I AM asked to jot down a few autobiographic
odds and ends from such data of record and
memory as I may retain. I have been something
of a student of life; an observer of men and women
and affairs; an appraiser of their character, their
conduct, and, on occasion, of their motives. Thus,
a kind of instinct, which bred a tendency and grew
to a habit, has led me into many and diverse
companies, the lowest not always the meanest.
Circumstance has rather favored than hindered
this bent. I was born in a party camp and grew to
manhood on a political battlefield. I have lived
through stirring times and in the thick of events.
In a vein colloquial and reminiscential, not
ambitious, let me recall some impressions which these
have left upon the mind of one who long ago
reached and turned the corner of the Scriptural
limitation; who, approaching fourscore, does not
yet feel painfully the frost of age beneath the
ravage of time's defacing waves. Assuredly they
have not obliterated his sense either of vision or
vista. Mindful of the adjuration of Burns,
Keep something to yourself,
Ye scarcely tell to ony,
I shall yet hold little in reserve, having no state
secrets or mysteries of the soul to reveal.
It is not my purpose to be or to seem oracular.
I shall not write after the manner of Rousseau,
whose Confessions had been better honored in the
breach than the observance, and in any event whose
sincerity will bear question; nor have I tales to tell
after the manner of Paul Barras, whose Memoirs
have earned him an immortality of infamy.
Neither shall I emulate the grandiose volubility and
self-complacent posing of Metternich and Talleyrand,
whose pretentious volumes rest for the most
part unopened upon dusty shelves. I aspire to
none of the honors of the historian. It shall be
my aim as far as may be to avoid the garrulity of
the raconteur and to restrain the exaggerations of
the ego. But neither fear of the charge of
self-exploitation nor the specter of a modesty oft too
obtrusive to be real shall deter me from a proper
freedom of narration, where, though in the main
but a humble chronicler, I must needs appear upon
the scene and speak of myself; for I at least have
not always been a dummy and have sometimes in
a way helped to make history.
In my early life—as it were, my salad days—I
aspired to becoming what old Simon Cameron
called "one of those damned literary fellows" and
Thomas Carlyle less profanely described as "a
leeterary celeebrity." But some malign fate always
sat upon my ambitions in this regard. It was easy
to become The National Gambler in Nast's
cartoons, and yet easier The National Drunkard
through the medium of the everlasting mint-julep
joke; but the phantom of the laurel crown would
never linger upon my fair young brow.
Though I wrote verses for the early issues of
Harper's Weekly—happily no one can now prove
them on me, for even at that jejune period I had
the prudence to use an anonym—the Harpers,
luckily for me, declined to publish a volume of my
poems. I went to London, carrying with me "the
great American novel." It was actually accepted
by my ever too partial friend, Alexander Macmillan.
But, rest his dear old soul, he died and his
successors refused to see the transcendent merit of
that performance, a view which my own maturing
sense of belles-lettres values subsequently came to
When George Harvey arrived at the front I
" 'ad 'opes." But, Lord, that cast-iron man had
never any bookish bowels of compassion—or political
either for the matter of that!—so that finally I
gave up fiction and resigned myself to the humble
category of the crushed tragi-comedians of literature,
who inevitably drift into journalism.
Thus my destiny has been casual. A great man
of letters quite thwarted, I became a newspaper
reporter—a voluminous space writer for the press
—now and again an editor and managing editor—
until, when I was nearly thirty years of age, I hit
the Kentucky trail and set up for a journalist. I did
this, however, with a big "J," nursing for a while
some faint ambitions of statesmanship—even office
—but in the end discarding everything that might
obstruct my entire freedom, for I came into the
world an insurgent, or, as I have sometimes
described myself in the Kentucky vernacular, "a free
nigger and not a slave nigger."
Though born in a party camp and grown to manhood
on a political battlefield my earlier years were
most seriously influenced by the religious spirit of
the times. We passed to and fro between Washington
and the two family homesteads in Tennessee,
which had cradled respectively my father and
mother, Beech Grove in Bedford County, and
Spring Hill in Maury County. Both my grandfathers
were devout churchmen of the Presbyterian
faith. My Grandfather Black, indeed, was the son
of a Presbyterian clergyman, who lived, preached
and died in Madison County, Kentucky. He was
descended, I am assured, in a straight line from
that David Black, of Edinburgh, who, as Burkle
tells us, having declared in a sermon that Elizabeth
of England was a harlot, and her cousin, Mary
Queen of Scots, little better, went to prison for it
—all honor to his memory.
My Grandfather Watterson was a man of mark
in his day. He was decidedly a constructive—the
projector and in part the builder of an important
railway line—an early friend and comrade of
General Jackson, who was all too busy to take office,
and, indeed, who throughout his life disdained the
ephemeral honors of public life. The Wattersons
had migrated directly from Virginia to Tennessee.
The two families were prosperous, even wealthy
for those days, and my father had entered public
life with plenty of money, and General Jackson
for his sponsor. It was not, however, his ambitions
or his career that interested me—that is, not until
I was well into my teens—but the camp meetings
and the revivalist preachers delivering the Word
of God with more or less of ignorant yet often of
very eloquent and convincing fervor.
The wave of the great Awakening of 1800 had
not yet subsided. Bascom was still alive. I have
heard him preach. The people were filled with
thoughts of heaven and hell, of the immortality of
the soul and the life everlasting, of the Redeemer
and the Cross of Calvary. The camp ground
witnessed an annual muster of the adjacent countryside.
The revival was a religious hysteria lasting
ten days or two weeks. The sermons were appeals
to the emotions. The songs were the outpourings
of the soul in
ecstacy. There was no fanaticism of
the death-dealing, proscriptive sort; nor any
conscious cant; simplicity, childlike belief in future
rewards and punishments, the orthodox Gospel the
universal rule. There was a good deal of doughty
controversy between the churches, as between the
parties; but love of the Union and the Lord was
the bedrock of every confession.
Inevitably an impressionable and imaginative
mind opening to such sights and sounds as it
emerged from infancy must have been deeply
affected. Until I was twelve years old the
enchantment of religion had complete possession of my
understanding. With the loudest, I could sing all
the hymns. Being early taught in music I began
to transpose them into many sorts of rhythmic
movement for the edification of my companions.
Their words, aimed directly at the heart, sank,
never to be forgotten, into my memory. To this
day I can repeat the most of them—though not
without a break of voice—while too much dwelling
upon them would stir me to a pitch of feeling
which a life of activity in very different walks and
ways and a certain self-control I have been always
able to command would scarcely suffice to restrain.
The truth is that I retain the spiritual essentials
I learned then and there. I never had the young
man's period of disbelief. There has never been a
time when if the Angel of Death had appeared
upon the scene—no matter how festal—I would
not have knelt with adoration and welcome; never
a time on the battlefield or at sea when if the
elements had opened to swallow me I would not have
gone down shouting!
Sectarianism in time yielded to universalism.
Theology came to seem to my mind more and more
a weapon in the hands of Satan to embroil and
divide the churches. I found in the Sermon on
the Mount leading enough for my ethical guidance,
in the life and death of the Man of Galilee inspiration
enough to fulfill my heart's desire; and though
I have read a great deal of modern inquiry—from
Renan and Huxley through Newman and Döllinger,
embracing debates before, during and after
the English upheaval of the late fifties and the
Ecumenical Council of 1870, including the various
raids upon the Westminster Confession, especially
the revision of the Bible, down to writers like
Frederic Harrison and Doctor Campbell—I have
found nothing to shake my childlike faith in the
simple rescript of Christ and Him crucified.
From their admission into the Union, the States
of Kentucky and Tennessee have held a relation to
the politics of the country somewhat disproportioned
to their population and wealth. As between
the two parties from the Jacksonian era to
the War of Sections, each was closely and hotly
contested. If not the birthplace of what was called
"stump oratory," in them that picturesque form of
party warfare flourished most and lasted longest.
The "barbecue" was at once a rustic feast and a
forum of political debate. Especially notable was
the presidential campaign of 1840, the year of
my birth, "Tippecanoe and Tyler," for the Whig
slogan—"Old Hickory" and "the battle of New
Orleans," the Democratic rallying cry—Jackson
and Clay, the adored party chieftains.
I grew up in the one State, and have passed the
rest of my life in the other, cherishing for both a
deep affection, and, maybe, over-estimating their
hold upon the public interest. Excepting General
Jackson, who was a fighter and not a talker, their
public men, with Henry Clay and Felix Grundy in
the lead, were "stump orators." He who could not
relate and impersonate an anecdote to illustrate and
clinch his argument, nor "make the welkin ring"
with the clarion tones of his voice, was politically
good for nothing. James K. Polk and James C.
Jones led the van of stump orators in Tennessee,
Ben Hardin, John J. Crittenden and John C.
Breckenridge in Kentucky. Tradition still has
stories to tell of their exploits and prowess, their wit
and eloquence, even their commonplace sayings
and doings. They were marked men who never
failed to captivate their audiences. The system of
stump oratory had many advantages as a public
force and was both edifying and educational.
There were a few conspicuous writers for the press,
such as Ritchie, Greeley and Prentice. But the
day of personal journalism and newspaper
influence came later.
I was born at Washington—February 16, 1840
—"a bad year for Democrats," as my father used
to say, adding: "I am afraid the boy will grow up
to be a Whig."
In those primitive days there were only Whigs
and Democrats. Men took their politics, as their
liquor, "straight"; and this father of mine was an
undoubting Democrat of the schools of Jefferson
and Jackson. He had succeeded James K. Polk
in Congress when the future President was elected
governor of Tennessee; though when nominated he
was little beyond the age required to qualify as a
member of the House.
To the end of his long life he appeared to me the
embodiment of wisdom, integrity and
And so he was—a man of tremendous force of
character, yet of surpassing sweetness of disposition;
singularly disdainful of office, and indeed of
preferment of every sort; a profuse maker and a
prodigal spender of money; who, his needs and
recognition assured, cared nothing at all for what
he regarded as the costly glories of the little great
men who rattled round in places often much too
big for them.
Immediately succeeding Mr. Polk, and such a
youth in appearance, he attracted instant attention.
His father, my grandfather, allowed him a larger
income than was good for him—seeing that the per
diem then paid Congressmen was altogether insufficient
—and during the earlier days of his sojourn in
the national capital he cut a wide swath; his
principal yokemate in the pleasures and dissipations of
those times being Franklin Pierce, at first a
representative and then a senator from New Hampshire.
Fortunately for both of them, they were whisked
out of Washington by their families in 1843; my
father into the diplomatic service and Mr. Pierce
to the seclusion of his New England home. They
kept in close touch, however, the one with the other,
and ten years later, in 1853, were back again upon
the scene of their rather conspicuous frivolity,
Pierce as President of the United States, my father,
who had preceded him a year or two, as editor
of the Washington Union, the organ of the
When I was a boy the national capital was still
rife with stories of their escapades. One that I
recall had it that on a certain occasion returning
from an excursion late at night my father missed
his footing and fell into the canal that then divided
the city, and that Pierce, after many fruitless
efforts, unable to assist him to dry land, exclaimed,
"Well, Harvey, I can't get you out, but I'll get in
with you," suiting the action to the word. And
there they were found and rescued by a party of
passers, very well pleased with themselves.
My father's absence in South America extended
over two years. My mother's health, maybe her
aversion to a long overseas journey, kept her at
home, and very soon he tired of life abroad without
her and came back. A committee of citizens went
on a steamer down the river to meet him, the wife
and child along, of course, and the story was told
that, seated on the paternal knee curiously observant
of every detail, the brat suddenly exclaimed,
"Ah ha, pa! Now you've got on your store clothes.
But when ma gets you up at Beech Grove you'll
have to lay off your broadcloth and put on your
jeans, like I do."
Being an only child and often an invalid, I was a
pet in the family and many tales were told of my
infantile precocity. On one occasion I had a fight
with a little colored boy of my own age and I need
not say got the worst of it. My grandfather, who
came up betimes and separated us, said, "he has
blackened your eye and he shall black your boots,"
thereafter making me a deed to the lad. We grew
up together in the greatest amity and in due time I
gave him his freedom, and again to drop into the
vernacular—"that was the only nigger I ever
owned." I should add that in the "War of
Sections" he fell in battle bravely fighting for the
freedom of his race.
It is truth to say that I cannot recall the time
when I was not passionately opposed to slavery, a
crank on the subject of personal liberty, if I am a
crank about anything.
In those days a less attractive place than the city
of Washington could hardly be imagined. It was
scattered over an ill-paved and half-filled oblong
extending east and west from the Capitol to the
White House, and north and south from the line of
the Maryland hills to the Potomac River. One does
not wonder that the early Britishers, led by Tom
Moore, made game of it, for it was both unpromising
Private carriages were not numerous. Hackney
coaches had to be especially ordered. The only
public conveyance was a rickety old omnibus which,
making hourly trips, plied its lazy journey between
the Navy Yard and Georgetown. There was a
livery stable—Kimball's—having "stalls," as the
sleeping apartments above came to be called, thus
literally serving man and beast. These stalls often
lodged very distinguished people. Kimball, the
proprietor, a New Hampshire Democrat of imposing
appearance, was one of the last Washingtonians
to wear knee breeches and a ruffled shirt. He was a
great admirer of my father and his place was a
resort of my childhood.
One day in the early April of 1852 I was
humped in a chair upon one side of the open
entrance reading a book—Mr. Kimball seated on the
other side reading a newspaper—when there came
down the street a tall, greasy-looking person, who
as he approached said: "Kimball, I have another
letter here from Frank."
"Well, what does Frank say?"
Then the letter was produced, read and discussed.
It was all about the coming National Democratic
Convention and its prospective nominee for President
of the United States, "Frank" seeming to be
a principal. To me it sounded very queer. But I
took it all in, and as soon as I reached home I put
it up to my father:
"How comes it," I asked, "that a big old loafer
gets a letter from a candidate for President and
talks it over with the keeper of a livery stable?
What have such people to do with such things?"
My father said: "My son, Mr. Kimball is an
estimable man. He has been an important and
popular Democrat in New Hampshire. He is not
without influence here. The Frank they talked
about is Gen. Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire,
an old friend and neighbor of Mr. Kimball.
General Pierce served in Congress with me and some
of us are thinking that we may nominate him for
President. The 'big old loafer,' as you call him,
was Mr. John C. Rives, a most distinguished and
influential Democrat indeed."
Three months later, when the event came to pass,
I could tell all about Gen. Franklin Pierce. His
nomination was no surprise to me, though to the
country at large it was almost a shock. He had
been nowhere seriously considered.
In illustration of this a funny incident recurs to
me. At Nashville the night of the nomination a
party of Whigs and Democrats had gathered in
front of the principal hotel waiting for the arrival
of the news, among the rest Sam Bugg and Chunky
Towles, two local gamblers, both undoubting
Democrats. At length Chunky Towles, worn out,
went off to bed. The result was finally flashed over
the wires. The crowd was
nonplused. "Who the
hell is Franklin Pierce?" passed from lip to lip.
Sam Bugg knew his political catechism well. He
proceeded at length to tell all about Franklin
Pierce, ending with the opinion that he was the
man wanted and would be elected hands down, and
he had a thousand dollars to bet on it.
Then he slipped away to tell his pal.
"Wake up, Chunky," he cried. "We got a candidate
—Gen. Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire."
"Chunky," says Sam. "I am ashamed of your
ignorance. Gen. Franklin Pierce is the son of
Gen. Benjamin Pierce, of Revolutionary fame.
He has served in both houses of Congress. He
declined a seat in Polk's Cabinet. He won distinction
in the Mexican War. He is the very candidate
we've been after."
"In that case," says Chunky, "I'll get up."
When be reappeared Petway, the Whig leader of
the gathering, who had been deriding the convention,
the candidate and all things else Democratic,
"Here comes Chunky Towles. He's a good
Democrat; and I'll bet ten to one he never heard
of Franklin Pierce in his life before."
Chunky Towles was one of the handsomest men
of his time. His strong suit was his unruffled
composure and cool self-control. "Mr. Petway," says
he, "you would lose your money, and I won't take
advantage of any man's ignorance. Besides, I
never gamble on a certainty. Gen. Franklin
Pierce, sir, is a son of Gen. Benjamin Pierce of
Revolutionary memory. He served in both houses
of Congress, sir—refused a seat in Polk's Cabinet,
sir—won distinction in the Mexican War, sir. He
has been from the first my choice, and I've money
to bet on his election."
Franklin Pierce had an only son, named Benny,
after his grandfather, the Revolutionary hero. He
was of my own age. I was planning the good time
we were going to have in the White House when
tidings came that he had been killed in a railway
accident. It was a grievous blow, from which the
stricken mother never recovered. One of the most
vivid memories and altogether the saddest episode
of my childhood is that a few weeks later I was
carried up to the Executive Mansion, which, all
formality and marble, seemed cold enough for a
mausoleum, where a lady in black took me in her
arms and convulsively held me there, weeping as
if her heart would break.
Sometimes a fancy, rather vague, comes to me
of seeing the soldiers go off to the Mexican War
and of making flags striped with pokeberry juice
—somehow the name of the fruit was mingled with
that of the President—though a visit quite a year
before to The Hermitage, which adjoined the farm
of an uncle, to see General Jackson is still
I remember it vividly. The old hero dandled me
in his arms, saying "So this is Harvey's boy," I
looking the while in vain for the "hickory," of
which I had heard so much.
On the personal side history owes General Jackson
reparation. His personality needs indeed complete
reconstruction in the popular mind, which
misconceives him a rough frontiersman having few
or none of the social graces. In point of fact he
came into the world a gentleman, a leader, a knight-errant
who captivated women and dominated men.
I shared when a young man the common belief
about him. But there is ample proof of the error
of this. From middle age, though he ever liked a
horse race, he was a regular if not a devout churchman.
He did not swear at all, "by the Eternal"
or any other oath. When he reached New Orleans
in 1814 to take command of the army, Governor
Claiborne gave him a dinner; and after he had gone
Mrs. Claiborne, who knew European courts and
society better than any other American woman,
said to her husband: "Call that man a backwoodsman?
He is the finest gentleman I ever met!"
There is another witness—Mr. Buchanan, afterward
President—who tells how he took a distinguished
English lady to the White House when
Old Hickory was President; how he went up to
the general's private apartment, where he found
him in a ragged
robe-de-chambre, smoking his
pipe; how, when he intimated that the President
might before coming down slick himself a bit, he
received the half-laughing rebuke: "Buchanan, I
once knew a man in Virginia who made himself
independently rich by minding his own business";
how, when he did come down, he was
en règle; and
finally how, after a half hour of delightful talk, the
English lady as they regained the street broke forth
with enthusiasm, using almost the selfsame words
of Mrs. Claiborne: "He is the finest gentleman I
ever met in the whole course of my life."
The Presidential campaign of 1848—and the
concurrent return of the Mexican soldiers—seems
but yesterday. We were in Nashville, where the
camp fires of the two parties burned fiercely day
and night, Tennessee a debatable, even a pivotal
state. I was an enthusiastic politician on the Cass
and Butler side, and was correspondingly disappointed
when the election went against us for Taylor
and Fillmore, though a little mollified when,
on his way to Washington, General Taylor grasping
his old comrade, my grandfather, by the hand,
called him "Billy," and paternally stroked my
Though the next winter we passed in Washington
I never saw him in the White House. He died
in July, 1850, and was succeeded by Millard
Fillmore. It is common to speak of Old Rough and
Ready as an ignoramus. I don't think this. He
may not have been very courtly, but he was a
Later in life I came to know Millard Fillmore
well and to esteem him highly. Once he told me
that Daniel Webster had said to him: "Fillmore,
I like Clay—I like Clay very much—but he rides
rough, sir; damned rough!"
I was fond of going to the Capitol and of playing
amateur page in the House, of which my father
had been a member and where he had many friends,
though I was never officially a page. There was in
particular a little old bald-headed gentleman who
was good to me and would put his arm about me
and stroll with me across the rotunda to the Library
of Congress and get me books to read. I was not
so young as not to know that he was an ex-President
of the United States, and to realize the meaning
of it. He had been the oldest member of the
House when my father was the youngest. He was
John Quincy Adams. By chance I was on the
floor of the House when he fell in his place, and
followed the excited and tearful throng when they
bore him into the Speaker's Room, kneeling by the
side of the sofa with an improvised fan and crying
as if my heart would break.
One day in the spring of 1851 my father took me
to a little hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue near the
Capitol and into a stuffy room, where a snuffy old
man wearing an ill-fitting wig was busying himself
over a pile of documents. He turned about and
was very hearty.
"Aha, you've brought the boy," said he.
And my father said: "My son, you wanted to
see General Cass, and here he is."
My enthusiasm over the Cass and Butler campaign
had not subsided. Inevitably General Cass
was to me the greatest of heroes. My father had
been and always remained his close friend. Later
along we dwelt together at Willard's Hotel, my
chaperon for Miss Belle Cass, afterward
Madame Von Limbourg, and I came into familiar
intercourse with the family.
The general made me something of a pet and
never ceased to be a hero to me. I still think he
was one of the foremost statesmen of his time and
treasure a birthday present he made me when I was
just entering my teens.
The hour I passed with him that afternoon I shall
As we were about taking our leave my father
said: "Well, my son, you have seen General Cass;
what do you think of him?"
And the general patting me affectionately on the
head laughingly said: "He thinks he has seen a
pretty good-looking old fogy—that is what he
There flourished in the village life of Washington
two old blokes—no other word can properly describe
them—Jack Dade, who signed himself "the
Honorable John W. Dade, of Virginia;" and
Beau Hickman, who hailed from nowhere and
acquired the pseudonym through sheer impudence.
In one way and another they lived by their wits,
the one all dignity, the other all cheek. Hickman
fell very early in his career of sponge and beggar,
but Dade lived long and died in office—indeed,
toward the close an office was actually created for
Dade had been a schoolmate of John Tyler—so
intimate they were that at college they were called
"the two Jacks"—and when the death of Harrison
made Tyler President, the "off Jack," as he dubbed
himself, went up to the White House and said:
"Jack Tyler, you've had luck and I haven't. You
must do something for me and do it quick. I'm
hard up and I want an office."
"You old reprobate," said Tyler, "what office
on earth do you think you are fit to fill?"
"Well," said Dade, "I have heard them talking
round here of a place they call a sine-cu-ree—big
pay and no work—and if there is one of them left
and lying about loose I think I could fill it to a T."
"All right," said the President good naturedly,
"I'll see what can be done. Come up to-morrow."
The next day "Col. John W. Dade, of Virginia,"
was appointed keeper of the Federal prison of the
District of Columbia. He assumed his post with
empressement, called the prisoners before him and
made them an address.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said he; "I have been
chosen by my friend, the President of the United
States, as superintendent of this eleemosynary
institution. It is my intention to treat you all as a
Virginia gentleman should treat a body of American
ladies and gentlemen gathered here from all
parts of our beloved Union, and I shall expect the
same consideration in return. Otherwise I will
turn you all out upon the cold mercies of a
heartless world and you will have to work for your
There came to Congress from Alabama a roistering
blade by the name of McConnell. He was
something of a wit. During his brief sojourn in
the national capital he made a noisy record for
himself as an all-round, all-night man about town, a
dare-devil and a spendthrift. His first encounter
with Col. John W. Dade, of Virginia, used to be
one of the standard local jokes. Colonel Dade was
seated in the barroom of Brown's Hotel early one
morning, waiting for someone to come in and invite
him to drink.
Presently McConnell arrived. It was his custom
when he entered a saloon to ask the entire roomful,
no matter how many, "to come up and licker," and,
of course, he invited the solitary stranger.
When the glasses were filled Dade pompously
said: "With whom have I the honor of drinking?"
"My name," answered McConnell, "is Felix
Grundy McConnell, begad! I am a member of
Congress from Alabama. My mother is a justice
of the peace, my aunt keeps a livery stable, and my
grandmother commanded a company in the Revolution
and fit the British, gol darn their souls!"
Dade pushed his glass aside.
"Sir," said he, "I am a man of high aspirations
and peregrinations and can have nothing to do with
such low-down scopangers as yourself. Good morning,
It may be presumed that both spoke in jest, because
they became inseparable companions and the
best of friends.
McConnell had a tragic ending. In James K.
Polk's diary I find two entries under the dates,
respectively, of September 8 and September 10,
1846. The first of these reads as follows: "Hon.
Felix G. McConnell, a representative in Congress
from Alabama called. He looked very badly and
as though he had just recovered from a fit of
intoxication. He was sober, but was pale, his
countenance haggard and his system nervous. He
applied to me to borrow one hundred dollars and said
he would return it to me in ten days.
"Though I had no idea that he would do so I
had a sympathy for him even in his dissipation. I
had known him in his youth and had not the moral
courage to refuse. I gave him the one hundred
dollars in gold and took his note. His hand was
so tremulous that he could scarcely write his name
to the note legibly. I think it probable that he will
never pay me. He informed me he was detained
at Washington attending to some business in the
Indian Office. I supposed he had returned home
at the adjournment of Congress until he called
to-day. I doubt whether he has any business in
Washington, but fear he has been detained by
The second of Mr. Polk's entries is a corollary
of the first and reads: "About dark this evening I
learned from Mr. Voorhies, who is acting as my
private secretary during the absence of J. Knox
Walker, that Hon. Felix G. McConnell, a
representative in Congress from the state of Alabama,
had committed suicide this afternoon at the St.
Charles Hotel, where he boarded. On Tuesday
last Mr. McConnell called on me and I loaned him
one hundred dollars. [See this diary of that day.]
I learn that but a short time before the horrid deed
was committed he was in the barroom of the St.
Charles Hotel handling gold pieces and stating that
be had received them from me, and that he loaned
thirty-five dollars of them to the barkeeper, that
shortly afterward he had attempted to write something,
but what I have not learned, but he had not
written much when he said he would go to his
"In the course of the morning I learn he went
into the city and paid a hackman a small amount
which he owed him. He had locked his room door,
and when found he was stretched out on his back
with his hands extended, weltering in his blood. He
had three wounds in the abdomen and his throat
was cut. A hawkbill knife was found near him.
A jury of inquest was held and found a verdict that
he had destroyed himself. It was a melancholy
instance of the effects of intemperance. Mr.
McConnell when a youth resided at Fayetteville in
my congressional district. Shortly after he grew
up to manhood he was at my instance appointed
postmaster of that town. He was a true Democrat
and a sincere friend of mine.
"His family in Tennessee are highly respectable
and quite numerous. The information as to the
manner and particulars of his death I learned from
Mr. Voorhies, who reported it to me as he had heard
it in the streets. Mr. McConnell removed from
Tennessee to Alabama some years ago, and I learn
he has left a wife and three or four children."
Poor Felix Grundy McConnell! At a school in
Tennessee he was a roommate of my father, who
related that one night Felix awakened with a
scream from a bad dream he had, the dream being
that he had cut his own throat.
"Old Jack Dade," as he was always called, lived
on, from hand to mouth, I dare say—for he lost his
job as keeper of the district prison—yet never
wholly out-at-heel, scrupulously neat in his person
no matter how seedy the attire. On the completion
of the new wings of the Capitol and the removal
of the House to its more commodious quarters he
was made custodian of the old Hall of Representatives,
a post he held until he died.
Between the idiot and the man of sense, the
lunatic and the man of genius, there are degrees—
streaks—of idiocy and lunacy. How many expectant
politicians elected to Congress have entered
Washington all hope, eager to dare and do, to come
away broken in health, fame and fortune, happy
to get back home—sometimes unable to get away,
to linger on in obscurity and poverty to a squalid
and wretched old age.
I have lived long enough to have known many
such: Senators who have filled the galleries when
they rose to speak; House heroes living while they
could on borrowed money, then banging about the
hotels begging for money to buy drink.
There was a famous statesman and orator who
came to this at last, of whom the typical and
characteristic story was told that the holder of a claim
against the Government, who dared not approach
so great a man with so much as the intimation of a
bribe, undertook by argument to interest him in the
merit of the case.
The great man listened and replied: "I have
noticed you scattering your means round here
pretty freely but you haven't said 'turkey' to me."
Surprised but glad and unabashed the claimant
said "I was coming to that," produced a thousand-dollar
bank roll and entered into an understanding
as to what was to be done next day, when the
bill was due on the calendar.
The great man took the money, repaired to a
gambling house, had an extraordinary run of luck,
won heavily, and playing all night, forgetting about
his engagement, went to bed at daylight, not
appearing in the House at all. The bill was called,
and there being nobody to represent it, under the
rule it went over and to the bottom of the calendar,
killed for that session at least.
The day after the claimant met his recreant
attorney on the avenue face to face and took him to
task for his delinquency.
"Ah, yes," said the great man, "you are the little
rascal who tried to bribe me the other day. Here
is your dirty money. Take it and be off with you.
I was just seeing how far you would go."
The comment made by those who best knew the
great man was that if instead of winning in the
gambling house he had lost he would have been up
betimes at his place in the House, and doing his
utmost to pass the claimant's bill and obtain a
Another memory of those days has to do with
music. This was the coming of Jenny Lind to
America. It seemed an event. When she reached
Washington Mr. Barnum asked at the office of my
father's newspaper for a smart lad to sell the
programs of the concert—a new thing in artistic
showmanry. "I don't want a paper carrier, or a
HENRY CLAY—PAINTED AT ASHLAND BY DODGE FOR
THE HON. ANDREW EWING OF TENNESSEE—THE
ORIGINAL HANGS IN MR. WATTERSON'S LIBRARY
newsboy," said he, "but a young gentleman, three
or four young gentlemen." I was sent to him. We
readily agreed upon the commission to be received
—five cents on each twenty-five cent program—
the oldest of old men do not forget such transactions.
But, as an extra percentage for "organizing
the force," I demanded a concert seat. Choice
seats were going at a fabulous figure and Barnum
at first demurred. But I told him I was a musical
student, stood my ground, and, perhaps seeing
something unusual in the eager spirit of a little boy,
he gave in and the bargain was struck.
Two of my pals became my assistants. But my
sales beat both of them hollow. Before the concert
began I had sold my programs and was in my seat.
I recall that my money profit was something over
The bell-like tones of the Jenny Lind voice in
"Home, Sweet Home," and "The Last Rose of
Summer" still come back to me, but too long
after for me to make, or imagine, comparisons
between it and the vocalism of Grisi, Sontag and
Meeting Mr. Barnum at Madison Square
Garden in New York, when he was running one
of his entertainments there, I told him the story,
and we had a hearty laugh, both of us very much
pleased, he very much surprised to find in me a
One of my earliest yearnings was for a home.
I cannot recall the time when I was not sick and
tired of our migrations between Washington City
and the two grand-paternal homesteads in Tennessee.
The travel counted for much of my aversion
to the nomadic life we led. The stagecoach
is happier in the contemplation than in the
actuality. Even when the railways arrived there
were no sleeping cars, the time of transit three or
four days and nights. In the earlier journeys it
had been ten or twelve days.
CHAPTER THE SECOND
SLAVERY THE TROUBLE-MAKER—BREAK UP OF THE
WHIG PARTY AND RISE OF THE REPUBLICAN—
THE SICKLES TRAGEDY—BROOKS AND SUMNER
—LIFE AT WASHINGTON IN THE FIFTIES
WHETHER the War of Sections—as it
should be called, because, except in Eastern
Tennessee and in three of the Border States,
Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, it was nowise a
civil war—could have been averted must ever
remain a question of useless speculation. In recognizing
the institution of African slavery, with no provision
for its ultimate removal, the Federal Union
set out embodying the seeds of certain trouble. The
wiser heads of the Constitutional Convention perceived
this plainly enough; its dissonance to the
logic of their movement; on the sentimental side its
repugnancy; on the practical side its doubtful
economy; and but for the tobacco growers and the
cotton planters it had gone by the board. The
North soon found slave labor unprofitable and rid
itself of slavery. Thus, restricted to the South, it
came to represent in the Southern mind a "right"
which the South was bound to defend.
Mr. Slidell told me in Paris that Louis Napoleon
had once said to him in answer to his urgency for
the recognition of the Southern Confederacy: "I
have talked the matter over with Lord Palmerston
and we are both of the opinion that as long as
African slavery exists at the South, France and
England cannot recognize the Confederacy. They
do not demand its instant abolition. But if you
put it in course of abatement and final abolishment
through a term of years—I do not care how many
—we can intervene to some purpose. As matters
stand we dare not go before a European congress
with such a proposition."
Mr. Slidell passed it up to Richmond. Mr.
Davis passed it on to the generals in the field. The
response he received on every hand was the
statement that it would disorganize and disband the
Confederate Armies. Yet we are told, and it is
doubtless true, that scarcely one Confederate
soldier in ten actually owned a slave.
Thus do imaginings become theories, and theories
resolve themselves into claims; and interests, however
mistaken, rise to the dignity of prerogatives.
The fathers had rather a hazy view of the future.
I was witness to the decline and fall of the old
Whig Party and the rise of the Republican Party.
There was a brief lull in sectional excitement after
the Compromise Measures of 1850, but the
overwhelming defeat of the Whigs in 1852 and the
dominancy of Mr. Jefferson Davis in the cabinet of
Mr. Pierce brought the agitation back again. Mr.
Davis was a follower of Mr. Calhoun—though it
may be doubted whether Mr. Calhoun would ever
have been willing to go to the length of secession
—and Mr. Pierce being by temperament a Southerner
as well as in opinions a pro-slavery Democrat,
his Administration fell under the spell of the
ultra Southern wing of the party. The Kansas-Nebraska
Bill was originally harmless enough, but
the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which on
Mr. Davis' insistence was made a part of it, let
slip the dogs of war.
In Stephen A. Douglas was found an able and
pliant instrument. Like Clay, Webster and Calhoun
before him, Judge Douglas had the presidential
bee in his bonnet. He thought the South
would, as it could, nominate and elect him
Personally he was a most lovable man—rather
too convivial—and for a while in 1852 it looked as
though he might be the Democratic nominee. His
candidacy was premature, his backers overconfident
"I like Douglas and am for him," said Buck
Stone, a member of Congress and delegate to the
National Democratic Convention from Kentucky,
"though I consider him a good deal of a damn
fool." Pressed for a reason he continued: "Why,
think of a man wanting to be President at forty
years of age, and obliged to behave himself for the
rest of his life! I wouldn't take the job on any
The proposed repeal of the Missouri
Compromise opened up the slavery debate anew and
gave it increased vitality. Hell literally broke
loose among the political elements. The issues
which had divided Whigs and Democrats went to
the rear, while this one paramount issue took
possession of the stage. It was welcomed by the
extremists of both sections, a very godsend to the
beaten politicians led by Mr. Seward. Rampant
sectionalism was at first kept a little in the
background. There were on either side concealments
and reserves. Many patriotic men put the Union
above slavery or antislavery. But the two sets of
rival extremists had their will at last, and in seven
short years deepened and embittered the contention
to the degree that disunion and war seemed,
certainly proved, the only way out of it.
The extravagance of the debates of those years
amazes the modern reader. Occasionally when I
have occasion to recur to them I am myself
nonplussed, for they did not sound so terrible at the
time. My father was a leader of the Union wing
of the Democratic Party—headed in 1860 the
Douglas presidential ticket in Tennessee—and
remained a Unionist during the War of Sections.
He broke away from Pierce and retired from the
editorship of the
Washiongton Union upon the
issue of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, to
which he was opposed, refusing the appointment
of Governor of Oregon, with which the President
sought to placate him, though it meant his return
to the Senate of the United States in a year or two,
when he and Oregon's delegate in Congress, Gen.
Joseph Lane—the Lane of the Breckenridge and
Lane ticket of 1860—had brought the territory of
Oregon in as a state.
I have often thought just where I would have
come in and what might have happened to me if he
had accepted the appointment and I had grown to
manhood on the Pacific Coast. As it was I attended
a school in Philadelphia—the Protestant
Episcopal Academy—came home to Tennessee in
1856, and after a season with private tutors found
myself back in the national capital in 1858.
It was then that I began to nurse some ambitions
of my own. I was going to be a great man of letters.
I was going to write histories and dramas and
romances and poetry. But as I had set up for
myself I felt in honor bound meanwhile to earn
my own living.
I take it that the early steps of every man to
get a footing may be of interest when fairly told.
I sought work in New York with indifferent success.
Mr. Raymond of the Times, hearing me
play the piano at which from childhood I had
received careful instruction, gave me a job as "musical
critic" during the absence of Mr. Seymour, the
regular critic. I must have done my work
acceptably, since I was not fired. It included a
report of the début of my boy-and-girl companion,
Adelina Patti, when she made her first appearance
in opera at the Academy of Music. But, as the
saying is, I did not "catch on." There might be a
more promising opening in Washington, and
thither I repaired.
The Daily States had been established there by
John P. Heiss, who with Thomas Ritchie had
years before established the Washington Union.
Roger A. Pryor was its nominal editor. But he
soon took himself home to his beloved Virginia and
came to Congress, and the editorial writing on the
States was being done by Col. A. Dudley Mann,
later along Confederate commissioner to France,
preceding Mr. Slidell.
Colonel Mann wished to work incognito. I was
taken on as a kind of go-between and, as I may say,
figurehead, on the strength of being my father's
son and a very self-confident young gentleman,
and began to get my newspaper education in point
of fact as a kind of fetch-and-carry for Major
Heiss. He was a practical newspaper man who
had started the Union at Nashville as well as the
Union at Washington and the Crescent—maybe it
was the Delta—at New Orleans; and for the rudiments
of newspaper work I could scarcely have had
a better teacher.
Back of Colonel Mann as a leader writer on the
States was a remarkable woman. She was Mrs.
Jane Casneau, the wife of Gen. George Casneau,
of Texas, who had a claim before Congress.
Though she was unknown to fame, Thomas A.
Benton used to say that she had more to do with
making and ending the Mexican War than anybody
Somewhere in the early thirties she had gone
with her newly wedded husband, an adventurous
Yankee by the name of Storm, to the Rio Grande
and started a settlement they called Eagle Pass.
Storm died, the Texas outbreak began, and the
young widow was driven back to San Antonio,
where she met and married Casneau, one of Houston's
lieutenants, like herself a New Yorker. She
was sent by Polk with Pillow and Trist to the City
of Mexico and actually wrote the final treaty. It
was she who dubbed William Walker "the little
gray-eyed man of destiny," and put the nickname
"Old Fuss and Feathers" on General Scott, whom
she heartily disliked.
A braver, more intellectual woman never lived.
She must have been a beauty in her youth; was still
very comely at fifty; but a born insurrecto and a
terror with her pen. God made and equipped her
for a filibuster. She possessed infinite knowledge
of Spanish-American affairs, looked like a Spanish
woman, and wrote and spoke the Spanish language
fluently. Her obsession was the bringing of
Central America into the Federal Union. But
she was not without literary aspirations and had
some literary friends. Among these was Mrs.
Southworth, the novelist, who had a lovely home in
Georgetown, and, whatever may be said of her
works and articles, was a lovely woman. She used
to take me to visit this lady. With Major Heiss
she divided my newspaper education, her part of it
being the writing part. Whatever I may have
attained in that line I largely owe to her. She took
great pains with me and mothered me in the
absence of my own mother, who had long been her
very dear friend. To get rid of her, or rather her
pen, Mr. Buchanan gave General Casneau, when
the Douglas schism was breaking out, a Central
American mission, and she and he were lost by
shipwreck on their way to this post, somewhere in
My immediate yokemate on the States was John
Savage, "Jack," as he was commonly called; a
brilliant Irishman, who with Devin Reilley and
John Mitchel and Thomas Francis Meagher, his
intimates, and Joseph Brennan, his brother-in-law,
made a pretty good Irishman of me. They were
'48 men, with literary gifts of one sort and
another, who certainly helped me along with my
writing but, as matters fell out, did not go far enough
to influence my character, for they were a wild lot,
full of taking enthusiasm and juvenile decrepitude
of judgment, ripe for adventures and ready
for any enterprise that promised fun and fighting.
Between John Savage and Mrs. Casneau I had
the constant spur of commendation and assistance
as well as affection. I passed all my spare time in
the Library of Congress and knew its arrangements
at least as well as Mr. Meehan, the librarian,
and Robert Kearon, the assistant, much to the
surprise of Mr. Spofford, who in 1861 succeeded Mr.
Meehan as librarian.
Not long after my return to Washington Col.
John W. Forney picked me up, and I was
employed in addition to my not very arduous duties
on the States to write occasional letters from
Washington to the Philadelphia Press. Good fortune
like ill fortune rarely comes singly. Without anybody's
interposition I was appointed to a clerkship,
a real "sinecure," in the Interior Department by
Jacob Thompson, the secretary, my father's old
colleague in Congress. When the troubles of
1860-61 rose I was literally doing "a land-office
business," with money galore and to spare. Somehow,
I don't know how, I contrived to spend it,
though I had no vices, and worked like a hired man
upon my literary hopes and newspaper obligations.
Life in Washington under these conditions was
delightful. I did not know how my heart was
wrapped up in it until I had to part from it. My
father stood high in public esteem. My mother
was a leader in society. All doors were open to
me. I had many friends. Going back to Tennessee
in the midsummer of 1861, via Pittsburgh and
Cincinnati, there happened a railway break and a halt
of several hours at a village on the Ohio. I strolled
down to the river and sat myself upon the brink,
almost despairing—nigh heartbroken—when I
began to feel an irresistible fascination about the
swift-flowing stream. I leaped to my feet and ran
away; and that is the only thought of suicide that
I can recall.
Mrs. Clay, of Alabama, in her "Belle of the
Fifties" has given a graphic picture of life in the
national capital during the administrations of Pierce
and Buchanan. The South was very much in the
saddle. Pierce, as I have said, was Southern in
temperament, and Buchanan, who to those he did
not like or approve had, as Arnold Harris said, "a
winning way of making himself hateful," was an
aristocrat under Southern and feminine influence.
I was fond of Mr. Pierce, but I could never
endure Mr. Buchanan. His very voice gave offense
to me. Directed by a periodical publication to
make a sketch of him to accompany an engraving,
I did my best on it.
Jacob Thompson, the Secretary of the Interior,
said to me: "Now, Henry, here's your chance for
a foreign appointment."
I now know that my writing was clumsy enough
and my attempt to play the courtier clumsier still.
Nevertheless, as a friend of my father and mother
"Old Buck" might have been a little more considerate
than he was with a lad trying to please and
do him honor. I came away from the White House
amour propre wounded, and though I had not
far to go went straight into the Douglas camp.
Taking nearly sixty years to think it over I have
reached the conclusion that Mr. Buchanan was the
victim of both personal and historic injustice. With
secession in sight his one aim was to get out of the
White House before the scrap began. He was of
course on terms of intimacy with all the secession
leaders, especially Mr. Slidell, of Louisiana, like
himself a Northerner by birth, and Mr. Mason, a
thick-skulled, ruffle-shirted Virginian. It was not
in him or in Mr. Pierce, with their antecedents and
associations, to be uncompromising Federalists.
There was no clear law to go on. Moderate men
were in a muck of doubt just what to do. With
Horace Greeley Mr. Buchanan was ready to say
"Let the erring sisters go." This indeed was the
extent of Mr. Pierce's pacifism during the War of
A new party risen upon the remains of the Whig
Party—the Republican Party—was at the door
and coming into power. Lifelong pro-slavery
Democrats could not look on with equanimity, still
less with complaisance, and doubtless Pierce and
Buchanan to the end of their days thought less of
the Republicans than of the Confederates. As a
consequence Republican writers have given quarter
to neither of them.
It will not do to go too deeply into the account
of those days. The times were out of joint. I
knew of two Confederate generals who first tried
for commissions in the Union Army; gallant and
good fellows too; but they are both dead and their
secret shall die with me. I knew likewise a famous
Union general who was about to resign his
commission in the army to go with the South but was
prevented by his wife, a Northern woman, who had
obtained of Mr. Lincoln a brigadier's commission.
In 1858 a wonderful affair came to pass. It was
Mrs. Senator Gwin's fancy dress ball, written of,
talked of, far and wide. I did not get to attend
this. My costume was prepared—a Spanish
cavalier, Mrs. Casneau's doing—when I fell ill and
had with bitter disappointment to read about it
next day in the papers. I was living at Willard's
Hotel, and one of my volunteer nurses was Mrs.
Daniel E. Sickles, a pretty young thing who was
soon to become the victim of a murder and world
scandal. Her husband was a member of the House
from New York, and during his frequent absences
I used to take her to dinner. Mr. Sickles had been
Mr. Buchanan's Secretary of Legation in London,
and both she and he were at home in the White
She was an innocent child. She never knew what
she was doing, and when a year later Sickles, having
killed her seducer—a handsome, unscrupulous
fellow who understood how to take advantage of
a husband's neglect—forgave her and brought her
home in the face of much obloquy, in my heart of
hearts I did homage to his courage and generosity,
for she was then as he and I both knew a dying
woman. She did die but a few months later. He
was by no means a politician after my fancy or
approval, but to the end of his days I was his friend
and could never bring myself to join in the
repeated public outcries against him.
Early in the fifties Willard's Hotel became a
kind of headquarters for the two political extremes.
During a long time their social intercourse was
unrestrained—often joyous. They were too far
apart, figuratively speaking, to come to blows.
Truth to say, their aims were after all not so far
apart. They played to one another's lead. Many
a time have I seen Keitt, of South Carolina, and
Burlingame, of Massachusetts, hobnob in the liveliest
manner and most public places.
It is certainly true that Brooks was not
himself when he attacked Sumner. The Northern
radicals were wont to say, "Let the South go," the
more profane among them interjecting "to hell!"
The Secessionists liked to prod the New Englanders
with what the South was going to do when they
got to Boston. None of them really meant it—
not even Toombs when he talked about calling the
muster roll of his slaves beneath Bunker Hill
Monument; nor Hammond, the son of a New England
schoolmaster, when he spoke of the "mudsills
of the North," meaning to illustrate what he was
saying by the underpinning of a house built on
marshy ground, and not the Northern work people.
Toombs, who was a rich man, not quite impoverished
by the war, banished himself in Europe for a
number of years. At length he came home, and
W. P. HARDEE, LIEUTENANT GENERAL C.S.A.
passing the White House at Washington he called
and sent his card to the President. General Grant,
the most genial and generous of men, had him come
"Mr. President," said Toombs, "in my European
migrations I have made it a rule when arriving in
a city to call first and pay my respects to the Chief
The result was a most agreeable hour and an
invitation to dinner. Not long after this at the
hospitable board of a Confederate general, then an
American senator, Toombs began to prod Lamar
about his speech in the House upon the occasion of
the death of Charles Sumner. Lamar was not quick
to quarrel, though when aroused a man of devilish
temper and courage. The subject had become
distasteful to him. He was growing obviously
restive under Toombs' banter. The ladies of the
household apprehending what was coming left the
Then Lamar broke forth. He put Toombs' visit
to Grant, "crawling at the seat of power," against
his eulogy of a dead enemy. I have never heard
such a scoring from one man to another. It was
magisterial in its dignity, deadly in its diction.
Nothing short of a duel could have settled it in the
olden time. But when Lamar, white with rage,
had finished, Toombs without a ruffle said, "Lamar,
you surprise me," and the host, with the rest of us,
took it as a signal to rise from table and rejoin the
ladies in the drawing-room. Of course nothing
came of it.
Toombs was as much a humorist as an extremist.
I have ridden with him under fire and heard him
crack jokes with
Minié balls flying uncomfortably
about. Some one spoke kindly of him to old Ben
Wade. "Yes, yes," said Wade; "I never did
believe in the doctrine of total depravity."
But I am running ahead in advance of events.
There came in 1853 to the Thirty-third Congress
a youngish, dapper and graceful man notable as
the only Democrat in the Massachusetts delegation.
It was said that he had been a dancing master, his
wife a work girl. They brought with them a baby
in arms with the wife's sister for its nurse— a
misstep which was quickly corrected. I cannot now
tell just how I came to be very intimate with them
except that they lived at Willard's Hotel. His
name had a pretty sound to it—Nathaniel Prentiss
A schoolmate of mine and myself, greatly to the
mirth of those about us, undertook Mr. Banks'
career. We were going to elect him Speaker of
the next House and then President of the United
States. This was particularly laughable to my
mother and Mrs. Linn Boyd, the wife of the
contemporary Speaker, who had very solid presidential
aspirations of his own.
The suggestion perhaps originated with Mrs.
Banks, to whom we two were ardently devoted. I
have not seen her since those days, more than sixty
years ago. But her beauty, which then charmed
me, still lingers in my memory—a gentle, sweet
creature who made much of us boys—and two
years later when Mr. Banks was actually elected
Speaker I was greatly elated and took some of
the credit to myself. Twenty years afterwards
General Banks and I had our seats close together
in the Forty-fourth Congress, and he did not
recall me at all or the episode of 1853. Nevertheless
I warmed to him, and when during Cleveland's first
term he came to me with a hard-luck story I was
glad to throw myself into the breach. He had been
a Speaker of the House, a general in the field and
a Governor of Massachusetts, but was a faded old
man, very commonplace, and except for the little
post he held under Government pitiably helpless.
Colonel George Walton was one of my father's
intimates and an imposing and familiar figure
about Washington. He was the son of a signer of
the Declaration of Independence, a distinction in
those days, had been mayor of Mobile and was an
unending raconteur. To my childish mind he
appeared to know everything that ever had been or
ever would be. He would tell me stories by the
hour and send me to buy him lottery tickets. I
afterward learned that that form of gambling was
his mania. I also learned that many of his stories
were apocryphal or very highly colored.
One of these stories especially took me. It
related how when he was on a yachting cruise in the
Gulf of Mexico the boat was overhauled by pirates,
and how he being the likeliest of the company was
tied up and whipped to make him disgorge, or tell
where the treasure was.
"Colonel Walton," said I, "did the whipping
hurt you much?"
"Sir," he replied, as if I were a grown-up, "they
whipped me until I was perfectly disgusted."
An old lady in Philadelphia, whilst I was at
school, heard me mention Colonel Walton—a most
distinguished, religious old lady—and said to me,
"Henry, my son, you should be ashamed to speak
of that old villain or confess that you ever knew
him," proceeding to give me his awful, blood-curdling
It was mainly a figment of her fancy and
prejudice, and I repeated it to Colonel Walton the
next time I went to the hotel where he was then
living—I have since learned, with a lady not his
wife, though he was then three score and ten—and
he cried, "That old hag! Good Lord! Don't they
Seeing every day the most distinguished public
men of the country, and with many of them brought
into direct acquaintance by the easy intercourse of
hotel life, destroyed any reverence I might have
acquired for official station. Familiarity may not
always breed contempt, but it is a veritable eye
opener. To me no divinity hedged the brow of a
senator. I knew the White House too well to be
impressed by its architectural grandeur without and
rather bizarre furnishments within.
I have declaimed not a little in my time about
the ignoble trade of politics, the collective
dishonesty of parties and the vulgarities of the
self-exploiting professional office hunters. Parties are
parties. Professional politics and politicians are
probably neither worse nor better—barring their
pretensions—than other lines of human endeavor.
The play actor must be agreeable on the stage of
the playhouse; the politician on the highways and
the hustings, which constitute his playhouse—all
the world a stage—neither to be seriously blamed
for the dissimulation which, being an asset, becomes,
as it were, a second nature.
The men who between 1850 and 1861 might have
saved the Union and averted the War of Sections
were on either side professional politicians, with
here and there an unselfish, far-seeing, patriotic
man, whose admonitions were not heeded by the
people ranging on opposing sides of party lines.
The two most potential of the party leaders were
Mr. Davis and Mr. Seward. The South might
have seen and known that the one hope of the
institution of slavery lay in the Union. However it
ended, disunion led to abolition. The world—the
whole trend of modern thought—was set against
slavery. But politics, based on party feeling, is a
game of blindman's buff. And then—here I show
myself a son of Scotland—there is a destiny.
"What is to be," says the predestinarian Mother
Goose, "will be, though it never come to pass."
That was surely the logic of the irrepressible
conflict—only it did come to pass—and for four years
millions of people, the most homogeneous, practical
and intelligent, fought to a finish a fight over a
quiddity; both devoted to liberty, order and law,
neither seeking any real change in the character of
its organic contract.
Human nature remains ever the same. These
days are very like those days. We have had fifty
years of a restored Union. The sectional fires
have quite gone out. Yet behold the schemes of
revolution claiming the regenerative. Most of
them call themselves the "uplift!"
Let us agree at once that all government is more
or less a failure; society as fraudulent as the satirists
describe it; yet, when we turn to the uplift—
particularly the professional uplift—what do we
find but the same old tunes, hypocrisy and empiricism
posing as "friends of the people," preaching
the pussy gospel of "sweetness and light?"
"Words, words, words," says Hamlet. Even as
veteran writers for the press have come through
disheartening experience to a realizing sense of the
futility of printer's ink must our academic pundits
begin to suspect the futility of art and letters.
Words however cleverly writ on paper are after
all but words. "In a nation of blind men," we are
told, "the one-eyed man is king." In a nation of
undiscriminating voters the noise of the agitator is
apt to drown the voice of the statesman. We have
been teaching everybody to read, nobody to think;
and as a consequence—the rule of numbers the
law of the land, partyism in the saddle—legislation,
state and Federal, becomes largely a matter
of riding to hounds and horns. All this, which
was true in the fifties, is true to-day.
Under the pretense of "liberalizing" the Government
the politicians are sacrificing its organic
character to whimsical experimentation; its checks
and balances wisely designed to promote and protect
liberty are being loosened by schemes of reform
more or less visionary; while nowhere do we
find intelligence enlightened by experience, and
conviction supported by self-control, interposing
to save the representative system of the Constitution
from the onward march of the proletariat.
One cynic tells us that "A statesman is a politician
who is dead," and another cynic varies the
epigram to read "A politician out of a job."
Patriotism cries "God give us men," but the parties
say "Give us votes and offices," and Congress proceeds
to create a commission. Thus responsibilities
are shirked and places are multiplied.
Assuming, since many do, that the life of nations
is mortal even as is the life of man—in all things
of growth and decline assimilating—has not our
world reached the top of the acclivity, and pausing
for a moment may it not be about to take the downward
course into another abyss of collapse and
The miracles of electricity the last word of
science, what is left for man to do? With wireless
telegraphy, the airplane and the automobile annihilating
time and space, what else? Turning from the
material to the ethical it seems of the very nature
of the human species to meddle and muddle. On
every hand we see the organization of societies for
making men and women over again according to
certain fantastic images existing in the minds of
"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed the visiting
Frenchman. "Fifty religions and only one
soup!" Since then both the soups and the religions
have multiplied until there is scarce a culinary or
moral conception which has not some sect or club to
represent it. The uplift is the keynote of these.
CHAPTER THE THIRD
THE INAUGURATION OF LINCOLN—I QUIT WASHINGTON
AND RETURN TO TENNESSEE—A RUN-ABOUT
WITH FORREST—THROUGH THE FEDERAL
LINES AND A DANGEROUS ADVENTURE—GOOD
LUCK AT MEMPHIS
IT MAY have been Louis the Fifteenth, or it
may have been Madame de Pompadour, who
said, "After me the deluge;" but whichever it was,
very much that thought was in Mr. Buchanan's
mind in 1861 as the time for his exit from the White
House approached. At the North there had been
a political ground-swell; at the South, secession,
half accomplished by the Gulf States, yawned in
the Border States. Curiously enough, very few
believed that war was imminent.
As a reporter for the States I met Mr. Lincoln
immediately on his arrival in Washington. He
came in unexpectedly ahead of the hour announced,
to escape, as was given out, a well-laid plan to
assassinate him as he passed through Baltimore. I
did not believe at the time, and I do not believe
now, that there was any real ground for this
All through that winter there had been a deal of
wild talk. One story had it that Mr. Buchanan was
to be kidnapped and made off with so that Vice
President Breckenridge might succeed and, acting
de facto President, throw the country into
confusion and revolution, defeating the inauguration
of Lincoln and the coming in of the Republicans.
It was a figment of drink and fancy. There was
never any such scheme. If there had been Breckenridge
would not have consented to be party to it.
He was a man of unusual mental as well as
personal dignity and both temperamentally and
intellectually a thorough conservative.
I had been engaged by Mr. L. A. Gobright, the
agent of what became later the Associated Press,
to help with the report of the inauguration
ceremonies the 4th of March, 1861, and in the discharge
of this duty I kept as close to Mr. Lincoln as I
could get, following after him from the senate
chamber to the east portico of the capitol and standing
by his side whilst he delivered his inaugural
Perhaps I shall not be deemed prolix if I dwell
with some particularity upon an occasion so
historic. I had first encountered the newly elected
President the afternoon of the day in the early
morning of which he had arrived in Washington.
It was a Saturday, I think. He came to the capitol
under the escort of Mr. Seward, and among the
rest I was presented to him. His appearance did
not impress me as fantastically as it had impressed
some others. I was familiar with the Western
type, and whilst Mr. Lincoln was not an Adonis,
even after prairie ideals, there was about him a
dignity that commanded respect.
I met him again the next Monday forenoon in
his apartment at Willard's Hotel as he was
preparing to start to his inauguration, and was struck
by his unaffected kindness, for I came with a matter
requiring his attention. This was, in point of
fact, to get from him a copy of the inauguration
speech for the Associated Press. I turned it over
to Ben Perley Poore, who, like myself, was assisting
Mr. Gobright. The President that was about
to be seemed entirely self-possessed; not a sign of
nervousness, and very obliging. As I have said, I
accompanied the cortège that passed from the
senate chamber to the east portico. When Mr.
Lincoln removed his hat to face the vast throng in
front and below, I extended my hand to take it,
but Judge Douglas, just behind me, reached over
my outstretched arm and received it, holding it
during the delivery of the address. I stood just
near enough the speaker's elbow not to obstruct
any gestures he might make, though he made but
few; and then I began to get a suspicion of the
power of the man.
He delivered that inaugural address as if he had
been delivering inaugural addresses all his life.
Firm, resonant, earnest, it announced the coming
of a man, of a leader of men; and in its tone and
style the gentlemen whom he had invited to become
members of his political family—each of whom
thought himself a bigger man than his chief—might
have heard the voice and seen the hand of one born
to rule. Whether they did or not, they very soon
ascertained the fact. From the hour Abraham Lincoln
crossed the threshold of the White House to
the hour he went thence to his death, there was not
a moment when he did not dominate the political
and military situation and his official subordinates.
The idea that he was overtopped at any time by
anybody is contradicted by all that actually
I was a young Democrat and of course not in
sympathy with Mr. Lincoln or his opinions. Judge
Douglas, however, had taken the edge off my
hostility. He had said to me upon his return in
triumph to Washington after the famous Illinois
1868: "Lincoln is a good man; in fact,
a great man, and by far the ablest debater I have
ever met," and now the newcomer began to verify
this opinion both in his private conversation and in
his public attitude.
I had been an undoubting Union boy. Neither
then nor afterward could I be fairly classified as a
Secessionist. Circumstance rather than conviction
or predilection threw me into the Confederate
service, and, being in, I went through with it.
The secession leaders I held in distrust; especially
Yancey, Mason, Slidell, Benjamin and Iverson,
Jefferson Davis and Isham G. Harris were not
favorites of mine. Later along I came into familiar
association with most of them, and relations were
established which may be described as confidential
and affectionate. Lamar and I were brought
together oddly enough in 1869 by Carl Schurz, and
thenceforward we were the most devoted friends.
Harris and I fell together in 1862 in the field, first
with Forrest and later with Johnston and Hood,
and we remained as brothers to the end, when he
closed a great career in the upper house of
Congress, and by Republican votes, though he was a
Democrat, as president of the Senate.
He continued in the Governorship of Tennessee
through the war. He at no time lost touch with
the Tennessee troops, and though not always in the
field, never missed a forward movement. In
the early spring of 1864, just before the famous
Johnston-Sherman campaign opened, General
Johnston asked him to go around among the boys
and "stir 'em up a bit." The Governor invited me
to ride with him. Together we visited every sector
in the army. Threading the woods of North
Georgia on this round, if I heard it once I heard it
fifty times shouted from a distant clearing: "Here
comes Gov-ner Harris, fellows; g'wine to be a
fight." His appearance at the front had always
JOHN BELL OF TENNESSEE—IN 1860 PRESIDENTIAL
CANDIDATE "UNION PARTY"—"BELL AND EVERETT" TICKET
preceded and been long ago taken as a signal for
My being a Washington correspondent of the
Philadelphia Press and having lived since childhood
at Willard's Hotel, where the Camerons also lived,
will furnish the key to my becoming an actual and
active rebel. A few days after the inauguration of
Mr. Lincoln, Colonel Forney came to my quarters
and, having passed the time of day, said: "The
Secretary of War wishes you to be at the department
to-morrow morning as near nine o'clock as
you can make it."
"What does he want, Colonel Forney?" I asked.
"He is going to offer you the position of private
secretary to the Secretary of War, with the rank
of lieutenant colonel, and I am very desirous that
you accept it."
He went away leaving me rather upset. I did
not sleep very soundly that night. "So," I argued
to myself, "it has come to this, that Forney and
Cameron, lifelong enemies, have made friends and
are going to rob the Government—one clerk of the
House, the other Secretary of War—and I, a
mutual choice, am to be the confidential middle
man." I still had a home in Tennessee and I rose
from my bed, resolved to go there.
I did not keep the proposed appointment for
next day. As soon as I could make arrangements
I quitted Washington and went to Tennessee, still
unchanged in my preconceptions. I may add, since
they were verified by events, that I have not
modified them from that day to this.
I could not wholly believe with either extreme.
I had perpetrated no wrong, but in my small way
had done my best for the Union and against secession.
I would go back to my books and my literary
ambitions and let the storm blow over. It could
not last very long; the odds against the South were
too great. Vain hope! As well expect a chip on
the surface of the ocean to lie quiet as a lad of
twenty-one in those days to keep out of one or the
other camp. On reaching home I found myself
alone. The boys were all gone to the front. The
girls were—well, they were all crazy. My native
country was about to be invaded. Propinquity.
Sympathy. So, casting opinions to the winds in I
went on feeling. And that is how I became a rebel,
a case of "first endure and then embrace," because
I soon got to be a pretty good rebel and went the
limit, changing my coat as it were, though not my
better judgment, for with a gray jacket on my
back and ready to do or die, I retained my belief
that secession was treason, that disunion was the
height of folly and that the South was bound to go
down in the unequal strife.
I think now, as an academic proposition, that, in
the doctrine of secession, the secession leaders had
a debatable, if not a logical case; but I also think
that if the Gulf States had been allowed to go out
by tacit consent they would very soon have been
back again seeking readmission to the Union.
Man proposes and God disposes. The ways of
Deity to man are indeed past finding out. Why, the
long and dreadful struggle of a kindred people,
the awful bloodshed and havoc of four weary years,
leaving us at the close measurably where we were
at the beginning, is one of the mysteries which
should prove to us that there is a world hereafter,
since no great creative principle could produce one
with so dire, with so short a span and nothing
The change of parties wrought by the presidential
election of 1860 and completed by the coming
in of the Republicans in 1861 was indeed
revolutionary. When Mr. Lincoln had finished his
inaugural address and the crowd on the east portico
began to disperse, I reëntered the rotunda between
Mr. Reverdy Johnson, of Maryland, and Mr. John
Bell, of Tennessee, two old friends of my family,
and for a little we sat upon a bench, they discussing
the speech we had just heard.
Both were sure there would be no war. All
would be well, they thought, each speaking kindly
of Mr. Lincoln. They were among the most
eminent men of the time, I a boy of twenty-one;
but to me war seemed a certainty. Recalling the
episode, I have often realized how the intuitions of
youth outwit the wisdom and baffle the experience
I at once resigned my snug sinecure in the
Interior Department and, closing my accounts of
every sort, was presently ready to turn my back
upon Washington and seek adventures elsewhere.
They met me halfway and came in plenty. I
tried staff duty with General Polk, who was making
an expedition into Western Kentucky. In a
few weeks illness drove me into Nashville, where I
passed the next winter in desultory newspaper
work. Then Nashville fell, and, as I was making
my way out of town afoot and trudging the
Murfreesboro pike, Forrest, with his squadron just
escaped from Fort Donelson, came thundering by,
and I leaped into an empty saddle. A few days
later Forrest, promoted to brigadier general,
attached me to his staff, and the next six months it
was mainly guerilla service, very much to my liking.
But Fate, if not Nature, had decided that I was a
better writer than fighter, and the Bank of
Tennessee having bought a newspaper outfit at
Chattanooga, I was sent there to edit The Rebel—my own
naming—established as the organ of the Tennessee
state government. I made it the organ of the
It is not the purpose of these pages to retell the
well-known story of the war. My life became a
series of ups and downs—mainly downs—the word
being from day to day to fire and fall back; in
the Johnston-Sherman campaign, I served as
chief of scouts; then as an aid to General Hood
through the siege of Atlanta, sharing the beginning
of the chapter of disasters that befell that gallant
soldier and his army. I was spared the last and
worst of these by a curious piece of special duty,
taking me elsewhere, to which I was assigned in
the autumn of 1864 by the Confederate government.
This involved a foreign journey. It was no
less than to go to England to sell to English buyers
some hundred thousand bales of designated cotton
to be thus rescued from spoilation, acting under
the supervision and indeed the orders of the
Confederate fiscal agency at Liverpool.
Of course I was ripe for this; but it proved a
bigger job than I had conceived or dreamed. The
initial step was to get out of the country. But
how? That was the question. To run the blockade
had been easy enough a few months earlier. All
our ports were now sealed by Federal cruisers and
gunboats. There was nothing for it but to slip
through the North and to get either a New York or
a Canadian boat. This involved chances and
In West Tennessee, not far from Memphis,
lived an aunt of mine. Thither I repaired. My
plan was to get on a Mississippi steamer calling at
one of the landings for wood. This proved
impracticable. I wandered many days and nights,
rather ill mounted, in search of some kind—any
kind—of exit, when one afternoon, quite worn out,
I sat by a log heap in a comfortable farmhouse. It
seemed that I was at the end of my tether; I did
not know what to do.
Presently there was an arrival—a brisk gentleman
right out of Memphis, which I then learned
was only ten miles distant—bringing with him a
morning paper. In this I saw appended to various
army orders the name of "N. B. Dana, General
That set me to thinking. Was not Dana the
name of a certain captain, a stepson of Congressman
Peaslee, of New Hampshire, who had lived
with us at Willard's Hotel—and were there not
two children, Charley and Mamie, and a dear little
mother, and—I had been listening to the talk
of the newcomer. He was a licensed cotton buyer
with a pass to come and go at will through the
lines, and was returning next day.
"I want to get into Memphis—I am a nephew of
Mrs. General Dana. Can you take me in?" I said
to this person.
After some hesitation he consented to try, it
being agreed that my mount and outfit should be
his if he got me through; no trade if he failed.
Clearly the way ahead was brightening. I soon
ascertained that I was with friends, loyal
Confederates. Then I told them who I was, and all
became excitement for the next day's adventure.
We drove down to the Federal outpost. Crenshaw—
that was the name of the cotton buyer—
showed his pass to the officer in command, who
then turned to me. "Captain," I said, "I have no
pass, but I am a nephew of Mrs. General Dana.
Can you not pass me in without a pass?" He was
very polite. It was a chain picket, he said; his
orders were very strict, and so on.
"Well," I said, "suppose I were a member of
your own command and were run in here by
guerillas. What do you think would it be your
duty to do?"
"In that case," he answered, "I should send you
to headquarters with a guard."
"Good!" said I. "Can't you send me to headquarters
with a guard?"
He thought a moment. Then he called a cavalryman
from the outpost.
"Britton," he said, "show this gentleman in to
General Dana's headquarters."
Crenshaw lashed his horse and away we went.
"That boy thinks he is a guide, not a guard," said
he. "You are all right. We can easily get rid of
This proved true. We stopped by a saloon and
bought a bottle of whisky. When we reached
headquarters the lad said, "Do you gentlemen want me
any more?" We did not. Then we gave him the
bottle of whisky and he disappeared round the
corner. "Now you are safe," said Crenshaw. "Make
But as I turned away and out of sight I began
to consider the situation. Suppose that picket on
the outpost reported to the provost marshal general
that he had passed a relative of Mrs. Dana? What
then? Provost guard. Drumhead court-martial.
Shot at daylight. It seemed best to play out the
hand as I had dealt it. After all, I could make a
case if I faced it out.
The guard at the door refused me access to
General Dana. Driven by a nearby hackman to the
General's residence, and, boldly asking for Mrs.
Dana, I was more successful. I introduced myself
as a teacher of music seeking to return to my
friends in the North, working in a word about the
old Washington days, not forgetting "Charley"
and "Mamie." The dear little woman was heartily
responsive. Both were there, including a pretty
girl from Philadelphia, and she called them down.
"Here is your old friend, Henry Waterman," she
joyfully exclaimed. Then guests began to arrive.
It was a reception evening. My hope fell. Some
one would surely recognize me. Presently a
gentleman entered, and Mrs. Dana said: "Colonel Meehan,
this is my particular friend, Henry Waterman,
who has been teaching music out in the country,
and wants to go up the river. You will give him a
pass, I am sure." It was the provost marshal, who
answered, "certainly." Now was my time for
disappearing. But Mrs. Dana would not listen to this.
General Dana would never forgive her if she let
me go. Besides, there was to be a supper and a
dance. I sat down again very much disconcerted.
The situation was becoming awkward. Then Mrs.
Dana spoke. "You say you have been teaching
music. What is your instrument?" Saved! "The
piano," I answered. The girls escorted me to the
rear drawing-room. It was a new Steinway Grand,
just set up, and I played for my life. If the black
bombazine covering my gray uniform did not
break, all would be well. I was having a delightfully
good time, the girls on either hand, when
Mrs. Dana, still enthusiastic, ran in and said,
"General Dana is here. Remembers you perfectly.
Come and see him."
He stood by a table, tall, sardonic, and as I
approached he put out his hand and said: "You have
grown a bit, Henry, my boy, since I saw you last.
How did you leave my friend Forrest?"
I was about making some awkward reply, when,
the room already filling up, he said:
"We have some friends for supper. I am glad
you are here. Mamie, my daughter, take Mr.
Watterson to the table!"
Lord! That supper! Canvasback! Terrapin!
Champagne! The general had seated me at his
right. Somewhere toward the close those expressive
gray eyes looked at me keenly, and across his
wine glass he said:
"I think I understand this. You want to get up
the river. You want to see your mother. Have
you money enough to carry you through? If you
have not don't hesitate, for whatever you need I
will gladly let you have."
I thanked him. I had quite enough. All was
well. We had more music and some dancing. At
a late hour he called the provost marshal.
"Meehan," said he, "take this dangerous young
rebel round to the hotel, register him as Smith,
Brown, or something, and send him with a pass up
the river by the first steamer." I was in luck, was
But I made no impression on those girls. Many
years after, meeting Mamie Dana, as the wife of an
army officer at Fortress Monroe, I related the
Memphis incident. She did not in the least recall it.
I had one other adventure during the war that
may be worth telling. It was in 1862. Forrest
took it into his inexperienced fighting head to make
a cavalry attack upon a Federal stockade, and,
repulsed with considerable loss, the command had to
disperse—there were not more than two hundred
of us—in order to escape capture by the
newly-arrived reinforcements that swarmed about. We
were to rendezvous later at a certain point. Having
some time to spare, and being near the family
homestead at Beech Grove, I put in there.
It was midnight when I reached my destination.
I had been erroneously informed that the Union
Army was on the retreat—quite gone from the
neighborhood; and next day, believing the coast
was clear, I donned a summer suit and with a
neighbor boy who had been wounded at Shiloh and
invalided home, rode over to visit some young ladies.
We had scarcely been welcomed and were taking a
glass of wine when, looking across the lawn, we
saw that the place was being surrounded by a body
of blue-coats. The story of their departure had
been a mistake. They were not all gone.
There was no chance of escape. We were placed
in a hollow square and marched across country into
camp. Before we got there I had ascertained that
they were Indianians, and I was further led rightly
to surmise what we called in 1860 Douglas
My companion, a husky fellow, who looked and
was every inch a soldier, was first questioned by the
colonel in command. His examination was brief.
He said he was as good a rebel as lived, that he was
only waiting for his wound to heal to get back into
the Confederate Army, and that if they wanted to
hang him for a spy to go ahead.
I was aghast. It was not he that was in danger
of hanging, but myself, a soldier in citizen's apparel
within the enemy's lines. The colonel turned to
me. With what I took for a sneer he said:
"I suppose you are a good Union man?" This
offered me a chance.
"That depends upon what you call a good Union
man," I answered. "I used to be a very good
Union man—a Douglas Democrat—and I am not
conscious of having changed my political opinions."
That softened him and we had an old-fashioned,
friendly talk about the situation, in which I kept
the Douglas Democratic end of it well to the fore.
He, too, had been a Douglas Democrat. I soon
saw that it was my companion and not myself whom
they were after. Presently Colonel Shook, that
being the commandant's name, went into the
adjacent stockade and the boys about began to be
hearty and sympathetic. I made them a regular
Douglas Democratic speech. They brought some
"red licker" and I asked for some sugar for a toddy,
not failing to cite the familiar Sut Lovingood saying
that "there were about seventeen round the door
who said they'd take sugar in their'n." The drink
warmed me to my work, making me quicker, if not
bolder, in invention. Then the colonel not
reappearing as soon as I hoped he would, for all along
my fear was the wires, I went to him.
"Colonel Shook," I said, "you need not bother
about this friend of mine. He has no real idea of
returning to the Confederate service. He is teaching
school over here at Beech Grove and engaged
to be married to one of the—girls. If you carry
him off a prisoner he will be exchanged back into
the fighting line, and we make nothing by it. There
is a hot luncheon waiting for us at the—'s. Leave
him to me and I will be answerable." Then I left
Directly he came out and said: "I may be doing
wrong, and don't feel entirely sure of my ground,
but I am going to let you gentlemen go."
We thanked him and made off amid the cheery
good-bys of the assembled blue-coats.
No lunch for us. We got to our horses, rode
away, and that night I was at our rendezvous to
tell the tale to those of my comrades who had
arrived before me.
Colonel Shook and I met after the war at a
Grand Army reunion where I was billed to speak
and to which he introduced me, relating the incident
and saying, among other things: "I do believe
that when he told me near Wartrace that day
twenty years ago that he was a good Union man he
told at least half the truth."
CHAPTER THE FOURTH
I GO TO LONDON—AM INTRODUCED TO A NOTABLE SET
—HUXLEY, SPENCER, MILL AND TYNDALL—
ARTEMUS WARD COMES TO TOWN—THE SAVAGE
THE fall of Atlanta after a siege of nearly
two months was, in the opinion of thoughtful
people, the sure precursor of the fall of the doomed
Confederacy. I had an affectionate regard for
General Hood, but it was my belief that neither
he nor any other soldier could save the day, and
being out of commission and having no mind for
what I conceived aimless campaigning through another
winter—especially an advance into Tennessee
upon Nashville—I wrote to an old friend of
mine, who owned the Montgomery Mail, asking
for a job. He answered that if I would come right
along and take the editorship of the paper he would
make me a present of half of it—a proposal so
opportune and tempting that forty-eight hours later
saw me in the capital of Alabama.
I was accompanied by my fidus Achates, Albert
Roberts. The morning after our arrival, by chance
I came across a printed line which advertised a room
and board for two "single gentlemen," with the
curious affix for those times, "references will be
given and required." This latter caught me.
When I rang the visitors' bell of a pretty dwelling
upon one of the nearby streets a distinguished
gentleman in uniform came to the door, and,
acquainted with my business, he said, "Ah, that is an
affair of my wife," and invited me within.
He was obviously English. Presently there
appeared a beautiful lady, likewise English and as
obviously a gentlewoman, and an hour later my
friend Roberts and I moved in. The incident
proved in many ways fateful. The military gentleman
proved to be Doctor Scott, the post surgeon.
He was, when we came to know him, the
most interesting of men, a son of that Captain
Scott who commanded Byron's flagship at Missolonghi
in 1823; had as a lad attended the poet and he
in his last illness and been in at the death, seeing
the club foot when the body was prepared for burial.
His wife was adorable. There were two girls and
two boys. To make a long story short, Albert Roberts
married one of the daughters, his brother the
other; the lads growing up to be successful and
distinguished men—one a naval admiral, the other a
railway president. When, just after the war, I
was going abroad, Mrs. Scott said: "I have a
brother living in London to whom I will be glad
to give you a letter."
Upon the deck of the steamer bound from New
York to London direct, as we, my wife and I newly
married, were taking a last look at the receding
American shore, there appeared a gentleman who
seemed by the cut of his jib startlingly French. We
had under our escort a French governess returning
to Paris. In a twinkle she and this gentleman had
struck up an acquaintance, and much to my
displeasure she introduced him to me as "Monsieur
Mahoney." I was somewhat mollified when later
we were made acquainted with Madame Mahoney.
I was not at all preconceived in his favor, nor did
Monsieur Mahoney, upon nearer approach, conciliate
my simple taste. In person, manners and
apparel he was quite beyond me. Mrs. Mahoney,
however, as we soon called her, was a dear, whole-souled,
traveled, unaffected New England woman.
But Monsieur! Lord! There was no holding him
at arm's length. He brooked not resistance. I was
wearing a full beard. He said it would never do,
carried me perforce below, and cut it as I have worn
it ever since. The day before we were to dock he
took me aside and said:
"Mee young friend"—he had a brogue which
thirty years in Algiers, where he had been consul,
and a dozen in Paris as a gentleman of leisure, had
not wholly spoiled—"Mee young friend, I observe
that you are shy of strangers, but my wife and I
have taken a shine to you and the 'Princess'," as
he called Mrs. Watterson, "and if you will allow
us, we can be of some sarvis to you when we get to
Certainly there was no help for it. I was too ill
of the long crossing to oppose him. At Blackwall
we took the High Level for Fenchurch Street, at
Fenchurch Street a cab for the West End—Mr.
Mahoney bossing the job—and finally, in most
comfortable and inexpensive lodgings, we were
settled in Jermyn Street. The Mahoneys were
visiting Lady Elmore, widow of a famous surgeon
and mother of the President of the Royal Academy.
Thus we were introduced to quite a distinguished
It was great. It was glorious. At last we were
in London—the dream of my literary ambitions. I
have since lived much in this wondrous city and in
many parts of it between Hyde Park Corner, the
heart of May Fair, to the east end of Bloomsbury
under the very sound of Bow Bells. All the way as
it were from Tyburn Tree that was, and the Marble
Arch that is, to Charing Cross and the Hay
Market. This were not to mention casual sojourns
along Piccadilly and the Strand.
In childhood I was obsessed by the immensity,
the atmosphere and the mystery of London. Its
nomenclature embedded itself in my fancy; Hounsditch
and Shoreditch, Billingsgate and Blackfriars;
Bishopgate, within, and Bishopgate, without;
Threadneedle Street and Wapping-Old-Stairs;
the Inns of Court where Jarndyce struggled with
Jarndyce, and the taverns where the Mark
Tapleys, the Captain Costigans and the Dolly
Alike in winter fog and summer haze, I grew to
know and love it, and those that may be called its
dramatis personae, especially its tatterdemalions,
the long procession led by Jack Sheppard, Dick
Turpin and Jonathan Wild the Great. Inevitably
I sought their haunts—and they were not all gone
in those days; the Bull-and-Gate in Holborn,
whither Mr. Tom Jones repaired on his arrival in
town, and the White Hart Tavern, where Mr.
Pickwick fell in with Mr. Sam Weller; the regions
about Leicester Fields and Russell Square sacred
to the memory of Captain Booth and the lovely
Amelia and Becky Sharp; where Garrick drank
tea with Dr. Johnson and Henry Esmond tippled
with Sir Richard Steele. There was yet a Pump
Court, and many places along Oxford Street where
Mantalini and De Quincy loitered: and Covent
Garden and Drury Lane. Evans' Coffee House,
or shall I say the Cave of Harmony, and The Cock
and the Cheshire Cheese were near at hand for
refreshment in the agreeable society of Daniel Defoe
and Joseph Addison, with Oliver Goldsmith and
Dick Swiveller and Colonel Newcome to clink
ghostly glasses amid the punch fumes and tobacco
smoke. In short I knew London when it was still
Old London—the knowledge of Temple Bar and
Cheapside—before the vandal horde of progress
and the pickaxe of the builder had got in their
Not long after we began our sojourn in London,
I recurred—by chance, I am ashamed to say—to
Mrs. Scott's letter of introduction to her brother.
The address read "Mr. Thomas H. Huxley, School
of Mines, Jermyn Street." Why, it was but two or
three blocks away, and being so near I called, not
knowing just who Mr. Thomas H. Huxley might
I was conducted to a dark, stuffy little room.
The gentleman who met me was exceedingly handsome
and very agreeable. He greeted me cordially
and we had some talk about his relatives in America.
Of course my wife and I were invited at once
to dinner. I was a little perplexed. There was no
one to tell me about Huxley, or in what way he
might be connected with the School of Mines.
It was a good dinner. There sat at table a
gentleman by the name of Tyndall and another by
the name of Mill—of neither I had ever heard—but
there was still another of the name of Spencer,
whom I fancied must be a literary man, for I
recalled having reviewed a clever book on Education
some four years agone by a writer of that name;
a certain Herbert Spencer, whom I rightly judged
might he be.
The dinner, I repeat, was a very good dinner
indeed—the Huxleys, I took it, must be well to do—
the company agreeable; a bit pragmatic, however,
I thought. The gentleman by the name of Spencer
said he loved music and wished to hear Mrs.
Watterson sing, especially Longfellow's Rainy Day,
and left the others of us—Huxley, Mill, Tyndall
and myself—at table. Finding them a little off on
the Irish question as well as American affairs, I set
them right as to both with much particularity and
a great deal of satisfaction to myself.
Whatever Huxley's occupation, it turned out
that he had at least one book-publishing acquaintance,
Mr. Alexander Macmillan, to whom he introduced
me next day, for I had brought with me a
novel—the great American romance—too good to
be wasted on New York, Philadelphia or Boston,
but to appear simultaneously in England and the
United States, to be translated, of course, into
French, Italian and German. This was actually
accepted. It was held for final revision.
We were to pass the winter in Italy. An event,
however, called me suddenly home. Politics and
journalism knocked literature sky high, and the
novel—it was entitled "One Story's Good Till
Another Is Told"—was laid by and quite forgotten.
Some twenty years later, at a moment when I was
being lashed from one end of the line to the other,
my wife said:
"Let us drop the nasty politics and get back to
literature." She had preserved the old manuscript,
two thousand pages of it.
"Fetch it," I said.
She brought it with effulgent pride. Heavens!
The stuff it was! Not a gleam, never a radiance.
I had been teaching myself to write—I had been
writing for the English market—perpendicular!
The Lord has surely been good to me. If the
"boys" had ever got a peep at that novel, I had been
Yea, verily we were in London. Presently
Artemus Ward and "the show" arrived in town.
He took a lodging over an apothecary's just across
the way from Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, where
he was to lecture. We had been the best of friends,
were near of an age, and only round-the-corner
apart we became from the first inseparable. I
introduced him to the distinguished scientific set into
which chance had thrown me, and he introduced
me to a very different set that made a revel of life
at the Savage Club.
I find by reference to some notes jotted down at
the time that the last I saw of him was the evening
of the 21st of December, 1866. He had dined with
my wife and myself, and, accompanied by Arthur
Sketchley, who had dropped in after dinner, he
bade us good-by and went for his nightly grind, as
he called it. We were booked to take our departure
the next morning. His condition was pitiable.
He was too feeble to walk alone, and was
continually struggling to breathe freely. His surgeon
had forbidden the use of wine or liquor of any sort.
Instead he drank quantities of water, eating little
and taking no exercise at all. Nevertheless, he
stuck to his lecture and contrived to keep up
appearances before the crowds that flocked to hear
him, and even in London his critical state of health
was not suspected.
Early in September, when I had parted from him
to go to Paris, I left him methodically and
industriously arranging for his début. He had brought
some letters, mainly to newspaper people, and was
already making progress toward what might be
called the interior circles of the press, which are so
essential to the success of a newcomer in London.
Charles Reade and Andrew Haliday became zealous
friends. It was to the latter that he owed his
introduction to the Savage Club. Here he soon
made himself at home. His manners, even his
voice, were half English, albeit he possessed a most
engaging disposition—a ready tact and keen
discernment, very un-English,—and these won him
an efficient corps of claquers and backers throughout
the newspapers and periodicals of the metropolis.
Thus his success was assured from the first.
The raw November evening when he opened at
Egyptian Hall the room was crowded with an
audience of literary men and women, great and
small, from Swinburne and Edmund Yates to the
trumpeters and reporters of the morning papers.
The next day most of these contained glowing
accounts. The Times was silent, but four days later
The Thunderer, seeing how the wind blew, came
out with a column of eulogy, and from this onward,
each evening proved a kind of ovation. Seats were
engaged for a week in advance. Up and down
Piccadilly, from St. James Church to St. James
Street, carriages bearing the first arms in the
kingdom were parked night after night; and the
evening of the 21st of December, six weeks after,
there was no falling off. The success was complete.
As to an American, London had never seen
All this while the poor author of the sport was
slowly dying. The demands upon his animal spirits
at the Savage Club, the bodily fatigue of "getting
himself up to it," the "damnable iteration" of the
lecture itself, wore him out. George, his valet,
whom he had brought from America, had finally to
lift him about his bedroom like a child. His quarters
in Picadilly, as I have said, were just opposite
the Hall, but he could not go backward and
forward without assistance. It was painful in the
extreme to see the man who was undergoing tortures
behind the curtain step lightly before the audience
amid a burst of merriment, and for more than an
hour sustain the part of jester, tossing his cap and
jingling his bells, a painted death's head, for he
had to rouge his face to hide the pallor.
His buoyancy forsook him. He was occasionally
nervous and fretful. The fog, he declared, felt
like a winding sheet, enwrapping and strangling
him. At one of his entertainments he made a grim,
serio-comic allusion to this. "But," cried he as he
came off the stage, "that was not a hit, was it?
The English are scary about death. I'll have to
cut it out."
He had become a contributor to Punch, a lucky
rather than smart business stroke, for it was not of
his own initiation. He did not continue his
contributions after he began to appear before the
public, and the discontinuance was made the occasion of
some ill-natured remarks in certain American
papers, which very much wounded him. They
were largely circulated and credited at the time, the
charge being that Messrs. Bradbury and Evans,
the publishers of the English charivari, had broken
with him because the English would not have him.
The truth is that their original proposal was made
to him, not by him to them, the price named
being fifteen guineas a letter. He asked permission
to duplicate the arrangement with some New
York periodical, so as to secure an American copyright.
This they refused. I read the correspondence
at the time. "Our aim," they said, "in making
the engagement, had reference to our own
circulation in the United States, which exceeds
twenty-seven thousand weekly."
I suggested to Artemus that he enter his book,
"Artemus Ward in London," in advance, and he
did write to Oakey Hall, his New York lawyer, to
that effect. Before he received an answer from
Hall he got Carleton's advertisement announcing
the book. Considering this a piratical design on the
part of Carleton, he addressed that enterprising
publisher a savage letter, but the matter was
ultimately cleared up to his satisfaction, for he
said just before we parted: "It was all a mistake
about Carleton. I did him an injustice and mean
to ask his pardon. He has behaved very
handsomely to me." Then the letters reappeared in
Whatever may be thought of them on this side
of the Atlantic, their success in England was
undeniable. They were more talked about than any
current literary matter; never a club gathering or
dinner party at which they were not discussed.
There did seem something both audacious and
grotesque in this ruthless Yankee poking in among
the revered antiquities of Britain, so that the
beef-eating British themselves could not restrain their
laughter. They took his jokes in excellent part.
The letters on the Tower and Chawsir were palpable
hits, and it was generally agreed that Punch had
contained nothing better since the days of Yellow-plush.
This opinion was not confined to the man
in the street. It was shared by the high-brows of
the reviews and the appreciative of society, and
gained Artemus the entrée wherever he cared to go.
Invitations pursued him and he was even elected
to two or three fashionable clubs. But he had a
preference for those which were less conventional.
His admission to the Garrick, which had been
at first "laid over," affords an example of London
club fastidiousness. The gentleman who proposed
him used his pseudonym, Artemus Ward, instead
of his own name, Charles F. Browne. I had the
pleasure of introducing him to Mr. Alexander
Macmillan, the famous book publisher of Oxford and
Cambridge, a leading member of the Garrick. We
dined together at the Garrick clubhouse, when the
matter was brought up and explained. The result
was that Charles F. Browne was elected at the next
meeting, where Artemus Ward, had been made to
Before Christmas, Artemus received invitations
from distinguished people, nobility and gentry as
well as men of letters, to spend the week-end with
them. But he declined them all. He needed his
vacation, he said, for rest. He had neither the
strength nor the spirit for the season.
Yet was he delighted with the English people
and with English life. His was one of those
receptive natures which enjoy whatever is wholesome
and sunny. In spite of his bodily pain, he
entertained a lively hope of coming out of it in the
spring, and did not realize his true condition. He
merely said, "I have overworked myself, and must
lay by or I shall break down altogether." He meant
to remain in London as long as his welcome lasted,
and when he perceived a falling off in his audience,
would close his season and go to the continent.
His receipts averaged about three hundred dollars
a night, whilst his expenses were not fifty dollars.
"This, mind you," he used to say, "is in very hard
cash, an article altogether superior to that of my
friend Charles Reade."
His idea was to set aside out of his earnings
enough to make him independent, and then to give
up "this mountebank business," as he called it. He
had a great respect for scholarly culture and
personal respectability, and thought that if he could
get time and health he might do something "in the
genteel comedy line." He had a humorous novel
in view, and a series of more aspiring comic essays
than any he had attempted.
Often he alluded to the opening for an American
magazine, "not quite so highfalutin as the Atlantic
nor so popular as Harper's." His mind was beginning
to soar above the showman and merrymaker.
His manners had always been captivating. Except
for the nervous worry of ill-health, he was the
kindhearted, unaffected Artemus of old, loving as a
girl and liberal as a prince. He once showed me
his daybook in which were noted down over five
hundred dollars lent out in small sums to indigent
"Why," said I, "you will never get half of it
"Of course not," he said, "but do you think I
can afford to have a lot of loose fellows
black-guarding me at home because I wouldn't let them
have a sovereign or so over here?"
There was no lack of independence, however,
about him. The benefit which he gave Mrs.
Jefferson Davis in New Orleans, which was denounced
at the North as toadying to the Rebels, proceeded
from a wholly different motive. He took a kindly
interest in the case because it was represented to
him as one of suffering, and knew very well at
the time that his bounty would meet with detraction.
He used to relate with gusto an interview he once
had with Murat Halstead, who had printed a tart
paragraph about him. He went into the office of
the Cincinnati editor, and began in his usual jocose
way to ask for the needful correction. Halstead
resented the proffered familiarity, when Artemus
told him flatly, suddenly changing front, that he
"didn't care a d-n for the Commercial, and the
whole establishment might go to hell." Next day
the paper appeared with a handsome amende, and
the two became excellent friends. "I have no
doubt," said Artemus, "that if I had whined or
begged, I should have disgusted Halstead, and he
would have put it to me tighter. As it was, he
concluded that I was not a sneak, and treated me like
Artemus received many tempting offers from
book publishers in London. Several of the Annuals
for 1866-67 contain sketches, some of them anonymous,
written by him, for all of which he was well
paid. He wrote for Fun—the editor of which,
Mr. Tom Hood, son of the great humorist, was
an intimate friend—as well as for Punch; his
contributions to the former being printed without his
signature. If he had been permitted to remain
until the close of his season, he would have earned
enough, with what he had already, to attain the
independence which was his aim and hope. His best
friends in London were Charles Reade, Tom Hood,
Tom Robertson, the dramatist, Charles Mathews,
the comedian, Tom Taylor and Arthur Sketchley.
He did not meet Mr. Dickens, though Mr. Andrew
Haliday, Dickens' familiar, was also his intimate.
He was much persecuted by lion hunters, and
therefore had to keep his lodgings something of a
So little is known of Artemus Ward that some
biographic particulars may not in this connection
be out of place or lacking in interest.
Charles F. Browne was born at Waterford,
Maine, the 15th of July, 1833. His father was a
state senator, a probate judge, and at one time a
wealthy citizen; but at his death, when his famous
son was yet a lad, left his family little or no
property. Charles apprenticed himself to a printer, and
served out his time, first in Springfield and then in
Boston. In the latter city he made the acquaintance
of Shilaber, Ben Perley Poore, Halpine, and
others, and tried his hand as a "sketchist" for a
volume edited by Mrs. Partington. His early
effusions bore the signature of "Chub." From the
Hub he emigrated to the West. At Toledo, Ohio,
he worked as a "typo" and later as a "local" on a
Toledo newspaper. Then he went to Cleveland,
where as city editor of the Plain Dealer he began
the peculiar vein from which still later he worked
The soubriquet "Artemus Ward," was not taken
from the Revolutionary general. It was suggested
by an actual personality. In an adjoining town to
Cleveland there was a snake charmer who called
himself Artemus Ward, an ignorant witling or
half-wit, the laughing stock of the countryside.
Browne's first communication over the signature of
Artemus Ward purported to emanate from this
person, and it succeeded so well that he kept it up.
He widened the conception as he progressed. It
was not long before his sketches began to be copied
and he became a newspaper favorite. He remained
in Cleveland from 1857 to 1860, when he was called
to New York to take the editorship of a venture
called Vanity Fair. This died soon after. But he
did not die with it. A year later, in the fall of
1861, he made his appearance as a lecturer at New
London, and met with encouragement. Then he
en tour, returned to the metropolis, hired a
hall and opened with "the show." Thence onward
all went well.
The first money he made was applied to the purchase
of the old family homestead in Maine, which
he presented to his mother. The payments on this
being completed, he bought himself a little nest on
the Hudson, meaning, as he said, to settle down and
perhaps to marry. But his dreams were not destined
to be fulfilled.
Thus, at the outset of a career from which much
was to be expected, a man, possessed of rare and
original qualities of head and heart, sank out of the
sphere in which at that time he was the most
prominent figure. There was then no Mark Twain or
Bret Harte. His rivals were such humorists as
Orpheus C. Kerr, Nasby, Asa Hartz, The Fat
Contributor, John Happy, Mrs. Partington, Bill Arp
and the like, who are now mostly forgotten.
Artemus Ward wrote little, but he made good
and left his mark. Along with the queer John
Phoenix his writings survived the deluge that
followed them. He poured out the wine of life in a
limpid stream. It may be fairly said that he did
much to give permanency and respectability to the
style of literature of which he was at once a brilliant
illustrator and illustration. His was a short life
indeed, though a merry one, and a sad death. In
a strange land, yet surrounded by admiring friends,
about to reach the coveted independence he had
looked forward to so long, he sank to rest, his dust
mingling with that of the great Thomas Hood,
alongside of whom he was laid in Kensal Green.
CHAPTER THE FIFTH
MARK TWAIN—THE ORIGINAL OF COLONEL
MULBERRY SELLERS—THE "EARL OF DURHAM"—
SOME NOCTES AMBROSIANAE—A JOKE ON
MARK TWAIN came down to the footlights
long after Artemus Ward had passed from
the scene; but as an American humorist with whom
during half a century I was closely intimate and
round whom many of my London experiences
revolve, it may be apropos to speak of him next after
his elder. There was not lacking a certain likeness
Samuel L. Clemens and I were connected by a
domestic tie, though before either of us were born
the two families on the maternal side had been
neighbors and friends. An uncle of his married an
aunt of mine—the children of this marriage cousins
in common to us—albeit, this apart, we were lifetime
cronies. He always contended that we were
Notwithstanding that when Mark Twain appeared
east of the Alleghanies and north of the
Blue Ridge he showed the weather-beating of the
west, the bizarre alike of the pilot house and the
mining camp very much in evidence, he came of
decent people on both sides of the house. The
Clemens and the Lamptons were of good old English
stock. Toward the middle of the eighteenth
century three younger scions of the Manor of
Durham migrated from the County of Durham to
Virginia and thence branched out into Tennessee,
Kentucky and Missouri.
His mother was the loveliest old aristocrat with
a taking drawl, a drawl that was high-bred and
patrician, not rustic and plebeian, which her famous
son inherited. All the women of that ilk were
gentlewomen. The literary and artistic instinct
which attained its fruition in him had percolated
through the veins of a long line of silent singers,
of poets and painters, unborn to the world of
expression till he arrived upon the scene.
These joint cousins of ours embraced an exceedingly
large, varied and picturesque assortment.
Their idiosyncrasies were a constant source of
amusement to us. Just after the successful
production of his play, The Gilded Age, and the
uproarious hit of the comedian, Raymond, in the
leading rôle, I received a letter from him in which he
told me he had made in Colonel Mulberry Sellers
a close study of one of these kinsmen and thought
he had drawn him to the life. "But for the love
o' God," he said, "don't whisper it, for he would
never understand or forgive me, if he did not thrash
me on sight."
The pathos of the part, and not its comic aspects,
had most impressed him. He designed and wrote
it for Edwin Booth. From the first and always
he was disgusted by the Raymond portrayal.
Except for its popularity and money-making, he
would have withdrawn it from the stage as, in a
fit of pique, Raymond himself did while it was still
packing the theaters.
The original Sellers had partly brought him up
and had been very good to him. A second Don
Quixote in appearance and not unlike the knight of
La Mancha in character, it would have been safe
for nobody to laugh at James Lampton, or by the
slightest intimation, look or gesture to treat him
with inconsideration, or any proposal of his,
however preposterous, with levity.
He once came to visit me upon a public occasion
and during a function. I knew that I must introduce
him, and with all possible ceremony, to my
colleagues. He was very queer; tall and peaked,
wearing a black, swallow-tailed suit, shiny with age,
and a silk hat, bound with black crepe to conceal its
rustiness, not to indicate a recent death; but his
linen as spotless as new-fallen snow. I had my
fears. Happily the company, quite dazed by the
apparition, proved decorous to solemnity, and the
kind old gentleman, pleased with himself and
proud of his "distinguished young kinsman," went
away highly gratified.
Not long after this one of his daughters—pretty
girls they were, too, and in charm altogether
worthy of their Cousin Sam Clemens—was to be
married, and Sellers wrote me a stately summons,
all-embracing, though stiff and formal, such as a
baron of the Middle Ages might have indited to his
noble relative, the field marshal, bidding him bring
his good lady and his retinue and abide within the
castle until the festivities were ended, though in
this instance the castle was a suburban cottage
scarcely big enough to accommodate the bridal
couple. I showed the bombastic but hospitable and
genuine invitation to the actor Raymond, who
chanced to be playing in Louisville when it reached
me. He read it through with care and reread it.
"Do you know," said he, "it makes me want to
cry. That is not the man I am trying to impersonate
Be sure it was not; for there was nothing funny
about the spiritual being of Mark Twain's Colonel
Mulberry Sellers; he was as brave as a lion and as
upright as Sam Clemens himself.
When a very young man, living in a woodland
cabin down in the Pennyrile region of Kentucky,
with a wife he adored and two or three small
children, he was so carried away by an unexpected
windfall that he lingered overlong in the nearby
village, dispensing a royal hospitality; in point of
fact, he "got on a spree." Two or three days passed
before he regained possession of himself. When at
last he reached home, he found his wife ill in bed
and the children nearly starved for lack of food.
He said never a word, but walked out of the cabin,
tied himself to a tree, and was wildly horsewhipping
himself when the cries of the frightened family
summoned the neighbors and he was brought to reason.
He never touched an intoxicating drop from that
day to his death.
Another one of our fantastic mutual cousins was
the "Earl of Durham." I ought to say that Mark
Twain and I grew up on old wives' tales of estates
and titles, which, maybe due to a kindred sense of
humor in both of us, we treated with shocking
irreverence. It happened some fifty years ago that
there turned up, first upon the plains and afterward
in New York and Washington, a lineal descendant
of the oldest of the Virginia Lamptons—he had
somehow gotten hold of or had fabricated a bundle
of documents—who was what a certain famous
American would have called a "corker." He wore
a sombrero with a rattlesnake for a band, and a belt
with a couple of six-shooters, and described himself
and claimed to be the Earl of Durham.
"He touched me for a tenner the first time I ever
saw him," drawled Mark to me, "and I coughed it
up and have been coughing them up, whenever he's
around, with punctuality and regularity."
The "Earl" was indeed a terror, especially when
he had been drinking. His belief in his peerage
was as absolute as Colonel Sellers' in his millions.
All he wanted was money enough "to get over
there" and "state his case." During the Tichborne
trial Mark Twain and I were in London, and one
day he said to me:
"I have investigated this Durham business down
at the Herald's office. There's nothing to it. The
Lamptons passed out of the Demesne of Durham a
hundred years ago. They had long before dissipated
the estates. Whatever the title, it lapsed.
The present earldom is a new creation, not the
same family at all. But, I tell you what, if you'll
put up five hundred dollars I'll put up five hundred
more, we'll fetch our chap across and set him in as
a claimant, and, my word for it, Kenealy's fat boy
won't be a marker to him!"
He was so pleased with his conceit that later
along he wrote a novel and called it The Claimant.
It is the only one of his books, though I never told
him so, that I could not enjoy. Many years after,
I happened to see upon a hotel register in Rome
these entries: "The Earl of Durham," and in the
same handwriting just below it, "Lady Anne
Lambton" and "The Hon. Reginald Lambton."
So the Lambtons—they spelled it with a b instead
of a p—were yet in the peerage. A Lambton was
Earl of Durham. The next time I saw Mark I
rated him on his deception. He did not defend
himself, said something about its being necessary
to perfect the joke.
"Did you ever meet this present peer and possible
usurper?" I asked.
"No," he answered, "I never did, but if he had
called on me, I would have had him come up."
His mind turned ever to the droll. Once in
London I was living with my family at 103 Mount
Street. Between 103 and 102 there was the
parochial workhouse, quite a long and imposing
edifice. One evening, upon coming in from an outing,
I found a letter he had written on the sitting-room
table. He had left it with his card. He spoke
of the shock he had received upon finding that next
to 102—presumably 103—was the workhouse. He
had loved me, but had always feared that I would
end by disgracing the family—being hanged or
something—but the "work'us," that was beyond
him; he had not thought it would come to that. And
so on through pages of horseplay; his relief on
ascertaining the truth and learning his mistake, his
regret at not finding me at home, closing with a
It was at Geneva, Switzerland, that I received a
long, overflowing letter, full of flamboyant
oddities, written from London. Two or three hours
later came a telegram. "Burn letter. Blot it from
your memory. Susie is dead."
How much of melancholy lay hidden behind the
mask of his humour it would be hard to say. His
griefs were tempered by a vein of stoicism. He
was a medley of contradictions. Unconventional
to the point of eccentricity, his sense of his proper
dignity was sound and sufficient. Though lavish
in the use of money, he had a full realization of its
value and made close contracts for his work. Like
Sellers, his mind soared when it sailed financial
currents. He lacked acute business judgment in the
larger things, while an excellent economist in the
His marriage was the most brilliant stroke of his
life. He got the woman of all the world he most
needed, a truly lovely and wise helpmate, who kept
him in bounds and headed him straight and right
while she lived. She was the best of housewives
and mothers, and the safest of counsellors and
critics. She knew his worth; she appreciated his
genius; she understood his limitations and angles.
Her death was a grievous disaster as well as a
staggering blow. He never wholly recovered from
It was in the early seventies that Mark Twain
dropped into New York, where there was already
gathered a congenial group to meet and greet him.
John Hay, quoting old Jack Dade's description of
himself, was wont to speak of this group as "of
high aspirations and peregrinations." It radiated
between Franklin Square, where Joseph W.
Harper—"Joe Brooklyn," we called him—reigned in
place of his uncle, Fletcher Harper, the man of
genius among the original Harper Brothers, and
the Lotos Club, then in Irving Place, and Delmonico's,
at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth
Street, with Sutherland's in Liberty Street for a
downtown place of luncheon resort, not to forget
Dorlon's in Fulton Market.
The Harper contingent, beside its chief,
embraced Tom Nast and William A. Seaver, whom
John Russell Young named "Papa Pendennis,"
GENERAL LEONIDAS POLK—LIEUTENANT GENERAL
C.S.A.—KILLED IN GEORGIA, JUNE 14, 1864—P. E. BISHOP OF LOUISIANA
and pictured as "a man of letters among men of
the world and a man of the world among men of
letters," a very apt phrase appropriated from
Doctor Johnson, and Major Constable, a giant, who
looked like a dragoon and not a bookman, yet had
known Sir Walter Scott and was sprung from the
family of Edinburgh publishers. Bret Harte had
but newly arrived from California. Whitelaw
Reid, though still subordinate to Greeley, was
beginning to make himself felt in journalism. John
Hay played high priest to the revels. Occasionally
I made a pious pilgrimage to the delightful shrine.
Truth to tell, it emulated rather the gods than
the graces, though all of us had literary leanings of
one sort and another, especially late at night; and
Sam Bowles would come over from Springfield
and Murat Halstead from Cincinnati to join us.
Howells, always something of a prig, living in Boston,
held himself at too high account; but often we
had Joseph Jefferson, then in the heyday of his
career, with once in a while Edwin Booth, who
could not quite trust himself to go our gait. The
fine fellows we caught from oversea were innumerable,
from the elder Sothern and Sala and Yates
to Lord Dufferin and Lord Houghton. Times
went very well those days, and whilst some looked
on askance, notably Curtis and, rather oddly,
Stedman, and thought we were wasting time and
convivializing more than was good for us, we were
mostly young and hearty, ranging from thirty to
five and forty years of age, with amazing capabilities
both for work and play, and I cannot recall
that any hurt to any of us came of it.
Although robustious, our fribbles were harmless
enough—ebullitions of animal spirit, sometimes
perhaps of gaiety unguarded—though each
shade, treading the Celestian way, as most of them
do, and recurring to those Noctes Ambrosianae,
might e'en repeat to the other the words on a
memorable occasion addressed by Curran to Lord
spent them, not in toys or lust or wine;
search of deep philosophy,
eloquence and poesy—
which I loved, for they, my friend, were thine."
Mark Twain was the life of every company and
all occasions. I remember a practical joke of his
suggestion played upon Murat Halstead. A party
of us were supping after the theater at the old
Brevoort House. A card was brought to me from
a reporter of the World. I was about to deny
myself, when Mark Twain said:
"Give it to me, I'll fix it," and left the table.
Presently he came to the door and beckoned me
"I represented myself as your secretary and told
this man," said he, "that you were not here, but
that if Mr. Halstead would answer just as well I
would fetch him. The fellow is as innocent as a lamb
and doesn't know either of you. I am going to
introduce you as Halstead and we'll have some
No sooner said than done. The reporter proved
to be a little bald-headed cherub newly arrived from
the isle of dreams, and I lined out to him a column
or more of very hot stuff, reversing Halstead in
every opinion. I declared him in favor of paying
the national debt in greenbacks. Touching the
sectional question, which was then the burning issue
of the time, I made the mock Halstead say: "The
'bloody shirt' is only a kind of Pickwickian battle
cry. It is convenient during political campaigns
and on election day. Perhaps you do not know
that I am myself of dyed-in-the-wool Southern and
secession stock. My father and grandfather came
to Ohio from South Carolina just before I was
born. Naturally I have no sectional prejudices,
but I live in Cincinnati and I am a Republican."
There was not a little more of the same sort.
Just how it passed through the World office I
know not; but it actually appeared. On returning
to the table I told the company what Mark Twain
and I had done. They thought I was joking.
Without a word to any of us, next day Halstead
wrote a note to the World repudiating the interview,
and the World printed his disclaimer with
a line which said: "When Mr. Halstead conversed
with our reporter he had dined." It was too good
to keep. A day or two later, John Hay wrote an
amusing story for the Tribune, which set Halstead
Mark Twain's place in literature is not for me
to fix. Some one has called him "The Lincoln of
letters." That is striking, suggestive and apposite.
The genius of Clemens and the genius of Lincoln
possessed a kinship outside the circumstances of
their early lives; the common lack of tools to work
with; the privations and hardships to be endured
and to overcome; the way ahead through an unblazed
and trackless forest; every footstep over a
stumbling block and each effort saddled with a
handicap. But they got there, both of them, they
got there, and mayhap somewhere beyond the stars
the light of their eyes is shining down upon us
even as, amid the thunders of a world tempest, we
are not wholly forgetful of them.
CHAPTER THE SIXTH
HOUSTON AND WIGFALL OF TEXAS—STEPHEN A.
DOUGLAS—THE TWADDLE ABOUT PURITANS AND
CAVALIERS—ANDREW JOHNSON AND JOHN C.
THE National Capitol—old men's fancies
fondly turn to thoughts of youth—was
picturesque in its personalities if not in its
architecture. By no means the least striking of these was
General and Senator Sam Houston, of Texas. In
his life of adventure truth proved very much
stranger than fiction.
The handsomest of men, tall and stately, he could
pass no way without attracting attention; strangers
in the Senate gallery first asked to have him pointed
out to them, and seeing him to all appearance
idling his time with his jacknife and bits of soft
wood which he whittled into various shapes of
hearts and anchors for distribution among his lady
acquaintances, they usually went away thinking
him a queer old man. So
inded he was; yet on his
feet and in action singularly impressive, and, when
he chose, altogether the statesman and orator.
There united in him the spirits of the troubadour
and the spearman. Ivanhoe was not more gallant
nor Bois-Guilbert fiercer. But the valor and the
prowess were tempered by humor. Below the surging
subterranean flood that stirred and lifted him
to high attempt, he was a comedian who had tales
to tell, and told them wondrous well. On a lazy
summer afternoon on the shady side of Willard's
Hotel—the Senate not in session—he might be
seen, an admiring group about him, spinning these
yarns, mostly of personal experience—rarely if
ever repeating himself—and in tone, gesture and
grimace reproducing the drolleries of the backwoods,
which from boyhood had been his home.
He spared not himself. According to his own
account he had been in the early days of his Texas
career a drunkard. "Everybody got drunk," I once
heard him say, referring to the beginning of the
Texas revolution, as he gave a side-splitting picture
of that bloody episode, "and I realized that
somebody must get sober and keep sober."
From the hour of that realization, when he
"swore off," to the hour of his death he never
touched intoxicants of any sort.
He had fought under Jackson, had served two
terms in Congress and had been elected governor
of Tennessee before he was forty. Then he fell in
love. The young lady was a beautiful girl,
well-born and highly educated, a schoolmate of my
mother's elder sister. She was persuaded by her
family to throw over an obscure young man whom
she preferred, and to marry a young man so eligible
He took her to Nashville, the state capital.
There were rounds of gayety. Three months
passed. Of a sudden the little town woke to the
startling rumor, which proved to be true, that the
brilliant young couple had come to a parting of
the ways. The wife had returned to her people.
The husband had resigned his office and was gone,
no one knew where.
A few years later Mrs. Houston applied for a
divorce, which in those days had to be granted by
the state legislature. Inevitably reports derogatory
to her had got abroad. Almost the first tidings
of Governor Houston's whereabouts were
contained in a letter he wrote from somewhere in the
Indian country to my father, a member of the
legislature to whom Mrs. Houston had applied, in which
he said that these reports had come to his ears.
"They are," he wrote, "as false as hell. If they be
not stopped I will return to Tennessee and have
the heart's blood of him who repeats them. A
nobler, purer woman never lived. She should be
promptly given the divorce she asks. I alone am
She married again, though not the lover she had
discarded. I knew her in her old age—a gentle,
placid lady, in whose face I used to fancy I could
read lines of sorrow and regret. He, to close this
chapter, likewise married again a wise and
womanly woman who bore him many children and
with whom he lived happy ever after. Meanwhile,
however, he had dwelt with the Indians and had
become an Indian chief. "Big Drunk, they called
me," he said to his familiars. His enemies averred
that he brought into the world a whole tribe of
Houston was a rare performer before a popular
audience. His speech abounded with argumentative
appeal and bristled with illustrative anecdote,
and, when occasion required, with apt repartee.
Once an Irishman in the crowd bawled out, "ye
were goin' to sell Texas to England."
Houston paused long enough to center attention
upon the quibble and then said: "My friend, I first
tried, unsuccessfully, to have the United States take
Texas as a gift. Not until I threatened to turn
Texas over to England did I finally succeed. There
may be within the sound of my voice some who
have knowledge of sheep culture. They have doubtless
seen a motherless lamb put to the breast of a
cross old ewe who refused it suck. Then the wise
shepherd calls his dog and there is no further
trouble. My friend, England was my dog."
He was inveighing against the New York
Tribune. Having described Horace Greeley as
the sum of all villainy—"whose hair is white, whose
skin is white, whose eyes are white, whose clothes
are white, and whose liver is in my opinion of the
same color"—he continued: "The assistant editor
of the Try-bune is Robinson—Solon Robinson.
He is an Irishman, an Orange Irishman, a
red-haired Irishman!" Casting his eye over the
audience and seeing quite a sprinkling of redheads, and
realizing that he had perpetrated a slip of tongue,
he added: "Fellow citizens, when I say that Robinson
is a red-haired Irishman I mean no disrespect
to persons whose hair is of that color. I have been
a close observer of men and women for thirty
years, and I never knew a red-haired man who was
not an honest man, nor a red-headed woman who
was not a virtuous woman; and I give it you as my
opinion that had it not been for Robinson's
red hair he would have been hanged long ago."
His pathos was not far behind his humor—
though he used it sparingly. At a certain town in
Texas there lived a desperado who had threatened
to kill him on sight. The town was not on the
route of his speaking dates but he went out of his
way to include it. A great concourse assembled
to hear him. He spoke in the open air and, as he
began, observed his man leaning against a tree
armed to the teeth and waiting for him to finish.
After a few opening remarks, he dropped into the
reminiscential. He talked of the old times in
Texas. He told in thrilling terms of the Alamo
and of Goliad. There was not a dry eye in earshot.
Then he grew personal.
"I see Tom Gilligan over yonder. A braver man
never lived than Tom Gilligan. He fought by my
side at San Jacinto. Together we buried poor Bill
Holman. But for his skill and courage I should
not be here to-day. He—"
There was a stir in front. Gilligan had thrown
away his knife and gun and was rushing unarmed
through the crowd, tears streaming down his face.
"For God's sake, Houston," he cried, "don't say
another word and forgive me my cowardly
From that time to his death Tom Gilligan was
Houston's devoted friend.
General Houston voted against the Kansas-Nebraska
Bill, and as a consequence lost his seat
in the Senate. It was thought, and freely said,
that for good and all he was down and out. He
went home and announced himself a candidate for
governor of Texas.
The campaign that followed was of unexampled
bitterness. The secession wave was already
mounting high. Houston was an uncompromising
Unionist. His defeat was generally expected. But there
was no beating such a man in a fair and square
contest before the people. When the votes were
counted he led his competitor by a big majority.
As governor he refused two years later to sign the
ordinance of secession and was deposed from office
by force. He died before the end of the war which
so signally vindicated his wisdom and verified his
Stephen Arnold Douglas was the Charles James
Fox of American politics. He was not a gambler
as Fox was. But he went the other gaits and was
possessed of a sweetness of disposition which made
him, like Fox, loved where he was personally
known. No one could resist the
They are not all Puritans in New England.
Catch a Yankee off his base, quite away from home,
and he can be as gay as anybody. Boston and
Charleston were in high party times nearest alike
of any two American cities.
Douglas was a Green Mountain boy. He was
born in Vermont. As Seargent Prentiss had done
he migrated beyond the Alleghanies before he came
of age, settling in Illinois as Prentiss had settled
in Mississippi, to grow into a typical Westerner as
Prentiss into a typical Southerner.
There was never a more absurd theory than that,
begot of sectional aims and the sectional spirit,
which proposed a geographic alignment of Cavalier
and Puritan. When sectionalism had brought a
kindred people to blows over the institution of
African slavery there were Puritans who fought on
the Southern side and Cavaliers who fought on the
Northern side. What was Stonewall Jackson but
a Puritan? What were Custer, Stoneman and
Kearny but Cavaliers? Wadsworth was as
absolute an aristocrat as Hampton.
In the old days before the war of sections the
South was full of typical Southerners of Northern
birth. John A. Quitman, who went from New
York, and Robert J. Walker, who went from
Pennsylvania to Mississippi; James H. Hammond,
whose father, a teacher, went from Massachusetts
to South Carolina. John Slidell, born and bred in
New York, was thirty years old when he went to
Louisiana. Albert Sidney Johnston, the rose and
expectancy of the young Confederacy—the most
typical of rebel soldiers—had not a drop of Southern
blood in his veins, born in Kentucky a few
months after his father and mother had arrived
there from Connecticut. The list might be
Climate, which has something to do with
temperament, has not so much to do with character as
is often imagined. All of us are more or less the
creatures of environment. In the South after a
fashion the duello flourished. Because it had not
flourished in the North there rose a notion that
the Northerners would not fight. It proved to
those who thought it a costly mistake.
Down to the actual secession of 1860-61 the issue
of issues—the issue behind all issues—was the
preservation of the Union. Between 1820 and 1850, by
a series of compromises, largely the work of Mr.
Clay, its threatened disruption had been averted.
The Kansas-Nebraska Bill put a sore strain upon
conservative elements North and South. The
Whig Party went to pieces. Mr. Clay passed from
the scene. Had he lived until the presidential election
of 1852 he would have given his support to
Franklin Pierce, as Daniel Webster did. Mr.
Buchanan was not a General Jackson. Judge
Douglas, who sought to play the rôle of Mr. Clay,
was too late. The secession leaders held the whip
hand in the Gulf States. South Carolina was to
have her will at last. Crash came the shot in
Charleston Harbor and the fall of Sumter. Curiously
enough two persons of Kentucky birth—
Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis—led the
rival hosts of war into which an untenable and
indefensible system of slave labor, for which the two
sections were equally responsible, had precipitated
an unwilling people.
Had Judge Douglas lived he would have been
Mr. Lincoln's main reliance in Congress. As a
debater his resources and prowess were rarely
equaled and never surpassed. His personality,
whether in debate or private conversation, was
attractive in the highest degree. He possessed a full,
melodious voice, convincing fervor and ready wit.
He had married for his second wife the reigning
belle of the National Capital, a great-niece of Mrs.
Madison, whose very natural ambitions quickened
and spurred his own.
It was fated otherwise. Like Clay, Webster,
Calhoun and Blaine he was to be denied the
Presidency. The White House was barred to him.
He was not yet fifty when he died.
Tidings of his death took the country by surprise.
But already the sectional battle was on
and it produced only a momentary impression, to
be soon forgotten amid the overwhelming tumult of
events. He has lain in his grave now nearly sixty
years. Upon the legislation of his time his name
was writ first in water and then in blood. He
received less than his desert in life and the historic
record has scarcely done justice to his merit. He
was as great a party leader as Clay. He could hold
his own in debate with Webster and Calhoun. He
died a very poor man, though his opportunity for
enrichment by perfectly legitimate means were
many. It is enough to say that he lacked the
business instinct and set no value upon money;
scrupulously upright in his official dealing; holding
his senatorial duties above all price and beyond the
suspicion of dirt.
Touching a matter which involved a certain outlay
in the winter of 1861, he laughingly said to me:
"I haven't the wherewithal to pay for a bottle of
whisky and shall have to borrow of Arnold Harris
the wherewithal to take me home."
His wife was a glorious creature. Early one
morning calling at their home to see Judge Douglas
I was ushered into the library, where she was
engaged setting things to rights. My entrance took
her by surprise. I had often seen her in full ballroom
regalia and in becoming out-of-door costume,
but as, in gingham gown and white apron, she
turned, a little startled by my sudden appearance,
smiles and blushes in spite of herself, I thought I
had never seen any woman so beautiful before.
She married again—the lover whom gossip said she
had thrown over to marry Judge Douglas—and the
story went that her second marriage was not very
In the midsummer of 1859 the burning question
among the newsmen of Washington was the Central
American Mission. England and France had
displayed activity in that quarter and it was
deemed important that the United States should
sit up and take notice. An Isthmian canal was
Speculation was rife whom Mr. Buchanan would
send to represent us. The press gang of the National
Capital was all at sea. There was scarcely
a Democratic leader of national prominence whose
name was not mentioned in that connection, though
speculation from day to day eddied round Mr.
James S. Rollins, of Missouri, an especial friend
of the President and a most accomplished public
At the height of excitement I happened to be in
the library of the State Department. I was on a
step-ladder in quest of a book when I heard a
messenger say to the librarian: "The President is in
the Secretary's room and wants to have Mr.
Dimitry come there right away." An inspiration
shot through me like a flash. They had chosen
Alexander Dimitry for the Central American Mission.
He was the official translator of the Department
of State. Though an able and learned man he was
not in the line of preferment. He was without
political standing or backing of any sort. At first
blush a more unlikely, impossible appointment
could hardly be suggested. But—so on the instant
I reasoned—he was peculiarly fitted in his own
person for the post in question. Though of Greek
origin he looked like a Spaniard. He spoke the
Spanish language fluently. He had the procedure
of the State Department at his finger's ends. He
was the head of a charming domestic fabric—his
daughters the prettiest girls in Washington. Why
I climbed down from my stepladder and made
tracks for the office of the afternoon newspaper
for which I was doing all-round work. I was
barely on time, the last forms being locked when I
got there. I had the editorial page opened and
inserted at the top of the leading column a
double-leaded paragraph announcing that the agony was
over—that the Gordian knot was cut—that Alexander
Dimitry had been selected as Envoy Extraordinary
and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Central
It proved a veritable sensation as well as a
notable scoop. To increase my glory the correspondents
of the New York dailies scouted it. But
in a day or two it was officially confirmed. General
Cass, the Secretary of State, sent for me, having
learned that I had been in the department about
the time of the consultation between the President,
himself and Mr. Dimitry.
"How did you get this?" he asked rather sharply.
"Out of my inner consciousness," I answered with
flippant familiarity. "Didn't you know that I have
what they call second sight?"
The old gentleman laughed amiably. "It would
seem so," he said, and sent me about my business
without further inquiry.
In the National Capital the winter of 1860-61
was both stormy and nebulous. Parties were at
sea. The Northerners in Congress had learned the
trick of bullying from the Southerners. In the
Senate, Chandler was a match for Toombs; and in
the House, Thaddeus Stevens for Keitt and
Lamar. All of them, more or less, were playing a
game. If sectional war, which was incessantly
threatened by the two extremes, had been keenly
realized and seriously considered it might have been
averted. Very few believed that it would come to
A convention of Border State men, over which
ex-President John Tyler presided, was held in
Washington. It might as well have been held at
the North Pole. Moderate men were brushed
aside, their counsels whistled down the wind. There
was a group of Senators, headed by Wigfall of
Texas, who meant disunion and war, and another
group, headed by Seward, Hale and Chase, who
had been goaded up to this. Reading contemporary
history and, seeing the high-mightiness with which
the Germans began what we conceive their raid
upon humanity, we are wont to regard it as evidence
of incredible stupidity, whereas it was, in
point of fact, rather a miscalculation of forces.
That was the error of the secession leaders. They
refused to count the cost. Yancey firmly believed
that England would be forced to intervene. The
mills of Lancashire he thought could not get on
without Southern cotton. He was sent abroad.
He found Europe solid against slavery and therefore
set against the Confederacy. He came home
with what is called a broken heart—the dreams of
a lifetime shattered—and, in a kind of dazed stupor,
laid himself down to die. With Richmond in
flames and the exultant shouts of the detested yet
victorious Yankees in his ears, he did die.
Wigfall survived but a few years. He was less
a dreamer than Yancey. A man big of brain and
warm of heart he had gone from the ironclad
provincialism of South Carolina to the windswept
vagaries of Texas. He believed wholly the Yancey
confession of faith; that secession was a constitutional
right; that African slavery was ordained of
God; that the South was paramount, the North
inferior. Yet in worldly knowledge he had learned
more than Yancey—was an abler man than Jefferson
Davis—and but for his affections and generous
habits he would have made a larger figure in the
war, having led the South's exit from the Senate.
I do not think that either Hammond or Chestnut,
the Senators from South Carolina, both men
of parts, had at bottom much belief in the
practicability of the Confederate movement. Neither had
the Senators from Arkansas and Alabama, nor
Brown, of Mississippi, the colleague of Jefferson
Davis. Mason, of Virginia, a dogged old donkey,
and Iverson, of Georgia, another, were the kind of
men whom Wigfall dominated.
One of the least confident of those who looked on
and afterward fell in line was the Vice President,
John C. Breckenridge, of Kentucky. He was the
Beau Sabreur among statesmen as Albert Sidney
Johnston, among soldiers. Never man handsomer
in person or more winning in manners. Sprung
from a race of political aristocrats, he was born to
early and shining success in public life. Of moderate
opinions, winning and prudent, wherever he
appeared he carried his audience with him. He had
been elected on the ticket with Buchanan to the
second office under the Government, when he was
but five and thirty years of age. There was nothing
for him to gain from a division of the Union;
the Presidency, perhaps, if the Union continued
undivided. But he could not resist the onrush of
disunionism, went with the South, which he served
first in the field and later as Confederate Secretary
of War, and after a few years of self-imposed exile
in Europe returned to Kentucky to die at four and
fifty, a defeated and disappointed old man.
The adjoining state of Tennessee was represented
in the Senate by one of the most problematic
characters in American history. With my father,
who remained his friend through life, he had entered
the state legislature in 1835, and having served ten
years in the lower House of Congress, and four
years as governor of Tennessee he came back in
1857 to the National Capital, a member of the
Upper House. He was Andrew Johnson.
I knew him from my childhood. Thrice that I
can recall I saw him weep; never did I see him
laugh. Life had been very serious, albeit very
successful, to him. Of unknown parentage, the wife
he had married before he was one and twenty had
taught him to read. Yet at six and twenty he was
in the Tennessee General Assembly and at four
and thirty in Congress.
There was from first to last not a little about him
to baffle conjecture. I should call him a cross
between Jack Cade and Aaron Burr. His sympathies
were easily stirred by rags in distress. But he was
uncompromising in his detestation of the rich. It
was said that he hated "a biled shirt." He would
have nothing to do "with people who wore broadcloth,"
though he carefully dressed himself. When,
as governor of Tennessee, he came to Nashville he
refused many invitations to take his first New
Year's dinner with a party of toughs at the house
of a river roustabout.
There was nothing of the tough about him,
however. His language was careful and exact. I
never heard him utter an oath or tell a
He passed quite fifteen years in Washington, a
total abstainer from the use of intoxicants. He
fell into the occasional-drink habit during the dark
days of the War. But after some costly experience
he dropped it and continued a total abstainer to
the end of his days.
He had, indeed, admirable self-control. I do
not believe a more conscientious man ever lived.
His judgments were sometimes peculiar, but they
were upright and sincere, having reasons, which he
could give with power and effect, behind them. Yet
was he a born politician, crafty to a degree, and
always successful, relying upon a popular following
which never failed him.
In 1860 he supported the quasi-secession Breckenridge
and Lane Presidential ticket, but in 1861
he stood true to the Union, retaining his seat in the
Senate until he was appointed military governor of
Tennessee. Nominated for Vice President on the
ticket with Lincoln, in 1864, he was elected, and
upon the assassination of Lincoln succeeded to the
Presidency. Having served out his term as President
he returned to Tennessee to engage in the hottest
kind of politics, and though at the outset
defeated finally regained his seat in the Senate of the
He hated Grant with a holy hate. His first act
on reëntering the Senate was to deliver an
implacably bitter speech against the President. It
was his last public appearance. He went thence
to his home in East Tennessee, gratified and happy,
to die in a few weeks.
There used to be a story about Raleigh, in North
Carolina, where Andrew Johnson was born, which
whispered that he was a natural son of William
Ruffin, an eminent jurist in the earlier years of the
nineteenth century. It was analogous to the story
that Lincoln was the natural son of various paternities
from time to time assigned to him. I had my
share in running that calumny to cover. It was a
lie out of whole cloth with nothing whatever to support
or excuse it. I reached the bottom of it to discover
proof of its baselessness abundant and conclusive.
In Johnson's case I take it that the story
had nothing other to rest on than the obscurity of
his birth and the quality of his talents. Late in life
Johnson went to Raleigh and caused to be erected
a modest tablet over the spot pointed out as the
grave of his progenitor, saying, I was told by persons
claiming to have been present, "I place this
stone over the last earthly abode of my alleged
Johnson, in the saying of the countryside,
"out-married himself." His wife was a plain woman,
but came of good family. One day, when a child, so
the legend ran, she saw passing through the Greenville
street in which her people lived, a woman, a boy
and a cow, the boy carrying a pack over his shoulder.
They were obviously weary and hungry. Extreme
poverty could present no sadder picture.
"Mother," cried the girl, "there goes the man I am
going to marry." She was thought to be in jest.
But a few years later she made her banter good
and lived to see her husband President of the
United States and with him to occupy the White
House at Washington.
Much has been written of the humble birth and
iron fortune of Abraham Lincoln. He had no such
obstacles to overcome as either Andrew Jackson or
Andrew Johnson. Jackson, a prisoner of war, was
liberated, a lad of sixteen, from the British pen at
Charleston, without a relative, a friend or a dollar
in the world, having to make his way upward
through the most aristocratic community of the
country and the time. Johnson, equally friendless
and penniless, started as a poor tailor in a rustic
village. Lincoln must therefore, take third place
among our self-made Presidents. The Hanks
family were not paupers. He had a wise and helpful
stepmother. He was scarcely worse off than
most young fellows of his neighborhood, first in
Indiana and then in Illinois. On this side justice
has never been rendered to Jackson and Johnson.
In the case of Jackson the circumstance was
forgotten, while Johnson too often dwelt upon it and
made capital out of it.
Under date of the 23rd of May, 1919, the Hon.
Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, writes
me the following letter, which I violate no
confidence in reproducing in this connection:
MY DEAR MARSE HENRY:—
I can't tell you how much delight and pleasure
your reminiscences in the Saturday Evening Post
have given me, as well as the many others who have
followed them, and I suppose you will put them in
a volume when they are finished, so that we may
have the pleasure of reading them in connected
As you know, I live in Raleigh and I was very
much interested in your article in the issue of April
5, 1919, with reference to Andrew Johnson, in
which you quote a story that "used to be current
in Raleigh, that he was the son of William Ruffin,
an eminent jurist of the
ninetenth century." I
had never heard this story, but the story that was
gossiped there was that he was the son of a certain
Senator Haywood. I ran that story down and
found that it had no foundation whatever, because
if he had been the son of the Senator reputed to be
his father, the Senator was of the age of twelve
years when Andrew Johnson was born.
My own information is, for I have made some
investigation of it, that the story about Andrew
Johnson's having a father other than the husband
of his mother, is as wanting in foundation as the
story about Abraham Lincoln. You did a great
service in running that down and exposing it, and
I trust before you finish your book that you will
make further investigation and be able to do a like
service in repudiating the unjust, idle gossip with
reference to Andrew Johnson. In your article you
say that persons who claim to have been present
when Johnson came to Raleigh and erected a monument
over the grave of his father, declare that
Johnson said he placed this stone over the last
earthly abode of "my alleged father." That is one
phase of the gossip, and the other is that he said
"my reputed father," both equally false.
The late Mr. Pulaski Cowper, who was private
secretary to Governor Bragg, of our State, just
prior to the war, and who was afterwards president
of our leading life insurance company, a gentleman
of high character, and of the best memory, was
present at the time that Johnson made the address
from which you quote the rumor. Mr. Cowper
wrote an article for The News and Observer, giving
the story and relating that Johnson said that
"he was glad to come to Raleigh to erect a tablet
to his father." The truth is that while his father
was a man of little or no education, he held the
position of janitor at the State Capitol, and he
was not wanting in qualities which made him
superior to his humble position. If he had been
living in this day he would have been given a
life-saving medal, for upon the occasion of a picnic
near Raleigh when the cry came that children were
drowning he was the first to leap in and endanger
his life to save them.
Andrew Johnson's mother was related to the
Chappell family, of which there are a number of
citizens of standing and character near Raleigh,
several of them having been ministers of the
Gospel, and one at least having gained distinction
as a missionary in China.
I am writing you because I know that your story
will be read and accepted and I thought you would
be glad to have this story, based upon a study and
investigation and personal knowledge of Mr.
Cowper, whose character and competency are well
known in North Carolina.
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH
AN OLD NEWSPAPER ROOKERY—REACTIONARY
SECTIONALISM IN CINCINNATI AND LOUISVILLE—
MY dream of wealth through my commission
on the Confederate cotton I was to sell to
English buyers was quickly shattered. The cotton
was burned and I found myself in the early spring
of 1865 in the little village of Glendale, a suburb of
Cincinnati, where the future Justice Stanley Matthews
had his home. His wife was a younger sister
of my mother. My grandmother was still alive and
lived with her daughter and son-in-law.
I was received with open arms. A few days later
the dear old lady said to me: "I suppose, my son,
you are rather a picked bird after your adventures
in the South. You certainly need better clothing.
I have some money in bank and it is freely yours."
I knew that my Uncle Stanley had put her up
to this, and out of sheer curiosity I asked her how
much she could let me have. She named what
seemed to me a stupendous sum. I thanked her,
told her I had quite a sufficiency for the time being,
slipped into town and pawned my watch; that is,
as I made light of it afterward in order to escape
the humiliation of borrowing from an uncle whose
politics I did not approve, I went with my collateral
to an uncle who had no politics at all and got fifty
dollars on it! Before the money was gone I had
found, through Judge Matthews, congenial work.
There was in Cincinnati but one afternoon
newspaper—the Evening Times—owned by Calvin W.
Starbuck. He had been a practical printer but was
grown very rich. He received me kindly, said the
editorial force was quite full—must always be, on
a daily newspaper—"but," he added, "my brother,
Alexander Starbuck, who has been running the
amusements, wants to go a-fishing in Canada—to
be gone a month—and, if you wish, you can during
his absence sub for him."
It was just to my hand and liking. Before Alexander
Starbuck returned the leading editor of the
paper fell from a ferryboat crossing the Ohio
River and was drowned. The next day General
Starbuck sent for me and offered me the vacant
"Why, general," I said, "I am an outlawed man:
I do not agree with your politics. I do not see how
I can undertake a place so conspicuous and
He replied: "I propose to engage you as an
editorial manager. It is as if building a house you
should be head carpenter, I the architect. The
difference in salary will be seventy-five dollars a week
against fifteen dollars a week."
I took the place.
The office of the Evening Times was a queer old
curiosity shop. I set to and turned it inside out.
I had very pronounced journalistic notions of my
own and applied them in every department of the
sleepy old money-maker. One afternoon a week
later I put forth a paper whose oldest reader could
not have recognized it. The next morning's
Cincinnati Commercial contained a flock of paragraphs
to which the Chattanooga-Cincinnati-Rebel Evening
Times furnished the keynote.
They made funny reading, but they threw a
dangerous flare upon my "past" and put me at a
serious disadvantage. It happened that when
Artemus Ward had been in town a fortnight before
he gave me a dinner and had some of his friends to
meet me. Among these was a young fellow of the
name of Halstead, who, I was told, was the coming
man on the Commercial.
Round to the Commercial office I sped, and being
conducted to this person, who received me very
blandly, I said: "Mr. Halstead, I am a journeyman
day laborer in your city—the merest bird of
passage, with my watch at the pawnbroker's. As soon
as I am able to get out of town I mean to go—and
I came to ask if you can think the personal allusions
to me in to-day's paper, which may lose me my job
but can nowise hurt the Times, are quite fair—even
—since I am without defense—quite manly."
He looked at me with that quizzical, serio-comic
stare which so became him, and with great heartiness
replied: "No—they were damned mean—though
I did not realize how mean. The mark was so
obvious and tempting I could not resist, but—there
shall be no more of them. Come, let us go and
have a drink."
That was the beginning of a friendship which
brought happiness to both of us and lasted nearly
half a century, to the hour of his death, when, going
from Louisville to Cincinnati, I helped to lay him
away in Spring Grove Cemetery.
I had no thought of remaining in Cincinnati.
My objective was Nashville, where the young
woman who was to become my wife, and whom I
had not seen for nearly two years, was living with
her family. During the summer Mr. Francisco,
the business manager of the Evening Times, had
a scheme to buy the Toledo Commercial, in
conjunction with Mr. Comly, of Columbus, and to
engage me as editor conjointly with Mr. Harrison
Gray Otis as publisher. It looked very good.
Toledo threatened Cleveland and Detroit as a lake
port. But nothing could divert me. As soon as
Parson Brownlow, who was governor of Tennessee
and making things lively for the returning rebels,
would allow, I was going to Nashville.
About the time the way was cleared my two
pals, or bunkies, of the Confederacy, Albert Roberts
and George Purvis, friends from boyhood, put
in an appearance. They were on their way to the
capital of Tennessee. The father of Albert Roberts
was chief owner of the Republican Banner, an
old and highly respectable newspaper, which had
for nearly four years lain in a state of suspension.
Their plan now was to revive its publication, Purvis
to be business manager, and Albert and I to be
editors. We had no cash. Nobody on our side of
the line had any cash. But John Roberts owned a
farm he could mortgage for money enough to start
us. What had I to say?
Less than a week later saw us back at home
winnowing the town for subscribers and advertising.
We divided it into districts, each taking a specified
territory. The way we boys hustled was a sight
to see. But the way the community warmed to us
was another. When the familiar headline, The
Republican Banner, made its
apearance there was
a popular hallelujah, albeit there were five other
dailies ahead of us. A year later there was only
one, and it was nowise a competitor.
Albert Roberts had left his girl, Edith Scott,
the niece of Huxley, whom I have before mentioned,
in Montgomery, Alabama. Purvis' girl, Sophie
Searcy, was in Selma. Their hope was to have
enough money by Christmas each to pay a visit to
those distant places. My girl was on the spot, and
we had resolved, money or no money, to be married
without delay. Before New Year's the three of us
were wedded and comfortably settled, with funds
galore, for the paper had thrived consumingly. It
had thrived so consumingly that after a little I was
able to achieve the wish of my heart and to go to
London, taking my wife and my "great American
novel" with me. I have related elsewhere what
came of this and what happened to me.
That bread cast upon the waters—" 'dough' put
out at usance," as Joseph Jefferson used to phrase
it—shall return after many days has been I dare
say discovered by most persons who have perpetrated
acts of kindness, conscious or unconscious.
There was a poor, broken-down English actor with
a passion for Chaucer, whom I was wont to
encounter in the Library of Congress. His voice was
quite gone. Now and again I had him join me in
a square meal. Once in a while I paid his room
rent. I was loath to leave him when the break came
in 1861, though he declared he had "expectations,"
and made sure he would not starve.
I was passing through Regent Street in London,
when a smart brougham drove up to the curb and
a wheezy voice called after me. It was my old
friend, Newton. His "expectations" had not failed
him, he had come into a property and was living
He knew London as only a Bohemian native
and to the manner born could know it. His sense
of bygone obligation knew no bounds. Between
him and John Mahoney and Artemus Ward I was
made at home in what might be called the mysteries
and eccentricities of differing phases of life in the
British metropolis not commonly accessible to the
foreign casual. In many after visits this familiar
knowledge has served me well. But Newton did
not live to know of some good fortune that came
to me and to feel my gratitude to him, as dear old
John Mahoney did. When I was next in London
he was gone.
It was not, however, the actor, Newton, whom
I had in mind in offering a bread-upon-the-water
moral, but a certain John Hatcher, the memory of
whom in my case illustrates it much better. He
was a wit and a poet. He had been State Librarian
of Tennessee. Nothing could keep him out of the
service, though he was a sad cripple and wholly
unequal to its requirements. He fell ill. I had the
opportunity to care for him. When the war was
over his old friend, George D. Prentice, called him
to Louisville to take an editorial place on the
About the same time Mr. Walter Haldeman
returned from the South and resumed the suspended
publication of the Louisville Courier. He was in
the prime of life, a man of surpassing energy,
enterprise and industry, and had with him the popular
sympathy. Mr. Prentice was nearly three score
and ten. The stream had passed him by. The
Journal was not only beginning to feel the strain
but was losing ground. In this emergency Hatcher
came to the rescue. I was just back from London
and was doing noticeable work on the Nashville
"Here is your man," said Hatcher to Mr. Prentice
and Mr. Henderson, the owners of the Journal;
and I was invited to come to Louisville.
After I had looked over the field and inspected
the Journal's books I was satisfied that a union
with the Courier was the wisest solution of the
newspaper situation, and told them so. Meanwhile
Mr. Haldeman, whom I had known in the Confederacy,
sent for me. He offered me the same terms
for part ownership and sole editorship of the
Courier, which the Journal people had offered me.
This I could not accept, but proposed as an alternative
the consolidation of the two on an equal basis.
He was willing enough for the consolidation, but
not on equal terms. There was nothing for it but
a fight. I took the Journal and began to hammer
A dead summer was before us, but Mr. Henderson
had plenty of money and was willing to spend
it. During the contest not an unkind word was
printed on either side. After stripping the Journal
to its heels it had very little to go on or to show for
what had once been a prosperous business. But
circulation flowed in. From eighteen hundred daily
it quickly mounted to ten thousand; from fifteen
hundred weekly to fifty thousand. The middle of
October it looked as if we had a straight road
But I knew better. I had discovered that the
field, no matter how worked, was not big enough to
support two rival dailies. There was toward the
last of October on the edge of town a real-estate
sale which Mr. Haldeman and I attended. Here
was my chance for a play. I must have bid up to a
hundred thousand dollars and did actually buy
nearly ten thousand dollars of the lots put up at
auction, relying upon some money presently
coming to my wife.
I could see that it made an impression on Mr.
Haldeman. Returning in the carriage which had
brought us out I said: "Mr. Haldeman, I am going
to ruin you. But I am going to run up a money
obligation to Isham Henderson I shall never be
able to discharge. You need an editor. I need a
publisher. Let us put these two newspapers
together, buy the Democrat, and, instead of cutting
one another's throats, go after Cincinnati and St.
Louis. You will recall that I proposed this to you
in the beginning. What is the matter with it
Nothing was the matter with it. He agreed at
once. The details were soon adjusted. Ten days
later there appeared upon the doorsteps of the city
in place of the three familiar visitors, a
double-headed stranger, calling itself the Courier-Journal.
Our exclusive possession of the field thus acquired
lasted two years. At the end of these we found that
at least the appearance of competition was
indispensable and willingly
acepted an offer from a
proposed Republican organ for a division of the Press
dispatches which we controlled. Then and there
the real prosperity of the Courier-Journal began,
the paper having made no money out of its
Reconstruction, as it was called—ruin were a
fitter name for it—had just begun. The South
was imprisoned, awaiting the executioner. The
Constitution of the United States hung in the
balance. The Federal Union faced the threat of
sectional despotism. The spirit of the time was
martial law. The gospel of proscription ruled in
Congress. Radicalism, vitalized by the murder of
Abraham Lincoln and inflamed by the inadequate
effort of Andrew Johnson to carry out the policies
of Lincoln, was in the saddle riding furiously toward
a carpetbag Poland and a negroized Ireland.
The Democratic Party, which, had it been
stronger, might have interposed, lay helpless. It,
too, was crushed to earth. Even the Border States,
which had not been embraced by the military
agencies and federalized machinery erected over
the Gulf States, were seriously menaced. Never
did newspaper enterprise set out under gloomier
There was a party of reaction in Kentucky,
claiming to be Democratic, playing to the lead of
the party of repression at the North. It refused
to admit that the head of the South was in the
lion's mouth and that the first essential was to get
it out. The Courier-Journal proposed to stroke
the mane, not twist the tail of the lion. Thus it
stood between two fires. There arose a not
unnatural distrust of the journalistic monopoly
created by the consolidation of the three former
dailies into a single newspaper, carrying an
unfamiliar hyphenated headline. Touching its policy
of sectional conciliation it picked its way perilously
through the cross currents of public opinion.
There was scarcely a sinister purpose that was not
alleged against it by its enemies; scarcely a hostile
device that was not undertaken to put it down and
drive it out.
Its constituency represented an unknown quantity.
In any event it had to be created. Meanwhile,
it must rely upon its own resources, sustained
by the courage of the venture, by the integrity of
its convictions and aims, and by faith in the future
of the city, the state and the country.
Still, to be precise, it was the morning of Sunday,
November 8,1868. The night before the good
people of Louisville had gone to bed expecting
nothing unusual to happen. They awoke to encounter
an uninvited guest arrived a little before
the dawn. No hint of its coming had got abroad;
and thus the surprise was the greater. Truth to
say, it was not a pleased surprise, because, as it
flared before the eye of the startled citizen in big
Gothic letters, The Courier-Journal, there issued
thence an aggressive self-confidence which affronted
the amour propre of the sleepy villagers. They
were used to a very different style of newspaper
Nor was the absence of a timorous demeanor its
only offense. The Courier had its partisans, the
Journal and the Democrat had their friends. The
trio stood as ancient landmarks, as recognized and
familiar institutions. Here was a double-headed
monster which, without saying "by your leave" or
"blast your eyes" or any other politeness, had taken
possession of each man's doorstep, looking very like
it had brought its knitting and was come to stay.
The Journal established by Mr. Prentice, the
Courier by Mr. Haldeman and the Democrat by
Mr. Harney, had been according to the standards
of those days successful newspapers. But the War
of Sections had made many changes. At its close
new conditions appeared on every side. A revolution
had come into the business and the spirit of
In Louisville three daily newspapers had for a
generation struggled for the right of way. Yet
Louisville was a city of the tenth or twelfth class
having hardly enough patronage to sustain one
daily newspaper of the first or second class. The
idea of consolidating the three thus contending to
divide a patronage so insufficient, naturally suggested
itself during the years immediately succeeding
the war. But it did not take definite shape
Mr. Haldeman had returned from a somewhat
picturesque and not altogether profitable pursuit
of his "rights in the territories" and had resumed
the suspended publication of the Courier with
encouraging prospects. I had succeeded Mr.
Prentice in the editorship and part ownership of the
Journal. Both Mr. Haldeman and I were newspaper
men to the manner born and bred; old and
good friends; and after our rivalry of six months
maintained with activity on both sides, but without
the publication of an unkind word on either, a
union of forces seemed exigent. To practical men
the need of this was not a debatable question. All
that was required was an adjustment of the details.
Beginning with the simple project of joining the
Courier and the Journal, it ended by the purchase
of the Democrat, which it did not seem safe to
The political conditions in Kentucky were anomalous.
The Republican Party had not yet definitely
taken root. Many of the rich old Whigs, who had
held to the Government—to save their slaves—
resenting Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation,
had turned Democrats. Most of the before-the-war
Democrats had gone with the Confederacy.
The party in power called itself Democratic, but
was in fact a body of reactionary nondescripts
claiming to be Unionists and clinging, or pretending
to cling, to the hard-and-fast prejudices of
The situation may be the better understood when
I add that "negro testimony"—the introduction to
the courts of law of the newly made freedmen as
witnesses—barred by the state constitution, was the
MR. WATTERSON'S EDITORIAL STAFF IN 1868, WHEN THE THREE DAILY NEWSPAPERS OF
LOUISVILLE WERE UNITED INTO THE "COURIER-JOURNAL." MR. GEORGE D. PRENTICE
AND MR. WATTERSON ARE IN THE CENTER
burning issue. A murder committed in the presence
of a thousand negroes could not be lawfully
proved in court. Everything from a toothbrush to
a cake of soap might be cited before a jury, but
not a human being if his skin happened to be black.
To my mind this was monstrous. From my
cradle I had detested slavery. The North will
never know how many people at the South did so.
I could not go with the Republican Party, however,
because after the death of Abraham Lincoln
it had intrenched itself in the proscription of Southern
men. The attempt to form a third party had
shown no strength and had broken down. There
was nothing for me, and the Confederates who were
with me, but the ancient label of a Democracy worn
by a riffraff of opportunists, Jeffersonian principles
having quite gone to seed. But I proposed
to lead and reform it, not to follow and fall in
behind the selfish and short-sighted time servers who
thought the people had learned nothing and forgot
nothing; and instant upon finding myself in the
saddle I sought to ride down the mass of ignorance
which was at least for the time being mainly what
I had to look to for a constituency.
Mr. Prentice, who knew the lay of the ground
better than I did, advised against it. The personal
risk counted for something. Very early in the action
I made a direct fighting issue, which—the combat
interdicted—gave me the opportunity to declare
—with something of the bully in the tone—
that I might not be able to hit a barn door at ten
paces, but could shoot with any man in Kentucky
across a pocket handkerchief, holding myself at all
times answerable and accessible. I had a fairly
good fighting record in the army and it was not
doubted that I meant what I said.
But it proved a bitter, hard, uphill struggle, for
a long while against odds, before negro testimony
was carried. A generation of politicians were sent
to the rear. Finally, in 1876, a Democratic State
Convention put its mark upon me as a Democrat
by appointing me a Delegate at large to the
National Democratic Convention of that year called
to meet at St. Louis to put a Presidential ticket
in the field.
The Courier-Journal having come to represent
all three of the English dailies of the city the public
began to rebel. It could not see that instead of three
newspapers of the third or fourth class Louisville
was given one newspaper of the first class; that
instead of dividing the local patronage in three
inadequate portions, wasted upon a triple competition,
this patronage was combined, enabling the
one newspaper to engage in a more equal competition
with the newspapers of such rival and larger
cities as Cincinnati and St. Louis; and that one of
the contracting parties needing an editor, the other
a publisher, in coming together the two were able
to put their trained faculties to the best account.
Nevertheless, during thirty-five years Mr.
Haldeman and I labored side by side, not the
least difference having arisen between us. The
attacks to which we were subjected from time to
time drew us together the closer. These attacks
were sometimes irritating and sometimes comical,
but they had one characteristic feature: Each
started out apparently under a high state of
excitement. Each seemed to have some profound cause
of grief, to be animated by implacable hate and to
aim at nothing short of annihilation. Frequently
the assailants would lie in wait to see how the
Courier-Journal's cat was going to jump, in order
that they might take the other side; and invariably,
even if the Courier-Journal stood for the reforms
they affected to stand for, they began a system of
misrepresentation and abuse. In no instance did
they attain any success.
Only once, during the Free Silver craze of 1896,
and the dark and tragic days that followed it the
three or four succeeding years, the paper having
stood, as it had stood during the Greenback craze,
for sound money, was the property in danger. It
cost more of labor and patience to save it from
destruction than it had cost to create it thirty years
before. Happily Mr. Haldeman lived to see the
rescue complete, the tide turned and the future safe.
A newspaper, like a woman, must not only be
honest, but must seem to be honest; acts of levity,
loose unbecoming expressions or behavior—though
never so innocent—tending in the one and in the
other to lower reputation and discredit character.
During my career I have proceeded under a confident
belief in this principle of newspaper ethics
and an unfailing recognition of its mandates. I
truly believe that next after business integrity in
newspaper management comes disinterestedness in
the public service, and next after disinterestedness
come moderation and intelligence, cleanliness and
good feeling, in dealing with affairs and its
From that blessed Sunday morning, November
8, 1868, to this good day, I have known no other
life and had no other aim. Those were indeed
parlous times. It was an era of transition. Upon
the field of battle, after four years of deadly but
unequal combat, the North had vanquished the
South. The victor stood like a giant, with blood
aflame, eyes dilate and hands uplifted again to
strike. The victim lay prostrate. Save self-respect
and manhood all was lost. Clasping its memories
to its bosom the South sank helpless amid the wreck
of its fortunes, whilst the North, the benign
influence of the great Lincoln withdrawn, proceeded
to decide its fate. To this ghastly end had come
slavery and secession, and all the pomp, pride and
circumstance of the Confederacy. To this bitter
end had come the soldiership of Lee and Jackson
and Johnston and the myriads of brave men who
The single Constitutional barrier that had stood
between the people of the stricken section and
political extinction was about to be removed by the
exit of Andrew Johnson from the White House.
In his place a man of blood and iron—for such was
the estimate at that time placed upon Grant—had
been elected President. The Republicans in
Congress, checked for a time by Johnson, were at
length to have entire sway under Thaddeus
Stevens. Reconstruction was to be thorough and
merciless. To meet these conditions was the first
requirement of the Courier-Journal, a newspaper
conducted by outlawed rebels and published on the
sectional border line. The task was not an easy
There is never a cause so weak that it does not
stir into ill-timed activity some wild, unpractical
zealots who imagine it strong. There is never a
cause so just but that the malevolent and the
mercenary will seek to trade upon it. The South was
helpless; the one thing needful was to get it on its
feet, and though the bravest and the wisest saw this
plainly enough there came to the front—particularly
in Kentucky—a small but noisy body of politicians
who had only worked themselves into a state
of war when it was too late, and who with more or
less of aggression, insisted that "the states lately in
rebellion" still had rights, which they were able to
maintain and which the North could be forced to
I was of a different opinion. It seemed to me
that whatever of right might exist the South was
at the mercy of the North; that the radical party
led by Stevens and Wade dominated the North
and could dictate its own terms; and that the shortest
way round lay in that course which was best
calculated to disarm radicalism by an intelligent
appeal to the business interests and conservative
elements of Northern society, supported by a
domestic policy of justice alike to whites and
Though the institution of African slavery was
gone the negro continued the subject of savage
contention. I urged that he be taken out of the
arena of agitation, and my way of taking him out
was to concede him his legal and civil rights. The
lately ratified Constitutional Amendments, I
contended, were the real Treaty of Peace between the
North and South. The recognition of these Amendments
in good faith by the white people of the
South was indispensable to that perfect peace
which was desired by the best people of both sections.
The political emancipation of the blacks was
essential to the moral emancipation of the whites.
With the disappearance of the negro question as
cause of agitation, I argued, radicalism of the
intense, proscriptive sort would die out; the
liberty-loving, patriotic people of the North would assert
themselves; and, this one obstacle to a better
understanding removed, the restoration of Constitutional
Government would follow, being a matter of
momentous concern to the body of the people both
North and South.
Such a policy of conciliation suited the Southern
extremists as little as it suited the Northern
extremists. It took from the politicians their best
card. South no less than North, "the bloody shirt"
was trumps. It could always be played. It was
easy to play it and it never failed to catch the
unthinking and to arouse the excitable. What cared
the perennial candidate so he got votes enough?
What cared the professional agitator so his appeals
to passion brought him his audience?
It is a fact that until Lamar delivered his eulogy
on Sumner not a Southern man of prominence
used language calculated to placate the North, and
between Lamar and Grady there was an interval
of fifteen years. There was not a Democratic press
worthy the name either North or South. During
those evils days the Courier-Journal stood alone,
having no party or organized following. At length
it was joined on the Northern side by Greeley.
Then Schurz raised his mighty voice. Then came
the great liberal movement of 1871-72, with its
brilliant but ill-starred campaign and its tragic
finale; and then there set in what, for a season,
seemed the deluge.
But the cause of Constitutional Government was
not dead. It had been merely dormant. Champions
began to appear in unexpected quarters. New
men spoke up, North and South. In spite of the
Republican landslide of 1872, in 1874 the
Democrats swept the Empire State. They carried the
popular branch of Congress by an overwhelming
majority. In the Senate they had a respectable
minority, with Thurman and Bayard to lead it. In
the House Randall and Kerr and Cox, Lamar,
Beck and Knott were about to be reënforced by
Hill and Tucker and Mills and Gibson. The logic
of events was at length subduing the rodomontade
of soap-box oratory. Empty rant was to yield to
reason. For all its mischances and melancholy ending
the Greeley campaign had shortened the distance
across the bloody chasm.
CHAPTER THE EIGHTH
FEMINISM AND WOMAN SUFFRAGE—THE
ADVENTURESS IN POLITICS AND SOCIETY—A REAL
IT WOULD not be the writer of this narrative
if he did not interject certain opinions of his
own which parties and politicians, even his
newspaper colleagues, have been wont to regard as
peculiar. By common repute he has been an
all-round old-line Democrat of the regulation sort.
Yet on the three leading national questions of the
last fifty years—the Negro question, the Greenback
question and the Free Silver question—he has
challenged and antagonized the general direction
of that party. He takes some pride to himself that
in each instance the result vindicated alike his
forecast and his insubordination.
To one who witnessed the break-up of the Whig
party in 1853 and of the Democratic Party in 1860
the plight in which parties find themselves at this
time may be described as at least, suggestive. The
feeling is at once to laugh and to whistle. Too much
"fuss and feathers" in Winfield Scott did the
business for the Whigs. Too much "bearded lady" in
Charles Evans Hughes perhaps cooked the goose
of the Republicans. Too much Wilson—but let me
not fall into
lèse majesté. The Whigs went into
Know-Nothingism and Free Soilism. Will the
Democrats go into Prohibition and paternalism?
And the Republicans—
The old sectional alignment of North and South
has been changed to East and West.
For the time being the politicians of both
parties are in something of a funk. It is the nature
of parties thus situate to fancy that there is no
hereafter, riding in their dire confusion headlong
for a fall. Little other than the labels being left,
nobody can tell what will happen to either.
Progressivism seems the cant of the indifferent.
Accentuated by the indecisive vote in the elections
and heralded by an ambitious President who writes
Humanity bigger than he writes the United States,
and is accused of aspiring to world leadership,
democracy unterrified and undefiled—the
democracy of Jefferson, Jackson and Tilden
ancient history—has become a back number. Yet our
officials still swear to a Constitution. We have not
eliminated state lines. State rights are not wholly
The fight between capital and labor is on. No
one can predict where it will end. Shall it prove
another irrepressible conflict? Are its issues
irreconcilable? Must the alternative of the future lie
between Socialism and Civil War, or both? Progress!
Progress! Shall there be no stability in
either actualities or principles? And—and—what
about the Bolsheviki?
Parties, like men, have their ups and downs.
Like machines they get out of whack and line.
First it was the Federalists, then the Whigs, and
then the Democrats. Then came the Republicans.
And then, after a long interruption, the Democrats
again. English political experience repeats itself
A taking label is as valuable to a party as it is
to a nostrum. It becomes in time an asset. We
are told that a fool is born every minute, and, the
average man being something of a fool, the label
easily catches him. Hence the Democratic Party
and the Republican Party.
The old Whig Party went to pieces on the rocks
of sectionalism. The institution of African slavery
arrived upon the scene at length as the paramount
political issue. The North, which brought the
Africans here in its ships, finding slave labor
unprofitable, sold its slaves to the South at a good
price, and turned pious. The South took the bait
and went crazy.
Finally, we had a pretty kettle of fish. Just as
the Prohibitionists are going to convert mortals
into angels overnight by act of assembly—or still
better, by Constitutional amendment—were the
short-haired women and the long-haired men of
Boston going to make a white man out of the black
man by Abolition. The Southern Whigs could not
see it and would not stand for it. So they fell in
behind the Democrats. The Northern Whigs, having
nowhere else to go, joined the Republicans.
The wise men of both sections saw danger ahead.
The North was warned that the South would fight,
the South, that if it did it went against incredible
odds. Neither would take the warning. Party
spirit ran wild. Extremism had its fling. Thus a
long, bloody and costly War of Sections—a
fraternal war if ever there was one—brought on by
alternating intolerance, the politicians of both
sides gambling upon the credulity and ignorance of
Hindsight is readier, certainly surer, than
foresight. It comes easier and shows clearer.
Anybody can now see that the slavery problem might
have had a less ruinous solution; that the moral
issue might have been compromised from time to
time and in the end disposed of. Slave labor even
at the South had shown itself illusory, costly and
clumsy. The institution untenable, modern thought
against it, from the first it was doomed.
But the extremists would not have it. Each
played to the lead of the other. Whilst Wendell
Phillips was preaching the equality of races, death
to the slaveholders and the brotherhood of man at
the North, William Lowndes Yancey was exclaiming
that cotton was king at the South, and, to establish
these false propositions, millions of good
Americans proceeded to cut one another's throats.
There were agitators and agitators in those days
as there are in these. The agitator, like the poor,
we have always with us. It used to be said even at
the North that Wendell Phillips was just a clever
comedian. William Lowndes Yancey was scarcely
that. He was a serious, sincere, untraveled
provincial, possessing unusual gifts of oratory. He
had the misfortune to kill a friend in a duel when
a young man, and the tragedy shadowed his life.
He clung to his plantation and rarely went away
from home. When sent to Europe by the South as
its Ambassador in 1861, he discovered the futility
of his scheme of a Southern confederacy, and, seeing
the cornerstone of the philosophy on which he
had constructed his pretty fabric, overthrown, he
came home despairing, to die of a broken heart.
The moral alike for governments and men is:
Keep the middle of the road.
Which brings us to Feminism. I will not write
Woman Suffrage, for that is an accomplished fact
—for good or evil we shall presently be better able
Life is an adventure and all of us adventurers—
saving that the word presses somewhat harder upon
the woman than the man—most things do in fact,
whereby she is given greater endurance—leaving to
men the duty of caring for the women; and, if
need be, looking death squarely and defiantly in
The world often puts the artificial before the
actual; but under the dispensation of the Christian
civilization—derived from the Hebraic—the family
requiring a head, headship is assigned to the male.
This male is commonly not much to speak of for
beauty of form or decency of behavior. He is
made purposely tough for work and fight. He
gets toughened by outer contact. But back of all
are the women, the children and the home.
I have been fighting the woman's battle for
equality in the things that count, all my life. I
would despise myself if I had not been. In
contesting precipitate universal suffrage for women,
I conceived that I was still fighting the woman's
We can escape none of Nature's laws. But we
need not handicap ourselves with artificial laws.
At best, life is an experiment, Death the final
adventure. Feminism seems to me its next of kin;
still we may not call the woman who assails the
soap boxes—even those that antic about the White
House gates—by the opprobrious terms of
adventuress. Where such a one is not a lunatic she is
a nuisance. There are women and women.
We may leave out of account the shady ladies of
history. Neither Aspasia nor Lucrezia Borgia
nor the Marquise de Brinvilliers could with
accuracy be called an adventuress. The term is of
later date. Its origin and growth have arisen out
of the complexities of modern society.
In fiction Milady and Madame Marneffe come
in for first honors—in each the leopard crossed on
the serpent and united under a petticoat, beautiful
and wicked—but since the Balzac and Dumas
days the story-tellers and stage-mongers have made
exceeding free with the type, and we have between
Herman Merivale's Stephanie de Mohrivart and
Victorien Sardou's Zica a very theater—or shall
we say a charnel house—of the woman with the
past; usually portrayed as the victim of
circumstance; unprincipled through cruel experience;
insensible through lack of conscience; sexless in soul,
but a siren in seductive arts; cold as ice; hard as
iron; implacable as the grave, pursuing her ends
with force of will, intellectual audacity and elegance
of manner, yet, beneath this brilliant depravity,
capable of self-pity, yielding anon in moments of
depression to a sudden gleam of human tenderness
and a certain regret for the innocence she has lost.
Such a one is sometimes, though seldom, met in
real life. But many pretenders may be encountered
at Monte Carlo and other European resorts. They
range from the Parisian cocotte, signalized by her
chic apparel, to the fashionable divorcée who in trying
her luck at the tables keeps a sharp lookout for
the elderly gent with the wad, often fooled by the
enterprising sport who has been there before.
These are out and out professional adventuresses.
There are other adventuresses, however, than those
of the story and the stage, the casino and the
cabaret. The woman with the past becomes the
girl with the future.
Curiously enough this latter is mainly, almost
exclusively, recruited from our countrywomen, who to
an abnormal passion for foreign titles join surpassing
ignorance of foreign society. Thus she is ready
to the hand of the Continental fortune seeker
masquerading as a nobleman—occasionally but not
often the black sheep of some noble family—carrying
not a bona fide but a courtesy title—the count
and the no-account, the lord and the Lord knows
who! The Yankee girl with a
dot had become
before the world war a regular quarry for impecunious
aristocrats and clever crooks, the matrimonial
results tragic in their frequency and squalor.
Another curious circumstance is the readiness
with which the American newspaper tumbles to
these frauds. The yellow press especially luxuriates
in them: woodcuts the callow bedizened bride, the
jaded game-worn groom; dilates upon the big
money interchanged; glows over the tin-plate stars
and imaginary garters and pinchbeck crowns; and
keeping the pictorial paraphernalia in cold but not
forgotten storage waits for the inevitable scandal,
and then, with lavish exaggeration, works the old
story over again.
These newspapers ring all the sensational
changes. Now it is the wondrous beauty with the
cool million, who, having married some illegitimate
of a minor royal house, will probably be the next
Queen of Rigmarolia, and now—ever increasing
the dose—it is the ten-million-dollar widow who is
going to marry the King of Pontarabia's brother,
and may thus aspire to be one day Empress of
Old European travelers can recall many funny
and sometimes melancholy incidents—episodes—
histories—of which they have witnessed the beginning
and the end, carrying the self-same dénouement
As there are women and women there are many
kinds of adventuresses; not all of them wicked and
detestable. But, good or bad, the lot of the
adventuress is at best a hard lot. Be she a girl with
a future or a woman with a past she is still a woman,
and the world can never be too kind to its women—
the child bearers, the home makers, the moral light
of the universe as they meet the purpose of God
and Nature and seek not to thwart it by unsexing
themselves in order that they may keep step with
man in ways of self-indulgent dalliance. The
adventuress of fiction always comes to grief. But
the adventuress in real life—the prudent
adventuress who draws the line at adultery—the
would-be leader of society without the wealth—
the would-be political leader without the masculine
fiber—is sure of disappointment in the end.
Take the agitation over Suffragism. What is it
that the woman suffragette expects to get? No
one of them can, or does, clearly tell us.
It is feminism, rather than suffragism, which is
dangerous. Now that they have it, my fear is that
the leaders will not stop with the ballot for women.
They are too fond of the spotlight. It has become
a necessity for them. If all women should fall in
with them there would be nothing of womanhood
left, and the world bereft of its women will become
a masculine harlotocracy.
Let me repeat that I have been fighting woman's
battles in one way and another all my life.
I am not opposed to Votes for Women. But I
would discriminate and educate, and even at that
rate I would limit the franchise to actual taxpayers,
and, outside of these, confine it to charities,
corrections and schools, keeping woman away from the
dirt of politics. I do not believe the ballot will
benefit woman and cannot help thinking that in
seeking unlimited and precipitate suffrage the
women who favor it are off their reckoning! I
doubt the performances got up to exploit it, though
somehow, when the hikers started from New York
to Albany, and afterward from New York to
Washington, the inspiring thought of Bertha von
Hillern came back to me.
I am sure the reader never heard of her. As it
makes a pretty story let me tell it. Many
years ago—don't ask me how many—there was a
young woman, Bertha von Hillern by name, a poor
art student seeking money enough to take her
abroad, who engaged with the management of a
hall in Louisville to walk one hundred miles around
a fixed track in twenty-four consecutive hours.
She did it. Her share of the gate money, I was
told, amounted to three thousand dollars.
I shall never forget the closing scenes of the
wondrous test of courage and endurance. She was a
pretty, fair-haired thing, a trifle undersized, but
shapely and sinewy. The vast crowd that without
much diminution, though with intermittent changes,
had watched her from start to finish, began to grow
tense with the approach to the end, and the last
hour the enthusiasm was overwhelming. Wave
upon wave of cheering followed every footstep of
the plucky girl, rising to a storm of exultation as
the final lap was reached.
More dead than alive, but game to the core, the
little heroine was carried off the field, a winner,
every heart throbbing with human sympathy, every
eye wet with proud and happy tears. It is not
possible adequately to describe all that happened.
One must have been there and seen it fully to
comprehend the glory of it.
Touching the recent Albany and Washington
hikes and hikers let me say at once that I cannot
approve the cause of Votes for women as I had
approved the cause of Bertha von Hillern. Where
she showed heroic, most of the suffragettes appear
to me grotesque. Where her aim was rational,
their aim has been visionary. To me the younger
of them seem as children who need to be spanked
and kissed. There has been indeed about the whole
Suffrage business something pitiful and comic.
Often I have felt like swearing "You idiots!"
and then like crying "Poor dears!" But I have
kept on with them, and had I been in Albany or
Washington I would have caught Rosalie Jones
in my arms, and before she could say "Jack Robinson"
have exclaimed: "You ridiculous child, go and
get a bath and put on some pretty clothes and come
and join us at dinner in the State Banquet Hall,
duly made and provided for you and the rest of you
CHAPTER THE NINTH
DR. NORVIN GREEN—JOSEPH PULITZER—CHESTER A.
ARTHUR—GENERAL GRANT—THE CASE OF FITZ
TRUTH we are told is stranger than fiction.
I have found it so in the knowledge which has
variously come to me of many interesting men and
women. Of these Dr. Norvin Green was a striking
example. To have sprung from humble parentage
in the wilds of Kentucky and to die at the head of
the most potential corporation in the world—to
have held this place against all comers by force of
abilities deemed indispensable to its welfare—to
have gone the while his ain gait, disdaining the
precepts of Doctor Franklin—who, by the way, did
not trouble overmuch to follow them himself—
seems so unusual as to rival the most stirring stories
of the novel mongers.
When I first met Doctor Green he was president
of a Kentucky railway company. He had been,
however, one of the organizers of the Western
Union Telegraph Company. He deluded himself
for a little by political ambitions. He wanted to
go to the Senate of the United States, and during
a legislative session of prolonged balloting at
Frankfort he missed his election by a single vote.
It may be doubted whether he would have cut a
considerable figure at Washington. His talents
were constructive rather than declamatory. He
was called to a greater field—though he never
thought it so—and was foremost among those who
developed the telegraph system of the country
almost from its infancy. He possessed the daring
of the typical Kentuckian, with the dead calm of
the stoic philosopher; imperturbable; never vexed
or querulous or excited; denying himself none of
the indulgences of the gentleman of leisure. We
grew to be constant comrades and friends, and when
he returned to New York to take the important
post which to the end of his days he filled so
completely his office in the Western Union Building
became my downtown headquarters.
There I met Jay Gould familiarly; and resumed
acquaintance with Russell Sage, whom I had known
when a lad in Washington, he a hayseed member
of Congress; and occasionally other of the Wall
Street leaders. In a small way—though not for
long—I caught the stock-gambling fever. But I
was on the "inside," and it was a cold day when I
did not "clean up" a goodly amount to waste
uptown in the evening. I may say that I gave this
over through sheer disgust of acquiring so much
and such easy and useless money, for, having no
natural love of money—no aptitude for making
money breed—no taste for getting it except to
spend it—earning by my own accustomed and
fruitful toil always a sufficiency—the distractions
and dissipations it brought to my annual vacations
and occasional visits, affronted in a way my
self-respect, and palled upon my rather eager quest of
pleasure. Money is purely relative. The root of
all evil, too. Too much of it may bring ills as
great as not enough.
At the outset of my stock-gambling experience
I was one day in the office of President Edward
H. Green, of the Louisville and Nashville Railway,
no relation of Dr. Norvin Green, but the husband
of the famous Hetty Green. He said to me,
"How are you in stocks?"
"What do you mean?" said I.
"Why," he said, "do you buy long, or short? Are
you lucky or unlucky?"
"You are talking Greek to me," I answered.
"Didn't you ever put up any money on a margin?"
"Bless me! You are a virgin. I want to try
your luck. Look over this stock list and pick a
stock. I will take a crack at it. All I make we'll
divide, and all we lose I'll pay."
"Will you leave this open for an hour or two?"
"What is the matter with it—is it not liberal
"The matter is that I am going over to the Western
Union to lunch. The Gould party is to sit in
with the Orton-Green party for the first time after
their fight, and I am asked especially to be there.
I may pick up something."
Big Green, as he was called, paused a moment
reflectively. "I don't want any tip—especially
from that bunch," said he. "I want to try your
virgin luck. But, go ahead, and let me know this
At luncheon I sat at Doctor Green's right, Jay
Gould at his left. For the first and last time in its
history wine was served at this board; Russell Sage
was effusive in his demonstrations of affection and
went on with his stories of my boyhood; every one
sought to take the chill off the occasion; and we had
a most enjoyable time instead of what promised to
be rather a frosty formality. When the rest had
departed, leaving Doctor Green, Mr. Gould and
myself at table, mindful of what I had come for, in
a bantering way I said to Doctor Green: "Now
that I am a Wall Street ingénu, why don't you tell
Gould leaned across the table and said in his
velvet voice: "Buy Texas Pacific."
Two or three days after, Texas Pacific fell off
sixty points or more. I did not see Big Green
again. Five or six months later I received from
him a statement of account which I could never
have unraveled, with a check for some thousands of
dollars, my one-half profit on such and such an
operation. Texas Pacific had come back again.
Two or three years later I sat at Doctor Green's
table with Mr. Gould, just as we had sat the first
day. Mr. Gould recalled the circumstance.
"I did not think I could afford to have you
lose on my suggestion and I went to cover your
loss, when I found five thousand shares of Texas
Pacific transferred on the books of the company
in your name. I knew these could not be yours. I
thought the buyer was none other than the man I
was after, and I began hammering the stock. I
have been curious ever since to make sure whether
I was right."
"Whom did you suspect, Mr. Gould?" I asked.
"My suspect was Victor Newcomb," he replied.
I then told him what had happened. "Dear,
dear," he cried. "Ned Green! Big Green. Well,
well! You do surprise me. I would rather have
done him a favor than an injury. I am rejoiced to
learn that no harm was done and that, after all,
you and he came out ahead."
It was about this time Jay Gould had bought of
the Thomas A. Scott estate a New York daily
newspaper which, in spite of brilliant writers like
Manton Marble and William Henry Hurlbut, had
never been a moneymaker. This was the
He offered me the editorship with forty-nine of the
hundred shares of stock on very easy terms, which
nowise tempted me. But two or three years after,
I daresay both weary and hopeless of putting up
so much money on an unyielding investment, he
was willing to sell outright, and Joseph Pulitzer
became the purchaser.
His career is another illustration of the saying
that truth is stranger than fiction.
Joseph Pulitzer and I came together familiarly
at the Liberal Republican Convention, which met
at Cincinnati in 1872—the convocation of cranks, as
it was called—and nominated Horace Greeley for
President. He was a delegate from Missouri.
Subsequent events threw us much together. He
began his English newspaper experience after a
kind of apprenticeship on a German daily with
Stilson Hutchins, another interesting character of
those days. It was from Stilson Hutchins that I
learned something of Pulitzer's origin and beginnings,
for he never spoke much of himself.
According to this story he was the offspring of
a runaway marriage between a subaltern officer in
the Austrian service and a Hungarian lady of noble
birth. In some way he had got across the Atlantic,
and being in Boston, a wizened youth not speaking
a word of English, he was spirited on board a
warship. Watching his chance of escape he leaped
overboard in the darkness of night, though it was
the dead of winter, and swam ashore. He was
found unconscious on the beach by some charitable
persons, who cared for him. Thence he tramped it
to St. Louis, where he heard there was a German
colony, and found work on a coal barge.
It was here that the journalistic instinct dawned
upon him. He began to carry river news items to
the Westliche Post, which presently took him on its
staff of regular reporters.
The rest was easy. He learned to speak and
write English, was transferred to the paper of
which Hutchins was the head, and before he was
five-and-twenty became a local figure.
When he turned up in New York with an offer
to purchase the World we met as old friends. During
the interval between 1872 and 1883 we had had
a runabout in Europe and I was able to render him
assistance in the purchase proceeding he was having
with Gould. When this was completed he said to
me: "You are at entire leisure; you are worse than
that, you are wasting your time about the clubs and
watering places, doing no good for yourself, or
anybody else. I must first devote myself to the
reorganization of the business end of it. Here is a blank
check. Fill it for whatever amount you please and
it will be honored. I want you to go upstairs and
organize my editorial force for me."
Indignantly I replied: "Go to the devil—you
have not money enough—there is not money enough
in the universe—to buy an hour of my season's
A year later I found him occupying with his family
a splendid mansion up the Hudson, with a great
stable of carriages and horses, living like a country
gentleman, going to the World office about time for
luncheon and coming away in the early afternoon.
I passed a week-end with him. To me it seemed
the precursor of ruin. His second payment was
yet to be made. Had I been in his place I would
have been taking my meals in an adjacent hotel,
sleeping on a cot in one of the editorial rooms and
working fifteen hours out of the twenty-four. To
me it seemed dollars to doughnuts that he would
break down and go to smash. But he did not—another
case of destiny.
I was abiding with my family at Monte Carlo,
when in his floating palace, the Liberty, he came
into the harbor of Mentone. Then he bought a
shore palace at Cap Martin. That season, and the
next two or three seasons, we made voyages together
from one end to the other of the Mediterranean,
visiting the islands, especially Corsica and
Elba, shrines of Napoleon whom he greatly
He was a model host. He had surrounded himself
with every luxury, including some agreeable
retainers, and lived like a prince aboard. His
blindness had already overtaken him. Other physical
ailments assailed him. But no word of complaint
escaped his lips and he rarely failed to sit at the
head of his table. It was both splendid and pitiful.
Absolute authority made Pulitzer a tyrant. He
regarded his newspaper ownership as an autocracy.
There was nothing gentle in his domination, nor, I
might say, generous either. He seriously lacked the
sense of humor, and even among his familiars could
never take a joke. His love of money was by no
means inordinate. He spent it freely though not
wastefully or joyously, for the possession of it
rather flattered his vanity than made occasion for
pleasure. Ability of varying kinds and degrees he
had, a veritable genius for journalism and a real
capacity for affection. He held his friends at good
account and liked to have them about him. During
the early days of his success he was disposed to
overindulgence, not to say conviviality. He was
fond of Rhine wines and an excellent judge of
them, keeping a varied assortment always at hand.
Once, upon the Liberty, he observed that I
preferred a certain vintage. "You like this wine?" he
said inquiringly. I assented, and he said, "I have
a lot of it at home, and when I get back I will send
you some." I had quite forgotten when, many
months after, there came to me a crate containing
enough to last me a life-time.
He had a retentive memory and rarely forgot
anything. I could recall many pleasurable
incidents of our prolonged and varied intimacy. We
were one day wandering about the Montmartre region
of Paris when we came into a hole-in-the-wall
where they were playing a piece called "Les
Brigands." It was melodrama to the very marrow of
the bones of the Apaches that gathered and glared
about. In those days, the "indemnity" paid and
the "military occupation" withdrawn, everything
French pre-figured hatred of the German, and be
sure "Les Brigands" made the most of this; each
"brigand" a beer-guzzling Teuton; each hero a
dare-devil Gaul; and, when Joan the Maid, heroine,
sent Goetz von Berlichingen, the Vandal
Chieftain, sprawling in the saw-dust, there was
no end to the enthusiasm.
"We are all 'brigands'," said Pulitzer as we came
away, "differing according to individual character,
to race and pursuit. Now, if I were writing that
play, I should represent the villain as a tyrannous
City Editor, meanly executing the orders of a
"And the heroine?" I said.
"She should be a beautiful and rich young lady,"
he replied, "who buys the newspaper and marries
the cub—rescuing genius from poverty and
He was not then the owner of the World. He
had not created the Post-Dispatch, or even met the
beautiful woman who became his wife. He was a
youngster of five or six and twenty, revisiting the
scenes of his boyhood on the beautiful blue Danube,
and taking in Paris for a lark.
I first met General Grant in my own house. I
had often been invited to his house. As far back as
1870 John Russell Young, a friend from boyhood,
came with an invitation to pass the week-end as
the President's guest at Long Branch. Many of
my friends had cottages there. Of afternoons and
evenings they played an infinitesimal game of draw
"John," my answer was, "I don't dare to do so.
I know that I shall fall in love with General Grant.
We are living in rough times—particularly in
rough party times. We have a rough presidential
campaign ahead of us. If I go down to the seashore
and go in swimming and play penny-ante with General
Grant I shall not be able to do my duty."
It was thus that after the general had gone out
of office and made the famous journey round the
world, and had come to visit relatives in Kentucky,
that he accepted a dinner invitation from me, and
I had a number of his friends to meet him.
Among these were Dr. Richardson, his early
schoolmaster when the Grant family lived at
Maysville, and Walter Haldeman, my business partner,
a Maysville boy, who had been his schoolmate at
the Richardson Academy, and General Cerro Gordo
Williams, then one of Kentucky's Senators in
Congress, and erst his comrade and chum when
both were lieutenants in the Mexican War. The
bars were down, the windows were shut and there
was no end of hearty hilarity. Dr. Richardson had
been mentioned by Mr. Haldeman as "the only man
that ever licked Grant," and the general promptly
retorted "he never licked me," when the good old
doctor said, "No, Ulysses, I never did—nor Walter,
either—for you two were the best boys in school."
I said "General Grant, why not give up this
beastly politics, buy a blue-grass farm, and settle
down to horse-raising and tobacco growing in
Kentucky?" And, quick as a flash—for both he and the
company perceived that it was "a leading question"
—he replied, "Before I can buy a farm in Kentucky
I shall have to sell a farm in Missouri," which left
nothing further to be said.
There was some sparring between him and
General Williams over their youthful adventures.
Finally General Williams, one of the readiest and
most amusing of talkers, returned one of General
Grant's sallies with, "Anyhow, I know of a man
whose life you took unknown to yourself." Then
he told of a race he and Grant had outside of
Galapa in 1846. "Don't you remember," he said,
"that riding ahead of me you came upon a Mexican
loaded with a lot of milk cans piled above his head
and that you knocked him over as you swept by
"Yes," said Grant, "I believed if I stopped or
questioned or even deflected it would lose me the
race. I have not thought of it since. But now that
you mention it I recall it distinctly."
"Well," Williams continued, "you killed him.
Your horse's hoof struck him. When, seeing I was
beaten, I rode back, his head was split wide open.
I did not tell you at the time because I knew it
would cause you pain, and a dead greaser more or
less made no difference."
Later on General Grant took desk room in Victor
Newcomb's private office in New York. There
I saw much of him, and we became good friends.
He was the most interesting of men. Soldierlike—
monosyllabic—in his official and business dealings
he threw aside all formality and reserve in his social
intercourse, delightfully reminiscential, indeed a
capital story teller. I do not wonder that he had
constant and disinterested friends who loved him
It has always been my opinion that if Chester A.
Arthur had been named by the Republicans as their
candidate in 1884 they would have carried the election,
spite of what Mr. Blaine, who defeated Arthur
in the convention, had said and thought about the
nomination of General Sherman. Arthur, like
Grant, belonged to the category of lovable men in
There was a gallant captain in the army who had
slapped his colonel in the face on parade. Morally,
as man to man, he had the right of it. But military
law is inexorable. The verdict was dismissal from
the service. I went with the poor fellow's wife and
her sister to see General Hancock at Governor's
Island. It was a most affecting meeting—the general,
tears rolling down his cheeks, taking them into
his arms, and, when he could speak, saying: "I can
do nothing but hold up the action of the court till
Monday. Your recourse is the President and a
pardon; I will recommend it, but"—putting his
hand upon my shoulder—"here is the man to get the
pardon if the President can be brought to see the
case as most of us see it."
At once I went over to Washington, taking
Stephen French with me. When we entered the
President's apartment in the White House he
advanced smiling to greet us, saying: "I know what
you boys are after; you mean—"
"Yes, Mr. President," I answered, "we do, and
"I have thought over it, sworn over it, and prayed
over it," he said, "and I am going to pardon him!"
Another illustrative incident happened during
the Arthur Administration. The dismissal of Gen.
Fitz-John Porter from the army had been the subject
of more or less acrimonious controversy. During
nearly two decades this had raged in army
circles. At length the friends of Porter, led by
Curtin and Slocum, succeeded in passing a relief
measure through Congress. They were in ecstasies.
That there might be a presidential objection had
not crossed their minds.
Senator McDonald, of Indiana, a near friend of
General Porter, and a man of rare worldly wisdom,
knew better. Without consulting them he came to
"You are personally close to the President," said
he, "and you must know that if this bill gets to the
White House he will veto it. With the Republican
National Convention directly ahead he is bound to
veto it. It must not be allowed to get to him; and
you are the man to stop it. They will listen to you
and will not listen to me."
First of all, I went to the White House.
"Mr. President," I said, "I want you to authorize
me to tell Curtin and Slocum not to send the
Fitz-John Porter bill to you."
"Why?" he answered.
"Because," said I, "you will have to veto it; and,
with the Frelinghuysens wild for it, as well as others
of your nearest friends, I am sure you don't want
to be obliged to do that. With your word to me I
can stop it, and have it for the present at least held
His answer was, "Go ahead."
Then I went to the Capitol. Curtin and Slocum
were in a state of mind. It was hard to make them
understand or believe what I told them.
"Now, gentlemen," I continued, "I don't mean
to argue the case. It is not debatable. I am just
from the White House, and I am authorized by the
President to say that if you send this bill to him he
will veto it."
That, of course, settled it. They held it up. But
after the presidential election it reached Arthur,
and he did veto it. Not till Cleveland came in did
Porter obtain his restoration.
Curiously enough General Grant approved this.
I had listened to the debate in the House—
especially the masterly speech of William Walter
Phelps—without attaining a clear understanding of
the many points at issue. I said as much to General
"Why," he replied, "the case is as simple as A,
B, C. Let me show you."
Then, with a pencil he traced the Second Bull
Run battlefield, the location of troops, both Federal
and Confederate, and the exact passage in the action
which had compromised General Porter.
"If Porter had done what he was ordered to do,"
he went on, "Pope and his army would have been
annihilated. In point of fact Porter saved Pope's
Army." Then he paused and added: "I did not at
the outset know this. I was for a time of a different
opinion and on the other side. It was Longstreet's
testimony—which had not been before the first
Court of Inquiry that convicted Porter—which
vindicated him and convinced me."
CHAPTER THE TENTH
OF LIARS AND LYING—WOMAN SUFFRAGE AND
FEMINISM—THE PROFESSIONAL FEMALE—
PARTIES, POLITICS AND POLITICIANS IN AMERICA
ALL is fair in love and war, the saying hath it.
"Lord!" cried the most delightful of liars,
"How this world is given to lying." Yea, and how
exigency quickens invention and promotes deceit.
Just after the war of sections I was riding in a
train with Samuel Bowles, who took a great interest
in things Southern. He had been impressed by a
newspaper known as The Chattanooga Rebel and,
as I had been its editor, put innumerable questions
to me about it and its affairs. Among these he
asked how great had been its circulation. Without
explaining that often an entire company, in some
cases an entire regiment, subscribed for a few
copies, or a single copy, I answered: "I don't know
precisely, but somewhere near a hundred thousand,
I take it." Then he said: "Where did you get
your press power?"
This was, of course, a poser, but it did not
embarrass me in the least. I was committed, and
without a moment's thought I proceeded with an
imaginary explanation which he afterward declared
had been altogether satisfying. The story was too
good to keep—maybe conscience pricked—and in a
chummy talk later along I laughingly confessed.
"You should tell that in your dinner speech
to-night," he said. "If you tell it as you have just
told it to me, it will make a hit," and I did.
I give it as the opinion of a long life of experience
and observation that the newspaper press, whatever
its delinquencies, is not a common liar, but the most
habitual of truth tellers. It is growing on its
editorial page I fear a little vapid and colorless.
But there is a general and ever-present purpose to
print the facts and give the public the opportunity
to reach its own conclusions.
There are liars and liars, lying and lying. It is,
with a single exception, the most universal and
venial of human frailties. We have at least three
kinds of lying and species, or types, of liars—first,
the common, ordinary, everyday liar, who lies without
rime or reason, rule or compass, aim, intent or
interest, in whose mind the partition between truth
and falsehood has fallen down; then the sensational,
imaginative liar, who has a tale to tell; and, finally,
the mean, malicious liar, who would injure his
This last is, indeed, but rare. Human nature is
at its base amicable, because if nothing hinders it
wants to please. All of us, however, are more or
less its unconscious victims.
Competition is not alone the life of trade; it is
the life of life; for each of us is in one way, or
another, competitive. There is but one disinterested
person in the world, the mother who whether of the
human or animal kingdom, will die for her young.
Yet, after all, hers, too, is a kind of selfishness.
The woman is becoming over much a professional
female. It is of importance that we begin to
consider her as a new species, having enjoyed her
beauty long enough. Is the world on the way to
organic revolution? If I were a young man I should
not care to be the lover of a professional female.
As an old man I have affectionate relations with a
number of suffragettes, as they dare not deny; that
is to say, I long ago accepted woman suffrage as
inevitable, whether for good or evil, depending upon
whether the woman's movement is going to stop
with suffrage or run into feminism, changing the
character of woman and her relations to men and
I have never made party differences the occasion
of personal quarrel or estrangement. On the contrary,
though I have been always called a Democrat,
I have many near and dear friends among the
Republicans. Politics is not war. Politics would not
be war even if the politicians were consistent and
honest. But there are among them so many
changelings, cheats and rogues.
Then, in politics as elsewhere, circumstances alter
cases. I have as a rule thought very little of parties
as parties, professional politicians and party
leaders, and I think less of them as I grow older. The
politician and the auctioneer might be described
like the lunatic, the lover and the poet, as "of
imagination all compact." One sees more mares'
nests than would fill a book; the other pure gold in
pinchbeck wares; and both are out for gudgeons.
It is the habit—nay, the business—of the party
speaker when he mounts the raging stump to roar
his platitudes into the ears of those who have the
simplicity to listen, though neither edified nor
enlightened; to aver that the horse he rides is sixteen
feet high; that the candidate he supports is a giant;
and that he himself is no small figure of a man.
Thus he resembles the auctioneer. But it is the
mock auctioneer whom he resembles; his stock in
trade being largely, if not altogether, fraudulent.
The success which at the outset of party welfare
attended this legalized confidence game drew into it
more and more players. For a long time they
deceived themselves almost as much as the voters.
They had not become professional. They were
amateur. Many of them played for sheer love of
the gamble. There were rules to regulate the play.
But as time passed and voters multiplied, the popular
preoccupation increased the temptations and
opportunities for gain, inviting the enterprising,
the skillful and the corrupt to reconstitute patriotism
into a commodity and to organize public opinion
into a bill of lading. Thus politics as a trade,
parties as trademarks, the politicians, like harlots,
plying their vocation.
Now and again an able, honest and brave man,
who aims at better things, appears. In the event
that fortune favors him and he attains high station,
he finds himself surrounded and thwarted by men
less able and courageous, who, however equal to
discovering right from wrong, yet wear the party
collar, owe fealty to the party machine, are
sometimes actual slaves of the party boss. In the larger
towns we hear of the City Hall ring; out in the
counties of the Court House ring. We rarely
anywhere encounter clean, responsible administration
and pure, disinterested, public service.
The taxpayers are robbed before their eyes. The
evil grows greater as we near the centers of
population. But there is scarcely a village or hamlet
where graft does not grow like weeds, the voters as
gullible and helpless as the infatuated victims of
bunko tricks, ingeniously contrived by professional
crooks to separate the fool and his money. Is
self-government a failure?
None of us would allow the votaries of the divine
right of kings to tell us so, albeit we are ready
enough to admit the imperfections of universal
suffrage, too often committing affairs of pith and
moment, even of life and death, to the arbitrament
of the mob, and costing more in cash outlay than
The quadrennial period in American politics,
set apart and dedicated to the election of presidents,
magnifies these evil features in an otherwise admirable
system of government. That the whippersnappers
of the vicinage should indulge their propensities
comes as the order of their nature. But
the party leaders are not far behind them. Each side
construes every occurrence as an argument in its
favor, assuring it certain victory. Take, for
example, the latest state election anywhere. In point
of fact, it foretold nothing. It threw no light upon
coming events, not even upon current events. It
leaves the future as hazy as before. Yet the managers
of either party affect to be equally confident
that it presages the triumph of their ticket in the
next national election. The wonder is that so many
of the voters will believe and be influenced by such
Is there any remedy for all this? I much fear
that there is not. Government, like all else, is
impossible of perfection. It is as man is—good, bad
and indifferent; which is but another way of saying
we live in a world of cross purposes. We in
America prefer republicanism. But would despotism
be so demurrable under a wise unselfish despot?
Contemplating the contrasts between foreign life
and foreign history with our own one cannot help
reflecting upon the yet more startling contrasts of
ancient and modern religion and government. I
have wandered not a little over Europe at irregular
intervals for more than fifty years. Always a
devotee to American institutions, I have been
strengthened in my beliefs by what I have
The mood in our countrymen has been overmuch
to belittle things American. The commercial spirit
in the United States, which affects to be nationalistic,
is in reality cosmopolitan. Money being its
god, French money, English money, anything that
calls itself money, is wealth to it. It has no time to
waste on theories or to think of generics. "Put
money in thy purse" has become its motto. Money
constitutes the reason of its being. The organic law
of the land is Greek to it, as are those laws of God
which obstruct it. It is too busy with its greed and
gain to think, or to feel, on any abstract subject.
That which does not appeal to it in the concrete is
of no interest at all.
Just as in the days of Charles V and Philip II,
all things yielded to the theologian's misconception
of the spiritual life so in these days of the Billionaires
all things spiritual and abstract yield to what
they call the progress of the universe and the leading
of the times. Under their rule we have had
extraordinary movement just as under the lords of
the Palatinate and the Escurial—the medieval
union of the devils of bigotry and power—Europe,
which was but another name for Spain, had
extraordinary movement. We know where it ended with
Spain. Whither is it leading us? Are we traveling
the same road?
Let us hope not. Let us believe not. Yet, once
strolling along through the crypt of the Church of
the Escurial near Madrid, I could not repress the
idea of a personal and physical resemblance between
the effigies in marble and bronze looking
down upon me whichever way I turned, to some of
our contemporary public men and seeming to say:
"My love to the President when you see him next,"
and "Don't forget to remember me kindly, please,
to the chairmen of both your national committees!"
In a world of sin, disease and death—death
inevitable—what may man do to drive out sin and
cure disease, to the end that, barring accident, old
age shall set the limit on mortal life?
The quack doctor equally in ethics and in physics
has played a leading part in human affairs. Only
within a relatively brief period has science made
serious progress toward discovery. Though Nature
has perhaps an antidote for all her
posions many of
them continue to defy approach. They lie concealed,
leaving the astutest to grope in the dark.
That which is true of material things is truer yet
of spiritual things. The ideal about which we hear
so much, is as unattained as the fabled bag of gold
at the end of the rainbow. Nor is the doctrine of
perfectability anywhere one with itself. It speaks
in diverse tongues. Its processes and objects are
variant. It seems but an iridescent dream which
lends itself equally to the fancies of the impracticable
and the scheming of the self-seeking, breeding
visionaries and pretenders.
Easily assumed and asserted, too often it becomes
tyrannous, dealing with things outer and
visible while taking little if any account of the inner
lights of the soul. Thus it imposes upon credulity
and ignorance; makes fakers of some and fanatics
of others; in politics where not an engine of
oppression, a corrupt influence; in religion where not
a zealot, a promoter of cant. In short the
self-appointed apostle of uplift, who disregarding
individual character would make virtue a matter of
statute law and ordain uniformity of conduct by
act of conventicle or assembly, is likelier to produce
moral chaos than to reach the sublime state he
claims to seek.
The bare suggestion is full of startling
possibilities. Individualism was the discovery of the
fathers of the American Republic. It is the bedrock
of our political philosophy. Human slavery
was assuredly an indefensible institution. But the
armed enforcement of freedom did not make a
black man a white man. Nor will the wave of
fanaticism seeking to control the food and drink
and dress of the people make men better men.
Danger lurks and is bound to come with the
The levity of the men is recruited by the folly of
the women. The leaders of feminism would abolish
sex. To what end? The pessimist answers what
easier than the demolition of a sexless world gone
entirely mad? How simple the engineries of
destruction. Civil war in America; universal
hara-kiri in Europe; the dry rot of wealth wasting itself
in self-indulgence. Then a thousand years of total
eclipse. Finally Macaulay's Australian surveying
the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral from a broken
parapet of London Bridge, and a Moslem conqueror
of America looking from the hill of the
Capitol at Washington upon the desolation of what
was once the District of Columbia. Shall the end
be an Oriental renaissance with the philosophies of
Buddha, Mohammed and Confucius welded into a
new religion describing itself as the last word of
science, reason and common sense?
Alas, and alack the day! In those places where
the suffering rich most do congregate the words of
Watts' hymn have constant application:
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
When they have not gone skylarking or grown
tired of bridge they devote their leisure to
organizing clubs other than those of the uplift. There
are all sorts, from the Society for the Abrogation
of Bathing Suits at the seaside resorts to the
League at Mewville for the Care of Disabled Cats.
Most of these clubs are all officers and no privates.
That is what many of them are got up for. Do
they advance the world in grace? One who surveys
the scene can scarcely think so.
But the whirl goes on; the yachts sweep proudly
out to sea; the auto cars dash madly through the
streets; more and darker and deeper do the
contrasts of life show themselves. How long shall it
be when the mudsill millions take the upper ten
thousand by the throat and rend them as the
furiosos of the Terror in France did the aristocrats
Régime Ancien? The issue between capital
and labor, for example, is full of generating heat
and hate. Who shall say that, let loose in the
crowded centers of population, it may not one day
engulf us all?
Is this rank pessimism or merely the vagaries
of an old man dropping back into second childhood,
who does not see that the world is wiser and
better than ever it was, mankind and womankind,
surely on the way to perfection?
One thing is certain: We are not standing still.
Since "Adam delved and Eve span"—if they ever
did—in the Garden of Eden, "somewhere in Asia,"
to the "goings on" in the Garden of the Gods
directly under Pike's Peak—the earth we inhabit has
at no time and nowhere wanted for liveliness—but
surely it was never livelier than it now is; as the
space-writer says, more "dramatic"; indeed, to
quote the guidebooks, quite so "picturesque and
Go where one may, on land or sea, he will come
upon activities of one sort and another. Were
Timon of Athens living, he might be awakened
misanthrophy and Jacques, the forest
cynic, stirred to something like enthusiasm. Is the
world enduring the pangs of a second birth which
shall recreate all things anew, supplementing the
miracles of modern invention with a corresponding
development of spiritual life; or has it reached the
top of the hill, and, mortal, like the human atoms
that compose it, is it starting downward on the
other side into an abyss which the historians of the
future will once again call "the dark ages?"
We know not, and there is none to tell us. That
which is actually happening were unbelievable if
we did not see it, from hour to hour, from day to
day. Horror succeeding horror has in some sort
blunted our sensibilities. Not only are our
sympathies numbed by the immensity of the slaughter
and the sorrow, but patriotism itself is chilled by the
selfish thought that, having thus far measurably
escaped, we may pull through without paying our
share. This will account for a certain indifferentism
we now and again encounter.
At the moment we are felicitating ourselves—or,
is it merely confusing ourselves?—over the revolution
in Russia. It seems of good augury. To begin
with, for Russia. Then the murder war fairly
won for the Allies, we are promised by the optimists
a wise and lasting peace.
The bells that rang out in Petrograd and Moscow
sounded, we are told, the death knell of autocracy
in Berlin and Vienna. The clarion tones that
echoed through the Crimea and Siberia, albeit to the
ear of the masses muffled in the Schwarzwald and
along the shores of the North Sea, and up and down
the Danube and the Rhine, yet conveyed a whispered
message which may presently break into
song; the glad song of freedom with it glorious
refrain: "The Romanoffs gone! Perdition having
reached the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs, all
will be well!"
Anyhow, freedom; self-government; for whilst a
scrutinizing and solicitous pessimism, observing and
considering many abuses, administrative and
political, federal and local, in our republican system
—abuses which being very visible are most lamentable—
may sometimes move us to lose heart of hope
in democracy, we know of none better. So, let us
stand by it; pray for it; fight for it. Let us by our
example show the Russians how to attain it. Let
us by the same token show the Germans how to
attain it when they come to see, if they ever do,
the havoc autocracy has made for Germany. That
should constitute the bed rock of our politics and
our religion. It is the true religion. Love of country
is love of God. Patriotism is religion.
It is also Christianity. The pacifist, let me
parenthetically observe, is scarcely a Christian.
There be technical Christians and there be Christians.
The technical Christian sees nothing but the
blurred letter of the law, which he misconstrues. The
Christian, animated by its holy spirit and led by its
rightful interpretation, serves the Lord alike of
heaven and hosts when he flies the flag of his country
and smites its enemies hip and thigh!
CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH
ANDREW JOHNSON—THE LIBERAL CONVENTION IN
1872—CARL SCHURZ—THE "QUADRILATERAL"—
SAM BOWLES, HORACE WHITE AND MURAT
HALSTEAD—A QUEER COMPOSITE OF INCONGRUITIES
AMONG the many misconceptions and mischances
that befell the slavery agitation in
the United States and finally led a kindred people
into actual war the idea that got afloat after this
war that every Confederate was a Secessionist best
served the ends of the radicalism which sought to
reduce the South to a conquered province, and as
such to reconstruct it by hostile legislation
supported wherever needed by force.
Andrew Johnson very well understood that a
great majority of the men who were arrayed on
the Southern side had taken the field against their
better judgment through pressure of circumstance.
They were Union men who had opposed secession
and clung to the old order. Not merely in the Border
States did this class rule but in the Gulf States
it held a respectable minority until the shot fired
upon Sumter drew the call for troops from Lincoln.
The Secession leaders, who had staked their all
upon the hazard, knew that to save their movement
from collapse it was necessary that blood be
sprinkled in the faces of the people. Hence the
message from Charleston:
With cannon, mortar and petard
We tender you our Beauregard—
with the response from Washington precipitating
the conflict of theories into a combat of arms for
which neither party was prepared.
The debate ended, battle at hand, Southern men
had to choose between the North and the South,
between their convictions and predilections on one
side and expatriation on the other side—resistance
to invasion, not secession, the issue. But four years
later, when in 1865 all that they had believed and
feared in 1861 had come to pass, these men required
no drastic measures to bring them to terms. Events
more potent than acts of Congress had already
reconstructed them. Lincoln with a forecast of this
had shaped his ends accordingly. Johnson, himself
a Southern man, understood it even better than
Lincoln, and backed by the legacy of Lincoln he
proceeded not very skillfully to build upon it.
The assassination of Lincoln, however, had
played directly into the hands of the radicals, led
by Ben Wade in the Senate and Thaddeus Stevens
in the House. Prior to that baleful night they had
fallen behind the marching van. The mad act of
Booth put them upon their feet and brought them
to the front. They were implacable men, politicians
equally of resolution and ability. Events
quickly succeeding favored them and their plans. It
was not alone Johnson's lack of temper and tact
that gave them the whip hand. His removal from
office would have opened the door of the White
House to Wade, so that strategically Johnson's
position was from the beginning beleaguered and
came perilously near before the close to being
Grant, a political nondescript, not Wade, the
uncompromising extremist, came after; and inevitably
four years of Grant had again divided the triumphant
Republicans. This was the situation during
the winter of 1871-72, when the approaching
Presidential election brought the country face to face
with a most extraordinary state of affairs. The
South was in irons. The North was growing
restive. Thinking people everywhere felt that
conditions so anomalous to our institutions could not
and should not endure.
Johnson had made a bungling attempt to carry
out the policies of Lincoln and had gone down in
the strife. The Democratic Party had reached the
ebb tide of its disastrous fortunes.
It seemed the merest reactionary. A group of
influential Republicans, dissatisfied for one cause
and another with Grant, held a caucus and issued
a call for what they described as a Liberal Republican
Convention to assemble in Cincinnati May 1, 1872.
A Southern man and a Confederate soldier, a
Democrat by conviction and inheritance, I had
been making in Kentucky an uphill fight for the
acceptance of the inevitable. The line of cleavage
between the old and the new South I had placed
upon the last three amendments to the Constitution,
naming them the Treaty of Peace between
the Sections. The negro must be invested with the
rights conferred upon him by these amendments,
however mistaken and injudicious the South might
think them. The obsolete Black Laws instituted
during the slave régime must be removed from the
statute books. The negro, like Mohammed's coffin,
swung in midair. He was neither fish, flesh nor
fowl, nor good red herring. For our own sake we
must habilitate him, educate and elevate him, make
him, if possible, a contented and useful citizen.
Failing of this, free government itself might be
I had behind me the intelligence of the Confederate
soldiers almost to a man. They at least
were tired of futile fighting, and to them the war
was over. But—and especially in Kentucky—
there was an element that wanted to fight when it
was too late; old Union Democrats and Union
Whigs who clung to the hull of slavery when the
kernel was gone, and proposed to win in politics
what had been lost in battle.
The leaders of this belated element were in complete
control of the political machinery of the state.
They regarded me as an impudent upstart—since
I had come to Kentucky from Tennessee—as little
From a Photograph by M. B. Brady
ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN 1861
better than a carpet-bagger; and had done their
uttermost to put me down and drive me out.
I was a young fellow of two and thirty, of boundless
optimism and my full share of self-confidence,
no end of physical endurance and mental vitality,
having some political as well as newspaper experience.
It never crossed my fancy that I could fail.
I met resistance with aggression, answered attempts
at bullying with scorn, generally irradiated
by laughter. Yet was I not wholly blind to
consequences and the admonitions of prudence; and when
the call for a Liberal Republican Convention
appeared I realized that if I expected to remain a
Democrat in a Democratic community, and to
influence and lead a Democratic following, I must
Though many of those proposing the new movement
were familiar acquaintances—some of them
personal friends—the scheme was in the air, as it
were. Its three newspaper bellwethers—Samuel
Bowles, Horace White and Murat Halstead—were
especially well known to me; so were Horace
Greeley, Carl Schurz and Charles Sumner, Stanley
Matthews being my kinsman, George Hoadley and
Cassius M. Clay next-door neighbors. But they
were not the men I had trained with—not my
"crowd"—and it was a question how far I might be
able to reconcile myself, not to mention my political
associates, to such company, even conceding that
they proceeded under good fortune with a good
plan, offering the South extrication from its woes
and the Democratic Party an entering wedge into
a solid and hitherto irresistible North.
Nevertheless, I resolved to go a little in advance
to Cincinnati, to have a look at the stalking horse
there to be displayed, free to take it or leave it as I
liked, my bridges and lines of communication quite
open and intact.
A livelier and more variegated omnium-gatherum
was never assembled. They had already begun to
straggle in when I arrived. There were long-haired
and spectacled doctrinaires from New England,
spliced by short-haired and stumpy emissaries from
New York—mostly friends of Horace Greeley, as
it turned out. There were brisk Westerners from
Chicago and St. Louis. If Whitelaw Reid, who
had come as Greeley's personal representative, had
his retinue, so had Horace White and Carl Schurz.
There were a few rather overdressed persons from
New Orleans brought up by Governor Warmouth,
and a motley array of Southerners of every sort,
who were ready to clutch at any straw that promised
relief to intolerable conditions. The full contingent
of Washington correspondents was there, of course,
with sharpened eyes and pens to make the most
of what they had already begun to christen a
conclave of cranks.
Bowles and Halstead met me at the station, and
we drove to the St. Nicholas Hotel, where Schurz
and White were awaiting us. Then and there was
organized a fellowship which in the succeeding
campaign cut a considerable figure and went by
the name of the Quadrilateral. We resolved to
limit the Presidential nominations of the convention
to Charles Francis Adams, Bowles' candidate, and
Lyman Trumbull, White's candidate, omitting
altogether, because of specific reasons urged by
White, the candidacy of B. Gratz Brown, who
because of his Kentucky connections had better suited
The very next day the secret was abroad, and
Whitelaw Reid came to me to ask why in a
newspaper combine of this sort the New York Tribune
had been left out.
To my mind it seemed preposterous that it had
been or should be, and I stated as much to my new
colleagues. They offered objection which to me
appeared perverse if not childish. They did not
like Reid, to begin with. He was not a principal
like the rest of us, but a subordinate. Greeley
was this, that and the other. He could never be
relied upon in any coherent practical plan of
campaign. To talk about him as a candidate was
I listened rather impatiently and finally I said:
"Now, gentlemen, in this movement we shall need
the New York Tribune. If we admit Reid we
clinch it. You will all agree that Greeley has no
chance of a nomination, and so by taking him in
we both eat our cake and have it."
On this view of the case Reid was invited to join
us, and that very night he sat with us at the St.
Nicholas, where from night to night until the end
we convened and went over the performances and
developments of the day and concerted plans for
As I recall these symposiums some amusing and
some plaintive memories rise before me.
The first serious business that engaged us was the
killing of the boom for Judge David Davis, of the
Supreme Court, which was assuming definite and
formidable proportions. The preceding winter it
had been incubating at Washington under the
ministration of some of the most astute politicians
of the time, mainly, however, Democratic members
A party of these had brought it to Cincinnati,
opening headquarters well provided with the
requisite commissaries. Every delegate who came
in that could be reached was laid hold of and
conducted to Davis' headquarters.
We considered it flat burglary. It was a gross
infringement upon our copyrights. What business
had the professional politicians with a great reform
movement? The influence and dignity of journalism
were at stake. The press was imperilled. We,
its custodians, could brook no such deflection, not
to say defiance, from intermeddling office seekers,
especially from broken-down Democratic office
The inner sanctuary of our proceedings was a
common drawing-room between two bedchambers,
occupied by Schurz and myself. Here we repaired
after supper to smoke the pipe of fraternity and
reform, and to save the country. What might be
done to kill off "D. Davis," as we irreverently called
the eminent and learned jurist, the friend of
Lincoln and the only aspirant having a "bar'l"? That
was the question. We addressed ourselves to the
task with earnest purpose, but characteristically.
The power of the press must be invoked. It was
our chief if not our only weapon. Seated at the
same table each of us indited a leading editorial for
his paper, to be wired to its destination and printed
next morning, striking D. Davis at a prearranged
and varying angle. Copies of these were made for
Halstead, who having with the rest of us read and
compared the different scrolls indited one of his
own in general commentation and review for
Cincinnati consumption. In next day's Commercial,
blazing under vivid headlines, these leading
editorials, dated "Chicago" and "New York," "Springfield,
Mass." and "Louisville, Ky.," appeared with
the explaining line "The Tribune of to-morrow
morning will say—" "The Courier-Journal"—
and the Republican—will say to-morrow
Wondrous consensus of public opinion! The
Davis boom went down before it. The Davis boomers
were paralyzed. The earth seemed to have
risen and hit them midships. The incoming
delegates were arrested and forewarned. Six months
of adroit scheming was set at naught, and little
more was heard of "D. Davis."
We were, like the Mousquetaires, equally in for
fighting and foot-racing, the point with us being to
get there, no matter how; the end—the defeat of
the rascally machine politicians and the reform of
the public service—justifying the means. I am
writing this nearly fifty years after the event and
must be forgiven the fling of my wisdom at my own
expense and that of my associates in harmless
Some ten years ago I wrote: "Reid and White
and I the sole survivors; Reid a great Ambassador,
White and I the virtuous ones, still able to sit up
and take notice, with three meals a day for which
we are thankful and able to pay; no one of us
recalcitrant. We were wholly serious—maybe a
trifle visionary, but as upright and patriotic in our
intentions and as loyal to our engagements as it
was possible for older and maybe better men to be.
For my part I must say that if I have never
anything on my conscience worse than the massacre of
that not very edifying yet promising combine I
shall be troubled by no remorse, but to the end shall
sleep soundly and well."
Alas, I am now the sole survivor. In this
connection an amusing incident throwing some light
upon the period thrusts itself upon my memory.
The Quadrilateral, including Reid, had just
finished its consolidation of public opinion before
related, when the cards of Judge Craddock, chairman
of the Kentucky Democratic Committee, and
of Col. Stoddard Johnston, editor of the Frankfort
Yeoman, the organ of the Kentucky Democracy,
were brought from below. They had come
to look after me—that was evident. By no chance
could they find me in more equivocal company.
In addition to ourselves—bad enough, from the
Kentucky point of view—Theodore Tilton, Donn
Piatt and David A. Wells were in the room.
When the Kentuckians crossed the threshold and
were presented seriatim the face of each was a
study. Even a proper and immediate application
of whisky and water did not suffice to restore
their lost equilibrium and bring them to their usual
state of convivial self-possession. Colonel Johnston
told me years after that when they went away
they walked in silence a block or two, when the old
judge, a model of the learned and sedate school of
Kentucky politicians and jurists, turned to him and
said: "It is no use, Stoddart, we cannot keep up
with that young man or with these times. 'Lord,
now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!' "
The Jupiter Tonans of reform in attendance
upon the convention was Col. Alexander K.
McClure. He was one of the handsomest and most
imposing of men; Halstead himself scarcely more
so. McClure was personally unknown to the
Quadrilateral. But this did not stand in the way
of our asking him to dine with us as soon as his
claims to fellowship in the good cause of reform
began to make themselves apparent through the need
of bringing the Pennsylvania delegation to a
He looked like a god as he entered the room;
nay, he acted like one. Schurz first took him in
hand. With a lofty courtesy I have never seen
equalled he tossed his inquisitor into the air.
Halstead came next, and tried him upon another tack.
He fared no better than Schurz. And hurrying to
the rescue of my friends, McClure, looking now a
bit bored and resentful, landed me somewhere near
It would have been laughable if it had not been
ignominious. I took my discomfiture with the bad
grace of silence throughout the stiff, formal and
brief meal which was then announced. But when
it was over and the party, risen from table, was
about to disperse I collected my energies and
resources for a final stroke. I was not willing to
remain so crushed nor to confess myself so beaten,
though I could not disguise from myself a feeling
that all of us had been overmatched.
"McClure," said I with the cool and quiet resolution
of despair, drawing him aside, "what in the
—do you want anyhow?"
He looked at me with swift intelligence and a
sudden show of sympathy, and then over at the
others with a withering glance.
"What? With those cranks? Nothing."
Jupiter descended to earth. I am afraid we
actually took a glass of wine together. Anyhow,
from that moment to the hour of his death we were
the best of friends.
Without the inner circle of the Quadrilateral,
which had taken matters into their own hands, were
a number of persons, some of them disinterested and
others simple curiosity and excitement seekers, who
might be described as merely lookers-on in Vienna.
The Sunday afternoon before the convention was
to meet we, the self-elect, fell in with a party of
these in a garden "over the Rhine," as the German
quarter of Cincinnati is called. There was first
general and rather aimless talk. Then came a great
deal of speech making. Schurz started it with a
few pungent observations intended to suggest and
inspire some common ground of opinion and sentiment.
Nobody was inclined to dispute his leadership,
but everybody was prone to assert his own.
It turned out that each regarded himself and
wished to be regarded as a man with a mission,
having a clear idea how things were not to be done.
There were Civil Service Reform Protectionists
and Civil Service Reform Free Traders. There
were a few politicians, who were discovered to be
spoilsmen, the unforgivable sin, and quickly
dismissed as such.
Coherence was the missing ingredient. Not a
man jack of them was willing to commit or bind
himself to anything. Edward Atkinson pulled one
way and William Dorsheimer exactly the opposite
way. David A. Wells sought to get the two
together; it was not possible. Sam Bowles shook his
head in diplomatic warning. Horace White threw
in a chunk or so of a rather agitating newspaper
independency, and Halstead was in an inflamed state
of jocosity to the more serious-minded.
It was nuts to the Washington Correspondents
—story writers and satirists who were there to make
the most out of an occasion in which the bizarre was
much in excess of the conventional—with George
Alfred Townsend and Donn Piatt to set the pace.
Hyde had come from St. Louis to keep especial
tab on Grosvenor. Though rival editors facing our
way, they had not been admitted to the
Quadrilateral. McCullagh and Nixon arrived with the
earliest from Chicago. The lesser lights of the
guild were innumerable. One might have mistaken
it for an annual meeting of the Associated Press.
The convention assembled. It was in Cincinnati's
great Music Hall. Schurz presided. Who that
was there will ever forget his opening words:
"This is moving day." He was just turned forty-two;
in his physiognomy a scholarly
in his trim lithe figure a graceful athlete; in the
tones of his voice an orator.
Even the bespectacled doctrinaires of the East,
whence, since the days when the Star of Bethlehem
shone over the desert, wisdom and wise men have
had their emanation, were moved to something like
enthusiasm. The rest of us were fervid and aglow.
Two days and a night and a half the Quadrilateral
had the world in a sling and things its own
way. It had been agreed, as I have said, to limit
the field to Adams, Trumbull and Greeley; Greeley
being out of it, as having no chance, still further
abridged it to Adams and Trumbull; and, Trumbull
not developing very strong, Bowles, Halstead
and I, even White, began to be sure of Adams on
the first ballot; Adams the indifferent, who had
sailed away for Europe, observing that he was not
a candidate for the nomination and otherwise
intimating his disdain of us and it.
Matters thus apparently cocked and primed, the
convention adjourned over the first night of its
session with everybody happy except the D. Davis
contingent, which lingered on the scene, but knew
its "cake was dough." If we had forced a vote
that night, as we might have done, we should have
nominated Adams. But inspired by the bravery
of youth and inexperience we let the golden opportunity
slip. The throng of delegates and the audience
In those days, it being the business of my life to
turn day into night and night into day, it was not
my habit to seek my bed much before the presses
began to thunder below, and this night proving no
exception, and being tempted by a party of
Kentuckians, who had come, some to back me and some
to watch me, I did not quit their agreeable society
until the "wee short hours ayont the twal." Before
turning in I glanced at the early edition of
the Commercial, to see that something—I was too
tired to decipher precisely what—had happened. It
was, in point of fact, the arrival about midnight of
Gen. Frank P. Blair and Governor B. Gratz
I had in my possession documents that would
have induced at least one of them to pause before
making himself too conspicuous. The Quadrilateral,
excepting Reid, knew this. We had separated
upon the adjournment of the convention. I
being across the river in Covington, their search
was unavailing. I was not to be found. They were
in despair. When having had a few hours of rest I
reached the convention hall toward noon it was too
I got into the thick of it in time to see the close,
not without an angry collision with that one of the
newly arrived actors whose coming had changed
the course of events, with whom I had lifelong
relations of affectionate intimacy. Sailing but the
other day through Mediterranean waters with
Joseph Pulitzer, who, then a mere youth, was yet
the secretary of the convention, he recalled the
scene; the unexpected and not overattractive
appearance of the governor of Missouri; his not very
pleasing yet ingenious speech; the stoical, almost
lethargic indifference of Schurz.
"Carl Schurz," said Pulitzer, "was the most
industrious and the least energetic man I have ever
worked with. A word from him at that crisis would
have completely routed Blair and squelched Brown.
It was simply not in him to speak it."
Greeley was nominated amid a whirl of enthusiasm,
his workers, with Whitelaw Reid at their
head, having maintained an admirable and effective
organization and being thoroughly prepared to take
advantage of the opportune moment. It was the
logic of the event that B. Gratz Brown should be
placed on the ticket with him.
The Quadrilateral was nowhere. It was done
for. The impossible had come to pass. There rose
thereafter a friendly issue of veracity between
Schurz and myself, which illustrates our state of
mind. My version is that we left the convention
hall together with an immaterial train of after
incidents, his that we had not met after the adjournment
—he quite sure of this because he had looked
for me in vain.
"Schurz was right," said Joseph Pulitzer upon
the occasion of our yachting cruise just mentioned,
"I know, for he and I went directly from the hall
with Judge Stallo to his home on Walnut Hills,
where we dined and passed the afternoon."
From a Photography by M. B. Brady
MRS. LINCOLN IN 1861
The Quadrilateral had been knocked into a
cocked hat. Whitelaw Reid was the only one of us
who clearly understood the situation and thoroughly
knew what he was about. He came to me and
said: "I have won, and you people have lost. I
shall expect that you stand by the agreement and
meet me as my guests at dinner to-night. But if
you do not personally look after this the others will
not be there."
I was as badly hurt as any, but a bond is a bond
and I did as he desired, succeeding partly by coaxing
and partly by insisting, though it was devious
Frostier conviviality I have never sat down to
than Reid's dinner. Horace White looked more
than ever like an iceberg, Sam Bowles was diplomatic
but ineffusive, Schurz was as a death's head
at the board; Halstead and I through sheer bravado
tried to enliven the feast. But they would none
of us, nor it, and we separated early and sadly,
reformers hoist by their own petard.
The reception by the country of the nomination
of Horace Greeley was as inexplicable to the
politicians as the nomination itself had been
unexpected by the Quadrilateral. The people rose to
it. The sentimental, the fantastic and the
paradoxical in human nature had to do with this. At
the South an ebullition of pleased surprise grew into
positive enthusiasm. Peace was the need if not the
longing of the Southern heart, and Greeley's had
been the first hand stretched out to the South from
the enemy's camp—very bravely, too, for he had
signed the bail bond of Jefferson Davis—and quick
upon the news flashed the response from generous
men eager for the chance to pay something upon a
recognized debt of gratitude.
Except for this spontaneous uprising, which
continued unabated in July, the Democratic Party
could not have been induced at Baltimore to ratify
the proceedings at Cincinnati and formally to make
Greeley its candidate. The leaders dared not resist
it. Some of them halted, a few held out, but by
midsummer the great body of them came to the
front to head the procession.
He was a queer old man; a very medley of
contradictions; shrewd and simple; credulous and
penetrating; a master penman of the school of Swift and
Cobbett; even in his odd picturesque personality
whimsically attractive; a man to be reckoned with
where he chose to put his powers forth, as Seward
learned to his cost.
What he would have done with the Presidency
had he reached it is not easy to say or surmise. He
was altogether unsuited for official life, for which
nevertheless he had a passion. But he was not so
readily deceived in men or misled in measures as he
seemed and as most people thought him.
His convictions were emotional, his philosophy
was experimental; but there was a certain method
in their application to public affairs. He gave
bountifully of his affection and his confidence to
the few who enjoyed his familiar friendship—
accessible and sympathetic though not indiscriminating
to those who appealed to his impressionable
sensibilities and sought his help. He had been a
good party man and was by nature and temperament
To him place was not a badge of servitude; it was
a decoration—preferment, promotion, popular
recognition. He had always yearned for office as
the legitimate destination of public life and the
honorable award of party service. During the
greater part of his career the conditions of
journalism had been rather squalid and servile. He
was really great as a journalist. He was truly and
highly fit for nothing else, but seeing less deserving
and less capable men about him advanced from one
post of distinction to another he wondered why his
turn proved so tardy in coming, and when it would
come. It did come with a rush. What more natural
than that he should believe it real instead of the
empty pageant of a vision?
It had taken me but a day and a night to pull
myself together after the first shock and surprise
and to plunge into the swim to help fetch the
waterlogged factions ashore. This was clearly
indispensable to forcing the Democratic organization to
come to the rescue of what would have been otherwise
but a derelict upon a stormy sea. Schurz was
deeply disgruntled. Before he could be appeased
a bridge, found in what was called the Fifth Avenue
Hotel Conference, had to be constructed in order to
carry him across the stream which flowed between
his disappointed hopes and aims and what appeared
to him an illogical and repulsive alternative. He
had taken to his tent and sulked like another
Achilles. He was harder to deal with than any of
the Democratic file leaders, but he finally yielded
and did splendid work in the campaign.
His was a stubborn spirit not readily adjustable.
He was a nobly gifted man, but from first to last an
alien in an alien land. He once said to me, "If I
should live a thousand years they would still call
me a Dutchman." No man of his time spoke so
well or wrote to better purpose. He was equally
skillful in debate, an overmatch for Conkling and
Morton, whom—especially in the French arms
matter—he completely dominated and outshone. As
sincere and unselfish, as patriotic and as courageous
as any of his contemporaries, he could never attain
the full measure of the popular heart and confidence,
albeit reaching its understanding directly
and surely; within himself a man of sentiment who
was not the cause of sentiment in others. He knew
this and felt it.
The Nast cartoons, which as to Greeley and
Sumner were unsparing in the last degree, whilst
treating Schurz with a kind of considerate qualifying
humor, nevertheless greatly offended him. I
do not think Greeley minded them much if at all.
They were very effective; notably the "Pirate
Ship," which represented Greeley leaning over the
taffrail of a vessel carrying the Stars and Stripes
and waving his handkerchief at the man-of-war
Uncle Sam in the distance, the political leaders of
the Confederacy dressed in true corsair costume
crouched below ready to spring. Nothing did more
to sectionalize Northern opinion and fire the Northern
heart, and to lash the fury of the rank and file
of those who were urged to vote as they had shot
and who had hoisted above them the Bloody Shirt
for a banner. The first half of the canvass the
bulge was with Greeley; the second half began in
eclipse, to end in something very like collapse.
The old man seized his flag and set out upon his
own account for a tour of the country. Right well
he bore himself. If speech-making ever does any
good toward the shaping of results Greeley's
speeches surely should have elected him. They were
marvels of impromptu oratory, mostly homely and
touching appeals to the better sense and the
magnanimity of a people not ripe or ready for
generous impressions; convincing in their simplicity
and integrity; unanswerable from any standpoint
of sagacious statesmanship or true patriotism if the
North had been in any mood to listen and to reason.
I met him at Cincinnati and acted as his escort to
Louisville and thence to Indianapolis, where others
were waiting to take him in charge. He was in a
state of querulous excitement. Before the vast and
noisy audiences which we faced he stood apparently
pleased and composed, delivering his words as he
might have dictated them to a stenographer. As
soon as we were alone he would break out into a
kind of lamentation, punctuated by occasional
bursts of objurgation. He especially distrusted the
Quadrilateral, making an exception in my case, as
well he might, because however his nomination had
jarred my judgment I had a real affection for him,
dating back to the years immediately preceding the
war when I was wont to encounter him in the
reporters' galleries at Washington, which he preferred
to using his floor privilege as an ex-member
It was mid-October. We had heard from Maine;
Indiana and Ohio had voted. He was for the first
time realizing the hopeless nature of the contest.
The South in irons and under military rule and
martial law sure for Grant, there had never been
any real chance. Now it was obvious that there
was to be no compensating ground swell at the
North. That he should pour forth his chagrin to
one whom he knew so well and even regarded as
one of his boys was inevitable. Much of what he
said was founded on a basis of fact, some of it was
mere suspicion and surmise, all of it came back to
the main point that defeat stared us in the face.
I was glad and yet loath to part with him. If ever
a man needed a strong friendly hand and heart to
lean upon he did during those dark days—the end
in darkest night nearer than anyone could divine.
He showed stronger mettle than had been allowed
him; bore a manlier part than was commonly ascribed
to the slovenly slipshod habiliments and the
aspects in which benignancy and vacillation seemed
to struggle for the ascendancy. Abroad the
elements conspired against him. At home his wife
lay ill, as it proved, unto death. The good gray
head he still carried like a hero, but the worn and
tender heart was beginning to break. Overwhelming
defeat was followed by overwhelming affliction.
He never quitted his dear one's bedside until the
last pulsebeat, and then he sank beneath the load
"The Tribune is gone and I am gone," he said,
and spoke no more.
The death of Greeley fell upon the country with
a sudden shock. It roused a universal sense of pity
and sorrow and awe. All hearts were hushed. In
an instant the bitterness of the campaign was
forgotten, though the huzzas of the victors still rent
the air. The President, his late antagonist, with his
cabinet and the leading members of the two Houses
of Congress, attended his funeral. As he lay in his
coffin he was no longer the arch rebel, leading a
combine of buccaneers and insurgents, which the
Republican orators and newspapers had depicted
him, but the brave old apostle of freedom who had
done more than all others to make the issues upon
which a militant and triumphant party had risen
The multitude remembered only the old white
hat and the sweet old baby face beneath it, heart
of gold, and hand wielding the wizard pen; the
incarnation of probity and kindness, of steadfast
devotion to his duty as he saw it, and to the needs of
the whole human family. A tragedy in truth it was;
and yet as his body was lowered into its grave there
rose above it, invisible, unnoted, a flower of matchless
beauty—the flower of peace and love between
the sections of the Union to which his life had been
The crank convention had builded wiser than it
knew. That the Democratic Party could ever have
been brought to the support of Horace Greeley for
President of the United States reads even now like
a page out of a nonsense book. That his warmest
support should have come from the South seems
incredible and was a priceless fact. His martyrdom
shortened the distance across the bloody chasm; his
coffin very nearly filled it. The candidacy of
Charles Francis Adams or of Lyman Trumbull
meant a mathematical formula, with no solution of
the problem and as certain defeat at the end of it.
His candidacy threw a flood of light and warmth
into the arena of deadly strife; it made a more equal
and reasonable division of parties possible; it put
the Southern half of the country in a position to
plead its own case by showing the Northern half
that it was not wholly recalcitrant or reactionary;
and it made way for real issues of pith and moment
relating to the time instead of pigments of bellicose
passion and scraps of ante-bellum controversy.
In a word Greeley did more by his death to complete
the work of Lincoln than he could have done
by a triumph at the polls and the term in the White
House he so much desired. Though but sixty-one
years of age, his race was run. Of him it may be
truly written that he lived a life full of inspiration
to his countrymen and died not in vain, "our later
Franklin" fittingly inscribed upon his tomb.
CHAPTER THE TWELFTH
THE IDEAL IN PUBLIC LIFE—POLITICIANS, STATESMEN
AND PHILOSOPHERS—THE DISPUTED PRESIDENCY
IN 1876-7—THE PERSONALITY AND
CHARACTER OF MR. TILDEN—HIS ELECTION AND
EXCLUSION BY A PARTISAN TRIBUNAL
THE soul of journalism is disinterestedness.
But neither as a principle nor an asset had
this been generally discovered fifty years ago. Most
of my younger life I was accused of ulterior motives
of political ambition, whereas I had seen too much
of preferment not to abhor it. To me, as to my
father, office has seemed ever a badge of servitude.
For a long time, indeed, I nursed the delusions of
the ideal. The love of the ideal has not in my old
age quite deserted me. But I have seen the claim
of it so much abused that when a public man calls
it for a witness I begin to suspect his sincerity.
A virile old friend of mine—who lived in Texas,
though he went there from Rhode Island—used to
declare with sententious emphasis that war is the
state of man. "Sir," he was wont to observe,
addressing me as if I were personally accountable,
"you are emasculating the human species. You
are changing men into women and women into men.
You are teaching everybody to read, nobody to
think; and do you know where you will end, sir?
Extermination, sir—extermination! On the north
side of the North Pole there is another world
peopled by giants; ten thousand millions at the
very least; every giant of them a hundred feet high.
Now about the time you have reduced your universe
to complete effeminacy some fool with a pickaxe
will break through the thin partition—the mere
ice curtain—separating these giants from us, and
then they will sweep through and swoop down and
swallow you, sir, and the likes of you, with your
topsy-turvy civilization, your boasted literature and
science and art!"
This old friend of mine had a sure recipe for
success in public life. "Whenever you get up to make
a speech," said he, "begin by proclaiming yourself
the purest, the most disinterested of living men, and
end by intimating that you are the bravest;" and
then with the charming inconsistency of the dreamer
he would add: "If there be anything on this earth
that I despise it is bluster."
Decidedly he was not a disciple of Ralph Waldo
Emerson. Yet he, too, in his way was an idealist,
and for all his oddity a man of intellectual integrity,
a trifle exaggerated perhaps in its methods and
illustrations, but true to his convictions of right
and duty, as Emerson would have had him be. For
was it not Emerson who exclaimed, "We will walk
on our own feet; we will work with our own hands;
we will speak our own minds?"
In spite of our good Woodrow and our lamented
Theodore I have quite made up my mind that there
is no such thing as the ideal in public life, construing
public life to refer to political transactions.
The ideal may exist in art and letters, and sometimes
very young men imagine that it exists in very
young women. But here we must draw the line.
As society is constituted the ideal has no place, not
even standing room, in the arena of civics.
If we would make a place for it we must begin
by realizing this. The painter, like the lover, is a
law unto himself, with his little picture—the poet,
also, with his little rhyme—his atelier his universe,
his attic his field of battle, his weapons the utensils
of his craft—he himself his own Providence.
It is not so in the world of action, where the conditions
are directly reversed; where the one player
contends against many players, seen and unseen;
where each move is met by some counter-move;
where the finest touches are often unnoted of men or
rudely blotted out by a mysterious hand stretched
forth from the darkness.
"I wish I could be as sure of anything," said
Melbourne, "as Tom Macaulay is of everything."
Melbourne was a man of affairs, Macaulay a man
of books; and so throughout the story the men of
action have been fatalists, from Cæsar to Napoleon
and Bismarck, nothing certain except the invisible
player behind the screen.
Of all human contrivances the most imperfect is
government. In spite of the essays of Bentham
and Mill the science of government has yet to be
discovered. The ideal statesman can only exist in
the ideal state, which has never existed.
The politician, like the poor, we have always with
us. As long as men delegate to other men the
function of acting for them, of thinking for them,
we shall continue to have him.
He is a variable quantity. In the crowded centers
his distinguishing marks are short hair and
cunning; upon the frontier, sentiment and the
six-shooter! In New York he becomes a boss; in
Kentucky and Texas, a fighter and an orator. But
the statesman—the ideal statesman—in the mind's
eye, Horatio! Bound by practical limitations such
an anomaly would be a statesman minus a party, a
statesman who never gets any votes or anywhere
—a statesman perpetually out of a job. We have
had some imitation ideal statesmen who have been
more or less successful in palming off their pinchbeck
wares for the real; but looking backward over
the history of the country we shall find the greatest
among our public men—measuring greatness by
real and useful service—to have been while they
lived least regarded as idealists; for they were
men of flesh and blood, who amid the rush of
events and the calls to duty could not stop to paint
pictures, to consider sensibilities, to put forth the
deft hand where life and death hung upon the
stroke of a bludgeon or the swinging of a club.
Washington was not an ideal statesman, nor
Hamilton, nor Jefferson, nor Lincoln, though each
of them conceived grandly and executed nobly.
They loved truth for truth's sake, even as they
loved their country. Yet no one of them ever quite
attained his conception of it.
Truth indeed is ideal. But when we come to
adapt and apply it, how many faces it shows us,
what varying aspects, so that he is fortunate who
is able to catch and hold a single fleeting expression.
To bridle this and saddle it, and, as we say
in Kentucky, to ride it a turn or two around the
paddock or, still better, down the home-stretch of
things accomplished, is another matter. The real
statesman must often do as he can, not as he would;
the ideal statesman existing only in the credulity
of those simple souls who are captivated by appearances
or deceived by professions.
The nearest approach to the ideal statesman I
have known was most grossly stigmatized while he
lived. I have Mr. Tilden in mind. If ever man
pursued an ideal life he did. From youth to age
he dwelt amid his fancies. He was truly a man of
the world among men of letters and a man of
letters among men of the world. A philosopher pure
and simple—a lover of books, of pictures, of all
things beautiful and elevating—he yet attained
great riches, and being a doctrinaire and having a
passion for affairs he was able to gratify the
aspirations to eminence and the yearning to be of
service to the State which had filled his heart.
He seemed a medley of contradiction. Without
the artifices usual to the practical politician he
gradually rose to be a power in his party; thence to
become the leader of a vast following, his name a
shibboleth to millions of his countrymen, who
enthusiastically supported him and who believed that
he was elected Chief Magistrate of the United
States. He was an idealist; he lost the White
House because he was so, though represented while
he lived by his enemies as a scheming spider weaving
his web amid the coil of mystification in which
he hid himself. For he was personally known to
few in the city where he had made his abode; a
great lawyer and jurist who rarely appeared in
court; a great political leader to whom the hustings
were mainly a stranger; a thinker, and yet a
dreamer, who lived his own life a little apart, as a
poet might; uncorrupting and incorruptible; least
of all were his political companions moved by the
loss of the presidency, which had seemed in his
grasp. And finally he died—though a master of
legal lore—to have his last will and testament
Except as news venders the newspapers—especially
newspaper workers—should give politics a
wide berth. Certainly they should have no party
politics. True to say, journalism and literature
and politics are as wide apart as the poles. From
Bolingbroke, the most splendid of the world's failures,
to Thackeray, one of its greatest masters of
letters—who happily did not get the chance he
sought in parliamentary life to fall—both English
history and American history are full of illustrations
to this effect. Except in the comic opera of
French politics the poet, the artist, invested with
power, seems to lose his efficiency in the ratio of his
genius; the literary gift, instead of aiding, actually
antagonizing the aptitude for public business.
The statesman may not be fastidious. The poet,
the artist, must be always so. If the party leader
preserve his integrity—if he keep himself disinterested
and clean—if his public influence be inspiring
to his countrymen and his private influence
obstructive of cheats and rogues among his adherents
—he will have done well.
We have left behind us the gibbet and the stake.
No further need of the Voltaires, the Rousseaus and
the Diderots to declaim against kingcraft and
priestcraft. We have done something more than
mark time. We report progress. Yet despite the
miracles of modern invention how far in the arts of
government has the world traveled from darkness
to light since the old tribal days, and what has it
learned except to enlarge the area, to amplify and
augment the agencies, to multiply and complicate
the forms and processes of corruption? By corruption
I mean the dishonest advantage of the few
over the many.
The dreams of yesterday, we are told, become the
realities of to-morrow. In these despites I am an
optimist. Much truly there needs still to be learned,
much to be unlearned. Advanced as we consider
ourselves we are yet a long way from the most
rudimentary perception of the civilization we are so fond
of parading. The eternal verities—where shall we
seek them? Little in religious affairs, less still in
commercial affairs, hardly any at all in political
affairs, that being right which represents each organism.
Still we progress. The pulpit begins to turn
from the sinister visage of theology and to teach
the simple lessons of Christ and Him crucified. The
press, which used to be omniscient, is now only
indiscriminate—a clear gain, emitting by force of
publicity, if not of shine, a kind of light through
whose diverse rays and foggy luster we may now
and then get a glimpse of truth.
The time is coming, if it has not already arrived,
when among fair-minded and intelligent Americans
there will not be two opinions touching the
Hayes-Tilden contest for the presidency in 1876-77—that
both by the popular vote and a fair count of the
electoral vote Tilden was elected and Hayes was
defeated; but the whole truth underlying the determinate
incidents which led to the rejection of Tilden
and the seating of Hayes will never be known.
"All history is a lie," observed Sir Robert Walpole,
the corruptionist, mindfull of what was likely
to be written about himself; and "What is history,"
asked Napoleon, the conqueror, "but a fable agreed
In the first administration of Mr. Cleveland
there were present at a dinner table in Washington,
the President being of the party, two leading
Democrats and two leading Republicans who had
sustained confidential relations to the principals
and played important parts in the drama of the
Disputed Succession. These latter had been long
upon terms of personal intimacy. The occasion was
informal and joyous, the good fellowship of the
Inevitably the conversation drifted to the Electoral
Commission, which had counted Tilden out
and Hayes in, and of which each of the four had
some story to tell. Beginning in banter with
interchanges of badinage it presently fell into
reminiscence, deepening as the interest of the listeners
rose to what under different conditions might have
been described as unguarded gayety if not imprudent
garrulity. The little audience was rapt.
Finally Mr. Cleveland raised both hands and
exclaimed, "What would the people of this country
think if the roof could be lifted from this house and
they could hear these men?" And then one of the
four, a gentleman noted for his wealth both of
money and humor, replied, "But the roof is not
going to be lifted from this house, and if any one
repeats what I have said I will denounce him as a
Once in a while the world is startled by some
revelation of the unknown which alters the estimate
of a historic event or figure; but it is measurably
true, as Metternich declares, that those who make
history rarely have time to write it.
It is not my wish in recurring to the events of
nearly five-and-forty years ago to invoke and
awaken any of the passions of that time, nor my
purpose to assail the character or motives of any
of the leading actors. Most of them, including the
principals, I knew well; to many of their secrets
I was privy. As I was serving, in a sense, as Mr.
Tilden's personal representative in the Lower
House of the Forty-fourth Congress, and as a
member of the joint Democratic Advisory or Steering
Committee of the two Houses, all that passed
came more or less, if not under my supervision, yet
to my knowledge; and long ago I resolved that
certain matters should remain a sealed book in my
I make no issue of veracity with the living; the
dead should be sacred. The contradictory promptings,
not always crooked; the double constructions
possible to men's actions; the intermingling of
ambition and patriotism beneath the lash of party
spirit; often wrong unconscious of itself; sometimes
equivocation deceiving itself—in short, the
tangled web of good and ill inseparable from great
affairs of loss and gain made debatable ground for
every step of the Hayes-Tilden proceeding.
I shall bear sure testimony to the integrity of
Mr. Tilden. I directly know that the presidency
was offered to him for a price, and that he refused
it; and I indirectly know and believe that two
other offers came to him, which also he declined.
The accusation that he was willing to buy, and
through the cipher dispatches and other ways tried
to buy, rests upon appearance supporting mistaken
surmise. Mr. Tilden knew nothing of the cipher
dispatches until they appeared in the New York
Tribune. Neither did Mr. George W. Smith, his
private secretary, and later one of the trustees of
It should be sufficient to say that so far as they
involved No. 15 Gramercy Park they were the work
solely of Colonel Pelton, acting on his own
responsibility, and as Mr. Tilden's nephew exceeding his
authority to act; that it later developed that during
this period Colonel Pelton had not been in his
perfect mind, but was at least semi-irresponsible;
and that on two
ocasions when the vote or votes
sought seemed within reach Mr. Tilden interposed
to forbid. Directly and personally I know this to
The price, at least in patronage, which the
Republicans actually paid for possession is of public
record. Yet I not only do not question the integrity
of Mr. Hayes, but I believe him and most of
those immediately about him to have been high-minded
men who thought they were doing for the
best in a situation unparalleled and beset with
perplexity. What they did tends to show that men
will do for party and in concert what the same men
never would be willing to do each on his own
responsibility. In his "Life of Samuel J. Tilden,"
John Bigelow says:
"Why persons occupying the most exalted positions
should have ventured to compromise their
reputations by this deliberate consummation of a
series of crimes which struck at the very foundations
of the republic is a question which still puzzles
many of all parties who have no charity for the
crimes themselves. I have already referred to the
terrors and desperation with which the prospect of
Tilden's election inspired the great army of office-holders
at the close of Grant's administration. That
army, numerous and formidable as it was, was
comparatively limited. There was a much larger and
influential class who were apprehensive that
the return of the Democratic party to power threatened
a reactionary policy at Washington, to the undoing
of some or all the important results of the
war. These apprehensions were inflamed by the
party press until they were confined to no class,
but more or less pervaded all the Northern States.
The Electoral Tribunal, consisting mainly of men
appointed to their positions by Republican Presidents
or elected from strong Republican States, felt
the pressure of this feeling, and from motives
compounded in more or less varying proportions of
dread of the Democrats, personal ambition, zeal for
their party and respect for their constituents,
reached the conclusion that the exclusion of Tilden
from the White House was an end which justified
whatever means were necessary to accomplish it.
They regarded it, like the emancipation of the
slaves, as a war measure."
The nomination of Horace Greeley in 1872 and
the overwhelming defeat that followed left the
Democratic party in an abyss of despair. The old
Whig party, after the disaster that overtook it in
1852, had been not more demoralized. Yet in the
general elections of 1874 the Democrats swept the
country, carrying many Northern States and sending
a great majority to the Forty-fourth Congress.
Reconstruction was breaking down of its very
weight and rottenness. The panic of 1873 reacted
against the party in power. Dissatisfaction with
Grant, which had not sufficed two years before to
displace him, was growing apace. Favoritism bred
corruption and corruption grew more and more
flagrant. Succeeding scandals cast their shadows
before. Chickens of carpetbaggery let loose upon
the South were coming home to roost at the North.
There appeared everywhere a noticeable subsidence
of the sectional spirit. Reform was needed alike in
the State Governments and the National Government,
and the cry for reform proved something
other than an idle word. All things made for
Yet there were many and serious handicaps. The
light and leading of the historic Democratic party
which had issued from the South were in obscurity
and abeyance, while most of those surviving who
had been distinguished in the party conduct and
counsels were disabled by act of Congress. Of the
few prominent Democrats left at the North many
were tainted by what was called Copperheadism—
sympathy with the Confederacy. To find a chieftain
wholly free from this contamination, Democracy,
having failed of success in presidential campaigns,
not only with Greeley but with McClellan
and Seymour, was turning to such Republicans as
Chase, Field and Davis. At last heaven seemed to
smile from the clouds upon the disordered ranks
and to summon thence a man meeting the requirements
of the time. This was Samuel Jones Tilden.
To his familiars Mr. Tilden was a dear old
bachelor who lived in a fine old mansion in
Gramercy Park. Though 60 years old he seemed in the
prime of his manhood; a genial and overflowing
scholar; a trained and earnest doctrinaire; a
public-spirited, patriotic citizen, well known and highly
esteemed, who had made fame and fortune at the
bar and had always been interested in public affairs.
He was a dreamer with a genius for business,
a philosopher yet an organizer. He pursued
the tenor of his life with measured tread.
His domestic fabric was disfigured by none of the
isolation and squalor which so often attend the
confirmed celibate. His home life was a model of
order and decorum, his home as unchallenged as a
bishopric, its hospitality, though select, profuse and
untiring. An elder sister presided at his board, as
simple, kindly and unostentatious, but as methodical
as himself. He was a lover of books rather
than music and art, but also of horses and dogs and
He was fond of young people, particularly of
young girls; he drew them about him, and was a
veritable Sir Roger de Coverley in his gallantries
toward them and his zeal in amusing them and making
them happy. His tastes were frugal and their
indulgence was sparing. He took his wine not
plenteously, though he enjoyed it—especially his
"blue seal" while it lasted—and sipped his
whisky-and-water on occasion with a pleased composure
redolent of discursive talk, of which, when he cared
to lead the conversation, he was a master. He had
early come into a great legal practice and held a
commanding professional position. His judgment
was believed to be infallible; and it is certain that
after 1871 he rarely appeared in the courts of law
except as counsellor, settling in chambers most of
the cases that came to him.
It was such a man whom, in 1874, the Democrats
nominated for Governor of New York. To say
truth, it was not thought by those making the
nomination that he had any chance to win. He
was himself so much better advised that months
ahead he prefigured very near the exact vote. The
afternoon of the day of election one of the group
of friends, who even thus early had the Presidency
in mind, found him in his library confident and
"What majority will you have?" he asked
"Any," replied the friend sententiously.
"How about fifteen thousand?"
"The majority," he said, "will be a little in
excess of fifty thousand."
It was 53,315. His estimate was not guesswork.
He had organized his campaign by school districts.
His canvass system was perfect, his canvassers were
as penetrating and careful as census takers. He
had before him reports from every voting precinct
in the State. They were corroborated by the official
returns. He had defeated Gen. John A. Dix,
thought to be invincible by a majority very nearly
the same as that by which Governor Dix had been
elected two years before.
The time and the man had met. Though Mr.
Tilden had not before held executive office he was
ripe and ready for the work. His experience in
the pursuit and overthrow of the Tweed Ring in
New York, the great metropolis, had prepared and
fitted him to deal with the Canal Ring at Albany,
the State capital. Administrative reform was now
uppermost in the public mind, and here in the
Empire State of the Union had come to the head of
affairs a Chief Magistrate at once exact and exacting,
deeply versed not only in legal lore but in a
knowledge of the methods by which political power
was being turned to private profit and of the men—
Democrats as well as Republicans—who were preying
upon the substance of the people.
The story of the two years that followed relates
to investigations that investigated, to prosecutions
that convicted, to the overhauling of popular
censorship, to reduced estimates and lower taxes.
The campaign for the Presidential nomination
began as early as the autumn of 1875. The Southern
end of it was easy enough. A committee of
Southerners residing in New York was formed.
Never a leading Southern man came to town who
was not "seen." If of enough importance he was
taken to No. 15 Gramercy Park. Mr. Tilden measured
to the Southern standard of the gentleman in
politics. He impressed the disfranchised Southern
leaders as a statesman of the old order and
altogether after their own ideas of what a President
ought to be.
The South came to St. Louis, the seat of the
National Convention, represented by its foremost
citizens, and almost a unit for the Governor of New
York. The main opposition sprang from Tammany
Hall, of which John Kelly was then the chief.
Its very extravagance proved an advantage to
Two days before the meeting of the convention
I sent this message to Mr. Tilden: "Tell Blackstone"—
his favorite riding horse—"that he wins in
The anti-Tilden men put up the Hon. S. S.—
"Sunset"—Cox for temporary chairman. It was
a clever move. Mr. Cox, though sure for Tammany,
was popular everywhere and especially at
the South. His backers thought that with him they
could count a majority of the National Committee.
The night before the assembling Mr. Tilden's two
or three leading friends on the committee came to
me and said: "We can elect you chairman over
Cox, but no one else."
I demurred at once. "I don't know one rule of
parliamentary law from another," I said.
"We will have the best parliamentarian on the
continent right by you all the time," they said.
"I can't see to recognize a man on the floor of
the convention," I said.
"We'll have a dozen men at hand to tell you,"
they replied. So it was arranged, and thus at the
last moment I was chosen.
I had barely time to write the required keynote
speech, but not enough to commit it to memory;
nor sight to read it, even had I been willing to
adopt that mode of delivery. It would not do to
trust to extemporization. A friend, Col. J. Stoddard
Johnston, who was familiar with my penmanship,
came to the rescue. Concealing my manuscript
behind his hat he lined the words out to me
between the cheering, I having mastered a few
Luck was with me. It went with a bang—not,
however, wholly without detection. The Indianans,
devoted to Hendricks, were very wroth.
"See that fat man behind the hat telling him
what to say," said one to his neighbor, who
answered, "Yes, and wrote it for him, too, I'll be
One might as well attempt to drive six horses by
proxy as preside over a national convention by
hearsay. I lost my parliamentarian at once. I just
made my parliamentary law as we went. Never
before or since did any deliberate body proceed
under manual so startling and original. But I
delivered each ruling with a resonance—it were
better called an impudence—which had an air of
authority. There was a good deal of quiet laughter
on the floor among the knowing ones, though I
knew the mass was as ignorant as I was myself;
but realizing that I meant to be just and was
expediting business the convention soon warmed to
me, and feeling this I began to be perfectly at
home. I never had a better day's sport in all my
One incident was particularly amusing. Much
against my will and over my protest I was brought
to promise that Miss Phoebe Couzins, who bore a
Woman's Rights Memorial, should at some opportune
moment be given the floor to present it. I
foresaw what a row it was bound to occasion.
Toward noon, when there was a lull in the
proceedings, I said with an emphasis meant to carry
conviction: "Gentlemen of the convention, Miss
Phoebe Couzins, a representative of the Woman's
Association of America, has a memorial from that
body, and in the absence of other business the chair
will now recognize her."
Instantly and from every part of the hall arose
cries of "No!" These put some heart into me.
Many a time as a schoolboy I had proudly
declaimed the passage from John Home's tragedy,
"My Name is Norval." Again I stood upon "the
Grampian hills." The committee was escorting
Miss Couzins dawn the aisle. When she came within
the radius of my poor vision I saw that she was
a beauty and dressed to kill.
That was reassurance. Gaining a little time
while the hall fairly rocked with its thunder of
negation I laid the gavel down and stepped to the
edge of the platform and gave Miss Couzins my
As she appeared above the throng there was a
momentary "Ah!" and then a lull, broken by a
"Mister Chairman. I rise to a point of order."
Leading Miss Couzins to the front of the stage
I took up the gavel and gave a gentle rap, saying:
"The gentleman will take his seat."
"But, Mister Chairman, I rose to a point of
order," he vociferated.
"The gentleman will take his seat instantly," I
answered in a tone of one about to throw the gavel
at his head. "No point of order is in order when a
lady has the floor."
After that Miss Couzins received a positive ovation
and having delivered her message retired in a
blaze of glory.
Mr. Tilden was nominated on the second ballot.
The campaign that followed proved one of the most
memorable in our history. When it came to an end
the result showed on the face of the returns 196
in the Electoral College, eleven more than a
majority; and in the popular vote 4,300,316, a
majority of 264,300 for Tilden over Hayes.
How this came to be first contested and then
complicated so as ultimately to be set aside has been
minutely related by its authors. The newspapers,
both Republican and Democratic, of November 8,
1876, the morning after the election, conceded an
overwhelming victory for Tilden and Hendricks.
There was, however, a single exception. The New
York Times had gone to press with its first edition,
leaving the result in doubt but inclining toward the
success of the Democrats. In its later editions this
tentative attitude was changed to the statement
that Mr. Hayes lacked the vote of Florida—
"claimed by the Republicans"—to be sure of the
required votes in the Electoral College.
The story of this surprising discrepancy between
midnight and daylight reads like a chapter of
After the early edition of the Times had gone to
press certain members of the editorial staff were at
supper, very much cast down by the returns, when
a messenger brought a telegram from Senator
Barnum, of Connecticut, financial head of the
Democratic National Committee, asking for the
Times' latest news from Oregon, Louisiana,
Florida and South Carolina. But for that
unlucky telegram Tilden would probably have been
inaugurated President of the United States.
The Times people, intense Republican partisans,
at once saw an opportunity. If Barnum did not
know, why might not a doubt be raised? At once
the editorial in the first edition was revised to take
a decisive tone and declare the election of Hayes.
One of the editorial council, Mr. John C. Reid,
hurried to Republican headquarters in the Fifth
Avenue Hotel, which he found deserted, the
triumph of Tilden having long before sent everybody
to bed. Mr. Reid then sought the room of
Senator Zachariah Chandler, chairman of the
National Republican Committee.
While upon this errand he encountered in the
hotel corridor "a small man wearing an enormous
pair of goggles, his hat drawn over his ears, a greatcoat
with a heavy military cloak, and carrying a
gripsack and newspaper in his hand. The
newspaper was the New York Tribune," announcing
the election of Tilden and the defeat of Hayes. The
newcomer was Mr. William E. Chandler, even then
a very prominent Republican politician, just
arrived from New Hampshire and very much
exasperated by what he had read.
Mr. Reid had another tale to tell. The two
found Mr. Zachariah Chandler, who bade them
leave him alone and do whatever they thought best.
They did so, consumingly, sending telegrams to
Columbia, Tallahassee and New Orleans, stating
to each of the parties addressed that the result of
the election depended upon his State. To these was
appended the signature of Zachariah Chandler.
Later in the day Senator Chandler, advised of
what had been set on foot and its possibilities,
issued from National Republican headquarters this
laconic message: "Hayes has 185 electoral votes
and is elected."
Thus began and was put in motion the scheme to
confuse the returns and make a disputed count of
The day after the election I wired Mr. Tilden
suggesting that as Governor of New York he
propose to Mr. Hayes, the Governor of Ohio, that they
unite upon a committee of eminent citizens, composed
in equal numbers of the friends of each, who
should proceed at once to Louisiana, which
appeared to be the objective point of greatest moment
to the already contested result. Pursuant to a
telegraphic correspondence which followed, I left
Louisville that night for New Orleans. I was joined
en route by Mr. Lamar and General Walthal, of
Mississippi, and together we arrived in the
Crescent City Friday morning.
It has since transpired that the Republicans were
promptly advised by the Western Union Telegraph
Company of all that had passed over its wires, my
dispatches to Mr. Tilden being read in Republican
headquarters at least as soon as they reached
Mr. Tilden did not adopt the plan of a direct
proposal to Mr. Hayes. Instead he chose a body
of Democrats to go to the "seat of war." But
before any of them had arrived General Grant, the
actual President, anticipating what was about to
happen, appointed a body of Republicans for the
like purpose, and the advance guard of these
appeared on the scene the following Monday.
Within a week the St. Charles Hotel might have
been mistaken for a caravansary of the national
capital. Among the Republicans were John Sherman,
Stanley Matthews, Garfield, Evarts, Logan,
Kelley, Stoughton, and many others. Among the
Democrats, besides Lamar, Walthal and myself,
came Lyman Trumbull, Samuel J. Randall,
William R. Morrison, McDonald, of Indiana, and
A certain degree of personal intimacy existed
between the members of the two groups, and the
"entente" was quite as unrestrained as might have
existed between rival athletic teams. A Kentucky
friend sent me a demijohn of what was represented
as very old Bourbon, and I divided it with "our
friends the enemy." New Orleans was new to most
of the "visiting statesmen," and we attended the
places of amusement, lived in the restaurants, and
saw the sights as if we had been tourists in a foreign
land and not partisans charged with the business
of adjusting a Presidential election from implacable
points of view.
My own relations were especially friendly with
John Sherman and James A. Garfield, a colleague
on the Committee of Ways and Means, and with
Stanley Matthews, a near kinsman by marriage,
who had stood as an elder brother to me from my
Corruption was in the air. That the Returning
Board was for sale and could be bought was the
universal impression. Every day some one turned
up with pretended authority and an offer to sell.
Most of these were, of course, the merest
adventurers. It was my own belief that the Returning
Board was playing for the best price it could get
from the Republicans and that the only effect of
any offer to buy on our part would be to assist this
scheme of blackmail.
The Returning Board consisted of two white
men, Wells and Anderson; and two negroes,
Kenner and Casanave. One and all they were without
character. I was tempted through sheer curiosity
to listen to a proposal which seemed to come direct
from the board itself, the messenger being a well-known
State Senator. As if he were proposing to
dispose of a horse or a dog he stated his errand.
"You think you can deliver the goods?" said I.
"I am authorized to make the offer," he
"And for how much?" I asked.
"Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars," he
replied. "One hundred thousand each for Wells
and Anderson, and twenty-five thousand apiece for
To my mind it was a joke. "Senator," said I,
"the terms are as cheap as dirt. I don't happen
to have the amount about me at the moment, but
I will communicate with my principal and see you
Having no thought of entertaining the proposal,
I had forgotten the incident, when two or three
days later my man met me in the lobby of the hotel
and pressed for a definite reply. I then told him
I had found that I possessed no authority to act
and advised him to go elsewhere.
It is asserted that Wells and Anderson did agree
to sell and were turned down by Mr. Hewitt; and,
being refused their demands for cash by the Democrats,
took their final pay, at least in patronage,
from their own party.
I passed the Christmas week of 1876 in New
York with Mr. Tilden. On Christmas day we dined
alone. The outlook, on the whole, was cheering.
With John Bigelow and Manton Marble, Mr. Tilden
had been busily engaged compiling the data for
a constitutional battle to be fought by the Democrats
in Congress, maintaining the right of the
House of Representatives to concurrent jurisdiction
with the Senate in the counting of the electoral
vote, pursuant to an unbroken line of precedents
established by that method of proceeding in
every presidential election between 1793 and 1872.
There was very great perplexity in the public
mind. Both parties appeared to be at sea. The
dispute between the Democratic House and the
Republican Senate made for thick weather. Contests
of the vote of three States—Louisiana, South Carolina
and Florida, not to mention single votes in
Oregon and Vermont—which presently began to
blow a gale, had already spread menacing clouds
across the political sky. Except Mr. Tilden, the
wisest among the leaders knew not precisely what
From New Orleans, on the Saturday night succeeding
the presidential election, I had telegraphed
to Mr. Tilden detailing the exact conditions there
and urging active and immediate agitation. The
chance had been lost. I thought then and I still
think that the conspiracy of a few men to use the
corrupt returning boards of Louisiana, South Carolina
and Florida to upset the election and make confusion
in Congress might by prompt exposure and
popular appeal have been thwarted. Be this as it
may, my spirit was depressed and my confidence
discouraged by the intense quietude on our side, for
I was sure that beneath the surface the Republicans,
with resolute determination and multiplied
resources, were as busy as bees.
Mr. Robert M. McLane, later Governor of
Maryland and later still Minister to France—a
man of rare ability and large
expreience, who had
served in Congress and in diplomacy, and was an
old friend of Mr. Tilden—had been at a Gramercy
Park conference when my New Orleans report
arrived, and had then and there urged the agitation
recommended by me. He was now again in New
York. When a lad he had been in England with
his father, Lewis McLane, then American Minister
to the Court of St. James, during the excitement
over the Reform Bill of 1832. He had witnessed
the popular demonstrations and had been impressed
by the direct force of public opinion upon
law-making and law-makers. An analogous situation
had arrived in America. The Republican Senate
was as the Tory House of Lords. We must organize
a movement such as had been so effectual
in England. Obviously something was going amiss
with us and something had to be done.
It was agreed that I should return to Washington
and make a speech "feeling the pulse" of the
country, with the suggestion that in the National
Capital should assemble "a mass convention of at
least 100,000 peaceful citizens," exercising "the
freeman's right of petition."
The idea was one of many proposals of a more
drastic kind and was the merest venture. I myself
had no great faith in it. But I prepared the speech,
and after much reading and revising, it was held by
Mr. Tilden and Mr. McLane to cover the case and
meet the purpose, Mr. Tilden writing Mr. Randall,
Speaker of the House of Representatives, a letter,
carried to Washington by Mr. McLane, instructing
him what to do in the event that the popular
response should prove favorable.
Alack the day! The Democrats were equal to
nothing affirmative. The Republicans were united
and resolute. I delivered the speech, not in the
House, as had been intended, but at a public meeting
which seemed opportune. The Democrats at
once set about denying the sinister and violent
purpose ascribed to it by the Republicans, who, fully
advised that it had emanated from Gramercy Park
and came by authority, started a counter agitation
of their own.
I became the target for every kind of ridicule and
abuse. Nast drew a grotesque cartoon of me, distorting
my suggestion for the assembling of 100,000
citizens, which was both offensive and libellous.
Being on friendly terms with the Harpers, I made
my displeasure so resonant in Franklin Square—
Nast himself having no personal ill will toward me
—that a curious and pleasing opportunity which
came to pass was taken to make amends. A son
having been born to me, Harper's Weekly contained
an atoning cartoon representing the child in
its father's arms, and, above, the legend "10,000
sons from Kentucky alone." Some wag said that
the son in question was "the only one of the 100,000
in arms who came when he was called."
For many years afterward I was pursued by
this unlucky speech, or rather by the misinterpretation
given to it alike by friend and foe. Nast's first
cartoon was accepted as a faithful portrait, and I
was accordingly satirized and stigmatized, though
no thought of violence ever had entered my mind,
and in the final proceedings I had voted for the
Electoral Commission Bill and faithfully stood by
its decisions. Joseph Pulitzer, who immediately
followed me on the occasion named, declared that
he wanted my "one hundred thousand" to come
fully armed and ready for business; yet he never
was taken to task or reminded of his temerity.
The Electoral Commission Bill was considered
with great secrecy by the joint committees of the
House and Senate. Its terms were in direct
contravention of Mr. Tilden's plan. This was
simplicity itself. He was for asserting by formal
resolution the conclusive right of the two Houses
acting concurrently to count the electoral vote and
determine what should be counted as electoral votes;
and for denying, also by formal resolution, the
pretension set up by the Republicans that the
President of the Senate had lawful right to assume that
function. He was for urging that issue in debate
in both Houses and before the country. He thought
that if the attempt should be made to usurp for
the president of the Senate a power to make the
count, and thus practically to control the Presidential
election, the scheme would break down in
process of execution.
Strange to say, Mr. Tilden was not consulted by
the party leaders in Congress until the fourteenth
of January, and then only by Mr. Hewitt, the extra
constitutional features of the electoral-tribunal
measure having already received the assent of Mr.
Bayard and Mr. Thurman, the Democratic members
of the Senate committee.
Standing by his original plan and answering
Mr. Hewitt's statement that Mr. Bayard and Mr.
Thurman were fully committed, Mr. Tilden said:
"Is it not, then, rather late to consult me?"
To which Mr. Hewitt replied: "They do not consult
you. They are public men, and have their own
duties and responsibilities. I consult you."
In the course of the discussion with Mr. Hewitt
which followed Mr. Tilden said: "If you go into
conference with your adversary, and can't break off
because you feel you must agree to something, you
cannot negotiate—you are not fit to negotiate.
You will be beaten upon every detail."
Replying to the apprehension of a collision of
force between the parties Mr. Tilden thought it
exaggerated, but said: "Why surrender now? You
can always surrender. Why surrender before the
battle for fear you may have to surrender after the
In short, Mr. Tilden condemned the proceeding
as precipitate. It was a month before the time for
the count, and he saw no reason why opportunity
should not be given for consideration and consultation
by all the representatives of the people. He
treated the state of mind of Bayard and Thurman
as a panic in which they were liable to act in haste
and repent at leisure. He stood for publicity and
wider discussion, distrusting a scheme to submit
such vast interests to a small body sitting in the
Capitol as likely to become the sport of intrigue and
Mr. Hewitt returned to Washington and without
communicating to Mr. Tilden's immediate
friends in the House his attitude and objection,
united with Mr. Thurman and Mr. Bayard in completing
the bill and reporting it to the Democratic
Advisory Committee, as, by a caucus rule, had to
be done with all measures relating to the great issue
then before us. No intimation had preceded it. It
fell like a bombshell upon the members of the
In the debate that followed Mr. Bayard was very
insistent, answering the objections at once offered
by me, first aggressively and then angrily, going the
length of saying, "If you do not accept this plan I
shall wash my hands of the whole business, and
you can go ahead and seat your President in your
Mr. Randall, the Speaker, said nothing, but he
was with me, as were a majority of my colleagues.
It was Mr. Hunton, of Virginia, who poured oil
on the troubled waters, and somewhat in doubt as
to whether the changed situation had changed Mr.
Tilden I yielded my better judgment, declaring it
as my opinion that the plan would seat Hayes; and
there being no other protestant the committee
finally gave a reluctant assent.
In open session a majority of Democrats favored
the bill. Many of them made it their own. They
passed it. There was belief that Justice David
Davis, who was expected to become a member of
the commission, was sure for Tilden. If, under this
surmise, he had been, the political complexion of
"8 to 7" would have been reversed.
Elected to the United States Senate from Illinois,
Judge Davis declined to serve, and Mr. Justice
Bradley was chosen for the commission in his
The day after the inauguration of Hayes my
kinsman, Stanley Matthews, said to me: "You
people wanted Judge Davis. So did we. I tell
you what I know, that Judge Davis was as safe for
us as Judge Bradley. We preferred him because
he carried more weight."
The subsequent career of Judge Davis in the
Senate gave conclusive proof that this was true.
When the consideration of the disputed votes
before the commission had proceeded far enough to
demonstrate the likelihood that its final decision
would be for Hayes a movement of obstruction and
delay, a filibuster, was organized by about forty
Democratic members of the House. It proved
rather turbulent than effective. The South stood
very nearly solid for carrying out the agreement
in good faith.
Toward the close the filibuster received what
appeared formidable reinforcement from the
Louisiana delegation. This was in reality merely
a bluff, intended to induce the Hayes people to
make certain concessions touching their State
government. It had the desired effect. Satisfactory
assurances having been given, the count proceeded
to the end—a very bitter end indeed for the
The final conference between the Louisianans
and the accredited representatives of Mr. Hayes
was held at Wormley's Hotel and came to be called
"the Wormley Conference." It was the subject of
uncommon interest and heated controversy at the
time and long afterward. Without knowing why
or for what purpose, I was asked to be present by
my colleague, Mr. Ellis, of Louisiana, and later in
the day the same invitation came to me from the
Republicans through Mr. Garfield. Something
was said about my serving as a referee.
Just before the appointed hour Gen. M. C. Butler,
of South Carolina, afterward so long a Senator
in Congress, said to me: "This meeting is called to
enable Louisiana to make terms with Hayes. South
Carolina is as deeply concerned as Louisiana, but
we have nobody to represent us in Congress and
hence have not been invited. South Carolina puts
herself in your hands and expects you to secure for
her whatever terms are given to Louisiana."
So of a sudden I found myself invested with
responsibility equally as an agent and a referee.
It is hardly worth while repeating in detail all
that passed at this Wormley Conference, made
public long ago by Congressional investigation. When
I entered the apartment of Mr. Evarts at Wormley's
I found, besides Mr. Evarts, Mr. John Sherman,
Mr. Garfield, Governor Dennison, and Mr.
Stanley Matthews, of the Republicans; and Mr.
Ellis, Mr. Levy, and Mr. Burke, Democrats of
Louisiana. Substantially the terms had been agreed
upon during the previous conferences—that is, the
promise that if Hayes came in the troops should be
withdrawn and the people of Louisiana be left free
to set their house in order to suit themselves. The
actual order withdrawing the troops was issued by
President Grant two or three days later, just as he
was going out of office.
"Now, gentlemen," said I, half in jest, "I am
here to represent South Carolina; and if the terms
given to Louisiana are not equally applied to South
Carolina I become a filibuster myself to-morrow
There was some chaffing as to what right I had
there and how I got in, when with great earnestness
Governor Dennison, who had been the bearer
of a letter from Mr. Hayes, which he had read to
us, put his hand on my shoulder and said: "As a
matter of course the Southern policy to which Mr.
Hayes has here pledged himself embraces South
Carolina as well as Louisiana."
Mr. Sherman, Mr. Garfield and Mr. Evarts concurred
warmly in this, and immediately after we
separated I communicated the fact to General
In the acrimonious discussion which subsequently
sought to make "bargain, intrigue and corruption"
of this Wormley Conference, and to involve
certain Democratic members of the House who
were nowise party to it but had sympathized with
the purpose of Louisiana and South Carolina to
obtain some measure of relief from intolerable local
conditions, I never was questioned or assailed. No
one doubted my fidelity to Mr. Tilden, who had
been promptly advised of all that passed and who
approved what I had done.
Though "conscripted," as it were, and rather a
passive agent, I could see no wrong in the proceeding.
I had spoken and voted in favor of the Electoral
Tribunal Bill, and losing, had no thought of
repudiating its conclusions. Hayes was already as
good as seated. If the States of Louisiana and
South Carolina could save their local autonomy out
of the general wreck there seemed no good reason
On the other hand, the Republican leaders were
glad of an opportunity to make an end of the corrupt
and tragic farce of Reconstruction; to unload
their party of a dead weight which had been
burdensome and was growing dangerous; mayhap to
punish their Southern agents, who had demanded
so much for doctoring the returns and making an
exhibit in favor of Hayes.
Mr. Tilden accepted the result with equanimity.
"I was at his house," says John Bigelow, "when
his exclusion was announced to him, and also on
the fourth of March when Mr. Hayes was
inaugurated, and it was impossible to remark any
change in his manner, except perhaps that he was
less absorbed than usual and more interested in
His was an intensely serious mind; and he had
come to regard the presidency as rather a burden
to be borne—an opportunity for public usefulness
—involving a life of constant toil and care, than
as an occasion for personal exploitation and
How much of captivation the idea of the presidency
may have had for him when he was first
named for the office I cannot say, for he was as
unexultant in the moment of victory as he was
unsubdued in the hour of defeat; but it is certainly
true that he gave no sign of disappointment to any
of his friends.
He lived nearly ten years longer, at Greystone,
in a noble homestead he had purchased for himself
overlooking the Hudson River, the same ideal life
of the scholar and gentleman that he had passed
in Gramercy Park.
Looking back over these untoward and sometimes
mystifying events, I have often asked myself:
Was it possible, with the elements what they were,
and he himself what he was, to seat Mr. Tilden in
the office to which he had been elected? The missing
ingredient in a character intellectually and
morally great and a personality far from unimpressive,
was the touch of the dramatic discoverable
in most of the leaders of men; even in such
leaders as William of Orange and Louis XI; as
Cromwell and Washington.
There was nothing spectacular about Mr. Tilden.
Not wanting the sense of humor, he seldom
indulged it. In spite of his positiveness of opinion
and amplitude of knowledge he was always courteous
and deferential in debate. He had none of the
audacious daring, let us say, of Mr. Blaine, the
energetic self-assertion of Mr. Roosevelt. Either
in his place would have carried all before him.
I repeat that he was never a subtle schemer—
sitting behind the screen and pulling his wires—
which his political and party enemies discovered
him to be as soon as he began to get in the way
of the machine and obstruct the march of the self-elect.
His confidences were not effusive, nor their
subjects numerous. His deliberation was unfailing
and sometimes it carried the idea of indecision,
not to say actual love of procrastination. But in my
experience with him I found that he usually ended
where he began, and it was nowise difficult for those
whom he trusted to divine the bias of his mind
where he thought it best to reserve its conclusions.
I do not think in any great affair he ever hesitated
longer than the gravity of the case required
of a prudent man or that he had a preference for
delays or that he clung tenaciously to both horns
of the dilemma, as his training and instinct might
lead him to do, and did certainly expose him to
the accusation of doing.
He was a philosopher and took the world as he
found it. He rarely complained and never
inveighed. He had a discriminating way of balancing
men's good and bad qualities and of giving each
the benefit of a generous accounting, and a just way
of expecting no more of a man than it was in him
to yield. As he got into deeper water his stature
rose to its level, and from his exclusion from the
presidency in 1877 to his renunciation of public
affairs in 1884 and his death in 1886 his walks and
ways might have been a study for all who would
learn life's truest lessons and know the real sources
of honor, happiness and fame.