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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, i899
Mr. President And Gentlemen: You have youiselves 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 1 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
mon sense. The men who wrote it were not theorists; they had not led the cloistered life, the easy life of criticism of the efforts of others: they had themselves taken part in the hurly burly; they had themselves striven to bring about decency; they had striven to achieve ends. But in so striving they had never lost their devotion to a high ideal, and that book, "The Federalist," derives its chief merit because it puts ever before the people a high ideal, and yet advocates the accomplishing of it through entirely s practical methods.
Washington has won a deathless place in the annals of the best and the wisest of mankind. He stands as the greatest of good men and as the best of great men. because he did not play the part merely of the cloistered philosopher, but strove to achieve results; because he did the best he could with the means at hand, because he ever fixed his eye on the distant goal, and yet did not overlook the obstacles that lay between. He fixed his eyes on the stars, but fixing them there, did not forget to look where \b.is feet trod.
We can carry out, imperfectly and in small ways, it is true, but still we can accomplish the work that Washington begun. We can copy not merely his power of striving for a righteous object, but also his power of striving for it in practical ways. We forget now that we look at them through the vision of a century and a quarter; we forget what the men were, what the difficulties were with which Washington had to contend. We think of the Continental Congress. If we are in a pessimistic mood, we compare it unfavorably with the Congress at Washington.
I wish you would study what the Continental Congress was. I do not mean from the standpoint of trying to find what it was not, nor with a preconceived idea of finding it very good or very bad, but just to see what it was; and you will find that the first Continental Congress was one of the wisest bodies and one of the most patriotic bodies that ever was gathered in any country. You will find as the popular fervor spent itself, how much of it was on a local scale — a good deal the same kind of reaction that you had in any reform movement on a small scale in the past. You can all of you learn what I am saying by simply looking into history to see for yourselves how things were, and you will find how that Congress went along, and that not a few of the men whom we held up in our minds as ideals of an antiquated virtue, which has now fallen from the land, took part in intrigues, took part in — to use a modern term — deals, took part in other movements that rendered the task of Washington more difficult in dealing with his own country than in dealing ^ with a foreign foe.
Just at this moment Congress in Washington seems x to have made up its mind that having provided for the fact that we must take care of the Philippines and of Cuba, there is not to be any army with which to take care of it, and that the armed resistance is to be made by proclamations. Well, it is a little soul harrowing to have to deal with cattle who take that view of the responsibility of the Nation. But Washington had to deal with them. Washington had to face the fact that he was not backed by the Continental Congress even in moments when he was at death grip with the enemy. Washington had to face the belief of many of our people that if you give a man a gun and patriotism you make him a soldier. It was Washington who had to tell the people the lesson that they