« PreviousContinue »
I feel that this Club has a peculiar right to pride itselt upon sending Mr. Choate as Ambassador, because Mr. Choate stands as the architype of the kind of American citizenship which this Club prides itself upon having produced. The greatest master of the English language that the world has ever seen; the writer with the keenest insight into human nature that any writer has had since the days of Holy Writ, has stated to mankind as his advice, “Above all to thine own self be true. Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Mr. Choate has stated that lie will come back as he goes, a good American, and we do not need the assurance, for he could come back nothing else. The first requisite in the statesmanship that shall benefit mankind, so far as we are concerned, is that that statesmanship shall be thoroughly American. No American statesman who forgot to be first and foremost an American, was ever yet able to do anything to benefit the world as a whole. The world moves upward, as a whole, by means of the people who make the different countries of the world move upward. The man who lifts America higher, by just so much, makes higher the civilization of all mankind.
Now, Mr. Choate has here in our life fulfilled the two cardinal duties of minding his own business well and also minding the business of the State. Neither will do by itself. We do not wish the aid of those excellent people who can manage the affairs of other people but not their own, nor yet of those who are content to benefit themselves but leave the work of the State undone. The great note in the work that has been done by this Club has been the note of disinterested labor for the common good by men who have shown that they could take care of their own affairs. In the presence of Mr. Choate, in the presence of our host of the evening, Mr. Root, I wish to pay a brief tribute on behalf of those men who have held public office, to the disinterested labor and assistance given by those men who have not held public office and who gave their labor wholly without hope of reward. You, all of you here who have been Mr. Choate's life long friends, who have known him intimately, know that there never has been a movement for the betterment of America, a movement to better our State or our social life, an effort to make our politics more honest, more straightforward, more representative of the best hope and thought of the community, in which you have not been able to count upon the generous and disinterested assistance of Mr. Choate. I, myself, know well what I owe to Mr. Choate; and I know you will not think that I wander from our subject of this evening when I say that I appreciate to the full, the way in which both Mr. Choate and Mr. Root have helped me when I have needed to draw upon all that I could draw upon in the way of intelligence and disinterested interest in the public good. It is a peculiar pleasure to see a man who has served the State so disinterestedly, with such genuine ability and without the least idea of reward in the way of office, chosen to fill one of the most honorable offices in the land, not because he has sought it (for it came to him before he had a chance to seek it), but because of the sentiment of the people that they wished at this time to be represented by one of those men who make all of us proud of being Americans. And we may well feel satisfied, not merely with having Mr. Choate as Ambassador, but with the political conditions which have ren
dered it possible, in choosing the man who should represent us to a country with which we have the closest and most intimate ties of blood and of friendship, to pay heed solely to the eminent fitness of the man himself, and to the worth of the spirit which he has so nobly represented.
ADDRESS AT THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, SYRACUSE,
FEBRUARY 22, 1899
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN: You have youselves to thank — should I say thank with a query? — for having me here to-night, although in a sense I invited myself. But on a certain evening of the first Tuesday after the first Monday of last November (laughter) the first really thoroughly satisfactory news I received came from Syracuse. And, speaking seriously, I have long wished to have the chance to come to this city and to meet face to face its representative citizens, to be able to say to them, in the first place, how much I appreciate what they did, and, in the second place, that I earnestly hope they are convinced that I am trying to justify them in what they did.
Now in what I have to say to-night, I must perforce dwell upon what is rather trite in theory, but what is anything but trite in practice, and I think one of the reasons why it is by no means as common in practice as it should be is because of the habit to which we are all of us more or less prone, that of divorcing out theory and our practice.
I am sure I have the support of every minister of the gospel present when I say that there is no character who
on the whole deserves less of the community than the man who is punctilious on Sunday in the performance of all of the outward duties of religion and treats that as an offset to neglecting civic or social morality on week-days. Now, in just the same way it would be difficult to overestimate the harm that comes from the custom to which, as I say, we are all more or less prone, of treating the habitual neglect or perversion of our civic duties as being offset by a propensity to come together on stated occasions to listen to and applaud the sentiments of righteousness which we do not intend practically to apply.
I do not believe in hypocrisy. I have no patience whatsoever with the excuse given by any politician for not carrying out a promise contained in the party platform. “Oh, well, of course, that was just a plank in the platform, and we could not expect to carry it out." If it is put in the platform, and the man stands on it, he is in honor bound to carry it out, and I have very little respect for the man who makes a promise on the stump which he does not try to carry out off the stump or for the man who in public life preaches one thing, holds up one standard, knowing it to be an artificial standard up to which he does not intend to live.
Now, there are two sides to that: In the first place, you have got to do well; and in the second place, you mustn't get tempted into promising more than you intend to do. It is a pretty easy thing, especially if a man feels that his past has been a little shaky in point of deeds, to make amends for it in words. It is easy to be virtuous in words and indulge simply in vague generalities looking toward what we now designate as altruism — we used to call it “ goodness" in the old days; we call it altruism now —
looking toward an impossible standard of virtue so as to salve our consciences for letting our practices fall far below what they might be.
You take the life of Washington. How many of our people strive really to apply the doctrine Washington taught not by words only, but by his life? How many of our public men really seek to grasp the meaning of Washington's deeds, and then try to act upon them? It is an easy thing — a very easy thing — to speak of him in resounding phrases, original or quoted, to say how much his life meant for this Nation and for all mankind; it is not so easy a thing to try to carry out practically the principles and the policies for which he stood. But it can be done perfectly well; only when we come to doing it we want to know what those principles and practices really were.
Washington was blessed above most statesmen in that he had helped by his soldiership to form the Union which he afterward contributed to make by his statesmanship, and which, having helped make, he then helped govern.
Most of you, all of you, know by name, some of you know more intimately than by mere name, that wonderful book of statesmanship, “The Federalist.” It was the most important factor in bringing about the adoption of the Constitution for which Washington stood, the Constitution that made us a Union instead of a jangling knot of petty States, the Constitution which decided that we should tread the course that we actually trod rather than the course that has been trodden by the republics of Spanish-America. Those of you who know that book, who know “ The Federalist," appreciate that its main worth arises from the union of a high ideal with practical com