He told me once that in some of the back country towns of Pennsylvania it nearly killed him to lecture. “I go on for an hour,” he told me, “without hearing one response, and I have no way of knowing whether the people are instructed, pleased, or outraged.”
He enjoyed the tempestuous life. His other life was home. It was dominant in his appreciation. He owed much of his courage to that home. Lecturing in Boston once, during most agitated times, he received this note from his wife: “No shilly-shallying, Wendell, in the presence of this great public outrage.” Many men in public life owe their strength to this reservoir of power at home.
The last fifteen years of his life were devoted to the domestic invalidism of his home. Some men thought this was unjustifiable. But what exhaustion of home life had been given to establish his public career! A popular subscription was started to raise a monument in Boston to Wendell Phillips. I recommended that it should be built within sight of the monument erected to Daniel Webster. If there were ever two men who during their life had an appalling antagonism, they were Daniel Webster and Wendell Phillips. I hoped at that time their statues would be erected facing each other. Wendell Phillips was fortunate in his domestic tower of strength; still, I have known men whose domestic lives were painful in the extreme, and yet they arose above this deficiency to great personal prominence.
What is good for one man is not good for another. It is the same with State rights as it is with private rights. In ’83-’84, the whole country was agitated about the questions of tariff reform and free trade. Tariff reform for Pennsylvania, free trade for Kentucky. New England and the North-west had interests that would always be divergent. It was absurd to try and persuade the American people that what was good for one State was good for another State. Common intelligence showed how false this theory was. Until by some great change the manufacturing interests of the country should become national interests, co-operation and compromise in inter-state commerce was necessary. No one section of the country could have its own way. The most successful candidate for the Presidency at this time seemed to be the man who could most bewilder the public mind on these questions. Blessed in politics is the political fog!
The most significantly hopeful fact to me was that the three prominent candidates for Speakership at the close of 1883—Mr. Carlisle, Mr. Randall, and Mr. Cox—never had wine on their tables. We were, moreover, getting away from the old order of things, when senators were conspicuous in gambling houses. The world was advancing in a spiritual transit of events towards the close. It was time that it gave way to something even better. It had treated me gloriously, and I had no fault to find with it, but I had seen so many millions in hunger and pain, and wretchedness and woe that I felt this world needed either to be fixed up or destroyed.