Remarks at a Banquet.
(From the "Chicago Herald.")
Director General Davis took advantage of a momentary lull to speak in the following words:
Gentlemen: I do not propose to make a speech. I made one yesterday, but I notice here this evening representatives of all the nations of the earth, which presents a splendid scene, and I think those who have come from abroad, who are visitors to our city, and to assist in making a success of this great Exposition, among whom are the
320direct descendants of Columbus, should hear from the Governor of the great State of Illinois, and I therefore call upon Governor Altgeld.
At the conclusion of the remarks of Director General Davis, the air was filled with cries of "Altgeld," and as the Governor arose to respond the applause was tremendous. He said:
Mr. President, Marquis and Gentlemen:
I understood the President to say that there were to be no more speeches and that you were to have a good time. Just why he should want to change the programme and rob you of a good time, is more than I can comprehend. If I must say a word, gentlemen, here in Illinois — and especially in Chicago — we admire nerve; we admire lofty purpose and inflexible resolution. During the last quarter of a century and more the American people have witnessed some magnificent examples in this line — in warfare and in civic achievement. In the building of our great enterprise we imagine we have shown a degree of nerve, courage, of lofty purpose that is rarely witnessed.
If you will permit me to go back four hundred years, I will call your attention to a young man who, so far as I know, did not wear a big shirt or a swallow-tail coat — was not a leader in the fashions of his day. He was a sailor, and he was familiar with the art and the dangers incident to sailing. He did not attend banquets, so far as I can learn; but he spent his time pondering over charts, and came to the conclusion that he could discover a new route to India. He tried to get the men of commerce to help him, but they pronounced his scheme impracticable; he tried to get the men of authority to help him, and they pronounced him a crank; he tried to get the scientific men to help him, and they told him it was impossible — the earth was flat and he could not go that way. When all of his resources failed, he applied to a high-minded, spirited woman, and he succeeded.
He started out in three little vessels, in none of which you or I would care to venture a hundred miles upon the Atlantic. He sailed weeks and weeks and weeks and there was no land. The rations ran low, the crew mutinied; but he was steadfast in his purpose. Finally they threatened to kill him, but he did not waver an instant. Reflect a moment! The wealthy people were against him; the scientific men were against him; the men in office were against him; the elements were against him, and it seemed as if the fates were against him; but he was immovable in the prow of that boat until he saw land — the most magnificent example of cool nerve, of inflexible purpose, ever witnessed upon earth. All had been defied — the very fates had been defied, and had been conquered.
He did not know what a great work he was doing — usually men do not; but he not only called the attention of the world to what a great woman can do — a fact which has again been exemplified in the building of the great white city by the lake here — but he destroyed the canons of navigation; for, at that time, it was contended that, at the point where the horizon dipped into the waters, there was the end. Not only that, he forced the creation of a new geography, and he laid the foundation of a new basis for fame and for civilization — a basis for fame of individual achievement.
There had been many conquerors in the world and great rulers, but they are forgotten. There have been many since his day, and they are forgotten; and yet, four hundred years after that magnificent achievement, the greatest nation upon earth delights to invite his descendants, and we delight to honor them. I say he laid a new foundation — for fame and for civilization, and that is individual achievement, and the coming centuries will no longer inquire, as they see the monuments erected in past times, over what country did this man rule and in what age did he reign? They will no longer inquire: What office did he hold? They will no longer inquire: Did he live in a palace, or did he sleep in a garret? Did he ride in a carriage, or did he walk? The question which coming ages are going to ask is: What did this man do for humanity?
And, gentlemen, the fame of rulers dies, but the fame of Christopher Columbus will grow brighter and brighter as the centuries roll by. When this great continent shall become covered with cities, and when it shall be peopled by an enlightened and enterprising people having the spirit of Columbus — that of individual achievement, that of cool nerve, of lofty purpose and of fierce determination, a people stretching from the North Pole to the South Pole — only then, gentlemen, will the world fully appreciate what Christopher Columbus has done.