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MR. PRESIDENT HENRY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :
On the eve of the Anniversary of American Union and Independence, we have assembled in this classic hall to pay a heartfelt tribute to the memory of a Statesman, who, in his day and time, has conferred lasting benefits upon his country, and who, in the hour of her extremest peril, and in the prime of his life, has been called to his final account. Mingled with the grief which this sad event has inspired—a grief that has obliterated party prejudices among the people of all the loyal States of this Union is the sad recollection that to-morrow's celebration of our national Sabbath will find us in the midst of an internal strife, which threatens the overthrow of our domestic peace, and the destruction of the liberties purchased by the blood of our forefathers, and consecrated in the deathless charter proclaimed from Independence Hall on the Fourth Day of July, 1776. [Applause.]
We have, therefore, a double cause to mourn—first, in the loss of an unchallenged and unquestioned Patriot, and next, in the fact that, in one section of our happy country, thousands of misguided men are found insensible to all the obligations of the glorious Past, and resolved to entitle themselves to the scorn and detestation of mankind. Yet may we not congratulate ourselves that, if there are those reckless enough to forget the day, and the men who made that day immortal, more than twenty millions of people will greet the rising of to-morrow's sunwill hail the eighty-fifth anniversary of American Independence —with a fervor all the more deep, all the more religious, all the more profound and universal, because the Republic is in imminent danger, and the efforts and prayers of all good men are demanded for its preservation? [Applause.]
When the impartial historian comes to analyze the character and services of Stephen A. Douglas, he will be amazed at the wonderful versatility of the man, the vast amount of labor he performed, the events in which he moved a principal actor, and the comparatively short period of time during which he figured upon the stage of American politics. Volumes would be required to do justice to the subject. How, then, can I expect, within the decent and proper limits of such an occasion as this, to rise to an ordinary comprehension of the duty which has been assigned to me? I must content myself with a mere allusion to certain of the leading elements of the character of the departed patriot, and with a genial; though partial, view of many of his distinguishing traits and achievements, such as might be anticipated from one who loved him as a friend and believed in the general justice of his opinions.
Our greatest national historian, in his marvellous eulogy upon Andrew Jackson, in this very city, sixteen years ago, when he approached that part of the history of the old hero which continued to divide public opinion, said: “We tread on ashes where the fire is not yet extinguished.” Many of the acts of Stephen A. Douglas were the acts of yesterday. We can almost hear the echo of the shouts of the hosts in the great conflicts upon one side, of which he was the leader. The theories he advocated still awaken animosities among men; his own passions, and those he aroused, are yet keenly remembered. For all this, I do not
feel I approach a forbidden, though a somewhat delicate, theme, when I allude, in passing, to some of his traits as a politician. I am rather invited to this, when I remember that within the last month the citizen, now President of the United States, who was defeated by Douglas for the Senate, in 1858, and who mounted in 1860, to the Presidential chair over the prostrate banner of his former successful competitor, directed that the armies of the Republic should crape their colors in mourning for the loss of his former adversary, and that the Departments of the Government should be closed on the day of his funeral at Chicago. [Great applause.] I am further attracted to the discussion of Douglas as a political leader by the fact that, at the portals of his tomb, the whole people of his own State, irrespective of former differences, paid the sublimest tribute to his memorythat, when he died, his worst opponents elsewhere forgot their animosities, and that the whole body of the loyal States were struck with sudden grief when his death was proclaimed-struck, indeed, as if they had lost their best, and dearest, and most cherished champion. [Applause.]
What a scene is this! When partisans forgot their hostility to Clay, and Jackson, and Webster, they did so over the graves of old men; but here they bury the recent and the bitter Past, from out of sight, in paying voluntary honor to the youngest, and, for a time, the extremest statesman of his school. Let me, therefore, with this free charter to speak my own mind, say something of Douglas as a leader and a Democrat.
He was a very thorough partisan. He belonged to the class who regarded the Democratic party as incapable of error, and created to rule in the administration of the Federal Government. He was so wedded to this idea as to look upon this organization as almost infallible, and sincerely believed that it was an aggregate of wisdom and experience superior to any political organization of early or later times. Extending over the whole of the continent, and holding its devotees with almost Masonic attachment, it generally prevailed against all odds, and finally became so strong as to absorb most other organizations. As an oracle of this party, Judge Douglas was frequently severe upon his opponents, and, by his severity, provoked a retaliatory spirit that often bordered upon personal hatred. Yet, I think his faith in what is known as the organization of the Democratic party failed him before his death. When he saw the Southern leaders powerful enough, with the aid of this organization, to drive Mr. Buchanan from the path of duty into the path of depravity; to make measures like Lecompton a party test, and finally to bring to a candidate for the Presidency, whose object was unquestionably the disruption of the Government, hundreds of thousands of Democratic votes, he must have felt that the prestige of the Democracy had gone, never to be restored until its leaders can resurrect the
great examples, and reanimate the great truths which they have latterly insanely neglected. [Applause.] If he were now alive, and could see the name of this powerful party flagrantly used as a cloak for treason, even in portions of the Free States, he would, in my opinion, feel that it was time to set aside a machine which has become so potent an engine of individual and general disaster.
He was preëminently and always a national man. one reason of his consistent championship of the Southern people. He shrank instinctively from what he called sectionalism. He was, undoubtedly, ambitious, and he had an undoubted right to be ambitious. He believed that the election of any President by a solid Northern or a solid Southern vote would be the parent of serious internal strife. Born in cold New England, he cultivated from early life the warmest relations with the Slave States, and at one time was their chiefest favorite. The Southern pol