The Swiss are told that no such person ever lived among their mountains as William Tell. And now the historians are not content with saying that Christopher Columbus sought a westward passage to the Island of Japan and the Asiatic mainland, was interrupted by the little archipelago off Florida, made his crew take an affidavit that one could march on foot from Cuba across Asia to Spain, but never landed upon North America nor suspected the existence of the Pacific ocean. These terrible historic critics go further still, and I will read you what the last of them, Mr. Justin Winsor, librarian of Harvard University, says in this very quadri-centennial year, which we are about to celebrate by the Chicago Fair, upon the death of Christopher Columbus.
We have seen a pitiable man meet a pitiable death. Hardly a name in the profane history is more august than his. Hardly another character in the world's record has made so little of its opportunities. His discovery was a blunder, his blunder was a new world, the new world is his monument. Its discoverer might have been its father; he proved to be its despoiler. He might have given its young days such a benignity as the world likes to associate with a maker; he left it a legacy of devastation and crime. He might have been an unselfish promotor of geographical science; he proved a rapid seeker for gold and vice-royalty. He might have won converts to the fold of Christ by the kindness of his spirit; he gained the execrations of the good angels. He might, like Las Casas, have rebuked the fiendishness of his contemporaries; he set them an example of perverted belief. The triumph of Barcelona led down to the ignominy of Valladolid, with every step in the degredation palpable and resultant.Does anything survive in all this wreck of famous reputations? Yes. There is a tomb at Mount Vernon where one of the mighty dead lies in peace, with honor. The historians have now done their best and their worst. Thank God, we know at last that the Father of his Country has left to the children and the children's children of this great nation, through all generations, the priceless legacy of a pure, unsullied name. George Washington, John Adams and his son, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison (to name no more)—all these, among the great founders of a mighty State; all these, the first leaders of our still contending