This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two here.
I have felt a little uncomfortable when I have read in the catalogue of your university and in the newspapers that I was to give you lectures. I am sure I shall do nothing that deserves that name. You have lectures enough to satisfy your craving. Besides, I have never intentionally delivered a lecture in my life. I am with you on the other side of the question, for I doubt if any man was ever more belabored than I have been for the last seventeen years with lectures. This mild term does not suffice, for sometimes it has seemed to me that a large section of the American people regard high public office as a sort of pillory of honor where it is worth their while to put a man for the sake of enjoying the abuse of him afterwards. A larger part of our people, more decently disposed, are benevolently willing to put at the service of a public officer all their knowledge of statecraft and to advise him in any real or imaginary emergency. It is only after their advice is disregarded that they set about the task of demonstrating that the popular choice has been a sad mistake, and that an abundance of excellent material for public place has been overlooked. It is safe to say that after every presidential election the fact is developed that in our newspaper establishments alone there are thousands who have been thus neglected.
I shall hope to fulfill my engagements with you by a brief comment upon the office of President of the United States, and by recalling some incidents of a public nature made familiar to me by my incumbency of that office.
When our original thirteen States, actuated by “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind,” presented to the world the causes which impelled them to separate from the mother country, and to cast off all allegiance to the Crown of England, they gave prominence to the declaration that “the history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States.” This was followed by an indictment containing not less than eighteen counts or accusations, all leveled at the King and the King alone. These were closed or clinched by this asseveration: “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” In this arraignment the English Parliament was barely mentioned, and then only as “others,” with whom the King had conspired by “giving his assent to their act of pretended legislation,” thus lending operative force to some of the outrages which had been put upon them.