Grover Cleveland.

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

. (page 31 of 48)
Online LibraryGrover ClevelandThe writings and speeches of Grover Cleveland; (Volume 1) → online text (page 31 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ment, and in any national condition. But the thought natur-
ally follows, that, if this sentiment may be so potent in coun-
tries ruled by a power originating outside of popular will, how
vital must its existence and regulation be among our country-
men, who rule themselves and make and administer their own
laws. In lands less free than ours, the control of the governed
may be more easily maintained if those who are set over them
see fit to make concession to their sentiment; yet, with or
without such concession, the strong hand of force may still
support the power to govern. But sentiment is the very life
blood of our nation. Our government was conceived amid
the thunders that echoed "All men are created equal," and
it was brought forth while free men shouted "We, the people
of the United States." The sentiment of our fathers, made
up of their patriotic intentions, their sincere beliefs, their
homely impulses and their noble aspirations, entered into the
government they established; and, unless it is constantly sup-
ported and guarded by a sentiment as pure as theirs, our
scheme of popular rule will fail. Another and a different plan
may take its place ; but this which we hold in sacred trust, as
it originated in patriotism, is only fitted for patriotic and
honest uses and purposes, and can only be administered in its
integrity and intended beneficence, by honest and patriotic
men. It can no more be saved nor faithfully conducted by a
selfish, dishonest, and corrupt people, than a stream can rise
above its source or be better and purer than its fountain head.



THE CHARACTER OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. 357

None of us can be ignorant of the ideas which constitute the
sentiment underlying our national structure. We know they
are a reverent belief in God, a sincere recognition of the value
and power of moral principle and those qualities of heart which
make a noble manhood, devotion to unreserved patriotism, love
for man's equality, unquestioning trust in popular rule, the
exaction of civic virtue and honesty, faith in the saving quality
of universal education, protection of a free and unperverted
expression of the popular will, and an insistence upon a
strict accountability of public officers as servants of the
people.

These are the elements of American sentiment; and all
these should be found deeply imbedded in the minds and
hearts of our countrymen. When anyone of them is displaced,
the time has come when a danger signal should be raised.
Their lack among the people of other nations — however
great and powerful they may be — can afford us no comfort nor
reassurance. We must work out our destiny unaided and
alone in full view of the truth that nowhere, so directly and
surely as here, does the destruction or degeneracy of the
people's sentiment undermine the foundations of governmental
rule.

Let us not for a moment suppose that we can outgrow our
dependence upon this sentiment, nor that in any stage of
national advance and development it will be less important.
As the love of family and kindred remains to bless and
strengthen a man in all the vicissitudes of his mature and busy
life, so must our American sentiment remain with us as a peo-
ple — a sure hope and reliance in every phase of our country's
growth. Nor will it suffice that the factors which compose
this sentiment have a sluggish existence in our minds, as arti-
cles of an idle faith which we are willing perfunctorily to
profess. They must be cultivated as motive principles, stimu-
lating us to effort in the cause of good government, and
constantly warning us against the danger and dishonor of
faithlessness to the sacred cause we have in charge and heed-



35 8 THE CHARACTER OF GEORGE WASHINGTON.

lessness of the blessings vouchsafed to us and future genera-
tions, under our free institutions.

These considerations emphasize the value which should be
placed upon every opportunity afforded us for the contempla-
tion of the pure lives and patriotic services of those who have
been connected with the controlling incidents of our country's
history. Such contemplation cannot fail to re-enforce and
revive the sentiment absolutely essential to useful American
citizenship, nor fail to arouse within us a determinaton that
during our stewardship no harm shall come to the political
gifts we hold in trust from the fathers of the Republic.

It is because George Washington completely represented all
the elements of American sentiment that every incident of his
life, from his childhood to his death, is worth recalling —
whether it impresses the young with the beauty and value of
moral traits, or whether it exhibits to the wisest and oldest an
example of sublime accomplishment and the highest possible
public service. Even the anecdotes told of his boyhood have
their value. I have no sympathy with those who, in these latter
days, attempt to shake our faith in the authenticity of these
stories, because they are not satisfied with the evidence in their
support, or because they do not seem to accord with the con-
duct of boys in this generation. It may well be, that the
stories should stand and the boys of the present day be pitied.

At any rate, these anecdotes have answered an important
purpose; and in the present state of the proofs, they should,
in my opinion, be believed. The cherry tree and hatchet
incident and its companion declaration that the Father of his
Country never told a lie, have indelibly fixed upon the mind
of many a boy the importance of truthfulness. Of all the
legends containing words of advice and encouragement which
hung upon the walls of the little district schoolhouse where a
large share of my education was gained, I remember but one,
which was in these words: "George Washington had only a
common school education."

I will not plead guilty to the charge of dwelling upon the



THE CHARACTER OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. 359

little features of a great subject. I hope the day will never
come when American boys cannot know of some trait or some
condition in which they may feel that they ought to be or are
like Washington. I am not afraid to assert that a multitude of
men can be found in every part of our land, respected for
their probity and worth, and most useful to the country and to
their fellow-men, who will confess their indebtedness to the
story of Washington and his hatchet; and many a man has won
his way to honor and fame, notwithstanding limited school
advantages, because he found hope and incentive in the high
mission Washington accomplished with only a common school
education. These are not little and trivial things. They
guide and influence the forces which make the character and
sentiment of a great people.

I should be ashamed of my country, if, in further speaking
of what Washington has done for the sentiment of his country-
men, it was necessary to make any excuse for a reference
to his constant love and fond reverence, as boy and man, for
his mother. This filial love is an attribute of American man-
hood, a badge which invites our trust and confidence, and an
indispensable element of American greatness. A man may
compass important enterprises, he may become famous, he may
win the applause of his fellows, he may even do public service
and deserve a measure of popular approval, but he is not right
at heart, and can never be truly great, if he forgets his mother.

In the latest biography of Washington we find the follow-
ing statement concerning his mother: "That she was affec-
tionate and loving cannot be doubted, for she retained to the
last a profound hold upon the reverential devotion of her son ;
and yet as he rose steadily to the pinnacle of human greatness,
she could only say that 'George had been a good boy, and she
was sure he would do his duty.' "

I cannot believe that the American people will consider
themselves called upon to share the deprecatory feeling of the
biographer, when he writes that the mother of Washington
could only say of her son that she believed he would be



3^P THE CHARACTER OF GEORGE WASHINGTON.

faithful to the highest earthly trusts, because he had been
good ; nor that they will regard her words merely as an amiably
tolerated expression of a fond mother. If they are true to
American sentiment, they will recognize in this language the
announcement of the important truth that, under our institu-
tions and scheme of government, goodness, such as Washing-
ton's, is the best guarantee for the faithful discharge of public
duty. They will certainly do well for the country and for them-
selves, if they adopt the standard the intuition of this noble
woman suggests, as the measure of their trust and confidence.
It means the exaction of moral principle and personal honor
and honesty and goodness as indispensable credentials to politi-
cal preferment.

I have referred only incidentally to the immense influence
and service of Washington in forming our Constitution. I
shall not dwell upon his lofty patriotism, his skill and fortitude
as the military commander who gained our independence, his
inspired wisdom, patriotism, and statesmanship as first President
of the republic, his constant love for his countrymen, and his
solicitude for their welfare at all times. The story has been
often told, and is familiar to all. If I should repeat it, I
should only seek to present further and probably unnecessary
proof of the fact that Washington embodied in his character,
and exemplified in his career, that American sentiment in
which our government had its origin, and which I believe to be
a condition necessary to our healthful national life.

I have not assumed to instruct you, I have merely yielded
to the influence of the occasion; and attempted to impress upon
you the importance of cultivating and maintaining true Ameri-
can sentiment, suggesting that, as it has been planted and rooted
in the moral faculties of our countrymen, it can only flourish
in their love of truth and honesty and virtue and goodness. I
believe that God has so ordained it for the people he has
selected for his special favor; and I know that the decrees of
God are never obsolete.

I beg you, therefore, to take with you, when you go forth to



THE CHARACTER. OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. 3 6i

assume the obligations of American citizenship, as one of the
best gifts of your Alma Mater, a strong and abiding faith in
the value and potency of a good conscience and a pure heart.
Never yield one iota to those who teach that these are weak
and childish things, not needed in the struggle of manhood
with the stern realities of life. Interest yourselves in public
affairs as a duty of citizenship; but do not surrender your faith
to those who discredit and debase politics by scoffing at senti-
ment and principle, and whose political activity consists in
attempts to gain popular support by cunning devices and
shrewd manipulation. You will find plenty of these who will
smile at your profession of faith, and tell you that truth and
virtue and honesty and goodness were well enough in the old
days when Washington lived, but are not suited to the present
size and development of our country and the progress we have
made in the art of political management. Be steadfast. The
strong and sturdy oak still needs the support of its native
earth, and, as it grows in size and spreading branches, its roots
must strike deeper in the soil which warmed and fed its first
tender sprout. You will be told that the people have no
longer any desire for the things you profess. Be not deceived.
The people are not dead but sleeping. They will awaken in
good time y and scourge the money-changers from their sacred
temple.

You may be chosen to public office. Do not shrink from it,
for holding office is also a duty of citizenship. But do not
leave your faith behind you. Every public office, small or
great, is held in trust for your fellow-citizens. They differ in
importance- in responsibility, and in the labor they impose;
but the duties of none of them ean be well performed if the
mentorship of a good conscience and pure heart be discarded.
Of course, other equipment is necessary, but without this men-
torship all else is insufficient. In times of gravest responsibil-
ity it will solve your difficulties; in the most trying hour it will
lead you out of perplexities, and it will, at all times, deliver you
from temptation.



362 THE CHARACTER OF GEORGE WASHINGTON.

In conclusion, let me remind you that we may all properly
learn the lesson appropriate to Washington's birthday, if we
will; and that we shall fortify ourselves against the danger of
falling short in the discharge of any duty pertaining to citizen-
ship, if, being thoroughly imbued with true American sentiment
and the moral ideas which support it, we are honestly true to
ourselves.

To thine own self be true,

And it must follow as the night the day :

Thou can'st not then be false to any man.



CHAPTER XV.

THE COINAGE OF SILVER.
I.

Albany, February 24, 1885.
To the Hon. A. J. Warner and Others, Members of the

Forty-eighth Congress :
Gentlemen :

The letter which I have had the honor to receive from
you invites, and, indeed, obliges me to give expression to
some grave public necessities, although in advance of the
moment when they would become the objects of my official
care and partial responsibility. Your solicitude that my judg-
ment shall have been carefully and deliberately formed is
entirely just, and I accept the suggestion in the same friendly
spirit in which it has been made. It is also fully justified by
the nature of the financial crisis, which, under the operation of
the act of Congress of February 28, 1878, is now close at hand.
By a compliance with the requirements of that law all the
vaults of the Federal Treasury have been and are heaped full
of silver coins, which are now worth less than 85 per cent, of
the gold dollar prescribed as " the unit of value " in section 14
of the act of February 12, 1873, and which, with the silver
certificates representing such coin, are receivable for all pub-
lic dues. Being thus receivable, while also constantly increas-
ing in quantity at the rate of $28,000,000 a year, it has fol-
lowed, of necessity, that the flow of gold into the Treasury
has been steadily diminished. Silver and silver certificates
have displaced and are now displacing gold, and the sum of gold
in the Federal Treasury now available for the payment of the
gold obligations of the United States, and for the redemption
363



3^4 THE COINAGE OF SILVER.

of the United States notes called " greenbacks," if not already
encroached upon, is perilously near such encroachment.

These are facts which, as they do not admit of difference of
opinion, call for no argument. They have been forewarned
to us in the official reports of every Secretary of the Treasury
from 1878 till now. They are plainly affirmed in the last
December report of the present Secretary of the Treasury to
the Speaker of the present House of Representatives. They
appear in the official documents of this Congress and in the
records of the New York Clearing-house, of which the Treasury
is a member, and through which the bulk of the receipts and
payments of the Federal Government and of the country pass.

These being the facts of our present condition, our danger,
and our duty to avert that danger, would seem to be plain. I
hope that you concur with me, and with the great majority of
our fellow-citizens, in deeming it most desirable at the present
juncture to maintain and continue in use the mass of our gold
coin as well as the mass of silver already coined. This is pos-
sible by a present suspension of the purchase and coinage of
silver. I am not aware that by any other method it is possible. ^
It is of momentous importance to prevent the two metals from
parting company; to prevent the increasing displacement of
gold by the increasing coinage of silver ; to prevent the dis-
use of gold in the custom-houses of the United States in the
daily business of the people ; to prevent the ultimate expulsion
of gold by silver.

Such a financial crisis as these events would certainly pre-
cipitate, were it now to follow upon so long a period of com-
mercial depression, would involve the people of every city and
every State in the Union in a prolonged and disastrous trouble.
The revival of business enterprise and prosperity, so ardently
desired and apparently so near, would be hopelessly postponed.
Gold would be withdrawn to its hoarding-places, and an un-
precedented contraction in the actual volume of our currency
would speedily take place. Saddest of all, in every workshop,
mill, factory, store, and on every railroad and farm, the wages



THE COINAGE OF SILVER. 3^5

of labor, already depressed, would suffer still further depres-
sion by ;i scaling down of the purchasing power of every so-
called dollar paid into the hand of toil. From these impend-
ing calamities it is surely a most patriotic and grateful duty of
the representatives of the people to deliver them.
1 am, gentlemen, with sincere respect, your fellow-citizen,

Grover Cleveland.



II.
From the First Annual Message to Congress, December 8, 1885.

The very limited amount of circulating notes issued by our
national banks compared with the amount the law permits
them to issue, upon a deposit of bonds for their redemption,
indicates that the volume of our circulating medium may be
largely increased through this instrumentality.

Nothing more important than the present condition of our
currency and coinage can claim your attention.

Since February, 1S78, the government has, under the eom-
ptdsory provisions of law, purchased silver bullion and coined
the same at the rate of more than two millions of dollars every
month. By this process, up to the present date, 215,759,431
silver dollars have been coined.

A reasonable appreciation of a delegation of power to the
general government would limit its exercise, without express
restrictive words, to the people's needs and the requirements
of the public welfare.

Upon this theory, the authority to " coin money " given to
Congress by the Constitution, if it permits the purchase by the
government of bullion for coinage in any event, does not justify
such purchase and coinage to an extent beyond the amount
needed for a sufficient circulating medium.

The desire to utilize the silver product of the country should
not lead to a misuse or the perversion of this power.

The necessity for such an addition to the silver currency of



366 THE COINAGE OF SILVER.

the nation as is compelled by the silver coinage act, is nega-
tived by the fact that up to the present time only about fifty
millions of the silver dollars so coined have actually found
their way into circulation, leaving more than one hundred and
sixty-five millions in the possession of the government, the
custody of which has entailed a considerable expense for the
construction of vaults for its deposit. Against this latter
amount there are outstanding silver certificates amounting to
about ninety-three millions of dollars.

Every month two millions of gold in the public Treasury
are paid out for two millions or more of silver dollars, to be
added to the idle mass already accumulated.

If continued long enough, this operation will result in the
substitution of silver for all the gold the government owns
applicable to its general purposes. It will not do to rely upon
the customs receipts of the government to make good this
drain of gold, because — the silver thus coined having been
made legal tender for all debts and dues, public and private,
at times during the kast six months fifty-eight per cent, of the
receipts for duties has been in silver or silver certificates, while
the average within that period has been twenty percent. The
proportion of silver and its certificates received by the govern-
ment will probably increase as time goes on, for the reason
that, the nearer the period approaches when it will be obliged
to offer silver in payment of its obligations, the greater
inducement there will be to hoard gold against depreciation in
the value of silver, or for the purpose of speculating.

This hoarding of gold has already begun.

When the time comes that gold has been withdrawn from
circulation, then will be apparent the difference between the
real value of the silver dollar and a dollar in gold, and the two
coins will part company. Gold, still the standard of value,
and necessary in our dealings with other countries, will be at a
premium over silver ; banks, which have substituted gold for
the deposits of their customers, may pay them with silver
bought with such gold, thus making a handsome profit ; rich



77/ A' COINAGE OF SILVER. 3 6 7

speculators will sell their hoarded gold to their neighbors who
need it to liquidate their foreign debts, at a ruinous premium
over silver, and the laboring men and women of the land, most
defenseless of all, will find that the dollar, received for the wage
of their toil, has sadly shrunk in its purchasing power. It may
be said that the latter result will be but temporary, and that
ultimately the price of labor will be adjusted to the change ;
but even if this takes place the wage worker cannot possibly
gain, but must inevitably lose, since the price he is compelled
to pay for his living will not only be measured in a coin heavily
depreciated, and fluctuating and uncertain in its value, but
this uncertainty in the value of the purchasing medium will be
made the pretext for an advance in prices beyond that justified
by actual depreciation.

The words uttered in 1834 by Daniel Webster, in the Senate
of the United States, are true to-day : " The very man of all
others who has the deepest interest in a sound currency, and
who suffers most by mischievous legislation in money matters,
is the man who earns his daily bread by his daily toil."

The most distinguished advocate of bi-metallism, discussing
our silver coinage, has lately written : " No American citi-
zen's hand has yet felt the sensation of cheapness, either in
receiving or expending the Silver Act dollars."

And those who live by labor or legitimate trade never will
feel that sensation of cheapness. However plenty silver dol-
lars may become, they will not be distributed as gifts among
the people ; and if the laboring man should receive four
depreciated dollars where he now receives but two, he will pay
in the depreciated coin more than double the price he now
pays for all the necessaries and comforts of life.

Those who do not fear any disastrous consequences arising
from the continued compulsory coinage of silver as now
directed by law, and who suppose that the addition t ( o the cur-
rency of the country intended as its result will be a public
benefit, are reminded that history demonstrates that the point
js easily reached in the attempt to float at the same time two



368 THE COINAGE OF SILVER.

sorts of money of different excellence, when the better will
cease to be in general circulation. The hoarding of gold,
which has already taken place, indicates that we shall not
escape the usual experience in such cases. So, if this silver
coinage be continued, we may reasonably expect that gold and
its equivalent will abandon the field of circulation to silver
alone. This, of course, must produce a severe contraction of
our circulating medium, instead of adding to it.

It will not be disputed that any attempt on the part of the
government to cause the circulation of silver dollars worth
eighty cents, side by side with gold dollars worth one hundred
cents, even within the limit that legislation does not run
counter to the laws of trade, to be successful must be seconded
by the confidence of the people that both coins will retain the
same purchasing power and be interchangeable at will. A
special effort has been made by the Secretary of the Treasury
to increase the amount of our silver coin in circulation ; but
the fact that a large share of the limited amount thus put out
has soon returned to the public treasury in payment of duties,
leads to the belief that the people do not now desire to keep
it in hand ; and this, with the evident disposition to hoard
gold, gives rise to the suspicion that there already exists a lack
of confidence among the people touching our financial proc-
esses. There is certainly not enough silver now in circula-
tion to cause uneasiness ; and the whole amount coined and
now on hand might, after a time, be absorbed by the people
without apprehension ; but it is the ceaseless stream that
threatens to overflow the land which causes fear and uncer-



Online LibraryGrover ClevelandThe writings and speeches of Grover Cleveland; (Volume 1) → online text (page 31 of 48)