Part 3 out of 6
In answering Bible arguments, as to the righteousness of the Fugitive
Slave Bill, the main dependence of _the Visiter_ was Deuteronomy xxiii:
15 and 16:
"Thou shalt not deliver unto his master, the servant which is escaped
from his master unto thee.
"He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place where he shall
choose, in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best, thou shalt not
That old Bible, in spite of pro-slavery interpreters, proved to be the
great bulwark of human liberty.
In 1852, Slavery and Democracy formed that alliance to which we owe the
Great Rebellion. The South became solid, and Whigs had no longer any
motive for catching slaves.
BLOOMERS AND WOMAN'S RIGHTS CONVENTIONS.
The appearance of _The Visiter_ was the signal for an outbreak, for
which I was wholly unprepared, and one which proved the existence of an
eating cancer of discontent in the body politic. Under the smooth
surface of society lay a mass of moral disease, which suddenly broke out
into an eruption of complaints, from those who felt themselves oppressed
by the old Saxon and ecclesiastical laws under which one-half the people
of the republic still lived.
In the laws governing the interests peculiar to men, and those affecting
their interests in common with woman, great advance had been made during
the past six centuries, but those regarding the exclusive interests of
women, had remained in _statu quo_, since King Alfred the Great and the
knights of his Round Table fell asleep. The anti-negro slavery object of
my paper seemed to be lost sight of, both by friends and foes of human
progress, in the surprise at the innovation of a woman entering the
political arena, to argue publicly on great questions of national
policy, and while men were defending their pantaloons, they created and
spread the idea, that masculine supremacy lay in the form of their
garments, and that a woman dressed like a man would be as potent as he.
Strange as it may now seem, they succeeded in giving such efficacy to
the idea, that no less a person than Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was led
astray by it, so that she set her cool, wise head to work and invented a
costume, which she believed would emancipate woman from thraldom. Her
invention was adopted by her friend Mrs. Bloomer, editor and proprietor
of the _Lily_, a small paper then in infancy in Syracuse, N.Y., and from
her, the dress took its name--"the bloomer." Both women believed in
their dress, and staunchly advocated it as the sovereignest remedy for
all the ills that woman's flesh is heir to.
I made a suit and wore it at home parts of two days, long enough to feel
assured that it must be a failure; and so opposed it earnestly, but
nothing I could say or do could make it apparent that pantaloons were
not the real objective point, at which all discontented woman aimed. I
had once been tried on a charge of purloining pantaloons, and been
acquitted for lack of evidence; but now, here was the proof! The women
themselves, leaders of the malcontents, promulgated and pressed their
claim to bifurcated garments, and the whole tide of popular discussion
was turned into that ridiculous channel.
The _Visiter_ had a large list of subscribers in Salem, Ohio, and in the
summer of '49 a letter from a lady came to me saying, that the _Visiter_
had stirred up so much interest in women's rights that a meeting had
been held and a committee appointed to get up a woman's rights
convention, and she, as chairman of that committee, invited me to
preside. I felt on reading this as if I had had a douche bath; then, as
a lawyer might have felt who had carried a case for a corporation
through the lower court, and when expecting it up before the supreme
bench, had learned that all his clients were coming in to address the
court on the merits of the case.
By the pecks of letters I had been receiving, I had learned that there
were thousands of women with grievances, and no power to state them or
to discriminate between those which could be reached by law and those
purely personal; and that the love of privacy with which the whole sex
was accredited was a mistake, since most of my correspondents literally
agonized to get before the public. Publicity! publicity! was the
persistent demand. To meet the demand, small papers, owned and edited by
women, sprang up all over the land, and like Jonah's gourd, perished in
a night. Ruskin says to be noble is to be known, and at that period
there was a great demand on the part of women for their full allowance
of nobility; but not one in a hundred thought of merit as a means of
reaching it. No use waiting to learn to put two consecutive sentences
together in any connected form, or for an idea or the power of
expressing it. One woman was printing her productions, and why should
not all the rest do likewise? They had so long followed some leader like
a flock of sheep, that now they would rush through the first gap into
I declined the presidential honors tendered me, on the ground of
inability to fill the place; and earnestly entreated the movers to
reconsider and give up the convention, saying:
"It will open a door through which fools and fanatics will pour in, and
make the cause ridiculous."
The answer was that it was too late to recede. The convention was held,
and justified my worst fears. When I criticised it, the reply was:
"If you had come and presided, as we wished you to do, the result would
have been different. You started the movement and now refuse to lead it,
but cannot stop it."
The next summer a convention was held in Akron, Ohio, and I attended,
hoping to modify the madness, but failed utterly, by all protests I
could make, to prevent the introduction by the committee on resolutions
"_Resolved_, that the difference in sex is one of education."
A man stood behind the president to prompt her, but she could not catch
his meaning, and when confusion came, she rose and made a little speech,
in which she stated that she knew nothing of parliamentary rules, and
when consenting to preside had resolved, if there were trouble, to say
to the convention as she did to her boys at home: "Quit behaving
This brought down the house, but brought no order, and she sat down,
smiling, a perfect picture of self-complaisance.
People thought the press unmerciful in its ridicule of that convention,
but I felt in it all there was much forbearance. No words could have
done justice to the occasion. It was so much more ridiculous than
ridicule, so much more absurd than absurdity. The women on whom that
ridicule was heaped were utterly incapable of self-defense, or
unconscious of its need. The mass of nobility seekers seemed content to
get before the public by any means, and to wear its most stinging
sarcasms as they would a new dress cap.
In those days I reserved all my hard words for men, and in my notice of
the convention mildly suggested that it would have been better had Mrs.
Oliver Johnson been made president, as she had great executive ability
and a good knowledge of parliamentary rules. This suggestion was
received by the president as an insult never to be forgiven, and in the
_Visiter_ defended herself against it. I replied, and in the discussion
which followed she argued that the affairs of each family should be so
arranged that the husband and wife would be breadwinner and housekeeper
by turns, day or oven half day about. He should go to business in the
forenoon, then in the afternoon take care of baby and permit her to go
to the office, shop or warehouse from which came the family supplies.
I took the ground that baby would be apt to object, and that in our
family the rule would not work, since I could not put a log on the
mill-carriage, and the water would be running to waste all my day or
half-day as bread-winner.
About the same time, Mrs. Stanton published a series of articles in Mrs.
Bloomer's paper, the _Lily_, in which she taught that it was right for a
mother to make baby comfortable, lay him in his crib, come out, lock the
door, and leave him to develop his lungs by crying or cooing, as he
might decide, while mamma improved her mind and attended to her public
and social duties.
Against such head winds, it was hard for my poor little craft to make
progress in asserting the right of women to influence great public
For something over twenty years, after that Akron meeting, I did not see
a woman's rights convention, and in all have seen but five. Up to 1876
there had been no material improvement in them, if those I saw were a
fair specimen. Their holders have always seemed to me like a woman who
should undertake at a state fair to run a sewing machine, under pretense
of advertising it, while she had never spent an hour in learning its
However, those conventions have probably saved the republic. From the
readiness with which Pennsylvania legislators responded to the petition
of three of four women, acting without concert, in the matter of
property rights, it is probable that in a fit of generosity the men of
the United States would have enfranchised its women _en masse;_ and the
government now staggering under the ballots of ignorant, irresponsible
men, must have gone down under the additional burden of the votes which
would have been thrown upon it, by millions of ignorant, irresponsible
women. Before that time, the unanswerable argument of Judge Hurlbut had
been published, and had made a deep impression on the minds of thinking
men. Had this been followed by the earnest, thrilling appeals of Susan
B. Anthony, free from all alliance with cant and vanity, we should no
doubt have had a voting population to-day, under which no government
could exist ten years; but those conventions raised the danger signal,
and men took heed to the warning.
The period of the _Visiter_ was one of great mental activity--a period
of hobbies--and it, having assumed the reform roll, was expected to
assume all the reforms. Turkish trowsers, Fourierism, Spiritualism,
Vegetarianism, Phonetics, Pneumonics, the Eight Hour Law, Criminal
Caudling, Magdaleneism, and other devices for teaching pyramids to stand
on their apex was pressed upon the _Visiter_, and it held by the
disciples of each as "false to all its professions," when declining to
devote itself to its advocacy. There were a thousand men and women, who
knew exactly what it ought to do; but seldom two of them agreed, and
none ever thought of furnishing funds for the doing of it. Reformers
insisted that it should advocate their plan of hurrying up the
millenium, furnish the white paper and pay the printers. Pond parents
came with their young geniuses to have them baptized in type from the
_Visiter_ font. Male editors were far away folks, but the _Visiter_
would sympathize with family hopes.
Ah, the crop of Miltons, Shakespeares, and Drydens which was growing up
in this land, full forty years ago. What has ever become of them? Here
conscience gives a twinge, for that wicked _Visiter_ did advise that
parents should treat young genius as scientists do wood, which they wish
to convert into pure carbon, _i.e._, cover it up with neglect and
discouragement, and pat these down with wholesome discipline, solid
study and useful work, and so let the fire smoulder out of sight.
The policy of the _Visiter_ in regard to Woman's Rights, was to "go
easy," except in the case of those slave-women, who had no rights. For
others, gain an advance when you could. Educate girls with boys, develop
their brains, and take away legal disabilities little by little, as
experience should show was wise; but never dream of their doing the
world's hard work, either mental or physical; and Heaven defend them
from going into all the trades.
The human teeth proved that we should eat flesh, and the human form
proved that men should take the ore out of the mines, subdue the inertia
of matter and the ferocity of animals; that they should raise the grain,
build the houses, roads and heavy machinery; and that women should do
the lighter work. As this work was as important as the heavier, and as
it fell principally on wives and mothers, they in these relations should
receive equal compensation with the husband and father. By this plan,
the estate acquired by a matrimonial firm, would belong equally to both
parties, and each could devise his or her share, so that a woman would
know that her accumulations would go to her heirs, not to her successor.
Consequently, every wife would have an incentive to industry and
economy, instead of being stimulated to idleness and extravagance as by
Women should not weaken their cause by impracticable demands. Make no
claim which could not be won in a reasonable time. Take one step at a
time, get a good foothold in it and advance carefully. Suffrage in
municipal elections for property holders who could read, and had never
been connected with crime, was the place to strike for the ballot. Say
nothing about suffrage elsewhere until it proved successful here.
Intemperance was then under treatment by Washingtonianism. By this
philosophy it was held that each man consists of about thirty pounds of
solid matter, wet up with several buckets of water; that in youth his
mother and sweetheart, kneads, rolls, pats and keeps him in shape, until
his wife takes charge of him and makes him into large loaves or little
cakes, according to family requirements; but must not stop kneading,
rolling, patting, on pain of having him all flatten out.
The diagnosis of drunkenness was that it was a disease for which the
patient was in no way responsible, that it was created by existing
saloons, and non-existing bright hearths, smiling wives, pretty caps and
aprons. The cure was the patent nostrum of pledge-signing, a
lying-made-easy invention, which like calomel, seldom had any permanent
effect on the disease for which it was given, and never failed to
produce another and a worse. Here the cure created an epidemic of
forgery, falsehood and perjury.
Napoleon selected his generals for their large noses. Dr. Washingtonian
chose his leaders for their great vices. The honors bestowed upon his
followers were measured by their crimes, and that man who could boast
the largest accumulation was the hero of the hour. A decent, sober man
was a mean-spirited fellow; while he who had brought the grey hair of
parents in sorrow to the grave, wasted his patrimony and murdered his
wife and children, was "King o' men for a' that." The heroines were
those women who had smilingly endured every wrong, every indignity that
brutality could inflict; had endured them not alone for themselves but
for their children; and she who had caressed the father of her child
while he dashed its brains out, headed the list in saintship; for love
was the kneading trough, and obedience the rolling pin, in and with
which that precious mess called a man was to be made into an angel.
The _Visiter_ held that the law-giver of Mount Sinai knew what was in
man, and had not given any such account of him; that the commands, "Thou
shalt," and "Thou shalt not," were addressed to each individual; that
the disease of opening one's mouth and pouring whisky into it was under
the control of the mouth-opener; that drunkenness was a crime for which
the criminal should be punished by such terms of imprisonment as would
effectually protect society and prevent its confirmation. It told women
that that dough ought to be baked in the furnace of affliction; that
the coil of an anaconda was preferable to the embraces of a drunken man;
that it is a crime for a woman to become the mother of a drunkard's
child; that she who fails to protect her child from the drunken fury of
any man, even to the extent of taking his life on the spot, if possible,
is a coward and a traitor to the highest impulses of humanity.
These sentiments made a stir in temperance ranks, and there was much
defense of the dear fellows. The organization, seemed to be principally
occupied in teaching, that among men, only rumsellers are free moral
agents, and that they and the women are to bear the iniquity of us all.
One Philadelphia woman, engaged in scattering rose-leaf remedies over
the great cancer of the land, concluded that the editor of the _Visiter_
horsewhipped the unfortunate man she called husband, once a day, with
great regularity. Much sympathy was expressed for that much-abused man;
and this was amusing to those who knew he could have tied four such
tyrants in a sheaf, and carried them off like a bundle of sticks. But
people had found a monster, a giantess, with flaming black eyes, square
jaws and big fists, who lived at the top of a very high bean-pole, and
ate nothing but the uncooked flesh of men.
However, the man-eating idea came to be useful, and proved that a bad
name is better than none.
In '49, the _Visiter_ began a weekly series of "Letters to Country
Girls," which were seized upon as a new feature in journalism, were very
extensively copied, and won golden opinions from all sorts of men. In
'54 they were collected in book form, and "mine ancient enemy," George
D. Prentiss, gave them kindly notice.
THE MOTHER CHURCH.
When the _Visiter_ entered life, it was still doubtful which side of the
slavery question the Roman church would take. O'Connell was in the
zenith of his power and popularity, was decidedly anti-slavery, and
members of Catholic churches chose sides according to personal feeling,
as did those of other churches. It was not until 1852, that
abolitionists began to feel the alliance between Romanism and slavery;
but from that time, to be a member of the Roman church was to be a
friend of "Southern interests."
In Pittsburg there was great harmony between Catholics and Protestants,
for the Protestant-Irish, by which Western Pennsylvania was so largely
settled, were generally refugees driven from Ireland for their
connection with the Union, or Robert Emmet rebellion. Our pastor, Rev.
John Black, escaped in the night, and he and the only Catholic priest in
Pittsburg, Father McGuire, were intimate friends.
The Bishop of the diocese, R.R. O'Conner, was, I think, a priest of the
Capponsacchi order, one of those men by whose existence the Creator
renders a reason for the continuance of the race. After the days of
which I write, there was an excitement in Pittsburg about Miss Tiernan,
a beautiful, accomplished girl, who became a nun, and was said to have
mysteriously disappeared. When the Bishop resigned his office and became
a member of an austere order of monks, there were not lacking those who
charged the act to remorse for his connection with her unexplained
death; but I doubt not, that whatever that connection was, it did honor
to his manhood, however it may have affected his priesthood.
In the days of his Episcopal honors, he was a favorite with all sorts
and conditions of men, and when he published a letter condemning our
infant-system of public schools, and demanding a division of the school
fund, he produced a profound sensation. I think this letter appeared in
'49. It was the morning of one of the days of the week I spent regularly
at the office. I found Mr. Riddle waiting to ask what I proposed to do
about it. I stated, without hesitation, that I would oppose it to the
best of my ability, when he replied:
"I took it for granted that you would have consulted Mr. White
(conductor of the _Gazette_), and we feel that we cannot afford to lose
our Catholic patronage by taking issue with the Bishop, and that it will
not be necessary. You, as a pupil of Dr. Black, ought to be able to
answer Bishop O'Conner's arguments, and we will leave him to you. The
religious press will, of course, be a unit against him, and the secular
press need not fear to leave the case in your hands."
The two papers for which he spoke, were the two great Whig dailies of
the western part of the State. The other daily was the _Democratic
Post_, conducted by a Catholic, and virtually the Bishop's organ; and to
meet this attack on the very foundations of civil liberty, the
_Visitor_, a weekly, was the only representative of the secular press.
The Whig papers might have taken a different course, had it been known
at first that Bishop O'Conner's letter was only a part of a concerted
attack, and that all over the Union the Bishops had published similar
letters. But this was before the days of telegraphy, and we were weeks
learning the length and breadth of the movement.
Bishop O'Conner replied very courteously to my strictures on his letter,
and we maintained the controversy for some length of time. Having all
the right on my side, I must have been a dolt not to make it apparent;
and the friends of the Bishop must have felt that he gained nothing,
else they would not have been so angry; but he was courteous until he
dropped the subject.
My Catholic patrons gradually withdrew their advertisements and
subscriptions. Thousands of Protestants were rejoiced at what they
called my triumph, and borrowed the _Visiter_ to read my articles. Very
many bought copies, but I think I did not gain one subscriber or
advertiser by that labor in defense of a common cause. Nay, I lost
Protestant as well as Catholic support, for business men did not care to
be known to Catholic customers as a patron of a paper which had
strenuously opposed the policy of the church. That experience and a
close observation for many years have taught me that the secular papers
of the United States, with a few exceptions, are almost as much under
the control of the Pontiff as the press of Austria. Nor is it the
secular press alone which is thus controlled. There are religions
papers who throw "sops to Cerebus," as an offset to teachings demanded
by Protestant readers. These "sops" are paid for indirectly by
patronage, which would be withdrawn whenever the Bishop took alarm at an
article in that same paper.
Protestants do not carry their religion either into political or
business relations, and so there is no offset to the religious,
political and business concentration of Romanism.
There was no other outbreak between me and my Catholic neighbors until
the dedication of the Pittsburg cathedral, when my report gave serious
offense, and caused Bishop O'Conner to make a very bitter personal
attack on me. He did not know how truly the offensive features of my
report were the result of ignorance; but thought me irreverent,
blasphemous. I had never before been inside a Catholic church; never
seen a Catholic ceremonial; did not know the name of a single vestment;
was overwhelmed with astonishment, and thought my readers as ignorant as
I; so tried to give a description which would enable them to see what I
had seen, hear what I had heard.
Every bishop and priest and member of any religions brotherhood in this
country and Canada was said to be present. Some of the things they wore
looked like long night-gowns, some short ones; some like cradle quilts,
some like larger quilts. There were many kinds of patch-work and
embroidery; some of the men wore skirts and looked very funny. Quite a
number wore something on their heads which looked like three pieces of
pasteboard, the shape of a large flat-iron, and fastened together at the
right angles and points. They formed into procession and started around
the outside of the building. I thought of going "around and about"
Jerusalem, and the movement had a meaning; but they walked into a fence
corner, swung a censor, turned and walked into another corner, and then
back into the house, without compassing the building. I said there was
nothing to prevent bad spirits coming in at that side.
I copied the Bishop's angry reply, plead my ignorance and that of
Protestants in general for all that seemed irreverent, and called upon
him for explanations. What did it all mean? What was the spiritual
significance of those externals? I ignored his evident anger; had no
reason to be other than personally respectful to him, yet my second
article irritated him more than the first.
I had stated that the men in the procession were the most
villainous-looking set I had ever seen; that every head and face save
those of the Bishops of Orleans and Pittsburg, were more or less stamped
by sensuality and low cunning. In Bishop O'Conner's reply, he said I had
gone to look for handsome men. I answered that I had, and that it was
right to do so. The Church, in her works of art, had labored to
represent Christ and his apostles as perfectly-formed men--men with
spiritual faces. She had never represented any of her saints as a
wine-bibber, a gross beef-eater, or a narrow-headed, crafty, cringing
creature. These living men could not be the rightful successors of those
whose statues and pictures adorned that cathedral. Archbishop Hughes, in
his sermon on that occasion, had argued that all the forms of the
church had a holy significance. What was that significance? Moreover, in
the days of John there were seven churches. Whatever had the Church of
Rome done with the other six owned on the Isle of Patmos by him who
stood in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks?
For two months every issue of the _Visiter_ copied and replied to one of
the Bishop's articles, but never could bring him to the point of
explaining any portion of that great mystery. But the discussion marked
me as the subject of a hatred I had not deemed possible, and I have
seldom, if ever, met a Catholic so obscure that he did not recognize my
name as that of an enemy. So bitter was the feeling, that when my only
baby came great fears were felt lest she should be abducted; but this I
knew never could be done with Bishop O'Conner's consent.
POLITICS AND PRINTERS.
When the Pittsburg National Convention, which formed the Free Democratic
party, had finished its labors, a committee waited on the _Visiter_, to
bespeak that support which had already been resolved upon, and soon
after a State Convention in Harrisburg indorsed it by formal resolution
as a party organ. It did its best to spread the principles of the party,
and its services called out commendations, as well as the higher
compliments of stalwart opposition, from the foes of those principles.
Allegheny county was overwhelmingly Whig. The _Visiter_ worked against
the party, and the cry from the Whig press became:
"Why attack our party? It is better than the Democratic. If you were
honest, you would devote yourself to its destruction, not to that of the
To this, the answer was:
"The Whig party is a gold-bearing quartz rock, and we mean to pound it
into the smallest possible pieces, in order to get out the gold. The
Democratic party is an old red sandstone, and there is plenty of sand
lying all around about."
In the summer of 1852 the editor visited the World's Fair, held in New
York, and on her return found the office machinery at a stand-still. She
had a contract with two printers, who, in making it, had given no notice
that they were the irresponsible agents of a union, and therefore had no
right to dispose of their own labor. They professed to be entirely
satisfied with their work and wages, and loath to leave them; but Mars'
Union had cracked his whip, and disobedience was ruin, if not death. For
these poor Pennsylvania self-made slaves the _Visiter_ had no pity,
although they plead for it. It advertised for women to take their
places, stating that its editor was in its composing-room. Other, if not
all other city papers, did likewise, and there was a rush of women to
the printing offices; but ninety out of a hundred had not passed that
stage of development in which women live by wheedling men. Those who
wheedled most winningly got the places, and the result in less than two
months was such a mess of scandal, as drove them, like whipped curs,
back to their kennels; but the editor of the _Visiter_ took a good look
at each of the hundred applicants, and from them selected three, who had
heads, not hat pins, on their shoulders.
Mr. Riddle was a partner in the _Visiter_, and engaged a woman. The
editor refused to give her a case, when he indignantly said:
"Women have no mercy on each other. There is that poor woman who has
been trying to make a living at her trade making vests, and is now on
the point of starvation. I have mercy on her, but you have none."
The answer was:
"A woman who cannot make a living at one good trade already learned,
will not mend matters by learning another. I do not propose to turn this
office into an eleemosynary establishment. I want the women whom the
work wants, not those who want the work. How long could that weak woman
maintain her respectability among all these men? Would it be any
kindness to put her in a place she is incapable of filling, and where
she must inflict incalculable injury on herself, and the general cause
of woman's right to labor? Do not let your generosity run away with your
My three typos came to be the main stay of the _Journal_, as well as the
only typos of the _Visiter_, for they were the nucleus of an efficient
corps of female type-setters, who held their places until Mr. Riddle's
last illness broke down his establishment.
Soon after the opening of the Pa.C.R.R., there was a bad accident, one
train running into another in a deep cut, at night; commenting on it the
_Visiter_ suggested a red light on the rear of every train. The
suggestion was accepted immediately, and this is the origin of the red
SUMNER, BURLINGAME AND CASSIUS M. CLAY.
The Republican party was organized in Pittsburg, and when it became
national through the Philadelphia convention in the summer of '56, and
nominated Fremont, it seemed that it might injure rather than aid the
party to have a woman take a prominent place in it. The
nurseling--political abolition--was out of its cradle, had grown to
man's estate, and with bearded lip had gone forth to battle, a man among
men. There were honors and emoluments to be won in the cause of the
slave, and no doubt of its final triumph.
The _Visiter_ had been sold to Mr. Riddle and united with his weekly,
thus extending its circulation, and cutting off the ruinous expense of
its publication. The _Journal_ was thoroughly Republican, and would be
ably conducted. No further need of a page devoted to freedom, when every
page was consecrated to the overthrow of slavery.
Before taking action, it was best to consult an old subscriber, Charles
Sumner, then on the Allegheny Mountains, recovering from the Brook's
assault. I took baby and went to see him.
He was domiciled in the family of Dr. Jackson, Pennsylvania State
Geologist, and seemed to be one of it. In the sitting-room were his desk
and lounge, where he wrote or lay and talked, principally with Dr.
Furness, of Philadelphia, who was with him, devoting an ever-growing
store of information to the amusement of his friend. Dr. Jackson was
full of instruction, and no man more ready than Sumner to learn. He held
that all knowledge was useful in adding to one's resources--inquired
minutely about the shoeing of the horse he rode; and over a watermelon
at dessert the doctor gave a lecture on amputation, which became a large
capital to one at least of his hearers, and was of intense interest to
The children loved him, loved to be near him, and never seemed to be in
his way. Once when a toddling wee thing crept to his side while he was
absorbed in writing, took hold of his clothes, drew herself to his feet
and laid her head against his knee, he placed a weight to hold his
paper, laid his hand on her head and went on with his work. When some
one would have removed her, he looked up and said:
"Oh, let the little one alone!"
He spoke with profound admiration of Mrs. Purviance, wife of the member
of Congress from Butler, Pa. Said he was sorry never to have met her.
Her influence in Washington society had been so ennobling that the
friends of freedom owed her a lasting debt of gratitude. She boarded
with her husband at the National where her wealth, independence and
sparkling social qualities made her a recognized leader, while all her
influence was cast upon the right side. He thought the success of the
North in the famous struggle which elected Banks Speaker of the House,
was largely due to Mrs. Purviance.
He was oppressed with anxiety about Burlingame, who had gone to Canada
to fight a duel, and there was great rejoicing, when he suddenly
appeared one evening after the sun had hidden behind the pine trees.
He and Sumner met and greeted each other with the abandon of boys. No
duel had been fought, since Brooks, the challenger, had refused to pass
through Pennsylvania to Clifton, the place of meeting, for fear of mob
violence. Even the offer of a safe conduct of troops by the governor,
failed to reassure him, and Burlingame had hurried on to set his
friend's mind at rest. After the general rejoicing, the two sat facing
each other, when Sumner leaned forward, placed a hand on each of
Burlingame's shoulders, and said:
"Tell me, Anson, you did not mean to shoot that man, did you?"
Burlingame's head dropped an instant, then raising it, he said, slowly:
"I intended to take the best aim I could." Here he drew back his right
arm, and took the position of holding a gun, "at the broadest part of
him, his breast; wait for the word, and then--fire!"
Sumner dropped back in his chair, let his hands fall on his knees and
"Oh, Anson! I did not believe it."
Burlingame's eyes filled with tears, and he said:
"Charles, I saw you lying bleeding and insensible on the Senate floor,
when I did not expect ever again to hear you speak; and I intended then
to kill him. I tell you, Charles, we have got to meet those fellows with
guns, some day, and the sooner we begin, the better." On being
consulted, both these champions of the right said the _Visiter_ must not
desert the cause. Sumner added solemnly:
"The slave never had more need of it; never had more need of you."
So that editor went on with her work, feeling such an opinion as almost
a divine call.
In talking with Mr. Sumner during that visit, I learned that the same
doctor attended both President Harrison and President Taylor in their
last illness, and used his professional authority to prevent their
friends seeing them until the fatal termination of their illness was
certain. Also, that it was that same doctor who was within call when
Brooks made his assault on Sumner, took charge of the case, and made an
official statement that the injury was very slight, gave it a
superficial dressing, and sought to exclude every one from the room of
his patient. Said Sumner:
"I shuddered when I recovered consciousness, and found this man beside
He dismissed him promptly, and did not hesitate to say that he believed
he would not have recovered under his treatment. When the South seceded,
this useful man left Washington and joined the Confederacy.
The campaign of 1856 was very spirited. A large mass meeting was held in
Pittsburg, and Cassius M. Clay was the orator of the occasion. He was at
the heighth of a great national popularity, and seemed as if any honor
might be open to him. He dined that evening with Robert Palmer, of
Allegheny, and a small party of friends. The house was brilliantly
lighted, and at the table, while Clay was talking, and every one in gala
day spirits, the light suddenly went out, and what a strange sensation
fell on one guest--a feeling of coming evil.
There was no re-lighting. The gas had failed, prophetic of the going out
of that brilliant career, and its slow ending in the glimmer of a single
FINANCE AND DESERTION.
The _Pittsburg Saturday Visiter_ began life with two subscribers, and in
the second year reached six thousand, but was always a heavy drain on my
income. My domestic duties made it impossible I could give any attention
to the business department, and I was glad, at the close of the first
year, to transfer a half interest to Mr. Riddle, who became equal
partner and co-editor. At the end of the second year he proposed to buy
my interest, unite the _Visiter_ with his weekly, and pay me a salary
for editing a page.
Had the proposal been made directly to me, I should have accepted at
once, but it was made through my brother-in-law, William Swisshelm, who
had been clerk and business manager of the _Visiter_ for eighteen
months. He advised me not to accept; said the paper was netting fifteen
hundred a year, and that if I would retain my interest he would purchase
Mr. Riddle's, get type, have all the work done in a separate
establishment, and make it a decided success.
I was afraid of this arrangement, but was anxious to keep up the paper
as a separate publication, and agreed on condition that he would assume
the entire financial responsibility, keep my interest at Mr. Riddle's
valuation, and leave me no further risk than my services. If there were
profits, we would share them; if none, I got no pay, as usual, but sunk
no money. To make the changes he desired, I loaned him money until I had
most of my small estate invested, and supposed the paper was prospering
until suddenly informed that the sheriff was about to sell it. We
transferred it to Mr. Riddle, with my services two years in advance, to
pay the debts, and I wrote for the New York _Tribune_, at five dollars a
column, to meet my personal expenses, as my income from my property was
I forget at what time the _Visiter_ was united to the weekly _Journal;_
but very soon after the presidential campaign of '52, I learned that my
late partner had endorsed several notes which were not likely to be paid
by the persons who gave them, and that one of these was already entered
as a lien against his interest in the family estate. We had had no
settlement, so I went to my lawyer, William M. Shinn, who said that the
entire interest of my debtor in his father's will was worth less than my
claim since his death, without heirs, before his mother transferred his
share to the other heirs. He advised me, if possible, to get a deed of
that share as the only security for which I could hope. I directed him
to prepare it, went immediately to the office, saw my late partner, and
told him that if he did not execute that deed, I would sue him for a
settlement before I left the city. He did, and I took it home early in
the afternoon. In March '57, I resigned my place on the _Family Journal
and Visiter_, feeling that my public work was over, and that no life
save one of absolute solitude was possible for me.
I had lived over twenty years without the legal right to be alone one
hour--to have the exclusive use of one foot of space--to receive an
unopened letter, or to preserve a line of manuscript
"From sharp and sly inspection."
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, a Pennsylvania court
decided that a husband had a right to open and read any communication
addressed to his wife. Living as I did, under this law I had burned the
private journal kept in girlhood, and the letters received from my
brother, mother, sister and other friends, to preserve their contents
from the comments of the farm laborers and female help, who, by common
custom, must eat at our table and take part in our conversation. At the
office I had received, read and burned, without answer, letters from
some of the most prominent men and women of the era; letters which would
be valuable history to-day; have, therefore, no private papers, and
write this history, except a few public dates, entirely from memory.
Into the mists some rays of light penetrated, and by them I saw that the
marriage contract by which I was bound, was that one which I had made
and which secured my liberty of conscience and voice in choosing a home.
The fraud by which church, and state substituted that bond made for
Saxon swine-herds, who ate boar's heads, lived in unchinked houses and
wore brass collars, in the days when Alfred the Great was king, was
such as would vitiate any other contract, and must annul even that of
marriage; but, granting that it was binding, it must bind both parties,
and had been broken by the party of the other part through failure to
comply with its requirements.
Our marriage had been a mistake, productive of mutual injury; but for
one, it was not too late to repair the wrong. He, a man in the prime of
life, with unspotted reputation, living without labor, on the income of
a patrimonial estate, to which he had made large additions, could easily
find a help-mate for him; one who could pad matrimonial fetters with
those devices by which husbands are managed. My desertion would leave
him free to make a new choice, and I could more easily earn a living
The much-coveted and long-delayed birth of a living child appeared to
have barred my appeal to this last resort, but the mother's right to the
custody of her infant is one I would defend to the taking of life.
My husband would consent to no separation, and we had a struggle for my
separate, personal property or its equivalent; a struggle in which Wm. M.
Shinn was my lawyer, and Judge Mellon his, and in which I secured my
piano by replevin, Dr. John Scott being my bondsman, and learned that I
might not call a porter into the house to remove my trunk. I therefore
got my clothing, some books, china and bedding by stealth, and the
assistance of half a dozen families of neighbors.
A test suit as to my right to support was decided in 1859, and in it a
judge in my native city, charged the jury that: "If a wife have no
dress and her husband refuse to provide one, she may purchase one--a
plain dress--not silk, or lace, or any extravagance; if she have no
shoes, she may get a pair; if she be sick and he refuse to employ a
physician, she may send for one, and get the medicine he may prescribe;
and for these necessaries the husband is liable, but here his liability
The suit was about goods I had purchased by my lawyer's advice--two
black silk dresses, a thirty dollar shawl, a dozen pairs black kid
gloves, stockings, flannel, linen, half dozen yards white Brussels lace,
any one of which would have outlawed the bill, even if I had gone in an
Eden costume to make the purchase; but being clothed when I made my
appearance at the counter, the merchant could not plead that I "had no
dress," and lost his case.
In a subsequent suit carried up to the Supreme Court and decided in '68,
it was proved that my husband had forbidden our merchant to credit me on
his account, and the merchant's books presented in court showed that for
twelve years he had kept two separate accounts, one against my husband
and one against me. On his were charged clothing for himself, mother,
brothers and employes, common groceries, etc.; while on mine were
entered all my clothing, all high-priced tea, white sugar, etc., all
tableware, fine cutlery, table linen, bedding, curtains and towels; on
his were, credits for farm products; on mine, only cash; and he was
credited with butter and eggs on the same day that I was charged with
bed-ticking and towels. My personal expenses from Nov. 18, '36, the date
of our marriage, until Nov. 18, '56, twenty years, averaged less than
fifty dollars a year. All my husband's labor for all his life, and mine
for twenty years, with a large part of my separate property, had gone to
swell his mother's estate, on the proceeds of which she kept her
carriage and servants until she died, aged ninety-four, while I earned a
living for myself and his only child.
I left Pittsburg with my baby about the 20th of May, '57, and went by
boat to St. Paul. Before leaving, I went to settle with Mr. Riddle and
say goodbye, and found him much troubled. He said:
"Why is it I have known nothing of all this? I did not dream there was
anything wrong in your domestic relations, and may have been selfish and
My husband, mine no more, came upon the boat while she lay at the wharf,
held baby on his knee and wept over her; when the last bell rang, he
bade me good-bye; carried her to the gangway, held her to the last
moment, then placed her in my arms, sprang ashore and hurried up the
wharf. He would, I think, have carried her off, but that he knew she
would break his heart crying for mother before I could get to her.
He had once taken her away in a fit of anger and walked the floor with
her most of the night, seriously alarmed for her life, and could not
venture on that experiment again. He loved her most tenderly, and his
love was as tenderly returned. Since, as a duty to her, I was careful to
teach her to "honor thy father" on earth as well as in heaven.
Had he and I gone into the pine woods, as he proposed, upon marriage;
had we been married under an equitable law or had he emigrated to
Minnesota, as he proposed, before I thought of going, there would have
been no separation; but after fifteen years in his mother's house I must
run away or die, and leave my child to a step-mother. So I ran away. He
thought I would return; enlarged and improved the house, wrote and
waited for us; could make no deed without my signature; I would sign
none, and after three years he got a divorce for desertion. In '70 he
married again, and I having, voluntarily, assumed the legal guilt of
breaking my marriage contract, do cheerfully accept the legal penalty--a
life of celibacy--bringing no charge against him who was my husband,
save that he was not much better than the average man. Knew his rights,
and knowing sought to maintain them against me; while, in some respects,
he was to me incalculably more than just. Years after I left him, he
said to our neighbor, Miss Hawkins, when speaking of me:
"I believe she is the best woman God ever made, and we would have had no
trouble but for her friends."
My sister had removed with her husband to St. Cloud, Minnesota, and
through him I had secured forty acres of land on the shore of one of a
nest of lovely lakes, lying on the east side of the Mississippi, twelve
miles from St. Cloud. On this little farm I would build a cabin of
tamarac logs, with the bark on and the ends sticking out at the corners
criss-cross. My cabin would have one room and a loft, each with a floor
of broad rough boards well jointed, and a ladder to go from one to the
other. It would have an open fire-place, a rough flag hearth, and a
rustic porch, draped with hop vines and wild roses. I would have a
boat, catch fish and raise poultry. No sound of strife should ever come
into my cabin but those of waves, winds, birds and insects. Ah, what a
paradise it would be!
I had not yet learned that every human soul is a Shunamite, "a company
of two armies," and wherever there is one, there is strife.
To live is to contend,
And life is finished when contentions end.
At St. Paul I took a stage, and night came on when we were still twenty
miles from St. Cloud. The wolves stood and looked at the stage, and I
knew they were between me and my hermitage; but they were only prairie
wolves, and all day my cabin had been growing more and more beautiful.
The lakes, the flowers, the level prairies and distant knolls, but most
of all the oak openings were enchanting, and in one of these my cabin
The passengers talked politics and I talked too, and one man said to me:
"Did you say you were going to St. Cloud?
"Well, I tell you, madam, them sentiments of yours won't go down there.
Gen. Lowrie don't allow no abolition in these parts and he lives in St.
I had had many surprises, but few to equal this; had heard of Gen.
Lowrie as a man of immense wealth and influence, but no one had hinted
at this view of his character. I had thought of him as the friend of my
friends; but as the other passengers were confirming this account and I
watching the wolves, there flashed across my mind the thought: "This is
a broad country; but if this be true, there is not room in it for Gen.
Lowrie and me."
It was midnight before we reached East St. Cloud, and the ferry-boat had
stopped running, so that it was a bright morning the 7th of June when I
found myself in half a dozen pairs of loving arms. In a few days we made
an excursion to the site of my cabin. It was more beautiful than I had
thought. On the opposite side of the lake lived Captain Briggs, with a
head full of sea-stories, and a New England wife. My hermitage would be
greatly improved by such neighbors only one mile distant, and as the
captain had lately killed two large bears between his house and the site
of mine, there would soon be no more bears. But I must have the loft of
my cabin large enough for several beds, as the children insisted on
spending their summers with me. Brother Harry bespoke a second room, for
he would want a place to stay all night when out hunting with his
friends, and my hermitage began to grow into a hotel.
I had commenced arrangements with workmen, when Harry said to me:
"Sis, Elizabeth and I have talked this matter over, and if you persist,
we will take out a writ of lunacy. There is not a man in this territory
who would not say on oath, that you are insane to think of going where
the bears would eat you if the Indians did not kill you. The troops are
ordered away from the forts; you'll get frontier life enough with us,
for we are going to have music with the Indians."
Next day the troops from Fort Ripley marched past, on their way to
Kansas, to put down the Free State party. Bleeding Kansas was called on
for more blood, and United States soldiers were to sacrifice the friends
of freedom on the altar of slavery. The people of Minnesota were left
without protection from savages, that the people of Kansas might be
given over to the tender mercies of men no less barbarous than the
I had run away from the irrepressible conflict, feeling that my work was
done; had fled to the great Northwest--forever consecrated to freedom by
solemn act and deed of the nation--thinking I should see no more of our
national curse, when here it confronted me as it had never done before.
My cabin perished in a night, like Jonah's gourd--perished that liberty
might be crushed in Kansas; for without a garrison at Fort Ripley, my
project was utterly insane.
THE MINNESOTA DICTATOR.
Every day, from my arrival in St. Cloud, evidence had been accumulating
of the truth of that stage-whisper about Gen. Lowrie, who lived in a
semi-barbaric splendor, in an imposing house on the bank of the
Mississippi, where he kept slaves, bringing them from and returning
them to his Tennessee estate, at his convenience, and no man saying him
He owned immense tracts of land; had and disposed of all the government
contracts he pleased; traveled over Europe with his salaried physician;
said to this man "go," and he went, to that "come," and he came, and to
a third "do this," and it was done. But of all his commands "go" was
most potent; for, as president of a claim club, his orders to
pre-emptors were enforced by Judge Lynch. He never condescended to go to
Congress, but sent an agent; furnished all the Democratic votes that
could possibly be wanted in any emergency, and nobody wondered when a
good list came from a precinct in which no one lived.
Republicans on their arrival in his dominion, were converted to the
Democratic faith, fast as sinners to Christianity in a Maffitt meeting,
and those on whom the spirit fell not, kept very quiet. People had gone
there to make homes, not to fight the Southern tiger, and any attempt
against such overwhelming odds seemed madness, for Lowrie's dominion was
largely legitimate. He was one of those who are born to command--of
splendid physique and dignified bearing, superior intellect and mesmeric
fascination. His natural advantages had been increased by a liberal
education; he had been brought up among slaves, lived among Indians as
agent and interpreter, felt his own superiority, and asserted it with
the full force of honest conviction.
On all hands he was spoken of as Dictator, and there was both love and
respect mingled with the fear by which he governed. His father was a
Presbyterian minister, who taught that slavery was divine, and both
were generous and lenient masters. He was the embodiment of the slave
power. All its brute force, pious pretenses, plausibility, chivalry, all
the good and bad of the Southern character; all the weapons of the army
of despotism were concentrated in this man, the friend of my friends,
the man who stood ready to set me on the pinnacle of social distinction
by his recognition. Across the body of the prostrate slave lay the road
to wealth, and many good men had shut their eyes and stepped over.
The territorial government under Buchanan was a mere tool of slavery.
Every federal officer was a Southerner, or a Northern man with Southern
principles. Government gold flowed freely in that channel, and to the
eagles Gen. Lowrie had but to say, as to his other servants, "come," and
they flew into his exchequer.
So thoroughly was Minnesota under the feet of slavery, that in
September, '60--after we thought the State redeemed--the house of
William D. Babbitt, in Minneapolis, was surrounded from midnight until
morning by a howling mob, stoning it, firing guns and pistols,
attempting to force doors and windows, and only prevented gaining
entrance by the solidity of the building and the bravery of its defense.
It was thus besieged because its owner and occupant had dared interfere
to execute the common law in favor of freedom.
Minneapolis and its twin-city St. Anthony each had a large first-class
hotel, to which Southern people resorted in summer, bringing their
slaves, holding them often for months, and taking them back to the
South, no one daring to make objection; until one woman, Eliza Winston,
appealed to Mr. Babbitt, who took her into court, where Judge Vanderbilt
decreed her freedom, on the ground that her claimant had forfeited his
title by bringing her into a free State.
At the rendering of this decree, Rev. Knickerbocker, rector of the only
Protestant Episcopal Church in the city, arose in open court, and
charged the judge with giving an unrighteous judgment. He condemned the
law as at war with Scripture and the rights of the master, and its
enforcement as injurious to the best interests of the community. It was
the old story of Demetrius; and the people, already keenly alive to the
profit of boarding Southern families with their servants, were glad to
have a mantle of piety thrown over their love of gain. The court room
was packed, and under the eloquent appeal of the reverend gentleman, it
soon became evident the populace would make a rush, take the woman out
of the hands of the law, and deliver her to the master.
She and her friends had about lost hope, when an unlooked for diversion
called attention from them. The red head of "Bill King," afterwards
post-master of the U.S. House of Representatives, arose, like the
burning bush at the foot of Mount Horeb, and his stentorian voice poured
forth such a torrent of denunciation on priest-craft, such a flood of
solid swearing against the insolence and tyranny of ecclesiasticism,
that people were surprised into inactivity, until Mr. Babbitt got the
woman in his carriage and drove off with her.
There could no longer be a question of her legal right to her own body
and soul; but her friends knew that the law of freedom had lain too long
dormant to be enforced now without further serious opposition, and Mr.
Babbitt brought into use his old training on the underground railroad to
throw the blood-hounds off the scent, so secreted the woman in the house
of Prof. Stone, and prepared his own strong residence to bear a siege.
For that siege preparations were made by the clerical party during the
afternoon and evening, without any effort at concealment, and to brute
force the besieging party added brute cunning.
It was known that in my lecturing tours, I was often Mr. Babbitt's
guest, and might arrive at any hour. So, shortly after midnight, the
doorbell was rung, when Mr. Babbitt inquired:
"Who is there?"
"It is not Mrs. Swisshelm's voice?"
"William Griffin (a colored porter) is with her."
"It is not William Griffin's voice."
Then, for the first time, there were signs of a multitude on the porch,
and with an oath the speaker replied:
"We want that slave."
"You cannot have her."
A rush was made to burst in the door, but it was of solid walnut and
would not yield, when the assailants brought fenceposts to batter it in,
and were driven back by a shot from a revolver in the hall. The mob
retired to a safer distance, and the leader--mine host of a first-class
hotel--mounted the carriage-block and harangued his followers on the
sacred duty of securing the financial prosperity of the two cities by
restoring Eliza Winston to her owners, and made this distinct
declaration of principles:
"I came to this State with five thousand dollars; have but five hundred
left, but will spend the last cent to see 'Bill' Babbitt's heart's
After which heroic utterance a fresh volley of stones and shots were
fired, and fresh rush made for doors and windows. The sidelights of the
front door had been shattered, and one burly ruffian thrust himself
halfway in, but stuck, when a defender leveled a revolver at his head,
and said to Mrs. Babbitt, who was then in command of the hall, while her
husband defended the parlor windows:
"Shall I shoot him?"
"Yes, shoot him like a dog."
But Mrs. Edward Messer, her sister, who knew Mr. Babbitt's dread of
taking life, knocked the pistol up and struck the ruffian's head with a
stick, when it was withdrawn, and again the mob fell back and resorted
to stones and sticks and oaths and howlings and gunshots, and threats of
firing the house.
Mrs. Babbitt thought that personal appeals might bring citizens to the
rescue, and in an interval of black darkness between lightning flashes,
escaped through a back cellar way, and had almost reached the shelter of
a cornfield adjoining the garden, when the lightning revealed her and
three men started in pursuit. It was two months before the birth of one
of her children, and Mr. Elliott, a neighbor who was hastening to the
rescue, saw her danger and ran to engage her pursuers. Stumbling through
the corn, he encountered one and cudgeled him, but all were separated
by the darkness. Mrs. Babbitt, however, succeeded in reaching the more
thickly settled portion of the city, and the first man she called upon
for help, replied:
"You have made your bed--lie in it!"
The sheriff came, with two or three men, and talked to the mob, which
dispersed before daylight, with open threats to "have Babbitt's heart's
blood," and for months his family lived in momentary apprehension of his
murder. For months he was hooted at in the streets of Minneapolis as
"nigger thief," and called "Eliza." No arrests were made, and he has
always felt it fortunate that Mrs. Messer prevented the shooting of the
man in the side-light, as he thinks to this day that in the state of
public sentiment, the man firing the shot would have been hanged for
murder by any Hennepin county jury, and his home razed to the ground or
Eliza Winston was sent by underground railroad to Canada, because
Minnesota, in the year of grace, 1860, could not or would not defend the
freedom of one declared free by decision of her own courts.
When such events were actual facts in '60, near the center of the State,
under a Republican administration, what was the condition of public
sentiment in the northern portion of the territory in '57, when there
was scarce a pretense of law or order, and the Southern democracy held
absolute sway? I soon understood the situation; had known for years that
the Southern threats, which Northern men laughed at as "tin kettle
thunder," were the desperate utterances of lawless men, in firm alliance
with the "Hierarchy of Rome for the overthrow of this Republic."
George Brott was proprietor of lower St. Cloud and had started a paper,
_The Advertiser_, to invite immigration. There were two practical
printers in town, both property-owners, both interested in its growth,
and when the resources of _The Advertiser_ had been consumed and they
had had union rates for work done on it, they fell back on their dignity
and did nothing. They had enlisted in the wrong army, did not belong
with this band of pioneers, making its way against savage beasts and
men. They were soldiers of a union whose interests were all opposed to
those of St. Cloud, so they were looking on, waiting to see if the great
need of a paper would not compel their neighbors to pay tribute to their
Mr. Brott asked me if I would take charge of a paper and take town lots
for a salary. I told him I was an abolitionist. He laughed, and said:
"A lady has a right to be of whatever politics she pleases," and went on
to say, that if I could recommend Minnesota to emigrants, and St. Cloud
as a town site, he cared nothing for my opinions on other points. He
thought we might unite all the town proprietors, and so raise money to
pay the printers, so I wrote to each one, asking his support to the St.
Cloud _Visiter_, as an advertising medium. All, save Gen. Lowrie, were
prompt in making favorable response; but from him I had not heard, when
there had been three issues of the paper. Mr. Brott was in the office,
and I said:
"There is one thing more. I feel that some day I will attack Gen.
Lowrie, who is your friend. He will set Shepley on me; I will make short
work of him. Then we will have a general melee, and I will clear out
that clique. Shepley is your lawyer, and I do not want to use your press
in that way without your consent."
While I spoke, his jaw dropped and he sat staring at me in literal
open-mouthed wonder, then threw back his head, laughed heartily and
"Oh, go ahead! I bake no bread in any of their ovens!"
Very soon I had a letter from Gen. Lowrie, saying:
"I myself will give the St. Cloud _Visiter_ a support second to that of
no paper in the territory, if it will support Buchanan's administration.
Otherwise I can do nothing."
I had not finished reading, when the thought came: "Now I have you." Yet
still I knew it looked like, ah, very like a man catching a whale with a
fish hook secured to his own person, when there were a hundred chances
to one that the whale had caught him. I replied that the St. Cloud
_Visiter_ would support Mr. Buchanan's administration, since it could
not live without Gen. Lowrie's assistance, and such was his ultimatum.
On the second day after that contract was made, brother Harry came, all
trembling with rage, and said:
"Lowrie is telling all over town that he has bought you, and that the
_Visiter_ is to support Buchanan!"
"It is true," was the astounding answer, when he said bad words, rushed
from the room and slammed the door. Then followed ten days, the only
ones since he became my brother when he would not call me "Sis."
"I would have seen Lowrie and his money in the bottom of the sea, first!
What would mother say?"
The next issue of the _Visiter_ made no allusion to its change of base,
and there was plenty of time to discuss the question. Those who knew my
record refused to believe I had sold out, and took bets on it. However,
the next number contained an editorial which relieved the minds of
friends, but which created the gravest apprehension. It stated that the
_Visiter_ would, in future, support Buchanan's administration, and went
on to state the objects of that administration as being the entire
subversion of Freedom and the planting of Slavery in every State and
Territory, so that Toombs could realize his boast, and call the roll of
his slaves at the foot of Bunker Hill. It reminded its readers that John
Randolph had said in the United States Senate when speaking to Northern
"We have driven you to the wall, and will drive you there again, and
next time we will keep you there and nail you to the counter like base
Mr. Buchanan, a Northern man, had fulfilled the prediction. Henry Clay
had said that Northern workingmen were "mudsills, greasy mechanics and
small-fisted farmers." These mudsills had been talking of voting
themselves farms; but it would be much more appropriate if they would
vote themselves masters. Southern laborers were blessed with kind
masters, and Mr. Buchanan and the St. Cloud _Visiter_ were most anxious
that Northern laborers should be equally well provided for.
When the paper was read, there was a cry of "Sold! Sold! Lowrie had sold
himself instead of buying the _Visiter_." At first there was a laugh,
then a dead stillness of dread, and men looked at me as one doomed.
In Lowrie's first ebulition of wrath, he vowed vengeance, but an
intimate friend of his, who had been a Democrat in Pittsburg, begged him
to do nothing and said:
"Let her alone, for God's sake! Let her alone, or she will kill you. I
know her, and you do not. She has killed every man she ever touched. Let
But Lowrie knew it was too late for letting alone, and sent me a verbal
message, by one he knew I would believe, that I must stop or the
consequences would be fatal. Stopping was no part of my plan, and so I
told his messenger.
The second number of Buchanan's organ explained how it was that I became
a supporter of a policy I had so long opposed. Gen. Lowrie owned
Northern Minnesota, land and inhabitants, bought folks up as fast as
they came to it, and had bought me. He was going to support the
_Visiter_ great power and glory, if it gave satisfaction as a democratic
organ. I would work hard for the money, and it would be odd if any one
gave Mr. Buchanan a more enthusiastic support than I. Indeed, I was his
only honest supporter. All the others pretended he was going to do
something quite foreign to his purpose, while I was in his confidence.
The one sole object of his administration was the perpetuation and
spread of slavery, and this object the _Visiter_ would support with the
best arguments in its power.
This was vitriol dressing on a raw wound, and the suppression of the
_Visiter_ was expected by Judge Lynch. Brave men held their breath to
see me beard the lion in his den, not knowing my armor as I did.
Then came an announcement with a great flourish of trumpets of a lecture
on "Woman," by the Hon. Shepley, the great legal light and democratic
orator of Minnesota. The lecture was delivered in due time to a densely
packed house, and was as insulting as possible. The lecture divided
women into four classes--coquettes, flirts, totally depraved, and
strong-minded. He painted each class and found some redeeming trait in
all save the last.
The speaker might as well have named me as the object of his attack, and
his charges thus publicly made were not to be misunderstood. At every
point there were rounds and shouts of applause by clacquers, and brother
Harry once rose in a towering rage, but I dragged him down and begged
him to keep quiet.
In my review of the lecture, I praised it, commended its eloquence and
points, but suggested that the learned gentleman had not included all
women in his classification. For instance, he had left out the frontier
belle who sat up all night playing cards with gentlemen; could beat any
man at a game of poker, and laugh loud enough to be heard above the
roaring of a river. In this I struck at gambling as a social amusement,
which was then rapidly coming into fashion in our little city, and which
to me was new and alarming.
Mr. Shepley pretended to think that the picture resembled his wife, and
this idea was seized upon as drowning men catch at straws. Behind this
they sought to conceal the whole significance of the quarrel. Gen.
Lowrie cared not for my attacks on himself. Oh, no, indeed! He was
suddenly seized by a fit of chivalry, and would defend to the death, a
lady whom he had never seen.
An effort was made to dispose of me by mob, as a means of clearing the
moral atmosphere of the city. It was being discussed in a grocery while
"Tom" Alden lay on the counter. He rose, brought down his big fist, and
with a preface of oaths, said:
"Now, boys, I tell you what it is. We're Democrats. This is a fight
between her and Lowrie, and we're going to see fair play. If she licks
him, let him take it. No woman is going to be mobbed in this city! So
Gen. Lowrie hid an uncle who lived with him, a very eccentric,
single-minded man, who was greatly distressed about the affair, and who
became a messenger bent on making peace. He begged me to desist for
Lowrie's sake, that I might not drive him to cover himself with shame,
and bring lasting regret. He insisted that I knew nothing of the dangers
which environed me; I would be secretly murdered, with personal
indignities; would be tied to a log and set afloat on the Mississippi.
I had no wish to court danger--shrank from the thought of brute force;
but if I let this man escape, his power, now tottering, would be
re-established; slavery triumphant in the great Northwest; Minnesota
confirmed a democratic strong-hold, sending delegates of dough-faces to
Congress to aid in the great conspiracy against the nation's life. So I
told the messenger that I would continue to support Buchanan's
administration, that I would pile my support upon it until it broke down
under the weight and sunk into everlasting infamy.
The night after I had sent this, as my final answer to the offer of
leniency, the _Visiter_ was visited by three men in the "wee sma' hours,
anent the twal," the press broken, some of the type thrown into the
river, some scattered on the road, and this note left on the table:
"If you ever again attempt to publish a paper in St. Cloud, you yourself
will be as summarily dealt with as your office has been.----VIGILANCE."
The morning brought intense excitement and the hush of a great fear. Men
walked down to the bank of the great Mississippi, looked at the little
wrecked office standing amid the old primeval forest, as if it were a
great battle-ground, and the poor little type were the bodies of the
valiant dead. They only spoke in whispers, and stood as if in
expectation of some great event, until Judge Gregory arrived, and said,
"Gentlemen, this is an outrage which must be resented. The freedom of
the press must be established if we do not want our city to become the
center of a gang of rowdies who will drive all decent people away and
cut off immigration. I move that we call a public meeting at the Stearns
House this evening, to express the sentiments of the people at St.
This motion was carried unanimously, but very quietly, and I said:
"Gentlemen, I will attend that meeting and give a history of this
SPEAK IN PUBLIC.
At length the time had come when I could no longer skulk behind a
printing press. That bulwark had been torn down, and now I must
literally open my mouth for the dumb, or be one of those dogs spoken of
in Scripture who would not bark. The resolve to speak at that meeting
had come in an instant as a command not to be questioned, and I began to
prepare. James McKelvey, a lawyer, and nephew of my husband, drew my
will and I executed it, settled my business and wrote a statement of the
_Visiter_ trouble that it might live if I ceased to do so, then went to
bed, sent for Miles Brown to come to my room, and saw him alone.
He was a Pennsylvanian, who had the reputation of being a dead shot, and
had a pair of fine revolvers. He pledged himself solemnly to go with me
and keep near me, and shoot me square through the brain, if there was no
other way of preventing me falling alive into the hands of the mob. My
mind was then at ease, and I slept until my mail was brought. In it was
a letter from William M. Shinn, saying that without his knowledge, my
husband had succeeded in having my one-third interest in the Swissvale
estate sold at sheriff's sale, and had become the purchaser. Mr. Shinn
added his opinion that the sale was fraudulent, and proposed entering
suit to have it set aside; but I could attend to no suit and lost all
hope of saving anything from my separate estate. Surely the hand of the
Lord lay heavily upon me that day, but I never doubted that it was His
hand. The Good Shepherd would lead me and feed me and I should know no
When it was time to go to the meeting, I was dressed by other hands than
my own. I knew Harry and my brother-in-law, Henry Swisshelm, had
organized for defense, and asked no questions, but went with them.
Elizabeth carried her camphor bottle as coolly as if mobs and public
meetings were things of every day life, while Mrs. Hyke, a New England
woman, held my arm, saying:
"We'll have a nice time in the river together, for I am going in with
you. They can't separate us."
As we approached the Stearns House, the crowd thickened and pressed upon
us. Harry stopped and said:
"Gentlemen, stand back, if you please!"
The guard closed around me, every man with his hand on his revolver.
There were oaths and growls, but the mob gave way, and made no further
opposition to our entrance.
The meeting was called to order by Thomas Stearns, the owner of the
house and for whom the county had been named, who with his brave wife
had made every possible arrangement for the meeting. The large parlors
were packed with women, and every other foot of space downstairs and
even up, were filled with men, while around the house was a crowd. It
was a wonder where all the people could have come from. A rostrum had
been erected at the end of the parlor next the hall, but I had no sooner
taken it than there was an ominous murmur outside, and it was discovered
that my head made a tempting target for a shot through the front door,
so the rostrum was moved out of range.
There was not much excitement until I named Gen. Lowrie and two other
men as the persons who had destroyed the _Visiter_ office. Then there
was a perfect howl of oaths and cat-calls. Gen. Lowrie was on the ground
himself, loading his forces outside. A rush was made, stones hurled
against the house, pistols fired, and every woman sprang to her feet,
but it was to hear and see, not shriek. Harry held the doorway into the
hall; Henry that into the dining room. Brown had joined Harry, and I
said in a low, concentrated voice:
He turned and pressed up to the rostrum.
"Don't fail me! Don't leave me! Remember!"
"I remember! Don't be afraid! I'll do it! But I'm going to do some other
"Save two bullets for me!" I plead, "and shoot so that I can see you."
"I will, I will," but all the time he was looking to the door; Mrs. Hyke
was clinging to me sobbing:
"We'll go together; no one can part us." The mob were pressed back and
comparative quiet restored, and when I finished the reading of my
address I began to extemporize. What I said seemed to be the right words
at the right time. A hushed attention fell upon the audience, inside and
out. Then there was applause inside, which called forth howls from the
outside, and when I stepped from the platform, I was overwhelmed with
congratulations, and more astonished than any one, to learn that I could
speak in public.
T.H. Barrett, a young civil engineer, was chairman of the committee on
resolutions, and brought in a set which thrilled the audience. They were
a most indignant denunciation of the destruction of the office, an
enthusiastic endorsement of the course of the _Visiter_, and a
determination to re-establish it, under the sole control of its editor.
They were passed singly by acclamation until the last, when I protested
that they should take time to think--should consider if it were not
better to get another editor. There could be no peace with me in the
editorial chair, for I was an abolitionist and would light slavery and
woman-whippers to the death, and after it. There was a universal
response of "Good! Good! give it to 'em, and we'll stand by you."
This was the beginning of the final triumph of free speech, but the end
was yet in the dim distance, and this I knew then as well as afterwards.
T.H. Barrett, who carried that meeting, is the man who fought the last
battle of the Rebellion at the head of his negro troops away down in
Texas, ten days after Lee's surrender, and before that news had reached
him, Brown was charged with cowardice, in having kept back among the
women, and I had to explain on his account.
A FAMOUS VICTORY.
The day after the Stearns House meeting, I was thought to be dying. All
that medical skill and loving hands could do was done to draw me from
the dark valley into which I seemed to have passed; while those men who
had planted themselves and their rifles between me and death by
violence, came on tip-toe to know if I yet lived. When I was able to be
out it was not thought safe for me to do so--not even to cross the
street and sit on the high green bank which overlooked the river. Harry
was constantly armed and on guard, and a pistol shot from his house,
night or day, would have brought a score of armed men in a very short
A printing company had been formed to re-establish the _Visiter_. In it
were forty good men and true, and they sent an agent to Chicago to buy
press and type. The St. Cloud _Visiter_ was to begin a new life as the
mouthpiece of the Republican party, and I was no longer a scout,
conducting a war on the only rational plan of Indian warfare. I begged
my friends to stand abide and leave Lowrie and me to settle the trouble,
saying to them:
"I cannot fight behind ramparts of friends. I must take the risks
myself, must have an open field. Protect me from brute force and give me
moral aid, but stand aside."
But they were full of enthusiasm, and would bear the brunt of battle.
There were open threats of the destruction of the new press, and it was
no time to quit the field. Of the first number of the resurrected
_Visiter_, the St. Cloud Printing Co. was publisher, and I sole editor.
I prepared the contents very carefully, that they might not give
unnecessary offense, dropped the role of supporting Buchanan, and tried
to make a strong Republican paper of the abolition type, and in the
leader gave a history of the destruction of my office.
The paper gave great satisfaction to the publishers, who had not thought
I could be so calm; but Lowrie threatened a libel suit for my history of
that outrage, and I said to the printing company:
"You must get out of my way or I will withdraw."
At once they gave me a bill of sale for the press and material, and of
the second number I was sole editor and proprietor, but it was too late.
The libel suit was brought, damages laid at $10,000, and every lawyer in
that upper country retained for the prosecution.
This was in the spring of '58. The two years previous the country had
been devastated by grasshoppers, and no green thing had escaped. There
was no old grain, the mass of people had been speculating in town lots,
and such had been the demand for city charters, that a wag moved in
legislature to reserve one-tenth of the land of Minnesota for
agricultural purposes. The territorial had just been exchanged for a
state government, which was not yet in working order. The capital of
every man in the printing company was buried in corner lots, or lots
which were not on a corner. The wolves and bears cared nothing for
surveyor's stakes, and held possession of most of the cities, howling
defiance at the march of civilization. The troops were still in Kansas
establishing slavery, and we lived in a constant state of alarm. The men
were organized for defense against Indians, and must do picket duty. All
the money was in the hands of the enemy. Citizens had everything to buy
and nothing to buy it with. Provisions were brought up from St. Paul by
wagon, except when a boat could come from St. Anthony. Those men of the
company who were especially marked, were men of families, and it is hard
to starve children for the freedom of the press. The nearest court was
St. Anthony. Any defense of that suit must be ruinous to those men, and
I advised them to compromise.
A committee was appointed to meet six lawyers, and were in despair when
they learned the ultimatum of the great Dictator. With the terms
demanded, they had no inclination to comply, but sent J. Fowler to me
with the contract they were required to sign.
This bound the company in a bond of $10,000 actual payment, that the
_St. Cloud Visiter_ should publish in its columns a card from Mr.
Shepley, of which a copy was appended, and which stated that the
destruction of the office was not for any political cause, but was
solely on account of an attack made by its editor on the reputation of a
lady. Also, that said _Visiter_ should never again discuss or refer to
the destruction of its office.
Fowler burned with indignation, and was much surprised when I returned
the paper, saying that I would comply with these demands. He protested
that I should not--that they had set out to defend the freedom of the
"Which you cannot do," I remarked. "You sign that paper just as you
would hand your money to a robber who held a pistol to your head and
demanded it. There is a point at which the bravest must yield, where
resistance is madness, and you have reached this point. The press is
mine, leave its freedom to me. Defend me from brute force and do your
duty to your families."
He returned to the consultation room, where every one was surprised at
my compliance. They had all given me credit for more pluck, but since I
surrendered, the case was lost. The contract was signed, the bond
executed, and everything made tight and fast as law could make it. The
friends of free press were indignant, but bided their time. Stephen
Miller, a nephew of my mother-in-law, and afterwards governor of
Minnesota, was on a visit to Harrisburg during all this trouble, and
when he returned, he flew into a towering rage over what he termed the
cowardly backdown of the printing company, and published a card in the
St. Paul papers, washing his hands of it.
But to the victors belong the spoils and glory, and now they made much
of them. Ladies got out their silks, their jewels and their laces. There
were sounds of revelry by night, where fair women and gallant men drew
around the social board, on which sparkled the wine-cup and glimmered
the yellow gold, to be taken up by the winner. Champagne was drunk in
honor of the famous victory, hands were shaken over it, stray sheep
were brought back into the true Democratic fold, and late opinions about
presses and types were forgotten.
Though, among all the rejoicings, the Bar had the best of it. For once
its members had not been like the blades of a pair of scissors; had not
even seemed to cut each other, while only cutting that which came
between. For once its members were a band of brothers, concentrated into
one sharp, keen dagger, with which they had stabbed Freedom to the
heart. That triumphant Bar stroked its bearded chin, and parted its
silky mustache; hem'd its wisest hem; haw'd its most impressive haw.
"If Gen. Lowrie had ah, but ah, taken legal advice ah, in the first
instance ah, all would have been well ah!"
They were the generals who had won this famous victory, and wore their
laurels with a jaunty air, while a learned and distinguished divine from
the center of the State, in a sermon, congratulated the Lord on having
succeeded in "restoring peace to this community, lately torn by
dissensions,"--and all was quiet on the Mississippi.
On its bank sat poor little I, looking out on its solemn march to the
sea, thinking of Minnesota; sending a wail upon its bosom to meet and
mingle with that borne by the Missouri from Kansas; thinking of a
sad-faced slave, who landed with her babe in her arms here, just in
front of my unfinished loft, performed the labor of a slave in this free
Northern land, and embarked from this same landing to go to a Tennessee
auction block, nobody saying to the master, "Why do ye this?" Against
the power which thus trampled constitutional guarantees, congressional
enactments and State rights in the dust, I seemed to stand alone, with
my hands tied--stood in a body weighing just one hundred pounds, and
kept in it by the most assiduous care. I was learning to set type, and
as I picked the bits of lead from the labeled boxes, there ran the old
tune of St. Thomas, carrying through my brain these words:
"Yea, though I walk in death's dark vale,
Yet will I fear none ill."
Why did the heathen rage and kings vex themselves? God, even our God,
should dash them together like potsherds. What an uneven fight it
was--God and I against that little clique--against a world!
I rented the office to the boys, who at once gave me notice that I was
no longer wanted in it. They issued a half-sheet _Visiter_, with "the
Devil" as editor and proprietor. His salutatory informed his readers,
that he was in full possession and was going to have a good time; had
taught the _Visiter_ to lie, and was going to tunnel the Mississippi.
Those were bright boys, and they had a jolly week. Mr. Shepley's card
appeared, as per agreement, and thus far the terms of release for the
printing company complied with, and the contract with the _Dictator_
filled. But what next? Had I actually given up the publication? Of
course I had. Its finances were desperate, and what else could I do?
What motive could I have for attempting to go on with it? Oh, what a
famous victory. The next publication day passed and no _Visiter_. There
was a dress parade of triumphant troops, and that most famous victory
was bearing fruit.
Next day the _St. Cloud Democrat_ made its appearance, and I was sole
editor and proprietor. Into the first editorial column I copied
verbatim, with a prominent heading, the article from the _Visiter_ on
which the libel suit was founded, and gave notice that I alone was
pecuniarily responsible for all the injury that could possibly be done
to the characters of all the men who might feel themselves aggrieved
thereby. Of the late _Visiter_ I had an obituary; gave a short sketch of
its stormy life; how it was insulted, overborne, enslaved; that it could
not live a slave, and died in its new chains.
It seems strange that those lawyers should have been so stupid, or
should have accredited me with such amazing stupidity when they drew up
that bond; but so it was, and the tables were completely turned. To sue
me for libel was folly, for in St. Paul or St. Anthony I should have had
the gratuitous services of the best legal talent in the state, and they
and their case would have been ground into very small and dirty dust. No
famous victory was ever before turned into a more total rout by a more
simple ambush, and by it I won the clear field necessary to the
continuance of my work.
I still had protection from physical violence, but had no fear of legal
molestation, and after the next fall election, border ruffianism fell
into such disrepute in St. Cloud that loaded guns seemed no longer
necessary to sustain the freedom of the press.
STATE AND NATIONAL POLITICS.
When _The St. Cloud Democrat_ began its career as the organ of the
Republican party in Northern Minnesota, the central and southern
portions of the State were fairly supplied with republican papers, the
conductors all being more or less skillful in the art of plowing and
sowing the political field; but with no very bright prospect of
harvesting a victory. Under the Lowrie dictatorship of the North, it is
difficult to see how the success of a Republican could have been made
possible, any more than giving the electoral vote of Southern Republican
States to the Republican candidate in 1880.
To overthrow that dictatorship was the work I had volunteered to do, and
in doing it, my plan was to "plow deep," subsoil to the beam. Preachers
held men accountable to God for their Sunday services, but it was my aim
to urge the divine claim to obedience, all the rest of the week. I held
that election day was of all others, the Lord's day. He instituted the
first republic. All the training which Moses gave the Jews was to fit
them for self-government, and at his death the choice of their rulers
was left with them and they were commanded to
"Choose men, fearing God and hating covetousness,
and set them to rule over you."
For no creed, no form of worship, no act of his life, is a man more
directly responsible to God, than for casting his vote or the
non-fulfillment of that duty. When the nominations were made for the
second State election in 1859, Gen. Lowrie had lost ground so fast that
he needed the indorsement of his party. This was given in his nomination
for Lieut. Governor. The Republicans nominated Ignatius Donnelly, a
fiery young orator, who took the stump, and was not deterred by any
super-refinement from making the most of his opponent's reputation as
the stealthy destroyer of a printing office, because he had made a bad
bargain in buying its editor. He and the party which had made his
methods its own by nominating him, were held up to the most unmerciful
ridicule. The canvass seemed to turn on the indorsement or repudiation
of border-ruffianism, press-breaking, woman-mobbing. My _personnel_ had
then become familiar to the people of the State, and the large man who
instituted a mob to suppress a woman of my size, and then failed, was
not a suitable leader for American men, even if they were Democrats.
The death-knell of Democratic rule in Minnesota was rung in that
election. The whole Republican State ticket was elected, with Gov.
Ramsey at its head, and he was the first Governor to tender troops to
President Lincoln for the suppression of the Rebellion. The result was
gratifying, although our own county, Stearns, was overwhelmingly
Democratic, and must remain so, since the great mass of the people were
However, the election of the State ticket was largely due to the
personal popularity of Gov. Ramsey, and this could not be depended upon
for a lasting arrangement, so I spent the winter following lecturing
through the State, sowing seed for the coming presidential campaign. I
never spoke in public during an election excitement, never advocated on
the platform the claims of any particular man, but urged general
Stephen Miller was our St. Cloud delegate to the Chicago Convention
which nominated Mr. Lincoln, led the canvass in the State, as the most
efficient speaker and was chairman of the Electoral College. His
prominent position in the Border Ruffian war added largely to his
popularity in the State, and once more that little printing office under
the grand old trees was plunged into politics; this time into an
election on which hung the destinies of the nation. How that election
was carried on in other States I know not, but in Minnesota the banner
of Republicanism and human freedom was borne aloft over a well fought
field. There was not much surface work. Men struggled for the Right
against the old despotism of Might, and planted their cause on
foundations more enduring than Minnesota granite itself.
Yet, even then, the opposition of the Garrisonians was most persistent.
There was a large anti-slavery element among the original settlers of
Minnesota, but it was mostly of the Garrisonian or non-voting type, and
had lain dormant under pro-slavery rule. To utilize this element at the
polls was my special desire. The ground occupied by them was the one I
had abandoned, _i.e._, the ground made by the Covenanters when the
Constitution first appeared. They pronounced it "a covenant with death
and an agreement with hell," and would not vote or hold office under it;
would not take an oath to support it. So firmly had Garrison planted
himself on the old Covenanter platform, that it is doubtful whether he
labored harder for the overthrow of slavery or political anti-slavery;
whether he more fiercely denounced slave-holders or men who voted
against slave-holding. Once after a "flaming" denunciation of political
abolitionists, some one said to him:
"Mr. Garrison, I am surprised at the ground you take! Do you not think
James G. Birney and Gerrit Smith are anti-slavery?"
He hesitated, and replied:
"They have anti-slavery tendencies, I admit."
Now, James G. Birney, when a young man, fell heir to the third of an
Alabama estate, and arranged with the other heirs to take the slaves as
his portion. He took them all into a free State, emancipated them, and
left himself without a dollar, but went to work and became the leader of
political abolitionists, while Gerrit Smith devoted his splendid talents
and immense wealth to the cause of the slave. When their mode of action
was so reprehensible to Mr. Garrison, we may judge the strength of his
opposition to that plan of action which resulted in the overthrow of
slavery. His non-resistance covered ballots as well as bullets, and
slavery, the creation of brute force and ballots, must not be attacked
by any weapon, save moral suasion. So it was, that Garrisonianism, off
the line of the underground railroad, was a rather harmless foe to
slavery, and was often used by it to prevent the casting of votes which
would endanger its power.
From the action of the slave power, it must by that time have been
apparent to all, that adverse votes was what it most dreaded; but
old-side Covenanters, Quakers, and Garrisonians could not cast these
without soiling their hands by touching that bad Constitution. But that
moral _dilettanteism_, which thinks first of its own hands, was not
confined to non-voting abolitionists; for the "thorough goers" of the
old Liberty Party, could not come down from their perch on platforms
which embraced all the moralities, to work on one which only said to
slavery "not another foot of territory."
Both these parties attacked me. The one argued that I, of necessity,
endorsed slavery every where by recognizing the Constitution; the other
that I must favor its existence where it then was, by working with the
Republican party, which was only pledged to prevent its extension. To
me, these positions seemed utterly untenable, their arguments
preposterous, and I did my best to make this appear. I claimed the
Constitution as anti-slavery, and taught the duty of overthrowing
slavery by and through it, but no argument which I used did half the
service of an illustration which came to me:
I had a little garden in which the weeds did grow, and little Bobbie
Miller had a little broken hoe. When I went into my garden to cut the
weeds away, I took up Bobbie's little hoe to help me in the fray. If
that little hoe were wanting, I'd take a spoon or fork, or any other
implement, but always keep at work. If any one would send me a broader,
sharper hoe, I'd use it on those ugly weeds and cut more with one blow;
but till I got a better hoe, I'd work away with Bobbie's. I'd ride one
steady-going nag, and not a dozen hobbies; help any man or boy, or
fiend to do what needed doing, and only stop when work came up which
done would call for ruing.
This conceit struck popular fancy as plain argument could not have done,
and the Republican party came to be called "Robbie Miller's Hoe "--an
imperfect means of reaching a great end, and one that any one might use
without becoming responsible for its imperfections.
During the heat of that Lincoln campaign, Galusha A. Grow, then Speaker
of the U.S. House of Representatives, came to St. Cloud to speak, and
found me ill with quinsy; but I went to the meeting. It was held in
Wilson's Hall, which was on the second floor of a frame building, and
was so packed that before he began fears were felt lest the floors
should give way. But the speaker told the audience that the floor would
"hold still" if they did; and any one who felt uneasy had better leave
now. No one left, and for two hours and a half he held that packed
assembly in close and silent attention. He was very popular on the
frontier on account of his homestead bill, yet the hall was surrounded
all the time he spoke by a howling Democratic mob, who hurled stones
against the house, fired guns, shouted and yelled, trying to drown his
voice. To make it more interesting and try to draw out the audience,
they made a huge bonfire and burned me in effigy as--
"The mother of the Republican party."
The result of that campaign is known, for in it Minnesota was made so
thoroughly Republican that the party must needs split, in order to got
rid of its supremacy.
The _St. Cloud Democrat_ found in orthodoxy a foe almost as powerful and
persistent as slavery itself. In a local controversy about dancing, I
recommended that amusement as the only substitute for lascivious plays,
and this was eagerly seized upon by those who saw nothing wrong in
wholesale concubinage of the South. A fierce attack was made on _The
Democrat_ by a zealous Baptist minister; to which I replied, when it was
announced and proclaimed that on a certain Sabbath, at 10 A.M., this
minister would answer _The Democrat_. At the appointed hour the house
overflowed, and people crowded around the doors and windows, while Gen.
Lowrie occupied a prominent seat in the audience.
It surely was an odd sight to see that preacher mount the stand,
carrying an open copy of _The Democrat_, lay it down beside the Bible,
and read verse about from the two documents. The sermon was as odd as
the text. It disposed of me by the summary mode of denunciation, but
also disposed of David, Solomon and Miriam at the same time. When I gave
the discourse a careful Scriptural criticism, I carried the community,
and was strengthened by the controversy. But another, more serious and
general dispute was at hand.
When Theodore Parker died, the orthodox press from Maine to Georgia,
handed him over to Satan to be tormented; and then my reputation for
heresy reached its flood-tide.
Rev. John Renwick, one of our Covenanter martyrs, was my ideal of a
Christian, and when he lay in the Edinburg prison under sentence of
death, his weeping friends begged him to conform and save his life. They
said to him:
"Dinna ye think that we, who ha' conformit may be saved?"
"Aye, aye. God forbid that I should limit his grace."
"An' dinna ye think, ye too could be saved and conform?"
"Oh, aye aye. The blood of Christ cleanseth fra all sin."
"Weel, what mair do ye want, than the salvation o' yer saul?"
"Mair, mickle mair! I want to honor my Master, and bear witness to the
To satisfy this want, he died a felon's death. The central idea of that
old hero-making Westminster theology was, that man's chief end is to
glorify God first, and enjoy him forever when that is done. In all the
religious training of my youth, I had never heard the term "seek
salvation." We were to seek the privilege of serving God; yet I was
willing to be dead-headed into heaven, with the rest of the
A Protestant Episcopal convention had pointedly refused to advise
members of that church to respect the marriage relation among their
slaves, and so had dimmed the Elizabethian glory of a church which once
stood for freedom so nobly that the winds and waves became her allies,
and crowned her with victory. The General Assembly had laid the honor of
its martyrs in the dust by endorsing human slavery; and I must be false
to every conviction if I did not protest against calling that
Christianity which held out crowns of glory to man-thieves and their
abettors, and everlasting torments to those who had spent their lives
glorifying God and bearing witness to the truth. My defense of Parker
and unwillingness to have all Unitarians sent to the other side of the
Great Gulf, won for me a prominent place among those whom the churches
But there came a time when "Providence" seemed to be on the side of the
Rev. J. Calhoun was a highly-cultured gentleman, a Presbyterian
clergyman, and one of those urbane men who add force and dignity to any
opinion. His wife was Gen. Lowrie's only sister. He preached
gratuitously in St. Cloud, and Border Ruffianism and Slavery gained
respectability through their connection, when he and his wife made that
fatal plunge off the bridge in St. Cloud--a plunge which sent a thrill
of horror through the land. I accompanied my sympathetic, respectful
obituary notice, with the statement that the costly cutter wrecked, and
the valuable horse instantly killed, were both purchased with money
obtained by the sale of a woman and her child, who had been held as
slaves in Minnesota, in defiance of her law, and been taken by this
popular divine to a Tennessee auction block.
The accident was entirely owing to the unprecedented and unaccountable
behavior of that horse, and people shuddered with a new horror on being
reminded of the price which had been paid for him--bodies and souls of
two citizens and the honor of that free State.
The culture which the pale faces introduced into that land of the
Dakotas was sometimes curious. The first sermon I heard there was
preached in Rockville--a town-site on the Sauk, twelve miles from its
confluence with the Mississippi--in a store-room of which the roof was
not yet shingled. The only table in the town served as a pulpit; the red
blankets from one wagon were converted into cushions for the front pews,
which consisted of rough boards laid on trussles. There was only one
hymn book, and after reading the hymn, the preacher tendered the book to
any one who would lead the singing, but no one volunteered. My scruples
about psalms seemed to vanish, so I went forward, took the book, lined
out the hymn, and started a tune, which was readily taken up and sung by
all present. We were well satisfied with what the day brought us, as we
rode home past those wonderful granite rocks which spring up out of the
prairie, looking like old hay-ricks in a meadow.
There were people in our frontier town who would have graced any
society, and with the elasticity of true culture adapted themselves to
all circumstances. At my residence, which adjoined the _Democrat_
office, I held fortnightly receptions, at which dancing was the
amusement, and coffee and sandwiches the refreshments. At one of these,
I had the honor to entertain Gov. Ramsey, Lieut.-Gov. Donnelly, State
Treas. Shaeffer, and a large delegation from St. Paul; but not having
plates for seventy people, I substituted squares of white printing
paper. When Gov. Ramsey received his, he turned it over, and said:
"What am I to do with this?"
"That is the ticket you are to vote," was the answer.
In our social life there was often a weird mingling of civilization and
barbarism. Upon one occasion, a concert was given, in which the audience
were in full dress, and all evening in the principal streets of St.
Cloud a lot of Chippewas played foot-ball with the heads of some Sioux,
with whom they had been at war that day.
In those days, brains and culture were found in shanties. The leaders of
progress did not shrink from association with the rude forces of savages
and mother nature.
St. Cloud was the advance post of that march of civilization by which
the Northern Pacific railroad has since sought to reach the
Sascatchewan, a territory yet to be made into five wheat-growing States
as large as Illinois. All the Hudson Bay goods from Europe passed our
doors, in wagons or on sleds, under the care of the Burbanks, the great
mail carriers and express men of Minnesota, and once they brought a
young lady who had come by express from Glasgow, Scotland, and been
placed under the charge of their agent at New York, and whom they handed
over to the officer she had come to marry on the shores of Hudson Bay.
But their teams usually came east with little freight, as the furs sent
to Europe came down in carts, not one of which had so much iron as a
nail in them, and which came in long, creaking trains, drawn by oxen or
In each train there was generally one gorgeous equipage--a cart painted
blue, with a canvas cover, drawn by one large white ox in raw-hide
harness. In this coach of state rode the lady of the train--who was
generally a half-breed--on her way to do her shopping in St. Paul. Once
the lady was a full-blooded Indian, and had her baby with her, neatly
dressed and strapped to a board. A bandage across the forehead held the
head in place, and every portion of the body was as secure as board and
bandages could make them, except the arms from the elbow down, but no
danger of the little fellow sucking his thumb. His lady mamma did not
have to hold him, for he was stood up in a corner like a cane or
umbrella, and seemed quite comfortable as well as content. She had
traveled seven weeks, had come seventeen hundred miles to purchase some
dresses and trinkets, and would no doubt be a profitable customer to St.
Paul merchants, for the lady of the train was a person of wealth and
authority, always the wife of the commander-in-chief, and her sentence
of death might have been fatal to any man in it.
In these trains were always found Indians filling positions as useful
laborers, for the English government never gave premiums for idleness
and vagabondism among Indians, by feeding and clothing them without