August 15, 1888
Fort Wayne, Indiana
I hardly know, my good friends, how to begin a talk that shall be suitable on this interesting occasion. We are told that we are on historic ground. You understand very well also that the association whose meeting has gathered here to-day is engaged in historic work. The first century of the settlement of a new country is always a time for solid work. Very little is done by the pioneer in the way of writing history. He is engaged in the more sober and difficult work of making history. We are glad to know that there are assembled here today a very large number of the older people of this valley. We are very glad to be welcomed by a judge of the supreme court to the good state of Indiana. We are glad to be welcomed by your mayor to the beautiful and interesting city of Fort Wayne.
Enough has been said to indicate to you the very great changes that these older men and older women have witnessed in the last fifty or sixty years. Then, at the beginning, at a period within the recollection of the oldest people here, such a scene as this was simply impossible. I forget what that affair is called there. The flying Dutchman was not here then. I see on the edge of the crowd a bicycle. Imagine a bicycle here seventy years ago! And then the trains upon those eight railroads.
The change, my friends, is a wide one, and we are here to-day to talk about it, to enjoy it. We are welcomed here; we are very glad to be here. We are obliged to the committee and to our friends for their welcome that gives us an opportunity to enjoy with you an occasion chiefly important, perhaps, because it is an opportunity for young to come together again, all agreeing as to the general purpose and object of the assemblage. There are occasions enough on which we can come together to talk about our differences. We differ in religion, and, we have our different churches where we discuss the various questions that divide us into sects. We differ in politics, and we have occasions enough in which we can come together on those differences. But here we are, of all sects and perhaps of no sect, and of all parties—for it is hardly possible there is anybody in Indiana of no party. We have agreed to discuss the questions of to-day in entire good nature, and I am obliged to the committee for the honor their courtesy has done me. By their courtesy I am to assume the duties of presiding officer on this occasion. When I once began a talk of this sort in a rambling way, a friend at my side who knew that dinner was waiting and who was afraid that my remarks would be too protracted, got scared and said quietly, “Mr. President, the duty of a president is to preside and not to assist in making speeches.” And so I am here to-day with that duty incumbent on me.
And here I think you will indulge me for a moment in something a little more carefully prepared. As I am here to take place of the president of this association, the late chief justice of the United States, Chief Justice Waite, may I speak of him a little more carefully for a moment—perhaps the most distinguished civilian that has ever resided in the valley of the Maumee? The death since the last annual meeting of this society, of its distinguished head, its most widely known and best beloved member, may well lead us to pause in the proceedings of the hour, while we consider some of the facts, very briefly, in the character and career of the good friend we have lost.
We have with us on this stand our friend Mr. Young, of Toledo, who took the young lawyer in as a partner, in Maumee City, almost fifty years ago. He learned to love him then, and he loves him now, and he weeps over him as he thinks of him.
And this is the sort of men that can be found in the Maumee valley. I fear that in these excellent schools of ours they neglect to give the history that is nearer at home. We know all about what has happened in the holy land, in Palestine, and it is taught, and we get a glimpse of the heroes and their history; and it is all right that we should, for from that land came the religion that blesses us all. We also know the great battle that were fought, the battles that saved Greece, and the names of the heroes that fought them. And Rome—we know all about that, and we are taught it. But can we call up a class that shall tell us the history of Fort Wayne and the men that were here? My friends, one of the objects of this association is so to call attention to what has here been done in the past, and to the great names and early history and the actions and deeds of those that had not great names—for the great work at last is done by the plain men and the plain women that endure the hardships and encounter the dangers required to settle, to rescue, to bring up to civilization, a country like this.
Let us see to it as one of the lessons of this occasion, that we shall know all about Anthony Wayne, There is not a greater character in Grecian or Roman or Jewish history, or one that surpasses him in all that ennobles and graces heroic character. My young school friend, my boy, do you know about Stony Point, how on that dark night on the Hudson he told his men to take their flints out, to fix their bayonets, to have no ball or powder in their muskets, to form to go up into that fort and meet the leaden hail and take [?] the fort from the British? Washington, when he gave him his plan, said to him, “Can you take the fort?” Mad Anthony turned to him and said, “General, if you will fix the plan I will assault and carry hell itself.” That was the manner of man he was. And yet in addition he could plan; it was not all dash and courage; there was prudence and care. When he marched all the way from down near Cincinnati, watched at every step by the spies of the Indians that dogged him, they reported that there was no chance to surprise Anthony Wayne. Not merely like the weasel, with one eye open; the Indian said that the “White Eagle” slept with both eyes open, and there was no chance to surprise or catch him. I think of him always since I have known the latter hero, as like the man whose departure the other day fills with sadness the heart of every man who wears the button. I think that Mad Anthony was the Sheridan of the war of independence, fit to command a corps or a division under the direction of another, but more than that, with the intellect and judgment and caution mingled with his other high qualities which fitted him to be the commander of an army.
My friends, this society is called a monumental society. Should there not be monuments to such men as I have named? Chief Justice Waite should have—may I not say, Toledo friends, that he will have one? In the court house square in Toledo due time a portrait statue will remind the young lawyers how honesty and heart are compatible with the highest excellence in jurisprudence. And as for Wayne, how can Fort Wayne in its beautiful park, fail to have the likeness of that hero whose name the city bears? And Gen. William H. Harrison, the hero of Fort Meigs. But I must stop with these names. The whole valet, from its head to its mouth, from the forks of the St. Mary’s and the St. Joseph down to the harbor of the great city is packed full of facts and associations that make it interesting; and the interesting fact that we are called here to-day to consider is that every one of these places lie unmarked; the remains of soldiers borne upon the rolls of their country who died in their country’s service unmarked and unknown. Wisely, patriotically, well done is all that has been done by our country to mark the graves of the men who fell in the war for liberty and union, in our sixty or more beautiful cemeteries. It is right that they should be remembered; but, my friends, we who are connected in one way or another with the men who settled this valley can but recall with more or less sadness the face that the men who fought at Fort Wayne or near it, at Fort Meigs, at Standing rock or at the battle of Fallen Timber, have not been treated as the men who fought in ’61 and ’65 have been treated. Let a just government remember that when a man comes up and signs the roll and takes the oath he gives his life if necessary to save his country. Let it be understood that that country and its government are always ready to care for him and his, while he lives and to mark suitably the place that contains his remains when he dies.