October 9, 1878
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great gratification indeed to be so welcomed to the home of Madison. You have heard the beautiful address just delivered by the nearest surviving relative of Madison—a man whose name will be held in the grateful remembrance by the lovers of liberty and stable government as long as liberty and constitutional government exists on earth. Madison having so linked his name and memory with the best law—the Constitution—the world has ever known, his face is forever safe. He began the work of the formation of the Constitution, and in the convention he was a leading spirit, his wisdom and advice contributing to that result. After the Constitution was framed by the convention, it was for him to persuade the people to adopt it.
In the convention of Virginia there was a great struggle as to whether that Commonwealth should ratify the Constitution; and it was largely due to the respect and appreciation the people had for the character of Madison, and the influence of his counsels, that this question was carried in the Virginia convention.
He assisted in carrying the Constitution into effect as a member of Congress, as a member of the Cabinet, and as President of the United States.
After the close of his public life, no longer disturbed by party conflicts, he survived for many years, an interested spectator of passing events. Distinguished men of his time were glad of the opportunity to sit at his feet and hear his words of wisdom and patriotism.
In my remarks at Orange Court-House to-day, I called attention to an estimate of this country by Mr. Gladstone, which I do not think too high. It is contained in an article written by that distinguished statesman entitled, “Kin Beyond the Sea,” in which he says: “The American Constitution so far as I can see, is the most wonderful work ever struck off in a given time by the brain and purpose of man. It has had a century of trial under the pressure of exigencies caused by an expansion unexampled in point of rapidity and range; and its exemption from formal change, though no entire, has certainly proved the sagacity of the constructors and the stubborn strength of the fabric.”
We may all honor the name and honor of the man who did so much for the present and the future of our country. In view of this beautiful scene, the magnificent range of the Blue Ridge, this verdant lawn and hospitable mansion here at the home of Madison, we may surely say that, if the advice and patriotic purposes of this great man had been observed, we should have been saved from civil strife; and, as in the past, so in the future, there are no troubles that can arise in the administration of the affairs of our country that cannot be settled by a recurrence to the principles of Madison, principles which inculcate the submission of all section, States, communities, and citizens to the Constitution and law of the land.
The bottom and foundation principles on which Madison built will always afford us the mean as of adjusting all our difficulties. I, however, have no fears. Questions fraught with danger may recur, and we may sometimes be disposed to look on the gloomy side; but let us all hope that, with the model Constitution to guide us, the worst that can ever befall us is over. Nothing can be so dangerous as the events that have already transpired and the scenes through which we have already passed.
My fellow-citizens, the President has to aid him in the discharge of his official duties gentlemen called Cabinet Ministers. These gentlemen assist him in finding the way to escape from difficulties. Most fortunately for the President, he is permitted to put some small share of his troubles on somebody else, and the one that I put the most troubles on is the Secretary of the Interior. He has a sort of omnibus Department, and when I am in doubt what Department any matter of business belongs to, I send it to the Interior Department. The Secretary has charge of public lands, pension, Indians, and everything that nobody else has. I now present to you General Schurz, Secretary of the Interior.