« PreviousContinue »
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.” "
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:
STRAFFORD, Sept. 21, 1898
MY DEAR MR. HoAR:
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, Autobiography of Seventy Years, II, 307.
Britain, and that we are still to retain your ripe experience in
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:
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.
Isaid 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
It was the fashion during the last decade of Senator Morrill's life and for a brief period after his death to compare him to Gladstone. The outer circumstances of their lives did in fact tempt writers to draw a parallel. The two men were born within half a year of each other; both served for a long period in their country's parliaments; both won renown in the problems of finance; both alike were incorruptible; both grew old in public service and went down to their graves full of years and honors. It were as easy to draw a contrast as a comparison, and perhaps more enticing, for the differences between the two in estate, equipment, and attainments were many and great. There is, therefore, no need to force the parallel; yet within limits the comparison may serve to bring Morrill's figure and personality more clearly into vision. Morley attributes Gladstone's achievements very largely to his splendid physical endowment and extraordinary vitality which made him seemingly tireless. Something of the sort might be said of Morrill, for though he could not match the great Englishman in physique and fell short of his tremendous energy, he resembled him in the capacity for sustained attention and continuous labor. Both possessed the rare endurance that enabled them to work smoothly and imperturbably for long hours in conference and committee. Both spent toilsome hours daily at the task of correspondence, for both had the old-fashioned habit of replying to letters personally and by hand. To the prejudice of an earlier day in favor of letters in the hand of the sender, which he never outgrew, but which led him until the last to note on the envelope of such “autograph,” Morrill added the predilection for the quill pen of his youth and never willingly used the steel pens, which offended his taste. Both men cultivated economy in small things as in large and hated waste as a thing of Satan. In Morrill's case, his means, though ample for his modest needs, were never large, and he practiced, from necessity no less than breeding, a careful economy. Neither of them was ever beguiled by contact with great affairs or responsibility for national revenues into condoning the slightest carelessness in public expenditure, or the most trifling waste of public means. Morley relates of Gladstone that even on his mission to Greece, amid the balmy and seductive airs of the Mediterranean, his habit of rigorous economy held him to such trivial savings as erasing the writing on the address slips so as to use them again. And it was told of Morrill that he was so careful of the quill pens which were supplied new every morning on the Senators' desks that he accumulated a large collection of them. Similarly with the red tape used then for government packages, he was never known to throw it away, but preserved and used it scrupulously, so that his committee never had occasion to make a requisition for a single yard of tape, but was unique among Senate committees in this as well as in larger economies. Both were assiduous in attendance on public duty, and it may be doubted whether the chronicles of Parliament in their long array of volumes contain another record equal to the one, or those of Congress a rival to the other. Morrill carried no such weight of learning as made Gladstone so formidable in controversy or debate, nor wore the academic distinctions which were appropriate to him who represented Oxford for sixteen years in the House. But Gladstone was no more sincere a lover of learning or of books than the modest student from the Vermont valley. Though the volumes in the narrow library at Strafford were not a tithe of the accumulation at Hawarden, they were fairly representative of the world's literature and were well conned. Both found in books a lifelong resource; the return to his library and to the physical presence and handling of his books was to each of them a rest and a recreation. It would do him an injustice to imply that Morrill was a scholar in any strict or severe sense; for that his early lack of academic training was too great an obstacle, but he lived much with books and found in his library, whether at Strafford or at Washington, both a work-room and a retreat. The sunny room at Strafford opened directly into the garden and so brought together his flowers and his books, the two great delights of his life. He had begun to collect books as early as 1828 and they were the only objects that ever kept alive in him the zeal of the collector. His early acquisitions were volumes of information, but as he went on his interest in public life asserted itself, and political biography, especially American and British, became the most notable section. After he went to Washington, where there were splendid libraries at his elbow, the rate of accumulation slackened, but as long as he lived he continued to add to the collection at Strafford and to the smaller working library which he built up in Washington. He was never restricted to a mere specialist's choice, but showed a catholic taste. The first entry in the printed catalogue which he made in 188o is “Abbeychurch; or Self-Control and Self-Conceit.” (London: James Burnes, 1844), and is followed by Baker's “Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia,” the “Life and Works of John Adams,” comprising fifteen volumes in all, and Addison’s “Works” in four volumes. The second page contains, along with various works in agriculture, Coleridge's “Aids to Reflection”; Hobhouse's “A Journey Through Albania”; the “Autobiography” of Alfieri; the “Life of Alfred the