Page images
PDF
EPUB

BLA INE

AMES G. BLAINE was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1830, and, having graduated at Washington College in that State, emigrated to Maine, where he became editor of the Portland “Advertiser” and the Kennebec “Journal.” He was a member of the popular branch of the Maine Legislature from 1859 to 1862, and in the last named year was chosen Speaker of that body. He was sent to Congress in 1862, and served continuously in the House of Representatives until 1876, when he was appointed United States Senator from Maine. For three successive terms, that is to say during the period from 1869 to 1875 inclusive, he had been chosen Speaker of the House of Representatives. Upon the whole, he must be regarded as having been the Republican leader in that assembly after the death of Thaddeus Stevens. He was a conspicuous candidate for the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 1876; in 1880 he was Secretary of State under President Garfield, and was himself nominated for the Presidency in 1884. In 1888 he declined a renomination for that office, but he had many supporters in the Republican Convention in 1892. He died in January, 1893.

ORATION ON GARFIELD

IN THE HALL OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEBRUARY 27, 1882 Mr. President :

OR the second time in this generation the great departments of the government of the United States are assembled in the Hall of Representatives, to do honor to the memory of a murdered President. Lincoln fell at the close of a mighty struggle, in which the passions of men had been deeply stirred. The tragical termination of his great life added but another to the lengthened

succession of horrors which had marked so many lintels with the blood of the firstborn. Garfield was slain in a day of peace, when brother had been reconciled to brother, and when anger and hate had been banished from the land.

“Whoever shall hereafter draw a portrait of murder, if he will show it as it has been exhibited where such example was last to have been looked for, let him not give it the grim visage of Moloch, the brow knitted by revenge, the face black with settled hate. Let him draw, rather, a decorous, smooth-faced, bloodless demon; not so much an example of human nature in its depravity and in its paroxysms of crime, as an infernal being, a fiend in the ordimary display and development of his character.”

From the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth till the uprising against Charles I., about twenty thousand emigrants came from old England to New England. As they came in pursuit of intellectual freedom and ecclesiastical independence, rather than for worldly honor and profit, the emigration naturally ceased when the contest for religious liberty began in earnest at home. The man who struck his most effective blow for freedom of conscience, by sailing for the Colonies in 1620, would have been accounted a deserter to leave after 1640. The opportunity had then come on the soil of England for that great contest which established the authority of Parliament, gave religious freedom to the people, sent Charles to the block, and committed to the hands of Oliver Cromwell the supreme executive authority of England. The English emigration was never renewed, and from these twenty thousand men, with a small emigration from Scotland and from France, are descended the vast numbers who have New England blood in their veins.

In 1685 the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV., scattered to other countries four hundred thousand Protestants, who were among the most intelligent and enterprising of French subjects—merchants of capital, skilled manufacturers, and handicraftsmen superior at the time to all others in Europe. A considerable number of these Huguenot French came to America; a few landed in New England and became honorably prominent in its history. Their names have in large part become Anglicized, or have disappeared, but their blood is traceable in many of the most reputable families and their fame is perpetuated in honorable memorials and useful institutions. From these two sources, the English-Puritan and the French-Huguenot, came the late President—his father, Abram Garfield, descended from the one, and his mother, Eliza Ballou, from the other. It was good stock on both sides—none better, none braver, none truer. There was in it an inheritance of courage, of manliness, of imperishable love of liberty, of undying adherence to principle. Garfield was proud of his blood; and, with as much satisfaction as if he were a British nobleman reading his stately ancestral record in Burke's “Peerage,” he spoke of himself as ninth in descent from those who would not endure the oppression of the Stuarts, and seventh in descent from the brave French Protestants who refused to submit to tyranny even from the Grand Monarque. General Garfield delighted to dwell on these traits, and during his only visit to England he busied himself in discovering every trace of his forefathers in parish registers and on ancient army rolls. Sitting with a friend in the gallery of the House of Commons one night after a long day's labor in this field of research, he said with evident elation that in every war in which for three centuries patriots of English blood had struck sturdy blows for constitutional government and human liberty, his family had been represented. They were at Marston Moor, at Naseby, and at Preston; they were at Bunker Hill, at Saratoga, and at Monmouth, and in his own person had battled for the same great cause in the war which preserved the Union of the States. Losing his father before he was two years old, the early life of Garfield was one of privation, but its poverty has been made indelicately and unjustly prominent. Thousands of readers have imagined him as the ragged, starving child, whose reality too often greets the eye in the squalid sections of our large cities. General Garfield's infancy and youth had none of their destitution, none of their pitiful features appealing to the tender heart and to the open hand of charity. He was a poor boy in the same sense in which Henry Clay was a poor boy; in which Andrew Jackson was a poor boy; in which Daniel Webster was a poor boy; in the sense in which the large majority of the eminent men of America in all generations have been poor boys. Before a great multitude of men, in a public speech, Mr. Webster bore this testimony:

“It did not happen to me to be born in a log-cabin, but my elder brothers and sisters were born in a log-cabin raised amid the snowdrifts of New Hampshire, at a period so early that when the smoke rose first from its rude chimney and curled over the frozen hills, there was no similar evidence of a white man's habitation between it and the settlements on the rivers of Canada. Its remains still exist. I make to it an annual visit. I carry my children to it to teach them the hardships endured by the generations which have gone before them. I love to dwell on the tender recollections, the kindred ties, the early affections, and the touching narratives and incidents which mingle with all I know of this primitive family abode.”

With the requisite change of scene the same words would aptly portray the early days of Garfield. The poverty of the frontier, where all are engaged in a common struggle, and where a common sympathy and hearty cooperation lighten the burdens of each, is a very different poverty—different in kind, different in influence and effect —from that conscious and humiliating indigence which is every day forced to contrast itself with neighboring wealth on which it feels a sense of grinding dependence. The poverty of the frontier is, indeed, no poverty. It is but the beginning of wealth, and has the boundless possibilities of the future always opening before it. No man ever grew up in the agricultural regions of the West, where a house-raising, or even a corn-husking, is a matter of common interest and helpfulness, with any other feeling than that of broadminded, generous independence. This honorable independence marked the youth of Garfield as it marks the youth of millions of the best blood and brain now training for the future citizenship and future government of the Republic. Garfield was born heir to land, to the title of freeholder which has been the patent and passport of self-respect with the Anglo-Saxon race ever since Hengist and Horsa landed on the shores of England. His adventure on the canal—an alternative between that and the deck of a Lake Erie schooner —was a farmer boy's device for earning money, just as the New England lad begins a possibly great career by sailing before the mast on a coasting vessel or on a merchantman bound to the Farther India or to the China Seas.

No manly man feels anything of shame in looking back to early struggles with adverse circumstances, and no man

« PreviousContinue »