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About The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902 | View Entire Issue (May 29, 1902)
THE HIGHEST TRIBUTE.
The air was heavy with the breath
Of flowers at his bier ,
And hosts of men bent o'er his face
And saw , with starting tear ,
The peaceful look of one whom death
Had called from noble life ;
And sad farewells were murmured there.
The great world sent from out its strife ,
Above its din of toil ,
Its loud laments , and Honor's voice
Rang out for him who lived
With honor as his choice.
But deepest tribute came from souls
Whoso sorrow like a pall
Fell o'er their hearts and left them lone
In desolation's thrall.
Their sunlight gone , they mourned the loss
Of one , who knowing grief ,
Brought tender sympathy , with gifts
Of pity and relief ;
From sighs of youthful lips who missed
The guiding voice that led
Their untried feet to seek the paths
That honor bids us tread ;
From childish sobs for one whose words
And smile with mirth would blend ;
There came this tribute to his bier ,
"This man , here sleeping , was my friend. "
Mary French Morton.
From William Eleroy Curtis , Washington.
To say that a man has not an
enemy in the world is commonly con
sidered the highest form of eulogy.
But that cannot be said of Sterling
Morton. I never knew a man in
public life who had so many positive
enemies , and contrary to the usual
disposition of mankind , it was a
source of profound gratification to
him. I never knew any other public
man who deliberately provoked hos
tility as he did , and who declined
the friendship and support of persons
in whom he had no confidence. He
hated humbugs ; he abhorred liypo-
crits ; and his rigid code of morals
prohibited compromise with wrong.
He was not always right. His in
stincts were generally accurate ,
when truth or justice were in ques
tion , but ho had certain deep-rooted
prejudices which could not bo over
come. Otherwise he was just.
He loved a controversy. Nothing
could restrain him from attacking
every wrong he discovered , from exposing -
posing fraud , and denouncing falla
cies. For that reason demagogs
avoided him , hypocrits and Pharisees
were careful not to excite his at
tention , and impostors turned the
corner when they saw him coming
down the street.
Mr. Morton used to enjoy the at
tacks that were made upon him.
When ho found a political speech or
newspaper article that was particu
larly abusive he used to cut it out ,
carry it around in his pocketbook and
read it to his friends. Some of the
editorials which have appeared in
Nebraska newspapers that were op
posed to Ins political views and
methods gave him great satisfaction.
Ho would chuckle to himself as ho
read them , and often quoted a favor
ite expression of a Methodist preacher
lie had known in his early days :
"When the Devil abuses mo I know I
in . ' '
am growing grace.
His opinions upon all subjects of
current interest were positive and
pronounced. Ho could not have con
cealed them had lie cared to do so.
His nature was absolutely transpar
ent , and ho was so candid and so truth
ful that he considered evasion to bo
more contemptible than falsehood be
cause it was cowardly. He was al
ways willing to be measured by the
same scale that ho applied to other
Judged from the conventional point
of view ho was a poor politician , for
ho would rather be right than be
popular. His friends often said to
him "You cannot afford to do such
and sucli a thing. You will get
those people down on you. ' ' He
would reply : "I can't afford not to
do it. I want to got them down on
me. If I thought that sort of people
would approve my conduct I would
quit and go home. ' '
But his enemies respected him. If
his own life had not been so clean ,
so honest , so free from selfish motives
and personal interests , he could not
have survived their assaults. He
wore an armor that could not be
pierced , and the more frequently he
was attacked the higher he stood in
the estimation of honorable men.
I once asked him his definition of
success in life. He was fond of mak
ing epigrams , and answered :
"To be a hero to one's valot. "
"I should feel that my life was a
failure , " he continued , "if I did not
have the confidence of my sons , my
servants and my neighbors. If you
once get that and keep it , the rest of
the world will find you out after
a while. A man's success in life can
not be measured by the diameter of
the orbit in which he moves. The
humblest men are often the most use
ful. We sometimes mistake influence
for success , and with bad men the
wider the influence the greater the
failure in life. ' '
From E. P. Ripley , Chicago.
My first meeting with J. Sterling
Morton was in 1877 when I was living
in Boston. Coming with a letter of in
troduction I invited him to spend Sun
day at my home. In the afternoon lie
retired to his room and in the evening
he told us that he had been "writing to
his boys. " Conversation following
about his boys , he at last read to us the
letter. It was written in the style
which has since become so familiar and
both the manner and the matter made
an impression on ino that I have felt
over since. I remember thinking that
the sous of such a father would start in
life with great advantages , and close as
sociation with them for many years con
firms the opinion then formed. In the
26 years elapsed since that meeting I
saw Mr. Morton often , both socially and
otherwise. Quo particular evening I
remember , when we were both guests
of the late Wirt Dexter , and I was a de
lighted listener to their post-prandial
wit and anecdote. To boar witness to
his uprit 'ess , his forceful mentality ,
his indep * . oe , his unique literary
style , is only to repeat what will be bet
ter said by others , but to me his pre
dominant quality seemed to be that of
' 'level-headedness" of complete men
tal sanity. Slow in physical movement ,
even to a suggestion of indolence , his
mind was ever alert and his perceptions
acute. His powers were never prosti
tuted to unworthy ends and he served
his fellow citizens , both in large mat
ters and small , conscientiously and not
for personal profit. He leaves a precious
legacy to his sons in his history and his
reputation ; to his countrymen he leaves
of the citizen
an example public-spirited
zen and statesman , and to all who
realize the importance of his efforts to
arouse interest in the reforesting of our
country , his name stands out as one who
started a great work in a wise way. His
memory is worthy of all honor.
From Erskine M. Phelps Chicago.
It has been niy good fortune to know
J. Sterling Morton intimately for more
than a quarter of a century. We were
politically associated with such men as
Secretary Bayard , Mr. Pendleton , Sen
ator McDonald , Vioe-President Hen-
drioks , Arthur Sewall , besides many
others. Above this bright galaxy of
statesmen he towered like a giant.
Strong in his convictions , he knew the
right and dared maintain it.
Grover Cleveland , with his keen
foresight , perceived that no man was
better fitted to take the office of Secre
tary of Agriculture than Mr. Morton ,
the man who had established Arbor
Day ; who , with his far-searching
thought for our country's good and pro
tection , saw that the only way to pre
vent the devastating floods was to plant
trees and restore the forests , whereby
his name has become immortal , richly
deserving a niche in the Hall of Fame.
To all of you who knew him in his
home life , it is needless for me to speak
of his family relations. Three of his
sons , whom I am proud to number
among my cherished friends , are living
in Chicago. Their loving relation to
their father was most touching , and his
comradeship with his sons was a beau
tiful example to all men. Friend after
friend departs. Who has not lost a
friend ? Alas , such a friend as our be
loved J. Sterling Morton we shall miss
and mourn as long as memory lasts.
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