Mark Twain: Funeral Oration on the Democratic Party

Mark Twain Speaking

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His Funeral Oration on the Democratic Party.

During the Republican jollification meeting election night in the Opera House, Hartford, Conn., which was filled to overflowing, Mark Twain was called upon for a speech, and delivered what he termed a funeral oration over the Democratic party. Coming as it did immediately after an address by two clergymen, and beginning in a rather lugubrious way, the assemblage did not at first know how to receive it. As the speaker went on, however, the queer political hit began to be appreciated. Almost every sentence was greeted with roars of laughter. Following is the address:

There are occasions which are so solemn, so weighted with the deep concerns of life, that then even the licensed jester must lay aside his cap and bells, and remember that he is a man, and mortal; that even his light, butterfly career of folly has its serious seasons, and he can not flee them or ignore them. Such a time, my friends, is this, for we are in the near presence of one who


one whom we have known long and well, but shall know no more forever. About the couch of him who lies stricken are gathered those who hold him dear, and who await the incoming of a great sorrow. His breathing is faint, and grows fainter; his voice is become a whisper; his pulses scarcely record the languishing ebb and flow of the wasted current of his life; his lips are pallid, and the froth of dissolution gathers upon them; his face is drawn; his cheeks are sunken; the roses are gone from them and ashes are in their place; his form is still; his feet are ice; his eyes are vacant; beaded sweat is on his brow; he picks at the coverlet with unconscious fingers; he “babbles o’ green fields;” death’s rattle is in his throat; his time is at hand. Every breeze that comes to us out of the distances, near and far, and from every segment of the wide horizon, is heavy with a voice mourning for sorrow accomplished, and the burden of the mourning is, “The aged and stricken Democratic party is dying;” and the burden of the lament will be, “The mighty is fallen; the Democratic party is dead.” And who and what is he that is dying and will presently be dead? A foot sore political wanderer, a honorary political tramp, an itinerant poor actor familiar with many disguises.


In the North he played “Protection” and “Hard Money.” In the West he played “Protection,” “Free Trade,” “Hard Money,” and “Soft Money,” changing disguises and parts according to the exigencies of the occasion. In the South he played “Tariff for Revenue.” In the North and West he played “The Apostle of Freedom.” In the South he played “The Assassin of Freedom,” and mouthed the sacred shibboleths of liberty with cruel and bloody lies. His latest and final appearance upon the nation’s stage was in the new piece entitled


in which he was assisted by the whole strength of the company. It was a poor piece. It was indifferently played; so it failed, and he was hissed and abused by the audience. But he lies low now, and blame and praise are to him alike. The charitable will spare the one, the judicious will reserve the other. O, friends! this is not a time for jest and levity, but a time for bended forms and uncovered heads, for we stand in the near presence of majestic death; a momentous and memorable death; a grisly and awful death. For it is a death from which there is no resurrection. Heaven bless us, one and all! Heaven temper the blow to the afflicted family. Heaven grant them a change of heart and a better life!

The Athens Messenger (Athens, Ohio) Nov 11, 1880

Cheap Labor (Image from


In the opinion of the editor of the Review “a lie well stuck to is as good as the truth,” albeit he complained early in the campaign that he could not induce Republicans to “discuss the issues in a spirit of fairness.” From the very first of the campaign there has been no lie too outrageous for the [Review] to print — no insinuation too mean for its columns, provided it promised to assist the Democratic party. Every one of these campaign lies has been exposed and exploded. Yet the Review has never taken the time to correct the false impressions it sought to make, but as soon as the foundation was knocked from under one lie it was busy hunting up a fresh one to take the place of its worn out slush. Its latest effort in this direction is the Chinese letter which has been attributed to Gen. Garfield. In its issue of this morning are the following items based upon this now notorious forgery:

Garfield is the friend of monopolies; he is the enemy of working men as shown by his Chinese letter.

Garfield is in favor of cheap labor. Well he was pretty cheap himself, doing what he did for $329.

Garfield wants more than 329 Chinese brought to this country to cheapen labor in the interest of great monopolies.

Every Chinese washer-man that now fails to hang out a shirt for a Garfield flag, will be regarded as an enemy to his race.

Bring on your Chinese says the Sage of Mentor. Let us have cheap American labor in the interests of the great manufacturing and carrying interests.

If the workingman can vote for Garfield after his cheap Chinese letter, they should forever after hold their peace when hard times oppress and their families are in want.
How do our workingmen like the idea of having a man for President who is in favor of crushing our labor by Chinese who are not willing to leave their bones in this country when they die.

Now, when the editor of the Review penned those squibs he was well aware that the letter had been pronounced a forgery by Gen. Garfield himself. The Chicago Times of yesterday contained the following editorial paragraph:

The democratic literary bureau is now crowded with orders for weapons, to be used in protecting the vote of the laboring classes, for which the republicans are fighting vigorously and with considerable prospect of success. But it is only in the hands of men “entirely great” that the pen is mightier than the sword, and a dispatch from the Boston correspondent of THE TIMES indicates that the author of the alleged letter of Gen. Garfield, on the Chinese question, was only partially great; that is, he was great as an imitator of the republican candidate’s penmanship, but very far from being great in his familiarity with the Lynn directory. This letter was alleged to have been written to H.L. Morey, a member of the Employers’ union in Lynn, Mass. A dispatch from Boston announces that no such man as H.L. Morey has been known in Lynn, and that no such organization as the Employers’ union ever existed there. This is a sad blow to the bureau. With a view to discourage correspondence with Mr. Morey in regard to this letter, it was announced that he had gone the way of all the earth, and that this letter was found among his private papers after his decease. The ingenuity of this is creditable to the bureau, but its failure to address the letter to some one who had resided in Lynn, and who had been a member of some organization known there, shows that the bureau is not yet what it ought to be. It is said that countless copies of this letter have been printed for distribution where they would do the most good. But while this proves the zeal of the bureau, it also proves that that zeal is not according to knowledge, for it would have been much more judicious to keep the thing quiet till Nov. 1, and then cover all the dead walls in the United States with copies of the letter in circus poster type.

General Garfield’s denial of this letter appears to be pretty thoroughly corroborated.

The following is the special dispatch referred to, which also appeared in the Times of yesterday:

BOSTON, Oct. 21. — The city of Lynn has been scoured by reporters to-day, in order to  ascertain who “H.L. Morey” is to whom Gen. Garfield is alleged to have written a letter indorsing cheap labor. In the first place, no “Employers’ union” was ever known or ever heard of in Lynn. The manufacturers informally got together during the strike in 1878, for the purpose of protecting themselves against the board of arbitration. There was no such organization as an “Employers’ union” even then. These “manufacturers” concluded all the business, and settled up their bills immediately after the labor troubles had ceased, which was in March, 1878. No meetings of the “manufacturers” have been held since that time and there has not been any for of employers’ union; so, it would appear that the mysterious “H.L. Morey” could not be secretary of an Employers’ Union in Lynn, in January, 1880. The man who paid the clerk hire of the manufacturers in 1877 and 1878, says there was no such man employed by the manufacturers. It was telegraphed from New York to Boston that the man Morey was employed by Jerome Ingalls at one time during the strike, but Mr. Ingalls never heard of such a man.

The Review man, however, is not as fair as the Chicago Times, notwithstanding the general reputation of the latter, and he says not a word about the futile efforts made to find the alleged receiver of the letter or the organization he is said to represent. The “spirit of fairness” in which our neighbor wanted to discuss the issues of the campaign is well exemplified in this instance, which is on a par which the spirit that has characterized his course during the whole canvass. He has dealt in misrepresentation, abuse, mean insinuations and barefaced falsehood, and has never yet had the manliness or fairness to correct a single one of them when the proof became too strong to make its use longer profitable. But it will avail nothing; “the American people are not a fool.”

Decatur Daily Republican (Decatur, Illinois) Oct 23, 1880

The “Rag Baby” a Healthy Child.

Some of our Democratic contemporaries refuse to believe that the rag baby is dead, and they seem really to have had some affection for the melancholy infant. We assure them, however, that it is dead, very dead, in fact. Please now let the funeral go on. — Columbus Democrat.

The “rag baby,” (so called, by Republicans and hard money Democrats aping Republicans,) is the GREENBACK. Now, we know that the greenback is not dead by a long shot. It survives in spite of its opponents, because the people have willed that it shall be a part of the currency of the country. Hard-money Democrats and Republicans may rejoice at what they call “the death of the rag baby.” As the rag baby languishes so does Democratic majorities languish in Franklin county and the State. But the baby will be a full grown man in a few years, and then the hard money lunatics will claim that they helped to raise it, and always were its friends. Bosh!

The Ohio Democrat (New Philadelphia, Ohio) Oct 30, 1879

HANCOCK wears a pair of free trade boots, protection trousers, a tariff for revenue only vest, hard money stockings, and a fiat money hat. Now, if he will don a Confed. gray coat “all buttoned down before” to hid his Union sword, he will be a walking epitome of his interesting series of extraordinary letters.

Decatur Daily Republican (Decatur, Illinois) >\Oct 27, 1880

Workingmen and the Tariff.

The feeling of the workingmen of Cleveland was shown by the following mottoes at a late republican torchlight procession:

“‘Tariff for revenue only,’ means British free trade.”

“British free trade mean pauperism to American workingmen.”

“A protective tariff has built up American industry; we want no change.”

“No competition with foreign pauper labor.”

“Charity begins at home.”

“We shall not submit to the nonsense of a revenue tariff and low wages.”

“Protection and good clothes; free trade and rags.”

“Under protection Cleveland will become the rival of Birmingham.”

“Do not steal our bread by striking down the steel works with a low protective tariff.”

“Letthe South establish mills and shops and stop yelling free trade.”

“No low wages tariff for the benefit of England.”

“Protection, prosperity, peace and plenty.”

“Protective tariff and plenty of work.”

“We are now having plenty of work and good wages. No low revenue tariff for us.”

“No pauper wages for us.”

“A protective tariff enables us to own our own homes.”

The Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, Massachusetts) Sep 28, 1880


The manufacturing interests of the country have taken alarm at that “tariff for revenue only” in the Democratic platform. A “tariff for revenue only” suits the Solid South, where there is no manufacturing to speak of. The South wants to see internal revenue taxes taken off whiskey and tobacco, and the importation of foreign goods encouraged in order to derive a large revenue from imports. There are many hundreds of millions of dollars invested in manufactures in the North. Should the Democrats get in power and at once break down the protective system, immense manufacturing interests would be paralyzed, and hundreds of thousands of operatives thrown out of employment. The triumph of the Democratic ticket next month means a return to hard times.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Oct 8, 1880

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