At a banquet given in his honor on Washington’s birthday, in New York, February 22, 1897, the eloquent and gifted Chauncey M. Depew made the following comparison between America’s two greatest heroes:
"This February, for the first time, both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays have been made legal holidays. Never since the creation of man were two human beings so unlike, so nearly the extremes of opposition to each other, as Washington and Lincoln. The one an aristocrat by birth, by breeding, and association, the other in every sense and by every surrounding a democrat. As the richest man in America, a large slave-holder, the possessor of an enormous landed estate, and the leader and representative of the property, the culture, and the colleges of the colonial period, Washington stood for the conservation and preservation of law and order.
"And yet millionaire, slaveholder and aristocrat, in its best sense, that he was, as he lived, so at any time he would have died for the immortal principle put by the Puritans in their charter, adopted in the cabin of the Mayflower, reenacted in the Declaration of Independence, of the equality of all men before the law and of the equal opportunity for all to rise. Lincoln, on the other hand, was born in a cabin, among that class known as poor whites in slaveholding times, who held no position and whose condition was so helpless as to paralyze ambition and effort. His situation so far as his surroundings were concerned had considerable mental but little moral improvement by the removal to Indiana and subsequently to Illinois.
"Anywhere in the Old World a man born amidst such environments and teachings, and possessed of unconquerable energy and ambition and the greatest powers of eloquence and constructive statesmanship, would have been a Socialist and the leader of social revolt. He might have been an Anarchist. His one ambition would have been to break the crust above him and shatter it to pieces. He would see otherwise no opportunity for himself and his fellows in social or political or professional life. But Lincoln attained from the log cabin of the poor white in the wilderness the same position which Washington reached from his palatial mansion and baronial estate on the Potomac; he made the same fight unselfishly, patriotically, and grandly for the preservation of the republic that Washington had done for its creation and foundation. Widely as they are separated, these two heroes of the two great crises of our national life stand together in representing the solvent powers, the inspiring processes, and the hopeful opportunities of American liberty."