Page images
PDF
EPUB

families and friends. They were closely related to him. They regarded him as their never-failing friend. He had been first commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, and to him this mighty soldier organization, numbering more than four hundred thousand, was indebted for much of its efficiency in the field of charity. He was the idol of the army in which he served—the ideal citizen volunteer of the Republic, the pride of all the armies, and affectionately beloved by all who loved the Union.

“Honored and respected by his commanders, held in affectionate regard by the rank and file, who found in him a heroic leader and devoted friend, he advocated the most generous bounties and pensions, and much of this character of legislation was constructed by his hand. So in sympathy was he with the brave men who risked all for country, that he demanded for them the most generous treatment. I heard him declare last summer, to an audience of ten thousand people, gathered from all sections of the country, at the annual encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic at San Francisco, that he believed that the government should grant from its overflowing treasury and boundless resources a pension to every Union soldier who was incapable of taking care of himself, asserting with all the fervor of his patriotic soul that the government was unworthy of itself and of the blood and treasure it cost if it would suffer any of its defenders to become inmates of the poorhouses of the land, or be the objects of private charity.

"Mr. Speaker, the old soldiers will miss him. The old oak around which their hearts were entwined, to which their hopes clung, has fallen. The old veterans have lost their steady friend. The congress of the United States has lost one of its ablest counselors, the republican party one of its confessed leaders, the country one of its noble defenders.”— House of Representatives, February 10, 1887.

CHAPTER XXII.

William McKinley's Masterpieces of Eloquence.

Continued.

JULY FOURTH AT WOODSTOCK.

"Mr. President and my Fellow Citizens: Since 1870 this spot has witnessed the celebration of the anniversary of our national independence.

They have been memorable occasions. It gives me peculiar pleasure to meet the people of New England upon this day, and upon this ground, and especially is it pleasing to me to respond for the first time that I have been able to do so to the many generous invitations that I have received from Mr. Bowen, to whom you and all of us are indebted for this patriotic assemblage. I have liked Henry C. Bowen for a good many things. I have admired him since more than forty years ago, when, in the midst of great political agitation as a merchant of the city of New York, he said: "Our goods are for sale, but not our principles.' It was this spirit that guided the revolutionary fathers, and that has won for freedom every single victory since.

“Now, what is the meaning of this day and celebration? Simply that what we have achieved must be perpetrated in its strength and purity, not giving up one jot or tittle of the victories won. More we do not ask, less we will not have. There never was a wrong for which there was not a remedy. There never was a crime against the constitution that there was not a way somewhere and somehow found to prevent or punish; there never was such an abuse that did not suggest a reform that pointed to justice and righteousness. I am not so much troubled how the thing is to be done as I am troubled that the living shall do what is right, as the living see the right. The future will take care of itself if we will do right. As Gladstone said in his peroration presenting the remedial legislation of Ireland:

“'Walking in the path of justice we can not err; guided by that light we are safe. Every step we take upon our road brings us nearer to the goal, and every obstacle, though it seem for the moment insurmountable, can only for a little while retard, never defeat, the fatal triumph.' “The Fourth of July is memorable among other things because

g

George Washington signed the first great industrial measure on that day. The very first industrial financial measure that was ever passed in the United States was signed by him on the 4th day of July, 1789, and therefore I did not think there was any impropriety in Senator Aldrich talking about the tariff on this day and occasion. It would not be proper for me to make a tariff speech here, although it has been suggested, but I may say with propriety, I am always for the United States. I believe in the American idea of liberty, so eloquently described by Chauncey Depew this morning. I believe in American independence, —not only political independence, but industrial independence as well; and if I were asked to tell in a single sentence what constitutes the strength of the American Republic, I would say it was the American home, and whatever makes the American home the best, the purest, and the most exalted in the world. It is our homes which exalt the country and its citizenship above those of any other land. I have no objection to foreign products, but I do like home products better. I am not against the foreign product, I am in favor of it-for taxation; but I am for the domestic production for consumption.

"In no country is there so much devolving upon the people relating to government as in ours. Unlike any other nation, here the people rule, and their will is supreme law. It is sometimes sneeringly said by those who do not like free government, that here we count heads. True, heads are counted, but brains also. And the general sense of sixty-three millions of free people is better and safer than the sense of any favored few, born to nobility and ruling by inheritance. This nation, if it would continue to lead in the race of progress and liberty, must do it through the intelligence and conscience of its people. Every honest and Godfearing man is a mighty factor in the future of the Republic. Educated men, business men, professional men, should be the last to shirk the responsibilities attaching to citizenship in a free government. They should be practical and helpful-mingling with the people—not selfish and exclusive. It is not necessary that every man should enter into politics, or adopt it as a profession, or seek political preferment, but it is the duty of every man to give personal attention to his political duties. They are as sacred and binding as any we have to perform.

“We reach the wider field of politics and shape the national policy through the town meeting and the party caucus. They should neither be despised nor avoided, but made potent in securing the best agents for executing the popular will. The influence which goes forth from the township or precinct meeting is felt in state and national legislation, and is at last embodied in the permanent forms of law and written constitutions. I can not too earnestly invite you to the closest personal

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »