Page images

liberty, in that he himself, through his life, has known what it was to suffer from the stings of slavery, and to prize liberty from bitter personal experiences. Where could the head of government in any monarchy be smitten down by the hand of an assassin, and the funds not quiver or fall one-half of one per cent? After a long period of national disturbance, after four years of drastic war, after tremendous drafts on the resources of the country, in the height and top of our burdens, the heart of this people is such that now, when the head of government is stricken down, the public funds do not waver, but stand as the granite ribs in our mountains. Republican institutions have been vindicated in this experience as they never were before; and the whole history of the last four years, rounded up by this cruel stroke, seems, in the providence of God, to have been clothed, now, with an illustration, with a sympathy, with an aptness, and with a significance, such as we never could have expected nor imagined. God, I think, has said, by the voice of this event, to all nations of the earth, “Republican liberty, based upon true Christianity, is firm as the foundation of the globe.” Even he who now sleeps has, by this event, been clothed with new influence. Dead, he speaks to men who now willingly hear what before they refused to listen to. Now his simple and weighty words will be gathered like those of Washington, and your children and your children's children shall be taught to ponder the simplicity and deep wisdom of utterances which, in their time, passed, in party heat, as idle words. Men will receive a new impulse of patriotism for his sake and will guard with zeal the whole country which he loved so well. I swear you, on the altar of his memory, to be more faithful to the country for which he has perished. They will, as they follow his hearse, swear a new hatred to that slavery against which he warred, and which, in vanquishing him, has made him a martyr and a conqueror. I swear you, by the memory of this martyr, to hate slavery with an unappeasable hatred. They will admire and imitate the firmness of this man, his inflexible conscience for the right, and yet his gentleness, as tender as a woman's, his moderation of spirit, which not all the heat of party could inflame, nor all the jars and disturbances of his country shake out of place. I swear you to an emulation of his justice, his moderation, and his mercy. You I can comfort; but how can I speak to that twilight million to whom his name was as the name of an angel of God? There will be wailing in places which no minister shall be able to reach. When in hovel and in cot, in wood and in wilderness, in the field throughout the South, the dusky children, who looked upon him as that Moses whom God sent before them to lead them out of the land of bondage, learn that he has fallen, who shall comfort them 7 O, thou Shepherd of Israel, that didst comfort thy people of old, to thy care we commit the helpless, the long-wronged, and grieved. And now the martyr is moving in triumphal march, mightier than when alive. The nation rises up at every stage of his coming. Cities and States are his pallbearers, and the cannon beats the hours with solemn progression. Dead, dead, dead, he yet speaketh. Is Washington dead? Is Hampden dead? Is David dead? Is any man that ever was fit to live dead? Disenthralled of flesh, and risen in the unobstructed sphere where passion never comes, he begins his illimitable work. His life now is grafted upon the infinite, and will be fruitful as no earthly life can be. Pass on, thou that hast overcome. Your sorrows, O people, are his peace. Your bells and bands and muffled drums sound triumph in his ear. Wail and weep here; God made it echo joy and triumph there. Pass on.

Four years ago, O Illinois, we took from your midst an untried man and from among the people. We return him to you a mighty conqueror. Not thine any more, but the nation's; not ours, but the world's. Give him place, O ye prairies. In the midst of this great continent his dust shall rest, a sacred treasure to myriads who shall pilgrim to that shrine to kindle anew their zeal and patriotism. Ye winds that move over the mighty places of the West, chant his requiem. Ye people, behold a martyr whose blood, as so many articulate words, pleads for fidelity, for law, for liberty.


EORGE WILLIAM CURTIS was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1824. After attending school at Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, he removed to New York with his father in 1839, and was for a time engaged in mercantile pursuits. In 1842 he became a member of the Brook Farm Community in Massachusetts. Four years later he went abroad, and travelled some years in Germany, Italy, Syria and Egypt. Returning to America in 1850, he became a writer for the “New York Tribune,” and two years later was made one of the editors of “Putnam's Monthly.” He entered with fervor into the anti-slavery contest, speaking for the Republicans in 1856, and delivering in that year a memorable oration on the duty of the American scholar to politics. From 1857 until his death he was the editor-in-chief of “Harper's Weekly,” and contributed to “Harper's Monthly” the series of papers known as the “Editor's Easy Chair.” In his later years he was particularly eminent as an advocate of Civil Service Reform. In 1871 he was appointed by President Grant a member of a commission to draw up rules for the regulation of the civil service, and for some years before his death he was President of the National Civil Service Reform Association. For several years, also, he was Chancellor of the University of the State of New York. He died in 1892.


WELVE years ago I read a paper before this association upon reform in the Civil Service. The subject was of very little interest. A few newspapers which were thought to be visionary occasionally discussed it, but the press of both parties smiled with profound indifference. Mr. Jenckes had pressed it upon an utterly listless Congress, and his proposition was regarded as the harmless hobby of an amiable man, from which a little knowledge of practical politics would soon dismount him. The English reform, which was by far the most significant political event in that country since the Parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832, was virtually unknown to us. To the general public it was necessary to explain what the Civil Service was, how it was recruited, what the abuses were, and how and why they were to be remedied. Old professional politicians, who look upon reform as Dr. Johnson defined patriotism, as the last refuge of a scoundrel, either laughed at what they called the politics of idiocy and the moon, or sneered bitterly that reformers were cheap hypocrites who wanted other people's places and lamented other people's sins. This general public indifference was not surprising. The great reaction of feeling which followed the war, the relaxation of the long-strained anxiety of the nation for its own existence, the exhaustion of the vast expenditure of life and money, and the satisfaction with the general success, had left little disposition to do anything but secure in the national polity the legitimate results of the great contest. To the country, reform was a proposition to reform evils of administration of which it knew little, and which, at most, seemed to it petty and impertinent in the midst of great affairs. To Congress, it was apparently a proposal to deprive members of the patronage which to many of them was the real gratification of their position, the only way in which they felt their distinction and power. To such mem. bers reform was a plot to deprive the bear of his honey, the dog of his bone, and they stared and growled incredulously. This was a dozen years ago. To-day the demand for reform is imperative. The drop has become a deluge.

* An address delivered before the American Social Science Association at its meeting in Saratoga, New York, September 8, 1881.

« PreviousContinue »