Commentary

Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: Politics from a Poet

Creator: Anonymous

Date: December 31, 1884

Publication information: The News 31 December 1884?.

Source: Our transcription is based on a digital image of a clipping in the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Whitman Archive ID: med.00540

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Nic Swiercek, and Shea Montgomerey




image 1

POLITICS FROM A POET.

———

WALT WHITMAN IN PLAIN PROSE
RENOUNCES JAMES G. BLAINE.


———

THE GOOD GRAY POET TALKS OF "TERRITORIAL
ADVENTURERS" WHO MIGHT HAVE RULED
AT A PERSONAL COURT—PRAISE
FOR THE PRESIDENT-ELECT.

———

Walt Whitman was found yesterday quietly ensconced in his "den," as he sometimes facetiously calls his eyrie at 328 Mickle street, where most of his waking and sleeping hours are spent. The good gray poet was polite, with that politeness which is self-possession and benevolence well expressed, and gave the best rocking-chair in the sanctum to THE NEWS gatherer.

On the walls hung the likeness of the father and mother of the poet, good, sturdy, homelike faces such as grow on "fish-shaped Paumanok" (Long Island, New York). Near by was an etching of an early sweetheart of the old man, a girl of fifty years since.

Mr. Whitman was asked what he thought of Blaine's defeat and what would come of it. The poet replied, without a moment's hesitation, as if he had already given the question some thought:

"I did not vote myself at all, for I was quite unwell election day and couldn't go out; but I had come to admire the pluck and brilliancy of Blaine's leadership, and thought he would exercise as much power over the masses, and the leaders as well, of the Republican party as if he had been chosen President. But when the Solid South speech came, I am bound to say that I thought that utterance breathed the rankest sectionalism from him at the time, and was markedly in bad taste.

"If Mr. Blaine wanted to fight it out on that line before the election he might have rallied the North to his standard, to the breaking down of certain side issues. But renewing the old fires of the rebellion was not to my taste. We are even yet, since the collapse of the rebellion, walking on ashes thinly covering fires.

THE CONDUCT OF THE CAMPAIGN.

"What I have since learned, such things as the appointment of a man like Jones, a very rich iron manufacturer in Pittsburg, but totally unfamiliar with the 'Heathen Chinee games' of politics, was proof positive to me that Blaine meant to dominate the campaign himself, and went in much in the Shakspearean spirit which suggests that one should beware of entrance into a quarrel; but once in, 'make thy enemy beware.' And by the light of the conduct of Mr. Blaine while President Garfield's Secretary of State, I feel sure that we might safely say that if James G. Blaine had become President for four years he would have surrounded himself with what have been called 'Adventurers from the Territories,' and he would have aimed to build up, and with that masterful spirit of his would have been the head of a personal government only little less despotic than that of Louis Napoleon.

"And, under the whip and spurs of Blaine's magnetic presence, he would have carried things with a high hand, and it would have been a personal government as long as he was at the head of it. This accounts in part for the fear the people had in trusting him with a four-years' lease of power.

GROVER CLEVELAND A SAFE AND STRONG MAN

"But you ask me about Cleveland and I will answer you currente calamo:

"Grover Cleveland stands out in strong colors, in a clear light, as a safe and strong man. One with a purpose.

"No man before the people ever stood up and took the blows of the press with better welcome than did Cleveland. He bids fair to bring the old-time Democracy back to the days of 'manifest destiny and human progress.'

"I think, too, there is wisdom in what Conkling says of the late contest at the polls, that the people were averse to three or four Western adventurers taking possession of the Republican party with an 'hurrah,' and going boldly to work to build up on the ruins of the Republicanism of Lincoln a personal party, a sort of Republican court, where none would be admitted to power save those who had the 'open sesame' of Blaineism."

It was suggested that Cleveland would be surrounded by a class of men who would flatter him as the Gascons did one of the old kings, courtiers who, when kicked out of the door, climbed in again at the window.

Walt Whitman seemed to think such dilettante of politics would find Cleveland not at all to their liking, and added that "there was in Cleveland a combination of Scotch-Presbyterianism, added to his early self-education, which would make a statesman who would be governed by good sense and patriotism."

A SOLUTION OF THE SOUTHERN PROBLEM.

He thought, too, that under Cleveland, who had what was rarer than genius in our public men, old-fashioned horse sense and a splendid solidity of personal character, there was every likelihood of the Southern problem reaching a satisfactory solution in the next eight years, for what the negro wanted was not"coddling," but "a chance to build up his fortunes, educate his children and help bring the South into healthy relations with the rich industries, the vast resources and the happy homes of our own section."

Herbert Spencer, Mr. Whitman said, had uttered a sensible postulate for a republic like ours, which was: "The liberty of all limited by the like liberty of each!"


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