Page images

the American citizen, no matter what section of the country he hails from, or in what ranks he fought.” The failure of the Southern people was not due to any lack of courage or persistence, or leadership in the field, but it was the inevitable result of their having undertaken an impossible task. It is natural that men who were capable of such an effort should be cemented together in bonds of sympathy and friendship, and so long as they are loyal to the flag of the Union, brave and generous men will not censure them for cherishing an affectionate regard for one another, and for strewing flowers on the graves of their fallen comrades.

The suppression or effacement of one's self is not always, and invariably, highly meritorious. A modest estimate of one's powers may be quite justified by the facts. An underestimate of one's powers may be a fault. Grant had extraordinary abilities, and while he never dwelt upon, or thought about their greatness, or measured or compared them with the abilities of others, he knew just what they were, their extent and limitations, what might be accomplished by them, and what was beyond their reach. He was never misled by rating himself too high or too low. The timid distrust with which he entered upon the engagement at Belmont rapidly disappeared as his powers were tested in subsequent campaigns and battles. In Mexico he had shown unmistakable sense and courage in a subordinate capacity, but in our late war he began the study of himself as a commander and leader of men, and he soon mastered the lesson.

As he became conscious of his powers he relied with unshaken confidence upon his own judgment. He held few if any councils of war. He succeeded in great emergencies by his native strength of will and intellect, and his resolute persistence, where men of more learning and better versed in military science, but with less natural capacity, would have failed. What they are obliged to learn, he seemed to know intuitively. He disregarded elementary maxims of war without hesitation when they were plainly the outgrowth of conditions radically different from those which confronted him. He was equal to any command or emergency. But there was no affection of dash or brilliancy about his movements. The boldest of his campaigns and battles were not determined upon without deliberation, and an intelligent comprehension of the obstacles in his path, and the means at his command for overcoming them. And having once entered upon the execution of his plans, reverses which would have discouraged less resolute and far-sighted men, never impaired his confidence in ultimate success, or disqualified him for seizing upon unexpected advantages and profiting by them. Obstacles which seemed insurmountable to others only served to inspire him with determination to overcome them. “Peril strengthened his resolution and brightened his intellect.” He saw facts and situations as they really were, and acted with reference to them as realities. Napoleon's genius may have been more active and brilliant, but if he had been endowed with judgment as strong and unerring, he would never have ventured upon the disastrous Russian campaign. With a definite end always in view, without wavering or vacillation, and ever ready, with large resources, to adjust his plans to any change of circumstances, Grant pressed determinedly on to an invariably successful termination. He never lost the fruits of victory through inactivity. The final movement on Vicksburg was begun at a time when many patriotic people in the North were losing confidence in the ability of the government to suppress the rebellion by arms, and some of them were ready to terminate the flow of blood, and the lavish expenditure of money, by compromise. Voluntary enlistments had nearly ceased. Delay was never more dangerous, and he realized that a speedy capture of the strongly fortified city and the opening of the Mississippi river from its source to its mouth were essential to Federal success. He boldly placed the great river behind him, while it was in possession of the enemy, both above and below him, and with a vigor and skill which have never been surpassed by the great soldiers of any age or country, he threw his army against the divided forces of Pemberton, confusing and defeating them at all points, and ended with the investment and capture of the enemy's stronghold. The campaign was begun and prosecuted amid the virulent censure of himself, popular clamor for his removal, the jealousy of martinets, and the doubts and misgivings of some of his faithful and trustworthy subordinates ; but it went steadily on until it reached a triumphant conclusion. Its end sealed the fate of the Confederacy, restored confidence in the efficiency of our armies throughout the North, and among loyal people everywhere, and all but the quiet and undemonstrative soldier, who had brought it about, and for whom it was a personal triumph, as well as a Union victory, gave way to a delirium of joy and exultation. No success ever turned his head. The dangers which threatened the country, and his duty towards it in the hour of need, occupied his mind so completely as to leave no room for any thought of himself. He neither vaunted his abilities, nor stooped to defend himself against criticism, but left his countrymen to ascertain the measure of his powers, as he had learned them for himself, from the deeds which spoke with no uncertain sound. The magnitude of the end for which the Union armies were marshalled, and which he fully appreciated at the very outset of the war, was such as dwarfed for him all individual pretensions and interests. He rigorously subordinated all private sentiments and feelings to the good of the cause that he served. He was incapable of envy or jealousy, and he never appropriated credit that was due to others. He was silent, thoughtful, and patient. He commanded himself as successfully as he commanded armies, and where he led, all felt safe against the consequences of incapacity or rashness..

Although educated at West Point, he was not a professional soldier. Instead of liking war, he abhorred it as the greatest of human calamities, and his temperament inclined to peace. He en. gaged in our last war because he recognized it as the only means of maintaining the Union and securing unbroken peace. It was a cause for which he was willing to make any sacrifice, even life itself. He could not have led in any war of aggression or conquest, for he was the friend and benefactor, rather than an oppressor or destroyer of the people. Ambition never stifled his sense of duty or love of truth and justice, or tarnished his name with acts of cruelty or tyranny. None welcomed the return of peace with more cordiality, and none saw the quiet disbanding of his army of bronzed and hardened veterans, and their resumption of peaceful pursuits, with emotions of greater pleasure when the struggle was over. He did not believe that because military force had saved the Union it was a proper instrument of government in time of peace. In his last days, while bearing with serenity and fortitude the tortures of an incurable disease, on Mount McGregor, he gave his life a final retrospect, and it was the reunion of the warring sections under the old flag, that gave him the greatest satisfaction, and enabled him to close his eyes for the sleep of death with the comforting reflection that his work had been well done and would outlive him.

The monument before us is dedicated to the illustrious General of our armies, rather than to the chief magistrate of our republic, and it is therefore meet that my address should dwell more on his military than his civic life. Whatever may have been his merits, or his defects as chief executive, he was unquestionably our greatest soldier, and his matchless achievements in the field and their influence upon the fate of his country amply justify this beautiful testimonial. So long as love of liberty and equality, and admiration for heroic deeds and unselfish patriotism last, the memory of Grant will be venerated. Some of the acts of his civil administration were really worth more to the country and the world than the dull routine and solemn respectability of many others. While men had dreamed and written about the uselessness and wickedness of war, as an agency for the settlement of controversies between nations, and urged the substitution of more civilized methods, it was reserved for our greatest soldier to reduce these theories and vague aspirations to practice. It was the successful leader of our armies, in our greatest war, who took the lead in bringing the civilized world to a practical recognition of the value of a peaceful arbitrament of international disputes, and the Treaty of Washington is a monument to his memory which will outlive those of bronze and stone. Its moral influence extends infinitely beyond the immediate parties to it, or the age in which it was negotiated. More than once he displayed independence, high courage, and strong sense of duty by vetoing legislation which seriously threatened the public welfare. It is a mistake to suppose that popular government is an art or a mystery. Some of the details of administration require special training and experience. But in its broad policies, in the adjustment of it to the ends for which it was organized, in the promotion of its purposes, men like Grant, who feel rightly and see clearly, who have a sound judgment and saving common sense, and who will resolutely assert themselves under all circumstances, may be safely trusted with its affairs and destinies. It would not be a popular government if it were otherwise. The men who have left the profoundest impress on our history, were not so much distinguished for their wealth, or their erudition, as the qualities, or some of them, which distinguished Grant. These qualities are essential ingredients of political manhood, and they are no less useful and necessary in peace than in war. We need men possessing them to resist the aggressions of those who seek to make our politics both an art and a mystery, intelligible only to the adept and initiated, who assume the management of them by virtue of their capacity for the deft and artful manipulation of their fellows. Their influence upon the country is corrupt and debasing, and the area of political venalty constantly enlarges under it.' According to their views the whole interest that any citizen has in municipal, state, or national government is measured by what he can make out of it. It is worse than idle to shut our eyes to the existence of corrupt methods and practices in our politics which threaten to subvert our free institutions. The people are often cheated at the polls and in legislation, and prizes which should be the reward of honest merit are too frequently bestowed upon the cunning and the unscrupulous rich. Real freedom is not enjoyed by the people unless the laws are enacted by their honestly chosen representatives, and their freedom of action is as much impaired when it is corruptly influenced as if controlled by force. The man who accepts a bribe of any sort places his conscience and judgment in the vilest bondage. He is no longer free. Argument is wasted on him. Considerations of the public weal or woe do not effect him. Bayonets at the polls would not control his conduct more effectively. And men who contribute money to buy votes, and to bribe the people's representatives, as well as those who disburse it, are deadly enemies of the republic. Their greed and love of power are greater than their love of country. They impair popular respect for law, which is the only safeguard for life and property; and it will be an evil day for the nation when its preservation depends upon their patriotism and courage. They may masquerade in the garb of righteousness, and address the people in the language of patriotism, but their virtues are assumed ; they are hypocrites and assassins of liberty, and would welcome a dy. nasty rather than shed their blood in defence of popular government. Their shameless and insidious attacks on free institutions are infinitely more dangerous than the revolutionary teachings and practices of a comparatively few visionary and misguided men and women in our large cities. It is not such as these, but the great multitude engaged in active and hardy pursuits, who constitute the strength of the nation. They are not enemies of law and order, they do not envy or hate those who have acquired property by honest methods, they bear their full share of the public burdens, and so long as the powers of the nation are

« EelmineJätka »