April 10, 1889
Commander and Companions:
Among our most cherished associations we have come to know that comradeship in the Union army holds a place in the very front rank. It has given us a host of army societies, great and small. It has given us reunions, camp-fires, processions, prodigious assemblages, and permanent organizations. No one can even name all of them, but every faithful soldier can find a welcome in many of them, and all soldiers understand the merits of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion and the Grand Army of the Republic.
For us, and for those who are nearest and dearest to us, what an addition to the war for the Union has contributed to the attractiveness of the American society! Strike out from each of our lives, since that grand review in Washington in May, 1865, all whose chief satisfaction, happiness and glory can be traced to the comradeship of the war, and who does not see how meager and barren those years would become? The interest in this war has imported into our lives is not to be measured by the contemplation merely of assemblages that are marked by the turmoil and blare of multitudes marching with banners and gathered by music and cannon, but we must reckon also the ever recurring hours of domestic and other quiet scenes when in narrow and noiseless circles the tremendous events of our recent history with their countless incidents, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic and pathetic, are recalled and pass and repass before us before us in never ending review. The pictures on our walls, the books we read with most delight, the magazines and newspapers, the collections and mementos and relics gathered in those golden years all do their part to keep in fresh remembrance the good old times when we were comrades, and almost all seemed, and were, true and brave.
It is often said that outside of the family no tie is stronger, more tender and more lasting than that of comradeship. This is not the time or place to compare as critics or philosophers the various sorts of friendships which grow up between men due to occupation and other circumstances. The fact we do know, and rejoice to know, is that to meet our old commander, or the brave good men we commanded-or the trusted comrade of many a camp, and march, and battle, is always like good news from home, and fills the heart to overflowing with happiness no words can fully tell.
These reflections are general and vague, and need illustration. If the example I introduce seems aside from the aim I have thus far made you will; I trust, pardon this lack of unity in my discourse in view of the limitations under which we will speak to-night.
Since the last meeting of this Commandery, a month ago, one of the illustrious members of our order, not a member to our Commandery, but well known to almost all of us, has gone on to his reward. Stanley Matthews was a man of wonderful gifts, of rare and versatile powers, of the best culture, and had a courage, an ambition, and an ability promptly to act and write and speak which made him in every circle of scholars, lawyers, judges, statesmen, soldiers or seekers after knowledge or pleasure, the peer with who he ever stood-and from his earliest manhood he was always found with the best and ablest of our land.
My acquaintance with him began when he and I were boys at Kenyon College in the thirties, more than fifty years ago. Our relations with each other, from that time until his death, on the 22nd of last month, were always cordial. And when circumstances, such as residence and employment, permitted they were close and intimate. It so happened that in many of the most affecting scenes of our respective lives we were side by side. In college the opportunity came to me to share with him and to aid him in an affair where the merit of what I did and its importance to him, measured by his generous and grateful spirit, were never forgotten and often recalled by him, so enhanced that the bond between us retained more of the school boy cast that is commonly found in the companionship of men of mature years. Alluding to our friendship in a letter when he was confirmed as a judge of the Supreme Court after a critical contest, he said: “In the midst of it all I have been encouraged and sustained by the unwavering devotion of many friends, who at no little sacrifice to themselves, have shown much interest in my personal cause. I shall never forget that among them I have at all times had your constant and deepest sympathy. The recollection of all the circumstances of our friendship from our college days, in our professional life, in our closer intimacy as comrades in the Union army, and our personal and political connection through the exciting electoral campaign of 1876-77, and, during your administration will always furnish material for pleasant meditation.” Let me add another sentence from that letter which shows the sterling quality of companion Matthew’s character. “I bear no resentment against any who felt it to be their duty to vote against me, and the only revenge I shall study will be to make good the conquest of their favorable opinion by my judicial career.” His judicial life on the bench of the Supreme Court was barely seven years but it was ample to complete the conquest of the good opinion which he so desired and which he so well deserved. Touching his career as a member of the great tribunal I quote from two Senators-one of each political party.
Senator Hoar said:
The result has more than justified the most sanguine expectations. Judge Matthews has taken his place in the highest rank of magistrates who have sat upon the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States from the beginning of the government. It never occurred to anybody since his appointment to question his absolute impartiality. He has shown the simplicity which has characterized some of the greatest judges and which belonged in an especial degree to Marshall. He excelled in lucid and orderly statement. His mind was always intent upon the judicial problem to be solved. He solved it as a question of jurisprudence, unconscious of the persons or interests to be affected by the result. Every intelligent man will now agree that he was in his rightful and apparent place in that tribunal to whose arbitration all the interests of the country are submitted, and which keeps the forces of the State and nation alike within their appointed rounds.
Senator Payne said.
I have known Justice Matthews from boyhood, and from the first was impressed by his ability in whatever direction he was called upon to exercise it. His appointment to the bench of the Supreme Court placed him where, by nature he was best fitted to be, and I am firmly convinced that, had he lived, he would have become the foremost jurist in the land. He was a growing man. He was read widely in both general and legal literature, and his information and culture were of the highest and best type.