« PreviousContinue »
replaced, the minister, scarcely ruffled by the trifling incident, reëntered the pulpit, and with the words, "As I was saying, brethren, when interrupted," continued his discourse.
This little sketch would be unpardonably incomplete if the important fact were withheld that Peter Cartwright had a relish for politics, as well as for salvation. He was more than once a member of the General Assembly of Illinois, and be it said to his eternal honor his speech and vote were ever on the side of whatever conduced to the best interests of the State. In him the cause of education, and the asylums for the unfortunate, had ever an earnest advocate.
Though many years his senior, he was the contemporary of Abraham Lincoln, and a resident of the same county. Mr. Lincoln was, in 1846, the Whig candidate for Representative in Congress. The district was of immense area, embracing many counties of Central Illinois. Newspapers were scarce, and the old-time custom of joint discussions between opposing candidates for high office still in vogue. Mr. Lincoln's unsuccessful competitor was none other than the subject of this article. The great Whig leader and his Democratic antagonist "My friend the Parson," as Mr. Lincoln familiarly called him were soon engaged in joint debate. It is to be regretted that there is no record of these debates. There is probably no man now living who heard them. But what rare reading they would be at this day, if happily they had been preserved. The earnest, inflexible parson,- even then "standing upon the Western slope," backed by his party, then dominant in the national government, upon the one side; the comparatively youthful lawyer, whose fame was yet to fill the world, upon the other. No doubt, daily upon "the stump" and at night at the village taverns, the changes were rung upon the then all-absorbing subjects, the Walker Tariff, the War with Mexico, and the Wilmot Proviso. These questions belong now to the domain of history; as do indeed issues of far greater consequence, upon which Lincoln and an antagonist more formidable than Cartwright crossed swords a dozen years later.
At the Democratic State Convention, which assembled in
Springfield in the early spring of 1860, a resolution instructing the Illinois delegates to support Stephen A. Douglas for nomination to the Presidency at the approaching National Convention was adopted amidst great enthusiasm. Immediately upon its adoption, a delegate called attention to the fact that the venerable Peter Cartwright was present, and said he knew the Convention would be glad to hear a word from him. Immediately "Cartwright," "Cartwright," "Cartwright," was heard from all parts of the chamber. From his seat, surrounded by the Sangamon County delegates, near the central part of the hall, Mr. Cartwright arose, and with deep emotion, and scarcely audible voice, began:
"My friends and fellow-citizens, I am happy to be with you on the present occasion. My sun is low down upon the horizon, and the days of my pilgrimage are almost numbered. I have lived in Illinois during the entire period of its history as a State. I have watched with tender interest its marvellous growth from its feeble condition as a Territory, until it has reached its present splendor as a State. I have travelled over its prairies, slept with only the canopy of heaven for a covering; I have followed the trail of the Indians, fought the desperadoes, swam the rivers, threaded the almost pathless forests, in order that I might carry the tidings of the blessed Gospel to the loneliest cabin upon the border. Yes, my friends, for seventy long years, amid appalling difficulties and dangers, I have waged an incessant warfare against the world, the flesh, the devil, and all the other enemies of the Democratic party!"
CLEVELAND AS I KNEW HIM
ACCEPTING HIS NOMINATION BLAINE'S FRUITLESS TOUR AS A CANDIDATE CLEVELAND'S INSIGHT INTO HUMAN CHARACTER · HIS TARIFF-REDUCTION MESSAGE WITHDRAWAL OF THE HAWAIIAN ANNEXATION TREATY HIS VENEZUELAN MESSAGE ·HIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE SCIENCE OF GOVERNMENT - HIS QUALIFICATIONS FOR SOCIAL LIFE AND FOR SERVING THE COUNTRY.
PON the adjournment of the Democratic National Convention of 1884, which had nominated Mr. Cleveland for the Presidency, in company with other delegates I visited him at the Executive Mansion at Albany, New York. The Hon. William F. Vilas was the chairman of our committee, and the purpose of the visit to notify Mr. Cleveland, officially, of his nomination to the great office. I saw him then for the first time.
He was then Governor of New York, having been but recently elected by an unprecedented majority. I recall him distinctly on this occasion as he responded to the eloquent speech of Colonel Vilas. Standing near him at the time were three men well known at a later date as members of his cabinet and his closest friends, Daniel Manning, William C. Whitney, and Daniel S. Lamont.
Cleveland's response to the speech of notification was in dignified, forceful phrase, and at once challenged public attention and gave the keynote to the memorable contest which immediately followed. In some of its aspects it was a Presidential struggle the like of which we may not again witness. As the day of election drew near, the excitement increased in intensity, and no efforts that gave hopes of success were spared by the opposing party managers.
The defection from his ranks by what in campaign publications of the day was known as the "mugwump" element,
caused Mr. Blaine to venture upon a hazardous tour of speechmaking. Enthusiastic audiences gathered around the brilliant Republican candidate during his Western tour. This, however, as the sequel showed, was time and energy wasted; Illinois and Ohio were safely in the Republican column, and the real battle-ground was New York State. Homeward bound at length from this strenuous pilgrimage demanded by no party necessity, Mr. Blaine was fated during his brief sojourn in New York to listen to the now historical words of Burchard, words which in all human probability proved the political undoing of the candidate to whom, with the best intentions, they were earnestly addressed.
New York, as has been its wont before and since, proved the pivotal State. For many days after the election the result was still in doubt. Party feeling was intense, and the result hinged upon the narrow margin in the vote of Blaine and Cleveland in one State.
During the strenuous days that passed from the election until the authoritative announcement of the result, one man alone, amid the high tide of party passion, remained calm. To all appearances unmoved, Grover Cleveland sat in his office day after day, no detail of official duty failing to receive his careful attention. The fact just stated is explanatory of much in his subsequent career.
When first nominated for the Presidency, Mr. Cleveland had little personal knowledge of public men outside of his own State. How rapidly he acquired the information necessary to a successful administration of the government was indeed a marvel. It was no "Cleveland luck" or haphazard chance that called into his first Cabinet such men as Bayard, Manning, Garland, Vilas, and Whitney. It can safely be asserted that Mr. Cleveland was an excellent judge of men and of their capacity for the particular work assigned them. As if by intuition, he thoroughly understood after a single interview the men with whom he was brought in contact. As an object lesson a better appointment to high office has rarely been made than that of Fuller to the chief justiceship of the great court. No less fortunate was his selection of Vilas to