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Title: Famous Americans of Recent Times
Author: Parton, James, 1822-1891
Language: English
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Author of "Life of Andrew Jackson," "Life and Times of Aaron Burr,"
"Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin," etc.


[Illustration: J.C. Calhoun]














The papers contained in this volume were originally published in the
_North American Review_, with four exceptions. Those upon THEODOSIA
BURR and JOHN JACOB ASTOR first appeared in _Harper's Magazine_; that
upon COMMODORE VANDERBILT, in the _New York Ledger_; and that upon
HENRY WARD BEECHER AND HIS CHURCH, in the _Atlantic Monthly_.


The close of the war removes the period preceding it to a great
distance from us, so that we can judge its public men as though we
were the "posterity" to whom they sometimes appealed. James Buchanan
still haunts the neighborhood of Lancaster, a living man, giving and
receiving dinners, paying his taxes, and taking his accustomed
exercise; but as an historical figure he is as complete as Bolingbroke
or Walpole. It is not merely that his work is done, nor that the
results of his work are apparent; but the thing upon which he wrought,
by their relation to which he and his contemporaries are to be
estimated, has perished. The statesmen of his day, we can all now
plainly see, inherited from the founders of the Republic a problem
impossible of solution, with which some of them wrestled manfully,
others meanly, some wisely, others foolishly. If the workmen have not
all passed away, the work is at once finished and destroyed, like the
Russian ice-palace, laboriously built, then melted in the sun. We can
now have the requisite sympathy with those late doctors of the body
politic, who came to the consultation pledged not to attempt to
_remove_ the thorn from its flesh, and trained to regard it as the
spear-head in the side of Epaminondas,--extract it, and the patient
dies. In the writhings of the sufferer the barb has fallen out, and
lo! he lives and is getting well. We can now forgive most of those
blind healers, and even admire such of them as were honest and not
cowards; for, in truth, it _was_ an impossibility with which they had
to grapple, and it was not one of their creating.

Of our public men of the sixty years preceding the war, Henry Clay was
certainly the most shining figure. Was there ever a public man, not at
the head of a state, so beloved as he? Who ever heard such cheers, so
hearty, distinct, and ringing, as those which his name evoked? Men
shed tears at his defeat, and women went to bed sick from pure
sympathy with his disappointment. He could not travel during the last
thirty years of his life, but only make progresses. When he left his
home the public seized him and bore him along over the land, the
committee of one State passing him on to the committee of another, and
the hurrahs of one town dying away as those of the next caught his
ear. The country seemed to place all its resources at his disposal;
all commodities sought his acceptance. Passing through Newark once, he
thoughtlessly ordered a carriage of a certain pattern: the same
evening the carriage was at the door of his hotel in New York, the
gift of a few Newark friends. It was so everywhere and with
everything. His house became at last a museum of curious gifts. There
was the counterpane made for him by a lady ninety-three years of age,
and Washington's camp-goblet given him by a lady of eighty; there were
pistols, rifles, and fowling-pieces enough to defend a citadel; and,
among a bundle of walking-sticks, was one cut for him from a tree that
shaded Cicero's grave. There were gorgeous prayer-books, and Bibles of
exceeding magnitude and splendor, and silver-ware in great profusion.
On one occasion there arrived at Ashland the substantial present of
twenty-three barrels of salt. In his old age, when his fine estate,
through the misfortunes of his sons, was burdened with mortgages to
the amount of thirty thousand dollars, and other large debts weighed
heavily upon his soul, and he feared to be compelled to sell the home
of fifty years and seek a strange abode, a few old friends secretly
raised the needful sum, secretly paid the mortgages and discharged the
debts, and then caused the aged orator to be informed of what had been
done, but not of the names of the donors. "Could my life insure the
success of Henry Clay, I would freely lay it down this day," exclaimed
an old Rhode Island sea-captain on the morning of the Presidential
election of 1844. Who has forgotten the passion of disappointment, the
amazement and despair, at the result of that day's fatal work? Fatal
we thought it then, little dreaming that, while it precipitated evil,
it brought nearer the day of deliverance.

Our readers do not need to be reminded that popularity the most
intense is not a proof of merit. The two most mischievous men this
country has ever produced were extremely popular,--one in a State, the
other in every State,--and both for long periods of time. There are
certain men and women and children who are natural heart-winners, and
their gift of winning hearts seems something apart from their general
character. We have known this sweet power over the affections of
others to be possessed by very worthy and by very barren natures.
There are good men who repel, and bad men who attract. We cannot,
therefore, assent to the opinion held by many, that popularity is an
evidence of shallowness or ill-desert. As there are pictures expressly
designed to be looked at from a distance by great numbers of people at
once,--the scenery of a theatre, for example,--so there are men who
appear formed by Nature to stand forth before multitudes, captivating
every eye, and gathering in great harvests of love with little effort.
If, upon looking closely at these pictures and these men, we find them
less admirable than they seemed at a distance, it is but fair to
remember that they were not meant to be looked at closely, and that
"scenery" has as much right to exist as a Dutch painting which bears
the test of the microscope.

It must be confessed, however, that Henry Clay, who was for
twenty-eight years a candidate for the Presidency, cultivated his
popularity. Without ever being a hypocrite, he was habitually an
actor; but the part which he enacted was Henry Clay exaggerated. He
was naturally a most courteous man; but the consciousness of his
position made him more elaborately and universally courteous than any
man ever was from mere good-nature. A man on the stage must overdo his
part, in order not to seem to underdo it. There was a time when almost
every visitor to the city of Washington desired, above all things, to
be presented to three men there, Clay, Webster, and Calhoun, whom to
have seen was a distinction. When the country member brought forward
his agitated constituent on the floor of the Senate-chamber, and
introduced him to Daniel Webster, the Expounder was likely enough to
thrust a hand at him without so much as turning his head or
discontinuing his occupation, and the stranger shrunk away painfully
conscious of his insignificance. Calhoun, on the contrary, besides
receiving him with civility, would converse with him, if opportunity
favored, and treat him to a disquisition on the nature of government
and the "beauty" of nullification, striving to make a lasting
impression on his intellect. Clay would rise, extend his hand with
that winning grace of his, and instantly captivate him by his
all-conquering courtesy. He would call him by name, inquire respecting
his health, the town whence he came, how long he had been in
Washington, and send him away pleased with himself and enchanted with
Henry Clay. And what was his delight to receive a few weeks after, in
his distant village, a copy of the Kentuckian's last speech, bearing
on the cover the frank of "H. Clay"! It was almost enough to make a
man think of "running for Congress"! And, what was still more
intoxicating, Mr. Clay, who had a surprising memory, would be likely,
on meeting this individual two years after the introduction, to
address him by name.

There was a gamy flavor, in those days, about Southern men, which was
very pleasing to the people of the North. Reason teaches us that the
barn-yard fowl is a more meritorious bird than the game-cock; but the
imagination does not assent to the proposition. Clay was at once
game-cock and domestic fowl. His gestures called to mind the
magnificently branching trees of his Kentucky forests, and his
handwriting had the neatness and delicacy of a female copyist. There
was a careless, graceful ease in his movements and attitudes, like
those of an Indian, chief; but he was an exact man of business, who
docketed his letters, and could send from Washington to Ashland for a
document, telling in what pigeon-hole it could be found. Naturally
impetuous, he acquired early in life an habitual moderation of
statement, an habitual consideration for other men's self-love, which
made him the pacificator of his time. The great compromiser was
himself a compromise. The ideal of education is to tame men without
lessening their vivacity,--to unite in them the freedom, the dignity,
the prowess of a Tecumseh, with the serviceable qualities of the
civilized man. This happy union is said to be sometimes produced in
the pupils of the great public schools of England, who are savages on
the play-ground and gentlemen in the school-room. In no man of our
knowledge has there been combined so much of the best of the forest
chief with so much of the good of the trained man of business as in
Henry Clay. This was one secret of his power over classes of men so
diverse as the hunters of Kentucky and the manufacturers of New

It used to be accounted a merit in a man to rise to high station from
humble beginnings; but we now perceive that humble beginnings are
favorable to the development of that force of character which wins the
world's great prizes. Let us never again commend any one for "rising"
from obscurity to eminence, but reserve our special homage for those
who have become respectable human beings in spite of having had every
advantage procured for them by rich fathers. Henry Clay found an Eton,
and an Oxford in Old Virginia that were better for _him_ than those of
Old England. Few men have been more truly fortunate in their education
than he. It was said of a certain lady, that to know her was a liberal
education; and there really have been, and are, women of whom that
could be truly averred. But perhaps the greatest good fortune that can
befall an intelligent and noble-minded youth is to come into intimate,
confidential relations with a wise, learned, and good old man, one who
has been greatly trusted and found worthy of trust, who knows the
world by having long taken a leading part in its affairs, and has
outlived illusions only to get a firmer footing in realities. This,
indeed, is a liberal education; and this was the happiness of Henry
Clay. Nothing in biography is so strange as the certainty with which a
superior youth, in the most improbable circumstances, finds the mental
nourishment he needs. Here, in the swampy region of Hanover County,
Virginia, was a barefooted, ungainly urchin, a poor widow's son,
without one influential relative on earth; and there, in Richmond, sat
on the chancellor's bench George Wythe, venerable with years and
honors, one of the grand old men of Old Virginia, the preceptor of
Jefferson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the most learned
man in his profession, and one of the best men of any profession. Who
could have foreseen that this friendless orphan, a Baptist preacher's
son, in a State where to be a "dissenter" was social inferiority,
should have found in this eminent judge a friend, a mentor, a patron,
a father?

Yet it came about in the most natural way. We catch our first glimpse
of the boy when he sat in a little log school-house, without windows
or floor, one of a humming score of shoeless boys, where a
good-natured, irritable, drinking English schoolmaster taught him to
read, write, and cipher as far as Practice. This was the only school
he ever attended, and that was all he learned at it. His widowed
mother, with her seven young children, her little farm, and two or
three slaves, could do no more for him. Next, we see him a tall,
awkward, slender stripling of thirteen, still barefoot, clad in
homespun butternut of his mother's making, tilling her fields, and
going to mill with his bag of corn strapped upon the family pony. At
fourteen, in the year 1791, a place was found for him in a Richmond
drug-store, where he served as errand-boy and youngest clerk for one

Then occurred the event which decided his career. His mother having
married again, her husband had influence enough to procure for the lad
the place of copying clerk in the office of the Court of Chancery. The
young gentlemen then employed in the office of that court long
remembered the entrance among them of their new comrade. He was
fifteen at the time, but very tall for his age, very slender, very
awkward, and far from handsome. His good mother had arrayed him in a
full suit of pepper-and-salt "figginy," an old Virginia fabric of silk
and cotton. His shirt and shirt-collar were stiffly starched, and his
coat-tail stood out boldly behind him. The dandy law clerks of
metropolitan Richmond exchanged glances as this gawky figure entered,
and took his place at a desk to begin his work. There was something in
his manner which prevented their indulgence in the jests that usually
greet the arrival of a country youth among city blades; and they
afterwards congratulated one another that they had waited a little
before beginning to tease him, for they soon found that he had brought
with him from the country an exceedingly sharp tongue. Of his first
service little is known, except the immense fact that he was a most
diligent reader. It rests on better authority than "Campaign Lives,"
that, while his fellow-clerks went abroad in the evening in search of
pleasure, this lad stayed at home with his books. It is a pleasure
also to know that he had not a taste for the low vices. He came of
sound English stock, of a family who would not have regarded
drunkenness and debauchery as "sowing wild oats," but recoiled from
the thought of them with horror. Clay was far from being a saint; but
it is our privilege to believe of him that he was a clean, temperate,
and studious young man.

Richmond, the town of the young Republic that had most in it of the
metropolitan, proved to this aspiring youth as true a University as
the printing-office in old Boston was to Benjamin Franklin; for he
found in it the culture best suited to him and his circumstances.
Chancellor Wythe, then sixty-seven years of age, overflowing with
knowledge and good nature, was the president of that university. Its
professors were the cluster of able men who had gone along with
Washington and Jefferson in the measures which resulted in the
independence of the country. Patrick Henry was there to teach him the
arts of oratory. There was a flourishing and famous debating society,
the pride of the young men of Richmond, in which to try his
half-fledged powers. The impulse given to thought by the American
Revolution was quickened and prolonged by the thrilling news which
every vessel brought from France of the revolution there. There was an
atmosphere in Virginia favorable to the growth of a sympathetic mind.
Young Clay's excellent handwriting brought him gradually into the most
affectionate relations with Chancellor Wythe, whose aged hand trembled
to such a degree that he was glad to borrow a copyist from the clerk's
office. For nearly four years it was the young man's principal duty to
copy the decisions of the venerable Chancellor, which were curiously
learned and elaborate; for it was the bent of the Chancellor's mind to
trace the law to its sources in the ancient world, and fortify his
positions by citations from Greek and Latin authors. The Greek
passages were a plague to the copyist, who knew not the alphabet of
that language, but copied it, so to speak, by rote.

Here we have another proof that, no matter what a man's opportunities
are, he only learns what is congenial with his nature and
circumstances. Living under the influence of this learned judge, Henry
Clay might have become a man of learning. George Wythe was a "scholar"
in the ancient acceptation of the word. The whole education of his
youth consisted in his acquiring the Latin language, which his mother
taught him. Early inheriting a considerable fortune, he squandered it
in dissipation, and sat down at thirty, a reformed man, to the study
of the law. To his youthful Latin he now added Greek, which he studied
assiduously for many years, becoming, probably, the best Greek scholar
in Virginia. His mind would have wholly lived in the ancient world,
and been exclusively nourished from the ancient literatures, but for
the necessities of his profession and the stirring political events of
his later life. The Stamp Act and the Revolution varied and completed
his education. His young copyist was not attracted by him to the study
of Greek and Latin, nor did he catch from him the habit of probing a
subject to the bottom, and ascending from the questions of the moment
to universal principles. Henry Clay probed nothing to the bottom,
except, perhaps, the game of whist; and though his instincts and
tendencies were high and noble, he had no grasp of general truths.
Under Wythe, he became a staunch Republican of the Jeffersonian
school. Under Wythe, who emancipated his slaves before his death, and
set apart a portion of his estate for their maintenance, he acquired a
repugnance to slavery which he never lost. The Chancellor's learning
and philosophy were not for him, and so he passed them by.

The tranquil wisdom of the judge was counteracted, in some degree, by
the excitements of the debating society. As he grew older, the raw and
awkward stripling became a young man whose every movement had a
winning or a commanding grace. Handsome he never was; but his ruddy
face and abundant light hair, the grandeur of his forehead and the
speaking intelligence of his countenance, more than atoned for the
irregularity of his features. His face, too, was a compromise. With
all its vivacity of expression, there was always something that spoke
of the Baptist preacher's son,--just as Andrew Jackson's face had the
set expression of a Presbyterian elder. But of all the bodily gifts
bestowed by Nature upon this favored child, the most unique and
admirable was his voice. Who ever heard one more melodious? There was
a depth of tone in it, a volume, a compass, a rich and tender harmony,
which invested all he said with majesty. We heard it last when he was
an old man past seventy; and all he said was a few words of
acknowledgment to a group of ladies in the largest hall in
Philadelphia. He spoke only in the ordinary tone of conversation; but
his voice filled the room as the organ fills a great cathedral, and
the ladies stood spellbound as the swelling cadences rolled about the
vast apartment. We have heard much of Whitefield's piercing voice and
Patrick Henry's silvery tones, but we cannot believe that either of
those natural orators possessed an organ superior to Clay's majestic
bass. No one who ever heard him speak will find it difficult to
believe what tradition reports, that he was the peerless star of the
Richmond Debating Society in 1795.

Oratory was then in the highest vogue. Young Virginians did not need
to look beyond the sea in order to learn that the orator was the man
most in request in the dawn of freedom. Chatham, Burke, Fox, Sheridan,
and Pitt were inconceivably imposing names at that day; but was not
Patrick Henry the foremost man in Virginia, only because he could
speak and entertain an audience? And what made John Adams President
but his fiery utterances in favor of the Declaration of Independence?
There were other speakers then in Virginia who would have had to this
day a world-wide fame if they had spoken where the world could hear
them. The tendency now is to undervalue oratory, and we regret it. We
believe that, in a free country, every citizen should be able to stand
undaunted before his fellow-citizens, and give an account of the faith
that is in him. It is no argument against oratory to point to the
Disraelis of both countries, and say that a gift possessed by such men
cannot be a valuable one. It is the unmanly timidity and
shamefacedness of the rest of us that give to such men their
preposterous importance. It were a calamity to America if, in the
present rage for ball-playing and boat-rowing, which we heartily
rejoice in, the debating society should be forgotten. Let us rather
end the sway of oratory by all becoming orators. Most men who can talk
well seated in a chair can _learn_ to talk well standing on their
legs; and a man who can move or instruct five persons in a small room
can learn to move or instruct two thousand in a large one.

That Henry Clay cultivated his oratorical talent in Richmond, we have
his own explicit testimony. He told a class of law students once that
he owed his success in life to a habit early formed, and for some
years continued, of reading daily in a book of history or science, and
declaiming the substance of what he had read in some solitary
place,--a cornfield, the forest, a barn, with only oxen and horses for
auditors. "It is," said he,

     "to this early practice of the art of all arts that I am
     indebted for the primary and leading impulses that
     stimulated my progress, and have shaped and moulded my
     entire destiny."

We should be glad to know more of this self-training; but Mr. Clay's
"campaign" biographers have stuffed their volumes too full of eulogy
to leave room for such instructive details. We do not even know the
books from which he declaimed. Plutarch's Lives were favorite reading
with him, we accidentally learn; and his speeches contain evidence
that he was powerfully influenced by the writings of Dr. Franklin. We
believe it was from Franklin that he learned very much of the art of
managing men. Franklin, we think, aided this impetuous and
exaggerating spirit to acquire his habitual moderation of statement,
and that sleepless courtesy which, in his keenest encounters,
generally kept him within parliamentary bounds, and enabled him to
live pleasantly with men from whom he differed in opinion. Obsolete as
many of his speeches are, from the transient nature of the topics of
which they treat, they may still be studied with profit by young
orators and old politicians as examples of parliamentary politeness.
It was the good-natured and wise Franklin that helped him to this. It
is certain, too, that at some part of his earlier life he read
translations of Demosthenes; for of all modern orators Henry Clay was
the most Demosthenian. Calhoun purposely and consciously imitated the
Athenian orator; but Clay was a kindred spirit with Demosthenes. We
could select passages from both these orators, and no man could tell
which was American and which was Greek, unless he chanced to remember
the passage. Tell us, gentle reader, were the sentences following
spoken by Henry Clay after the war of 1812 _at_ the Federalists who
had opposed that war, or by Demosthenes against the degenerate Greeks
who favored the designs of Philip?

     "From first to last I have uniformly pursued the just and
     virtuous course,--asserter of the honors, of the
     prerogatives, of the glory of my country. Studious to
     support them, zealous to advance them, my whole being is
     devoted to this glorious cause. I was never known to walk
     abroad with a face of joy and exultation at the success of
     the enemy, embracing and announcing the joyous tidings to
     those who I supposed would transmit it to the proper place.
     I was never known to receive the successes of my own country
     with trembling, with sighs, with my eyes bent to the earth,
     like those impious men who are the defamers of their
     country, as if by such conduct they were not defamers of

Is it Clay, or is it Demosthenes? Or have we made a mistake, and
copied a passage from the speech of a Unionist of 1865?

After serving four years as clerk and amanuensis, barely earning a
subsistence, Clay was advised by his venerable friend, the Chancellor,
to study law; and a place was procured for him in the office of the
Attorney-General of the State. In less than a year after formally
beginning his studies he was admitted to the bar. This seems a short
preparation; but the whole period of his connection with Chancellor
Wythe was a study of the law. The Chancellor was what a certain other
chancellor styles "a full man," and Henry Clay was a receptive youth.

When he had obtained his license to practise he was twenty years of
age. Debating-society fame and drawing-room popularity do not, in an
old commonwealth like Virginia, bring practice to a lawyer of twenty.
But, as a distinguished French author has recently remarked of Julius
Caesar, "In him was united the elegance of manner which wins, to the
energy of character which commands." He sought, therefore, a new
sphere of exertion far from the refinements of Richmond. Kentucky,
which Boone explored in 1770, was a part of Virginia when Clay was a
child, and only became a State in 1792, when first he began to copy
Chancellor Wythe's decisions. The first white family settled in it in
1775; but when our young barrister obtained his license, twenty-two
years after, it contained a white population of nearly two hundred
thousand. His mother, with five of her children and a second husband,
had gone thither five years before. In 1797 Henry Clay removed to
Lexington, the new State's oldest town and capital, though then
containing, it is said, but fifty houses. He was a stranger there, and
almost penniless. He took board, not knowing where the money was to
come from to pay for it. There were already several lawyers of repute
in the place. "I remember," said Mr. Clay, forty-five years after,

     "how comfortable I thought I should be if I could make one
     hundred pounds a year, Virginia money; and with what delight
     I received my first fifteen-shilling fee. My hopes were more
     than realized. I immediately rushed into a successful and
     lucrative practice."

In a year and a half he was in a position to marry the daughter of one
of the first men of the State, Colonel Thomas Hart, a man exceedingly
beloved in Lexington.

It is surprising how addicted to litigation were the early settlers of
the Western States. The imperfect surveys of land, the universal habit
of getting goods on credit at the store, and "difficulties" between
individuals ending in bloodshed, filled the court calendars with land
disputes, suits for debt, and exciting murder cases, which gave to
lawyers more importance and better chances of advancement than they
possessed in the older States. Mr. Clay had two strings to his bow.
Besides being a man of red tape and pigeon-holes, exact, methodical,
and strictly attentive to business, he had a power over a Kentucky
jury such as no other man has ever wielded. To this day nothing
pleases aged Kentuckians better than to tell stories which they heard
their fathers tell, of Clay's happy repartees to opposing counsel, his
ingenious cross-questioning of witnesses, his sweeping torrents of
invective, his captivating courtesy, his melting pathos. Single
gestures, attitudes, tones, have come down to us through two or three
memories, and still please the curious guest at Kentucky firesides.
But when we turn to the cold records of this part of his life, we find
little to justify his traditional celebrity. It appears that the
principal use to which his talents were applied during the first years
of his practice at the bar was in defending murderers. He seems to
have shared the feeling which then prevailed in the Western country,
that to defend a prisoner at the bar is a nobler thing than to assist
in defending the public against his further depredations; and he threw
all his force into the defence of some men who would have been "none
the worse for a hanging." One day, in the streets of Lexington, a
drunken fellow whom he had rescued from the murderer's doom cried out,
"Here comes Mr. Clay, who saved my life." "Ah! my poor fellow,"
replied the advocate, "I fear I have saved too many like you, who
ought to be hanged." The anecdotes printed of his exploits in cheating
the gallows of its due are of a quality which shows that the power of
this man over a jury lay much in his manner. His delivery, which
"bears absolute sway in oratory," was bewitching and irresistible, and
gave to quite commonplace wit and very questionable sentiment an
amazing power to please and subdue.

We are far from thinking that he was not a very able lawyer. Judge
Story, we remember, before whom he argued a cause later in life, was
of opinion that he would have won a high position at the bar of the
Supreme Court, if he had not been early drawn away to public life. In
Kentucky he was a brilliant, successful practitioner, such as Kentucky
wanted and could appreciate. In a very few years he was the possessor
of a fine estate near Lexington, and to the single slave who came to
him as his share of his father's property were added several others.
His wife being a skilful and vigorous manager, he was in independent
circumstances, and ready to serve the public, if the public wished
him, when he had been but ten years in his Western home. Thus he had a
basis for a public career, without which few men can long serve the
public with honor and success. And this was a principal reason of the
former supremacy of Southern men in Washington; nearly all of them
being men who owned land, which slaves tilled for them, whether they
were present or absent.

The young lawyer took to politics very naturally. Posterity, which
will judge the public men of that period chiefly by their course with
regard to slavery, will note with pleasure that Clay's first public
act was an attempt to deliver the infant State of Kentucky from that
curse. The State Constitution was to be remodelled in 1799. Fresh from
the society of Chancellor Wythe, an abolitionist who had set free his
own slaves,--fresh from Richmond, where every man of note, from
Jefferson and Patrick Henry downwards, was an abolitionist,--Henry
Clay began in 1798, being then twenty-one years of age, to write a
series of articles for a newspaper, advocating the gradual abolition
of slavery in Kentucky. He afterwards spoke on that side at public
meetings. Young as he was, he took the lead of the public-spirited
young men who strove to purge the State from this iniquity; but in the
Convention the proposition was voted down by a majority so decisive as
to banish the subject from politics for fifty years. Still more
honorable was it in Mr. Clay, that, in 1829, when Calhoun was maturing
nullification, he could publicly say that among the acts of his life
which he reflected upon with most satisfaction was his youthful effort
to secure emancipation in Kentucky.

The chapter of our history most abounding in all the elements of
interest will be that one which will relate the rise and first
national triumph of the Democratic party. Young Clay came to the
Kentucky stump just when the country was at the crisis of the struggle
between the Old and the New. But in Kentucky it was not a struggle;
for the people there, mostly of Virginian birth, had been personally
benefited by Jefferson's equalizing measures, and were in the fullest
sympathy with his political doctrines. When, therefore, this brilliant
and commanding youth, with that magnificent voice of his, and large
gesticulation, mounted the wagon that usually served as platform in
the open-air meetings of Kentucky, and gave forth, in fervid oratory,
the republican principles he had imbibed in Richmond, he won that
immediate and intense popularity which an orator always wins who gives
powerful expression to the sentiments of his hearers. We cannot wonder
that, at the close of an impassioned address upon the Alien and
Sedition Laws, the multitude should have pressed about him, and borne
him aloft in triumph upon their shoulders; nor that Kentucky should
have hastened to employ him in her public business as soon as he was
of the requisite age. At thirty he was, to use the language of the
stump, "Kentucky's favorite son," and incomparably the finest orator
in the Western country. Kentucky had tried him, and found him
perfectly to her mind. He was an easy, comfortable man to associate
with, wholly in the Jeffersonian taste. His wit was not of the highest
quality, but he had plenty of it; and if he said a good thing, he had
such a way of saying it as gave it ten times its natural force. He
chewed tobacco and took snuff,--practices which lowered the tone of
his health all his life. In familiar conversation he used language of
the most Western description; and he had a singularly careless,
graceful way with him, that was in strong contrast with the vigor and
dignity of his public efforts. He was an honest and brave young man,
altogether above lying, hypocrisy, and meanness,--full of the idea of
Republican America and her great destiny. The splendor of his talents
concealed his defects and glorified his foibles; and Kentucky rejoiced
in him, loved him, trusted him, and sent him forth to represent her in
the national council.

During the first thirteen years of Henry Clay's active life as a
politician,--from his twenty-first to his thirty-fourth year,--he
appears in politics only as the eloquent champion of the policy of Mr.
Jefferson, whom he esteemed the first and best of living men. After
defending him on the stump and aiding him in the Kentucky Legislature,
he was sent in 1806, when he was scarcely thirty, to fill for one term
a seat in the Senate of the United States, made vacant by the
resignation of one of the Kentucky Senators. Mr. Jefferson received
his affectionate young disciple with cordiality, and admitted him to
his confidence. Clay had been recently defending Burr before a
Kentucky court, entirely believing that his designs were lawful and
sanctioned. Mr. Jefferson showed him the cipher letters of that
mysterious and ill-starred adventurer, which convinced Mr. Clay that
Burr was certainly a liar, if he was not a traitor. Mr. Jefferson's
perplexity in 1806 was similar to that of Jackson in 1833,--too much
money in the treasury. The revenue then was fifteen millions; and,
after paying all the expenses of the government and the stipulated
portion of the national debt, there was an obstinate and most
embarrassing surplus. What to do with this irrepressible surplus was
the question then discussed in Mr. Jefferson's Cabinet. The President,
being a free-trader, would naturally have said, Reduce the duties. But
the younger men of the party, who had no pet theories, and
particularly our young Senator, who had just come in from a six weeks'
horseback flounder over bridgeless roads, urged another solution of
the difficulty,--Internal Improvements. But the President was a
strict-constructionist, denied the authority of Congress to vote money
for public works, and was fully committed to that opinion.

Mr. Jefferson yielded. The most beautiful theories will not always
endure the wear and tear of practice. The President, it is true, still
maintained that an amendment to the Constitution ought to precede
appropriations for public works; but he said this very briefly and
without emphasis, while he stated at some length, and with force, the
desirableness of expending the surplus revenue in improving the
country. As time wore on, less and less was said about the amendment,
more and more about the importance of internal improvements; until, at
last, the Republican party, under Clay, Adams, Calhoun, and Rush, went
as far in this business of road-making and canal-digging as Hamilton
himself could have desired. Thus it was that Jefferson rendered true
his own saying, "We are all Federalists, we are all Republicans."
Jefferson yielded, also, on the question of free-trade. There is a
passage of a few lines in Mr. Jefferson's Message of 1806, the year of
Henry Clay's first appearance in Washington, which may be regarded as
the text of half the Kentuckian's speeches, and the inspiration of his
public life. The President is discussing the question, What shall we
do with the surplus?

     "Shall we suppress the impost, and give that advantage to
     foreign over domestic manufactures? On a few articles of
     more general and necessary use, the suppression, in due
     season, will doubtless be right; but the great mass of the
     articles upon which impost is paid are foreign luxuries,
     purchased by those only who are rich enough to afford
     themselves the use of them. Their patriotism would certainly
     prefer its continuance, and application to the great
     purposes of the public education, roads, rivers, canals, and
     such other objects of public improvement as it may be
     thought proper to add to the constitutional enumeration of
     Federal powers. By these operations, new channels of
     communication will be opened between the States, the lines
     of separation will disappear, their interests will be
     identified, and their union cemented by new and indissoluble

Upon these hints, the young Senator delayed not to speak and act; nor
did he wait for an amendment to the Constitution. His first speech in
the Senate was in favor of building a bridge over the Potomac; one of
his first acts, to propose an appropriation of lands for a canal round
the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville; and soon he brought forward a
resolution directing the Secretary of the Treasury to report a system
of roads and canals for the consideration of Congress. The seed of the
President's Message had fallen into good ground.

Returning home at the end of the session, and reentering the Kentucky
Legislature, we still find him a strict follower of Mr. Jefferson. In
support of the President's non-intercourse policy (which was
Franklin's policy of 1775 applied to the circumstances of 1808), Mr.
Clay proposed that the members of the Legislature should bind
themselves to wear nothing that was not of American manufacture. A
Federalist, ignorant of the illustrious origin of this idea, ignorant
that the homespun system had caused the repeal of the Stamp Act, and
_would_ have postponed the Revolution but for the accident of
Lexington, denounced Mr. Clay's proposition as the act of a shameless
demagogue. Clay challenged this ill-informed gentleman, and a duel
resulted, in which two shots were exchanged, and both antagonists were
slightly wounded. Elected again to the Senate for an unexpired term,
he reappeared in that body in 1809, and sat during two sessions.
Homespun was again the theme of his speeches. His ideas on the subject
of protecting and encouraging American manufactures were not derived
from books, nor expressed in the language of political economy. At his
own Kentucky home, Mrs. Clay, assisted by her servants, was spinning
and weaving, knitting and sewing, most of the garments required in her
little kingdom of six hundred acres, while her husband was away over
the mountains serving his country. "Let the nation do what we Kentucky
farmers are doing," said Mr. Clay to the Senate. "Let us manufacture
enough to be independent of foreign nations in things essential,--no
more." He discoursed on this subject in a very pleasant, humorous
manner, without referring to the abstract principle involved, or
employing any of the technical language of economists.

His service in the Senate during these two sessions enhanced his
reputation greatly, and the galleries were filled when he was expected
to speak, little known as he was to the nation at large. We have a
glimpse of him in one of Washington Irving's letters of February,

     "Clay, from Kentucky, spoke against the Bank. He is one of
     the finest fellows I have seen here, and one of the finest
     orators in the Senate, though I believe the youngest man in
     it. The galleries, however, were so much crowded with ladies
     and gentlemen, and such expectations had been expressed
     concerning his speech, that he was completely frightened,
     and acquitted himself very little to his own satisfaction.
     He is a man I have great personal regard for."

This was the anti-bank speech which General Jackson used to say had
convinced him of the impolicy of a national bank, and which, with
ingenious malice, he covertly quoted in making up his Bank Veto
Message of 1832.

Mr. Clay's public life proper began in November, 1811, when he
appeared in Washington as a member of the House of Representatives,
and was immediately elected Speaker by the war party, by the decisive
majority of thirty-one. He was then thirty-four years of age. His
election to the Speakership on his first appearance in the House gave
him, at once, national standing. His master in political doctrine and
his partisan chief, Thomas Jefferson, was gone from the scene; and
Clay could now be a planet instead of a satellite. Restive as he had
been under the arrogant aggressions of England, he had schooled
himself to patient waiting, aided by Jefferson's benign sentiments and
great example. But his voice was now for war; and such was the temper
of the public in those months, that the eloquence of Henry Clay,
seconded by the power of the Speaker, rendered the war unavoidable.

It is agreed that to Henry Clay, Speaker of the House of
Representatives, more than to any other individual, we owe the war of
1812. When the House hesitated, it was he who, descending from the
chair, spoke so as to reassure it. When President Madison faltered, it
was the stimulus of Clay's resistless presence that put heart into him
again. If the people seemed reluctant, it was Clay's trumpet harangues
that fired their minds. And when the war was declared, it was he, more
than President or Cabinet or War Committee, that carried it along upon
his shoulders. All our wars begin in disaster; it was Clay who
restored the country to confidence when it was disheartened by the
loss of Detroit and its betrayed garrison. It was Clay alone who could
encounter without flinching the acrid sarcasm of John Randolph, and
exhibit the nothingness of his telling arguments. It was he alone who
could adequately deal with Quincy of Massachusetts, who alluded to the
Speaker and his friends as "young politicians, with their pin-feathers
yet unshed, the shell still sticking upon them,--perfectly unfledged,
though they fluttered and cackled on the floor." Clay it was whose
clarion notes rang out over departing regiments, and kindled within
them the martial fire; and it was Clay's speeches which the soldiers
loved to read by the camp-fire. Fiery Jackson read them, and found
them perfectly to his taste. Gentle Harrison read them to his
Tippecanoe heroes. When the war was going all wrong in the first year,
President Madison wished to appoint Clay Commander-in-Chief of the
land forces; but, said Gallatin, "What shall we do without him in the
House of Representatives?"

Henry Clay was not a man of blood. On the contrary, he was eminently
pacific, both in his disposition and in his politics. Yet he believed
in the war of 1812, and his whole heart was in it. The question
occurs, then, Was it right and best for the United States to declare
war against Great Britain in 1812? The proper answer to this question
depends upon another: What ought we to think of Napoleon Bonaparte? If
Napoleon _was_, what English Tories and American Federalists said he
was, the enemy of mankind,--and if England, in warring upon him, _was_
fighting the battle of mankind,--then the injuries received by neutral
nations might have been borne without dishonor. When those giant
belligerents were hurling continents at one another, the damage done
to bystanders from the flying off of fragments was a thing to be
expected, and submitted to as their share of the general ruin,--to be
compensated by the final suppression of the common foe. To have
endured this, and even to have submitted, for a time, to the searching
of ships, so that not one Englishman should be allowed to skulk from
such a fight, had not been pusillanimity, but magnanimity. But if, as
English Whigs and American Democrats contended, Napoleon Bonaparte was
the armed soldier of democracy, the rightful heir of the Revolution,
the sole alternative to anarchy, the _legitimate_ ruler of France; if
the responsibility of those enormous desolating wars does not lie at
his door, but belongs to George III. and the Tory party of England; if
it is a fact that Napoleon always stood ready to make a just peace,
which George III. and William Pitt refused, _not_ in the interest of
mankind and civilization, but in that of the Tory party and the allied
dynasties,--then America was right in resenting the searching and
seizure of her ships, and right, after exhausting every peaceful
expedient, in declaring war.

That this was really the point in dispute between our two parties is
shown in the debates, newspapers, and pamphlets of the time. The
Federalists, as Mr. Clay observed in one of his speeches, compared
Napoleon to "every monster and beast, from that mentioned in the
Revelation down to the most insignificant quadruped." The Republicans,
on the contrary, spoke of him always with moderation and decency,
sometimes with commendation, and occasionally he was toasted at their
public dinners with enthusiasm. Mr. Clay himself, while lamenting his
enormous power and the suspension of ancient nationalities, always had
a lurking sympathy with him. "Bonaparte," said he in his great war
speech of 1813,

     "has been called the scourge of mankind, the destroyer of
     Europe, the great robber, the infidel, the modern Attila,
     and Heaven knows by what other names. Really, gentlemen
     remind me of an obscure lady, in a city not very far off,
     who also took it into her head, in conversation with an
     accomplished French gentleman, to talk of the affairs of
     Europe. She, too, spoke of the destruction of the balance of
     power; stormed and raged about the insatiable ambition of
     the Emperor; called him the curse of mankind, the destroyer
     of Europe. The Frenchman listened to her with perfect
     patience, and when she had ceased said to her, with
     ineffable politeness, 'Madam, it would give my master, the
     Emperor, infinite pain if he knew how hardly you thought of

This brief passage suffices to show the prevailing tone of the two
parties when Napoleon was the theme of discourse.

It is, of course, impossible for us to enter into this question of
Napoleon's moral position. Intelligent opinion, ever since the means
of forming an opinion were accessible, has been constantly judging
Napoleon more leniently, and the Tory party more severely. We can only
say, that, in our opinion, the war of 1812 was just and necessary; and
that Henry Clay, both in supporting Mr. Jefferson's policy of
non-intercourse and in supporting President Madison's policy of war,
deserved well of his country. Postponed that war might have been. But,
human nature being what it is, and the English government being what
it was, we do not believe that the United States could ever have been
distinctly recognized as one of the powers of the earth without
another fight for it.

The war being ended and the Federal party extinct, upon the young
Republicans, who had carried on the war, devolved the task of
"reconstruction." Before they had made much progress in it, they came
within an ace of being consigned to private life,--Clay himself having
as narrow an escape as any of them. And here we may note one point of
superiority of the American government over others. In other countries
it can sometimes be the interest of politicians to foment and declare
war. A war strengthens a tottering dynasty, an imperial _parvenu_, an
odious tyrant, a feeble ministry; and the glory won in battle on land
and sea redounds to the credit of government, without raising up
competitors for its high places. But let American politicians take
note. It is never _their_ interest to bring on a war; because a war is
certain to generate a host of popular heroes to outshine them and push
them from their places. It may sometimes be their duty to advocate
war, but it is never their interest. At this moment we see both
parties striving which shall present to the people the most attractive
list of military candidates; and when a busy ward politician seeks his
reward in custom-house or department, he finds a dozen lame soldiers
competing for the place; one of whom gets it,--as he ought. What city
has presented Mr. Stanton with a house, or Mr. Welles with fifty
thousand dollars' worth of government bonds? Calhoun precipitated the
country into a war with Mexico; but what did he gain by it but new
bitterness of disappointment, while the winner of three little battles
was elected President? Henry Clay was the animating soul of the war of
1812, and we honor him for it; but while Jackson, Brown, Scott, Perry,
and Decatur came out of that war the idols of the nation, Clay was
promptly notified that _his_ footing in the public councils, _his_
hold of the public favor, was by no means stable.

His offence was that he voted for the compensation bill of 1816, which
merely changed the pay of members of Congress from the pittance of six
dollars a day to the pittance of fifteen hundred dollars a year. He
who before was lord paramount in Kentucky saved his seat only by
prodigious efforts on the stump, and by exerting all the magic of his
presence in the canvass.

No one ever bore cutting disappointment with an airier grace than this
high-spirited thorough-bred; but he evidently felt this apparent
injustice. Some years later, when it was proposed in Congress to
pension Commodore Perry's mother, Mr. Clay, in a speech of five
minutes, totally extinguished the proposition. Pointing to the vast
rewards bestowed upon such successful soldiers as Marlborough,
Napoleon, and Wellington, he said, with thrilling effect:

     "How different is the fate of the statesman! In his quiet
     and less brilliant career, after having advanced, by the
     wisdom of his measures, the national prosperity to the
     highest point of elevation, and after having sacrificed his
     fortune, his time, and perhaps his health, in the public
     service, what, too often, are the rewards that await him?
     Who thinks of _his_ family, impoverished by the devotion of
     his attention to his country, instead of their advancement?
     Who proposes to pension him,--much less his _mother_?"

He spoke the more feelingly, because he, who could have earned more
than the President's income by the practice of his profession, was
often pinched for money, and was once obliged to leave Congress for
the sole purpose of taking care of his shattered fortune. He felt the
importance of this subject in a national point of view. He wrote in
1817 to a friend:

     "Short as has been my service in the public councils, I have
     seen some of the most valuable members quitting the body
     from their inability to sustain the weight of these
     sacrifices. And in process of time, I apprehend, this
     mischief will be more and more felt. Even now there are few,
     if any, instances of members dedicating their lives to the
     duties of legislation. Members stay a year or two; curiosity
     is satisfied; the novelty wears off; expensive habits are
     brought or acquired; their affairs at home are neglected;
     their fortunes are wasting away; and they are compelled to

The eight years of Mr. Monroe's administration--from 1817 to
1825--were the most brilliant period of Henry Clay's career. His
position as Speaker of the House of Representatives would naturally
have excluded him from leadership; but the House was as fond of
hearing him speak as he could be of speaking, and opportunities were
continually furnished him by going into Committee of the Whole. In a
certain sense he was in opposition to the administration. When one
party has so frequently and decidedly beaten the party opposed to it,
that the defeated party goes out of existence, the conquering party
soon divides. The triumphant Republicans of 1816 obeyed this law of
their position;--one wing of the party, under Mr. Monroe, being
reluctant to depart from the old Jeffersonian policy; the other wing,
under Henry Clay, being inclined to go very far in internal
improvements and a protective tariff. Mr. Clay now appears as the
great champion of what he proudly styled the American System. He
departed farther and farther from the simple doctrines of the earlier
Democrats. Before the war, he had opposed a national bank; now he
advocated the establishment of one, and handsomely acknowledged the
change of opinion. Before the war, he proposed only such a tariff as
would render America independent of foreign nations in articles of the
first necessity; now he contemplated the establishment of a great
manufacturing system, which should attract from Europe skilful
workmen, and supply the people with everything they consumed, even to
jewelry and silver-ware. Such success had he with his American System,
that, before many years rolled away, we see the rival wings of the
Republican party striving which could concede most to the
manufacturers in the way of an increased tariff. Every four years,
when a President was to be elected, there was an inevitable revision
of the tariff, each faction outbidding the other in conciliating the
manufacturing interest; until at length the near discharge of the
national debt suddenly threw into politics a prospective
surplus,---one of twelve millions a year,--which came near crushing
the American System, and gave Mr. Calhoun his pretext for

At present, with such a debt as we have, the tariff is no longer a
question with us. The government must have its million a day; and as
no tax is less offensive to the people than a duty on imported
commodities, we seem compelled to a practically protective system for
many years to come. But, of all men, a citizen of the United States
should be the very last to accept the protective system as final; for
when he looks abroad over the great assemblage of sovereignties which
he calls the United States, and asks himself the reason of their rapid
and uniform prosperity for the last eighty years, what answer can he
give but this?--_There is free trade among them_. And if he extends
his survey over the whole earth, he can scarcely avoid the conclusion
that free trade among all nations would be as advantageous to all
nations as it is to the thirty-seven States of the American Union. But
nations are not governed by theories and theorists, but by
circumstances and politicians. The most perfect theory must sometimes
give way to exceptional fact. We find, accordingly, Mr. Mill, the
great English champion of free trade, fully sustaining Henry Clay's
moderate tariff of 1816, but sustaining it only as a temporary
measure. The paragraph of Mr. Mill's Political Economy which touches
this subject seems to us to express so exactly the true policy of the
United States with regard to the tariff, that we will take the liberty
of quoting it.

     "The only case in which, on mere principles of political
     economy, protecting duties can be defensible, is when they
     are imposed temporarily, (especially in a young and rising
     nation,) in hopes of naturalizing a foreign industry, in
     itself perfectly suitable to the circumstances of the
     country. The superiority of one country over another in a
     branch of production often arises only from having begun it
     sooner. There may be no inherent advantage on one part, or
     disadvantage on the other, but only a present superiority of
     acquired skill and experience. A country which has this
     skill and experience yet to acquire may, in other respects,
     be better adapted to the production than those which were
     earlier in the field; and, besides, it is a just remark of
     Mr. Rae, that nothing has a greater tendency to promote
     improvement in any branch of production, than its trial
     under a new set of conditions. But it cannot be expected
     that individuals should, at their own risk, or rather to
     their certain loss, introduce a new manufacture, and bear
     the burden of carrying it on, until the producers have been
     educated up to the level of those with whom the processes
     are traditional. A protecting duty, continued for a
     reasonable time, will sometimes be the least inconvenient
     mode in which the nation can tax itself for the support of
     such an experiment. But the protection should be confined to
     cases in which there is good ground of assurance that the
     industry which it fosters will after a time be able to
     dispense with it; nor should the domestic producers ever be
     allowed to expect that it will be continued to them beyond
     the time necessary for a fair trial of what they are capable
     of accomplishing."[1]

In the quiet of his library at Ashland, Mr. Clay, we believe, would,
at any period of his public life, have assented to the doctrines of
this passage. But at Washington he was a party leader and an orator.
Having set the ball in motion, he could not stop it; nor does he
appear to have felt the necessity of stopping it, until, in 1831, he
was suddenly confronted by three Gorgons at once,--a coming Surplus, a
President that vetoed internal improvements, and an ambitious Calhoun,
resolved on using the surplus either as a stepping-stone to the
Presidency or a wedge with which to split the Union. The time to have
put down the brakes was in 1828, when the national debt was within
seven years of being paid off; but precisely _then_ it was that both
divisions of the Democratic party---one under Mr. Van Buren, the other
under Mr. Clay--were running a kind of tariff race, neck and neck, in
which Van Buren won. Mr. Clay, it is true, was not in Congress
then,--he was Secretary of State; but he was the soul of his party,
and his voice was the voice of a master. In all his letters and
speeches there is not a word to show that he then anticipated the
surplus, or the embarrassments to which it gave rise; though he could
not have forgotten that a very trifling surplus was one of the chief
anxieties of Mr. Jefferson's administration. Mr. Clay's error, we
think, arose from his not perceiving clearly that a protective tariff,
though justifiable sometimes, is always in itself an evil, and is
never to be accepted as the permanent policy of any country; and that,
being an evil, it must be reduced to the minimum that will answer the
temporary purpose.

In estimating Henry Clay, we are always to remember that he was an
orator. He had a genius for oratory. There is, we believe, no example
of a man endowed with a genius for oratory who also possessed an
understanding of the first order. Mr. Clay's oratory was vivified by a
good heart and a genuine love of country; and on occasions which
required only a good heart, patriotic feeling, and an eloquent tongue,
he served his country well. But as a party leader he had sometimes to
deal with matters which demanded a radical and far-seeing intellect;
and then, perhaps, he failed to guide his followers aright. At
Washington, during the thirteen years of his Speakership, he led the
gay life of a popular hero and drawing-room favorite; and his position
was supposed to compel him to entertain much company. As a young
lawyer in Kentucky, he was addicted to playing those games of mere
chance which alone at that day were styled gambling. He played high
and often, as was the custom then all over the world. It was his
boast, even in those wild days, that he never played at home, and
never had a pack of cards in his house; but when the lawyers and
judges were assembled during court sessions, there was much high play
among them at the tavern after the day's work was done. In 1806, when
Mr. Clay was elected to the Senate, he resolved to gamble no
more,--that is, to play at hazard and "brag" no more,--and he kept his
resolution. Whist, being a game depending partly on skill, was not
included in this resolution; and whist was thenceforth a very favorite
game with him, and he greatly excelled in it. It was said of him, as
it was of Charles James Fox, that, at any moment of a hand, he could
name all the cards that remained to be played. He discountenanced high
stakes; and we believe he never, after 1806, played for more than five
dollars "a corner." These, we know, were the stakes at Ghent, where he
played whist for many months with the British Commissioners during the
negotiations for peace in 1815. We mention his whist-playing only as
part of the evidence that he was a gay, pleasant, easy man of the
world,--not a student, not a thinker, not a philosopher. Often, in
reading over his speeches of this period, we are ready to exclaim,
"Ah! Mr. Clay, if you had played whist a little less, and studied
history and statesmanship a great deal more, you would have avoided
some errors!" A trifling anecdote related by Mr. Colton lets us into
the Speaker's way of life. "How can you preside over that House
to-day?" asked a friend, as he set Mr. Clay down at his own door,
_after sunrise_, from a party. "Come up, and you shall see how I will
throw the reins over their necks," replied the Speaker, as he stepped
from the carriage.[2]

But when noble feeling and a gifted tongue sufficed for the occasion,
how grandly sometimes he acquitted himself in those brilliant years,
when, descending from the Speaker's lofty seat, he held the House and
the crowded galleries spellbound by his magnificent oratory! His
speech of 1818, for example, favoring the recognition of the South
American republics, was almost as wise as it was eloquent; for,
although the provinces of South America are still far from being what
we could wish them to be, yet it is certain that no single step of
progress was possible for them until their connection with Spain was
severed. Cuba, today, proves Mr. Clay's position. The amiable and
intelligent Creoles of that beautiful island are nearly ready for the
abolition of slavery and for regulated freedom; but they lie
languishing under the hated incubus of Spanish rule, and dare not risk
a war of independence, outnumbered as they are by untamed or
half-tamed Africans. Mr. Clay's speeches in behalf of the young
republics of South America were read by Bolivar at the head of his
troops, and justly rendered his name dear to the struggling patriots.
He had a clear conviction, like his master, Thomas Jefferson, that the
interests of the United States lie chiefly _in America_, not Europe;
and it was a favorite dream of his to see the Western Continent
occupied by flourishing republics, independent, but closely allied,--a
genuine Holy Alliance.

The supreme effort of Mr. Clay's Congressional life was in connection
with the Missouri Compromise of 1821. He did not originate the plan of
compromise, but it was certainly his influence and tact which caused
the plan to prevail. Fortunately, he had been absent from Congress
during some of the earlier attempts to admit Missouri; and thus he
arrived in Washington in January, 1821, calm, uncommitted, and welcome
to both parties. Fierce debate had wrought up the minds of members to
that point where useful discussion ceases to be possible. Almost every
man had given personal offence and taken personal offence; the two
sides seemed reduced to the most hopeless incompatibility; and the
affair was at a dead lock. No matter what the subject of debate,
Missouri was sure, in some way, to get involved in it; and the mere
mention of the name was like a spark upon loose gunpowder. In
February, for example, the House had to go through the ceremony of
counting the votes for President of the United States,--a mere
ceremony, since Mr. Monroe had been re-elected almost unanimously, and
the votes of Missouri were of no importance. The tellers, to avoid
giving cause of contention, announced that Mr. Monroe had received two
hundred and thirty-one votes, including those of Missouri, and two
hundred and twenty-eight if they were excluded. At this announcement
members sprang to their feet, and such a scene of confusion arose that
no man could make himself heard. After a long struggle with the riot,
the Speaker declared the House adjourned.

For six weeks Mr. Clay exerted his eloquence, his arts of
pacification, and all the might of his personality, to bring members
to their senses. He even had a long conference with his ancient foe,
John Randolph. He threw himself into this work with such ardor, and
labored at it so continuously, day and night, that, when the final
triumph was won, he declared that, if Missouri had been kept out of
the Union two weeks longer, he should have been a dead man.
Thirty-four years after these events Mr. S.G. Goodrich wrote:

     "I was in the House of Representatives but a single hour.
     While I was present there was no direct discussion of the
     agitating subject which already filled everybody's mind, but
     still the excitement flared out occasionally in incidental
     allusions to it, like puffs of smoke and jets of flame which
     issue from a house that is on fire within. I recollect that
     Clay made a brief speech, thrilling the House by a single
     passage, in which he spoke of '_poor, unheard Missouri_' she
     being then without a representative in Congress. His tall,
     tossing form, his long, sweeping gestures, and, above all,
     his musical yet thrilling tones, made an impression upon me
     which I can never forget."

Mr. Clay, at length, had completed his preparations. He moved for a
committee of the House to confer with a committee of the Senate. He
himself wrote out the list of members whom he desired should be
elected, and they were elected. At the last conference of the joint
committees, which was held on a Sunday, Mr. Clay insisted that their
report, to have the requisite effect upon Congress and the country,
must be unanimous; and unanimous it was. Both Houses, with a
surprising approach to unanimity, adopted the compromise proposed; and
thus was again postponed the bloody arbitrament to which the
irrepressible controversy has since been submitted.

Clay's masterly conduct on this occasion added his name to the long
list of gentlemen who were mentioned for the succession to Mr. Monroe
in 1825. If the city of Washington had been the United States, if the
House of Representatives had possessed the right to elect a President,
Henry Clay might have been its choice. During the thirteen years of
his Speakership not one of his decisions had been reversed; and he had
presided over the turbulent and restive House with that perfect
blending of courtesy and firmness which at once restrains and charms.
The debates just before the war, during the war, and after the war,
had been violent and acrimonious; but he had kept his own temper, and
compelled the House to observe an approach to decorum. On one occasion
he came into such sharp collision with the excitable Randolph, that
the dispute was transferred to the newspapers, and narrowly escaped
degenerating from a war of "cards" to a conflict with pistols. But the
Speaker triumphed; the House and the country sustained him. On
occasions of ceremony the Speaker enchanted every beholder by the
superb dignity of his bearing, the fitness of his words, and the
tranquil depth of his tones. What could be more eloquent, more
appropriate, than the Speaker's address of welcome to Lafayette, when
the guest of the nation was conducted to the floor of the House of
Representatives? The House and the galleries were proud of the Speaker
that day. No one who never heard this captivator of hearts can form
the slightest conception of the penetrating effect of the closing
sentences, though they were spoken only in the tone of conversation.

     "The vain wish has been sometimes indulged, that Providence
     would allow the patriot, after death, to return to his
     country, and to contemplate the intermediate changes which
     had taken place; to view the forests felled, the cities
     built, the mountains levelled, the canals cut, the highways
     constructed, the progress of the arts, the advancement of
     learning, and the increase of population. General, your
     present visit to the United States is a realization of the
     consoling object of that wish. You are in the midst of
     posterity. Everywhere you must have been struck with the
     great changes, physical and moral, which have occurred since
     you left us. Even this very city, bearing a venerated name,
     alike endeared to you and to us, has since emerged from the
     forest which then covered its site. In one respect you
     behold us unaltered, and this is in the sentiment of
     continued devotion to liberty, and of ardent affection and
     profound gratitude to your departed friend, the father of
     his country, and to you, and to your illustrious associates
     in the field and in the cabinet, for the multiplied
     blessings which surround us, and for the very privilege of
     addressing you which I now exercise. This sentiment, now
     fondly cherished by more than ten millions of people, will
     be transmitted with unabated vigor down the tide of time,
     through the countless millions who are destined to inhabit
     this continent, to the latest posterity."

The appropriateness of these sentiments to the occasion and to the man
is evident to every one who remembers that Lafayette's love of George
Washington was a Frenchman's romantic passion. Nor, indeed, did he
need to have a sensitive French heart to be moved to tears by such
words and such a welcome.

From 1822 to 1848, a period of twenty-six years, Henry Clay lived the
strange life of a candidate for the Presidency. It was enough to ruin
any man, body and soul. To live always in the gaze of millions; to be
the object of eulogy the most extravagant and incessant from one half
of the newspapers, and of vituperation still more preposterous from
the other half; to be surrounded by flatterers interested and
disinterested, and to be confronted by another body intent on
misrepresenting every act and word; to have to stop and consider the
effect of every utterance, public and private, upon the next
"campaign"; not to be able to stir abroad without having to harangue a
deputation of political friends, and stand to be kissed by ladies and
pump-handled by men, and hide the enormous bore of it beneath a fixed
smile till the very muscles of the face are rigid; to receive by every
mail letters enough for a large town; to have your life written
several times a year; to be obliged continually to refute calumnies
and "define your position"; to live under a horrid necessity to be
pointedly civil to all the world; to find your most casual remarks and
most private conversations getting distorted in print,--this, and more
than this, it was to be a candidate for the Presidency. The most
wonderful thing that we have to say of Henry Clay is, that, such were
his native sincerity and healthfulness of mind, he came out of this
fiery trial still a patriot and a man of honor. We believe it was a
weakness in him, as it is in any man, to set his heart upon living
four years in the White House; but we can most confidently say, that,
having entered the game, he played it fairly, and bore his repeated
disappointments with genuine, high-bred composure. The closest
scrutiny into the life of this man still permits us to believe that,
when he said, "I would rather be right than be President," he spoke
the real sentiments of his heart; and that, when he said to one of his
political opponents, "Tell General Jackson that, if he will sign my
Land Bill, I will pledge myself to retire from public life and never
to re-enter it," he meant what he said, and would have stood to it. It
is our privilege to believe this of Henry Clay; nor do we think that
there was ever anything morbidly excessive in his desire for the
Presidency. He was the head and choice of a great political party; in
the principles of that party he fully believed; and we think he did
truly desire an election to the Presidency more from conviction than
ambition. This may not have been the case in 1824, but we believe it
was in 1832 and in 1844.

The history of Henry Clay's Presidential aspirations and defeats is
little more than the history of a personal feud. In the year 1819, it
was his fortune to incur the hatred of the best hater then
living,--Andrew Jackson. They met for the first time in November,
1815, when the hero of New Orleans came to Washington to consult with
the administration respecting the Indian and military affairs of his
department. Each of these eminent men truly admired the other. Jackson
saw in Clay the civil hero of the war, whose fiery eloquence had
powerfully seconded its military heroes. Clay beheld in Jackson the
man whose gallantry and skill had done most to justify the war in the
sight of the people. They became immediately and cordially intimate.
Jackson engaged to visit Ashland in the course of the next summer, and
spend a week there. On every occasion when Mr. Clay spoke of the
heroes of the war, he bestowed on Jackson the warmest praise.

In 1818 General Jackson invaded Florida, put to death two Indian
chiefs in cold blood, and executed two British subjects, Arbuthnot and
Armbrister.[3] During the twenty-seven days' debate upon these
proceedings, in 1819, the Speaker sided with those who disapproved
them, and he delivered a set speech against Jackson. This speech,
though it did full justice to General Jackson's motives, and contained
a fine eulogium upon his previous services, gave the General deadly
offence. Such was Jackson's self-love that he could not believe in the
honesty of any opposition to him, but invariably attributed such
opposition to low personal motives. Now it was a fact well known to
Jackson, that Henry Clay had expected the appointment of Secretary of
State under Mr. Monroe; and it was part of the gossip of the time that
Mr. Monroe's preference of Mr. Adams was the reason of Clay's
occasional opposition to measures favored by the administration. We do
not believe this, because the measures which Mr. Clay opposed were
such as he _must_ have disapproved, and which well-informed posterity
will forever disapprove. After much debate in the Cabinet, Mr. Monroe,
who was peculiarly bound to Jackson, and who had reasons of his own
for not offending him, determined to sustain him _in toto_, both at
home and in the courts of Spain and England. Hence, in condemning
General Jackson, Mr. Clay was again in opposition to the
administration; and the General of course concluded, that the Speaker
designed, in ruining him, merely to further his own political schemes.
How he boiled with fury against Mr. Clay, his published letters
amusingly attest. "The hypocrisy and baseness of Clay," wrote the
General, "in pretending friendship to me, and endeavoring to crush the
Executive through me, makes me despise the villain."

Jackson, as we all know, was triumphantly sustained by the House. In
fact, Mr. Clay's speech was totally unworthy of the occasion. Instead
of argument and fact, he gave the House and the galleries beautiful
declamation. The evidence was before him; he had it in his hands; but,
instead of getting up his case with patient assiduity, and exhibiting
the damning proofs of Jackson's misconduct, he merely glanced over the
mass of papers, fell into some enormous blunders, passed over some
most material points, and then endeavored to supply all deficiencies
by an imposing eloquence. He even acknowledges that he had not
examined the testimony. "It is _possible_," said he, "that a critical
examination of the evidence _would_ show" that Arbuthnot was an
innocent trader. We have had occasion to examine that evidence since,
and we can testify that this conjecture was correct. But why was it a
_conjecture_? Why did Mr. Clay neglect to convert the conjecture into
certainty? It fell to him, as representing the civilization and
humanity of the United States, to vindicate the memory of an honorable
old man, who had done all that was possible to prevent the war, and
who had been ruthlessly murdered by men wearing the uniform of
American soldiers. It fell to him to bar the further advancement of a
man most unfit for civil rule. To this duty he was imperatively
called, but he only half did it, and thus exasperated the tiger
without disabling him.

Four years passed. In December, 1823, General Jackson reappeared in
Washington to take his seat in the Senate, to which he had been
elected by his wire-pullers for the purpose of promoting his interests
as a candidate for the Presidency. Before he left home two or three of
his friends had besought him to assume a mild and conciliatory
demeanor at the capitol. It would never do, they told him, for a
candidate for the Presidency to threaten to cut off the ears of
gentlemen who disapproved his public conduct; he must restrain himself
and make friends. This advice he followed. He was reconciled with
General Winfield Scott, whom, in 1817, he had styled an "assassin," a
"hectoring bully," and an "intermeddling pimp and spy of the War
Office." He made friends with Colonel Thomas H. Benton, with whom he
had fought in the streets of Nashville, while he still carried in his
body a bullet received in that bloody affray. With Henry Clay, too, he
resumed friendly intercourse, met him twice at dinner-parties, rode
and exchanged visits with him, and attended one of the Speaker's
Congressional dinners.

When next these party chieftains met, in the spring of 1825, it was
about to devolve upon the House of Representatives to decide which of
three men should be the next President,--Jackson, Adams, or Crawford.
They exchanged visits as before; Mr. Clay being desirous, as he said,
to show General Jackson that, in the vote which he had determined to
give, he was influenced only by public considerations. No reader needs
to be informed that Mr. Clay and his friends were able to decide the
election, and that they decided it in favor of Mr. Adams. We believe
that Mr. Clay was wrong in so doing. As a Democrat he ought, we think,
to have been willing to gratify the plurality of his fellow-citizens,
who had voted for General Jackson. His motives we fully believe to
have been disinterested. Indeed, it was plainly intimated to him that,
if he gave the Presidency to General Jackson, General Jackson would
make him his heir apparent, or, in other words, his Secretary of

The anger of General Jackson at his disappointment was not the blind
and wild fury of his earlier days; it was a deeper, a deadlier wrath,
which he governed and concealed in order to wreak a feller vengeance.
On the evening of the day on which the election in the House occurred
there was a levee at the Presidential mansion, which General Jackson
attended. Who, that saw him dart forward and grasp Mr. Adams cordially
by the hand, could have supposed that he then entirely believed that
Mr. Adams had stolen the Presidency from him by a corrupt bargain with
Mr. Clay? Who could have supposed that he and his friends had been,
for fourteen days, hatching a plot to blast the good name of Mr. Adams
and Mr. Clay, by spreading abroad the base insinuation that Clay had
been bought over to the support of Adams by the promise of the first
place in the Cabinet? Who could have supposed that, on his way home to
Tennessee, while the newspapers were paragraphing his magnanimity in
defeat, as shown by his behavior at the levee, he would denounce Adams
and Clay, in bar-rooms and public places, as guilty of a foul compact
to frustrate the wishes of the people?

It was calumny's masterpiece. It was a rare stroke of art to get an
old dotard of a member of Congress to publish, twelve days _before_
the election, that Mr. Clay had agreed to vote for Mr. Adams, and that
Mr. Adams had agreed to reward him by the office of Secretary of
State. When the vote had been given and the office conferred, how
plausible, how convincing, the charge of bargain!

It is common to censure Mr. Clay for accepting office under Mr. Adams.
We honor him for his courage in doing so. Having made Mr. Adams
President, it had been unlike the gallant Kentuckian to shrink from
the possible odium of the act by refusing his proper place in the
administration. The calumny which anticipated his acceptance of office
was a defiance: _Take office if you dare_! It was simply worthy of
Henry Clay to accept the challenge, and brave all the consequences of
what he had deliberately and conscientiously done.

In the office of Secretary of State Mr. Clay exhibited an admirable
talent for the despatch of business. He negotiated an unusual number
of useful treaties. He exerted himself to secure a recognition of the
principles, that, in time of war, private property should enjoy on the
ocean the same protection as on land, and that paper blockades are not
to be regarded. He seconded Mr. Adams in his determination not to
remove from office any man on account of his previous or present
opposition to the administration; and he carried this policy so far,
that, in selecting the newspapers for the publication of the laws, he
refused to consider their political character. This was in strict
accordance with the practice of all previous administrations; but it
is so pleasant to recur to the times when that honorable policy
prevailed, that we cannot help alluding to it. In his intercourse with
foreign ministers, Mr. Clay had an opportunity to display all the
charms of an unequalled courtesy: they remained his friends long after
he had retired. His Wednesday dinners and his pleasant evening
receptions were remembered for many years. How far he sympathized with
Mr. Adams's extravagant dreams of a system of national works that
should rival the magnificent structures of ancient Rome, or with the
extreme opinions of his colleague, Mr. Rush, as to the power and
importance of government, we do not know. He worked twelve hours a day
in his office, he tells us, and was content therewith. He was the last
high officer of the government to fight a duel. That bloodless contest
between the Secretary of State and John Randolph was as romantic and
absurd as a duel could well be. Colonel Benton's narrative of it is at
once the most amusing and the most affecting piece of gossip which our
political annals contain. Randolph, as the most unmanageable of
members of Congress, had been for fifteen years a thorn in Mr. Clay's
side, and Clay's later politics had been most exasperating to Mr.
Randolph; but the two men loved one another in their hearts, after
all. Nothing has ever exceeded the thorough-bred courtesy and tender
consideration with which they set about the work of putting one
another to death; and their joy was unbounded when, after the second
fire, each discovered that the other was unharmed. If all duels could
have such a result, duelling would be the prettiest thing in the

The election of 1828 swept the administration from power. No man has
ever bowed more gracefully to the decision of the people than Henry
Clay. His remarks at the public dinner given him in Washington, on his
leaving for home, were entirely admirable. Andrew Jackson, he said,
had wronged him, but he was now the Chief Magistrate of his country,
and, as such, he should be treated with decorum, and his public acts
judged with candor. His journey to Ashland was more like the progress
of a victor than the return homeward of a rejected statesman.

He now entered largely into his favorite branch of rural business, the
raising of superior animals. Fifty merino sheep were driven over the
mountains from Pennsylvania to his farm, and he imported from England
some Durham and Hertford cattle. He had an Arabian horse in his
stable. For the improvement of the breed of mules, he imported an ass
from Malta, and another from Spain. Pigs, goats, and dogs he also
raised, and endeavored to improve. His slaves being about fifty in
number, he was able to carry on the raising of hemp and corn, as well
as the breeding of stock, and both on a considerable scale. Mrs. Clay
sent every morning to the principal hotel of Lexington thirty gallons
of milk, and her husband had large consignments to make to his factor
in New Orleans. His letters of this period show how he delighted in
his animals and his growing crops, and how thoughtfully he considered
the most trifling details of management. His health improved. He told
his old friend, Washington Irving, that he found it was as good for
men as for beasts to be turned out to grass occasionally. Though not
without domestic afflictions, he was very happy in his home. One of
his sons graduated second at West Point, and two of his daughters were
happily married. He was, perhaps, a too indulgent father; but his
children loved him most tenderly, and were guided by his opinion. It
is pleasing to read in the letters of his sons to him such passages as

     "You tell me that you wish me to receive your opinions, not
     as commands, but as advice. Yet I must consider them as
     commands, doubly binding; for they proceed from, one so
     vastly my superior in all respects, and to whom I am under
     such great obligations, that the mere intimation of an
     opinion will be sufficient to govern my conduct."

The President, meanwhile, was paying such homage to the farmer of
Ashland as no President of the United States had ever paid to a
private individual. General Jackson's principal object--the object
nearest his heart--appears to have been to wound and injure Henry
Clay. His appointments, his measures, and his vetoes seem to have been
chiefly inspired by resentment against him. Ingham of Pennsylvania,
who had taken the lead in that State in giving currency to the
"bargain" calumny, was appointed Secretary of the Treasury. Eaton, who
had aided in the original concoction of that foul slander, was
appointed Secretary of War. Branch, who received the appointment of
Secretary of the Navy, was one of the few Senators who had voted and
spoken against the confirmation of Henry Clay to the office of
Secretary of State in 1825; and Berrien, Attorney-General, was
another. Barry, appointed Postmaster-General, was the Kentuckian who
had done most to inflict upon Mr. Clay the mortification of seeing his
own Kentucky siding against him. John Randolph, Clay's recent
antagonist in a duel, and the most unfit man in the world for a
diplomatic mission, was sent Minister to Russia. Pope, an old Kentucky
Federalist, Clay's opponent and competitor for half a lifetime,
received the appointment of Governor of the Territory of Arkansas.
General Harrison, who had generously defended Clay against the charge
of bargain and corruption, was recalled from a foreign mission on the
fourth day after General Jackson's accession to power, though he had
scarcely reached the country to which he was accredited. In the place
of General Harrison was sent a Kentuckian peculiarly obnoxious to Mr.
Clay. In Kentucky itself there was a clean sweep from office of Mr.
Clay's friends; not one man of them was left. His brother-in-law,
James Brown, was instantly recalled from a diplomatic post in Europe.
Kendall, the chief of the Kitchen Cabinet, had once been tutor to Mr.
Clay's children, and had won the favor of Jackson by lending a
dexterous hand in carrying Kentucky against his benefactor. Francis
Blair, editor of the Globe, had also been the particular friend and
correspondent of Mr. Clay, but had turned against him. From the
Departments in Washington, all of Mr. Clay's known friends were
immediately removed, except a few who had made themselves
indispensable, and a few others whom Mr. Van Buren contrived to spare.
In nearly every instance, the men who succeeded to the best places had
made themselves conspicuous by their vituperation of Mr. Clay. He was
strictly correct when he said, "Every movement of the President is
dictated by personal hostility toward me"; but he was deceived when he
added that it all conduced to his benefit. Every mind that was both
just and well-informed warmed toward the object of such pitiless and
demoniac wrath; but in what land are minds just and well-informed a

It was not only the appointments and removals that were aimed at Mr.
Clay. The sudden expulsion of gray hairs from the offices they had
honored, the precipitation of hundreds of families into poverty,--this
did not satisfy the President's vengeance. He assailed Henry Clay in
his first Message. In recommending a change in the mode of electing
the President, he said that, when the election devolves upon the House
of Representatives, circumstances may give the power of deciding the
election to one man. "May he not be tempted," added the President, "to
name his reward?" He vetoed appropriations for the Cumberland Road,
because the name and the honor of Henry Clay were peculiarly
identified with that work. He destroyed the Bank of the United States,
because he believed its power and influence were to be used in favor
of Mr. Clay's elevation to the Presidency. He took care, in his
Message vetoing the recharter of the Bank, to employ some of the
arguments which Clay had used in opposing the recharter of the United
States Bank in 1811. Miserably sick and infirm as he was, he consented
to stand for reelection, because there was no other candidate strong
enough to defeat Henry Clay; and he employed all his art, and the
whole power of the administration, during his second term, to smooth
Mr. Van Buren's path to the Presidency, to the exclusion of Henry
Clay. Plans were formed, too, and engagements made, the grand object
of which was to keep Clay from the Presidency, even after Mr. Van
Buren should have served his anticipated eight years. General Jackson
left Washington in 1837, expecting that Martin Van Buren would be
President until 1845, and that he would then be succeeded by Thomas H.
Benton. Nothing prevented the fulfilment of this programme but the
financial collapse of 1837, the effects of which continued during the
whole of Mr. Van Buren's term, and caused his defeat in 1840.

Mr. Clay accepted the defiance implied in General Jackson's conduct.
He reappeared in Washington in 1831, in the character of Senator and
candidate for the Presidency. His journey to Washington was again a
triumphal progress, and again the galleries were crowded to hear him
speak. A great and brilliant party gathered round him, strong in
talents, character, property, and supposed to be strong in numbers. He
at once proved himself to be a most unskilful party leader. Every
movement of his in _that_ character was a mistake. He was precipitate
when he ought to have been cautious, and cautious when nothing but
audacity could have availed. The first subject upon which he was
called upon to act was the tariff. The national debt being within two
or three years of liquidation, Calhoun threatening nullification, and
Jackson vetoing all internal improvement bills, it was necessary to
provide against an enormous surplus. Clay maintained that the
_protective_ duties should remain intact, and that only those duties
should be reduced which protected no American interest. This was done;
the revenue was reduced three millions; and the surplus was as
threatening as before. It was _impossible_ to save the protective
duties entire without raising too much revenue. Mr. Clay, as it seems
to us, should have plainly said this to the manufacturers, and
compelled his party in Congress to warn and save them by making a
judicious cut at the protective duties in 1832. This would have
deprived Calhoun of his pretext, and prepared the way for a safe and
gradual reduction of duties in the years following. Such was the
prosperity of the country in 1832, that the three millions lost to the
revenue by Mr. Clay's bill were likely to be made up to it in three
years by the mere increase in the imports and land sales.

Mr. Clay's next misstep was one of precipitation. General Jackson,
after a three years' war upon the Bank, was alarmed at the outcry of
its friends, and sincerely desired to make peace with it. We know,
from the avowals of the men who stood nearest his person at the time,
that he not only wished to keep the Bank question out of the
Presidential campaign of 1832, but that he was willing to consent, on
very easy conditions, to a recharter. It was Mr. Clay's commanding
influence that induced the directors of the Bank to press for a
recharter in 1832, and force the President to retraction or a veto. So
ignorant was this able and high-minded man of human nature and of the
American people, that he supposed a popular enthusiasm could be
kindled in behalf of a _bank_! Such was the infatuation of some of his
friends, that they went to the expense of circulating copies of the
veto message gratis, for the purpose of lessening the vote for its
author! Mr. Clay was ludicrously deceived as to his strength with the
masses of the people,--the _dumb_ masses,--those who have no eloquent
orators, no leading newspapers, no brilliant pamphleteers, to speak
for them, but who assert themselves with decisive effect on election

It was another capital error in Mr. Clay, as the leader of a party, to
run at all against General Jackson. He should have hoarded his
prestige for 1836, when the magical name of Jackson would no longer
captivate the ignorant voter. Mr. Clay's defeat in 1832, so
unexpected, so overwhelming, lamed him for life as a candidate for the
Presidency. He lost faith in his star. In 1836, when there _was_ a
chance of success,--just a chance,--he would not suffer his name to
appear in the canvass. The vote of the opposition was divided among
three candidates,--General Harrison, Hugh L. White, and Daniel
Webster; and Mr. Van Buren, of course, had an easy victory.
Fortunately for his own happiness, Mr. Clay's desire for the
Presidency diminished as his chances of reaching it diminished. That
desire had never been morbid, it now became exceedingly moderate; nor
do we believe that, after his crushing defeat of 1832, he ever had
much expectation of winning the prize. He knew too well the arts by
which success is assured, to believe that an honorable man could be
elected to the Presidency by honorable means only.

Three other attempts were made to raise him to the highest office, and
it was always Andrew Jackson who struck him down. In 1840, he was set
aside by his party, and General Harrison nominated in his stead. This
was Jackson's doing; for it was the great defeat of 1832 which had
robbed Clay of prestige, and it was General Jackson's uniform success
that suggested the selection of a military candidate. Again, in 1844,
when the Texas issue was presented to the people, it was by the adroit
use of General Jackson's name that the question of annexation was
precipitated upon the country. In 1848, a military man was again
nominated, to the exclusion of Henry Clay.

Mr. Clay used to boast of his consistency, averring that he had never
changed his opinion upon a public question but once. We think he was
much too consistent. A notable example of an excessive consistency was
his adhering to the project of a United States Bank, when there was
scarcely a possibility of establishing one, and his too steadfast
opposition to the harmless expedient of the Sub-treasury. The
Sub-treasury system has now been in operation for a quarter of a
century. Call it a bungling and antiquated system, if you will; it has
nevertheless answered its purpose. The public money is taken out of
politics. If the few millions lying idle in the "Strong Box" do no
good, they at least do no harm; and we have no overshadowing national
bank to compete with private capital, and to furnish, every few years;
a theme for demagogues. Mr. Clay saw in the Sub-treasury the ruin of
the Republic. In his great speech of 1838, in opposition to it, he
uttered, in his most solemn and impressive manner, the following

     "Mr. President, a great, novel, and untried measure is
     perseveringly urged upon the acceptance of Congress. That it
     is pregnant with tremendous consequences, for good or evil,
     is undeniable, and admitted by all. We firmly believe that
     it will be _fatal to the best interests of this country, and
     ultimately subversive of its liberties_."

No one acquainted with Mr. Clay, and no man, himself sincere, who
reads this eloquent and most labored speech, can doubt Mr. Clay's
sincerity. Observe the awful solemnity of his first sentences:--

     "I have seen some public service, passed through many
     troubled times, and often addressed public assemblies, in
     this Capitol and elsewhere; but never before have I risen in
     a deliberative body under more oppressed feelings, or with a
     deeper sense of awful responsibility. Never before have I
     risen to express my opinions upon any public measure fraught
     with such tremendous consequences to the welfare and
     prosperity of the country, and so perilous to the liberties
     of the people, as I solemnly believe the bill under
     consideration will be. If you knew, sir, what sleepless
     hours reflection upon it has cost me, if you knew with what
     fervor and sincerity I have implored Divine assistance to
     strengthen and sustain me in my opposition to it, I should
     have credit with you, at least, for the sincerity of my
     convictions, if I shall be so unfortunate as not to have
     your concurrence as to the dangerous character of the
     measure. And I have thanked my God that he has prolonged my
     life until the present time, to enable me to exert myself,
     in the service of my country, against a project far
     transcending in pernicious tendency any that I have ever had
     occasion to consider. I thank him for the health I am
     permitted to enjoy; I thank him for the soft and sweet
     repose which I experienced last night; I thank him for the
     bright and glorious sun which shines upon us this day."

And what _was_ the question at issue? It was whether Nicholas Biddle
should have the custody of the public money at Philadelphia, and use
the average balance in discounting notes; or whether Mr. Cisco should
keep it at New York in an exceedingly strong vault, and not use any of
it in discounting notes.

As the leader of a national party Mr. Clay failed utterly; for he was
neither bad enough to succeed by foul means, nor skilful enough to
succeed by fair means. But in his character of patriot, orator, or
statesman, he had some brilliant successes in his later years. When
Jackson was ready to concede _all_ to the Nullifiers, and that
suddenly, to the total ruin of the protected manufacturers, it was
Clay's tact, parliamentary experience, and personal power that
interposed the compromise tariff, which reduced duties gradually
instead of suddenly. The Compromise of 1850, also, which postponed the
Rebellion ten years, was chiefly his work. That Compromise was the
best then attainable; and we think that the country owes gratitude to
the man who deferred the Rebellion to a time when the United States
was strong enough to subdue it.

Posterity, however, will read the speeches of Mr. Clay upon the
various slavery questions agitated from 1835 to 1850 with mingled
feelings of admiration and regret. A man compelled to live in the
midst of slavery must hate it and actively oppose it, or else be, in
some degree, corrupted by it. As Thomas Jefferson came at length to
acquiesce in slavery, and live contentedly with it, so did Henry Clay
lose some of his early horror of the system, and accept it as a
necessity. True, he never lapsed into the imbecility of pretending to
think slavery right or best, but he saw no way of escaping from it;
and when asked his opinion as to the final solution of the problem, he
could only throw it upon Providence. Providence, he said, would remove
the evil in its own good time, and nothing remained for men but to
cease the agitation of the subject. His first efforts, as his last,
were directed to the silencing of both parties, but most especially
the Abolitionists, whose character and aims he misconceived. With John
C. Calhoun sitting near him in the Senate-chamber, and with
fire-eaters swarming at the other end of the Capitol, he could, as
late as 1843, cast the whole blame of the slavery excitement upon the
few individuals at the North who were beginning to discern the
ulterior designs of the Nullifiers. Among his letters of 1843 there is
one addressed to a friend who was about to write a pamphlet against
the Abolitionists. Mr. Clay gave him an outline of what he thought the
pamphlet ought to be.

     "The great aim and object of your tract should be to arouse
     the laboring classes in the Free States against abolition.
     Depict the consequences to them of immediate abolition. The
     slaves, being free, would be dispersed throughout the Union;
     they would enter into competition with the free laborer,
     with the American, the Irish, the German; reduce his wages;
     be confounded with him, and affect his moral and social
     standing. And as the ultras go for both abolition and
     amalgamation, show that their object is to unite in marriage
     the laboring white man and the laboring black man, and to
     reduce the white laboring man to the despised and degraded
     condition of the black man.

     "I would show their opposition to colonization. Show its
     humane, religious, and patriotic aims; that they are to
     separate those whom God has separated. Why do the
     Abolitionists oppose colonization? To keep and amalgamate
     together the two races, in violation of God's will, and to
     keep the blacks here, that they may interfere with, degrade,
     and debase the laboring whites. Show that the British nation
     is co-operating with the Abolitionists, for the purpose of
     dissolving the Union, etc."

This is so very absurd, that, if we did not know it to express Mr.
Clay's habitual feeling at that time, we should be compelled to see in
it, not Henry Clay, but the candidate for the Presidency.

He really thought so in 1843. He was perfectly convinced that the
white race and the black could not exist together on equal terms. One
of his last acts was to propose emancipation in Kentucky; but it was
an essential feature of his plan to transport the emancipated blacks
to Africa. When we look over Mr. Clay's letters and speeches of those
years, we meet with so much that is short-sighted and grossly
erroneous, that we are obliged to confess that this man, gifted as he
was, and dear as his memory is to us, shared the judicial blindness of
his order. Its baseness and arrogance he did not share. His head was
often wrong, but his heart was generally right. It atones for all his
mere errors of abstract opinion, that he was never admitted to the
confidence of the Nullifiers, and that he uniformly voted against the
measures inspired by them. He was against the untimely annexation of
Texas; he opposed the rejection of the anti-slavery petitions; and he
declared that no earthly power should ever induce him to consent to
the addition of one acre of slave territory to the possessions of the
United States.

It is proof positive of a man's essential soundness, if he improves as
he grows old. Henry Clay's last years were his best; he ripened to the
very end. His friends remarked the moderation of his later opinions,
and his charity for those who had injured him most. During the last
ten years of his life no one ever heard him utter a harsh judgment of
an opponent. Domestic afflictions, frequent and severe, had chastened
his heart; his six affectionate and happy daughters were dead; one son
was a hopeless lunatic in an asylum; another was not what such a
father had a right to expect; and, at length, his favorite and most
promising son, Henry, in the year 1847, fell at the battle of Buena
Vista. It was just after this last crushing loss, and probably in
consequence of it, that he was baptized and confirmed a member of the
Episcopal Church.

When, in 1849, he reappeared in the Senate, to assist, if possible, in
removing the slavery question from politics, he was an infirm and
serious, but not sad, old man of seventy-two. He never lost his
cheerfulness or his faith, but he felt deeply for his distracted
country. During that memorable session of Congress he spoke seventy
times. Often extremely sick and feeble, scarcely able, with the
assistance of a friend's arm, to climb the steps of the Capitol, he
was never absent on the days when the Compromise was to be debated. It
appears to be well attested, that his last great speech on the
Compromise was the immediate cause of his death. On the morning on
which he began his speech, he was accompanied by a clerical friend, to
whom he said, on reaching the long flight of steps leading to the
Capitol, "Will you lend me your arm, my friend? for I find myself
quite weak and exhausted this morning." Every few steps he was obliged
to stop and take breath. "Had you not better defer your speech?" asked
the clergyman. "My dear friend," said the dying orator, "I consider
our country in danger; and if I can be the means, in any measure, of
averting that danger, my health or life is of little consequence."
When he rose to speak, it was but too evident that he was unfit for
the task he had undertaken. But, as he kindled with his subject, his
cough left him, and his bent form resumed all its wonted erectness and
majesty. He may, in the prime of his strength, have spoken with more
energy, but never with so much pathos and grandeur. His speech lasted
two days, and, though he lived two years longer, he never recovered
from the effects of the effort. Toward the close of the second day,
his friends repeatedly proposed an adjournment; but he would not
desist until he had given complete utterance to his feelings. He said
afterwards that he was not sure, if he gave way to an adjournment,
that he should ever be able to resume.

In the course of this long debate, Mr. Clay said some things to which
the late war has given a new interest. He knew, at last, what the
fire-eaters meant. He perceived now that it was not the few abhorred
Abolitionists of the Northern States from whom danger to the Union was
to be apprehended. On one occasion allusion was made to a South
Carolina hot-head, who had publicly proposed to raise the flag of
disunion. Thunders of applause broke from the galleries when Mr. Clay
retorted by saying, that, if Mr. Rhett had really made that
proposition, and should follow it up by corresponding acts, he would
be a TRAITOR; "and," added Mr. Clay, "I hope he will meet a traitor's
fate." When the chairman had succeeded in restoring silence, Mr. Clay
made that celebrated declaration which was so frequently quoted in

     "If Kentucky to-morrow should unfurl the banner of
     resistance unjustly, I will never fight under that banner. I
     owe a paramount allegiance to the whole Union,--a
     subordinate one to my own State."

He said also:

     "If any one State, or a portion of the people of any State,
     choose to place themselves in military array against the
     government of the Union, I am for trying the strength of the
     government. I am for ascertaining whether we have a
     government or not."


     "The Senator speaks of Virginia being my country. This
     UNION, sir, is my country; the thirty States are my country;
     Kentucky is my country, and Virginia no more than any State
     in the Union."

And yet again:

     "There are those who think that the Union must be preserved
     by an exclusive reliance upon love and reason. That is not
     my opinion. I have some confidence in this instrumentality;
     but, depend upon it that no human government can exist
     without the power of applying force, and the actual
     application of it in extreme cases."

Who can estimate the influence of these clear and emphatic utterances
ten years after? The crowded galleries, the numberless newspaper
reports, the quickly succeeding death of the great orator,--all aided
to give them currency and effect. We shall never know how many
wavering minds they aided to decide in 1861. Not that Mr. Clay really
believed the conflict would occur: he was mercifully permitted to die
in the conviction that the Compromise of 1850 had removed all
immediate danger, and greatly lessened that of the future. Far indeed
was he from foreseeing that the ambition of a man born in New England,
calling himself a disciple of Andrew Jackson, would, within five
years, destroy all compromises, and render all future compromise
impossible, by procuring the repeal of the first,--the Missouri
Compromise of 1821.

Henry Clay was formed by nature to please, to move, and to impress his
countrymen. Never was there a more captivating presence. We remember
hearing Horace Greeley say that, if a man only saw Henry Clay's back,
he would know that it was the back of a distinguished man. How his
presence filled a drawing-room! With what an easy sway he held captive
ten acres of mass-meeting! And, in the Senate, how skilfully he showed
himself respectfully conscious of the galleries, without appearing to
address them! Take him for all in all, we must regard him as the first
of American orators; but posterity will not assign him that rank,
because posterity will not hear that matchless voice, will not see
those large gestures, those striking attitudes, that grand manner,
which gave to second-rate composition first-rate effect. He could not
have been a great statesman, if he had been ever so greatly endowed.
While slavery existed no statesmanship was possible, except that which
was temporary and temporizing. The thorn, we repeat, was in the flesh;
and the doctors were all pledged to try and cure the patient without
extracting it. They could do nothing but dress the wound, put on this
salve and that, give the sufferer a little respite from anguish, and,
after a brief interval, repeat the operation. Of all these physicians
Henry Clay was the most skilful and effective. He both handled the
sore place with consummate dexterity, and kept up the constitution of
the patient by stimulants, which enabled him, at last, to live through
the appalling operation which removed the cause of his agony.

Henry Clay was a man of honor and a gentleman. He kept his word. He
was true to his friends, his party, and his convictions. He paid his
debts and his son's debts. The instinct of solvency was very strong in
him. He had a religion, of which the main component parts were
self-respect and love of country. These were supremely authoritative
with him; he would not do anything which he felt to be beneath Henry
Clay, or which he thought would be injurious to the United States.
Five times a candidate for the Presidency, no man can say that he ever
purchased support by the promise of an office, or by any other
engagement savoring of dishonor. Great talents and a great
understanding are seldom bestowed on the same individual. Mr. Clay's
usefulness as a statesman was limited by his talent as an orator. He
relied too much on his oratory; he was never such a student as a man
intrusted with public business ought to be. Hence he originated
nothing and established nothing. His speeches will long be interesting
as the relics of a magnificent and dazzling personality, and for the
light they cast upon the history of parties; but they add scarcely
anything to the intellectual property of the nation. Of American
orators he was the first whose speeches were ever collected in a
volume. Millions read them with admiration in his lifetime; but
already they have sunk to the level of the works "without which no
gentleman's library is complete,"--works which every one possesses and
no one reads.

Henry Clay, regarded as a subject for biography, is still untouched.
Campaign Lives of him can be collected by the score; and the Rev.
Calvin Colton wrote three volumes purporting to be the Life of Henry
Clay. Mr. Colton was a very honest gentleman, and not wanting in
ability; but writing, as he did, in Mr. Clay's own house, he became,
as it were, enchanted by his subject. He was enamored of Mr. Clay to
such a degree that his pen ran into eulogy by an impulse which was
irresistible, and which he never attempted to resist. In point of
arrangement, too, his work is chaos come again. A proper biography of
Mr. Clay would be one of the most entertaining and instructive of
works. It would embrace the ever-memorable rise and first triumphs of
the Democratic party; the wild and picturesque life of the early
settlers of Kentucky; the war of 1812; Congress from 1806 to 1852; the
fury and corruption of Jackson's reign; and the three great
compromises which postponed the Rebellion. All the leading men and all
the striking events of our history would contribute something to the
interest and value of the work. Why go to antiquity or to the Old
World for subjects, when such a subject as this remains unwritten?

[Footnote 1: Mill's Principles of Political Economy, Book V. Ch. X. §

[Footnote 2: Daniel Webster once said of him in conversation: "Mr.
Clay is a great man; beyond all question a true patriot. He has done
much for his country. He ought long ago to have been elected
President. I think, however, he was never a man of books, a hard
student; but he has displayed remarkable genius. I never could imagine
him sitting comfortably in his library, and reading quietly out of the
great books of the past. He has been too fond of the world to enjoy
anything like that. He has been too fond of excitement,--he has lived
upon it; he has been too fond of company, not enough alone; and has
had few resources within himself. Now a man who cannot, to some
extent, depend upon himself for happiness, is to my mind one of the
unfortunate. But Clay is a great man; and if he ever had animosities
against me, I forgive him and forget them."

These words were uttered at Marshfield when the news reached there
that Mr. Clay was dying.]

[Footnote 3: This is the correct spelling of the name, as we learn
from a living relative of the unfortunate man. It has been hitherto
spelled Ambrister.]


Of words spoken in recent times, few have touched so many hearts as
those uttered by Sir Walter Scott on his deathbed. There has seldom
been so much of mere enjoyment crowded into the compass of one
lifetime as there was into his. Even his work--all of his best
work--was only more elaborate and keenly relished play; for
story-telling, the occupation of his maturity, had first been the
delight of his childhood, and remained always his favorite recreation.
Triumph rewarded his early efforts, and admiration followed him to the
grave. Into no human face could this man look, nor into any crowd of
faces, which did not return his glance with a gaze of admiring love.
He lived precisely where and how it was happiest for him to live; and
he had above most men of his time that disposition of mind which makes
the best of bad fortune and the most of good. But when his work and
his play were all done, and he came calmly to review his life, and the
life of man on earth, this was the sum of his reflections, this was
what he had to say to the man to whom he had confided his daughter's

     "Lockhart, I may have but a minute to speak to you. My dear,
     be a good man,--be virtuous,--be religious,--be a good man.
     Nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to lie

So do we all feel in view of the open coffin, much as we may differ as
to what it _is_ to be good, virtuous, and religious. Was this man, who
lies dead here before us, faithful to his trust? Was he sincere, pure,
just, and benevolent? Did he help civilization, or was he an obstacle
in its way? Did he ripen and improve to the end, or did he degenerate
and go astray? These are the questions which are silently considered
when we look upon the still countenance of death, and especially when
the departed was a person who influenced his generation long and
powerfully. Usually it is only the last of these questions which
mortals can answer with any certainty; but from the answer to that one
we infer the answers to all the others. As it is only the wise who
learn, so it is only the good who improve. When we see a man gaining
upon his faults as he advances in life, when we find him more
self-contained and cheerful, more learned and inquisitive, more just
and considerate, more single-eyed and noble in his aims, at fifty than
he was at forty, and at seventy than he was at fifty, we have the best
reason perceptible by human eyes for concluding that he has been
governed by right principles and good feelings. We have a right to
pronounce such a person _good_, and he is justified in believing us.

The three men most distinguished in public life during the last forty
years in the United States were Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and
Daniel Webster. Henry Clay improved as he grew old. He was a
venerable, serene, and virtuous old man. The impetuosity,
restlessness, ambition, and love of display, and the detrimental
habits of his earlier years, gave place to tranquillity, temperance,
moderation, and a patriotism without the alloy of personal objects.
Disappointment had chastened, not soured him. Public life enlarged,
not narrowed him. The city of Washington purified, not corrupted him.
He came there a gambler, a drinker, a profuse consumer of tobacco, and
a turner of night into day. He overcame the worst of those habits very
early in his residence at the capital. He came to Washington to
exhibit his talents, he remained there to serve his country; nor of
his country did he ever think the less, or serve her less zealously,
because she denied him the honor he coveted for thirty years. We
cannot say this of Calhoun. He degenerated frightfully during the last
twenty years of his life. His energy degenerated into intensity, and
his patriotism narrowed into sectionalism. He became unteachable,
incapable of considering an opinion opposite to his own, or even a
fact that did not favor it. Exempt by his bodily constitution from all
temptation to physical excesses, his body was worn out by the intense,
unhealthy working of his mind. False opinions falsely held and
intolerantly maintained were the debauchery that sharpened the lines
of his face, and converted his voice into a bark. Peace, health, and
growth early became impossible to him, for there was a canker in the
heart of the man. His once not dishonorable desire of the Presidency
became at last an infuriate lust after it, which his natural sincerity
compelled him to reveal even while wrathfully denying it. He
considered that he had been defrauded of the prize, and he had some
reason for thinking so. Some men avenge their wrongs by the pistol,
others by invective; but the only weapons which this man could wield
were abstract propositions. From the hills of South Carolina he hurled
paradoxes at General Jackson, and appealed from the dicta of Mrs.
Eaton's drawing-room to a hair-splitting theory of States' Rights.
Fifteen hundred thousand armed men have since sprung up from those
harmless-looking dragon's teeth, so recklessly sown in the hot
Southern soil.

Of the three men whom we have named, Daniel Webster was incomparably
the most richly endowed by nature. In his lifetime it was impossible
to judge him aright. His presence usually overwhelmed criticism; his
intimacy always fascinated it. It so happened, that he grew to his
full stature and attained his utmost development in a community where
human nature appears to be undergoing a process of diminution,--where
people are smaller-boned, less muscular, more nervous, and more
susceptible than their ancestors. He possessed, in consequence, an
enormous physical magnetism, as we term it, over his fellow-citizens,
apart from the natural influence of his talents and understanding.
Fidgety men were quieted in his presence, women were spellbound by it,
and the busy, anxious public contemplated his majestic calm with a
feeling of relief, as well as admiration. Large numbers of people in
New England, for many years, reposed upon Daniel Webster. He
represented to them the majesty and the strength of the government of
the United States. He gave them a sense of safety. Amid the flighty
politics of the time and the loud insincerities of Washington, there
seemed one solid thing in America, so long as he sat in an arm-chair
of the Senate-chamber. When he appeared in State Street, slowly
pacing, with an arm behind him, business was brought to an absolute
stand-still. As the whisper passed along, the windows filled with
clerks, pen in mouth, peering out to catch a glimpse of the man whom
they had seen fifty times before; while the bankers and merchants
hastened forth to give him salutation, or exchange a passing word,
happy if they could but catch his eye. At home, and in a good mood, he
was reputed to be as entertaining a man as New England ever held,--a
gambolling, jocund leviathan out on the sea-shore, and in the library
overflowing with every kind of knowledge that can be acquired without
fatigue, and received without preparation. Mere celebrity, too, is
dazzling to some minds. While, therefore, this imposing person lived
among us, he was blindly worshipped by many, blindly hated by some,
calmly considered by very few. To this hour he is a great influence in
the United States. Perhaps, with the abundant material now accessible,
it is not too soon to attempt to ascertain how far he was worthy of
the estimation in which his fellow-citizens held him, and what place
he ought to hold in the esteem of posterity. At least, it can never be
unpleasing to Americans to recur to the most interesting specimen of
our kind that has lived in America since Franklin.

He could not have been born in a better place, nor of better stock,
nor at a better time, nor reared in circumstances more favorable to
harmonious development. He grew up in the Switzerland of America. From
a hill on his father's New Hampshire farm, he could see most of the
noted summits of New England. Granite-topped Kearsarge stood out in
bold relief near by; Mount Washington and its attendant peaks, not yet
named, bounded the northern horizon like a low, silvery cloud; and the
principal heights of the Green Mountains, rising near the Connecticut
River, were clearly visible. The Merrimack, most serviceable of
rivers, begins its course a mile or two off, formed by the union of
two mountain torrents. Among those hills, high up, sometimes near the
summits, lakes are found, broad, deep, and still; and down the sides
run innumerable rills, which form those noisy brooks that rush along
the bottom of the hills, where now the roads wind along, shaded by the
mountain, and enlivened by the music of the waters. Among these hills
there are, here and there, expanses of level country large enough for
a farm, with the addition of some fields upon the easier acclivities
and woodlands higher up. There was one field of a hundred acres upon
Captain Webster's mountain farm so level that a lamb could be seen on
any part of it from the windows of the house. Every tourist knows that
region now,--that wide, billowy expanse of dark mountains and vivid
green fields, dotted with white farm-houses, and streaked with silvery
streams. It was rougher, seventy years ago, secluded, hardly
accessible, the streams unbridged, the roads of primitive formation;
but the worst of the rough work had been done there, and the
production of superior human beings had become possible, before the
Webster boys were born.

Daniel Webster's father was the strong man of his neighborhood; the
very model of a republican citizen and hero,--stalwart, handsome,
brave, and gentle. Ebenezer Webster inherited no worldly advantages.
Sprung from a line of New Hampshire farmers, he was apprenticed, in
his thirteenth year, to another New Hampshire farmer; and when he had
served his time, he enlisted as a private soldier in the old French
war, and came back from the campaigns about Lake George a captain. He
never went to school. Like so many other New England boys, he learned
what is essential for the carrying on of business in the
chimney-corner, by the light of the fire. He possessed one beautiful
accomplishment: he was a grand reader. Unlettered as he was, he
greatly enjoyed the more lofty compositions of poets and orators; and
his large, sonorous voice enabled him to read them with fine effect.
His sons read in his manner, even to his rustic pronunciation of some
words. Daniel's calm, clear-cut rendering of certain noted
passages--favorites in his early home--was all his father's. There is
a pleasing tradition in the neighborhood, of the teamsters who came to
Ebenezer Webster's mill saying to one another, when they had
discharged their load and tied their horses, "Come, let us go in, and
hear little Dan read a psalm." The French war ended, Captain Webster,
in compensation for his services, received a grant of land in the
mountain wilderness at the head of the Merrimack, where, as miller and
farmer, he lived and reared his family. The Revolutionary War summoned
this noble yeoman to arms once more. He led forth his neighbors to the
strife, and fought at their head, with his old rank of captain, at
White Plains and at Bennington, and served valiantly through the war.
From that time to the end of his life, though much trusted and
employed by his fellow-citizens as legislator, magistrate, and judge,
he lived but for one object,--the education and advancement of his
children. All men were poor then in New Hampshire, compared with the
condition of their descendants. Judge Webster was a poor, and even
embarrassed man, to the day of his death. The hardships he had endured
as soldier and pioneer made him, as he said, an old man before his
time. Rheumatism bent his form, once so erect and vigorous. Black care
subdued his spirits, once so joyous and elastic. Such were the fathers
of fair New England.

This strong-minded, uncultured man was a Puritan and a Federalist,--a
catholic, tolerant, and genial Puritan, an intolerant and almost
bigoted Federalist. Washington, Adams, and Hamilton were the civilians
highest in his esteem; the good Jefferson he dreaded and abhorred. The
French Revolution was mere blackness and horror to him; and when it
assumed the form of Napoleon Bonaparte, his heart sided passionately
with England in her struggle to extirpate it. His boys were in the
fullest sympathy with him in all his opinions and feelings. They, too,
were tolerant and untheological Puritans; they, too, were most
strenuous Federalists; and neither of them ever recovered from their
father's influence, nor advanced much beyond him in their fundamental
beliefs. Readers have, doubtless, remarked, in Mr. Webster's oration
upon Adams and Jefferson, how the stress of the eulogy falls upon
Adams, while cold and scant justice is meted out to the greatest and
wisest of our statesmen. It was Ebenezer Webster who spoke that day,
with the more melodious voice of his son. There is a tradition in New
Hampshire that Judge Webster fell sick on a journey in a town of
Republican politics, and besought the doctor to help him speedily on
his way home, saying that he was born a Federalist, had lived a
Federalist, and could not die in peace in any but a Federalist town.

Among the ten children of this sturdy patriot and partisan, eight were
ordinary mortals, and two most extraordinary,--Ezekiel, born in 1780,
and Daniel, born in 1782,--the youngest of his boys. Some of the elder
children were even less than ordinary. Elderly residents of the
neighborhood speak of one half-brother of Daniel and Ezekiel as
penurious and narrow; and the letters of others of the family indicate
very plain, good, commonplace people. But these two, the sons of their
father's prime, inherited all his grandeur of form and beauty of
countenance, his taste for high literature, along with a certain
energy of mind that came to them, by some unknown law of nature, from
their father's mother. From her Daniel derived his jet-black hair and
eyes, and his complexion of burnt gunpowder; though all the rest of
the children except one were remarkable for fairness of complexion,
and had sandy hair. Ezekiel, who was considered the handsomest man in
the United States, had a skin of singular fairness, and light hair. He
is vividly remembered in New Hampshire for his marvellous beauty of
form and face, his courtly and winning manners, the weight and majesty
of his presence. He was a signal refutation of Dr. Holmes's theory,
that grand manners and high breeding are the result of several
generations of culture. Until he was nineteen, this peerless gentleman
worked on a rough mountain farm on the outskirts of civilization, as
his ancestors had for a hundred and fifty years before him; but he was
refined to the tips of his finger-nails and to the buttons of his
coat. Like his more famous brother, he had an artist's eye for the
becoming in costume, and a keen sense for all the proprieties and
decorums both of public and private life. Limited in his view by the
narrowness of his provincial sphere, as well as by inherited
prejudices, he was a better man and citizen than his brother, without
a touch of his genius. Nor was that half-brother of Daniel, who had
the black hair and eyes and gunpowder skin, at all like Daniel, or
equal to him in mental power.

There is nothing in our literature more pleasing than the glimpses it
affords of the early life of these two brothers;--Ezekiel, robust,
steady-going, persevering, self-denying; Daniel, careless of work,
eager for play, often sick, always slender and weakly, and regarded
rather as a burden upon the family than a help to it. His feebleness
early habituated him to being a recipient of aid and favor, and it
decided his destiny. It has been the custom in New England, from the
earliest time, to bring up one son of a prosperous family to a
profession, and the one selected was usually the boy who seemed least
capable of earning a livelihood by manual labor. Ebenezer Webster,
heavily burdened with responsibility all his life long, had most
ardently desired to give his elder sons a better education than he had
himself enjoyed, but could not. When Daniel was a boy, his large
family was beginning to lift his load a little; the country was
filling up; his farm was more productive, and he felt somewhat more at
his ease. His sickly youngest son, because he was sickly, and only for
that reason, he chose from his numerous brood to send to an academy,
designing to make a schoolmaster of him. We have no reason to believe
that any of the family saw anything extraordinary in the boy. Except
that he read aloud unusually well, he had given no sign of particular
talent, unless it might be that he excelled in catching trout,
shooting squirrels, and fighting cocks. His mother, observing his love
of play and his equal love of books, said he "would come to something
or nothing, she could not tell which"; but his father, noticing his
power over the sympathies of others, and comparing him with his
bashful brother, used to remark, that he had fears for Ezekiel, but
that Daniel would assuredly make his way in the world. It is certain
that the lad himself was totally unconscious of possessing
extraordinary talents, and indulged no early dream of greatness. He
tells us himself, that he loved but two things in his youth,--play and
reading. The rude schools which he trudged two or three miles in the
winter every day to attend, taught him scarcely anything. His father's
saw-mill, he used to say, was the real school of his youth. When he
had set the saw and turned on the water, there would be fifteen
minutes of tranquillity before the log again required his attention,
during which he sat and absorbed knowledge.

     "We had so few books," he records in the exquisite fragment
     of autobiography he has left us, "that to read them once or
     twice was nothing. We thought they were all to be got by

How touching the story, so well known, of the mighty struggle and long
self-sacrifice it cost this family to get the youth through college!
The whole expense did not average one hundred and fifty dollars a
year; but it seemed to the boy so vast and unattainable a good, that,
when his father announced his purpose to attempt it, he was completely
overcome; his head was dizzy; his tongue was paralyzed; he could only
press his father's hands and shed tears. Slender indeed was his
preparation for Dartmouth. From the day when he took his first Latin
lesson to that on which he entered college was thirteen months. He
could translate Cicero's orations with some ease, and make out with
difficulty and labor the easiest sentences of the Greek Reader, and
that was the whole of what was called his "preparation" for college.
In June, 1797, he did not know the Greek alphabet; in August of the
same year he was admitted to the Freshman Class of Dartmouth on
engaging to supply his deficiencies by extra study.

Neither at college nor at any time could Daniel Webster be properly
called a student, and well he knew it. Many a time he has laughed, in
his jovial, rollicking manner, at the preposterous reputation for
learning a man can get by bringing out a fragment of curious knowledge
at the right moment at college. He was an absorbent of knowledge,
never a student. The Latin of Cicero and Virgil was congenial and easy
to him, and he learned more of it than the required portion. But even
in Latin, he tells us, he was excelled by some of his own class; and
"his attainments were not such," he adds, "as told for much in the
recitation-room." Greek he never enjoyed: his curiosity was never
awakened on the edge of that boundless contiguity of interesting
knowledge, and he only learned enough Greek to escape censure. He
said, forty years after, in an after-dinner speech:

     "When I was at school I felt exceedingly obliged to Homer's
     messengers for the exact literal fidelity with which they
     delivered their messages. The seven or eight lines of good
     Homeric Greek in which they had received the commands of
     Agamemnon or Achilles they recited to whomsoever the message
     was to be carried; and as they repeated them verbatim,
     sometimes twice or thrice, it saved me the trouble of
     learning so much Greek."

It was not at "school" that he had this experience, but at Dartmouth
College. For mathematics, too, he had not the slightest taste. He
humorously wrote to a fellow-student, soon after leaving college, that
"all that he knew about conterminous arches or evanescent subtenses
might be collected on the pupil of a gnat's eye without making him
wink." At college, in fact, he was simply an omnivorous reader,
studying only so much as to pass muster in the recitation-room. Every
indication we possess of his college life, as well as his own repeated
assertions, confirms the conclusion that Nature had formed him to use
the products of other men's toil, not to add to the common fund. Those
who are conversant with college life know very well what it means when
a youth does not take to Greek, and has an aversion to mathematics.
Such a youth may have immense talent, and give splendid expression to
the sentiments of his countrymen, but he is not likely to be one of
the priceless few of the human race who discover truth or advance
opinion. It is the energetic, the originating minds that are
susceptible to the allurements of difficulty.

On the other hand, Daniel Webster had such qualities as made every one
feel that he was the first man in the College. Tall, gaunt, and
sallow, with an incomparable forehead, and those cavernous and
brilliant eyes of his, he had much of the large and tranquil presence
which was so important an element of his power over others at all
periods of his life. His letters of this time, as well as the
recollections of his fellow-students, show him the easy, humorous,
rather indolent and strictly correct "good-fellow," whom professors
and companions equally relished. He browsed much in the College
library, and had the habit of bringing to bear upon the lesson of the
hour the information gathered in his miscellaneous reading,--a
practice that much enlivens the monotony of recitation. The half-dozen
youths of his particular set, it appears, plumed themselves upon
resembling the early Christians in having all things in common. The
first to rise in the morning--and he must have been an early riser
indeed who was up before Daniel Webster--"dressed himself in the best
which the united apartments afforded"; the next made the best
selection from what remained; and the last was happy if he found rags
enough to justify his appearance in the chapel. The relator of this
pleasant reminiscence adds, that he was once the possessor of an
eminently respectable beaver hat, a costly article of resplendent
lustre. It was missing one day, could not be found, and was given up
for lost. Several weeks after "friend Dan" returned from a distant
town, where he had been teaching school, wearing the lost beaver, and
relieving its proprietor from the necessity of covering his head with
a battered and long-discarded hat of felt. How like the Daniel Webster
of later years, who never could acquire the sense of _meum_ and
_tuum_, supposed to be the basis of civilization!

Mr. Webster always spoke slightingly of his early oratorical efforts,
and requested Mr. Everett, the editor of his works, not to search them
out. He was not just to the productions of his youth, if we may judge
from the Fourth-of-July oration which he delivered in 1800, when he
was a Junior at Dartmouth, eighteen years of age. This glowing psalm
of the republican David is perfectly characteristic, and entirely
worthy of him. The times that tried men's souls,--how recent and vivid
they were to the sons of Ebenezer Webster, who had led forth from the
New Hampshire hills the neighbors at whose firesides Ezekiel and
Daniel had listened, open-mouthed, to the thousand forgotten incidents
of the war. Their professors of history were old John Bowen, who had
once been a prisoner with the Indians; Robert Wise, who had sailed
round the world and fought in the Revolution on _both_ sides; George
Bayly, a pioneer, who saw the first tree felled in Northern New
Hampshire; women of the neighborhood, who had heard the midnight yell
of savages; and, above all, their own lion-hearted father, who had
warred with Frenchmen, Indians, wild nature, British troops, and
French ideas. "O," wrote Daniel once, "I shall never hear such
story-telling again!" It was not in the cold pages of Hildreth, nor in
the brief summaries of school-books, that this imaginative,
sympathetic youth had learned that part of the political history of
the United States--from 1787 to 1800--which will ever be its most
interesting portion. He learned it at town-meetings, in the
newspapers, at his father's house, among his neighbors, on election
days; he learned it as an intelligent youth, with a passionately loyal
father and mother, learned the history of the late war, and is now
learning the agonizing history of "reconstruction." This oration is
the warm and modest expression of all that the receptive and
unsceptical student had imbibed and felt during the years of his
formation, who saw before him a large company of Revolutionary
soldiers and a great multitude of Federalist partisans. He saluted the
audience as "Countrymen, brethren, and fathers." The oration was
chiefly a rapid, exulting review of the history of the young Republic,
with an occasional pomposity, and a few expressions caught from the
party discussions of the day. It is amusing to hear this young
Federalist of 1800 speak of Napoleon Bonaparte as "the gasconading
pilgrim of Egypt," and the government of France as the "supercilious,
five-headed Directory," and the President of the United States as "the
firm, the wise, the inflexible Adams, who with steady hand draws the
disguising veil from the intrigues of foreign enemies and the plots of
domestic foes." It is amusing to read, as the utterance of Daniel
Webster, that "Columbia is now seated in the forum of nations, and the
empires of the world are amazed at the bright effulgence of her
glory." But it is interesting to observe, also, that at eighteen, not
less fervently than at forty-eight, he felt the importance of the
message with which he was charged to the American people,--the
necessity of the Union, and the value of the Constitution as the
uniting bond. The following passage has, perhaps, more in it of the
Webster of 1830 than any other in the oration. The reader will notice
the similarity between one part of it and the famous passage in the
Bunker Hill oration, beginning "Venerable men," addressed to the
survivors of the Revolution.

     "Thus, friends and citizens, did the kind hand of overruling
     Providence conduct us, through toils, fatigues, and dangers,
     to independence and peace. If piety be the rational exercise
     of the human soul, if religion be not a chimera, and if the
     vestiges of heavenly assistance are clearly traced in those
     events which mark the annals of our nation, it becomes us on
     this day, in consideration of the great things which have
     been done for us, to render the tribute of unfeigned thanks
     to that God who superintends the universe, and holds aloft
     the scale that weighs the destinies of nations.

     "The conclusion of the Revolutionary War did not accomplish
     the entire achievements of our countrymen. Their military
     character was then, indeed, sufficiently established; but
     the time was coming which should prove their political
     sagacity, their ability to govern themselves.

     "No sooner was peace restored with England, (the first grand
     article of which was the acknowledgment of our
     independence,) than the old system of Confederation,
     dictated at first by necessity, and adopted for the purposes
     of the moment, was found inadequate to the government of an
     extensive empire. Under a full conviction of this, we then
     saw the people of these States engaged in a transaction
     which is undoubtedly the greatest approximation towards
     human perfection the political world ever yet witnessed, and
     which, perhaps, will forever stand in the history of mankind
     without a parallel. A great republic, composed of different
     States, whose interest in all respects could not be
     perfectly compatible, then came deliberately forward,
     discarded one system of government, and adopted another,
     without the loss of one man's blood.

     "There is not a single government now existing in Europe
     which is not based in usurpation, and established, if
     established at all, by the sacrifice of thousands. But in
     the adoption of our present system of jurisprudence, we see
     the powers necessary for government voluntarily flowing from
     the people, their only proper origin, and directed to the
     public good, their only proper object.

     "With peculiar propriety, we may now felicitate ourselves on
     that happy form of mixed government under which we live. The
     advantages resulting to the citizens of the Union are
     utterly incalculable, and the day when it was received by a
     majority of the States shall stand on the catalogue of
     American anniversaries second to none but the birthday of

     "In consequence of the adoption of our present system of
     government, and the virtuous manner in which it has been
     administered by a Washington and an Adams, we are this day
     in the enjoyment of peace, while war devastates Europe! We
     can now sit down beneath the shadow of the olive, while her
     cities blaze, her streams run purple with blood, and her
     fields glitter with a forest of bayonets! The citizens of
     America can this day throng the temples of freedom, and
     renew their oaths of fealty to independence; while Holland,
     our once sister republic, is erased from the catalogue of
     nations; while Venice is destroyed, Italy ravaged, and
     Switzerland--the once happy, the once united, the once
     flourishing Switzerland--lies bleeding at every pore!"

He need not have been ashamed of this speech, despite the lumbering
bombast of some of its sentences. All that made him estimable as a
public man is contained in it,--the sentiment of nationality, and a
clear sense of the only means by which the United States can remain a
nation; namely, strict fidelity to the Constitution as interpreted by
the authority itself creates, and modified in the way itself appoints.
We have never read the production of a youth which was more prophetic
of the man than this. It was young New England that spoke through him
on that occasion; and in all the best part of his life he never
touched a strain which New England had not inspired, or could not

His success at college giving him ascendency at home, he employed it
for the benefit of his brother in a manner which few sons would have
dared, and no son ought to attempt. His father, now advanced in years,
infirm, "an old man before his time" through hardship and toil, much
in debt, depending chiefly upon his salary of four hundred dollars a
year as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and heavily taxed to
maintain Daniel in college, had seen all his other sons married and
settled except Ezekiel, upon whom he leaned as the staff of his
declining years, and the main dependence of his wife and two maiden
daughters. Nevertheless, Daniel, after a whole night of consultation
with his brother, urged the old man to send Ezekiel to college also.
The fond and generous father replied, that he had but little property,
and it would take all that little to carry another son through college
to a profession; but he lived only for his children, and, for his own
part, he was willing to run the risk; but there was the mother and two
unmarried sisters, to whom the risk was far more serious. If they
consented, he was willing. The mother said:

     "I have lived long in the world, and have been happy in my
     children. If Daniel and Ezekiel will promise to take care of
     me in my old age, I will consent to the sale of all our
     property at once, and they may enjoy the benefit of that
     which remains after our debts are paid."

Upon hearing this, all the family, we are told, were dissolved in
tears, and the old man gave his assent. This seems hard,--two stout
and vigorous young men willing to risk their aged parents' home and
dignity for such a purpose, or for any purpose! In the early days,
however, there was a singular unity of feeling and interest in a good
New England family, and there were opportunities for professional men
which rendered the success of two such lads as these nearly certain,
if they lived to establish themselves. Nevertheless, it was too much
to ask, and more than Daniel Webster would have asked if he had been
properly alive to the rights of others. Ezekiel shouldered his bundle,
trudged off to school, where he lived and studied at the cost of one
dollar a week, worked his way to the position of the second lawyer in
New Hampshire, and would early have gone to Congress but for his
stanch, inflexible Federalism.

Daniel Webster, schoolmaster and law-student, was assuredly one of the
most interesting of characters. Pinched by poverty, as he tells us,
till his very bones ached, eking out his income by a kind of labor
that he always loathed (copying deeds), his shoes letting in, not
water merely, but "pebbles and stones,"--father, brother, and himself
sometimes all moneyless together, all dunned at the same time, and
writing to one another for aid,--he was nevertheless as jovial a young
fellow as any in New England. How merry and affectionate his letters
to his young friends! He writes to one, soon after leaving college:

     "You will naturally inquire how I prosper in the article of
     cash; finely, finely! I came here in January with a horse,
     watch, etc., and a few rascally counters in my pocket. Was
     soon obliged to sell my horse, and live on the proceeds.
     Still straitened for cash, I sold my watch, and made a shift
     to get home, where my friends supplied me with another horse
     and another watch. My horse is sold again, and my watch
     goes, I expect, this week; thus you see how I lay up cash."

How like him! To another college friend, James Hervey Bingham, whom he
calls, by turns, "brother Jemmy," "Jemmy Hervey," and "Bingham," he
discourses thus:

     "Perhaps you thought, as I did, that a dozen dollars would
     slide out of the pocket in a Commencement jaunt much easier
     than they would slide in again after you got home. That was
     the exact reason why I was not there.... I flatter myself
     that none of my friends ever thought me greatly absorbed in
     the sin of avarice, yet I assure you, Jem, that in these
     days of poverty I look upon a round dollar with a great deal
     of complacency. These rascal dollars are so necessary to the
     comfort of life, that next to a fine wife they are most
     essential, and their acquisition an object of prime
     importance. O Bingham, how blessed it would be to retire
     with a decent, clever bag of Rixes to a pleasant country
     town, and follow one's own inclination without being
     shackled by the duties of a profession!"

To the same friend, whom he now addresses as "dear Squire," he
announces joyfully a wondrous piece of luck:

     "My expenses [to Albany] were all amply paid, and on my
     return I put my hand in my pocket and found one hundred and
     twenty dear delightfuls! Is not that good luck? And these
     dear delightfuls were, 'pon honor, all my own; yes, every
     dog of them!"

To which we may add from another source, that they were straightway
transferred to his father, to whom they were dear delightfuls indeed,
for he was really getting to the end of his tether.

The schoolmaster lived, it appears, on the easiest terms with his
pupils, some of whom were older than himself. He tells a story of
falling in with one of them on his journey to school, who was mounted
"on the ugliest horse I ever saw or heard of, except Sancho Panza's
pacer." The schoolmaster having two good horses, the pupil mounted one
of them, strapped his bag to his own forlorn animal and drove him
before, where his odd gait and frequent stumblings kept them amused.
At length, arriving at a deep and rapid river,

     "this satire on the animal creation, as if to revenge
     herself on us for our sarcasms, plunged into the river, then
     very high by the freshet, and was wafted down the current
     like a bag of oats! I could hardly sit on my horse for
     laughter. I am apt to laugh at the vexations of my friends.
     The fellow, who was of my own age, and my room-mate, half
     checked the current by oaths as big as lobsters, and the old
     Rosinante, who was all the while much at her ease, floated
     up among the willows far below on the opposite side of the

At the same time he was an innocent young man. If he had any wild oats
in his composition, they were not sown in the days of his youth.
Expecting to pass his life as a country lawyer, having scarcely a
premonition of his coming renown, we find him enjoying the simple
country sports and indulging in the simple village ambitions. He tried
once for the captaincy of a company of militia, and was not elected;
he canvassed a whole regiment to get his brother the post of adjutant,
and failed. At one time he came near abandoning the law, as too high
and perilous for him, and settling down as schoolmaster and clerk of a
court. The assurance of a certain six hundred dollars a year, a house,
and a piece of land, with the prospect of the clerkship by and by, was
so alluring to him that it required all the influence of his family
and friends to make him reject the offer. Even then, in the flush and
vigor of his youth, he was _led_. So was it always. He was never a
leader, but always a follower. Nature made him very large, but so
stinted him in propelling force, that it is doubtful if he had ever
emerged from obscurity if his friends had not urged him on. His
modesty in these innocent days is most touching to witness. After a
long internal conflict, he resolved, in his twentieth year, to "make
one more trial" at mastering the law.

     "If I prosecute the profession, I pray God to fortify me
     against its temptations. To the wind I dismiss those light
     hopes of eminence which ambition inspired and vanity
     fostered. To be 'honest, to be capable, to be faithful' to
     my client and my conscience, I earnestly hope will be my
     first endeavor."

How exceedingly astonished would these affectionate young friends have
been, if they could have looked forward forty years, and seen the
timid law-student Secretary of State, and his ardent young comrade a
clerk in his department. They seemed equals in 1802; in 1845, they had
grown so far apart, that the excellent Bingham writes to Webster as to
a demigod.

In these pleasant early letters of Daniel Webster there are a thousand
evidences of a good heart and of virtuous habits, but not one of a
superior understanding. The total absence of the sceptical spirit
marks the secondary mind. For a hundred and fifty years, _no_ young
man of a truly eminent intellect has accepted his father's creeds
without having first called them into question; and this must be so in
periods of transition. The glorious light which has been coming upon
Christendom for the last two hundred years, and which is now beginning
to pervade the remotest provinces of it, never illumined the mind of
Daniel Webster. Upon coming of age, he joined the Congregational
Church, and was accustomed to open his school with an extempore
prayer. He used the word "Deist" as a term of reproach; he deemed it
"criminal" in Gibbon to write his fifteenth and sixteenth chapters,
and spoke of that author as a "learned, proud, ingenious, foppish,
vain, self-deceived man," who "from Protestant connections deserted to
the Church of Rome, and thence to the faith of Tom Paine." And he
never delivered himself from this narrowness and ignorance. In the
time of his celebrity, he preferred what Sir Walter Scott called "the
genteeler religion of the two," the Episcopal. In his old age, his
idea of a proper sermon was incredibly narrow and provincial. He is
reported to have said, late in life:--

     "Many of the ministers of the present day take their text
     from St. Paul, and preach from the newspapers. When they do
     so, I prefer to enjoy my own thoughts rather than to listen.
     I want my pastor to come to me in the spirit of the Gospel,
     saying, 'You are mortal! your probation is brief; your work
     must be done speedily; you are immortal too. You are
     hastening to the bar of God; the Judge standeth before the
     door.' When I am thus admonished, I have no disposition to
     muse or to sleep."

This does not accord with what is usually observed in our churches,
where sermons of the kind which Mr. Webster extolled dispose many
persons to sleep, though not to muse.

In the same unquestioning manner, he imbibed his father's political
prejudices. We hear this young Federalist call the Republican party
"the Jacobins," just as the reactionists and tories of the present day
speak of the present Republican party as "the radicals." It is amusing
to hear him, in 1802, predict the speedy restoration to power of a
party that was never again to taste its sweets. "Jacobinism and
iniquity," he wrote in his twentieth year, "are so allied in
signification, that the latter always follows the former, just as in
grammar 'the accusative case follows the transitive verb.'" He speaks
of a young friend as "too honest for a Democrat." As late as his
twenty-second year, he was wholly unreconciled to Napoleon, and still
wrote with truly English scorn of "Gallic tastes and Gallic
principles." There is a fine burst in one of his letters of 1804, when
he had been propelled by his brother to Boston to finish his law

     "Jerome, the brother of the Emperor of the Gauls, is here;
     every day you may see him whisking along Cornhill, with the
     true French air, with his wife by his side. The lads say
     that they intend to prevail on American misses to receive
     company in future after the manner of Jerome's wife, that
     is, in bed. The gentlemen of Boston (i.e. we Feds) treat
     Monsieur with cold and distant respect. They feel, and every
     honest man feels, indignant at seeing this lordly
     grasshopper, this puppet in prince's clothes, dashing
     through the American cities, luxuriously rioting on the
     property of Dutch mechanics or Swiss peasants."

This last sentence, written when he was twenty-two years old, is the
first to be found in his published letters which tells anything of the
fire that was latent in him. He was of slow growth; he was forty-eight
years of age before his powers had reached their full development.

When he had nearly completed his studies for the bar, he was again
upon the point of abandoning the laborious career of a lawyer for a
life of obscurity and ease. On this occasion, it was the clerkship of
his father's court, salary fifteen hundred dollars a year, that
tempted him. He jumped at the offer, which promised an immediate
competency for the whole family, pinched and anxious for so many
years. He had no thought but to accept it. With the letter in his
hand, and triumphant joy in his face, he communicated the news to Mr.
Gore, his instructor in the law; thinking of nothing, he tells us, but
of "rushing to the immediate enjoyment of the proffered office." Mr.
Gore, however, exhibited a provoking coolness on the subject. He said
it was very civil in the judges to offer such a compliment to a
brother on the bench, and, of course, a respectful letter of
acknowledgment must be sent. The glowing countenance of the young man
fell at these most unexpected and unwelcome words. They were, to use
his own language, "a shower-bath of ice-water." The old lawyer,
observing his crestfallen condition, reasoned seriously with him, and
persuaded him, against his will, to continue his preparation, for the
bar. At every turning-point of his life, whenever he came to a parting
of the ways, one of which must be chosen and the other forsaken, he
required an impulse from without to push him into the path he was to
go. Except once! Once in his long public life, he seemed to venture
out alone on an unfamiliar road, and lost himself. Usually, when great
powers are conferred on a man, there is also given him a strong
propensity to exercise them, sufficient to carry him through all
difficulties to the suitable sphere. Here, on the contrary, there was
a Great Eastern with only a Cunarder's engine, and it required a tug
to get the great ship round to her course.

Admitted to the bar in his twenty-third year, he dutifully went home
to his father, and opened an office in a New Hampshire village near
by, resolved never again to leave the generous old man while he lived.
Before leaving Boston, he wrote to his friend Bingham, "If I am not
earning my bread and cheese in exactly nine days after my admission, I
shall certainly be a bankrupt";--and so, indeed, it proved. With great
difficulty, he "hired" eighty-five dollars as a capital to begin
business with, and this great sum was immediately lost in its transit
by stage. To any other young man in his situation, such a calamity
would have been, for the moment, crushing; but this young man,
indifferent to _meum_ as to _tuum_, informs his brother that he can in
no conceivable way replace the money, cannot therefore pay for the
books he had bought, believes he is earning his daily bread, and as to
the loss, he has "_no uneasy sensations on that account_." He
concludes his letter with an old song, beginning,

     "Fol de dol, dol de dol, di dol,
     I'll never make money my idol."

In the New Hampshire of 1805 there was no such thing possible as
leaping at once into a lucrative practice, nor even of slowly
acquiring it. A country lawyer who gained a thousand dollars a year
was among the most successful, and the leader of the bar in New
Hampshire could not earn two thousand. The chief employment of Daniel
Webster, during the first year or two of his practice, was collecting
debts due in New Hampshire to merchants in Boston. His first tin sign
has been preserved to the present day, to attest by its minuteness and
brevity the humble expectations of its proprietor. "D. Webster,
Attorney," is the inscription it bears. The old Court-House still
stands in which he conducted his first suit, before his own father as
presiding judge. Old men in that part of New Hampshire were living
until within these few years, who remembered well seeing this tall,
gaunt, and large-eyed young lawyer rise slowly, as though scarcely
able to get upon his feet, and giving to every one the impression that
he would soon be obliged to sit down from mere physical weakness, and
saying to his father, for the first and last time, "May it please your
Honor." The sheriff of the county, who was also a Webster, used to say
that he felt ashamed to see the family represented at the bar by so
lean and feeble a young man. The tradition is, that he acquitted
himself so well on this occasion that the sheriff was satisfied, and
clients came, with their little suits and smaller fees, in
considerable numbers, to the office of D. Webster, Attorney, who
thenceforth in the country round went by the name of "All-eyes." His
father never heard him speak again. He lived to see Daniel in
successful practice, and Ezekiel a student of law, and died in 1806,
prematurely old. Daniel Webster practised three years in the country,
and then, resigning his business to his brother, established himself
at Portsmouth, the seaport of New Hampshire, then a place of much
foreign commerce. Ezekiel had had a most desperate struggle with
poverty. At one time, when the family, as Daniel observed, was
"heinously unprovided," we see the much-enduring "Zeke" teaching an
Academy by day, an evening school for sailors, and keeping well up
with his class in college besides. But these preliminary troubles were
now at an end, and both the brothers took the places won by so much
toil and self-sacrifice.

Those are noble old towns on the New England coast, the commerce of
which Boston swallowed up forty years ago, while it left behind many a
large and liberally provided old mansion, with a family in it enriched
by ventures to India and China. Strangers in Portsmouth are still
struck by the largeness and elegance of the residences there, and
wonder how such establishments can be maintained in a place that has
little "visible means of support." It was while Portsmouth was an
important seaport that Daniel Webster learned and practised law there,
and acquired some note as a Federalist politician.

The once celebrated Dr. Buckminster was the minister of the
Congregational church at Portsmouth then. One Sunday morning in 1808,
his eldest daughter sitting alone in the minister's pew, a strange
gentleman was shown into it, whose appearance and demeanor strongly
arrested her attention. The slenderness of his frame, the pale yellow
of his complexion, and the raven blackness of his hair, seemed only to
bring out into grander relief his ample forehead, and to heighten the
effect of his deep-set, brilliant eyes. At this period of his life
there was an air of delicacy and refinement about his face, joined to
a kind of strength that women can admire, without fearing. Miss
Buckminster told the family, when she went home from church, that
there had been a remarkable person with her in the pew,--one that she
was sure had "a marked character for good or evil." A few days after,
the remarkable person came to live in the neighborhood, and was soon
introduced to the minister's family as Mr. Daniel Webster, from
Franklin, New Hampshire, who was about to open a law office in
Portsmouth. He soon endeared himself to every person in the minister's
circle, and to no one more than to the minister himself, who, among
other services, taught him the art of preserving his health. The young
man, like the old clergyman, was an early riser, up with the dawn in
summer, and long before the dawn in winter; and both were out of doors
with the sun, each at one end of a long saw, cutting wood for an
appetite. The joyous, uncouth singing and shouting of the newcomer
aroused the late sleepers. Then in to breakfast, where the homely,
captivating humor of the young lawyer kept the table in a roar, and
detained every inmate. "Never was there such an actor lost to the
stage," Jeremiah Mason, his only rival at the New Hampshire bar, used
to say, "as he would have made." Returning in the afternoon from
court, fatigued and languid, his spirits rose again with food and
rest, and the evening was another festival of conversation and
reading. A few months after his settlement at Portsmouth he visited
his native hills, saying nothing respecting the object of his journey;
and returned with a wife,--that gentle and high-bred lady, a
clergyman's daughter, who was the chief source of the happiness of his
happiest years, and the mother of all his children. He improved in
health, his form expanded, his mind grew, his talents ripened, his
fame spread, during the nine years of his residence at this thriving
and pleasant town.

At Portsmouth, too, he had precisely that external stimulus to
exertion which his large and pleasure-loving nature needed. Jeremiah
Mason was, literally speaking, the giant of the American bar, for he
stood six feet seven inches in his stockings. Like Webster, he was the
son of a valiant Revolutionary officer; like Webster, he was an
hereditary Federalist; like Webster, he had a great mass of brain: but
his mind was more active and acquisitive than Webster's, and his
nineteen years of arduous practice at the bar had stored his memory
with knowledge and given him dexterity in the use of it. Nothing shows
the eminence of Webster's talents more than this, that, very early in
his Portsmouth career, he should have been regarded at the bar of New
Hampshire as the man to be employed against Jeremiah Mason, and his
only fit antagonist. Mason was a vigilant, vigorous opponent,--sure to
be well up in the law and the facts of a cause, sure to detect a flaw
in the argument of opposing counsel. It was in keen encounters with
this wary and learned man that Daniel Webster learned his profession;
and this he always acknowledged. "If," he said once in conversation,--

     "if anybody thinks I am somewhat familiar with the law on
     some points, and should be curious to know how it happened,
     tell him that Jeremiah Mason compelled me to study it. _He_
     was my master."

It is honorable, too, to both of them, that, rivals as they were, they
were fast and affectionate friends, each valuing in the other the
qualities in which he was surpassed by him, and each sincerely
believing that the other was the first man of his time and country.
"They say," in Portsmouth, that Mason did not shrink from
remonstrating with his friend upon his carelessness with regard to
money; but, finding the habit inveterate and the man irresistible,
desisted. Webster himself says that two thousand dollars a year was
all that the best practice in New Hampshire could be made to yield;
and that that was inadequate to the support of his family of a wife
and three little children. Two thousand dollars in Portsmouth, in
1812, was certainly equal, in purchasing power, to six thousand of the
ineffectual things that now pass by the name of dollars; and upon such
an income large families in a country town contrive to live, ride, and

He was a strenuous Federalist at Portsmouth, took a leading part in
the public meetings of the party, and won great distinction as its
frequent Fourth-of-July orator. All those mild and economical measures
by which Mr. Jefferson sought to keep the United States from being
drawn into the roaring vortex of the great wars in Europe, he opposed,
and favored the policy of preparing the country for defence, not by
gunboats and embargoes, but by a powerful navy of frigates and ships
of the line. His Fourth-of-July orations, if we may judge of them by
the fragments that have been found, show that his mind had
strengthened more than it had advanced. His style wonderfully improved
from eighteen to twenty-five; and he tells us himself why it did. He
discovered, he says, that the value, as well as the force, of a
sentence, depends chiefly upon its meaning, not its language; and that
great writing is that in which much is said in few words, and those
words the simplest that will answer the purpose. Having made this
notable discovery, he became a great eraser of adjectives, and toiled
after simplicity and directness. Mr. Everett quotes a few sentences
from his Fourth-of-July oration of 1806, when he was twenty-four,
which shows an amazing advance upon the effort of his eighteenth year,
quoted above:--

     "Nothing is plainer than this: if we will have commerce, we
     must protect it. This country is commercial as well as
     agricultural. _Indissoluble bonds connect him who ploughs
     the land with him who ploughs the sea_. Nature has placed us
     in a situation favorable to commercial pursuits, and no
     government can alter the destination. Habits confirmed by
     two centuries are not to be changed. An immense portion of
     our property is on the waves. Sixty or eighty thousand of
     our most useful citizens are there, and are entitled to such
     protection from the government as their case requires."

How different this compact directness from the tremendous fulmination
of the Dartmouth junior, who said:--

     "Columbia stoops not to tyrants; her spirit will never
     cringe to France; neither a supercilious, five-headed
     Directory nor the gasconading pilgrim of Egypt will ever
     dictate terms to sovereign America. The thunder of our
     cannon shall insure the performance of our treaties, and
     fulminate destruction on Frenchmen, till the ocean is
     crimsoned with blood and gorged with pirates!"

The Fourth-of-July oration, which afterwards fell into some disrepute,
had great importance in the earlier years of the Republic, when
Revolutionary times and perils were fresh in the recollection of the
people. The custom arose of assigning this duty to young men covetous
of distinction, and this led in time to the flighty rhetoric which
made sounding emptiness and a Fourth-of-July oration synonymous terms.
The feeling that was real and spontaneous in the sons of Revolutionary
soldiers was sometimes feigned or exaggerated in the young law
students of the next generation, who had merely read the history of
the Revolution. But with all the faults of those compositions, they
were eminently serviceable to the country. We believe that to them is
to be attributed a considerable part of that patriotic feeling which,
after a suspended animation of several years, awoke in the spring of
1861 and asserted itself with such unexpected power, and which
sustained the country during four years of a peculiarly disheartening
war. How pleasant and spirit-stirring was a celebration of the Fourth
of July as it was conducted in Webster's early day! We trust the old
customs will be revived and improved upon, and become universal. Nor
is it any objection to the practice of having an oration, that the
population is too large to be reached in that way; for if only a
thousand hear, a million may read. Nor ought we to object if the
orator _is_ a little more flowery and boastful than becomes an
ordinary occasion. There is a time to exult; there is a time to
abandon ourselves to pleasant recollections and joyous hopes.
Therefore, we say, let the young men reappear upon the platform, and
show what metal they are made of by giving the best utterance they can
to the patriotic feelings of the people on the national anniversary.
The Republic is safe so long as we celebrate that day in the spirit of
1776 and 1861.

At least we may assert that it was Mr. Webster's Fourth-of-July
orations, of which he delivered five in eleven years, that first made
him known to the people of New Hampshire. At that period the two
political parties could not unite in the celebration of the day, and
accordingly the orations of Mr. Webster had much in them that could be
agreeable only to Federalists. He was an occasional speaker, too, in
those years, at meetings of Federalists, where his power as an orator
was sometimes exerted most effectively. No speaker could be better
adapted to a New England audience, accustomed from of old to weighty,
argumentative sermons, delivered with deliberate, unimpassioned
earnestness. There are many indications that a speech by Daniel
Webster in Portsmouth in 1810 excited as much expectation and comment
as a speech by the same person in the Senate twenty years after. But
he was a mere Federalist partisan,--no more. It does not appear that
he had anything to offer to his countrymen beyond the stately
expression of party issues; and it was as a Federalist, pure and
simple, that he was elected, in 1812, a member of the House of
Representatives, after a keenly contested party conflict. His majority
over the Republican candidate was 2,546,--the whole number of voters
being 34,648.

The Federalists, from 1801 to 1825, were useful to the country only as
an Opposition,--just as the present Tory party in England can be only
serviceable in its capacity of critic and holdback. The Federalists
under John Adams had sinned past forgiveness; while the Republican
party, strong in being right, in the ability of its chiefs, in its
alliance with Southern aristocrats, and in having possession of the
government, was strong also in the odium and inconsistencies of its
opponents. Nothing could shake the confidence of the people in the
administration of Thomas Jefferson. But the stronger a party is, the
more it needs an Opposition,--as we saw last winter in Washington,
when the minority was too insignificant in numbers and ability to keep
the too powerful majority from doing itself such harm as might have
been fatal to it but for the President's well-timed antics. Next to a
sound and able majority, the great need of a free country is a
vigorous, vigilant, audacious, numerous minority. Better a factious
and unscrupulous minority than none at all. The Federalists, who could
justly claim to have among them a very large proportion of the rich
men and the educated men of the country, performed the humble but
useful service of keeping an eye upon, the measures of the
administration, and finding fault with every one of them. Daniel
Webster, however, was wont to handle only the large topics. While Mr.
Jefferson was struggling to keep the peace with Great Britain, he
censured the policy as timorous, costly, and ineffectual; but when Mr.
Madison declared war against that power, he deemed the act unnecessary
and rash. His opposition to the war was never carried to the point of
giving aid and comfort to the enemy; it was such an opposition as
patriotic "War Democrats" exhibited during the late Rebellion, who
thought the war might have been avoided, and ought to be conducted
more vigorously, but nevertheless stood by their country without a
shadow of swerving.

He could boast, too, that from his boyhood to the outbreak of the war
he had advocated the building of the very ships which gave the infant
nation its first taste of warlike glory. The Republicans of that time,
forgetful of what Paul Jones and others of Dr. Franklin's captains had
done in the war of the Revolution, supposed that, because England had
a thousand ships in commission, and America only seventeen, therefore
an American ship could not venture out of a harbor without being
taken. We have often laughed at Colonel Benton's ludicrous confession
of his own terrors on this subject.

"Political men," he says,

     "believed nothing could be done at sea but to lose the few
     vessels which we had; that even cruising was out of the
     question. Of our seventeen vessels, the whole were in port
     but one; and it was determined to keep them there, and the
     one at sea with them, if it had the luck to get in. I am
     under no obligation to make the admission, but I am free to
     acknowledge that I was one of those who supposed that there
     was no salvation for our seventeen men-of-war but to run
     them as far up the creek as possible, place them under the
     guns of batteries, and collect camps of militia about them
     to keep off the British. This was the policy at the day of
     the declaration of the war; and I have the less concern to
     admit myself to have been participator in the delusion,
     because I claim the merit of having profited from
     experience,--happy if I could transmit the lesson to
     posterity. Two officers came to Washington,--Bainbridge and
     Stewart. They spoke with Mr. Madison, and urged the
     feasibility of cruising. One half of the whole number of the
     British men-of-war were under the class of frigates,
     consequently no more than matches for some of our seventeen;
     the whole of her merchant marine (many thousands) were
     subject to capture. Here was a rich field for cruising; and
     the two officers, for themselves and brothers, boldly
     proposed to enter it.

     "Mr. Madison had seen the efficiency of cruising and
     privateering, even against Great Britain, and in our then
     infantile condition, during the war of the Revolution; and
     besides was a man of sense, and amenable to judgment and
     reason. He listened to the two experienced and valiant
     officers; and without consulting Congress, which perhaps
     would have been a fatal consultation (for multitude of
     counsellors is not the counsel for _bold_ decision),
     reversed the policy which had been resolved upon; and, in
     his supreme character of constitutional commander of the
     army and navy, ordered every ship that could cruise to get
     to sea as soon as possible. This I had from Mr. Monroe."

This is a curious example of the blinding effect of partisan strife,
and of the absolute need of an Opposition. It was the hereditary
prejudice of the Republicans against the navy, as an "aristocratic"
institution, and the hereditary love of the navy cherished by the
Federalists as being something stable and British, that enlivened the
debates of the war. The Federalists had their way, but failed to win a
partisan advantage from the fact, through their factious opposition to
the military measures of the administration. Because the first attempt
at the seizure of Canada had failed through the incompetency of
General Hull, which no wisdom of man could have foreseen, Daniel
Webster called upon the government to discontinue all further attempts
on the land, and fight the war out on the sea. "Give up your futile
projects of invasion," said he in 1814.

     "Extinguish the fires that blaze on your inland borders."
     "Unclench the iron grasp of your embargo." "With all the war
     of the enemy on your commerce, if you would cease to make
     war upon it yourselves, you would still have some commerce.
     That commerce would give you some revenue. Apply that
     revenue to the augmentation of your navy. That navy, in
     turn, will protect your commerce."

In war time, however, there are _two_ powers that have to do with the
course of events; and very soon the enemy, by his own great scheme of
invasion, decided the policy of the United States. Every port was
blockaded so effectively that a pilot-boat could not safely go out of
sight of land, and a frigate was captured within sight of it. These
vigilant blockaders, together with the threatening armament which
finally attacked New Orleans, compelled every harbor to prepare for
defence, and most effectually refuted Mr. Webster's speech. The "blaze
of glory" with which the war ended at New Orleans consumed all the
remaining prestige of the Federalist party, once so powerful, so
respectable, and so arrogant.

A member of the anti-war party during the existence of a war occupies
a position which can only cease to be insignificant by the misfortunes
of his country. But when we turn from the partisan to the man, we
perceive that Daniel Webster was a great presence in the House, and
took rank immediately with the half-dozen ablest debaters. His
self-possession was perfect at all times, and at thirty-three he was
still in the spring and first lustre of his powers. His weighty and
deliberate manner, the brevity, force, and point of his sentences, and
the moderation of his gestures, were all in strong contrast to the
flowing, loose, impassioned manner of the Southern orators, who ruled
the House. It was something like coming upon a stray number of the old
Edinburgh Review in a heap of novels and Ladies' Magazines.
Chief-Justice Marshall, who heard his first speech, being himself a
Federalist, was so much delighted to hear his own opinions expressed
with such power and dignity, that he left the House, believing that
this stranger from far-off New Hampshire was destined to become, as he
said, "one of the very first statesmen of America, and perhaps the
very first." His Washington fame gave him new _éclat_ at home. He was
re-elected, and came back to Congress in 1815, to aid the Federalists
in preventing the young Republicans from being too Federal.

This last sentence slipped from the pen unawares; but, ridiculous as
it looks, it does actually express the position and vocation of the
Federalists after the peace of 1815. Clay, Calhoun, Story, Adams, and
the Republican majority in Congress, taught by the disasters of the
war, as they supposed, had embraced the ideas of the old Federalist
party, and were preparing to carry some of them to an extreme. The
navy had no longer an enemy. The strict constructionists had dwindled
to a few impracticables, headed by John Randolph. The younger
Republicans were disposed to a liberal, if not to a latitudinarian
construction of the Constitution. In short, they were Federalists and
Hamiltonians, bank men, tariff men, internal-improvement men. Then was
afforded to the country the curious spectacle of Federalists opposing
the measures which had been among the rallying-cries of their party
for twenty years. It was not in Daniel Webster's nature to be a
leader; it was morally impossible for him to disengage himself from
party ties. This exquisite and consummate artist in oratory, who could
give such weighty and brilliant expression to the feelings of his
hearers and the doctrines of his party, had less originating power,
whether of intellect or of will, than any other man of equal eminence
that ever lived. He adhered to the fag end of the old party, until it
was absorbed, unavoidably, with scarcely an effort of its own, in
Adams and Clay. From 1815 to 1825 he was in opposition, and in
opposition to old Federalism revived; and, consequently, we believe
that posterity will decide that his speeches of this period are the
only ones relating to details of policy which have the slightest
permanent value. In fact, his position in Congress, as a member of a
very small band of Federalists who had no hope of regaining power, was
the next thing to being independent, and he made an excellent use of
his advantage.

That Bank of the United States, for example, of which, in 1832, he was
the ablest defender, and for a renewal of which he strove for ten
years, he voted _against_ in 1816; and for reasons which neither he
nor any other man ever refuted. His speeches criticising the various
bank schemes of 1815 and 1816 were serviceable to the public, and made
the bank, as finally established, less harmful than it might have

So of the tariff. On this subject, too, he always followed,--never
led. So long as there was a Federal party, he, as a member of it,
opposed Mr. Clay's protective, or (as Mr. Clay delighted to term it)
"American system." When, in 1825, the few Federalists in the House
voted for Mr. Adams, and were merged in the "conservative wing" of the
Republican party, which became, in time, the Whig party, then, and
from that time forward to the end of his life, he was a protectionist.
His anti-protection speech of 1824 is wholly in the modern spirit, and
takes precisely the ground since taken by Ricardo, John Stuart Mill,
and others of the new school. It is so excellent a statement of the
true policy of the United States with regard to protection, that we
have often wondered it has been allowed to sleep so long in the tomb
of his works. And, oh! from what evils might we have been
spared,--nullification, surplus-revenue embarrassments, hot-bed
manufactures, clothing three times its natural price,--if the
protective legislation of Congress had been inspired by the Webster of
1824, instead of the Clay! Unimportant as this great speech may now
seem, as it lies uncut in the third volume of its author's speeches,
its unturned leaves sticking together, yet we can say of it, that the
whole course of American history had been different if its counsels
had been followed. The essence of the speech is contained in two of
its phrases: "Freedom of trade, the general principle; restriction,
the exception." Free trade, the object to be aimed at; protection, a
temporary expedient. Free trade, the interest of all nations;
protection, the occasional necessity of one. Free trade, the final and
universal good; protection, the sometimes necessary evil. Free trade,
as soon as possible and as complete as possible; protection, as little
as possible and as short as possible. The speech was delivered in
reply to Mr. Clay; and, viewed merely _as_ a reply, it is difficult to
conceive of one more triumphant. Mr. Webster was particularly happy in
turning Mr. Clay's historical illustrations against him, especially
those drawn from the history of the English silk manufacture, and the
Spanish system of restriction and prohibition. Admitting fully that
manufactures the most unsuited to the climate, soil, and genius of a
country _could_ be created by protection, he showed that such
manufactures were not, upon the whole, and in the long run, a benefit
to a country; and adduced, for an illustration, the very instance
cited by Mr. Clay,--the silk manufacture of England,--which kept fifty
thousand persons in misery, and necessitated the continuance of a kind
of legislation which the intelligence of Great Britain had outgrown.
Is not the following brief passage an almost exhaustive statement of
the true American policy?

     "I know it would be very easy to promote manufactures, at
     least for a time, but probably for a short time only, if we
     might act in disregard of other interests. We _could_ cause
     a sudden transfer of capital and a violent change in the
     pursuits of men. We _could_ exceedingly benefit some classes
     by these means. But what then becomes of the interests of
     others? The power of collecting revenue by duties on
     imports, and the habit of the government of collecting
     almost its whole revenue, in that mode, will enable us,
     without exceeding the bounds of moderation, to give great
     advantages to those classes of manufactures which we may
     think most useful to promote at home."

One of his happy retorts upon Mr. Clay was the following:--

     "I will be so presumptuous as to take up a challenge which
     Mr. Speaker has thrown down. He has asked us, in a tone of
     interrogatory indicative of the feeling of anticipated
     triumph, to mention any country in which manufactures have
     flourished without the aid of prohibitory laws.... Sir, I am
     ready to answer this inquiry.

     "There is a country, not undistinguished among the nations,
     in which the progress of manufactures has been more rapid
     than in any other, and yet unaided by prohibitions or
     unnatural restrictions. That country, the happiest which the
     sun shines on, is our own."

Again, Mr. Clay had made the rash remark that it would cost the
nation, _as_ a nation, nothing to convert our ore into iron. Mr.
Webster's reply to this seems to us eminently worthy of consideration
at the present moment, and at every moment when the tariff is a topic
of debate.

     "I think," said he, "it would cost us precisely what we can
     least afford, that is, _great labor_.... Of manual labor no
     nation has more than a certain quantity; nor can it be
     increased at will.... A most important question for every
     nation, as well as for every individual, to propose to
     itself, is, how it can best apply that quantity of labor
     which it is able to perform.... Now, with respect to the
     quantity of labor, as we all know, different nations are
     differently circumstanced. Some need, more than anything,
     work for hands; _others require hands for work_; and if we
     ourselves are not absolutely in the latter class, we are
     still, most fortunately, very near it."

The applicability of these observations to the present condition of
affairs in the United States--labor very scarce, and protectionists
clamoring to make it scarcer--must be apparent to every reader.

But this was the last of Mr. Webster's efforts in behalf of the
freedom of trade. In the spring of 1825, when it devolved upon the
House of Representatives to elect a President, the few Federalists
remaining in the House became, for a few days, an important body. Mr.
Webster had an hereditary love for the house of Adams; and the aged
Jefferson himself had personally warned him against Andrew Jackson.
Webster it was who, in an interview with Mr. Adams, obtained such
assurances as determined the Federalists to give their vote for the
New England candidate; and thus terminated the existence of the great
party which Hamilton had founded, with which Washington had
sympathized, which had ruled the country for twelve years, and
maintained a vigorous and useful opposition for a quarter of a
century. Daniel Webster was in opposition no longer. He was a defender
of the administration of Adams and Clay, supported all their important
measures, and voted for, nay, advocated, the Tariff Bill of 1828,
which went far beyond that of 1824 in its protective provisions.
Taunted with such a remarkable and sudden change of opinion, he said
that, New England having been compelled by the act of 1824 to transfer
a large part of her capital from commerce to manufactures, he was
bound, as her representative, to demand the continuance of the system.
Few persons, probably, who heard him give this reason for his
conversion, believed it was the true one; and few will ever believe it
who shall intimately know the transactions of that winter in
Washington. But if it _was_ the true reason, Mr. Webster, in giving
it, ruled himself out of the rank of the Great,--who, in every age and
land, lead, not follow, their generation. In his speech of 1824 he
objects to the protective system on _general_ principles, applicable
to every case not clearly exceptional; and the further Congress was
disposed to carry an erroneous system, the more was he bound to lift
up his voice against it. It seems to us that, when he abandoned the
convictions of his own mind and took service under Mr. Clay, he
descended (to use the fine simile of the author of "Felix Holt") from
the rank of heroes to that of the multitude for whom heroes fight. He
was a protectionist, thenceforth, as long as he lived. If he was right
in 1824, how wrong he was in 1846! In 1824 he pointed to the high
wages of American mechanics as a proof that the protective system was
unnecessary; and he might have quoted Adam Smith to show that, in
1770, wages in the Colonies were just as high, compared with wages in
Europe, as in 1824. In 1846 he attributed high wages in America to the
operation of the protective system. In 1824 free trade was the good,
and restriction the evil; in 1846 restriction was the good, and free
trade the evil.

Practical wisdom, indeed, was not in this man. He was not formed to
guide, but to charm, impress, and rouse mankind. His advocacy of the
Greek cause, in 1824, events have shown to be unwise; but his speech
on this subject contains some passages so exceedingly fine, noble, and
harmonious, that we do not believe they have ever been surpassed in
extempore speech by any man but himself. The passage upon Public
Opinion, for example, is always read with delight, even by those who
can call to mind the greatest number of instances of its apparent

     "The time has been, indeed, when fleets, and armies, and
     subsidies were the principal reliances, even in the best
     cause. But, happily for mankind, a great change has taken
     place in this respect. Moral causes come into consideration
     in proportion as the progress of knowledge is advanced; and
     the public opinion of the civilized world is rapidly gaining
     an ascendency over mere brutal force.... It may be silenced
     by military power, but it cannot be conquered. It is
     elastic, irrepressible, and invulnerable to the weapons of
     ordinary warfare. It is that impassible, unextinguishable
     enemy of mere violence and arbitrary rule, which, like
     Milton's angels,

          "'Vital in every part,...
          Cannot, but by annihilating, die.'

     "Until this be propitiated or satisfied, it is vain for power
     to talk either of triumphs or of repose. No matter what
     fields are desolated, what fortresses surrendered, what
     armies subdued, or what provinces overrun.... There is an
     enemy that still exists to check the glory of these
     triumphs. It follows the conqueror back to the very scene of
     his ovations; it calls upon him to take notice that Europe,
     though silent, is yet indignant; it shows him that the
     sceptre of his victory is a barren sceptre; that it shall
     confer neither joy nor honor; but shall moulder to dry ashes
     in his grasp. In the midst of his exultation, it pierces his
     ear with the cry of injured justice; it denounces against
     him the indignation of an enlightened and civilized age; it
     turns to bitterness the cup of his rejoicing, and wounds him
     with the sting which belongs to the consciousness of having
     outraged the opinion of mankind."--_Works_, Vol. III. pp.
     77, 78.

Yes: if the conqueror bad the moral feeling which inspired this
passage, and if the cry of injured justice could pierce the flattering
din of office-seekers surrounding him. But, reading the paragraph as
the expression of a _hope_ of what may one day be, how grand and
consoling it is! The information given in this fine oration respecting
the condition of Greece and the history of her struggle for
independence was provided for him by the industry of his friend,
Edward Everett.

One of the minor triumphs of Mr. Webster's early Congressional life
was his conquest of the heart of John Randolph. In the course of a
debate on the sugar tax, in 1816, Mr. Webster had the very common
fortune of offending the irascible member from Virginia, and Mr.
Randolph, as his custom was, demanded an explanation of the offensive
words. Explanation was refused by the member from Massachusetts;
whereupon Mr. Randolph demanded "the satisfaction which his insulted
feelings required." Mr. Webster's reply to this preposterous demand
was everything that it ought to have been. He told Mr. Randolph that
he had no right to an explanation, and that the temper and style of
the demand were such as to forbid its being conceded as a matter of
courtesy. He denied, too, the right of any man to call him to the
field for what he might please to consider an insult to his feelings,
although he should be "always prepared to repel in a suitable manner
the aggression of any man who may presume upon such a refusal." The
eccentric Virginian was so much pleased with Mr. Webster's bearing
upon this occasion, that he manifested a particular regard for him,
and pronounced him a very able man for a Yankee.

It was during these years that Daniel Webster became dear, beyond all
other men of his time, to the people of New England. Removing to
Boston in 1816, and remaining out of Congress for some years, he won
the first place at the New England bar, and a place equal to the
foremost at the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Not one
of his legal arguments has been exactly reported, and some of the most
important of them we possess merely in outline; but in such reports as
we have, the weight and clearness of his mind are abundantly apparent.
In almost every argument of his, there can be found digressions which
relieve the strained attention of the bench, and please the unlearned
hearer; and he had a happy way of suddenly crystallizing his argument
into one luminous phrase, which often seemed to prove his case by
merely stating it. Thus, in the Dartmouth College case, he made a rare
display of learning (furnished him by associate counsel, he tells us);
but his argument is concentrated in two of his simplest sentences:--1.
The endowment of a college is private property; 2. The charter of a
college is that which constitutes its endowment private property. The
Supreme Court accepted these two propositions, and thus secured to
every college in the country its right to its endowment. This seems
too simple for argument, but it cost a prodigious and powerfully
contested lawsuit to reduce the question to this simplicity; and it
was Webster's large, calm, and discriminating glance which detected
these two fundamental truths in the mountain mass of testimony,
argument, and judicial decision. In arguing the great steamboat case,
too, he displayed the same qualities of mind. New York having granted
to Livingston and Fulton the exclusive right to navigate her waters by
steamboats, certain citizens of New Jersey objected, and, after a
fierce struggle upon the waters themselves, transferred the contest to
the Supreme Court. Mr. Webster said: "The commerce of the United
States, under the Constitution of 1787, is a unit," and "what we call
the waters of the State of New York are, for the purposes of
navigation and commerce, the waters of the United States"; therefore
no State can grant exclusive privileges. The Supreme Court affirmed
this to be the true doctrine, and thenceforth Captain Cornelius
Vanderbilt ran his steamboat without feeling it necessary, on
approaching New York, to station a lady at the helm and to hide
himself in the hold. Along with this concentrating power, Mr. Webster
possessed, as every school-boy knows, a fine talent for amplification
and narrative. His narration of the murder of Captain White was almost
enough of itself to hang a man.

But it was not his substantial services to his country which drew upon
him the eyes of all New England, and made him dear to every son of the
Pilgrims. In 1820, the Pilgrim Society of Plymouth celebrated the
anniversary of the landing of their forefathers in America. At the
dinner of the Society, that day, every man found beside his plate five
kernels of corn, to remind him of the time when that was the daily
allowance of the settlers, and it devolved upon Daniel Webster to show
how worthy they were of better fare. His address on this anniversary
is but an amplification of his Junior Fourth-of-July oration of 1800;
but what an amplification! It differed from that youthful essay as the
first flights of a young eagle, from branch to branch upon its native
tree, differ from the sweep of his wings when he takes a continent in
his flight, and swings from mountain range to mountain range. We are
aware that eulogy is, of all the kinds of composition, the easiest to
execute in a tolerable manner. What Mr. Everett calls "patriotic
eloquence" should usually be left to persons who are in the gushing
time of life; for when men address men, they should say something,
clear up something, help forward something, accomplish something. It
is not becoming in a full-grown man to utter melodious wind.
Nevertheless, it can be truly said of this splendid and irresistible
oration, that it carries that kind of composition as far as we can
ever expect to see it carried, even in this its native land. What a
triumphant joy it must have been to an audience, accustomed for three
or four generations to regard preaching as the noblest work of man,
keenly susceptible to all the excellences of uttered speech, and who
now heard their plain old fathers and grandfathers praised in such
massive and magnificent English! Nor can it be said that this speech
says nothing. In 1820 it was still part of the industry of New England
to fabricate certain articles required by slave-traders in their
hellish business; and there were still descendants of the Pilgrims who
were actually engaged in the traffic.

"If there be," exclaimed the orator,

     "within the extent of our knowledge or influence any
     participation in this traffic, let us pledge ourselves here,
     upon the rock of Plymouth, to extirpate and destroy it. It
     is not fit that the land of the Pilgrims should bear the
     shame longer. I hear the sound of the hammer, I see the
     smoke of the furnaces where manacles and fetters are still
     forged for human limbs. I see the visages of those who by
     stealth and at midnight labor in this work of hell, foul and
     dark, as may become the artificers of such instruments of
     misery and torture. Let that spot be purified, or let it
     cease to be of New England."--_Works_, Vol. I. pp. 45, 46.

And he proceeds, in language still more energetic, to call upon his
countrymen to purge their land of this iniquity. This oration, widely
circulated through the press, gave the orator universal celebrity in
the Northern States, and was one of the many causes which secured his
continuance in the national councils.

Such was his popularity in Boston, that, in 1824, he was re-elected to
Congress by 4,990 votes out of 5,000; and such was his celebrity in
his profession, that his annual retainers from banks, insurance
companies, and mercantile firms yielded an income that would have
satisfied most lawyers even of great eminence.

Those were not the times of five-thousand-dollar fees. As late as
1819, as we see in Mr. Webster's books, he gave "advice" in important
cases for twenty dollars; his regular retaining fee was fifty dollars;
his "annual retainer," one hundred dollars; his whole charge for
conducting a cause rarely exceeded five hundred dollars; and the
income of a whole year averaged about twenty thousand dollars. Twenty
years later, he has gained a larger sum than that by the trial of a
single cause; but in 1820 such an income was immense, and probably not
exceeded by that of any other American lawyer. Most lawyers in the
United States, he once said, "live well, work hard, and die poor"; and
this is particularly likely to be the case with lawyers who spend six
months of the year in Congress.

Northern members of Congress, from the foundation of the government,
have usually gratified their ambition only by the sacrifice of their
interests. The Congress of the United States, modelled upon the
Parliament of Great Britain, finds in the North no suitable class of
men who can afford to be absent from their affairs half the year. We
should naturally choose to be represented in Washington by men
distinguished in their several spheres; but in the North, almost all
such persons are so involved in business that they cannot accept a
seat in Congress, except at the peril of their fortune; and this
inconvenience is aggravated by the habits that prevail at the seat of
government. In the case of a lawyer like Daniel Webster, who has a
large practice in the Supreme Court, the difficulty is diminished,
because he can usually attend the court without seriously neglecting
his duties in Congress,--usually, but not always. There was one year
in the Congressional life of Mr. Webster when he was kept out of the
Supreme Court for four months by the high duty that devolved upon him
of refuting Calhoun's nullification subtilties; but even in that year,
his professional income was more than seven thousand dollars; and he
ought by that time, after thirty years of most successful practice, to
have been independent of his profession. He was not, however; and
never would have been, if he had practised a century. Those habits of
profusion, that reckless disregard of pecuniary considerations, of
which we noticed indications in his early days, seemed to be part of
his moral constitution. He never appeared to know how much money he
had, nor how much he owed; and, what was worse, he never appeared to
care. He was a profuse giver and a careless payer. It was far easier
for him to send a hundred-dollar note in reply to a begging letter,
than it was to discharge a long-standing account; and when he had
wasted his resources in extravagant and demoralizing gifts, he deemed
it a sufficient answer to a presented bill to ask his creditor how a
man could pay money who had none.

It is not true, therefore, that the frequent embarrassments of his
later years were due to the loss of practice by his attendance in
Congress; because, in the years when his professional gains were
smallest, his income was large enough for the wants of any reasonable
man. Nevertheless, we cannot deny that when, in 1827, by his
acceptance of a seat in the Senate, he gave himself permanently to
public life, he made a sacrifice of his pecuniary interests which, for
a man of such vast requirements and uncalculating habits, was very

But his reward was also very great. On that elevated theatre he soon
found an opportunity for the display of his talents, which, while it
honored and served his country, rendered him the foremost man in that
part of it where such talents as his could be appreciated.

All wars of which we have any knowledge have consisted of two parts:
first, a war of words; secondly, the conflict of arms. The war of
words which issued in the late Rebellion began, in 1828, by the
publication of Mr. Calhoun's first paper upon Nullification, called
the South Carolina Exposition; and it ended in April, 1861, when
President Lincoln issued his call for seventy-five thousand troops,
which excited so much merriment at Montgomery. This was a period of
thirty-three years, during which every person in the United States who
could use either tongue or pen joined in the strife of words, and
contributed his share either toward hastening or postponing the final
appeal to the sword. Men fight with one another, says Dr. Franklin,
because they have not sense enough to settle their disputes in any
other way; and when once they have begun, never stop killing one
another as long as they have money enough "to pay the butchers." So it
appeared in our case. Of all the men who took part in this preliminary
war of words, Daniel Webster was incomparably the ablest. He seemed
charged with a message and a mission to the people of the United
States; and almost everything that he said in his whole life of real
value has reference to that message and that mission. The necessity of
the Union of these States, the nature of the tie that binds them
together, the means by which alone that tie can be kept strong,--this
was what he came charged to impart to us; and when he had fully
delivered this message, he had done his work. His numberless speeches
upon the passing questions of the day,--tariff, Bank, currency,
Sub-treasury, and the rest,--in which the partisan spoke rather than
the man may have had their value at the time, but there is little in
them of durable worth. Those of them which events have not refuted,
time has rendered obsolete. No general principles are established in
them which can be applied to new cases. Indeed, he used often to
assert that there _were_ no general principles in practical
statesmanship, but that the government of nations is, and must be, a
series of expedients. Several times, in his published works, can be
found the assertion, that there is no such thing as a science of
political economy, though he says he had "turned over" all the authors
on that subject from Adam Smith to his own time. It is when he speaks
of the Union and the Constitution, and when he is rousing the
sentiment of nationality, that he utters, not, indeed, eternal truths,
but truths necessary to the existence of the United States, and which
can only become obsolete when the nation is no more.

The whole of his previous life had been an unconscious preparation for
these great debates. It was one of the recollections of his childhood,
that, in his eighth year, he had bought a handkerchief upon which was
printed the Constitution of 1787, which he then read through; and
while he was a farmer's boy at home, the great question of its
acceptance or rejection had been decided. His father's party was the
party for the Constitution, whose only regret concerning it was, that
it was not so much of a constitution as they wished it to be. The
Republicans dwelt upon its defects and dangers; the Federalists, upon
its advantages and beauties: so that all that this receptive lad heard
of it at his father's fireside was of its value and necessity. We see
in his youthful orations that nothing in the history of the continent
struck his imagination so powerfully as the spectacle of thirty-eight
gentlemen meeting in a quiet city, and peacefully settling the terms
of a national union between thirteen sovereign States, most of which
gave up, voluntarily, what the sword alone was once supposed capable
of extorting. In all his orations on days of national festivity or
mourning, we observe that his weightiest eulogy falls upon those who
were conspicuous in this great business. Because Hamilton aided in it,
he revered his memory; because Madison was its best interpreter, he
venerated his name and deferred absolutely to his judgment. It was
clear to his mind that the President can only dismiss an officer of
the government as he appoints him, by and with the advice and consent
of the Senate; but he would not permit himself to think so against Mr.
Madison's decision. His own triumphs at the bar--those upon which he
plumed himself---were all such as resulted from his lonely broodings
over, and patient study of, the Constitution of his country. A native
of one of the smallest of the States, to which the Union was an
unmixed benefit and called for no sacrifice of pride, he grew up into
nationality without having to pass through any probation of States'
rights scruples. Indeed, it was as natural for a man of his calibre to
be a national man as it is for his own Monadnock to be three thousand
feet above the level of the sea.

The South Carolina Exposition of 1828 appeared to fall still-born from
the press. Neither General Jackson nor any of his nearest friends seem
to have been so much as aware of its existence; certainly they
attached no importance to it. Colonel Benton assures us, that to him
the Hayne debate, so far as it related to constitutional questions,
seemed a mere oratorical display, without adequate cause or object;
and we know that General Jackson, intimately allied with the Hayne
family and strongly attached to Colonel Hayne himself, wished him
success in the debate, and heard with regret that Mr. Webster was
"demolishing" him. Far, indeed, was any one from supposing that a
movement had been set on foot which was to end only with the total
destruction of the "interest" sought to be protected by it. Far was
any one from foreseeing that so poor and slight a thing as the
Exposition was the beginning of forty years of strife. It is evident
from the Banquo passage of Mr. Webster's principal speech, when,
looking at Vice-President Calhoun, he reminded that ambitious man
that, in joining the coalition which made Jackson President, he had
only given Van Buren a push toward the Presidency,--"No son of
_theirs_ succeeding,"--it is evident, we say, from this passage, and
from other covert allusions, that he understood the game of
Nullification from the beginning, so far as its objects were personal.
But there is no reason for supposing that he attached importance to it
before that memorable afternoon in December, 1830, when he strolled
from the Supreme Court into the Senate-chamber, and chanced to hear
Colonel Hayne reviling New England, and repeating the doctrines of the
South Carolina Exposition.

Every one knows the story of this first triumph of the United States
over its enemies. Daniel Webster, as Mr. Everett records, appeared to
be the only person in Washington who was entirely at his ease; and he
was so remarkably unconcerned, that Mr. Everett feared he was not
aware of the expectations of the public, and the urgent necessity of
his exerting all his powers. Another friend mentions, that on the day
before the delivery of the principal speech the orator lay down as
usual, after dinner, upon a sofa, and soon was heard laughing to
himself. Being asked what he was laughing at, he said he had just
thought of a way to turn Colonel Hayne's quotation about Banquo's
ghost against himself, and he was going to get up and make a note of
it. This he did, and then resumed his nap.

Notwithstanding these appearances of indifference, he was fully roused
to the importance of the occasion; and, indeed, we have the impression
that only on this occasion, in his whole life, were all his powers in
full activity and his entire mass of being in full glow. But even then
the artist was apparent in all that he did, and particularly in the
dress which he wore. At that time, in his forty-eighth year, his hair
was still as black as an Indian's, and it lay in considerable masses
about the spacious dome of his forehead. His form had neither the
slenderness of his youth nor the elephantine magnitude of his later
years; it was fully, but finely, developed, imposing and stately, yet
not wanting in alertness and grace. No costume could have been better
suited to it than his blue coat and glittering gilt buttons, his ample
yellow waistcoat, his black trousers, and snowy cravat. It was in some
degree, perhaps, owing to the elegance and daintiness of his dress
that, while the New England men among his hearers were moved to tears,
many Southern members, like Colonel Benton, regarded the speech merely
as a Fourth-of-July oration delivered on the 6th of January. Benton
assures us, however, that he soon discovered his error, for the
Nullifiers were not to be put down by a speech, and soon revealed
themselves in their true character, as "irreconcilable" foes of the
Union. This was Daniel Webster's own word in speaking of that faction
in 1830,--"irreconcilable."

After this transcendent effort,--perhaps the greatest of its kind ever
made by man,--Daniel Webster had nothing to gain in the esteem of the
Northern States. He was indisputably our foremost man, and in
Massachusetts there was no one who could be said to be second to him
in the regard of the people: he was a whole species in himself. In the
subsequent winter of debate with Calhoun upon the same subject, he
added many details to his argument, developed it in many directions,
and accumulated a great body of constitutional reasoning; but so far
as the people were concerned, the reply to Hayne sufficed. In all
those debates we are struck with his colossal, his superfluous
superiority to his opponents; and we wonder how it could have been
that such a man should have thought it worth while to refute such
puerilities. It was, however, abundantly worth while. The assailed
Constitution needed such a defender. It was necessary that the
patriotic feeling of the American people, which was destined to a
trial so severe, should have an unshakable basis of intelligent
conviction. It was necessary that all men should be made distinctly to
see that the Constitution was not a "compact" to which the States
"acceded," and from which they could secede, but the fundamental law,
which the people had established and ordained, from which there could
be no secession but by revolution. It was necessary that the country
should be made to understand that Nullification and Secession were one
and the same; and that to admit the first, promising to stop short at
the second, was as though a man "should take the plunge of Niagara and
cry out that he would stop half-way down." Mr. Webster's principal
speech on this subject, delivered in 1832, has, and will ever have,
with the people and the Courts of the United States, the authority of
a judicial decision; and it might very properly be added to popular
editions of the Constitution as an appendix. Into the creation of the
feeling and opinion which fought out the late war for the Union a
thousand and ten thousand causes entered; every man who had ever
performed a patriotic action, and every man who ever from his heart
had spoken a patriotic word, contributed to its production; but to no
man, perhaps, were we more indebted for it than to the Daniel Webster
of 1830 and 1832.

We cannot so highly commend his votes in 1832 as his speeches. General
Jackson's mode of dealing with nullification seems to us the model for
every government to follow which has to deal with discontented
subjects:--1. To take care that the laws are obeyed; 2. To remove the
real grounds of discontent. This was General Jackson's plan. This,
also, was the aim of Mr. Clay's compromise. Mr. Webster objected to
both, on the ground that nullification was rebellion, and that no
legislation respecting the pretext for rebellion should be entertained
until the rebellion was quelled. Thus he came out of the battle, dear
to the thinking people of the country, but estranged from the three
political powers,--Henry Clay and his friends, General Jackson and his
friends, Calhoun and his friends; and though he soon lapsed again
under the leadership of Mr. Clay, there was never again a cordial
union between him and any interior circle of politicians who could
have gratified his ambition. Deceived by the thunders of applause
which greeted him wherever he went, and the intense adulation of his
own immediate circle, he thought that he too could be an independent
power in politics. Two wild vagaries seemed to have haunted him ever
after: first, that a man could merit the Presidency; secondly, that a
man could get the Presidency by meriting it.

From 1832 to the end of his life it appears to us that Daniel Webster
was undergoing a process of deterioration, moral and mental. His
material part gained upon his spiritual. Naturally inclined to
indolence, and having an enormous capacity for physical enjoyment, a
great hunter, fisherman, and farmer, a lover of good wine and good
dinners, a most jovial companion, his physical desires and tastes were
constantly strengthened by being keenly gratified, while his mind was
fed chiefly upon past acquisitions. There is nothing in his later
efforts which shows any intellectual advance, nothing from which we
can infer that he had been browsing in forests before untrodden, or
feeding in pastures new. He once said, at Marshfield, that, if he
could live three lives in one, he would like to devote them all to
study,--one to geology, one to astronomy, and one to classical
literature. But it does not appear that he invigorated and refreshed
the old age of his mind, by doing more than glance over the great
works which treat of these subjects. A new language every ten years,
or a new science vigorously pursued, seems necessary to preserve the
freshness of the understanding, especially when the physical tastes
are superabundantly nourished. He could praise Rufus Choate for
reading a little Latin and Greek every day,--and this was better than
nothing,--but he did not follow his example. There is an aged merchant
in New York, who has kept his mind from growing old by devoting
exactly twenty minutes every day to the reading of some abstruse book,
as far removed from his necessary routine of thought as he could find.
Goethe's advice to every one to read every day a short poem,
recognizes the danger we all incur in taking systematic care of the
body and letting the soul take care of itself. During the last ten
years of Daniel Webster's life, he spent many a thousand dollars upon
his library, and almost ceased to be an intellectual being.

His pecuniary habits demoralized him. It was wrong and mean in him to
accept gifts of money from the people of Boston; it was wrong in them
to submit to his merciless exactions. What need was there that their
Senator should sometimes be a mendicant and sometimes a pauper? If he
chose to maintain baronial state without a baron's income; if he chose
to have two fancy farms of more than a thousand acres each; if he
chose to keep two hundred prize cattle and seven hundred choice sheep
for his pleasure; if he must have about his house lamas, deer, and all
rare fowls; if his flower-garden must be one acre in extent, and his
books worth thirty thousand dollars; if he found it pleasant to keep
two or three yachts and a little fleet of smaller craft; if he could
not refrain from sending money in answer to begging letters, and
pleased himself by giving away to his black man money enough to buy a
very good house; and if he could not avoid adding wings and rooms to
his spacious mansion at Marshfield, and must needs keep open house
there and have a dozen, guests at a time,--why should the solvent and
careful business men of Boston have been taxed, or have taxed
themselves, to pay any part of the expense?

Mr. Lanman, his secretary, gives us this curious and contradictory
account of his pecuniary habits:--

     "He made money with ease, and spent it without reflection.
     He had accounts with various banks, and men of all parties
     were always glad to accommodate him with loans, if he wanted
     them. He kept no record of his deposits, unless it were on
     slips of paper hidden in his pockets; these matters were
     generally left with his secretary. His notes were seldom or
     never regularly protested, and when they were, they caused
     him an immense deal of mental anxiety. When the writer has
     sometimes drawn a check for a couple of thousand dollars, he
     has not even looked at it, but packed it away in his
     pockets, like so much waste paper. During his long
     professional career, he earned money enough to make a dozen
     fortunes, but he spent it liberally, and gave it away to the
     poor by hundreds and thousands. Begging letters from women
     and unfortunate men were received by him almost daily, at
     certain periods; and one instance is remembered where, on
     six successive days, he sent remittances of fifty and one
     hundred dollars to people with whom he was entirely
     unacquainted. He was indeed careless, but strictly and
     religiously honest, in all his money matters. He knew not
     how to be otherwise. The last fee which he ever received for
     a single legal argument was $11,000....

     "A sanctimonious lady once called upon Mr. Webster, in
     Washington, with a long and pitiful story about her
     misfortunes and poverty, and asked him for a donation of
     money to defray her expenses to her home in a Western city.
     He listened with all the patience he could manage, expressed
     his surprise that she should have called upon him for money,
     simply because he was an officer of the government, and
     that, too, when she was a total stranger to him, reprimanded
     her in very plain language for her improper conduct, and
     _handed her a note of fifty dollars_.

       *       *       *       *       *

     "He had called upon the cashier of the bank where he kept an
     account, for the purpose of getting a draft discounted, when
     that gentleman expressed some surprise, and casually
     inquired why he wanted so much money? 'To spend; to buy
     bread and meat,' replied Mr. Webster, a little annoyed at
     this speech.

     "'But,' returned the cashier, 'you already have upon deposit
     in the bank no less than three thousand dollars, and I was
     only wondering why you wanted so much money,'

     "This was indeed the truth, but Mr. Webster had forgotten

Mr. Lanman's assertion that Mr. Webster, with all this recklessness,
was religiously honest, must have excited a grim smile upon the
countenances of such of his Boston readers as had had his name upon
their books. No man can be honest long who is careless in his

It is evident from his letters, if we did not know it from other
sources of information, that his carelessness with regard to the
balancing of his books grew upon him as he advanced in life, and kept
pace with the general deterioration of his character. In 1824, before
lie had been degraded by the acceptance of pecuniary aid, and when he
was still a solvent person, one of his nephews asked him for a loan.
He replied:

     "If you think you can do anything useful with a thousand
     dollars, you may have that sum in the spring, or sooner, if
     need be, on the following conditions:--1. You must give a
     note for it with reasonable security. 2. The interest must
     be payable annually, and must be paid at the day without
     fail. And so long as this continues to be done, the money
     not to be called for--the principal--under six months'
     notice. I am thus explicit with you, because you wish me to
     be so; and because also, having a little money, and but a
     little, I am resolved on keeping it."

This is sufficiently business-like. He _had_ a little money
then,--enough, as he intimates, for the economical maintenance of his
family. During the land fever of 1835 and 1836, he lost so seriously
by speculations in Western land, that he was saved from bankruptcy
only by the aid of that mystical but efficient body whom he styled his
"friends"; and from that time to the end of his life he was seldom at
his ease. He earned immense occasional fees,---two of twenty-five
thousand dollars each; he received frequent gifts of money, as well as
a regular stipend from an invested capital; but he expended so
profusely, that he was sometimes at a loss for a hundred dollars to
pay his hay-makers; and he died forty thousand dollars in debt.

The adulation of which he was the victim at almost every hour of his
existence injured and deceived him. He was continually informed that
he was the greatest of living men,--the "godlike Daniel"; and when he
escaped even into the interior of his home, he found there persons who
sincerely believed that making such speeches as his was the greatest
of all possible human achievements. All men whose talents are of the
kind which enable their possessor to give intense pleasure to great
multitudes are liable to this misfortune; and especially in a new and
busy country, little removed from the colonial state, where
intellectual eminence is rare, and the number of persons who can enjoy
it is exceedingly great. We are growing out of this provincial
propensity to abandon ourselves to admiration of the pleasure-giving
talents. The time is at hand, we trust, when we shall not be struck
with wonder because a man can make a vigorous speech, or write a good
novel, or play Hamlet decently, and when we shall be able to enjoy the
talent without adoring the man. The talent is one thing, and the man
another; the talent may be immense, and the man little; the speech
powerful and wise, the speaker weak and foolish. Daniel Webster came
at last to loathe this ceaseless incense, but it was when his heart
was set upon homage of another kind, which he was destined never to

Another powerful cause of his deterioration was the strange, strong,
always increasing desire he had to be President. Any intelligent
politician, outside of the circle of his own "friends," could have
told him, and proved to him, that he had little more chance of being
elected President than the most insignificant man in the Whig party.
And the marvel is, that he himself should not have known it,--he who
knew why, precisely why, every candidate had been nominated, from
Madison to General Taylor. In the teeth of all the facts, he still
cherished the amazing delusion that the Presidency of the United
States, like the Premiership of England, is the natural and just
reward of long and able public service. The Presidency, on the
contrary, is not merely an accident, but it is an accident of the last
moment. It is a game too difficult for mortal faculties to play,
because some of the conditions of success are as uncertain as the
winds, and as ungovernable. If dexterous playing could have availed,
Douglas would have carried off the stakes, for he had an audacious and
a mathematical mind; while the winning man in 1856 was a heavy player,
devoid of skill, whose decisive advantage was that he had been out of
the game for four years. Mr. Seward, too, was within an ace of
winning, when an old quarrel between two New York editors swept his
cards from the table.

No: the President of the United States is not prime minister, but
chief magistrate, and he is subject to that law of nature which places
at the head of regular governments more or less respectable Nobodies.
In Europe this law of nature works through the hereditary principle,
and in America through universal suffrage. In all probability, we
shall usually elect a person of the non-committal species,--one who
will have lived fifty or sixty years in the world without having
formed an offensive conviction or uttered a striking word,--one who
will have conducted his life as those popular periodicals are
conducted, in which there are "no allusions to politics or religion."
And may not this be part of the exquisite economy of nature, which
ever strives to get into each place the smallest man that can fill it?
How miserably out of place would be a man of active, originating,
disinterested spirit, at the head of a strictly limited,
constitutional government, such as ours is in time of peace, in which
the best President is he who does the least? Imagine a live man thrust
out over the bows of a ship, and compelled to stand as figure-head,
lashed by the waves and winds during a four years' voyage, and
expected to be pleased with his situation because he is gilt!

Daniel Webster so passionately desired the place, that he could never
see how far he was from the possibility of getting it. He was not such
timber as either Southern fire-eaters or Northern wire-pullers had any
use for; and a melancholy sight it was, this man, once so stately,
paying court to every passing Southerner, and personally begging
delegates to vote for him. He was not made for that. An elephant does
sometimes stand upon his head and play a barrel-organ, but every one
who sees the sorry sight sees also that it was not the design of
Nature that elephants should do such things.

A Marshfield elm may be for half a century in decay without exhibiting
much outward change; and when, in some tempestuous night, half its
bulk is torn away, the neighborhood notes with surprise that what
seemed solid wood is dry and crumbling pith. During the last fifteen
years of Daniel Webster's life, his wonderfully imposing form and his
immense reputation concealed from the public the decay of his powers
and the degeneration of his morals. At least, few said what perhaps
many felt, that "he was not the man he had been." People went away
from one of his ponderous and empty speeches disappointed, but not ill
pleased to boast that they too had "heard Daniel Webster speak," and
feeling very sure that he could be eloquent, though he had not been.
We heard one of the last of his out-of-door speeches. It was near
Philadelphia, in 1844, when he was "stumping the State" for Henry
Clay, and when our youthful feelings were warmly with the object of
his speech. What a disappointment! How poor and pompous and pointless
it seemed! Nor could we resist the impression that he was playing a
part, nor help saying to ourselves, as we turned to leave the scene,
"This man is not sincere in this: he is a humbug." And when, some
years later, we saw him present himself before a large audience in a
state not far removed from intoxication, and mumble incoherence for
ten minutes, and when, in the course of the evening, we saw him make a
great show of approval whenever the clergy were complimented, the
impression was renewed that the man had expended his sincerity, and
that nothing was real to him any more except wine and office. And even
then such were the might and majesty of his presence, that he seemed
to fill and satisfy the people by merely sitting there in an
arm-chair, like Jupiter, in a spacious yellow waistcoat with two
bottles of Madeira under it.

All this gradual, unseen deterioration of mind and character was
revealed to the country on the 7th of March, 1850. What a downfall was
there! That shameful speech reads worse in 1867 than it did in 1850,
and still exerts perverting power over timid and unformed minds. It
was the very time for him to have broken finally with the
"irreconcilable" faction, who, after having made President Tyler
_snub_ Daniel Webster from his dearly loved office of Secretary of
State, had consummated the scheme which gave us Texas at the cost of
war with Mexico, and California as one of the incidents of peace.
California was not down in their programme; and now, while claiming
the right to make four slave States out of Texas, they refused to
admit California to freedom. _Then_ was it that Daniel Webster of
Massachusetts rose in the Senate of the United States and said in
substance this: These fine Southern brethren of ours have now stolen
all the land there is to steal. Let us, therefore, put no obstacle in
the way of their peaceable enjoyment of the plunder.

And the spirit of the speech was worse even than its doctrine. He went
down upon the knees of his soul, and paid base homage to his own and
his country's irreconcilable foes. Who knew better than Daniel Webster
that John C. Calhoun and his followers had first created and then
systematically fomented the hostile feeling which then existed between
the North and the South? How those men must have chuckled among
themselves when they witnessed the willing degradation of the man who
should have arraigned them before the country as the conscious enemies
of its peace! How was it that no one laughed outright at such billing
and cooing as this?

       *       *       *       *       *

_Mr. Webster_.--"An honorable member [Calhoun], whose health does not
allow him to be here to-day--"

_A Senator_,--"He is here."

_Mr. Webster_.--"I am very happy to hear that he is; may he long be
here, and in the enjoyment of health to serve his country!"

And this:--

_Mr. Webster_.--"The honorable member did not disguise his conduct or
his motives."

_Mr. Calhoun_.--"Never, never."

_Mr. Webster_.--"What he means he is very apt to say."

_Mr. Calhoun_.--"Always, always."

_Mr. Webster_.--"And I honor him for it."

And this:--

_Mr. Webster_.--

     "I see an honorable member of this body [Mason of Virginia]
     paying me the honor of listening to my remarks; he brings to
     my mind, Sir, freshly and vividly, what I learned of his
     great ancestor, so much distinguished in his day and
     generation, so worthy to be succeeded by so worthy a

And this:--

_Mr. Webster_.--

     "An honorable member from Louisiana addressed us the other
     day on this subject. I suppose there is not a more amiable
     and worthy gentleman in this chamber, nor a gentleman who
     would be more slow to give offence to anybody, and he did
     not mean in his remarks to give offence. But what did he
     say? Why, Sir, he took pains to run a contrast between the
     slaves of the South and the laboring people of the North,
     giving the preference in all points of condition and comfort
     and happiness to the slaves."

In the course of this speech there is one most palpable contradiction.
In the beginning of it, the orator mentioned the change of feeling and
opinion that had occurred as to the institution of slavery,--"the
North growing much more warm and strong against slavery, and the South
growing much more warm and strong in its support." "Once," he said,
"the most eminent men, and nearly all the conspicuous politicians of
the South, held the same sentiments,--that slavery was an evil, a
blight, a scourge, and a curse"; but now it is "a cherished
institution in that quarter; no evil, no scourge, but a great
religious, social, and moral blessing." He then asked how this change
of opinion had been brought about, and thus answered the question: "I
suppose, sir, this is owing to the rapid growth and sudden extension
of the COTTON plantations in the South." And to make the statement
more emphatic, he caused the word _cotton_ to be printed in capitals
in the authorized edition of his works. But later in the speech, when
he came to add his ponderous condemnation to the odium in which the
handful of Abolitionists were held,--the _élite_ of the nation from
Franklin's day to this,--then he attributed this remarkable change to
_their_ zealous efforts to awaken the nobler conscience of the
country. After giving his own version of their proceedings, he said:

     "Well, what was the result? The bonds of the slaves were
     bound more firmly than before, their rivets were more
     strongly fastened. Public opinion, which in Virginia had
     begun to be exhibited against slavery, and was opening out
     for the discussion of the question, drew back and shut
     itself up in its castle."

But all would not do. He bent the knee in vain. Vain too were his
personal efforts, his Southern tour, his Astor House wooings,--the
politicians would have none of him; and he had the cutting
mortification of seeing himself set aside for a Winfield Scott.

Let us not, however, forget that on this occasion, though Daniel
Webster appeared for the first time in his life as a leader, he was in
reality still only a follower,--a follower, not of the public opinion
of the North, but of the wishes of its capitalists. And probably many
thousands of well-meaning men, not versed in the mysteries of
politics, were secretly pleased to find themselves provided with an
excuse for yielding once more to a faction, who had over us the
immense advantage of having made up their minds to carry their point
or fight. If his was the shame of this speech, ours was the guilt. He
faithfully represented the portion of his constituents whose wine he
drank, who helped him out with his notes, and who kept his atmosphere
hazy with incense; and he faithfully represented, also, that larger
number who wait till the wolf is at their door before arming against
him, instead of meeting him afar off in the outskirts of the wood. Let
us own it: the North yearned for peace in 1850,--peace at almost any

One of the most intimate of Mr. Webster's friends said, in a public

     "It is true that he desired the highest political position
     in the country,--that he thought he had fairly earned a
     claim to that position. And I solemnly believe that because
     that claim was denied his days were shortened."

No enemy of the great orator ever uttered anything so severe against
him as this, and we are inclined to think it an error. It was probably
the strength of his desire for the Presidency that shortened his life,
not the mere disappointment. When President Fillmore offered him the
post of Secretary of State, in 1850, it appears to have been his
preference, much as he loved office, to decline it. He longed for his
beautiful Marshfield, on the shore of the ocean, his herds of noble
cattle, his broad, productive fields, his yachts, his fishing, his
rambles in the forests planted by his own hand, his homely chats with
neighbors and beloved dependents. "Oh!" said he, "if I could have my
own will, never, never would I leave Marshfield again!" But his
"friends," interested and disinterested, told him it was a shorter
step from the office of Secretary of State to that of President than
from the Senate-chamber. He yielded, as he always did, and spent a
long, hot summer in Washington, to the sore detriment of his health.
And again, in 1852, after he had failed to receive the nomination for
the Presidency, he was offered the place of Minister to England. His
"friends" again advised against his acceptance. His letter to the
President, declining the offer, presents him in a sorry light indeed.

     "I have made up my mind to think no more about the. English
     mission. My principal reason is, that I think it would be
     regarded as a descent I have been accustomed to give
     instructions to ministers abroad, and not to receive them."

Accustomed! Yes: for two years! It is probable enough that his
acceptance of office, and his adherence to it, hastened his death.
Four months after the words were written which we have just quoted, he
was no more.

His last days were such as his best friends could have wished them to
be,--calm, dignified, affectionate, worthy of his lineage. His burial,
too, was singularly becoming, impressive, and touching. We have been
exceedingly struck with the account of it given by Mr. George S.
Hillard, in his truly elegant and eloquent eulogy upon Mr. Webster,
delivered in Faneuil Hall. In his last will, executed a few days
before his death, Mr. Webster requested that he might be buried
"without the least show or ostentation, but in a manner respectful to
my neighbors, whose kindness has contributed so much to the happiness
of me and mine." His wishes were obeyed; and he was buried more as the
son of plain, brave Captain Ebenezer Webster, than as Secretary of
State. "No coffin," said Mr. Hillard,

     "concealed that majestic frame. In the open air, clad as
     when alive, he lay extended in seeming sleep, with no touch
     of disfeature upon his brow,--as noble an image of reposing
     strength as ever was seen upon earth. Around him was the
     landscape that he had loved, and above him was nothing but
     the dome of the covering heavens. The sunshine fell upon the
     dead man's face, and the breeze blew over it. A lover of
     Nature, he seemed to be gathered into her maternal arms, and
     to lie like a child upon a mother's lap. We felt, as we
     looked upon him, that death had never stricken down, at one
     blow, a greater sum of life. And whose heart did not swell
     when, from the honored and distinguished men there gathered
     together, six plain Marshfield farmers were called forth to
     carry the head of their neighbor to the grave. Slowly and
     sadly the vast multitude followed, in mourning silence, and
     he was laid down to rest among dear and kindred dust."

In surveying the life and works of this eminent and gifted man, we are
continually struck with the evidences of his magnitude. He was, as
we have said, a very large person. His brain was within a little of
being one third larger than the average, and it was one of the
largest three on record. His bodily frame, in all its parts, was on
a majestic scale, and his presence was immense. He liked large
things,--mountains, elms, great oaks, mighty bulls and oxen, wide
fields, the ocean, the Union, and all things of magnitude. He liked
great Rome far better than refined Greece, and revelled in the immense
things of literature, such as Paradise Lost, and the Book of Job,
Burke, Dr. Johnson, and the Sixth Book of the Aeneid. Homer he never
cared much for,--nor, indeed, anything Greek. He hated, he loathed,
the act of writing. Billiards, ten-pins, chess, draughts, whist, he
never relished, though fond to excess of out-door pleasures, like
hunting, fishing, yachting. He liked to be alone with great
Nature,--alone in the giant woods or on the shores of the resounding
sea,--alone all day with his gun, his dog, and his thoughts,---alone
in the morning, before any one was astir but himself, looking out upon
the sea and the glorious sunrise. What a delicious picture of this
large, healthy Son of Earth Mr. Lanman gives us, where he describes
him coming into his bedroom, at sunrise, and startling him out of a
deep sleep by shouting, "Awake, sluggard! and look upon this glorious
scene, for the sky and the ocean are enveloped in flames!" He was akin
to all large, slow things in nature. A herd of fine cattle gave him a
keen, an inexhaustible enjoyment; but he never "tasted" a horse: he
had no horse enthusiasm. In England he chiefly enjoyed these five
things, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Smithfield Cattle
Market, English farming, and Sir Robert Peel. Sir Robert Peel he
thought was "head and shoulders above any other man" he had ever met.
He greatly excelled, too, in describing immense things. In speaking of
the Pyramids, once, he asked,

     "Who can inform us by what now unknown machines mass was
     thus aggregated, to mass, and quarry piled on quarry, till
     solid granite seemed to cover the earth and reach the

His peculiar love of the Union of these States was partly due,
perhaps, to this habit of his mind of dwelling with complacency on
vastness. He felt that he wanted and required a continent to live in:
his mind would have gasped for breath in New Hampshire.

But this enormous creature was not an exception to the law which
renders giants harmless by seaming them with weakness, but for which
the giants would possess the earth. If he had been completed
throughout on the plan on which he was sketched, if he had been as
able to originate as he was powerful to state, if he had possessed
will proportioned to his strength, moral power equal to his moral
feeling, intellect on a par with his genius, and principle worthy of
his intellect, he would have subjugated mankind, and raised his
country to a point from which it would have dropped when the
tyrannizing influence was withdrawn. Every sphere of life has its
peculiar temptations, which there is only one thing that can enable a
man to resist,--a religious, i.e. a disinterested devotion to its
duties. Daniel Webster was one of those who fell before the seductions
of his place. He was not one of those who find in the happiness and
prosperity of their country, and in the esteem of their
fellow-citizens, their own sufficient and abundant reward for serving
her. He pined for something lower, smaller,--something personal and
vulgar. He had no religion,--not the least tincture of it; and he
seemed at last, in his dealings with individuals, to have no
conscience. What he called his religion had no effect whatever upon
the conduct of his life; it made him go to church, talk piously, puff
the clergy, and "patronize Providence,"--no more. He would accept
retaining fees, and never look into the bundles of papers which
accompanied them, in which were enclosed the hopes and the fortune of
anxious households. He would receive gifts of money, and toss into his
waste-paper basket the list of the givers, without having glanced at
its contents; thus defrauding them of the only recompense in his power
to grant, and the only one they wished. It shocked him if his
secretary came to the dinner-table in a frock-coat, and he would
himself appear drunk before three thousand people. And yet, such was
the power of his genius, such was the charm of his manner, such the
affectionateness of his nature, such the robust heartiness of his
enjoyment of life, that honorable men who knew his faults best loved
him to the last,--not in spite of them, but partly in consequence of
them. What in another man they would have pronounced atrocious,
appeared in him a kind of graceful rollicking helplessness to resist.

Such, as it seems to our very imperfect judgment, was Daniel Webster,
one of the largest and one of the weakest of men, of admirable genius
and deplorable character; who began life well and served his-country
well and often, but held not out faithful to the end. American
statesmen are called to a higher vocation than those of other
countries, and there is nothing in the politics of America which _can_
reward a man of eminent ability for public service. If such a person
feels that his country's happiness and greatness will not be a
satisfying recompense for anything he can do for her, let him, as he
values his peace and soul's health, cling to the safe obscurity of
private life.


There were two ways of getting to South Carolina in Colonial times.
The first immigrants, many of whom were men of capital, landed at
Charleston, and, settling in the fertile low country along the coast,
became prosperous planters of rice, indigo, and corn, before a single
white inhabitant had found his way to the more salubrious upper
country in the western part of the Province. The settlers of the upper
country were plain, poorer people, who landed at Philadelphia or
Baltimore, and travelled southward along the base of the Alleghanies
to the inviting table-lands of the Carolinas. In the lower country,
the estates were large, the slaves numerous, the white inhabitants
few, idle, and profuse. The upper country was peopled by a sturdier
race, who possessed farms of moderate extent, hewn out of the
wilderness by their own strong arms, and tilled by themselves with the
aid of few slaves. Between the upper and the lower country there was a
waste region of sandy hills and rocky acclivities, uninhabited, almost
uninhabitable, which rendered the two sections of one Province
separate communities scarcely known to one another. Down almost to the
beginning of the Revolutionary War, the farmers of the upper country
were not represented in the Legislature of South Carolina, though they
were then as numerous as the planters of the lower country. Between
the people of the two sections there was little unity of feeling. The
lordly planters of the lower country regarded their Western
fellow-citizens as provincial or plebeian; the farmers of the upper
country had some contempt for the planters as effeminate,
aristocratic, and Tory. The Revolution abased the pride, lessened the
wealth, and improved the politics of the planters; a revised
Constitution, in 1790, gave preponderance to the up-country farmers in
the popular branch of the Legislature; and thenceforth South Carolina
was a sufficiently homogeneous commonwealth.

Looking merely to the public career of Calhoun, the special pleader of
the Southern aristocracy, we should expect to find him born and reared
among the planters of the low country. The Calhouns, on the contrary,
were up-country people,--farmers, Whigs, Presbyterians, men of
moderate means, who wielded the axe and held the plough with their own
hands, until enabled to buy a few "new negroes," cheap and savage;
called new, because fresh from Africa. A family party of them
(parents, four sons, and a daughter) emigrated from the North of
Ireland early in the last century, and settled first in Pennsylvania;
then removed to Western Virginia; whence the defeat of Braddock, in
1755, drove them southward, and they found a permanent abode in the
extreme west of South Carolina, then an unbroken wilderness. Of those
four sons, Patrick Calhoun, the father of the Nullifier, was the
youngest. He was six years old when the family left Ireland;
twenty-nine, when they planted the "Calhoun Settlement" in Abbeville
District, South Carolina.

Patrick Calhoun was a strong-headed, wrong-headed, very brave, honest,
ignorant man. His whole life, almost, was a battle. When the Calhouns
had been but five years in their forest home, the Cherokees attacked
the settlement, destroyed it utterly, killed one half the men, and
drove the rest to the lower country; whence they dared not return till
the peace of 1763. Patrick Calhoun was elected to command the mounted
rangers raised to protect the frontiers, a duty heroically performed
by him. After the peace, the settlement enjoyed several years of
tranquillity, during which Patrick Calhoun was married to Martha
Caldwell, a native of Virginia, but the daughter of an Irish
Presbyterian emigrant. During this peaceful interval, all the family
prospered with the settlement which bore its name; and Patrick, who in
his childhood had only learned to read and write, availed himself of
such leisure as he had to increase his knowledge. Besides reading the
books within his reach, which were few, he learned to survey land, and
practised that vocation to advantage. He was especially fond of
reading history to gather new proofs of the soundness of his political
opinions, which were Whig to the uttermost. The war of the Revolution
broke in upon the settlement, at length, and made deadly havoc there;
for it was warred upon by three foes at once,--the British, the
Tories, and the Cherokees. The Tories murdered in cold blood a brother
of Patrick Calhoun's wife. Another of her brothers fell at Cowpens
under thirty sabre-wounds. Another was taken prisoner and remained for
nine months in close confinement at one of the British Andersonvilles
of that day. Patrick Calhoun, in many a desperate encounter with the
Indians, displayed singular coolness, courage, adroitness, and
tenacity. On one memorable occasion, thirteen of his neighbors and
himself maintained a forest fight for several hours with a force of
Cherokees ten times their number. When seven of the white men had
fallen, the rest made their escape. Returning three days after to bury
their dead, they found upon the field the bodies of twenty-three
Indian warriors. At another time, as his son used to relate, he had a
very long combat with a chief noted for the certainty of his aim,--the
Indian behind a tree, the white man behind a fallen log. Four times
the wily Calhoun drew the Indian's fire by elevating his hat upon his
ramrod. The chief, at last, could not refrain from looking to see the
effect of his shot; when one of his shoulders was slightly exposed. On
the instant, the white man's rifle sent a ball through it; the chief
fled into the forest, and Patrick Calhoun. bore off as a trophy of the
fight his own hat pierced with four bullets.

This Patrick Calhoun illustrates well the North-of-Ireland character;
one peculiarity of which is the possession of _will_ disproportioned
to intellect. Hence a man of this race frequently appears to striking
advantage in scenes which demand chiefly an exercise of will; while in
other spheres, which make larger demands upon the understanding, the
same man may be simply mischievous. We see this in the case of Andrew
Jackson, who at New Orleans was glorious; at Washington almost wholly
pernicious; and in the case of Andrew Johnson, who was eminently
useful to his country in 1861, but obstructive and perilous to it in
1866. For these Scotch-Irishmen, though they are usually very honest
men, and often right in their opinions, are an uninstructable race,
who stick to a prejudice as tenaciously as to a principle, and really
suppose they are battling for right and truth, when they are only
wreaking a private vengeance or aiming at a personal advantage.
Patrick Calhoun was the most radical of Democrats; one of your
despisers of conventionality; an enemy of lawyers, thinking the common
sense of mankind competent to decide what is right without their aid;
a particular opponent of the arrogant pretensions of the low-country
aristocrats. When the up-country people began to claim a voice in the
government, long since due to their numbers, the planters, of course,
opposed their demand. To establish their right to vote, Patrick
Calhoun and a party of his neighbors, armed with rifles, marched
across the State to within twenty-three miles of Charleston, and there
voted in defiance of the plantation lords. Events like this led to the
admission of members from the up-country; and Patrick Calhoun was the
first to represent that section in the Legislature. It was entirely
characteristic of him to vote against the adoption of the Federal
Constitution, on the ground that it authorized other people to tax
Carolinians; which he said was taxation without' representation. That
was just like a narrow, cranky, opinionative, unmanageable Calhoun.

Devoid of imagination and of humor, a hard-headed, eager politician,
he brought up his boy upon politics. This was sorry nourishment for a
child's mind, but he had little else to give him. Gambling, hunting,
whiskey, and politics were all there was to relieve the monotony of
life in a Southern back settlement; and the best men naturally threw
themselves upon politics. Calhoun told Miss Martineau that he could
remember standing between his father's knees, when he was only five
years old, and listening to political conversation. He told Duff Green
that he had a distinct recollection of hearing his father say, when he
was only nine, that that government is best which allows to each
individual the largest liberty compatible with order and tranquillity,
and that improvements in political science consist in throwing off
needless restraints. It was a strange child that could remember such a
remark. As Patrick Calhoun died in 1795, when his son was thirteen
years old, the boy must have been very young when he heard it, even if
he were mistaken as to the time. Whether Patrick Calhoun ever touched
upon the subject of slavery in his conversations with his children, is
not reported. We only know that, late in the career of Mr. Calhoun, he
used to be taunted by his opponents in South Carolina with having once
held that slavery was good and justifiable only so far as it was
preparatory to freedom. He was accused of having committed the crime
of saying, in a public speech, that slavery was like the "scaffolding"
of an edifice, which, after having served its temporary purpose, would
be taken down, of course. We presume he said this; because
_everything_ in his later speeches is flatly contradicted in those of
his earlier public life. Patrick Calhoun was a man to give a reason
for everything. He was an habitual theorizer and generalize!', without
possessing the knowledge requisite for safe generalization. It is very
probable that this apology for slavery was part of his son's slender

John Caldwell Calhoun--born in 1782, the youngest but one in a family
of five children--was eighteen years old before he had a thought of
being anything but a farmer. His father had been dead five years. His
only sister was married to that famous Mr. Waddell, clergyman and
schoolmaster, whose academy in North Carolina was for so many years a
great light in a dark place. One of his brothers was a clerk in a
mercantile house at Charleston; another was settled on a farm near by;
another was still a boy. His mother lived upon the paternal farm; and
with her lived her son John, who ploughed, hunted, fished, and rode,
in the manner of the farmers' sons in that country. At eighteen he
could read, write, and cipher; he had read Rollin, Robertson,
Voltaire's Charles XII., Brown's Essays, Captain Cook, and parts of
Locke. This, according to his own account, was the sum of his
knowledge, except that he had fully imbibed his father's decided
republican opinions. He shared to some degree his father's prejudice,
and the general prejudice of the upper country, against lawyers;
although a cousin, John Ewing Calhoun, had risen high in that
profession, had long served in the Legislature of South Carolina, and
was about to be elected United States Senator on the Jeffersonian
side. As late as May 1800, when he was past eighteen, preference and
necessity appeared to fix him In the vocation of farmer. The family
had never been rich. Indeed, the great Nullifier himself was a
comparatively poor man all his life, the number of his slaves never
much exceeding thirty; which is equivalent to a working force of
fifteen hands or less.

In May, 1800, Calhoun's elder brother came home from Charleston to
spend the summer, bringing with him his city notions. He awoke the
dormant ambition of the youth, urged him to go to school and become a
professional man. But how could he leave his mother alone on the farm?
and how could the money be raised to pay for a seven years' education?
His mother and his brother conferred upon these points, and satisfied
him upon both; and in June, 1800, he made his way to the academy of
his brother-in-law, Waddell, which was then in Columbia County,
Georgia, fifty miles from the home of the Calhouns. In two years and a
quarter from the day he first opened a Latin grammar, he entered the
Junior Class of Yale College. This was quick work. Teachers, however,
are aware that late beginners, who have spent their boyhood in
_growing_, often stride past students who have passed theirs in
stunting the growth of mind and body at school. Calhoun, late in life,
often spoke of the immense advantage which Southern boys had over
Northern in not going so early to school, and being so much on
horseback and out of doors. He said one day, about the year 1845:

     "At the North you overvalue intellect; at the South we rely
     upon character; and if ever there should be a collision that
     shall test the strength of the two sections, you will find
     that character is stronger than intellect, and will carry
     the day."

The prophecy has been fulfilled.

Timothy Dwight, Calvinist and Federalist, was President of Yale
College during Calhoun's residence there, and Thomas Jefferson,
Democrat and freethinker, was President of the United States. Yale was
a stronghold of Federalism. A brother of the President of the College,
in his Fourth-of-July oration delivered at New Haven four months after
the inauguration of Jefferson and Burr, announced to the students and
citizens, that "the great object" of those gentlemen and their
adherents was "to destroy every trace of civilization in the world,
and to force mankind back into a savage state." He also used the
following language:

     "We have now reached the consummation of democratic
     blessedness. We have a country governed by blockheads and
     knaves; the ties of marriage, with all its felicities, are
     severed and destroyed; our wives and daughters are thrown
     into the stews; our children are cast into the world from
     the breast forgotten; filial piety is extinguished; and our
     surnames, the only mark of distinction among families, are
     abolished. Can the imagination paint anything more dreadful
     this side hell?"

These remarkable statements, so far from surprising the virtuous
people of New Haven, were accepted by them, it appears, as facts, and
published with general approval. From what we know of President
Dwight, we may conclude that he would regard his brother's oration as
a pardonable flight of hyperbole, based on truth. He was a Federalist
of the deepest dye.

Transferred to a scene where such opinions prevailed, it cost the
young republican no great exertion either of his intellect or his
firmness or his family pride to hold his ground. Of all known men, he
had the most complete confidence in the infallibility of his own mind.
He used to relate, that in the Senior year, when he was one of very
few in a class of seventy who maintained republican opinions,
President Dwight asked him, "What is the legitimate source of power?"
"The people," answered the student. Dr. Dwight combated this opinion;
Calhoun replied; and the whole hour of recitation was consumed in the
debate. Dr. Dwight was so much struck with the ability displayed by
the student, that he remarked to a friend that Calhoun had talent
enough to be President of the United States, and that we should see
him President in due time. In those innocent days, an observation of
that nature was made of every young fellow who showed a little spirit
and a turn for debate. Fathers did not _then_ say to their promising
offspring, Beware, my son, of self-seeking and shallow speaking, lest
you should be consigned to the White House, and be devoured by
office-seekers. People then regarded the Presidency as a kind of
reward of merit, the first step toward which was to get "up head" in
the spelling-class. There is reason to believe that young Calhoun took
the prediction of the Doctor very seriously. He took everything
seriously. He never made a joke in his life, and was totally destitute
of the sense of humor. It is doubtful if he was ever capable of
unbending so far as to play a game of football.

The ardent political discussions then in vogue had one effect which
the late Mr. Buckle would have pronounced most salutary; they
prevented Dr. Dwight's severe theology from taking hold of the minds
of many students. Calhoun wholly escaped it. In his speeches we find,
of course, the stock allusions of a religious nature with which all
politicians essay to flatter their constituents; but he was never
interested in matters theological. A century earlier, he might have
been the Jonathan Edwards of the South, if there had been a South
then. His was just the mind to have revelled in theological
subtilties, and to have calmly, closely, unrelentingly argued nearly
the whole human race into endless and hopeless perdition. His was just
the nature to have contemplated his argument with complacency, and its
consequences without emotion.

Graduating with credit in 1804, he repaired to the famous Law School
at Litchfield in Connecticut, where he remained a year and a half, and
won general esteem. Tradition reports him a diligent student and an
admirable debater there. As to his moral conduct, that was always
irreproachable. That is to say, he was at every period of his life
continent, temperate, orderly, and out of debt. In 1806, being then
twenty-four years of age, he returned to South Carolina, and, after
studying a short time in a law office at Charleston, he went at last
to his native Abbeville to complete his preparation for the bar. He
was still a law student at that place when the event occurred which
called him into public life.

June 22d, 1807, at noon, the United States frigate Chesapeake,
thirty-eight guns, left her anchorage at Hampton Roads, and put to
sea, bound for the Mediterranean. The United States being at peace
with all the world, the Chesapeake was very far from being in proper
man-of-war trim. Her decks were littered with furniture, baggage,
stores, cables, and animals. The guns were loaded, but rammers,
matches, wadding, cannon-balls, were all out of place, and not
immediately accessible. The crew were merchant sailors and landsmen,
all undrilled in the duties peculiar to an armed ship. There had been
lying for some time at the same anchorage the British frigate Leopard,
fifty guns; and this ship also put to sea at noon of the same day. The
Leopard being in perfect order, and manned by a veteran crew, took the
lead of the Chesapeake, and kept it until three in the afternoon, when
she was a mile in advance. Then she wore round, came within speaking
distance, lowered a boat, and sent a lieutenant on board the American
ship. This officer bore a despatch from the admiral of the station,
ordering any captain who should fall in with the Chesapeake to search
her for deserters. The American commander replied that he knew of no
deserters on board his ship, and could not permit a search to be made,
his orders not authorizing the same. The lieutenant returned. As soon
as he had got on board, and his boat was stowed away, the Leopard
fired a full broadside into the American frigate. The American
commodore, being totally unprepared for such an event, could not
return the fire; and therefore, when his ship had received twenty-one
shot in her hull, when her rigging was much cut up, when three of her
crew were killed and eighteen wounded, the commodore himself among the
latter, he had no choice but to lower his flag. Then the search was
made, and four men, claimed as deserters, were taken; after which the
Leopard continued her course, and the crippled Chesapeake returned to
Hampton Roads. The American commander was sentenced by a court-martial
to five years' suspension for going to sea in such a condition. The
English government recalled the admiral who ordered, and deprived of
his ship the captain who committed, this unparalleled outrage, but
made no other reparation.

No words of ours could convey any adequate idea of the rage which this
event excited in the people of the United States. For a time, the
Federalists themselves were ready for war. There were meetings
everywhere to denounce it, and especially in the Southern States,
always more disposed than the Northern to begin the shedding of blood,
and already the main reliance of the Republican party. Remote and
rustic Abbeville, a very Republican district, was not silent on this
occasion; and who so proper to draw and support the denunciatory
resolutions as young Calhoun, the son of valiant Patrick, fresh from
college, though now in his twenty-sixth year? The student performed
this duty, as requested, and spoke so well that his neighbors at once
concluded that he was the very man, lawyer as he was, to represent
them in the Legislature, where for nearly thirty years his father had
served them. At the next election, in a district noted for its
aversion to lawyers, wherein no lawyer had ever been chosen to the
Legislature, though many had been candidates, he was elected at the
head of his ticket. His triumph was doubtless owing in a great degree
to the paramount influence of his family. Still, even we, who knew him
only in his gaunt and sad decline, can easily imagine that at
twenty-six he must have been an engaging, attractive man. Like most of
his race, he was rather slender, but very erect, with a good deal of
dignity and some grace in his carriage and demeanor. His eyes were
always remarkably fine and brilliant. He had a well-developed and
strongly set nose, cheek-bones high, and cheeks rather sunken. His
mouth was large, and could never have been a comely feature. His early
portraits show his hair erect on his forehead, as we all remember it,
unlike Jackson, whose hair at forty still fell low over his forehead.
His voice could never have been melodious, but it was always powerful.
At every period of his life, his manners, when in company with his
inferiors in age or standing, were extremely agreeable, even
fascinating. We have heard a well-known editor, who began life as a
"page" in the Senate-chamber, say that there was no Senator whom the
pages took such delight in serving as Mr. Calhoun. "Why?"--"Because he
was so democratic."--"How democratic?"--"He was as polite to a page as
to the President of the Senate, and as considerate of his feelings."
We have heard another member of the press, whose first employment was
to report the speeches of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun, bear similar
testimony to the frank, engaging courtesy of his intercourse with the
corps of reporters. It is fair, therefore, to conclude that his early
popularity at home was due as much to his character and manners as to
his father's name and the influence of his relatives.

He served two years in the Legislature, and in the intervals between
the sessions practised law at Abbeville. At once he took a leading
position in the Legislature. He had been in his seat but a few days
when the Republican members, as the custom then was, met in caucus to
nominate a President and Vice-President of the United States. For Mr.
Madison the caucus was unanimous, but there was a difference with
regard to the Vice-Presidency, then filled by the aged George Clinton
of New York, who represented the anti-Virginian wing of the party in
power. Mr. Calhoun, in a set speech, opposed the renomination of
Governor Clinton, on the ground that in the imminency of a war with
England the Republican party ought to present an unbroken front. He
suggested the nomination of John Langdon of New Hampshire for the
second office. At this late day we cannot determine whether this
suggestion was original with Mr. Calhoun. We only know that the caucus
affirmed it, and that the nomination was afterwards tendered to Mr.
Langdon by the Republican party, and declined by him. Mr. Calhoun's
speech on this occasion was the expression of Southern opinions as to
the foreign policy of the country. The South was then nearly ready for
war with England, while Northern Republicans still favored Mr.
Jefferson's non-intercourse policy. In this instance, as in so many
others, we find the Slave States, which used to plume themselves upon
being the conservative element in an else unrestrainable democracy,
ready for war first, though far from being the worst sufferers from
England's piracy's. We should have had _no_ war from 1782 to 1865, but
for them. We also find Mr. Calhoun, in this his first utterance as a
public man, the mouthpiece of his "section." He has been styled the
most inconsistent of our statesmen; but beneath the palpable
contradictions of his speeches, there is to be noticed a deeper
consistency. Whatever opinion, whatever policy, he may have advocated,
he always spoke the sense of what Mr. Sumner used to call the Southern
oligarchy. If _it_ changed, _he_ changed. If he appeared sometimes to
lead it, it was by leading it in the direction in which it wanted to
go. He was doubtless as sincere in this as any great special pleader
is in a cause in which all his powers are enlisted. Calhoun's mind was
narrow and provincial. He could not have been the citizen of a large
place. As a statesman he was naturally the advocate of something
special and sectional, something not the whole.

Distinguished in the Legislature, he was elected, late in 1810, by a
very great majority, to represent his district in Congress. In May,
1811, he was married to a second-cousin, Floride Calhoun, who brought
a considerable accession to his slender estate. November 4, 1811, he
took his seat in the House of Representatives. Thus, at the early age
of twenty-nine, he was fairly launched into public life, with the
advantage, usually enjoyed then by Southern members, of being
independent in his circumstances. Though unknown to the country, his
fame had preceded him to Washington; and the Speaker, Mr. Clay, gave
him a place on the Committee on Foreign Relations. This Committee,
considering that Congress had been summoned a month earlier than usual
for the express purpose of dealing with foreign relations, was at once
the most important and the most conspicuous committee of the House.

Mr. Calhoun's first session gave him national reputation, and made him
a leader of the war party in Congress. We could perhaps say _the_
leader, since Mr. Clay was not upon the floor. After surveying the
novel scene around him for six weeks, he delivered his maiden
speech,--a plain, forcible, not extraordinary argument in favor of
preparing for war. It was prodigiously successful, so far as the
reputation of the speaker was concerned. Members gathered round to
congratulate the young orator; and Father Ritchie (if he was a father
then) "hailed this young Carolinian as one of the master spirits who
stamp their names upon the age in which they live." This speech
contains one passage which savors of the "chivalric" taint, and
indicates the provincial mind. In replying to the objection founded on
the expenses of a war, he said:

     "I enter my solemn protest against this low and 'calculating
     avarice' entering this hall of legislation. It is _only fit
     for shops and counting-houses_, and ought not to disgrace
     the seat of power by its squalid aspect. Whenever it touches
     sovereign power, the nation is ruined. It is too
     short-sighted to defend itself. It is a compromising spirit,
     always ready to yield a part to save the residue. It is too
     timid to have in itself the laws of self-preservation.
     Sovereign power is never safe but under the shield of

This was thought very fine talk in those simple days among the simple
Southern country members.

As the session progressed, Mr. Calhoun spoke frequently, and with
greater effect. Wisely he never spoke. In his best efforts we see that
something which we know not what to name, unless we call it
_Southernism_. If it were allowable to use a slang expression, we
should style the passages to which we refer effective bosh. The most
telling passage in the most telling speech which he delivered at this
session may serve to illustrate our meaning. Imagine these short,
vigorous sentences uttered with great rapidity, in a loud, harsh
voice, and with energy the most intense:--

     "Tie down a hero, and he feels the puncture of a pin; throw
     him into battle, and he is almost insensible to vital
     gashes. So in war. Impelled alternately by hope and fear,
     stimulated by revenge, depressed by shame, or elevated by
     victory, the people become invincible. No privation can
     shake their fortitude; no calamity break their spirit. Even
     when equally successful, the contrast between the two
     systems is striking. War and restriction may leave the
     country equally exhausted; but the latter not only leaves
     you poor, but, even when successful, dispirited, divided,
     discontented, with diminished patriotism, and the morals of
     a considerable portion of your people corrupted. Not so in
     war. In that state, the common danger unites all,
     strengthens the bonds of society, and feeds the flame of
     patriotism. The national character mounts to energy. In
     exchange for the expenses and privations of war, you obtain
     military and naval skill, and a more perfect organization of
     such parts of your administration as are connected with the
     science of national defence. Sir, are these advantages to be
     counted as trifles in the present state of the world? Can
     they be measured by moneyed valuation? I would prefer a
     single victory over the enemy, by sea or land, to all the
     good we shall ever derive from the continuation of the
     Non-importation act. I know not that a victory would produce
     an equal pressure on the enemy; but I am certain of what is
     of greater consequence, it would be accompanied by more
     salutary effects to ourselves. The memory of Saratoga,
     Princeton, and Eutaw is immortal. It is there you will find
     the country's boast and pride,--the inexhaustible source of
     great and heroic sentiments. But what will history say of
     restriction? What examples worthy of imitation will it
     furnish to posterity? What pride, what pleasure will our
     children find in the events of such times? Let me not be
     considered romantic. This nation ought to be taught to rely
     on its courage, its fortitude, its skill and virtue, for
     protection. These are the only safeguards in the hour of
     danger. Man was endued with these great qualities for his
     defence. There is nothing about him that indicates that he
     is to conquer by endurance. He is not incrusted in a shell;
     he is not taught to rely upon his insensibility, his passive
     suffering, for defence. No, sir; it is on the invincible
     mind, on a magnanimous nature, he ought to rely. Here is the
     superiority of our kind; it is these that render man the
     lord of the world. Nations rise above nations, as they are
     endued in a greater degree with these brilliant qualities."

This passage is perfectly characteristic of Calhoun, whose speeches
present hundreds of such inextricable blendings of truth and

We have the written testimony of an honorable man, still living,
Commodore Charles Stewart, U. S. N., that John C. Calhoun was a
conscious traitor to the Union as early as 1812. In December of that
year, Captain Stewart's ship, the Constitution, was refitting at the
Washington Navy Yard, and the Captain was boarding at Mrs. Bushby's,
with Mr. Clay, Mr. Calhoun, and many other Republican members.
Conversing one evening with the new member from South Carolina, he
told him that he was "puzzled" to account for the close alliance which
existed between the Southern planters and the Northern Democracy.

"You," said Captain Stewart,

     "in the South and Southwest, are decidedly the aristocratic
     portion of this Union; you are so in holding persons in
     perpetuity in slavery; you are so in every domestic quality,
     so in every habit in your lives, living, and actions, so in
     habits, customs, intercourse, and manners; you neither work
     with your hands, heads, nor any machinery, but live and have
     your living, not in accordance with the will of your
     Creator, but by the sweat of slavery, and yet you assume all
     the attributes, professions, and advantages of democracy."

Mr. Calhoun, aged thirty, replied thus to Captain Stewart, aged

     "I see you speak through the head of a young statesman, and
     from the heart of a patriot, but you lose sight of the
     politician and the sectional policy of the people. I admit
     your conclusions in respect to us Southrons. That we are
     essentially aristocratic, I cannot deny; but we can and do
     yield much to democracy. This is our sectional policy; we
     are from necessity thrown upon and solemnly wedded to that
     party, however it may occasionally clash with our feelings,
     for the conservation of our interests. It is through our
     affiliation with that party in the Middle and Western States
     that we hold power; but when we cease thus to control this
     nation through a disjointed democracy, or any material
     obstacle in that party which shall tend to throw us out of
     that rule and control, we shall then resort to the
     dissolution of the Union. The compromises in the
     Constitution, under the circumstances, were sufficient for
     our fathers, but, under the altered condition of our country
     from that period, leave to the South no resource but
     dissolution; for no amendments to the Constitution could be
     reached through a convention of the people under their
     three-fourths rule."

Probably all of our readers have seen this conversation in print
before. But it is well for us to consider it again and again. It is
the key to all the seeming inconsistencies of Mr. Calhoun's career. He
came up to Congress, and took the oath to support the Constitution,
secretly resolved to break up the country just as soon as the Southern
planters ceased to control it for the maintenance of their peculiar
interest. The reader will note, too, the distinction made by this
young man, who was never youthful, between the "statesman" and the
"politician," and between the "heart of a patriot" and "the sectional
policy of the people."

Turning from his loathsome and despicable exposition to the
Congressional career of Mr. Calhoun, we find no indication there of
the latent traitor. He was merely a very active, energetic member of
the Republican party; supporting the war by assiduous labors in
committee, and by intense declamation of the kind of which we have
given a specimen. In all his speeches there is not a touch of
greatness. He declared that Demosthenes was his model,--an orator who
was a master of all the arts? all the artifices, and all the tricks by
which a mass of ignorant and turbulent hearers can be kept attentive,
but who has nothing to impart to a member of Congress who honestly
desires to convince his equals. Mr. Calhoun's harangues in the
supposed Demosthenean style gave him, however, great reputation out of
doors, while his diligence, his dignified and courteous manners,
gained him warm admirers on the floor. He was a messmate of Mr. Clay
at this time. Besides agreeing in politics, they were on terms of
cordial personal intimacy. Henry Clay, Speaker of the House, was but
five years older than Calhoun, and in everything but years much
younger. Honest patriots pointed to these young men with pride and
hope, congratulating each other that, though the Revolutionary
statesmen were growing old and passing away, the high places of the
Republic would be filled, in due time, by men worthy to succeed them.

When the war was over, a strange thing was to be noted in the politics
of the United States: the Federal party was dead, but the Republican
party had adopted its opinions. The disasters of the war had convinced
almost every man of the necessity of investing the government with the
power to wield the resources of the country more readily; and,
accordingly, we find leading Republicans, like Judge Story, John
Quincy Adams, and Mr. Clay, favoring the measures which had formerly
been the special rallying-cries of the Federalists. Judge Story spoke
the feeling of his party when he wrote, in 1815:

     "Let us extend the national authority over the whole extent
     of power given by the Constitution. Let us have great
     military and naval schools, an adequate regular army, the
     broad foundations laid of a permanent navy, a national bank,
     a national bankrupt act,"

etc., etc. The strict-constructionists were almost silenced in the
general cry, "Let us be a Nation." In the support of _all_ the
measures to which this feeling gave rise, especially the national
bank, internal improvements, and a protective tariff, Mr. Calhoun went
as far as any man, and farther than most; for such at that time was
the humor of the planters.

To the principle of a protective tariff he was peculiarly committed.
It had not been his intention to take part in the debates on the
Tariff Bill of 1816. On the 6th of April, while he was busy writing in
a committee-room, Mr. Samuel D. Ingham of Pennsylvania, his particular
friend and political ally, came to him and said that the House had
fallen into some confusion while discussing the tariff bill, and
added, that, as it was "difficult to rally so large a body when once
broken on a tax bill," he wished Mr. Calhoun would speak on the
question in order to keep the House together. "What can I say?"
replied the member from South Carolina. Mr. Ingham, however,
persisted, and Mr. Calhoun addressed the House. An amendment had just
been introduced to leave cotton goods unprotected, a proposition which
had been urged on the ground that Congress had no authority to impose
any duty except for revenue. On rising to speak, Mr. Calhoun at once,
and most unequivocally, committed himself to the protective principle.
He began by saying, that, _if the right to protect had not been called
in question, he would not have spoken at all_. It was solely to assist
in establishing _that_ right that he had been induced, without
previous preparation, to take part in the debate. He then proceeded to
deliver an ordinary protectionist speech; without, however, entering
upon the questioner constitutional right. He merely dwelt upon the
great benefits to be derived from affording to our infant manufactures
"immediate and ample protection." That the Constitution interposed no
obstacle, was assumed by him throughout. He concluded by observing,
that a flourishing manufacturing interest would "bind together more
closely our widely-spread republic," since

     "it will greatly increase our mutual dependence and
     intercourse, and excite an increased attention to internal
     improvements,--a subject every way so intimately connected
     with the ultimate attainment of national strength and the
     perfection of our political institutions."

He further observed, that "the liberty and union of this country are
inseparable," and that the destruction of either would involve the
destruction of the other. He concluded his speech with these words:
"Disunion,--this single word comprehends almost the sum of our
political dangers, and against it we ought to be perpetually guarded."

The time has passed for any public man to claim credit for
"consistency." A person who, after forty years of public life, can
truly say that he has never changed an opinion, must be either a
demigod or a fool. We do not blame Mr. Calhoun for ceasing to be a
protectionist and becoming a free-trader; for half the thinking world
has changed sides on that question during the last thirty years. A
growing mind must necessarily change its opinions. But there _is_ a
consistency from which no man, public or private, can ever be
absolved,--the consistency of his statements with fact. In the year
1833, in his speech on the Force Bill, Mr. Calhoun referred to his
tariff speech of 1816 in a manner which excludes him from the ranks of
men of honor. He had the astonishing audacity to say:

     "I am constrained in candor to acknowledge, for I wish to
     disguise nothing, that the protective principle was
     recognized by the Act of 1816. How this was overlooked at
     the time, it is not in my power to say. _It escaped my
     observation_, which I can account for only on the ground
     that the principle was new, and that my attention was
     engaged by another important subject."

The charitable reader may interpose here, and say that Mr. Calhoun may
have forgotten his speech of 1816. Alas! no. He had that speech before
him at the time. Vigilant opponents had unearthed it, and kindly
presented a copy to the author. We do not believe that, in all the
debates of the American Congress, there is another instance of flat
falsehood as bad as this. It happens that the speech of 1816 and that
of 1833 are both published in the same volume of the Works of Mr.
Calhoun (Vol. II. pp. 163 and 197). We advise our readers who have the
time and opportunity to read both, if they wish to see how a false
position necessitates a false tongue. Those who take our advice will
also discover why it was that Mr. Calhoun dared to utter such an
impudent falsehood: his speeches are such appallingly dull reading,
that there was very little risk of a busy people's comparing the
interpretation with the text.

It was John C. Calhoun who, later in the same session, introduced the
bill for setting apart the dividends and bonus of the United States
Bank as a permanent fund for internal improvements. His speech on this
bill, besides going all lengths in favor of the internal improvement
system, presents some amusing contrasts with his later speeches on the
same subject. His hearers of 1835 to 1850 must have smiled on reading
in the speech of 1817 such sentences as these:--

     "I am no advocate for _refined arguments_ on the
     Constitution. The instrument was not intended as a thesis
     for the logician to exercise his ingenuity on. It ought to
     be construed with plain good-sense." "If we are restricted
     in the use of our money to the enumerated powers, on what
     principle can the purchase of Louisiana be justified?" "The
     uniform sense of Congress and the country furnishes better
     evidence of the true interpretation of the Constitution than
     the most refined and subtle arguments."

Mark this, too:--

     "In a country so extensive and so various in its interests,
     what is necessary for the common interest may apparently be
     opposed to the interest of particular sections. _It must be
     submitted to as the condition of our greatness_."

Well might he say, in the same speech:--

     "We may reasonably raise our eyes to a most splendid future,
     if we only act in a manner worthy of our advantages. If,
     however, neglecting them, we permit a low, sordid, selfish,
     _sectional_ spirit to take possession of this House, this
     happy scene will vanish. We will divide; and, in its
     consequences, will follow misery and despotism."

With this speech before him and before the country, Mr. Calhoun had
not the candor to avow, in later years, a complete change of opinion.
He could only go so far as to say, when opposing the purchase of the
Madison Papers in 1837, that, "at his entrance upon public life, he
had _inclined_ to that interpretation of the Constitution which
favored a latitude of powers." Inclined! He was a most enthusiastic
and thorough-going champion of that interpretation. His scheme of
internal improvements embraced a network of post-roads and canals from
"Maine to Louisiana," and a system of harbors for lake and ocean. He
kindled, he glowed, at the spectacle which his imagination conjured
up, of the whole country rendered accessible, and of the distant
farmer selling his produce at a price not seriously less than that
which it brought on the coast. On this subject he became animated,
interesting, almost eloquent. And, so far from this advocacy being
confined to the period of his "entrance upon political life," he
continued to be its very warmest exponent as late as 1819, when he had
been ten years in public life. In that year, having to report upon the
condition of military roads and fortifications, his flaming zeal for a
grand and general system of roads and canals frequently bursts the
bounds of the subject he had to treat. He tells Congress that the
internal improvements which are best for peace are best for war also;
and expatiates again upon his dazzling dream of "connecting Louisiana
by a durable and well-finished road with Maine, and Boston with
Savannah by a well-established line of internal navigation." The
United States, he said, with its vast systems of lakes, rivers, and
mountains, its treble line of sea-coast, its valleys large enough for
empires, was "a world of itself," and needed nothing but to be
rendered accessible. From what we know of the way things are managed
in Congress, we should guess that he was invited to make this report
for the very purpose of affording to the foremost champion of internal
improvements an opportunity of lending a helping hand to pending

Mr. Calhoun served six years in the House of Representatives, and grew
in the esteem of Congress and the country at every session. As it is
pleasing to see an old man at the theatre entering into the merriment
of the play, since it shows that his heart has triumphed over the
cares of life, and he has preserved a little of his youth, so is it
eminently graceful in a young man to have something of the seriousness
of age, especially when his conduct is even more austere than his
demeanor. Mr. Clay at this time was addicted to gaming, like most of
the Western and Southern members, and he was not averse to the bottle.
Mr. Webster was reckless in expenditure, fond of his ease, and loved a
joke better than an argument. In the seclusion of Washington, many
members lived a very gay, rollicking life. Mr. Calhoun never gambled,
never drank to excess, never jested, never quarrelled, cared nothing
for his ease, and tempered the gravity of his demeanor by an admirable
and winning courtesy. A deep and serious ambition impelled and
restrained him. Like boys at school, Clay and Webster were eager
enough to get to the head of the class, but they did not brood over it
all the time, and never feel comfortable unless they were conning
their spelling-book; while little Calhoun expended all his soul in the
business, and had no time or heart left for play. Consequently he
advanced rapidly for one of his size, and was universally pointed at
as the model scholar. Accidents, too, generally favor a rising man.
Mr. Calhoun made an extremely lucky hit in 1815, which gave members
the highest opinion of his sagacity. In opposing an ill-digested
scheme for a national bank, he told the House that the bill was so
obviously defective and unwise, that, if news of peace should arrive
that day, it would not receive fifteen votes. News of peace, which was
totally unexpected, did arrive that very hour, and the bill was
rejected the next day by about the majority which he had predicted. At
the next session, he won an immense reputation for firmness. An act
was passed changing the mode of compensating members of Congress from
six dollars a day to fifteen hundred dollars a year. We were a nation
of rustics then; and this harmless measure excited a disgust in the
popular mind so intense and general, that most of the members who had
voted for it declined to present themselves for re-election. Calhoun
was one of the guilty ones. Popular as he was in his district,
supported by two powerful family connections,--his own and his
wife's,--admired throughout the State as one who had done honor to it
upon the conspicuous scene of Congressional debate,--even he was
threatened with defeat. Formidable candidates presented themselves. In
these circumstances he mounted the stump, boldly justified his vote,
and defended the odious bill. He was handsomely re-elected, and when
the bill was up for repeal in the House he again supported it with all
his former energy. At the conclusion of his speech, a member from New
York, Mr. Grosvenor, a political opponent, with whom Calhoun had not
been on speaking terms for two years, sprang to his feet, enraptured,
and began to express his approval of the speech in ordinary
parliamentary language. But his feelings could not be relieved in that
manner. He paused a moment, and then said:--

     "Mr. Speaker, I will not be restrained. No barrier shall
     exist which I will not leap over for the purpose of offering
     to that gentleman my thanks for the judicious, independent,
     and national course which he has pursued in this House for
     the last two years, and particularly upon the subject now
     before us. Let the honorable gentleman continue with the
     same manly independence, aloof from party views and local
     prejudices, to pursue the great interests of his country,
     and fulfil the high destiny for which it is manifest he was
     born. The buzz of popular applause may not cheer him on his
     way, but he will inevitably arrive at a high and happy
     elevation in the view of his country and the world."

Such scenes as this enhance the prestige of a rising man. Members weak
at home envied at once and admired a man who was strong enough to
bring over his constituents to his opinion. He was fortunate, too, in
this, that a triumph so striking occurred just before he left the
House for another sphere of public life. He had what the actors call a
splendid exit.

The inauguration of Mr. Monroe on the 4th of March, 1817, ushered in
the era of good feeling, and gave to Henry Clay the first of his long
series of disappointments. As Secretaries of State had usually
succeeded their chiefs in the Presidency, the appointment of Mr. Adams
to that office by Mr. Monroe was regarded almost in the light of a
nomination to the succession. To add to Mr. Clay's mortification, be
was tendered the post of Secretary of War, which he had declined a
year before, and now again declined. The President next selected
General Jackson, then in the undimmed lustre of his military renown,
and still holding his Major-General's commission. He received,
however, a private notification that General Jackson would not accept
a place in the Cabinet. The President then offered the post to the
aged Governor Isaac Shelby of Kentucky, who had the good sense to
decline it. There appear to have been negotiations with other
individuals, but at length, in October, 1817, the place was offered to
Mr. Calhoun, who, after much hesitation, accepted it, and entered upon
the discharge of its duties in December. His friends, we are told,
unanimously disapproved his going into office, as they believed him
formed to shine in debate rather than in the transaction of business.

Fortune favored him again. Entering the office after a long vacancy,
and when it was filled with the unfinished business of the war,--fifty
million dollars of deferred claims, for one item,--he had the same
easy opportunity for distinction which a steward has who takes charge
of an estate just out of chancery, and under a new proprietor who has
plenty of money. The sweeping up of the dead leaves, the gathering of
the fallen branches, and the weeding out of the paths, changes the
aspect of the place, and gives the passer-by a prodigious idea of the
efficiency of the new broom. The country was alive, too, to the
necessity of coast and frontier defences, and there was much building
of forts during the seven years of Mr. Calhoun's tenure of place.
Respecting the manner in which he discharged the multifarious and
unusual duties of his office, we have never heard anything but
commendation. He was prompt, punctual, diligent, courteous, and firm.
The rules which he drew up for the regulation of the War Department
remained in force, little changed, until the magnitude of the late
contest abolished or suspended all ancient methods. The claims of the
soldiers were rapidly examined and passed upon. It was Mr. Calhoun who
first endeavored to collect considerable bodies of troops for
instruction at one post. He had but six thousand men in all, but he
contrived to get together several companies of artillery at Fortress
Monroe for drill. He appeared to take much interest in the expenditure
of the ten thousand dollars a year which Congress voted for the
education of the Indians. He reduced the expenses of his office, which
was a very popular thing at that day. He never appointed nor removed a
clerk for opinion's sake. In seven years he only removed two clerks,
both for cause, and to both were given in writing the reasons of their
removal. There was no special merit in this, for at that day to do
otherwise would have been deemed infamous.

Mr. Calhoun, as a member of Mr. Monroe's Cabinet, still played the
part of a national man, and supported the measures of his party
without exception. Scarcely a trace of the sectional champion yet
appears. In 1819, he gave a written opinion favoring the cession of
Texas in exchange for Florida; the motive of which was to avoid
alarming the North by the prospective increase of Slave States. In
later years, Mr. Calhoun, of course, wished to deny this; and the
written opinions of Mr. Monroe's Cabinet on that question mysteriously
disappeared from the archives of the State Department. We have the
positive testimony of Mr. John Quincy Adams, that Calhoun, in common
with most Southern men of that day, approved the Missouri Compromise
of 1820, and gave a written opinion that it was a constitutional
measure. That he was still an enthusiast for internal improvements, we
have already mentioned.

The real difficulty of the War Department, however, as of the State
Department, during the Monroe administration, was a certain
Major-General Andrew Jackson, commanding the Military Department of
the South. The popularity of the man who had restored the nation's
self-love by ending a disastrous war with a dazzling and most
unexpected victory, was something different from the respect which we
all now feel for the generals distinguished in the late war. The first
honors of the late war are divided among four chieftains, each of whom
contributed to the final success at least one victory that was
essential to it. But in 1815, among the military heroes of the war
that had just closed General Jackson stood peerless and alone. His
success in defending the Southwest, ending in a blaze of glory below
New Orleans, utterly eclipsed all the other achievements of the war,
excepting alone the darling triumphs on the ocean and the lakes. The
deferential spirit of Mr. Monroe's letters to the General, and the
readiness of every one everywhere to comply with his wishes, show that
his popularity, even then, constituted him a power in the Republic. It
was said in later times, that "General Jackson's popularity could
stand anything," and in one sense this was true: it could stand
anything that General Jackson was likely to do. Andrew Jackson could
never have done a cowardly act, or betrayed a friend, or knowingly
violated a trust, or broken his word, or forgotten a debt. He was
always so entirely certain that he, Andrew Jackson, was in the right,
his conviction on this point was so free from the least quaver of
doubt, that he could always convince other men that he was right, and
carry the multitude with him. His honesty, courage, and inflexible
resolution, joined to his ignorance, narrowness, intensity, and
liability to prejudice, rendered him at once the idol of his
countrymen and the plague of all men with whom he had official
connection. Drop an Andrew Jackson from the clouds upon any spot of
earth inhabited by men, and he will have half a dozen deadly feuds
upon his hands in thirty days.

Mr. Calhoun inherited a quarrel with Jackson from George Graham, his
_pro tempore_ predecessor in the War Department, This Mr. Graham was
the gentleman ("spy," Jackson termed him) despatched by President
Jefferson in 1806 to the Western country to look into the mysterious
proceedings of Aaron Burr, which led to the explosion of Burr's
scheme. This was enough to secure the bitterest enmity of Jackson, who
wholly and always favored Burr's design of annihilating the Spanish
power in North America, and who, as President of the United States,
rewarded Burr's followers, and covertly assisted Houston to carry out
part of Burr's project. Graham had sent orders to Jackson's
subordinates directly, instead of sending them through the chief of
the Department. Jackson, after due remonstrance, ordered his officers
not to obey any orders but such as were communicated by or through
himself. This was a high-handed measure; but Mr. Calhoun, on coming
into power, passed it by without notice, and conceded the substance of
Jackson's demand,--as he ought. This was so exquisitely pleasing to
General Jackson, that he was well affected by it for many years
towards Mr. Calhoun. Among the younger public men of that day, there
was no one who stood so high in Jackson's regard as the Secretary of

The Florida war followed in 1818. When the report of General Jackson's
invasion of Florida, and of the execution of Arbuthnot and Armbrister
reached Washington, Mr. Calhoun was the only man in the Cabinet who
expressed the opinion that General Jackson had transcended his powers,
and ought to be brought before a court of inquiry. This opinion he
supported with ardor, until it was overruled by the President, who was
chiefly influenced by Mr. Adams, the Secretary of State. How keenly
General Jackson resented the course of Mr. Calhoun on this occasion,
when, eleven years afterwards, he discovered it, is sufficiently well
known. We believe, however, that the facts justify Calhoun and condemn
Jackson. Just before going to the seat of war, the General wrote
privately to the President, strongly recommending the seizure of
Florida, and added these words:

     "This can be done without implicating the government. Let it
     be signified to me through any channel (say, Mr. J. Rhea)
     that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to
     the United States, and in sixty days it will be

General Jackson dwells, in his "Exposition" of this matter, upon the
fact that Mr. Calhoun was the first man in Washington who read this
letter. But he does not say that Mr. Calhoun was aware that Mr. Rhea
had been commissioned to answer the letter, and had answered it in
accordance with General Jackson's wishes. And if the Rhea
correspondence justified the seizure of Florida, it did not justify
the execution of the harmless Scottish trader Arbuthnot, who, so far
from "instigating" the war, had exerted the whole of his influence to
prevent it. It is an honor to Mr. Calhoun to have been the only man in
the Cabinet to call for an inquiry into proceedings which disgraced
the United States and came near involving the country in war. We have
always felt it to be a blot upon the memory of John Quincy Adams, that
he did not join Mr. Calhoun in demanding the trial of General Jackson;
and we have not been able to attribute his conduct to anything but the
supposed necessities of his position as a candidate for the

Readers versed in political history need not be reminded that nearly
every individual in the Cabinet of Mr. Monroe had hopes of succeeding
him. Mr. Adams had, of course; for he was the premier. Mr. Crawford,
of course; for it had been "arranged" at the last caucus that he was
to follow Mr. Monroe, to whose claims he had deferred on that express
condition. Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House of Representatives,
and De Witt Clinton of New York, had expectations. All these gentlemen
had "claims" which both their party and the public could recognize.
Mr. Calhoun, too, who was forty-two years of age in Mr. Monroe's last
year of service, boldly entered the lists; relying upon the united
support of the South and the support of the manufacturing States of
the North, led by Pennsylvania. That against such competitors he had
any ground at all to hope for success, shows how rapid and how real
had been his progress toward a first-rate national position. If our
readers will turn to the letters of Webster, Story, Wirt, Adams,
Jackson, and others of that circle of distinguished men, they will see
many evidences of the extravagant estimation in which he was held in
1824. They appear to have all seen in him the material for a
President, though not yet quite mature for the position. They all
deemed him a man of unsullied honor, of devoted patriotism, of perfect
sincerity, and of immense ability,--so assiduously had he played the
part of the good boy.

How the great popularity of General Jackson was adroitly used by two
or three invisible wire-pullers to defeat the aspirations of these too
eager candidates, and how from the general wreck of their hopes Mr.
Calhoun had the dexterity to emerge Vice-President of the United
States, has been related with the amplest detail, and need not be
repeated here. Mr. Calhoun's position seemed then to combine all the
advantages which a politician of forty-three could desire or imagine.
By withdrawing his name from the list of candidates in such a way as
to lead General Jackson to suppose that he had done so in _his_ favor,
he seemed to place the General under obligations to him. By secretly
manifesting a preference for Mr. Adams (which he really felt) when the
election devolved upon the House of Representatives, he had gained
friends among the adherents of the successful candidate. His
withdrawal was accepted by the public as an evidence of modesty
becoming the youngest candidate. Finally he was actually
Vice-President, as John Adams had been, as Jefferson had been, before
their elevation to the highest place. True, Henry Clay, as Secretary
of State, was in the established line of succession; but, as time wore
on, it became very manifest that the re-election of Mr. Adams, upon
which Mr. Clay's hopes depended, was itself exceedingly doubtful; and
we accordingly find Mr. Calhoun numbered in the ranks of the
opposition. Toward the close of Mr. Adams's Presidency, the question
of real interest in the inner circle of politicians was, not who
should succeed John Quincy Adams in 1829, but who should succeed
Andrew Jackson in 1833; and already the choice was narrowing to two
men,--Martin Van Buren and John C. Calhoun.

During Mr. Calhoun's first term in the Vice-Presidency,--1825 to
1829,--a most important change took place in his political position,
which controlled all his future career. While he was Secretary of
War,--1817 to 1824,--he resided with his family in Washington, and
shared in the nationalizing influences of the place. When he was
elected Vice-President, he removed to a plantation called Fort Hill,
in the western part of South Carolina, where he was once more
subjected to the intense and narrow provincialism of the planting
States. And there was nothing in the character or in the acquirements
of his mind to counteract that influence. Mr. Calhoun was not a
student; he probed nothing to the bottom; his information on all
subjects was small in quantity, and second-hand in quality. Nor was he
a patient thinker. Any stray fact or notion that he met with in his
hasty desultory reading, which chanced to give apparent support to a
favorite theory or paradox of his own, he seized upon eagerly, paraded
it in triumph, but pondered it little; while the weightiest facts
which controverted his opinion he brushed aside without the slightest
consideration. His mind was as arrogant as his manners were courteous.
Every one who ever conversed with him must remember his positive,
peremptory, unanswerable "_Not at all, not at all_" whenever one of
his favorite positions was assailed. He was wholly a special pleader;
he never summed up the testimony. We find in his works no evidence
that he had read the masters in political economy; not even Adam
Smith, whose reputation was at its height during the' first half of
his public life. In history he was the merest smatterer, though it was
his favorite reading, and he was always talking about Sparta, Athens,
and Rome. The slenderness of his far tune prevented his travelling. He
never saw Europe; and if he ever visited the Northern States, after
leaving college, his stay was short. The little that he knew of life
was gathered in three places, all of which were of an exceptional and
artificial character,--the city of Washington, the up-country of South
Carolina, and the luxurious, reactionary city of Charleston. His mind,
naturally narrow and intense, became, by revolving always in this
narrow sphere and breathing a close and tainted atmosphere, more and
more fixed in its narrowness and more intense in its operations.

This man, moreover, was consumed by a poor ambition: he lusted after
the Presidency. The rapidity of his progress in public life, the high
offices he had held, the extravagant eulogiums he had received from
colleagues and the press, deceived him as to the real nature of his
position before the country, and blinded him to the superior chances
of other men. Five times in his life he made a distinct clutch at the
bawble, but never with such prospect of success that any man could
discern it but himself and those who used his eyes. It is a
satisfaction to know that, of the Presidency seekers,--Clay, Webster,
Calhoun, Douglas, Wise, Breckenridge, Tyler, Fillmore, Clinton, Burr,
Cass, Buchanan, and Van Buren,--only two won the prize, and those two
only by a series of accidents which had little, to do with their own
exertions. We can almost lay it down as a law of this Republic, that
no man who makes the Presidency the principal object of his public
life will ever be President. The Presidency is an accident, and such
it will probably remain.

Mr. Vice-President Calhoun found his Carolina discontented in 1824,
when he took up his abode at Fort Hill. Since the Revolution, South
Carolina had never been satisfied, and had never had reason to be. The
cotton-gin had appeased her for a while, but had not suspended the
operation of the causes which produced the stagnation of the South.
Profuse expenditure, unskilful agriculture, the costliest system of
labor in the world, and no immigration, still kept _Irelandizing_ the
Southern States; while the North was advancing and improving to such a
degree as to attract emigrants from all lands. The contrast was
painful to Southern men, and to most of them it was mysterious.
Southern politicians came to the conclusion that the cause at once of
Northern prosperity and Southern poverty was the protective tariff and
the appropriations for internal improvements, but chiefly the tariff.
In 1824, when Mr. Calhoun went home, the tariff on some leading
articles had been increased, and the South was in a ferment of
opposition to the protective system. If Mr. Calhoun had been a wise
and honest man, he would have reminded his friends that the decline of
the South had been a subject of remark from the peace of 1783, and
therefore could not have been caused by the tariff of 1816, or 1820,
or 1824. He would have told them that slavery, as known in the
Southern States, demands virgin lands,--must have, every few years,
its cotton-gin, its Louisiana, its Cherokee country, its _something_,
to give new value to its products or new scope for its operations. He
might have added that the tariff of 1824 was a grievance, did tend to
give premature development to a manufacturing system, and was a fair
ground for a national issue between parties. The thing which he did
was this: he adopted the view of the matter which was predominant in
the extreme South, and accepted the leadership of the extreme
Southern, anti-tariff, strict-constructionist wing of the Democratic
party. He echoed the prevailing opinion, that the tariff and the
internal improvement system, to both of which he was fully committed,
were the _sole_ causes of Southern stagnation; since by the one their
money was taken from them, and by the other it was mostly spent where
it did them no good.

He was, of course, soon involved in a snarl of contradictions, from
which he never could disentangle himself. Let us pass to the year
1828, a most important one in the history of the country and of Mr.
Calhoun; for then occurred the first of the long series of events
which terminated with the surrender of the last Rebel army in 1865.
The first act directly tending to a war between the South and the
United States bears date December 6, 1828; and it was the act of John
C. Calhoun.

It was the year of that Presidential election which placed Andrew
Jackson in the White House, and re-elected Mr. Calhoun to the
Vice-Presidency. It was the year that terminated the honorable part of
Mr. Calhoun's career and began the dishonorable. His political
position in the canvass was utterly false, as he himself afterwards
confessed. On the one hand, he was supporting for the Presidency a man
committed to the policy of protection; and on the other, he became the
organ and mouthpiece of the Southern party, whose opposition to the
protective principle was tending to the point of armed resistance to
it. The tariff bill of 1828, which they termed the bill of
abominations, had excited the most heated opposition in the cotton
States, and especially in South Carolina. This act was passed in the
spring of the very year in which those States voted for a man who had
publicly endorsed the principle involved in it; and we see Mr. Calhoun
heading the party who were electioneering for Jackson, and the party
who were considering the policy of nullifying the act which he had
approved. His Presidential aspirations bound him to the support of
General Jackson; but the first, the fundamental necessity of his
position was to hold possession of South Carolina.

The burden of Mr. Calhoun's later speeches was the reconciliation of
the last part of his public life with the first. The task was
difficult, for there is not a leading proposition in his speeches
after 1830 which is not refuted by arguments to be found in his public
utterances before 1828. In his speech on the Force Bill, in 1834, he
volunteered an explanation of the apparent inconsistency between his
support of General Jackson in 1828, and his authorship of the "South
Carolina Exposition" in the same year. Falsehood and truth are
strangely interwoven in almost every sentence of his later writings;
and there is also that vagueness in them which comes of a superfluity
of words. He says, that for the strict-constructionist party to have
presented a candidate openly and fully identified with their opinions
would have been to court defeat; and thus they were obliged either to
abandon the contest, or to select a candidate "whose opinions were
intermediate or doubtful on the subject which divided the two
sections,"--a candidate "who, at best, was but a choice of evils."
Besides, General Jackson was a Southern man, and it was hoped that,
notwithstanding his want of experience, knowledge, and self-control,
the advisers whom he would invite to assist him would compensate for
those defects. Then Mr. Calhoun proceeds to state, that the contest
turned chiefly upon the question of protection or free trade; and the
strife was, which of the two parties should go farthest in the
advocacy of protection. The result was, he says, that the tariff bill
of 1828 was passed,--"that disastrous measure which has brought so
many calamities upon us, and put in peril the liberty and union of the
country," and "poured millions into the treasury beyond the most
extravagant wants of the country."

The passage of this tariff bill was accomplished by the tact of Martin
Van Buren, aided by Major Eaton, Senator from Tennessee. Mr. Van Buren
was the predestined chief of General Jackson's Cabinet, and Major
Eaton was the confidant, agent, and travelling manager of the
Jacksonian wire-pullers, besides being the General's own intimate
friend. The events of that session notified Mr. Calhoun that, however
manageable General Jackson might be, he was not likely to fall into
the custody of the Vice-President. General Jackson's election being
considered certain, the question was alone interesting, who should
possess him for the purposes of the succession. The prospect, as
surveyed that winter from the Vice-President's chair, was not assuring
to the occupant of that lofty seat. If General Jackson could not be
used as a fulcrum for the further elevation of Mr. Calhoun, would it
not be advisable to begin to cast about for another?

The tariff bill of 1828 was passed before the Presidential canvass had
set in with its last severity. There was time for Mr. Calhoun to
withdraw from the support of the man whose nearest friends had carried
it through the Senate under his eyes. He did not do so. He went home,
after the adjournment of Congress, to labor with all his might for the
election of a protectionist, and to employ his leisure hours in the
composition of that once famous paper called the "South Carolina
Exposition," in which protection was declared to be an evil so
intolerable as to justify the nullification of an act founded upon it.
This Exposition was the beginning of our woe,--the baleful egg from
which were hatched nullification, treason, civil war, and the
desolation of the Southern States. Here is Mr. Calhoun's own account
of the manner in which what he correctly styles "_the double
operation_" was "pushed on" in the summer of 1828:--

     "This disastrous event [the passage of the tariff bill of
     1828] opened our eyes (I mean myself and those immediately
     connected with me) as to the full extent of the danger and
     oppression of the protective system, and the hazard of
     failing to effect the reform intended through the election
     of General Jackson. With these disclosures, it became
     necessary to seek some other ultimate, but more certain
     measure of protection. We turned to the Constitution to find
     this remedy. We directed a more diligent and careful
     scrutiny into its provisions, in order to understand fully
     the nature and character of our political system. We found a
     certain and effectual remedy in that great fundamental
     division of the powers of the system between this government
     and its independent co-ordinates, the separate governments
     of the States,--to be called into action to arrest the
     unconstitutional acts of this government by the
     interposition of the States,--the paramount source from
     which both governments derive their power. But in relying on
     this our ultimate remedy, we did not abate our zeal in the
     Presidential canvass; we still hoped that General Jackson,
     if elected, would effect the necessary reform, and thereby
     supersede the necessity for calling into action the
     sovereign authority of the State, which we were anxious to
     avoid. With these views the two were pushed with equal zeal
     at the same time; which double operation commenced in the
     fall of 1828, but a few months after the passage of the
     tariff act of that year; and at the meeting of the
     Legislature of the State, at the same period, a paper known
     as the South Carolina Exposition was reported to that body,
     containing a full development, as well on the constitutional
     point as on the operation of the protective system,
     preparatory to a state of things which might eventually
     render the action of the State necessary in order to protect
     her rights and interest, and to stay a course of policy
     which we believed would, if not arrested, prove destructive
     of liberty and the Constitution."--_Works_, II. 396.

Mr. Calhoun omits, however, to mention that the Exposition was not
presented to the Legislature of South Carolina until after the
Presidential election had been decided. Nor did he inform his hearers
that the author of the paper was Mr. Vice-President Calhoun. Either
there was a great dearth of literary ability in that body, or else Mr.
Calhoun had little confidence in it; for nearly all the ponderous
documents on nullification given to the world in its name were penned
by Mr. Calhoun, and appear in his collected works. If the Legislature
addressed its constituents or the people of the United States on
_this_ subject, it was he who prepared the draft. The South Carolina
Exposition was found among his papers in his own handwriting, and it
was adopted by the Legislature with only a few alterations and
suppressions. There never was a piece of mischief more completely the
work of one man than the nullification troubles of 1833-34.

The South Carolina Exposition, when Mr. Calhoun had completed it, was
brought before the public by one of the usual methods. The Legislature
of South Carolina passed the following resolutions:--

     "_Resolved_, That it is expedient to protest against the
     unconstitutional and oppressive operation of the system of
     protective duties, and to have such protest entered on the
     journals of the Senate of the United States. Also, to make a
     public exposition of our wrongs, and of the remedies within
     our power, to be communicated to our sister States, with a
     request that they will co-operate with this State in
     procuring a repeal of the tariff for protection, and an
     abandonment of the principle; and if the repeal be not
     procured, that they will co-operate in such measures as may
     be necessary for averting the evil.

     "_Resolved_, That a committee of seven be raised to carry
     the foregoing resolution into effect."

The resolution having been carried, the following gentlemen were
appointed to father Mr. Calhoun's paper: James Gregg, D.L. Wardlaw,
Hugh S. Legaré, Arthur P. Hayne, William C. Preston, William Elliott,
and R. Barnwell Smith. The duty of this committee consisted in causing
a copy of Mr. Calhoun's paper to be made and presenting it to the
Legislature. This was promptly done; and the Exposition was adopted by
the Legislature on the 6th of December, 1828. Whether any protest was
forwarded to the Secretary of the United States Senate for insertion
in the journal does not appear. We only know that five thousand copies
of this wearisome and stupid Exposition were ordered to be printed,
and that in the hubbub of the incoming of a new administration it
attracted scarcely any attention beyond the little knot of original
nullifiers. Indeed, Mr. Calhoun's writings on this subject were
"protected" by their own length and dulness. No creature ever read one
of them quite through, except for a special purpose.

The leading assertions of this Exposition are these:--1. Every duty
imposed for protection is a violation of the Constitution, which
empowers Congress to impose taxes for revenue only. 2. The _whole_
burden of the protective system is borne by agriculture and commerce.
3. The _whole_ of the advantages of protection accrue to the
manufacturing States. 4. In other words, the South, the Southwest, and
two or three commercial cities, support the government, and pour a
stream of treasure into the coffers of manufacturers. 5. The result
must soon be, that the people of South Carolina will have either to
abandon the culture of rice and cotton, and remove to some other
country, or else to become a manufacturing community, which would only
be ruin in another form.

Lest the reader should find it impossible to believe that any man out
of a lunatic asylum could publish such propositions as this last, we
will give the passage. Mr. Calhoun is endeavoring to show that Europe
will at length retaliate by placing high duties upon American cotton
and rice. At least that appears to be what he is aiming at.

     "We already see indications of a commercial warfare, the
     termination of which no one can conjecture, though our fate
     may easily be. The last remains of our great and once
     flourishing agriculture must be annihilated in the conflict.
     In the first instance we will[1] be thrown on the home
     market, which cannot consume a fourth of our products; and,
     instead of supplying the world, as we would with free trade,
     we would be compelled to abandon the cultivation of three
     fourths of what we now raise, and receive for the residue
     whatever the manufacturers, who would then have their policy
     consummated by the entire possession of our market, might
     choose to give. Forced to abandon our ancient and favorite
     pursuit, to which our soil, climate, habits, and peculiar
     labor are adapted, at an immense sacrifice of property, we
     would be compelled, without capital, experience, or skill,
     and with a population untried in such pursuits, to attempt
     to become the rivals, instead of the customers, of the
     manufacturing States. The result is not doubtful. If they,
     by superior capital and skill, should keep down successful
     competition on our part, we would be doomed to toil at our
     unprofitable agriculture,--selling at the prices which a
     single and very limited market might give. But, on the
     contrary, if our necessity should triumph over their capital
     and skill, if, instead of raw cotton we should ship to the
     manufacturing States cotton yarn and cotton goods, the
     thoughtful must see that it would inevitably bring about a
     state of things which could not long continue. _Those who
     now make war on our gains would then make it on our labor_.
     They would not tolerate that those who now cultivate our
     plantations, and furnish them with the material and the
     market for the product of their arts, should, by becoming
     their rivals, take bread from the mouths of their wives and
     children. The committee will not pursue this painful
     subject; but as they clearly see that the system if not
     arrested, must bring the country to this hazardous
     extremity, neither prudence nor patriotism would permit them
     to pass it by without raising a warning voice against an
     evil of so menacing a character."--_Works_, VI. 12.

The only question which arises in the mind of present readers of such
passages (which abound in the writings of Mr. Calhoun) is this: Were
they the chimeras of a morbid, or the utterances of a false mind?
Those who knew him differ in opinion on this point. For our part, we
believe such passages to have been inserted for the sole purpose of
alarming the people of South Carolina, so as to render them the more
subservient to his will. It is the stale trick of the demagogue, as
well as of the false priest, to subjugate the mind by terrifying it.

Mr. Calhoun concludes his Exposition by bringing forward his remedy
for the frightful evils which he had conjured up. That remedy, of
course, was nullification. The State of South Carolina, after giving
due warning, must declare the protective acts "null and void" in the
State of South Carolina after a certain date; and then, unless
Congress repealed them in time, refuse obedience to them. Whether this
should be done by the Legislature or by a convention called for the
purpose, Mr. Calhoun would not say; but he evidently preferred a
convention. He advised, however, that nothing be done hastily; that
time should be afforded to the dominant majority for further
reflection. Delay, he remarked, was the more to be recommended,
because of

     "the great political revolution which will displace from
     power, on the 4th of March next, those who have acquired
     authority by setting the will of the people at defiance, and
     which will bring in an eminent citizen, distinguished for
     his services to his country and his justice and patriotism";

under whom, it was hoped, there would be "a complete restoration, of
the pure principles of our government." This passage Mr. Calhoun could
write _after_ witnessing the manoeuvres of Mr. Van Buren and Mr.
Eaton! If the friends of Mr. Adams had set the will of the people at
defiance on the tariff question, what had the supporters of General
Jackson done? In truth, this menace of nullification was the second
string to the bow of the Vice-President. It was not yet ascertained
which was going to possess and use General Jackson,--the placid and
flexible Van Buren, or the headstrong, short-sighted, and
uncomfortable Calhoun. Nullification, as he used daily to declare, was
a "reserved power."

At the time of General Jackson's inauguration, it would have puzzled
an acute politician to decide which of the two aspirants had the best
chance of succeeding the General. The President seemed equally well
affected toward both. One was Secretary of State, the other
Vice-President. Van Buren, inheriting the political tactics of Burr,
was lord paramount in the great State of New York, and Calhoun was
all-powerful in his own State and very influential in all the region
of cotton and rice. In the Cabinet Calhoun had two friends, and one
tried and devoted ally (Ingham), while Van Buren could only boast of
Major Eaton, Secretary of War; and the tie that bound them together
was political far more than personal. In the public mind, Calhoun
towered above his rival, for he had been longer in the national
councils, had held offices that drew upon him the attention of the
whole country, and had formerly been distinguished as an orator. If
any one had been rash enough in 1829 to intimate to Mr. Calhoun that
Martin Van Buren stood before the country on a par with himself, he
would have pitied the ignorance of that rash man.

Under despotic governments, like those of Louis XIV. and Andrew
Jackson, no calculation can be made as to the future of any public
man, because his future depends upon the caprice of the despot, which
cannot be foretold. Six short weeks--nay, not so much, not
six--sufficed to estrange the mind of the President from Calhoun, and
implant within him a passion to promote the interests of Van Buren.
Our readers, we presume, all know how this was brought to pass. It was
simply that Mr. Calhoun would _not_, and Mr. Van Buren _would_ call
upon Mrs. Eaton. All the other influences that were brought to bear
upon the President's singular mind were nothing in comparison with
this. Daniel Webster uttered only the truth when he wrote, at the
time, to his friend Dutton, that the "Aaron's serpent among the
President's desires was a settled purpose of making out the lady, of
whom so much has been said, a person of reputation"; and that this
ridiculous affair would "probably determine who should be the
successor to the present chief magistrate." It had precisely that
effect. We have shown elsewhere the successive manoeuvres by which
this was effected, and how vigorously but unskillfully Calhoun
struggled to avert his fate. We cannot and need not repeat the story;
nor can we go over again the history of the Nullification imbroglio,
which began with the South Carolina Exposition in 1828, and ended very
soon after Calhoun had received a private notification that the
instant news reached Washington of an overt act of treason in South
Carolina, the author and fomenter of that treason would be arrested
and held for trial as a traitor.

One fact alone suffices to prove that, in bringing on the
Nullification troubles, Calhoun's motive was factious. When General
Jackson saw the coming storm, he did two things. First, he prepared to
maintain the authority of the United States by force. Secondly, he
used all his influence with Congress to have the cause of Southern
discontent removed. General Jackson felt that the argument of the
anti-tariff men, in view of the speedy extinction of the national
debt, was unanswerable. He believed it was absurd to go on raising ten
or twelve millions a year more than the government could spend, merely
for the sake of protecting Northern manufactures. Accordingly, a bill
was introduced which aimed to do just what the nullifiers had been
clamoring for, that is, to reduce the revenue to the amount required
by the government. If Mr. Calhoun had supported this measure, he could
have carried it. He gave it no support; but exerted all his influence
in favor of the Clay Compromise, which was expressly intended to save
as much of the protective system as could be saved, and which reduced
duties gradually, instead of suddenly. Rather than permit the abhorred
administration to have the glory of pacificating the country, this
lofty Roman stooped to a coalition with his personal enemy, Henry
Clay, the champion and the soul of the protectionist party.

No words can depict the bitterness of Calhoun's disappointment and
mortification at being distanced by a man whom he despised so
cordially as he did Van Buren. To comprehend it, his whole subsequent
career must be studied. The numerous covert allusions to the subject
in his speeches and writings are surcharged with rancor; and it was
observed that, whenever his mind reverted to it, his manner, the tone
of his voice, and every gesture testified to the intensity of his
feelings. "Every Southern man," said he on one occasion,

     "who is true to the interests of his section, and faithful
     to the duties which Providence has allotted him, will be
     forever excluded from the honors and emoluments of this
     government, which will be reserved only for those who have
     qualified themselves by political prostitution for admission
     into the Magdalen Asylum."

His face, too, from this time, assumed that haggard, cast-iron,
intense, introverted aspect which struck every beholder.

Miss Martineau, in her Retrospect of Western Travel, has given us some
striking and valuable glimpses of the eminent men of that period,
particularly of the three most eminent, who frequently visited her
during her stay in Washington. This passage, for example, is highly

     "Mr. Clay sitting upright on the sofa, with his snuffbox
     ever in his hand, would discourse for many an hour in his
     even, soft, deliberate tone, on any one of the great
     subjects of American policy which we might happen to start,
     always amazing us with the moderation of estimate and speech
     which so impetuous a nature has been able to attain. Mr.
     Webster, leaning back at his ease, telling stories, cracking
     jokes, shaking the sofa with burst after burst of laughter,
     or smoothly discoursing to the perfect felicity of the
     logical part of one's constitution, would illuminate an
     evening now and then. Mr. Calhoun, the cast-iron man, who
     looks as if he had never been born and could never be
     extinguished, would come in sometimes to keep our
     understandings on a painful stretch for a short while, and
     leave us to take to pieces his close, rapid, theoretical,
     illustrated talk, and see what we could make of it. We found
     it usually more worth retaining as a curiosity, than as
     either very just or useful. His speech abounds in figures,
     truly illustrative, if that which they illustrate were true
     also. But his theories of government (almost the only
     subject upon which his thoughts are employed), the squarest
     and compactest that ever were made, are composed out of
     limited elements, and are not, therefore, likely to stand
     service very well. It is at first extremely interesting to
     hear Mr. Calhoun talk; and there is a never-failing evidence
     of power in all that he says and does, which commands
     intellectual reverence; but the admiration is too soon
     turned into regret, into absolute melancholy. It is
     impossible to resist the conviction, that all this force can
     be at best but useless, and is but too likely to be very
     mischievous. _His mind has long lost all power of
     communicating with any other_. I know of no man who lives in
     such utter intellectual solitude. He meets men and harangues
     by the fireside as in the Senate; he is wrought like a piece
     of machinery, set going vehemently by a weight, and stops
     while you answer; he either passes by what you say, or
     twists it into a suitability with what is in his head, and
     begins to lecture again. Of course, a mind like this can
     have little influence in the Senate, except by virtue,
     perpetually wearing out, of what it did in its less
     eccentric days; but its influence at home is to be dreaded.
     There is no hope that an intellect so cast in narrow
     theories will accommodate itself to varying circumstances;
     and there is every danger that it will break up all that it
     can in order to remould the materials in its own way. Mr.
     Calhoun is as full as ever of his Nullification doctrines;
     and those who know the force that is in him, and his utter
     incapacity of modification by other minds, (after having
     gone through as remarkable a revolution of political opinion
     as perhaps any man ever experienced,) will no more expect
     repose and self-retention from him than from a volcano in
     full force. Relaxation is no longer in the power of his
     will. I never saw any one who so completely gave me the idea
     of possession. Half an hour's conversation with him is
     enough to make a necessitarian of anybody. Accordingly, he
     is more complained of than blamed by his enemies. His
     moments of softness by his family, and when recurring to old
     college days, are hailed by all as a relief to the vehement
     working of the intellectual machine,--a relief equally to
     himself and others. These moments are as touching to the
     observer as tears on the face of a soldier."

Of his appearance in the Senate, and of his manner of speaking, Miss
Martineau records her impressions also:--

     "Mr. Calhoun's countenance first fixed my attention; the
     splendid eye, the straight forehead, surmounted by a load of
     stiff, upright, dark hair, the stern brow, the inflexible
     mouth,--it is one of the most remarkable heads in the

     "Mr. Calhoun followed, and impressed me very strongly. While
     he kept to the question, what he said was close, good, and
     moderate, though delivered in rapid speech, and with a voice
     not sufficiently modulated. But when he began to reply to a
     taunt of Colonel Benton's, that he wanted to be President,
     the force of his speaking became painful. He made
     protestations which it seemed to strangers had better have
     been spared, 'that he would not turn on his heel to be
     President,' and that 'he had given up all for his own brave,
     magnanimous little State of South Carolina.' While thus
     protesting, his eyes flashed, his brow seemed charged with
     thunder, his voice became almost a bark, and his sentences
     were abrupt, intense, producing in the auditory a sort of
     laugh which is squeezed out of people by the application of
     a very sudden mental force. I believe he knew not what a
     revelation he made in a few sentences. _They were to us
     strangers the key, not only to all that was said and done by
     the South Carolina party during the remainder of the
     session, but to many things at Charleston and Columbia which
     would otherwise have passed unobserved and unexplained_."

This intelligent observer saw the chieftain on his native heath:--

     "During my stay in Charleston, Mr. Calhoun and his family
     arrived from Congress, and there was something very striking
     in the welcome he received, like that of a chief returned to
     the bosom of his clan. He stalked about like a monarch of
     the little domain, and there was certainly an air of
     mysterious understanding between him and his followers."

What Miss Martineau says of the impossibility of Calhoun's mind
communicating with another mind, is confirmed by an anecdote which we
have heard related by Dr. Francis Lieber, who, as Professor in the
College of South Carolina, was for several years the neighbor and
intimate acquaintance of Mr. Calhoun. The learned Professor, upon his
return from a visit to Europe, called upon him, and in the course of
the interview Mr. Calhoun declared, in his positive manner, that the
slaves in the Southern States were better lodged, fed, and cared for
than the mechanics of Europe. Dr. Lieber, being fresh from that
continent, assured the Secretary of State that such was not the fact,
as he could testify from having resided in both lands. "Not at all,
not at all," cried Calhoun dogmatically, and repeated his wild
assertion. The Doctor saw that the poor man had reached the condition
of absolute unteachableness, and dropped the subject. There could not
well be a more competent witness on the point in dispute than Dr.
Lieber; for, besides having long resided in both continents, it was
the habit and business of his life to observe and ponder the effect of
institutions upon the welfare of those who live under them. Calhoun
pushed him out of the witness-box, as though he were an idiot.

A survey of the last fifteen years of Calhoun's life discloses nothing
upon which the mind can dwell with complacency. On the approach of
every Presidential election, we see him making what we can only call a
_grab_ at a nomination, by springing upon the country some unexpected
issue designed to make the South a unit in his support. From 1830 to
1836, he exhausted all the petty arts of the politician to defeat
General Jackson's resolve to bring in Mr. Van Buren as his successor;
and when all had failed, he made an abortive attempt to precipitate
the question of the annexation of Texas. This, too, being foiled, Mr.
Van Buren was elected President. Then Mr. Calhoun, who had for ten
years never spoken of Van Buren except with contempt, formed the
notable scheme of winning over the President so far as to secure his
support for the succession. He advocated all the test measures of Mr.
Van Buren's administration, and finished by courting a personal
reconciliation with the man whom he had a hundred times styled a fox
and a political prostitute. This design coming to naught, through the
failure of Mr. Van Buren to reach a second term, he made a wild rush
for the prize by again thrusting forward the Texas question. Colonel
Benton, who was the predetermined heir of Van Buren, has detailed the
manner in which this was done in a very curious chapter of his "Thirty
Years." The plot was successful, so far as plunging the country into a
needless war was concerned; but it was Polk and Taylor, not Calhoun,
who obtained the Presidency through it. Mr. Calhoun's struggles for a
nomination in 1844 were truly pitiable, but they were not known to the
public, who saw him, at a certain stage of the campaign, affecting to
decline a nomination which there was not the slightest danger of his

We regret that we have not space to show how much the agitation of the
slavery question, from 1835 to 1850, was the work of this one man. The
labors of Mr. Garrison and Mr. Wendell Phillips might have borne no
fruit during their lifetime, if Calhoun had not made it his business
to supply them with material. "I mean to _force_ the issue upon the
North," he once wrote; and he did force it. On his return to South
Carolina after the termination of the Nullification troubles, he said
to his friends there, (so avers Colonel Benton, "Thirty Years," Vol.
II. p. 786,)

     "that the South could never be united against the North on
     the tariff question; that the sugar interest of Louisiana
     would keep her out; and that the basis of Southern union
     must be shifted to the slave question."

Here we have the key to the mysteries of all his subsequent career.
The denial of the right of petition, the annexation of Texas, the
forcing of slavery into the Territories,--these were among the issues
upon which he hoped to unite the South in his favor, while retaining
enough strength at the North to secure his election. Failing in all
his schemes of personal advancement, he died in 1850, still protesting
that slavery is divine, and that it must rule this country or ruin it.
This is really the sum and substance of that last speech to the
Senate, which he had not strength enough left to deliver.

We have run rapidly over Mr. Calhoun's career as a public man. It
remains for us to notice his claims as a teacher of political
philosophy, a character in which he influenced his countrymen more
powerfully after he was in his grave than he did while living among

The work upon which his reputation as a thinker will rest with
posterity is his Treatise on the Nature of Government. Written in the
last year of his life, when at length all hope of further personal
advancement must have died within him, it may be taken as the
deliberate record or summary of his political opinions. He did not
live to revise it, and the concluding portion he evidently meant to
enlarge and illustrate, as was ascertained from notes and memoranda in
pencil upon the manuscript. After the death of the author in 1850, the
work was published in a substantial and elegant form by the
Legislature of South Carolina, who ordered copies to be presented to
individuals of note in science and literature, and to public
libraries. We are, therefore, to regard this volume, not merely as a
legacy of Mr. Calhoun to his countrymen, but as conveying to us the
sentiments of South Carolina with regard to her rights and duties as a
member of the Union. Events since its publication have shown us that
it is more even than this. The assemblage of troublesome communities
which we have been accustomed to style "the South," adopted this work
as their political gospel. From this source the politicians of the
Southern States have drawn all they have chosen to present to the
world in justification of their course which bears the semblance of
argument; for, in truth, Mr. Calhoun, since Jefferson and Madison
passed from the stage, is almost the only thinking being the South has
had. His was a very narrow, intense, and untrustworthy mind, but he
was an angel of light compared with the men who have been recently
conspicuous in the Southern States.

This treatise on government belongs to the same class of works as
Louis Napoleon's Life of Caesar, having for its principal object one
that lies below the surface, and the effect of both is damaged by the
name on the title-page. The moment we learn that Louis Napoleon wrote
that Life of Caesar, the mind is intent upon discovering allusions to
recent history, which the author has an interest in misrepresenting.
The common conscience of mankind condemns him as a perjured usurper,
and the murderer of many of his unoffending fellow-citizens. No man,
whatever the power and splendor of his position, can rest content
under the scorn of mankind, unless his own conscience gives him a
clear acquittal, and assures him that one day the verdict of his
fellow-men will be reversed; and even in that case, it is not every
man that can possess his soul in patience. Every page of the Life of
Caesar was composed with a secret, perhaps half-unconscious reference
to that view of Louis Napoleon's conduct which is expressed with such
deadly power in Mr. Kinglake's History of the Crimean War, and which
is so remarkably confirmed by an American eyewitness, the late Mr.
Goodrich, who was Consul at Paris in 1848. Published anonymously, the
Life of Caesar might have had some effect. Given to the world by
Napoleon III., every one reads it as he would a defence by an
ingenious criminal of his own cause. The highest praise that can be
bestowed upon it is, that it is very well done, considering the object
the author had in view.

So, in reading Mr. Calhoun's disquisition upon government, we are
constantly reminded that the author was a man who had only escaped
trial and execution for treason by suddenly arresting the treasonable
measures which he had caused to be set on foot. Though it contains but
one allusion to events in South Carolina in 1833, the work is nothing
but a labored, refined justification of those events. It has been even
coupled with Edwards on the Will, as the two best examples of subtle
reasoning which American literature contains. Admit his premises, and
you are borne along, at a steady pace, in a straight path, to the
final inferences: that the sovereign State of South Carolina
possesses, by the Constitution of the United States, an absolute veto
upon every act of Congress, and may secede from the Union whenever she
likes; and that these rights of veto and secession do not merely
constitute the strength of the Constitution, but _are_ the
Constitution,--and do not merely tend to perpetuate the Union, but are
the Union's self,--the thing that binds the States together.

Mr. Calhoun begins his treatise by assuming that government is
necessary. He then explains why it is necessary. It is necessary
because man is more selfish than sympathetic, feeling more intensely
what affects himself than what affects others. Hence he will encroach
on the rights of others; and to prevent this, government is

But government, since it must be administered by selfish men will feel
more intensely what affects itself than what affects the people
governed. It is, therefore, the tendency of all governments to
encroach on the rights of the people; and they certainly will do so,
if they can. The same instinct of self-preservation, the same love of
accumulation, which tempts individuals to over-reach their neighbors,
inclines government to preserve, increase, and consolidate its powers.
Therefore, as individual selfishness requires to be held in check by
government, so government must be restrained by _something_.

This something is the constitution, written or unwritten. A
constitution is to the government what government is to the people: it
is the restraint upon its selfishness. Mr. Calhoun assumes here that
the relation between government and governed is naturally and
inevitably "antagonistic." He does not perceive that government is the
expression of man's love of justice, and the means by which the people
cause justice to be done.

Government, he continues, must be powerful; must have at command the
resources of the country; must be so strong that it can, if it will,
disregard the limitations of the constitution. The question is, How to
compel a government, holding such powers, having an army, a navy, and
a national treasury at command, to obey the requirements of a mere
piece of printed paper?

Power, says Mr. Calhoun, can only be resisted by power. Therefore, a
proper constitution must leave to the governed the _power_ to resist
encroachments. This is done in free countries by universal suffrage
and the election of rulers at frequent and fixed periods. This gives
to rulers the strongest possible motive to please the people, which
can only be done by executing their will.

So far, most readers will follow the author without serious
difficulty. But now we come to passages which no one could understand
who was not acquainted with the Nullification imbroglio of 1833. A
philosophic Frenchman or German, who should read this work with a view
to enlightening his mind upon the nature of government, would be much
puzzled after passing the thirteenth page; for at that point the
hidden loadstone begins to operate upon the needle of Mr. Calhoun's
compass, and he is as Louis Napoleon writing the Life of Caesar.

Universal suffrage, he continues, and the frequent election of rulers,
are indeed the primary and fundamental principles of a constitutional
government; and they are sufficient to give the people an effective
control over those whom they have elected. But this is all they can
do. They cannot make rulers good, or just, or obedient to the
constitution, but only faithful representatives of the majority of the
people and executors of the will of that majority. The right of
suffrage transfers the supreme authority from the rulers to the body
of the community, and the more perfectly it does this, the more
perfectly it accomplishes its object. Majority is king. But this king,
too, like all others, is selfish, and will abuse his power if he can.

So, we have been arguing in a circle, and have come back to the
starting-point. Government keeps within bounds the selfishness of the
people; the constitution restrains the selfishness of the government;
but, in doing so, it has only created a despot as much to be dreaded
as the power it displaced. We are still, therefore, confronted by the
original difficulty. How are we to limit the sway of tyrant Majority?

If, says Mr. Calhoun, all the people had the same interests, so that a
law which oppressed one interest would oppress all interests, then the
right of suffrage would itself be sufficient; and the only question
would be as to the fitness of different candidates. But this is not
the case. Taxation, for example: no system of taxation can be arranged
that will not bear oppressively upon some interests or section.
Disbursements, also: some portions of the country must receive back,
in the form of governmental disbursements, more money than they pay in
taxes, and others less; and this may be carried so far, that one
region may be utterly impoverished, while others are enriched. King
Majority may have his favorites. He may now choose to favor
agriculture; now, commerce; now, manufactures; and so arrange the
imports as to crush one for the sake of promoting the others. "Crush"
is Mr. Calhoun's word. "One portion of the community," he says,

     "may be crushed, and another elevated on its ruins, by
     systematically perverting the power of taxation and
     disbursement, for the purpose of aggrandizing or building up
     one portion of the community at the expense of the other."

_May_ be. But has not the most relentless despot an interest in the
prosperity of his subjects? And can one interest be crushed without
manifest and immediate injury to all the others? Mr. Calhoun says:
That this fell power to crush important interests _will_ be used, is
exactly as certain as that it _can_ be.

All this would be unintelligible to our foreign philosopher, but
American citizens know very well what it means. Through this fine
lattice-work fence they discern the shining countenance of the colored

But now, what remedy? Mr. Calhoun approaches this part of the subject
with the due acknowledgment of its difficulty. The remedy, of course,
is Nullification; but he is far from using a word so familiar. There
is but one mode, he remarks, by which the majority of the whole people
can be prevented from oppressing the minority, or portions of the
minority, and that is this:

     "By taking the sense of each interest or portion of the
     community, which may be unequally and injuriously affected
     by the action of the government, separately, through its own
     majority, or in some other way by which its voice can be
     expressed; and to require the consent of each interest,
     either to put or to keep the government in motion."

And this can only be done by such an "organism" as will "give to each
division or interest either a concurrent voice in making and executing
the laws or _a veto on their execution_."

This is perfectly intelligible when read by the light of the history
of 1833. But no human being unacquainted with that history could
gather Mr. Calhoun's meaning. Our studious foreigner would suppose by
the word "interest," that the author meant the manufacturing interest,
the commercial and agricultural interests, and that each of these
should have its little congress concurring in or vetoing the acts of
the Congress sitting at Washington. _We_, however, know that Mr.
Calhoun meant that South Carolina should have the power to nullify
acts of Congress and give law to the Union. He does not tell us how
South Carolina's tyrant Majority is to be kept within bounds; but only
how that majority is to control the majority of the whole country. He
has driven his problem into a corner, and there he leaves it.

Having thus arrived at the conclusion, that a law, to be binding on
all "interests," i.e. on all the States of the Union, must be
concurred in by all, he proceeds to answer the obvious objection, that
"interests" so antagonistic could never be brought to unanimous
agreement. He thinks this would present no difficulty, and adduces
some instances of unanimity to illustrate his point.

First, trial by jury. Here are twelve men, of different character and
calibre, shut up in a room to agree upon a verdict, in a cause upon
which able men have argued upon opposite sides. How unlikely that they
should be able to agree unanimously! Yet they generally do, and that
speedily. Why is this? Because, answers Mr. Calhoun, they go into
their room knowing that nothing short of unanimity will answer; and
consequently every man is _disposed_ to agree with his fellows, and,
if he cannot agree, to compromise. "Not at all." The chief reason why
juries generally agree is, that they are not interested in the matter
in dispute. The law of justice is so plainly written in the human
heart, that the fair thing is usually obvious to disinterested minds,
or can be made so. It is interest, it is rivalry, that blinds us to
what is right; and Mr. Calhoun's problem is to render "antagonistic"
interests unanimous. We cannot, therefore, accept this illustration as
a case in point.

Secondly, Poland. Poland is not the country which an American would
naturally visit to gain political wisdom. Mr. Calhoun, however,
repairs thither, and brings home the fact, that in the turbulent Diet
of that unhappy kingdom every member had an absolute veto upon every
measure. Nay, more: no king could be elected without the unanimous
vote of an assembly of one hundred and fifty thousand persons. Yet
Poland lasted two centuries! The history of those two centuries is a
sufficient comment upon Mr Calhoun's system, to say nothing of the
final catastrophe, which Mr. Calhoun confesses was owing to "the
extreme to which the principle was carried." A sound principle cannot
be carried to an unsafe extreme; it is impossible for a man to be too
right. If it is right for South Carolina to control and nullify the
United States, it is right for any one man in South Carolina to
control and nullify South Carolina. One of the tests of a system is to
ascertain where it will carry us if it _is_ pushed to the uttermost
extreme. Mr. Calhoun gave his countrymen this valuable information
when he cited the lamentable case of Poland.

From Poland the author descends to the Six Nations, the federal
council of which was composed of forty-two members, each of whom had
an absolute veto upon every measure. Nevertheless, this confederacy,
he says, became the most powerful and the most united of all the
Indian nations. He omits to add, that it was the facility with which
this council could be wielded by the French and English in turn, that
hastened the grinding of the Six Nations to pieces between those two

Rome is Mr. Calhoun's next illustration. The _Tribunus Plebis_, he
observes, had a veto upon the passage of all laws and upon the
execution of all laws, and thus prevented the oppression of the
plebeians by the patricians. To show the inapplicability of this
example to the principle in question, to show by what steps this
tribunal, long useful and efficient, gradually absorbed the power of
the government, and became itself, first oppressive, and then an
instrument in the overthrow of the constitution, would be to write a
history of Rome. Niebuhr is accessible to the public, and Niebuhr knew
more of the _Tribunus Plebis_ than Mr. Calhoun. We cannot find in
Niebuhr anything to justify the author's aim to constitute patrician
Carolina the _Tribunus Plebis_ of the United States.

Lastly, England. England, too, has that safeguard of liberty, "an
organism by which the voice of each order or class is taken through
its appropriate organ, and which requires the concurring voice of all
to constitute that of the whole community." These orders are King,
Lords, and Commons. They must all concur in every law, each having a
veto upon the action of the two others. The government of the United
States is also so arranged that the President and the two Houses of
Congress must concur in every enactment; but then they all represent
the _same_ order or interest, the people of the United States. The
English government, says Mr. Calhoun, is so exquisitely constituted,
that the greater the revenues of the government, the more stable it
is; because those revenues, being chiefly expended upon the lords and
gentlemen, render them exceedingly averse to any radical change. Mr.
Calhoun does not mention that the majority of the people of England
are not represented in the government at all. Perhaps, however, the
following passage, in a previous part of the work, was designed to
meet their case:--

     "It is a great and dangerous error to suppose that all
     people are equally entitled to liberty. It is a reward to be
     earned, not a blessing to be gratuitously lavished on all
     alike;--a reward reserved for the intelligent, the
     patriotic, the virtuous, and deserving; and not a boon to be
     bestowed on a people too ignorant, degraded, and vicious to
     be capable either of appreciating or of enjoying it."

Mr. Calhoun does not tell us who is to _bestow_ this precious boon. He
afterwards remarks, that the progress of a people "rising" to the
point of civilization which entitles them to freedom, is "necessarily
slow." How very slow, then, it must be, when the means of civilization
are forbidden to them by law!

With his remarks upon England, Mr. Calhoun terminates his discussion
of the theory of government. Let us grant all that he claims for it,
and see to what it conducts us. Observe that his grand position is,
that a "numerical majority," like all other sovereign powers, will
certainly tyrannize if it can. His remedy for this is, that a local
majority, the majority of each State, shall have a veto upon the acts
of the majority of the whole country. But he omits to tell us how that
local majority is to be kept within bounds. According to his
reasoning, South Carolina should have a veto upon acts of Congress.
Very well; then each county of South Carolina should have a veto upon
the acts of the State Legislature; each town should have a veto upon
the behests of the county; and each voter upon the decisions of the
town. Mr. Calhoun's argument, therefore, amounts to this: that one
voter in South Carolina should have the constitutional right to
nullify an act of Congress, and no law should be binding which has not
received the assent of every citizen.

Having completed the theoretical part of his subject, the author
proceeds to the practical. In his first essay he describes the
"organism" that is requisite for the preservation of liberty; and in
his second, he endeavors to show that the United States _is_ precisely
such an organism, since the Constitution, rightly interpreted, _does_
confer upon South Carolina the right to veto the decrees of the
numerical majority. Mr. Calhoun's understanding appears to much better
advantage in this second discourse, which contains the substance of
all his numerous speeches on nullification. It is marvellous how this
morbid and intense mind had brooded over a single subject, and how it
had subjugated all history and all law to its single purpose. But we
cannot follow Mr. Calhoun through the tortuous mazes of his second
essay; nor, if we could, should we be able to draw readers after us.
We can only say this: Let it be granted that there _are_ two ways in
which the Constitution can be fairly interpreted;--one, the Websterian
method; the other, that of Mr. Calhoun. On one of these
interpretations the Constitution will work, and on the other it will
not. We prefer the interpretation that is practicable, and leave the
other party to the enjoyment of their argument. Nations cannot be
governed upon principles so recondite and refined, that not one
citizen in a hundred will so much as follow a mere statement of them.
The fundamental law must be as plain as the ten commandments,--as
plain as the four celebrated propositions in which Mr. Webster put the
substance of his speeches in reply to Mr. Calhoun's ingenious defence
of his conduct in 1833.

The author concludes his essay by a prophetic glance at the future. He
remarks, that with regard to the future of the United States, as then
governed, only one thing could be predicted with absolute certainty,
and that was, that the Republic could not last. It might lapse into a
monarchy, or it might be dismembered,--no man could say which; but
that one of these things would happen was entirely certain. The
rotation-in-office system, as introduced by General Jackson, and
sanctioned by his subservient Congress, had rendered the Presidential
office a prize so tempting, in which so large a number of men had an
interest, that the contest would gradually cease to be elective, and
would finally lose the elective form. _The incumbent would appoint his
successor_; and "thus the absolute form of a popular, would end in the
absolute form of a monarchical government," and there would be no
possibility of even rendering the monarchy limited or constitutional.
Mr. Calhoun does not mention here the name of General Jackson or of
Martin Van Buren, but American readers know very well what he was
thinking of when he wrote the passage.

Disunion, according to Mr. Calhoun, was another of our perils. In view
of recent events, our readers may be interested in reading his remarks
on this subject, written in 1849, among the last words he ever
deliberately put upon paper:--

     "The conditions impelling the government toward disunion are
     very powerful. They consist chiefly of two;--the one arising
     from the great extent of the country; the other, from its
     division into separate States, having local institutions and
     interests. The former, under the operation of the numerical
     majority, has necessarily given to the two great parties, in
     their contest for the honors and emoluments of the
     government, a geographical character, for reasons which have
     been fully stated. This contest must finally settle down
     into a struggle on the part of the stronger section to
     obtain the permanent control; and on the part of the weaker,
     to preserve its independence and equality as members of the
     Union. The conflict will thus become one between the States
     occupying the different sections,--that is, between
     organized bodies on both sides,--each, in the event of
     separation, having the means of avoiding the confusion and
     anarchy to which the parts would be subject without such
     organization. This would contribute much to increase the
     power of resistance on the part of the weaker section
     against the stronger in possession of the government. With
     these great advantages and resources, it is hardly possible
     that the parties occupying the weaker section would consent
     quietly, under any circumstances, to break down from
     independent and equal sovereignties into a dependent and
     colonial condition; and still less so, under circumstances
     that would revolutionize them _internally_, and put their
     very existence as a people at stake. Never was there an
     issue between independent States that involved greater
     calamity to the conquered, than is involved in that between
     the States which compose the two sections of the Union. The
     condition of the weaker, should it sink from a state of
     independence and equality to one of dependence and
     subjection, would be more calamitous than ever before befell
     a civilized people. It is vain to think that, with such
     consequences before them, they will not resist; especially,
     when resistance _may_ save them, and cannot render their
     condition worse. That this will take place, unless the
     stronger section desists from its course, may be assumed as
     certain; and that, if forced to resist, the weaker section
     would prove successful, and the system end in disunion, is,
     to say the least, highly probable. But if it should fail,
     the great increase of power and patronage which must, in
     consequence, accrue to the government of the United States,
     would but render certain and hasten the termination in the
     other alternative. So that, at all events, to the one or to
     the other--to monarchy or disunion--it must come, if not
     prevented by strenuous or timely efforts."

This is a very instructive passage, and one that shows well the
complexity of human motives. Mr. Calhoun betrays the secret that,
after all, the contest between the two sections is a "contest for the
honors and emoluments of the government," and that all the rest is but
pretext and afterthought,--as General Jackson said it was. He plainly
states that the policy of the South is rule or ruin. Besides this, he
intimates that there is in the United States an "interest," an
institution, the development of which is incompatible with the
advancement of the general interest; and either that one interest must
overshadow and subdue all other interests, or all other interests must
unite to crush that one. The latter has been done.

Mr. Calhoun proceeds to suggest the measures by which these calamities
can be averted. The government must be "restored to its federal
character" by the repeal of all laws tending to the annihilation of
State sovereignty, and by a strict construction of the Constitution.
The President's power of removal must be limited. In earlier times,
these would have sufficed; but at that day the nature of the disease
was such that nothing could reach it short of an organic change, which
should give the weaker section a negative on the action of the
government. Mr. Calhoun was of opinion that this could best be done by
our having two Presidents,--one elected by the North and the other by
the South,--the assent of both to be necessary to every act of
Congress. Under such a system, he thought,--

     "The Presidential election, instead of dividing the Union
     into hostile geographical parties, the stronger struggling
     to enlarge its powers, and the weaker to defend its rights,
     as is now the case, would become the means of restoring
     harmony and concord to the country and the government. It
     would make the Union a union in truth,--a bond of mutual
     affection and brotherhood; and not a mere connection used by
     the stronger as the instrument of dominion and
     aggrandizement, and submitted to by the weaker only from the
     lingering remains of former attachment, and the fading hope
     of being able to restore the government to what it was
     originally intended to be,--a blessing to all."

The utter misapprehension of the purposes and desires of the Northern
people which this passage betrays, and which pervades all the later
writings of Mr. Calhoun, can only be explained by the supposition that
he judged them out of his own heart. It is astounding to hear the
author of the annexation of Texas charging the North with the lust of
dominion, and the great Nullifier accusing Northern statesmen of being
wholly possessed by the mania to be President.

Webster, Clay, and Calhoun,--these were great names in their day. When
the last of them had departed, the country felt a sense of
bereavement, and even of self-distrust, doubting if ever again such
men would adorn the public councils. A close scrutiny into the lives
of either of them would, of course, compel us to deduct something from
his contemporary renown, for they were all, in some degree, at some
periods, diverted from their true path by an ambition beneath an
American statesman, whose true glory alone consists in serving his
country well in that sphere to which his fellow-citizens call him.
From such a scrutiny the fame of neither of those distinguished men
would suffer so much as that of Calhoun. His endowments were not
great, nor of the most valuable kind; and his early education, hasty
and very incomplete, was not continued by maturer study. He read
rather to confirm his impressions than to correct them. It was
impossible that he should ever have been wise, because he refused to
admit his liability to error. Never was mental assurance more
complete, and seldom less warranted by innate or acquired superiority.
If his knowledge of books was slight, his opportunities of observing
men were still more limited, since he passed his whole life in places
as exceptional, perhaps, as any in the world,--Washington and South
Carolina. From the beginning of his public career there was a canker
in the heart of it; for, while his oath, as a member of Congress, to
support the Constitution of the United States, was still fresh upon
his lips, he declared that his attachment to the Union was conditional
and subordinate. He said that the alliance between the Southern
planters and Northern Democrats was a false and calculated compact, to
be broken when the planters could no longer rule by it. While he
resided in Washington, and acted with the Republican party in the
flush of its double triumph, he appeared a respectable character, and
won golden opinions from eminent men in both parties. But when he was
again subjected to the narrowing and perverting influence of a
residence in South Carolina, he shrunk at once to his original
proportions, and became thenceforth, not the servant of his country,
but the special pleader of a class and the representative of a
section. And yet, with that strange judicial blindness which has ever
been the doom of the defenders of wrong, he still hoped to attain the
Presidency. There is scarcely any example of infatuation more
remarkable than this. Here we have, lying before us at this moment,
undeniable proofs, in the form of "campaign lives" and "campaign
documents," that, as late as 1844. there was money spent and labor
done for the purpose of placing him in nomination for the highest

Calhoun failed in all the leading objects of his public life, except
one; but in that one his success will be memorable forever. He has
left it on record (see Ben on, II. 698) that his great aim, from 1835
to 1847, was to force the slavery issue on the North. "It is our
duty," he wrote in 1847, "to force the issue on the North." "Had the
South," he continued, "or even my own State, backed me, I would have
forced the issue on the North in 1835"; and he welcomed the Wilmot
Proviso in 1847, because, as he privately wrote, it would be the means
of "enabling us to force the issue on the North." In this design, at
length, when he had been ten years in the grave, he succeeded. Had
there been no Calhoun, it is possible--nay, it is not improbable--that
that issue might have been deferred till the North had so outstripped
the South in accumulating all the elements of power, that the
fire-eaters themselves would have shrunk from submitting the question
to the arbitrament of the sword. It was Calhoun who forced the issue
upon the United States, and compelled us to choose between
annihilation and war.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Calhoun had still Irish enough in his composition to
use "will" for "shall."]


In June, 1861, Dr. Russell, the correspondent of the London Times, was
ascending the Mississippi in a steamboat, on board of which was a body
of Confederate troops, several of whom were sick, and lay along the
deck helpless. Being an old campaigner, he had his medicine-chest with
him, and he was thus enabled to administer to these men the medicines
which he supposed their cases required. One huge fellow, attenuated to
a skeleton by dysentery, who appears to have been aware of his
benefactor's connection with the press, gasped out these words:

     "Stranger, remember, if I die, that I am Robert Tallon of
     Tishimingo County, and that I died for States' Rights. See,
     now, they put that in the papers, won't you? Robert Tallon
     died for States' Rights."

Having thus spoken, he turned over on his blanket, and was silent. Dr.
Russell assures his readers that this man only expressed the nearly
unanimous feeling of the Southern people at the outbreak of the war.
He had been ten weeks travelling in the Southern States, and he
declared that the people had but one battle-cry,--"States' Rights, and
death to those who make war upon them!" About the same time, we
remember, there was a paragraph going the rounds of the newspapers
which related a conversation said to have taken place between a
Northern man and a Southern boy. The boy happening to use the word
"country," the Northerner asked him, "What is your country?" To which
the boy instantly and haughtily replied, "SOUTH CAROLINA!"

Such anecdotes as these were to most of us here at the North a
revelation. The majority of the Northern people actually did not know
of the _existence_ of such a feeling as that expressed by the Carolina
boy, nor of the doctrine enunciated by the dying soldier. If every boy
in the Northern States old enough to understand the question had been
asked, What is your country? every one of them, without a moment's
hesitation, would have quietly answered in substance thus: "Why, the
United States, of course";--and the only feeling excited by the
question would have been one of surprise that it should have been
asked. And with regard to that "battle-cry" of States' Rights, seven
tenths of the voters of the North hardly knew what a Southern man
meant when he pronounced the words. Thus we presented to the world the
curious spectacle of a people so ignorant of one another, so little
homogeneous, that nearly all on one side of an imaginary line were
willing to risk their lives for an idea which the inhabitants on the
other side of the line not only did not entertain, but knew nothing
about. We observe something similar in the British empire. The
ordinary Englishman does not know what it is of which Ireland
complains, and if an Irishman is asked the name of his country, he
does not pronounce any of the names which imply the merging of his
native isle in the realm of Britain.

Few of us, even now, have a "realizing sense," as it is called, of the
strength of the States' Rights feeling among the Southern people. Of
all the Southern States in which we ever sojourned, the one that
seemed to us most like a Northern State was North Carolina. We stayed
some time at Raleigh, ten years ago, during the session of the
Legislature, and we were struck with the large number of reasonable,
intelligent, upright men who were members of that body. Of course, we
expected to find Southern men all mad on one topic; but in the
Legislature of North Carolina there were several individuals who could
converse even on that in a rational and comfortable manner. We were a
little surprised, therefore, the other day, to pick up at a book-stall
in Nassau Street a work entitled:

     "The North Carolina Reader, Number III. Prepared with
     Special Reference to the Wants and Interests of North
     Carolina. Under the Auspices of the Superintendent of Common
     Schools. Containing Selections in Prose and Verse. By C.H.
     Wiley. New York: A.S. Barnes and Burr."

The acute reader will at once surmise that the object of this series
of school readers was to instil into the minds of the youth of North
Carolina a due regard for the sacredness and blessed effects of our
peculiar institution. But for once the acute reader is mistaken. No
such purpose appears, at least not in Number III.; in which there are
only one or two even distant allusions to that dread subject. Onesimus
is not mentioned; there is no reference to Ham, nor is there any
discourse upon long heels and small brains. The great, the only object
of this Reader was to nourish in the children of the State the feeling
which the boy expressed-when he proudly said that his country was
South Carolina. Nothing can exceed the innocent, childlike manner in
which this design is carried out in Number III. First, the children
are favored with a series of chapters descriptive of North Carolina,
written in the style of a school geography, with an occasional piece
of poetry on a North Carolina subject by a North Carolina poet. Once,
however, the compiler ventures to depart from his plan by inserting
the lines by Sir William Jones, "What constitutes a State?" To this
poem he appends a note apologizing for "breaking the thread of his
discourse," upon the ground that the lines were so "applicable to the
subject," that it seemed as if the author "must have been describing
North Carolina." When the compiler has done cataloguing the fisheries,
the rivers, the mountains, and the towns of North Carolina, he
proceeds to relate its history precisely in the style of our school
history books. The latter half of the volume is chiefly occupied by
passages from speeches, and poems from newspapers, written by natives
of North Carolina. It is impossible for us to convey an idea of the
innutritiousness and the inferiority of most of these pieces. North
Carolina is the great theme of orator and poet.

"We live," says one of the legislators quoted,

     "in the most beautiful land that the sun of heaven ever
     shone upon. Yes, sir, I have heard the anecdote from Mr.
     Clay, that a preacher in Kentucky, when speaking of the
     beauties of paradise, when he desired to make his audience
     believe it was a place of bliss, said it was a Kentucky of a
     place. Sir, this preacher had never visited the western
     counties of North Carolina. I have spent days of rapture in
     looking at her scenery of unsurpassed grandeur, in hearing
     the roar of her magnificent waterfalls, second only to the
     great cataract of the North; and while I gazed for hours,
     lost in admiration at the power of Him who by his word
     created such a country, and gratitude for the blessings He
     had scattered upon it, I thought that if Adam and Eve, when
     driven from paradise, had been near this land, they would
     have thought themselves in the next best place to that they
     had left."

We do not aver that the contents of this collection are generally as
ludicrous as this specimen; but we do say that the passage quoted
gives a very fair idea of the spirit and quality of the book. There is
scarcely one of the North Carolina pieces which a Northern man would
not for one reason or another find extremely comic. One of the reading
lessons is a note written fifteen years ago by Solon Robinson, the
agricultural editor of the Tribune, upon the use of the long leaves of
the _North Carolina_ pine for braiding or basket-work; another is a
note written to accompany a bunch of _North Carolina_ grapes sent to
an editor; and there are many other newspaper cuttings of a similar
character. The editor seems to have thought nothing too trivial,
nothing too ephemeral, for his purpose, provided the passage contained
the name of his beloved State.

How strange all this appears to a Northern mind! Everywhere else in
Christendom, teachers strive to enlarge the mental range of their
pupils, readily assenting to Voltaire's well-known definition of an
educated man: "One who is _not_ satisfied to survey the universe from
his parish belfry." Everywhere else, the intellectual class have some
sense of the ill-consequences of "breeding in and in," and take care
to infuse into their minds the vigor of new ideas and the nourishment
of strange knowledge. How impossible for a Northern State to think of
doing what Alabama did last winter, pass a law designed to limit the
circulation in that State of Northern newspapers and periodicals! What
Southern men mean by "State pride" is really not known in the Northern
States. All men of every land are fond of their native place; but the
pride that Northern people may feel in the State wherein they happened
to be born is as subordinate to their national feeling, as the
attachment of a Frenchman to his native province is to his pride in

Why this difference? It did not always exist. It cost New York and
Massachusetts as severe a struggle to accept the Constitution of 1787
as it did Virginia. George Clinton, Governor of New York, had as much
State pride as Patrick Henry, orator of Virginia, and parted as
reluctantly with a portion of the sovereignty which he wielded. If it
required Washington's influence and Madison's persuasive reasoning to
bring Virginia into the new system, the repugnance of Massachusetts
was only overcome by the combined force of Hancock's social rank and
Samuel Adams's late, reluctant assent.

On this subject let us hear Samuel Adams for a moment as he wrote to a
friend in 1788:--

     "I confess, as I enter the building I stumble at the
     threshold. I meet with a national government instead of a
     federal union of sovereign states. I am not able to conceive
     why the wisdom, of the Convention led them to give the
     preference to the former before the latter. If the several
     States in the Union are to be one entire nation under one
     Legislature, the powers of which shall extend to every
     subject of legislation, and its laws be supreme and control
     the whole, the idea of sovereignty in these States must be
     lost. Indeed, I think, upon such a supposition, those
     sovereignties ought to be eradicated from the mind, for they
     would be _imperia in imperio_, justly deemed a solecism in
     politics, and they would be highly dangerous and destructive
     of the peace, union, arid safety of the nation.

     "And can this National Legislature be competent to make laws
     for the _free_ internal government of one people, living in
     climates so remote, and whose habits and particular
     interests are, and probably always will be, so different? Is
     it to be expected that general laws can be adapted to the
     feelings of the more eastern and the more southern parts of
     so extensive a nation? It appears to me difficult, if
     practicable. Hence, then, may we not look for discontent,
     mistrust, disaffection to government, and frequent
     insurrections, which will require standing armies to
     suppress them in one place and another, where they may
     happen to arise. Or, if laws could be made adapted to the
     local habits, feelings, views, and interests of those
     distant parts, would they not cause jealousies of partiality
     in government, which would excite envy and other malignant
     passions productive of wars and fighting? But should we
     continue distinct sovereign States, confederated for the
     purpose of mutual safety and happiness, each contributing to
     the federal head such a part of its sovereignty as would
     render the government fully adequate to those purposes and
     _no more_, the people would govern themselves more easily,
     the laws of each State being well adapted to its own genius
     and circumstances, and the liberties of the United States
     would be more secure than they can be, as I humbly conceive,
     under the proposed new constitution."--_Life of Samuel
     Adams_, Vol. III, p. 251.

This passage is one of the large number in the writings of that time
to which recent events have given a new interest; nor is it now
without salutary meaning for us, though we quote it only to show the
reluctance of some of the best citizens of the North to come into a
national system. Suppose, to-day, that the United States were invited
to merge their sovereignty into a confederation of all the nations of
America, which would require us to abolish the city of Washington, and
send delegates to a general congress on the Isthmus of Darien! A
sacrifice of pride like that was demanded of the leading States of the
Union in 1787. Severe was the struggle, but the sacrifice was made,
and it cost the great States of the North as painful a throe as it did
the great States of the South. Why, then, has State pride died away in
the North, and grown stronger in the South? Why is it only in the
Southern States that the doctrine of States' Rights is ever heard of?
Why does the Northern man swell with national pride, and point with
exultation to a flag bearing thirty-seven stars, feeling the remotest
State to be as much his country as his native village, while the
Southern man contracts to an exclusive love for a single State, and is
willing to die on its frontiers in repelling from its sacred soil the
national troops, and can see the flag under which his fathers fought
torn down without regret?

The study of John Randolph of Virginia takes us to the heart of this
mystery. He could not have correctly answered the question we have
proposed, but he _was_ an answer to it. Born when George Washington,
Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and James Madison were Virginia
farmers, and surviving to the time when Andrew Jackson was President
of the United States, he lived through the period of the decline of
his race, and he was of that decline a conscious exemplification. He
represented the decay of Virginia, himself a living ruin attesting by
the strength and splendor of portions of it what a magnificent
structure it was once. "Poor old Virginia! Poor old Virginia!" This
was the burden of his cry for many a year. Sick, solitary, and half
mad, at his lonely house in the wilderness of Roanoke, suffering from
inherited disease, burdened with inherited debt, limited by inherited
errors, and severed by a wall of inherited prejudice from the life of
the modern world, he stands to us as the type of the palsied and dying
State. Of the doctrine of States' Rights he was the most consistent
and persistent champion; while of that feeling which the North
Carolina Reader No. III. styles "State pride," we may call him the
very incarnation. "When I speak of my country," he would say, "I mean
the Commonwealth of Virginia." He was the first eminent man in the
Southern States who was prepared in spirit for war against the
government of the United States; for daring the Nullification
imbroglio of 1833, he not only was in the fullest accord with Calhoun,
but he used to say, that, if a collision took place between the
nullifiers and the forces of the United States, he, John Randolph of
Roanoke, old and sick as he was, would have himself buckled on his
horse, Radical, and fight for the South to his last breath.

But then he was a man of genius, travel, and reading. We find him,
therefore, as we have said, a _conscious_ witness of his Virginia's
decline. Along with a pride in the Old Dominion that was fanatical,
there was in this man's heart a constant and most agonizing sense of
her inferiority to lands less beloved. By no tongue or pen--not by
Summer's tongue nor. Olmstead's pen--have more terrible pictures been
drawn of Virginia's lapse into barbarism, than are to be found in John
Randolph's letters. At a time (1831) when he would not buy a
pocket-knife made in New England, nor send a book to be bound north of
the Potomac, we find him writing of his native State in these terms:--

     "I passed a night in Farrarville, in an apartment which, in
     England, would not have been thought fit for my servant; nor
     on the Continent did he ever occupy so mean a one. Wherever
     I stop it is the same: walls black and filthy; bed and
     furniture sordid; furniture scanty and mean, generally
     broken; no mirror; no fire-irons; in short, dirt and
     discomfort universally prevail; and in most private houses
     the matter is not mended. The cows milked a half a mile off,
     or not got up, and no milk to be had at any distance,--no
     jordan;--in fact, all the old gentry are gone, and the
     _nouveaux riches_, when they have the inclination, do not
     know how to live. _Biscuit_, not half _cuit_; everything
     animal and vegetable smeared with butter and lard. Poverty
     stalking through the land, while we are engaged in political
     metaphysics, and, amidst our filth and vermin, like the
     Spaniard and Portuguese, look down with contempt on other
     nations,--England and France especially. We hug our lousy
     cloak around us, take another _chaw of tub-backer_, float
     the room with nastiness, or ruin the grate and fire-irons,
     where they happen not to be rusty, and try conclusions upon
     constitutional points."

What truth and painting in this passage! But if we had asked this
suffering genius as to the cause of his "country's" decline, he would
have given us a mad answer indeed. He would have said, in his wild
way, that it was all Tom Jefferson's doing, sir. Tom Jefferson
abolished primogeniture in Virginia, and thus, as John Randolph
believed, destroyed the old families, the life and glory of the.
State. Tom Jefferson was unfaithful to the States' Rights and
strict-constructionist creed, of which he was the expounder and
trustee, and thus let in the "American system" of Henry Clay, with its
protective tariff, which completed the ruin of the agricultural
States. This was his simple theory of the situation. These were the
reasons why he despaired of ever again seeing, to use his own

     "the Nelsons, the Pages, the Byrds, and Fairfaxes, living in
     their palaces, and driving their coaches and sixes, or the
     good old Virginia gentlemen in the Assembly drinking their
     twenty and forty bowls of rack punches, and madeira and
     claret, in lieu of a knot of deputy sheriffs and hack
     attorneys, each with his cruet of whiskey before him, and
     puddle of tobacco-spittle between his legs."

He was as far from seeing any relation of cause and effect between the
coaches, palaces, and bowls of punch, and the "knot of deputy
sheriffs," as a Fenian is from discerning any connection between the
Irish rackrenting of the last century, and the Irish beggary of this.
Like conditions produce like characters. How interesting to discover
in this republican, this native Virginian of English stock, a perfect
and splendid specimen of a species of tory supposed to exist only in
such countries as Poland, Spain, Ireland, and the Highlands of
Scotland, but which in reality does abound in the Southern States of
this Union,--the tory, conscious of his country's ruin, but clinging
with fanatical and proud tenacity to the principles that ruined it.

Dear tobacco, virgin land, and cheap negroes gave the several families
in Virginia, for three generations, a showy, delusive prosperity,
which produced a considerable number of dissolute, extravagant men,
and educated a few to a high degree of knowledge and wisdom. Of these
families, the Randolphs were the most numerous, and among the oldest,
richest, and most influential. The soldiers of the late army of the
Potomac know well the lands which produced the tobacco that maintained
them in baronial state. It was on Turkey Island (an island no more),
twenty miles below Richmond; close to Malvern Hill of immortal memory,
that the founder of the family settled in 1660,--a Cavalier of ancient
Yorkshire race ruined in the civil wars. Few of our troops, perhaps,
who rambled over Turkey Bend, were aware that the massive ruins still
visible there, and which served as negro quarters seven years ago, are
the remains of the great and famous mansion built by this Cavalier,
turned tobacco-planter. This home of the Randolphs was so elaborately
splendid, that a man served out the whole term of his apprenticeship
to the trade of carpenter in one of its rooms. The lofty dome was for
many years a beacon to the navigator. Such success had this Randolph
in raising tobacco during the fifty-one years of his residence upon
Turkey Island, that to each of his six sons he gave or left a large
estate, besides portioning liberally his two daughters. Five of these
sons reared families, and the sons of those sons were also thriving
and prolific men; so that, in the course of three generations,
Virginia was full of Randolphs. There was, we believe, not one of the
noted controlling families that was not related to them by blood or

In 1773, when John Randolph was born, the family was still powerful;
and the region last trodden by the Army of the Potomac was still
adorned by the seats of its leading members. Cawsons, the mansion in
which he was born, was situated at the junction of the James and
Appomattox, in full view of City Point and Bermuda Hundred, and only
an after-breakfast walk from Dutch Gap. The mansion long ago
disappeared, and nothing now marks its site but negro huts. Many of
those exquisite spots on the James and Appomattox, which we have seen
men pause to admire while the shells were bursting overhead, were
occupied sixty years ago by the sumptuous abodes of the Randolphs and
families related to them. Mattoax, the house in which John Randolph
passed much of his childhood, was on a bluff of the Appomattox, two
miles above Petersburg; and Bizarre, the estate on which he spent his
boyhood, lay above, on both sides of the same river. Over all that
extensive and enchanting region, trampled and torn and laid waste by
hostile armies in 1864 and 1865, John Randolph rode and hunted from
the time he could sit a pony and handle a gun. Not a vestige remains
of the opulence and splendor of his early days. Not one of the
mansions inhabited or visited by him in his youth furnished a target
for our cannoneers or plunder for our camps. A country better adapted
to all good purposes of man, nor one more pleasing to the eye, hardly
exists on earth; but before it was trodden by armies, it had become
little less than desolate. The James River is as navigable as the
Hudson, and flows through a region far more fertile, longer settled,
more inviting, and of more genial climate; but there are upon the
Hudson's banks more cities than there are rotten landings upon the
James. The shores of this beautiful and classic stream are so
unexpectedly void of even the signs of human habitation, that our
soldiers were often ready to exclaim:

     "Can this be the river of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas?
     Was it here that Jamestown stood? Is it possible that white
     men have lived in this delightful land for two hundred and
     fifty-seven years? Or has not the captain of the steamboat
     made a mistake, and turned into the wrong river?"

One scene of John Randolph's boyhood reveals to us the entire
political economy of the Old Dominion. He used to relate it himself,
when denouncing the manufacturing system of Henry Clay. One ship, he
would say, sufficed, in those happy days, for all the commerce of that
part of Virginia with the Old World, and that ship was named the
London Trader. When this ship was about to sail, all the family were
called together, and each member was invited to mention the articles
which he or she wanted from London. First, the mother of the family
gave in her list; next the children, in the order of their ages; next,
the overseer; then the _mammy_, the children's black nurse; lastly,
the house servants, according to their rank, down even to their
children. When months had passed, and the time for the ship's return
was at hand, the weeks, the days, the hours were counted; and when the
signal was at last descried, the whole household burst into
exclamations of delight, and there was festival in the family for many

How picturesque and interesting! How satisfactory to the tory mind!
But alas! this system of exhausting the soil in the production of
tobacco by the labor of slaves, and sending for all manufactured
articles to England, was more ruinous even than it was picturesque. No
middle class could exist, as in England, to supply the waste of
aristocratic blood and means; and in three generations, rich and
beautiful Virginia, created for empire, was only another Ireland. But
it was a picturesque system, and John Randolph, poet and tory,
revelled in the recollection of it. "Our Egyptian taskmasters," he
would say, meaning the manufacturers of Pennsylvania, New York, New
Jersey, and New England, "only wish to leave us the recollection of
past times, and insist upon our purchasing their vile _domestic_
stuffs; but it won't do: no wooden nutmegs for old Virginia."

His own pecuniary history was an illustration of the working of the
system. His father left forty thousand acres of the best land in the
world, and several hundred slaves, to his three boys; the greater part
of which property, by the early death of the two elder brothers, fell
to John. As the father died when John was but three years old, there
was a minority of eighteen years, during which the boy's portion
should have greatly increased. So far from increasing, an old debt of
his father's--a _London_ debt, incurred for goods brought to a joyous
household in the London Trader--remained undiminished at his coming of
age, and hung about his neck for many years afterward. Working two
large estates, with a force of negroes equivalent to one hundred and
eighty full field hands, he could not afford himself the luxury of a
trip to Europe until he was fifty years old. The amount of this debt
we do not know, but he says enough about it for us to infer that it
was not of very large amount in comparison with his great resources.
One hundred and eighty stalwart negroes working the best land in the
world, under a man so keen and vigilant as this last of the noble
Randolphs, and yet making scarcely any headway for a quarter of a

The blood of this fine breed of men was also running low. Both the
parents of John Randolph and both of his brothers died young, and he
himself inherited weakness which early developed into disease. One of
his half-brothers died a madman. "My whole name and race," he would
say, "lie under a curse. I feel the curse clinging to me." He was a
fair, delicate child, more like a girl than a boy, and more inclined,
as a child, to the sports of girls than of boys. His mother, a fond,
tender, gentle lady, nourished his softer qualities, powerless to
govern him, and probably never attempting it. Nevertheless, he was no
girl; he was a genuine _son_ of the South. Such was the violence of
his passions, that, before he was four years old, he sometimes in a
fit of anger fell senseless upon the floor, and was restored only
after much effort. His step-father, who was an honorable man, seems
never to have attempted either to control his passions or develop his
intellect. He grew up, as many boys of Virginia did, and do,
unchecked, unguided, untrained. Turned loose in a miscellaneous
library, nearly every book he read tended to intensify his feelings or
inflame his imagination. His first book was Voltaire's Charles XII.,
and a better book for a boy has never been written. Then he fell upon
the Spectator. Before he was twelve he had read the Arabian Nights,
Orlando, Robinson Crusoe, Smollett's Works, Reynard the Fox, Don
Quixote, Gil Bias, Tom Jones, Gulliver, Shakespeare, Plutarch's Lives,
Pope's Homer, Goldsmith's Rome, Percy's Reliques, Thomson's Seasons,
Young, Gray, and Chatterton,--a gallon of sack to a penny's worth of
bread. A good steady drill in arithmetic, geography, and language
might have given his understanding a chance; but this ill-starred boy
never had a steady drill in anything. He never remained longer at any
one school than a year, and he learned at school very little that he
needed most to know. In the course of his desultory schooling he
picked up some Latin, a little Greek, a good deal of French, and an
inconceivable medley of odds and ends of knowledge, which his
wonderful memory enabled him to use sometimes with startling effect.

Everywhere else, in the whole world, children are taught that
virtue is self-control. In the Southern States, among these
tobacco-lords, boys learned just the opposite lesson,--that virtue is
self-indulgence. This particular youth, thin-skinned, full of talent,
fire, and passion, the heir to a large estate, fatherless, would have
been in danger anywhere of growing up untrained,--a wild beast in
broadcloth. In the Virginia of that day, in the circle in which he
lived, there was nothing for him in the way either of curb or spur. He
did what he pleased, and nothing else. All that was noble in his
life,--those bursts of really fine oratory, his flashes of good sense,
his occasional generosities, his hatred of debt, and his eager haste
to pay it,--all these things were due to the original excellence of
his race. In the very dregs of good wine there is flavor. We cannot
make even good vinegar out of a low quality of wine.

His gentle mother taught him all the political economy he ever took to
heart. "Johnny," said she to him one day, when they had reached a
point in their ride that commanded an extensive view,

     "all this land belongs to you and your brother. It is your
     father's inheritance. When you get to be a man, you must not
     sell your land: it is the first step to ruin for a boy to
     part with his father's home. Be sure to keep it as long as
     you live. Keep your land, and your land will keep you."

There never came a time when his mind was mature and masculine enough
to _consider_ this advice. He clung to his land as Charles Stuart
clung to his prerogative.

All the early life of this youth was wandering and desultory. At
fourteen, we find him at Princeton College in New Jersey, where, we
are told, he fought a duel, exchanged shots twice with his adversary,
and put a ball into his body which he carried all his life. By this
time, too, the precocious and ungovernable boy had become, as he
flattered himself, a complete atheist. One of his favorite amusements
at Princeton was to burlesque the precise and perhaps ungraceful
Presbyterians of the place. The library of his Virginian home, it
appears, was furnished with a great supply of what the French mildly
call the literature of incredulity,--Helvetius, Voltaire, Rousseau,
Diderot, D'Alembert, and the rest. The boy, in his rage for knowledge,
had read vast quantities of this literature, and, of course, embraced
the theory of the writers that pushed denial farthest. For twenty-two
years, he says in one of his letters, he never entered a church. Great
pleasure it gave him to show how superior the Mahometan religion was
to the Christian, and to recite specimens of what he took delight in
styling Hebrew jargon. The Psalms of David were his special aversion.

Almost all gifted and fearless lads that have lived in Christendom
during the last hundred years have had a fit of this kind between
fifteen and twenty-five. The strength of the tendency to question the
grounds of belief must be great indeed to bear away with it a youth
like this, formed by Nature to believe. John Randolph had no more
intellectual right to be a sceptic, than he had a moral right to be a
republican. A person whose imagination is quick and warm, whose
feelings are acute, and whose intellect is wholly untrained, can find
no comfort except in belief. His scepticism is a mere freak of vanity
or self-will. Coming upon the stage of life when unbelief was
fashionable in high drawing-rooms, he became a sceptic. But Nature
will have her way with us all, and so this atheist at fifteen was an
Evangelical at forty-five.

His first political bias was equally at war with his nature. John
Randolph was wholly a tory; there was not in his whole composition one
republican atom. But coming early under the direct personal influence
of Thomas Jefferson, whose every fibre was republican, he, too, the
sympathetic tory of genius, espoused the people's cause. He was less
than twenty-two years, however, in recovering from _this_ false

Summoned from Princeton, after only a few months' residence, by the
death of his mother, he went next to Columbia College, in the city of
New York, where for a year or two he read Greek with a tutor,
especially Demosthenes. At New York he saw the first Congress under
the new Constitution assemble, and was one of the concourse that
witnessed the scene of General Washington's taking the oath on the
balcony of the old City Hall. It seemed to this Virginia boy natural
enough that a Virginian should be at the head of the government; not
so, that a Yankee should hold the second place and preside over the
Senate. Forty years after, he recalled with bitterness a trifling
incident, which, trifling as it was, appears to have been the origin
of his intense antipathy to all of the blood of John Adams. The
coachman of the Vice-President, it seems, told the brother of this
little republican tory to stand back; or, as the orator stated it,
forty years after, "I remember the manner in which my brother was
spurned by the coachman of the Vice-President for coming too near the
arms emblazoned on the vice-regal carriage."

Boy as he was, he had already taken sides with those who opposed the
Constitution. The real ground of his opposition to it was, that it
reduced the importance of Virginia,--great Virginia! Under the new
Constitution, there was a man on the Western Continent of more
consequence than the Governor of Virginia, there were legislative
bodies more powerful than the Legislature of Virginia. This was the
secret of the disgust with which he heard it proposed to style the
President "His Highness" and "His Majesty." _This_ was the reason why
it kindled his ire to read, in the newspapers of 1789, that "the most
honorable Rufus King" had been elected Senator. It was only Jefferson
and a very few other of the grand Virginians who objected for higher
and larger reasons.

In March, 1790, Mr. Jefferson reached New York, after his return from
France, and entered upon his new office of Secretary of State under
General Washington. He was a distant relative of our precocious
student, then seventeen years of age; and the two families had just
been brought nearer together by the marriage of one of Mr. Jefferson's
daughters to a Randolph. The reaction against republican principles
was at full tide; and no one will ever know to what lengths it would
have gone, had not Thomas Jefferson so opportunely come upon the
scene. At his modest abode, No. 57 Maiden Lane, the two Randolph
lads--John, seventeen, Theodorick, nineteen--were frequent visitors.
Theodorick was a roistering blade, much opposed to his younger
brother's reading habits, caring himself for nothing but pleasure.
John was an eager politician. During the whole period of the reaction,
first at New York, afterward at Philadelphia, finally in Virginia,
John Randolph sat at the feet of the great Democrat of America,
fascinated by his conversation, and generally convinced by his
reasoning. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that he was a blind
follower of Mr. Jefferson, even then. On the question of States'
Rights, he was in the most perfect accord with him. But when, in 1791,
the eyes of all intelligent America were fixed upon the two
combatants, Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, Burke condemning, Paine
defending, the French Revolution, the inherited instincts of John
Randolph asserted themselves, and he gave all his heart to Burke. Lord
Chatham and Edmund Burke were the men who always held the first place
in the esteem of this kindred spirit. Mr. Jefferson, of course,
sympathized with the view of his friend Paine, and never wavered in
his belief that the French Revolution was necessary and beneficial. A
generous and gifted nation strangled, moved him to deeper compassion
than a class proscribed. He dwelt more upon the long and bitter
provocation, than upon the brief frenzy which was only one of its dire
results. Louis XIV. and Louis XV., picturesque as they were, excited
within him a profounder horror than ugly Marat and Robespierre. He
pitied haggard, distracted France more than graceful and high-bred
Marie Antoinette. In other words, he was not a tory.

There was a difference, too, between Mr. Jefferson and his young
kinsman on the points upon which they agreed. Jefferson was a States'
Rights man, and a strict constructionist, because he was a republican;
Randolph, because he was a Virginian, Jefferson thought the government
should be small, that the people might be great; John Randolph thought
the government should be small, that Virginia might be great. Pride in
Virginia was John Randolph's ruling passion, not less in 1790; than in
1828, The welfare and dignity of man were the darling objects of
Thomas Jefferson's great soul, from youth to hoary age.

Here we have the explanation of the great puzzle of American
politics,--the unnatural alliance, for sixty years, between the
plantation lords of the South and the democracy of the North, both
venerating the name of Jefferson, and both professing his principles.
It was not, as many suppose, a compact of scurvy politicians for the
sake of political victory. Every great party, whether religious' or
political, that has held power long in a country, has been founded
upon conviction,--disinterested conviction. Some of the cotton and
tobacco lords, men of intellect and culture, were democrats and
abolitionists, like Jefferson himself. Others took up with
republicanism because it was the reigning affectation in their circle,
as it was in the chateaux and drawing-rooms of France. But their State
pride it was that bound them as a class to the early Republican party.
The Southern aristocrat saw in Jefferson the defender of the
sovereignty of his State: the "smutched artificer" of the North
gloried in Jefferson as the champion of the rights of man. While the
Republican party was in opposition, battling with unmanageable John
Adams, with British Hamilton, and with a foe more powerful than both
of those men together, Robespierre,--while it had to contend with
Washington's all but irresistible influence, and with the nearly
unanimous opposition of educated and orthodox New England,--this
distinction was not felt. Many a tobacco aristocrat cut off his
pig-tail and wore trousers down to his ankles, which were then the
outward signs of the inward democratic grace. But time tries all. It
is now apparent to every one that the strength of the original
Democratic party in the South was the States' Rights portion of its
platform, while in the North it was the sentiment of republicanism
that kept the party together.

Young politicians should study this period of their country's history.
If ever again a political party shall rule the United States for sixty
years, or for twenty years, it will be, we think, a party resembling
the original Republican party, as founded in America by Franklin, and
organized under Jefferson. Its platform will be, perhaps, something
like this: simple, economical government machinery; strict
construction of the Constitution; the rights of the States
scrupulously observed; the suffrage open to all, without regard to
color or sex,--_open_ to all, but _conferred_ only upon men and women
capable of exercising it.

John Randolph agreed upon another point with Mr. Jefferson: lie was an
abolitionist. But for the English debt which he inherited, it is
extremely probable that he would have followed the example of many of
the best Virginians of his day, and emancipated his slaves. He would,
perhaps, have done so when that debt was discharged, instead of
waiting to do it by his last will, but for the forlorn condition of
freedmen in a Slave State. His eldest brother wrote, upon the division
of the estate, in 1794:

     "I want not a single negro for any other purpose than his
     immediate emancipation. I shudder when I think that such an
     insignificant animal as I am is invested with this
     monstrous, this horrid power."

He told his guardian that he would give up all his land rather than
own a slave. There was no moment in the whole life of John Randolph
when he did not sympathize with this view of slavery, and he died
expressing it. But though lie was, if possible, a more decided
abolitionist than Jefferson, he never for a moment doubted the innate
superiority of a Virginia gentleman to all the other inhabitants of
America. He had not even the complaisance to take his hair out of
queue, nor hide his thin legs in pantaloons. He was not endowed by
nature with understanding enough to rise superior to the prejudices
that had come down to him through generations of aristocrats. He was
weak enough, indeed, to be extremely vain of the fact that a
grandfather of his had married one of the great-granddaughters of
Pocahontas, who, it was believed, performed the act that renders her
famous at Point of Rocks on the Appomattox, within walking distance of
one of the Randolph mansions. It is interesting to observe what an
unquestioning, childlike faith he always had in the superiority of his
caste, of his State, and of his section. He once got so far as to
speak favorably of the talents of Daniel Webster; but he was obliged
to conclude by saying that he was the best debater he had ever known
_north of the Potomac_.

This singular being was twenty-six years of age before any one
suspected, least of all himself, that he possessed any of the talents
which command the attention of men. His life had been desultory and
purposeless. He had studied law a little, attended a course or two of
medical lectures, travelled somewhat, dipped into hundreds of books,
read a few with passionate admiration, had lived much with the ablest
men of that day,--a familiar guest at Jefferson's fireside, and no
stranger at President Washington's stately table. Father, mother, and
both brothers were dead. He was lonely, sad, and heavily burdened with
property, with debt, and the care of many dependants. His appearance
was even more singular than his situation. At twenty-three he had
still the aspect of a boy. He actually grew half a head after he was
twenty-three years of age.

     "A tall, gawky-looking, flaxen-haired stripling, apparently
     of the age of sixteen or eighteen, with complexion of a good
     parchment color, beardless chin, and as much assumed
     self-consequence as any two-footed animal I ever saw."

So he was described by a Charleston bookseller, who saw him in his
store in 1796, carelessly turning over books. "At length," continues
this narrator,

     "he hit upon something that struck his fancy; and never did
     I witness so sudden, so perfect a change of the human
     countenance. That which was before dull and heavy in a
     moment became animated, and flashed with the brightest beams
     of intellect. He stepped up to the old gray-headed gentleman
     (his companion), and giving him a thundering slap on the
     shoulder, said, 'Jack, look at this!'"

Thus was he described at twenty-three. At twenty-six he was half a
head taller, and quite as slender as before. His light hair was then
combed back into an elegant queue. His eye of hazel was bright and
restless. His chin was still beardless. He wore a frock-coat of light
blue cloth, yellow breeches, silk stockings, and top-boots. Great was
the love he bore his horses, which were numerous, and as good as
Virginia could boast. It is amusing to notice that the horse upon
which this pattern aristocrat used to scamper across the country, in
French-Revolution times, was named _Jacobin_!

It was in March, 1799, the year before the final victory of the
Republicans over the Federal party, that the neighbors of John
Randolph and John Randolph himself discovered, to their great
astonishment, that he was an orator. He had been nominated for
Representative in Congress. Patrick Henry, aged and infirm, had been
so adroitly manipulated by the Federalists, that he had at length
agreed to speak to the people in support of the hateful administration
of John Adams. John Randolph, who had never in his life addressed an
audience, nor, as he afterwards declared, had ever imagined that he
could do so, suddenly determined, the very evening before the day
named for the meeting, to reply to Patrick Henry. It was an open-air
meeting. No structure in Virginia could have contained the multitude
that thronged to hear the transcendent orator, silent for so many
years, and now summoned from his retirement by General Washington
himself to speak for a Union imperilled and a government assailed. He
spoke with the power of other days? for he was really alarmed for his
country; and when he had finished his impassioned harangue, he sunk
back into the arms of his friends, as one of them said, "like the sun
setting in his glory." For the moment he had all hearts with him. The
sturdiest Republican in Virginia could scarcely resist the spell of
that amazing oratory.

John Randolph rose to reply. His first sentences showed not only that
he could speak, but that he knew the artifices of an old debater; for
he began by giving eloquent expression to the veneration felt by his
hearers for the aged patriot who had just addressed them. He spoke for
three hours, it is said; and if we may judge from the imperfect
outline of his speech that has come down to us, he spoke as well that
day as ever he did. States' Rights was the burden of his speech. That
the Alien and Sedition Law was an outrage upon human nature, he may
have believed; but what he _felt_ was, that it was an outrage upon the
Commonwealth of Virginia. He may have thought it desirable that all
governments should confine themselves to the simple business of
compelling the faithful performance of contracts; but what he
_insisted upon_ was, that the exercise by the government of the United
States of any power not expressly laid down in the letter of the
Constitution was a wrong to Virginia. If John Adams is right, said he,
in substance, then Virginia has gained nothing by the Revolution but a
change of masters,--New England for Old England,--which he thought was
_not_ a change for the better.

It was unnecessary, in the Virginia of 1799, for the head of the house
of Randolph to be an orator in order to secure an election to the
House of Representatives. He was elected, of course. When he came
forward to be sworn in, his appearance was so youthful, that the Clerk
of the House asked him, with the utmost politeness, whether he had
attained the legal age. His reply was eminently characteristic of the
tobacco lord: "Go, sir, and ask my _constituents_: they sent me here."
As there was no one present authorized by the Constitution to box the
ears of impudent boys on the floor of the House, he was sworn without
further question. It has often occurred to us that this anecdote,
which John Randolph used to relate with much satisfaction, was typical
of much that has since occurred. The excessive courtesy of the
officer, the insolence of the Virginia tobacconist, the submission of
the Clerk to that insolence,--who has not witnessed such scenes in the
Capitol at Washington?

It was in December, 1799, that this fiery and erratic genius took his
seat in the House of Representatives. John Adams had still sixteen
months to serve as target for the sarcasm of the young talent of the
nation. To calm readers of the present day, Mr. Adams does really seem
a strange personage to preside over a government; but the cairn reader
of the present day cannot realize the state of things in the year
1800. We cannot conceive what a fright the world had had in the
excesses of the French Revolution, and the recent usurpation of
General Bonaparte. France had made almost every timid man in
Christendom a tory. Serious and respectable people, above forty, and
enjoying a comfortable income, felt that there was only one thing left
for a decent person to do,--to assist in preserving the _authority_ of
government. John Adams, by the constitution of his mind, was as much a
tory as John Randolph; for he too possessed imagination and talent
disproportioned to his understanding. To be a democrat it is necessary
to have a little pure intellect; since your democrat is merely a
person who can, occasionally, see things and men as they are. New
England will always be democratic enough as long as her boys learn
mental arithmetic; and Ireland will always be the haunt of tories as
long as her children are brought up upon songs, legends, and
ceremonies. To make a democratic people, it is only necessary to
accustom them to use their minds.

Nothing throws such light upon the state of things in the United
States in 1800, as the once famous collision between these two natural
tories, John Adams and John Randolph, which gave instantaneous
celebrity to the new member, and made him an idol of the Republican
party. In his maiden speech, which was in opposition to a proposed
increase of the army, he spoke disparagingly of the troops already
serving, using the words _ragamuffins_ and _mercenaries_. In this
passage of his speech, the partisan spoke, not the man. John Randolph
expressed the real feeling of his nature toward soldiers, when, a few
years later, on the same floor, he said: "If I must have a master, let
him be one with epaulets; something which I can look up to; but not a
master with a quill behind his ear." In 1800, however, it pleased him
to style the soldiers of the United States ragamuffins and
mercenaries; which induced two young officers to push, hustle, and
otherwise discommode and insult him at the theatre. Strange to relate,
this hot Virginian, usually so prompt with a challenge to mortal
combat, reported the misconduct of these officers to the President of
the United States. This eminently proper act he did in an eminently
proper manner, thanks to his transient connection with the Republican
party. Having briefly stated the case, he concluded his letter to the
President thus:

     "The independence of the legislature has been attacked, and
     the majesty of the people, of which you are the principal
     representative, insulted, and your authority contemned. In
     their name, I demand that a provision commensurate with the
     evil be made, and which will be calculated to deter others
     from any future attempt to introduce the reign of terror
     into our country. In addressing you in this plain language
     of man, I give you, sir, the best proof I can afford of the
     estimation in which I hold your office and your
     understanding; and I assure you with truth, that I am, with
     respect, your fellow-citizen, John Randolph."

This language so well accords with our present sense of the becoming,
that a person unacquainted with that period would be unable to point
to a single phrase calculated to give offence. In the year 1800,
however, the President of the United States saw in every expression of
the letter contemptuous and calculated insult. "The majesty of the
people," forsooth! The President merely their "representative"! "plain
language of man"! and "with respect, your fellow-citizen"! To the
heated imaginations of the Federalists of 1800, language of this kind,
addressed to the President, was simply prophetic of the guillotine. So
amazed and indignant was Mr. Adams, that he submitted the letter to
his Cabinet, requesting their opinion as to what should be done with
it. Still more incredible is it, that four members of the Cabinet, in
writing, declared their opinion to be, that "the contemptuous language
therein adopted requires a public censure." They further said, that,

     "if such addresses remain unnoticed, we are apprehensive
     that a precedent will be established which must necessarily
     destroy the ancient, respectable, and urbane usages of this

Some lingering remains of good-sense in the other member of the
Cabinet prevented the President from acting upon their advice; and he
merely sent the letter to the House, with the remark that he
"submitted the whole letter and its tendencies" to their
consideration, "without any other comments on its matter and style."

This affair, trivial as it was, sufficed in that mad time to lift the
young member from Virginia into universal notoriety, and caused him to
be regarded as a shining light of the Republican party. The splendor
of his talents as an orator gave him at once the ear of the House and
the admiration of the Republican side of it; while the fury of his
zeal against the President rendered him most efficient in the
Presidential canvass. No young man, perhaps, did more than he toward
the election of Jefferson and Burr in 1800. He was indeed, at that
time, before disease had wasted him, and while still enjoying the
confidence of the Republican leaders and subject to the needed
restraints of party, a most effective speaker, whether in the House or
upon the stump. He had something of Burke's torrent-like fluency, and
something of Chatham's spirit of command, with a piercing, audacious
sarcasm all his own. He was often unjust and unreasonable, but never
dull. He never spoke in his life without being at least attentively
listened to.

Mr. Jefferson came into power; and John Randolph, triumphantly
re-elected to Congress, was appointed Chairman of the Committee of
Ways and Means,--a position not less important then than now. He was
the leader of the Republican majority in the House. His social rank,
his talents, his position in the House of Representatives, the
admiration of the party, the confidence of the President, all united
to render him the chief of the young men of the young nation. It was
captivating to the popular imagination to behold this heir of an
ancient house, this possessor of broad lands, this orator of genius,
belonging to the party of the people. He aided to give the Republican
party the only element of power which it lacked,--social
consideration. The party had numbers and talent; but it had not that
which could make a weak, rich man vain of the title of Republican. At
the North, clergy, professors, rich men, were generally Federalists,
and it was therefore peculiarly pleasing to Democrats to point to this
eminent and brilliant Virginian as a member of their party. He
discharged the duties of his position well, showing ability as a man
of business, and living in harmony with his colleagues. As often as he
reached Washington, at the beginning of a session, he found the
President's card (so Colonel Benton tells us) awaiting him for dinner
the next day at the White House, when the great measures of the
session were discussed. It was he who moved the resolutions of respect
for the memory of that consummate republican, that entire and perfect
democrat, Samuel Adams of Massachusetts. It was he who arranged the
financial measures required for the purchase of Louisiana, and made no
objection to the purchase. During the first six years of Mr.
Jefferson's Presidency, he shrank from no duty which his party had a
right to claim from him. Whatever there might he narrow or erroneous
in his political creed was neutralized by the sentiment of nationality
which the capital inspires, and by the practical views which must
needs be taken of public affairs by the Chairman of the Committee of
Ways and Means.

These were the happy years of his life, and the most honorable ones.
Never, since governments have existed, has a country been governed so
wisely, so honestly, and so economically as the United States was
governed during the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson. Randolph himself,
after twenty years of opposition to the policy of this incomparable
ruler, could still say of his administration, that it was the only one
he had ever known which "seriously and in good faith was disposed to
give up its patronage," and which desired to go further in depriving
itself of power than the people themselves had thought. "Jefferson,"
said John Randolph in 1828, "was the only man I ever knew or heard of
who really, truly, and honestly, not only said, _Nolo episcopari_, but
actually refused the mitre."

For six years, as we have said, Mr. Randolph led the Republican party
in the House of Representatives, and supported the measures of the
administration,--all of them. In the spring of 1807, without apparent
cause, he suddenly went into opposition, and from that time opposed
the policy of the administration,--the whole of it.

Why this change? If there were such a thing as going apprentice to the
art of discovering truth, a master in that art could not set an
apprentice a better preliminary lesson than this: Why did John
Randolph go into opposition in 1807? The gossips of that day had no
difficulty in answering the question. Some said he had asked Mr.
Jefferson for a foreign mission, and been refused. Others thought it
was jealousy of Mr. Madison, who was known to be the President's
choice for the succession. Others surmised that an important state
secret had been revealed to other members of the House, but not to
him. These opinions our tyro would find very positively recorded, and
he would also, in the course of his researches, come upon the
statement that Mr. Randolph himself attributed the breach to his
having beaten the President at a game of chess, which the President
could not forgive. The truth is, that John Randolph bolted for the
same reason that a steel spring resumes its original bent the instant
the restraining force is withdrawn. His position as leader of a party
was irksome, because it obliged him to work in harness, and he had
never been broken to harness. His party connection bound him to side
with France in the great contest then raging between France and
England, and yet his whole soul sympathized with England. This native
Virginian was more consciously and positively English than any native
of England ever was. English literature had nourished his mind;
English names captivated his imagination; English traditions,
feelings, instincts, habits, prejudices, were all congenial to his
nature. How hard for such a man to side officially with Napoleon in
those gigantic wars! Abhorring Napoleon with all a Randolph's force of
antipathy, it was nevertheless expected of him, as a good Republican,
to interpret leniently the man who, besides being the armed soldier of
democracy, had sold Louisiana to the United States. Randolph,
moreover, was an absolute aristocrat. He delighted to tell the House
of Representatives that he, being a Virginian slaveholder, was _not_
obliged to curry favor with his coachman or his shoeblack, lest when
he drove to the polls the coachman should dismount from his box, or
the shoeblack drop his brushes, and neutralize their master's vote by
voting on the other side. How he exulted in the fact that in Virginia
none but freeholders could vote! How happy he was to boast, that, in
all that Commonwealth, there was no such thing as a ballot-box! "May I
never live to see the day," he would exclaim, "when a Virginian shall
be ashamed to declare aloud at the polls for whom he casts his vote!"
What pleasure he took in speaking of his Virginia wilderness as a
"barony," and signing his name "John Randolph of Roanoke," and in
wearing the garments that were worn in Virginia when the great tobacco
lords were running through their estates in the fine old picturesque
and Irish fashion!

Obviously, an antique of this pattern was out of place as a leader in
the Republican party. For a time the spell of Jefferson's winning
genius, and the presence of a powerful opposition, kept him in some
subjection; but in 1807 that spell had spent its force, and the
Federal party was not formidable. John Randolph was himself again. The
immediate occasion of the rupture was, probably, Mr. Jefferson's
evident preference of James Madison as his successor. We have a right
to infer this, from the extreme and lasting rancor which Randolph
exhibited toward Mr. Madison, who he used to say was as mean a man for
a Virginian as John Quincy Adams was for a Yankee. Nor ought we ever
to speak of this gifted and unhappy man without considering his
physical condition. It appears from the slight notices we have of this
vital matter, that about the year 1807 the stock of vigor which his
youth had acquired was gone, and he lived thenceforth a miserable
invalid, afflicted with diseases that sharpen the temper and narrow
the mind. John Randolph _well_ might have outgrown inherited
prejudices and limitations, and attained to the stature of a modern, a
national, a republican man. John Randolph _sick_--radically and
incurably sick--ceased to grow just when his best growth would
naturally have begun.

The sudden defection of a man so conspicuous and considerable, at a
time when the Republican party was not aware of its strength, struck
dismay to many minds, who felt, with Jefferson, that to the Republican
party in the United States were confided the best interests of human
nature. Mr. Jefferson was not in the least alarmed, because he knew
the strength of the party and the weakness of the man. The letter
which he wrote on this subject to Mr. Monroe ought to be learned by
heart by every politician in the country,--by the self-seekers, for
the warning which it gives them, and by the patriotic, for the comfort
which it affords them in time of trouble. Some readers, perhaps, will
be reminded by it of events which occurred at Washington not longer
ago than last winter.[1]

     "Our old friend Mercer broke off from us some time ago; at
     first, professing to disdain joining the Federalists; yet,
     from the habit of voting together, becoming soon identified
     with them. Without carrying over with him one single person,
     he is now in a state of as perfect obscurity as if his name
     had never been known. Mr. J. Randolph is in the same track,
     and will end in the same way. His course has excited
     considerable alarm. Timid men consider it as a proof of the
     weakness of our government, and that it is to be rent in
     pieces by demagogues and to end in anarchy. I survey the
     scene with a different eye, and draw a different augury from
     it. In a House of Representatives of a great mass of good
     sense, Mr. Randolph's popular eloquence gave him such
     advantages as to place him unrivalled as the leader of the
     House; and, although not conciliatory to those whom he led,
     principles of duty and patriotism induced many of them to
     swallow humiliations he subjected them to, and to vote as
     was right, as long as he kept the path of right himself. The
     sudden departure of such a man could not but produce a
     momentary astonishment, and even dismay; but for a moment
     only. The good sense of the House rallied around its
     principles, and, without any leader, pursued steadily the
     business of the session, did it well, and by a strength of
     vote which has never before been seen.... The augury I draw
     from this is, that there is a steady good sense in the
     legislature and in the body of the nation, joined with good
     intentions, which will lead them to discern and to pursue
     the public good under all circumstances which can arise, and
     that no _ignis fatuus_ will be able to lead them long

Mr. Jefferson predicted that the lost sheep of the Republican fold
would wander off to the arid wastes of Federalism; but he never did
so. His defection was not an inconsistency, but a return to
consistency. He presented himself in his true character thenceforth,
which was that of a States' Rights fanatic. He opposed the election of
Mr. Madison to the Presidency, as he said, because Mr. Madison was
weak on the sovereignty of the States. He opposed the war of 1812 for
two reasons:--1. Offensive war was in itself unconstitutional, being a
_national_ act. 2. War was nationalizing. A hundred times before the
war, he foretold that, if war occurred, the sovereignty of the States
was gone forever, and we should lapse into nationality. A thousand
times after the war, he declared that this dread lapse had occurred.
At a public dinner, after the return of peace, he gave the once
celebrated toast, "States' Rights,--_De mortuis nil nisi bonum_." As
before the war he sometimes affected himself to tears while dwelling
upon the sad prospect of kindred people imbruing their hands in one
another's blood, so during the war he was one of the few American
citizens who lamented the triumphs of their country's arms. In his
solitude at Roanoke he was cast down at the news of Perry's victory on
the lake, because he thought it would prolong the contest; and he
exulted in the banishment of Napoleon to Elba, although it let loose
the armies and fleets of Britain upon the United States. "That
insolent coward," said he, "has met his deserts at last." This
Virginia Englishman would not allow that Napoleon possessed even
military talent; but stoutly maintained, to the last, that he was the
merest sport of fortune. When the work of restoration was in progress,
under the leadership of Clay and Calhoun, John Randolph was in his
element, for he could honestly oppose every movement and suggestion of
those young orators,--national bank, protective tariff, internal
improvements, everything. He was one of the small number who objected
to the gift of land and money to Lafayette, and one of the stubborn
minority who would have seen the Union broken up rather than assent to
the Missouri Compromise, or to _any_ Missouri compromise. The question
at issue in all these measures, he maintained, was the same, and it
was this: Are we a nation or a confederacy?

Talent, too, is apt to play the despot over the person that possesses
it. This man had such a power of witty vituperation in him, with so
decided a histrionic gift, that his rising to speak was always an
interesting event; and he would occasionally hold both the House and
the galleries attentive for three or four hours. He became accustomed
to this homage; he craved it; it became necessary to him. As far back
as 1811, Washington Irving wrote of him, in one of his letters from

     "There is no speaker in either House that excites such
     universal attention as Jack Randolph. But they listen to him
     more to be delighted by his eloquence and entertained by his
     ingenuity and eccentricity, than to be convinced by sound
     doctrine and close argument."

As he advanced in age, this habit of startling the House by unexpected
dramatic exhibitions grew upon him. One of the most vivid pictures
ever painted in words of a parliamentary scene is that in which the
late Mr. S.G. Goodrich records his recollection of one of these
displays. It occurred in 1820, during one of the Missouri debates. A
tall man, with a little head and a small oval face, like that of an
aged boy, rose and addressed the chairman.

"He paused a moment," wrote Mr. Goodrich,

     "and I had time to study his appearance. His hair was
     jet-black, and clubbed in a queue; his eye was black, small,
     and painfully penetrating. His complexion was a
     yellowish-brown, bespeaking Indian blood. I knew at once
     that it must be John Randolph. As he uttered the words, 'Mr.
     Speaker!' every member turned in his seat, and, facing him,
     gazed as if some portent had suddenly appeared before them.
     'Mr. Speaker,' said he, in a shrill voice, which, however,
     pierced every nook and corner of the hall, 'I have but one
     word to say,--one word, sir, and that is to state a fact.
     The measure to which the gentleman has just alluded
     originated in a dirty trick!' These were his precise words.
     The subject to which he referred I did not gather, but the
     coolness and impudence of the speaker were admirable in
     their way. I never saw better acting, even in Kean. His
     look, his manner, his long arm, his elvish
     fore-finger,--like an exclamation-point, punctuating his
     bitter thought,--showed the skill of a master. The effect of
     the whole was to startle everybody, as if a pistol-shot had
     rung through the hall."--_Recollections_, Vol. II. p. 395.

Such anecdotes as these, which are very numerous, both in and out of
print, convey an inadequate idea of his understanding; for there was
really a great fund of good sense in him and in his political creed.
Actor as he was, he was a very honest man, and had a hearty contempt
for all the kinds of falsehood which he had no inclination to commit.
No man was more restive under debt than he, or has better depicted its
horrors. Speaking once of those Virginia families who gave banquets
and kept up expensive establishments, while their estates were covered
all over with mortgages, he said: "I always think I can see the
anguish under the grin and grimace, like old Mother Cole's dirty
flannel peeping out beneath her Brussels lace." He was strong in the
opinion that a man who is loose in money matters is not trustworthy in
anything,--an opinion which is shared by every one who knows either
life or history. "The time was," he wrote,

     "when I was fool enough to believe that a man might be
     negligent of pecuniary obligations, and yet be a very good
     fellow; but long experience has convinced me that he who is
     lax in this respect is utterly unworthy of trust in any

He discriminated well between those showy, occasional acts of
so-called generosity which such men perform, and the true, habitual,
self-denying benevolence of a solvent and just member of society.
"Despise the usurer and the miser as much as you will," he would
exclaim, "but the spendthrift is more selfish than they." But his very
honesty was most curiously blended with his toryism. One of his
friends relates the following anecdote:--

     "Just before we sailed, the Washington papers were received,
     announcing the defeat of the Bankrupt Bill by a small
     majority. At that moment, I forgot that Randolph had been
     one of its most determined opponents, and I spoke with the
     feelings of a merchant when I said to him,--

     "'Have you heard the very bad news from Washington this

     "'No, sir,' replied he, with eagerness; 'what is it?'

     "'Why, sir, I am sorry to tell you that the House of
     Representatives has thrown out the Bankrupt Bill by a small

     "'Sorry, sir!' exclaimed he; and then, taking off his hat
     and looking upwards, he added, most emphatically, 'Thank God
     for all his mercies!'

     "After a short pause he continued: 'How delighted I am to
     think that I helped to give that hateful bill a kick. Yes,
     sir, this very day week I spoke for three hours against it,
     and my friends, who forced me to make the effort, were good
     enough to say that I never had made a more successful
     speech; it must have had _some_ merit, sir; for I assure
     you, whilst I was speaking, although the Northern mail was
     announced, not a single member left his seat to look for
     letters,--a circumstance which had not occurred before
     during the session!'

     "I endeavored to combat his objections to a Bankrupt Bill
     subsequently, but, of course, without any success: _he felt
     as a planter, and was very jealous of the influence of
     merchants as legislators_."

There are flashes of sense and touches of pathos in some of his most
tory passages. As he was delivering in the House one of his emphatic
predictions of the certain failure of our experiment of freedom on
this continent, he broke into an apology for so doing, that brought
tears to many eyes. "It is an infirmity of my nature," said he,

     "to have an obstinate constitutional preference of the true
     over the agreeable; and I am satisfied, that, if I had had
     an only son, or what is dearer, an only daughter,--which God
     forbid!--I say, God forbid, for she might bring her father's
     gray hairs with sorrow to the grave; she might break my
     heart, or worse than that--what? Can anything be worse than
     that? Yes, sir, I _might break hers_!"

His fable, too, of the caterpillar and the horseman was conceived in
arrogance, but it was pretty and effective. Every tory intellect on
earth is pleased to discourse in that way of the labors of the only
men who greatly help their species,--the patient elaborators of truth.
A caterpillar, as we learn from this fable, had crawled slowly over a
fence, which a gallant horseman took at a single leap. "Stop," says
the caterpillar,

     "you are too flighty; you want connection and continuity; it
     took me an hour to get over; you can't be as sure as I am
     that you have really overcome the difficulty, and are indeed
     over the fence."

To which, of course, the gallant horseman makes the expected
contemptuous reply. This is precisely in the spirit of Carlyle's
sneers at the political economists,--the men who are not content to
sit down and howl in this wilderness of a modern world, but bestir
themselves to discover methods by which it can be made less a

There is so much truth in the doctrines of the original States' Rights
party,--the party of Jefferson, Madison, and Patrick Henry,--that a
very commonplace man, who learned his politics in that school, is able
to make a respectable figure in the public counsels. The mere notion
that government, being a necessary evil, is to be reduced to the
minimum that will answer the purposes of government, saves from many
false steps. The doctrine that the central government is to confine
itself to the duties assigned it in the Constitution, is a guiding
principle suited to the limited human mind. A vast number of claims,
suggestions, and petitions are excluded by it even from consideration.
If an eloquent Hamiltonian proposes to appropriate the public money
for the purpose of enabling American manufacturers to exhibit their
products at a Paris Exhibition, the plainest country member of the
Jeffersonian school perceives at once the inconsistency of such a
proposition with the fundamental principle of his political creed. He
has a compass to steer by, and a port to sail to, instead of being
afloat on the waste of waters, the sport of every breeze that blows.
It is touching to observe that this unhappy, sick, and sometimes mad
John Randolph, amid all the vagaries of his later life, had always a
vein of soundness in him, derived from his early connection with the
enlightened men who acted in politics with Thomas Jefferson. The
phrase "masterly inactivity" is Randolph's; and it is something only
to have given convenient expression to a system of conduct so often
wise. He used to say that Congress could scarcely do too little. His
ideal of a session was one in which members should make speeches till
every man had fully expressed and perfectly relieved his mind, then
pass the appropriation bills, and go home. And we ought not to forgot
that, when President John Quincy Adams brought forward his schemes for
covering the continent with magnificent works at the expense of the
treasury of the United States, and of uniting the republics of both
Americas into a kind of holy alliance, it was Randolph's piercing
sarcasm which, more than anything else, made plain to new members the
fallacy, the peril, of such a system. His opposition to this wild
federalism involved his support of Andrew Jackson; but there was no
other choice open to him.

Seldom did he display in Congress so much audacity and ingenuity as in
defending General Jackson while he was a candidate for the Presidency
against Mr. Adams. The two objections oftenest urged against Jackson
were that he was a military chieftain, and that he could not spell.
Mr. Randolph discoursed on these two points in a most amusing manner,
displaying all the impudence and ignorance of the tory, inextricably
mingled with the good sense and wit of the man. "General Jackson
cannot write," said a friend. "Granted," replied he. "General Jackson
cannot write because he was never taught; but his competitor cannot
write because he was not teachable." He made a bold remark in one of
his Jacksonian harangues. "The talent which enables a man to write a
book or make a speech has no more relation to the leading of an army
or a senate, than it has to the dressing of a dinner." He pronounced a
fine eulogium on the Duke of Marlborough, one of the worst spellers in
Europe, and then asked if gentlemen would have had that illustrious
man "superseded by a Scotch schoolmaster." It was in the same
ludicrous harangue that he uttered his famous joke upon those schools
in which young ladies were said to be "finished." "Yes," he exclaimed,
"_finished_ indeed; finished for all the duties of a wife, or mother,
or mistress of a family." Again he said:

     "There is much which it becomes a second-rate man to know,
     which a first-rate man ought to be ashamed to know. No head
     was ever clear and sound that was stuffed with
     book-learning. My friend, W.R. Johnson, has many a groom
     that can clean and dress a racehorse, and ride him too,
     better than he can."

He made the sweeping assertion, that no man had ever presided over a
government with advantage to the country governed, who had not in him
the making of a good general; for, said he, "the talent for government
lies in these two things,--sagacity to perceive, and decision to act."
Really, when we read this ingenious apology for, or rather eulogy of,
ignorance, we cease to wonder that General Jackson should have sent
him to Russia.

The religious life of Randolph is a most curious study. He experienced
in his lifetime four religious changes, or conversions. His gentle
mother, whose name he seldom uttered without' adding with tender
emphasis, "God bless her!" was such a member of the Church of England
as gentle ladies used to be before an "Evangelical" party was known in
it. She taught his infant lips to pray; and, being naturally trustful
and affectionate, he was not an unapt pupil. But in the library of the
old mansion on the Appomattox, in which he passed his forming years,
there was a "wagon-load" of what he terms "French infidelity," though
it appears there were almost as many volumes of Hobbes, Shaftesbury,
Collins, Hume, and Gibbon, as there were of Diderot, D'Alembert,
Helvetius, and Voltaire. These works he read in boyhood; and when he
came to mingle among men, he found that the opinions of such authors
prevailed in the circles which he most frequented. Just as he, a
natural tory, caught some tincture of republicanism from Jefferson and
his friends, so he, the natural believer, adopted the fashion of
scepticism, which then ruled the leading minds of all lands; and just
as he lapsed back into toryism when the spell which drew him away from
it had spent its force, so he became, in the decline of his powers, a
prey to religious terrors. For twenty-two years, as we have said, he
held aloof from religion, its ministers, and its temples. The disease
that preyed upon him so sharpened his temper, and so perverted his
perceptions of character, that, one after another, he alienated all
the friends and relations with whom he ought to have lived; and he
often found himself, between the sessions of Congress, the sole white
tenant of his lonely house at Roanoke,--the sick and solitary
patriarch of a family of three hundred persons. He sought to alleviate
this horrid solitude by adopting and rearing the orphaned sons of old
friends; to whom, when he was himself, he was the most affectionate
and generous of guardians. But even they could not very long endure
him; for, in His adverse moods, he was incarnate Distrust, and, having
conceived a foul suspicion, his genius enabled him to give it such
withering expression that it was not in the nature of a young man to
pass it by as the utterance of transient madness. So they too left
him, and he was utterly alone in the midst of a crowd of black
dependants. We see from his letters, that, while he saw the
impossibility of his associating with his species, he yet longed and
pined for their society and love. Perhaps there never lived a more
unhappy person. Revering women, and formed to find his happiness in
domestic life, he was incapable of being a husband; and if this had
not been the case, no woman could have lived with him. Yearning for
companionship, but condemned to be alone, his solace was the
reflection that, so long as there was no one near him, he was a
torment only to himself. "Often," he writes in one of his letters,

     "I mount my horse and sit upon him for ten or fifteen
     minutes, wishing to go somewhere, but not knowing where to
     ride; for I would escape anywhere from the incubus that
     weighs me down, body and soul; but the fiend follows me _en
     croupe_.... The strongest considerations of duty are barely
     sufficient to prevent me from absconding to some distant
     country, where I might live and die unknown."

A mind in such a state as this is the natural prey of superstition. A
dream, he used to say, first recalled his mind to the consideration of
religion. This was about the year 1810, at the height of those hot
debates that preceded the war of 1812. For nine years, he tells us,
the subject gradually gained upon him, so that, at last, it was his
first thought in the morning and his last at night. From the atheism
upon which he had formerly plumed himself, he went to the opposite
extreme. For a long time he was plunged into the deepest gloom,
regarding himself as a sinner too vile to be forgiven. He sought for
comfort in the Bible, in the Prayer-book, in conversation and
correspondence with religious friends, in the sermons of celebrated
preachers. He formed a scheme of retiring from the world into some
kind of religious retreat, and spending the rest of his life in
prayers and meditation. Rejecting this as a cowardly desertion of the
post of duty, he had thoughts of setting up a school for children, and
becoming himself a teacher in it. This plan, too, he laid aside, as
savoring of enthusiasm. Meanwhile, this amiable and honest gentleman,
whose every error was fairly attributable to the natural limitations
of his mind or to the diseases that racked his body, was tormented by
remorse, which would have been excessive if he had been a pirate. He
says that, after three years of continual striving, he still dared not
partake of the Communion, feeling himself "unworthy." "I was present,"
he writes, "when Mr. Hoge invited to the table, and I would have given
all I was worth to have been able to approach it." Some inkling of his
condition, it appears, became known to the public, and excited great
good-will towards him on the part of many persons of similar belief.

Some of his letters written during this period contain an almost
ludicrous mixture of truth and extravagance. He says in one of them,
that his heart has been softened, and he "_thinks_ he has _succeeded_
in forgiving all his enemies"; then he adds, "There is not a human
being that I would hurt if it were in my power,--not even Bonaparte."
In another place he remarks that the world is a vast mad-house, and,
"if what is to come be anything like what has passed, it would be wise
to abandon the bulk to the underwriters,--the worms." In the whole of
his intercourse with mankind, he says he never met with but three
persons whom he did not, on getting close to their hearts, discover to
be unhappy; and they were the only three he had ever known who had a
religion. He expresses this truth in language which limits it to one
form or kind of religion, the kind which he heard expounded in the
churches of Virginia in 1819. Give it broader expression, and every
observer of human life will assent to it. It is indeed most true, that
no human creature gets much out of life who has no religion, no sacred
object, to the furtherance of which his powers are dedicated.

He obtained some relief at length, and became a regular communicant of
the Episcopal Church. But although he ever after manifested an extreme
regard for religious things and persons, and would never permit either
to be spoken against in his presence without rebuke, he was very far
from edifying his brethren by a consistent walk. At Washington, in the
debates, he was as incisive and uncharitable as before. His
denunciations of the second President Adams's personal character were
as outrageous as his condemnation of parts of his policy was just. Mr.
Clay, though removed from the arena of debate by his appointment to
the Department of State, was still the object of his bitter sarcasm;
and at length he included the President and the Secretary in that
merciless philippic in which he accused Mr. Clay of forgery, and
styled the coalition of Adams and Clay as "the combination of the
Puritan and the Blackleg." He used language, too, in the course of
this speech, which was understood to be a defiance to mortal combat,
and it was so reported to Mr. Clay. The reporters, however,
misunderstood him, as it was not his intention nor his desire to
fight. Nevertheless, to the astonishment and sorrow of his religious
friends, he accepted Mr. Clay's challenge with the utmost possible
promptitude, and bore himself throughout the affair like (to use the
poor, lying, tory cant of the last generation) "a high-toned Virginia
gentleman." Colonel Benton tells us that Mr. Randolph invented an
ingenious excuse for the enormous inconsistency of his conduct on this
occasion. A duel, he maintained, was private war, and was justifiable
on the same ground as a war between two nations. Both were lamentable,
but both were allowable when there was no other way of getting redress
for insults and injuries. This was plausible, but it did not deceive
_him_. He knew very well that his offensive language respecting a man
whom he really esteemed was wholly devoid of excuse. He had the
courage requisite to expiate the offence by standing before Mr. Clay's
pistol; but he could not stand before his countrymen and confess that
his abominable antithesis was but the spurt of mingled ill-temper and
the vanity to shine. Any good tory can fight a duel with a respectable
degree of composure; but to own one's self, in the presence of a
nation, to have outraged the feelings of a brother-man, from the
desire to startle and amuse an audience, requires the kind of valor
which tories do not know. "Whig and tory," says Mr. Jefferson, "belong
to natural history." But then there is such a thing, we are told, as
the regeneration of the natural man; and we believe it, and cling to
it as a truth destined one day to be resuscitated and purified from
the mean interpretations which have made the very word sickening to
the intelligence of Christendom. Mr. Randolph had not achieved the
regeneration of his nature. He was a tory still. In the testing hour,
the "high-toned Virginia gentleman" carried the day, without a
struggle, over the communicant.

During the last years of his life, the monotony of his anguish was
relieved by an occasional visit to the Old World. It is interesting to
note how thoroughly at home he felt himself among the English gentry,
and how promptly they recognized him as a man and a brother. He was,
as we have remarked, _more_ English than an Englishman; for England
does advance, though slowly, from the insular to the universal. Dining
at a great house in London, one evening, he dwelt with pathetic
eloquence upon the decline of Virginia. Being asked what he thought
was the reason of her decay, he startled and pleased the lords and
ladies present by attributing it all to the repeal of the law of
primogeniture. One of the guests tells us that this was deemed "a
strange remark from a _Republican_" and that, before the party broke
up, the company had "almost taken him for an aristocrat." It happened
sometimes, when he was conversing with English politicians, that it
was the American who defended the English system against the attacks
of Englishmen; and so full of British prejudice was he, that, in
Paris, he protested that a decent dinner could not be bought for
money. Westminster Abbey woke all his veneration. He went into it, one
morning, just as service was about beginning, and took his place among
the worshippers. Those of our readers who have attended the morning
service at an English cathedral on a week-day cannot have forgotten
the ludicrous smallness of the congregation compared with the imposing
array of official assistants. A person who has a little tincture of
the Yankee in him may even find himself wondering how it can "pay" the
British empire to employ half a dozen reverend clergymen and a dozen
robust singers to aid seven or eight unimportant members of the
community in saying their prayers. But John Randolph of Roanoke had
not in him the least infusion of Yankee. Standing erect in the almost
vacant space, he uttered the responses in a tone that was in startling
contrast to the low mumble of the clergyman's voice, and that rose
above the melodious amens of the choir. He took it all in most serious
earnest. When the service was over, he said to his companion, after
lamenting the hasty and careless manner in which the service had been
performed, that he esteemed it an honor to have worshipped God in
Westminster Abbey. As he strolled among the tombs, he came, at last,
to the grave of two men who had often roused his enthusiasm. He
stopped, and spoke:

     "I will not say, Take off your shoes, for the ground on
     which you stand is holy; but, look, sir, do you see those
     simple letters on the flagstones beneath your feet,--W.P.
     and C.J.F. Here lie, side by side, the remains of the two
     great rivals, Pitt and Fox, whose memory so completely lives
     in history. No marble monuments are necessary to mark the
     spot where _their_ bodies repose. There is more simple
     grandeur in those few letters than in all the surrounding
     monuments, sir."

How more than English was all this! England had been growing away from
and beyond Westminster Abbey, William Pitt, and Charles James Fox; but
this Virginia Englishman, living alone in his woods, with his slaves
and his overseers, severed from the progressive life of his race, was
living still in the days when a pair of dissolute young orators could
be deemed, and with some reason too, the most important persons in a
great empire. A friend asked him how he was pleased with England. He
answered with enthusiasm,--

     "There never was such a country on the face of the earth as
     England, and it is utterly impossible that there can be any
     combination of circumstances hereafter to make such another
     country as Old England now is!"

We ought not to have been surprised at the sympathy which the English
Tories felt during the late war for their brethren in the Southern
States of America. It was as natural as it was for the English
Protestants to welcome the banished Huguenots. It was as natural as it
was for Louis XIV. to give an asylum to the Stuarts. The traveller who
should have gone, seven years ago, straight from an English
agricultural county to a cotton district of South Carolina, or a
tobacco county of Virginia, would have felt that the differences
between the two places were merely external. The system in both places
and the spirit of both were strikingly similar. In the old parts of
Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky, you had only to get
ten miles from a railroad to find yourself among people who were
English in their feelings, opinions, habits, and even in their accent.
New England differs from Old England, because New England has grown:
Virginia was English, because she had been stationary. Happening to be
somewhat familiar with the tone of feeling in the South,--the _real_
South, or, in other words, the South ten miles from a railroad,--we
were fully prepared for Mr. Russell's statement with regard to the
desire so frequently expressed in 1861 for one of the English princes
to come and reign over a nascent Confederacy. Sympathies and
antipathies are always mutual when they are natural; and never was
there a sympathy more in accordance with the nature of things, than
that which so quickly manifested itself between the struggling
Southern people and the majority of the ruling classes of Great

Mr. Randolph took leave of public life, after thirty years of service,
not in the most dignified manner. He furnished another illustration of
the truth of a remark made by a certain queen of Denmark,--"The lady
doth protest too much." Like many other gentlemen in independent
circumstances, he had been particularly severe upon those of his
fellow-citizens who earned their subsistence by serving the public. It
pleased him to speak of members of the Cabinet as "the drudges of the
departments," and to hold gentlemen in the diplomatic service up to
contempt as forming "the tail of the _corps diplomatique_ in Europe."
He liked to declaim upon the enormous impossibility of _his_ ever
exchanging a seat in Congress for "the shabby splendors" of an office
in Washington, or in a foreign mission "to dance attendance abroad
instead of at home." When it was first buzzed about in Washington, in
1830, that General Jackson had tendered the Russian mission to John
Randolph, the rumor was not credited. An appointment so exquisitely
absurd was supposed to be beyond even Andrew Jackson's audacity. The
offer had been made, however. Mr. Randolph's brilliant defence of
General Jackson's bad spelling, together with Mr. Van Buren's
willingness to place an ocean between the new administration and a
master of sarcasm, to whom opposition had become an unchangeable
habit, had dictated an offer of the mission, couched in such seductive
language that Mr. Randolph yielded to it as readily as those ladies
accept an offer of marriage who have often announced their intention
never to marry. Having reached the scene of his diplomatic labors at
the beginning of August, he began to perform them with remarkable
energy. In a suit of black, the best, he declared, that London could
furnish, he was presented to the Emperor and to the Empress, having
first submitted his costume to competent inspection. Resolute to do
his whole duty, he was not content to send his card to the diplomatic
corps, but, having engaged a handsome coach and four, he called upon
each member of the diplomatic body, from the ambassadors to the
secretaries of legation. Having performed these labors, and having
discovered that a special object with which he was charged could not
then be accomplished, he had leisure to observe that St. Petersburg,
in the month of August, is not a pleasant residence to an invalid of
sixty. He describes the climate in these terms:--

     "Heat, dust impalpable, pervading every part and pore ...
     Insects of all nauseous descriptions, bugs, fleas,
     mosquitoes, flies innumerable, gigantic as the empire they
     inhabit, who will take no denial. This is the land of
     Pharaoh and his plagues,--Egypt and its ophthalmia and
     vermin, without its fertility,--Holland, without its wealth,
     improvements, or cleanliness."

He endured St. Petersburg for the space of ten days, then sailed for
England, and never saw Russia again. When the appropriation bill was
before Congress at the next session, opposition members did not fail
to call in question the justice of requiring the people of the United
States to pay twenty thousand dollars for Mr. Randolph's ten days'
work, or, to speak more exactly, for Mr. Randolph's apology for the
President's bad spelling; but the item passed, nevertheless. During
the reign of Andrew Jackson, Congress was little more than a board of
registry for the formal recording of his edicts. There are those who
think, at the present moment, that what a President hath done, a
President may do again.

It was fortunate that John Randolph was in retirement when Calhoun
brought on his Nullification scheme. The presence in Congress of a man
so eloquent and so reckless, whose whole heart and mind were with the
Nullifiers, might have prevented the bloodless postponement of the
struggle. He was in constant correspondence with the South Carolina
leaders, and was fully convinced that it was the President of the
United States, not "the Hamiltons and Haynes" of South Carolina, who
ought to seize the first pretext to concede the point in dispute. No
citizen of South Carolina was more indignant than he at General
Jackson's Proclamation. He said that, if the people did not rouse
themselves to a sense of their condition, and "put down this wretched
old man," the country was irretrievably ruined; and he spoke of the
troops despatched to Charleston as "mercenaries," to whom he hoped "no
quarter would be given." The "wretched old man" whom the people were
to "put down" was Andrew Jackson, not John C. Calhoun.

We do not forget that, when John Randolph uttered these words, he was
scarcely an accountable being. Disease had reduced him to a skeleton,
and robbed him of almost every attribute of man except his capacity to
suffer. But even in his madness he was a representative man, and spoke
the latent feeling of his class. The diseases which sharpened his
temper unloosed his tongue; he revealed the tendency of the Southern
mind, as a petulant child reveals family secrets. In his good and in
his evil he was an exaggerated Southerner of the higher class. He was
like them, too, in this: they are not criminals to be punished, but
patients to be cured. Sometimes, of late, we have feared that they
resemble him also in being incurable.

As long as Americans take an interest in the history of their country,
they will read with interest the strange story of this sick and
suffering representative of sick and suffering Virginia. To the last,
old Virginia wore her ragged robes with a kind of grandeur which was
not altogether unbecoming, and which to the very last imposed upon
tory minds. Scarcely any one could live among the better Southern
people without liking them; and few will ever read Hugh Garland's Life
of John Randolph, without more than forgiving all his vagaries,
impetuosities, and foibles. How often, upon riding away from a
Southern home, have we been ready to exclaim, "What a pity such good
people should be so accursed!" Lord Russell well characterized the
evil to which we allude as "that fatal gift of the poisoned garment
which was flung around them from the first hour of their

The last act of John Randolph's life, done when he lay dying at a
hotel in Philadelphia, in June, 1833, was to express once more his
sense of this blighting system. Some years before, he had made a will
by which all his slaves were to be freed at his death. He would
probably have given them their freedom before his death, but for the
fact, too evident, that freedom to a black man in a Slave State was
not a boon. The slaves freed by his brother, forty years' before, had
not done well, because (as he supposed) no land had been bequeathed
for their support. Accordingly, he left directions in his will that a
tract of land, which might be of four thousand acres, should be set
apart for the maintenance of his slaves, and that they should be
transported to it and established upon it at the expense of his
estate. "I give my slaves their freedom" said he in his will, "to
which my conscience tells me they are justly entitled." On the last
day of his life, surrounded by strangers, and attended by two of his
old servants, his chief concern was to make distinctly known to as
many persons as possible that it was really his will that his slaves
should be free. Knowing, as he did, the aversion which his
fellow-citizens had to the emancipation of slaves, and even to the
presence in the State of free blacks, he seemed desirous of taking
away every pretext for breaking his will. A few hours before his
death, he said to the physician in attendance: "I confirm every
disposition in my will, especially that concerning my slaves whom I
have manumitted, and for whom I have made provision." The doctor, soon
after, took leave of him, and was about to depart. "You must not go,"
said he, "you cannot, you shall not leave me." He told his servant not
to let the doctor go, and the man immediately locked the door and put
the key in his pocket. The doctor remonstrating, Mr. Randolph
explained, that, by the laws of Virginia, in order to manumit slaves
by will, it was requisite that the master should _declare_ his will in
that particular in the presence of a white witness, who, after hearing
the declaration, must never lose sight of the party until he is dead.
The doctor consented, at length, to remain, but urged that more
witnesses should be sent for. This was done. At ten in the morning,
four gentlemen were ranged in a semicircle round his bed. He was
propped up almost in a sitting posture, and a blanket was wrapped
round his head and shoulders. His face was yellow, and extremely
emaciated; he was very weak, and it required all the remaining energy
of his mind to endure the exertion he was about to make. It was
evident to all present that his whole soul was in the act, and his eye
gathered fire as he performed it. Pointing toward the witnesses with
that gesture which for so many years had been familiar to the House of
Representatives, he said, slowly and distinctly: "I confirm all the
directions in my will respecting my slaves, and direct them to be
enforced, particularly in regard to a provision for their support."
Then, raising his hand and placing it upon the shoulder of his
servant, he added, "Especially for this man." Having performed this
act, his mind appeared relieved, but his strength immediately left
him, and in two hours he breathed his last.

The last of the Randolphs, and one of the best representatives of the
original masters of Virginia, the high-toned Virginia gentleman, was
no more. Those men had their opportunity, but they had not strength of
character equal to it. They were tried and found wanting. The
universe, which loves not the high-toned, even in violins, disowned
them, and they perished. Cut off from the life-giving current of
thought and feeling which kept the rest of Christendom advancing, they
came to love stagnation, and looked out from their dismal, isolated
pool with lofty contempt at the gay and active life on the flowing
stream. They were not teachable, for they despised the men who could
have taught them. But we are bound always to consider that they were
subjected to a trial under which human virtue has always given way,
and will always. Sudden wealth is itself sufficient to spoil any but
the very best men,--those who can instantly set it at work for the
general good, and continue to earn an honest livelihood by faithful
labor. But those tobacco lords of Virginia, besides making large
fortunes in a few years, were the absolute, irresponsible masters of a
submissive race. And when these two potent causes of effeminacy and
pride had worked out their proper result in the character of the
masters, then, behold! their resources fail. Vicious agriculture
exhausts the soil, false political economy prevents the existence of a
middle class, and the presence of slaves repels emigration. Proud,
ignorant, indolent, dissolute, and in debt, the dominant families, one
after another, passed away, attesting to the last, by an occasional
vigorous shoot, the original virtue of the stock. All this poor John
Randolph represented and was.

Virginia remains. Better men will live in it than have ever yet lived
there; but it will not be in this century, and possibly not in the
next. It cannot be that so fair a province will not be one day
inhabited by a race of men who will work according to the laws of
nature, and whom, therefore, the laws of nature will co-operate with
and preserve. How superior will such Virginians be to what Dr. Francis
Lieber styles the "provincial egotism" of State sovereignty!

[Footnote 1: 1865-6.]


Within the memory of many persons still alive, "old Girard," as the
famous banker was usually styled, a short, stout, brisk old gentleman,
used to walk, in his swift, awkward way, the streets of the lower part
of Philadelphia. Though everything about him indicated that he had
very little in common with his fellow-citizens, he was the marked man
of the city for more than a generation. His aspect was rather
insignificant and quite unprepossessing. His dress was old-fashioned
and shabby; and he wore the pig-tail, the white neck-cloth, the
wide-brimmed hat, and the large-skirted coat of the last century. He
was blind of one eye; and though his bushy eyebrows gave some
character to his countenance, it was curiously devoid of expression.
He had also the absent look of a man who either had no thoughts or was
absorbed in thought; and he shuffled along on his enormous feet,
looking neither to the right nor to the left. There was always a
certain look of the old mariner about him, though he had been fifty
years an inhabitant of the town. When he rode it was in the plainest,
least comfortable gig in Philadelphia, drawn by an ancient and
ill-formed horse, driven always by the master's own hand at a good
pace. He chose still to live where he had lived for fifty years, in
Water Street, close to the wharves, in a small and inconvenient house,
darkened by tall storehouses, amid the bustle, the noise, and the
odors of commerce. His sole pleasure was to visit once a day a little
farm which he possessed a few miles out of town, where he was wont to
take off his coat, roll up his shirt-sleeves, and personally labor in
the field and in the barn, hoeing corn, pruning trees, tossing hay,
and not disdaining even to assist in butchering the animals which he
raised for market. It was no mere ornamental or experimental farm. He
made it pay. All of its produce was carefully, nay, scrupulously
husbanded, sold, recorded, and accounted for. He loved his grapes, his
plums, his pigs, and especially his rare breed of Canary-birds; but
the people of Philadelphia had the full benefit of their increase,--at
the highest market rates.

Many feared, many served, but none loved this singular and lonely old
man. If there was among the very few who habitually conversed with him
one who understood and esteemed him, there was but one; and he was a
man of such abounding charity, that, like Uncle Toby, if he had heard
that the Devil was hopelessly damned, he would have said, "I am sorry
for it." Never was there a person more destitute than Girard of the
qualities which win the affection of others. His temper was violent,
his presence forbidding, his usual manner ungracious, his will
inflexible, his heart untender, his imagination dead. He was odious to
many of his fellow-citizens, who considered him the hardest and
meanest of men. He had lived among them for half a century, but he was
no more a Philadelphian in 1830 than in 1776. He still spoke with a
French accent, and accompanied his words with a French shrug and
French gesticulation. Surrounded with Christian churches which he had
helped to build, he remained a sturdy unbeliever, and possessed the
complete works of only one man, Voltaire. He made it a point of duty
to labor on Sunday, as a good example to others. He made no secret of
the fact, that he considered the idleness of Sunday an injury to the
people, moral and economical. He would have opened his bank on
Sundays, if any one would have come to it. For his part, he required
no rest, and would have none. He never travelled. He never attended
public assemblies or amusements. He had no affections to gratify, no
friends to visit, no curiosity to appease, no tastes to indulge. What
he once said of himself appeared to be true, that he rose in the
morning with but a single object, and that was to labor so hard all
day as to be able to sleep all night. The world was absolutely nothing
to him but a working-place. He scorned and scouted the opinion, that
old men should cease to labor, and should spend the evening of their
days in tranquillity. "No," he would say, "labor is the price of life,
its happiness, its everything; to rest is to rust; every man should
labor to the last hour of his ability." Such was Stephen Girard, the
richest man who ever lived in Pennsylvania.

This is an unpleasing picture of a citizen of polite and amiable
Philadelphia. It were indeed a grim and dreary world in which should
prevail the principles of Girard. But see what this man has done for
the city that loved him not! Vast and imposing structures rise on the
banks of the Schuylkill, wherein, at this hour, six hundred poor
orphan boys are fed, clothed, trained, and taught, upon the income of
the enormous estate which he won by this entire consecration to the
work of accumulating property. In the ample grounds of Girard College,
looking up at its five massive marble edifices, strolling in its shady
walks or by its verdant play-grounds, or listening to the cheerful
cries of the boys at play, the most sympathetic and imaginative of men
must pause before censuring the sterile and unlovely life of its
founder. And if he should inquire closely into the character and
career of the man who willed this great institution into being, he
would perhaps be willing to admit that there was room in the world for
one Girard, though it were a pity there should ever be another. Such
an inquiry would perhaps disclose that Stephen Girard was endowed by
nature with a great heart as well as a powerful mind, and that
circumstances alone closed and hardened the one, cramped and perverted
the other. It is not improbable that he was one of those unfortunate
beings who desire to be loved, but whose temper and appearance combine
to repel affection. His marble statue, which adorns the entrance to
the principal building, if it could speak, might say to us, "Living,
you could not understand nor love me; dead, I compel at least your
respect." Indeed, he used to say, when questioned as to his career,
"Wait till I am dead; my deeds will show what I was."

Girard's recollections of his childhood were tinged with bitterness.
He was born at Bordeaux in 1750. He was the eldest of the five
children of Captain Pierre Girard, a mariner of substance and
respectability. He used to complain that, while his younger brothers
were taught at college, his own education was neglected, and that he
acquired at home little more than the ability to read and write. He
remembered, too, that at the age of eight years he discovered, to his
shame and sorrow, that one of his eyes was blind,--a circumstance that
exposed him to the taunts of his companions. The influence of a
personal defect, and of the ridicule it occasions, upon the character
of a sensitive child, can be understood only by those whose childhood
was embittered from that cause; but such cases as those of Byron and
Girard should teach those who have the charge of youth the crime it is
to permit such defects to be the subject of remark. Girard also early
lost his mother, an event which soon brought him under the sway of a
step-mother. Doubtless he was a wilful, arbitrary, and irascible boy,
since we know that he was a wilful, arbitrary, and irascible man.
Before he was fourteen, having chosen the profession of his father, he
left home, with his father's consent, and went to sea in the capacity
of cabin-boy. He used to boast, late in life, that he began the world
with sixpence in his pocket. Quite enough for a cabin-boy.

For nine years he sailed between Bordeaux and the French West Indies,
returning at length with the rank of first mate, or, as the French
term it, lieutenant of his vessel. He had well improved his time. Some
of the defects of his early education he had supplied by study, and it
is evident that he had become a skilful navigator. It was then the law
of France that no man should command a vessel who was not twenty-five
years old, and had not sailed two cruises in a ship of the royal navy.
Girard was but twenty-three, and had sailed in none but
merchant-vessels. His father, however, had influence enough to procure
him a dispensation; and in 1773 he was licensed to command. He appears
to have been scarcely just to his father when he wrote, sixty-three
years after:

     "I have the proud satisfaction of knowing that my conduct,
     my labor, and my economy have enabled me to do one hundred
     times more for my relations than they all together have ever
     done for me since the day of my birth."

In the mere amount of money expended, this may have been true; but it
is the _start_ toward fortune that is so difficult. His father,
besides procuring the dispensation, assisted him to purchase goods for
his first commercial venture. At the age of twenty-four, we find him
sailing to the West Indies; not indeed in command of the vessel, but
probably as mate and supercargo, and part owner of goods to the value
of three thousand dollars. He never trod his native land again. Having
disposed of his cargo and taken on board another, he sailed for New
York, which he reached in July, 1774. The storm of war, which was soon
to sweep commerce from the ocean, was already muttering below the
horizon, when Stephen Girard, "mariner and merchant," as he always
delighted to style himself, first saw the land wherein his lot was to
be cast. For two years longer, however, he continued to exercise his
twofold vocation. An ancient certificate, preserved among his papers,
informs the curious explorer, that,

     "in the year 1774, Stephen Girard sailed as mate of a vessel
     from New York to [New] Orleans, and that he continued to
     sail out of the said port until May, 1776, when he arrived
     in Philadelphia commander of a sloop,"

of which the said Stephen Girard was part owner.

Lucky was it for Girard that he got into Philadelphia just when he
did, with all his possessions with him. He had the narrowest escape
from capture. On his way from New Orleans to a Canadian port, he had
lost himself in a fog at the entrance of Delaware Bay, swarming then
with British cruisers, of whose presence Captain Girard had heard
nothing. His flag of distress brought alongside an American captain,
who told him where he was, and assured him that, if he ventured out
to-sea, he would never reach port except as a British prize. "_Mon
Dieu_!" exclaimed Girard in great panic, "what shall I do?" "You have
no chance but to push right up to Philadelphia," replied the captain.
"How am I to get there?" said Girard; "I have no pilot, and I don't
know the way." A pilot was found, who, however, demanded a preliminary
payment of five dollars, which Girard had not on board. In great
distress, he implored the captain to be his security for the sum. He
consented, a pilot took charge of the sloop, the anchor was heaved,
and the vessel sped on her way. An hour later, while they were still
in sight of the anchorage, a British man-of-war came within the capes.
But Dr. Franklin, with his oared galleys, his _chevaux de frise_, his
forts, and his signal-stations, had made the Delaware a safe harbor of
refuge; and Girard arrived safely at Philadelphia on one of the early
days of May, 1776. Thus it was a mere chance of war that gave Girard
to the Quaker City. In the whole world he could not have found a more
congenial abode, for the Quakers were the only religious sect with
which he ever had the slightest sympathy. Quakers he always liked and
esteemed, partly because they had no priests, partly because they
disregarded ornament and reduced life to its simplest and most obvious
utilities, partly because some of their opinions were in accord with
his own. He had grown up during the time when Voltaire was sovereign
lord of the opinions of Continental Europe. Before landing at
Philadelphia, he was already a republican and an unbeliever, and such
he remained to the last. The Declaration of Independence was
impending: he was ready for it. The "Common Sense" of Thomas Paine had
appeared: he was the man of all others to enjoy it. It is, however,
questionable if at that time he had English enough to understand it in
the original, since the colloquy just reported with the American
captain took place in French. He was slow in becoming familiar with
the English language, and even to the end of his life seemed to prefer
conversing in French.

He was a mariner no more. The great fleet of Lord Howe arrived at New
York in July. Every harbor was blockaded, and all commerce was
suspended. Even the cargoes of tobacco despatched by Congress to their
Commissioners in France, for the purchase of arms and stores, were
usually captured before they had cleared the Capes. Captain Girard now
rented a small store in Water Street, near the spot where he lived for
nearly sixty years, in which he carried on the business of a grocer
and wine-bottler. Those who knew him at this time report that he was a
taciturn, repulsive young man, never associating with men of his own
age and calling, devoted to business, close in his dealings, of the
most rigorous economy, and preserving still the rough clothing and
general appearance of a sailor. Though but twenty-six years of age, he
was called "old Girard." He seemed conscious of his inability to
please, but bore the derision of his neighbors with stoical
equanimity, and plodded on.

War favors the skilful and enterprising business-man. Girard had a
genius for business. He was not less bold in his operations than
prudent; and his judgment as a man of business was well-nigh
infallible. Destitute of all false pride, he bought whatever he
thought he could sell to advantage, from a lot of damaged cordage to a
pipe of old port; and he labored incessantly with his own hands. He
was a thriving man during the first year of his residence in
Philadelphia; his chief gain, it is said, being derived from his
favorite business of bottling wine and cider.

The romance, the mystery, the tragedy of his life now occurred.
Walking along Water Street one day, near the corner of Vine Street,
the eyes of this reserved and ill-favored man were caught by a
beautiful servant-girl going to the pump for a pail of water. She was
an enchanting brunette of sixteen, with luxuriant black locks curling
and clustering about her neck. As she tripped along with bare feet and
empty pail, in airy and unconscious grace, she captivated the
susceptible Frenchman, who saw in her the realization of the songs of
the forecastle and the reveries of the quarter-deck. He sought her
acquaintance, and made himself at home in her kitchen. The family whom
she served, misinterpreting the designs of the thriving dealer,
forbade him the house; when he silenced their scruples by offering the
girl his hand in marriage. Ill-starred Polly Lumm! Unhappy Girard! She
accepted his offer; and in July, 1777, the incongruous two, being
united in matrimony, attempted to become one.

The war interrupted their brief felicity. Philadelphia, often
threatened, fell into the hands of Lord Howe in September, 1777; and
among the thousands who needlessly fled at his approach were "old
Girard" and his pretty young wife. He bought a house at Mount Holly,
near Burlington, in New Jersey, for five hundred dollars, to which he
removed, and there continued to bottle claret and sell it to the
British officers, until the departure of Lord Howe, in June, 1778,
permitted his return to Philadelphia. The gay young officers, it is
said, who came to his house at Mount Holly to drink his claret, were
far from being insensible to the charms of Mrs. Girard; and tradition
further reports that on one occasion a dashing colonel snatched a
kiss, which the sailor resented, and compelled the officer to
apologize for.

Of all miserable marriages this was one of the most miserable. Here
was a young, beautiful, and ignorant girl united to a close,
ungracious, eager man of business, devoid of sentiment, with a violent
temper and an unyielding will. She was an American, he a Frenchman;
and that alone was an immense incompatibility. She was seventeen, he
twenty-seven. She was a woman; he was a man without imagination,
intolerant of foibles. She was a beauty, with the natural vanities of
a beauty; he not merely had no taste for decoration, he disapproved it
on principle. These points of difference would alone have sufficed to
endanger their domestic peace; but time developed something that was
fatal to it. Their abode was the scene of contention for eight years;
at the expiration of which period Mrs. Girard showed such symptoms of
insanity that her husband was obliged to place her in the Pennsylvania
Hospital. In these distressing circumstances, he appears to have
spared no pains for her restoration. He removed her to a place in the
country, but without effect. She returned to his house only to render
life insupportable to him. He resumed his old calling as a mariner,
and made a voyage to the Mediterranean; but on his return he found his
wife not less unmanageable than before. In 1790, thirteen years after
their marriage, and five after the first exhibition of insanity, Mrs.
Girard was placed permanently in the hospital; where, nine months
after, she gave birth to a female child. The child soon died; the
mother never recovered her reason. For twenty-five years she lived in
the hospital, and, dying in 1815, was buried in the hospital grounds
after the manner of the Quakers. The coffin was brought to the grave,
followed by the husband and the managers of the institution, who
remained standing about it in silence for several minutes. It was then
lowered to its final resting-place, and again the company remained
motionless and silent for a while. Girard looked at the coffin once
more, then turned to an acquaintance and said, as he walked away, "It
is very well." A green mound, without headstone or monument, still
marks the spot where the remains of this unhappy woman repose. Girard,
both during his lifetime and after his death, was a liberal, though
not lavish, benefactor of the institution which had so long sheltered
his wife.

Fortunes were not made rapidly in the olden time. After the
Revolution, Girard engaged in commerce with the West Indies, in
partnership with his brother John; and he is described in an official
paper of the time as one who "carried on an extensive business as a
merchant, and is a considerable owner of real estate." But on the
dissolution of the partnership in 1790, when he had been in business,
as mariner and merchant, for sixteen years, his estate was valued at
only thirty thousand dollars. The times were troubled. The French
Revolution, the massacre at St. Domingo, our disturbed relations with
England, and afterwards with France, the violence of our party
contests, all tended to make merchants timid, and to limit their
operations. Girard, as his papers indicate, and as he used to relate
in conversation, took more than a merchant's interest in the events of
the time. From the first, he had formally cast in his lot with the
struggling Colonists, as we learn from a yellow and faded document
left among his papers:--

     "I do hereby certify that Stephen Girard, of the city of
     Philadelphia, merchant, hath voluntarily taken the oath of
     allegiance and fidelity, as directed by an act of the
     General Assembly of Pennsylvania, passed the 13th day of
     June, A.D. 1777. Witness my hand and seal, the 27th day of
     October, A.D. 1778.

                                   "JNO. ORD.
                                   No. 1678."

The oath was repeated the year following. When the French Revolution
had divided the country into two parties, the Federalists and the
Republicans, Girard was a Republican of the radical school. He
remembered assisting to raise a liberty-pole in the Presidency of John
Adams; and he was one of Mr. Jefferson's most uncompromising adherents
at a time when men of substance were seldom found in the ranks of the
Democrats. As long as he lived, he held the name of Thomas Jefferson
in veneration.

We have now to contemplate this cold, close, ungainly, ungracious man
in a new character. We are to see that a man may seem indifferent to
the woes of individuals, but perform sublime acts of devotion to a
community. We are to observe that there are men of sterling but
peculiar metal, who only shine when the furnace of general affliction
is hottest. In 1793, the malignant yellow-fever desolated
Philadelphia. The consternation of the people cannot be conceived by
readers of the present day, because we cannot conceive of the
ignorance which then prevailed respecting the laws of contagion,
because we have lost in some degree the habit of panic, and because no
kind of horror can be as novel to us as the yellow-fever was to the
people of Philadelphia in 1793. One half of the population fled. Those
who remained left their houses only when compelled. Most of the
churches, the great Coffee-House, the Library, were closed. Of four
daily newspapers, only one continued to be published. Some people
constantly smoked tobacco,--even women and children, did so; others
chewed garlic; others exploded gunpowder; others burned nitre or
sprinkled vinegar; many assiduously whitewashed every surface within
their reach; some carried tarred rope in their hands, or bags of
camphor round their necks; others never ventured abroad without a
handkerchief or a sponge wet with vinegar at their noses. No one
ventured to shake hands. Friends who met in the streets gave each
other a wide berth, eyed one another askance, exchanged nods, and
strode on. It was a custom to walk in the middle of the street, to get
as far from the houses as possible. Many of the sick died without
help, and the dead were buried without ceremony. The horrid silence of
the streets was broken only by the tread of litter-bearers and the
awful rumble of the dead-wagon. Whole families perished,--perished
without assistance, their fate unknown to their neighbors. Money was
powerless to buy attendance for the operation of all ordinary motives
was suspended. From the 1st of August to the 9th of November, in a
population of twenty-five thousand, there were four thousand and
thirty-one burials,--about one in six.

Happily for the honor of human nature, there are always, in times like
these, great souls whom base panic cannot prostrate. A few brave
physicians, a few faithful clergymen, a few high-minded citizens, a
few noble women, remembered and practised what is due to humanity
overtaken by a calamity like this. On the 10th of September, a notice,
without signature, appeared in the only paper published, stating that
all but three of the Visitors of the Poor were sick, dead, or missing,
and calling upon all who were willing to help to meet at the City Hall
on the 12th. From those who attended the meeting, a committee of
twenty-seven was appointed to superintend the measures for relief, of
whom Stephen Girard was one. On Sunday, the 15th, the committee met;
and the condition of the great hospital at Bush Hill was laid before
them. It was unclean, ill-regulated, crowded, and ill-supplied. Nurses
could not be hired at any price, for even to approach it was deemed
certain death. Then, to the inexpressible astonishment and admiration
of the committee, two men of wealth and importance in the city offered
personally to take charge of the hospital during the prevalence of the
disease. Girard was one of these, Peter Helm the other. Girard appears
to have been the first to offer himself. "Stephen Girard," records
Matthew Carey, a member of the committee,

     "sympathizing with the wretched situation of the sufferers
     at Bush Hill, voluntarily and unexpectedly offered himself
     as a manager to superintend that hospital. The surprise and
     satisfaction excited by this extraordinary effort of
     humanity can be better conceived than expressed."

That very afternoon, Girard and Helm went out to the hospital, and
entered upon their perilous and repulsive duty. Girard chose the post
of honor. He took charge of the interior of the hospital, while Mr.
Helm conducted its out-door affairs. For sixty days he continued to
perform, by day and night, all the distressing and revolting offices
incident to the situation. In the great scarcity of help, he used
frequently to receive the sick and dying at the gate, assist in
carrying them to their beds, nurse them, receive their last messages,
watch for their last breath, and then, wrapping them in the sheet they
had died upon, carry them out to the burial-ground, and place them in
the trench. He had a vivid recollection of the difficulty of finding
any kind of fabric in which to wrap the dead, when the vast number of
interments had exhausted the supply of sheets. "I would put them," he
would say, "in any old rag I could find." If he ever left the
hospital, it was to visit the infected districts, and assist in
removing the sick from the houses in which they were dying without
help. One scene of this kind, witnessed by a merchant, who was
hurrying past with camphored handkerchief pressed to his mouth,
affords us a vivid glimpse of this heroic man engaged in his sublime
vocation. A carriage, rapidly driven by a black man, broke the silence
of the deserted and grass-grown street. It stopped before a frame
house; and the driver, first having bound a handkerchief over his
mouth, opened the door of the carriage, and quickly remounted to the
box. A short, thick-set man stepped from the coach and entered the
house. In a minute or two, the observer, who stood at a safe distance
watching the proceedings, heard a shuffling noise in the entry, and
soon saw the stout little man supporting with extreme difficulty a
tall, gaunt, yellow-visaged victim of the pestilence. Girard held
round the waist the sick man, whose yellow face rested against his
own; his long, damp, tangled hair mingled with Girard's; his feet
dragging helpless upon the pavement. Thus he drew him to the carriage
door, the driver averting his face from the spectacle, far from
offering to assist. Partly dragging, partly lifting, he succeeded,
after long and severe exertion, in getting him into the vehicle. He
then entered it himself, closed the door, and the carriage drove away
towards the hospital.

A man who can do such things at such a time may commit errors and
cherish erroneous opinions, but the essence of that which makes the
difference between a good man and a bad man must dwell within him.
Twice afterwards Philadelphia was visited by yellow-fever, in 1797 and
1798. On both occasions, Girard took the lead, by personal exertion or
gifts of money, in relieving the poor and the sick. He had a singular
taste for nursing the sick, though a sturdy unbeliever in medicine.
According to him, nature, not doctors, is the restorer,--nature, aided
by good nursing. Thus, after the yellow-fever of 1798, he wrote to a
friend in France:

     "During all this frightful time, I have constantly remained
     in the city; and, without neglecting my public duties, I
     have played a part which will make you smile. Would you
     believe it, my friend, that I have visited as many as
     fifteen sick people in a day? and what will surprise you
     still more, I have lost only one patient, an Irishman, who
     would drink a little. I do not flatter myself that I have
     cured one single person; but you will think with me, that in
     my quality of Philadelphia physician I have been very
     moderate, and that not one of my _confrères_ has killed
     fewer than myself."

It is not by nursing the sick, however, that men acquire colossal
fortunes. We revert, therefore, to the business career of this
extraordinary man. Girard, in the ancient and honorable acceptation of
the term, was a merchant; i.e. a man who sent his own ships to foreign
countries, and exchanged their products for those of his own.
Beginning in the West India trade, with one small schooner built with
difficulty and managed with caution, he expanded his business as his
capital increased, until he was the owner of a fleet of merchantmen,
and brought home to Philadelphia the products of every clime.
Beginning with single voyages, his vessels merely sailing to a foreign
port and back again, he was accustomed at length to project great
mercantile cruises, extending over long periods of time, and embracing
many ports. A ship loaded with cotton and grain would sail, for
example, to Bordeaux, there discharge, and take in a cargo of wine and
fruit; thence to St. Petersburg, where she would exchange her wine and
fruit for hemp and iron; then to Amsterdam, where the hemp and iron
would be sold for dollars; to Calcutta next for a cargo of tea and
silks, with which the ship would return to Philadelphia. Such were the
voyages so often successfully made by the Voltaire, the Rousseau, the
Helvetius, and the Montesquieu; ships long the pride of Girard and the
boast of Philadelphia, their names being the tribute paid by the
merchant to the literature of his native land. He seldom failed to
make very large profits. He rarely, if ever, lost a ship.

His neighbors, the merchants of Philadelphia, deemed him a lucky man.
Many of them thought they could do as well as he, if they only had his
luck. But the great volumes of his letters and papers, preserved in a
room of the Girard College, show that his success in business was not
due, in any degree whatever, to good fortune. Let a money-making
generation take note, that Girard principles inevitably produce Girard
results. The grand, the fundamental secret of his success, as of all
success, was that _he understood his business_. He had a personal,
familiar knowledge of the ports with which he traded, the commodities
in which he dealt, the vehicles in which they were carried, the
dangers to which they were liable, and the various kinds of men
through whom he acted. He observed everything, and forgot nothing. He
had done everything himself which he had occasion to require others to
do. His directions to his captains and supercargoes, full, minute,
exact, peremptory, show the hand of a master. Every possible
contingency was foreseen and provided for; and he demanded the most
literal obedience to the maxim, "Obey orders, though you break
owners." He would dismiss a captain from his service forever, if he
saved the whole profits of a voyage by departing from his
instructions. He did so on one occasion. Add to this perfect knowledge
of his craft, that he had a self-control which never permitted him to
anticipate his gains or spread too wide his sails; that his industry
knew no pause; that he was a close, hard bargainer, keeping his word
to the letter, but exacting his rights to the letter; that he had no
vices and no vanities; that he had no toleration for those calamities
which result from vices and vanities; that his charities, though
frequent, were bestowed only upon unquestionably legitimate objects,
and were never profuse; that he was as wise in investing as skilful in
gaining money; that he made his very pleasures profitable to himself
in money gained, to his neighborhood in improved fruits and
vegetables; that he had no family to maintain and indulge; that he
held in utter aversion and contempt the costly and burdensome
ostentation of a great establishment, fine equipages, and a retinue of
servants; that he reduced himself to a money-making machine, run at
the minimum of expense;--and we have an explanation of his rapidly
acquired wealth, He used to boast, after he was a millionaire, of
wearing the same overcoat for fourteen winters; and one of his clerks,
who saw him every day for twenty years, declares that he never
remembered having seen him wear a new-looking garment but once. Let us
note, too, that he was an adept in the art of getting men to serve him
with devotion. He paid small salaries, and was never known in his life
to bestow a gratuity upon one who served him; but he knew how to make
his humblest clerk feel that the master's eye was upon him always.
Violent in his outbreaks of anger, his business letters are singularly
polite, and show consideration for the health and happiness of his

Legitimate commerce makes many men rich; but in Girard's day no man
gained by it ten millions of dollars. It was the war of 1812, which
suspended commerce, that made this merchant so enormously rich. In
1811, the charter of the old United States Bank expired; and the
casting-vote of Vice-President George Clinton negatived the bill for
rechartering it. When war was imminent, Girard had a million dollars
in the bank of Baring Brothers in London. This large sum, useless then
for purposes of commerce,--in peril, too, from the disturbed condition
of English finance,--he invested in United States stock and in stock
of the United States Bank, both being depreciated in England. Being
thus a large holder of the stock of the bank, the charter having
expired, and its affairs being in liquidation, he bought out the
entire concern; and, merely changing the name to Girard's Bank,
continued it in being as a private institution, in the same building,
with the same coin in its vaults, the same bank-notes, the same
cashier and clerks. The banking-house and the house of the cashier,
which cost three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, he bought for one
hundred and twenty thousand. The stock, which he bought at four
hundred and twenty, proved to be worth, on the winding up of the old
bank, four hundred and thirty-four. Thus, by this operation, he
extricated his property in England, invested it wisely in America,
established a new business in place of one that could no longer be
carried on, and saved the mercantile community from a considerable
part of the loss and embarrassment which the total annihilation of the
bank would have occasioned.

His management of the bank perfectly illustrates his singular and
apparently contradictory character. Hamilton used to say of Burr, that
he was great in little things, and little in great things. Girard in
little things frequently seemed little, but in great things he was
often magnificently great. For example: the old bank had been
accustomed to present an overcoat to its watchman every Christmas;
Girard forbade the practice as extravagant;--the old bank had supplied
penknives gratis to its clerks; Girard made them buy their own;--the
old bank had paid salaries which were higher than those given in other
banks; Girard cut them down to the average rate. To the watchman and
the clerks this conduct, doubtless, seemed little. Without pausing to
argue the question with them, let us contemplate the new banker in his
great actions. He was the very sheet-anchor of the government credit
during the whole of that disastrous war. If advances were required at
a critical moment, it was Girard who was promptest to make them. When
all other banks and houses were contracting, it was Girard who stayed
the panic by a timely and liberal expansion. When all other paper was
depreciated, Girard's notes, and his alone, were as good as gold. In
1814, when the credit of the government was at its lowest ebb, when a
loan of five millions, at seven per cent interest and twenty dollars
bonus, was up for weeks, and only procured twenty thousand dollars, it
was "old Girard" who boldly subscribed for the whole amount; which at
once gave it market value, and infused life into the paralyzed credit
of the nation. Again, in 1816, when the subscriptions lagged for the
new United States Bank, Girard waited until the last day for receiving
subscriptions, and then quietly subscribed for the whole amount not
taken, which was three million one hundred thousand dollars. And yet
again, in 1829, when the enormous expenditures of Pennsylvania upon
her canals had exhausted her treasury and impaired her credit, it was
Girard who prevented the total suspension of the public works by a
loan to the Governor, which the assembling Legislature might or might
not reimburse.

Once, during the war, the control of the coin in the bank procured him
a signal advantage. In the spring of 1813, his fine ship, the
Montesquieu, crammed with tea and fabrics from China, was captured by
a British shallop when she was almost within Delaware Bay. News of the
disaster reaching Girard, he sent orders to his supercargo to treat
for a ransom. The British admiral gave up the vessel for one hundred
and eighty thousand dollars in coin; and, despite this costly ransom,
the cargo yielded a larger profit than that of any ship of Girard's
during the whole of his mercantile career. Tea was then selling at war
prices. Much of it brought, at auction, two dollars and fourteen cents
a pound, more than four times its cost in China. He appears to have
gained about half a million of dollars.

From the close of the war to the end of his life, a period of sixteen
years, Girard pursued the even tenor of his way, as keen and steady in
the pursuit of wealth, and as careful in preserving it, as though his
fortune were still insecure. Why was this? We should answer the
question thus: Because his defective education left him no other
resource. We frequently hear the "success" of such men as Astor and
Girard adduced as evidence of the uselessness of early education. On
the contrary, it is precisely such men who prove its necessity; since,
when they have conquered fortune, they know not how to avail
themselves of its advantages. When Franklin had, at the age of
forty-two, won a moderate competence, he could turn from business to
science, and from science to the public service, using money as a
means to the noblest ends. Strong-minded but unlettered men, like
Girard, who cannot be idle, must needs plod on to the end, adding
superfluous millions to their estates. In Girard's case, too, there
was another cause of this entire devotion to business. His domestic
sorrows had estranged him from mankind, and driven him into himself.
Mr. Henry W. Arey, the very able and high-minded Secretary of Girard
College, in whose custody are Girard's papers, is convinced that it
was not the love of money which kept him at work early and late to the
last days of his life.

"No one," he remarks,

     "who has had access to his private papers, can fail to
     become impressed with the belief that these early
     disappointments furnish the true key to his entire
     character. Originally of warm and generous impulses, the
     belief in childhood that he had not been given his share of
     the love and kindness which were extended to others changed
     the natural current of his feelings, and, acting on a warm
     and passionate temperament, alienated him from his home, his
     parents, and his friends. And when in after time there were
     super-added the years of bitter anguish resulting from his
     unfortunate and ill-adapted marriage, rendered even more
     poignant by the necessity of concealment, and the consequent
     injustice of public sentiment, and marring all his cherished
     expectations, it may be readily understood why constant
     occupation became a necessity, and labor a pleasure."

Girard himself confirms this opinion. In one of his letters of 1820,
to a friend in New Orleans, he says:--

     "I observe with pleasure that you have a numerous family,
     that you are happy and in the possession of an honest
     fortune. This is all that a wise man has the right to wish
     for. As to myself, I live like a galley-slave, constantly
     occupied, and often passing the night without sleeping. I am
     wrapped up in a labyrinth of affairs, and worn out with
     care. I do not value fortune. The love of labor is my
     highest ambition. You perceive that your situation is a
     thousand times preferable to mine."

In his lifetime, as we have remarked, few men loved Girard, still
fewer understood him. He was considered mean, hard, avaricious. If a
rich man goes into a store to buy a yard of cloth, no one expects that
he will give five dollars for it when the price is four. But there is
a universal impression that it is "handsome" in him to give higher
wages than other people to those who serve him, to bestow gratuities
upon them, and, especially, to give away endless sums in charity. The
truth is, however, that one of the duties which a rich man owes to
society is to be careful _not_ to disturb the law of supply and demand
by giving more money for anything than a fair price, and _not_ to
encourage improvidence and servility by inconsiderate and profuse
gifts. Girard rescued his poor relations in France from want, and
educated nieces and nephews in his own house; but his gifts to them
were not proportioned to his own wealth, but to their circumstances.
His design evidently was to help them as much as would do them good,
but not so much as to injure them as self-sustaining members of
society. And surely it was well for every clerk in his bank to know
that all he had to expect from the rich Girard was only what he would
have received if he had served another bank. The money which in loose
hands might have relaxed the arm of industry and the spirit of
independence, which might have pampered and debased a retinue of
menials, and drawn around the dispenser a crowd of cringing beggars
and expectants, was invested in solid houses, which Girard's books
show yielded him a profit of three per cent, but which furnished to
many families comfortable abodes at moderate rents. To the most
passionate entreaties of failing merchants for a loan to help them
over a crisis, he was inflexibly deaf. They thought it meanness. But
we can safely infer from Girard's letters and conversation that he
thought it an injury to the community to avert from a man of business
the consequences of extravagance and folly, which, in his view, were
the sole causes of failure. If there was anything that Girard utterly
despised and detested, it was that vicious mode of doing business
which, together with extravagant living, causes seven business men in
ten to fail every ten years. We are enabled to state, however, on the
best authority, that he was substantially just to those whom he
employed, and considerately kind to his own kindred. At least he meant
to be kind; he did for them what he really thought was for their good.
To little children, and to them only, he was gracious and affectionate
in manner. He was never so happy as when he had a child to caress and
play with.

After the peace of 1815, Girard began to consider what he should do
with his millions after his death. He was then sixty-five, but he
expected and meant to live to a good age. "The Russians," he would
say, when he was mixing his _olla podrida_ of a Russian salad,
"understand best how to eat and drink; and I am going to see how long,
by following their customs, I can live." He kept an excellent table;
but he became abstemious as he grew older, and lived chiefly on his
salad and his good claret. En-joying perfect health, it was not until
about the year 1828, when he was seventy-eight years of age, that he
entered upon the serious consideration of a plan for the final
disposal of his immense estate. Upon one point his mind had been long
made up. "No man," said he, "shall be a gentleman on _my_ money." He
often, said that, even if he had had a son, he should have been
brought up to labor, and should not, by a great legacy, be exempted
from the necessity of labor. "If I should leave him twenty thousand
dollars," he said, "he would be lazy or turn gambler." Very likely.
The son of a man like Girard, who was virtuous without being able to
make virtue engaging, whose mind was strong but rigid and
ill-furnished, commanding but uninstructive, is likely to have a
barren mind and rampant desires, the twin causes of debauchery. His
decided inclination was to leave the bulk of his property for the
endowment of an institution of some kind for the benefit of
Philadelphia. The only question was, what kind of institution it
should be.

William J. Duane[1] was his legal adviser then,--that honest and
intrepid William J. Duane who, a few years later, stood calmly his
ground on the question of the removal of the deposits against the
infuriate Jackson, the Kitchen Cabinet, and the Democratic party.
Girard felt all the worth of this able and honorable lawyer. With him
alone he conversed upon the projected institution; and Mr. Duane,
without revealing his purpose, made inquiries among his travelled
friends respecting the endowed establishments of foreign countries.
For several months before sitting clown to prepare the will, they
never met without conversing upon this topic, which was also the chief
subject of discourse between them on Sunday afternoons, when Mr. Duane
invariably dined at Mr. Girard's country-house. A home for the
education of orphans was at length decided upon, and then the will was
drawn. For three weeks the lawyer and his client were closeted,
toiling at the multifarious details of that curious document.

The minor bequests were speedily arranged, though they were numerous
and well considered. He left to the Pennsylvania Hospital, thirty
thousand dollars; to the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, twenty thousand; to the
Orphan Asylum, ten thousand; to the Lancaster public schools, the same
sum; the same for providing fuel for the poor in Philadelphia; the
same to the Society for the Relief of Distressed Sea-Captains and
their families; to the Freemasons of Pennsylvania, for the relief of
poor members twenty thousand; six thousand for the establishment of a
free school in Passyunk, near Philadelphia; to his surviving brother,
and to his eleven nieces, he left sums varying from five thousand
dollars to twenty thousand; but to one of his nieces, who had a very
large family, he left sixty thousand dollars. To each of the captains
who had made two voyages in his service, and who should bring his ship
safely into port, he gave fifteen hundred dollars; and to each of his
apprentices, five hundred. To his old servants, he left annuities of
three hundred and five hundred dollars each. A portion of his valuable
estates in Louisiana he bequeathed to the corporation of New Orleans,
for the improvement of that city. Half a million he left for certain
improvements in the city of Philadelphia; and to Pennsylvania, three
hundred thousand dollars for her canals. The whole of the residue of
his property, worth then about six millions of dollars, he devoted to
the construction and endowment of a College for Orphans.

Accustomed all his life to give minute directions to those whom he
selected to execute his designs, he followed the same system in that
part of his will which related to the College. The whole will was
written out three times, and some parts of it more than three. He
strove most earnestly, and so did Mr. Duane, to make every paragraph
so clear that no one could misunderstand it. No candid person,
sincerely desirous to understand his intentions, has ever found it
difficult to do so. He directed that the buildings should be
constructed of the most durable materials, "avoiding useless ornament,
attending chiefly to the strength, convenience, and neatness of the
whole." _That_, at least, is plain. He then proceeded to direct
precisely what materials should be used, and how they should be used;
prescribing the number of buildings, their size, the number and size
of the apartments in each, the thickness of each wall, giving every
detail of construction, as he would have given it to a builder. He
then gave briefer directions as to the management of the institution.
The orphans were to be plainly but wholesomely fed, clothed, and
lodged; instructed in the English branches, in geometry, natural
philosophy, the French and Spanish languages, and whatever else might
be deemed suitable and beneficial to them. "I would have them," says
the will, "taught facts and things, rather than words or signs." At
the conclusion of the course, the pupils were to be apprenticed to
"suitable occupations, as those of agriculture, navigation, arts,
mechanical trades, and manufactures."

The most remarkable passage of the will is the following. The Italics
are those of the original document.

     "I enjoin and require that _no ecclesiastic, missionary, or
     minister of any sect whatsoever, shall ever hold or exercise
     any station or duty whatever in the said College; nor shall
     any such person ever be admitted for any purpose, or as a
     visitor, within the premises appropriated to the purposes of
     the said College_. In making this restriction, I do not mean
     to cast any reflection upon any sect or person whatsoever;
     but as there is such a multitude of sects, and such a
     diversity of opinion amongst them, I desire to keep the
     tender minds of the orphans, who are to derive advantage
     from this bequest, free from the excitement which clashing
     doctrines and sectarian controversy are so apt to produce;
     my desire is, that all the instructors and teachers in the
     College shall take pains to instil into the minds of the
     scholars _the purest principles of morality_, so that, on
     their entrance into active life, they may, _from inclination
     and habit_, evince _benevolence toward their
     fellow-creatures_, and _a love of truth, sobriety, and
     industry_, adopting at the same time such religious tenets
     as their _matured reason_ may enable them to prefer."

When Mr. Duane had written this passage at Girard's dictation, a
conversation occurred between them, which revealed, perhaps, one of
the old gentleman's reasons for inserting it. "What do you think of
that?" asked Girard. Mr. Duane, being unprepared to comment upon such
an unexpected injunction, replied, after a long pause, "I can only say
now, Mr. Girard, that I think it will make a great sensation." Girard
then said, "I can tell you something else it will do,--it will please
the Quakers." He gave another proof of his regard for the Quakers by
naming three of them as the executors of his will; the whole number of
the executors being five.

In February, 1830, the will was executed, and deposited in Mr.
Girard's iron safe. None but the two men who had drawn the will, and
the three men who witnessed the signing of it, were aware of its
existence; and none but Girard and Mr. Duane had the least knowledge
of its contents. There never was such a keeper of his own secrets as
Girard, and never a more faithful keeper of other men's secrets than
Mr. Duane. And here we have another illustration of the old man's
character. He had just signed a will of unexampled liberality to the
public; and the sum which he gave the able and devoted lawyer for his
three weeks' labor in drawing it was three hundred dollars!

Girard lived nearly two years longer, always devoted to business, and
still investing his gains with care. An accident in the street gave a
shock to his constitution, from which he never fully recovered; and in
December, 1831, when he was nearly eighty-two years of age, an attack
of influenza terminated his life. True to his principles, he refused
to be cupped, or to take drugs into his system, though both were
prescribed by a physician whom he respected.

Death having dissolved the powerful spell of a presence which few men
had been able to resist, it was to be seen how far his will would be
obeyed, now that he was no longer able personally to enforce it. The
old man lay dead in his house in Water Street. While the public out of
doors were curious enough to learn what he had done with his money,
there was a smaller number within the house, the kindred of the
deceased, in whom this curiosity raged like a mania. They invaded the
cellars of the house, and, bringing up bottles of the old man's choice
wine, kept up a continual carouse. Surrounding Mr. Duane, who had been
present at Mr. Girard's death, and remained to direct his funeral,
they demanded to know if there was a will. To silence their indecent
clamor, he told them there was, and that he was one of the executors.
On hearing this, their desire to learn its contents rose to fury. In
vain the executors reminded them that decency required that the will
should not be opened till after the funeral. They even threatened
legal proceedings if the will were not immediately produced; and at
length, to avoid a public scandal, the executors consented to have it
read. These affectionate relatives being assembled in a parlor of the
house in which the body of their benefactor lay, the will was taken
from the iron safe by one of the executors.[2]

When he had opened it, and was about to begin to read, he chanced to
look over the top of the document at the company seated before him. No
artist that ever held a brush could depict the passion of curiosity,
the frenzy of expectation, expressed in that group of pallid faces.
Every individual among them expected to leave the apartment the
conscious possessor of millions, for no one had dreamed of the
probability of his leaving the bulk of his estate to the public. If
they had ever heard of his saying that no one should be gentleman upon
his money, they had forgotten or disbelieved it. The opening
paragraphs of the will all tended to confirm their hopes, since the
bequests to existing institutions were of small amount. But the reader
soon reached the part of the will which assigned to ladies and
gentlemen present such trifling sums as five thousand dollars, ten
thousand, twenty thousand; and he arrived erelong at the sections
which disposed of millions for the benefit of great cities and poor
children. Some of them made not the slightest attempt to conceal their
disappointment and disgust. Men were there who had married with a view
to share the wealth of Girard, and had been waiting years for his
death. Women were there who had looked to that event as the beginning
of their enjoyment of life. The imagination of the reader must supply
the details of a scene which we might think dishonored human nature,
if we could believe that human nature was meant to be subjected to
such a strain. It had been better, perhaps, if the rich man, in his
own lifetime, had made his kindred partakers of his superabundance,
especially as he had nothing else that he could share with them. They
attempted, on grounds that seem utterly frivolous, to break the will,
and employed the most eminent counsel to conduct their cause, but
without effect. They did, however, succeed in getting the property
acquired after the execution of the will; which Girard, disregarding
the opinion of Mr. Duane, attempted by a postscript to include in the
will. "It will not stand," said the lawyer. "Yes it will," said
Girard. Mr. Duane, knowing his man, was silent; and the courts have
since decided that his opinion was correct.

Thirty-three years have passed since the city of Philadelphia entered
upon the possession of the enormous and growing estate with which Mr.
Girard intrusted it. It is a question of general interest how the
trust has been administered. No citizen of Philadelphia needs to be
informed, that, in some particulars, the government of their city has
shown little more regard to the manifest will of Girard than his
nephews and nieces did. If he were to revisit the banks of the
Schuylkill, would he recognize, in the splendid Grecian temple that
stands in the centre of the College grounds, the home for poor
orphans, devoid of needless ornament, which he directed should be
built there? It is singular that the very ornaments which Girard
particularly disliked are those which have been employed in the
erection of this temple; namely, pillars. He had such an aversion to
pillars, that he had at one time meditated taking down those which
supported the portico of his bank. Behold his College surrounded with
thirty-four Corinthian columns, six feet in diameter and fifty-nine in
height, of marble, with capitals elaborately carved, each pillar
having cost thirteen thousand dollars, and the whole colonnade four
hundred and forty thousand! And this is the abode of poor little boys,
who will leave the gorgeous scene to labor in shops, and to live in
such apartments as are usually assigned to apprentices!

Now there is probably no community on earth where the number of
honorable men bears a larger proportion to the whole population than
in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a community of honest dealers and
faithful workmen. It is a matter of the highest interest to know how
it could happen that, in such a city, a bequest for such a purpose
should be so monstrously misappropriated.

The magnitude of the bequest was itself one cause of its
misappropriation, and the habits of the country were another. When we
set about founding an institution, our first proceeding is to erect a
vast and imposing edifice. When we pronounce the word College, a
vision of architecture is called up. It was natural, therefore, that
the people of Philadelphia, bewildered by the unprecedented amount of
the donation, should look to see the monotony of their city relieved
by something novel and stupendous in the way of a building; and there
appears to have been no one to remind them that the value of a school
depends wholly upon the teachers who conduct it, provided those
teachers are free to execute their plans. The immediate cause,
however, of the remarkable departure from the will in the construction
of the principal edifice was this: the custody of the Girard estate
fell into the hands of the politicians of the city, who regarded the
patronage appertaining thereunto as part of the "spoils" of victory at
the polls. As we live at a time when honest lovers of their country
frequently meditate on the means of rescuing important public
interests from the control of politicians, we shall not deem a little
of our space ill bestowed in recounting the history of the
preposterous edifice which Girard's money paid for, and which Girard's
will forbade.

On this subject we can avail ourselves of the testimony of the late
Mr. Duane. During his own lifetime he would not permit the following
narrative to be published, though he allowed it to be used as a source
of information. We can now give it in his own words:--

     "In relation to the Girard College, _the whole community of
     Philadelphia, and all political parties in it_, are
     culpable. At the time of Mr. Girard's death there was a
     mixture of Democrats and Federalists in our Councils: the
     former preponderating in number. It is said that of all
     steps the first is the most important, and that the first
     proceeding has either a good or a bad influence in all that
     follow. Now, what was the first step of the Democratic
     Councils, after Mr. Girard's death, in relation to the
     College? Were they satisfied with the plan of it as
     described in his will? Did they scout the project of
     building a palace for poor orphans? Were there no views to
     offices and profits under the trust? As I was in the Select
     Council at the time myself, I can partly answer these
     questions. Instead of considering the plan of a College
     given in the will a good one, the Democratic Councils
     offered rewards to architects for other plans. And as to
     offices, some members of Councils looked forward to them, to
     say nothing of aspirants out of doors.

     "I have ever been a Democrat in principle myself, but not so
     much of a modern one in practice as to pretend that the
     Democratic party are free from blame as to the College. If
     they had been content with Mr. Girard's plain plan, would
     they have called in architects for others?

     "If they had been opposed to pillars and ornaments, why did
     they invite scientific men to prepare pictures and plans
     almost inevitably ornamental? If they had been so careful of
     the trust funds, why did they stimulate the community, by
     presenting to them architectural drawings, to prefer some
     one of them to the simple plan of Girard himself? Besides,
     after they had been removed from power, and saw preparations
     made for a temple surrounded with costly columns, why did
     they not invoke the Democratic Legislature to arrest that
     proceeding? If they at any time whatever did make such an
     appeal, I have no recollection of it. For party effect, much
     may have been said and done on an election day, but I am not
     aware that otherwise any resistance was made. No doubt there
     were many good men in the Democratic party in 1831-2, and
     there always have been many good men in it; but I doubt
     whether those who made the most noise about the College on
     election days were either the best Democrats or the best
     men. The leaders, as they are called, were just as factious
     as the leaders of their opponents. _The struggle of both for
     the Girard Fund was mainly with a view to party influence._
     How much at variance with Mr. Girard's wishes this course
     was, may readily be shown.

     "Immediately after his death in 1831, his will was published
     in the newspapers, in almanacs, and in other shapes likely
     to make its contents universally known. In it he said: 'In
     relation to the organization of the College and its
     appurtenances, I leave necessarily many details to the
     mayor, aldermen, and citizens of Philadelphia, and their
     successors; and I do so with the more confidence, as, from
     the nature of my bequests and the benefit to result from
     them, I trust that my fellow-citizens will observe and
     evince especial care and anxiety in selecting members for
     their City Councils and other agents,'

     "What appeal could have been more emphatic than this? How
     could the testator have more delicately, but clearly,
     indicated his anxiety that his estate should be regarded as
     a sacred provision for poor orphans, and not 'spoils' for
     trading politicians?

     "In this city, however, as almost everywhere else, to the
     public discredit and injury, our social affairs had been
     long mingled with the party questions of the Republic. At
     each rise or fall of one or the other party, the 'spoils'
     were greedily sought for. Even scavengers, unless of the
     victorious party, were deemed unworthy to sweep our streets.
     Mr. Girard's estate, therefore, very soon became an object
     of desire with each party, in order to increase its strength
     and favor its adherents. Instead of selecting for the
     Councils the best men of the whole community, as Mr. Girard
     evidently desired, the citizens of Philadelphia persisted in
     preserving factious distinctions, and in October, 1832, the
     Federal candidates prevailed.

     "The triumphant party soon manifested a sense of their newly
     acquired power. Without making any trial whatever of the
     efficiency of the rules prepared by their predecessors for
     the management of the Girard trusts, they at once abolished
     them; and there were various other analogous evidences of

     "Without asserting that party passions actuated them,
     certain it is, that those who were now in power placed none
     of Mr. Girard's intimate friends in any position where they
     could aid in carrying out his views. No serious application
     was ever made, to my knowledge, to one of them for
     explanation on any point deemed doubtful. On the contrary,
     objections made by myself and others to the erection of a
     gorgeous temple, instead of a plain building for orphans,
     were utterly disregarded.

     "A majority of the citizens of Philadelphia as a political
     class, and not a majority, as a social community, as
     trustees of a fund for orphans, having thus got entire
     control of the Girard estate, they turned their attention to
     the plans of a College collected by their Democratic
     predecessors. Neither of the parties appears to have
     originally considered whether the plan described in the will
     ought not to be followed, if that could be done practically.
     The main desire of both so far seems to have been to build
     in the vicinity of this city a more magnificent edifice than
     any other in the Union.

     "At this time, Mr. Nicholas Biddle was in the zenith of his
     power. Hundreds of persons, who at the present day find
     fault with him, were then his worshippers. He could command
     any post which he was willing to fill. I do not pretend that
     he sought any post, 'but it suited his inclinations to be at
     the head of those who were intrusted by Councils with the
     construction of the College. Over his colleagues in this, as
     in another memorable instance, he seems to have had an
     absolute control. The architect, also, whose plan had been
     preferred, appears to have considered himself bound to adapt
     it to Mr. Biddle's conceptions of true excellence. And you
     now behold the result,--a splendid temple in an unfinished
     state, instead of the unostentatious edifice contemplated by
     Mr. Girard.

     "Is all this surprising V Why should Democrats think it so?
     It was by them that plans and pictures of architects were
     called for. Why should their opponents be astonished? It was
     by them that a _carte blanche_ seems to have been given to
     Mr. Biddle in relation to the plans and the College. Is Mr.
     Biddle culpable? Is there no excuse for one so strongly
     tempted as he was, not merely to produce a splendid edifice,
     but to connect his name, in some measure, with that of its
     founder? While I am not an apologist for Mr. Biddle, I am
     not willing to cast blame upon him alone for the waste of
     time and money that we have witnessed. As a classical
     scholar, a man of taste, and a traveller abroad, it was not
     unnatural that he should desire to see near his native city
     the most magnificent edifice in North America. Having all
     the pride and sense of power which adulation is calculated
     to produce, the plain house described in his will may have
     appeared to him a profanation of all that is beautiful in
     architecture, and an outrage at once against all the Grecian
     orders. In short, the will of Mr. Girard to the contrary,
     Mr. Biddle, like another distinguished person, may have
     said, 'I take the responsibility.'"

     "It is true that this responsibility was a serious one, but
     less so to Mr. Biddle than to the City Councils. They were
     the trustees, and ought to have considered Mr. Girard's will
     as law to them. They should have counted the cost of
     departing from it. They ought to have reflected that by
     departing from it many orphans would be excluded from the
     benefits of education. They should have considered whether a
     Grecian temple would be such a place as poor orphans
     destined to labor ought to be reared in. The Councils of
     1832-3, therefore, have no apology to offer. But Mr. Biddle
     may well say to all our parties: 'You are all more in fault
     than I am. You Democrats gave rewards for plans. You
     Federalists submitted those plans to me, and I pointed out
     the one I thought the best, making improvements upon it. A
     very few persons, Mr. Ronaldson, Mr. Duane, and one or two
     others alone objected; while the majority of my
     fellow-citizens, the Councils, and the Legislature, all
     looked on at what I was doing, and were silent.'"

While erecting an edifice the most opposite to Girard's intentions
that could be contrived by man, the architect was permitted to follow
the directions of the will in minor particulars, that rendered the
building as inconvenient as it was magnificent. The vaulted ceilings
of those spacious rooms reverberated to such a degree, that not a
class could say its lesson in them till they were hung with cotton
cloth. The massive walls exuded dampness continually. The rooms of the
uppermost story, lighted only from above, were so hot in the summer as
to be useless; and the lower rooms were so cold in winter as to
endanger the health of the inmates. It has required ingenuity and
expense to render the main building habitable; but even now the
visitor cannot but smile as he compares the splendor of the
architecture with the homely benevolence of its purpose. The Parthenon
was a suitable dwelling-place for a marble goddess, but the mothers of
Athens would have shuddered at the thought of consigning their little
boys to dwell in its chilling grandeurs.

We can scarcely overstate the bad effect of this first mistake. It has
constantly tended to obscure Mr. Girard's real purpose, which was to
afford a plain, comfortable home, and a plain, substantial education
to poor orphans, destined to gain their livelihood by labor. Always
there have been two parties in the Board of Directors: one favoring a
scheme which would make the College a _college_; the other striving to
keep it down to the modest level of the founder's intentions. That
huge and dazzling edifice seems always to have been exerting a
powerful influence against the stricter constructionists of the will.
It is only within the last two years that this silent but ponderous
argument has been partially overcome by the resolute good-sense of a
majority of the Directors. Not the least evil consequent upon the
erection of this building was, that the delay in opening the College
caused the resignation of its first President, Alexander D. Bache, a
gentleman who had it in him to organize the institution aright, and
give it a fair start. It is a curious fact, that the extensive report
by this gentleman of his year's observation of the orphan schools of
Europe has not been of any practical use in the organization of Girard
College. Either the Directors have not consulted it, or they have
found nothing in it available for their purpose.

The first class of one hundred pupils was admitted to the College on
the first day of the year 1848. The number of inmates is now six
hundred. The estate will probably enable the Directors to admit at
length as many as fifteen hundred. It will be seen, therefore, that
Girard College, merely from the number of its pupils, is an
institution of great importance.

Sixteen years have gone by since the College was opened, but it cannot
yet be said that the policy of the Directors is fixed. These
Directors, appointed by the City Councils, are eighteen in number, of
whom six go out of office every year, while the Councils themselves
are annually elected. Hence the difficulty of settling upon a plan,
and the greater difficulty of adhering to one. Sometimes a majority
has favored the introduction of Latin or Greek; again, the
manual-labor system has had advocates; some have desired a liberal
scale of living for the pupils; others have thought it best to give
them Spartan fare. Four times the President has been changed, and
there have been two periods of considerable length when there was no
President. There have been dissensions without and trouble within. As
many as forty-four boys have run away in a single year. Meanwhile, the
Annual Reports of the Directors have usually been so vague and so
reticent, that the public was left utterly in the dark as to the
condition of the institution. Letters from masters to whom pupils have
been apprenticed were published in the Reports, but only the letters
which had nothing but good to say of the apprentices. Large numbers of
the boys, it is true, have done and are doing credit to the College;
but the public have no means of judging whether, upon the whole, the
training of the College has been successful.

Nevertheless, we believe we may say with truth that invaluable
experience has been gained, and genuine progress has been made. To
maintain and educate six hundred boys, even if those boys had
enlightened parents to aid in the work, is a task which would exhaust
the wisdom and the tact of the greatest educator that ever lived. But
these boys are all fatherless, and many of them motherless; the
mothers of many are ignorant and unwise, of some are even vicious and
dissolute. A large number of the boys are of very inferior endowments,
have acquired bad habits, have inherited evil tendencies. It would be
hard to overstate the difficulty of the work which the will of Girard
has devolved upon the Directors and teachers of Girard College.
Mistakes have been made, but perhaps they have not been more serious
or more numerous than we ought to expect in the forming of an
institution absolutely unique, and composed of material the most

There are indications, too, that the period of experiment draws to an
end, and that the final plan of the College, on the basis of
common-sense, is about to be settled. Mr. Richard Vaux, the present
head of the Board of Directors, writes Reports in a style most
eccentric, and not always intelligible to remote readers; but it is
evident that his heart is in the work, and that he belongs to the
party who desire the College to be the useful, unambitious institution
that Girard wished it to be. His Reports are not written with
rose-water. They say _something_. They confess some failures, as well
as vaunt some successes. We would earnestly advise the Directors never
to shrink from taking the public into their confidence. The public is
wiser and better than any man or any board. A plain statement every
year of the real condition of the College, the real difficulties in
the way of its organization, would have been far better than the
carefully uttered nothings of which the Annual Reports have generally
consisted. It was to Philadelphia that Girard left his estate. The
honor of Philadelphia is involved in its faithful administration.
Philadelphia has a right to know how it is administered.

The President of the College is Major Richard Somers Smith, a graduate
of West Point, where he was afterwards a Professor. He has served with
distinction in the Army of the Potomac, in which he commanded a
brigade. To learn how to be an efficient President of Girard College
is itself a labor of years; and Major Smith is only in the second year
of his incumbency. The highest hopes are indulged, however, that under
his energetic rule, the College will become all that the public ought
to expect. He seems to have perceived at once the weak point of the

"I find in the College," he says in one of his monthly reports,

     "a certain degree of impatience of study, an inertness, a
     dragging along, an infection of 'young-Americanism,' a
     disposition to flounder along through duties half done,
     hurrying to reach--what is never attained--an 'easy
     success'; and I observe that this state of things is
     confined to the higher departments of study. In the
     elementary departments there is life; but as soon as the boy
     has acquired the rudiments of his English or common-school
     education, he begins to chafe, and to feel that it Is time
     for him to _go out_, and to make haste to 'finish (!) his
     studies,'--which of course he does without much heart."

And again:---

     "The 'poor white male orphan,' dwelling for eight or ten
     years in comfort almost amounting to luxury, waited upon by
     servants and machinery in nearly all his domestic
     requirements, unused to labor, or laboring only
     occasionally, with some reward in view in the form of extra
     privileges, finds it hard to descend from his fancied
     elevation to the lot of a simple apprentice; and his
     disappointment is not soothed by the discovery that with all
     his learning he has not learned wherewithal to give ready
     satisfaction to his master."

It has been difficult, also, to induce the large manufacturers to take
apprentices; they are now accustomed to place boys at once upon the
footing of men, paying them such wages as they are worth. Men who
employ forty boys will not generally undertake the responsibilities
involved in receiving them as bound apprentices for a term of years.

To remedy all these evils, Major Smith proposes to add to the College
a Manual Labor Department, in which the elder boys shall acquire the
rudiments of the arts and trades to which they are destined. This will
alleviate the tedium of the College routine, assist the physical
development of the boys, and send them forth prepared to render more
desirable help to their employers. The present Board of Directors
favor the scheme.

In one particular the College has fulfilled the wishes of its founder.
He said in his will,

     "I desire that by every proper means, a pure attachment to
     our republican institutions, and to the sacred rights of
     conscience, as guaranteed by our happy Constitution, shall
     be formed and fostered in the minds of the scholars."

Three fourths of the whole number of young men, out of their time, who
were apprenticed from Girard College, have joined the Union army. We
must confess, also, that a considerable number of its apprentices,
_not_ out of their time, have run away for the same purpose. With
regard to the exclusion of ecclesiastics, it is agreed on all hands
that no evil has resulted from that singular injunction of the will.
On the contrary, it has served to call particular attention to the
religious instruction of the pupils. The only effect of the clause is,
that the morning prayers and the Sunday services are conducted by
gentlemen who have not undergone the ceremony of ordination.

The income of the Girard estate is now about two hundred thousand
dollars a year, and it is increasing. Supposing that only one half of
this revenue is appropriated to the College, it is still, we believe,
the largest endowment in the country for an educational purpose. The
means of the College are therefore ample. To make those means
effective in the highest degree, some mode must be devised by which
the politics of the city shall cease to influence the choice of
Directors. In other words, "Girard College must be taken out of
politics." The Board of Directors should, perhaps, be a more permanent
body than it now is. At the earliest possible moment a scheme of
instruction should be agreed upon, which should remain unchanged, in
its leading features, long enough for it to be judged by its results.
The President must be clothed with ample powers, and held responsible,
not for methods, but results. He must be allowed, at least, to
nominate all his assistants, and to recommend the removal of any for
reasons given; and both his nominations and his recommendations of
removal, so long as the Directors desire to retain his services,
should be ratified by them. He must be made to feel strong in his
place; otherwise, he will be tempted to waste his strength upon the
management of committees, and general whitewashing. Human nature is so
constituted, that a gentleman with a large family will not willingly
give up an income of three thousand dollars a year, with lodging in a
marble palace. If he is a strong man and an honorable, he will do it,
rather than fill a post the duties of which an ignorant or officious
committee prevent his discharging. If he is a weak or dishonest man,
he will cringe to that committee, and expend all his ingenuity in
making the College show well on public days. It might even be well, in
order to strengthen the President, to give him the right of appeal to
the Mayor and Councils, in case of an irreconcilable difference of
opinion between him and the Directors. Everything depends upon the
President. Given the right President, with power enough and time
enough, and the success of the College is assured. Given a bad
President, or a good one hampered by committees, or too dependent upon
a board, and the College will be the reproach of Philadelphia.

It is a question with political economists, whether, upon the whole,
such endowments as this are a good or an evil to a community. There is
now a considerable party in England, among whom are several clergymen
of the Established Church, who think it would be better for England if
every endowment were swept away, and thus to each succeeding
generation were restored the privilege of supporting all its poor,
caring for all its sick, and educating all its young. Dr. Chalmers
appears to have been inclined to an opinion like this. It will be
long, however, before this question becomes vital in America. Girard
College must continue for generations to weigh heavily on
Philadelphia, or to lighten its burdens. The conduct of those who have
charge of it in its infancy will go far to determine whether it shall
be an argument for or against the utility of endowments. Meanwhile, we
advise gentlemen who have millions to leave behind them not to impose
difficult conditions upon the future, which the future may be unable
or unwilling to fulfil; but either to bestow their wealth for some
object that can be immediately and easily accomplished, or else
imitate the conduct of that respectable and public-spirited man who
left five pounds towards the discharge of his country's debt.

[Footnote 1: The facts which follow I received from the lips and from
the papers of this revered man, now no more.--J.P.]

[Footnote 2: Mr. Duane.]


A few years ago it seemed probable that the people of the United
States would be supplied with news chiefly through the agency of
newspapers published in the city of New York. We were threatened with
a paper despotism similar to that formerly exercised in Great Britain
by the London Times; since, when one city furnishes a country with
newspapers, one newspaper is sure, at length, to gain such a
predominance over others that its proprietor, if he is equal to his
position, wields a power greater than ought to be intrusted to an
individual. There have been periods when the director of the London
Times appeared to be as truly the monarch of Great Britain as Henry
VIII. once was, or as William Pitt during the Seven Years' War. It
was, we believe, the opinion of the late Mr. Cobden, which Mr.
Kinglake confirms, that the editor of the London Times could have
prevented the Crimean War. Certainly he conducted it. Demosthenes did
not more truly direct the resources of Athens against Philip, than did
this invisible and anonymous being those of the British Empire against
Russia. The first John Walter, who was to journalism what James Watt
was to the steam-engine, had given this man daily access to the ear of
England; and to that ear he addressed, not the effusions of his own
mind, but the whole purchasable eloquence of his country. He had
relays of Demosthenes. The man controlling such a press, and fit to
control it, can bring the available and practised intellect of his
country to bear upon the passions of his countrymen; for it is a fact,
that nearly the whole literary talent of a nation is at the command of
any honorable man who has money enough, with tact enough. The editor
who expends fifty guineas a day in the purchase of three short essays
can have them written by the men who can do them best. What a power is
this, to say three things every morning to a whole nation,--to say
them with all the force which genius, knowledge, and practice united
can give,--and to say them without audible contradiction! Fortunate
for England is it that this power is no longer concentrated in a
single man, and that the mighty influence once wielded by an
individual will henceforth be exerted by a profession.

We in America have escaped all danger of ever falling under the
dominion of a paper despot. There will never be a Times in America.
Twenty years ago the New York news and the New York newspaper reached
distant cities at the same moment; but since the introduction of the
telegraph, the news outstrips the newspaper, and is given to the
public by the local press. It is this fact which forever limits the
circulation and national importance of the New York press. The New
York papers reach a village in Vermont late in the afternoon,--six,
eight, ten hours after a carrier has distributed the Springfield
Republican; and nine people in ten will be content with the brief
telegrams of the local centre. At Chicago, the New York paper is forty
hours behind the news; at San Francisco, thirty days; in Oregon,
forty. Before California had been reached by the telegraph, the New
York newspapers, on the arrival of a steamer, were sought with an
avidity of which the most ludicrous accounts have been given. If the
news was important and the supply of papers inadequate, nothing was
more common than for a lucky newsboy to dispose of his last sheets at
five times their usual price. All this has changed. A spirited local
press has anticipated the substance of the news, and most people wait
tranquilly for the same local press to spread before them the
particulars when the tardy mail arrives. Even the weekly and
semi-weekly editions issued by the New York daily press have probably
reached their maximum of importance; since the local daily press also
publishes weekly and semi-weekly papers, many of which are of high
excellence and are always improving, and have the additional
attraction of full local intelligence. If some bold Yankee should
invent a method by which a bundle of newspapers could be shot from New
York to Chicago in half an hour, it would certainly enhance the
importance of the New York papers, and diminish that of the rapidly
expanding and able press of Chicago. Such an invention is possible;
nay, we think it a probability. But even in that case, the local news,
and, above all, the local advertising, would still remain as the basis
of a great, lucrative, honorable, and very attractive business.

We believe, however, that if the local press were annihilated, and
this whole nation lived dependent upon the press of a single city,
still we should be safe from a paper despotism; because the power of
the editorial lessens as the intelligence of the people in-creases.
The prestige of the editorial is gone. Just as there is a party in
England who propose the omission of the sermon from the church service
as something no longer needed by the people, so there are journalists
who think the time is at hand for the abolition of editorials, and the
concentration of the whole force of journalism upon presenting to the
public the history and picture of the day. The time for this has not
come, and may never come; but our journalists already know that
editorials neither make nor mar a daily paper, that they do not much
influence the public mind, nor change many votes, and that the power
and success of a newspaper depend finally upon its success in getting
and its skill in exhibiting the news. The word _newspaper_ is the
exact and complete description of the thing which the true journalist
aims to produce. The news is his work; editorials are his play. The
news is the point of rivalry; it is that for which nineteen twentieths
of the people buy newspapers; it is that which constitutes the power
and value of the daily press; it is that which determines the rank of
every newspaper in every free country.

No editor, therefore, will ever reign over the United States, and the
newspapers of no one city will attain universal currency. Hence the
importance of journalism in the United States. By the time a town has
ten thousand inhabitants, it usually has a daily paper, and in most
large cities there is a daily paper for every twenty thousand people.
In many of the Western cities there are daily newspapers conducted
with great energy, and on a scale of expenditure which enables them to
approximate real excellence. Many of our readers will live to see the
day when there will be in Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, Cincinnati,
and San Francisco daily newspapers more complete, better executed, and
produced at greater expense than any newspaper now existing in the
United States. This is a great deal to say, in view of the fact, that,
during the late war, one of the New York papers expended in war
correspondence alone two thousand dollars a week. Nevertheless, we
believe it. There will never be _two_ newspapers in any one city that
can sustain such an expenditure, but in fifteen years from, to-day
there will be one, we think, in each of our great cities, and besides
that one there will be four or five struggling to supplant it, as well
as one or two having humbler aims and content with a lowlier position.

It is plain that journalism will henceforth and forever be an
important and crowded profession in the United States. The daily
newspaper is one of those things which are rooted in the necessities
of modern civilization. The steam-engine is not more essential to us.
The newspaper is that which connects each individual with the general
life of mankind, and makes him part and parcel of the whole; so that
we can almost say, that those who neither read newspapers nor converse
with people who do read them are not members of the human
_family_;--though, like the negroes of Guinea, they may become such in
time. They are beyond the pale; they have no hold of the electric
chain, and therefore do not receive the shock.

There are two mornings of the year on which newspapers have not
hitherto been published in the city of New York,--the 5th of July, and
the 2d of January. A shadow appears to rest on the world during those
days, as when there is an eclipse of the sun. We are separated from
our brethren, cut off, lost, alone; vague apprehensions of evil creep
over the mind. We feel, in some degree, as husbands feel who, far from
wife and children, say to themselves, shuddering, "What things _may_
have happened, and I not know it!" Nothing quite dispels the gloom
until the Evening Post--how eagerly seized--assures us that nothing
very particular has happened since our last. It is amusing to notice
how universal is the habit of reading a morning paper. Hundreds of
vehicles and vessels convey the business men of New York to that
extremity of Manhattan Island-which may be regarded as the
counting-house of the Western Continent. It is not uncommon for every
individual in a cabin two hundred feet long to be sitting absorbed in
his paper, like boys conning their lessons on their way to school.
Still more striking is it to observe the torrent of workingmen pouring
down town, many of them reading as they go, and most of them provided
with a newspaper for dinner-time, not less as a matter of course than
the tin kettle which contains the material portion of the repast.
Notice, too, the long line of hackney-coaches on a stand, nearly every
driver sitting on his box reading his paper. Many of our Boston
friends have landed in New York at five o'clock in the morning, and
ridden up town in the street cars, filled, at that hour, with women
and boys, folding newspapers and throwing off bundles of them from
time to time, which are caught by other boys and women in waiting.
Carriers are flitting in every direction, and the town is alive with
the great business of getting two hundred thousand papers distributed
before breakfast.

All this is new, but it is also permanent. Having once had daily
papers, we can never again do without them; so perfectly does this
great invention accord with the genius of modern life. The art of
journalism is doubtless destined to continuous improvement for a long
time to come; the newspapers of the future will be more convenient,
and better in every way, than those of the present day; but the art
remains forever an indispensable auxiliary to civilization. And this
is so, not by virtue of editorial essays, but because journalism
brings the events of the time to bear upon the instruction of the
time. An editorial essayist is a man addressing men; but the skilled
and faithful journalist, recording with exactness and power the thing
that has come to pass, is Providence addressing men. The thing that
has actually happened,--to know that is the beginning of wisdom. All
else is theory and conjecture, which may be right and may be wrong.

While it is true that the daily press of the city of New York is
limited by the telegraph, it has nevertheless a very great, an
unapproached, national importance. We do not consider it certain that
New York is always to remain the chief city of the United States; but
it holds that rank now, and must for many years. Besides being the
source of a great part of our news, it was the first city that
afforded scope for papers conducted at the incredible expense which
modern appliances necessitate. Consequently its daily papers reach the
controlling minds of the country. They are found in all reading-rooms,
exchanges, bank parlors, insurance-offices, counting-rooms, hotels,
and wherever else the ruling men of the country congregate. But, above
all, they are, and must be, in all newspaper offices, subject to the
scissors. This is the chief source of their importance. Not merely
that in this way their contents are communicated to the whole people.
The grand reason why the New York papers have national importance is,
that it is chiefly through them that the art of journalism in the
United States is to be perfected. They set daily copies for all
editors to follow. The expenditure necessary for the carrying on of a
complete daily newspaper is so immense, that the art can only be
improved in the largest cities. New York is first in the field; it has
the start of a quarter of a century or more; and it therefore devolves
upon the journalists of that city to teach the journalists of the
United States their vocation. It is this fact which invests the press
of New York with such importance, and makes it so well worth

It is impossible any longer to deny that the chief newspaper of that
busy city is the New York Herald. No matter how much we may regret
this fact, or be ashamed of it, no journalist can deny it. We do not
attach much importance to the fact that Abraham Lincoln, the late
lamented President of the United States, thought it worth while,
during the dark days of the summer of 1864, to buy its support at the
price of the offer of the French mission. He was mistaken in supposing
that this paper had any considerable power to change votes; which was
shown by the result of the Presidential election in the city of New
York, where General McClellan had the great majority of thirty-seven
thousand. Influence over opinion no paper can have which has itself no
opinion, and cares for none. It is not as a vehicle of opinion that
the Herald has importance, but solely as a vehicle of news. It is for
its excellence, real or supposed, in this particular, that eighty
thousand people buy it every morning. Mr. Lincoln committed, as we
cannot help thinking, a most egregious error and fault in his purchase
of the editor of this paper, though he is in some degree excused by
the fact that several leading Republicans, who were in a position to
know better, advised or sanctioned the bargain, and leading
journalists agreed not to censure it. Mr. Lincoln could not be
expected to draw the distinction, between the journalist and the
writer of editorials. He perceived the strength of this
carrier-pigeon's pinions, but did not note the trivial character of
the message tied to its leg. Thirty or forty war correspondents in the
field, a circulation larger than any of its rivals, an advertising
patronage equalled only by that of the London Times, the popularity of
the paper in the army, the frequent utility of its maps and other
elucidations,--these things imposed upon his mind; and his wife could
tell him from personal observation, that the proprietor of this paper
lived in a style of the most profuse magnificence,--maintaining costly
establishments in town and country, horses, and yachts, to say nothing
of that most expensive appendage to a reigning house, an heir

Our friends in the English press tell us, that the Herald was one of
the principal obstacles in their attempts to guide English opinions
aright during the late struggle. Young men in the press would point to
its editorials and say:

     "This is the principal newspaper in the Northern States;
     this is the Times of America; can a people be other than
     contemptible who prefer such a newspaper as this to journals
     so respectable and so excellent as the Times and Tribune,
     published in the same city?" "As to (American) journalism,"

says Professor Goldwin Smith, "the New York Herald is always kept
before our eyes." That is to say, the editorial articles in the
Herald; not that variety and fulness of intelligence which often
compelled men who hated it most to get up at the dawn of day to buy
it. A paper which can detach two or three men, after a battle, to
collect the names of the killed and wounded, with orders to do only
that, cannot lack purchasers in war time. Napoleon assures us that the
whole art of war consists in having the greatest force at the point of
contact. This rule applies to the art of journalism; the editor of the
Herald knew it, and had the means to put it in practice.

Even here, at home, we find two opinions as to the cause of the
Herald's vast success as a business. One of these opinions is
this,--the Herald takes the lead because it is such a bad paper. The
other opinion is,--the Herald takes the lead because it is such a good
paper. It is highly important to know which of these two opinions is
correct; or, in other words, whether it is the Herald's excellences as
a newspaper, or its crimes as a public teacher, which give it such
general currency. Such success as this paper has obtained is a most
influential fact upon the journalism of the whole country, as any one
can see who looks over a file of our most flourishing daily papers. It
is evident that our daily press is rapidly becoming Heraldized; and it
is well known that the tendency of imitation is to reproduce all of
the copy excepting alone that which made it worth copying. It is
honorable to the American press that this rule has been reversed in
the present instance. Some of the more obvious good points of the
Herald have become universal, while as yet no creature has been found
capable of copying the worst of its errors.

If there are ten bakers in a town, the one that gives the best loaf
for sixpence is sure, at last, to sell most bread. A man may puff up
his loaves to a great size, by chemical agents, and so deceive the
public for a time; another may catch the crowd for a time by the
splendor of his gilt sheaf, the magnitude of his signs, and the
bluster of his advertising; and the intrinsically best baker may be
kept down, for a time, by want of tact, or capital, or some personal
defect. But let the competition last thirty years! The gilt sheaf
fades, the cavities in the big loaf are observed; but the ugly little
man round the corner comes steadily into favor, and all the town, at
length, is noisy in the morning with the rattle of his carts. The
particular caterer for our morning repast, now under consideration,
has achieved a success of this kind, against every possible obstacle,
and under every possible disadvantage. He had no friends at the start,
he has made none since, and he has none now. He has had the support of
no party or sect. On the contrary, he has won his object in spite of
the active opposition of almost every organized body in the country,
and the fixed disapproval of every public-spirited human being who has
lived in the United States since he began his career. What are we to
say of this? Are we to say that the people of the United States are
competent to judge of bread, but not of newspapers? Are we to say that
the people of the United States prefer evil to good? We cannot assent
to such propositions.

Let us go back to the beginning, and see how this man made his way to
his present unique position. We owe his presence in this country, it
seems, to Benjamin Franklin; and he first smelt printer's ink in
Boston, near the spot where young Ben Franklin blackened his fingers
with it a hundred years before. Born and reared on the northeastern
coast of Scotland, in a Roman Catholic family of French origin, he has
a French intellect and Scotch habits. Frenchmen residing among us can
seldom understand why this man should be odious, so French is he. A
French naval officer was once remonstrated with for having invited him
to a ball given on board a ship of war in New York harbor. "Why, what
has he done?" inquired the officer. "Has he committed murder? Has he
robbed, forged, or run away with somebody's wife?" "No." "Why then
should we not invite him?" "He is the editor of the New York Herald."
"Ah!" exclaimed the Frenchman,--"the Herald! it is a delightful
paper,--it reminds me of my gay Paris." This, however, was thirty
years ago, when Bennett was almost as French as Voltaire. He was a
Frenchman also in this: though discarding, in his youth, the doctrines
of his Church, and laughing them to scorn in early manhood, he still
maintained a kind of connection with the Catholic religion. The whole
of his power as a writer consists in his detection of the evil in
things that are good, and of the falsehood in things that are true,
and of the ridiculous in things that are important. He began with the
Roman Catholic Church,--"the holy Roman Catholic Church," as he once
styled it,--adding in a parenthesis, "all of us Catholics are devilish
holy." Another French indication is, that his early tastes were
romantic literature _and_ political economy,--a conjunction very
common in France from the days of the "philosophers" to the present
time. During our times of financial collapse, we have noticed, among
the nonsense which he daily poured forth, some gleams of a superior
understanding of the fundamental laws of finance. He appears to have
understood 1837 and 1857 better than most of his contemporaries.

In a Catholic seminary he acquired the rudiments of knowledge, and
advanced so far as to read Virgil. He also picked up a little French
and Spanish in early life. The real instructors of his mind were
Napoleon, Byron, and Scott. It was their fame, however, as much as
their works, that attracted and dazzled him. It is a strange thing,
but true, that one of the strongest desires of one of the least
reputable of living men was, and is, to be admired and held in lasting
honor by his fellow-men. Nor has he now the least doubt that he
deserves their admiration, and will have it. In 1817, an edition of
Franklin's Autobiography was issued in Scotland. It was his perusal of
that little book that first directed his thoughts toward America, and
which finally decided him to try his fortune in the New World. In May,
1819, being then about twenty years of age, he landed at Halifax, with
less than five pounds in his purse, without a friend on the Western
Continent, and knowing no vocation except that of book-keeper.

Between his landing at Halifax and the appearance of the first number
of the Herald sixteen years elapsed; during most of which he was a
very poor, laborious, under-valued, roving writer for the daily press.
At Halifax, he gave lessons in book-keeping for a few weeks, with
little profit, then made his way along the coast to Portland, whence a
schooner conveyed him to Boston. He was then, it appears, a soft,
romantic youth, alive to the historic associations of the place, and
susceptible to the varied, enchanting loveliness of the scenes
adjacent, on land and sea. He even expressed his feelings in verse, in
the Childe Harold manner,--verse which does really show a poetic habit
of feeling, with an occasional happiness of expression. At Boston he
experienced the last extremity of want. Friendless and alone he
wandered about the streets, seeking work and finding none; until, his
small store of money being all expended, he passed two whole days
without food, and was then only relieved by finding a shilling on the
Common. He obtained at length the place of salesman in a bookstore,
from which he was soon transferred to the printing-house connected
therewith, where he performed the duties of proof-reader. And here it
was that he received his first lesson in the art of catering for the
public mind. The firm in whose employment he was were more ambitious
of glory than covetous of profit, and consequently published many
works that were in advance of the general taste. Bankruptcy was their
reward. The youth noted another circumstance at Boston. The newspaper
most decried was Buckingham's Galaxy; but it was also the most eagerly
sought and the most extensively sold. Buckingham habitually violated
the traditional and established decorums of the press; he was
familiar, chatty, saucy, anecdotical, and sadly wanting in respect for
the respectabilities of the most respectable town in the universe.
Every one said that he was a very bad man, _but_ every one was
exceedingly curious every Saturday to see "what the fellow had to say
this week." If the youth could have obtained a sight of a file of
James Franklin's Courant, of 1722, in which the youthful Benjamin
first addressed the public, he would have seen a still more striking
example of a journal generally denounced and universally read.

Two years in Boston. Then he went to New York, where he soon met the
publisher of a Charleston paper, who engaged him as translator from
the Spanish, and general assistant. During the year spent by him at
Charleston he increased his knowledge of the journalist's art. The
editor of the paper with which he was connected kept a sail-boat, in
which he was accustomed to meet arriving vessels many miles from the
coast, and bring in his files of newspapers a day in advance of his
rivals. The young assistant remembered this, and turned it to account
in after years. At Charleston he was confronted, too, with the late
peculiar institution, and saw much to approve in it, nothing to
condemn. From that day to this he has been but in one thing
consistent,--contempt for the negro and for all white men interested
in his welfare, approving himself in this a thorough Celt. If, for one
brief period, he forced himself, for personal reasons, to veil this
feeling, the feeling remained rooted within him, and soon resumed its
wonted expression. He liked the South, and the people of the South,
and had a true Celtic sympathy with their aristocratic pretensions.
The salary of an assistant editor at that time was something between
the wages of a compositor and those of an office-boy. Seven dollars a
week would have been considered rather liberal pay; ten, munificent;
fifteen, lavish.

Returning to New York, he endeavored to find more lucrative
employment, and advertised his intention to open, near the site of the
present Herald office, a "Permanent Commercial School," in which all
the usual branches were to be taught "in the inductive method." His
list of subjects was extensive,--"reading, elocution, penmanship, and
arithmetic; algebra, astronomy, history, and geography; moral
philosophy, commercial law, and political economy; English grammar,
and composition; and also, if required, the French and Spanish
languages, by natives of _those countries_." Application was to be
made to "J.G.B., 148 Fulton Street." Applications, however, were not
made in sufficient number, and the school, we believe, never came into
existence. Next, he tried a course of lectures upon Political Economy,
at the old Dutch Church in Ann Street, then not far from the centre of
population. The public did not care to hear the young gentleman upon
that abstruse subject, and the pecuniary result of the enterprise was
not encouraging. He had no resource but the ill-paid, unhonored
drudgery of the press.

For the next few years he was a paragraphist, reporter, scissorer, and
man-of-all-work for the New York papers, daily and weekly, earning but
the merest subsistence. He wrote then in very much the same style as
when he afterwards amused and shocked the town in the infant Herald;
only he was under restraint, being a subordinate, and was seldom
allowed to violate decorum. In point of industry, sustained and
indefatigable industry, he had no equal, and has never since had but
one. One thing is to be specially noted as one of the chief and
indispensable causes of his success. _He had no vices_. He never drank
to excess, nor gormandized, nor gambled, nor even smoked, nor in any
other way wasted the vitality needed for a long and tough grapple with
adverse fortune. What he once wrote of himself in the early Herald was
strictly true:

     "I eat and drink to live,--not live to eat and drink. Social
     glasses of wine are my aversion; public dinners are my
     abomination; all species of gormandizing, my utter scorn and
     contempt. When I am hungry, I eat; when thirsty, drink. Wine
     or viands taken for society, or to stimulate conversation,
     tend only to dissipation, indolence, poverty, contempt, and

This was an immense advantage, which he had in common with several of
the most mischievous men of modern times,--Calhoun, Charles XII.,
George III., and others. Correct bodily habits are of themselves such
a source of power, that the man who has them will be extremely likely
to gain the day over competitors of ten times his general worth who
have them not. Dr. Franklin used to say, that if Jack Wilkes had been
as exemplary in this particular as George III., he would have turned
the king out of his dominions. In several of the higher kinds of
labor, such as law, physic, journalism, authorship, art, when the
competition is close and keen, and many able men are near the summit,
the question, who shall finally stand upon it, often resolves itself
into one of physical endurance. This man Bennett would have lived and
died a hireling scribe, if he had had even one of the common vices.
Everything was against his rising, except alone an enormous capacity
for labor, sustained by strictly correct habits.

He lived much with politicians during these years of laborious
poverty. Gravitating always towards the winning side, he did much to
bring into power the worst set of politicians we ever had,--those who
"availed" themselves of the popularity of Andrew Jackson, and who were
afterwards used by him for the purpose of electing Martin Van Buren.
He became perfectly familiar with all that was petty and mean in the
political strifes of the day, but without ever suspecting that there
was anything in politics not petty and mean. He had no convictions of
his own, and therefore not the least belief that any politician had.
If the people were in earnest about the affairs of their country,
(_their_ country, not his,) it was because the people were not behind
the scenes, were dupes of their party leaders, were a parcel of fools.
In short, he acquired his insight into political craft in the school
of Tammany Hall and the Kitchen Cabinet. His value was not altogether
unappreciated by the politicians. He was one of those whom they use
and flatter during the heat of the contest, and forget in the
distribution of the spoils of victory.

He made his first considerable hit as a journalist in the spring of
1828, when he filled the place of Washington correspondent to the New
York Enquirer. In the Congressional Library, one day, he found an
edition of Horace Walpole's Letters, which amused him very much. "Why
not," said he to himself, "try, a few letters on a similar plan from
this city, to be published in New York?" The letters appeared. Written
in a lively manner, full of personal allusions, and describing
individuals respecting whom the public are always curious,--free also
from offensive personalities,--the letters attracted much notice
and were generally copied in the press. It is said that some of the
ladies whose charms were described in those letters were indebted to
them for husbands. Personalities of this kind were a novelty then,
and mere novelty goes a great way in journalism. At this period
he produced almost every kind of composition known to periodical
literature,--paragraphs and leading articles, poetry and love-stories,
reports of trials, debates, balls, and police cases; his earnings
ranging from five dollars a week to ten or twelve. If there had been
then in New York one newspaper publisher who understood his business,
the immense possible value of this man as a journalist would have been
perceived, and he would have been secured, rewarded, and kept under
some restraint. But there was no such man. There were three or four
forcible writers for the press, but not one journalist.

During the great days of "The Courier and Inquirer," from 1829 to
1832, when it was incomparably the best newspaper on the continent,
James Gordon Bennett was its most efficient hand. It lost him in 1832,
when the paper abandoned General Jackson and took up Nicholas Biddle;
and in losing him lost its chance of retaining the supremacy among
American newspapers to this day. We can truly say, that at that time
journalism, as a thing by itself and for itself, had no existence in
the United States. Newspapers were mere appendages of party; and the
darling object of each journal was to be recognized as the organ of
the party it supported. As to the public, the great public, hungry for
interesting news, no one thought of it. Forty years ago, in the city
of New York, a copy of a newspaper could not be bought for money. If
any one wished to see a newspaper, he had either to go to the office
and subscribe, or repair to a bar-room and buy a glass of something to
drink, or bribe a carrier to rob one of his customers. The circulation
of the Courier and Inquirer was considered something marvellous when
it printed thirty-five hundred copies a day, and its business was
thought immense when its daily advertising averaged fifty-five
dollars. It is not very unusual for a newspaper now to receive for
advertising, in one day, six hundred times that sum. Bennett, in the
course of time, had a chance been given to him, would have made the
Courier and Inquirer powerful enough to cast off all party ties; and
this he would have done merely by improving it as a vehicle of news.
But he was kept down upon one of those ridiculous, tantalizing,
corrupting salaries, which are a little more than a single man needs,
but not enough for him to marry upon. This salary was increased by the
proprietors giving him a small share in the small profits of the
printing-office; so that, after fourteen years of hard labor and
Scotch economy, he found himself, on leaving the great paper, a
capitalist to the extent of a few hundred dollars. The chief editor of
the paper which he now abandoned sometimes lost as much in a single
evening at the card-table. It probably never occurred to him that this
poor, ill-favored Scotchman was destined to destroy his paper and all
the class of papers to which it belonged. Any one who now examines a
file of the Courier and Inquirer of that time, and knows its interior
circumstances, will see plainly enough that the possession of this man
was the vital element in its prosperity. He alone knew the rudiments
of his trade. He alone had the physical stamina, the indefatigable
industry, the sleepless vigilance, the dexterity, tact, and audacity,
needful for keeping up a daily newspaper in the face of keen

Unweaned yet from the politicians, he at once started a cheap party
paper, "The Globe," devoted to Jackson and Van Buren. The party,
however, did not rally to its support, and it had to contend with the
opposition of party papers already existing, upon whose manor it was
poaching. The Globe expired after an existence of thirty days. Its
proprietor, still untaught by such long experience, invested the wreck
of his capital in a Philadelphia Jackson paper, and struggled
desperately to gain for it a footing in the party. He said to Mr. Van
Buren and to other leaders, Help me to a loan of twenty-five hundred
dollars for two years, and I can establish my Pennsylvanian on a
self-supporting basis. The application was politely refused, and he
was compelled to give up the struggle. The truth is, he was not
implicitly trusted by the Jackson party. They admitted the services he
had rendered; but, at the same time, they were a little afraid of the
vein of mockery that broke out so frequently in his writings. He was
restive in harness. He was devoted to the party, but he was under no
party illusions. He was fighting in the ranks as an adventurer or
soldier of fortune. He fought well; but would it do to promote a man
to high rank who knew the game so well, and upon whom no man could get
any _hold_? To him, in his secret soul, Martin Van Buren was nothing
(as he often said) but a country lawyer, who, by a dexterous use of
the party machinery, the well-timed death of De Witt Clinton, and
General Jackson's frenzy in behalf of Mrs. Eaton, had come to be the
chosen successor of the fiery chieftain. The canny Scotchman saw this
with horrid clearness, and saw nothing more. Political chiefs do not
like subalterns of this temper. Underneath the politician in Martin
Van Buren there was the citizen, the patriot, the gentleman, and the
man, whose fathers were buried in American soil, whose children were
to live under American institutions, who had, necessarily, an interest
in the welfare and honor of the country, and whose policy, upon the
whole, was controlled by that natural interest in his country's
welfare and honor. To our mocking Celt nothing of this was apparent,
nor has ever been.

His education as a journalist was completed by the failure of his
Philadelphia scheme. Returning to New York, he resolved to attempt no
more to rise by party aid, but henceforth have no master but the
public. On the 6th of May, 1835, appeared the first number of the
Morning Herald, price one cent. It was born in a cellar in Wall
Street,--not a basement, but a veritable cellar. Some persons are
still doing business in that region who remember going down into its
subterranean office, and buying copies of the new paper from its
editor, who used to sit at a desk composed of two flour-barrels and a
piece of board, and who occupied the only chair in the establishment.
For a considerable time his office contained absolutely nothing but
his flour-barrel desk, one wooden chair, and a pile of Heralds. "I
remember," writes Mr. William Gowans, the well-known bookseller of
Nassau Street,

     "to have entered the subterranean office of its editor early
     in its career, and purchased a single copy of the paper, for
     which I paid the sum of one cent United States currency. On
     this occasion the proprietor, editor, and vendor was seated
     at his desk, busily engaged writing, and appeared to pay
     little or no attention to me as I entered. On making known
     my object in coming in, he requested me to put my money down
     on the counter, and help myself to a paper; all this time he
     continuing his writing operations. The office was a single
     oblong underground room; its furniture consisted of a
     counter, which also served as a desk, constructed from two
     flour-barrels, perhaps empty, standing apart from each other
     about four feet, with a single plank covering both; a chair,
     placed in the centre, upon which sat the editor busy at his
     vocation, with an inkstand by his right hand; on the end
     nearest the door were placed the papers for sale."

Everything appeared to be against his success. It was one poor man in
a cellar against the world. Already he had failed three times; first,
in 1825, when he attempted to establish a Sunday paper; next, in 1832,
when he tried a party journal; recently, in Philadelphia. With great
difficulty, and after many rebuffs, he had prevailed upon two young
printers to print his paper and share its profits or losses, and he
possessed about enough money to start the enterprise and sustain it
ten days. The cheapness of his paper was no longer a novelty, for
there was already a penny paper with a paying circulation. He had cut
loose from all party ties, and he had no influential friends except
those who had an interest in his failure. The great public, to which
he made this last desperate appeal, knew him not even by name. The
newsboy system scarcely existed; and all that curious machinery by
which, in these days, a "new candidate for public favor" is placed,
at no expense, on a thousand news-stands, had not been thought
of. There he was alone in his cellar, without clerk, errand-boy,
or assistant of any kind. For many weeks he did with his own hands
everything,--editorials, news, reporting, receiving advertisements,
and even writing advertisements for persons "unaccustomed to
composition." He expressly announced that advertisers could have their
advertisements written for them at the office, and this at a time when
there was no one to do it but himself. The extreme cheapness of the
paper rendered him absolutely dependent upon his advertisers, and yet
he dared not charge more than fifty cents for sixteen lines, and he
offered to insert sixteen lines for a whole year for thirty dollars.

He at once produced an eminently salable article. If just such a paper
were to appear to-day, or any day, in any large city of the world, it
would instantly find a multitude of readers. It was a very small
sheet,--four little pages of four columns each,--much better printed
than the Herald now is, and not a waste line in it. Everything _drew_,
as the sailors say. There was not much scissoring in it,--the scissors
have never been much esteemed in the Herald office,--but the little
that there was all told upon the general effect of the sheet. There is
a story current in newspaper offices that the first few numbers of the
Herald were strictly decorous and "respectable," but that the editor,
finding the public indifferent and his money running low, changed his
tactics, and filled his paper with scurrility and indecency, which
immediately made it a paying enterprise. No such thing. The first
numbers were essentially of the same character as the number published
this morning. They had the same excellences and the same defects: in
the news department, immense industry, vigilance, and tact; in the
editorial columns, the vein of Mephistophelean mockery which has
puzzled and shocked so many good people at home and abroad. A leading
topic then was a certain Matthias, one of those long-bearded religious
impostors who used to appear from time to time. The first article in
the first number of the Herald was a minute account of the origin and
earlier life of the fellow,--just the thing for the paper, and the
sure method of exploding _him_. The first editorial article, too, was
perfectly in character:--

"In _débuts_ of this kind," said the editor,

     "many talk of principle--political principle, party
     principle--as a sort of steel-trap to catch the public. We
     mean to be perfectly understood on this point, and therefore
     openly disclaim all steel-traps,--all principle, as it is
     called,--all party,--all politics. Our only guide shall be
     good, sound, practical common-sense, applicable to the
     business and bosoms of men engaged in every-day life. We
     shall support no party, be the organ of no faction or
     coterie, and care nothing for any election or any candidate,
     from President down to constable. We shall endeavor to
     record facts on every public and proper subject, stripped of
     verbiage and coloring, with comments, when suitable, just,
     independent, fearless, and good-tempered. If the Herald
     wants the mere expansion which many journals possess, we
     shall try to make it up in industry, good taste, brevity,
     variety, point, piquancy, and cheapness."

He proceeded immediately to give a specimen of the "comments" thus
described, in the form of a review of an Annual Register just
published. The Register informed him that there were 1,492 "rogues in
the State Prison." His comment was: "But God only knows how many out
of prison, preying upon the community, in the shape of gamblers,
blacklegs, speculators, and politicians." He learned from the Register
that the poor-house contained 6,547 paupers; to which he added, "and
double the number going there as fast as indolence and intemperance
can carry them." The first numbers were filled with nonsense and
gossip about the city of New York, to which his poverty confined him.
He had no boat with which to board arriving ships, no share in the
pony express from Washington, and no correspondents in other cities.
All he could do was to catch the floating gossip, scandal, and folly
of the town, and present as much of them every day as one man could
get upon paper by sixteen hours' labor. He laughed at everything and
everybody,--not excepting himself and his squint eye,--and, though his
jokes were not always good, they were generally good enough. People
laughed, and were willing to expend a cent the next day to see what
new folly the man would commit or relate. We all like to read about
our own neighborhood: this paper gratified the propensity.

The man, we repeat, really had a vein of poetry in him, and the first
numbers of the Herald show it. He had occasion to mention, one day,
that Broadway was about to be paved with wooden blocks. This was not a
very promising subject for a poetical comment; but he added: "When
this is done, every vehicle will have to wear sleigh-bells as in
sleighing times, and Broadway will be so quiet that you can pay a
compliment to a lady, in passing, and she will hear you." This was
nothing in itself; but here was a man wrestling with fate in a cellar,
who could turn you out two hundred such paragraphs a week, the year
round. Many men can growl in a cellar; this man could laugh, and keep
laughing, and make the floating population of a city laugh with him.
It must be owned, too, that he had a little real insight into the
nature of things around him,--a little Scotch sense, as well as an
inexhaustible fund of French vivacity. Alluding, once, to the "hard
money" cry, by which the lying politicians of the day carried
elections, he exploded that nonsense in two lines: "If a man gets the
wearable or the eatable he wants, what cares he whether he has gold or
paper-money?" He devoted two sentences to the Old School and New
School Presbyterian controversy: "Great trouble among the
Presbyterians just now. The question in dispute is, whether or not a
man can do anything towards saving his own soul." He had, also, an
article upon the Methodists, in which he said that the two religions
nearest akin were the Methodist and the Roman Catholic. We should add
to these trifling specimens the fact, that he uniformly maintained,
from 1835 to the crash of 1837, that the prosperity of the country was
unreal, and would end in disaster. Perhaps we can afford space for a
single specimen of his way of treating this subject; although it can
be fully appreciated only by those who are old enough to remember the
rage for land speculation which prevailed in 1836:--

     "THE RICH POOR--THE POOR RICH.--'I have made $50,000 since
     last January,' said one of these real-estate speculators to
     a friend.

     "'The dense you have,' said the other, looking up in
     astonishment 'Why, last January you were not worth a
     twenty-dollar bill.'

     "'I know that; but I now calculate I'm worth full $50,000,
     if not $60,000.'

     "How have you made it?'

     "'By speculating in real estate. I bought three hundred lots
     at Goose Island at $150 apiece; they are now worth $400. I
     would not sell them for $350 apiece, I assure you.'

     "' Do you think so?'

     "'Sartain. I have two hundred and fifty lots at Blockhead's
     Point, worth $150 a piece; some on them are worth $200. I
     have one hundred lots at Jackass Inlet, worth at least $100,
     at the very lowest calculation. In short, I'm worth a hull

     "'Well, I'm glad to hear it. You can pay me now the $500 you
     have owed me for these last four years. There's your note, I
     believe,' said he, handing the speculator a worn piece of
     paper that had a piece of writing upon it.

     "The speculator looked blank at this. 'Oh! yes--my--now I'd
     like--suppose,' but the words could not form themselves into
     a perfect sentence.

     "'I want the money very much,' said the other; 'I have some
     payments to make to-morrow.'

     "'Why, you don't want cash for it surely.'

     "'Yes, but I do. You say you are worth $60,000,--surely $500
     is but a trifle to pay; do let me have the cash on the nail,
     if you please.'

     "'Oh!--by--well--now--do tell--really, I have not got the
     money at present.'

     "'So you can't pay it, eh? A man worth $60,000, and can't
     pay an old debt of $500?'

     "'Oh! yes I can--I'll--I'll--just give you my note for it at
     ninety days.'

     "'The D--l you will! A man worth $60,000, and can't pay $500
     for ninety days! what do you mean?'

     "'Well now, my dear sir, I'm worth what I say. I can pay
     you. There's my property,' spreading out half a dozen very
     beautiful lithographs; 'but really I can't raise that amount
     at present. Yesterday, I had to give three per cent a month
     for $4,000 to save my whole fortune. I had to look out for
     the mortgages. Take my note; you can get it discounted for
     three per cent.'

     "'No, I can't. If you will give me $250 for the debt, I
     shall give the other half to pay the interest on your

     "Whether the proposition has been accepted we shall know
     to-morrow; but we have many such rich people."--_Herald_,
     Oct. 28, 1836.

But it was not such things as these that established the Herald.
Confined as he was to the limits of a single town, and being compelled
to do everything with his own hands, he could not have much in his
columns that we should now call "news." But what is news? The answer
to that question involves the whole art, mystery, and history of
journalism. The time was when news signified the doings of the king
and his court. This was the staple of the first news-letter writers,
who were employed by great lords, absent from court, to send them
court intelligence. To this was soon added news of the doings of other
kings and courts; and from that day to this the word _news_ has been
continually gaining increase of meaning, until now it includes all
that the public are curious to know, which may be told without injury
to the public or injustice to individuals. While this man was playing
fantastic tricks before high Heaven, his serious thoughts were
absorbed in schemes to make his paper the great vehicle of news. Early
in the second month, while he was still losing money every day, he hit
upon a new kind of news, which perhaps had more to do with the final
success of the Herald than any other single thing. His working day, at
that time, was sixteen or seventeen hours. In the morning, from five
to eight, he was busy, in the quiet of his room, with those light,
nonsensical paragraphs and editorials which made his readers smile in
spite of themselves. During the usual business hours of the morning,
he was in his cellar, over his flour-barrel desk, engaged in the
ordinary routine of editorial work; not disdaining to sell the morning
paper, write advertisements, and take the money for them.

About one o'clock, having provided abundant copy for the compositors,
he sallied forth into Wall Street, picking up material for his
stock-tables and subjects for paragraphs. From four to six he
was at his office again, winding up the business, of the day. In
the evening he was abroad,--at theatre, concert, ball, or public
meeting,--absorbing fresh material for his paper. He converted
himself, as it were, into a medium through which the gossip, scandal,
fun, and nonsense of this great town were daily conveyed back to it
for its amusement; just as a certain popular preacher is reported to
do, who spends six days in circulating among his parishioners, and on
the seventh tells them all that they have taught him.

Now Wall Street, during the years that General Jackson was disturbing
the financial system by his insensate fury against the United States
Bank, was to journalism what the Army of the Potomac was in the year
1864. The crash of 1837 was full two years in coming on, during which
the money market was always deranged, and moneyed men were anxious and
puzzled. The public mind, too, was gradually drawn to the subject,
until Wall Street was the point upon which all eyes were fixed. The
editor of the Herald was the first American journalist to avail
himself of this state of things. It occurred to him, when his paper
had been five weeks in existence, to give a little account every day
of the state of affairs in Wall Street,--the fluctuations of the money
market and their causes,--the feeling and gossip of the street. He
introduced this feature at the moment when General Jackson's
embroilment with the French Chambers was at its height, and when the
return of the American Minister was hourly expected. Some of our
readers may be curious to see the first "money article" ever published
in the United States. It was as follows:--


     "Stocks yesterday maintained their prices during the session
     of the Board, several going up. Utica went up 2 per cent;
     the others stationary. Large quantities were sold. After the
     Board adjourned and the news from France was talked over,
     the fancy stocks generally went down 1 to 1-1/2 per cent;
     other stocks quite firm. A rally was made by the bulls in
     the evening, under the trees, but it did not succeed. There
     will be a great fight in the Board to-day. The good people
     up town are anxious to know what the brokers think of Mr.
     Livingston. We shall find out, and let them know.

     "The cotton and flour market rallied a little. The rise of
     cotton in Liverpool drove it up here a cent or so. The last
     shippers will make 2-1/2 per cent. Many are endeavoring to
     produce a belief that there will be a war. If the impression
     prevails, naval stores will go up a good deal. Every eye is
     outstretched for the Constitution. Hudson, of the Merchants'
     News Room, says he will hoist out the first flag. Gilpin, of
     the Exchange News Room, says he will have her name down in
     his Room one hour before his competitor. The latter claims
     having beat Hudson yesterday by an hour and ten minutes in
     chronicling the England."--_Herald_, June 13, 1835.

This was his first attempt. The money article constantly lengthened
and increased in importance. It won for the little paper a kind of
footing in brokers' offices and bank parlors, and provided many
respectable persons with an excuse for buying it.

At the end of the third month, the daily receipts equalled the daily
expenditures. A cheap police reporter was soon after engaged. In the
course of the next month, the printing-office was burnt, and the
printers, totally discouraged, abandoned the enterprise. The
editor--who felt that he had caught the public ear, as he
had--contrived, by desperate exertions, to "rake the Herald out of the
fire," as he said, and went on alone. Four months after, the great
fire laid Wall Street low, and all the great business streets
adjacent. Here was his first real opportunity as a journalist; and how
he improved it!--spending one half of every day among the ruins,
note-book in hand, and the other half over his desk, writing out what
he had gathered. He spread before the public reports so detailed,
unconventional, and graphic, that a reader sitting at his ease in his
own room became, as it were, an eyewitness of those appalling scenes.
His accounts of that fire, and of the events following it, are such as
Defoe would have given if he had been a New York reporter. Still
struggling for existence, he went to the expense (great then) of
publishing a picture of the burning Exchange, and a map of the burnt
district. American journalism was born amid the roaring flames of the
great fire of 1835; and no true journalist will deny, that from that
day to this, whenever any very remarkable event has taken place in the
city of New York, the Herald reports of it have generally been those
which cost most money and exhibited most of the spirit and detail of
the scene. For some years every dollar that the Herald made was
expended in news, and, to this hour, no other journal equals it in
daily expenditure for intelligence. If, to-morrow, we were to have
another great fire, like that of thirty years ago, this paper would
have twenty-five men in the streets gathering particulars.

But so difficult is it to establish a daily newspaper, that at the end
of a year it was not yet certain that the Herald could continue. A
lucky contract with a noted pill-vender gave it a great lift about
that time;[1] and in the fifteenth month, the editor ventured to raise
his price to two cents. From that day he had a business, and nothing
remained for him but to go on as he had begun. He did so. The paper
exhibits now the same qualities as it did then,--immense expenditure
and vigilance in getting news, and a reckless disregard of principle,
truth, and decency in its editorials.

Almost from the first month of its existence, this paper was deemed
infamous by the very public that supported it. We can well remember
when people bought it on the sly, and blushed when they were caught
reading it, and when the man in a country place who subscribed for it
intended by that act to distinctly enroll himself as one of the
ungodly. Journalists should thoroughly consider this most remarkable
fact. We have had plenty of infamous papers, but they have all been
short-lived but this. This one has lasted. After thirty-one years of
life, it appears to be almost as flourishing to-day as ever. The
foremost of its rivals has a little more than half its circulation,
and less than half its income. A marble palace is rising to receive
it, and its proprietor fares as sumptuously every day as the ducal
family who furnished him with his middle name.

Let us see how the Herald acquired its ill name. We shall then know
why it is still so profoundly odious; for it has never changed, and
can never change, while its founder controls it. Its peculiarities are
_his_ peculiarities.

He came into collision, first of all, with the clergy and people of
his own Church, the Roman Catholic. Thirty years ago, as some of our
readers may remember, Catholics and Protestants had not yet learned to
live together in the same community with perfect tolerance of one
another's opinions and usages; and there were still some timid persons
who feared the rekindling of the fagot, and the supremacy of the Pope
in the United States. A controversy growing out of these apprehensions
had been proceeding for some time in the newspapers when this impudent
little Herald first appeared. The new-comer joined in the fray, and
sided against the Church in which he was born; but laid about him in a
manner which disgusted both parties. For example:--

     "As a Catholic, we call upon the Catholic Bishop and clergy
     of New York to come forth from the darkness, folly, and
     superstition of the tenth century. They live in the
     nineteenth. There can be no mistake about it,--they will be
     convinced of this fact if they look into the almanac....

     "But though we want a thorough reform, we do not wish them
     to discard their greatest absurdities at the first breath.
     We know the difficulty of the task. Disciples, such as the
     Irish are, will stick with greater pertinacity to
     absurdities and nonsense than to reason and common sense. We
     have no objection to the doctrine of Transubstantiation
     being tolerated for a few years to come. We may for a while
     indulge ourselves in the delicious luxury of creating and
     eating our Divinity. A peculiar taste of this kind, like
     smoking tobacco or drinking whiskey, cannot be given up all
     at once. The ancient Egyptians, for many years after they
     had lost every trace of the intellectual character of their
     religion, yet worshipped and adored the ox, the bull, and
     the crocodile. They had not discovered the art, as we
     Catholics have done, of making a God out of bread, and of
     adoring and eating him at one and the same moment. This
     latter piece of sublimity or religious cookery (we don't
     know which) was reserved for the educated and talented
     clergy from the tenth up to the nineteenth century. Yet we
     do not advise the immediate disturbance of this venerable
     piece of rottenness and absurdity. It must be retained, as
     we would retain carefully the tooth of a saint or the
     jawbone of a martyr, till the natural progress of reason in
     the Irish mind shall be able, silently and imperceptibly, to
     drop it among the forgotten rubbish of his early loves, or
     his more youthful riots and rows.

     "There must be a thorough reformation and revolution in the
     American Catholic Church. Education must be more attended
     to. We never knew one priest who believed that he ate the
     Divinity when he took the Eucharist. If we must have a Pope,
     let us have a Pope of our own,--an American Pope, an
     intellectual, intelligent, and moral Pope,--not such a
     decrepit, licentious, stupid, Italian blockhead as the
     College of Cardinals at Rome condescends to give the
     Christian world of Europe."

This might be good advice; but no serious Protestant, at that day,
could relish the tone in which it was given. Threatening letters were
sent in from irate and illiterate Irishmen; the Herald was denounced
from a Catholic pulpit; its carriers were assaulted on their rounds;
but the paper won no friends from the side which it affected to
espouse. Every one felt that to this man _nothing_ was sacred, or
August, or venerable, or even serious. He was like an unbeliever in a
party composed of men of various sects. The Baptist could fairly
attack an Episcopalian, because he had convictions of his own that
could be assaulted; but this stranger, who believed nothing and
respected nothing, could not be hit at all. The result would naturally
be, that the whole company would turn upon him as upon a common foe.

So in politics. Perhaps the most serious and sincere article he ever
wrote on a political subject was one that appeared in November, 1836,
in which he recommended the subversion of republican institutions and
the election of an emperor. If he ever had a political conviction, we
believe he expressed it then. After a rigmarole of Roman history and
Augustus Caesar, he proceeded thus:---

     "Shall we not profit by these examples of history? Let us,
     for the sake of science, art, and civilization, elect at
     this election General Jackson, General Harrison, Martin Yan
     Buren, Hugh White, or Anybody, we care not whom, the EMPEROR
     of this great REPUBLIC for life, and have done with this
     eternal turmoil and confusion. Perhaps Mr. Van Buren would
     be the best Augustus Caesar. He is sufficiently corrupt,
     selfish, and heartless for that dignity. He has a host of
     favorites that will easily form a Senate. He has a court in
     preparation, and the Praetorian bands in array. He can pick
     up a Livia anywhere. He has violated every pledge, adopted
     and abandoned every creed, been for and against every
     measure, is a believer in all religions by turns, and, like
     the first Caesar, has always been a republican and taken
     care of number one. He has called into action all the ragged
     adventurers from every class, and raised their lands,
     stocks, lots, and places without end. He is smooth,
     agreeable, oily, as Octavianus was. He has a couple of sons,
     also, who might succeed him and preserve the imperial line.
     We may be better off under an Emperor,--we could not be
     worse off as a nation than we are now. Besides, who knows
     but Van Buren is of the blood of the great Julius himself?
     That great man conquered all Gaul and Helvetia, which in
     those days comprised Holland. Caius Julius Caesar may thus
     have laid the foundation of a royal line to be transmitted
     to the West. There is a prophecy in Virgil's 'Pollio'
     evidently alluding to Van. But of this another day."

A man who writes in this way may have readers, but he can have no
friends. An event occurred in his first year which revealed this fact
to him in an extremely disagreeable manner. There was then upon the
New York stage a notoriously dissolute actor, who, after outraging the
feelings of his wife in all the usual modes, completed his infamy by
denouncing her from the stage of a crowded theatre. The Herald took
her part, which would naturally have been the popular side. But when
the actor retorted by going to the office of the Herald and committing
upon its proprietor a most violent and aggravated assault,
accompanying his blows with acts of peculiar indecency, it plainly
appeared, that the sympathies of the public were wholly with the
actor,--not with the champion of an injured woman. His hand had been
against every man, and in his hour of need, when he was greatly in the
right, every heart was closed against him. Not the less, however, did
the same public buy his paper, because it contained what the public
wanted, i.e. the news of the day, vividly exhibited.

The course of this curious specimen of our kind during the late war
was perfectly characteristic. During the first two years of the war he
was inclined to think that the Rebels would be successful so far as to
win over the Democratic party to their side, and thus constitute
Jefferson Davis President of the United States. If he had any
preference as to the result of the contest, it was probably this. If
the flag of the United States had been trailed in the mud of Nassau
Street, followed by hooting ruffians from the Sixth Ward, and the
symbol of the Rebellion had floated in its stead from the cupola of
the City Hall, saluted by Captain Rynders's gun, it would not have
cost this isolated alien one pang,--unless, perchance, a rival
newspaper had been the first to announce the fact. _That_ indeed,
would have cut him to the heart. Acting upon the impression that the
Rebellion, in some way, would triumph, he gave it all the support
possible, and continued to do so until it appeared certain that,
whatever the issue of the strife, the South was lost for a long time
as a patron of New York papers.

The key to most of the political vagaries of this paper is given in a
single sentence of one of its first numbers: "_We have never been in a
minority, and we never shall be_" In his endeavors to act upon this
lofty principle, he was sadly puzzled during the war,--so difficult
was it to determine which way the cat would finally jump. He held
himself ready, however, to jump with it, whichever side the dubious
animal might select. At the same time, he never for an instant relaxed
his endeavors to obtain the earliest and fullest intelligence from the
seat of war. Never perhaps did any journal in any country maintain so
great an expenditure for news. Every man in the field representing
that paper was more than authorized--he was encouraged and
commanded--to incur any expense whatever that might be necessary
either in getting or forwarding intelligence. There were no rigid or
grudging scrutiny of reporters' drafts; no minute and insulting
inquiries respecting the last moments of a horse ridden to death in
the service; no grumbling about the precise terms of a steamboat
charter, or a special locomotive. A reporter returning from the army
laden with information, procured at a lavish expense, was received in
the office like a conqueror coming home from a victorious campaign,
and he went forth again full of courage and zeal, knowing well that
every man employed on the Herald was advancing himself when he served
the paper well. One great secret of success the proprietor of the
Herald knows better than most;--he knows how to get out of those who
serve him all there is in them; he knows how to reward good service;
he knows a man's value to him. There is no newspaper office in the
world where real journalistic efficiency is more certain to meet
prompt recognition and just reward than in this. Not much may be said
to a laborious reporter about the hits he is making; but, on some
Saturday afternoon, when he draws his salary, he finds in his hands a
larger amount than usual. He hands it back to have the mistake
corrected, and he is informed that his salary is raised.

The Herald, too, systematically prepares the way for its reporters.
Some of our readers may remember how lavishly this paper extolled
General McClellan during the time of his glory, and indeed as long as
he held the chief command. One of the results of this policy was,
that, while the reporters of other papers were out in the cold,
writing in circumstances the most inconvenient, those of the Herald,
besides being supplied with the best information, were often writing
in a warm apartment or commodious tent, not far from head-quarters or
at head-quarters. As long as General Butler held a command which gave
him control over one of the chief sources of news, the Herald hoarded
its private grudge against him; but the instant he was removed from
command, the Herald was after him in full cry. If, to-morrow, the same
General should be placed in a position which should render his office
a source of important intelligence, we should probably read in the
Herald the most glowing eulogiums of his career and character.

What are we to think of a man who is at once so able and so false? It
would be incorrect to call him a liar, because he is wanting in that
sense of truth by violating which a man makes himself a liar. We
cannot call him a traitor, for his heart knows no country; nor an
infidel, for all the serious and high concerns of man are to him a
jest. _Defective_ is the word to apply to such as he. As far as he
goes, he is good; and if the commodity in which he deals were cotton
or sugar, we could commend his enterprise and tact. He is like the
steeple of a church in New York, which was built up to a certain
height, when the material gave out, and it was hastily roofed in,
leaving the _upper half_ of the architect's design unexecuted. That
region of the mind where conviction, the sense of truth and honor,
public spirit and patriotism have their sphere, is in this man mere
vacancy. But, we repeat, as far as he _is_ built up, he is very well
constructed. Visit him: you see before you a quiet-mannered,
courteous, and good-natured old gentleman, who is on excellent terms
with himself and with the world. If you are a poor musician, about to
give a concert, no editor is more likely than he to lend a favorable
ear to your request for a few lines of preliminary notice. The persons
about him have been very long in his employment, and to some of them
he has been munificently liberal. The best of them appear to be really
attached to his person, as well as devoted to his service, and they
rely on him as sailors rely on a captain who has brought them safe
through a thousand storms. He has the Celtic virtue of standing by
those who stand by him developed to the uttermost degree. Many a
slight favor bestowed upon him in his days of obscurity he has
recompensed a thousand-fold since he has had the power to do so. We
cannot assign a very exalted rank in the moral scale to a trait which
some of the lowest races possess in an eminent degree, and which
easily runs into narrowness and vice; nevertheless, it is akin to
nobleness, and is the nearest approach to a true generosity that some
strong natures can attain.

What are we to say of the public that has so resolutely sustained this
paper, which the outside world so generally condemns? We say this.
Every periodical that thrives supplies the public with a certain
description of intellectual commodity, which the public is willing to
pay for. The New York Ledger, for example, exists by furnishing
stories and poetry adapted to the taste of the greatest number of the
people. Our spirited friends of The Nation and Round Table supply
criticism and that portion of the news which is of special interest to
the intellectual class. The specialty of the daily newspaper is to
give that part of the news of the day which interests the whole
public. A complete newspaper contains more than this; but it ranks in
the world of journalism exactly in the degree to which it does _this_.
The grand object of the true journalist is to be fullest, promptest,
and most correct on the one uppermost topic of the hour. That secured,
he may neglect all else. The paper that does this oftenest is the
paper that will find most purchasers; and no general excellence, no
array of information on minor or special topics, will ever atone for a
deficiency on the subject of most immediate and universal interest.
During the war this fundamental truth of journalism was apparent to
every mind. In time of peace, it is less apparent, but not less a
truth. In the absence of an absorbing topic, general news rises in
importance, until, in the dearth of the dogdays, the great cucumber
gets into type; but the great point of competition is still the
same,--to be fullest, quickest, and most correct upon the subject
_most_ interesting at the moment.

But every periodical, besides its specialty on which it lives, gives
its readers something more. It need not, but it does. The universal
Ledger favors its readers with many very excellent essays, written for
it by distinguished clergymen, editors, and authors, and gives its
readers a great deal of sound advice in other departments of the
paper. It need not do this; these features do not materially affect
the sale of the paper, as its proprietor well knows. The essays of
such men as Mr. Everett and Mr. Bancroft do not increase the sale of
the paper one hundred copies a week. Those essays are read and
admired, and contribute their quota toward the education of the
people, and reflect honor upon the liberal and enterprising man who
publishes them; but scarcely any one buys the paper for their sake.
People almost universally buy a periodical for the special thing which
it has undertaken to furnish; and it is by supplying this special
thing that an editor attains his glorious privilege and opportunity of
addressing a portion of the people on other topics. This opportunity
he may neglect; he may abuse it to the basest purposes, or improve it
to the noblest, but whichever of these things he does, it does not
materially affect the prosperity of his paper,--always supposing that
his specialty is kept up with the requisite vigor. We have gone over
the whole history of journalism, and we find this to be its Law of
Nature, to which there are only apparent exceptions.

All points to this simple conclusion, which we firmly believe to be
the golden rule of journalism:--that daily newspaper which has the
best corps of reporters, and handles them best, _necessarily_ takes
the lead of all competitors.

There are journalists who say (we have often heard them in
conversation) that this is a low view to take of their vocation. It is
of no importance whether a view is high or low, provided it is
correct. But we cannot agree with them that this is a low view. We
think it the highest possible. Regarded as instructors of the people,
they wield for our warning and rebuke, for our encouragement and
reward, an instrument which is like the dread thunderbolt of Jove, at
once the most terrible and the most beneficent,--_publicity_. Some
years ago, a number of ill-favored and prurient women and a number of
licentious men formed themselves into a kind of society for the
purpose of devising and promulgating a theory to justify the
gratification of unbridled lust. They were called Free-Lovers. To have
assailed their nightly gatherings in thundering editorial articles
would have only advertised them; but a detailed _report_ of their
proceedings in the Tribune scattered these assemblies in a few days,
to meet no more except in secret haunts. Recently, we have seen the
Fenian wind-bag first inflated, then burst, by mere publicity. The
Strong Divorce Case, last year, was a nauseous dose, which we would
have gladly kept out of the papers; but since it had to appear, it was
a public benefit to have it given, Herald-fashion, with all its
revolting particulars. What a punishment to the guilty! what a lesson
to the innocent! what a warning to the undetected! How much beneficial
reflection and conversation it excited! How necessary, in an age of
sensation morals and free-love theories, to have self-indulgence
occasionally exhibited in all its hideous nastiness, and without any
of its fleeting, deceptive, imaginary charms! The instantaneous
detection of the Otero murderers last autumn, and of the robbers of
Adams's express-car last winter, as related in the daily papers, and
the picture presented by them of young Ketchum seated at work in the
shoe-shop of Sing-Sing Prison, were equivalent to the addition of a
thousand men to the police force. Herein lies the power of such a
slight person as the editor of the Herald. It is not merely that he
impudently pulls your nose, but he pulls it in the view of a million

Nor less potent is publicity as a means of reward. How many brave
hearts during the late war felt themselves far more than repaid for
all their hardships in the field and their agony in the hospital by
reading their names in despatches, or merely in the list of wounded,
and thinking of the breakfast-tables far away at which that name had
been spied out and read with mingled exultation and pity. "Those who
love me know that I did my duty,--it is enough."

Our whole observation of the daily press convinces us that its power
to do good arises chiefly from its giving the news of the day; and its
power to do harm chiefly from its opportunity to comment upon the
news. Viewed only as a vehicle of intelligence, the Herald has taught
the journalists of the United States the greater part of all that they
yet know of their profession; regarded as an organ of opinion, it has
done all that it was ever possible for a newspaper to do in perverting
public opinion, debauching public taste, offending public morals, and
dishonoring the national character.

The question arises, Why has not this paper been long ago outdone in
giving the news? It has always been possible to suppress it by
surpassing it. Its errors have given its rivals an immense advantage
over it; for it has always prospered, not in consequence of its
badness, but of its goodness. We are acquainted with two foolish young
patriots who were wrought up to such a frenzy of disgust by its
traitorous course during the first half of our late war, that they
seriously considered whether there was any way in which they could so
well serve their country in its time of need, as by slaying that
pernicious and insolent editor; but both of those amiable lunatics
were compelled occasionally to buy the paper. Of late, too, we have
seen vast audiences break forth into wild hootings at the mention of
its name; but not the less did the hooters buy it the next morning.
Nevertheless, as soon as there exists a paper which to the Herald's
good points adds the other features of a complete newspaper, and
avoids its faults, from that hour the Herald wanes and falls speedily
to the second rank.

Two men have had it in their power to produce such a
newspaper,--Horace Greeley and Henry J. Raymond. In 1841, when the
Herald was six years old, the Tribune appeared, edited by Mr. Greeley,
with Mr. Raymond as his chief assistant. Mr. Greeley was then, and is
now, the best writer of editorials in the United States; that is, he
can produce a greater quantity of telling editorial per annum than any
other individual. There never lived a man capable of working more
hours in a year than he. Strictly temperate in his habits, and
absolutely devoted to his work, he threw himself into this enterprise
with an ardor never surpassed since Adam first tasted the sweets of
honorable toil. Mr. Raymond, then recently from college, very young,
wholly inexperienced, was endowed with an admirable aptitude for the
work of journalism, and a power of getting through its routine
labors,--a sustained, calm, swift industry,--unsurpassed at that time
in the American press. The business of the paper was also well managed
by Mr. McElrath. In the hands of these able men, the new paper made
such rapid advances, that, in the course of a few months, it was
fairly established, and in a year or two it had reached a circulation
equal to that of the Herald. One after another, excellent writers were
added to its corps;--the vigorous, prompt, untiring Dana; George
Ripley, possessing that blending of scholarship and tact, that wisdom
of the cloister and knowledge of the world, which alone could fit a
man of great learning and talent for the work of a daily newspaper;
Margaret Fuller, whose memory is still green in so many hearts; Bayard
Taylor, the versatile, and others, less universally known.

Why, then, did not this powerful combination supplant the Herald? If
mere ability in the writing of a newspaper; if to have given an
impulse to thought and enterprise; if to have won the admiration and
gratitude of a host of the best men and women in America; if to have
inspired many thousands of young men with better feelings and higher
purposes than they would else have attained; if to have shaken the
dominion of superstition, and made it easier for men to think freely,
and freely utter their thought; if to have produced a newspaper more
interesting than any other in the world to certain classes in the
community;--if all these things had sufficed to give a daily paper the
first position in the journalism of a country, then the Tribune would
long ago have attained that position; for all these things, and many
more, the Tribune did. But they do not suffice. Such things may be
incidental to a great success: they cannot cause it. Great
journalism--journalism pure and simple--alone can give a journal the
first place. If Mr. Raymond had been ten years older, and had founded
and conducted the paper, with Mr. Greeley as his chief writer of
editorials,--that is, if the _journalist_ had been the master of the
journal, instead of the writer, the politician, and the
philanthropist,--the Tribune might have won the splendid prize. Mr.
Greeley is not a great journalist. He has regarded journalism rather
as a disagreeable necessity of his vocation, and uniformly abandoned
the care of it to others. An able man generally gets what he ardently
seeks. Mr. Greeley produced just such a paper as he himself would have
liked to take, but not such a paper as the public of the island of
Manhattan prefers. He regards this as his glory. We cannot agree with
him, because his course of management left the field to the Herald,
the suppression of which was required by the interests of

The Tribune has done great and glorious things for us. Not free, of
course, from the errors which mark all things human, it has been, and
is, a civilizing power in this land. We hope to have the pleasure of
reading it every day for the rest of our lives. One thing it has
failed to do,--to reduce the Herald to insignificance by surpassing it
in the particulars in which it is excellent. We have no right to
complain. We only regret that the paper representing the civilization
of the country should not yet have attained the position which would
have given it the greatest power.

Mr. Raymond, also, has had it in his power to render this great
service to the civilization and credit of the United States. The Daily
Times, started in 1852, retarded for a while by a financial error, has
made such progress toward the goal of its proprietors' ambition, that
it is now on the home stretch, only a length or two behind. The editor
of this paper is a journalist; he sees clearly the point of
competition; he knows the great secret of his trade. The prize within
his reach is splendid. The position of chief journalist gives power
enough to satisfy any reasonable ambition, wealth enough to glut the
grossest avarice, and opportunity of doing good sufficient for the
most public-spirited citizen. What is there in political life equal to
it? We have no right to remark upon any man's choice of a career; but
this we may say,--that the man who wins the first place in the
journalism of a free country must concentrate all his powers upon that
one work, and, as an editor, owe no allegiance to party. He must stand
above all parties, and serve all parties, by spreading before the
public that full and exact information upon which sound legislation is

During the present (1865-6) session of Congress we have had daily
illustration of this truth. The great question has been, What is the
condition of the Southern States and the feeling of the Southern
people? All the New York morning papers have expended money and labor,
each according to its means and enterprise, in getting information
from the South. This was well. But every one of these papers has had
some party or personal bias, which has given it a powerful interest to
make out a case. The World and News excluded everything which tended
to show the South dissatisfied and disloyal. The Tribune, on the other
hand, diligently sought testimony of that nature. The Times, also,
being fully committed to a certain theory of reconstruction, naturally
gave prominence to every fact which supported that theory, and was
inclined to suppress information of the opposite tendency. The
consequence was, that an inhabitant of the city of New York who simply
desired to know the truth was compelled to keep an eye upon four or
five papers, lest something material should escape him. This is
pitiful. This is utterly beneath the journalism of 1866. The final
pre-eminent newspaper of America will soar far above such needless
limitations as these, and present the truth in _all_ its aspects,
regardless of its effects upon theories, parties, factions, and
Presidential campaigns.

Presidential campaigns,--that is the real secret. The editors of most
of these papers have selected their candidate for 1868; and, having
done that, can no more help conducting their journals with a view to
the success of that candidate, than the needle of a compass can help
pointing awry when there is a magnet hidden in the binnacle. Here,
again, we have no right to censure or complain. Yet we cannot help
marvelling at the hallucination which can induce able men to prefer
the brief and illusory honors of political station to the substantial
and lasting power within the grasp of the successful journalist. He,
if any one,--he more than any one else,--is the master in a free
country. Have we not seen almost every man who has held or run for the
Presidency during the last ten or fifteen years paying assiduous and
servile court, directly or indirectly, or both, to the editor of the
Herald? If it were proper to relate to the public what is known on
this subject to a few individuals, the public would be exceedingly
astonished. And yet this reality of power an editor is ready to
jeopard for the sake of gratifying his family by exposing them in
Paris! Jeopard, do we say? He has done more: he has thrown it away. He
has a magnet in his binnacle. He has, for the time, sacrificed what it
cost him thirty years of labor and audacity to gain. Strange weakness
of human nature!

The daily press of the United States has prodigiously improved in
every respect during the last twenty years. To the best of our
recollection, the description given of it, twenty-three years ago, by
Charles Dickens, in his American Notes, was not much exaggerated;
although that great author did exaggerate its effects upon the morals
of the country. His own amusing account of the rival editors in
Pickwick might have instructed him on this latter point. It does not
appear that the people of Eatanswill were seriously injured by the
fierce language employed in "that false and scurrilous print, the
Independent," and in "that vile and slanderous calumniator, the
Gazette." Mr. Dickens, however, was too little conversant with our
politics to take the atrocious language formerly so common in our
newspapers "in a Pickwickian sense"; and we freely confess that in the
alarming picture which he drew of our press there was only too much

     "The foul growth of America," wrote Mr. Dickens, "strikes
     its fibres deep in its licentious press.

     "Schools may be erected, east, west, north, and south;
     pupils be taught, and masters reared, by scores upon scores
     of thousands; colleges may thrive, churches may be crammed,
     temperance may be diffused, and advancing knowledge in all
     other forms walk through the land with giant strides; but
     while the newspaper press of America is in or near its
     present abject state, high moral improvement in that country
     is hopeless. Year by year it must and will go back; year by
     year the tone of public feeling must sink lower down; year
     by year the Congress and the Senate must become of less
     account before all decent men; and, year by year, the memory
     of the great fathers of the Revolution must be outraged more
     and more in the bad life of their degenerate child.

     "Among the herd of journals which are published in the
     States, there are some, the reader scarcely need be told, of
     character and credit. From personal intercourse with
     accomplished gentlemen connected with publications of this
     class I have derived both pleasure and profit. But the name
     of these is Few, and of the others Legion; and the influence
     of the good is powerless to counteract the mortal poison of
     the bad.

     "Among the gentry of America, among the well-informed and
     moderate, in the learned professions, at the bar and on the
     bench, there is, as there can be, but one opinion in
     reference to the vicious character of these infamous
     journals. It is sometimes contended--I will not say
     strangely, for it is natural to seek excuses for such a
     disgrace--that their influence is not so great as a visitor
     would suppose. I must be pardoned for saying that there is
     no warrant for this plea, and that every fact and
     circumstance tends directly to the opposite conclusion.

     "When any man, of any grade of desert in intellect or
     character, can climb to any public distinction, no matter
     what, in America, without first grovelling down upon the
     earth, and bending the knee before this monster of
     depravity; when any private excellence is safe from its
     attacks, and when any social confidence is left unbroken by
     it, or any tie of social decency and honor is held in the
     least regard; when any man in that free country has freedom
     of opinion, and presumes to think for himself, and speak for
     himself, without humble reference to a censorship which, for
     its rampant ignorance and base dishonesty, he utterly
     loathes and despises in his heart; when those who most
     acutely feel its infamy and the reproach it casts upon the
     nation, and who most denounce it to each other, dare to set
     their heels upon and crush it openly, in the sight of all
     men,--then I will believe that its influence is lessening,
     and men are returning to their manly senses. But while that
     Press has its evil eye in every house, and its black hand in
     every appointment in the state, from a President to a
     postman,--while, with ribald slander for its only stock in
     trade, it is the standard literature of an enormous class,
     who must find their reading in a newspaper, or they will not
     read at all,--so long must its odium be upon the country's
     head, and so long must the evil it works be plainly visible
     in the Republic.

     "To those who are accustomed to the leading English
     journals, or to the respectable journals of the Continent of
     Europe, to those who are accustomed to anything else in
     print and paper, it would be impossible, without an amount
     of extract for which I have neither space nor inclination,
     to convey an adequate idea of this frightful engine in
     America. But if any man desire confirmation of my statement
     on this head, let him repair to any place in this city of
     London where scattered numbers of these publications are to
     be found, and there let him form his own opinion."

From a note appended to this passage, we infer that the newspaper
which weighed upon the author's mind when he wrote it was the New York
Herald. The direct cause, however, of the general license of the press
at that time, was not the Herald's bad example, but Andrew Jackson's
debauching influence. The same man who found the government pure, and
left it corrupt, made the press the organ of his own malignant
passions by bestowing high office upon the editors who lied most
recklessly about his opponents. In 1843 the press had scarcely begun
to recover from this hateful influence, and was still the merest tool
of politicians. The Herald, in fact, by demonstrating that a newspaper
can flourish in the United States without any aid from politicians,
has brought us nearer the time when no newspaper of any importance
will be subject to party, which has been the principal cause of the
indecencies of the press.

The future is bright before the journalists of America. The close of
the war, by increasing their income and reducing their expenses, has
renewed the youth of several of our leading journals, and given them a
better opportunity than they have ever had before. The great error of
the publishers of profitable journals hitherto has been the wretched
compensation paid to writers and reporters. To this hour there is but
one individual connected with the daily press of New York, not a
proprietor, who receives a salary sufficient to keep a tolerable house
and bring up a family respectably and comfortably; and if any one
would find that individual, he must look for him, alas! in the office
of the Herald. To be plainer: decent average housekeeping in the city
of New York now costs a hundred dollars a week; and there is but one
salary of that amount paid in New York to a journalist who owns no
property in his journal. The consequence is, that there is scarcely an
individual connected with a daily paper who is not compelled or
tempted to eke out his ridiculous salary by other writing, to the
injury of his health and the constant deterioration of his work. Every
morning the public comes fresh and eager to the newspaper: fresh and
eager minds should alone minister to it. No work done on this earth
consumes vitality so fast as carefully executed composition, and
consequently one of the main conditions of a man's writing his best is
that he should write little and rest often. A good writer, moreover,
is one of Nature's peculiar and very rare products. There is a mystery
about the art of composition. Who shall explain to us why Charles
Dickens can write about a three-legged stool in such a manner that the
whole civilized world reads with pleasure; while another man of a
hundred times his knowledge and five times his quantity of mind cannot
write on any subject so as to interest anybody? The laws of supply and
demand do not apply to this rarity; for one man's writing cannot be
compared with another's, there being no medium between valuable and
worthless. How many over-worked, under-paid men have we known in New
York, really gifted with this inexplicable knack at writing, who, well
commanded and justly compensated, lifted high and dry out of the
slough of poor-devilism in which their powers were obscured and
impaired, could almost have made the fortune of a newspaper! Some of
these Reporters of Genius are mere children in all the arts by which
men prosper. A Journalist of Genius would know their value, understand
their case, take care of their interest, secure their devotion,
restrain their ardor, and turn their talent to rich account. We are
ashamed to say, that for example of this kind of policy we should have
to repair to the office named a moment since.

This subject, however, is beginning to be understood, and of late
there has been some advance in the salaries of members of the press.
Just as fast as the daily press advances in real independence and
efficiency, the compensation of journalists will increase, until a
great reporter will receive a reward in some slight degree
proportioned to the rarity of the species and to the greatness of the
services of which he is the medium. By reporters, we mean, of course,
the entire corps of news-givers, from the youth who relates the
burning of a stable, to the philosopher who chronicles the last vagary
of a German metaphysician. These laborious men will be appreciated in
due time. By them all the great hits of journalism have been made, and
the whole future of journalism is theirs.

So difficult is the reporter's art, that we can call to mind only two
series of triumphant efforts in this department,--Mr. Russell's
letters from the Crimea to the London Times, and N.P. Willis's
"Pencillings by the Way," addressed to the New York Mirror. Each of
these masters chanced to have a subject perfectly adapted to his taste
and talents, and each of them made the most of his opportunity.
Charles Dickens has produced a few exquisite reports. Many ignorant
and dull men employed on the New York Herald have written good reports
_because_ they were dull and ignorant. In fact, there are two kinds of
good reporters,--those who know too little, and those who know too
much, to wander from the point and evolve a report from the depths of
their own consciousness. The worst possible reporter is one who has a
little talent, and depends upon that to make up for the meagreness of
his information. The best reporter is he whose sole object is to
relate his event exactly as it occurred, and describe his scene just
as it appeared; and this kind of excellence is attainable by an honest
plodder, and by a man of great and well-controlled talent. If we were
forming a corps of twenty-five reporters, we should desire to have
five of them men of great and highly trained ability, and the rest
indefatigable, unimaginative, exact short-hand chroniclers, caring for
nothing but to get their fact and relate it in the plainest English.

There is one custom, a relic of the past, still in vogue in the
offices of daily papers, which is of an absurdity truly exquisite. It
is the practice of paying by the column, or, in other words, paying a
premium for verbosity, and imposing a fine upon conciseness. It will
often happen that information which cost three days to procure can be
well related in a paragraph, and which, if related in a paragraph,
would be of very great value to the newspaper printing it. But if the
reporter should compress his facts into that space, he would receive
for his three days' labor about what he expended in omnibus fare. Like
a wise man, therefore, he spreads them out into three columns, and
thus receives a compensation upon which life can be supported. If
matter must be paid for by the column, we would respectfully suggest
the following rates: For half a column, or less, twenty dollars; for
one column, ten dollars; for two columns, five dollars; for three
columns, nothing; for any amount beyond three columns, no insertion.

To conclude with a brief recapitulation:--

The commodity in which the publishers of daily newspapers deal is
news, i.e. information respecting recent events in which the public
take an interest, or in which an interest can be excited.

Newspapers, therefore, rank according to their excellence as
_newspapers_; and no other kind of excellence can make up for any
deficiency in the one thing for which they exist.

Consequently, the art of editorship consists in forming, handling, and
inspiring a corps of reporters; for inevitably that newspaper becomes
the chief and favorite journal which has the best corps of reporters,
and uses them best.

Editorial articles have their importance. They can be a powerful means
of advancing the civilization of a country, and of hastening the
triumph of good measures and good men; and upon the use an editor
makes of his opportunity of addressing the public in this way depends
his title to our esteem as a man and fellow-citizen. But, in a mere
business point of view, they are of inferior importance. The best
editorials cannot make, nor the worst editorials mar, the fortune of a
paper. Burke and Macaulay would not add a tenth part as many
subscribers to a daily paper as the addition to its corps of two
well-trained, ably-commanded reporters.

It is not law which ever renders the press free and independent.
Nothing is free or independent in this world which is not powerful.
Therefore, the editor who would conquer the opportunity of speaking
his mind freely, must do it by making his paper so excellent as a
vehicle of news that the public will buy it though it is a daily
disgust to them.

The Herald has thriven beyond all its competitors, because its
proprietor comprehended these simple but fundamental truths of his
vocation, and, upon the whole, has surpassed his rivals both in the
getting and in the display of intelligence. We must pronounce him the
best journalist and the worst editorialist this continent has ever
known; and accordingly his paper is generally read and its proprietor
universally disapproved.

And finally, this bad, good paper cannot be reduced to secondary rank
except by being outdone in pure journalism. The interests of
civilization and the honor of the United States require that this
should be done. There are three papers now existing--the Times, the
Tribune; and the World--which ought to do it; but if the conductors of
neither of these able and spirited papers choose to devote themselves
absolutely to this task, then we trust that soon another competitor
may enter the field, conducted by a journalist proud enough of his
profession to be satisfied with its honors. There were days last
winter on which it seemed as if the whole force of journalism in the
city of New York was expended in tingeing and perverting intelligence
on the greatest of all the topics of the time. We have read numbers of
the World (which has talent and youthful energy enough for a splendid
career) of which almost the entire contents--correspondence,
telegrams, and editorials--were spoiled for all useful purposes by the
determination of the whole corps of writers to make the news tell in
favor of a political party. We can truly aver, that journalism, pure
and simple,--journalism for its own sake,--journalism, the
dispassionate and single-eyed servant of the whole public,--does not
exist in New York during a session of Congress. It ought to exist.

[Footnote 1: We copy the following from Mr. Gowan's narrative:

     "Dr. Benjamin Brandreth, of well and wide-spread reputation,
     and who has made more happy and comfortable, for a longer or
     shorter time, as the case may be, by his prescriptions than
     any other son of Aesculapius, hailed me one day as I jumped
     from a railroad car passing up and along the shores of the
     Hudson River, and immediately commenced the following
     narrative. He held in his hand a copy of the New York
     Herald. 'Do you know,' said he, holding up the paper to my
     face, 'that it was by and through your agency that this
     paper ever became successful?' I replied in the negative.
     'Then,' continued he, 'I will unfold the secret to you of
     how you became instrumental in this matter. Shortly after my
     arrival in America, I began looking about me how I was to
     dispose of my pills by agents and other means. Among others,
     I called upon you, then a bookseller in Chatham Street.
     After some conversation on the subject of my errand, a
     contract was soon entered into between us,--you to sell and
     I to furnish the said pills; but,' continued he, 'these
     pills will be of no use to me or any one else unless they
     can be made known to the public, or rather the great herd of
     the people; and that can only be done by advertising through
     some paper which goes into the hands of the many. Can you
     point out to me any such paper, published in the city?'
     After a short pause I in substance said that there had
     lately started a small penny paper, which had been making a
     great noise during its existence; and I had reason to
     believe it had obtained a very considerable circulation
     among that class of people which he desired to reach by
     advertising, and so concluded that it would be the best
     paper in the city for his purpose, provided he could make
     terms with the owner, who, I had no doubt, would be well
     disposed, as in all probability he stood in need of
     patronage of this kind. 'I immediately,' continued the
     doctor, 'adopted your advice, went directly to Mr. Bennett,
     made terms with him for advertising, and for a long time
     paid him a very considerable sum weekly for the use of his
     columns, which tended greatly to add to both his and my own
     treasury. The editor of the Herald afterwards acknowledged
     to me that but for his advertising patronage he would have
     been compelled to collapse. Hence,' said he, 'had I never
     called on you, in all probability I should not have had my
     attention turned to the New York Herald; and, as a
     consequence, that sheet would never have had my advertising;
     and that paper would have been a thing of the past, and
     perhaps entirely forgotten.'"]


The copy before us, of Mr. Goodyear's work upon "Gum-Elastic and its
Varieties," presents at least something unique in the art of
book-making. It is self-illustrating; inasmuch as, treating of
India-rubber, it is made of India-rubber. An unobservant reader,
however, would scarcely suspect the fact before reading the Preface,
for the India-rubber covers resemble highly polished ebony, and the
leaves have the appearance of ancient paper worn soft, thin, and dingy
by numberless perusals. The volume contains six hundred and twenty
pages; but it is not as thick as copies of the same work printed on
paper, though it is a little heavier. It is evident that the substance
of which this book is composed cannot be India-rubber in its natural
state. Those leaves, thinner than paper, can be stretched only by a
strong pull, and resume their shape perfectly when they are let go.
There is no smell of India-rubber about them. We first saw this book
in a cold room in January, but the leaves were then as flexible as old
paper; and when, since, we have handled it in warm weather, they had
grown no softer.

Some of our readers may have heard Daniel Webster relate the story of
the India-rubber cloak and hat which one of his New York friends sent
him at Marshfield in the infancy of the manufacture. He took the cloak
to the piazza one cold morning, when it instantly became as rigid as
sheet-iron. Finding that it stood alone, he placed the hat upon it,
and left the articles standing near the front door. Several of his
neighbors who passed, seeing a dark and portly figure there, took it
for the lord of the mansion, and gave it respectful salutation. The
same articles were liable to an objection still more serious. In the
sun, even in cool weather, they became sticky, while on a hot day they
would melt entirely away to the consistency of molasses. Every one
remembers the thick and ill-shaped India-rubber shoes of twenty years
ago, which had to be thawed out under the stove before they could be
put on, and which, if left under the stove too long, would dissolve
into gum that no household art could ever harden again. Some decorous
gentlemen among us can also remember that, in the nocturnal combats of
their college days, a flinty India-rubber shoe, in cold weather, was a
missive weapon of a highly effective character.

This curious volume, therefore, cannot be made of the unmanageable
stuff which Daniel Webster set up at his front door. So much is
evident at a glance. But the book itself tells us that it can be
subjected, without injury, to tests more severe than summer's sun and
winter's cold. It can be soaked six months in a pail of water, and
still be as good a book as ever. It can be boiled; it can be baked in
an oven hot enough to cook a turkey; it can be soaked in brine, lye,
camphene, turpentine, or oil; it can be dipped into oil of vitriol,
and still no harm done. To crown its merits, no rat, mouse, worm, or
moth has ever shown the slightest inclination to make acquaintance
with it. The office of a Review is not usually provided with the means
of subjecting literature to such critical tests as lye, vitriol,
boilers, and hot ovens. But we have seen enough elsewhere of the
ordeals to which India-rubber is now subjected to believe Mr.
Goodyear's statements. Remote posterity will enjoy the fruit of his
labors, unless some one takes particular pains to destroy this book;
for it seems that time itself produces no effect upon the India-rubber
which bears the familiar stamp, "GOODYEAR'S PATENT." In the dampest
corner of the dampest cellar, no mould gathers upon it, no decay
penetrates it. In the hottest garret, it never warps or cracks.

The principal object of the work is to relate how this remarkable
change was effected in the nature of the substance of which it treats.
It cost more than two millions of dollars to do it. It cost Charles
Goodyear eleven most laborious and painful years. His book is written
without art or skill, but also without guile.

He was evidently a laborious, conscientious, modest man, neither
learned nor highly gifted, but making no pretence to learning or
gifts, doing the work which fell to him with all his might, and with a
perseverance never surpassed in all the history of invention and
discovery. Who would have thought to find a romance in the history of
India-rubber? We are familiar with the stories of poor and friendless
men, possessed with an idea and pursuing their object, amid obloquy,
neglect, and suffering, to the final triumph; of which final triumph
other men reaped the substantial reward, leaving to the discoverer the
barren glory of his achievement,--and that glory obscured by
detraction. Columbus is the representative man of that illustrious
order. We trust to be able to show that Charles Goodyear is entitled
to a place in it. Whether we consider the prodigious and unforeseen
importance of his discovery, or his scarcely paralleled devotion to
his object, in the face of the most disheartening obstacles, we feel
it to be due to his memory, to his descendants, and to the public,
that his story should be told. Few persons will ever see his book, of
which only a small number of copies were printed for private
circulation. Still fewer will be at the pains to pick out the material
facts from the confused mass of matter in which they are hidden.
Happily for our purpose, no one now has an interest to call his merits
in question. He rests from his labors, and the patent, which was the
glory and misery of his life, has expired.

Our great-grandfathers knew India-rubber only as a curiosity, and our
grandfathers only as a means of erasing pencil-marks. The first
specimens were brought to Europe in 1730; and as late as 1770 it was
still so scarce an article, that in London it was only to be found in
one shop, where a piece containing half a cubic inch was sold for
three shillings. Dr. Priestley, in his work on perspective, published
in 1770, speaks of it as a new article, and recommends its use to
draughtsmen. This substance, however, being one of those of which
nature has provided an inexhaustible supply, greater quantities found
their way into the commerce of the world; until, in 1820, it was a
drug in all markets, and was frequently brought as ballast merely.
About this time it began to be subjected to experiments with
a view to rendering it available in the arts. It was found useful
as an ingredient of blacking and varnish. Its elasticity was
turned to account in France in the manufacture of suspenders and
garters,--threads of India-rubber being inserted in the web. In
England, Mackintosh invented his still celebrated water-proof coats,
which are made of two thin cloths with a paste of India-rubber between
them. In chemistry, the substance was used to some extent, and its
singular properties were much considered. In England and France, the
India-rubber manufacture had attained considerable importance before
the material had attracted the attention of American experimenters.
The Europeans succeeded in rendering it useful because they did not
attempt too much. The French cut the imported sheets of gum into
shreds, without ever attempting to produce the sheets themselves.
Mackintosh exposed no surface of India-rubber to the air, and brought
no surfaces of India-rubber into contact. No one had discovered any
process by which India-rubber once dissolved could be restored to its
original consistency. Some of our readers may have attempted, twenty
years ago, to fill up the holes in the sole of an India-rubber shoe.
Nothing was easier than to melt a piece of India-rubber for the
purpose; but, when applied to the shoe, it would not harden. There was
the grand difficulty, the complete removal of which cost so much money
and so many years.

The ruinous failure of the first American manufacturers arose from the
fact that they began their costly operations in ignorance of the
existence of this difficulty. They were too fast. They proceeded in
the manner of the inventor of the caloric engine, who began by placing
one in a ship of great magnitude, involving an expenditure which
ruined the owners.

It was in the year 1820 that a pair of India-rubber shoes was seen for
the first time in the United States. They were covered with gilding,
and resembled in shape the shoes of a Chinaman. They were handed about
in Boston only as a curiosity. Two or three years after, a ship from
South America brought to Boston five hundred pairs of shoes, thick,
heavy, and ill-shaped, which sold so readily as to invite further
importations. The business increased until the annual importation
reached half a million pairs, and India-rubber shoes had become an
article of general use. The manner in which these shoes were made by
the natives of South America was frequently described in the
newspapers, and seemed to present no difficulty. They were made much
as farmers' wives, made candles. The sap being collected from the
trees, clay lasts were dipped into the liquid twenty or thirty times,
each layer being smoked a little. The shoes were then hung up to
harden for a few days; after which the clay was removed, and the shoes
were stored for some months to harden them still more. Nothing was
more natural than to suppose that Yankees could do this as well as
Indians, if not far better. The raw India-rubber could then be bought
in Boston for five cents a pound, and a pair of shoes made of it
brought from three to five dollars. Surely here was a promising basis
for a new branch of manufacture in New England. It happened too, in
1830, that vast quantities of the raw gum reached the United States.
It came covered with hides, in masses, of which no use could be made
in America; and it remained unsold, or was sent to Europe.

Patent-leather suggested the first American attempt to turn
India-rubber to account. Mr. E.M. Chaffee, foreman of a Boston
patent-leather factory conceived the idea, in 1830, of spreading
India-rubber upon cloth, hoping to produce an article which should
possess the good qualities of patent-leather, with the additional one
of being water-proof. In the deepest secrecy he experimented for
several months. By dissolving a pound of India rubber in three quarts
of spirits of turpentine, and adding lampblack enough to give it the
desired color, he produced a composition which he supposed would
perfectly answer the purpose. He invented a machine for spreading it,
and made some specimens of cloth, which had every appearance of being
a very useful article. The surface, after being dried in the sun, was
firm and smooth; and Mr. Chaffee supposed, and his friends agreed with
him, that he had made an invention of the utmost value. At this point
he invited a few of the solid men of Roxbury to look at his specimens
and listen to his statements. He convinced them. The result of the
conference was the Roxbury India-rubber Company, incorporated in
February, 1833, with a capital of thirty thousand dollars.

The progress of this Company was amazing. Within a year its capital
was increased to two hundred and forty thousand dollars. Before
another year had expired, this was increased to three hundred
thousand; and in the year following, to four hundred thousand. The
Company manufactured the cloth invented by Mr. Chaffee, and many
articles made of that cloth, such as coats, caps, wagon-curtains and
coverings. Shoes, made without fibre, were soon introduced. Nothing
could be better than the appearance of these articles when they were
new. They were in the highest favor, and were sold more rapidly than
the Company could manufacture them. The astonishing prosperity of the
Roxbury Company had its natural effect in calling into existence
similar establishments in other towns. Manufactories were started at
Boston, Framingham, Salem, Lynn, Chelsea, Troy, and Staten Island,
with capitals ranging from one hundred thousand dollars to half a
million; and all of them appeared to prosper. There was an
India-rubber mania in those years similar to that of petroleum in
1864. Not to invest in India-rubber stock was regarded by some shrewd
men as indicative of inferior business talents and general dulness of
comprehension. The exterior facts were certainly well calculated to
lure even the most wary. Here was a material worth only a few cents a
pound, out of which shoes were quickly made, which brought two dollars
a pair! It was a plain case. Besides, there were the India-rubber
Companies, all working to their extreme capacity, and selling all they
could make.

It was when the business had reached this flourishing stage that
Charles Goodyear, a bankrupt hardware merchant of Philadelphia, first
had his attention directed to the material upon which it was founded.
In 1834, being in New York on business, he chanced to observe the sign
of the Roxbury Company, which then had a depot in that city. He had
been reading in the newspapers, not long before, descriptions of the
new life-preservers made of India-rubber, an application of the gum
that was much extolled. Curiosity induced him to enter the store to
examine the life-preservers. He bought one and took it home with him.
A native of Connecticut, he possessed in full measure the Yankee
propensity to look at a new contrivance, first with a view to
understand its principle, and next to see if it cannot be improved.
Already he had had some experience both of the difficulty of
introducing an improved implement, and of the profit to be derived
from its introduction. His father, the head of the firm of A. Goodyear
and Sons, of which he was a member, was the first to manufacture
hay-forks of spring steel, instead of the heavy, wrought-iron forks
made by the village blacksmith; and Charles Goodyear could remember
the time when his father reckoned it a happy day on which he had
persuaded a farmer to accept a few of the new forks as a gift, on the
condition of giving them a trial. But it was also very fresh in his
recollection that those same forks had made their way to almost
universal use, had yielded large profits to his firm, and were still a
leading article of its trade, when, in 1830, the failure of Southern
houses had compelled it to suspend. He was aware, too, that, if
anything could extricate the house of A. Goodyear and Sons from
embarrassment, it was their possession of superior methods of
manufacturing and their sale of articles improved by their own

Upon examining his life-preserver, an improvement in the inflating
apparatus occurred to him. When he was next in New York he explained
his improvement to the agent of the Roxbury Company, and offered to
sell it. The agent, struck with the ingenuity displayed in the new
contrivance, took the inventor into his confidence, partly by way of
explaining why the Company could not then buy the improved tube, but
principally with a view to enlist the aid of an ingenious mind in
overcoming a difficulty that threatened the Company with ruin. He told
him that the prosperity of the India-rubber Companies in the United
States was wholly fallacious. The Roxbury Company had manufactured
vast quantities of shoes and fabrics in the cool months of 1833 and
1834, which had been readily sold at high prices; but during the
following summer, the greater part of them had melted. Twenty thousand
dollars' worth had been returned, reduced to the consistency of common
gum, and emitting an odor so offensive that they had been obliged to
bury it. New ingredients had been employed, new machinery applied, but
still the articles would dissolve. In some cases, shoes had borne the
heat of one summer, and melted the next. The wagon-covers became
sticky in the sun, and rigid in the cold. The directors were at their
wits' end;--since it required two years to test a new process, and
meanwhile they knew not whether the articles made by it were valuable
or worthless. If they stopped manufacturing, that was certain ruin. If
they went on, they might find the product of a whole winter dissolving
on their hands. The capital of the Company was already so far
exhausted, that, unless the true method were speedily discovered, it
would be compelled to wind up its affairs. The agent urged Mr.
Goodyear not to waste time upon minor improvements, but to direct all
his efforts to finding out the secret of successfully working the
material itself. The Company could not buy his improved inflator; but
let him learn how to make an India-rubber that would stand the
summer's heat, and there was scarcely any price which it would not
gladly give for the secret.

The worst apprehensions of the directors of this Company were
realized. The public soon became tired of buying India-rubber shoes
that could only be saved during the summer by putting them into a
refrigerator. In the third year of the mania, India-rubber stock began
to decline, and Roxbury itself finally fell to two dollars and a half.
Before the close of 1836, all the Companies had ceased to exist, their
fall involving many hundreds of families in heavy loss. The clumsy,
shapeless shoes from South America were the only ones which the people
would buy. It was generally supposed that the secret of their
resisting heat was that they were smoked with the leaves of a certain
tree, peculiar to South America, and that nothing else in nature would
answer the purpose.

The two millions of dollars lost by these Companies had one result
which has proved to be worth many times that sum; it led Charles
Goodyear to undertake the investigation of India-rubber. That chance
conversation with the agent of the Roxbury Company fixed his destiny.
If he were alive to read these lines, he would, however, protest
against the use of such a word as _chance_ in this connection. He
really appears to have felt himself "called" to study India-rubber. He
says himself:--

     "From the time that his attention was first given to the
     subject, a strong and abiding impression was made upon his
     mind, that an object so desirable and important, and so
     necessary to man's comfort, as the making of gum-elastic
     available to his use, was most certainly placed within his
     reach. Having this presentiment, of which he could not
     divest himself under the most trying adversity, he was
     stimulated with the hope of ultimately attaining this

     "Beyond this he would refer the whole to the great Creator,
     who directs the operations of mind to the development of the
     properties of matter, in his own way, at the time when they
     are specially needed, influencing some mind for every work
     or calling.... Were he to refrain from expressing his views
     thus briefly, he would ever feel that he had done violence
     to his sentiments."

This is modestly said, but his friends assure us that he felt it
earnestly and habitually. It was, indeed, this steadfast conviction of
the possibility of attaining his object, and his religious devotion to
it, that constituted his capital in his new business. He had little
knowledge of chemistry, and an aversion to complicated calculations.
He was a ruined man; for, after a long struggle with misfortune, the
firm of A. Goodyear and Sons had surrendered their all to their
creditors, and still owed thirty thousand dollars. He had a family,
and his health was not robust. Upon returning home after conversing
with the agent of the Roxbury Company, he was arrested for debt, and
compelled to reside within the prison limits. He melted his first
pound of India-rubber while he was living within those limits, and
struggling to keep out of the jail itself. Thus he began his
experiments in circumstances as little favorable as can be imagined.
There were only two things in his favor. One was his conviction that
India-rubber _could_ be subjugated, and that he was the man destined
to subjugate it. The other was, that, India-rubber having fallen to
its old price, he could continue his labors as long as he could raise
five cents and procure access to a fire. The very odium in which
business-men held India-rubber, though it long retarded his final
triumph, placed an abundance of the native gum within the means even
of an inmate of the debtor's prison, in which he often was during the
whole period of his experimenting. He was seldom out of jail a whole
year from 1835 to 1841, and never out of danger of arrest.

In a small house in Philadelphia, in the winter of 1834--35, he began
his investigations. He melted his gum by the domestic fire, kneaded it
with his own hands, spread it upon a marble slab, and rolled it with a
rolling-pin. A prospect of success flattered him from the first and
lured him on. He was soon able to produce sheets of India-rubber which
appeared as firm as those imported, and which tempted a friend to
advance him a sum of money sufficient to enable him to manufacture
several hundred pairs of shoes. He succeeded in embossing his shoes in
various patterns, which gave them a novel and elegant appearance.
Mindful, however, of the disasters of the Roxbury Company, he had the
prudence to store his shoes until the summer. The hot days of June
reduced them all to soft and stinking paste. His friend was
discouraged, and refused him further aid. For his own part, such
experiences as this, though they dashed his spirits for a while,
stimulated him to new efforts.

It now occurred to him, that perhaps it was the turpentine used in
dissolving the gum, or the lampblack employed to color it, that
spoiled his product. He esteemed it a rare piece of luck to procure
some barrels of the sap not smoked, and still liquid. On going to the
shed where the precious sap was deposited, he was accosted by an
Irishman in his employ, who, in high glee, informed him that he had
discovered the secret, pointing to his overalls, which he had dipped
into the sap, and which were nicely coated with firm India-rubber. For
a moment he thought that Jerry might have blundered into the secret.
The man, however, sat down on a barrel near the fire, and, on
attempting, to rise, found himself glued to his seat and his legs
stuck together. He had to be cut out of his overalls. The master
proceeded to experiment with the sap, but soon discovered, that the
handsome white cloth made of it bore the heat no better than that
which was produced in the usual manner.

It is remarkable, that inventors seldom derive direct aid from the
science of their day. James Watt modestly ascribes to Professor Black
part of the glory of his improvements in the steam-engine; but it
seems plain from his own narrative, that he made his great invention
of the condenser without any assistance. Professor Black assisted to
instruct and form him; but the flash of genius, which made the
steam-engine what we now see it, was wholly his own. The science of
Glasgow was diligently questioned by him upon the defects of the old
engine, but it gave him no hint of the remedy. It was James Watt,
mathematical-instrument maker, earning fourteen shillings a week, who
brooded over his little model until the conception of the condenser
burst upon him, as he was taking his Sunday afternoon stroll on
Glasgow Green. Goodyear had a similar experience. Philadelphia has
always been noted for its chemists and its chemical works, and that
city still supplies the greater part of the country with manufactured
drugs and chemists' materials. Nevertheless, though Goodyear explained
his difficulties to professors, physicians, and chemists, none of them
could give him valuable information; none suggested an experiment that
produced a useful result. We know not, indeed, whether science has
ever explained his final success.

Satisfied that nothing could be done with India-rubber pure and
simple, he concluded that a compound of some substance with
India-rubber could alone render the gum available. He was correct in
this conjecture, but it remained to be discovered whether there was
such a substance in nature. He tried everything he could think of. For
a short time he was elated with the result of his experiments with
magnesia, mixing half a pound of magnesia with a pound of gum. This
compound had the advantage of being whiter than the pure sap. It was
so firm that he used it as leather in the binding of a book. In a few
weeks, however, he had the mortification of seeing his elegant white
book-covers fermenting and softening. Afterwards, they grew as hard
and brittle as shell, and so they remain to this day.

By this time, the patience of his friends and his own little fund of
money were both exhausted; and, one by one, the relics of his former
prosperity, even to his wife's trinkets, found their way to the
pawnbroker. He was a sanguine man, as inventors need to be, always
feeling that he was on the point of succeeding. The very confidence
with which he announced a new conception served at length to close all
ears to his solicitations. In the second year of his investigation he
removed his family to the country, and went to New York, in quest of
some one who had still a little faith in India-rubber. His credit was
then at so low an ebb that he was obliged to deposit with the landlord
a quantity of linen, spun by his excellent wife. It was never
redeemed. It was sold at auction to pay the first quarter's rent; and
his furniture also would have been seized, but that he had taken the
precaution to sell it himself in Philadelphia, and had placed in his
cottage articles of too little value to tempt the hardest creditor.

In New York,--the first resort of the enterprising and the last refuge
of the unfortunate,--he found two old friends; one of whom lent him a
room in Gold Street for a laboratory, and the other, a druggist,
supplied him with materials on credit. Again his hopes were flattered
by an apparent success. By boiling his compound of gum and magnesia in
quicklime and water, an article was produced which seemed to be all
that he could desire. Some sheets of India-rubber made by this process
drew a medal at the fair of the American Institute in 1835, and were
much commended in the newspapers. Nothing could exceed the smoothness
and firmness of the surface of these sheets; nor have they to this day
been surpassed in these particulars. He obtained a patent for the
process, manufactured a considerable quantity, sold his product
readily, and thought his difficulties were at an end. In a few weeks
his hopes were dashed to the ground. He found that a drop of weak
acid, such as apple-juice or vinegar and water, instantly annihilated
the effect of the lime, and made the beautiful surface of his cloth

Undaunted, he next tried the experiment of mixing quicklime with pure
gum. He tells us that, at this time, he used to prepare a gallon jug
of quicklime at his room in Gold Street, and carry it on his shoulder
to Greenwich Village, distant three miles, where he had access to
horse-power for working his compound. This experiment, too, was a
failure. The lime in a short time appeared to consume the gum with
which it was mixed, leaving a substance that crumbled to pieces.

Accident suggested his next process, which, though he knew it not, was
a step toward his final success. Except his almost unparalleled
perseverance, the most marked trait in the character of this singular
man was his love for beautiful forms and colors. An incongruous
garment or decoration upon a member of his family, or anything tawdry
or ill-arranged in a room, gave him positive distress. Accordingly, we
always find him endeavoring to decorate his India-rubber fabrics. It
was in bronzing the surface of some India-rubber drapery that the
accident happened to which we have referred. Desiring to remove the
bronze from a piece of the drapery, he applied aquafortis for the
purpose, which did indeed have the effect desired, but it also
discolored the fabric and appeared to spoil it. He threw away the
piece as useless. Several days after, it occurred to him that he had
not sufficiently examined the effect of the aquafortis, and, hurrying
to his room, he was fortunate enough to find it again. A remarkable
change appeared to have been made in the India-rubber. He does not
seem to have been aware that aquafortis is two fifths sulphuric acid.
Still less did he ever suspect that the surface of his drapery had
really been "vulcanized." All he knew was, that India-rubber cloth
"cured," as he termed it, by aquafortis, was incomparably superior to
any previously made, and bore a degree of heat that rendered it
available for many valuable purposes.

He was again a happy man. A partner, with ample capital, joined him.
He went to Washington and patented his process. He showed his
specimens to President Jackson, who expressed in writing his approval
of them. Returning to New York, he prepared to manufacture on a great
scale, hired the abandoned India-rubber works on Staten Island, and
engaged a store in Broadway for the sale of his fabrics. In the midst
of these grand preparations, his zeal in experimenting almost cost him
his life. Having generated a large quantity of poisonous gas in his
close room, he was so nearly suffocated that it was six weeks before
he recovered his health. Before he had begun to produce his fabrics in
any considerable quantity, the commercial storm of 1836 swept away the
entire property of his partner, which put a complete stop to the
operations in India-rubber, and reduced poor Goodyear to his normal
condition of beggary. Beggary it literally was; for he was absolutely
dependent upon others for the means of sustaining life. He mentions
that, soon after this crushing blow, his family having previously
joined him in New York, he awoke one morning to discover that he had
neither an atom of food for them, nor a cent to buy it with. Putting
in his pocket an article that he supposed a pawnbroker would value, he
set out in the hope of procuring enough money to sustain them for one
day. Before reaching the sign, so familiar to him, of the three Golden
Balls, he met a terrible being to a man in his situation,--a creditor!
Hungry and dejected, he prepared his mind for a torrent of bitter
reproaches; for this gentleman was one whose patience he felt he had
abused. What was his relief when his creditor accosted him gayly with,
"Well, Mr. Goodyear, what can I do for you to-day?" His first thought
was, that an insult was intended, so preposterous did it seem that
this man could really desire to aid him further. Satisfied that the
offer was well meant, he told his friend that he had come out that
morning in search of food for his family, and that a loan of fifteen
dollars would greatly oblige him. The money was instantly produced,
which enabled him to postpone his visit to the pawnbroker for several
days. The pawnbroker was still, however, his frequent resource all
that year, until the few remains of his late brief prosperity had all

But he never for a moment let go his hold upon India-rubber. A timely
loan of a hundred dollars from an old friend enabled him to remove his
family to Staten Island, near the abandoned India-rubber factory.
Having free access to the works, he and his wife contrived to
manufacture a few articles of his improved cloth, and to sell enough
to provide daily bread. His great object there was to induce the
directors of the suspended Company to recommence operations upon his
new process. But so completely sickened were they of the very name of
a material which had involved them in so much loss and discredit, that
during the six months of his residence on the Island he never
succeeded in persuading one man to do so much as come to the factory
and look at his specimens. There were thousands of dollars' worth of
machinery there, but not a single shareholder cared even to know the
condition of the property. This was the more remarkable, since he was
unusually endowed by nature with the power to inspire other men with
his own confidence. The magnates of Staten Island, however, involved
as they were in the general shipwreck of property and credit, were
inexorably deaf to his eloquence.

As he had formerly exhausted Philadelphia, so now New York seemed
exhausted. He became even an object of ridicule. He was regarded as an
India-rubber monomaniac. One of his New York friends having been asked
how Mr. Goodyear could be recognized in the street, replied: "If you
see a man with an India-rubber coat on, India-rubber shoes, an
India-rubber cap, and in his pocket an India-rubber purse, with not a
cent in it, that is he." He was in the habit then of wearing his
material in every form, with the twofold view of testing and
advertising it.

In September, 1836, aided again by a small loan, he packed a few of
his best specimens in his carpet-bag, and set out alone for the cradle
of the India-rubber manufacture,--Roxbury. The ruin of the great
Company there was then complete, and the factory was abandoned. All
that part of Massachusetts was suffering from the total depreciation
of the India-rubber stocks. There were still, however, two or three
persons who could not quite give up India-rubber. Mr. Chaffee, the
originator of the manufacture in America, welcomed warmly a brother
experimenter, admired his specimens, encouraged him to persevere,
procured him friends, and, what was more important, gave him the use
of the enormous machinery standing idle in the factory. A brief,
delusive prosperity again relieved the monotony of misfortune. By his
new process, he made shoes, piano-covers, and carriage-cloths, so
superior to any previously produced in the United States as to cause a
temporary revival of the business, which enabled him to sell rights to
manufacture under his patents. His profits in a single year amounted
to four or five thousand dollars. Again he had his family around him,
and felt a boundless confidence in the future.

An event upon which he had depended for the completeness of his
triumph plunged him again into ruin. He received an order from the
government for a hundred and fifty India-rubber mail-bags. Having
perfect confidence in his ability to execute this order, he gave the
greatest possible publicity to it. All the world should now see that
Goodyear's India-rubber was all that Goodyear had represented it. The
bags were finished; and beautiful bags they were,--smooth, firm,
highly polished, well-shaped, and indubitably water-proof. He had them
hung up all round the factory, and invited every one to come and
inspect them. They were universally admired, and the maker was
congratulated upon his success. It was in the summer that these fatal
bags were finished. Having occasion to be absent for a month, he left
them hanging in the factory. Judge of his consternation when, on his
return, he found them softening, fermenting, and dropping off their
handles. The aquafortis did indeed "cure" the surface of his
India-rubber, but only the surface. Very thin cloth made by this
process was a useful and somewhat durable article; but for any other
purpose, it was valueless. The public and signal failure of the
mail-bags, together with the imperfection of all his products except
his thinnest cloth, suddenly and totally destroyed his rising
business. Everything he possessed that was salable was sold at auction
to pay his debts. He was again penniless and destitute, with an
increased family and an aged father dependent upon him.

His friends, his brothers, and his wife now joined in dissuading him
from further experiments. Were not four years of such vicissitude
enough? Who had ever touched India-rubber without loss? Could he hope
to succeed, when so many able and enterprising men had failed? Had he
a right to keep his family in a condition so humiliating and painful?
He had succeeded in the hardware business; why not return to it? There
were those who would join him in any rational under-taking; but how
could he expect that any one would be willing to throw more money into
a bottomless pit that had already ingulfed millions without result?
These arguments he could not answer, and we cannot; the friends of all
the great inventors have had occasion to use the same. It seemed
highly absurd to the friends of Fitch, Watt, Fulton, Wedgwood,
Whitney, Arkwright, that they should forsake the beaten track of
business to pursue a path that led through the wilderness to nothing
but wilderness. Not one of these men, perhaps, could have made a
reasonable reply to the remonstrances of their friends. They only
felt, as poor Goodyear felt, that the steep and thorny path which they
were treading was the path they _must_ pursue. A power of which they
could give no satisfactory account urged them on. And when we look
closely into the lives of such men, we observe that, in their dark
days, some trifling circumstance was always occurring that set them
upon new inquiries and gave them new hopes. It might be an _ignis
fatuus_ that led them farther astray, or it might be genuine light
which brought them into the true path.

Goodyear might have yielded to his friends on this occasion, for he
was an affectionate man, devoted to his family, had not one of those
trifling events occurred which inflamed his curiosity anew. During his
late transient prosperity, he had employed a man, Nathaniel Hayward by
name, who had been foreman of one of the extinct India-rubber
companies. He found him in charge of the abandoned factory, and still
making a few articles on his own account by a new process. To harden
his India-rubber, he put a very small quantity of sulphur into it, or
sprinkled sulphur upon the surface and dried it in the sun. Mr.
Goodyear was surprised to observe that this process seemed to produce
the same effect as the application of aquafortis. It does not appear
to have occurred to him that Hayward's process and his own were
essentially the same. A chemical dictionary would have informed him
that sulphuric acid enters largely into the composition of aquafortis,
from which he might have inferred that the only difference between the
two methods was, that Hayward employed the sun, and Goodyear nitric
acid, to give the sulphur effect. Hayward's goods, however, were
liable to a serious objection: the smell of the sulphur, in warm
weather, was intolerable. Hayward, it appears, was a very illiterate
man; and the only account he could give of his invention was, that it
was revealed to him in a dream. His process was of so little use to
him, that Goodyear bought his patent for a small sum, and gave him
employment at monthly wages until the mail-bag disaster deprived him
of the means of doing so.

In combining sulphur with India-rubber, Goodyear had approached so
near his final success that one step more brought him to it. He was
certain that he was very close to the secret. He saw that sulphur had
a mysterious power over India-rubber when a union could be effected
between the two substances. True, there was an infinitesimal quantity
of sulphur in his mail-bags, and they had melted in the shade; but the
surface of his cloth, powdered with the sulphur and dried in the sun,
bore the sun's heat. Here was a mystery. The problem was, how to
produce in a _mass_ of India-rubber the change effected on the surface
by sulphur and sun? He made numberless experiments. He mixed with the
gum large quantities of sulphur, and small quantities. He exposed his
compound to the sun, and held it near a fire. He felt that he had the
secret in his hands; but for many weary months it eluded him.

And, after all, it was an accident that revealed it; but an accident
that no man in the world but Charles Goodyear could have interpreted,
nor he, but for his five years' previous investigation. At Woburn one
day, in the spring of 1839, he was standing with his brother and
several other persons near a very hot stove. He held in his hand a
mass of his compound of sulphur and gum, upon which he was expatiating
in his usual vehement manner,--the company exhibiting the indifference
to which he was accustomed. In the crisis of his argument he made a
violent gesture, which brought the mass in contact with the stove,
which was hot enough to melt India-rubber instantly; upon looking at
it a moment after, he perceived that his compound had not melted in
the least degree! It had charred as leather chars, but no part of the
surface had dissolved. There was not a sticky place upon it. To say
that he was astonished at this would but faintly express his ecstasy
of amazement. The result was absolutely new to all experience,
--India-rubber not melting in contact with red-hot iron! A man must
have been five years absorbed in the pursuit of an object to
comprehend his emotions. He felt as Columbus felt when he saw the
land-bird alighting upon his ship, and the driftwood floating by. But,
like Columbus, he was surrounded with an unbelieving crew. Eagerly he
showed his charred India-rubber to his brother, and to the other
bystanders, and dwelt upon the novelty and marvellousness of his fact.
They regarded it with complete indifference. The good man had worn
them all out. Fifty times before, he had run to them, exulting in some
new discovery, and they supposed, of course, that this was another of
his chimeras.

He followed the new clew with an enthusiasm which his friends would
have been justified in calling frenzy, if success had not finally
vindicated him. He soon discovered that his compound would not melt at
any degree of heat. It next occurred to him to ascertain at how low a
temperature it would char, and whether it was not possible to _arrest_
the combustion at a point that would leave the India-rubber elastic,
but deprived of its adhesiveness. A single experiment proved that this
was possible. After toasting a piece of his compound before an open
fire, he found that, while part of it was charred, a rim of
India-rubber round the charred portion was elastic still, and even
more elastic than pure gum. In a few days he had established three
facts;--first, that this rim of India-rubber would bear a temperature
of two hundred and seventy-eight degrees without charring; second,
that it would not melt or soften at any heat; third, that, placed
between blocks of ice and left out of doors all night, it would not
stiffen in the least degree. He had triumphed, and he knew it. He
tells us that he now "felt himself amply repaid for the past, and
quite indifferent as to the trials of the future." It was well he was
so, for his darkest days were before him, and he was still six years
from a practicable success. He had, indeed, proved that a compound of
sulphur and India-rubber, in proper proportions and in certain
conditions, being subjected for a certain time to a certain degree of
heat, undergoes a change which renders it perfectly available for all
the uses to which he had before attempted in vain to apply it. But it
remained to be ascertained what were those proper proportions, what
were those conditions, what was that degree of heat, what was that
certain time, and by what means the heat could be best applied.

The difficulty of all this may be inferred when we state that at the
present time it takes an intelligent man a year to learn how to
conduct the process with certainty, though he is provided, from the
start, with the best implements and appliances which twenty years'
experience has suggested. And poor Goodyear had now reduced himself,
not merely to poverty, but to isolation. No friend of his could
conceal his impatience when he heard him pronounce the word
India-rubber. Business-men recoiled from the name of it. He tells us
that two entire years passed, after he had made his discovery, before
he had convinced one human being of its value. Now, too, his
experiments could no longer be carried on with a few pounds of
India-rubber, a quart of turpentine, a phial of aquafortis, and a
little lampblack. He wanted the means of producing a high, uniform,
and controllable degree of heat,--a matter of much greater difficulty
than he anticipated. We catch brief glimpses of him at this time in
the volumes of testimony. We see him waiting for his wife to draw the
loaves from her oven, that he might put into it a batch of
India-rubber to bake, and watching it all the evening, far into the
night, to see what effect was produced by one hour's, two hours',
three hours', six hours' baking. We see him boiling it in his wife's
saucepans, suspending it before the nose of her teakettle, and hanging
it from the handle of that vessel to within an inch of the boiling
water. We see him roasting it in the ashes and in hot sand, toasting
it before a slow fire and before a quick fire, cooking it for one hour
and for twenty-four hours, changing the proportions of his compound
and mixing them in different ways. No success rewarded him while he
employed only domestic utensils. Occasionally, it is true, he produced
a small piece of perfectly vulcanized India-rubber; but upon
subjecting other pieces to precisely the same process, they would
blister or char.

Then we see him resorting to the shops and factories in the
neighborhood of Woburn, asking the privilege of using an oven after
working hours, or of hanging a piece of India-rubber in the "man-hole"
of the boiler. The foremen testify that he was a great plague to them,
and smeared their works with his sticky compound; but, though they all
regarded him as little better than a troublesome lunatic, they all
appear to have helped him very willingly. He frankly confesses that he
lived at this time on charity; for, although _he_ felt confident of
being able to repay the small sums which pity for his family enabled
him to borrow, his neighbors who lent him the money were as far as
possible from expecting payment. Pretending to lend, they meant to
give. One would pay his butcher's bill or his milk bill; another would
send in a barrel of flour; another would take in payment some articles
of the old stock of India-rubber; and some of the farmers allowed his
children to gather sticks in their fields to heat his hillocks of sand
containing masses of sulphurized India-rubber. If the people of New
England were not the most "neighborly" people in the world, his family
must have starved, or he must have given up his experiments. But, with
all the generosity of his neighbors, his children were often sick,
hungry, and cold, without medicine, food, or fuel. One witness
testifies: "I found (in 1839) that they had not fuel to burn nor food
to eat, and did not know where to get a morsel of food from one day to
another, unless it was sent in to them." We can neither justify nor
condemn their father. Imagine Columbus within sight of the new world,
and his obstinate crew declaring it was only a mirage, and refusing to
row him ashore! Never was mortal man surer that he had a fortune in
his hand, than Charles Goodyear was when he would take a piece of
scorched and dingy India-rubber from his pocket and expound its
marvellous properties to a group of incredulous villagers. Sure also
was he that he was just upon the point of a practicable success. Give
him but an oven, and would he not turn you out fire-proof and
cold-proof India-rubber, as fast as a baker can produce loaves of
bread? Nor was it merely the hope of deliverance from his pecuniary
straits that urged him on. In all the records of his career, we
perceive traces of something nobler than this. His health being always
infirm, he was haunted with the dread of dying before he had reached a
point in his discoveries where other men, influenced by ordinary
motives, could render them available.

By the time that he had exhausted the patience of the foremen of the
works near Woburn, he had come to the conclusion that an oven was the
proper means of applying heat to his compound. An oven he forthwith
determined to build. Having obtained the use of a corner of a factory
yard, his aged father, two of his brothers, his little son, and
himself sallied forth, with pickaxe and shovels, to begin the work:
and when they had done all that unskilled labor could effect towards
it, he induced a mason to complete it, and paid him in bricklayers'
aprons made of aqua-fortized India-rubber. This first oven was a
tantalizing failure. The heat was neither uniform nor controllable.
Some of the pieces of India-rubber would come out so perfectly "cured"
as to demonstrate the utility of his discovery; but others, prepared
in precisely the same manner, as far as he could discern, were
spoiled, either by blistering or charring. He was puzzled and
distressed beyond description; and no single voice consoled or
encouraged him. Out of the first piece of cloth which he succeeded in
vulcanizing he had a coat made for himself, which was not an
ornamental garment in its best estate; but, to prove to the
unbelievers that it would stand fire, he brought it so often in
contact with hot stoves, that at last it presented an exceedingly
dingy appearance. His coat did not impress the public favorably, and
it served to confirm the opinion that he was laboring under a mania.

In the midst of his first disheartening experiments with sulphur, he
had an opportunity of escaping at once from his troubles. A house in
Paris made him an advantageous offer for the use of his aquafortis
process. From the abyss of his misery the honest man promptly replied,
that that process, valuable as it was, was about to be superseded by a
new method, which he was then perfecting, and as soon as he had
developed it sufficiently he should be glad to close with their
offers. Can we wonder that his neighbors thought him mad?

It was just after declining the French proposal that he endured his
worst extremity of want and humiliation. It was in the winter of
1839--40. One of those long and terrible snow-storms for which New
England is noted had been raging for many hours, and he awoke one
morning to find his little cottage half buried in snow, the storm
still continuing, and in his house not an atom of fuel nor a morsel of
food. His children were very young, and he was himself sick and
feeble. The charity of his neighbors was exhausted, and he had not the
courage to face their reproaches. As he looked out of the window upon
the dreary and tumultuous scene, "fit emblem of his condition," he
remarks, he called to mind that, a few days before, an acquaintance, a
mere acquaintance, who lived some miles off, had given him upon the
road a more friendly greeting than he was then accustomed to receive.
It had cheered his heart as he trudged sadly by, and it now returned
vividly to his mind. To this gentleman he determined to apply for
relief, if he could reach his house. Terrible was his struggle with
the wind and the deep drifts. Often he was ready to faint with
fatigue, sickness, and hunger, and he would be obliged to sit down
upon a bank of snow to rest. He reached the house and told his story,
not omitting the oft-told tale of his new discovery,--that mine of
wealth, if only he could procure the means of working it! The eager
eloquence of the inventor was seconded by the gaunt and yellow face of
the man. His generous acquaintance entertained him cordially, and lent
him a sum of money, which not only carried his family through the
worst of the winter, but enabled him to continue his experiments on a
small scale. O.B. Coolidge, of Woburn, was the name of this

On another occasion, when he was in the most urgent need of materials,
he looked about his house to see if there was left one relic of better
days upon which a little money could be borrowed. There was nothing
except his children's school-books,--the last things from which a
New-Englander is willing to part. There was no other resource. He
gathered them up and sold them for five dollars, with which he laid in
a fresh stock of gum and sulphur, and kept on experimenting.

Seeing no prospect of success in Massachusetts, he now resolved to
make a desperate effort to get to New York, feeling confident that the
specimens he could take with him would convince some one of the
superiority of his new method. He was beginning to understand the
causes of his many failures, but he saw clearly that his compound
could not be worked with certainty without expensive apparatus. It was
a very delicate operation, requiring exactness and promptitude. The
conditions upon which success depended were numerous, and the failure
of one spoiled all. To vulcanize India-rubber is about as difficult as
to make perfect bread; but the art of bread-making was the growth of
ages, and Charles Goodyear was only ten years and a half in perfecting
his process. Thousands of ingenious men and women, aided by many happy
accidents, must have contributed to the successive invention of bread;
but he was only one man, poor and sick. It cost him thousands of
failures to learn that a little acid in his sulphur caused the
blistering; that his compound must be heated almost immediately after
being mixed, or it would never vulcanize; that a portion of white lead
in the compound greatly facilitated the operation and improved the
result; and when he had learned these facts, it still required costly
and laborious experiments to devise the best methods of compounding
his ingredients, the best proportions, the best mode of heating, the
proper duration of the heating, and the various useful effects that
could be produced by varying the proportions and the degree of heat.
He tells us that many times, when, by exhausting every resource, he
had prepared a quantity of his compound for heating, it was spoiled
because he could not, with his inadequate apparatus, apply the heat
soon enough.

To New York, then, he directed his thoughts. Merely to get there cost
him a severer and a longer effort than men in general are capable of
making. First he walked to Boston, ten miles distant, where he hoped
to be able to borrow from an old acquaintance fifty dollars, with
which to provide for his family and pay his fare to New York. He not
only failed in this, but he was arrested for debt and thrown into
prison. Even in prison, while his father was negotiating to secure his
release, he labored to interest men of capital in his discovery, and
made proposals for founding a factory in Boston. Having obtained his
liberty, he went to a hotel, and spent a week in vain efforts to
effect a small loan. Saturday night came, and with it his hotel bill,
which he had no means of discharging. In an agony of shame and
anxiety, he went to a friend, and entreated the sum of five dollars to
enable him to return home. He was met with a point-blank refusal. In
the deepest dejection, he walked the streets till late in the night,
and strayed at length, almost beside himself, to Cambridge, where he
ventured to call upon a friend and ask shelter for the night. He was
hospitably entertained, and the next morning walked wearily home,
penniless and despairing. At the door of his house a member of his
family met him with the news that his youngest child, two years of
age, whom he had left in perfect health, was dying. In a few hours he
had in his house a dead child, but not the means of burying it, and
five living dependants without a morsel of food to give them. A
storekeeper near by had promised to supply the family, but,
discouraged by the unforeseen length of the father's absence, he had
that day refused to trust them further. In these terrible
circumstances, he applied to a friend upon whose generosity he knew he
could rely, one who had never failed him. He received in reply a
letter of severe and cutting reproach, enclosing seven dollars, which
his friend explained was given only out of pity for his innocent and
suffering family. A stranger, who chanced to be present when this
letter arrived, sent them a barrel of flour,---a timely and blessed
relief. The next day the family followed on foot the remains of the
little child to the grave.

A relation in a distant part of the country, to whom Goodyear revealed
his condition, sent him fifty dollars, which enabled him to get to New
York. He had touched bottom. The worst of his trials were over. In New
York, he had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of two
brothers, William Rider and Emory Eider, men of some property and
great intelligence, who examined his specimens, listened to his story,
believed in him, and agreed to aid him to continue his experiments,
and to supply his family until he had rendered his discovery
available. From that time, though he was generally embarrassed in his
circumstances, his family never wanted bread, and he was never obliged
to suspend his experiments. Aided by the capital, the sympathy, and
the ingenuity of the brothers Rider, he spent a year in New York in
the most patient endeavors to overcome the difficulties in heating his
compound. Before he had succeeded, their resources failed. But he had
made such progress in demonstrating the practicability of his process,
that his brother-in-law, William De Forrest, a noted woollen
manufacturer, took hold of the project in earnest, and aided him to
bring it to perfection. Once more, however, he was imprisoned for
debt. This event conquered his scruples against availing himself of
the benefit of the bankrupt act, which finally delivered him from the
danger of arrest. We should add, however, that, as soon as he began to
derive income from his invention, he reassumed his obligations to his
old creditors, and discharged them gradually.

It was not till the year 1844, more than ten years after he began to
experiment, and more than five years after discovering the secret of
vulcanization, that he was able to conduct his process with absolute
certainty, and to produce vulcanized India-rubber with the requisite
expedition and economy. We can form some conception of the
difficulties overcome by the fact, that the advances of Mr. De Forrest
in aid of the experiment reached the sum of forty-six thousand
dollars,--an amount the inventor did not live long enough to repay.

His triumph had been long deferred, and we have seen in part how much
it had cost him. But his success proved to be richly worth its cost.
He had added to the arts, not a new material merely, but a new class
of materials, applicable to a thousand diverse uses. His product had
more than the elasticity of India-rubber, while it was divested of all
those properties which had lessened its utility. It was still
India-rubber, but its surfaces would not adhere, nor would it harden
at any degree of cold, nor soften at any degree of heat. It was a
cloth impervious to water. It was paper that would not tear. It was
parchment that would not crease. It was leather which neither rain nor
sun would injure. It was ebony that could be run into a mould. It was
ivory that could be worked like wax. It was wood that never cracked,
shrunk, nor decayed. It was metal, "elastic metal," as Daniel Webster
termed it, that could be wound round the finger or tied into a knot,
and which preserved its elasticity almost like steel. Trifling
variations in the ingredients, in the proportions, and in the heating,
made it either as pliable as kid, tougher than ox-hide, as elastic as
whalebone, or as rigid as flint.

All this is stated in a moment, but each of these variations in the
material, as well as every article made from them, cost this
indefatigable man days, weeks, months, or years of experiment. It cost
him, for example, several years of most expensive trial to obviate the
objection to India-rubber fabrics caused by the liability of the gum
to peel from the cloth. He tried every known textile fabric, and every
conceivable process before arriving at the simple expedient of mixing
fibre with the gum, by which, at length, the perfect India-rubber
cloth was produced. This invention he considered only second in value
to the discovery of vulcanization. The India-rubber shoe, as we now
have it, is an admirable article,--light, strong, elegant in shape,
with a fibrous sole that does not readily wear, cut, or slip. As the
shoe is made and joined before vulcanization, a girl can make
twenty-five pairs in a day. They are cut from the soft sheets of gum
and joined by a slight pressure of the hand. But almost every step of
this process, now so simple and easy, was patiently elaborated by
Charles Goodyear. A million and a half of pairs per annum is now the
average number made in the United States by his process, though the
business languishes somewhat from the high price of the raw materials.
The gum, which, when Goodyear began his experiments, was a drug at
five cents a pound, has recently been sold at one dollar and twenty
cents a pound, with all its impurities. Even at this high price the
annual import ranges at from four to five millions of pounds.

Poor Richard informs us that Necessity never makes a good bargain. Mr.
Goodyear was always a prey to necessity. Nor was he ever a good man of
business. He was too entirely an inventor to know how to dispose of
his inventions to advantage; and he could never feel that he had
accomplished his mission with regard to India-rubber. As soon as he
had brought his shoemaking process to the point where other men could
make it profitable, he withdrew from manufacturing, and sold rights to
manufacture for the consideration of half a cent per pair. Five cents
had been reasonable enough, and would have given him ample means to
continue his labors. Half a cent kept him subject to necessity, which
seemed to compel him to dispose of other rights at rates equally low.
Thus it happened that, when the whole India-rubber business of the
country paid him tribute, or ought to have paid it, he remained an
embarrassed man. He had, too, the usual fate of inventors, in having
to contend with the infringers of his rights,--men who owed their all
to his ingenuity and perseverance. We may judge, however, of the
rapidity with which the business grew, by the fact that, six years
after the completion of his vulcanizing process, the holders of rights
to manufacture shoes by that process deemed it worth while to employ
Daniel Webster to plead their cause, and to stimulate his mind by a
fee of twenty-five thousand dollars. It is questionable if Charles
Goodyear ever derived that amount from his patents, if we deduct from
his receipts the money spent in further developing his discovery. His
ill-health obliged him to be abstemious, and he had no expensive
tastes. It was only in his laboratory that he was lavish, and there he
was lavish indeed. His friends still smiled at his zeal, or reproached
him for it. It has been only since the mighty growth of the business
in his products that they have acknowledged that he was right and that
they were wrong. They remember him, sick, meagre, and yellow, now
coming to them with a walking-stick of India-rubber, exulting in the
new application of his material, and predicting its general use, while
they objected that his stick had cost him fifty dollars; now running
about among the comb factories, trying to get reluctant men to try
their tools upon hard India-rubber, and producing at length a set of
combs that cost twenty times the price of ivory ones; now shutting
himself up for months, endeavoring to make a sail of India-rubber
fabric, impervious to water, that should never freeze, and to which no
sleet or ice should ever cling; now exhibiting a set of cutlery with
India-rubber handles, or a picture set in an India-rubber frame, or a
book with India-rubber covers, or a watch with an India-rubber case;
now experimenting with India-rubber tiles for floors, which he hoped
to make as brilliant in color as those of mineral, as agreeable to the
tread as carpet, and as durable as an ancient floor of oak. There is
nothing in the history of invention more remarkable than the devotion
of this man to his object. No crusader was ever so devoted to his vow,
no lover to his mistress, as he was to his purpose of showing mankind
what to do with India-rubber. The doorplate of his office was made of
it; his portrait was painted upon and framed with it; his book, as we
have seen, was wholly composed of it; and his mind, by night and day,
was surcharged with it. He never went to sleep without having within
reach writing materials and the means of making a light, so that, if
he should have an idea in the night, he might be able to secure it.
Some of his best ideas, he used to say, were saved to mankind by this

It is not well for any man to be thus absorbed in his object. To
Goodyear, whose infirm constitution peculiarly needed repose and
recreation, it was disastrous, and at length fatal. It is well with no
man who does riot play as well as work. Fortunately, we are all
beginning to understand this. We are beginning to see that a devotion
to the business of life which leaves no reserve of force and time for
social pleasures and the pursuit of knowledge, diminishes even our
power to conduct business with the sustained and intelligent energy
requisite for a safe success. That is a melancholy passage in one of
Theodore Parker's letters, written in the premature decline of his
powers, in which he laments that he had not, like Franklin, joined a
club, and taken an occasional ramble with young companions in the
country, and played billiards with them in the evening. He added, that
he intended to lead a better life in these particulars for the future;
but who can reform at forty-seven? And the worst of it is, that
ill-health, the natural ally of all evil, favors intensity, lessening
both our power and our inclination to get out of the routine that is
destroying us. Goodyear, always sick, had been for so many years the
slave of his pursuit, he had been so spurred on by necessity, and
lured by partial success, that, when at last he might have rested, he
could not.

It does not become us, however, who reap the harvest, to censure him
who wore himself out in sowing the seed. The harvest is
great,--greater than any but he anticipated. His friends know now that
he never over-estimated the value of his invention. They know now what
he meant when he said that no one but himself would take the trouble
to apply his material to the thousand uses of which it was capable,
because each new application demanded a course of experiments that
would discourage any one who entered upon it only with a view to
profit. The India-rubber manufacture, since his death, has increased
greatly in extent, but not much in other respects, and some of the
ideas which he valued most remain undeveloped. He died, for example,
in the conviction that sails of India-rubber cloth would finally
supersede all others. He spent six months and five thousand dollars in
producing one or two specimens, which were tried and answered their
purpose well; but he was unable to bring his sail-making process to an
available perfection. The sole difficulty was to make his sails as
light as those of cloth. He felt certain of being able to accomplish
this; but in the multiplicity of his objects and the pressure of his
embarrassments, he was compelled to defer the completion of his plans
to a day that never came.

The catalogue of his successful efforts is long and striking. The
second volume of his book is wholly occupied with that catalogue. He
lived to see his material applied to nearly five hundred uses, to give
employment in England, France, Germany, and the United States to sixty
thousand persons, who annually produced merchandise of the value of
eight millions of dollars. A man does much who only founds a new kind
of industry; and he does more when that industry gives value to a
commodity that before was nearly valueless. But we should greatly
undervalue the labors of Charles Goodyear, if we regarded them only as
opening a new source of wealth; for there have been found many uses of
India-rubber, as prepared by him, which have an importance far
superior to their commercial value. Art, science, and humanity are
indebted to him for a material which serves the purposes of them all,
and serves them as no other known material could.

Some of our readers have been out on the picket line during the war.
They know what it is to stand motionless in a wet and miry rifle-pit,
in the chilling rain of a Southern winter's night. Protected by
India-rubber boots, blanket, and cap, the picket man performs in
comparative comfort a duty which, without that protection, would make
him a cowering and shivering wretch, and plant in his bones a latent
rheumatism to be the torment of his old age. Goodyear's India-rubber
enables him to come in from his pit as dry as he was when he went into
it, and he comes in to lie down with an India-rubber blanket between
him and the damp earth. If he is wounded, it is an India-rubber
stretcher, or an ambulance provided with India-rubber springs, that
gives him least pain on his way to the hospital, where, if his wound
is serious, a water-bed of India-rubber gives ease to his mangled
frame, and enables him to endure the wearing tedium of an unchanged
posture. Bandages and supporters of India-rubber avail him much when
first he begins to hobble about his ward. A piece of India-rubber at
the end of his crutch lessens the jar and the noise of his motions,
and a cushion of India-rubber is comfortable to his armpit. The
springs which close the hospital door, the bands which exclude the
drafts from doors and windows, his pocket comb and cup and thimble,
are of the same material. From jars thermetically closed with
India-rubber he receives the fresh fruit that is so exquisitely
delicious to a fevered mouth. The instrument case of his surgeon and
the storeroom of his matron contain many articles whose utility is
increased by the use of it, and some that could be made of nothing
else. His shirts and sheets pass through an India-rubber
clothes-wringer, which saves the strength of the washerwoman and the
fibre of the fabric. When the government presents him with an
artificial leg, a thick heel and elastic sole of India-rubber give him
comfort every time he puts it to the ground. An India-rubber pipe with
an inserted bowl of clay, a billiard-table provided with India-rubber
cushions and balls, can solace his long convalescence.

In the field, this material is not less strikingly useful. During this
war, armies have marched through ten days of rain, and slept through
as many rainy nights, and come out dry into the returning sunshine,
with its artillery untarnished and its ammunition uninjured, because
men and munitions were all under India-rubber. When Goodyear's ideas
are carried out, it will be by pontoons of inflated India-rubber that
rivers will be crossed. A pontoon-train will then consist of one wagon
drawn by two mules; and if the march is through a country that
furnishes the wooden part of the bridge, a man may carry a pontoon on
his back in addition to his knapsack and blanket.

In the naval service we meet this material in a form that attracts
little attention, though it serves a purpose of perhaps unequalled
utility. Mechanics are aware, that, from the time of James Watt to the
year 1850, the grand desideratum of the engine builder was a perfect
joint,--a joint that would not admit the escape of steam. A
steam-engine is all over joints and valves, from most of which some
steam sooner or later would escape, since an engine in motion produces
a continual jar that finally impaired the best joint that art could
make. The old joint-making process was exceedingly expensive. The two
surfaces of iron had to be most carefully ground and polished, then
screwed together, and the edges closed with white lead. By the use of
a thin sheet of vulcanized India-rubber, placed between the iron
surfaces, not only is all this expense saved, but a joint is produced
that is absolutely and permanently perfect. It is not even necessary
to rub off the roughness of the casting, for the rougher the surface,
the better the joint. Goodyear's invention supplies an article that
Watt and Fulton sought in vain, and which would seem to put the
finishing touch to the steam-engine,--if, in these days of
improvement, anything whatever could be considered finished. At
present, all engines are provided with these joints and valves, which
save steam, diminish jar, and facilitate the separation of the parts.
It is difficult to compute the value of this improvement, in money. We
are informed, however, by competent authority, that a steamer of two
thousand tons saves ten thousand dollars a year by its use. Such is
the demand for the engine-packing, as it is termed, that the owners of
the factory where it is chiefly made, after constructing the largest
water-wheel in the world, found it insufficient for their growing
business, and were obliged to add to it a steam-engine of two hundred
horse-power. The New York agent of this company sells about a million
dollars' worth of packing per annum.

Belting for engines is another article for which Goodyear's compound
is superior to any other, inasmuch as the surface of the India-rubber
clings to the iron wheel better than leather or fabric. Leather
polishes and slips; India-rubber does not polish, and holds to the
iron so firmly as to save a large percentage of power. It is no small
advantage merely to save leather for other uses, since leather is an
article of which the supply is strictly limited. It is not uncommon
for India-rubber belts to be furnished, which, if made of leather,
would require more than a hundred hides. Emery-wheels of this material
have been recently introduced. They were formerly made of wood coated
with emery, which soon wore off. In the new manufacture, the emery is
kneaded into the entire mass of the wheel, which can be worn down till
it is all consumed. On the same principle the instruments used to
sharpen scythes are also made. Of late we hear excellent accounts of
India-rubber as a basis for artificial teeth. It is said to be
lighter, more agreeable, less expensive, than gold or platina, and not
less durable. We have seen also some very pretty watch-cases of this
material, elegantly inlaid with gold.

It thus appears, that the result of Mr. Goodyear's long and painful
struggles was the production of a material which now ranks with the
leading compounds of commerce and manufacture, such as glass, brass,
steel, paper, porcelain, paint. Considering its peculiar and varied
utility, it is perhaps inferior in value only to paper, steel, and
glass. We see, also, that the use of the new compound lessens the
consumption of several commodities, such as ivory, bone, ebony, and
leather, which it is desirable to save, because the demand for them
tends to increase faster than the supply. When a set of ivory
billiard-balls costs fifty dollars, and civilization presses upon the
domain of the elephant, it is well to make our combs and our
paper-knives of something else.

That inventions so valuable should be disputed and pirated was
something which the history of all the great inventions might have
taught Mr. Goodyear to expect. We need not revive those disputes which
embittered his life and wasted his substance and his time. The
Honorable Joseph Holt, the Commissioner who granted an extension to
the vulcanizing patent in 1858, has sufficiently characterized them in
one of the most eloquent papers ever issued from the Patent Office:--

     "No inventor probably has ever been so harassed, so trampled
     upon, so plundered by that sordid and licentious class of
     infringers known in the parlance of the world, with no
     exaggeration of phrase, as 'pirates,' The spoliations of
     their incessant guerilla warfare upon his defenceless rights
     have unquestionably amounted to millions. In the very front
     rank of this predatory band stands one who sustains in this
     case the double and most convenient character of contestant
     and witness; and it is but a subdued expression of my
     estimate of the deposition he has lodged, to say that this
     Parthian shaft--the last that he could hurl at an invention
     which he has so long and so remorselessly pursued--is a
     fitting finale to that career which the public justice of
     the country has so signally rebuked."

Mr. Holt paid a noble tribute to the class of men of whose rights he
was the official guardian:--

     "All that is glorious in our past or hopeful in our future
     is indissolubly linked with that cause of human progress of
     which inventors are the _preux chevaliers_. It is no poetic
     translation of the abiding sentiment of the country to say,
     that they are the true jewels of the nation to which they
     belong, and that a solicitude for the protection of their
     rights and interests should find a place in every throb of
     the national heart. Sadly helpless as a class, and offering,
     in the glittering creations of their own genius, the
     strongest temptations to unscrupulous cupidity, they, of all
     men, have most need of the shelter of the public law, while,
     in view of their philanthropic labors, they are of all men
     most entitled to claim it. The schemes of the politician and
     of the statesman may subserve the purposes of the hour, and
     the teachings of the moralist may remain with the generation
     to which they are addressed, but all this must pass away;
     while the fruits of the inventor's genius will endure as
     imperishable, memorials, and, surviving the wreck of creeds
     and systems, alike of politics, religion, and philosophy,
     will diffuse their blessings to all lands and throughout all

When Mr. Goodyear had seen the manufacture of shoes and fabrics well
established in the United States, and when his rights appeared to have
been placed beyond controversy by the Trenton decision of 1852, being
still oppressed with debt, he went to Europe to introduce his material
to the notice of capitalists there. The great manufactories of
vulcanized India-rubber in England, Scotland, France, and Germany are
the result of his labors; but the peculiarities of the patent laws of
those countries, or else his own want of skill in contending for his
rights, prevented him from reaping the reward of his labors. He spent
six laborious years abroad. At the Great Exhibitions of London and
Paris, he made brilliant displays of his wares, which did honor to his
country and himself, and gave an impetus to the prosperity of the men
who have grown rich upon his discoveries. At the London Exhibition, he
had a suite of three apartments, carpeted, furnished, and decorated
only with India-rubber. At Paris, he made a lavish display of
India-rubber jewelry, dressing-cases, work-boxes, picture-frames,
which attracted great attention. His reward was, a four days' sojourn
in the debtors' prison, and the cross of the Legion of Honor. The
delinquency of his American licensees procured him the former, and the
favor of the Emperor the latter.

We have seen that his introduction to India-rubber was through the
medium of a life-preserver. His last labors, also, were consecrated to
life-saving apparatus, of which he invented or suggested a great
variety. His excellent wife was reading to him one evening, in London,
an article from a review, in which it was stated that twenty persons
perished by drowning every hour. The company, startled at a statement
so unexpected, conversed upon it for some time, while Mr. Goodyear
himself remained silent and thoughtful. For several nights he was
restless, as was usually the case with him when he was meditating a
new application of his material. As these periods of incubation were
usually followed by a prostrating sickness, his wife urged him to
forbear, and endeavor to compose his mind to sleep. "Sleep!" said he,
"how can I sleep while twenty human beings are drowning every hour,
and I am the man who can save them?" It was long his endeavor to
invent some article which every man, woman, and child would
necessarily wear, and which would make it impossible for them to sink.

He experimented with hats, cravats, jackets, and petticoats; and,
though he left his principal object incomplete, he contrived many of
those means of saving life which now puzzle the occupants of
state-rooms. He had the idea that every article on board a vessel
seizable in the moment of danger, every chair, table, sofa, and stool,
should be a life-preserver.

He returned to his native land a melancholy spectacle to his
friends,--yellow, emaciated, and feeble,--but still devoted to his
work. He lingered and labored until July, 1860, when he died in New
York, in the sixtieth year of his age. Almost to the last day of his
life he was busy with new applications of his discovery. After
twenty-seven years of labor and investigation, after having founded a
new branch of industry, which gave employment to sixty thousand
persons, he died insolvent, leaving to a wife and six children only an
inheritance of debt. Those who censure him for this should consider
that his discovery was not profitable to himself for more than ten
years, that he was deeply in debt when he began his experiments, that
his investigations could be carried on only by increasing his
indebtedness, that all his bargains were those of a man in need, that
the guilelessness of his nature made him the easy prey of greedy,
dishonorable men, and that his neglect of his private interests was
due, in part, to his zeal for the public good.

Dr. Dutton of New Haven, his pastor and friend, in the Sermon
dedicated to his memory, did not exaggerate when he spoke of him as

     "one who recognized his peculiar endowment of inventive
     genius as a divine gift, involving a special and defined
     responsibility, and considered himself called of God, as was
     Bezaleel, to that particular course of invention to which he
     devoted the chief part of his life. This he often expressed,
     though with his characteristic modesty, to his friends,
     especially his religious friends. His inventive work was his
     religion, and was pervaded and animated by religious faith
     and devotion. He felt like an apostle commissioned for that
     work; and he said to his niece and her husband, who went,
     with his approbation and sympathy, as missionaries of the
     Gospel to Asia, that he was God's missionary as truly as
     they were."

Nothing more true. The demand for the raw gum, almost created by him,
is introducing abundance and developing industry in the regions which
produce it. As the culture of cotton seems the predestined means of
improving Africa, so the gathering of caoutchouc may procure for the
inhabitants of the equatorial regions of both continents such of the
blessings of civilization as they are capable of appropriating.

An attempt was made last winter to procure an act of Congress
extending the vulcanizing patent for a further period of seven years,
for the benefit of the creditors and the family of the inventor. The
petition seemed reasonable. The very low tariff paid by the
manufacturers could have no perceptible effect upon the price of
articles, and the extension would provide a competence for a worthy
family who had claims upon the gratitude of the nation, if not upon
its justice. The manufacturers generally favored the extension, since
the patent protected them, in the deranged condition of our currency,
from the competition of the foreign manufacturer, who pays low wages
and enjoys a sound currency. The extension of the patent would have
harmed no one, and would have been an advantage to the general
interests of the trade. The son of the inventor, too, in whose name
the petition was offered, had spent his whole life in assisting his
father, and had a fair claim upon the consideration of Congress. But
the same unscrupulous and remorseless men who had plundered poor
Goodyear living, hastened to Washington to oppose the petition of his
family. A cry of "monopoly" was raised in the newspapers to which they
had access. The presence in Washington of Mrs. Goodyear, one of the
most retiring of women, and of her son, a singularly modest young man,
who were aided by one friend and one professional agent, was denounced
as "a powerful lobby, male and female," who, having despoiled the
public of "twenty millions," were boring Congress for a grant of
twenty millions more,--all to be wrung from an India-rubber-consuming
public. The short session of Congress is unfavorable to private bills,
even when they are unopposed. These arts sufficed to prevent the
introduction of the bill desired, and the patent has since expired.

The immense increase in the demand for the gum has frequently
suggested the inquiry whether there is any danger of the supply
becoming unequal to it. There are now in Europe and America more than
a hundred and fifty manufactories of India-rubber articles, employing
from five to five hundred operatives each, and consuming more than ten
millions of pounds of gum per annum. The business, too, is considered
to be still in its infancy. Certainly, it is increasing. Nevertheless,
there is no possibility of the demand exceeding the supply. The belt
of land round the globe, five hundred miles north and five hundred
miles south of the equator, abounds in the trees producing the gum,
and they can be tapped, it is said, for twenty successive seasons.
Forty-three thousand of these trees were counted in a tract of country
thirty miles long and eight wide. Each tree yields an average of three
table-spoonfuls of sap daily, but the trees are so close together that
one man can gather the sap of eighty in a day. Starting at daylight,
with his tomahawk and a ball of clay, he goes from tree to tree,
making five or six incisions in each, and placing under each incision
a cup made of the clay which he carries. In three or four hours he has
completed his circuit and comes home to breakfast. In the afternoon he
slings a large gourd upon his shoulder, and repeats his round to
collect the sap. The cups are covered up at the roots of the tree, to
be used again on the following day. In other regions the sap is
allowed to exude from the tree, and is gathered from about the roots.
But, however it is collected, the supply is superabundant; and the
countries which produce it are those in which the laborer needs only a
little tapioca, a little coffee, a hut, and an apron. In South
America, from which our supply chiefly comes, the natives subsist at
an expense of three cents a day. The present high price of the gum in
the United States is principally due to the fact that greenbacks are
not current in the tropics; but in part, to the rapidity with which
the demand has increased. Several important applications of the
vulcanized gum have been deferred to the time when the raw material
shall have fallen to what Adam Smith would style its "natural price."

Charles Goodyear's work, therefore, is a permanent addition to the
resources of man. The latest posterity will be indebted to him.


Is there anything in America more peculiar to America, or more curious
in itself, than one of our "fashionable" Protestant churches,--such as
we see in New York, on the Fifth Avenue and in the adjacent streets?
The lion and the lamb in the Millennium will not lie down together
more lovingly than the Church and the World have blended in these
singular establishments. We are far from objecting to the coalition,
but note it only as something curious, new, and interesting.

We enter an edifice, upon the interior of which the upholsterer and
the cabinet-maker have exhausted the resources of their trades. The
word "subdued" describes the effect at which those artists have aimed.
The woods employed are costly and rich, but usually of a sombre hue,
and, though elaborately carved, are frequently unpolished. The light
which comes through the stained windows, or through the small diamond
panes, is of that description which is eminently the "_dim_,
religious." Every part of the floor is thickly carpeted. The pews
differ little from sofas, except in being more comfortable, and the
cushions for the feet or the knees are as soft as hair and cloth can
make them. It is a fashion, at present, to put the organ out of sight,
and to have a clock so unobtrusive as not to be observed. Galleries
are now viewed with an unfriendly eye by the projectors of churches,
and they are going out of use. Everything in the way of conspicuous
lighting apparatus, such as the gorgeous and dazzling chandeliers of
fifteen years ago, and the translucent globes of later date, is
discarded, and an attempt is sometimes made to hide the vulgar fact
that the church is ever open in the evening. In a word the design of
the fashionable church-builder of the present moment is to produce a
richly furnished, quietly adorned, dimly illuminated, ecclesiastical
parlor, in which a few hundred ladies and gentlemen, attired in
kindred taste, may sit perfectly at their ease, and see no object not
in harmony with the scene around them.

To say that the object of these costly and elegant arrangements is to
repel poor people would be a calumny. On the contrary, persons who
show by their dress and air that they exercise the less remunerative
vocations are as politely shown to seats as those who roll up to the
door in carriages, and the presence of such persons is desired, and,
in many instances, systematically sought. Nevertheless, the poor are
repelled. They know they cannot pay their proportion of the expense of
maintaining such establishments, and they do not wish to enjoy what
others pay for. Everything in and around the church seems to proclaim
it a kind of exclusive ecclesiastical club, designed for the
accommodation of persons of ten thousand dollars a year, and upward.
Or it is as though the carriages on the Road to Heaven were divided
into first-class, second-class, and third-class, and a man either
takes the one that accords with his means, or denies himself the
advantage of travelling that road, or prefers to trudge along on foot,
an independent wayfarer.

It is Sunday morning, and the doors of this beautiful drawing-room are
thrown open. Ladies dressed with subdued magnificence glide in, along
with some who have not been able to leave at home the showier articles
of their wardrobe. Black silk, black velvet, black lace, relieved by
intimations of brighter colors, and by gleams from half-hidden
jewelry, are the materials most employed. Gentlemen in uniform of
black cloth and white linen announce their coming by the creaking of
their boots, quenched in the padded carpeting. It cannot be said of
these churches, as Mr. Carlyle remarked of certain London ones, that a
pistol could be fired into a window across the church without much
danger of hitting a Christian. The attendance is not generally very
large; but as the audience is evenly distributed over the whole
surface, it looks larger than it is. In a commercial city everything
is apt to be measured by the commercial standard, and accordingly a
church numerically weak, but financially strong, ranks, in the
estimation of the town, not according to its number of souls, but its
number of dollars. We heard a fine young fellow, last summer, full of
zeal for everything high and good, conclude a glowing account of a
sermon by saying that it was the direct means of adding to the church
a capital of one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. He meant
nothing low or mercenary; he honestly exulted in the fact that the
power and influence attached to the possession of one hundred and
seventy-five thousand dollars were thenceforward to be exerted on
behalf of objects which he esteemed the highest. If therefore the
church before our view cannot boast of a numerous attendance, it more
than consoles itself by the reflection, that there are a dozen names
of talismanic power in Wall Street on its list of members.

"But suppose the Doctor should leave you?" objected a friend of ours
to a trustee, who had been urging him to buy a pew in a fashionable

"Well, my dear sir," was the business-like reply; "suppose he should.
We should immediately engage the very first talent which money can

We can hardly help taking this simple view of things in rich
commercial cities. Our worthy trustee merely put the thing on the
correct basis. He frankly _said_ what every church _does_, ought to
do, and must do. He stated a universal fact in the plain and sensible
language to which he was accustomed. In the same way these
business-like Christians have borrowed the language of the Church, and
speak of men who are "good" for a million.

The congregation is assembled. The low mumble of the organ ceases. A
female voice rises melodiously above the rustle of dry-goods and the
whispers of those who wear them. So sweet and powerful is it, that a
stranger might almost suppose it borrowed from the choir of heaven;
but the inhabitants of the town recognize it as one they have often
heard at concerts or at the opera; and they listen critically, as to a
professional performance, which it is. It is well that highly
artificial singing prevents the hearer from catching the words of the
song; for it _would_ have rather an odd effect to hear rendered, in
the modern Italian style, such plain straightforward words as these:--

     "Can sinners hope for heaven
     Who love this world so well?
     Or dream of future happiness
     While on the road to hell?"

The performance, however, is so exquisite that we do not think of
these things, but listen in rapture to the voice alone. When the lady
has finished her stanza, a noble barytone, also recognized as
professional, takes up the strain, and performs a stanza, solo; at the
conclusion of which, four voices, in enchanting accord breathe out a
third. It is evident that the "first talent that money can command"
has been "engaged" for the entertainment of the congregation; and we
are not surprised when the information is proudly communicated that
the music costs a hundred and twenty dollars per Sunday.

What is very surprising and well worthy of consideration is, that this
beautiful music does not "draw." In our rovings about among the noted
churches of New York,--of the kind which "engage the first talent that
money can command,"--we could never see that the audience was much
increased by expensive professional music. On the contrary, we can lay
it down as a general rule, that the costlier the music, the smaller is
the average attendance. The afternoon service at Trinity Church, for
example, is little more than a delightful gratuitous concert of boys,
men, and organ; and the spectacle of the altar brilliantly lighted by
candles is novel and highly picturesque. The sermon also is of the
fashionable length,--twenty minutes; and yet the usual afternoon
congregation is about two hundred persons. Those celestial strains of
music,--well, they enchant the ear, if the ear happens to be within
hearing of them; but somehow they do not furnish a continuous

When this fine prelude is ended, the minister's part begins; and,
unless he is a man of extraordinary bearing and talents, every one
present is conscious of a kind of lapse in the tone of the occasion.
Genius composed the music; the "first talent" executed it; the
performance has thrilled the soul, and exalted expectation; but the
voice now heard may be ordinary, and the words uttered may be homely,
or even common. No one unaccustomed to the place can help feeling a
certain incongruity between the language heard and the scene
witnessed. Everything we see is modern; the words we hear are ancient.
The preacher speaks of "humble believers," and we look around and ask,
Where are they? Are these costly and elegant persons humble believers?
Far be it from us to intimate that they are not; we are speaking only
of their appearance, and its effect upon a casual beholder. The
clergyman reads,

     "Come let _us_ join in sweet accord,"

and straightway four hired performers execute a piece of difficult
music to an audience sitting passive. He discourses upon the
"pleasures of the world," as being at war with the interests of the
soul; and while a severe sentence to this effect is coming from his
lips, down the aisle marches the sexton, showing some stranger to a
seat, who is a professional master of the revels. He expresses,
perchance, a fervent desire that the heathen may be converted to
Christianity, and we catch ourselves saying, "Does he mean _this_ sort
of thing?" When we pronounce the word Christianity, it calls up
recollections and associations that do not exactly harmonize with the
scene around us. We think rather of the fishermen of Palestine, on the
lonely sea-shore; of the hunted fugitives of Italy and Scotland; we
think of it as something lowly, and suited to the lowly,--a refuge for
the forsaken and the defeated, not the luxury of the rich and the
ornament of the strong. It may be an infirmity of our mind; but we
experience a certain difficulty in realizing that the sumptuous and
costly apparatus around us has anything in common with what we have
been accustomed to think of as Christianity.

Sometimes, the incongruity reaches the point of the ludicrous. We
recently heard a very able and well-intentioned preacher, near the
Fifth Avenue, ask the ladies before him whether they were in the habit
of speaking to their female attendants about their souls'
salvation,--particularly those who dressed their hair. He especially
mentioned the hair-dressers; because, as he truly remarked, ladies are
accustomed to converse with those _artistes_, during the operation of
hair-dressing, on a variety of topics; and the opportunity was
excellent to say a word on the one most important. This incident
perfectly illustrates what we mean by the seeming incongruity between
the ancient cast of doctrine and the modernized people to whom it is
preached. We have heard sermons in fashionable churches in New York,
laboriously prepared and earnestly read, which had nothing in them of
the modern spirit, contained not the most distant allusion to modern
modes of living and sinning, had no suitableness whatever to the
people or the time, and from which everything that could rouse or
interest a human soul living on Manhattan Island in the year 1867
seemed to have been purposely pruned away. And perhaps, if a clergyman
really has no message to deliver, his best course is to utter a jargon
of nothings.

Upon the whole, the impression left upon the mind of the visitor to
the fashionable church is, that he has been looking, not upon a living
body, but a decorated image.

It may be, however, that the old conception of a Christian church, as
the one place where all sorts and conditions of men came together to
dwell upon considerations interesting to all equally, is not adapted
to modern society, wherein one man differs from another in knowledge
even more than a king once differed from a peasant in rank. When all
were ignorant, a mass chanted in an unknown tongue, and a short
address warning against the only vices known to ignorant people,
sufficed for the whole community. But what form of service can be even
imagined, that could satisfy Bridget, who cannot read, and her
mistress, who comes to church cloyed with the dainties of half a dozen
literatures? Who could preach a sermon that would hold attentive the
man saturated with Buckle, Mill, Spencer, Thackeray, Emerson,
Humboldt, and Agassiz, and the man whose only literary recreation is
the dime novel? In the good old times, when terror was latent in every
soul, and the preacher had only to deliver a very simple message,
pointing out the one way to escape endless torture, a very ordinary
mortal could arrest and retain attention. But this resource is gone
forever, and the modern preacher is thrown upon the resources of his
own mind and talent. There is great difficulty here, and it does not
seem likely to diminish. It may be, that never again, as long as time
shall endure, will ignorant and learned, masters and servants, poor
and rich, feel themselves at home in the same church.

At present we are impressed, and often oppressed, with the too evident
fact, that neither the intelligent nor the uninstructed souls are so
well ministered to, in things spiritual, as we could imagine they
might be. The fashionable world of New York goes to church every
Sunday morning with tolerable punctuality, and yet it seems to drift
rapidly toward Paris. What it usually hears at church does not appear
to exercise controlling influence over its conduct or its character.

Among the churches about New York to which nothing we have said
applies, the one that presents the strongest contrast to the
fashionable church is Henry Ward Beecher's. Some of the difficulties
resulting from the altered state of opinion in recent times have been
overcome there, and an institution has been created which appears to
be adapted to the needs, as well as to the tastes, of the people
frequenting it. We can at least say of it, that it is a living body,
and _not_ a decorated image.

For many years, this church upon Brooklyn Heights has been, to the
best of the visitors to the metropolis, the most interesting object in
or near it. Of Brooklyn itself,--a great assemblage of residences,
without much business or stir,--it seems the animating soul. We have a
fancy, that we can tell by the manner and bearing of an inhabitant of
the place whether he attends this church or not; for there is a
certain joyousness, candor, and democratic simplicity about the
members of that congregation, which might be styled Beecherian, if
there were not a better word. This church is simply the most
characteristic thing of America. If we had a foreigner in charge to
whom we wished to reveal this country, we should like to push him in,
hand him over to one of the brethren who perform the arduous duty of
providing seats for visitors, and say to him:

     "There, stranger, you have arrived; _this_ is the United
     States. The New Testament, Plymouth Rock, and the Fourth of
     July,--_this_ is what they have brought us to. What the next
     issue will be, no one can tell; but this is about what we
     are at present."

We cannot imagine what the brethren could have been thinking about
when they ordered the new bell that hangs in the tower of Plymouth
Church. It is the most superfluous article in the known world. The
New-Yorker who steps on board the Fulton ferry-boat about ten o'clock
on Sunday morning finds himself accompanied by a large crowd of people
who bear the visible stamp of strangers, who are going to Henry Ward
Beecher's church. You can pick them out with perfect certainty. You
see the fact in their countenances, in their dress, in their demeanor,
as well as hear it in words of eager expectation. They are the kind of
people who regard wearing-apparel somewhat in the light of its
utility, and are not crushed by their clothes. They are the sort of
people who take the "Tribune," and get up courses of lectures in the
country towns. From every quarter of Brooklyn, in street cars and on
foot, streams of people are converging toward the same place. Every
Sunday morning and evening, rain or shine, there is the same
concourse, the same crowd at the gates before they are open, and the
same long, laborious effort to get thirty-five hundred people into a
building that will seat but twenty-seven hundred. Besides the ten or
twelve members of the church who volunteer to assist in this labor,
there is employed a force of six policemen at the doors, to prevent
the multitude from choking all ingress. Seats are retained for their
proprietors until ten minutes before the time of beginning; after that
the strangers are admitted. Mr. Buckle, if he were with us still,
would be pleased to know that his doctrine of averages holds good in
this instance; since every Sunday about a churchful of persons come to
this church, so that not many who come fail to get in.

There is nothing of the ecclesiastical drawing-room in the
arrangements of this edifice. It is a very plain brick building, in a
narrow street of small, pleasant houses, and the interior is only
striking from its extent and convenience. The simple, old-fashioned
design of the builder was to provide seats for as many people as the
space would hold; and in executing this design, he constructed one of
the finest interiors in the country, since the most pleasing and
inspiriting spectacle that human eyes ever behold in this world is
such an assembly as fills this church. The audience is grandly
displayed in those wide, rounded galleries, surging up high against
the white walls, and scooped out deep in the slanting floor, leaving
the carpeted platform the vortex of an arrested whirlpool. Often it
happens that two or three little children get lodged upon the edge of
the platform, and sit there on the carpet among the flowers during the
service, giving to the picture a singularly pleasing relief, as though
they and the bouquets had been arranged by the same skilful hand, and
for the same purpose. And it seems quite natural and proper that
children should form part of so bright and joyous an occasion. Behind
the platform rises to the ceiling the huge organ, of dark wood and
silvered pipes, with fans of trumpets pointing heavenward from the
top. This enormous toy occupies much space that could be better
filled, and is only less superfluous than the bell; but we must pardon
and indulge a foible. We could never see that Mr. Forrest walked any
better for having such thick legs; yet they have their admirers. Blind
old Handel played on an instrument very different from this, but the
sexton had to eat a cold Sunday dinner; for not a Christian would stir
as long as the old man touched the keys after service. But not old
Handel nor older Gabriel could make such music as swells and roars
from three thousand human voices,---the regular choir of Plymouth
Church. It is a decisive proof of the excellence and heartiness of
this choir, that the great organ has not lessened its effectiveness.

It is not clear to the distant spectator by what aperture Mr. Beecher
enters the church. He is suddenly discovered to be present, seated in
his place on the platform,--an under-sized gentleman in a black stock.
His hair combed behind his ears, and worn a little longer than usual,
imparts to his appearance something of the Puritan, and calls to mind
his father, the champion of orthodoxy in heretical Boston. In
conducting the opening exercises, and, indeed, on all occasions of
ceremony, Mr. Beecher shows himself an artist,--both his language and
his demeanor being marked by the most refined decorum. An elegant,
finished simplicity characterizes all he does and says: not a word too
much, nor a word misused, nor a word waited for, nor an unharmonious
movement, mars the satisfaction of the auditor. The habit of living
for thirty years in the view of a multitude, together with a natural
sense of the becoming, and a quick sympathy with men and
circumstances, has wrought up his public demeanor to a point near
perfection. A candidate for public honors could not study a better
model. This is the more remarkable, because it is a purely spiritual
triumph. Mr. Beecher's person is not imposing, nor his natural manner
graceful. It is his complete extirpation of the desire of producing an
illegitimate effect; it is his sincerity and genuineness as a human
being; it is the dignity of his character, and his command of his
powers,--which give him this easy mastery over every situation in
which he finds himself.

Extempore prayers are not, perhaps, a proper subject for comment. The
grand feature of the preliminary services of this church is the
singing, which is not executed by the first talent that money can
command. When the prelude upon the organ is finished, the whole
congregation, almost every individual in it, as if by a spontaneous
and irresistible impulse, stands up and sings. We are not aware that
anything has ever been done or said to bring about this result; nor
does the minister of the church set the example, for he usually
remains sitting and silent It seems as if every one in the
congregation was so full of something that he felt impelled to get up
and sing it out. In other churches where congregational singing is
attempted, there are usually a number of languid Christians who remain
seated, and a large number of others who remain silent; but here there
is a strange unanimity about the performance. A sailor might as well
try not to join in the chorus of a forecastle song as a member of this
joyous host not to sing. When the last preliminary singing is
concluded, the audience is in an excellent condition to sit and
listen, their whole corporeal system having been pleasantly exercised.

The sermon which follows is new wine in an old bottle. Up to the
moment when the text has been announced and briefly explained, the
service has all been conducted upon the ancient model, and chiefly in
the ancient phraseology; but from the moment when Mr. Beecher swings
free from the moorings of his text, and gets fairly under way, his
sermon is modern. No matter how fervently he may have been praying
supernaturalism, he preaches pure cause and effect. His text may savor
of old Palestine; but his sermon is inspired by New York and Brooklyn;
and nearly all that he says, when he is most himself, finds an
approving response in the mind of every well-disposed person, whether
orthodox or heterodox in his creed.

What is religion? That, of course, is the great question. Mr. Beecher
says: Religion is the slow, laborious, self-conducted EDUCATION of the
whole man, from grossness to refinement, from sickliness to health,
from ignorance to knowledge, from selfishness to justice, from justice
to nobleness, from cowardice to valor. In treating this topic,
whatever he may pray or read or assent to, he _preaches_ cause and
effect, and nothing else. Regeneration he does not represent to be
some mysterious, miraculous influence exerted upon a man from without,
but the man's own act, wholly and always, and in every stage of its
progress. His general way of discoursing upon this subject would
satisfy the most rationalized mind; and yet it does not appear to
offend the most orthodox.

This apparent contradiction between the spirit of his preaching and
the facts of his position is a severe puzzle to some of our
thorough-going friends. They ask, How can a man demonstrate that the
fall of rain is so governed by unchanging laws that the shower of
yesterday dates back in its causes to the origin of things, and,
having proved this to the comprehension of every soul present, finish
by _praying_ for an immediate outpouring upon the thirsty fields? We
confess that, to our modern way of thinking, there is a contradiction
here, but there is none at all to an heir of the Puritans. We reply to
our impatient young friends, that Henry Ward Beecher at once
represents and assists the American Christian of the present time,
just because of this seeming contradiction. He is a bridge over which
we are passing from the creed-enslaved past to the perfect freedom of
the future. Mr. Lecky, in his 'History of the Spirit of Rationalism,'
has shown the process by which truth is advanced. Old errors, he says,
do not die because they are refuted, but _fade out_ because they are
neglected. One hundred and fifty years ago, our ancestors were
perplexed, and even distressed, by something they called the doctrine
of Original Sin. No one now concerns himself either to refute or
assert the doctrine; few people know what it is; we all simply let it
alone, and it fades out. John Wesley not merely believed in
witchcraft, but maintained that a belief in witchcraft was essential
to salvation. All the world, except here and there an enlightened and
fearless person, believed in witchcraft as late as the year 1750. That
belief has not perished because its folly was demonstrated, but
because the average human mind grew past it, and let it alone until it
faded out in the distance. Or we might compare the great body of
beliefs to a banquet, in which every one takes what he likes best; and
the master of the feast, observing what is most in demand, keeps an
abundant supply of such viands, but gradually withdraws those which
are neglected. Mr. Beecher has helped himself to such beliefs as are
congenial to him, and shows an exquisite tact in passing by those
which interest him not, and which have lost regenerating power. There
_are_ minds which cannot be content with anything like vagueness or
inconsistency in their opinions. They must know to a certainty whether
the sun and moon stood still or not. His is not a mind of that cast;
he can "hover on the confines of truth," and leave the less inviting
parts of the landscape veiled in mist unexplored. Indeed, the great
aim of his preaching is to show the insignificance of opinion compared
with right feeling and noble living, and he prepares the way for the
time when every conceivable latitude of mere opinion shall be allowed
and encouraged.

One remarkable thing about his preaching is, that he has not, like so
many men of liberal tendencies, fallen into milk-and-waterism. He
often gives a foretaste of the terrific power which preachers will
wield when they draw inspiration from science and life. Without ever
frightening people with horrid pictures of the future, he has a sense
of the perils which beset human life here, upon this bank and shoal of
time. How needless to draw upon the imagination, in depicting the
consequences of violating natural law! Suppose a preacher should give
a plain, cold, scientific exhibition of the penalty which Nature
exacts for the crime, so common among church-going ladies and others,
of murdering their unborn offspring! It would appall the Devil.
Scarcely less terrible are the consequences of the most common vices
and meannesses when they get the mastery. Mr. Beecher has frequently
shown, by powerful delineations of this kind, how large a part
legitimate terror must ever play in the services of a true church,
when the terrors of superstition have wholly faded out. It cannot be
said of his preaching, that he preaches "Christianity with the bones
taken out." He does not give "twenty minutes of tepid exhortation,"
nor amuse his auditors with elegant and melodious essays upon virtue.

We need not say that his power as a public teacher is due, in a great
degree, to his fertility in illustrative similes. Three or four
volumes, chiefly filled with these, as they have been caught from his
lips, are before the public, and are admired on both continents. Many
of them are most strikingly happy, and flood his subject with light.
The smiles that break out upon the sea of upturned faces, and the
laughter that whispers round the assembly, are often due as much to
the aptness as to the humor of the illustration: the mind receives an
agreeable shock of surprise at finding a resemblance where only the
widest dissimilarity had before been perceived.

Of late years, Mr. Beecher never sends an audience away half
satisfied; for he has constantly grown with the growth of his splendid
opportunity. How attentive the great assembly, and how quickly
responsive to the points he makes! That occasional ripple of
laughter,--it is not from any want of seriousness in the speaker, in
the subject, or in the congregation, nor is it a Rowland Hill
eccentricity. It is simply that it has pleased Heaven to endow this
genial soul with a quick perception of the likeness there is between
things unlike; and, in the heat and torrent of his speech, the
suddenly discovered similarity amuses while it instructs. Philosophers
and purists may cavil at parts of these sermons, and, of course, they
are not perfect; but who can deny that their general effect is
civilizing, humanizing, elevating, and regenerating, and that this
master of preaching is the true brother of all those high and bright
spirits, on both sides of the ocean, who are striving to make the soul
of this age fit to inhabit and nobly impel its new body?

The sermon over, a livelier song brings the service to a happy
conclusion; and slowly, to the thunder of the new organ, the great
assembly dissolves and oozes away.

The Sunday services are not the whole of this remarkable church. It
has not yet adopted Mrs. Stowe's suggestion of providing
billiard-rooms, bowling-alleys, and gymnastic apparatus for the
development of Christian muscle, though these may come in time. The
building at present contains eleven apartments, among which are two
large parlors, wherein, twice a month, there is a social gathering of
the church and congregation, for conversation with the pastor and with
one another. Perhaps, by and by, these will be always open, so as to
furnish club conveniences to young men who have no home. Doubtless,
this fine social organization is destined to development in many
directions not yet contemplated.

Among the ancient customs of New England and its colonies (of which
Brooklyn is one) is the Friday-evening prayer-meeting. Some of our
readers, perhaps, have dismal recollections of their early compelled
attendance on those occasions, when, with their hands firmly held in
the maternal grasp, lest at the last moment they should bolt under
cover of the darkness, they glided round into the back parts of the
church, lighted by one smoky lantern hung over the door of the
lecture-room, itself dimly lighted, and as silent as the adjacent
chambers of the dead. Female figures, demure in dress and eyes cast
down, flitted noiselessly in, and the awful stillness was only broken
by the heavy boots of the few elders and deacons who constituted the
male portion of the exceedingly slender audience. With difficulty, and
sometimes, only after two or three failures, a hymn was raised, which,
when in fullest tide, was only a dreary wail,--how unmelodious to the
ears of unreverential youth, gifted with a sense of the ludicrous! How
long, how sad, how pointless the prayers! How easy to believe, down in
that dreary cellar, that this world was but a wilderness, and man "a
feeble piece"! Deacon Jones could speak up briskly enough when he was
selling two yards of shilling calico to a farmer's wife sharp at a
bargain; but in that apartment, contiguous to the tombs, it seemed
natural that he should utter dismal views of life in bad grammar
through his nose. Mrs. Jones was cheerful when she gave her little
tea-party the evening before; but now she appeared to assent, without
surprise, to the statement that she was a pilgrim travelling through a
vale of tears. Veritable pilgrims, who do actually meet in an oasis of
the desert, have a merry time of it, travellers tell us. It was not so
with these good souls, inhabitants of a pleasant place, and
anticipating an eternal abode in an inconceivably delightful paradise.
But then there was the awful chance of missing it! And the reluctant
youth, dragged to this melancholy scene, who avenged themselves by
giving select imitations of deaconian eloquence for the amusement of
young friends,--what was to become of _them_? It was such thoughts,
doubtless, that gave to those excellent people their gloomy habit of
mind; and if their creed expressed the literal truth respecting man's
destiny, character, and duty, terror alone was rational, and laughter
was hideous and defiant mockery. What room in a benevolent heart for
joy, when a point of time, a moment's space removed us to that
heavenly place, or shut us up in hell?

From the time when we were accustomed to attend such meetings, long
ago, we never saw a Friday-evening meeting till the other night, when
we found ourselves in the lecture-room of Plymouth Church.

The room is large, very lofty, brilliantly lighted by reflectors
affixed to the ceiling, and, except the scarlet cushions on the
settees, void of upholstery. It was filled full with a cheerful
company, not one of whom seemed to have on more or richer clothes than
she had the moral strength to wear. Content and pleasant expectation
sat on every countenance, as when people have come to a festival, and
await the summons to the banquet. No pulpit, or anything like a
pulpit, cast a shadow over the scene; but in its stead there was a
rather large platform, raised two steps, covered with dark green
canvas, and having upon it a very small table and one chair. The
red-cushioned settees were so arranged as to enclose the green
platform all about, except on one side; so that he who should sit upon
it would appear to be in the midst of the people, raised above them
that all might see him, yet still among them and one of them. At one
side of the platform, but on the floor of the room, among the settees,
there was a piano open. Mr. Beecher sat near by, reading what appeared
to be a letter of three or four sheets. The whole scene was so little
like what we commonly understand by the word "meeting," the people
there were so little in a "meeting" state of mind, and the subsequent
proceedings were so informal, unstudied, and social, that, in
attempting to give this account of them, we almost feel as if we were
reporting for print the conversation of a private evening party.
Anything more unlike an old-fashioned prayer-meeting it is not
possible to conceive.

Mr. Beecher took his seat upon the platform, and, after a short pause,
began the exercises by saying, in a low tone, these words: "Six

A rustling of the leaves of hymn-books interpreted the meaning of this
mystical utterance, which otherwise might have been taken as
announcing a discourse upon the prophetic numbers. The piano confirmed
the interpretation; and then the company burst into one of those
joyous and unanimous singings which are so enchanting a feature of the
services of this church. Loud rose the beautiful harmony of voices,
constraining every one to join in the song, even those most unused to
sing. When it was ended, the pastor, in the same low tone, pronounced
a name; upon which one of the brethren rose to his feet, and the rest
of the assembly slightly inclined their heads. It would not, as we
have remarked, be becoming in us to say anything upon this portion of
the proceedings, except to note that the prayers were all brief,
perfectly quiet and simple, and free from the routine or regulation
expressions. There were but two or three of them, alternating with
singing; and when that part of the exercises was concluded, Mr.
Beecher had scarcely spoken. The meeting ran alone, in the most
spontaneous and pleasant manner; and, with all its heartiness and
simplicity, there was a certain refined decorum pervading all that was
done and said. There was a pause after the last hymn died away, and
then Mr, Beecher, still seated, began, in the tone of conversation, to
speak, somewhat after this manner.

"When," said he,

     "I first began to walk as a Christian, in my youthful zeal I
     made many resolutions that were well meant, but indiscreet.
     Among others, I remember I resolved to pray, at least once,
     in some way, every hour that I was awake. I tried faithfully
     to keep this resolution, but never having succeeded a single
     day, I suffered the pangs of self-reproach, until reflection
     satisfied me that the only wisdom possible, with regard to
     such a resolve, was to break it. I remember, too, that I
     made a resolution to speak upon religion to every person
     with whom I conversed,--on steamboats, in the streets,
     anywhere. In this, also, I failed, as I ought; and I soon
     learned that, in the sowing of such seed, as in other
     sowings, times and seasons and methods must be considered
     and selected, or a man may defeat his own object, and make
     religion loathsome."

In language like this he introduced the topic of the evening's
conversation, which was, How far, and on what occasions, and in what
manner, one person may invade, so to speak, the personality of
another, and speak to him upon his moral condition. The pastor
expressed his own opinion, always in the conversational tone, in a
talk of ten minutes' duration; in the course of which he applauded,
not censured, the delicacy which causes most people to shrink from
doing it. He said that a man's personality was not a macadamized road
for every vehicle to drive upon at will; but rather a sacred
enclosure, to be entered, if at all, with, the consent of the owner,
and with deference to his feelings and tastes. He maintained, however,
that there _were_ times and modes in which this might properly be
done, and that every one _had_ a duty to perform of this nature. When
he had finished his observations, he said the subject was open to the
remarks of others; whereupon a brother instantly rose and made a very
honest confession.

He said that he had never attempted to perform the duty in question
without having a palpitation of the heart and a complete "turning
over" of his inner man. He had often reflected upon this curious fact,
but was not able to account for it. He had not allowed this repugnance
to prevent his doing the duty; but he always had to rush at it and
perform it by a sort of _coup de main_; for if he allowed himself to
think about the matter, he could not do it at all. He concluded by
saying that he should be very much obliged to any one if he could
explain this mystery.

The pastor said: "May it not be the natural delicacy we feel, and
ought to feel, in approaching the interior consciousness of another

Another brother rose. There was no hanging back at this meeting; there
were no awkward pauses; every one seemed full of matter. The new
speaker was not inclined to admit the explanation suggested by the
pastor. "Suppose," said he,

     "we were to see a man in imminent danger of immediate
     destruction, and there was one way of escape, and but one,
     which _we_ saw and he did not, should we feel any delicacy
     in running up to him and urging him to fly for his life? Is
     it not a want of faith on our part that causes the
     reluctance and hesitation we all feel in urging others to
     avoid a peril so much more momentous?"

Mr. Beecher said the cases were not parallel. Irreligious persons, he
remarked, were not in imminent danger of immediate death; they might
die to-morrow; but in all probability they would not, and an ill-timed
or injudicious admonition might forever repel them. We must accept the
doctrine of probabilities, and act in accordance with it in this
particular, as in all others.

Another brother had a puzzle to present for solution. He said that he
too had experienced the repugnance to which allusion had been made;
but what surprised him most was, that the more he loved a person, and
the nearer he was related to him, the more difficult he found it to
converse with him upon his spiritual state. Why is this? "I should
like to have this question answered," said he, "if there _is_ an
answer to it."

Mr. Beecher observed that this was the universal experience, and he
was conscious himself of a peculiar reluctance and embarrassment in
approaching one of his own household on the subject in question. He
thought it was due to the fact that we respect more the personal
rights of those near to us than we do those of others, and it was more
difficult to break in upon the routine of our ordinary familiarity
with them. We are accustomed to a certain tone, which it is highly
embarrassing to jar upon.

Captain Duncan related two amusing anecdotes to illustrate the right
way and the wrong way of introducing religious conversation. In his
office there was sitting one day a sort of lay preacher, who was noted
for lugging in his favorite topic in the most forbidding and abrupt
manner. A sea-captain came in who was introduced to this individual.

"Captain Porter," said he, with awful solemnity, "are you a captain in

The honest sailor was so abashed and confounded at this novel
salutation, that he could only stammer out an incoherent reply; and he
was evidently much disposed to give the tactless zealot a piece of his
mind expressed in the language of the quarter-deck. When the solemn
man took his leave, the disgusted captain said, "If ever I should be
coming to your office again, and that man should be here, I wish you
would send me word, and I'll stay away."

A few days after, another clergyman chanced to be in the office, no
other than Mr. Beecher himself, and another captain came in, a
roistering, swearing, good-hearted fellow. The conversation fell upon
sea-sickness, a malady to which Mr. Beecher is peculiarly liable. This
captain also was one of the few sailors who are always sea-sick in
going to sea, and gave a moving account of his sufferings from that
cause. Mr. Beecher, after listening attentively to his tale, said,

     "Captain Duncan, if I was a preacher to such sailors as your
     friend here, I should represent hell as an eternal voyage,
     with every man on board in the agonies of sea-sickness, the
     crisis always imminent, but never coming."

This ludicrous and most unprofessional picture amused the old salt
exceedingly, and won his entire good-will toward the author of it; so
that, after Mr. Beecher left, he said, "That's a good fellow, Captain
Duncan. I like _him_, and I'd like to hear him talk more."

Captain Duncan contended that this free-and-easy way of address was
just the thing for such characters. Mr. Beecher had shown him, to his
great surprise, that a man could be a decent and comfortable human
being, although he was a minister, and had so gained his confidence
and good-will that he could say _anything_ to him at their next
interview. Captain Duncan finished his remarks by a decided expression
of his disapproval of the canting regulation phrases so frequently
employed by religious people, which are perfectly nauseous to men of
the world.

This interesting conversation lasted about three quarters of an hour,
and ended, not because the theme seemed exhausted, but because the
time was up. We have only given enough of it to convey some little
idea of its spirit. The company again broke into one of their cheerful
hymns, and the meeting was dismissed in the usual manner.

During the whole evening not a canting word nor a false tone had been
uttered. Some words were used, it is true, and some forms practised,
which are not congenial to "men of the world," and some doctrines were
assumed to be true which have become incredible to many of us. These,
however, were not conspicuous nor much dwelt upon. The subject, too,
of the conversation was less suitable to our purpose than most of the
topics discussed at these meetings, which usually have a more direct
bearing upon the conduct of life. Nevertheless, is it not apparent
that such meetings as this, conducted by a man of tact, good sense,
and experience, must be an aid to good living? Here were a number of
people,--parents, business-men, and others,--most of them heavily
burdened with responsibility, having notes and rents to pay, customers
to get and keep, children to rear,--busy people, anxious people, of
extremely diverse characters, but united by a common desire to live
nobly. The difficulties of noble living are very great,--never so
great, perhaps, as now and here,--and these people assemble every week
to converse upon them. What more rational thing could they do? If they
came together to snivel and cant, and to support one another in a
miserable conceit of being the elect of the human species, we might
object. But no description can show how far from that, how opposite to
that, is the tone, the spirit, the object, of the Friday-evening
meeting at Plymouth Church.

Have we "Liberals"--as we presume to call ourselves--ever devised
anything so well adapted as this to the needs of average mortals
struggling with the ordinary troubles of life? We know of nothing.
Philosophical treatises, and arithmetical computations respecting the
number of people who inhabited Palestine, may have their use, but they
cannot fill the aching void in the heart of a lone widow, or teach an
anxious father how to manage a troublesome boy. There was an old lady
near us at this meeting,--a good soul in a bonnet four fashions
old,--who sat and cried for joy, as the brethren carried on their
talk. She had come in alone from her solitary room, and enjoyed all
the evening long a blended moral and literary rapture. It was a
banquet of delight to her, the recollection of which would brighten
all her week, and it cost her no more than air and sunlight. To the
happy, the strong, the victorious, Shakespeare and the Musical Glasses
may appear to suffice; but the world is full of the weak, the
wretched, and the vanquished.

There was an infuriate heretic in Boston once, whose antipathy to what
he called "superstition" was something that bordered upon lunacy. But
the time came when he had a child, his only child, and the sole joy of
his life, dead in the house. It had to be buried. The broken-hearted
father could not endure the thought of his child's being carried out
and placed in its grave without _some_ outward mark of respect, _some_
ceremonial which should recognize the difference between a dead child
and a dead kitten; and he was fain, at last, to go out and bring to
his house a poor lame cobbler, who was a kind of Methodist preacher,
to say and read a few words that should break the fall of the darling
object into the tomb. The occurrence made no change in his opinions,
but it revolutionized his feelings. He is as untheological as ever;
but he would subscribe money to build a church, and he esteems no man
more than an honest clergyman.

If anything can be predicated of the future with certainty, it is,
that the American people will never give up that portion of their
heritage from the past which we call Sunday, but will always devote
its hours to resting the body and improving the soul. All our
theologies will pass away, but this will remain. Nor less certain is
it, that there will always be a class of men who will do,
professionally and as their settled vocation, the work now done by the
clergy. That work can never be dispensed with, either in civilized or
in barbarous communities. The great problem of civilization is, how to
bring the higher intelligence of the community, and its better moral
feeling, to bear upon the mass of people, so that the lowest grade of
intelligence and morals shall be always approaching the higher, and
the higher still rising. A church purified of superstition solves part
of this problem, and a good school system does the rest.

All things improve in this world very much in the same way. The
improvement originates in one man's mind, and, being carried into
effect with evident good results, it is copied by others. We are all
apt lazily to run in the groove in which we find ourselves; we are
creatures of habit, and slaves of tradition. Now and then, however, in
every profession and sphere, if they are untrammelled by law, an
individual appears who is discontented with the ancient methods, or
sceptical of the old traditions, or both, and he invents better ways,
or arrives at more rational opinions. Other men look on and approve
the improved process, or listen and imbibe the advanced belief.

Now, there appears to be a man upon Brooklyn Heights who has found out
a more excellent way of conducting a church than has been previously
known. He does not waste the best hours of every day in writing
sermons, but employs those hours in absorbing the knowledge and
experience which should be the matter of sermons. He does not fritter
away the time of a public instructor in "pastoral visits," and other
useless visitations. His mode of conducting a public ceremonial
reaches the finish of high art, which it resembles also in its
sincerity and simplicity. He has known how to banish from his church
everything that savors of cant and sanctimoniousness,--so loathsome to
honest minds. Without formally rejecting time-honored forms and
usages, he has infused into his teachings more and more of the modern
spirit, drawn more and more from science and life, less and less from
tradition, until he has acquired the power of preaching sermons which
Edwards and Voltaire, Whitefield and Tom Paine, would heartily and
equally enjoy. Surely, there is something in all this which could be
imitated. The great talents with which he is endowed cannot be
imparted, but we do not believe that his power is wholly derived from
his talent. A man of only respectable abilities, who should catch his
spirit, practise some of his methods, and spend his strength in
getting knowledge, and not in coining sentences, would be able
anywhere to gather round him a concourse of hearers. The great secret
is, to let orthodoxy slide, as something which is neither to be
maintained nor refuted,--insisting only on the spirit of Christianity,
and applying it to the life of the present day in this land.

There are some reasons for thinking that the men and the organizations
that have had in charge the moral interests of the people of the
United States for the last fifty years have not been quite equal to
their trust. What are we to think of such results of New England
culture as Douglas, Cass, Webster, and many other men of great
ability, but strangely wanting in moral power? What are we to think of
the great numbers of Southern Yankees who were, and are, the bitterest
foes of all that New England represents? What are we to think of the
Rings that seem now-a-days to form themselves, as it were,
spontaneously in every great corporation? What of the club-houses that
spring up at every corner, for the accommodation of husbands and
fathers who find more attractions in wine, supper, and equivocal
stories than in the society of their wives and children? What are we
to think of the fact, that among the people who can afford to
advertise at the rate of a dollar and a half a line are those who
provide women with the means of killing their unborn children,--a
double crime, murder and suicide? What are we to think of the moral
impotence of almost all women to resist the tyranny of fashion, and
the _necessity_ that appears to rest upon them to copy every
disfiguration invented by the harlots of Paris? What are we to think
of the want both of masculine and moral force in men, which makes them
helpless against the extravagance of their households, to support
which they do fifty years' work in twenty, and then die? What are we
to think of the fact, that all the creatures living in the United
States enjoy good health, except the human beings, who are nearly all

When we consider such things as these, we cannot help calling in
question a kind of public teaching which leaves the people in
ignorance of so much that they most need to know. Henry Ward Beecher
is the only clergyman we ever heard who habitually promulgates the
truth, that to be ill is generally a sin, and always a shame. We never
heard him utter the demoralizing falsehood, that this present life is
short and of small account, and that nothing is worthy of much
consideration except the life to come. He dwells much on the enormous
length of this life, and the prodigious revenue of happiness it may
yield to those who comply with the conditions of happiness. It is his
habit, also, to preach the duty which devolves upon every person, to
labor for the increase of his knowledge and the general improvement of
his mind. We have heard him say on the platform of his church, that it
was disgraceful to any mechanic or clerk to let such a picture as the
Heart of the Andes be exhibited for twenty-five cents, and not go and
see it. Probably there is not one honest clergyman in the country who
does not fairly earn his livelihood by the good he does, or by the
evil he prevents. But not enough good is done, and riot enough evil
prevented. The sudden wealth that has come upon the world since the
improvement of the steam-engine adds a new difficulty to the life of
millions. So far, the world does not appear to have made the best use
of its too rapidly increased surplus. "We cannot sell a twelve-dollar
book in this country," said a bookseller to us the other day. But how
easy to sell two-hundred-dollar garments! There seems great need of
something that shall have power to spiritualize mankind, and make head
against the reinforced influence of material things. It may be that
the true method of dealing with the souls of modern men has been, in
part, discovered by Mr. Beecher, and that it would be well for persons
aspiring to the same vocation to _begin_ their preparation by making a
pilgrimage to Brooklyn Heights.


The Staten Island ferry, on a fine afternoon in summer, is one of the
pleasantest scenes which New York affords. The Island, seven miles
distant from the city, forms one of the sides of the Narrows, through
which the commerce of the city and the emigrant ships enter the
magnificent bay that so worthily announces the grandeur of the New
World. The ferry-boat, starting from the extremity of Manhattan
Island, first gives its passengers a view of the East River, all alive
with every description of craft; then, gliding round past Governor's
Island, dotted with camps and crowned with barracks, with the national
flag floating above all, it affords a view of the lofty bluffs which
rise on one side of the Hudson and the long line of the mast-fringed
city on the other; then, rounding Governor's Island, the steamer
pushes its way towards the Narrows, disclosing to view Fort Lafayette,
so celebrated of late, the giant defensive works opposite to it, the
umbrageous and lofty sides of Staten Island, covered with villas, and,
beyond all, the Ocean, lighted up by Coney Island's belt of snowy
sand, glistening in the sun.

Change the scene to fifty-five years ago: New York was then a town of
eighty thousand people, and Staten Island was inhabited only by
farmers, gardeners, and fishermen, who lived by supplying the city
with provisions. No elegant seats, no picturesque villas adorned the
hillsides, and pleasure-seekers found a nearer resort in Hoboken. The
ferry then, if ferry it could be called, consisted of a few
sail-boats, which left the island in the morning loaded with
vegetables and fish, and returned, if wind and tide permitted, at
night. If a pleasure party occasionally visited Staten Island, they
considered themselves in the light of bold adventurers, who had gone
far beyond the ordinary limits of an excursion. There was only one
thing in common between the ferry at that day and this: the boats
started from the same spot. Where the ferry-house now stands at
Whitehall was then the beach to which the boatmen brought their
freight, and where they remained waiting for a return cargo. That was,
also, the general boat-stand of the city. Whoever wanted a boat, for
business or pleasure, repaired to Whitehall, and it was a matter of
indifference to the boatmen from Staten Island, whether they returned
home with a load, or shared in the general business of the port.

It is to one of those Whitehall boatmen of 1810, that we have to
direct the reader's attention. He was distinguished from his comrades
on the stand in several ways. Though master of a Staten Island boat
that would carry twenty passengers, he was but sixteen years of age,
and he was one of the handsomest, the most agile and athletic, young
fellows that either Island could show. Young as he was, there was that
in his face and bearing which gave assurance that he was abundantly
competent to his work. He was always at his post betimes, and on the
alert for a job. He always performed what he undertook. This summer of
1810 was his first season, but he had already an ample share of the
best of the business of the harbor.

Cornelius Vanderbilt was the name of this notable youth,--the same
Cornelius Vanderbilt who has since built a hundred steamboats, who has
since made a present to his country of a steamship of five thousand
tons' burden, who has since bought lines of railroad, and who reported
his income to the tax commissioners, last year at something near three
quarters of a million. The first money the steamboat-king ever earned
was by carrying passengers between Staten Island and New York at
eighteen cents each.

His father, who was also named Cornelius, was the founder of the
Staten Island ferry. He was a thriving farmer on the Island as early
as 1794, tilling his own land near the Quarantine Ground, and
conveying his produce to New York in his own boat. Frequently he would
carry the produce of some of his neighbors, and, in course of time, he
ran his boat regularly, leaving in the morning and returning at night,
during the whole of the summer, and thus he established a ferry which
has since become one of the most profitable in the world, carrying
sometimes more than twelve thousand passengers in a day. He was an
industrious, enterprising, liberal man, and early acquired a property
which for that time was affluence. His wife was a singularly wise and
energetic woman. She was the main stay of the family, since her
husband was somewhat too liberal for his means, and not always prudent
in his projects. Once, when her husband had fatally involved himself,
and their farm was in danger of being sold for a debt of three
thousand dollars, she produced, at the last extremity, her private
store, and counted out the whole sum in gold pieces. She lived to the
great age of eighty-seven, and left an estate of fifty thousand
dollars, the fruit of her own industry and prudence. Her son, like
many other distinguished men, loves to acknowledge that whatever he
has, and whatever he is that is good, he owes to the precepts, the
example, and the judicious government of his mother.

Cornelius, the eldest of their family of nine children, was born at
the old farm-house on Staten Island, May 27, 1794. A healthy, vigorous
boy, fond of out-door sports, excelling his companions in all boyish
feats, on land and water, he had an unconquerable aversion to the
confinement of the school-room. At that day, the school-room was,
indeed, a dull and uninviting place, the lessons a tedious routine of
learning by rote, and the teacher a tyrant, enforcing them by the
terrors of the stick. The boy went to school a little, now and then,
but learned little more than to read, write, and cipher, and these
imperfectly. The only books he remembers using at school were the
spelling-book and Testament. His real education was gained in working
on his father's farm, helping to sail his father's boat, driving his
father's horses, swimming, riding, rowing, sporting with his young
friends. He was a bold rider from infancy, and passionately fond of a
fine horse. He tells his friends sometimes, that he rode a race-horse
at full speed when he was but six years old. That he regrets not
having acquired more school knowledge, that he values what is commonly
called education, is shown by the care he has taken to have his own
children well instructed.

There never was a clearer proof than in his case that the child is
father of the man. He showed in boyhood the very quality which has
most distinguished him as a man,--the power of accomplishing things in
spite of difficulty and opposition. He was a born conqueror.

When he was twelve years old, his father took a contract for getting
the cargo out of a vessel stranded near Sandy Hook, and transporting
it to New York in lighters. It was necessary to carry the cargo in
wagons across a sandy spit. Cornelius, with a little fleet of
lighters, three wagons, their horses and drivers, started from home
solely charged with the management of this difficult affair. After
loading the lighters and starting them for the city, he had to conduct
his wagons home by land,--a long distance over Jersey sands. Leaving
the beach with only six dollars, he reached South Amboy penniless,
with six horses and three men, all hungry, still far from home, and
separated from Staten Island by an arm of the sea half a mile wide,
that could be crossed only by paying the ferryman six dollars. This
was a puzzling predicament for a boy of twelve, and he pondered long
how he could get out of it. At length he went boldly to the only
innkeeper of the place, and addressed him thus:--

     "I have here three teams that I want to get over to Staten
     Island. If you will put us across, I'll leave with you one
     of my horses in pawn, and if I don't send you back the six
     dollars within forty-eight hours you may keep the horse."

The innkeeper looked into the bright, honest eyes of the boy for a
moment and said:--

"I'll do it."

And he did it. The horse in pawn was left with the ferryman on the
Island, and he was redeemed in time.

Before he was sixteen he had made up his mind to earn his livelihood
by navigation of some kind, and often, when tired of farm work, he had
cast wistful glances at the outward-bound ships that passed his home.
Occasionally, too, he had alarmed his mother by threatening to run
away and go to sea. His preference, however, was to become a boatman
of New York harbor. On the first of May, 1810,--an important day in
his history,--he made known his wishes to his mother, and asked her to
advance him a hundred dollars for the purchase of a boat. She

"My son, on the twenty-seventh of this month you will be sixteen years
old. If, by your birthday, you will plough, harrow, and plant with
corn that lot," pointing to a field, "I will advance you the money."

The field was one of eight acres, very rough, tough, and stony. He
informed his young companions of his mother's conditional promise, and
several of them readily agreed to help him. For the next two weeks the
field presented the spectacle of a continuous "bee" of boys, picking
up stones, ploughing, harrowing, and planting. To say that the work
was done in time, and done thoroughly, is only another way of stating
that it was undertaken and conducted by Cornelius Vanderbilt. On his
birthday he claimed the fulfilment of his mother's promise.
Reluctantly she gave him the money, considering his project only less
wild than that of running away to sea. He hurried off to a neighboring
village, bought his boat, hoisted sail, and started for home one of
the happiest youths in the world. His first adventure seemed to
justify his mother's fears, for he struck a sunken wreck on his way,
and just managed to run his boat ashore before she filled and sunk.

Undismayed at this mishap, he began his new career. His success, as we
have intimated, was speedy and great. He made a thousand dollars
during each of the next three summers. Often he worked all night, but
he was never absent from his post by day, and he soon had the cream of
the boating business of the port.

At that day parents claimed the services and the earnings of their
children till they were twenty-one. In other words, families made
common cause against the common enemy, Want. The arrangement between
this young boatman and his parents was that he should give them all
his day earnings and half his night earnings. He fulfilled his
engagement faithfully until his parents released him from it, and with
his own half of his earnings by night he bought all his clothes. He
had forty competitors in the business, who, being all grown men, could
dispose of their gains as they chose; but of all the forty, he alone
has emerged to prosperity and distinction. Why was this? There were
several reasons. He soon came to be the best boatman in the port. He
attended to his business more regularly and strictly than any other.
He had no vices. His comrades spent at night much of what they earned
by day, and when the winter suspended their business, instead of
living on the last summer's savings, they were obliged to lay up debts
for the next summer's gains to discharge. In those three years of
willing servitude to his parents, Cornelius Vanderbilt added to the
family's common stock of wealth, and gained for himself three
things,--a perfect knowledge of his business, habits of industry and
self-control, and the best boat in the harbor.

The war of 1812 suspended the commerce of the port, but gave a great
impulse to boating. There were men-of-war in the harbor and garrisons
in the forts, which gave to the boatmen of Whitehall and Staten Island
plenty of business, of which Cornelius Vanderbilt had his usual share.
In September, 1813, during a tremendous gale, a British fleet
attempted to run past Fort Richmond. After the repulse, the commander
of the fort, expecting a renewal of the attempt, was anxious to get
the news to the city, so as to secure a reinforcement early the next
day. Every one agreed that, if the thing could be done, there was but
one man who could do it; and, accordingly, young Vanderbilt was sent

"Can you take a party up to the city in this gale?"

"Yes," was the reply; "but I shall have to carry them part of the way
under water."

When he made fast to Coffee-House slip, an hour or two after, every
man in the boat was drenched to the skin. But there they were, and the
fort was reinforced the next morning.

About this time, the young man had another important conversation with
his mother, which, perhaps, was more embarrassing than the one
recorded above. He was in love. Sophia Johnson was the maiden's
name,--a neighbor's lovely and industrious daughter, whose affections
he had wooed and won. He asked his mother's consent to the match, and
that henceforth he might have the disposal of his own earnings. She
approved his choice, and released him from his obligations. During the
rest of that season he labored with new energy, saved five hundred
dollars, and, in December, 1813, when he laid up his boat for the
winter, became the happy husband of the best of wives.

In the following spring, a great alarm pervaded all the sea-board
cities of America. Rumors were abroad of that great expedition which,
at the close of the year, attacked New Orleans; but, in the spring and
summer, no one knew upon which port the blow would fall. The militia
of New York were called out for three months, under a penalty of
ninety-six dollars to whomsoever should fail to appear at the
rendezvous. The boatmen, in the midst of a flourishing business, and
especially our young husband, were reluctant to lose the profits of a
season's labor, which were equivalent, in their peculiar case, to the
income of a whole year. An advertisement appeared one day in the
papers which gave them a faint prospect of escaping this disaster. It
was issued from the office of the commissary-general, Matthew L.
Davis, inviting bids from the boatmen for the contract of conveying
provisions to the posts in the vicinity of New York during the three
months, the contractor to be exempt from military duty. The boatmen
caught at this, as a drowning man catches at a straw, and put in bids
at rates preposterously low,--all except Cornelius Vanderbilt.

"Why don't you send in a bid?" asked his father.

"Of what use would it be?" replied the son. "They are offering to do
the work at half-price. It can't be done at such rates."

"Well," added the father, "it can do no harm to try for it."

So, to please his father, but without the slightest expectation of
getting the contract, he sent in an application, offering to transport
the provisions at a price which would enable him to do it with the
requisite certainty and promptitude. His offer was simply fair to both

On the day named for the awarding of the contract, all the boatmen but
him assembled in the commissary's office. He remained at the
boat-stand, not considering that he had any interest in the matter.
One after another, his comrades returned with long faces, sufficiently
indicative of their disappointment; until, at length, all of them had
come in, but no one bringing the prize. Puzzled at this, he strolled
himself to the office, and asked the commissary if the contract had
been given.

"O yes," said Davis; "that business is settled. Cornelius Vanderbilt
is the man."

He was thunderstruck.

"What!" said the commissary, observing his astonishment, is it you?"

"My name is Cornelius Vanderbilt."

"Well," said Davis, "don't you know why we have given the contract to


"Why, it is because we want this business _done_, and we know you'll
do it."

Matthew L. Davis, as the confidant of Aaron Burr, did a good many
foolish things in his life, but on this occasion he did a wise one.
The contractor asked him but one favor, which was, that the daily load
of stores might be ready for him every evening at six o'clock. There
were six posts to be supplied: Harlem, Hurl Gate, Ward's Island, and
three others in the harbor or at the Narrows, each of which required
one load a week. Young Vanderbilt did all this work at night; and
although, during the whole period of three months, he never once
failed to perform his contract, he was never once absent from his
stand in the day-time. He slept when he could, and when he could not
sleep he did without it. Only on Sunday and Sunday night could he be
said to rest. There was a rare harvest for boatmen that summer.
Transporting sick and furloughed soldiers, naval and military
officers, the friends of the militia men, and pleasure-seekers
visiting the forts, kept those of the boatmen who had "escaped the
draft," profitably busy. It was not the time for an enterprising man
to be absent from his post.

From the gains of that summer he built a superb little schooner, the
Dread; and, the year following, the joyful year of peace, he and his
brother-in-law. Captain De Forrest, launched the Charlotte, a vessel
large enough for coasting service, and the pride of the harbor for
model and speed. In this vessel, when the summer's work was over, he
voyaged sometimes along the Southern coast, bringing home considerable
freights from the Carolinas. Knowing the coast thoroughly, and being
one of the boldest and most expert of seamen, he and his vessel were
always ready when there was something to be done of difficulty and
peril. During the three years succeeding the peace of 1815, he saved
three thousand dollars a year; so that, in 1818, he possessed two or
three of the nicest little craft in the harbor, and a cash capital of
nine thousand dollars.

The next step of Captain Vanderbilt astonished both his rivals and his
friends. He deliberately abandoned his flourishing business, to accept
the post of captain of a small steamboat, at a salary of a thousand
dollars a year. By slow degrees, against the opposition of the
boatmen, and the terrors of the public, steamboats had made their way;
until, in 1817, ten years after Fulton's experimental trip, the long
head of Captain Vanderbilt clearly comprehended that the supremacy of
sails was gone forever, and he resolved to ally himself to the new
power before being overcome gone forever, and he resolved to ally
himself to the new power before being overcome by it. Besides, he
protests, that in no enterprise of his life has his chief object been
the gain of money. Being in the business of carrying passengers, he
desired to carry them in the best manner, and by the best means.
Business has ever been to him a kind of game, and his ruling motive
was and is, to play it so as to win. _To carry his point_, that has
been the motive of his business career; but then his point has
generally been one which, being carried, brought money with it.

At that day, passengers to Philadelphia were conveyed by steamboat
from New York to New Brunswick, where they remained all night, and the
next morning took the stage for Trenton, whence they were carried to
Philadelphia by steamboat. The proprietor of part of this line was the
once celebrated Thomas Gibbons, a man of enterprise and capital. It
was in his service that Captain Vanderbilt spent the next twelve years
of his life, commanding the steamer plying between New York and New
Brunswick. The hotel at New Brunswick, where the passengers passed the
night, which had never paid expenses, was let to him rent free, and
under the efficient management of Mrs. Vanderbilt, it became
profitable, and afforded the passengers such excellent entertainment
as to enhance the popularity of the line.

In engaging with Mr. Gibbons, Captain Vanderbilt soon found that he
had put his head into a hornet's nest. The State of New York had
granted to Fulton and Livingston the exclusive right of running
steamboats in New York waters. Thomas Gibbons, believing the grant
unconstitutional, as it was afterwards declared by the Supreme Court,
ran his boats in defiance of it, and thus involved himself in a long
and fierce contest with the authorities of New York. The brunt of this
battle fell upon his new captain. There was one period when for sixty
successive days an attempt was made to arrest him; but the captain
baffled every attempt. Leaving his crew in New Jersey (for they also
were liable to arrest), he would approach the New York wharf with a
lady at the helm, while he managed the engine; and as soon as the boat
was made fast he concealed himself in the depths of the vessel. At the
moment of starting, the officer (changed every day to avoid
recognition) used to present himself and tap the wary captain on the

"Let go the line," was his usual reply to the summons.

The officer, fearing to be carried off to New Jersey, where a
retaliatory act threatened him with the State's prison, would jump
ashore as for life; or, if carried off, would beg to be put ashore. In
this way, and in many others, the captain contrived to evade the law.
He fought the State of New York for seven years, until, in 1824, Chief
Justice Marshall pronounced New York wrong and New Jersey right. The
opposition vainly attempted to buy him off by the offer of a larger

"No," replied the captain, "I shall stick to Mr. Gibbons till he is
through his troubles."

That was the reason why he remained so long in the service of Mr.

After this war was over, the genius of Captain Vanderbilt had full
play, and he conducted the line with so much energy and good sense,
that it yielded an annual profit of forty thousand dollars. Gibbons
offered to raise his salary to five thousand dollars a year, but he
declined the offer. An acquaintance once asked him why he refused a
compensation that was so manifestly just.

"I did it on principle," was his reply. "The other captains had but
one thousand, and they were already jealous enough of me. Besides, I
never cared for money. All I ever have cared for was to carry my

A little incident of these years he has sometimes related to his
children. In the cold January of 1820, the ship Elizabeth--the first
ship ever sent to Africa by the Colonization Society--lay at the foot
of Rector Street, with the negroes all on board, frozen in. For many
days, her crew, aided by the crew of the frigate Siam, her convoy, had
been cutting away at the ice; but, as more ice formed at night than
could be removed by day, the prospect of getting to sea was
unpromising. One afternoon, Captain Vanderbilt joined the crowd of

"They are going the wrong way to work," he carelessly remarked, as he
turned to go home. "I could get her out in one day."

These words, from a man who was known to mean all he said, made an
impression on a bystander, who reported them to the anxious agent of
the Society. The agent called upon him.

"What did you mean, Captain, by saying that you could get out the ship
in one day?"

"Just what I said."

"What will you get her out for?"

"One hundred dollars."

"I'll give it. When will you do it?"

"Have a steamer to-morrow, at twelve o'clock, ready to tow her out.
I'll have her clear in time."

That same evening, at six, he was on the spot with five men, three
pine boards, and a small anchor. The difficulty was that beyond the
ship there were two hundred yards of ice too thin to bear a man. The
captain placed his anchor on one of his boards, and pushed it out as
far as he could reach; then placed another board upon the ice, laid
down upon it, and gave his anchor another push. Then he put down his
third board, and used that as a means of propulsion. In this way he
worked forward to near the edge of the thin ice, where the anchor
broke through and sunk. With the line attached to it, he hauled a boat
to the outer edge, and then began cutting a passage for the ship.

At eleven the next morning she was clear. At twelve she was towed into
the stream.

In 1829, after twelve years of service as captain of a steamboat,
being then thirty-five years of age, and having saved thirty thousand
dollars, he announced to his employer his intention to set up for
himself. Mr. Gibbons was aghast. He declared that he could not carry
on the line without his aid, and finding him resolute, said:--

"There, Vanderbilt, take all this property, and pay me for it as you
make the money."

This splendid offer he thankfully but firmly declined. He did so
chiefly because he knew, the men with whom he would have had to
co-operate, and foresaw, that he and they could never work comfortably
together. He wanted a free field.

The little Caroline, seventy feet long, that afterward plunged over
Niagara Falls, was the first steamboat ever built by him. His progress
as a steamboat owner was not rapid for some years. The business was in
the hands of powerful companies and wealthy individuals, and he, the
new-comer, running a few small boats on short routes, labored under
serious disadvantages. Formidable attempts were made to run him off
the river; but, prompt to retaliate, he made vigorous inroads into the
enemy's domain, and kept up an opposition so keen as to compel a
compromise in every instance. There was a time, during his famous
contest with the Messrs. Stevens of Hoboken, when he had spent every
dollar he possessed, and when a few days more of opposition would have
compelled him to give up the strife. Nothing saved him but the belief,
on the part of his antagonists, that Gibbons was backing him. It was
not the case; he had no backer. But this error, in the very nick of
time, induced his opponents to treat for a compromise, and he was

Gradually he made his way to the control of the steamboat interest. He
has owned, in whole or in part, a hundred steam vessels. His various
opposition lines have permanently reduced fares one half.
Superintending himself the construction of every boat, having a
perfect practical knowledge of the business in its every detail,
selecting his captains well and paying them justly, he has never lost
a vessel by fire, explosion, or wreck. He possesses, in a remarkable
degree, the talent of selecting the right man for a place, and of
inspiring him with zeal. Every man who serves him _knows_ that he will
be sustained against all intrigue and all opposition, and that he has
nothing to fear so long as he does his duty.

The later events in his career are, in some degree, known to the
public. Every one remembers his magnificent cruise in the North Star,
and how, on returning to our harbor, his first salute was to the
cottage of his venerable mother on the Staten Island shore. To her,
also, on landing, he first paid his respects.

Every one knows that he presented to the government the steamer that
bears his name, at a time when she was earning him two thousand
dollars a day. He has given to the war something more precious than a
ship: his youngest son, Captain Vanderbilt, the most athletic youth
that ever graduated at West Point, and one of the finest young men in
the country. His friends tell us that, on his twenty-second birthday
he lifted nine hundred and eight pounds. But his giant strength did
not save him. The fatigues and miasmas of the Corinth campaign planted
in his magnificent frame the seeds of death. He died a year ago, after
a long struggle with disease, to the inexpressible grief of his

During the last two or three years, Commodore Vanderbilt has been
withdrawing his capital from steamers and investing it in railroads.
It is this fact that has given rise to the impression that he has been
playing a deep game in stock speculation. No such thing. He has
_never_ speculated; he disapproves of, and despises speculation; and
has invariably warned his sons against it as the pursuit of
adventurers and gamblers. "Why, then," Wall Street may ask, "has he
bought almost the whole stock of the Harlem railroad, which pays no
dividends, running it up to prices that seem ridiculous?" We can
answer this question very simply: he bought the Harlem railroad to
_keep_. He bought it as an investment. Looking several inches beyond
his nose, and several days ahead of to-day, he deliberately concluded
that the Harlem road, managed as he could manage it, would be, in the
course of time, what Wall Street itself would call "a good thing." We
shall see, by and by, whether he judged correctly. What was the New
Jersey railroad worth when he and a few friends went over one day and
bought it at auction? Less than nothing. The stock is now held at one
hundred and seventy-five.

After taking the cream of the steamboat business for a quarter of a
century, Commodore Vanderbilt has now become the largest holder of
railroad stock in the country. If tomorrow balloons should supersede
railroads, we should doubtless find him "in" balloons.

Nothing is more remarkable than the ease with which great business men
conduct the most extensive and complicated affairs. At ten or eleven
in the morning, the Commodore rides from his mansion in Washington
Place in a light wagon, drawn by one of his favorite horses, to his
office in Bowling Green, where, in two hours, aided by a single clerk,
he transacts the business of the day, returning early in the afternoon
to take his drive on the road. He despises show and ostentation in
every form. No lackey attends him; he holds the reins himself, With an
estate of forty millions to manage, nearly all actively employed in
iron works and railroads, he keeps scarcely any books, but carries all
his affairs in his head, and manages them without the least anxiety or
apparent effort.

We are informed by one who knows him better almost than any one else,
that he owes his excellent health chiefly to his love of horses. He
possesses the power of leaving his business in his office, and never
thinking of it during his hours of recreation.

Out on the road behind a fast team, or seated at whist at the
Club-House, he enters gayly into the humors of the hour. He is rigid
on one point only;--not to talk or hear of business out of business

Being asked one day what he considered to be the secret of success in
business, he replied:--

"Secret? There is no secret about it. All you have to do is to attend
to your business and go ahead."

With all deference to such an eminent authority, we must be allowed to
think that that is not the whole of the matter. Three things seem
essential to success in business: 1. To _know_ your business. 2. To
attend to it. 3. To keep down expenses until your fortune is safe from
business perils.

On another occasion he replied with more point to a similar

"The secret of my success is this: I never tell what I am going to do
till I have done it."

He is, indeed, a man of little speech. Gen. Grant himself is not more
averse to oratory than he. Once, in London, at a banquet, his health
was given, and he was urged to respond. All that could be extorted
from him was the following:--

"Gentlemen, I have never made a fool of myself in my life, and I am
not going to begin now. Here is a friend of mine (his lawyer) who can
talk all day. He will do my speaking."

Nevertheless, he knows how to express his meaning with singular
clearness, force, and brevity, both by the tongue and by the pen. Some
of his business letters, dictated by him to a clerk, are models of
that kind of composition. He is also master of an art still more
difficult,--that of _not_ saying what he does not wish to say.

As a business man he is even more prudent than he is bold. He has
sometimes remarked, that it has never been in the power of any man or
set of men to prevent his keeping an engagement. If, for example, he
should bind himself to pay a million of dollars on the first of May,
he would at once provide for fulfilling his engagement in such a
manner that no failure on the part of others, no contingency, private
or public, could prevent his doing it. In other words, he would have
the money where he could be sure of finding it on the day.

No one ever sees the name of Cornelius Vanderbilt on a subscription
paper, nor ever will. In his charities, which are numerous and
liberal, he exhibits the reticence which marks his conduct as a man of
business. His object is to render real and permanent service to
deserving objects; but to the host of miscellaneous beggars that
pervade our places of business he is not accessible. The last years of
many a good old soul, whom he knew in his youth, have been made happy
by a pension from him. But of all this not a syllable ever escapes
_his_ lips.

He has now nearly completed his seventy-first year. His frame is still
erect and vigorous; and, as a business man, he has not a living
superior. Every kind of success has attended him through life.
Thirteen children have been born to him,--nine daughters and four
sons,--nearly all of whom are living and are parents. One of his
grandsons has recently come of age. At the celebration of his golden
wedding, three years ago, more than a hundred and forty of his
descendants and relations assembled at his house. On that joyful
occasion, the Commodore presented to his wife a beautiful little
golden steamboat, with musical works instead of an engine,--emblematic
at once of his business career and the harmony of his home. If ever he
boasts of anything appertaining to him, it is when he is speaking of
the manly virtues of his son lost in the war, or when he says that his
wife is the finest woman of her age in the city.

Commodore Vanderbilt is one of the New World's strong men. His career
is one which young men who aspire to lead in practical affairs may
study with profit.

[Footnote 1: This narrative of the business-life of Commodore
Vanderbilt was written immediately after I had heard him tell the
story himself. It was written at the request of Robert Bonner, Esq.,
and published by him in the New York Ledger of April 8, 1865. I should
add, that several of the facts given were related to me at various
times by members of Mr. Vanderbilt's family.]


New York does well to celebrate the anniversary of the day when the
British troops evacuated the city; for it was in truth the birthday of
all that we now mean by the City of New York. One hundred and
seventy-four years had elapsed since Hendrick Hudson landed upon the
shores of Manhattan; but the town could only boast a population of
twenty-three thousand. In ten years the population doubled; in twenty
years trebled. Washington Irving was a baby seven months old, at his
father's house in William Street, on Evacuation Day, the 25th of
November, 1783. On coming of age he found himself the inhabitant of a
city containing a population of seventy thousand. When he died, at the
age of seventy-five, more than a million of people inhabited the
congregation of cities which form the metropolis of America.

The beginnings of great things are always interesting to us.
New-Yorkers, at least, cannot read without emotion the plain,
matter-of-fact accounts in the old newspapers of the manner in which
the city of their pride changed masters. Journalism has altered its
modes of procedure since that memorable day. No array of headings in
large type called the attention of readers to the details of this
great event in the history of their town, and no editorial article in
extra leads commented upon it. The newspapers printed the merest
programme of the proceedings, with scarcely a comment of their own;
and, having done that, they felt that their duty was done, for no
subsequent issue contains an allusion to the subject. Perhaps the
reader will be gratified by a perusal of the account of the evacuation
as given in Rivington's Gazette of November 26, 1783.

New York, November 26:--Yesterday in the Morning the American Troops
marched from Haerlem, to the Bowery-Lane--They remained there until
about One o'Clock, when the British Troops left the Posts in the
Bowery, and the American Troops marched into and took Possession of
the City, in the following Order, _viz._

1. A Corps of Dragoons.

2. Advance Guard of Light Infantry.

3. A Corps of Artillery.

4. Battalion of Light Infantry.

5. Battalion of Massachusetts Troops.

6. Rear Guard.

After the Troops had taken Possession of the City, the GENERAL
[Washington] and GOVERNOR [George Clinton] made their Public Entry in
the following Manner:

1. Their Excellencies the General and Governor, with their Suites, on

2. The Lieutenant-Governor, and the Members of the Council, for the
Temporary Government of the Southern District, four a-breast.

3. Major General Knox, and the Officers of the Army, eight a-breast.

4. Citizens on Horseback, eight a-breast.

5. The Speaker of the Assembly, and Citizens, on Foot, eight a-breast.

Their Excellencies the Governor and Commander in Chief were escorted
by a Body of West-Chester Light Horse, under the command of Captain

The Procession proceeded down Queen Street [now Pearl], and through
the Broadway, to _Cape's_ Tavern.

The Governor gave a public Dinner at _Fraunces's_ Tavern; at which the
Commander in Chief and other General Officers were present.

After Dinner, the following Toasts were drank by the Company:

1. The United States of America.

2. His most Christian Majesty.

3. The United Netherlands.

4. The king of Sweden.

5. The American Army.

6. The Fleet and Armies of France, which have served in America.

7. The Memory of those Heroes who have fallen for our Freedom.

8. May our Country be grateful to her military children.

9. May Justice support what Courage has gained.

10. The Vindicators of the Rights of Mankind in every Quarter of the

11. May America be an Asylum to the persecuted of the Earth.

12. May a close Union of the States guard the Temple they have erected
to Liberty.

13. May the Remembrance of THIS DAY be a Lesson to Princes.

The arrangement and whole conduct of this march, with the tranquillity
which succeeded it, through the day and night, was admirable! and the
grateful citizens will ever feel the most affectionate impressions,
from that elegant and efficient disposition which prevailed through
the whole event.

Such was the journalism of that primitive day. The sedate Rivington,
for so many years the Tory organ, was in no humor, we may suppose, to
chronicle the minor events of the occasion, even if he had not
considered them beneath the dignity of his vocation. He says nothing
of the valiant matron in Chatham Row who, in the impatience of her
patriotism, hoisted the American flag over her door two hours before
the stipulated moment, noon, and defended it against a British provost
officer with her broomstick. Nor does he allude to the great scene at
the principal flag-staff, which the retiring garrison had plentifully
greased, and from which they had removed the blocks and halyards, in
order to retard the hoisting of the stars and stripes. He does not
tell us how a sailor-boy, with a line around his waist and a pocket
full of spikes, hammered his way to the top of the staff, and restored
the tackling by which the flag was flung to the breeze before the
barges containing the British rear-guard had reached the fleet. It was
a sad day for Mr. Rivington, and he may be excused for not dwelling
upon its incidents longer than stern duty demanded.

The whole State of New York had been waiting impatiently for the
evacuation of the City. Many hundreds of the old Whig inhabitants, who
had fled at the entrance of the English troops seven years before,
were eager to come again into possession of their homes and property,
and resume their former occupations. Many new enterprises waited only
for the departure of the troops to be entered upon. A large number of
young men were looking to New York as the scene of their future
career. Albany, which had served as the temporary capital of the
State, was full of lawyers, law-students, retired soldiers, merchants,
and mechanics, who were prepared to remove to New York as soon as
Rivington's Gazette should inform them that the British had really
left, and General Washington taken possession. As in these days
certain promises to pay are to be fulfilled six months after the
United States shall have acknowledged the independence of a certain
Confederacy, so at that time it was a custom for leases and other
compacts to be dated from "the day on which the British troops shall
leave New York." Among the young men in Albany who were intending to
repair to the city were two retired officers of distinction, Alexander
Hamilton, a student at law, and Aaron Burr, then in the second year of
his practice at the bar. James Kent and Edward Livingston were also
students of law in Albany at that time. The old Tory lawyers being all
exiled or silenced, there was a promising field in New York for young
advocates of talent, and these two young gentlemen had both contracted
marriages which necessitated speedy professional gains. Hamilton had
won the daughter of General Schuyler. Burr was married to the widow of
a British officer, whose fortune was a few hundred pounds and two fine
strapping boys fourteen and sixteen years of age.

And Burr was himself a father. Theodosia, "his only child," was born
at Albany in the spring of 1783. When the family removed to New York
in the following winter, and took up their abode in Maiden Lane,--"the
rent to commence when the troops leave the city,"--she was an engaging
infant of seven or eight months. We may infer something of the
circumstances and prospects of her father, when we know that he had
ventured upon a house of which the rent was two hundred pounds a year.
We find him removing, a year or two after, to a mansion at the corner
of Cedar and Nassau streets, the garden and grapery of which were
among the finest in the thickly settled portion of the city. Fifty
years after, he had still an office within a very few yards of the
same spot, though all trace of the garden of Theodosia's childhood had
long ago disappeared. She was a child of affluence. Not till she had
left her father's house did a shadow of misfortune darken its portals.
Abundance and elegance surrounded her from her infancy, and whatever
advantages in education and training wealth can produce for a child
she had in profusion. At the same time her father's vigilant stoicism
guarded her from the evils attendant upon a too easy acquisition of
things pleasant and desirable.

She was born into a happy home. Even if we had not the means of
knowing something of the character of her mother, we might still infer
that she must have possessed qualities singularly attractive to induce
a man in the position of Burr to undertake the charge of a family at
the outset of his career. She was neither handsome nor young, nor had
she even the advantage of good health. A scar disfigured her face.
Burr,--the brilliant and celebrated Burr,--heir of an honored name,
had linked his rising fortunes with an invalid and her boys. The event
most abundantly justified his choice, for in all the fair island of
Manhattan there was not a happier family than his, nor one in which
happiness was more securely founded in the diligent discharge of duty.
The twelve years of his married life were his brightest and best; and
among the last words he ever spoke were a pointed declaration that his
wife was the best woman and the finest lady he had ever known. It was
her cultivated mind that drew him to her. "It was a knowledge of your
mind," he once wrote her,

     "which first inspired me with a respect for that of your
     sex, and with some regret I confess, that the ideas you have
     often heard me express in favor of female intellectual power
     are founded in what I have imagined more than in what I have
     seen, except in you."

In those days an educated woman was among the rarest of rarities. The
wives of many of our most renowned revolutionary leaders were
surprisingly illiterate. Except the noble wife of John Adams, whose
letters form so agreeable an oasis in the published correspondence of
the time, it would be difficult to mention the name of one lady of the
revolutionary period who could have been a companion to the _mind_ of
a man of culture. Mrs. Burr, on the contrary, was the equal of her
husband in literary discernment, and his superior in moral judgment.
Her remarks, in her letters to her husband, upon the popular authors
of the day, Chesterfield, Rousseau, Voltaire, and others, show that
she could correct as well as sympathize with her husband's taste. She
relished all of Chesterfield except the "indulgence," which Burr
thought essential. She had a weakness for Rousseau, but was not
deluded by his sentimentality. She enjoyed Gibbon without stumbling at
his fifteenth and sixteenth-chapters. The home of Theodosia presents
to us a pleasing scene of virtuous industry. The master of the house,
always an indomitable worker, was in the full tide of a successful
career at the bar. His two step-sons were employed in his office, and
one of them frequently accompanied him in his journeys to distant
courts as clerk or amanuensis. No father could have been more generous
or more thoughtful than he was for these fatherless youths, and they
appeared to have cherished for him the liveliest affection. Mrs. Burr
shared in the labors of the office during the absence of her lord. All
the affairs of this happy family moved in harmony, for love presided
at their board, inspired their exertions, and made them one. One
circumstance alone interrupted their felicity, and that was the
frequent absence of Burr from home on business at country courts; but
even these journeys served to call forth from all the family the
warmest effusions of affection.

"What language can express the joy, the gratitude of Theodosia!"
writes Mrs. Burr to her absent husband, in the fifth year of their

     "Stage after stage without a line. Thy usual punctuality
     gave room for every fear; various conjectures filled every
     breast. One of our sons was to have departed to-day in quest
     of the best of friends and fathers. This morning we waited
     the stage with impatience. Shrouder went frequently before
     it arrived; at length returned--_no letter_. We were struck
     dumb with disappointment. Barton [eldest son] set out to
     inquire who were the passengers; in a very few minutes
     returned exulting--a packet worth the treasures of the
     Universe. Joy brightened every face; all expressed their
     past anxieties, their present happiness. To enjoy was the
     first result. Each made choice of what they could best
     relish. Porter, sweet wine, chocolate, and sweetmeats made
     the most delightful repast that could be enjoyed without
     thee. The servants were made to feel their lord was well;
     are at this instant toasting his health and bounty. While
     the boys are obeying thy dear commands, thy Theodosia flies
     to speak her heartfelt joy--her Aaron safe--mistress of the
     heart she adores, can she ask more? Has Heaven more to

What a pleasing picture of a happy family circle is this, and how
rarely are the perils of a second marriage so completely overcome! It
was in such a warm and pleasant nest as this that Theodosia Burr
passed the years of her childhood.

Charles Lamb used to say that babies had no right to our regard merely
_as_ babies, but that every child had a character of its own by which
it must stand or fall in the esteem of disinterested observers.
Theodosia was a beautiful and forward child, formed to be the pet and
pride of a household. "Your dear little Theo," wrote her mother in her
third year, "grows the most engaging child you ever saw. It is
impossible to see her with indifference." From her earliest years she
exhibited that singular fondness for her father which afterward became
the ruling passion of her life, and which was to undergo the severest
tests that filial affection has ever known. When she was but three
years of age her mother would write: "Your dear little daughter seeks
you twenty times a day; calls you to your meals, and will not suffer
your chair to be filled by any of the family." And again:

     "Your dear little Theodosia cannot hear you spoken of
     without an apparent melancholy; insomuch that her nurse is
     obliged to exert her invention to divert her, and myself
     avoid to mention you in her presence. She was one whole day
     indifferent to everything but your name. Her attachment is
     not of a common nature."

Here was an inviting opportunity for developing an engaging infant
into that monstrous thing, a spoiled child. She was an only daughter
in a family of which all the members but herself were adults, and the
head of which was among the busiest of men.

But Aaron Burr, amidst all the toils of his profession, and in spite
of the distractions of political strife, made the education of his
daughter the darling object of his existence. Hunters tell us that
pointers and hounds _inherit_ the instinct which renders them such
valuable allies in the pursuit of game; so that the offspring of a
trained dog acquires the arts of the chase with very little
instruction. Burr's father was one of the most zealous and skillful of
schoolmasters, and from him he appears to have derived that pedagogic
cast of character which led him, all his life, to take so much
interest in the training of _protégés_. There was never a time in his
whole career when he had not some youth upon his hands to whose
education he was devoted. His system of training, with many excellent
points, was radically defective. Its defects are sufficiently
indicated when we say that It was pagan, not Christian. Plato,
Socrates, Cato, and Cicero might have pronounced it good and
sufficient: St. John, St. Augustine, and all the Christian host would
have lamented it as fatally defective. But if Burr educated his child
as though she were a Roman girl, her mother was with her during the
first eleven years of her life, to supply, in some degree, what was
wanting in the instructions of her father.

Burr was a stoic. He cultivated hardness. Fortitude and fidelity were
his favorite virtues. The seal which he used in his correspondence
with his intimate friends, and with them only, was descriptive of his
character and prophetic of his destiny. It was a Rock, solitary in the
midst of a tempestuous ocean, and bore the inscription, "_Nee flatu
nee fluctu_"--neither by wind nor by wave. It was his principle to
steel himself against the inevitable evils of life. If we were asked
to select from his writings the sentence which contains most of his
characteristic way of thinking, it would be one which he wrote in his
twenty-fourth year to his future wife: "That mind is truly great which
can bear with equanimity the trifling and unavoidable vexations of
life, and be affected only by those which determine our substantial
bliss." He utterly despised all complaining, even of the greatest
calamities. He even experienced a kind of proud pleasure in enduring
the fierce obloquy of his later years. One day, near the close of his
life, when a friend had told him of some new scandal respecting his
moral conduct, he said: "That's right, my child, tell me what they
say. I like to know what the public say of me,--the _great_ public!"
Such words he would utter without the slightest bitterness, speaking
of the _great_ public as a humorous old grandfather might of a
wayward, foolish, good little child.

So, at the dawn of a career which promised nothing but glory and
prosperity, surrounded by all the appliances of ease and pleasure, he
was solicitous to teach his child to do and to endure. He would have
her accustomed to sleep alone, and to go about the house in the dark.
Her breakfast was of bread and milk. He was resolute in exacting the
less agreeable tasks, such as arithmetic. He insisted upon regularity
of hours. Upon going away upon a journey he would leave written orders
for her tutors, detailing the employments of each day; and, during his
absence, a chief topic of his letters was the lessons of the children.
_Children_,--for, that his Theodosia might have the advantage of a
companion in her studies, he adopted the little Natalie, a French
child, whom he reared to womanhood in his house. "The letters of our
dear children," he would write,

     "are a feast. To hear that they are employed, that no time
     is absolutely wasted, is the most flattering of anything
     that could be told me of them. It insures their affection,
     or is the best evidence of it. It insures in its
     consequences everything I am ambitious of in them. Endeavor
     to preserve regularity of hours; it conduces exceedingly to

And his wife would answer:

     "I really believe, my dear, that few parents can boast of
     children whose minds are so prone to virtue. I see the
     reward of our assiduity with inexpressible delight, with a
     gratitude few experience. My Aaron, they have grateful

Or thus: "Theo [seven years old] ciphers from five in the morning
until eight, and also the same hours in the evening. This prevents our
riding at those hours."

When Theodosia was ten years old, Mary Wollstonecraft's eloquent
little book, "A Vindication of the Eights of Woman," fell into Burr's
hands. He was so powerfully struck by it that he sat up nearly all
night reading it. He showed it to all his friends. "Is it owing to
ignorance or prejudice," he wrote, "that I have not yet met a single
person who had discovered, or would allow the merit of this work?" The
work, indeed, was fifty years in advance of the time; for it
anticipated all that is rational in the opinions respecting the
position and education of women which are now held by the ladies who
are stigmatized as the Strong-minded, as well as by John Mill, Herbert
Spencer, and other economists of the modern school. It demanded fair
play for the _understanding_ of women. It proclaimed the essential
equality of the sexes. It denounced the awful libertinism of that age,
and showed that the-weakness, the ignorance, the vanity, and the
seclusion of women prepared them to become the tool and minion of bad
men's lust. It criticised ably the educational system of Rousseau,
and, with still more severity, the popular works of bishops and
priests, who chiefly strove to inculcate an abject submission to man
as the rightful lord of the sex. It demonstrated that the sole
possibility of woman's elevation to the rank of man's equal and friend
was in the cultivation of her mind, and in the thoughtful discharge of
the duties of her lot. It is a really noble and brave little book,
undeserving of the oblivion into which it has fallen. No intelligent
woman, no wise parent with daughters to rear, could read it now
without pleasure and advantage.

"Meekness," she says,

     "may excite tenderness, and gratify the arrogant pride of
     man; but the lordly caresses of a protector will not gratify
     a noble mind that pants and deserves to be _respected_.
     Fondness is a poor substitute for friendship... A girl whose
     spirits have not been damped by inactivity, or innocence
     tainted by false shame, will always be a romp, and the doll
     will never excite attention unless confinement allows her no
     alternative Most of the women, in the circle of my
     observation, who have acted like rational creatures, have
     accidentally been allowed to run wild, as some of the
     elegant formers of the fair sex would insinuate Men have
     better tempers than women because they are occupied by
     pursuits that interest the _head_ as well as the heart. I
     never knew a weak or ignorant person who had a good temper
     Why are girls to be told that they resemble angels, but to
     sink them below women? They are told that they are only like
     angels when they are young and beautiful; consequently it is
     their persons, not their virtues, that procure them this
     homage It is in vain to attempt to keep the heart pure
     unless the head is furnished with ideas Would ye, O my
     sisters, really possess modesty, ye must remember that the
     possession of virtue, of any denomination, is incompatible
     with ignorance and vanity! Ye must acquire that soberness of
     mind which the exercise of duties and the pursuit of
     knowledge alone inspire, or ye will still remain in a
     doubtful, dependent situation, and only be, loved while ye
     are fair! The downcast eye, the rosy blush, the retiring
     grace, are all proper in their season; but modesty being the
     child of reason cannot long exist with the sensibility that
     is not tempered by reflection.... With what disgust have I
     heard sensible women speak of the wearisome confinement
     which they endured at school. Not allowed, perhaps, to step
     out of one broad path in a superb garden, and obliged to
     pace, with steady deportment, stupidly backward and forward,
     holding up their heads and turning out their toes, with
     shoulders braced back, instead of bounding forward, as
     Nature directs to complete her own design, in the various
     attitudes so conducive to health. The pure animal spirits,
     which make both mind and body shoot out and unfold the
     tender blossoms of hope, are turned sour and vented in vain
     wishes or pert repinings, that contract the faculties and.
     spoil the temper; else they mount to the brain, and,
     sharpening the understanding before it gains proportionable
     strength, produce that pitiful cunning which disgracefully
     characterizes the female mind,--and, I fear, will ever
     characterize it while women remain the slaves of power."

In the spirit of this book Theodosia's education was conducted. Her
mind had fair play. Her father took it for granted that she could
learn what a boy of the same age could learn, and gave her precisely
the advantages which he would have given a son. Besides the usual
accomplishments, French, music, dancing, and riding, she learned to
read Virgil, Horace, Terence, Lucian, Homer, in the original. She
appears to have read all of Terence and Lucian, a great part of
Horace, all the Iliad, and large portions of the Odyssey. "Cursed
effects," exclaimed her father once,

     "of fashionable education, of which both sexes are the
     advocates, and yours eminently the victims. If I could
     foresee that Theo would become a mere fashionable woman,
     with all the attendant frivolity and vacuity of mind,
     adorned with whatever grace and allurement, I would
     earnestly pray God to take her forthwith hence. But I yet
     hope by her to convince the world what neither sex appears
     to believe, that women have souls."

How faithfully, how skilfully he labored to kindle and nourish the
intelligence of his child his letters to her attest. He was never too
busy to spare a half-hour in answering her letters. In a country
court-room, in the Senate-chamber, he wrote her brief and sprightly
notes, correcting her spelling, complimenting her style, reproving her
indolence, praising her industry, commenting on her authors. Rigorous
taskmaster as he was, he had a strong sense of the value of just
commendation, and he continued to mingle praise very happily with
reproof. A few sentences from his letters to her will serve to show
his manner.

(In her tenth year.)--

     "I rose up suddenly from the sofa, and rubbing my head,
     'What book shall I buy for her?' said I to myself. 'She
     reads so much and so rapidly that it is not easy to find
     proper and amusing French books for her; and yet I am so
     flattered with her progress in that language that I am
     resolved she shall, at all events, be gratified. Indeed I
     owe it to her.' So, after walking once or twice briskly
     across the floor, I took my hat and sallied out, determined
     not to return till I had purchased something. It was not my
     first attempt. I went into one bookseller's shop after
     another. I found plenty of fairy tales and such nonsense,
     fit for the generality of children nine or ten years old.
     'These,' said I, 'will never do. Her understanding begins to
     be above such things'; but I could see nothing that I would
     offer with pleasure to an _intelligent, well-informed_ girl
     nine years old. I began to be discouraged. The hour of
     dining was come. 'But I will search a little longer,' I
     persevered. At last I found it. I found the very thing I
     sought. It is contained in two volumes octavo, handsomely
     bound, and with prints and registers. It is a work of fancy,
     but replete with instruction and amusement. I must present
     it with my own hand."

He advised her to keep a diary; and to give her an idea of what she
should record, he wrote for her such a journal of one day as he should
like to receive.

_Plan of the Journal_.--

     "Learned 230 lines, which finished Horace. Heigh-ho for
     Terence and the Greek Grammar to-morrow. Practised two hours
     less thirty-five minutes, which I begged off. Hewlett
     (dancing-master) did not come. Began Gibbon last evening. I
     find he requires as much study and attention as Horace; so I
     shall not rank the reading of _him_ among amusements. Skated
     an hour; fell twenty times, and find the advantage of a hard
     head. Ma better,--dined, with us at table, and is still
     sitting up and free from pain."

She was remiss in keeping her journal; remiss, too, in writing to her
father, though he reminded her that he never let one of _her_ letters
remain unanswered a day. He reproved her sharply. "What!" said he,

     "can neither affection nor civility induce you to devote to
     me the small portion of time which I have required? Are
     authority and compulsion then the only engines by which you
     can be moved? For shame, Theo. Do not give me reason to
     think so ill of you."

She reformed. In her twelfth year, her father wrote: "Io triumphe!
there is not a word misspelled either in your journal or letter, which
cannot be said of one you ever wrote before." And again:

     "When you want punctuality in your letters, I am sure you
     want it in everything; for you will constantly observe that
     you have the most leisure when you do the most business.
     Negligence of one's duty produces a self-dissatisfaction
     which unfits the mind for everything, and _ennui_ and
     peevishness are the never-failing consequence."

His letters abound in sound advice. There is scarcely a passage in
them which the most scrupulous and considerate parent could
disapprove. Theodosia heeded well his instructions. She became nearly
all that his heart or his pride desired.

During the later years of her childhood, her mother was grievously
afflicted with a cancer, which caused her death in 1794, before
Theodosia had completed her twelfth year. From that time, such was the
precocity of her character, that she became the mistress of her
father's house and the companion of his leisure hours. Continuing her
studies, however, we find her in her sixteenth year translating French
comedies, reading the Odyssey at the rate of two hundred lines a day,
and about to begin the Iliad. "The happiness of my life," writes her
father, "depends upon your exertions; for what else, for whom else, do
I live?" And, later, when all the world supposed that his whole soul
was absorbed in getting New York ready to vote for Jefferson and Burr,
he told her that the ideas of which _she_ was the subject that passed
daily through his mind would, if committed to writing, fill an octavo

Who so happy as Theodosia? Who so fortunate? The young ladies of New
York, at the close of the last century, might have been pardoned for
envying the lot of this favorite child of one who then seemed the
favorite child of fortune. Burr had been a Senator of the United
States as soon as he had attained the age demanded by the
Constitution. As a lawyer he was second in ability and success to no
man; in reputation, to none but Hamilton, whose services in the
Cabinet of General Washington had given him great celebrity. Aged
members of the New York bar remember that Burr alone was the
antagonist who could put Hamilton to his mettle. When other lawyers
were employed against him, Hamilton's manner was that of a man who
felt an easy superiority to the demands upon him; he took few notes;
he was playful and careless, relying much upon the powerful
declamation of his summing up. But when Burr was in the case,--Burr
the wary, the vigilant, who was never careless, never inattentive, who
came into court only after an absolutely exhaustive preparation of his
case, who held declamation in contempt, and knew how to quench its
effect by a stroke of polite satire, or the quiet citation of a
fact,--then Hamilton was obliged to have all his wits about him, and
he was observed to be restless, busy, and serious. There are now but
two or three venerable men among us who remember the keen encounters
of these two distinguished lawyers. The vividness of their
recollection of those scenes of sixty years ago shows what an
impression must have been made upon their youthful minds.

If Hamilton and Burr divided equally between them the honors of the
bar, Burr had the additional distinction of being a leader of the
rising Democratic Party; the party to which, at that day, the youth,
the genius, the sentiment, of the country were powerfully drawn; the
party which, by his masterly tactics, was about to place Mr. Jefferson
in the Presidential chair after ten years of ineffectual struggle.

All this enhanced the _éclat_ of Theodosia's position. As she rode
about the island on her pony, followed at a respectful distance, as
the custom then was, by one of her father's slaves mounted on a
coach-horse, doubtless many a fair damsel of the city repined at her
own homelier lot, while she dwelt upon the many advantages which
nature and circumstances had bestowed upon this gifted and happy

She was a beautiful girl. She inherited all her father's refined
beauty of countenance; also his shortness of stature; the dignity,
grace, and repose of his incomparable manner, too. She was a plump,
petite, and rosy girl; but there was that in her demeanor which became
the daughter of an affluent home, and a certain assured, indescribable
expression of face which seemed to say, Here is a maiden who to the
object of her affection could be faithful against an execrating
world,--faithful even unto death.

Burr maintained at that time two establishments, one in the city, the
other a mile and a half out of town on the banks of the Hudson.
Richmond Hill was the name of his country seat, where Theodosia
resided during the later years of her youth. It was a large, massive,
wooden edifice, with a lofty portico of Ionic columns, and stood on a
hill facing the river, in the midst of a lawn adorned with ancient
trees and trained shrubbery. The grounds, which extended to the
water's edge, comprised about a hundred and sixty acres. Those who now
visit the site of Burr's abode, at the corner of Charlton and Varick
streets, behold a wilderness of very ordinary houses covering a dead
level. The hill has been pared away, the ponds filled up, the river
pushed away a long distance from the ancient shore, and every one of
the venerable trees is gone. The city shows no spot less suggestive of
rural beauty. But Richmond Hill, in the days of Hamilton and Burr, was
the finest country residence on the island of Manhattan. The wife of
John Adams, who lived there in 1790, just before Burr bought it, and
who had recently travelled in the loveliest counties of England,
speaks of it as a situation not inferior in natural beauty to the most
delicious spot she ever saw. "The house," she says,

     "is situated upon an eminence; at an agreeable distance
     flows the noble Hudson, bearing upon its bosom the fruitful
     productions of the adjacent country. On my right hand are
     fields beautifully variegated with grass and grain, to a
     great extent, like the valley of Honiton, in Devonshire.
     Upon my left the city opens to view, intercepted here and
     there by a rising ground and an ancient oak. In front,
     beyond the Hudson, the Jersey shores present the exuberance
     of a rich, well-cultivated soil. The venerable oaks and
     broken ground, covered with wild shrubs, which surround me,
     give a natural beauty to the spot, which is truly
     enchanting. A lovely variety of birds serenade me morning
     and evening, rejoicing in their liberty and security; for I
     have, as much as possible, prohibited the grounds from
     invasion, and sometimes almost wished for game-laws, when my
     orders have not been sufficiently regarded. The partridge,
     the woodcock, and the pigeon are too great temptations to
     the sports-men to withstand."

Indeed the whole Island was enchanting in those early days. There were
pleasant gardens even in Wall Street, Cedar Street, Nassau Street; and
the Battery, the place of universal resort, was one of the most
delightful public grounds in the world,--as it will be again when the
Spoiler is thrust from the places of power, and the citizens of New
York come again into the ownership of their city. The banks of the
Hudson and of the East River were forest-crowned bluffs, lofty and
picturesque, and on every favorable site stood a cottage or a mansion
surrounded with pleasant grounds. The letters of Theodosia Burr
contain many passages expressive of her intense enjoyment of the
variety, the vivid verdure, the noble trees, the heights, the pretty
lakes, the enchanting prospects, the beautiful gardens, which her
daily rides brought to her view. She was a dear lover of her island
home. The city had not then laid waste the beauty of Manhattan. There
was only one bank in New York, the officers of which shut the bank at
one o'clock and went home to dinner, returned at three, and kept the
bank open till five. Much of the business life of the town partook of
this homely, comfortable, easy-going, rural spirit. There was a mail
twice a week to the North, and twice a week to the South, and many of
the old-fashioned people had time to live.

Not so the younger and newer portion of the population. We learn from
one of the letters of the ill-fated Blennerhassett, who arrived in New
York from Ireland in 1796, that the people were so busy there in
making new docks, filling in the swamps, and digging cellars for new
buildings, as to bring on an epidemic fever and ague that drove him
from the city to the Jersey shore. He mentions, also, that land in the
State doubled in value every two years, and that commercial
speculation was carried on with such avidity that it was more like
gambling than trade. It is he that relates the story of the
adventurer, who, on learning that the yellow-fever prevailed fearfully
in the West Indies, sent thither a cargo of coffins in nests, and,
that no room might be lost, filled the smallest with gingerbread. The
speculation, he assures us, was a capital hit; for the adventurer not
only sold his coffins very profitably, but loaded his vessel with
valuable woods, which yielded a great profit at New York. At that
time, also, the speculation in lots, corner lots, and lands near the
city, was prosecuted with all the recklessness which we have been in
the habit of supposing was peculiar to later times. New York was New
York even in the days of Burr and Hamilton.

As mistress of Richmond Hill, Theodosia entertained distinguished
company. Hamilton was her father's occasional guest. Burr preferred
the society of educated Frenchmen and Frenchwomen to any other, and he
entertained many distinguished exiles of the French Revolution.
Talleyrand, Volney, Jerome Bonaparte, and Louis Philippe were among
his guests. Colonel Stone mentions, in his Life of Brant, that
Theodosia, in her fourteenth year, in the absence of her father, gave
a dinner to that chieftain of the forest, which was attended by the
Bishop of New York, Dr. Hosack, Volney, and several other guests of
distinction, who greatly enjoyed the occasion. Burr was gratified to
hear with how much grace and good-nature his daughter acquitted
herself in the entertainment of her company. The chief himself was
exceedingly delighted, and spoke of the dinner with great animation
many years after.

We have one pleasant glimpse of Theodosia in these happy years, in a
trifling anecdote preserved by the biographer of Edward Livingston,
during whose mayoralty the present City Hall was begun. The mayor had
the pleasure, one bright day, of escorting the young lady on board a
French frigate lying in the harbor. "You must bring none of your
sparks on board, Theodosia," exclaimed the pun-loving magistrate; "for
they have a magazine here, and we shall all be blown up." Oblivion
here drops the curtain upon the gay party and the brilliant scene.

A suitor appeared for the hand of this fair and accomplished girl. It
was Joseph Alston of South Carolina, a gentleman of twenty-two,
possessor of large estates in rice plantations and slaves, and a man
of much spirit and talent. He valued his estates at two hundred
thousand pounds sterling. Their courtship was not a long one; for
though she, as became her sex, checked the impetuosity of his advances
and argued for delay, she was easily convinced by the reasons which he
adduced for haste. She reminded him that Aristotle was of opinion that
a man should not marry till he was thirty-six. "A fig for Aristotle,"
he replied; "let us regard the _ipse dixit_ of no man. It is only want
of fortune or want of discretion," he continued, "that could justify
such a postponement of married joys. But suppose," he added,

     "(_merely for instance_,) a young man nearly two-and-twenty,
     already of the _greatest_ discretion, with an ample fortune,
     were to be passionately in love with a young lady almost
     eighteen, equally discreet with himself, and who had a
     'sincere friendship' for him, do you think it would be
     necessary to make him wait till thirty? particularly where
     the friends on both sides were pleased with the match."

She told him, also, that some of her friends who had visited
Charleston had described it as a city where the yellow-fever and the
"yells of whipped negroes, which assail your ears from every house,"
and the extreme heat, rendered life a mere purgatory. She had heard,
too, that in South Carolina the men were absorbed in hunting, gaming,
and racing; while the women, robbed of their society, had no pleasures
but to come together in large parties, sip tea, and look prim. The
ardent swain eloquently defended his native State:--

"What!" he exclaimed,

     "is Charleston, the most delightfully situated city in
     America, which, entirely open to the ocean, twice in every
     twenty-four hours is cooled by the refreshing sea-breeze,
     the Montpelier of the South, which annually affords an
     asylum to the planter and the West Indian from every
     disease, accused of heat and unhealthiness? But this is not
     all, unfortunate citizens of Charleston; the scream, the
     yell of the miserable unresisting African, bleeding under
     the scourge of relentless power, affords music to your ears!
     Ah! from what unfriendly cause does this arise? Has the God
     of heaven, in anger, here changed the order of nature? In
     every other region, without exception, in a similar degree
     of latitude, the same sun which ripens the tamarind and the
     anana, ameliorates the temper, and disposes it to gentleness
     and kindness. In India and other countries, not very
     different in climate from the southern parts of the United
     States, the inhabitants are distinguished for a softness and
     inoffensiveness of manners, degenerating almost to
     effeminacy; it is here then, only, that we are exempt from
     the general influence of climate: here only that, in spite
     of it, we are cruel and ferocious! Poor Carolina!"

And with regard to the manners of the Carolinians he assured the young
lady that if there was one State in the Union which could justly claim
superiority to the rest, in social refinement and the art of elegant
living, it was South Carolina, where the division of the people into
the very poor and the very rich left to the latter class abundant
leisure for the pursuit of literature and the enjoyment of society.

"The possession of slaves," he owns,

     "renders them proud, impatient of restraint, and gives them
     a haughtiness of manner which, to those unaccustomed to
     them, is disagreeable; but we find among them a high sense
     of honor, a delicacy of sentiment, and a liberality of mind,
     which we look for in vain in the more commercial citizens of
     the Northern States. The genius of the Carolinian, like the
     inhabitants of all southern countries, is quick, lively, and
     acute; in steadiness and perseverance he is naturally
     inferior to the native of the North; but this defect of
     climate is often overcome by his ambition or necessity; and,
     whenever this happens, he seldom fails to distinguish
     himself. In his temper he is gay and fond of company, open,
     generous, and unsuspicious; easily irritated, and quick to
     resent even the appearance of insult; but his passion, like
     the fire of the flint, is lighted up and extinguished in the
     same moment."

Such discussions end only in one way. Theodosia yielded the points in
dispute. At Albany, on the 2d of February, 1801, while the country was
ringing with the names of Jefferson and Burr, and while the world
supposed that Burr was intriguing with all his might to defeat the
wishes of the people by securing his own election to the Presidency,
his daughter was married. The marriage was thus announced in the New
York _Commercial Advertiser_ of February 7:--

     "MARRIED.---At Albany, on the 2d instant, by the Rev. Mr.
     JOHNSON, JOSEPH ALSTON, of South Carolina, to THEODOSIA
     BURR, only child of AARON BURR, Esq."

They were married at Albany, because Colonel Burr, being a member of
the Legislature, was residing at the capital of the State. One week
the happy pair passed at Albany. Then to New York; whence, after a few
days' stay, they began their long journey southward. Rejoined at
Baltimore by Colonel Burr, they travelled in company to Washington,
where, on the 4th of March, Theodosia witnessed the inauguration of
Mr. Jefferson, and the induction of her father into the
Vice-Presidency. Father and child parted a day or two after the
ceremony. The only solid consolation, he said in his first letter to
her, that he had for the loss of her dear companionship, was a belief
that she would be happy, and the certainty that they should often
meet. And, on his return to New York, he told her that he had
approached his home as he would "the sepulchre of all his friends."
"Dreary, solitary, comfortless. It was no longer _home_." Hence his
various schemes of a second marriage, to which Theodosia urged him. He
soon had the comfort of hearing that the reception of his daughter in
South Carolina was as cordial and affectionate as his heart could have

Theodosia now enjoyed three as happy years as ever fell to the lot of
a young wife. Tenderly cherished by her husband, whom she devotedly
loved, caressed by society, surrounded by affectionate and admiring
relations, provided bountifully with all the means of enjoyment,
living in the summer in the mountains of Carolina, or at the home of
her childhood, Richmond Hill, passing the winters in gay and luxurious
Charleston, honored for her own sake, for her father's, and her
husband's, the years glided rapidly by, and she seemed destined to
remain to the last Fortune's favorite child. One summer she and her
husband visited Niagara, and penetrated the domain of the chieftain
Brant, who gave them royal entertainment. Once she had the great
happiness of receiving her father under her own roof, and of seeing
the honors paid by the people of the State to the Vice-President.
Again she spent a summer at Richmond Hill and Saratoga, leaving her
husband for the first time. She told him on this occasion that every
_woman_ must prefer the society of the North to that of the South,
whatever she might say. "If she denies it, she is set down in my mind
as insincere and weakly prejudiced." But, like a fond and loyal wife,
she wrote, "Where you are, there is my country, and in you are centred
all my wishes."

She was a mother too. That engaging and promising boy, Aaron Burr
Alston, the delight of his parents and of his grandfather, was born in
the second year of the marriage. This event seemed to complete her
happiness. For a time, it is true, she paid dearly for it by the loss
of her former robust and joyous health. But the boy was worth the
price. "If I can see without prejudice," wrote Colonel Burr, "there
never was a finer boy"; and the mother's letters are full of those
sweet, trifling anecdotes which mothers love to relate of their
offspring. Her father still urged her to improve her mind, for her own
and her son's sake, telling her that all she could learn would
necessarily find its way to the mind of the boy. "Pray take in hand,"
he writes, "some book which requires attention and study. You will, I
fear, lose the habit of study, which would be a greater misfortune
than to lose your head." He praised, too, the ease, good-sense, and
sprightliness of her letters, and said truly that her style, at its
best, was not inferior to that of Madame de Sévigné.

Life is frequently styled a checkered scene. But it was the peculiar
lot of Theodosia to experience during the first twenty-one years of
her life nothing but prosperity and happiness, and during the
remainder of her existence nothing but misfortune and sorrow. Never
had her father's position seemed so strong and enviable as during his
tenure of the office of Vice-President; but never had it been in
reality so hollow and precarious. Holding property valued at two
hundred thousand dollars, he was so deeply in debt that nothing but
the sacrifice of his landed estate could save him from bankruptcy. At
the age of thirty he had permitted himself to be drawn from a
lucrative and always increasing professional business to the
fascinating but most costly pursuit of political honors. And now; when
he stood at a distance of only one step from the highest place, he was
pursued by a clamorous host of creditors, and compelled to resort to a
hundred expedients to maintain the expensive establishments supposed
to be necessary to a Vice-President's dignity. His political position
was as hollow as his social eminence. Mr. Jefferson was firmly
resolved that Aaron Burr should not be his successor; and the great
families of New York, whom Burr had united to win the victory over
Federalism, were now united to bar the further advancement of a man
whom they chose to regard as an interloper and a parvenu. If Burr's
private life had been stainless, if his fortune had been secure, if he
had been in his heart a Republican and a Democrat, if he had been a
man earnest in the people's cause, if even his talents had been as
superior as they were supposed to be, such a combination of powerful
families and political influence might have retarded, but could not
have prevented, his advancement; for he was still in the prime of his
prime, and the people naturally side with a man who is the architect
of his own fortunes.

On the 1st of July, 1804, Burr sat in the library of Richmond Hill
writing to Theodosia. The day was unseasonably cold, and a fire blazed
upon the hearth. The lord of the mansion was chilly and serious. An
hour before he had taken the step which made the duel with Hamilton
inevitable, though eleven days were to elapse before the actual
encounter. He was tempted to prepare the mind of his child for the
event, but he forebore. Probably his mind had been wandering into the
past, and recalling his boyhood; for he quoted a line of poetry which
he had been wont to use in those early days. "Some very wise man has
said," he wrote,

     "'Oh, fools, who think it solitude to be alone!'

"This is but poetry. Let us, therefore, drop the subject, lest it lead
to another, on which I have imposed silence on myself." Then he
proceeds, in his usual gay and agreeable manner, again urging her to
go on in the pursuit of knowledge. His last thoughts before going to
the field were with her and for her. His last request to her husband
was that he should do all that in him lay to encourage her to improve
her mind.

The bloody deed was done. The next news Theodosia received from her
father was that he was a fugitive from the sudden abhorrence of his
fellow-citizens; that an indictment for murder was hanging over his
head; that his career in New York was, in all probability, over
forever; and that he was destined to be for a time a wanderer on the
earth. Her happy days were at an end. She never blamed her father for
this, or for any act of his; on the contrary, she accepted without
questioning his own version of the facts, and his own view of the
morality of what he had done. He had formed her mind and tutored her
conscience. He _was_ her conscience. But though she censured him not,
her days and nights were embittered by anxiety from this time to the
last day of her life. A few months later her father, black with
hundreds of miles of travel in an open canoe, reached her abode in
South Carolina, and spent some weeks there before appearing for the
last time in the chair of the Senate; for, ruined as he was in fortune
and good name, indicted for murder in New York and New Jersey, he was
still Vice-President of the United States, and he was resolved to
reappear upon the public scene, and do the duty which the Constitution
assigned him.

The Mexican scheme followed. Theodosia and her husband were both
involved in it. Mr. Alston advanced money for the project, which was
never repaid, and which, in his will, he forgave. His entire loss, in
consequence of his connection with that affair, may be reckoned at
about fifty thousand dollars. Theodosia entirely and warmly approved
the dazzling scheme. The throne of Mexico, she thought, was an object
worthy of her father's talents, and one which would repay him for the
loss of a brief tenure of the Presidency, and be a sufficient triumph
over the men who were supposed to have thwarted him. Her boy,
too,--would he not be heir-presumptive to a throne?

The recent publication of the "Blennerhassett Papers" appears to
dispel all that remained of the mystery which the secretive Burr chose
to leave around the object of his scheme. We can now say with almost
absolute certainty that Burr's objects were the following: The throne
of Mexico for himself and his heirs; the seizure and organization of
Texas as preliminary to the grand design. The purchase of lands on the
Washita was for the three-fold purpose of veiling the real object,
providing a rendezvous, and having the means of tempting and rewarding
those of the adventurers who were not in the secret. We can also now
discover the designed distribution of honors and places: Aaron L,
Emperor; Joseph Alston, Head of the Nobility and Chief Minister; Aaron
Burr Alston, heir to the throne; Theodosia, Chief Lady of the Court
and Empire; Wilkinson, General-in-Chief of the Army; Blennerhassett,
Embassador to the Court of St. James; Commodore Truxton (perhaps),
Admiral of the Navy. There is not an atom of new _evidence_ which
warrants the supposition that Burr had any design to sever the Western
States from the Union. If he himself had ever contemplated such an
event, it is almost unquestionable that his followers were ignorant of

The scheme exploded. Theodosia and her husband had joined him at the
home of the Blennerhassetts, and they were near him when the
President's proclamation dashed the scheme to atoms, scattered the
band of adventurers, and sent Burr a prisoner to Richmond, charged
with high treason. Mr. Alston, in a public letter to the Governor of
South Carolina, solemnly declared that he was wholly ignorant of any
treasonable design on the part of his father-in-law, and repelled with
honest warmth the charge of his own complicity with a design so
manifestly absurd and hopeless as that of a dismemberment of the
Union. Theodosia, stunned with the unexpected blow, returned with her
husband to South Carolina, ignorant of her father's fate. He was
carried through that State on his way to the North, and there it was
that he made his well-known attempt to appeal to the civil authorities
and get deliverance from the guard of soldiers. From Richmond he wrote
her a hasty note, informing her of his arrest. She and her husband
joined him soon, and remained with him during his trial.

At Richmond, during the six months of the trial, Burr tasted the last
of the sweets of popularity. The party opposed to Mr. Jefferson made
his cause their own, and gathered round the fallen leader with
ostentatious sympathy and aid. Ladies sent him bouquets, wine, and
dainties for his table, and bestowed upon his daughter the most
affectionate and flattering attentions. Old friends from New York and
new friends from the West were there to cheer and help the prisoner.
Andrew Jackson was conspicuously his friend and defender, declaiming
in the streets upon the tyranny of the Administration and the perfidy
of Wilkinson, Burr's chief accuser. Washington Irving, then in the
dawn of his great renown, who had given the first efforts of his
youthful pen to Burr's newspaper, was present at the trial, full of
sympathy for a man whom he believed to be the victim of treachery and
political animosity. Doubtless he was not wanting in compassionate
homage to the young matron from South Carolina. Mr. Irving was then a
lawyer, and had been retained as one of Burr's counsel; not to render
service in the court-room, but in the expectation that his pen would
be employed in staying the torrent of public opinion that was setting
against his client. Whether or not he wrote in his behalf does not
appear. But his private letters, written at Richmond during the trial,
show plainly enough that, if his head was puzzled by the confused and
contradictory evidence, his heart and his imagination were on the side
of the prisoner.

Theodosia's presence at Richmond was of more value to her father than
the ablest of his counsel. Every one appears to have loved, admired,
and sympathized with her. "You can't think," wrote Mrs.
Blennerhassett, "with what joy and pride I read what Colonel Burr says
of his daughter. I never could love one of my own sex as I do her."
Blennerhassett himself was not less her friend. Luther Martin, Burr's
chief counsel, almost worshipped her. "I find," wrote Blennerhassett,

     "that Luther Martin's idolatrous admiration of Mrs. Alston
     is almost as excessive as my own, but far more beneficial to
     his interest and injurious to his judgment, as it is the
     medium of his blind attachment to her father, whose secrets
     and views, past, present, or to come, he is and wishes to
     remain ignorant of. Nor can he see a speck in the character
     or conduct of Alston, for the best of all reasons with him,
     namely, that Alston has such a wife."

It plainly appears, too, from the letters and journal of
Blennerhassett, that Alston did all in his power to promote the
acquittal and aid the fallen fortunes of Burr, and that he did so, not
because he believed in him, but because he loved his Theodosia.

Acquitted by the jury, but condemned at the bar of public opinion,
denounced by the press, abhorred by the Republican party, and still
pursued by his creditors, Burr, in the spring of 1805, lay concealed
at New York preparing for a secret flight to Europe. Again his devoted
child travelled northward to see him once more before he sailed. For
some weeks both were in the city, meeting only by night at the house
of some tried friend, but exchanging notes and letters from hour to
hour. One whole night they spent together, just before his departure.
To her he committed his papers, the accumulation of thirty busy years;
and it was she who was to collect the debts due him, and thus provide
for his maintenance in Europe.

Burr was gay and confident to the last, for he was strong in the
belief that the British Ministry would adopt his scheme and aid in
tearing Mexico from the grasp of Napoleon. Theodosia was sick and
sorrowful, but bore bravely up and won her father's commendation for
her fortitude. In one of the early days of June father and daughter
parted, to meet no more on earth.

The four years of Burr's fruitless exile were to Theodosia years of
misery. She could not collect the debts on which they had relied. The
embargo reduced the rice-planters to extreme embarrassment. Her
husband no longer sympathized with her in her yearning love for her
father, though loving her as tenderly as ever. Old friends in New York
cooled toward her. Her health was precarious. Months passed without
bringing a word from over the sea; and the letters that did reach her,
lively and jovial as they were, contained no good news. She saw her
father expelled from England, wandering aimless in Sweden and Germany,
almost a prisoner in Paris, reduced to live on potatoes and dry bread;
while his own countrymen showed no signs of relenting toward him. In
many a tender passage she praised his fortitude. "I witness," she
wrote, in a well-known letter,

     "your extraordinary fortitude with new wonder at every new
     misfortune. Often, after reflecting on this subject, you
     appear to me so superior, so elevated above all other men; I
     contemplate you with such a strange mixture of humility,
     admiration, reverence, love, and pride, that very little
     superstition would be necessary to make me worship you as a
     superior being; such enthusiasm does your character excite
     in me. When I afterward revert to myself, how insignificant
     do my best qualities appear! My vanity would be greater if I
     had not been placed so near you; and yet my pride is our
     relationship. I had rather not live than not be the daughter
     of such a man."

Mr. Madison was President then. In other days her father had been on
terms of peculiar intimacy with Madison and his beautiful and
accomplished wife. Burr, in his later years, used to say that it was
he who had brought about the match which made Mrs. Madison an inmate
of the Presidential mansion. With the members of Madison's Cabinet,
too, he had been socially and politically familiar. When Theodosia
perceived that her father had no longer a hope of success in his
Mexican project, she became anxious for his return to America. But
against this was the probability that the Administration would again
arrest him and bring him to trial for the third time. Theodosia
ventured to write to her old friend, Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the
Treasury, asking him to interpose on her father's behalf. A letter
still more interesting than this has recently come to light. It was
addressed by Theodosia to Mrs. Madison. The coldest heart cannot read
this eloquent and pathetic production without emotion. She writes:--

     "MADAM,--You may perhaps be surprised at receiving a letter
     from one with whom you have had so little intercourse for
     the last few years. But your surprise will cease when you
     recollect that my father, once your friend, is now in exile;
     and that the President only can restore him to me and his

     "Ever since the choice of the people was first declared in
     favor of Mr. Madison, my heart, amid the universal joy, has
     beat with the hope that I, too, should soon have reason to
     rejoice. Convinced that Mr. Madison would neither feel nor
     judge from the feelings or judgment of others, I had no
     doubt of his hastening to relieve a man whose character he
     had been enabled to appreciate during a confidential
     intercourse of long continuance, and whom [he] must know
     incapable of the designs attributed to him. My anxiety on
     this subject, has, however, become too painful to be
     alleviated by anticipations which no events have yet tended
     to justify; and in this state of intolerable suspense I have
     determined to address myself to you, and request that you
     will, _in my name_, apply to the President for a removal of
     the prosecution now existing against AARON BURR. I still
     expect it from him as a man of feeling and candor, as one
     acting for the world and for posterity.

     "Statesmen, I am aware, deem it necessary that sentiments of
     liberality, and even justice, should yield to considerations
     of policy; but what policy can require the absence of my
     father at present? Even had he contemplated the project for
     which he stands arraigned, evidently to pursue it any
     further would now be impossible. There is not left one
     pretext of alarm even to calumny; for bereft of fortune, of
     popular favor, and almost of friends, what could he
     accomplish? And whatever may be the apprehensions or the
     clamors of the ignorant and the interested, surely the
     timid, illiberal system which would sacrifice a man to a
     remote and unreasonable possibility that he might infringe
     some law founded on an unjust, unwarrantable suspicion that
     he would desire it, cannot be approved by Mr. Madison, and
     must be unnecessary to a President so loved, so honored.
     Why, then, is my father banished from a country for which he
     has encountered wounds and dangers and fatigue for years?
     Why is he driven from his friends, from an only child, to
     pass an unlimited time in exile, and that, too, at an age
     when others are reaping the harvest of past toils, or ought
     at least to be providing seriously for the comfort of
     ensuing years? I do not seek to soften you by this
     recapitulation. I only wish to remind you of all the
     injuries which are inflicted on one of the first characters
     the United States ever produced.

     "Perhaps it may be well to assure you there is no truth in a
     report lately circulated, that my father intends returning
     immediately. He never will return to conceal himself in a
     country on which he has conferred distinction.

     "To whatever fate Mr. Madison may doom this application, I
     trust it will be treated with delicacy. Of this I am the
     more desirous as Mr. Alston is ignorant of the step I have
     taken in writing to you, which, perhaps, nothing could
     excuse but the warmth of filial affection. If it be an
     error, attribute it to the indiscreet zeal of a daughter
     whose soul sinks at the gloomy prospect of a long and
     indefinite separation from a father almost adored, and who
     can leave unattempted nothing which offers the slightest
     hope of procuring him redress. What, indeed, would I not
     risk once more to see him, to hang upon him, to place my
     child on his knee, and again spend my days in the happy
     occupation of endeavoring to anticipate all his wishes.

     "Let me entreat, my dear Madam, that you will have the
     consideration and goodness to answer me as speedily as
     possible; my heart is sore with doubt and patient waiting
     for something definitive. No apologies are made for giving
     you this trouble, which I am sure you will not deem irksome
     to take for a daughter, an affectionate daughter, thus
     situated. Inclose your letter for me to A.J. Frederic
     Prevost, Esq., near New Rochelle, New York.

     "That every happiness may attend you,

     "Is the sincere wish of

                              "THEO. BURR ALSTON."

This letter was probably not ineffectual. Certain it is that
government offered no serious obstacle to Burr's return, and
instituted no further proceedings against him. Probably, too,
Theodosia received some kind of assurance to this effect, for we find
her urging her father, not only to return, but to go boldly to New
York among his old friends, and resume there the practice of his
profession. The great danger to be apprehended was from his creditors,
who then had power to confine a debtor within limits, if not to throw
him into prison. "_If the worst comes to the worst_" wrote this fond
and devoted daughter, "_I will leave everything to suffer with you_."
The Italics are her own.

He came at length. He landed in Boston, and sent word of his arrival
to Theodosia. Rejoiced as she was, she replied vaguely, partly in
cipher, fearing lest her letter might be opened on the way, and the
secret of her father's arrival be prematurely disclosed. She told him
that her own health was tolerable; that her child, then a fine boy of
eleven, was well; that "his little soul warmed at the sound of his
grandfather's name"; and that his education, under a competent tutor,
was proceeding satisfactorily. She gave directions respecting her
father's hoped-for journey to South Carolina in the course of the
summer; and advised him, in case war should be declared with England,
to offer his services to the government. He reached New York in May,
1812, and soon had the pleasure of informing his daughter that his
reception had been more friendly than he could have expected, and that
in time his prospects were fair of a sufficiently lucrative practice.

Surely, now, after so many years of anxiety and sorrow,
Theodosia--still a young woman, not thirty years of age, still
enjoying her husband's love---might have reasonably expected a happy
life. Alas! there was no more happiness in store for her on this side
of the grave. The first letter which Burr received from his son-in-law
after his arrival in New York contained news which struck him to the

"A few miserable weeks since," writes Mr. Alston, "and in spite of all
the embarrassments, the troubles, and disappointments which have
fallen to our lot since we parted, I would have congratulated you on
your return in the language of happiness. With my wife on one side and
my boy on the other, I felt myself superior to depression. The present
was enjoyed, the future was anticipated with enthusiasm. One dreadful
blow has destroyed us; reduced us to the veriest, the most sublimated
wretchedness. That boy, on whom all rested,--our companion, our
friend,--he who was to have transmitted down the mingled blood of
Theodosia and myself,--he who was to have redeemed all your glory, and
shed new lustre upon our families,--that boy, at once our happiness
and our pride, is taken from us,--_is dead_. We saw him dead. My own
hand surrendered him to the grave; yet we are alive. But it is past. I
will not conceal from you that life is a burden, which, heavy as it
is, we shall both support, if not with dignity, at least with decency
and firmness. Theodosia has endured all that a human being could
endure; but her admirable mind will triumph. She supports herself in a
manner worthy of your daughter."

The mother's heart was almost broken.

"There is no more joy for me," she wrote.

     "The world is a blank. I have lost my boy. My child is gone
     forever. May Heaven, by other blessings, make you some
     amends for the noble grandson you have lost! Alas! my dear
     father, I do live, but how does it happen? Of what am I
     formed that I live, and why? Of what service can I be in
     this world, either to you or any one else, with a body
     reduced to premature old age, and a mind enfeebled and
     bewildered? Yet, since it is my lot to live, I will endeavor
     to fulfil my part, and exert myself to my utmost, though
     this life must henceforth be to me a bed of thorns.
     Whichever way I turn, the same anguish still assails me. You
     talk of consolation. Ah! you know not what you have lost. I
     think Omnipotence could give me no equivalent for my boy;
     no, none,--none."

She could not be comforted. Her health gave way. Her husband thought
that if anything could restore her to tranquillity and health it would
be the society of her father; and so, at the beginning of winter, it
was resolved that she should attempt the dangerous voyage. Her father
sent a medical friend from New York to attend her.

"Mr. Alston," wrote this gentleman,

     "seemed rather hurt that you should conceive it necessary to
     send a person here, as he or one of his brothers would
     attend Mrs. Alston to New York. I told him you had some
     opinion of my medical talents; that you had learned your
     daughter was in a low state of health, and required unusual
     attention, and medical attention on her voyage; that I had
     torn myself from my family to perform this service for my

And again, a few days after:--

     "I have engaged a passage to New York for your daughter in a
     pilot-boat that has been out privateering, but has come in
     here, and is refitting merely to get to New York. My only
     fears are that Governor Alston may think the mode of
     conveyance too undignified, and object to it; but Mrs.
     Alston is fully bent on going. You must not be surprised, to
     see her very low, feeble, and emaciated. Her complaint is an
     almost incessant nervous fever."

The rest is known. The vessel sailed. Off Cape Hatteras, during a gale
that swept the coast from Maine to Georgia, the pilot-boat went down,
and not one escaped to tell the tale. The vessel was never heard of
more. So perished this noble, gifted, ill-starred lady.

The agonizing scenes that followed may be imagined. Father and husband
were kept long in suspense. Even when many weeks had elapsed without
bringing tidings of the vessel, there still remained a forlorn hope
that some of her passengers might have been rescued by an
outward-bound ship, and might return, after a year or two had gone by,
from some distant port. Burr, it is said, acquired a habit, when
walking upon the Battery, of looking wistfully down the harbor at the
arriving ships, as if still cherishing a faint, fond hope that his
Theo was coming to him from the other side of the world. When, years
after, the tale was brought to him that his daughter had been carried
off by pirates and might be still alive, he said: "No, no, no; if my
Theo had survived that storm, she would have found her way to me.
Nothing could have kept my Theo from her father."

It was these sad events, the loss of his daughter and her boy, that
severed Aaron Burr from the human race. Hope died within him. Ambition
died. He yielded to his doom, and walked among men, not melancholy,
but indifferent, reckless, and alone. With his daughter and his
grandson to live and strive for, he might have done something in his
later years to redeem his name and atone for his errors. Bereft of
these, he had not in his moral nature that which enables men who have
gone astray to repent and begin a better life.

Theodosia's death broke her husband's heart. Few letters are so
affecting as the one which he wrote to Burr when, at length, the
certainty of her loss could no longer be resisted.

     "My boy--my wife--gone both! This, then, is the end of all
     the hopes we had formed. You may well observe that you feel
     severed from the human race. She was the last tie that bound
     us to the species. What have we left? ... Yet, after all, he
     is a poor actor who cannot sustain his little hour upon the
     stage, be his part what it may. But the man who has been
     deemed worthy of the heart of _Theodosia Burr_, and who has
     felt what it was to be blessed with such a woman's, will
     never forget his elevation."

He survived his wife four years. Among the papers of Theodosia was
found, after her death, a letter which she had written a few years
before she died, at a time when she supposed her end was near. Upon
the envelope was written,--"My husband. To be delivered after my
death. I wish this to be read _immediately_, and before my burial."
Her husband never saw it, for he never had the courage to look into
the trunk that contained her treasures. But after his death the trunk
was sent to Burr, who found and preserved this affecting composition.
We cannot conclude our narrative more fitly than by transcribing the
thoughts that burdened the heart of Theodosia in view of her departure
from the world. First, she gave directions respecting the disposal of
her jewelry and trinkets, giving to each of her friends some token of
her love. Then she besought her husband to provide at once for the
support of "Peggy," an aged servant of her father, formerly
housekeeper at Richmond Hill, to whom, in her father's absence, she
had contrived to pay a small pension. She then proceeded in these
affecting terms:--

     "To you, my beloved, I leave our child; the child of my
     bosom, who was once a part of myself, and from whom I shall
     shortly be separated by the cold grave. You love him now;
     henceforth love him for me also. And oh, my husband, attend
     to this last prayer of a doting mother. Never, never listen
     to what any other person tells you of him. Be yourself his
     judge on all occasions. He has faults; see them, and correct
     them yourself. Desist not an instant from your endeavors to
     secure his confidence. It is a work which requires as much
     uniformity of conduct as warmth of affection toward him. I
     know, my beloved, that you can perceive what is right on
     this subject as on every other. But recollect, these are the
     last words I can ever utter. It will tranquillize my last
     moments to have disburdened myself of them.

     "I fear you will scarcely be able to read this scrawl, but I
     feel hurried and agitated. Death is not welcome to me. I
     confess it is ever dreaded. You have made me too fond of
     life. Adieu, then, thou kind, thou tender husband. Adieu,
     friend of my heart. May Heaven prosper you, and may we meet
     hereafter. Adieu; perhaps we may never see each other again
     in this world. You are away, I wished to hold you fast, and
     prevented you from going this morning. But He who is wisdom
     itself ordains events; we must submit to them. Least of all
     should I murmur. I, on whom so many blessings have been
     showered,--whose days have been numbered by bounties,--who
     have had such a husband, such a child, and such a father. O
     pardon me, my God, if I regret leaving these. I resign
     myself. Adieu, once more, and for the last time, my beloved.
     Speak of me often to our son. Let him love the memory of his
     mother, and let him know how he was loved by her. Your wife,
     your fond wife,


     "Let my father see my son sometimes. Do not be unkind toward
     him whom I have loved so much, I beseech you. Burn all my
     papers except my father's letters, which I beg you to return
     him. Adieu, my sweet boy. Love your father; be grateful and
     affectionate to him while he lives; be the pride of his
     meridian, the support of his departing days. Be all that he
     wishes; for he made your mother happy. Oh! my heavenly
     Father, bless them both. If it is permitted, I will hover
     round you, and guard you, and intercede for you. I hope for
     happiness in the next world, for I have not been bad in

     "I had nearly forgotten to say that I charge you not to
     allow me to be stripped and washed, as is usual. I am pure
     enough thus to return to dust. Why, then, expose my person?
     Pray see to this. If it does not appear contradictory or
     silly, I beg to be kept as long as possible before I am
     consigned to the earth."


We all feel some curiosity respecting men who have been eminent in
anything,--even in crime; and as this curiosity is natural and
universal, it seems proper that it should be gratified. JOHN JACOB
ASTOR, surpassed all the men of his generation in the accumulation of
wealth. He began life a poor, hungry German boy, and died worth twenty
millions of dollars. These facts are so remarkable, that there is no
one who does not feel a desire to know by which means the result was
produced, and whether the game was played fairly. We all wish, if not
to be rich, yet to have more money than we now possess. We have known
many kinds of men, but never one who felt that he had quite money
enough. The three richest men now living in the United States are
known to be as much interested in the increase of their possessions,
and try as hard to increase them, as ever they did.

This universal desire to accumulate property is right, and necessary
to the progress of the race. Like every other proper and virtuous
desire, it may become excessive, and then it is a vice. So long as a
man seeks property honestly, and values it as the means of
independence, as the means of educating and comforting his family, as
the means of securing a safe, dignified, and tranquil old age, as the
means of private charity and public beneficence, let him bend himself
heartily to his work, and enjoy the reward of his labors. It is a fine
and pleasant thing to prosper in business, and to have a store to fall
back upon in time of trouble.

The reader may learn from Astor's career how money is accumulated.
Whether he can learn from it how money ought to be employed when it is
obtained, he must judge for himself. In founding the Astor Library,
John Jacob Astor did at least one magnificent deed, for which
thousands unborn will honor his memory. That single act would atone
for many errors.

In the hall of the Astor Library, on the sides of two of the pillars
supporting its lofty roof of glass, are two little shelves, each
holding a single work, never taken down and seldom perused, but
nevertheless well worthy the attention of those who are curious in the
subject of which they treat, namely, the human face divine. They are
two marble busts, facing each other; one of the founder of the
Library, the other of its first President, Washington Irving. A finer
study in physiognomy than these two busts present can nowhere be
found; for never were two men more unlike than Astor and Irving, and
never were character and personal history more legibly recorded than
in these portraits in marble. The countenance of the author is round,
full, and handsome, the hair inclining to curl, and the chin to
double. It is the face of a happy and genial man, formed to shine at
the fireside and to beam from the head of a table. It is an open,
candid, liberal, hospitable countenance, indicating far more power to
please than to compel, but displaying in the position and carriage of
the head much of that dignity which we are accustomed to call Roman.
The face of the millionaire, on the contrary, is all strength; every
line in it tells of concentration and power. The hair is straight and
long; the forehead neither lofty nor ample, but powerfully developed
in the perceptive and executive organs; the eyes deeper set in the
head than those of Daniel Webster, and overhung with immense bushy
eyebrows; the nose large, long, and strongly arched, the veritable
nose of a man-compeller; the mouth, chin, and jaws all denoting
firmness and force; the chest, that seat and throne of physical power,
is broad and deep, and the back of the neck has something of the
muscular fulness which we observe in the prize-fighter and the bull;
the head behind the ears showing enough of propelling power, but
almost totally wanting in the passional propensities which waste the
force of the faculties, and divert the man from his principal object.
As the spectator stands midway between the two busts, at some distance
from both, Irving has the larger and the kinglier air, and the face of
Astor seems small and set. It is only when you get close to the bust
of Astor, observing the strength of each feature and its perfect
proportion to the rest,--force everywhere, superfluity nowhere,--that
you recognize the monarch of the counting-room; the brain which
nothing could confuse or disconcert; the purpose that nothing could
divert or defeat; the man who could with ease and pleasure grasp and
control the multitudinous concerns of a business that embraced the
habited and unhabited globe,--that employed ships in every sea, and
men in every clime, and brought in to the coffers of the merchant the
revenue of a king. That speechless bust tells us how it was that this
man, from suffering in his father's poverty-stricken house the
habitual pang of hunger, arrived at the greatest fortune, perhaps,
ever accumulated in a single lifetime; you perceive that whatever
thing this strong and compact man set himself to do, he would be
certain to achieve unless stopped by something as powerful as a law of

The monument of these two gifted men is the airy and graceful interior
of which their busts are the only ornament. Astor founded the Library,
but it was probably his regard for Irving that induced him to
appropriate part of his wealth for a purpose not in harmony with his
own humor. Irving is known to us all, as only wits and poets are ever
known. But of the singular being who possessed so remarkable a genius
for accumulation, of which this Library is one of the results, little
has been imparted to the public, and of that little the greater part
is fabulous.

A hundred years ago, in the poor little village of Waldorf, in the
duchy of Baden, lived a jovial, good-for-nothing butcher, named Jacob
Astor, who felt himself much more at home in the beer-house than at
the fireside of his own house in the principal street of the village.
At the best, the butcher of Waldorf must have been a poor man; for, at
that day, the inhabitants of a German village enjoyed the luxury of
fresh meat only on great days, such as those of confirmation, baptism,
weddings, and Christmas.

The village itself was remote and insignificant, and though situated
in the valley of the Rhine, the native home of the vine, a region of
proverbial fertility, the immediate vicinity of Waldorf was not a rich
or very populous country. The home of Jacob Astor, therefore, seldom
knew any medium between excessive abundance and extreme scarcity, and
he was not the man to make the superfluity of to-day provide for the
need of to-morrow; which was the more unfortunate as the periods of
abundance were few and far between, and the times of scarcity extended
over the greater part of the year. It was the custom then in Germany
for every farmer to provide a fatted pig, calf, or bullock, against
the time of harvest; and as that joyful season approached, the village
butcher went the round of the neighborhood, stopping a day or two at
each house to kill the animals and convert their flesh into bacon,
sausages, or salt beef. During this happy time, Jacob Astor, a merry
dog, always welcome where pleasure and hilarity were going forward,
had enough to drink, and his family had enough to eat. But the merry
time lasted only six weeks. Then set in the season of scarcity, which
was only relieved when there was a festival of the church, a wedding,
a christening, or a birthday in some family of the village rich enough
to provide an animal for Jacob's knife. The wife of this idle and
improvident butcher was such a wife as such men usually contrive to
pick up,--industrious, saving, and capable; the mainstay of his house.
Often she remonstrated with her wasteful and beer-loving husband; the
domestic sky was often overcast, and the children were glad to fly
from the noise and dust of the tempest.

This roistering village butcher and his worthy, much-enduring wife
were the parents of our millionaire. They had four sons: George Peter
Astor, born in 1752; Henry Astor, born in 1754; John Melchior Astor,
born in 1759; and John Jacob Astor, born July 17, 1763. Each of these
sons made haste to fly from the privations and contentions of their
home as soon as they were old enough; and, what is more remarkable,
each of them had a cast of character precisely the opposite of their
thriftless father. They were all saving, industrious, temperate, and
enterprising, and all of them became prosperous men at an early period
of their career. They were all duly instructed in their father's
trade; each in turn carried about the streets of Waldorf the basket of
meat, and accompanied the father in his harvest slaughtering tours.
Jovial Jacob, we are told, gloried in being a butcher, but three of
his sons, much to his disgust, manifested a repugnance to it, which
was one of the causes of their flight from the parental nest. The
eldest, who was the first to go, made his way to London, where an
uncle was established in business as a maker of musical instruments.
Astor and Broadwood was the name of the firm, a house that still
exists under the title of Broadwood and Co., one of the most noted
makers of pianos in England. In his uncle's manufactory George Astor
served an apprenticeship, and became at length a partner in the firm.
Henry Astor went next. He alone of his father's sons took to his
father's trade. It used to be thrown in his teeth, when he was a
thriving butcher in the city of New York, that he had come over to
America as a private in the Hessian army. This may only have been the
groundless taunt of an envious rival. It is certain, however, that he
was a butcher in New York when it was a British post during the
revolutionary war, and, remaining after the evacuation, made a large
fortune in his business. The third son, John Melchior Astor, found
employment in Germany, and arrived, at length, at the profitable post
of steward to a nobleman's estate.

Abandoned thus by his three brothers, John Jacob Astor had to endure
for some years a most cheerless and miserable lot. He lost his mother,
too, from whom he had derived all that was good in his character and
most of the happiness of his childhood. A step-mother replaced her,
"who loved not Jacob," nor John Jacob. The father, still devoted to
pleasure, quarrelled so bitterly with his new wife, that his son was
often glad to escape to the house of a schoolfellow (living in 1854),
where he would pass the night in a garret or outhouse, thankfully
accepting for his supper a crust of dry bread, and returning the next
morning to assist in the slaughter-house or carry out the meat. It was
not often that he had enough to eat; his clothes were of the poorest
description; and, as to money, he absolutely had none of it. The
unhappiness of his home and the misconduct of his father made him
ashamed to join in the sports of the village boys; and he passed much
of his leisure alone, brooding over the unhappiness of his lot. The
family increased, but not its income. It is recorded of him that he
tended his little sisters with care and fondness, and sought in all
ways to lessen the dislike and ill-humor of his step-mother.

It is not hardship, however, that enervates a lad. It is indulgence
and luxury that do that. He grew a stout, healthy, tough, and patient
boy, diligent and skilful in the discharge of his duty, often
supplying the place of his father absent in merry-making. If, in later
life, he overvalued money, it should not be forgotten that few men
have had a harder experience of the want of money at the age when
character is forming.

The bitterest lot has its alleviations. Sometimes a letter would reach
him from over the sea, telling of the good fortune of a brother in a
distant land. In his old age he used to boast that in his boyhood he
walked forty-five miles in one day for the sole purpose of getting a
letter that had arrived from England or America. The Astors have
always been noted for the strength of their family affection. Our
millionaire forgot much that he ought to have remembered, but he was
not remiss in fulfilling the obligations of kindred.

It appears, too, that he was fortunate in having a better schoolmaster
than could generally be found at that day in a village school of
Germany. Valentine Jeune was his name, a French Protestant, whose
parents had fled from their country during the reign of Louis XIV. He
was an active and sympathetic teacher, and bestowed unusual pains upon
the boy, partly because he pitied his unhappy situation, and partly
because of his aptitude to learn. Nevertheless, the school routine of
those days was extremely limited. To read and write, to cipher as far
as the Rule of Three, to learn the Catechism by heart, and to sing the
Church Hymns "so that the windows should rattle,"--these were the sole
accomplishments of even the best pupils of Valentine Jeune. Baden was
then under the rule of a Catholic family. It was a saying in Waldorf
that no man could be appointed a swineherd who was not a Catholic, and
that if a mayoralty were vacant the swineherd must have the place if
there were no other Catholic in the town. Hence it was that the line
which separated the Protestant minority from the Catholic majority was
sharply defined, and the Protestant children were the more thoroughly
indoctrinated. Rev. John Philip Steiner, the Protestant pastor of
Waldorf, a learned and faithful minister, was as punctilious in
requiring from the children the thorough learning of the Catechism as
a German sergeant was in exacting all the niceties of the parade.
Young Astor became, therefore, a very decided Protestant; he lived and
died a member of the Church in which he was born.

The great day in the life of a German child is that of his
confirmation, which usually occurs in his fourteenth year. The
ceremony, which was performed at Waldorf every two years, was a
festival at once solemn and joyous. The children, long prepared
beforehand by the joint labors of minister, schoolmaster, and parents,
walk in procession to the church, the girls in white, the boys in
their best clothes, and there, after the requisite examinations, the
rite is performed, and the Sacrament is administered. The day
concludes with festivity. Confirmation also is the point of division
between childhood and youth,--between absolute dependence and the
beginning of responsibility. After confirmation, the boys of a German
peasant take their place in life as apprentices or as servants; and
the girls, unless their services are required at home, are placed in
situations. Childhood ends, maturity begins, when the child has tasted
for the first time the bread and wine of the Communion. Whether a boy
then becomes an apprentice or a servant depends upon whether his
parents have been provident enough to save a sum of money sufficient
to pay the usual premium required by a master as compensation for his
trouble in teaching his trade. This premium varied at that day from
fifty dollars to two hundred, according to the difficulty and
respectability of the vocation. A carpenter or a blacksmith might be
satisfied with a premium of sixty or seventy dollars, while a
cabinet-maker would demand a hundred, and a musical instrument maker
or a clock-maker two hundred.

On Palm Sunday, 1777, when he was about fourteen years of age, John
Jacob Astor was confirmed. He then consulted his father upon his
future. Money to apprentice him there was none in the paternal
coffers. The trade of butcher he knew and disliked. Nor was he
inclined to accept as his destiny for life the condition of servant or
laborer. The father, who thought the occupation of butcher one of the
best in the world, and who needed the help of his son, particularly in
the approaching season of harvest, paid no heed to the entreaties of
the lad, who saw himself condemned without hope to a business which he
loathed, and to labor at it without reward.

A deep discontent settled upon him. The tidings of the good fortune of
his brothers inflamed his desire to seek his fortune in the world. The
news of the Revolutionary War, which drew all eyes upon America, and
in which the people of all lands sympathized with the struggling
colonies, had its effect upon him. He began to long for the "New
Land," as the Germans then styled America; and it is believed in
Waldorf that soon after the capture of Burgoyne had spread abroad a
confidence in the final success of the colonists, the youth formed the
secret determination to emigrate to America. Nevertheless, he had to
wait three miserable years longer, until the surrender of Cornwallis
made it certain that America was to be free, before he was able to
enter upon the gratification of his desire.

In getting to America, he displayed the same sagacity in adapting
means to ends that distinguished him during his business career in New
York. Money he had never had in his life, beyond a few silver coins of
the smallest denomination. His father had none to give him, even if he
had been inclined to do so. It was only when the lad was evidently
resolved to go that he gave a slow, reluctant consent to his
departure. Waldorf is nearly three hundred miles from the seaport in
Holland most convenient for his purpose. Despite the difficulties,
this penniless youth formed the resolution of going down the Rhine to
Holland, there taking ship for London, where he would join his
brother, and, while earning money for his passage to America, learn
the language of the country to which he was destined. It appears that
he dreaded more the difficulties of the English tongue than he did
those of the long and expensive journey; but he was resolved not to
sail for America until he had acquired the language, and saved a
little money beyond the expenses of the voyage. It appears, also, that
there prevailed in Baden the belief that Americans were exceedingly
selfish and inhospitable, and regarded the poor emigrant only in the
light of prey. John Jacob was determined not to land among such a
people without the means of understanding their tricks and paying his
way. In all ways, too, he endeavored to get a knowledge of the country
to which he was going.

With a small bundle of clothes hung over his shoulder upon a stick,
with a crown or two in his pocket, he said the last farewell to his
father and his friends, and set out on foot for the Rhine, a few miles
distant. Valentine Jeune, his old schoolmaster, said, as the lad was
lost to view: "I am not afraid of Jacob; he '11 get through the world.
He has a clear head and everything right behind the ears." He was then
a stout, strong lad of nearly seventeen, exceedingly well made, though
slightly undersized, and he had a clear, composed, intelligent look in
the eyes, which seemed to ratify the prediction of the schoolmaster.
He strode manfully out of town, with tears in his eyes and a sob in
his throat,--for he loved his father, his friends, and his native
village, though his lot there had been forlorn enough. While still in
sight of Waldorf, he sat down under a tree and thought of the future
before him and the friends he had left. He there, as he used to relate
in after-life, made three resolutions: to be honest, to be
industrious, and not to gamble,--excellent resolutions, as far as they
go. Having sat awhile under the tree, he took up his bundle and
resumed his journey with better heart.

It was by no means the intention of this sagacious youth to walk all
the way to the sea-coast. There was a much more convenient way at that
time of accomplishing the distance, even to a young man with only two
dollars in his pocket. The Black Forest is partly in Astor's native
Baden. The rafts of timber cut in the Black Forest, instead of
floating down the Rhine in the manner practised in America, used to be
rowed by sixty or eighty men each, who were paid high wages, as the
labor was severe.

Large numbers of stalwart emigrants availed themselves of this mode of
getting from the interior to the sea-coast, by which they earned their
subsistence on the way and about ten dollars in money. The tradition
in Waldorf is, that young Astor worked his passage down the Rhine, and
earned his passage-money to England as an oarsman on one of these
rafts. Hard as the labor was, the oarsmen had a merry time of it,
cheering their toil with jest and song by night and day. On the
fourteenth day after leaving home, our youth found himself at a Dutch
seaport, with a larger sum of money than he had ever before possessed.
He took passage for London, where he landed a few days after, in total
ignorance of the place and the language. His brother welcomed him with
German warmth, and assisted him to procure employment,--probably in
the flute and piano manufactory of Astor and Broadwood.

As the foregoing brief account of the early life of John Jacob Astor
differs essentially from any previously published in the United
States, it is proper that the reader should be informed of the sources
whence we have derived information so novel and unexpected. The
principal source is a small biography of Astor published in Germany
about ten years ago, written by a native of Baden, a Lutheran
clergyman, who gathered his material in Waldorf, where were then
living a few aged persons who remembered Astor when he was a sad and
solitary lad in his father's disorderly house. The statements of this
little book are confirmed by what some of the surviving friends and
descendants of Mr. Astor in New York remember of his own conversation
respecting his early days. He seldom spoke of his life in Germany,
though he remembered his native place with fondness, revisited it in
the time of his prosperity, pensioned his father, and forgot not
Waldorf in his will; but the little that he did say of his youthful
years accords with the curious narrative in the work to which we have
alluded. We believe the reader may rely on our story as being
essentially true.

Astor brought to London, according to our quaint Lutheran, "a pious,
true, and godly spirit, a clear understanding, a sound youthful
elbow-grease, and the wish to put it to good use." During the two
years of his residence in the British metropolis, he strove most
assiduously for three objects: 1. To save money; 2. To acquire the
English language; 3. To get information respecting America. Much to
his relief and gratification, he found the acquisition of the language
to be the least of his difficulties. Working in a shop with English
mechanics, and having few German friends, he was generally dependent
upon the language of the country for the communication of his desires;
and he was as much surprised as delighted to find how many points of
similarity there were between the two languages. In about six weeks,
he used to say, he could make himself understood a little in English,
and long before he left London he could speak it fluently. He never
learned to write English correctly in his life, nor could he ever
speak it without a decided German accent; but he could always express
his meaning with simplicity and force, both orally and in writing.
Trustworthy information respecting America, in the absence of maps,
gazetteers, and books of travel, was more difficult to procure. The
ordinary Englishman of that day regarded America with horror or
contempt as perverse and rebellious colonies, making a great to-do
about a paltry tax, and giving "the best of kings" a world of trouble
for nothing. He probably heard little of the thundering eloquence with
which Fox, Pitt, Burke, and Sheridan were nightly defending the
American cause in the House of Commons, and assailing the infatuation
of the Government in prosecuting a hopeless war. As often, however, as
our youth met with any one who had been in America, he plied him with
questions, and occasionally he heard from his brother in New York.
Henry Astor was already established, as a butcher on his own account,
wheeling home in a wheelbarrow from Bull's Head his slender purchases
of sheep and calves. But the great difficulty of John Jacob in London
was the accumulation of money. Having no trade, his wages were
necessarily small. Though he rose with the lark, and was at work as
early as five in the morning,--though he labored with all his might,
and saved every farthing that he could spare,--it was two years before
he had saved enough for his purpose. In September, 1783, he possessed
a good suit of Sunday clothes, in the English style, and about fifteen
English guineas,--the total result of two years of unremitting toil
and most pinching economy; and here again charity requires the remark
that if Astor the millionaire carried the virtue of economy to an
extreme, it was Astor the struggling youth in a strange land who
learned the value of money.

In that month of September, 1783, the news reached London that Dr.
Franklin and his associates in Paris, after two years of negotiation,
had signed the definitive treaty which completed the independence of
the United States. Franklin had been in the habit of predicting that
as soon as America had become an independent nation, the best blood in
Europe, and some of the finest fortunes, would hasten to seek a career
or an asylum in the New World. Perhaps he would have hardly recognized
the emigration of this poor German youth as part of the fulfilment of
his prophecy. Nevertheless, the news of the conclusion of the treaty
had no sooner reached England than young Astor, then twenty years old,
began to prepare for his departure for the "New Land," and in November
he embarked for Baltimore. He paid five of his guineas for a passage
in the steerage, which entitled him to sailors' fare of salt beef and
biscuit. He invested part of his remaining capital in seven flutes,
and carried the rest, about five pounds sterling, in the form of

America gave a cold welcome to the young emigrant. The winter of
1783-4 was one of the celebrated severe winters on both sides of the
ocean. November gales and December storms wreaked all their fury upon
the ship, retarding its progress so long that January arrived before
she had reached Chesapeake Bay. Floating ice filled the bay as far as
the eye could reach, and a January storm drove the ship among the
masses with such force, that she was in danger of being broken to
pieces. It was on one of those days of peril and consternation, that
young Astor appeared on deck in his best clothes, and on being asked
the reason of this strange proceeding, said that if he escaped with
life he should save his best clothes, and if he lost it his clothes
would be of no further use to him. Tradition further reports that he,
a steerage passenger, ventured one day to come upon the quarter-deck,
when the captain roughly ordered him forward. Tradition adds that that
very captain, twenty years after, commanded a ship owned by the
steerage passenger. When the ship was within a day's sail of her port
the wind died away, the cold increased, and the next morning beheld
the vessel hard and fast in a sea of ice. For two whole months she
remained immovable. Provisions gave out. The passengers were only
relieved when the ice extended to the shore, and became strong enough
to afford communication with other ships and with the coasts of the
bay. Some of the passengers made their way to the shore, and travelled
by land to their homes; but this resource was not within the means of
our young adventurer, and he was obliged to stick to the ship.

Fortune is an obsequious jade, that favors the strong and turns her
back upon the weak. This exasperating delay of two months was the
means of putting young Astor upon the shortest and easiest road to
fortune that the continent of America then afforded to a poor man.
Among his fellow-passengers there was one German, with whom he made
acquaintance on the voyage, and with whom he continually associated
during the detention of the winter. They told each other their past
history, their present plans, their future hopes. The stranger
informed young Astor that he too had emigrated to America, a few years
before, without friends or money; that he had soon managed to get into
the business of buying furs of the Indians, and of the boatmen coming
to New York from the river settlements; that at length he had embarked
all his capital in skins, and had taken them himself to England in a
returning transport, where he had sold them to great advantage, and
had invested the proceeds in toys and trinkets, with which to continue
his trade in the wilderness. He strongly advised Astor to follow his
example. He told him the prices of the various skins in America, and
the prices they commanded in London. With German friendliness he
imparted to him the secrets of the craft: told him where to buy, how
to pack, transport, and preserve the skins; the names of the principal
dealers in New York, Montreal, and London; and the season of the year
when the skins were most abundant. All this was interesting to the
young man; but he asked his friend how it was possible to begin such a
business without capital. The stranger told him that no great capital
was required for a beginning. With a basket of toys, or even of cakes,
he said, a man could buy valuable skins on the wharves and in the
markets of New York, which could be sold with some profit to New York
furriers. But the grand object was to establish a connection with a
house in London, where furs brought four or five times their value in
America. In short, John Jacob Astor determined to lose no time after
reaching New York, in trying his hand at this profitable traffic.

The ice broke up in March. The ship made its way to Baltimore, and the
two friends travelled together to New York. The detention in the ice
and the journey to New York almost exhausted Astor's purse. He arrived
in this city, where now his estate is valued at forty millions, with
little more than his seven German flutes, and a long German head full
of available knowledge and quiet determination. He went straight to
the humble abode of his brother Henry, a kindly, generous, jovial
soul, who gave him a truly fraternal welcome, and received with
hospitable warmth the companion of his voyage.

Henry Astor's prosperity had been temporarily checked by the
evacuation of New York, which had occurred five months before, and
which had deprived the tradesmen of the city of their best customers.
It was not only the British army that had left the city in November,
1783, but a host of British officials and old Tory families as well;
while the new-comers were Whigs, whom seven years of war had
impoverished, and young adventurers who had still their career to
make. During the Revolution, Henry Astor had speculated occasionally
in cattle captured from the farmers of Westchester, which were sold at
auction at Bull's Head, and he had advanced from a wheelbarrow to the
ownership of a horse. An advertisement informs us that, about the time
of his brother's arrival, this horse was stolen, with saddle and
bridle, and that the owner offered three guineas reward for the
recovery of the property; but that "for the thief, horse, saddle, and
bridle, ten guineas would be paid." A month after, we find him
becoming a citizen of the United States, and soon he began to share in
the returning prosperity of the city.

In the mean time, however, he could do little for his new-found
brother. During the first evening of his brother's stay at his house
the question was discussed, What should the young man do in his new
country? The charms of the fur business were duly portrayed by the
friend of the youth, who also expressed his preference for it. It was
agreed, at length, that the best plan would be for the young man to
seek employment with some one already in the business, in order to
learn the modes of proceeding, as well as to acquire a knowledge of
the country, The young stranger anxiously inquired how much premium
would be demanded by a furrier for teaching the business to a novice,
and he was at once astonished and relieved to learn that no such thing
was known in America, and that he might expect his board and small
wages even from the start. So, the next day, the brothers and their
friend proceeded together to the store of Robert Bowne, an aged and
benevolent Quaker, long established in the business of buying, curing,
and exporting peltries. It chanced that he needed a hand. Pleased with
the appearance and demeanor of the young man, he employed him (as
tradition reports) at two dollars a week and his board. Astor took up
his abode in his master's house, and was soon at work. We can tell the
reader with certainty what was the nature of the youth's first day's
work in his adopted country; for, in his old age, he was often heard
to say that the first thing he did for Mr. Bowne was to beat furs;
which, indeed, was his principal employment during the whole of the
following summer,--furs requiring to be frequently beaten to keep the
moths from destroying them.

Perhaps among our readers there are some who have formed the
resolution to get on in the world and become rich. We advise such to
observe how young Astor proceeded. We are far from desiring to hold up
this able man as a model for the young; yet it must be owned that in
the art of prospering in business he has had no equal in America; and
in _that_ his example may be useful. Now, observe the secret. It was
not plodding merely, though no man ever labored more steadily than he.
Mr. Bowne, discovering what a prize he had, raised his wages at the
end of the first month. Nor was it _merely_ his strict observance of
the rules of temperance and morality, though that is essential to any
worthy success. The great secret of Astor's early, rapid, and uniform
success in business appears to have been, that he acted always upon
the maxim that KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! He labored unceasingly at Mr.
Bowne's to _learn the business_. He put all his soul into the work of
getting a knowledge of furs, fur-bearing animals, fur-dealers,
fur-markets, fur-gathering Indians, fur-abounding countries. In those
days a considerable number of bear skins and beaver skins were brought
directly to Bowne's store by the Indians and countrymen of the
vicinity, who had shot or trapped the animals. These men Astor
questioned; and neglected no other opportunity of procuring the
information he desired. It used to be observed of Astor that he
absolutely loved a fine skin. In later days he would have a superior
fur hung up in his counting-room as other men hang pictures; and this,
apparently, for the mere pleasure of feeling, showing, and admiring
it. He would pass his hand fondly over it, extolling its charms with
an approach to enthusiasm; not, however, forgetting to mention that in
Canton it would bring him in five hundred dollars. So heartily did he
throw himself into his business.

Growing rapidly in the confidence of his employer, he was soon
intrusted with more important duties than the beating of furs. He was
employed in buying them from the Indians and hunters who brought them
to the city. Soon, too, he took the place of his employer in the
annual journey to Montreal, then the chief fur mart of the country.
With a pack upon his back, he struck into the wilderness above Albany,
and walked to Lake George, which he ascended in a canoe, and having
thus reached Champlain he embarked again, and sailed to the head of
that lake. Returning with his furs, he employed the Indians in
transporting them to the Hudson, and brought them to the city in a
sloop. He was formed by nature for a life like this. His frame was
capable of great endurance, and he had the knack of getting the best
of a bargain. The Indian is a great bargainer. The time was gone by
when a nail or a little red paint would induce him to part with
valuable peltries. It required skill and address on the part of the
trader, both in selecting the articles likely to tempt the vanity or
the cupidity of the red man, and in conducting the tedious negotiation
which usually preceded an exchange of commodities. It was in this kind
of traffic, doubtless, that our young German acquired that
unconquerable propensity for making hard bargains, which was so marked
a feature in his character as a merchant. He could never rise superior
to this early-acquired habit. He never knew what it was to exchange
places with the opposite party, and survey a transaction from _his_
point of view. He exulted not in compensating liberal service
liberally. In all transactions he kept in view the simple object of
giving the least and getting the most.

Meanwhile his brother Henry was flourishing. He married the beautiful
daughter of a brother butcher, and the young wife, according to the
fashion of the time, disdained not to assist her husband even in the
slaughter-house as well as in the market-place. Colonel Devoe, in his
well-known Market Book, informs us that Henry Astor was exceedingly
proud of his pretty wife, often bringing her home presents of gay
dresses and ribbons, and speaking of her as "de pink of de Bowery."
The butchers of that day complained bitterly of him, because he used
to ride out of town fifteen or twenty miles, and buy up the droves of
cattle coming to the city, which he would drive in and sell at an
advanced price to the less enterprising butchers. He gained a fortune
by his business, which would have been thought immense, if the
colossal wealth of his brother had not reduced all other estates to
comparative insignificance. It was he who bought, for eight hundred
dollars, the acre of ground on part of which the old Bowery Theatre
now stands.

John Jacob Astor remained not long in the employment of Robert Bowne.
It was a peculiarity of the business of a furrier at that day, that,
while it admitted of unlimited extension, it could be begun on the
smallest scale, with a very insignificant capital. Every farmer's boy
in the vicinity of New York had occasionally a skin to sell, and bears
abounded in the Catskill Mountains. Indeed the time had not long gone
by when beaver skins formed part of the currency of the-city. All
Northern and Western New York was still a fur-yielding country. Even
Long Island furnished its quota. So that, while the fur business was
one that rewarded the enterprise of great and wealthy companies,
employing thousands of men and fleets of ships, it afforded an opening
to young Astor, who, with the assistance of his brother, could command
a capital of only a very few hundred dollars. In a little shop in
Water Street, with a back-room, a yard, and a shed, the shop furnished
with only a few toys and trinkets, Astor began, business about the
year 1786. He had then, as always, the most unbounded confidence in
his own abilities. He used to relate that, at this time, a new row of
houses in Broadway was the talk of the city from their magnitude and
beauty. Passing them one day, he said to himself: "I'll build some
time or other a greater house than any of these, and in this very
street." He used also to say, in his old age: "The first hundred
thousand dollars--that was hard to get; but afterward it was easy to
make more."

Having set up for himself, he worked with the quiet, indomitable ardor
of a German who sees clearly his way open before him. At first he did
everything for himself. He bought, cured, beat, packed, and sold his
skins. From dawn till dark, he assiduously labored. At the proper
seasons of the year, with his pack on his back, he made short
excursions into the country, collecting skins from house to house,
gradually extending the area of his travels, till he knew the State of
New York as no man of his day knew it. He used to boast, late in life,
when the Erie Canal had called into being a line of thriving towns
through the centre of the State, that he had himself, in his
numberless tramps, designated the sites of those towns, and predicted
that one day they would be the centres of business and population.
Particularly he noted the spots where Rochester and Buffalo now stand,
one having a harbor on Lake Erie, the other upon Lake Ontario. Those
places, he predicted, would one day be large and prosperous cities,
and that prediction he made when there was scarcely a settlement at
Buffalo, and only wigwams on the site of Rochester. At this time he
had a partner who usually remained in the city, while the agile and
enduring Astor traversed the wilderness.

It was his first voyage to London that established his business on a
solid foundation. As soon as he had accumulated a few bales of the
skins suited to the European market, he took passage in the steerage
of a ship and conveyed them to London. He sold them to great
advantage, and established connections with houses to which he could
in future consign his furs, and from which he could procure the
articles best adapted to the taste of Indians and hunters. But his
most important operation in London was to make an arrangement with the
firm of Astor & Broadwood, by which he became the New York agent for
the sale of their pianos, flutes, and violins. He is believed to have
been the first man in New York who kept constantly for sale a supply
of musical merchandise, of which the annual sale in New York is now
reckoned at five millions of dollars. On his return to New York, he
opened a little dingy store in Gold Street, between Fulton and Ann,
and swung out a sign to the breeze bearing the words:--FURS AND

There were until recently aged men among us who remembered seeing this
sign over the store of Mr. Astor, and in some old houses are preserved
ancient pianos, bearing the name of J.J. Astor, as the seller thereof.
Violins and flutes, also, are occasionally met with that have his name
upon them. In 1790, seven years after his arrival in this city, he was
of sufficient importance to appear in the Directory thus:--ASTOR,
J.J., Fur Trader, 40 Little Dock Street (now part of Water Street).

In this time of his dawning prosperity, while still inhabiting the
small house of which his store was a part, he married. Sarah Todd was
the maiden name of his wife. As a connection of the family of
Brevoort, she was then considered to be somewhat superior to her
husband in point of social rank, and she brought him a fortune, by no
means despised by him at that time, of three hundred dollars. She
threw herself heartily into her husband's growing business, laboring
with her own hands, buying, sorting, and beating the furs. He used to
say that she was as good a judge of the value of peltries as himself,
and that her opinion in a matter of business was better than that of
most merchants.

Of a man like Astor all kinds of stories will be told, some true, some
false; some founded upon fact, but exaggerated or distorted. It is
said, for example, that when he went into business for himself, he
used to go around among the shops and markets with a basket of toys
and cakes upon his arm, exchanging those articles for furs. There are
certainly old people among us who remember hearing their parents say
that they saw him doing this. The story is not improbable, for he had
no false pride, and was ready to turn his hand to anything that was

Mr. Astor still traversed the wilderness. The father of the late
lamented General Wadsworth used to relate that he met him once in the
woods of Western New York in a sad plight. His wagon had broken down
in the midst of a swamp. In the _mélee_ all his gold had rolled away
through the bottom of the vehicle, and was irrecoverably lost; and
Astor was seen emerging from the swamp covered with mud and carrying
on his shoulder an axe,--the sole relic of his property. When at
length, in 1794, Jay's treaty caused the evacuation of the western
forts held by the British, his business so rapidly extended that he
was enabled to devolve these laborious journeys upon others, while he
remained in New York, controlling a business that now embraced the
region of the great lakes, and gave employment to a host of trappers,
collectors, and agents. He was soon in a position to purchase a ship,
in which his furs were carried to London, and in which he occasionally
made a voyage himself. He was still observed to be most assiduous in
the pursuit of commercial knowledge. He was never weary of inquiring
about the markets of Europe and Asia, the ruling prices and
commodities of each, the standing of commercial houses, and all other
particulars that could be of use. Hence his directions to his captains
and agents were always explicit and minute, and if any enterprise
failed to be profitable it could generally be distinctly seen that it
was because his orders had not been obeyed. In London, he became most
intimately conversant with the operations of the East-India Company
and with the China trade. China being the best market in the world for
furs, and furnishing commodities which in America had become
necessaries of life, he was quick to perceive what an advantage he
would have over other merchants by sending his ships to Canton
provided with furs as well as dollars. It was about the year 1800 that
he sent his first ship to Canton, and he continued to carry on
commerce with China for twenty-seven years, sometimes with loss,
generally with profit, and occasionally with splendid and bewildering

It was not, however, until the year 1800, when he was worth a quarter
of a million dollars, and had been in business fifteen years, that he
indulged himself in the comfort of living in a house apart from his
business. In 1794 he appears in the Directory as "Furrier, 149
Broadway." From 1796 to 1799 he figures as "Fur Merchant, 149
Broadway." In 1800 he had a storehouse at 141 Greenwich Street, and
lived at 223 Broadway, on the site of the present Astor House. In
1801, his store was at 71 Liberty Street, and he had removed his
residence back to 149 Broadway. The year following we find him again
at 223 Broadway, where he continued to reside for a quarter of a
century. His house was such as a fifth-rate merchant would now
consider much beneath his dignity. Mr. Astor, indeed, had a singular
dislike to living in a large house. He had neither expensive tastes
nor wasteful vices. His luxuries were a pipe, a glass of beer, a game
of draughts, a ride on horseback, and the theatre. Of the theatre he
was particularly fond. He seldom missed a good performance in the
palmy days of the "Old Park."

It was his instinctive abhorrence of ostentation and waste that
enabled him, as it were, to glide into the millionaire without being
observed by his neighbors. He used to relate, with a chuckle, that he
was worth a million before any one suspected it. A dandy bank-clerk,
one day, having expressed a doubt as to the sufficiency of his name to
a piece of mercantile paper, Astor asked him how much he thought he
was worth. The clerk mentioned a sum ludicrously less than the real
amount. Astor then asked him how much he supposed this and that
leading merchant, whom he named, was worth. The young man endowed them
with generous sum-totals proportioned to their style of living.
"Well," said Astor, "I am worth more than any of them. I will not say
how much I am worth, but I am worth more than any sum you have
mentioned." "Then," said the clerk, "you are even a greater fool than
I took you for, to work as hard as you do." The old man would tell
this story with great glee, for he always liked a joke.

In the course of his long life he had frequent opportunities of
observing what becomes of those gay merchants who live up to the
incomes of prosperous years, regardless of the inevitable time of
commercial collapse. It must be owned that he held in utter contempt
the dashing style of living and doing business which has too often
prevailed in New York; and he was very slow to give credit to a house
that carried sail out of proportion to its ballast. Nevertheless, he
was himself no plodder when plodding had ceased to be necessary. At
the time when his affairs were on their greatest scale, he would leave
his office at two in the afternoon, go home to an early dinner, then
mount his horse and ride about the Island till it was time to go to
the theatre. He had a strong aversion to illegitimate speculation, and
particularly to gambling in stocks. The note-shaving and stock-jobbing
operations of the Rothschilds he despised. It was his pride and boast
that he gained his own fortune by legitimate commerce, and by the
legitimate investment of his profits. Having an unbounded faith in the
destiny of the United States, and in the future commercial supremacy
of New York, it was his custom, from about the year 1800, to invest
his gains in the purchase of lots and lands on Manhattan Island.

We have all heard much of the closeness, or rather the meanness, of
this remarkable man. Truth compels us to admit, as we have before
intimated, that he was not generous, except to his own kindred. His
liberality began and ended in his own family. Very seldom during his
lifetime did he willingly do a generous act outside of the little
circle of his relations and descendants. To get all that he could, and
to keep nearly all that he got,--those were the laws of his being. He
had a vast genius for making money, and that was all that he had.

It is a pleasure to know that sometimes his extreme closeness defeated
its own object. He once lost seventy thousand dollars by committing a
piece of petty injustice toward his best captain. This gallant sailor,
being notified by an insurance office of the necessity of having a
chronometer on board his ship, spoke to Mr. Astor on the subject, who
advised the captain to buy one.

"But," said the captain, "I have no five hundred dollars to spare for
such a purpose; the chronometer should belong to the ship."

"Well," said the merchant, "you need not pay for it now; pay for it at
your convenience."

The captain still objecting, Astor, after a prolonged higgling,
authorized him to buy a chronometer, and charge it to the ship's
account; which was done. Sailing-day was at hand. The ship was hauled
into the stream. The captain, as is the custom, handed in his account.
Astor, subjecting it to his usual close scrutiny, observed the novel
item of five hundred dollars for the chronometer. He objected,
averring that it was understood between them that the captain was to
pay for the instrument. The worthy sailor recalled the conversation,
and firmly held to his recollection of it. Astor insisting on his own
view of the matter, the captain was so profoundly disgusted that,
important as the command of the ship was to him, he resigned his post.
Another captain was soon found, and the ship sailed for China. Another
house, which was then engaged in the China trade, knowing the worth of
this "king of captains," as Astor himself used to style him, bought
him a ship and despatched him to Canton two months after the departure
of Astor's vessel. Our captain, put upon his mettle, employed all his
skill to accelerate the speed of his ship, and had such success, that
he reached New York with a full cargo of tea just seven days after the
arrival of Mr. Astor's ship. Astor, not expecting another ship for
months, and therefore sure of monopolizing the market, had not yet
broken bulk, nor even taken off the hatchways. Our captain arrived on
a Saturday. Advertisements and handbills were immediately issued, and
on the Wednesday morning following, as the custom then was, the
auction sale of the tea began on the wharf,--two barrels of punch
contributing to the _éclat_ and hilarity of the occasion. The cargo
was sold to good advantage, and the market was glutted. Astor lost in
consequence the entire profits of the voyage, not less than the sum
named above. Meeting the captain some time after in Broadway, he

"I had better have paid for that chronometer of yours."

Without ever acknowledging that he had been in the wrong, he was glad
enough to engage the captain's future services. This anecdote we
received from the worthy captain's own lips.

On one occasion the same officer had the opportunity of rendering the
great merchant a most signal service. The agent of Mr. Astor in China
suddenly died at a time when the property in his charge amounted to
about seven hundred thousand dollars. Our captain, who was not then in
Astor's employ, was perfectly aware that if this immense property fell
into official hands, as the law required, not one dollar of it would
ever again find its way to the coffers of its proprietor. By a series
of bold, prompt, and skilful measures, he rescued it from the official
maw, and made it yield a profit to the owner. Mr. Astor acknowledged
the service. He acknowledged it with emphasis and a great show of
gratitude. He said many times:--

"If you had not done just as you did, I should never have seen one
dollar of my money; no, not one dollar of it."

But he not only did not compensate him for his services, but he did
not even reimburse the small sum of money which the captain had
expended in performing those services. Astor was then worth ten
millions, and the captain had his hundred dollars a month and a family
of young children.

Thus the great merchant recompensed great services. He was not more
just in rewarding small ones. On one occasion a ship of his arrived
from China, which he found necessary to dispatch at once to Amsterdam,
the market in New York being depressed by an over-supply of China
merchandise. But on board this ship, under a mountain of tea-chests,
the owner had two pipes of precious Madeira wine, which had been sent
on a voyage for the improvement of its constitution.

"Can you get out that wine," asked the owner, "without discharging the

The captain thought he could.

"Well, then," said Mr. Astor, "you get it out, and I'll give you a
demijohn of it. You'll say it's the best wine you ever tasted."

It required the labor of the whole ship's crew for two days to get out
those two pipes of wine. They were sent to the house of Mr. Astor. A
year passed. The captain had been to Amsterdam and back, but he had
received no tidings of his demijohn of Madeira. One day, when Mr.
Astor was on board the ship, the captain ventured to remind the great
man, in a jocular manner, that he had not received the wine.

"Ah!" said Astor, "don't you know the reason? It isn't fine yet. Wait
till it is fine, and you'll say you never tasted such Madeira." The
captain never heard of that wine again.

These traits show the moral weakness of the man. It is only when we
regard his mercantile exploits that we can admire him. He was,
unquestionably, one of the ablest, boldest, and most successful
operators that ever lived. He seldom made a mistake in the conduct of
business. Having formed his plan, he carried it out with a nerve and
steadiness, with such a firm and easy grasp of all the details, that
he seemed rather to be playing an interesting game than transacting
business. "He could command an army of five hundred thousand men!"
exclaimed one of his admirers. That was an erroneous remark. He could
have commanded an army of five hundred thousand tea-chests, with a
heavy auxiliary force of otter skins and beaver skins. But a commander
of men must be superior morally as well as intellectually. He must be
able to win the love and excite the enthusiasm of his followers. Astor
would have made a splendid commissary-general to the army of Xerxes,
but he could no more have conquered Greece than Xerxes himself.

The reader may be curious to know by what means Mr. Astor became so
preposterously rich. Few successful men gain a single million by
legitimate commerce. A million dollars is a most enormous sum of
money. It requires a considerable effort of the mind to conceive it.
But this indomitable little German managed, in the course of sixty
years, to accumulate twenty millions; of which, probably, not more
than two millions was the fruit of his business as a fur trader and
China merchant.

At that day the fur trade was exceedingly profitable, as well as of
vast extent. It is estimated that about the year 1800 the number of
peltries annually furnished to commerce was about six millions,
varying in value from fifteen cents to five hundred dollars. When
every respectable man in Europe and America wore a beaver skin upon
his head, or a part of one, and when a good beaver skin could be
bought in Western New York for a dollar's worth of trash, and could be
sold in London for twenty-five English shillings, and when those
twenty-five English shillings could be invested in English cloth and
cutlery, and sold in New York for forty shillings, it may be imagined
that fur-trading was a very good business. Mr. Astor had his share of
the cream of it, and that was the foundation of his colossal fortune.
Hence, too, the tender love he felt for a fine fur.

In the next place, his ventures to China were sometimes exceedingly
fortunate. A fair profit on a voyage to China at that day was thirty
thousand dollars. Mr. Astor has been known to gain seventy thousand,
and to have his money in his pocket within the year. He was remarkably
lucky in the war of 1812. All his ships escaped capture, and arriving
at a time when foreign commerce was almost annihilated and tea had
doubled in price, his gains were so immense, that the million or more
lost in the Astorian enterprise gave him not even a momentary

At that time, too, tea merchants of large capital had an advantage
which they do not now enjoy. A writer explains the manner in which the
business was done in those days:--

     "A house that could raise money enough thirty years ago to
     send $260,000 in specie, could soon have an uncommon
     capital, and this was the working of the old system. The
     Griswolds owned the ship Panama. They started her from New
     York in the month of May, with a cargo of perhaps $30,000
     worth of ginseng, spelter, lead, iron, etc., and $170,000 in
     Spanish dollars. The ship goes on the voyage, reaches
     Whampoa in safety (a few miles below Canton). Her supercargo
     in two months has her loaded with tea, some china ware, a
     great deal of cassia or false cinnamon, and a few other
     articles. Suppose the cargo, mainly tea, costing about
     thirty-seven cents (at that time) per pound on the average.

     "The duty was enormous in those days. It was twice the cost
     of the tea, at least: so that a tea cargo of $200,000, when
     it had paid duty of seventy-five cents per pound (which
     would be $400,000), amounted to $600,000. The profit was at
     least fifty per cent on the original cost, or $100,000, and
     would make the cargo worth $700,000.

     "The cargo of teas would be sold almost on arrival (say
     eleven or twelve months after the ship left New York in May)
     to wholesale grocers, for their notes at four and six
     months,--say for $700,000. In those years there was _credit
     given by the United States_ of nine, twelve, and eighteen
     months! So that the East-India or Canton merchant, after his
     ship had made one voyage, had the use of government capital
     to the extent of $400,000, on the ordinary cargo of a China

     "No sooner had the ship Panama arrived (or any of the
     regular East-Indiamen), than her cargo would be exchanged
     for grocers' notes for $700,000. These notes could be turned
     into specie very easily, and the owner had only to pay his
     bonds for $400,000 duty, at nine, twelve, and eighteen
     months, giving him time actually to send two more ships with
     $200,000 each to Canton, and have them back again in New
     York before the bonds on the first cargo were due.

     "John Jacob Astor at one period of his life had several
     vessels operating in this way. They would go to the Pacific
     (Oregon) and carry from thence furs to Canton. These would
     be sold at large profits. Then the cargoes of tea to New
     York would pay enormous duties, which Astor did not have to
     pay to the United States for a year and a half. His tea
     cargoes would be sold for good four and six months paper, or
     perhaps cash; so that for eighteen or twenty years John
     Jacob Astor had what was actually a free-of-interest loan
     from Government of over _five millions_ of dollars."[1]

But it was neither his tea trade nor his fur trade that gave Astor
twenty millions of dollars. It was his sagacity in investing his
profits that made him the richest man in America. When he first trod
the streets of New York, in 1784, the city was a snug, leafy place of
twenty-five thousand inhabitants, situated at the extremity of the
Island, mostly below Cortlandt Street. In 1800, when he began to have
money to invest, the city had more than doubled in population, and had
advanced nearly a mile up the Island. Now, Astor was a shrewd
calculator of the future. No reason appeared why New York should not
repeat this doubling game and this mile of extension every fifteen
years. He acted upon the supposition, and fell into the habit of
buying lands and lots just beyond the verge of the city. One little
anecdote will show the wisdom of this proceeding. He sold a lot in the
vicinity of Wall Street, about the year 1810, for eight thousand
dollars, which was supposed to be somewhat under its value. The
purchaser, after the papers were signed, seemed disposed to chuckle
over his bargain.

"Why, Mr. Astor," said he, "in a few years this lot will be worth
twelve thousand dollars."

"Very true," replied Astor; "but now you shall see what I will do with
this money. With eight thousand dollars I buy eighty lots above Canal
Street. By the time your lot is worth twelve thousand dollars, my
eighty lots will be worth eighty thousand dollars"; which proved to be
the fact.

His purchase of the Richmond Hill estate of Aaron Burr was a case in
point. He bought the hundred and sixty acres at a thousand dollars an
acre, and in twelve years the land was worth fifteen hundred dollars a
lot. In the course of time the Island was dotted all over with Astor
lands,--to such an extent that the whole income of his estate for
fifty years could be invested in new houses without buying any more

His land speculations, however, were by no means confined to the
little Island of Manhattan. Aged readers cannot have forgotten the
most celebrated of all his operations of this kind, by which he
acquired a legal title to one third of the county of Putnam in this
State. This enormous tract was part of the estate of Roger Morris and
Mary his wife, who, by adhering to the King of Great Britain in the
Revolutionary War, forfeited their landed property in the State of New
York. Having been duly attainted as public enemies, they fled to
England at the close of the war, and the State sold their lands, in
small parcels, to honest Whig farmers. The estate comprised fifty-one
thousand one hundred and two acres, upon which were living, in 1809,
more than seven hundred families, all relying upon the titles which
the State of New York had given. Now Mr. Astor stepped forward to
disturb the security of this community of farmers. It appeared, and
was proved beyond doubt, that Roger and Mary Morris had only possessed
a _life-interest_ in this estate, and that, therefore, it was only
that life-interest which the State could legally confiscate. The
moment Roger and Mary Morris ceased to live, the property would fall
to their heirs, with all the houses, barns, and other improvements
thereon. After a most thorough examination of the papers by the
leading counsel of that day, Mr. Astor bought the rights of the heirs,
in 1809, for twenty thousand pounds sterling. At that time Roger
Morris was no more; and Mary his wife was nearly eighty, and extremely
infirm. She lingered, however, for some years; and it was not till
after the peace of 1815 that the claims of Mr. Astor were pressed. The
consternation of the farmers and the astonishment of the people
generally, when at length the great millionaire stretched out his hand
to pluck this large ripe pear, may be imagined. A great clamor arose
against him. It cannot be denied, however, that he acted in this
business with moderation and dignity. Upon the first rumor of his
claim, in 1814, commissioners were appointed by the Legislature to
inquire into it. These gentlemen, finding the claim more formidable
than had been suspected, asked Mr. Astor for what sum he would
compromise. The lands were valued at six hundred and sixty-seven
thousand dollars, but Astor replied that he would sell his claim for
three hundred thousand. The offer was not accepted, and the affair
lingered. In 1818, Mary Morris being supposed to be at the point of
death, and the farmers being in constant dread of the writs of
ejectment which her death would bring upon them, commissioners were
again appointed by the Legislature to look into the matter. Again Mr.
Astor was asked upon what terms he would compromise. He replied,
January 19, 1819:--

     "In 1813 or 1814 a similar proposition was made to me by the
     commissioners then appointed by the Honorable the
     Legislature of this State, when I offered to compromise for
     the sum of three hundred thousand dollars, which,
     considering the value of the property in question, was
     thought very reasonable; and, at the present period, when
     the life of Mrs. Morris is, according to calculation, worth
     little or nothing, she being near eighty-six years of age,
     and the property more valuable than it was in 1813, I am
     still willing to receive the amount which I then stated,
     with interest on the same, payable in money or stock,
     bearing an interest of--per cent, payable quarterly. The
     stock may be made payable at such periods as the Honorable
     the Legislature may deem proper. This offer will, I trust,
     be considered as liberal, and as a proof of my willingness
     to compromise on terms which are reasonable, considering the
     value of the property, the price which it cost me, and the
     inconvenience of having so long laid out of my money, which,
     if employed in commercial operations, would most likely have
     produced better profits."

The Legislature were not yet prepared to compromise. It was not till
1827 that a test case was selected and brought to trial before a jury.
The most eminent counsel were employed on the part of the
State,--Daniel Webster and Martin Van Buren among them. Astor's cause
was entrusted to Emmet, Ogden, and others. We believe that Aaron Burr
was consulted on the part of Mr. Astor, though he did not appear in
the trial. The efforts of the array of counsel employed by the State
were exerted in vain to find a flaw in the paper upon which Astor's
claim mainly rested. Mr. Webster's speech on this occasion betrays,
even to the unprofessional reader, both that he had no case and that
he knew he had not, for he indulged in a strain of remark that could
only have been designed to prejudice, not convince, the jury.

"It is a claim for lands," said he,

     "not in their wild and forest state, but for lands the
     intrinsic value of which is mingled with the labor expended
     upon them. It is no every-day purchase, for it extends over
     towns and counties, and almost takes in a degree of
     latitude. It is a stupendous speculation. The individual who
     now claims it has not succeeded to it by inheritance; he has
     not attained it, as he did that vast wealth which no one
     less envies him than I do, by fair and honest exertions in
     commercial enterprise, but by speculation, by purchasing the
     forlorn hope of the heirs of a family driven from their
     country by a bill of attainder. By the defendants, on the
     contrary, the lands in question are held as a patrimony.
     They have labored for years to improve them. The rugged
     hills had grown green under their cultivation before a
     question was raised as to the integrity of their titles."

A line of remark like this would appeal powerfully to a jury of
farmers. Its effect, however, was destroyed by the simple observation
of one of the opposing counsel:--

"Mr. Astor bought this property confiding in the justice of the State
of New York, firmly believing that in the litigation of his claim his
rights would be maintained."

It is creditable to the administration of justice in New York, and
creditable to the very institution of trial by jury, that Mr. Astor's
most unpopular and even odious cause was triumphant. Warned by this
verdict, the Legislature consented to compromise on Mr. Astor's own
terms. The requisite amount of "Astor stock," as it was called, was
created. Mr. Astor received about half a million of dollars, and the
titles of the lands were secured to their rightful owners.

The crowning glory of Mr. Astor's mercantile career was that vast and
brilliant enterprise which Washington Irving has commemorated in
"Astoria." No other single individual has ever set on foot a scheme so
extensive, so difficult, and so costly as this; nor has any such
enterprise been carried out with such sustained energy and
perseverance. To establish a line of trading-posts from St. Louis to
the Pacific, a four-months' journey in a land of wilderness, prairie,
mountain, and desert, inhabited by treacherous or hostile savages; to
found a permanent settlement on the Pacific coast as the grand _dépôt_
of furs and supplies; to arrange a plan by which the furs collected
should be regularly transported to China, and the ships return to New
York laden with tea and silks, and then proceed once more to the
Pacific coast to repeat the circuit; to maintain all the parts of this
scheme without the expectation of any but a remote profit, sending
ship after ship before any certain intelligence of the first ventures
had arrived,--this was an enterprise which had been memorable if it
had been undertaken by a wealthy corporation or a powerful government,
instead of a private merchant, unaided by any resources but his own.
At every moment in the conduct of this magnificent attempt Mr. Astor
appears the great man. His parting instructions to the captain of his
first ship call to mind those of General Washington to St. Clair on a
similar occasion. "All the accidents that have yet happened," said the
merchant, "arose from too much confidence in the Indians." The ship
was lost, a year after, by the disregard of this last warning. When
the news reached New York of the massacre of the crew and the
blowing-up of the ship, the man who flew into a passion at seeing a
little boy drop a wineglass behaved with a composure that was the
theme of general admiration. He attended the theatre the same evening,
and entered heartily into the play. Mr. Irving relates that a friend
having expressed surprise at this, Mr. Astor replied:--

"What would you have me do? Would you have me stay at home and weep
for what I cannot help?"

This was not indifference; for when, after nearly two years of weary
waiting, he heard of the safety and success of the overland
expedition, he was so overjoyed that he could scarcely contain

"I felt ready," said he, "to fall upon my knees in a transport of

A touch in one of his letters shows the absolute confidence he felt in
his own judgment and abilities, a confidence invariably exhibited by
men of the first executive talents.

"Were I on the spot," he wrote to one of his agents when the affairs
of the settlement appeared desperate,

     "and had the management of affairs, I would defy them all;
     but, as it is, everything depends upon you and the friends
     about you. Our enterprise is grand and deserves success, and
     I hope in God it will meet it. If my object was merely gain
     of money, I should say: 'Think whether it is best to save
     what we can and abandon the place'; but the thought is like
     a dagger to my heart."

He intimates here that his object was not merely "gain of money." What
was it, then? Mr. Irving informs us that it was desire of fame. We
should rather say that when nature endows a man with a remarkable gift
she also implants within him the love of exercising it. Astor loved to
plan a vast, far-reaching enterprise. He loved it as Morphy loves to
play chess, as Napoleon loved to plan a campaign, as Raphael loved to
paint, and Handel to compose.

The war of 1812 foiled the enterprise. "But for that war," Mr. Astor
used to say, "I should have been the richest man that ever lived." He
expected to go on expending money for several years, and then to gain
a steady annual profit of millions. It was, however, that very war
that enabled him to sustain the enormous losses of the enterprise
without injury to his estate, or even a momentary inconvenience.
During the first year of the war he had the luck to receive two or
three cargoes of tea from China, despite the British cruisers. In the
second year of the war, when the Government was reduced to borrow at
eighty, he invested largely in the loan, which, one year after the
peace, stood at one hundred and twenty.

Mr. Astor at all times was a firm believer in the destiny of the
United States. In other words, he held its public stock in profound
respect. He had little to say of politics, but he was a supporter of
the old Whig party for many years, and had a great regard, personal
and political, for its leader and ornament, Henry Clay. He was never
better pleased than when he entertained Mr. Clay at his own house. It
ought to be mentioned in this connection that when, in June, 1812, the
merchants of New York memorialized the Government in favor of the
embargo, which almost annihilated the commerce of the port, the name
of John Jacob Astor headed the list of signatures.

He was an active business man in this city for about forty-six
years,--from his twenty-first to his sixty-seventh year. Toward the
year 1830 he began to withdraw from business, and undertook no new
enterprises, except such as the investment of his income involved. His
three daughters were married. His son and heir was a man of thirty.
Numerous grandchildren were around him, for whom he manifested a true
German fondness; not, however, regarding them with equal favor. He
dispensed, occasionally, a liberal hospitality at his modest house,
though that hospitality was usually bestowed upon men whose presence
at his table conferred distinction upon him who sat at the head of it.
He was fond, strange as it may seem, of the society of literary men.
For Washington Irving he always professed a warm regard, liked to have
him at his house, visited him, and made much of him. Fitz-Greene
Halleck, one of the best talkers of his day, a man full of fun,
anecdote, and fancy, handsome, graceful, and accomplished, was a great
favorite with him. He afterward invited the poet to reside with him
and take charge of his affairs, which Mr. Halleck did for many years,
to the old gentleman's perfect satisfaction. Still later Dr. Cogswell
won his esteem, and was named by him Librarian of the Astor Library.
For his own part, though he rather liked to be read to in his latter
days, he collected no library, no pictures, no objects of curiosity.
As he had none of the wasteful vices, so also he had none of the
costly tastes. Like all other rich men, he was beset continually by
applicants for pecuniary aid, especially by his own countrymen. As a
rule he refused to give: and he was right. He held beggary of all
descriptions in strong contempt, and seemed to think that, in this
country, want and fault are synonymous. Nevertheless, we are told that
he did, now and then, bestow small sums in charity, though we have
failed to get trustworthy evidence of a single instance of his doing
so. It is, no doubt, absolutely necessary for a man who is notoriously
rich to guard against imposture, and to hedge himself about against
the swarms of solicitors who pervade a large and wealthy city. If he
did not, he would be overwhelmed and devoured. His time would be all
consumed and his estate squandered in satisfying the demands of
importunate impudence. Still, among the crowd of applicants there is
here and there one whose claim upon the aid of the rich man is just.
It were much to be desired that a way should be devised by which these
meritorious askers could be sifted from the mass, and the nature of
their requests made known to men who have the means and the wish to
aid such. Some kind of Benevolent Intelligence Office appears to be
needed among us. In the absence of such an institution we must not be
surprised that men renowned for their wealth convert themselves into
human porcupines, and erect their defensive armor at the approach of
every one who carries a subscription-book. True, a generous man might
establish a private bureau of investigation; but a generous man is not
very likely to acquire a fortune of twenty millions. Such an
accumulation of wealth is just as wise as if a man who had to walk ten
miles on a hot day should, of his own choice, carry on his back a
large sack of potatoes. A man of superior sense and feeling will not
waste his life so, unless he has in view a grand public object. On the
contrary, he will rather do as Franklin did, who, having acquired at
the age of forty-two a modest competence, sold out his thriving
business on easy terms to a younger man, and devoted the rest of his
happy life to the pursuit of knowledge and the service of his country.
But we cannot all be Franklins. In the affairs of the world
millionaires are as indispensable as philosophers; and it is fortunate
for society that some men take pleasure in heaping up enormous masses
of capital.

Having retired from business, Mr. Astor determined to fulfil the vow
of his youth, and build in Broadway a house larger and costlier than
any it could then boast. Behold the result in the Astor House, which
remains to this day one of our most solid, imposing, and respectable
structures. The ground on which the hotel stands was covered with
substantial three-story brick houses, one of which Astor himself
occupied; and it was thought at the time a wasteful and rash
proceeding to destroy them. Old Mr. Coster, a retired merchant of
great wealth, who lived next door to Mr. Astor's residence, was
extremely indisposed to remove, and held out long against every offer
of the millionaire. His house was worth thirty thousand dollars. Astor
offered him that sum; but the offer was very positively declined, and
the old gentleman declared it to be his intention to spend the
remainder of his days in the house. Mr. Astor offered forty thousand
without effect. At length the indomitable projector revealed his
purpose to his neighbor.

"Mr. Coster," said he, "I want to build a hotel. I have got all the
other lots; now name your own price."

To which Coster replied by confessing the real obstacle to the sale.

"The fact is," said he, "I can't sell unless Mrs. Coster consents. If
she is willing, I'll sell for sixty thousand, and you can call
to-morrow morning and ask her."

Mr. Astor presented himself at the time named.

"Well, Mr. Astor," said the lady in the tone of one who was conferring
a very great favor for nothing, "we are such old friends that I am
willing for your sake."

So the house was bought, and with the proceeds Mr. Coster built the
spacious granite mansion a mile up Broadway, which is now known as
Barnum's Museum. Mr. Astor used to relate this story with great glee.
He was particularly amused at the simplicity of the old lady in
considering it a great favor to him to sell her house at twice its
value. It was at this time that he removed to a wide, two-story brick
house opposite Niblo's, the front door of which bore a large silver
plate, exhibiting to awestruck passers-by the words: "MR. ASTOR." Soon
after the hotel was finished, he made a present of it to his eldest
son, or, in legal language, he sold it to him for the sum of one
dollar, "to him in hand paid."

In the decline of his life, when his vast fortune was safe from the
perils of business, he was still as sparing in his personal
expenditures, as close in his bargains, as watchful over his
accumulations as he had been when economy was essential to his
solvency and progress. He enjoyed keenly the consciousness, the
feeling of being rich. The roll-book of his possessions was his Bible.
He scanned it fondly, and saw with quiet but deep delight the
catalogue of his property lengthening from month to month. The love of
accumulation grew with his years until it ruled him like a tyrant. If
at fifty he possessed his millions, at sixty-five his millions
possessed him. Only to his own children and to their children was he
liberal; and his liberality to them was all arranged with a view to
keeping his estate in the family, and to cause it at every moment to
tend toward a final consolidation in one enormous mass. He was ever
considerate for the comfort of his imbecile son. One of his last
enterprises was to build for him a commodious residence.

In 1832, one of his daughters having married a European nobleman, he
allowed himself the pleasure of a visit to her. He remained abroad
till 1835, when he hurried home in consequence of the disturbance in
financial affairs, caused by General Jackson's war upon the Bank of
the United States. The captain of the ship in which he sailed from
Havre to New York has related to us some curious incidents of the
voyage. Mr. Astor reached Havre when the ship, on the point of
sailing, had every state-room engaged; but he was so anxious to get
home, that the captain, who had commanded ships for him in former
years, gave up to him his own state-room. Head winds and boisterous
seas kept the vessel beating about and tossing in the channel for many
days. The great man was very sick and still more alarmed. At length,
being persuaded that he should not survive the voyage, he asked the
captain to run in and set him ashore on the coast of England. The
captain dissuaded him. The old man urged his request at every
opportunity, and said at last: "I give you tousand dollars to put me
aboard a pilot-boat." He was so vehement and importunate, that one day
the captain, worried out of all patience, promised that if he did not
get out of the Channel before the next morning, he would run in and
put him ashore. It happened that the wind changed in the afternoon and
wafted the ship into the broad ocean. But the troubles of the sea-sick
millionaire had only just begun. A heavy gale of some days' duration
blew the vessel along the western coast of Ireland. Mr. Astor,
thoroughly panic-stricken, now offered the captain ten thousand
dollars if he would put him ashore anywhere on the wild and rocky
coast of the Emerald Isle. In vain the captain remonstrated. In vain
he reminded the old gentleman of the danger of forfeiting his

"Insurance!" exclaimed Astor, "can't I insure your ship myself?"

In vain the captain mentioned the rights of the other passengers. In
vain he described the solitary and rock-bound coast, and detailed the
difficulties and dangers which attended its approach. Nothing would
appease him. He said he would take all the responsibility, brave all
the perils, endure all the consequences; only let him once more feel
the firm ground under his feet. The gale having abated, the captain
yielded to his entreaties, and engaged, if the other passengers would
consent to the delay, to stand in and put him ashore. Mr. Astor went
into the cabin and proceeded to write what was expected to be a draft
for ten thousand dollars in favor of the owners of the ship on his
agent in New York. He handed to the captain the result of his efforts.
It was a piece of paper covered with writing that was totally

"What is this?" asked the captain.

"A draft upon my son for ten thousand dollars," was the reply.

"But no one can read it."

"O yes, my son will know what it is. My hand trembles so that I cannot
write any better."

"But," said the captain,

     "you can at least write your name. I am acting for the
     owners of the ship, and I cannot risk their property for a
     piece of paper that no one can read. Let one of the
     gentlemen draw up a draft in proper form; you sign it; and I
     will put you ashore."

The old gentleman would not consent to this mode of proceeding, and
the affair was dropped.

A favorable wind blew the ship swiftly on her way, and Mr. Astor's
alarm subsided. But even on the banks of Newfoundland, two thirds of
the way across, when the captain went upon the poop to speak a ship
bound for Liverpool, old Astor climbed up after him, saying, "Tell
them I give tousand dollars if they take a passenger."

Astor lived to the age of eighty-four. During the last few years of
his life his faculties were sensibly impaired; he was a child again.
It was, however, while his powers and his judgment were in full vigor
that he determined to follow the example of Girard, and bequeath a
portion of his estate for the purpose of "rendering a public benefit
to the city of New York." He consulted Mr. Irving, Mr. Halleck, Dr.
Cogswell, and his own son with regard to the object of this bequest.
All his friends concurred in recommending a public library; and,
accordingly, in 1839, he added the well-known codicil to his will
which consecrated four hundred thousand dollars to this purpose. To
Irving's Astoria and to the Astor Library he will owe a lasting fame
in the country of his adoption.

The last considerable sum he was ever known to give away was a
contribution to aid the election to the Presidency of his old friend
Henry Clay. The old man was always fond of a compliment, and seldom
averse to a joke. It was the timely application of a jocular
compliment that won from him this last effort of generosity. When the
committee were presented to him, he began to excuse himself, evidently
intending to decline giving.

"I am not now interested in these things," said he.

     "Those gentlemen who are in business, and whose property
     depends upon the issue of the election, ought to give. But I
     am now an old man. I haven't anything to do with commerce,
     and it makes no difference to me what the government does. I
     don't make money any more, and haven't any concern in the

One of the committee replied:

     "Why, Mr. Astor, you are like Alexander, when he wept
     because there were no more worlds to conquer. You have made
     all the money, and now there is no more money to make." The
     old eye twinkled at the blended compliment and jest.

"Ha, ha, ha! very good, that's very good. Well, well, I give you

Whereupon he drew his check for fifteen hundred dollars.

When all else had died within him, when he was at last nourished like
an infant at a woman's breast, and when, being no longer able to ride
in a carriage, he was daily tossed in blanket for exercise, he still
retained a strong interest in the care and increase of his property.
His agent called daily upon him to render a report of moneys received.
One morning this gentleman chanced to enter his room while he was
enjoying his blanket exercise. The old man cried out from the middle
of his blanket,--

"Has Mrs. ---- paid that rent yet?"

"No," replied the agent.

"Well, but she must pay it," said the poor old man.

"Mr. Astor," rejoined the agent, "she can't pay it now; she has had
misfortunes, and we must give her time."

"No, no," said Astor; "I tell you she can pay it, and she will pay it.
You don't go the right way to work with her."

The agent took leave, and mentioned the anxiety of the old gentleman
with regard to this unpaid rent to his son, who counted out the
requisite sum, and told the agent to give it to the old man as if he
had received it from the tenant.

"There!" exclaimed Mr. Astor when he received the money, "I told you
she would pay it, if you went the right way to work with her."

Who would have twenty millions at such a price?

On the twenty-ninth of March, 1848, of old age merely, in the presence
of his family and friends, without pain or disquiet, this remarkable
man breathed his last. He was buried in a vault in the church of St.
Thomas in Broadway. Though he expressly declared in his will that he
was a member of the Reformed German Congregation, no clergyman of that
church took part in the services of his funeral. The unusual number of
six Episcopal Doctors of Divinity assisted at the ceremony. A bishop
could have scarcely expected a more distinguished funeral homage. Such
a thing it is in a commercial city to die worth twenty millions! The
pall-bearers were Washington Irving, Philip Hone, Sylvanus Miller,
James G. King, Isaac Bell, David B. Ogden, Thomas J. Oakley, Ramsey
Crooks, and Jacob B. Taylor.

The public curiosity with regard to the will of the deceased
millionaire was fully gratified by the enterprise of the Herald, which
published it entire in five columns of its smallest type a day or two
after the funeral. The ruling desires of Mr. Astor with regard to his
property were evidently these two: 1. To provide amply and safely for
his children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces; 2. To keep his
estate, as much as was consistent with his desire, in one mass in the
hands of his eldest son. His brother Henry, the butcher, had died
childless and rich, leaving his property to Mr. William B. Astor. To
the descendants of the brother in Germany Mr. Astor left small but
sufficient pensions.

To many of his surviving children and grandchildren in America he left
life-interests and stocks, which seem designed to produce an average
of about fifteen thousand dollars a year. Other grandsons were to have
twenty-five thousand dollars on reaching the age of twenty-five, and
the same sum when they were thirty. His favorite grandson, Charles
Astor Bristed, since well known to the public as an author and poet,
was left amply provided for. He directed his executors to "provide for
my unfortunate son, John Jacob Astor, and to procure for him all the
comforts which his condition does or may require." For this purpose
ten thousand dollars a year was directed to be appropriated, and the
house built for him in Fourteenth Street, near Ninth Avenue, was to be
his for life. If he should be restored to the use of his faculties, he
was to have an income of one hundred thousand dollars. The number of
persons, all relatives or connections of the deceased, who were
benefited by the will, was about twenty-five. To his old friend and
manager, Fitz-Greene Halleck, he left the somewhat ridiculous annuity
of two hundred dollars, which Mr. William B. Astor voluntarily
increased to fifteen hundred. Nor was this the only instance in which
the heir rectified the errors and supplied the omissions of the will.
He had the justice, to send a considerable sum to the brave old
captain who saved for Mr. Astor the large property in China imperilled
by the sudden death of an agent. The minor bequests and legacies of
Mr. Astor absorbed about two millions of his estate. The rest of his
property fell to his eldest son, under whose careful management it is
supposed to have increased to an amount not less than forty millions.
This may, however, be an exaggeration. Mr. William B. Astor minds his
own business, and does not impart to others the secrets of his
rent-roll. The number of his houses in this city is said to be seven
hundred and twenty.

The bequests of Mr. Astor for purposes of benevolence show good sense
and good feeling. The Astor Library fund of four hundred thousand
dollars was the largest item. Next in amount was fifty thousand
dollars for the benefit of the poor of his native village in Germany.
"To the German Society of New York," continued the will,

     "I give thirty thousand dollars on condition of their
     investing it in bond and mortgage, and applying it for the
     purpose of keeping an office and giving advice and
     information without charge to all emigrants arriving here,
     and for the purpose of protecting them against imposition."

To the Home for Aged Ladies he gave thirty thousand dollars, and to
the Blind Asylum and the Half-Orphan Asylum each five thousand
dollars. To the German Reformed Congregation, "of which I am a
member," he left the moderate sum of two thousand dollars. These
objects were wisely chosen. The sums left for them, also, were in
many-cases of the amount most likely to be well employed. Twenty-five
thousand dollars he left to Columbia College, but unfortunately
repented, and annulled the bequest in a codicil.

We need not enlarge on the success which has attended the bequest for
the Astor Library,--a bequest to which Mr. William B. Astor has added,
in land, books, and money, about two hundred thousand dollars. It is
the ornament and boast of the city. Nothing is wanting to its complete
utility but an extension of the time of its being accessible to the
public. Such a library, in such a city as this, should be open at
sunrise, and close at ten in the evening. If but _one_ studious youth
should desire to avail himself of the morning hours before going to
his daily work, the interests of that one would justify the directors
in opening the treasures of the library at the rising of the sun. In
the evening, of course, the library would probably be attended by a
greater number of readers than in all the hours of the day together.

The bequest to the village of Waldorf has resulted in the founding of
an institution that appears to be doing a great deal of good in a
quiet German manner. The German biographer of Mr. Astor, from whom we
have derived some particulars of his early life, expatiates upon the
merits of this establishment, which, he informs us, is called the
Astor House.

"Certain knowledge," he says,

     "of Astor's bequest reached Waldorf only in 1850, when a
     nephew of Mr. Astor's and one of the executors of his will
     appeared from New York in the testator's native town with
     power to pay over the money to the proper persons. He kept
     himself mostly in Heidelberg, and organized a supervisory
     board to aid in the disposition of the funds in accordance
     with the testator's intentions. This board was to have its
     head-quarters in Heidelberg, and was to consist of
     professors in the University there, and clergymen, not less
     than five in all. The board of control, however, consists of
     the clergy of Waldorf, the burgomaster, the physician, a
     citizen named every three years by the Common Council, and
     the governor of the Institution, who must be a teacher by
     profession. This latter board has control of all the
     interior arrangements of the Institution, and the care of
     the children and beneficiaries. The leading objects of the
     Astor House are: 1. The care of the poor, who, through age,
     disease, or other causes, are incapable of labor; 2. The
     rearing and instruction of poor children, especially those
     who live in Waldorf. Non-residents are received if there is
     room, but they must make compensation for their board and
     instruction. Children are received at the age of six, and
     maintained until they are fifteen or sixteen. Besides school
     instruction, there is ample provision for physical culture.
     They are trained in active and industrious habits, and each
     of them, according to his disposition, is to be taught a
     trade, or instructed in agriculture, market-gardening, the
     care of vineyards, or of cattle, with a view to rendering
     them efficient farm-servants or stewards. It is also in
     contemplation to assist the blind and the deaf and dumb,
     and, finally, to establish a nursery for very young children
     left destitute. Catholics and Protestants are admitted on
     equal terms, religious differences not being recognized in
     the applicants for admission. Some time having elapsed
     before the preliminary arrangements were completed, the
     accumulated interest of the fund went so far toward paying
     for the buildings, that of the original fifty thousand
     dollars not less than forty-three thousand have been
     permanently invested for the support of the Institution."

Thus they manage bequests in Germany! The Astor House was opened with
much ceremony, January 9,1854, the very year in which the Astor
Library was opened to the public in the city of New York. The day of
the founder's death is annually celebrated in the chapel of the
Institution, which is adorned by his portrait.

These two institutions will carry the name of John Jacob Astor to the
latest generations. But they are not the