Grover Cleveland.

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

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result in nothing.

Yours very respectfully,

S> £/<XjUw^

OF ,1 PERSONAL .\i Tt RE. 537

owned his grievous fault. If any comfort is to be extracted
from this assurance you are welcome to it.

Grover Cleveland.


At his Boyhood Home, Clinton, N. Y., July 13, 1887.

1 am by no means certain of my standing here among those
who celebrate the centennial of Clinton's existence as a village.
My recollections of the place reach backward but about
thirty-six years, and my residence here covered a very brief
period. But these recollections are fresh and distinct to day,
and pleasant too, though not entirely free from somber color-

It was here, in the school at the foot of College Hill, that 1
began my preparation for college life and enjoyed the antici-
pation of a collegiate education. We had two teachers in our
school. One became afterward a judge in Chicago, and the
other passed through the legal profession to the ministry, and
within the last two years was living farther West. I read a
little Latin with two other boys in the class. I think 1 floun-
dered through four books of the ^Eneid. The other boys had
nice large modern editions of Virgil, with big print and plenty
of notes to help one over the hard places. Mine was a little
old-fashioned copy which my father used before me, with no
notes, and which was only translated by hard knocks. I be-
lieve 1 have forgiven those other boys for their persistent re-
fusal to allow me the use of the notes in their books. At any
rate, they do not seem to have been overtaken by any dire
retribution, for one of them is now a rich and prosperous law-
yer in Buffalo, and the other is a professor in your college and
the orator of to-day's celebration. The struggles with ten
lines of Virgil, which at first made up my daily task, are amus-
ing as remembered now ; but with them I am also forced to
remember that, instead of being the beginning of the higher


education for which I honestly longed, they occurred near the
end of my school advantages. This suggests a disappoint-
ment which no lapse of time can alleviate, and a depri-
vation I have sadly felt with every passing year.

I remember Benoni Butler and his store. I don't know
whether he was an habitual poet or not, but I heard him
recite one poem of his own manufacture which embodied an
account of a travel to or from Clinton in the early days. I can
recall but two lines of this poem, as follows :

Paris Hill next came in sight ;
And there we tarried overnight.

I remember the next-door neighbors, Doctors Bissell and
Scollard — and good, kind neighbors they were, too — not your
cross, crabbed kind who could not bear to see a boy about.
Tt always seemed to me that they drove very fine horses ; and
for that reason I thought they must be extremely rich.

T don't know that I should indulge further recollections
that must seem very little like centennial history ; but I want
to establish as well as I can my right to be here. I might
speak of the college faculty, who cast such a pleasing though
sober shade of dignitv over the place, and who, with other
educated and substantial citizens, made up the best of social
life. I was a boy then, and slightly felt the atmosphere of this
condition ; but, notwithstanding, I believe I absorbed a lasting
appreciation of the intelligence and refinement which made
this a delightful home.

I know that you will bear with me, my friends, if I yield to
the impulse which the mention of home creates, and speak of
my own home here, and how through the memories which
cluster about it I may claim a tender relationship to your vil-
lage. Here it was that our family circle entire, parents and
children, lived day after day in loving and affectionate con-
verse ; and here, for the last time, we met around the family
altar and thanked God that our household was unbroken by
death or separation. We never met together in any other


home after leaving this, and Death followed closely our de-
parture. And thus it is that, as with advancing years I survey

the havoc Death has made, and as the thoughts of my early
home become more sacred, the remembrance of this pleasant
spot, so related, is revived and chastened.

I can only add my thanks for the privilege of being with
you to-day, and wish for the village of Clinton in the future a
continuation and increase of the blessing of the past.

At a Reception given by Early Friends an J Associates at
Buffalo, N. V., May n, 1892.

My Friends :

I have been striving for several years to believe that I am
still on the bright and sunny side of the time which separates
middle age from the last declivity of life ; but now and here,
amid the memories of early manhood, and recalling the scenes
of thirty-five years ago, I yield the struggle and enroll myself
among those who are no longer young.

You need have no fear from this introduction, that I intend
to indulge in the tedious garrulity which is sometimes kindly
tolerated on account of the privileges and immunities which are
accorded to old age. I do, however, intend to hint that 1 have
reached the time in life when I begin to enjoy the compensation
of advancing years which is born of retrospection ; when it dis-
cards all past irritations, and dwells only upon the things in
memory's keeping that are pleasant and consoling.

My mind at this moment is full of the recollection of experi-
ences connected with my early life in Buffalo. Some of these
experiences were rugged, but they were healthful ; and they
appear to me now robbed of everything save the features that
make them welcome memories. I recall, too, hosts of the good
friends who were about me in those days. The living atta< h-
ments of many of them I still cherish as priceless possessions ;


and many others I loved until inexorable death decreed our se-
parations. I often look at a picture, among my keepsakes, now
more than thirty years old, which represents a group composed
of seven of Buffalo's young men — all close companions, all full
of the hopes and ambitions of manhood's early days, and all
having in full sight the high aims and purposes that beckon to
success. Of this group of friends five are dead— only one of
them survives with me. I shall not trust myself to speak of
these dead friends, nor will I attempt to express all that their
friendship meant to me ; but you will not wonder that this
picture makes me feel that I have lived a long time.

As I turn from these saddening reflections and glance over
this company, I am still further and more cheerfully reminded
of the years which have passed since my life in Buffalo began.

I see here Mr. Bissell. 1 remember well the day he called
at the law office where I was a partner, and in which he ex-
pected to begin the study of his profession, and modestly said
he had called to learn something of the work expected of him
as a clerk and student. He wrote a good hand, and was a very
obedient, industrious young man. I am glad to know that he
has grown to be a very fair lawyer, and is a respectable citizen.
I understand he has lately married, which is something that for
the last five or six years I have thought was a very proper thing
tor a man of his age — or even my age — to do.

When I look at Mr. Locke and think of the position he now
occupies in your community, I am reminded of his terrible disap-
pointment when he failed to secure the place of assistant district
attorney of this county. I am pleased to know that he has
done fairly well without it, and I believe he is entirely cured of
his thirst for political office.

I remember when Mr. Milburn, the gentleman who so grace-
fully presides on this occasion, was admitted to practice as a
lawyer. He was a handsome young man, and I observe he has
not altogether outgrown it. He usually had a law book under
his arm in the street, and I used to wonder if he was trying to
absorb law through his armpits. It is quite clear that he has


managed to get a good deal of it into his head through some

Just at this point it occurs to me that I have allowed mysell
to get on a wrong tack, and that 1 should have presented these
latter recollections as illustrating how rapidly Buffalo's soil and
atmosphere develop its young men, instead of referring to them
as proofs of my own longevity. L am almost sorry that I have
assumed to speak as though I was cut il led to be regarded as an
old citizen of Buffalo ; for, to be frank with you, I do not remem-
ber Joseph Ellicott nor the first Mayor of the city, who held
that office in 1S32. I recall distinctly, however, the celebration
of the city's semi-centennial fifty years afterward, and the work
George Hay ward did to make it a success ought to make him
remember it, too. I was very well acquainted with the man
who was Mayor at that time. 1 believe he dabbled a little
afterward in State and National politics. At any rate, I know
he had a job for four years in government employ, and then,
like many others in public position, when there came a change
of Administration he lost his place. He was accused, 1 am
told, of talking too much about the tariff, and was charged with
attempting to ruin the country in sundry and divers ways. In
point of fact, however, I am convinced -that, notwithstanding all
we hear of civil service reform, he was discharged for purely
partisan reasons, and because someone else wanted his place.
He did a great deal of hard work and was much perplexed and
troubled ; but I know that his greatest trial was his alienation of
many personal and political friends in making appointments to
office. It was impossible to avoid this, and it will continue to
be impossible in all like cases so long as the applicant for office
and the man who is charged with the responsibility of appoint-
ment occupy such entirely different points of observation — and
just so long as public duty may sometimes stand in the way of
personal friendship.

I cannot forbear saying to you before I conclude that I have
never forgotten the assurance I gave in the presence of thousands
of my Buffalo friends, during the Presidential campaign of 1884,


to the effect that, whatever the future might have in store for me,
I should endeavor so to perform my duty as to merit their ap-
proval and friendship. As I visit these friends again, self-ex-
amination brings home to me no reproaches. I know that I
have done no violence to the sentiments and resolutions
which, when I lived among you, received your approval and

I feel that I can but feebly express my appreciation of the
courtesy of this occasion- — because language is weak. You
must know how I have enjoyed the kindly greeting of my old
friends ; and I hope I need not tell you how it delights me to
witness the growth and increased beauty of my old home. I
assure you that from the fullness of a grateful heart, I wish for
the City of Buffalo' boundless prosperity and advancement,
and, for the people of Buffalo, Heaven's choicest blessings and
the happiness and contentment which find their abiding-place in
generous and unselfish hearts.


On being Received into Fellowship by his Neighbors, at
Sandwich, Mass., July 25, 1S91.

Mr. Chairman and Ladies and Gentlemen:

More than eighteen hundred years ago a lawyer pertly asked
the Divine Teacher, "And who is my neighbor?" The answer
given to this question is quite familiar to us, and is embodied
in the parable of the Good Samaritan. I hasten to assure you
that this parable is here introduced for the lesson it teaches
rather than for the purpose of suggesting that its incidents
have any appropriateness to this occasion or its surroundings.
I see no similarity between my situation and that of the man
who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among

Whatever unfavorable impression may be prevalent concern-
ing dog-day politics and politicians, which I left behind me, I

01 .1 PEfiSONAl .Y.I TUNE. ■ I I

mi convinced that it there were a chapiei written aboul the
thieves of Cape Cod, it would be as short and .is mm h to the
point as the chapter on the snakes of I reland, which began and
ended in the single sentence, "There are no snakes in Ire
land." 1 confess 1 have o< < asionally in my journeying seen a
Levite pass by on the other side, but thai w i i b< fore I rea< hed
Barnstable County, and at a time when I cared but little
whether he came on my side oi the mad or the other. But in
the parable only one Good Samaritan is mentioned as having
compassion on the man who went down from Jerusalem to
fericho, while the man who came down from New York to
Cape Cod and Barnstable County lias been surrounded by
them evei sin< t he started.

I suppose that when you greet me as your neighbor, to-day,
you have in mind the fact that 1 have come anion- you to
spend at least a large part of each year, and that I intend to
maintain this sort of residence here as long as the expi I
farming and fishing enables me, from a slender purse, to mi el
your rate ot" taxation and the cost of provisions. In the mean
time I declare my intention to be a good neighbor. No quar-
rels can arise over my line fences, lor 1 have none. 1 ke< p no
chickens, and my cattle do not run at large. 1 suppose 1 have
pretty decided political opinions, and I judge from the election
returns of this county that they are not such as have heretofore
received the utmost sympathy and encouragement in this
particular locality. Notwithstanding, however, my positive
knowledge that the large majority of my new neighbors are in
a sad state of delusion politically, I shall not quarrel with
them on this subject, nor permit myself to become a political
scold. 1 must be peaceful and neighborly, even if 1 see my
neighbors go to political destruction before my eves. Besides,
1 think there are prudential reasons why 1 should, in present
circumstances, be politically docile. To be sure 1 have not,
like the man who started for Jericho, fallen among thieves;
but 1 know perfectly well that 1 have politically fallen among
those who are too many for me, and that only my own peace-


fulness or many conversions to my side in Barnstable County
can secure my immunity from being stripped of my political
raiment and wounded and left half dead, as was the case with
the man from Jerusalem. While I do not want to tempt such
a fate, I confess that my political convictions are so fixed that
I can hardly avoid dwelling upon them even here. Some
things we can certainly do safely and properly. We can be
tolerant of one another. We can constantly test our political
beliefs by the light of patriotism, good citizenship, and true
Americanism, and we can be brave enough and honest enough
to follow where they lead. We shall thus elevate our political
efforts and find incentives to activity in a determination to aid
in making our country as great as it ought to be, and in secur-
ing to ourselves and our fellow-countrymen the happiness and
prosperity due to all of us under a free government by the
people. If our political endeavor is thus directed, we shall
rid ourselves of the blindness and bigotry which accept unrea-
soning party association as a sufficient guide to political action,
and which count the spoils of partisan success the sole object
of political struggle. So, though we may differ in party affilia-
tion, if we thoughtfully and sincerely believe and act, we may
still be the best of neighbors, bound together by an unselfish
willingness to forego special advantages which can only be
gained at the expense of our fellows, and all engage, with
hearty co-operation, in the achievement of our country's high

I am inclined at this point to suggest to you the lesson of
the parable with which I began. It teaches that a neighbor is
not necessarily one whose residence is near, and that kindness
and consideration make men neighbors. The Samaritan was
the neighbor of his robbed and wounded fellow-man, not
because he lived near him, but because in his need he had
compassion on him and bound up his wounds and cared for
him. Indeed, we all know that the worst quarrels often arise
and the most bitter malice and resentment often rage, among
those whose homes are adjoining. These are sometimes called


bad neighbors; but in my opinion they ought not to be called
neighbors at all.

You are by no means to suppose, from what has been said,
that I in the least fail to appreciate my good fortune in being
an almost fully fledged resident of Cape Cod and Barnstable
County. I prize my home here so much that 1 actually look
forward, with trepidation, to the time when I shall temporarily
leave it, fearing that in my absence some envious mortal from
a distant and benighted quarter may, in some manner, rob me
of it. The wonder is that the entire American people do not
flock hither and attempt to take possession of all our domain
in true Oklahoma style. Let us look for a moment at some of
our suburbs and surroundings. We have located Boston just
far enough away to be a convenient trading-place, and yet not
near enough to annoy us with its noise and dirt, nor to per-
mit its children to damage our cranberry bogs. Though we
know that the Pilgrims landed in Barnstable County, we see fit
to maintain Plymouth Rock just far enough outside to serve
as a stimulus to our patriotism without being bothered by the
strangers who visit the spot. We keep the waters of Buzzard's
Bay clean and pure for fishing purposes, and do not propose to
have our preserve stirred up and contaminated by the inflow
of other waters through the Cape Cod Canal.

We pity the deluded men and women who know nothing of
Barnstable County, and who have doubts regarding the fertility
and productiveness of our soil. Cape Cod never fails to
respond to intelligent husbandry, though we do not expect
immunity from the depression in farming occupations which
afflicts our agricultural brethren in other localities. We make
no complaint at such times, for it is easy to beat our plow-
shares into fishing-hooks, and we know that when farming does
not pay, neither drouth nor destructive insects will prevent the
fish from biting. The delightful healthfulness of our climate
is so perfect that the practice of medicine is the one occupa-
tion which never thrives. Recreation in every sensible and
wholesome variety crowds upon us, and, free from vain and


distracting care, we enjoy with thankfulness the peace and
quietude which here have their abiding-place.

With a heart full of gratitude for the cordiality and consid-
eration which you have at all times extended to me, I have,
with the utmost sincerity, attempted to demonstrate my appre-
ciation of all I enjoy among you, and to approve myself in your
bight as worthy to be admitted to free fellowship in the Cape
Cod community. If more is needed to prove my complete
devotion to the guild, let me remind you of the saying, "A
man is known by the company he keeps." If he is born and
reared amid certain conditions he may, from habit and associa-
tion and without severe condemnation, be content with them
and the companionship which they impose, though such com-
panionship be undesirable. But when, after mature delibera-
tion and in full view of the importance and significance of his
choice of neighbors, he chooses an abode with complete knowl-
edge of those by whom he is to be surrounded, the adage I
have quoted should be applied to him with the utmost strict-
ness. I have only to add that so far as my case is related to
the people of Barnstable County, I am entirely content to be
thus judged.

I must remember that you have not only kindly spoken of
me as your neighbor, but have also referred to me as an
ex-President. I have never failed to be profoundly sensible
of the generosity and confidence of my countrymen in making
me the recipient of the greatest honor that can be bestowed
upon any man; but what I remember most vividly in connec-
tion with the great office of President is its responsibilities and
the labor and anxiety attending an attempt to do the work
which the people had intrusted to me. The impress made
upon the mind and "heart of one who stands daily face to face
with the American people, charged with the protection of their
rights and the advancement of their varied interests, can never
be effaced, and scarcely gives room for the gratification natu-
rally supposed to attach to high and exalted place. I am led
to mention in this connection, as a spur to official labor and as


a sign of political health, the watchfulness of the people and
theii exactions from their chosen repr< ;entative to whom they
have confided their highest trust, [f they are exacting and
critical, sometimes almost to the point of injustice, this is
better than popular heedlessness and indifference concerning
the conduct of public servants.

It has always seemed to me that, beyond the greatness of the
office and the supreme importance of its duties and responsi-
bilities, the most impressive thing connected with the Presi-
dency is the fact that after its honor lias been relinquished, and
after its labor and responsibility are past, we simply see that a
citizen whom the people had selected from their ranks to do
tiieir bidding for a time and to be their agent in the discharge
of public duty, has laid aside the honor and the work of the
highest office in the world and has returned again to the peo-
ple, to resume at their side the ordinary duties which pertain
to everyday citizenship. Here, lie is, or should be, subject to
the same rules of behavior which apply to his fellow-country-
men, and should be accorded the same fair and decent treat-
ment, unless he has in some way forfeited it.

But it must be admitted that our people are by no means
united in their ideas concerning the place which our ex-Presi-
dents ought to occupy, or the disposition which should be made
of them. Of course the subject would be relieved of all un-
certainty and embarrassment if every President would die at
the end of his term. This does not seem, however, to meet
the views of those who under such an arrangement would be
called on to do the dying; and so some of them continue to
live, and thus perpetuate the perplexity of those who burden
themselves with plans for their utilization or disposition.

A very amusing class among these aiTxious souls make us
useful by laying upon our shoulders all sorts of political con-
spiracies. If they are to be believed, we are constantly en-
gaged in plotting for our own benefit and advancement, and
are quite willing, for the sake of reaching our ends, not only
to destroy the party to which we belong, but to subvert popu-


lar liberty and utterly uproot our free American institutions.
Others seem of the opinion that we should be utilized as
orators at county fairs and other occasions of all sorts and at
all sorts of places. Some think we should interfere in every
political contest, and should be constantly in readiness to ex-
press an opinion on every subject of a political character that
anybody has the ingenuity to suggest. Others still regard it
as simply dreadful for us to do these things, and are greatly dis-
turbed every time an ex-President ventures to express an opinion
on any subject. Not a few appear to think we should simply
exist and be blind, deaf, and dumb the remainder of our days.
In the midst of all this a vast majority of the plain American
people are, as usual, sound and sensible. They are self-
respecting enough and have dignity enough to appreciate the
fact that their respect and confidence as neighbors is something
which an ex-President may well covet, and which, like any
other man, he ought to earn. They will measure the regard
and consideration due to him by his usefulness and worth as
a private citizen. They will not agree that the fact of his
having been President gives him any license for bad behavior,
nor that it burdens him with an unfavorable presumption.
These are sentiments which we, on the side of the ex-Presi-
dents, will gladly adopt, and these conditions we can well
afford to accept. In conclusion I desire to express the confi-
dent opinion, based upon a short experience, and supplemented
by the kindness which characterizes this occasion, that no better
place can be found as a retreat for ex-Presidents than Barn-

Online LibraryGrover ClevelandThe writings and speeches of Grover Cleveland; (Volume 1) → online text (page 45 of 48)