The Writings of Carl Schurz/Hayes in Review and Garfield in Prospect
HAYES IN REVIEW AND GARFIELD IN PROSPECT
Fellow-Citizens:—In response to the invitation with which a large number of citizens of Indianapolis have honored me, I shall speak to you only on a few of the questions which will be discussed in the present contest; on those, I mean, which come directly home to you. I shall address myself to the conservative business men of the country, whose interest in politics is only that of the public good.
I shall appeal not to your passions, but to your reason, and, without any resort to the artifices of oratory, give you a plain practical talk. The language of party warfare is apt to fly to violent exaggerations for the purpose of producing strong impressions; the language of reason and common-sense will abstain from them. Let me say at the outset, therefore, that I do not agree with those who speak of the present moment as the greatest crisis in the history of American affairs. The questions we have to dispose of are not those of immediate life or death; but the bearing they have upon the future welfare of the nation, and upon those interests which most nearly affect us, is important enough to make us consider well what we are doing, to call for our best judgment and a strenuous effort to put that judgment into execution.
In the first place, let us make it clear to our own minds what we want. The answer is, in a general term, that we want a good government; that if we have it we must endeavor to keep it, and that if we have it not we must endeavor to get it. What is good government? We may answer again in general terms, that it is a government which well understands the public business, and, understanding it, transacts it within the limits of its constitutional power, intelligently, honestly and justly. The second question we have to answer to ourselves is, how far the government we have comes up to these requisites, how far the principles upon which it acts, the methods it employs, the aims it pursues and the degree of efficiency it develops, answer the public need, and how far in this respect we ought to preserve what we have or look for other things we have not.
As a member of the present Administration now on the point of yielding its power into the hands of a new set of public servants, I may be permitted to appeal to the candid judgment of the American people as to the manner in which the public business has been conducted during these last years. While it might be natural that, bearing a part of the responsibility myself, I should be inclined to take a favorable view of its performances, still I feel that my ways of thinking are independent enough not to betray me into mere partisan eulogy, and that we may confidently rely upon the judgment frequently expressed, not only by our friends, but also by very many candid men among our opponents. As a matter of course I do not expect Democratic politicians and orators to give us that fairness of judgment in the heat of an election contest which they could not deny us during the repose of a previous period, and which they will not deny us when this contest is over; for it is a common experience that partisan spirit will, under the excitement of the campaign, call a man a villain to-day whose worth was recognized yesterday, and whose merit will again be admitted to-morrow. I think I am not exaggerating when I say that the fair-minded men of this country will admit, and do admit in their hearts to-day, that on the whole the public business has been conducted by this Administration, as far as it was in its control, honestly, intelligently and successfully. I should be the last man to claim perfection for it, for as one of those who had an opportunity to watch affairs in detail, I am well aware of errors committed and of failures suffered in this and that respect. No administration of government ever has been or ever will be free from them; and with respect to them I claim no larger measure of charity than would be claimed by any member of a government acting upon correct motives of duty, and willing to have the acts and the general success of the Administration impartially judged as a whole. It has maintained the public faith and raised the credit of the United States to a point never reached before. It has with consistent energy followed a policy relieving the country of the evils of an irrational and dangerous money system, and greatly promoted the prosperity of the people by the restoration of specie payments. It has funded enormous masses of the National indebtedness at a lower interest, and thus saved many millions a year to the taxpayer. It has faithfully executed the laws with a conscientious observance of sound Constitutional principles. By its fidelity to these Constitutional principles it has removed many obstacles which stood in the way of a friendly understanding between the different sections of the country and different classes of people. It has, under trying circumstances, when the public peace was disturbed by riot and violence on the part of a numerous class of citizens, greatly aided the restoration of order and security by a calm and moderate employment of the limited power at its command, without in any case resorting to a doubtful stretch of authority. It has reformed many abuses in the public service, infused a higher sense of duty into its different branches, raised its moral tone, increased its efficiency, punished dishonesty and kept the service unsullied by the scandals arising from lax notions of official integrity. In saying this I am not unmindful of the fact that the reform of the public service has not overcome, in so high a degree as was intended and as was desirable, the obstacles opposing it in the shape of inveterate political habit and antagonistic interest; that therefore the highest standard has not been reached; that some mistakes have been made in the selection of persons for public position—points of which I shall say more in the course of these remarks; but it is certainly true that the service is now showing a greater degree of efficiency, a higher moral spirit and a stronger sense of duty than has prevailed perhaps at any time since the period when the administrative machinery was demoralized by the introduction of the spoils system. It has in many of its branches introduced rules and methods which have borne excellent fruit, and are capable of the most beneficent development if further carried on by coming administrations in sympathy with them.
I think I can say without exaggeration that these achievements will stand unquestioned in history by all fair-minded men. Withal the country is on the whole in good condition. The people are prosperous again; business is reviving; our industries are active; labor finds ready and remunerative employment; the Government enjoys the confidence of the business community in a rare degree, as our financial management has won the confidence of the whole world. Everybody sees reason to look hopefully into the future, provided the conduct of our public affairs remains as good as it has been.
Now the time for a change in the personnel of the Administration has arrived, and if the present conduct of affairs is on the whole good, patriotic and sensible citizens will see to it that the change now to come be such as to give the greatest possible guarantee for the preservation of all that is good, and, wherever possible, for an improvement on it. They certainly will endeavor to prevent such a change as would threaten a serious deterioration. We should, therefore, favor that candidate for the Presidency who in this respect can be best depended upon.
We have to deal with two parties and their candidates. The Republican party, with James A. Garfield at its head, and the Democratic party, with General Hancock. I do not deem it necessary to discuss the possibility of the victory of the Greenback party and their nominees, for the simple reason that their chances of success are not perceptible to the ordinary eye, and that their organization may be looked upon as a mere tender to the Democracy.
Now I desire you to put before your minds with impartial candor the question, whether the Democratic candidate and the party behind him can be best depended upon to preserve that which is good in the present condition of things, and develop it in the direction of improvement? I wish to state the question mildly, for I am not partisan enough—indeed my orthodoxy in that respect has now and then been questioned—to deal in wholesale and indiscriminate denunciation of our opponents. I do not mean to incite your prejudices and inflame your passions, but to discuss facts and to draw from them legitimate conclusions. I do not want the party to which I belong to depend for success upon the failings of its opponents, and I am, therefore, not inclined to exaggerate the latter. While adhering to one party I desire the other to be as good as possible, so as to compel my own to do its best. In this respect, therefore, I sincerely declare that I wish well to the Democratic party. I once participated in an attempt, which attempt miscarried, to move it up to the progressive requirements of the times. The contending political parties in a republic should be such in point of mental and moral constitution and capability that the government may be intrusted to either without serious apprehension for the safety of the public interest. I hope it will be so some day, and I wish it were so now. Let us see whether it is so now.
To speak in all candor, it appears to me that the Democratic party labors under historic as well as constitutional difficulties. Since the downfall and disappearance of the slave-power as a compact political interest, from which the Democratic party, more than twenty years ago, derived its morals, its logic, its political skill and statesmanship, that party has been floundering about, out of logical connection with the questions of the day; never knowing the time of day; always looking for something to turn up, and when something did turn up, spoiling it; lamely lagging in the rear of the events and requirements of the day; always behind; denouncing as impossible things that were already accomplished facts; with a strange incapacity to understand the present and to measure the future, making itself the recipient and rallying point for all dangerous and obstructive tendencies and elements, and thus committing blunder after blunder, which at the moment of their birth it uniformly gloried in as great strokes of policy, from the secession movement in 1861 down to the nomination of General Hancock in 1880.
There are many good and clear-headed men in the Democratic party, men whom I personally esteem and whose friendship I value, who deplore this condition of things as much as I do, but are unable to control the obstreperous elements and tendencies of the organization, and to fit it for the tasks and responsibilities of government.
It is not my habit to rake up the embers of past discords and to substitute for the living questions of the present issues which lie behind us; but if we want to ascertain the prevailing tendencies and the present capability for good government of the Democratic party in accordance with the spirit and requirements of the present day, it is not unfair to review some striking experiences as illustrations.
Looking back to the year 1864, the fourth year of the civil war, when the Southern Confederacy was near the total exhaustion of its resources, we find the Democratic party in National Convention solemnly declaring that the war was a failure and must be abandoned. A few months afterwards the triumph of our arms was decided, the Confederacy collapsed, the restoration of our Union was assured and the Democracy was forced to acknowledge that the war had been a success. The Democracy had proclaimed its despair of the Republic just at the time when the triumph of the Republic was ripe. It became evident to every one that, had the Democratic policy been then adopted, the war would have indeed become a failure and the Union have gone to wreck and ruin.
When slavery breathed its last and its abolition had become an evident logical necessity, requiring nothing more than the form of law, the Democratic party declared that the abolition of slavery would be the ruin of the country and must by all means be averted. Who is there to deny now that the abolition of slavery was an absolute necessity, and has turned out a blessing? The Democrats are compelled to admit it themselves.
When as measures of settlement the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments were passed, the Democratic party declared them void and entitled to no respect, and almost immediately afterward found itself compelled to admit that for the peace of the country and as a basis for future development these Constitutional amendments had to be maintained.
Coming down to more recent history, when the Republicans in Congress had passed the resumption act in 1875, and the fruit of the restoration of specie payments was almost ripe to be plucked, the Democratic party in its National Convention of 1876 thought it a smart thing to declare that the very act passed for bringing specie payments was an impediment in its way and must be repealed. And who is there to deny now that had the act been repealed under the pressure of all the inflation elements in the country, the confusion of our financial policy necessarily ensuing would have prolonged the evils of an irredeemable paper currency under which we were then suffering? I need not accumulate further examples to show how incapable the Democratic party proved itself to understand and appreciate not only the immediate requirements of the times but facts that had been virtually accomplished, and how its greatest efforts were directed to the end of obstructing things that had become inevitable, and which it afterwards found itself compelled to admit as good.
And now in this year of 1880, when the war issues are fairly behind us; when by its conciliatory spirit and its strict observance of Constitutional principles the Government has removed all the elements of discord between the two sections which it was in its own power to remove; when, aided by a wise and successful financial policy, general prosperity is again blessing the land, and when the people look above all things for enlightened practical statesmanship that well understands the questions it has to deal with to foster and develop that prosperity; now the Democratic party knows nothing better to do than to set aside all its statesmen of known and settled opinions, political experience and training, and to nominate for the Presidency a major-general of the regular army, a professional soldier, who has never been anything else but that, and who from the very nature and necessities of his profession has always stood aloof from the management of political questions.
I shall certainly not attempt to depreciate the character of General Hancock and the great services which he has rendered to the country. He is a gentleman of irreproachable private character, which I shall be sorry to see any effort made to discredit. As a soldier he has shown signal bravery and skill in the handling of troops under difficult circumstances, and his name is identified with some of the most splendid achievements of the war. For all this every good citizen will honor him. But the question is not whether we shall honor a deserving general.
The question is whether that deserving general would be the kind of a President the country needs, a President who can be depended upon successfully to solve the problems of statesmanship which are now before us; to preserve the good things already done and to improve upon them. To lead battalions of brave men against a fortified position, or to win a campaign by a dashing manœuvre, is one thing; to regulate the finances of the country in such a way that the blessings of a sound currency may be permanently secured to us; to develop our commercial opportunities; to organize the civil service in such a manner that it may conduct the public business upon sound business principles, is another; and in the latter case the brave spirit and ability which storms hostile batteries and lays low invading hosts does not appear in the first line of importance. When such difficult civic duties are to be performed we shall, as reasonable men, inquire whether the brilliant captain, who appears so glorious at the head of his columns, is also familiar with the complex interests which in official station he would have to serve; whether his knowledge, training, experience and mental habits fit him clearly to distinguish on the political field good from evil, not only in the abstract, but in the confusing multiplicity and variety of forms in which things appear in reality; whether he will be sufficiently equipped to penetrate, restrain and baffle the wiles of political intrigue and the conflicts of faction among the friends, which always surround the chief magistrate of a great commonwealth; whether he will show himself fitted to move on that field of civil action and duty, where forces are handled and directed not by a mere rule of command and obedience, but by finding the just measure of firmness and moderation in the pursuit of great objects and in the resistance to evil influences. I cannot impress it too strongly on your minds that there can be no greater difference than that between the handling of troops in a campaign and the handling of the political forces of a great people and the handling of the political affairs of a great government.
Moreover it must not be forgotten that this Government is no longer the simple machinery it was in the early days of the Republic. The bucolic age of America is over. The interests the Government has to deal with are no longer those of a small number of agricultural communities, with here and there a commercial town. They are the interests of nearly fifty millions of people spread over an immense surface, with occupations, pursuits and industries of endless variety and great magnitude; large cities with elements of population scarcely known here in the early days, and all these producing aspirations and interests so pushing, powerful and complicated in their nature, and so constantly appealing to the Government rightfully or wrongfully, that the requirements of statesmanship demanded in this age are far different from those which sufficed a century ago.
It is believed by many that it is an easy task to perform the duties of the President of the United States—that the only thing he has to do is to form a program of policy which he desires to carry out, and to call good and experienced men into his Cabinet to attend to the detail of the business, without meddling himself with its intricate complications. The experience I have gathered from personal observation, not only as a member of the legislative body but also of the Cabinet, has convinced me that this is a great mistake.
If all the President had to do were to select seven men who agree with him as to the principal objects to be accomplished, and then consult and agree with them about the means to be used, undisturbed by the pressure of outside forces, it would, indeed, be a comparatively easy and a comfortable thing. But the fact is that the President of the United States, by the very nature of his position, is obliged to spend far more time in listening to the advice and the wishes and the urgency of men outside of his Cabinet, than to his consultations with Cabinet ministers themselves. The opposition he may encounter from the opposing party in Congress and in the press is, in most cases, the least of the difficulties he has to contend with. The greatest puzzles that are apt to perplex and sometimes to overwhelm his mind come from his own party, who have a claim upon his attention and insist to have that claim respected. Not only upon the great measures of his Administration, but upon every detail, the advice of the members of his party, especially those in Congress, is urged upon him with all imaginable sorts of argument and from all imaginable sorts of motive. There is scarcely an appointment he has to make, there is certainly not a reform he wants to execute, that he will not have to carry through a siege and storm of opposing wishes and interests. Every object he pursues will run counter to the wishes not only of his opponents, but of some of his friends; every reform, the execution of which may appear to him desirable, will tread upon the toes of somebody whose interests lie in the abuse to be reformed, or who has a friend to protect who is connected with it; and all these pleas, representations, remonstrances, urgencies and pressures go to the President, not through the members of his Cabinet, but behind their backs; and it is a matter of long and varied experience that unless the President himself has a sufficient knowledge of affairs, a clear eye to see through arguments and motives, and that temper and skill which are necessary to resist without offending, and to conciliate without giving up his objects, he will inevitably be run over and lamentably fail. No man who has not witnessed it has an adequate conception of the furious pressure the President is subjected to, especially during the first period of his administration; and that first period is apt to determine the character of the whole. No Cabinet minister can carry out a reform in the branch of the public service over which he presides unless he has the President at his back, for if the President yields to remonstrances and urgencies brought to bear upon him against such a reform, the Cabinet minister will find himself baffled at every step.
I speak from experience when I say that most of the good things that have been done under this Administration, whatever merit the respective Cabinet ministers may deserve for them, are no less due to the clear-headed and faithful support, frequently called the “amiable obstinacy,” with which President Hayes stood behind them by warding off the opposition. It is for such reasons of inestimable benefit to an administration that the President himself should have had the experience of active work in legislative bodies, and especially in the Congress of the United States. It will require in a President a high degree of that intuitive genius with which but very few men in a century are endowed to make his administration successful without that experience.
Now put, for the sake of argument, in that most trying position, General Hancock or any man trained exclusively in the walks of army life, of which he is so conspicuous an ornament—I mean a man not endowed with that intuitive genius which I have spoken of, and which even his most ardent friends, as I understand, do not claim for General Hancock. What has there been in the school of his past life to fit him for it? As a boy he was accepted by the Government as a cadet at West Point, and that was his college and university. I have high respect for that military school. Every branch of military science is taught there, I have no doubt, with knowledge, skill and success. The principles of military honor and the great law of command and obedience are inculcated as the guiding stars of the future life of the student. The affairs of ordinary human existence outside of the military profession, and the problems it has to deal with, are necessarily treated as matters of only secondary moment. Our military school at West Point has given us many glorious soldiers who have adorned the history of the country; but it has never been pretended that it was meant to be, or was, a school of statesmanship. That school absolved, the young man entered into the regular army service. Of all classes of our society it may be said that our regular army is the most exclusive, the most widely separated from the ordinary business life of the people in point of sympathy, duty and habit. If we have an apart class among us, a class whose contact with the cares and endeavors and business and objects of the life of the masses is only occasional and unsympathetic; a class that in its ideas and aims is separated from the multitude, it is the officers of the regular army. This is not meant to discredit in any sense the character of our service or of the officers in it; it is the almost unavoidable peculiarity of their training and situation, for which they are in no way responsible. Their duties may be arduous; but, except in places of highest command in active warfare, they are extremely simple, specific and narrow; and it is a common experience that the mental horizon of men is apt to become limited by the sphere of their duties. I have heard it said a hundred times by men who had spent the best part of their lives in the regular army, and then were thrown upon their own resources to make a living in ordinary pursuits, that their army life had unfitted them for the every-day tasks of society. They found them selves, in a multitude of cases, utterly bewildered by the competition they had to run with those who had been trained in civil pursuits. How is it possible to assume that men who have spent the best part of their lives, who have grown old in that exclusive atmosphere, should show particular fitness for the most complex and confusing of all duties, the highest civil office in the land?
It may be said, therefore, without exaggeration, that in a hundred cases to one, by taking an old regular army officer, who has never been anything else, and putting him into the highest and most difficult political position, you may spoil an excellent general in making a poor President.
There he is, with an honest intention to do right and to serve his country. Problems of financial policy suddenly rise up before him—questions of revenue, of commercial policy, not in the way of general maxims and vague principles, but in the mysterious shape of practical problems to be applied to a given state of circumstances; questions of party politics, where the interests of the public and of the party are curiously mixed together in bewildering confusion. The man at the head of affairs means to do right; let us assume his Cabinet officers mean the same. But now a host of Senators, Representatives, prominent political leaders from all parts of the country swarm in upon him. Having never had any practical contact with the workings of financial or commercial systems, having stood aloof from the intricacies of political management, the man at the head of the Government is the objective point of all their efforts. There are a hundred politicians of name and importance, real or pretended, who lay claim to his attention, and having heard them all—as he has to hear them—and finding that their views and objects run counter to one another, he suddenly discovers himself in an unexpected state of uncertainty as to what is right and what is not, what will serve the interest of the country and what will benefit or injure the interests of his party. He has to meet a multitude of arguments put at him by a multitude of men from a hundred different motives, all seeming to him important, because all are to him new; not a few among the most prominent of those who urge their opinions most strongly upon his mind, trained and skilled by long practical schooling in all the arts of covering up the weak points of their cases and concealing their motives by specious arguments, and of making private interests appear those of the public. They have all contributed to his election and success; they are all entitled to his regard; he has heard of them all as prominent men entitled to respect; he has considered them all as men entitled to credit; and now he discovers that their opinions clash and that their aims are different and contradictory. Scores of them beseeching him with their urgency to make him believe that the Cabinet minister he trusts, by the things he attempts to carry out is injuring the party upon whose permanence the life, or at least the welfare, of the Republic depends. He has yet to learn that the Senator in his State or the Congressman in his district has interests of his own, peculiar to himself; that those interests are sometimes not exactly those of the country or even of the party at large; that the man who is recommended to him for high official position, as a model citizen of the Republic, has attained that position, in the opinion of his backer, less by services rendered to the commonwealth than by services rendered to a person; that the same man will be represented to him by others, not as the model citizen, but as a villain who cannot be trusted a moment. He will be told that those who judge of political objects and the means by which to attain them from a higher standpoint than mere personal or partisan interest, are amiable theorists, who are well enough in their way, but are useless in the practical conduct of politics; that the practical politician, who cares less for public questions but is skilled in the management of men, is after all the man who can alone be counted upon to preserve the power of his party, and thereby the salvation of the Republic. And when he has gone through this for weeks and months, and his head begins to swim in the confusing contests of interests and ambitions entirely new to him, and he feels himself in many things he has done or left undone under a pressure giving him no rest of mind, a helpless tool of foreign wills instead of being the director of things, he will then conclude that the repulse of the fiercest onset at the battle of Gettysburg and the taking of the angle of intrenchments in the Wilderness, glorious feats of arms, were after all very simple things compared with this. And as he goes on and gradually the light of experience dawns upon him, and he discovers glimmers of truth and finds himself unable to correct mistakes irretrievably made, and to redress injuries irremediably inflicted, and to recover failures which have then become part of the history of the country, he finally will see reason to wish that his friends had permitted him to enjoy his military renown in peace instead of casting over it a cloud of civil failure.
The picture I have drawn is one which every man of experience in political affairs will recognize as applicable to every novice in politics placed in the Presidential chair, even under ordinary and favorable circumstances. But what is likely to happen to such a man elevated to the Presidency with such a motley host upon his back as the Democratic party is to-day?
That party as now constituted is indeed a wonderful mixture of elements. I shall certainly not question the convictions and the motives of the enlightened and patriotic men that are in it who mean to do the best they can for the country with the means they have; but it is not unjust to them to say that many of them are undoubtedly not without their misgivings as to the latter, and are held where they are by the strength of life-long associations, by the traditions of circles and constituencies within which they move and from which they have derived their position and power; and also by the opinions grown from long struggles against what they considered and what in some cases may have been abuses on the other side; men of good intentions, laboring under the disadvantage of seeing their aspirations and endeavors hemmed in and baffled by followers and by circumstances which they cannot control. There is the Southern element of which I shall certainly not be inclined to deny that a marked improvement has taken place in the temper and aspirations of many of its leading men, who have cast the old ambitions of the war period behind them and are now with a patriotic spirit endeavoring to serve the country, and to whom therefore our esteem is due. It is also true that they begin to be supported by a class of orderly and well-meaning citizens; but it is no less true that they find themselves hampered and clogged by noisy factions in their constituencies, who, whether they are a majority or not, endeavor, and I regret to say in many instances successfully, to impress their temper upon the character of Southern politics; still smarting under the defeats of the war and the losses which those defeats had brought upon them; some of them with a sullen feeling that those defeats were an insult as well as a wrong to them, for which, in some way, they must have satisfaction; with a vague desire to retrieve of the old condition of things something they do not know exactly what; and withal insisting that something is due to them as Southern men in politics, as well as in society, and in their worldly fortunes as compared with the rest of mankind; rather reckless of the rights of others; with financial ideas destitute of a due regard for the good faith of the country, inclined to fly to any money system which they vaguely think can be manipulated so as to make them rich again by legerdemain; deeming it due to them that large appropriations should be made for their particular benefit, for all imaginable purposes, good, bad and indifferent, merely to pour money into that section of the country; with scarcely any traditions in government, except such as existed in their States before the war, and the reactionary desires and attempts of the party immediately after it; with appetites sharpened by long exclusion from power and the sweets of office, and greedy to make the most of that if they can obtain it.
There is the Northern Democracy, also with men of statesman-like instincts in it and excellent intentions, but behind them a large number of restless and ambitious politicians who, for twenty years, have been boxing the compass to find some principle or some policy, to avail themselves of some passion, or some prejudice by which they might win an election and regain the possession of power. Such an element, however, will be found, more or less, represented in all parties. But the Democracy has had the misfortune of exercising a remarkable power of attraction for the adventurous, and even the dangerous, elements of our population; and its attempts to regain power by all sorts of devices, and the advocacy of all sorts of principles and policies has gathered under its banner so many divergent tendencies and incongruous elements, held together by the only desire to regain the spoils of government, that when the party comes into power nobody can tell which element will be uppermost in strength and determine the current of its policy.
Thus we find there the hardest of hard-money men hand in hand with the wildest of inflationists, the freest of free-traders and the stiffest of protectionists; we find them in their platforms declaring for the restoration of specie payments to satisfy one part and the repeal of the resumption law in the same sentence to satisfy the other part of the organization. We find men who would scorn the idea of faithlessness to our national obligations in the closest alliance and coöperation with those who repudiated their debts in their own States, and who would not hesitate a moment to repudiate the debts of the Republic. We find men sincerely desirous of cultivating among the Southern people the heartiest sentiments of loyalty to the Republic and respect for the rights of all, irrespective of color, and by their side men who still think that their own rights are worth nothing unless they are permitted to oppress the rights of others. And it must not be forgotten that upon these different elements the official declarations of platforms have not the least effect. While the party in its national conventions declares for specie payments, that does not hinder a moment Democratic Congressmen from opposing resumption in Congress, or the Democrats of Ohio from nominating their inflation leader, General Ewing, or the Democrats in Indiana from nominating the fiat-money man, Landers, for the governorship of those States; nor does it prevent the Democrats in many of the Western and Southern States from pursuing their greenback agitation as lustily as before.
While they declare for an observance of our national obligations, that does not hinder the Democrats in many of the Southern States from going on in their work of local repudiation, and declaring that local repudiation is so good a thing that it ought to be made general. But all these factions, these incongruous elements, are held together by one great impulse—that is, the appetite for public plunder, which the exclusion from power for twenty years has stimulated to a degree of keenness scarcely ever seen before. Now consider that, if General Hancock ever can be elected, it must be by a very hearty coöperation of all these elements—the Greenback-Democrats in Ohio, Maine and Indiana and the West and South, with the hard-money men in New York, New Jersey and other States; the protectionists in one quarter and the free traders in another; the war-Democrats in the North and the reactionary elements elsewhere; and to all these elements together, General Hancock, if successful at all, will owe his success; and all those elements, if the successful party is to be maintained in its strength and continued in power, must be satisfied in order to hold them together.
That will be the situation and such the problem which the soldier, to whom political science and management so far have been a sealed book, will have to solve. What will he do to satisfy the hard-money men without driving the Greenbackers away? What will he do to keep the Greenbackers in the party without betraying the principles of the hard-money men? How will he satisfy the Southern element, that claims to have been robbed by an anti-slavery war, and is entitled to restitution in some shape, and at the same time keep the management of the government within the bounds of economy and propitiate the Northern taxpayer? How will he content the Southern men in the distribution of offices, who will claim that they have furnished the majority of votes and are therefore entitled to the lion's share? And how will he keep the Northern Democracy in good spirits and in working order by a distribution of the patronage which will appease the hunger of twenty years? These are some of the problems which the unsophisticated soldier-President, whose whole sphere of mental activity has so far been confined to the handling of troops on the field of battle, and to the narrow horizon of duty which army life in times of peace comprises, will have to solve. And these problems he will have to solve not in the quiet of the closet, surrounded by a few able counsellors in peaceful consultation, but quickly, under the bewildering pressure of not a hundred but thousands of eager politicians, who fill the ear with a babel of sound and with a pandemonium of conflicting ambitions. This is a task that would tax a man of phenomenal genius to the utmost of his capacity; but what will become of one who is unaided even by the least experience of political life, and has nothing but his inner consciousness to measure the value of the arguments and pretenses which are dinned into his ears and the character of the interests that besiege him with their urgency for immediate action?
Let us see now what, in view of all this, we have a right to expect from a Democratic victory. Is it the maintenance of our public faith? While there are prominent opponents of repudiation in the Democratic party, it is a notorious fact that all the elements hostile to the Constitutional discharge of our National obligations have also gathered under the same banner. Nearly all, if not all, the States that have repudiated or speak of repudiating their own debts are Democratic States, with heavy Democratic majorities, furnishing Democratic electoral votes and Congressmen. Who will tell me that it is certain they will be more conscientious with regard to the national debt than they showed themselves with regard to their own? Have we a right to expect a sound financial policy? While there are many good, sound-money men in the Democratic party, it is equally well known that the Democratic party has irresistibly attracted to its fold a very large majority of the Greenbackers, inflationists and fiat-money men. It has, indeed, in its national platforms of late declared for sound money; but in 1876, while it pronounced for resumption it demanded at the same time the repeal of the resumption law. I ask, what would have become of resumption had the resumption law been repealed? But while thus speaking of sound money in their national platforms, is it not equally true in a large number of the States the most prominent inflationists are put forward for the highest honors followed by the masses of their party? So General Ewing, in Ohio, so General Butler, in Massachusetts, so Mr. Landers, in Indiana; while in Maine, Democrats and Greenbackers fuse in cordial embrace, and while in many of the Western and most of the Southern States the Democrats almost en masse represent unsound financial ideas. Is it not true, that to the very last, resumption was opposed in Congress by Democratic Congressmen? Why, when General Hancock was nominated, the attraction for the Greenbackers seemed to be so strong that the venerable Peter Cooper and General Sam. Carey, of Ohio, were among the first to pay to him their devotion and wish him success.
Now, can anybody foretell what will happen in these respects in case of a Democratic victory? In fact, we do not know whether the advocates of the public faith or the repudiationists, whether the hard-money men or the inflationists, are the strongest element in the Democratic party throughout the country, and which of those elements will control its policy. I appeal to you, businessmen, am I going too far in saying that all this is dark, and that in voting the Democratic ticket you will take a gambling chance, and that chance being rather against you? Are you prepared, taxpayers of the country, to take that gambling chance under such circumstances?
But one thing is certain, that the Democratic party, in its fashion, will reform the civil service. That it will certainly do; it will do it according to an old Democratic principle, “to the victors belong the spoils.” That principle is of Democratic origin, and the Democratic party has adhered to it with a fidelity worthy of the best cause. Other parties were infected by it, but the Democratic party may claim the glory of its paternity and of its most unswerving advocacy. It may abandon any other principle, but not that. If there ever was a Democrat, either at the head of the organization or in the ranks, who has proved recreant to that great doctrine, and made proclamation of his opposition to it, I do not know his name. It is so closely interwoven with the traditions of that party that I doubt very much whether it could be abandoned without destroying the party's existence. That great word, “the cohesive power of public plunder,” had its first and most pointed application to the Democracy. And, indeed, when we look at its heterogeneous elements to-day, it is not easy to imagine any other cohesive power which could hold them together. If General Hancock, or any other leader, should signify his intention to abandon it, every Democrat in the land would receive the news with an ironical smile, and simply say that that leader knew a trick or two. If such an intention were declared, and the declaration believed, it is not unlikely that their hosts would disband at once. When the Democracy, therefore, speaks of a reform of the civil service, the meaning of that term, in the light of history and of the tendencies at present prevailing, can be nothing else than that the reform shall consist in putting out all the Republicans and putting all Democrats in their places. What a reform that would be! How the North and South would shake hands over the bloody chasm filled with such good things! What a host of men would be marching upon the capital from all quarters of the compass, each one feeling that he is born to serve the public, and that the Government cannot get on without him! It is said that at the present moment, when the Democracy feels sanguine of success, as it always does, the most popular work of literature with Democrats, even with those who never read a book before, is the “Blue Book,” being the register of offices under the Government, with salaries attached, each active Democrat selecting his, and many the same.
Now let us see what that sort of Democratic reform in the civil service really means and what its effect would be. Look at the present condition of the service. I have already admitted that the reform of it has not gone so far as was intended and was desirable, but I may say also that more has been accomplished than is generally known and believed. I repeat, it is an almost universally acknowledged fact that at present the public business is, on the whole, well and honestly conducted in the Government offices. The revenues are collected with remarkable fidelity, and never in the history of the country has the loss in their collection been as small as now. In some of its branches it has almost entirely disappeared. The postal service is acknowledged to be more than ever ably, honestly and efficiently done. Even in those branches of the public service which more than others have almost from the beginning of the Government borne the reputation of being inefficient and corrupt, such as the land and especially the Indian service, cases of peculation and roguery have become comparatively rare, and the general inefficiency of officers is very much improved; and I speak of this with assurance, for the reason that I am conversant with the details. How has this been brought about?
In the first place, officers of all grades were made to understand that dishonesty of whatever kind or degree would under no circumstances be tolerated. Officers guilty of corrupt practices, whenever their guilt was shown with sufficient clearness, have been exposed and ejected from their places without hesitation. Every man in the service understanding this, it may be said that if persons with thieving propensities were left or put in place, they did in most cases not dare to steal. Secondly, the number of removals made by this Administration has been comparatively small. Not only clerks in the Departments, but officers, appointed for a term of years, were generally left in their places as long as they showed the necessary degree of ability and efficiency in the discharge of their duties. In this way the service retained a very valuable stock of official experience which could not but tell in its general efficiency, while at the same time public servants were imbued with a feeling that the best way to secure themselves in place was to perform their duties according to the best standard. Thirdly, in appointing new men care was taken to select such as would presumably be capable to perform the tasks assigned to them. In some Departments, and in a number of the larger government institutions in the country, systems of examinations were introduced, which deterred at once the entirely incapable from urging themselves or being urged for official position, while they furnished also a good measure of the capacity of the applicants. This system of examination may not in all cases furnish an absolutely reliable test, but it has proved to be an infinitely better test than mere recommendation from political favor. It has not been extended as far as it should be, but a good beginning has been made, capable of large extension and development. Fourthly, the practice of making promotions from lower to higher places for good official services rendered, not only in the Departments, but also in some branches of the service outside of them, has been carried out to a much greater extent than is generally known; thus furnishing another stimulus to the zeal of the public servants. I repeat that mistakes in appointments have undoubtedly occurred, some of a more or less conspicuous kind, and that the principles of a thorough reform have not been as universally applied as they should have been. Great cries have been raised about instances in which those principles appear to have been disregarded; but under the old regular spoils system such instances were the rule, compliance with which would not have been criticized at all; and the very cries that are now raised with regard to them in our case prove that at present they are the exception. The very kind of criticism applied to the Administration shows that things have grown better. In spite of the imperfections of the methods followed, the result has been that the public business is recognized to be conducted now in a more business-like manner than before, and that the efficiency of the service has been lifted up to a much higher standard.
Now substitute for this the Democratic reform, making a clean sweep according to the old spoils system, and what will you have? Hundreds of thousands of politicians, great and small, but all hungry, rushing for seventy or eighty thousand places, backed and pressed by every Democratic Congressman and every Democratic committee in the land. This impetuous rush must be satisfied as rapidly as possible, for they want to make the best of their time, and in this case, as well as others, time is money. It is useless to disguise it; the masses of office-seekers, starved for twenty years, will not be turned back as long as there is a mouthful on the table. Seventy or eighty thousand officers selected at random from that multitude of ravenous applicants will be put into places held now mostly by men of tried capacity and experience. They must be taken at random, for it is impossible to fill so large a number of places, in so short a time as the furious demand will permit, in any other way. Need I tell any sensible man what the effect upon the conduct of the public business will be? It will be the disorganization of the whole administrative machinery of the Government at one fell blow; it will be the sudden substitution of raw hands for skilled and tried public servants; the substitution of the eager desire to make out of public affairs as much as can be made in the shortest possible time, for official training, experience and sense of responsibility. It will be a removal for some time at least of those carefully devised guards which are now placed over the public money and its use; it will in one word be the sudden distribution of so many thousand places of trust, responsibility and power, now well filled, in the true sense of the word as spoils among the hosts of the victorious party.
It is useless to say that the Democratic party contains a sufficient number of men of ability and integrity to fill all those places. No doubt it does. But it is absolutely impossible for those who have the appointing power, even if they were ever so well disposed, to make careful selections for so many thousand places in a short time, especially considering the fact that usually the least worthy aspirants are among the most clamorous and the most skillful in securing the strongest political indorsements. Need I tell the taxpayers what such an experiment will cost? Suppose, after a success of the Democratic party in a Presidential election, all the offices, high and low, in all the banks and savings institutions of the country, were to be filled suddenly with Democratic politicians upon the recommendation of Democratic Congressmen and campaign committees, what would the stockholders and the depositors think of the safety of their money? And yet the interests involved in the banks are certainly by no means greater than the interests involved in the conduct of the great Government of the United States. I do not think this is putting the case too strongly, and I invite the business men of the country and the taxpayers generally to consider it well before they cast their votes.
I am willing to assume that in all these respects General Hancock entertains the best possible intentions, and even that he may form for himself a plan of action intended to obviate these difficulties and disasters. He may possibly tell you so, and mean what he says. Yet is it not obvious that, having no experience whatever in political life, he will be completely at the mercy of wind and waves, and that there will be a power of wind in the Democratic victors clamoring for the spoils strong enough to upset the ingenuity of the firmest and most skilled politician in his party? No, let nobody indulge in any delusion about it; a Democratic victory means that the victors will take the spoils at once; and this means the complete destruction for a time of the whole administrative machinery of the Government, with all its checks and guards, and the people will have to foot the bills for the carnival. This will be a reform of the civil service to make the ears of the taxpayers tingle.
No prudent citizen can fail to be repelled by such prospects unless equally great or greater dangers threaten from the other side. Let us look at that other side now. I am certainly not one of those who would assert that the Republican party has been without fault. I have been one of its most unsparing critics, and have been unsparingly criticized myself by thoroughgoing partisans in return. I shall always claim for myself freedom of opinion and speech in that respect. The Republican party has undoubtedly made a great many mistakes. I will not go back to the period of reconstruction and an absolved Southern policy, because that lies far behind us, and is not an issue in this campaign. Its Constitutional results have become settlements, accepted by both sides—in profession at least, and the policy of force after the admission of the late rebel States has under this Administration yielded to a scrupulous rule of Constitutional principles. Neither would I deny that, with regard to the question of the public debt at one time and to the currency question for a more extended period, there was in the Republican party an antagonism of opinions, a contest of conflicting ends. We have had Republican advocates of the payment of the public debt in greenbacks; we have had Republican inflationists, and the discussions inside of the Republican party were for some time heated and bitter. Thus for a season the party seemed to stumble along with an uncertain gait, but it has always had an unerring instinct which in the end made it turn right side up; and then it kept right side up. When in 1869 the Republican majority in Congress declared for the payment of the public debt, principal and interest, in coin, there was the end once and forever of the repudiation movement, open and disguised, in the Republican party. When in 1875 the Republican majority in Congress passed the resumption act, there was the end, once and forever, of the unredeemable paper-money business in the Republican party. Those who remained repudiationists or fiat-money men did not remain Republicans, at least not leaders of the party. They tried their luck for some time inside of it; then they left it, and became independent Greenbackers, and finally most of them landed in the Democratic party, as the Democratic Greenbackers, who for a time became independents, mostly went back there. General Weaver and his followers are still in the intermediate state, but will no doubt finally materialize as sound Democrats.
But while the Democratic party has been attracting such elements, the Republican party has been either converting them to sound principles or ejecting them until they almost wholly disappeared among its component parts. Thus it has become emphatically the protector of the national faith and the party of sound money. I have no doubt that the disagreements still existing upon financial subjects of minor importance in the Republican party will be solved in the same way after mature discussion. This tendency in the Republican party has been owing to some very characteristic causes. It has not only a predominance of good sense and a thoughtful desire to be right and an endeavor to do that which was best for the general interests of the people, but it was also the traditional feeling grown out of the loyal attitude of the Republican party during the civil war in support of the Union and the preservation of the Republic—the feeling of solemn duty that all the obligations contracted for so sacred a purpose must be and remain sacred and inviolable. Therefore, it was that the idea of repudiation never could obtain a permanent foothold among Republicans, whatever the vacillations of individual minds during a limited period may have been. And the abhorrence of repudiation in our discussions of the financial problem inspired the most powerful arguments that brought the Republican masses to a sound appreciation of the money question.
In this way the Republican party, steadily progressing in an enlightened perception of the principles of sound finance, has become the reliable sound-money party of the country, to which, as parties now are, the solution of new financial problems can alone be safely trusted. And how magnificently do the effects of the results already achieved appear in the revival of our business prosperity!
It may be said that our financial policy has not wholly originated that prosperity. True, but it has most powerfully aided it by giving us that confidence which is impossible without stable money values and a sound currency system. And what prudent man would now risk these great results by turning over our financial policy to the hands of a party which, as I have shown, is the refuge of all destructive elements threatening new uncertainty and confusion?
Indeed, not only in the traditions and good sense of the Republican party do you find the best security there is at present for the sanctity of our national faith as well as a successful management of the financial policy; you find equal security in the known opinions and principles of its candidate, James A. Garfield. His convictions on these subjects have not found their first and best proclamation in the platform of his party or in his letter of acceptance. His record of nearly twenty years of Congressional service is not a blank on the great questions of the times, like that of his opponent. There is not a phase of the question of our national obligations; there is not a point of financial policy, from the first day that the subject was considered in Congress since he became a member of that body to the present hour, that he has not discussed with an ability and strength, a lucidity of argument, amplitude of knowledge and firmness of conviction, placing him in the first rank of the defenders of sound principles.
If you want to study the reasons why the public faith should be inviolably maintained, why an irredeemable paper currency is, and always has been, a curse to all the economic interests of this and all other countries, why confidence can be restored and maintained, why business can obtain a healthy development, why foreign commerce can be most profitably conducted only with a money system of stable and intrinsic value, you will find in the speeches of James A. Garfield upon this subject the most instructive and convincing information. You will find there opinions not suddenly made up to order to suit an opportunity and the necessities of a candidate in an election, but the convictions of a lifetime, carefully matured by conscientious research and large inquiry, and maintained with powerful reason, before they had become generally popular. You find there a teacher, statesman and a leader in a great movement, with principles so firmly grounded in his mind, as well as his conscience, that he would uphold them even were they not supported by a powerful party at his back. There is double assurance, therefore, in the traditions and acts of the party and in the character of the leader at its head.
As to the civil service, I have stated to you what in my opinion its condition is to-day, and that opinion accords, I think, with that of every fair-minded observer. As to what it will become in case of a Republican victory, I shall not predict the millennium, neither from the knowledge I have of the obstacles in the way of a permanent reform on sound principles, nor from the party platform, nor from the last utterance of the candidate. One thing, however, may be taken for certain: the administrative machinery of the government will not be suddenly taken to pieces and disorganized, to be recomposed of raw material. In so far as it has shown itself honest and efficient, it will be preserved in its integrity and efficiency, and upon the good foundation laid there is reason for assurance that it will be developed to greater perfection. The business interests of the country, the taxpayers generally, whose first desire it must be to see the public business of the Government administered in an honest and intelligent way, will, therefore, have no reason to fear sudden and fitful revulsions in the organization of the administrative machinery, as the distribution of the spoils among the victors after Democratic success would inevitably be. This is the least advantage we may expect with certainty; but that advantage is so great that no man of sense will fail to appreciate it. Of the greater, more thoroughgoing and permanent reforms which I have long considered not only necessary but also practicable, and which have been attempted and in part carried out, it may be said that so far their advocates have made themselves heard only on the Republican side, and that at present there appears to be no other organization of power in which they can be worked for with any hope of success. That this work will not be given up, is certain, while, on the Democratic side, we have no reason to look for anything else than a complete relapse into those barbarous methods which in former times have proved so demoralizing as well as expensive.
And now I appeal to the conservative citizens of the Republic, to you who desire the public faith sacredly maintained, where will you go? Can you, in view of present circumstances, conscientiously go to the Democratic party? You will indeed find there not a few men who think as you do; but with them, you will find closely allied in party interest all those elements to whom our national obligations are the football of momentary advantage. You will find on that side every State that has repudiated or speaks of repudiating its public debt; you will find there all those who decried the public creditor as the public enemy, and whom no loyal tradition and impulse attaches to the national honor. You will find there a party, inside of which the public faith has still to fight a battle with its enemies, without any certainty of its issue. Is that your place? Or will you go to the Republican side, where the loyal maintenance of our public faith has become a fundamental principle, universally adhered to with unswerving fidelity, in spite of the gusts of adverse public sentiment in former days? And you who desire to preserve the fruits of the success gained in the abolition of the curse of an irredeemable paper money and the reëstablishment of specie payments, where will you go? Will you go to the Democratic party, where again you will find some who think as you do, and yet with them as a powerful and perhaps the most numerous component part of the organization, wielding commanding influence in a great many of the States subject to its control, the great mass of the inflationists and fiat-money men who were gathered under the Democratic banner by a seemingly irresistible power of attraction, and furnished many of the acknowledged leaders of that organization, and who even now, when the prosperity of the country has been so magnificently aided by a sound financial policy, would be ready to subvert it all and throw the country back into the wild confusion of the fiat-money madness? Will you, business men, farmers, manufacturers, merchants of the country, find the safety of your interests there? Will you help a party to power, inside of which, between its component elements, the battle of a sound-money system and an irredeemable paper currency is still pending, and will you trust the earnings of the poor as well as the fortunes of the wealthy to the uncertainties of its issue? Or will you go to the Republican side, where great victories for the cause of good money have been achieved; where sound sense and patriotism have won every fight so far decided, and where we may with certainty look for the same sound sense and patriotism to solve the problems not yet disposed of? And you who desire the administrative business of the Government performed in a business-like way by honest and capable public servants, where will you go? Will you go to the Democratic party, which has no other reform idea than an eager desire to take the whole administrative machinery of the Government suddenly to pieces, and to fill it as rapidly as possible with politicians demanding offices as spoils? Or will you go to the Republican side, where you have the assurance of a civil service which, in spite of shortcomings and mistakes, has already on the whole proved itself capable to transact your business honestly and efficiently, and where you find all those elements that are faithfully and energetically working for a more thorough and permanent reform?
I might go on with the catalogue to show you where the path of safety lies; but it is enough. Your own State of Indiana furnishes you at this moment a most instructive illustration. Look at the contending forces here. On the one hand, a man put forward by the Democrats as their candidate for the governorship, one of the leaders of the wildest inflation movement, one of the most vociferous advocates of the repeal of the resumption act, the successful execution of which has conferred upon the American people such inestimable blessings.
Where would our prosperity be had he and his followers prevailed? And now you find him the representative man of the Democratic party, still advocating his wild doctrines, and hoping for their triumph, which would be the ruin of your prosperity. You are certainly mindful of the fact that the wise and patriotic men among you, and I am glad to say that they were a majority of your voters, made an effort to do away with the scandals of fraudulent voting, arising from the absence of a good registration law and the seductive opportunities furnished by your October elections. You know how a majority of your citizens with the applause of all fair-minded men in the country, voted and carried that reform at an election held for the ratification of your constitutional amendments; you know how by Democratic judges that decision of the majority was set aside upon reasons which made the whole legal profession stare the country over. Is that the party which, as citizens of Indiana, mindful of the welfare and the good name of this State, you will support?
Now look to the other side. Your Republican candidate for the governorship, one of your purest, best informed and most useful and patriotic men who on every question of public interest stands on the side of the honor of the country and the welfare of its citizens; whom even the voice of slander cannot reach, and to whose hands his very opponents would without hesitation commit their interests. That is the illustration Indiana gives of the character of our national contest.
What is there then on the Democratic side which could seduce you from the path of safety? Is it the nomination for the Presidency of a soldier who during the war did brave deeds and deserved well of the country? Is it a sense of gratitude for those brave deeds that should make you elevate the soldier to the place in which a statesman is wanted? Gratitude to those who on the field of battle bared their breasts to the enemies of the country is a sentiment of which I shall not slightingly speak; it is a noble sentiment; but is the Presidency of the United States a mere bauble that should be given as a reward for things done on a field of action wholly different?
Is the Presidency like a presentation sword, or a gift horse, or a donation of money, or a country house, given to a victorious soldier to please him? If so, then simple justice would compel us to look for the most meritorious of our soldiers and reward them in the order of their merit; and, brave and skillful as General Hancock has been, there are others who have claims of a still higher order. Then, General Grant having already been President, we should reward General Sherman and Lieutenant-General Sheridan first before we come to the major-general nominated by the Democratic party. Certainly let us be grateful; but let us not degrade the highest and most responsible trust of the Republic to the level of a mere gift of gratitude. Let military heroes be lifted up to the highest rank in the service which belongs to the soldier. Let them be rewarded with the esteem of their countrymen; and, if need be, let wealth and luxury be showered upon them to brighten that life which they were ready to sacrifice for their country.
But let it never be forgotten that the Presidency is a trust that is due to no man; that nobody has ever earned it as a thing belonging to him, and that it should not be bestowed but for services to be rendered in the way of patriotic and enlightened statesmanship.
But, above all things, the Presidency should never be pointed out as the attainable goal of ambition to the professional soldier. I certainly do not mean to depreciate the high character of the regular army. But I cannot refrain from saying that in a republic like ours great care should be taken not to demoralize it by instilling political ambition into the minds of its officers. The army is there to obey the orders of the civil power under the law as it stands, without looking to the right or to the left. And it will be an evil day for this Republic when we inspire the generals of our Army with the ambition to secure the highest power by paving their way to it with political pronunciamentos. I will not impute to General Hancock any such design. He may have meant ever so well when he issued General Order No. 40, which is now held up by a political party as his principal title to the Presidency. But you once establish such a precedent, and who knows how long it will be before you hear of other general orders issued for purposes somewhat similar to those for which they are now issued in Mexico? I am for the subordination of the military to the civil power. And therefore I am for making Congressman Garfield President, and for letting General Hancock remain what he is, a general, always ready to draw the soldier's sword at the lawful command of the civil power.
What have we, on the other hand, in the Republican candidate: his youth was that of a poor boy. He lived by his daily labor. He rose up from that estate gradually by his own effort, taking with him the experience of poverty and hard work and a living sympathy with the poor and hard-working man. He cultivated his mind by diligent study and he stored it with useful knowledge. From a learner he became a teacher. When the Republic called her sons to her defence he joined the army and achieved distinction in active service as one of the brave on the battlefield. He was called into the great council of the Nation, and has sat there for nearly twenty years. No great question was discussed without his contributing the store of his knowledge to the fund of information necessary for wise decision. His speeches have ranked not only among the most eloquent, but among the most instructive and useful. Scarcely a single great measure of legislation was passed during that long period without the imprint of his mind. No man in Congress has devoted more thorough inquiry to a larger number of important subjects and formed upon them opinions more matured and valuable. He was not as great a soldier as his competitor for the Presidency, but he has made himself, and is universally recognized as, what a President ought to be, a statesman. He understands all phases of life, from the lowest to the highest, for he has lived through them. He understands the great problems of politics, for he has studied them and actively participated in their discussion and solution. Few men in this country would enter the Presidential office with its great duties and responsibilities better or even as well equipped with knowledge and experience. He need only be true to his record in order to become a wise, safe and successful President. If the people elect him it will be only because his services rendered in the past are just of that nature which will give assurance of his ability to render greater service in the future. The country wants a statesman of ability, knowledge, experience and principle at the head of affairs. His conduct as a legislator gives ample guarantee of great promise in all these things.
In a few months you will have to make your choice. I know that when a party has been so long in power as the Republican party, many citizens may be moved by a desire for a change. In not a few cases it may be a desire for the sake of a change. While the impulse is natural, it should not be followed without calm discrimination. Prudent men will never fail to consider whether the only change possible bids fair to be a change for the better. It is true that parties are apt to degenerate by the long possession of power. The Republican party cannot expect to escape the common lot of humanity; but no candid observer will deny that within a late period the Republican party has shown signs rather of improvement than deterioration; and that it possesses the best share of the intelligence, virtue and patriotism of the country. In matters of most essential moment to the public welfare it can be safely better counted upon for efficient and faithful service, while its opponent opens only a prospect of uncertainty and confusion.
The Democracy may in the course of time gain the confidence of the people; but that should be only when the repudiationists and the advocates of unsound money have ceased to be in its ranks so powerful and influential an element as seriously to threaten the great economic interests of the country; when by energetic and successful action in protecting the rights of the voter whether white or black, whether Republican or Democratic in all parts of the country, and by the suppression of fraud at the ballot-box through a healthy and irresistible power of public opinion within itself, it will have won the right to appear in its platforms as the protector of the freedom and purity of elections, and when it will find it no longer necessary to discard the ablest of its statesmen and to put a general of the Army, who has never been anything but a soldier, in nomination for the Presidency, to make for itself a certificate of loyalty to the settlements of the great conflict of the past.
And for all these reasons, in my opinion, the interests of the Republic demand the election of James A. Garfield to the Presidency of the United States.
- Speech at Indianapolis, Ind., July 20, 1880.