March 8, 1881

Fremont, Ohio


This hearty welcome to my home, is, I assure you, very gratifying.  During the last five or six years I have been absent from my home in the public service.  More than a year I was with my family at Columbus, and for four years past I have resided in Washington.  Columbus, you all know, is a beautiful, homelike and most agreeable city.  The attractions and advantages of Washington as a residence city, you do not, perhaps, so well understand.  It is becoming every day more interesting, and is now generally regarded as altogether worthy to be the seat of government of this great republic.  Its chief interest and charms, no doubt, are in the fact that it is the national capital; but in addition to this, it has many important, and perhaps, unrivalled titles to the attention of those who are looking for the most attractive residence city of our country.  It possesses a mild and healthful climate, bright skies, noble site, and a very large number of social and intellectual advantages.  My family and I have none but the friendliest sentiments and words for the cities of our late official residence, Columbus and Washington, but with local attachments perhaps unusually strong, it is quite sage to say that never for one moment have any of us wavered in our desire and purpose to return and make our permanent home in the old place at Spiegel Grove, in this good town of Fremont.


Agreeable as our life has been in the cities I have named, we return to the old home with the greatest satisfaction.  It strikes me that this is a good place to find an answer to the question, which is often heard.  It is asked, “What is to become of the man, what is he to do, where is his place, who, having been Chief Magistrate of the Republic, retires at the end of his term, to private life?”  It seems to me the answer is near at hand and sufficient.  Let him be like every other good American citizen, willing promptly to bear his part in every useful work that will promote the welfare, the happiness and the progress of his family, his town, his State and his country.  With this disposition he will have work enough to do, and that sort of work which yields more individual contentment and gratification than the more conspicuous employments of public life from which he has retired.  We all recognize, in a general way, that our institutions rest upon the character of the private citizen.  What the people are, our Government will be.  If the people are intelligent, virtuous, and have the viligance of patriotism, the Government will be pure, wise, and just.  There may be occasional exceptions to this, but in the long run the character of a free Government and the character of its citizens will be the same—character is formed at home.  The family and the home are the unit and the foundation of our free society, of our American civilization.  With our homes what they can be, what they should be, and what, happily for our country, they usually are, places sacred to the cultivation of the virtues which make homes and families happy, our whole people will be reared up to such a character that our institutions will securely stand on the only safe foundation for free Government, intelligence, morality and religion.


I prefer not to speak of the Administration which has just closed; its good and its evil are before my countrymen.  No explanation of mine can materially change their judgment as to its place in history.  I will say only these few things: It has been from the beginning to the end of my term, my earnest desire and purpose to so do my duty that every section of our country, and all descriptions of our people, would have the benefit of an honest, liberal, patriotic and just administration of the General Government.  If in any marked degree my administration has been blessed with success, it is largely due to the able statesmen to whom have been confided the great departments of the Government, and who have been the official counsellors of the President.


I am happy to know that this welcome is in no sense partisan.  It is one of the agreeable features of the occasion that all parties are here represented.  Something of the same good fortune has followed me throughout my Administration.  In Congress and among the people, from the South as well as the North, I have received encouragement and support from men whose political affiliations were opposed to my own.  For all this I am, and forever shall be profoundly grateful.  The close of my administration finds our country at peace, and the people prosperous and happy.  I do not overrate the importance of the government in human affairs.  I agree with Edmund Burke as to the value of those blessings of Providence, the seed time and the harvest, and yet all eyes are now turned to the new Administration, which has just assumed the responsibilities of the National Government.  To those present who agree with its principles and have confidence in its head and all his advisors, as I have, I would say let us give it a hearty and generous support.  To those who would not have chosen the new Administration let me say, imitate your gallant and patriotic leader, General Hancock, who, by his presence and cordiality at all the ceremonies of the inauguration, said to his fellow-citizens: Let us give to President Garfield a fair hearing and fair play.


In conclusion, my fellow-citizens, I thank you for this friendly greeting; and am glad to take again among you the place of a private citizen in the town of Fremont.