Part 3 out of 4
Often I have felt like swearing "You idiots!" and then like crying
"Poor dears!" But I have kept on with them, and had I been in Albany or
Washington I would have caught Rosalie Jones in my arms, and before she
could say "Jack Robinson" have exclaimed: "You ridiculous child, go and get
a bath and put on some pretty clothes and come and join us at dinner in
the State Banquet Hall, duly made and provided for you and the rest of you
Chapter the Ninth
Dr. Norvin Green--Joseph Pulitzer--Chester A. Arthur--General
Grant--The Case of Fitz-John Porter
Truth we are told is stranger than fiction. I have found it so in the
knowledge which has variously come to me of many interesting men and women.
Of these Dr. Norvin Green was a striking example. To have sprung from
humble parentage in the wilds of Kentucky and to die at the head of the
most potential corporation in the world--to have held this place against
all comers by force of abilities deemed indispensable to its welfare--to
have gone the while his ain gait, disdaining the precepts of Doctor
Franklin--who, by the way, did not trouble overmuch to follow them
himself--seems so unusual as to rival the most stirring stories of the
When I first met Doctor Green he was president of a Kentucky railway
company. He had been, however, one of the organizers of the Western Union
Telegraph Company. He deluded himself for a little by political ambitions.
He wanted to go to the Senate of the United States, and during a
legislative session of prolonged balloting at Frankfort he missed his
election by a single vote.
It may be doubted whether he would have cut a considerable figure at
Washington. His talents were constructive rather than declamatory. He was
called to a greater field--though he never thought it so--and was foremost
among those who developed the telegraph system of the country almost from
its infancy. He possessed the daring of the typical Kentuckian, with the
dead calm of the stoic philosopher; imperturbable; never vexed or querulous
or excited; denying himself none of the indulgences of the gentleman of
leisure. We grew to be constant comrades and friends, and when he returned
to New York to take the important post which to the end of his days he
filled so completely his office in the Western Union Building became my
There I met Jay Gould familiarly; and resumed acquaintance with Russell
Sage, whom I had known when a lad in Washington, he a hayseed member of
Congress; and occasionally other of the Wall Street leaders. In a small
way--though not for long--I caught the stock-gambling fever. But I was on
the "inside," and it was a cold day when I did not "clean up" a goodly
amount to waste uptown in the evening. I may say that I gave this over
through sheer disgust of acquiring so much and such easy and useless
money, for, having no natural love of money--no aptitude for making money
breed--no taste for getting it except to spend it--earning by my own
accustomed and fruitful toil always a sufficiency--the distractions and
dissipations it brought to my annual vacations and occasional visits,
affronted in a way my self-respect, and palled upon my rather eager quest
of pleasure. Money is purely relative. The root of all evil, too. Too much
of it may bring ills as great as not enough.
At the outset of my stock-gambling experience I was one day in the office
of President Edward H. Green, of the Louisville and Nashville Railway, no
relation of Dr. Norvin Green, but the husband of the famous Hetty Green. He
said to me, "How are you in stocks?"
"What do you mean?" said I.
"Why," he said, "do you buy long, or short? Are you lucky or unlucky?"
"You are talking Greek to me," I answered.
"Didn't you ever put up any money on a margin?"
"Bless me! You are a virgin. I want to try your luck. Look over this stock
list and pick a stock. I will take a crack at it. All I make we'll divide,
and all we lose I'll pay."
"Will you leave this open for an hour or two?"
"What is the matter with it--is it not liberal enough?"
"The matter is that I am going over to the Western Union to lunch. The
Gould party is to sit in with the Orton-Green party for the first time
after their fight, and I am asked especially to be there. I may pick up
Big Green, as he was called, paused a moment reflectively. "I don't want
any tip--especially from that bunch," said he. "I want to try your virgin
luck. But, go ahead, and let me know this afternoon."
At luncheon I sat at Doctor Green's right, Jay Gould at his left. For the
first and last time in its history wine was served at this board; Russell
Sage was effusive in his demonstrations of affection and went on with his
stories of my boyhood; every one sought to take the chill off the occasion;
and we had a most enjoyable time instead of what promised to be rather a
frosty formality. When the rest had departed, leaving Doctor Green, Mr.
Gould and myself at table, mindful of what I had come for, in a bantering
way I said to Doctor Green: "Now that I am a Wall Street ingenu, why don't
you tell me something?"
Gould leaned across the table and said in his velvet voice: "Buy Texas
Two or three days after, Texas Pacific fell off sixty points or more. I did
not see Big Green again. Five or six months later I received from him a
statement of account which I could never have unraveled, with a check
for some thousands of dollars, my one-half profit on such and such an
operation. Texas Pacific had come back again.
Two or three years later I sat at Doctor Green's table with Mr. Gould, just
as we had sat the first day. Mr. Gould recalled the circumstance.
"I did not think I could afford to have you lose on my suggestion and I
went to cover your loss, when I found five thousand shares of Texas Pacific
transferred on the books of the company in your name. I knew these could
not be yours. I thought the buyer was none other than the man I was after,
and I began hammering the stock. I have been curious ever since to make
sure whether I was right."
"Whom did you suspect, Mr. Gould?" I asked.
"My suspect was Victor Newcomb," he replied.
I then told him what had happened. "Dear, dear," he cried. "Ned Green! Big
Green. Well, well! You do surprise me. I would rather have done him a favor
than an injury. I am rejoiced to learn that no harm was done and that,
after all, you and he came out ahead."
It was about this time Jay Gould had bought of the Thomas A. Scott estate a
New York daily newspaper which, in spite of brilliant writers like Manton
Marble and William Henry Hurlbut, had never been a moneymaker. This was the
_World_. He offered me the editorship with forty-nine of the hundred
shares of stock on very easy terms, which nowise tempted me. But two or
three years after, I daresay both weary and hopeless of putting up so much
money on an unyielding investment, he was willing to sell outright, and
Joseph Pulitzer became the purchaser.
His career is another illustration of the saying that truth is stranger
Joseph Pulitzer and I came together familiarly at the Liberal Republican
Convention, which met at Cincinnati in 1872--the convocation of cranks,
as it was called--and nominated Horace Greeley for President. He was a
delegate from Missouri. Subsequent events threw us much together. He began
his English newspaper experience after a kind of apprenticeship on a German
daily with Stilson Hutchins, another interesting character of those days.
It was from Stilson Hutchins that I learned something of Pulitzer's origin
and beginnings, for he never spoke much of himself.
According to this story he was the offspring of a runaway marriage between
a subaltern officer in the Austrian service and a Hungarian lady of noble
birth. In some way he had got across the Atlantic, and being in Boston, a
wizened youth not speaking a word of English, he was spirited on board a
warship. Watching his chance of escape he leaped overboard in the darkness
of night, though it was the dead of winter, and swam ashore. He was found
unconscious on the beach by some charitable persons, who cared for him.
Thence he tramped it to St. Louis, where he heard there was a German
colony, and found work on a coal barge.
It was here that the journalistic instinct dawned upon him. He began to
carry river news items to the Westliche Post, which presently took him on
its staff of regular reporters.
The rest was easy. He learned to speak and write English, was transferred
to the paper of which Hutchins was the head, and before he was
five-and-twenty became a local figure.
When he turned up in New York with an offer to purchase the World we met
as old friends. During the interval between 1872 and 1883 we had had a
runabout in Europe and I was able to render him assistance in the purchase
proceeding he was having with Gould. When this was completed he said to me:
"You are at entire leisure; you are worse than that, you are wasting your
time about the clubs and watering places, doing no good for yourself, or
anybody else. I must first devote myself to the reorganization of the
business end of it. Here is a blank check. Fill it for whatever amount you
please and it will be honored. I want you to go upstairs and organize my
editorial force for me."
Indignantly I replied: "Go to the devil--you have not money enough--there
is not money enough in the universe--to buy an hour of my season's loaf."
A year later I found him occupying with his family a splendid mansion up
the Hudson, with a great stable of carriages and horses, living like a
country gentleman, going to the World office about time for luncheon and
coming away in the early afternoon. I passed a week-end with him. To me it
seemed the precursor of ruin. His second payment was yet to be made. Had I
been in his place I would have been taking my meals in an adjacent hotel,
sleeping on a cot in one of the editorial rooms and working fifteen hours
out of the twenty-four. To me it seemed dollars to doughnuts that he would
break down and go to smash. But he did not--another case of destiny.
I was abiding with my family at Monte Carlo, when in his floating palace,
the Liberty, he came into the harbor of Mentone. Then he bought a shore
palace at Cap Martin. That season, and the next two or three seasons, we
made voyages together from one end to the other of the Mediterranean,
visiting the islands, especially Corsica and Elba, shrines of Napoleon whom
he greatly admired.
He was a model host. He had surrounded himself with every luxury, including
some agreeable retainers, and lived like a prince aboard. His blindness had
already overtaken him. Other physical ailments assailed him. But no word of
complaint escaped his lips and he rarely failed to sit at the head of his
table. It was both splendid and pitiful.
Absolute authority made Pulitzer a tyrant. He regarded his newspaper
ownership as an autocracy. There was nothing gentle in his domination, nor,
I might say, generous either. He seriously lacked the sense of humor, and
even among his familiars could never take a joke. His love of money was by
no means inordinate. He spent it freely though not wastefully or joyously,
for the possession of it rather flattered his vanity than made occasion for
pleasure. Ability of varying kinds and degrees he had, a veritable genius
for journalism and a real capacity for affection. He held his friends at
good account and liked to have them about him. During the early days of his
success he was disposed to overindulgence, not to say conviviality. He
was fond of Rhine wines and an excellent judge of them, keeping a varied
assortment always at hand. Once, upon the Liberty, he observed that I
preferred a certain vintage. "You like this wine?" he said inquiringly. I
assented, and he said, "I have a lot of it at home, and when I get back I
will send you some." I had quite forgotten when, many months after, there
came to me a crate containing enough to last me a life-time.
He had a retentive memory and rarely forgot anything. I could recall many
pleasurable incidents of our prolonged and varied intimacy. We were one
day wandering about the Montmartre region of Paris when we came into a
hole-in-the-wall where they were playing a piece called "Les Brigands." It
was melodrama to the very marrow of the bones of the Apaches that gathered
and glared about. In those days, the "indemnity" paid and the "military
occupation" withdrawn, everything French pre-figured hatred of the German,
and be sure "Les Brigands" made the most of this; each "brigand" a
beer-guzzling Teuton; each hero a dare-devil Gaul; and, when Joan the Maid,
heroine, sent Goetz von Berlichingen, the Vandal Chieftain, sprawling in
the saw-dust, there was no end to the enthusiasm.
"We are all 'brigands'," said Pulitzer as we came away, "differing
according to individual character, to race and pursuit. Now, if I were
writing that play, I should represent the villain as a tyrannous City
Editor, meanly executing the orders of a niggardly proprietor."
"And the heroine?" I said.
"She should be a beautiful and rich young lady," he replied, "who buys
the newspaper and marries the cub--rescuing genius from poverty and
He was not then the owner of the World. He had not created the
Post-Dispatch, or even met the beautiful woman who became his wife. He was
a youngster of five or six and twenty, revisiting the scenes of his boyhood
on the beautiful blue Danube, and taking in Paris for a lark.
I first met General Grant in my own house. I had often been invited to his
house. As far back as 1870 John Russell Young, a friend from boyhood, came
with an invitation to pass the week-end as the President's guest at Long
Branch. Many of my friends had cottages there. Of afternoons and evenings
they played an infinitesimal game of draw poker.
"John," my answer was, "I don't dare to do so. I know that I shall fall
in love with General Grant. We are living in rough times--particularly in
rough party times. We have a rough presidential campaign ahead of us. If I
go down to the seashore and go in swimming and play penny-ante with General
Grant I shall not be able to do my duty."
It was thus that after the general had gone out of office and made the
famous journey round the world, and had come to visit relatives in
Kentucky, that he accepted a dinner invitation from me, and I had a number
of his friends to meet him.
Among these were Dr. Richardson, his early schoolmaster when the Grant
family lived at Maysville, and Walter Haldeman, my business partner, a
Maysville boy, who had been his schoolmate at the Richardson Academy, and
General Cerro Gordo Williams, then one of Kentucky's Senators in Congress,
and erst his comrade and chum when both were lieutenants in the Mexican
War. The bars were down, the windows were shut and there was no end of
hearty hilarity. Dr. Richardson had been mentioned by Mr. Haldeman as "the
only man that ever licked Grant," and the general promptly retorted "he
never licked me," when the good old doctor said, "No, Ulysses, I never
did--nor Walter, either--for you two were the best boys in school."
I said "General Grant, why not give up this beastly politics, buy a
blue-grass farm, and settle down to horse-raising and tobacco growing in
Kentucky?" And, quick as a flash--for both he and the company perceived
that it was "a leading question"--he replied, "Before I can buy a farm
in Kentucky I shall have to sell a farm in Missouri," which left nothing
further to be said.
There was some sparring between him and General Williams over their
youthful adventures. Finally General Williams, one of the readiest and most
amusing of talkers, returned one of General Grant's sallies with, "Anyhow,
I know of a man whose life you took unknown to yourself." Then he told of a
race he and Grant had outside of Galapa in 1846. "Don't you remember," he
said, "that riding ahead of me you came upon a Mexican loaded with a lot of
milk cans piled above his head and that you knocked him over as you swept
"Yes," said Grant, "I believed if I stopped or questioned or even deflected
it would lose me the race. I have not thought of it since. But now that you
mention it I recall it distinctly."
"Well," Williams continued, "you killed him. Your horse's hoof struck him.
When, seeing I was beaten, I rode back, his head was split wide open. I did
not tell you at the time because I knew it would cause you pain, and a dead
greaser more or less made no difference."
Later on General Grant took desk room in Victor Newcomb's private office in
New York. There I saw much of him, and we became good friends. He was the
most interesting of men. Soldierlike--monosyllabic--in his official and
business dealings he threw aside all formality and reserve in his social
intercourse, delightfully reminiscential, indeed a capital story teller. I
do not wonder that he had constant and disinterested friends who loved him
It has always been my opinion that if Chester A. Arthur had been named by
the Republicans as their candidate in 1884 they would have carried the
election, spite of what Mr. Blaine, who defeated Arthur in the convention,
had said and thought about the nomination of General Sherman. Arthur, like
Grant, belonged to the category of lovable men in public life.
There was a gallant captain in the army who had slapped his colonel in
the face on parade. Morally, as man to man, he had the right of it. But
military law is inexorable. The verdict was dismissal from the service. I
went with the poor fellow's wife and her sister to see General Hancock at
Governor's Island. It was a most affecting meeting--the general, tears
rolling down his cheeks, taking them into his arms, and, when he could
speak, saying: "I can do nothing but hold up the action of the court till
Monday. Your recourse is the President and a pardon; I will recommend it,
but"--putting his hand upon my shoulder--"here is the man to get the pardon
if the President can be brought to see the case as most of us see it."
At once I went over to Washington, taking Stephen French with me. When
we entered the President's apartment in the White House he advanced
smiling to greet us, saying: "I know what you boys are after; you mean--"
"Yes, Mr. President," I answered, "we do, and if ever--"
"I have thought over it, sworn over it, and prayed over it," he said, "and
I am going to pardon him!"
Another illustrative incident happened during the Arthur Administration.
The dismissal of Gen. Fitz-John Porter from the army had been the subject
of more or less acrimonious controversy. During nearly two decades this had
raged in army circles. At length the friends of Porter, led by Curtin and
Slocum, succeeded in passing a relief measure through Congress. They were
in ecstasies. That there might be a presidential objection had not crossed
Senator McDonald, of Indiana, a near friend of General Porter, and a man of
rare worldly wisdom, knew better. Without consulting them he came to me.
"You are personally close to the President," said he, "and you must know
that if this bill gets to the White House he will veto it. With the
Republican National Convention directly ahead he is bound to veto it. It
must not be allowed to get to him; and you are the man to stop it. They
will listen to you and will not listen to me."
First of all, I went to the White House.
"Mr. President," I said, "I want you to authorize me to tell Curtin and
Slocum not to send the Fitz-John Porter bill to you."
"Why?" he answered.
"Because," said I, "you will have to veto it; and, with the Frelinghuysens
wild for it, as well as others of your nearest friends, I am sure you don't
want to be obliged to do that. With your word to me I can stop it, and have
it for the present at least held up."
His answer was, "Go ahead."
Then I went to the Capitol. Curtin and Slocum were in a state of mind. It
was hard to make them understand or believe what I told them.
"Now, gentlemen," I continued, "I don't mean to argue the case. It is not
debatable. I am just from the White House, and I am authorized by the
President to say that if you send this bill to him he will veto it."
That, of course, settled it. They held it up. But after the presidential
election it reached Arthur, and he did veto it. Not till Cleveland came in
did Porter obtain his restoration.
Curiously enough General Grant approved this. I had listened to the
debate in the House--especially the masterly speech of William Walter
Phelps--without attaining a clear understanding of the many points at
issue. I said as much to General Grant.
"Why," he replied, "the case is as simple as A, B, C. Let me show you."
Then, with a pencil he traced the Second Bull Run battlefield, the location
of troops, both Federal and Confederate, and the exact passage in the
action which had compromised General Porter.
"If Porter had done what he was ordered to do," he went on, "Pope and his
army would have been annihilated. In point of fact Porter saved Pope's
Army." Then he paused and added: "I did not at the outset know this. I
was for a time of a different opinion and on the other side. It was
Longstreet's testimony--which had not been before the first Court of
Inquiry that convicted Porter--which vindicated him and convinced me."
Chapter the Tenth
Of Liars and Lying--Woman Suffrage and Feminism--The Professional
Female--Parties, Politics, and Politicians in America
All is fair in love and war, the saying hath it. "Lord!" cried the most
delightful of liars, "How this world is given to lying." Yea, and how
exigency quickens invention and promotes deceit.
Just after the war of sections I was riding in a train with Samuel Bowles,
who took a great interest in things Southern. He had been impressed by a
newspaper known as The Chattanooga Rebel and, as I had been its editor, put
innumerable questions to me about it and its affairs. Among these he asked
how great had been its circulation. Without explaining that often an entire
company, in some cases an entire regiment, subscribed for a few copies, or
a single copy, I answered: "I don't know precisely, but somewhere near a
hundred thousand, I take it." Then he said: "Where did you get your press
This was, of course, a poser, but it did not embarrass me in the least. I
was committed, and without a moment's thought I proceeded with an imaginary
explanation which he afterward declared had been altogether satisfying. The
story was too good to keep--maybe conscience pricked--and in a chummy talk
later along I laughingly confessed.
"You should tell that in your dinner speech tonight," he said. "If you tell
it as you have just told it to me, it will make a hit," and I did.
I give it as the opinion of a long life of experience and observation that
the newspaper press, whatever its delinquencies, is not a common liar, but
the most habitual of truth tellers. It is growing on its editorial page I
fear a little vapid and colorless. But there is a general and ever-present
purpose to print the facts and give the public the opportunity to reach its
There are liars and liars, lying and lying. It is, with a single exception,
the most universal and venial of human frailties. We have at least three
kinds of lying and species, or types, of liars--first, the common,
ordinary, everyday liar, who lies without rime or reason, rule or compass,
aim, intent or interest, in whose mind the partition between truth and
falsehood has fallen down; then the sensational, imaginative liar, who has
a tale to tell; and, finally, the mean, malicious liar, who would injure
This last is, indeed, but rare. Human nature is at its base amicable,
because if nothing hinders it wants to please. All of us, however, are more
or less its unconscious victims.
Competition is not alone the life of trade; it is the life of life; for
each of us is in one way, or another, competitive. There is but one
disinterested person in the world, the mother who whether of the human or
animal kingdom, will die for her young. Yet, after all, hers, too, is a
kind of selfishness.
The woman is becoming over much a professional female. It is of importance
that we begin to consider her as a new species, having enjoyed her beauty
long enough. Is the world on the way to organic revolution? If I were a
young man I should not care to be the lover of a professional female. As
an old man I have affectionate relations with a number of suffragettes, as
they dare not deny; that is to say, I long ago accepted woman suffrage as
inevitable, whether for good or evil, depending upon whether the woman's
movement is going to stop with suffrage or run into feminism, changing the
character of woman and her relations to men and with man.
I have never made party differences the occasion of personal quarrel or
estrangement. On the contrary, though I have been always called a Democrat,
I have many near and dear friends among the Republicans. Politics is not
war. Politics would not be war even if the politicians were consistent and
honest. But there are among them so many changelings, cheats and rogues.
Then, in politics as elsewhere, circumstances alter cases. I have as a rule
thought very little of parties as parties, professional politicians and
party leaders, and I think less of them as I grow older. The politician and
the auctioneer might be described like the lunatic, the lover and the poet,
as "of imagination all compact." One sees more mares' nests than would
fill a book; the other pure gold in pinchbeck wares; and both are out for
It is the habit--nay, the business--of the party speaker when he mounts the
raging stump to roar his platitudes into the ears of those who have the
simplicity to listen, though neither edified nor enlightened; to aver that
the horse he rides is sixteen feet high; that the candidate he supports is
a giant; and that he himself is no small figure of a man.
Thus he resembles the auctioneer. But it is the mock auctioneer whom he
resembles; his stock in trade being largely, if not altogether, fraudulent.
The success which at the outset of party welfare attended this legalized
confidence game drew into it more and more players. For a long time they
deceived themselves almost as much as the voters. They had not become
professional. They were amateur. Many of them played for sheer love of
the gamble. There were rules to regulate the play. But as time passed and
voters multiplied, the popular preoccupation increased the temptations and
opportunities for gain, inviting the enterprising, the skillful and the
corrupt to reconstitute patriotism into a commodity and to organize public
opinion into a bill of lading. Thus politics as a trade, parties as
trademarks, the politicians, like harlots, plying their vocation.
Now and again an able, honest and brave man, who aims at better things,
appears. In the event that fortune favors him and he attains high station,
he finds himself surrounded and thwarted by men less able and courageous,
who, however equal to discovering right from wrong, yet wear the party
collar, owe fealty to the party machine, are sometimes actual slaves of the
party boss. In the larger towns we hear of the City Hall ring; out in the
counties of the Court House ring. We rarely anywhere encounter clean,
responsible administration and pure, disinterested, public service.
The taxpayers are robbed before their eyes. The evil grows greater as we
near the centers of population. But there is scarcely a village or hamlet
where graft does not grow like weeds, the voters as gullible and helpless
as the infatuated victims of bunko tricks, ingeniously contrived by
professional crooks to separate the fool and his money. Is self-government
None of us would allow the votaries of the divine right of kings to tell
us so, albeit we are ready enough to admit the imperfections of universal
suffrage, too often committing affairs of pith and moment, even of life and
death, to the arbitrament of the mob, and costing more in cash outlay than
The quadrennial period in American politics, set apart and dedicated to
the election of presidents, magnifies these evil features in an otherwise
admirable system of government. That the whipper-snappers of the vicinage
should indulge their propensities comes as the order of their nature.
But the party leaders are not far behind them. Each side construes every
occurrence as an argument in its favor, assuring it certain victory. Take,
for example, the latest state election anywhere. In point of fact, it
foretold nothing. It threw no light upon coming events, not even upon
current events. It leaves the future as hazy as before. Yet the managers of
either party affect to be equally confident that it presages the triumph of
their ticket in the next national election. The wonder is that so many of
the voters will believe and be influenced by such transparent subterfuge.
Is there any remedy for all this? I much fear that there is not.
Government, like all else, is impossible of perfection. It is as man
is--good, bad and indifferent; which is but another way of saying we live
in a world of cross purposes. We in America prefer republicanism. But would
despotism be so demurrable under a wise unselfish despot?
Contemplating the contrasts between foreign life and foreign history with
our own one cannot help reflecting upon the yet more startling contrasts of
ancient and modern religion and government. I have wandered not a little
over Europe at irregular intervals for more than fifty years. Always a
devotee to American institutions, I have been strengthened in my beliefs by
what I have encountered.
The mood in our countrymen has been overmuch to belittle things American.
The commercial spirit in the United States, which affects to be
nationalistic, is in reality cosmopolitan. Money being its god, French
money, English money, anything that calls itself money, is wealth to it. It
has no time to waste on theories or to think of generics. "Put money in thy
purse" has become its motto. Money constitutes the reason of its being.
The organic law of the land is Greek to it, as are those laws of God which
obstruct it. It is too busy with its greed and gain to think, or to feel,
on any abstract subject. That which does not appeal to it in the concrete
is of no interest at all.
Just as in the days of Charles V and Philip II, all things yielded to the
theologian's misconception of the spiritual life so in these days of the
Billionaires all things spiritual and abstract yield to what they call the
progress of the universe and the leading of the times. Under their rule we
have had extraordinary movement just as under the lords of the Palatinate
and the Escurial--the medieval union of the devils of bigotry and
power--Europe, which was but another name for Spain, had extraordinary
movement. We know where it ended with Spain. Whither is it leading us? Are
we traveling the same road?
Let us hope not. Let us believe not. Yet, once strolling along through the
crypt of the Church of the Escurial near Madrid, I could not repress the
idea of a personal and physical resemblance between the effigies in marble
and bronze looking down upon me whichever way I turned, to some of our
contemporary public men and seeming to say: "My love to the President when
you see him next," and "Don't forget to remember me kindly, please, to the
chairmen of both your national committees!"
In a world of sin, disease and death--death inevitable--what may man do to
drive out sin and cure disease, to the end that, barring accident, old age
shall set the limit on mortal life?
The quack doctor equally in ethics and in physics has played a leading part
in human affairs. Only within a relatively brief period has science made
serious progress toward discovery. Though Nature has perhaps an antidote
for all her posions many of them continue to defy approach. They lie
concealed, leaving the astutest to grope in the dark.
That which is true of material things is truer yet of spiritual things. The
ideal about which we hear so much, is as unattained as the fabled bag of
gold at the end of the rainbow. Nor is the doctrine of perfectability
anywhere one with itself. It speaks in diverse tongues. Its processes and
objects are variant. It seems but an iridescent dream which lends itself
equally to the fancies of the impracticable and the scheming of the
self-seeking, breeding visionaries and pretenders.
Easily assumed and asserted, too often it becomes tyrannous, dealing with
things outer and visible while taking little if any account of the inner
lights of the soul. Thus it imposes upon credulity and ignorance; makes
fakers of some and fanatics of others; in politics where not an engine of
oppression, a corrupt influence; in religion where not a zealot, a promoter
of cant. In short the self-appointed apostle of uplift, who disregarding
individual character would make virtue a matter of statute law and ordain
uniformity of conduct by act of conventicle or assembly, is likelier to
produce moral chaos than to reach the sublime state he claims to seek.
The bare suggestion is full of startling possibilities. Individualism was
the discovery of the fathers of the American Republic. It is the bedrock
of our political philosophy. Human slavery was assuredly an indefensible
institution. But the armed enforcement of freedom did not make a black man
a white man. Nor will the wave of fanaticism seeking to control the food
and drink and dress of the people make men better men. Danger lurks and is
bound to come with the inevitable reaction.
The levity of the men is recruited by the folly of the women. The leaders
of feminism would abolish sex. To what end? The pessimist answers what
easier than the demolition of a sexless world gone entirely mad? How simple
the engineries of destruction. Civil war in America; universal hara-kiri
in Europe; the dry rot of wealth wasting itself in self-indulgence. Then a
thousand years of total eclipse. Finally Macaulay's Australian surveying
the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral from a broken parapet of London Bridge;
and a Moslem conqueror of America looking from the hill of the Capitol at
Washington upon the desolation of what was once the District of Columbia.
Shall the end be an Oriental renaissance with the philosophies of Buddha,
Mohammed and Confucius welded into a new religion describing itself as the
last word of science, reason and common sense?
Alas, and alack the day! In those places where the suffering rich most do
congregate the words of Watts' hymn have constant application:
_For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do._
When they have not gone skylarking or grown tired of bridge they devote
their leisure to organizing clubs other than those of the uplift. There
are all sorts, from the Society for the Abrogation of Bathing Suits at the
seaside resorts to the League at Mewville for the Care of Disabled Cats.
Most of these clubs are all officers and no privates. That is what many of
them are got up for. Do they advance the world in grace? One who surveys
the scene can scarcely think so.
But the whirl goes on; the yachts sweep proudly out to sea; the auto cars
dash madly through the streets; more and darker and deeper do the contrasts
of life show themselves. How long shall it be when the mudsill millions
take the upper ten thousand by the throat and rend them as the furiosos of
the Terror in France did the aristocrats of the _Regime Ancien_? The
issue between capital and labor, for example, is full of generating
heat and hate. Who shall say that, let loose in the crowded centers of
population, it may not one day engulf us all?
Is this rank pessimism or merely the vagaries of an old man dropping back
into second childhood, who does not see that the world is wiser and better
than ever it was, mankind and womankind, surely on the way to perfection?
One thing is certain: We are not standing still. Since "Adam delved and Eve
span"--if they ever did--in the Garden of Eden, "somewhere in Asia," to the
"goings on" in the Garden of the Gods directly under Pike's Peak--the earth
we inhabit has at no time and nowhere wanted for liveliness--but surely
it was never livelier than it now is; as the space-writer says, more
"dramatic"; indeed, to quote the guidebooks, quite so "picturesque and
Go where one may, on land or sea, he will come upon activities of one sort
and another. Were Timon of Athens living, he might be awakened from his
misanthrophy and Jacques, the forest cynic, stirred to something like
enthusiasm. Is the world enduring the pangs of a second birth which shall
recreate all things anew, supplementing the miracles of modern invention
with a corresponding development of spiritual life; or has it reached the
top of the hill, and, mortal, like the human atoms that compose it, is it
starting downward on the other side into an abyss which the historians of
the future will once again call "the dark ages?"
We know not, and there is none to tell us. That which is actually happening
were unbelievable if we did not see it, from hour to hour, from day to day.
Horror succeeding horror has in some sort blunted our sensibilities. Not
only are our sympathies numbed by the immensity of the slaughter and the
sorrow, but patriotism itself is chilled by the selfish thought that,
having thus far measurably escaped, we may pull through without paying our
share. This will account for a certain indifferentism we now and again
At the moment we are felicitating ourselves--or, is it merely confusing
ourselves?--over the revolution in Russia. It seems of good augury. To
begin with, for Russia. Then the murder war fairly won for the Allies, we
are promised by the optimists a wise and lasting peace.
The bells that rang out in Petrograd and Moscow sounded, we are told, the
death knell of autocracy in Berlin and Vienna. The clarion tones that
echoed through the Crimea and Siberia, albeit to the ear of the masses
muffled in the Schwarzwald and along the shores of the North Sea, and up
and down the Danube and the Rhine, yet conveyed a whispered message which
may presently break into song; the glad song of freedom with it glorious
refrain: "The Romanoffs gone! Perdition having reached the Hohenzollerns
and the Hapsburgs, all will be well!"
Anyhow, freedom; self-government; for whilst a scrutinizing and solicitous
pessimism, observing and considering many abuses, administrative and
political, federal and local, in our republican system--abuses which being
very visible are most lamentable--may sometimes move us to lose heart of
hope in democracy, we know of none better. So, let us stand by it; pray for
it; fight for it. Let us by our example show the Russians how to attain it.
Let us by the same token show the Germans how to attain it when they come
to see, if they ever do, the havoc autocracy has made for Germany. That
should constitute the bed rock of our politics and our religion. It is the
true religion. Love of country is love of God. Patriotism is religion.
It is also Christianity. The pacifist, let me parenthetically observe,
is scarcely a Christian. There be technical Christians and there be
Christians. The technical Christian sees nothing but the blurred letter of
the law, which he misconstrues. The Christian, animated by its holy spirit
and led by its rightful interpretation, serves the Lord alike of heaven and
hosts when he flies the flag of his country and smites its enemies hip and
Chapter the Eleventh
Andrew Johnson--The Liberal Convention in 1872--Carl Schurz--The
"Quadrilateral"--Sam Bowles, Horace White and Murat Halstead--A Queer
Composite of Incongruities
Among the many misconceptions and mischances that befell the slavery
agitation in the United States and finally led a kindred people into actual
war the idea that got afloat after this war that every Confederate was a
Secessionist best served the ends of the radicalism which sought to reduce
the South to a conquered province, and as such to reconstruct it by hostile
legislation supported wherever needed by force.
Andrew Johnson very well understood that a great majority of the men who
were arrayed on the Southern side had taken the field against their better
judgment through pressure of circumstance. They were Union men who had
opposed secession and clung to the old order. Not merely in the Border
States did this class rule but in the Gulf States it held a respectable
minority until the shot fired upon Sumter drew the call for troops from
Lincoln. The Secession leaders, who had staked their all upon the hazard,
knew that to save their movement from collapse it was necessary that blood
be sprinkled in the faces of the people. Hence the message from Charleston:
_With cannon, mortar and petard
We tender you our Beauregard_--
with the response from Washington precipitating the conflict of theories
into a combat of arms for which neither party was prepared.
The debate ended, battle at hand, Southern men had to choose between the
North and the South, between their convictions and predilections on one
side and expatriation on the other side--resistance to invasion, not
secession, the issue. But four years later, when in 1865 all that they had
believed and feared in 1861 had come to pass, these men required no drastic
measures to bring them to terms. Events more potent than acts of Congress
had already reconstructed them. Lincoln with a forecast of this had shaped
his ends accordingly. Johnson, himself a Southern man, understood it even
better than Lincoln, and backed by the legacy of Lincoln he proceeded not
very skillfully to build upon it.
The assassination of Lincoln, however, had played directly into the hands
of the radicals, led by Ben Wade in the Senate and Thaddeus Stevens in the
House. Prior to that baleful night they had fallen behind the marching
van. The mad act of Booth put them upon their feet and brought them to the
front. They were implacable men, politicians equally of resolution and
ability. Events quickly succeeding favored them and their plans. It was not
alone Johnson's lack of temper and tact that gave them the whip hand. His
removal from office would have opened the door of the White House to Wade,
so that strategically Johnson's position was from the beginning beleaguered
and came perilously near before the close to being untenable.
Grant, a political nondescript, not Wade, the uncompromising extremist,
came after; and inevitably four years of Grant had again divided the
triumphant Republicans. This was the situation during the winter of
1871-72, when the approaching Presidential election brought the country
face to face with a most extraordinary state of affairs. The South was in
irons. The North was growing restive. Thinking people everywhere felt
that conditions so anomalous to our institutions could not and should not
Johnson had made a bungling attempt to carry out the policies of Lincoln
and had gone down in the strife. The Democratic Party had reached the ebb
tide of its disastrous fortunes.
It seemed the merest reactionary. A group of influential Republicans,
dissatisfied for one cause and another with Grant, held a caucus and issued
a call for what they described as a Liberal Republican Convention to
assemble in Cincinnati May 1, 1872.
A Southern man and a Confederate soldier, a Democrat by conviction and
inheritance, I had been making in Kentucky an uphill fight for the
acceptance of the inevitable. The line of cleavage between the old and the
new South I had placed upon the last three amendments to the Constitution,
naming them the Treaty of Peace between the Sections. The negro must be
invested with the rights conferred upon him by these amendments, however
mistaken and injudicious the South might think them. The obsolete Black
Laws instituted during the slave regime must be removed from the statute
books. The negro, like Mohammed's coffin, swung in midair. He was neither
fish, flesh nor fowl, nor good red herring. For our own sake we must
habilitate him, educate and elevate him, make him, if possible, a contented
and useful citizen. Failing of this, free government itself might be
I had behind me the intelligence of the Confederate soldiers almost to a
man. They at least were tired of futile fighting, and to them the war was
over. But--and especially in Kentucky--there was an element that wanted to
fight when it was too late; old Union Democrats and Union Whigs who clung
to the hull of slavery when the kernel was gone, and proposed to win in
politics what had been lost in battle.
The leaders of this belated element were in complete control of the
political machinery of the state. They regarded me as an impudent
upstart--since I had come to Kentucky from Tennessee--as little better than
a carpet-bagger; and had done their uttermost to put me down and drive me
[Illustration: Abraham Lincoln in 1861 _From a Photograph by M B
I was a young fellow of two and thirty, of boundless optimism and my full
share of self-confidence, no end of physical endurance and mental vitality,
having some political as well as newspaper experience. It never crossed my
fancy that I could fail.
I met resistance with aggression, answered attempts at bullying with
scorn, generally irradiated by laughter. Yet was I not wholly blind to
consequences and the admonitions of prudence; and when the call for a
Liberal Republican Convention appeared I realized that if I expected to
remain a Democrat in a Democratic community, and to influence and lead a
Democratic following, I must proceed warily.
Though many of those proposing the new movement were familiar
acquaintances--some of them personal friends--the scheme was in the air, as
it were. Its three newspaper bellwethers--Samuel Bowles, Horace White and
Murat Halstead--were especially well known to me; so were Horace Greeley,
Carl Schurz and Charles Sumner, Stanley Matthews being my kinsman, George
Hoadley and Cassius M. Clay next-door neighbors. But they were not the men
I had trained with--not my "crowd"--and it was a question how far I might
be able to reconcile myself, not to mention my political associates, to
such company, even conceding that they proceeded under good fortune with a
good plan, offering the South extrication from its woes and the Democratic
Party an entering wedge into a solid and hitherto irresistible North.
Nevertheless, I resolved to go a little in advance to Cincinnati, to have a
look at the stalking horse there to be displayed, free to take it or leave
it as I liked, my bridges and lines of communication quite open and intact.
A livelier and more variegated omnium-gatherum was never assembled. They
had already begun to straggle in when I arrived. There were long-haired
and spectacled doctrinaires from New England, spliced by short-haired and
stumpy emissaries from New York--mostly friends of Horace Greeley, as it
turned out. There were brisk Westerners from Chicago and St. Louis. If
Whitelaw Reid, who had come as Greeley's personal representative, had his
retinue, so had Horace White and Carl Schurz. There were a few rather
overdressed persons from New Orleans brought up by Governor Warmouth, and a
motely array of Southerners of every sort, who were ready to clutch at any
straw that promised relief to intolerable conditions. The full contingent
of Washington correspondents was there, of course, with sharpened eyes and
pens to make the most of what they had already begun to christen a conclave
Bowles and Halstead met me at the station, and we drove to the St. Nicholas
Hotel, where Schurz and White were awaiting us. Then and there was
organized a fellowship which in the succeeding campaign cut a considerable
figure and went by the name of the Quadrilateral. We resolved to limit
the Presidential nominations of the convention to Charles Francis Adams,
Bowles' candidate, and Lyman Trumbull, White's candidate, omitting
altogether, because of specific reasons urged by White, the candidacy of B.
Gratz Brown, who because of his Kentucky connections had better suited my
The very next day the secret was abroad, and Whitelaw Reid came to me to
ask why in a newspaper combine of this sort the New York Tribune had been
To my mind it seemed preposterous that it had been or should be, and I
stated as much to my new colleagues. They offered objection which to me
appeared perverse if not childish. They did not like Reid, to begin with.
He was not a principal like the rest of us, but a subordinate. Greeley was
this, that and the other. He could never be relied upon in any coherent
practical plan of campaign. To talk about him as a candidate was
I listened rather impatiently and finally I said: "Now, gentlemen, in this
movement we shall need the New York Tribune. If we admit Reid we clinch it.
You will all agree that Greeley has no chance of a nomination, and so by
taking him in we both eat our cake and have it."
On this view of the case Reid was invited to join us, and that very night
he sat with us at the St. Nicholas, where from night to night until the end
we convened and went over the performances and developments of the day and
concerted plans for the morrow.
As I recall these symposiums some amusing and some plaintive memories rise
The first serious business that engaged us was the killing of the boom for
Judge David Davis, of the Supreme Court, which was assuming definite and
formidable proportions. The preceding winter it had been incubating at
Washington under the ministration of some of the most astute politicians of
the time, mainly, however, Democratic members of Congress.
A party of these had brought it to Cincinnati, opening headquarters well
provided with the requisite commissaries. Every delegate who came in that
could be reached was laid hold of and conducted to Davis' headquarters.
We considered it flat burglary. It was a gross infringement upon our
copyrights. What business had the professional politicians with a great
reform movement? The influence and dignity of journalism were at stake. The
press was imperilled. We, its custodians, could brook no such deflection,
not to say defiance, from intermeddling office seekers, especially from
broken-down Democratic office seekers.
The inner sanctuary of our proceedings was a common drawing-room between
two bedchambers, occupied by Schurz and myself. Here we repaired after
supper to smoke the pipe of fraternity and reform, and to save the country.
What might be done to kill off "D. Davis," as we irreverently called the
eminent and learned jurist, the friend of Lincoln and the only aspirant
having a "bar'l"? That was the question. We addressed ourselves to the task
with earnest purpose, but characteristically. The power of the press must
be invoked. It was our chief if not our only weapon. Seated at the same
table each of us indited a leading editorial for his paper, to be wired
to its destination and printed next morning, striking D. Davis at a
prearranged and varying angle. Copies of these were made for Halstead, who
having with the rest of us read and compared the different scrolls
indited one of his own in general commentation and review for Cincinnati
consumption. In next day's Commercial, blazing under vivid headlines, these
leading editorials, dated "Chicago" and "New York," "Springfield, Mass.,"
and "Louisville, Ky.," appeared with the explaining line "The Tribune
of to-morrow morning will say--" "The Courier-Journal--and the
Republican--will say to-morrow morning--"
Wondrous consensus of public opinion! The Davis boom went down before it.
The Davis boomers were paralyzed. The earth seemed to have risen and hit
them midships. The incoming delegates were arrested and forewarned. Six
months of adroit scheming was set at naught, and little more was heard of
We were, like the Mousquetaires, equally in for fighting and foot-racing,
the point with us being to get there, no matter how; the end--the defeat
of the rascally machine politicians and the reform of the public
service--justifying the means. I am writing this nearly fifty years after
the event and must be forgiven the fling of my wisdom at my own expense and
that of my associates in harmless crime.
Some ten years ago I wrote: "Reid and White and I the sole survivors; Reid
a great Ambassador, White and I the virtuous ones, still able to sit up and
take notice, with three meals a day for which we are thankful and able to
pay; no one of us recalcitrant. We were wholly serious--maybe a trifle
visionary, but as upright and patriotic in our intentions and as loyal to
our engagements as it was possible for older and maybe better men to be.
For my part I must say that if I have never anything on my conscience worse
than the massacre of that not very edifying yet promising combine I shall
be troubled by no remorse, but to the end shall sleep soundly and well."
Alas, I am not the sole survivor. In this connection an amusing incident
throwing some light upon the period thrusts itself upon my memory. The
Quadrilateral, including Reid, had just finished its consolidation of
public opinion before related, when the cards of Judge Craddock, chairman
of the Kentucky Democratic Committee, and of Col. Stoddard Johnston, editor
of the Frankfort Yeoman, the organ of the Kentucky Democracy, were brought
from below. They had come to look after me--that was evident. By no chance
could they find me in more equivocal company. In addition to ourselves--bad
enough, from the Kentucky point of view--Theodore Tilton, Donn Piatt and
David A. Wells were in the room.
When the Kentuckians crossed the threshold and were presented seriatim the
face of each was a study. Even a proper and immediate application of whisky
and water did not suffice to restore their lost equilibrium and bring them
to their usual state of convivial self-possession. Colonel Johnston told me
years after that when they went away they walked in silence a block or two,
when the old judge, a model of the learned and sedate school of Kentucky
politicians and jurists, turned to him and said: "It is no use, Stoddart,
we cannot keep up with that young man or with these times. 'Lord, now
lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!'"
The Jupiter Tonans of reform in attendance upon the convention was Col.
Alexander K. McClure. He was one of the handsomest and most imposing of
men; Halstead himself scarcely more so. McClure was personally unknown to
the Quadrilateral. But this did not stand in the way of our asking him
to dine with us as soon as his claims to fellowship in the good cause of
reform began to make themselves apparent through the need of bringing the
Pennsylvania delegation to a realizing sense.
He looked like a god as he entered the room; nay, he acted like one. Schurz
first took him in hand. With a lofty courtesy I have never seen equalled he
tossed his inquisitor into the air. Halstead came next, and tried him upon
another tack. He fared no better than Schurz. And hurrying to the rescue
of my friends, McClure, looking now a bit bored and resentful, landed me
somewhere near the ceiling.
It would have been laughable if it had not been ignominious. I took my
discomfiture with the bad grace of silence throughout the stiff, formal and
brief meal which was then announced. But when it was over and the party,
risen from table, was about to disperse I collected my energies and
resources for a final stroke. I was not willing to remain so crushed nor to
confess myself so beaten, though I could not disguise from myself a feeling
that all of us had been overmatched.
"McClure," said I with the cool and quiet resolution of despair, drawing
him aside, "what in the ---- do you want anyhow?"
He looked at me with swift intelligence and a sudden show of sympathy, and
then over at the others with a withering glance.
"What? With those cranks? Nothing."
Jupiter descended to earth. I am afraid we actually took a glass of wine
together. Anyhow, from that moment to the hour of his death we were the
best of friends.
Without the inner circle of the Quadrilateral, which had taken matters into
their own hands, were a number of persons, some of them disinterested and
others simple curiosity and excitement seekers, who might be described as
merely lookers-on in Vienna. The Sunday afternoon before the convention was
to meet we, the self-elect, fell in with a party of these in a garden "over
the Rhine," as the German quarter of Cincinnati is called. There was first
general and rather aimless talk. Then came a great deal of speech making.
Schurz started it with a few pungent observations intended to suggest and
inspire some common ground of opinion and sentiment. Nobody was inclined
to dispute his leadership, but everybody was prone to assert his own. It
turned out that each regarded himself and wished to be regarded as a man
with a mission, having a clear idea how things were not to be done. There
were Civil Service Reform Protectionists and Civil Service Reform Free
Traders. There were a few politicians, who were discovered to be spoilsmen,
the unforgivable sin, and quickly dismissed as such.
Coherence was the missing ingredient. Not a man jack of them was willing
to commit or bind himself to anything. Edward Atkinson pulled one way and
William Dorsheimer exactly the opposite way. David A. Wells sought to
get the two together; it was not possible. Sam Bowles shook his head
in diplomatic warning. Horace White threw in a chunk or so of a rather
agitating newspaper independency, and Halstead was in an inflamed state of
jocosity to the more serious-minded.
It was nuts to the Washington Correspondents--story writers and satirists
who were there to make the most out of an occasion in which the bizarre was
much in excess of the conventional--with George Alfred Townsend and Donn
Piatt to set the pace. Hyde had come from St. Louis to keep especial tab on
Grosvenor. Though rival editors facing our way, they had not been admitted
to the Quadrilateral. McCullagh and Nixon arrived with the earliest from
Chicago. The lesser lights of the guild were innumerable. One might have
mistaken it for an annual meeting of the Associated Press.
The convention assembled. It was in Cincinnati's great Music Hall. Schurz
presided. Who that was there will ever forget his opening words: "This is
moving day." He was just turned forty-two; in his physiognomy a scholarly
_Herr Doktor_; in his trim lithe figure a graceful athlete; in the
tones of his voice an orator.
Even the bespectacled doctrinaires of the East, whence, since the days when
the Star of Bethlehem shone over the desert, wisdom and wise men have had
their emanation, were moved to something like enthusiasm. The rest of us
were fervid and aglow. Two days and a night and a half the Quadrilateral
had the world in a sling and things its own way. It had been agreed, as I
have said, to limit the field to Adams, Trumbull and Greeley; Greeley being
out of it, as having no chance, still further abridged it to Adams and
Trumbull; and, Trumbull not developing very strong, Bowles, Halstead and
I, even White, began to be sure of Adams on the first ballot; Adams the
indifferent, who had sailed away for Europe, observing that he was not a
candidate for the nomination and otherwise intimating his disdain of us and
Matters thus apparently cocked and primed, the convention adjourned over
the first night of its session with everybody happy except the D. Davis
contingent, which lingered on the scene, but knew its "cake was dough."
If we had forced a vote that night, as we might have done, we should have
nominated Adams. But inspired by the bravery of youth and inexperience we
let the golden opportunity slip. The throng of delegates and the audience
In those days, it being the business of my life to turn day into night and
night into day, it was not my habit to seek my bed much before the presses
began to thunder below, and this night proving no exception, and being
tempted by a party of Kentuckians, who had come, some to back me and some
to watch me, I did not quit their agreeable society until the "wee short
hours ayont the twal." Before turning in I glanced at the early edition
of the Commercial, to see that something--I was too tired to decipher
precisely what--had happened. It was, in point of fact, the arrival about
midnight of Gen. Frank P. Blair and Governor B. Gratz Brown.
I had in my possession documents that would have induced at least one of
them to pause before making himself too conspicuous. The Quadrilateral,
excepting Reid, knew this. We had separated upon the adjournment of the
convention. I being across the river in Covington, their search was
unavailing. I was not to be found. They were in despair. When having had
a few hours of rest I reached the convention hall toward noon it was too
I got into the thick of it in time to see the close, not without an angry
collision with that one of the newly arrived actors whose coming had
changed the course of events, with whom I had lifelong relations of
affectionate intimacy. Sailing but the other day through Mediterranean
waters with Joseph Pulitzer, who, then a mere youth, was yet the secretary
of the convention, he recalled the scene; the unexpected and not over
attractive appearance of the governor of Missouri; his not very pleasing
yet ingenious speech; the stoical, almost lethargic indifference of Schurz.
"Carl Schurz," said Pulitzer, "was the most industrious and the least
energetic man I have ever worked with. A word from him at that crisis would
have completely routed Blair and squelched Brown. It was simply not in him
to speak it."
Greeley was nominated amid a whirl of enthusiasm, his workers, with
Whitelaw Reid at their head, having maintained an admirable and effective
organization and being thoroughly prepared to take advantage of the
opportune moment. It was the logic of the event that B. Gratz Brown should
be placed on the ticket with him.
The Quadrilateral was nowhere. It was done for. The impossible had come to
pass. There rose thereafter a friendly issue of veracity between Schurz and
myself, which illustrates our state of mind. My version is that we left the
convention hall together with an immaterial train of after incidents, his
that we had not met after the adjournment--he quite sure of this because he
had looked for me in vain.
"Schurz was right," said Joseph Pulitzer upon the occasion of our yachting
cruise just mentioned, "I know, for he and I went directly from the hall
with Judge Stallo to his home on Walnut Hills, where we dined and passed
[Illustration: Mrs. Lincoln in 1861 _From a Photograph by M. B.
The Quadrilateral had been knocked into a cocked hat. Whitelaw Reid was the
only one of us who clearly understood the situation and thoroughly knew
what he was about. He came to me and said: "I have won, and you people have
lost. I shall expect that you stand by the agreement and meet me as my
guests at dinner to-night. But if you do not personally look after this the
others will not be there."
I was as badly hurt as any, but a bond is a bond and I did as he desired,
succeeding partly by coaxing and partly by insisting, though it was devious
Frostier conviviality I have never sat down to than Reid's dinner. Horace
White looked more than ever like an iceberg, Sam Bowles was diplomatic
but ineffusive, Schurz was as a death's head at the board; Halstead and I
through sheer bravado tried to enliven the feast. But they would none of
us, nor it, and we separated early and sadly, reformers hoist by their own
The reception by the country of the nomination of Horace Greeley was as
inexplicable to the politicians as the nomination itself had been
unexpected by the Quadrilateral. The people rose to it. The sentimental,
the fantastic and the paradoxical in human nature had to do with this. At
the South an ebullition of pleased surprise grew into positive enthusiasm.
Peace was the need if not the longing of the Southern heart, and Greeley's
had been the first hand stretched out to the South from the enemy's
camp--very bravely, too, for he had signed the bail bond of Jefferson
Davis--and quick upon the news flashed the response from generous men eager
for the chance to pay something upon a recognized debt of gratitude.
Except for this spontaneous uprising, which continued unabated in July, the
Democratic Party could not have been induced at Baltimore to ratify the
proceedings at Cincinnati and formally to make Greeley its candidate. The
leaders dared not resist it. Some of them halted, a few held out, but by
midsummer the great body of them came to the front to head the procession.
He was a queer old man; a very medley of contradictions; shrewd and simple;
credulous and penetrating; a master penman of the school of Swift and
Cobbett; even in his odd picturesque personality whimsically attractive; a
man to be reckoned with where he chose to put his powers forth, as Seward
learned to his cost.
What he would have done with the Presidency had he reached it is not easy
to say or surmise. He was altogether unsuited for official life, for which
nevertheless he had a passion. But he was not so readily deceived in men or
misled in measures as he seemed and as most people thought him.
His convictions were emotional, his philosophy was experimental; but there
was a certain method in their application to public affairs. He gave
bountifully of his affection and his confidence to the few who enjoyed his
familiar friendship--accessible and sympathetic though not indiscriminating
to those who appealed to his impressionable sensibilities and sought his
help. He had been a good party man and was by nature and temperament a
To him place was not a badge of servitude; it was a decoration--preferment,
promotion, popular recognition. He had always yearned for office as the
legitimate destination of public life and the honorable award of party
service. During the greater part of his career the conditions of journalism
had been rather squalid and servile. He was really great as a journalist.
He was truly and highly fit for nothing else, but seeing less deserving and
less capable men about him advanced from one post of distinction to another
he wondered why his turn proved so tardy in coming, and when it would come.
It did come with a rush. What more natural than that he should believe it
real instead of the empty pageant of a vision?
It had taken me but a day and a night to pull myself together after the
first shock and surprise and to plunge into the swim to help fetch the
waterlogged factions ashore. This was clearly indispensable to forcing
the Democratic organization to come to the rescue of what would have been
otherwise but a derelict upon a stormy sea. Schurz was deeply disgruntled.
Before he could be appeased a bridge, found in what was called the Fifth
Avenue Hotel Conference, had to be constructed in order to carry him across
the stream which flowed between his disappointed hopes and aims and what
appeared to him an illogical and repulsive alternative. He had taken to his
tent and sulked like another Achilles. He was harder to deal with than any
of the Democratic file leaders, but he finally yielded and did splendid
work in the campaign.
His was a stubborn spirit not readily adjustable. He was a nobly gifted
man, but from first to last an alien in an alien land. He once said to me,
"If I should live a thousand years they would still call me a Dutchman." No
man of his time spoke so well or wrote to better purpose. He was equally
skillful in debate, an overmatch for Conkling and Morton, whom--especially
in the French arms matter--he completely dominated and outshone. As sincere
and unselfish, as patriotic and as courageous as any of his contemporaries,
he could never attain the full measure of the popular heart and confidence,
albeit reaching its understanding directly and surely; within himself a man
of sentiment who was not the cause of sentiment in others. He knew this and
The Nast cartoons, which as to Greeley and Sumner were unsparing in the
last degree, whilst treating Schurz with a kind of considerate qualifying
humor, nevertheless greatly offended him. I do not think Greeley minded
them much if at all. They were very effective; notably the "Pirate Ship,"
which represented Greeley leaning over the taffrail of a vessel carrying
the Stars and Stripes and waving his handkerchief at the man-of-war Uncle
Sam in the distance, the political leaders of the Confederacy dressed in
true corsair costume crouched below ready to spring. Nothing did more to
sectionalize Northern opinion and fire the Northern heart, and to lash the
fury of the rank and file of those who were urged to vote as they had shot
and who had hoisted above them the Bloody Shirt for a banner. The first
half of the canvass the bulge was with Greeley; the second half began in
eclipse, to end in something very like collapse.
The old man seized his flag and set out upon his own account for a tour of
the country. Right well he bore himself. If speech-making ever does any
good toward the shaping of results Greeley's speeches surely should have
elected him. They were marvels of impromptu oratory, mostly homely and
touching appeals to the better sense and the magnanimity of a people not
ripe or ready for generous impressions; convincing in their simplicity and
integrity; unanswerable from any standpoint of sagacious statesmanship or
true patriotism if the North had been in any mood to listen and to reason.
I met him at Cincinnati and acted as his escort to Louisville and thence to
Indianapolis, where others were waiting to take him in charge. He was in a
state of querulous excitement. Before the vast and noisy audiences which we
faced he stood apparently pleased and composed, delivering his words as he
might have dictated them to a stenographer. As soon as we were alone he
would break out into a kind of lamentation, punctuated by occasional bursts
of objurgation. He especially distrusted the Quadrilateral, making an
exception in my case, as well he might, because however his nomination had
jarred my judgment I had a real affection for him, dating back to the years
immediately preceding the war when I was wont to encounter him in the
reporters' galleries at Washington, which he preferred to using his floor
privilege as an ex-member of Congress.
It was mid-October. We had heard from Maine; Indiana and Ohio had voted. He
was for the first time realizing the hopeless nature of the contest. The
South in irons and under military rule and martial law sure for Grant,
there had never been any real chance. Now it was obvious that there was to
be no compensating ground swell at the North. That he should pour forth his
chagrin to one whom he knew so well and even regarded as one of his boys
was inevitable. Much of what he said was founded on a basis of fact, some
of it was mere suspicion and surmise, all of it came back to the main point
that defeat stared us in the face. I was glad and yet loath to part with
him. If ever a man needed a strong friendly hand and heart to lean upon he
did during those dark days--the end in darkest night nearer than anyone
could divine. He showed stronger mettle than had been allowed him: bore
a manlier part than was commonly ascribed to the slovenly slipshod
habiliments and the aspects in which benignancy and vacillation seemed to
struggle for the ascendancy. Abroad the elements conspired against him.
At home his wife lay ill, as it proved, unto death. The good gray head he
still carried like a hero, but the worn and tender heart was beginning to
break. Overwhelming defeat was followed by overwhelming affliction. He
never quitted his dear one's beside until the last pulsebeat, and then he
sank beneath the load of grief.
"The Tribune is gone and I am gone," he said, and spoke no more.
The death of Greeley fell upon the country with a sudden shock. It roused a
universal sense of pity and sorrow and awe. All hearts were hushed. In an
instant the bitterness of the campaign was forgotten, though the huzzas of
the victors still rent the air. The President, his late antagonist, with
his cabinet and the leading members of the two Houses of Congress, attended
his funeral. As he lay in his coffin he was no longer the arch rebel,
leading a combine of buccaneers and insurgents, which the Republican
orators and newspapers had depicted him, but the brave old apostle of
freedom who had done more than all others to make the issues upon which a
militant and triumphant party had risen to power.
The multitude remembered only the old white hat and the sweet old baby
face beneath it, heart of gold, and hand wielding the wizard pen; the
incarnation of probity and kindness, of steadfast devotion to his duty as
he saw it, and to the needs of the whole human family. A tragedy in truth
it was; and yet as his body was lowered into its grave there rose above it,
invisible, unnoted, a flower of matchless beauty--the flower of peace
and love between the sections of the Union to which his life had been a
The crank convention had builded wiser than it knew. That the Democratic
Party could ever have been brought to the support of Horace Greeley for
President of the United States reads even now like a page out of a nonsense
book. That his warmest support should have come from the South seems
incredible and was a priceless fact. His martyrdom shortened the distance
across the bloody chasm; his coffin very nearly filled it. The candidacy of
Charles Francis Adams or of Lyman Trumbull meant a mathematical formula,
with no solution of the problem and as certain defeat at the end of it.
His candidacy threw a flood of light and warmth into the arena of deadly
strife; it made a more equal and reasonable division of parties possible;
it put the Southern half of the country in a position to plead its own
case by showing the Northern half that it was not wholly recalcitrant or
reactionary; and it made way for real issues of pith and moment relating to
the time instead of pigments of bellicose passion and scraps of ante-bellum
In a word Greeley did more by his death to complete the work of Lincoln
than he could have done by a triumph at the polls and the term in the White
House he so much desired. Though but sixty-one years of age, his race
was run. Of him it may be truly written that he lived a life full of
inspiration to his countrymen and died not in vain, "our later Franklin"
fittingly inscribed upon his tomb.
Chapter the Twelfth
The Ideal in Public Life--Politicians, Statesmen and Philosophers--The
Disputed Presidency in 1876--The Personality and Character of Mr.
Tilden--His Election and Exclusion by a Partisan Tribunal
The soul of journalism is disinterestedness. But neither as a principle nor
an asset had this been generally discovered fifty years ago. Most of my
younger life I was accused of ulterior motives of political ambition,
whereas I had seen too much of preferment not to abhor it. To me, as to
my father, office has seemed ever a badge of servitude. For a long time,
indeed, I nursed the delusions of the ideal. The love of the ideal has not
in my old age quite deserted me. But I have seen the claim of it so much
abused that when a public man calls it for a witness I begin to suspect his
A virile old friend of mine--who lived in Texas, though he went there from
Rhode Island--used to declare with sententious emphasis that war is the
state of man. "Sir," he was wont to observe, addressing me as if I were
personally accountable, "you are emasculating the human species. You are
changing men into women and women into men. You are teaching everybody
to read, nobody to think; and do you know where you will end, sir?
Extermination, sir--extermination! On the north side of the North Pole
there is another world peopled by giants; ten thousand millions at the very
least; every giant of them a hundred feet high. Now about the time you have
reduced your universe to complete effeminacy some fool with a pick-axe will
break through the thin partition--the mere ice curtain--separating these
giants from us, and then they will sweep through and swoop down and swallow
you, sir, and the likes of you, with your topsy-turvy civilization, your
boasted literature and science and art!"
This old friend of mine had a sure recipe for success in public life.
"Whenever you get up to make a speech," said he, "begin by proclaiming
yourself the purest, the most disinterested of living men, and end
by intimating that you are the bravest;" and then with the charming
inconsistency of the dreamer he would add: "If there be anything on this
earth that I despise it is bluster."
Decidedly he was not a disciple of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Yet he, too, in
his way was an idealist, and for all his oddity a man of intellectual
integrity, a trifle exaggerated perhaps in its methods and illustrations,
but true to his convictions of right and duty, as Emerson would have had
him be. For was it not Emerson who exclaimed, "We will walk on our own
feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds?"
In spite of our good Woodrow and our lamented Theodore I have quite made up
my mind that there is no such thing as the ideal in public life, construing
public life to refer to political transactions. The ideal may exist in art
and letters, and sometimes very young men imagine that it exists in very
young women. But here we must draw the line. As society is constituted the
ideal has no place, not even standing room, in the arena of civics.
If we would make a place for it we must begin by realizing this.
The painter, like the lover, is a law unto himself, with his little
picture--the poet, also, with his little rhyme--his atelier his universe,
his attic his field of battle, his weapons the utensils of his craft--he
himself his own Providence. It is not so in the world of action, where the
conditions are directly reversed; where the one player contends against
many players, seen and unseen; where each move is met by some counter-move;
where the finest touches are often unnoted of men or rudely blotted out by
a mysterious hand stretched forth from the darkness.
"I wish I could be as sure of anything," said Melbourne, "as Tom Macaulay
is of everything." Melbourne was a man of affairs, Macaulay a man of books;
and so throughout the story the men of action have been fatalists, from
Caesar to Napoleon and Bismarck, nothing certain except the invisible player
behind the screen.
Of all human contrivances the most imperfect is government. In spite of
the essays of Bentham and Mill the science of government has yet to be
discovered. The ideal statesman can only exist in the ideal state, which
has never existed.
The politician, like the poor, we have always with us. As long as men
delegate to other men the function of acting for them, of thinking for
them, we shall continue to have him.
He is a variable quantity. In the crowded centers his distinguishing
marks are short hair and cunning; upon the frontier, sentiment and the
six-shooter! In New York he becomes a boss; in Kentucky and Texas, a
fighter and an orator. But the statesman--the ideal statesman--in the
mind's eye, Horatio! Bound by practical limitations such an anomaly would
be a statesman minus a party, a statesman who never gets any votes or
anywhere--a statesman perpetually out of a job. We have had some imitation
ideal statesmen who have been more or less successful in palming off their
pinchbeck wares for the real; but looking backward over the history of
the country we shall find the greatest among our public men--measuring
greatness by real and useful service--to have been while they lived least
regarded as idealists; for they were men of flesh and blood, who amid the
rush of events and the calls to duty could not stop to paint pictures, to
consider sensibilities, to put forth the deft hand where life and death
hung upon the stroke of a bludgeon or the swinging of a club.
Washington was not an ideal statesman, nor Hamilton, nor Jefferson, nor
Lincoln, though each of them conceived grandly and executed nobly. They
loved truth for truth's sake, even as they loved their country. Yet no one
of them ever quite attained his conception of it.
Truth indeed is ideal. But when we come to adapt and apply it, how many
faces it shows us, what varying aspects, so that he is fortunate who is
able to catch and hold a single fleeting expression. To bridle this and
saddle it, and, as we say in Kentucky, to ride it a turn or two around the
paddock or, still better, down the home-stretch of things accomplished,
is another matter. The real statesman must often do as he can, not as he
would; the ideal statesman existing only in the credulity of those simple
souls who are captivated by appearances or deceived by professions.
The nearest approach to the ideal statesman I have known was most grossly
stigmatized while he lived. I have Mr. Tilden in mind. If ever man pursued
an ideal life he did. From youth to age he dwelt amid his fancies. He was
truly a man of the world among men of letters and a man of letters among
men of the world. A philosopher pure and simple--a lover of books, of
pictures, of all things beautiful and elevating--he yet attained great
riches, and being a doctrinaire and having a passion for affairs he was
able to gratify the aspirations to eminence and the yearning to be of
service to the State which had filled his heart.
He seemed a medley of contradiction. Without the artifices usual to the
practical politician he gradually rose to be a power in his party; thence
to become the leader of a vast following, his name a shibboleth to millions
of his countrymen, who enthusiastically supported him and who believed that
he was elected Chief Magistrate of the United States. He was an idealist;
he lost the White House because he was so, though represented while he
lived by his enemies as a scheming spider weaving his web amid the coil of
mystification in which he hid himself. For he was personally known to few
in the city where he had made his abode; a great lawyer and jurist who
rarely appeared in court; a great political leader to whom the hustings
were mainly a stranger; a thinker, and yet a dreamer, who lived his own
life a little apart, as a poet might; uncorrupting and incorruptible; least
of all were his political companions moved by the loss of the presidency,
which had seemed in his grasp. And finally he died--though a master of
legal lore--to have his last will and testament successfully assailed.
Except as news venders the newspapers--especially newspaper workers--should
give politics a wide berth. Certainly they should have no party politics.
True to say, journalism and literature and politics are as wide apart as
the poles. From Bolingbroke, the most splendid of the world's failures, to
Thackeray, one of its greatest masters of letters--who happily did not get
the chance he sought in parliamentary life to fall--both English history
and American history are full of illustrations to this effect. Except in
the comic opera of French politics the poet, the artist, invested with
power, seems to lose his efficiency in the ratio of his genius; the
literary gift, instead of aiding, actually antagonizing the aptitude for
The statesman may not be fastidious. The poet, the artist, must be always
so. If the party leader preserve his integrity--if he keep himself
disinterested and clean--if his public influence be inspiring to his
countrymen and his private influence obstructive of cheats and rogues among
his adherents--he will have done well.
We have left behind us the gibbet and the stake. No further need of the
Voltaires, the Rousseaus and the Diderots to declaim against kingcraft
and priestcraft. We have done something more than mark time. We report
progress. Yet despite the miracles of modern invention how far in the arts
of government has the world traveled from darkness to light since the old
tribal days, and what has it learned except to enlarge the area, to
amplify and augment the agencies, to multiply and complicate the forms and
processes of corruption? By corruption I mean the dishonest advantage of
the few over the many.
The dreams of yesterday, we are told, become the realities of to-morrow.
In these despites I am an optimist. Much truly there needs still to be
learned, much to be unlearned. Advanced as we consider ourselves we are yet
a long way from the most rudimentary perception of the civilization we are
so fond of parading. The eternal verities--where shall we seek them? Little
in religious affairs, less still in commercial affairs, hardly any at all
in political affairs, that being right which represents each organism.
Still we progress. The pulpit begins to turn from the sinister visage of
theology and to teach the simple lessons of Christ and Him crucified. The
press, which used to be omniscient, is now only indiscriminate--a clear
gain, emitting by force of publicity, if not of shine, a kind of light
through whose diverse rays and foggy luster we may now and then get a
glimpse of truth.
The time is coming, if it has not already arrived, when among fair-minded
and intelligent Americans there will not be two opinions touching the
Hayes-Tilden contest for the presidency in 1876-77--that both by the
popular vote and a fair count of the electoral vote Tilden was elcted
and Hayes was defeated; but the whole truth underlying the determinate
incidents which led to the rejection of Tilden and the seating of Hayes
will never be known.
"All history is a lie," observed Sir Robert Walpole, the corruptionist,
mindful of what was likely to be written about himself; and "What is
history," asked Napoleon, the conqueror, "but a fable agreed upon?"
In the first administration of Mr. Cleveland there were present at a
dinner table in Washington, the President being of the party, two leading
Democrats and two leading Republicans who had sustained confidential
relations to the principals and played important parts in the drama of the
Disputed Succession. These latter had been long upon terms of personal
intimacy. The occasion was informal and joyous, the good fellowship of the
Inevitably the conversation drifted to the Electoral Commission, which had
counted Tilden out and Hayes in, and of which each of the four had some
story to tell. Beginning in banter with interchanges of badinage it
presently fell into reminiscence, deepening as the interest of the
listeners rose to what under different conditions might have been described
as unguarded gayety if not imprudent garrulity. The little audience was
Finally Mr. Cleveland raised both hands and exclaimed, "What would the
people of this country think if the roof could be lifted from this house
and they could hear these men?" And then one of the four, a gentleman noted
for his wealth both of money and humor, replied, "But the roof is not going
to be lifted from this house, and if any one repeats what I have said I
will denounce him as a liar."
Once in a while the world is startled by some revelation of the unknown
which alters the estimate of a historic event or figure; but it is
measurably true, as Metternich declares, that those who make history rarely
have time to write it.
It is not my wish in recurring to the events of nearly five-and-forty years
ago to invoke and awaken any of the passions of that time, nor my purpose
to assail the character or motives of any of the leading actors. Most of
them, including the principals, I knew well; to many of their secrets I
was privy. As I was serving, in a sense, as Mr. Tilden's personal
representative in the Lower House of the Forty-fourth Congress, and as a
member of the joint Democratic Advisory or Steering Committee of the two
Houses, all that passed came more or less, if not under my supervision, yet
to my knowledge; and long ago I resolved that certain matters should remain
a sealed book in my memory.
I make no issue of veracity with the living; the dead should be sacred.
The contradictory promptings, not always crooked; the double constructions
possible to men's actions; the intermingling of ambition and patriotism
beneath the lash of party spirit; often wrong unconscious of itself;
sometimes equivocation deceiving itself--in short, the tangled web of good
and ill inseparable from great affairs of loss and gain made debatable
ground for every step of the Hayes-Tilden proceeding.
I shall bear sure testimony to the integrity of Mr. Tilden. I directly know
that the presidency was offered to him for a price, and that he refused it;
and I indirectly know and believe that two other offers came to him, which
also he declined. The accusation that he was willing to buy, and through
the cipher dispatches and other ways tried to buy, rests upon appearance
supporting mistaken surmise. Mr. Tilden knew nothing of the cipher
dispatches until they appeared in the New York _Tribune_. Neither did
Mr. George W. Smith, his private secretary, and later one of the trustees
of his will.
It should be sufficient to say that so far as they involved No. 15 Gramercy
Park they were the work solely of Colonel Pelton, acting on his own
responsibility, and as Mr. Tilden's nephew exceeding his authority to act;
that it later developed that during this period Colonel Pelton had not been
in his perfect mind, but was at least semi-irresponsible; and that on two
ocasions when the vote or votes sought seemed within reach Mr. Tilden
interposed to forbid. Directly and personally I know this to be true.
The price, at least in patronage, which the Republicans actually paid
for possession is of public record. Yet I not only do not question the
integrity of Mr. Hayes, but I believe him and most of those immediately
about him to have been high-minded men who thought they were doing for the
best in a situation unparalleled and beset with perplexity. What they did
tends to show that men will do for party and in concert what the same men
never would be willing to do each on his own responsibility. In his "Life
of Samuel J. Tilden," John Bigelow says:
"Why persons occupying the most exalted positions should have ventured to
compromise their reputations by this deliberate consummation of a series of
crimes which struck at the very foundations of the republic is a question
which still puzzles many of all parties who have no charity for the crimes
themselves. I have already referred to the terrors and desperation with
which the prospect of Tilden's election inspired the great army of
office-holders at the close of Grant's administration. That army, numerous
and formidable as it was, was comparatively limited. There was a much
larger and justly influential class who were apprehensive that the return
of the Democratic party to power threatened a reactionary policy at
Washington, to the undoing of some or all the important results of the
war. These apprehensions were inflamed by the party press until they were
confined to no class, but more or less pervaded all the Northern States.
The Electoral Tribunal, consisting mainly of men appointed to their
positions by Republican Presidents or elected from strong Republican
States, felt the pressure of this feeling, and from motives compounded in
more or less varying proportions of dread of the Democrats, personal
ambition, zeal for their party and respect for their constituents,
reached the conclusion that the exclusion of Tilden from the White House
was an end which justified whatever means were necessary to accomplish
it. They regarded it, like the emancipation of the slaves, as a war
The nomination of Horace Greeley in 1872 and the overwhelming defeat that
followed left the Democratic party in an abyss of despair. The old Whig
party, after the disaster that overtook it in 1852, had been not more
demoralized. Yet in the general elections of 1874 the Democrats swept the
country, carrying many Northern States and sending a great majority to the
Reconstruction was breaking down of its very weight and rottenness. The
panic of 1873 reacted against the party in power. Dissatisfaction with
Grant, which had not sufficed two years before to displace him, was growing
apace. Favoritism bred corruption and corruption grew more and more
flagrant. Succeeding scandals cast their shadows before. Chickens of
carpetbaggery let loose upon the South were coming home to roost at the
North. There appeared everywhere a noticeable subsidence of the sectional
spirit. Reform was needed alike in the State Governments and the National
Government, and the cry for reform proved something other than an idle
word. All things made for Democracy.
Yet there were many and serious handicaps. The light and leading of the
historic Democratic party which had issued from the South were in obscurity
and abeyance, while most of those surviving who had been distinguished in
the party conduct and counsels were disabled by act of Congress. Of the few
prominent Democrats left at the North many were tainted by what was called
Copperheadism--sympathy with the Confederacy. To find a chieftain wholly
free from this contamination, Democracy, having failed of success in
presidential campaigns, not only with Greeley but with McClellan and
Seymour, was turning to such Republicans as Chase, Field and Davis. At last
heaven seemed to smile from the clouds upon the disordered ranks and to
summon thence a man meeting the requirements of the time. This was Samuel
To his familiars Mr. Tilden was a dear old bachelor who lived in a fine old
mansion in Gramercy Park. Though 60 years old he seemed in the prime of
his manhood; a genial and overflowing scholar; a trained and earnest
doctrinaire; a public-spirited, patriotic citizen, well known and highly
esteemed, who had made fame and fortune at the bar and had always been
interested in public affairs. He was a dreamer with a genius for business,
a philosopher yet an organizer. He pursued the tenor of his life with
His domestic fabric was disfigured by none of the isolation and squalor
which so often attend the confirmed celibate. His home life was a model
of order and decorum, his home as unchallenged as a bishopric, its
hospitality, though select, profuse and untiring. An elder sister presided
at his board, as simple, kindly and unostentatious, but as methodical as
himself. He was a lover of books rather than music and art, but also of
horses and dogs and out-of-door activity.
He was fond of young people, particularly of young girls; he drew them
about him, and was a veritable Sir Roger de Coverley in his gallantries
toward them and his zeal in amusing them and making them happy. His
tastes were frugal and their indulgence was sparing. He took his wine not
plenteously, though he enjoyed it--especially his "blue seal" while
it lasted--and sipped his whisky-and-water on occasion with a pleased
composure redolent of discursive talk, of which, when he cared to lead
the conversation, he was a master. He had early come into a great legal
practice and held a commanding professional position. His judgment was
believed to be infallible; and it is certain that after 1871 he rarely
appeared in the courts of law except as counsellor, settling in chambers
most of the cases that came to him.
It was such a man whom, in 1874, the Democrats nominated for Governor of
New York. To say truth, it was not thought by those making the nomination
that he had any chance to win. He was himself so much better advised that
months ahead he prefigured very near the exact vote. The afternoon of the
day of election one of the group of friends, who even thus early had the
Presidency in mind, found him in his library confident and calm.
"What majority will you have?" he asked cheerily.
"Any," replied the friend sententiously.
"How about fifteen thousand?"
"The majority," he said, "will be a little in excess of fifty thousand."
It was 53,315. His estimate was not guesswork. He had organized his
campaign by school districts. His canvass system was perfect, his
canvassers were as penetrating and careful as census takers. He had before
him reports from every voting precinct in the State. They were corroborated
by the official returns. He had defeated Gen. John A. Dix, thought to be
invincible by a majority very nearly the same as that by which Governor Dix
had been elected two years before.
The time and the man had met. Though Mr. Tilden had not before held
executive office he was ripe and ready for the work. His experience in the
pursuit and overthrow of the Tweed Ring in New York, the great metropolis,
had prepared and fitted him to deal with the Canal Ring at Albany, the
State capital. Administrative reform was now uppermost in the public mind,
and here in the Empire State of the Union had come to the head of affairs
a Chief Magistrate at once exact and exacting, deeply versed not only in
legal lore but in a knowledge of the methods by which political power
was being turned to private profit and of the men--Democrats as well as
Republicans--who were preying upon the substance of the people.
The story of the two years that followed relates to investigations that
investigated, to prosecutions that convicted, to the overhauling of popular
censorship, to reduced estimates and lower taxes.
The campaign for the Presidential nomination began as early as the autumn
of 1875. The Southern end of it was easy enough. A committee of Southerners
residing in New York was formed. Never a leading Southern man came to town
who was not "seen." If of enough importance he was taken to No. 15 Gramercy
Park. Mr. Tilden measured to the Southern standard of the gentleman in
politics. He impressed the disfranchised Southern leaders as a statesman
of the old order and altogether after their own ideas of what a President
ought to be.
The South came to St. Louis, the seat of the National Convention,
represented by its foremost citizens, and almost a unit for the Governor of
New York. The main opposition sprang from Tammany Hall, of which John Kelly
was then the chief. Its very extravagance proved an advantage to Tilden.
Two days before the meeting of the convention I sent this message to Mr.
Tilden: "Tell Blackstone"--his favorite riding horse--"that he wins in a
The anti-Tilden men put up the Hon. S.S.--"Sunset"--Cox for temporary
chairman. It was a clever move. Mr. Cox, though sure for Tammany, was
popular everywhere and especially at the South. His backers thought that
with him they could count a majority of the National Committee.
The night before the assembling Mr. Tilden's two or three leading friends
on the committee came to me and said: "We can elect you chairman over Cox,
but no one else."
I demurred at once. "I don't know one rule of parliamentary law from
another," I said.
"We will have the best parliamentarian on the continent right by you all
the time," they said.
"I can't see to recognize a man on the floor of the convention," I said.
"We'll have a dozen men at hand to tell you," they replied. So it was
arranged, and thus at the last moment I was chosen.
I had barely time to write the required keynote speech, but not enough to
commit it to memory; nor sight to read it, even had I been willing to adopt
that mode of delivery. It would not do to trust to extemporization. A
friend, Col. J. Stoddard Johnston, who was familiar with my penmanship,
came to the rescue. Concealing my manuscript behind his hat he lined the
words out to me between the cheering, I having mastered a few opening
Luck was with me. It went with a bang--not, however, wholly without
detection. The Indianans, devoted to Hendricks, were very wroth.
"See that fat man behind the hat telling him what to say," said one to his
neighbor, who answered, "Yes, and wrote it for him, too, I'll be bound!"
One might as well attempt to drive six horses by proxy as preside over a
national convention by hearsay. I lost my parliamentarian at once. I
just made my parliamentary law as we went. Never before or since did any
deliberate body proceed under manual so startling and original. But
I delivered each ruling with a resonance--it were better called an
impudence--which had an air of authority. There was a good deal of quiet
laughter on the floor among the knowing ones, though I knew the mass was
as ignorant as I was myself; but realizing that I meant to be just and was
expediting business the convention soon warmed to me, and feeling this I
began to be perfectly at home. I never had a better day's sport in all my
One incident was particularly amusing. Much against my will and over my
protest I was brought to promise that Miss Phoebe Couzins, who bore a
Woman's Rights Memorial, should at some opportune moment be given the floor
to present it. I foresaw what a row it was bound to occasion.
Toward noon, when there was a lull in the proceedings, I said with an
emphasis meant to carry conviction: "Gentlemen of the convention, Miss
Phoebe Couzins, a representative of the Woman's Association of America, has
a memorial from that body, and in the absence of other business the chair
will now recognize her."
Instantly and from every part of the hall arose cries of "No!" These put
some heart into me. Many a time as a schoolboy I had proudly declaimed the
passage from John Home's tragedy, "My Name is Norval." Again I stood upon
"the Grampian hills." The committee was escorting Miss Couzins down the
aisle. When she came within the radius of my poor vision I saw that she was
a beauty and dressed to kill.
That was reassurance. Gaining a little time while the hall fairly rocked
with its thunder of negation I laid the gavel down and stepped to the edge
of the platform and gave Miss Couzins my hand.
As she appeared above the throng there was a momentary "Ah!" and then a
lull, broken by a single voice:
"Mister Chairman. I rise to a point of order."
Leading Miss Couzins to the front of the stage I took up the gavel and gave
a gentle rap, saying: "The gentleman will take his seat."
"But, Mister Chairman, I rose to a point of order," he vociferated.
"The gentleman will take his seat instantly," I answered in a tone of one
about to throw the gavel at his head. "No point of order is in order when a
lady has the floor."
After that Miss Couzins received a positive ovation and having delivered
her message retired in a blaze of glory.
Mr. Tilden was nominated on the second ballot. The campaign that followed
proved one of the most memorable in our history. When it came to an end
the result showed on the face of the returns 196 in the Electoral College,
eleven more than a majority; and in the popular vote 4,300,316, a majority
of 264,300 for Tilden over Hayes.
How this came to be first contested and then complicated so as ultimately
to be set aside has been minutely related by its authors. The newspapers,
both Republican and Democratic, of November 8, 1876, the morning after the
election, conceded an overwhelming victory for Tilden and Hendricks. There
was, however, a single exception. The New York Times had gone to press with
its first edition, leaving the result in doubt but inclining toward the
success of the Democrats. In its later editions this tentative attitude
was changed to the statement that Mr. Hayes lacked the vote of
Florida--"claimed by the Republicans"--to be sure of the required votes in
the Electoral College.
The story of this surprising discrepancy between midnight and daylight
reads like a chapter of fiction.
After the early edition of the Times had gone to press certain members of
the editorial staff were at supper, very much cast down by the returns,
when a messenger brought a telegram from Senator Barnum, of Connecticut,
financial head of the Democratic National Committee, asking for the Times'
latest news from Oregon, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina. But for
that unlucky telegram Tilden would probably have been inaugurated President
of the United States.
The Times people, intense Republican partisans, at once saw an opportunity.
If Barnum did not know, why might not a doubt be raised? At once the
editorial in the first edition was revised to take a decisive tone and
declare the election of Hayes. One of the editorial council, Mr. John C.
Reid, hurried to Republican headquarters in the Fifth Avenue Hotel, which
he found deserted, the triumph of Tilden having long before sent everybody
to bed. Mr. Reid then sought the room of Senator Zachariah Chandler,
chairman of the National Republican Committee.
While upon this errand he encountered in the hotel corridor "a small man
wearing an enormous pair of goggles, his hat drawn over his ears, a
greatcoat with a heavy military cloak, and carrying a gripsack and
newspaper in his hand. The newspaper was the New York Tribune," announcing
the election of Tilden and the defeat of Hayes. The newcomer was Mr.
William E. Chandler, even then a very prominent Republican politician,
just arrived from New Hampshire and very much exasperated by what he had
Mr. Reid had another tale to tell. The two found Mr. Zachariah Chandler,
who bade them leave him alone and do whatever they thought best. They
did so, consumingly, sending telegrams to Columbia, Tallahassee and New
Orleans, stating to each of the parties addressed that the result of the
election depended upon his State. To these was appended the signature of
Later in the day Senator Chandler, advised of what had been set on foot
and its possibilities, issued from National Republican headquarters this
laconic message: "Hayes has 185 electoral votes and is elected."
Thus began and was put in motion the scheme to confuse the returns and make
a disputed count of the vote.
The day after the election I wired Mr. Tilden suggesting that as Governor
of New York he propose to Mr. Hayes, the Governor of Ohio, that they unite
upon a committee of eminent citizens, composed in equal numbers of the
friends of each, who should proceed at once to Louisiana, which appeared to
be the objective point of greatest moment to the already contested result.
Pursuant to a telegraphic correspondence which followed, I left Louisville
that night for New Orleans. I was joined en route by Mr. Lamar and General
Walthal, of Mississippi, and together we arrived in the Crescent City
It has since transpired that the Republicans were promptly advised by the
Western Union Telegraph Company of all that had passed over its wires, my
dispatches to Mr. Tilden being read in Republican headquarters at least as
soon as they reached Gramercy Park.
Mr. Tilden did not adopt the plan of a direct proposal to Mr. Hayes.
Instead he chose a body of Democrats to go to the "seat of war." But before
any of them had arrived General Grant, the actual President, anticipating