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Certainly I cannot. Were I to follow my own inclinations merely, I would at once abandon a position so difficult to fill acceptably, and which the assaults of calumny have rendered on so many accounts undesirable. But the charge on which the demand of the Warren convention is based is an injustice to which I cannot consent. The principle on which it is made rises above any merely personal consideration. If I ought to resign for casting this vote, every elective officer should resign whenever any of his official acts, done in good faith, are strongly disapproved by those who elected him. If the delegates believe that the retroactive clause is so infamous that I ought to resign for voting for the appropriation bill to which it was attached, will they follow out their logic and insist that the President ought to resign for signing it? My vote did not make it a law. His signature did. I do not consent to the logic that leads to such a conclusion.
The facts are before you, I am ready anywhere and at any time to make good the statements herein set forth, and upon the facts I appeal from the action of the convention to your more deliberate judgment. Very respectfully,
JAMÉS A. GARFIELD. Immediately upon receiving the check for the increase of his salary, General Garfield sent it to the United States treasurer, and it was covered into the treasury.
LABORS IN CONGRESS.
APPOINTMENT ON COMMITTEES. – VARIETY OF WORK. – HIS LEADER
SHIP. - LIST OF SPEECHES. — THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION. — A SPEECH IN WALL STREET. - VIEWS ON FINANES. - RESUMPTION OF SPECIE PAYMENTS.
GENERAL GARFIELD's labors in Congress were of the most varied and arduous character. It seems incredible that one man could make so many speeches, write out so many bills, attend so many committee hearings, and appear so punctually in his seat as he has done. He carried the affairs of the Military committee as its practical head, until the chairmanship of the Ways and Means committee, which was given him, took him into a wider field. For many years he was the leader of the House in matters requiring hard work ; and after the election of Mr. Blaine to the Senate, he was regarded by the Republican party as their leader and oracle, in all their debates and controversies with the other party. He studied, wrote and spoke about a vast variety of topics, concerning widely different themes, and, as all admit, with ability and good judgment. He delivered addresses in the House, which have often been quoted with respect by eminent scholars, upon public lands, river navigation, contagious diseases, revenue, currency, duties, specie payments, Arctic explorations, science, schools, manufactories, commerce, agriculture, appropriations, law trials, Chinese immigration, diplomatic affairs, war claims, fisheries, polygamy, pensions, constitutional amendments, banks, slavery, treaties with foreign nations, trade with Canada, electoral count, reconstruction, State rights, and hundreds more; and, all the while, was assiduously at work as a member of the most important committees. His eminent legal knowledge pointed him out at once as the proper statesman for the examination of the Louisiana trouble, for drifting constitutional amendments and impeachment reports, and for a place on that most august of all our national tribunals, the electoral commission, for adjusting the contested election case between R. B. Hayes ard Samuel J. Tilden, the claimants for the presidential chair.
His study, at odd moments, of questions of science and education, made him a prominent member of the Board of regents of the Smithsonian Institute, and his love of literature secured the honorary membership in many of the leading literary societies in this country, and of the “Cobden Club,” in London, on motion of John Bright.
During those years of restless activity, he wrote articles for magazines, and the many addresses which he delivered, at schools, colleges, celebrations, anniversaries and political meetings. Among his speeches, none seems to have given him greater celebrity, than the short exclamation which he made to the
crowd in Wall street, on the evening after the assassination of President Lincoln. The accounts in the public press gave it as follows:
An enormous crowd had gathered at the Wall street Exchange. The wrath of the workingmen was simply uncontrollable, and revolvers and knives were in the hands of thousands of Lincoln's friends, ready to avenge the death of the martyred president, without being careful to consider who deserved penalty. Speeches from Butler and Dickinson had done nothing to appease the gathering wrath of the mob. Two men had been beaten — one lay dead, the other dangerously wounded — for declaring that Lincoln ought to have been hung long ago. Some had made a rude gallows out of scantling, with a looped halter hanging from it. Suddenly some one raised a shout, “The World ! the World ! the office of the World !” It was the signal for a surging movement which a moment later would have been a terrible march. Just then a man stepped forward, with a small flag in his hand, and beckoned to the crowd. Another telegram from Washington! And then, in the awful stillness of the crisis, taking advantage of the hesitation of the crowd, a right arm was lifted skyward, and a voice clear and steady, loud and distinct, spoke out : “Fellow citizens! Clouds and darkness are round about Him! His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies! Justice and judgment are the establishment of his throne! Mercy and truth shall go before his face! Fellow citizens! God reigns, and the government at Washington still lives !” The effect was tremendous. The crowd stood riveted to the ground in awe, gazing at the motionless orator, and thinking of God and the security of the government in that hour. As the boiling wave subsides and settles to the sea, when
some strong wind beats it down, so the tumult of the people sank and became still. All took it as a divine omen. It was a triumph of eloquence, inspired by the moment, such as falls to but one man's lot, and that but once in a century.
His political speeches were made the texts of his party, and his services were eagerly sought for in every doubtful State. His published speeches are well worth preserving, and of being read again and again. Some of his addresses, including as large a variety as possible, in order to show the versatility of his talents, are included in this volume.
During his first session he declared his views upon the finances of the nation; and, as the consistency of his career on matters of finance may be of interest to all who study his life, extracts from two of his speeches are given here together. The first is a brief statement of his views in 1866; the second is a more elaborate discussion, made in Chicago in 1879. The remarks in Congress in 1866, were as follows:
Mr. Speaker, there is no leading financier, no leading statesman now living, or one who has lived within the last half century, in whose opinion the gentleman can find any support. They all declare, as the Secretary of the treasury declares, that the only honest basis of value is a currency, redeemable in specie, at the will of the holder. I am an advocate of paper money, but that paper money must represent what it professes on its face. I do not wish to hold in my hands the printed lies of the government I want its promises to pay, signed by the high officers of the government, sacredly kept in the exact meaning of the words of the promise.