September 17, 1877
MR. ROBINSON AND FELLOW-CITIZENS OF LOUISVILLE---I thank you for this Kentucky welcome. The people of Kentucky and the people of Ohio are old acquaintances. The early history of the two States is so blended that you cannot write the early history of Ohio without having more than half its pages filled about your State of Kentucky, and I suspect that you cannot write the history of Kentucky without occasionally mentioning the State of Ohio. Eight years ago I had occasion to join in a welcome to the members of the Legislature and other distinguished men of Kentucky. I cannot undertake to repeat the remarks I then made, but it seems to me not inappropriate to pursue the same general course of remarks with which I welcomed the Kentuckians eight years ago.
My earliest recollections, my earliest knowledge of Kentucky, is associated indelibly with the conversations and speeches of that favored and most eloquent Governor of Ohio and native of Kentucky, Governor Corwin. He was fond in his eloquent speeches, and still more eloquent conversation, of talking of Kentucky and Kentuckians. He used to say with that habit of his drawing illustrations from the Scriptures, that if any people since the dispersion on the plains of Shinar were literally cradled in war, it was the people of Kentucky. In childhood and in youth they fought the savages in the blockhouse and in stockade, by the side of their mothers and sisters; and in manhood they pursued the hostile savages and British invaders from Ohio and Indiana. It was the common observation that Kentucky, the first State and most populous in early times, and by far the most powerful, was always ready to help Ohio when she needed help. In every moment, and on every occasion of apprehension Ohio always appealed to Kentucky, and never appealed in vain. The bones of Kentucky’s sons whitened on every battlefield in the Northwest, and when savage invasion occurred no longer, and peace was smiling over both these States, the cordial and friendly relations between them continued on and on.
In 1824 Ohio rejoiced to cast her vote for Kentucky’s favorite, Henry Clay, and twenty years afterwards I am glad and proud to be able t say that with the majority of the rest of the people of Ohio, I cast my first vote for Henry Clay, of Kentucky; and yet this feeling of friendship was not confined to one of the political parties, for our adversaries rejoiced to vote for Colonel R. M. Johnson for Vice President, and afterwards for Butler for Vice President; and you reciprocated the feeling, and gave to our former patriot, General Harrison, in 1843, the largest majority he received in any State of the Union.
This was the course of events in early times, but afterwards there came an estrangement, and there came division and discord, and the old friendship seemed to be gradually disappearing, and afterwards there came war; but for the cause of that estrangement and hostility Kentucky was not responsible, and Ohio was not responsible. Kentucky alone could not remove it, neither could Ohio alone remove it, nor could both together remove it; and any man who sees in the affairs of men on any occasion the finger of Almighty God, sees in that great struggle the ends of Providence. And now, the difficulties being removed---the only causes that could separate Kentucky from Ohio or Ohio from Kentucky—and when the people of these two States (do not misunderstand me: I would not narrow the demonstration of today—the true history of Ohio and Kentucky is an epitome of all the rest of the country) ---and now, when the cause is removed, whatever the hostility, whatever the prejudice, whatever the estrangement, let them also be removed.
I have been, fellow-soldiers, during the last few days, among the soldiers of the Union, and there the men most early to come together after this great division are those who made the acquaintance of one another on the fields of carnage. I have found it true on the other side of the river, and I have found it true here in Kentucky.
A distinguished statesman said to General Scott during the war: “When the armies of the Union are successful there will be peace and content everywhere.” General Scott remarked, “No, sir, not for some time after the war, for after the successful close of the war you will find the whole power of the General Government necessary to keep down the belligerent non-combatants of the country.” Perhaps the old man had the spirit of prophecy in him, said my friend. Those who fight upon the field learn to respect each other. The soldiers of both armies imperiled their lives for the cause, and such men always respect each other. It is for them to come together.
In the beginning I was under the impression that our Southern friends had the advantage of us; that you had better marksmen and better horsemen in proportion to us. We had to learn to shoot and to ride, but after we had learned it, then it became a fight between Greek and Greek, and we all know what that means. And now, my friends, that being over, why shall not we come together? Oh, we have come together.
The demonstration in Louisville tells the whole story. I need not shout myself hoarse before this great audience in making a speech about the happiness and peace that we are now enjoying in all sections of the Union. This demonstration has made the speech of the occasion—nothing can be added to it. I think we can confidently look forward to the fraternal union on the basis of the Constitution as it now is, with all the amendments.
My friends, my Confederate friends, do you intend to obey the whole Constitution and amendments? I thought you would. I believe you will, and that removes the last cause of dissension between us. I look forward happily to the realization of the bright vision of a popular English author when he said: “I see a vast Confederacy stretching from the frozen North to the glowing South, from the white billows of the Atlantic to the calm waters of the Pacific main, that would contain one people, one language and one faith, and everywhere a home for freemen and a refuge of every race and of every climb to come together.”
Fellow citizens, having now got out of my difficulty, I propose to help some gentlemen in their difficulty. They were told up in New England that the duty of the President is to preside, and, with the permission of the Mayor, I propose to preside here in Louisville, and I think it not improper that you should hear several of the Cabinet, and I will now introduce to you a distinguished lawyer and a distinguished statesman—Wm. M. Evarts, of New York.