James D. Richardson.

A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 8, part 1: James A. Garfield online

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A Representative from the State of Tennessee



Prefatory Note

This volume comprises the Garfield-Arthur term of four years and the
first term of Cleveland. The period covered is from March 4, 1881, to
March 4, 1889. The death of President Garfield at the hand of an
assassin early in his Administration created a vacancy in the office of
the Chief Executive, and for the fourth time in our history the
Vice-President succeeded to that office. The intense excitement
throughout the land brought about by the tragic death of the President,
and the succession of the Vice-President, caused no dangerous strain
upon our institutions, and once more proof was given, if, indeed,
further evidence was required, that our Government was strong enough to
quietly and peacefully endure a sudden change of rulers and of
administration, no matter how distressing and odious the cause.

During the Administration of President Arthur a treaty between the
United States and the Republic of Nicaragua was signed, providing for an
interoceanic canal across the territory of that State. An able and
learned discussion of this proposition will be found among his papers.
This treaty was pending when he retired from office, and was promptly
withdrawn by President Cleveland. The act to regulate and improve the
civil service of the United States was approved by President Arthur, and
he put into operation rules and regulations wide in their scope and
far-reaching for the enforcement of the measure. In his papers will be
found frequent and interesting discussions of this question. His vetoes
of "An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese"
and of "An act making appropriations for the construction, repair, and
preservation of certain works on rivers and harbors, and for other
purposes," are interesting and effective papers.

The latter half of the period comprised in this volume, as already
stated, covers the Administration of Cleveland. His accession to the
Presidency marked the return of the Democratic party to power. No
Democrat who had been chosen by his party had held the office since the
retirement of Buchanan, in 1861. President Cleveland's papers fill 558
pages of this volume, occupying more space than any other Chief
Magistrate, Andrew Johnson being next with 457 pages. At an early date
after Mr. Cleveland's inauguration he became involved in an important
and rather acrimonious discussion with the Senate on the subject of
suspensions from office. The Senate demanded of him and of the heads of
some of the Executive Departments the reasons for the suspension of
certain officials and the papers and correspondence incident thereto. In
an exhaustive and interesting paper he declined to comply with the
demand. His annual message of December, 1887, was devoted exclusively to
a discussion of the tariff. It is conceded by all to be an able
document, and is the only instance where a President in his annual
message made reference to only one question. His vetoes are more
numerous than those of any other Chief Executive, amounting within the
four years to over three hundred, or more than twice the number in the
aggregate of all his predecessors. These vetoes relate to almost all
subjects of legislation, but mainly to pension cases and bills providing
for the erection of public buildings throughout the country.

James D. Richardson.

July 4, 1898.

James A. Garfield

March 4, 1881, to September 19, 1881

James A. Garfield

James Abram Garfield was born in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, November
19, 1831. His father, Abram Garfield, was a native of New York, but of
Massachusetts ancestry; descended from Edward Garfield, an English
Puritan, who in 1630 was one of the founders of Watertown. His mother,
Eliza Ballou, was born in New Hampshire, of a Huguenot family that fled
from France to New England after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes
in 1685. Garfield, therefore, was from lineage well represented in the
struggles for civil and religious liberty, both in the Old and in the
New World. His father moved to Ohio in 1830 and settled in what was then
known as the "Wilderness," now as the "Western Reserve," which was
occupied by Connecticut people. He died at the age of 33, leaving a
widow and four small children, of whom James was the youngest. Mrs.
Garfield brought up her family unaided, and impressed upon them a high
standard of moral and intellectual worth. James attended school in a log
hut at the age of 3 years, learned to read, and began that habit of
omnivorous reading which ended only with his life. At 10 years of age
was accustomed to manual labor, helping out his mother's meager income
by work at home or on the farms of the neighbors. Attended the district
school in the winter months, made good progress, and was conspicuous for
his assiduity. At the age of 14 had a fair knowledge of arithmetic and
grammar, and was particularly apt in the facts of American history. His
imagination was especially kindled by tales of the sea, and he so far
yielded to his love of adventure that in 1848 he went to Cleveland and
proposed to ship as a sailor on board a lake schooner. Seeing that this
life was not the romance he had conceived, he turned promptly from the
lake; but loath to return home without adventure and without money, he
drove some months for a boat on the Ohio Canal, when he was promoted
from the towpath to the boat. Attended the Geauga Seminary at Chester,
Ohio, during the winter of 1849-50. In the vacations learned and
practiced the trade of a carpenter, helped at harvest, taught - did
anything and everything to earn money to pay for his schooling. After
the first term he asked and needed no aid from home; he had reached the
point where he could support himself. Was converted under the
instructions of a Christian preacher, was baptized and received into
that denomination. As soon as he finished his studies in Chester entered
(1851) the Hiram Eclectic Institute (now Hiram College), at Hiram,
Portage County, Ohio, the principal educational institution of his
church. He was not very quick of acquisition, but his perseverance was
indomitable and he soon had an excellent knowledge of Latin and a fair
acquaintance with algebra, natural philosophy, and botany. His
superiority was easily recognized in the prayer meetings and debating
societies of the college, where he was assiduous and conspicuous. Living
here was inexpensive, and he readily made his expenses by teaching in
the English departments, and also gave instruction in the ancient
languages. Entered Williams College in the autumn of 1854, and graduated
with the highest honors in the class of 1856. Returned to Ohio and
resumed his place as a teacher of Latin and Greek at Hiram Institute,
and the next year, being then only 26 years of age, was made its
president. The regulations and practices of his church, known as the
Christian Church, or Church of the Disciples, permitted him to preach,
and he used the permission. He also pursued the study of law, entering
his name in 1858 as a student in a law office in Cleveland, but studying
in Hiram. Cast his first vote in 1856 for John C. Fremont, the first
Republican candidate for the Presidency. Married Lucretia Rudolph
November 11, 1858. In 1859 was chosen to represent the counties of
Summit and Portage in the Ohio senate. In August, 1861, Governor William
Dennison commissioned him lieutenant-colonel in the Forty-second
Regiment Ohio Volunteers. Was promoted to the command of this regiment.
In December, 1861, reported to General Buell in Louisville, Ky. Was
given a brigade and assigned the difficult task of driving the
Confederate general Humphrey Marshall from eastern Kentucky. General
Garfield triumphed over the Confederate forces at the battle of Middle
Creek, January 10, 1862, and in recognition of his services was made a
brigadier-general by President Lincoln. During the campaign of the Big
Sandy, while Garfield was engaged in breaking up some scattered
Confederate encampments, his supplies gave out and he was threatened
with starvation. Going himself to the Ohio River, he seized a steamer,
loaded it with provisions, and on the refusal of any pilot to undertake
the perilous voyage, because of a freshet that had swelled the river, he
stood at the helm for forty-eight hours and piloted the craft through
the dangerous channel. In order to surprise Marshall, then intrenched in
Cumberland Gap, Garfield marched his soldiers 100 miles in four days
through a blinding snowstorm. Returning to Louisville, he found that
General Buell was away; overtook him at Columbia, Tenn., and was
assigned to the command of the Twentieth Brigade. Reached Shiloh in time
to take part in the second day's fight. Was engaged in all the
operations in front of Corinth, and in June, 1862, rebuilt the bridges
on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and exhibited noticeable
engineering skill in repairing the fortifications of Huntsville. Was
granted leave of absence July 30, 1862, on account of ill health, and
returned to Hiram, Ohio, where he lay ill for two months. Went to
Washington on September 25, 1862, and was ordered on court-martial duty.
November 25 was assigned to the case of General Fitz John Porter. In
February, 1863, returned to duty under General Rosecrans, then in
command of the Army of the Cumberland. Rosecrans made him his chief of
staff, with responsibilities beyond those usually given to this office.
In this field Garfield's influence on the campaign in middle Tennessee
was most important. One familiar incident shows and justifies the great
influence he wielded in its counsels. Before the battle of Chickamauga,
June 24, 1863, General Rosecrans asked the written opinion of seventeen
of his generals on the advisability of an immediate advance. All others
opposed, but Garfield advised it, and his arguments were so convincing
that Rosecrans determined to seek an engagement. General Garfield wrote
out all the orders of that fateful day, September 19, excepting one, and
that one was the blunder that lost the day. Garfield volunteered to take
the news of the defeat on the right to General George H. Thomas, who
held the left of the line. It was a bold ride, under constant fire, but
he reached Thomas and gave the information that saved the Army of the
Cumberland. For this action he was made a major-general September 19,
1863 - promoted for gallantry on a field that was lost. Yielded to Mr.
Lincoln's urgent request and on December 5, 1863, resigned his commission
and hastened to Washington to sit in Congress, to which he had been
chosen fifteen months before. Was offered a division in the Army of the
Cumberland by General Thomas, but yielded to the representations of the
President and Secretary Stanton that he would be more useful in the
House of Representatives. Was placed on the Committee on Military
Affairs, then the most important in Congress. In the Thirty-ninth
Congress (1865) was changed, at his own request, from the Committee on
Military Affairs to the Committee on Ways and Means. In the Fortieth
Congress (1867) was restored to the Committee on Military Affairs and
made its chairman. In the Forty-first Congress the Committee on Banking
and Currency was created and he was made its chairman. Served also on
the Select Committee on the Census and on the Committee on Rules. Was
chairman of the Committee on Appropriations in the Forty-second and
Forty-third Congresses. In the Forty-fourth, Forty-fifth, and
Forty-sixth Congresses (the House being Democratic) was assigned to the
Committee on Ways and Means. In 1876, at President Grant's request, went
to New Orleans in company with Senators Sherman and Matthews and other
Republicans, to watch the counting of the Louisiana vote. He made a
special study of the West Feliciana Parish case, and embodied his views
in a brief but significant report. In January, 1877, made two notable
speeches in the House on the duty of Congress in a Presidential
election, and claimed that the Vice-President had a constitutional
right to count the electoral vote. Opposed the Electoral Commission,
yet when the commission was ordered was chosen by acclamation to fill
one of the two seats allotted to Republican Representatives. Mr. Blaine
left the House for the Senate in 1877, and this made Mr. Garfield the
undisputed leader of his party in the House. At this time and
subsequently was its candidate for Speaker. Was elected to the United
States Senate January 13, 1880. Attended the Republican convention which
met at Chicago in June, 1880, where he opposed the renomination of
President Grant and supported Senator Sherman. On the thirty-sixth
ballot the delegates broke, their ranks, and, rushing to General
Garfield, he was unanimously nominated for President on June 8, 1880.
Was elected November 2, 1880, receiving 214 electoral votes to 144 that
were cast for Winfield S. Hancock. Was shot July 2, 1881, by an assassin
in the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station, in Washington, and died
from the effects of the wound September 19 at Elberon, N.J. He was
buried at Cleveland, Ohio.


Fellow-Citizens: We stand to-day upon an eminence which overlooks a
hundred years of national life - a century crowded with perils, but
crowned with the triumphs of liberty and law. Before continuing the
onward march let us pause on this height for a moment to strengthen our
faith and renew our hope by a glance at the pathway along which our
people have traveled.

It is now three days more than a hundred years since the adoption of the
first written constitution of the United States - the Articles of
Confederation and Perpetual Union. The new Republic was then beset with
danger on every hand. It had not conquered a place in the family of
nations. The decisive battle of the war for independence, whose
centennial anniversary will soon be gratefully celebrated at Yorktown,
had not yet been fought. The colonists were struggling not only against
the armies of a great nation, but against the settled opinions of
mankind; for the world did not then believe that the supreme authority
of government could be safely intrusted to the guardianship of the
people themselves.

We can not overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent
courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the
great experiment of self-government. When they found, after a short
trial, that the confederacy of States was too weak to meet the
necessities of a vigorous and expanding republic, they boldly set it
aside, and in its stead established a National Union, founded directly
upon the will of the people, endowed with full power of
self-preservation and ample authority for the accomplishment of its
great object.

Under this Constitution the boundaries of freedom have been enlarged,
the foundations of order and peace have been strengthened, and the
growth of our people in all the better elements of national life has
indicated the wisdom of the founders and given new hope to their
descendants. Under this Constitution our people long ago made themselves
safe against danger from without and secured for their mariners and flag
equality of rights on all the seas. Under this Constitution twenty-five
States have been added to the Union, with constitutions and laws, framed
and enforced by their own citizens, to secure the manifold blessings of
local self-government.

The jurisdiction of this Constitution now covers an area fifty times
greater than that of the original thirteen States and a population
twenty times greater than that of 1780.

The supreme trial of the Constitution came at last under the tremendous
pressure of civil war. We ourselves are witnesses that the Union emerged
from the blood and fire of that conflict purified and made stronger for
all the beneficent purposes of good government.

And now, at the close of this first century of growth, with the
inspirations of its history in their hearts, our people have lately
reviewed the condition of the nation, passed judgment upon the conduct
and opinions of political parties, and have registered their will
concerning the future administration of the Government. To interpret and
to execute that will in accordance with the Constitution is the
paramount duty of the Executive.

Even from this brief review it is manifest that the nation is resolutely
facing to the front, resolved to employ its best energies in developing
the great possibilities of the future. Sacredly preserving whatever has
been gained to liberty and good government during the century, our
people are determined to leave behind them all those bitter
controversies concerning things which have been irrevocably settled, and
the further discussion of which can only stir up strife and delay the
onward march.

The supremacy of the nation and its laws should be no longer a subject
of debate. That discussion, which for half a century threatened the
existence of the Union, was closed at last in the high court of war by a
decree from which there is no appeal - that the Constitution and the laws
made in pursuance thereof are and shall continue to be the supreme law
of the land, binding alike upon the States and the people. This decree
does not disturb the autonomy of the States nor interfere with any of
their necessary rights of local self-government, but it does fix and
establish the permanent supremacy of the Union.

The will of the nation, speaking with the voice of battle and through
the amended Constitution, has fulfilled the great promise of 1776 by
proclaiming "liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants

The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of
citizenship is the most important political change we have known since
the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. No thoughtful man can fail to
appreciate its beneficent effect upon our institutions and people. It
has freed us from the perpetual danger of war and dissolution. It has
added immensely to the moral and industrial forces of our people. It has
liberated the master as well as the slave from a relation which wronged
and enfeebled both. It has surrendered to their own guardianship the
manhood of more than 5,000,000 people, and has opened to each one of
them a career of freedom and usefulness. It has given new inspiration to
the power of self-help in both races by making labor more honorable to
the one and more necessary to the other. The influence of this force
will grow greater and bear richer fruit with the coming years.

No doubt this great change has caused serious disturbance to our
Southern communities. This is to be deplored, though it was perhaps
unavoidable. But those who resisted the change should remember that
under our institutions there was no middle ground for the negro race
between slavery and equal citizenship. There can be no permanent
disfranchised peasantry in the United States. Freedom can never yield
its fullness of blessings so long as the law or its administration
places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen.

The emancipated race has already made remarkable progress. With
unquestioning devotion to the Union, with a patience and gentleness not
born of fear, they have "followed the light as God gave them to see the
light." They are rapidly laying the material foundations of
self-support, widening their circle of intelligence, and beginning to
enjoy the blessings that gather around the homes of the industrious
poor. They deserve the generous encouragement of all good men. So far as
my authority can lawfully extend, they shall enjoy the full and equal
protection of the Constitution and the laws.

The free enjoyment of equal suffrage is still in question, and a frank
statement of the issue may aid its solution. It is alleged that in many
communities negro citizens are practically denied the freedom of the
ballot. In so far as the truth of this allegation is admitted, it is
answered that in many places honest local government is impossible if
the mass of uneducated negroes are allowed to vote. These are grave
allegations. So far as the latter is true, it is the only palliation
that can be offered for opposing the freedom of the ballot. Bad local
government is certainly a great evil, which ought to be prevented; but
to violate the freedom and sanctities of the suffrage is more than an
evil. It is a crime which, if persisted in, will destroy the Government
itself. Suicide is not a remedy. If in other lands it be high treason to
compass the death of the king, it shall be counted no less a crime here
to strangle our sovereign power and stifle its voice.

It has been said that unsettled questions have no pity for the repose
of nations. It should be said with the utmost emphasis that this
question of the suffrage will never give repose or safety to the States
or to the nation until each, within its own jurisdiction, makes and
keeps the ballot free and pure by the strong sanctions of the law.

But the danger which arises from ignorance in the voter can not be
denied. It covers a field far wider than that of negro suffrage and the
present condition of the race. It is a danger that lurks and hides in
the sources and fountains of power in every state. We have no standard
by which to measure the disaster that may be brought upon us by
ignorance and vice in the citizens when joined to corruption and fraud
in the suffrage.

The voters of the Union, who make and unmake constitutions, and upon
whose will hang the destinies of our governments, can transmit their
supreme authority to no successors save the coming generation of voters,
who are the sole heirs of sovereign power. If that generation comes to
its inheritance blinded by ignorance and corrupted by vice, the fall of
the Republic will be certain and remediless.

The census has already sounded the alarm in the appalling figures which
mark how dangerously high the tide of illiteracy has risen among our
voters and their children.

To the South this question is of supreme importance. But the
responsibility for the existence of slavery did not rest upon the South
alone. The nation itself is responsible for the extension of the
suffrage, and is under special obligations to aid in removing the
illiteracy which it has added to the voting population. For the North
and South alike there is but one remedy. All the constitutional power of
the nation and of the States and all the volunteer forces of the people
should be surrendered to meet this danger by the savory influence of
universal education.

It is the high privilege and sacred duty of those now living to educate
their successors and fit them, by intelligence and virtue, for the
inheritance which awaits them.

In this beneficent work sections and races should be forgotten and
partisanship should be unknown. Let our people find a new meaning in the
divine oracle which declares that "a little child shall lead them," for
our own little children will soon control the destinies of the Republic.

My countrymen, we do not now differ in our judgment concerning the
controversies of past generations, and fifty years hence our children
will not be divided in their opinions concerning our controversies. They
will surely bless their fathers and their fathers' God that the Union
was preserved, that slavery was overthrown, and that both races were
made equal before the law. We may hasten or we may retard, but we can
not prevent, the final reconciliation. Is it not possible for us now to
make a truce with time by anticipating and accepting its inevitable

Enterprises of the highest importance to our moral and material
well-being unite us and offer ample employment of our best powers. Let
all our people, leaving behind them the battlefields of dead issues,
move forward and in their strength of liberty and the restored Union win
the grander victories of peace.

The prosperity which now prevails is without parallel in our history.
Fruitful seasons have done much to secure it, but they have not done
all. The preservation of the public credit and the resumption of specie
payments, so successfully attained by the Administration of my
predecessors, have enabled our people to secure the blessings which the
seasons brought.

By the experience of commercial nations in all ages it has been found
that gold and silver afford the only safe foundation for a monetary

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Online LibraryJames D. RichardsonA Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 8, part 1: James A. Garfield → online text (page 1 of 3)