Most of the rich men of this time were devoting their means to making Senators. The legislatures were manufacturing a new brand, and turning them out made to order. Many of us were surprised at how little timber, and what poor quality, was needed to make a Senator in 1881. The nation used to make them out of stout, tall oaks. Many of those new ones were made of willow, and others out of crooked sticks. In most cases the strong men defeated each other, and weak substitutes were put in. The forthcoming Congress was to be one of commonplace men. The strong men had to stay at home, and the accidents took their places in the government. Still there were leaders, North and South.
My old friend Senator Brown of Georgia was one of the leaders of the South. He spoke vehemently in Congress in the cause of education. Only a few months before he had given, out of his private purse, forty thousand dollars to a Baptist college. He was a man who talked and urged a hearty union of feeling between the North and the South. He always hoped to abolish sectional feeling by one grand movement for the financial, educational, and moral welfare of the Nation. It was my urgent wish that President Garfield should invite Senator Brown to a place in his Cabinet, although the Senator would probably have refused the honour, for there was no better place to serve the American people than in the American Senate.
During the first week in February, 1881, the world hovered over the death-bed of Thomas Carlyle. He was the great enemy of all sorts of cant, philosophical or religious. He was for half a century the great literary iconoclast. Daily bulletins of the sick-bed were published world-wide. There was no easy chair in his study, no soft divans. It was just a place to work, and to stay at work. I once saw a private letter, written by Carlyle to Thomas Chalmers. The first part of it was devoted to a eulogy of Chalmers, the latter part descriptive of his own religious doubts. He never wrote anything finer. It was beautiful, grand, glorious, melancholy.
Thomas Carlyle started with the idea that the intellect was all, the body nothing but an adjunct, an appendage. He would spur the intellect to costly energies, and send the body supperless to bed. After years of doubts and fears I learned that towards the end he returned to the simplicities of the Gospel.
While this great thinker of the whole of life was sinking into his last earthly sleep, the men in the parliament of his nation were squabbling about future ambitions. Thirty-five Irish members were forcibly ejected. Neither Beaconsfield nor Gladstone could solve the Irish question. Nor do I believe it will ever be solved to the satisfaction of Ireland. But a greater calamity than those came upon us; in the summer of this year President Garfield was assassinated in Washington.