April 6, 1888
I warned the Senator from Massachusetts, who is sitting by my side, when I heard the President of the meeting speaking of impromptu speeches that he and I were I great danger. He said it was ‘bad enough to be called the day after you have made your regular speech, but still worse to be called on the day before.’
Naturally, I suppose the object of this is simply to make our friends acquainted with the strangers who have gathered to celebrate with them this interesting occasion. I do not happen to fall in that category, and I hardly need an introduction to the people in this hall. I think I spoke perhaps in the first meeting in this interest in this hall, and have been here frequently since. I am very glad to join with you in this Centennial celebration. It seems to me the event we celebrate is of a character that demands attention from all, and for which we have time enough. I believe in as many celebrations as we can give, and I hope to attend yet more of them.
Our friends east of the mountains begin with their Centennial in 1875; it is of a National character. Concord and Lexington and Bunker Hill were thus celebrated, and afterwards came the great celebration at Philadelphia in 1876. A single instance in connection with that, and I will allow some other gentleman the privilege of standing where I now stand.
The orator appointed for the Fourth of July, 1876, was a gentleman very well known throughout the country. His friends at the bar, his professional friends, professional brethren, were talking to him about the speech he was to make at Philadelphia. They said to him: ‘Well, we have been considering how long you will probably speak. We have been rather sympathizing with the audience that you are to have. We know that in the Beecher case you spoke—I am not sure of the number of days, but I think it was—eight days; and in the case of the impeachment of Andy Johnson you stretched it out to thirteen days. Now you have to speak for all the events of a hundred years. How long will it be?’
The gentleman replied: ‘Well, sir, I have been puzzled about that myself, and I have finally found a point at which my speech must end, and shall limit it to that.’
‘Ah, the idea of your limiting a speech; we suppose you never limited a speech.’
‘Oh, yes, I have limited myself on this occasion. I take it for granted that, as we celebrate the first century of the existence of our country, those to come after us will celebrate the second celebration. I must end my speech in time to let the man who succeeds me begin for the second century.’