September 15, 1877
FELLOW CITIZENS—These enthusiastic greetings, and this very generous welcome by my old friends and neighbors of Cincinnati, are indeed very gratifying to me. I do not take them as a mere personal compliment. I understand that largely they mean that you are attached to the principles of the Government of the United States. I trust, also, that I may accept this demonstration as in part due to the fact that the people of Cincinnati approved the general course of the Administration in regard to the great and difficult questions of how to bring about complete and permanent pacification in this country. But, my friends, no part of the people of the United States are more deeply interested in restoring harmony between the North and South than the people of Cincinnati. During the greater part of the period of my residence in Cincinnati, this city was a border city. It was like Baltimore and Louisville, a border city. On the other side of the line was a population, by circumstances beyond our control, in some degree alienated and estranged from us. But, my friends, the great object of desire with the gentlemen associated with me, is to change all that. I wish to see Cincinnati no longer a border city. I wish to see Cincinnati occupy the position which her geographical location entitles her to occupy. I wish Cincinnati to be one of the great central cities of the best belt of the best continent of the globe.
I believe, my friends, that the day is coming—nay, I believe the day has come—when the great conflict that raged between us for more than fifty years is to be closed. And how deeply are we interested in it! Four years since the great crisis in monetary and business affairs, and yet the depression has not entirely passed away. Four months ago, in New York, in the presence of a large assembly of merchants of that city, I thought proper to say that in my judgment we might look for early, encouraging and decisive indications of a restoration of business prosperity throughout our country. To-day, my friends, I think I may say that, in the opinions of wise and prudent observers, these indications which I predicted have come to pass. Look at it. They are not perhaps as decided as one could wish, but I was informed to-day that the railroads of the Northwest, beginning to carry to market the great crops, are already earning more than at any previous similar period of year since the crash of 1873. In our own State, I am told the Lake Shore road is doing a larger business than ever before, and that the wholesale merchants of the great cities are beginning to have a trade greater than at any time since the panic. Collections are more easily made than at any time since the panic. And we all know that the true basis of all prosperity is agricultural prosperity, which this year is assured. We do not claim for any Administration the advantages that come to the country from good crops; but, my friends, it seems to me that we may ask some approval from our fellow-citizens if we have placed a large part of our country in a condition to give their full attention to the raising of the crops. As long as discontent with the Government and with their fellow-citizens of the North existed in the Southern States, we all know that politics would receive more attention than business; but now I think I am authorized to say to you that the whole Southern country begins again to think more of industry, of improvements, of business than of politics. No part of our country can lack prosperity without affecting the prosperity of the whole country, and the prosperity of one section is the prosperity of all sections. It is with ideas like these that we desire to enter up on the work of pacification. It has been my good fortune during the last ten days to be present at three great soldiers’ reunions—soldiers of the North—and passing among them and gathering their opinions, I found that, one and all, they are ready to come again to the ancient friendship and harmony with the South, upon the sole basis of a cordial recognition of, and obedience to, the Constitution as it now is, with all its recent amendments.
But I have detained you too long.
I feel upon this subject that I am treading in the pathway marked out by the fathers as they stood shoulder to shoulder and side by side, men of the North and men of the South; and I wish to see the day within the next three or four years when again all causes of dissension will, like slavery, be removed forever and when once more the ancient concord and friendship will be restored. This is my hope, this is my ambition, to do something to promote and advance this great purpose. When you approve of that, my fellow-citizens, you approve what I am trying to do.
And now I will detain you no longer. I simply wish to say that what has been done has not been done merely because we could not help doing it, but because we believed it was wise and right to do it. I believe with President Lincoln, and indeed I look to theses coming days as a fulfillment of his aspirations. In his second inaugural he said: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching over every battle-field and patriot grave to every loving heart and every hearthstone throughout the broad land, would yet swell the chorus of the Union, touched, as it surely will be, but the better angels of our nature.”