Robert Green Ingersoll
EIGHT TO SEVEN ADDRESS
I HAVE sometimes wondered whether our country was to be forever governed by parties full of hatred, full of malice, full of slander. I have sometimes wondered whether or not in the future there would not be discovered such a science as the science of government. I do not know what you think, but what little I do know, and what little experience has been mine, is, I must admit, against it. We have passed through the most remarkable campaign of our history — a campaign remarkable in every respect.
It was bitter, passionate, relentless and desperate, and I admit, for one, that I added to its bitterness and relentlessness. I told, and frankly told, my real, honest opinion of the Democratic party of the North. I told, and cheerfully told, my opinion of the Democratic party of the South. And I have nothing to take back. But, to show you that my heart is not altogether wicked, I am willing to forgive and do forgive with all my heart, every person and every party that I ever said anything against. I believe that the campaign of 1876 was the turning-point, the midnight in the history of the American Republic.
I believe, and firmly believe, that if the Democratic party had swept into power, it would have been the end of progress, and the end of what I consider human liberty, beneath our flag. I felt so, and I went into the campaign simply because the rights of American citizens in at least sixteen States of the Union were trampled under foot. I did what little I could. I am glad I did it. We had, as I say, a wonderful campaign, and each party said and did about all that could be said and done. Everybody attended to politics. Business was suspended. Everything was given over to processions and torches, and flags and transparencies; and resolutions and conventions and speeches and songs. Old arguments were revamped. Old stories were pressed into service. The old story of the Rebellion was told again and again. The memories of the war were revived. The North was arrayed against the South as though upon the field of battle. Party cries were heard on every hand. Each party leaped like a tiger upon the reputation of the other, and tore with tooth and claw, with might and main, to the very end of the campaign.
I felt that it was necessary to arouse the North. I felt that it was necessary to tell again the story of the Rebellion, from Bull Run to Appomattox. I felt that it was necessary to describe what the Southern people were doing with Union men, and with colored men; and I felt it necessary so to describe it that, the people of the North could hear the whips, and could hear the drops of blood as they fell upon the withered leaves. I did all I could to arouse the people of the North. I did all I could to prevent the Democratic party from getting into power. The first morning after the election, the Democracy had a banquet of joy, but all through the feast they saw sitting at the head of the table the dim outline of the skeleton of defeat. And, when the tide turned, Republicans rejoiced with a face ready at any moment to express the profoundest grief. Then came despatches and rumors, and estimated majorities, and vague talk about Returning Boards, and intimidating voters, and stuffed ballot boxes, and fraudulent returns, and bribed clerks, and injunctions, and contempts of courts, and telegrams in cipher, and outrages, and octoroon balls in which reverend Senators were whirled in love’s voluptuous waltz. Everybody discussed the qualifications of Electors and the value of Governors’ certificates, and how to get behind returns, and how to buy an Elector, and who had the right to count; and persons expecting offices of trust, honor and profit began to threaten war and extermination, calls were made for a hundred thousand men, and there were no end of meetings, and resolutions and denunciations, and the downfall of the country was prophesied; and yet, notwithstanding all this, the name of the person who really was elected remained unknown. The last scene of this strange, eventful history, so far as the election by the people was concerned, was Cronin. I see him now as he leaves the land "where rolls" the Oregon and hears no sound save his own dashings. Cronin, the last surviving veteran of the grand army of "honesty and reform." Cronin, a quorum of one. Cronin, who elected the two others by a plurality of his own vote. I see him now, armed with Hoadley’s opinion and Grover’s certificate, trudging wearily and drearily over the wide and wasted deserts of the West, with a little card marked "S.J.T. 15 G.P."
Then came the great question of who shall count the electoral vote. The Vice-President being a Republican, it was generally contended, at least by me, that he had a right to count that vote. My doctrine was, if the Vice-President would count the vote right, he had the right to count it.
The Vice-President not being a Democrat, the members of that party claimed that the House could prevent the Vice-President from counting it, and this was simply because the House was not Republican. Nearly all decided according to their politics. The Constitution is a little blind on this point, and where anything is blind I always see it my way. It was about this time that some of the Democrats began to talk about bringing one hundred thousand unarmed men to Washington to superintend the count. Others, however, got up a scheme to create a court in the United States where politics should have no earthly influence. Nothing could be easier, they thought, after we had gone through such a hot and exciting campaign, than to pick out men who have no prejudices whatever on the subject. Finally a bill was passed creating a tribunal to count the vote, if any, and hear testimony, if any, and declare what man had been elected President, if any. This tribunal consisted of fifteen men, ten being chosen on account of their politics — five from the Senate and five from the House, — and they chose four judges from purely geographical considerations. I was there, and I know exactly how it was. Those four men were picked with a map of the United States in front of the pickers. The Democrats chose Justice Field, not because he was a Democrat, but because he lived on the Pacific slope. They chose Justice Clifford, not because he was a Democrat, but because he lived on the Eastern slope; that was fair. Thereupon the Republicans chose Justice Strong, not because he was a Republican, but because he lived on the Eastern slope. You can see the point. The Republicans chose Justice Miller, not because he was a Republican, but because he represented the great West. They then allowed these four to select a fifth man.
Well, it was impossible to select the fifth man from geographical considerations, you can see that yourselves. There was nothing left to choose between, you know, as far as geography was concerned. They then agreed that they would not take a Justice from any State in which the candidate for President lived. They left out Justice Hunt, from New York, and Justice Swayne, from Ohio. They knew of course that that would not influence them, but they did that simply — well, they did not want them there; that was all, and it would be unhandy to pick one man out of four. So they left Swayne and Hunt out. And then they would pick one man as between Justice Bradley and Justice Davis. Just at that time the people of the State of Illinois happened to be out of a Senator, and Judge Davis was there and expressed a willingness to go to the Senate. And the people of the State of Illinois elected him, and therefore there was nobody to choose from except Justice. Bradley, and he was a Republican.
Now, you know this runs in families. His record was good — by marriage. He married a daughter of Chief Justice Hornblower, of New Jersey. Now, Hornblower was what you might call a partisan. Do you know they went to him — it was in the old times, and he was a kind of Whig, — they went to him with a petition, in the State of New Jersey, a petition addressed to the Legislature for the abolition of capital punishment, and Hornblower said, I’ll be damned if I sign it while there is a Democrat in the State of New jersey."
As a matter of fact, however, I believe that Justice Bradley and all the other Justices, and all other persons on that tribunal decided as they honestly thought was right.
Judge Davis is as broad mentally as he is physically; he has an immensity of common sense, and as much judgment as any one man ever needs to use, and, in my judgment, he would have come to the same conclusion as Judge Bradley, precisely. These men were appointed — it was a Democratic scheme, and I am glad they got it up — and during that entire investigation, so much were the members of that party controlled by old associations and habits, and by partisan feeling that there was not a solitary one of the seven Democrats that ever once voted on the Republican side. And, as a necessity, the Republicans had to stand together. And so, notwithstanding the seven Democrats voted constantly together, the eight Republicans kept having a majority of one, until the last disputed State was given against the great party of "honesty and reform." And, finally, when they found they were defeated, they made up their minds to prevent the counting of the vote. They made up their minds to wear out the session and prevent the election of a President. Just at that point, for a wonder, (nothing ever astonished me more), the members from the South said: "We do not want any more war; we have had war enough and we say that a President shall be peacefully elected, and that he shall be peacefully inaugurated!" As soon as I heard that I felt under a little obligation to the Democracy of the South, and when they stood in the gap and prevented the Democracy of the North from plunging this Government into the hell of civil war, I felt like taking them by the hand and saying, "We have beaten the enemy once, let us keep on. Let us join hands." I felt like saying to the Democracy of the South, "You never will have a day’s prosperity in the South until you join the great, free, progressive party of the North — never! And they never will.
Now, I say, I felt as though I were under a certain obligation to these people. They prevented this thing, and they made it possible for the Vice-President to declare Rutherford B. Hayes President of the United States. Now, right here, I want you to observe that this shows the real defects in our system of government. In the first place, our Government is being governed by fraud. If the very fountain of power is poisoned by fraud, then the whole Government is impure. We must find out some way to prevent fraudulent voting in the United States or our Government is a failure. Great cities were the mothers of election frauds. They inaugurated violence and intimidation. They produced the repeaters and the false boxes. They invented fan-tail tickets and pasters, and gradually these delightful and patriotic arts and practices have spread over almost the entire country.
Unless something is done to preserve the purity of the ballot- box our form of government must cease. The fountain of power is poisoned. The sovereignty of the people is stolen and destroyed. The Government becomes an organized fraud, and all respect will soon be lost for the laws and decisions of the courts. The legislators are elected in many instances by fraud. The judges are in many instances chosen by fraud. Every department of the Government becomes tainted and corrupt. It is no longer a Republic, unless something can be devised to ascertain with certainty the really honest will of the sovereign people.
For the accomplishment of this object the good and patriotic men of all parties should most heartily unite. To cast an illegal vote should be considered by all as a crime. We must if possible get rid of the mob — the vagrants, the vagabonds who have no home and who take no interest in the cities where they vote. We must get rid of the rich mob too; and by the rich mob I mean the men who buy up these vagabonds. Various States have passed laws for the registration of voters; but they all leave wide open all the doors of fraud. Men are allowed to vote if they have been for one year in the State, and thirty or sixty days in the ward or precinct; and when they have failed to have their names registered before the day of election, they can avoid the effect of this neglect by making a few affidavits, certified to by reputable householders. Of course all necessary affidavits are made, with hundreds and thousands to spare. My idea is that the period of registration, in the first place, is too short, and, in the second place, no way should be given by which they can vote unless they have been properly registered. affidavit or no affidavit. Every man, when he goes into a ward or precinct, should be registered. It should be his duty to see that he is registered. Officers should be kept for that purpose, and he should never be allowed to cast a vote until he has been registered at least one year. Sixty days, say, or thirty days — sixty. would be better — sixty days before the election the registry lists should be corrected, and every citizen should have the right to enter a complaint or objection as against any name found upon that list. Thirty days, or twenty days before the election, that list should be published and should be exposed in several public places in each ward and each precinct, and upon the day of election no man should be allowed to vote whose name was not upon the registry list. Our wards and precincts should be made smaller, so that people can vote without violence, without wasting an entire day, so that the honest business man that wishes to cast his ballot for the Government of his choice can walk to the polls like a gentleman and deposit his vote and go about his affairs. Allow me to say that unless some such plan is adopted in the United States, there never will be another fair election in this country. During the last campaign all the arts and artifices of the city, all the arts and artifices of the lowest wards were spread over this entire country, and unless something is done to preserve the purity of the ballot-box, and guard the sovereign will of the people, we will cease to be a Republican Government.
Another thing — and I cannot say it too often — fraud at the ballot-box undermines all respect in the minds of the people for the Government. When they are satisfied that the election is a fraud they despise the officers elected. When they are satisfied it is a fraud, they despise the law made by the legislators. When they are satisfied it is a fraud, they hold in utter contempt the decisions of our highest and most august tribunals.
Another trouble in this country is that our terms of office are too short. Our elections are too frequent. They interfere with the business of our country. When elections are so frequent, men make a business of politics. If they fail to get ‘One office they immediately run for another, and they keep running until the people elect them for the simple purpose of getting rid of the annoyance. Lengthen the terms, purify the ballot, and the present scramble for office will become contests for principles. A man who cannot get a living — unless he has been disabled in the service of his country or from some other cause — without holding office, is not fit for an office.
A professional office-seeker is one of the meanest, and lowest, and basest of human beings — a little higher than the lower animals and a little lower than man. He has no earthly or heavenly independence; not a particle; not a particle. A successful office-seeker is like the center of the earth; he weighs nothing himself, and draws all things towards the office he wants. He has not even a temper. You cannot insult him. Shut the door in his face, and, so far as he is concerned, it is left wide open, and you are standing on the threshold with a smile, extending the hand of welcome. He crawls and cringes and flatters and lies and swaggers and brags and tells of the influence he has in the ward he lives in. We cannot too often repeat that splendid saying, The office should seek the man, not man the office." If you will lengthen the term of office it will be so long between meals that he will have to do something else or starve. Adopt the system of registration, as I have suggested; have small and convenient election districts, so that, as I said before, the honest, law-abiding, and peaceable citizen can attend the polls; so that he will not be compelled to risk his life to deposit his ballot that will be stolen or thrown out, or forced to keep the company of ballots caused by fraudulent violence. Lengthen the term of office, drive the professional hunter and seeker of office from the field, and you will go far toward strengthening and vivifying and preserving the fabric of the Constitution. That is the kind of civil service reform l am in favor of, and as I am on that subject, I will say a word about it. There is but one vital question — but one question of real importance — in fact I might say in the whole world, and that is the great question of Civil Service Reform. There may be some others indirectly affecting the human race, and in which some people take a languid kind of interest, but the only question worth discussing and comprehending in all its phases is the one I have mentioned. This great question is in its infancy still. The doctrine as yet has been applied only to politics.
[Colonel Ingersoll here reads a letter he has written:]
My DEAR SIR: — In the olden times, during the purer days of the Republic, the motto was, To the victors belong the spoils." The great object of civil service reform is to reverse this motto. Our people are thoroughly disgusted with machine politics, and demand politics without any machine.
In every precinct and ward there are persons going about lauding one party and crying down the other. They make it their business to attend to the affairs of the Nation. They call conventions, pass resolutions; they put notices in papers of the times and places of meetings; they select candidates for office, and then insist upon having them elected; they distribute papers and political documents; they crowd the mails with newspapers, platforms, resolutions, facts and figures, and with everything calculated to help their party and hurt the other. In short, they are the disturbers of the public peace.
They keep the community in a perpetual excitement. In the last campaign, wherever they were was turmoil. They fired cannon, carried flags, torches and transparencies; they subsidized brass bands, and shouted and hurrahed as though the world had gone insane. They were induced to do these things by the hope of success and office. Take away this hope and there will be peace once more. This thing is unendurable. The staid, the quiet and respectable people, the moderate and conservative men who always have an idea of joining the other side just to show their candor, are heartily tired of the entire performance. These gentlemen demand a rest. They are not adventurers; they have incomes; they belong to families; they have monograms and liveries. They have succeeded, and they want quiet. Growth makes a noise; development, as they call it, is nothing but disturbance. We want stability, we want political petrifaction, and we therefore demand that these meetings shall be dismissed, that these processions shall halt, that these flags shall be furled. But these things never will be stopped until we stop paying men with office for making these disturbances. You know that it has been the habit for men elected to bestow political favors upon the men who elected them. This is a crying shame. It is a kind of bribery and corruption. Men should not work with the expectation of reward and success. The frightful consequences of rewarding one’s friends cannot be contemplated by a true patriot without a shudder. Exactly the opposite course is demanded by the great principle of civil service reform. There is no patriotism in working for place, for power and success. The true lover of his country is stimulated to action by the hope of defeat, and the prospect of office for his opponent. To such an extent has the pernicious system of rewarding friends for political services gone in this country, that until very lately it was difficult for a member of the defeated party to obtain a respectable office.
The result of all this is, that the country is divided, that these divisions are kept alive by these speakers, writers and convention callers. The great mission of civil service reform is not to do away with parties, but with conflicting opinion, by taking from all politicians the hope of reward. There is no other hope for peace. What do the people know about the wants of the nation? There are in every community a few quiet and respectable men, who know all about the wants of the people — gentlemen who have retired from business, who take no part in discussion and who are therefore free from prejudice. Let these men attend to our politics. They will not call conventions, except in the parlors of hotels. They will not put out our eyes with flaring torches. They will not deafen us with speeches. They will carry on a campaign without producing opposition. They will have elections but no contests. All the offices will be given to the defeated party. This of itself will insure tranquillity at the polls. No one will be deprived of the privilege of casting a ballot. When campaigns are conducted in this manner a gentleman can engage in politics with a feeling that he is protected by the great principle of civil service reform. But just so long as men persist in rewarding their friends, as they call them, just so long will our country be cursed with political parties. Nothing can be better calculated to preserve the peace than the great principle of rewarding those who have confidence enough in our institutions to keep silent while peace will sit with folded wings upon the moss-covered political stump of a ruder age. I am satisfied that to civil service reform the Republican party is indebted for the last great victory. Upon this question the enthusiasm of the people was simply unbounded. In the harvest field, the shop, the counting-room, in the church, in the saloon, in the palace and in the hut, nothing was heard and nothing discussed except the great principle of civil service reform.
Among the most touching incidents of the campaign was to see a few old soldiers, sacred with scars, sit down, and while battles and hair-breadth escapes, and prisons of want, were utterly forgotten, discuss with tremulous lips and tearful eyes the great question of civil service reform.
During the great political contest I addressed several quite large and intelligent audiences, and no one who did not has or can have the slightest idea of the hold that civil service reform had upon the very souls of our people. Upon all other subjects the indifference was marked. I dwelt upon the glittering achievements of my party, but they were indifferent. I pictured outrages perpetrated upon our citizens, but they did not care. All this went idly by, but when I touched upon civil service reform, old men, gray-haired and strong, broke down utterly — tears fell like rain. The faces of women grew ashen with the intensity of anguish, and even little children sobbed as though their hearts would break. To one who has witnessed these affecting scenes, civil service reform is almost a sacred thing. Even the speeches delivered upon this subject in German affected to tears thousands of persons wholly unacquainted with that language. In some instances those who did not understand a word were affected even more than those who did. Surely there must be something in the subject itself, apart from the words used to explain it; that can under such circumstances lead captive the hearts of men. During the entire campaign the cry of civil service reform was heard from one end of our land to the other. The sailor nailed those words to the mast. The miner repeated them between the strokes of the pick. Mothers explained them to their children. Emigrants painted them upon their wagons. They were mingled with the reaper’s song and the shout of the pioneer. Adopt this great principle and we can have quiet and lady- like campaigns, a few articles in monthly magazines, a leader or two in the "Nation," in the pictorial papers wood-cuts of the residences of the respective candidates and now and then a letter from an old Whig would constitute all the aggressive agencies of the contest. I am satisfied that this great principle secured us our victories in Florida and Louisiana, and its effect on the High Joint Commission was greater than is generally supposed. It was this that finally decided the action of the returning boards.
Cronin is the only man upon whom this great principle was an utter failure. Let it be understood that friends are not to be rewarded. Let it be settled that political services are a barrier to political preferment, and my word for it, machine politics will never be heard of again.
Yours truly, ________
I do not believe in carrying civil service reform to the extent that you will not allow an officer to resign. I do not believe that that principle should be insisted upon to that degree that there would only be two ways left to get out of office — death or suicide. I believe, other things being equal, any party having any office within its gift will give that office to the man that really believes in the principles of that party, and who has worked to give those principles ultimate victory. That is human nature. The man that plows, the man that sows, and the man that cultivates, ought to be the man that reaps. But we have in this country a multitude of little places, a multitude of clerkships in Washington; and the question is whether on the incoming of a new administration, these men shall all be turned out. In the first place, they are on starvation salaries, just barely enough to keep soul and body together, and respectability on the outside; and if there is a young man in this audience, I beg of him:
Never accept a clerkship from this Government. Do not live on a little salary; do not let your mind be narrowed; do not sell all the splendid possibilities of the future; do not learn to cringe and fawn and crawl.
I would rather have forty acres of land, with a log cabin on it and the woman I love in the cabin — with a little grassy winding path leading down to the spring where the water gurgles from the lips of earth whispering day and night to the white pebbles a perpetual poem — with holly-hocks growing at the corner of the house, and morning-glories blooming over the low latched door — with lattice work over the window so that the sunlight would fall checkered on the dimpled babe in the cradle, and birds — like songs with wings hovering in the summer air — than be the clerk of any government on earth.
Now, I say, let us lengthen the term of office — I do not care much how long — send a man to Congress at least for five years. And it would be a great blessing if there were not half as many of them sent. We have too many legislators and too much legislation; too little about important matters, and too much about unimportant matters. Lengthen the term of, office so that the man can turn his attention to something else when he gets in besides looking after his re-election. There is another defect we must remedy in our Constitution, in my judgment, and that is as to the mode of electing a President. I believe it of the greatest importance that the Executive should be entirely independent of the legislative and judicial departments of the country. I do not believe that Congress should have the right to create a vacancy which it can fill. I do not believe that the Senate of the United States, or the lower house of Congress, by a simple objection, should have the right to deprive any State of its electoral vote. Our Constitution now provides that the electors chosen in each State shall meet in their respective States upon a certain day and there cast their votes for President and Vice-President of the United States. They shall properly certify to the votes which are cast, and shall transmit lists of them, together with the proper certificates, to the Vice-President of the United States. And it is then declared that upon a certain day in the presence of both houses of Congress, the Vice-President shall open the certificates and the votes shall then be counted. It does not exactly say who shall count these votes. It does not in so many words say the Vice- President shall do it, or may do it, or that both houses of Congress shall do it, or may do it, or that either house can prevent a count of the votes. It leaves us in the dark, and, to a certain degree, in blindness. I believe there is a way, and a very easy way, out of the entire trouble, and it is this I do not care whether the electors first meet in their respective States or not, but I want the Constitution so amended that the electors of all the States shall meet on a certain day in the city of Washington, and count the votes themselves; to allow that body to be the judge of who are electors, to allow it to choose a chairman, and to allow the person so chosen to declare who is the President, and who is the Vice-President of the United States. The Executive is then entirely free and independent of the legislative department of Government. The Executive is then entirely free from the judicial department, and I tell you, it is a public calamity to have the ermine of the Supreme Court of the United States touched or stained by a political suspicion. In my judgment, this country can never stand such a strain again as it has now.
Now, my friends, all these questions are upon us and they have to be settled. We cannot go on as we have been going. We cannot afford to live as we have lived — one section running against the other. We cannot go along that way. It must be settled, either peaceably or there must again be a resort to the boisterous sword of civil war.
The people of the South must stop trampling on the rights of the colored men. It must not be a crime in any State of this Union to be a lover of this country. I have seen it stated in several papers lately that it is the duty of each State to protect its own citizens. Well, I know that. Suppose that the State does not do it; what then I say? Well, then, say these people, the Governor of the State has the right to call on the General Government for assistance. But suppose the Governor will not call for assistance, what then? Then, they tell us, the Legislature can do so by a joint resolution. But suppose the Legislature will not do it, what then? Then, say these people, it is a defect in the Constitution. In my judgment, that is the absurdist kind of secession. If the State of Illinois must protect me, if I have no right to call for the protection of the General Government, all I have to say is that my allegiance must belong to the Government that protects me. If Illinois protects me, and the General Government has not the power, then my first allegiance is due to Illinois; and should Illinois unsheathe the sword of civil war, I must stand by my State, if that doctrine is true. I say, my first allegiance is due to the General Government, and not to the State of Illinois, and if the State of Illinois goes out of the Union, I swear to you that I will not. What does the General Government propose to give me in exchange, for my allegiance? The General Government has a right to take my property. The General Government has a right to take my body in its necessary defence. What does that Government propose to give in exchange for that right? Protection, or else our Government is a fraud. Who has a right to call for the protection of the United States? I say,the citizen who needs it. Can our Government obtain information only through the official sources? Must our Government wait until the Government asks the proofs, while the State tramples upon the rights of the citizens? Must it wait until the Legislature calls for assistance to help it stop robbing and plundering citizens of the United States? Is that the doctrine and the idea of the Northern Democratic party? It is not mine. A Government that will not protect its citizens is a disgrace to humanity. A Government that waits until a Governor calls — a Government that cannot hear the cry of the meanest citizen under its flag when his rights are being trampled upon, even by citizens of a Southern State — has no right to exist.
It is the duty of the American citizen to see to it that every State has a Government, not only republican in form, but it is the duty of the United States to see to it that life, liberty and property are protected in each State. If they are not protected, it is the duty of the United States to protect them, if it takes all her military force both upon land and upon the sea. The people whose Government cannot always hear the faintest wail of the meanest man beneath its flag have no right to call themselves a nation. The flag that will not protect its protectors and defend its defenders is a rag that is not worth the air in which it waves.
How are we going to do it? Do it by kindness if you can; by conciliation if you can, but the Government is bound to try every way until it succeeds. Now, Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President. The Democracy will say, of course, that he never was elected, but that does not make any difference. He is President to-day, and all these things are about him to be settled.
What shall we do? What can we do? There are two Governors in South Carolina and two Legislatures and not one cent of taxes has been collected by either. A dual government would seem to be the most economical in the world. Now, the question for us to decide, the question to be decided by this administration is, how are we to ascertain which is the legal Government of the State, and what department of the Government has a right to ascertain that fact? Must it be left to Congress? Has the Senate alone the right to determine it? Can it be left in any way to the Supreme Court, or shall the Executive decide it himself? I do not say that the Executive has the power to decide that question for himself. I do not say he has not, but I do not say he has. The question, so far as Louisiana and South Carolina are concerned — that question is now in the Senate of the United States. Governor Kellogg is asking for admission as a Senator from the State of Louisiana, and the question is to be decided by the Senate first, whether he is entitled to his seat, and that question of course, rests upon the one fact — was the Legislature that elected him the legal Legislature of the State of Louisiana? It seems to me that when that question is pending in the Senate of the United States, the President has not the right, or at least it would be improper for him to decide it on his own motion, and say this or that Government is the real and legal Government of the State of Louisiana. But some mode must be adopted, some way must be discovered to settle this question, and to settle it peacefully. We are an enlightened people. Force is the last thing that civilized men should resort to. As long as courts can be created, as long as courts of arbitration can be selected, as long as we can reason and think, and urge all the considerations of humanity upon each other, there should be no appeal to arms in the United States upon any question whatever. What should the President do? He could only spare twenty- five hundred men from the Indian war — that is the same army that has so long been trampling on the rights of the South, the same army that the Democratic Congress wished to reduce, and that army of twenty-five hundred men is all he has to spare to protect American citizens in the Southern States. Is there any sentiment in the North that would uphold the Executive in calling for volunteers? Is there any sentiment here that would respond to a call for twenty, fifty, or a hundred thousand men? Is there any Congress to pass the necessary act to pay them if there was? And so the President of the United States appreciated the situation, and the people of the South came to him and said, "We have had war enough, we have had trouble enough, our country languishes, we have no trade, our pockets are empty, something must be done for us, we are utterly and perfectly disgusted with the leadership of the Democratic party of the North. Now, will you let us be your friends?" And he had the sense to say, "Yes." The President took the right hand of the North, and put it into the right hand of the South and said "Let us be friends. We parted at the cannon’s mouth; we were divided by the edge of the glittering sword; we must become acquainted again. We are equals. We are all fellow-citizens. In a Government of the people, by the people and for the people, there shall not be an outcast class, whether white or black. To this feast, every child of the Republic shall be invited and welcomed." It was a grand thing grandly done. If the President succeeds in his policy, it will be an immense compliment to his brain. if he fails, it will be an equal compliment to his heart. He has opened the door; he has advanced; he has extended his hand, he has broken the silence of hatred with the words of welcome. Actuated by this broad and catholic spirit he has selected his constitutional advisors, and allow me to say right here, the President has the right to select his constitutional advisors to suit himself, and the idea of men endeavoring to force themselves or others into the cabinet of the President, against, as it were, his will, why I would as soon think of circulating a petition to compel some woman to marry me.
He has gathered around him the men he considers the wisest and the best, and I say, let us give them a fair chance. I say, let us be honest with the President of the United States and his Cabinet, and give his policy a fair and honest chance. In order to show his good faith with the South he chose as a member of his Cabinet an ex-rebel from Tennessee. I confess, when I heard of it I did not like it. It did not seem to be exactly what I had been making all this fuss about. But I thought I would be honest about it, and I went and called on Mr. Key, and really he begins already to look a good deal like a Republican. A real honest looking man. And then I said to myself that he had not done much more harm than as though he had been a Democrat at the North during those four years, and had cursed and swore instead of fought about it. And so I told him "I am glad you are appointed" And I am. Give him a chance, and so far as the whole Cabinet is concerned — I have not the time to go over them one by one now, it is perfectly satisfactory to me. The President made up his mind that to appoint that man would be to say to the South: "I do not look upon you as pariahs in this Government. I look upon you as fellow-citizens: I want you to wipe forever the color line, or the Union line, from the records of this Government on account of what has been done heretofore." What are you now? is the only question that should be asked. It was a strange thing for the President to appoint that man. It was an experiment. It is an experiment. It has not yet been decided, but I believe it will simply be a proof of the President’s wisdom. I can stand that experiment taken in connection with the appointment of Frederick Douglass as Marshal of the District of Columbia. I was glad to see that man’s appointment. He is a good, patient, stern man. He has been fighting for the liberty of his race, and at the same time for our liberty. This man has done something for the freedom of my race as well as his own. This is no time for war. War settles nothing except the mere question of strength. That is all war ever did settle. You cannot shoot ideas into a man with a musket, or with cannon into one of those old Bourbon Democrats of the North. You cannot let prejudices out of a man with a sword.
This is the time for reason, for discussion, for compromise. This is the time to repair, to rebuild, to preserve. War destroys. Peace creates. War is decay and death. Peace is growth and life, — sunlight and air. War kills men. Peace maintains them. Artillery does not reason; it asserts. A bayonet has point enough, but no logic. When the sword is drawn, reason remains in the scabbard. It is not enough to win upon the field of battle, you must be victor within the realm of thought. There must be peace between the North and South some time; not a conquered peace, but a peace that conquers. The question is, can you and I forget the past? Can we forget everything except the heroic sacrifices of the men who saved this Government? Can we say to the South, "Let us be brothers"? Can we? I am willing to do it because, in the first place, it is right, and in the second place, it will pay if it can be carried out. We have fought and hated long enough. Our country is prostrate. Labor is in rags. Energy has empty hands. Industry has empty pockets. The wheels of the factory are still. In the safe of prudence money lies idle, locked by the key of fear. Confidence is what we need — confidence in each other; confidence in our institutions; confidence in our form of government; in the great future; confidence in law, confidence in liberty, confidence in progress, and in the grand destiny of the Great Republic. Now, do not imagine that I think this policy will please every body. Of course there are men South and North who can never be conciliated. They are the Implacables in the South — the Bourbons in the North.
Nothing will ever satisfy them. The Implacables want to own negroes and whip them; the Bourbons never will be satisfied until they can help catch one. The Implacables with violent hands drive emigration from their shores. They are poisoning the springs and sources of prosperity. They dine on hatred and sup on regret. They mourn over the lost cause and partake of the communion of revenge. They strike down the liberties of their fellow-citizens and refuse to enjoy their own. They remember nothing but wrongs, and they forget nothing but benefits. Their bosoms are filled with the serpents of hate. No one can compromise with them. Nothing can change them. They must be left to the softening influence of time and death. The Bourbons are the allies of the Implacables. A Bourbon in the majority is an Implacable in the minority. An Implacable in the minority is a Bourbon. We, do not appeal to, but from these men. But there are in the South thousands of men who have accepted in good faith the results of the war; men who love and wish to preserve this nation, men tired of strife — men longing for a real Union based upon mutual respect and confidence. These men are willing that the colored man shall be free — willing that he shall vote, and vote for the Government of his choice — willing that his children shall be educated — willing that he shall have all the rights of an American citizen. These men are tired of the Implacables and disgusted with the Bourbons. These men wish to unite with the patriotic men of the North in the great work of reestablishing a government of law. For my part, call me of what party you please, I am willing to join hands with these men, without regard to race, color or previous condition.
With a knowledge of our wants — with a clear perception of our difficulties, Rutherford B. Hayes became President.
Nations have been saved by the grandeur of one man. Above all things a President should be a patriot. Party at best is only a means — the good of the, country, the happiness of the people, the only end.
Now, I appeal to you Democrats here — not a great many, I suppose — do not oppose this policy because you think it is going to increase the Republican strength. If it strengthens the Government, no matter whether it is Republican or Democratic, it is for the common good.
And you Republicans, you who have had all these feelings of patriotism and glory, I ask you to wait and let this experiment be tried. Do not prophesy failure for it and then work to fulfill the prophecy. Give the President a chance. I tell you to-night that he is as good a Republican as there is in the United States; and I tell you that if this policy is not responded to by the South, Rutherford B. Hayes will change it, just as soon and as often as is necessary to accomplish the end. The President has offered the Southern people the olive branch of peace, and so far as I am concerned, I implore both the Southern people and the Northern people to accept it. I extend to you each and all the olive branch of peace. Fellow-citizens of the South, I beseech you to take it. By the memory of those who died for naught; by the charred remains of your remembered homes; by the ashes of your statesman dead; for the sake of your sons and your daughters and their fair children yet to be, I implore you to take it with loving and with loyal hands. It will cultivate your wasted fields. It will rebuild your towns and cities. It will fill your coffers with gold. It will educate your children. It will swell the sails of your commerce. It will cause the roses of joy to clamber and climb over the broken cannon of war. It will flood the cabins of the freedman with light, and clothe the weak in more than coat of mail, and wrap the poor and lowly in "measureless content." Take it. The North will forgive if the South will forget. Take it! The negro will wipe from the tablet of memory the strokes and scars of two hundred years, and blur with happy tears the record of his wrongs. Take it! It will unite our nation. It will make us brothers once again. Take it! And justice will sit in your courts under the outspread wings of Peace. Take it! And the brain and lips of the future will be free. Take it! It will bud and blossom in your hands and fill your land with fragrance and with joy.
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