previous next

Conkling, Roscoe 1829-1888

Statesman; born in Albany, N. Y., Oct. 30, 1829; received an academic education; studied law with his father, a judge in the United States District Court and former minister to Mexico; admitted to the bar in 1850 in Utica; elected mayor in 1858, and also to Congress as a Republican; re-elected

Roscoe Conkling.

to Congress in 1860, 1864, and 1866, and in January, 1867, was chosen United States Senator and held his seat till 1881. During his service in the Senate he was active in the promotion of the reconstruction measures and in opposition to President Johnson's policy; was influential in securing the passage of the Civil rights bill (q. v.) over President Johnson's veto; and was notably conspicuous in his support of President Grant. Senator Conkling was a member of the judiciary committee during the entire course of his senatorial career. He was a strong advocate of a third term for President Grant in 1880, and after the election of James A. Garfield, when an influential federal appointment was made in New York City, Senator Conkling and his associate, Senator Platt, claiming that they should have been consulted concerning such an appointment in their State, resigned. At the ensuing session of the State legislature, the two ex-Senators failed to secure re-election, and Mr. Conkling retired to the practice of law in New York City. He was offered by President Arthur a seat on the bench of the United [325] States Supreme Court in 1882, but declined. He died in New York City, April 18, 1888.

Renominating Grant.

The following is Senator Conkling's speech before the National Republican Convention, in Chicago, on June 6, 1880, nominating General Grant for a third Presidential term:

When asked what State he hails from,
Our sole reply shall be,
He came from Appomattox
And its famous apple-tree.

In obedience to instruction I should never dare to disregard—expressing, also, my own firm convictions—I rise to propose a nomination with which the country and the Republican party can gladly win. The election before us is to be the Austerlitz of American politics. It will decide, for many years, whether the country shall be Republican or Cossack. The supreme need of the hour is not a candidate who can carry Michigan. All Republican candidates can do that. The need is not of a candidate who is popular in the Territories, because they have no vote. The need is of a candidate who can carry doubtful States. Not the doubtful States of the North alone, but doubtful States of the South, which we have heard, if I understand it aright, ought to take little or no part here, because the South has nothing to give, but everything to receive. No, gentlemen, the need that presses upon the conscience of this convention is a candidate who can carry doubtful States, both North and South. And believing that he, more surely than any other man, can carry New York against any opponent, and can carry not only the North, but several States of the South, New York is for Ulysses S. Grant. Never defeated in peace or in war, his name is the most illustrious borne by living man.

His services attest his greatness, and the country—nay, the world—knows them by heart. His fame was earned not alone in things written and said, but by the arduous greatness of things done. And perils and emergencies will search in vain in the future, as they have searched in vain in the past, for any other on whom the nation leans with such confidence and trust. Never having had a policy to enforce against the will of the people, he never betrayed a cause or a friend, and the people will never desert or betray him. Standing on the highest eminence of human distinction, modest, firm, simple, and self-poised, having filled all lands with his renown, he has seen not only the high-born and the titled, but the poor and the lowly in the uttermost ends of the earth, rise and uncover before him. He has studied the needs and the defects of many systems of government, and he has returned a better American than ever, with a wealth of knowledge and experience added to the hard common-sense which shone so conspicuously in all the fierce light that beat upon him during sixteen years, the most trying, the most portentous, the most perilous in the nation's history.

Vilified and reviled, ruthlessly aspersed by unnumbered presses, not in other lands, but in his own, assaults upon him have seasoned and strengthened his hold on the public heart. Calumny's ammunition has all been exploded; the powder has all been burned once; its force is spent; and the name of Grant will glitter a bright and imperishable star in the diadem of the republic when those who have tried to tarnish that name have mouldered in forgotten graves, and when their memories and their epitaphs have vanished utterly.

Never elated by success, never depressed by adversity, he has ever, in peace as in war, shown the genius of common-sense. The terms he prescribed for Lee's surrender foreshadowed the wisest prophecies and principles of true reconstruction. Victor in the greatest war of modern times, he quickly signalized his aversion to war and his love of peace by an arbitration of internal disputes which stands as the wisest, the most majestic example of its kind in the world's diplomacy. When inflation, at the height of its popularity and frenzy, had swept both Houses of Congress, it was the veto of Grant, which, single and alone, overthrew expansion and cleared the way for specie resumption. To him, immeasurably more than to any other man, is due the fact that every paper dollar is at last as good as gold.

With him as our leader we shall have no defensive campaign. No! We shall have nothing to explain away. We shall [326] have no apologies to make. The shafts and the arrows have all been aimed at him, and they lie broken and harmless at his feet.

Life, liberty, and property will find a safeguard in him. When he said of the colored men in Florida, “Wherever I am, they may come also” —when he so said, he meant that, had he the power, the poor dwellers in the cabins of the South should no longer be driven in terror from the homes of their childhood and the graves of their murdered dead. When he refused to see Dennis Kearney in California, he meant that communism, lawlessness, and disorder, although it might stalk highheaded and dictate law to a whole city, would always find a foe in him. He meant that, popular or unpopular, he would hew to the line of right, let the chips fly where they may.

His integrity, his common-sense, his courage, his unequalled experience, are the qualities offered to his country. The only argument, the only one that the wit of man or the stress of politics has devised, is one which would dumfounder Solomon, because he thought there was nothing new under the sun. Having tried Grant twice and found him faithful, we are told that we must not, even after an interval of years, trust him again. My countrymen! my countrymen! what stultification does not such a fallacy involve! The American people exclude Jefferson Davis from public trust. Why? Why? Because he was the archtraitor and would-be destroyer; and now the same people are asked to ostracize Grant, and not to trust him. Why? Why? I repeat: because he was the archpreserver of his country, and because, not only in war, but twice as Civil Magistrate, he gave his highest, noblest efforts to the republic. Is this an electioneering juggle, or is it hypocrisy's masquerade? There is no field of human activity, responsibility, or reason in which rational beings object to an agent because he has been weighed in the balance and not found wanting. There is, I say, no department of human reason in which sane men reject an agent because he has had experience, making him exceptionally competent and fit. From the man who shoes your horse to the lawyer who tries your case, the officer who manages your railway or your mill, the doctor into whose hands you give your life, or the minister who seeks to save your soul, what man do you reject because by his works you have known him and found him faithful and fit? What makes the Presidential office an exception to all things else in the common-sense to be applied to selecting its incumbent? Who dares—who dares to put fetters on that free choice and judgment which is the birthright of the American people? Can it be said that Grant has used official power and place to perpetuate his term? He has no place, and official power has not been used for him. Without patronage and without emissaries, without committees, without bureaus, without telegraph wires running from his house to this convention, or running from his house anywhere else, this man is the candidate whose friends have never threatened to bolt unless this convention did as they said. He is a Republican who never wavers. He and his friends stand by the creed and the candidates of the Republican party. They hold the rightful rule of the majority as the very essence of their faith, and they mean to uphold that faith against not only the common enemy, but against the charlatans, jayhawkers, tramps, and guerillas —the men who deploy between the lines, and forage now on one side and then on the other. This convention is master of a supreme opportunity. It can name the next President. It can make sure of his election. It can make sure not only of his election, but of his certain and peaceful inauguration. More than all, it can break that power which dominates and mildews the South. It can overthrow an organization whose very existence is a standing protest against progress.

The purpose of the Democratic party is spoils. Its very hope of existence is a solid South. Its success is a menace to order and prosperity. I say this convention can overthrow that power. It can dissolve and emancipate a solid South. It can speed the nation in a career of grandeur eclipsing all past achievements.

Gentlemen, we have only to listen above the din and look beyond the dust of an hour to behold the Republican party advancing with its ensigns resplendent with [327] illustrious achievements, marching to certain and lasting victory with its greatest marshal at its head.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
April 18th, 1888 AD (1)
1888 AD (1)
1882 AD (1)
1881 AD (1)
June 6th, 1880 AD (1)
1880 AD (1)
January, 1867 AD (1)
1866 AD (1)
1864 AD (1)
1860 AD (1)
1858 AD (1)
1850 AD (1)
October 30th, 1829 AD (1)
1829 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: