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TRIBUTE TO GENERAL GRANT
[Speech of Horace Porter at the banquet of the Army of the Tennessee, upon the occasion of the inauguration of the Grant Equestrian Statue in Chicago, October 8, 1891.)
MR. CHAIRMAN:- When a man from the armies of the East finds himself in the presence of men of the armies of the West, he feels that he cannot strike their gait. He can only look at them wistfully and say, in the words of Charles II, “I always admired virtue, but I never could imitate it." (Laughter.] If I do not in the course of my remarks succeed in seeing each one of you, it will be because the formation of the Army of the Tennessee to-night is like its formation in the field, when it won its matchless victories, the heavy columns in the centre. [An allusion to the large columns in the room.] [Laughter.]
Almost all the conspicuous characters in history have risen to prominence by gradual steps, but Ulysses S. Grant seemed to come before the people with a sudden bound. Almost the
a first sight they caught of him was in the flashes of his guns, and the blaze of his camp-fires, those wintry days and nights in front of Donelson. From that hour until the closing triumph at Appomattox he was the leader whose name was the harbinger of victory. From the final sheath of his sword until the tragedy on Mount McGregor he was the chief citizen of the republic and the great central figure of the world. [Applause.] The story of his life savors more of romance than reality. It is more like a fabled tale of ancient days than the history of an American citizen of the nineteenth century. As light and shade produce the most attractive effects in a picture, so the singular contrasts, the strange vicissitudes in his marvellous career, surround him with an interest which attaches to few characters in history. His rise from an obscure lieutenancy to the command of the veteran armies of the republic; his transition from a frontier post of the untrodden West to the Executive Mansion of the nation; his sitting at one time in his little store in Galena, not even known to the Congressman from his own district; at another time striding through the palaces of the Old World, with the descendants of a line of Kings rising and standing uncovered in his presence [applause)—these are some of the features of his extraordinary career which appeal to the imagination, excite men's wonder, and fascinate all who read the story of his life. [Applause.)
General Grant possessed in a striking degree all the characteristics of the successful soldier. His methods were all stamped with tenacity of purpose, with originality and ingenuity. He depended for his success more upon the powers of invention than of adaptation, and the fact that he has been compared, at different times, to nearly every great commander in history is perhaps the best proof that he was like none of them. He was possessed of a moral and physical courage which was equal to every emergency in which he was placed: calm amidst excitement, patient under trials, never unduly elated by victory or depressed by defeat. While he possessed a sensitive nature and a singularly tender heart, yet he never allowed his sentiments to interfere with the stern duties of the soldier. He knew better than to attempt to hew rocks with a razor. He realized that paper bullets cannot be fired in warfare. He felt that the hardest blows bring the quickest results; that more men die from disease in sickly camps than from shot and shell in battle.
His magnanimity to foes, his generosity to friends, will be talked of as long as manly qualities are honored. [Applause.)
You know after Vicksburg had succumbed to him he said in his order: “ The garrison will march out to-morrow. Instruct your commands to be quiet and orderly as the prisoners pass by, and make no offensive remarks.” After Lee's surrender at Appomattox, when our batteries began to fire triumphal salutes, he at once suppressed them, saying, in his order: “The war is over; the rebels are again our countrymen; the best way to celebrate the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations in the field.” [Applause.] After the war General Lee and his officers were indicted in the civil courts of Virginia by directions of a President who was endeavoring to make treason odious and succeeding in making nothing so odious as himself. [Applause.) General Lee appealed to his old antagonist for protection. He did not appeal to that heart in vain. General Grant at once took up the cudgels in his defence, threatened to resign his office if such officers were indicted while they continued to obey their paroles, and such was the logic of his argument and the force of his character that those indictments were soon after quashed. So that he penned no idle platitude; he fashioned no stilted epigrams; he spoke the earnest convictions of an honest heart when he said, “Let us have peace.” [Applause.] He never tired of giving unstinted praise to worthy subordinates for the work they did. Like the chief artists who weave the Gobelin tapestries, he was content to stand behind the cloth and let those in front appear to be the chief contributors to the beauty of the fabric. [Applause.)
One of the most beautiful chapters in all history is that which records the generous relations existing between him and Sherman, that great soldier who for so many years was the honored head of this society, that great chieftain whom men will always love to picture as a legendary knight moving at the head of conquering columns, whose marches were measured not by single miles, but by thousands; whose field of military operations covered nearly half a continent; whose orders always spoke with the true bluntness of the soldier; who fought from valley's depths to mountain heights, and marched from inland rivers to the sea. [Applause.] Their rivalry manifested itself only in one respect—the endeavor of each to outdo the other in generosity. With hearts untouched by jealousy, with souls too great for rivalry, each stood ready to abandon the path of ambition when it became so narrow that two could not tread it abreast. [Applause.)
If there be one single word in all the wealth of the English language which best describes the predominating trait of General Grant's character, that word is “ loyalty.” (Applause.] Loyal to every great cause and work he was engaged in; loyal to his friends; loyal to his family; loyal to his country; loyal to his God. [Applause.] This produced a reciprocal effect in all who came in contact with him. It was one of the chief reasons why men became so loyally attached to him. It is true that this trait so dominated his whole character that it led him to make mistakes; it induced him to continue to stand by men who were no longer worthy of his confidence; but after all, it was a trait so grand, so noble, we do not stop to count the errors which resulted. [Applause.) It showed him to be a man who had the courage to be just, to stand between worthy men and their unworthy slanderers, and to let kindly sentiments have a voice in an age in which the heart piayed so small a part in public life. Many a public man has had hosts of followers because they fattened on the patronage dispensed at his hands; many a one has had troops of adherents because they were blind zealots in a cause he represented, but perhaps no man but General Grant had so many friends who loved him for his own sake; whose attachment strengthened only with time; whose affection knew neither variableness, nor shadow of turning; who stuck to him as closely as the toga to Nessus, whether he was Captain, General, President, or simply private citizen. [Great applause.]
General Grant was essentially created for great emergencies; it was the very magnitude of the task which called forth the powers which mastered it. In ordinary matters he was an ordinary man. In momentous affairs he towered as a giant. When he served in a company there was nothing in his acts to distinguish him from the fellow-officers; but when he wielded corps and armies the great qualities of the commander flashed forth and his master strokes of genius placed him at once in the front rank of the world's great captains. When he hauled wood from his little farm and sold it in the streets of St. Louis there was nothing in his business or financial capacity different from that of the small farmers about him; but when, as President of the Republic, he found it his duty to puncture the fallacy of the inflationists, to throttle by a veto the attempt of unwise legislators to tamper with the American credit, he penned a State paper so logical, so masterly, that it has ever since been the pride, wonder, and admiration of every lover of an honest currency. [Applause.] He was made for great things, not for
He could collect for the nation $15,000,000 from Great Britain in settlement of the Alabama claims; he could not protect his own personal savings from the miscreants who robbed him in Wall Street.
But General Grant needs no eulogist. His name is indelibly engraved upon the hearts of his countrymen. His services attest his greatness. He did his duty and trusted
to history for his meed of praise. The more history discusses him, the more brilliant becomes the lustre of his deeds. His record is like a torch; the more it is shaken, the brighter it burns. His name will stand imperishable when epitaphs have vanished utterly, and monuments and statues have crumbled into dust; but the people of this great city, everywhere renowned for their deeds of generosity, have covered themselves anew with glory in fashioning in enduring bronze, in rearing in monumental rock that magnificent tribute to his worth which was to-day unveiled in the presence of countless thousands. As I gazed upon its graceful lines and colossal proportions I was reminded of that child-like simplicity which was mingled with the majestic grandeur of his nature. The memories clustering about it will recall the heroic age of the Republic; it will point the path of loyalty to children yet unborn; its mute eloquence will plead for equal sacrifice, should war ever again threaten the Nation's life; generations yet to come will pause to read the inscription which it bears, and the voices of a grateful people will ascend from the consecrated spot on which it stands, as incense rises from holy places, invoking blessings upon the memory of him who had filled to the very full the largest measure of human greatness and covered the earth with his renown. [Applause.]
An indescribably touching incident happened which will ever be meinorable and which never can be effaced from the memory of those who witnessed it. Even at this late date I can scarcely trust my own feelings to recall it. It was on Decoration Day in the City of New York, the last one he ever saw on earth. That morning the members of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans in that vicinity, arose earlier than was their wont. They seemed to spend more time that morning in unfurling the old battle flags, in burnishing the medals of honor which decorated their breasts, for on that day they had determined to march by the house of their dying commander to give him a last marching salute. In the streets the columns were forming; inside the house on that bed, from which he was never to rise again, lay the stricken chief. The hand which had seized the surrendered swords of countless thousands could scarcely return the pressure of the friendly grasp. The voice which had cheered