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I do not want to hear a man promise more than he will do. If he promises less than he should, down him; but distrust him even more if you know he is promising something to please the ear which he knows cannot be carried out.
Washington did not promise the people of this country what the leaders of the French revolution promised in 1789-90-91-92. They promised everything. They promised that every man should be absolutely happy. Washington promised only what he could perform. He promised honesty and common sense. He promised that he would take part in forming a government in which there would be prosperity, not for all men, whether they were intellectual or not, whether they were lazy or not, whether they were thrifty or not, but that there should be prosperity as a whole for the man who was honest, who was thrifty, who was hard working and who knew how to handle himself, and his promises were made good.
I speak to you for clean politics. No man can hold in more utter abhorrence than I do the man who makes any excuse for foul politics. A man must strive continually to make things a little better; put things on a little higher plane. But he has got to remember the instruments with which he works; he has got to remember the men with whom he serves.
In the first place, he cannot do anything if he doesn't work as an American. You meet a certain number of good people who will tell you continually how much better things are done abroad, than here. Well, I doubt if they are right, but I don't care if they are. You have got to deal with what we have got here, and you cannot do anything if you do not work as an American. You have got to work in sympathy with the people around you.
In the next place you have got to feel as an American in other ways. You have got to have ingrained the genuine democracy, the genuine republicanisms of our institutions, of our form of government and habits. We cannot accomplish reform by the aid of merchant and manufacturer and business man alone. We have got to get reform by working for the eternal principles of right, shoulder to shoulder, with all who believe in those principles, so that the mechanic and the manufacturer, the farmer and the hired man, the banker, the clerk and the artisan will stand shoulder to shoulder to strive for the same purpose, for the same ideal.
You have got to remember that no ten men here, even the best ten men in Syracuse, could get together and strike for a sufficiently varied group of common objects, without each one of them having to surrender some of his own prejudices, some of his own convictions. You have got to realize that on the one hand if you are worth anything you will be true to your own ideal of manhood, and on the other liand you will make allowances for the feelings of those with whom you work. You cannot do anything if you have not got the capacity for independent action, and you cannot do anything if you have not also got the capacity to work with others.
I ask you then to strive for clean politics, not by professing your devotion to the cause on one night or another night of the year, but by taking more active steady interest in bettering our politics. I ask you to strive for them, not by refusing to recognize conditions as they are, but by recognizing them and then striving to make them better; not to delude yourselves into the belief that you need not strive to better matters. Remember that if you do not try to make things a little higher you had better get out of politics. If you are only content to keep step with the mass of your people round about, why then you do not count one way or the other.
I ask you to work for decent politics, to work for clean politics, to work in practical ways, not promising more than you can perform, but holding ever before you, that if you wish to see this Republic continue a free and great Republic and if you wish to see America take her proper place among the nations of the earth, you must make up your minds to the fact that you can see it only when each American remains true to the steadfast idea of honestly, of courage, of manliness in civic no less than in social life.
ADDRESS AT THE YALE ALUMNI DINNER, HELD AT THE
OXFORD CLUB, BROOKLYN, MARCH 3, 1899
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN: I remember in the fall of 1890 going out to speak at Yale, at the request of Professor Lounsbery, and telling my audience that it was very rare for a Harvard man to be able to come there with a proper feeling of self-respect, especially in the fall, after the foot ball games. I had waited for fourteen years for that occasion, and I did not know but that I would have to wait fourteen years more. But I only had to wait nine. It has always been an article of faith with me that Harvard and Yale should pull together, that we were natural antagonists, and, therefore, natural friends. In the State of New York this year Harvard and Yale have not only pulled together, but we have pulled off most of the things. The Lieutenant-Governor got there; and the two universities, inspired by that success, then divided up the senatorships and other officers. I am bound to confess that so far as Mr. Woodruff and I were concerned there was another Yale and Harvard ticket in the field. You all of you know how, in reading reports of athletic events, it reads that Mr. Smith came first; Mr. Robinson, second; Mr. Jones, third, and White and Brown “also ran.” Our two opponents on the Goo-Goo ticket, of whom one was a Yale and the other a Harvard man, came under the head of “ also ran.”
Gentlemen, I asked to have the honor of speaking tonight to the toast of what Yale had done in the war because it had been my fortune to see a little of the Yale spirit in the war from two sides. The first was when I was helping to get ready the Navy, and in the next place it was my good fortune to be one among those in the Army of Santiago. I shall never forget the eager desire shown by Yale to make her effort where it would do the most good. In dealing with naval matters, when I corresponded with the Yale men as to the ship Yale, I found that they were anxious to do not what would necessarily redlound to their own glory, but what the department
the vessel to make her most efficient.
And when it came to dealing with my own regiment, the Rough Riders, I had the honor of serving with a number of Yale men, a half dozen of whose names I could give.
one, whom you have with you to-night, one who, in the eyes of all his associates and of his superior officers, had the reputation of being one of the two or three men who on the whole were the best soldiers, the gamest men, the men who could be depended upon most in a regiment in which bravery was comnion to all its members. I speak, of course, of Jack Greenway. In all that I have to say I must be a little personal. I must individualize, but I only speak of the men of whom I shall speak because they stand as types. There are many others of whom I could speak for those you hear of are not all of those who gave up their lives and sacrificed ambitions for their country's good. The war was not a great war. I remember hearing a comment of some disgusted individuals after the Santiago campaign that there was not war enough to go around. The war was not a great war because this country was not compelled to put forth more than a small fraction of its strength; and the value of the work that was done and the sacrifices that were made merely served to set forth the fact that that work and those sacrifices were but the earnest of what would be done if the nation should be called upon to face some gigantic peril.
Where one Yale man in 1898 won honor, where one Yale man gave up his life for the flag which he held dear, there Here hundreds anxious themselves to have the chance to win honor, ready themselves, to give up their lives if called lipon to do so.
When Greenway and his fellow Yale men joined us in company with a number of men from my own college, Harvard, and a number of others, from Princeton, the thing that I liked most about the way that they came