The Worlds Famous Orations. America: III. (18611905). 1906.
His Speech Nominating Grant for a Third Term
Roscoe Conkling (182988)
Born in 1829, died in 1888; elected to Congress in 1859, 1861 and 1865; elected to the United States Senate in 1867, serving until 1881, when he resigned in consequence of a dispute with President Garfield; came to New York and began to practise law in 1882.
WHEN1 asked whence comes our candidate, we say, from Appomattox.2 Obeying instructions I should never dare to disregard, expressing, also, my own firm conviction, I rise in behalf of the State of New York to propose a nomination with which the country and the Republican party can grandly win. The election before us will be the Austerlitz of American politics. It will decide whether for years to come the country will be Republican or Cossack. The need of the hour is a candidate who can carry the doubtful States, North and South; and, believing that he more surely than any other can carry New York against any opponent, and carry not only the North, but several States of the South, New York is for Ulysses Grant. He alone of living Republicans has carried New York as a presidential candidate. Once he carried it even according to a Democratic count, and twice he carried it by the peoples vote, and he is stronger now. The Republican party with its standard in his hand is stronger now than in 1868 or 1872. Never defeated in war or in peace, his name is the most illustrious borne by any living man; his services attest his greatness, and the country knows them by heart. His fame was born not alone of things written and said, but of the arduous greatness of things done; and dangers 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. Standing on the highest eminence of human distinction, and having filled all lands with his renown; modest, firm, simple, self-poised; he has seen not only the titled but the poor and the lowly in the utmost ends of the world rise and uncover before him. He has studied the needs and defects of many systems of government, and he comes back a better American than ever, with a wealth of knowledge and experience added to the hard common sense which so conspicuously distinguished him in all the fierce light that beat upon him throughout the most eventful, trying, and perilous sixteen years of the nations history.
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 betray or desert him. Vilified and reviled, ruthlessly aspersed by numberless presses, not in other lands, but in his own, the assaults upon him have strengthened and seasoned his hold upon the public heart. The ammunition of calumny has all been exploded; the powder has all been burned; its force is spent; and General Grants name will glitter as a bright and imperishable star in the diadem of the Republic when those who have tried to tarnish it will have moldered in forgotten graves and their memories and epitaphs have vanished utterly.
There is no field of human activity, responsibility, or reason in which rational beings object to Grant, because he has been weighed in the balance and not found wanting, and because he has had unequaled experience, making him exceptionally competent and fit. From the man who shoes your horse to the lawyer who pleads your case, the officer who manages your railway, the doctor into whose hands you give your life, or the minister who seeks to save your soul, whom now do you reject because you have tried him and by his works have known him? What makes the presidential office an exception to all things else in the common sense to be applied to selecting its incumbent? Who dares to put fetters on the free choice and judgment, which is the birthright of the American people? Can it be said that Grant used official power to perpetuate his plan? He has no plan. No official power has been used for him. Without patronage or power, without telegraph wires running from his house to the Convention, without electioneering contrivances, without effort on his part, his name is on his countrys lips, and he is struck at by the whole Democratic party because his nomination will be the death blow to Democratic success. He is struck at by others who find offense and disqualification in the very service he has rendered and the very experience he has gained. Show me a better man. Name one and I am answered; but do not point, as a disqualification, to the very facts which make this man fit beyond all others. Let not experience disqualify or excellence impeach him. There is no third term in the case, and the pretense will die with the political dog-days which engendered it. Nobody is really worried about a third term except those hopelessly longing for a first term and the dupes they have made. Without bureaus, committees, officials or emissaries to manufacture sentiment in his favor, without intrigue or effort on his part, Grant is the candidate whose supporters have never threatened to bolt. As they say, he is a Republican who never wavers. He and his friends stood by the creed and the candidates of the Republican party, holding the right of a majority as the very essence of their faith, and meaning to uphold that faith against the common enemy and the charlatans and the guerrillas who from time to time deploy between the lines and forage on one side or the other.
Note 1. Delivered before the National Republican Convention on June 5, 1880, and printed here by kind permission of Alfred R. Conkling, author of The Life and Letters of Roscoe Conkling. [back]
Note 2. There was current at this time, among the supporters of Grant for a third term, a bit of campaign doggerel which usually ran as followslines which Conkling quoted before he began his speech as an answer to the question: What State?