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President Garfield's Connection 


National Deaf-Mute College, 


By Edward M. Gallaudet, Ph. D., LL. D v 


[ Reprinted from the American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb, January, 1881.] 



Reprinted from, the American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb, 
January, 1 882. 



In the tragic event of last summer, which laid a burden of 
sorrow on the heart of the nation and called for the sympathy 
otthe civilized world, the officers and students of the National 
Deaf-Mute College had special reasons for grief. The law in- 
corporating the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb 
provides that the . President of the United States, for the time 
being, shall ex-officio fill the office of Patron. In this capacity 
he presides at the public anniversaries, and affixes his signature 
to our collegiate diplomas. 

Representing in these acts the Government, which has be- 
stowed most generous benefactions on the Institution, the Pa- 
tron, whoever he may be, is regarded with special interest and 
respect by all who here look up to him as their official head. 

The decease of the President of the United States, under any 
circumstances, would consequently be an occasion of mourning 
at Kendall Green. But in the death of James A. Garfield this 
Institution loses a friend to whom much of its prosperity and 
progress is due, and whose open advocacy of its interests in 
Congress and elsewhere has gone far toward securing for it the 
position of permanence it now enjoys. 

General Garfield's first visit to the Institution was made in the 
winter of 1865-66, when the collegiate department had been in 
operation but a single year. Its students numbered no more 
than twelve. One of these was a senior pursuing a scientific 
course, four were freshmen, and the remainder formed a class 
of still lower grade. The College for Deaf-Mutes was looked 

2 President Garfield's Connection 

upon at that time as a mere experiment. In many quarters it 
was spoken of openly with derision. But General Garfield, him- 
self a practical teacher, was warm in his endorsement of the un- 
dertaking, and his magnetic encouragement served to inspire 
both officers and student with a determination that the College 
should succeed. 

Maintaining his interest in the progress of the College, Gen- 
eral Garfield, in the spring of 1868, showed his confidence in its 
scholarship by requesting its earliest graduate, Mr. Melville 
Ballard, to make a translation from the French of an important 
pamphlet, " Le Bilan de V Empire? in which some very unfav- 
orable criticisms of the financial management of the Second 
Empire were given to the world. 

Some months after the completion of the translation, Mr. 
Ballard received the following : 

" Deab Sir : Just before I was leaving Washington last sum- 
mer, I received your very successful translation of ' Le Bilan 
de V Empire? I should have acknowledged it at once but from 
the fact that I had to leave the city. My long delay in acknowl- • 
edging your great kindness can only be accounted for by the 
recital of a series of accidents and contretemps, which I have not 
now time to recount. 

"I take pleasure in forwarding to you a copy of Napoleon's 
Caesar (in French) as a slight testimonial of my appreciation of 
your scholarship and kindness in making the translation. 
" With kindest regards, I am, very truly yours, 

"J. A. Garfield." 

This volume was handsomely bound, and Mr. Ballard's name 
had been stamped on the outside. 

During the years 1868-69, and '70, the progress of the Insti- 
tution, especially the development of the collegiate department, 
encountered serious and persistent opposition in Congress. 
This hostility was so vigorously continued as to jeopardize, on 
one or two occasions, the very existence of the Institution. 
General Garfield never failed to give the weight of his influence 
in favor of continuing the aid of the Government, and on the 
21st of Jute, 1870, when a very important appropriation was 
under consideration in the House, he made a speech earnestly 
advocating the liberal support of the Institution in its collegiate 
character, and urged the propriety of action on the part of Con- 
gress, in the following language : 

with the Deaf-Mute College. 3 

" Nearly every State in the Union has its school for the deaf 
and dumb, where they are taken through the preliminaries of 
education, and are elevated from the condition of being irre- 
sponsible persons, which is the condition of the uneducated 
deaf and dumb, for in the eye of the common law they are not 
held responsible even for murder. They are not considered 
persons. But by the benevolent institutions of the United 
States and other countries which have paid attention to this 
matter, they have been lifted up into the full responsibility of 
citizenship and the full obligation to obey the laws. Now, here 
is an institution in the city of Washington that carries the edu- 
cation of the deaf and dumb to the highest point necessary to 
fit the students who go there to be the teachers of that class. 
We have here an. institution which, according to the laws and 
regulations now governing it, we have ourselves a part in the 
work of controlling, which allows students coming from all the 
deaf and dumb institutions in the various States of the Union, 
after they have got in those institutions all the advancement 
they are capable of getting there, to come here and complete 
the course of study which will fit them to be teachers of the 
deaf and dumb. The result is that one institution here, as it 
were in the centre, supplies, or can supply, all the schools for 
the deaf and dumb in the United States with thoroughly edu- 
cated teachers, fully qualified for the work ; and I know of no 
single thing which this Congress can do that will have more 
beneficial results to the whole body of the people than to have 
one institution officially kept up to supply teachers for the va- 
rious deaf and dumb institutions throughout the country." 

The pending appropriation, which was for the completion of 
the main central building containing a chapel, lecture-room, re- 
fectories, kitchen, etc., was passed by a decided vote, and from 
that time to the present no serious opposition to the support 
and development of the Institution has arisen in either house of 
Congress. . t 

On Sunday, the 29th of January, 1871, the building alluded 
to above was dedicated to its uses by the President of the 
United States, after appropriate public exercises. On this oc- 
casion General Garfield spoke as the representative of the lower 
house of Congress, closing his address as follows : 

" Several gentlemen have spoken of this movement as a work 
of charity; in my judgment, it is a work of very enlightened 
selfishness On the part of Congress. Mr. President, to you is 

4 President Garfield's Connection 

confided the honor of presiding over the thirty-eight millions of 
men and women who compose the body of this great Republic. 
The source of all its greatness lies behind the material evidences 
of its prosperity, lies in the heads and hearts, the brain, the mus- 
cle, and the will of the people over whom you preside. Anything, 
therefore, that affects their welfare, their force, their efficiency, 
touches the very essence of the national life. It is well known 
that only that portion of the population between the ages 
of twenty and sixty is self-supporting. Of these thirty-eight 
millions, eighteen millions are outside those limits. In other 
words, eighteen millions of the population over whom you pre- 
side must be supported by the other twenty millions. From 
these twenty millions must be subtracted the infirm, and all 
those that for any reason are unable to support themselves. 
Now the students of this Institution represent more than twenty 
thousand of the population of the United States, most of whom, 
by the influence of institutions like this, have been lifted up 
from the lowest plane of intellectual life to the dignity and value 
of intelligent citizens. * * * 

" One of the best things connected with their education is that 
they have a lively sense of gratitude to the Government for what 
it has done for them. These young men cannot fail to become 
good citizens. They cannot fail to be true to their country, 
when they remember what it has done for them. I say, there- 
fore, it is enlightened selfishness rather than charity to take this 
class of our fellow-men, and make them capable of doing a great 
work for the country. I am happy to send this message to them 
to-day into their silence. * * * 

" The House of Representatives has been proverbial for its 
economy in regard to expenses of this kind, but I am happy to 
say that from the beginning of this work the House has stood 
up nobly and generously to the support of this Institution. 
And what these students have to-day contributed, and what 
they are sure to do in the future, will be a most complete vindi- 
cation of the wisdom of the House, the Senate, and the Execu- 
tive, united in this great work." 

During the following year General Garfield spent part of a 
day in the College with a party of friends. One who was at 
that time a student writes of this visit, as follows : 

"I do not recollect who any of the gentlemen accompanying 
him were, but General Garfield's personality and actions im- 
pressed themselves upon me with the utmost distinctness. The 

with the Deaf-Mute College. 5 

classes were assembled at the black-boards, and a couple of 
hours were spent in an informal endeavor to ascertain, I sup- 
pose, the grade of our acquirements. In all this General Gar- 
field led. He went about from rank to rank, questioning and 
allowing himself to be questioned. There was nothing of the 
cold examiner about him. He made us feel that he was no 
merely critical outsider, but a student with us and of us at 
heart. His blue eyes shone with a scholar's enthusiasm. Of 
one he asked the history and derivation of the word dollar; of 
myself a like sketch of the word pariah; to another he gave an 
algebraic problem ; of still another he asked the nature and use 
of logarithms. 

"Near the close he pointed to a copy of Hamon's Aurora, 
which represents the goddess standing tiptoe upon a broad leaf 
in mid-air and drinking from a morning-glory at dawn, and asked 
a student why the artist was justified in portraying a human form 
standing upon an unsupported leaf." 

In the summer of 1872 a measure of great consequence to the 
Institution was pending before Congress. It was an application 
for $70,000 to secure the whole of the fine domain known as 
Kendall Green as the permanent home of the Institution. This 
measure having been once unfavorably acted upon by the House 
Committee on Appropriations, of which General Garfield was 
then chairman, was approved when it came a second time be- 
fore the Committee, in the shape of a Senate amendment to the 
sundry civil appropriation bill. And it is safe to say that the 
appropriation would not ,have been made but for the favorable 
attitude of General Garfield. 

During the summer of 1874, and in the winter of 1874-75, 
General Garfield being still chairman of the Committee on Ap- 
propriations, provision was made by Congress for commencing 
and continuing the construction of the main College building. 

An appropriation for the completion of the College edifice was 
made in March, 1877, and the building was occupied the fol- 
lowing winter. 

On the public anniversary of 1878, held on the 1st day of 
May, General Garfield again represented the lower house of 
Congress, and spoke as follows : 

" Me. President, and Ladies and Gentlemen : Your exercises 
have been already sufficient for all your desires, I am sure, and 
I will only detain you to say how much I am gratified to see the 
completion of this enterprise, which has been struggling up for 

6 President Garfield's Connection 

so many years, and has reached a point at last where I think 
almost anybody will rejoice at its further progress. I believe I 
said on this stage, nine years ago, that nothing impressed me 
more during the later days of the war, when I first came to this 
city, than seeing the great marble columns being set up on the 
east, west, north, and south fronts of yonder Capitol, while the 
sound of battle was echoing across the Potomac and shaking 
the very windows of the Executive Mansion. It was a touching 
exhibition of unshakable faith in the final triumph and perma- 
nency of the Union. While fighting with all their might to 
maintain its existence, the American people were quietly setting 
up these noble columns as symbols of their faith that there 
would forever be a great capital of a great nation here, beside 
the beautiful Potomac ; and step by step, as the struggle went 
on and the restoration of the Union became certain, the deter- 
mination seemed to be crystahzed in the American mind 
that there should not be another rebellion like it ; and as they 
had strengthened and adorned our marble Capitol, so also they 
set up new pillars of justice and freedom, the living temple of 
our liberties, to be its perpetual glory and support. By the 
same inspiration our work of education, national in its spirit, 
earnest and determined in its character, has been pursued dur- 
ing the last fifteen years more than in any other period, because 
our people saw that the safety of the nation required it. 

"I am rejoiced to know that this Institution cherishes the 
ideas I have been trying to set forth. These afflicted young 
men were only recently regarded as an almost helpless and 
useless portion of our common humanity. The effort of their 
country to set them in a place where they should have an equal 
chance in the race of life is most worthy ; and here, first, I 
believe, on the earth, certainly first in America, the deaf-mutes 
find an opportunity to enjoy college rights and privileges equal 
to those enjoyed by others who are not so afflicted. And that. 
is great. It is the great glory of our republic that she has done 
it ; and at a time when it cost something to do it. 

" This Institution is one of the three that the United States 
supports. The one to educate her sons for the Navy, the other 
for the Army, both of these for the safety of the nation in time 
of war, and for her safeguard against war ; and the third, this 
Institution, in which the Government reaches out its hand to 
make you the equal of all her other citizens not afflicted as you 
are. What is the meaning of all this ? The lesson it teaches is 

with the Deaf-Mute College. 7 

the increased value to Americans of training. That, in my 
judgment, is the best lesson of our century. We are coming 
to understand that, whether you want a man for war or for 
peace — for whatever purpose you need him — a trained man is 
better than an untrained man. However great your untrained 
man may be, he would be greater and more efficient if he had 
been trained. College training is not meant to give you facts, 
' but to teach you how to handle facts when you enter the many- 
sided life of our country. 

" People waste, a great deal of time thinking whether they had 
better study Latin or Greek, or this or that science. I sum up 
all I have to saj| on the subject by calling attention to the remark 
of a distinguished French scholar ; when asked if it were neces- 
sary to have a knowledge of the ancient languages, he said, ' O, 
no ; it is not necessary to know Latin, but it is necessary to have 
forgotten it.' That is, either be a man who now knows it, or be 
one who has forgotten it, but save the training it gave. 

" Thanking you, Mr. President, and ladies and gentlemen, for 
your kind attention to this discursive talk, I bid you good day." 

The final visit of General Garfield to the College was on the 
occasion of our last Presentation exercises, in May of the present 
year. On that day it was a source of genuine pride and pleas- 
ure to all connected with the Institution that we were permitted 
to welcome a tried and valued friend of many years as our offi- 
cial head, for this implied his election by the free choice of his 
fellow-citizens to the highest office in their gift; and in this 
humble seat of learning there was further reason for rejoicing 
that the suffrages of the nation had so honored one whose devo- 
tion to letters had been life-long, who was a student and a 
teacher before he occupied the more elevated but not more 
ennobling positions of general, lawyer, legislator, and President. 

One who was formerly a student in the College, and is now a 
member of the Faculty, writes of his appearance on that day, as 
follows : 

" He came in half an hour late, being unavoidably detained, 
the Faculty and specially invited guests of course awaiting his 
arrival before proceeding to the platform. This circumstance 
lent a tinge of humility, when he did enter, to the habitual ease 
and dignity of his manner, and as he passed around the room, 
exchanging a grasp of the hand and a word with each whom he 
knew — erect, commanding, buoyant, frank — he seemed to me 
what indeed he was, the manliest of men. As such he remains, 

8 President Garfield's Connection 

and forever will remain, in my mind — an exemplar of those 
noblest characteristics of person, mind, and spirit to which the 
record of his life now forms an incitement ; and as such I am 
sure he Mas impressed himself upon very many of my fellow- 

My personal intercourse with General Garfield on that day 
was of a character to be remembered with especial pleasure. 
As we led the procession of officials from the office to the chapel 
he grasped my arm with the remark : " It does me good to get 
out among these pleasant scenes, and away from the worry and 
work over there," pointing towards the Executive Mansion. I 
replied, " It always does us good, Mr. President, to have you 
with us, but especially on an occasion like this ;" and I added, 
' ' I have been hoping you might say a few words to our seniors 
to-day, if it would not prove a burden to you to do so." He 
responded almost with eagerness, " Not in the least. I always 
enjoy speaking to young men, and it will be a pleasure to me to 
address your boys to-day."* 

After the exercises were over, as General Garfield, accom- 
panied by his private secretary, Mr. J. Stanley Brown, was re- 
turning with me to the College buildings, I remarked that if he 
was not compelled to hasten back to the city, I should be glad 
to have him attend the reception that was about being held at 
my house. " I can stay a little longer, I think," he said ; adding, 
" and I should be sorry not to pay my respects to Mrs. Gallaudet 
to-day." And so we walked across the green together, and he 
spent half an hour among our guests, bright and joyous as a 
care-free boy — meeting many old friends with that freedom and 
cordiality of manner which was peculiar to him. 

On entering he remarked to Mrs. Gallaudet that this was the 
first social gathering of the sort he had attended since inaugu- 
ration day. Little did we then dream that it would be the only 
such occasion he would enjoy while he was President. 

Besides the visits of General Garfield to Kendall Green, 
which may be called official, many connected with the. Institu- 
tion remember with pleasure not a few others of a purely social 

One of our graduates recalls one of these incidents, in the 
following language : 

* Presideut Garfield's admirable address on that occasion was published 
in the last volume of the Annals, (July, 1881,) page 196.— Ed. Annals. 

with the Deaf-Mute College. 9 

" During the spring of 1872, General Garfield was one after- 
noon at President Gallaudet's house at dinner. After the meal 
he seated himself upon the piazza and entered into conversation 
with some of us students in the most informal manner. We 
had been studying Bascom's iEsthetics, and for some time the 
conversation turned upon the nude in Art. I can only recall 
that he elicited the views of each in the happiest manner, and 
gave his own, whether of assent or dissent, with delightful ease 
and geniality." 

The same graduate has also the following reminiscence : 

" About two years afterwards I was turning over the books 
at a store in the city when he came in. He seemed fatigued, or 
very thoughtful. I took up a copy of Philip Gilbert Hamerton's 
work on the Intellectual Life, then newly published, and asked 
him if he had read it. ' O, yes,' he replied, ' with very great pleas- 
ure,' and his tired air gave place to one of positive vivacity as 
he proceeded to comment upon those most interesting and sug- 
gestive pages." 

General Garfield in his visits to Kendall Green was often ac- 
companied by members of his family. Usually, Mrs. Garfield 
came with him, sometimes some of his children, and on two oc- 
casions, at least, his venerable mother. His last visit with Mrs. 
Garfield was at a meeting of the Literary Society of Washing- 
ton, held at my house on the evening of Feb. 21st, 1880, when 
he occupied the chair as President of the Society, and made in- 
teresting remarks on the subject under discussion.* 

While General Garfield was chairman of the House Commit- 
tee on Appropriations it often became necessary for me to call 
upon him, to explain the needs of the Institution, and to give 
him facts which he might use in advocating our appropriations 
before the Committee or the House. The friendly interest he 
manifested in our work on such occasions was most grateful and 

* A very interesting meeting of this Society, iu memory of its late Presi- 
dent, was held Nov. lit, 1881, the fiftieth anniversary of his birth, at the resi- 
dence of Dr. Gallandet, Vice-President of the Society. Dr. Gallaudetgave 
a sketch of General Garfield's connection with the Society ; Mr. A. E. Spof- 
ford, Librarian of Cougress, read a paper analyzing and describing his 
methods of reading, study, composition, and delivery ; Col. Garrick Mal- 
lery, of the Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology, read a paper on his interest 
in science and his labors in Congress in behalf of the scientific work of the 
Government ; several members spoke of his love for classical studies ; and 
a touching poem was read by Mrs. Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of 
"That Lass o' Lowrie's." — Ed. Annals. 

10 President Garfield's Connection 

encouraging. I remember particularly one of these interviews 

when I called at his house at about the hour he was in the habit 

of going to the Capitol, and asked if he would not like me to 

drive him thither in my buggy, allowing me to say some words 

on business on the way. As I gathered up the reins he noticed 

the horse, and remarked with a shade of sadness in his voice : 

" It has long been one of my ambitions to be able to keep a 

horse and carriage in Washington, but I don't see how I can 

ever do it." It was only when he became President that this 

very innocent ambition was gratified. At the conclusion of our 

ride General Garfield sprang from the buggy to the steps of 

the Capitol at a single bound, and, reaching back, shook my 

hand warmly, saying , " Good-bye ; we will do the best we can 

in the Committee and in the House for your College." 

During the winter of 1872-3, when I was spending some 

months in Europe, I wrote General Garfield, expressing the 

hope that he would have an especial care over the interests of 

our Institution in Congress during my absence. His reply was 

as follows : 

" Washington, D. G, Jan. 16, 1873. 

" President E. M. Gallaudet, 

" Chateau de Belle Rive, Geneva, Switzerland : 

" My Deak Sir : Yours of December 28th is just received. It 
comes to me in the midst of oppressive burdens and at a time 
when the congressional mind is a prey to unhappy strife and 
suspicion.* When contrasting our work and surroundings here 
with your delightful stopping-place in the city of Calvin, it is 
difficult for me not to be guilty of the sin of envy. 

" I do most heartily congratulate Mrs. Gallaudet and yourself 
that you are away from the heavy cares of your work in the 
College, and are permitted to enjoy the blessed peace and quiet 
which your tour in Europe is giving you. The breath of the 
Alps is health itself. And I hope and believe you will come 
back to us in due time, with several years added to your life. 

" The most of my appropriation bills are already reported to 
the House, and four have been passed. The Army and Miscel- 
laneous have not yet been taken up. I hope there will be no 
difficulty when we come to the appropriation for your noble 

* It will be remembered that it was in the session of 1872-3 the Credit 
Mobilier scandal came to light, in connection with which unsuccessful ef- 
forts were made to blacken General Garfield's fair fame. 

with the Deaf -Mute College. 11 

"Mrs. Garfield joins me in kindest regards to Mrs. Gallaudet 
and yourself. 

" Very truly yours, 

"J. A. Garfield." 

During the winter of 1874-'5, General Garfield being still 
chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, I observed, on 
two or three occasions when we met, an apparent coldness 
and lack of interest in our Institution on his part, which dis- 
turbed me not a little. I feared I had, inadvertently, done or 
said something to incur his displeasure, or that some unfriendly 
tongue had been seeking to alienate him from the College. I 
did not wait long before addressing him a note, asking if either 
of the fears above mentioned had any foundation in fact. The 
following prompt response was, as will readily be believed, most 
gratifying : 

" House of Representatives, 
" Washington, D. C, February 2, 1875. 
"E. M. Gallaudet, Esq., 

"President, etc.: 

" My Dear Sir : Yours of the 1st instant is received. On read- 
ing it I was surprised, and at first a little hurt, that you should 
suspect me of losing my interest in your Institution or my 
friendship for you. But on reflection I can see that, jaded and 
worn and worried as I am by the thousand loads, little and big, 
that are laid upon my shoulders, it is not remarkable that I 
should appear less genial and less cordial than was my wont 
when my burden was lighter. It is loss of vitality, not loss of 
friendship, and I trust you will pardon any seeming coldness, 
for it has been seeming only, and I was not aware of it. 

" Anxious to do the best I can for your Institution, and still 
more anxious to retain a friendship which has been so pleasant 

to me, 

" I am, as ever, your friend, 

"J. A. Garfield." 

When the history of General Garfield's connection with the 
College for Deaf-Mutes is held in review, covering, as it does, ja. 
period of fifteen years, and dating back to its very infancy, pre- 
senting a record of unfaltering interest and active effort in its 
behalf — effort in positions where assistance of the most import- 
ant and material character was given, and interest with the 
expression of which even the heavy cares of the Presidency of 

1 2 President Garfield's Connection, etc. 

the Nation did not interfere — it will not be thought inappropri- 
ate, I believe, that an effort should be made to secure the erec- 
tion, on the premises of the College, of some enduring structure 
or memorial, that shall tell coming generations what our martyred 
President did for the deaf-mutes of his country. That such an 
effort is already inaugurated is a source of great satisfaction to 
those who have felt the magnetism of Garfield's personal pres- 
ence. That it will be pressed to successful and honorable com- 
pletion, by the co-operation of all who are directly or indirectly 
interested in the work of the College, there is no reason to doubt. 

The American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb is a quarterly 
publication, appearing in the months of January, April, July, and 
October. Each number contains at least sixty-four pages of matter, 
principally original. The subscription price is two dollars a year, 
payable in advance. (To British subscribers nine shillings, which 
may be sent through the postal money-order office.) All communi- 
cations relating to the Annals should be addressed to the Editor, 

E. A. Fay, 

Kendall Green, 
Washington, D. C.