Part 3 out of 4
From the moment Guiteau entered the trial room it was a theatrical
extravaganza. He was in irons, sandwiched between two deputy sheriffs, came
in shouting like a madman, and began at once railing at the judge, the jury
and the audience. A very necessary rule had been established that when he
interposed, whatever was being said or done automatically stopped. Then,
when he ceased, the case went on again as if nothing had happened.
Only Scoville intervened between me and Guiteau and I had an excellent
opportunity to see, hear and size him up. In visage and voice he was the
meanest creature I have, either in life or in dreams, encountered. He had
the face and intonations of a demon. Everything about him was loathsome.
I cannot doubt that his criminal colleagues of history were of the same
Charlotte Corday was surely a lunatic. Wilkes Booth I knew. He was drunk,
had been drunk all that winter, completely muddled and perverted by brandy,
the inheritant of mad blood. Czolgosz, the slayer of McKinley, and the
assassin of the Empress Elizabeth were clearly insane.
McKinley and Protectionism, Cleveland, Carlisle and Free Trade--how far
away they seem!
With the passing of the old issues that divided parties new issues have
come upon the scene. The alignment of the future will turn upon these. But
underlying all issues of all time are fundamental ideas which live forever
and aye, and may not be forgotten or ignored.
It used to be claimed by the followers of Jefferson that Democracy was
a fixed quantity, rising out of the bedrock of the Constitution, while
Federalism, Whiggism and Republicanism were but the chimeras of some
prevailing fancy drawing their sustenance rather from temporizing
expediency and current sentiment than from basic principles and profound
conviction. To make haste slowly, to look before leaping, to take counsel
of experience--were Democratic axioms. Thus the fathers of Democracy, while
fully conceiving the imperfections of government and meeting as events
required the need alike of movement and reform, put the visionary and
experimental behind them to aim at things visible, attainable, tangible,
the written Constitution the one safe precedent, the morning star and the
evening star of their faith and hope.
What havoc the parties and the politicians have made of all these lofty
pretenses! Where must an old-line Democrat go to find himself? Two issues,
however, have come upon the scene which for the time being are paramount
and which seem organic. They are set for the determination of the twentieth
century: The sex question and the drink question.
I wonder if it be possible to consider them in a catholic spirit from a
philosophic standpoint. I can truly say that the enactment of prohibition
laws, state or national, is personally nothing to me. I long ago reached an
age when the convivialism of life ceased to cut any figure in the equation
of my desires and habits. It is the never-failing recourse of the
intolerant, however, to ascribe an individual, and, of course, an unworthy,
motive to contrariwise opinions, and I have not escaped that kind of
The challenge underlying prohibition is twofold: Does prohibition prohibit,
and, if it does, may it not generate evils peculiarly its own?
The question hinges on what are called "sumptuary laws"; that is, statutes
regulating the food and drink, the habits and apparel of the individual
citizen. This in turn harks back to the issue of paternal government. That,
once admitted and established, becomes in time all-embracing.
Bigotry is a disease. The bigot pursuing his narrow round is like the
bedridden possessed by his disordered fancy. Bigotry sees nothing but
itself, which it mistakes for wisdom and virtue. But Bigotry begets
hypocrisy. When this spreads over a sufficient area and counts a voting
majority it sends its agents abroad, and thus we acquire canting apostles
and legislators at once corrupt and despotic.
They are now largely in evidence in the national capital and in the various
state capitals, where the poor-dog, professional politicians most do
congregate and disport themselves.
The worst of it is that there seems nowhere any popular
realization--certainly any popular outcry. Do the people grow degenerate?
Are they willfully dense?
Chapter the Twenty-Sixth
A Libel on Mr. Cleveland--His Fondness for Cards--Some Poker
Stories--The "Senate Game"--Tom Ochiltree, Senator Allison and General
Not long after Mr. Cleveland's marriage, being in Washington, I made a box
party embracing Mrs. Cleveland, and the Speaker and Mrs. Carlisle, at one
of the theaters where Madame Modjeska was appearing. The ladies expressing
a desire to meet the famous Polish actress who had so charmed them, I took
them after the play behind the scenes. Thereafter we returned to the White
House where supper was awaiting us, the President amused and pleased when
told of the agreeable incident.
The next day there began to buzz reports to the contrary. At first covert,
they gained in volume and currency until a distinguished Republican party
leader put his imprint upon them in an after-dinner speech, going the
length of saying the newly-wedded Chief Magistrate had actually struck his
wife and forbidden me the Executive Mansion, though I had been there every
day during the week that followed.
Mr. Cleveland believed the matter too preposterous to be given any credence
and took it rather stoically. But naturally Mrs. Cleveland was shocked and
outraged, and I made haste to stigmatize it as a lie out of whole cloth.
Yet though this was sent away by the Associated Press and published
broadcast I have occasionally seen it referred to by persons over eager to
assail a man incapable of an act of rudeness to a woman.
Mr. Cleveland was fond--not overfond--of cards. He liked to play the noble
game at, say, a dollar limit--even once in a while for a little more--but
not much more. And as Dr. Norvin Green was wont to observe of Commodore
Vanderbilt, "he held them exceeding close to his boo-som."
Mr. Whitney, Secretary of the Navy in his first administration, equally
rich and hospitable, had often "the road gang," as a certain group, mainly
senators, was called, to dine, with the inevitable after-dinner soiree or
seance. I was, when in Washington, invited to these parties. At one of
them I chanced to sit between the President and Senator Don Cameron. Mr.
Carlisle, at the time Speaker of the House--who handled his cards like
a child and, as we all knew, couldn't play a little--was seated on the
opposite side of the table.
After a while Mr. Cameron and I began "bluffing" the game--I recall that
the limit was five dollars--that is, raising and back-raising each other,
and whoever else happened to be in, without much or any regard to the cards
It chanced on a deal that I picked up a pat flush, Mr. Cleveland a pat
full. The Pennsylvania senator and I went to the extreme, the President of
course willing enough for us to play his hand for him. But the Speaker of
the House persistently stayed with us and could not be driven out.
When it came to a draw Senator Cameron drew one card. Mr. Cleveland and I
stood pat. But Mr. Carlisle drew four cards. At length, after much banter
and betting, it reached a show-down and, _mirabile dictu_, the Speaker
held four kings!
"Take the money, Carlisle; take the money," exclaimed the President. "If
ever I am President again you shall be Secretary of the Treasury. But don't
you make that four-card draw too often."
He was President again, and Mr. Carlisle was Secretary of the Treasury.
There had arisen a disagreeable misunderstanding between General Schenck
and myself during the period when the general was Minister at the Court of
St. James. In consequence of this we did not personally meet. One evening
at Chamberlin's years after, a party of us--mainly the Ohio statesman's
old colleagues in Congress--were playing poker. He came in and joined us.
Neither of us knew the other even by sight and there was no presentation
when he sat in.
At length a direct play between the newcomer and me arose. There was a
moment's pause. Obviously we were strangers. Then it was that Senator
Allison, of Iowa, who had in his goodness of heart purposely brought about
this very situation, introduced us. The general reddened. I was taken
aback. But there was no escape, and carrying it off amiably we shook hands.
It is needless to say that then and there we dropped our groundless feud
and remained the rest of his life very good friends.
In this connection still another poker story. Sam Bugg, the Nashville
gambler, was on a Mississippi steamer bound for New Orleans. He came upon
a party of Tennesseeans whom a famous card sharp had inveigled and was
flagrantly robbing. Sam went away, obtained a pack of cards, and stacked
them to give the gambler four kings and the brightest one of the Nashville
boys four aces. After two or three failures to bring the cold deck into
action Sam Bugg brushed a spider--an imaginary spider, of course--from the
gambler's coat collar, for an instant distracting his attention--and in
the momentary confusion the stacked cards were duly dealt and the betting
began, the gambler confident and aggressive. Finally, all the money up,
the four aces beat the four kings, and for a greater amount than the
Nashvillians had lost and the gambler had won. Whereupon, without change
of muscle, the gambler drawled: "Mr. Bugg, the next time you see a spider
biting me let him bite on!"
I was told that the Senate Game had been played during the War of Sections
and directly after for large sums. With the arrival of the rebel brigadiers
it was perforce reduced to a reasonable limit.
The "road gang" was not unknown at the White House. Sometimes it assembled
at private houses, but its accustomed place of meeting was first Welcker's
and then Chamberlin's. I do not know whether it continues to have abiding
place or even an existence. In spite of the reputation given me by the
pert paragraphers I have not been on a race course or seen a horse race or
played for other than immaterial stakes for more than thirty years.
As an all-round newspaper writer and reporter many sorts of people, high
and low, little and big, queer and commonplace, fell in my way; statesmen
and politicians, artists and athletes, circus riders and prize fighters;
the riffraff and the elite; the professional and dilettante of the world
polite and the underworld.
I knew Mike Walsh and Tim Campbell. I knew John Morrissey. I have seen
Heenan--one of the handsomest men of his time--and likewise Adah Isaacs
Menken, his inamorata--many said his wife--who went into mourning for him
and thereafter hied away to Paris, where she lived under the protection
of Alexandre Dumas, the elder, who buried her in Pere Lachaise under a
handsome monument bearing two words, "Thou knowest," beneath a carved hand
pointed to heaven.
I did draw the line, however, at Cora Pearl and Marcus Cicero Stanley.
The Parisian courtesan was at the zenith of her extraordinary celebrity
when I became a rustic boulevardier. She could be seen everywhere and on
all occasions. Her gowns were the showiest, her equipage the smartest; her
entourage, loud though it was and vulgar, yet in its way was undeniable.
She reigned for a long time the recognized queen of the demi-monde. I
have beheld her in her glory on her throne--her two thrones, for she had
two--one on the south side of the river, the other at the east end--not to
mention the race course--surrounded by a retinue of the disreputable. She
did not awaken in me the least curiosity, and I declined many opportunities
to meet her.
Marcus Cicero Stanley was sprung from an aristocratic, even a
distinguished, North Carolina family. He came to New York and set up for a
swell. How he lived I never cared to find out, though he was believed to
be what the police call a "fence." He seemed a cross between a "con" and
a "beat." Yet for a while he flourished at Delmonico's, which he made his
headquarters, and cut a kind of dash with the unknowing. He was a handsome,
mannerly brute who knew how to dress and carry himself like a gentleman.
Later there came to New York another Southerner--a Far Southerner of a
very different quality--who attracted no little attention. This was Tom
Ochiltree. He, too, was well born, his father an eminent jurist of Texas;
he, himself, a wit, _bon homme_ and raconteur. Travers once said: "We
have three professional liars in America--Tom Ochiltree is one and George
Alfred Townsend is the other two."
The stories told of Tom would fill a book. He denied none, however
preposterous--was indeed the author of many of the most amusing--of how,
when the old judge proposed to take him into law partnership he caused to
be painted an office sign: Thomas P. Ochiltree and Father; of his reply to
General Grant, who had made him United States Marshal of Texas, and later
suggested that it would be well for Tom to pay less attention to the race
course: "Why, Mr. President, all that turf publicity relates to a horse
named after me, not to me," it being that the horse of the day had been so
called; and of General Grant's reply: "Nevertheless, it would be well,
Tom, for you to look in upon Texas once in a while"--in short, of his
many sayings and exploits while a member of Congress from the Galveston
district; among the rest, that having brought in a resolution tendering
sympathy to the German Empire on the death of Herr Laska, the most advanced
and distinguished of Radical Socialists, which became for the moment a
_cause celebre_. Tom remarked, "Not that I care a damn about it,
except for the prominence it gives to Bismarck."
He lived when in Washington at Chamberlin's. He and John Chamberlin were
close friends. Once when he was breakfasting with John a mutual friend came
in. He was in doubt what to order. Tom suggested beefsteak and onions.
"But," objected the newcomer, "I am about to call on some ladies, and the
smell of onions on my breath, you know!"
"Don't let that trouble you," said Tom; "you have the steak and onions and
when you get your bill that will take your breath away!"
Under an unpromising exterior--a stocky build and fiery red head--there
glowed a brave, generous and tender spirit. The man was a _preux
chevalier_. He was a knight-errant. All women--especially all good and
discerning women who knew him and who could intuitively read beneath that
clumsy personality his fine sense of respect--even of adoration--loved Tom
The equivocal celebrity he enjoyed was largely fostered by himself, his
stories mostly at his own expense. His education had been but casual. But
he had a great deal of it and a varied assortment. He knew everybody on
both sides of the Atlantic, his friends ranging from the Prince of Wales,
afterward Edward VII, Gladstone and Disraeli, Gambetta and Thiers, to
the bucks of the jockey clubs. There were two of Tom--Tom the noisy on
exhibition, and Tom the courtier in society.
How he lived when out of office was the subject of unflattering conjecture.
Many thought him the stipendiary of Mr. Mackay, the multimillionaire, with
whom he was intimate, who told me he could never induce Tom to take money
except for service rendered. Among his familiars was Colonel North, the
English money magnate, who said the same thing. He had a widowed sister
in Texas to whom he regularly sent an income sufficient for herself and
family. And when he died, to the surprise of every one, he left his sister
quite an accumulation. He had never been wholly a spendthrift. Though he
lived well at Chamberlin's in Washington and the Waldorf in New York he was
careful of his credit and his money. I dare say he was not unfortunate in
the stock market. He never married and when he died, still a youngish man
as modern ages go, all sorts of stories were told of him, and the space
writers, having a congenial subject, disported themselves voluminously.
Inevitably most of their stories were apocryphal.
I wonder shall we ever get any real truth out of what is called history?
There are so many sides to it and such a confusing din of voices. How much
does old Sam Johnson owe of the fine figure he cuts to Boswell, and, minus
Boswell, how much would be left of him? For nearly a century the Empress
Josephine was pictured as the effigy of the faithful and suffering wife
sacrificed upon the altar of unprincipled and selfish ambition--lovelorn,
deserted, heartbroken. It was Napoleon, not Josephine, except in her pride,
who suffered. Who shall tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth, about Hamilton; about Burr; about Caesar, Caligula and Cleopatra?
Did Washington, when he was angry, swear like a trooper? What was the
matter with Nero?
One evening Edward King and I were dining in the Champs Elysees when
he said: "There is a new coon--a literary coon--come to town. He is a
Scotchman and his name is Robert Louis Stevenson." Then he told me of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At that moment the subject of our talk was living in
a kind of self-imposed penury not half a mile away. Had we known this we
could have ended the poor fellow's struggle with his pride and ambition
then and there; have put him in the way of sure work and plenty of it;
perhaps have lengthened, certainly have sweetened, his days, unless it be
true that he was one of the impossibles, as he may easily be conceived to
have been from reading his wayward biography and voluminous correspondence.
To a young Kentuckian, one of "my boys," was given the opportunity to see
the last of him and to bury him in far-away Samoa, whither he had taken
himself for the final adventure and where he died, having attained some
measure of the dreams he had cherished, and, let us hope, happy in the
consciousness of the achievement.
I rather think Stevenson should be placed at the head of the latter-day
fictionists. But fashions in literature as in dress are ever changing.
Washington Irving was the first of our men of letters to obtain foreign
recognition. While the fires of hate between Great Britain and America were
still burning he wrote kindly and elegantly of England and the English, and
was accepted on both sides of the ocean. Taking his style from Addison and
Goldsmith, he emulated their charity and humor; he went to Spain and in the
same deft way he pictured the then unknown byways of the land of dreams;
and coming home again he peopled the region of the Hudson with the beings
of legend and fancy which are dear to us.
He became our national man of letters. He stood quite at the head of our
literature, giving the lie to the scornful query, "Who reads an American
book?" As a pioneer he will always be considered; as a simple and vivid
writer of things familiar and entertaining he will probably always be read;
but as an originator literary history will hardly place him very high.
There Bret Harte surely led him. The Tales of the Argonauts as works of
creative fancy exceed the Sketches of Washington Irving alike in wealth of
color and humor, in pathos and dramatic action.
Some writers make an exception of the famous Sleepy Hollow story. But they
have in mind the Rip Van Winkle of Jefferson and Boucicault, not the
rather attenuated story of Irving, which--as far as the twenty years of
sleep went--was borrowed from an old German legend.
Mark Twain and Bret Harte, however, will always be bracketed with
Washington Irving. Of the three I incline to the opinion that Mark Twain
did the broadest and strongest work. His imagination had wider reach than
Irving's. There is nowhere, as there is in Harte, the suspicion either of
insincerity or of artificiality. Irving's humor was the humor of Sir Roger
de Coverley and the Vicar of Wakefield. It is old English. Mark Twain's is
his own--American through and through to the bone. I am not unmindful of
Cooper and Hawthorne, of Longfellow, of Lowell and of Poe, but speak of
Irving as the pioneer American man of letters, and of Mark Twain and
Bret Harte as American literature's most conspicuous and original modern
Chapter the Twenty-Seventh
The Profession of Journalism--Newspapers and Editors in
America--Bennett, Greeley and Raymond--Forney and Dana--The Education
of a Journalist
The American newspaper has had, even in my time, three separate and
distinct epochs; the thick-and-thin, more or less servile party organ; the
personal, one-man-controlled, rather blatant and would-be independent; and
the timorous, corporation, or family-owned billboard of such news as the
ever-increasing censorship of a constantly centralizing Federal Government
This latter appears to be its present state. Neither its individuality nor
its self-exploitation, scarcely its grandiose pretension, remains. There
continues to be printed in large type an amount of shallow stuff that would
not be missed if it were omitted altogether. But, except as a bulletin of
yesterday's doings, limited, the daily newspaper counts for little, the
single advantage of the editor--in case there is an editor--that is, one
clothed with supervising authority who "edits"--being that he reaches the
public with his lucubrations first, the sanctity that once hedged the
editorial "we" long since departed.
The editor dies, even as the actor, and leaves no copy. Editorial
reputations have been as ephemeral as the publications which gave them
contemporary importance. Without going as far back as the Freneaus and
the Callenders, who recalls the names of Mordecai Mannasseh Noah, of Edwin
Crosswell and of James Watson Webb? In their day and generation they were
influential and distinguished journalists. There are dozens of other names
once famous but now forgotten; George Wilkins Kendall; Gerard Hallock;
Erastus Brooks; Alexander Bullitt; Barnwell Rhett; Morton McMichael; George
William Childs, even Thomas Ritchie, Duff Green and Amos Kendall. "Gales
and Seaton" sounds like a trade-mark; but it stood for not a little and
lasted a long time in the National Capital, where newspaper vassalage and
the public printing went hand-in-hand.
For a time the duello flourished. There were frequent "affairs of
honor"--notably about Richmond in Virginia and Charleston in South
Carolina--sometimes fatal meetings, as in the case of John H. Pleasants and
one of the sons of Thomas Ritchie in which Pleasants was killed, and the
yet more celebrated affair between Graves, of Kentucky, and Cilley, of
Maine, in which Cilley was killed; Bladensburg the scene, and the refusal
of Cilley to recognize James Watson Webb the occasion.
I once had an intimate account of this duel with all the cruel incidents
from Henry A. Wise, a party to it, and a blood-curdling narrative it made.
They fought with rifles at thirty paces, and Cilley fell on the third fire.
It did much to discredit duelling in the South. The story, however, that
Graves was so much affected that thereafter he could never sleep in a
darkened chamber had no foundation whatever, a fact I learned from my
associate in the old Louisville Journal and later in The Courier-Journal,
Mr. Isham Henderson, who was a brother-in-law of Mr. Graves, his sister,
Mrs. Graves, being still alive. The duello died at length. There was
never sufficient reason for its being. It was both a vanity and a fad. In
Hopkinson Smith's "Col. Carter of Cartersville," its real character is hit
off to the life.
When very early, rather too early, I found myself in the saddle, Bennett
and Greeley and Raymond in New York, and Medill and Storey in Chicago, were
yet alive and conspicuous figures in the newspaper life of the time. John
Bigelow, who had retired from the New York Evening Post, was Minister to
France. Halstead was coming on, but, except as a correspondent, Whitelaw
Reid had not "arrived." The like was true of "Joe" McCullagh, who, in the
same character, divided the newspaper reading attention of the country with
George Alfred Townsend and Donn Piatt. Joseph Medill was withdrawing from
the Chicago Tribune in favor of Horace White, presently to return and die
in harness--a man of sterling intellect and character--and Wilbur F.
Storey, his local rival, who was beginning to show signs of the mental
malady that, developed into monomania, ultimately ended his life in gloom
and despair, wrecking one of the finest newspaper properties outside of New
York. William R. Nelson, who was to establish a really great newspaper in
Kansas City, was still a citizen of Ft. Wayne.
James Gordon Bennett, the elder, seemed then to me, and has always
seemed, the real founder of the modern newspaper as a vehicle of popular
information, and, in point of apprehension, at least, James Gordon Bennett,
the younger, did not fall behind his father. What was, and might have been
regarded and dismissed as a trivial slander drove him out of New York and
made him the greater part of his life a resident of Paris, where I was wont
to meet and know much of him.
The New York Herald, under father and son, attained enormous prosperity,
prestige and real power. It suffered chiefly from what they call in Ireland
"absentee landlordism." Its "proprietor," for he never described himself
as its "editor," was a man of exquisite sensibilities--a "despot" of
course--whom nature created for a good citizen, a good husband and the head
of a happy domestic fabric. He should have married the woman of his choice,
for he was deeply in love with her and never ceased to love her, forty
years later leaving her in his will a handsome legacy.
Crossing the ocean with the "Commodore," as he was called by his familiars,
not long after he had taken up his residence abroad, naturally we fell
occasionally into shop talk. "What would you do," he once said, "if you
owned the Herald?" "Why," I answered, "I would stay in New York and edit
it;" and then I proceeded, "but you mean to ask me what I think you ought
to do with it?" "Yes," he said, "that is about the size of it."
"Well, Commodore," I answered, "if I were you, when we get in I would send
for John Cockerill and make him managing editor, and for John Young, and
put him in charge of the editorial page, and then I would go and lose
myself in the wilds of Africa."
He adopted the first two of these suggestions. John A. Cockerill was still
under contract with Joseph Pulitzer and could not accept for a year or
more. He finally did accept and died in the Bennett service. John Russell
Young took the editorial page and was making it "hum" when a most
unaccountable thing happened. I was amazed to receive an invitation to a
dinner he had tendered and was about to give to the quondam Virginian and
just elected New York Justice Roger A. Pryor. "Is Young gone mad," I said
to myself, "or can he have forgotten that the one man of all the world whom
the House of Bennett can never forget, or forgive, is Roger A. Pryor?"
The Bennett-Pry or quarrel had been a _cause celebre_ when John Young
was night editor of the Philadelphia Press and I was one of its Washington
correspondents. Nothing so virulent had ever passed between an editor and a
Congressman. In one of his speeches Pryor had actually gone the length of
rudely referring to Mrs. James Gordon Bennett.
The dinner was duly given. But it ended John's connection with the Herald
and his friendly relations with the owner of the Herald. The incident might
be cited as among "The Curiosities of Journalism," if ever a book with that
title is written. John's "break" was so bad that I never had the heart to
ask him how he could have perpetrated it.
The making of an editor is a complex affair. Poets and painters are said to
be born. Editors and orators are made. Many essential elements enter into
the editorial fabrication; need to be concentrated upon and embodied by a
single individual, and even, with these, environment is left to supply the
opportunity and give the final touch.
Aptitude, as the first ingredient, goes without saying of every line of
human endeavor. We have the authority of the adage for the belief that it
is not possible to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Yet have I known
some unpromising tyros mature into very capable workmen.
The modern newspaper, as we know it, may be fairly said to have been
the invention of James Gordon Bennett, the elder. Before him there were
journals, not newspapers. When he died he had developed the news scheme in
kind, though not in the degree that we see so elaborate and resplendent in
New York and other of the leading centers of population. Mr. Bennett had
led a vagrant and varied life when he started the Herald. He had been many
things by turns, including a writer of verses and stories, but nothing very
successful nor very long. At length he struck a central idea--a really
great, original idea--the idea of printing the news of the day, comprising
the History of Yesterday, fully and fairly, without fear or favor. He was
followed by Greeley and Raymond--making a curious and very dissimilar
triumvirate--and, at longer range, by Prentice and Forney, by Bowles and
Dana, Storey, Medill and Halstead. All were marked men; Greeley a writer
and propagandist; Raymond a writer, declaimer and politician; Prentice a
wit and partisan; Dana a scholar and an organizer; Bowles a man both of
letters and affairs. The others were men of all work, writing and fighting
their way to the front, but possessing the "nose for news," using the
Bennett formula and rescript as the basis of their serious efforts, and
never losing sight of it. Forney had been a printer. Medill and Storey were
caught young by the lure of printer's ink. Bowles was born and reared
in the office of the Springfield Republican, founded by his father, and
Halstead, a cross betwixt a pack horse and a race horse, was broken to
harness before he was out of his teens.
Assuming journalism, equally with medicine and law, to be a profession,
it is the only profession in which versatility is not a disadvantage.
Specialism at the bar, or by the bedside, leads to perfection and
attains results. The great doctor is the great surgeon or the great
prescriptionist--he cannot be great in both--and the great lawyer is rarely
great, if ever, as counselor and orator.
[Illustration: Henry Watterson--From a painting by Louis Mark in the
Manhattan Club, New York]
The great editor is by no means the great writer. But he ought to be able
to write and must be a judge of writing. The newspaper office is a little
kingdom. The great editor needs to know and does know every range of it
between the editorial room, the composing room and the pressroom. He must
hold well in hand everybody and every function, having risen, as it were,
step-by-step from the ground floor to the roof. He should be level-headed,
yet impressionable; sympathetic, yet self-possessed; able quickly to sift,
detect and discriminate; of various knowledge, experience and interest; the
cackle of the adjacent barnyard the noise of the world to his eager mind
and pliant ear. Nothing too small for him to tackle, nothing too great,
he should keep to the middle of the road and well in rear of the moving
columns; loving his art--for such it is--for art's sake; getting his
sufficiency, along with its independence, in the public approval and
patronage, seeking never anything further for himself. Disinterestedness
being the soul of successful journalism, unselfish devotion to every noble
purpose in public and private life, he should say to preferment, as to
bribers, "get behind me, Satan." Whitelaw Reid, to take a ready and
conspicuous example, was a great journalist, but rather early in life
he abandoned journalism for office and became a figure in politics and
diplomacy so that, as in the case of Franklin, whose example and footsteps
in the main he followed, he will be remembered rather as the Ambassador
than as the Editor.
More and more must these requirements be fulfilled by the aspiring
journalist. As the world passes from the Rule of Force--force of prowess,
force of habit, force of convention--to the Rule of Numbers, the daily
journal is destined, if it survives as a power, to become the teacher--the
very Bible--of the people. The people are already beginning to distinguish
between the wholesome and the meretricious in their newspapers. Newspaper
owners, likewise, are beginning to realize the value of character.
Instances might be cited where the public, discerning some sinister
but unseen power behind its press, has slowly yet surely withdrawn its
confidence and support. However impersonal it pretends to be, with whatever
of mystery it affects to envelop itself, the public insists upon some
visible presence. In some States the law requires it. Thus "personal
journalism" cannot be escaped, and whether the "one-man power" emanates
from the Counting Room or the Editorial Room, as they are called, it must
be clear and answerable, responsive to the common weal, and, above all,
John Weiss Forney was among the most conspicuous men of his time. He was
likewise one of the handsomest. By nature and training a journalist, he
played an active, not to say an equivocal, part in public life-at the
outset a Democratic and then a Republican leader.
Born in the little town of Lancaster, it was his mischance to have attached
himself early in life to the fortunes of Mr. Buchanan, whom he long served
with fidelity and effect. But when Mr. Buchanan came to the Presidency,
Forney, who aspired first to a place in the Cabinet, which was denied him,
and then to a seat in the Senate, for which he was beaten--through flagrant
bribery, as the story ran--was left out in the cold. Thereafter he became
something of a political adventurer.
The days of the newspaper "organ" aproached their end. Forney's occupation,
like Othello's, was gone, for he was nothing if not an organ grinder.
Facile with pen and tongue, he seemed a born courtier--a veritable
Dalgetty, whose loyal devotion to his knight-at-arms deserved better
recognition than the cold and wary Pennsylvania chieftain was willing to
give. It is only fair to say that Forney's character furnished reasonable
excuse for this neglect and apparent ingratitude. The row between them,
however, was party splitting. As the friend and backer of Douglas, and
later along a brilliant journalistic soldier of fortune, Forney did as much
as any other man to lay the Democratic party low.
I can speak of him with a certain familiarity and authority, for I was one
of his "boys." I admired him greatly and loved him dearly. Most of the
young newspaper men about Philadelphia and Washington did so. He was an
all-around modern journalist of the first class. Both as a newspaper writer
and creator and manager, he stood upon the front line, rating with Bennett
and Greeley and Raymond. He first entertained and then cultivated the
thirst for office, which proved the undoing of Greeley and Raymond, and it
proved his undoing. He had a passion for politics. He would shine in public
life. If he could not play first fiddle he would take any other instrument.
Thus failing of a Senatorship, he was glad to get the Secretaryship of the
Senate, having been Clerk of the House.
He was bound to be in the orchestra. In those days newspaper independence
was little known. Mr. Greeley was willing to play bottle-holder to Mr.
Seward, Mr. Prentice to Mr. Clay. James Gordon Bennett, the elder, and
later his son, James Gordon Bennett, the younger, challenged this kind of
servility. The Herald stood at the outset of its career manfully in the
face of unspeakable obloquy against it. The public understood it and rose
to it. The time came when the elder Bennett was to attain official as well
as popular recognition. Mr. Lincoln offered him the French mission and Mr.
Bennett declined it. He was rich and famous, and to another it might have
seemed a kind of crowning glory. To him it seemed only a coming down--a
badge of servitude--a lowering of the flag of independent journalism under
which, and under which alone, he had fought all his life.
Charles A. Dana was not far behind the Bennetts in his independence.
He well knew what parties and politicians are. The most scholarly and
accomplished of American journalists, he made the Sun "shine for all," and,
during the years of his active management, a most prosperous property. It
happened that whilst I was penny-a-lining in New York I took a piece of
space work--not very common in those days--to the Tribune and received a
few dollars for it. Ten years later, meeting Mr. Dana at dinner, I recalled
the circumstance, and thenceforward we became the best of friends. Twice
indeed we had runabouts together in foreign lands. His house in town, and
the island home called Dorsoris, which he had made for himself, might not
inaptly be described as very shrines of hospitality and art, the master of
the house a virtuoso in music and painting no less than in letters. One
might meet under his roof the most diverse people, but always interesting
and agreeable people. Perhaps at times he carried his aversions a little
too far. But he had reasons for them, and a man of robust temperament and
habit, it was not in him to sit down under an injury, or fancied injury.
I never knew a more efficient journalist. What he did not know about a
newspaper, was scarcely worth knowing.
In my day Journalism has made great strides. It has become a recognized
profession. Schools of special training are springing up here and there.
Several of the universities have each its College of Journalism. The
tendency to discredit these, which was general and pronounced at the start,
lowers its tone and grows less confident.
Assuredly there is room for special training toward the making of an
editor. Too often the newspaper subaltern obtaining promotion through
aptitudes peculiarly his own, has failed to acquire even the most
rudimentary knowledge of his art. He has been too busy seeking "scoops" and
doing "stunts" to concern himself about perspectives, principles, causes
and effects, probable impressions and consequences, or even to master the
technical details which make such a difference in the preparation of matter
intended for publication and popular perusal. The School of Journalism may
not be always able to give him the needful instruction. But it can set him
in the right direction and better prepare him to think and act for himself.
Chapter the Twenty-Eighth
Bullies and Braggarts--Some Kentucky Illustrations--The Old Galt
House--The Throckmortons--A Famous Sugeon--"Old Hell's Delight"
I do not believe that the bully and braggart is more in evidence in
Kentucky and Texas than in other Commonwealths of the Union, except that
each is by the space writers made the favorite arena of his exploits
and adopted as the scene of the comic stories told at his expense. The
son-of-a-gun from Bitter Creek, like the "elegant gentleman" from the Dark
and Bloody Ground, represents a certain type to be found more or less
developed in each and every State of the Union. He is not always a coward.
Driven, as it were, to the wall, he will often make good.
He is as a rule in quest of adventures. He enters the village from the
countryside and approaches the melee. "Is it a free fight?" says he.
Assured that it is, "Count me in," says he. Ten minutes later, "Is it still
a free fight?" he says, and, again assured in the affirmative, says he,
"Count me out."
Once the greatest of bullies provoked old Aaron Pennington, "the strongest
man in the world," who struck out from the shoulder and landed his victim
in the middle of the street. Here he lay in a helpless heap until they
carted him off to the hospital, where for a day or two he flickered between
life and death. "Foh God," said Pennington, "I barely teched him."
This same bully threatened that when a certain mountain man came to town
he would "finish him." The mountain man came. He was enveloped in an
old-fashioned cloak, presumably concealing his armament, and walked about
ostentatiously in the proximity of his boastful foeman, who remained as
passive as a lamb. When, having failed to provoke a fight, he had taken
himself off, an onlooker said: "Bill, I thought you were going to do him
"But," says Bill, "did you see him?"
"Yes, I saw him. What of that?"
"Why," exclaimed the bully, "that man was a walking arsenal."
Aaron Pennington, the strong man just mentioned, was, in his younger
days, a river pilot. Billy Hite, a mite of a man, was clerk. They had a
disagreement, when Aaron told Billy that if he caught him on "the harrican
deck," he would pitch him overboard. The next day Billy appeared whilst
Aaron, off duty, was strolling up and down outside the pilot-house, and
strolled offensively in his wake. Never a hostile glance or a word from
Aaron. At last, tired of dumb show, Billy broke forth with a torrent of
imprecation closing with "When are you going to pitch me off the boat, you
blankety-blank son-of-a-gun and coward?"
Aaron Pennington was a brave man. He was both fearless and self-possessed.
He paused, gazed quizzically at his little tormentor, and says he: "Billy,
you got a pistol, and you want to get a pretext to shoot me, and I ain't
going to give it to you."
Among the hostels of Christendom the Galt House, of Louisville, for a long
time occupied a foremost place and held its own. It was burned to the
ground fifty years ago and a new Galt House was erected, not upon the
original site, but upon the same street, a block above, and, although one
of the most imposing buildings in the world, it could never be made to
thrive. It stands now a rather useless encumbrance--a whited sepulchre--a
marble memorial of the Solid South and the Kentucky that was, on whose
portal might truthfully appear the legend:
"_A jolly place it was in days of old,
But something ails it now_"
Aris Throckmorton, its manager in the Thirties, the Forties and the
Fifties, was a personality and a personage. The handsomest of men and the
most illiterate, he exemplified the characteristics and peculiarities of
the days of the river steamer and the stage coach, when "mine host" felt it
his duty to make the individual acquaintance of his patrons and each
and severally to look after their comfort. Many stories are told at his
expense; of how he made a formal call upon Dickens--it was, in point of
fact, Marryatt--in his apartment, to be coolly told that when its occupant
wanted him he would ring for him; and of how, investigating a strange box
which had newly arrived from Florida, the prevailing opinion being that the
live animal within was an alligator, he exclaimed, "Alligator, hell; it's
a scorponicum." He died at length, to be succeeded by his son John, a very
different character. And thereby hangs a tale.
John Throckmorton, like Aris, his father, was one of the handsomest of men.
Perhaps because he was so he became the victim of one of the strangest of
feminine whimsies and human freaks. There was a young girl in Louisville,
named Ellen Godwin. Meeting him at a public ball she fell violently in love
with him. As Throckmorton did not reciprocate this, and refused to pursue
the acquaintance, she began to dog his footsteps. She dressed herself in
deep black and took up a position in front of the Galt House, and when
he came out and wherever he went she followed him. No matter how long he
stayed, when he reappeared she was on the spot and watch. He took himself
away to San Francisco. It was but the matter of a few weeks when she was
there, too. He hied him thence to Liverpool, and as he stepped upon the
dock there she was. She had got wind of his going and, having caught an
earlier steamer, preceded him.
Finally the War of Sections arrived. John Throckmorton hecame a Confederate
officer, and, being able to keep her out of the lines, he had a rest of
four years. But, when after the war he returned to Louisville, the quarry
He was wont to call her "Old Hell's Delight." Finally, one night, as he was
passing the market, she rushed out and rained upon him blow after blow with
a frozen rabbit.
Then the authorities took a hand. She was arraigned for disorderly conduct
and brought before the Court of Police. Then the town, which knew nothing
of the case and accepted her goings on as proof of wrong, rose; and she had
a veritable ovation, coming away with flying colors. This, however, served
to satisfy her. Thenceforward she desisted and left poor John Throckmorton
I knew her well. She used once in a while to come and see me, having some
story or other to tell. On one occasion I said to her: "Ellen, why do you
pursue this man in this cruel way? What possible good can it do you?" She
looked me straight in the eye and slowly replied: "Because I love him."
I investigated the case closely and thoroughly and was assured, as he had
assured me, that he had never done her the slightest wrong. She had, on
occasion, told me the same thing, and this I fully believed.
He was a man, every inch of him, and a gentleman through and through--the
very soul of honor in his transactions of every sort--most highly respected
and esteemed wherever he was known--yet his life was made half a failure
and wholly unhappy by this "crazy Jane," the general public taking
appearances for granted and willing to believe nothing good of one who,
albeit proud and honorable, held defiantly aloof, disdaining self-defense.
On the whole I have not known many men more unfortunate than John
Throckmorton, who, but for "Old Hell's Delight," would have encountered
little obstacle to the pursuit of prosperity and happiness.
Another interesting Kentuckian of this period was John Thompson Gray.
He was a Harvard man--a wit, a scholar, and, according to old Southern
standards, a chevalier. Handsome and gifted, he had the disastrous
misfortune just after leaving college to kill his friend in a duel--a
mortal affair growing, as was usual in those days, out of a trivial
cause--and this not only saddened his life, but, in its ambitious aims,
shadowed and defeated it. His university comrades had fully counted on his
making a great career. Being a man of fortune, he was able to live like
a gentleman without public preferment, and this he did, except to his
familiars aloof and sensitive to the last.
William Preston, the whilom Minister to Spain and Confederate General, and
David Yandell, the eminent surgeon, were his devoted friends, and a notable
trio they made. Stoddard Johnston, Boyd Winchester and I--very much younger
men--sat at their feet and immensely enjoyed their brilliant conversation.
Dr. Yandell was not only as proclaimed by Dr. Gross and Dr. Sayre the
ablest surgeon of his day, but he was also a gentleman of varied experience
and great social distinction. He had studied long in Paris and was the pal
of John Howard Payne, the familiar friend of Lamartine, Dumas and Lemaitre.
He knew Beranger, Hugo and Balzac. It would be hard to find three
Kentuckians less provincial, more unaffected, scintillant and worldly wise
than he and William Preston and John Thompson Gray.
Indeed the list of my acquaintances--many of them intimates--some of them
friends--would be, if recounted, a long one, not mentioning the foreigners,
embracing a diverse company all the way from Chunkey Towles to Grover
Cleveland, from Wake Holman to John Pierpont Morgan, from John Chamberlin
to Thomas Edison. I once served as honorary pall-bearer to a professional
gambler who was given a public funeral; a man who had been a gallant
Confederate soldier; whom nature intended for an artist, and circumstance
diverted into a sport; but who retained to the last the poetic fancy
and the spirit of the gallant, leaving behind him, when he died, like a
veritable cavalier, chiefly debts and friends. He was not a bad sort in
business, as the English say, nor in conviviality. But in fighting he was
"a dandy." The goody-goody philosophy of the namby-pamby takes an extreme
and unreal view of life. It flies to extremes. There are middle men.
Travers used to describe one of these, whom he did not wish particularly to
emphasize, as "a fairly clever son-of-a-gun."
Chapter the Twenty-Ninth
About Political Conventions, State and National--"Old Ben Butler"--His
Appearance as a Trouble-Maker in the Democratic National Convention of
1892--Tarifa and the Tariff--Spain as a Frightful Example
I have had a liberal education in party convocations, State and national.
In those of 1860 I served as an all-around newspaper reporter. A member of
each National Democratic Convention from 1876 to 1892, presiding over the
first, and in those of 1880 and 1888 chosen chairman of the Resolutions
Committee, I wrote many of the platforms and had a decisive voice in all of
In 1880 I had stood for the renomination of "the Old Ticket," that is,
Tilden and Hendricks, making the eight-to-seven action of the Electoral
Tribunal of 1877 in favor of Hayes and Wheeler the paramount issue. It
seems strange now that any one should have contested this. Yet it was
stoutly contested. Mr. Tilden settled all dispute by sending a letter to
the convention declining to be a candidate. In answer to this I prepared a
resolution of regret to be incorporated in the platform. It raised stubborn
opposition. David A. Wells and Joseph Pulitzer, who were fellow members of
the committee, were with me in my contention, but the objection to making
it a part of the platform grew so pronounced that they thought I had best
not insist upon it.
The day wore on and the latent opposition seemed to increase. I had been
named chairman of the committee and had at a single sitting that morning
written a completed platform. Each plank of this was severally and closely
scrutinized. It was well into the afternoon before we reached the plank I
chiefly cared about. When I read this the storm broke. Half the committee
rose against it. At the close, with more heat than was either courteous or
tactful, I said: "Gentlemen, I wish to do no more than bid farewell to a
leader who four years ago took the Democratic party at its lowest fortunes
and made it a power again. He is well on his way to the grave. I would
place a wreath of flowers on that grave. I ask only this of you. Refuse me,
and by God, I will go to that mob yonder and, dead or alive, nominate him,
and you will be powerless to prevent!"
Mr. Barksdale, of Mississippi, a suave gentleman, who had led the
dissenters, said, "We do not refuse you. But you say that we 'regret' Mr.
Tilden's withdrawal. Now I do not regret it, nor do those who agree with
me. Could you not substitute some other expression?"
"I don't stand on words," I answered. "What would you suggest?"
Mr. Barksdale said: "Would not the words 'We have received with the deepest
sensibility Mr. Tilden's letter of withdrawal,' answer your purpose?"
"Certainly," said I, and the plank in the platform, as it was amended, was
Mr. Tilden did not die. He outlived all his immediate rivals. Four years
later, in 1884, his party stood ready again to put him at its head.
In nominating Mr. Cleveland it thought it was accepting his dictation
reenforced by the enormous majority--nearly 200,000--by which Mr.
Cleveland, as candidate for Governor, had carried New York in the preceding
State election. Yet, when the votes in the presidential election came to be
counted, he carried it, if indeed he carried it at all, by less than 1,100
majority, the result hanging in the balance for nearly a week.
In the convention of 1884, which met at Chicago, we had a veritable
monkey-and-parrot time. It was next after the schism in Congress between
the Democratic factions led respectively by Carlisle and Randall, Carlisle
having been chosen Speaker of the House over Randall.
Converse, of Ohio, appeared in the Platform Committee representing Randall,
and Morrison, of Illinois, and myself, representing Carlisle. I was bent
upon making Morrison chairman of the committee. But it was agreed that
the chairmanship should be held in abeyance until the platform had been
formulated and adopted. The subcommittee to whom the task was delegated
sat fifty-one hours without a break before its work was completed. Then
Morrison was named chairman. It was arranged thereafter between Converse,
Morrison and myself that when the agreed report was made, Converse and
I should have each what time he required to say what was desired in
explanation, I to close the debate and move the previous question. At this
point General Butler sidled up. "Where do I come in?" he asked.
"You don't get in at all, you blasted old sinner," said Morrison.
"I have scriptural warrant," General Butler said. "Thou shalt not muzzle
the ox that treadeth the corn."
"All right, old man," said Morrison, good-humoredly, "take all the time you
In his speech before the convention General Butler was not at his happiest,
and in closing he gave me a particularly good opening. "If you adopt this
platform of my friend Watterson," he said, "God may help you, but I can't."
I was standing by his side, and, it being my turn, he made way for me, and
I said: "During the last few days and nights of agreeable, though rather
irksome, intercourse, I have learned to love General Butler, but I must
declare that in an option between him and the Almighty I have a prejudice
in favor of God."
In his personal intercourse, General Butler was the most genial of men. The
subcommittee in charge of the preparation of a platform held its meetings
in the drawing-room of his hotel apartment, and he had constituted himself
our host as well as our colleague. I had not previously met him. It was
not long after we came together before he began to call me by my Christian
name. At one stage of the proceedings when by substituting one word for
another it looked as though we might reach an agreement, he said to me:
"Henry, what is the difference between 'exclusively for public purposes'
and 'a tariff for revenue only'?"
"I know of none," I answered.
"Do you think that the committee have found you out?"
"No, I scarcely think so."
"Then I will see that they do," and he proceeded in his peculiarly subtle
way to undo all that we had done, prolonging the session twenty-four hours.
He was an able man and a lovable man. The missing ingredient was serious
belief. Just after the nomination of the Breckinridge and Lane Presidential
ticket in 1860, I heard him make an ultra-Southern speech from Mr.
Breckinridge's doorway. "What do you think of that?" I asked Andrew
Johnson, who stood by me, and Johnson answered sharply, with an oath: "I
never like a man to be for me more than I am for myself." I have been told
that even at home General Butler could never acquire the public confidence.
In spite of his conceded mentality and manliness he gave the impression of
being something of an intellectual sharper.
He was charitable, generous and amiable. The famous New Orleans order which
had made him odious to the women of the South he had issued to warn
bad women and protect good women. Assuredly he did not foresee the
interpretation that would be put upon it. He was personally popular in
Congress. When he came to Washington he dispensed a lavish hospitality.
Such radical Democrats as Beck and Knott did not disdain his company,
became, indeed, his familiars. Yet, curious to relate, a Kentucky
Congressman of the period lost his seat because it was charged and proven
that he had ridden in a carriage to the White House with the Yankee
Boanerges on a public occasion.
Mere party issues never counted with me. I have read too much and seen too
much. At my present time of life they count not at all. I used to think
that there was a principle involved between the dogmas of Free Trade and
Protection as they were preached by their respective attorneys. Yet what
was either except the ancient, everlasting scheme--
--"_The good old role--the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power
And they should keep who can_."
How little wisdom one man may get from another man's counsels, one nation
may get from another nation's history, can be partly computed when we
reflect how often our personal experience has failed in warning admonition.
Temperament and circumstance do indeed cut a prodigious figure in life.
Traversing the older countries, especially Spain, the most illustrative,
the wayfarer is met at all points by what seems not merely the logic of
events, but the common law of the inevitable. The Latin of the Sixteenth
century was a recrudescence of the Roman of the First. He had not, like the
Mongolian, lived long enough to become a stoic. He was mainly a cynic and
an adventurer. Thence he flowered into a sybarite. Coming to great wealth
with the discoveries of Columbus and the conquests of Pizarro and Cortes,
he proceeded to enjoy its fruits according to his fancy and the fashion of
He erected massive shrines to his deities. He reared noble palaces. He
built about his cathedrals and his castles what were then thought to be
great cities, walled and fortified. He was, for all his self-sufficiency
and pride, short-sighted; and yet, until they arrived, how could he foresee
the developments of artillery? They were as hidden from him as three
centuries later the wonders of electricity were hidden from us.
I was never a Free Trader. I stood for a tariff for revenue as the least
oppressive and safest support of Government. The protective system in the
United States, responsible for our unequal distribution of wealth, took at
least its name from Spain, and the Robber Barons, as I used to call the
Protectionists of Pennsylvania, were not of immediate German origin.
Truth to say, both on land and water Spain has made a deal of history, and
the front betwixt Gibraltar and the Isle of San Fernando--Tangier on one
side and the Straits of Tarifa on the other--Cape Trafalgar, where Nelson
fought the famous battle, midway between them--has had its share.
Tarifa! What memories it invokes! In the olden and golden days of primitive
man, before corporation lawyers had learned how to frame pillaging
statutes, and rascally politicians to bamboozle confiding
constituencies--thus I used to put it--the gentle pirates of Tarifa laid
broad and deep the foundations for the Protective System in the United
It was a fruitful as well as a congenial theme, and I rang all the changes
on it. To take by law from one man what is his and give it to another man
who has not earned it and has no right to it, I showed to be an invention
of the Moors, copied by the Spaniards and elevated thence into political
economy by the Americans. Tarifa took its name from Tarif-Ben-Malik, the
most enterprising Robber Baron of his day, and thus the Lords of Tarifa
were the progenitors of the Robber Barons of the Black Forest, New England
and Pittsburgh. Tribute was the name the Moors gave their robbery, which
was open and aboveboard. The Coal Kings, the Steel Kings and the Oil Kings
of the modern world have contrived to hide the process; but in Spain the
palaces of their forefathers rise in lonely and solemn grandeur just as a
thousand years hence the palaces upon the Fifth Avenue side of Central Park
and along Riverside Drive, not to mention those of the Schuylkill and the
Delaware, may become but roosts for bats and owls, and the chronicler of
the Anthropophagi, "whose heads do reach the skies," may tell how the
voters of the Great Republic were bought and sold with their own money,
until "Heaven released the legions north of the North Pole, and they
swooped down and crushed the pulpy mass beneath their avenging snowshoes."
The gold that was gathered by the Spaniards and fought over so valiantly
is scattered to the four ends of the earth. It may be as potent to-day as
then; but it does not seem nearly so heroic. A good deal of it has found
its way to London, which a short century and a half ago "had not,"
according to Adam Smith, "sufficient wealth to compete with Cadiz." We have
had our full share without fighting for it. Thus all things come to him who
contrives and waits.
Meanwhile, there are "groups" and "rings." And, likewise, "leaders" and
"bosses." What do they know or care about the origins of wealth; about
Venice; about Cadiz; about what is said of Wall Street? The Spanish Main
was long ago stripped of its pillage. The buccaneers took themselves off to
keep company with the Vikings. Yet, away down in those money chests, once
filled with what were pieces of eight and ducats and doubloons, who shall
say that spirits may not lurk and ghosts walk, one old freebooter wheezing
to another old freebooter: "They order these things better in the
I have enjoyed hugely my several sojourns in Spain. The Spaniard is unlike
any other European. He may not make you love him. But you are bound to
There is a mansion in Seville known as The House of Pontius Pilate because
part of the remains of the abode of the Roman Governor was brought from
Jerusalem and used in a building suited to the dignity of a Spanish grandee
who was also a Lord of Tarifa. The Duke of Medina Celi, its present owner,
is a lineal scion of the old piratical crew. The mansion is filled with the
fruits of many a foray. There are plunder from Naples, where one ancestor
was Viceroy, and treasures from the temples of the Aztecs and the Incas,
where two other ancestors ruled. Every coping stone and pillar cost some
mariner of the Tarifa Straits a pot of money.
Its owner is a pauper. A carekeeper shows it for a peseta a head. To such
base uses may we come at last. Yet Seville basks in the sun and smiles on
the flashing waters of the Guadalquivir, and Cadiz sits serene upon the
green hillsides of San Sebastian, just as if nothing had ever happened;
neither the Barber and Carmen, nor Nelson and Byron; the past but a
phantom; the present the prosiest of prose-poems.
There are canny Spaniards even as there are canny Scots, who grow rich and
prosper; but there is never a Spaniard who does not regard the political
fabric, and the laws, as fair game, the rule being always "devil take the
hindmost," community of interests nowhere. "The good old vices of Spain,"
that is, the robbing of the lesser rogue by the greater in regulated
gradations all the way from the King to the beggar, are as prevalent and as
vital as ever they were. Curiously enough, a tiny stream of Hebraic blood
and Moorish blood still trickles through the Spanish coast towns. It may be
traced through the nomenclature in spite of its Castilian prefigurations
and appendices, which would account for some of the enterprise and activity
that show themselves, albeit only by fits and starts.
Chapter the Thirtieth
The Makers of the Republic--Lincoln, Jefferson, Clay and Webster--The
Proposed League of Nations--The Wilsonian Incertitude--The "New
The makers of the American Republic range themselves in two
groups--Washington, Franklin and Jefferson--Clay, Webster and Lincoln--each
of whom, having a genius peculiarly his own, gave himself and his best to
the cause of national unity and independence.
In a general way it may be said that Washington created and Lincoln saved
the Union. But along with Washington and Lincoln, Clay makes a good
historic third, for it was the masterful Kentuckian who, joining rare
foresight to surpassing eloquence and leading many eminent men, including
Webster, was able to hold the legions of unrest at bay during the formative
There are those who call these great men "back numbers," who tell us we
have left the past behind us and entered an epoch of more enlightened
progress--who would displace the example of the simple lives they led and
the homely truths they told, to set up a school of philosophy which had
made Athens stare and Rome howl, and, I dare say, is causing the Old
Continentals to turn over in their graves. The self-exploiting spectacle
and bizarre teaching of this school passes the wit of man to fathom.
Professing the ideal and proposing to recreate the Universe, the New
Freedom, as it calls itself, would standardize it. The effect of that would
be to desiccate the human species in human conceit. It would cheapen the
very harps and halos in Heaven and convert the Day of Judgment into a
moving picture show.
I protest that I am not of its kidney. In point of fact, its platitudes
"stick in my gizzard." I belong the rather to those old-fashioned ones--
"Who love their land because it is their own,
And scorn to give aught other reason why;
Who'd shake hands with a king upon his throne,
And think it kindness to his majesty."
I have many rights--birthrights--to speak of Kentucky as a Kentuckian,
beside that of more than fifty years' service upon what may be fairly
called the battle-line of the Dark and Bloody Ground.
My grandmother's father, William Mitchell Morrison, had raised a company
of riflemen in the War of the Revolution, and, after the War, marched it
westward. He commanded the troops in the old fort at Harrodsburg, where
my grandmother was born in 1784. He died a general. My grandfather,
James Black's father, the Rev. James Black, was chaplain of the fort. He
remembered the birth of the baby girl who was to become his wife. He was a
noble stalwart--a perfect type of the hunters of Kentucky--who could bring
down a squirrel from the highest bough and hit a bull's eye at a hundred
yards after he was three score and ten.
It was he who delighted my childhood with bear stories and properly lurid
narrations of the braves in buckskin and the bucks in paint and feathers,
with now and then a red-coat to give pungency and variety to the tale. He
would sing me to sleep with hunting songs. He would take me with him afield
to carry the game bag, and I was the only one of many grandchildren to be
named in his will. In my thoughts and in my dreams he has been with me all
my life, a memory and an example, and an ever glorious inspiration.
Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton were among my earliest heroes.
Born in a Democratic camp, and growing to manhood on the Democratic side of
a political battlefield, I did not accept, as I came later to realize, the
transcendent personal merit and public service of Henry Clay. Being of
Tennessee parentage, perhaps the figure of Andrew Jackson came between;
perhaps the rhetoric of Daniel Webster. Once hearing me make some slighting
remark of the Great Commoner, my father, a life-long Democrat, who, on
opposing sides, had served in Congress with Mr. Clay, gently rebuked me.
"Do not express such opinions, my son," he said, "they discredit yourself.
Mr. Clay was a very great man--a born leader of men."
It was certainly he, more than any other man, who held the Union together
until the time arrived for Lincoln to save it.
I made no such mistake, however, with respect to Abraham Lincoln. From the
first he appeared to me a great man, a born leader of men. His death proved
a blow to the whole country--most of all to the Southern section of it.
If he had lived there would have been no Era of Reconstruction, with its
repressive agencies and oppressive legislation; there would have been
wanting to the extremism of the time the bloody cue of his taking off to
mount the steeds and spur the flanks of vengeance. For Lincoln entertained,
with respect to the rehabilitation of the Union, the single wish that the
Southern States--to use his homely phraseology--"should come back home
and behave themselves," and if he had lived he would have made this wish
effectual as he made everything else effectual to which he addressed
His was the genius of common sense. Of perfect intellectual acuteness and
aplomb, he sprang from a Virginia pedigree and was born in Kentucky.
He knew all about the South, its institutions, its traditions and its
peculiarities. He was an old-line Whig of the school of Henry Clay, with
strong Emancipation leaning, never an Abolitionist. "If slavery be not
wrong," he said, "nothing is wrong," but he also said and reiterated it
time and again, "I have no prejudice against the Southern people. They are
just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist
among them they would not introduce it. If it did now exist among us, we
would not instantly give it up."
From first to last throughout the angry debates preceding the War of
Sections, amid the passions of the War itself, not one vindictive,
prescriptive word fell from his tongue or pen, whilst during its progress
there was scarcely a day when he did not project his great personality
between some Southern man or woman and danger.
There has been much discussion about what did and what did not occur at the
famous Hampton Roads Conference. That Mr. Lincoln met and conferred with
the official representatives of the Confederate Government, led by the Vice
President of the Confederate States, when it must have been known to him
that the Confederacy was nearing the end of its resources, is sufficient
proof of the breadth both of his humanity and his patriotism. Yet he went
to Fortress Monroe prepared not only to make whatever concessions toward
the restoration of Union and Peace he had the lawful authority to make,
but to offer some concessions which could in the nature of the case go no
further at that time than his personal assurance. His constitutional powers
were limited. But he was in himself the embodiment of great moral power.
The story that he offered payment for the slaves--so often affirmed and
denied--is in either case but a quibble with the actual facts. He could not
have made such an offer except tentatively, lacking the means to carry it
out. He was not given the opportunity to make it, because the Confederate
Commissioners were under instructions to treat solely on the basis of the
recognition of the independence of the Confederacy. The conference came to
nought. It ended where it began. But there is ample evidence that he went
to Hampton Roads resolved to commit himself to that proposition. He did,
according to the official reports, refer to it in specific terms, having
already formulated a plan of procedure. This plan exists and may be seen in
his own handwriting. It embraced a joint resolution to be submitted by the
President to the two Houses of Congress appropriating $400,000,000 to be
distributed among the Southern States on the basis of the slave population
of each according to the Census of 1860, and a proclamation to be issued
by himself, as President, when the joint resolution had been passed by
There can be no controversy among honest students of history on this point.
That Mr. Lincoln said to Mr. Stephens, "Let me write Union at the top
of this page and you may write below it whatever else you please," is
referable to Mr. Stephens' statement made to many friends and attested by a
number of reliable persons. But that he meditated the most liberal terms,
including payment for the slaves, rests neither upon conjecture nor
hearsay, but on documentary proof. It may be argued that he could not
have secured the adoption of any such plan; but of his purpose, and
its genuineness, there can be no question and there ought to be no
Indeed, payment for the slaves had been all along in his mind. He believed
the North equally guilty with the South for the original existence of
slavery. He clearly understood that the Irrepressible Conflict was a
Conflict of systems, not a merely sectional and partisan quarrel. He was a
just man, abhorring proscription: an old Conscience Whig, indeed, who stood
in awe of the Constitution and his oath of office. He wanted to leave the
South no right to claim that the North, finding slave labor unremunerative,
had sold its negroes to the South and then turned about and by force of
arms confiscated what it had unloaded at a profit. He fully recognized
slavery as property. The Proclamation of Emancipation was issued as a war
measure. In his message to Congress of December, 1862, he proposed payment
for the slaves, elaborating a scheme in detail and urging it with copious
and cogent argument. "The people of the South," said he, addressing a
Congress at that moment in the throes of a bloody war with the South, "are
not more responsible for the original introduction of this property than
are the people of the North, and, when it is remembered how unhesitatingly
we all use cotton and sugar and share the profits of dealing in them, it
may not be quite safe to say that the South has been more responsible than
the North for its continuance."
It has been my rule, aim and effort in my newspaper career to print nothing
of a man which I would not say to his face; to print nothing of a man in
malice; to look well and think twice before consigning a suspect to the
ruin of printer's ink; to respect the old and defend the weak; and, lastly,
at work and at play, daytime and nighttime, to be good to the girls and
square with the boys, for hath it not been written of such is the kingdom
There will always be in a democracy two or more sets of rival leaders to
two or more differing groups of followers. Hitherto history has classified
these as conservatives and radicals. But as society has become more and
more complex the groups have had their subdivisions. As a consequence
speculative doctrinaries and adventurous politicians are enabled to get in
their work of confusing the issues and exploiting themselves.
"'What are these fireworks for?' asks the rustic in the parable. 'To blind
the eyes of the people,' answers the cynic."
I would not say aught in a spirit of hostility to the President of the
United States. Woodrow Wilson is a clever speaker and writer. Yet the usual
trend and phrase of his observations seem to be those of a special pleader,
rather than those of a statesman. Every man, each of the nations, is for
peace as an abstract proposition. That much goes without saying. But Mr.
Wilson proposes to bind the hands of a giant and take lottery chances on
the future. This, I think, the country will contest.
He is obsessed by the idea of a League of Nations. If not his own discovery
he has yet made himself its leader. He talks flippantly about "American
ideals" that have won the war against Germany, as if there were no English
ideals and French ideals.
"In all that he does we can descry the school-master who arrived at the
front rather late in life. One needs only to go over the record and
mark how often he has reversed himself to detect a certain mental and
temperamental instability clearly indicating a lack of fixed or resolute
intellectual purpose. This is characteristic of an excess in education; of
the half baked mind overtrained. The overeducated mind fancies himself a
doctrinaire when he is in point of fact only a disciple."
Woodrow Wilson was born to the rather sophisticated culture of the too, too
solid South. Had he grown up in England a hundred years ago he would have
been a follower of the Della Cruscans. He has what is called a facile pen,
though it sometimes runs away with him. It seems to have done so in the
matter of the League of Nations. Inevitably such a scheme would catch the
fancy of one ever on the alert for the fanciful.
I cannot too often repeat that the world we inhabit is a world of sin,
disease and death. Men will fight whenever they want to fight, and no
artificial scheme or process is likely to restrain them. It is mainly the
costliness of war that makes most against it. But, as we have seen the last
four years, it will not quell the passions of men or dull national and
All that Mr. Wilson and his proposed League of Nations can do will be to
revamp, and maybe for a while to reimpress the minds of the rank and file,
until the bellowing followers of Bellona are ready to spring.
Eternal peace, universal peace, was not the purpose of the Deity in the
creation of the universe.
Nevertheless, it would seem to be the duty of men in great place, as of
us all, to proclaim the gospel of good will and cultivate the arts of
fraternity. I have no quarrel with the President on this score. What I
contest is the self-exploitation to which he is prone, so lacking in
dignity and open to animadversion.
Thus it was that instant upon the appearance of the proposed League of
Nations I made bold to challenge it, as but a pretty conceit having no real
value, a serious assault upon our national sovereignty.
Its argument seemed to me full of copybook maxims, easier recited than
applied. As what I wrote preceded the debates and events of the last six
months, I may not improperly make the following quotation from a screed of
mine appearing in The Courier-Journal of the 5th of March, 1919:
"The League of Nations is a fad. Politics, like society and letters, has
its fads. In society they call them fashion and in literature originality.
Politics gives the name of 'issues' to its fads. A taking issue is as a
stunning gown, or 'a best seller.' The President's mind wears a coat of
many colors, and he can change it at will, his mood being the objective
point, not always too far ahead, or clear of vision. Carl Schurz was wont
to speak of Gratz Brown as 'a man of thoughts rather than of ideas.' I
wonder if that can be justly said of the President? 'Gentlemen will please
not shoot at the pianiste,' adjured the superscription over the music stand
in the Dakota dive; 'she is doing the best that she knows how.'
"Already it is being proclaimed that Woodrow Wilson can have a third
nomination for the presidency if he wants it, and nobody seems shocked by
it, which proves that the people grow degenerate and foreshadows that one
of these nights some fool with a spyglass will break into Mars and let
loose the myriads of warlike gyascutes who inhabit that freak luminary,
thence to slide down the willing moonbeam and swallow us every one!
"In a sense the Monroe Doctrine was a fad. Oblivious to Canada, and British
Columbia and the Spanish provinces, it warned the despots of Europe off the
grass in America. We actually went to war with Mexico, having enjoyed two
wars with England, and again and again we threatened to annex the Dominion.
Everything betwixt hell and Halifax was Yankee preempted.
"Truth to say, your Uncle Samuel was ever a jingo. But your Cousin Woodrow,
enlarging on the original plan, would stretch our spiritual boundaries to
the ends of the earth and make of us the moral custodian of the universe.
This much, no less, he got of the school of sweetness and light in which he
"I am a jingo myself. But a wicked material jingo, who wants facts, not
theories. If I thought it possible and that it would pay, I would annex the
North Pole and colonize the Equator. It is, after the manner of the lady in
the play, that the President 'doth protest too much,' which displeases me
and where, in point of fact, I 'get off the reservation.'
"That, being a politician and maybe a candidate, he is keenly alive to
votes goes without saying. On the surface this League of Nations having the
word 'peace' in big letters emblazoned both upon its forehead and the
seat of its trousers--or, should I say, woven into the hem of its
petticoat?--seems an appeal for votes. I do not believe it will bear
discussion. In a way, it tickles the ear without convincing the sense.
There is nothing sentimental about the actualities of Government, much
as public men seek to profit by arousing the passions of the people.
Government is a hard and fast and dry reality. At best statesmanship can
only half do the things it would. Its aims are most assured when tending a
little landward; its footing safest on its native heath. We have plenty
to do on our own continent without seeking to right things on
other continents. Too many of us--the President among the rest, I
fear--miscalculate the distance between contingency and desire.
"'We figure to ourselves
The thing we like: and then we build it up:
As chance will have it on the rock or sand--
When thought grows tired of wandering o'er the world,
And homebound Fancy runs her bark ashore.'"
I am sorry to see the New York World fly off at a tangent about this latest
of the Wilsonian hobbies. Frank Irving Cobb, the editor of the World, is,
as I have often said, the strongest writer on the New York press since
Horace Greeley. But he can hardly be called a sentimentalist, as Greeley
was, and there is nothing but sentiment--gush and gammon--in the proposed
League of Nations.
It may be all right for England. There are certainly no flies on it for
France. But we don't need it. Its effects can only be to tie our hands, not
keep the dogs away, and even at the worst, in stress of weather, we are
strong enough to keep the dogs away ourselves.
We should say to Europe: "Shinny on your own side of the water and we will
shinny on our side." It may be that Napoleon's opinion will come true that
ultimately Europe will be "all Cossack or all republican." Part of it has
come true already. Meanwhile it looks as though the United States, having
exhausted the reasonable possibilities of democracy, is beginning to turn
crank. Look at woman suffrage by Federal edict; look at prohibition by
act of Congress and constitutional amendment; tobacco next to walk on the
plank; and then!--Lord, how glad I feel that I am nearly a hundred years
old and shall not live to see it!
Chapter the Thirty-First
The Age of Miracles--A Story of Franklin Pierce--Simon Suggs
Billy Sunday--Jefferson Davis and Aaron Burr--Certain Constitutional
The years intervening between 1865 and 1919 may be accounted the most
momentous in all the cycles of the ages. The bells that something more than
half a century ago rang forth to welcome peace in America have been from
that day to this jangled out of tune and harsh with the sounding of war's
alarms in every other part of the world. We flatter ourselves with the
thought that our tragedy lies behind us. Whether this be true or not, the
tragedy of Europe is at hand and ahead. The miracles of modern invention,
surpassing those of old, have made for strife, not for peace. Civilization
has gone backward, not forward. Rulers, intoxicated by the lust of power
and conquest, have lost their reason, and nations, following after, like
cattle led to slaughter, seem as the bereft of Heaven "that knew not God."
We read the story of our yesterdays as it unfolds itself in the current
chronicle; the ascent to the bank-house, the descent to the mad-house, and,
over the glittering paraphernalia that follows to the tomb, we reflect upon
the money-zealot's progress; the dizzy height, the dazzling array, the
craze for more and more and more; then the temptation and fall, millions
gone, honor gone, reason gone--the innocent and the gentle, with the
guilty, dragged through the mire of the prison, and the court--and we draw
back aghast. Yet, if we speak of these things we are called pessimists.
I have always counted myself an optimist. I know that I do not lie awake
nights musing on the ingratitude either of my stars or my countrymen. I
pity the man who does. Looking backward, I have sincere compassion for
Webster and for Clay! What boots it to them, now that they lie beneath the
mold, and that the drums and tramplings of nearly seventy years of the
world's strifes and follies and sordid ambitions and mean repinings, and
longings, and laughter, and tears, have passed over their graves, what
boots it to them, now, that they failed to get all they wanted? There is
indeed snug lying in the churchyard; but the flowers smell as sweet and
the birds sing as merry, and the stars look down as loving upon the
God-hallowed mounds of the lowly and the poor, as upon the man-bedecked
monuments of the Kings of men. All of us, the least with the greatest, let
us hope and believe shall attain immortal life at last. What was there for
Webster, what was there for Clay to quibble about? I read with a kind of
wonder, and a sickening sense of the littleness of great things, those
passages in the story of their lives where it is told how they stormed
and swore, when tidings reached them that they had been balked of their
Yet they might have been so happy; so happy in their daily toil, with its
lofty aims and fair surroundings; so happy in the sense of duty done;
so happy, above all, in their own Heaven-sent genius, with its noble
opportunities and splendid achievements. They should have emulated the
satisfaction told of Franklin Pierce. It is related that an enemy was
inveighing against him, when an alleged friend spoke up and said: "You
should not talk so about the President, I assure you that he is not at all
the man you describe him to be. On the contrary, he is a man of the rarest
gifts and virtues. He has long been regarded as the greatest orator in New
England, and the greatest lawyer in New England, and surely no one of his
predecessors ever sent such state papers to Congress."
"How are you going to prove it," angrily retorted the first speaker.
"I don't need to prove it," coolly replied the second. "He admits it."
I cannot tell just how I should feel if I were President, though, on the
whole, I fancy fairly comfortable, but I am quite certain that I would not
exchange places with any of the men who have been President, and I have
known quite a number of them.
I am myself accused sometimes of being a "pessimist." Assuredly I am
no optimist of the Billy Sunday sort, who fancies the adoption of the
prohibition amendment the coming of "de jubilo." Early in life, while yet
a recognized baseball authority, Mr. Sunday discovered "pay dirt" in what
Col. Mulberry Sellers called "piousness." He made it an asset and began
to issue celestial notes, countersigned by himself and made redeemable
in Heaven. From that day to this he has been following the lead of the
renowned Simon Suggs, who, having in true camp meeting style acquired
"the grace of God," turned loose as an exhorter shouting "Step up to the
mourner's bench, my brethering, step up lively, and be saved! I come in on
na 'er par, an' see what I draw'd! Religion's the only game whar you can't
lose. Him that trusts the Lord holds fo' aces!"
The Billy Sunday game has made Billy Sunday rich. Having exhausted
Hell-fire-and-brimstone, the evangel turns to the Demon Rum. Satan, with
hide and horns, has had his day. Prohibition is now the trick card.
The fanatic is never either very discriminating or very particular. As
a rule, for him any taking "ism" will suffice. To-day, it happens to be
"whisky." To-morrow it will be tobacco. Finally, having established the spy
system and made house-to-house espionage a rule of conventicle, it will
become a misdemeanor for a man to kiss his wife.
From fakers who have cards up their sleeves, not to mention snakes in their
boots, we hear a great deal about "the people," pronounced by them as if it
were spelled "pee-pul." It is the unfailing recourse of the professional
politician in quest of place. Yet scarcely any reference, or referee, were
The people en masse constitute what we call the mob. Mobs have rarely been
right--never except when capably led. It was the mob of Jerusalem that did
the unoffending Jesus of Nazareth to death. It was the mob in Paris that
made the Reign of Terror. Mobs have seldom been tempted, even had a chance
to go wrong, that they have not gone wrong.
The "people" is a fetish. It was the people, misled, who precipitated the
South into the madness of secession and the ruin of a hopelessly unequal
war of sections. It was the people backing if not compelling the Kaiser,
who committed hari-kari for themselves and their empire in Germany. It is
the people leaderless who are making havoc in Russia. Throughout the length
and breadth of Christendom, in all lands and ages, the people, when turned
loose, have raised every inch of hell to the square foot they were able to
raise, often upon the slightest pretext, or no pretext at all.
This is merely to note the mortal fallibility of man, most fallible when
herded in groups and prone to do in the aggregate what he would hesitate to
do when left to himself and his individual accountability.
Under a wise dispensation of power, despotism, we are told embodies the
best of all government. The trouble is that despotism is seldom, if ever,
wise. It is its nature to be inconsiderate, being essentially selfish,
grasping and tyrannous. As a rule therefore revolution--usually of
force--has been required to change or reform it. Perfectibility was not
designed for mortal man. That indeed furnishes the strongest argument in
favor of the immortality of the soul, life on earth but the ante-chamber of
eternal life. It would be a cruel Deity that condemned man to the brief and
vexed span of human existence with nothing beyond the grave.
We know not whence we came, or whither we go; but it is a fair guess that
we shall in the end get better than we have known.
Historic democracy is dead.
This is not to say that a Democratic party organization has ceased to
exist. Nor does it mean that there are no more Democrats and that the
Democratic party is dead in the sense that the Federalist party is dead or
the Whig party is dead, or the Greenback party is dead, or the Populist
party is dead. That which has died is the Democratic party of Jefferson and
Jackson and Tilden. The principles of government which they laid down
and advocated have been for the most part obliterated. What slavery and
secession were unable to accomplish has been brought about by nationalizing
sumptuary laws and suffrage.
The death-blow to Jeffersonian democracy was delivered by the Democratic
Senators and Representatives from the South and West who carried through
the prohibition amendment. The _coup de grace_ was administered by a
President of the United States elected as a Democrat when he approved the
Federal suffrage amendment to the Constitution.
The kind of government for which the Jeffersonian democracy successfully
battled for more than a century was thus repudiated; centralization was
invited; State rights were assassinated in the very citadel of State
rights. The charter of local self-government become a scrap of paper, the
way is open for the obliteration of the States in all their essential
functions and the erection of a Federal Government more powerful than
anything of which Alexander Hamilton dared to dream.
When the history of these times comes to be written it may be said of
Woodrow Wilson: he rose to world celebrity by circumstance rather than by
character. He was favored of the gods. He possessed a bright, forceful
mind. His achievements were thrust upon him. Though it sometimes ran away
with him, his pen possessed extraordinary facility. Thus he was ever able
to put his best foot foremost. Never in the larger sense a leader of men as
were Chatham and Fox, as were Washington, Clay and Lincoln; nor of ideas as
were Rousseau, Voltaire and Franklin, he had the subtle tenacity of Louis
the Eleventh of France, the keen foresight of Richelieu with a talent for
the surprising which would have raised him to eminence in journalism.
In short he was an opportunist void of conviction and indifferent to
The pen is mightier than the sword only when it has behind it a heart as
well as a brain. He who wields it must be brave, upright and steadfast.
We are giving our Chief Executive enormous powers. As a rule his wishes
prevail. His name becomes the symbol of party loyalty. Yet it is after all
a figure of speech not a personality that appeals to our sense of duty
without necessarily engaging our affection.
Historic Republicanism is likewise dead, as dead as historic Democracy,
only in both cases the labels surviving.
We are told by Herbert Spencer that the political superstition of the past
having been the divine right of kings, the political superstition of the
present is the divine right of parliaments and he might have said of
peoples. The oil of anointing seems unawares, he thinks, to have dripped
from the head of the one upon the heads of the many, and given sacredness
to them also, and to their decrees.
That the Proletariat, the Bolsheviki, the People are on the way seems plain
enough. How far they will go, and where they will end, is not so clear.
With a kind of education--most men taught to read, very few to think--the
masses are likely to demand yet more and more for themselves. They will
continue strenuously and effectively to resent the startling contrasts
of fortune which aptitude and opportunity have created in a social and
political structure claiming to rest upon the formula "equality for all,
special privilege for none."
The law of force will yield to the rule of numbers. Socialism, disappointed
of its Utopia, may then repeat the familiar lesson and reproduce the
man-on-horseback, or the world may drop into another abyss, and, after the
ensuing "dark ages," like those that swallowed Babylon and Tyre, Greece and
Rome, emerge with a new civilization and religion.
"Man never is, but always to be blessed." We know not whence we came, or
whither we go. Hope that springs eternal in the human breast tells us
nothing. History seems, as Napoleon said, a series of lies agreed upon, yet
not without dispute.
I read in an ultra-sectional non-partisan diatribe that "Jefferson Davis
made Aaron Burr respectable," a sentence which clearly indicates that the
writer knew nothing either of Jefferson Davis or Aaron Burr.
Both have been subjected to unmeasured abuse. They are variously
misunderstood. Their chief sin was failure; the one to establish an
impossible confederacy laid in human slavery, the other to achieve certain
vague schemes of empire in Mexico and the far Southwest, which, if not
visionary, were premature.
The final collapse of the Southern Confederacy can be laid at the door of
no man. It was doomed the day of its birth. The wonder is that sane leaders
could invoke such odds against them and that a sane people could be induced
to follow. The single glory of the South is that it was able to stand out
so long against such odds.
Jefferson Davis was a high-minded and well-intentioned man. He was chosen
to lead the South because he was, in addition, an accomplished soldier. As
one who consistently opposed him in his public policies, I can specify no
act to the discredit of his character, his one serious mistake being his
failiure to secure the peace offered by Abraham Lincoln two short months
Taking account of their personalities and the lives they led, there is
little to suggest comparison, except that they were soldiers and Senators,
who, each in his day, filled a foremost place in public affairs.
Aaron Burr, though well born and highly educated, was perhaps a
rudely-minded man. But he was no traitor. If the lovely woman, Theodosia
Prevost, whom he married, had lived, there is reason to believe that the
whole course and tenor of his career would have been altered. Her death was
an irreparable blow, as it were, a prelude to the series of mischances
that followed. The death of their daughter, the lovely Theodosia Alston,
completed the tragedy of his checkered life.
Born a gentleman and attaining soldierly distinction and high place, he
fell a victim to the lure of a soaring ambition and the devious experience
of a man about town.
The object of political proscription for all his intellectual and personal
resources, he could not successfully meet and stand against it. There was
nothing in the affair with Hamilton actually to damn and ruin him. Neither
morally nor politically was Hamilton the better man of the two. Nor was
there treason in his Mexican scheme. He meant no more with universal
acclaim than Houston did three decades later. To couple his name with that
of Benedict Arnold is historic sacrilege.
Jefferson pursued him relentlessly. But even Jefferson could not have
destroyed him. When, after an absence of four years abroad, he returned to
America, there was still a future for him had he stood up like a man, but,
instead, like one confessing defeat, he sank down, whilst the wave of
obloquy rolled over him.
His is one of the few pathetic figures in our national history. Mr. Davis
has had plenty of defenders. Poor Burr has had scarcely an apologist. His
offense, whatever it was, has been overpaid. Even the War of Sections
begins to fade into the mist and become dreamlike even to those who bore an
actual part in it.
The years are gliding swiftly by. Only a little while, and there shall not
be one man living who saw service on either side of that great struggle of
systems and ideas. Its passions long ago vanished from manly bosoms. That
has come to pass within a single generation in America which in Europe
required ages to accomplish.
There is no disputing the verdict of events. Let us relate them truly and
interpret them fairly. If the South would have the North do justice to its
heroes, the South must do justice to the heroes of the North. Each must
render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's even as each would render
unto God the things that are God's. As living men, standing erect in the
presence of Heaven and the world, the men of the South have grown gray
without being ashamed; and they need not fear that History will fail to
vindicate their integrity.
When those are gone that fought the battle, and Posterity comes to strike
the balance, it will be shown that the makers of the Constitution left
the relation of the States to the Federal Government and of the Federal
Government to the States open to a double construction. It will be told
how the mistaken notion that slave labor was requisite to the profitable
cultivation of sugar, rice and cotton, raised a paramount property interest
in the Southern section of the Union, whilst in the Northern section,
responding to the trend of modern thought and the outer movements of
mankind, there arose a great moral sentiment against slavery. The conflict
thus established, gradually but surely sectionalizing party lines, was as
inevitable as it was irrepressible. It was fought out to its bitter
and logical conclusion at Appomattox. It found us a huddle of petty
sovereignties, held together by a rope of sand. It made and it left us a
Chapter the Thirty-Second
A War Episode--I Meet my Fater--I Marry and Make a Home--The Ups and
Downs of Life Lead to a Happy Old Age
In bringing these desultory--perhaps too fragmentary--recollections to a
close the writer may not be denied his final word. This shall neither be
self-confident nor overstated; the rather a confession of faith somewhat in
rejection of political and religious pragmatism. In both his experience has
been ample if not exhaustive. During the period of their serial publication
he has received many letters--suggestive, informatory and critical--now and
again querulous--which he has not failed to consider, and, where occasion
seemed to require, to pursue to original sources in quest of accuracy. In
no instance has he found any essential error in his narrative. Sometimes he
has been charged with omissions--as if he were writing a history of his own
times--whereas he has been only, and he fears, most imperfectly, relating
his immediate personal experience.
I was born in the Presbyterian Church, baptized in the Roman Catholic
Church, educated in the Church of England in America and married into the
Church of the Disciples. The Roman Catholic baptism happened in this way:
It was my second summer; my parents were sojourning in the household of a
devout Catholic family; my nurse was a fond, affectionate Irish Catholic;
the little life was almost despaired of, so one sunny day, to rescue me
from that form of theologic controversy known as infant damnation, the baby
carriage was trundled round the corner to Saint Matthew's Church--it was in
the national capital--and the baby brow was touched with holy water out of
a font blessed of the Virgin Mary. Surely I have never felt or been the
worse for it.
Whilst I was yet too young to understand I witnessed an old-fashioned
baptism of the countryside. A person who had borne a very bad character in
the neighborhood was being immersed. Some one, more humorous than reverent,
standing near me, said as the man came to the surface, "There go his sins,
men and brethren, there go his sins"; and having but poor eyesight I
thought I saw them passing down the stream never to trouble him, or
anybody, more. I can see them still floating, floating down the stream, out
and away from the sight of men. Does this make me a Baptist, I wonder?
I fear not, I fear not; because I am unable to rid myself of the impression
that there are many roads leading to heaven, and I have never believed in
what is called close communion. I have not hated and am unable to hate any
man because either in political or in religious opinion he differs from
me and insists upon voting his party ticket and worshiping his Creator
according to his conscience. Perfect freedom of conscience and thought has
been my lifelong contention.
I suppose I must have been born an insurrecto. Pursuing the story of the
dark ages when men were burnt at the stake for the heresy of refusing to
bow to the will of the majority, it is not the voice of the Protestant or
the Catholic that issues from the flames and reaches my heart, but the cry
of suffering man, my brother. To me a saint is a saint whether he wears
wooden shoes or goes barefoot, whether he gets his baptism silently out
of a font of consecrated water or comes dripping from the depths of
the nearest brook, shouting, "Glory hallelujah!" From my boyhood the
persecution of man for opinion's sake--and no matter for what opinion's
sake--has roused within me the only devil I have ever personally known.
My reading has embraced not a few works which seek or which affect to deal
with the mystery of life and death. Each and every one of them leaves a
mystery still. For all their learning and research--their positivity and
contradiction--none of the writers know more than I think I know myself,
and all that I think I know myself may be abridged to the simple rescript,
I know nothing. The wisest of us reck not whence we came or whither we go;
the human mind is unable to conceive the eternal in either direction; the
soul of man inscrutable even to himself.
_The night has a thousand eyes,
The day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun._
_The mind has a thousand eyes,
The heart but one;
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done._
All that there is to religion, therefore, is faith; not much more in
politics. We are variously told that the church is losing its hold upon
men. If it be true it is either that it gives itself over to theology--the
pride of opinion--or yields itself to the celebration of the mammon of
I do not believe that it is true. Never in the history of the world was
Jesus of Nazareth so interesting and predominant. Between Buddha, teaching
the blessing of eternal sleep, and Christ, teaching the blessing of eternal
life, mankind has been long divided, but slowly, surely, the influence of
the Christ has overtaken that of the Buddha until that portion of the world
which has advanced most by process of evolution from the primal state of
man now worships at the shrine of Christ and him risen from the dead, not
at the sign of Buddha and total oblivion.
The blessed birthright from God, the glory of heaven, the teaching and
example of the Prince of Peace--have been engulfed beneath oceans of
ignorance and superstition through two thousand years of embittered
controversy. During the dark ages coming down even to our own time the very
light of truth was shut out from the eyes and hearts and minds of men. The
blood of the martyrs we were assured in those early days was the seed of
the church. The blood of the martyrs was the blood of man--weak, cruel,
fallible man, who, whether he got his inspiration from the Tiber or the
Rhine, from Geneva, from Edinburgh or from Rome, did equally the devil's
work in God's name. None of the viceregents of heaven, as they claimed to
be, knew much or seemed to care much about the word of the Gentle One of
Bethlehem, whom they had adopted as their titular divinity much as men in
commerce adopt a trade-mark.
It was knock-down and drag-out theology, the ruthless machinery of
organized churchism--the rank materialism of things temporal--not the
teachings of Christ and the spirit of the Christian religion--which so long
filled the world with blood and tears.
I have often in talking with intelligent Jews expressed a wonder that they
should stigmatize the most illustrious Jew as an impostor, saying to them:
"What matters it whether Jesus was of divine or human parentage--a human
being or an immortal spirit? He was a Jew: a glorious, unoffending Jew,
done to death by a mob of hoodlums in Jerusalem. Why should not you and I
call him Master and kneel together in love and pity at his feet?"
Never have I received any satisfying answer. Partyism--churchism--will
ever stick to its fetish. Too many churches--or, shall I say, church
fabrics--breeding controversy where there should be agreement, each sect
and subdivision fighting phantoms of its fancy. In the city that once
proclaimed itself eternal there is war between the Quirinal and the
Vatican, the government of Italy and the papal hierarchy. In France the
government of the republic and the Church of Rome are at daggers-drawn.
Before the world-war England and Germany--each claiming to be
Protestant--were looking on askance, irresolute, not as to which side might
be right and which wrong, but on which side "is my bread to be buttered?"
In America, where it was said by the witty Frenchmen we have fifty
religions and only one soup, there are people who think we should begin
to organize to stop the threatened coming of the Pope, and such like! "O
Liberty," cried Madame Roland, "how many crimes are committed in thy name!"
"O Churchism," may I not say, "how much nonsense is trolled off in thy
I would think twice before trusting the wisest and best of men with
absolute power; but I would trust never any body of men--never any
Sanhedrim, consistory, church congress or party convention--with absolute
power. Honest men are often led to do or to assent, in association, what
they would disdain upon their conscience and responsibility as individuals.
_En masse_ extremism generally prevails, and extremism is always
wrong; it is the more wrong and the more dangerous because it is rarely
wanting for plausible sophistries, furnishing congenial and convincing
argument to the mind of the unthinking for whatever it has to propose.
Too many churches and too much partyism! It is love--love through grace of