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therefore, it seemed to me better that papers which have had less hostility to him might well be allowed to take the lead in ridiculing him. I suppose General Grant is “hard up.” It has been rumored from time to time that his sons were in pecuniary trouble, and that young “Buck” has lately distinguished himself by trading off the house his wife got from her father for supposed orange lands in Florida which turned out to be chiefly pine lumber lands from which the pine had been cut off. On discovering this he tried to get out of the bargain, but the Floridian had been too smart for him and he has been compelled to make title and leave the house. Grant is now body and soul in the Mexican railroad projects — is exceedingly eager to make money, and is sure to be used in these schemes until he is only a squeezed orange.
During these years of comparative calm, Morrill grew steadily in public esteem and regard, gradually becoming one of the notable figures of national life and one whom the people delighted to honor. Pictures of him accompanied by sketches of his life appeared with increasing frequency in newspapers and magazines and a desire for a good portrait of him was often expressed. Mr. Corcoran, the founder of the Corcoran Art Gallery, desired to have a portrait by G. P. A. Healey to hang in the gallery, and prevailed upon Morrill to sit for it. Other artists preferred similar requests, and Cornell University, wishing to commemorate the Father of the Land Grant Colleges, invited him to sit for a portrait by Eastman Johnson which now hangs in the University library. The unveiling of this portrait was made the occasion for a graceful ceremony at the Commencement on June 20, 1883, and Morrill responded to the complimentary address in remarks which had both modesty and humor:
I should [he said] be singularly made up if I were insensible to the honor bestowed upon me here to-day by your Board of Trustees, and it may be well to remember, even though the orig
inal of the portrait you have unveiled may have been overestimated, that the acquisition of any work by an artist so eminent
as Eastman Johnson, will forever remain with its inherent and permanent value. The sitting for a portrait, if I may be pardoned for saying so, is rather an awkward business for a modest man who can find anything else to do, ... but I will suggest, if the sitting for a portrait even to the most skillful artist is only “tolerable and not to be endured,” that it is infinitely less embarrassing than to stand here to be not only drawn but quartered by a multitude of very competent critics. Some of the young gentlemen present might agree with one of my constituents, not a graduate of the University, however, to whom I was introduced years ago at a stumpmeeting. Said he, “I have hearn tell a good deal about you, but you ain't nigh so big as I expected.”
A year or two later Johnson painted a second portrait head, one of the best likenesses of him, which since his death has been placed in the corridor of the Senate where for thirty years he passed in and out. In 1894 Mr. Thomas W. Wood, the President of the National Academy of Design, painted what was probably the last portrait of Morrill and presented it to the Vermont Historical Society, in whose rooms it still hangs.
Year by year he became a more familiar and more honored figure, until his tall, bent form crowned with a wealth of gray hair was the accepted type of the ideal Senator. As often as his birthday recurred, the leaders in public life gathered to celebrate it, so that by 1884 his birthday party was like a royal levée, and included the President, all but one of the Justices of the Supreme Court, nearly all the members of the Cabinet, Senators, Members of Congress, Diplomats, Judges, and distinguished men of all walks of life.
This was a Presidential year, and soon after the birthday festivities, Morrill had occasion to give counsel on candidates, as he had so often done before. He repeated his advice against making Blaine the candidate, and did what he could in favor of Edmunds whom he rightly regarded as the abler man and who he believed would prove stronger before the people. But he thought it unwise to go as a delegate to the convention:.
COMMITTEE on FINANCE April 26, 1884 MY DEAR SIR,
I have your favor of the 24th inst. and still think it will be sound policy for me to remain here and not to go to Chicago. If I were to go it would at once be claimed that I was there as my colleague's personal organ – that would hurt his position and damage his chances. It is very doubtful, with the Democratic Party united, as it appears to be now, whether any name which could be presented by us can carry New York. It is nearly certain that Arthur, Sherman, Blaine, [Robert] Lincoln, and Logan would be badly beaten. Edmunds I believe would win, but he will not be nominated by any manufactured enthusiasm and will be considered only on his naked sterling merits, or when it is seen that national success hangs upon his name alone. It is nonsense to claim that New York is not our necessity, as some of the Blaine men pretend that it is not for them. The whole South, no matter how the ballots are cast, is nearly sure to be counted by Democrats and we know what that means.... Mr. Blaine, I have heard, thinks he has strength enough to defeat Arthur and Edmunds. He is likely to lead as to numbers, and his supporters will claim all the hats in the air, but, saying nothing as to respective personal merits, the coming campaign will not be decided by noise so much as by the cool judgment of the best men throughout the country. I want men nominated who can be supported cordially by every Republican and by every conscientious and intelligent Democrat. It is vastly important that we nominate a ticket that will not seem doomed from the start. Fully believing that my presence would injure Mr. Edmunds, I must, while appreciating your kind suggestions, decline to have my name presented to our convention as a candidate to Chicago. You have plenty of other names capable of doing better service. I think my colleague would not differ from me on this subject.
Very sincerely yours