Page images

coucheur. One of these bills proposed an issue of legal-tender money forty times greater per capita than any we have ever had. Another, to purchase all the silver bullion that may be offered at one dollar and twenty-nine one-hundredths cents per ounce, though it fetches now in any market only sixty-two cents per ounce. Figuratively speaking the bills were all of one brood and of the same feather, birds of inflation, none game, none worth a charge of powder, but legislative dodos, unlikely ever to be seen on the earth again.

The measures were the work of the Populist Party, of which he remarked, “And we must not forget that this party had not presented its measures anywhere as bashful jests, but has paraded them as the crowning wisdom of modern statesmanship, for which those like Governor Waite are ready to ride up to their bridle-bits in blood.”

Against such vagaries and against the whole free-silver heresy ridicule was the most deadly weapon and Morrill used it with skill. As the campaign came on, he made more speeches and seized every opportunity to combat the false doctrines which ran like a disease through the country. There was much talk, as some of my readers will remember, of "The Crime of '73,” to which Morrill replied:

The bold allegation has often been made that silver was slyly demonetized by Congress in 1873, but made by those who are mistaken in supposing all of the world to be as densely ignorant of the facts as themselves. ... Its exclusion from our coinage was not swift, but very elaborate. The Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Boutwell, recommended the measure, and it was also presented twice with great ability in the annual reports of the Controller of the Currency. The suspension of silver coinage by Germany and also by all of the Latin nations, in whole or in part, preceded our action. Its public discussion fills nearly two hundred pages of the “Congressional Record," and the bill was many times reprinted.

And yet, with no possible reason for doing anything secretly or on the sly, the Act of 1873 is denounced because indolent Tom,

careless Dick, and officious Harry, do not recollect anything about it.

For Bryan and his dangerous buncombe he had little respect.

I have she said) long been largely stocked with the pride planted in all of our breasts by American achievements and laudable demonstrations of power, and can tolerate, without a shrug, a stiff breeze of Fourth-of-July audacity, but when it is merely swagger, or vanity, the sneering rejection of all the financial wisdom and experience of Europe, as well as that of nearly every commercial man in America, with a silly declaration that we are big enough — being bigger than Mexico - for the free coinage of silver alone, and can do the job, sixteen to one, for all the world, it sounds hardly worthy of a great people; not worthy of a leader who would have our people believe him old enough to be the President of the United States.

It was his last campaign, and he bore himself well, for all his eighty-six years, contributing his full share to the success of his party and the overthrow of a positive menace to the country. No one rejoiced more whole-heartedly than Morrill over the election of McKinley. And rightly. It was not only a triumph for the Republican Party, a great victory for sound finance over the misguided friends of cheap money,” but it put an end for a generation to the agitation for debasing the currency. More than that, by giving confidence to men of affairs, it opened an era of prosperity. All this Morrill saw and celebrated.

But the election of McKinley opened also another era, the advent of which gave Morrill and other old-fashioned Republicans of New England, like Senator Hoar and Charles Francis Adams, grave misgivings. This was the era of expansion, or, as some called it, Imperialism which came as a result of the Spanish War. Morrill foresaw the approach of the war and resisted it. He opposed the Cuban Belligerency Resolution in 1897 and, when war came nearer, opposed the

war itself as unnecessary and wasteful. But it came, and, as he feared, brought in its train demands for territorial expansion.

He had been opposed to the annexation of territory to the south all his life. He had fought against the annexation of San Domingo as far back as 1870; he had opposed every step looking toward the acquisition of Cuba; he had opposed the annexation of Hawaï. And now, when the end of his career could not be far off, and the ties that bound him to his party and his party's principles were dearer to him than ever, he felt obliged to take issue with his friends and associates on a question which was unhappily interwoven with national pride and the popular desire for national aggrandizement. It was immensely to his credit as a man of principle that, feeling as he did, he had the courage to stand out against his party and his friends. And it was to the credit of his party and his friends that they recognized and honored his stand as an act of principle and courage.

He had the reward of a lifetime of integrity. As he had moved on past the milestones that mark age and reach toward the venerable, the general regard for him grew deeper and he began to be a sort of institution. His reëlection to the Senate in 1896 was an ovation and when he came to take the oath in the following March, the Vice-President, departing from the fixed custom of calling the newly elected members in their alphabetical order, called Morrill first, to the general delight and satisfaction of the Senate. One of the most engaging passages in Senator Hoar's “Autobiography” is that in which he tells with what respect and deference President McKinley regarded the aged Senator from Vermont, although his course in opposing the annexation of Hawaii was a source of embarrassment to the administration:

President McKinley sent for me to come to the White House, as was his not infrequent habit. He said he wanted to consult me

upon the question whether it would be wise for him to have a personal interview with Senator Morrill, of Vermont. He had been told that Mr. Morrill was opposed to the treaty. The President said: “I do not quite like to try to influence the action of an old gentleman like Mr. Morrill, so excellent, and of such great experience. It seems to me that it might be thought presumptuous, if I were to do so. But it is very important to us to have his vote, if we can.” 1

Though Morrill and Hoar had long been friends and allies, for they were among the veterans of the party, singularly enough, their opposition to the party programme drew them closer together than ever their action in support had done. The importance of having their votes to which McKinley had alluded, inspired the ingenuity of political management which was directed first to one and then to the other to win them over. Hoar was offered the splendid post of Ambassador to London, which he declined and gave occasion to Morrill for a letter in which one feels that friendship outweighs compliment:


Knowing that you lacked nothing of ample equipment for diplomatic service, I feel sure you would decline the position even of Ambassador to “Great Britain," rather than to bid a final adieu to the U.S. Senate, where there are now, and will be for some years, I fear, questions pending of the utmost gravity. At the Court of St. James's few questions hereafter are likely to arise of any considerable importance, and none but the Secretary of State, whoever he may be, would feel it to be his high duty to furnish the whole argument for.

The most laborious functions of an Ambassador in London seem to be in after-dinner speeches, made to run John Bull in debt by rare-bits of flattery.

Pray accept my congratulations - no, permit me rather to congratulate our country that you prefer America to Great


George F. Hoar, Anobiography of Seventy Years, 11, 307.

Britain, and that we are still to retain your ripe experience in the Senate. Very sincerely yours


Within a week it was Morrill's turn to face the machinations of partisan strategy. The rumor was widely disseminated that he was about to resign from the Senate, and Hoar wrote anxiously to deplore it and to beg him to stay. “You were,” he said, “never a greater influence ... I hoped and expected to stand with you shoulder to shoulder next winter in the contest that is before us.”

Morrill had already expressed his attachment for the Senate. He now denied the rumor with energy:


Sept. 28, 1898 MY DEAR MR. HOAR:

Last evening I received your favor of the 26th inst. Of course I cannot fail to appreciate very highly your flattering estimate of my services, but I feel that it could hardly be accepted by the public without more than one grain of salt. There are several things in the world of whose manner of creation scientists and theologians are not agreed. I do not know how or where the rumor started that I was to resign, but I must deny its fatherhood.

I said a dozen years ago that the people of Vermont had treated me far too kindly for me ever to abuse their trust, and that I hoped before I became "superfluous on the stage” that I might know enough to resign. I do not remember to have said even that recently.

Thanking you cordially for the unexpected honor of your attention, I am, very sincerely

Your friend


« PreviousContinue »