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March 4th, 1883-March 4th, 1889.

A formal biographical sketch of Mr. Laird is here omitted in order to avoid repetition, since both Mr. Connell, his colleague, and Mr. Laws, his successor, incorporated his personal history in their memorial addresses of him, which immediately follow this article. To eliminate it from their tributes would materially mar their productions. But an extract from the contribution of the Hon. Mr. Cutcheon, the venerable preceptor of his brothers, in connection with the tender words of his comrade, Representative Tarsney, make a valuable introduction.


MR. CUTCHEON, of Michigan: Mr. Speaker, I shall not on this occasion indulge in any extended eulogy of our deceased colleague. When I first entered this hall as a member of this House in December, 1883, one of the first members to greet me was our deceased friend and colleague, James Laird, of Nebraska. Our previous acquaintance had been nominal only. The interest which I took in him and which he took in me had been vicarious rather than personal. When as a young man, in 1859, I left the halls of my alma mater, the University of Michigan, and became principal of a small academy in southern Michigan, I found there two young men by the name of Laird; and before the close of the term there came with them, to attend the closing exercises, a lad, as small almost as the smallest of these pages; who I afterwards found was their brother. I lost sight of him then and never to my knowledge met him again personally until he came to me in this chamber, and introduced himself as the same lad, James Laird. In the meantime the two brothers who had been under my instruction both died in the cause of the Union, as soldiers in the army. This trifling circumstance of our first meeting was the slender thread that bound us; but when we found ourselves a few weeks later in adjacent seats at the same committee table, where we served together continuously, side by side, for six years, this beginning of acquaintanceship ripened into a friendship which lasted as long as life endured. On the

very first occasion in which I participated on this floor I found my colleague and myself upon opposite sides of the question. I discovered on that occasion the quality of his steel. It was that debate, now historical, in regard to the restoration to the army of General Fitz-John Porter. Mr. Laird had left his home when a mere boy (I think about thirteen years of age), and enlisted in the 16th Michigan Infantry; had gone to the front and become one of that 5th Army Corps which was then under the command of General Porter. So when he found his old chieftain attacked here, with all the enthusiasm of his boyish admiration and love, and with all the vigor and strength of his manhood he came to his defense. I never ceased to admire and respect the chivalry, the earnestness and the enthusiasm of the man. Whenever he participated in debate his methods were earnest, direct and eloquent. There was in his voice the sound of the ring of the sabre; there were in his utterances the rattle of the small arms in battle.

In the committee room we found him always attentive to his duties; always faithful to each trust reposed in him; laborious and careful in the examination of his facts, but when his mind was made up, earnest and pertinacious in the defense of that which he believed to be right.


MR. TARSNEY: Mr. Speaker, as I stand here, as it were, over the open grave of James Laird, it is not of the lawyer, the orator or the statesman I am thinking. It is not in any of these characters, though he was great in all, that he is recalled to me. I see him now as the playmate of my earliest boyhood days, the companion and schoolmate of my riper youth, and the comrade of the years that followed in the field of arms. James Laird was born in the State of New York, but when a mere child his parents removed to Hillsdale County, Michigan, then almost a wilderness. His father was a native of Scotland, a minister of the Presbyterian faith, a man of great intellectual power and of wonderful eloquence, qualities richly inherited by his son. In that same wilderness, with only the advantages and comforts afforded in a pioneer community, we passed the first years of our lives together in attending the district school. The village academy followed the district school, and then came the war with its tests for separating the gold from the dross of American manhood. In 1862 we both entered the army. In one of the first regiments to leave the State at the beginning of the war each of us had two elder brothers. In this organization I enlisted and

joined his brothers and my own; he enlisted in another regi-
ment, but we were not separated, for our regiments were
assigned to the same division.

Following every battle in which we were engaged, scarcely
would the firing cease when he would come with anxious,
loving heart to find how fared it with those he loved. Once,
sir, for him there was a sad coming; it was on the night
that followed that dread day of the 2nd of July at Gettys-
burg. He came to find a brother dead; a friend he loved
missing, and his fate unknown. Sir, the iron of the sorrow
of that dread night entered his soul and never departed,
but remained a living sorrow to the last day of his life.


The appearance of Mr. Laird as a speaker before the House of Representatives, sixty days after the commencement of the first session of the 48th Congress, February 1st, 1884, deserves special notice, inasmuch as he was about to vote with the entire party in opposition, and to incur the charge of having failed to sustain his own party, and run the risk of future political discipline.

For twenty-one years General Fitz-John Porter had suffered under the penalty of a court-martial, and during all that time, the democratic party had agitated a reversal of the penalty.

A bill for his restoration to the army and his retirement from active duty being before the House, Mr. Laird defined his position:

Mr. Chairman, believing as I do, that there is no place where the honor of an American soldier should be so safe as in the hands of the Representatives of the whole American people, I desire to say before the vote is cast, that I shall vote first, last, and all the time for the vindication of the honor of General Fitz-John Porter. [Applause.] And let me remark to the gentlemen who seek to bring the menace of future punishment to bear upon the discharge of present duty, that if I knew this act of mine would end my bodily existence, as you say it may end my official one, then still would I do it; and I would thank God that my loyalty to my country, as I understand her honor; that my loyalty to my general, as I understand my duty; that my loyalty to truth as I know it to be, was strong enough to lift my conduct above the possibility of ignominious change to come from cowardly considerations affecting my life or future condition.

I do this not because I am guided by the judgment of the Schofield board, or the statement of Ulysses S. Grant, for I have not read the one, and have never considered the other. Nor are the convictions that I here hastily express the growth of a day; they are as old as the injustice he has suffered. I do it, because I was with Fitz-John Porter from the siege of Yorktown until the attack of the enemy across the Chickahominy; from that attack to the battle of Hanover Court House, and from that to Mechanicsville, from that to Gaines Mill, and throughout his career except when I was disabled by wounds [Applause]; and I want to say, Mr. Chairman, it is my deliberate judgment, speaking of what I know of Fitz-John Porter, that in all the great battles of the English-speaking race, from Bannockburn to Gettysburg, there has not been made by soldier a record which demonstrates greater loyalty to the cause of his country than that made by Fitz-John Porter. Having seen him on all his battle fields, I believe it can be said of him in action as was said of the soldier of old: "He was swifter than an eagle; he was stronger than a lion; and from the blood of the slain and the fat of the mighty his sword returned not empty."

After handsomely parrying a question which a member propounded, and eulogizing Porter in case of an order to "Charge bayonets," he exclaimed: "Was that the language and conduct of a traitor and a coward? Since the Dutch king proclaimed that he would tear down the dikes and let in the ocean there has not been a braver speech." Claiming the right of a subordinate officer to some discretion in the enforcement of a superior's orders he concluded in the following strain:

Let the advocates of "no discretion" tell me if their science of war teaches that subordinates, in the face of better knowledge, shall obey murderous orders, and slaughter thousands and stand guiltless in history?

One word to the gentleman from Indiana. You say that Lincoln approved the sentence of the court-martial with a full knowledge of all the evidence. I deny it. Abraham Lincoln, "So slow to smite, so swift to spare, so great and merciful and just," never approved that sentence with a knowledge of the evidence. I love the memory of the dead Lincoln and all who died with him for the greatest cause that ever moved mankind, and I love the honor of the fiag and the nation for which they died, and because I do, I vote for the passage of the bill. [Applause.]

During this session he served upon the committees of pensions and military affairs; presented twenty bills and joint resolutions; fifteen petitions; made seven reports from the military committee and fifteen from that on pensions; and engaged in fourteen discussions.


During the second session of the 48th Congress, on a bill to relieve settlers from conflict with Railroad Claims, we have:

Mr. Speaker, is it for this the pioneer has fought? Is there no voice that pleads his cause who bravely holds his way along the front of civilization, laying deep and strong the foundations of a mighty state? From the toil and strife of these men sprang Kansas and Nebraska, the first antislavery states, even as in the olden time sprang the avenging Marius from the "dust and ashes." Thus born into the sisterhood of states, they have bloomed as might two purple flowers rooted in a pool of human blood. We know there is nothing in all the unstoried greatness of this class that of itself alone should speak to the judicial mind, but when laws are passed for their protection it is meet that those who sit upon the softly-cushioned seats of advantage should heed those laws in a contest between abstractions (corporations) and such men. The human being is entitled to the benefit of the doubt; by how much more is he entitled to the benefit of the written law!

These settlers read the laws of Congress granting homesteads and pre-emptions to actual settlers; they read the instructions of the Department of the Interior, and they saw that they were within these. They read the platform of the great Republican party which promised them the earth if they would vote the straight ticket, and then they read the platform of the great Democratic party which promised them not only the earth, as the other platform did, but everything over it and under it, and they said, “We are safe; our friends the politicians will take care of us," and they are still strong in their faith; they still hope to "read their title clear" in the light of your promises; they still believe that Congress-this Congress, gentlemen-want to, and will do what is right. And so they come, stripped by legal jugglery of their homes,-your "glorious birthright of the free" of the platforms and preambles,—and holding forth their empty parchments ask you if you talk to them in two languages; they demand that you make good in this foul day the fair weather promises of the laws and

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