April 20, 1901
CHAMBERLAIN ON HAMPTON
In saying this I am not saying that what Hampton did was the
wisest thing that could have been done.
I am only expressing my conviction that as the leader of his people in a
great, vital political and social struggle he played a high part, a part which
no other citizen of the State was probably equal to; a part which in my
judgment no other citizen of the State at any period of her history could have
played so well. His mastery of men, of self-willed,
even reckless men, was absolute; his power of directing and controlling the
forces with which he had to deal and to reach the results he aimed at was truly
wonderful. In the height of surrounding
excitement he could be serene and collected; in moments when it was easy to be
unrestrained he could be moderate.
Whoever else lost his balance Hampton
Back of all this courage and noise and self-control and
supporting them all, there was beyond doubt a firm conviction that his cause
was the cause of justice, of peace and civilization. No man who knew Hampton or is familiar with his career can
doubt his profound devotion to the public welfare. One may question the wisdom of his policy, may
think another and different policy might have brought better results, but no
one who is well informed can question Hampton’s
fidelity to his own best judgment. He
steadily followed the right as he saw it, and he was as sure to follow it in
days of defeat as in days of victory. He
fell upon evil times as well as upon prosperous. He felt “the slings and arrows of outrageous
fortune,” as well as the applause and cheers of his fellow citizens, but
through it all he bore himself, so far as I can see, without mistake or fault,
from the point of view he took. Over his
open grave nothing could persuade me to utter dispraise or blame, if I could
see the gravest mistakes in his career, for I feel sure he was true at all
times to what he regarded his duty.
There is no higher praise, no greater success than this. To meet a great crisis successfully, to win
the plaudits of a whole people, to see much of the applause changed to
distraction, and through it all to keep steadily on the ____ and true path of
honor and patriotism, even to the end, is a record which entitles Hampton to a
place second to no one in the hearts of his people and the records of his
It was Burke who said: “Nothing but the possession of
some power can, with any certainty, discover what at the bottom is the true
character of any man.” Hampton was tried by this test, and by it he
stands approved and will stand while our memory of him lasts.
Among all the tributes that have been paid to Gen.
Hampton there is none that we have seen that is more just and evidently more
sincere than the above from ex-Governor Chamberlain. Its value is greatly enhanced by the fact
that it comes from a political enemy and one who had seen his power over men
and felt it besides. It is not often
that such a tribute comes from a man toward another before whom he went down to
defeat, and it is all the more valuable for that reason. He had every opportunity to observe the
splendid and unexampled poise of the man in the face of a great temptation when
thousands of men, many of them old veterans whom he had led in battle, stood
ready to do his bidding, and he saw him instead, as with the wand of a
magician, quiet the turbulent crowd and still the angry passions that were
ready to burst forth in a furious storm.
He had the best opportunity to measure the magnitude of the man in the
greatest crisis of his life and he has measured him correctly.
[Transcribed by Sharon Strout]