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THOUGH he has been dead these twenty-five years, there are yet living many who remember the venerable bent figure of Justin S. Morrill in the last period of his life. A visitor to the Senate to-day, as he sits in the gallery and gazes down upon the seat Morrill occupied so long, will need no great exercise of the imagination to recall across the intervening years that tall, spare, stooping form, see him the center of deference and regard, and hear once more his mild, persuasive accents. Again he may hear in fancy the voice of the guide describing the aged Senator to curious visitors as an embodiment of his country's history, as one who might have seen every President from Madison to McKinley, who had in fact seen most of them, and had lived through all the wars of the Republic — the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the war with Spain. He may hear again the eager narrator recounting the long record of the “Father of the Senate,” unbroken from his first election to Congress in 1854 for more than forty years to 1898, and follow the rising accents of the recital as the cicerone from the past tells of the great part the aged Senator had played in the half-century of his public life, of his share in founding the Republican Party, in writing the long array of tariff bills, in creating the Land Grant Colleges, in resisting every attack upon the national credit, in building the Library of Congress. Not less ardent or enthusiastic would be the imaginary narrator's story of Morrill's private life, of his restricted youth in the Vermont village, of his limited schooling, his apprenticeship in the country store, his first ventures away from home, his gradual climb to independence, his happy marriage, his long devotion to the people and the place where he was born. A New-Englander of the New-Englanders, a Puritan, incorruptible, sagacious, modest, frugal, faithful to duty.
With such materials at hand might not the biographer be expected to present a portrait in glowing colors, touched with glints from historic scenes and lighted with flashes from famous personalities? Perhaps so, but one may be sure that no highly colored presentment would ever pass the cool, ironic regard of the subject himself, who had an unerring eye for exaggeration or “buncombe,” and would have recoiled from anything but the soberest narrative. So the biographer has taken refuge in the surest of all methods of attaining a truthful representation of an essentially truthful man. He has admittedly “played safe.” He has chosen the prudent course, but he has secured at the same time the incomparable advantage which autobiography always has over biography. He has left the great Vermonter as far as possible to tell his own story in his own words.
For the materials — letters, diaries, memoranda, sketches, and random notes — to enable him to piece together this record, he owes his grateful thanks to the members of the Morrill family and to many of their friends — to Dr. and Mrs. Charles L. Swan, Mr. Elmer E. Morrill, Professor George W. Benedict, the Honorable James M. Tyler, to the officials of the Harvard College Library, to Mr. Charles Moore of the Library of Congress, and to Mr. Henry M. Lydenberg, of the New York Public Library.
W. B. P.
. THE FIRST CLEVELAND ADMINISTRATION
. LITERARY WORK
. THE LAST DECADE
. THE END