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Full text of "Oration of Colonel Edward D. Baker, over the dead body of David C. Broderick, a senator of the United States, 18th September, 1859"

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18th SEPTEMBER, 1859 





JDavid 0. Broderick was shot in a duel on the 
thirteenth September^ 1859, and died three days 
thereafter^ on the sixteenth. The challenging party 
was JDavid 8, Terry , who five days prior to the 
meeting resigned his office as Chief-Justice of OaU- 
fomia — having then hut a few weeks to serve. 
The funeral service was held in the plaza of San 
FranciscOf on Sunday the eighteenth^ when Colonel 
Baher^ standing by the open coffin^ delivered the 
f (Mowing address. It was heard by a very large 
concourse of people and produced a great effect. 
It is now reprinted in the hope of preserving a 
worthy memorial of two eminent persons — Senator 
Broderick and Colonel JEdward D. Baker, some 
time Senator from Oregon, and an early victim of 
the causeless Bebellion. 

New York, 30^» Octobw, 1889. 

Citizens of Califoenia : A Senator lies dead in our 
midst. He is wrapped in a bloody shroud, and we to 
whom his toils and cares were given are about to bear 
him to the place appointed for all the Uving. It is not 
fit that such a man should pass to the tomb unheralded ; 
it is not fit that such a life should steal unnoticed to its 
close ; it is not fit that such a death should call forth 
no rebuke, or be surrounded by no public lamentation. 
It is this conviction which impels the gathering of this 
assemblage. We are here of every station and pursuit, 
of every creed and character, each in his capacity of 
citizen, to swell the mournful tribute which the majesty 
of the people offers to the unreplying dead. He lies 
to-day surrounded by little of funeral pomp. No ban- 
ners droop above the bier ; no melancholy music floats 
upon the reluctant air. The hopes of high-hearted 
friends droop like the fading flowers upon his breast, 
and the struggling sigh compels the tear in eyes that 
seldom weep. Around him are those who have known 
him best and loved him longest ; who have shared the 
triumph and endured the defeat. Near him are the 
gravest and noblest of the State, possessed by a grief 
at once earnest and sincere ; while beyond, the masses 
of the people, whom he loved and for whom his life 
was given, gather like a thunder-cloud of swelling and 

address, of the events of that session of the Legisla- 
ture at which he was elected to the Senate of the 
United States ; but some things should not be passed 
in silence here. The contest between himself and the 
present Senator had been bitter and personal He 
had triumphed; he had been wonderfully sustained 
by his friends, and stood confessedly "the first in 
honor and the first in place." He yielded to an ap- 
peal made to his magnanimity by his foe. If he 
judged unwisely, he has paid the forfeit welL Never 
in the history of political warfare has any man been 
so pursued. Never has malignity so exhausted itself. 
Fellow-citizens, the man who lies before you was your 
Senator. From the moment of his election, his char- 
acter has been maligned, his motives attacked, his 
courage impeached, his patriotism assailed. It has 
been a system tending to one end, and the end is here. 
What was his crime f Eeview his history — consider 
his public acts — weigh his private character — and 
before the grave encloses him forever, judge between 
him and his enemies. As a man to be judged in his 
private relations, who was his superior f It was his boast 
— and amid the general license of a new country it 
was a proud one — that his most scrutinizing enemy 
could fix no single act of immorality upon him. Tem- 
perate, decorous, self -restrained, he had passed through 
all the excitements of California unstained. No man 
could charge him with broken faith or violated trust. 
Of habits simple and inexpensive, he had no lust of 
gain. He overreached no man^s weakness in a bargain, 
and withheld no man his just due. Never, in the his- 
tory of the State, has there been a citizen who has 
borne pubUc relations more stainless in all respects 
than he. But it is not by this standard he is to be 
judged. He was a public man, and his memory de- 
mands a public judgment. What was his public 
crime f The answer is in his own words : " They have 


killed me because I was opposed to the extension of 
slavery and a corrupt Administration.^ Fellow-citizens, 
they are remarkable words, uttered at a very remarka- 
ble moment ; they involve the history of his Senatorial 
career, and of its sad and bloody termination. When 
Mr. Broderick entered the Senate he had been elected 
at the beginning of a Presidential term, as a friend of 
the President-elect, having undoubtedly been one of 
his most influential supporters. There were unques- 
tionably some things in the exercise of the appointing 
power which he could have wished otherwise ; but he 
had every reason with the Administration which could 
be supposed to weigh with a man in his position. He 
had heartily maintained the doctrine of popular sov- 
ereignty as set forth in the Cincinnati platform, and he 
never wavered in its support tiU the day of his death. 
But when in his judgment the President betrayed his 
obUgations to the party and the country - when, in 
the whole series of acts in relation to Kansas, he 
proved recreant to his pledges and instructions ; when 
the whole power of the Administration was brought to 
bear upon the legislative branch of the Q-ovemment in 
order to force slavery upon an unwilling people, then 
in the high performance of his duty as a Senator, he 
rebuked the Administration by his voice and his vote, 
and stood by his principles. It is true he adopted no 
half-way measures. He threw the whole weight of his 
character into the ranks of the opposition ; he endeav- 
ored to rouse the people to an indignant sense of the 
iniquitous tyranny of the Federal power, and kindling 
with the contest, became its fiercest and firmest 

FeUow-citizens, whatever may have been your polit- 
ical predilections, it is impossible to repress your admi- 
ration as you review the conduct of the man who lies 
hushed in death before you. You read in his history a 
glorious imitation of the great popular leaders who op- 

posed the despotic influence of power in other lands 
and in our own. When John Hampden died at Chal- 
grove Field he sealed his devotion to popular Uberty 
with his blood. The eloquence of Fox found the 
sources of its inspiration in his love of the people. 
When Senators conspired against Tiberius G^racchus 
and the Tribune of the people fell beneath their dag- 
gers, it was power that prompted the crime and de- 
manded the sacrifice. Who can doubt if your Senator 
had surrendered his free thoughts and bent in submis- 
sion to the rule of the Administration — who can doubt 
that instead of resting on a bloody bier, he would this 
day have been reposing in the inglorious f elicitude of 
Presidential sunshine f 

Fellow-citizens, let no man suppose that the death of 
the eminent citizen of whom I speak was caused by 
any other reason than that to which his own words 
assign it. It has been long foreshadowed. It was pre- 
dieted by his friends ; it was threatened by his enemies ; 
it was the consequence of intense political hatred. 
His death was a political necessity, poorly veiled under 
the guise of a private quarrel. Here, in his own State, 
among those who witnessed the late canvass, who 
knew the contending leaders— among those who knew 
the antagonists on the bloody ground, here the public 
conviction is so thoroughly settled that nothing need 
be said. Tested by the correspondence itself, there 
was no cause in morals, in honor, in taste, by any code 
— by the custom of any civilized land, there was no 
cause for blood. Let me repeat the story ; it is as brief 
as it is fatal : A judge of the Supreme Court descends 
into a political convention — it is just, however, to say 
that the occasion was to return thanks to his friends 
for an unsuccessful support; in a speech bitter and 
personal he stigmatized Senator Broderick and all his 
friends in words of contemptuous insult. When Mr. 
Broderick saw that speech he retorted, saying, in sub- 


stance, that he had heretofore spoken of Judge Terry 
as an honest man, but that he now took it back. When 
inquired of, he admitted that he had so said, and con- 
nected his words with Judge Terry's speech as prompt- 
ing them. So far as Judge Terry personally was 
concerned, this was the cause of mortal combat ; there 
was no other. In the contest which has just termi- 
nated in the State, Mr. Broderick had taken a leading 
part ; he had been engaged in controversies very per- 
sonal in their nature, because the subjects of public 
discussion had involved the character and conduct of 
many public and distinguished men. But Judge Terry 
was not one of these. He was no contestant ; his con- 
duct was not in issue; he had been mentioned but 
once incidentally — in reply to his own attack — and, ex- 
cept as it might be found in his peculiar traits or peculiar 
fitness, there was no reason to suppose that he would 
seek any man's blood. When William of Nassau, the 
deliverer of HoUand, died in the presence of his wife 
and children, the hand that struck the blow was not 
nerved by private vengeance. When the fourth Henry 
passed unharmed amid the dangers of the field of Ivry, 
to perish in the streets of his capital by the hand of a 
fanatic, he did not seek to avenge a private grief. An 
exaggerated sense of personal honor — a weak mind 
with choleric passions, intense sectional prejudice, 
united with great confidence in the use of arms — these 
sometimes serve to stimulate the instruments which 
accomplish the deepest and deadliest purpose. 

Fellow-citizens! one year ago I performed a duty 
such as I perform to-day over the remains of Senator 
Ferguson, who died as Broderick died, tangled in the 
meshes of the code of honor. To-day there is another 
and more eminent sacrifice. To-day I renew my pro- 
test; to-day I utter yours. The code of honor is a 
delusion and a snare ; it palters with the hope of a true 
courage, and binds it at the feet of crafty and cruel 


skill. It snrronnds its victim with the pomp and grace 
of the procession, but leaves him bleeding on the altar. 
It substitutes cold and deliberate preparation for coura- 
geous and manly impulse, and arms the one to disarm 
the other; it may prevent fraud between practiced 
duelists who should be forever without its pale, but it 
makes the mere " trick of the weapon ^ superior to the 
noblest cause and the truest courage. Its pretense of 
equality is a lie ; it is equal in all the form, it is unjust 
in all the substance — the habitude of arms, the early 
training, the frontier life, the border war, the sectional 
custom, the life of leisure — all these are advantages 
which no negotiations can neutralize, and which no 
courage can overcome. But, fellow-citizens, the pro- 
test is not only spoken in your words and mine — it is 
written in indelible characters; it is written in the 
blood of Gilbert, in the blood of Ferguson, in the blood 
of Broderick, and the inscription will not altogether 
fade. With the administration of the code in this par- 
ticular case I am not here to deal. Amid passionate 
grief let us strive to be just. I give no currency to 
rumors of which personally I know nothing; there are 
other tribunals to which they may well be referred, 
and this is not one of them ; but I am here to say that 
whatever in the code of honor or out of it demands or 
allows a deadly combat, where there is not in all things 
entire and certain equality, is a prostitution of the 
name, is an evasion of the substance, and is a shield 
blazoned with the name of chivalry to cover the malig- 
nity of murder. 

And now the shadows turn toward the East, and we 
prepare to bear these poor remains to their silent 
resting-place. Let us not seek to repress the generous 
pride which prompts a recital of noble deeds and 
manly virtues. He rose unaided and alone ; he began 
his career without family or fortune, in the face of 
diflBlculties ; he inherited poverty and obscurity; he 


<lied a Senator in Congress, having written his name 
ii the history of the great struggle for the rights of 
-the people against the despotism of organization and 
the corruption of power. He leaves in the hearts of 
his friends the tenderest and the proudest recollec- 
tions. He was honest, faithful, earnest, sincere, gen- 
erous, and brave ; he felt in all the great crises of his 
life that he was a leader in the ranks, and for the 
rights of the masses of men, and he could not falter. 
When he returned from that fatal field, while the dark 
wing of the archangel of death was casting its shadows 
upon his brow, his greatest anxiety was as to the per- 
formance of his duty. He felt that all his strength 
and all his life belonged to the cause to which he had 
devoted them. "Baker,^ said he — and to me they 
were his last words — "Baker, when I was struck, I 
tried to stand firm, but the blow blinded me, and 
I could not." I trust that it is no shame to my man- 
hood that tears blinded me as he said it. Of his last 
hours I have no heart to speak. He was the last of 
his race; there was no kindred hand to smooth his 
couch, or wipe the death-damps from his brow; but 
around that dying bed strong men, the friends of 
early manhood, the devoted adherents of later life, 
bowed in irrepressible grief, and lifted up their voices 
and wept. 

But, fellow-citizens, the voice of lamentation is not 
uttered by private friendship alone — the blow that 
struck his manly breast has touched the heart of a 
people, and as the sad tidings spread a general gloom 
prevails. Who now can speak for California f Who 
can be the interpreter of the wants of the Pacific coast f 
Who can appeal to the communities of the Atlantic, 
who love free labor f Who can speak for the masses 
of men, with a passionate love for the classes from 
whence he sprung f Who can defy the blandishments 
of power, the indolence of oflBlce, the corruption of 


administrationa f What hopes are bnried with him in 
the grave T 

"Ahl -who that gnllant spirit shall resume, 
Leap from Enrotas' bank and call ns from the tomb T " 

But the last word must be spoken, and the imperious 
mandate of death most be fulfilled. Thus, brave 
heart, we bear thee to thy rest ! Thus, surrounded by 
tens of thousands, we leave thee to the equal grave. 
As in life no other voice among us so rang its trumpet- 
blast upon the ear of freemen, so in death its echoes 
will reverberate amid our mountains and valleys, until 
truth and valor cease to the human heart. 

" His love of tmth — too wann, too strong. 
For hope or fear to ohun or ohill, 
Bie hate of tjnumy and wrong 
Bum is the breasts he kindled stilL" 

G-ood friend t true hero I hail and farewell. 

3 2044 018 64; 

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