Top of the Ladder

Impressed into Public Life—Speeches for Fremont—Student for Companion—Reply to Democratic Orator—Discussion with Hart— Offer to Send Him to the Legislature—Delivers Oration at Williams College—His Trip—Offer of the State Senatorship—Conference with Faculty and Trustees—Nomination, Speech, and Election—Taking His Seat—Cox and Munroe—Ranked High at Once—Hinsdale’s Estimate—Rise of Ten Years—Incipient Rebellion in ’61—His Courage, Ability, and Eloquence—Abjured “Peace Measures”—Advocated Fighting—War Inevitable—His Trumpet-call—Mission to Missouri—Organizing Regiments— Accepts Colonelcy—Made Brigadier-General—Made Major-General —Elected Representative to Congress—Elected United States Senator—His Speech—Hinsdale’s Remarks on—Highest Round of Ladder but One—Steps to the Top—Enthusiasm over His Nomination for President—His Election from Log-Cabin to White House

It was impossible for a public speaker of Garfield’s power to keep out of politics. In political campaigns the public demand his efforts; men will not take no for an answer. It was so with Garfield. He was impressed into the service by leading citizens of his county. In the autumn after his return to Hiram, before he hardly had time to become settled in his great work, his efforts on the platform were sought; and the new Republican party, on the anti-slavery basis, with its first candidate, John C. Fremont, a man of Garfield’s stamp in vigour, courage, and force of character, was exceedingly taking to him. Nobody had to tease him long for a speech. Often he went in the evening to make a speech, five, six, ten miles distant, returning after the address. Usually he took a student with him for company and improvement. As soon as they started he would open conversation, seldom upon the subject of his discourse, but upon some topic of real value to the student. Going and returning his conversation was continued without the least abatement.

Alphonso Hart, a stalwart Democrat of Ravenna, delivered a speech in Hiram, full of slavery and Democratic sophistries and errors. Garfield heard it, with many Republican citizens.

“Reply to it, Mr. Garfield,” appealed an influential citizen to him. “Floor him.”

“That can easily be done,” Garfield answered; “but is it wise?”

“It is always wise to refute error and wrong anywhere.”

“I confess that I should enjoy handling him without gloves for an hour.”

“Handle him, then,” urged the citizen. “It will do the Republican party a world of good.”

Other citizens put in their pleas for him to answer Hart.

“You are just the one to do it.”

“Everybody wants you should answer him.”

“It will make votes for Fremont.”

“Come now, do gratify the public desire.”

In this way garfield was beset with pleas to answer the Democratic orator; and he consented. The meeting was in the Disciples’ Church, and it was packed to its utmost capacity. Garfield’s reply was devoid of all bitterness, but was powerful with logic and facts. He hauled over the record of the Democratic party, with its endorsement of slavery with all its horrors, and he made that record appear black enough. The effort was both able and triumphant, and the fame of it rapidly spread throughout the county. Appeals for more speeches came in from all the region about, and finally a discussion was arranged between Garfield and Hart, to take place at Garrettsville on a given day. Crowds flocked to hear the debate. Garfield was in his element on that day, for he had posted himself thoroughly upon the history of the Democratic party, and the aims of its Southern leaders to make slavery national. His antagonist was completely discomfited in the discussion. He had counted without his host. He was floored. Garfield’s success

  By PanEris using Melati.

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