While one is known by the company he keeps, it is equally true that one is known by the stories he tells. Mr. Blaine was one of the best story-tellers I ever met. His was a bright sunny nature with a witty, pointed story for every occasion.
Mr. Blaine’s address at Yorktown (I had accompanied him there) was greatly admired. It directed special attention to the cordial friendship which had grown up between the two branches of the English-speaking race, and ended with the hope that the prevailing peace and good-will between the two nations would exist for many centuries to come. When he read this to me, I remember that the word „many” jarred, and I said:
„Mr. Secretary, might I suggest the change of one word? I don’t like ‚many’; why not ‚all’ the centuries to come?”
„Good, that is perfect!”
And so it was given in the address: „for all the centuries to come.”
We had a beautiful night returning from Yorktown, and, sitting in the stern of the ship in the moonlight, the military band playing forward, we spoke of the effect of music. Mr. Blaine said that his favorite just then was the „Sweet By and By,” which he had heard played last by the same band at President Garfield’s funeral, and he thought upon that occasion he was more deeply moved by sweet sounds than he had ever been in his life. He requested that it should be the last piece played that night. Both he and Gladstone were fond of simple music. They could enjoy Beethoven and the classic masters, but Wagner was as yet a sealed book to them.
In answer to my inquiry as to the most successful speech he ever heard in Congress, he replied it was that of the German, ex-Governor Ritter of Pennsylvania. The first bill appropriating money for inland fresh waters was under consideration. The house was divided. Strict constructionists held this to be unconstitutional; only harbors upon the salt sea were under the Federal Government. The contest was keen and the result doubtful, when to the astonishment of the House, Governor Ritter slowly arose for the first time. Silence at once reigned. What was the old German ex-Governor going to say – he who had never said anything at all? Only this:
„Mr. Speaker, I don’t know much particulars about de constitution, but I know dis; I wouldn’t gif a d – – d cent for a constitution dat didn’t wash in fresh water as well as in salt.” The House burst into an uproar of uncontrollable laughter, and the bill passed.
So came about this new departure and one of the most beneficent ways of spending government money, and of employing army and navy engineers. Little of the money spent by the Government yields so great a return. So expands our flexible constitution to meet the new wants of an expanding population. Let who will make the constitution if we of to-day are permitted to interpret it.
Mr. Blaine’s best story, if one can be selected from so many that were excellent, I think was the following:
In the days of slavery and the underground railroads, there lived on the banks of the Ohio River near Gallipolis, a noted Democrat named Judge French, who said to some anti-slavery friends that he should like them to bring to his office the first runaway negro that crossed the river, bound northward by the underground. He couldn’t understand why they wished to run away. This was done, and the following conversation took place:
Judge: „So you have run away from Kentucky. Bad master, I suppose?”
Slave: „Oh, no, Judge; very good, kind massa.”
Judge: „He worked you too hard?”
Slave: „No, sah, never overworked myself all my life.”
Judge, hesitatingly: „He did not give you enough to eat?”
Slave: „Not enough to eat down in Kaintuck? Oh, Lor’, plenty to eat.”
Judge: „He did not clothe you well?”
Slave: „Good enough clothes for me, Judge.”
Judge: „You hadn’t a comfortable home?”
Slave: „Oh, Lor’, makes me cry to think of my pretty little cabin down dar in old Kaintuck.”
Judge, after a pause: „You had a good, kind master, you were not overworked, plenty to eat, good clothes, fine home. I don’t see why the devil you wished to run away.”
Slave: „Well, Judge, I lef de situation down dar open. You kin go rite down and git it.”
The Judge had seen a great light.
„Freedom has a thousand charms to show, That slaves, howe’er contented, never know.”
That the colored people in such numbers risked all for liberty is the best possible proof that they will steadily approach and finally reach the full stature of citizenship in the Republic.
I never saw Mr. Blaine so happy as while with us at Cluny. He was a boy again and we were a rollicking party together. He had never fished with a fly. I took him out on Loch Laggan and he began awkwardly, as all do, but he soon caught the swing. I shall never forget his first capture:
„My friend, you have taught me a new pleasure in life. There are a hundred fishing lochs in Maine, and I’ll spend my holidays in future upon them trout-fishing.”
At Cluny there is no night in June and we danced on the lawn in the bright twilight until late. Mrs. Blaine, Miss Dodge, Mr. Blaine, and other guests were trying to do the Scotch reel, and „whooping” like Highlanders. We were gay revelers during those two weeks. One night afterwards, at a dinner in our home in New York, chiefly made up of our Cluny visitors, Mr. Blaine told the company that he had discovered at Cluny what a real holiday was. „It is when the merest trifles become the most serious events of life.”
President Harrison’s nomination for the presidency in 1888 came to Mr. Blaine while on a coaching trip with us. Mr. and Mrs. Blaine, Miss Margaret Blaine, Senator and Mrs. Hale, Miss Dodge, and Walter Damrosch were on the coach with us from London to Cluny Castle. In approaching Linlithgow from Edinburgh, we found the provost and magistrates in their gorgeous robes at the hotel to receive us. I was with them when Mr. Blaine came into the room with a cablegram in his hand which he showed to me, asking what it meant. It read: „Use cipher.” It was from Senator Elkins at the Chicago Convention. Mr. Blaine had cabled the previous day, declining to accept the nomination for the presidency unless Secretary Sherman of Ohio agreed, and Senator Elkins no doubt wished to be certain that he was in correspondence with Mr. Blaine and not with some interloper.
I said to Mr. Blaine that the Senator had called to see me before sailing, and suggested we should have cipher words for the prominent candidates. I gave him a few and kept a copy upon a slip, which I put in my pocket-book. I looked and fortunately found it. Blaine was „Victor”; Harrison, „Trump”; Phelps of New Jersey, „Star”; and so on. I wired „Trump” and „Star.” This was in the evening.
[Footnote 76: „A code had been agreed upon between his friends in the United States and himself, and when a deadlock or a long contest seemed inevitable, the following dispatch was sent from Mr. Carnegie’s estate in Scotland, where Blaine was staying, to a prominent Republican leader:
„‚June 25. Too late victor immovable take trump and star.’ WHIP. Interpreted, it reads: ‚Too late. Blaine immovable. Take Harrison and Phelps. CARNEGIE.'” (James G. Blaine, by Edward Stanwood, p. 308. Boston, 1905.)]
We retired for the night, and next day the whole party was paraded by the city authorities in their robes up the main street to the palace grounds which were finely decorated with flags. Speeches of welcome were made and replied to. Mr. Blaine was called upon by the people, and responded in a short address. Just then a cablegram was handed to him: „Harrison and Morton nominated.” Phelps had declined. So passed forever Mr. Blaine’s chance of holding the highest of all political offices – the elected of the majority of the English-speaking race. But he was once fairly elected to the presidency and done out of New York State, as was at last clearly proven, the perpetrators having been punished for an attempted repetition of the same fraud at a subsequent election.
Mr. Blaine, as Secretary of State in Harrison’s Cabinet, was a decided success and the Pan-American Congress his most brilliant triumph. My only political appointment came at this time and was that of a United States delegate to the Congress. It gave me a most interesting view of the South American Republics and their various problems. We sat down together, representatives of all the republics but Brazil. One morning the announcement was made that a new constitution had been ratified. Brazil had become a member of the sisterhood, making seventeen republics in all – now twenty-one. There was great applause and cordial greeting of the representatives of Brazil thus suddenly elevated. I found the South American representatives rather suspicious of their big brother’s intentions. A sensitive spirit of independence was manifest, which it became our duty to recognize. In this I think we succeeded, but it will behoove subsequent governments to scrupulously respect the national feeling of our Southern neighbors. It is not control, but friendly coöperation upon terms of perfect equality we should seek.
I sat next to Manuel Quintana who afterwards became President of Argentina. He took a deep interest in the proceedings, and one day became rather critical upon a trifling issue, which led to an excited colloquy between him and Chairman Blaine. I believe it had its origin in a false translation from one language to another. I rose, slipped behind the chairman on the platform, whispering to him as I passed that if an adjournment was moved I was certain the differences could be adjusted. He nodded assent. I returned to my seat and moved adjournment, and during the interval all was satisfactorily arranged. Passing the delegates, as we were about to leave the hall, an incident occurred which comes back to me as I write. A delegate threw one arm around me and with the other hand patting me on the breast, exclaimed: „Mr. Carnegie, you have more here than here” – pointing to his pocket. Our Southern brethren are so lovingly demonstrative. Warm climes and warm hearts.
In 1891 President Harrison went with me from Washington to Pittsburgh, as I have already stated, to open the Carnegie Hall and Library, which I had presented to Allegheny City. We traveled over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad by daylight, and enjoyed the trip, the president being especially pleased with the scenery. Reaching Pittsburgh at dark, the flaming coke ovens and dense pillars of smoke and fire amazed him. The well-known description of Pittsburgh, seen from the hilltops, as „H – l with the lid off,” seemed to him most appropriate. He was the first President who ever visited Pittsburgh. President Harrison, his grandfather, had, however, passed from steamboat to canal-boat there, on his way to Washington after election.
The opening ceremony was largely attended owing to the presence of the President and all passed off well. Next morning the President wished to see our steel works, and he was escorted there, receiving a cordial welcome from the workmen. I called up each successive manager of department as we passed and presented him. Finally, when Mr. Schwab was presented, the President turned to me and said,
„How is this, Mr. Carnegie? You present only boys to me.”
„Yes, Mr. President, but do you notice what kind of boys they are?”
„Yes, hustlers, every one of them,” was his comment.
He was right. No such young men could have been found for such work elsewhere in this world. They had been promoted to partnership without cost or risk. If the profits did not pay for their shares, no responsibility remained upon the young men. A giving thus to „partners” is very different from paying wages to „employees” in corporations.
The President’s visit, not to Pittsburgh, but to Allegheny over the river, had one beneficial result. Members of the City Council of Pittsburgh reminded me that I had first offered Pittsburgh money for a library and hall, which it declined, and that then Allegheny City had asked if I would give them to her, which I did. The President visiting Allegheny to open the library and hall there, and the ignoring of Pittsburgh, was too much. Her authorities came to me again the morning after the Allegheny City opening, asking if I would renew my offer to Pittsburgh. If so, the city would accept and agree to expend upon maintenance a larger percentage than I had previously asked. I was only too happy to do this and, instead of two hundred and fifty thousand, I offered a million dollars. My ideas had expanded. Thus was started the Carnegie Institute.
Pittsburgh’s leading citizens are spending freely upon artistic things. This center of manufacturing has had its permanent orchestra for some years – Boston and Chicago being the only other cities in America that can boast of one. A naturalist club and a school of painting have sprung up. The success of Library, Art Gallery, Museum, and Music Hall – a noble quartet in an immense building – is one of the chief satisfactions of my life. This is my monument, because here I lived my early life and made my start, and I am to-day in heart a devoted son of dear old smoky Pittsburgh.
Herbert Spencer heard, while with us in Pittsburgh, some account of the rejection of my first offer of a library to Pittsburgh. When the second offer was made, he wrote me that he did not understand how I could renew it; he never could have done so; they did not deserve it. I wrote the philosopher that if I had made the first offer to Pittsburgh that I might receive her thanks and gratitude, I deserved the personal arrows shot at me and the accusations made that only my own glorification and a monument to my memory were sought. I should then probably have felt as he did. But, as it was the good of the people of Pittsburgh I had in view, among whom I had made my fortune, the unfounded suspicions of some natures only quickened my desire to work their good by planting in their midst a potent influence for higher things. This the Institute, thank the kind fates, has done. Pittsburgh has played her part nobly.