Page images
PDF
EPUB

JAMES G. BLAINE - 165

“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 women. 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 deepened 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 countryInell.

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

166 JAMES G. BLAINE

hopes, its aspirations, its victories, into the visible presence of death—and he did not quail. Not alone for one short moment, in which stunned and dazed, he could give up life, hardly aware of its relinquishment, but through days of deadly languor, through weeks of agony, that was not less agony because silently borne, with clear sight and calm courage he looked into his open grave. What blight and ruin met his anguished eyes, whose lips may tell; what brilliant, broken plans, what baffled, high ambitions, what sundering of strong, warm, manhood's friendship, what bitter rending of sweet household ties Behind him a proud, expectant nation, a great host of sustaining friends, a cherished and happy mother, wearing the full, rich honors of her early toil and tears; the wife of his youth, whose whole life lay in his ; the little boys not yet emerged from childhood's day of frolic ; the fair, young daughter; the sturdy young sons just springing into closest companionship, claiming every day and every day rewarding a father's love and care; and in his heart, the eager, rejoicing power to meet demands. And his soul was not shaken. His countrymen were thrilled with instant, profound, and universal sympathy. Masterful in his mortal weakness, he became the center of a nation's love, enshrined in the prayers of a world. But all the love and all the sympathy could not share with him his suffering. He trod the wine press alone. With unfaltering front he faced death. With unfailing tenderness he took his leave of life. Above the demoniac hiss of the assassin's bullet he heard the voice of God. With simple resignation he bowed to the divine decree.

As the end drew near his early craving for the sea returned. The stately mansion of power had been to him the wearisome hospital of pain, and he begged to be taken from his prison walls, from its oppressive, stifling air, from its homelessness and its hopelessness. Gently, silently, the love of a great people bore the pale sufferer to the longed-for healing of the sea, to live or to die, as God should will, within sight of the heaving billows, within sound of its manifold voices. With a wan, fevered face, tenderly lifted to the cooling breeze, he looked out wistfully upon the ocean's changing wonders; on its far sails; on its restless waves, rolling shoreward to break and die beneath the noonday sun ; on the red clouds of evening, arching low to the horizon ; on the serene and shining pathway of the stars. Let us think that his dying eyes read a mystic meaning which only the rapt and parting soul may know. Let us believe that in the silence of the receding world he heard the great waves breaking on a farther shore, and felt already upon his wasted brow the breath of the eternal morning.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Recent Political Orators W". 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 the words of a Henry or a Webster.

167

JOHN W. DANIEL (1842—)
A VIRGINLA ORATOR AND STATESMAN

ORTY years ago a private in Stonewall Jackson's brigade, and to-day an United States Senator, with the reputation of being one of the most eloquent men in the Upper House of Congress, we here with present John Warwick Daniel to our readers. Born at Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1842, and a boy at school when the Civil War began, he lost no time in closing his books and taking his musket, finding ready entrance into Jackson's famous brigade. Beginning as a private, he left the army as a major, with several wounds to his credit, and again resorted to his books at the University of Virginia, making the law his study. His powers as an orator and activity as a politician soon led him to the Virginia legislature, in which he sat from 1869 to 1881. He here won a high reputation as an orator and statesman, and was made the Democratic nominee for Governor. Beaten in this contest, he was sent to Congress in 1884, and in 1885 succeeded General Mahone in the United States Senate. In this body he is one of the leaders among the Democratic members.

DEDICATION OF THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT

[Loftiest among the architectural erections in the world stands the great monument to the “Father of his Country,” on an elevated situation in the National Capital. Of obelisk shape, and towering 555 feet in the air, it dominates the landscape for miles around. Projected early in the century, its completion and dedication came in 1885. We quote here from the eloquent oration made by Mr. Daniel in the hall of the House of Representatives, February 21, 1885, in honor of the important event, his glowing panegyric of Washington's work and character.]

No sum could now be made of Washington's character that did not

exhaust language of its tributes and repeat virtue by all her names. No

sum could be made of his achievements that did not unfold the history of

John w. DANIEL 169

his country and its institutions, the history of his age and its progress, the history of man and his destiny to be free. But, whether character or achievement be regarded, the riches before us only expose the poverty of praise. So clear was he in his great office that no ideal of the leader or ruler can be formed that does not shrink by the side of the reality. And so has he impressed himself upon the minds of men, that no man can justly aspire to be the chief of a great free people who does not adopt his principles and emulate his example. We look with amazement on such eccentric characters as Alexander, Caesar, Cromwell, Frederick, and Napoleon, but when Washington's face rises before us, instinctively mankind exclaims: “This is the man for nations to trust and reverence, and for rulers to follow.’’ Drawing his sword from patriotic impulse, without ambition and without malice, he wielded it without vindictiveness and sheathed it without reproach. All that humanity could conceive he did to suppress the cruelties of war and soothe its sorrows. He never struck a coward's blow. To him age, infancy, and helplessness were ever sacred. He tolerated no extremity unless to curb the excesses of his enemy, and he never poisoned the sting of defeat by the exultation of the conqueror. Peace he welcomed as a heaven-sent herald of friendship ; and no country has given him greater honor than that which he defeated ; for England has been glad to claim him as the scion of her blood, and proud, like our sister American States, to divide with Virginia the honor of producing him. Fascinated by the perfection of the man, we are loath to break the mirror of admiration into the fragments of analysis. But lo! as we attempt it, every fragment becomes the miniature of such sublimity and beauty that the destructive hand can only multiply the forms of immortality. Grand and manifold as were its phases, there is yet no difficulty in understanding the character of Washington. He was no Veiled Prophet. He never acted a part. Simple, natural, and unaffected, his life lies before us, a fair and open manuscript. He disdained the arts which wrap power in mystery in order to magnify it. He practiced the profound diplomacy of truthful speech, the consummate tact of direct attention. Looking ever to the All-Wise Disposer of events, he relied on that Providence which helps men by giving them high hearts and hopes to help themselves with the means which their Creator has put at their service. There was no infirmity in his conduct over which charity must fling its veil; no taint of selfishness from which purity averts her gaze; no dark recess of intrigue that must be lit up with colored panegyric ; no subterranean passage to be trod in trembling lest there be stirred the ghost of a buried crime.

« PreviousContinue »