Part 2 out of 4
Yea, verily we were in London. Presently Artemus Ward and "the show"
arrived in town. He took a lodging over an apothecary's just across the way
from Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, where he was to lecture. We had been the
best of friends, were near of an age, and only round-the-corner apart we
became from the first inseparable. I introduced him to the distinguished
scientific set into which chance had thrown me, and he introduced me to a
very different set that made a revel of life at the Savage Club.
I find by reference to some notes jotted down at the time that the last I
saw of him was the evening of the 21st of December, 1866. He had dined with
my wife and myself, and, accompanied by Arthur Sketchley, who had dropped
in after dinner, he bade us good-by and went for his nightly grind, as
he called it. We were booked to take our departure the next morning.
His condition was pitiable. He was too feeble to walk alone, and was
continually struggling to breathe freely. His surgeon had forbidden the use
of wine or liquor of any sort. Instead he drank quantities of water, eating
little and taking no exercise at all. Nevertheless, he stuck to his lecture
and contrived to keep up appearances before the crowds that flocked to hear
him, and even in London his critical state of health was not suspected.
Early in September, when I had parted from him to go to Paris, I left him
methodically and industriously arranging for his debut. He had brought some
letters, mainly to newspaper people, and was already making progress toward
what might be called the interior circles of the press, which are so
essential to the success of a newcomer in London. Charles Reade and Andrew
Haliday became zealous friends. It was to the latter that he owed his
introduction to the Savage Club. Here he soon made himself at home. His
manners, even his voice, were half English, albeit he possessed a
most engaging disposition--a ready tact and keen discernment, very
un-English,--and these won him an efficient corps of claquers and backers
throughout the newspapers and periodicals of the metropolis. Thus his
success was assured from the first.
The raw November evening when he opened at Egyptian Hall the room was
crowded with an audience of literary men and women, great and small, from
Swinburne and Edmund Yates to the trumpeters and reporters of the morning
papers. The next day most of these contained glowing accounts. The Times
was silent, but four days later The Thunderer, seeing how the wind blew,
came out with a column of eulogy, and from this onward, each evening proved
a kind of ovation. Seats were engaged for a week in advance. Up and down
Piccadilly, from St. James Church to St. James Street, carriages bearing
the first arms in the kingdom were parked night after night; and the
evening of the 21st of December, six weeks after, there was no falling off.
The success was complete. As to an American, London had never seen the
All this while the poor author of the sport was slowly dying. The demands
upon his animal spirits at the Savage Club, the bodily fatigue of "getting
himself up to it," the "damnable iteration" of the lecture itself, wore him
out. George, his valet, whom he had brought from America, had finally to
lift him about his bedroom like a child. His quarters in Picadilly, as I
have said, were just opposite the Hall, but he could not go backward and
forward without assistance. It was painful in the extreme to see the man
who was undergoing tortures behind the curtain step lightly before the
audience amid a burst of merriment, and for more than an hour sustain the
part of jester, tossing his cap and jingling his bells, a painted death's
head, for he had to rouge his face to hide the pallor.
His buoyancy forsook him. He was occasionally nervous and fretful. The fog,
he declared, felt like a winding sheet, enwrapping and strangling him. At
one of his entertainments he made a grim, serio-comic allusion to this.
"But," cried he as he came off the stage, "that was not a hit, was it? The
English are scary about death. I'll have to cut it out."
He had become a contributor to Punch, a lucky rather than smart business
stroke, for it was not of his own initiation. He did not continue his
contributions after he began to appear before the public, and the
discontinuance was made the occasion of some ill-natured remarks in certain
American papers, which very much wounded him. They were largely circulated
and credited at the time, the charge being that Messrs. Bradbury and Evans,
the publishers of the English charivari, had broken with him because the
English would not have him. The truth is that their original proposal was
made to him, not by him to them, the price named being fifteen guineas a
letter. He asked permission to duplicate the arrangement with some New York
periodical, so as to secure an American copyright. This they refused. I
read the correspondence at the time. "Our aim," they said, "in making
the engagement, had reference to our own circulation in the United States,
which exceeds twenty-seven thousand weekly."
I suggested to Artemus that he enter his book, "Artemus Ward in London,"
in advance, and he did write to Oakey Hall, his New York lawyer, to
that effect. Before he received an answer from Hall he got Carleton's
advertisement announcing the book. Considering this a piratical design on
the part of Carleton, he addressed that enterprising publisher a savage
letter, but the matter was ultimately cleared up to his satisfaction, for
he said just before we parted: "It was all a mistake about Carleton. I did
him an injustice and mean to ask his pardon. He has behaved very handsomely
to me." Then the letters reappeared in Punch.
Whatever may be thought of them on this side of the Atlantic, their success
in England was undeniable. They were more talked about than any current
literary matter; never a club gathering or dinner party at which they were
not discussed. There did seem something both audacious and grotesque in
this ruthless Yankee poking in among the revered antiquities of Britain, so
that the beef-eating British themselves could not restrain their laughter.
They took his jokes in excellent part. The letters on the Tower and Chawsir
were palpable hits, and it was generally agreed that Punch had contained
nothing better since the days of Yellow-plush. This opinion was not
confined to the man in the street. It was shared by the high-brows of the
reviews and the appreciative of society, and gained Artemus the entree
wherever he cared to go.
Invitations pursued him and he was even elected to two or three fashionable
clubs. But he had a preference for those which were less conventional. His
admission to the Garrick, which had been at first "laid over," affords an
example of London club fastidiousness. The gentleman who proposed him used
his pseudonym, Artemus Ward, instead of his own name, Charles F. Browne. I
had the pleasure of introducing him to Mr. Alexander Macmillan, the famous
book publisher of Oxford and Cambridge, a leading member of the Garrick. We
dined together at the Garrick clubhouse, when the matter was brought up and
explained. The result was that Charles F. Browne was elected at the next
meeting, where Artemus Ward, had been made to stand aside.
Before Christmas, Artemus received invitations from distinguished people,
nobility and gentry as well as men of letters, to spend the week-end with
them. But he declined them all. He needed his vacation, he said, for rest.
He had neither the strength nor the spirit for the season.
Yet was he delighted with the English people and with English life. His was
one of those receptive natures which enjoy whatever is wholesome and sunny.
In spite of his bodily pain, he entertained a lively hope of coming out of
it in the spring, and did not realize his true condition. He merely
said, "I have overworked myself, and must lay by or I shall break down
altogether." He meant to remain in London as long as his welcome lasted,
and when he perceived a falling off in his audience, would close his season
and go to the continent. His receipts averaged about three hundred dollars
a night, whilst his expenses were not fifty dollars. "This, mind you," he
used to say, "is in very hard cash, an article altogether superior to that
of my friend Charles Reade."
[Illustration: Artemas Ward]
His idea was to set aside out of his earnings enough to make him
independent, and then to give up "this mountebank business," as he
called it. He had a great respect for scholarly culture and personal
respectability, and thought that if he could get time and health he might
do something "in the genteel comedy line." He had a humorous novel in view,
and a series of more aspiring comic essays than any he had attempted.
Often he alluded to the opening for an American magazine, "not quite so
highfalutin as the Atlantic nor so popular as Harper's." His mind was
beginning to soar above the showman and merrymaker. His manners had always
been captivating. Except for the nervous worry of ill-health, he was the
kind-hearted, unaffected Artemus of old, loving as a girl and liberal as a
prince. He once showed me his daybook in which were noted down over five
hundred dollars lent out in small sums to indigent Americans.
"Why," said I, "you will never get half of it back."
"Of course not," he said, "but do you think I can afford to have a lot of
loose fellows black-guarding me at home because I wouldn't let them have a
sovereign or so over here?"
There was no lack of independence, however, about him. The benefit which he
gave Mrs. Jefferson Davis in New Orleans, which was denounced at the North
as toadying to the Rebels, proceeded from a wholly different motive. He
took a kindly interest in the case because it was represented to him as one
of suffering, and knew very well at the time that his bounty would meet
He used to relate with gusto an interview he once had with Murat Halstead,
who had printed a tart paragraph about him. He went into the office of the
Cincinnati editor, and began in his usual jocose way to ask for the needful
correction. Halstead resented the proffered familiarity, when Artemus told
him flatly, suddenly changing front, that he "didn't care a d--n for the
Commercial, and the whole establishment might go to hell." Next day the
paper appeared with a handsome amende, and the two became excellent
friends. "I have no doubt," said Artemus, "that if I had whined or begged,
I should have disgusted Halstead, and he would have put it to me tighter.
As it was, he concluded that I was not a sneak, and treated me like a
Artemus received many tempting offers from book publishers in London.
Several of the Annuals for 1866-67 contain sketches, some of them
anonymous, written by him, for all of which he was well paid. He wrote for
Fun--the editor of which, Mr. Tom Hood, son of the great humorist, was an
intimate friend--as well as for Punch; his contributions to the former
being printed without his signature. If he had been permitted to remain
until the close of his season, he would have earned enough, with what he
had already, to attain the independence which was his aim and hope. His
best friends in London were Charles Reade, Tom Hood, Tom Robertson, the
dramatist, Charles Mathews, the comedian, Tom Taylor and Arthur Sketchley.
He did not meet Mr. Dickens, though Mr. Andrew Haliday, Dickens' familiar,
was also his intimate. He was much persecuted by lion hunters, and
therefore had to keep his lodgings something of a mystery.
So little is known of Artemus Ward that some biographic particulars may not
in this connection be out of place or lacking in interest.
Charles F. Browne was born at Waterford, Maine, the 15th of July, 1833.
His father was a state senator, a probate judge, and at one time a wealthy
citizen; but at his death, when his famous son was yet a lad, left his
family little or no property. Charles apprenticed himself to a printer, and
served out his time, first in Springfield and then in Boston. In the latter
city he made the acquaintance of Shilaber, Ben Perley Poore, Halpine, and
others, and tried his hand as a "sketchist" for a volume edited by Mrs.
Partington. His early effusions bore the signature of "Chub." From the Hub
he emigrated to the West. At Toledo, Ohio, he worked as a "typo" and later
as a "local" on a Toledo newspaper. Then he went to Cleveland, where as
city editor of the Plain Dealer he began the peculiar vein from which still
later he worked so successfully.
The soubriquet "Artemus Ward," was not taken from the Revolutionary
general. It was suggested by an actual personality. In an adjoining town
to Cleveland there was a snake charmer who called himself Artemus Ward,
an ignorant witling or half-wit, the laughing stock of the countryside.
Browne's first communication over the signature of Artemus Ward purported
to emanate from this person, and it succeeded so well that he kept it up.
He widened the conception as he progressed. It was not long before his
sketches began to be copied and he became a newspaper favorite. He remained
in Cleveland from 1857 to 1860, when he was called to New York to take the
editorship of a venture called Vanity Fair. This died soon after. But
he did not die with it. A year later, in the fall of 1861, he made his
appearance as a lecturer at New London, and met with encouragement. Then he
set out _en tour_, returned to the metropolis, hired a hall and opened
with "the show." Thence onward all went well.
The first money he made was applied to the purchase of the old family
homestead in Maine, which he presented to his mother. The payments on this
being completed, he bought himself a little nest on the Hudson, meaning,
as he said, to settle down and perhaps to marry. But his dreams were not
destined to be fulfilled.
Thus, at the outset of a career from which much was to be expected, a man,
possessed of rare and original qualities of head and heart, sank out of the
sphere in which at that time he was the most prominent figure. There was
then no Mark Twain or Bret Harte. His rivals were such humorists as
Orpheus C. Kerr, Nasby, Asa Hartz, The Fat Contributor, John Happy, Mrs.
Partington, Bill Arp and the like, who are now mostly forgotten.
Artemus Ward wrote little, but he made good and left his mark. Along with
the queer John Phoenix his writings survived the deluge that followed them.
He poured out the wine of life in a limpid stream. It may be fairly said
that he did much to give permanency and respectability to the style
of literature of which he was at once a brilliant illustrator and
illustration. His was a short life indeed, though a merry one, and a sad
death. In a strange land, yet surrounded by admiring friends, about to
reach the coveted independence he had looked forward to so long, he sank to
rest, his dust mingling with that of the great Thomas Hood, alongside of
whom he was laid in Kensal Green.
Chapter the Fifth
Mark Twain--The Original of Colonel Mulberry Sellers--The "Earl of
Durham"--Some Noctes Ambrosianae--A Joke on Murat Halstead
Mark Twain came down to the footlights long after Artemus Ward had passed
from the scene; but as an American humorist with whom during half a century
I was closely intimate and round whom many of my London experiences
revolve, it may be apropos to speak of him next after his elder. There was
not lacking a certain likeness between them.
Samuel L. Clemens and I were connected by a domestic tie, though before
either of us were born the two families on the maternal side had been
neighbors and friends. An uncle of his married an aunt of mine--the
children of this marriage cousins in common to us--albeit, this apart, we
were life-time cronies. He always contended that we were "bloodkin."
Notwithstanding that when Mark Twain appeared east of the Alleghanies and
north of the Blue Ridge he showed the weather-beating of the west, the
bizarre alike of the pilot house and the mining camp very much in evidence,
he came of decent people on both sides of the house. The Clemens and
the Lamptons were of good old English stock. Toward the middle of the
eighteenth century three younger scions of the Manor of Durham migrated
from the County of Durham to Virginia and thence branched out into
Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri.
His mother was the loveliest old aristocrat with a taking drawl, a drawl
that was high-bred and patrician, not rustic and plebeian, which her famous
son inherited. All the women of that ilk were gentlewomen. The literary and
artistic instinct which attained its fruition in him had percolated through
the veins of a long line of silent singers, of poets and painters, unborn
to the world of expression till he arrived upon the scene.
These joint cousins of ours embraced an exceedingly large, varied and
picturesque assortment. Their idiosyncrasies were a constant source of
amusement to us. Just after the successful production of his play, The
Gilded Age, and the uproarious hit of the comedian, Raymond, in the leading
role, I received a letter from him in which he told me he had made in
Colonel Mulberry Sellers a close study of one of these kinsmen and thought
he had drawn him to the life. "But for the love o' God," he said, "don't
whisper it, for he would never understand or forgive me, if he did not
thrash me on sight."
The pathos of the part, and not its comic aspects, had most impressed him.
He designed and wrote it for Edwin Booth. From the first and always he
was disgusted by the Raymond portrayal. Except for its popularity and
money-making, he would have withdrawn it from the stage as, in a fit of
pique, Raymond himself did while it was still packing the theaters.
The original Sellers had partly brought him up and had been very good to
him. A second Don Quixote in appearance and not unlike the knight of La
Mancha in character, it would have been safe for nobody to laugh at James
Lampton, or by the slightest intimation, look or gesture to treat him with
inconsideration, or any proposal of his, however preposterous, with levity.
He once came to visit me upon a public occasion and during a function.
I knew that I must introduce him, and with all possible ceremony, to
my colleagues. He was very queer; tall and peaked, wearing a black,
swallow-tailed suit, shiny with age, and a silk hat, bound with black crepe
to conceal its rustiness, not to indicate a recent death; but his linen as
spotless as new-fallen snow. I had my fears. Happily the company, quite
dazed by the apparition, proved decorous to solemnity, and the kind old
gentleman, pleased with himself and proud of his "distinguished young
kinsman," went away highly gratified.
Not long after this one of his daughters--pretty girls they were, too, and
in charm altogether worthy of their Cousin Sam Clemens--was to be married,
and Sellers wrote me a stately summons, all-embracing, though stiff and
formal, such as a baron of the Middle Ages might have indited to his noble
relative, the field marshal, bidding him bring his good lady and his
retinue and abide within the castle until the festivities were ended,
though in this instance the castle was a suburban cottage scarcely big
enough to accommodate the bridal couple. I showed the bombastic but
hospitable and genuine invitation to the actor Raymond, who chanced to be
playing in Louisville when it reached me. He read it through with care and
"Do you know," said he, "it makes me want to cry. That is not the man I am
trying to impersonate at all."
Be sure it was not; for there was nothing funny about the spiritual being
of Mark Twain's Colonel Mulberry Sellers; he was as brave as a lion and as
upright as Sam Clemens himself.
When a very young man, living in a woodland cabin down in the Pennyrile
region of Kentucky, with a wife he adored and two or three small children,
he was so carried away by an unexpected windfall that he lingered overlong
in the nearby village, dispensing a royal hospitality; in point of fact, he
"got on a spree." Two or three days passed before he regained possession of
himself. When at last he reached home, he found his wife ill in bed and the
children nearly starved for lack of food. He said never a word, but walked
out of the cabin, tied himself to a tree, and was wildly horsewhipping
himself when the cries of the frightened family summoned the neighbors
and he was brought to reason. He never touched an intoxicating drop from
that day to his death.
Another one of our fantastic mutual cousins was the "Earl of Durham." I
ought to say that Mark Twain and I grew up on old wives' tales of estates
and titles, which, maybe due to a kindred sense of humor in both of us, we
treated with shocking irreverence. It happened some fifty years ago that
there turned up, first upon the plains and afterward in New York and
Washington, a lineal descendant of the oldest of the Virginia Lamptons--he
had somehow gotten hold of or had fabricated a bundle of documents--who
was what a certain famous American would have called a "corker." He wore
a sombrero with a rattlesnake for a band, and a belt with a couple of
six-shooters, and described himself and claimed to be the Earl of Durham.
"He touched me for a tenner the first time I ever saw him," drawled Mark
to me, "and I coughed it up and have been coughing them up, whenever he's
around, with punctuality and regularity."
The "Earl" was indeed a terror, especially when he had been drinking. His
belief in his peerage was as absolute as Colonel Sellers' in his millions.
All he wanted was money enough "to get over there" and "state his case."
During the Tichborne trial Mark Twain and I were in London, and one day he
said to me:
"I have investigated this Durham business down at the Herald's office.
There's nothing to it. The Lamptons passed out of the Demesne of Durham a
hundred years ago. They had long before dissipated the estates. Whatever
the title, it lapsed. The present earldom is a new creation, not the same
family at all. But, I tell you what, if you'll put up five hundred dollars
I'll put up five hundred more, we'll fetch our chap across and set him in
as a claimant, and, my word for it, Kenealy's fat boy won't be a marker to
He was so pleased with his conceit that later along he wrote a novel and
called it The Claimant. It is the only one of his books, though I never
told him so, that I could not enjoy. Many years after, I happened to see
upon a hotel register in Rome these entries: "The Earl of Durham," and
in the same handwriting just below it, "Lady Anne Lambton" and "The Hon.
Reginald Lambton." So the Lambtons--they spelled it with a b instead of a
p--were yet in the peerage. A Lambton was Earl of Durham. The next time
I saw Mark I rated him on his deception. He did not defend himself, said
something about its being necessary to perfect the joke.
"Did you ever meet this present peer and possible usurper?" I asked.
"No," he answered, "I never did, but if he had called on me, I would have
had him come up."
His mind turned ever to the droll. Once in London I was living with my
family at 103 Mount Street. Between 103 and 102 there was the parochial
workhouse, quite a long and imposing edifice. One evening, upon coming in
from an outing, I found a letter he had written on the sitting-room table.
He had left it with his card. He spoke of the shock he had received upon
finding that next to 102--presumably 103--was the workhouse. He had loved
me, but had always feared that I would end by disgracing the family--being
hanged or something--but the "work'us," that was beyond him; he had not
thought it would come to that. And so on through pages of horseplay; his
relief on ascertaining the truth and learning his mistake, his regret at
not finding me at home, closing with a dinner invitation.
It was at Geneva, Switzerland, that I received a long, overflowing letter,
full of flamboyant oddities, written from London. Two or three hours later
came a telegram. "Burn letter. Blot it from your memory. Susie is dead."
How much of melancholy lay hidden behind the mask of his humour it would
be hard to say. His griefs were tempered by a vein of stoicism. He was a
medley of contradictions. Unconventional to the point of eccentricity, his
sense of his proper dignity was sound and sufficient. Though lavish in
the use of money, he had a full realization of its value and made close
contracts for his work. Like Sellers, his mind soared when it sailed
financial currents. He lacked acute business judgment in the larger things,
while an excellent economist in the lesser.
His marriage was the most brilliant stroke of his life. He got the woman of
all the world he most needed, a truly lovely and wise helpmate, who kept
him in bounds and headed him straight and right while she lived. She was
the best of housewives and mothers, and the safest of counsellors and
critics. She knew his worth; she appreciated his genius; she understood
his limitations and angles. Her death was a grievous disaster as well as a
staggering blow. He never wholly recovered from it.
It was in the early seventies that Mark Twain dropped into New York, where
there was already gathered a congenial group to meet and greet him. John
Hay, quoting old Jack Dade's description of himself, was wont to speak of
this group as "of high aspirations and peregrinations." It radiated
between Franklin Square, where Joseph W. Harper--"Joe Brooklyn," we called
him--reigned in place of his uncle, Fletcher Harper, the man of genius
among the original Harper Brothers, and the Lotos Club, then in Irving
Place, and Delmonico's, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth
Street, with Sutherland's in Liberty Street for a downtown place of
luncheon resort, not to forget Dorlon's in Fulton Market.
[Illustration: General Leonidas Polk--Lieutenant General C.S.A.--Killed in
Georgia June 14, 1864--P.E. Bishop of Louisiana]
The Harper contingent, beside its chief, embraced Tom Nast and William A.
Seaver, whom John Russell Young named "Papa Pendennis," and pictured as "a
man of letters among men of the world and a man of the world among men of
letters," a very apt phrase appropriated from Doctor Johnson, and Major
Constable, a giant, who looked like a dragoon and not a bookman, yet
had known Sir Walter Scott and was sprung from the family of Edinburgh
publishers. Bret Harte had but newly arrived from California. Whitelaw
Reid, though still subordinate to Greeley, was beginning to make himself
felt in journalism. John Hay played high priest to the revels. Occasionally
I made a pious pilgrimage to the delightful shrine.
Truth to tell, it emulated rather the gods than the graces, though all of
us had literary leanings of one sort and another, especially late at night;
and Sam Bowles would come over from Springfield and Murat Halstead from
Cincinnati to join us. Howells, always something of a prig, living
in Boston, held himself at too high account; but often we had Joseph
Jefferson, then in the heyday of his career, with once in a while Edwin
Booth, who could not quite trust himself to go our gait. The fine fellows
we caught from oversea were innumerable, from the elder Sothern and Sala
and Yates to Lord Dufferin and Lord Houghton. Times went very well those
days, and whilst some looked on askance, notably Curtis and, rather oddly,
Stedman, and thought we were wasting time and convivializing more than was
good for us, we were mostly young and hearty, ranging from thirty to five
and forty years of age, with amazing capabilities both for work and play,
and I cannot recall that any hurt to any of us came of it.
Although robustious, our fribbles were harmless enough--ebullitions of
animal spirit, sometimes perhaps of gaiety unguarded--though each shade,
treading the Celestian way, as most of them do, and recurring to those
Noctes Ambrosianae, might e'en repeat to the other the words on a memorable
occasion addressed by Curran to Lord Avonmore:
_"We spent them not in toys or lust or wine;
But search of deep philosophy,
Wit, eloquence and poesy--
Arts which I loved, for they, my friend, were thine."_
Mark Twain was the life of every company and all occasions. I remember a
practical joke of his suggestion played upon Murat Halstead. A party of
us were supping after the theater at the old Brevoort House. A card was
brought to me from a reporter of the World. I was about to deny myself,
when Mark Twain said:
"Give it to me, I'll fix it," and left the table.
Presently he came to the door and beckoned me out.
"I represented myself as your secretary and told this man," said he, "that
you were not here, but that if Mr. Halstead would answer just as well I
would fetch him. The fellow is as innocent as a lamb and doesn't know
either of you. I am going to introduce you as Halstead and we'll have some
No sooner said than done. The reporter proved to be a little bald-headed
cherub newly arrived from the isle of dreams, and I lined out to him a
column or more of very hot stuff, reversing Halstead in every opinion. I
declared him in favor of paying the national debt in greenbacks. Touching
the sectional question, which was then the burning issue of the time,
I made the mock Halstead say: "The 'bloody shirt' is only a kind of
Pickwickian battle cry. It is convenient during political campaigns and on
election day. Perhaps you do not know that I am myself of dyed-in-the-wool
Southern and secession stock. My father and grandfather came to Ohio from
South Carolina just before I was born. Naturally I have no sectional
prejudices, but I live in Cincinnati and I am a Republican."
There was not a little more of the same sort. Just how it passed through
the World office I know not; but it actually appeared. On returning to the
table I told the company what Mark Twain and I had done. They thought I was
joking. Without a word to any of us, next day Halstead wrote a note to the
World repudiating the interview, and the World printed his disclaimer with
a line which said: "When Mr. Halstead conversed with our reporter he had
dined." It was too good to keep. A day or two later, John Hay wrote an
amusing story for the Tribune, which set Halstead right.
Mark Twain's place in literature is not for me to fix. Some one has called
him "The Lincoln of letters." That is striking, suggestive and apposite.
The genius of Clemens and the genius of Lincoln possessed a kinship outside
the circumstances of their early lives; the common lack of tools to work
with; the privations and hardships to be endured and to overcome; the way
ahead through an unblazed and trackless forest; every footstep over a
stumbling block and each effort saddled with a handicap. But they got
there, both of them, they got there, and mayhap somewhere beyond the stars
the light of their eyes is shining down upon us even as, amid the thunders
of a world tempest, we are not wholly forgetful of them.
Chapter the Sixth
Houston and Wigfall of Texas--Stephen A. Douglas--The Twaddle about
Puritans and Cavaliers--Andrew Johnson and John C. Breckenridge
The National Capitol--old men's fancies fondly turn to thoughts of
youth--was picturesque in its personalities if not in its architecture. By
no means the least striking of these was General and Senator Sam Houston,
of Texas. In his life of adventure truth proved very much stranger than
The handsomest of men, tall and stately, he could pass no way without
attracting attention; strangers in the Senate gallery first asked to have
him pointed out to them, and seeing him to all appearance idling his time
with his jacknife and bits of soft wood which he whittled into various
shapes of hearts and anchors for distribution among his lady acquaintances,
they usually went away thinking him a queer old man. So inded he was;
yet on his feet and in action singularly impressive, and, when he chose,
altogether the statesman and orator.
There united in him the spirits of the troubadour and the spearman. Ivanhoe
was not more gallant nor Bois-Guilbert fiercer. But the valor and the
prowess were tempered by humor. Below the surging subterranean flood that
stirred and lifted him to high attempt, he was a comedian who had tales to
tell, and told them wondrous well. On a lazy summer afternoon on the shady
side of Willard's Hotel--the Senate not in session--he might be seen,
an admiring group about him, spinning these yarns, mostly of personal
experience--rarely if ever repeating himself--and in tone, gesture and
grimace reproducing the drolleries of the backwoods, which from boyhood had
been his home.
He spared not himself. According to his own account he had been in the
early days of his Texas career a drunkard. "Everybody got drunk," I once
heard him say, referring to the beginning of the Texas revolution, as he
gave a side-splitting picture of that bloody episode, "and I realized that
somebody must get sober and keep sober."
From the hour of that realization, when he "swore off," to the hour of his
death he never touched intoxicants of any sort.
He had fought under Jackson, had served two terms in Congress and had been
elected governor of Tennessee before he was forty. Then he fell in love.
The young lady was a beautiful girl, well-born and highly educated, a
schoolmate of my mother's elder sister. She was persuaded by her family to
throw over an obscure young man whom she preferred, and to marry a young
man so eligible and distinguished.
He took her to Nashville, the state capital. There were rounds of gayety.
Three months passed. Of a sudden the little town woke to the startling
rumor, which proved to be true, that the brilliant young couple had come to
a parting of the ways. The wife had returned to her people. The husband had
resigned his office and was gone, no one knew where.
A few years later Mrs. Houston applied for a divorce, which in those days
had to be granted by the state legislature. Inevitably reports derogatory
to her had got abroad. Almost the first tidings of Governor Houston's
whereabouts were contained in a letter he wrote from somewhere in the
Indian country to my father, a member of the legislature to whom Mrs.
Houston had applied, in which he said that these reports had come to his
ears. "They are," he wrote, "as false as hell. If they be not stopped I
will return to Tennessee and have the heart's blood of him who repeats
them. A nobler, purer woman never lived. She should be promptly given the
divorce she asks. I alone am to blame."
She married again, though not the lover she had discarded. I knew her in
her old age--a gentle, placid lady, in whose face I used to fancy I could
read lines of sorrow and regret. He, to close this chapter, likewise
married again a wise and womanly woman who bore him many children and with
whom he lived happy ever after. Meanwhile, however, he had dwelt with the
Indians and had become an Indian chief. "Big Drunk, they called me," he
said to his familiars. His enemies averred that he brought into the world a
whole tribe of half-breeds.
Houston was a rare performer before a popular audience. His speech abounded
with argumentative appeal and bristled with illustrative anecdote, and,
when occasion required, with apt repartee.
Once an Irishman in the crowd bawled out, "ye were goin' to sell Texas to
Houston paused long enough to center attention upon the quibble and then
said: "My friend, I first tried, unsuccessfully, to have the United States
take Texas as a gift. Not until I threatened to turn Texas over to England
did I finally succeed. There may be within the sound of my voice some who
have knowledge of sheep culture. They have doubtless seen a motherless lamb
put to the breast of a cross old ewe who refused it suck. Then the wise
shepherd calls his dog and there is no further trouble. My friend, England
was my dog."
He was inveighing against the New York Tribune. Having described Horace
Greeley as the sum of all villainy--"whose hair is white, whose skin is
white, whose eyes are white, whose clothes are white, and whose liver is in
my opinion of the same color"--he continued: "The assistant editor of
the Try-bune is Robinson--Solon Robinson. He is an Irishman, an Orange
Irishman, a redhaired Irishman!" Casting his eye over the audience
and seeing quite a sprinkling of redheads, and realizing that he had
perpetrated a slip of tongue, he added: "Fellow citizens, when I say that
Robinson is a red-haired Irishman I mean no disrespect to persons whose
hair is of that color. I have been a close observer of men and women for
thirty years, and I never knew a red-haired man who was not an honest man,
nor a red-headed woman who was not a virtuous woman; and I give it you as
my candid opinion that had it not been for Robinson's red hair he would
have been hanged long ago."
His pathos was not far behind his humor--though he used it sparingly. At a
certain town in Texas there lived a desperado who had threatened to kill
him on sight. The town was not on the route of his speaking dates but he
went out of his way to include it. A great concourse assembled to hear him.
He spoke in the open air and, as he began, observed his man leaning against
a tree armed to the teeth and waiting for him to finish. After a few
opening remarks, he dropped into the reminiscential. He talked of the old
times in Texas. He told in thrilling terms of the Alamo and of Goliad.
There was not a dry eye in earshot. Then he grew personal.
"I see Tom Gilligan over yonder. A braver man never lived than Tom
Gilligan. He fought by my side at San Jacinto. Together we buried poor Bill
Holman. But for his skill and courage I should not be here to-day. He--"
There was a stir in front. Gilligan had thrown away his knife and gun and
was rushing unarmed through the crowd, tears streaming down his face.
"For God's sake, Houston," he cried, "don't say another word and forgive me
my cowardly intention."
From that time to his death Tom Gilligan was Houston's devoted friend.
General Houston voted against the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and as a
consequence lost his seat in the Senate. It was thought, and freely said,
that for good and all he was down and out. He went home and announced
himself a candidate for governor of Texas.
The campaign that followed was of unexampled bitterness. The secession wave
was already mounting high. Houston was an uncompromising Unionist. His
defeat was generally expected. But there was no beating such a man in a
fair and square contest before the people. When the votes were counted he
led his competitor by a big majority. As governor he refused two years
later to sign the ordinance of secession and was deposed from office by
force. He died before the end of the war which so signally vindicated his
wisdom and verified his forecast.
Stephen Arnold Douglas was the Charles James Fox of American politics. He
was not a gambler as Fox was. But he went the other gaits and was possessed
of a sweetness of disposition which made him, like Fox, loved where he was
personally known. No one could resist the _bonhomie_ of Douglas.
They are not all Puritans in New England. Catch a Yankee off his base,
quite away from home, and he can be as gay as anybody. Boston and
Charleston were in high party times nearest alike of any two American
Douglas was a Green Mountain boy. He was born in Vermont. As Seargent
Prentiss had done he migrated beyond the Alleghanies before he came of age,
settling in Illinois as Prentiss had settled in Mississippi, to grow into a
typical Westerner as Prentiss into a typical Southerner.
There was never a more absurd theory than that, begot of sectional aims and
the sectional spirit, which proposed a geographic alignment of Cavalier and
Puritan. When sectionalism had brought a kindred people to blows over
the institution of African slavery there were Puritans who fought on the
Southern side and Cavaliers who fought on the Northern side. What was
Stonewall Jackson but a Puritan? What were Custer, Stoneman and Kearny but
Cavaliers? Wadsworth was as absolute an aristocrat as Hampton.
In the old days before the war of sections the South was full of typical
Southerners of Northern birth. John A. Quitman, who went from New York,
and Robert J. Walker, who went from Pennsylvania to Mississippi; James
H. Hammond, whose father, a teacher, went from Massachusetts to South
Carolina. John Slidell, born and bred in New York, was thirty years old
when he went to Louisiana. Albert Sidney Johnston, the rose and expectancy
of the young Confederacy--the most typical of rebel soldiers--had not a
drop of Southern blood in his veins, born in Kentucky a few months after
his father and mother had arrived there from Connecticut. The list might be
Climate, which has something to do with temperament, has not so much to
do with character as is often imagined. All of us are more or less
the creatures of environment. In the South after a fashion the duello
flourished. Because it had not flourished in the North there rose a notion
that the Northerners would not fight. It proved to those who thought it a
Down to the actual secession of 1860-61 the issue of issues--the issue
behind all issues--was the preservation of the Union. Between 1820 and
1850, by a series of compromises, largely the work of Mr. Clay, its
threatened disruption had been averted. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill put a sore
strain upon conservative elements North and South. The Whig Party went to
pieces. Mr. Clay passed from the scene. Had he lived until the presidential
election of 1852 he would have given his support to Franklin Pierce, as
Daniel Webster did. Mr. Buchanan was not a General Jackson. Judge Douglas,
who sought to play the role of Mr. Clay, was too late. The secession
leaders held the whip hand in the Gulf States. South Carolina was to have
her will at last. Crash came the shot in Charleston Harbor and the fall of
Sumter. Curiously enough two persons of Kentucky birth--Abraham Lincoln
and Jefferson Davis--led the rival hosts of war into which an untenable and
indefensible system of slave labor, for which the two sections were equally
responsible, had precipitated an unwilling people.
Had Judge Douglas lived he would have been Mr. Lincoln's main reliance in
Congress. As a debater his resources and prowess were rarely equaled
and never surpassed. His personality, whether in debate or private
conversation, was attractive in the highest degree. He possessed a full,
melodious voice, convincing fervor and ready wit.
He had married for his second wife the reigning belle of the National
Capital, a great-niece of Mrs. Madison, whose very natural ambitions
quickened and spurred his own.
It was fated otherwise. Like Clay, Webster, Calhoun and Blaine he was to be
denied the Presidency. The White House was barred to him. He was not yet
fifty when he died.
Tidings of his death took the country by surprise. But already the
sectional battle was on and it produced only a momentary impression, to be
soon forgotten amid the overwhelming tumult of events. He has lain in his
grave now nearly sixty years. Upon the legislation of his time his name was
writ first in water and then in blood. He received less than his desert in
life and the historic record has scarcely done justice to his merit. He
was as great a party leader as Clay. He could hold his own in debate with
Webster and Calhoun. He died a very poor man, though his opportunity for
enrichment by perfectly legitimate means were many. It is enough to
say that he lacked the business instinct and set no value upon money;
scrupulously upright in his official dealing; holding his senatorial duties
above all price and beyond the suspicion of dirt.
Touching a matter which involved a certain outlay in the winter of 1861, he
laughingly said to me: "I haven't the wherewithal to pay for a bottle of
whisky and shall have to borrow of Arnold Harris the wherewithal to take me
His wife was a glorious creature. Early one morning calling at their home
to see Judge Douglas I was ushered into the library, where she was engaged
setting things to rights. My entrance took her by surprise. I had often
seen her in full ballroom regalia and in becoming out-of-door costume, but
as, in gingham gown and white apron, she turned, a little startled by my
sudden appearance, smiles and blushes in spite of herself, I thought I had
never seen any woman so beautiful before. She married again--the lover whom
gossip said she had thrown over to marry Judge Douglas--and the story went
that her second marriage was not very happy.
In the midsummer of 1859 the burning question among the newsmen of
Washington was the Central American Mission. England and France had
displayed activity in that quarter and it was deemed important that the
United States should sit up and take notice. An Isthmian canal was being
Speculation was rife whom Mr. Buchanan would send to represent us. The
press gang of the National Capital was all at sea. There was scarcely a
Democratic leader of national prominence whose name was not mentioned in
that connection, though speculation from day to day eddied round Mr. James
S. Rollins, of Missouri, an especial friend of the President and a most
accomplished public man.
At the height of excitement I happened to be in the library of the State
Department. I was on a step-ladder in quest of a book when I heard a
messenger say to the librarian: "The President is in the Secretary's room
and wants to have Mr. Dimitry come there right away." An inspiration shot
through me like a flash. They had chosen Alexander Dimitry for the Central
He was the official translator of the Department of State. Though an able
and learned man he was not in the line of preferment. He was without
political standing or backing of any sort. At first blush a more unlikely,
impossible appointment could hardly be suggested. But--so on the instant
I reasoned--he was peculiarly fitted in his own person for the post in
question. Though of Greek origin he looked like a Spaniard. He spoke the
Spanish language fluently. He had the procedure of the State Department
at his finger's ends. He was the head of a charming domestic fabric--his
daughters the prettiest girls in Washington. Why not?
I climbed down from my stepladder and made tracks for the office of the
afternoon newspaper for which I was doing all-round work. I was barely on
time, the last forms being locked when I got there. I had the editorial
page opened and inserted at the top of the leading column a double-leaded
paragraph announcing that the agony was over--that the Gordian knot was
cut--that Alexander Dimitry had been selected as Envoy Extraordinary and
Minister Plenipotentiary to the Central American States.
It proved a veritable sensation as well as a notable scoop. To increase my
glory the correspondents of the New York dailies scouted it. But in a day
or two it was officially confirmed. General Cass, the Secretary of State,
sent for me, having learned that I had been in the department about the
time of the consultation between the President, himself and Mr. Dimitry.
"How did you get this?" he asked rather sharply.
"Out of my inner consciousness," I answered with flippant familiarity.
"Didn't you know that I have what they call second sight?"
The old gentleman laughed amiably. "It would seem so," he said, and sent me
about my business without further inquiry.
In the National Capital the winter of 1860-61 was both stormy and nebulous.
Parties were at sea. The Northerners in Congress had learned the trick of
bullying from the Southerners. In the Senate, Chandler was a match for
Toombs; and in the House, Thaddeus Stevens for Keitt and Lamar. All of
them, more or less, were playing a game. If sectional war, which was
incessantly threatened by the two extremes, had been keenly realized and
seriously considered it might have been averted. Very few believed that it
would come to actual war.
A convention of Border State men, over which ex-President John Tyler
presided, was held in Washington. It might as well have been held at the
North Pole. Moderate men were brushed aside, their counsels whistled down
the wind. There was a group of Senators, headed by Wigfall of Texas, who
meant disunion and war, and another group, headed by Seward, Hale and
Chase, who had been goaded up to this. Reading contemporary history and,
seeing the high-mightiness with which the Germans began what we conceive
their raid upon humanity, we are wont to regard it as evidence of
incredible stupidity, whereas it was, in point of fact, rather a
miscalculation of forces. That was the error of the secession leaders. They
refused to count the cost. Yancey firmly believed that England would be
forced to intervene. The mills of Lancashire he thought could not get on
without Southern cotton. He was sent abroad. He found Europe solid against
slavery and therefore set against the Confederacy. He came home with what
is called a broken heart--the dreams of a lifetime shattered--and, in a
kind of dazed stupor, laid himself down to die. With Richmond in flames and
the exultant shouts of the detested yet victorious Yankees in his ears, he
Wigfall survived but a few years. He was less a dreamer than Yancey. A man
big of brain and warm of heart he had gone from the ironclad provincialism
of South Carolina to the windswept vagaries of Texas. He believed wholly
the Yancey confession of faith; that secession was a constitutional right;
that African slavery was ordained of God; that the South was paramount,
the North inferior. Yet in worldly knowledge he had learned more than
Yancey--was an abler man than Jefferson Davis--and but for his affections
and generous habits he would have made a larger figure in the war, having
led the South's exit from the Senate.
I do not think that either Hammond or Chestnut, the Senators from
South Carolina, both men of parts, had at bottom much belief in the
practicability of the Confederate movement. Neither had the Senators from
Arkansas and Alabama, nor Brown, of Mississippi, the colleague of Jefferson
Davis. Mason, of Virginia, a dogged old donkey, and Iverson, of Georgia,
another, were the kind of men whom Wigfall dominated.
One of the least confident of those who looked on and afterward fell in
line was the Vice President, John C. Breckenridge, of Kentucky. He was the
Beau Sabreur among statesmen as Albert Sidney Johnston, among soldiers.
Never man handsomer in person or more winning in manners. Sprung from a
race of political aristocrats, he was born to early and shining success
in public life. Of moderate opinions, winning and prudent, wherever he
appeared he carried his audience with him. He had been elected on the
ticket with Buchanan to the second office under the Government, when he was
but five and thirty years of age. There was nothing for him to gain from
a division of the Union; the Presidency, perhaps, if the Union continued
undivided. But he could not resist the onrush of disunionism, went with
the South, which he served first in the field and later as Confederate
Secretary of War, and after a few years of self-imposed exile in Europe
returned to Kentucky to die at four and fifty, a defeated and disappointed
The adjoining state of Tennessee was represented in the Senate by one of
the most problematic characters in American history. With my father, who
remained his friend through life, he had entered the state legislature in
1835, and having served ten years in the lower House of Congress, and
four years as governor of Tennessee he came back in 1857 to the National
Capital, a member of the Upper House. He was Andrew Johnson.
I knew him from my childhood. Thrice that I can recall I saw him weep;
never did I see him laugh. Life had been very serious, albeit very
successful, to him. Of unknown parentage, the wife he had married before he
was one and twenty had taught him to read. Yet at six and twenty he was in
the Tennessee General Assembly and at four and thirty in Congress.
There was from first to last not a little about him to baffle conjecture.
I should call him a cross between Jack Cade and Aaron Burr. His sympathies
were easily stirred by rags in distress. But he was uncompromising in his
detestation of the rich. It was said that he hated "a biled shirt." He
would have nothing to do "with people who wore broadcloth," though he
carefully dressed himself. When, as governor of Tennessee, he came to
Nashville he refused many invitations to take his first New Year's dinner
with a party of toughs at the house of a river roustabout.
There was nothing of the tough about him, however. His language was careful
and exact. I never heard him utter an oath or tell a risque story. He
passed quite fifteen years in Washington, a total abstainer from the use of
intoxicants. He fell into the occasional-drink habit during the dark days
of the War. But after some costly experience he dropped it and continued a
total abstainer to the end of his days.
He had, indeed, admirable self-control. I do not believe a more
conscientious man ever lived. His judgments were sometimes peculiar, but
they were upright and sincere, having reasons, which he could give with
power and effect, behind them. Yet was he a born politician, crafty to a
degree, and always successful, relying upon a popular following which never
In 1860 he supported the quasi-secession Breckenridge and Lane Presidential
ticket, but in 1861 he stood true to the Union, retaining his seat in the
Senate until he was appointed military governor of Tennessee. Nominated for
Vice President on the ticket with Lincoln, in 1864, he was elected, and
upon the assassination of Lincoln succeeded to the Presidency. Having
served out his term as President he returned to Tennessee to engage in
the hottest kind of politics, and though at the outset defeated finally
regained his seat in the Senate of the United States.
He hated Grant with a holy hate. His first act on reentering the Senate was
to deliver an implacably bitter speech against the President. It was his
last public appearance. He went thence to his home in East Tennessee,
gratified and happy, to die in a few weeks.
There used to be a story about Raleigh, in North Carolina, where Andrew
Johnson was born, which whispered that he was a natural son of William
Ruffin, an eminent jurist in the earlier years of the nineteenth century.
It was analogous to the story that Lincoln was the natural son of various
paternities from time to time assigned to him. I had my share in running
that calumny to cover. It was a lie out of whole cloth with nothing
whatever to support or excuse it. I reached the bottom of it to discover
proof of its baselessness abundant and conclusive. In Johnson's case I take
it that the story had nothing other to rest on than the obscurity of his
birth and the quality of his talents. Late in life Johnson went to Raleigh
and caused to be erected a modest tablet over the spot pointed out as the
grave of his progenitor, saying, I was told by persons claiming to have
been present, "I place this stone over the last earthly abode of my alleged
Johnson, in the saying of the countryside, "out-married himself." His wife
was a plain woman, but came of good family. One day, when a child, so the
legend ran, she saw passing through the Greenville street in which her
people lived, a woman, a boy and a cow, the boy carrying a pack over his
shoulder. They were obviously weary and hungry. Extreme poverty could
present no sadder picture. "Mother," cried the girl, "there goes the man I
am going to marry." She was thought to be in jest. But a few years later
she made her banter good and lived to see her husband President of the
United States and with him to occupy the White House at Washington.
Much has been written of the humble birth and iron fortune of Abraham
Lincoln. He had no such obstacles to overcome as either Andrew Jackson
or Andrew Johnson. Jackson, a prisoner of war, was liberated, a lad of
sixteen, from the British pen at Charleston, without a relative, a friend
or a dollar in the world, having to make his way upward through the most
aristocratic community of the country and the time. Johnson, equally
friendless and penniless, started as a poor tailor in a rustic village.
Lincoln must therefore, take third place among our self-made Presidents.
The Hanks family were not paupers. He had a wise and helpful stepmother. He
was scarcely worse off than most young fellows of his neighborhood, first
in Indiana and then in Illinois. On this side justice has never been
rendered to Jackson and Johnson. In the case of Jackson the circumstance
was forgotten, while Johnson too often dwelt upon it and made capital out
Under date of the 23rd of May, 1919, the Hon. Josephus Daniels, Secretary
of the Navy, writes me the following letter, which I violate no confidence
in reproducing in this connection:
MY DEAR MARSE HENRY:--
I can't tell you how much delight and pleasure your reminiscences in the
Saturday Evening Post have given me, as well as the many others who have
followed them, and I suppose you will put them in a volume when they are
finished, so that we may have the pleasure of reading them in connected
As you know, I live in Raleigh and I was very much interested in your
article in the issue of April 5, 1919, with reference to Andrew Johnson, in
which you quote a story that "used to be current in Raleigh, that he was
the son of William Ruffin, an eminent jurist of the ninetenth century." I
had never heard this story, but the story that was gossiped there was that
he was the son of a certain Senator Haywood. I ran that story down and
found that it had no foundation whatever, because if he had been the son of
the Senator reputed to be his father, the Senator was of the age of twelve
years when Andrew Johnson was born.
My own information is, for I have made some investigation of it, that the
story about Andrew Johnson's having a father other than the husband of his
mother, is as wanting in foundation as the story about Abraham Lincoln.
You did a great service in running that down and exposing it, and I trust
before you finish your book that you will make further investigation and
be able to do a like service in repudiating the unjust, idle gossip with
reference to Andrew Johnson. In your article you say that persons who claim
to have been present when Johnson came to Raleigh and erected a monument
over the grave of his father, declare that Johnson said he placed this
stone over the last earthly abode of "my alleged father." That is one phase
of the gossip, and the other is that he said "my reputed father," both
The late Mr. Pulaski Cowper, who was private secretary to Governor Bragg,
of our State, just prior to the war, and who was afterwards president of
our leading life insurance company, a gentleman of high character, and of
the best memory, was present at the time that Johnson made the address from
which you quote the rumor. Mr. Cowper wrote an article for The News and
Observer, giving the story and relating that Johnson said that "he was glad
to come to Raleigh to erect a tablet to his father." The truth is that
while his father was a man of little or no education, he held the position
of janitor at the State Capitol, and he was not wanting in qualities which
made him superior to his humble position. If he had been living in this day
he would have been given a lifesaving medal, for upon the occasion of a
picnic near Raleigh when the cry came that children were drowning he was
the first to leap in and endanger his life to save them.
Andrew Johnson's mother was related to the Chappell family, of which there
are a number of citizens of standing and character near Raleigh, several of
them having been ministers of the Gospel, and one at least having gained
distinction as a missionary in China.
I am writing you because I know that your story will be read and accepted
and I thought you would be glad to have this story, based upon a study and
investigation and personal knowledge of Mr. Cowper, whose character and
competency are well known in North Carolina.
Chapter the Seventh
An Old Newspaper Rookery--Reactionary Sectionalism in Cincinnati and
My dream of wealth through my commission on the Confederate cotton I was to
sell to English buyers was quickly shattered. The cotton was burned and I
found myself in the early spring of 1865 in the little village of Glendale,
a suburb of Cincinnati, where the future Justice Stanley Matthews had his
home. His wife was a younger sister of my mother. My grandmother was still
alive and lived with her daughter and son-in-law.
I was received with open arms. A few days later the dear old lady said to
me: "I suppose, my son, you are rather a picked bird after your adventures
in the South. You certainly need better clothing. I have some money in bank
and it is freely yours."
I knew that my Uncle Stanley had put her up to this, and out of sheer
curiosity I asked her how much she could let me have. She named what seemed
to me a stupendous sum. I thanked her, told her I had quite a sufficiency
for the time being, slipped into town and pawned my watch; that is, as I
made light of it afterward in order to escape the humiliation of borrowing
from an uncle whose politics I did not approve, I went with my collateral
to an uncle who had no politics at all and got fifty dollars on it! Before
the money was gone I had found, through Judge Matthews, congenial work.
There was in Cincinnati but one afternoon newspaper--the Evening
Times--owned by Calvin W. Starbuck. He had been a practical printer but was
grown very rich. He received me kindly, said the editorial force was quite
full--must always be, on a daily newspaper--"but," he added, "my brother,
Alexander Starbuck, who has been running the amusements, wants to go
a-fishing in Canada--to be gone a month--and, if you wish, you can during
his absence sub for him."
It was just to my hand and liking. Before Alexander Starbuck returned the
leading editor of the paper fell from a ferryboat crossing the Ohio River
and was drowned. The next day General Starbuck sent for me and offered me
the vacant place.
"Why, general," I said, "I am an outlawed man: I do not agree with your
politics. I do not see how I can undertake a place so conspicuous and
He replied: "I propose to engage you as an editorial manager. It is as
if building a house you should be head carpenter, I the architect. The
difference in salary will be seventy-five dollars a week against fifteen
dollars a week."
I took the place.
The office of the Evening Times was a queer old curiosity shop. I set to
and turned it inside out. I had very pronounced journalistic notions of my
own and applied them in every department of the sleepy old money-maker. One
afternoon a week later I put forth a paper whose oldest reader could not
have recognized it. The next morning's Cincinnati Commercial contained a
flock of paragraphs to which the Chattanooga-Cincinnati-Rebel Evening Times
furnished the keynote.
They made funny reading, but they threw a dangerous flare upon my "past"
and put me at a serious disadvantage. It happened that when Artemus Ward
had been in town a fortnight before he gave me a dinner and had some of his
friends to meet me. Among these was a young fellow of the name of Halstead,
who, I was told, was the coming man on the Commercial.
Round to the Commercial office I sped, and being conducted to this person,
who received me very blandly, I said: "Mr. Halstead, I am a journeyman day
laborer in your city--the merest bird of passage, with my watch at the
pawnbroker's. As soon as I am able to get out of town I mean to go--and
I came to ask if you can think the personal allusions to me in to-day's
paper, which may lose me my job but can nowise hurt the Times, are quite
fair--even--since I am without defense--quite manly."
He looked at me with that quizzical, serio-comic stare which so became him,
and with great heartiness replied: "No--they were damned mean--though I
did not realize how mean. The mark was so obvious and tempting I could not
resist, but--there shall be no more of them. Come, let us go and have a
That was the beginning of a friendship which brought happiness to both of
us and lasted nearly half a century, to the hour of his death, when, going
from Louisville to Cincinnati, I helped to lay him away in Spring Grove
I had no thought of remaining in Cincinnati. My objective was Nashville,
where the young woman who was to become my wife, and whom I had not seen
for nearly two years, was living with her family. During the summer Mr.
Francisco, the business manager of the Evening Times, had a scheme to buy
the Toledo Commercial, in conjunction with Mr. Comly, of Columbus, and to
engage me as editor conjointly with Mr. Harrison Gray Otis as publisher. It
looked very good. Toledo threatened Cleveland and Detroit as a lake port.
But nothing could divert me. As soon as Parson Brownlow, who was governor
of Tennessee and making things lively for the returning rebels, would
allow, I was going to Nashville.
About the time the way was cleared my two pals, or bunkies, of the
Confederacy, Albert Roberts and George Purvis, friends from boyhood, put
in an appearance. They were on their way to the capital of Tennessee. The
father of Albert Roberts was chief owner of the Republican Banner, an old
and highly respectable newspaper, which had for nearly four years lain in a
state of suspension. Their plan now was to revive its publication, Purvis
to be business manager, and Albert and I to be editors. We had no cash.
Nobody on our side of the line had any cash. But John Roberts owned a farm
he could mortgage for money enough to start us. What had I to say?
Less than a week later saw us back at home winnowing the town for
subscribers and advertising. We divided it into districts, each taking a
specified territory. The way we boys hustled was a sight to see. But the
way the community warmed to us was another. When the familiar headline,
The Republican Banner, made its apearance there was a popular hallelujah,
albeit there were five other dailies ahead of us. A year later there was
only one, and it was nowise a competitor.
Albert Roberts had left his girl, Edith Scott, the niece of Huxley, whom I
have before mentioned, in Montgomery, Alabama. Purvis' girl, Sophie Searcy,
was in Selma. Their hope was to have enough money by Christmas each to
pay a visit to those distant places. My girl was on the spot, and we had
resolved, money or no money, to be married without delay. Before New Year's
the three of us were wedded and comfortably settled, with funds galore, for
the paper had thrived consumingly. It had thrived so consumingly that after
a little I was able to achieve the wish of my heart and to go to London,
taking my wife and my "great American novel" with me. I have related
elsewhere what came of this and what happened to me.
That bread cast upon the waters--"'dough' put out at usance," as Joseph
Jefferson used to phrase it--shall return after many days has been I dare
say discovered by most persons who have perpetrated acts of kindness,
conscious or unconscious. There was a poor, broken-down English actor with
a passion for Chaucer, whom I was wont to encounter in the Library of
Congress. His voice was quite gone. Now and again I had him join me in a
square meal. Once in a while I paid his room rent. I was loath to leave him
when the break came in 1861, though he declared he had "expectations," and
made sure he would not starve.
I was passing through Regent Street in London, when a smart brougham drove
up to the curb and a wheezy voice called after me. It was my old friend,
Newton. His "expectations" had not failed him, he had come into a property
and was living in affluence.
He knew London as only a Bohemian native and to the manner born could know
it. His sense of bygone obligation knew no bounds. Between him and John
Mahoney and Artemus Ward I was made at home in what might be called the
mysteries and eccentricities of differing phases of life in the British
metropolis not commonly accessible to the foreign casual. In many after
visits this familiar knowledge has served me well. But Newton did not live
to know of some good fortune that came to me and to feel my gratitude to
him, as dear old John Mahoney did. When I was next in London he was gone.
It was not, however, the actor, Newton, whom I had in mind in offering a
bread-upon-the-water moral, but a certain John Hatcher, the memory of whom
in my case illustrates it much better. He was a wit and a poet. He had been
State Librarian of Tennessee. Nothing could keep him out of the service,
though he was a sad cripple and wholly unequal to its requirements. He fell
ill. I had the opportunity to care for him. When the war was over his old
friend, George D. Prentice, called him to Louisville to take an editorial
place on the Journal.
About the same time Mr. Walter Haldeman returned from the South and resumed
the suspended publication of the Louisville Courier. He was in the prime of
life, a man of surpassing energy, enterprise and industry, and had with
him the popular sympathy. Mr. Prentice was nearly three score and ten. The
stream had passed him by. The Journal was not only beginning to feel the
strain but was losing ground. In this emergency Hatcher came to the rescue.
I was just back from London and was doing noticeable work on the Nashville
"Here is your man," said Hatcher to Mr. Prentice and Mr. Henderson, the
owners of the Journal; and I was invited to come to Louisville.
After I had looked over the field and inspected the Journal's books I was
satisfied that a union with the Courier was the wisest solution of the
newspaper situation, and told them so. Meanwhile Mr. Haldeman, whom I had
known in the Confederacy, sent for me. He offered me the same terms for
part ownership and sole editorship of the Courier, which the Journal people
had offered me. This I could not accept, but proposed as an alternative the
consolidation of the two on an equal basis. He was willing enough for the
consolidation, but not on equal terms. There was nothing for it but a
fight. I took the Journal and began to hammer the Courier.
A dead summer was before us, but Mr. Henderson had plenty of money and was
willing to spend it. During the contest not an unkind word was printed on
either side. After stripping the Journal to its heels it had very little
to go on or to show for what had once been a prosperous business. But
circulation flowed in. From eighteen hundred daily it quickly mounted to
ten thousand; from fifteen hundred weekly to fifty thousand. The middle of
October it looked as if we had a straight road before us.
But I knew better. I had discovered that the field, no matter how worked,
was not big enough to support two rival dailies. There was toward the last
of October on the edge of town a real-estate sale which Mr. Haldeman and I
attended. Here was my chance for a play. I must have bid up to a hundred
thousand dollars and did actually buy nearly ten thousand dollars of the
lots put up at auction, relying upon some money presently coming to my
I could see that it made an impression on Mr. Haldeman. Returning in the
carriage which had brought us out I said: "Mr. Haldeman, I am going to ruin
you. But I am going to run up a money obligation to Isham Henderson I shall
never be able to discharge. You need an editor. I need a publisher. Let
us put these two newspapers together, buy the Democrat, and, instead of
cutting one another's throats, go after Cincinnati and St. Louis. You will
recall that I proposed this to you in the beginning. What is the matter
with it now?"
Nothing was the matter with it. He agreed at once. The details were soon
adjusted. Ten days later there appeared upon the doorsteps of the city in
place of the three familiar visitors, a double-headed stranger, calling
itself the Courier-Journal. Our exclusive possession of the field thus
acquired lasted two years. At the end of these we found that at least the
appearance of competition was indispensable and willingly acepted an offer
from a proposed Republican organ for a division of the Press dispatches
which we controlled. Then and there the real prosperity of the
Courier-Journal began, the paper having made no money out of its monopoly.
Reconstruction, as it was called--ruin were a fitter name for it--had just
begun. The South was imprisoned, awaiting the executioner. The Constitution
of the United States hung in the balance. The Federal Union faced the
threat of sectional despotism. The spirit of the time was martial law. The
gospel of proscription ruled in Congress. Radicalism, vitalized by the
murder of Abraham Lincoln and inflamed by the inadequate effort of Andrew
Johnson to carry out the policies of Lincoln, was in the saddle riding
furiously toward a carpetbag Poland and a negroized Ireland.
The Democratic Party, which, had it been stronger, might have interposed,
lay helpless. It, too, was crushed to earth. Even the Border States, which
had not been embraced by the military agencies and federalized machinery
erected over the Gulf States, were seriously menaced. Never did newspaper
enterprise set out under gloomier auspices.
There was a party of reaction in Kentucky, claiming to be Democratic,
playing to the lead of the party of repression at the North. It refused to
admit that the head of the South was in the lion's mouth and that the first
essential was to get it out. The Courier-Journal proposed to stroke the
mane, not twist the tail of the lion. Thus it stood between two fires.
There arose a not unnatural distrust of the journalistic monopoly created
by the consolidation of the three former dailies into a single newspaper,
carrying an unfamiliar hyphenated headline. Touching its policy of
sectional conciliation it picked its way perilously through the cross
currents of public opinion. There was scarcely a sinister purpose that was
not alleged against it by its enemies; scarcely a hostile device that was
not undertaken to put it down and drive it out.
Its constituency represented an unknown quantity. In any event it had to be
created. Meanwhile, it must rely upon its own resources, sustained by the
courage of the venture, by the integrity of its convictions and aims, and
by faith in the future of the city, the state and the country.
Still, to be precise, it was the morning of Sunday, November 8,1868.
The night before the good people of Louisville had gone to bed expecting
nothing unusual to happen. They awoke to encounter an uninvited guest
arrived a little before the dawn. No hint of its coming had got abroad;
and thus the surprise was the greater. Truth to say, it was not a pleased
surprise, because, as it flared before the eye of the startled citizen in
big Gothic letters, The Courier-Journal, there issued thence an aggressive
self-confidence which affronted the _amour propre_ of the sleepy
villagers. They were used to a very different style of newspaper approach.
Nor was the absence of a timorous demeanor its only offense. The Courier
had its partisans, the Journal and the Democrat had their friends. The trio
stood as ancient landmarks, as recognized and familiar institutions. Here
was a double-headed monster which, without saying "by your leave" or "blast
your eyes" or any other politeness, had taken possession of each man's
doorstep, looking very like it had brought its knitting and was come to
The Journal established by Mr. Prentice, the Courier by Mr. Haldeman and
the Democrat by Mr. Harney, had been according to the standards of those
days successful newspapers. But the War of Sections had made many changes.
At its close new conditions appeared on every side. A revolution had come
into the business and the spirit of American journalism.
In Louisville three daily newspapers had for a generation struggled for
the right of way. Yet Louisville was a city of the tenth or twelfth class,
having hardly enough patronage to sustain one daily newspaper of the first
or second class. The idea of consolidating the three thus contending to
divide a patronage so insufficient, naturally suggested itself during the
years immediately succeeding the war. But it did not take definite shape
Mr. Haldeman had returned from a somewhat picturesque and not altogether
profitable pursuit of his "rights in the territories" and had resumed the
suspended publication of the Courier with encouraging prospects. I had
succeeded Mr. Prentice in the editorship and part ownership of the Journal.
Both Mr. Haldeman and I were newspaper men to the manner born and bred;
old and good friends; and after our rivalry of six months maintained with
activity on both sides, but without the publication of an unkind word on
either, a union of forces seemed exigent. To practical men the need of this
was not a debatable question. All that was required was an adjustment of
the details. Beginning with the simple project of joining the Courier and
the Journal, it ended by the purchase of the Democrat, which it did not
seem safe to leave outside.
The political conditions in Kentucky were anomalous. The Republican Party
had not yet definitely taken root. Many of the rich old Whigs, who had held
to the Government--to save their slaves--resenting Lincoln's Emancipation
Proclamation, had turned Democrats. Most of the before-the-war Democrats
had gone with the Confederacy. The party in power called itself Democratic,
but was in fact a body of reactionary nondescripts claiming to be Unionists
and clinging, or pretending to cling, to the hard-and-fast prejudices of
The situation may be the better understood when I add that "negro
testimony"--the introduction to the courts of law of the newly made
freedmen as witnesses--barred by the state constitution, was the burning
issue. A murder committed in the presence of a thousand negroes could not
be lawfully proved in court. Everything from a toothbrush to a cake of
soap might be cited before a jury, but not a human being if his skin
happened to be black.
[Illustration: Mr. Watterson's Editorial Staff in 1868, When the
Three Daily Newspapers of Louisville Were United into the
"_Courier-Journal_." Mr. George D. Prentice and Mr. Watterson Are in
To my mind this was monstrous. From my cradle I had detested slavery. The
North will never know how many people at the South did so. I could not go
with the Republican Party, however, because after the death of Abraham
Lincoln it had intrenched itself in the proscription of Southern men. The
attempt to form a third party had shown no strength and had broken down.
There was nothing for me, and the Confederates who were with me, but
the ancient label of a Democracy worn by a riffraff of opportunists,
Jeffersonian principles having quite gone to seed. But I proposed to
lead and reform it, not to follow and fall in behind the selfish and
short-sighted time servers who thought the people had learned nothing and
forgot nothing; and instant upon finding myself in the saddle I sought
to ride down the mass of ignorance which was at least for the time being
mainly what I had to look to for a constituency.
Mr. Prentice, who knew the lay of the ground better than I did, advised
against it. The personal risk counted for something. Very early in the
action I made a direct fighting issue, which--the combat interdicted--gave
me the opportunity to declare--with something of the bully in the
tone--that I might not be able to hit a barn door at ten paces, but could
shoot with any man in Kentucky across a pocket handkerchief, holding myself
at all times answerable and accessible. I had a fairly good fighting record
in the army and it was not doubted that I meant what I said.
But it proved a bitter, hard, uphill struggle, for a long while against
odds, before negro testimony was carried. A generation of politicians were
sent to the rear. Finally, in 1876, a Democratic State Convention put its
mark upon me as a Democrat by appointing me a Delegate at large to the
National Democratic Convention of that year called to meet at St. Louis to
put a Presidential ticket in the field.
The Courier-Journal having come to represent all three of the English
dailies of the city the public began to rebel. It could not see that
instead of three newspapers of the third or fourth class Louisville was
given one newspaper of the first class; that instead of dividing
the local patronage in three inadequate portions, wasted upon a triple
competition, this patronage was combined, enabling the one newspaper to
engage in a more equal competition with the newspapers of such rival and
larger cities as Cincinnati and St. Louis; and that one of the contracting
parties needing an editor, the other a publisher, in coming together the
two were able to put their trained faculties to the best account.
Nevertheless, during thirty-five years Mr. Haldeman and I labored side by
side, not the least difference having arisen between us. The attacks to
which we were subjected from time to time drew us together the closer.
These attacks were sometimes irritating and sometimes comical, but they had
one characteristic feature: Each started out apparently under a high state
of excitement. Each seemed to have some profound cause of grief, to be
animated by implacable hate and to aim at nothing short of annihilation.
Frequently the assailants would lie in wait to see how the
Courier-Journal's cat was going to jump, in order that they might take
the other side; and invariably, even if the Courier-Journal stood for
the reforms they affected to stand for, they began a system of
misrepresentation and abuse. In no instance did they attain any success.
Only once, during the Free Silver craze of 1896, and the dark and tragic
days that followed it the three or four succeeding years, the paper having
stood, as it had stood during the Greenback craze, for sound money, was
the property in danger. It cost more of labor and patience to save it from
destruction than it had cost to create it thirty years before. Happily Mr.
Haldeman lived to see the rescue complete, the tide turned and the future
A newspaper, like a woman, must not only be honest, but must seem to be
honest; acts of levity, loose unbecoming expressions or behavior--though
never so innocent--tending in the one and in the other to lower reputation
and discredit character. During my career I have proceeded under a
confident belief in this principle of newspaper ethics and an unfailing
recognition of its mandates. I truly believe that next after business
integrity in newspaper management comes disinterestedness in the public
service, and next after disinterestedness come moderation and intelligence,
cleanliness and good feeling, in dealing with affairs and its readers.
From that blessed Sunday morning, November 8, 1868, to this good day, I
have known no other life and had no other aim. Those were indeed parlous
times. It was an era of transition. Upon the field of battle, after four
years of deadly but unequal combat, the North had vanquished the South.
The victor stood like a giant, with blood aflame, eyes dilate and hands
uplifted again to strike. The victim lay prostrate. Save self-respect and
manhood all was lost. Clasping its memories to its bosom the South sank
helpless amid the wreck of its fortunes, whilst the North, the benign
influence of the great Lincoln withdrawn, proceeded to decide its fate. To
this ghastly end had come slavery and secession, and all the pomp, pride
and circumstance of the Confederacy. To this bitter end had come the
soldiership of Lee and Jackson and Johnston and the myriads of brave men
who followed them.
The single Constitutional barrier that had stood between the people of the
stricken section and political extinction was about to be removed by the
exit of Andrew Johnson from the White House. In his place a man of blood
and iron--for such was the estimate at that time placed upon Grant--had
been elected President. The Republicans in Congress, checked for a time
by Johnson, were at length to have entire sway under Thaddeus Stevens.
Reconstruction was to be thorough and merciless. To meet these conditions
was the first requirement of the Courier-Journal, a newspaper conducted by
outlawed rebels and published on the sectional border line. The task was
not an easy one.
There is never a cause so weak that it does not stir into ill-timed
activity some wild, unpractical zealots who imagine it strong. There is
never a cause so just but that the malevolent and the mercenary will seek
to trade upon it. The South was helpless; the one thing needful was to get
it on its feet, and though the bravest and the wisest saw this plainly
enough there came to the front--particularly in Kentucky--a small but noisy
body of politicians who had only worked themselves into a state of war when
it was too late, and who with more or less of aggression, insisted that
"the states lately in rebellion" still had rights, which they were able to
maintain and which the North could be forced to respect.
I was of a different opinion. It seemed to me that whatever of right might
exist the South was at the mercy of the North; that the radical party led
by Stevens and Wade dominated the North and could dictate its own terms;
and that the shortest way round lay in that course which was best
calculated to disarm radicalism by an intelligent appeal to the business
interests and conservative elements of Northern society, supported by a
domestic policy of justice alike to whites and blacks.
Though the institution of African slavery was gone the negro continued the
subject of savage contention. I urged that he be taken out of the arena of
agitation, and my way of taking him out was to concede him his legal and
civil rights. The lately ratified Constitutional Amendments, I contended,
were the real Treaty of Peace between the North and South. The recognition
of these Amendments in good faith by the white people of the South was
indispensable to that perfect peace which was desired by the best people of
both sections. The political emancipation of the blacks was essential to
the moral emancipation of the whites. With the disappearence of the negro
question as cause of agitation, I argued, radicalism of the intense,
proscriptive sort would die out; the liberty-loving, patriotic people of
the North would assert themselves; and, this one obstacle to a better
understanding removed, the restoration of Constitutional Government would
follow, being a matter of momentous concern to the body of the people both
North and South.
Such a policy of conciliation suited the Southern extremists as little as
it suited the Northern extremists. It took from the politicians their best
card. South no less than North, "the bloody shirt" was trumps. It could
always be played. It was easy to play it and it never failed to catch the
unthinking and to arouse the excitable. What cared the perennial candidate
so he got votes enough? What cared the professional agitator so his appeals
to passion brought him his audience?
It is a fact that until Lamar delivered his eulogy on Sumner not a Southern
man of prominence used language calculated to placate the North, and
between Lamar and Grady there was an interval of fifteen years. There was
not a Democratic press worthy the name either North or South. During those
evil days the Courier-Journal stood alone, having no party or organized
following. At length it was joined on the Northern side by Greeley. Then
Schurz raised his mighty voice. Then came the great liberal movement of
1871-72, with its brilliant but ill-starred campaign and its tragic finale;
and then there set in what, for a season, seemed the deluge.
But the cause of Constitutional Government was not dead. It had been merely
dormant. Champions began to appear in unexpected quarters. New men spoke
up, North and South. In spite of the Republican landslide of 1872, in 1874
the Democrats swept the Empire State. They carried the popular branch of
Congress by an overwhelming majority. In the Senate they had a respectable
minority, with Thurman and Bayard to lead it. In the House Randall and Kerr
and Cox, Lamar, Beck and Knott were about to be reenforced by Hill and
Tucker and Mills and Gibson. The logic of events was at length subduing the
rodomontade of soap-box oratory. Empty rant was to yield to reason. For all
its mischances and melancholy ending the Greeley campaign had shortened the
distance across the bloody chasm.
Chapter the Eighth
Feminism and Woman Suffrage--The Adventures in Politics and Society--A
It would not be the writer of this narrative if he did not interject
certain opinions of his own which parties and politicians, even his
newspaper colleagues, have been wont to regard as peculiar. By common
repute he has been an all-round old-line Democrat of the regulation sort.
Yet on the three leading national questions of the last fifty years--the
Negro question, the Greenback question and the Free Silver question--he has
challenged and antagonized the general direction of that party. He takes
some pride to himself that in each instance the result vindicated alike his
forecast and his insubordination.
To one who witnessed the break-up of the Whig party in 1853 and of the
Democratic Party in 1860 the plight in which parties find themselves at
this time may be described as at least, suggestive. The feeling is at once
to laugh and to whistle. Too much "fuss and feathers" in Winfield Scott did
the business for the Whigs. Too much "bearded lady" in Charles Evans Hughes
perhaps cooked the goose of the Republicans. Too much Wilson--but let me
not fall into _lese majeste_. The Whigs went into Know-Nothingism and
Free Soilism. Will the Democrats go into Prohibition and paternalism? And
The old sectional alignment of North and South has been changed to East and
For the time being the politicians of both parties are in something of a
funk. It is the nature of parties thus situate to fancy that there is no
hereafter, riding in their dire confusion headlong for a fall. Little other
than the labels being left, nobody can tell what will happen to either.
Progressivism seems the cant of the indifferent. Accentuated by the
indecisive vote in the elections and heralded by an ambitious President who
writes Humanity bigger than he writes the United States, and is accused
of aspiring to world leadership, democracy unterrified and undefiled--the
democracy of Jefferson, Jackson and Tilden ancient history--has become
a back number. Yet our officials still swear to a Constitution. We have not
eliminated state lines. State rights are not wholly dead.
The fight between capital and labor is on. No one can predict where it
will end. Shall it prove another irrepressible conflict? Are its issues
irreconcilable? Must the alternative of the future lie between Socialism
and Civil War, or both? Progress! Progress! Shall there be no stability in
either actualities or principles? And--and--what about the Bolsheviki?
Parties, like men, have their ups and downs. Like machines they get out of
whack and line. First it was the Federalists, then the Whigs, and then the
Democrats. Then came the Republicans. And then, after a long interruption,
the Democrats again. English political experience repeats itself in
A taking label is as valuable to a party as it is to a nostrum. It becomes
in time an asset. We are told that a fool is born every minute, and, the
average man being something of a fool, the label easily catches him. Hence
the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
The old Whig Party went to pieces on the rocks of sectionalism. The
institution of African slavery arrived upon the scene at length as the
paramount political issue. The North, which brought the Africans here in
its ships, finding slave labor unprofitable, sold its slaves to the South
at a good price, and turned pious. The South took the bait and went crazy.
Finally, we had a pretty kettle of fish. Just as the Prohibitionists are
going to convert mortals into angels overnight by act of assembly--or still
better, by Constitutional amendment--were the short-haired women and the
long-haired men of Boston going to make a white man out of the black man by
Abolition. The Southern Whigs could not see it and would not stand for it.
So they fell in behind the Democrats. The Northern Whigs, having nowhere
else to go, joined the Republicans.
The wise men of both sections saw danger ahead. The North was warned that
the South would fight, the South, that if it did it went against incredible
odds. Neither would take the warning. Party spirit ran wild. Extremism had
its fling. Thus a long, bloody and costly War of Sections--a fraternal
war if ever there was one--brought on by alternating intolerance, the
politicians of both sides gambling upon the credulity and ignorance of the
Hindsight is readier, certainly surer, than foresight. It comes easier and
shows clearer. Anybody can now see that the slavery problem might have had
a less ruinous solution; that the moral issue might have been compromised
from time to time and in the end disposed of. Slave labor even at the South
had shown itself illusory, costly and clumsy. The institution untenable,
modern thought against it, from the first it was doomed.
But the extremists would not have it. Each played to the lead of the other.
Whilst Wendell Phillips was preaching the equality of races, death to the
slaveholders and the brotherhood of man at the North, William Lowndes
Yancey was exclaiming that cotton was king at the South, and, to establish
these false propositions, millions of good Americans proceeded to cut one
There were agitators and agitators in those days as there are in these. The
agitator, like the poor, we have always with us. It used to be said even at
the North that Wendell Phillips was just a clever comedian. William Lowndes
Yancey was scarcely that. He was a serious, sincere, untraveled provincial,
possessing unusual gifts of oratory. He had the misfortune to kill a friend
in a duel when a young man, and the tragedy shadowed his life. He clung to
his plantation and rarely went away from home. When sent to Europe by the
South as its Ambassador in 1861, he discovered the futility of his scheme
of a Southern confederacy, and, seeing the cornerstone of the philosophy
on which he had constructed his pretty fabric, overthrown, he came home
despairing, to die of a broken heart.
The moral alike for governments and men is: Keep the middle of the road.
Which brings us to Feminism. I will not write Woman Suffrage, for that is
an accomplished fact--for good or evil we shall presently be better able to
Life is an adventure and all of us adventurers--saving that the word
presses somewhat harder upon the woman than the man--most things do in
fact, whereby she is given greater endurance--leaving to men the duty of
caring for the women; and, if need be, looking death squarely and defiantly
in the face.
The world often puts the artificial before the actual; but under the
dispensation of the Christian civilization--derived from the Hebraic--the
family requiring a head, headship is assigned to the male. This male is
commonly not much to speak of for beauty of form or decency of behavior.
He is made purposely tough for work and fight. He gets toughened by outer
contact. But back of all are the women, the children and the home.
I have been fighting the woman's battle for equality in the things that
count, all my life. I would despise myself if I had not been. In contesting
precipitate universal suffrage for women, I conceived that I was still
fighting the woman's battle.
We can escape none of Nature's laws. But we need not handicap ourselves
with artificial laws. At best, life is an experiment, Death the final
adventure. Feminism seems to me its next of kin; still we may not call the
woman who assails the soap boxes--even those that antic about the White
House gates--by the opprobrious terms of adventuress. Where such a one is
not a lunatic she is a nuisance. There are women and women.
We may leave out of account the shady ladies of history. Neither Aspasia
nor Lucrezia Borgia nor the Marquise de Brinvilliers could with accuracy
be called an adventuress. The term is of later date. Its origin and growth
have arisen out of the complexities of modern society.
In fiction Milady and Madame Marneffe come in for first honors--in each the
leopard crossed on the serpent and united under a petticoat, beautiful
and wicked--but since the Balzac and Dumas days the story-tellers and
stage-mongers have made exceeding free with the type, and we have between
Herman Merivale's Stephanie de Mohrivart and Victorien Sardou's Zica a
very theater--or shall we say a charnel house--of the woman with the past;
usually portrayed as the victim of circumstance; unprincipled through cruel
experience; insensible through lack of conscience; sexless in soul, but
a siren in seductive arts; cold as ice; hard as iron; implacable as the
grave, pursuing her ends with force of will, intellectual audacity and
elegance of manner, yet, beneath this brilliant depravity, capable of
self-pity, yielding anon in moments of depression to a sudden gleam of
human tenderness and a certain regret for the innocence she has lost.
Such a one is sometimes, though seldom, met in real life. But many
pretenders may be encountered at Monte Carlo and other European resorts.
They range from the Parisian cocotte, signalized by her chic apparel, to
the fashionable divorcee who in trying her luck at the tables keeps a sharp
lookout for the elderly gent with the wad, often fooled by the enterprising
sport who has been there before.
These are out and out professional adventuresses. There are other
adventuresses, however, than those of the story and the stage, the casino
and the cabaret. The woman with the past becomes the girl with the future.
Curiously enough this latter is mainly, almost exclusively, recruited
from our countrywomen, who to an abnormal passion for foreign titles join
surpassing ignorance of foreign society. Thus she is ready to the hand of
the Continental fortune seeker masquerading as a nobleman--occasionally but
not often the black sheep of some noble family--carrying not a bona fide
but a courtesy title--the count and the no-account, the lord and the Lord
knows who! The Yankee girl with a _dot_ had become before the world
war a regular quarry for impecunious aristocrats and clever crooks, the
matrimonial results tragic in their frequency and squalor.
Another curious circumstance is the readiness with which the American
newspaper tumbles to these frauds. The yellow press especially luxuriates
in them; woodcuts the callow bedizened bride, the jaded game-worn groom;
dilates upon the big money interchanged; glows over the tin-plate stars
and imaginary garters and pinchbeck crowns; and keeping the pictorial
paraphernalia in cold but not forgotten storage waits for the inevitable
scandal, and then, with lavish exaggeration, works the old story over
These newspapers ring all the sensational changes. Now it is the wondrous
beauty with the cool million, who, having married some illegitimate of
a minor royal house, will probably be the next Queen of Rigmarolia, and
now--ever increasing the dose--it is the ten-million-dollar widow who is
going to marry the King of Pontarabia's brother, and may thus aspire to be
one day Empress of Sahara.
Old European travelers can recall many funny and sometimes melancholy
incidents--episodes--histories--of which they have witnessed the
beginning and the end, carrying the self-same denouement and lesson.
As there are women and women there are many kinds of adventuresses; not all
of them wicked and detestable. But, good or bad, the lot of the adventuress
is at best a hard lot. Be she a girl with a future or a woman with a past
she is still a woman, and the world can never be too kind to its women--the
child bearers, the home makers, the moral light of the universe as they
meet the purpose of God and Nature and seek not to thwart it by unsexing
themselves in order that they may keep step with man in ways of
self-indulgent dalliance. The adventuress of fiction always comes to grief.
But the adventuress in real life--the prudent adventuress who draws the
line at adultery--the would-be leader of society without the wealth--the
would-be political leader without the masculine fiber--is sure of
disappointment in the end.
Take the agitation over Suffragism. What is it that the woman suffragette
expects to get? No one of them can, or does, clearly tell us.
It is feminism, rather than suffragism, which is dangerous. Now that they
have it, my fear is that the leaders will not stop with the ballot for
women. They are too fond of the spotlight. It has become a necessity for
them. If all women should fall in with them there would be nothing of
womanhood left, and the world bereft of its women will become a masculine
Let me repeat that I have been fighting woman's battles in one way and
another all my life. I am not opposed to Votes for Women. But I would
discriminate and educate, and even at that rate I would limit the franchise
to actual taxpayers, and, outside of these, confine it to charities,
corrections and schools, keeping woman away from the dirt of politics. I do
not believe the ballot will benefit woman and cannot help thinking that in
seeking unlimited and precipitate suffrage the women who favor it are off
their reckoning! I doubt the performances got up to exploit it, though
somehow, when the hikers started from New York to Albany, and afterward
from New York to Washington, the inspiring thought of Bertha von Hillern
came back to me.
I am sure the reader never heard of her. As it makes a pretty story let me
tell it. Many years ago--don't ask me how many--there was a young woman,
Bertha von Hillern by name, a poor art student seeking money enough to take
her abroad, who engaged with the management of a hall in Louisville to walk
one hundred miles around a fixed track in twenty-four consecutive hours.
She did it. Her share of the gate money, I was told, amounted to three
I shall never forget the closing scenes of the wondrous test of courage and
endurance. She was a pretty, fair-haired thing, a trifle undersized, but
shapely and sinewy. The vast crowd that without much diminution, though
with intermittent changes, had watched her from start to finish, began to
grow tense with the approach to the end, and the last hour the enthusiasm
was overwhelming. Wave upon wave of cheering followed every footstep of the
plucky girl, rising to a storm of exultation as the final lap was reached.
More dead than alive, but game to the core, the little heroine was carried
off the field, a winner, every heart throbbing with human sympathy, every
eye wet with proud and happy tears. It is not possible adequately to
describe all that happened. One must have been there and seen it fully to
comprehend the glory of it.
Touching the recent Albany and Washington hikes and hikers let me say at
once that I cannot approve the cause of Votes for women as I had approved
the cause of Bertha von Hillern. Where she showed heroic, most of the
suffragettes appear to me grotesque. Where her aim was rational, their aim
has been visionary. To me the younger of them seem as children who need
to be spanked and kissed. There has been indeed about the whole Suffrage
business something pitiful and comic.
Often I have felt like swearing "You idiots!" and then like crying
"Poor dears!" But I have kept on with them, and had I been in Albany or
Washington I would have caught Rosalie Jones in my arms, and before she
could say "Jack Robinson" have exclaimed: "You ridiculous child, go and get
a bath and put on some pretty clothes and come and join us at dinner in
the State Banquet Hall, duly made and provided for you and the rest of you
Chapter the Ninth
Dr. Norvin Green--Joseph Pulitzer--Chester A. Arthur--General
Grant--The Case of Fitz-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.