Page images

home, by invitation of the superintendent, Mr. Cleveland visited the State Asylum for the Blind at Nebraska City. In his brief address to the unfortunate inmates of the institution, Mr. Cleveland mentioned the fact that in his early life he had been for some time a teacher in an asylum for the blind, and spoke of his profound interest in whatever concerned their welfare. I have heard him many times, but never when he appeared to better advantage, or evinced such depth of feeling as upon this occasion.

The passing of Cleveland marks an epoch. He was indeed a striking figure in American history. Take him all in all, we may not look upon his like again. The "good citizenship," an expression frequently on his lips, to which he would have his countrymen aspire, was of the noblest, and no man had a clearer or loftier conception of the responsible and sacred character of public station. With him the oft-quoted words, "A public office is a public trust," was no mere lipservice. His will be a large place in history. His administration of the government will safely endure the test of time. "Whatever record leaps to light, He never can be shamed.”

In victory or defeat, in office or out, he was true to his own self and to his ideals. His early struggles, his firmness of purpose, his determination that knew no shadow of wavering, his exalted aims, and the success that ultimately crowned his efforts have given him high place among statesmen, and will be a continuing inspiration to the oncoming generations of his countrymen.





Ta banquet in Washington in the winter of 1880-81, a

A large number of Representatives were present. Among Α

the number were Reed, McKinley, Cannon, and Keifer. These gentlemen were all prospective candidates for the Speakership of the then recently elected House of Representatives. The best of feeling prevailed, and the occasion was one of rare enjoyment and mirth. Each candidate in turn was introduced by the toast-master as "the Speaker of the next House," and in his speech each claimed all the others as his enthusiastic and reliable supporters. The apparent confidence of each candidate in the support of his rivals reminded Mr. Cannon of the experience of an Illinois legislator, which he requested his colleague from the Bloomington district to relate.

That the reader may appreciate the incident then related, some mention must be made of Dr. Thomas P. Rogers of Bloomington. He was a gentleman of the old school, a politician from the beginning, of inflexible integrity and an earnestness of purpose that knew no shadow of turning. He was as devoid of any possible touch of humor as was his own marble bust of Thomas Jefferson. He was the personal friend of Lincoln and of Douglas, and the political follower of the latter. The fondness of a mother for her first-born hardly exceeded that of Dr. Rogers for the party of his choice. Any uncomplimentary allusion to his "principles" was considered a personal injury, and his devotion to party leaders, from Jackson to Douglas, savored of idolatry. Some campmeeting experiences in early life had given zest and tone

to his style of oratory, which stood him well in hand in his many political encounters of a later day.

For three consecutive terms the Doctor had been a member of the Legislature, and his record from every point of view was without a blemish. At his fourth election, it was found that for the first time for a decade or more his party had secured a majority in the House, to which the Doctor had just been elected. The goal of his ambition was the Speakership, and it truly seemed that his hour had now come.

Soon after these facts were known beyond peradventure, the Doctor came one day into my office. After election matters had been talked over at length and with much satisfaction, the Doctor modestly intimated a desire to be a candidate for the Speakership. I at once gave him the promise of my earnest support and inquired whether he had any friends upon whom he could rely in the approaching caucus. He assured me that there were four members of the last House reëlected to this, upon whom he knew he could absolutely depend under all circumstances. Upon my inquiry as to their names, he said:

"Hadlai," -the Doctor, it may be here mentioned, had from my boyhood kindly given me the benefit of an "H" to which I laid no claim and was in no way entitled — "Hadlai, you take your pencil and take down their names as I give them to you.'

[ocr errors]

I at once took my seat, and pencil in hand, looked inquiringly toward the Doctor.

"Hadlai," he continued, "put down Heise of Cook. John and I have been friends for more than thirty years; I worked for him for a delegate-at-large to the last National Convention, and he told me then, 'Doctor, if there is anything I can do for you, just let me know.'

[ocr errors]

To which I replied, "Heise of Cook, dead sure," and his name was at once placed in the Rogers column.

"Now, Hadlai," continued the Doctor, "There is Armstrong of La Salle; Wash and I were boys together in Ohio, and sat side by side in the Charleston Convention when we were trying to nominate Douglas. He has told me more

than once that if ever we carried the House, he was for me for Speaker above any man on earth." At which I unhesitatingly placed Armstrong of La Salle in the same column with Heise of Cook.

"Now, Hadlai," continued the Doctor, after a moment's pause, "there is Cummins of Fulton; I helped elect Jim Chairman of the last State Convention, and he has told me again and again that he hoped he would live to see me Speaker, so I can count on Jim without doubt."

I at once placed Cummins in the column of honor with Heise and Armstrong, and calmly awaited further instructions.

"Now, Hadlai, there is Moore of Adams; Alf got into trouble over a bill he had in the last Legislature; he could neither get it out of the committee, nor the committee to take any action, so he came over to my seat terribly worried, and says he, 'Doctor, for God's sake, get me out of this!' I did, Hadlai, and Alf was the most grateful man you ever saw on earth, and told me then, 'Doctor, I would get up at two o'clock at night to do you a favor.' I can safely count on him." It is needless to say that Moore of Adams rounded out the quartette of faithful supporters.

"Now, Hadlai," remarked the Doctor, after contemplating with apparent satisfaction the list I had handed him, “if you will give me some paper and envelopes and a pen and some stamps, if you have them handy, I will write to all of them now." The articles mentioned were produced, the letters written, stamped, and duly mailed, and the good Doctor departed in an exceedingly comfortable frame of mind.

Time passed, as is its wont; but for some weeks I neither saw nor heard from the Doctor. Meeting him on the street at length, I at once inquired whether he had received replies to his letters.

"Come into the office, Hadlai, and I will explain." Pained to observe that the tone and air of confidence so perceptible in our last interview was lacking, I followed with some misgiving into his office.

"Yes, Hadlai," he slowly began, "I have heard from all of them. Heise of Cook [the familiar appellations of the former interview were wanting] writes assuring me that there is no man living for whom he entertains a more profound respect than for myself, Hadlai; but that owing to unforeseen complications arising in his county, he has reluctantly consented to allow his own name to be presented to the caucus."

The name of Heise of Cook was immediately stricken from the head of the list. Then a reverie into which the Doctor had fallen was at length disturbed by my inquiry, "What about Armstrong?"

"Yes, Hadlai, Armstrong of La Salle writes me that in his judgment there is no man living so deserving of the gratitude of the party, or so well qualified for the office of Speaker as myself, but that the pressure from his constituents has been so great that he has finally consented to allow his own name to be presented to the caucus."

[ocr errors]

"Fare-you-well, Mr. Armstrong,' was my hurried observation, as the name of that gentleman disappeared from my list.

Arousing the Doctor at length from the reverie into which he had again fallen, I ventured to inquire as to the state of mind of Mr. Cummins.

"Yes, Hadlai, Cummins of Fulton says that in a certain contingency he will himself be a candidate, and Moore of Adams writes me that he is a candidate!"

It may not be out of place to supplement this little narrative by relating an incident that illustrates the fact that a man wholly devoid of any sense of humor himself may at times be the unconscious cause of amusement to others.

Imprimis: The Doctor, while a member of the General Assembly, voted for a measure known in local parlance as "The Lake Front Bill." The criticism which followed vexed his righteous soul, and he patiently awaited the opportunity for public explanation and personal vindication.

Now it so fell out that at the time whereof we write there was much excitement a tempest in a tea-pot in the tea-pot-in little city of Bloomington, over a change in "readers" recently

« PreviousContinue »