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JAMES A. GARFIELD (1831-1881)
THE MARTYR TO CIVIL SERVICE REFORM
1881 the people of the United States waited in an agony of sympathetic grief and apprehension, as the life of the head of the nation slowly ebbed away in pain. Patiently the exalted sufferer awaited the end, and with the deepest sorrow the citizens of the country vibrated between hope and despair. On the 2d of July he had been laid low by the bullet of an insensate assassin in Washington. On the 19th of September came the sad day that ended his career, within touch of the fresh sea breezes at Elberon, on the New Jersey coast, where the deep bass of the breaking waves sounded the requiem of his brave soul. It is rare that a great stress in national events passes away without its martyr; and too often it is the greatest and best of the nation that falls as a sacrifice to the Moloch of passion and revenge. So it was in 1865, when Lincoln fell as the last victim to the terrible mental strain of the Civil War. And so it was in 1881, when Garfield fell a similar victim to the passions aroused by the struggle for Civil Service Reform. Taking the Presidential chair in March of that year, his evident purpose of making this reform a ruling policy of his administration, and the controversy which, in consequence, arose between him and the Senators from New York, gave rise to a highly excited feeling among the partisans of the old system, office-giving Congressmen and office-seeking political workers alike. The fatal result of this excitement came on July 24, when a worthless officeseeker, half-crazed by disappointment, shot the President in the railroad station at Washington, inflicting what proved to be a fatal wound. Such is one of the fatalities of revolutionary movements.
F OR nearly three months during the summer and early fall of
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Garfield began life as a poor boy, even working for a time as a driver on the tow-path of a canal. But by innate energy he made his way through college and to the position of a college professor and State Senator. He served in the war, becoming a major-general. The remainder of his life was passed as a Congressman, in which he won great influence as an orator and statesman, becoming speaker of the House in 1877, Senator in 1880, and President in the same year.
THE EVIL SPIRIT OF DISLOYALTY
[A man of kindly nature and destitute of malice, Garfield was still strongly emotional, and under sufficient provocation could be aroused to severe denunciation. Such was the case on the 8th of March, 1864, when he rose to reply to a motion of Alexander Long, a Representative from his own State, proposing to negotiate for peace with the Southern Confederacy. We give the more pithy portions of this speech.]
I should be obliged to you if you would direct the Sergeant-at-Arms to bring a white flag and plant it in the aisle between myself and my colleague (Alexander Long, of Ohio), who has just addressed you.
I recollect on one occasion, when two great armies stood face to face, that under a white flag just planted I approached a company of men dressed in the uniform of the rebel Confederacy, and reached out my hand to one of the number and told him I respected him as a brave man. Though he wore the emblems of disloyalty and treason, still underneath his vestments I beheld a brave and honest soul. I would reproduce that scene here this afternoon. I say, were there such a flag of truce—but God forgive me if I should do it under any other circumstances. .
Now, when hundreds of thousands of brave souls have gone up to God under the shadow of the flag, and when thousands more, maimed and shattered in the contest, are sadly awaiting the deliverance of death; now, when three years of terrific warfare have raged over us, when our armies have pushed the rebellion back over mountains and rivers, and crowded it back into narrow limits, until a wall of fire girds it ; now, when the uplifted hand of a majestic people is about to let fall the lightning of its conquering power upon the rebellion ; now, in the quiet of this hall, hatched in the lowest depths of a similar dark treason, there rises a Benedict Arnold and proposes to surrender us all up, body and spirit, the nation and the flag, its genius and its honor, now and forever, to the accursed traitors to our country. And that proposition comes—God forgive and pity my beloved State –it comes from a citizen of the honored and loyal Commonwealth of Ohio. . . .
162 JAMES A. GARFIELD
But, sir, I will forget States. We have something greater than States and State pride to talk of here to-day. All personal and State feeling aside, I ask you what is the proposition which the enemy of his country has just made 2 What is it? For the first time in the history of this contest, it is proposed in this hall to give up the struggle, to abandon the war, and let treason run riot through the land 1 I will, if I can, dismiss feeling from my heart, and try to consider only what bears upon that logic of the speech to which we have just listened. First of all, the gentleman tells us that the right of secession is a constitutional right. I do not propose to enter into the argument. I have expressed myself hitherto on State sovereignty and State rights, of which this proposition of his is the legitimate child. But the gentleman takes higher ground,-and in that I agree with him, namely, that five million or eight million people possess the right - of revolution. Grant it; we agree there. If fifty-nine men can make a revolution successful, they have the right of revolution. If one State wishes to break its connection with the Federal Government, and does it by force, maintaining itself, it is an independent State. If the eleven Southern States are determined and resolved to leave the Union, to secede, to revolutionize, and can maintain that revolution by force, they have the revolutionary right to do so. Grant it. I stand on that platform with the gentleman. And now the question comes: Is it our constitutional duty to let them do it? That is the question, and in order to reach it I beg to call your attention, not to an argument, but to the condition of affairs that would result from such action—the mere statement of which becomes the strongest possible argument. What does this gentleman propose? Where will he draw the line of division ? If the rebels carry into successful secession what they desire to carry; if their revolution envelop as many States as they intend it shall envelop ; if they draw the line where Isham G. Harris, the rebel governor of Tennessee, in the rebel camp near our lines, told Mr. Vallandigham they would draw it, along the line of the Ohio and of the Potomac ; if they make good their statement to him that they will never consent to any other line, then I ask what is this thing that the gentleman proposes to do? He proposes to leave to the United States a territory reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and one hundred miles wide in the centrel From Wellsville, on the Ohio River, to Cleveland, on the Lakes, is one hundred miles. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, if there be a man here so insane as to propose that the American people will allow their magnificent national proportions to be shorn to so deformed a shape as this 2
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I tell you, and I confess it here, that while I hope to have something of human courage, I have not enough to contemplate such a result. I am not brave enough to go to the brink of the precipice of successful secession and look down into its damned abyss. If my vision were keen enough to pierce it to the bottom, I would not dare to look. If there be a man here who dares contemplate such a scene, I look upon him either as the bravest of the sons of woman, or as a downright madman. Secession to gain peace | Secession is the tocsin of eternal war. There can be no end to such a war as will be inaugurated if this thing be done.
Suppose the policy of the gentleman were adopted to-day. Let the order go forth ; sound the “recall ” on your bugles, and let it ring from Texas to the far Atlantic, and tell the armies to come back. Call the victorious legions to come back over the battlefields of blood, forever now disgraced. Call them back over the territory which they have conquered. Call them back, and let the minions of secession chase them with derision and jeers as they come. And then tell them that that man across the aisle, from the free State of Ohio, gave birth to the monstrous proposition |
Mr. Chairman, if such a word should be sent forth through the armies of the Union, the wave of terrible vengeance that would sweep back over this land would never find a parallel in the records of history. Almost in the moment of final victory the “recall '' is sounded by a craven person not deserving freedom | We ought every man to be made a slave, should we sanction such a sentiment.
I said a little while ago that I accepted the proposition of the gentleman that the rebels had the right of revolution ; and the decisive issue between us and the rebellion is, whether they shall revolutionize and destroy, or we shall subdue and preserve. We take the latter ground. We take the common weapons of war to meet them ; and, if these be not sufficient, I would take any element which will overwhelm and destroy; I would sacrifice the dearest and best beloved ; I would take all the old sanctions of law and the Constitution, and fling them to the winds, if neccessary, rather than let the nations be broken in pieces, and its people destroyed with endless ruin.
JAMES G. BLAINE (1830-1893)
BERT G. INGERSOLL'S ringing words, spoken before the Republican National Convention of 1876, when he rose to present the name of James G. Blaine as a candidate for the Presidency, have never been surpassed for effectiveness on such an occasion. Blaine had been bitterly assailed by his political foes, and had routed them in a speech of striking vigor. It was to this defense that Ingersoll alluded when he electrified the convention with the following words: “Like an armed warrior, like a Plumed Knight, James G. Blaine marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shining lance full and fair against the brazen foreheads of the defamers of his country and the maligners of his honor. For the Republican party to desert this gallant leader now is as though an army should desert their general upon he field of battle.” Yet Blaine failed to receive the nomination. A sunstroke which prostrated him, and of which his enemies took advantage to spread their falsehoods, turned the current of votes away from him. Again in 1880, he was defeated as a candidate. He was triumphantly nominated in 1884, but every one knows of the ludicrous incident which then made Cleveland President, and robbed Blaine of his well-foughtfor honors. The result of the election turned upon the vote of the State of New York, and there the Rev. Dr. Burchard's fatal alliteration of “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion " turned enough of the Irish Catholic vote from Blaine to give Cleveland the 1000 majority that carried him into the Presidential chair. Rarely has so insignificant an incident had so momentous a result. As an orator Blaine had finely marked ability, and as a statesman his influence was unsurpassed during his career. Depew says of him,