Page images
PDF
EPUB

sembled to decide upon the most momentous question ever submitted to that body. The king, James II, had fled the realm; the great seal of royalty had been thrown into the Thames; William had landed; the nation was revolutionized.

The great debate commenced. On the one side was the party of human liberty striving to cast down forever a dynasty strangely devoted to tyranny and absolutism; striving to make plainer the doctrine that the king reigned by virtue of the consent of his subjects. On the other hand were arrayed all the evil forces of the time and all the restraints of conservatism.

In precisely the same temper in which it is now argued that a State can do no wrong

and that under no circumstances can it cease to be a State, it was then argued that, although the king had fed the land and was at the court of France, nevertheless the magistrate was still present, that the throne, by the maxim of English law, could not be vacant for a moment; and that any government'organized to act during the king's absence must act in the king's name.

It was most plain that the liberty, the prosperity of Eng. land could only be secured by the deposition of James; and yet those who sought by direct measures to reach that end were encountered at every step by a mass of technical objeetions. The musty precedents of the law, a thousand years old, were raked up; and texts of the Holy Book were called into the defence of royalty as liberally as we have seen them in our own day paraded in defence of slavery. St. Paul's injunction to the Romans to obey the civil power played as im. portant a part in those debates as the texts of Ham and Onesimus have played upon the floor of this House.

Either the liberty of England must have perished, encumbered in this mass of precedents and technicalities, or the

common sense of England must reach its own safety over the whole mass of rubbish. The common sense of England triumphed. James having fled, he was declared to have abdicated the throne, and the throne being vacant, Parliament asserted the right to fill it.

Now, in like manner at this day the resolute common sense of the American people must find its way out of the entanglements that surround it and go straight forward to its own safety.

The purpose of government is the happiness of the people, therefore of the whole people. A government cannot be half a republic and half a despotism--a republic just and equable to one class of its citizens, a depotism cruel and destructive to another class; it must become either all despotism or all republic.

If you make it all republic the future is plain. All evils will correct themselves. Temporary disorders will subside, the path will lie wide open before every man and every step and every hour will take him farther away from error and darkness. Give the right to vote and you give the right to aid in making the laws; the laws being made by all will be for the benefit of all; the improvement and advancement of each member of the community will be the improvement and advancement of the whole community.

Dealing with men, with all the attributes of men, with the souls, hearts, and minds of men, it is contemptible to attempt to turn justice aside by appeals to the color of the skin. At what precise point of the mingling of complexions shall these statesmen drive the stake and say, Thus far is man and beyond is brute; here human rights begin and there they terminate! What chemist shall analyze the mixture of man and beast and tell us what fraction of an immortal soul is possessed by

such a one? Or how many mulattoes go as component parts to make up one soul in heaven?

Sir, such a doctrine is too monstrous for consideration! The earth is God's and all the children of God have an equal right upon its surface; and human legislation which would seek to subvert this truth merely legislates injustice into law; and be who believes that injustice conserves the peace, order, or welfare of society has read history to little purpose.

Let us then go straight forward to our duty, taking heed of nothing but the right. In this wise shall we build a work in accord with the will of him who is daily fashioning the world to a higher destiny; a work resting at no point upon wrong or injustice, but everywhere reposing upon truth and justice; a work which all mankind will be interested in preserving in every age, since it will insure the increasing glory and wellbeing of mankind through all ages.

GARFIELD

JA

AMES ABRAM GARFIELD, the twentieth President of the United States,

was born at Orange, Ohio, November 19, 1831. He had few advantages in early youth, and as he grew to manhood he worked on a farin, and learned the carpenter's trade. After obtaining an education at Hiram College, Ohio, and at Williams College, he became president of the first named institution in 1857, studied law and having become well known in northwestern Ohio as a public speaker was sent to the Ohio senate in 1859. He entered the Federal urmy as lieutenant-colonel of an Ohio regiment in 1861 and after serving with distinction in many engagements received a major-general's commission in 1863. In that year he was elected to Congress as representative from his native State and took his seat in December. He served on a number of important congressional committees and was an acknowledged leader of the Republicans in the House. In 1880 he was elected to the Senate and receiving the Republican nomination for the Presidency was elected in the following autumn. After becoming President he sent in his nominations to the Senate for confirmation; in making these he had insisted on exercising the independence of the executive and thus caused the New York senators, Conkling and Platt, to resign their seats. On July 2, 1881, while waiting for a train in a railway station at Washington the President was shot by a disappointed office seeker named Guiteau, and after lingering many weeks died from the effect of the wound on September 19, 1881, at Elberon, New Jersey. In addition to a very brief but memorable address made to an excited throng in New York on the receipt of the news of Lincoln's assassination, among Garfield's most noted addresses may be included a speech “On Enrolling the National Forces " (1864); Currency and the Public Faith" (1874); “ The Democratic Party and the South" (1876); “ Treason at the Polls" (1879). His “ Collected Works” in two volumes were issued in 1883. See “ Lives" by Bundy (1880), Cofin (1880), Conwell (1881).

INAUGURAL ADDRESS

DELIVERED MARCH 4, 1881

F

ELLOW CITIZENS,—We stand to-day upon an emi

nence which overlooks a hundred years of national

life - a century crowded with perils, but crowned with the triumphs of liberty and love. Before continuing our onward march, let us pause on this height for a moment,

to strengthen our faith and renew our hope, by a glance at the pathway along which our people have travelled. It is now three days more than one hundred years since the adoption of the first written constitution of the United States, the articles of confederation and of perpetual union. The new Republic was then beset with danger on every hand. It had not conquered a place in the family of nations. The decisive battle of the war for independence, whose centennial anniversary will soon be gratefully celebrated at Yorktown, had not yet been fought. The colonists were struggling, not only against the armies of Great Britain, but against the settled opinions of mankind, for the world did not believe that the supreme authority of government could be safely intrusted to the guardianship of the people themselves. We cannot overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage, and saving common sense, with which our fathers made the great experiment of self-government. When they found, after a short time, that the confederacy of States was too weak to meet the necessities of a vigorous and expanding Republic, they boldly set it aside, and, in its stead, established a national Union, founded directly upon the will of the people, and endowed it with future powers of self-preservation, and with ample authority for the accomplishments of its great objects. Under this constitution the boundaries of freedom have been enlarged, the foundations of order and peace have been strengthened, and the growth, in all the better elements of national life, has vindicated the wisdom of the founders, and given new hope to their descendants. Under this constitution our people long ago made themselves safe against danger from without, and secured for their marines and flag an equality of rights on all the seas. Under the constitution twenty-five States have been added to the

« PreviousContinue »