Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

illustrious living commander of our Citizen Soldiery. (Allusion to General Sherman followed by great applause.]

THE MANY-SIDED PURITAN

(Speech of Horace Porter at the eighty-second annual dinner of the New England Society in the City of New York, December 22, 1887. Ex-Judge Horace Russell, the President of the Society, in introducing General Porter, said: “James T. Brady used to say that a good lawyer imbibed his law ther than read it. (Laughter.) If that proposition holds true in other regards, the gentleman whom I am to call to the next toast is one of the very best of New Englanders—General Horace Porter (applause), who will speak to ‘Puritan Influence.'"]

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN: -While you were eating Forefathers' dinner here a year ago, I happened to be in Mexico, but on my return I found that the Puritan influence had extended to me, for I was taken for the distinguished head of this organization, and was in receipt of no end of letters addressed to General Horace Russell and Judge Horace Porter and Mr. Horace Russell and Porter, President of the New England Society, and all begging for a copy of Grady's * speech. Distant communities had got the names of the modern Horatii mixed. [Laughter.] In replying I had to acknowledge that my nativity barred me out from the moral realms of this puritanical society, and I could only coincide with Charles II when he said he always admired virtue, but he never could imitate it. (Laughter and applause.) When the Puritan influence spread across the ocean; when it was imported here as part of the cargo of the Mayflower, the crew of the craft, like sensible men, steered for the port of New York, but a reliable tradition informs us that the cook on board that vessel chopped his wood on deck and always stood with his broadaxe on the starboard side of the binnacle, and that this mass of ferruginous substance so attracted the needle that the ship brought up in Plymouth harbor. And the Puritans did not reach New York harbor for a couple of hundred years thereafter, and then in the persons of the members of the New England

* Henry W. Grady.

Society. It is seen that the same influences are still at work, for the fact that these Puritans have brought up in Delmonico's haven of rest is entirely owing to the attractions of the cook. [Laughter and applause.]

The old Puritan was not the most rollicking, the jolliest, or the most playful of men. He at times amused himself sadly; he was given to a mild disregard of the conventionalities. He had suppressed bear-baiting, not, it is believed, because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the audience. He found the Indians were the proprietors of the land, and he felt himself constrained to move against them with his gun with a view to increasing the number of absentee landlords. (Laughter and applause.) He found the Indians on one side and the witches on the other. He was surrounded with troubles. He had to keep the Indians under fire and the witches over it. These were some of the things that reconciled that good man to sudden death. He frequently wanted to set up a mark and swear at it, but his principles would not permit him. He never let the sun go down upon his wrath, but he, no doubt, often wished that he was in that region near the pole where the sun does not go down for six months at a time, and gives wrath a fair chance to materialize. He was a thoughtful man. He spent his days inventing snow-ploughs and his evenings in sipping hot rum and ruminating upon the probable strength of the future Prohibition vote. Those were times when the wives remonstrated with their husbands regarding the unfortunate and disappointing results of too much drink, particularly when it led the men to go out and shoot at Indians—and miss them. [Long continued laughter.] It is supposed that these men, like many others, generally began drinking on account of the bite of a snake, and usually had to quit on account of attacks from the same reptiles.

But, Mr. President, if you will allow me a few words of becoming gravity with which to retract any aspersions which I may have inadvertently cast upon the sacred person of the ancient Puritan, I assure you I will use those words with a due sense of the truth of the epigram—that “gravity is a stratagem invented to conceal the poverty of the mind." That rugged old Puritan, firm of purpose and stout of heart, had been fittingly trained by his life in the Old World, for

the conspicuous part he was to enact in the New. He was acquainted with hardships, inured to trials, practised in selfabnegation. He had reformed religions, revolutionized society, and shaken the thrones of tyrants. He had learned that tyranny you may have anywhere—it is a weed which grows on any soil—but if you want freedom you must go forth and fight for it. [Long continued applause.)

At his very birth he had had breathed into his nostrils the breath of that true liberty which can turn blind submission into rational obedience, which, as Hall says, can“ smother the voice of kings, dissipate the mists of superstition, and by its magic touch kindle the rays of genius, the enthusiasm of poetry, the flames of eloquence.” [Applause.) He had the courage of his convictions, he counselled not with his fears. He neither looked to the past with regret nor to the future with apprehension. He might have been a zealot-he was never a hypocrite; he might have been eccentric—he was never ridiculous. He was a Hercules rather than an Adonis. In his warfare he fired hot shot; he did not send in flags of truce; he led forlorn hopes; he did not follow in the wake of charges. When he went forth with his sledge-hammer logic and his saw-mill philosophy, all who stood in the path of his righteous wrath went down before him, with nothing by which to recognize them except the pieces he had left of them. When he crossed the seas to plant his banners in the West, when he disembarked upon the bleak shores of America, the land which was one day to speak with the voice of a mighty prophet, then the infant just discovered in the bulrushes of the New World, he came with loins girded and all accoutred for the great work of founding a race which should create a permanent abiding place for liberty, and one day dominate the destinies of the world. [Prolonged applause.] Unlike the Spanish conqueror upon far southern coasts, the leader did not have to burn his ship to retain his followers, for when the Mayflower spread her sails for home, not a man of Plymouth Colony returned on board her.

The Puritan early saw that in the new land, liberty could not flourish when subject to the caprices of European Courts; he realized with Burke that there was more wisdom and sagacity in American workshops than in the cabi

nets of princes." He wanted elbow-room; he was philosophic enough to recognize the truth of the adage that it is“ better to sit on a pumpkin and have it all to yourself than to be crowded on a velvet cushion."

When the struggle for independence came, the Puritan influence played no small part in the contest. When a separate government had been formed he showed himself foremost in impressing upon it his principles of broad and comprehensive liberty. He dignified labor; he believed that as the banner of the young Republic was composed of and derived its chief beauty from its different colors, so should its broad folds cover and protect its citizens of different colors.

He was a grand character in history. We take off our hats to him. We salute his memory. In his person were combined the chivalry of Knighthood, the fervor of the Crusader, the wit of Gascony, and the courage of Navarre. [Prolonged applause.]

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

(Speech of Horace Porter' at a dinner given by the Republican Club in honor of the ninetieth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, New York City, February 12, 1889. Mortimer C. Addams, the newly elected President of the Club, occupied the chair. General Porter was called upon for a response to the first toast, Abraham Lincoln-the fragrant memory of such a life will increase as the generations succeed each other." General Porter was introduced by the chairman, as one whose long acquaintance with Abraham Lincoln, intimate relationship, both official and personal, with our illustrious chieftain, General Grant, and distinguished career as a brave defender of his country in the time of her peril, have eminently fitted him to tell the story of our great War President.")

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN: I am encumbered with diverse misgivings in being called upon to rise and cast the first firebrand into this peaceful assemblage, which has evidently been enjoying itself so much up to the present time. From the herculean task accomplished by the Republican party last fall we have come to think of its members

as men of deeds and not of words, except the spellbinders. [Laughter.] I fear your committee is treating me like one of those toy balloons that are sent up previous to the main ascension, to test the currents of the air; but I hope that in this sort of ballooning I may not be interrupted by the remark that interrupted a Fourth of July orator in the West when he was tickling the American Eagle under both wings, delivering himself of no end of platitudes and soaring aloft into the brilliant realms of fancy when a man in the audience quietly remarked: “If he goes on throwing out his ballast, in that way, the Lord knows where he will land.” (Laughter.] If I demonstrate to-night that dryness is a quality not only of the champagne but of the first speech as well, you may reflect on that remark as Abraham Lincoln did at City Point after he had been shaken up the night before in his boat in a storm in Chesapeake Bay. When he complained of the feeling of gastronomic uncertainty which we suffer on the water, a young staff officer rushed up to him with a bottle of champagne and said: “ This is the cure for that sort of an ill." Said the President: ' No, young man, I have seen too many fellows seasick ashore from drinking that very article.” [Laughter.]

The story of the life of Abraham Lincoln savors more of romance than reality. It is more like a fable of the ancient days than a story of a plain American of the nineteenth century. The singular vicissitudes in the life of our martyred President surround him with an interest which attaches to few men in history. He sprang from that class which he always alluded to as the “plain people," and never attempted to disdain them. He believed that the government was made for the people, not the people for the government. He felt that true Republicanism is a torch—the more it is shaken in the hands of the people the brighter it will burn. He was transcendently fit to be the first successful standardbearer of the progressive, aggressive, invincible Republican party. [Loud applause.] He might well have said to those who chanced to sneer at his humble origin what a marshal of France raised from the ranks said to the haughty nobles of Vienna boasting of their long line of descent, when they refused to associate with him: “ I am an ancestor; you are only descendants!” (Laughter and cheers.] He was never

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »