David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) online

. (page 5 of 56)
Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 5 of 56)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

lawyer at Covington, Indiana, in 1851. Elected to the House of Rep-
resentatives of the United States in 1861, as a Democrat, he began at
once those vehement but skillful attacks on Republican policies which
won him his great reputation as a "Copperhead" and gave him endur-
ing popularity with his Democratic constituents in Indiana. Elected
to the United States Senate in 1877, he served continuously until his
death, April loth, 1897, doing a notable work in diverting the country
from the sectional issues growing out of the Civil War. As a politician
Voorhees ranks with Lincoln himself. The skill with which the Demo-
cratic minority at the North held its ground and, in spite of continual
blunders in detail, finally made the advances of 1876, 1884, and 1892,
has seldom been surpassed in the history of politics,


(Delivered in the Democratic National Convention in St. Loufs,

June 27th, 1876)

My Fellow-Citizens of This Convention: —

JAM overwhelmed with gratitude to^ so many of my fellow-
citizens of distinguished character from every part of the
United States, who have done me the singular honor of call-
ing for my presence on this occasion and under these circum-
stances. I cannot attribute it to anything in my humble career;
I know not what to attribute it to, and I may say that at least
for once in my life I am at a loss as to the manner in which I



shall respond to such an overwhelming compliment as has been
paid to me. I feel abashed in the presence of this mighty con-
gregation of people who expect to hear my humble words. I am
here with you, fellow-Democrats of the United States, for the
exalted and patriotic purpose of endeavoring to redeem and
wrench our country from the hands of despoilers and public
plunderers. I am here with you for the purpose of trying to bet-
ter unite the scattered, shattered, broken bands of our Union by
gathering together in one mighty brotherhood, looking in each
other's faces, renewing ancient friendship, steadying the column,
turning its head towards victory and glory in the future as we
have done in the past.

We are entering upon a new century. Portions of the last
century were full of glory. The closing years of our last cen-
tury, however, have had tears and blood commingled, sorrow and
gloom. The cypress of mourning has been in thousands of
households, but with the coming of this new century there comes
a new dispensation, the dawn of a revelation of glory such as
shall eclipse the past years of the century that has gone by.
Standing, as I do, one of the humble representatives of the great
valley of the Mississippi, we stand in a central point to invoke
union, to invoke harmony, to invoke a compromise of conflicting
opinions in the Democratic ranks. There is nothing, my friends,
in the differences and divergences of opinion in the Democratic
party that cannot be honorably, easily, smoothly, and harmoni-
ously adjusted, so that when the lines of battle are formed, there
shall be no heartburnings, no divisions, no collisions of thought.
There is no reason why we should not thus adjust our differences,
if differences we have; and standing, as I do, one of the repre-
sentatives of the great Mississippi Valley, we appeal to the people
of the far East. We say to them : ^' What is for your prosperity is
likewise for ours.'* You all rest upon the prosperity of the agri-
cultural interests of the mighty Mississippi Valley. The founda-
tion of commercial glory and greatness is the farmer's plow and
the sickle and the rich harvest. We freight your ships, we make
your cities prosper. You, in turn, benefit us in a thousand ways.
We interlace and interchange and bind our interests together,
when we properly consider it. We appeal to you now. Give us
a living chance in this convention and in this contest, and we
will make a glorious return in October for your final charge
upon the enemy.


I stand in your presence neither arrogant nor suppliant. I
stand for absolute justice, willing- to concede everything that is
just to everybody else, only asking the same mete to ourselves.
Let us not be extreme to each other; let us not seek to be dis-
tasteful. Man's talent to be disagreeable to his fellow-man is
quite sufficient without cultivating it at all. We should cultivate
amiability and friendship rather. I make these remarks to our
brethren of the East. We have fought a thousand battles with
you for the Democracy, and never one against you. Our scores
of political conflict are upon our breasts and none upon our

To our old-time brethren of the South a word or two also! I
am one of the men surely that need no apology to look my
Southern brother in the eye and expect him to believe that I
speak to him with no forked tongue. No political battle was ever
so hot, the clouds of obloquy and storm and danger never ran so
low or black over the heads of the democracy with whom I have
worked and toiled for years, as to deter us from standing by all
the constitutional rights and guarantees of our oppressed Southern
brothers. I say to my Southern brethren who know me, and
v/hom I know, do not in this hour of national counsel, this hour
of national preparation for the great conflict against the Radical
foe arrayed against you and led, as was well said by the distin-
guished gentleman from New York, by the pirate's flag of the
bloody shirt, — do not in this hour leave us in the Northwest,
wounded, helpless, to be scalped and murdered upon the field of
battle. We have no personal animosities to gratify, we have no
personal aims to subserve. If there is one man who can get
more votes than another, were my own brother a candidate, I
would be for that other man. The times are too serious, the
issues too mighty, for a personal thought to intervene.

Three times in the last twelve years we in the Northwest
have charged the enemy's lines under the head of the gallant
democracy of New York. If it has to be so again we will dress
in parade, and even if it be a forlorn hope, we will fight it like
men. I say there are no heartburnings, there are no animosities
to gratify. Men of this convention, it was no purpose of mine to
speak here. I feel like apologizing for it, but your voice sent
me here. I did not desire to speak, but I belong to that class of
men who cannot speak and say nothing. I must say something.
And what I say is the utterance of ° 'sncere heart. In the



counsel of old, tried, cherished, and beloved friends, let us purify
our hearts for this great work that is before us. Let us look
narrowly to our motives. Let us look narrowly to our duties,
and when the sun goes down upon the finished work of this con-
vention, I pray Almighty God that it may be as ordered, that in
November your country will stand redeemed, disinthralled, and
re-enfranchised in all the rights of a free people, from the tyran-
nical bond that has crushed and oppressed us so long. That is
my prayer.

(From a Speech in the House of Representatives, May 21st, 1862)

SIR, during the past year we have been engaged in a most stu-
pendous war. It assumed, from the first, proportions of the
most horrible magnitude. Any eye could see at the opening
stages of this conflict that the struggle of this Government to
maintain its just authority within its lawful jurisdiction was to be
one of the most terrible and, perhaps, protracted that ever shook
the world. Courage, chivalry, patriotism, devotion to the Union
and the laws, all came forward and still stand ready in an inex-
haustible quantity. The country has glowed from end to end
and throughout all its vast extent with a fervid love for the
Government as our fathers made it. But, sordid and practical as
it may seem to some, one of the main sinews of war is money,
plain money. Without it armies do not move and navies do
not float, and the purse of the nation is to be found in the
pockets of the people. Sir, in view of these facts, what has been
the course of those in authority since this war commenced in re-
gard to the great question of national economy ? Have our re-
sources been carefully husbanded ? Have our public moneys been
strictly guarded from the hand of the plunderer? Have pur pub-
lic oflicers been held to a rigid accountability in their use of the
hard-earned revenues of the country ? Has financial integrity
marked the conduct of those in whom the people placed their
trust when the present administration came into power? Has
common honesty been observed by those who won their way to
popular confidence by their fierce denunciations of the alleged
corruptions of former administrations ? I speak not as a parti-
san, nor in the spirit of party. I trust I can rise above all such


considerations; but these are questions in which the people of all
parties have a deep and overwhelming interest, and they are
questions, too, which all men in every part of the country who
desire an honest administration of our public affairs are now ask-
ing with serious and startling emphasis. The answer which must
come, and of which impartial history will make an everlasting
record, is one which bows the head and burns the cheek of every
lover of his country's good name with humiliation and with shame.

• •••••••«

Sir, as early as last July, when this Congress first met in
extraordinary session, the taint of corruption was perceived in
the atmosphere of the capital, and a committee, since so cele-
brated, was raised to investigate and to expose. The result of a
portion of the labors of that committee is before the country in
the shape of a volume of over eleven hundred pages. The ma-
jority of that committee are friends to the party now in power,
and the evidence which they have furnished is entitled to full
credit. Would that a volume of it could be placed in the hands
of every taxpaying voter of the country! Its dark labyrinths of
proven guilt ought to be explored by every intelligent mind. By
the solemn testimony of this committee, no branch of business
connected with the military and naval affairs of this Government
seems to have escaped the hungry grasp of unlawful avarice and
peculation. From the smallest article of food which enters into
the soldier's ration to the purchase of cattle for an entire army;
from the blanket on which the tired soldier sleeps at night to
the vast fortifications for the defense of a city; from the pistol
at the soldier's belt to the cannon at whose breech he stands in
the day of battle; from the meanest transport sloop to the might-
iest man-of-war afloat, everywhere and on everything we find the
impress of favoritism and of fraud. The report of this committee
is before me, and I submit a few extracts in proof of my state-
ment. Speaking of contracts for cattle made by the War De-
partment during its management by Mr. Cameron, the committee
say: —

"We have here not only evidence of gross mismanagement, a total
disregard of the interests of the Government, and a total recklessness
in the expenditure of the funds of the Government, but there is
every reason to believe that there was collusion upon the part of the
employees of the Government to assist in robbing the Treasury, for,
when a conscientious officer refused to pass cattle not in accordance



with the contract, he was in effect superseded by one who had no
conscientious scruples in the matter, and cattle that were rejected by
his predecessor were at once accepted.

"With such a state of things existing, if officers of the Govern-
ment who should be imbued with patriotism and integrity enough to
have a care of the means of the Treasury are ready to assist specu-
lating contractors to extort upon and defraud the Government, where
is this system of peculation to end, and how soon may not the finances
of the Government be reduced to a woeful bankruptcy ? >> . . .

On the subject of buying arms, as conducted by the late Sec-
retary of War, the committee state a loss of over ninety thou-
sand dollars to the Government in one transaction, and say: —

" No Government that ever has existed can sustain itself with such
improvidence in the management of its affairs.'*

In regard to the purchase of horses and wagons for the pub-
lic service, the committee sum up as follows: —

« It appears from all the evidence which is detailed in the record
of evidence accompanying this report, that the parties to these dis-
creditable transactions had a perfect understanding with each other,
and engaged in a system of corrupt pecuniary gains by means of re-
quisitions and receipts signed in blank, and false invoices, at a time
when the over-taxed finances of the Government and the confidence
of a generous and patriotic people demanded the most rigid integ-
rity. »

Sir, in view of this dark record of atrocious guilt, it is no
wonder that the chairman of that committee [Mr. Van Wyck],
in his speech of February 7th, on this floor, should exclaim: —

« The mania for stealing seems to have run through all the rela-
tions of Government,— -almost from the general to the drummer boy,
from those nearest the throne of power to the merest tidewaiter.
Nearly every man who deals with the Government seems to feel or
desire that it would not long survive, and each had a common right
to plunder while it lived.'*

Again, the chairman says: —

« While it is no justification, the example has been set in the very
departments of the Government. As a general thing none but favor-
ites gain access there, and none other can obtain contracts which
bear enormous profits. . . . The department which has allowed


conspiracies after bidding had been closed to defraud the Govern-
ment of the lowest bid, and by allowing the guilty to reap the fruits
of their crime, has itself become particeps criminis.^^

And well might the able and fearless member of the commit-
tee from Massachusetts [Mr. Dawes], in view of these revelations,
also assert, as he did before the House and the country, that
" startling facts have come to the notice of the committee, and to
the notice of the whole country, touching the mode and manner
of the expenditure of the public money '^ ; that, " in the first year
of a Republican administration, which came into power upon
professions of reform and retrenchment, there is indubitable evi-
dence abroad in the land that somebody has plundered the pub-
lic Treasury well nigh in that single year as much as the entire
current yearly expenses of the Government during the adminis-
tration which the people hurled from power because of its cor-
ruption.^^ And further, that those heavy measures of taxation
which have been brought forward by the Committee of Ways
and Means would ^' fall like a dead pall upon the public, unless
before them goes this assurance, that these vast and extreme
measures instituted to resuscitate and revive and replenish the
Treasury are not merely for means to fill other and longer, as
well as the already-gorged pockets of public plunderers. . . .

The exhausted soldier is put to death for yielding to irresist-
ible slumber at his post, the victim of pinching poverty is sent
to the penitentiary for stealing provision for his wife and child-
ren; but this exalted criminal finds approval for his conduct, is
surrounded by flatterers, is restored to the field, and sits in the
saddle of command and of power. Sir, Cicero brought the
haughty Verres to trial and to condemnation for his fraudulent
practices in the Sicilian province; and Burke enriched the Eng-
lish language by his denunciations of the extortionate measures
imposed by Warren Hastings on the people of the East Indies;
but in the midst of fraud and robbery in the very highest de-
partments of this Government, we have as yet seen no official
delinquent brought to answer the law for the plunder of the
public Treasury, but rather we have seen the perpetrators of
these wrongs receiving still greater marks of confidence and of
favor, and mounting to still loftier heights of honor.
We seek to take refuge, sir, from the enormous figures of our
national indebted»jerSsC whenever they are brought to our attention,


in the fact that we can defer its payment and bequeath it as
an inheritance to coming generations. Admitting that this un-
worthy thing may to some extent be done, yet let us see, for a
few moments, what amount of money this Government will be
compelled annually to raise in order to prevent open and con-
fessed bankruptcy before the world. I will content myself with
a specific statement of the various items of current yearly ex-
pense which must be regularly met. Against the substantial
correctness of this statement, I challenge successful contradiction.

The interest on the public debt, at a very low estimate, is
one hundred million dollars.

The ordinary expenses of the Government, including appro-
priations for the increased magnitude of the army and navy after
the war is over, will reach one hundred and fifty million dollars
at another low estimate. I am especially warranted in fixing
this amount in view of the declaration on this floor, by the chair-
man of the Committee on Military Affairs [Mr. Blair, of Mis-
souri], that hereafter our peace establishment will consist of a
standing army of a hundred thousand men.

The pension list comes next. This Government must not fail
to meet the requirements of civilization and of humanity. It
must and will provide for the support of its maimed and wounded,
and for the maintenance of the widows and orphans of those
who have fallen on the field of battle, or been stricken down by
disease w^hile in the public service. It is, of course, difficult to
calculate the amount which will be required to meet this item of
expense; but no well-informed person will pretend that it will
be less than the sum of one hundred million dollars.

To the above must be added at least fifty million dollars more
as a margin for claims against the Government, contingent ex-
penses, and unforeseen events during this convulsive and unset-
tled period of the world's history.

We have thus an inevitable annual expenditure, without mak-
ing any provision whatever for the payment of the public debt
itself, of the sum of four himdred million dollars. This amount
will make its demands on the resources of the people in each
succeeding year, as regularly as the seasons come and go, and
in a voice as imperative and inexorable as the cry of fate. You
need not avert your frightened gaze from the sore contempla-
tion of this terrible fact. It is the lion in the pathway of the
future, but it must be met. Death itself is not more certain to


all than is this monstrous annual burden on the shoulders of the
American people. And now, sir, bearing this fearful fact in mind,
from which there is now no escape, the question necessarily arises
with immense, overwhelming force, as to what system of finance
shall be adopted to raise annually this monstrous sum of money.
It is the vital question of the day, and paramount to all others
save civil liberty and republican government.

I live, Mr. Speaker, in a land of corn, in a land where the
fruits of the earth constitute the reward of labor. I live in a
great valley, beside whose agricultural wealth the famed valleys
of the Euphrates and the Nile and the richest fields of Europe
sink into utter insignificance, and whose more than Egyptian
granaries invite the markets of the civilized world. The plow,
the harrow, the reaper, and the threshing machine are our im-
plements of industry, and compose the coat of arms of our no-
bility. The soil is our fruitful mother, and we are her children.
We fill our cribs with grain, and stock our pastures with cattle,
and with these we seek to purchase those other necessary arti-
cles of life which are not made in our midst. These are our
possessions which we offer in barter and exchange with the trad-
ing merchants of the world who give us the best returns. This
we conceive to be our right and that the Government in which
we live should protect us in its enjoyment.

But turn to the contemplation of another region of this coun-
try. You there behold the land of manufacturing machinery, and
hear the sound of the loom and the spindle. The people of the
North and East make fabrics of cloth, and manufacture all those
articles which man needs and which do not grow. These con-
stitute their wealth and their stock of merchandise for trade.
The markets of the world are open to them, and of right ought
to be. The West is an immense consumer of those articles
which they have to sell. We are willing to buy of them of our
own choice if we can buy there as cheap as we can elsewhere.
But I here aver that the unequal and unjust system of finance
now adopted by the party in power gives to the vast manufac-
turing interest of this country the arbitrary power to fix its own
exorbitant prices, and the laboring agriculturist is compelled to
pay them. To this no people can submit. Against this outrage
the people of the West will cry out. You have fastened upon
this country the most odious system of tariff on imported goods
that ever paralyzed the energies of a nation or oppressed its



agricultural citizens. You say by that tariff that the manufac-
turing institutions of this country shall not be brought in com-
petition with those of other parts of the world.

Sir, no sectional boundaries to my love of country prompts
these remarks. I call God to witness with what devotion I love
every sod and rock and river, mountain, prairie, and forest of
my native land. For its happiness and glory it would be sweet
and honorable to die. I reckon no section of it above another.
It is all alike to me, all dear and hallowed by the principles of
constitutional liberty. But I speak in the name of justice, which
is everywhere present, in the name of fraternal and American
equality; and I ask you, I implore you, to look at the condition
of the Western people. Their interests have been abandoned on
this floor by more than half their Representatives, and they
stand to-day bearing the hard brunt of the pitiless storm which
has burst from the angry sky. They are shut out from all fair
markets for their produce. Their natural channels of trade to
the South are closed by the impious hand of war, and their ave-
nues to the markets of the North are obstructed by the avarice
of railroads. It costs sixty cents to freight a bushel of corn from
the Wabash River to New York, and leaves from seven to four-
teen cents to the farmer who has caused it to grow and gathered
it in, as the reward of his toil. For everything else he receives
the same beggarly return. And yet who has lifted up his voice
here in behalf of that great, that honest, and oppressed people ?
Where is their representative in the Committee of Ways and
Means, that great despotic committee which matures measures of
tariff, of taxation, and of finance, and whose decrees on this
floor are as unalterable as the laws of the Medes and Persians?
On that committee, which speaks the voice of fate for the weal
or woe of the taxpayers of all the land, the great imperial do-
main of the West, from the feet of the Alleghany Moimtains to
the Pacific Ocean, has had no member during this important

Blow after blow has fallen on her naked head and now she
stands exposed to the payment of four-fifths of all the burdens
which this Government has to bear. I speak advisedly. She has
been trampled under foot. Her rights have been disregarded.
She has been plundered for the benefit of others. And from
here I call upon her to vindicate herself, to assert her equality,
to resist oppression, to scorn the tribute which she is called upon


to pay to a branch of industry which God and nature never in-
tended she should support, to demand from her Government the
same protection which others obtain, and to reckon with her op-
pressors at the ballot box. As for me, I shall join in no such
system of injustice, inequality, and wanton extortion against the
people whose interests are confided to my care in this House. I
shall resist it in all constitutional methods, and denounce it every-
where; and in doing so I shall perform what I conceive to be
one of the highest duties of honest, fearless patriotism.

I now take leave of this subject. I have dwelt upon it to-

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 5 of 56)