, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs,[9] Ansel Adams, Robinson Jeffers, Clarence Darrow, Childe Hassam, Margaret Sanger and John Steinbeck.

At the time of his death Wood was West Point's oldest living graduate.[9] He was the father of Nan Wood Honeyman, Oregon's first U. S. congresswoman.


Wood was portrayed by Sam Elliott in the TV movie I Will Fight No More Forever. In the film, he is a United States captain who fights in the Nez Perce War.


Books by C.E.S. Wood[edit]

  • Heavenly Discourse (Reprint: Kessinger Publishing, 2005) ISBN 1-4179-1765-2
  • A Masque of Love (W.M. Hill, 1904) ASIN B00086BIH0
  • Too Much Government (Vanguard Press, 1931) ASIN B00085T49U
  • Heavenly Discourse (Vanguard Press, 1927) ASIN B00085SZEK
  • The Poet in the Desert ASIN B00085YKLW
  • A Book of Indian Tales (Vanguard Press, 1929)
  • Earthly Discourse (Vanguard Press, 1937) ASIN B00085SZEK

Articles by C.E.S. Wood[edit]


  1. ^ Starr, Kevin (1997). The dream endures : California enters the 1940s. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195157974.
  2. ^ Smith, Sherry Lynn (2002). Reimagining Indians: Native Americans Through Anglo Eyes, 1880–1940, p. 22. Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ a b c d Beito, David T., & Beito, Linda Royster (2000). "Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896–1900". The Independent Review (IV), 555–575.
  4. ^ Prince, Tracy J. (2011). Portland's Goose Hollow. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 120–122. ISBN 978-0-7385-7472-1.
  5. ^ MacColl, E. Kimbark (1979). The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915–1950. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press. ISBN 0-9603408-1-5.
  6. ^ Roberts 2007, p. 11.
  7. ^ Quoted in Beito 2000, p. 570.
  8. ^ "The Huntington Art Collections Online Catlogue: Charles Erskine Wood". The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Gunther, John (1947). Inside U.S.A. New York, London: Harper & Brothers. p. 91.


Books about C.E.S. Wood[edit]

  • George Venn, Soldier to Advocate: C.E.S. Wood's 1877 Legacy (La Grande: Wordcraft of Oregon, LLC, 2006) ISBN 1-877655-48-1
  • Robert Hamburger, Two Rooms: The Life of Charles Erskine Scott Wood (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998) ISBN 0-8032-7315-0
  • Edwin Bingham and Tim Barnes (eds.), Wood Works: The Life and Writings of Charles Erskine Scott Wood (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1997) ISBN 0-87071-397-3
  • Edwin R. Bingham, et al., (eds.), Charles Erskine Scott Wood (Boise, Idaho: Boise State University, 1990) available online via Western Writers Series Digital Editions ISBN 0-88430-093-5
  • Erskine Wood, Life of Charles Erskine Scott Wood: A Renaissance Man (Vancouver, Washington: Rose Wind Press, 1991) ISBN 0-9631232-0-3
  • Irving R. Cohen, Charles Erskine Scott Wood: An American Kaleidoscope (1982)


Audio Visual[edit]

External links[edit]