September 7, 1878
Minneapolis, Minnesota

My friends: Mr. Lincoln, on some occasions when he was required, or when it was proper that he should address an audience largely composed of ladies, spoke of his embarrassment in undertaking to do it. I have never been skilled in the language of compliment to ladies, and I feel somewhat as he must have felt in attempting to make my acknowledgment to those to whom I am indebted for the gratification of being with you today. I am not skilled. I have not studied the language of mere acknowledgment and thanks upon occasions like this. It occurred to me, coming as I was to the Northwest to attend the agricultural and mechanical fairs, to meet people who were mainly engaged in considering their material interests, that I might perhaps say a word or two that would be interesting on the subject of the prospect of business and a return to better times, and accordingly I gathered together a few facts and a few figures, which I intended to use and repeat at each of the places in which I was called upon to address an assembly, leaving it to the moment to say such other things as might seem proper to say when called upon on occasions like this; and here let me say this, that sincerely and heartily I thank the Governor of Minnesota and the Mayor of the City of Minneapolis and the President and officers of this association for the very friendly way in which they have greeted me, and I thank this whole audience for the heartiness with which they have received sentiments, some of which, doubtless, they do not altogether agree with. It is one of the fortunate things in American public life that whatever may be said currently in the angry discussion of political strife, that, after all, the American people of all parties seem to have sagacity in discovering at last what manner of man it is that they are talking about and thinking about; and though he may make ever so many mistakes, if upon the whole they that believe he is honest and patriotic, and means well, they will treat him as you treat me.

Of course we all know, everybody in the United States that knows anything, knows a good deal, and a good deal that is good and pleasant, about the City of Minneapolis. We know of your energy, your rapid growth, your prospects, and what you are doing today. Passing around your city, viewing your beautiful homes, viewing also its wonderful manufacturing establishments, so extensive, so well fitted to take hold of raw material which we have seen growing in the colossal wheat fields of the Northwest; passing through these we realize how it is that one column of figures that I have repeated, and I propose to repeat until I get back to Washington, how it is that column of figures stands so favorably to the United States as it does. I refer, as you will naturally conjecture, to the comparison between what we send abroad and what we receive from abroad; and that column of figures tells me that last year we sent to Europe of agricultural products, breadstuffs and provisions, largely more than ever before, and the opposite fact is equally encouraging; and that is what my wife and your wife, and your boys have been seized with a fit of economy, and are buying less of the nonsense. They take more abroad than ever before; and so the result is that in this period of hard times, when we need encouragement, we are having a trade more honorable than was ever known. Our exports exceed our imports by $257,000,000. In the three years before the panic our exports were less than our imports by an average of about $1,000,000,000 a year. Well, now everybody understands there is a great deal of discussion among political economists about this balance of trade, and gentlemen will that it is not so important as many are disposed to consider, but it is a great comfort to know that $257,000,000 are on our side. For at the last the balance must be paid in cash this way, and hence it happens that I read in the morning paper of today that we are a quarter of a cent nearer specie payment than we have been since we suspended.

Now, if we go over the whole list of important statistics in reference to public affairs, for thirteen years there has been good improvement, and although there have not been prosperous times throughout the country, the fact that this improvement is going on and on in regard to the burdens which the people bear is fair averaging for the future prospects of every man's daily business.

go to top of page