The highest examples of patriotism ever shown in this country have been in the voluntary surrender of power into the hands of the people or of their chosen representatives, not in efforts to increase or prolong that power.
Following those highest examples, in the year 1882 all the senior officers
of the army, including Sherman
, and Hancock
, united in advocating the measure then pending in Congress, to fix a limit of age when every officer should relinquish command and return to the ranks of private citizenship.
In doing so, nearly all of those seniors, especially Hancock
, relinquished forever all hope of rising to the command of the army.
My case was not so strong as that of Hancock
, because I was younger.
was only six months older than I, and his ‘expectation of life’ was far beyond the time when I should become sixty-four years old. Hence I cheerfully relinquished in 1882 any reasonable ambition I may ever have had to command the army.
My ultimate succession to that command in 1888 was, like all other important events in my personal career, unsought and unexpected.
Hence whatever I did from 1888 to 1895 was only a little ‘extra duty,’ and I have had no reason to find fault on account of the ‘extra-duty pay’ which I received, though none of it was in money.
I am inclined to think it a pretty good rule for a soldier to wait until he is ‘detailed,’ and not to try to put himself ‘on guard.’
I do not know any case in American history where the opposite course has not resulted in irretrievable injury to him who adopted it. Temporary success in gaining high position, before education and experience have given the necessary qualifications, necessarily results finally in failure; while slower advancement, giving full opportunities for education and experience in the duties of each grade, insures full qualification for the next higher.
American history is full of such examples, as it is—alas!
too truly—of those cases where the highest qualifications