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The writings and speeches of Grover Cleveland; (Volume 1) online

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which placed my name upon its roll of honor. It is a source
of great gratification to me to be thus related, though only nomi-
nally, to the vast business interests which this organization
has in its charge and keeping, and I think ami trust that I



156 to COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS.

do not in the least underestimate the improvement and benefit
which may result to me from such relationship.

The business of a country is its life blood ; and all who are
directly or indirectly connected with it, who are acquainted
with its operations and are able to discern the manner in
which it may be benefited or injured, and the causes which
affect it, should be, for these reasons, better able to perform
welltheir duties as citizens.

Good government is the object of every patriotic aspiration
of our people. But good government is so unlike a thing to
be gained by dreaming of it, and is something so practical and
palpable, that it is best judged by business tests ; and thus the
condition of the business of a country is properly considered a
reliable indicator of the nature of its government and the
manner in which such government is administered.

Of course, the conception of business here intended must
not be confused with the selfish scurry and sordid clutching
after wealth which we see about us every day — heedless of the
rights of others and utterly regardless of any obligation to aid
in the nation's growth and greatness. This is not the busi-
ness of a country ; nor should the narrow and circumscribed
success of such endeavor be recognized as evidence of a benefi-
cent government or of wholesome laws. The active, strong
impulse which, starting from important centers, steadily per-
meates the entire land, giving to our tradesmen, everywhere,
healthy prosperity, to our toilers remunerative labor, and to
our homes comfort and contentment, constitute phases of the
business of our country which we love to recognize as proofs
of the value of our free institutions and demonstrations of the
benign operation of just legislation. But when these factors
of general thrift and happiness are wanting, we may well fear
that we ar-e not in the enjoyment of all the blessings of good
government.

Since business, properly defined, is thus closely related to
government, it plainly follows that, if those intrusted with pub-
lic affairs were' more identified with men like those forming



TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS. 1 57

the active membership of this Chamber of Commerce, and
were better informed concerning the interests which such men
represent, the country would be the gainer. I do not hesitate
to say that we should have more business men in our national
legislature. If this should be conceded, and the question of
reaching that result is presented, but two modes can be sug-
gested — either to make business men of those elected or
choose business men in the first instance. The latter plan is
manifestly the best, and, indeed, the only practical one.

I must confess that, fresh from public employment, as 1 look-
about me here, I feel like a good judge of valuable material,
when he sees it in abundance unused and going to waste be-
fore his eyes. It is well for you to be conversant with markets,
and you are obliged to study them. But it is undeniable that
the laws of your country and their execution are so related to
markets that they, too, are worthy of your attention. I know
that participation in the public service would involve an inter-
ruption of your ordinary vocations, but is it not your duty to
suffer this for the sake of the good you can accomplish ? Nor
is the subject devoid of an inducement based upon self-interest,
tor you must agree with me that business men upon Congres-
sional committees, or upon the floor of Congress, could accom-
plish much more in the direction of their own protection than
by periodically seeking admission to committee rooms, or
awaiting the convenience of legislators who need their in-
structions.

I cannot be mistaken when I say that some dangers winch
beset our political life might be avoided or safely met if our
business men would more actively share in public affairs, and
that nothing would better befit the character and object of
your organization than a practical movement in this direction.

I hasten now to say that I have not forgotten the topic with
which I started. I am embarrassed in treating of it because,
in theory, the honorary members are those who have rendered
useful public service. As the last and least of these members
I feel that I can do little more than acknowledge my grati-



15 s TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS.

tude for the privilege of being counted with the grand men
whose names stand above me on the roll — the living and the
dead.

There has been much discussion lately concerning the dis-
position which should be made of our ex-Presidents, and many-
plans have been suggested for putting us out of the way. I
am sure we are very sorry to make so much trouble, but I do
hope that, whatever conclusion may be reached, the recom-
mendation of a Kentucky newspaper editor, to take us out and
shoot us, will not be adopted. Trior to the 4th day of last
March I did not appreciate as well as 1 do now the objections
to this proceeding, but 1 have had time to reflect upon the
subject since and 1 find excellent reasons for opposing this
plan.

If I should be allowed to express myself upon this question
I would suggest that the best way to deal with your trouble-
some ex-Presidents is to let them alone and give them the
same chance to earn an honest living that other people have.
And if for any reason you desire to honor them, it cannot be
done better than by putting their names upon the roll of honor-
ary membership of the New York Chamber of Commerce.



VI.

// the Piano and Organ Manufacturers' Banquet, New York,
. Ipril 24, 1890.

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen :

The words of the toast to which I am to respond may just
at this time appear to have a somewhat threatening sound.
In the midst of unusual thought and discussion among our
fellow-citizens upon economic subjects, the phrase "our
American industries " is very commonly used ; and the
furtherance of these industries is claimed to be the patriotic
purpose of those in both political parties who lead in such
thought and discussion.



TO COMMERCIAL \ND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS. 159

Thus it happens that the announcement of " < >ur American

Industries," as a topic of diseourse, lias almost come to be a
signal for combat between those not at all loath to fly at each
other in wordy warfare over the subject of tariff reform.
Hut if there are any persons here who now feel an inclination
to gird up their loins for the fray, 1 hasten to assure them
that, though I have been suspected of having some opinions
on that question, 1 am sure that at this particular time the
toast f have in charge is not loaded, and that there will be no
explosion.

And yet, while 1 think I can keep the peace and mention
my subject without any warlike sensation, I cannot avoid
feeling the weight and impediment of another difficulty, which
is calculated to appall and discourage me. This is the vast-
ness of my subject. It embraces the toil of the pioneer in the
far West, the most delicate operations of manufacture, the
most pronounced triumphs of art, and the most startling re-
sults of inventive genius.

How can 1 compass these things within the limits allotted to
me on this occasion, and where shall I begin, as I stand
before this assemblage of American citizens and am con-
fronted with the ideas which " Our American Industries" sug-
gests ?

I can do little more than to speak of the present condition
of these industries as indicating the greatest and swiftest
national growth and advancement the world has ever seen.
We have only one hundred years of history ; but in all that
time American ingenuity and investigation have been active
and restless. We have begrudged to Nature everything she
seeks to hide, and have laid in wait to learn the secret of her
processes. We have not believed that the greatest advance
yet reached in mechanical skill and art has exhausted Ameri-
can invention, and when other nations have started first in
any field of progress, we have resolutely given chase and
struggled for the lead.

We now invite the old nations of Europe to see our steam



160 TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS.

plows turning furrows in wheatfields as large as some of their
principalities. We astonish them with the number and the
length of our railroads, and the volume and speed of our
transportation. With odds against us, for which American
skill and industry are in no wise to blame, we force our prod-
ucts and manufactures into their markets. Our Edison
lighted the Eiffel Tower, and by his display of the wonders
of electricity lent success to the American exhibits at the
Paris Exposition.

It appears that some of our industries suit the people of
foreign lands so well that they desire to own them ; and daily
we hear of English syndicates purchasing our manufacturing
establishments. ( )ur people seem to endure this raid upon them
with wonderful complacency, though we cannot forget that,
less than two years ago, they were very solemnly warned
against the dangers and seductions of British gold.

I hope 1 am not too late in expressing my thanks for the
privilege of meeting on this occasion an assemblage represent-
ing one of our industries which, so far as I know, is not in-
fected by the wholesale influence of British gold, and which
embraces only such manufactures as are honestly and fairly
American.

This means a great deal ; and 1 do not envy the American
citizen who has no pride in what you have accomplished.
Of course, we do not forget that, many who have contributed
to our glory in this direction bear names which betray their
foreign lineage. But we claim them all as Americans ; and
I believe that you will, in the enthusiasm and vigor of true
American sentiment and independence, stubbornly hold the
place which has been won by you and others of your guild,
under the banner of "A fair field and no favor."

I have within the last few days received as a gift — perhaps
suggested by my contemplated presence here — a book entitled
" A History of the American Pianoforte," which I shall read
with much interest.

In glancing through it my eye fell upon a passage which



TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS. 161

arrested my attention, as furnishing a slight set-off against the
indebtedness we owe to those of foreign birth among our
piano and organ manufacturers. I know you will permit me
to quote it, as evidence of the share our free institutions may
claim in the success of your industry. The writer, claiming
priority for the United States for some particular things done
in the progress of piano manufacturing by two certain makers,
who, though manufacturing in this country, were, as he says,
"originally Britons, one English and the other evidently
Scotch," clinches the argument in our favor, as follows :

Notwithstanding this circumstance, America is entitled to the honor of
the achievements pointed out, because it is a well demonstrated fact,
although, perhaps, a subtlety, that the social and governmental institutions of
this country, in so far as they promote mental freedom, have a stimulating
and immediate influence upon the inventive faculties of persons brought up
in Europe and settling here.

I cannot forbear, in conclusion, a reference to the manner
in which your busy manufactories and the salesrooms of your
wares are related to the love and joy and hopes and sadness
and grief and the worship of God which sanctify the American
family circle.

In many a humble home throughout our land, the piano
has gathered about it the most sacred and tender associations.
For it, the daughters of the household longed by day and
prayed in dreams at night. For it fond parents saved and
economized at every point and planned in loving secrecy.
For it, a certain Christmas Day, on which the arrival of the
piano gave a glad surprise, was marked as a red-letter day in
the annals of the household.

With its music and with simple song each daughter in her
turn touched with love the heart of her future husband.
With it, the sacred hymn and the family prayer are joined in
chastened memory. With it, closed and silent, are tenderly
remembered the days of sickness, the time of death, and the
funeral's solemn hush.

When the family circle is broken and its members are scat-



16,2 TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS.

tered, happy is the son or daughter who can place among his
or her household goods the old piano.



VII.



At the Chamber of Commerce Banquet, New York, November
iS, 1S90.

Mr. President and Gentlemen :

This volunteer business I did not calculate upon, and I
think it would best befit me now only to thank you for the
kindness which you have extended to me. I do not believe it
would be fair for me to disturb the contentment which ought to
remain to you after the delicious dinner which you haveeaten;
and I know that, after the oratory and the dinner speeches you
have heard, it would ill become me to obtrude any random
thoughts. I do not believe that when people are under the
influence of sweet music, a boy around the edges ought to be
shooting off a blunderbuss.

I shall go home to-night with some confused ideas in my
mind ; you are not to blame for them, but I suppose my con-
dition and circumstances are to blame. We have heard about
literature and business, about education and business, and
about foreign commerce, and a good deal about reciprocity ;
and that is where my trouble comes in. We have been told that
it would be a grand thing to have reciprocity with Spanish-speak-
ing people. Now, if it is good for Spanish-speaking people,
how would it do with the people who speak our own language?

We have heard that our breadstuffs go across the water, and
that the people need them there. That means a market for
them, doesn't it ? I had an idea that a bird in the hand is
worth two in the bush, and that, perhaps, if you had a mar-
ket, it might be well to cultivate it, instead of trying to manu-
facture another.

We have heard that England and France have within a few
days rushed to our rescue in a financial way, prompted thereto



TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS. 163

by the noble sentiment of reciprocity. If they are so willing
and glad to extend to us the hand of reciprocity in financial mat-
ters, how would it do to give them a chance in commercial and
other matters ?

Now, as I said, these difficulties of mine are entirely attrib-
utable to my own neglected education, and incidentally and
indirectly, I think they are attributable to the fact that 1 am
only an honorary member of this institution, instead of being
an active one. This being the case, I have not that intimate
familiarity with the subject which would probably clear up my
doubts.

I have spoken of being an honorary member of this institu-
tion ; and 1 have prized that distinction very highly, indeed,
but never more so than to-night, because I see there may be
at some time a possibility of my attending a banquet of the
Chamber of Commerce, without being called upon for a speech;
that I may come here and enjoy the good things which you
set before me, without that gloomy foreboding which an undi-
gested and indigestible speech brings over a man. I have
almost accomplished it to-night, and as progress is the order
of the day, I have no doubt but that it will be finally arranged
to my liking.

To-night I find myself facing this audience under circum-
stances which gave me no intimation that I was to make a
speech. That was a mercy in itself, for I enjoyed my dinner
before the collapse came. Therefore, as I speak of my asso-
ciation with this Chamber of Commerce, though my relations
are not so intimate as to understand all questions which are,
perhaps, easy to you, and though I have not reached that
stage when I can confidently come here without being called
upon to make a speech, I am glad to believe that the promise
is favorable.

I am very strongly tempted to say something in answer to
some remarks which my friend Depew made, but everybody
seems to have pitched on to him, and even Mr. Schurz, who
promised to stand by him, did not do so at all ; and although



164 TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS.

he is well able to stand up against any number of us, I do not
know that I ought to make any reference to some things which
he has said ; and yet, when he spoke of the nomination my
friend Springer made, I could not help but think that per-
haps Springer had learned from him how to do it. Now, it
was a very innocent thing that my friend Springer said. It
amounted to nothing. But I can tell you a circumstance
which involves in it modesty, accountability to the people of
the country, and ambition, and, when I have done, I think you
will agree with me, that perhaps Mr. Depew was more to
blame before the eyes of the people than Mr. Springer was.

The first time I ever saw Mr. Depew in a public place was
in Albany. I was then Governor of the State, and we had a
banquet in commemoration of a certain military company, or
something of that kind, and I was invited and went. I was
to make a speech. I prepared myself most elaborately, and
did the very best I could. Now, mind you, at that time I was a
quiet, unambitious man, quite content with the situation I oc-
cupied, and happy with the delusion that I was doing some-
thing for the good of the State. Mr. Depew arose — I shall re-
peat only what he said — and congratulated those present that at
last they had elected a Governor who could do that most diffi-
cult of all things, make an after-dinner speech. That made
me very happy indeed. He spoke of some other traits,
and of some other things which were very complimentary, and
he then said, " Gentlemen, I know of nothing more proper, I
know of nothing more in keeping with the services of this
gentleman than that the party with which he is affiliated
should nominate him in the coming convention forthe highest
office in the gift of the people."

Now, the effect of that on a young man can be easily im-
agined, if not described. And then he went on and said:
" When that is done, the party with which I am proud to be
affiliated, I hope, will nominate as his competitor that noble
citizen, that grand man and statesman whose name I have no
doubt rises to the lips of every man here present — though it



TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS. 165

does not to mine." Well, I did not know what to make of
that then, nor why lie did not mention the name of the citizen

and statesman, but subsequent events have made me rather
suspicious that at that moment our friend was struck with a
fit of extreme modesty. Doesn't that excuse Mr. Springer ?
I think so. There was an administration of the Federal Gov-
ernment with which 1 was connected, and with which 1 had
something to do— at all events, I have been held to an account-
ability for all its shortcomings — and I long ago made up my
mind, that when the opportunity came that I could do it with-
out injuring myself, I might, perhaps, have something to say
about Mr. Depew's candidacy for the Presidency. Now, see
the selfishness of this thing. See the mean political selfish-
ness of that idea. Not so with Mr. Depew. Why, within four
weeks, I think, in his magnanimity, and in his generous heart,
though at a festive board, where we are all apt to say kind and
generous things, he said such complimentary things of me
as visited upon him, I am informed, the condemnation of
members of his party. Indeed, I hear that one enthusiastic
adherent of his from the West, on account of those compli-
mentary and courteous things, which he said regardless of
Presidential consequences, while I was waiting for an oppor-
tunity when I could say a kind thing of him, without hurting
myself, wrote to him : " While you have been for years my
ideal of a man that has Presidential timber in him, and while I
have been strongly your advocate for that office, after seeing
what you said of that miserable fellow Cleveland, I wouldn't
vote for you for poundmaster."

Now this carries with it an acknowledgment of the kindness
and goodness of Mr. Depew, and also a confession of my own
disposition, for I confess to you that the time has not yet
come when I have thought I could safely, and without harm
to myself, launch out on that subject in regard to him ; but I
hope the time will come. I am watching for it.

Now, gentlemen, there seems nothing left to me but to
thank you again for your hearty recognition of me, and to say



1 66 TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS.

of the Chamber of Commerce that I sincerely hope that it may
long exist in the prosperity which has marked it for so many
years, and that these banquets may constantly increase in
pleasure to those who are fortunate enough to be their invited
guests.



VIII.

At the Jewelers' Association Annual Dinner, New York,
November 21, 1890.

Mr. President and Gentlemen :

The sentiment assigned to me suggests a theme so vast and
so animating that I am embarrassed in my attempt to deal
with it. You surely will not expect me on this occasion to
voice all the thoughts and feelings which the mention of " Our
Country " inspires. If I should do this, I should merely tax
your time and patience by the expression of reflections which
spontaneously fill your minds. Besides, if I should launch
upon this subject in true American style, I know I could not
avoid the guilt of making a Fourth of July speech late in the
month of November.

I hasten to declare that I do not fight shy of my subject
because 1 do not love it. On the contrary, I love it so well
that I am anxious to observe all the proprieties related to it ;
and I cannot rid myself of the idea that our American eagle
soars higher and better in the warm days of July than in the
cool atmosphere of the present season.

And yet, I am far from believing that at any time and in any
assemblage of Americans the sentiment " Our Country " is not
a proper one to propose ; though I have sometimes thought
that it speaks so eloquently for itself that it needs no inter-
preter. There seems absolutely to be no necessity for arousing
enthusiasm on this topic, and there is not the slightest danger
that any of us will forget what we have accomplished as a
nation or what we propose to accomplish, or that we will fix



TO COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS. 167

too narrow a limit upon the progress, development, and great-
ness of our country. Sometimes those who, unfortunately,
cannot claim this as their country accuse us of dwelling with
some exaggeration upon these things, but every American is
entirely certain that such imputations arise from ignorance of
our achievements or from envy and disappointed rivalry. At
any rate, it is a habit to glorify our country, and we propose
to continue it. We all do it without prompting, and we like
it. We can stand any amount of it without disturbance, and
whether others like it or not, we know, and we propose to de-
clare on every occasion, that America is the finest and the
best and the greatest country on the face of the globe. That
proposition is not original with me, but has been a settled fact
in the American mind for many years.

Though this might be said to dispose of the subject by a
short cut, and though I have declined to deal with it in all its
aspects, the American disposition to glorify our country is
strong with me ; and I am disinclined to abandon my allotted
sentiment in a manner quite so summary. If I am to retain
it for a few moments, I know of no better way to deal with it
than to divide it and consider one branch or part of my text,
as is sometimes done with a long text in the pulpit. I, there-
fore, propose to say something about the word "our" as re-
lated to the sentiment, "Our Country."

This is " our " country, because the people have established
it, because they rule it. because they have developed it, be-
cause they have fought for it, and because they love it. And
still each generation of Americans holds it only in trust for
those who shall come after them, and they are charged with
the obligation to transmit it as strong as it came to their hands.
It is not ours to destroy, it is not ours to sell, and it is not
ours to neglect and injure. It is ours as our families are ours,
and as our churches and schools are ours — to protect and de-



Online LibraryGrover ClevelandThe writings and speeches of Grover Cleveland; (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 48)