Page images



given to one the firm possession-by a three-fourths vote, I think, in both Houses of the control of the action of each body of the Legislature ? Reflect upon this. I do not touch upon the particular circumstance that the non-restoration of the Southern States has left your numbers in both Houses of Congress less than they might under other circumstances be. I do not calculate whether that absence diminishes or increases the disproportion that there would be. Possibly their presence might even aggravate the political majority which is thus arrayed and thus overrides practically all the calculations of the presidential protection through the guarantees of the Constitution. For what do the two-thirds provisions mean? They mean that in a free country, where elections were diffused over a vast area, no Congressman having a constituency of over seventy or eighty thousand people, it was impossible to suppose that there would not be a somewhat equal division of parties, or impossible to suppose that the excitements and zeal of party could carry all the members of it into any extravagance. I do not call them extravagances in any sense of reproach ; I merely speak of them as the extreme measures that parties in politics, and under whatever motives, may be disposed to adopt.

Certainly, then, there is ground to pause and consider, before you bring to a determination this great struggle between the co-ordinate branches of the Government, this agitation and this conclusion, in a certain event, of the question whether the co-ordination of the Constitution can be preserved. Attend to these special circumstances, wud determine for yourselves whether under these influences it is best to urge a contest which must operate upon the framework of the Constitution and its future, unattended by any exceptions of a peculiar nature that govern the actual situation. Ah, that is the misery of human affairs, that the stress comes and has its consequence when the system is least prepared to receive it. It is the misery that disease-casual, circumstantial-invades the frame when health is depressed and the powers of the constitution to resist it are at the lowest ebb. It is that the gale rises and sweeps the ship to destruction when there is no sea-room for it and when it is upon a lee shore. And if, concurrent with that danger to the good ship, her crew be short, if her helm be unsettled, if disorder begin to prevail, and there come to be a final struggle for the maintenance of mastery against the elements and over the only chances of safety, how wretched is the condition of that people whose fortunes are embarked in that ship of state!..

The strength of every system is in its weakest part. Alas, for that rule !. But when the weakest part breaks, the whole is broken. The chain lets slip the ship when the weak link breaks, and the ship founders.

[blocks in formation]

“He will stand in our history as the ablest parliamentarian and most skillful debater of our congressional history. . . No man during his active career has disputed with him his hold upon the popular imagination and his leadership of his party.”


A EULOGY OF GARFIELD In February, 1882, Blaine delivered, in the hall of the House of Representatives, a pathetic eulogy on the martyred Garfield. Never was there a more distinguished audience. It included the President and his Cabinet, both Houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, the foreign Ministers, and great numbers of distinguished men and

The touching words in which he bore tribute to his dead friend held spellbound the crowded audience, and as he spoke that sublimely beautiful passage with which the oration closed, the solemn hush which fell upon the great assembly deepencd the impression felt by every one present, that he had listened to one of the noblest of oratorical efforts.]

On the morning of Saturday, July 2d, the President was a contented and happy man—not in an ordinary degree, but joyfully, almost boyishly, happy. On his way to the railroad station, to which we drove slowly, in conscious enjoyment of the beautiful morning, with an unwonted sense of leisure and a keen anticipation of pleasure, his talk was all in the grateful and gratulatory vein. He felt that, after four months of trial, his administration was strong in its grasp of affairs, strong in popular favor, and destined to grow stronger; that grave difficulties confronting him at his inauguration had safely passed ; that troubles lay behind him, and not before him ; that he was soon to meet the wife whom he loved, now recovering from an illness which had but lately disquieted and at times almost unnerved him ; that he was going to his alma mater to renew the most cherished associations of his young manhood, and to exchange greetings with those whose deepening interest had followed every step of his onward progress, from the day that he entered upon his college course until he had obtained the loftiest elevation in the gift of his countrymen.

Surely, if happiness can ever come from the honors or triumphs of this world, on that quiet July morning James A. Garfield may well have been a happy man. No foreboding of evil haunted him; no slightest premonition of danger clouded his sky. His terrible fate was upon him in an instant. One moment he stood erect, strong, confident in the years stretching peacefully out before him. The next he lay wounded, bleeding, helpless, doomed to weary weeks of torture, to silence and the

grave. Great in life, he was surpassingly great in death. For no cause, in the very frenzy of wantonness and wickedness, by the red hand of murder, he was thrust from the full tide of this world's interest, from its


Recent Political Orators


the passing of the Civil War and the period of reconstruction of the Union that

followed, there vanished a prolific source of fervent oratory in the United States. Since then, indeed, the country has not been without its events calling for argument and breeding controversy, but these have been of minor importance as compared with the all-controlling excitement of the slavery conflict and the reconstruction debate. There have been active party controversies, on such perennial subjects of public interest as the tariff, the greenback currency, free silver, the Philippine question, and other topics on which opinion differed; but none of these have a threat of war or revolution behind them, and the stir of thought or vigor of expression to which they gave rise, was slight compared with that in which the dissolution of the Union was involved. There have been no lack of orators in the recent period, many of them eloquent, some of them full of force and fervor. But it is not easy to make a hot fire without coals, and a vehement burst of oratory on an inconsequential subject is apt to yield more smoke than flame. The speeches upon

which we shall draw, therefore, in the present section, are largely of the academic character; many of them fine efforts, displaying cultured thought and eloquent powers of expression, yet none of them based on such national exigencies as gave inspiration to th words of a Henry or a Webster.

« PreviousContinue »