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Blaine, James Gillespie, 1830-1893

Statesman; born in West Brownsville, Pa., Jan. 31, 1830; was graduated at Washington College in 1847; and passed several years in teaching. In 1854 he removed to Augusta, Me., and with that State he was thereafter identified. He edited the Kennebee Journal and the Portland Advertiser, and was a member of the legislature from 1859 to 1862; in the last two years he was speaker of the House, and about the same time he became powerful in the Republican organization of the State. His service in the national House of Representatives extended from 1863 to 1876, and in the United States Senate from 1876 to 1881. Blaine was among the most aggressive of the party leaders, was a ready debater, and an expert in parliamentary law. From 1869 to 1875 he was speaker. In 1876 he was one of the chief candidates for the Presidential nomination, but he and Bristow, the leaders, were set aside for Hayes. In 1880 Grant and Blaine were the candidates respectively of the two great wings of the party, and again a “dark horse,” Garfield, was selected. President Garfield appointed Senator Blaine Secretary of State, which post he resigned in December, 1881, soon after the accession of President Arthur. In 1884 Mr. Blaine received the Presidential nomination on the fourth ballot. An extraordinary campaign followed between his adherents and those of Gov. Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate, and the election turned on the result in New York, which was lost to Mr. Blaine by 1,047 votes. The defection of the Mugwumps, the vote of the Prohibitionists, and the fatal “Rum, Romanism, and, rebellion” utterance of Dr. Burchard, have all been assigned as causes of his defeat. Mr. Blaine then resumed his literary work and published his Twenty years of Congress, in 2 volumes, and in

James Gillespie Blaine.

1888 positively declined the use of his name for a renomination, but received some votes nevertheless. President Harrison in 1889 called him to his old portfolio in the Department of State. The salient points in his administration were the Pan-American schemes and the doctrine of reciprocity. Secretary Blaine suddenly resigned in 1892, and was an unsuccessful candidate for the nomination for President that year, being defeated by Harrison. He died in Washington, D. C., Jan. 27, 1893. Blaine was celebrated for his personal “magnetism,” and after 1876 was universally known as the “Plumed knight,” a phrase applied to him by Robert G. Ingersoll in nominating him for the Presidency. See protection.

Oration on President Garfield.--The following is the concluding portion of Mr. Blaine's oration on the murdered President, delivered before both Houses of Congress on Feb. 27, 1882:

Garfield's ambition for the success of his administration was high. With strong caution and conservatism in his nature, he was in no danger of attempting rash experiments or of resorting to the empiricism [360] of statesmanship. But he believed that renewed and closer attention should be given to questions affecting the material interests and commercial prospects of 50,000,000 people. He believed that our continental relations, extensive and undeveloped as they are, involved responsibility, and could be cultivated into profitable friendship or be abandoned to harmful indifference or lasting enmity. He believed with equal confidence that an essential forerunner to a new era of national progress must be a feeling of contentment in every section of the Union. and a generous belief that the benefits and burdens of government would be common to all. Himself a conspicuous illustration of what ability and ambition may do under republican institutions, he loved his country with a passion of patriotic devotion. and every waking thought was given to her advancement. He was an American in all his aspirations, and he looked to the destiny and influence of the United States with the philosophic composure of Jefferson and the demonstrative confidence of John Adams.

The political events which disturbed the President's serenity for many weeks before that fateful day in July form an important chapter in his career, and, in his own judgment, involved questions of principle and of right which are vitally essential to the constitutional administration of the federal government. It would be out of place here and now to speak the language of controversy: but the events referred to. however they may continue to be a source of contention with others, have become. so far as Garfield is concerned, as much a matter of history as his heroism at Chickamauga, or his illustrious service in the House. Detail is not needful. and personal antagonism shall not be rekindled by any word uttered to-day. The motives of those opposing him are not to be here adversely interpreted nor their course harshly characterized. But of the dead President this is to be said. and said because his own speech is forever silenced and he can he no more heard except through the fidelity and love of surviving friends: from the beginning to the end of the controversy he so much deplored, the President was never for one moment actuated by any motive of gain to himself or of loss to others. Least of all men did he harbor revenge, rarely did he even show resentment. and malice was not in his nature. He was congenially employed only in the exchange of good offices and the doing of kindly deeds.

There was not an hour, from the beginning of the trouble till the fatal shot entered his body, when the President would not gladly, for the sake of restoring harmony, have retraced any step he had taken if such retracing had merely involved consequences personal to himself. . . .

The religious element in Garfield's character was deep and earnest. In his early youth he espoused the faith of the Disciples, a sect of that great Baptist communion which in different ecclesiastical establishments is so numerous and so influential throughout all parts of the United States. . . .

The liberal tendency which he anticipated as the result of wider culture was fully realized. he was emancipated from mere sectarian belief, and with eager interest pushed his investigations in the direction of modern progressive thought. He followed with quickening step in the paths of exploration and speculation so fearlessly trodden by Darwin, by Huxley, by Tyndall, and by other living scientists of the radical and advanced type. His own Church, binding its disciples by no formulated creed, but accepting the Old and New Testaments as the word of God, with unbiased liberality of private interpretation, favored, if it did not stimulate, the spirit of investigation. . . .

The crowning characteristic of General Garfield's religious opinions, as, indeed, of all his opinions, was his liberality. In all things he had charity. Tolerance was of his nature. He respected in others the qualities which he possessed himself — sincerity of conviction and frankness of expression. With him the inquiry was not so much what a man believes, but does he believe it? The lines of his friendship and his confidence encircled men of every creed, and men of no creed, and to the end of his life, on his ever-lengthening list of friends, were to be found the names of a pious Catholic priest and of an honest-minded and generous-hearted free-thinker.

On the morning of Saturday, July 2, the President was a contented and happy man — not [361] in an ordinary degree, but joyfully, almost boyishly happy. On his way to the railroad station, to which he drove slowly, in conscious enjoyment of the beautiful morning, with an unwonted sense of leisure and a keen anticipation of pleasure, his talk was all in the grateful and gratulatory vein. He felt that after four months of trial his administration was strong in its grasp of affairs, strong in popular favor, and destined to grow stronger; that grave difficulties confronting him at his inauguration had been safely passed; that trouble lay behind him and not before him: that he was soon to meet the wife whom he loved, now recovering from an illness which had but lately disquieted and at times almost unnerved him; that he was going to his Alma Mater to renew the most cherished associations of his young manhood, and to exchange greetings with those whose deepening interest had followed every step of his upward progress from the day he entered upon his college course until he had attained the loftiest elevation in the gift of his countrymen.

Surely, if happiness can ever come from the honors or triumphs of this world, on that quiet July morning, James A. Garfield may well have been a happy man. No foreboding of evil haunted him : nor slightest premonition of danger clouded his sky. His terrible fate was upon him in an instant. One moment he stood erect, strong, confident in the years stretching peacefully out before him. The next he lay wounded, bleeding, helpless, doomed to weary weeks of torture, to silence, and the grave.

Great in life, he was surpassingly great in death. For no cause, in the very frenzy of wantonness and wickedness, by the red hund of murder, he was thrust from the full tide of this world's interest, from its hopes, its aspirations, its victories, into the visible presence of death — and he did not quail. Not alone for the one short moment in which, stunned and dazed, he could give up life, hardly aware of its relinquishment, but through days of deadly languor, through weeks of agony. that was not less agony because silently borne, with clear sight and calm courage, he looked into his open grave. What blight and ruin met his anguished eyes, whose lips may tell — what brilliant broken plans, what baffled high ambitions, what sundering of strong, warm manhood's friendships, what bitter rending of sweet household ties! Behind him a proud, expectant nation, a great host of sustaining friends, a cherished and happy mother, wearing the full, rich honors of her early toil and tears; the wife of his youth, whose whole life lay in his: the little boys not yet emerged from childhood's day of frolic; the fair young daughter the sturdy sons just springing into closest companionship. claiming every day and every day rewarding a father's love and care; and in his heart the eager, rejoicing power to meet all demand. Before him, desolation and great darkness! And his soul was not shaken. His countrymen were thrilled with instant, profound, and universal sympathy. Masterful in his mortal weakness, he became the centre of a nation's love. enshrined in the prayers of a world. But all the love and all the sympathy could not share with him his suffering. He trod the wine-press alone. With unfaltering front he faced death. With unfailing tenderness he took leave of life. Above the demoniac hiss of the assassin's bullet he heard the voice of God. With simple resignation he bowed to the divine decree.

As the end drew near, his early craving for the sea returned. The stately mansion of power had been to him the wearisome hospital of pain, and he begged to be taken from its prison walls. from its oppressive. stifling air, from its homelessness and its helplessness. Gently, silently, the love of a great people bore the pale sufferer to the longed — for healing of the sea, to live or to die, as God should will, within sight of its heaving billows, within sound of its manifold voices. With wan, fevered face tenderly lifted to the cooling breeze. he looked out wistfully upon the ocean's changing wonders; on its far sails, whiten ing in the morning light; on its restless waves, rolling shoreward to break and die beneath the noonday sun : on the red clouds of evening, arching low to the horizon: on the serene and shining pathway of the stars. Let us think that his dying eyes read a mystic meaning which only the rapt and parting soul may know. Let us believe that in the silence of the receding world he heard the great waves [362] breaking on a farther shore, and felt already on his wasted brow the breath of the eternal morning.

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