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EDWARD JOHN PHELPS

FAREWELL ADDRESS

(Speech of Edward J. Phelps, Minister to England, on the occasion of the farewell banquet given to him by the Lord Mayor of London, James Whitehead, at the Mansion House, London, January 24, 1889. The Lord Mayor, in proposing the toast of the evening, said, in the course of his introductory remarks: “ It now becomes my pride and privilege to ask you to join with me in drinking the health of my distinguished guest, Mr. Phelps. I have invited you here this evening because I felt it was my duty as Chief Magistrate of the City of London to take the initiative in giving you an opportunity to testify to the very high esteem in which Mr. Phelps is held by all classes of society. It is to me a very sincere satisfaction that I am able to be the medium of conveying to him, on the eve of his departure, the fact that his presence here in this country has been appreciated by the whole British nation. If anything were required to give force to what I have said, it is the fact that on this occasion we are honored by the presence of members of governments past and present, of statesmen without distinction of party, of members of both Houses of Parliament, and of nearly all the judges of the land. We have here also the highest representatives of science, of art, of literature, and of the press; and we are also honored with the presence of neighbors and friends in some of the most eminent bankers and merchants of the city. I am glad to add that all the distinguished Americans that I know of at present visiting this city have come here to show their esteem for their fellowcountryman. It may be said that this remarkable gathering is a proof not only of the fact that our distinguished guest is personally popular, but also that we are satisfied that, so far as he could, he has endeavored to do his duty faithfully and well between the country he represents and the country to which he is delegated. Mr. Phelps in leaving our shores, I think, will take with him a feeling that he has been received in the most cordial spirit, in the most friendly manner in this country. I think he will feel also—at any rate, I should like to assure him so far as I am able to observe—that he has greatly tended, by his manner and by his courteous bearing, to consolidate those friendly relations which we desire should forever exist between his country and our own. Those of us who have had the honor from time to time to meet his Excellency, know what high and good qualities he possesses, and we feel sure he will take with him to the United States a not unfavorable impression of the old country, and that so far as he can he will endeavor in the future, as I believe he has done in the past, to promote those feelings of peace, of amity between the two countries, the maintenance of which is one of the objects to be most desired in the interests of the world at large. I give you ‘His Excellency, the American Minister, Mr. Phelps, and I ask you, if you please, to rise and give the toast standing, in the usual manner.")

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MY LORD MAYOR, MY LORDS, AND GENTLEMEN I am sure you will not be surprised to be told that the poor words at my command do not enable me to respond adequately to your most kind greeting, nor the too flattering words which have fallen from my friend, the Lord Mayor, and from my distinguished colleague, the Lord Chancellor. But you will do me the justice to believe that my feelings are not the less sincere and hearty if I cannot put them into language. I am under a very great obligation to your Lordship not merely for the honor of meeting this evening an assembly more distinguished I apprehend than it appears to me has often assembled under one roof, but especially for the opportunity of meeting under such pleasant circumstances so many of those to whom I have become so warmly attached, and from whom I am so sorry to part. (Cheers.]

It is rather a pleasant coincidence to me that about the first hospitality that was offered me after my arrival in England came from my friend, the Lord Mayor, who was at the time one of the Sheriffs of London. I hope it is no disparagement to my countrymen to say that under existing circumstances the first place that I felt it my duty to visit was the Old Bailey Criminal Court. [Laughter.] I had there the pleasure of being entertained by my friend, the Lord Mayor. And it happens also that it was in this room almost four years ago at a dinner given to Her Majesty's Judges by my friend Sir Robert Fowler, then Lord Mayor, whose genial face I see before me, that I appeared for the first time on any public occasion in England and addressed my first words to an English company. It seems to me a fortunate propriety that my last public words should be spoken under the same hospitable roof, the home of the Chief Magistrate of the city of London. [“ Hear! Hear!”] Nor can I ever forget the cordial and generous reception that was then accorded, not to myself personally, for I was altogether a stranger, but to the representative of my country. It struck what has proved the keynote of all my relations here. It indicated to me at the outset how warm and hearty was the feeling of Englishmen toward America. [Cheers.]

And it gave me to understand, what I was not slow to accept and believe, that I was accredited not merely from one government to the other, but from the people of America to the people of England—that the American Minister was not expected to be merely a diplomatic functionary shrouded in reticence and retirement, jealously watching over doubtful relations, and carefully guarding against anticipated dangers; but that he was to be the guest of his kinsmen—one of themselves—the messenger of the sympathy and goodwill, the mutual and warm regard and esteem that bind together the two great nations of the same race, and make them one in all the fair humanities of life. [Cheers.] The suggestion that met me at the threshold has not proved to be mistaken. The promise then held out has been generously fulfilled. Ever since and through all my intercourse here I have received, in all quarters, from all classes with whom I have come in contact, under all circumstances and in all vicissitudes, a uniform and widely varied kindness, far beyond what I had personally the least claim to. And I am glad of this public opportunity to acknowledge it in the most emphatic manner.

My relations with the successive governments I have had to do with have been at all times most fortunate and agreeable, and quite beyond those I have been happy in feeling always that the English people had a claim upon the American Minister for all kind and friendly offices in his power, and upon his presence and voice on all occasions when they could be thought to further any good work. (Cheers.]

And so I have gone in and out among you these four years and have come to know you well. I have taken part in many gratifying public functions; I have been the guest at many homes; and my heart has gone out with yours in memorable jubilee of that Sovereign Lady whom all Englishmen love and all Americans honor. I have stood with you by some unforgotten graves; I have shared in many joys; and I have tried as well as I could through it all, in my small way, to promote constantly a better understanding, a fuller and more accurate knowledge, a more genuine sympathy between the people of the two countries. (Cheers.]

And this leads me to say a word on the nature of these relations. The moral intercourse between the governments is most important to be maintained, and its value is not to be overlooked or disregarded. But the real significance of the attitude of nations depends in these days upon the feelings which the general intelligence of their inhabitants entertains toward each other. The time has long passed when kings or rulers can involve their nations in hostilities to gratify their own ambition or caprice. There can be no war nowadays between civilized nations, nor any peace that is not hollow and delusive, unless sustained and backed up by the sentiment of the people who are parties to it. [Cheers.] Before nations can quarrel, their inhabitants must first become hostile. Then a cause of quarrel is not far to seek. The men of our race are not likely to become hostile until they begin to misunderstand each other. (Cheers.] There are no dragon's teeth so prolific as mutual misunderstandings. It is in the great and constantly increasing intercourse between England and America, in its reciprocities, and its amenities, that the security against misunderstanding must be found. While that continues, they cannot be otherwise than friendly. Unlucky incidents may sometimes happen; interests may conflict; mistakes may be made on one side or on the other, and sharp words may occasionally be spoken by unguarded or ignorant tongues. The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything. [Cheers and laughter.] The nation that comes to be without fault will have reached the millennium, and will have little further concern with the storm-swept geography of this imperfect world. But these things are all ephemeral; they do not touch the great heart of either people; they float for a moment on the surface and in the wind, and then they disappear and are gone" in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

I do not know, sir, who may be my successor, but I venture to assure you that he will be an American gentleman, fit by character and capacity to be the medium of communication between our countries; and an American gentleman, when you come to know him, generally turns out to be a not very distant kinsman of an English gentleman. [Cheers.] I need not bespeak for him a kindly reception. I know he will receive it for his country's sake and his own. [“ Hear! Hear!”]

"Farewell,” sir, is a word often lightly uttered and readily forgotten. But when it marks the rounding-off and completion of a chapter in life, the severance of ties many and cherished, of the parting with many friends at once-especially when it is spoken among the lengthening shadows of the western light-it sticks somewhat in the throat. It becomes, indeed, “ the word that makes us linger." But it does not prompt many other words. It is best expressed in few. What goes without saying is better than what is said. Not much can be added to the old English word “Good-by.” You are not sending me away empty-handed or alone. I go freighted and laden with happy memoriesinexhaustible and unalloyed-of England, its warm-hearted people, and their measureless kindness. Spirits more than twain will cross with me, messengers of your good-will. Happy the nation that can thus speed its parting guest! Fortunate the guest who has found his welcome almost an adoption, and whose farewell leaves half his heart behind! [Loud cheers.]

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