Towards the end of November, 1886, one of the most distinguished sons of a Baptist preacher, Chester A. Arthur, died. He had arisen to the highest point of national honour, and preserved the simplicities of true character. When I was lecturing in Lexington, Kentucky, one summer, I remember with what cordiality he accosted me in a crowd.
“Are you here?” he said; “why, it makes me feel very much at home.”
Mr. Arthur aged fifteen years in the brief span of his administration. He was very tired. Almost his last words were, “Life is not worth living.” Our public men need sympathy, not criticism. Macaulay, after all his brilliant career in Parliament, after being world-renowned among all who could admire fine writing, wrote this:
“Every friendship which a man may have becomes precarious as soon as he engages in politics.”
Political life is a graveyard of broken hearts. Daniel Webster died of a broken heart at Marshfield. Under the highest monument in Kentucky lies Henry Clay, dead of a broken heart. So died Henry Wilson, at Natick, Mass.; William H. Seward at Auburn, N.Y.; Salmon P. Chase, in Cincinnati. So died Chester A. Arthur, honoured, but worried.
The election of Abram S. Hewitt as mayor of New York in 1886 restored the confidence of the best people. Behind him was a record absolutely beyond criticism, before him a great Christian opportunity. We made the mistake, however, of ignoring the great influence upon our civic prosperity of the business impulse of the West. We in New York and Brooklyn were a self-satisfied community, unmindful of our dependence upon the rest of the American continent. My Western trips were my recreation. An occasional lecture tour accomplished for me what yachting or baseball does for others. My congregation understood this, and never complained of my absence. They realised that all things for me turned into sermons. No man sufficiently appreciates his home unless sometimes he goes away from it. It made me realise what a number of splendid men and women there were in the world Man as a whole is a great success; woman, taking her all in all, is a great achievement, and the reason children die is because they are too lovely to stay out of paradise.
Three weeks in the West brought me back to Brooklyn supremely optimistic. There was more business in the markets than men could attend to. Times had changed. In Cincinnati once I was perplexed by the difference in clock time. They have city time and railroad time there. I asked a gentleman about it.
“Tell me, how many kinds of time have you here?” I asked. “Three kinds,” he replied, “city time, railroad time, and hard time.”
There was no “hard time” at the close of 1886. The small rate of interest we had been compelled to take for money had been a good thing. It had enlivened investments in building factories and starting great enterprises. The 2 per cent. per month interest was dead. The fact that a few small fish dared to swim through Wall Street, only to be gobbled up, did not stop the rising tide of national welfare. We were going ahead, gaining, profiting even by the lives of those who were leaving us behind.