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Life of William Jennings Bryan|
by Bryan, Mary Baird
|Mr. Bryan became actively connected with the Democratic organization in Nebraska immediately after coming to the State, his first political speech being made at Seward in the spring of 1888. Soon afterward he went as a delegate to the State convention; this gave him an acquaintance with the leading Democrats of the State and resulted in a series of speeches. He made a canvass of the First Congressional district that fall in behalf of Hon. J. Sterling Morton, and also visited some thirty counties throughout the State. Mr. Morton was defeated by thirty-four hundred, the district being normally republican.
When the campaign of 1890 opened, there seemed small hope of carrying the district and there was but little rivalry for the nomination. Mr. Bryan was selected without opposition, and at once began a vigorous campaign. An invitation to joint debate was issued by his committee and accepted by his opponent, Hon. W. J. Connell, of Omaha, who then represented the district. These debates excited attention throughout the State. I have always regarded the first debate of this series as marking an important epoch in Mr. Bryan's life. The meeting took place in Lincoln. I had never before seen Mr. Bryan so preoccupied and so intent on making his effort acceptable. He had the opening and the closing speeches. The hall was packed with friends of both candidates and applause was quite evenly divided until the closing speech. I dare not describe this scene as it stands out in my memory. The people had not expected such a summing-up of the discussion; each sentence contained an argument; the audience was surprised, pleased and enthusiastic. The occasion was a Chicago convention in miniature, and was satisfactory to those most concerned. In addition to these eleven joint contests, Mr. Bryan made a thorough canvass, speaking about eighty times and visiting every city and village in the district. Though these debates were crisp and sharp in argument, they were marked by the utmost friendliness between the opponents. At the close of the last debate, Mr. Bryan presented to Mr. Connell a copy of Gray's Elegy, with the following remarks:
When the returns were all in, it was found that Mr. Bryan was elected by a plurality of 6,713. Desiring to give his entire time to his Congressional work, he, soon after election, so arranged his affairs as to retire from practice, although retaining a nominal connection with the firm.
We now bring to a close this series of debates which was arranged by our committees. I am glad that we have been able to conduct these discussions in a courteous and friendly manner. If I have, in any way, offended you in word or deed I offer apology and regret, and as freely forgive. I desire to present to you in remembrance of these pleasant meetings this little volume, because it contains "Gray's Elegy", in perusing which I trust you will find as much pleasure and profit as I have found. It is one of the most beautiful and touching tributes to humble life that literature contains. Grand in its sentiment and sublime in its simplicity, we may both find in it a solace in victory or defeat. If success should crown your efforts in this campaign, and it should be your lot "The applause of listening senates to command," and I am left
A youth to fortune and to fame unknown,
Forget not us who in the common walks of life perform our part, but in the hour of your triumph recall the verse:
Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys and destiny obscure;
Nor grandeur hear, with disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor.
If, on the other hand, by the verdict of my countrymen, I shall be made your successor, let it not be said of you:
And melancholy marked him for her own,
But find sweet consolation in the thought:
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower was born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
But whether the palm of victory is given to you or to me, let us remember those of whom the poet says:
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learned to stray,
Along the cool sequestered vales of life
They keep the noiseless tenor of their way.
These are the ones most likely to be forgotten by the Government. When the poor and weak cry out for relief they, too, often hear no answer but "the echo of their cry", while the rich, the strong, the powerful are given an attentive ear. For this reason is class legislation dangerous and deadly. It takes from those least able to lose and gives to those who are least in need. The safety of our farmers and our laborers is not in special legislation, but in equal and just laws that bear alike on every man. The great masses of our people are interested, not in getting their hands into other people's pockets, but in keeping the hands of other people out of their pockets. Let me, in parting, express the hope that you and I may be instrumental in bringing our Government back to better laws which will give equal treatment without regard to creed or condition. I bid you a friendly farewell.
In the speakership caucus with which Congress opened, Mr. Bryan supported Mr. Springer, in whose district we had lived when at Jacksonville; in the House, he voted for Mr. Crisp, the caucus nominee. Mr. Springer was made chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, and it was largely through his influence that Mr. Bryan was given a place upon that committee. His first speech of consequence was the tariff speech of March 16, 1892. This was the second important event in his career as a public speaker. The place which he held upon the Ways and Means Committee is rarely given to a new member, and he wished the speech to justify the appointment. It is perhaps unnecessary for me to comment at length upon the reception accorded this speech, as the press at the time gave such reports that the occasion will probably be remembered by those who read this sketch. This speech increased his acquaintance with public men, and added to his strength at home. More than one hundred thousand copies were circulated by members of Congress. Upon his return to Nebraska, he was able to secure re-election in a new district (the State having been reapportioned in 1891) which that year gave the Republican state ticket a plurality of 6,500. His opponent this time was Judge A. W. Field of our own city. The Democratic committee invited the Republicans to join in arranging a series of debates, and this invitation was accepted. This was even a more bitter contest than the campaign of 1890, Mr. McKinley, Mr. Foraker and others being called to Nebraska to aid the Republican candidate. Besides the eleven debates, which aroused much enthusiasm, Mr. Bryan again made a thorough canvass of the district. The victory was claimed by both sides until the Friday following the election, when the result was determined by official count, Mr. Bryan receiving a plurality of 140.
In the Fifty-Third Congress, Mr. Bryan was reappointed upon the Ways and Means Committee and assisted in the preparation of the Wilson bill. He was a member of the sub-committee (consisting of Representatives MacMillan, Montgomery and himself) which drafted the income tax portion of the bill. In the spring of 1893, through the courtesy of the State Department, Mr. Bryan obtained a report from the several European nations which collect all income tax, and the results of this research were embodied in the Congressional Records during the debate. He succeeded in having incorporated in the bill a provision borrowed from the Prussian law whereby the citizens who have taxable incomes make their own returns and those whose incomes are within the exemption are relieved from annoyance. On behalf of the committee, Mr. Bryan closed the debate upon the income tax, replying to Mr. Cockran.
During the discussion of the Wilson bill, Mr. Bryan spoke in its defense. His principal work of the term, however, was in connection with monetary legislation. His speech of August 16, 1893, in opposition to the unconditional repeal of the Sherman law brought out ever more hearty commendation than his first tariff speech. Of this effort, it may be said that it contained the results of three years of careful study upon the money question.
While in Congress he made a fruitless effort to secure the passage of the following bill:
Be it enacted, etc.: That section 800 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, of 1878, be amended by adding thereto the words "In civil cases the verdict of three-fourths of the jurors constituting the jury shall stand as the verdict of the jury, and such a verdict shall have the same force and effect as a unanimous verdict."
The desire to have the law changed so as to permit less than a unanimous verdict in civil cases, was one which he had long entertained. In February, 1890, in response to a toast at a bar association banquet in Lincoln, he spoke upon the jury system, advocating the same reform. His remarks were as follows:
One of the questions which has been for some time discussed, and which is now the subject of controversy, is, "Has the jury system outlived its usefulness?"
Besides the work which I have mentioned, Mr. Bryan spoke briefly upon several other questions, namely, in favor of the election of United States Senators by a direct vote of the people, and in favor of the anti-option bill; in opposition to the railroad pooling bill and against the extension of the Pacific liens.
I think I voice the opinion of most of those present when to the question I answer an emphatic No.
To defend this answer it will not be necessary to recall the venerable age of the system, its past achievements, or the splendid words of praise which have been uttered in its behalf. It finds ample excuse for its existence in the needs of this time.
The circumstances which called it into life have passed away and many of its characteristics have been entirely changed, but never, I am persuaded, in the history of the English speaking people, has the principle which underlies the trial by jury been more imperatively demanded than it is today.
This is an age of rapid accumulation of wealth, and the multiplication of corporations gives to money an extraordinary power.
One million dollars in the hands of one man or one company will outweigh, in the political and social world, ten times that sum divided among a thousand people. Can the temple of justice hope to escape its polluting touch without some such barrier like that which the jury system raises for its protection? Is there not something significant in the direction from which much of the complaint of the system comes from?
If the question, "Shall the jury be abandoned or retained?" were submitted to a vote, we would find prominent among the opposing forces the corporate influences, the wealthy classes, and those busy citizens to whom jury service, or even the duty of an elector, is a burden.
While the great mass of its supporters would be found among those who are compelled to fight the battle of life unaided by those powerful allies—social position, political influence and money—men whose only sword is the ballot, and whose only shield, the jury. The jury system is not perfect—we do not look for perfection in government—but it has this great advantage, that if the verdict falls to one side of the straight line of the law it is usually upon the side of the poorest adversary.
All stand equal before the law, whether they be rich or poor, high or low, weak or strong; but no system has yet been devised which will insure exact justice at all times between man and man.
We choose not between a perfect system and an imperfect one, but between an imperfect system and one more imperfect still. And if the scales of justice cannot be perfectly poised, the saafety of society demands that they tip most easily toward the side of the weak.
Faith in trial by jury implies no reflection upon the integrity of the bench. We recall with pardonable pride the names of our illustrious judges whose genius and learning have given luster to our profession and whose purity and probity have crowned it with glory.
But they won their distinction in expounding the law and left the decision of the facts to those fresh from contact with the busy world.
If to the present duties of the judge we add those now discharged by the jury, is it not possible that the selection of a judge will be secured because of his known sympathies? Will not the standard be so lowered that we may see upon the bench an agent instead of an arbiter?
In what position will the suitor be who finds, when called before a biased tribunal, that he has neither peremptory challenge nor challenge for cause. No more fatal blow could be struck at our national welfare than to give occasion for the belief that in our courts a man's redress depends upon his ability to pay for it.
If the jury can guard the court room from the invasion of unfair influences it will be as valuable for what it prevents as for what it gives.
Time does not admit of extended reference to those faults in the system which give occasion for just criticism, faults which its friends are in duty bound to prune away from it. The requirement of an unanimous verdict causes many mistrials. In civil causes, where a decision follows the evidence, it is difficult to see why substantial justice would not be done by a majority, or, at most, a two-thirds majority verdict; but we cannot abandon the old rule in criminal cases without trespassing on the sacred right of the accused to the benefit of every reasonable doubt; for a divided jury, in itself, raises a doubt as to his guilt. The law recently passed making it a misdemeanor for a man to ask for appointment as a juror, or for an attorney to seek a place for a friend, is a step in the right direction.
Between a partisan juror and a professional juror it is only a choice between evils. If to fill the panel with bystanders means to fill it with men standing by for the purpose of being called, we are ready for a law which will compel the sheriff to seek talesmen beyond the limits of the court house. Any change, the aim of which is to compel the selection of men of ordinary intelligence and approved integrity as jurors, will be acceptable to the people. But now that all men read the news, the information thus acquired should no longer render them incompetent for jury service. It is a premium upon ignorance which we cannot afford to pay. Instead of summoning a juryman for a whole term we should limit his service to one or two weeks. This would lighten the burden without impairing the principle. To that argument, however, which assumes that business men can afford no time for jury service there can be but one answer, No government can long endure unless its citizens are willing to make some sacrifice for its existence.
In this, our land, we are called upon to give but little in return for the advantages which we receive. Shall we give that little grudgingly? Our definition of patriotism is often too narrow.
Shall the lover of his country measure his loyalty only by his service as a soldier? No! Patriotism calls for the faithful and conscientious performance of all of the duties of citizenship, in small matters as well as great, at home as well as upon the tented field.
There is no more menacing feature in these modern times than the disinclination of what are called the better classes to assume the burdens of citizenship. If we desire to preserve to future generations the purity of our courts and the freedom of our people, we must lose no opportunity to impress upon our citizens the fact that above all pleasure, above all convenience, above all business, they must place their duty to their government; for a good government doubles every joy and a bad government multiplies every sorrow. Times change but principles endure. The jury has protected us from the abuse of power.
While human government exists the tendency to abuse power will remain. This system, coming down from former generations crowned with the honors of age, is today and for the future our hope.
Let us correct its defects with kindly hands, let us purge it of its imperfections and it will be, as in the past, the bulwark of our liberties.
In the Fifty-Third Congress, the Democrats adopted a rule which was somewhat similar to the one in force under Speaker Reed, providing for the counting of a quorum. Mr. Bryan opposed this rule and I quote the reasons which he then gave in support of his position.
In the spring of 1894, Mr. Bryan announced that he would not be a candidate for re-election to Congress, and later decided to stand as a candidate for the United States Senate. He was nominated for that office by the unanimous vote of the Democratic State Convention. While the Republicans made no nomination, it seemed certain that Mr. Thurston would be their candidate and the Democratic committee accordingly issued a challenge to him for a series of debates. The Republicans were also invited to arrange a debate between Mr. McKinley and Mr. Bryan, Mr. McKinley having at that time an appointment to speak in Nebraska. The latter invitation was declined, but two meetings were arranged with Mr. Thurston. These were the largest political gatherings ever held in the State and were as gratifying to the friends of Mr. Bryan as his previous debates. During the campaign, Mr. Bryan made a canvass of the State, speaking four or five hours each day, and sometimes riding thirty miles over rough roads between speeches. At the election, Nebraska shared in the general landslide; the Republicans had a large majority in the Legislature and elected Mr. Thurston.
I am obliged to the gentleman from Maine for this courtesy. The question upon which we are called to act is one of a great deal more importance than some members seem to think, and the objection which is made to the rule by some of us, who have not been able to favor it, is based upon reasons far more weighty than gentlemen have assumed.
The constitution of the State of Nebraska, which I have the honor in part to represent, contains this provision:
No bill shall be passed unless by assent of a majority of all the members elected to each House of the Legislature, and the question upon the final passage shall be taken immediately upon its last reading, and the yeas and nays shall be entered upon the journal.
The constitutions of a majority of the States of the Union, among them the States of New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and I might name them all if time permitted, provide the same, the object being to prevent less than one half of all the members elected to the Legislature from passing laws. It is only by the concurrence of a majority of the members that we can know that the majority of the people desire the law. The Constitution of the United States does not contain a similar provision; and there is no question, since the decision of the Supreme Court, that it is within the power of this House to declare by rule in what manner a quorum may be ascertained. It can be done in the manner provided in this rule, or it can be done by the call of the yeas and nays, as it has been done for a hundred years. Now, the question with me is this: Which is the safer plan? According to the rule which has been in vogue a hundred years, the minority has the safeguard which is expressly secured in the constitutions of a majority of the States; according to the old rule the minority, by refusing to vote, can compel the concurrence of a majority before a law is passed.
Now, I believe that is a wise provision. I do not see why it is wiser in a State than in Congress; I do not know why it is necessary that the members of the Legislature in my State, or in New York, should be compelled to vote yea or nay when a bill shall pass, and that a majority shall concur, unless the same reasons apply in this body.
This defeat was a disappointment, but it did not discourage Mr. Bryan, as is evident from an address to his supporters, extracts from which follow:
The Legislature is Republican, and a Republican Senator will now be elected to represent Nebraska. This may be mortifying to the numerous chairmen who have introduced me to audiences as "the next Senator from Nebraska", but it illustrates the uncertainty of prophecies.
Mr. Bryan received the votes of all the Democrats and of nearly half of the Populist members. It might be suggested here that while Mr. Bryan had never received a nomination from the Populist party, he had been, since 1892, materially aided by individual members of that organization. In Nebraska, the Democratic party has been in the minority, and as there are several points of agreement between it and the Populist party, Mr. Bryan advocated co-operation between the two. ln the spring of 1893, he received the support of a majority of the Democratic members of the Legislature, but, when it became evident that no Democrat could be elected, he assisted in the election of Senator Allen, a Populist. Again, in 1894, in the Democratic State Convention, he aided in securing the nomination of a portion of the Populist ticket, including Mr. Holcomb, Populist candidate for Governor. The cordial relations which existed between the Democrats and Populists in Nebraska were a potent influence in securing his nomination at Chicago.
I appreciate more than words can express the cordial good will and the loyal support of the friends to whom I am indebted for the political honors which I have received. I am especially grateful to those who bear without humiliation the name of the common people, for they have been my friends when others have deserted me. I appreciate also the kind words of many who have been restrained by party ties from giving me their votes. I have been a hired man for four years, and, now that the campaign is closed, I may be pardoned for saying that as a public servant I have performed my duty to the best of my ability, and am not ashamed of the record made.
I stepped from private life into national politics at the bidding of my countrymen; at their bidding I again take my place in the ranks and resume without sorrow the work from which they called me. It is the glory of our institutions that public officials exercise authority by the consent of the governed rather than by divine or hereditary right. Paraphrasing the language of Job, each public servant can say of departing honors: "The people gave and the people have taken away, blessed be the name of the people."
Speaking of my own experience in politics, I may again borrow an idea from the great sufferer and say: "What, shall we receive good at the hands of the people, and shall we not receive evil?" I have received good even beyond my deserts, and I accept defeat without complaint. I ask my friends not to cherish resentment against any one who may have contributed to the result.
The friends of these reforms have fought a good fight; they have kept the faith, and they will not have finished their course until the reforms are accomplished. Let us be grateful for the progress made, and "with malice toward none and charity for all" begin the work of the next campaign.
On September 1st, 1894, Mr. Bryan became chief of the editorial staff of the Omaha World-Herald, and from that date until the last national convention gave a portion of his time to this work. This position enabled him daily to reach a large number of people in the discussion of public questions and also added considerably to his income. While the contract fixed a certain amount of editorial matter as a minimum, his interest in the work was such that he generally exceeded rather than fell below the required space.
After the adjournment of Congress, Mr. Bryan, on his way home, lectured at Cincinnati, Nashville, Tenn., Little Rock, Ark., and at several points in Missouri, arriving in Lincoln March 19, his thirty-fifth birthday. The Jefferson Club tendered him a reception and an opera house packed with an appreciative audience rendered this a very gratifying occasion to Mr. Bryan. As he was no longer in public life, and could show no favors in return, the disinterested friendship shown will always be remembered with pleasure. He chose as his theme, "Thomas Jefferson still lives", and, after reviewing the work of the Fifty-third Congress, discussed at length the principles of his patron saint. His admiration for the Sage of Monticello is so well known that I quote a tribute which he once paid him:
Let us then, with the courage of Andrew Jackson, apply to present conditions the principles taught by Thomas Jefferson—Thomas Jefferson, the greatest constructive statesman whom the world has ever known; the grandest warrior who ever battled for human liberty! He quarried from the mountain of eternal truth the four pillars, upon whose strength all popular government must rest. In the Declaration of American Independence he proclaimed the principles with which there is, without which there cannot be "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people". When he declared that "all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed", he declared all that lies between the Alpha and Omega of Democracy.
Mr. Bryan intended to resume the practice of law and re-open his office. At this time, however, the contest for supremacy in the Democratic party had begun in earnest and calls for speeches were so numerous and so urgent that it seemed best to devote his time to lecturing and to the public discussion of the money question. In view of the suggestions which have been made that Mr. Bryan was in the pay of the silver league, I will be pardoned for speaking of the earnings during these months. His editorial salary formed the basis of his income. When lecturing before Chautauquas and similar societies he was paid as other lecturers. At meetings where no admission was charged he sometimes received compensation and at other times received nothing. Many of the free speeches were made en route to lecture engagements, and his compensation ranged from traveling expenses to one hundred dollars. Only upon two or three occasions did he receive more than this. Never at any time was he under the direction of, or in the pay of, any silver league or association of persons pecuniarily interested in silver. During the interim between the adjournment of Congress and the Chicago convention he spoke in all the States of the West and South, and became acquainted with those most prominently connected with the silver cause.
Alexander "wept for other worlds to conquer" after he had carried his victorious banner throughout the then known world; Napoleon "rearranged the map of Europe with his sword" amid the lamentations of those by whose blood he was exalted; but when these and other military heroes are forgotten and their achievements disappear in the cycle's sweep of years, children will still lisp the name of Jefferson, and freemen will ascribe due praise to him who filled the kneeling subject's heart with hope and bade him stand erect—a sovereign among his peers.
I have briefly outlined the life and political career of Mr. Bryan. Perhaps it may please the reader to add a few words concerning his home life.
Our children are three. Ruth Baird is now eleven; William Jennings, Jr., is seven and a half, and Grace Dexter will soon be six. The older girl is said to be very much like her mother; the younger strongly resembles her father; and the son seems a composite photograph of both parents. Though for several years past, Mr. Bryan's work has often called him from home, he arranges to return for the Sabbath whenever possible.
During his service in Congress, the family spent three of the five sessions with him in Washington. We found a very comfortable and pleasant home at 131 B street, S. E., with Mr. C. T. Bride, and here the four years were spent. No member can live within his salary and make much of social life. We did little visiting, but were often found at lectures and heard many actors of note. The National Library was an endless source of pleasure and many rare books were read during those years. Though an advocate of an eight hour day, Mr. Bryan has, during the last thirteen years, averaged nearly twelve hours a day at professional and literary work.
He spoke on several occasions outside of Congress. The two most important speeches delivered were, the one at Tammany Hall, July 4, 1892, the other, at the National Cemetery at Arlington, May 30, 1894. I insert the latter. The scene was impressive and the audience representative. President Cleveland and four of his cabinet were in attendance.
With flowers in our hands and sadness in our hearts we stand amid the tombs where the nation's dead are sleeping. It is appropriate that the Chief Executive is here, accompanied by his Cabinet; it is appropriate that the soldier's widow is here, and the soldier's son; it is appropriate that here are assembled, in numbers growing less each year, the scarred survivors, Federal and Confederate, of our last great war; it is appropriate, also, that these exercises in honor of comrades dead should be conducted by comrades still surviving. All too soon the day will come when these graves must be decorated by hands unused to implements of war, and when these speeches must be made by lips that never answered to a roll call.
As a conclusion for this sketch, I have asked the publishers to give a picture of our library, the place where Mr. Bryan spends most of his time when at home and where, as he has often said, his happiest hours are passed. Our collection of books is more complete along the lines of economic subjects and in the works and lives of public men. The orations of Demosthenes and the writings of Jefferson afford him the greatest pleasure.
We, who are of the aftermath, cannot look upon the flag with the same emotions that thrill you who have followed it as your pillar of cloud by day and your pillar of fire by night, nor can we appreciate it as you can who have seen it waving in front of reinforcements when succor meant escape from death; neither can we, standing by these blossom-covered mounds, feel as you have often felt when far away from home and on hostile soil you have laid your companions to rest; but from a new generation we can bring you the welcome assurance that the commemoration of this day will not depart with you. We may neglect the places where the nation's greatest victories have been won, but we cannot forget the Arlingtons which the nation has consecrated with its tears.
To ourselves as well as to the dead we owe the duty which we discharge here, for monuments and memorial days declare the patriotism of the living no less than the virtues of those whom they commemorate.
We would be blind indeed to our own interests and to the welfare of posterity if we were deaf to the just demands of the soldier and his dependents. We are grateful for the services rendered by our defenders, whether illustrious or nameless, and yet a nation's gratitude is not entirely unselfish, since by our regard for the dead we add to the security of the living; by our remembrance of those who have suffered we give inspiration to those upon whose valor we must hereafter rely, and prove ourselves worthy of the sacrifices which have been made and which may be again required.
The essence of patriotism lies in a willingness to sacrifice for one's country, just as true greatness finds expression, not in blessings enjoyed, but in good bestowed. Read the words inscribed on the monuments reared by loving hands to the heroes of the past; they do not speak of wealth inherited, or honors bought or of hours in leisure spent, but of service done. Twenty years, forty years, a life or life's most precious blood he yielded up for the welfare of his fellows—this is the simple story which proves that it is now, and ever has been, more blessed to give than to receive.
The officer was a patriot when he gave his ability to his country and risked his name and fame upon the fortunes of war; the private soldier was a patriot when he took his place in the ranks and offered his body as a bulwark to protect the flag; the wife was a patriot when she bade her husband farewell and gathered about her the little brood over which she must exercise both a mother's and a father's care; and, if there can be degrees in patriotism, the mother stood first among the patriots when she gave to the nation her sons, the divinely appointed support of her declining years, and as she brushed the tears away thanked God that he had given her the strength to rear strong and courageous sons for the battlefield.
To us who were born too late to prove upon the battlefield our courage and our loyalty it is gratifying to know that opportunity will not be wanting to show our love of country. In a nation like ours, where the Government is founded upon the principle of equality and derives its just powers from the consent of the governed; in a land like ours, I say, where every citizen is a sovereign and where no one cares to wear a crown, every year presents a battlefield and every day brings forth occasion for the display of patriotism.
And on this memorial day we shall fall short of our duty if we content ourselves with praising the dead or complimenting the living and fail to make preparations for those responsibilities which present times and present conditions impose upon us. We can find instruction in that incomparable address delivered by Abraham Lincoln on the battlefield of Gettysburg. It should be read as a part of the exercises of this day on each returning year as the Declaration of Independence is read on the Fourth of July. Let me quote from it, for its truths, like all truths, are applicable in all times and climes:
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it cannot forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
"The Unfinished Work." Yes, every generation leaves to its successor an unfinished work. The work of society, the work of human progress, the work of civilization is never completed. We build upon the foundation which we find already laid and those who follow us take up the work where we leave off. Those who fought and fell thirty years ago did nobly advance the work in their day, for they led the nation up to higher grounds. Theirs was the greatest triumph in all history. Other armies have been inspired by love of conquest or have fought to repel a foreign enemy, but our armies held within the Union brethren who now rejoice at their own defeat and glory in the preservation of the nation which they once sought to dismember. No greater victory can be won by citizens or soldiers than to transform temporary foes into permanent friends. But let me quote again:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Aye, let us here dedicate ourselves anew to this unfinished work which requires of each generation constant sacrifice and unceasing care. Pericles, in speaking of those who fell at Salamis, explained the loyalty of his countrymen when he said:
It was for such a country, then, that these men, nobly resolving not to have it taken from them, fell fighting and every one of their survivors may well be willing to suffer in its behalf.
The strength of a nation does not lie in forts, nor in navies, nor yet in great standing armies, but in happy and contented citizens, who are ever ready to protect for themselves and to preserve for posterity the blessings which they enjoy. It is for us of this generation to so perform the duties of citizenship that a "government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth."
To give an estimate of his character or of the mental endowments which he may possess, would be beyond the scope of this article. I may be justified, however, in saying that his life has been one of earnest purpose, with that sort of genius which has been called "a capacity for hard work".